Thursday, December 25, 2008

Going With The Flow

This has been the most unexpected Christmas season. Almost everything we had planned for the last two weeks was cancelled due to weather, and now even Christmas itself has been rescheduled for many in the Portland area. My family will now be gathering on December 27th for feast and frolic, partly due to snow and partly due to a Christmas Day doctor's appointment that my mom couldn't avoid. We're all just going with the flow around here, and seeing where the days take us. They are handing us some surprises.

Having all our plans cancelled hasn't turned out to be all that bad. We have had time to truly relax for the first time in months, and playing in the snow right outside our door has been a treat. We've gone on several snowshoe outings with very little time and effort, and no gasoline used at all to go find the powder!! Ked got to start putting together my new table saw that he got me for Christmas, and the one thing we payed money for this holiday season was not cancelled--the weather let up enough to let us go see the Oregon Ballet Theater perform The Nutcracker. We went with some dear friends, and then all came back to our house for a quick change of clothes and a nice long late-night stroll in the snow. Perfect.

That was, as I mentioned, just about the only event that came off as planned. Not a single other day was what we had put on the calendar. (It's a good thing I keep my calendar on the computer, or it would be nothing but a scribbled out mess!) We spent one whole day wrapping and distributing gifts for Angel Tree (a really cool organization), because hardly anyone else could get out of their driveways! We spent another on a medical errand of sorts. A third saw us driving friends to the airport so they could escape to warmer climes. All of these days had other plans that weren't meant to be, but it has been quite a peaceful week despite all this. We have learned to embrace the changes, and even be glad of the opportunities they have brought.

True to form, our Christmas Eve plans also proved a challenge, and any other year we would have been upset, but this year is truly special. We will reschedule the plans that got cancelled, and because they fell through we ended up having a lovely Christmas serendipity. Not far into the evening, Ked and I heard a faint hint of Christmas music which we knew wasn't coming from inside our house. The music grew louder and we went to the window to see what was afoot. We saw our next-door neighbor had brought a portable fire-pit into his front yard, and soon he had a merry blaze going. He had Neil Diamond singing Christmas songs from his car stereo, and the open door allowed the music to fill the street. Ked and I wandered out to enjoy the show and then our neighbor invited us down to share the fire and see what other intrepid souls would poke their heads out of their doors to join us.

Two other couples decided to stand in ten inches of snow and brave the light rain (yes, for the first time in two weeks it decided to rain. How's that for ornery weather?), and we all had a lovely time getting warm by the fire and passing around fresh-baked cookies and my husband's famous homemade butter almond toffee. We got to meet some new folks we hadn't met before, a couple up from San Francisco who moved in not too long ago--hilariously enough, they moved here for the weather!! We had a simply lovely time connecting with the people who live closest to us, and I'm so glad it happened that way. I asked our "hosts" if this was an annual tradition that we always missed because we're never home on Christmas Eve, and he said no, that they hadn't been home on that night themselves in 27 years!! They just thought that if we were all going to be stranded together, we might as well enjoy each other's company. Isn't that a nice neighborly attitude? I hope that this becomes our default tradition--whoever is around on Christmas Eve shares a fire and some cookies, preferably in the snow.

For your holiday enjoyment, I wanted to share some pics-about-town that were taken all over the city this week. Some are personal. Some I just thought were pretty. (Click on them to enlarge.)

My friend Su has this wonderful marsh/pond behind her house, and she's always taking these amazing wildlife photos. Here's one she snapped of an egret--I think it's safe to call it a snowy egret at this point, even if it's not!!

I don't think she'll be dining al fresco anytime soon. Unless she wants a nice big snow cone, that is. Anybody have any cherry syrup?

After we finished making our Angel Tree deliveries, the friends who were part of our delivery crew had a few more errands of mercy to perform. Ked just loves to drive in the snow, so we were off!! They all showed great patience for me, letting me stop frequently to take pictures of scenes that I thought were pretty. I thought this picture fit that description.

Here are our patient friends. She didn't mind me stopping for picture-taking, partly because she's a shutterbug herself, and one of the most artistic people I know. It was nice to have such cheerful company on our travels that day.

I loved this spot of color in an almost endlessly white world. I do think snow is gorgeous and magical, but I have to admit that it can be rather monochromatic.

On the way home we drove down Peacock Lane, a local landmark this time of year. There are two densely packed blocks where every home is decorated and aglow. It has been this way every Christmas as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, it was too early in the evening for every house to be lit (we got there 20 minutes too soon), but a few of them were prepared for eager visitors who jumped the gun, so we still got to see some pretties.

