The wrapping paper and ribbons are tucked away for another year, but the joy that came with the unwrapping remains! Let me highlight just a few of the presents I received on Christmas morning! (I am joining LeeAnna for I Like Thursday. I bet others have their own joys to share!)
LeeAnna's prompt this week is "facing a turning of the calendar page, and a new year stretching out in front of us, is there anything you would like to try or to learn this coming year?" Faithful readers of this blog will know that I have been working on drawing skills; isn't it wonderful that #1 Daughter and The Fiance support my endeavors with tools such as this book?
Christmas has delivered a precious gift in the form of time with family. #1 Son made it safely from Idaho Falls, and we are relishing these days together. He loves documentaries, and we have watched "Icarus", about doping in sports, and "Pepsi, Where's My Jet?", the story of a teenage boy who decided to take on Pepsi after its ambitious cola-wars ad campaign. Playing games. Making cookies. And good old-fashioned conversations around the dinner table.
Food in our house is always delicious, and Christmas brings some extra-special culinary delights - smoked turkey dinner with all the trimmings, and fruitcake that has been brushed with brandy for a couple of weeks. Yum!
In retirement, I am with Spousal Unit for most of the day, but those days tend to be filled with a flurry of various activities. In the week between Christmas and New Year's, life is slower and we can truly enjoy each other's company. I call it "re-connecting". This week, we hopped aboard the Montana Trolley for a tour of the Christmas lights around town. Overall, the displays were underwhelming, but watching the excitement of the littles on the trolley was heartwarming.
Of course, to me Christmas signifies the Ultimate Gift, Jesus' birth and through it, our salvation.
Wishing you a very Happy New Year, and many blessings in 2023!
"Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful ..."
In the last two days, over 6 inches of snow blanketed our world, and temperatures plummeted. Elsewhere, this might be greeted with trepidation, but hearty Montanans welcome it. (Almost) everything is better with snow - skiing of all kinds, snowmobiling, building snowmen, sitting by the fire watching the flakes flutter to the ground. So I dedicate this post to SNOW!
I am linking up to I Like Thursday with LeeAnna at Not Afraid of Color. If you need some positives in your life, you will find it among the bloggers who join this party!
"It's a marshmallow world in the winter, when the snow comes to cover the ground
It's time for play, it's a whipped cream day I wait for it the whole year ' round"
We've had our first ski/ride day at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
"Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother's house we go; The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh, through the white and drifted snow!"
Well, it's my best friend's house, and it's a Toyota 4Runner, but I can pretend, right?
Snow and cold is not all fun and games, especially for animals, domesticated or not. And for the humans that take care of them. Something as simple as keeping them watered is challenging in such frigid weather ... It doesn't come through in this video, but the parade of turkeys was punching through the snow with many of their steps ... "You could've come like a mighty storm With all the strength of a hurricane
You could've come like a forest fire With the power of heaven in Your flame
But You came like a winter snow Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night To the earth below" Chris Tomlin
LeeAnna's prompt for this week asked about Christmas traditions. The first thing we do on Christmas morning is sing happy birthday to Jesus. I was pleased to see this Nativity scene in our neighborhood this year - I learned that a father/son team made it by hand! (We usually go to Mass on Christmas Eve.)
Armed with coffee and Christmas cake (see this post for more details), we move on to our stockings - did Santa pop coal or other goodies in there overnight? Just a few days ago, I finished a new stocking for #1 Daughter. I started this project in March, as you can see in this post. She will use this stocking at her home; her "kid" stocking will remain here.
#1 Son will drive here on Friday, and we are thrilled beyond measure that he can join us for Christmas. For many years, I have teamed up with him to bake gingerbread cookies. I can almost taste the ginger as I imagine biting into the soft cushion of cookie, shaped as trains, gingerbread people, stars, moose, angels and more.
While all of this goes on (before and on Christmas Day), we are listening to Christmas music ON VINYL. We have at least 10 records, and many of them I inherited from my parents. It gives me great joy that #1 Son adores them as much as I do, especially the Andy Williams album. In the last couple of weeks, I relished a choral concert from Valley Voices and a quirky, delightful hour of fun called Tubachristmas - tuba, euphonium and baritone instruments playing carols. Check out this audio (sorry, picture is the carpet in the hotel!)
