Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Coming Up For Air



Please excuse my absence from the Blogosphere.  I have been rather over-scheduled as of late with much to distract me.  All of it pleasant, mind you.  I needed to come up for air and thought I would say a quick hello to those of you who might be wondering where I've been.

Normal service will, of course, resume shortly.  You may be interested to learn that I have been working on a number of posts which I hope you'll find interesting and engaging.  So, until then, please do stay tuned.

CD

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Basket For Easter

Photo: Chronica Domus


The tradition of making Easter baskets is something I wholeheartedly adopted when I moved to The United States. In England, the most popular symbol of Easter is the egg; real ones or chocolate, all are enthusiastically devoured on the day.

I spent this afternoon gathering up all the confectionery goodies I had purchased over the past month to nestle in Patience's Easter basket, which she will receive tomorrow, early on Easter morning.  As in years past, I am inspired by nature, in particular Spring's bright palette of greens and blues.

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Natural elements such as old-fashioned Forget-Me-Not flowers from the garden and vivid green moss form the basis of this year's Easter basket
Photo: Chronica Domus


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Deciding which ribbons to tie upon the handle of the wicker basket is all part of the fun
Photo: Chronica Domus



Two blue chocolate rabbits keep their foil-wrapped companion company.  All three appear to be very much at home in their temporary surroundings which resemble a miniature woodland thanks to the Forget-Me-Nots and mossy bed they rest upon.

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Chocolate and foil-wrapped rabbits, bags of jelly beans, and sugar-coated chocolate eggs nestle within Patience's Easter basket
Photo: Chronica Domus


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The finished basket will be presented to our daughter early on Easter morning
Photo: Chronica Domus


I do hope Patience is as beguiled by her charming Easter basket as I am.  I have a good hunch she will be.

Do the junior members of your family enjoy receiving Easter baskets and if so, what is it that you fill them with?

I wish you all a very Happy Easter.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Relics Reimagined: A Black Basalt Pastille Burner

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Photo: Chronica Domus


We are in the midst of daffodil season here in the garden, the most glorious time of the horticultural year.  At least I consider it so, for I regard the humble daffodil to be my favorite flower above all others, followed closely by summer's sweet pea.

Last evening, after a long day of blustery winds, I noticed that a clump of narcissus Albatross was in peril of being toppled over.

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It was rather a challenge to photograph these daffodils as they whipped about in the wind
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Curious Norton proved himself  to be a further challenge, albeit a pleasant one
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Narcissus Albatross in full bloom or would that be in full flight?
Photo: Chronica Domus


Having endured losses to winds in years past, I thought it prudent to gather up the flowers already in bloom and enjoy those indoors.  There are plenty still remaining, in bud, to be savored in the weeks ahead as garden ornament.

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Into the garden trug go a dozen blooming Albatross daffodils
Photo: Chronica Domus


Seeking a suitable container in which to display these dainty heirlooms, I looked no further than my mantelshelf where an early nineteenth century black basalt Wedgwood pastille burner takes pride of place.  Removing its lid, I placed a small circular metal flower frog within it before adding water.

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My chosen flower container for the heirloom daffodils, an early nineteenth century Wedgwood black basalt pastille burner
Photo: Chronica Domus


Then came the flowers.

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Photo: Chronica Domus


As I stepped back to admire my handy work, I was reminded why it wasn't always such a bright idea to repurpose certain objects as flower receptacles.  A slow dribble of water from three previously unnoticed tiny holes in the base of its bowl rendered this particular vessel wholly unsuitable as a vase. I suspect the trio of holes were intended to provide oxygen to the aromatic pastille while lit.  A further hole in the lid allowed a wisp of white smoke to escape and saturate the air with its perfume.

Ah well, I thought the basalt burner made for a very pretty little vase, if only for a brief moment.  I hope you think so too.

If you are interested in learning more about pastille burners, the air fresheners of yesteryear, I would encourage you to read the excellent post written by the author of The Regency Redingote, which can be found here.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Easter Sweet Treats In The City

Dashing about the city this past weekend, determined to whittle away at my list of errands, I could not fail to notice the enchanting decorations and baked goods which filled the shops and bakeries in anticipation of Easter.   

