Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Ringing in the New...

My picture of the year comes not from my
picture files as it usually does, but from the world-wide-web.  How
can I not love this?  

Every year,  my New Year's Resolution has always been the same ~ To be more like my mother ~ which I have always thought would be just the grandest thing.  She possessed all those fine qualities I so admire in a person.  She was gentle and kind to everyone, but, at the same time, the hardest worker I have ever known.  And, my-oh-my, how she could sew!  For her, a day wasn't complete until "needle, thread and cloth should meet."

My dad, on the other hand, was staunch in principle and constitution, and a man of few words.  He wasn't one to sit down with to tell your troubles to, for he would just simply say, "You have to be tough in this world."  And, I can't count the number of times I heard him say, over the years, "We just have to do the best we can do."

This kept popping up on FB this morning, so I just had to share it here.  I surely would hate to mess up that first page, or any other page, for that matter.  I will, for sure, "Just do the best I can," on all 365 pages of the book, which certainly takes in a lot of territory.

I am reminded daily of how fragile our poor old earth is becoming.  I am definitely going to work harder all year long at leaving a smaller footprint as I trod through the days.  (I know, for sure, that there's one less large plastic detergent jug going to the landfill this week!)

As we prepare to ring out the old and ring in the new, I am thankful for all the blessings and happy memories of the passing year. It really has been a good year!  For all of you who have stopped by our little hill to leave happy messages, thank you!  I truly wish all of you a healthy and Happy New Year.

                                                                                                                 ~  Mary

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Shortest Day...

What a beautiful first day of winter it was!  This shortest day of the year got its fair share of sunshine, anyway, which was just wonderful as we were out and about.

 Millie and I walked up to the top of the trail to watch the sun set and to mark in our memory the exact spot where we last saw it before it disappeared behind yonder hill.  Then, we headed home for we both had our work to do.

Millie's job is to watch the deer when they come every evening to graze in the front meadow  And, just in case one should get brave and venture into the yard, she there's to give it a friendly little chase.

And, my work for the day was, in part, to wrap the last of the Christmas presents.  The final two were the granddaughters' doll dresses.  One of the sweet little sewing room dolls offered again to model one of the new dresses. ( There's another one in blue, but we didn't get a picture of it.)  I added ruffles over the shoulders this time and just love this new look.  I had seen one made like this in a picture of a dress my mom had made for me when I was a girl.   I attached the ruffle to an inside facing, of sorts, which I brought to the outside and stitched.

Tasha Tudor once wrote, "When people take the time and care to make presents they give, they put into the gifts not only the materials needed, but also a part of themselves."  I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

 One of the first things I do when Christmas draws near is to take the Father Christmas dolls out of their boxes.  It's a happy reunion, for  I seem to forget each year  how much I love them.  I really can't believe that I made them (What has happened to my creativity?)  This one is my favorite.  His name is Zeke.  He is dressed all in fur from his head to his feet.

The little trees, one rather tallish and the other not so tall, are tucked into a tiny space in the sewing room. Why, it's becoming more and more like a lovely little forest in this room.  It would be such a happy thing to sew in a forest, don't you think? (When I was a kid, I used to take needle and thread into the woods and sew leaves together for garlands to pretty up my playhouse.)  Maybe, if I just left these little trees up all year round, I would be inspired to get more sewing done. At the very least, if it doesn't snow this year (but, I really think it will), there would still be snow inside to enjoy!

I really love the face on the blue-eyed Santa below.  He looks a lot like my Scotch-Irish relatives on my mother's side of the family.  Most of my dolls have brown eyes like my dark-eyed husband and daughter.  I named this Father Christmas doll, Raphael.  He would never even think about taking a bundle of switches to a child on Christmas.

"Raphael" ~ A Father Christmas Doll

"Legend" ~ A Father Christmas Doll

Now, I am off to sew on the Christmas dolls' dresses.  Hopefully,  the little trees will work their magic and I will be able to finish the sewing soon.  I hope all of your Christmas plans are going well, and that you have a little magic to help you along too.  Take care!


Thursday, November 28, 2019

I Go Out Walkin' After Midnight...

"I Go Out Walkin' After Midnight" (an old Patsy Cline song).  And, that's just about what we did very early this morning.  With rain on the way and a Thanksgiving meal to get on the table, I was in a tizzy to get going early.

