Thursday, December 30, 2010

Abundance in 2010

Last year at this time I was thinking about my focus word for 2010. We were in a hard place - my husband had lost his job and started up a small company while continuing to look for work in his field. 

The word that kept coming to me, in my reading and thoughts, was "abundance." I listened and accepted. Throughout the year, I made a conscious effort to look for abundance in my life, although there were many times when I just complained. 

Abundant provision:
*  Tim was hired into a new position in March. He loves his new job and there are all sorts of possibilities for the future.
* We found renters for our house in Victoria and were able to purchase a new home here.
* A new job for our eldest daughter 

Abundant sorrow:
* the loss of my 29-year-old nephew Colin in July
* the loss of a tiny still born great-nephew I never met in November
* the loss of my aunt Irene in December

Abundant change:
* moving away from family, friends, church, job

Abundant JOY:
* Our youngest daughter's wedding in September and welcoming Owen into our family
* The birth of our first grandchild, Adria, in December
*laughter and sharing good times and bad with family and friends

Abundant grace:
I think 2010 has been among the most difficult years of my life.  I've not shared all of the events of 2010 - many more joys and many more sorrows have occurred. But throughout the dark days and the bright days, God's grace has been very present in abundance. And because of grace, 2011 can be faced with hope, joy and confidence.

Happy New Year! 2011 is just around the corner!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's not over yet!

There's been laughter, tears, lots of conversation, dancing, more than enough food, games, presents, travels back and forth across the water and there's more to come! 

I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas week.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Presents are wrapped and under the tree. The freezer is full to overflowing with cookies, snacks and baking of all kinds. Today I'll tidy up the house and finish up a few last kitchen things.

Stockings are hung - not by the fire but along the stair rail. We had two new additions to our family this year - one by marriage, one by birth. These new stockings reflect my new, and somewhat unusual (for me) desire for a neutral, calm palette. They're made of canvas drop cloths and embellished with scraps of ribbon, buttons and rosettes - I didn't purchase a single thing.

The labels are stamped onto cotton, backed with fusible web, cut with pinking shears and ironed onto the stocking. Easy peasy. I had fun making these rosettes and I think more will be in my future.

Thank you to all my blogging friends for your encouragement and friendship over this past tumultuous year. I value each one of you. And my wish for you is that you will experience the love, joy, hope and peace brought to earth by the Christ Child so many years ago. Merriest of Christmases, friends.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bûche de Noël

Anything that can be done ahead gets a star in my book. This dessert is one of them. I found it in a Good Housekeeping magazine from the early 1990s I think. It's become a tradition in our household, usually for Christmas Eve.

This year, we're celebrating with the family on Boxing Day, December 26. And the rest of the meal is going to be very untraditional - paella will be the main course. 

Today was spent in the kitchen - Bûche de Noël, stuffed mushrooms, crostini, chex mix and more. My freezer is jammed full. It's a good feeling. Next week, there will be little need to cook. The week between Christmas and New Year's is a week of celebration and relaxation. It's going to be great!

Click on the links for the recipes.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mosaic Monday - A Different Sort of Christmas

What else could my mosaic this week be? Yawning, squawking, sleeping, stretching - our new little granddaughter enchants every which way.

Linking to Mosaic Monday at the Little Red House.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

She's Here!

It's been a whirlwind around here. We zipped down to Victoria (2 hours away) yesterday afternoon, had dinner with our youngest (September's bride) and her husband, and as we were finishing dessert the phone call came - Adria Natalia had made her appearance. 

We rushed over to the hospital to sit in the waiting room with other family members for a couple of hours until everyone was ready for visiting. Here's Tim holding the precious bundle.

We spent the night with our eldest daughter and her husband, and spent today alternately visiting at the hospital, shopping and lunching with our daughters and one son-in-law. Then back to the hospital to help with Adria's first car ride - home. Here's the new mommy and daddy dressing her. Travis is putting on a sweater knit for him by his paternal grandmother 27 years ago. 

And here she is, all dressed up and ready for the big world. She's wearing an elf hat knit for her by a friend of Katie's. And the blanket was crocheted by Travis' maternal grandmother, again for his birth 27 years ago. Really, where did all that time go?

