Friday, September 30, 2011

Here and There: favourite childhood books

Books from my childhood, all well loved and well read. Four of them were passed down from my Mum, but the rest are mine. I loved them all.

Enid Blyton's Anytime Tales and Pixie Tales. Pixie Tales was the book I bought with my 50p book token, a prize from the libraries' Good Readers Club. I was invited to a special presentation where I had to go up on stage and collect it, I was the youngest child in my school ever to win a prize in this yearly competition, I would have been five or six. As I recall, it involved reading a lot of books, writing the occasional essay about them and being quizzed by the librarian about each book I read. I still have my orange 'Good Readers Club' badge. Enid Blyton's Fairy Tales type book are quite sinister, I remember being rather scared by them. I also loved her Famous Five books. I read many of them, but don't seem to have any now, though they could be in the loft. Probably I just read them so much they fell to pieces! I loved reading about the adventures of the Famous Five - Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog as they solved all sorts of crimes and mysteries. When the Young Philosopher was young, I bought him the entire set, and I think he read one before deciding he didn't like 'old fashioned books' and I gave them all away.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, of course. We read this at school when I was about eight, and I was just young enough to try my own wardrobe hopefully a couple of times... years later I acquired the whole set. I am not so keen on the films, but then I never am. They never live up to the book.

Four books of my mother's - Katherine at Feather Ghyll, the Little Countess, The Ruses of Ruby-Anne, The Daring of Daryl. All delightfully old fashioned when I read them in the seventies, and even more so now.

Downy Duckling, a rhyme and picture book from when I was very small. It was from my Uncle's work Christmas party, when all the workers' children were given a gift. I think he may have put me down as his daughter so that I wasn't left out. In fact, I know he did, as I was coached that I had to go up when they called out my first name with my Uncle's last one!

Tom's Midnight Garden. I adored this book, and still love the idea of a garden which only appears when the clock strikes thirteen. Wonderful!

The Secret Garden, I loved the tale of Alice and how she, Dickon and Colin slowly become friends and bring the garden back to life.

Little Women. Of course I wanted to be Jo.

Mary Jones and her Bible. An unusual choice this one, and I have not known anyone else who has read it except the girl who gave the book to me. It is the true story of a little girl in Wales who so wanted to be able to read the Bible she saved for six years and then in 1800,  at the age of 15 walked 25 miles to buy one. I wasn't brought up in the church, nor am I a believer now, but I was and remain very inspired by her dedication.

I also remember loving my Hamlyn Children's Illustrated Bible, which I know I still have somewhere, battered and with the front cover missing. It was a fifth birthday present from my aunt and uncle. The pictures were fantastic, I particularly loved the Plagues of Egypt.

And last but most definitely not least, my favourite book, What Katy Did. I identified with Katy, she was impulsive, impatient, always doing the wrong thing - but then an accident transforms her personality to something far more gentle and kind. I read What Katy Did endlessly - I remember once setting myself the target of reading it front to back thirteen consecutive times, and I did, and then many more times during my childhood. I recently downloaded it for Kindle - I didn't realise until looking for my old books today that it was on the bookshelf, rather than somewhere in the loft packed away.

I have always loved books. I love fiction as a means of finding out about other people and places, and as a means of escape. I love learning, so I have many non-fiction books too, on many different subjects. I have a 'to be read' bookcase, rather than a pile, and still I buy more. My book wishlist is as long as my arm. I've never been any different.

Here and There: Favorite Childhood Books

my beloved Trixie Belden series

One of the first books I remember loving and reading and re-reading was called "The Adventures of a Brownie".  I don't know where it came from and I've tried to find it again but it is difficult to find.  I did find an online version here, but the illustrations seem different than from my memory.  I think they were different because I remember Brownie looking tiny and not so very scary and the book had an old brown or green cover I cannot remember which and the cover was very thready.  This is the same version of the story though for I remember Brownie living in the coal cellar and I remember the cat and Dolly the cow.  I see the publish date was 1947, so I don't know how we came to have it, whether it was my mother's or picked up somewhere, perhaps I will see if she remembers, but always I remember it being one I would pick up and read over and over again.

