Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Here and There: Favorite Christmas Songs

When we're talking Christmas, and the background for wrapping or cookie baking or decorating the Christmas tree, for me it doesn't get much better than Nat King Cole singing The Christmas Song.

But like you I have a fondness for Christian hymns and sweet songs.  My favorite being this one.  I love Enya's voice as well, it lends itself well to Christmas hymns.

My other favorite is "Silent Night", again another beautiful voice.  I grew up in the Episcopal church, going to midnight services on Christmas Eve.  My favorite moment was at the end of the service when the organ quit playing, the lights were lowered and it was just the voices of the people inside the church singing this song as midnight came.  It brings tears to my eyes even now when I think of it, such a feeling of peace.

Then there's The Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker.  This I think will be the first year I haven't taken the girls to see it. I almost tried to get it to watch on video but figured it wouldn't be as great as seeing the live ballet. The first time I took Emily to see it at about age four or five, she sat on my Dad's lap and said "oooooh, she's beautiful" so loud when the Sugar Plum Fairy danced out that everyone around us got a chuckle.

And I cannot forget my favorite singer. The little hippie in me cannot resist the lovely ending to this classic, listen through...

And last but not least, bet you didn't know there's Harry Potter Christmas music?  Oh yes, this Harry Potter freak of course owns Jingle Spells.

How about that?

You were right, there were way too many to narrow down!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Here and there: favourite Christmas songs

Jennifer, what a topic to suggest for our here and there post this week!  Don't you know I love ALL Christmas music? I have a big pile of Christmas CDs, and I have started on them already this year. Here are my two favourite feel-good Christmas songs. They were both released in 1973 when I was five years old and have accompanied all my Christmases ever since.

Christmas has a strange effect on me. I am not a Christian, but I think years of the Christmas Story and carols during my childhood have embedded themselves in my psyche and I just love the whole thing. I am hoping to get to a carol service this year, I love singing Christmas carols. This is one of my favourites.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Weekend Update: Whole Lot of Nothing

Thanksgiving is over.  That quick.  I posted a bunch of photos on Under The BIG blue Sky yesterday.  So far this weekend we've done nothing.  I had all these promising plans for my vacation and today is the last day and I've gotten virtually none of it done.  I don't care.  It's been nice to just be.  Sunday we started a Harry Potter marathon, we only made it through movie four.  I sorted magazine clippings of recipes and we had a nice dinner.   I went to bed contented.

One more day off and then back to work.  I almost feel as if I should rebel and just hole myself up and become a homemaker.  Oh if only we didn't need money to live!

From the weekend: autumn light

It was a gorgeous day on Sunday, so we went out for drive in the Essex countryside. The light had a lovely quality to it and we were just saying so, and wasn't it a shame there was nowhere we could park, when we got stuck in a serendipitous traffic jam for ten minutes or so and I was able to take these pictures from the car.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Just Now: Friday Morning, Slumped In Chair

Just Now...

Current time: 9:49 a.m.

In my glass:  cuppa tea, third one this morning

In my belly:  blueberry bread pudding, we have a tradition of having dessert for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving.

In my ears:  Nat King Cole singing "Silent Night", the Christmas songs played all day the last two days while i've cooked.

Out the window: sunshine and soggy earth

On the editor: a few photos from yesterday, not too much time to take many.

Last watched:  The Peanuts Thanksgiving special, I was dying waiting for it to go off so that we could go to bed.

Feeling good about:  this is the first year that I had Thanksgiving dinner all ready to go at once. i've always been horrible at timing so many things.  i'm thanking for being off work the day before and cooking and prepping the turkey on Wednesday!!  that and everything stacked up covered in aluminum foil on the stove to stay warm.  i found my love of cooking again because i actually had the time to take and concentrate on it with no other distractions.

Feeling bad about: neglecting my yoga practice this week and definitely feeling it.

By my bedside:  the new Artful Blogging, I have four issues I'm getting ready to cut up and make photo collages with for my wall.