My first port of call was the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market early on Saturday morning, where I spotted this stylish gentleman going about his business.

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Surely, a 'Best Dressed' award is owed to this exquisitely turned out gentleman
Photo: Chronica Domus


Alongside the usual weekly purchases of fruits and vegetables, I popped one of these charming foil-wrapped chocolate rabbits into my wicker market basket. He will be secreted away until Easter morning when he will make a welcome appearance in Patience's Easter basket.

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A colony of foil-wrapped chocolate rabbits
Photo: Chronica Domus


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Yet more rabbits, of the marzipan variety, are grouped together on a green glass cake stand
Photo: Chronica Domus


Rabbits, of course, are a popular symbol of Easter here in the United States.  When I was growing up in England, it was all about the egg.  Every confectioner worth their salt would manufacture hollow-shelled chocolate eggs and fill them with all manner of sugary concoctions and small toys. Attractively decorated in piped sugar icing or colorful foil, the eggs were the apple of every child's eye. Enthusiastically snapped up by eager parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, they were presented to junior members of the family.  I recall my sisters and I receiving many such ovoid treats in the run up to Easter, and the excruciating wait we endured until the big day arrived when we could finally devour them with gusto.

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What child would not delight in receiving one of these charming confectionery laden baskets early on Easter morning?
Photo: Chronica Domus


I noticed that the freshly cut flowers for sale at the farmers' market possessed an air of Eastertide about them.

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Bunches of pastel colored ranunculus and anemones reminded me of dyed Easter eggs awaiting the hunt
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Photo: Chronica Domus


Out and about again on Sunday, my family and I enjoyed lunch in the North Beach area of the city which is famed for its Italian restaurants and food markets.

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If you are in the mood for old-fashioned Italian comfort food, I highly recommend a leisurely lunch at Piazza Pellegrini where everything is delizioso!
Photo: Chronica Domus


A postprandial saunter around Washington Square found us greeting this rather amiable fellow:

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A friendly dog mascaraing as an Easter lamb
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A partial view of Washington Square with the twin spires of Saints Peter and Paul church framed against gray skies
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I was delighted to spot a familiar baked Easter specialty when we made a pit-stop into Victoria Pastry Company, an Italian bakery in operation since 1914 and located at the edge of Washington Square.

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Candied citrus peel provided an unexpected Italian twist to this English Easter treat
Photo: Chronica Domus


A tempting tray of hot cross buns was calling my name.  Well, perhaps not the entire tray.  It has been many years since I've seen these buns for sale though I recall eating untold numbers of them in England where they remain a popular Easter baked treat.  The sweet spiced current-laden buns are sold by practically every baker in the land on Good Friday, when they are traditionally consumed. As you may already know, I champion tradition, but I was not prepared to wait another two weeks to eat my prize.  I happily shared it with Patience upon our return home, where she quickly proclaimed it to be scrumptiously delicious.

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"Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns"
Photo: Chronica Domus


Tell me, do you have a particular favorite Easter sweet treat that you look forward to sampling at this time of year?


Nota bene: I am neither paid nor do I receive recompense in exchange for applauding products or services within my blog.  I do so because I enjoy them.  If you are a kindred spirit, you too enjoy recommending nice things to fellow good eggs.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

What's Blooming Inside: Drifts of Snowy Daffodils

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Photo: Chronica Domus


I have written about my favorite flower, the humble daffodil, extensively in the past and cannot help but rejoice in its understated yet elegant beauty each spring.  I am not talking about the overly-hybridized modern daffodil, mind you.  No, not at all!  I am, in fact, referring to those lesser-known, older varieties which I champion whenever opportunity arises.

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When in bloom narcissus Thalia is like a spring snow drift
Photo: Chronica Domus


There has been a succession of daffodils blooming in the garden since late December.  As each variety fades, another awaits patiently in the wings to take center stage. Presently, my favorite of the snowy-whites, narcissus Thalia, is putting on a blinding display.

