Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

I thought I would end this year with one or two blasts from my past - all in outfits which are not my normal everyday wear! Above is a photo of me with my mum, I don't have an exact date but would guess it is just about 60 years ago, I look to be 6 or 7 months old.

This one was taken last year at the Medieval market I attended with Steve,Hannah and Kaitlyn so The Medieval Me.

Here we have The Bedouin Me - taken at the fancy dress night on a Nile cruise our classical studies group did in 2001. M and I had both been on the previous trip to Jordan and, quite unknown to each other had acquired traditional outfits which we both brought along knowing there would be a fancy dress do. We thought we looked pretty good:)

MIllenium New Year Party - we had to go dressed in a costume from our favourite period of history and I chose the 1940s. My outfit is all genuine 40s apart from the gas mask case which I cobbled together from a cardboard box, brown paper and string - real make do and mend stuff! J had also gone as One of the Few so we were a natural pairing for a photo.

Now I hope you are ready for the final photo! It was the previous year's New Year party and my friends had a Barbie and Ken theme. My daughter's first reaction when she saw my outfit was 'You're never going to wear that!' closely followed by 'Wwhatever you do, mother, DON'T BEND OVER!!' I won the prize for the best ladies costume though - I've never known whether it was for a good costume or the sheer nerve it took to wear it.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Not Quite According to Plan!

Well, I have to say that I'm glad the holiday is over this year! It didn't go at all as I planned it unfortunately. My daughter-in-law was taken into hospital on Christmas Eve with pre-eclampsia and is still there, though she is hoping to go home later this evening. Consequently both she and Neil spent the whole of Christmas in the hospital. Kaitlyn has been ill with a virus infection, Stephen, plus Hannah's brothers and dad have all had a sickness bug over Christmas and Bilbo Baggins tore his dew claw and had to have it removed on the 22nd,so has spent Christmas wearing the 'lampshade' to stop him licking the wound. So there has been a considerable amount of worry and fed-upness all round I'm afraid.
Still, there is a general improvement now and hopefully we can have a family get together on New Year's Eve instead.
On the present front I did really well, got lots of books,Cds and DVDs along with a new printer, as my old one went caput a couple of weeks ago.

I shall leave on a cheerful note with a photo of Bourke's Luck Potholes taken when I was in South Africa in December 2005 - Steve and Hannah were living in South Africa at the time and I had a couple of fantastic trips out there. The pot holes are in Blyde River Canyon in the Drakensberg Mountains - it's a really stunning area to visit.

And this is me and my friend in a wildlife rehabilitation centre, unfortunately this particular vulture was too badly injured to be released back into the wild again so he lives there permanently now. It was really fantastic to have this bird perched on my arm - they have a bad reputation but are actually a vital part of the scheme of things as by scavenging corpses to the bone they prevent the spread of disease. There are many different kinds too, who all take their turn in a particular order as they are designed to deal with different parts of the dead body. The man who runs this cente gave us a fascinating talk about them which completely altered my view of them.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Winter Solstice

Solstice Daybreak

Today is Winter Solstice - the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the start of winter.

Frosty Garden

The sun is at it's lowest point in the sky and for a few days appears to remain in the same place before it begins to climb and the hours of daylight start to increase once more. The word solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium which translates as 'sun standing still' - sol means sun and the verb sistere means to stand still. It is the great winter festival marking the rebirth of the sun and the twelve days of Yule beginning on December 25th were days of feasting celebrating this. We move into the long, slow, restful days of winter now - I wish you all health and happiness as the circle of the year begins once more.

Solstice Sunrise

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Country Wedding

On Saturday we went to the wedding of my god-daughter at the pretty church of St Bertoline in Cheshire, which dates back to the 1100s and is built on the site of an Anglo-Saxon burial ground. It looks so quiet and peaceful doesn't it? And yet in 1643, during the English Civil War, on Christmas Eve, when a group of Royalists commanded by Major Connought plundered the village of Barthomley, twenty Parliamentarians took refuge in the tower of St Bertoline's Church. The Royalists made a fire at the base of the tower to smoke them out, which forced the Parliamentarians to surrender. Connought's men then stripped and killed twelve of them in cold blood and wounded most of the others. There are supposedly still hoof marks on the stone stairs where the Royalists tried to ride their horses up to the top of the tower.