Making me think:  why do we spend two days prepping for a meal that lasts twenty minutes and then you're back in the kitchen washing dishes???

Just Now: Friday morning

Just Now...

Current time: 7.20 am

In my mug: coffee

In my belly: nothing yet, McDonald's breakfast in an hour or so, with a big coffee to last me the one and half hour journey

In my ears: silence except for the various noises of central heating, th dog clamouring for her breakfast (no barking, but much thumping of tail) and the Prof getting ready upstairs

Out the window: dark and raining

On the editor: photos from last Sunday in Brighton 

Last watched:  a documentary about he brilliant autistic artist Stephen Wiltshire

Feeling good about: the Prof having a day off work 

Feeling bad about: having to go shopping, ugh. Tempered a little by the fact that it is in Canterbury, one of our favourite places and we are planning a nice lunch while we are there

By my bedside: a novel I picked up at the library that I can't get into and can't even remember the name of

Making me think: As always my mind is all over the place, that monkey mind you talk about, though I have always thought of it more like a grasshopper. I am trying to focus on one thing at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thursday Inspiration: Gratitude

I thought since it was Thanksgiving here and since we've been exploring gratitude, I'd share this beautiful video today.
I am grateful for you, friend.
I hope it brings you peaceful thoughts.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Here And There: Grateful

I'm stressed out over Thanksgiving dinner which I say every year I'm not going to be, but it's a big meal.  A huge meal to make for one evening.  Luckily I am on vacation and today I will cook the turkey the day before to free up the oven for the big day.  Here is our Thanksgiving menu:

Roast Turkey and Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Stuffing or perhaps Dressing?
Roast Carrots, Leeks and Mushrooms
Green Beans with Dill
Fresh Cranberry-Pomegranate Sauce
Pumpkin Pie
Bread Pudding

Wish I could send you a slice of pumpkin pie, it is my favorite part!!


Tomorrow we will be writing down five things each we are grateful and putting them in a jar and then will try to guess who wrote each one.  

In preparation here is a list of things I am grateful for right now

A warm home.
The sounds of the birds migrating.
The way the trees looked in the fog this morning.
Christmas Carols playing in the background.
The lady who let me use her discount card at the grocery when I forgot mine.
Having my family so close to me.
Having my Christmas shopping 3/4 of the way done.
Vacation, vacation, vacation
Little girls outside splashing in puddles.
A friend a country away emailing me a last minute recipe.
Having a gaggle of good friends including you!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Here and There: Thankful

image from here

Many years ago I watched an Oprah show when someone was talking about gratitude journals. Write down something you are grateful for every day. What a great idea! I thought, and never started one. Keeping up with anything on a regular basis is not one of my superpowers, but the idea has always stayed with me. I may not write them down often, but I have made a habit of looking for those positive things. I find that there is almost always something good that I can take from a situation, if I look properly. I am writing this on Monday evening and I don't feel too good. I have overdone things recently, including a long day Christmas shopping last week and a wonderful day on Sunday with friends, which I arrived home from tired, shivery, my bones aching and unable to get warm for several hours. This morning I woke up foggy headed, eyes aching, very tired. Even on that kind of day there are things I am thankful for.

I am thankful I have the luxury of not having to go out to work and was able to rest all day today
I am thankful for my lovely fluffy warm dressing gown
I am grateful for central heating
I am thankful for my lovely husband, who put up with the car heating and then the central heating being on full blast for hours in an effort to warm me up
I am thankful for cups of tea
I am thankful for books. Always for books
I am thankful for the internet, the online course where we met and for this space where we share little bits of ourselves and our lives

I wish you, the girls and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Weekend Update: Holiday Preparations

Fall has come and about all the leaves are gone, blown to the ground.  It's been alternating between balmy and frigid temperatures in a completely odd way we are not used to.  The leaves we put on the windows are a nice reminder and look at the extra benefit I didn't know we would get.  This weekend I noticed when the sun comes out I get these beautiful shadows on my curtains.  We are getting ready for Thanksgiving this week, so I hope these at least stay put. My sister and I are preparing to go do the shopping for our big dinner on Thursday and the girls and I are cutting out some paper leaves for everyone to write what they are thankful for to collect from the family.  Lots of preparations underway, dare I say, even got my Christmas cards and a handful of gifts done this past weekend as well.