On one of our snowshoe treks, Ked and I noticed this fallen tree in the park blocks near our home. It's hard to tell with no people in the shot to give it perspective, but that's a fully grown tree just toppled over like it gave up on life. When we looked more closely we saw that, even though it had significant girth, the roots were extremely shallow. I don't know if that is common to this type of tree, but if it is, it explains the several other nearby trees of this type that have lay down and died in our near-annual ice storms. Perhaps the park planners ought to reconsider their tree of choice...

We went out yesterday, after the heaviest snowfall of the week, and walked around the golf course--snowshoe clad, of course. We saw lots of other people on cross country skis and sleds. One family even had a stroller with a ski attachment. They said they had never gotten to use it before, but that it was proving itself worth the purchase. After this week we feel the same way about our SUV. Guilt us all you want about our gas guzzler, but when people needed a ride this week, we were the ones they called.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again--Snow is fun!!

As I said, snow is fun, but I must admit that I chose a terrible week to loan out my ski pants!

Today we got what is likely to be our last blast of snow from this record-setting year. The series of storms decided to go out with a bang this morning, and we got the biggest flakes and most beautiful snowfall yet. Needless to say, we wandered outside, to take pictures!

Ked was thirsty, so he took a taste of what libations the sky had to offer.

I just stood outside this morning being happy in the snow--happy that this unusual end-of-the-year foray into winter has given Ked and me so many gifts. It's made us slow down and enjoy the moment. It's given us the opportunity to help people, and meet our neighbors. It's helped us remember that Christmas isn't about the date we celebrate, or the traditions we keep, but about Jesus, and the people that He came to Earth to love and give His life to save. I'm still looking forward to celebrating with my family this Saturday, but I'm looking forward to it with more peace and less agenda than I've had for many a Christmas. That is a gift indeed.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Blindingly White Christmas

Did Al Gore come to the Pacific Northwest? They say that wherever he shows up to give one of his talks on global warming the temperature drops to unusual lows, but this is taking the Gore Effect to new extremes (especially if he doesn't actually happen to be here). Talk about power. We have had winter in Portland, honest-to-goodness winter for over a week, and that just doesn't happen here before Christmas without some dramatic intervention from a higher power, like God graciously answering "yes" to the prayers of kids and teachers who want a snow day, or the aforementioned global weather czar making an appearance to prove to the already convinced that global warming is going to ruin the planet. I lean toward the Almighty myself, but some might attribute more power to the former Vice President.

In any case, every day for the last three or four days the weather prognosticators have been assuring us that one more band of moisture was coming through that would raise temperatures above freezing and turn off the snow showers, but every day the cold front from the east defeats the wet warm front from the west, and the snow continues to fall. We did get a brief interval of freezing rain (about a quarter of an inch) a couple times, but those sheets have simply gotten layered between the more flaky kind of crystallized water to give the surface a little crunch when we walk through it.

So, I got my wish. Snow. Lots and lots of gorgeous now. I have now had six planned events cancelled by the weather, including the Christmas service and turkey dinner at church yesterday. That's disappointing. However, we've rescheduled them for next week, so hopefully we get to make the church events up, and in the meantime we get a winter adventure! The big event of the week is still coming, of course. I do hope Christmas comes off as planned. All of my Mom's children will be together for the first time ever. The last time it happened I was a toddler, so tack forty plus years on to that and it pretty much qualifies as having never happened. I was basically a senseless, thankless oyster at the time, so I don't really count it as a complete family moment. (MAJOR bonus point to anyone who gets the oyster reference and can tell me what movie it's from.)

At some point today, Ked and I are supposed to go to the butcher's and pick up the prime rib we ordered for Christmas dinner with the family. The shop is about a mile away, so we have decided to strap on the snowshoes and a backpack, and trek there on foot. Why not!? People pay money for the chance to get a good workout in the snow, and we've been out walking in it several times already. The difference today is that there's LOTS more of it, so the snowshoes will come in for use. That just makes the adventure all the more adventurous!! We can't let this opportunity for a winter-gym-at-our-doorstep go to waste! Other people agree with me, too. So far today I have seen dads pulling sleds, neighbors wielding snow shovels, and one intrepid soul who lives across the street gliding up our hill on cross-country skis. That last one took me by surprise, to be honest. It's just not something you see here in the rain zone. I wonder if we'll cause the same reaction for someone else when they see us trudging by wearing snowshoes? Heh.

Here's Ked out in back by our pear tree. If you look closely, you can just see the top edge of a retaining wall behind him and to the left. That's a raised bed that stands about 18 inches high. The whole back yard is one giant snow drift.

These bushes across the street are feeling the weight of the ice layers. A few of the trees are looking pretty top-heavy these days as well.

