Category Archives: Holidays

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

What Summer?

It’s hard to believe we are already in the middle of September as in the UK we are still waiting for summer. One hot week in July and three hot days last week doesn’t cut it for the season in my book! It is not so much rain, but too many dull and chilly days, some which have almost tempted us to turn on the central heating. Oh well, little we can do about it other than look forward to next summer.

Cyclamen in flower already!

The garden too is slowly retreating into hibernation. The sunflowers, the glory of our road, are hanging their heads, the phlox and lilies, clematis, rudbeckias and carnations dying down, the fuschias over. Autumn cyclamen and plumbago are in flower already, another sure sign summer is at an end, as is the chill and damp in the air first thing, the dew on the grass and furniture. At least now we don’t have to keep watering the plants and it is still pleasant and warm enough to sit outside and enjoy our morning coffee but as the Earth tilts on its axis toward the autumn equinox, our garden is in shade by noon. Whilst I don’t enjoy this time of year, or the thought of long winter nights and lack of sunlight, I can indulge myself in my writing and painting to wile away the short days. Suffice to say, autumn has arrived.

This became most evident last weekend as I drove across the country to spend the weekend with family. It is about an hour and a half drive if one goes on the motorway, but a stressful one I do not enjoy especially now most of our motorways are “smart” (which means there is no hard shoulder during busy times or heavy traffic!). Not smart in my book, so I always take the scenic route. It takes twice as long although the mileage is the same, but is a relaxing, enjoyable drive through several pretty towns and through a forest. It was seeing the leaves on the trees already turning red and yellow and falling that convinced me our summer was over. But enough of that.

It is such a joy to be able to spend a girlie weekend with my two sisters, my mother and a niece at one of my sister’s home. To sit and chat about this and that, reminisce about those wonderful holidays we took together. It used to be on such occasions our first job once I had arrived was for us to pick out where we wanted to go for our next holiday and then go to the local travel agent and book it. It always gave us something to look forward to during the long winter months. Sadly not this year. Perhaps next. But it doesn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves. We laugh a lot, share jokes and stories as we imbibe in good wine, delicious food and great company. A relaxed, lazy afternoon in the garden, PJs on about 7 o’clock. An equally lazy Sunday until it is time for me to leave, drive mother and sister home on route, and take a leisurely, equally pleasant drive back home. The weekend refreshes us all, binds us. They are precious days, and the next one is planned for late November, weather permitting.

Cheers, girls.

I’m looking forward to it. As I am to next summer.

Kit Domino’s website and blogs

Tea For Three

A little late with my blog this month, as was the birthday tea I enjoyed with my two sisters yesterday. We were certainly waiting a long time for the day to come round. Well over 18 months! But it was worth the wait and we three enjoyed ourselves.

But why the long wait? Back in Sept 2019, my twin sisters celebrated a milestone birthday. A gift from their four children was a thermae spa 2-night break in Bath, England. This is an incredible mineral spa with rooftop swimming pool giving panoramic views over the city. As the year was getting late, the trip was arranged for the following April and invited me to join them for afternoon tea as my birthday treat. But we all know what happened the month before, that dreaded word: Lockdown. The hotel agreed to hold the booking to the end of lockdown. Another birthday for my sisters came and went. Lockdown eased only to be fully re-imposed Christmas 2020. Again, the hotel happily rescheduled it for my birthday April 2021. But lockdown was still on, though easing. In March, it was finally arranged for June, when most restrictions here were lifted, except for the few we are still under.

https://www.thermaebathspa.com/
Britain’s original thermal spa in Bath.

At last my sisters were able to enjoy a much-needed break, spoiling themselves relaxing for a few days indulging in some spa treatments, sight seeing, and the best part — my being able to join them for a champagne tea at their hotel.
The historic city of Bath is some 25 miles from my home. Whilst I could have taken the car, it would mean I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the champagne. Not to worry, I have a Diamond Travel Pass, giving free travel on buses. I hadn’t been on a bus for over two years, and having enjoyed this journey often in the past, was looking forward to the trip there and back. The only problem is the time the bus takes: anything up to 2 hours or more depending on traffic, as it is a complicated route with many stops, but scenic. My other half was not happy.

“I’ll drive you,” he said. “The car needs a good run out and it gets me away from the house for a few hours too. How long will you be?” he asked. “And where can I park and wait for you?” Now, you would have thought by now after over 40 years together, he would know that whenever I meet the girls for lunch or my sisters, we chat and chat and chat for hours. Nor was I going to spend the time clock-watching. I told him I would get the bus or train home, both stations being right by the hotel, and he could pick be up from the station. I didn’t think it fair him having to spend his afternoon/evening driving me back and forth twice (Bath is an hour’s drive from home). But no, he wasn’t happy with the idea of me travelling by bus. Or train. So it was agreed he’d pick me up, I would ring him when ready.

