Pumpkin Time begins…

November 2018 Northern VA.


A post just this week on Twitter went something like this:

“…But, I’ve never understood the pumpkin spice flavored stuff. There is zero excitement for me.”

It was first thing in the morning, over coffee to be exact, when I started scrolling through comments intrigued to see thoughts on the subject.  Pumpkin time begins I marveled. 

Where has summer gone?

There were many comments of course: All nice, mind you, and thank goodness for that! Nothing snarky or inappropriate save for one or two idiots who felt it necessary to bring –of all people–Trump into the topic. What a way to ruin things: Like what on earth does he have to do with Pumpkin Spice in anything!?   Fortunately, the person who posted the Tweet is as sunny and lovely as the sun itself and she is  quick to cut off trolls at the knees.  To be certain, one doesn’t want to read hate and vitriol before the roosters are up (or ever). Of course, one could argue that reading social media these days, particularly first thing in the morning can be an invitation for starting the day on the wrong foot.

In any event the whole point of my thoughts on this lazy afternoon is that September is upon us this weekend.  Halloween stuff has been in stores for weeks already…crazy, right?  So it’s fitting, I suppose, to start thinking of all things pumpkin and spice (meaning cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves) –all of which I love–except…in coffee.

My flavor preferences (for those just dying to know) are puzzling to some (even to me). For example, it is perplexing to my nephew that I like apple pie but not apple juice or I prefer blueberries in my yogurt but I am not inclined towards blueberry pie. How is it that my taste buds are so…curiously discriminating? 

Yes, my sweet…I am weird….

And, when it comes to coffee, I’m a purist.  My cup of java (or espresso) is either black or with skim milk as in a latte or a cappuccino.  That means no sugar, syrups, liquor, whipped cream, or spices…not even the coveted pumpkin spice lattes that are the Starbucks rage from now through Christmas.  And yes, I did try one…once…and, well….blech, far too sweet for my taste buds.  And besides, a 16 oz. pumpkin spice latte is roughly 380 calories.  I’d much rather linger over a cup of black coffee and a piece of pumpkin pie, which is about 60 calories less, give or take.  Okay…honestly, it’s not about calories as my husband will attest to.  I can go face down into a bag of chips polishing off the entire thing at one sitting.  It’s just that those calories need to be ever so pleasing and a pumpkin spice latte doesn’t do it for me.

However, I am mad for pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread….and I’ll happily eat a pumpkin muffin…but–odd I knownot pumpkin cheesecake nor pumpkin ravioli (which makes me shudder) though, I didn’t mind one bit a hearty bowl of pumpkin soup with a lovely kick of ginger and red pepper that I tried when in Scotland this summer.

Lots of folks on that Twitter feed chimed in to agree that pumpkin spice flavoring wasn’t their thing, even in beer.  Some opined that the whole pumpkin thing gets overplayed during Fall as in “…pumpkin this, pumpkin that.”  But many were in the “love it” camp too which is perfectly fine!   One thing however, that nearly everyone could agree on was that pumpkin spice signaled the arrival of their favorite time of year (and mine too).  All the glories of autumn will soon have us gushing over spectacular fall colors not to mention outdoor activities that warrant bowls of delicious hot soups and stews and home-made bread smeared with European butter or Chile recipes packed with enough spices and heat to make you sweat. 

Oh the bliss of just thinking about it!

As long as Fall temps don’t chill me to the bones, I am a happy woman.  So bring on the bliss of autumn….except for this gal, sans pumpkin spice lattes and such.


Cycling in Napa Valley, Oct. 2010: Now that’s a pumpkin!

Autumn Leaves and Letting Go….

I love leaves….until they wind up in the house.

It’s a beautiful morning in the neighborhood. I love hearing the crunch of autumn leaves beneath my feet as I walk The Poodle. He is lagging behind until he sees his best four-legged buddy, Miss Nica.  They cavort for a few minutes before I head home to a list of things to do.  I look at the mountain of laundry and decide that IS NOT on the list for the day!  Let’s try tackling one of my love-hate things instead.

So yeah….I’ve got several love-hate relationships going on.

I suspect I am not alone in this.

Today’s ire is about one in particular.  Trees.  Well…specifically, their leaves.

I suppose you know where I am going with this.

Yes, it’s that time of year…raking season.

It wouldn’t be so bad if my front doorstep wasn’t a constant vortex of leaves. I’ve never had to deal with so many leaves piling up on my front porch!  It is supremely annoying as a good many of them wind up INSIDE the house thanks to my four-legged love. The Poodle may as well be 33 pounds of Velcro; leaves attach to ears, legs, tail and torso, as well as to the top of his handsome little head.  I find leaves in the most unlikely places in my house.  Sigh.

