In the thick of it

Emerging briefly from my sinus-infection-induced-stupor to mention that you might want to reconsider purchasing a pre-lit Xmas tree because someday you may have to re-string all those lights. My poor dear patient husband has been at it all day. Innocently I asked what we could do to prevent his having to ever do this again. He said he’d take it outside and light it on fire and dance around it before he’d do it again. Well!

Back to the couch and my blankie and a full box of tissues. The house is beginning to look glittery. Everything is sort of glittery; I guess because my one eye won’t stop running. Why is it that when I get a cold it’s all on one side of my head?

Snow fun

Passing along a suggestion for a fun little book for the snow lover in your life: Snowmen: snow creatures, crafts, and other winter projects includes instructions for making more than twenty creations from snow and easy to find materials. Why make a traditional snowman when there are so many other possibilities for sculpture!

The snowbugs at left are made with wooden skewers, pine needles for antennae, raisins for eyes, twigs for legs, and snow spots colored with dry tempera paint. Just the thing to brighten the winter garden.

I bought this book a few years ago for my husband who likes to play in the snow when he’s not out plowing it. One year he made a big teddy bear holding a bright red heart colored with food coloring on our side lawn – very cute! Mostly I’ve used the ideas in the book and really enjoyed making the porcupine, although those long pine needles were hard to find in the neighborhood. The authors suggest using a layer of leaves instead to make an armadillo.

If you have kids or a sense of whimsy yourself, I think you just might enjoy this one. So far, there’s no snow for me to play in, but I know some of you have had a fair amount already. Get out and have a little fun!

Note: All photos are scanned from the book and weren’t done by me.

Christmas meme

From Lynne at Hasty Brook:

1. Eggnog or hot chocolate? I’m not crazy for either, but eggnog is much better with kahlua and lots of ice.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree? Santa wraps and he prefers vintage papers and lots of bows.
3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? White.
4. Do you hang mistletoe? No.
5. When do you put your decorations up? Usually during the week before.
6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? My SIL’s sister makes a fantastic sweet potato casserole. My husband and I like to make a casserole with brussels sprouts and roasted chestnuts. Growing up we always had lasagna on Christmas and that was the only time my mom made it. My dad used to make a great antipasto platter for Christmas Eve while we decorated the tree.
7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? The first year after my parents were divorced my brother Kevin and I went to my dad’s while he was out and put up and decorated a tree for him, so that when he came into the apartment and switched on the lights only the Xmas tree came on. I still remember him calling and how surprised he was.
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I’m not sure I know what you mean. Is Santa hiding some dark secret?
9. Do you open gifts Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Christmas, although it’s usually late that night when my husband and I get around to exchanging gifts because we’re running around to family all day.
10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? When we get a real tree I like to use country-style and handmade ornaments. Our artificial tree is sort of unique and on that one we use all glass ornaments – thousands of them.
11. Snow – Love it or dread it? Love it, love it, love it!
12. Can you ice skate? Sort of. The last time I did was on my honeymoon.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? (as a child) I think it may have been that game called Simon – I played with that forever.
14. What’s the most exciting thing about the holidays for you? Being off work for a week!
15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Homemade cookies. I love Mexican Wedding Cakes (some people call these butterballs).
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Going to the candlelight service on Christmas Eve. We also spend forever opening gifts and I love to shake all the boxes and try to guess what’s inside, which drives everyone nuts.
17. What tops your tree? That depends on which tree we decorate. I have a Santa that I put on the real tree. The fake tree is a little complicated to explain. 😉
18. Which do you prefer- giving or receiving? I love to give, but have a hard time coming up with good ideas.
19. What is your favorite Christmas song? “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
20. Candy canes? Blech! Hate them. Give me a cookie instead!

12/7/06 Mid-week bunny fix

Cricket’s happy to be home, but not so happy about having her picture taken or medicine shoved in her sore mouth twice a day. I can see that the right side of her mouth is a little swollen. She’s on antibiotics and pain meds for a few days and I need to be sure that the discomfort doesn’t keep her from eating.

Yesterday she had a growth removed from her lip; the doc couldn’t be sure what it was so he sent the tissue off for testing and we can expect a histopathology report in about a week. He thinks it might be that a scent gland in that area became inflamed.

