Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November freeze.....

30. Sitting in front of a wood burning stove with Jean and Mum working on our projects.

So I have come to the end of my 30 days of thankfulness. No - not to the end of being thankful, but to the end of listing something every day here. Now and then I will return to the subject, of course, and as always, you know I think of 5 new things every morning before I crawl out of bed. It has become a habit I love. Getting up with a grin is always good. It energises me!

Today, after braving the snow - yes, it snowed last night, and so help me, the little bit that melted during the day is now ice and lethal - and taking mother into town in a futile pursuit of more wool, we went to Jean's house. She said she was lighting her wood burning stove,and that was an excellent reason to pop in clutching our projects. An afternoon in the warmth, all cosy, with homemade scones, and jam, and endless tea and coffee was just perfect. There we sat - Jean and I were each quilting, and Mum was crocheting. I finished edging all my bunting before I quilted, and there was chatter, and companionable silence too at times. Just the crackle of the logs on the fires, and the really great sense of peace. We all loved it.

I left the slow cooker on at home, so we got back late this afternoon to a house which smelled great. And the lamb tasted good too. The snow down south has been falling all day. My boys have had to contend with public transport cancellations and disrupted travel around their cities, and there does not seem any end to the big freeze in sight at the moment. Schools are closed across the country. And our roads are seriously dangerous if not gritted. This is one time I am grateful that I have a manual car, because at least I can control it on ice better than I could an automatic. Amazing what I can find to be thankful for some days!

You will be happy to know that I actually found some leg warmers! Thanks, Bookworm - your idea was spot on, and I am now the proud owner of wonderfully unflattering woollen leg warmers. I think my latest look most closely resembles Nora Batty in Last of the Summer Wine. Just stunning. But warm, and warm is excellent.

November is almost over. I have loved the discipline of talking about random things I am thankful for, you know, even though at times it has been difficult to choose just one thing to focus on here. There have been days I have wanted to write about other things, but they are in a list, just waiting.

Life has many challenges for all of us, and at times, when things get really tough, choosing to focus on the blessings is a difficult, but really good alternative to wallowing in self pity. And now that we are in Advent, and getting closer to Christmas, it is even more important to stop, and look at our lives, and to be so so thankful for the people who matter to us. To be thankful that God loved us so much that he actually sent us His Son.

Whether we know it or not, we are all so incredibly blessed.

Monday, November 29, 2010


29. The fabric stash that never runs dry.

I love fabric. I love looking at it and contemplating all the things I could make. I like to feel it - the different textures, and weights.....

I have the stash to end all stashes in this house. So much fabric. So much that I can't actually see it all. I need to get it sorted and into colours and types. Sigh.


This afternoon, I managed to find a collection of Christmas fabric - not all of it by any means, but more than enough, and I cut out some bunting for the beams in my kitchen/family room. I may just have got a little carried away, because I do believe I have enough to decorate most of the village, and as I have mentioned before, this is not a small village. At all.

I have made it double sided - using contrasting fabric, and I just sewed the two pieces (x 1098478547) together, and will use the pinking shears to neaten the edges, and then sew the bias binding along the top. It will be great.

For good measure, I strung the crocheted stars on cotton, and the first garland is up and it looks lovely. Exactly how I visualised it. Bright and pretty. I have another done, but can't decide where to hang it, so that can wait till morning. Then there are the snow flakes to do too. I am running out of places to put all these things, but what fun I have had making them!

The snow is falling again, and the temps are plummeting. It is cold here, people. COLD. So what a lovely way to spend the day, snug and cosy indoors, with my stash. If I spent 12 hours a day sewing for the next 30 years, the stash would have a mere dent in it.

But oh, the possibilities!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Autumn moves into Winter here......

28. Safe travelling for those I love.

They are gone. And they are safely back home down south. Roads are icy around here and we don't have advanced things like winter tyres in these parts, so it is always good to know those you love get from a to be without problems. My house is very empty and very quiet.

I decided to keep moving, and packed away Autumn, and got out the red instead. So we are now in Winter mode. No tree up but cushions and snowmen and candles etc all in place. I looked at the winter wreath for the door which my sister gave me - it says "Let it snow". Hmmm. Maybe I should have left it in the box. The possibility of snow and freezing weather is apparently here to stay for the next 2 weeks at least, and the odds on a white Christmas this year have apparently shortened significantly.

Ah well, the lounge looks warm and cosy with the candles lit and the red around. I really want to put up the tree, and have the tree lights twinkling too. But it is still NOVEMBER for crying in a bucket.

For those who have asked, a Recession Heater is the same thing as a wheat bag. You know - those things you heat in the microwave and it keeps you warm, soothes aching extremities etc. Well, a couple of years ago, as the recession bit, I decided to make them for Christmas presents, especially when I saw you could use ordinary rice instead of the wheat. So I made them, and made covers from fleece, and embroidered things on the covers with my machine. I called them Recession Heaters, because the papers and TV here were concentrating on money saving measures. And I enclosed an instruction leaflet, telling the recipient to microwave etc etc, and then said " ....If all else fails and the Recession bites too hard, slit the bag and eat the rice." My friends loved them, and quite a few asked for more. So I try to keep the heating down, and use one in the evenings to keep warm, in an effort to save money and to be a little green too.

And there you have it - my recession heaters.

The tennis is on, and Federer and Nadal are playing at the O2 Arena in London. I want to be there!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Snow, colds and playing with toys.....

27. Snow.

Yes, you read that correctly. Snow. In England. In November. Ridiculous, really. It has been SO cold! However, it has been a blessing today because it meant we all stayed in and didn't go anywhere. Missy has a dreadful cold all of a sudden, and didn't sleep well last night, which meant no-one did, and a day at home was just what we all needed. She relaxed with everyone, and was remarkably good, for a wee scrap with streaming nose, and little red eyes, poor baby.

I popped out this morning for bread and milk, and Peter and Glynis came for tea this afternoon, and other than that we had an indoor day. Glynis, Missy and I wiggled about to the CBeebies dance - Missy thought our geriatric wiggles were spot on - and she demonstrated her cooking, climbing and drawing skills. Actually, we all just enjoyed playing with toys, really.

A roast dinner and apple crumble rounded the day off, and Ann, who is also suffering from the same cold as her daughter, headed for bed early, followed by everyone else. And me? Well, I sat down around 7.30pm and fell asleep, and have just roused myself to make some coffee and to try to iron out the kinks in every part of the old bones. I am sitting here with a blanket round my shoulders, and a recession heater on my lap, and will be heading for the land of nod very soon.

If there had not been snow, we would have gone out this morning. And the day would have been different. I hate the fact that the two girls are not feeling great, but hopefully tomorrow they will be a little better. And having them at home with me was lovely. I am also extremely thankful that the house has been lovely and warm, and that when the little heater in my kitchen died, it just so happened that Peter and Glynis had a spare one they needed to find a home for, now that they have a new central heating system in place. The timing was perfect! See? Things happen for a reason, don't they......

Friday, November 26, 2010

One little girl.....

26. One particular little girl who is asleep upstairs right now.

It has been a busy day, and my house is upside down, and you know what, I don't give a hoot, because there is a little girl in residence who has the most wonderful chuckle, and a grin from ear to ear, and her parents are here too, and I am more than delighted. Exhausted, yes, but there will be endless days later to rest.

She has been "cooking" and playing with the new dolly, and posting letters in the new toy with a letter chute, making tea with her tea set, and climbing onto chairs, watching TV, dancing, and exploring my computer. Everything breakable is crowding the tops of tall furniture, and for some reason, she adores a little book on the Night Sky. Ignoring the shelves of books just for her.