That is the one I remember from the furthest back.  There are others though that I have loved enough to hunt down and collect.

There were two other books I also remember reading over and over again and strangely they were about dolls.  I never remember playing with dolls growing up, but somehow I took to these books.  There was a pink book that was illustrated by Edward Gorey (I loved the illustrations before I even was old enough to know how cool Edward Gorey was) and it was called Merry, Rose and Christmas Tree June and I remember Jane's Great Aunt wanting to show her off and going to the Doll-Arama that had all the fancy dolls and always remember the description and crazy picture of one's hair falling out.  In the end Jane fancies a plain old doll that doesn't "do" anything on an upper shelf behind forgotten Christmas ornaments.

The other book was from when I was a bit older and it was called Behind The Attic Wall and an unloved orphan goes to live with her Great-Aunts (again with the great Aunts) and hears voices beyond the wall where she discovers living dolls, a mystery, love, and imagination.  I actually bought this book for Emily to read a year ago.  She didn't seem to be as fond of it as I was, but it remains my favorite and I'm glad to have it to read again.

Most of all though the one that has stuck with me was the Trixie Belden mystery series.  Trixie Belden is the thing in my family.  We have all read them.  My mother and my Aunts read them.  They are huge fans, my mother recently bought my Aunt a Trixie Belden charm.  My sister, my cousins and I have all read them, and recently some of them were reissued in Canada and my mother got them for me and Emily has begun to read them.  I have some of the original editions boxed up, but they are so delicate it's hard to read them.  Trixie was basically a Nancy Drew type except she wasn't rich, she was a normal kid, a tomboy and lived in a normal home and had brothers and a wealthy neighbor who became her best friend Honey.  They solved all sorts of mysteries and I loved them like they were friends.  Even now I can read and re-read them.

There are a million that I can think of but these are the ones that stand out.  I wonder sometimes which are the books that will stand out for my children.  There is an over abundance of books in this house.  It will be interesting to see which ones they remember fondly enough to hold onto or find again when they have grown.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I loved your post about Alice and I'm glad you sent her my way to so I could experience her blog.  This post and having read about Alice's situation makes me think about us as individuals and the roads we must travel.  This young girl with all her honesty and bravery really moved me, that at such a young age she can speak so openly about her dreams and honestly about her terminal disease and what that means to her.

One of my favorite musicians, Xavier Rudd, uses the same word over and over in his songs and when he speaks, a word I've come to embrace.  He uses the word "journey" for life, saying on my journey.  I've heard it said about my journey or your journey or someone else's journey.  When you think about it that truly is what life is.

I see things a lot clearer when I accept that my life is a journey.  The word itself seems to indicate not knowing what is ahead on the path.  That you can guess and try to direct yourself but that you don't know what is coming up on the way.  The word journey to me represents that you can expect to encounter hardships along the way, and see those as obstacles to be overcome.  It also, at least to me, allows for the fact that I am going to make mistakes along the way and have to move back on track.

When I first started blogging three years ago, I was very sad and angry.  It was right when I was trying to pick up the pieces of my life after my divorce.  It was when I was trying to understand who I was and trying to acclimate to raising two children alone.  One day someone made a comment on that blog that said essentially that my life was not so hard compared to other single mothers out there and I should quit whining.  I never published that comment and it hurt me dearly.  I know that there are people out there that are suffering more than I am, I know there are people suffering less and I know that there are people suffering differently.  My thought was you don't know me, how can you judge me.

Everyone is on their own journey, Alice, you, me, the woman who posted on my blog three years ago.  Our lives are full of great beauty and great travails.  I think that is what brought me into blogging in the first place, the ability to see and document my journey and to be able to reflect back on it.

I will keep up with Alice, she is a dear soul to have come to know, and I will look into the bone marrow registry here in the States.  I wish Alice a beautiful journey and you too my friend.

