Category Archives: Christmas

August Musings

Here we are already in the middle of August. It seems unbelievable to think in a few weeks’ time we will be in the ’ember months of the year. Before you know it Christmas will be upon us again. It has already arrived in some of the stores here in the UK, and the children haven’t even returned to school yet from their summer break. But enough of that.

I missed posting last month; my apologies – major meltdown due to extreme heat! Heat that has only today started to climb back down the thermometer, and we have rain. Not a lot, admittedly. We do need plenty here as, like many countries, we are in a drought situation. Keeping the flowers and plants alive in the back garden has been hard work, but we’ve made the most of our grey water from the kitchen, about the only real exercise I’ve had, backwards and forwards several times a day. The vegetable garden and annual flowerbed at the front has, I’m sad to say, been a failure because of lack of rain; we have avoided using the hosepipe. As a consequence, we’ve written this year off on the gardening front and back, because the back garden will be given another make over.

The reason being, we have demolished our large koi pond and intend turning the area into another flowerbed. Whilst we both had a lot of pleasure from the fish, which had grown huge, it was becoming increasingly hard work for Dave to keep it going despite so-say modern filters and UV lamps and fitting a new pump each year – not cheap. We were plagued with pond weed, the water never clear. The fish loved it; we didn’t. We agreed back last October that we would run the pond down as each winter we invariably lost a fish or two. Needless to say, this past winter they all survived.

One of the koi (28lbs)

We gave the fish, some as long as 2-3 ft and weighing many lbs, to a local koi keeper so we know they would be going to a good home. Catching them was another matter. All three of us got soaked! Then
began the fun part, demolition of the pond walls. The pond was/is over 8ft deep, with half of it above ground, so we were hoping the bricks and blocks would fill that below ground level. Miscalculation. We now have to dispose of a lot of rubble. This Dave will do in the autumn when the weather is a lot cooler.

Before
After
Demolition begins

The extreme heat here has meant I have not done a lot of art. A special request for a contemporary flower painting was completed and I began working up one for my students to copy at my next workshop at the end of September. They had requested a waterfall, so waterfalls I did. Several of them. It became clear to me that each one was a little too adventurous for some of my group, but I finally came up with a much simpler version that hopefully will stretch them without any duress.

“Pastel Pastures”
“Autumn Waterfall”

Other than these efforts, I have to admit nothing has been done. Hardly any writing because my office was too hot even with a fan running. No housework other than the basics – no point with all the doors and windows open; little laundry to wash – thank goodness for kaftans to lounge about it in all day. On the plus side, we’ve spent most days and long into the evenings in the garden. Our patio is in shade from midday so it has been comfortable, and I have been able to enjoy uninterrupted reading, getting through 5 books, unusual for me in a short space of time.

We treated the month as a long holiday, being exceedingly lazy and relaxed. It was fun while it lasted; now it’s back to normality. I hope your month has been good too.

Kit Domino’s websites and blogs

Christmas in July? Well, Sort of….

Jillian here! Hope everyone is having a nice summer. It’s been wild weatherwise here. Over 100 degrees Fahrenheit with over 111 heat index every day for a couple of weeks in June, then rainstorms with thunder and lightning all day, every day (dark as night at noon) for the end of June and first six days of July. As I write this, we’re back to more normal temps of around 85-90 and only small afternoon thunderstorms.

All this heat and rain misery made me decide to start reading a book I got at Christmas – It’s called The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries and is a collection of a ton of stories set at the festive season. Lots of favorite writers have set mysteries at Christmas and this book is chock-a-block. From Agatha Christie to Peter Lovesey, to Colin Dexter, Rex Stout, O. Henry, John Mortimer, Ellery Queen, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (and some new to me authors that I am digging), I am loving this set of stories. The pages are double-columned so its 640 pages is more like 1,280 pages– enough to keep me entertained for the month, I hope… Except I am almost to page 400 already and it’s only 8 days into the month. LOL

I am liking this collection of tales so much, I ordered The Big Book of Ghost Stories edited by this same gentleman. He has great taste in stories.

Here is the cover and the list of stories sorted into types. Hope you recognize some of your favorite writers, too. – I love the picture from the 1930s, don’t you?

Kindness, the greatest gift…

I hope you and yours have enjoyed a very happy, healthy, and safe festive period. It’s been another season with restrictions and cancelled/curtailed events, but I hope you managed to find some good times and reasons to celebrate even with the limitations placed on us right now.

