Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's about 10° F this week (-12°C) and ice has covered the streets. My legs have succumed to the traditional seasonal ache of wanting to get out and run but being too afraid to me casser la pipe on black ice. And so ... ! ... I started knitting a grass green shawl as a Christmas present for a friend far away, who is herself confined by blizzards and frigid temps.

This yarn is hand spun and dyed in Switzerland's southern alps, in the canton of Tessin. Swiss-Italian women color it using only natural materials, and every time I order some I get a letter in Italian saying "Your yarn will be there soon ... we need to spin it first!" And I smile a very comfortable smile as I imagine her picking up the shears and making her way to a still bleating sheep feeding on the rocky slopes.

Have a look!


By the time the finished product arrives on my doorstep (which usually takes a few weeks at the very least), it is wrapped neatly in a paper wrapping, lanolin coating my hands as I admire it.

Ah... to knit yarn like this! Last night I popped in The Lord of the Rings and knitted my heart out in candle light.

The day has dawned here cold and frigid, marshmallow snow covering the landscape. Sun has finally emerged, and I may just pull on my snow boots and head out to feel the crunch of a frozen world.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sledding down at the old shooting range. The Swiss have these all over the place, so I always find myself looking about furtively, hoping that I'm not smack in the line of fire, which would not be unlike me!

The Russian and our sweet strawberry darling...

...take to the slopes!

We walked home in a cluster as the evening grew dark, snow freeze on our local daily read and Christmas Town glowing in quaint splendour.

The Abominable Snow Man would make this picture so much more complete!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday morning brings fresh snowfall.

There will be no gardening now, but there will be sledding!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Open House at Robin School

Notice where the vicious kitty is aiming ... for the bottom line! In the first grade, a little mouse bears your name and every time you are naughty or negligent or messy or overly talkative, mousie gets relegated to a lower rank.

Hopefully knowing that kitty will get you by the time you hit rock bottom will scare you into obedience, but I felt rather torn as I sat on the tiny chair. Half of me was thinking What a great idea! while the other half thought Good grief, don't move and upset the cat!

Thank goodness for higher education! :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the US... you all know that, of course. But as evening came on, I was feeling a bit sorry for myself way over here in Europe. I had decided that I would decorate my own house for Christmas in an effort to forget that my Americans were celebrating without me, and so I began... and then it snowed.

My heart was not light. It was neither cheerful nor in the holiday mood (ask my kids!). But the unexpected did happen as the snow fell gently but determined from a dark night sky ... and that was love. A bit of love that I did not deserve in my grumpy state.

I had just set up the miniature Christmas town when my nearly teenaged son plopped down in our child-sized rocking chair to admire it. "Mom...this is really cute." He wrapped his arm around me. "Maybe we could find a way to light up the little houses!"

We sat that way for at least fifteen minutes, until we heard giggling from outside on the balcony. My eldest daughter was having her evening tea outside in the falling snow, wrapped up in scarves and the knitted blanket I had made for her, Christmas music plugged into her ears. She had been watching us stare at the Christmas village... "It's snowing!" And indeed, it was.

This morning, I woke up to postcard beauty.

Walked the little girls to school...and whispered a simple prayer.

Thank you for holding me.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

invisible love

Will you stay? Will you go? The question looms anytime you hold a person's hand or feel the warmth of human touch on skin - or heart. Unrivalled freedom in true love, in friendship, in affection.

The human condition depends solely on that one thing. Do you dare to hold a hand?

If the beloved is everywhere,
the lover is a veil,
But when living itself becomes the friend,
lovers disappear.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

There was a bite in the air yesterday as I forced myself from bed in the darkness. It was quite an ordinary morning; I could smell the aroma of coffee from my American and programable coffee maker - a luxury I only recently afforded myself in an attempt to live the Folger's commercial vicariously. ;)

The children stirred and argued in the bathroom, and I padded around as usual in a semi-groggy state ... until I looked outside! The first snowfall of the winter was here!

And as if that weren't enough, it was the day a friend and I would be decorating for Christmas. We've had our ritual for fifteen years, and we always make it gay and bright with coffee and cake... this year I made the cranberry pecan cake featured at From Beyond my Kitchen Window, and it turned out to be just the thing for such a festive day.

The children sang Christmas songs in the car on the way to school, which of course ran through my head all day long and into the night like a broken record (!).

Then, to top off all that happiness, I opened my mailbox at noon only to discover a manilla envelope with my name on it - all the way from Wisconsin. Tell me, have you ever won a giveaway? I haven't. The only thing I've ever been awarded is a can of Ovoltine and that was over ten years ago. It was very good Ovoltine, but this was even better! Judy over at Daily Yarns 'n More had reached into her stash of homemade love and sent out a gift of friendship - a homemade hug - and yesterday that hug came to me here, in Switzerland.

