Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Today the Mincemeat, Tomorrow the World!

First of all we have a rather pensive looking Bilbo Baggins. 'When she says mincemeat, does she mean me?!'

After a couple of weeks of muttering 'I must make the mincemeat' I have finally got it done. Above shows it after all the ingredients have been mixed together, then it stands all night for the flavours to combine followed by 3 hours in a very cool oven. It's left to go cold with regular stirring and finally 6 tablespoons of brandy go in and it is potted. This is the result.

And here are the jars with their little Christmas hats on, a couple will be given as small gifts.

During the week I had a real surprise when I looked at my e-mails, there was one from Peter Sommer who produced and directed the TV series Tales From the Green Valley. He had discovered and read my posts about the weekend I spent at the farm where it was filmed and wrote to say he'd enjoyed reading it. To say I was flattered is putting it mildly! He asked if I would post a link to his own site where you can read more about the actual series.

Dec 1st
While messing about trying to get this link to work I've managed to lose half of this, defeating even 'recover post'. Will try and put back what I can remember in the morning. It's just been that kind of day:(

Sunday Dec 3rd and retrieval day as far as I can manage it.

I was driving back fom the woods after walking Bilbo and turned the corner onto the top of the hill which leads down to my road. It was about 7.50am and the sun was just rising so I stopped and took this photo. The street lights were still on and it's quite a busy road at this time of day but, as the road faces due east and is quite a steep hill, the view of the sunrise is particularly good.

My oak tree taken from the bedroom window so that the canopy is more obvious - still full of leaves even at the end of November and now in it's beautiful autumn colours.

I've been meaning to introduce the 'Emperor of China' for a while, it's a hardy chrysanthemum which never flowers until late October/November and is usually battered flat by heavy rain and the wind largely because I usually forget to support it earlier in the year. This year it has been wonderful, I remembered the supports in time and the weather has been kind to it and even now it still looks pretty good.

Oh,thank goodness,I can go back to sleep.She doesn't mean me after all!

Saturday, November 18, 2006


I rather like the month of November, the hour goes back at the end of October and so darkness falls in the late afternoon and I can draw the curtains and light the lamps and create a feeling of peace and warmth. Dusk in the woods is really beautiful on the right sort of day - one which is bright and crisp bringing a vivid sunset - the black tracery of the tree branches against the sky is one of my favourite winter sights. Added to this is the raucus call of the rooks returning in their thousands to roost in the woods overnight, they come from all directions in large noisy flocks and the sight and sound is one I never tire of however often I see it. The whole performance goes on for a long time as they circle the roosting place, rising and falling and exchanging the day's news before finally settling for the night. I like crisp, cold, frosty mornings and equally well I enjoy the quiet,mysterious feel of a traditional English foggy November day. The weather this month in the UK is always interesting because you really have no idea what to expect - it can produce anything from balmy, springlike temperatures to heavy snow falls.

The woods in November can be very beautiful even on a grey day - the sort where you hear people say 'isn't it miserable?' - there is something about the quality of the grey afternoon light that makes the leaf colours positively glow, I've never been able to capture it with my camera but I've enjoyed seeing it.

November also heralds the approach of Christmas/Yule/Solstice and the beginnings of preparations for the holiday. Lists to be made of presents to buy, delicious things to be made and stored or frozen, cards to be bought and written - and at this stage there is no sense of panic or urgency, the holiday is still some weeks off and there is still plenty of time to do everything

Chocolate Crunch Christmas Pudding - not diet food! It's unbaked and is made of biscuit crumbs, dried and glace fruits,spices, chocolate and rum plus a few other bits and pieces. The recipe says to coat it in melted chocolate but that's a bit too rich even for my sweet tooth.

Melon and grapefruit in lime juice and sugar

Lemon cream pies, these will be decorated with sliced kiwi fruit on Christmas Eve.

