Saturday 26 December 2015

Downton Abbey ~~~ No Spoilers ~~~ Just That Life Will Never Be The Same Again

Gentle Reader ~~~ I am suffering from media emptiness, but please, be assured, this does not contain any Season Six spoilers, and I ask of my British readership, should you choose to  leave a comment, please respect that many of the readers are international and have not yet seen Season Six of our beloved Downton Abbey, so do not leave any spoilers.

It is over. How did this ever happen? Five blissful years of an Autumn series followed by the Christmas Special each December and now it is ended.

I know there will be those out there who could not give a fig, but I feel as if I have lost a very dear and old friend.

The last time I had such a feeling of media emptiness was at the close of the 1995 television adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle and {which brought to our attention the incomparable} Colin Firth.  As a nation, man, woman and child, sat glued to their television sets every Sunday afternoon, week after week, greedily devouring each riveting episode. Who will ever forget the 'wet shirt' scene of Mr Darcy emerging from the lake at Pemberley?  Up off your fainting couches ladies!

The questions that burned on my lips then were, "What was going to fill Sunday afternoons?" and "Would we ever find anything to replace it in our viewing pleasure?"

Time passed and programmes came and programmes went. Occasionally, a little nugget or gem showed promise, but nothing came close to rivalling the on~screen miseries and tensions of the Bennett family and Mrs Bennett's mission to secure successful marriages for all her daughters.  Until, five oh! too short years ago, on September 26th 2010, a new programme emerged, and overnight the void left by Pride and Prejudice was filled with a new addiction ~~~ Downton Abbey.  It came with much hype and hoopla, with many lavish trailers and teasers, and again a nation sat glued and waiting for the start.  I believe I was hooked before it actually aired and when Series One ended I could barely wait for Season Two, but thankfully there are such things as re~runs and dvds with which to occupy the time.

So, Autumn after Autumn, already my favourite time of year, had an added attraction to fill the cooler Sunday evening as the nights drew in as a nation, and later the world, tuned in to ITV3 for an hour of pure delight as we watched the lives of the Crawley family and their servants unfold with drama, elegance, wit, injustices and hardships, and the acerbic one liners of the Dowager Countess played by the indomitable force of stage and screen, Dame Maggie Smith.

I don't have to tell you any more about it, for, like Marmite, you either love it or hate it,  If you hate it, you will not be reading this; if you love it you are a kindred and understand. If you have never heard of it, where have you been? Dvd sets are available on Amazon and I believe there is something called Netflix.

I lived, blissfully, in Cloud Cuckoo Land, never thinking that Downton Abbey could ever end. Then, one painful day reality struck as I read an article in which Kilwillie {aka Julian Fellowes} announced that it would end. He did not see how it could be otherwise and he certainly did not want it to become Emmerdale, which, as he said, would be the only possible route given the historic changes to the aristocracy and their homes, especially after the Second World War.  In some ways I understood what he was saying. In others I just wished he could keep spinning it out, forever, as we took our weekly voyage of insight into the lives above and below stairs in a world mostly long passed from existence. It was a comfortable part of my life, something I could dip in and out of and feel as if I belonged, had never left, like meeting that old friend who you haven't seen for years yet slip comfortably back into conversation with as if you had never been apart.

Resigned, I hoped for a few more years, but no. We were already at the end of Season Four, and eventually it was leaked that there would be two more series at most. Pass the tissues.

And so, it came to pass that, last night, Christmas 2015, just over five years since the first blissful episode arrived on our screens, Downton Abbey left with hype and anticipation just as it came into our lives.  Yes, we can watch, and re~watch each treasured episode over and again, revelling in it as and when we please, but nothing will ever replace the anticipation of what will happen next in each of the story lines and threads; the reaction to the beautifully acerbic one liners from the Dowager; Carson's raised eyebrow of disapproval. Will Barrow ever get his comeuppance? Will Tom ever fit in? Will Bates' conviction be overturned and justice served? Who will be the next love interests of the bickering sisters Lady Mary and Lady Edith, and will either ever find happiness again?

~~~ not to mention, how brilliant the make up was. How different the characters look in reality, Mrs Patmore, Mrs Hughes, Dr Carson, and Daisy to name just a few, who are unrecognisably transformed from their real selves by make up  ~~~

~~~ and the costumes and cars ~~~ sighs ~~~ I was born in the wrong era ~~~ of this I am unquestionably certain ~~~

I now wait with eager anticipation for my American friends to see Season Six. It isn't long now, and then I won't have to keep quiet any longer ~~~

For many of us, media emptiness descends, and life after Downton Abbey will never be the same, so now we must wait and see what comes next, if anything can, for these are awfully big shoes to fill ~~~

Until next time

Sincerely yours

Monday 21 December 2015

Winter Solstice Blessings!

