One Last Bouquet

IMG_7214“We’d better take a picture of these,” James said, placing the bouquet on the table and looking critically on his work, “they’re probably the last ones from the garden, this year.” I agreed, but only half believed my prediction. You can never be certain about the transition from autumn to winter — will it be gradual, will it be sudden — but you can always tell when it has happened.

Not more than two weeks after James picked those flowers from the garden — which was full of plants, overblown and tired but still putting out blooms — a frost came and ended the garden for the year. And, as it turns IMG_7215out, it also ended autumn. No sooner had the first frost come, but the first snows (yes, plural) soon followed. Though the winter solstice (the official beginning of winter) wouldn’t be for another few weeks, winter made his first icy footprint on the landscape in November and has been unpacking his things, making himself at home ever since.

No doubt you’ve noticed I’ve not made any posts since August. My fingers were not frozen by winter’s grasp, but perhaps in a way my mind was (at least the blogging part of it). October began a nose-to-the-grindstone period of fun but time-consuming work. I was chopping, simmering, and packing away the harvest; putting the garden to bed; performing as oboist in a local production of Les Miserables; putting finishing touches on a home recital for early November; attending several rehearsals and concerts as oboist with the NMC Concert Band; and, of course, all the responsibilities and pleasures of filling out both the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.

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In my time away from Tales of Thyme & Place, I realized I began to speak of the blog in past tense — first, only in my mind, when I’d remind myself I’d not made a post in an unspeakably long time. Soon, though, I began referring to the blog in past tense more frequently, as though I were trying out the idea for size and feel.

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You may be surprised to learn this blog was not originally intended to be a photography/essay/recipe blog. Believe it or not, it began as a personal effort to distance myself from Facebook while still keeping in touch with far-flung friends and family. Suddenly, I began adding more and more photos. IMG_4327Descriptions turned into paragraphs, paragraphs into anecdotes. Before long, a “blog voice” took shape in my writing and in my patterns of observation. The voice was mine, thank goodness, but it was different than the voice of the first dozen or so posts. I liked what I was reading and it seemed that many other people did, too.

After sharing and exploring in this venue for over three years, I’ve lately begun to feel the need to move on. In years past, when I’d go two or three weeks without posting, I’d consider quitting the blog. Inevitably, IMG_1804though, my penchant for completion would take over, the inspiration would come flooding back, and I’d make several more posts. Recently, however, a feeling of comfort and completion came over me as I considered ending rather than quitting. I love finishing a project! So, at last, I came to the conclusion that I was ready to write the final page of this particular story — the tale of this journey I’ve been spinning since May 2010.

Tales of Thyme & Place contains more than 140 posts — including more than 70 recipes and countless photos. To celebrate the journey, here are some “top-rated” posts based on visitor statistics (click on the post’s title to view the post):

“Tales of Thyme”

Recipes have always been the most popular posts. I’ve never ceased to be amazed by this, considering how many other cooking blogs and entire websites devoted to cooking there are out there cyberspace.

First Place
Irish Chicken Stew

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    It seems the world yearns for more Irish recipes, and this particular recipe was a big hit. Over 300 visitors read the recipe on St. Patrick’s Day 2013 — the most visitors the blog has ever had on a single day. Since it was posted, my stew has been viewed 2500 times. I am humbled!

Second Place
White Almond Cake with Cherry Cheesecake Filling

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    Oh my… this cake will live on and on! James and I worked with an excellent baker to put this cake together for our wedding in 2010. To celebrate our second wedding anniversary in 2012, I set about to make a homemade version. It was a labor of love, but every bite was worth it!

Third Place
Chickpea & Herb Dumpling Soup

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    Can a simple soup be worthy of a special occasion? How about when it’s got the fluffiest, cheesiest dumplings in it?! This recipe is a perennial favorite in my repertoire and (according to Google) quite a popular search term. In fact, since writing it, the post has been viewed more than 900 times.

Fourth Place
Irish Pork Roast

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    You see?! Irish recipes rule! This was a slow-cooker recipe I developed that’s worthy of dinner parties or just for a casual, hassle-free evening. (It goes great with my Brown Bread recipe, by the way.)

