Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunshine And Shadows

It's been awhile since shadows have appeared.
The ground has been covered in white, for most of it's January days.
The sun shining brightly gives hope of Spring day's ahead, and affords us a little well-deserved warmth on our faces.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Winter Dreams

Lilliput Lane : Double Cottage.
click to enlarge

" The cottage homes of England/By thousands on her plains."
~ Felicia Hermans

Friday, January 28, 2011

Goosey, Goosey, Gander

Earlier in the week, as snow lay freshly-fallen on the ground, I introduced Wilbur, the antique goose decoy given to us by our daughter as a Christmas gift.
I felt sorry for Wilbur he looked lonely and needed a mate, and so I took on the mission of finding him one.

Arriving from almost 1700 miles away in Wyoming, Wilbur's mate arrived today.
None the worse for her flight and eager to show off her fine plumage, meet Henrietta.

Wilbur is one happy goose.

As nightfall fell we had an unexpected visit from an old friend, Opie the Opossum. Forever foraging the cat food bowl , and taking his usual "Possum" stance as I clicked away with the camera.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dulce Domum. "Sweet Home"

I seem to be in the midst of a hibernation, only roused on the days I need to meet my work obligation.
What is it about cold Winter days, that leave us wanting nothing more, than a cozy place to nest.
A place in front of the hearth, surrounded by teakettles singing on the hob, slippers warming by the fireside, and a portly cat purring at our side.
A time to daydream.

"What a ripping little house this is! Everything so handy! "

~Mole's house: Wind in the Willows

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Run Afowl

An antique Canadian goose decoy, a surprise gift from my daughter at Christmas.
Sadly no mate was available, we're hoping he'll attract one.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Mother Nature left her calling card once again yesterday evening.
Within an hour of the snow falling, the landscape was completely transformed, the sky silenced.
With temperatures predicted below the freezing mark, it's a day of pot-roast simmering and nesting.

Oh, what a goodly and a glorious show;
The stately trees have decked themselves with white,
And stand transfigured in a robe of light;
Wearing for each lost leaf a flake of snow.
~ Richard Wilton (1827–1903)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Legacy Continues

When one of my most favorite garden supply stores decided to close it's doors after almost thirty years of doing business, I was disappointed to say the least.
A weak economy was to blame.

Many of you may be familiar with Smith and Hawken, founded by Dave Smith and Paul Hawken in 1979 to provide gardeners with handcrafted tools from England.
Over the years, it became known as the gold standard in the industry.

While the original Smith & Hawken focused on high-end English gardening tools with a lifetime guarantee, later iterations of the company branched into outdoor living products such as furniture, fire pits, lighting, bird baths and garden decor.

Today, I welcomed an e-mail announcing that Target Stores have partnered with the Smith and Hawken brand, and will once again be carrying their line of products.
Quality crafted and timelessly designed garden supplies, they truly are essentials to any garden.

Now where did I put those Christmas gift cards ?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Parson's Retreat

click to enlarge

The Little Home

The little house is not too small
To shelter friends who come to call.
Though low the roof and small its space
It holds the Lord's abounding grace,
And every simple room may be
Endowed with happy memory.

The little house, severely plain,
A wealth of beauty may contain.
Within it those who dwell may find
High faith which makes for peace of mind,
And that sweet understanding which
Can make the poorest cottage rich.

The little house can hold all things
From which the soul's contentment springs.
'Tis not too small for love to grow,
For all the joys that mortals know,
For mirth and song and that delight
Which make the humblest dwelling bright.

Edgar A. Guest

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter Rain

The weather has warmed.
The rain has washed away any signs of lingering snow and ice.
The Robins are feeding on earthworms, the ground once again soft and wet.
A dark and cozy Winter day, to be savored.

" The best kind of rain, of course, is a cozy rain.
This is the kind the anonymous medieval poet makes me remember, the rain that falls on a day when you'd just as soon stay in bed a little longer, write letters or read a good book by the fire, take early tea with hot scones and jam and look out the streaked window with complacency. "

~Susan Allen Toth, England For All Seasons

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Queen And Country

On June 2 1953 upon the death of her father, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ceylon and Pakistan as well as taking on the role of Head of the Commonwealth.
She was 25 years of age.