Gentle Reader ~~~ I bring you

Greetings for a 
Blessed Winter Solstice

Today, December 21st, marks the Winter Solstice ~~~ the official start of Winter, and in the northern hemisphere it brings the longest night, but I offer grateful thanks that tomorrow the light begins its slow and most welcomed return as, minute by precious minute, the days will start to lengthen ~~~ it is a most important day in my year, one of two Solstice days that govern the light and dark ~~~

In a few days it will be Christmas Day and the moon will be full in the sky to brighten the night. It is a rare occurrence for a Full Moon on Christmas Day and this year is a time of especial magic as the full lunar phase is at precisely 11:11 a.m. GMT on December 25. This full moon is known as the Full Cold Moon because it occurs at the very start of the Winter season ~~~ the coldest season of the year {or it is supposed to be!} ~~~

The Christmas Tree brightly lights the Village Square ~~~

The Cathedral waits the Christmas Processionals and services that will follow in the coming days ~~~

So, Gentle Reader, I wish you a Happy, Blessed, and Joyful Winter Solstice

Until next time
Warm Winter Wishes
Deborah xoxo

Thursday 17 December 2015

Once Upon A Time ~~~

Gentle Reader ~~~ Once Upon A Long, Long Time Ago in a quaint and curious village nestling by the ocean deep and blue, once there came and once there was a miracle called Snow ~~~

The narrow roads of this bucolic village by the sea were lined with rows of quaint and quiet cottages; chapels, churches and farmsteads dotted and spotted the highways and byways; pretty, high~hedgerow flowered lanes ran hither and thither; and ancient ruins lie among the green and fertile fields; while salmon leapt in the rivers and lobsters swam wild in the sea. Where the great Atlantic Ocean and wide white sandy beaches stretched out along the feet of high cliff tops and sheep and cattle safely graze, the village sat gazing yonder to the west, over the big, blue ocean in all its moods of quiet peaceful calm and wildest fury thunder.

Then, one day, the sleepy, gentle village folk awoke from their night time slumber to see the green and pleasant land they knew so well quite strangely changed, dusted all in white, as if some giant hand above had shaken finest icing sugar all across the fields and furrows, the hills and valleys, and all that lay therein and round about.  All was white and muted and all glistened with a fine crystal dusting of snow ~~~

White flakes of snow fell slowly, steadily, silently, sifting and drifting down from the grey cloud brim full sky overhead and soon the dusting grew thicker and thicker; settled the snow all around on the ground until all was a blanket of white.

Children, woken early by the softly strange new light that only comes from snow, flew from their cosy and warm beds in eager anticipation of adventures ahead. Bowls full of hot, creamy porridge were devoured as fast as they could; feet wrapped in thick warm socks were pushed quick as a wink into waiting Wellington boots; woolly scarves, hats and mittens that had waited so patiently all the year long on the hat stand in the hall were donned; front doors flew open wide; muffled and bundled children, barely able to walk from the layers of clothes, poured forth into the slippery, snow covered streets eager to form battle lines ready for games of snowball fights, or to build snowmen, and even take a tin tray, or sled if you were lucky enough to own one, to the nearby hill to spend the morning sliding up and down, down and up, until it was time for lunch when homeward bound they trouped ready for a bowl of warming soup ~~~ Round Two to follow in the afternoon!

And all the while, the white flakes fell and drifted ~~~

So, Gentle Reader ~~~ As I sit in my living room looking out at an unseasonably warm mid December scene with murky grey sky and rain, I am reminiscing of a day, now five years past when we had our last decent snowfall ~~~ I long for snow; I live for snow; I am in love with snow; my heart cries out for snow; when I lived in Iceland we had plenty of snow from October through to March and even longer. I was one very happy snow bunny. Since I have returned to the west of the United Kingdom, we have only had snow once on our tiny peninsula that juts out into the Gulf Stream and this is why we seldom have snow that hangs around for more than a few hours. Overnight is a rare thing, but to have snow for more than a few days is very rare indeed.

