what takes your breath away?

Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

A few weeks ago, as I was making a routine journey back and forth along the busy street I traverse several times a day, I couldn’t help but hear the leaves.  I heard them.  Yes.  That’s what I wrote.  I  h e a r d  them.

They were the deepest, most crimson red they’d ever be this year.  Saturated with beauty and singing their highest notes.  An opera for my ears, a crescendo of color.  Have you ever noticed that?  How autumn leaves are this most vivid, crisp color just before they begin to fade and fall to the ground?

There are so many things like this that take my breath away.

Yesterday marked the winter solstice, the darkest night of the year, and at a time in which we find our world community tempted toward anxiety and despair, when I know so many of us are caught up in the tumult of life, it’s these moments of awe and wonder that fill me with gratitude and propel me forward in hope.  There are kind strangers holding open doors for you.  There are clerks smiling behind cash registers.  There are even drivers nodding and letting you in to jammed city streets, waving back at you, you’re welcome.

There are so many things . . . just listen.

By now the rains have come, and those beautiful leaves have fallen at our feet, a small sacrifice for the springtime flowers to come.  But it has me singing, welcoming the coming light into the world and wondering, what takes  y o u r  breath away?

 

 

Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells
And schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

wintercouple

 

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, from two or three little birds.

 

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tarte à la lavande et citron

missioncarmelInspired by the gardens at Mission Carmel and the fragrant lavender my daughter gathered into my Mother’s Day bouquet, I attempted a classic French dessert this week.  I’m still working on the travel story, which includes a review of one of my favorite light-filled literary spaces, River House Books, but the recipe and photos are below.

If you cook, you know that these days most recipes come to us from the internet, of course.  Who needs to buy an entire cookbook, which will not only take up space but gather dust, when you could quickly Google any recipe you desire?  Who needs to do that?  Well, I have to tell you I am quickly becoming obsessed with beautiful cookbooks, books that are not only full of gorgeous photography but soft paper, sophisticated graphic design, and captivating storytelling.  Whenever I pop into Anthropologie, I always wander through their aprons and bakeware and teacups and cookbooks, and last year for my birthday I bought myself Hillary Davis’s divine French Comfort Food.  Not only do Steven Rothfeld’s photographs transport me into some Parisian Café and place a perfectly crisp croissant in my hands, but Davis’s recipes have been delighting my loved ones as well.


 

IMG_5573Davis calls her classic French dessert “Very Lemon Tart In a Butter Cookie Crust,” or tarte au citron, but as I said, I wanted to work in some of the lavender my daughter tucked into a beautiful bouquet she gave me for Mother’s Day.  Experimentation paid off on this first attempt, and it was dare I say, delicious!  You do need a few handy kitchen gadgets to pull this off, most especially a Cuisinart and a good fluted tart pan with a false bottom.  But with those on hand, the rest of this is really easy!  (Note on the recipe that I substituted the cinnamon for two tablespoons fresh lavender blooms, and it was the perfect amount: fragrant but not overpowering and not at all crunchy in the perfect buttery crust)

Click on the photos to view the gallery images, and when you’re finished use the “escape” key to exit or find your way out however you can on your ipad or phone.  Apologies for some of the images rotating however they please depending on the device you are using to view them.  C’est la vie avec la technologie!

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we should plague everyone with joy, especially at the post office

We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing?
Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras

If you’re trying to avoid tranquility spend some time at the post office around closing time and pray you don’t bump into me.  I found myself zipping around this burb at rush hour yesterday with a pocketful of errands to run, foremost of which was a mad dash for the post office to make the 5 pM pick up time. I glided through the service station car wash and looked down at my phone: 4:53. Could I make it? Oh, why not try? When I pulled into the parking lot and saw several others milling in and out of the open doors and a young clerk with a collection bin making his rounds of the blue mailboxes outside, I was overcome with YAY! Bon Voyage, my beautiful card for my special friends! Your ship is sailing and you’re just in time! YAYYY!

But I still needed to purchase a stamp. I had already quickly judged that young clerk and knew it would only take a smile to get him to take my letter after closing hours, so I just needed to get that stamp. A woman stood fumbling before the meter machine, and I stood back observing her transaction. A few seconds later and her postage fell into the slot below. When she began to sort out her mail and stand there at the machine addressing and posting her items, I kindly and I do mean kindly in the way I was beaming with glee to have made it there kindly and to have that young clerk to take my letter and to know my friends would get this card in time for Easter kindly. Super kindly I asked her, are you all done?

SCREECH!

Just let me finish will you? she grumbled, as she stopped addressing her letters and returned to the computer screen to finish her transaction. Thank you, I smiled and stood back a little more. She poked around at the screen and let out another grumble. You don’t have to be so pushy, she said. And here is where I will stop and admit, I was breezing into that Post Office at closing time. I breeze into a lot of things with a joyful casualness that can be off putting. An alacrity that catches you off guard. But she humored me, and I couldn’t help smiling at her as I said, Well, you don’t have to be so grumpy!

Is it wrong to delight in humoring grumpy people? It might border on teasing, but sometimes I can’t help it. Despite what that quote above from Swami says, she was never going to smile back at me no matter what I said. But the man a counter over did, and as he and I shared a chuckle after she left, somehow the joy that passed between us mattered more.

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