from the weekend: Sunday afternoon on Brighton beach

photos by the Prof

On Saturday the Prof went Christmas shopping for my presents, so I was home alone again. In the evening though we went over to see my Mum as it was her birthday, and had a Chinese takeaway for dinner. On Sunday we visited Sara in Brighton. It was lovely to see her again, and to meet her husband and daughter. Sara made us a lovely lunch and then we went for a walk to the seafront, and along the beach a little way. I left my camera behind, but the Prof got these shots with his new iphone. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Just Now: Thursday evening

Just Now...

Current time: 6.45pm 

In my mug: coke

In my belly: fish and chips

In my ears: this week I have been listening to Christmas music all the time. I'm feeling festive already. November is a bit early for me usually, but it's probably because I am ahead with things for once

Out the window: dark and chilly, though not as cold as it has been this week. Lately I am finding it's hardly worth hanging washing out on the line, it hangs out there all day and feels nearly as wet when it comes in as it was when it went out! 

On the editor: absolutely nothing. I am taking so few photos these days, probably because I don't want to hang around outside very long!

Last watched:  White Oleander, while I was doing the ironing yesterday. I recorded it when it was on television a while back.

Feeling good about: A nice day out shopping with my Mum today. Partially successful, as I got a few Christmas presents, but I couldn't find a coat for myself, which was my main reason for going. I did treat myself to a top, cardigan, two wraps and a satchel though. 

Feeling bad about: not dealing with my paperwork

By my bedside:  the engagement cow, the three books I am reading, bedside lamp, coaster with 'Mum' on it, glass of water. And next to the bedside table--bedroom slippers (no more flip flops or bare feet, brrr!) and a basket of re-enactment kit that needs to be taken up into the loft.  

Making me think: how much I have managed to do lately, despite the odd exhausted afternoon/day. Slightly worried I might be overdoing it and headed for a setback, but so far so good

just now: thursday, tucked into bed

Just Now...

Current time: 8:46 p.m.

In my glass:  no drinks tonight, finding it better not to drink too much before bed, if i hope to sleep all night ;-)

In my belly:  dinner my Aunt Pat cooked, she has taken up post at my grandparents for the next week

In my ears:  lying in bed with Karelyn listening to "Too Much Noise" a song story by Heather Forest
Out the window: starshine

On the editor: more photos from last weekend.  can you believe this rose was still blooming in my grandmother's back garden this week?

Last watched:  Simon's Cat with the girls, always good for a chuckle

Feeling good about:  watching my girls listen to the stories my aunts have been telling with commentary from my grandparents about growing up

Feeling bad about: not much this week.  it's been a good one.  hectic, but happy. perhaps as always wishing for more time

By my bedside:  this month's Yoga Journal

Making me think:  thinking about joining in River of Stones in January?  hmmm, what do you think?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday Inspiration

This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where I ask
my friends to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love

There is no house
like the house of belonging.

- David Whyte

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Here and There: What I'm Reading

I haven't been able to get into a good book for awhile now.  I've been reading The Rhythm of Family by Amanda and Stephen Soule at the beginning of each month as they move chapter by chapter.  And I just finished snippets of The Essential Dalai Lama, but nothing has really grabbed my attention lately, or rather there hasn't been enough of my attention to grab onto a book.

