Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A golden day............

The fog has lifted, both physically and metaphorically, you will be thrilled to hear. Today dawned foggy, but now the sun is shining and the skies are blue, and it is actually quite warm out there. And England trounced Australia in the Ashes test, and life has a decidedly smiley face today. The 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep also went a LONG way to helping with the attitude, believe me. So today is good.

The village is heaving with people, and I suspect my poor sister is being run off her feet, but I will walk over soon and check out the state of Linie 8, and then wander round the lake. Or up the river. Or somewhere. It is too beautiful to stay in.

I wonder about how much the weather really does have an affect on people, you know. I do know that the long winters of greyness and dampness are appalling for me. Life seems to be grey. Neither good nor bad, just grey. And damp to the bones. Consequently, life is uncomfortable in the extreme. But this year, there have not been that many grey days at home. More like the freezing cold or snow kind of days.

Up here in the mountains, the weather is more definite. Beautiful, like now, or foul, like yesterday. But here, I know that the sun will come sometime soon, you see, and the snow will not go, but everything will look like a chocolate box cover. It gets so cold that you feel as if your face will freeze and crack open, but then, with the multitude of layers, it is fine. Not to mention the beautiful gloves my sister popped in my Christmas present pile. My typing fingers are safe.

And the temperatures have nothing to do with it. It is a visual thing for me. If I see beauty, I feel great. And this is really beautiful. However, this seems like a very selfish outlook, to need to see beauty. But then I think.... my life has been rather grey for a good while, so this could be the reward for surviving the greyness. Time out of real life. There are no mountains back home either, and I love the mountains deeply.

Diana always comments on the noise in the UK when she comes home. After living in NZ, she notices that the background noise never stops, and that is something I notice here too. Here, there can be and often is, silence, especially when I am out walking, and that encourages thought, and meditation of sorts. Mindfulness is easier to practice when you have the combination of beauty and silence. Well, when you are trying to learn HOW to be mindful, anyway. And I am definitely in the learning phase.

My boots are on, and my coat is waiting, so I will gather my wits and my sticks, and go and walk, and listen to the snow crunching under my feet, and think of the individual snowflakes which I am crushing as I walk, and drink in the immensity of the mountains, and their splendour. I will think back too, on what 2010 has meant for me, and what I have learned.

And maybe I will take a glance at what 2011 may hold. Briefly. Because there is only now. This moment, today, isn't there, and I want to enjoy it completely and live. Really live.

What did I say the other day? I want to live fully, laugh often, and love with all my heart. I need to remember that, whether the days be grey or golden, don't I..........

Life is one long learning process.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The grumpy old woman strikes again.....

It is snowing. I knew you wanted to hear that. I remember the days when snow was unusual. Fun. Those days are long gone. Mind you, as long as it covers the ice so I can walk without doing a mad impression of a skater on speed, I will be quite happy. My arms are tired of going like windmills, and seeing that I always have leki poles attached to them, I am quite lethal out there. See me coming , and cross the street. Just in case. I could lop someone's extremities off with ease. And the arms have had enough workout. It is the region below the arms which could do with many extreme workouts, I confess.


Growing older is not going quite as planned.

I crocheted my new hat last night, but ran out of wool. And then I "played" with an eight year old. The "Let's use all Marge's craft punches on every colour paper we can find and punch out little miniature things" game. And then put them in little bags in matching colours. And then I snarled at my sister because I was not all sweetness and light by then, and went to bed.

So this morning, I woke up with a resolution to be smiley. That didn't last long, because I can't find my (cheap) necklace. But I did plod off gingerly to the wool shop to get another ball of wool so I can finish my hat later.

But maybe a nap is in order right now. Note to self - wake up smiling.......

Monday, December 27, 2010

A morning walk.....

The Kloster.
Well, hello there. The weather in the mountains is changeable. Very. This morning the sun shone brightly again, so my camera and I went for a walk with my leki poles. Via the wool shop. My sister, bless her cotton socks, gave me two, TWO, gift vouchers for the wool shop for Christmas. This is a great place to buy wool. Super selection of different types too. However (wail) this wool shop is closing come summer, as the lady is moving. (Bigger wail.)

So I had to use a voucher, didn't I? I did. And got 4 balls of beautiful wool, and a hat is already in progress. As it was -15C this morning, this is somewhat urgent if my ears are to stay attached. One needs ears. And I still have another voucher to spend. Oh, bliss. Having a selection of gift vouchers in my wallet is just a great feeling, and it makes me grin. Huge grins.

I walked on to the Kloster because I can't find the photos I have taken of it in previous winters, and on to the Klostermatt, where there was much skiing, tobogganing and snowboarding in progress. Squeals of laughter and shouts of fun. Then I noticed that the sun was about to creep over the mountain peak, so I waited for it to shine on the Kloster bell tower. I am so glad I did, because it was beautiful.

And home via the Bäkerei to get fresh bread. I slipped on the ice and landed, you guessed it, on my knee. However, I twisted myself as I fell and managed to land on the outer edge, but still....... Thankfully, I was totally numb from the cold and could not feel my legs, or hands, or face (or any other body part for that matter) anyway, so I managed to heave myself up using my leki poles, and plodded on home. I have no idea how I slipped. For goodness sake, I am wearing heavy duty snow boots, and always use leki poles and the lady ahead of me was wearing ordinary high heeled boots and SHE managed not to fall. Sigh. I am getting old and doddery, it seems.

