Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve 2016 -

Have a fabulous evening.............and may 2016 be the
 best year ever for each of you.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Mince Pies forever!

One of life's little winter pleasures.

Each year in the run up to Christmas, part of my traditional baking for the
 holiday season revolves around getting the mince pies made.
These little individual sweet treats, never missing from the British home in
 December, are offered to all and sundry who pop by city lofts, suburban 
houses and cozy country cottages. 
I made several dozen this year knowing we would have many people at the
 open house on Christmas Eve - and I whipped up the Cumberland Rum Butter 
to serve with them. Many disappeared with compliments to the baker,
however we still have plenty remaining for teatime, dessert. . . . . . and come 
New Year's Eve, a warming midnight snack to accompany the bubbly!

If you like my Rough Linen 'pinny' (pinafore apron), and would love one of your very own,
be sure to go HERE and read how to get one, as well as beautiful bed linens etc. 

Of all the holiday leftovers these are my favorites - I'm scoffing my share
 because it will be another twelve long months before I bake them again!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Antarctic memories and FIONA!

Three years ago, at this time, with Christmas celebrations over, Boxing Day a memory,
and winter settled upon us here in the southeast, I was busy packing up to leave on
 the trip of a lifetime to ANTARCTICA to celebrate the 50 year friendship with my 
dear friend Paula. She had visited twice previously and this time invited me as her
 very grateful guest. Fortunately her bravery rubbed off on me and I had no
 qualms despite the distance, remoteness, and sailing on a small expedition
 ship - I was raring to go 'to the ends of the earth' also!
Antarctica, and the entire Southern Ocean, is the most amazing place on this 
planet. Go HERE and HERE to look back at some of the places we visited in 2013. 

Fiona came for Christmas - and is staying!

I was surprised when a large box was delivered and left on the front porch early
 evening a few days before Christmas. Nothing was ordered. Nothing was 
expected. Something exciting was up though!
You may recall my recent post about a fabulous shop we discovered when at 
the coast in late November. 
BAROUKE Exotic Woods Etc.
Perhaps you remember me falling in love with Fiona, a sweet carved wooden
 penguin - go read the story for the details. Seeing Fiona on display, I recalled
 my time among literally a million or more penguins on the Antarctic 
expedition - and one particular young penguin on South Georgia Island
 (Paula and I named her Georgia) who followed us about, chewed on our rubber
 wellies, and became our little friend for several hours whilst ashore.

I kicked myself for not buying Fiona while at Barouke - click on my sidebar - that
 day in Wilmington, and shared that fact in my subsequent post where I wrote
 about the great shop, its fabulous offerings, and its lovely owner Jannett.
I realized later that Fiona could almost be Georgia, without her fluffy 
juvenile coat, all grown up, and that I should have brought her home.
Imagine my surprise and joy when on opening the unexpected box,
wrapped so beautifully and tucked into a bed of white foam (snow?) was
Fiona, along with a lovely Christmas card from Jannett and her husband.
What kind, thoughtful, very generous people - I was overwhelmed!

So, you must admit this is a lovely story - but this is only part of it.
Deeper down in the large box were other new winged friends - yes Fiona traveled 
with companions! There will be another story as soon as they calm down, dry off, and 
allow me to photograph them.
They have been testing the waters in our garden (we had a lot of rain after they arrived)
and their boots are still waterlogged LOL!!!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Boxing Day 2015. . . . . . . . .

We were good to each other over Christmas.
SHE decorated, wrote greetings, mailed cards and invitations, cooked, baked,
 cleaned, wrapped. . . . and of course shopped a bit.
HE shopped, shopped, shopped. . . . . . . blew away the leaves, uncorked the wine,
 filled the glasses, made the Christmas Eve toast for all 22 of us squeezed into the
 cottage, pulled the Christmas crackers, and washed all the glassware and dishes 
at midnight after the party was over.
We opened our gifts Christmas morning. . . . . oh my, Santa was generous.
I must have been good all year after all!

How about that awesome Christmas Night full moon!
I tried to get photos but none were very good.
The previous one was in 1977 - our first Christmas here in Raleigh.
The next one doesn't arrive until 19 years from now, 2034.
This makes one think, a lot, and wonder even more!