After the stockings, we open gifts, taking turns. When we still had furbabies, we could find the cats under the tree, or nibbling the ribbons. #1 Son is leaving his two cats at home - sad face. They don't normally cuddle with each other; do you think they know he will be gone for a week?
At some point, we will pause opening gifts, to Skype with family in the UK and with #1 Daughter in the Midwest. On a timeline known only to Head Chef, we begin dinner preparations - he has decided to smoke the turkey this year. #1 Son is on dressing duty, and I lend a hand wherever I am trusted. When our bellies are full and the sun has disappeared (early this time of year), we will retire to the movie room - I vote for Klaus even though we have watched it before! And so, another Christmas will become memory. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!
Ah, Christmas. It evokes memories of home, and visions of traveling there, perhaps in equal measure. For "home" is a concept that shifts as the proverbial sands at the seaside. I type this from our log home, and yet I will write in a moment about returning home to Ohio, my birthplace. Numerous posts about the UK, my second home, populate this blog. In the final analysis, home is where your heart takes flight! I am grateful for all of my homes, past, present and future.
This week, I am linking up with LeeAnna at Not Afraid of Color. She has nurtured a fine group of bloggers who will make you feel at home with their I Like Thursday posts. Check it out!
Christmas brings me such bonhomie that my "likes" could approach War and Peace dimensions. That might reduce your enjoyment, so I will resist that temptation! Without question, the arrival of winter and the "white stuff" holds a prominent position on my happy list at the moment.
Snowshoe rabbits are on my "naughty" list in the summer, but it is hard to get irritated with them when they are scrabbling for food through the winter.
AND, while I don't have a picture, Spousal Unit spotted an Ermine outside the house this week, and for just a few moments, we giggled while watching it pop in and out of the snow. I found this video on YouTube and this will give you an idea!
Some of my likes are not from this week, but they are just too good not to share! In November, I flew to Ohio with the main purpose to join #1 Daughter, her bridal party, her future mother-in-law and my sister for wedding dress shopping. I mean, who doesn't like being pampered and trying on a bazillion dresses that make you feel like a princess? I can't share the dress with you, but trust me that it is BE-YOO-TI-FUL on her. She wears the dress rather than it wearing her ... October 14, 2023 will be one special day! My sister will design the flowers, and during my visit, the two of them sat down for some planning - I was a third wheel!
We visited the gravesites of my parents, and Wyoming Florist (previously owned by my sister and now passed on to the next generation - her daughter-in-law and her son) generously provided these simple bouquets. If you look closely, you will notice that both of them were born in December - I think of them often in the run-up to Christmas each year.
No trip to Ohio is complete without Skyline Chili, so I made sure to enjoy some before I returned to Montana! (This picture greets you at the airport, near the baggage claim, and tempts you when you depart!!!)
On the plane, I began reading "The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World" by Laura Imai Messina. I wasn't sold by the style at first, but it pulled me in and I highly recommend it, especially for anyone dealing with fresh grief. On December 6, we were devastated by the loss of Spousal Unit's only aunt.
"Later, Yui realized that she had learned another thing ... that silencing a man was equivalent to erasing him forever. And so it was important to tell stories, to talk to people, to talk about people. To listen to people talking about other people. Even to speak with the dead, if it helped."
We soldiered on and harvested our Christmas tree from our own property. Who knew a tree could be so heavy? Normally we have kids here to help with this process! We recruited a neighbor to hold the tree upright while I judged its position and Spousal Unit locked it into position. So grateful for our generous neighbors!
"A famous citation from the American psychotherapist Virginia Satir (1916 - 1988) reads: We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. And we need 12 hugs a day for growth."
Our kids have trees of their own this year, and they were proud to send us pictures of them. It didn't take long for fur-baby Ruby to hide within the tree branches at #1 Son's apartment - carrying on the fine tradition of Maggie and Josie!
With our closest neighbors, we had a progressive Christmas gathering last week. So many delectable dishes and drinks!
The moon was bright and we didn't even need flashlights to walk from house to house.
And I saved the best for last - a mighty shout out to Spousal Unit - AKA Head Chef and Man with Hat. He can now add another pseudonym to the list - Man with Wings - he completed his check ride this week and obtained his private pilot's license!!!! He studied hard and persisted despite many obstacles. I am so proud!
