Saturday, 31 December 2011

On the last day of the year...my garden in December

Last year at this time, the garden had been covered in a thick layer of snow and ice for over a week....how different this December has been!




Gorgeous Christmas roses...I love hellebores!

But I didn't expect to have real roses left, as well...I'll be pruning in a few weeks!


Green leaves and life everywhere...euphorbia..

strawberry plants!

Even the hydrangeas are beginning to show their new green growth...

and the evergreens are not the only colour in the garden - but appreciated all the same!


Strange but glorious to have this reprieve from the bite of Winter...which I have no doubt will arrive soon.

The happiest of New Years to you...2012 will be full of excitement and magic, I'm sure. Enjoy the celebrations, as we will. See you next year...and thanks so much for reading! xo

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Christmas Past...

All was calm, all was bright...mostly! This was our Christmas table at the farm, in one of my favourite rooms (it's also one of the oldest...1600's)...we arrived on Christmas Eve, laden with food & presents and added our parcels to the pile that already threatened to engulf the tree..
In the morning, I crept into the room that my youngest sister & her husband were sharing with my youngest nephew, Will - he's 3 1/2 which is the perfect age for magic! He was also too young to wake up very early...a real bonus as we all got to sleep in until 8am! It was so wonderful to watch him opening his stocking...and sneaking a crafty chocolate coin or two which he insisted were his breakfast!
 The day progressed in a scramble of wrapping paper & odd food eaten at inappropriate times...I was in charge of cooking the dinner and had half an hour of pure peace when everyone went out to walk various dogs and I was left at home with a roaring fire...

& pans of spiced red cabbage and butternut squash barley risotto gently bubbling away. We never have a turkey at Christmas (or, indeed, ever!) so nothing was tied up in the oven for hours. This year it was a rib of beef...just an hour of roasting, alongside the potatoes & parsnips, a few steamed brussels sprouts and all was ready...Mum lit the candles...

and we all sat down to eat (after pulling the crackers and wearing the obligatory paper crowns of course...!) I can't remember my cracker joke, but my favourite joke of the holiday was this one:Q- What cheese can you hide a horse in? A: Mascarpone! You really have to say it out loud. I loved it!
We stayed up far too late eating far too many chocolates, dates & candied fruits while watching the Downton Abbey Christmas special (very lovely & satisfying is all I will say in case you haven't seen it yet) and eventually went to bed very full but very happy.

Boxing Day was another late-ish start...Paul had brough locally smoked kippers for everyone's breakfast (except mine - I had porridge!) which taste delicious but make the house smell of fish for hours. Dad's way around this is to cook them on the barbecue - genius! Luckily it was a mild day...and so, with William's help, the barbecue was lit and the kippers grilled...
and it was the perfect meal.
Paul & Alice and I left in the late afternoon after watching 'The Sound of Music' for the millionth time...and it was all over again. Or almost.
For me, the thing to do at Christmas is nothing out of the ordinary. I love to spend those few days in a loving bubble of family, tradition and comfort. My favourite memories are always very simple things...the endless rounds of tea-making, the frenzied unwrapping and cries of 'oh thanks so much!!' and, above all, the shared tasks...the peeling, the chopping, the tasting, the washing up...

surrounded by some of those that I love most in the world.
Who could ask for more than that?

I hope that you had a magical time too...and the New Year beckons, with all it's excitement and potential...but I'm going to hold on to the last few days of 2011 for as long as I can!

With love xo

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

O Christmas Tree....& other stories

This is a Christmas Bilby! One of the many tree decorations that I've been sent over the years from Australia. I always admire those trees that are decorated elegantly & stylishly...little white lights, bows, co-ordinating baubles...but I could never, ever have one myself! I love the chaos and colour of an 'everything but the kitchen sink tree'!
A tropical fish, chosen by my nephew Alfie hangs alongside...
the bright little New England cardinal from dear friend Susan!
Christmas trees seem to be a little like sunsets - photographs never quite do justice to their beauty! But I'll try...


I picked both of these up on trips to Salzburg...the little wax St Nicholas was found over 22 years ago, on my first journey there...


I have to mix coloured lights in with the white...and tiny mirrors & crystals help to spread the beauty around...

Alice always seems to make an appearance (courtesy of Cath Kidston!)

So there's our little, messy, happy tree! I'm also thrilled that I managed to make my own door wreath this year...

I dried my own orange slices - there are cranberries there too, and ivy from our garden...

and another present from Sue & Joe, a mobile from the Boston Art Museum, hangs over the stairwell. I'll light candles and add some holly & flowers around the house towards the end of the week. But it's a start!

A few days ago, I went with a friend to help to choose her wedding dress. Of course, it's all a big surprise so I can't post any details. But it was the first time I've ever been in a real wedding dress shop! Both my own dresses were bought 'off the peg', so I never had a reason to. I must admit, that there's something magical about these places! I defy any woman not to feel a little bit fairytale when surrounded by hundreds of gorgeous princess dresses in tulle, satin & net. I was desperate to try one on...it reminded me of the episode of 'Friends' when the three girls sit around their apartment dressed as brides because it makes them feel so beautiful! I didn't actually try one on...but I was a little bit starry eyed all the same!

I hope your run up to Christmas is going well...I am quite snowed under. Looking forward to the calm and peace of Christmas Eve, when the madness will end and the magic can begin! Only 5 more sleeps....! xoxo

Friday, 9 December 2011

Memories of Martha's....& What It's Like

As many of you will know, we recently went away for a week to celebrate our first proper American Thanksgiving with our darling friends Susan & Joe in their gorgeous home on the little island of Martha's Vineyard. Most of you will already know and love much about Susan Branch, who is an amazing author and artist. If you don't already follow her blog, then I'd urge you to hurry straight there (don't pass GO, don't collect £200....!) Just click HERE for the magic to unfold (but finish reading first, please...you'll be gone a LONG time when you start reading her posts!)

There isn't much that I can add to what she's already written about our time there...so I thought I'd just treat you to some images of our visit....in no particular order and fairly random...but all radiating, I hope, the peaceful, fun, glowing, food-filled, hilarious, restful, joyful days we spent in the company of these generous and wonderful people...
























It was very hard to leave, and I'm sure that you can see why! We are already planning our next meeting - the four of us may have been separated at birth, we think!

So, the next few weeks will be filled with more joy and celebration...I'm so looking forwad to the holidays and to posting about our version of them! Lots of happiness to come, but first a little poignancy. I was so touched by your comments on my last post, about the anniversary of my beloved Mozart's death. He and his music mean so much to me...are a huge part of my life...and I am happy that you listened to and enjoyed the piece so much, whether it was new to you or not. I decided that music is a brilliant way to convey my emotions to you, when they are particularly powerful. So in that spirit, here is more!

You will all know what my sister Esther means to me...and it's so very hard to be apart always but particularly at this time of year when everyone is making plans to be together over the Christmas holiday. It's her birthday this weekend too...so especially difficult. This piece of music - from a singer I adore - sums it all up for me (it's also very beautiful in it's own right)...


I'm sure that it will resonate with every one of you in some way, and I really hope you enjoy it.
I'm dedicating it to Esther this weekend....with all my love, always...


xo