I did however see this book at my mother's house two weekends ago and was fascinated by it as I am fascinated by trees.  I will stop at the library on my way home tomorrow and pick it up.  It's called The Wild Trees:  A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston and it's about climbing the great Redwoods in California that are thousands of years old and stand over thirty-five stories above the ground.  It's about the thrills and fears of climbing and the discovery of the actual other trees, plants and animals that have previously lived high in the canopies of these trees undiscovered.  So with vacation coming up next week I am hoping to be able to plop down and actually get some good tree reading in.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Here and There: What I'm Reading

I am often reading several books at one time, but only usually one fiction book. At the moment it is The Time of my Life by Cecelia Aherne. It's not the sort of book I would have picked out for myself, I don't usually choose funny books, but it is this month's choice for our Women's Institute Book group, which I have decided to join. I am surprised to find I am actually quite enjoying it.  It's about a woman, Lucy, who finds an envelope on her doormat one day inviting her to an appointment with her Life, as she's been ignoring it and it and the situation needs to be addressed. A  strange premise, and a book I didn't warm to at all for the first few chapters - but a little further in I am rather enjoying it. 

I am also still reading a little each day (or more realistically, when I remember!) of Simple Abundance and Romancing the Ordinary. I love Sarah Ban Breathnach's writing, and it is a lovely start or end to the day to read a chapter of one or both. It is packed with wisdom, inspiration and quotes, including this one:

"All you need is deep within you waiting to unfold and reveal itself.
All you have to do is be still and take the time to seek 
for what is within, and you will surely find it." 
- Eileen Caddy

Monday, November 14, 2011

From the weekend

This Sunday we told ourselves we would spend the day decluttering and organising, in particular finding a home for all the Christmas presents I have already been buying in my efforts to get ahead, which are currently piled against my wardrobe door and getting in my way. We had a bit of a lie in, and by the time we were up, showered and ready to start, we looked out the window at the sunshine and decided not to waste such a lovely day. 

We decided to head out to a place I had read about on Mimi's blog, The Secret Garden Cafe in Writtle Road Nursery, Chelmsford. It took half an hour or so to get past the traffic and out on the motorway, but once we had done that it was a lovely half an hour's drive. The trees were all the gorgeous shades of Autumn, the grass in the fields was a very deep green and the sun shone on, despite the wreaths of mist across the fields. 

The nursery itself was arranged in a higgledy piggledy fashion, with pathways and pots of plants and statues all around, and pumpkins everywhere. We didn't linger long outside in the chilly air, I hope to explore more when the weather is warmer. There were two chickens that had taken up residence on a plant pot, there was even an egg in there! We enjoyed half an hour browsing in the shop, there were lots of Christmas decorations and country style items, I bought some beads and other bits and pieces for a project I have in mind. The tearoom was an absolute treasure, everything cooked from scratch and a pot of tea that held about three cups each, and covered with a delightful knitted tea cosy. That's what I call a proper pot of tea. The Prof had lasagne with garlic bread and salad, and I chose vegetable soup which came in a hollowed out loaf of bread. For dessert we both had apple and raspberry crumble with custard, which was delicious. A perfect Sunday afternoon.

weekend update: lots of leaves

Friday, November 11, 2011

just now: friday morning

Just Now...

Current time: 10:33 a.m.

In my glass:  cup of tea

In my belly: warm piece of cornbread with butter (breakfast tea & cornbread)

In my ears:  my Pandora Folk Holidays radio station, starting to get excited.  The Stockford Carol by Loreena McKennitt is playing right now, which reminds me you had Loreena McKennitt on here the other week.

Out the window: sunny but FRIGID, blustery day.  our weather seems to change on a whim these days.

On the editor: photos from last Sunday at Mom's

Last watched: this Harry Potter clip, which or course made me bawl like a baby.  I am unashamed of my geeked out obsession with these books and movies.  The last movie comes out on DVD today.  We are planning a movie marathon for vacation at Thanksgiving, all eight movies in a row.

Feeling good about:  my grandmother acing her surgery, and seeing all my family around. having lunch with a best friend this afternoon.  a friday off.

Feeling bad about:  the increase in crime and drug use in my little area of the world.

By my bedside:  The Essential Dalai Lama: His Important Teachings and my portable DVD player that I've been watching in bed at night.

Making me think:  how much yoga practice makes me feel better about everything.  thinking about a way to study and practice more seriously in the coming year.

Just Now: Friday morning

Just Now...