This is the White Lion where L & I had lunch before the wedding. It is about as close to the church as it could be and is very old. They have served ale here since at least 1614. Inside there is a big open fire, wooden tables and benches,one of which had the pub cat curled up on it. Nearly every table appeared to have a dog under it - there was a greyhound, a beagle, a border terrier, a rather out of place looking poodle and various others - all accompanying their owners who were having lunch there.

These are the bridesmaids, the middle one is my god-daughter's elder sister.

This is the best I can manage in the way of a photo of the bride and groom, because there are narrow, steep steps fom the church to the lower level, only the official photographer was getting a decent view. L just managed this one quick snap fom the side, mostly they were hidden by crowds of guests.

The bride's mother and I - we have been friends for nearly 40 years and were bridesmaids to each other many moons ago.

The last photo has a sad story attached to it, this little girl is the daughter of people Jenny, (the bride), knows through the theatre group she is involved with. She wanted desperately to be a bridesmaid so Jenny granted her wish. It may be the only chance she ever has as she is dying of cancer. She looks so lovely in her little white fur cloak and muff - it's hard to believe that she has so much suffering behind and ahead of her. She's a very brave little girl and a great example to all of us.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Masterpiece! and a Meme..

This is the wreath that I made for the front of the house - total cost £2.50 for the moss base, the yew, ivy and variegated holly came from the garden and the berried holly is from my secret holly bush! The berries are all real which is why they aren't evenly spread. I've never ever seen so many berries on a holly before.

The ribbon and the fake Christmas roses have been going for years, whatever they cost originally I have more than had my money's worth.

The ingredients for chocolate truffle torte a la Delia Smith.

This is how it goes into the freezer, when it's served it is turned out so that the crushed amaretti biscuits are on the top - it's incredibly rich and incredibly good.

Just out of the oven, this will eventually be...

..this - a chocolate log. Even the recipe says that it will crack as it is rolled up and in all the years I've made it I've never managed to roll it up without this happening!

Cabbage au gratin ready to freeze for Christmas Eve dinner - the boef bourguignon is still on the 'to do' list.

These are yesterday's effort, first of all I made the marzipan and put it on the cake to dry out for several days before it is iced.

This is one of the boys' old sledges, I pile it with holly - green, variegated and on top berried branches, then it has a red ribbon and small white lights. Photo doesn't do it justice. It's my favourite thing.

This wreath is on the back door now but I had to take the picture indoors because the porch is too small for me to get far enough away. I prefer this to the other one, it's simpler, I use whips from my willow tree wired together to form a circle then add just holly and ivy with the bells and the big red ribbon.

Now for the Meme which Cate from Beyond The Fields We Know tagged me for, it's a list of favourite Christmas carols but like Cate, I've expanded it to include Christmas songs as well.

It Came Upon The Midnight Clear

In the Bleak Midwinter - mostly because it was my mum's favourite.

Three Kings From Persian Lands Afar - this isn't all that well known but has a lovely tune.

The Holly and The Ivy - top of my list really with its strong connection to the Winter Solstice.

The theme song from the animated film The Snowman sung by Aled Jones

Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire.

Actually, I like most carols, I grew up singing them every year and what I really like is to hear the familiar tunes played by a brass band and not sung at all.One of the traditional English things of this time of year is hearing the Salvation Army bands playing in pretty well every town centre. The Sally Army do a lot of good work and I always contribute to their collection. No tags but do it if you want to.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Stocking Exchange

The postman has brought me a parcel full of exciting gifts from my stocking exchange partner Dora at
It includes some pots of jam in flavours I've never had so I look forward to trying chokecherry and huckleberry, we don't get either of those in the UK. There were some equally intriguing sounding flavoured coffees too - my husband has his eye on those:)
Bilbo Baggins thought the little dog ornament looked just like him.

My favourite was the pretty September fairy which is now hanging on my Christmas tree. Thank you Dora for all the lovely things.