Fifth Place
Lake Michigan Granola Bars

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    Because most of the viewers of this recipe tend to come from Pinterest, I’d be willing to bet that more people have drooled over the photos of these chewy granola bars than have actually made them. But, if that’s the case, those folks don’t know what they’re missing. These are not only super tasty, but very easy to make, customizable for ingredients you may have on-hand, and make excellent traveling food.

“Tales of Place”

When I wasn’t writing about food from the home kitchen, I wrote about our adventures — either “far away”, or right at home.

First Place
In Search of the Northern Summer: Part III

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    Looking back at this post, it reads like an eerie bit of foreshadowing. Less than a year and a half after writing about our stay at Leelanau County’s Snowbird Inn, we moved to Leelanu County. Now, we often pass the inn when running errands and have even run into the innkeeper while milling around the streets of Leland.

Second Place
Christmas Tree 2010

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    I likely have photo-gobbling Pinterest to thank for the popularity of this post. As it turns out, cyberspace is hungry for wintry photos of a Christmas tree farm covered in snow. When I read through this post, though, it’s the fond memory of that day that comes back to me. Then again, when you get a live Christmas tree, the hunt for that special tree is a memory renewed every year.

Third Place
The Herbal Tea Garden

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    On our balcony in the Evanston apartment, I grew as many things as the sunlight and our space would allow. Among those things were tea herbs for all my tinkerings with herbal tea blends and herbal medicine. At the end of the post, I gave a recipe for one of my favorite homemade teas.

My Favorite Posts

So, those are our most popular posts — posts that are reportedly the most viewed. But, maybe you were wondering what my favorite posts were. Ironically, my favorite posts were often the least “popular” and (fittingly) the wordiest. It’s difficult for me to choose a favorite anything, so pardon me for only being able to narrow this down to six posts (in no particular order).

In Search of the Northern Summer: Moonrise Over Bowers Harbor

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    I tried to capture in words and photos the peace we found one night perched above the crystalline waters of the moonlit Grand Traverse Bay.

Gathering Up the Leaves

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    James and I took a quick jaunt north to see the last remnants of fall color before settling into winter. Emmet County, Michigan, was picture perfect in spite of the iffy weather. I took some of my all-time favorite photos of autumn on that trip.

Winter’s Slow-Moving Tale

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    After enduring my second blizzard in Leelanau County, I summoned the inspiration to write about why I still love winter.

Winter On Wheels

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    I can’t read this post without chuckling at the memory of forcing James out of the apartment to come bike riding with me… in January. In spite of my immense lack of forethought, it actually turned into a fun day.

The Voyage Home

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    This was my last post before we moved to our new home in Northern Michigan. In it, I reflect back on a voyage my paternal grandfather guided me and my brothers on while tentatively looking ahead to the daunting upheaval of packing up our entire lives and leaving home.

Swiss Oatmeal

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    This post was a recipe, yes, but it was also a story — one that takes me back to a time and place when my life’s hopes and dreams teetered along a precarious edge of uncertainty. I was blessed to have shared those uncertain times with two very special people who are a part of this story (and, in a sense, part of every story I’ll ever tell).

Maybe you’re wondering where things will go from here, now that I’m closing out the final chapter of Tales of Thyme & Place. After all, James and I aren’t planning to leave our little ten acre kingdom any time soon. And, I’ll always be obsessed with the four seasons, gardening, quilting, cooking, music… and on and on. I’m actually considering starting a new blog in the coming months — or maybe even TWO blogs that will run simultaneously: one would showcase our more photogenic adventures and the other might explore my various musings and writings. (stay tuned for more info)

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One of my favorite lines from Disney’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh comes at the very end where the narrator announces we’ve arrived at the final chapter. “Oh no!” cries Pooh, his mouth full of IMG_7349celebratory honey, “Can’t we just go back to the beginning and start all over again?” As a little boy, watching that movie, I occasionally did just that — hit the rewind button (remember rewind from the pre-historic days of VCR’s?) and relived the whole thing anew, laughing along with Pooh and his friends as though I didn’t know the movie by heart.

