Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Winter to Spring

Viburnum - Winter flowering evergreen

I was looking at my Winter garden and longing for Spring but know that longing for Spring has me missing out on today.

I was about to get on with some spring cleaning and de-cluttering when I decided to go for a walk. I had planned to do this all day but the weather was so changeable. During a break in the clouds I grabbed my coat and went. I got as far as the brow of the hill in my very local park when the sky went black and the heavens opened. I was only yards into my walk but decided not to turn back as I was aware that there were good lessons to be learned here.

The rain came down and I felt the hailstones bouncing off my head and the wind so strong and blustery that I felt I could be blown over. The park was desserted, not surprising in the circumstances, but I continued on my journey. I thought how I would like my life to be one of striding out between the showers but where would that get me and what would that teach me?

In the midst of the storm I saw how the hailstones did hit me but they bounced off and fell to the ground and melted. Just like the darts of the enemy that hit us hard. They hurt but as we continue on in faith they bounce off and disintegrate on the ground. Not because of any goodness and cleverness in us but because of the one within us as we journey on in the Spirit.

Just as I arrived home the sun came out. After Alan saying that he had been wondering if I had found any shelter, he asked if I had seen the rainbow. Well, no I had not seen the rainbow, I had been walking in the direction where I had my back to it. But, even though I did not see it, it was still there and I had all the shelter I needed journeying in God's presence. Thank you Lord for such a glorious illustration.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Calming the storms

Had friends to visit all day today and thought I would not be having time to post a blog. Then after they left I got to reading a number of people's blogs which led me to think of posting this quick one.
I think it is clear enough to read without typing it. I did it in a combination of caligraphy and watercolour.

Monday, 26 February 2007

February Sunset

I just love skies and sunsets. I just had to stop what I was doing today and rush outside and snap this one. A sunset is not just a sunset. The colours vary at different times of the year and with different weather patterns.

Spring Cleaning Here I Come!

Not as worthy as the title sounds - I have begun, but that is about all. I have begun to sort, clear and spring-clean. After less than an hour I am looking for homes for excess baggage, namely at the moment a keyboard and mouse, a 15" flat screen Monitor, a tape to tape cassette deck, an electric chopper and a blowup mattress. Not to mention a collection of blue bottles, not the flying kind, and a camera that has not been used since we went digital.

Have found homes for the matress and flat screen monitor and as for the rest my husband was last seen struggling with 2 heavy bags to the charity shop. If I continue like this I will have room in my house. Thinking about it, I actually began last week, without even realising it with several bags of jumpers and cardigans going to the charity shop.

So having begun I will be chipping away at the task whenever the fancy takes me over the coming months. If I continue blogging and reading blogs, the months may turn into years!

I did come across one little thing that I do not want to part with as I think it is cute. (pictured here). It is a brooch bought somewhere in the mountains of Tennessee. It is made up of matchsticks and dressed like people from around the world. Very clever. Sorry it is a little bit blurred but as it is so small I was seeing how close I could get with the camera. On second thoughts I should have just taken it and chopped it on the computer.

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Time for tea

Having partially run down my freezer in order to defrost it, I am now needing to replenish it. I like to bake in batches and freeze what we are not immediately using. So today I have begun that process with a little baking. I made 30 Date Scones and 30 Butterscotch Chip Cookies.

I just love dates and am inclined to put them into many things. These scones are so light. I always use butter in baking and not margarine and for scones I use Creme Fraiche instead of milk. I got to thinking some years ago how the best scones when I was a child were made from sour milk. In the days before refrigerators in the home it was a good use of the sour milk and especially during the war, nobody wanted to waste anything. As I have no inclination to keep milk hanging around until it goes sour I figured that Creme Fraiche would be the nearest thing. Makes great scones.

These Butterscotch Chip Cookies are delicious and especially if you have a sweet tooth like me. They are made from a Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, substituting the Butterscotch Chips for Chocolate Chips. Unfortunately it has not yet been possible to buy these chips in England. I have to wait until someone is going to, or coming over from the States. They are a delicious texture, light and very crumbly, again made with butter. I hope you enjoyed your tea with me today!!

