Bloom indoors

House plants in the conservatory at Dunster Castle, Somerset. Photo by Ian Turk, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, via

House plants in the conservatory at Dunster Castle, Somerset.
Photo by Ian Turk, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, via

“I bloom indoors in winter like a forced forsythia; I come in to come out. At night I read and write, and things I have never understood become clear; I reap the harvest of the rest of the year’s planting.”Annie Dillard

One of the best things about being an adult at Christmas is how it seems such a short time between one Christmas and the next.  When I was a child, there was a mild but unmistakable melancholy that began with the anti-climactic feeling on Christmas evening; the magic was over for another year, and it seemed forever before another one would be back.

Now, I actually enjoy the period after Christmas as much as the time beforehand.  Maybe even more.  Beyond the fun of drinking all the new teas people gave me using whatever new items I may have received as Christmas gifts, there’s a delicious feeling of settling down for a winter that still seems full of promise. The days will grow gradually longer, and spring is coming, but for now the weather is the perfect excuse to give myself the liberty to stay inside and putter around doing my favorite things.

What do you look forward to doing this winter? I love to browse my books and sip my tea (or cocoa spiked with coffee) and write notes and letters. I like to dream of gardening, and sometimes go so far as to plant seeds, though they rarely if ever get large enough to transplant. I make more time for the crafts I love all year long.  I clean out closets and weed through possessions and imagine being completely organized.  If the weather is unusually cold or nasty, I’ll fire up the gas logs and read or nap by the closest thing I have to a roaring fire in a masonry fireplace.

What ways will you bloom this winter?  Send me some suggestions to add to my own list.  As in the summer, I’m well aware that I can never do all the things I dream of doing in one season. But winter is a great time for daydreaming; for reaping the harvest of contentment and peace that eludes us in the frenetic pace we tend to adopt in milder weather. Enjoy the parts of your personality that only come out indoors!



  1. Lovely, Julia.

    • Thank you! 🙂

  2. blseibel

    Thanks for the thought of ways to bloom in winter. I am definitely stuck inside today with a winter ice storm roaring through NW IN. I think I will get back to yoga this winter, actually today. I have already starting reading for pleasure again. My husband didn’t like me reading in bed as the light bothered him but with him out of my life I picked up a book I got 2 years ago for Christmas and started reading at bedtime. I am enjoying reading for pleasure, for a while I was doing do many Bible studies I had no time for fiction. Reading and yoga, good for the mind and body.

    • I was just hearing from Jeff this morning about how many flights were being cancelled due to the weather. Here in Virginia it’s still pretty warm, but it’s still gloomy and rainy, so plenty of incentive for me to stay in and keep that tea brewing. I read myself to sleep almost every night. I used to use a book light to keep from bothering Jeff, but he got me a Kindle Paperwhite a few years ago and it’s perfect for night reading. I’m so happy you are enjoying some fiction again. I think it’s wonderful to read both fiction and nonfiction. I admire your yoga practice. Yoga has long been on my “need to do someday” list, but it’s gradually moving into the “need to do soon” category — not that there are any guarantees there either! 😀

  3. Sheila

    “Drinking all the new teas people gave me”….hmmm! ☕️ I so love this week, taking down ALL decorations, sometimes a refreshed look with a new wreath and doormat for front entrance, and of course the new Out On The Porch calendar. I remember that you mentioned that Jeff enjoys it, too. That makes me so happy! The collage of flowers brought in to wait out the winter is wonderful. I love your words and thoughts, WOW! 💛 Sheila

    • WOW, you are already getting your decorations taken down — I’m GREEN with envy! I just opened my calendar yesterday (thank you!) and had to restrain myself to keep from turning through the pages all at once. I like to be surprised each month with a new locale for Club Verandah. I started to cheat by telling myself that I would forget them, but in the end I resisted the temptation. I’m glad you liked the post! I don’t feel very bloom-y today, more droopy and sleepy! Maybe “tomorrow is another day.”

  4. Sheila

    Here I am with a PS….otherwise known as afterthought! I read that a new travel game to consider when driving is “Count Dollar Generals”! Did you and family ever travel by car and count cows and then have to bury them if a graveyard was on your side of the road? Southern and country, Sheila 💛 HeeHaw! 😂

    • Hey, I never did hear of the cow/graveyard game! Sounds like a good one! How about the holding-your-breath-while-crossing-a-bridge rule? The game we wore out on our many 5-hour drives to north Alabama (via two-lane highways all the way) was the old standby “ABC” game. When we got to Q we would always be hoping for a Dairy Queen, though it was usually a Quaker State sign that came through for us. I’m sure you remember those — a southern tradition right up there with barns that said “SEE ROCK CITY” and “SEE RUBY FALLS.” Can’t remember how we usually came up with the Z, though…

      • Ann

        Counting Cows was a favorite game, I still think of it when driving the back roads in South Carolina and Georgia…happy memories!