This is the third time that Cricket’s had odd growths removed. The first was within a month or so of when I got her from rescue and the vet found that her mammary glands were swollen and severely infected. It took two months after surgery with daily antibiotic injections to get rid of that infection. I’m sure that it was a result of the slaughterhouse that she was rescued from. The second time was an odd little growth on the bottom of her foot that made her limp around. No surgery was required for that, just my vet rooting around in her foot enough to get a tissue sample. That turned out to be nothing. I’m hopeful that this time will also turn out to be nothing.

In the meantime I’ll worry and fuss over her. As will Boomer. Lynne at Hasty Brook did a post a while back about the difficulties with medicating her bunny. I had given her some suggestions about how to do it more easily – none of which are working with Cricket! I have to actually sit on her and force the syringe into her mouth. I just hate it and apologize to her the whole time. But I think it’s better than giving her shots like I did two years ago. Wish us well.

One of those days

I’m in the middle of one of *those* days. I left work early because I wasn’t feeling well. As I pulled into the driveway the radiator on my car self-destructed, spilling antifreeze all over the place. I’m glad it waited until I got home to decide that it needed to give up the ghost! I couldn’t reach my DH for a while, but finally got him on the phone and he went in search of a new radiator at 5 o’clock. So, here I am trying to figure out how I’ll manage to pick up Cricket and Boomer from the vet later with no car. (Cricket had her surgery this morning to remove the thing growing on her lip.) And I still don’t feel good. And there’s laundry to do. And prep work for my final exam review tomorrow night. Can you hear the tiny violin in the background?

Apropos of nothing there’s this photo of wooden grain shovels that I took at the gristmill at Walnford a few weeks ago. The sunlight was streaming through the windows onto the old equipment on display and I thought it was very pretty. I forgot to use the fill-flash so my original pic was underexposed and didn’t show any details. I played around a bit with the highlights and shadows in Photoshop to bring out some of the grain in the wood. I really had no clue what I was doing, but thought the pic looked better afterwards.


“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge-
That myth is more potent than history.
I believe that dreams are more powerful than facts-
That hope always triumphs over experience-
That laughter is the only cure for grief.
And I believe that love is stronger than death.” – unknown

Anyone remember Robert Fulghum, he of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” fame? I loved his books when I was in college! At some point I lost track of his writing, or lost interest, but was reminded of him this evening during the ongoing holiday clean-up project to straighten out the bookshelves. I poked around on the internet and found that he has a website where he publishes occasional journal entries, if you’re a fan.

The quote and artwork above, which Fulghum calls the Storyteller’s Creed, were included on a postcard that came with his second book. I liked it and it’s hung beside my desk ever since. In the preface to that second book Fulghum requests that readers approach his book like the game of Show and Tell. He says his essays are like the odd treasures that children bring to school to share with their classmates. He asks that when we find something that resonates strongly – we share it – because he believes that, like children playing show and tell, there are some things that we as individuals attach a strong amount of importance to, thinking that we are the only one who values it, or cares about it, or thinks it to be true. But, he says, once a thing is shared, we oftentimes find that we aren’t alone in the meaning and importance we’ve attached to it.

I tried to remember things that as a child I might have brought to school for Show and Tell because they were so important to me or worthy of showing off. I can’t remember a single thing, of course. But I have to wonder if I were to play that game today as an adult, what one thing might I slip into a paper bag and bring to show off to my friends? What would you bring? What if it weren’t a *thing* that can easily fit in a bag or a box, but instead a *quality* – a way of thinking or feeling or being?

I’d like you to play along with me and share a quality that you value. I’ll go first. I value imagination. I don’t have a picture to show you what imagination looks like, but instead share this quote from J. Ruth Gendler, copied onto looseleaf paper and tucked in my wallet many years ago:

“When Imagination walks, she writes letters to the earth. When she runs, her feet trace postcards to the sun. And when she dances, when she dances, she sends love letters to the stars.

Some people accuse Imagination of being a liar. They don’t understand that she has her own ways of uncovering the truth. She studied journalism in junior high school. It gave her an excuse to leave school early and interview interesting people. She was surprisingly good at writing articles. When in doubt, she just made things up. More recently, Imagination has been working as a fortuneteller in the circus. She has this way of telling your fortune so clearly that you believe her, and then your wishes come true.

Imagination is studying photography now with an eye to making films. She has no intention of working in one of those factories where they manufacture images that lull us to sleep. Her vision is more complex and very simple. Even with the old stories, she wants us to see what has never been seen before.”