It was a quiet and peaceful walk until we approached a little grove of hackberries where a oh-so-precious family of raccoons were having an early breakfast, or perhaps, a late dinner.  They stared down at us, and we stared up at them.  I had the feeling that they and Millie might be old acquaintances for neither party seemed especially surprised to see the other.  Millie was loathe to leave until I promised her a "cookie" when we got home.

So, Thanksgiving 2019 is in the history books.  It was a lovely day even though it was wet and dreary outside.  All of our children and grandchildren were here.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Around the Next Bend...

This has been a week for cleaning.  Next week will be a week for cooking.
  I had rather be cleaning!   Actually, I can think of a couple of things 
I had rather be doing other  than cooking or cleaning!  But, it is always
 great fun when the kids all gather round for Thanksgiving Day. 
 We have all been blessed and are truly thankful for all those blessings.    

It was such a beautiful, warm and sunny, week that I could hardly
 stand to stay inside.  I kept wanting to just bolt out the door and forget 
all about the dusting and mopping.  Millie didn't help matters any, either,
 when she kept going from window to window staring at me through
 the glass.  I know what she would have said if she could talk.  In the
 end, she would win, the cleaning would lose, and away we would go.  

One never knows what might be waiting just around the next bend.  We are good with whatever it might be as long as it is friend and not foe.  The calves sometimes want to play with Millie, but I have trained her not to participate in their play.

And, around the next bend there was the buck we had been seeing
 quite often.  He wasn't afraid of us at all and allowed me to take a
 dozen pictures.  He may have just wanted to show off that nice rack.
  He is definitely a nice eight-point buck, and would be a nice trophy
for some hunter to take home.  

These were the same girls that we had encountered 
a little earlier.  It hadn't taken them long to make their
way over to fresh hay that had been rolled out.  (Say, 
that hay looks mighty good, even if I do say so myself,
almost as good as shredded wheat.) 

From every book I read there is usually something that is 
especially meaningful to me.  From O Rugged Land of Gold 
written by Martha Martin (and recommended by bogger 
friend, Rose), it was this passage, which seems so 
appropriate at this time of year.

"I was raised in a religious home, but I had to live in the wilderness to
 experience the meaning of faith.  In the States, I accepted what my
 people believed, conformed to what was prescribed, and bothered my
  head no further.  Here the slate is wiped clean of all creeds and doctrines;
faith is stripped down to the fundamentals; and it becomes clear that 
 all religion is no more and no less than the human soul reaching out to
 the Creator; that the individual, alone, of his own free will and accord,
 must do the reaching.  For me contact with God comes through his creation;
 the forests and the hills, the winds and the tides, the birds of the air, the
 creeping things upon the earth and the fishes in the sea, the starry heavens,
 the loyalty of a friend, love and devotion, faith and work, honor and awe."
devotion, faith and work, honor and awe."

I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving..

Until next time,


Thursday, November 14, 2019

"Gave the luster of midday to objects below..."

From The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore, illustrated by Tasha Tudor

What a spectacular week it has been for viewing November's full moon.  We really got a big bonus this month for the moon appeared full for about three days, putting on quite a show, I thought.  I just couldn't seem to get enough of it, and kept the curtains wide open, even in the bedroom.  I kept thinking it must have been such a night that inspired Clement Clark Moore to write, "The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the luster of midday to objects below."  Of course we had no snow.  Lucky those of you who did!  

Of course, we all must be realizing, once again, how quickly the holidays are approaching.  It's definitely time to make plans and get busy.  I always think, along about now,  of  the book, Skipping Christmas by John Grisham that my daughter gave me a few years ago.  

It has been almost a year since I finished the dolls for the granddaughter's Christmas.  One of the girls told me that it was "the best Christmas ever."  I would liked to have made them another this year, but I am afraid it is not going to happen.   I am thinking a new dress for last year's dolls will have to do.

I have been making arms/hands for dolls this week.  These are made from a very lightweight fabric which makes turning the small hands easier.  It also reduces bulk and makes the fingers more
defined.  I double stitched the seams, then trimmed the allowance very close to the stitching.  I cringed a bit as I trimmed, but so far, so good.  There are four of these dolls almost ready for clay.  That might be a good job for January. 

Kate  ~  2018 Christmas doll

Mae  ~  2018 Christmas Doll

Until next time,

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Legendary Hats...

This morning, when I looked out the kitchen window, I proclaimed aloud for all to hear, "It's not a fit day outside for man or beast."   Rain was coming down and strong winds were sending leaves  scurrying  along the ground and away into the fields where the cattle were seeking shelter under every limb and leaf.   Winter was certainly knocking on our door this morning.

