Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas Stockings

I think we have quite unusual Christmas stockings in our family.  My Mum made them on our first Christmas, she had seen them made by a  Canadian lady who lived in the upstairs flat (although my sister remembers it as a German lady).

The stockings are traditional red with some kind of fur at the top, but the nice idea is that each year a different charm is added.  Each year the children eagerly await receiving their stockings on Christmas Eve to see the new charm. The charms can be any kind of thing, mine includes an old ear ring that once belonged to my Mum, a pretty wooden badge that my aunty brought back from Austria.  They have such lovely memories for me.  Sadly now that my mum is no longer here,I don't get new charms, but it is lovely to search for new ones each year for my children.  I started off their stockings with a charm taken from mine.

My sister in Greece has made her children's stockings in more elf like shapes rather than Santa's boot shape, and she has green velvet at the top.

The photo also shows her stocking that my mum made when she was a baby.  Naomi was born about a month before Christmas, and myself and my other sister were aged about 11 and 10.  I still remember Naomi's first Christmas and nearly everything she had in her stocking including talcum powder and a wooden tortoise!

The first Christmas of your children is the most magical time of all.

While I am getting sentimental, I shall put in a photo of my favourite Christmas story.  I have had this one since I was tiny, I know that nearly everyone knows the story, but I just love the illustrations in this particular book and was so pleased when I had children to read it to.

I would love to know if they really have stockings like ours anywhere else, although I have read quite a lot of foreign magazines, I have never seen anything quite like our Christmas stockings.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Nature's Bounty

It is half term and I am so lucky to be living where I do.  Lovely country walks even in blustery and wet weather.  We went to Durlston on Tuesday and were so lucky to see the dolphins, we have been looking for them ever since we moved here.  We were just watching a fishing boat rocking along in the stormy sea and there they were, we watched them for about five minutes and then they disappeared. I tried to take a photograph but they just looked like black specks in the distance - so here is another picture from this holiday.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Keeping cheerful

It has been a bit stressful on and off for the last few months. Nothing major or life-threatening but just a bit full on.  I wondered what I could write about because you don't really want to hear about me sobbing in my tea cup or hollering at the dog, or the keeping the house clean efforts, so I thought about what I have around that makes me laugh.

Just inside my kitchen door I have pinned on the wall this cutting from a newspaper.  He is such a cheerful soul and always makes me smile!!

My other thing is my Mary Engelbreit calender.  I first came across this artist when a friend gave a small book her quotations 'Life is just a chair of bowlies'.  Now I have a calender every year, it is a treat and I keep all the illustrations, which one day I will make into a little book. I have jumped ahead to November and the quotation is by Leonard Cohen (another all time favourite person) and it says something like  'When your heart is broken, then there is a crack where the light can come in'.  Someone very dear to me has had a tempestuous time of late, but it is true a lot of light has been shed on the matter in question.

Well, this is all rather heavy, and of course when the going gets very tough, the tough eat chocolate (or cake!!!) There is nothing better for the soul (but not the waist) than making a big cake and then munching it!!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Little Sparrows

My wee boy (!!) had a week away at his auntys.  This is the present he bought back, a litte flower bird feeder.  Now I can watch beautiful birds in the morning as I make the tea and pack the lunches for the day........

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Mint Jelly reflections

I have been gone such a long time, it just seems to have been so busy and very little inclination to write.  But now it suddenly seems very autumny, wind and rain, so I can get back to writing and back to making things.  We had a very blustery day on Monday, lots of things blew down including a big branch on a very old apple tree along the road. While I was out with the dogs, I collected a bag of apples and some blackberries.  I made an apple and blackberry crumble (with shop apples) and chopped up the fallen apples and cooked them up to make apple jelly.  I haven't made this for at least four years, when I lived out in the countryside.  Now I live in a tiny town with the countryside on my doorstep.  It was good to do this again, finding a cloth and straining them into my big pink bowl, then tonight boiling them up with the sugar.  The pan I have is too small and it kept boiling over and left my cooker in a sticky mess, but the result...... four lovely jars of mint jelly.

We have been thinking very hard about moving house to a smaller one, that will leave us more time for projects, travelling and relaxing.  But first we have to tidy up, decorate and sort out.  This is not the appealing part, I wish a magic wand could be waved and into the new, little house we would suddenly land.  We have one in mind, and if its meant to be, it will happen.  One room is almost finished being painted, maybe our bedroom next.  'The Man' from the estate agents is coming to look next week........

