Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!!!!

Yesterday's post is well and truly gone. But then, maybe reading about such trivial matters as blocked toilets, blizzards and fascinating snow control vehicles was not that important after all. Today is the last day of 2011, and in the spirit of bloggers all over the world, I am going to talk a little of other things today.


2011.

 I could look back at everything which has happened and focus on the bigger events. However, I was listening to a radio talk show a few weeks ago and the subject for discussion was the economy. The lack of jobs. The statistic under discussion was the fact that 70% of companies surveyed said that they had no plans to recruit new employees in 2012. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth and talk of doom and gloom going on, until one man phoned in and the whole tone of the discussion changed.

He had a happy joyful voice, and he said -"I have just seen the stats, and WOW!!! Isn't it fantastic that 30% of all companies in the UK WILL be recruiting!! Think of how many new jobs there will be!"

Yes.

He has it right.

No matter how bad the bad things get, focusing on the good makes a difference. All the difference in the world. Loads of negative things happen to all of us, but, looking back, I have so much to celebrate. My son graduated from university, meaning that I now have 3 children with degrees. And a daughter-in-law too. Missy has become a beautiful 2 year old chatterbox, who delights me more each day.Watching my son revel in his role as Daddy has been fabulous. Diana has finished her Graphic Design course, and loved it all. She is now off on a South Island Adventure for a few weeks. My garden has been so beautiful, and has given so many people a great deal of pleasure. Especially me. Not to mention vegetables in abundance.

Friendships have been cemented. There have been reunions with old friends from my youth. Time spent with my family. Time spent with new friends. Don't forget the hilarious aquazumba classes, people. A real and continuing highlight of my days! There has been laughter and throughout it all, there has been enough. Enough of everything..........enough to learn contentment.

Those 2 preceding paragraphs have been a challenge. I wanted to say things like "time spent with family, but not nearly enough" and that would be defeating the purpose of what I am trying to do here today. No matter how positive my outlook can be, and the Good Lord knows I am a positive person, there is always the temptation to temper my thoughts with"buts" and "if onlys". And what good does that do? None at all.

You see, I am sick to death of things. Stuff. Piles. I have been very fortunate to have amassed stuff and to have enjoyed it through the decades, but at the ripe old age of 57, I can safely assure you that none of it is important. Of course I love most of it, especially the computer so I can chat to you here. But is it vital to my health and happiness? I am not sure it is.

It is the people. The things we do. Interaction. Building memories. Daring to reach out. Experiencing new things. Learning. Giving. Doing. In whatever way we can. For some, the gift lies in the words, and that is enough.

I don't measure what I have or give or do against anyone else any more, because I am unique and different, and my path has followed unexpected and devious twists and turns, but it has been interesting. Learning not to fear, not to worry, not to get caught up in those "what ifs" of life is unbelievably freeing. So is learning to trust. Myself. But most of all, the God who says He will never forsake me. He has never forsaken me. I know.

So with a grin, I remember the miles of crocheted goodness, the homemade designer gifts, the apple crumbles, the disintegrating bathing costume, being Mum, Moreglanny, Linds. Being me.

Being thankful in all things - ALL things. Good and bad. That teaches a whole new way of approaching challenges. Mountains. Crises. And it is a great joy, being thankful.

SO

My word for 2012 has just changed, during the writing of this post. I have decided to choose JOY. I want to focus on the joy which is there every day. I will need to consciously seek out joy some days. Others it will be simple. But I want to celebrate each day. And celebration brings joy. I want to focus on being thankful and being thankful makes me grin and grinning brings laughter, and laughter brings happiness and happiness = joy. See? I want 2012 to bring joy.

Or rather, I am going in search of joy each and every day.

I need to laugh more. To smile more. To relax and enjoy the moment. Breathe and be. Do what I have been told to do. I want to ward off the potential of yet more wrinkles on the brow. And, you know what? Even in a day from hell, and I am well acquainted with them, believe me, there is still joy to be found. A chat to a friend, a flower, a little creativity.

Beauty.

I was going to choose "SEE" but that can wait.



As always, I have so much to be thankful for. Even the tears, even the pain, because they mean feeling, and feeling is vital. I feel. I am alive.

 2011 is almost gone now, and the rain is falling here. Washing away the old. 2012 will begin clean. New. Fresh. Like the first page of a new diary. I LOVE that feeling - so full of dreams and hopes and possibilities, as I start to write.

Happy New Year to each and every one of you!

Friday, December 30, 2011

I spent the entire day working on a post and it is gone. GONE. My head hurts. I will try again tomorrow. Right now I am contemplating axes and the demise of computers and bringing back pigeon post etc etc. Where is my coffee.......

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Snow and sun and blue skies.....

Apparently the temperatures in the UK reached 15 C on Christmas Day. And it was a little warmer yesterday. Unbelievable. Great for the heating bills, of course, but rather unseasonal! I am not there right now, though. I am with my family in the Alps again. It was -7 C yesterday. But the sun shone again, as it did on Christmas day, and as it is today, and the skies are blue, the snow dazzling and the village is full of people. 
 Can you see the ski jump? This photo was taken from the garden, and they are preparing for more jumping today I think, judging by the music and the men working on it. It is where the World Cup ski jumping Swiss leg happens the weekend before Christmas. Back then there was no snow, so they had to bring it from the Gottard, but then, the day before the jumping started, there was a blizzard. They had snow. And it fell all day on Chrstmas Eve too. Did I mention snow?? There is a lot. But this is Switzerland, after all, in December, and they are well to make sure the snow is a pleasure, and not a trial. Unlike some places I know.
Christmas happens here on Christmas Eve, not on Christmas Day. Presents are opened after a meal in the evening. But when you have a restaurant to run, things are all a little up in the air. So my brother-in-law cooked wonderful lamb and side dishes and then phoned to say it was time to fetch it all. The timing depended on how busy the restaurant became. All we had to do was set the table. Perfect. And leftovers for Christmas Day. 

We combine traditions, and some presents were opened on Christmas Eve, but the rest on Christmas Morning, as we skyped with Diana and Andrew. And then I went for a walk around the lake, singing Christmas carols, as I said I the last post at the top of my voice. It felt great.until the throat lurgy struck, and I now sound like a bass in the choir, not a soprano. Great. 


