Sunday, 22 January 2017

An Apple A Day ~~~

Hello Friends ~~~

Just a quick dip in and out this morning. I am working on an entry for my David Winter Cottages, in which many of you expressed interest and said you'd like to see more of them. It's taking longer than I thought and I'm thinking I might do two instalments ~~~

Today I thought I'd share my breakfast with you. I know that might seem odd to share my breakfast, but it's been a bit of a revelation to me.  For years, my usual daily breakfast has consisted of more or less the same basic structure ~ unsweetened or no added sugar cereal of some sort {usually oatmeal or muesli} with fruit, usually blueberries or raspberries, and any one of a choice of non~dairy milk or home made yoghurt.  I'm not 'dairy free' I just don't like milk. Anyway, a few weeks ago I ran out of berries and after two days of bananas in my bowl, I decided to try Bircher Muesli which is the traditional way the Swiss {who I believe invented muesli in the first place} prepare and eat this delicious breakfast dish.

You can find any number of muesli recipes online, and it is so easy to adapt them to make one to your own personal tastes, which is what I do by lessening the amount of dried, sweet fruits and adding lots of extra seeds and nuts which I love.  Bircher museli involves soaking the muesli base overnight traditionally in apple juice {which I don't like, so I soak in oat milk} and in the morning stirring in one grated apple per serving. Now, that's where the revelation happened ~~~

Despite what you read, and much as I love oats {in all forms} an oat based breakfast never ever fills me up and fails to keep me going until lunchtime, as it is often written it is supposed to do.  The fact is, whatever I eat for breakfast, the Hobbit in me is always ready for Second Breakfast, or a little top me up snack around Elevenses.  However, no one was more surprised than me when I found that the addition of the grated apple not only fills me up more than the blueberries, or other fruit such as banana or raspberries, but keeps my energy topped up and more evenly spread out so that I get to lunchtime not wanting that mid~morning snack!   And, talk about delicious! Apples, oats, nuts and seeds are a complete marriage made in heaven! Who would have thought a simple apple could make such a huge difference to my morning!  I've always enjoyed apples, but usually eaten on their own, or with a small treat of a piece of cheese, and I've always had a fruit at breakfast but never an apple, that's always been eaten later in the day. Now, I have my breakfast fruit later in the day instead. A simple switch, but what a difference it's made ~~~

Recently, I bought this Emma Bridgewater mug which was made exclusively for Fortnum and Mason.  The teabag tidy is from the Sophie Allport range ~~~ both are so 'me' with all the bees ~~~

I took the time to write a review, and guess what? A few days later I was notified that I've won a £25.00 voucher to spend on Emma Bridgewater for my review!  I think I'm going to treat myself to two of her new city scapes mugs. There are currently four, Paris, Venice, London, and Oxford.  I think it will be Paris and Oxford ~~~

Now, how many of you tried wearing socks to bed to help you get a better night of rest? Did you try it? Did it work? I'm still using them, and as a control some nights I don't wear them and you know what? I don't sleep nearly as well or nearly as restfully.