We're home now and I'm counting the days until I hold her in my arms once more. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Counting Down

Each day passes and I hang a trinket on my grown-up girl's Advent calendar. Everything that needs to be done is getting done, other things happen if there's time. I have a list and everyday a few more items are ticked off, completed.

Exams are done and I have one more paper to complete. I'm having a hard time focusing on that...

because I think today's going to be a very special day! It might be the day our first grandchild will be born! Things are starting to happen! 

And on a different note: The lovely Tish of A Femme d'un certain âge asked me to take part in a series on giving gifts that cost nothing, zero, zilch. My contribution is being featured at her blog today. Tish writes with wit and charm touching on fashion, etiquette, life in France. Go for a visit, you'll love her too.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Third Advent Sunday - Gingerbread

Preparation. Heart and home. Waiting. 
On this third Sunday of Advent we enjoyed the company of our two daughters and their husbands. On Saturday we had dinner here - Roasted chicken with pears, roasted potatoes, broccoli, and for dessert Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Sauce. We then took a short excursion to see the Bethlehem Walk, an amazing production put on by the church we attend here that features the Nativity and the hamlet of Bethlehem. Home again for apple cider, popcorn and a movie - "While You Were Sleeping" - one of my favorites.

Another tradition we have is decorating gingerbread cookies. Years ago I wanted every gingerbread person perfectly outlined with neat eyes and buttons marching down the center of his jacket.

Tim would egg the children on to create all kinds of personas - pirates with patches and one leg, strange creatures, wonky characters. This year, everyone brought a batch of gingerbread cookies in their own shapes. Cristal and her husband made gingerbread frogs,princes, and stars. Ashley and Owen had sailboats, stars and people. I made hearts, camels, reindeer in addition to the traditional gingerbread men. 

And so, I've changed. These cookies will never decorate a cookie plate at a church or community function. Few will make it out of this house. It's not about the cookies - it's about the fun we have while decorating them. I don't really care what the cookies look like. The laughter around the table is more important.

But we missed Travis and Katie's presence. They stayed in Victoria since the baby is due tomorrow! 

This post is part of Floss' "A Pause in Advent" and I'm also linking to Mary's Monday Mosaic at the Little Red House.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

There will be time

It seems like a number of us out in blogland are feeling a wee bit pressured. I know that I am. There are things that I want to be doing and things that I have to do. And the list of things I'd like to do is not going to get accomplished this year. And I'm learning that that's okay. 

It's more important for me to enjoy the moments that I can, to take time to sit, visit with my husband, think about what's important in my life, focus on the birth of Jesus and prepare my heart than it is to bake more cookies.

Whenever I think about running out of time I think of these lines from my favorite poem by Al Purdy that I've shared before and do so again in the hopes that YOU will take the time to breathe, to focus and to enjoy this most beautiful of seasons. Meanwhile, I'm off to write a French Literature final exam. Then just one more essay (for an English class) and I'm taking a break from studies.

from On the Flood Plain

"Whatever I have not discovered and enjoyed
is still waiting for me
and there will be time
but now these floating stars on the freezing lake
and music fills the darkness
holds me there listening
--it's a matter of separating these instants from others
that have no significance
so that they keep reflecting each other
a way to live and contain eternity
in which the moment is altered and expanded
my consciousness hung like a great silver metronome
suspended between stars
on the dark lake
and time pours itself into my cupped hands shimmering"

(and just to let you know - the photo is from 3 years ago because the angels are still waiting for their moment around here)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Christmas Meme

I don't know if I've ever done a meme, but Vee had this one up on her blog and I thought it kind of festive. So here goes:

1. Hot Chocolate or apple cider?
2. Turkey or Ham?
3. Do you get a fake or real-you-cut-it-yourself Christmas tree?
4. Decorations on the outside of your house?
5. Snowball fights or sleddin’?
6. Do you enjoy going downtown shopping?
7. Favorite Christmas song?
8. How do you feel about Christmas movies?
9. When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?
10. Stockings before or after presents?
11. Go to someone else’s house or they come to you?
12. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when?
13. What do you do after presents and dinner?
14. What is your favorite holiday smell?
15. Ice skating or walking around the mall?
16. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day?
17. Favorite Christmas memory?
18. Favorite Part about winter?
19. Ever been kissed under mistletoe?