The last time this very rare event happened was on December 21st 2010 and, of course, I went out with my camera. The light is magical when there is snow; the familiar becomes strange and all looks alien.  There is much fun to be had capturing the snow in images, as much if not more fun than when I was a child. I know I've shared these before, but begging your pardon I am sharing them again. After all, they instil much happiness as I dream of a White Christmas once more ~~~ it is unseasonably warm, and even in mid December the heating is off for most of the day. A rare thing indeed.

A Snow Angel

A typical Pembrokeshire tree transformed with snow

Dramatic clouds looking as mountains, stand behind the nearby outcrop

The furrows left by the plough in Autumn make a lovely pattern across the field

Miniature Alpine scene ~ just a few inches high ~ the sun setting in the west

A frozen gorse bud melting in the sun makes a magical ornament

The snow lasted for days and days ~~~ well over Christmas and into the New Year. It was a real treat for someone like me who loves snow so much.

Until next time

Sincerely yours
Deborah xoxo

Saturday 12 December 2015

Help!!! I've Arrived at Old Almost Overnight!

Gentle Reader ~~~ with deepening concern over the past few months, I have to accept that I am getting old. I don't feel old, in fact there is a raging twenty something, or maybe she's a thirty something these days, on the loose inside this decades older body of mine ready to party hearty and boogie all night long. {preferably to Duran Duran or Spandau Ballet and dressed as a New Romantic as I did back in the day when the intensity of hangover was commensurate to how good a time was had}  ~~~ in my dreams, or maybe these days in my nightmares!

I won't give in, I am not old, at least not until another grey hair or wrinkle arrives; or a muscle is pulled while washing the dishes; or arthritis starts to twinge as I turn a page of a book; or particular genre of television shows seems suddenly unappealing, or even begin to show more than a passing interest in Songs of Praise or the Royal Variety Show {I've always loved Mastermind and Gardener's World, so they don't count in my case}; I'm no longer adverse to a quick forty winks on a Sunday afternoon; and now I look in utter horror at how the youth of today walk around scantily clad even in the depths of winter; I whinge about change ~~~ None of these mean I'm getting old, do they? ~~~but then a few weeks ago, as night time temperatures started to drop, the evil spawn of a cruel and painful thought crept into my unsuspecting, possibly napping for a moment, brain.  My guard had slipped and in came the thought, barrelling it's way into my normally very secure and sound reasoning youthful mind ~~~ a thought so dreaded and feared that resistance is futile.

Have you noticed how the country is being run by pre~adolescents and teenagers?  I swear the policeman plodding the beat the other day was a Boy Scout.

To me, getting old means a lot of things, none of which I feel I have experienced or achieved yet, so don't take any notice of the last paragraph! 'Old' is what my Grandmother was when I was a small child, yet in reality she was just a few years older than I am now. You wore a twin set and pearls before they became fashionable vintage items; you wore your Sunday Best if you were going 'to town' for the day; you had a quarterly perm and a weekly shampoo and set because both were de rigeuer, and a blue rinse if your hair was white or silver; you wore make up only if going out for an evening; you listen to 'old' music {okay, maybe I have that one under my belt}; you became less active; you watched "Coronation Street" because you related to Ena Sharples and Minnie Cauldwell and found Uncle Albert attractive in a worrisome way {although today, admittedly, Corrie and Eastenders appeal across the generations, and I do not watch soaps at all}; you go to bed earlier, you get up later; you go to Day Centres where there are 'suitable activities for the elderly'; Bingo was not a fashionable gambling activity that everyone played but the domain of the elderly in those Day Centres; your slippers were tartan with turn up ankles and red pompoms; you tut tut tutted the 'younger generation' saying things such as "In my day ~~~" {yikes, maybe I also have that one on under my belt too}; you sucked on boiled sweets and enjoyed jellies {soft fruit sweets, not those dreadfully uncomfortable plastic shoes}, a 'night on the town' meant a Port and Lemon or a small, sweet sherry in the Snug at the local pub, never the main bar, and only if in the company of friends, never alone.

I never gave getting old more than a passing thought every once in a blue moon ~~~

So, there I was, happy as Larry {whoever Larry is} first thing this morning over visiting on Guillaume's Vraie Fiction {which I implore you go and take a look, using this link, to see a most beautiful picture of early morning England} and having a moment or two to spare I hopped along to Octoberfarm following my curiosity to find out what exactly is an Inside~out Ravioli only to discover that the author addresses a similar feeling. Things that only seem to happen when we are OLD ~~~ you can read her story too, following the link and I think some of you will relate to it too: you have been warned!

