Friday, December 25, 2020


Santa left something too good in one of the stockings, and that's why on Christmas morning all of the stockings were crashed and spilling on the floor. My ingenious system for hanging stockings was no match for a determinded cat after a fluffy wool llama toy.
Geoff and I were the first ones up, and I solved the crashed stockings mystery, then restored all. It was 5am. We unloaded the dishwasher, then filled it up, again. I made tea. Geoff made coffee. Then I rang sleigh bells. And that's how the morning began. I confess... I love all the days from Thanksgiving right through Christmas Eve, and then Christmas Day feels like the beginning of the end. The end of anticipation, of wonder, of preparing, of secrets and plans, even of the longest nights, which I particularly love. After Christmas comes the awareness that Winter break will whiz by, that the tree will need to come down, and school will start up, again. Sorry. I sound more morose than I actually feel, but it's a shame to see the veil lifted.
There can be no denying it... we positively spoiled each other. And it was a slow, appreciative, happy morning. Each and every gift is opened one at a time, and we play, and admire, read aloud, share, pass things around, and laugh. If Christmas must come to end, at least we make the very most of our celebration. Do you know Reddy Kilowatt? He found his way into our stockings, along with notebooks, pencils, Pez, and kazoos!
Seven kazoos! Each handmade, not by Santa's elves, but by William. The body is bass wood, and the resonator cap is walnut. I wrote about them on Instagram. For weeks William has been very busy at several different projects, including these kazoos. They sound good, too. Funny thing is, instinctive kazoo playing may be a hereditary skill. Maria and I are still trying to get the hang of it, while Geoff was able to bzzzzzz out a tune right off the bat! The kazoos look pretty, and feel buttery smooth. We love them.
And there was another woodworker in our midst! Just look at what Max did for my knife. This is the same knife Alex rescued for me. It never should have gone into the dishwasher, but life happens, and after four years, my favorite knife needed another rescuing. This time Max took charge. He chose ancient African bog-wood and a band of purple acrylic. Max sat beside me and described all of the steps he made to refurbish my knife. The brass pins were formed on the lathe, and then all the parts were assembled around the knife's tang, so he could shape the handle on the belt sander, with a spindle handle, and finally, sanding it by hand. He sharpened the blade, too. Everyone knows... my favorite knife doesn't go in the dishwasher! It's beautiful, and lovely to hold.
The rest of the day went, pretty much, like this... reading, naps, reading naps, cats playing and napping, and people playing, and napping. It's wonderful. Also, we make a tremendous mess. Even when we tidy as we go, things get absolutely jumbled. It makes me twitch, but the young folks insist that it's a good and necessary jumble, essential to the merry of Christmas. It's a good practice... to be merry, even in the midst of jumbles, to appreciate all of it. We have made the most of our holidays, and there is more to come.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Together Distantly

Here is Pod A! Ruth, Izzy, Emma and Nick, Rich and Holly~
Christmas Eve at Tutu's has been a happy tradition, and not one we were ready to give up, despite everything. Ruth devised a plan, and with some tweaks, adjustments, compromises, and lots of precautions, we did get to be together, for Christmas Eve, distantly, and happily. I am glad, and thankful, that she didn't give up, that we made safe choices, and still managed to share laughter, and engagement.
Ruth provided individually packed provisions, one for Pod A and another for Pod B. Max is still raving about the jalapeño muffins. And we exchanged gifts. A very fortunate thing is the that rain held off, and we had the park all to ourselves. Of course, we missed our homecooked brunch and being cozy, and close, in Tutu's beautiful home. It takes a good mix of hope, for better days, and humor, to make these things work out... and we have plenty of both. It was good we made the effort to pull this, modified, Christmas Eve off.
I propose we recall this as the Year of the Christmas Gopher, when we were all entertained, especially Rich and I, by the industrious work, and silliness of this little guy. He didn't seem to mind that we were near. He kept right at his business, popping up regularly to be sure we were minding the spirit of lockdown, and Christmas. Thank you, Christmas Gopher.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020


