Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The "Holly Days"....................................

Almost over..............those days of preparation, excitement, decorating, raising a glass, donning holiday attire, wrapping/unwrapping, hugging and kissing loved ones (well that goes on year round), and of course eating! Oh my, the eating that's been done over this past week of celebration! 

Every year I try to change the habit of cooking, baking, and then eating things I'd never eat in the other fifty one weeks of the year. It never works out though, Christmas traditions are just that, traditional!  After company left we were left to finish up the leftover plum pudding - with brandy butter no less, the "better than any other year" mince pies, the holiday tin of ginger cookies, and so much more. Do you do that too? 

Plain old toast and marmalade sounds really good at this point in time........and as soon as those bits of holiday china are packed away, plain, healthy, easy eating will return.  My kitchen will return to the daily soup pot on the stove, crunchy salad greens in the crisper, and lots of plans to eat much healthier in January.

Monday, December 30, 2013

What's happening in Antarctica?

Recall my amazing expedition to Antarctica HERE early this year?  After getting back from Christmas in the UK, in early January I was busy packing and organizing my gear to leave for Argentina where, in Ushuaia, the ship would be waiting to take Paula, me, and another 100 plus passengers on the adventure of a lifetime!

Remote places, especially Antarctica which is definitely as remote as one can be, are exciting but of course always somewhat dangerous. I have to admit if what is happening there now with the Russian ship, M/V Akademik Shokalskiy, had occurred as I was preparing to head south, I would have had some trepidation about leaving home!

All Photos from The Guardian 

The map shows where the ship is frozen into the heavy pack ice, following blizzards on Christmas Eve. This is not the area of Antarctica we visited, however, you will note directly north of the location sits Macquarie Island where I visited on the Sub-Antarctic expedition trip in 2011.

First few days of being trapped were fun, now after even worse weather conditions, and two icebreakers (Chinese and Australian) being unable to get through the ice, morale must be getting somewhat low.  
Air evacuation of the scientists and tourists on board will have to be considered using the helicopter from the Chinese vessel, Xue Long. The crew will stay behind and the Australian ship, Aurora Australis, will try to reach it again when the weather improves. Meanwhile the huge American Coast Guard ice breaker, Polar Star, now on its way from Seattle to Sydney, has been re-routed to Antarctica to assist in the rescue, but will not arrive for 8-9 days!

Yes, it's great to always be up for a big adventure.........and usually the purchase of the pricey insurance coverage is never utilized, thank goodness.........I just hope all these travelers, scientists, tourists, and of course the crew, stay safe, healthy, and are rescued soon. 

Go HERE to read more and keep up to date with the rescue mission. The Guardian newspaper has two staffers on board who seem to be doing a very good job updating the precarious situation.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Suzanna's Antiques for the New Year.......................

Yesterday evening we picked Jasmin up from work at SuzAnna's Antiques. Of course I had my camera and had to look around for some pretties to share with you. The gals had been busy taking down Christmas, moving large pieces of furniture, designing new display areas, arranging, rearranging, and generally working non-stop. Bringing together the first of another new year full of antique and vintage loveliness to entice us to buy and bring home is definitely hard work!

Don't you just love this wreath made of pages from vintage books and sheet music? I'm sure that's not easy to craft but the work pays off as the finished item is something quite charming and could be used year round.

Spying some vintage evening dresses made me think of 
New Year's Eve which is coming up fast.
I think this black dress is lovely - looks comfortable, 
and has just enough sparkle to make it festive rather 
than dull and a bit dowdy as with some black lace.

Are you planning something festive for New Year's Eve? 
We have purchased our buttons to attend the downtown 2014 First Night celebration......a day full of costumed processions, art, music, activities, and topped off with the Raleigh acorn (our city's symbol) being dropped at midnight, followed by fireworks of course.  

Remember I mentioned we will be 'going away' for New Year.
We won't go far though - we're checking into a nice hotel, right in the center of all the downtown activities, so we can enjoy everything, including a special bottle of bubbly, and not have to drive home after midnight!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Black Watch Tartan.....................

