Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New Year's Eve 2019 -

 We're off downtown for the First Night celebration.  

My kitchen is closed!  
No more baking to be done any day soon.
Scoffing rich-tasting leftovers still, especially the mince pies - they go quite 
well with a chilled bottle of bubbly awaiting a popping cork and the
 clink of crystal at midnight. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . and we'll raise our glasses with a sincere toast to you all. . . . family,
 friends and readers.
Who knows what the New Year and new decade will bring, but hopefully
good health and great things for each of us.

~ Love, peace and joy ~

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Christmas came and went -

A really great trip to the now wintry North Carolina mountains last week.
One evening we enjoyed walking to a French bistro in snow flurries. 
Next day we had a meeting with longtime friend and blogger Penny from
 Enjoying The Simple Things. We met for lunch in glorious sunshine with a
 thoroughly enjoyable visit to her beautiful home on a hillside, then came back
 to non-stop readying for Christmas!

I baked a lot for Christmas Eve!
Traditional English Mince Pies (with a dollop of rum butter added at serving time).
Tiny Cheese, Onion & Black Olive Scones (later split for a spread
 of herbed Boursin).  Costco supplied the baked brie and some great cheeses,
 and I made really crispy herbed crostini from rustic baguettes.
The grapes I roasted after brushing with a marinade of olive oil, white wine vinegar
 and honey - a new recipe which went over well, tasted so good, and looked great
 on the cheese board.
We took a late evening drive around the neighborhood to view lights and luminarias
lining the streets - all very festive.

Christmas Day was quieter. We visited with friends for drinks then spent
 the evening at home. I made Asian inspired salmon, Brussels sprouts roasted
 in olive oil and crushed garlic almonds with perfect plain mashed potatoes.
Dessert was Christmas pudding topped with more rum butter and fresh whipped
cream - oh my, I see more walking and exercise in the near future - like later today! 
The sun is shining and temperature perfect at 63F so no excuses not to head outside.
 Our meal was enjoyed in front of the hearth with a blazing fire. . . . . . .and watching
 the "Call The Midwife" Christmas special. OMG it was fabulous and filmed on
 Scotland's beautiful Hebrides Islands - one of the few places
 remaining on my 'travel bucket list!

Today, Boxing Day, is always a favorite day of the year for me.
Time to reminisce about childhood holidays and take a little 
quiet time planning for the year to come.
We have a busy month ahead which includes the garden - tree company coming
 to remove a dead oak (thanks to woodpeckers over-pecking!), and some serious
  pruning of other large branches now overhanging the roof.
Hopefully an indoor project involving paint and furniture will be done. . . . . . and, 
after the holiday decorations are down and stored, some serious purging and
 downsizing as we clear out 'stuff' room by room.
I don't make a list of New Year resolutions, however in my mind I know what 
needs to be addressed to get me organized here at home for what will hopefully
 be a great 2020!

If I don't make it here again before New Year's Day, I wish you all the 
very best for a happy, healthy and wonderful Year. 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

My Santa!

We shopped a little in Asheville today. 
The sun was brilliant all day and there was no wind. 
Although the temperature hovered around freezing, with a cashmere
 sweater, one of my knitted cowls snug around my neck, my warm Zara coat,
 and fleece-lined gloves, it was a perfect winter day to walk the hills of this 
lovely mountain town.

We headed to TOPS for Shoes, the awesome Asheville shoe shop. 
They have such beautiful shoes and the best customer service ever.
Here, carrying bags containing my Christmas gifts, is my personal Santa (Bob).
TOPS were having one of their famous 'Penny Sales' where you buy one pair of
 clearance priced shoes and get a second pair for just one cent, 
yes that's 1 cent. . . . . . . .and the lovely gift wrap was free!  

Does this mean I've been nice rather than naughty?

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


Heading to the beautiful North Carolina mountains - a few more
 bends in the road before Asheville.

What more can I say!

We're westward bound to the North Carolina mountains this morning.  
Rain coming in, however should stop later.  Our couple of days in Asheville
 and surrounding areas should be bright, cold and dry - I'm happy in that
 weather, especially during the Christmas season.

More later....................