Thalia is a heritage daffodil, having been registered in Holland in 1916, and thus an appropriate addition to the garden of our house which was built in 1925. Her nodding star-shaped blooms are simply breathtaking in their elegance.  Her color is a true white, not cream or ivory. She is as pure (white) as the driven snow.  I consider Thalia to be inherently demure within the world of flowers.  In fact, if her name were not Thalia, I would have named her Audrey, as in Hepburn.

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Pure as the driven snow
Audrey Hepburn in 'The Nun's Story'

Thalia's exquisite scent is equally delicate and does not overwhelm the olfactory sense.  Do please give consideration to these older strains of daffodil when planting your own spring garden for I just know that you too will be rewarded tenfold for your efforts. Just to prove it, you'll be delighted to learn that Thalia possesses a generous spirit. She happily obliges in spreading her snowy-white wings, naturalizing to great effect within a few short years.

I can think of no more pleasurable experience than cultivating one's own flowers and reveling in the satisfying and humbling act of gathering a small handful to bring indoors.  Just look how Thalia enlivens a corner of the drawing room.

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A pretty posy of narcissus Thalia sits atop a table in the drawing room
Photo: Chronica Domus


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The flowering branches I purchased a few weeks ago for our dinner party are still going strong and impart an air of spring to the dining room
Photo: Chronica Domus


And, although I did not grow the mixed yellow bunches of daffodils seen in the photograph below, gathered in English earthenware milk jugs and resting on the kitchen counter, I was fortunate to have captured their ephemeral beauty saturated in early morning light, the golden hour.  The blooms were a much appreciated gift from my thoughtful husband who knows me too well.  I'm simply mad for daffs!

Photo: Chronica Domus
Golden daffodils fittingly bathed in golden morning light
Photo: Chronica Domus


Tell me, do you grow your own daffodils or buy them by the armload at this most glorious time of year?


The Daffodils

William Wordsworth 
1770 - 1850

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of the bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed-and gazed-but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Opening Party: All Roads Lead To Rome Exhibition

Photo: Chronica Domus


In October 2014, I wrote a post about attending the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show and how I was enamored by the jaw-dropping items for sale at Mr. David Weingarten and Ms. Lucia Howard's booth, Piraneseum.  It turns out that Mr. Weingarten had read my post and contacted me to express his thanks for my "generous words and photographs".  Of course, I was only too delighted to give praise where praise was due.

What was not obvious to me back then, as I ogled Piraneseum's covet-worthy offerings, was that the items on view were just a drop in the bucket of the sizable private collection belonging to Mr. Weingarten and Ms. Howard.  It appears that the collection has now attracted the attentions of the SFO Museum, and justifiably so.

Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I spent a very pleasant few hours as guests of Mr. Weingarten and Ms. Howard attending the opening party of the museum's latest exhibition All Roads Lead To Rome, 17th-19th Century Architectural Souvenirs from the collection of Piraneseum. Fittingly, the three vitrines which display the fascinating array of architectural models and Grand Tour souvenirs are located within San Francisco Airport's International Terminal where many of the travelers scurrying by will no doubt continue the long-held tradition of buying mementos and souvenirs from their own travels.

The well-attended opening event of the exhibition was held within San Francisco Airport's Aviation Museum 
Photo: Chronica Domus


Sponsored by the Northern California chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, the event kicked off with a drinks and hors d'oeuvres reception where attendees chit-chatted and mingled. There were several recognizable faces in the crowd, many of those being seasoned supporters of the local arts and antiques scene, architects, and even the Italian Consulate General of San Francisco.  I was particularly delighted to have been introduced to these two.