In the package was a hand-sewn apron (the most beautiful colors, too) and a selection of yarns that had surely spent a good amount of time in her own home. I could feel her tight squeeze as I tied on the apron for my family, and smiled and whirled as they admired it.

Thank you, Judy, for daring to share a bit of yourself with a near stranger!

And as for the single skein of woolen yarn ... it's already being made into a pair of fingerless mitts for somebody else; your little bit of love will be passed on yet again, and who knows when it will stop. :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Evening autumn run with hubby ...

Who would believe that my farm-bred husband would make friends with a wandering dog? ;)

Running against the sunset, heart pounding, life throbbing ... this is where life finds me.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The house was full of sounds and smells all day yesterday as children scurried and adults laughed. Despite my longings for home, I turned my heart to this family here - to these people I love and told myself to live for this moment, today.

Give and it shall be given to you. Yes, Lord.

There is a light in this world that shines brighter than anything I can make for myself. It shines out of a great darkness, out of a great inner darkness and distress. And then, inside one heart a candle is lit...and then another. I reach out with the candle burning inside me and light the heart of a friend, of another human being. And that person, in turn, reaches out and lights yet another heart; all because of a first Light that dared to defy the great darkness.

I sat in candlelight last night and knitted for an hour or so before bed. Then I folded it up and walked quietly around the house blowing out the candles, one by one. Corner after corner my house became dark and silent, until the very last light had been doused. The sound of breathing could be heard from where I stood barefoot by my bedroom door, the black night sky hovering moonless above the skylight.

Somehow I could still hear their laughter, feel their goodnight kisses, and I have stored them away for another day when I will long to hear and feel them again.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Today is our Thanksgiving Day, and soon the uncles will arrive! Dylan Thomas writes in A Child's Christmas in Whales of the uncles sleeping with their moist hands in the parlor after Christmas dinner, and that is what this day means to me!

My sister-in-law and I will do a puzzle this afternoon while the uncles rest with a glass of ice-cold Bailey's on the end table and the children pestering them for games, for stories, for a family movie (which will inevitably be Back to the Future II).

A comfortable sigh.

And with a little luck... we'll find them snoring for just a bit in the living room, and my heart will swell.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

The children were out here and there today as my husband and I got in the car to go marketing. I like when he comes with me. It is so much cheerier and easier and less stressful! As we began pulling out of the driveway, I heard him suggest going for pizza first. Pizza? Alone? Now?

So we did! The restaurant offers local newspapers to look at while you wait, and we were nearly the only people there... at noon! I'm telling you, this is a podunk town with a capital P! ;)

Here's the thing... it was lovely. It was unexpected and rather wild of us (since I had Thanksgiving dinner to prepare), and it was just simply the nicest thing we've done together for quite some time.

I sat across from him as he read the paper, watching the cars go by, watching him, watching and noticing how grey his hair has grown. I was thinking how blessed I am to have this man smiling back at me over the paper, knowing he means it with all his heart.
So I'm going to take you with me as I prepare my European Thanksgiving meal! (I love having ya'll along so much).

Last night I cut up the bread cubes for stuffing (most of which ... yes, I've said it before ... will not go in my bird).

And here's little Camille showing you our Tom. Today I'll go to the market and then cook all afternoon, and tonight I'll rub him all over with butter and let him stand uncovered in the fridge all night to help his skin get nice and crispy (it DOES help, believe me).

I have just thought of one more reason why I ought to be thankful for such a tiny specimen, and that is my European-sized refridgerator. They are the size of portable fridges here in Switzerland, so there will be none of the stress of trying to fit him in. :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

It is evening here, and I have already posted today but I have something I want to share with whoever is listening... it's about giving thanks.

My blogging friends, you, have been sharing what you're thankful for this month; and I've been watching and listening and asking myself the same question. It's been wonderful, to be honest.

But about half an hour ago, my true thankfulness was put to the test. And I must admit that I rather failed!

Two weeks ago I ordered (from France) a turkey for our Thanksgiving celebration on Sunday. No one has off here on Thursday, so we have to pick a weekend day. I have invited family; there'll be twelve of us. So I ordered my Tom well in advance so I would get a nice plump fellow (plump in this country being around 14 pounds tops). Well, last year I got a 14 pounder and I was thankful in the extreme...sincerely!

My Russian went out to pick up the bird this evening and when he came home with Meagane, they kind of skulked inside. "How is he?" I came running. A turkey in our house is a grand affair ... we all want to evaluate him.

I could see just by how my hubby held him in the white plastic bag that he was on the skimpy side. My face must have dropped instantaneously. "Is that it?" I asked in disbelief. "Uh....I'm afraid it is."

We piled into the kitchen and I untied the knot. 8 pounds. An 8 pound Thanksgiving turkey. I thought to myself... "It may as well be a chicken!" And then I said it aloud. My sweet hubby who would do anything to bring a bit of home my way was crestfallen. "Look, I bought a huge bag of sweet potatos...and they say they're from the USA!"