Whether I begin a new blog, two new blogs, or no new blogs, I will always keep these tales and recipes here — maybe for myself just as much as for you — to rewind and relive over and over. I don’t plan on making any new posts on this blog, but if you ever feel like commenting on a post or asking a question about a recipe, I’ll always try to send a reply your way.

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Over the past few years, all of your comments and encouragement have been so meaningful to me and to James. I’ve enjoyed hearing about your experiences with the recipes you tried, the memories we have in common, and even just the kind words passed back and forth. So, until we’re together again, thanks for reading.

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~ by Jason on December 26, 2013.

18 Responses to “One Last Bouquet”

  1. We don’t “like” your blog – WE LOVE IT! PLEASE, PLEASE do not end this adventure.

    • Thanks so much, James. Honestly, I think the only thing that’s ending is this particular blog. After winter rest is over, I’m seriously considering starting a new blog (or maybe even two blogs). I’ll definitely post the links on this site, and folks will be able to subscribe just like they did to this one. Happy New Year!

  2. I have so enjoyed your blog, Jason! Introduced to it by the Snowbird’s Innkeeper, Alice, who is a good friend. I have tried your recipes and enjoyed seeing your garden. I will look forward to seeing what transpires n the near future. It would be wonderful for you to share!- Carol

  3. I will really, really miss this blog. I have enjoyed your recipes, stories and photography over the years. Please keep us informed of your newest blog when it becomes available. James, Reds still rock but I will always love my Cubs!

  4. I have missed your blog and am glad you have returned. I teach writing and thoroughly enjoy yours. Thank you. Have a wonderful 2014.

  5. Jason: Was so pleased to see your posting, and sad you are closing out this blog to continue on. I’ve often told James, Jason should write a book….and include all the stories and recipes he’s posted. Maybe one day. God bless you and JED as you go into the coming New Year. Hugs, and love,
    Sally

    • Happy New Year and blessings to you too! It really has been fun putting this blog together. I do think it would be interesting to form a book based on all the contents I’ve amassed. Maybe one day I’ll figure out how (and be daring enough to attempt it). Hugs :-)

  6. I absolutely feel crushed. You have brightened many a day for this 53 year old woman from ‘down state.’ Thank you for all of the many times you made me chuckle and the countless times you prompted me to view nature in a whole new way. You clearly have a gift, and I agree that any book written by you would soon become a best- seller.

  7. I will miss this blog. You have always captured the essence of our four seasons. Best of luck in your new ventures and capture the song of your life with music, laughter and friends.

    • Thanks for reading along in my ramblings! The photoblog is almost ready to go live (just a little more fine tuning and brainstorming needed). I’ll be posting the link in the sidebar, here, but I’m sure James will also send out an e-mail. Stay warm! :-)

  8. Love you, darling!

  9. Have greatly enjoyed your blogs and always anxiously awaited the next to be posted. Jason, you are a fantastic writer. We loved working with you both on the interior of your Northern Michigan home and of course we often think of your so very delicious red velvet cake you so graciously shared with us.
    Ed & Shirley – Frankfort

  10. While it’s sad to know that this blog will end, We are lucky to be your neighbor… and “our” blogging with be face to face. Lucky us!! Love you!
    T&B

  11. Dear sweet Jason, my heart swells with pride every time I read your words and see your pictures. I did tear up reading your farewell blog. Reading your writings is sort of reminiscent of when you were younger and would let me read your poems or stories for my opinion. I’m so thankful that you love literature and music and that I share that love. I can’t wait to be able to visit you and James in your picturesque home and surroundings. I’m sure I will never want to come home once I get there. I can’t wait to sample some of your delicacies because you are an amazing chef! I’ve treasured your blogs and I’m sure I will revisit them often. Your pictures should be in a book, they are gorgeous! Love u my sweet nephew, can’t wait to see y’all again!

  12. I will miss your writing and photos. It was kind of you to share your little part of the world with everyone. But you have a great life with or without the blog, so go on and live it! I’ll rely on James for updates :) Much love to you both!
    Melanie

  13. I love your blog! And I think I have at least two of your photos pinned in Pinterest. I will come back for your recipes and may even pin them some more!! Eventually I will come and visit you in person.

    Love,
    Grace

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