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

Sunday 15 November 2015

November Days ~~~

Gentle Reader ~~~ I was shocked this morning when I came online to compose this entry to find I have not been here for more than a month! How quickly October flew by, blustering past in a flurry of falling leaves, tossed by the winds, and now November is already at the mid~point ~~~ we have celebrated Hallowe'en, and while I try hard to continue the celebration of Autumn that is always in my heart, the weather outside my cottage is a stern reminder that Winter cannot be far away ~~~ next week is Thanksgiving and then it will be Christmas; I find myself asking, in earnest, where has the year that we numbered two thousand and fifteen gone?

I feel a bit late to the party saying this, but ~~~

{I love the warm glow and bokeh effect of this image that was nearly dismissed, but even the most out of focus image can be used!}

We have had a mixed bag of weather, mostly quite kind, but now the Winter winds and wuthering weather descend. We are in the last throes of our first storm, Abigail, or A Big Gale as I saw fit to rename her!  As of this year, we now name all our storms in the same way as the hurricane system does, alphabetically. So, Welcome A Big Gale! Goodbye A Big Gale because the next big low, unnamed, is waiting ~~~ with another after that, and another one again ~~~ and the Jet Stream is keeping them well anchored above the British Isles ~~~

I turned another year older in October but we won't talk about that~~~but thank you all for your wishes that came in via the post {oh, I do love proper post} and also wishes on Facebook, Twitter, and by email ~~~

Here are a few photographs to remind us of the Autumn months just passed as everything winds down ~~~

The Rosemary is in full flower ~~~

It looks almost late Spring~like, don't you think?

but on the other end of the garden, the rose hips are turning orangey~red and tempting in the small birds to help themselves to a vitamin rich feast ~~~

As the Autumn sun drops lower and lower in the sky with each passing day, the evening skies offer up bejewelled magical sunsets ~~~

A surprise parcel in the post from a crafty friend ~ a talented lady ~ who made me this lovely Remembrance Day pop up Poppy Card and hand made felt Poppy pin to wear with pride as we remember the Fallen ~~~

"When you go home, tell them of us and say
For their tomorrow, we gave our today."
John Maxwell Edmonds

In the same envelope was some of my most favourite tea ~~~ and  Bigelow Tea are celebrating their 70th Anniversary and so they are foil wrapped in special commemorative envelopes, each with a vintage image from the Bigelow Tea archives ~~~

I took up a new hobby! These are the very first images of my Folk It! folk art painting projects ~~~ I really enjoy this method of creating something pretty ~~~

I won fifty pounds {£50.00} of Lakeland vouchers just by filling in an online survey from Crafts Beautiful magazine, and I'm treating myself to the Buttermere Hamper.  I have always wanted a luxury hamper for Christmas and this is just perfect.  I shall look forward to packing a delicious picnic in this hamper in the future ~~~ I do love a proper picnic, don't you?

To finish for today's little update, the December Country Living magazine is here, it has been for a few weeks now, and something to look forward to reading on a dark and dreary Autumn afternoon ~~~

Next time isn't so very far away, and there is a real treat in store for any Tasha Tudor followers coming ~~~

Sincerely yours
Deborah xoxo