Winter’s gifts…

This is a place to come and find a way of looking at the world in all its craziness and still find happiness and contentment. Find the beauty in this world. So why would I even start with winter? Well, this is a tough season because many of us are stuck inside with few places to go to and escape this cold, dark time of year. I’m thrilled to see the sun setting later each evening, when I do catch a glimpse of that orange orb, because winter here is often filled with low, grey clouds that do nothing to lift one’s spirits.

The beauty of evergreens is the instant pop of green I see, especially now.

I try as much as any of us to find little snippets of contentment, and some days I find it by enjoying a sunny day or going on the back porch to listen to the rush of water as the creek runs past me, or by hoping for a foot of snow. Yes, snow! I am from the Northeast where it snowed almost everyday, and large snowfalls were common. I like the muffled sound that occurs when the world is being covered rather quickly in white, and then the feeling of unity or camaraderie that arrives when the neighborhood comes alive with the sound of shovels scraping or the occasional whir of the snow blowers.

A bit of snow transforms the browns of autumn to a winter wonderland.

I enjoy going out to shovel the snow (sometimes), and last winter brought us only rain, so I’m hoping for a lovely, large snowfall. A sunny day will usually follow, and after shoveling the sidewalks and paths, it’s great to come inside to wrap my cold fingers around a steaming cup of coffee or tea and feel a great sense of accomplishment. It’s been years since I made a snowman or a snow angel or went sledding, but I remember those days fondly. When I lived up North, I liked the feeling of being snowed in for the day. Nowhere to go, except home, where beef stew and fresh bread waited since the grocery stores were ransacked the day before a storm hit. Reading a book, and then tucking into some made-from-scratch brownies using the Toll House recipe makes me happy in winter.

Just a sprinkling of snow, but isn’t it beautiful?

Another way I’ve found to bring a bit of happiness to my winter world is traveling to see my family, as in mom and dad and brother or sister. It’s winter where they live too, but a visit every February lightens my heart, as I have a spa day with mom, while dad and I watch movies every evening together. He lights the candles I send him almost every month, and we settle in for a good visit. I’m just about ready to plan my trip, and this time I’m going to look through old albums to remind me of fun days spent with people who love me. Instant happiness.

Wood ready for the fireplace, while the snow flies at our cabin.

Can you tap into ways to find happiness as we still deal with the virus? Do you have a real fireplace to sit close to in the evening or even the day? Stringing up lights inside your space will bring a cozy feeling at night. Do you have a fire pit outside? Sit close to the fire, though be sure not to burn your shoes and bring out a warming drink. Whisky or hot cocoa? You can be by yourself and surround yourself with dreams of days past or the things yet to come, or invite a hardy soul to brave the elements with you next to that roaring fire.

The flakes just starting to fly.

I do have a little story to share with you about a campfire. My husband and I were camping with some other couples, and the evening was very cool to the point where a fire was necessary. We gathered next to it, shelling peanuts and telling stories and jokes, when one of the guys yelled that his shoe was on fire! We yelled back for him to get his foot far away from its perch across the stones encircling the fire. He stamped out the fire on his smoking shoe, and we laughed at how deformed his rubber sole now looked, and all because he had been so cold he placed his foot quite literally in the fire! That’s one way to get permanently warm.

A frozen pond perfect for ice skating.

If we embrace winter, rather than fighting it all season, we can find a measures of happiness poured out into our hands. I used to downhill ski, and then I tried cross country skiing, which is actually a blast and burns millions of calories. I took ice skating lessons with my young daughter a lifetime ago, or I would run laps while she skated and learned to pirouette on ice. Hockey games are fun, and if you’ve tried to enjoy winter’s gifts and are longing for escape, I have so many ideas for you.

Baking is my kind of fun, but maybe cooking brings you pleasure, reading while candles (real or faux) burn next to you conjures up warmth. What about staying in your sweats and watching a series of movies while you use your French press to make a delectable cup of coffee, and while you’re at it, add some Bailey’s Irish whisky to that cup. Call up a friend and chat. You’ll feel like you’re sitting across a table catching up on life. Take a drive and stop and take photos of something that catches your eye and captivates your imagination. Go to a small downtown area and shop their stores. Do a zoom while watching the football playoffs. Imagine all you’re going to do when this world opens back up. Save some money to take a trip, even a small one nearby, when it’s safe to do so.

It really is the small things that make our lives beautiful, fun and happy.

Be silly. Camp out in your family room. Turn up the heat for a whole day. Read a book that takes place in summer or play songs that remind you of summers long past. Order takeout as a splurge, and make it from a really fine restaurant. Have a picnic next to the fire. Take silly pics that will warm your soul next winter. Think warm. Look up how warm it is in Key West, Florida and imagine you are there. Go somewhere warm if you’re up to it. Play for a whole day. Workout so you can take a long hike or bike ride on the first lovely spring day.

This year will see the world opening back up at some point. Let’s keep our eyes on the beauty near us now, while keeping an eye on the near future when we’ll be able to go anywhere we wish. That day is coming. This won’t last forever. And now that I’m hungry, I think it’s time to bake some chocolate chip cookies that way I like them: with double the chocolate chips.

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold.

Until next time,

Deanna

Buffeted by the wind…

Capturing this autumn’s beauty has been a small challenge, because this year half the leaves fell in a very wild thunderstorm, and since then we’ve been mired under grey, sodden skies and I’m trying to give you a taste of autumn in Kentucky and at our home in very southern Ohio. As autumn 2020 progresses, does it sometimes feel like the world is a bit out of control? The UK went into another lockdown, which made me feel very sad for them, and I think we’re all preparing for the unknown, though this time we’ve stockpiled toilet paper and hand sanitizer, right?

