One of the joys of the Christmas season is decorating the tree... especially with handmade ornaments.


Muted by frost...

We've been drowning in rain lately, rivers swollen with unexpected rainfall, and warm temperatures in the mountains melting the early snow. Most years, the rain and wind brings the leaves down all in a rush, to form a thick carpet on the ground.

That carpet of leaves met winter on this frosty morning.



My lace cap hydrangea has the most amazing color... periwinkle blue mixed with deep blue and purple, it almost glows in the light. It blooms early, and stays vibrant through fall. Once the cold comes, the blooms turn pink and gradually fade. And in mid-winter, they dry to papery thin splendour.

I love these blooms in all their stages, and also pressed between the pages of a book... picked fresh to decorate the house with their beautiful blue color... picked dry in late autumn, when they retain just a memory of summer's brilliant blue... picked in winter, already dry.

Which do you like?


Favorite barns...

There are a lot of places I like to go to photograph barns, but one of my favorites is the Enumclaw Plateau. There are dairy farms and horse farms, 100-year-old barns and modern barns, and plenty of old farmhouses.

On the east side of the county is a short road that begins and ends at the main county road that travels from north to south. At one end is one of my favorite farmhouses, painted in rich green with white trim, with a wonderful addition at one side.  It is smaller than my own old farmhouse, but this one has all the original trim and interior millwork and built-in cabinetry of a Craftsman house. And it has a barn.

At the other end of the road is one of my favorite barns, a small gable style with a side addition. It's rustic and charming, and has a new metal roof to protect it from the elements.

Both structures are equally well tended, and both are best photographed in winter, when the leaves are off the trees.

I never tire of taking this side road, or picturing myself living in the beautiful green farmhouse.

Sharing today on Tom's Barn Collective.


Counting the days...

My sister's Advent calendar hangs across three windows that overlook one of her perennial gardens.

Each envelope contains a "treasure" for her two granddaughters, and helps them count the days until Christmas.


In winter...

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth,
for the touch of a friendly hand, and for a talk beside the fire:
it is the time for home.

... Edith Sitwell


Kittitas Valley homestead...

A couple of decades ago, my best friends moved from the wet side to central Washington, to enjoy retirement on the dry side. They traded the rain for nearly constant wind, lots of sunshine, and almost no traffic... which sounds like a pretty good trade-off.

A few years ago, they finally convinced an aging parent to join them, and found the perfect house for her. It's close (making those daily chores easier for my friends), and it's on an old homestead.

The original house is long gone, but the property has two aging barns (a broken gable-style barn, and a smaller saltbox-style barn), and a collection of other small buildings, including a cold room near the house, and a long shed with windows that became the chicken coop.

Before they started repairs on the larger barn, I spent a few hours photographing it. The timbers are sound, but the roof needs work. Half is protected by metal roofing, the other half has missing shakes.

The inside (like many old barns) was full of stuff abandoned by the former owner: stacks of lumber, moldy hay, broken bits of harness and equipment, lots of bits of rusted metal, a tangle of hot wire, and even a broken bamboo fly rod.

I loved spotting things that showed that draft horses once lived here... one side of the barn has huge stalls, complete with hay racks and mangers. The other side has a long manger for the cows, each with their own spot labeled with their name.

They spent weeks clearing it out, digging down to the bones of the barn. During the process, several people stopped by to see if they'd sell the barn wood siding.

Thankfully, they said no.

. . . . .

Linking up today on Tom's Barn Collective.


Giving thanks...

Cranberries, Brie, pecans, and rosemary, tucked into little pastry cups. My contribution to the family Thanksgiving this year (along with my favorite soy glazed Brussels sprouts, and a few bottles of wine).

Today was all about amazing food, sitting down at the table with my in-laws to share a meal, and spending hours of precious time with my second family.



The past few days, when I needed a break from quilting, I've been sorting through photographs from the past couple of years. My photo library has gotten way too big, and it's time to let go. I take a lot of photos while we travel, reminders of the countryside and structures we see on our road trips, which I refer to while writing my journal. Most of them were never meant to be saved, but I'm not good about going back and deleting these "temporary" photographs.

In 2013, we spent a couple of weeks house-sitting for friends who live on Puget Sound. Every morning I'd get up early and go for a walk on the beach with their dog, Brody. I'd take my camera along and photograph whatever caught my eye.

This particular morning, there was an algae bloom. Beautiful swirls of red and orange and green, floating offshore. The gentle waves would flow right through the colors, moving steadily toward shore but not breaking up the patterns.

