Saturday, December 27, 2008

Soothing the tired rocking out.

Well, after this last few days of blizzards, house fires and general mayhem I am taking a day off to recharge. I got up today and decided that I needed to do nothing involving work if I was going to get my mojo back in order. Iam a tomboy type of woman, who enjoys physical activity to bring myself around to equilibrium. Like a good jog around the neighborhood, bench pressing heavy weights, or hiking. BUT the roads are way too sloppy and dangerous to go running, the gym is closed, so I fell back to plan B.
Music and film therapy.

Film therapy means watching Lord of the Rings from beginning to end, not in one go mind you, but over several evenings with the Hubbinator. If anything can get me feeling triumphant and uplifted it's watching the defeat of the Dark Lord and the return of the King to Gondor.
Hunky pants heroes overcoming peril, massive battles, gorgeous sets, gorgeous New Zealand, love triumphs over fear..blah blah blah..
I try not to go all swooney over the surly type A Boromir, but hey, it is Sean Bean, and Iam only mortal. Yes, Viggo is lovely, but I like them bad boys.- but not too bad.

I just liked the song, not the dude..
The music part involves me, the computer, and the groovy site called LastFM. While I blog away the dulcet tones of the sounds of the 70's burble along in the back ground. For some reason it's all those damn soft rock songs and Glam anthems from my pre-teen years that are making me feel less, oh weirded out by the days events. Bands like Sweet, 10 Cc, Pilot, Bread, Bay City Rollers, and Peter Frampton. His tune " I'm in You" brought me out of my funk..

Upon hearing the opening chords of that song I was transported back in time, back to a day when I had feathered hair, ugly glasses and my virginity..Back to those groovy days, when my best friend The Blonde Biologist and I would sit in her room listening to the lastest hits. On a transistor radio. AM yet. One tinny speaker, and a broken antenna patched with scotch tape.
As the tunes kept coming We'd discuss boys, how to catch a boy, which boys were "foxy" and, being country girls: horses. We were after all 12 . It was all about horses and boys in those preteen days...Hunters, jumpers and that cute guy who sat behind me in homeroom...No cares except homework, days of freedom riding horses, camping, and hunting. Simple days.
So it's no wonder that the Ball Room Blitz by Sweet can still make me feel like jumping up and down with estatic, happy joy. There is a time for Zeppelin, and a time for Sweet. Today it was Sweet.

Fire and Ice

Off a snow shoeing...

The Neighbors House Before...
Some of you may have noticed my lack of blogging, or emailing, or commenting on your blogs as of late. Or not. Part of this has to do with the gigantic snow storm that hit us the week before Yule. Part of it due to a fire. We had almost two feet of dry, fluffy snow turn Portland into a Nordic wonderland. Temps hovered around 20 degrees f. during the day. We broke out the snow shoes and went on treks through the neighborhood, marvelled at how a snow fall can utterly transform the landscape into something magical. It was all very Currier and Ives, we were cozy in our house, a fire in the grate, gluhwien in my cup, a fully stocked larder of Yuletide goodies to eat.

Then the ice storm came and massive limbs off of the Doug fir trees started crashing down, ripping out power lines. Small trees fell over from the weight of snow and ice. Roofs caved in, thousands lost power. The falling trees blocked roads, and gave the already harried power company more work to do. Meanwhile the roads became passable only for those with tire chains and four wheel drives(like we have on our truck).
I know, people who live in Michigan and Oslo deal with huge amounts of snow every winter, but this is Portland Oregon. Snow down here in the valley is a rare thing, so when we do get blessed with the stuff the city shuts down, and everyone goes snow mad.
We had a wonderful Solstice/Yule evening. The Hubbinator, the cats, and Myself. Many dear and wonderful friends called to send their greetings of the season, warm wishes and regards.
The snow fell softly outside on the longest night of the year...

