Finally got a picture of the green castle posted in the avatar.  In case anyone was thinking maybe I was just making that up.

For those who are curious, what you are seeing is the top two stories of the keep.  A ladder behind those red doors takes you to the upper level.  In the space in the foreground of the red doors is a deck, with a large PVC-pipe slide off to the right.  Below is the ground story, which houses the kitchen and steering wheel.  (It’s a very historically-accurate castle — didn’t all medieval buildings have steering wheels in them?)  Swingset is in a separate structure. 

Our castle’s yard also includes sandbox, turtle-shaped wading pool, and red mailbox.  And of course, the workbench.  Mr. Boy did not get the chainsaw he longs for, but he did get a low-speed cordless drill-and-screwdriver.  We searched and searched for an eggbeater drill, but no luck.  Lightweight cordless drills have apparently caused the demise of the eggbeater.

Weather and Garden News  The past few weeks had been mostly warm and sunny during the day– I rediscovered the pleasure of driving with windows down.  My favorite kind of weather.  Yesterday for Christmas we got a nice thick misty day — my other favorite kind of weather.  Not cold.

Prior to the mild spell, we had had a good hard frost, which killed off those crazy sunflower sprouts once and for all.  Now I’ve got some bulbs coming up under the bird feeder in their place.  These are the bulbs that did not come up for me last spring, when they were supposed to.  So, another reckless plant for us to watch.  Will they make it to spring?  Will we find out what they are, or will they go the way of the sunflower sprouts before they bloom?  I vaguely remember planting bulbs last fall or winter, but can’t remember what exactly I planted.

The maples have been bare since the end of November, except our one miserly maple that clings to its old leaves every year until the new ones show up.  The apple tree, long since bare, has soft downy buds getting ready for next spring. Oaks, meanwhile, are finally starting to turn, and some are shedding leaves.  They waited until after we had broken down and paid the neighbor kid to rake (or rather, mow) the maple leaves that were being such a nuisance blowing on the other neighbor’s yard.  So it could be a good year for the neighbor-kid’s college fund if the oak leaves in turn make a nuisance of themselves.  But I doubt it, they are small, clingy kinds of leaves, and the trees themselves are pretty small.

Pansies are doing well!  They looked for a moment like they weren’t too keen on that hard frost we had, but they sprung back to their normal cheery selves after a day or so.  Friday we had a nice rain, which they appreciated mightily.  I had completely failed to notice that the long stretch of clear sunny warm days meant they probably needed a little watering.    They are still waiting for that pansy food, though.

Best Christmas Present We have a small collection of Christmas books.  Every year they show up in the stockings or presents.  I picked a couple for Mr. Boy that were far too easy to be interesting, but that I thought he might be able to read if we worked on them together.  He opened them.  Complained that I was giving out the same presents I’d given out last year.  And then proceeded to sit down and read both books then and there, and the baby’s book as well.  Actually had to be pulled away from his reading to open his second present (the drill).  Whatever homeschooling mother dreams of — a first-grader who actually learns to read.  I was thrilled.