Saturday, December 21, 2013

Racing through December

It is a good thing to have someone help with the Christmas decorating around here.
We were off to a slow start: Getting back from San Diego totally threw off my holiday rhythm.
It was ten days into December before I stopped thinking it was November and mentally getting ready for Thanksgiving.
Beach walking in December will do that to yah!

Over at my son's house they were ON it! 
Christmas decorating was going on.
Right down to decorating the grandcat Cheeto.
It is a tradition for Bernie and me to be invited over to their place to help decorate their Christmas tree.
This year Luke could help a bit too.

He would much rather be read to than mess around with tree decorating though.
He walked around behind the tree once and after that lost interest in the thing.
We were prepared for curious toddler action.

And the tree and family portrait looks great.
So fun.
It would have been even more fun if I didn't have to go home right after that to start prepping for one of those "once every ten years after you turn 50" deals...ahem.

 A couple of days after that event I got serious about getting our hall decking done.
Tate really is helpful.
His exploring every decoration makes me laugh.

Luke is over all day on Tuesday and we had him Friday too two weeks ago.
More reason why the decorating around here lagged a bit.

Eventually we got around to slogging through the Christmas tree lot snow and picked out an Alpine variety of Christmas tree.
This year I decided I wanted to use my family ornaments, the ornaments that were handmade or collected while my kids were still little (read: unbreakable ornaments.)

The Alpine tree was just the thing for a colorful Christmas.
 It is so tall and narrow and scented nicely.
Very different than any tree we've ever had before.
I still like the old fashioned Douglas firs of my childhood because they had a lot of scent.  I've have Noble pines because they are strong in the limb and hold on to their needles even in Southern California Christmas heat waves.
One hideous year in Dallas we had a Black Hills pine.  The needles are so sharp that just brushing against the branch will lead to screaming. It almost didn't get decorated, and it almost got thrown out with the decorations still on it.  Heavy gloves and jackets were necessary to complete those tasks.
After that terrible tree I defaulted to fake trees for the rest of my Texas years.

Last Sunday we took our first snow hike up Millcreek canyon.
Dogs are welcomed on the path and they have a blast racing through the un-groomed snow under the trees.
(That's Bernie in the brimmed Stetson style hat.)

The creek was running.
It had been around zero over night and in the low teens for about a week.
Snow had iced and stayed put for two weeks; I was getting a bit tired of the bitter cold.
Having the temperatures "soar" into the 30s was great!

Next to the snow trail I saw hoar frost growing on the snow.

Each morning frost was seen on the glass table out on our deck.

The American goldfinch arrived in huge flocks.

It was good to see them back at our kitchen window.

This week we had a snow that produced needle shapes.

Up close the snow looked like piles of needles.

There was very little artful snowflake shapes to be seen.
I was checking...

Last Monday I had a tooth extraction that needed bone graft and tissue graphing too.
It hurt a lot and continued to hurt enough for the rest of the week that pain killers were required.
Pain killers = drowsy.
Not much got done besides staring out the front window a lot.
Friday and Saturday I made myself write my Christmas letter and mail about 25 cards.
In between naps...

...and checking the snowfall.
It started picking up a few shapes on Saturday morning.

The towhees flocked to our feeders and distracted me as well.

Such cute fatness!

Mountain jays, woodpeckers, flickers, chickadee, goldfinch and sparrow flutter non stop at our feeders.

The gold finches look skinny compared to the towhees.

The day after we got back from San Diego it snow and we had 12 inches of snow at our house.
That snow stayed and stayed until early last week.
By Tuesday the very last of the deck snow had melted.
Wednesday was our 37th wedding anniversary.
Celebration of the anniversary has been postponed due to my groom also having one of those "every ten years once you are 50" procedures done on Thursday.
(At least we both got an "all clear" for ten more years!)
Snow fell again on Thursday and Saturday.
My deck flags "Rejoice" is now nearly buried in snow.

Saturday morning I peeked at the deck railing and saw this charming snowflake just sitting there.
I shot this photo just using my sport/fast shutter speed setting and wedged elbows to hold steady.
Turned out pretty good for my first snowflake photo of winter!

I had read up on how a well known Russian snowflake photographer manages to get his snow photos.
I duplicated his set up by placing a wooden stool upside down, placing a glass table topper on the stool legs and pointed a flashlight up through the glass.
It worked!

I rather like the way flakes look on plants, porch railings and camera lenses, but this is an interesting way to set up photos too.

The air outside was just at freezing and the snow was graupeling and rime was forming.
The bead like structure on the snow crystal is super cooled water structure stuck to the snow flake form.
Two different water states connected in mid air.

I want my snow flakes to be "baggage" free, even though the baggage itself is kind of miraculous.

These two snowflakes got completely covered with droplets.

Nice plate shaped flake off to the side in this shot.

Perfect snowflakes aren't always what we think of when we think of perfect.
There is a lot of variation in snowflakes.
The needle snowflake, the branched snowflake, the plate shaped snowflake...
And the ones with attached dots.

They are all good.
The Russian photographer's method is a winner.
Glad I had a chance to practice using the method today.
I don't think we will be getting more snow before Christmas.
I still have to make pralines for the neighbors and bake cookies for us.
That last bit of Christmas preparation might not get done if the snowflakes were falling and enticing me outside.
December has raced along.
I am looking forward to the slower days of the 12 Days of Christmas, the after Christmas preparation time of pure enjoyment for us.


Vee said...

Here I sit wondering if I have the patience and enough of a camera to even attempt what you are doing. I want to. I just think it might be a big waste of my time. On the other hand, why not at least try. Not that a Maine snowflake is much different than a Utah one. You sure have had a busy December.

Sara said...

Looks like there's a lot of Christmas surrounding you even if you were late getting started and all the "ahem" other things that drew your attention. You are way ahead of me! Blessings to you, Bernie and your family this Christmas, Jill. And I am looking forward to what 2014 will bring for both of us.

ellen b. said...

Love the sweet birdies and of course the amazing snowflakes...
I'm sure it's fun to enjoy Christmas with the little one!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry about your Not a good thing. Hope it heals OK. We had 60 degrees yesterday in CT. All our snow is gone....for awhile at least.
Love the snowfake photos.

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

Beautiful...your snowflake photography!

Wishing you both a joy-filled Christmas...and lots of memorable family moments. Enjoy your sweet grandson!