Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Welcome 2014

Has this year flown by for you too?

I am suddenly very aware that the last day of the year is here & I am not ready to put 2013 to bed - I still have things unfinished which I feel I should have done ....

But ready or not, time waits for no one as it marches relentlessly on towards another year, towards new adventures & challenges, towards changes we foresee & those we do not yet know await us ...

Some of my favourite thoughts from a favourite author - Isak Dinesen Out of Africa

“Perhaps he knew, as I did not, that the Earth was made round so that we would not see too far down the road.”  

“Here I am, where I am supposed to be.”  

“All sorrows can be borne if you can put them into a story.”  

“We must leave our mark on life while we have it in our power.”
Karen Blixen

Those unforeseen challenges are the ones which scare us the most - the ones which push us out of our comfort zones, the ones which make us stare into the future to see our own vulnerability & mortality!

2014 is another New Year, another blank book of 365 pages waiting to be filled with decisions to be faced, promises to be made or broken, opportunities to move forward ...

(From Imaginative world on Facebook, original source unknown)

So let us start these new pages with the things not done from last year then add in the deeds we still have to do, the love we should show, the friendships that need more time & the gratitude we owe for blessings received & those yet to come ...

There will always be some of the old year in the new, but make 2014 what you want it to be ...

My sincere thanks & appreciation for those who visit my blog & add their words of support & friendship - it keeps me motivated; I love to return the visits, to enjoy life in many varied places.

Blessings to all from my home to yours for the New Year of 2014,
Dee ~♥~

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Fragrant Paper Whites

As our traditional Christmas scents fade, I have some beautiful Paper Whites in  2 bowls to replace the seasonal flowers.

This is the first year I have grown them after seeing them on a gardening programme, I decided to try something different. Paper Whites belong to the daffodil family.

I planted up 2 large bowls & a smaller one in November. The second large bowl was a gift for a friend who has a December birthday; she loves indoor plants as much as I do so I knew she would enjoy a bowl of flowers too.

I have never grown them before so I had no idea how long they would take to come into flower or what they would be like as house plants. Once planted, they were placed in the cooler garage (safe from our marauding squirrels) & left there until they showed a lot of growth.

For those who haven't grown Paper Whites before, I recommend them because the tall stemmed flowers have clusters of sweetly scented flowers that are very heady & a welcome change from red plants & flowers ....
So as we prepare to welcome in another New Year, I am just enjoying the lull between festivities & making changes to the d├ęcor as we always do at this time.

Thanks for stopping by, have a fabulous last few days of 2013 ...
Dee ~♥~

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

My Henry Macbeth Raeburn Lady has a name ...

Ever since I bought my Henry Macbeth Raeburn mezzotint Lady several years ago on a whim because I really loved it, I have wondered who the beautiful lady is.

I recently had her framed  & love looking at her everyday - a beautiful, serene image.

I have done much research to try to give her a name but from research, I know that Sir Henry Raeburn was a prolific portrait painter & his stunning works hang in several National Galleries & collections.

I was first attracted to my Lady because of the exquisite colouring & beautifully refined details & so had hoped to find her easily on the internet but her name has eluded me for a long time.

I even bought a vintage Henry Raeburn book with a catalogue of his paintings & have been scouring the vague descriptions in the hope of finding one which matched, but the catalogue of work only gives vague descriptions of the paintings that is of no help at all ...

I even added images to my blog  & on my flickr photostream in the hope that a name would emerge ....

Today I noticed several 'hits' on her image & they led amongst others to this flickr photo of the dining room at Polesdan Lacey House 

A breakthrough at last!

