Thursday, December 30, 2021

Between the book covers -

There's something really special about friendships made with bloggers, even when one hasn't been fortunate enough to meet them in person . . . . . . yet!  They arrive on your computer screen in ways often unexpected, and you cannot always recall how they found you, or you them!

This year I 'met' wordsmith Mark Charlton, via his exceptional blog, VIEWS FROM THE BIKE SHED. I love Mark's posts on life in Wales and France. I have yet to read them all from years back, but will return to those as time permits because I have a feeling each one will have something of interest to tell me, teach me, or make me feel grateful that he took the time to share each post with us, his readers, in wonderful words and photos.  Mark leads a very busy life with his job, family, travels, creative and sports pursuits, blog posts etc., yet somehow squeezed in writing a remarkable book. 

COUNTING STEPS ~ A Journey through Landscape & Fatherhood has definitely been my personal favorite read of this year.  Here you see it waiting to be tucked into my 'favorite books' shelf - although I may just read it again before doing that! Thank you again for such a remarkable book Mark . . . . . . looking forward to your next one.

Thank you all for following my blog through yet another busy and
quite difficult year. 
You actually helped me through 2021 by reading my words, viewing
 my photography, and leaving such generous, often funny, but always
 greatly appreciated, comments. By doing all that you gave me the
 opportunity to 'follow' you, keeping up with old friends and making
 new ones.
I hope to see you here for a long time, you will always be welcomed.

I wish you all the best for the New Year.
May you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy, and be happy every day.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Mince Pie Memories -

I may try these next time - similar to the traditional mince pie, but with an
almond frangipane topping!

After making my usual mince pie recipe for Christmas, I still
 have plenty of delicious little tarts remaining to see us through New Year!  
Yes, I make a lot because that's what my mother always did back home in
 Merry Old England. After all, it was only polite if a neighbor or friend stopped
 by during the holiday season to offer a glass of sherry and a mince pie!
The sweet little pies/tarts filled with 'alcoholic mincemeat', just fruits no
 meat, were a tradition, as was fruitcake topped with almond paste (similar
 to marzipan) and thick white royal icing forked up to resemble snow.  
The addition of a sprig of holly, tiny bottle-brush tree, ceramic snowman etc. 
turned a plain dark fruitcake into the loved-by-all Brits, well most of them, 
Christmas Cake, and everyone's Mum hoped to win the title "Best Fruitcake'
 in the family or neighborhood!

Sugar overloads were never a concern when baking for Christmas back
 in those days!  I guess we were better at pulling on our wellies and
 mackintoshes and "walking it off" after a slap-up meal, heading up the
 sodden country lanes in rain and wind, but rarely snow down south in Devon.
With no central heating it was always chilly in the house unless you
sat close to the hearth, so a little extra fat was needed to stay warm
in that damp climate.

At dinner on the 25th there was always the steamed Christmas Pudding 
(or plum pudding), topped with brandy butter or clotted cream, or a
 pour-over of rich, hot vanilla custard. . . . . after being doused in more
 brandy and set alight, often a bit scary!  A good portion of sugar and fat
in the Christmas 'pud', but nobody talked about calories or passed 
up at least a small portion that I recall!

For me, those childhood Christmases were the best - the ones revolving 
around hours in the kitchen learning from Mum how to put on a real
 traditional Christmas year after year.

So, are you eating leftovers or planning to bake again for New Year's Eve?

Once again, due to COVID, sadly there will be no 'First Night '
celebration downtown here. We are left up to our own means to plan
 something. For us it won't be much. We'll most likely be here alone, 
nibbling good cheese and crackers and those Christmas leftovers, along
 with a bottle of Champagne as we watch something dramatic or 
criminal on the television!!!

New Year's Day?  Walking off the nibbles and bubbly, writing a plan
 for the coming months - but not really RESOLUTIONS, they are broken
 too easily - and still hoping for at least a dusting of snow sometime 
before winter is over.
Staying home might take up much of our time in the coming few
months, but definitely hoping for travel possibilities come spring!

