Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve: chocolate tiffin for gifting, early morning candlelight in the dining room, the Landrover full of wood, walking the hills at Loughcrew (it snowed!), ancient stones, new coat and blue skies. It is now evening and the children are in bed. We read A Child's Christmas in Wales and The Night Before Christmas and we watched Nativity. We left out a mince-pie and a glass of port for you-know-who and a carrot for the one with the red nose and now it's time for peace and gentle anticipation...wishing you all a Happy Christmas x

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

winter light

This year we celebrated the turn of the year - the winter solstice - with a candlelit party at home. Family arrived at 4.30pm just as darkness had fallen. They came into the house lit only by candles, there were no other lights on except the Christmas tree ones. We played Christmas carols and drank mulled wine and ate lots of festive food and chatted among the flickering light. Our eyes became accustomed to the candles' gentle glow and the dancing shadows and even though the house was full of people there was a gentleness to the gathering, a reminder perhaps of older times when semi darkness and candlelight was commonplace, when the setting of the sun brought inevitable stillness, when there was peace and quiet and all were safely gathered in.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Christmas wreath

This year's wreath is ivy and rosehips from the hedgerows, euphorbia from the garden, a string of cranberries and some gold sprayed ears of wheat. It is one of my Christmas traditions I look forward to most. There's a quietness to the selecting and picking of the plants I need and the careful work of creating the wreath. It hangs on our rain soaked front door and its glossy green, cheery red and rich gold announce this festive's Christmas time...

Monday, 7 December 2015

December reading

I cannot believe we are in December! The year has flown by. And every month I have enjoyed picking my book as part of Laura's The Year in Books

My year has looked like this:

January: A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli
February: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
March: The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard
April: The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt
May: Fox Encounters in the Wild by Jim Crumley
June: The Search Warrant by Patrick Modiano
July: Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard
August: Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
September: Findings by Kathleen Jamie
October: The Hog's Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts
November: Limoncello and Linen Water by Tessa Kiros
December: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Over the course of the year I have read and enjoyed lots more , especially H is for Hawk and I Capture the Castle and luckily my pile of books is healthily growing so there's plenty for the coming months!

Saturday, 5 December 2015

and we're back

Oh dear. Break in transmission. Entirely down to human rather than technical fault. Ahem. Anyway to make up for it how about some nice photos of what happened in those intervening days?
Carlingford in the non-rain. It had rained for weeks before. It has rained for weeks after. But that day it stopped. That day it was sunny and that day was lovely. We walked around the town and came across a huge antiques shop where, I have to admit, I was in seventh heaven.
Which ties in nicely to the above - two spaniels - agghhhrrrr they are too much! I adore them. The appalling photo does not show their touches of gold or their amused expressions...
The Advent calendar is strung in its usual place along the stairs and over the prints. This year I added numbers on to the little envelopes but otherwise its done pretty well considering this is its third year. It could become a tradition, like the cornflake packet star Kevin made for our first ever Christmas tree and now it's used every year...

My sister and I spent a night in Powerscourt Hotel and Spa.
I say this casually, like it could be an every day occurrence. However that particular sister lives in Italy. That particular sister thought of a plan two (long) months ago and organised with my husband to surprise me for my birthday. That particular sister arrived on my doorstep and whisked me away for a day and a night where we talked and ate and shopped and had facials and massages and steamed in the spa and laughed and swam and chatted and ate again and wallowed in hotel luxury and finally slept. I cannot tell you how good it was and how much I love that particular sister for all her kindness.
P.S. I love all my sisters - I am lucky to have three!

Friday, 20 November 2015

November days

The rain, at times, has sounded like hail - icy fingernails tapping on the kitchen windows. The sky darkens and then, after the shower, sudden sunshine as though it had never rained at all. Today with the rain blowing on and off I made apple jelly. We'd been gifted a couple of kilos of apples and they sat for a while in a bowl until I could bear it no longer. So this morning I turned them into Fireside Jelly - apples and cloves with cinnamon and ginger... I have to admit I am proud of my morning's effort. I've tried jam making in the past and have had various results ranging from runny-jam to set-like-concrete jam, so I wasn't holding my breath. But this time it worked! And now the kitchen smells of buttery toast as I ate toast with apple jelly, for once not minding the squally rain outside.

