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December 2010

Winter Solstice Revels, Dartmoor-style

Winter Solstice 2010

This picture was taken two nights ago at what may well be the nicest, and certainly the most magical, Solstice celebration I've yet been to. The weather set the stage with Siberian snow, then friends and neighbors provided the rest: a bonfire of two giant Yule Logs burning brightly in a snow-covered stone-wall-bordered field, mulled cider, music (both Celtic and gypsy), and a great deal of laughter to see us all through the darkest night of the year.

That's artist Rima Staines on the accordion above, artist & folklorist Thomas Hine on fiddle, runic jewelry designer Jason Hancox on drum, mythic poet Tom Hirons on clarinet, and Thomas' wife, writer Lunar Hine, and baby looking on.

Howard joined us with a second accordion, and sang a haunting Celtic duet with artist Susie Yorke. (It was Susie who snapped this picture, by the way -- used here with her kind permission. ) Dogs and children ran through the snow in packs, young Tilly (being the sociable critter that she is) in raptures among them. All in all, a thoroughly enchanting night. Many thanks to Jason and Ruth, our hosts, for helping us mark this mythic turning of the year.

Snow tree

The snow shows no sign of leaving us soon, our car is still buried in a snow drift, and our end of the village is still largely impassable. We're stocked up on food, thanks to a kind friend with jeep (bless you, Nick Baker), but there are presents that won't make it through the post in time, both ones we're expecting and ones I've sent out. (I'm so sorry folks; I tried!) Nevermind. Our daughter made it safely back home to the village from London yesterday, and that's all that really matters: we're all here, safe and sound.

Howard has filled the house with boughs of holly and ivy gathered from the woods, and last night I made the kiffles (traditional Christmas cookies from the Pennsylvania Dutch side of my family) while corny Christmas tunes play on the stereo. The snow has slowed the world around us down into a place of white beauty, soft contours, and silence.  Tilly is glad that her family is all under one roof again. So let the holidays begin.

The view from my windowThe view from my studio window.

Here's a kiffle recipe that is close to the one handed down through generations of women in my family. (Sorry, the exact family recipe's a secret!) It takes a lot of work, admittedly, but I aways think of my mother, grandmother, and great-aunt Clara -- all of them gone now -- while I'm kneading the dough and that makes the task both a sacred ritual and a pleasure. Use 8 oz. of ground walnuts with a tsp. of sugar for the filling, though, not prunes or apricots -- that's sacrilege! And they should be made only at Christmastime...making kiffles at any other time of the year is just so...wrong.

Rolling the doughRolling the dough

Kiffle douggKiffle dough

Kiffle fillingKiffle filling

Finished KifflesThe finished kiffles


Morning Walk (a post for Christina in Australia, who asked for more snow...)

Dogs in a winter wood

Well, it's still a Winter Wonderland around here. I snapped these photos when I took Tilly and her friend Lyra on a walk earlier today. We forded the stream behind my studio, passed through groves of holly, stands of birch, and then made our up the slope of Nattadon Hill, slip-sliding as we went.

Bench in snow

Two dogs on the hill 2

From the the hill, the view looking back toward the village was heart-stoppingly beautiful in silver winter light.

Nattadon Hill

The village in the distance

And then down again...

Nattadon 3

...where we followed the stream...

Tree and stream

and, snow-covered, headed for home.

Snow-face(Click on any of the photos for larger versions.)


On Your Desk

IMG_6175

Today's desk comes from Adrienne Martini, author of two books I happen to love: Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously and Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood. I'm not a knitter myself, but after reading Delia Sherman's review of Sweater Quest (scroll down to the Nov. 21st blog post), I ordered a copy and adored it for many of same reasons, knitting obsession aside, that Delia did. I'm halfway through Hillbilly Gothic now, and I blame Adrienne for all the sleep I am losing because I can't put the book down at night.

"I live in Oneonta, New York," writes Adrienne, "which is just on the Western edge of the Catskills. I am a writer, mostly, but also teach at the SUNY school here. I also knit, as you might guess, and make piles and piles of things. In addition to the two books I've published, I also write regularly for Locus magazine and blog at www.martinimade.com. Without the whiteboard in the first picture, none of this would ever get done."

IMG_6177

If you'd like to contribute a picture to the "On Your Desk" series, you'll find more information (and the address where you should send your photo) in the first post of the series. Please note that you don't need to know me personally in order to contribute to the series -- all readers of this blog are welcome.

Click here for the full series so far, and here for our last photo series: "The View from Your Window."


Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

Tilly's Winter Wonderland

Are you sick of snow pictures yet? I can't help it, I'm finding such joy in Tilly's utter madcap delight in snow -- she's been in a state of goofy bliss since the storm began. These photos were taken in the woods behind our house on a walk with Our Girl this morning...although at some points on our route we were wading more than walking...and I came back as snow-covered as my hound.