After swallowing extra pain killers, I do believe I will live. I have peanut butter biscuits, and hot coffee and a crochet hook in hand. And back to the beginning of this post.....the weather. The sky is now grey. Clouds rolling in, and according to my brother-in-law, fog about to creep up the valley as well. I am so glad I went out when I did. In the mountains, you never know what will happen next.

Well, that was my morning. Tomorrow, I will be wearing my new hat.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day..............

Ah, my mountains...... After two days of non-stop snow, this morning dawned with blue skies and sun shining down on a frozen world. So at lunch time, I put on 47 layers of clothing and set off on a walk to the lake. Now I know that you always see one seasonal version or other of the same places every time I come here, but that is tough. I go to the same places I love. And others, of course. But I always go back to special places, and these photos are why.

If you look above my head, you will see a faint line. Well, that is the height of the snow mountain they have pushed out of the road and field they are using for overflow parking opposite the house. I am 5ft 6" tall, and even though it doesn't look like it because of the angle, that mountain is at least 6ft 6" or more.

The park in the centre of the village where they have concerts in the summer, and where the children go to play.

Just look at the fog, and the light and the mountains, and the snow, and......

I told you it was a frozen world today. But oh, so beautiful. Fortunately, the lake I walked to is close to where my sister works, so I stopped there on the way back to thaw. And have a coffee. And try to reconnect with my extremities.

The cable car to Brunni. Taken with the zoom on the camera. I couldn't see what I was doing at the time, as my glasses had fogged up, so it is a miracle I focused on anything at all. And now for my special favourite........

See??? Now tell me you think this is a beautiful place. Just look at my mountain. And look at the reflection in the lake. And remember I was freezing to death even with the 47 layers. It is minus heaven knows what today. The lake had steam rising from it. I think that is easier to see in the first picture, actually.

The snow has frozen on the branches, and it is absolutely stunning. Four inches of snow on a thin branch.

Sigh. I will add that I sat here downloading the photos still wearing my layers. All of them. The house is wonderfully warm, but it took a long time and 2 warm mince pies and another coffee to actually feel I was prepared to remove even the coat. Reluctantly.

So Christmas has been and gone. It is different here, and I can't begin to tell you how much I missed all my children. Skyping with them helped a bit, but there was an emptiness in my soul. But this is a different place, and there are different traditions, and as my sister said, welcome to my life. It is just different. And at midnight last night, I really felt it. But this is another day, and tomorrow will be too. Different doesn't have to be bad. Just different. You know? I am babbling.

I was thoroughly spoilt by my sister and Mum. I don't think I mentioned that Marge made me an Advent calendar. I can't remember when last I had an Advent calendar My children had them, and we made Geoff some when he was at sea for Christmas, but me? Probably when I was a child. And in every little drawer, there was a saying about sisters, and another one about Christmas, and a gift, and it was SO special.
Little things, people. Little things.

They mean the world.

Everyone needs to feel special, don't they?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Frohe Weihnachten!!!!!

It is Christmas Eve.....

It is snowing......And I have some mince pies warming in the oven.......

The house is clean and sparkling....

The presents are wrapped and under the tree.....

The lights are twinkling......

We are warm and cosy......

Sigh. This is such a lovely time. I went for a walk through the village this morning, and wound up at the Kloster. The enormous beautiful, ornate Benedictine monastery which was the start of this village so many years ago. I arrived looking like the abominable snowman, and as I pushed open the heavy ancient outer door, I heard singing. The monks were having their morning prayers, and I slipped into the back of the church and sat down on a pew. There were about 4 other people scattered through the vast church, and I could not see the monks, but oh, I could hear them.

So I sat for a while and just listened, and let my thoughts focus slowly as my heartbeat slowed, on why this church was built in the first place. For whom. And when the singing stopped, and the monks slipped away, I was the only one left sitting there in the silence. It was hard to leave.

The silence was total. Complete. And it was so beautful that I wanted to cry. Peaceful. Perfect. Set apart from the hustle and bustle outside. Just me, alone in the House of God.

Here in Switzerland, like in many other countries, Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve. Tomorrow is a normal day. Here, Christmas is tonight. So we do a little of both. We will have our meal tonight, and open a present or two, but we will save the rest for the morning, because that is the way Mum, Marge and I celebrate Christmas. Twice, this year.

The rush before Christmas is over for me. The biscuit tins are almost empty because they have been given away, but that makes me grin. We have a few for us, enough, and I can always make more later. Now it is time to relax, listen to the carols, and sing along, while I sip my coffee.(And contemplate tracking Santa via Norad on Google, of course. Just to check he is on his way!)

Frohe Weihnachten aus den Alpen!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My sister's home......

My sister and her husband have a beautiful home. Never more so than at Christmas time. As you come in to the foyer from the hall, you will see her memory tree, which is decorated with ornaments from her 50 something years. Decorations made by friends and family, or collected round the world. Tartan ribbons for our friend in Scotland, the carebear I invented one Christmas when Diana was tiny.....full of memories......

There it is, the memory tree. With patchwork cushion, quilts, and bears, and SO much more. Photos just do not do it justice, and believe me, I have tried.
Rudolph is climbing a ladder.....

