Tag Archives: Autumn

Season of mists and…blah, blah, blah…

So, Autumn has arrived. Here in the UK, it’s arrived with sunny days and fairly warm temps, but I’m not ready to let summer go yet. I’m a summer baby and seem to thrive best with warmer weather and brighter skies. Put me on a beach with a pina colada and I’m a happy woman 🙂

Well, if we have to have autumn (and by extension, winter) it’s currently not all bad. The trees are looking amazing in their burnished glory, and there are some interesting little late-flowering plants popping up in the garden.

20180910_100958Walks with Vivvy are always interesting, but this autumn I’m finding them even more so. A city girl born and bred, I absolutely love living in the country. Around the village where we live there are fabulous walks, and they’re always journeys of discovery.

Recently, I discovered a new walk to the next village a few miles away which took us by acres of what I’ve named the bamboo fields, although I’m sure they’re not (Kit will probably put me right on this). I spent a fun ten minutes playing hide-and-seek with Vivvy, and now, when we go that route, she runs into the bamboo and looks out to me as if to say “come on mum, time to play”.20180910_101131

I also found plump, juicy blackberries growing wild and grabbed a couple of handfuls in an unused poo-bag (sorry) so we had a lovely apple and blackberry crumble at supper that night 🙂 There are copious amounts of sloes at the moment, reminding me that one day I’m going to attempt sloe gin (side note: I spent years thinking the sloes were blueberries – don’t laugh, city girl, right?)
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So, all in all, I can’t complain about the demise of summer. At least, not quite yet 🙂

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I’m Back and Then Gone Again

Jillian here. Now that I’ve wrestled the computer out of Hobbes’ hands, I can tell you all about the fab time I had with Laurie, Lavada and Laurie’s husband. We had a wonderful visit. Mark is a master at making his own apple cider- he even built the press- how cool is that? I very much enjoyed the taste of it and killed a two liter of it while I was there.  He also has a superb garden and we ate fresh from it as well.

Speaking of gardens, I have to tell you, Lavada has shared pictures of hers with us but man, those do not to the place justice. She has created a beautiful outdoor oasis and she should be very proud of it. It has a definite wow factor.

They fed me so much good food while I was there, I got quite spoiled. Lots of great meals and laughter around the table. It was an easy visit and just like home. Except the cooler air was much appreciated. I’m glad they arranged that foe me. 😉

Highlights (as Hobbes said) were the fish market- with beautiful flowers- the space needle, Mt. Rainier (where I got super car sick- bleh), the capitol building and the awesome scenery and the old houses we looked at.

The weirdest thing about the trip was meeting so many people from Florida and even a guy from Alabama who’s dad is best friends with someone I know. How wild is that?

A great trip and now it’s time to plan one where we can all meet up!!

I am in Rhode Island as you read this. Visiting my son and daughter-in-law. Hadn’t  been anywhere in a year and now two trips in two months. That’s how I roll.

Amazing Maize and Other Halloween Traditions by Valerie J. Patterson

I’m trapped.  I can’t get out.  I see no exit, and there are no windows.  I’m surrounded by, well, corn!  And it was a great experience!

A couple years ago I took my Sunday school class to a fright farm—not to see ghouls or goblins, but rather to go through a maize maze.  Have you ever been?  Yes?  Then you know how much fun they are.  No?  Then search for one in your area and go!

The Maize Maze I went to was 7 and a half acres of corn, 2 and a half miles of trails, and had one way in and one way out.  The brochure said to allow 4 hours to get through the maze.  Throughout the maze, there were food and beverage stations, tuba phones (for getting help from farm employees), bridges used to gain a vantage point to search for your next step forward, and clues to solving the puzzle, the mystery of the maze.  It was an excellent adventure!  Just when you were certain you were headed in the right direct, BAM!, you hit a dead end and have to retrace your steps.  The stalks of corn are taller than you are, so you have no choice but to press on and follow the path not only looking for the way out, but also searching for the next clue that will allow you to solve the mystery of the maze.

Before you know it, you’re so engrossed in your endeavor that hours fly right by and you find yourself at the exit.  As you step across that finish line, you turn and peer one last time at this humungous maze and you know that you’ve achieved success.  You conquered the maze and solved the mystery.

