Friday, December 31, 2010

Doggie Kisses (Part 4 of 365 Part Series)

Matty gets in on the love, from Auggie, Archie and Greta


Greeting the new year with friends and spirits is customary in many parts of the world. Residents of Scotland mark the arrival of the new year with particular passion in a holiday they call Hogmanay that draws on their history of Viking invasions, superstition, and ancient pagan rituals.
Hogmanay's origins date back to pagan rituals that marked the time of the winter solstice. Roman celebrations of the hedonistic winter festival of Saturnalia and Viking celebrations of Yule (the origin of the twelve days of Christmas) contributed to celebrations in Scotland around the new year. These celebrations and other ceremonies evolved over the centuries to become the Hogmanay holiday celebrated in Scotland today.

For many centuries in Scotland, Hogmanay was a far more important holiday than Christmas. Historians suggest this may have been a result of the Protestant Reformation after which Christmas, and its close ties to the Roman Catholic Church, was seen as "too Papist." Others point to the grueling work schedules of laborers during the Industrial Revolution which did not provide time off for the Christmas holiday.
Only in the mid-20th century did Christmas emerge as the popular holiday it is in other Christian countries. But don't be fooled—New Year's still reigns supreme. In the last several years, two of Scotland's cities have hosted some of the largest street parties in the world.

A custom known as "first footing" dictates that the first person to cross a home's threshold after midnight on New Year's Eve will determine the homeowner's luck for the new year. The ideal visitor bears gifts—preferably whiskey, coal for the fire, small cakes, or a coin—and should be a man with a dark complexion. Why? The answer hearkens back to the 8th century, when the presumably fair-haired Vikings invaded Scotland: a blond visitor was not a good omen.
Although less commonly practiced today, friends celebrate first footing by visiting each other's homes shortly after midnight. They share food and drink and exchange small gifts. It is also customary to sing Auld Lang Syne, the traditional song famously transcribed by Scottish poet Robert Burns.
Another custom is to clean the house thoroughly and burn juniper to rid the house of evil spirits in the coming year.
Many Hogmanay traditions involve fire, another throwback to pagan and Viking times. It is believed fire symbolized the sun's return after the winter solstice or was used to ward off evil spirits.

Locals in the small town of Biggar in southern Scotland have built a bonfire every Hogmanay for hundreds of years, despite the complaints of some residents. 

In Stonehaven, a town on Scotland's east coast, the Ancient Fireballs Ceremony unfolds as sixty locals march through the town swinging large flaming spheres over their heads.
Even more extreme is the ritual known as Up Helly Aa, which is carried out in towns in the Shetland Islands on the last Tuesday in January. A custom dating only back to the early 1800s, Up Helly Aa involves entire towns dressing up as Vikings and ceremonially burning a replica of a Viking ship—followed by raucous celebrating.
No one can say for sure which traditions came from exactly where exactly when, only that thousands of years of history have blended to create the cultural centerpiece of the Scottish holiday season.
Even the origin of the word Hogmanay is a subject of debate. A few possibilities: It may derive from the Gaelic oge maiden meaning "new morning"; the Celtic hogunnus meaning "new year"; hoog min dag, a Flemish-Dutch phrase meaning "great love day"; or the Old French word aguillanneuf, which refers to both the last day of the year and the gift traditionally given on that day. The last possibility seems especially likely since one of the old Scottish traditions was for children to run from door to door on New Year's Eve asking for presents and shouting, Hogmanay!
Whatever its origins, Hogmanay is an integral part of Scottish culture today. Apparently, one day to recover isn't enough: January 2nd is an official holiday in Scotland, too.

The Words to Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?


For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes, 
And pou’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
Sin’ auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie's a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie-waught,
For auld lang syne.

More here:

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Doggie Kisses (Part 3 of a 365 Part Series)

Mama shares a smooch with Sherman

The Big Boys

"There is honor in being a dog."

Beau and Sam are my first boys- my big boys- my old boys.  Love.

Cheer Bear, R.I.P.

