This year for Christmas, I had so much fun making little stuffed animals for kids in the family. The above owl, monster, and elephant went to my cousin's kids, and today, the oldest girl called and thanked me for her owl. Then she asked, "Did you make Jake a monster?" I told her that yes, I had made a monster. She then yelled, "It is a monster!" And then I heard Jake going, "Rhaa! Rhaa! Rhaa!" in the background. When I asked what he was doing, she said, "That's his monster noise!" My cousin (their mom) then got on the phone and told me she was a bit jealous and wasn't sure which one she liked best.
I made this sock monkey for little Elliot, my friend's little boy. We always joke that he's a little monkey, and he dressed as an adorable one for Halloween. Plus, he has sock monkeys on his curtains, so it seemed like a good fit. I bought these tights at the Bins over a year ago and finally got around to making them. Here's Brian's niece posing with her owl, pretending to be one herself.
I still have more Christmas presents I want to make for people! I wonder if I'll turn into one of those dreaded grandmas or great-aunts who always gives homemade gifts rather than the cool store bought stuff. Like the aunt who made Ralphy the pink bunny pajamas in the BB gun movie! Ha!


tramping through the snow, oregon-wisconsin

Last week, Brian, Claire, and I went snowshoeing up on Mt. Hood. We found a small winding road that meandered up a hill, and we tromped up that until we saw a patch of amazingly bright sunlight. We followed it to this incredible view of Mt. Jefferson. Breathtaking.
Then we snowshoed across Trillium Lake, with the ice shifting below us and people watching us critically from the shore. But Ice Boy (aka the Minnesotan) said he'd stake his life on the security of the ice (wasn't he?), so I snapped pictures, enjoyed the view, and kept my distance from other 135 lb. or plus creatures.
It was an amazing walk. I've never snowshoed before Thanksgiving, and now, I've gone three times this year. The third time was yesterday, in Wisconsin. Brian and his climbing buddy did some ice climbing on the cliff behind their amazing home where he farms ice. Meanwhile, the non-ice-climbing girls snowshoed across the field and down to a train bed that runs along the St. Croix River.
Eventually, we found the boys on their ice trails.
Then we turned around and walked back along the trail and up the hill, back to the road.
Above is the cliff edge down which the boys went for their climb. And here they are, finishing their adventure.
We went inside and ate delicious homemade Indian food, rice and beans and spices and pickled veggies. It was amazing and inspiring, as was our snowshoe walk through the quiet Wisconsin fields and woods.


from lunar eclipse to winter solstice

Tonight, I am hosting a solstice celebration with a few close friends, food, drinks, fire, and candlelight to celebrate the longest night of the year. Yesterday, I cleaned and sewed, cleaned and sewed, like an elf trying to get everything ready for Christmas time. It won't be, I believe. I have a keen sense that most of my packages will be arriving after the Dec. 25th date, perhaps on the third or fourth day of Christmas?

I am eager to post photos of my little creations, but that must wait until presents and packages have been opened. Until then, I must snip and sew and wrap and mail and shop and cook.

Pictured above is a black orchid, part of the Catasetum family that grows in South America, grown by my uncle Jim Pluskota.

Have a wonderful solstice today. Eat dinner by candlelight with friends. Feast on winter foods and cider and wine. Sit by a roaring fire. Enjoy the darkness and the light.


december swimming

Last weekend, we rented a yurt at Cape Lookout on the Coast. The wind howled and the rain fell most of the weekend. We went out on the beach and pretended we were human kites in the wind until we were soaked through, and then we went back to the yurt and watched movies (we set up the projector on the top bunk and hung a white bed sheet from the wall) and cooked food. On Sunday, I put on a borrowed wetsuit with hood, booties, and gloves, and I waddled out to the beach like a penguin. I was dreading getting into the water, but I had to try it out. Skeptical of the ability of this wetsuit to keep me warm, I walked gingerly into the waves. The wind was still fierce and the rain was sideways. The water on the Oregon coast is horribly cold. I'm used to body boarding for hours at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I've never gone swimming here. Until Sunday. As soon as I stepped into the water, I realized: I want a wetsuit!!!! I jumped in the waves and frolicked and played while Brian laughed at me from the surf. He warned me that I would want one, and he's right; I do, I do, I do!


wintering bees

I checked on my bees today, and their population looks healthy. More than I would have expected for early December. I am considering insulating the hive a bit. One reason for that is the fact that I did not move the false back forward.