The Coronation of Her Majesty was held in the Abbey Church of St. Peter, Westminster, London.

These commemorative cups and saucers were just a few of the souvenirs available in celebration of the occasion, they are displayed with pride in my dining room cabinet.
They are marked with the official potters stamp, allowing the firing of these pieces specifically for the event.

The official date of Queen Elizabeth's accession was November 1952, and is inscribed on the underside of the teacup.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mid-Winter Stroll

" The rapid nightfall of mid-December had quite beset the little villages they approached on soft feet over a first thin fall of powdery snow.
Little was visible but squares of a dusky orange-red on either side of the street, where the firelight or lamplight of each cottage overflowed through the casements into the dark world without.
Most of the low latticed windows were innocent of blinds, and moving from one to another, the lookers-in, so far from home themselves, watched a cat being stroked, a sleepy child picked up and huddled off to bed, or a tired man stretch and knock out his pipe on the end of a smouldering log."

Ratty and Mole, In The Village. ~ Wind in the Willows.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Spring and Winter

When icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp'd, and ways be foul
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
To-whit! To-who!—a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all aloud the wind doe blow,
And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian's nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
To-whit! To-who!—a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

Love's Labour's Lost, V.ii; written circa 1593~William Shakespeare

"blows his nail"—blows on his hands to warm them"
keel the pot"—cool the contents of the pot by stirring or pouring in something cold"
saw"—speech or sermon

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Snow Storm

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden's end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.

The Snow Storm ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, January 8, 2011

For The Love Of Bread

Hhmmm Hovis and Butter for Tea...
My grandma Elizabeth Jane (Cissy) for short, owned and operated a bakery and fine confectionery shop in my hometown of Warrington for thirty something years....
Her daily delights were the main staple of all the surrounding households, and filled the stomachs of most all the nearby factory laborers on their lunch breaks.

As a young girl my contribution to the final product was extremely important, as it was left to me, to be both caretaker and deliverer of the warm, just-baked, breads.
I do confess to oftentimes pinching little holes in the underside of the loaf, after all I was considered the 'quality control manager' :)
Customers received freshly-baked bread, just in time for evening tea, still warm from the oven, and I in turn enjoyed a little taste; a trade-off of sorts......

The "Hovis" brand wheat germ bread was by far the MOST popular, as it was considered superior to the traditional "white" loaf, in both taste and nutritional value alike.

A History Of Hovis

The roots of the Hovis brand date back to 1886 when Richard 'Stoney' Smith invented a way of retaining the wheatgerm in flour - 'Smith's Patent Germ Flour'.In 1890 a national competition was launched to find a more consumer-friendly name for the new flour. The winner was a London student, one Herbert Grime, who pocketed £25 for his suggestion of Hovis, a shortened form of the Latin, 'hominis vis', meaning 'strength of man' (the runner-up was 'Yum Yum'!); and so the first Hovis loaf was produced.

Hovis rapidly became synonymous with health and goodness, greatly helped by its innovative approach to marketing and advertising. At the turn of the century Hovis took advantage of the cycling boom, producing road maps showing where cyclists could get their tyres inflated free, where they could stay overnight and, of course, where they could buy sandwiches made with Hovis bread.

In the 1920's the green Hovis signs, with their 3-D gold lettering, became a familiar sight above bakery shop fronts and some still survive today.Hovis was one of the first companies to take advantage of television as an advertising medium in the 1950's, with Kenneth Connor and George Benson bringing the famous slogan 'Don't say brown, say Hovis' to TV screens.

Perhaps the most famous TV ad was produced in 1974 when the boy pushed his bread delivery bike up the hill to the familiar sound of Dvorak's New World Symphony.

Before playing video please turn off the PLAYLIST by scrolling all the way to the bottom of the sidebar and clicking the LARGE ROUND BUTTON.

The mid-1990's saw the 'Raised The Hovis Way' continuing the tradition of health and nutrition.In 1998 its new image was unveiled which, with its gold 3-D effect lettering, remained true to its long and successful heritage. In October 1999, the entire Hovis range was relaunched, unveiling new packaging designs across the range that included Hovis 'Slice Advice' on bread wrappers, bringing the nutritional benefits of bread to the attention of all consumers. These activities, combined with continuing to provide quality, great tasting products, have helped to ensure that Hovis remains the number one bread brand into the 21st century.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Winter Silence

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the
landscape - the loneliness of it - the dead feeling of winter.
Something waits beneath it - the whole story doesn't show."