And as we go upstairs, looking back down you can see the bunting I brought for her, and the lovely candle ring hanging over the stairwell.....

The sideboard in the dining room............

And into the lounge. Mum made all the co-ordinating blankets....Have a look at the winter village she has constructed on the unit. It changes slightly every year, and it is beautiful.

Here it is lit in the evening. Well, part of it. A very small part of it! There are mountains, and ski slopes,and lakes and suburbs.....

Mince pies and biscuits parcelled up for delivery.....

The bedroom. Christmas goes on throughout the house. The bathrooms, kitchens, halls.....
And it is a big house. Such fun, and really beautiful. Especially the tree. She is very, very talented, and we all get to enjoy her home. Thank you, little sister!


We went down the mountain at the crack of dawn,and I have to say, the shops were deserted. We hypothesised that here, no-one needs to shop at sales. They can afford to pay full price. Or that they are all really well prepared. We, on the other hand, are inveterate bargain hunters, but the centre we went to had nothing exciting to tempt us.

So home we came to finish the wrapping and to parcel up the biscuits and mince pies we are giving to our friends. I mentioned sharing in the comments yesterday.....

For as long as I can remember, I have loved tho idea of giving a packet of biscuits and/or a home-made decoration to everyone. Sharing. And I can't tell you how thrilled I am when I get a bottle of jam, or marmalade, or cake or biscuits from my friends. These are the best kind of gifts.

Yes, I know I have talked about it before, but helping Marge wrap the things she has made so beautifully, and looking at all the work involved, and the cellophane, the ribbons, and the love and care taken, I felt the need to reiterate what I had said.

The most costly gifts in financial terms pale next to these beautiful gifts, in my mind. And I am thinking of my lovely friend Jean, who has learned to do patchwork specifically so that she could make memory quilts for her sons, out of their father's shirts. She did mean to learn. It was on the list, but when I suggested she keep some shirts and why when he died suddenly, she sped up the learning process. And I have to say, she has done the most amazing work, and I am absolutely confident that when she gives them to her boys on Christmas morning (4 squares to go, Jean.... a doddle!) they will wrap themselves in the love and warmth of their very special gifts, and the other things under the tree will pale into insignificance.

I read a comment on Facebook saying that one family gave their children 3 presents and a small stocking. Three, because Jesus received three gifts. Just three. What a wonderful way to bring up children, without the expectation of a mountain of gifts, and the nightmare of parents dreading the arrival of the credit card bills in January.

Christmas is all about love, after all. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life......" (John 3:16)

A love so great. Not a great avalanche of "things" from Heaven. A baby, who was the Son of God. And what could represent love more than a tiny baby? Think back to the birth of your children....Remember the swelling of love in your heart that you could never have anticipated?

I am willing to guess that you, like all of us, would give up every material thing in your life for your child. The bus barrelling toward him in the road? Not a problem. You would be there. That kind of love. Times countless times.

My nativity set doesn't have any kings. I couldn't afford them at the time. But you know, the nativity scene is perfect without them. Just the simplicity of the stable, with Mary, Joseph, Jesus and a shepherd. (And some animals too.). The focus is on the baby.

I really believe that Christmas is all about love. God's amazing love. The love I have for my family. The love for my friends. We need to live fully. To laugh with great joy. To love without holding anything back. Every day of our lives.

We have already opened the greatest gift of all. And now we prepare to celebrate His birthday.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Custard powder and wheelchairs......

The cakes are baked. Cinnamon cake. Apple cake. Carrot cake. More biscuits (cookies) And my brother-in-law says he wants the biscuits for the restaurant too. Groan. I said no more for a week. I am on strike. Finished. Kaput.

And there is no more room to stack tins anyway. The cinnamon cake........ well, people, I used a tin which turned out to be not quite big enough. It took forever to cook, ballooned over the side, and generally looks a mess. Tastes divine though. So it will be one of those cakes better eaten with the eyes closed. Oh well. One disaster out of all of the cooking is not the end of the world. But when it is a recipe you have made countless times it is a trifle galling. But the cinnamon smell still lingers in the house. And as I said before, no-one will starve. Some of the goodies are gifts, and some are for the restaurant, and some, the remainder, will be for the family. That should take care of January, and possibly February. Hahhaha. Actually, there are house guests for Christmas too, Peter's niece and her family, so it will all be eaten.

The photos of the house can wait till tomorrow, I think. One is creaking.

Today, I tried to get everything I needed to do done. Wrapping presents, discarding custard powder from the parcels already wrapped and re-wrapping them. Oh, I didn't mention the custard powder here, did I? Well, because it is not something I thought was readily available here, I popped a tin (with vacuum seal and all) in the suitcase, and off we set. I needed it to make the Custies (Norwegian Kisses). When we arrived the lovely ladies who pushed the wheelchairs hauled the case off the belt and said *Oh there is some snow on your luggage."



That "snow" did not melt, and there is every chance we were trailing white powder through the airport, but thankfully, no-one noticed, because I DO NOT WANT TO THINK what I would have said had we been stopped. But when we got here, I opened the case, and oh my word. You have never seen anything like it. The custard powder had exploded in the case. Now let me just say that custard powder is a sort of powder used to make vanilla sauce. It is a mixture of sugar, cornflour and dried egg powder, so you will recognise how fine it is. It was in and on everything. EVERYTHING. I was unamused. At the time. Now it is hilarious. I happened to notice that "snow" was on quite a few suitcases on the airport belt, by the way. Heaven knows what their owners thought. All because I wanted to bake my biscuits.