And I am about to serve dinner from the slow cooker, and retire to a chair for the rest of the evening. I am reluctant to sit yet, because once i do, I will never get up.

But I have so much to be thankful for right now, and my heart is overflowing.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

First of all this Thursday morning, Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends, wherever you may be around the world! I hope today is a wonderfully happy family day, and that you all find many things to be thankful for.

I am hoping that my son, his wife and my granddaughter may come up this weekend. The weather is not really co-operating, but I have high hopes that any white precipitation will stay away. Weather men in these parts don't usually get things right. Much.

So, in anticipation of a possible visit, I have been cleaning. Oh heavens. You do not want to know. Because of the wrapping frenzy, now complete except for a couple of things, the house is in need of an industrial cleaning crew. At the very least. And all of a sudden, it seems to be even more overflowing with stuff than usual. I have plans for the slow cooker in the morning, and if they are coming, there will be much movement of things like cots and high chairs, and washing of linen going on around here. A stair gate will be needed (thanks, Glynis!) and the toys will be unearthed.

All this, may I add, with a grin on my face, because it is a long time since I saw the little one who is not so little any more, and loves drawing. I can't imagine a better way to spend the weekend - watching and playing with a little granddaughter. Well, if my other children were here too, it would be absolutely perfect, of course.

25. My Dyson. And hot water.

You know, I take so many things for granted. It is just a year ago that I had a vacuum cleaner crisis, and I tried out numerous ones, and I may as well have sat on the floor and picked up every speck by hand. Until the Dyson arrived, courtesy of Andrew and Ann. My old one had died, and I knew how good it was, but the new one with the ball is even better. It actually really cleans, and for that I am ever so grateful.

What did people do before vacuum cleaners were invented? I have had one all my married life. When my mother got married, she says they had a carpet sweeper, and then a vacuum cleaner later. I remember carpet sweepers. And brooms. Those were the days before fitted carpets. And they worked. I have no idea where the carpet sweeper stored the junk it picked up. Mum?? The Dyson does not even attempt to hide the junk. Oh no. It is there for the world to see, and for me to cringe every time I empty it. How can one home get so grubby? Don't answer that.

Mother reliably informs me that there was a release thingy on the carpet sweeper, which you used to press, holding said carpet sweeper over some newspaper, and the junk fell out. I don't remember that bit. Mother does, and thoroughly enjoyed the arrival of her first vacuum cleaner, which was brown and heavy and round.

Ah, I am very glad I was born when I was. We will not mention twin tub washing machines at this point. And remind me to tell you how to make toasted sandwiches without the use of a toasted sandwich maker some time. (From before they were invented aka The Dark Ages.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The perils of perpetual motion......

A eureka moment, my friends.

Yesterday, I was Martha. Not Mary.

Today, I was Martha, not Mary.

Two days ago, I was Martha, not Mary.

And the day before, and the day before, and the day before.

It is that time of year. Rush. Rush, Rush. Brain on overdrive. To do lists. Not enough hours in the day. Appointments. Calls to make. In and out all the time. Scared to sit, because you will fall asleep, and if you fall asleep, you will forget something, or get behind.

In the basket next to my couch is a pile of things waiting to be done. Cards to write, lists. Lists and so many lists. Things demanding my time.

And I topple into bed exhausted, and wake with the brain in overdrive. News to listen to. Things to do. Places to be. More appointments.

And where is the "being", instead of the "doing"?


Where is the me?


What is the season we are preparing for?

Who are we preparing for?

What did He ask of us?

None of the above. Not one single thing.

It is so easy to get caught up in the maelstrom of trying to make Christmas the perfect time of the year for our families, friends, the wider community around us. So easy. Doing. There is nothing wrong with that, you know. But what is miserably wrong is when we spend the entire day focused on everything which takes away the moments of quiet. The time to sit and reflect. Time to listen. Time to read. Time to pray. To think. To give thanks.

Letting the mind slow, quieten, and rest. Tuning out the clamour inside the head.

So what if the meals are late, the lists not crossed off, the shopping not done. So what if the washing has to wait, the floors are not vacuumed, the silver not polished. So what of the house is a tip, and the presents not wrapped. Does it really matter?

What matters is putting The Reason right there at the top of each of the lists. And then starting each day with a thankful heart for just that - a new day. And asking Him to guide how you spend that day. The people - it is all about spending time with the people who matter. Not the presents. Not the paper. Not the ribbon. The people. Listening. Learning. Loving. Laughing.

Advent begins in a few days. Either it marks the start of a frenetic few weeks, or maybe we can make it the start, rather, of a slower, more thankful, prayerful time. We are surrounded by such multitudes of blessings. Family. Friends. Of course there are things to be done, and we will get the essentials sorted. But for me, it has to be a different way. Slower. More aware. Listening. Enjoying conversation. Enough of the doing. I want to savour life.

Martha needs to go on holiday, and let Mary take over.

24. Eureka Moments. Moments which make me stop in my tracks and re-assess the important things in my life.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


23. Gifts I can give to others

This will be brief today. I started wrapping presents and my house is a tip. Plastic containers of things everywhere, and wrapping paper exploding over the floor. I can never find the sticky tape or scissors or pen or the right ribbon, but what a joy it is to wrap the presents I have made or bought for the people I love. And a special parcel to send to China and a little girl who is cold.

That was the morning, and the evening sorted. And I am far from finished. This afternoon, we went to Jean's so I could show her how to pin her first quilt. That was more bonding with the floor. The floor and I have become well acquainted today, and tomorrow I suspect I may be doing precisely nothing. If I sit down on the couch I will be asleep in seconds, so I am pacing a little to try to ease the leg. Didn't I say a few days ago that this was not the best idea? Hmmm.

Aiyaiyai. I am finished for the day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Doctors etc...........

22. Having a doctor who actually understands, and listens

I pop in to see my GP every now and then, at her request. We both know that there is nothing new we can try, but I keep her up to date with what I am feeling, doing, and experiencing, and she checks things like bp , whether I can walk in a straight line etc. She is the first to say we are both on a steep learning curve here, and she really listens and we both learn. So I am thankful she is around. Even if she is TINY and petite and makes me feel like a hippo. It was hilarious when she asked me to try a balancing thing, and moved to help me. I looked at her and grinned and thought - if I fall, my dear, you will be history. Squished flat.

Mother and I ventured in to the shops this morning, in pursuit of some warmer tops for her to wear, seeing that it is freezing and about to get colder. That was fun. Please tell me where the economic crisis is, because everyone seems to be buying masses of stuff wherever I go. I must be missing something somewhere. Tomorrow has been declared the "Wrapping Presents Day" in this house because I have no idea what we have or where anything is or who we still need to make/find things for, and this house will explode if anything else enters the doors. Order - I need some order. It is a vane hope, I fear.

Back to the doctor for a second - we agreed that a visit to the podiatrist to sort out something to stop my toes from curling, because pain makes you clench things, was in order. So I called the clinic. There is a 14-16 week wait. That, by my reckoning, makes it sometime in March. Just peachy.

What else can I tell you...... apart from the fact that I cracked my nail half way down the nail bed on Friday and have now invented a splint for it out of a lolly stick, taped on to the finger and covered with a finger roll bandage thingy. Just what you needed to hear, of course. This is an attempt to let the nail grow until it is long enough to cut. Half way down the nail bed is not a pretty sight. And it hurts like *(*&*(()!