Knee-deep in snow

Froudian tree

A quick note: As of Friday, I'll be taking a break from blogging for the holidays (and to catch up on work once again), so if you plan to send me Desktop/Workspace photos, please get them in by Thursday. Otherwise they'll have to wait until I return to the blog in January.


More snow....

Village square in snow

Our snow deluge of last week was starting to melt this weekend, with grass poking up through the drifts of white in our yard. Today, we were told, it would rain, and the roads into and out of the village would finally clear. Instead we woke up to more snow than I have ever seen in all my years on Dartmoor...and sometimes I just have to wonder if the the village's true name isn't Brigadoon.

I love days like this, when cars remained parked, time seems to stop, and people walk and haul children and groceries on sleds. The village is quiet without the rumble of motors, and we all step back into another century...

Snow on thatchSnow on the thatched roof of a 16th century building: Whiddon's Tea Shop. (The name comes from a local legend.)

Endecott House in snowSnow on the thatched roofs of two 13th century buildings:  Endecott House and the Three Crowns pub.

Snow on a thatched roof 3Snow on the thatched roof of the Lloyd's Bank building, as neighbors and dogs hike through the village Square.

Village church The village church, which celebrates its 750th anniversary next year.

Village churchyardThe Globe Inn and the old, old graves of the village churchyard.

Travellers in snowTravellers in time: puppeteer William Todd-Jones and his daughter Lillian.

2The path to Or Hill, the best place for sledding.

Tilly WonderlandThe obligatory Tilly shot. (This is her idea of heaven.) Click on any of the pictures for larger versions.


More desks....

Tricia 1

This morning we start with the enchanting "flower desk" of Tricia Fontaine. Tricia is an events designer and florist in Santa Barbara, California. "You did say we didn’t have to tidy up," she writes, "that you like to see the creative process . . . so . . . here goes.  However with my shots you are probably getting more than you bargained for, messy is putting it mildly. Currently it looks like a flower bomb went off. "

Indeed it does, and I love seeing Tricia's workspace this way, in full creative swing....

Tricia 2

"The workshop, which my husband built, is command central. Normally it is neat and tidy with all my craft items laid out. . .but when I have a large event in the works, I can’t seem to keep it together. Instead of fighting the process I have learned to just go with it and somewhere in that process magic seems to happen.  This particular event, a wedding, happens on Sunday so I am truly in the thick of it! On top of the large amount of decorations I am providing for the wedding, it is pouring with rain right now, so I am unable to stage anything outside. I usually have a pot of tea going all day and a favorite movie playing while I work.  There are generally a couple of cats underfoot or in the rafters or in the flower arrangements (my husband and I care for about 50 feral cats…  but that is another story).

Tricia 3

"Because my space is so messy right now I just had to include a picture of it clean to ease my embarrassment." Please visit Tricia's website and blog to learn more about her magical designs and events, including a faerie wedding.

Tricia 4

Our next desk this morning is on other side of the country in southeastern Pennsylvania -- where Sabrina Vourvoulias (like so many writers and artists) works at keeping a good balance between work time, creative time, and family time. "Though I've written forever," she says, "I've only relatively recently gotten serious about it and consequently carved out a permanent work space for myself. It is in a corner of my kitchen so I can write while also spending time with my family. (The kitchen is the hub in our house, and since I work full-time at a newspaper in Philadelphia -- an hour away -- my writing and family time seem terribly limited and precious and impossible to separate without stinting on one or the other.)"

Sabrina 1

"My work space has a couple of drawings by my daughter, pages from my mother's sketchbook and original works by Bernell Loeb, Jane Runyeon and another artist (whose name I don't know but whose watercolor depicts one of my mother's sculpture installations at the Djerassi Foundation in California), along with reproductions of artworks by Ann Wilson, Frida Kahlo and other artists -- all pieces that inspire or inform my writing in a variety of ways."

Sabrina 3

"I also keep the materials for tiny books my daughter and I make in my workspace (she inks Japanese characters on the cover, I do simple ink drawings, then we sew them together with twig spines) because, truth be told, I'm terrible at keeping the rest of the house tidy and if they were anywhere else I'd lose them. The adjacent window gives out to twenty-some acres of Pennsylvania farmland."

You can learn more about Sabrina and her work on her lovely blog, Following the Lede, and read her most recent fiction and poetry publications in the Crossed Genres anthology: Crossed Genres Year Two, and in the Catholic literary journal Dappled Things.

Sabrina 4

Sabrina 2

If you'd like to contribute a picture to the "On Your Desk" series, you'll find more information (and the address where you should send your photo) in the first post of the series. Please note that you don't need to know me personally in order to contribute to the series -- all readers of this blog are welcome.

Click here for the full series so far, and here for our last photo series: "The View from Your Window."