Thursday, 31 December 2009

Early spring cleaning!

I girded my loins and set to with some much needed spring cleaning in our dining room! It's taken me a good FOUR days to get this far as I have to take regular breaks to rest my back. The dining table is still piled high with "stuff"!

I shall be glad when we can move the computer and all its associated paraphanalia out into the hall, as it takes up rather a lot of space in this corner of the dining room. I was so fed up with all the computer "stuff" on the shelf; it looked terribly messy and attracted so much dust! I was really pleased that I was able to get it all stored away in these hat boxes and box files :-)

The aloe vera is an offshoot of my original plant, which I am rather ashamed to say is still outside ~ albeit in my little growhouse! The mother plant has gone absolutely wild, and is now way too big for her original pot. I really don't think I shall be able to re-pot all the offshoots as there as so many of them!

This little bureau belonged to my parents for a good number of years ~ Mum must have got it in the late sixties/early seventies I guess. It's quite handy but alas not what you would describle as particularly attractive. One of these days I shall get round to doing something with it to make it prettier.

I've got an assortment of books on these shelves ~ mostly gardening, frugal/green living, women's health, etc. The books in the basket on the dining chair are what I currently have for sale in my Amazon Marketplace Store.

The sideboard is on the other side of the dining room, opposite the bureau. At the moment, we have a hatch into the kitchen but eventually we will be rearranging all this and re-opening the doorway instead.

This very handy vintage kitchen cabinet lives beside the sideboard ~ I bought it from Vintage Lifestyle a few years ago. I keep my sewing basket in the bottom cupboard, along with a whole load of tapestry, cross stitch, etc, kits waiting to be completed! The drawers and little drop-down section above the cupboard are where I store candles and pot pourri. The drop-down section is lined with some sort of metal ~ zinc or aluminium, I think ~ and I would guess that it would have originally been used to store bread, perhaps. The drawers were quite obviously originally meant for cutlery.

The large drop-down section makes an excellent space to store all my table linens and doilies. And of course the cupboard above is perfect to display some of my little treasures ~ Beverly always says that it looks like a bird cage or rabbit hutch with the mesh doors!

A closer view of my knick-knacks :-) There is nothing here worth much in monetary terms but they all hold sentimental value for me.

*sigh* I really do love my very eclectic collection of blue and white china. Again, nothing is worth much except to me, of course. I don't collect any one particular kind of blue and white pattern, it's all very mix-and-match ~ but that is how I like it LOL
Once I've got the dining table looking presentable I will take a broader picture of the dining room ;-)
I'm working on the living room now...

The Thursday Poem

Accidents of Birth

Spared by a car- or airplane-crash or
cured of malignancy, people look
around with new eyes at a newly
praiseworthy world, blinking eyes like these.

For I've been brought back again from the
fine silt, the mud where our atoms lie
down for long naps. And I've also been
pardoned miraculously for years
by the lava of chance which runs down
the world's gullies, silting us back.
Here I am, brought back, set up, not yet
happened away.

But it's not this random
life only, throwing its sensual
astonishments upside down on
the bloody membranes behind my eyeballs,
not just me being here again, old
needer, looking for someone to need,
but you, up from the clay yourself,
as luck would have it, and inching
over the same little segment of earth-
ball, in the same little eon, to
meet in a room, alive in our skins,
and the whole galaxy gaping there
and the centuries whining like gnats -
you, to teach me to see it, to see
it with you, and to offer somebody
uncomprehending, impudent thanks.

William Meredith
(9th January 1919 - )

from the book: Poem for the Day One

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

365 ~ Day 103

Running Bear and White Dove make friends with the rocking horse

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Prayer for World Peace

We pray to the great Spiritual Power in which we live and move and have our being.
We pray that we may at all times keep our minds open to new ideas and shun dogma;
that we may grow in our understanding of the nature of all living beings and our connectedness with the natural world;
that we may become ever more filled with generosity of spirit and true compassion and love for all life;
that we may strive to heal the hurts that we have inflicted on nature and control our greed for material things, knowing that our actions are harming our natural world and the future of our children;
that we may value each and every human being for who he is, for who she is, reaching to the spirit that is within, knowing the power of each individual to change the world.

We pray for social justice, for the alleviation of the crippling poverty that condemns millions of people around the world to lives of misery - hungry, sick, and utterly without hope.
We pray for the children who are starving, who are condemned to homelessness, slave labour, prostitution, and especially for those forced to fight, to kill and torture even members of their own family.
We pray for the victims of violence and war, for those wounded in body and for those wounded in mind.
We pray for the multitudes of refugees, forced from their homes to alien places through war or through the utter destruction of their environment.