"(Yui) told her about the frame man at the shelter ... (explaining) that the whole world was cut up into frames: big windows, small windows, keyholes ... Hana, already lying in bed, lifted the frame to her face and carefully observed her bedroom ceiling, where there were hundreds of stars twinkling from the projector her father had given her earlier that evening. Then she brought it down to examine Yui's face. "Even the most enormous things can be cut up into tiny parts," Yui whispered. "Even the biggest problems. You can fit anything into a frame."
Oh dear, oh dear. I am so behind on blogging. My faithful readers are calling for pictures of our October trip to the UK, but dare I say I never completed writing about our April trip? I may be succeeding in letting go of weekly posting, but my sense of order raps my knuckles and bends my will to rounding out spring adventures. And, truth be told, I just love sharing pictures of the area around Muker. So, you will have to wait for an October re-cap - and don't ask me when! For now, just sit back and peruse these emerald landscapes!
The overcast skies and cool temperatures must have dissuaded other hikers, as we had the parking area entirely to ourselves - probably a first among all the times we have visited Muker. It didn't take me long to begin snapping photos; in the center of the village, these stunning rock gardens are vibrant even in late April.
Of course, April is prime time to see new lambs. You might see a few more throughout this post! Don't you like the Goth make-up on this one?
The parish of Muker has hundreds of small field barns, or cowhouses, as they are known here. They formed part of a unique style of farming which probably started in the seventeenth century and continued on into living memory. Milk from cows provided an important income to farmers, especially when it was turned into cheese and butter. Winters in upper Swaledale are harsh, so cattle were brought in around November and tied up inside these little cowhouses.
They were fed from hay stored next to them, cut from the surrounding fields. In the spring, the cows were let out to graze on the hillside pastures, and the muck from the cowhouses was spread onto the meadows to help grow the new season's hay.
The footpaths in this area are easy to see - many feet have passed this way before us. Nevertheless, we carry a map and look for footpath signs along the route. Yellow arrows are the most common markings, but it is also typical to see wooden signs such as the one below.
As you near Keld, the footpath skirts a stream, offering views of frothy cascades.
Check out this slow-motion video of another section of the stream.
I never tire of the magnificent landscapes that roll out before me, an unfathomable expanse of green turf, punctuated by ancient dry-stone walls.
We don't often experience house envy, but the outlook (in all directions) of this stone house had us drooling and imagining afternoon tea while taking in the vistas.
I can imagine, in the summer, that this might be a refreshing pool for a dip, or for young ones to gather stones and build small dams and other creations sprung from the depths of their imaginations.
We left Keld, embraced by the fields opening before us. If you are a frequent reader, you have seen a similar picture in the past. If you are a recent addition to my fan club, you can look back at this former post about Muker and Keld: September 26, 2017.
Near this point, we took a path to the left of the main trail; this was new territory for us, and boy, am I glad we took the "path less traveled". We discovered some intimidating rock formations (is this going to fall on me as I walk past?) and several photogenic waterfalls!
With Spousal Unit to give you a sense of scale. (Can you even see him to the left of the waterfall?)
Traditional hay meadows such as the outstanding examples north of Muker (designated as a Site of Specific Scientific Interest) would once have been seen all over the Yorkshire Dales. Mown and dried in the sun, the grass and flowers become the sweet-smelling hay that was once stored inside the cowhouse mew to feed cattle (and sheep) over winter.
The only fertilizer used on these fields is still just the muck produced by cattle overwintered in the nearby cowhouses. This is one of the last places in the dale that you will see the cattle kept in these traditional stone cowhouses, although they are no longer tied in the stalls.
As we came back into Muker, the lambs scampered all around us. How adorable! An unscientific observation would suggest that most ewes have one lamb; triplets are unusual. Love this video of a three-some gamboling with no sign of Mom anywhere!
The trail is so popular that flagstones were added to encourage people to stay on the path and not trample the meadows used for hay. I stepped off the path to avoid disturbing Mama and the twins.
The final two miles of our return to Muker parallel the River Swale, a river that rises on the slopes of High Seat and Nine Standards Rigg near Keld. The Swale takes it name from an old English word meaning "tumultuous river." Its upper reaches flow through the Pennine uplands in a deep trough-like valley known as Swaledale. The heavily wooded dale is renowned for its scenic beauty and attracts many summer visitors.