So, what was it that happened to me to bring on this sudden awareness that I am old?  {speaks in whispers}

I like to read in bed.  Now, that is nothing new, for as a teenager I was listening to Radio Luxembourg or Radio Caroline while I read Bunty or later on Jackie. However, two years ago a tiny doubt about getting old crept in when I treated myself to one of those big, fluffy, supporting, triangular cushions to give me more comfort than just a pile of pillows while propped up reading into the wee small hours ~~~ it did not go unnoticed by my brain that this was not something I would expect a "young" person to own and use, much less be as thrilled with it's presence and usefulness. However, all thoughts were quickly dispelled as I snuggled into the incredibly comfortable hug given by the generously amply pillow that wrapped itself around me offering such support to my back, neck, and arms.  Suddenly, this became one of my best purchases ever. I had been very silly to think as I had done. Hadn't I?

Time passes, and with that thought gone, I was a happy bunny, warm, relaxed, and completely cosy, as I wandered through the realms of alternate realities with the amiable, sometimes not so amiable, companions and adventures provided by my choices of reading material ~~~

Until earlier this month when the night time temperatures started to drop to a chilly, late Autumn average. Now this is not a new thing, it happens at some point around this time every year. Except. This year that dreaded thought of the most dreaded thoughts arrived ~~~ late at night when your guard is down and the black shadows prowl outside your window sometimes sneaking in between your ears, and the wind moans like a banshee down the chimney, and the rafters are creaking wildly as rain lashes against the window panes, and you find yourself nodding, half awake, half asleep, into your hot cocoa drink


There it was ~~~ there it came ~~~ from nowhere ~~~ that tiny voice that whispers in the night ~~~

"Wouldn't it be lovely to have a nice, cosy 

That's it. My youthful days are over. No point in trying to disguise the fact that I am not that far away from my Free Bus Pass {of course, much is happening in local government and the qualifying age may well be upped, or the Free Bus Pass even done away with before I get there} I have become my Grandmother. Next stop, Marks and Spencer {I'm too old now, I can no longer call it Magic and Sparkle} to the bed jacket department it is, no longer can I hold my head high and walk into River Island or even Dotty P's ~~~ I'm holding off, for a while at least, on the tartan slippers with pom poms and thankfully, I still don't care for Sherry!

You'd be amazed how toasty warm it is sitting in bed still reading at one o'clock in the morning wearing an old sweatshirt ~~~ maybe I can postpone the bed jacket and impending old age for a few more years then?

Until next time ~~~

Sincerely yours
Deborah xoxo

Wednesday 9 December 2015

A Quick Hello ~~~

Gentle Reader ~~~ nothing much is happening here at the moment, well, plenty is happening but nothing I feel you would want me to share, so I have generally been quite quiet.  I'm sitting here today trying to unfrazzle myself from a stressful, pear shaped morning, gathering my thoughts while sipping a mug of my favourite Constant Comment tea, and nibbling Lindor limited edition Orange ~~~I'm in heaven as orange is a favourite flavour of mine in anything ~~~ chocolate, Cointreau, tea, cakes, trifles, juice, even shampoo, soap and bubble bath, not to mention the real thing peeled and juicy, freshly dripping segments.  So, here I sit and thought I'd just type a few words to let you know I'm still around, mainly having a quick read of other journals drifting in the ether and leaving a scattering of comments ~~~ This poem just about sums up me and the weather at the moment ~~~

The Sky Is Low, The Clouds Are Mean
by Emily Dickinson

The sky is low, the clouds are mean,
A travelling flake of snow
Across a barn or through a rut
Debates if it will go.

A narrow wind complains all day
How some one treated him;
Nature, like us, is sometimes caught
Without her diadem. 


The weather is cruel now. The winds have blown almost relentlessly for the past three or four weeks now and suddenly winds of 20 mph seem calm by comparison. The rain when it falls is torrential and drives sideways.

