Baby, it's cold outside!

Here, there and everywhere, the weather is turning frightful; somehow with Bublé, that sounds magical instead of miserable,so we'll take it. But, baby, it is. I woke up to -2 c degree weather here. Brrr, baby, brrr.

Here is back home in Scotland. As they say, huzzah; we’re back! We pushed our door in from the wall of leaves fortified around it yesterday . . . and felt no puff of warmth. For about three minutes I shivered dramatically, and hopped around the apartment on my big toes; the floors were practically an ice rink. We turned the heat on full blast, and promptly headed to a café, watching marshmallow fluff form in the air in front of us.

This is the first time I’ve come home with Walker after time away, and it is the best return imaginable. It's lemon-drops delightful to be sitting where I belong again in this darling town.

Homecoming probably flips open those mental snapshots of floats and tailgate smoke and caramel apples, but I reclaim it for the smell of warm laundry soap, the feel of soft tissues, a clean carpet. Coming home, and stacking away suitcases for a month, makes me relish the joy of where I am today, for this slot of time.

And it reminds me of a tidbit from a poem by Gerald Locklin: the freshness of arriving. After a break, our coat rack is brand-spankin’ new. I am finding craisins and jam I'd forgotten we had. The freshness of arriving. People speak my language, I see smiles outside the grocery, I know where to buy pancetta. The freshness of arriving.

And that requires a leaving. There is Vienna, where we spent one last day on Saturday. Since we’d been in Prague, the march of the Christmas markets had entered town with bugles blazing and wieners warming, and did we ever storm them: five in total, from homey to massive.


They all had the same mini-cabins with real fir decorations reminiscent of Hansel and Gretl illustrations.


From antiques to jewelry to cookies to toys, these embodiments of festivity had everything. The food fit for a carnival, the greenery and lights for the North Pole, the shops like a state fair. For instants like these, we will skip famous museums.


What are you to do surrounded by pastries like manna? We ate. And ate, and ate. Starting with apfel kuchen and moving through chocolate, waffles, donuts with vanilla sauce! Oy Vey! I'll give my versions of their German names I can't exactly translate, starting with donut and apple kebab. Brilliant idea.


Apple pastry with lots of glaze. Apple hot drink. Baked potato with thick shreds of cheese.

Waffle with vanilla custard sauce. Um, YUM!


Caught ya with a chocolate banana!


Even in Vienna with its illustrious halls, the tacky train passes through. I expected its driver to be an old man, as you'd see at Dollywood or Hershey Park. Nosireebob. The Christkindl Express is the hip job for teens.


And exhibit 2 in Tackiness v. Taste was the singing, blue castle.


Taste does get some points for the cool orbs in the trees. They kindof look like beach balls, but they are so different from American decor, they get my vote. As do the gingerbread and red bows. And this amazing man.


And everywhere around here, while light is on vacation in a sunnier place than here, hearts are turning to the season of remembering the greatest thing. Ever.

Slight twinkles of Christmas have come to town; windows are crowded with fake presents and trains on round tracks, and webs of strung lights hang here and there. The freshness of arriving. A pot of chicken stock bubbles on the stove, four pumpkins await their hour of glory in the oven, and three dozen apples sit chilling on our lawn: even with a cold, it is wonderful to be home.