Everyone has hopes and dreams.  Everyone has ups and downs.  When you are lucky you find a few kindred spirits along the way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Introducing Alice

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" - Mary Oliver

I spend quite a lot of time these days thinking what I would like to do with my life. I am lucky; I am 43 and have a wonderful son and a lovely husband, and have had many, many experiences and wonderful moments during those years. Sometimes I feel I haven't done much with my life, but I have: I have lived all 43 years of it so far. During the last few months I have been following the adventures of Alice Pyne, a wonderful young lady who doesn't have 43 years to enjoy. Alice has written a bucket list and people everywhere have been helping her to fulfil the dreams on her list. It has been wonderful to see this happen and to read Alice's posts about the things she has done. 
Someone even wrote a song: at the end of the video is a selection of the items on Alice's list, including the one that is at the very top of her list - to get everyone eligible to join the Bone Marrow Register. I think a very good thing to do in one's life would be to register, and just possibly save someone else's.

Monday, September 26, 2011

my weekend: in no particular order

Cocktails, tapas for the first time, wine, friends, conversation and laughs, everlasting peas still blooming by the gate, Bill Bailey and his lookalike, autumnal trees, quotes from my favourite film, religious debate, chocolate cake, a Sunday afternoon nap on the sofa, Spooks and a book I can't put down.

Weekend Upate: Harvest Festival

It's Sunday and Harvest Day.  
It was unseasonably warm and we welcomed Autumn in t-shirts. 
We brought home another member of the family, her name is Sally.
I'm reasonably exhausted and in bed right now, Sunday night at 9:00 p.m.
But wow we had some fun.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Here and There: my favourite place to think

Here's where I do most of my thinking, reading, internet surfing, writing.... I sit here, at one end of our sofa, often with a pile of books, lists and notebooks all around me, with the laptop in reach and a cup of rooibos tea at hand. Looking to my left I can see through the front window into our small front garden with its 90 year old evergreen hedge and the beautiful mallow, overgrown and tumbling over the fence. On the windowsill are my favourite Art Deco vases, a family heirloom. Under the window in her bed lies our labrador, Star, snuffling as she dreams. Rows and rows of books line the alcoves each side of the fireplace opposite. As the autumn days draw in I look forward to closing the curtains early, having the fire on and snuggling up with a blanket and a book or a favourite television programme. This afternoon I am watching a rerun of the House of Eliot, with a cup of tea and a piece of bread pudding. Soon I will have to leave my comfy chair and start this evening's meal, minced beef with onion, carrot, peas, some herbs, worcestershire sauce and a bit of this and that, served with mashed potatoes, my favourite, and I usually end up having bread and butter soaked in the gravy, guilty secret. At the moment I am wanting comforting, warming food that lends itself to these chilly darker evenings. Roast dinners with roast potatoes and yorkshire puddings, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, soup, butternut squash. I do realise potato featured three times in that list, I am rather fond of the humble spud.  

Egg and Mash - comfort food 

Potatoes, mashed with milk and butter until creamy
2 soft boiled eggs
Salt and pepper if you like (but that's a bit too grown up for me, this is nursery food)

Mash the eggs into the potatoes until there are smallish pieces of white throughout, and the yolks have mixed in with the potato. 

Light the fire, take a seat on the sofa with big squashy cushions around you, have a blanket across your knees for warmth. Eat from a bowl, with a spoon. 

Here and There: My Favorite Place To Think

(the leaves haven't changed yet, i took this last year)

This is the back part of my yard.  There is a patch of what I call "starry night moss" there off the right where sometimes I walk barefoot and sink my feet into like a lush natural carpet.  Sometimes when I am frustrated or need to work something out I settle in there with my thoughts or a journal.  This year there is a stack of wood directly behind where I was standing taking this photo and sometimes I put myself in time out there.  When I start to blow my temper at the girls I will march out and sit my behind on those logs, close my eyes and count to ten.  Then there is the back path.  You've heard me write about the "back path" on my blog.  It starts off to the right just inside the woods and loops up behind my grandmother's house next door.  Close enough to hear the girls but trees on either side.  I take the dog out there to walk in the morning and sometimes I just walk out there to meditate with the trees. 