See? Sun, snow and blue skies. I walked to the Klostermat yesterday to watch the skiing and sledding, and it was a hive of activity. Cold. But a large cup of Gl├╝hwein has wonderful heating properties! 
 This is the Kloster, the Benedictine monastery. 

 Me on the walk. Ignore the hair please It looks like straw in the cold. 
So there you are. Some photos. I keep thinking of things to write about and then I get distracted by the moment. The day. Now. Perfection.

 I have just been on a walk to watch the ski-jumping. My leki poles and I can go aywhere. Those men are lunatics, I tell you. And they are also waifs. Tiny stick like men. I know this because I walked 
past them, feeling like an amazon. 

The coffee machine is apparently broken. A disaster. I need to go and cast some oil on troubled waters. I will be back. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning....

Oh what a glorious morning! Merry Christmas, everyone!

I have just been for a walk around the lake singing carols at the top of my voice because it seemed to be the perfect thing to do. So I sang. There was no-one around, which was a great blessing. At least, I THINK there was no-one around......

And another thing...I LOVE skype. I saw and chatted to my daughter and our friends in sunny NZ, on their Christmas morning/our Christmas Eve. And then this morning I watched my granddaughter playing with her new toys and listened to her telling me that Rudolph ATE THE CARROT!! And FATHER CHRISTMAS ATE THE MINCE PIE!!!! She apparently informed her parents of this at 4.30am this morning. She was told that Father Christmas was undoubtedly still delivering presents so she had better go back to bed. Hah. Fat chance. So her Daddy investgated, reported that oh yes, he was still busy but sent up a stocking for her to look at.

I think they got about 15 extra minutes in bed.

Oh the excitement!

And so I got to be with my family, scattered around the globe. It is the seeing. The talking. The real life part. Thank God for technology which brings us the opportunity to stay close.

Time for mince pies, I think.

 Much love to you all. May joy and peace colour your day as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour long long ago.....

Friday, December 23, 2011

Almost Christmas.......

I am, like most of you, speaking to you through a haze of flour. Baking. The baking is in full swing. And the hair is dusted with cinamon and flour. Nothing new then. It looks the same...the cinnamon colour is normal, and so is the white.

So how are you all doing? How are the preparations going? We are Under Control. I think. The wrapping is done, and there is food in the house, the tree lights still work, so it is all good. I must find the carol CD somewhere and put it on. I need to sing along. Loudly.

I can't stay to chat much, but I will be popping in now and then in the next few days to check on everyone and to say Merry Christmas, of course, but right now it is time to slow down a little and maybe go for a walk. Enjoy my family. Chat. Crochet another cowl. Read some Christmas Chicken Soup for the Soul stories....just what I need right now. Short, true, and heart-warming.

So, as I fly back to the kitchen to check on the state of the cinnamon cake I am just going to say that I am thinkign of each and every one of you often, and imagining you all all over the world, preparing for Christmas. Ad mz daughter, especially, who will have our friends from the village with her by now, which will be wonderful for her. It is already christmas Eve in NZ!

Have fun, and in case you don't get back here before Sunday, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Trying not to lose sight......

of what matters.......

All my attempts to slow down and savour the days have zapped out the window. I have spent the day trying to finish odds and ends and make calls and deliver cards and gifts and go to appointments and entertain visitors (which I love) and......

Sigh.

One of these years I will get things right.

Apparently the shops are a lot busier now. That would be because some have slashed prices by 65%.

And then......

And then I read of the death of a newborn baby who only lived a few days, and the heartbreak of her parents, anointing her with their tears. And the stillbirth of another precious little girl, born long before her intended time. And the heartbreak and grief....

And it puts the world into perspective.

Do shops matter? Bargains?

And I start to think.....

How many blessings, gifts we take for granted. How I have been preoccupied with things which are totally unimportant in the greater scheme of things. How I have slowed in my gratitude recording. How I have relegated the truth of Christmas to the sidelines in favour of COOKIE BAKING.

What is it with me? Us? Humankind????

How do we lose the plot?

We are about to celebrate the greatest event in the history of the universe, and yet......

We forget it should be central. Every single moment of every single day.

The tears of the parents wash through my heart too, and I ache for them. I thank God for their faith. And I sit here, and I sing softly to myself of another child born so long ago........

And I remember.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Fixing lights.....

My car headlight bulb was broken. Out. (Just as well I had a spare set in the car.) I noticed it last night after carols, so I went to a friend this morning and asked if he could fix it for me sometime today. Of course he said yes. Only, he and his family had loads to do and we were running out of daylight, so, in the pouring rain, I opened the bonnet of the car, yelled for David to bring a torch and a large umbrella, and, with the aid of the instruction book for the car, I took the light bulb out. Then discovered it was the WRONG one.

Heaven knows who designed the lights for cars, and the contraptions holding them in. And the pile of other mechanical whatsits in the way so my tiny delicate hands can't begin to work properly in the space available.

There was much muttering and dramatic sighing. Not to mention fiddling in the bowels of the engine.

And a few choice words directed towards the sky and the man who USED to be around to do these things.

I should not know how to change halogen light bulbs in my car.

I should just be able to smile sweetly and bat the eye lashes and it would be done in a flash.

Anyway....

Where was I......

Back under the bonnet I went, and the next light thingy was even more tricky to access. But I did. I also discovered that "release the spring" does not necessarily mean "dismantle the spring entirely". That took some time to re-assemble.

So, with David now checking the angle of the new bulb and comparing it with the other one and me fogging up my glasses, trying to balance springs, connectors, bulbs and a torch to see what I was doing, hair falling in the eyes at the same time as the cowl was suffocating me and the hood was falling off and I was WET......

Hmmm.

See???

I live such an exciting life.

I can announce with not one shred of glee, that I changed the headlight bulb in my car. It works.

But I really wish that I did not know how to do it at all.

And that it had not been raining all the time I was out there.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A lovely busy weekend.......

