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Freed. Endings, Beginnings, Growth.

During the holidays, I love the internet - I can see how faraway friends of different faiths and cultures have their own traditions and ways on ending, then beginning, each year.

On the first night of Hanukkah my thoughts fly to London, where an old friend from New York, an Orthodox Jew, is now married raising cute English children and I wonder, with a smile, each year, what they might be doing...

I also see celebrations of Winter Solstice, and realize that even as winter deepens, spring just is a step away.

Our own family celebrates Christmas twice; on Christmas Eve we have German Christmas where we cook and nibble all day, dressed up, the silver, china (and wine) sparkling... to attend late afternoon church, then arrive back at the savory-smelling house for a long, formal dinner while opening gifts.

The following day is American Christmas. We head to my parents, then to whomever is hosting Christmas for the family that year, where cousins play football, climb trees and run wild while the adults lounge, passing hors d'oeuvres, cocktails and holiday cheer.

The week is also spent catching up with old friends visiting from out of town...
This time is dedicated not towards working hard but for cherishing time together with those you love.

Santa came while we were at church this year, and I was super surprised because we had the burglar alarm on and everything... the children quickly reasoned, "Momma, he comes down the CHIMNEY!"
Usually they have to go for a walk while I continue to cook before he is willing to brave the household!

I was amazed by how many homemade presents were under the tree from two little paste and scissor happy children. For each other, for us, so many gifts - a bowling game, numerous cards addressed to us with happy messages and art, and lots of homemade place mats...

Santa seemed to know a lot about our family - gifts of books, grape vines, an olive tree so I can dream of local olives, a mushroom grower, and lots of things to keep warm and play with in the snow, on the land.

During holiday break, you'll also find us at Maymont. 

Our favorite time to visit is in winter.
Today, the balmy temps + usual sparse off season crowd + architecture project ("Are those Doric, Ionic or Corinthian columns, children?") = another really fun win.

Although Richmond's Fan District is inundated with them, Victorian Maymont does not have truly Greek columns. But we certainly had fun looking around! Learn more about Maymont at

Donated in 1925 to Richmond, the Maymont estate is home to not just interesting architecture, but many animals. From
"Maymont exhibits include many healthy, but non-releasable, wild animals. These animals are accepted only from licensed rehabilitators and agencies that expertly nurse orphaned or injured wildlife back to health. While most rehabilitated animals are released into the wild, some animals are deemed unable to survive without assistance and find refuge at Maymont, where they serve important roles as wildlife ambassadors in education programs and exhibits. All of Maymont's animals are well cared for by a team of professional zoologists."
After again encountering the fragrant wintersweet at Maymont, I am researching how to acquire our own. Here's one local nursery that carries it, I love their description:
"An unknown, unassuming plant that delivers the same impact in your garden in gray days of winter as when you're walking thru a mall and some store (Victoria's Secret comes to mind) is pumping scent out the door! Ranking up there with magnolias, lilacs and winter honeysuckle in the scent department, the fragrance is not overpowering but spicy and lemon-like and romantic. Like lilacs, most of the year it doesn't add anything to the garden but its mass, which isn't unattractive, just not particularly noticeable. HOWEVER, the scent in the dreary dead of winter earns this plant a spot in your shrub border. "

In related news I was disheartened by the eager budding of the lilacs and some plums along my parents today! #AreYouFreakinKiddingMe
Note: Here, beautiful lilacs tell a tale of climate change.

Here's what we've done so far with our Homework On Doric, Ionic And Corinthian Columns: Charlotte Court House's Court House? Doric.

[AND designed by Thomas Jefferson!]

In The Fan? Ionic.

This Pamplin City structure?

Our Christmas Day? Neither Doric, Ionic nor Corinthian, but

This is the Christmas, and the year, we were freed. 
This is the year we finally sloughed off everything to live again, the way we should have, long ago...

Finding Nancy Ross Hugo's loving gift of a pomegranate seedling on the front porch when we got home was poetic.
Those that love you, show you in actions... those that don't... prune.
I was just saying that every plant has a story... but this plant will have special meaning, lifelong.
You just have to find the humor in it all.

We're already starting to giggle, incredulously, to each other...
No longer just passengers, we resolve to continue growing healthy children, without unhealthy influence.

Sing it. Lalalalalalalala...

Merry Christmas, sweets.
We end this year looking happily ahead, pruning shears in hand as we watch our garden grow.

Even in tough times, even in a Hard Candy Christmas, if you can *be* a friend, you'll make friends.
Full of love, then that's wealth. Merry Christmas.

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