So far, in less than a month, we've had Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, and lastly Desmond. Today's map has the all too familiar big, white arrows again ~~~ Just look at the wind speed today {the black circles, below} and this is fairly typical. Some days it is easier, others much worse. Bah Humbug!  I'm fed up with this now. As for the poor people in the north of England, my heart goes out to them ~~~ I should not complain about my weather ~~~

Every morning now I open my laptop to my Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar to see what magical delight is ready to greet me, even distract me for a while as there are many activities, such as designing a snowflake, or decorating the grand tree that stands in the Square in the Victorian village ~~~

I have been doing a little more painting and reading some new books, most recent of which is Bill Bryson's latest release, "The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island" which is a jolly good laugh and a pick me up guaranteed to make you smile as he writes in his inimitable style. I was fortunate to be able to secure a signed copy too ~~~

Here are my latest Folk Art attempts {only my second effort at this} and I have to say I'm very happy how they are turning out ~~~ I'm getting the hang of this distressing technique that is quite the rage these days with the favouring of vintage ~~~The Eiffel Tower isn't finished yet, I have to work out how to make it stand up or turn it into the Leaning Tower of Pisa ~~~

For those of you who are my friends on Facebook, I have disabled my profile. I do not know if this is a permanent move or a temporary one. Let's just say 'until further notice' and I'm getting a lot more things done since I've made this move. It is a very distracting activity, and I don't think I realised how distracting until this last week or so. I confess I am severely lacking in self discipline {I think it is that free spirited inner child and the artist within} and I am easily led astray with distraction activities ~~~

The freezer is emptied, defrosted, cleaned, and now reset and filling up with goodies for Christmas, and to see us through the Winter months ahead. I feel happier with it full at this time of year just in case the weather turns really bad and deliveries cannot get through.  My dry store cupboard is due to be turned out later this week and have it's quarterly sort through.

The rest of this week I will be baking cakes and mince pies for the freezer and finishing off and labelling jars of Raspberry Jam and Cranberry Jelly I made earlier this week.

Did I mention previously that I won £50.00 of Lakeland vouchers? Well, I did, and this is what I spent it on ~~~ a lovely hamper of treats. I decided to treat myself and not spend it on mundane necessities ~~~

Doesn't it look scrumptious? And, there is a lovely wicker hamper for picnics later on too ~~~ I could tuck in right away but must be good and keep it for Christmas ~~~ The bag of fudge is particularly endangered!

Here is somewhere you might like to visit Susan Branch's latest blog "On with the Dance!" It's a real happy place to visit and there's snow ~ and you can sign up for the "Cookie Jar Willard" too, arriving in an inbox somewhere near you any moment now ~~~ I'm over there reading right now, see, I told you I am easily distracted ~~~

On that note, Gentle Reader, I must fly ~~~ I have never been so behind in the run up to Christmas, there are cards to write, there are jobs that are waiting my attention and I cannot keep putting them off just because I don't want to do them ~~~

Until next time

Sincerely yours
Deborah xoxo

Friday 27 November 2015

Season of Changes ~~~

Gentle Reader ~~~ As Autumn turns to Winter, it is with some surprise, caught unaware, that I realise it is now barely just over three weeks to the Winter Solstice when the days will begin to lengthen as the light steadily returns to the Northern Hemisphere. To where did Autumn fly? How did the year turn so quickly by?  Despite the ferocious Autumn gales that have pounded us now, surely and steadily for three weeks, the long weeks of Winter lie ahead.

My thoughts turn to one word ~~~change~~~ and all the changes the turning seasons bring, each one in their own unique glory. As each season changes and turns, so our lives change and turn ~~~

Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance.” 
~~~Yoko Ono~~~

Recently, I was in my attic and came across this wall hanging I made during an art course I took in 1998.  The group visited Castell Henllys Iron Age Village where we gathered research and upon our return to the studio at college we had three days to collate our research and then design and create a final outcome.

My final outcome was a woven hanging, and was made from a mixture of found, reclaimed, and recycled objects, and has a feeling of disintegration and change, which is how I responded to the information I had gathered ~~~ it also had personal significance as I was going through many life changes at the time, and because I work a lot in textiles ~~~

On the day we visited Castell Henllys, I was unwell with a feverish cold and, after a short while exploring outside, I hunkered down inside one of the huts where there was an open hearth with a roaring wood fire in the centre of the hut which radiated warmth and comfort to an extent that I'd never experienced before.  Any conceptions I'd ever had of how our Iron Age ancestors stayed warm changed right at that moment and melted into the flames.
~~~This was where the clan gathered, to eat, sleep {in beds around the edges of the hut} and tell their stories of an evening when the day's work was done.  I was amazed by the cleanliness and comfort as the conditions seemed primitive with a dirt floor, hewn logs for seating and an open space half covered by woven fabric for an entrance which offered little or no protection from the elements, yet incredibly comforting sitting there in the half light and in a haze of wood smoke.  More conceptions changed.
~~~The walls of wattle and daub were adorned with decorated wooden shields, and the roof of tightly packed reeds raised high above my head supported by tree trunks and sturdy branches.  Somehow, it made up for the open door and I soon found myself forgetting that I was unwell. These people had building skills and took pride in their interiors by decorating them. Yet more conceptions changed.
~~~I began to experience an immense and overwhelming feeling of connection to the natural world, and as if the spirits of the ancient ones were anchoring me to a new place of belonging, as I consciously drifted into another time. I was becoming changed.
~~~As my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I let my gaze wander around the space and was amazed at the skill and craftsmanship in everything that came into my new found focus. Beautifully woven reed baskets, iron pots and pans, iron and wooden utensils, a fire dog, woven blankets on the beds, and woven curtains to separate the beds into cubicles, the guides dressed in woven garments that had a beauty only seen in hand dyed and hand woven cloth. And so it went on as my perceptions and conceptions continued to change.
~~~I was particularly taken by the weaving looms, basic, yet quite recognisable as the forerunners of our modern day looms, and eventually these were the primary force behind the construction of the wall hanging {of course, at this point, I had no idea my research and development would result in a wall hanging}

