Saturday, December 30, 2006

Blue skies

So we had Round 2 of the Holiday Blizzard on Thursday night and all day Friday, but this time the winds didn't howl, so it was merely a storm. By the time it was over we had another thirteen inches of snow. This towering Blue Spruce is across the street. Notice my neighbor's trash piled below. Not sure when we'll get pickup again. Today, the day after the storm, the skies are blue and sunny, and the trees look gorgeous glistening with snow.
My neighbor's snowblower bogged down with this very wet and heavy snow so I started shoveling my driveway by hand. The snow kept sticking to the blade so I tried out that trick I'd heard of spraying cooking oil on it and it worked. I was very surprised. A few neighbors borrowed the spray can too and now the odor of olive oil is redolent in the air.
Out in the back yard, I can no longer get to my feeders, so I scattered some seed and peanuts close to the house. Some Black-billed Magpies were my first customers and I caught their tracks in the snow on my camera.
Even more cool is this imprint of a Magpie's wing and body he left when he landed on top of the snow to grab a peanut. They're a big bird with a wingspan of about two feet. Looks like those fossils you see imbedded in stone, doesn't it?
Much smaller birds grace some holiday dishes that I love using at Christmas. Don't you love the feel of beautiful bone china? The heft of it is very pleasing and the translucence always amazes me. Forgive me for carrying on. Years ago I worked in the China and Silver department of a May Company store and I've never quite gotten over it. The House Finch above is common at my feeders and the Eastern Bluebird below never will be. But its cousin the Western Bluebird will be back with the blue of the summer skies.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Holiday Blizzard

That's what they've named it: The Holiday Blizzard. I think it's a good idea to give blizzards nicknames. That helps me distinguish it from previous ones like The Blizzard of '82, The Blizzard that Damaged all the Trees (1997), and The Blizzard that Closed Work for Three Days (2003). The latter was my personal favorite. Don't you just love the rocking chair on the front porch? It looks like it's been covered in cotton batting and is ready for new upholstery.
Oh, yes! My neighbor remembered that I babysit his dog a lot. He plowed his way across the street first thing this morning and started on my driveway. He dispatched 17 inches of snow a lot faster than the first 12 inches I shoveled by hand yesterday. Later I stuffed him with cookies and wrapped his Christmas presents for him. A fair trade, I thought!
The overhang of snow above the front porch reminds me of that cute scalloped edging I've seen decorating some kitchen shelves. But this decoration will undoubtedly come thudding down as soon as the sun warms up those gutters.
My faux "Gloire de Dijon" rose is almost visible on the right of this big snow mound. "Gloire"outgrew a five-foot-tall obelisk this summer and is still reaching for the sky. Just think of all that winter insulation for it. I won't be watering outdoor plants this month.
In the back yard, an old flat-topped pedestal got a smart pyramidal cap. Nature's symmetry!
The only diner open today... a covered birdfeeder. Those indentations in the snow below the feeder are normally a set of wide open-back steps that lead to the upper lawn. I didn't dare try them as they are rather crevasse-like at the moment.
Next to the Adirondack chair you might be able to make out a mound on the right. That's a matching table. I trudged through drifts up to my thighs to get this picture. All for you, my blogging friends! (Well, I also had the birdseed with me).
By late afternoon, the snow ended and the storm clouds headed northeast toward Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Hopefully, by the weekend, all the stranded travelers will be making their way to their destinations too. I'm sure they won't be dreaming of a White Christmas!

On, Donder! On,...Blizzard?

On Monday, the weatherman said there was a storm coming in. We could get a dusting of snow, or up to 8 inches. By yesterday afternoon, he'd changed his forecast: 15-24 inches. His later prediction was the right one. I did rather want a white Christmas, but the dusting was what I had in mind. This is what it looked like Wednesday afternoon. You can almost see the third path I dug down my front walk. After the fourth shoveling, my back and I gave up. Another 12 inches overnight and I'll worry tomorrow about how I'm going to get the car out of the garage and get up my hilly street. At least I'm inside and have the comforts of home. There are 4,000 travelers stranded at the airport tonight, and they probably won't get out Thursday or Friday either. A lot of ruined Christmas plans. Not to mention the many cars stranded or abandoned on the highways. The National Guard will be working all night to make sure no one is left in those vehicles.
I can almost see the house across the street belonging to my neighbor-with-the-tasteful-light-display. He also has a snowblower. I will try to remind him tomorrow of the many times I've babysat his dog when he's out of town.
Inside it's a bit more snug. These birds are on a smaller Christmas tree in the kitchen. I love wild birds and I pick up bird ornaments at garage sales and here and there. The birds on my indoor avian tree were the lucky ones. The birds outside were desperate for shelter and favored the covered birdfeeder today for their sunflower seeds. I was surprised to spot a Rufous-sided Towhee who must have been blown off-course in the 40-50 mph winds. Towhees don't frequent my yard and the last one I saw was several years ago. And first thing this morning, before the snow started in earnest, there was a gorgeous red fox hunkered down in the grass, while the winds howled around him. He gave up and trotted off towards a huge spreading juniper bush which could offer him better cover. Those junipers are good for something!
If I saw this bird in my yard, I'd have to be on a different continent. This is an English Robin on an old crackled ornament I've had for a long time, and it's one of my favorites.
I'm not sure if English Robins lay blue eggs like their American cousins, but here's a nest of delicate porcelain eggs that also graces the bird tree. When I'm mowing the lawn in the summer, I always look for pieces of blue egg shells the robins have dropped away from their nesting sites. Summer seems very far away tonight! Where was I? Oh yes... On, Prancer, On, Dancer!