Until next time ~~~
~~~Deborah xo

Friday, 6 January 2017

The Pages are Turning ~~~

Hello Friends!

Yes, the brand new brave new pages of a brand new brave new year are turning again with each new day bringing a fresh, clean page for us to fill with our imaginings and ramblings ~~~

Over the last few months there has been a recurring theme in words and sentence fragments I have read in many places across the internet, in letters, in conversations, from books, and so many other sources, and some which have even uttered forth from my own lips, quite uninvited, and in the last few days of December the urgency, the number of occurrences that continue to shout this message are now gaining such proportion that I can no longer ignore them ~~~ I must "NOURISH" my "CREATIVE SOUL" ~~~

I mentioned it a short while ago, so you may recall me saying that I will not be taking as many photographs and instead I shall be using my words to paint pictures for your mind's eyes to develop for yourselves; I believe this to be the catalyst, for since then I have been writing more and, although not yet published, and I have started picking up my art more and more.

It is fascinating how, once you open a door in the right direction, more doors, and more opportunities seem to start flooding in ~~~

I also noted that continuously, as the one behind the camera lens, I find myself missing out on the moment, and this year it is my intention to live in the moments rather than be so lost in capturing a digital image.  Living in the moment will Nourish me too ~~~

But, I hear myself argue {oh, boy! there's no one like my inner voice at times such as these} you love photography! Well, yes, I do, but this year is going to be BRAVE and NEW for me as I try to strike some fresh, new balance in my life, and that must start with some balance over my photography and it's connection to other aspects of my creativity.

Seed Head

Oh, before I forget, I don't particularly make New Year resolutions, but do feel it is necessary to do so this year. I resolve to replace caps on pens and to retract ball points immediately upon finishing using them. From this, I think you may gather that there have been a few inkcidents recently. Do you like my new word?

Without going into detail why, I have neglected to feed and satisfy my creative self for far too long a time, whether in writing, painting, sewing, and more, but the time is right to return to feeding my creative self, right now, no time like the present {it's a gift, don't you know?}, I am giving myself the gift of creativity, this is the time I reclaim my creative self ~~~

The pages are turning on my new tool to a more creative me "Morning Pages" A good while back a dear friend recommended I read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, and like so many other recommendations it made it's way onto my bookshelves only to languish. Now, if there is one thing I believe in it is everything comes in it's own time, and now is the time for me to start working through this book. There are a few other books that have arrived at the cottage recently too, namely Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and Draw Every Day * Draw Every Way Sketchbook.

Each morning, hopefully before the day begins in earnest, I am working on my Morning Pages, three pages of writing which does not have to be creative, but a stream of conscious thought. There are some interesting pages developing!

Each day, at any point where I can squeeze it in I am going to draw something. A doodle, a zentangle, illustrate a single letter, or work on something more intensive that might build up over a number of small bites of time, even over a few days.

I am making myself pick up something to create that involves fabric or paper as often as I can manage it, daily if possible. It may be something small and simple, such as a greeting card, a note card or a book mark, or it may be something that, again in bite size nibbles, goes on to create a larger work. I've ordered some crochet hooks as that is something I've always wanted to try, and I've pulled out some old embroidery hoops too ~~~

To all of the above, it isn't important what I write, or draw, or make, the important thing is that I am doing something creative, to feed and Nourish my creative spirit in some sort of pattern daily ~~~ the worth of this to my creative spirit is immense.

Please, don't worry that I have abandoned my photography entirely, for I know how so many of you love to travel along with me as we stride out across the byways and bridle paths of the Shire ~~~ on the contrary, I have signed up for an online course, "A Year With My Camera".  I know this is starting to sound contradictary, but this is not about taking photographs as such, it is about getting to know your camera and improving the quality of the images you take by knowing your camera ~~~ you know all those buttons and icons that most of us ignore and opt to use 'auto'? Well, soon I'll be learning what they do and the way they can be used to give back control of the image to me not to the camera.

Some of the other ways I am nourishing myself are, briefly, through healthy eating and walking. I'll share more on that in the future, but you know what this means, don't you ~~~ recipes and outings coming in the future, along with updates to my progress on The Artist's Way and other art and creating ~~~

Until next time ~~~
~~~ Deborah xoxo

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Beautiful Light!

Hello Friends!

Happy New Year!
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

During the month of December I did not want to swamp you with my usual posts but I did keep writing, so let's start a little catch up, shall we?

December has generally been an unusually warm and calm month, and early in December I felt particularly blessed for there were some outstandingly lovely days for the time of year, and the light that cast it's golden glow over the Shire was magical. We saw a couple of mornings with a light ground frost and that always makes a delicious subject for me to capture.  Here are some of the photographs I took when December was young ~~~

On a beautiful, clear and crisp afternoon, the sun slowly lowering and casting a warm glow as I was looking out over the red roof ridge tiled converted chapel towards Carn Llidi ~~~ the smoke billowing from the chimney making the elephant of the rock's trunk look even longer ~~~

We had some beautiful sunsets throughout the month.  I always marvel at the diversity, the colours, the intensities of each new sunset and as each one shifts and changes as the twilight falls ~~~ I look at this and see a secret faerie village emerging from the gloaming ~~~ do you see it too?

A bare Sycamore tree, long divested of leaves and seeds, but with an evergreen Privet wreathing it's feet, it stands stunning, a skeletal form against the brilliant, bright blue sky of a cold winter's morning ~~~

On a cold and frosty morning ~~~ yes, one day I awoke to a silvery, frost kissed garden ~~~ it did not last long so I scurried about catching a few pretty, silvery frosty pictures while the day was young ~~~

A certain light, as the evening sun slips slowly into the west, casts a golden glow across all it touches, brings gleaming spires to the Shire ~~~

One pretty morning while I was in my laundry room I felt as if I was being watched ~~~ and I was!  I scurried off to fetch my camera hoping the pair of eyes would still be there, and they were!  Isn't this the most beautiful cat? The photos do not do justice to it's beautiful deep green eyes ~~~

It is a very well looked after and cared for cat, but if there was any shadow of doubt over this I would be looking to adopt it! He, or she, is a beauty.