Remember how in an earlier post I said I'd never driven in snow? This would probably be the perfect opportunity to learn, if we wanted to dig the car out of the snowdrift that is... That retaining wall is three feet high.

In my last post I noted that my house was wearing a light white winter jacket, and that it needed more clothing. Well, I'd say now that it dressed up for the holidays! That little tree is wearing a full tree-skirt. Heck, I'd call it a ball gown at this point!!

Ked got out soon after I snapped that last photo and cleared the stairs and walkway a bit for the mailman. That's always a risk here in Portland, because snow often turns to freezing rain (at least in our part of town, which is quite near the the Columbia Gorge), and you'd much rather have freezing rain over snow than over bare steps and pavement. Trust me on this one. You can stomp your way through crunchy snow much better than you can keep your balance on a sidewalk ice skating rink. Hope this choice pans out. They're calling for more snow, and less freezing rain in the forecast, but you never know here in the northern Willamette Valley. We may only get winter once every three or ten years, but when we do, anything can happen...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sittin' In The Window... Feeding My Soul

I'm watching the snow fall. Can't tell you how much this ministers to me, or why. It just does. I can so easily get lost in the flakes as they drift to the ground. Right now it's the kind of snow I've been waiting for all week. Up until now, it's been icy, hard, cold, windy snow, with little tiny pellets blowing like fog across the world, only to vanish in the wind. Today it's the gentle kind of snow that comes to the earth with a kiss and nestles down in soft contentment. It's beautiful. I hope it lasts a while. "More, more," she cried.

Here's my house, wearing just a thin white winter jacket. It needs a heavier coat, don't you think?

Here's the view across the street. I've always thought that Snow White should live in this house and stand on that little balcony singing. Today, it's even more appropriate.

My neighborhood has lots of trees that look pretty all year round, but even more so when they're dressed in white. Of course,, in my opinion, even the power lines look almost pretty when they're covered in snow. I'm awfully easy to please when the snow is falling.

If you're in the neighborhood, I hope you're enjoying this as much as I am.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Getting In The Spirit

It snowed today!! It wasn't the 4-8 inches they promised us for days, and the wind is blowing a lot of it away, and there's a layer of ice underneath it which is going to be there long after the snow has disappeared, but It Snowed Today!! Snow, snow, snow, lovely snow. In Portland. In December. Yay.

This blog has turned into more of a personal memory journal than anything else. I suppose I ought to remove the header that makes mention of politics and science and the like, but I haven't gotten around to it, and besides, you never know when I might get the whim to write something legit, but until then I hope you'll indulge me while I get in the Christmas spirit.

We were supposed to go to a party this afternoon, but stayed home because Ked is sick, and due to the general paucity of snow in the Portland Metro area, I have never actually driven in really bad weather. (I'd say ice and 23 degrees qualifies as bad weather. You can call me a wimp if you live in the Midwest or Northeast, but there it is.) Some day I need to learn, but it's not going to be while driving out to Oregon City by myself, leaving my husband home alone sneezing. I think a better plan would be going up with a healthy Ked to some mountain parking lot some day. I do not have a current death wish.

Since we had the unexpected time at home, and the inspirational white stuff, I took the opportunity to put up and decorate our Christmas tree. I offer it here for your perusal.

I went with a purple and gold theme this year--something you may or may not be able to tell from the photo above. (Click on the picture to get a better look.) I tried to take a picture that captured the feel of it more than the exact form. Not sure how that worked, but I gave it my best shot. I discovered it's hard to take a picture of a lighted tree. Flash washes it out. No flash makes it blurry or grainy. Oh well. It's the thought that counts, right?

Speaking of Christmas thoughts--If you are travelling for the holidays, stay safe and have a lovely trip. If you are sticking close to home, be warm and comfortably cheerful. Wherever you will be, I wish you a very joyous Christmas and a New Year full of Christ's blessings and love. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


I had to share last night's sunset with you. It was the kind of sky that makes you wish you weren't in the city, with rooftops and power lines, but out in an open field with just distant hills and maybe an oak tree or two. Simply glorious. I couldn't keep that sky to myself. You needed to see it too. (Maybe you did see it, if you're local, in which case it was a pleasure watching the sunset with you.)

Ked and I came home late in the afternoon from my mom's house with a load of her belongings to store in our garage. (She's trying to put some things in order, and we've been doing our best to help.) Anyway, I noticed as we pulled into the driveway how pretty the clouds were, with a beautiful glow that came from just the right amount of clouds meeting just the right angle of sun. They were dark in the back, but all lit up bright white where they faced the golden orb. (Bonus points if you know the movie quote.) I couldn't resist getting out my camera, because you just don't see clouds like that every day, and I'd love to learn to paint them. I'm a cameraholic anyway, so it's no surprise that I merrily started snapping pictures as soon as the car slowed enough for the camera to focus.

Once I finished click-clicking, and Ked finished backing the utility trailer into the driveway, we got to work, pulling stuff from the trailer and rearranging the garage space to accommodate the new additions. (We had to work around that as-yet-unassembled saw that I told you about last week. It's smack in the middle of the garage claiming preeminence.) Being busy, I wasn't really thinking about the sky anymore, just concentrating on the task at hand, but about half an hour after we got into the job I finally managed to look up again to where the sun was now going down. What I saw took my breath away. Hope you like it too. (Click to enlarge.)

This really doesn't do the glowy clouds justice. Although I want to learn to paint them, clearly I have not learned how to photograph them yet. (Maybe painting will be easier!! Well, okay, probably not.)

This is what I saw when I turned my focus upward for the second time. The clouds had been filling in for that half hour that we spent playing pack mule. While we weren't looking, God filled half the sky with this amazing color.

I walked around the neighborhood a bit to get a better view, and the clouds kept thickening while the fire spread.

I love this picture. Eventually the world above deepened to this dramatic grey-blue with rose-tinged edges. So beautiful. I want to live in those clouds--or at least be able to paint them!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Happy Thing

My Christmas present just arrived!! The nice man in the big truck put it on a dolly and wheeled it into our garage, with me cheerfully snapping pictures the whole way to commemorate the momentous occasion (so I could post the pics here and let you share my joy). Some of you will think that getting an unwrapped Christmas present delivered to your garage on December 4th is somewhat anti-climactic—that the holiday surprise was spoiled—but allow me to assure you that this was not the case. There never was a surprise to be spoiled, since I already knew what was coming. In fact, I picked it out! So, I’m happy as a lark with my December 4th non-surprise gift.

Ked and I never buy wrap-and-put-under-the-tree gifts for each other. When we were younger, we couldn’t afford them and didn’t think it was wise to spend money on presents when that money ought to go for bills and necessities. (I’ve never been big on wrapping up socks and calling it a gift. Although that’s a perfectly valid present, especially when money is tight, I just could never see spending money on wrapping paper and making a big deal about something that basic. Maybe I’m just no fun…) Later on we have tended toward getting some bigger ticket (for us) items together that makes us both happy, again bypassing the whole “do not open until Christmas morning” thing. Anyway, this year, my wish list got consulted and our Christmas purchase is a beautiful, wonderful, spectacularly useful new Grizzly G0444 - 10" 1-1/2 HP Single-Phase 110V table saw! Whoo hoo!! (Yes, men, you can envy my husband over this one. Not that many women get excited over the thought of a power tool for Christmas, let alone put it at the top of their list. He gets to buy a new tool, and say it’s a gift for me. Talk about the best of both worlds!)

Our old table saw met its very timely end over a year ago, and we have frequently lamented the lack of a replacement. Thing is, though, we were not satisfied to replace it with another of the same quality. It never was a good enough tool, with a fence that made a gross generalization look accurate, and we didn’t want to get something else that we’d have to fight as much as the old cheap model. So, we waited until we could get something better, and that day has finally come!! Not a day too soon, either. I really need this saw for a project that I’m doing at my church. I have windows to install that require a specific kind of shim, trim pieces to bevel, a cabinet to construct, etc., and this is really going to aid in those endeavors. After that, I get to finally finish our sewing room/ art studio/ music room. It got torn up four years ago and never put back together for various reasons, mostly involving time and energy. Now that it looks like I’ll be able to get on that project in the not-too-distant future, I’ve been toying with the idea of custom building the cabinetry to meet our specific needs for this room, and this saw would make that project soooo much easier. Not sure it’ll happen that way, but having the saw gives me options. Power tool options. This is always a good thing.

Yay! The Fed Ex man arrived right in the time window when they said he would come. It's always nice not to be kept waiting when you're waiting.

He was such a nice Fed Ex man, too. He was very friendly, and when he found out the saw was for me, he expressed great delight at meeting a "Power Tool Babe." His wife used to work at Home Depot in the tool section, and is a PTB herself. He told me some interesting stories about how customers would assume that she was just an ignorant girl, insist on going to talk to a man, and then end up being sent back by those same male employees to talk to her, because she was the one who actually knew what she was talking about. I'd like to meet this woman!

Here's my toy, still in the box. Sometime in the next few days we get to put it together. If you're interested, I'll let you know how that goes, and give you our power tool review after we've used it a bit. In the meantime, you can be happy for us that Christmas came early to Meowville. I certainly am. I get to play!