......I was really hoping for something tartan in my stocking!  Black Watch is my favorite and in the '50's, in my teens, I was an 'it girl' dressed to kill in a pair of trendy wool Black Watch tartan trews with little slits at the ankle. I saved forever to buy them and wore them until threadbare....often with a lovely navy duffel coat. Today they'd be classified as skinny pants or cigarette pants, narrow through the hip and thigh, tapered to just above the ankle. These above were online some months back, perhaps at Zara, along with the fabulous warm looking tartan duffel coat. Apparently neither item would fit in my little stocking hanging on the mantel Christmas Eve! However, I did find a soft brushed Black Watch flannel shirt for my DH - perhaps he'll share it with me - I could wear it around the house on chilly evenings.

If interested in learning more about the The Black Watch (The Royal Highland Regiment) go HERE........and for info. on tartan fabric and Scottish Clans go HERE.

Do you have a favorite Scottish tartan? There are so many to choose from, 3,000 plus!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Santa brought me a 'pinny'...................

Do you like to cook?  
Do you wear an apron?
Do you know what a pinafore is? 
The colloquialism 'pinny' is used in the UK. Is it used in other countries too?
Do you own one of these?

Perhaps that's too many questions but I just wanted to share my favorite Christmas present received this year......my very own gorgeous, natural linen 'pinny' from Rough Linen in California. I recall my mum, and all my friends' mums, wearing these back in the '50's when England was getting back to normal after WW2. Ration books had been tossed as more exciting foods became available in quantity......mums were cooking up a storm again! My mum, being a dressmaker, made her own pinafores, and I had my little girl version stitched up on her old Singer treadle machine. 
Since then though we seem to have graduated to silly skimpy aprons, many of which don't give much protection to our clothing, especially those of us who require more than a sideways sliding mini-bib across 'the girls'! If cooking, they are an embarrassment when having to meet the UPS or FEDEX guy at the front door! The true pinafore, such as Tricia's design, wraps around the sides to the back, with wide comfy shoulder straps, and the entire garment stays in place without the need to tie any strings. The large pockets are very handy........

.....and even if you don't cook much, the linen pinny is great when crafting, gardening, decorating, even for an emergency run to the grocery over your jeans and tee shirt etc. Thrown into the washer, dried gently and hung while still a wee bit damp, it takes on a lovely natural wrinkly appearance, like above, and ironing it would spoil the special look, so don't bother.

Visit Tricia Rose, owner, designer, seamstress at Rough Linen HERE, you will love her story....'grandmother's cottage' etc.  View the beautiful pure linen bedding items and other products she makes..........and be sure to check out the gals wearing their pinafores HERE.

Next year Santa, I plan to be really good all year long. I've always wanted real linen sheets. Just thought you'd like to know when it comes time to start checking your list for 2014!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Boxing Day 2013...........................

........but memories are fresh in my mind from 
this same day on the calendar in 2010
when we awoke to this.........

 Boxing Day, my favorite day on the calendar no matter 
the weather! It's what I embrace as 'my own day' when 
nothing urgent needs to be addressed, cooked, baked, 
poured, or served at a specific time...........and I 
definitely do not head out to any shops no matter what 
bargains they try to entice me with!
A roaring fire, a footstool, and a great book sound much better.

Today, I'm still in my warm PJ's as, despite no snow, 
it's cold. I'm about to enjoy a late breakfast, before 
uncorking the sherry for elevenses, my lunch just might 
be a healthy, much-needed salad..............and my 
supper Christmas Pudding because we were too stuffed to 
eat it yesterday at Christmas dinner!

So dear readers, hope your Christmas was amazing.
A very happy Boxing Day to you.

Next up, New Year's Eve. 
Do you have plans?
We do - we're going away - well sort of!
More on that later!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wishing you....................

.....everything beautiful at Christmas.

Here at the cottage we're snuggled in for a 
few days of Christmas celebrations.
The fire on the hearth will burn brightly and it will 
be a time of contemplation. As we head toward the 
closing of yet another year, thankful for so 
many blessings, we will also be thinking of the 
coming year and what it holds in store for each of us, 
both here in the USA and all around this amazing world.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

On Christmas Eve.......................

As this special day winds down, and the lights in neighborhoods around the world shine brightly, as the carols are sung, prayers and praise are given, the glasses are raised, and joy is shared, I send HAPPY CHRISTMAS greetings and love to everyone.....from my cottage to your home.
May Christ be in your Christmas, today and always.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Early morning beauty........................