Saturday, December 14, 2019

December means Christmas -

Eugéne Samuel Grasset (Swiss 1845-1917)
Color Wood Engraving from his portfolio Les Mois -1895

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

This is the week I committed to nothing but Christmas decorating, indoor 
and outdoor. It's completed and I'm happy.

Well we did also manage to squeeze in a most enjoyable dinner date with friends 
(at that great Greek restaurant we recently discovered out of town) to celebrate
the season. . . . .and some shopping for gifts and holiday foods. . . . .also a great
Christmas concert. . . . . . and I wrote a lot of cards with more to do today.
I also blogged of course!

Yesterday's chilly, dreary weather with non-stop rain - still falling this morning -
made the kitchen a good place to be. I roasted squash - kuri and acorn -
made tomato basil soup, and even the famous 'best ever' apple pie - recipe
from my special friend Penny whom we'll be visiting in the mountains next week!

The list was long - a lot was done.

How are you doing with your Christmas preparations?

Friday, December 13, 2019

Gardening for Christmas -

Other than raking, gathering and piling the leaves - and no sooner that's done
more fall - there's not much gardening going on around here!

Very different weather this morning.
Rain, steady but light, temperature a few degrees above freezing
 (could have been snow if colder), enough to dampen down the dust and
put a sheen on the gazebo now sporting the annual Christmas tree 
to brighten up the dark nights.

While working out there yesterday, our family of Eastern bluebirds returned
 to enjoy the birdbaths and suet feeders. I managed a few quick photos of this
 handsome male, so colorful at this time of year. . . . . . and they brought me 
much happiness.

Christmas preparations are in full swing here, although mine are much
 more simple than those of many younger bloggers I've noticed.  
Did I used to have that much energy?
Do I wish I still could do all that? 
Yes of course.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Morning light in December -

The sunshine is brilliant but the temperature very low this morning. 
Our coldest night and morning yet this season.
At last it feels like Christmas weather.
Warm socks pulled up around my ankles feel good, and the
 coffee mug warms my hands now starting to feel dry from 
winter's chill. Time for gloves.

Piano music from Brian Cain's album 'A Change of Seasons' is playing softly. 
I admit being obsessed by his beautiful music.
There are many birds at the feeders, some also braving the water
 in yet to freeze birdbaths, tough little feathered friends.
Yesterday I completed my decorating for the holidays.
Lights were turned on.
The tree in the gazebo glittered last evening, the cottage and porch
 glowed warmly from the floodlit front garden. I wandered down to the
street to look back and enjoy the view.
The night was silent and still as cold nights can be.

Later today some shopping for holiday baking items.
Soon a trip westward to the mountains with visits to special friends.
Wrapping and more card writing. 
Deliver gifts to some special little ones.
House cleaning, ugh!  
Cooking plans and such written on refrigerator notepad.
Pick up fresh greens for the mantel.
Make mince pies + brandy butter for them on Christmas Eve.
Prepare my English trifle dessert for San Antonio friends who will 
make a quick holiday stop.
The list grows. . . . . . . .the holiday season always busy.
Thoughts of childhood Christmases so long ago, so far away.

I feel the spirit of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Christmas around the house -

Decorating underway - nothing new added except traditional English crackers
 to pull Christmas Eve. Greenery will be added to the mantel in about a week
Just the usual much-loved objects. Some in the same place, others moved 
about displayed in fresh vignettes.
I still have to decorate the tree outside in the gazebo - later today when it
warms up a bit - and Bob will connect the floodlights to give the cottage
a little glow to warm the dark nights ahead.

Christmas is coming. Just 14 days to go!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Cape Verde Dancers -

October 17, 2019
CAPE VERDE ISLANDS:  Tarrafal, Sao Nicolau Island
Arrive:  7:00 AM
Sunrise: 6:30 AM
Temp. 86F

By 8:30 am we were 'all aboard" the fleet of small buses for the panoramic tour
 of the island of Sao Nicolau, situated to the north of the Archipelago.
 The very active volcanic past of the island is majestically visible around
 Monte Gordo, the highest peak. The valleys are generally narrow and deep 
except for the Vale de Faja which is wide and fertile enough for agriculture
 to flourish - mostly sugar cane.

Dancing is an integral part of all events in Sao Nicolau, from waltz and square dance with instructions in French, to the typical Portuguese dances. What for me was the highlight of the Cape Verde Islands visit, occurred here in a village in Faja.

