Thursday, December 13, 2012

Checking It Twice

I'm so excited! Today I get to go to town. My van has been having grave problems, and I've been forbidden by the powers that be (the ones that would have to tow me if I broke down) to drive it more than into Westby and back. Now, Westby is great and all, but it doesn't quite do it for someone as urbane and cosmopolitan as myself---sometimes I need to break loose and go to Plentywood. Thankfully, today I can hitch a ride with my sister (who has no idea what she's getting into).

After such a long drouth of town shopping, I have quite a little list built up of errands I need to run. And since I can't just run back if I forget something, it's important that I get everything down on the list that I need.

Let's review, shall we?

Tina's To-do List:

Buy water: The water out here isn't very tasty, besides which my well hasn't been tested lately, so I don't care to drink from it. I get all my water from the machine in Plentywood, hauling it home in two big, blue plastic water jugs.

Return library books: I'm pretty sure that after 5 months the library is ready for their book back. And I still haven't even read it!

Pick up Angel Tree tag: Getting the Angel Tree gifts has been one of my favorite---and longest-running---Christmas traditions. I began doing it because I wanted to give the kids an opportunity to discover how good it feels to give something back. THAT didn't go so well, so for years I've snuck off by myself and indulged in an afternoon of buying for a needy child. Who, if not grateful for my gifts, will still be ungrateful far away from me!

Canning jars: These I need for a special Christmas cooking project, but I need to find straight-sided jelly jars or it won't work. So far Walmart, the grocery store, and the local hardware have all been busts, so if the Plentywood hardware doesn't have it, I'll be forced to make another Amazon order. Noooooooooooo!

Ornament hooks: Under my tree is littered with a rubble of hookless ornaments, cruelly torn from their cozy branches by marauding felines. The hooks are somewhere on the tree, but I have better ways to spend my December than searching for needles in a tree-stack.

Blackberries: I need some for my Little House blog, and I fully expect to pay an arm and a leg for them. I may have to go with frozen ones if they don't have fresh. I wish Walmart weren't an hour away.

An old book: Sunday is my annual children's ornament exchange party. Tradition requires that we make an ornament craft, and the old book is needed for the craft. Thrift store, here I come!

Refreshments for the party: Keeping it low-sugar, I'm planning for fresh fruit kabobs (with the points taken off---this is a children's party, after all!), a vegetable platter made to look like a Christmas tree, and some delicious popcorn made on the stove. 

Deposit my checks: I've been working all week so I could spend it today. Good-bye, happy little dollars. It's been nice knowing you....

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Cup of Christmas Cheer

Every year at Christmas I have the ambition to be a little more organized than the year before. At this rate, I will reach perfection by the year 2897. Sigh. I just don't think I was cut out to be one of those super-organized, Type-A Martha Stewarts with all their gifts purchased, wrapped, and filed under the Dewey decimal system---and all by Jan. 31st.

But I still try to shop ahead, take advantage of sales and clearances throughout the year. And I do end up with quite a little collection of odds and ends by Christmas. My problem is that once December gets here and it's actually the Christmas season, the gift-giving lobe of my brain kicks into high gear.

Not only do I think of gobs of people I want to give gifts to, but I come up with so many great ideas for the gifts. So I keep planning and scheming, plotting to fill my ever-lengthening gift list. Help---somebody stop me before I place another Amazon order!

And for the first time since the move, I have enough mental wherewithal to plan and execute some home-made gifts. I'd tell you what they are, but then I'd have to kill you. Actually, I'd tell you what they are, but since a good share of the recipients read this blog, it would take some of the surprise off, ya' know.

But tonight,...ah, yes...tonight belongs to me.

 My annual treat is getting the latest edition of "Christmas in My Heart" (if you like Christmas, warm-fuzzies, and nostalgia, GET THEM!). "Christmas in My Heart" is a series of books filled with heart-warming short stories, some new, some old, and all of them enjoyable.

And today Volume 21 arrived in the mail. So instead of scrabbling to finish "just a little more", I'm going to curl up with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa.