At 7:30 this morning the skies were so beautiful.......when DH picked up his paper at the end of the driveway, he hurried back up and told me to come outside quickly with the camera.  He was right, the low cloud bank beyond the houses down the street looked almost like a mountain range, the golden clouds puffy 
like a soft duvet gently falling lower and enveloping the landscape.

Now, just over an hour later - and yes, I should be in the kitchen baking another batch of cookies - the rain is tippling down and the sun is nonexistent. Not complaining though because I'm hearing stories of terrible weather conditions in other parts of the country, and especially in Eastern Canada where I have dear blog friends. You know who you are, you know I'm hoping you are OK, but know that power is out in many places and you may be 
unable to communicate. Stay safe and remember we are thinking of you.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Thoughts on wire cones.........................

Recall these? 
Actually there are three, one a bit smaller. I picked them 
up at SuzAnna's Antiques a couple of months ago. 
Nobody seems to have an idea as to what they were used for, 
and I've done nothing with them yet, but I plan to use 
them in my Christmas decor somehow!

Dreary, drizzly cold rain, put a damper on outdoor 
decorating when I was in that mode a couple of weeks 
ago - but I shouldn't complain as many of you have 
much more to contend with, such as huge amounts of 
snow and ice.
Now the sun is back and the temperatures are up into 
the seventies, phew, too hot for me at Christmas! 
I need to get out there this weekend.....the cones are 
awaiting - burlap ribbon, white fairy lights, stars, berries 
and holly sprigs, you get the picture, don't you?

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Colorful Christmas..............

.........and you were beginning to think my Christmas 
was all white, cream, grey, silver!

Here are a few more touches of red.
Note, I couldn't throw out the lovely pumpkins so 
am using them mixed with Christmas greens and red 
berries at the front door.

Note I've added a few red glass balls to the 
little tree........they came out and 
grabbed me from a K-Mart sale shelf. 
There were the usual bright red 
 ones and then these, a true deep vintage red. 
Yes, a box of these pretties followed me home!

My pic above is not very good, it's of a beautiful 
glass ornament I received a few weeks ago from a delightful 
friend, Jennifer who lives in Atlanta and came to visit us. 
She is a talented artist making beautiful sterling silver 
bracelets and rings......when not flying the skies 
with a major airline! Thanks again Jennifer, I love 
this ornament.
Below you can see it clearer on the website photo. 
These ornaments are handmade in Atlanta, Georgia featuring 
film negatives in a very unusual way. Go HERE to see more 
of Glaklove's amazing creations.....made in the USA!

My 'Bird in Love' ornament....
with the perfect touch of vintage red!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Leather and Nature.................

If you don't live here in the south you may not be sure 
which tree sheds these beautiful seed pods. 
It is the Southern Magnolia, these coming from 
the smaller species called Little Gem. 
Blooming with huge white
flowers in Summer, permeating the humid air with heavy
but lovely perfume........southern nights would not be
the same without the the magnolias.

Heading into the doctor's office on Tuesday - DH was 
hobbling with a knee problem - I noticed the seed pods 
on the ground before seeing the magnolia tree, deciding 
right then and there I would gather some up on the way out. 
I saw a potential natural and unusual Christmas decoration!

....and the amazing laptop case?  
My recent win from the lovely and talented California 
designer Christina here at GREIGE.
She does everything right when it comes to decorating her 
own home, and then helping others take their spaces to 
another level.

Christina's daily blog is stunning, her giveaways are 
awesome.....and recently I was thrilled to win this 
sleek envelope laptop case made from one piece of rugged 
oiled leather and two solid copper rivets from a 
small California company named boutonne. It certainly 
makes a statement and will protect my much-loved 
MacBook Air for ages.

If you've not visited Christina at GREIGE yet you are in 
for a treat, head over to say hello, tell her I sent you,
 see the beautiful things in her home, and for sale in her 
online shop.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

This way to CHRISTMAS.....................

I'm still doing a little decorating..........it just 
seems a nonstop thing around the cottage, perhaps I'll
still be adding odds and ends on Christmas Eve!

