Thursday, 31 December 2020

Create the life you want to live in 2021

 I am so grateful to each & everyone who stops by, reads, leaves a comment or just follows my blog. It is an important outlet for my creativity, thoughts & ideas; those who share this journey with me are special. 

As 2020 comes to a close, we can but say - we did not see the past year coming. We could not foresee how our lives would change but we had to change with it, adapt & adjust to the changes. 

It is important to realise that only YOU can create the life you want to live, people can support & help you but ultimately the choices are yours alone. You own your decisions & the mistakes. Your support chamber do not have to think or behave the same as you, because they are also walking their own path. We are all just walking each other home, but on our own path. 

Each path has its own challenges, & this year has made me realise how some invalidate others experiences. Some people listen to reply, not to understand what you are saying; those who carry their burden well, still find it heavy. Many do not speak to complain, rather than to give voice to their experiences so it no longer has hold over them. Someone in life will always be better or worse off than you, but that does not invalidate your experiences. Sometimes when someone speaks of things that burden them, a kind ear is better than an unsolicited opinion or worse still a comparison. 

Considering the challenges in 2020, the cancelled holidays (2 special trips booked, 1 planned) the sudden loss of income as a self employed tutor, the limited contact between daughters who live north & south of us, my increasing elderly Father on another continent that I cannot easily visit, we have still been fortunate to have come through it ok. 

I have steadied my concerns with the simple rituals to keep me going -  being in my garden; cooking interesting meals even when various things were unavailable; growing more plants & giving them away;  sewing & gifting some of it;  walking my local woods & lake for green bathing to steady the mind; communicating with friends & family far & near; lots of genealogical research to keep me distracted, reading some of the books I have stacked up, growing plants from seeds as they need time to be nurtured. 

While staying in my space, I have used a lot of time to fill in the many family tree gaps across my vast ancestry tree. Focusing on what you can control, helps to still the things you can’t. My Dad has been amazing in helping to fill in the gaps where he can, what he remembers of my Maternal family line that is diminishing fast. It really brings home that once a connection is gone, it is almost impossible to get those answers. 

Not everyone understands how having something to do, fills in the time & taxes the brain too ... 

My thoughts moving forward 
Life is short 
Jobs are temporary
Health is wealth 
The rainy days all come together - save for them. 
Be thankful
Be kind 
Friends & family are precious 

Thank you for your company, each & every visit & comment is much appreciated. Be blessed as you move in to 2021. Carry hope, love & kindness with you 💖
Dee ~💕~

Monday, 21 December 2020

Bring light in on the Winter Solstice ...

 In the bleak Midwinter, was a poem published in 1872 by the poet Christina Rossetti & in 1906, the composer Gustav Holst (of The Planets fame) set it to the music we know so well now. 

In the bleak midwinter 

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
The Winter Solstice marks our day with the shortest daylight & the longest night. Stonehenge was always our central observance place 

The shortest day lasts 7 hours 49 minutes and 42 seconds in London 

The light will return again as the days lengthen & the light will return. This is some of the previous posts on the Solstice in 2018 

There are links to the previous Winter Solstice rituals at my home

I will bring in the light again with candles about the house,  the holly & ivy on the door wreath & garlands, a reminder of the times past when it was common to bring greenery inside. 

Have a blessed day as you observe the ritual of Winter & the darkness & light - the returning light is hope for brighter days, for the familiar seasons, for light ... 

Thank you for your company, each & every visit & comment is much appreciated, 
Dee ~💕~

The Advent Sundays & other rituals in trying times ...

 Hi everyone, 

This ongoing crisis has bubbled alongside us for a staggering 273 days with no end in sight. Each time there is a glimmer of hope, it is snatched away & the despair is becoming paletahle now. 

Our home decorations are unseen by friends who would usually join us for Xmas baking & suppers doing December. That cannot happen & it means the rituals we usually observe, have been set aside. 

Sometimes, rituals are the things that you observe because they are familiar & comfortable; they help in difficult times as they give structure to events. The festive season is challenging enough normally when people are hothoused together & often the tasks fall unevenly leaving people feeling overwhelmed. 

The familiar ones of listening to Carols, setting the table properly, of putting out crackers with dependable filings, the silliness of wearing the paper cracker hat, the reading of the silly jokes etc are things which set a rhythm to the day. 