Thursday, 22 February 2007

My Siamese cats

I really wasn't going to do any 'blogging' tonight, once I had checked my E-mails, but then realised that my husband was watching his favourite football team on tv. Yes, I could go into another room and watch another tv but if I want to settle down and watch a nice film on dvd then I would rather relax in my sitting room. So here I am taking photos and blogging. What would we do without digital cameras! (The following photos of my cats are only photos of old photos so not a good quality, but enough to see what beautiful cats they were.)

They both died of old age some years ago but I still have photos of them in my home and they will be forever in my heart.

This is "Misty" the Mother

Pedigree name Annabel Stasia

Misty had 7 kittens. We gave one away, sold five and kept one who you will see below.

This is "Sandy" the daughter

Pedigree name Zarabell Zavita

When Sandy died I felt distraught and in my grief I wrote the following poem which I imortalised in calligraphy with ornamental lettering, photographed below.

I know you will not be able to read the above so have typed it out.


That pretty cat who stayed awhile

and shared her life with us

Gave so much pleasure every day

and always made a fuss

She knew not of her beauty

that was for our eyes to see

Food, warmth and love was all she asked

then graced us with her dignity

The family was her refuge

the garden her whole world

Her elegance would make you stop

and stroke her back as she uncurled

The pleasure turned to pain one day

as we watched her life just ebb away

But the pain was a flame in a fire of joy

with sparks that brought back memories

Of the day she was born by our bedroom door

to a very proud cat who we still hold dear

Who if she could speak, would I am sure

join us in our epitaph

"A gentle lady missed a lot Sandy darling you are not forgot"

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Baby Things

Have just sent my last baby congratulations greetings card to a friend who has just produced a beautiful baby girl. It brings back into focus the fact that I still have not made a new stash of cards like I intended. I still have a stock but if I don't replenish them I will not have any when I need them. I do love making cards and I particularly like choosing the design of a card with a specific person in mind. As I do this, I will often make a few the same, as it it so much quicker designing on a production line as it were. It's also good to have a stock for friends who need a card in a hurry. Still, in the end I think it better to be spontaneous with hobbies rather than having to get one thing done at the expense of another. That way everything becomes a chore. Living and doing the next thing that comes naturally is more fun.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Angles sur l' Anglin, France

I have just been reading Cherry's blog Tales from pixie wood where she is talking of and showing the trinkets that she has brought home from her recent trip to Switzerland. It got me thinking about a beautiful place we visited when staying with friends in France. Our friends live on a farm in La Barre, South of Pottiers where they have turned their barn into a gite. Summer wine holidays This photo was taken in Angles sur l' Anglin, about an hour's drive away.

Once home I decided to paint this picture and here it is. There are so many beautiful scenes in this village, apparently it is one of the top ten in France, that I will post more photos from time to time.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Books Galore

Visiting my daughter Jane, and our dear little Grandson Oliver today I walked out in the sunshine. I was not tempted to visit the wool shop but I could not resist walking into a couple of charity shops that are known for good condition second hand books. No, I will not tell you where they are!

I ended up buying three. "Precious Time" by Erica James, "Spring Music" by Elvie Rhodes, "Rebecca's Tale" by Sally Beauman.

Only last week in the same charity shops I purchased seven books. "Blackbird" by Jennifer Lauck, "Shopaholic and Sister" by Sophie Kinsella, "The Seige" by Helen Dunmore, "Child of the North" by Piers Dudgeon with Josephone Cox, "Eden Close" by Anita Shreve, "Cold Mountain" by Charles Frazier and "The Swallow and the Hummingbird" by Santa Montifiore. I obviously need to keep away from these shops as well as the wool shop!

I just love books and reading as these pictures will testify to. I read novels in bed at night, some times into the early hours and heavier stuff and biographies are read at snatched intervals (like coffee and tea times) during the day. About 15 years ago I sent 500 books to the local Hospice shop. My shelves were a lot clearer for a while but as you can see I have managed to fill them up again.