Here are a few photos that I've shared before but I am rather fond of these so am sharing again ~~~

Autumn leaves captured in ice

even the compost bin log takes on an original twist in the frost

Alchemilla Mollis in heavy fros 
Alchemilla Mollis in heavy frost
Over the Christmas period I was looking for something, what that was is not important, but in my search I came across some long forgotten photographs, you remember those? Old, grainy, 35mm film that fades away with time, that we had to hand over the spool of film to get printed out by a specialist in photographic printing? Well, I've done a little experiment and taken photographs of the photographs! Here they are ~~~ they are from the rural area around the Somerset county town of Taunton, where I lived for six months in 2000~01. Every Sunday I would take a long walk out into the surrounding countryside, past tiny villages and through hamlets, surrounded by deep red freshly ploughed fields, sheep grazing in pastures lush and green, and bare trees standing tall against the winter sky that were full of big balls of magical mistletoe ~~~ I had no idea where I was, just wandering and meandering along using the rising sun as my compass and guide ~~~ oh, how I wish I'd had a digital camera back then ~~~

Until next time ~~~
~~~Deborah xoxo

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Gardening Joy in December

Hello Friends!

I hope you all had a PEACEful and JOYful Christmas and are now looking forward to a brand New Year waiting just around the corner; it's an empty page just waiting to be filled with joy, gratitude and new adventures ~~~

Now that the daily Christmas Countdown posts are over I am finding it strange not to be writing every day. I learned much about the Christmas season as I researched each new thread, and that is a joy in itself; also a joy is that I have renewed the habit of writing ~ although I did very little over Christmas and Boxing Day ~ I was given some pretty new note books for Christmas so some of my writing will be placed on those delicious new pages that are waiting to be filled with words ~~~

I had prepared everything in advance for the 25th so I was able to take a well earned "down day" and indulge myself in watching Christmas specials on television, reading new books, and colouring in with new supplies ~~~

Rarely have I been so blessed as to be continuing to garden in December! With the generally mild weather, over the last few days I have found things that defied the earlier December frost and just keep on bringing beauty in their small corners!  Despite the grey December days, the garden is still giving pretty spots of uplifting colour with Kaffir Lilies and Osteospermums! I am in awe over the way these delicate plants overcome the cold and frosty mornings as they continue well out of their seasons ~~~

The bright sugary pink of the Kaffir Lilies look amazing against the glaucous leaves of the Euphorbia plant ~~~

A single bold and bright yellow Marigold braves the chilly days ~~~

Delightful purple Osteospermums still flower ~~~

and a golden yellow rose blooms still ~~~

I am not as hardy as the plants so I wrap up warm and enjoy stolen moments, picking a few herbs from the herb garden {mostly rosemary, oregano, sage, and lemon balm} for cooking. The flavours aren't as strong this time of year, but it is such a treat to pick fresh ones as needed ~~~

There are still a few small piles of leaves and while no one is looking I let my inner child gleefully kick and crunch her way along! Soon, the frost will speed up the decay and next year there will be bags of delicious leaf mould for the borders.  The circle of life goes on ~~~

Until next time ~~~
~~~Deborah xoxo

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Countdown, Traditions and Trivia Day Christmas Eve

Hello Friends!

Well, dear followers and friends, Christmas Day is almost here, just one more sleep as they say today. Tonight the stockings will be hung with care, and wee ones all over the world will find it hard to sleep tonight.  I remember when I was a child not being able to sleep at all, butterflies churning in my tummy all night long in eager anticipation that I'd been good and Father Christmas would call on me, leaving me a special present underneath the tree in the parlour and filling my stocking at the foot of my bed. I was up before dawn and stayed fully charged until bedtime on Christmas night!  After opening my stocking it was off to church for the 7:30 a.m Eucharist, then home for breakfast before the mayhem of opening presents commenced. Even back then there were always many books under the tree for me, and I'm pleased to say, I must have been a good girl back in those long gone days of my past, for I was never disappointed ~~~

So, here is the final door of the Advent calendar for 2016, it is the largest door and in the centre of the image too ~~~


For today's final traditions and trivia I will share with you the unique Welsh tradition of Plygain.  If you listen to the clips, below, you will hear how to pronounce it. My best interpretation is to say plug~ayne {but I'm not very good at phonetics}

Plygain is a chapel service that takes place in chapels across Wales in the wee small hours of Christmas Day between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., starting before daybreak and finishing, symbolically, after the dawn has broken. People either get up very early or some don't go to bed at all ~ that would be a bit too much for me with all the catering and excitement of the day ahead and no sleep the night before, with no chance of a recharging nap during the day.

