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Unlike the beautiful sunrise just outside my bedroom window, not every day this winter has been full of sunshine and hope. But when this view does appear as I sit with my first cup of coffee and whatever book I am currently reading, hope always encourages me that better things are yet to come…you just have to keep looking for the good, you have to turn off the bad, and you have to strive to do your own part to make this world a better place.

So…we just keep looking, just keep sharing, just keep going. During the Christmas season we visited our son who recently moved from Michigan to Texas. We delighted at the lights in his neighborhood. Nearly every house is lit up for the holidays, a truly memorable, and beautiful experience.

And it was my introduction to mistletoe. The only mistletoe I have ever seen is that which is found in a plastic package at the grocery store. The mistletoe, a parasitic plant that grows at the tops of primarily oak trees was so much more interesting than those packages. Seeing the “kissing ball” in its natural habitat led me to learn more about the plant itself. I love research because I love to learn about new things.

Our youngest grandchildren came from long distances to visit us before Christmas. They, with the help of their very crafty mommas, decorated our windows with snowflakes, and our dining room doorway with a garland.

One of my favorite conversations, a bit bittersweet too, came at the end of January when I went to take the garland down.

Jim: I think you can stop now!

Me: Why, it is almost February, time for hearts and cupids.

Jim: Well, I like that just where it is!

We do miss all our kids who live in five different states, but as I posted on facebook…apparently you can still come to visit our grandchildren’s art gallery on the 4th of July! And that is okay with me too.

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And we went for long walks in nature…

Winter is a marvelous time to look up into the tree tops and down onto the ground beneath your feet. Absent all the green growth of spring and summer, absent all the extraordinary color of autumn, you can see so much that you miss during those seasons. The world is an exciting place, a fantastic experience, and…well, just plain fun and exhilarating!

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Walks along our rivers, drives through the countryside, hikes in the woods, and visits to the woodland ponds always make for good days…and muddy shoes, even after I try to clean them off!…

Plants are as interesting and beautiful in winter as they are any other time of the year…

But my favorite find of the winter plant season was finally seeing a frost flower. Frost flowers can be seen in early morning after a very cold night. As the liquid inside certain plants freezes, it expands, cracks open the plant stem, oozes out, and makes these beautiful ribbons of ice. This was a really good morning!

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Without leaves on the trees, the birds are easier to see. I love the way the little woodpecker and the northern cardinal are all puffed up to stay warm. The last picture, though not a very good one, is of a yellow-rumped warbler. I had never seen one, so I just had to share it…

And then there was the armadillo who scared me way more than I scared him…

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It has been a long, gray, winter, and we found ways to experience every sunny day we had, some cloudy ones too! There have been personal challenges we had not anticipated this winter, I am not very proud of my country right now, and I sure would like the gray to go away.

But…as long as the two of us can roam the countryside together, as long as I can read and learn, as long as I can teach nature classes to young children, as long as I have family, as long as I can enjoy a sunset, there will always be hope for tomorrow. There really is no other choice but hope!


Tortellini and Spinach in Broth

Any time we come in out of the cold, or the gray, I like to fix something simple, warm, and comforting. This tortellini in broth is just that!


Tortellini and Spinach in a Leek Broth

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

So good on a cold, gray, day!


  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 leeks, dark green tops removed
  • 5 cups vegetable or chicken stock (I use homemade turkey stock)
  • 1 package of cheese tortellini
  • a couple handfuls of chopped or baby spinach (a good way to use up a bit of leftover spinach)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. dried dill
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated Parmesan to serve


  1. Cut the leeks lengthways, wash to remove any grit, and slice into half-moons.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the leeks until softened.
  3. Add the stock and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add tortellini and simmer until done.
  5. Throw in a couple handfuls of spinach and cook until it is wilted.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve with grated Parmesan as a garnish.

A loaf of crusty bread, lots of creamy butter, and a glass of white wine make this a great evening dinner!