The week is starting perfectly.

And on that note, I will end this babbling post, and go and make some coffee.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cooking .......

Is anyone else wondering why a police commander is in charge of the NZ mining crisis? With all due respect and while I am sure he is a very able man, should there not be a Specialist Mine Rescue Team there? Just wondering, and praying for those poor men underground and their families who wait. Apparently one is 17 and was working his first shift. And then there is the flooding in the Chinese mine as well.....

Ah, these disasters focus our minds, don't they, and make us so very thankful for so many things we take for granted on a daily basis.

Once upon a time, Geoff used to travel the oceans with his companies, and apart from a small area in SE Asia, they knew that piracy was not an issue to concern them. Then it spread. And when his route headed for West Africa, and the Far East, it became very evident that piracy was a real and present danger. They started practicing ways to repel boarders. Just like in those old sea-going novels. And off West Africa one time, they had to actually put their drills into practice. Fortunately they won the battle and the pirates were dispatched overboard. But suddenly, what was a mere theory and not a real worry, became very real indeed.

And we used to take for granted the fact that a huge ship would be safe. Oh no it is not. Not in 21C. Ironic, isn't it. In some respects, we seem to be going backwards. Piracy.

On a more prosaic note, please email me any stunning pork fillet (tenderloin) recipes. They were on offer and I thought I would buy some. Then realised that all my own recipe books were left in the mountains, and so I started trawling the internet. However, personal recipes are much more fun, so help? Please?

In the meantime, Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings are in the oven, and making the house smell wonderful. Who cares about hips anyway.........

21. Recipes shared among friends

When I got married, many moons ago, we did not have bridal showers. We had Kitchen Teas. All the female guests arrived clutching whatever the bridesmaids told them to bring - kitchen utensils ranging from wooden spoons to bread bin sort of things. Nothing wildly pricey. And along with their anonymous gift, they brought a recipe on a card from their own personal favourites. The bride then had to guess who the gifts were from, and a fun party was had by all.

I am sure I have talked about this before, and how after 25 years, my SA friends all bemoaned the fact that they needed another Kitchen Tea to replace aged utensils. It was a simpler time then, and very practical. And fun.

But I still have all those recipes written BY HAND. I remember individuals from their handwriting, and I am SO glad we had that tradition. I still make some of those dishes, and the memories they bring back are wonderful. Even the cooking terms used. It is all very different now. Not bad, just different.

So today, I am thankful for those old recipes. And I also have some recipe books I helped create for school funds, and one from the church I grew up attending. They too, are filled with faces, as well as recipes, in my mind.

My own recipe books are splattered with ingredients and very odd looking, but they have things like "Ros's crumble", "Sue's prawn dip", "Jean's scones", Moregranny's biscuits", "Auntie Erica's ginger cream" on their pages......... And there are times when I think I should put it all on the computer, but I hesitate, because my Granny wrote her crustless Milktart recipe in my book herself. My Mum has written in it too. It is mine. Priceless. Full of memories. Like the shortbread disaster, the church bazaars, Auntie Myra, stirring fudge, and Cathy's pears in wine. And Janet's Norwegian Kisses, now known to generations as Custies.

I can't change it. It is an heirloom now. There is history in those pages, and it makes me smile.

And that is a warm and happy feeling.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wires and cables.......

20. Friends' sons who come to sort out my TV

Well, it is good some of my friends have sons who live round here, and who are willing and able to make things like wires work. I tried to hook up the old satellite box so we could get the free channels, and got nothing. Stupid box. Stupid wires. It had NOTHING to do with my skills, let me add. Of course not. This is Wonderwoman speaking here.

However, Duncan has just departed. He simply unplugged and plugged in all the cables and Voila, we had a picture. Hmmm. It has to be a man thing. However, I am extremely thankful he worked his magic and made it work. Just like Jean was when he fixed her heating. He did suggest that the on button really should be in the on position for that one. Some evil alien had switched it off. Of course.

Sons are great. Daughters are too actually. Mine is quite capable of sorting out the world, cables and wires included. However, she is not here. So I will borrow other people's children. Unfortunately, the tree over the road has yet to drop all its leaves, so we will not get all the channels until it does, but we are ready.

Last night, I headed for the couch at an early hour, and almost immediately, fell asleep. I woke near midnight. Not one stitch was stitched. It was a challenging day. And today has been a slow quiet day so far. Possibly just what I need. It is very cold and grey and foggy again, and the damp cold is the absolute worst.

I am going to move away from the computer now, because I feel another Amazon fix in the offing. So many wonderful books out there. Tell me, has anyone actually got a Kindle and is it good? Some of the Kindle books are so much cheaper than the real books, I just wondered......

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Small things......

I just looked at the moon. These photos were taken less than 5 minutes ago. The moon has the most amazing ring around it, and the fog is starting to roll in.Beautiful, isn't it?
The sky is clear - no clouds. It is freezing out, and set to be 0C or below tonight. I just thought it was lovely.
Moving on then.....Hello all....

Little piles of stars waiting to be strung into a garland.....

And snow flakes ready to be hung up.....

A small woollen blanket in soft colours.....

And a lovely bright ripple blanket to snuggle under on cold evenings.....

And more to the point, all finished! So why doesn't my basket look any emptier? Sigh. One thing at a time. It all takes me so much longer now because I can't sit for long etc etc blah blah blah. SO frustrating.

Today has been a particularly uncomfortable day, and I will not be at this computer long. Some days are ok. Some are not so ok. And then some are like today. Beam me up, Scottie. or hand me that axe.

I am so ladylike and refined. I just looked at what I wrote and sort of spluttered coffee over the keyboard. Genteel.

19. Ready-made meals.

There are just some nights when cooking is not an option. This is one of them. Thank heavens for wonderful little dishes of food which just have to be nuked for a few minutes and for the microwaves too. Fresh macaroni cheese is on the menu for supper. With salad. I try not to use ready-made stuff, because it it pricey and I like cooking from scratch. But not tonight. And I am particularly partial to the Co-op's macaroni cheese. I am thankful the store is just down the road.

When I started this thankful month, I did say that I would be focusing on the small things, because, like all of you, the big things are a given. It is also a way of demonstrating how simple it is to a few people who have asked how I come up with 5 new things every morning. Don't I run out of things to be thankful for? Well, the answer to that one is a resounding NO. Every day is new, you see, and different. The clouds in the sky today are not the same ones as yesterday. The dreams are never the same. The coffee is different. The friends take their turn. The linen can change, as can the music.

If you really stop, and look at the space around you, and notice the pattern on the mug, the scent in the air, the sounds you hear, it will all be constantly changing. And yet, if we notice it all, then so does God. And it is good to say "Thanks". Everyone likes to be appreciated.

So no, I don't have a problem finding things to be thankful for. It is sometimes more of a challenge to come up with just one for the blog. The sound of laughter. The smell of bacon cooking. The joy of opening the first page of a new book. The delight of sinking into a hot bath. The softness of the towel. The fluffy pink dressing gown. Butter melting into hot toast. The last roses opening their buds. The smell of freshly mown grass. That moon at the top of the page here.

How can anyone NOT find a reason to be thankful?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


You wanted to see the pile? Well, this is part of it. A very small part of it.
Stars and snowflakes being starched.....

And piles of stars already done....

And the stripey hair. I told my friends it was stripey and I don't think they believed me. One friend said "Good grief - it really DOES have stripes!" Indeed it does. Maybe a few too many and a little bolder than I anticipated, but hey, I am in an adventurous mood, so let's go stripey. At least the hair is charting new territories.