Sometimes those "temporary" photos end up finding a permanent home in my Photoshop library.



We don't see coyotes all that often anymore. Spotting one was almost a daily occurrence when we first moved to our little farm, but I think their pattern has changed. I know mine has... not as much time spent outside, walking the fences, tending to the horses, feeding and bucking hay and spending time in the big shed.

But I do sometimes spot one in late fall, when there are still apples in the orchard and the nights are getting cold.


Cabin rules...

On a lake above Hood Canal, in the shadow of the Olympics, our little cabin can be a magical place in the winter. And a very cold place. It is really a three-season cabin, and winter isn't one of the three.

A couple of weeks ago we spent a few nights there, taking care of a few chores before shutting off the water for the winter. To keep warm, we kept a fire going in the wood stove, and slept under a thick down quilt (and an electric blanket). We had oatmeal for breakfast, and for dinner we ate pizza from a local shop and drank good red wine.

It rained, and when the temperatures dropped into the 30's, I hoped for snow, but it wasn't to be. Not yet. But when it snows here, there's plenty of snow for a snowman. We have the perfect sledding hill, a canister of hot chocolate above the stove, and plenty of firewood.

Most of all, we have peace and quiet here in the woods, and I love being here.


Precious time...

French yogurt and pumpkin rolls, wine tasting and lunch in town, and watching the crews hang lights in the town of Leavenworth. Some of our favorite winter activities with good friends... still waiting for that blanket of snow.


First snow...

It was so beautiful, driving over Stevens Pass this morning. After slogging through morning traffic to Bothell, then the back roads to Hwy 2, it was a relief to finally be heading east toward Leavenworth. We're visiting friends for a few days, and as we got a couple of miles from the summit, we drove right into heavy snow. It was my first real snow of the season, and I'm so glad we chose to take the higher pass.


Pink and green with bees...

The past couple of days have been on the chilly side, too cold and wet to finish getting the flower gardens settled for the winter. It was okay, though... there are lots of projects to get finished for the holidays. Especially this baby quilt, which I finished today. It's for my best friend's first grandchild, a cute little patchwork quilt made from 1930s reproduction fabrics, with a pink and white striped flannel backing. I was especially pleased with the quilting design, daisies and bumblebees. Perfect for a cute little baby girl named Hazel Bee.


A barn in winter...

My camera and I haven't traveled the backroads lately, looking for barns and fall color. The other things in my life, like quilting, have kind of taken over.

So instead of a new barn photo, I will instead share some photographs of one of my favorite barns. It belongs to my brother-in-law and sister, on the land that his family homesteaded. It's an interesting hybrid style, with a milking room built on one side.

I took these on a misty, cold December day when the clouds were low, and I could see my breath. I love how the clouds turned the photograph into a watercolor painting. It was quiet, and nothing else was stirring, not even the birds.

Linking up today with Tom's Barn Collective.


A year and a day...

On a brilliant sunny day, we headed to Mount Rainier (our third visit in less than a week). Things were shutting down for the season, with snows already blanketing the high places like Sunrise, forcing the roads to close.

We had planned to drive a few miles up the road from the White River Campground, but even though the road was bare, the gate was barred. So we got to our destination the old-fashioned way:  we walked.

The views as we climbed were amazing, and so were the fall colors. We did our earthcache (the main reason we walked uphill for nearly two miles on perfectly good pavement), and as I turned to head downhill, my feet were perfectly placed on the double yellow lines.

I laughed out loud, and couldn't resist snapping a photograph. We couldn't be this close and not drive to the top of Chinook Pass, where the Mountain was stunning white above Tipsoo Lake.


A sky on fire...

I woke up early, when the sky was just beginning to lighten up. By the time I got dressed and downstairs, I had just enough time to grab my cell phone and head down to the lake (in my slippers... brrr). The sky (and reflection) is already pink.

There's frost this morning, and the ducks are just starting to move about on the water. Yesterday I tried to count the Buffleheads, Mergansers, and Cinnamon Teals on the lake, and stopped counting at about 100.

I stood, and shivered, and watched the day turn fiery pink and red. It was amazing.


City windtunnels...

We went into the city this morning for a meeting, then took a walk uptown. It's been raining all morning, and the wind turned the city streets into wind tunnels. We found lunch at Elysian Brewery & Kitchen, then walked toward Elliott Bay to the public market. The market is quiet this time of year, but the seafood vendors were still in full swing, and the stands of winter vegetables were colorful and tempting.