My life is quite exciting, isn't it.

I absolutely refuse to take that case back with me, because there are sniffer dogs at the airport, and so help me, they will probably come and lick my case to death, and I really do not want to have to explain why they are doing that. Please. Just what I need. My sister's dog thinks custard powder is the best. He was trying to lick the case as I nearly blew up her new vacuum cleaner getting as much of the wretched stuff out as I could. It is super fine. Such a helpful and good start to the holiday.

I mentioned wheelchairs. I bit the bullet, and ordered assistance for the trip. I can't walk the miles required at the airport, and neither can Mum. And the endless queues nearly finish me off. I am too proud usually to say I need help, but not this time. Mum refused to go in one when I first suggested it, so I said I was going to use one and she could run alongside if she liked. I am such a perfect daughter. And she is SO independent.

So I booked us both assistance. What a wonderful idea. We arrived, hopped into wheelchairs clutching our hand luggage and my leki pole, and whizzed past all the queues. Bliss. We discovered parts of the airport never seen before, and were the last to board, and the entire front row had been reserved for us. Perfect. AND the lovely air hostess had kept locker space too. And when we got here, the wheelchair and a super little motorised cart were waiting. I got into that one, and we whizzed past every one. I want one. Passport queues? Pah! Just hand the passports to the ladies and the man waved us through. Easy. Stress free. And I didn't feel like death, like I usually do after pretending I am "fine". This is the way I will be travelling from now, believe me. Who needs pride.

It would all have been perfect.

If I hadn't packed the custard powder.

And the ultimate irony? My brother-in-law had a massive tin of the stuff here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Beating the blizzards.....

The tree is indeed stunning, but unfortunately, it is not mine. But it is a family tree, so maybe I can pretend. My sister is immensely artistic! We are back in the mountains for Christmas, and thankfully, arrived before the blizzard closed the airports here on the next day, followed by the blizzard closing airports at home. Just as well, because we may well have never left at all if we had tried to leave later. And remind me to tell you about having special assistance when flying. A new experience altogether for me. We will not even begin to contemplate getting back at this point, because tomorrow is another day, and I refuse to think about it.

So I am here.......
And we got here just before the snow started falling. It did not stop. However, the village has many snow removal techniques. Just check out the large one at the end of the road.
And lorries with wooden sides added to cart away snow. They did not stop, and you know what? The roads were never blocked. Life did not stop for a second here.
This was very important because the World Cup Ski Jumping happened over the weekend, and thousands come. They need roads to be clear. And they were. The men worked round the clock. Unbelievable organisation. See the ski jump there on the mountain?
And the jumper sitting on the bench before launching himself down the ramp. Believe me, they are all certifiable. That is one seriously high ski jump.

See him flying? Crazy. Excuse the street light. I was concentrating on the man in the air.

So here we are for Christmas. And the meltdown yesterday was because it was not my kitchen, Marge was at work and the world fell apart. But that was yesterday. The house is wonderfully warm as well.
Lots of white stuff around. But it is colder back home at the moment. And for the second time in my life, I will have none of my children with me for Christmas. But there is always next year, isn't there.......
I am now off to dip the biscuits in chocolate.
PS....... tomorrow I will show you how to decorate a house for Christmas a la Marge. You have never seen anything like it.......

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ta dah!!!!

The spirit of Christmas, despite the beautiful tree, was sadly absent this morning. I was not all sweetness and light, and there was no warbling of carols as I baked. Sigh.
And once we reached the point where my family hid when I approached, I decided to get a grip and go for a little walk to talk some sense into myself.

See? I baked.
Peanut butter crinkles.
Mince pies. Meringues. (They are still cooling in the oven.)

Oh ye of little faith! We will not starve. Mind you, the tins seem to be getting lighter as I speak, because the goodies are being sampled. And actually, why on earth would I want to keep them all for Christmas Day? Now is a good time. As long as the ones destined to be gifts remain untouched, that is.

My Mood of this morning is gone, thank heavens. It was one of those days. You know? When nothing goes right. Nothing was where I thought it was, and there were People In The House. Well, of course there were. And who did I think I was baking for? The walk worked. We are all grateful for the walk, believe me. And seeing the pleasure the baking has given is a salutary reminder of the dangers of getting so caught up in the doing (the Martha part) that we forget the reason . Celebrating a special Birthday. (The Mary part.)

I thought I had that part sorted, but I am human, after all. Not one of my better days. But it is nearly over, and it is really good to look at that stack of tins and know I have baked!

And there will be the cakes to make in the next couple of days too. And dipping the custies in chocolate. And then I will be done. It is all under control. Next time I will start warbling before I enter the kitchen. That may help.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The on-going baking saga.....

Tomorrow. I WILL bake tomorrow. Yes. You guessed right. I have yet to start baking and time is running out. But I WILL start tomorrow, and you will get to see a photo just to prove I actually have homemade biscuits in tins. I am quite sure you are all eagerly awaiting the unveiling of said photo.

That should get me moving.

Procrastination is my middle name.