I did mention on Facebook (PLEASE join Facebook if you haven't yet - communicating is wonderful and instant!) (Then come and tell me you have joined so I can be your friend!) that I will have to wear purple now and start clanging my stick along railings.

So there we have the new stripey Linds. Get used to the stripes, people. It will take a while for them to grow out. Maybe I can add more, different stripes ..... green. Purple. Hmmm. I can be a rainbow.

18. Coffee tea and chats with friends.
Today is Julia's birthday. She is in the middle of her chemo treatment, and she and I went out to our favourite place for coffee and a chat this morning. Just lovely to sit somewhere warm and catch up. Actually, we had soup as well. Homemade soup. Great. The garden centre is putting in their annual ice rink at the moment. It was a roaring success last year, and will be even bigger this year. A real outdoor ice rink!

And then this afternoon, after Mum's check-up at the doc, we popped in to see Jean, and have some coffee and biscuits and more chatter. Lots of laughter too, and bemusement. Jean has wrapped all her presents and is almost finished making all her cards. I am falling way behind here.

Oh well. I have stripey hair. Not everyone has that.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Little things...........

17. Little things - finding the balls of wool I need to finish a blanket. Needles large enough to sew in the wool on the blankets. Batting for the quilts. And stripey hair.

It has been a grey and cold day again in these parts, and this morning, as you can see from above, I had my hair done. As in highlights. Very long overdue highlights. The grey needed to be toned down a trifle. Well, I asked for darker colours and nothing too fine, because I am of the opinion that if one is having highlights, one needs to SEE them. I am now in my zebra phase, with stripey hair, but hey, normal is boring so I can have stripey hair. It makes me grin.

I thought I was going to have it cut, but my hairdresser said an interesting thing. "You do not need it cut, Linds", she said. "If you relax your shoulders, it is exactly the right length to swing freely above your shoulders. However, if you hunch your shoulders, it looks too long." Hmmmm. I must be spending most of my life with hunched shoulders, and we will not discuss why I do this. Great. So I need to relax. Drop the shoulders. Stand up straight. And the stripey hair will swing about my shoulders. Right. Got it.

And then Jean, Mum and I headed for the shops down the motorway in a nearby town. (MK to those who live round here.) Coffee and a bite to eat, and then a visit to the sewing department for wool, batting, needles and wonder under. They had everything we needed, so that was great. John Lewis is packed with wonderful (not cheap) things, and as Jean said as we were leaving later, she had forgotten how much she enjoyed shopping. I know the feeling. I never go to MK because there are shops there I would love to visit. So I keep away. But it was sensory overload with all the Christmas things out. I had forgotten the fun of looking at everything new. I could do with another trip, I confess.

A quick stop at Costco on the way home, and up the motorway we came. back home. Slow cooker bubbling away, and darkness by 4pm.

I am thankful they had the wool and batting/wadding we needed. That I now have a large enough needle to darn in the ends of the wool on the ripple blanket. Little things. But they matter to me.

I keep thinking it is the middle of the night. It has been dark since we got home. It feels late, and yet, I look at the clock and it is just 7.49pm. I seriously loathe these dark evenings with a vengeance. I need chocolate to compensate.......

You really want to know??????

You want to know how I am today? Really? Are you sure?? Positive?

I am furious. Mad as a wet hen. Rope-able.

With whom? Why?

With Geoff.

Because he is dead. Because he is not here. Because he is never going to be here again. Because my oven is dead. Because he would have fixed it in a heartbeat.

Did I say heartbeat?

The thing that killed hime when it stopped?

I am furious with his heart.

I am furious that it stopped.

I am furious that he is dead.

I am tired of coping with the mundane trivialities of the day. Broken ovens are up there at the top of the list, together with broken lamps, his test meter, straight curtain poles, getting in and out of the loft and lifting heavy things. Where was he when the toilet handle broke? When the hot water element needed replacing? When the microwave developed a life of its own? When the DISHWASHER broke. He could have fixed them all. He could and would have fixed everyone's broken things.

I am furious that he CAN'T.

I am furious because he didn't live so I could be furious with a PERSON.

Furious that he can't stomp off muttering "here we go again" when I get furious.

Just so you know.

I am furious.


That is all. Carry on.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Crossing something off the list at last.....

16. Crossing something off the list. At last.

Almost. Well, I darned in all the ends of 60+ crocheted stars last night. And a doll's blanket. And pinned the stars to the floor and starched them. And this morning, I turned them and starched the other side, so they are almost done. They will be either decorations for the tree, or a garland. Maybe a garland. Almost. See? Something is getting there. Inch by very slow inch.

I also chose the thread to quilt the cushions for my friend this morning. In the light of day, when I could actually see the colours in my stash. I have a stash of just about everything now I come to think about it. Except gold spray. Maybe they will get done tonight.

Or maybe I will crochet more snowflakes. I wanted to starch the ones I made in the summer, and sew in the ends, and so help me, I seem to have misplaced the lot. So while I was waiting for Glynis at a hospital appointment this afternoon, I made 4 and a half new ones. Not enough, but I can't just have 4 and a half now can I??? I am sure the other people in the waiting room must have thought I was demented, occupying 3 seats with bag, instructions, wool and myself. Hook flying and guess what, I discovered that I talk to myself when I crochet new patterns. I repeat the instructions aloud. Mutter, mutter. Oops. It never mattered when I kept the hook and wool in the privacy of my lounge.

Jean has wrapped her presents already. I have most of mine, and would wrap them, but where on earth would I put them?? I do need to get everything out though, and see exactly what I have. As Jean said, once her pile was on the table, it seemed silly not to just wrap them then, so she did. I am not so organised.

The fog outside has not lifted all day, and it has had a chill which creeps into the bones. Damp cold. It was -3C earlier, and as Mum says, -5C is not as cold as this in Switzerland. She is right. But I am thankful we can get warm, with the heating, blankets, hot drinks and recession heaters. And socks and slippers, and......

We have yet to pop the hats on the head.

Sausages. I think we need sausages and mash for supper. Comfort food.

Excellent idea.........

(I just read this post. I sound totally scatty. Maybe I am at the moment. My mind is all over the place.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday rolls round again.......

15. My bed.

That may seem a little too personal, but believe me, I am very thankful for my bed. I have a bed, and countless millions do not. That would be reason enough, but you see, MY bed is just the most wonderful thing to crawl into when I am tired and aching. My friend, Jean, happened to see an offer in a newspaper 2 years ago, for feather mattress toppers. She bought one, and waxed lyrical about it. So, when sleep proved more elusive than ever, and my leg never stopped hurting, she suggested I get one. So I did.

Life has not been the same since. I sleep in a nest of feathers. A soft down duvet floating on top, masses of down pillows, so soft, my feather topper under my sheet, and me in the middle. There is not a single night that goes by when I do not crawl in, and grin and thank the Good Lord for my bed. And then fall asleep immediately.

Oh yes. I am very, very thankful.

It never actually looks smooth and classy though, even though the Happy Quilt is on top with loads of cushions. It is bumpy. But I don't care. I love it. And magazine perfect is not one of my personal goals either.

So what have I been up to today? Cataloguing the mountain of half finished things. It seems that I have never ended anything, so they are all piled next to the couch for attention tonight. And I will cease and desist and not start anything new until they are finished and the basket is clear. However, a friend asked me to make some cushions out of his Mum's clothing as memory cushions, so I did piece them together today and they have joined the "to be quilted" pile. And Jean gave me two lovely logs for the woodwork projects on my list. They are calling to me, but I am ignoring them. For now.