The word Plygain is believed to have it's root in the Latin word pullicantio, meaning 'when the cock crows at dawn'; it could also be derived from plygu, meaning to bend forward in prayer. The word is first recorded in the Black Book of Carmarthen in early Welsh manuscripts in the 13th century.

The traditions of Pygain vary regionally, for example:

  • In some rural areas the locals would gather in farmhouses to make a treacle toffee called cyflaith.
  • In Marford, they decorate the farmhouse with winter foliage such as holly or mistletoe.
  • In Dyffryn Clwyd, they light the candles at two o'clock in the morning and sang and danced to harp music until the dawn service.
  • In towns, or more populated areas, such as Tenby, crowds start the evening with a torch-lit procession, and the young men of the town would escort the local priest from his house to the church while the rest of the procession sang and blew cow-horns.
  • At the local chapel {I do not attend} one of the attending couples, very generously, invites the entire congregation back to their home where they serve up freshly cooked bacon baps {a special sort of bread roll} to the hungry people.

Until recently, Plygain candles were lit throughout the chapel during the service. Candles were decorated with coloured paper and hoops woven by local congregants.

Here is a clip from the BBC showing an old recording of Plygain with an interesting insight to the non~conformist viewpoint of such Christian feast days as Christmas and Easter.

This is a radio broadcast, about five minutes long, explaining Plygain and with excerpts from a service.

I hope you will be able to access them internationally for I know some of you will be eager to listen.

The last of the Yuletide Lads is Candler Stealer who is also known as Kertasníkir, Candle Snatcher or Candle Beggar.  He arrives tonight and takes his leave on January 6th.

In days of old candles were a very expensive commodity in Iceland and would have been strictly controlled in an Icelandic household. It would have been very uncommon for children to have been given one.  Around Christmas time, however, there is very little daylight in Iceland each day and children may have been given candles at that time. Candle Stealer would sneak around in the dark behind children with candles, waiting for his chance to steal them. At one time, candles would have been made from animal fats {tallow candles} and were edible, therefore Candle Stealer would quickly gobble them up!

Hunger seems to be a recurring theme with the Yuletide Lads and I wonder if this reflects the paucity of food and desperately hard living conditions faced by the settlers in Iceland?

So, this finishes the Advent Calendar, my accounts of traditions and trivia, and rounds up the last of the Yuletide Lads for another year. Tonight the frolics and japes will be many in the homesteads and villages across Iceland as all the Lads are present, but tomorrow evening they start their return, day by day, in the order in which they arrived back to their mountain home for another year.

I hope you have enjoyed the last month as much as I have exploring just a small handful of traditions and trivia, even some of the darker side too. My heartfelt thanks to those of you who have taken time each day to leave a comment. They are precious and mean so much to me.  So, all that remains is for me to say ~~~
Nadolig Llawen!
Wishing You a Very Happy Christmas

I hope your Christmas is jolly, full of family and friends, and I wish for yours to be full joy, peace, and hope.