So the UK has ground to a halt again with snow. I heard a very interesting man on Sky News yesterday. He was a solar expert, I think, and he was talking about how it is the sun which is causing the dire weather, or things happening to the sun, and that he and other solar people have been giving long range forecasts of the snow etc well in advance to meteorologists, who choose not to actually say " 10 inches of snow". They say "some snow" until the snow is actually falling, which means that there is no time for councils etc to get ready, or for the general public to realise that the snow will not be a thin scattering either. The cheerful news is that he said that the snow will fall heavily throughout January.

Oh bliss.

I wish I could remember his name. I want to know more. I may need to read up on the Eskimo lifestyle.

(I have just opened my recipe book at the peanut butter crinkles page....see? I mean business....)

One of my friends has fallen in the snow and broken a bone in her foot. Remember last Christmas when my friend Glynis slipped and fell and broke her wrist? She has announced that she is not leaving the house unaccompanied while the ground is treacherous. And who could blame her. It took half the year to heal.

So I am very careful in any snow. Proper snowboots help for a start. The ones with treads like a tractor. Elegant they are not, but who cares. I have no intention of falling this year. Instead, I am going to go and sit next to the Christmas tree with all its twinkling lights, and curl up with a book.

My recipe book. There is some planning to be done here.......

Friday, December 17, 2010

The baking should start soon.....

I am intending to do some Christmas baking soon. It was supposed to be today, but the kitchen is still orderly and untouched by the dusting of powder it will be decorated with once I start. We can pretend it is snow. I have been doing Other Things.

How many days till Christmas?


Piece of cake. And speaking of cakes, cinnamon cake and carrot cake are on the list. And mince pies. And custies. And peanut butter biscuits. And maybe gingerbread. And......

Tomorrow. I will start tomorrow. The good news is that I already have all the ingredients. I am just waiting for the baking fairy to touch my shoulder with her wand and get me going. I could also make a crumble, couldn't I...... and Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls. Mind you, I would have to quarter her recipe, I think. Or not.

My blogging friends appear to have been baking up a storm all over the world, and their photos are mouth watering. Such clever ladies! And everything looks wonderful. I want all the recipes, and then I also want to try them all out. And then, my friends, I will be a close relation of the Goodyear Blimp. But it is Christmas, so we will ignore that possibility.

I am reading a new Chicken Soup book right now. (For any new readers, the reason I love these books is that I can actually read them. There is a slight problem with focus and an inability to concentrate and a 2 page story is absolutely perfect at the moment.) Where was I ......... my new book. Well, it is a Christmas Magic one, with stories re Christmas. Perfect. And one I read last night (and remember, please note!) was about a cookie party. I have never heard of cookie parties. Guests are invited to bring a batch of homemade cookies to the hostess's home, and then everyone samples them, and then everyone is handed a bag, and they go around the room, taking a few of each home with them.


I think this is wonderful. What a great idea. The story actually revolved around one guest - the author - whose skills were of the basic level, and in the end, she crept in with a batch of her mother's chocolate chip cookie recipe. And amidst all the fancy selections, someone asked who made them, and then said the magic words - how simple, and how wonderful. They remind me of home, and my mother.

I have mentioned before that my recipe book is full of recipes from friends. And I am absolutely sure that somewhere in all of our baking - each and every one of us - there is at least one recipe which we always make, which reminds us of home, and mothers and grannies, and friends.

I made gingerbread for years simply because my Dad's Mum - my Moregranny - made it. I made it first for him, to remind him of his mother, and then I kept making it, even though not many of my family wanted it, because of the memories the sight and smell of it triggered in my mind.

This is such a perfect time to remember, isn't it. There is a chain, and we are simply the links. And now, my children are baking cinnamon cakes or custies, and maybe one day, their children will too. It will remind them of home. Of growing up. Of me, I hope. Of the love and laughter and of licking the bowl.

That is one of life's great mysteries, you do children know exactly when the bowl will be ready for scooping out the last dregs of the mixture? Mine, even now, appear at exactly the right moment!

Ah well, enough rambling on. I am going to go and ponder what I am going to bake first.......

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The quilt and burnt offerings......

Here is the quilt. It is folded neatly on my footstool, and I love it. Once it has been washed a few times, hopefully the very thick batting will compress a little, but it works fine. It keeps me warm!

This morning saw us up at my favourite garden centre, having coffee in my favourite restaurant, watching ice skaters on the real ice Ice Rink outside the glass house. Just wonderful on a cold grey winter day. The fruit scone was great too. Little children pushing penguin balancing things, and everyone laughing. It was good.

And so was the minted lamb I brought home to cook from their very classy butchery. This is no ordinary garden centre, people. When you come to visit, you will find out why, because it is one of the first places I will take you to. (Please note, Becky!)

And Glynis popped round this afternoon, and that was lovely too. We will ignore the multiple trips to the doctor to organise prescriptions, because they got it sorted in the end. And now the house smells of roasting lamb.

2 hours later.......

Scratch that last bit. The house now smells of burnt vegetables. A friend popped round and I forgot the dinner. Oops. I scraped the ok bits off and will live. The lamb was wonderful though. And now it is time to put the feet up and crawl under the quilt. Enjoy the rest of your day!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Slow down and savour.......

