Thursday, 27 September 2012

And we're off!

It's hard to believe that the 27th of September is already here and today I am off down to London!  The time sure has gone quickly.  It will be a nice little break for me and Todd.  Canada was nice, but it was more like a working holiday, not like a real holiday.  This weekend will be more like a holiday.  The weather is set to clear and with any luck, we won't get rained on!!

We had a friend of ours from church over the other morning to do some portrait photos of us and Mitzie.  He posted this on facebook yesterday for us to see.

Aren't they absolutely gorgeous??  It will be hard to choose one!!  We took her to her little holiday camp yesterday.  She always stays with a friend of ours who has two sons when we go away.  (Well, twice now anyways.)  She really likes it there because they make a lot of fuss with her, but she's always happy to see us when we get back too.  That's the worst part of being away . . . missing Mitzie.  It just didn't seem the same here in the house last night without her being here too.  She is just such a vibrant presence in our lives and we love her so very much.

So this is the dress that I got to wear.  Not a good picture I know.  It is really difficult to get a formal wear dress these days that is modest.  I also got a little cream coloured silk sweater jacket to wear on top that has crystals around the neck.  I have a little black clutch bag with pearls and crystals on it and a pair of black patent leather flats that I can wear to church after.

Todd's got his dinner suit all dry cleaned.  We were really lucky there as we just happened to have one in our closet.  When we worked at the Manor, clothes often came down to the laundry room to be sent to charity shops or whatever.  One time there was this tuxedo/dinner suit in the bunch and the housekeeper thought it would fit Todd and so she gave it to us.  We never ever thought we would have a chance to use it, but we kept it anyways because you just never know when something like that might come in handy and it did!  We'll try to get someone at the hotel to take a snap of us before we leave to go to the ball.  I feel a little bit like Cinderella.  I hope that I don't turn into a pumpkin at midnight!

We have plans to visit a few things while we are in London.

Todd wants to go to the Horse Guards Museum.  We've been to see the Horse Guards before, but never gone into the museum.  That should be interesting.

We've got vouchers to go to Kensington Palace, which will be fun.  I've wanted to go there for a long time.

We've got vouchers for a Thames River Cruise, which will be fun.

We have a trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is free, planned.

Then I want to go to Harrods, to the Food Hall.   I've been there before, but I want to pick up a treat for the gal who is watching Mitzie.  Something different and a bit naughty that she wouldn't normally be able to indulge in.

In any case, I am sure we'll have a nice time away.  I promise to take lots of pictures and show them to you when we get back.  I've set up the English Kitchen to publish each day while I am away.  That's easy to do because it's just food, and I have an Italian fella doing a couple of guest posts beginning tomorrow.

Not sure if I will get online to give any updates while we are away.  It all depends on if the hotel has free WiFi or not.  Try not to miss me too much!

A happy thought for the day to leave you with:

"There are moments of such pure, sublime, unparalled perfection that they will force you to close your eyes and hold on to them as best you can.  Life is a series of these moments.  Everything else is just waiting for them."
~Iain Thomas


Cooking in The English Kitchen today . . . Pork Cutlets with a Port and Cherry Sauce.

See you when I get back! 


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

An autumn song . . .

Sweet daisies of Michaelmas. . . golden heads in dainty white dresses, bob their heads in the chill of an early autumn breeze . . . that nip in the air which tells you summer's well on the wane . . .

Giant headed sunflowers towering above all else in the garden . . . like giant golden sentinels in the mists of early morning and dew filled autumn nights.  This is the season of golds . . .

Source: via Marie on Pinterest

Hills tinted mauve with blooms of  heather . . . walls covered with the reds of creeping vines . . . the quieting down . . . the  going to rest,  of summer's delight.

Tis the season of fruitfulness . . . golden September . . . the prelude to Autumn . . .  the opening dance to a wonderful ball, filled with color . . . the woods clothed in their ball gowns of gold and amber glory, fulfilling the promise of lovelier days . . .

Source: via Marie on Pinterest

Ladder ridden orchards vie for our attention with stubble covered fields . . . raped by the farmers plough as he gather's in his harvest.  We soon forget the song of Summer's bright splendor . . . a new melody takes it's place borne swiftly through the air and carried aloft upon the  beating wings of bleating birds flying south to warmer climes, new views and vistas . . .

Leaving us behind . . . there is no time for regret, or to repine . . . summer turns her back on us, this gentle way the season turns . . . as we begin a dance upon the melody of this golden autumn song . . .