The painting is linked to Polesden Lacey in Surrey:

Polesden Lacey, originally a Regency house, was extensively remodelled in 1906-09 by the Hon Mrs Ronald Greville, a well-known Edwardian hostess. Her collection of fine British portraits by Lawrence, Reynolds and Raeburn is in the dining room. The other collections of paintings, furniture, porcelain and silver are displayed in the reception rooms and galleries, as they were at the time of her celebrated house parties. There are extensive grounds, a walled rose garden, lawns and walks. The future King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother spent part of their honeymoon here in 1923.

polesden-lacey dining room

A breakthrough at last as Polesden contains this better known Raeburn painting

My heart sang when I saw this painting - the painting which my mezzotint is of:

Isabella Simpson, Mrs William Simpson

Sir Henry Raeburn, RA (Stockbridge 1756 – Edinburgh 1823)
National Trust Inventory Number 1246447

Isabella, Mrs William Simpson, later Mrs Burroughs, painted between 1803-5

The painting was in the collection of Mrs Grenville & the eclectic items are still held at Polesden where it is on display in the diningroom dining-room Raeburn's. It is very exciting to see the original in a bold gold frame & in situ ....

These Henry Raeburns are in the same collection

Self Portrait

Isabella Simpson, Mrs William Simpson

Sir William Macleod Bernadine

George and his Sister Maria Stewart as Children

The Paterson Children

The description of original painting is:

Oil painting on canvas, Isabella Simpson, Mrs William Simpson by Sir Henry Raeburn, RA (Stockbridge 1756 – Edinburgh 1823), circa 1803/05. A nearly full-length portrait, seated beneath a tree, turned to the right, gazing at the spectator, her hands clasped on her lap. She has light brown hair and wears a white high-waisted dress with short sleeves, her red cloak hung on the tree behind her. A cloudy sky and distant horizon on the right.
According to Sir William Armstrong, this painting belonged to the Mitchell-Innes family; it was with Dowell's, Edinburgh, in 1896; with Lesser, from whom William McEwan bought it for £2,500 in 1896; by descent to his daughter, Margaret McEwan, The Hon. Mrs Ronald Greville (1863-1942), by whom bequeathed with Polesden Lacey to the National Trust, in memory of her father, William McEwan (1827-1913).
In the Henry Raeburn book, my lady is described in the book only as

Simpson, Mrs. Three-quarter length; seated in a landscape; 481/2 x 381/2. William McEwan Esq

That description is of no help at all so I am so pleased to have solved the riddle & not had to rely on vague descriptions ... however, I have more questions I would like answers to. 

I am wondering what connection the mezzotintist Henry Macbeth Raeburn had to the artist Henry Raeburn - a son, a grandson, a nephew? 

I am also wondering who Isabella was & why she was immortalised in the painting with its beautiful gilt frame ... perhaps that is the next thing I will find out!  I am just so pleased to have a name & some information on Isabella & I keep looking at her, willing her to give up something of her life; in time, perhaps she will...

Thank you for reading this journey of mine to name my Lady - would you have wanted to know more about a picture you loved?

Till next time, thanks for stopping by
Dee ~♥~

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my lovely loyal followers & friends. I love reading your comments & returning the visits to share the lives you lead all over the world.

Thank you for your support & lovely feedback & comments - it is very much appreciated.

May you have a peaceful & blessed family time over Christmas & I look forward to another year in your company.

Dee ~♥~

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Eclectic Christmas decorations at home ....

Hello & welcome to all my visitors - are you all ready for the festivities?

I love mixing up the styles at home - very eclectic with things collected in various places that we have lived & visited. 

A favourite place was most definitely the beautiful Ethiopia & their Coptic culture, grounded in their religious observances.

My wall of Ethiopian crosses that I collected on my travels is special to me

These Muday baskets are made of dried grass or straw in traditional colours of blue / purple, green & red & they are used to keep small precious items.

I bought them & the round basket on one of my many visits & they come out every Christmas; we all chose them in a market in Addis Ababa so they are special to us. 

My Ethiopian candle holder from Gonder always appears to cast its cross shape & my angel light  serves as a reminder of the real meaning of the season.

Our entrance hall always has a small tree with our hand beaded South African decorations which remind me of home.  They were gifted & my parents sent me some too so they are a link to my roots. 

How well they all go with our other decorations? 

Have a peaceful day & hope all your preparations are going well
Dee ~♥~

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Happy Winter Solstice day ....