My late Mom used to buy advent calendars for the daughters when it was not a mainstream event & they could only be bought from specialist shops in Johannesburg, a reminder of the German influence that existed there.  This was Mom’s joy to hand them over & I have continued it ever since, even buying fabric ones that could be filled with chocolates I knew the family would enjoy. 

When I was growing up in South Africa, presents were opened in the morning, then my late Mom & Grandmother did the lunch; the table was always beautifully set & the crackers were laid out.  Us children used to sneak in & peek through the crackers for the nicest games or toys & then move them around & so it would continue. When we eventually pulled them, it was often not the one we had carefully manoeuvred as someone else had done the same thing. Those little cracker toys were in demand then, in simpler times. 

After lunch, my Dad & Grandad would adjourn to the patio with the bowls of nuts in their shells & we would all eagerly select our favourites - the bitter almonds were seldom in demand, & then if we could not open them ourselves with the variety of nutcrackers, they would crack them for us so we would enjoy every single little bit of it. I still buy nuts as this is such a fond memory. This year, the two traditional nut crackers were no where to be found, I searched the familiar cutlery drawers (plural) and the cupboards but in the end I had to buy this modern one which does the job rather well .... 

There always has to be an iced Christmas cake on the cake stand for the afternoon with a hot drink before watching the Queens Speech in the UK. 

The afternoon is for games, songs, news - we used to play monopoly or cards at home. My Great aunt was a great card player & that was her influence. She had no children of her own & regarded her gaggle of nieces & nephews as fair game to impart her skills on. 

Simpler times, these rituals evolve & I wonder which ones my family will continue & which ones they will treasure - too often this is not clear. 

I have diligently lit my 4 Advent candles again, a nod to the Teutonic ancestry I have - the simple flame on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas just slows the pace & makes me reflect - mainly on those who are absent - my Mother was a Christmas baby & it is always a reflective time for me to ponder the opportunities missed, the times taken fore granted ....

I wish you a blessed time as you prepare for Christmas, however it will look this year. 

Thank you for your company, each & every visit & comment is much appreciated, 
Dee ~💕~

Sunday, 29 November 2020

The first Sunday of Advent

 I observe the countdown to Advent & the 4 Sundays that lead up to Christmas. 

Last year Ms M & I were enjoying the delights of the Winter Christmas markets in Munich, Salzburg & Innsbruck - something we can only dream of this year. 

We loved seeing the beautiful Advent Candle Wreaths seen all about that region - it is traditional to mark it with 4 candles.  I have some of the beautiful ones on this post from last year .... 

My 4 candle stick holder has been dusted down & filled with candles & it is ready to be lit in the 4 weeks up to Christmas. I love these traditional images I used on a previous post. 

I decorated the tray under my Advent candle holder with holly & ivy, the traditional Christmas combination. 

Today I found some little easy peel oranges in the fridge that were less juicy than I like so I decided to turn them in to pomander / Christingles (meaning Christ light) 

When I taught in mainstream education, we used to make Christingles in class then walk our classes to the local church for the Christingle service. 

The tradition originated in Germany in 1747 when Bishop Johannes de Watteville used an orange with a candle attached to it to remind children of the light Jesus brought in to the world during Advent. 

The orange represents the world 

The candle is for Jesus as the light of the world

The red ribbon reminds us of the blood of Christ

The 4 cocktail sticks are for the 4 seasons or 4 corners of the world

The dried fruit represents the gifts from God

The candle in the centre is lit & children carry them in to the church at a special Christingle service. It has only been adopted in England since 1968. 

I adapted mine with cloves studded in & the red ribbon pinned to a candle placed between the oranges. 

I love making spicy pomanders for the house as they fill the air with a delicate fragrance. 

However you observe the run up to Christmas, it is a good time to just p a u s e and be thankful. I will light the first of my 4 Advent candles on Sunday then every night from 1-24th December, I light an Advent candle with numbers on (something my late Mother used to do) and I love watching the candle flicker each night while we eat - it is a reminder to just enjoy the time without being caught up in the commercialism that takes over ... 

Have a blessed Advent Sunday. Thank you for your company, each & every visit & comment is much appreciated, 
Dee ~💕~

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Welcoming the festive season to our home

 I am acutely aware that November is drawing to a close & Winter & the festive season is approaching. I always welcome Winter, the frosts that make everything glisten & glow, the feeling that the garden is resting, the approach to the festive season, the feeling of community when neighbours are out & about, dropping cards through letterboxes, the anticipation of time with nearest & dearest ....  

