Monday 30 December 2013

New Year Greetings

Wishing you all a Happy and a Healthy New Year 

As we head towards 2014 I hope that you all enjoyed a happy Christmas. 
I can't wait to relax and turn the pages of my new book on 21st century Jewellery Designers. 
Soon Twelfth Night will be upon us......
...then it will be time to pack away... 
...the baubles and trinkets for yet another year 
This tree, covered in tinsel and photographs of dogs, is decorated by the pets' owners who walk them on our common. For some of the dogs, long gone, it is a memorial. There is a local law that these decorations must be removed at the beginning of the New Year.
Back over the stile towards home in time to send you all my very best wishes for 2014 from my little corner of the world to yours - these photos taken yesterday.
Travels to ponder

Thursday 26 December 2013

Santa's Little Gift

May be you remember a post here on wall bee boles which hold bee skeps? Following that post and knowing that there is a crisis amongst the bee population my thoughts turned to having a bee skep of my own. Online, a bee skep maker who lived nearby was located. This was fortunate as making skeps is an ancient craft practiced by only a few. I contacted him, decided on the size, and placed an order. I realised that I had the perfect location for one within our own garden. When we had our walls built I had asked the drystone expert to incorporate some alcoves with a view to putting pots of flowers or pieces of sculpture in them. 
So far the bee skep has not been completed - hopefully it will be here for the spring.
Bee skeps shown in the mid 15th century Tacuinum sanitatis - a medieval handbook on health and wellbeing based on the 11th century Arab medical treatise by Ibn Butlan of Baghdad. This book contains a remarkable series of 130 coloured drawings. They are thought to have been done in Padua, Italy, by a group of artists in the circle of the eminent early renaissance painter, Andrea Mantegna. 
I was keen to give the solitary bees a home for 2014 and luckily Santa turned up trumps with a little wooden bee chalet. This will be hung in the alcove and transferred to one of our house walls once the bee skep has arrived.  I am sure that most of you know that a solitary bee has a completely different lifestyle to that of the honey bee. Keeping honey bees is a dedicated art as I have learnt at blue borage.
Solitary bees are just that, non swarming, they need a little place to call their own. The little chalet has separate individual compartments for them where they can build their bee cells and lay their eggs.
Welcome little bees, there are 24 self contained, brand new apartments, free, and waiting for you here. First come, first served.

Friday 20 December 2013


I was really interested to read all your thoughtful comments on my previous post - thank you
With less than a week to go this is my final post until after Christmas - may you all have a wonderful and joyous festive season wherever you are and whatever your plans may be.
When I first began blogging just over two years ago, I never imagined that I would experience and feel such a strong connection to the many friends made here in this space. I have been profoundly touched by so many of you during this past year - sharing in your pleasures and happiness, but also your sorrows and grief. I have been moved in ways that I never would have expected. For several of you 2013 has been a year of great sadness - some of you have been ill or are coping with illness within the family, and a few have suffered the terrible loss of a loved one; your courage and strength fills me with admiration - a salutary example to many of us.

Wednesday 18 December 2013


......the hustle and bustle of Christmas it was lovely to wander through the wood. The sun was warm creating a mild December day and lots of birds were flitting around.
There was a marked change in the trees' appearance since my last visit at the beginning of the month.
The trees are resting, but soon their sap will rise and the green shoots of spring will be here again.
I am feeling a change too, I see groaning shelves of food and gifts piled high in the stores, I want a simpler more modest Christmas than that being offered.
My thoughts turn away from Christmas and family gatherings to those who are less fortunate. In particular I am haunted by the terrible images of the little children who have fled Syria. Over 6 million Syrians are now displaced. A million children have been left to survive as refugees after being orphaned or separated from their parents. They are now living hand to mouth in tents surrounded by snow - these innocent little victims are surely deserving of any help that can be given. 