It has been a busy weekend here. It was a delight to have my friends visit from far away yesterday, and the chatter was constant, and the food was plentiful and the laughter was loud. And the candles flickered, the lights twinkled....you get the picture. Thank heavens for dishwashers.

I went to bed grinning, and it felt right.

So it was snowing this morning. Well, it made a valiant effort to snow and there were some large flakes but they didn't hang around for long, and the sun came and went, as did more snow. yet in the coming week, temps are supposed to soar way above the freezing that they are on right now. I am trying to decide whether to venture out to Carols tonight, given that the car is already iced up and the roads have not seen any sign of gritters yet this winter. Hmmm. I will see.

Church was wonderful this morning, and it ended with a celebratory air (balloons been batted around the whole place) because, as we were reminded, there is so much to celebrate with Christmas. The children loved it, and what is it about grown men and the competitive spirit????? Good fun.

 I must just go and light Advent candle #4...hang on a sec.....


There. That is better. All lit.

This afternoon I went to a 40th birthday party, and I ate way to much food. I needed to run a couple of marathons afterwards. I know no restraint when faced with delicious food I have not cooked myself. You would think I would know better. Sigh. I keep learning the same lesson over and over.

And now I need to catch up with what everyone has been doing, while simultaneously trying to de-ice the car just in case I decide to go out..........

Just in case you are wondering - I replied to the Bookworm re the pastry - it works with all sweet recipes. Apples are particularly good. So go ahead and try it and let me know how you like it!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Making Christmas Mince Pies........

This is the ancient recipe for mince meat that I got from my Mum, and she must have got it from her Mum, but can't remember.....

Mincemeat:

1lb apples
1lb raisins
1lb sultanas
1lb currants
half lb mixed peel
2 and a half teaspoons mixed spice
half lb suet
1lb sugar
half cup brandy

Wash and dry raisins, sultanas, currants.
Mince peel, raisins, apples, sultanas together. add rest of ingredients and leave to stand for 24 hours in  cool place. It will keep for up to a year in the fridge.

The pastry recipe:

10oz (275g) plain flour
1oz (25g) ground almond
6oz (175g) butter
3oz (75g) castor sugar (finer sugar than ordinary granulated stuff but not powdered sugar)
zest of one lemon
1 egg yolk
3 Tablespoons milk

Sift flour and add ground almonds. Cut butter into flour mix in small pieces, and rub in. Add sugar and lemon zest. Lightly mix the egg yolk and milk and stir into mixture. Mix to firm dough and turn onto floured board and knead until smooth. Wrap in cling wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll out thinly, and cut out little circles for pies. Put one teaspoon of mix into each pie (don't be tempted to overfill them!) and the cut out slightly smaller circles for tops, and brush with milk to seal edges. Cut a small cross in the top and brush with milk.

Bake at 200C for 15-20 mins. Serve warm (you can reheat them) and dust with castor sugar. brandy cream or brandy butter are wonderful with them!

And then the finished little pies you can see in yesterday's post. The pans I use used to belong to my Grandmothers. Both of them. Marge and I shared them between us and they are SO special. Old. Battered. And they have the lovely shell pattern on the bottom. They make me grin when I ceremoniously haul them out each year. Baking mince pies would not be the same in anything else, and we will divide them among the children one day. When I pass the "Baking of the Mince Pie" baton on to the next generation!

It is raining right now. Freezing sleet kind of rain. And I have butternut soup waiting to be heated and a table full of nibbles because I have friends popping in this evening. The mince pies will be gone by tomorrow, I think, and that is just fine.

Mum and I were on duty in the Traidcraft shop for a couple of hours at lunch time, so I got a little more of the ripple done. I am falling asleep too fast in the evenings! Keep warm and enjoy your weekend!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mince pie time........

Mince pies. Fruit mince pies. A very English tradition which spread to parts of the Commonwealth. These are Christmas delicacies, and I made a batch today. The pastry is the best in the world - it has lemon zest and ground almonds in it. One pastry recipe makes 25 of these, and there are still 25 in the tin. We know about restraint here. I dust them with sugar before serving. They are delicious served warm with brandy cream or brandy butter. Or cream. Or ice cream.

Actually, my friend, Annette popped in this morning in the middle of the mince pie endeavour, and I did offer her one straight out of the oven but it was just after breakfast so she declined.

NOW the house smells like Christmas. It is a lot to do with the spices which trigger all the memories, I know.

So today has been an "at home" day, after taking Mum to the nurse for an appointment for her ears. I finished the sewing project and then made 2 more aprons as well. They are SO easy to run up now that I have made enough to kit out the village. Practice makes speed. Not perfection.

Jean popped in on her card delivery trot around the village, and I delivered my ones around this road too. Coffee and peanut butter biscuits to sample and recipes to print. Crockpot supper and apple and plum crumble.......who cares if it is below zero outside???

Short and sweet today, people. I need to do a little of the ripple tonight before I nod off.

PS You can make your own fruit mince , by the way - it keeps up to a year in the fridge. Let me know if anyone wants the recipe and I will pop it up here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wow.......

Wow. That certainly struck a chord, didn't it! My email inbox exploded and guess what? Not one person disagreed with me. Now that is very interesting. And thank you, Tigger and co, for emailing me for the first time! I love to hear from people who pop over to visit.

Mollycoddling. Cossetting. Cottonwool. Over-protective. Helicopter parenting....... all words used by you. And I have to agree. And many of you work or have worked with children, so you see all this at first hand. Experts, in other words. We know what we are talking about.

Do you know what was discussed by paper reviewers this morning on TV? The fact that young offenders, aged 15-18, get a packet of sweets on their pillows the first night they are admitted to the young offender's institution. Because they are scared and need something nice to cheer them up. Good grief. To be sentenced to time in a correctional unit, you have to have done something pretty foul here. And they are scared? And need something nice? Like sweets???????? Oh no, they do not. One of the reviewers said, and I quote, "They are children after all. There is nothing wrong with giving them something like sweets to cheer them up." WHAT!!!!! By 15, you HAVE to know the difference between right and wrong, no matter what your background. By 18, you are a man (or woman), for heaven's sake. And it stands to reason that they have made the choice to break the law.

Choice. Consequences. Responsibility.