The beautiful recorded music for the dances was in itself perfect and, sitting on steps in the small church courtyard, when the dancers appeared, I was amazed. These dancers, dressed simply, were quite exquisite in their calm and gentle movements, facial expressions - and barefoot on cobbles you will notice - with the caller (man in red shirt) giving short, quiet instructions.
I didn't want them to ever stop and was sad when the lovely performance ended!

Cape Verde’s central location brings together musical currents from West Africa, Europe and Latin America. On each island, visitors encounter not only a unique natural environment but unique musical traditions. In the music of the leeward islands of Cape Verde, the significant West African influence can be found in genres such as batuque and tabanka (Santiago), bandera (Fogo) and lundu/lundum (Boa Vista). The windward islands have strong European influences such as the mazurka, waltz and contredance (Santo Antão, São Nicolau). Moreover there are strong connections between the leeward and windward genres; for example, the cola sanjon (Santo Antão) is related to the batuque, which has also been called the soul of the Cape Verdean people.

The living conditions on Cape Verde forced the islanders to be pragmatic. Survival requires creativity, perseverance and a zest for life, and one of the musical styles that expresses this zest for life is the coladeira. This style, which arose on São Vicente, is popular all over Cape Verde, while another style danced all over Cape Verde is the funana, which originated on the island Santiago. At the time of Portuguese rule, this distinctly African-tinted style was forbidden, because its lyrics, accompanied by diatonic accordion and ferrinho (an iron rod played with a knife) challenged social inequalities. The morna, a melancholy musical style the lyrics of which are poems of departure, love and saudade (longing for home), is considered by all Cape Verdeans to be their national music.


In Cape Verde, the Mazurka is revered as an important cultural phenomenon played with acoustic bands led by a violinist and accompanied by guitarists. The Mazurka, popular on the islands of Santo Antão and São Nicolau, came originally from the Mazovia area around Warsaw, Poland. The inhabitants of this region were known as Mazurs, and their dances, which probably date back to the 16th century, were called mazurkas. At the beginning of the 19th century, the mazurka took England by storm, being adopted from the German nobility and the French elite. From there, this dance in three-four time made its way into the musical traditions of many parts of the world. The mazurka is still played and danced at weddings and other celebrations, both on Cape Verde and at Cape Verdean festivities in places like Rotterdam. On Santo Antão and São Nicolau, the mazurka is often alternated with the contredance. The contredance is inspired in English country dancing and was introduced to the French court around 1685. In France, it became the most popular dance of the 18th century. The mazurka and the contredance were probably brought to Cabo Verde by seafarers, as were genres such as the polka, waltz and galop which were popular in the ballrooms of the 19th century.

A day and place to remember always for me.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Cape Verde Islands -

October 15-16-17-18, 2019
Cape Verde Islands (Republic of Cabo Verde)

Cabo Verde, or Cape Verde, is an island nation on an archipelago of volcanic origin
 in the Atlantic Ocean off the northwestern coast of Africa, about 600 km west of Senegal. 
Cape Verde shares maritime borders with Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, 
Mauritania, and Senegal.

The intriguing Cape Verde archipelago is an amazingly varied group of islands.
They have been used as a staging post by mariners throughout the ages. 
Visiting and exploring with in-depth discovery of volcanic landscapes, 
colonial towns and villages, and beautiful beaches, is really only possible
 by small ship.  
During our visit in October, we discovered the culture, flora, fauna, and lifestyle of 
the islands. Some parts are arid and flat with awesome shorelines, salt pans, 
beaches and dunes, contrasting with lush, tropical, mountainous islands. 
It is a little world of its own, each island having a distinct culture and atmosphere. 
On some islands the infrastructure is minimal and tourists are a rarity. . . . . it was
 definitely a unique opportunity to visit this part of the world.

Lunch at the Black Mamba restaurant was fun - thankfully no snakes seen!

In the distance, our ship docked at Palmeira on the island of Sal - other islands 
in the distance.

I'm now working on my last post from the islands to share with you. . . . . . .a visit
 to the island of Sao Nicolau. 
Music and dance was shared, scenery was spectacular, and the history of this
 special place held our interest as stories were told.