Sunday 15 December 2013

In the Pink

A brief look at the colour pink in words and images
Current idiom 'In the pink' refers to being in the best possible health. Glowing pink cheeks, a blushing bride, a beautiful baby.
'In the Pink' during the 16th century meant - the pinnacle of something but not limited to health. 
Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, 1597:
Mercurio: "Why, I am the very pinke of curtesie" 
Mercurio means that he is not just courteous, but the very model of courtesy.
This citation is from Leigh's Kensington Gardens, 1720:
"Tis the pink of the mode, to marry at first sight: And some, indeed, marry without any sight at all."

Charles Dickens, in his 'Letters 1845', demonstrates a significant difference to our current usage:
"Of all the picturesque abominations in the world, commend me to Fondi. It is the very pink of hideousness and squalid misery".
From my perception, Fondi is a delightful, pretty resort, surrounded by mountains on the Lazio coast lying midway between Rome and Naples. 
What is pink? a rose is pink 
By a fountain's brink
Christina Rossetti

Thursday 12 December 2013

Rowan Jelly

It is not too late to make Rowan Jelly for Christmas. H picked a kilo of berries about three weeks ago. A couple of days later and a large flock of migrating Fieldfares returning from Scandinavia stripped both our trees bare. However, I have noticed that other people still have plenty of berries on their trees.
Fieldfare via
Rowan berries should be frosted before use because they contain parasorbic acid which is neutralised by frost and cooking. We had no frost so I placed mine in the freezer for a few days.
Cook equal quantities of berries and apples just covered in water. Do not remove the peel or the cores of the apples as this helps with the pectin. I also placed a couple of sprigs of Rosemary in the pan. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 15 mins until it is a mush.
Place it in muslin or a fine cloth to strain and drip. Do not be tempted to squeeze the straining fruit as it will turn the jelly cloudy.
Measure the strained liquid and add sugar - e.g one pint of liquid add 600 grams sugar. The jelly has a slightly bitter flavour, taste it to see if you need to add more sugar. Bring to the boil and keep a rolling heat for 10 more minutes. Allow to cool a little and then place in sterilised jars. It has made a really firm jelly.
We were both feeling industrious - whilst I made Rowan Jelly, H made marmalade.
The jelly can be served with roast meats and game. Apparently it is also good smeared over corn on the cob, goes well with cheese especially Wensleydale, and can be added to gravy rather like a redcurrant jelly.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Salutations Turkey

Turkey is known around the world for it's naturally dyed, hand knotted carpets. They also make the most exquisite rugs from pure silk.
On the whole UK cats tend to be territorial, solitary animals. In Turkey they all huddle up together, play, sleep and wash each other in groups. That is because mostly they are not pets but are looked after by everyone. I saw a man with a tray of food and as soon as he appeared about 50 cats quickly surrounded him from under bushes, up trees, and behind buildings. It is the same with dogs, which often wander around in pairs. They are all rounded up from time to time, taken to the vets for their various vaccinations and checks then released.
Early morning and protection from the 'evil eye' is evident in Cappadocia
The Turkish Delight bears no resemblance to that in the UK. It is slightly chewy, not so sweet, and made in lots of wonderful flavours, often including various types of nut. The above is a pomegranate flavour with hazelnuts and then dusted with coconut.
Before breakfast one day we heard a loud siren - it was 75 years following the death of Atatürk, the highly respected founder of modern Turkey.
Sunday morning in Avanos, a town famed for both carpets and pottery
The Greeks were successful traders, merchants, and artisans in Turkey even before the Romans and had a huge influence on the development of the country. You can recognise the Greek Patrician houses by their arches and carved stonework. 
A "caravanserai" - a medieval hostelry guaranteeing a safe night's rest for both merchants and beasts. These were built every 30 kilometres along the Silk Road in Turkey which represented a days ride. 
Very early in the morning on most days hot air balloons take to the air in the valleys of Cappadocia. This video can be made full screen.
A farewell sunset over the Mediterranean sea