We had one more errand in the U District, which took us for a walk along the Montlake Cut where the University of Washington Husky crews were out on their workouts.

Rain in Seattle means horrible traffic; it's like everyone forgets how to drive on wet streets in between rain showers. So traffic was horrible, with no time to drop me at home, and Dave to make it to his monthly get-together with his old work friends. So we headed straight for Georgetown, and got there just in time. And I still made it to my guild meeting on time.



It's the first of a new month, the one I always think of as the start of winter. Yesterday it dawned cold and clear at 31 degrees. Today, it was 49 degrees and cloudy. Welcome to the Pacific Northwest!

By November we know what our fall colors will be like. In the best years, the days are cold and clear and the leaves have time to change color. The hillsides turn yellow and gold, mingled with the dark green of the firs and cedars, then the leaves drift to the ground. They cover the trails and the roads with crinkly leaves, and I love to walk through them.

On wet years, the days are rainy and windy and the leaves fall before they have a chance to change color. Instead, they die and turn brown and tumble to the ground in a mushy mess. Those are not the years that inspire me to walk the trails, kicking the leaves and watching them float behind me.

I've been too busy to get out with my camera the past couple of weeks, but still, I've enjoyed watching the colors change on the hillsides.


Strawberries on trees...

An unexpected warm and sunny afternoon, and equally unexpected trees in a park in Federal Way. I stole a few moments to snap photographs, wondering what these trees were.

The bright red fruit is round and spiky, and the flowers look like Lily of the Valley. Once I got home,  it took some digging to identify this gorgeous tree. I finally found it on the Sunset site:  a strawberry tree, Mediterranean in origin, blooms from October to December, and produces edible fruit.



Three huge zucchini spent the past few days on the table in my kitchen, a gift from a family friend. They were taking off in the motorhome in a few days, looking for warm weather. I haven't made anything from zucchini for years, but the thought of zucchini bread on a snowy winter day sounded pretty good. So yesterday I finally ran chunks of unpeeled zucchini through the food processor, and froze it into 2-cup portions.

Today, 25 pounds of beefsteak tomatoes are on my kitchen table. I'll chop them in batches and cook them in my biggest cast iron skillet, adding chopped garlic and onion and seasonings, turning them into my husband's favorite pasta sauce.


Penn Cove...

Coupeville is one of my favorite places on Whidbey Island. It's at the end of Penn Cove, famous for its mussels... and blue waters. The town was laid out in the 1850s, platted in 1910, and still has the look and feel of a 150-year-old seaport.

Every time we're here, I'm thankful that Coupeville is a historic district, and protected from rampant development. The town nestles within the first national historic reserve in the country, Ebey's Landing. It was established in 1978 by an act of Congress. Its 22 square miles includes farmlands, two state parks, shorelines and beaches, parks, trails, and 91 buildings and structures on the National Register of Historic Places.
We came early this morning for breakfast, then walked out onto the pier. There were kayakers out for a morning paddle, and a group of people were waiting to board a boat to go tour the mussel beds. 
We had a different goal: a geocache hidden in plain sight on the pier that was causing a lot of fellow cachers a lot of frustration. We found it, yeah! 
On the roof was a group of seagulls, squawking their heads off at something not to their liking. When we walked around behind the building, we saw why: A Great Blue Heron was perched on one end of the roof. Both species were keeping their distance, but it didn't matter. The seagulls were vocal in their dislike, but the heron stood alone and aloof.

We walked inside to check out the displays and the complete whale skeleton that hangs from the ceiling.

And then we headed north toward the bridge, and home. 

I love this island, and would love to live here someday. If we ever do, I know I'll be spending a lot of time here, watching and waiting for photographs.



A small white cottage near the beach, nestled beneath a huge big-leaf maple in full autumn color. It would make some nervous, others would think only of the acre of huge leaves to be raked each year. To me, I only see a beautiful tree that is protecting, not threatening, the wee cottage in its care.



We walked through a Japanese sculpture garden in Bellingham yesterday afternoon, before heading into town to find dinner. There was a geocache to be found here, but I was mesmerized by this gorgeous Japanese maple.

The western light shone through the trees, and lit up the maple leaves like a torch. All I wanted to do was sit down underneath the tree, and watch the light playing through the leaves.

We had a Japanese maple in our yard when we lived in Eastern Washington. It was beautiful, but nothing like this 6-foot-tall tree.

The brilliant red against the green foliage was stunning.