This has been such an upside down year that I wanted to bring light, warmth & hope in to my space. I have made a start to the decorations about the home, a gentle rhythm moving things in to place in an unhurried, purposeful way, aware that Covid_19 has taken so much away from us this year already so we have to do what we can do to keep an even keel. 

I love the warmth of candle & fairy lights & the glow from the warm colours of winter - the metallics, greens, reds, gold. I bring in winter foliage too - the traditional holly & ivy as immortalised in the carol, as well as while hellebores, also known as Christmas roses - these herald winter time. 

Many of you will know from previous years, that one of my Elective Home Ed Mums has made & gifted me a front door wreath / garland for years. I always really look forward to its arrival because it is a welcoming sign that it is time to prepare for the season ahead. 

A second one for the back garden, it is on the chimnea & it can be seen from the conservatory, the dining room & kitchen. I am so blessed to have two gorgeous ones ... 

I used some of the extra holly branches to prepare a tray for my Advent candles - 4 candles, 1 for each Sunday in the run up to Christmas. Holly & Ivy - so traditional ... 

I am so blessed to have these wonderful handmade gifts again. It feels festive. I will be misting them regularly with water to keep them looking good & once a week, the front door one is taken off & placed on the lawn where it is watered then put back on. I find this keeps it looking fresh for weeks ... 

Have you started your preparations or are you trying to stay traditional & waiting for at least Advent? Tell all ... 

Thank you for your company, each & every visit & comment is much appreciated, 
Dee ~💕~

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Warm heather & berry colours for our winter decor

 One of my winter jobs is to change the dining room curtains for the heavier tartan ones because they make it feel warm & cosy. 

Over the summer, I bought some lovely light heather coloured ones to use at the door to the conservatory. I have only just opened them & put them up & are so pleased with how well they go with the tartan. They are light enough to allow light through but tie in beautifully with the pure wool tartan ones.

The living room usually just has its cream curtains but earlier this year, I saw these curtains online & just had to have them because it is a pattern I have long loved. They too have been folded up & I decided it was time to do both rooms. 

The colours go well with my proteas too & those are my favourite colour combinations ... 

I love this corner ... 

These beaded proteas that I bought in South Africa at a market I visited with my late Mother on several occasions, are very special & they give me pleasure to look at them. They are also the perfect colours to match the new curtains ... 

I love the new curtains - they are just perfect 

This corner is just so warm & cosy when the lamp goes on at night ...

Corners of my home in my favourite colours. What is your favourite colour palette? Do you change things around with the different seasons? Tell all ... 

Thank you for your company, each & every visit & comment is much appreciated, 
Dee ~💕~

240 days of lockdown & thinking festively ...

240 days of lockdown today ... 

A national newspaper has helpfully kept a headline tally of the days since our Covid Lockdown began - 240 days today. Somehow the big numbers give a reality check. 

Hubby & I have stuck to the guidelines & the latest National lockdown has deprived us of visits by the new grandson & his family while their major house renovations are going on. We have a daily FaceTime chat which is lovely, even when he grabs their phones & kisses the screen we are on. We miss his cuddles & development. 

While the vaccine news is encouraging, ministers are still planning the way our Christmases will look with Covid still lurking in the sidelines. It does not feel right that we have so little control over our own lives & how we live them. 

On Monday, a free morning prompted me to open our loft & to poke around in the many Xmas storage boxes. I hope many of you are like me with various themes, colours & bits up there which tracks how we celebrate Christmas. 

Some years it is woodland / deer themes which I love but they are staying up there.  I do not feel like bringing down all the beautiful glass ornaments that need special care - they are fragile yet so pretty. Red is out because I changed the curtains in the living room & dining room to the winter purples / berry colours which are warm & cosy. What to use? 

GOLD - I spy the box (yes, I colour code boxes to make it easier) of the various gold decorations & that decides my colour. 

The golds (matt, shiny, reflective, large, small, glittery, various shapes) will do just fine as they add the warmth & light. 

I KNOW, it is not even the first Sunday of Advent but this year has been so incredibly trying that I think we can wing it & be far more random. I always light candles on the four Sundays of Advent leading up to Christmas & my decorations usually go up after early December but with shops closed, it is not easy to just pop out for anything so more planning is needed. 

I have started on the sideboard in the conservatory - it always contains the things we will use like our lovely Christmas china .... a sneak preview 

I bought this length of fabric ages ago & have only just hemmed it as a rather colourful Xmas cloth. What do you think? 