Source: via Marie on Pinterest

Can you tell that I love the autumn?  It has ever been so.  I love all of it's colour, it's tastes, it's textures . . . the sights the smells.  We have had much rain here, so it's been quite difficult to get out and about to enjoy it's splendor, but we do what we can.

Source: via Paul on Pinterest

We had a lovely afternoon yesterday with my friend Jan and her husband.  It was so very lovely to finally meet in person after all these years.  I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving meeting again of our Canadian souls . . . it will be nice to share this holiday with someone who truly understands the depth and heart of it's meaning. We arrived about 15 minutes early, and so we sat in the car listening to the rain pelt down as we watched a tiny Jenny Wren hop amongst the branches and brush.  I had never seen one up so close before.  It was so sweet.

We are into our final planning today of our trip to London.  We'll make up an itinerary for all that we plan to do, today and we are dropping Mitzie off at her holiday home.  I almost said Jess there . . . I still miss her so.  Oh Mitzie is a dear little love and we just adore here, but my heart still twinges over the loss of our Jess.

In any case, today it's packing and final preparations for our trip.  It will be so nice to see London and Jo and Colin.  I will take lots of snaps to share.  Not sure if our hotel has WiFi or not, and if it does, how much it will cost, so I may be largely absent for a number of days, but never fear . . . I'll share it all upon my return!  The weekend promises to be dry so that is a good thing!!

A happy thought to carry with you through the day:

The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.
~Louisa May Alcott

These just may be the most delicious blueberry muffins you will ever chance upon.   Baking today in The English Kitchen . . . Glazed Blueberry Muffins!


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY, September 25th, 2012...

Outside My Window...

It is just now beginning to get light and it's just gone seven a.m.  You can really see the days and nights drawing in now.  It seems only yesterday we were going to bed in daylight . . . and now it seems to be getting dark a few hours before we go to bed.  Todd hates it when the nights draw in . . . but that's because he hates to drive in the dark.  I don't mind it so much . . . because I find them cozier, and I am all for cozy!

I am thinking...
"Take all you want, eat all you take."

~Amish Proverb

We have just begun a new recycling garbage program here.  We had one before but only three bins.  A blue for recyclables, a green for garden waste and a brown for all other garbage.  Now we have about six different ones, and it's a lot more complicated.  I have never been a waster.  I think that it's time for the manufacturers to step up and provide us with far less packaging, so that there is less to throw away.  I also think that the grocery stores should start selling foods with longer use by dates.  I find that the use by dates over here are very short, except for in the most exclusive more expensive shops.  It is only very rarely that you will find a fresh item with a use by date more than two or three days hence.  My bread goes moldy before I can use it up.  It's really difficult to get it all eaten before it goes off and I don't like having to shop every two or three days.  You spend more that way, but perhaps that is the method behind their madness. 

I am thankful for...
I am thankful for feet that walk, knees that bend, hands that grasp, ears that hear, and eyes that see.  Your health is so important and I am so grateful that for the most part I enjoy relatively good health.

From the kitchen...
NOT A LOT!  We're going away in a few days and so I am being lazy, and trying to use up what we have.  (Before it goes off!!)

I am wearing...

A blue M&S nightie, slippers, robe.  Feeling cosy and warm.  For now . . .

I am creating...

Working on 
the finishing touches for my Christmas Cook-booklet.  I have ever so much fun doing this one.


Getting things ready to put into the Gallery next week.  I am thinking that an assortment of my Christmas Cards, and several prints, plus some matchbox dolls.  I need to make more of them now as four of them sold lickety split!  (Not complaining!)

Working on one of these while we watch telly in the evening.  It's a ripple afghan.  Using the same colours as I did in the other one for continuity.

Source: via Marie on Pinterest

Loving this scarf.  I am looking for a pattern so that I can make one myself.  Isn't it pretty???

I am going...
Today we are going up the North Wirrel to meet up with a friend and her husband for the first time.  Jan and I have known each other online for about 8 or 9 years now.  She's Canadian too.  Why we have waited so long for us to meet in person I don't know, but it's finally happening and I'm really looking forward to it!

