Monday, January 27, 2014

Tea Time

A Cup of Tea

When the world is all at odds
And the mind is all at sea
Then cease the useless tedium
And brew a cup of tea.

There is magic in its' fragrance,
There is solace in its' taste;
And then laden moments vanish
Somehow into space.

And the world becomes a lovely thing!
There's beauty as you'll see;
All because you briefly stopped
To brew a cup of tea.

(J. Jonker, Amsterdam, c.1670

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Feeding Times

The First Sergeant (hubby), has taken bird feeding to a whole new level.
He bores holes in Cedar logs and fills them with his suet concoctions.
Drawing flocks of songbirds to the Winter garden.

Woodpecker, Cardinal, Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Chickadee, Blue Jay, Towhee, Mockingbird, Goldfinch and many others return day after day to dine.

It makes for happy little birds


Oliver thinks it's all great fun. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Favorite Paintings


I have a love for old Victorian paintings, in particular paintings that depict scenes of children with their pets in playful settings.
The popular work of English artist Sir Arthur Elsley ( 1860-1952 ) being one of my most favorites.

All of his paintings feature children with animals, dogs, horses, kittens and puppies, and are true to life situations.

His works were so popular during his lifetime that many of his paintings were reproduced as prints, and were often used in calendars, advertisements, books and magazines.

Hard Pressed Time To Get Up

A Helping Hand

Wait A Minute

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A True English Rose

 In almost every English town or city there is at least one open-air or permanent market site.
Typically, stall-holders purveying everything from fine china, and linens, to fresh produce and a virtual plethora of food items.
In earlier times , the towns set aside one day for "Market Day" where buyers and sellers peddled their wares, very often incorporating livestock sales also.

The First Sergeant loved these markets, most every week, he would rummage around, and inevitably bring home a knick-knack or two.
It was at the Warrington Market where we first laid eyes on the Royal Albert, Old Country Roses china.
Exquisitely beautiful, so fine a bone china , one could hold it up to the light and see right through. A dinnerware so timeless, it has become the world's most recognized, and celebrated pattern.

Designed by Harold Holdcroft in 1962, Old Country Roses fine bone china dinnerware was inspired by a typical English country garden with flowers in bloom.
Even in the dead of winter, a cupboard filled with English roses, I can't help but smile....

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

For The Birds


As the temperatures dip throughout the Winter months, let's not forget our little feathered friends.
There are many species of birds who do not migrate for the Winter, but instead depend on the habitat they are most familiar with throughout the year, to survive.
During the Winter months the mortality rate of the bird population reaches dangerous levels when the temperature drops.
It is a fact, that a bird can use up roughly ten percent of it's body weight trying to keep warm, on a cold Winter's night.

One of the easiest things we can do, is to provide food and water, during the Winter months.
Hanging suet cakes, and bags of nuts and seeds from branches, are an ideal food source.
Bird feeders can be stocked with a mixture of seeds, and a bird feeding table can also be stocked with kitchen left overs including fats (from meats etc), potatoes, cheeses and pastries.

Homemade suet cakes are simple to make.
They can be made inexpensively, and in bulk quantity offer a wholesome and life sustaining treat for our feathered friends.

Homemade Suet Cakes.
Making homemade suet cakes is simply a matter of melting fat down to a pour-easy consistency, adding a few ingredients of your choosing, then pouring the mixture into a mold. The shape of the mold is determined by the type of suet feeder you'll use.

If you are using lard or shortening for homemade suet cakes, adding equal parts of crunchy peanut butter flour will help maintain correct consistency of regular suet cakes.
To this warm and pour-able mixture you could add rolled oats, bird seed, cornmeal, raisins, unsalted nuts and anything else you think the birds would enjoy.
Then, pour your warm suet 'soup' into the mold (a bread pan where you could slice off bits for your store bought suet feeder, cupcake tins that you could pierce with wire and hang from a tree, etc.)
Keep any unused portions in the freezer for up to two months.
Things You'll Need :Saucepan
lard or beef suet
quick oats
peanut butter (crunchy is better)
bread crumbs
container for mold
bird seed

Step 1Place 1 cup of lard and 1 cup of creamy peanut butter in a saucepan over very low heat. Stir until melted.
Step 2To the melted shortening mixture, add 3 cups plain cornmeal. Mix thoroughly.
Step 3
Here's the fun part...stir in any combination of the following: quick oats, raisins, chopped apple, bird seed, bread crumbs, or dried berries. Stir until combined.
Step 4Pour into a plastic container lined with aluminum foil. Place in the refrigerator to cool.
Step 5Once the suet is cooled and solid, slice into squares and place into your suet cage. Suet cages can be found with the bird feeders at most home centers.
Step 6
Store any remaining squares in the refrigerator.

