Almost-Winter Sunset

I can’t believe I’ve let yet another week go by without posting.  My only excuse is that we’ve all been sick on and off for the last few weeks, and there’s not been a lot of motivation.

Today I’m promising you a real post soon while I leave you with these pictures of the beautiful sunset that greeted me at evening feeding this past week.  And FYI, these do not do it justice in the least.

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Hygge

I came across an article about the Danish concept of Hygge not long ago; about how people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (or those who just hate the colder, darker months) might benefit from adding a bit of it to their lives.

Hygge, as it turns out, is all about the “cozy” in life.  Or, something like that. It’s a feeling that encompasses all of those things that make say, Christmas, so magical. It’s love. It’s an inviting fire with a cup of delicious tea when it’s snowy outside. It’s snuggling with your loved ones – furry or otherwise.  For most of us knitters, it’s an afternoon free and a bag full of fresh-spun wool.  It’s well-being. It’s sanctuary.

When I read about it, I knew it deep it my bones already.  It was in there all along, just waiting for a good word to put to it. Paul has always called it all of my “little things”.  Those things that make you feel at home, that make you happy. It turns out I’ve been practicing hygge my whole life.

December is, indeed, the sort of “holy month” for hygge, for lack of a better term. Think about it: the tree, the lights, the comfort foods, the festivities.  It’s a month where we all know the cold and dark of winter is breathing down our backs but we push it aside to  celebrate joy and warmth and love.

I have it all around me.

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A darling paperwhite bulb in the kitchen window.

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My favorite happy little sparkly reindeer ornament.

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My very favorite tea, which I will enjoy this evening, snuggled on the couch with my girls after a dinner of spicy vegetable soup.

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The soft glow of the Christmas tree, which still smells divine! We sat cuddled up next to it today and watched the classic Baryshnikov version of The Nutcracker.

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These fantastic little heat packs.  Great for cold feet, headaches, backaches, and cozying up your blankets at night.

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A big, furry, polar bear of a dog and a tiny sweet kitten.

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My purry little companion, curled up in a wool blanket.  A wool blanket woven from the wool of the very sheep I can see from my comfy chair as I type.  If that’s not hygge, I don’t know what is!

Go forth, fill your world with hygge!  And even more, allow yourself to revel in it a bit!

‘Tis the Season To Be Snuffly and Sneezy

The past week and a half or so has been rather trying.  Each one of us has gone through a few variations of the same nasty virus and it doesn’t seem ready to go on its merry way any time soon.

I did manage to get the tree up and all of the decorating completed before things went south for me, but I’ve been more or less down with it ever since.

Fortunately, I’ve had some resources to get through it.  I was well stocked with spicy gingerale and garlic chicken soup (not to mention Alka Seltzer Cold & Flu and box after box of tissues).

Being stuck on the couch next to a glowing and happy Christmas tree isn’t too terrible. It’s topped with our mini Gavlebocken:

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The Gavlebocken is a giant straw Christmas Goat in the town of Gavle, Sweden.  They put him out every year, and every year it’s anyone’s bet if he will survive until Christmas; mainly he is at risk from arsonists. There is a webcam on him and we spend hours upon hours watching.  You can find the cam HERE.

Susan has bought me a mini bocken from Ikea the last few years and we are starting to have quite the wonderful collection of them.

The other thing keeping my mind off my misery is the new podcast from This American Life: Serial.  It’s an absolutely riveting true crime story told over the course of many, many weeks (we are currently up to 10).  There were 9 out when I started listening and I binge-listened to catch up.  If you enjoy mystery or crime, or even just a good story, I urge you to check it out.

With any luck I’ll soon be back to normal and in a baking frenzy!

 

 

Turkey Day Coma

Have you all sufficiently recovered from the excesses of Thanksgiving? We had a lovely, quiet,  intimate holiday. Our friend Trina was scheduled to join us for the feast, but sadly she came down with the crud.  Unfortunately, Maddie had the crud as well, and  I have come down with the crud now (and am trying hard not to feel too bad about lounging in my pajamas on the couch all weekend) ; but at least I was well for the day itself.

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The kids were happy with a quiet holiday, too.  First of all, we had actual snow the day before.  Snow. In November. In Virginia.

As if that wasn’t excitement enough, they got to spend all morning in their pajamas watching the parade and the dog show, and were thrilled when I agreed to finally putting on some Christmas music during dinner.  Neve has been pushing hard for being able to get out the Christmas movies and music and I refused to cave in to it until the parade at least had ended.