Lichen covered twigs, diseased birch branches, reclaimed sash cord

Back in the studio my research progressed and I processed the images and experiences gleaned at Castell Henllys, two things seemed to come together. They were the way in which our ancestors utilised nature and found objects, changing them to purpose; and the mutability, the changeability, of those objects within the circle of life. Having changed from hunter~gatherers to settled farmers, the Iron Age Celts still relied on the bounty of nature for their food, clothing, shelter, enclosures and protection, weaponry, and more. We know that they had a sense of aesthetic and, amongst other things, changed plants into dyes for colouring their cloth, their art, and their bodies.  Woad was a primary source of the particular shade of indigo blue associated with the period.  They used trees and reeds that grew locally and changed them into beams and roofing for their constructions, and grew grain to harvest and change into flour for food. I drew on all of these things, and more, bringing them together in a woven by hand wall hanging that was not precious in any way. I just let my hands respond to the found materials, and created something in full knowledge that the mutability, the changeability, of the materials chosen was part of the outcome.

Fallen sycamore seeds and grain husks as the piece deteriorates and falls apart returning to the earth

Lavender grown in, and gathered from, my garden incorporated into the weaving

Roughly made clay weights created in response to Iron Age weaving looms
In my closing statement, I emphasised the mutability, the changeability, how the Iron Age settlement had returned to the earth and was recreated again, how the circle of life continues, and how my weaving will slowly return to rejoin the earth from whence it came ~~~ ever changing, ever present ~~~

This is a little gem of a quaint and curious film made in 1958 by the Esso Refinery to promote Pembrokeshire.  Charming in it's vintage style, the music at times reminiscent of an old movie, it epitomises a time gone by ~~~ changed forever ~~~ and many of the industries portrayed within are now no longer practised, or have been mechanised, or become a rare craft, practised only by a small minority, whereas once they were the skills by which every day life was made possible ~~~

* it is about 30 minutes, so go and make a cup of tea, fetch a slice of cake, and settle into a comfy chair ~~~

Change is everywhere in my village these days, and none for the better, as the Post Office, banks, newsagents, community facilities, and several shops close their doors forever. Two schools and the remaining banks are under threat too.  It saddens me to watch the community that once had such heart, such purpose, shrivel and wither at the hands of people who do not even live in the county. I will speak no more on this.

Change is unavoidable; two years ago, I took these images of the stark, leafless trees against a beautiful late Autumn sky of rose gold along my drive ~~~

Even this simple and beautiful view along my drive is now changed, for the neighbours on both sides, to whom the trees belong, have both cut the branches right back, in some parts even removing the trees completely. It makes me sad to see such butchered branches, but I have immense joy and gratitude that I captured their beauty before the changes took place ~~~ they will grow again, but changed ~~~

Not forever does the bulbul sing
In balmy shades of bowers,
Not forever lasts the spring
Nor ever blossom the flowers.
Not forever reigneth joy,
Sets the sun on days of bliss,
Friendships not forever last,
They know not life, who know not this.