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Mr. Tim O'Brien who brilliantly curated today's exhibition, and Ms. Suzanna Allen who so graciously modeled the well-written and sumptuously illustrated exhibition catalog
Photo: Chronica Domus


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Ms. Susan Doherty's blouse, depicting assorted Roman tableau, was sartorially perfect for the event;
Ms. Doherty is the program chair of the American Decorative Arts Forum in Northern California and I had the pleasure of chatting with her on our shared interest, American Federal and English Regency furniture
Photo: Chronica Domus


Ms. Lucia Howard gave a talk about the artworks on display, which consist of more than seventy pieces focused on Roman monuments and architecture.  This truly is a remarkable collection of Grand Tour souvenirs and specially commissioned pieces which were intended as extravagant gifts. During the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century, it was all the rage for wealthy young (mainly British) men  to embark on a tour of Europe's cultural centers as part of their education. Many of them delighted in acquiring mementos of their travels which spanned the gamut of modest plaster intaglios, small-scale models of important architectural structures, and even full-blown oil paintings. I was enchanted to see so many capriccio, or fantasy paintings, of ancient monuments included in the exhibition.

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Panini's Capriccio View of Ancient Roman Monuments (circa 1755) as seen in the lavishly illustrated exhibition catalog
Photo: Chronica Domus


Following Ms. Howard's talk, we were ushered to the main event, the three vitrines chock-full of extraordinary artworks like this:

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Temple of Vespasian and Titus, circa 1860
Photo: Chronica Domus

and this:

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The impressively scaled - at forty inches in height - Flaminian Obelisk constructed of antique specimen marbles and gilded metal, circa 1820
Photo: Chronica Domus 

and this:

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A nineteenth century Carrara marble model of Rome's Navicella, meaning 'little ship', Fountain
Photo: Chronica Domus


An alabaster model of one of the more recognizable buildings of the Roman Empire, The Colosseum, circa 1880
Photo: Chronica Domus


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Ms. Lucia Howard and her captive audience tour the vitrines
Photo: Chronica Domus


As you can see from the few (poor) photographs that accompany this post, All Roads Lead To Rome is a not-to-be-missed exhibition.  And, for those who wish to view it but are not jet-set bound, you are in luck.  The vitrines are located on Level 3 (pre-security) of San Francisco Airport's International Terminal and can be accessed by the public at large through August 13, 2017.  Please do take the time to peruse this extraordinary private collection of paintings, etchings, architectural models, and other Grand Tour delights which provide a satisfying glimpse of Rome's ancient splendors.

I would like to thank Ms. Lucia Howard and Mr. David Weingarten for so graciously inviting my husband and me along to what was a supremely enjoyable and rather swell opening event in celebration of this must-see exhibition.

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Ms. Lucia Howard and Mr. David Weingarten
Photo: Chronica Domus


Nota bene: I am neither paid nor do I receive recompense in exchange for applauding products or services within my blog.  I do so because I enjoy them.  If you are a kindred spirit, you too enjoy recommending nice things to fellow good eggs.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Whiteout At Lake Tahoe

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Friday's headline news should have tipped us off for what lay ahead
Photo: Chronica Domus


Our continuing adventures in hot pursuit of some snow fun had us finally arriving in South Lake Tahoe this past Friday.  You may recall reading about our fruitless attempt to venture there several weeks ago, and the disastrous mudslides that closed the main highways into the Sierra Nevada mountains, along with the ensuing mayhem suffered by thousands of fellow car-bound snow seekers. We gladly put those shenanigans behind us - or so we thought - in hopes of witnessing one of the deepest snowpacks in recent memory. Astonishingly, the pack is at 186% of normal which is expected to see skiers on the slopes until July's Independence Day holiday.  What a winter this has turned out to be!

On Saturday morning, after tucking into a filling breakfast at our hotel, so conveniently situated at the base of Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort, we headed outdoors to catch a ride up the mountain.

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Nope, we won't be catching sight of Heavenly Mountain's summit today!
Photo: Chronica Domus


As luck would have it, today was not the day to be darkening the doors of the gondola which we had expected to take us on a scenic 2.4 mile ride up the side of the spectacular mountain. Despite the sunny conditions, a severe winter storm warning with high winds was in effect which meant only skiers were permitted on the mountain.  As not everyone in our little party would be skiing, we were advised to try our luck the following day. Ah well, it was time to implement Plan B.