Then of course on Thursday we are traveling down to London for the Turkey Awards.  I am really looking forward to Thursday evening at the Savoy.  We are not staying at the Savoy.  Only pop stars, film stars and other rich people can afford to stay there, or even eat there I think, but we will be dining and dancing there.  It all begins with a champagne reception at 6:30 and goes on from there.  Todd's dinner suit is all dry cleaned and I have my dress and we'll be living it up.  I'm not bothered about the award.  I am just looking forward to the experience!  Never in my wildest dreams could I ever have imagined such a thing as being able to do this.

The best part of the weekend through will be seeing our good friends Jo and Colin.  They are coming up Saturday and we will spend Saturday and Sunday with them.  They're staying at the same B&B as we are.  We haven't seen them in over a year, although Jo and I talk frequently.  It will be so good to see and spend time with them!

I cashed in my Tesco vouchers on days out tokens and meal tokens so all of our entertainments are all paid for and we'll be living it up in London courtesy of Tesco!
I am reading...

Source: via Kaye on Pinterest

When Love Awaits, Johanna Lindsey

From amazon:
Once Lady Leonie cursed 'the Black Wolf' - handsome Rolfe d'Ambert, the mercenary Lord of Kempston - for his bloody deeds and cruelty to the local peasants. Now she must marry the magnificent blackguard to bring peace to the land.
Young, innocent, and possessing a rare and exquisite beauty, Leonie would be a prize for any man - yet Rolfe seeks the match solely for revenge. But her sensuous kiss ignites within him the fiery need to claim her - and an irresistible desire to unite their warring hearts in glorious love. 

I know . . . these romance novels are all the same.  Girl hates boy.  Boy is a handsome rake.  They fall in love whilst trying to pretend they hate each other. I just wanted some light reading for a change.  It's been a long while since I have read one of these.  I used to read them all the time when I was younger.  I just skip over the smutty pages now.  I never used to mind them much, but I find them a bit embarrassing now.  I must be getting old!  

I am hoping...

For good weather this weekend when we are down in London.  I don't want to be taking our Thames River cruise on Saturday in the rain!!

I am hearing...
Nothing new really.
Mitzie is snoring on the couch. The clock is ticking . . . my fingers are clicking on the keyboard. I have some soft music playing . . . and the cuckoo clock decided to start working again yesterday.  One of life's great mysteries I am sure!

Around the house...

Trying to think of some ways to dress the house up for autumn . . .these leaves are rather pretty . . .

Source: via shirlee on Pinterest

I rather like this idea for the mantle as well, but in different colours.  I'd like brighter colours.

Also loving this idea.  That's totally doable for me as I can get nuts.  Pumpkins and mini pumpkins, gourds, etc. are not so easy as you only ever very rarely find those things over here.  Perhaps I need to grow my own, or make some out of papier mache.

One of my favourite things . . .

I love fairies.  I have loved them for as long as I can remember.  I remember being about five years old and watching a live production of Peter Pan on the television with Mary Martin as Peter Pan.  I remember her coming very close to the screen when Tinkerbell was dying and asking did I believe in fairies, and telling me to shout it out if I did . . . to help save Tinkerbell's life, and shouting for all that I was worth!  I loved the Enid Blyton stories about fairies and brownies and such.  I loved being a "Little People" in Brownies and dancing around the toadstool singing the "Little People" song.  "We though known as Little People, Aim as high as any steeple!"  I have a collection of fairies now . . . they sit on the long wide windowsill in our bedroom and I have fairies tucked here and there in the garden.  Time now to clean them up and put them away for the winter methinks.

Something new about me ...

I am very claustrophobic.  I hate small spaces.  On a school trip to a mine when I was 17, I could not go down into the mine.  It was quite embarrassing.  I had to wait at the top until the others came up.  I sometimes get that feeling in elevators and I don't like being deep on the underground.  I don't know where this comes from . . . I only know that I get out of breath and break out into a cold sweat, and feel quite, quite panicky.

One of my guilty pleasures ...

Chocolate . . . cake, cookies, brownies, candy . . . I just love it.  Thankfully Todd does not so I only ever rarely bake anything chocolaty or have it in.  I would just have to eat it all myself if I did!  I can't do that . . . so I give it away after I have enjoyed my share.

Pet Peeves... 
For some reason we are always finding cigarette butts close to the front of our house, underneath our living room window, next to our door and I have no idea of how they are getting there!  Neither of us smoke, nor do our friends.  It's one of life's great mysteries I guess!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

"Happiness is the art of never holding in your mind the memory of any unpleasant thing that has passed."

There is great wisdom in those words.  Holding on to past hurts, bearing grudges, being unable to forgive, dwelling on  those things and those people which have wronged you . . . only hurts YOU.  We must learn to let go . . .