Here is a piece of good advice I can offer anyone wanting to have a memory quilt or cushion or whatever. Never, ever let a man choose the clothing to be kept for this purpose. A dressing gown , 2 nighties, 2 dresses, a couple of sheets, cushions and a fleece jacket do not make for a simple solution. Men do not understand the weight of fabric. Or colours. Among other things. His wife would have made a more practical choice, I am sure, but then, it is his Mum, and his choice that matters, so I made a plan.

And now I am going to end off the million stars I made earlier in the year. And I may even starch them too. I can't remember why I thought each small star needed to be in at least 3 colours, and now I have a zillion ends to work in. I must have lost my mind. Plain stars may well have been easier. Not as pretty though.

I am rambling.

I will be back.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Sunset last night was spectacular.
I was taking the rubbish out to the bin and happened to look up past the hedge, and dropped the bags and grabbed my camera straight away to try and capture the scene forever.

The sky was on fire.......

Absolutely beautiful. However, I am still waiting for the "shepherd's delight" part of today to begin. It is grey and cloudy and not sunny and bright. At all. But maybe later.......

I just re-read yesterday's post and there are so many typos, it makes me wince. Oops. Sorry about that. The chicken is roasting in the little oven, and there is a wonderful black cat patrolling my fence as I speak, hopefully on the trail of any random rodent who may think of spending the winter in my garden. Hello cat! You can stay as long as you like! I may even consider buying a can of cat food......

The closer we get to Christmas, the more things I think of that I would love to make. Oh, for the staying power of my youth. The shops are full of decorations, and when I take a good look at them, I think "Hmmmmmm, I could do that for next to nothing." Then I come home and add it to the ever expanding list, and there it sits. I have 4 cushions, 3 quilts and a wall hanging waiting to be quilted and bound. They have been there longer than I care to think about. Not to mention the crocheted blankets waiting to have the ends sewn in, the stars and snowflakes waiting to be starched. (Yes!!! I have finally got the starch!!) Dried sticks I want to spray gold...when I remember to get gold spray paint. I used the last lot on my dried aliums (i). A granny square blanket needing one more ball of wool to complete the edging. The wool is at MK. Not on my doorstep.

And so it goes. It may sound disorganised and chaotic. But it is a good feeling. Baskets of things to work on next to my couch. However, my couch and I have a slight problem. Every time I sit on it , I fall asleep. It has somniferous properties. Which means the sum total of things finished or started is around zero at the moment. And, back to the beginning, with Christmas approaching, this is not convenient. The list, as I said, keeps growing.

I am so full of good intentions.
14. Herbs growing in my garden

I have just been out to pick some parsley, sage and thyme. Then I chopped them up and popped them into the chicken with a chopped onion. Last night, I picked some rosemary to make a bed for the lamb to cook on. And as I look at the french doors, I see the chives, still there, waiting to be used. The basil on my window-sill is bought, I confess. Mine is over.

It may be cold outside, but my herbs are still growing, and I am so glad I planted them. In summer, I get so used to popping in and out with veg and fruit from the garden, but the harvest is over now, and just the herbs remain. The sage and the thyme are rampant, in fact. The mint is over for the year, but will pop up again in spring.

So easy to grow, and a reminder, when I cook, that fresh is best. I am thankful that I learned HOW to grow things. Heaven knows it took decades for me to become interested in gardening, and now, of course, it is bordering on an obsession. I just LOVE it.

Right. I may need to baste the parsnips. Have a great Sunday, everyone!

Saturday, November 13, 2010


13. Village life.

I live in what is one of the largest villages in the country, and quite possibly the world. In the States, or Canada, we would definitely be a town. But we LIKE being a village. People talk to each other. People walk to the centre of the village - the Square. Mind you, if anything was less like a square, I have yet to find it. A triangle is probably more apt.

But it is the Square. Old and ancient buildings like it, and in the late afternoon sunlight in autumn or spring, the old stone glows so warmly. There are some thatched cottages, and there are sweet little shops, where you have to bend to get in the doors. The Infant and Junior schools are in the centre of the village, with the 4 churches. Anglican - up on the hill with the tower over 1000 years old - the Baptist, Methodist and Catholic. And so is the library. And the shops.

There are societies and clubs, and meetings, and classes, and tennis and bowls, and football or cricket. There are allotments, and growing competitions, and estate agents, and photographers, and a supermarket, corner shops, hairdressers, beauticians, doctors, and dentists. Alternative therapies, choirs, orchestras, and dancing classes - ballet, keep fit and line dancing.

Brownies, Guides, Beavers, Scouts, Cubs, Rainbows. Meals on Wheels, Lunch clubs for the elderly. Butcher, sweet shop, electrical shop, garden and kitchen shop. Gift shops and chemists. Places for tea and lunch. Take aways of all description, and our own village magazine too for good measure. Florists, fancy dress costume shop and undertakers.

I have shown you photos of our annual Carnival, and Carols in the Square. But what you don't see from the photos is the essence of Village Life. This morning, we went to the Traidcraft (Fair Trade) coffee morning at the Hall, and the opening of the Christmas shop, which is staffed by volunteers till Christmas. We sat and chatted to people who popped in for a cup of coffee and cake, and browsed among the books which you can take for a donation. Bring a bag and take a bag. Recycling in the best way. I chatted to a lady who told me she has lived in the village all her life and in the same house she and her husband moved into when they married 60 years ago. She knew everyone and everything which had happened here, and she also remembers exactly when I moved here, and that David was a babe in arms. How he used to race round the church during services. That is the village life I love. Where you are recognised and where you have a place.

The butcher makes and delivers hot meals to people stuck at home. There is a Village Help Scheme where retirees offer to transport people to doctors or hospitals when needed. There is a recreation ground, called the Rec, where there is a playground for little kids, a skateboard ramp, and play equipment for older kids. And a basketball court. The Rec also hosts the dog training classes, and playscheme in the summer.

This is England, so there is the WI - the Women's institute - remember Calendar Girls? And I am just scratching the surface here. Playgroups, nursery, martial arts, badminton....... the list goes on. All within walking distance. Full of people who grin, and who love living here. Tobogganing on the farmer's field in winter.

I grew up in a huge city, and I loved it. Cape Town is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and it has a host of natural atractions which would be hard to beat. But that was then, and this is now, and this suits me.

It is a good place to live, among people who are my friends. The annual Christmas Card Village stroll is comign up soon.... no-one posts cards in the village. We all take to the streets with our stacks of cards, and walk round delivering them all through the slots in the doors. Bumping into others on the same mission, and laughter in the air.

Village life........ I am thankful I live in this place.

Friday, November 12, 2010


12. Mums

Specifically my Mum. Well, I only have one, don't I, and although I am a Mum too, it is different. Today, my Mum is 85, and so help me, I struggle to keep up with her. Marge and I see her as an amazing blessing to us and our family.

What would we do without our mothers? How many children round the world go to bed dreaming of having a mother to love them and cuddle them close? It is all about that mother love - the unconditional love which means that although we may not always like what they do, the love remains constant and deep, and unquestionably there. The knowledge that no matter what I may ever do, at least my mother would still love me. Believe I was beautiful. Unwavering. Belief. Trust. The smile from the heart, visible in the eyes.

What a joy. What a privilege. (Oops I just forgot to wrap one of Mum's presents and give it to her - hang on a sec.....) How fortunate I am. We are.