I actually don’t mind raking leaves. The “love” part of this relationship is physical activity. I love being outdoors.  Yesterday I spent several hours out with the rake, making it my workout of the day. Alternating between using a leaf-blower and the rake I bagged six large paper leaf bags to the gills and hauled out of the yard more than a dozen heavy branches that had fallen from the trees during a particularly blustery night. As I raked under a beautiful blue sky and a happy mid-morning sun, I listened to a Spotify playlist of piano and cello pieces. Usually for this kind of workout I’d be jamming to something decidedly more contemporary and upbeat but I was in a contemplative mood. The soulful music made the task before me almost meditative.

I was lost in the leaves when a rendition of Schubert’s Ave Maria began playing.

I stopped raking.

My mother so loved this piece.

I let my gaze drift up towards the beautiful blue sky. White puffs of clouds drifted in languid fashion as a flock of birds in their neat V-formation headed southward.

Before I knew it I was crying, right there in the middle of the front yard. Nothing dramatic mind you.

Images of mom as she lay dying in the hospital bed were stunningly vivid…again.

And, as she took her last breath sis and I were holding her and saying The Ave Maria….

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.



Wow, that came out of nowhere!

A torrent of emotions once again…

The good, bad and the ugly.


For a split second darkness filled the space around me. Ah, it’s nothing but a cloud passing overhead, blocking the sun. It’s over in a flash. A sudden breeze kicks up the leaves that I had raked into a large pile before me.

The leaves are calling my name:  Cristina, we have let go…you can too.

Life is the moment we are living right now (Paulo Coelho). I close my eyes and take in a deep breath.  Exhaling long and slow, I open my eyes.  So…. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

I pick up the rake and begin anew but not before turning off the music and calling a good friend to catch up.  It’s good to hear her voice as I continue bagging leaves.  It makes the time fly.

Later I recounted the episode with my sis.

“They say time heals all wounds,” she began. “But I don’t feel that is ever going to happen for us.”

Sis, you may be right but let’s fight tooth and nail to keep our hearts happy and souls reasonably at peace. Let us find something to laugh about every single day.

So, the “hate” part of this tree relationship?

I’ve got to do this blowing and raking thing all over again for weeks to come.
Excuse me while I go in search of Tylenol…..

Simply. Perfect. Now.

Ten days until the end of November…. and It’s about time.  Truth be told I’d nearly given up.  In solitary fashion they’ve been sitting on a shelf in the closet waiting for their time to serve.

Ugg time, that is.

It’s finally gotten chilly enough in middle-earth Alabama to warrant Ugg boots.  Some would say they are UGLY boots to which I’d vehemently disagree.  While they are not uber-cool, calf-hugging, Italian leather fashion statements they are pure heaven to my perennially cold feet. That makes them beautiful to me.

Until the last few days, we’ve had uncharacteristically warm weather in the South.  We’ve also had less than ten drops of rain for quite some time. In fact, 46 of 67 Alabama counties are in a drought emergency.  This will not be the best of Thanksgivings for farmers.   Still, folks around here are more optimistic than I ever could be given the same circumstance.  They are polite as can be and quick with smiles as well as good cheer…as in: “Y’all have a blessed Thanksgiving.”

I’m bundled up for this morning’s walk with The Poodle.  It’s only 30 degrees but there is a breeze which makes me shiver with those first few steps out the door. The crisp autumn air feels wonderfully invigorating, clearing cobwebs out of my mind. I eschew music preferring instead to listen to the crunch of leaves under my feet and the rustle of leaves still stubbornly clinging to their branches.  My heart sings when I see pops of bright red Maple trees in a yard just down the hill.  Though still muted in color compared to places more north and east of us middle-earth is finally showing some autumn beauty .  Perfection would be the magnificent yellow-gold of Colorado Aspens.  Ah…I did it again!  I erase that thought immediately.

Perfection is now.

It’s all too easy to find something negative to break the spell of this morning’s walk.  I worry about my son…I worry about a Trump presidency….I worry about my sis and family traveling during the holidays.  I worry about my husband’s mother who is declining….

But I’m determined to focus on the perfection of now… this moment.  A Poodle at my side.  The sun shining. My daughter happy.  Three brilliant red maples in front of me.  Rocket-man is home. And, as soon as this power walk with The Poodle is over I’ll swap Nike’s for Uggs.

On this day it is simple things that make for a grateful heart.  Simply put, its perfect now.

Bliss ❤️🍂🍁🍂❤️