A Walk Down Sandy Lane

Oxfordshire Footpath

Oxfordshire Way Footpath

I recently stayed at a lovely conference center not too far from Oxford, and I’m told that it has a nice gym.  But who needs a treadmill with beautiful countryside just outside the door?  Each day I’d choose a destination and trek the nearby country lane to the bus stop about a mile away.  The sun was shining, the weather was fair, and during that walk I saw families of pheasants, old barns, ripe pumpkins, grazing sheep, bright red berries and boughs of ivy.

Take a walk with me in the English countryside on a beautiful autumn day.

The Path

Stairway

Granary

Wabisabi Gate

Shady Lane Farm

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Apples and Cinnamon

This time of the year I feel anticipation.  The fall is more like my New Year as we prepare for school, buy supplies and get ready for a year routine.  But I also feel the light change, days getting shorter and wait for cooler evenings even though I know they’re at least a month away in this warm southern climate.  And even though they’re now available year round, I look forward to apples.

I used to think that apples were quite ordinary and Red Delicious still does not delight my palate.  Later I discovered Braeburns and Pink Lady and then tried various new varieties for baking when I lived in England.  Texas is not apple country and I have yet to branch out to more exotic heirloom and local varieties found in other regions.  We’re not growers, but I appreciate those who are working to preserve the old-timers with their distinct personalities, flavors and unusual names and pass on ancient grafts and cultivation practices.  As with all produce, the best is here and now – local and in season.  And organic is even better!

Like those who celebrate with Beaujolais Nouveau the third Thursday of each year, I have my own annual ritual.  Each autumn I buy a gallon of Louisburg Apple Cider, produced just a few miles from where I grew up and made from Missouri apples, and I celebrate autumn and the taste of home.  Its flavor is unforgettable, and I’ve shared it with others who have been equally pleased and surprised by its intense apple flavor.

Apple pairs perfectly with cinnamon, which is now readily available but was once highly treasured.  Centuries ago, cinnamon was considered a gift worthy of offering to kings and gods and the spice was praised in Song of Solomon.  Cinnamon and other spices were transported from Southeast Asia to the port of Alexandria and then to Rome.  Valuable and rare, spices shaped history as nations fought to dominate markets and gain access to Asia.  Cinnamon is still anything but ordinary, with its ability to awaken the senses and to heal with its anti-viral and anti-microbial properties.

The aroma of apple and cinnamon, whether baked in a pie or warmed in mulled cider, stirs feelings of autumn leaves and crisp blue skies.  They’re comfort foods with an ancient history.  For me, they are simple and satisfying and they smell and taste like home.

apples and cinnamon

apples and cinnamon