~ Andrew Wyeth

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Soup's On

As with much of the nation we are experiencing a blast of cold wintry weather.
Snow today !
It's predicted for much of the coming week, with no more of the sixty degree weather we have been enjoying these past few days.
Such is the pleasure of living in the American South, one day wearing flip-flops, the next furry Ugg boots.

I've made a hearty fifteen bean soup today, chocked full of country ham, celery, onions, tomatoes, carrots, garlic, rosemary and chili spice.
Served with a slice of buttermilk cornbread, it's the ideal comfort food, on a Winter's day.
Come join us for a bowl.

We'll leave the light on for you !

If you feel like making your own pot, here's the original recipe.
I also add sausage meat ( of your choice)
Fresh Rosemary (1tablesoon) crushed
Two chicken stock cubes
Two sliced carrots
Two stalks of celery

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Ending of Yuletide

Tomorrow marks the end of the Yuletide tradition, twelve days of Christmas.

In England, the Christmas decorations are left in place until the 6th day of January, and since old habits are hard to break, the decorations around our house, are still in place.

The tradition is that all Christmas decorations should be removed on 6th January so as not to bring bad luck into the home. According to UK tradition, tree-spirits lived in the holly and ivy and this was brought into the house to keep them safe during the harsh winter days. Once the harsh weather of Christmas was over, the greenery had to be brought back outside to release the tree-spirits from their temporary imprisonment. Failure to do this would block growth and prevent the Spring from coming.

Today people in the UK still feel uneasy about leaving the Christmas Decorations up after Twelfth Night. Even though decorations are now made disposable materials, and the tree-spirits elevated position in the scheme of things has been long demoted, the tradition and superstition still survives.

At least according to Christian traditions, tonight is Twelfth Night and tomorrow, January 6th, is Twelfth Day, also known as Epiphany or Three Kings Day.
Many churches leave their decor up an extra day so that Epiphany can be celebrated on January 6th with the Three Wise Men being added to the manger scene on display.

Regardless, it seems as good a reason as any to pack up the tinsel and stockings and vacuum up the last of the pine needles, for yet another year.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Sad Loss

The BBC announced today, that British actor Pete Postlethwaite has died at the age of 64.
Born in my hometown of Warrington, Cheshire England, Pete portrayed many of the lives of ordinary working-class citizens, and starred in many popular films, including Lost for Words, Brassed Off, In the Name of the Father, naming just a few.

Postlethwaite was once described by director Steven Spielberg, whom he worked with in films including The Lost World: Jurassic Park, as "the best actor in the world".

RIP Pete, Job well done lad.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lost In Reverie

A New Year offers us the opportunity to start anew, and adopt healthier and better promises we so faithfully make to ourselves, but fall short of keeping.

I try not to make New Year's resolutions these days.
Just a more common-sense approach to eating better, making wiser choices, being more understanding and forgiving of my fellow man, and taking a little less from this planet we call "home" than I did the previous year.

In the throws of Winter, I find myself dreaming of Spring.
I feast my eyes upon the seed catalogues and books filled with timeless English gardens, brimming over with renewed life and promise.
I wish you much of the same....

A warm and cheery fire roars merrily
And shadows dance about the darkened room.
Beside the hearth a gardener sits and dreams
Of sunny days, of flowers in full bloom.

Some hollyhocks should tower near the fence,
Bright red. ones that the bees can't help but find.
The trellis at the gate again must wear
Blue morning glories, or the rosy kind.

To lend a bit of distance to the scene,
Close to the rear I'll plant in shades of blue:
The tall and stately larkspur, double ones
Of course I'll put in scabiosa, too.

I couldn't do without a pansy bed
­Snapdragons make such beautiful bouquets
Frilled zinnias and yellow marigolds
Add just the proper touch to autumn days.

The flowers grow and bloom with loveliness
Until a sound destroys the fantasy­
A burning ember falls and I must leave
My garden and my charming reverie.

~ Helen Bath Swanson