When I was little I spent a lot of time with my grandparents.  They watched me while my mother worked when I was real young and I spent many summers and weekends there growing up.  When I was little that woods seemed to stretch on forever and it felt like you could really get lost in there.  My cousins and I would pull logs together and outline houses and sweep out all the leaves and make rooms and play house.  Now when I look out I can actually see the houses peeking through from the other side and it seems so much smaller.   Funny how your perspective changes.

I feel amazingly lucky to have this place.  I have always found myself at my worst moments reaching for the trees and feel lucky that I have so many beauties to surround myself with.  Something about their age, their strong roots and the way the wind whispers to them, makes me feel like they are wise and have an easy ear.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

changing seasons.

Hello my friend!  I hope you are mending.  I think of you and your last post and realize how strong in spirit you are. Much stronger than I am.  I hope you are getting your rest and enjoying quiet moments.

It is my turn to write about the coming of autumn.  Now I feel like it is real.  I always want to tell you what the temperature is and then realize we measure our weather in different ways!!  Just last week it still felt like summertime and I was running around in halter dresses, now we're easing into some chilly nights.  The rain seems to keep hanging around, getting a day or two with sunshine and then it's back.  The woods still smell of the mushrooms which seem to be the only ones enjoying the quantitites of rain we are getting.  I am fond of rain but even I am a bit tired of it at this point.

But we've had a couple nights with the windows open and had to find jackets in the morning.  Tonight we sat and we made a list of the things we wanted to do this autumn.  I posted my own list on my blog today. This is my favorite time of year.  I know that for a lot of people spring is their time for renewal and beginnings but  I always feel fall does that for me.

here are a few things of my favorite things:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

from the week: beauty everywhere

Debbie: Ms Spider spun her web across the doorway when I left the front door open for a while. I was reminded that there is beauty everywhere, even when the wheelie bins are in the background.   

Right Now: 9.21.11

Jennifer - Fall Is Coming

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Just words

No photograph today. I am very tired. A lovely weekend filled with driving on the coast and in the country, taking photographs, a vintage fair filled with all sorts of delights, a wonderful dinner with good friends, and I am exhausted. It seems there is always this pay off for having a good time. What am I to do, when the alternative is to stay at home and rest all the time? I rarely leave the house on weekdays as it is. I long for the weekends, when the Prof is home and we have the car and usually go out somewhere. I just hate that it often takes me half the week or more to recover.

I am in good spirits, I am not depressed, which is remarkable really as being able to do as little as I seem to be able to IS damn depressing. I try to take pleasure in little things - my coffee with cream in the mornings, reading, the flowers in the garden (the ones that survive with no care whatsoever as I haven't been able to do anything out there this year at all), time with friends - though each visit or outing has its payback.  The truth is, weekdays are boring. It's not that I don't go out to work - hell, I don't need a job to amuse myself. There are courses I could take (creative writing, photography, yoga, a degree?) places to go (museums, art galleries, parks, cafes to write), things to do at home (organising, decluttering, decorating, baking, gardening, writing) - but the truth is I can only manage to do a tiny bit of what I would like to. Some days I can do very little at all - those days are the worst, when holding my arms up long enough to brush my hair is difficult, and taking a shower and making a cup of tea and some toast is the most I manage all day. So mostly, weekdays find me at home and doing very little. Yet sometimes I get away with it. I spend a couple of hours walking around the shops, or go out somewhere with a friend, and the next day I feel fine! A miracle that has me smiling all day. Too often, though, the next day I wake up feeling dreadful and realise the payback was just deferred.

I am realising there are activities I find restful (reading, country drives in the car) and others which sap me. Writing and thinking both tire me, so I am left in a quandary. I enjoy writing, but it and the associated thinking and planning wear me out. On a bad day, brain fog and inability to concentrate mean it can take me hours to write a blog post. This isn't the post I started out to write today, but this is how I feel. I am so very tired. I feel like I need a long, long rest. The trouble is I almost always feel like that.