So fast forward to Christmas morning. The exact opposite of the serene solstice..
"Wake up! Wake up! The neighbors house is on fire!!!!" Iam being shaken awake by the Hubby.
Jolted out of a deep dream I awake to see my neighbors 5 year old boy, dressed in his pyjamas, standing by the bed, wide eyed and scared. Oh crap. They run back out of the bedroom. I follow.
When I enter the living room I see the neighbor's two boys sitting on our sofa, watching their house burn.. I don't know how to put it any other way. The teenage son is on his cel phone calling family. He sits next to his little brother, holding him. The adults are all outside watching in stunned horror, when I hear the fire engines roaring down the hill. Lucky we have a fire house just blocks away.
"Our kitties!" cries the 5 year old...He looks at me with those big eyes, and starts to cry..all I can do is hold him, and tell him he's safe..Try to distract him..."Look at the brave firemen fighting the fire.. watch them being so brave!" Brave like he is right now..His brother tells me their Aunt is on the way to get them..I go and round up some warm sweaters, some snow boots for their bare feet. Their Aunty arrives, and whisks them away to their Grandmothers up the road.

I see my Hubby and the Father of the boys jump in to help a lone fireman drag a huge fire hose to the fire hydrant half a block away..the snow makes it hard for them to walk.....the trucks hoses didn't charge at first..the flames leap higher...everyone looks panicked...Then the hoses leap to life, the flames are belching from the windows of the house as the water hits them. The black smoke turns to steam...

People come and go from my house. Endless cups of coffee. Shock, tears. Hugs. Trying to comfort our friends...making sure everyone has what they need..
I stand in my kitchen, the drama playing out before me drags me back to a cold, icy winter night. I was 12, standing in a sleet storm watching our house burn..the wind whipping our night clothes, the ice stinging our skin. The flames reflected in my Mother's tears..
The blaze beautiful in it's fury..Our lives changed in an instant that stormy night so long ago..

Iam snapped back to the present when I see our neighbor standing in the blackened door of his house. In his arms he carries the still, limp form of their beloved calico cat. He carries her out, and lays her down gently beside the two blanket covered bodies of their other cats.
Oh hell...I know he's heartsick..but he's being so strong..

The rest of the morning passes.. By early afternoon the fire is out for sure, the house is boarded up, the family is safe. They head out to relatives houses, thanking us for our help. We assure them it was nothing, it's what you do for folks when something like that happens.
The entire event brought up some old scary memories for me, but showed me that when the shit hits the fan I know I will respond calmly. My Hubby, well, he was amazing. I know that our Neighbors have a long road ahead....they lost their home, their beloved pets..They are rich with family who care, and friends. That's so important now...
How did it happen?
Our neighbors had just opened their gifts on Christmas morning. When someone heard the electric breaker box trip with a loud "Click!" Within in minutes the house was engulfed in smoke and fire. They had enough time to get themselves and their dog out. They tried to save the cats but they ran back in, and by then the heat and smoke was overwhelming...
The fire inspector suspects an overloaded power cord...but who knows for sure. The space that it started in is a total pile of charred mess..
So, go and hug your beloveds, check up on all your electrical, and make sure you have a plan. It can save lives.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winter Comes...

Frost and Fire
Winter is here, nature tells me this, not the Astronomers..Frost covered everything one cold morning last week.. It sparkled like sugar on the roof of our smithy, the fallen leaves, the branches of our apple trees.
The above picture captures it as it began to melt, the twisted damascus billet caught my eye with it's contrasting lines.
Our bellows and upturned forge were completely frosted. but it soon melted off.

Now we await a big , Arctic air mass to descend, and plunge us into Winter proper. With 5 inches of snow here in the valley, several feet of snow up in the mountains, and 20 degree temps. I know.. some people have long, dark, cold, snow filled Winters that would put our moderate ones to shame, what you have to understand is I love snow. I like it when the ponds freeze over so thick you can go skating. When the snow stays awhile.. school is called off, snowmen last more than an afternoon, the woods become cathedrals to Winter's I say Wassail! Bring it on! Snow a blanket of white , the great equalizer.
Good thing we have a fresh stack of firewood!

Got Wood?The Big Dead Doug Fir Awaits Our Saw..
The wonderful Eileen offered us some firewood that was standing on her property. All we had to do was come and cut it down..So we did. For the last few days we took a break from forge work to go fetch firewood. It was truly a community effort. Eileen, Mother Hen, Big Phil, the Hubbinator and Myself chainsawed, bucked, split, loaded, un-loaded and stacked two trees.
Eileen owns one of the nicest chunks of Oregon woods you'd ever like to see. It's secluded, and tranquil and when I am there I never want to leave. It was cold and not raining when we got there, which is a happy thing.It stayed dry too, and the sun came out to warm us.
This brought out the fungus..