The postman also brought me a card from Janet at Just bee-cause.. and just for fun which contained this beautiful hand-made ornament with my name stitched on it, also now on my Christmas tree. Thank you Janet - I just love this.

Finally another moon photograph but this one was taken at about 8am just before the sun rose. It was the one clear morning that we had last week. Another short post but I have another long 'to do' list today. Busy,busy, busy!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Six Weird Things About Me - A MeMe

Sombra from Shadowlight has tagged me to do this Meme, fortunately it's a short one so I can fit it in very quickly. I'm not likely to be in Blogland much over the next couple of weeks because real life is just too busy. Not to mention that I am not at all amused by losing most of my previous post while trying to fix a link to be live. The posts take so long to do in the first place that it's like doing a painting then having someone scribble all over it - very frustrating! I am not a very weird person I'm afraid so I suspect this is going to be a touch boring:)

1. In a generation of working mothers I have always been a full-time housewife which most people seemed to find very weird! I'd had a well paid and interesting career in banking for 10 years before I married, but ever since I was a little girl I've always wanted to be a housewife. Four months after my wedding 34 years ago I resigned and have never regretted it.

2. I actually enjoy ironing! I taught myself to iron sitting down years ago and I put an audio or music tape on and off I go. I iron everything apart from socks and towels.A rack full of freshly ironed clothes or bedlinen gives me a lot of pleasure. Told you it was going to be boring!

3. I have a good memory though not as good as Sombra's - I can run various bits of my life through my mind like a film going back to when I was in my pram. They are silent movies though - everything is purely visual.

4. I like snakes and can handle them with confidence. My best friend S had two as pets when we were teenagers and it was my job to hold them while she cleaned out their tanks. We used to go to the fields near the river catching frogs for them as well.

5. I'm not bothered by heights if there is dry land below but I am terrified of heights with water at the bottom.

6. I have eaten crocodile in South Africa and smoked a hookah in Jordan - though I've never smoked in the usual sense of the word. Both were one off experiences I hasten to add!

So there you are - I told you it would be boring:) No tagging but do it by all means if you want to.

The photograph at the top is daybreak and at the bottom I caught the moon rising when I was in the woods at dusk waiting for the rooks to come in. It's impossible to photograph them without proper equipment though so it's another of my memory films.

I keep meaning to say in one of my posts that my erratic commenting on those blogs I'm a regular on is Blogger, not me that can't be bothered. I'm commenting as and when Blogger will allow me to, so if I don't comment that's why:)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Today the Mincemeat, Tomorrow the World!

First of all we have a rather pensive looking Bilbo Baggins. 'When she says mincemeat, does she mean me?!'

After a couple of weeks of muttering 'I must make the mincemeat' I have finally got it done. Above shows it after all the ingredients have been mixed together, then it stands all night for the flavours to combine followed by 3 hours in a very cool oven. It's left to go cold with regular stirring and finally 6 tablespoons of brandy go in and it is potted. This is the result.

And here are the jars with their little Christmas hats on, a couple will be given as small gifts.

During the week I had a real surprise when I looked at my e-mails, there was one from Peter Sommer who produced and directed the TV series Tales From the Green Valley. He had discovered and read my posts about the weekend I spent at the farm where it was filmed and wrote to say he'd enjoyed reading it. To say I was flattered is putting it mildly! He asked if I would post a link to his own site where you can read more about the actual series.

Dec 1st
While messing about trying to get this link to work I've managed to lose half of this, defeating even 'recover post'. Will try and put back what I can remember in the morning. It's just been that kind of day:(

Sunday Dec 3rd and retrieval day as far as I can manage it.

I was driving back fom the woods after walking Bilbo and turned the corner onto the top of the hill which leads down to my road. It was about 7.50am and the sun was just rising so I stopped and took this photo. The street lights were still on and it's quite a busy road at this time of day but, as the road faces due east and is quite a steep hill, the view of the sunrise is particularly good.

My oak tree taken from the bedroom window so that the canopy is more obvious - still full of leaves even at the end of November and now in it's beautiful autumn colours.

I've been meaning to introduce the 'Emperor of China' for a while, it's a hardy chrysanthemum which never flowers until late October/November and is usually battered flat by heavy rain and the wind largely because I usually forget to support it earlier in the year. This year it has been wonderful, I remembered the supports in time and the weather has been kind to it and even now it still looks pretty good.