We pray for suffering animals everywhere, for an end to the pain caused by scientific experimentation, intensive farming, fur farming, shooting, trapping, training for entertainment, abusive pet owners, and all other forms of exploitation such as overloading and overworking pack animals, bull fighting, badger baiting, dog and cock fighting and so many more.

We pray for an end to cruelty, whether to humans or other animals, for an end to bullying, and torture in all its forms.
We pray that we may learn the peace that comes with forgiving and the strength we gain in loving;
that we may learn to take nothing for granted in this life;
that we may learn to see and understand with our hearts;
that we may learn to rejoice in our being.

We pray for these things with humility;
We pray because of the hope that is within us, and because of a faith in the ultimate triumph of the human spirit;
We pray because of our love for Creation, and because of our trust in God.
We pray, above all, for peace throughout the world.

prayer for world peace ~ dr jane goodall

Friday, 25 December 2009

My family's favourite Christmas Pudding recipe!

Here, as promised, is the recipe I use to make our traditional family Christmas puddings:

12 oz sultanas
12 oz raisins
6 oz glace cherries, halved or quartered
8 oz finely chopped mixed candied peel
8 oz plain flour
1 level teaspoon ground ginger
1 level teaspoon mixed spice
1 level teaspoon nutmeg ~ freshly grated if possible
1 lb soft brown sugar
8 oz breadcrumbs
10 oz shredded suet ~ beef or vegetable, whichever you prefer
6 eggs
5 fl oz barley wine
5 fl oz brandy
grated rind and juice of 1 orange
1/2 pint milk (approximately)

Grease whatever size of pudding basins you would like your finished Christmas puddings to be ~ this recipe will make enough to fill three 1 pint pudding basins, each one of which will give about six servings.

Sift the flour and spices into a very large mixing bowl (or, like me, use a preserving pan LOL). Stir in the sugar, breadcrumbs, suet, dried fruit and grated orange rind. Beat the eggs and add to them the barley wine, brandy and orange juice; stir this into the dry ingredients and mix well, adding enough milk to give the mixture a soft dropping consistency.

Put the mixture into your well greased pudding basins and cover each one with a doubled-up sheet of greaseproof paper, with a pleat in the centre to allow for expansion whilst the pudding is steaming. I used to fiddle about with string to keep the paper in place, but one year I had a brainwave and now use elastic bands instead! Bring a pan of water to the boil and place the pudding, in a steamer, on top; turn the water down to a steady simmer. The puddings will take between 5 and 7 hours to steam; the largest one here steamed for 7 hours, the smallest for 5 hours and the other two steamed away for 6 hours! I usually set my timer for one-hour-at-a-time so that I remember to watch the level of water in the pan, and keep it topped it up as necessary with boiling water from the kettle.

At the end of the steaming period, take the pudding from the steamer and remove the greaseproof paper. Cover with a clean tea-towel and leave on one side to cool. When the pudding is totally cold, remove it from the basin and wrap in a fresh double sheet of greaseproof paper and then wrap tightly in cooking foil. Store the puddings in a cool place. I really like to make my puddings towards the end of October and we usually have one at Easter, too. They should keep well, what with all the sugar and alcohol in them!

When you want to eat your yummy Christmas pudding, you can either gently steam it for about 1 1/2 hours or reheat in the microwave. I can't really tell you how long to cook the pudding in the microwave as it is very much a trial-and-error process! I just tend to heat it on full in approximately five minute bursts until it is good and hot all the way through.

Serve your pudding with whatever your family likes best ~ rum butter, cream, a white sauce, custard, etc. We like to have our's either with cream or a white sauce with brandy, which I make very simply like custard ~ just substitute the custard powder for cornflour and add brandy to taste!

I hope you enjoy this recipe. You can tweak away to your heart's content on the proportions and kinds of dried fruit, so long as the total amount remains about the same. You could also have a little less fruit and add nuts. Make the recipe your own by using the fruit (and nuts) that you and your family like to eat :-)

Flowers for Friday

Merry Christmas, folks!

Sending love and hugs your way ~ and hoping you have a wonderful day!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

At last!

I finally got round to making my Christmas puddings...yesterday!!! I usually make them towards the end of October but this year I just couldn't seem to get motivated *sigh* Still, better late than never.

These are all the yummy ingredients. I had to make one or two teensy little variations this year ~ I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the family won't be too outraged! My puddings seem to have become something of a Christmas tradition over the years, and I always use the same recipe ~ except for this year LOL

This is what you get when all those yummy ingredients have been combined. I don't have a mixing bowl which is large enough to handle everything so I use my preserving pan instead!

Here is the mixture in the pudding basins, all ready to be steamed for hours on end LOL The biggest one is for Christmas lunch tomorrow, at my sister's house, and the smallest pudding is for mother-in-law :-) One of the two remaining puddings will be saved for Easter (a family tradition in our house) and I have one spare, although I expect someone will want it!