Fungus on the Forest Floor
The forest floor was covered in little mushrooms of every variety, some edible, some will surely send you straight to the underworld with liver failure..So we just admired them and skipped the potential dying part..

Long ago woodsmen used what was called a "Misery Whip", or a big, long two handles saw. Two men on either end of the saw would whip back and forth, putting their entire bodies into motion to get the saw through the tree. It took great endurance, will, and was miserable work. Hence Misery Whip. We however used a chain saw instead. Sure we love our living history nerdiness, but sometimes that can be impractical..
Dan elected to run the saw, manly man that he is..The rest of us stood back, well back and spotted the top of the tree. If it moved, even a bit, we had to yell so Dan (and the rest of us)could get the hell out of the way.

TIMBER!!!-Well, sort of...
Dan ran the saw, as Eileen gave him moral support, and direction on the cuts needed. I would have gotten a shot of him sawing, but I was too engrossed with the suspense of it all and completely forgot I had a camera in my pocket.....Some photo journalist Iam...
Chainsaw growling and buzzing like a mad hornet Dan made the proper cuts in the truck that would get the tree to fall in the right spot. He was calm on the outside, but I knew inside he was nervous..It's a dangerous thing sawing down a tree.
The tree began to gently sway, we all shouted "There it goes!" Dan and Eileen scampered quickly out of the way.The mighty fir began to fall, we all watched breathlessly when suddenly it stopped. It leaned like the Tower of Pisa, not moving.This was kinda of shitty to be honest.
We stood gaping open mouthed in amazement. Why was itn't falling? Seconds passed, Dan walked up to the thing and pushed it. Mother Hen gasped, I nearly had a fit. Another nudge with his boot, He backed away. We all heard a creaking sound...Then slowly, it began to fall again, heading exactly where we wanted it to fall, with a huge KeeeRunch!!! Of limbs, and branches.
Huzzah! We all shouted in unison. Smiles all around, back patting, gratitude for my Husband (or any of us) not getting squished.

Big Log
So the sawing continued unabated as Dan and Eileen cut the thing up into rounds. Mother Hen, Big Phil and I drug the things out of the woods. Eileen the Mighty and I split them into manageable logs for stacking. Phil drove the little tractor and loaded them into our truck.
Everyone worked their butts off. A group effort well done!

Isn't it gorgeous?
I loved this pic. They look like stars, the golden red wood , the lichen covered bark..
It is Lucia's day. Prior to the calendar reform - from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1582 - Saint Lucia's feast day fell on the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice.
Hmmm...interesting...firewood, light, candles, the Solstice, Yule...
As I sit here a fire burns brightly in the hearth. It crackles and snaps merrily, warming our home. The cats vie for the warmest chair to sleep on, the one with the golden, creamy, silken sheep fleece from lovely Devon. All the way from Locks Park Farm. On the mantle stand two handsome straw Jul Swine, positively radiating ancient Nordic Yuletide prosperity..
On the sideboard in the kitchen brilliant yellow, sweet saffron dough waits. Soon to be made into Lussikatter, to celebrate the return of the light and the promise of returning life to the land.
How lucky am I to have such wonderful friends, old and new, near and far?
Thank you Paula, and Marie. Thank you Hubbinator,Eileen, Mother Hen, Big Phil and the land herself for giving so much to us all. May all my friends and strangers who read this little blog o' mine, know light and joy this St. Lucia's day!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Yuletide joys

Scrumptious little, cream filled, bovine shaped Swiss chocolate joy
Is it wrong of me to love my Milka Advent calendar so much?I know they are meant to be spiritual aids, counting down and celebrating the lead up to the big event..
- But who decided that the days leading up to the Nativity would be even better if chocolates were somehow involved? I would like to thank them.
Our local German deli, the Edelweiss, begins stocking all of it's Frohe Weinacht treats in mid November. So if there is some little marzipan succulent, or imported chocolate treat that you can not live without for the Holidays (Like the above Advent calendar) then you better get your buns on down there toot sweet. I don't care if you still have Halloween candy languishing about, it's time to shop for Yule! -Lest ye be sorry, and it's all the goodies are snapped up by smart Grandmothers who shop months in advance..