The Christmas quilt is finished at last, and in time for Christmas too, can you believe. I actually made the deadline this time. Pity about the Autumn quilt still pinned and waiting, but I will have it done early, won't I - for next Autumn. Well, that is the plan.

This afternoon saw my house filled with friends again, and the Christmas mugs were once again filled with fresh coffee, and the chocolate biscuits made an appearance too, so the energy levels for the chatter could be maintained. This is what I love best, when there is no racing about trying to shop and get things done. When we can sit and take as long as we like over coffee. Especially when it is a trifle nippy outside.

I was in the post office earlier, and I overheard the lady behind me talking to someone - the conversation revolved around the run up to Christmas, and she said " I can't wait for it to all be over". And it actually made me feel so sad. Now I don't know her or her circumstances, but we are 11 days from Christmas, and it could be such a wonderful time, whether we are alone, or coping with an overflowing house.

I happen to love preparing for Christmas, whether it be decorating my home, so it is warm and welcoming and festive, or baking so that I have gifts for my family and friends, making things for the people I love, preparing for visitors or returning children, wrapping gifts, planning surprises, hunting for the games and puzzles, lighting candles, and having my Christmas music playing. Going to concerts and carol services, reading the Christmas story, and doing simple things, like gathering pine cones, opening Christmas cards and sipping mulled wine, after braving the elements.

I am in no hurry for it to be over.

The smells of Christmas linger in my mind - the cinnamon and spice, the roasting turkey with bacon rolls, the gingerbread, fruit cakes and mince pies. The smell of warmth and cosiness, and love and family. And the laughter from decades of Christmases past echoes through that same mind. Little voices of the children when they were young, such excitement and delight on their faces. Nativity plays, Joseph with his crushed finger, the sweetest angel in town, the shepherd with his toy sheep. Little voices singing so sweetly - interesting versions of old carols.

How could anyone want it to be over already?

I want to linger here with those memories. My memories. So many which only I could possibly have because my children will not remember things from so far back. Special Mummy memories. Letters to Father Christmas, which they all still write when they come home, and the letters written back by Father Christmas too. Kenny singing Oh Holy Night.... the kids groan, but hey, they miss him too when he is not warbling away as they open their presents. (The only recording I could find of Oh Holy Night, my favourite carol - was by Kenny Rogers 30 years ago or so. So Kenny has now made himself at home with the family on Christmas mornings.)

Ah... I miss my kids, you know. It was so much simpler when they were small and all home with me. They grew up and flew away in 3 different directions. And that is the way of life. Complicated. There is just one of me. Remember I mentioned being cloned? Now would be convenient. Because I want to be in 4 places at once. And I can't be in 4 places at once, can I.

But I can dream. And remember. And plan. And bake. And put Kenny on. And I can do so many things. And I will. It is Christmas time.

And I am in no hurry for it to be over.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wonderful weekend.......

It is Sunday night already and the weekend is gone. How swiftly the days are galloping by! My friends from the Frozen North (aka Scotland) were down for the weekend, and they came round last night, together with other mutual friends from the village - all very last minute, of course, but just great. I tossed some canapes onto the table with bread and cheeses, and called it supper. And mince pies and cream too.

But the cream, oh my heavens what a mess I made of it. I have whipped cream 49937236272894847558 times in my life. At least. But I have never used my whizzer thingy to do it before. People, I made butter. In 10.4 seconds. My whizzer is powerful. So I wailed, and Ros came to the kitchen and after wiping the tears of laughter from our eyes, we popped in some random capfuls of brandy and sprinkled in icing sugar, and called it brandy cream. You can buy this at the supermarket, of course, and brandy butter, both of which you serve with mince pies or Christmas pudding, which is a steamed fruit pudding. Me? I unintentionally made the home-made version. And it is even more delicious today after sitting in the fridge for 24 hours.

So it was a fun evening catching up in person. Phone calls are wonderful, but real life is even more wonderful. Time just goes by too fast though. I want to stretch it out some more. And today I have been finishing off some embroidery for my friends, and pottering, delivering parcels to other friends, and making coffee.

That sounds blissful. However, my embroidery machine has been working too hard in recent months, and today, on the last 2 pieces I needed to do, it sort of went on strike, and after much muttering, changing of needles, re threading, changing bobbins, and varying the weight of the fabric, I managed to finish off the labels. Not perfect, but passable, and I am very fussy when I make things. Sigh. I think it needs a service maybe. I wish I knew how to do it myself.

Yesterday afternoon, another friend popped in for coffee and a catch up too, and together, we managed to put the obscure film on the window in the front door. A little more privacy was the aim. And it was most certainly a 2 person job. That was not quite as simple as it looks either, but it is up, so that can be crossed off the list. The list I deleted.

Sometimes, having lists just reminds me of my failures - what I have not managed to achieve. Not managed to do. Targets I have failed to meet. And sometimes, as I said in my last post, it is wiser to just delete the list and start again, possibly with something more reasonable. I set high targets for myself. That is why I am such a dismal failure at pacing myself.

But this has been a lovely weekend. My Christmas quilt will be finished either tonight or tomorrow, and I am so thrilled it will be ready for Christmas. However, the most beautiful part of the weekend has been the people who populated it. And the memories made. Christmas is drawing near, and I will not get into a stew about anything. I have decided. What gets done is done and will be more than sufficient. And there is going to be time to rest and keep the essence of Christmas at the forefront of my mind.