Current time: 11.50am 

In my mug: coffee 

In my belly: Cheerios, blueberries and milk

In my ears: Nothing so far today except the sound of the washing machine. This week I have been listening to Abba (good housework music!) and Jethro Tull's Christmas album

Out the window: grey, gloomy and cold. I am very glad I don't have to go out today

On the editor: wedding photos that I am editing for Christmas presents

Last watched:  a quite disturbing but thought-provoking true story about a woman who befriended a mass murderer 

Feeling good about: the weekend. Looking forward to a visit to a handmade fair and Farmer's market, and taking some of my recent decluttered objects to their new homes 

Feeling bad about: nothing really, unless you count that I forgot to take anything out of the freezer for dinner so goodness knows what I will feed everyone tonight...

By my bedside:  Simple Abundance and Romancing the Ordinary, still reading a little each day. No fiction book last night, I was so tired I didn't take a book to read in bed, unusual for me

Making me think: today's date, 11/11/11, anniversary of the end of the Great War

They shall grow not old, as we that 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 will remember them.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thursday Inspiration: beautiful

i love this quote.
there are so many wonderful definitions of beautiful
besides the standard version.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

here and there: favorite teacher

I didn't have a school photo to put here, but I pulled this one out of an album I had that is of me in high school which is when I am writing about.  I look so young!!

My favorite teacher's name was Mrs. Clark.  She was my high school Grammar teacher.  She created huge dioramas in her classroom.  She had long bushy blond hair and long flowing skirts.  She was a free-thinker.  She made sure we thought outside of the box.  She wrote brilliant commentary along my creative writing assignments each week and I remember at the very beginning of Grammar class she told us "first you learn all the rules, then you can break them".  I have always remembered that through this very day.  Mrs. Clark is the reason I feel it is okay to forgo capital letters in my blog and write in fragmented sentences.  For this post I will use capital letters in the correct places and try my best at proper grammar in honor of Mrs. Clark.  

My nemesis in writing in high school was commas, too many of them.  I put them everywhere.  She was always crossing out commas.  When I write now I still find too many commas.  I'll read a blog post over and realize, oh there shouldn't be commas there but I leave it.  I like to write the way it sounds coming out of my head.

Mrs. Clark looked like SARK if you have ever seen her.  I remember years, many years, after my school days I came across a book by SARK and I thought "OH my gosh, it's Mrs. Clark".  She looked remarkably similar, but no, after further research I found out not Mrs. Clark.  But SARK encompasses the same spirit that she brought to our classes.  Be creative.  Don't be afraid.

I loved literature and writing classes.  I loved climbing into books and discovering what they held and I loved trying my hand at writing, especially with someone so supportive to encourage you.

In your Senior Year (last year) of high school  there are only so many credits or courses you are required to have to graduate, so you have a lot of freedom to either a/ take goof off classes or b/take the classes you like.  Goodbye physical education!  Hello English!  I had all my required English credits,but in that senior year of school I took British Literature, World Literature and Grammar.

When I suggested that we write about our favorite teachers this week I knew exactly who I wanted to write about.  I have been lucky to have some really good ones, but this is the one that really stood out to me as leading me where I wanted to go. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Here and there: my favourite teacher

This is a photograph from when I was in Infant School. I was in the same class, with the same teacher, for three years. I think this may have been a taken before we left to go to Junior School, aged about 7. The lady on the left is my teacher, Miss Roberts, on the right the Headmistress, Miss Hobson. I am the very tall girl at the back.

I loved Miss Roberts. She was quite strict, but fair. This was back in the days when teachers would smack a child if they were naughty and I narrowly escaped one time. Miss Roberts had to leave the class room for a few minutes and me and my friend Mark, for some reason decided to get up and stand on the table. On Miss Roberts' return, the other children told her. She asked us if it was true. I always told the truth (until I was a teenager, anyway!) so I said yes, I was standing on the table. When she asked Mark, he denied it, and received a smack. Can you imagine a teacher being able to smack a child these days?  It was a whole different culture back then.

