Thursday, December 24, 2020

A Figure in the Dark...


A figure in the dark, clad in heavy furs, a fierce mask-covered face, a bundle of switches on his back, banging and shouting throughout the countryside...

What could be more frightening to a young child?  The figure trudged from house to house, rattling chains and throwing pebbles at the windows.  He carried goodies for the children in his sack, mostly fruits and sweets, but he also carried switches and threatened to smack any children who hadn't been good.

The figure often carried a sprig of evergreen as a symbol of life amid the deadly cold of winter.  This is the legend of the Belsnickle according to German folk lore which came with the immigrants to America.  The fierce eyed Belsnickle takes his name from Pelz-Nickolaus, which means "St. Nicholas in fur."  

Well, good or bad, kiddies, tonight is the night. Best wishes and "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."  

To all my blogging friends, I hope you have a very

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

See you soon, and take care,


Saturday, December 12, 2020

A Christmas Star... (And, lots of brown)


Watching the night sky on clear evenings, as of late, here on our little hill, has become almost a daily affair.  On the eve of the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year, Jupiter and Saturn will meet and appear as a single point of bright light in the night sky.  It really is a show worth watching for it was way back in 1226, some 800 years ago, that the planets aligned so this would happen.  

There are those who believe the Christmas Star which appeared in the east the night of Christ's birth was the meeting of three planets: Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.  The Magi found the baby lying in a manager by following this bright star.  "And lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was."  

Millie and I have been painting.  I suppose it is only right to say, "Millie and I," for she stayed with me all the while I was at work.  Here, Millie is trying out her newly painted, brown doggie house.  She seemed to notice that it was not the same, but after a bit crawled inside and seemed to go to sleep.  She was tired after a long night of howling at the coyotes who come around just to torment her, I think.

But, the big job was painting the Shanty (and the garage doors).  I am so happy with the new color ~ brown again, of course.  It matches Millie's house.  Thanks to Dan for bringing up the tractor with a front-end loader attachment for me to stand in. It also came in mighty handy for the garage doors job, which I may or may not survive!  :~)  But, for now, I am so done with painting, and have put my brushes away until next spring, at least.  

So, with those jobs behind us, we are now gearing up for Christmas.  The little Alpine trees in my sewing room are decorated with these microwaved aromatic dough ornaments.  They are so much fun and last forever, it seems.  To store them, I wrap them in tissue paper and place them in zip-lock bags.  Each Christmas when I take them out, they still smell like cinnamon, allspice and cloves.  :~) 

And, yet more brown...Dough ornaments.

Microwaved Aromatic Dough Ornaments

Combine 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour, 3/4 cup salt, 1/4 cup cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground allspice, 1 tablespoon ground cloves, and 3/4 teaspoon powdered alum in medium mixing bowl.  Mix well.  Add 1 1/4 cups water.  Mix well to form dough.  Shape dough into ball.  Knead on lightly floured board for about 5 minutes, or until dough is smooth.  (If too stiff; sprinkle with additional water; if too moist, add flour.)

Work with small portions of dough at a time.  Roll dough to 1/4" thickness.  Cut out shapes with 2 1/2 to 4" cookie cutters.  Decorate tops of cutouts with cloves and allspice, or with bits of dough (moisten dough with water-dipped paintbrush and join to cutout).  Store remaining dough in plastic bag.

Push small amounts of dough through garlic press for textured  "hair" or "fur" for animal or people shapes, or use a wooden pick to texture surface.  Using a drinking straw, cut hole )at least 3/8") near top of cutout for hanging.

Spray 10" pie plate with vegetable cooking spray.  Place three or four cutouts in prepared pie plate.  Microwave at Medium Low for 5 to 8 minutes, or until tops of cutouts feel dry, rotating plate and checking ornaments after every 2 minutes.  

Remove ornaments to rack and set aside for 24 hours to complete drying.  Insert thin ribbon through holes and tie for hanging.  If desired, spray decorations lightly with vegetable cooking spray for a glossier appearance.  

Friday, November 13, 2020

Dolls And A Million Crunchy Leaves...


It wasn't but a mere three days ago that this was the morning view.  It looked as though the whole world might be celebrating this wonderful time of year.  But, this morning there certainly "wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago."  For the past few days those millions of beautiful leaves have been raining down in a storm of falling leaves leaving millions  on the ground through which Millie and I walk.  It is a crunchy trek up that old trail these days, for sure.  Every forest critter certainly knows, way in advance, that some pilgrim is coming their way, so they are long gone by the time we get there.  