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Boxing Day birds -

I love English robins. 
I love American robins too . . . . . . I love all birds.
Little chubby, round English robins are so different from our 
big hopping all around the lawn American robins. 
English 'robin redbreasts' are always welcomed on Christmas
 cards arriving from across the pond.
These are on my fridge right now, reminding me of my childhood,
 and being enjoyed over the holidays. . . . . . and they will remain until
I pack away Christmas decor, a job I really dislike!
English robins seem so happy perched on snowy branches around
the winter season while ours just do what they always do, wander
about on the ground, stand still listening, pulling up a juicy worm now
and then . . . . . . and of course coming to the bird baths or fountain
 for an often lengthy splash, swim, or bath, not sure which, but 
they really love water.

Boxing Day is my favorite holiday. I call it "my day" because I only do
 what I want to do!  I may just sit here all day in my pj's and robe, or 
I may get out and enjoy the beautiful weather we are having right 
now - all day sunshine and 74F - who can complain. I would have 
enjoyed a "White Christmas' of course but it wasn't in the forecast
 so there was no disappointment. . . . . . .and we do have January
through March when snow often pays a visit to North Carolina.

So, hoping your Christmas was memorable in many ways.
Ours was quiet, very quiet.
We watched the Queen's speech, as always, and thought she
 looked and sounded amazing at 95 years!

Did you watch the wonderful "Downton Abbey" movie last night?
The scenery, costumes, ballroom waltzing, kitchen scenes - and new
love stories for the future perhaps - were outstanding.
We really enjoyed it a lot. 
Followed by the Christmas episode of the always excellent
 "Call The Midwife" we got a big dose of English
 Christmases past.  I admit to wiping away a few tears and said
 a prayer that we will get to cross the pond again in the
coming year!

Enjoy your Boxing Day and this slow week ahead as we
await the ringing in of the New Year. . . . . .which we all hope 
will be a better one.
We forgot to even open the champagne last evening - but
there's always tonight.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas Eve in the morning. . . . .

I wasn't planning to post this morning but I had to share this truly 
beautiful sunrise which lit up my corner of the world early today.
I was down the stairs, out in the garden in my robe with my phone
as soon as I awoke when I noticed the glow through the upstairs
 bedroom window!

Some last minute kitchen prep on the 'to do' list for a few visitors
 stopping by today.  
My kitchen calendar - Angela Harding's always delightful illustrations 
of British scenes - flipped to December which seems to be passing
 so quickly.  Once we are past Christmas this long, and again difficult 
year, will be gone and recorded in the history books.
My 2022 calendar, also twelve months of Angela's art, will be
hung soon and plans will be made which hopefully will come to fruition.

Again my best wishes for your Christmas, may it be merry and bright.
No snow here, in fact it will be one of the warmest holidays ever!
Thank you for continuing to visit me here from around the world. . . . and
I look forward to our time shared in words, pictures and thoughts
 in the coming year.
A very happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Christmastime . . . . . .

Almost here. . . . . . .

I didn't. . . . and it's too late now! definitely won't this week!

Perhaps January will bring snow, at least a little.

.....the true meaning -

. . . . . .sing with joy!

Enjoy Christmas at home.

Greetings from our home to yours - may your holidays be
safe, beautiful, merry and bright.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

A different tree - and off to a party!

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree. . . . . . .how lovely 
are thy branches. . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . such a beautiful carol, and many versions are often played over
 the radio these close to Christmas days. 
On this warm, wet foggy morning pianist Tim Janis is playing this lovely
 melody in the background on my laptop. I'm burning the Tree Farm 
fragranced candle and the world is least here.

Christmas trees seem to be the most conspicuous decorative item for
 our most important, much-loved Christian celebration, and they come in
 many shapes and forms.
These are several years old. I carefully pack them away
 in tissue after the holiday season and they have held up quite well.
Don't have any real directions - a chunk of styrofoam stuffed firmly 
in a terra cotta flower pot, a wood dowel and pieces of printed 
music sheets, the thicker the paper the better - I picked up several
 vintage books of music at SuzAnna's Antiques. I cut the sheets
 using deckle edge scissors, gradually sizing them from large to
small with a small hole in the center, and glueing glitter on
some of the edges. Cut a paper star for the top. No rules really,
just use your creativity - they do look pretty and if you love things
made from old bits of paper you will enjoy these.
Any questions?  Be sure to ask.

Speaking of glitter. . . . . . . we're off to a Christmas Open House out
 in the country this evening.
I will wear black velvet but need something to give a little shine to my
very blah black mask!
I've decided best I can do is 'decorate' it like this . . . . . . . just 
using my dear late mother's marcasite clip! I also have small
marcasite earrings to match.
Do you think this works?