This blog is supposed to be only about happy things, but this post make me a little sad. As a kid I collected stuffed animals- I had TONS of them.  Some were more special to me than others, and my number one special stuffed animal was my Cheer Bear.

I had quite a few Care Bears, but Cheer Bear was my first.  I had to have "tubes" put in my ears when I was 6 and I was put under anesthesia. When I woke up, Cheer Bear was by my side! After that, Cheer Bear was my go-to guy, especially if I ever felt scared or sad. Cheer Bear lived up to his name and always seemed to make me feel better.

A few months ago, I felt like I needed my Cheer Bear- who has been in storage at my parent's house for years.  Instead, I started this blog page (Blogger lets you start posts and publish them later) and I planned to retrieve Cheer Bear on my next visit North and bring him back with me. Here I was going to take his picture and feature him prominently on my virtual happy place.

While at my parents place, I went through some of my stored boxes.  Quite a few of them were full with stuffed animals- and some of them looked brand new- but Cheer Bear showed his popularity proudly.  He was a little scruffy, and a little worn around the edges, but it sure was good to see him after all these years! I set him aside, planning to pack him home... but tragedy struck.

I don't want to relive the gorey details, let us say that Cheer Bear met his demise within hours of being freed from his storage container. After 25 years, Cheer Bear was no longer so cheery. Needless to say, I had a little emotional breakdown (maybe a little over dramatic, actually) but Cheer Bear deserved a bit of heartfelt grief. And now, I honor him in this post.

This is not a picture of  my Cheer Bear, as my guy didn't make it long enough for me to take his picture. (This one really doesn't have the same spirit as mine). 

So farewell Cheer Bear! Thanks for making me feel better so many times. I'll miss knowing you're there... Love!

Puppy Love

One of the best things about visiting my parents is that every visit is full to the brim with restorative dog therapy! Here, Matt and I are in a super puppy snuggle with Archie and Greta, both recent rescues who will be looking for their forever homes shortly.  In the meantime, they are getting healthy and acclimated to humans (does it look like just a week earlier the 2 month old puppy was running alone on a rural mountain road, and the pretty girl was skin and bones running feral in Covelo?! The are so at home now!)  

This picture was taken by my dad, who was looking for the baby (it was breakfast time) and had to capture the moment of super cuteness.  I'm glad he did, because now we'll always have something to remember these two precious pups. I wish I could give them their forever home! But I know my parent will make sure they get great ones and that they will get to enjoy their lives with lots of love and happiness!!

Beautiful Greta, Adorable Archie, Matt with the big guns, and me, in a morning cuddle!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Little Squirrel

Came across this little guy while walking with Frank in Tahoe.  He looked cold! Why wasn't he sleeping in a little cozy nest? Maybe he needed to stretch his legs and get some fresh air, like us! 

Aimee's Cabin

My friend Aimee has a little cabin in South Lake Tahoe. It is the perfect place to stay! It is in a cute little neighborhood, great for walking about and easy access to the action in Tahoe- Hevenly and state line is just down the street.  The cabin itself has all the necessities for a great friendly get together- a kitchen to cook in, games and movies, cozy places to sit and read and chat and a super powerful heater!

Aimee has opened up her cabin to us before and each visit is so much fun. This time, we really took advantage of the cabin as our home base, spending all but one night in.  We cooked and lounged about, played cards had a few marathon sing-alongs (Frank and Matt rocked the party on that). I did a bit of knitting and Aimee read all about Madeline Albright.  Good times!

So thanks Aimee! We couldn't have gone without you and your hospitality! You are a great friend and your Tahoe cabin is a happy and special place! I can't wait to go again!!  :)

Hot Drink

There is nothing that hits the spot more on a cold day than a hot drink. Just writing this post is making me want one- I think I'll cut this short and put on a kettle for tea... I suggest you do the same! Or if you're in the mood for something a little richer, try one of the hot chocolate or hot cider recipes below.  Happy drinking!

Hot Chocolate

Hot Tea

Hot Cider (Great spiked as well!)