We are home for the holidays, and it feels extra special now that Maria is on break from school. She and I have been on a couple of bike rides, even stopping at my favorite spot, where we can collect pinecones.
We wonder what the cats will think when COVID is managed, and they don't have the near constant company of seven doting humans! Cairo, especially, is over the moon about having Geoff working from home. A few times a day, Geoff calls me to come get your cat, or come look at this cat! Cairo makes himself right at home on Geoff's lap, hanging over Geoff's arms, and leaving his furry calling card all over Geoff's shorts. Again, and again, we declare our gratitude to have the kitties, their antics and company, their warmth, and goofiness.
About a week ago, Max sat beside me and asked about our holiday plans, mentioning some hopes and wishes. They love to plan a kind of sleep-over for Christmas Eve, when they push togehter sleeping pads and mattresses and read aloud, watch videos, and laugh a lot. He asked about cookies. Might there be some baking, could we try our hand at snickerdoodles? He hoped, too, we could have spinach and ham quiche for Christmas. Then we talked about churros and hot chocolate. We've never tried making churros, but we have gained a lot of confidence about cooking and baking new things, so we will be giving that a try, soon. I found a recipe for the snickerdoodles, and even though I had to wade through tons of prose and ads to get to the actual recipe, it was worth it!
With Christmas Carols playing, and some candles lit, Maria and I got to baking, and feeling merry and bright. It was a relaxed and welcome activity. One thing I figured out was that even though we wanted a variety of cookies, we didn't need too many, and so I made the one recipe, and split the dough... half for snickerdoodles, and half to cut and ice. It worked out really well.
The snickerdoodles came out of the oven soft, and a bit chewy, which I like. Maria likes crisp cookies so she decided to turn a few of the cut out cookies into snickerdoodle-people, coated in sugar with cinnamon. Then I proposed that they ice the little people to look like their D & D characters, and that was a big hit with Alex, Bambi, and Maria. I made a couple of stargazers, and a nod to the Jupiter and Saturn convergance. Even though we packed up the regular snickerdoodles in a box, the next day they were crisp, too, which was a happy outcome for all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Winter Now

It's Winter, now. In Southern California, on the coast, it's necessary to announce it, to state and clarify that Fall is over, and Winter has begun, otherwise we would have no idea that anything has changed. For all we know, it could be early June. It's not impossible to tell one season from another, but we have to pay attention. Afterall, June can be cold, too. And yesterday we had temps in the 70s, which is definitely not at all cold. Signs of Winter around here... Uggs worn with shorts, flip-flops worn with down jackets, reindeer antlers on SUVs, surfers in wetsuits, Christmas trees on the beach, and tamales selling like tamales at El Nopalito.

Another sign of Winter, of holiday cheer, are all of the loving gestures and kind favors going around. School clubs sponsor Adopt a Family events to help families in need, and there are toy drives, food drives. On our bike ride, we go by a home with a table on the street, laden with snacks and water bottles, all for the delivery drivers, postal workers. Down the street, neighbors have boxes of key limes out for sharing. And on our gate, a very special treat, delivered fresh from our local mountains, by our dear friends... Carol, Grace, Leo, Bella and Michael shared their mistletoe! It's such a big, bright bunch; the best I've ever seen. And I decided that if flowers come in bouquets, and herbs in bunches, if we have a litter of kittens, and herds of cows, then mistletoe should be a kiss. A kiss of mistletoe makes a merry winter gift.
I never did come up with a plan for Solstice, but the day began pleasantly, calmly, and that's how it went, all the way to bedtime. I thought about the neighbor's limes, and hoping there were some left, I hopped on my bike and went to collect some. While I squeezed limes, Alex and Bambi opened the gingerbread house kit, then called Maria in to assist. And by sheer coincidence, a text came from Leslie... Simon, Bex, and Spencer were completing their house, too!
Later, another text popped up... "The whole thing will be devoured by tonight."
I should ammend my statement about having no plans for Solstice, because since December 1, I have had no other plan than to watch the great convergance, Saturn and Jupiter in their own winter kiss. All I needed was a clear sky, and that wish was granted. We went to a spot where we could enjoy a wide open view. We waited for the last of the sunlight to fade, and then... suddenly, there they were! And when Geoff got the binoculars on the tripod, we took turns, and were treated to Jupiter's moons, and Saturn's rings! I took fuzzy pictures, and even a selfie. I was so happy. I am still happy. I don't know if there's any point in explaining, or describing. But I am so very thankful that the stars and moon, the planets, and big skies have held my gaze this year, that I have found solace and good distraction, giddy anticipation of viewings, and all night wonders. It made me wistful, too, and I made a wish... Stay safe, friends. We are all together on this one little planet, and I can't wait to sing and dance with all of you, again.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Winter Solstice