(It's an easy copy and paste.)

1. Hot Chocolate or apple cider?
Hot chocolate, please.

2. Turkey or Ham?
Turkey, with lots of stuffing, and gravy. But this year we're making paella.

Do you get a fake or real-you-cut-it-yourself Christmas tree?
Always real, but we go to a nursery to get it.

4. Decorations on the outside of your house?
A few lights and a simple Nativity scene but not this year - too busy renovating

5. Snowball fights or sleddin’?
Sledding - maybe.

6. Do you enjoy going downtown shopping?
I do, when I know what I'm going for and have time to enjoy the scene.

7. Favorite Christmas song?
Secular: Walking in a Winter Wonderland
Sacred: Away in a Manger

8. How do you feel about Christmas movies?
I like them if they aren't too corny. Borrowed Hearts was a made for television movie that I like. And some of the old classics like The Bishop's Wife.

9. When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?
Umm, Valentine's Day?

10. Stockings before or after presents?
Before. Upon waking. Then breakfast. Then presents.

11. Go to someone else’s house or they come to you?

12. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when?
Yes. To myself and together sometime when we're all together. 

13. What do you do after presents and dinner?
Play games. Talk. Go for a walk.

14. What is your favorite holiday smell?
The woodsy scent of a fresh Christmas tree, and cedar boughs.

15. Ice skating or walking around the mall?
Neither. But I'll go for a walk around the block.

16. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day?
Again, it depends when we're all together. I like to wait until Christmas day.

17. Favorite Christmas memory?
Opening stockings on Christmas morning with all the children piled on our bed.

18. Favorite Part about winter?
The first snowfall.

19. Ever been kissed under mistletoe?
I don't think so - I'll have to remedy that!

I'm also linking this post to Sharon's at My Country French Home. She's asking for those who have their tree up to "show that sapin!"

Mine's simple this year. And you can see that I don't have all the curtains up yet. And no tree skirt. But little by little we're getting there.


We put up the Christmas tree last night. Always real. A Charlie Brown variety - no pesticides, locally grown. I turned the lights on the tree this morning to dispel some of the gloom of this wet, windy day and was struck by the reflections in the rain-spattered window.

Yesterday we received word that one of my aunts, my mom's sister, passed away, suddenly but not unexpectedly. And at the same time, we await news from our son and daughter-in-law about the impending birth of our grandchild. I am struck once again by the juxtaposition of life and death in this world we live in. One life diminishes, another begins. I am so thankful that I can put my hope and trust in the God who created heaven and earth, who counts each sparrow and who cares for each one of us.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Milner Gardens - Mosaic Monday

Milner Gardens is just a few miles down the road from our house. When we moved here, Pondside encouraged me to read Veronica's Garden, which tells the story of Veronica Milner who loved this garden and developed it. It's a fascinating story with connections to royalty and a world that I know of only from books. After Veronica's death the gardens were given to Vancouver Island University. 

On Saturday night Tim and I bundled up and went for a stroll in the gardens. Christmas lights decorate the pathways to the gardener's cottage filled with teddy bears, to Santa's den, and to the main house, seen above. Built in the 1920s and renovated extensively in the 1960s, the house is charming. Not a mansion, but delightful. And it's where Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip once spent a restful few days. Princess Diana and Prince Charles have also visited, to stroll on the lawns and relax in the drawing room during a busy Canadian tour. It was fun to wander through the house and along the paths. Stars shone as we walked back to the car and we were glad to have a cup of hot tea when we arrived home.

I'm looking forward to going back in the warmth of a summer's afternoon to look at the plants and trees in the daylight.

Mary at the Little Red House is hosting Mosaic Monday once again.

Second Sunday of Advent

Advent - a time of preparation. In the heart and in the home, a time to prepare for the celebration of Christ's birth. What's most important is to ensure a balance - for me that means taking time to be quiet and still. And then to get on with the tasks I've planned. Stillness before activity works best for me.

Preparation around our house traditionally means lots of baking. Yes, it's just the two of us, but the children will be coming for visits and I like to have cookies and snacks on hand. I don't double the recipes as in years past, but there's still a good selection in the freezer.