I really enjoy autumn, and Halloween can be and should be a fun holiday.  I’m not much for fright houses, horror movies, or monsters, but I enjoy searching for the perfect pumpkin and then carving it.  I like hayrides and bonfires.  I like the rich earthy tones associated with autumn gardens and decorating, and I adore masquerade parties!  I like the appeal of the mask hiding your identity until someone figures it out and gives you away.

When I was a sophomore in school my youth group had a masquerade party.  I worked and worked on my costume.  My mom helped me.  I sewed a hula hoop into the waistband of a pair of men’s trousers, then sewed a dress shirt to the outside of the waist of the trousers, making a one piece outfit.  I pulled my hair into a bun and scrunched it under a work hat.  Added a pair of work boots, and took some ashes from the fireplace, which I smeared on my cheeks.  I left my eyeglasses at home and had my dad drop me off a block from the youth center so no one could see me with him and gain access to my identity.

Inside the center, I walked over to a group of my girlfriends and waited.  They each turned and looked at me.  “Great costume.” I heard from several of them.  I nodded and smiled, but didn’t dare speak.  I was out to see how long it took them to figure out who I was.  Eventually, they wandered away from me and I heard, “I thought Valerie was coming tonight?  Anyone see her?”

I smiled and refrained from squealing.

One of the cute guys asked me to dance, which completely took me by surprise because I was not wearing an attractive outfit by any stretch of the imagination.  Plus, whenever I danced, the hula hoop sort of caused my costume to go in every direction at once.

He kept asking me questions, which I kept refusing to answer.  A slow song came on and he actually reached an arm around me, somehow avoiding the hula hoop.  “You’re really tiny,” he said, and I tried not to beam with pleasure.  He said something about the hula hoop being between us, but I didn’t hear it.  I was trying to keep my composure.

The song ended and he asked, “Not going to tell me who you are?”

I shook my head and he shrugged as he went back to join his friends—our friends.

That night I won most original costume, and I was pleased with that.  Then the end of the evening came and the award for most mysterious was still up for grabs.  I was called to the stage along with three others.  When the youth pastor came to me and handed me first prize, I was thrilled.  I’d pulled it off.  Then it happened.  A deep voice called out from the crowd.

“Hey Swanson?  Is that you?”

My head snapped up and my eyes darted to my left, locking with my earlier dance partner.  I’d been found out.  I got to keep my prize nonetheless, plus it was the end of the night, so I was fine.  I left the stage and headed toward my friend.

“How did you know?” I asked.

“Your eyes.  There was something familiar about your eyes when we were dancing.  It was while you were up on stage that I realized I was used to seeing them behind glasses.”

When my dad came to get me, he asked me how it went.  I told him it was one of the best parties I’d been to, but that it was also one of the loneliest evenings I’d ever spent while in a huge group.  My refusal to speak for fear of giving myself away proved to alienate me from my friends.  No matter.  It’s all about being mysterious.  It’s all about the masquerade!

What’s your favorite autumn activity?  Bobbing for apples?  Trick or Treating?  Hayrides?  Regardless, I hope you have fond memories of the activities and the people who were with you.

Until next time, I hope you have a little mystery in your autumn days, and plenty of blessings to warm you at night.

Home Spun Fun

GladysLater this month, on the 20th, a family friend of ours turns 99 years old. Gladys is a woman whom I very much admire. She still lives in the house she and her then new husband moved into 70 years ago. Sadly, we lost Gene a couple years ago. Now, Gladys’ son and daughter-in-law live with her, but not because she needs oodles of help. She still gets around with the aid of her walker. She still cooks, cleans, and gardens. And she’s sharp as a tack. Trust me. She asked me something over a year ago and asked me again a couple months ago if I’d managed to do what she asked me. lol. No memory issues here.

She’s got a funny bone a mile long, she’s stalwart, and she’s also a loving matriarch to her family. This past weekend, she had the honor of being the Grand Marshall in her small home town’s Apple Cider Festival parade. You see, her town is also 98, so they grew up together.

Gladys1Gladys wasn’t only honored at the invitation, she had a plan. She wasn’t riding in some fancy automobile. Not her, nosiree. She got on the phone, called around, and found a Model T (and it’s owner) to be driven in. The car, the town, and it’s matriarch—all the same age.

We knew this parade was one not to miss so made the 1.5 hour drive to see Gladys in action. It was one of the funnest days we’ve had in ages. I’d forgotten how fun small town parades are. Only one high school, so only one band. But the elementary school marched, also, as well as a group of kids on dirt bikes and quads. A local car club, along with princesses and queens.  Rounding out the parade were the John Deere tractors. LOTS of John Deere Tractors. And log trucks. IMG_20131005_112345

Afterward, there were pie baking (and eating) contests, cider pressing, and food and crafts lining the streets to enjoy.