I do wish you could all share the divine aroma currently wafting through the house! The puddings smell gorgeous whilst they are steaming ~ it really does smell like Christmas here. I've got the largest pudding on the go at the moment ~ seven hours altogether! ~ and once it's finished and cooled down I'll take a photo before I wrap it up in fresh paper ready to take to Amanda's house tomorrow, and post the recipe in case anyone would like to try it out for next Christmas :-)

The Thursday Poem


Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit's sensual ecstasy.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell,
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreaded cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of sweetness show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find the mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness see you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.

W.H. Auden
(21st February 1907 - 29th September 1973)

From the book: Poem for the Day One

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Can you believe...

...that yesterday was the shortest day? This year has flown by so quickly ~ Sam has already done one term at university and the first month of Beverly's au pair job seems to have been over in a flash! The photo above, by the way, was the sight that greeted us on Friday morning! The footprints in the snow are Amber's and you can see that the snow was quite deep. Poor Amber doesn't like the cold or the snow ~ I had to push her out the door Friday night to go for a wee before bedtime!

I confess that I still haven't got my Christmas puddings done yet!! I really will have to do them today or my sister won't be very happy with me on Friday when I turn up on her doorstep with no pudding for Christmas dinner LOL

I still have presents to wrap, too *sigh* I'm really behind this year ~ I think the "mouse situation" has taken up too much of my time and energy. Oh, didn't I mention the visitor/s we've had?? Yes indeedy, we've had a mouse-in-the-house! Daniel, my very nice pest control chap, doesn't think there have been many of the little blighters, judging by the amount of droppings ~ yuck! ~ but it's amazing how they get around the flippin house. We first noticed that they had been in the larder ~ they had chewed on a bar of cooking chocolate, a jelly and a couple of bags of oats! I took EVERYTHING out of the larder and ~ obviously ~ threw away the things that had been nibbled as well as open packets. Everything else was wiped over with a solution of Milton and stacked on the dining table...which I had, finally, just about got cleared up! Daniel put out lots of poison bait boxes: in the larder, in the cupboard under the sink, behind the washing machine, under the bath, in the airing cupboard, in the cupboard under the stairs and also in the dining room!!! Like I said, they do get around...

Still, it seems that they are taking the poison bait and thankfully we haven't noticed fresh droppings over the past week or so. Daniel phoned yesterday to see how things were and said that it's best to leave the bait boxes in place over Christmas; he will phone again after New Year's Day for an update and if there is still no further sign of activity, then he will come and collect the bait boxes.

Adrian and I set to and mouse-proofed the larder, so I was able to get everything put back in there. Adrian has also mouse-proofed the cupboard under the draining-board, which is where we keep our baking pans and plastic food storage boxes. We decided to leave the cupboard under the sink for now as we want to make sure the mice come for the poison bait. I do feel quite bad about poisoning them but there really isn't any other way to get rid of them from the house :-( Daniel told me that you could live in the cleanest, tidiest house in the world but if there is a way for mice to get in, then they will do so as it's so much warmer, obviously, than living outside. Cavity walls make great homes for mice ~ even if the cavity has been insulated, like our's has. Also, we humans may well find loft insulation horrible and itchy but it doesn't bother mice, who will quite happily make their nests in the stuff and if they can't find anything else they will, apparently, even eat soap!

Obviously, a human's home is rather like the land of milk and honey to mice!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Prettier feet!

You probably don't really want to know about my less-than-pretty tootsies but I'm going to tell you anyway LOL I get a lot of hard skin on my feet and with still being not so mobile, it's really difficult to reach down properly ~ so I decided to get one of these Ped Eggs. I've seen them advertised and kept wondering whether they were any good, but what put me off was the fact that I would still have to be able to reach right down to my feet.

Anyhoo, I recently received a brochure from my Kays catalogue and they had a Ped Egg with a handle advertised! So, I decided to take a chance and order one. I used it for the first time this morning and I have to say that I am very impressed indeed! Even after the first use it has made a huge difference to the skin on my feet and I am confident that it won't take many more sessions to have them looking soft and pink ~ as opposed to hard and yellow *yuck*

We do tend to just take our feet for granted, don't we, when really we should be treating them with bundles of love and tenderness! We should be lavishing them with home spa treatments and gorgeous softening lotions LOL Come the New Year, I am going to be making a concerted effort to lose this excess weight once-and-for-all ~ and get myself fit and healthy. I'll be able to take much better care of my hardworking feetsies, too, if I am more flexible and with less of a tummy to get in the way of bending!

A fresh start...

...with a new blog :-)