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“One bunch, please,” I pointed to a cheery cluster of Christmas-red tulips at the flower stall. “Een bos, alstublieft,” I tried it in Dutch.

“Bosje,” she corrected me. “Klein (small)!” She used the diminutive, saying something like “little bunch.” Picking up the red blooms she asked, “Een cadeautje?” (Is it a gift?)

“Nee,” I said. No, the flowers were for me, my own home. She would have wrapped them in pretty paper if they were meant for someone else, but instead they get something simple to protect them from the wind on my ride home.

Even in winter flower stalls are open and busy on Amsterdam’s canals, keeping Dutch homes stocked with colorful blooms at all times. A house is not a home without flowers, they say. I’ve fallen for this tradition since it’s an easy way to brighten up our little apartment, and I have a horrible track record of keeping plants alive. At 3 or 4 euros per bosje, how can I resist?

Other things making me happy this week are little tea lights in jars scattered around our apartment, flickering against the dark. And this book of illustrated maps by Lena Corwin. I’ve been coveting this for awhile, and when I admitted it to my sister, she went and bought it for me. I’m such a lucky girl! The book has 20 maps of cities in the US, and 20 worldwide. This has become my new travel checklist, though I hardly need another one. I’ve already been to 19 of the cities, mostly in the US, but that’s not bad out of 40. Antwerp, Copenhagen, Prague, Portland, Denver, and San Francisco all show up in the book, but Amsterdam is mysteriously missing. Perhaps I’ll have to draw my own.

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