Last night was the Full Frost Moon and I captured a couple of images as she shone down, brightly lighting the dark Autumn night ~~~ even the moon changes with a different shape each night as she waxes and wanes through the millennia ~~~

The night was clear and cold and the light of the moon was bright and bold

Magical clouds created a magical backdrop

Spooky branches and scudding clouds that change the scene again

Gentle Reader, we are in a season of changes, the weather drifts from Autumn to Winter, as the year turns, let us remember that as we move into Winter and Spring, our antipodean cousins move into Summer and Autumn ~~~ ever in the circle of the ever~changing year ~~~

Until next time

Sincerely yours,
Deborah xoxo

Sunday 22 November 2015

Sunday School and Onions

Gentle Reader ~~~

I am sitting in my living room, overlooking the garden, sipping a mug of warming, *spice infused almond milk, and watching the small, delicate garden birds feed from the few remaining apples that still, miraculously, cling to the trees ~~~ As ever, I am praying for snow, but all we have is rain, and now there is hail. Please, may I have a cross between the two? That would be snow, wouldn't it?



Whenever the moon and stars are set,
      Whenever the wind is high,
All night long in the dark and wet,
      A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?

Whenever the trees are crying aloud,
      And ships are tossed at sea,
By, on the highway, low and loud,
      By at the gallop goes he.
By at the gallop he goes, and then
By he comes back at the gallop again.

I wonder if, in the dead of night, a man on horseback goes riding by in the storms that pelt over us as the wind howls down the chimney making such noise that we would never hear if one did ~~~ don't you think this is quite a scary poem for children? It comes from one of those most loved books of childhood ~~~ "A Child's Garden of Verses" which most of us probably read as children ~~~

How the weather has changed, so suddenly, about ten days ago. While we previously enjoyed one of the mildest Octobers, and November began in similar vein, we are now paying the price for deliciously crisp Autumn days by enduring gale after gale after gale.

We now name our late Autumn and Winter gales and storms alphabetically, in similar nature to the hurricane system.  Oh, I do think someone in the Met Office has a dry sense of humour, for our first big blow was aptly named Abigail, which I may have mentioned I re~spelled ABigGale. After ABigGale blustered past with winds of 70 mph, we were welcoming the remnants of hurricane Kate, who was quickly followed by Barney {barney is UK slang for a fight} and last night we were battered by yet more high winds, this time from the North and bringing colder temperatures too.  so, the last ten days has been one wind storm after another. We now have a welcome break until Tuesday evening when the winds pick up again. Until then, they will be a comparatively calm 15 mph average.

I hope the garden is secure. It is as secure as I can make it, unless I have overlooked something.  It is definitely indoor weather now.


Do you recall that last year, one of my last gardening jobs was to plant some onions and garlic? I have never planted them so late before and wanted to see what would happen. Well, I was not impressed. I tended them well, but nothing happened. When harvesting time came, there was nothing to harvest, and the garlic was puny and not worth taking photographs. I was very disappointed.  Then, my circumstances meant I could not garden this summer and, with grace, I had to give in and accept that I could not garden and let the weeds take over.  The onions were forgotten, that is until two days ago when I was taking compost to the bin and noticed some familiar, bright green shoots sticking above the weeds as they die back. Investigation revealed that the onions that were lost are found! All are now growing!  I will leave them in peace now, until next Spring and see what happens. There may be onions yet.

As to the garlic, the cloves are many but dreadfully tiny, almost too tiny to peel, so last night I was roasting up a big pan of root vegetables and just threw in several of the miniature cloves to let them at least add some flavour. Wow! After forty minutes roasting with the veggies, the tiny cloves were perfectly cooked to the softest, sweetest, nuttiest, fragrant garlic flavoured purée I have ever tasted.  I will be roasting them up later and freezing the delicious purée for use over the Winter.


Recently, on a clearing trip to the attic, I found the following. Some of you may have seen these before, but I don't think I've shared them on here.   They are sheets of perforated tickets that were given to children to mark their attendance at Sunday School.  I have been trying to date them, and to find out more about them, but am not having much luck. I guess I must try to refine my search words some more.  So far, these ones seem to date from the early 1900's but were in use up until around the 1930's. I have no idea how they came to be in my attic, other than my strong family connections with the Cathedral, and the possibility of one of my forebears teaching Sunday School ~~~

