With the close of 2008, we relaxed (generally) and got ready for a new year.

Last weekend, the winter weather moderated a bit and we took advantage of the warmer weather (upper thirties) to install a doggie door for Dalla that leads from the garage to the back yard. That was as much a treat for us as it was for her. We get tired of always going out to the garage to let her in and out late and night (in the winter it gets a bit cold). However, with a doggie door we can send her into the garage, and she can make her way into and yard and back into the garage again without any intervention from us. It's been a bit of a learning curve for her and us. She has no problem charging through the door and into the yard when there are critters in the yard to be chased. However, she will often wait for a clear sign from us that it's okay to proceed through the door if her mind isn't otherwise occupied with the possibility of bloodshed and mayhem. On those occasions she goes into the garage, we close the door, and then look for her to come out into the yard from the patio door. When we don't see her, we have to go into the garage, tell her that it's OK, and then she goes through the door. I'm sure that she'll eventually fall into a rhythm with the door; it's still new and she's stuck in her ways. Olive, on the other hand, has no problems with pausing at the door and waiting for an OK. Her big problem with the doggie door is a failure to grasp the fact that only one dog at a time can fit through the opening. Last weekend I also gave in to the urge to brew up another batch of mead. This one includes blackberries, raspberries, some orange zest, and far less honey than my first batch. It's currently fermenting in an open fermenter in the baby's room (I like to call that "the beer room" since I've been fermenting beer and mead in there of late and Sarah likes to correct me that it's the "baby's room"). I had some problems getting the whole mess warm enough to ferment once I pitched the yeast because we generally keep the house colder than 70F when we're not around. My solution was to put a little electric heater with a thermostat in the room and close the door. That has kept the temperature warm enough to get the yeast going.

New Years Eve day here in Madison was a gorgeous day with temperatures in the mid-teens and sunshine in a cloudless sky. Both Sarah and I wanted to get out hiking, so we packed up some ski poles for her to use for balance, the dogs, and a camera. We spent an hour walking on a trail at one of our favorite natural areas and everyone had a great time. We couldn't walk as far or as fast as we have in the past because Sarah is so near to term, but it still felt great to be out and about on a nice day. For those interested parties, there are some pictures in the photo gallery.

New Years Day we took down the tree and all our other Christmas decorations down in the morning. Other years we've delayed that for a week or so after New Years, but this year we got right on it. We didn't want to be left with all of that on our plates once the baby arrives.