I can't stop thinking about Ann and the ducks. (If you haven't read it yet, go to yesterday's post and follow the link.) The lengths a mother will go to to protect and nurture her young. The pain she will endure for them. The care lavished. The constant giving, without question of getting anything in return. Going without willingly. Teaching. Watching over. Guiding. Setting examples. Disciplining. Loving. Always the loving.

We will skip over the dirty washing, taxi service, chef and banker roles here. We all know there is a Dark Side to Everything, don't we, but for this post, we are looking at the beauty of our Mums. Mine yelled too and, I am sure, was convinced we were growing up into hooligans at times, I am thankful to report. She is human and not perfect, just like all of us. I can't imagine anything worse ..... good grief if my mother had been perfect, I would have given up 30 years ago and gone into a nunnery somewhere in desperation. Or dug myself a hole.

But she is human. Oh the relief.

However, if asked, both Marge and I would say without hesitation, that she is the perfect Mum for us. We could not imagine life without her. HER. No-one else. She got it right. She loves us without question, and did everything I said above. No-one else could come close. And she has been here all our lives, and will be for decades to come if we have anything to do with it. Thankfully, she comes from a long line of indomitable women who lived a long time. My Gran was almost 93 when she died, and a great-great aunt was 104.

Phht. A doddle. 120 should be easy then.

At least.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


11. The ability to write here.

The question has to be though, what do I write, and why. There is a great deal of power attached to the written word, and the responsibility here at RCR is mine. Do I write for my own pleasure? Or do I write to communicate with you, who come over to read. Do I share just the triumphs? Or do I expose the trials and failures, and pain? What? Why? How?

Ann is a blogging friend with a wonderful heart, and a way of making me stop in my tracks and think seriously about what I write and why. If you haven't met her before, please go and read her post on writing. It is still swirling around in my mind many hours after first reading it. I know some of my blogging friends are feeling the same. Powerful just does not begin to describe it.

I am eternally grateful for all the wonderful friends I have made here. It is a delight for me, and a feeling of being in a family scattered all over the world. I love being here. Who knew, when I started tentatively all those years ago, that I would find myself bound together with women from so many countries and cultures - and some men too - all through the little words my fingers are putting up on the screen here. Amazing.

It feels good to be here. It feels right. But each of us has to decide exactly how we use this medium. None of us is perfect. We all yell and have days when we just can't cope with any more, and I keep thinking of Ann's duck story, and how I nearly wept when I read it. The meaning is so incredibly profound and moving, and I think of all the times I could have done things differently, and then I get a huge lump in my throat, and wonder why I didn't know........

Ah.... (deep breath)........

Just so you know, like each of your lives, mine is full of difficult things. I am not floating along here in a fuzzy pink haze of perfection. I have been facing more challenges than I ever thought possible to endure that I have not talked about. Yet I survive. And what Ann talks about is how just actually sharing the reality of the difficult times could actually help someone else. Perhaps. I need to think about that.

Between us all, there has to be the full gamut of catastrophes and nightmares. But we still wake every morning, don't we. We keep plodding on. I know there are days when I happen to read a random post somewhere which seems to be written just for me. And it helps. Yet so often I can't even post a comment to say thank you. So whoever wrote that something which touched me, may never know how much it meant to me.

And so I know that there must be people out there who feel the same about some things I may say, and yet I don't know.

I am so thankful that I started blogging. I am so thankful that I met you all. I am so thankful that I am being challenged to give more, be more, do more...... I am learning as I go. I am so thankful that together we have become a body which helps each other in times of need. I am in awe of how many children around the world have been sponsored just because of this blogging community. Lives are being changed, and all because we all started writing. And speaking of writing, tomorrow is the second Friday of the month, and all Compassion sponsors are being urged to make this the day we all write to our children. So if you have a sponsored child, please consider writing to him or her tomorrow, and join the hundreds of others doing so!

I am so thankful that each of us had the courage to start writing. And most of all, I am so thankful for each and every one of you who is reading this. You are friends.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


10. My slow cooker

Today has been freezingly cold outdoors, but my home has been warm and cosy. And the slow cooker has been bubbling away all day. The aroma of the beef casserole is wonderful. It smells welcoming, and also as though I had been slaving over the stove all day. Which I clearly have not.

I remember the comforting smell of stews from my childhood, and also from when my own children were little. Many a day throughout winter, a stew was cooking in the huge pot on the stove. A little meat, potatoes, onions, carrots etc, in a thick gravy. Just like Mum used to make. I can see it now.

My Dad loved stew, and especially the gravy. After he had finished his dinner, he often had a thick slice of bread covered in the gravy. He used to say it was the best part of the dinner. And when my children were small and reluctant to eat vegetables, I would liquidise some stew (containing every vegetable under the sun) and tell them it was gravy. They loved it.

So now, I don't need to stand there any more, stirring, to make sure nothing sticks to the pot. I have this wonderful little machine to cook long enough and at a low enough temperature to prevent any of that, and to preserve the goodness in the food too. I am always amazed how the vegetables are not mush. Magic. That is what it is!

Food evokes so many memories. I just have to smell some dishes, and I have flashbacks to a different time and place, and often, those who I have known for a long time, share those same memories. We glance at each other and grin, and you just know what they are thinking.

That is why I bake so much at Christmas time. My family are not great fans of gingerbread, but to me, the smell of gingerbread baking means Christmas is near. My Moregranny (my father's mother) baked gingerbread, and when I grew up, I started baking it for my Dad. And it all connected in my brain. I don't care if my family are not keen. I am. I want that scent in the home. I want to remember.

The baking of particular cookies. The smell of the roast lamb. Homemade stuffing. Bacon. And then we have the scents of the barbecued meat. I am from South Africa, after all! Ah, the memories. Homemade soups too. Apple muffins. They all have their distinct aromas, and they all have individual memories attached.

Nothing is ever simple, is it. There is always more beneath the surface.

That little slow cooker started an avalanche of memories, didn't it? My £10 purchase last year..... a bargain in more ways than one. And now I am off to eat some of that delicious beef.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


9. My camera

Oh, how I love capturing fleeting moments in time with my camera. I love experimenting with different lighting and I absolutely love being able to take as many photos as I want to without having to pay the fortune to have each roll of 24 or 36 developed and printed for a great deal of money. Who would have thought we would be able to have digital cameras, and computers to play with the images we capture, and printers, and photoshop......
There are thousands of pictures stored on various hard drives in this house. I have every intention of making them into photo books, and also scrapbooking with them. Sometime. Soon. Note to self : Stop procrastinating and get on with it. I thought that I had taken so many photos of my children growing up. That is, until I realised just how many photos we have of Missy. All records are broken. She is so lucky to have a very talented Mum wielding a very classy camera as she grows up. We are so fortunate too, to be able to see them all on something like Flickr. There is no delay - we see photos moments after they have been taken. And when little ones are changing by the day, this is especially great when you are not close by.
And the places I love..... all through the year, these special places (to me) change in small ways, as well as big seasonal shifts. And I try to grab the moment to savour later. Grab it, hold it tight and keep it safe. Storing images. Hoarding them in my mind, as well as on those hard drives.You know what I am saying? I hope so. The ability to string a logical set of words together seems to be illusive right now. I love my camera. I take it everywhere, and I can get it out and working in seconds. My garden has had a great deal of attention too. I love my garden, and I photograph the things I love. I would love to learn more about photography, and editing programmes. There are some great tutorials out there on the internet, and Pioneer Woman has taught me a great deal, but I really should get a decent editing suite.