A rare sunny day…

On this side of the pond, many are looking forward to next spring and summer. I took a stroll around my neighborhood before trick or treating started, and I chatted with a neighbor whose daughter is getting married in a vineyard next year. My own daughter is marrying next summer, and it fills us with happiness. Looking forward to an event is different now. Before we had tickets to see plays at two theaters downtown, and dinners with friends. We had planned on hosting several dinners at our new home to make them feel welcome and loved, but most of the visiting, the weddings, baby showers or even going to church just stopped.

A wee little pumpkin to watch over my lavender plants.

How do we handle Thanksgiving this year? Should a big family gathering be tucked away until next year? Do we make certain our elderly parents or grandparents stay safely away, or is it wrong to drain their calendars of these pleasures? I think we’re all glancing at the calendar toward Christmas and thinking of how to enjoy the festive season safely. I told my husband that I only wanted to put up three trees this year (I honestly normally have six or seven fully decorated trees, with one being a real Fraser fir.) A subdued season seems in order for us. What about you?

Willie enjoying the warmth of the sun, so slanted by late October.

How do we grab slices of happiness and find the beauty in these days of troubling news? Election fears. The pandemic causing so many businesses to close forever, and when will this end? Missing meeting up with our family and friends, both close by and far away. Vacation plans shuttled away until 2021, where we hope life with be normal and raucous, full of fun and joy and freedom. Until then though we do have choices. We almost always have the choice of looking at our situation in the best light possible. How so?

My neighborhood. That sky was made to be admired, and I did. All the way home.

Starting when you wake up, take a moment to stretch and think about what your day holds, and if it’s mainly work, try to fit in some time to get outside. Fresh air, even in misty, rainy, drizzly nights is worth it. Head out for even ten minutes and find something beautiful to gaze at. Even when that thunderstorm we had ripped half the beautiful hued leaves from their tenuous hold on their branches, I opened the door to the back porch just to hear the rain lashing the trees, and hear thunder rolling eastward.

Coffee in my new autumn themed mug makes me smile, no matter the hour.

If we’re forced to be indoors again more than we like, books and films are lovely companions. Are you lucky enough to have a piano or guitar in your place? Maybe it’s time to teach yourself how to be musical. Yes, I see the images of the celebrities who have chosen drastic weight loss or new plastic surgery during this pandemic, but what fun is not eating when we have the time to knead bread dough, slowly, almost sensuously by hand, and then not eat a slice slathered in butter? We don’t need an exercise in punishment or too much denial. We need to enjoy the ebb and flow of our days as they come to us.

For one fine hour, this orange tree shared her beauty with the sunset after a weekend of grey skies filled with rain.

We need to summon the patience we all have inside us, so when se do interact with the world, we can be kind and pleasant. My husband and I decided to hand out full size candy to whoever wanted some treats last night, and we brought down some whiskey and tumblers with us. Adult treats were needed to fortify ourselves against the chill. We offered a wee dram of whiskey to the parents taking their kids out, and we met so many of our neighbors in the back of the subdivision.

They laughed at the surprise treat, and called out “Cheers!” to us as we all took large sips together. The kids were plenty busy choosing the perfect candy bar, and suddenly trick or treat had turned into a meet and greet. I saw friends from at least a mile away, and we caught up as the full moon rose up behind the bare arms of the trees in my yard. We were socially distanced, used plastic cups for the neighbors and even in 2020, we decided to make a night of fun.

Well, look. I did have a candy bar with my scotch! Caught me.
On an old table I found for a future project, we started to set up our treats. No tricks allowed.

I took a walk through the streets before the trick or treating began, and while some streets had fire pits full of wood, just ready to be lit at 6:00, with chairs and tables and candy at the ready, I was actually shocked at the number of older folks (meaning my age) who closed up their homes and turned out the lights. Just a few years ago they welcomed the kids, because their own children were begging for candy, but it made me sad to see them turn into “those” old people, who were willing to spread fun and happiness just for a time that suited them.

Why not be those older folks who make the world more joyous? Just set out a bowl of candy. The kids know what to do. Are my neighbors too poor for this? Don’t make me laugh. On my old street we’d all sit on our porches and yell out to one another, and on the warm years, we would visit and watch for the kids making their way down our street. This is what I mean by spreading happiness. It makes us feel good. Yeah, maybe it’s easier to curl up with Ben and Jerry’s (again) and watch Halloween (again), rather than wearing masks (for Covid 19 this time), sitting far from the proffered candy bars, and washing hands when it was time to head back inside, but where’s the beauty in hiding away? Turn on a light and fill a bowl with beautiful, yummy treats!

Enjoying the sent of a new candle on a chilly evening.

When I write about spreading warmth, I’m saying let’s make Thanksgiving about so much more than stuffing ourselves into a coma. Let’s tell our family or our dog what we are thankful for this year. Let’s not be so scared of the pandemic, and I understand since I have a compromised immune system, but let’s grab the rest of 2020 and make it good. Make your Christmas beautiful. Knit, bake, sing carols and enjoy the quiet this year offers us. We can have a Black Friday showdown and shove others out of our way next year. (Kidding. I don’t go near a store on Black Friday. Never!)

Dreaming of our scheduled trip to Scotland in front of a warm fire.

This year is holding our her hands, hoping you’ll find some beauty in the changes. Let’s enjoy this. Even the small things like the scent of a burning candle. A child’s delight at getting candy for free! Being thankful for food on our tables, and sending food to the pantries where others will make a Thanksgiving dinner from what we share. Let’s be lavish. On them. Makes you feel warm inside, doesn’t it? Maybe 2020 is teaching us some beautiful lessons after all.

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold….

Until next time,

Deanna