Today is Boxing Day, my favorite day of the year.
A time to take things easy.
Looking through my presents and taking photos.
Organizing leftovers - ham and split pea soup will be simmering soon.
'Bubble and squeak' will be frying in the pan.
Just enough Christmas Pudding left for supper.
Far too many mince pies and rum butter remaining. . . . . the diet
will have to wait. . . . . because as cute as they are, MY mince pies
they cannot have.

via Internet

Off to fill in my 2016 calendar - wonder where I'll go in this wide world in the new year!
Tonight, a movie at home. . . . . .but still much too warm for a fire.
 Tomorrow I'll work on a post about my lovely Christmas gifts,
and soon I'll tell you a story about some new, very special, 
winged friends who have taken up residence at the cottage!

Hope you all enjoyed a beautiful, peaceful and blessed Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve 2015. . . . . . . . . . . .

Children sleeping, snow is softly falling
Dreams are calling like bells in the distance
We were dreamers not so long ago
But one by one we all had to grow up

When it seems the magic slipped away
We find it all again on Christmas Day

Believe in what your heart is saying
Hear the melody that's playing
There's no time to waste
There's so much to celebrate

Believe in what you feel inside
And give your dreams the wings to fly
You have everything you need
If you just believe

Trains move quickly to their journeys end
Destinations are where we begin again
Ships go sailing far across the sea
Trusting starlight to get where they need to be

When it seems that we have lost our way
We find ourselves again on Christmas Day

Believe in what in your heart is saying
Hear the melody that's playing
There's no time to waste
There's so much to celebrate

Believe in what you feel inside
And give your dreams the wings to fly
You have everything you need
If you just believe

The beautiful song from The Polar Express movie.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

December weather - a wet Christmas. . . . . . . .

Around North Carolina we've not had the usual weather the 
month of December brings. . . . . no bitter cold, no snow or icy
 conditions, no roaring winds, but quite a lot of rain falling heavily
 like grey sheets of gloom, such as we're getting today. It's
currently "pelting down cats and dogs" as we said in England when
 I was growing up. Do they still say that - maybe my UK readers can
oblige with info - thanks.
We've also had very warm weather and some lovely
sunny days. . . . . .to rake leaves, hang decorations outside, go 
shopping, walk for a little exercise now and then, even sit on the 
front porch with a refreshing drink in hand, in between the pre-holiday
 hustle and bustle of errands and chores December always brings. 

This has always been one of my favorite depictions of December
as Christmas approaches - snow, wind, a red dress and warm wrap, and a huge
 bunch of mistletoe.

Christmas love to you all.


Eugene Samuel Grasset (Swiss, 1845-1917)
Color wood graving from his portfolio Les Mois - 1895

Monday, December 21, 2015

Enjoying the Christmas preparations. . . . . . . . .

Phew! I feel a bit like this today after so much weekend baking.
Bob propped me up by staying out of my hair all those hours in the kitchen.
 I like to get on with my baking with Christmas music, no conversation,
 and a nice glass of Harvey's Bristol Cream sherry nearby!
 Memories of childhood Christmas baking days with
 my mother fill my thoughts and make me happy.
The kitchen is now a mess with a layer flour everywhere, bits of pastry
 dough stuck on the floor, a raisin or two rolling under the island,
 and sticky handles on the refrigerator. I hate a grubby kitchen
so you know what I'll be doing today.

BTW, I love my pair of woolly mice - bought in Asheville, NC last year -
they came out of the storage box again for Christmas. I think they'll be 
staying around from now on, not going back into hiding. I can see them
 depicting happenings in our daily life through all the months ahead - so
 keep an eye out for them when I post in the new year.
Their names you may ask? Why Bob and Mary of course!

Yes, today I start some house cleaning now the messy bits of making 
the cottage festive are completed. 
With an open house on Christmas Eve - come and gobble
 up the goodies if you're nearby - I do like the house to sparkle in the candlelight.
 We still have not started burning our wood due to continued warm weather so
 the dust is not bad - but a fire in the hearth will be enjoyed over Christmas
 even if we have to keep the doors open! 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Getting to look a lot. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . like CHRISTMAS!

When today's date - the 20th - popped up as I opened 
the laptop, I realized I need to get moving with the remaining 
holiday baking for the Christmas Eve open house. 
Shopping is done, cards mailed, wrapping is completed, 
decorating done - although I'm always titivating the holiday
 vignettes, and added a lot more candles yesterday.
I'll be using fresh greenery on the mantel soon - it's ready
 on the porch, in water, because it's just really warm and sunny
 and needs to quench its thirst before coming into the cottage!

Brilliant sunshine this morning - the beautiful light meant
 'take more photos' of course.
 I'll soon be heading to the kitchen to make traditional little English mince pies.
 My filling of rich dried fruits sat overnight soaking up a nice swig of rum - so
 I'll be off soon to make pastry and get those little gems into the oven to bake.