Don't forget to take your break today!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Sledding Party

The last few days have been cold. We're talking 50-layers-aren't-enough cold. Huddle-under-a-blanket-and-don't-come-out-until-spring cold. Fantasize-about-burning-furniture cold. You know, Hollywood-blockbuster-disaster-movie-end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it cold.

It's been cold.

I like winter. I like having snow. I like having fun in the snow. But when it's so cold your boogers freeze if you're out for longer than 10 seconds, there's not much fun you can safely have. That leaves you stuck indoors with a teenage boy and an unnamed number of cats, all of whom have cabin fever. But at least the cats handle it with some grace.

And sure, I could scrub my bathrooms or organize something, but it's much more enjoyable to sit around and blog about the fun we had last week when it was still warm. We'd had a stretch of decent weather, culminating in one glorious day where the temperature got almost to 40. I knew the cold weather was coming right after, so I planned a sledding party as one last hurrah before our forced incarceration.

I like to surprise people, so I kept the party a secret from my niece and nephews. This time my surprise backfired on me a little bit---when I showed up at the school to whisk them away for an afternoon of fun and frolic I discovered Tiggy had to stay for a concert and Damon was home sick. Fine. I didn't want them in my party anyway. You can have a perfectly happening party with 3 people and 3 dogs (because of course I invited out Jaquiline Hyde the Beautiful Border Collie, and Clancy-doesn't-get-out-much Gibbs.

The sun sets so early in winter that by the time school lets out there's hardly any daylight left. Devon and I tried to hurry, but by the time we made it out to the house, the sun was already setting. I called ahead and Caleb had our snow gear all ready for us. We had a couple of sleds, a snowboard, and for the first time, a pair of skis with boots that actually locked in.

My mom had gotten them last year, but we'd never had enough snow to try it out before now. We had been using a  pair of skis that we just stood on until we fell off. I kind of liked the emergency-eject option, personally, but now we could be just like real skiers. Just like them.

Our sledding hill was located some distance behind the house. I have no hills right by the house, a source of disappointment to me; to be fair, hills are rather scarce around here in general. But last week Caleb and I scouted out one out back in the neighbor's field. It drifted with quite a bit of snow, so the slope was still covered and smooth.

Too bad we had to hike 50 miles to get there, but we hardly minded the distance because of the beautiful sunset.

We...puff, puff....hardly.....wheeze...minded all. Collapse.

The dogs were having a great time. No lack of energy on their part. We seriously need to train those slackers to be sled dogs!

Clancy's right there in the center. White dogs don't show up well in the snow!

Caleb and Devon started having fun right away while I stood at the bottom of the hill and tried to figure out ski boots while hopping on one foot. Ski boots are interesting, to say the least. They're very...supportive (read immobilizing) and one gets the feeling that the ankles are pretty safe. I understand, though, why people are always breaking their knees while skiing. I felt like a flamingo just trying to walk in them----I can't imagine trying to fall. I could feel my kneecaps crumbling!

I made one slow, VERY careful trip down the side of the hill before deciding Devon could have a turn. I wouldn't want to be selfish, you know.

Devon did very well on skis, but he's something of a monkey anyway. Only my passion for accurate journalism compels me to report that he fell down his first time down the hill. One leg---with ski still attached---ended up about five feet uphill from the body, but after a "speedy" rescue, he reassembled his limbs and continued on his way. Do real-life rescue squads stop to laugh first?

All too soon, the sky darkened and the wind started to pick up. Fun is fun, but nothing says "wet blanket" like getting frozen to death, so we had to say good-bye to our play-time and head back to shelter. It had been a wonderful, fun afternoon of memory-making.