If you prefer, you can roll out the mixture when cool enough to handle, and using cookie cutters cut into any shape you prefer. Insert a straw to make a hole, and add ribbon or jute string.
Hang from a tree branch.

Just like all other animals birds need water too. Provide a small shallow bowl, filled with gently warmed water. Check the bowl several times a day if possible, to ensure the water is not frozen.

If possible consider a small bird bath which will allow the birds to wash their wings: an important requirement in Winter as their wings become clogged with mud etc.making it difficult to fly.

Lastly, shelter.

Despite their ability to nest in trees and shrubs, providing a warm, draft-free bird house will provide them a safer, and warmer home in these cold months.

Stay warm, dear sweet little friends.....


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Winter Days

I'm beginning to get cabin fever.
Today the sun shone brightly  and warmed my face, it felt renewing.
I spent time cleaning the potting shed, and organizing the last boxes of Christmas decorations, all neatly tucked away for another year.

Wiping away winter dust.

Dried winter roses saved for wreath making.

"Winter is the time of promise because there is so little to do - or because you can now and then permit yourself the luxury of thinking so."

~Stanley Crawford


Friday, January 10, 2014

Flowers In Winter

click to enlarge

How strange to greet, this frosty morn,
In graceful counterfeit of flower,
These children of the meadows, born
Of sunshine and of showers!
How well the conscious wood retains
The pictures of its flower-sown home,
The lights and shades, the purple stains,
And golden hues of bloom!
It was a happy thought to bring
To the dark season's frost and rime
This painted memory of spring,
This dream of summertime.

Flowers In Winter ~ John Greenleaf Whittier (1807 - 1892)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Cat's Whiskers

Oliver is unimpressed by the Arctic Vortex kerfuffle, preferring instead to snoozing the winter days away.

He is however impressed, with his new Oliver-look-a-like Christmas ornament, bearing a remarkable likeness.


Isn't that so Oliver.........Oliver !

Monday, January 6, 2014

Winter Days

The recipe books are once again sitting snugly on their shelves, instead of being strewn about the kitchen counter tops.
It's a ritual I go through every holiday, drag out the recipe books, and yet make the same tried amd tested dishes as the year before.
Tradition prevails.

We're having a blast of Arctic weather blow through today, the coldest in many years.
It's a rare occasion when the temperatures drop into the single digits.
I'm leaving the tartan tablecloth in place for a little while longer, the colors warm and inviting, giving dull Winter days, a much needed splash of vibrancy.


The Christmas ornaments will be packed away in the morning, marking the end of Yuletide.
I tend to stick to old traditions of leaving the decorations in place for the twelve days of Christmas, just as my parents and grandparents did in England.

It's the perfect weather on a late blustery winter afternoon for indulging in lots of tea, and enjoying a shortbread biscuit or two.


"Come along inside... We'll see if tea and buns can make the world a better place."

~ Kenneth Grahame, "The Wind in the Willows"

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Wait Is Over

As if to soften the blow of a winter Artic-storm moving in later today, the most anticipated television event of the year is here! Downton Abbey Season 4 premieres Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, at 9pm ET. (check local listings).

Six months after Downton Abbey's great tragedy, Mary is mired in grief and the estate is engulfed in death taxes. As the family struggles to lift their financial and emotional woes, clashes arise, sparks fly, and it is up to the older generation to bring Mary back to life, and Robert to his senses – no easy task in either respect. Another departure leaves no tears in its wake, but rather opportunity for new faces – and drama, alliances, and sparks of an entirely different sort – below stairs.

Make yourself a nice pot of tea, finish off the Christmas cake, be sure to use the best china.
At least the cockles of your heart will be warmed.

Friday, January 3, 2014

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 smoked sausage ( of your choice)
Fresh Rosemary (1tablesoon) crushed
Two chicken stock cubes
Two sliced carrots
Two stalks of celery

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Wherever You Hang Your Hat

On being removed from his Christmas-paper squat, Oliver promptly declared he had found a much cozier, albeit smaller, place to call home.