I should be baking not decorating.
I have a list of cookies I like to make.......
especially Ginger Krinkles.
I want to bake a Dundee cake because I didn't
get around to a real traditional English fruitcake.
I will bake English mince pies - I know, I know, I've
said that several times now.
I still have to decide on a Christmas dinner......perhaps 
a small ham for DH and a nut roast for me.
There will be vegetables, lots of them.
Remember now my dear British readers - perhaps busy stoking 
your fabulous AGA in the kitchen - I do not cook a 
turkey at Christmas. We just had one at Thanksgiving 
and I refuse to do it again.....roasting two birds in less 
than a month sounds like a vegetarian's nightmare!

I've been trying to replicate a photo I saw of 
the neatest looking stacked books 
which made a Christmas tree. 
Sadly I cannot get my books to revert to being trees 
again. Instead I have this 'different' pile of books, 
bells and balls.

What do you think? Personally I think it's cool and will 
keep it this way.

My decor always includes interesting books. 
Old books, worn and yellowed books, French school 
books, antique illustrated books, leather prayer books.

I really love the miniature Christmas books. 
Their secret stories inside?  
Nothing, just blank pages. 
They are ornaments, but such lovely ones.

I'm off now to really get my Christmas act together.
Yesterday was a crazy day. DH couldn't walk - well he 
couldn't put any weight on his right leg as his knee was 
killing him. We spent 3 hours waiting to be 'worked in' at 
the orthopedic office. Diagnosis is a type of tendinitis - 
he ended up with a big needle full of cortisone and is 
already getting relief thankfully. 
Last night we attended granddaughter Jasmin's big choral
concert at the high school...........it was fabulous. The 
radio station personalities presented the $5,000 check they 
won for the school in the local radio Christmas music competition. 
The kids sang their hearts out and everyone felt warm and fuzzy.......
peace and happiness reigned.
It's beginning to look, and sound, a lot like
CHRISTMAS here in North Carolina!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December Note Cards.....................

Joining in Vee's Note Card Party today.
A few cards for the season........

.........and now I'm off to complete writing my own Christmas cards, still a few more to do.  
Love all these little Christmas jobs. Do you, like me, put on some holiday music, perhaps pour a sherry, 
light the fire if it's a cold day, illuminate the Christmas tree, and just enjoy.

Hope you will stop over at Vee's HERE to see some
beautiful card ideas.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas in England...................

I'm not going home to England this year,
but yesterday, with a little time to spare (how on 
earth did that happen with Christmas now so close),  
I looked through the photos I've taken 
of Christmas decor about the cottage and 
decided to improve on the English 'cottage feel'
with a wee bit of cheating/editing.
I think receiving Christmas cards from England, 
some depicting authentic country cottages, 
made me realize I don't really have one of those. 
Who am I trying to kid!

This year my favorite card arrived from my cousin.
Cousin David in England gets it. 
He lives in my hometown, we grew up there, spent a lot of time together, and he knows how much I love coming home. Last Christmas Day I enjoyed dinner with him and his entire family. We indulged in everything English, from soup to Christmas pudding, gathered together around a big table in a lovely restaurant on the cliffs above the English Channel. It was the one day of our trip home when the rain stopped for a while and the sun popped out from behind the clouds......it was a perfect Christmas surrounded by special people. It was worth a long journey across the pond and brought back lovely memories of my English childhood.

This year we will be here. The cottage feel is important to me at the holidays. I admit I'm somewhat envious of those at home who will be cozy, tucked into a real country cottage, sipping a pre-dinner sherry, enjoying dinner, munching on mince pies with brandy butter, flaming the Christmas pud', listening to the annual message given by our gracious Queen.........then sitting by the crackling fire, sipping a nightcap, listening to the last of the carols as Christmas fades into the night.

I will soon be baking my mince pies..........we have the Harvey's Bristol Cream sherry ready for a toast - there are two bottles as we don't play Scrooge here - come by and join in. The firewood is stacked and ready to crackle and pop on the hearth, the candles are glowing, the carols are waiting to be played.

Christmas happens wherever one is. 
You can make it happen.
You can dream and remember.
It's etched in stone.
It's in your heart....isn't it?