The greatest gift of all is celebrating His birthday, after all.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Why some lists should be deleted....

Ah, people, the spirit is willing but the body is on strike. I have this list, you see, and it is not getting done. Why? Because it has things like "move all the grow-bags of soil from last summer to the front of the house to toss the soil onto the beds there" on it. And I want it done NOW and it is absolutely not going to get done. A) they weigh a ton, and B) they are frozen and C) I can't lift them. So therein lies the frustration. Never mind that really, this is not important in the greater scheme of things, and that even when I was at my physical prime many moons ago, I don't think I could have lifted frozen bags of soil.

Oh well. This is where the absence of mega strong sons from the premises is sorely felt. So the list stays. And the pacing of the wrong kind continues. And the list just grows longer.

You would grin if you could see me here right now. I have an iPod. This is a wonderful invention and I love it. However, my son put my music on it, and then left for uni. And I have no idea how to buy any music, nor did I have a clue how to put my CDs onto it. So I thought, right. I can do this. I am not an idiot. And I popped a CD in the slot and wow! It downloaded. Only it did it a few times, so I had to phone a friend who is under 30 and ask for idiot-proof instructions. Oh the success! So I am sitting here so proud of myself with a stack of CDs next to me, popping them in and out and hoping for the best. I have no idea how many will fit on the iPod. Maybe sirens will go off when it is full. It is the little things which amuse me......

And speaking of things which amuse me.....
  1. The Christmas quilt is coming alone slowly.
  2. The autumn quilt is re-pinned with thinner batting.
  3. The flowers have their button centres.
  4. The chicken is roasted.
  5. The snowflakes are dangling in the window.
  6. I have a basket full of new ideas to make. One day. Some time.

And then there is the other list.......

  1. This list has been deleted. because I don't want to think of things that don't make me grin this evening.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

You need armour.....

Everyone should sit at their computer wearing a fleece blanket with a hole cut in the middle - a poncho over their clothes - a thick woollen hat and wrist warmers. I am a trend setter. If the doorbell rings, it may take a while to get there.

The TV is on, and I am listening to reports of the student protests outside Westminster re the tuition fee vote, and the parsnips and sweet potatoes are roasting in the oven. This is a great improvement on the meat pies of last night. I had the oven whirring merrily away, counting down the cooking time, and then discovered the meat pies on the counter. I had forgotten to put them into the oven. Sigh. Dinner was late.

Today has been cold yet again, and we popped in to town early to do a few last bits of shopping. It started off so quiet that we were lulled into a false sense of security and went to have a leisurely cup of coffee and scone. Then started shopping. The world had arrived while we were having coffee, and I cannot tell you how many RUDE old people (and it pains me to say that) there were in M&S. Just shove your trolley into people, especially those walking with sticks, why don't you. Over and over again. In the end, I started actually snarling, and decided that it was definitely time to leave and never return.

People seem to have lost the art of kindness and consideration. Me first, no matter what the cost. After paying for my small basket of things, I tried to get out of the food hall. To do this, I needed to cross the long queues which had formed at the tills. Not my fault - the shop design is not stunningly sensible. I was following the signs. No-one would let me, or anyone else through, even with a stick. They refused to budge. And I felt homicidal urges stirring. No-one smiled. They all looked the other way even when I asked them politely to let me pass. Screech.

But enough of that. In the midst of the chaos, I had a call from the lawyer to say things were still poddling along slowly, and that the medical expert is still working on his report. I am starting to feel the fury about the whole case escalating again. It is SO long since he died. I want it all over. But what I want doesn't count.

And then my order from a food place arrived this afternoon, minus some of the crucial things I pre-ordered ages ago. I was less than thrilled. I suspect that he delivery man wished he was wearing armour.

And now I am cold, and ticked off. And cooking supper. Did I say COLD?? Hmmm.

I need chocolate. I am going to rip open a wrapped present. My mental health is more important than wrapped presents.

I will be back when I am all sweetness and light. Don't hold your breath.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Oh, what a beautiful morning.......

Way below freezing.....
Waking to a frozen world.....
Just SO beautiful.....

You stop to catch your breath, and really look......

How can you not smile?
If I could, I would have been skipping down the road in delight......

Leaves on my rose bush.....
Oh wow. Just such a stunning morning.
And such a delight to get back inside and warm up with a steaming mug of coffee. And 47 layers of clothes, which one forgot to layer on before one shot out the door clutching one's camera. Oooh! Look at that tree..... then OOOH... Look at THAT tree, and the next thing one knew, one was round the corner and down the lane. No hat. No gloves. No scarf. No coat. Wearing pink striped socks and gardening shoes. (And jeans and jumper.)
What a prefect start to the day.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Second candle lit.......

Well, thanks for all the other suggestions, people. Today we have had news people calling Haifa "hah - eee - fa". I rest my case. Oh, and "sekatry", "Janury" and "Febury". Screech. We could compile a list here.

I must send my audition tape to the GOW team. Immediately.

So. I have now got holes in the tip of the middle finger of my right hand. Quilting. Holes are not good. They hurt. So I went in search of the thimble I remember being given for my 40th birthday, which, as you may remember, was 16 years ago.

Hahahaha. (Insert cackle.)