I've always enjoyed the lead up to Christmas almost as much as the holiday itself and my children are all Christmas fans as well. Father Christmas continued coming to our house until my elder son was 16 and the younger one 14 - this was because they are several years older than their sister and as each one found out that the presents came from us - both were 11 before finally admitting to knowing this:) - I asked them to keep the secret so that Jules had all the pleasure and excitement that they had had. Both of them were great and kept up the pretence until Jules found out too, until then they never gave the slightest hint to her. None of them, even now, like to know what they are getting and this will be the first year they haven't had a stocking on Christmas morning. My mum did one for me until I got married and I've done the same thing. Each of them makes a very long list of things large and small that they would like to receive and then I choose from that. This way they don't know what is coming and I know they'll like what they get. Usually there are a couple of surprises too:) This is all part of November because I like my shopping to be done by the end of this month, I hate fighting my way through crowded shops and standing in long queues so I've always shopped early. This includes food shopping too, my organic turkey is delivered from a farm in Wiltshire a couple of days before Christmas, the greengrocer delivers all the fruit and vegetables, a lot of the rest of the food is made ahead and frozen, the milkman delivers cream and I do a major shop in early December for pretty well everything else. I fathomed this system out well over 25 years ago and the result is a pretty stress free Christmas Eve.
November is the month when I start spending a lot of time knitting, cross-stitching, poring over my family history, reading, writing letters - all pleasant activities for cold dark afternoons and evenings.

Ingredients for a pleasurable afternoon - clicking on the photo will enlarge it if you want a closer look. The cross-stitch is the beginnings of a tree ornament I'm stitching.

There is a definite difference to the way my body acts as soon as the light levels fall, it's harder to get up in the morning because instinct tells me it's too dark, I definitely slow down as well - I think I'm one of those kind of animals that is active if the weather is good but hibernates temporarily if it turns bad:) I don't get depressed or anything, it's just a natural slowing down in the rythmn of the year's turning and it's rather a pleasant thing, there's time to think and plan and remember.

Time in fact to stand and stare as in the words of this poem by the Welsh poet W H Davies :-

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Pot Pourri

This is just a little of this and a little of that - hence the title of pot pourri.
I don't have long as it's the AGM of my WI tonight but I thought I'd put up something a touch more cheerful than the weekend post. My friend L and I went to London on Saturday on our annual visit to Country Living Christmas Fair. We've been going there together for years and always make a real day out of it - travelling 1st class and having breakfast on the train. I have to say that these are not the most flattering of photos of either of us but there you go. They are all that's available:)

The picture at the top is of St Pancras Station which is a fantastic example of Victorian Gothic Architecture. Even though the interior is being moderniized the shell of the original station is retained as it is now a listed building. This is another view showing the Underground entrance and the steps leading up to what will be the main entrance to the station when the alterations are finished. At the moment it's a shambles and getting from St Pancras to King's Cross Underground- normally a couple of minutes - is now practically a five mile hike!

We only have to go one stop on the Underground to the Angel at Islington as the Christmas Fair is at the Business Design Centre. We had to queue to go in even though we already had tickets and while we waited I saw this wall of, I think, Russian vine which looked wonderful and slightly incongruous among all the hoardings and chimney pots.

As I said, we've been going to the Fair for years but this is the first time I've ever noticed the lovely stained glass panel inside the entrance hall nor did I realise that it had originally been the site of The Royal Agricultural Hall where Crufts dog show and the Motor Show were originally held.

These are some of the things I couldn't resist buying, first is a cinnamon scented
decoration which is destined for the kitchen at Yule.

I bought three of these mugs, this one is for me and there are two with different but similar pictures on which will be presents for Matt and Jules.

This is my new Christmas apron.

The throw was woven on the Isle of Mull in the natural colours of the fleeces and is destined for Neil and Cesca.

I love this pretty tealight holder

Last of all a cute little hat for Kaitlyn

I'm back from my WI meeting and guess who is now on the committee? And playing Snow White in a sketch for next month's Christmas do? Hmm, I wonder how I get myself into these things? I'm really quite a loner and not at all the stuff of which committee members are made and yet somehow I'm now on three!

Thursday, November 09, 2006


1918 - the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month when the guns finally fell silent ending the carnage that was World War 1.
Remembering all those who have given their lives for their country.