Saturday, 12 March 2011


I have been reading a wonderful book by Patrick Barkham, The Butterfly Isles.  He tries to find every British butterfly (59) in one year.  It is a lovely book and really readable, not at all 'heavy'.  It made me want to start hunting butterflies even though it is only March and this is just about when they start to appear.  Given that the beginning of the week was quite cold and frosty, I don't think I had much chance of just seeing one if I was not actively hunting one!  However, it did make me get off the bus one stop early.  That way I can walk past my lovely patch of wild violets, they are so beautiful.  I did feel a bit silly taking a picture of them, and made sure there were no people close by before snapping, but I was really pleased how the picture came out, with them all frosty.

As usual this got me thinking about my childhood.  My sister and I were born in London, but we were really lucky in that when we were about 1 and 2 our parents decided to move us to the countryside to a small market town in Wiltshire.  We had a wonderful early childhood, with lots of nature, always in the garden and fields, a long walk through a different part of the countryside on Easter Monday (we had no car, so everything was done by leg or bus).  We would catch minnows and sticklebacks in the brook, dam it up and make stepping stones. Sometimes we would go to the Westonbirt Arboretum, one of my most favourite places.  We would go on the bus and get off and then all of us hop over the big wall into the beautiful glades of trees and rhododendrons.  Both sets of grannys lived by the seaside at Weston-Super-Mare so every holiday would be spent there.  We used to walk to the top of Uphill where there were lots of grasshoppers and spend a long time catching them.  Dad also gave me a long time scare of spiders by catching them in matchboxes before releasing them, but the horrid thing was that he would hold them by our ear and we would hear them scrawling inside!!!  Here where I live now, in the Isle of Purbeck is a very active branch of the RSPB, which looks after all wildlife, not just birds.  There is a lovely man who is absolutely passionate about spiders, so one day I will go on a Spider walk with him and learn to love them a little bit more.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Books I have been reading

I have found some lovely books just lately.  I have really enjoyed 'Cloth Girl' and 'The assocation of foreign spouses' by Marilyn Heward Mills.  Set in Ghana, one just before the war and the other in the eighties.  They really transport you to a different way of life in a different country, very interesting.

I have also just finished 'My name is Mary Sutter' by Robin Oliveira.  This is wonderful, it is about a midwife who wants to become a surgeon. But the time is the American Civil War, eventually she does get her wish.  It is rather gruesome in places, ("mum, mum you're not listening to me"  "well, someone is just getting their leg chopped off") and defintely DO NOT read if you are having a baby in the near future, but otherwise hugely recommended.

Also the Jade Del Cameron mysteries by Suzanne Arruda.  This is 'Out of Africa' with a mystery , I have just read the first one of these and am now ready to start no.2.

And light reading, Christina Jones - 'Moonshine' and 'The way to a womans heart' (more cake!) and Carole Matthews 'The only way is up'.

My Treat

I treated myself this week and my lovely parcel arrived yesterday - a beautiful pink mixing bowl.  We just had to make a cake to celebrate its arrival, despite trying to do sensible eating.  We opted for a big cake with smarties, just like my granny used to make for special occasions.

It got me to wondering about several things..... I have been wallowing in lots of other peoples lovely blogs and we all seem to like remembering things from our childhoods, the lovely books with their wonderful illustrations, old dolls, teddies and push alongs, in fact anything old.  Why do we like these things so much, is it because then we were just playing at being a Mum or a Wife and there weren't any of the complicated bits??

And also food is associated with all our special childhood times.  My granny used to make this cake when we visited or for sunday school parties.  My mum always felt a bit in awe of granny and felt her cooking wasn't up to scratch, so we used to have Wise Owl cakes from the shop for special occasions. These were covered in lots of icing and had a logo of a little owl on the box.  Then there were sunday school parties with lovely jellies in special dishes and hundreds of cake to choose from. Brownie bring and buys with fudge that hadn't set properly  for sale, very sticky but lovely tasting. 

