Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Long and Winding Road

I could do a post about the long and winding road which led us to our door, 
but I won't.
Instead,  I'll show it to you.

This was our village way back in the 1970's.
Forgive the poor quality
we had to take a photograph of the canvas copy which hangs in the village hall.
It's not ideal, but I have enhanced it a little,
to show the details.

Way back then cows grazed in what was yet to become The Owl Wood
and our home was still an unconverted cow and cart shed
next to
 the old farm house.

So much has changed 
so much has remained the same.
I find it fascinating
in much the same way that maps appeal to me.

*   *   *

Monday, 25 August 2014

Gwynneth Rixon's Useful Art

Berry bowls!

This post is written for Cro and Linda
who wanted to learn a little about the 'egg bowl'
shown in a previous post

I have two of these rather lovely berry bowls.

Who could not love that beautiful edging,
so reminiscent of an exquisite Elizabethan ruff,
the speckledy glaze, 
or the random holes punched
through to allow water and juice to drain?

Each is a thing of beauty,
but it is also practical.
A great combination.
Gwynneth, artist and potter,  calls them Useful Art.

Turn one over and you find
that the attention to detail is all there.
The underside is as beautiful as the top.

Here is the other one,
beautiful speckled browns and reds,
just as carefully finished.

Each and every time I fill them 

or plums

or berries
I can't help but delight in them.
They feel right and they look right.

I use them carefully, but I use them constantly.
No point letting something sit on a shelf to gather dust and admiration
when I can use it and enjoy it.

The woman who made them is Gwynneth Rixon,
a potter and artist of great talent.
If you click on the link it will take you to her blog,
from there you can find a link to her etsy shop 
 this one is to Gwynneth's website address.
Browse that catalogue and drool!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Little Things

These leeks were left to go to seed
simply because I like their seed heads
...  so do the bees.

The large white hen,
Lucy, has begun laying eggs.
The other hens are a little younger
but they will begin soon.
Boiled egg and soldiers for tea.

Even the old hen's ruffled feathers have been smoothed
and she has stopped strutting around,
finally conceding that
she likes their company.
For some reason, only Lucy is allowed
to join her in the large hen house at night time.
It is a snug fit for the other five
in the slightly smaller house,
luckily, Shaggy is a small bird,
so she only counts as a half!

Beautiful Do-Do (pronounced Door-Door),
the former Leonie,
is the one who courts the camera.
She is forever tossing her beautiful, golden 'mane'
and popping up whenever I have the camera with me.
Frankie is the quietest, she lurks in darker places
until we leave.

This hen is Queen Mab.
She may not be the prettiest to look at,
but she has the sweetest nature 
and she's not afraid to tell Toby Too when he is getting too close.
George thinks she looks like a hoodie.

We spent ages clearing up Owl Wood before the big party,
we knew that lots of children would want
to play in there.
They did, and they had a great time.
No children were eaten by bears
this time.

Most fine days we manage to have some playtime
with Frankie and Harry.
Sometimes we are armed with swords
as we search for trolls,
we play hide and seek.

Harry is amazing, he can hide himself away very successfully.
He has learnt to melt into the woodland
we can rarely find him.

Francesca, however, hasn't quite grasped the concept of hiding.
Here is Grandpa counting to twenty,
while Frankie hides...
She can't see him,
he can't see her.

She giggles like mad when found!

At the end of a tiring play session
it's nice to be able to clamber onto your horse
for a gentle hack.
 This is Galahad
he belongs to Harry
but it is Frankie who loves him.
He is the perfect steed
and keeps her safe 
as she watches the hens scratch around.

There are so many little things which make me happy.
The honeysuckle is in its' second bloom
and a little tired-looking now,
the scent is still wonderful though.

This ugly/lovely passion flower is another one.
We planted it last year and it seems really happy,
we have had a summer of blooms 
and there are many more still to come.

I hope you have a happy weekend ahead of you.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Wuhan to Lindisfarne

This post is mainly for Ming Ming and Jonny's friends back in Shanghai.
Their official marriage ceremony took place 
on 14th February this year,
in Wuhan, China.
the first night of their honeymoon was spent at a castle, in Wales.
Alas, I haven't been given an exterior shot of the place,
but this is part of the vast bedroom suite.

I'm not quite sure that Ming Ming
was entirely comfortable under the gaze of those family portraits!

From here they moved on to Jonathan's favourite place,
The Lake District.

Ming Ming soon found out that good walking boots are a must.

No wonder this place attracts so many visitors.

After a couple of days spent soaking up the beauty of the place

they took a drive up to Scotland,
heading to the beautiful island of Lindisfarne,
also known as Holy Island.