Harry Hindley Simpson 1879-1916
Ist Bn Lancashire Fusiliers

Great Uncle Harry
Fatally wounded in the hell that was The Somme. Died 20 August 1916

Double click on photo to read.


Harold Harrison 1911-1942
Royal Air Force

Uncle Harold
Died in the Far East and buried in the Jakarta War Cemetery, Indonesia - so far from home.

They shall not grow old
As we who are left grow old
Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We shall remember them

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bilbo Baggins - Explorer!

This is just a quick post,I have Kaitlyn here for the day and she is asleep now so I have a chance to do something. You forget how time consuming babies are! I uploaded the photographs last week after Bilbo and I had tried a new walk. There may be more from yesterday as well - depends on Kaitlyn!

This is the path up through the wood which is predominantly beech, It isn't much further from where I live than where I usually go so I can't think why we've never been here before. It was a glorious afternoon, warm and sunny - typical of this autumn.

It has been a particularly good year for fungus and this one caught my eye as we walked along.

This my name tree with the sun streaming through it highlighting the berries which are still thick on the branches even though the leaves are almost gone. She is Rowan - the Lady of the Mountains.

Almost at the top - this is one of the many little moorland streams with a bit of typical Derbyshire(and Yorkshire and Cheshire) dry stone wall. The whole scene was so pretty and fairy like that I couldn't resist photographing it.

When I got right to the top this is the sky that greeted me and I thought 'oh,oh!' All was well however and the clouds passed safely over.

This is from pretty much the same spot yesterday.

All the odd shaped balls of twigs on the silver birch which look like rather untidy bird's nests are witches' brooms - these are made by a parasitic fungus called Tephrina betulina.

One of my favourite sights in winter - the outline of bare treees against the skyline. Even better when seen against a vivid winter sunset.

Spot the dog!

I think this photo is really lovely - though I say it perhaps as shouldn't:)

Bilbo Baggins hopes that you enjoyed the walk as much as he did.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Frosty Morning

This morning was the first real frost we've had and everywhere looked so pretty. There's one point in our woodland walk where you can come out of the wood and loop round through a very rough meadow which isn't cultivated or cared for in any way. This is where I took the frost photographs because in the wood itself the frost hadn't penetrated through the leaf canopy which is still quite substantial.

I've never tried to take this kind of photo before and I haven't quite got the knack of showing the clearcut rime around the edges of the leaves.

This one is a bit better, it would be easier on leaves that have turned colour but everything is still green in the meadow.

This seedhead looked lovely but again the photo doesn'r really do it justice.

I really liked this willow branch because already you can see quite clearly the tightly furled buds of next spring's new leaves.

Back in the wood again it's a completely different picture, although it's only about 8am the sun is shining through the trees onto the warm brown carpet of leaves, it was still very cold though but with the blue skies and the crisp feel in the air it was a pleasure to be out. I did bring out my warm winter jacket today though. It's been a beautiful day from start to finish and hopefully tomorrow will be the same.

It seemed a good day to make an apple pie so here it is ready to go into the oven.

I did something I never normally do and brushed it with milk before baking it, I shan't do it again as it looks uneven and slightly burnt even though it wasn't. Normally they come out a nice golden brown. Lesson learned - stop trying to get fancy:)

There was leftover pastry so I got out a jar of last year's mincemeat which I need to use up - it's full of alcohol and actually improves with keeping so it isn't as horrendous as it sounds! So this is the first batch of mince pies which are for Steve and Hannah (of the broken wrist)- Steve has always loved them and they've been eating bought ones for at least 3 weeks so they might as well have some proper ones. Many years ago the teenage Steve quietly removed a jar of my homemade mincemeat and stashed it in one of his drawers along with a spoon and ate his way through it. I didn't know he'd done it until he told me about it a year or two back.:)
I'm away for the next couple of days staying with friends in Cheshire, we're going to see my god-daughter(their daughter)performing in HMS Pinafore. I've never seen any Gilbert and Sullivan before so I'm not sure whether I shall like it or not inside - outside I shall enjoy it immensely and applaud like mad.