Was I thankful? No. For the turkey? For the potatos? For such a sensitive husband and a sweet daughter who had driven 40 minutes to pick up my Tom? No, no no.

I vaccuumed (ever been there?) until I had gotten out most of my disappointment and then sat down to dinner. Time to pray. Ugh. Seriously? Meagane began... "Dear Father God, please make a miracle. Please make our turkey grow during the night so mom can have a happy Thanksgiving."

My heart burned within me. It's a day of Thanks, Allison. Thanks! I was immediately ashamed.

So in the wake of my disappointment and self-pity, let me just say what I am truly thankful for:

And that is family. Family who is patient enough to see me through a temper tantrum. I am thankful for God; who loves me despite my ungratefulness. I am thankful for peace and health and a warm, cozy place to live. I am thankful, deeply thankful, that I can care for my family with my own two hands.

And now, after all that, I can truly say that I am thankful for my puny Tom. We will dress his little body up in grand style and be thankful that there is, indeed, enough.
A hand-knitted Christmas present for my sister miles and miles away.

I finished and blocked these just this week. They're made with malabrigo teal feather 412, and soft as a peach against your skin. I had little Meagane try them on this morning and she immediately groaned with delight ... "They're so soft!"

I regret one thing: two buttons rather than three on the neck warmer; I hope the edge doesn't flap around under my sister's coat. But since I did my first invisible cast off, I'm scared to try to open it up and make three button holes. Have you done that cast off? You have to sew it, good grief!

Is anyone out there knitting anything for the holidays? Do tell!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A few more of that day I sped around town snapping fall pictures.

This has always been one of my favorite places. I like to run out into the dark and freezing fields in the winter and feel the icy wind pierce my lungs of a morning. (You would love this place, Dawn!)

A snif here, a snif there ... detail beckoned...

This is where the wind actually blows in our valley, part of the reason why I love coming here; I can stand at the top of this hill and see grandeur for miles (in the wintertime I fancy myself living in North-west Middle-Earth. I will be sure to post pictures of that when the time comes, and snow has fallen heavily on all those trees!)

I always stop running when I see this church. It is nestled in the center of town and stands tall and noble in its native dale.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I went running last week through an autumn world washed in morning sunlight. There were so many things to see, so much beauty, that after I'd returned home I took my camera and drove around town snapping pictures of everything I'd admired along the way.

There was a tree-lined street where the mayor lives... and apparently the mayor's cat! :)

She was perched in a tree feeling quite put out with me for disturbing her hunting ambush (I like birds, so I was not apologetic).

When it finally dawned on her that I was not leaving, she wiggled down the tree and ran off into the golden universe. It was the first time I'd had a chance to stand and laugh with the mayor's wife, who stood calling out to her kitty as she pranced indignantly into the mouse-filled meadow.

Monday, November 15, 2010

As we sped toward Chicago that night, marvelling at the misfortune of a bazillion bugs killed on our windshield over the course of a mere three days, we found ourselves quiet, tired, but resisting the ride home. Our dream trip was coming to an abrupt end... the little world we'd created inside the truck where mother and daughter transform into mischievous allies might fizzle the minute we pull into the driveway.

One month later, I watch my daughter for signs that our complicity could still be intact. There are the ups and downs of adolescence, the stress of school, the strain of work. There is the never-ending battle for attention in a family of six. But when it all comes down to it and we find ourselves alone in the kitchen of an evening, she making her traditional cup of tea and I tidying up, our eyes meet and lock... and sometimes they gleam and smile.

It is still there. Thank God.

So...where are we going next?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Peace in Deerfield, Illinois

Saturday, November 13, 2010

This is for one of my new blogging friends Texwisgirl ... Does it get any more Northern Midwest than this? :)

My daughter and I had been driving for days by the time I finally spied this tiny windmill. I flipped on the blinker and pulled to the side of the road. Emily's feet were propped up on the dashboard, her mp3 plugged into her ears, a cosmetic mirror in her hands. "Sure... why not... another windmill. Go ahead, mom. I'll wait here."

She had been waiting for me quite a lot over the past couple of days, and honestly I couldn't believe how patient she'd been! "You're the weirdest mom there is ... I think we've bonded on this trip."

Happy thoughts such as those bombarded me as I slid out of the truck and snapped away. She never minded when I stood for moments on end, soaking in the landscape, staring off into a distance I wished I could take home with me.

I knew that after we left this place, we would cross the Illinois boarder, visit my nephew in Deerfield and thunder toward western Chicagoland.

Don't you want to move here, Emsi? A roll of the eyes. "To windmills... really?"

I know the longing all too well. Whether one state away or one-hundred, there's no place like home... and Dorothy was talking about the midwest!

I hope it never changes.