November days are brown and squelchy underfoot. The leaves have mostly been blown off the trees and now we're left with browns and greys, muddy tracks and the birds rattling in the hedges. Still the dogs and I enjoy our walks, so long as it's not too wet.

Sunday, 15 November 2015


Scenes from home this weekend:
Late breakfast by candlelight due to the incessant rain and gloom. Scones and coffee.
The paperwhites Will and I planted are shooting up.
A bit of portrait painting. He made me look like a dodgy super-hero and I made him look like a young, scared Princess Di...
It rained all weekend. On Sunday there was nothing for it - we had to leave the house and have a walk, even though it was um, raining. We chose the beach at high tide (just to increase the wet factor) and it was fantastic. The waves were crashing and the wind was whipping but there's nothing like a bit of seaside to make one happy. Follow it with a trip to the BrownHound Cafe and a browse in the bookshop and, contended sigh, you have one very happy dodgy super-hero mummy...

Friday, 13 November 2015

to the lighthouse

painting by John Knapp Fisher

We have had the crashing wind and the endless rain for days now. The trees in the garden are almost completely leafless and if you stand outside in the dusky half light the noise of the wind in the branches is almost sea-like. I miss the sea. And so, even though it's November and not exactly a holiday time of year, I'd love to be packing my bags and heading away for a night or two. I even know where I'd a lighthouse where I could hear, smell and see the sea and it's endless variations. And being in my lighthouse I'd also know I'd be totally safe no matter how wild the weather became. I could read Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse or, more likely, The Lighthouse Keeper's Christmas by Ronda and David Armitage
I would, quite possibly, only eat the nicest of food and drink the nicest of drinks and sleep with the sound of the waves and the crying of seabirds and maybe the Shipping Forecast would be on in the background. I would wake at first light and after coffee and bacon and eggs, or maybe pancakes and maple syrup, I'd walk along the cliffs and if it got a bit squally I'd scuttle back to the stout safe lighthouse and light some candles and the fire and read for a bit and then perhaps unpack that picnic hamper of goodies that I would have remembered to have packed and then who knows, maybe a snooze, maybe a glass of wine...Instead, of course, I'll stand in the garden and listen to the wind in the trees and pretend.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

before and after

We found another good use for the chocolate spread we made during the week... melt some in a bowl, dip freshly made buns into the warm chocolate and then into coconut...

Thursday, 5 November 2015

this week let's...

Last week the boys and I really enjoyed making and doing and baking, so this week I put another list on the fridge for us to try. I finally bought some Paperwhite bulbs so they'll be planted today and yesterday we made flapjacks and chocolate spread (I know gratuitous sugar use). Other things we're trying this week:

* drawing together

* leaf painting (see Artemis' gorgeous sparkling leaves here)

* trip to the library

* portrait painting 

Happy autumn!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

November reading

This month I'm reading plenty (just finishing Steve Silberman's Neurotribes which has just won the Samuel Johnson prize and looks at the history of autism. It is fascinating and is written in an engaging, storytelling way. It also focuses on the positives, which is so important for those whose lives are affected by their child's or their own autism). I'm also trying desperately to inject a little something into my daily cooking. I have fallen into the 'oh no, what will we eat today' trap and find myself making the same ten things for dinner and rotating them over the week - yawn. I spotted Limoncello and Linen Water by Tessa Kiros and thought 'help me pretty lady with the nice book titles!' Limoncello is all about celebrating Italian cooking and Tessa's writing weaves a nostalgic whimsical story into each recipe. So basically I'm hoping that she will save me from myself. Not much to ask for now, is it?

*** joining in with Laura's The Year in Books***

Tuesday, 3 November 2015


First of November
Inside: Table in the dining room with toys and book from William's birthday party on Friday, a nearly finished glass of wine, candles and flowers.
Outside: Fog creeping across the fields, through the garden, to the front door.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

goodbye october

October, you have been very good to us and today, the last day, especially so. The sun was warm and we sat out with the cawing rooks and drank tea soaking it up. Right now the light is fading and the house smells of onions sizzling in butter as it's mushroom and sage risotto for supper. We had a Halloween birthday party for William yesterday complete with masks and sparklers and chocolate cake and 'vampire blood' (Ribena) and games and screaming nine year olds... tonight will be calmer with a glass or two of wine, candles to keep away the ghouls and maybe a DVD. Wishing you a very happy Halloween!