In honour of the new bowl arriving we borrowed a book from the library on chocolate cakes, lots of easy recipes with simple ingredients, so now we have to try some of these!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Celandines and Steam Trains

There have been a few springy days this week, in between the rain.  The sun has been out and its been lovely, the sea is then like a magnet, it doens't take me long to find an excuse to go there.  Today after all the wind a lot of cuttle fish have been blown on to the beach.

The flowers are all beginning to come out little by little, we have snowdrops out and in some places I have seen daffodils actually open.  But my favourite thing which says that spring  is actually here is the celandine.  I was walking along by the station and saw my first celandines on the bank.

  They make me thing of being a child in a little country town and making dens in wild places. 

In my garden I have a kind of honeysuckle bush that always amazes me.  It is about fourteen years old and is in a pot which is really too small for it. It orignally belonged to my mum and then came to live with me when she died.  It gets too dry in summer and too cold in winter but each spring it begins to shoot and it is already full of little sprouting leaves. 
I like daydreaming of what I am going to grow this year, definitely sweet peas.  I always grow these usually in pots, but I am planning to put  a few in my little veg garden this year. Courgettes too, these were a new venture for us last year and were lovely. 
Yesterday I started chopping the buddleia down, it should be done in February but last year I forgot, so it is rather large and bushy now.  I am also hoping to buy a bramley apple tree very soon, they have to be planted before March is over.  I do miss my apple trees from my old house and look very enviously at other peoples apple trees, so I think it is my time to have another one!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Contented Kittys Birthday

Today is my birthday and what a lovely day I have had.  I woke up to tea and birthday cake in bed and lots of lovely presents - all my favourites, chocolates, magazine and books.

Then a trip by motorbike.  Now some ladies would hate the thought of a journey by motorbike, especially in the rain and cold, but too me it is heaven.  I love being a pillion passenger, sometimes you get a bit stiff and tired and cold, but there is something so special.  When we set off it was raining and it got steadily harder.  We went through the countryside to Lulworth and had a look at the sea and a very welcome coffee and tea cake, ( we had the cafe nearly to ourselves and didn't have to fight coach loads of old ladies for the teacakes, as we once had to in the Lake District).

Now the sun had come out and it was beautiful, we wondered where to go and decided to have a look at Ringstead Bay.  It was lovely, absolutely deserted and the sun shone and it was warm.  We sat there for a long time just taking in the peace and quiet, and only saw two people and one dog in our whole time there.
Then home in the sun for a welcome cup of tea and ham sandwiches, a night of relaxing, and a lovely home made pizza and as you can see not a lot of birthday cake left!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

A teddy is for life....

We found these two teddies and kitten at the dump at the beginning of the summer, they were in the top of a box in the 'could be useful to someone' section.  They are probably about as old as me, and very well loved, they have been patched up and mended by someone, so it was very sad to find them there.  We paid our money and brought them home, where they now live with my monkeys in my bedroom. I think 'waving' ted is the friendliest, he has been stitched up in such a way that he is always waving at you.

The blue teddy in the seat below, is my mums, he was at first called Bruin, but as children we christened him Ruin, due to his long and hard life! My mum gave him a birthday party probably for his 50th , I think this was when he was given his rather grand seat.  My sisters and mums grandchildren came to the party together with our own teddies, and had a proper birthday tea.  Its good to do things like that!!  The little ted is mine, named Maxi after Max Bygraves (!). He is in severe need of me stitching up his nose, which I must do.
For anyone who loves Teddys, they should read the book called  ' The teddy that no-one wanted' by the Ahlbergs, a lovely book for children and adults alike.(see right)

The lovely library

It is very sad that due to cut backs lots of our libraries may close.  I have heard someone say that they don't have any up to date books, but they need to go in and have a look.... Lots of lovely books and plenty of new ones.  I always come home with a huge bag full (and you can request most books at no charge unless its really obscure)  Our library is shut for refurbishing at the moment and we have a mobile on the seafront. Open to the elements, but fun none the less and still interesting books. See the view from the library door.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Latest Project - A knitted fairy

I found this lovely book in the library 'Knitted Pirates, Princesses, Witches, Wizards and Fairies, and then was lucky enough to have it for a Christmas present.  I have knitted the body but haven't got around to the stuffing part yet, just starting on the beautiful dress and now the frilly knickers!

I think this fairy will be flying to my niece in Greece.