I also baked most of Friday and then again yesterday afternoon.
This afternoon I'm hoping to grab one of these mugs (CALM looks perfect)
 of hot chocolate, a cookie, and just sit outside in the sunshine for a while.
 Knowing the baking is done, only the house cleaning is left to keep me
busy during the next day or so.
Are things are ready around your home? 
These next few days will definitely fly by fast. 
I'm just waiting for the 25th to arrive. 
For us it will be that lovely quiet and peaceful day -------- time to enjoy
 the true meaning of Christmas without all the commercial clutter.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Let it rain. . . . . .

. . . . . . . because we need it sometimes to wash away the dust and grime 
of everyday living, to refresh the gardens and grow the crops.
No sign of Christmas snow around here but we did have some heavy rain
 a day or so ago. It bounced in the bird baths making them
 overflow - robins seemed to love that, washed the leaves off the parked cars and sent
 them floating down the driveway to join the small mountains we'd already raked
to the curb. The camellias sparkled after their much-loved shower, and I even 
noticed a little growth spurt of the lawn.
Growing up in an often rainy country I've had my share of umbrellas, most were 
dowdy and dreary black until those clear vinyl domes became popular - what ever
 happened to them anyway? 
When visiting Claude Monet's beautiful house and gardens in France this year
I saw these - I should have purchased at least one - who would mind
paddling about in the rain under the waterlilies!

Go here to 'visit' Giverny

Claude Monet's beautiful paintings available on umbrellas - Giverny, France
 September 2015 

This being the last shopping weekend before Christmas, I hope
you have lovely weather to venture out with no need of an 
umbrella. We have lovely sunshine today but it has turned cooler
which is fine with me.
Have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Downtown shines at dusk . . . . . .

A little more from last weekend when we were out and about much of the time
enjoying the fine days during the Christmas rush.
 Saturday was warm, sunny, near to perfect, and downtown called to us.
We headed out to walk late afternoon unencumbered by heavy accessories.
 No jackets or bulky bags, just a scarf in case it turned cooler, comfy walking shoes,
 and my iPhone to snap a few pix along the way as dusk fell gently over the 
bulky city buildings and cheerful shoppers.
Many people, casually dressed, were on their way to restaurants - it was Christmas 
party time. Others, elegant in sparkly high heels and pretty dresses, bow ties
 and tuxedos, were strolling toward the auditorium for an evening concert with the 
North Carolina Symphony.

The blend of old and new architecture strung together by symbols of the season.
 Even commercial buildings, such as these banks, make an effort to warm up
 those big blank spaces at Christmas.

Do you enjoy visiting a bright and bustling downtown area during the holiday season?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Let's go to the cinema. . . . . . . .

We absolutely loved this film. 
Set in the '50's, it's the story of a young woman coming to New York
from a small town in Ireland in search of a better life. There is an 
unusual twist. . . . . . . but I'll not give it away here and spoil it, just go watch it 
for yourself, and take your hanky or lots of tissues!

Bob shed a few tears and held my hand in several scenes (more on that 
another time - but as you may know, I too left my home country for America at
 a young age, therefore so much of this story resonates with me). 
 I cried buckets and was grateful I'd used waterproof mascara that day!

Saoirse Ronan was once again amazing - what a wonderful actress
she has become, and still only 21. One of very few Irish actresses to appear
 in the last fifty years or so, her performance in 'Brooklyn' solidifies her transition
 from child star (in 'Atonement', 'The Lovely Bones' etc.) to major actress.

. . . . . . and don't feel bad if, like most people unfamiliar with the correct 
pronunciation of many Irish names, you have trouble with this one, 
Saoirse is pronounced "SEER-sha" - just so you know, and you will want to be 
talking about this special actress a lot in the future.

This is a just released new movie - you may not find it in your 
area yet, and I doubt on Netflix for some time. Be sure to put it
on your list though.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dawn to dusk --------------------

We were out on Sunday doing what many of us are doing these busy days.
The morning started here - a quick bite at a newly opened breakfast/lunch 
place. . . . . . . 

. . . . . and by early evening we had ended up here just a few minutes from home.
 It was incredibly warm and balmy, not at all like traditional Christmas weather.
 Strolling about in just light clothing, enjoying blossoms in December.
As always, Anthropologie had great windows, and with snow! Wondering if we'll
 get the real thing some time this Winter.
All pix via my iPhone