A beautiful, mystical, place,
 a tidal island, accessible by a causeway
only at low tide.
It is a 'tombolo'
 part-time island.

The castle was built from stone
recycled from
the priory which was founded before the end of 634.

You can see the priory ruins to the left of the next photograph...
the castle is on the far right
between them
lie the village
 the harbour.

Better keep an eye on that handbag, Ming Ming,
Frankie will have it off you if she sees it's PINK
Francesca really loves pink. 

George and I stayed on Lindisfarne
more than 40 years ago.
It hasn't changed very much,
thank goodness.

George's parents also stayed on Lindisfarne,
on their honeymoon,
way back in the days before electricity
made it onto the island.

Just seeing these photographs has made me want to visit the island again.
I want to enjoy those views
feel the clean, cold, air.

This is a very early morning shot,
sunrise on Lindisfarne.

This photograph shows the other side of the castle,
the domestic side.

More of that later.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Teaching Grandpa!

Harry, now aged 6 years,  has always enjoyed harvest time.
He and Grandpa spend hours watching
the activity in
 'our' barley field.

Harry has a great imagination (so does Grandpa) so the big yellow machines
are turned into enormous dragons
which turn barley into gold.
The stories are embroidered until they became
almost as large as the machines.
Grandpa loves to tell the tales
as much as Harry loves to hear and embellish them.

(old photograph from last year and old blog - but it does show a little of her character)

One afternoon, a week or so ago, 
'our' field was being harvested.
Grandpa spied Francesca
and began to spin her a tale about the big yellow dragon in the field...

Francesca (two and a half years old)  listened, then very firmly said
"It's a combine, Grandpa".
George (65)  felt well and truly told.

I am gradually working through my reading list, catching up with your blogs.
I have missed so much in these last few months,
time stands still for no one.

Jonny and Ming Ming are now in London for a couple of days
spending time with our son Tim and his wife
before flying back to China.
I miss them already.

They were kind enough to let me have some of the photographs
of the beautiful places they visited on their honeymoon.
For the sake of their friends back in China
I'll post some of them tomorrow,
time permitting.

This is a large sheet of canvas
the pink blossom is a finger-print from most of the guests
who attended the reception.
I thought it was a lovely idea.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

A Mouse in the House and New Hens in the Coop

The last couple of months have been crazily busy, every minute of each day has been planned in detail as we tried to fit everything in.    

One of our most recent jobs has been clearing my late aunt's house.  It was an uncomfortable process as we sifted through drawers and cupboards, it felt invasive, but necessary.     Ninety-two years worth of detritus and treasures waiting to be packed in boxes, given to charity shops, dispersed amongst the family, or placed in our loft for further investigation as time permits.  

It felt as though we were packing away a life.    However,  discovering that she was a very different person in her youth from the ptarmigant she had become,  helped to turn a horrible process into something of an adventure - happier images replaced some of the more awful ones.  

I'll be sharing some of these discoveries with you in a future post.

Now the pressure is off and we can begin to enjoy normal life, ordinary things.   It does all feel a tad lazy - but wonderful.   We can enjoy the gardens again, take time to smell the flowers and enjoy having our grandchildren around and simply sit and watch the hens scratching around.

I can even laugh about how naughty little Sparky managed to bring a live mouse into the house - we still haven't found it - just as I was in the midst of all the food preparations for the wedding reception...

Three of our four rescue hens have fallen off their perch.   Finally, about ten days ago, we were left with just the one, Frankie.   She really didn't like being a singleton and went into a decline.    She perked up as soon as she was allowed through into the gardens and was given lots of extra attention.   She even attended the reception, strolling around as though she owned the place, accepting cake crumbs and kindly words.

We decided that as soon as things had calmed down we would get some more hens - company for her, plus the eggs would be useful.    I always go for second-hand animals, so many need rescuing from bad situations not of their making, but this time we decided to go for 'brand new' hens.   Pretty hens, chosen for their beauty.   Shallow of me, I know, but I will rescue some more girls from the pie factory next time!

Yesterday George and I set out to choose the new girls, I hated the process, but I am delighted with the beauty of my choices.    

Our remaining ex-battery hen, Frankie,  is a little bit cross.    I think she feels demoted and jealous.      All will settle in a few days as the new pecking order is established.

These two beauties are the temporarily-named Leonie (I'll be asking Ming Ming to decide on her real name when she comes back from honeymoon)  and Frankie II - Francesca chose to name 'her' hen after herself, it could be confusing given that we still have Frankie I, as well as Francesca herself.