My husband is one of the fortunate ones who hasn't gained a pound in over 30 years. And I do feed him well. But he has cookies everyday, so I bake year round. At Christmas I bring out special recipes, like this one. It's called Toasted Almond Chip Balls, but we call it Mary's grandmother's cookies because a friend of ours gave it to us and said it was from her grandmother. Whatever the name, they are delicious. And easy. And they keep well in the freezer.

Toasted Almond Chip Balls

2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips, chopped (or use mini chocolate chips)
1 cup chopped toasted almonds (toast for 8-10 minutes at 350 - then cool)
1 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup white sugar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and knead well. Use two hands. It's lovely and therapeutic, and would work well with children, too.

Form into 1 inch balls. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Roll immediately in sifted icing sugar, then place on a rack (or brown paper) to cool.

For more Advent posts please visit Floss at Troc, Broc and Recup'.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Christmas Mantel

Today a friend from Victoria came for a visit. It was a good excuse to clean the house. I know that it will soon be dusty again because as I write, Tim is pounding and sawing away on the hardwood. But walking through a clean and organized house is, for me, like taking a series of deep, slow breaths. I feel calmer, more peaceful, appreciative of the gleaming floors, the dust-free furniture, the shining taps. 

I had a few extra minutes before my friend arrived so I grabbed a bag and my clippers, went a little way down the street and picked up fir and cedar branches that were blown off the trees in our recent windstorms. 

After she left, I could have returned to my studies, but decided instead to turn on the Christmas music and do a little decorating. Just the mantel for now. I should be able to get to the dining room on the weekend. 

When Tim walked in from work I had the candles burning, the fireplace glowing, and a wreath on the door. He said it was beginning to look like "our" house at Christmas. A very good feeling. 

Mercury glass ornaments and tree toppers, pine cones from Ecuador, votive candles, cut paper trees, a silver jug filled with greens and behind it all, a chalkboard with Love written on it. Simple and pretty.

And a shot from further away. I'm linking to the Lettered Cottage's Holiday Home Party featuring mantels from all over.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Creating Collages: A Quick Tutorial

This may be a redundant post, but someone recently asked about making collages so I'm doing a quick tutorial with my limited expertise.

I use Picasa for viewing and editing my photos, it's free and easy to download. I store my photos on my computer, not on Picasa Web Albums.

To begin, open Picasa and choose your photos.
The green push pin icon in the bottom toolbar holds the photo, allowing you to select a number of photos. The red circle will take away any you don't want.

Click on "collage," found in the bottom toolbar.

The left window allows you to choose whether you want a picture pile (as above) or a mosaic, grid, etc. 

In this picture pile, each picture can be rearranged. Right clicking on the photo gives a number of options.

To set one photo as background, click "set as background." 

To change the border, click "change border," then "white."

Each photo can be manipulated as to size by clicking on the photo and scrolling up or down. When you click on the photo a circle will appear. The little orange button to the right of the circle enables you to change the angle of the photo.

When you're happy with your work, click "create collage" and voilà, you have a beautiful work of art!

Since my house is not yet decorated for Christmas (it's hard to decorate a dusty construction zone), these are photos pulled from 2008.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November Woods

On Saturday morning I put one coat of paint on the dining room walls while Tim puttered in the kitchen, fixing some cabinets, then laying a few rows of hardwood. After lunch we decided to take a break.

Just 15 minutes from our home is the Little Qualicum River Fish Hatchery. The salmon have spawned and the river is full of dead fish. Dead salmon are a treat for bald eagles. They must not have very sensitive noses because the smell was quite potent. We saw about 25 bald eagles, sitting in trees and soaring over the river.

In the woods remnants of last week's snow lingered in shadowed hollows, the white a stark contrast to emerald moss and vivid ferns. A few leaves still cling to dark wet branches, their colour fading but still beautiful.

Signs of wild life abounded. Salmon skeletons lay in the woods, dropped there by eagles who gorged on the flesh. Deer tracks and droppings and a woodpecker. We spoke with another walker who said he'd seen cougar tracks. Signs warned of bears in the vicinity but we didn't see any.

An hour or two in the fresh air and the woods did us much good. Back home to put the second coat of paint on the walls and lay some more hardwood. 