This is the building where I attended Sunday School, and where these tickets would have been given to the children of the early twentieth centure too ~~~ I was a rebellious child and was expelled from Sunday School twice for being a "disruptive force" which I prefer to think of as being a

~~~ a Free Spirited, Independent Child ~~~ 

Until next time ~~~

Sincerely yours
Deborah xo

*to make a mug of spice infused milk, gently simmer 1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and two cardamom pods in 8 fl. oz of milk of your choice for five minutes. Strain into a cup or mug. I used almond 'milk' today, but coconut milk is sublime, and regular cow's milk works if you like it. I don't drink cow's milk.  You can adjust the spices to include personal favourites too. Sometimes, I add a spoon of cocoa powder.  It is warming and comforting when the weather outside is less than pretty.

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Tasha Tudor, Tuesday, and Yoghurt Streusel Coffee Cake

Gentle Reader ~~~ I am a follower of Tasha Tudor and for those of you who do not know of this remarkable lady, you can find out more here.  I know many of you who read my ramblings know much more about Tasha than I do and for those who want to read more, do pop over to read the web journal of the Take Joy Society which embodies Tasha's philosophy of taking joy in all the good that life has to offer.  You will enjoy it.

While I do not wish to cast a pall over the day by mentioning all the evil is happening in the world today, we cannot avoid it, and I think we need now more than ever to find the good and joy in everything we can ~~~

~~~ Tasha's philosophy, her words and actions, her respect for everything are more important today than they have ever been ~~~

I belong to a Facebook group called "Take Peace", and several of us have signed up to take part in our "Tuesday With Tasha" baking event.  Each Tuesday we take turns and pick one of Tasha's receipts, bake it, and share it on the page, and this week it was my turn in the kitchen to share the receipt I made.

It is such a lovely thing to do and spreads the JOY that we share through our love of Tasha ~~~ the act of baking brings me great joy and pleasure; the magical alchemy of bringing together a few simple ingredients to produce something that can bring so much happiness to those with whom I can share, and so very often in my kitchen that product is cake, or sometimes bread, for I love to bake ~~~ and I love to share the joy by sharing what I bake ~~~

Here are my step by step images for Tasha's Yoghurt Streusel Coffee Cake ~~~

First I must show you my favourite measuring cups and spoons, gifted to me by a very dear friend ~~~ I use them nearly every day and I have a thing for snowflakes and angels both ~~~ these are very dear to me ~~~ they bring me great JOY  and  Happiness every time I use them ~~~

Away we go ~~~

Preparing the tin ~~~ a 10" Bundt pan greased and floured ~~~ always do this first, before the baking commences, and light the oven ~~~

Making the batter ~~~ it has been so long since I measured my ingredients by cups I got a tad confused and ended up measuring two x 1/4 cups of butter instead of one 1/2 a cup ~~~ but it yields the same weight, just more work!
{now, when it says 1 teaspoon of vanilla, I often double up because I just love vanilla}

Sifting the flour and leavening ingredients together ~~~

Add to the wet ingredients ~~~

It was at this point the electrician, whom I've been waiting for days, arrived. Argh!  With the leavening already active I knew I was in trouble, but I had to let him in and leave my baking sit on the counter top and hope the mix would not spoil.  Thirty minutes later, job done, I returned to the mix ~~~oh! frustration! What else could I do but carry on and hope for the best at this point ~~~ of course, this would not happen if the cake was not for 'public display' would it?

Making the streusel mix ~~~ hmmmm, something not quite right here, it is supposed to be crumbly. This is not.  I think the sugar is too moist, I've had this problem before using this particular sugar {which is deliciously moist with molasses} ~~~

Oh, well, onwards and upwards ~~~

Assembling the layers ~~~ now I really know the streusel is wrong, but into the oven it goes, 350 degrees, or Gas Mark 4, for about 40 minutes. Mine took about 50 minutes ~~~

Baked and cooling ~~~ such a relief to see a perfectly risen cake after the near mishap, and a lovely golden colour and even bake too ~~~ but the streusel is definitely not right ~~~

Preparing the frosting {I wanted a thicker frosting than the suggested glaze, so added about half as much confectioner's sugar again as the receipt suggests}

The end result ~~~ Voila! ~~~

The cake cuts and eats beautifully ~~~ I am relieved, I am so relieved!!!

Bon Appetit!

had to cut it while still fresh as I wanted to share the images on the Facebook page, but I do believe it will improve with keeping for a few days. The frosting is quite delicious and I will be using it in the future on other cakes for special occasions. The butter makes it softer and more richly flavoursome than a regular water icing. I will add fruit juice, or even a splash of rosewater, instead of the tablespoon of water.

must also share with you a beautiful book I secured via the secondary market, for books by, and about, Tasha are quite hard to come by here in the United Kingdom. This is the book about her passion for doll houses and is just a wonderful and magical read ~~~ it will fill your heart, as it does mine, with


Sincerely yours
Deborah xoxo