Learning something new is something I hope to be doing all my life. You are never too old to learn. And there are so many fascinating things to discover nowadays. New things. And when it comes to the simple camera, I am having the time of my life. Like crocheting. I taught myself how to crochet at the beginning of the year, and discovered a new hobby which I love. Not that I am in need of many more new hobbies, let me tell you - I have so many interests that I can't do any of them real justice any more! I made these wrist warmers last night. Or computer gloves. They are great and warm, but so help me, useless on the computer, because I confess I still need to be able to see the keys. Oh well. I will work on the pattern or thickness of the wool and Make A Plan.

Monday, November 08, 2010


8. A warm home

Especially when the temps drop dramatically, and the world turns grey. The sight of piles of warm soft cosy blankets also fills me with delight. Not to mention fleece throws. Whoever came up with the idea of turning unwanted plastic into fleece deserves the Nobel prize for something, or maybe he or she has already got it. If not, I would be very happy to send in a nomination.

The human brain is so inventive, isn't it. Just think of all those people through the ages, not to mention right now somewhere, who have to put up with their husbands or wives or parents saying that they were wasting their time, and could they please consider finding a proper job........

Well. Our lives are immeasurably enhanced by their fortitude. This is what happens when dreams collide with determination and an ability to become deaf when people view those dreams with derision. The literary giants had to put up with it too. Starving in garrets etc etc.

So back to warmth. I feel the need to find some old fashioned leg-warmers, and would you believe that they are unobtainable. Sigh. And no, knitting some just does not appeal, and nor would my knitting result in leg-warmers which stayed in place. I have this vision of me hobbling along, trailing a leg-warmer in my wake, which is absolutely not the look I am aiming for. You see, I can't wear tights. They feel like fire on the leg, so I had a bright idea and bought some leggings to wear under skirts, thinking that they were more structured, therefore would not feel like fire. I was woefully wrong. So then I thought - aha!! Leg warmers! But my quest for lovely soft leg-warmers continues. Otherwise skirts in winter will be out of the question.

It will soon be time to start thinking of hauling out the decorations. The little Christmas lights give me a great feeling of warmth and light and cosiness, and this is why every year my decorations go up earlier and earlier. If we have to live through dark dreary winters, warmth and light are essential, and all those little lights make life seem a great deal brighter, don't they. Missy and her parents are coming to visit Moregranny and Great-Granny at the end of the month, so I want to have some lights working by then. Little girls like sparkly things. My granddaughter is perfecting her dance moves. She is so funny, and sings away at the top of her voice while twirling about. She has the head moves for pirouettes completely aced. A star is born!

And I can't wait to see her soon.

Sunday, November 07, 2010


7. The sound of church bells ringing out....

It doesn't matter where I am - Switzerland or England - the sound of the bells ringing over the countryside is always wonderful. A call to worship, Sundays, weddings, celebrations. And the practising too. In Switzerland, the time. The bells ring throughout the day for various things. In our village, children can go and learn how to ring the bells too. None of this recorded stuff. Dangling from the end of a rope is the way it is done. Often families all join the bell ringers, and parents ring with their children. Mine, however, never showed any inclination. But I love hearing those bells ring. Like this morning.

Bells are so different. In Switzerland, there are the cows too, with their bells, and some of them are enormous. The bells. The cows too, come to think of it. When winter approaches, they all come down from the mountain, and they have garlands on and their bells clanking means grab your camera and run to take photos. In the spring, back up they come. Seasons have entirely different meanings when cows pass by.

Unlike the sirens used in schools today, when I was at school, there was a real bell. Being the "bell monitor" was a real honour. Ringing the bell throughout the day for end of periods, breaks and everything else was fun. It didn't matter how shy you were, that bell made a great deal of noise. We had to walk to the designated bell ringing place, holding the clanger to make sure no sound was made till EXACTLY the right time.

Oh heavens... I just remembered being a blackboard monitor. Using the duster to wipe the chalk off the board, (making sure you left the date in the top right hand corner!) and then at the end of the lesson, going outside with the duster and a ruler, and whacking it to get the chalk dust off so it was clean for the next lesson. These were the days I was in junior school, when we still had inkwells and pens with nibs to dip into them, and blotting paper. Who remembers those days??

Lunch bags, shoe bags, sewing folders, art smocks, hats with the school badge on them, winter uniform, summer uniform, playing jacks in the playground. Cracking open pine nuts with a stone to eat the kernels. The school song. Eurythmics. The metric system bricks. Hair touching the collar had to be tied up. Morning markets.........

You see what happens when you stroll into the memories of yesteryear? It is like blog-hopping. You go from one place to another, getting further away from your starting point, and usually, it is a delightful experience. I am so fortunate that I had a wonderfully happy childhood. And school. There are no demons lurking there for me.

And I am very thankful for that too.

Saturday, November 06, 2010


6. Soft downy pillows to rest my head on.

And my leg. I can't tell you how weary I was last night. I crawled into bed, and my head touched the softest of pillows, and I was asleep. Forgetting to take my tablets did not help. One of my boom or bust days. Boom AND bust.

So today started really late. My body did not feel the need to wake till the sun was quite high in the sky. Suited me just fine. I ache in places I didn't realise could ache. So, instead of making my way to the nearest couch clutching my book, I went for a walk. I always assume that more exercise will improve things. Oil the creaks. My assumptions may well be wrong. Admitting I am wrong goes against the grain. Mothers are always right. Just ask my kids.

But there is always a plus side.

On my walk, however, because there was not a soul about, I had the opportunity to be still and just listen. First to my breathing, and then to the sounds all around me. Water trickling, birds chirping, leaves rustling, branches swaying. The longer I stood there, the clearer and more distinct the sounds became. And more and more sounds became audible. Sounds I would never have heard if I had not been still and taking note. I heard the wind whispering. I heard the leaves falling. It was unimaginably beautiful.

Listening is an art. Sometimes, I hear the voice, but don't focus on the words, never mind the emotions or meanings behind them. Being fully attentive seems to require too much energy or skill when I am doing 5 things at the same time. Simple focus. That is all it is. Not doing the 5 things at the same time. Turning to face the person speaking to you, and looking directly at them, and paying 100% attention. Try it. You will see what a huge difference it makes.

This morning, I tried just listening to the world around me. It was a revelation. This, then, is being mindful. There is no such thing as silence really. I am sitting here, and apart from the obvious sound of my fingers flying over the keyboard, there is a clock ticking. Cars passing in the distance, the sound of me breathing, faint voices, the bark of a dog. The hum of the computer. Life.

It is a wonderful thing.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Guy Fawkes!!

5. Memories of Guy Fawkes parties in Cape Town when my children were small. Memories of friends, the sounds, the scenes, the smell of fireworks and sausages on the braai.... I am so thankful for the tapestry of colours in my mind. Memories.

That is a little long-winded, but I am suddenly so aware of how precious all those memories are. And they form the most amazing tapestry of colours in my mind. I am reading Max Lucado's latest book. Outlive your Life. He talks about how we have this one unique opportunity to live our lives, be something special. Change the world, one small step at at time. It is good. I am actually making notes as I read, and that is quite unusual for me.

Listen to this ...." Life is racing by, and if we aren't careful, you and I will look up and our shot at it will have passed us by. Some people don't bother with such thoughts. They grind through their days without lifting their eyes to look. They live and die and never ask why."

This was from the beginning of the book. It goes on, but it is best you read it for yourself. I don't want to be someone who never looks up. Never savours the moments, cherishes the memories. Build a life with purpose. Every little thing matters.