This was Americana at its best.  No, that’s not true. This kind of goodness isn’t limited to America. It’s worldwide. So I hope you get to enjoy your Autumn fruits and labors with a celebration of all that is good.

And Happy Birthday, Gladys. Almost 99 years young. Thanks for being such an inspiration to us all!

L is for Love, Laughter, and Leaves by Valerie J. Patterson

This past Sunday my husband surprised me with a lovely day trip that began with a picnic in the park after church.  Leaf Peeping season is upon us, and Steve knows how much I enjoy each new season, how much I enjoy looking at the beauty each season brings us, and how creatively charged I can get when surrounded by all that beauty.  So, he planned an excellent Leaf Peeping Adventure.

As we traveled from one county to the next, across three state borders, and through one forest, my mind drifted to one particular Saturday a couple Octobers ago . . .

I was making the long trip home to see my mom and sisters and nieces and nephews and I had 70 some miles to think and to admire God’s artistry during another beautiful fall season.  The scenery changed as I went from my country-like suburban setting into my mother’s city suburban setting, but one fact remained the same: seasons change no matter where you are.  No matter where you go.

Along Interstate 70 there are wide-open meadows and altering terrain that goes from level to mountainous.  There are evergreens and oak trees and maple trees and foliage galore.  All of it different from the last.  The sun that day poured through the windshield making my windbreaker too heavy for the trip and after I struggled out of it while maintaining my course, I tossed it to the passenger seat and opened the roof of my car.  Autumn plays tricks with humans causing us to think a bright sunny day is also a warm one!  While the sun was warming me, the air was filled with the pungent aroma of burning wood and I knew somewhere close by someone was heating a house with a good old-fashioned wood-burning stove.  I love those stoves.  I have a friend who heats her house this way and it always seems to have an inviting, cozy feel to it that gas or electric heat seems to not have.

As the highway gave way to township and county roads I pulled to a stop at an intersection and I looked out the window to see a brother and a sister hard at work raking what seemed like a thousand leaves from the green blanket that was their lawn.  I rolled the window down and a smile spread across my lips as I heard the girl squeal as her brother covered her with a pile of leaves.  She stood up, covered from head to toe in colorful decorations only nature can provide and I watched her run after him with an armful of leaves.  They laughed, making a chore into a game and I began to feel a little homesick for the days when I went to visit my cousin’s house and we would rake their massive front lawn and build a house with leaves.  Not a structure of any sort, just the outline of rooms we pretended had walls and doors and windows.  Ultimately though, the carefully laid “foundation” ended up in a huge mound with several giggling children beneath it.

The light changed at the intersection but the feeling of nostalgia lingered with me in the front seat of my car and I was thoughtful as I continued my drive.  Childhood really is a gift.  It’s a gift parents give by having children.  It’s a gift children get from God and all too many times we are in such a hurry to grow up – some of us are given no choice and some of us just feel the need to be independent.  By the time I turned onto my mom’s street I was feeling a sort of cross between happiness and a deep sadness for the childhood I left behind.  I pulled into her drive and honked my horn four times like I always do and the front door opened and out came my two youngest nieces, one of my nephews, and the family dog.  Hugs, kisses, and laughter were exchanged and a small breeze rustled the leaves, taking with it my sadness and leaving me in the warmth of the love of my family.

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The sound of Steve’s voice brought me out of the past and back to the front seat of the car.

“Look at the peach-colored leaves on that copse of tress,” Steve said.

I looked where he pointed, gave his hand a squeeze, and blinked back an urge to cry.  I was right where I wanted to be–on a lovely trip with the one I love–but the past seemed to haunt me for just a wee bit of time that day.

Have you ever had one of those days?  Ones where you think so much about the past that it seems to become rooted in the present?  It’s good to recall memories.  They keep us young.  They enable us to recall simpler, easier times.  Sometimes they are painful and better left in the past.  The point is: they make us stronger.  I hope you have your own recollections of autumns past and I hope there are loved ones at the end that keep you firmly planted in the here-and-now.

To Everything, There is a Season

Well, September is just about over and Fall is officially here. And, as always, I’m ready for the change in seasons. I love them all, but I think I gravitate most toward the seasons of change, Spring and Fall. There’s a crispness to the air now, cooler days, and less sun.