Aiyaiyai.

On a more prosaic note, I have been baking peanut butter cookies this afternoon. It has taken hours. My oven has been broken a while now, so I am using a tiny microwave sized convection oven, so can bake....wait for it.....11 cookies at a time. Hours, I tell you. BUT, the plus side is that the kitchen is all warm and cosy and Christmassy now. And I am thankful that I have the means to bake anything at all. They are finally done.

I went to aquazumba (red bouncing stars on head band again - we are all about being festive around here) this morning, and that was energetic, to say the least. You would laugh, people. I bought a new bathing costume because mine was on the point of disintegration, and the "tummy control" part of it had ceased controlling anything at all. In fact, when I bounced about (and I use that word advisedly), I seemed to gather a huge tyre of water/air and YOU HAVE NO IDEA what a battle it was to keep it under control. Anyway. I bought a new costume. And do you know???? I can swim SO fast! I must have been lugging around a huge sack of heavy water with me for the past few months. Good grief. The speed! I amazed myself today. I am happy to report that the tummy control thing worked today and my energetic zumba-ing in the water was a triumph, so baking cookies was entirely permissible. .

Expending energy = lack of energy = cookies= energy.

See? I should be a scientist.

I intended delivering Christmas cards to the village today, but I never got round to that at all. David will have to ride shotgun with me tomorrow and I will drive and he can do the hopping in and out. Perfect. Solved.

Right. It is now 5.30 and I need to consider what food this family will be eating tonight. One cannot live on cookies. I need them for gifts. I will be back.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

About parenting......

Someone asked me if I worried about my children, and when I said, no, never, I don't think they really understood what I meant at first. I love my children absolutely, utterly and completely. I think - or I hope - they know this. But I don't worry. Of course I am deeply concerned when they are hurting, or ill or upset, and I do what I can to help them. I am not talking about emergencies when I say I don't worry. I would do anything for them. I am not an unfeeling monster in any way shape or form.

But here's the thing. I raised them to believe in themselves. To have self confidence. If I started being overly protective or concerned about their lives right now, I would be negating 35 years of being a Mum my way. I never worried about my oldest son working in a garage alone as a teenager. He was strong and capable and he did just fine. When my daughter set off around the world when she was 18, I didn't worry about her. I KNEW she could look after herself. She was resourceful and capable and we knew people in the countries she was off exploring, so in dire emergencies, I also knew help would be quick to reach her. Long before I could get there. And her trip started spectacularly when she was upgraded to business class for the first leg of her global trot. It augured well for her travels. She had a ball, by the way.

I have been talking to David today, my youngest son. The one who is looking for a job after graduating and being away from home for 3 years. He is not thrilled to be home, of course. He would far rather be out there, building his life. And he will do just that soon, I am convinced. He has dreams and plans and back-up plans too.  He is looking at this as a learning curve, and experience of real life. And he is building on those experiences. He will find his niche and excel. I just know.

I am a mother.

I know everything.

You see, I am really concerned about how much modern parents baby their children, over-protect them, and keep them from tackling responsibilities and consequences. Every child, from toddler age upwards can contribute to family life. I watched my daughter-in-law hand her baby (Missy, the light of my life) a wash cloth every time she finished her meal, and she cleaned her high chair. She LOVED helping. And she bakes. She washes up. She is not 3 yet. Ann has got it right. Missy is a part of a unit. A family. She has a role to play, and revels in it. She is not just there for decoration, gorgeous though she may be. She contributes. (I remember my toddlers absolutely loving the Dustbuster - when I asked them to clean their rooms!)

Loving does not mean babying. Loving means encouraging, and being in the background, ready to pick up the pieces now and then. but also ready to lead the cheering section when they triumph. Without a parent who believes that they can dare to dream and who believes that they can touch stars, they would never leave home. They would be stunted by MY need to have them here, and my failure to teach them that life out there was exciting and full of possibilities. .

It is not about me. It is all about raising them to fly, and then standing back and watching them soar. I remember Diana at one, crawling to the jungle gym when my back was turned and climbing to the top. Did I rush and grab her? No. I rushed, all right, but I stood at the base of the jungle gym and told her how clever she was and that now she could climb down, and I guided her feet to the right places. She was up and down that jungle gym like a monkey every day after that. Did she fall? No.

If my kids fell and scraped their knees, I picked them up, brushed them off, kissed them better and sent them on their way, telling them that they were all better now. It worked. I never ever babied them. Cuddled them, yes. Loved them? Yes. Babied? No. I expected a lot of them, and they rose to the occasion. Expect little, and you will get little.

I did not have piles of books to read about parenting back then. It was a "seat of the pants" version, as I have spoken of before. But it evolved into MY way of being a mum. A single parent most of the time, but then, you see, the last thing Geoff needed was to come home to whiny clingy kids. He also believed in raising strong, capable  independent men and women, and that was how we decided to parent our 3.

Childhood, just 2 generations ago (my grandfather's generation), used to end at about 12. Why on earth have we extended it to the early 20s? What possessed us? We want out children to have a good life. Good childhood. Good teens. Good college. Good twenties. Plenty of fun. ......when does it end?

We need to stop babying our kids, and let them fly. I cannot overstate this. Let them learn. Embrace every added year as a blessing and a chance to teach them more about life. They all adore being given responsibility. Just don't doubt their ability to rise to the challenge, and if they falter, grin and tell them you believe in them. You are NOT a bad Mum just because you let your children grow up, you know.

Who knows what they will achieve one day.....

This is how I see my role as a Mum. Love, teach, encourage and stand back. Have confidence in them, teach them confidence in themselves, and let them abandon babyhood. I could go on, of course. But then, I usually do, don't I.....

I am off the hobby horse. I need coffee and something calorific. Spouting forth does that to me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A cold wind is blowing.............

It is freezing here. Wind, rain, and SO cold. I do believe winter has arrived. It is time to stay indoors and bake I think. Anything to keep moving and warm, and make the house smell interesting. 

Here are a few snapshots of life around here......