I will reveal more soon but I feel a bit happier having some special things around again,  with lots of candles to bring light in to the darkness of winter. Stay safe, stay sane, stay alert ... 

Thank you for your company, each & every visit & comment is much appreciated, 
Dee ~💕~

Thursday, 8 October 2020

200 days of lockdown ...

The whole world is still in an altered state of reality, this year has been the most peculiar one I have known because Covid-19 is not done with us yet, it still intrudes on our daily life & we are aware that we ignore it at our peril .... 

I have chartered this progress with these posts: 

Living with social distancing & uncertainty

We are in the same storm, not the same boat

Lockdown - day 75

100 days of lockdown

As we approach 200 days of life changing times, many people are of the opinion that things are back to normal, the idea that some are invincible is evident on the high street. It is hard for several neighbours who are still shielding with health problems that put them in a vulnerable group. They have formed a little cocoon at home, away from people who might be carriers & for them, normal life is now their space. 

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." --Albert Einstein

200 days later, there is still so much we don’t understand about Covid-19 & we still don’t know why some healthy people end up on a ventilator, & why some barely have any symptoms,  yet can pass it on. The pressing issue of many scientists is to find a vaccine to protect us from this insidious disease. Only a vaccine can eliminate the fear that exists. We need to be better prepared for a future pandemic, both personally & nationally. 

Many of us have used lockdown to reset our busy lives; the expression of what normal is worth returning to has been a topic of conversation as we evaluate our time. 

Lockdown has been a fertile time for creativity in all its forms because the luxury of time has been valuable to learn new skills.  

I have learnt how to work safely as an Elective Home Education Tutor in the homes of my students - it is a different way, with a risk assessment drawn up to protect us all. My pupils have got used to seeing my various clear visors, the wiping down of surfaces where I work (the parents graciously accepting that I have to clean it myself); the incessant sanitising between students, the digital thermometer I carry in case someone is flushed, the double checks to make sure all are well, the social distance & unable to share stationery etc - it is a new way of doing things but we are making it work for us. 

We are more conscious of the routines we need to keep ourselves & others safe, but for many it is a rare time to reflect on separations from friends & family. We had tentatively planned a trip to South Africa this November to introduce him to his new great grandson, born in lockdown. However, with flights severely restricted to South Africa, this cannot happen. We are all influenced by circumstances & we must bear it as well as we can by keeping up with phone calls several times a day. Dad’s phone fills up with cute photos so he doesn’t miss out at all, precious times when we must reflect & be grateful for modern phones that contact so much easier. 

So as this marks 200 days since we have faced lockdown in various forms in the UK, I send love, light & blessings for all my followers wherever you are .... 

Thank you for your company, each & every visit & comment is much appreciated, 
Dee ~💕~

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Apple & cherry tart

 Hi all, 

Do you sometimes find the best recipes come from when you 'wing' it? I had Godsons coming for supper on a very wet Shropshire day & was thinking what to do for pudding.  

I opened the fridge & found two Bramley cooking apples & some tart Braeburn ones too, along with a punnet of fresh cherries that were very ripe. I hate waste so I used a ready made sweet tart case I had & decided on fruit tart.

I peeled & cut the Bramleys in to slices, left the lovely red skin on the Braeburns & then stewed them briefly in a sugar syrup made with dark sugar, cloves & cinnamon - the kitchen smelt absolutely heavenly with the scent of the spices. 

I drained the apple slices over a sieve to reserve the sugar syrup & added a bit more sugar to it & left it to reduce & thicken on the stove. 

I layered the apples in rounds along the edges of two tart cases alternating with the red skins between to give it contrast, then came the hard bit - taking the pips out of each & every cherry. I know you can get a gadget to stone the cherries, but since I do not have one,  I cut each & pulled the pip out. My hands turned a crimson red because the ripe cherries were so juicy. 

I arranged the halved cherries on top of the apple slices then warmed some apricot jam with a few spoons of the sugar syrup & brushed that all over the top. 

The tarts were then baked for about 20 minutes at 180C until the cherries collapsed slightly as they cooked. 

Apple & cherry tart with a thick spicy sugar syrup on the sideboard, ready for us ... 

Sugar syrup in a saved maple syrup bottle - perfect ... 

The tarts were cooled & one was used for supper with a choice of thick cream or ice-cream & a drizzle of the sugar syrup over it - it went down an absolute treat & I have another tart ready for visitors expected tonight. 

Supper in the conservatory while some thunder rumbled overhead; a socially distanced supper with friends to just catch up on life. 