Friday, December 15, 2006


I have a few angels among my Christmas things, this is one of them. I like her sweet face and the detail of her gown. I put my angels on high atop the mantle. Across the room on the table under the window are a few Santas. I wouldn't say I collect these things, as I never think of myself in the same status as a collector. I don't have the focus to concentrate on only one group of items. With perhaps the exception of my village houses which would take a much bigger house than mine to do them justice. More about that later.
I like to perch on the back of the sofa in the evening and look out the window at my reindeer in the front yard and the twinkle lights and silver snowflakes on my little Amur maple. My neighbor across the street has a display of blue lights on the ridgeline of his roof and a few lights outlining the chimney and I like to look at that too. Unlike mine, his display is tasteful and understated. I appreciate it but I can't do it myself, I've never been a minimalist!
The Christmas tree is on a low coffee table so I'd have a place to put up a few village houses underneath. I haven't gotten the people figurines out yet but maybe tomorrow.
This is one of the Santas, he has a great beard. I like that he's holding a birdcage. I have a bird Christmas tree in the kitchen, but I'll save that for another day.
This Santa is in a canoe. I don't get it, but I like it, especially his fur coat and snowshoes. Santa of the trappers? His face looks a lot like my brother-in-law. My brother-in-law is not quite as old as Santa Trapper.
And now the ubiquitous village. I never gave these lighted houses a thought for most of my life. They just weren't on my radar. And then a few years ago someone brought a lighted village library into my workplace (which also happens to be a library). Some of us ran down to Lowe's at lunchtime to buy one for ourselves and we discovered they were half-price. One thing led to another and before we knew it we each added houses here and there. The bonanza came after Christmas when they were all 75% off. Some kind of frenzy overtook us and by the time Christmas rolled around the next year we were able to set up the mother of all villages right there at work. We were relieved that the fire marshall never came around.
I began to rue the day we ever started this. Exactly where does one put all this and who has the energy to set it all up? And don't even think about taking it down and putting it away! I have a basement storage room full of every conceivable village establishment, including businesses, townhomes, churches, windmills, farmhouses, mountains, trees, and woodland streams. Oh yeah, and lighthouses with beacons. So now I put up a few and call it good. But I do have a solution for this. As soon as my daughter buys a house of her own I'm going to rent a U-Haul and take it all to Oklahoma!

I read a column in the paper the other day about decorating for the holidays. They said just because you bought it on sale after Xmas last year doesn't mean you have to display everything you own. Not a philosophy I subscribe to, obviously. Meanwhile, I enjoy the angels on high and the village down below.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


This is inspired by my blogging friend "Gardener in Chacala Mexico" (see sidebar). She has blogged several times about her growing fascination with the veneration the people of Mexico have for Our Lady of Guadalupe. Since December 12th is her feast day, this seemed an opportune time to share this picture I took in a clothing store in Puerto Vallarta earlier this year. Gardener from Chacala is right; Our Lady of Guadalupe images are all over Mexico, and it's rare to find a home and even most businesses without some tribute to her. From chipped, scarred statues to postcards or a photo on the wall, or even more elaborate displays like this one, it's an iconic image throughout the country. I've even seen her statue in the banos (bathrooms)! This shop, for instance, is a women's clothing and jewelry store, and doesn't sell religious goods. Yet there, front and center, is their tribute to the Blessed Virgin. And yes, the roses were freshly cut.

Having attended Catholic schools, I grew up with the story of the Blessed Virgin appearing to the peasant Juan Diego in 1531, and telling him to relay to his bishop her message to build an abbey on the spot where she appeared. The sceptical bishop asked for a sign and got one when Juan went back to the Virgin and she told him to gather the roses that were suddenly growing on the hillside in the dead of winter. When the peasant returned to the bishop and opened his cape to allow the roses to spill out, a perfect vision of the Virgin was imprinted on it. The cape, or tilma, is displayed to this day in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. After the church was built, it's said that 9 million indigenous people in Mexico converted to Catholicism and human sacrifice in that country came to an end. I wonder if Mel Gibson covers this aspect in his new movie "Apocalypto"?

Now, on to the roses. They were Castilian roses, common in Spain, but not seen in Mexico. The Spanish-born bishop recognized them though. Miraculous, indeed!

Friday, December 01, 2006


My mother and father on their wedding day, December 1st, 1934.

I love this picture and often wished it was in color so I could see the dark green velvet of my mother's dress! I always thought the pose was very Gatsby-esque, not your typical wedding portrait. Because my mother was Catholic and my father was Protestant theirs was considered a "mixed marriage". Pre-Vatican II, couples like them were not allowed to be married at the high altar but in a side chapel of the church and the wedding had to be small and private. The photo was taken in the parlor of my mother's family home. I've never much cared for chrysanthemums but these large, mop-headed ones seemed to be in abundance that day!