 Our monthly shared lunch was at Jean's home on Sunday. I always marvel at how everyone brings different things and there is always more than enough of everything. We all used to go to the village church, but are now at churches all over the county, so it is lovely to gather together for lunch and chatter every month. (And get to cuddle very new babies - this one was born at the end of October, and my one handed skills are still active. Of course I can serve lunch, and eat my own with one hand. Can't everyone???)
 Candle number three was lit on Sunday too.... I love my Advent wreath this year.
 The ripple is growing, and it looks great - it seems to move - waves of colour. 
 Some of my aqua friends at our Christmas lunch yesterday. That is our teacher, Debbie, in the black and silver. She is amazing, and we all love her to bits. 
 Mum is still working away on her blankets for people in need. She is also amazing and I love her to bits too. 
And sons are also amazing. And OF COURSE I love them to bits too. And my daughter. This son learned how to bake cookies today, and did a sterling job. One tin is full. For now. And the kitchen smells great. 

My command of the English language seems to have gone back to basics right now. It must be the fact that my nose is cold. Ahhhh. I found my coffee. 

I have been thinking about which word I am going to choose for 2012. I have come up with a short list of 7, so I thought I may spend a few days going through reasons why each would be appropriate before the end of the year. Isn't it strange how words just pop up, and how each seems right, until you find another one which seems even better? This year, I used the letters and rest from a game like Scrabble and put the word of the year in the lounge. A daily/hourly reminder, which has worked very well. I will do the same for next year. In fact, I got quite carried away, and have words all over the place. 

The ripple calls, my friends. And so does the recession heater and fleecy blanket. I will be back in the morning. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wherever You Are (Military Wives with Gareth Malone) Official Video

I am not usually bothered about what may or may not be the top of the charts - or, as it is known now, the Christmas No 1. It is usually a fix, anyway, and the winner of the X factor tops the charts. And I am not all that partial to the X Factor, I confess.


This year, however, I will be doing my bit. I have pre-ordered the single which IS going to be the top of the UK charts. A pop star? Well, no. A group of ordinary military wives, whose partners/husbands are all active servicemen. While they were away for a 6 month tour of duty in Afghanistan this year, their wives were given the opportunity to be in a choir. None had sung in choirs before, and our wonderful Gareth Malone, now a national treasure, created a choir of such beauty that it reduced the country to tears.

Gareth Malone, an unlikely star if ever there was one, has created choirs in the most unlikely of places - deprived areas, tough schools. He believes that singing changes lives, and he could well be very right there. His series have been so amazing, and compelling viewing, and I gather he is heading to America to film a pilot for a possible series there too. Just send him straight back here, please. We need him.

So, about  making the nation cry. His Military Wives choir, whose husbands returned just before the end of the series, were invited to sing at the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall on November 12th this year. In front of the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family. And 8-9000 people in the Hall, and oh, about 6 million watching on TV. And they sang a song specially written for them  - the letters they had written to and received from their husbands provided the words for the beautiful beautiful song, and the nation cried.

If you google Military Wives, the first thing that comes up for me is a Youtube link which lasts 6mins 20. It has some irritating words over the picture, but watch it - it is what we saw (without the words). And listen right to the end of the 6 minutes, because you will get a feel of what it was like and what it meant to them.

So this year, they are going to knock the X Factor into oblivion.

And this is why.



Ordinary women. Wives. Mothers.

Magic,.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Christmassy Saturday.....

Oh, this Saturday is going by so quickly!

We popped down to the church in the village this morning to see the Christmas Tree Festival, and I forgot to take my camera. That was a mistake. Over 75 groups in the village, from schools to societies, to clubs, to businesses have built or decorated Christmas trees, and they are stunning. So many people were down there wandering around them and marvelling at all the creativity. The bellringers' one was superb. A hanging circle, which was decorated, and ropes danging down in a tree shape with soft toys holding the ends. Then the Monday Walkers made a tree out of their walking poles, around a sign pointing to the East, with a star on the end of the point. And the badminton one had little peg people representing all the players, with shuttlecocks etc. Hairdressers's ones had long curls of hair, and slides and barrettes, and hair decorations, and so it goes.

Wonderful.

And coffee and warm mince pies??? Oh yes. It is beginning to feel like Christmas! I must see if I can get a friend of mine to email me some of his photos to share with you all. Or maybe I can go back in with camera and take a few. We will see.

So this afternoon, I have been dog-sitting and making the last of my presents. I am very tempted to make more Warm'nCosy sets but I still have some in the pile, so there is little point other than that they make me smile, of course.The baking can wait until tomorrow I think. It is already getting dark, so maybe I will cut a few circles while I can still see and then I will be ready to sew them up if I need them.

Right. I need to do something. Maybe coffee. Enjoy your Saturday!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Some interesting links and some chatter.....

It is 9 December. 
And my garden seems to be on a time scale all of its own. It thinks it is spring. Or summer. Every day I think okay, it will go to sleep now. And each morning, there are more flowers in bloom, more roses coming out and the fuschia refuses to die down at all, and is still producing flowers. 




December. I should be posting photos of holly and berries and snow and twinkly lights. Not summer flowers. The winds have died down at last, and the skies are blue. It is chilly, of course, but not bone-rattling cold. Not yet.

I came across a really interesting article on Facebook this morning - it is definitely worth a read. Go here to read about how we are 96 hours from the Stone Age. I remember watching a TV programme about something similar , a docu-drama,  last year, and it absolutely fascinated me. Made me think a great deal too. What do we do when the power runs out? How many people still have wind up or battery radios? Will they be of any use? Analogue phones? The ones which do not require a power source? A way to heat or cook without power? How do we live if our power sources are gone?

I know my friend Cheryl and I came up with a survival pack which we regarded as essential, and it included sewing needles, because, if we are going back to the Stone Age, I am absolutely not going to make one out of a fish bone. Well, I would if I had to, but that would mean I need to catch and gut a fish first. I am sure I could learn how to. Of course. Anyway. Read it, and see what you think. It is interesting. There is an entire generation out there which has never had to learn to tell the time on a wind up watch too. Time. Would it matter what time it was?