Happy Snowman

In the spirit of doing all things childlike and silly, Matthew and I made a snowman together. Isn't Mr. Redbuttons the most handsome snowman you have seen in years?! We had a blast forming and shaping his body and searching the cabin's yard for appropriate decorations. Matthew found some fantastic twig arms and little red stones perfect for buttons. I added the carrot nose and the pine needle smile, and the scarf (which I took back and then actually felt a little guilty- he looked... cold without it!). 

Here he is, all finished and happy:

Mr. Redbuttons poses with his makers:

Mr. Redbuttons hangs outside as we get warmed up in the cabin:

Winter Wonderland

Matt and I celebrated the holidays in style. We started our 12 day vacation in a winter wonderland! Tahoe this year was beautiful, full of powdery fresh snow. I fell in love with the majestic look of snow covered trees- walking among them, you can't help but feeling like you're in a winter wonderland! So gorgeous! So happy!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Cupcakes

'Tis the season to make cupcakes!

Each one of these are like little festive food sculptures! Delicious and darling. Maybe I should try to make something like this with my sister-in-law over Christmas! What do you say, Mary? 


The Nutcracker used to be a Christmas tradition when I was young. I'd usually see a performance of it somewhere each year, whether it be a local production, or a big to-do with the San Francisco Ballet Company.

It has been years since I have seen the fantastical Christmas ballet.  And I think it is about time to return to that tradition.  If not this year (the time is flying past so fast already! Christmas is less than 10 days away!!) then perhaps I'll try for next year.  For now, I'll pay homage to it, and the happy memories I have of watching it with my mom, on my happy blog!

Charlie's Hat

I promised to make Matt a hat.  I even dragged him to a yarn store to pick out the yarn! I worked away, without a pattern, to come up the perfect little sock hat for him to wear on the slopes in Tahoe... but that is not what I made.  When I took the hat off the needles, it was so small! I thought it would stretch out, but it wasn't close to being big enough to fit on Matt's adult head. This was a hat better suited for a baby!

I had plans to make Charlie a different hat, from my Charmed Knits book... and I still might (after I try again for Matt, of course).  But for Christmas, Charlie got this little hat:

I think he liked it! It was almost too small for him too! (I really had my gauge off!) I think he liked the box of ginger chews better ;)

Cutie Pie!
For Charlie's hat, I used an organic, cottage hand-dyed yarn on size 8 straight needles.  I made a few rows of ribbing and then did the rest in stockinette.  Once I thought it was tall enough, I started decreasing every few stitches on the RS until the edge was about 2-3 inches long.  Then I cast off, whipstitched the seams and closed the top off.

Disneyland Birthday Surprise!

Yesterday, for Jason's birthday, Matt and I surprised him by showing up at Disneyland. It was a most happy day! Here are some of the highlights!

The trio on Thunder Mountain!

The Birthday Boy!
I was AMAZED by the Christmas Haunted Mansion
Birthday Picnic!
Happy Fireworks
Castle with holiday icicles

Persian Rugs and Tapestries

Love love love the rich combination of ornate rugs and wall hangings.  The reds, the golds, the scenes of unicorns and maidens- each a work of art! 

The combination of decorative textiles on the floor and the walls gives a space a unique combination of both grandness and warmth.  They can make a room look stately and important , but also cozy and inviting. How happy!

Not every home can pull off such a look. My 1980s era apartment in Los Angeles, for example, does not have the right bones for it. In order to do the rugs and tapestries justice, the home has to bring some character of its own. (Fingers-crossed that the next place I live will have some character!) 

Obligatory Gryffindor Common Room picture-

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Knitting Things

I wish there was a knitting fairy that would secretly bring me everything on my wish list!

This set of needles...

...or this set of interchangeable circular needles...

...and this huge and adorable knitting bag to carry everything in...

...and this, of course, a turtle measuring tape...

...and I need this to try to figure out gauge...

...and lastly, these scissors- which I don't really need, but they are so pretty!