Delights: November 26 to December 2

November 26: On this gray day after Thanksgiving, quietude settled everywhere. I saw flames bloom from a firepit in an empty yard, perhaps to warm the walking neighbors. I saw picturesque houses arrayed down a hill, a view masked by leaves until today. I watched trees holding up a patch of blue sky escaping from the clouds. And I spied a woman crossing the street at dusk carrying what could only be a very large paper turkey. 

Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, at its most evocative time of year.

November 27: “You know,” Kevin said, “that handle is going to break one day and send scalding water down your leg.” Harrumph. I rolled my eyes and carried my little red tea kettle back to its home. A tenth of a second later, my little red tea kettle leapt from my grip and plunged to the floor, snapping the handle on impact and shattering it. We gaped in stunned surprise, then laughed long and loud. Clearly, the kettle agreed with Kevin and had to take matters into its own hands.

November 28: A warm sunny day —and the first Sunday of Advent — sent me outside with my Christmas lights. A few dozen loops around my Arbor Vitae, a lighted swag over the front door, and a few more blankets of lights finished the job. To get in the spirit, I listened to the new podcast Hark!, which tells the history of beloved Christmas carols. I couldn’t help but sing as I untangled the lights. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel indeed.

November 29: A few days ago, Jeremiah and I opened the door to One More Page Books and could barely pass through the throngs of shoppers browsing our wonderful independent bookstore. Jeremiah took his place behind the cash register and I floated as the world’s happiest volunteer on Small Business Saturday. The store thrummed with the joy of people who love books, wine, chocolate — and the pleasure of coming together to safeguard and support this vibrant jewel in our community.

November 30: Tiny perfect pellets of snow bounced with brio off the fallen leaves. Like sugar crystals on molasses cookies, more snowy pellets covered the wooden planks of a footbridge. The sun would eventually shoo winter away, but everyone who saw the persistent snow pebbles smiled at their enthusiasm. 

Bonus: Today I toured beautiful Hillwood Museum with my friend Lee. We admired the decorative arts displayed in the mansion’s sumptuous interiors, but the gardens provided the greatest ornament on this autumn day. With forests in every direction — and its own Japanese garden, parterre, and woodland walks — we could have been savoring New England. Only the tip of the Washington Monument peeking over the trees helped us remember that we were squarely and surprisingly within the District of Columbia. 

December 1: Visiting dear friends today in their new home, I was charmed by the sassy, splendid sweetness and intelligence of the family’s 8- and 10-year old daughters, Lauryn and Layla. While the adults talked and ate homemade Five Flavor Cake (a pound cake delight with coconut, vanilla, lemon, almond and rum), the girls exclaimed over their gift: Tales of Fearless Girls: Forgotten Stories From Around the World. Why was I surprised by their joy? Their mother and grandmother are pretty amazing and fearless women themselves.

Bonus: My friend’s mother was one of the first Black people to integrate the professional ranks of the Social Security Administration. Her stories from the 1960s and 1970s were heart-stopping and uplifting. Equally memorable were her turns of phrase, like this one: “She could talk sugar out of a cake without breaking the crust.” 

On the way home from Hillwood, I saw the rest of the Washington Monument. (Truly, it’s not slanted. That’s me grabbing the photo as the traffic light turned green.)

December 2: Although the day reached 60 degrees and the sun invited tee shirts, I went in quest of our Christmas tree. As I wandered the parking lot forest of Fraser firs, I encountered the woodsmen at work. And especially their tools. Yes, they wielded loppers and chainsaws for trimming, but I was fascinated by their other equipment, made exactly for this Christmas tree purpose. 

Think of the metal “L” that stretches above the doctor’s scale to measure your height. Now send it 10 feet up, paint it yellow, give it two arms, and affix it to a stand with a drill rising from the base. Voila! You have a hole in the bottom of your tree. Then escort your tree to a red basket, like a cherry picker but on the ground. Slip the tree in, flip the switch and watch your tree shimmy and shake out leaves, needles, and whatnot. Enter now the loppers, chainsaw, and strong hands to guide your prize through the hatch of your Prius. The final tool? Sweet, strong, and patient Jeremiah to raise and secure the tree in its spot. Tonight I’ll cue up my Christmas records and, lights in hand, finish a good day’s work.

More color at Hillwood

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14 thoughts on “Delights: November 26 to December 2

  1. Hillwood looks gorgeous! What. special place. “She could talk sugar out of a cake without breaking the crust” – what a saying! We all know someone like that…..

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    1. Yes, Hillwood is gorgeous. I need to visit in all seasons and share its beauty with you. Thanks for appreciating my friend’s mother’s saying. “You’re hearing a little bit of South,” my friend said.

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  2. Goodness, things look different where you live, where it’s still fall. In Maine, it is early winter. Wonderful description of the little girls. Also I really, really like the sugar and cake saying.

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    1. Our autumn has lingered beautifully. How many photos of the spectacular Japanese maples can I justify? No limit! They fill everyone with awe. I’m glad you liked the “snapshot” of my friend’s family. With that cake & sugar saying, you can bring a little of the South to your next conversation!

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  3. This would a great place to see. Its been years since I have been there and brilliant fall colors /

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    1. Thank you for saying that. Our autumns can sometimes dissolve into browns with nary an orange or yellow. But this year was splendid! Autumn is always the best time of year in Washington, DC (despite the springtime cherry blossoms). This year we had nice weather and color too!

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      1. Here in Nova Scotia our leaves have disappeared. Love your writing and let’s follow each other.

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  4. I simply have to clarify – did it actually snow/hail on Nov 30?

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    1. Well, not really. The day migrated to the high 50s with sunshine (a perfect day to visit Hillwood). But everyone who saw those tiny snow pebbles — for those 5 minutes — talked about them. They weren’t flaky like snow or icy like hail. Just sugar from heaven!

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      1. That must have been so bizarre, given the relative higher temps and sunshine!

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  5. I am imaging the flavours of that cake you had on Dec 1. Just so I can enjoy it more: what was the texture like? Was there almond flour in it? And was it coconut flakes or coconut milk? or flavour?

    It is such a joy to visit with thoughtful people, young & old – but young women are particularly uplifting … hope for the future!

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    1. I love your questions; you help me appreciate food so much more. (I’m learning from you and Thistles & Kiwis!) It was a pound cake with all-purpose flour. I love your ideas of mixing in almond flour and coconut flakes! Let me know if you’d like the recipe. Those lovely women are big-hearted!

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