Category Archives: Holidays

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?

Jubilee Fun

If there is one thing the British do well, it’s pomp and circumstance and having fun. The Queen’s 70th Jubilee was no exception. The crowds in London loved it. As did people up and down the country holding street parties, house parties, beacon lighting etc, the celebrations lasting a lot longer than the 2-day bank holiday assigned for the occasion. During the week beforehand, many town and parish councils put on their own celebratory Jubilee Tea Parties for local residents, and I was fortunate to be invited to one at the centre where my art club meets.

The room was strung out with Union Jack bunting, the groaning food table laid out in temptation just inside the main door to the room. All the cakes on offer were homemade by volunteers, including a very large one iced in the Union Jack flag. On entering, I couldn’t see anyone I knew, even though I arrived a good half-hour after the start time. I hate that, being a stranger amongst many others in company they know. Years ago I would have turned and fled.. A gentleman stepped up, offered his hand, introducing himself to me as a local MP, not one I knew as the centre is in a different area to where I live, not that it mattered. Nice chap, asked my connection to the centre, so I was able to proudly tell him I had painted several of the pictures hanging around the room.

The choice of cake was too much to decide so I gathered myself a cup of tea and joined a small group of people I did not know at a table. This might not sound very much to you, but for me, doing such a thing is a big affair for a shy, introverted lady. Normally I would have headed for the nearest empty table, of which there was only one, all the other 20 or so were full.

Having settled into conversation, enjoying the music in the background (all from the 1950s, which I love), two people arrived from my art group and beckoned me to join them at the empty table. Within ten minutes, 10 other members arrived. Back I went to the cake table to choose, made all the more difficult because the lady serving offered me multiple slices of anything I wanted. I love cake but resisted the temptation, enjoyed only a large slice of lemon drizzle cake with another cup of tea.

The atmosphere was jovial, friendly, and noisy. There was also a small competition in which one had to guess the years in which various photos of the queen were taken. The prize, a large box of chocolates. I didn’t partake as I did not want the chocolates, but did help my art friend Jeanette with guessing some of the years.

Talking of photos, it was only nearer the end of the occasion I thought to take a few photographs, so sadly the cake table is virtually empty. It was as I took a few shots I realised everyone had dressed in red, white and blue or various combinations of the three, something I never gave a thought to when dressing to come out; there was me dressed in a black skirt and top with a bright green jacket. Doh…

Over the Jubilee weekend Dave and I stayed home. There was no street party here, although many residents had their own in back gardens. It was enjoyable listening to them. Not far from me is our local sports playing field where the council had put on a free festival for residents on both the Saturday and Sunday. The music was loud but not disruptive, and most enjoyable. The festivities culminated in a spectacular firework show to music which the whole of our town must have heard if not seen. They were tremendous, some of the best I’ve been fortunate to witness. Well done Patchway Council.

All-in-all, a lovely time had by all for our Queen.

The following week at art group, a note and a small box of chocolates had been left for me as a thank you, by Jeanette – apparently she won the prize!

Kit Domino’s websites and blogs

Mother’s Day

Jillian here. Happy May. Sorry I missed April. For days before it was my day, I debated what to say and then when the day actually came, I still had nothing. Lol. I don’t have much today either. I’ve fallen into a terrible rut of work, home, work, home, work, ad infinitum. I gotta get out more. 🙂

Yesterday was Mother’s Day here in the US. Hope all who celebrated had a nice one. Mr. C and I ate brunch with my parents at Cracker Barrel. My sister was sick so she didn’t make it. Mom always picks where we go, so off we went. We set 9:00 as the time hoping to miss the breakfast crowd and get there before the lunch bunch. Didn’t work out to plan as it was a fifty minute wait for a table. Good thing it was breezy and 67 degrees F (19 C). Sitting on the porch on rockers was nice. Mom doesn’t eat much these days, but she ate a ton yesterday. I told her that was the most I’d seen her eat in years and she said she knew but she was starving. I guess making her wait 50 minutes plus cooking time is the way to get her to eat more. 🙂

I got to face time with my older son and his family. When I got on, their dog, Primm, was across the room. I called out, “Hey, Miss Primm,” and she came running toward the screen. She let me chat with her a few minutes but ambled off when I couldn’t pet her.