Well, here they are.  The clay is finished...finally! And, thank goodness!  What was I thinking when I decided to do all five of these together?  Why that would wear down the bravest soul.  They are getting awfully tired of living in those old cans, but there will be no getting out for a long while yet.  It will be a happy reunion for these dear friends when they all have been painted and dressed in  their fine new frocks.   

I have tried to refrain from choosing a favorite for, like any mother, I love all my children.  However, I am especially pleased with Maggie Rose Gunderson, who seemed, for a long while, that she was destined to be the Ugly Duckling of the entire lot.  I struggled with that, for it just couldn't be, for she was named after Robert Mitchum's mother, Ann Harriet Gunderson, who was a Norwegian immigrant and a sea captain's daughter.  (One can only imagine, the stories she could have told.)  

The other dolls' names were just figments of my imagination, except for Linnie Ruth Butts who is named for my great great grandmother.  Her name was, however, Lucretia.

Jubilee Anice Cliff was the first doll I created, so she's kind of special as having been the inspiration for the others.  She is second from the right next to Linnie Butts on the end. 

Jillie Leone Cooper gave me lots of trouble, which wasn't her fault, but mine.  The sculpting just went way wrong and I could never correct it, even though I tried and tried.  I finally just made a new head for her, so she has had to struggle to keep up with the others.  She is the first one on the left, and seems so happy to have finally joined the others.  

And, last there's Riata Elizbeth Millwright.  What a name!  By the time she came along, I was worn to a frazzle and really didn't want to touch another ball of clay.  I don't feel like I know this doll much.  She just is...  She is pictured in the center.  She may, however, end up being the prettiest doll of the group.  And, the sweetest.  I am looking forward to getting to know her.   

Now, I am going back out to clean more windows.  Those micro-fiber cloths Happy One wrote about are definitely the only way to go when it comes to cleaning glass.  


Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Colors of October...


"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." 

~L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

When I took Karen's Ruane's class, "Ledgers ~ A Study in Colors, it wasn't difficult to choose the colors that would fill the pages of my little book.  They would be the colors of October.  

The mahoganies and browns are so Octoberish ~ so perfect for color studies, I think.  And, of course the blues of those gorgeous October skies are not to be forgotten.  The simple little page overlay, under which there are more stitches, needs a fastening of sorts ~ perhaps tied with a silk bow in this so lovely mahogany.  

There are creamy puffs and oh-so-many French knots on this page, all in the colors of October..

Sewing on paper can be a bit tedious.  There's much more to be done here.  

Millie and I are enjoying the cooler weather for our daily walks.  It's always a difficult transition for me when I must put away my short pants and pull on those ever so cumbersome long ones.  Just look closely at those brown legs of mine, with a bit of white showing just above my shoes. I think they are October legs.

There's now the rustle of leaves with every step, so the woodland creatures are alerted that someone is passing through.  That's probably a good thing for Millie delights in a merry chase through the woods. 

 The pond is always a stopping point for us, where Millie takes her daily bath. I have given that some thought, for Thoreau often bathed in Walden Pond.  He wrote, "I got up early and bathed in the pond; that was a religious exercise, and one of the best things I did."  

Yesterday, there was a chill in the air that just wouldn't seem to go away as the day wore on.  I finally went out and scrounged up bits and pieces of dead wood and built the first fire of the season in the stove.  I. MADE. FIRE.  Building a fire all on my own always gives me such a satisfactory feeling.  I really want to dance!  I am always reminded of this scene in Tom Hank's "Cast Away.

Oh, and look, there's poor little Wilson.  Bless his little heart!

Until next time, this is Mary, out here in the woods enjoying what is left of October.  I hope you are too!

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Millie and I get caught up in migration...


A couple of cool mornings was cause enough to bring out an old jacket to slip on before heading out for our morning jaunt over the hill.  I have noticed that Millie's coat is already getting a bit thicker, so she was happy for the briskness of the days.  I often tell her how much I adore that beautiful coat she's always wearing, and how much I would like to have one to match. I think I should wear it every day too.   

There are muscadines aplenty along the trails we walk, on which I, along with a lot of other forest critters, always stop to browse.  I will soon be missing this morning treat for there are scanty few remaining.  It was, in fact, a poor crop this year - so poor that there will be no oh-so-delicious muscadine jelly this winter.  


The woods is filled these mornings with what remains of yesterday's webs.  I wonder where the spiders have gone...