Your turn. 😉

Close Up for One Deep Breath

the lotus unfurls
beneath stained-glass wings; dragon
grasping the sacred

This week’s prompt for One Deep Breath is Close Up (Close, Closer, Closest). Writing haiku is much more difficult than it would seem at first glance, but I so enjoy the challenge and the stumbling steps I’m taking with it. I may just add a haiku *how-to* book to my Xmas list this year. Santa always appreciates a suggestion or two! Also on my list this year is a macro lens for my camera; I’ve offered to pitch in to Santa’s fund with the extra $ I make teaching… we’ll see if Santa is feeling very generous this year.

I’ve posted this dragonfly and lotus pic before, but it is one of my absolute favorites – a happy accident from beside the pond – and especially nice to look at now that the fish and plants are asleep for the season.

Sandy Hook Light

As much as I’m prone to fuss about the lack of visitors during my monthly 5-hour stint at Sandy Hook Bird Observatory, I do appreciate the quiet of sitting on the porch and watching the boats in Sandy Hook Bay. Today there were a few Buffleheads and Red-Breasted Mergansers for company, but the Oldsquaw I look for were a no-show. In a month or two, if I’m lucky, I’ll find harbor seals sunning themselves on the rocky shores of the bay.

I finally got caught up with paper-grading that I’ve avoided for the past few weeks. Glad to not have that hanging over me anymore! I had only ten visitors all day and they all showed up at the same time. So while I was trying to give info to a pair of enthusiastic new birders, I was also trying to monitor the lady shopping for new binoculars. Birders are an honest group and we encourage people to scan the bay as a means to getting a feel for a pair of binoculars. In the midst of so many visitors coming and going and asking questions, I admit to a bit of nervousness with the lady walking in and out of our shop with thousand dollar optics to test them on the porch. For all of my cajoling she left without buying, but the new birders got more information than they probably wanted.

I passed by the lighthouse on my way and took a pic for any of the lighthouse afficionados. Sandy Hook Light is the oldest standing lighthouse in the country and is now landlocked; more than a mile from the ocean’s shore at the tip of Sandy Hook due to the shifting sands of our shoreline, when once it was just 500 feet from that point.

Things I love

1. Pretty horses that pose to have their photo taken. My love for horses is totally illogical; I know nothing about them, but love to look at them.
2. Flowers, and the critters that visit them.
3. Staying up late and sleeping in the following morning.

4. Walking in the woods, surrounded by birdsong.
5. Granny Smith apples and fresh strawberries.
6. The silence following a snowfall and the way it transforms a familiar landscape into something magical.
7. A new long-awaited book by a favorite author.8. The beach at any season, but particularly in the spring and fall with raptors migrating overhead.
9. Storytelling and the laughter of friends and family.
10. Afternoon naps. Not a luxury I indulge often, but wonderful when I have the chance.

In response to Endment’s post, which I came across this evening, just when I needed something to inspire me. Feel free to join us by sharing the things that you love.

She is December

“December is the year in age and wisdom, a woman with starlight in her frosted hair and a snowflake on her cheek and a sprig of holly on her coat. The light in her blue eyes is young as this morning and old as time. She has known youth and love and age and heartbreak, and she still can smile, knowing that life is not all of either. She is December, which is a kind of summation not only of one year but of all years’ ending.

For December is bare trees and the evergreens, it is rustling weed stem in the ruthless wind and a partridgeberry on the hillside. It is ground pine, older than the hills where it grows, and it is a seedling maple from two years ago clinging to one last scarlet leaf. It is a stiff-tailed young squirrel scrambling up an oak tree, and it is a mask-faced coon in the moonlit cornfield, listening for the hounds. It is ice on the pond and lichen on the rock and a flock of chickadees in the pine thicket.

December is a blizzard in Wyoming and a gale on the Lakes and the Berkshires frosted like a plate of cupcakes. It’s fir trees going to the cities by the truckload, and red ribbon by the mile and tinsel everywhere. It’s so many days till You-Know-When. It’s the Winter solstice and the shortest day, and it’s a snow shovel and galoshes and a muffler round the neck. It’s 30 below in Medicine Hat.

December is the hungry owl and the fugitive rabbit, the woodchuck abed and the crow all alone in the pasture. It’s soup in the kettle and a log in the fireplace and long wool socks. It’s a wind at the door and a whisper in the air and a hush on the evening when the carols are sung. It’s the wonder and the glory, and the Nativity.” -Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons