Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Wonderland, Day Two

It did finally stop snowing last night, and we've probably got around two feet on the ground here. It's deeper in some spots than others, but here's an idea of how deep it was in our backyard. Here's what the front of the house looked like this morning. Here's a look across our back yard and out over the neighboring pasture. And this is from the top of our driveway, looking up the road, which wasn't plowed until just before noon today. Here are a few more random shots I took around here today.

Once the road got plowed, the sons got to work trying to create a monster mountain of snow in which they could excavate tunnels and more. And once the mound of snow was done, what better to do than jump off it?

The sons are hoping that the top and sides of the mound will be frozen over enough tomorrow that they can start tunneling in. They did this more than a few years ago, when they were in elementary school, and have been waiting for a chance to do it again. In that respect, this snow couldn't have come at a better time.

With the road's having been plowed, we should be able to get out and about a bit tomorrow. The dog has an appointment with the vet, and younger son has to drop a writing portfolio off at the university. The gym is supposed to open late tomorrow, so we're hoping to be able to make it to one last kendo class before Christmas. Speaking of Christmas, we could be having more of the white stuff falling then. If that happens, I just hope it's fluffy white stuff as this was and not the wet, slippery white stuff this might have been.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Winter Wanders In

Winter doesn't officially start until tomorrow, but if you've watched the national news today, you've seen that it's already made an entrance here. In fact, CNN was using footage from here, Charlottesville, VA, to accompany one of their stories this morning. I'll spare you the long story of our trip home last night except to say that I had the very good sense to (1) marry a Canadian and (2) have a midlife crisis that involved purchasing a four-wheel drive vehicle (a Honda Element) rather than a sports car. I also had the good sense to heed the forecasts and do my normal Saturday grocery shopping Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. The last semi-official measurement here at my house (using one of my long quilting rulers) was 22 inches; other places in the area have reported over 30 inches. The measurement here was taken about five hours ago and ... drum roll ... it's still snowing. The winter storm warning doesn't end until tomorrow morning. While we made it back last night, late last night, it's not clear when we'll make it out again. The husband tried to get out today to respond to a call for four-wheel-drive vehicles to help get medical personnel to and from the hospitals, but the snow on the subdivision road was too deep. He said the front of the Element just piled it up until he could no longer plow through it. Four-wheel drive or not, it looks as though we're not going anywhere until someone plows the subdivision, which won't happen until the snow stops falling at the earliest.

Here's some shots, most of which I will admit to having taken through windows. I did take a couple shots outside but didn't want the camera to get too wet. Here's a series looking out our back door to the deck. I took the first one last night, around midnight, and the others at various points throughout today. Since I took them through the window on the door, there's a reflection of the living room in the background, especially in the first one.

Some other random shots. See the large rectangular pile of snow here? That's my mom's Saturn station wagon after the snow creeping down along the side met the snow piling up from the driveway. Here's the heat pump masquerading as a conehead, though the costume didn't last for long.
That's older son doing the honors. He also helped keep the front porch stocked with firewood. Older son also saw to it that the resident canine, a German shepherd-corgi-chow mix, got a walk even if it meant blazing a trail for him through the snow. There's a good chance that at least some of the snow will still be around for Christmas. And the long-range forecast has the possibility of more snow coming Christmas Eve into Christmas Day. That would be a major thrill because, needless to say, we don't get many white Christmases here in Central Virginia. Fingers crossed, and I'll try to let you know if we get one.

A Few Creative Bits and Pieces

Time to tie up a couple of loose ends on the creative front. I mentioned a while back making a muff for a friend out of yarn she had spun and dyed using natural dyes. I finished the muff and had so much yarn left that I decided to make a matching hat ... and not just any hat, but an absurdly long hat. I actually still have enough yarn left to do something else but draw the line at knitting mittens or gloves. If there were enough yarn left for leg warmers, I'd probably do those, but I don't think there's quite enough. Here's the muff and hat; the back of the recliner should give a reference for the length of the hat. I can't recall if I mentioned making purses out of bras here; I know I mentioned it in a quilting e-mail group to which I belong. I've made two of these and have the makings for more thanks to a stop at the local SPCA's rummage store. Here are a couple of photos of the first one I made.
I try to use as much of the bra as I can. On this one, the handle is made out of the bra straps. The only things that didn't come from the bra are the flower embellishments and the snaps that hold the top shut. On the other one I made, out of a pink bra, I actually used the hooks and eyes from the back of the bra to hold the top shut. I made that one for the woman I partnered with at the black belt test, finishing it the day before the test, and forgetting to photograph it before I wrapped it.

Finally, I can't recall if I've mentioned my making earrings out of rabies tags here, but I designed a special pair for Christmas--two green bells and one red heart for each ear. They were quite the hit at my office's Christmas party, though no one noticed them at all at the husband's office party. Or perhaps the physicists at the husband's party were just two stunned to ask about them. Here they are, in situ and in a close-up.
The current creative endeavors include a shawl that I'm making out of a yarn I ordered from New Zealand. It's 60 percent wool and 40 percent New Zealand possum. I also hit the Christmas open house at my friendly neighborhood sheep farm last weekend and was drawn to some incredibly bright orange wool. I've started knitting that into a raglan-sleeved sweater that I hope to finish in time to wear this winter. And speaking of winter, the post I'm planning to do tonight will show its rather dramatic entrance just a couple of days ahead of its official Solstice start.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Not to mention, the days! Here it is the middle of December, and my last post was on Halloween. Bad blogger, Jean! Bad!

I at least have good excuses for several of the periods of silence. This time of year, I normally work gainfully for only a few hours each week; however, with the departure of another staff member at my university office, I took on responsibility for responses to surveys from all the various and sundry college guides. As a result, I've worked a bit more than halftime for the last several weeks. The increased paychecks are certainly nice this time of year: Besides Christmas, spring tuition, room, and board are due for younger son in early January, not to mention the annual car insurance premium due at the middle of the month.

In terms of my silence in November, I offer this photo as defense exhibit 1. That's me on the left with the blurred hand. I have a black and white version of this photo but am using the color one so that there's no confusion over the color of the belts these folks are wearing. Yes, they're black. The annual Myo Sim black belt rank exam was on November 21, and I was one of the four people testing for first-degree black belt in Myo Sim kendo. In practical terms, this meant that I spent the fall being in the dojo practicing either kendo or karate for two to three hours every weeknight as well as every Sunday morning for three to four hours. Saturday was my "day off," on which I only did a half hour or so of cardio. This level of training was not a mandated one, but one I chose in order to be as prepared as possible for the test. If you zoom in on the photo and look at the faces, you'll probably notice some wrinkles in my face that aren't there in the faces of the other three people. Their combined ages totaled only about seven years over my own, singular age. I figured that what I lacked in age, I could make up for in preparation. I think it worked.

I have to admit that getting my black belt probably was a bigger accomplishment to me than even getting my PhD; I at least had much more of a rush after the black belt exam than I did after my doctoral orals. I didn't cry tears of sheer happiness then, but I did after I went through the line of master instructors and got my certificate and belt. When I started grad school and throughout it, earning the PhD was something I almost took for granted. I'd always done well at academic work; why wouldn't I finish it? When I started studying kendo almost four years ago, I wasn't even thinking about a black belt someday. Only after I got my brown belt did it really start seeming like a possibility. I did not, however, expect to be invited to test this year after being gone for two months on the Grand Adventure to Hue and back. I came back from the trip thinking that I would not be considered for the black belt exam but that if I was told I would be considered then I would do everything I could to be at the needed level. From the point at which I was told that I was under consideration for the exam, I worked my butt off. I ended up being invited to test, and although all four of us made various mistakes on the exam, I don't think I was by any means the weak link among the four who tested.

I should also note that, at the same black belt rank exam, older son tested for and earned his third-degree black belt in Myo Sim kendo. He's not big on being praised for such things, though, so I won't say too much more here. I will say, though, that I felt much more comfortable with his being "on stage" along with me at the exam. Having been through several black belt exams, he was able to give me the insight scoop on what to expect, which really helped me feel ready when the exam rolled around.

Finally, to catch up on a loose end from my earlier posts, the cabin quilt, Sibling Revelry, made it to Norway via the husband's early November trip to Sweden. I put a note on the outside of the box that held the quilt asking them not to open the box until they were together at the cabin. They did, and sent this photo along with their thank you. They're standing on the porch of the sauna house. In the image I made for the quilt, the white diagonal on the left side of the cabin is actually one side of the roof of the sauna house. The man to the left behind the quilt is one of the brothers for whom the quilt was made. Needless to say, they really loved it and said that they will give it a place of honor in the cabin. It makes me very happy to see my quilt babies go out into the world into good homes, hands, and hearts.