For my December post I usually like to choose a favourite Christmas Ad shown here on British TV. As Kit said in her recent blog, the pickings have been light this year, but I did find one that spoke to me on an emotional level. I hope you enjoy it. It seems an appropriate way to round off my 2021 posts here at the Fence. Here it is:

Wishing you the happiest, healthiest, and most prosperous New Year. Let’s hope 2022 is a good one all round.

www.fayeavalon.com

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December 2021

The older I get the faster the years roll by. It hardly seems possible I am posting my last blog for the year.  And, today is the Winter Solstice. I am always ready for this day because tonight is the longest … Continue reading

Best Laid Plans

Sometimes the best-laid plans go awry, as mine did this very day. I had planned to spend it writing: first my post for OTBF, then the remainder of the day working on my novel. The morning started out well until the phone rang. It was my doctor’s surgery calling to rearrange my regular blood check. As here in the UK we are plunged into a booster jab panic I was fully expecting this call informing me the scheduled appointment for this Friday coming, was cancelled. Instead, it was moved to today. This morning. In an hour’s time. Fine. The test had to be done, so be it. As my day was now disrupted, I decided to afterwards drive to a different supermarket, hoping to find a few things needed that our usual shop had been out of stock of for some weeks, and thus write my blog post this afternoon.

Walking swiftly around the supermarket, glasses steaming up because of my mask, I literally bumped into a work colleague I hadn’t seen for what proved to be 25 years! We had a lot to catch up on, so we agreed to go for a coffee in a nearby coffee shop. Coffee turned into lunch, and I didn’t arrive back home until 3.30 this afternoon (you know how it goes!). After sinking a cup of tea made by Dave upon my return, I confess I fell asleep in the armchair. So here I am now, at 7pm writing this in a sprint session. But what to write?

Other than today, it has been a quiet four weeks, with little going on here, no gardening to do, art group closed for the holiday until 7th January. I have managed to complete the painting I had started at the group. It turned out well, I think. Called “L’Etang Bleu”, I hope you like it, it’s the last I shall be painting this year.

“L’Etang Bleu”

Talking of Christmas… for the past 22 years, since my father passed away, my mother has always joined us for a week over the Christmas periods. She’s always enjoyed it with us as we don’t make a fuss for the simple reason neither Mum nor my husband enjoy the festivities and it is always quiet and calm here. This year and in future she will not be coming as although she’s okay and quite independent for 96 years old, she can no longer manage our stairs and we have no downstairs bathroom. Last year was difficult for her, so this year it will be just Dave and I.

As it will be only the two of us, last Friday we agreed we wouldn’t bother getting the tree out of the loft. The next morning a gift arrived for us by post. We had no idea whom it was from as the included card simply said “Love from Santa”. It was a real tree, complete with baubles, decorations and lights. I had an idea it was from our daughter who, a few days later confirmed it was, bless her. A lovely, thoughtful choice. After the holiday, we will pot it up in the garden for next Christmas.

This season, sad to say I have found the Christmas adverts on TV rather poor, most are boring and unimaginative, with the majority repeats from last year. There has been only one we’ve liked, an amusing one from Aldi supermarkets. It’s a play on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Here’s the link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OW-PhgjyNSs&ab

This weekend, I am driving to Reading to spend a girlie weekend with Mum and my two sisters. These get-togethers are always enjoyable and it will be good to see them. Some of the shopping today was for supplies for this including the wine and cheese.

And because it’s Christmas, we must have a carol. Someone asked me the other day what my favourite one was. My two all-time favourites I’m sure you already know: Silent Night (sung in German) and an old German carol I’ve posted in previous years. There is another one I love, Little Drummer Boy, though I’m not sure whether it is classed a Christmas carol or purely a Christmas song. I do love it and always feel a little blubbery whenever I hear it.

https://youtu.be/Jotjc_U4rwY

My next post will be in the New Year. Let us all hope 2022 will be so much better than the last two and we can all get back to real normality. Whatever you are doing over the holiday season, enjoy, have fun, and most of all, stay safe.

Merry Christmas from Kit.

Kit Domino’s website and blogs

Tree Topper- A Cherished Keepsake

Jillian here. Happy December. I thought I’d share about my tree topper today since I don’t have much else to say exciting — been having some stress at the day job and it’s time to put that aside and talk about something less legally intense. 🙂

In the fall of 1986, I was twenty-five and pregnant with my first child and had been a lawyer for a bit over two years. Back then, salaries weren’t that great. A beginning lawyer made from $18,000-$20,000 a year (which translates to around $43,000- 47,000.00 now with inflation). I had just started a new job with a firm (had previously done overflow work from another lawyer and did okay with that financially, but since I was pregnant, I wanted a more steady salary and benefits). I was making $24,000.00 a year there (about $58,000.00 in today’s money. I’m telling you all this to say that $35.00 for a tree topper was a lot of money in that time ($88.00 with inflation). 🙂

There was a cute shop down the street from the law firm where I worked that sold a variety of items. It’s now a lamp and lighting showroom, but back then, they carried lots of knick-knacks, household furnishings, soft goods and, at the holiday season, it was a wonderland of goodies.