One of the things I find a natural instinct in the fall is stocking up for bad weather. It must be instinctual because I still feel the need to do this even though the kids are all grown and out on their own. So my husband cleans the freezer right before this time generally, as it’s the emptiest it will be all year. Now is when I start looking for great sales on meat and such to fill it back up.

Last Spring, I posted this picture of my husband’s garden, all primed and ready to go. I should have taken some pictures a month ago to show you the garden in it’s prime. Here’s some I took mid-September on a nice, sunny, warm day. Everything looks a touch deflated as they get watered in the evening, not the morning. 

Most things are done (peas, raspberries, broccoli), but we’re still getting produce from a lot of it (onions, tomatoes, cabbage, and the last of the cucumbers.) This year we canned 14 quarts of peaches and 6 quarts of pears. We’re hoping enough tomatoes ripen to can tomatoes. As well, we’ll have lettuce until the first freeze and Mark’s got a system for wintering it over so it’s the first thing we get produce from in the Spring.

Of course, I’m also still hoping these little guys grow big and orange by Halloween. 🙂

So in spite of all the gray days we’ve had in the Pacific Northwest this summer, we have also gotten enough sunshine to harvest most of my husband’s “crops”. In addition, we got to spend time with friends and family and take some small trips…riding a steam train in Canada, shopping in the Bavarian village of Leavenworth, wine tasting in the warmth of Eastern Washington.

Yep. It’s been a good summer. Now, I’m ready to hunker down. I tend to look at the changing seasons as a good time to set goals. On a professional front, this Autumn needs to be all about writing. I need to get more stories out there.  On a personal one, I hope for continued time to spend with my mother and my father, along with quiet nights with my husband beside the warmth of our wood stove.

I hope your own look back is full of smiles and happiness. And how about the future? What will be your goals for the next three months as we settle into an indoor weather pattern? Whatever they are, I hope your days are filled with peace and warmth.

I’ll leave you with an Irish Blessing I found on a great site called islandireland.com:

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

Seasons of Creativity By Valerie J. Patterson

Being a creative being, I consider myself to be in tune with nature.  The beginning of each season inspires me, recharges me, and ignites my creativity.  I love fall.  Nature settles down for a long winter nap.  Everything becomes dormant and … well gray once Autumn’s dance is over and the colors have faded from view.  Outside my mother’s kitchen window is a massive evergreen whose strong limbs reach heavenward in praise of God.  It turns a fiery yellow every autumn and then gracefully loses its needles.  It’s the only evergreen I’ve ever seen do this.  It’s an incredibly gorgeous tree.  My pastor’s wife loves winter trees, the pose they strike as they wait for new life to spring anew is beautiful to her.  Because of her, I’m looking at trees in a new light these days.  I have found that she is right.

Winter intrigues me.  It covers everything with a frosty white that is the epitome of purity, and being clean, and pristine beauty.  I have to have the winter of my year every year.  It’s in my creative blood to see beauty in starkness, I think.  Besides, I love that moment where I breathe out and the winter wind blows my breath back onto my glasses and causes them to fog over.  That’s the moment I know winter has gracefully arrived and said hello to me.

Summer fascinates me.  The sun chases away the moon for a few extra hours each day.  There are lovely aromas in the air from flowers to bar-b-ques to sunscreen.  My favorite scent of summer is the ocean.  That cool spray that washes over hot skin and leaves behind a trace of salt water and the aroma of the beach.

But spring enchants me.  When the first bursts of life spring forth in shades of green, brilliant hues of flower blooms, and babies of many species, I want to sit very still and capture it all with my eyes, my nose, my ears, and my mind.  I don’t just want to admire it, I want to be part of it if only as a bystander.  The dormancy of winter virtually explodes vital life in springtime where I live.  I can sit beneath a tree and experience the faintest caress of a breeze on my face and arms and it always carries with it fresh, new scents that I would miss if I didn’t stand still and wait for it.

I see God’s creative hand in every season, and I know that He gave me just a teeny bit of that creativity when He made me, when He crafted the designer original that I am … that we all are.

I don’t think I could live where there weren’t four very distinct seasons.  Perhaps it would stifle my creativity?

What inspires you?

Until next time, I hope you all are well and enjoying the fresh vitalization that spring delivers.

~Valerie