So we wandered in last year, to Edelweiss, for a nice bratwurst mit kraut und bier, when lo! The shipment of Christmas goodies had arrived, and was being stocked onto the shelves...
Lebkuchen, stollens from Dresden, plump little marzipan piggies just asking for me to bite their heads off..Well it's good luck to do that in't it?
Then I saw them= The Milka brand Advent calendars. I know, I know Milka is owned by Kraft. But I did not know they were part of a huge meg-industrial food company when I bought it. I just knew I loved the fun little cartoon art, of happy villagers in the town square of their Alpine village. There were smiling animals decorating trees, horses pulling a sleigh...St. Nicholas bringing gifts to the angel drinking hot was darling..

However, the best part was the amazing chocolates! Each one a detailed little sculpture. A realistic violin, a horse so cute I almost did not eat him. Okay, first I took it out to the smithy to show the Hubbinator. We duly admired the detail of the mold they used, noted it's cockle warming cuteness and then we ate him. Lovely and delicious.
So, I made sure to get ahold of one of these again, and Lo! they did arrive mid November. I snatched one up, because they "Sell out pretty fast." The clerk told me..
I bet they do...I thought to myself, with visions ofyummy cream filled Milka reindeer dancing in my head...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Seasonal rituals

The Pudding
Well, it has been an entire year since last I gathered in all the yummy bits and pieces for the Christmas pudding. Stir Up Sunday 2008 was hotly debated on the web I can tell you. When was it this year? The 30Th? The 23? Back and forth and back and I settled for yesterday, the 30Th, since on the 23rd I had not gone shopping for Yuletide baking supplies.
Now I realise that it was the start of Advent, and not reeeeeally the last Sunday before, but it was now or never. I chopped, I minced, I grated suet..We each took a turn stirring in some wishes and love for the coming year. We asked that the powers that be spread that love and goodness around, so dear friends this means you! Now the pudding lies in wait out there in the kitchen..Ready to be steamed and put away to wait for Christmas day.
Before all this mixing and stirring could ensue, we went off to shop for the ingredients.So off we went, to get dried fruit, good English stout(Sam Smith's) and Barley wine(Mad River's John Barleycorn..)
We had a good day gathering all the bits. Downtown is getting all lit up, the big tree in the square is lovely.

All the shops are bright with color, and festive cheer.
I hardly ever go downtown for anything, but the Yuletide season makes it way more fun and magical..We wandered around downtown, window shopping mostly. But it isn't all Christmas shopping...

(the above was not taken yesterday. It's from summer a long time ago...)

Scottish Holiday
Yesterday was also St. Andrew's day, the patron Saint of Scotland. The below is from the Scottish Government's site, so they should know..
For the Hubbinator, who is proudly half Scottish, it's a day to wear his kilt, show some Scottish pride. For him it's notso much about a St. Andrew , or anything remotely religious. It's more about celebrating his heritage..
"It was once more popular than St. Patrick's day here in America.
-Until Thanksgiving took over." Grumbled the Hubbinator, "Now hardly anyone knows what it is, much less celebrates it."
Well we here at White Hart Forge celebrate it! SO on with his kilt!- Royal Stewart FYI...
We decided to have lunch somewhere nice, which turned out to be a Sushi place. The restaurant staff were entertained by a big, bearded, kilted Scotsman waltzing in for a bento box.

Wearing a kilt has a mystique all it's own. It's interesting the reactions He gets from strangers. Tourists take his picture. In the swanky shopping districts the well dressed "Ladies of means over 40"( for the record I am a lady over 40, but poor as a church mouse) go all swoony over him. They flash him brilliant, perfect Hollywood smiles, make comments like " Oh, it's so niiice to see a man in a kilt.." Flutter, flutter... like he's Sean Connery, or something ......I just smile and melt into the background.
Bikers give him a nod of respect(I'm talking real bikers here, not lawyers with expensive weekend bikes). Military types and policemen salute him.. No, it's true. The kilt for American males is a manly, manly- man thing to wear. You don't put it on unless you mean it. It carries a warrior mystique with it, I do not know if this is true in Scotland, but here it does. Add to that all those films about Rob Roy, and William Wallace..
Of course not everyone knows what to make of a man in a kilt.
Teenagers giggle or point like he's a three headed monster, but it is their job to be embarrassed by adults in general. As well as to be horrified by anything "uncool".... Hipsters look down their trendy noses, but so what.....The Hubbinator, to his credit, knows he's a big tartan rooster walking about grey old Portland. He is gracious about the attention, and I think secretly...he likes it. Okay not so secretly..!