He goes on to illustrate over and over, how one person can make massive differences to the world, and he reminds us that we are all capable of this. He says that God doesn't choose the qualified. He qualifies the chosen. Amazingly simple, isn't it.

We get to star in our own lives, you see. We need to grab the opportunity.

The fact that I have had very little sleep may just be starting to show, so I will stop for now and go and have a nap.

Happy Guy Fawkes, everyone!

PS. According to the news, we need to follow a new Health and Safety Advisory for Guy Fawkes Night, and WEAR GLOVES WHILE HOLDING A SPARKLER TO AVOID INJURY. And have a bucket of water so all dead sparklers can be immersed in it. Oh good grief. 56 years of safe sparkler manipulation, and now I am supposed to WEAR GLOVES???? How on earth have we managed all these years?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

And Thursday rolls round again......

4. The scent (and taste) of hot coffee on a blustery day in Autumn.

Not the best photos, but here are the first two cushions. Very autumnal! There is no other more appropriate way to describe the day than the word "blustery". The wind is swirling the leaves all over the roads, and it always reminds me of the day I brought Andrew home from the nursing home after he was born many moons ago. I still remember driving along the road and commenting on the leaves everywhere. Another time, hemisphere and yet the same season. And the memories remain crystal clear.

I have been helping Glynis choose a new stove/cooker today. That involved the very scientific collecting of cooking implements like cake tins from elsewhere in the shop, to see if they fit on the shelves next to each other. Forget the specs, we needed to know the cake tins would fit. we know what is important! After a while, I just happened to spy an iPad, so had a little play. Nice. Unfortunately the assistant had no idea how to find the internet. I wanted to see how easy it would be to post something on the blog etc etc etc. Flipping through the pages of A.A. Milne was sweet though. And playing the piano. So I had fun.

Thanks so much for all the Karo suggestions, people. If you have time, please email me the recipes! I will be trying them out, believe me. New recipes are like unwrapping presents. Great anticipation and lovely surprises.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A pause in the quilting to chat......

3. Comfortable footwear now that winter is approaching.

Hi there. Yes, I know that some of my thankful things may sound a little bizarre, but I have deliberately avoided using the more obvious ones. They go without saying, and will always be there at the top of the list. But so many other things I tend to take for granted merit a thankful heart. I have shoes. Many do not.

I have finished 2 of the autumn cushion covers today - there is so much quilting waiting to be done that I do believe I will be stitching for the forseeable future. The small things are simple, but the large ones are going to take some time. And before we know it Autumn will be gone! Right. I need to go and bond with the needle and thread soon. The new cushions do look lovely, I have to say. I need to take some photos. Tomorrow.

Our supermarkets here are suddenly full of Christmas things, and I can't tell you how many people had trolley loads of paper, Christmas crackers, ornaments etc today. They all appear to be a great deal more organised than I am! And our weather has taken a warmer turn. Well, let me say that the weather people tell us it has, but I have yet to feel any proof. Today was supposed to be 16C and I dressed appropriately. I had to come back for a coat. It may just be me, of course, because I noticed that some spring bulbs in my garden seem to think this is the right time to sprout. I have what look like tulips popping through the soil. In November. Oops.

I have a question for my American friends. What do you use corn syrup for? I have two bottles of it - one light and one dark. Please give me some tried and trusted suggestions! I haven't got a clue.

And now I am off to do some quilting......

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A challenge, and other sundry bits......

Somewhere, I think on Facebook, I saw that there is a challenge out to post one thing you are thankful for each day for November. Now, if you have been around here in recent years, you will know that this is the method I use to lever myself out of bed every morning in a mood fit for human interaction. I lie there, and think of at least 5 things I am thankful for, and it rather alters the temperament in a positive way and enables me to rise and grin. There is always something. At least 5 somethings.

So, I think that is a superb way to start November. Well, yesterday was the start of November - I know that - so I will post two things today. We don't have Thanksgiving here, of course, and even though I think the challenge was issued with Thanksgiving in mind, I still think it is universally appropriate with Christmas barrelling down the highway towards us at speed.

  1. I am thankful for the talents / knowledge I can share with friends when asked.
  2. Having enough. Of just about anything you can think of. Not lots, but enough.

I am challenging myself to remember to do this each day in November. 30 days. A doddle.

I am waiting for "a man" to come and tell me if I can have a letterbox fitted into my front door. Here in the UK, most letterboxes are slots in doors. However, we had a border collie a few years back, who thought postmen were spawn of the devil and wanted to eat their hands for breakfast. And the innocent letters they were trying to pop through the door. So the door was changed and an outside box installed. This works just fine unless you go anywhere, and then your poor long suffering friends have to pop round on a daily basis and remove the post. And the guilt sets in. So "the man" will tell me what is possible. It may involve a new door, and then the friends will have to continue the daily trek, bless their cotton socks, or I will have to stay home. Forever.

Jean popped in yesterday to learn how to cut out her first quilts - she is making two for her sons, and we had a really lovely time in my sewing room. I showed her how to use my cutting board and roller cutter, and then sat and quilted a cushion I am making while she rollered away, and we chatted about anything and everything. It is lovely to be creative with someone else, you know. My sister and I have a great time crafting together when she has time.

The man has been and gone, and a slot is indeed possible. He will send a quote. And for good measure, I asked for a quote for a conservatory out in the garden. Hahahahahahahahahaha. Hohohohohohohohohohoh. I need to buy a lotto ticket. But it will be good to know if it would be possible one day. I would love to have somewhere to sit and "be" in the garden when the weather is dire. This is England, after all!

So the day is moving along here. He told me I should have my heating on. The house is a trifle nippy, I admit, but that is what jumpers are for. I am a tough old bird. Or maybe I will go and visit someone in a warm house for coffee. Excellent idea. I am off. I will be back.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Out to tea......

For my birthday this year (it was months ago) my friends, Peter and Glynis decided that we would go out to a nearby manor house called Fawsley Hall for a posh tea, and they also decided to give Jean the same gift, so yesterday, the four of us set off across the countryside for tea. A perfect Sunday afternoon.

These photos were taken in the grounds of the Hall.....

And the sun was setting over the lake as we arrived.....

This is the winding road through the beautiful grounds......

The church.....

Peter and Glynis sitting in our alcove in the great hall. The fire was roaring in the grate behind Glynis in the background. It was large enough to spitroast a giant. See how large all the chairs and couches are? Well, it made us feel as if we were the only people in the hall, and it was just lovely. Cosy and private. Jean and I had to sit bolt upright on our couch - see how far back the cushions are? Well, we ended up leaning on the arms, because leaning back meant we lay prostrate on the couch. Hilarious. We did discuss how large it was, and if it had been in any of our lounges at home, it would have filled the room.

And the cakes..... and sandwiches.... oh my word. We ate the lot. One of those stands was for 2 people. Forget the calories. We prepared for this, No lunch and no supper. And a steady supply of fresh tea and coffee too. Linen napkins. Clotted cream. Scones. Jam. Chocolate. Sigh.

This is the Great Hall. You would not know that it was full of people now, would you. And take a look at the ceiling. And all the candles. I was so tempted to kick off the boots and curl up in a corner of the couch with a newspaper. It is also a hotel and conference centre and spa, and a weekend there sounds blissful. Plenty of space to roam around in the grounds, and then the spa, and the fireplace, and the teas......

The tower like thing on the right is the alcove we sat in. It looks stunning floodlit too. So it was an absolutely lovely afternoon out. Very different. Fun, and with the best of friends.