Until next time ~~~
~~~Deborah xoxo

Friday, 23 December 2016

My Christmas Wish to You

Hello Friends!

I had a rude awakening this morning around 5:30 a.m. when Mum came to my bedroom door. I was awake and out of bed in an instant to find out what was wrong, but it was only Mum, bless her, wanting to know if I was asleep or not. Is the irony of this lost on anyone?

So, tucking Mum back in her bed for a few more hours, back to bed I went ~~~ although the bed was warm and comforting I found I was failing miserably at regaining the cosy dream through which I was previously wandering, that was when the words started to bat around in my head.  A Christmas wish from me to you. I tried to compose it but at 5:30 a.m. words trundle merrily along the route~less thoroughfare of my brain and leave at the nearest junction never to be seen again ~~~

Eventually, the alarm sounded and I shivered in the cold of my unheated room, a cold that I had not noticed in the urgency of my early wake up call. As my day began, sitting, sipping my coffee, I found a little gift in my reading list, a new entry by Susan Branch {my happy place} and there I read a lovely verse that she had shared which pretty much sums up, succinctly, what I was trying to compose in lengthy prose,

1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”

Later, an email arrived in my inbox with a very similar message, taken from an early 16th century writing by Fra Giovanni Giocondo (c.1435–1515) a Franciscan friar.  I quote:
“I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.  There is nothing I can give you which you have not. But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant.
Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see.  And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!
Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you.
Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there. The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.
Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it; that is all! But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country home.”

So, my friends, whether you celebrate Christmas or any of the other number of feasts at this time of year, these words are my Christmas gift to you, to keep and to hold in your hearts all year long, to live and abide by the true meaning of Christmas all year long.  The times in which we live are bleak so we must hold faith and hope dear, and remember that LOVE is the greatest gift of all ~~~

Nadolig Llawen
Deborah xoxo

Christmas Countdown, Traditions and Trivia Day Twenty Three

Hello Friends!

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, so today I open the penultimate door of my Advent calendar and here is the picture and scripture for today ~~~


I've introduced some quite scary Christmas traditions from around the world, so today I'm taking a look at a much gentler one, something that I feel is far more appropriate for the Christmas season and that is the Christingle or Christkindl. Christingles originated, again, in Europe when a Moravian minister, John de Watteville, gave candles tied with a red ribbon to the children at the Christmas service in 1747.  The Christingles were accompanied by this little prayer ~~~
Lord Jesus, kindle a flame in these children’s hearts, that theirs like Thine become.
Over the following years the tradition flourished and spread, and the Christingle changed in appearance until it evolved into what we know today, a candle in an orange pierced with sticks holding dried fruits. Each of these is symbolic
  • The orange represents the world
  • The candle is the Light of God
  • The ribbon is the blood of Christ
  • The sticks represent the four points of the compass and the four seasons
  • The dried fruit represents the bounty of the earth

The meaning of Christingle or Christkindl can be either Christ Child or Christ Light and today they are used in many Advent services across the world, and popularised in Great Britain in 1968 by John Pensom who used the Christingle to raise money for children's charities.
The second to last Yuletide Lad is Meat Hook, arriving tonight and departing on 5th January Also called Ketkrókur, Meat Hook, would, in bygone days, lower a hook down the kitchen chimney to pull up a leg of lamb that is being smoked, or any meat that may be being cooked in the pan.  These days Meat Hook will use his hook to snatch meat from anywhere, but as his pole is very short, often has little success.

Until next time ~~~
~~~Deborah xoxo

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas Countdown, Traditions and Trivia Day Twenty Two

Hello Friends!

Nearly there ~ here is today's Advent picture and scripture ~~~


I don't know what it is with the northern Europeans but they certainly do have some very unfriendly and frightening characters in their Christmas lore! Over the last few days one name keeps popping up everywhere, and that is Krampus, so I decided to investigate.  I really do not like what I found, I had not heard of this dreadful character before, but have decided to tell you about him anyway. Like the Mari Lwyd of Wales, which I wrote about earlier, it is something that belongs more in Hallowe'en than Christmas.

So who, or what is Krampus?  He is an anthropomorphic half goat half demon figure from areas of Europe that include Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Northern Italy.  He is a sort of companion to Saint Nicholas, but Krampus is the one who punishes all the children who have been naughty.  In some areas where the Feast of Saint Nicholas is celebrated on December 6th, the preceding evening is the Night of Krampus, or Krampusnacht, when the beast roams the streets seeking out children who have been bad to give them gifts of coal into shoes left outside for him to find {another common theme in Europe for naughty children} Being the stuff of nightmares, in some countries this creature with his horns, dark hair, and fangs, comes with a chain and bells that he lashes about, along with a bundle of birch sticks meant to swat naughty children. He then hauls the bad kids down to the underworld.

For many years Krampus's frightening presence was suppressed both by the the Catholic Church who forbade the celebrations, and by fascists in World War II Europe found Krampus despicable because it was considered a creation of the Social Democrats.  However, of late, there is a resurgence in Krampus's popularity and books have been written and a film made of this demonic Christmas character.

Personally, I don't understand the necessity, or the logic, behind such scary stuff, especially when aimed at young children, but who are we to question the traditions of centuries?  I give you my word, no more evil Christmas characters!

Moving on to Iceland where tonight's eleventh Yuletide Lad is Doorway Sniffer who will be here between 22nd December - 4th January
Also known as Gáttaþefur and Keyhole Sniffer, he has an enormous nose and a very good sense of smell. He loves the smell of cakes and Laufabrauð being baked, and will stand at the door using his great sense of smell to sniff out any cakes he can steal.

Until next time ~~~
~~~Deborah xoxo