Moving on, because I would rather talk about blue skies and a little sunshine and twinkly lights and hot coffee (the last two require power....I know), there is another really interesting article I came across via Heidi, also on Facebook - you can go here to read how we are over-protecting our children to unbelievable levels nowadays. A great deal to think about. I know that the perception of what is suitable when raising a child has changed radically during the 3 decades and more that I have been a parent, but, and you have heard me gnash my teeth about the ludicrous Health and Safety laws which seem to multiply here over night many a time, there HAS to be a halt to the WAY over-extended childhood we are subjecting our children to. Hello responsibility, maturity, calculating risk and making good judgments. Aka being grown up.

Ah well. It is Friday and I have spent the day on the move. Coffee out with Julia for her birthday, sitting in the Fairtrade shop for 2 and a half hours (doing more rippling), and oh joy, a family outing to the giant supermarket I loathe nearby, followed by a trip to the village and coffee with Jean, supper and HELLO, here I am.

My son wants to know when I am baking again. I may well sit in my rocking chair tomorrow and issue baking tips while he does some baking tomorrow. We will see what morning brings...............


Thursday, December 08, 2011

Howling gales and a little more.....

There is a wild wind blowing here, but it is NOTHING like the gales hammering Scotland. There have been gusts of 150 miles an hour recorded there today. I spoke to a friend on the western side of Scotland and she said that, for the first time, she is thinking about the structure of the house. It is bad. Power out in places, transport disrupted, bridges closed. Not good.

So our howling winds pale into insignificance.

But I wish you could see the hair. I have just been out for a short trip to the shops and I look as though I have been dragged through a bush backwards, and Mum and I are off to the doctor for her annual health check now. And to think I set her hair yesterday..... I think I am going to insist she ties something over her head to preserve my artistic endeavours. I am getting quite good at hair setting. I do it, because when I made an appointment for her hair to be done at my hairdresser, they had to re-read the instructions on setting hair and curlers, and at 86, my mother does not do blow-dries. She wants her hair done properly. Enter Linds with newly acquired hairdressing skills. What can I say......

Did I mention that I finally pressed the "buy now" button at Amazon???? I have had gift vouchers since the middle of the year and simply could not bring myself to use them. I loved, loved, loved the knowledge that I could buy things if I wanted to, but I just never did buy anything. So , after all these months, I finally did. I got a few gifts, and I did buy myself a wobble cushion. I have been told to get one to practice the balance thing (which may have saved my tree  if I had bought it months ago and used it, now I come to think about it) but I could never decide which to buy. So yesterday I chatted to someone at the gym to find out which was suitable. And I PRESSED THE BUTTON!!!!

Oh, how small things thrill me.

We are back from the surgery. The practice nurse thinks mother is MARvellous. She is. I swear she skipped out of the doors. I was trailing behind with the stick.

Something is not quite right here.

So, the rain falls, the plum crumbles cooks, the dishwasher is loaded the tree lights twinkle, and I have a few more things to wrap after the lightning trip to the shop today. Nearly done. Then there is the ripple. Tonight is sorted.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

An energetic day.....

I happened to see that Timeline on Facebook was rolling out in New Zealand first, so I sent Diana a message to ask if it was there. Not yet, she said. And within an hour, it had happened. It looks amazing, I have to say. There will be a lot of photo tweaking going on around the world as it arrives. So brace yourselves, people!


I have been to pilates this morning, and am about to head out to aqua as well. I am on a roll today. A few more presents to wrap and I will be done. And I have also posted all the cards Mum has written and for her friend too. Tick another box. Oops - look at the time. I must go and gather the towel etc.......

I am back. I have identified my stomach muscles. Well, the remnants of them. They hurt. But that is good because I now know they still exist. We did our aqua class wearing headbands with either bouncy red stars on them or bouncy silver balls. We also did everything to Christmas music, which we all sang whole we bounced, until singing was only for the fittest. The rest of us just managed to breathe. We were a picture, believe me, and we are definitely in the festive mood!

And the laughter is so good for the soul.

I fell asleep rippling last night, and so I didn't get a great deal done, but I LOVE making ripple blankets - there is a rhythm which is so soothing. The colours are off in the photo - it is red, not that odd shade, and so is the blanket under it. Becky - see the crochet hook case under the cream wool? I use it every day and love it - please tell Karen! So, hopefully I will get a little more done tonight before arriving in the Land of Nod. It is for my bedroom, so there is no hurry. Next winter will be just fine, because it still has to be painted a neutral colour. Well one of these days. It is on the last page of the "to do" list right now.

I think this is the longest post in terms of time, that I have ever written. More visitors and then supper, so I am going to just press publish and leave it for now. Enjoy the rest of your Wednesdays!




Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A little wrapping and floor sitting.......

Yesterday was the first day I did not post here after 65 days of straight posting. I have amazed myself, people. And do you know, it felt strange NOT to have written anything. When I finally crawled onto the couch after 10pm to do a little of my ripple blanket, I did stop a while and think that maybe I should come and say hi, but the wool called and I wanted to change colour....you know how it goes.

What did I do yesterday which kept me away from the computer? Hmmm. There was speculation re a nap but that didn't happen, much though it was needed. But I did get some presents wrapped. I did organise the Christmas cards (unwritten) into a nice little pile. Tower. And I did clean the windows in the lounge. The sun came out, you see, and I was horrified by the fingerprints. Where do they come from? I don't stick my hand on the window. Then the mirrors looked bad. And the glass doors. And there were calls from lawyers and such like. Mum was out to lunch and David went to help one of my friends sort out her printer and computer. A quick trip to the bank and to drop a parcel at a friend, and the day was gone.

About present wrapping. Where do you wrap presents? On a table? On the floor? A bed? I have always sat on the floor surrounded by paper, ribbon, bows and gifts and done all the wrapping there. It feels right for me. My friends seem to use tables. Maybe it is an African thing. I have always been very happy on the floor. I remember that my mother-in-law was quite horrified when I curled up on the floor at her house. She kept clearing chairs and offering me a "proper" seat, and did not understand that sitting on the floor did not mean anything other than that I felt at home enough to do what I always did. And I have always been very "bendy". Until recently. As I get older, of course, the sitting on the floor thing is just as natural, but it is the getting up which has rather thwarted my floor sitting escapades. I need cranes.

Sigh.