For more Mosaic Mondays visit Mary at the Little Red House. There's sure to be some Christmas inspiration in the links you'll find there. 

Waiting Well

"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."
(Psalm 27:23-24)

Today is the first Sunday of Advent 2010. And once again I'm taking part in A Pause in Advent, hosted by Floss, a time for bloggers round the world to share thoughts, images, traditions, crafts of their own Advent preparations.

For me, Advent is a time to think a bit more deeply. Yes, I'm busy, very busy, with essays, exams, baking, decorating, crafting and more. Yet in the midst of the busyness I find my thoughts turning often to the anticipation of the celebration of Christ's birth, the fulfillment of Advent hope.

Waiting for Christmas to come is hard - especially for children. Even adults I know are eager for the celebration, maybe not because of Jesus' birth, but because then it's time to relax, then the shopping/baking/wrapping will be done, then, then, then. I find myself caught up, rushing through the season so quickly with my actions that my mind can't keep up. Instead, I want to wait well, focusing on the moments that make up the days and not just waiting for "then."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Progress is being made...

The green carpet is slowly disappearing and is being replaced by birch hardwood. Tim took 3 days of vacation this week and the living room, hallway, entrance and office are transformed! 

I've been painting to stay ahead of him. This Saturday I'll paint the dining room and then he can continue with the hardwood there. Soon the golf course green carpet will be nothing but a memory.

Dining room, kitchen and breakfast nook still to go. Then baseboard. Little by little. I love it. I love him for taking on this enormous task. 

It's Thanksgiving for all my American friends. I wish you all the happiest of grateful celebrations!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Easy Appetizers

This is the time of year when I like to have easy snack foods available for company and for cozy movie nights. I'm an appetizer fan - the perfect meal for me is a collection of tasty bits on my plate. But I like them to be made from real food, not packaged things full of preservatives and chemicals.

I made these for the baby shower a few weeks ago and everyone seemed to like them. They hardly need recipes, but here's an explanation.

Crostini 1

Slice a baguette and brush each side with olive oil, then toast each side in the oven for a few minutes under the broiler until golden. Watch carefully - I've burned my fair share of these. Then spread some pesto on the bread and top with 1-2 teaspoons of fresh goat cheese, then a few shavings of rosemary ham (or whatever ham you like, prosciutto is good, too). Just before serving, bake for a few minutes to soften the cheese - 5 or 10 minutes at most, at 350 degrees.

Crostini 2

Prepare baguette slices as above, then top with tapenade. Make your own or buy it from a delicatessen. 
Serve as is, or top with a bit of freshly grated parmesan cheese and run under the broiler.

There were crostini leftover from the shower and I decided to try freezing them. It worked better than I'd hoped. Just freeze them in a single layer then seal them well. To reheat, place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until thawed and heated through. 

Avocado Salsa in Endive

Low-carb, dairy and gluten free, healthy, fresh. It's like eating a bit of salad in your hand.

Dice an avocado (or two), a tomato (or three), some red onion (finely dice), a jalapeno pepper if you're feeling adventurous. Mix it all together with salt and pepper to taste, add the juice of one lemon and pile into endive leaves. 

Enjoy! and for my American readers and friends - have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's a Snowy World - Mosaic Monday

As I write huge flakes of snow are swirling outside my window. A flock of snow geese just flew by, white wings flapping madly to maintain their balance in the gusting wind.

These photos were taken on Saturday morning, the night after the first snowfall. Such an event is uncommon here on Vancouver Island and I'm loving the transformed landscape. It won't last long and I expect that soon we'll be back to the usual rainy, grey world that is a west coast winter.

In the meantime, I'll revel in the beauty that snow brings. This is Thanksgiving week in the USA and in that spirit, here are some things (other than faith and family) that I'm thankful for...

* a warm, dry house
* electricity!
* my five senses that enable me to enjoy the world God has created
* all of you who take the time to read my blog and comment - it's wonderfully amazing to me 

For more mosaics, visit Mary at the Dear Little Red House.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Winter Wonderland

By 3:00 pm yesterday afternoon the sky was sullen and dark. There was a smell of snow in the air that belied the drizzle of rain. By late evening the drizzle turned to snow. At 11 pm, Tim and I went for a walk. The streets were dark and quiet, few cars passed by, their noise hushed by the snow. 