The bees built a large amount of comb, but they built it crooked, making it impossible for me to go in there. So my game plan is to perhaps add some external insulation around the top and to pray they survive to spring. Then, in late February/early March, I'm going in there with a bread knife. I am going to cut all crooked comb, clean comb off of the bottom, harvest all over-wintered honey, and let the survivors start fresh in spring.
It was due to the crooked comb that I didn't harvest any fall honey. Let them keep it all for winter, and then if they don't make it, I won't have to feel bad about stealing their winter supplies. Plus, I was terrified that if I did try to cut and harvest comb and honey, I would destroy a bunch. So, they have their world as they created it until spring.
Here are the bees in the front of the hive behind the observation window. Still quite a few. They look healthy to me, and I could see no signs of mites. There were a couple of ants in the hive, but I've never heard of that being too much of a problem.


Santa Baby

Dear Santa,

When we talked on the phone on Thanksgiving, I promised you that I would post my Christmas list. Well, Santa, here it is. Read on, have a few chuckles, and enjoy!
Of course, beautiful prints from the QiQiGallery on Etsy would be much loved.

However,  a gift card to Sock Dreams would be dynomite! Especially as I'm still thinking about these gorgeous crocheted tights.
Then there are these sick boots from The Frye Company to wear with the tights.
A girl can dream, can't she?
Of course, snowshoes would be well worn and well loved as well, especially in the magical forests on Mt. Hood.

 I will leave you to ponder this also, Santa: Helping out financially with plane tickets home for bridal shower and wedding would be much appreciated. Any of these gifts would be loved, but are not necessary.

Much love,


Pride and Prejudice vs. Pride and Prejudice

The other night, I watched for the second time only, the 2005 version of "Pride and Prejudice," which is lusty and romantic.
 Sometimes too lusty and romantic. Sometimes the characters seem too wild. They're made to do things that seem alien to the time in order to fit into the romantic mood the movie tries so desperately to establish.
However, the film is so gorgeously shot that despite the moments when it seems like the story moves in fast-forward or when Lizzie's best lines are chopped from the screenplay or Darcy has lines that are foreign and new, the film is still a lovely thing to watch.
But I must say, for character and pacing, I still love, love, love the BBC version.
This look alone has made hundreds of girls become fans of Jane Austen. For my sister and I, my mother made us watch this movie with her, and from that point on, there was no turning back. Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park...I became fans of them all.
And yes, Dame Judi Dench is wonderful (and surprisingly sexy--but then, as I said, the movie is lusty) as Lady Catherine de Bourg, but I love the subtle wit and emphasized stupidity of both Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine in the BBC version.
So for wind-swept, soap operatic romance, go for the 2005 version with Kira.
Otherwise, it is, it is, it is the BBC version all the way.

this was all before thanksgiving, oh my!

I have put away my gardening gloves and picked back up my fabrics and threads. These new kitchen curtains above I redid from a single curtain I made for our hobby room. Those were miserable curtains, despite the cheerful print. Just a single dull panel with a crooked cut. I cut them in half and turned them into two new curtains.
I have been working for well over a year now on a braided rug. Actually, I worked on it a bunch over a year ago, and then I didn't look at it again until recently when I spent the day watching "Pride and Prejudice" (the Colin Ferth version) and sewing the braids. Not finished yet, but here's a preview with Leno modeling.
 And here he wonders over Sock Monkey, still unfinished. Starting projects is such a joy. Finishing projects is also a joy. It's the middle part that's a wee bit of a slog.
We had a snow day last week, although in Portland, snow days are more like ice days. Here's what it looked like on my garden.
And for the fans of the chickens, here they are in their first ever bit of snow.
And here's what a snow day should look like (says the hardened former up-state New Yorker).
We drove up to Mt. Hood to hike and ski, but the snow was too fluffy and the air was too cold for me to do anything without snowshoes or cross country skis, so while Brian skinned up the mountain, I read Alice Walker short stories by the fire in the lodge.
Portland has no way of dealing with snow or ice. There are no snow plows, salt trucks, or sand trucks. Black ice is deemed the deadliest of threats, and when there's nothing more but some slick roads and a dusting of snow, schools are closed and we head to the mountain where the real powder is. We went for a lovely snowshoe tromp in the woods Thanksgiving weekend, but we used Amy's camera, so pictures must wait.
I love that I can just drive up to Mt. Hood for a snowshoe in the woods or to snowboard.