Miss Roberts was, I guess, in her mid thirties then, so younger than I am now, which seems unbelievable to me now. I remember I used to finish my sums early, and she would get me to mark the other children's work. I also remember being called out to stand beside her desk and read to her. The reading scheme was called Tip and Mitten, and was about a cat and a dog. I will always be grateful to Miss Roberts for teaching me to read, and instilling in me such a love of stories. As soon as I could read, I was away! I permanently had my head in a book for my entire childhood, and pretty often even now.

I still either know or hear news of, several of the other children in the photograph. In fact last week I bumped into one of the boys in the supermarket car park, and I have had met up with two of the girls in the past month. Strange to think we have known each other almost forty years. Miss Roberts and I still exchange Christmas cards, and I would love to see her again.

Monday, November 7, 2011

From the weekend: Bonfire Night

Saturday was Bonfire Night, the night when here in England we commemorate the anniversary of the day in 1605 when Guido Fawkes and his friends attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament. The Prof and I went to a bonfire party at the vicarage of a church that my friend attends. There were fireworks and a bonfire, though no 'Guy' this year, I wonder if it's becoming a bit of an un-PC thing to do these days, burn effigies on bonfires. Not the best example for the children, probably, though I didn't even think about it when I was a child! The bonfire came in handy keeping us warm, it was freezing, and also for toasting marshmallows - I had never had toasted marshmallows before, and I should not have left it so long to try them.

sunday going home

(karelyn and grandmom)

(after grandad adjusted her seat and filled her tires)

It's been a beautiful fall.  I took the girls to my Mom's house Sunday to ride their bikes.  The lane to their house is about 1/4 of a mile long.  My sister and I used to ride our bikes back and forth and back and forth.  I don't know why I didn't think to take the girls and their bikes there before, but then again this has been the first year both girls are on two wheels.  It's a most definite thing that next year I need to get a bike and join them....that and a bike rack.  After this my Mom went shopping with my sister and the girls and I took their dog Elijah for a walk through the woods.  Karelyn told me this morning that Grandmom's was one of her favorite places to go.  It reminds me how lucky I was to grow up there.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Just Now: Friday morning

Current time: 11.40 am

In my favourite mug: real coffee

In my belly: Cheerios and mik. There would have been raspberries, but they had started to go mouldy

In my ears: This morning, silence. Last thing I listened to: Loreena McKennitt, in the car

Out the window: the sun is struggling to break through grey cloud and sometimes succeeding for a few minutes

On the editor: nothing, at the moment, as I haven't taken many photographs lately. I seem to have mislaid my creative mojo 

Feeling good about:  Country Living and Mollie Makes magazines on the coffee table, ready to read

Feeling bad about: overwhelming list of things to be done, as usual

By my bedside: Simple Abundance and Romancing the Ordinary by Sarah Ban Breathnach, I am reading a little every day 

Making me think: I've been thinking how lucky I am to be able to be at home, although this is through my illness, and wondering how I can make better use of this time and enjoy it to the fullest, whilst also staying within my energy limits. Also, these words I came across today:

"What we think, we become"

-- Buddha

just now: thursday evening, 8:46 p.m.

Just Now...

Current time: 8:46 p.m.

In my glass: just plain water

In my belly: chicken cordon blue, wild rice and some frozen veggies

In my ears:  Norah Jones, Sunrise

Out the window: the coming evening chill, though we saw a high of 65 degrees today.  lovely.

On the editor: this shot of my new calendar, the botanical gardens schedule and two cards for friends.

Last watched: The Aristocats, with Karelyn when she was home sick.  I love the voices in this old classic.

Feeling good about:  good news at Emily's school conference today, top grades and she tested off the chart in her reading comprehension :-)

Feeling bad about: have become very disorganized lately.  lost my calendar, mixed up an appointment, having difficulty with managing my time.

By my bedside:  ha.  seriously, you think i could concentrate on reading lately???

Making me think:  this was the quote when i flipped my wall calendar over to November this week:  

"happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold; the feeling of happiness dwells in the soul"