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After dinner our friends Keith and Jessie came with their kids and Jessie’s mom, Joan, for pie. I had made the usual apple and pumpkin pies, but I also tried a new recipe from Cooking Light: Mocha Pie with Coffee Whipped Cream.  It was astounding. However, there’s a tip I should pass along should you choose to make it: don’t take it out of the fridge until JUST before you serve it.  Ours had been put out an hour or so before slicing and it had gotten quite goopy.

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Now that turkey season has concluded we all have turned our attention to all things Christmas, and yesterday was spent obtaining a tree and pulling out all the decorations from the attic.  If you are likewise feeling ready for the holiday spirit, I’d like to recommend taking a look over HERE at the Gavle Goat. He’s a wonderful Swedish holiday tradition, and as long as no one sets fire to him, he should be there for viewing until after Christmas.  I have several Yule Goats I put out for the season, including one that tops our tree.

I’ve also been hearing about the German Christmas markets from my friend Diana, who currently lives in Wiesbaden.

Europe knows how to do Christmas, y’all.

 

 

 

A Serious Moment

Yesterday I read an article that was posted on my newsfeed in Facebook and it made me very, very angry.

It was THIS story in Rolling Stone Magazine. It didn’t make me angry because it shocked me; it made me angry because I was completely unsurprised.

You see, it’s about rape at UVa.  The sad fact is that young women are sexually assaulted at universities all over the country (and indeed, the world), and though UVa is just one among many, the administration has quite a long history of dismissing those claims and sweeping that information under the rug.  As an undergrad I was lucky; I was already married and a mother and so I never lived on grounds, and I never attended the large, sweaty frat parties that seem to pop up every weekend with a fierce regularity.  I did see them, though.  Being a transit driver for the university meant I worked a lot of late night runs, and many of those nights were spent gingerly navigating along Rugby Rd (fraternity row, in essence) where throngs of scantily dressed young girls stumbled around in the dark with frat boys, drunkenly hopping from party to party.   I heard the widely – believed story that Charlottesville police had no jurisdiction in those areas.  I heard that rape was not treated as a crime by the University.

After I graduated and became an employee working in the fundraising arm of the College I found more evidence of the pervasive sense of white male entitlement I had gotten a taste of as a student.  Board members were overwhelmingly wealthy, male and white, and completely uninterested in anyone who did not fit into that narrow category (unless of course they were trying to fill some sort of quota of diversity to keep up appearances).  I even met older alumni who were upset that so many “veiled women” were enrolled.  It gave me quite a distaste for my alma mater and fellow alumni. This wa s not a group I wished to belong to.  I still, in fact, have a hard time reconciling my time at Jefferson’s University. There were many wonderful friends I made and still keep up with, and I took classes with some incredible faculty. But there was and still is, for me, this shadow of “prestige” hanging over everything.  An unspoken but well-known and accepted idea that this prestige is all-important. That UVa is better than the rest of you.

And so when I read a story in the local paper describing how the University had essentially turned its back on a rape victim, I felt as though it was more of the same.  There later there was THIS story as well.  At this point most people think, Okay, the University is listening. The problems have been pointed out, surely they will change this.

And it seemed to those of us now on the outside that perhaps it was moving to a more progressive  stance.  Certainly there was much more dialogue being opened up.

Or was there? I know an instructor who was chided by the (at the time) President for discussing feminism in her writing class…because the son of very wealthy alum was in that class and found it offensive. (And I hope she’ll forgive me for relating that without asking).

Sadly, now that the Rolling Stone article has hit, it is even more clear that exactly nothing has changed. Sure there’s someone in charge of talking to victims who has been tasked with guiding them.  It seems that she is failing them, though. By not taking them to the authorities, she is tacitly agreeing that perpetrators may go unpunished, free to assault the next girl.  Many victims understand that going forward with charges means they will in effect be put on trial. They will be questioned in painful detail, forced to relive that painful moment over and over. Without a strong advocate most will shrink from that.

This is where my friend Lisa stepped up. You see, while I was sitting in front of my computer with a fire raging in me over how this, over how helpless I felt, she was on the other side of town feeling that same fire – and using it to make something happen.

Lisa (also a UVA alum)  created a fundraising campaign to establish a Legal Defense Fund for victims of sexual assault at UVa.  This would be separate from the University and provide free resources – a victim’s advocate, really – to get help.  It’s been less than 24 hours and she has raised nearly $10,000 toward the goal of $50,000.

The page can be found HERE.