In the first years of our marriage, we had an el-cheapo topper that was a circle with lights and shiny greenery around them. It flashed on and off and was a fun thing on our tree. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it. 🙂

One day, on my lunch hour, I walked around this store and found this lovely Father Christmas who absolutely spoke to me. He looked nothing like our traditional Coca-Cola Santa Claus here in the USA, but he was beautiful and absolutely stole my heart. He’s wearing a silk coat with fur attached and his face, beard, and hands are beautiful porcelain. The toys in his pack are lovely, too–even a little Christmas tree peeking out. I fell in love at first sight. But he was $35.00. It seemed like too much to pay at the time, so I left.

But he was still speaking to me. He was calling my name down the highway and into my office… he was relentless…. so, there was nothing I could do. I had to go back the next day to buy him. He was happy, I was happy, and even the baby I was carrying seemed to approve. 🙂

Now, 35 years later, I still relish getting him out of the Christmas box every year and getting him on the tree. He still makes my heart happy–and at $1.00 per year net cost (so far), he’s been a great investment, right?

Holiday Food

Ham or turkey? Which one do you like better? This question seems to come up for me every US Thanksgiving. I’ve always been a turkey person and not big on ham. This year, instead of cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner here, we went to our son’s where he cooked a smoked ham from the local meat shop. Boy, that just about changed my mind and moved ham to the top of the list.

The very next night, we went to friends’ house where she cooked a spiral ham with a drool-worthy glaze on it. Wow. Ham got nudged just a little bit further up on that list. But the day after that, I finally got my turkey. Sorry, ham, you got beat out again. 🙂 And, in the aftermath, I’ve had too many of my favorite treat: turkey and mayonnaise on a homemade roll. (wiping the drool from my face.)

Now, with that holiday in the past, it’s time to turn our heads toward the remaining holidays. In fact, Hanukkah ends today.  Then there’s Christmas, and Kwanzaa, and Boxing Day, and more than I can go over in a blog. Here’s a link if you want some of the history behind these celebrations.

More holidays means more food. More baking, more carbs, more of everything. It’s the time of year when I have to be the most careful about my weight and I’ve failed already. So I’m on a mission to find lower fat ways to enjoy December. I love the Taste of Home website and have gotten a few recipes off it. Here’s their healthy Christmas collection link. I hope you find something useful in the article.

Have a wonderful, peace-filled season, and a safe and happy entry into 2022.

For more information about Laurie Ryan:

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Dilemma

Jillian here.. I was in a dilemma about what to post this month. While I don’t want to ignore what’s happening here in the USA, I don’t want to make this post a political one. Suffice it to say, I am sad and disappointed about the way things have been going here. I am also sad about how my UK friends have gone back into lockdown. It’s just a weird time to be alive. Praying for us all world-wide.

I thought I’d share a couple of photos from Christmas. I don’t like pics of myself so I’m posing my sister, my mom, my dad, and my son. All with the grandson. I am also posting pics of my December 28th big day. 🙂 Some of the photos are taken at my parents’ house on Christmas and some at my house where we celebrated my big one! The one with Benjamin and his dad (my son) was taken at the park.

Hope everyone has a blessed January. Stay warm. It’s supposed to be in the 20s here tonight- that’s minus 4 for you in Celsius land. 🙂 BRRR!

The strange ‘in-between’

Firstly, I hope everyone managed to have a good Christmas, despite the less than ideal circumstances we all find ourselves in. We had a lovely time, but it was hard not meeting up with family and friends. All I can say is, thank heaven for Zoom!

This year, the ‘in-between’ week from Christmas to New Year is a strange one. The normal things that happen during this period aren’t taking place. Here in the UK we are basically in lockdown. So there has been no trips to the post-Christmas sales; no outings to the cinema; no festive evenings with friends… There’s a kind of stillness in the air, a flatness in the the lead up to New Year. It’s as if the world is holding its breath in the hope that better things are coming.

This week always finds me in a reflective mood (I suppose it’s the same for most of us). I think about the year that’s rapidly coming to an end and take time to look back on the good things… what went well, what goals I managed to achieve, etc. Also, the things that didn’t go so well, the goals I didn’t achieve, and the things that didn’t get done. I tend not to dwell too much on the later, except to resolve to do better in the future.

While I’m extremely grateful that my loved ones have come through the year and have remained virus-free, there has been one major family health challenge that came out of the blue and has left me reflecting on the fragility of life. It has certainly put things back into perspective, making me realise that my distinct lack of writing focus in 2020 (caused by major procrastination issues – no excuse) is really, in the bigger scheme of things, not that important. I failed big-time in meeting the goals I set, but there’s always next year.

But regardless of meeting goals or not, it’s always a good idea to set them. It is our goals that can help keep us rooted when life is especially challenging. They push us forward into the great unknown where all kinds of possibilities exist. I’m reminded of the wonderful Desiderata with its instruction to “keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.”

As the New Year approaches, I wish you everything that you wish for yourself. Stay safe, my friends. We’re getting there!

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Cranberry Chutney Recipe

Our granddaughter made this dish for Thanksgiving. Not only was it a new recipe she embellished it. The original called for brown sugar but after a taste test we all knew it didn’t need it. I can see Cranberry Chutney … Continue reading