As a closing thought I would like to leave you with this:

"There is divine beauty in learning.  To learn means to accept the postulate that life did not begin at my birth.  Others have been here before me, and I walk in their footsteps.  The books I have read were composed by Generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, teachers and disciples. I am the sun total of their experiences, their quests.  And so are you.
~Elie Wiesel

And there you have it . . . my day book for this week. Don't forget to hop on over to the Simple Woman to check out the other day book entries! (Or better yet, do a simple day book entry yourself! It's not that hard and I am betting you would enjoy it!  


Cooking in The English Kitchen today . . . Macaroni Cheese Pies.


Monday, 24 September 2012

Monday ponderings . . .

"In the eyes of it's mother, every beetle is a gazelle."
~Moorish Proverb

If you had asked me when I was a girl what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have told you a mother and a homemaker.  That is what I wanted to be more than anything.  I loved my doll and my paper dolls.  I loved playing house.  I loved everything there was to do with homemaking.   When I got older and began to take Home Economics at school, I have to say it was my favourite subject and I always loved the homemaking badges and tests that I did in Brownies and Girl Guides.  Yes . . . I wanted to be and aspired to be a cross between June Cleaver and Aunt Bee, with a little bit of Samantha Stevens thrown in for good measure.  (I still can't wiggle my nose.)

The happiest day of my life was the day they put my oldest son into my arms.  I finally had what I had wanted my whole life . . . someone that I could love who would love me back in that same special way . . .  that love which is reserved for mother and child.  It was everything I had ever imagined it to be and more . . . and I have to confess I felt that very same way when each one of my five children came into my life, and not just from the moment they were placed into my arms either . . . but from the very moment I knew I was pregnant.  There is something very sacred about nurturing life in that way, and my heart aches for those women out there who are unable to experience it.

Was I a perfect mom . . . far from it.  Did I try my best . . .  absolutely.  Did I let them down from time to time . . . of course.  Nobody is perfect, and neither was I.  My children are and have always been my greatest love and my single greatest accomplishment in life . . .  and I am so very proud of each of them in a very special way.   They are each so very unique and beautiful people with wonderful assets and strengths . . . and special qualities, qualities which I admire greatly.  Each are their own little success story . . . even though they are all very much works in progress, but then again . . . at the ripe old age of 57,  I am a work in progress too.

Mothers and fathers are there to teach their children, in loving and considerable ways . . . but children also teach their parents.  Some of my profoundest lessons have been taught to me by my children.  One of the very first things you learn as a mother is selflessness . . . from the time you know you are carrying them, to the minute they are born and placed into your arms and onward forever and forever . . . your life is devoted to their care, well being and happiness.  No matter what, no matter when, no matter how . . . this is a devotion that never lessens or disappears, no matter how old they get, or how far away.  It matters not that they disappoint you from time to time, or that they sometimes even outright abandon you . . . you would still walk through fire for any one of them, no questions asked.  I have been hurt many times over the past 38 years in my career as a mother . . . but I remember them not, and would tell anyone that my children have always been, always will be, and are . . . my greatest joy.

Through them I learned patience.  Oh for sure I can still be impatient about some things . . . but most of what I learned about patience I learned from them.   Watching your babies grow and rejoicing in their little accomplishments along the way . . . those first smiles, those first teeth, first steps . . . first day of school, learning to tie their own shoes, first report card . . . the list goes on and on, and with each first comes a lesson learned in patience and dogmatism . . . on the rewards of endurance and stick-to-it-ness.   They learn along the way, all that we can teach them . . . and they in turn, teach us back.

They taught me about unconditional love . . . what mother on earth has never had the words, "I hate you!" hurled at them in a fit of teenage angst and hormonal emotion.  Doors slammed, emotions raw . . . and a myriad of other ways you may disappoint your children, or they disappoint you . . . but the love stays.  No matter what . . . always.  You may fall out of love with husbands . . . you may fall out of love with your friends . . . you may have a falling out with your siblings or other family members . . . but you never stop loving your children, ever.  It just doesn't happen . . . even Hitler's mother loved him.

It doesn't matter how old they get, or how independent, or even how far away they may live . . . or how busy they may get in their lives with their own families, careers, friends, hobbies . . . your mind never veers very far from their center . . . your heart always stays with them . . .  worries about them, loves them, supports them, upholds them in prayers for their happiness and well-being, covers them . . . as a mother hen covers her chicks.  It is necessary for them to fly out of the nest and spread their wings . . . and for them to fly away . . .  but they always, always take a little piece of your heart and soul with them.  That's just the way it is . . .  and the way it will ever be.