For a few weeks, we have had somewhat of a living science expo going on just outside our bathroom window.  Dan thinks spiders are creepy, and that I should have swept this one, web and all, away.  She was rather a disappointment compared to last years Golden Orb Weaver that took up residence at the hummingbird shed, but none the less, this year's weaver did put on some spectacular shows.  She is gone now, of her own free will, but left behind under the eave of the house four large egg sacks, which I have carefully removed and carried away to the woods.  She did her job, and did it well.

Maybe, you remember last year's Golden Orb Weaver that I photographed and wrote about at that time.  I still think she was, in the ways of spiders, beautiful.  

Last year's Golden Orb Weaver...

 This morning was one of those mornings in which one just can't seem to get enough of.  I wanted to keep right on walking and taking in the loveliness of the day.  The thing of it was, Millie and I had gotten caught up in migration...Monarch Butterfly Migration.  Those loveliest of lovely creatures were flitting by right and left, intent on flying south, and, only occasionally, stopping at some inviting flower to refresh themselves.  I was able to capture a couple of these magnificent creatures at work in my old zinnia garden.  Oh, what beauties!  How I remember the Monarch paintings the kids at school used to do.  Some of them really got carried away with all those dots! 

With all probability, we have rolled our last bale of hay for this year.  I didn't get a picture of it, but it certainly looked a lot like last year's final bale, minus the coyote. ( Millie and I have seen a couple of young black coyotes that look a lot like the one in the picture, undoubtedly some kin since black ones are somewhat rare.  Millie chases them. I tell her that she shouldn't do that since they are her distant relatives.) 

As of this morning, there were still around a half-dozen little hummingbirds here, lapping sweet sauce at the feeders as though their life depended on it.  And, well it may!  These remaining little jewels are just that...little...and do, in fact, look like jewels... bright shining green emeralds.  I looked at them long and hard this morning and have made myself believe that they were born in the northern plains of North Dakota, and that they have traveled long and hard to get here.  (Right, Sandra!)   

Photo was taken by my son when he was working in the oil fields of North Dakota.

Take care and happy trails to you all.  Next up is October!  Wow!  I surely am looking forward to that, and I am sure you are too!


Monday, August 31, 2020

Day 1,149

It was a wet walk over the hill this morning.  My umbrella was up and my boots were on, but I was hardly aware of a single step on this last trek of the summer* for my head was wrapped around other thoughts - thoughts of dolls and dresses and of bonnets and bows. (Well, I did peer out from underneath my umbrella when the Great Blue Heron went squawking away from the pond, just as it always does.) I am just so ready to finish the dolls that have waited so patiently all summer long while I toiled long hours at other jobs.

 * Wait, wait, wait...  I really know that summer's last day will officially be on the 21st, but I am ending my summer right now!  I have had enough of it!    

Creating hair for these little ladies is always a challenge for me.  I put hair on...  Then take it off...  I part it down the middle....  Then on the side...  I tie it with a pretty bow...  Then paint the bow...  Until, I just give up and let it be...  I do the same thing with my own hair...   Oh, well....  It is what it is...

But, some dolls just seem to like best wearing a pretty bonnet....

And, every pretty dress just must have a pretty petticoat underneath....  And, pantaloons, too.... 

Braids in the hair are always nice...  No matter what color is the hair...

And, other dolls just seem to be born to be blonde...  And, often times, they want pretty ribbons tied around their hair....

Surely, I got kind of carried away with the pretty bow for this one. ( I later took it off.)  She is so like Bernadette Banner, don't you think?  I can just see her walking the streets of Manhattan in this lovely skirt and long tunic.  If you haven't watched Bernadette's YouTube Channel, you might enjoy her too.  I love her.  She inspires me to no end!  And, she has no grass to mow! (Not that I have anything against grass for it's pretty important for us here at Hill Top!)

This lovely dress made of walnut-dyed linen is all hand sewn.  I may never wash it for fear the beautiful color will fade.  

The bow in this doll's hair was originally blue.  I painted it at least three times and ended up with this animal skin look.  It will be hard for me not to give at least a couple of the newest dolls a painted bow in their hair.  But, I must keep in mind that once it's there, there's no taking it off.  And, it doesn't lend itself well to a hat or bonnet worn over it.  I will think about that...

The pictures along the trail were taken this rainy morning... walk # 1,149 without a miss.  I am not a traveler of faraway places and enjoy this daily walk with my devoted partner, Millie.  She's somewhere up ahead here, having herself a merry time walking in the rain.  

Take care!  And, thanks for stopping by the Hill!