Monday, September 19, 2011

monday morning blues

the weekend was a full blast of homemaking tedium, multiple loads of laundry and an illusionist show thrown in for a bit of fun.  i can't believe it's monday morning already and i'm in work clothes with a bowl of oatmeal and fruit.  it's picture day at school today, so we are having hair drama.  happy monday!!

my weekend: from the passenger seat

Friday, September 16, 2011

Here and There: every handbag tells a story (or two)

I love this bag. Back in 2007 I went with my friend Gail to see the film Music and Lyrics and fell in love with Reese Witherspoon's bag. Just a few days later, Gail presented me with a very similar one that she had found. It has been my favourite bag ever since - it holds an enormous amount of stuff (even the pile above doesn't fill it) and it has a long shoulder strap, which I love. I don't like carrying my bag up under my arm.

My Oystercard, with photo of the Prof in the wallet - I have had that photo of him in there since we first started going out, in fact it was my first sighting of him - it's the photo he had on the website where we met.
Cath Kidston fan. I have been carrying it everywhere this summer, and I like it so much better than those little battery ones.
The Saturday Telegraph General Knowledge crossword, partially completed. The Prof and I have a tradition of doing the crossword together each week. One day maybe we will finish one.
My glasses case. Invariably the glasses are elsewhere, usually left in the bathroom when I put my contacts in each morning.
Scrunchie. I often wear my hair up or back in a ponytail around the house, or outside too it's windy.
Polos and cherry drops. The cherry drops are leftover from my last cinema trip, to see Super 8.
My detested mobile phone. I did not want a touchscreen but when my last phone gave up the ghost, there wasn't much choice. It has taken me months to learn how to use it properly and it has horrible predictive text that sends incomprehensible messages to people. Maybe one day I will learn how to disable that function. I am a Luddite, I know.
Three flyers for local events.
My wallet of swatches from my Colour Me Beautiful colour consultation. It makes such a difference when I wear the shades that suit me, but I don't often get around to buying clothes. I like having new things, but I really dislike shopping, especially malls.
My moisturiser, which is not supposed to be in there but in my make up case, which explains why I couldn't find it!
2 notebooks, one for shopping lists, one for general notes and ideas.
A pen which belonged to my Auntie.
L'Occitane Rose 4 Reines hand cream.
Heart shaped memory stick, present from the Prof.
Betty Boop mirror.
Concealer for the dark circles under my eyes.
Little diamante nail file which never stays in its case.
Two 20p pieces.
Three receipts.
My purse.
Camera case, usually with camera in it.
My little appointments diary, which I forget to write in, or if I remember, then I forget to check it. For some reason open on the last week of December.
Books. Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, and Crazy as Chocolate by Elisabeth Hyde. I carry at least one book everywhere I go.

Here And There: Pocketbooks and Handbags

Here we are our first comparative post.  Handbags, or pocketbooks as we call them.

Here is mine.  You see how big it is.  
I was surprised usually it is filled more with the girl's stuff as well but today it was all, all mine.  
(except the lollipop)

So here you go:

second wallet for discount and membership cards
ipod (dead) in case
four handkerchiefs from the movies
bottle of ibuprofen
dental floss
cell phone
the book i'm reading for lunchtime at work
3 pens, 3 markers, 1 highlighter
a paperclip
blue raspberry lollipop (K's)
Harry Potter movie ticket from 8/7/11
heart shaped shell from the beach
3 old grocery lists
school volunteer handbook
i.d. badge for work
tag my sister gave me last Christmas using as bookmark
a dime
Emily's notepad for writing grocery list on the go
orthodontist business card
5 store receipts
3 grocery coupons
1/2 pack chocolate peanut chews
this week's pay stub

Thursday, September 15, 2011

photo walk

Everyone keeps speaking of Autumn coming.  Your words the other day brought the season so vividly to my  mind.  It is mid-September, yet it still feels like summer here.  We are all still running about in summer clothes and it is hard to believe crisp weather is peeking around the corner.  I know that soon we will be walking out to see the first signs of frost on the ground.  Karelyn called me out to see the dew across the electric line and a spiderweb glistening this morning as she went to feed our rabbit.  It was a funny coincidence  considering we just read together last night the scene from Charlotte's Web where the first words appear written in fine silk across the doorway of Zuckerman's barn. 