Just so long as they know where you are . . . and that you remain a constant in their lives . . . so they know where to come when they need you.  It's not always easy.  But then . . . it's not supposed to be.  We only need to know that it's always worth it . . .  the being there no matter what, the loving and caring . . . the prayers, the laughter . . . the tears.

All I ever really wanted to be was a mother and a homemaker . . . the greatest job on earth.  I may sometimes feel like a failure . . . I may never be thanked or honored, maybe I don't even deserve those things . . . but I am and I have done  all I ever wanted to do and to be.  I am content with that.

“And if those children are unresponsive, maybe you can't teach them yet, but you can love them. And if you love them today, maybe you can teach them tomorrow.”
~Jeffrey R Holland

That is and always will be my hope.  There are things I may wish that I could go back and do over again, but I can't.  I just have to know and be content with the fact that I did my best.

It's raining!!  Blah!!  Cold too!!  Hello autumn!  We may be having a photography family portrait done today of ourselves and Mitzie.  I can't wait.  It's something that I have wanted to have done for a while now.  It all depends on if the photographer has to go to another appointment or not. 

I wish for each of you a beautiful day . . . in big ways and in small . . . pockets of joy . . . lots of hugs . . . the comfort of loving and being loved . . . plenty of smiles.


Baking in The English Kitchen today . . . an Irish Apple Cake.


Sunday, 23 September 2012

Sunday thoughts . . .

It took Michelangelo twelve years . . .  one brush stroke at a time . . . to paint his biblical scenes in the sistine Chapel.  It Brahms twenty years . . . one note at a time . . . to compose his First Symphony.  It took Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay eighty days . . . one step at a time . . . to climb the 29,000 feet of Mount Everest.  Word by word, brush stroke by brush stroke, note by note, step by step, problem by problem, prayer by prayer . . .

This is the secret of achievement.

(Divine Spark, The Sistine Chapel)

Stick to your task,
Till it sticks to you.
Beginners are many
But enders are few.
Honor, power, place and praise,
Will come in the time of him who stays.

Stick to your task,
Till it sticks to you.
Bend at it, sweat at it,
Smile at it too.
For out of the bend, the sweat and the smile,
Will come life's victories, after a while.

This is the stone arch that sat at the front of the Elizabethan Knot garden which lay at the front of the manor when I worked there.  It was rumored to be the oldest example of Renaissance stone work in the UK  and had a date on it of 1577 and was said to have been commissioned and created by a friend of Michelangelo actually, although I don't know how true that was.  I suspect it was just something the Mrs made up to puff up her importance.  In any case it was very old and quite imposing.  I remember often looking at it and wondering about the person who created it . . . their life, how long it must have taken with the tools of the day, and other such things . . .

Our world is filled with majestic things . . .  beautiful creations . . .  each one built and created,  one stone, one brushstroke, one dream . . . at a time.  I think we need to remind ourselves of that truth when we find obstacles in front of us that seem daunting or even impossible to conquer . . . or tasks that we feel we will never finish . . . or dreams  think will never come true . . .

We had a lovely day yesterday.  It was a gloriously sunny autumn day!  A day filled with all of the things you love about Autumn.  Back home it would have been a day to visit the farm market . . . buy pumpkins and apples and admire the shelves of jewel-like preserves on offer, and the apple pies.  I always loved visiting the local farm markets in the autumn.  Instead we took the opportunity while we were waiting for Mitzie to be groomed to walk around the Gordale Nursery again.  (We do love that place!)  Since our soft fruit did so well this year, we picked up two more blueberry bushes to put in and  two more raspberry bushes (one red and one gold) to go along with the two we already have.  I always love to peruse around the gift shop as well, while Todd takes himself off to the cafe to have a read and a hot chocolate.

I am sure he sweats the whole time . . . thinking I am going to spend lots of money.  I don't and . . .  like I always tell him . . . it costs nothing to look at and admire.

Must dash, it's gone 7 am and I just realized I haven't taken my shower yet (love how that sounds!!) and we have church this morning! 

Here's a happy thought to begin your day on and carry with you the whole day through!

"Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life."
~Brian Andreas

Baking in The English Kitchen today . . . an Autumn Berry Tray Bake.