        Reading your blog is inspiring me to do something useful ( or at least more fun) than grousing about the near constant rain and accompanying humidity. One of my dogs just lifted his head and stared at me as if to say that I could pet him some more😀

        • Ann, I somehow missed out on the cow-counting bit. Just when we think we know southern history and customs, out pops another one pretty as you please. I’m glad to know it’s a widespread amusement. Kids (and parents) can get very creative when boredom sets in.

          Isn’t it remarkable how well dogs can speak to us without words? Pasha was almost always able to let us know exactly what was on his mind. The few times we didn’t read him accurately, he would have this resigned expression on his face that suggested part amusement, part amazement that these people who could do so many things with their hands could not master simple communication.

          Happy New Year!

  5. One particular aspect of winter is that it forces many to slow down. It offers an opportunity to take stock of oneself and with that clearer perspective, move forward into the hope of spring as one should; “renewed.”

    • Yes, after nearly 20 years of staying on the go year round in California, San Antonio and Hawaii, I really enjoyed having a true winter season to enjoy some cozy indoor months. It’s hard to complain about having lovely weather and fresh fruits and flowers all year long, but the seasons have gifts of their own to offer, and I’m hooked on them again. There are psychological benefits to the rhythms of nature.

  6. Judy from Pennsylvania

    Just now catching up with you after a few days of Christmas celebrations. Loved the Christmas e-cards and also the postal card!

    You ask about new ways to bloom this winter. One way that’s tempting for me was initiated in an adult Sunday School class last month. We learned about writing spiritual legacies for our children and grandchildren to read in future years. It’s rather like a lifelong view of how God showed himself in our lives, beginning with our earliest memories of spiritual awakenings or God-led happenings (often not identified except in retrospect). I had already written a partial memoir of my life but hadn’t thought to include the spiritual aspects except in an abbreviated way . Now I hope to write a supplement this winter from a new point of view that surveys my whole life and the way awarenesses of and relationship with the Father/Son grew. I think that it will end up being as much for my own insight and gratitude as it will be for a legacy to pass on to my family!

    Have you ever done a writing like that?

    • Hi Judy, it’s nice to hear from you, and to hear about your writing. I think your family will certainly treasure your memoir for many years to come. I’ve never written any such work, and in fact never kept any chronological journal except one with very brief entries for one year, sometime in the early 1980’s. However, I’d like to try writing memoir. I’ve read some that I really enjoyed. As you mention, if I wrote such a work, it would be as much for the purpose of personal exploration as for any sort of record. I suppose many of the memories I’ve written about in the 850+ posts I’ve published so far are similar to memoir in some ways. Winter is a perfect time for doing this sort of thing! I hope you will enjoy your writing project. I find it to be very therapeutic to write. I’m glad you enjoyed the Christmas cards!

  7. I will take my new camera as I keep walking and hiking as best I can throughout the chilly, rainy season here. And I love to draw and paint–not necessarily all that well, but no matter–it is an enlivening yet meditative experience I so enjoy. I also will attend my women’s church group even when I’d perhaps rather stay in and write or read, etc. as they inspire and invigorate me! And among other t hings, I hope to get out and volunteer again before this winter is passed. But I sure wish I had a fireplace to curl up near…enjoy!

    • Hi Cynthia, thanks for sharing your ideas here. I too love to paint and draw, though I rarely if ever make the time for it and I’m certainly not very good at it. As you say, that’s not the main objective anyway. I took a watercolor class a few years ago and to my surprise the part I love best was the color wheel, and how the best and most subtle colors came from mixing the primaries rather than from all those lovely bright tube colors. Your comment about the church group reminded me of something Anne Lamott talked about in a documentary about her; she mentioned how she would go on Sunday afternoons to lead church services at the nursing home, and how she never wanted to go, but was always so happy and blessed by it afterwards. I think most of us have had that experience with a lot of things. For me, exercise (walking) fits into that same category; something I may have to make myself do at first, but then feel invigorated by it and know it was the right choice. Hey, have you considered an electric fireplace? I bought one for our bedroom (off Craigslist, for very little) and I love it — not quite the crackling fire, but still cozy and the built-in space heater can be turned on or off as needed for heat. In any case, you can always curl up with a hot mug of cocoa, tea or cider! Hope you have a relaxing and productive winter.

      • Oh, thanks, Julia, for all your response. I love how you loved the making of tints and hues; how much you appreciate walking (the healing power is immense on all planes); how you valued Anne Lamott’s thoughts. And your suggestion about the electric fireplace! Best to you and yours.

        • Thank you, Cynthia. It’s always a joy to hear from you.

  8. Mike Bertoglio

    Our winter Daphne “daphne odora” is setting some little purple buds, reminding me that there will perhaps be another spring- one more time. That is all I ask for one more spring.
    As far as winter goes someone said” There is no truly bad weather only bad clothing.” Not sure about that.

    • I’m not sure about that either, but I like the idea! As I’ve often told Jeff, winter has the advantage in one sense; we can always add more and more layers to keep warm, but in the heat of summer, there is only so much clothing to remove and then you’re stuck with the sweltering dog-day misery when the temps climb up near triple digits. Still, it’s not enough to drive me any further north than we already are! “One more spring” is a pretty good goal for all of us.