I took a photo walk today after work to shoot some photos of the field across from our house.  I had to walk further down the road to be able to capture a shot with no electrical wires strung across the view.  I was disappointed the sun was still too high and the light too bright.  I did manage a couple of shots like the one above.  I've been taking so many photos lately of life inside the house.  It was nice to get out and walk for a bit with the camera even if the results were less than anticipated.  Sometimes I feel I need more intent with my photos, like I should be photographing something in particular, but more often than not I find I just like to document life, as it happens.  Today was a beautiful day.  Sunny and warm, perhaps one of the last few of it's kind, so why not go grab a piece of it.  So that is exactly what I did.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

That time of year

Autumn. Tiny red berries, carefully cupped in my four year old hand, running ahead on the long walk to school to pick them . Looking down on my hands in black fingerless gloves, wrapped around a mug of hot tomato soup at a bonfire party, the steam from the mug mingling with the fog of my breath. I lost those gloves at school and have had many pairs since, but never ones as warm or comfortable as the ones Nan made. Boys with  effigies of Guy Fawkes destined for the bonfire, chanting 'Penny for the Guy' hopefully outside the shops. Coming home from school with a free ticket to the firework display. Collecting leaves with my little boy and making a huge tree collage for the wall. Greatfields Park, wading through swathes of fallen leaves, crisp beneath my feet, and kicking them up in the air, flurries of russet and gold.  The one time I succeeded in catching a leaf as it fell from the tree, and making a wish. I wish I could remember if it came true.

This Autumn I am wishing  for country drives past beautiful golden, orange and red trees, my first walk through crisp leaves for years, shiny brown conkers on the ground and maybe one perfectly smooth one in my pocket. 'Helicopters' spinning down from sycamore trees. Fireworks, baked apples and hot soup. A toffee apple. Curtains closed early against the dark and chill, a warm fire, a blanket and hot chocolate with marshmallows. A new scarf on my knitting needles, and a pair of warm brushed cotton pyjamas. And before it gets too cold, planting some sweet pea seeds and bulbs in anticipation of the Spring.

Monday, September 12, 2011

it's good to be back

I planned to take photographs this weekend while we were out and about, but then there wasn't much out and about and when there was, the weather was bad or I was ill, grumpy or both. The best laid plans.... So here's a photograph taken a couple of weeks ago when I was in better mood and the sun was shining.

Hello, Jen. It's good to be back.

Weekend Update: Dressing Up Rooms

happy monday!

It seems strange to be writing words here again.  As always the weekend has gone by too fast, back to school and work today.  Sunday we finished cleaning up the girls rooms.  Karelyn got these really amazing decals for her walls.  Owls, birds, hedgehogs and leaves and flowers over all her walls.  A new lamp that matches.  She wants to put a sign on her door that says "Welcome to the Enchanted Forest".

So I'm hoping it brings her the peace she needs to start sleeping again in her own bed.  We've been struggling every night and most nights I've been putting her in with me because I'm too tired to fight it anymore.  She spent some time in there herself Sunday afternoon.  I snuck a shot of her watching Prince Caspian on her bed.   We are all slightly in love with Prince Caspian, but as she says "too young for you, too old for me".  She loves The Chronicles of Narnia almost as much as Harry Potter.  I'm re-reading them right now, only on book two, but she is in bed now (because I'm writing this Sunday night) with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe on at her bedside but closed so she can listen to it as she goes to sleep.  "Too scary"?  I asked, but she said, "No".

I guess we'll see.  Good to be back with you my friend.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

hello there!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

It's me Jennifer.  We had a delightful time with August Break, flooding these pages with our photos.  We are going to take a short break this week and update the look and content of the blog.  As we are growing and evolving so is this place.

Looking forward to coming back next Monday with more glimpses into our two worlds.