One of my favorite John Wayne quotes is, "We're burning daylight."  Well, there's definitely not as much daylight to burn these days as there was awhile back.  Actually, I can't help but enjoy this time of year when we can spend long evenings by the fire, perhaps watching some old movie.  We like the old Westerns best.

A couple of evenings ago, we watched The Virginian, a really old movie made in 1929, starring a very young, tall and handsome Gary Cooper.  The film is well-known for Cooper's line, "If you
wanna call me that --smile," in response to a cuss by the antagonist.

Sometimes I get so caught up in studying the movie props of these old movies that I almost forget to follow the plot.  But, what I really like most, besides the horses and the leather saddles, is the clothing  the cowboys and the ladies are wearing.  There were definitely some talented seamstresses working behind the scenes of these old movies.

And what about those hats?  From screen cowboys such as Tom Mix and John Wayne to presidents like Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan to country singers like Hank Williams and Garth Brooks, a Stetson has long been the go-to-hat for both the celebrity and the true cowboy.

According to Cowboys and Indians Magazine, "It has been that way practically since John B. Stetson handcrafted his first hat in the early 1860s in a battle with the wilderness.  What originally began as an attempt to weatherproof himself with a big brimmed hat on the Western Plains has become a great American success story and a potent symbol of Americana."

John Batterson Stetson, born in New Jersey in 1830, learned hat making from his father.  When he got tuberculosis in his 20s, he went west both to improve his health and to mine for gold.  It was on an expedition on Pikes Peak that Stetson made himself,, for warmth and shelter, a broad-brimmed  hat from felted fur shavings.  Later, in his travels, a cowboy bought that same hat right off his head for a $5 gold piece.

In 1865, he moved to Philadelphia, borrowed money from his sister to get set up, and launched his own hat making company.  In 1869, he recreated the hat he sold to the cowboy and started marketing the newly minted "Boss of the Plains" for $5 retail.

And, the rest is cowboy history.  John Wayne once proclaimed Stetson "the hat that won the West."

Gary Cooper and Molly Brian in The Virginian, 1929

Not long ago, when I was cleaning and rearranging, I moved the Cowboys and Indians cupboard into my closet.  I cleaned the shelves after having taken each doll out to gently brush away any dust that might have collected on it.

I sometimes almost laughed at my attempts, but at other times I quietly wondered how I had ever found the time to make these dolls and their costumes.

The hats were probably the most challenging, for I had no molds except for the doll's head itself.  Each hat was made from stiffened wool felt and trimmed with bits of leather, beads and feathers.

Thanksgiving in the doll cupboard....

If you have ever read Lynne Reid Banks' book, The Indian in the Cupboard, you won't be surprised that I sometimes wonder what goes on inside that cupboard where cowboys and Indians live, side by side.  Why there may be wars going on there while I sleep.  Sometimes I do find things slightly awry -- a doll tipped over or a hat slightly askew.

I hope your November is off to a great start, and that your plans for Thanksgiving are taking shape just as you have planned.

Until next time,


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

In Search of Fall...

Oh dear, everyone seems to be having such a beautiful fall.... 
except us folks here on Hill Top. I have just loved seeing 
all the gorgeous fall pictures on so many of the blogs I follow. 

 So, this morning, after the rain stopped for awhile, 
Millie and I headed out to see what we could find. 
 We were in search of fall!  I jammed the little folded-up umbrella
 into one of the big pockets in my coat, hung my camera 
on my shoulder, and we were off.  

And, we had just the loveliest  time out exploring every nook 
and cranny in those woods.  It really was a perfect time to go out looking,
 even if we hadn't found a single pretty leaf.    

Millie did a lot of looking, and listening, and smelling.  
She's perfect for being out in the woods with, for she doesn't bark
 and frighten off the wild critters. I like quietness in the woods.
 I usually don't talk when we are out and about. 
 I also like that Millie is always out ahead of me,
 still in my sight, but not underfoot.

Can you see what Millie saw here?  She didn't run them away
 like she does sometimes.  She did give a big buck a quick chase. 
 He was a beauty, but I didn't get a picture of him.

I thought the pond was lovely following last night's rain. 
 The Great Blue Heron that we often see here, 
was no where to be fouind today.

How about this for a beautiful fall arrangement?  
Mother Nature did it.  She really is the best!