  9. Sheila

    I took friends (seasonal neighbors from Kingsport, TN) who enjoy their rental house offseason, to depart MYR this morning for the Orange Bowl. Go Clemson! I always think of your family at any given airport. Since it was only 9:00 I had to go to Piggly Wiggly and happened to mention during checkout that a friend (you) loved when I mention Piggly Wiggly! Isn’t it fun to still be friendly? Are you at home for New Years?

    • Sheila, I just wrote a post today in which I talked about visiting with people we meet while we’re out and about. It’s nice that there are still some humans to interact with and not everything is online or a machine. Yes, I love to talk about the old Piggly-Wiggly! Have you seen the one in the museum at Memphis? To me it was more fun than Graceland– where I practically had to be dragged by Jeff’s sister, who’s an Elvis fan, when it first opened to the public. I’m glad I went, but I don’t care to go back. But I’d love to see the re-created original Piggly Wiggly again! Maybe someday we can meet you at Memphis in May for the Barbecue contest and hear Old Man River sung as we watch it “just keep rolling along.” Yes, we’re home for New Years — and I told Jeff, for the first time ever this year, I’d like to go to bed at a reasonable hour and not wait up to ring it in. Am I getting old or what? Sleep just keeps sounding better and better to us!

      • Sheila

        Julia, Piggly Wiggly and barbecue festival sounds like a destination waiting to happen. Hey, have we touched on Pimento Cheese yet? I can’t remember discussion on that one! I am thinking of tomorrow, last day of this year, and putting up our new Porch calendar. I have personally sent 11 this year, kept mine for 428, so our Club Verandah includes many households. It’s so FUN! Sure love you and your family! 💛 Sheila

        • EEEEWWW gross, pimento cheese! (Now you know how I always felt about it.) Remember how it would come in these little jars that could be used as juice glasses after they were empty? Something about having those mushy red things in the cheeze whiz (which is basically what it was, I think) would gross me out. I never found out what those yukky red things actually were (I thought of them as olive guts) until years later. But I still don’t eat pimento cheese. Give me some straight extra-sharp cheddar cheese slices every time, preferably toasted under the broiler on whole wheat bread. Daddy may have spoiled us with all those trips to Hickory Farms or Swiss Colony stores, where we would buy all sorts of exotic (to me) cheese such as Gouda, Edam and Havarti. I wouldn’t go near that foul blue cheese he liked, though. It belongs in the category with pimento cheese. I was quite a finicky eater when I was little. I still am, to some degree, but not enough to keep the pounds at bay without effort.

          Wow, Club Verandah is bigger than I thought! I’ll put out some more rocking chairs and another carafe (or in spring time, another icy pitcher). Come one, come all, and set a spell!

  10. Sheila

    ✨HAPPY NEW YEAR!✨ 2016 It seems that this year came upon us so quickly! Club Verandah was properly named by you. I suppose before it became “The Club” it started with Ashley and Stephanie joining me. Then my Mom and Dr. Vann, as well as two cousins, and my best friend in Winston Salem. Oh yes, the Vann Clan in Bristol and Houston certainly are always on the porch. This year I added Bill’s cousin and wife in Asheville. It’s a fun thing that started so simply and has taken on so much meaning. You really don’t like pimento cheese? Have you never had HOMEMADE, made with grated cheddar, Dukes mayonnaise, and chopped pimentos? That might just change your mind, girlie! I’m hoping good things for you, Jeff, and Matt in this new year. 🙏 “Hello” to your Momma! ☕️ Love, Sheila

    • Sheila, thanks for filling me in on the other members of CV. It’s fun to read about them! Hey, I think you just hit upon the real reason I don’t love pimento cheese…I have a deep, lifelong, visceral HATE of mayonnaise! For as long as I can remember, it’s made me gag. The only condiment I like is mustard, which I put on my sandwiches and use for dipping french fries. Really! My siblings used to get irritated when we would go to McDonald’s because I would order my hamburger (the tiny kind that was all they served back in those days) with ONLY mustard, which meant that everyone in our party had to wait longer. The plus to that special order was that my hamburger was always nice and warm from the grill, not stashed under a warming light and served lukewarm. But I digress… Anyway, to this day, I can’t stand mayonnaise. The only condiment I will ever eat, besides mustard, is a good BBQ sauce, if it’s spicy and not too sweet. I don’t ever eat any kind of dressing on my salads. I know, I know, I keep sounding weirder and weirder! Thanks for your greetings to Mama and your good wishes for us. May 2016 be full of blessings for all the Vann Clan!

  11. Michael

    Perhaps you may remember th is song? One of my favorite winter tunes along with “In the bleak midwinter.” Great harmonies here.

    • I just love that song. Of course, in my mind, Mama Cass made their sound what it was. I sure wish she was still around, singing for us. What a voice.

  12. Michael

    Yes she was pretty amazing.

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