The speckledy hen is called Mab, Frankie II is in the middle and the one at the back is beautiful Dusty.

They are all young, so it will be a few weeks before they begin to lay eggs.

This is the smallest of the flock, she is a White Star, Harry loves her and has named her 'Shaggy' - he adores watching Scooby Doo, Shaggy is his hero.

Then we have gorgeous Lucy, George's favourite, she is quite a character already, having escaped twice into the woodland.    

Frankie one is FURIOUS.    She continually tells us that she is not an ordinary hen and should not be penned up like one.   She keeps escaping, refuses to stay in the temporary run, won't even stay in the woodland.     

We have created a monster, all the extra time and TLC we lavished on her has gone to her little chicken head.

Here she is under one of the old apple trees, strutting her stuff and being very noisy about it. 

Monday, 11 August 2014

A Summer of Highs and Lows

It has been a summer of high temperatures and deep emotions.
Aunt Lilian passed away,
 it wasn't an easy death.
A great deal of what happened will never be told, 
the rest I shall put into another post. 
Suffice to say,  it was difficult
 and it has zapped a huge amount of our energy and emotions.

we had a joyous celebration to look forward to
and this kept us going during the difficult and emotionally draining times.

I think that I filled a notebook with all the lists I made to keep our plans on track,
even George took to list-making.
The lists grew,
even as we worked through them.
It was all worth it.

Jonny and Ming Ming were married on 14th February, in Shanghai.
It was a simple, formal ceremony,
despite the date.

We decided that there had to be a much bigger celebration when they came home.
So we planned a garden England ...always risky, given our climate.
Our beautiful day was sandwiched between two of the worst days of this summer.
Monsoon-style rains fell the day before the party,
flooding some areas
and the day following the party was not much better
with wind and rain and even a tornado hitting the coast a little further north.

The gods were smiling on the happy couple,
for we had sunshine and warm temperatures.

There was even another wedding celebration taking place just across at the fish ponds
(our village is tiny, so the chances of this happening were miniscule)
we got to enjoy all their fireworks.

It was a beautiful display,
perfectly timed for our guests!
Best of all, it was free....

Lucky red Chinese lanterns and pom poms were used to dress the car park and driveway,
the gardens and gazebos.
Everywhere looked very festive,
the hard work of grooming all the gardens,
primping them and making them presentable
was worth it.

My job was the catering ....  eeeeek!

I cooked and baked - an enormous ham, a gigantic salmon
vegetarian options,  assorted salads,
pies, quiches, breads
with a very special aged Lincolnshire Poacher cheese
(thank you Davina and Jon)
lots of puds
and plenty of

...four wedding cakes.
Red velvet for luck.
Vanilla because I love it, especially with blackcurrant running through the middle.
Lemon - yum!
... and then, the most popular one of all, chocolate orange, decorated with fresh berries.
This idea was stolen from dear friend Dom, of Belleau Kitchen.

Our guests were Jonny and Ming Ming's friends
plus many members of the Appleby family.

It was a large gathering,
no wonder I was having fits of the vapours over the catering.

Our dear friend Julia
gave the younger guests the opportunity to have their faces painted.
She was wonderful.
The girls opted for delicate flower and fairy designs,
while the boys were a little more extreme...

Ming Ming looked amazing.
She had opted to wear a traditional Chinese wedding outfit
and I am so glad that she did.
She kept the dress secret from us until the day.
It was worth the wait.

This exquisite cheongsam took a three women several weeks of intensive sewing.
The embroidery is incredibly beautiful
and the fastenings are entirely hand made.

Jonathan wore a Western suit, they made a very handsome couple.

Some friends who know Ming Ming and Jonathan from Shanghai made the effort to attend
and it was wonderful to hear them use their native Mandarin,
although both of them speak very good English.
Don't they look beautiful?

It was a opportunity for some beautiful dresses to have an airing...

...and also an opportunity for these three brothers to have a chat
and to catch up on things.

Later the happy couple changed out of their formal clothes.
They still looked gorgeous,
their happiness was contagious.
They have headed off on honeymoon and will visit three countries during their week away.
Castles are very much on Ming Ming's wish list,
so (although it will be a surprise to her)
they are staying in a castle in  Wales,
then they will visit The Lake District for a few days,
before heading over the border into Scotland
and then down
 to the beautiful island of Lindisfarne.

Before they do any of that, though,
they are heading over to visit my older brother
who is too ill to travel this far.
Ming Ming wants to show Steven and Shirley her beautiful dress
and to share a little of their happiness with them.

No wonder this blog has turned pink with all the romance.