Had a good conversation with them and watched grandson play a matching numbers game on his tablet. He said he wanted to come to my house and that made me happy for sure. Being only two years old and 7 hours away, I worry that he won’t know me and so when he asks to visit, that means a lot.

My younger son works for me and gave me a bath and body store gift card. He said his real gift was to finish all the backlog of filing on top of the cabinets (it’s been driving me bonkers). Imma gonna remind him of that about Thursday. Hehehe. 🙂

Here’s Miss Primm and her fancy portrait.

A Little Adventure For Me

Jillian here. Happy March. I went on a little adventure last weekend to a conference in Orlando and got to spend some time with my son and his family. It was fun, but exhausting as the drive is always a pain- about 7 hours each way. AND when I stay at my son’s, since they took down the mattress in their guest room, they put up a blow up bed. And it tends to lose air in the night, so I have to keep turning on the motor to re-blow it up to the full air setting or it’s like trying to crawl out of a bowl of soup when I have to take my mid-night trips to the bathroom. LOL – so, good rest is hard to get. AND one time on the first night, in the dark, I turned the motor switch the wrong way and ended up flat on the cold, wood floor. That was insane, but at least I could get it back full of air in short order. 🙂 And then my hip hurt. Woe was me. 🙂

While my daughter-in-law was out with her mother’s group on Thursday night, my son, grandson and I went for ice cream to a place called Jeremiah’s. Their logo is a frog from the “Jeremiah was a bull frog” song- my son, the architect, is the designer for a number of them as they move from a regional company to expanding with franchises in a number of states, so I wanted to check them out as we don’t have them here.

The first morning I was there, when my grandson woke, the first thing he said was, “Where’s Nonna?” His mom told him I was in the kitchen. He said, “I want to see Nonna.” She said, “Let’s change your diaper first.” He said, “No. See Nonna first.” That made my heart sing. He’s a sweetie AND he likes me! 🙂

The hotel where I stayed one night during the conference has inside balconies and you can actually go out on them. There’s a rail but no safety measures. I was on the 7th floor. The lawyer in me was screaming inside at the risk factor there. LOL

While at the conference, I attended a dinner for the former state officers of the organization and the theme was Mardi Gras. We all got beads and masks so I took them home for my grandson. He had a blast with them- putting them on his mom, dad and me.

It was a great visit–too short– and I’m dragging my tailfeathers this week at work, but I wouldn’t trade sleep for time with these people I love.

Praying for the people in the Ukraine who are being bombed and losing loved ones while they live in terror. I can’t even imagine their fear and anxiety and grief.

Gallery

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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October! My Favorite!

Jillian here. October is my favorite month of the year. I’ve always loved it. When we lived in Virginia when I was in elementary school, we’d always drive up Skyline Drive in October to get pumpkins and fresh, cold apple cider—there was nothing like that fresh taste and Florida has nothing to compare with it. Not many leaves change color here—a few trees do- like maples— but most are evergreens like pine. I love the look of bare trees in the twilight of mornings or dusk as well as in the fog. Some trees here have leaves one day and are naked the next.

Why I love October: Orange is my favorite color, the smell of smoke in the air always brings back memories of fall leaf burning, pumpkins, Halloween is fun, and the new baking shows with the fall themes are delightful to watch (not so delightful for my cravings for chocolate though) 😀And it cools off a bit here—most years, it’s low 80s at beginning of the month and 70s by end of month.

Lat year, for NaNoWriMo, I wrote a story that was inspired by my great grandmother’s name and her tombstone. Weirdly, her tombstone has her names in the wrong order which is kind of wild—I can only imagine they didn’t have the money to fix it when it was made incorrectly. I’ve always loved her first name. Her name (in the correct order) was Sophronia Neal Akers Richardson. The story I wrote is a ghost story/mystery. I turned in the edits this week, so I hope to have it out soon. It will be published under my other name as my mysteries are under that name to keep them separate from the romance-driven tales.

Happy October to all. Get out and enjoy some reds, oranges, fall scents and even some ghosties!

Gnarly pumpkin I bought —so wicked looking