The Winter solstice always brings hope that we are half way through winter & our long, dark days will start to lighten again.

I gazed upon the moon early this morning over our tree & hedge, a very calming scene.

We had a family breakfast today - toasted chocolate panetone with fruit & yoghurt & freshly brewed filter coffee.

The late sunrises & early sunsets will slowly swap over & the low arc of the sun across our skies will change too.

The word solstice comes from  the Latin words 'sol' for 'sun' & 'sisto' for 'stop' - the sun 'stands still' , it stops moving southwards & begins to move northwards again.

The Solstice reminds me of the ebb & flow of life - the cycle of life that we are part of.

Today I celebrate the return of the sun to our northern Hemisphere with greenery to welcome visitors & link to nature. Our evergreen holly trees remain all year, our door wreath is a gift once again & symbolises gratitude & a circle of life ...

We will light lanterns  at home tonight to bring in light; light & greenery honour nature & these rituals give meaning to life & connect us all.

My chimnea is stacked with wood from my own garden for winter fires & I love this idea I came across ...

Fire releasing day

Everyone writes a note on what wish they would like to release & then everyone gathers around a fire & throws their paper on to burn 'release' their wish, while participating in quiet reflection & gratitude.

However you choose to observe the solstice - consciously or otherwise - know that the rhythm of life continues & you are part of it.

Thanks for stopping by, light a lantern or candle tonight to be one with nature ...
Dee ~♥~

Friday, 20 December 2013

Baking our festive mince pies ...

Do you have lots of mince pies in the house over the festive season? It is one of those things that just seems right - a hot cup of something & a warming mince pie to round it all off.

Being extra health conscious, we decided to once again make our own because then we know exactly what is going in to them &  definitely no hydrogenated fats or too much sugars etc.
The pastry was made as follows:
420g plain flour
140g icing sugar
350g cold butter, cubed
grated rind & juice of 1 orange

Sift the flour & icing sugar together in a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs, then add the orange rind & enough juice to bind it.

Gather in a ball, cover with cling film & refrigerate for 20 minutes before rolling out on a lightly floured board.

For the filling, I used a bottle of organic mince pie fruit & added organic mixed fruits, various peels as well as ginger wine & a dash of cheerful sherry! This was all left overnight in the fridge to blend the flavours.

Marzipan starts for the tops of the mince pies

Lots of citrus zest in the pastry to give it flavour

Baked at 220  for 15-20 minutes

Lots of rolling to fill pans ...

Half way through baking, the marzipan stars are added to the tops to stop them browning too much.

Cooling on the rack

Adding a dash of ginger wine to the last batch

All done ...

A very busy time baking but the tins are now full of delicious home made mince pies to enjoy.

Have you done any baking? I am sure your mince pies are a lot neater! I love the fact that home baking controls the quality of what we eat over Christmas & it is always nicer to offer something you have put time & effort in to.

Hope your festive plans are going well everyone, thanks for stopping by
Dee ~♥~

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Christmas biscuits baking with the lads

I do try to get in some baking at Christmas - it is always much nicer to eat something you have made yourself & it just brings everyone together.

This year, I am joined by two of my Godchildren to bake biscuits for their new bowl.

I decided on a biscuit recipe I have used several times before because it rolls easily enough for young hands to work with & tastes really good.

The lads enjoying the selection of Christmas cutters & dough

While waiting for their baking to cook, my daughters taught them essential life skills (not) of how to walk in very high heels & dance to loud music :)

After much jigging about the kitchen, the cookies are nicely browned - tasting time :)

I selected some to put in their new Villeroy & Boch Christmas cookie bowl - theirs has snowmen on it (not that we have had snow yet ....)

I think they look just fine - lovely enough to go to their home, ready for Christmas

The recipe I favour - quick & easy for children to roll & cut & it makes a lot

A lovely evening with my Godsons - enjoying time spent together. Do you do lots of baking over Christmas? What sort of things will be cooking in your kitchen?

Thanks for stopping by, happy festive planning
Dee ~♥~