So, that's it ~ our picture show for Fall 2019. 
 The colors may get better over the next several days, or they may not.
  But, Millie and I found what we had come for.  
My picture files are full of lots better from previous years,
 but  this is the way it is today, and we are thankful
 for another beautiful fall.   


"Around me the trees
stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's 
simple," they say,
"and you too have come into the world to do this, 
to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

~Mary Oliver

Friday, October 25, 2019

Welcome Home....

Illustration by Tasha Tudor from Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows.

 When we were out walking today, Millie got her first mole of the season.  She can accomplish the feat in just a second or two, and comes away holding the poor, innocent little critter ever so gingerly in her mouth.  She knows what I am going to say. "Oh, Millie, give it to Momma," which she so gladly does.  I praise her, and she is happy.  And, the mole is happy to be free and able to go back to tunneling his way back home.

 I decided at the last minute that I should get a shot of Millie's trophy, the silky, soft little critter that I had saved, but when, in just a minute or two, I went back, he was already gone.  So, this illustration from The Wind in the Willows, which was done by Tasha Tudor, will have to suffice. Don't you just love it?

Look at the intensity in those eyes.  When Millie hears a mole underground, she freezes for a moment, crouches somewhat like a cat, then jumps, and quick as a flash she digs, pushing her nose deep into the hole and pulls Poor Mole out with her mouth. She rarely misses!

I didn't mind so much when she rid the yard of this menace, but along the trail, through the woods and meadows, those little critters are doing no harm that I can think of.  And, besides, I always think of Mole, who was such a congenial character in the book I mentioned above.  Or, maybe, my heart is just too soft.

Our blogging friend Henny Penny wrote in a post yesterday about her soft spot for mice.  And, they really are awfully cute.... as long as they stay out of the house.  Lil' Red Hen composed an excellent piece on "A Mouse in the House."  (Click on both links to read  their tales.)

Awhile back, we had a Momma Mouse in our house.  Why, she even raised a family, right under our noses, under a cushion in my fancy sofa in the living room before we finally got her.  She had chewed a couple of fair-sized holes under the cushion (which I patched), and had made a soft bed there with things she stole from my sewing room.  She was such a thief that she had taken a couple of brand new skeins of embroidery floss there for the little ones to snuggle in!  But it really got serious when...

She tried to take my prized needle book that I called the Embroideress - the one I oh-so-meticulously  appliqued and embroidered by hand. I found the little cloth book crumpled one morning on the floor in the sewing room.  The Embroideress's hair was a total wreck, with lots of threads that seemed to have been cut, as you can see in the second picture below.  

My daughter said that mouse surely did have excellent tastes!  It took us three days to finally trap her and all of her young 'uns.  And, I am afraid they didn't fare so well as the Lil' Red Hen's "Mouse in the House."  

When we went out walking today, I pulled on my old wool coat.  It felt mighty good, too, for it was a coldish, rainy day.  When I read of Mole's "great joy and contentment" at being home, I was reminded of how good it  is to get back home to a warm fire after one of those cold, wintery day walks.

"The weary Mole soon had his head on his pillow, in great joy and contentment.  But ere he closed his eyes he let them wander round his old room, mellow in the glow of the firelight that played or rested on familiar and friendly things which had long been unconsciously a part of him...  It was good to think he had this to come back to, this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome."

~Kenneth Graham
from the chapter Dulce Domum
The Wind in the Willows

Monday, October 14, 2019

Come on in...

and help me sew.

I have cleaned up the sewing room just for you.
 You can choose which machine you would like to use.
 The old White makes a beautiful stitch and has been
 electrified, so you won't have to wear yourself out
working the treadle.

Or, if you'd rather, the Bernina is cleaned and oiled and ready to go.
 She's a dandy and hardly ever misses a stitch.

We are sewing doll parts today, so we'll set the machines for a tiny stitch.
  If you are a quilter, you won't mind those little hands.

This old machine belonged to my grandmother.
 I am ashamed to tell you that it is my fault
 that she's no longer in working order.
 I'll never part with  her, though.

Sarah is one of the granddaughters' favorites.
When they come visiting, I can always tell that
they have played with her, for after they go home,
I usually find her slightly rearranged on her shelf
 in the old cabinet where she lives.*
 I think they like her best because she is dressed so fine.
 A good friend, coincidentally also named Sarah,
sent me vintage cloth for all her clothing.
 I especially liked the plaid trim.

*For some reason, since I made each of the girls
 a doll of their own and gave it to them last Christmas,
 they don't seem so keen on playing with the sewing room dolls. 
 I can't help wondering why...