I found it. Unfortunately, as my finger is now swollen, it perches on the very top and looks ridiculous. More to the point, it was pitch black. So I had to postpone any quilting and go and hunt for the silver cleaner under the sink, which resembles the Black Hole of Calcutta. The foam was rock hard, but I scraped enough off to soften with water and clean it. Sort of. And now I have lost the will to live. So I abandoned the quilt and came to chat instead.

As you can see, my Sunday is barrelling along merrily here.

The diversions continue to be many and plentiful today.

We popped in to a local Garden Centre earlier, at approximately the same time as the rest of the world chose to do exactly the same thing. I am just so glad that any shopping expedition is not essential this month. The presents are done, wrapped. I spend most of the year working on small gifts, or hunting for them, and I love not having to enter the shopping frenzy. December and Advent take on totally different meanings. I love the quieter times. And soon the baking will start. The scents of Christmas in the kitchen, and memories of grandmothers long gone. Family traditions. Old stained recipe books and mince pie tins. Christmas music playing, and Christmas lights flickering. Ginger and spice and chocolate and cinnamon. And more memories to smile about, and yet more to make.......

My Advent candles are lit, and it is time to curl up and relax. Enjoy your Sunday, everyone, wherever you may be.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Grumpy Old Woman is alive and well.....

I am officially sick of the snow here. And the ice. And the slush. And trying to keep cars going in the direction I ask them to go. I expect obedience from my car. And after promising us a thaw this weekend, it snowed again last night, and now they are saying that next week we go back to freezing, and that it may last till the New Year.

And now for something completely different, although still in the Grumpy Old Woman department...... I am reduced to yelling at the TV set. Every newsreader (and they are all under 40) says "particuly", or heaven help us - "pertikaly" instead of "PARTICULARLY". And it is driving me crackers. DON'T THEY KNOW HOW TO SPEAK PLAIN ENGLISH??????? And "reguly" instead of "regularly". The BBC is actually one of the worst for this. The BBC!!!!!!! They need me to go and give them an English lesson. I have become my mother-in-law, who used to talk to the TV set. Only I am prone to yelling.

I was reduced to sending a text one morning to ask the female newsreader to STOP TALKING (I may have used caps) for 5 seconds so that her guest could utter a word. Somehow, the newsreaders of today appear to think that the news is all about them, and not the actual news. I don't give a hoot what they think, I want un-biased reporting of facts. And I am hearing way to much about what these imbeciles think.

The trouble is that most of them are too young, and too obsessed with career advancement. All about "me".

I am a real grumpy old woman this morning, aren't I?

Moaning is good for the soul. At least it is not festering inside.

On a more cheerful note, I am quilting the Christmas thing I made. It may be a wall hanging. It may be a runner. It may just be a Christmas thing. It could be a door mat. However, I am using the wadding a friend gave me. She dropped off a gigantic roll of thick wadding, probably used for upholstery, and because I had it, and it was free, I decided to use it.


My quilt thingy stays rigid. It is too thick. It makes quilting a hideous process and I am falling out of love with it by the second. And I have 2 more quilts pinned and ready to go and I am too lazy to unpin and re-pin with the new thin stuff I found I had. Sigh. It all fits in with the GOW thing, doesn't it. I need to pull myself together and go and unpin, don't I. And stop whining.

Shuffle. Moan. Snarl. Oh all right then.........

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Bunting and bits.......

December - can you believe it is already December? The bunting is up in the kitchen / family room, and the red stuff is definitely out. Christmas is not far away.....
Look at my stars! I am so thrilled with them. They look perfect......

That is Mum down there in the kitchen.....
One of the corners of the lounge. Marge gave me the "Sisters" and I love them..... I saw the idea to stack the blocks in a shop. Excellent idea - it frees up space!

Piles of bunting....... Well, strips of 18 triangles, all sewn together.

So there you have some of my sewing or crafting on display. I was going to hang up the garland of snowflakes today but time ran off somewhere. I have no idea where. Tonight I will carry on quilting.

The momentous news is that I have a new letter box. In the front door. So I no longer have to go outside to get the mail and freeze to death. It is posted into the warmth of my porch each day. It rather confused my post lady this morning, who is used to battling with the old one on the wall. And yes, I realise that this does not in any way class as momentous to any other living soul, but it has been on the "to do" list for months, and I didn't realise just how cheap it would be, or how quick it would be sorted. 10 minutes and the man had departed. Unfortunately, before I actually finished making him his coffee. I was almost tempted to call his head office and apologise, but decided that maybe that would be a bit over the top.

Next on the list is putting an obscure film on the front door. The window part. That may take some doing, but I have every intention of getting it on straight. Apparently one can use a hair drier to sort out any wrinkles. I am a fount of knowledge.

I am not actually sure what else I managed to do today. But I do know that there is a list for tomorrow. Wool to collect for mother, out to the patchwork shop with Jean and then off to hear her junior school children singing at Waitrose. Waitrose means coffee and civilised browsing too. I can do that. Snowflakes to hang too.

The weather continues to be diabolical, and my son only got as far as his in-laws last night. trains, roads...all chaos. The UK is not prepared for this. You may remember I said the same last year when the "once in a decade big freeze " happened. Hmmm. 10 months later......... and if it happens again next year, it will be just the same. Maybe I should invest in a snow plough. I could make a fortune!