If you are a fellow alum, a member of the UVa community or of the Charlottesville area, or you simply want to help,  I urge you to visit and donate.  Every small amount helps.  We can’t end rape, but we can make sure UVa victims have a place to go and get the appropriate help.

 

The Wintering

We are all holding our breath these days, just waiting for the inevitable return of winter.  We’ve had several recent days where the sky was grey, the temperature was frigid, and the air felt and smelled of snow.

Like every other year, this is where the last minute scramble to be prepared kicks in.  On one of the last warm days I tipped out the water tanks and hosed the hay and leaves and bits out of the bottom.  Of course it looks today as though I didn’t do anything at all, but at least I tried, right?

I’ll be freshening up the pigs’ barn with a layer of fresh hay to root through and burrow into on cold nights.  The bees have been supplied with sugar water as an extra help for the winter (though honestly they made plenty of honey for themselves over the spring and summer and I didn’t remove any from them).

There’s still plenty I’d like to accomplish (some fencing around the strawberry bed, for one) but as every other year, it’s a race against available time and impending cold.

We’ve also been doing our best to keep Cini in the house as much as possible.  His old bones get achey in the cold and he’s looking too skinny these days.

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Keeping him in allows me to feed him extra treats throughout the day and know he’s snuggled up warm by the fire at night.  He’s not too crazy about the arrangement.  He still makes a mad dash for the door whenever it’s opened and will then take off after the first deer he sees. But happily, he has found a small friend in Piccadilly, who loves to rub her face on his snout and play with his giant paws.

Outside the leaves are nearly down from all the trees and it is looking very much Thanksgiving-y.

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Except…..I was surprised to see this:

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I can barely get this rose bush to bloom in the spring, and I have NEVER seen it bloom in the fall.

As lovely as it is, my favorite right now is the Beauty Bush:

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I’m thinking I need to dye some yarn in these colors. I also should have bought about 30 more of these bushes when I planted this one, years ago.

Speaking of yarn…..I’m done with my secret baby knitting project!

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It needs a blocking and to be sent off, so I will save the details and good photos until it has arrived in the hands of its recipient.  I will say that it was very enjoyable to knit and I used JMF Sabine.  It was knit in bits and spurts mostly during school mornings while the girls were working on reading, or their new project, art journals.

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Neve enjoyed working on her title page, which was all about her and the things she enjoys.  However, when I gave them the task of dedicating a page to all things “November”, the results were less than enthusiastic from my middle child.  It was mostly just a statement written out.

“November is a pointless month holding up time between Halloween and Christmas”.

Well then.

 

 

Family Weekend

I have just realized, after sorting through my photos from the weekend, that I didn’t really take any.

What the heck, me?

We had my dad and new step-mom down from New York for a visit, and happily the weather couldn’t have been more beautiful.  I made pumpkin ravioli again; why did I wait so long this season?  We seriously should have  been eating it since September.  So very delicious.

Maddie drove up for the day Saturday, which we were thrilled about, since we don’t get to see her very often anymore.  Busy college student is busy!

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She took time to visit with her silver fox, Roquefort.

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Oona showed Julie around the pasture (when she wasn’t being feral and trying to bite me. Little heathen).

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Bertie decided that this weekend was a good time to develop a limp.  Dad helped hold her for me while I cleaned her hooves up a bit.  Luckily I didn’t notice anything much wrong with her feet other than some packed-in mud and poop.  But I gave her a nice trim anyway since we had her there.

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Oona particularly enjoyed being serenaded while we waited for dinner.  It was a lively, cozy evening with music and dancing (Oona, with her skeleton, Frank).

We ventured out Monday for lunch at The Whiskey Jar and a walk along the downtown mall.  Neve kept everyone entertained with her various character voices.

I took them all to UVa to see the section of The Berlin Wall that is on display there.  It’s great to have such an incredible, iconic piece of history so close to us. We spent some time talking to the kids about the significance of it before heading over to walk the lawn (actually, we spent our time sitting on the lawn while Oona raced around us in circles, due to the gelato we’d eaten before we left downtown).

The rest of the visit we spent catching up, remember good times from the past and family members who are gone now.  My dad and I are working on getting reacquainted, having lived so far apart for so many years and seeing very little of each other. His new wife is just lovely and I am glad to have had this time getting to know her. I’m happy to say that reconnecting with this part of my family has been more wonderful than I could have hoped for, and I am looking forward to seeing them all much more often in the future.

Now if you’ll excuse me once again….I have a sweet little cousin who was just born that I really need to finish knitting for.