I have vacuumed and dusted and rearranged,
sometimes tackling only one shelf or one drawer per day.
 Even the dolls needed a good dusting.
 However, now that the room is all organized and cleaned,
I am almost hesitant to mess it up again.

And, before you go, if you'd like, we can go walk the trail with Millie.
 We'll trek down to the pond where it's beginning to look more like fall.
 Now, that the weather has turned cooler,
 the leaves should start to change more quickly.
 Like Anne of Green Gables,
"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Her Ladyship and Rosa...

Considering the popularity of this amazing woman, I can't help but wonder how it happened that I had never heard of Hannah Hauxwell.  But, I hadn't!  Not until, a blogger friend mentioned one of her books, "Seasons of My Life."  Now, here was a book that sounded right up my alley! Of course, I headed right over to Wikipedia and read, " Hannah Hauxwell (1 August 1926 - 30 January 2018) was an English farmer who was the subject of several television documentaries."

That very evening I watched "Too Long a Winter (1972," "A Winter Too Many (1980s) and "Hannah Hauxwell - Past & Present."  Oh, how I loved that dear woman just as millions of others around the world did after having watched these documentaries.  Her life had not been easy, and she had endured much over the years, yet she always seemed to keep a great spirit and to make the best of what she had. We all would do well with a good dose of Hannah Hauxwell from time to time.

I  think Hannah would be proud that I named these little cattle ladies (above) after some of her own cattle that came to mean so much to her through the years.  From left to right, there's Her Ladyship, Bunty, in the center, and sweet Rosa on the right.

 It is Rosa, Her Ladyship's daughter, I believe, that is pictured with Hannah on the book cover above.  It was also Rosa who furnished her with warm milk in the bitter cold winter of 1978 when everything in the house froze solid. (Even though, she says she's not that keen on milk.)

"It's my favorite place, here...down the new road through the iron gate.  I stand here and watch the seasons come and go.  At night the moonlight plays on Hunder Beck...and the waters sing a song to me...

I know this place will always be loyal to me.  If I have nothing in my pocket I will always have this.  They cannot take it away from me.  It's mine, mine for the taking, and always will be...even when I'm no longer here.  Of course, I suppose I shall have to leave here...sooner than later, I imagine.  It will not be an easy thing to do.  

But in years to come, if you see a ghost walking here you can be sure it will be me. "

                                                                                  ~Hannah Hauxwll

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

"Wild With Leaves"...

October 2018

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."
~Anne of Green Gables 

October 2017


October 2018

Notes from last year's calendar page...

Looking back at last year's calendar page, I see that the first day of October didn't start out so well.  I had written, "We began the day in the vet clinic with our sick Millie.  Diagnosis:  Tick fever.  An anti-inflammatory injection had her up and about by the time we got home."

One week after Millie got sick, things seemed to be improving greatly.  "There were at least a half-dozen hummers here throughout the day.  We worked a bit in the new Shanty Garden before going for a Sunday drive to the mountain.  We took our lunch.  Millie is eating a lot now, so surely she is getting better.  She is barking at the coyotes as I write ~ sweet music!"

On the 13th, "We built our first fire of the season in the stove."  Then, I had added,  "This year may be remembered as the Year the Hummingbirds Stayed."  By the 15th, our high temperature for the day was only 48 degrees.  "It was a cold, damp walk over the hill, so I brought out the old green wool coat."

Our first frost was on the 21st.  "Two little hummers are still here!  They are going to freeze their tales off."  Then I seemed to be chastising myself for not getting more done.  " I blogged this morning - such a waste of time I guess, but it forces me to write, which is good.  I must get organized, clean up and get the Christmas dolls finished."  But, it seems I didn't take myself too seriously for I ended by writing, "We went walking, looking for ginseng on the hill.  Millie loved it."

It was not until the 23rd that the last two little hummers finally headed south,  "Another oh-so-lovely fall day. There were two little hummers here this morning and again just before dark.  One clinging to each of the two feeders, drinking long and hard as though their lives depended on it."

The next day, I concluded ~ "I hope the last two little hummers are faring well on their flight south. I saw no little hummers today.  Farewell and safe travels."


What is there not to love about October?  A friend of mine once said, "It's like every leaf is celebrating."  How sweet that is...   I think we shall be celebrating this glorious month right along with all those wonderful leaves.

Listen the wind is rising
And the air is wild with leaves
We have had our summer evenings
Now for October Eves!

~Humbert Wolfe

October 2017