My conservatory is my favourite room at home with doors straight on to the patio & the garden & beautiful light all the time. It was good to hear how the Godsons are doing & their hopes as they get ready to start a whole new school year again. We do not know what challenges this one will bring, but that is out of our hands. 

Thank you for your company, each & every visit & comment is much appreciated, 
Dee ~💕~

Sunday, 9 August 2020

A hand sewn needle book gift

 The slower rhythm of lockdown has given me more time to do crafts & things unhurriedly. Our time is usually interrupted by visitors or visiting but in these times when we are still being cautious & doing our own thing, the quiet time has been inspiring. 

One of my longtime blog supporters & Instagram ‘friends’ kindly sent me some hand painted drawings for my big birthday in April & I wanted to send her something special in return. She follows a local (to me) craft lady who makes the most stunning needle books & I have decided to make one as a gift in the same style as Viv’s because it is a style I have used myself. 

I gathered some fabric, buttons, lace, threads, padded quilting etc in the colours I wanted to use. I absolutely love vintage fabric & have quite a collection of bits & bobs. Some years back I spent a day doing a Gentlework course with a very talented lady & I love her style which is my type of hand sewing  ....
Don’t you just love the softness of this collection of textiles ... 
I love time faded fabric & linens - if only they could speak of all the places they have been.
Another beautiful set of beautifully faded & dyed vintage fabric. A seller I regularly use on Ebay dyes vintage fabrics & I love using her things. 
Mixing old & new is important to me - I love Tilda fabrics for their modern vintage look 
My faithful pin dog who is always at hand for the many pins needed for projects. I have also discovered sewing / quilting clips & they are absolutely brilliant for holding thicker fabrics together. The sewing pages got bulky & these were perfect ... 
I love good quality threads for hand sewing details because they are strong enough & give a much nicer stitch quality. Whenever I visit a fabric shop, I admit to always browsing the threads too ... 
I love these two buttons that I bought ages ago & they are just perfect for this project. 
I learnt to embroider as a child with my mother. Hers was always so neat that it was hard to tell front from back, something I have not attained but I love the rhythmic nature of hand sewing. This is one of my sort of colour coded thread boxes ... 
I always get so distracted in selecting the fabrics & textiles I want to use. I love these hand dyed silk bits. 
So much choice, it is hard to decide which look I want ... 
These threads will go well with the fabrics .... 
The outer cover in progress - some vintage floral fabric with a couched edge using dyed silk ribbon. Because it is padded, the edging blanket stitch in a bold embroidery thread, was tricky to get through the layers of batting, fabrics & linen - fortunately I have several well used thimbles... 
I made a little pin with charms to reflect Lynda’s hobbies of painting & drawing & also her faith. I do love the dyed lace panel to hold those many bits we all use. 
Some more Tilda fabric on the inner pages ... 
I used very soft cotton interlining as the inner pages - it is soft enough to just pop pins of needles in & again I kept to the same colour range. 
The last page had another lace panel as well as a lightly padded heart that could be used as a little pin cushion. 
The front panel with vintage fabric, lace, the pretty button, all edged with a blanket stitch. 
My other pin holder with the many needles holding the various needles & threads I have used. 

The back needed something else so I felted a complimentary section to add to it. Felting is a relaxing hobby - the gentle process means that you can control the whole process. 
The inner front cover details ... 
I also love beading so added some coloured beads to this little pocket ... 
A vintage lace panel on top of new fabric, I love how well they sit together. 
Co-ordinating  the colours, threads, pins is important ... 
The pink fabric with the co-ordinated pins, lace & threads ... 
The back pocket with the pink fabrics - some old, some new. 
The completed front page ..
The silk ribbon ties it all together so well .... 
The back cover with the couched fabric & the felted panel 
I know, I got a bit carried away & it ended up a generous size but sewing needs lots of things .... 
I have loved this project so much & am delighted that it was loved as much as I loved doing it. 
My previous needle books I made were much more modern so this one has been an interesting project. 

The joy of hand sewing & creating things that are very unique is hugely satisfying because this is a once off - it cannot be replicated exactly because the fabrics are small vintage pieces. I think it is easy on the eye. Hand sewing has to reflect the stitch imperfections - I could mark out perfectly even stitch marks to use but then it borders on machine work & that is something us hand sewers have to come to terms with. 

Thank you for stopping by, reading, following & leaving a comment. Each visit is appreciated. 
Dee ~💕~