When walking back from the shops today I realised that I have been a book lover for a very long time. When I was 9 years old I started a small library in my class at school. I began with about 5 books. I carried these books in a suitcase and using a notebook made a quite elaborate library record. I charged my classmates one penny to borrow a book and as soon as there was enough cash would buy another book to add to the collection. I have to say that one penny was worth a lot more in 1947. So fair to say that I have always treasured books and I have learnt so much just from reading apart from the enjoyment.
Below are some of the overflow in the "store room"

Another book corner. These are a selection of Christian books old and new. Some of the old ones written centuries ago.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Pruning Clematis

I have been pruning my six Clematis plants. I prune them early in February, cutting just above a low healthy bud (as low as 12 inches if possible, although about 20 inches as plant matures) and these pictures are the result one gets in the summer. Do n ote that I am talking about summer flowering clematis and not the small flowered spring flowering varieties. We visited Great Dixter a couple of years ago, home of the late Christopher Lloyd, one of our great 20th century horticulturists. The nursery there (and it is a nursery and not a garden centre) houses one of the country's most extensive collection of Clematis. As I chatted to Christopher (even at the age of 90 he loved to walk around his nursery and gardens and chat to visitors) he advised me to mulch clematis with a bucket of organic manure immediately after pruning. I have found this very beneficial.

Monday, 12 February 2007

It Snowed

Well I missed the snow in my own garden but got to photograph it in my daughter Janie's garden whilst cat sitting. There was a downside to this however. Oscar, one of the cats would come in from walking in the snow and then walk all over my lap leaving my jeans wet and muddy before jumping down and continuing with his day. On Thursday the snow measured
4 1/2 inches deep but by Friday evening had all disappeared as it was followed by torrential rain.
Now that I am back I need to find some time to continue with this blog. I have so many thoughts in my head but I know it will take some time to get them down on print.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Has anyone else spent the winter knitting scarves?

Has anyone else spent the winter knitting scarves? I caught the 'bug' last winter when I bought my first balls of funky wool. I intended stopping at one, or maybe even two, but it gets kind of addictive when one visits a wool shop these days. I will have to stop though, otherwise I will need more than one dresser drawer to store them in.

The grey one is for my husband and the stripey one, my 'Dr. Who' scarf, is made from wool left over from knitting toys.

I'm off to stay at my daughter's home tomorrow, cat and rabbit sitting would you believe. I know I will have a hard time walking past the very well stocked wool shop near to her.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Winter Garden

Just to say that there is colour in the garden at this time of year. Particularly the Japonica or Japanese Quince seen here. Extremely hard pruning in the Autumn brings this about. By that I mean if you are growing this up a fence then keeping it trained to the fence and then cutting back close to the fence. Keeping it tight in other words and then chopping the top off throughout the year as it reaches the height you want.

Saturday, 3 February 2007

What happened to January?

Seems it just came and went. My usual aspirations for January are to get stuck into making greetings cards to increase my stock.

I also like to begin my annual clear out and "throw-away". ("Auch" says AJR, my hoarder husband). I could not live in a minimalist home - I would have nothing to throw or give away. This task I begin in our "store" room, a room that began life as an integral garage. Once this is done it is easier to think about the beginning of Spring cleaning. These days my 'Spring cleaning' may not get finished until August as there are so many other things to fill my time with. Sorting and cleaning my store room can be fun or torture, depending on how you look at it. It stores games, files, reference books, language books, travel books, maps & Atlases, wool, material, candles, kitchen appliances, non-seasonal items, a bulk buy store cupboard, overflow of kitchen storage, tools, stationary, office equipment, stamp collection, light bulbs, cleaning utensils and products, picnic gear, wardrobe for extra outdoor clothing, jam making equipment, , sewing machine, several little used electrical items and many "what shall we do with it items". I'm sure you are getting the picture. I like to have these things in order and immediately available (it is not a mess) so it is good to have a good sort in January.

Well I have not done any of these things yet. What looked like a fairly empty calendar at the beginning of the month soon filled up until there were only 4 free days. All the usual stuff, family, house guests, dinner parties, unexpected visitors, days out, church activities, not to mention hairdresser, dentist, opticians and much more.

Now I have started a blog! What will this mean? My daughter may have a lot to answer for! Soon the garden pruning will be upon us. I love pruning too as I like a manageable garden b ut I have also learnt from my many years of gardening experience that lots of pruning pays great dividends later on with increased flowers and foliage. I will be showing you the results of this in future posts.

Friday, 2 February 2007