Not ones to miss an opportunity for exploration, we hopped into the Volvo and away we drove in search of adventure.  Across the California-Nevada border and over mountainous terrain we went in the direction of Carson City, Nevada's capital city.  As you can see below, the desert area stands in stark contrast to Lake Tahoe's forested snow-covered landscape.  It was also a balmy forty degrees warmer.

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The sight of this hunk of ice along the desert road was quite a curiosity, apparently having fallen from the roof of a passing car
Photo: Chronica Domus


After lunch, we meandered across the mountains and back towards Lake Tahoe, stopping to take in the majestic views of the lake.

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Photo: Chronica Domus


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Your eyes do not deceive, this is indeed a beach of snow
Photo: Chronica Domus


By now, we could feel the beginnings of the winter storm brewing.  The howling winds were barrelling down the mountains and the sun's weakened rays had given way to gloomy skies.  The mercury had also plunged notably, and rapidly.

There was one silver lining to lessen the disappointment of not having access to the other snow activities high up on Heavenly Mountain. Our daughter Patience was overjoyed to have her up-for-anything parents join her in a spot of snow saucering.  For those of you that have no idea what this entails, all I can say is that you should A) be prepared to take your life into your own hands, B) steady yourself to look very "uncool" in the eyes of everyone but a teenager, and C) be prepared to belly laugh like a deranged lunatic all the way down a slippery snowy slope, at great speed, while sat atop a plastic saucer more often than not travelling backwards.  I must tell you, it was a very liberating experience to say nothing of the fact that my daughter's estimation of her over-the-hill parents just went up several notches.  Although photographic evidence of this gentle author whizzing down the mountain on said saucer does exist, I am opting to keep that part of our adventure private. One does, after all, have a certain image to maintain.

On Saturday evening, the first flakes of snow began to fall.

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The decorative iron street grates looked enchanting with a light dusting of snow
Photo: Chronica Domus 


By Sunday morning, our motor car was buried in two feet of snow, just in time for our journey home.

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Our Volvo is under there somewhere
Photo: Chronica Domus


Our timing was impeccable; the drive home was a whiteout.  It took us four hours to crawl along seven miles of connecting road because of an ominous sounding "avalanche control" exercise taking place further into the mountains, temporarily closing the highway.  Listening to the distant booming sound of explosives shattering the silence as snow continued falling was surreal.

Once the road opened, we continued our grind home at a steady ten miles per hour in twenty degree temperatures.

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I just missed snapping the thermometer as it dipped to twenty degrees Fahrenheit resulting in the windshield wipers freezing up with blocks of ice
Photo: Chronica Domus


Here is the view from the front passenger seat just before the windshield wipers froze:

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At this point, conditions were actually getting quite unnerving, having already slid off the road and into a ditch once, and now having to brace the bone-chilling cold to chip away frozen ice from the windshield wipers every few miles
Photo: Chronica Domus


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I question our judgment when I look at this insanely beautiful but hazardous mountainous road we safely negotiated, to much relief, with the help of our ever-trusty AWD Volvo wagon  
Photo: Chronica Domus


It was several more hours before we were out of the eye of the storm.  I counted our lucky stars upon making it safely through.  It was all so worth it for the views that awaited us were dazzling.  Surely, we had entered the Land of Narnia.

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  I was half expecting Mr Tumnus to appear from beyond the trees
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 The serenity of a snowy winter landscape is unmatched in its beauty
Photo: Chronica Domus


After viewing the world through a monochromatic lens for the entirety of our journey, it was with welcome relief that we spotted a jolt of early spring color during a brief pit stop at the small gold mining town of Placerville.

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Spring meets winter with the last remnants of snow at the feet of cheery yellow daffodils
Photo: Chronica Domus


Arriving home late on Sunday evening, we were glad for the adventure we had shared.  Our long weekend was not exactly how we had imagined it to be, faffing about in the powder on top of the mountain, but on reflection, I don't think I would have changed an action-packed minute of it. I am, however, suddenly hankering for a stint on a warm tropical beach.


Nota bene: I am neither paid nor do I receive recompense in exchange for applauding products or services within my blog.  I do so because I enjoy them.  If you are a kindred spirit, you too enjoy recommending nice things to fellow good eggs.
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