So, in the same vein as the tree/star thing, I accidentally knelt down yesterday to wrap, and then remembered that I do not kneel any more for a very good reason. And it took me a good while to get all limbs functioning in a suitable manner again while remembering that breathing is essential to life. My mother took one look at me attempting to walk the length of the room and said in a stern voice "You knelt down again, didn't you". Yes, mother. I know. I knelt down. Kneeling is so convenient. Just try NOT kneeling for a day or two and you will see how much we take things like that for granted. I will not surrender the floor for my wrapping yet, though.

I just have to remember where I have hidden all the presents I have made. Unfortunately the memory is as bad as the knees. This is not convenient.

Someone told me that I am spending too much time as a human doing, and not as a human being. Think about it. They were right, of course. Too much of the "doing" makes the "being" impossible. And back we come to that lovely little word which is designed to haunt me. PACING. Pacing myself. I just do not learn. Maybe that is going to have to be my new word for the year. Or "learn". Or "listen". Or "remember". Or "practice". Or "discipline". Or "rest". Or .........

Sunday, December 04, 2011

My church...............

Oh, how I love our little church. By that, I mean the people. It is all about the people and not the building. It is a place where laughter and tears can flow freely, and where everyone is made welcome, and is always aware of how much they are valued, just as they are. We bring brokenness, which can only be made whole  and beautiful through the love of God.

Today is a perfect example of that. Everything happens in the church building, because we don't have anything else. Picture this........Sunday school for the children is up at the altar, hidden behind curtains. The teens usually go off to a hall nearby, because there are so many of them now (which is just fantastic), but today they couldn't get into the hall, so all came back and used the vestry instead, so it was a little noisy, but that didn't matter either. The toddlers have a corner in the church to play in, and they are happy. The kitchen is at the back and has shutters which open into the church, and today, Jean and I were on coffee duty, so during the last hymn, we zap in there and start making tea. And coffee and hot chocolate. And there are cakes and biscuits and sausage rolls and Jean's famous cheese straws too. And people line up for their refreshments and then stand around or sit in groups chatting - all in the church. No-one leaves.

The worship band keeps playing after the service, while the prayer team are scattered about praying for people who ask for prayer. The vicar, Adrian, stays in the front of the church and prays for anyone who asks as well. And there is dancing under the bell tower while we sing. The dancing with brilliant flags waving, which is so incredibly moving. And the sermon...........well today, it was challenging and I learnt so much. Thought provoking. It usually is.

The food collection keeps growing, as do the blankets Mum is crocheting, and there is a real need within the walls as well as at the homeless charity we support with our donations. We are calling it the People's Pantry now. And a place has been found which allows anyone to go and help themselves without embarrassment, if they need food. The collection of supermarket vouchers is also growing. All through the months up to Christmas, people drop gift tokens in a box, which get distributed to those who are struggling.

And then. like today, we get hilarious added extras. One of the congregation gets donations of shoes from a local factory which are no longer needed. So he distributes them to the homeless shelters in towns around, but he was drowning under a sudden influx of huge numbers of shoes, and he had nowhere to store them, so he brought some to church and anyone could buy a pair for £5. All the money went straight to the charities. So, at the end of the service, after a very moving worship session, Adrian announced that prayer and worship would continue for those who needed it, and that the "Shoe Shop" was open, and refreshments were being served. And so it was that, when I looked around, I saw children dancing, people laughing as they tried on boots, people standing around in groups or sitting chatting, drinking hot chocolate and eating custies, people crying as they were prayed for, .....so much. A community together.

I needed boots. So did Jean. But we were on duty, so we decided that if we were meant to have boots, the Good Lord would make sure we got some. And after everyone was fed and watered, I went to have a look, and do you know, there was one pair of boots in my size?? Warm snuggly boots. Perfect boots. And when Jean went to look, yes, you got it, there was a pair in her size too. The fact that most of the congregation will be appearing in the same boots from now on is irrelevant. We will all have warm feet and are enormously thankful.

There was much rejoicing, believe me. For those who could not afford the £5? The shoes and boots were free.

I don't know how to communicate the joy that everyone feels at our church. And the message today that Christmas is just the beginning of a wonderful story which is still not over...............

THIS is what it is all about. The rejoicing. The praise, the thanksgiving over and over and over again. The answers to prayer in the most amazing ways. The belief. The trusting. A prayer centred church, which does not pretend to be anything other than human, frail and broken, yet made whole through Jesus is such a blessing. No pomp. No rituals. Just love and acceptance.

I am so so so thankful I belong, am part of it. This is a real adventure we are on......................

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Norwegian Kisses/Custies....

Well, I have sent the recipe to some of you, but now it makes sense to pop it up here instead! 

Custies:


375g butter or marge
190g icing sugar (confectioner sugar)
375g plain flour
125g custard powder

Cream butter and icing sugar together (I use my mixer, which is my ancient Kenwood)
Add the flour/custard powder mixed together spoon by spoon as the mixer whirs about on a low speed. 

Roll walnut sized balls of cookie dough in hands and pop on baking sheet. Press down with fork dipped in flour so it doesn't stick. Bake at 180C (350F) for about 12 minutes. Or until the base looks golden. Allow to cool and then either eat plain, or you can sandwich them together with melted chocolate, or dip them into chocolate, like I did, or you can sandwich them together with butter icing. Any way, they are delicious and family favourites around here. 

Custard powder is essentially cornflour (cornstarch in the US - here is Vee's research link explaining custard powder! - Thanks, Vee!) mixed with powdered egg and a little sugar I think. I have used plain cornflour and a teaspoon of vanilla essence instead when I have run out and they tasted great. I imagine almond essence would also be good. Hmmm. I must try that one.

I hope they work for you and that you enjoy them!

Edited to add December 2012 :   I gather the last link doesn't work any more. Just add vanilla pudding mix. Here is a link about using alternatives. Enjoy!

Saturday at RCR......

Seniors tennis from the Royal Albert Hall on the TV right now - such fun to see McEnroe and leConte again, and they play so well! We have been to watch there many years - I must add it to the "to do" list for next year again. If I remember where the list goes. I think 2 nights in London next December, some tennis, some shopping and a show would be amazing. Soaking up the atmosphere and going on another night time ride on the London Eye. I loved that. Watching the skating and eating out....... Yes. I think that sounds perfect.