Oh,thank goodness,I can go back to sleep.She doesn't mean me after all!

Saturday, November 18, 2006


I rather like the month of November, the hour goes back at the end of October and so darkness falls in the late afternoon and I can draw the curtains and light the lamps and create a feeling of peace and warmth. Dusk in the woods is really beautiful on the right sort of day - one which is bright and crisp bringing a vivid sunset - the black tracery of the tree branches against the sky is one of my favourite winter sights. Added to this is the raucus call of the rooks returning in their thousands to roost in the woods overnight, they come from all directions in large noisy flocks and the sight and sound is one I never tire of however often I see it. The whole performance goes on for a long time as they circle the roosting place, rising and falling and exchanging the day's news before finally settling for the night. I like crisp, cold, frosty mornings and equally well I enjoy the quiet,mysterious feel of a traditional English foggy November day. The weather this month in the UK is always interesting because you really have no idea what to expect - it can produce anything from balmy, springlike temperatures to heavy snow falls.

The woods in November can be very beautiful even on a grey day - the sort where you hear people say 'isn't it miserable?' - there is something about the quality of the grey afternoon light that makes the leaf colours positively glow, I've never been able to capture it with my camera but I've enjoyed seeing it.

November also heralds the approach of Christmas/Yule/Solstice and the beginnings of preparations for the holiday. Lists to be made of presents to buy, delicious things to be made and stored or frozen, cards to be bought and written - and at this stage there is no sense of panic or urgency, the holiday is still some weeks off and there is still plenty of time to do everything

Chocolate Crunch Christmas Pudding - not diet food! It's unbaked and is made of biscuit crumbs, dried and glace fruits,spices, chocolate and rum plus a few other bits and pieces. The recipe says to coat it in melted chocolate but that's a bit too rich even for my sweet tooth.

Melon and grapefruit in lime juice and sugar

Lemon cream pies, these will be decorated with sliced kiwi fruit on Christmas Eve.

I've always enjoyed the lead up to Christmas almost as much as the holiday itself and my children are all Christmas fans as well. Father Christmas continued coming to our house until my elder son was 16 and the younger one 14 - this was because they are several years older than their sister and as each one found out that the presents came from us - both were 11 before finally admitting to knowing this:) - I asked them to keep the secret so that Jules had all the pleasure and excitement that they had had. Both of them were great and kept up the pretence until Jules found out too, until then they never gave the slightest hint to her. None of them, even now, like to know what they are getting and this will be the first year they haven't had a stocking on Christmas morning. My mum did one for me until I got married and I've done the same thing. Each of them makes a very long list of things large and small that they would like to receive and then I choose from that. This way they don't know what is coming and I know they'll like what they get. Usually there are a couple of surprises too:) This is all part of November because I like my shopping to be done by the end of this month, I hate fighting my way through crowded shops and standing in long queues so I've always shopped early. This includes food shopping too, my organic turkey is delivered from a farm in Wiltshire a couple of days before Christmas, the greengrocer delivers all the fruit and vegetables, a lot of the rest of the food is made ahead and frozen, the milkman delivers cream and I do a major shop in early December for pretty well everything else. I fathomed this system out well over 25 years ago and the result is a pretty stress free Christmas Eve.
November is the month when I start spending a lot of time knitting, cross-stitching, poring over my family history, reading, writing letters - all pleasant activities for cold dark afternoons and evenings.

Ingredients for a pleasurable afternoon - clicking on the photo will enlarge it if you want a closer look. The cross-stitch is the beginnings of a tree ornament I'm stitching.

There is a definite difference to the way my body acts as soon as the light levels fall, it's harder to get up in the morning because instinct tells me it's too dark, I definitely slow down as well - I think I'm one of those kind of animals that is active if the weather is good but hibernates temporarily if it turns bad:) I don't get depressed or anything, it's just a natural slowing down in the rythmn of the year's turning and it's rather a pleasant thing, there's time to think and plan and remember.

Time in fact to stand and stare as in the words of this poem by the Welsh poet W H Davies :-

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.