Closing here with a collage I made of the Christmassy corners around the cottage.
Enjoy your Sunday before Christmas. . . . . and the busy week ahead!

Friday, December 17, 2021

Christmas Thoughts 2021 -

Eugéne Samuel Grasset (Swiss 1845-1917)
Wood Engraving for the month of Décembre from his portfolio Les Mois -1895

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

I'm certain some of you will recall how much I love this painting and
 I share it here every year!

Speaking of mistletoe, there was no kissing under our mistletoe 'kissing ball' 
last year, and you know why.  There are many stories related to how this
 traditional bit of Christmas season lore, and frivolity, started. 
Personally I like to go with this typically English version . . . . . it has that lovely 
Downton  Abbey warm feeling -

"The mistletoe tradition blossomed, first among
 English servants and eventually expanding to the
 middle class. The basis of the mistletoe tradition
 was that men were allowed to kiss any woman seen
 underneath mistletoe -- and refusal to accept was
 considered bad luck."

This year Bob and I are throwing caution to the December winds - at least 
here at home when alone. We are vaccinated X 3 so having a little
smooch now and then as we pass from the hallway into the living room
 where the ball hangs.

Hoping you are kissed under the mistletoe this year. . . . and 
will be showered with good luck in the coming year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Fragrance of Christmas!

With Christmas preparations in full steam ahead mode, one really needs 
to stop and smell the pine and fir trees now and then.  My dining room
 table vignette was casually gathered together yesterday. It includes fresh
 fir branches. I also recycled a few of my autumn pumpkins stored in 
the potting shed after Halloween . . . . . my favorite grey green one, 
and two golden beauties which I've spray painted nickel silver for the
 holiday season.

Yesterday my special friend Jeannette and I managed to meet for a pot of
 calming hot tea at a favorite coffee shop - and shared a delicious Asiago
 cheese scone while catching up on news.  We exchanged Christmas
 gifts and one of my pretties is a candle with the fragrance named
 'Tree Farm'.  

Awaking to a heavy fog early this morning, I stumbled into a still dark
 kitchen and lit the candle (Jeannette thoughtfully added a cute box of
 old fashioned matches) on the island. In minutes I was transported
 to the the winter woods of my childhood.  It was lovely.

Do special scents at Christmastime bring back childhood memories for you?

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Looking back over life this week . . . . . .

 It's been a mixed week of trying to get niggling chores done in order to
 move along with Christmas preparations.
For instance, in the garden, cutting down the delightful dahlias now in their
 death throes. This one still beautiful. Hoping they will return next year.
Raking the never ending falling leaves - thank goodness Bob can still 
do this job - but next year we will most likely hire younger able-bodied 
yard workers - it's really too much for us now!

Putting away the daily decor and making room for Christmas - 
although this year I will keep it simple.

Last thing to decorate is the dining room table - my favorite space after the mantel.
It will also be the last . . . . .after I've completed writing the Christmas cards over
the weekend. . . . . they are scattered everywhere across the smooth, gleaming
 pine table, along with sheets of pretty postage stamps, address labels, lists,
pens etc. 

Stopped at a garden center in town yesterday to pick up some cut greens
and was surprised at the prices this year - so much higher than I recall.
This now seems to apply to everything we are purchasing though, 
especially food!

My choice of greenery for the mantel - $15 for these few pieces tied in a bunch!
Fresh wreaths such as at the top of this photo were lovely but priced so high,
some close to $100!
I'll scrounge around in the back garden and see if I can find more
evergreens and red berries later.

We decorated outside this week, fewer strands of lights due to
 my physical issues. Currently Bob does everything requiring bending
 and lifting! I went to PT twice this week and am now taking a
break until I see the neurosurgeon just prior to Christmas.

Hung wreaths - our very nice faux ones - with new red and black check
 ribbon bows, many candles in lanterns, and set some floodlights across 
the lawn. The cottage looks pretty once dusk fades and the inky darkness
 of these December nights blots the sky. The moon hangs low, a perfect
 clear crescent, stars are glittering, and the nostalgic fragrance of 
burning firewood creeps into the nostrils when I step outside. 
Although still warm, we did light a fire on Thursday night when
granddaughter Jasmin came for supper.

The coming of Christmas is a lovely time. Just need to stop, breathe, and
take in the simple things nature provides - they are the most important.

Hoping your weekend will be filled with treasures of the holiday season.