But the party wasn't quite over yet. It's against sledding party rules to end an evening without curling up with a nice glass of hot cocoa and a good movie. "It's a Wonderful Life" is still one of the greatest Christmas films ever made. And how will Hollywood ever surpass it---when faith, family, and fidelity are considered so old-fashioned and out-of-date now?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

My Wild, Passionate Nature is Leaking Again

I've spent many years living a pastel life. My house was mint-chip green and every interior room was decorated in soothing shades of muted colors. The art I aspired to create was romantic, dreamy, and---well---pastel. I liked watercolors of lilacs and bunnies and gardens and tulips. Wicker chairs, vintage china, and lace curtains in the windows.

But when I actually painted, something very awkward happened. I would sit down to bring my pastel vision to life and out would pour forth vibrant colors of reds, blues, yellows, and every other primary color. No matter how hard I tried, I could not make pastel art. My artistic career was hit and miss anyway, since I would get to paint a picture every 5 years or so, but eventually I began to suspect that I might have a colorful nature somewhere buried deep inside.

Ancient artwork...

As I've aged, and hopefully matured, I've come to accept---and even embrace---the bright colors of my soul. That's why in my new home, there are almost no pastels. Almost every room incorporates red in some way. And that's why I'm seriously contemplating painting the exterior of my house bright blue next summer. If I can't keep my inner colors down, why not join 'em?

Maybe I'll eventually stop trying to make delicate art, either, but for now, I keep trying. Last week I wanted to make a little felt owl kitty toy. Something cute and colorful. I didn't have a clear design in mind---more like a mental tickle---but I knew I'd recognize it when I saw it. So I made the owl.

I'll show you a picture of it in a minute, but first let me show you another picture. In my ego's defense, I did not see these owls until after finishing my own creation. I wasn't trying to copy them because I hadn't seen them yet, OK!? But as soon as I saw them, I realized that these owls were what my mind wanted me to create.

Needle felting Owl kit

Aren't they cute?

But this is what sprung out of my own tortured artistic mists...

I call him "Attitude Owl".

I wonder what this says about my subconscious?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Window Dressing

The last few days I've been working on something a little different. Our local hardware store has been owned by Dennis Kittleson for I-don't-know-how-many-years, but lately he's gotten some crazy ideas about having a life to call his own, travel, and a fun retirement. So he's decided to sell the store.

Nothing is finalized yet, but Jack and Noni are in talks to buy it. They've been spending some time at the shop getting the feel of the business and helping out during the holidays. The last couple of days I've been called into help with some of the work, especially getting the front of the store looking more festive.

I've never worked in stores much before---my 3-month stint as a Walmart cashier has been it so far---but my family can attest that I showed an early aptitude for retail. Way back when I was 4 or 5 I started a little store behind my dad's Lazy-boy recliner. Business was bad, mostly because my stock consisted of little rocks, leaves, and seed pods collected from the yard.

Never one to let petty details like that stop me, I instinctively honed in on one of retail's primary truths. "Give the customer what he wants." What could my brothers want more than their own toys? So I would go into their rooms, "borrow" little things like Hot Wheels and toy dinosaurs, and stock my store with them.

Oh, sure....the boys complained a bit, but I had one very important parental dictate on my side. "Play nicely with your sister." Sometimes being the youngest is a good thing.

After such a sterling beginning,  it was only natural that I be consulted as part Jack and Noni's retail venture. And their store-to-be is already stocked, so I won't even have to worry about that part! Bet my brothers are relieved...

The entrance area of the store.

The front window

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Morning Blessings

The sunrise was so pretty this morning I just had to take a picture. Sunrise colors don't last long, so I had to grab my camera and run out there in my sock feet and pajamas. The driveway was still covered in a layer of snowy ice, and the temperature was hovering around 8 degrees----not the best environment for inadequately-clothed landscape photographers.

My blood has thickened enough that I can last about a minute at that temp, but I got pretty chilly there by the end. The trick is to admire winter scenery quickly and then make a mad dash for the warmth of the good ol' indoors. It helps to go "Hoo, hee, hoo, hee," like you're in labor.

You'll sound---and look---ridiculous, but a photographer's got to do what a photographer's got to do.

The sun was rising in the east

while the moon was setting in the west.
See, it was worth it...

Hope you have a beautiful day!