Trees laden with heavy wet snow bowed their limbs. The temperature hovered just around freezing. We crunched along the street, our footprints accompanying earlier tracks of deer and rabbits in the newly fallen snow. Then home to bed.

This was the view from our window late this morning. I awoke around 5 to the noise of Tim looking at his cell phone. The power was off. We think the heavy snow snapped a power line. We ate a cold breakfast (oh, how I longed for a cup of tea), then went for another walk.

Two quail perched on the Japanese maple tree outside the window. More were lined up on the van roof. 

Snow here is not the norm for winter, so when it comes it's cause both for great rejoicing and great wailing. I prefer the rejoicing part - the beauty astounds me as my familiar world is transformed. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Matchbox Inspiration Swap

Recently I took part in a matchbox inspiration swap. We used the large-size match boxes, decorated them, and filled them with all sorts of Christmas-themed delights. I sent my two boxes off to Texas and Missouri and received two in return. Isn't it amazing what can fit into a simple matchbox?

thanks Virginia and Esther (non-bloggers, so far)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Simple 01: Trace, Cut, Fold, Paste

A couple of years ago my mother gave me a beautiful calendar. The pictures were all blue and white - my favourite colour combination. 

Last Sunday afternoon rain pelted against the windows and I was restless to make something but didn't want to head down to my sewing room/studio. So I grabbed the calendar (I hate throwing pretty pictures away), an envelope, glue and scissors. I spent a fun hour making envelopes from the old calendar. 

To make envelopes, carefully take apart an envelope of the size you want, trace it onto the wrong side of the calendar pages (checking to see which way you want up), cut, fold and paste. Add a mailing label for writing the address.

By the end of the hour I had 12 pretty envelopes and put in some thinking time as well. 

A Simple Woman's Daybook

Outside my window... high clouds and wind after a heavy rain in the wee hours of the morning wind.
I am thinking... that Christmas is coming quickly and there are a lot of things I'd like to make but may have to adjust my expectations
I am thankful for... a warm, dry home filled with love
From the kitchen... my mother's cabbage rolls
I am creating... an essay
I am going... to take a walk this afternoon whatever the weather
I am reading... Tintin en Amérique and The Scorched Wood People
I am hoping... always
I am hearing... wet slooshes from the dishwasher, crisp clacks of the keyboard, the soft purr of my electric heater
Around the house... progress is being made. More painting this weekend, and the golf course green carpet will be lifted in stages to let hardwood take its place. Yesterday we had the furnace man, the insulation man and the ceiling repair man all here at the same time. It was wild. 

Thanks to Peggy for this idea of a glimpse of life.

Monday, November 15, 2010

City of Spare Parts

A few years ago our younger daughter made herself a birch bark belt. It looked great on her and everyone wanted to know where she found it.

She made another one this past weekend. And she opened her very own Etsy shop - City of Spare Parts. There's just one belt in the shop for now, and more will come. Her mind is whirling with ideas - fun, creative and unique ideas. I'm so proud of her.

This would make a great gift for someone who likes unusual accessories that really make a statement. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Autumn Pleasures

Wild windy weather combined with cold rain have stripped the trees almost bare. The other day as I studied, hordes of leaves gusted by my window, and I was glad to be indoors.

On Wednesday the sun showed her glorious face and I ventured out for my walk in the sunshine. Bare trees display a spare architectural beauty that rivals summer's full lushness.

Each season has its charms. I lived for many years on the equator where seasons did not exist. I missed the changing light and the descent into winter followed by the fine hope of springtime. Spring, summer, fall and winter provide a framework for the year on which to hang each day and later recall them to memory.

Autumnal pleasures I'm enjoying just now...

* warm cozy sweaters

* a mug of hot tea to wrap my hands around

* scuffling through leaves gathered along the roadsides

* more blankets on the bed

* soups and stews simmering on the stove

* watching the wind and rain from the window (preferably with my hands curled around a mug of hot tea)

* exhilaration from walking in the wind and rain

* rediscovering the goodness of apples, pears, and squashes

What are your autumn pleasures?

Living Alongside Medieval History

  Several people have asked why we chose Leiden for our visit to the Netherlands. We've found it's easy to stay in the large cities ...