I admit some days are harder than others, when it comes to being content to scale back, reflect, and revel in good memories, instead of making new ones. Since March, and sincerely, I have declared that I am glad for all the travel, visits, celebrations, gatherings, events, and adventures we have enjoyed, because the memory of them, the pictures, even blog posts, have been lovely to revisit, have given me a happy, thankful heart. It's not any less true, but this week, with Christmas coming, and Solstice, and all of the traditions, and expectations I cherish, being turned on end, cancelled, I have been struggling... struggling to devise new plans, to feel inspired. I feel really really really sad that we won't have an open home tonight, that we won't see the kitchen full of friends plating up potluck, juggling, laughing. I am sad I can't (shouldn't) dash up to Oregon, keep Mom and Dad company, offer support. Stop me! This list could go on, and on. And it's even sadder when I contemplate on the bigger losses, and that disappointment, and struggle is happening for just about everyone. I am sorry. Truly sorry, for whatever you are missing, for the something you long for to make these days brighter, that can't be had.

I fed the goats and chickens, then mindfully walked around to the front of the house. I was hoping to spy birds at the wreath, again, like yesterday. I sat down. I heard birds in the shrubs behind my chair. I saw the bunny that lives on the slope, hop out of the orchard and head back into the undergrowth beneath one Torrey Pine. New bird songs drew my attention to the tops of the Torreys, and I wished I'd worn my glasses. But there were my binoculars, the $5 pair that work well enough. With naked eyes, I scanned the branches for movement, and then brought up the binoculars... a woodpecker! On a pinecone, finding something tasty, maybe the big pine nuts. Could be a Nutall's woodpecker. (Why won't my Merlin app update anymore?) I watched the woodpecker move from one pinecone to another. I saw a Western Kingbird in the bare tree by the trashcans. We always debate about taking that tree down, because it's half dead, and always looks shabby, but it's the same tree where we see cedar waxwings every year. And the goats love the big, crunchy leaves that the tree drops. The tree stays. And the leaves stay... I read about how all of the fussing with manicured lawns, and raking every last leaf is leaving our gardens bare of biodiversity, so we scaled back on all of that. I can see a big difference. We have more birds than ever, and they are visiting the ground, where leaves, and decomposing bits are housing bugs and good things to eat, they are in the shrubs, and the canopies of the tree, at the birdbath.

I am not sure what else I will be doing today, and I would like it to be special. But I know it started special, and I am glad for that... just those few minutes of sitting, and observing, of reflecting on some simple choices we've made, and what I have learned, and hope to learn, calmed and centered me, eased my mind. It's no small thing, and I cannot take it for granted: We have a birdhouse home, a place that we share, and enjoy, where we are visited by many birds, and many kinds of birds, a place where we have been blessed with opportunities, safety, comfort, company, and time. To observe all of this makes me happy, and feels like a worthy celebration of another trip around the sun.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The End of Fall

Behold! We have a beautiful bird feeder! Carol, warned me about it not being too sturdy, that the berries would dry, and parts would wither, drop off. Then another friend remarked, "I hope the cedar waxwings don't carry it away!" But that made me hopeful, too... what if the birds did come, and partake? That would be a treat to see, I imagined. I will always remember Carol's wreath as full and bountiful, even after it has faded, and this morning when I came around from feeding goats and chickens, I saw visitors! It's a poor shot, but I didn't want to startle the birds. It's a really lovely celebration of Winter Solstice, this last day of fall, to see nature enjoying a seasonal treat. I am about to fix myself a cup of tea, then sit outside... hoping to see any birds appreciating Carol's gift.
Updated! I had to take a closer look at the wreath, after seeing a comment from Carol, on Instagram. She filled in a bare spot! How sweet is she? Not only did she make us this beautiful wreath, now she's come by to add to it. She thinks it's "marvelous" that the birds are appreciating her gift, too.