Monday, December 29, 2008

It's a handmade Christmas....

This December was, I think, one of my favorite ever.  Each year (for years) I have made and sold loads of holiday pins at shows or in school and medical staff rooms around town to help with family finances and Christmas cha-ching, but this year I only did a few basketfuls.  My teaching/homeschooling schedule dominated much of my pin making time this year and then the weather kept the schools closed down at what is usually the major pin selling time. It was much more fun to turn my energy elsewhere.  For several months El Professor and I have talked about truly doing 'a handmade Christmas' for our adult family members and the time and energy put into gathering and making was delightful.  At Thanksgiving we delivered our 'harvest of the valley' gifts to the desert relations we wouldn't be seeing at Christmas, loading up bags with apples, squash, onions and delights from the valley farmstands that are so distant from the high desert (and add up at the grocery stores there.)  For the family with whom we spent Christmas we put together gift bags....

Apples that we purchased from the still-open favorite farmstand where we usually pick apples filled the bottom of the bags.  At this time of year the orchard is barren and the wonderful apples are in cold storage ready to purchase by the box.  

I have some girlfriends who gather each year to make lip balm.  We covet the stuff for winter chapped lips, knuckles and rhinovirus red noses.  
These flax seed wraps were inspired by my injured friend.  

We picked loads of strawberries in June.  Those that didn't become freezer jam were juiced and then frozen for a December Jam Session.  Only this Jam Session was all about clear, red jelly. 

Rose hips.............
........and twigs gathered on our Christmas tree outing became...........
winter wreaths for front doors.  

In August I dried some of the wedding flowers from my GORGEOUS neice's wedding.....
...and gave them back to her for Christmas.
Making candle centerpieces for the candlelight service at church was the motivation for gathering all of the rose hips.  

I am finally posting this on New Year's Eve.  My next should see the garage...twigs, rose hips....oh, and it's time to take down the tree.  

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Winter Break....

It has been a busy fall.  Between teaching the Classical Conversations 5th/6th grade class at our local program, homeschooling (and all that entails), managing family schedules, homemaking, and determining to make a daily walk a priority, it has been the busiest time in my parenting journey.  With Classical Conversations on a five week break I have decided to tone down our schedule and to dig out from a busy fall....summer.....the remodel last winter/spring....where do I begin?  

A winter storm has settled into our area and El Professor is looking toward another 'snow day' today.  It has been a welcome time of having our family home, classes cancelled, activities cancelled, and play time plentiful...for all of us.  In the past few days I have done some very much needed cleaning and organizing.  In midst of it all, we have 'set up' Christmas.

When the kids were young we decided to feature nativity scenes when we decorated for Christmas.  We also celebrate Advent, and the candle lighting/scripture reading/conversation has become a warm, welcome tradition. 

I couldn't bring myself to put away the gourds and squash that grew wild in our garden this summer/fall.  

My older sister gave us this 'Advent' calendar countdown several years ago.  Stuffing the doors with small treats, treasures, or a quick treasure hunt is one of our favorite traditions.

Our 'wild tree' has worked out well.  It smells wonderful.  We think it might  be a 'white fir'.  

Setting up the Willow Tree nativity scene is the kids' favorite activity.  My parents gave us pieces of the set over several Christmases.   
Today I think I'll tackle my desk..........

Monday, December 8, 2008

Gathering Beauty....

Along the fence lines, driving or walking, I often find myself wishing I was carrying clippers and a large bag.  Dead twigs, pinecones, rose hips, winter beauty is everywhere--especially along fence lines.  This week,  both with and without clippers, I have been gathering some of the beauty for Christmas centerpieces and, if I have enough, a winter wreath.  With several vases of dried and drying hydrangeas around the house and bundles of summer lavendar, I'm looking forward to a week of being creative.  

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wild Trees....

Sunshine.  Mountains.  What month is this?  Saturday we gathered with my Hilarious Twin and a handful of friends and headed up into the foothills--way, way up past the 4,000 foot level where snow and harsh conditions would usually deter December Christmas tree hunters in 'city cars' like our little Matrix.  It was a spectacular day, and while we came prepared with boots, shovels, and two 4 wheel drive vehicles, we instead encountered sunshine, meadows, mountain views and coats left in the car as we marveled at the warmish, winter temperatures.  This was our fourth foray into the woods with a $5 tree tag to hunt for a wild Christmas tree.  The forays have not happened in consecutive years but have included the same handful of people.  In past years we've had fun-but-ever-so-slightly-harrowing snow adventures.  This day, however, was a sunfest with the kids playing in the woods, jousting with sticks, and roasting weinies over the roadside fire.  

Gathering exquisite little pinecones.
One special aspect of the day involved the kids brought along by some dear friends.  These friends quietly go about their lives in a nurturing and serving fashion.  They met while serving in a local outreach to street youth and they have gone overseas to work with a ministry that deals with the plight of the blind in a third world country.  In their quiet way they brought along three kids, two of whom they mentor, who have been adopted and raised out of the foster care system.  The third belongs to a mother they have befriended who is rising above her substance abuse and is seeking to build a stable life.  Through their quiet ways I see ones who love their neighbor, the widow, the orphan, and I am challenged and reminded of how deeply and profoundly blessed I am. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

High Desert Thanksgiving.....

The forecast here for the upcoming week....'dry' and foggy.  Actually, that will translate to a quiet dripping in the early morning and a muffled sleepiness that I will have a hard time shaking off.  Maybe the effects of the fog will be lessened, however, just by reflecting on our high desert Thanksgiving.
Ten riding with El Professor's dad, Grandpa Cowboy
We headed out the day before Thanksgiving Day to El Professor's childhood home way, way out in the Oregon High Desert.  
As we traveled up into the mountains we drove out of the valley fog.  The entire weekend was a Glorious Vitamin D Fest!

Looking out and beyond the ranch where El Professor grew up.

Over the long weekend we were partakers in Thanksgiving dinners #2 and #3, one with El Professor's dad/wife, and one with his mom/husband.  Both were shared with El Professor's brother and family.  The weekend took on the form of a wonderful mini vacation with good food, good company, sunny hikes, and horseback riding. 
One afternoon we hiked with El Professor's brother and family in the hills overlooking the desert plateau.  We experienced the high point where the radio towers are located and where summer hang gliders flock to launch out over the plateau floor to ride the updrafts.  

I am a city girl, not big city, but city nonetheless.  Still, I love this isolated, ultra rural place.   A place where you still find a nativity scene set up on the courthouse lawn...
....and black Friday isn't exactly a bustling scene.   No one was trampled, and I would imagine the only people in the stores at 4 a.m. were a few scattered stock crews at the tiny Safeway grocery....  
....where the theatre is open three nights a week, the tickets are about the same price as the matinee prices in our city, and you can sit in the balcony if you want to.  The only stadium seats, however, are at the fairgrounds where the rodeo is held each Labor Day weekend. 
I think I'll print this photo and hang it on the fridge so that all week long, as the pea soup fog lingers, I'll remember that only a week ago we were squinting in the sun.