It is a cold day today - I think winter may be on its way at last, and I would be on the couch starting another ripple blanket, if I could find some very dark brown wool. I can't. So it is going nowhere. And I am not on the couch. Maybe I will find some tomorrow. Or next week. Mum and I were in town at an early hour to find the socks my daughter needs (success!) and wool (failure) and that was the event of the day. But there is a crockpot bubbling away as I speak, with a pork shoulder steak/butternut concoction cooking. I tend to just toss in whatever is at hand and it always ends up being quite delicious, and the kitchen feels warm, and the house smells great.

Comfort food. Winter food. Christmas smells.

The tree is still standing. I was skyping with Diana earlier and she was looking at the photos, and wanted to know who had "vomited bows all over her tree". Hah. She has such a way with words. I made the bows. I put them on and I LIKE THEM THERE. It just looked different to her. She is used to it being gold. It is not gold this year. It is a mix of whatever I felt like putting on it. Not a designer tree. Especially after the bonding episode!

In the end, she admitted that it looked fine. Oh, the relief. One's children don't like things to change, I have discovered. I was just glad Skype worked. In the middle of the call, my computer produced the blue screen of death and crashed. I have no idea why, but after I got it up and running, I made sure I had copied everything to the external hard drive. Now tell me, people, do you back up your external hard drive too? I had this sudden thought that everything important was on one disc, and then I had visions of me surrounded by 54 external drives all backing each other up.

This may be a little over the top, of course.

However, I do not want to lose any more stuff.

I don't make wish lists. Well, they would be a little pointless, wouldn't they - and when Geoff was alive, he was usually away at sea for Christmas. But while I was listening to friends discussing what they had put on theirs, I grinned, and mentally made a little list for myself. And today, I bought a bamboo crochet hook. It was on the list. Why? Because, apparently you can take bamboo knitting needles and crochet hooks on planes! Now that is a real essential. I gather they snap if you try to poke anything. My friend, Helen discovered this, and actually tried it out on her recent trip to America for the quilt show in Texas. Eureka! So, when I saw one in the wool shop, I grinned as I popped it onto the cash desk. I now own a bamboo crochet hook.

Do you do lists?

Later....the crockpot concoction was a triumph. Just delicious. I am now ready for a nap. And I may just try out my new crochet hook and see how it works. There is always something to make while we watch Strictly Come Dancing, isn't there?  (Happy smile!)

Friday, December 02, 2011

There is something to eat in this house........

We had nothing to nibble, my son informed me, so, in an effort to save money, avoid shops and have a quiet day after the disasters of yesterday,  I decided to bake the old family favourite - Norwegian Kisses, aka Custies. These are cookies made with flour, icing sugar, butter and custard powder. Dipped in chocolate. This picture is of half the batch. The rest are in that tin on the left, on my high chair, because I ran out of chocolate, so they will stay plain.  

 Delicious. If you look at the rack in the distance, you will see one darker one.
 This one. It is MINE. I dropped it in the chocolate. Oops. What a pity. These biscuits took all day to bake, let me tell you. My oven does not work, so all I had was the little microwave size one, which is absolutely fine for everything except excessive baking. It did 11 biscuits at a time. 11 x 15 mins x .......  FOREVER I tell you. The plus side was that I could potter about or rest in between. The down side is that I ate a great deal of the cookie dough in the process. It is delicious. Cookie/biscuits. I am confusing myself.

While waiting, I also managed to start a huge pot of butternut soup and stew apples for Mum, so the kitchen has been a busy place today. And warm. Then I burnt the first lot of chocolate. I stuck it in the microwave to melt. BAD move. It cooked and turned grainy and revolting, so that had to be tossed out. Around the same time, I discovered a complete lack of any form of coffee in this house. A disaster. So I had to make a dash to the local supermarket for that. And the chocolate for the biscuits/cookies/deliciousthings. 
My tree. Not so perfect, propped up and a little bashed and battered. And wonky. But it is my tree this year, and after I bonded closely with it, it is starting to grow on me. If I stop looking at the unbalanced chains etc etc etc. Get a grip Linds. It is up and standing and the lights work. It will do.

So that has been my day.

I have coffee.

And cookies.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

I should not have tried to put the star on the top of the tree.....

I came home from a weird session of aquazumba at dawn - the pool was not full enough after it had been worked on for the past 3 days - they still have not solved the problem of the escaping water. So the exercises had to be modified and the buoyancy of the water was nothing like as good as normal, so we were all wiped out afterwards.

Anyway. I came home and decided to decorate the tree now that it is December. And that is what I did all day,. I decorated the tree. The lights were evenly spaced. The chains were looped beautifully. The bows and ornaments were perfect. It looked great.

All I had to do was put the star on the top.

So, instead of :
a) calling David to do it or
b)getting a ladder
c) remembering that balance is an issue for me

I climbed onto the couch and promptly fell off the arm onto the tree, which came crashing down spewing all the perfectly placed things all over the lounge. I was behind and under it, together with my sewing light and all the plugs and heaven knows what.

You have NO idea.

David came barrelling down the stairs and it took a while to get me up again because I fell from the arm of the couch onto the knees.

You do not want to know.

Neither do I.

Yes, I know. Stupid. I have heard that enough today and said it enough. I just cannot believe it happened. And so the tree is now a total mess. Nothing is right, the chains are wonky and so are the lights and the ornaments are all over the place and the bows look like I threw the whole lot at the tree and called it good. Not to mention that the tree leans a little ominously. I solved that by bending branches back to a vague shape they should have had and putting two coasters under one of the legs. I have no idea what happened to half the ornaments for the bottom bit. I will no doubt be finding them for weeks.

Should this matter? Probably not. But I think it is the time invested which was wiped out in a second of total idiocy which gets to me. That and the knee. And the fact that I used to be able to do these things. And other stuff you do not need to know about right now.

Groan.

The tree will do. It will be just fine.

 I just wish I had taken a photo before I tried to put the star on the top......