It was lovely seeing my sisters again. Admittedly it was only a few weeks since the last time we were together but sitting in different surroundings, being waited on, lovely champagne, a delicious scone cream tea served by the most helpful and friendly staff who made us so welcome and comfortable. Afterwards, we decided to go for a walk and find a bar where we could sit outside (the weather this past week has been gloriously hot), enjoy a glass of G&T and people watch, wishing and missing our many fantastic holidays abroad together, but it was a wonderful way to spend a summer’s afternoon. We wandered back to the hotel, and whilst we waited for Dave, still with an hour to enjoy, we ordered another round of G&Ts.

“Shall I be mum?”

Such precious time goes far too quickly, too much precious time has been lost but we treasure every moment together. May there be many more.

Kit Domino’s website and blogs

May = Mother’s Day

Jillian here. May in the USA brings us pretty flowers and Mother’s Day. My own mother has always given her two children small tokens for Mother’s Day which I think is cute. We made her a mother and she honors us as well as us honoring her. Pretty cool, huh?

This year, we got flowers to either pot or plant… My sister and I both have black thumbs so we both see these as “victims”- Mom has a super green thumb and thinks (delusionally) that her offspring do as well. I don’t know why she thinks this as she has rescued many a plant from our evil clutches in the past. One time, when I was in law school, I had a fern that was down to four twigs. She took it home with her and by the time I came home a couple of months later, she had three big ferns hanging on her back porch from my feeble little twigs.

I’ve killed cactus and wilted silk flowers, so pray for this plant. It can use all the help it can get!

Hope all had a great Mother’s Day- whenever you celebrate.

April Showers… and all that jazz

Jillian here! Happy April – We have already had a lot of flowers blooming here- Azaleas (see below) and Japanese magnolias are always early here- March-and then they are gone for a while- We have weird weather in the spring- some days it’s 80 and others it is 40. We always, always, always get a cold snap right before Easter- no planting veggie gardens until after Good Friday is the rule here because no matter when Easter falls, we will have a cold snap- or even frost- around Good Friday. This year was no exception. 🙂

The last two days, we’ve had the April showers in abundance – it has been as dark as night when it’s time to get up and that really messes me up as I think I have more time to sleep 🙂 Hobbes is even off kilter with his crepuscular behavior. He’s chillin’ in the photo- like the boss he is!

My day job that I do for the federal government requires that I am audited every 2-4 years and this week was that joyful occasion (NOT!) – I’m always confident that all the banking is good, but they always have some kind of findings on record-keeping (it’s a CPA thing- I know, as I am married to one) 🙂 It’s like being in school again and realizing there is a final exam that morning and not only haven’t I studied, I seem to have missed class all semester- 🙂 In other words, it causes me stress and angst.

The good news: It ended yesterday and the findings were very minor – and nothing I anticipated 🙂 Typical. Thus, the no chance to study fear. And I can breathe again for a few years. 🙂

Enjoy the April showers and await, with anticipation, the May flowers.

A Brighter Light

The weather in England is a fickle thing. Two days ago, here in the West County we were shivering at minus 5 deg, the central heating turned up high, and outside in the garden the plants were blackened, laying prone and looking decidedly deceased. Then overnight, it all changed as we basked in temperatures over 12 degs, warm enough (almost) to sit outside and have our coffee. Today, although it started raining heavily at 5:30am, it is currently 13 degs, if overcast, and I’ve just turned the heating off for the day. The garden has recovered too. My hellebores are once again upright and looking fit, the pansies and other plants making a comeback. It feels that Spring has sprung.

All this is in sharp contrast to this day last year. It was the day Dave and I returned from our winter sun holiday. We’d enjoyed Spanish sun in temperatures over 25 degs, some days, hitting 30! But on Feb 16th 2020, our flight was delayed because of fog in Malaga, and in the UK the hatches were battened down as Storm Dennis battered the country with 70 mph winds and lashing rain. Let us hope it’s the last of the cold and frosts and snow this winter, and any further storms are gone but somehow I have a feeling some may return before Easter.

But let’s look on the bright side. Evenings are getting lighter each day, at the moment I’m not closing the blinds or putting the lights on until 5:45pm. A week ago, it was at 5:00pm. Dawn is arriving earlier and earlier. It’s light now long before 7:00am. This time of year is always one of optimism, new starts, new hope, new life. Perhaps more so this year as the Covid jabs are rolling out apace here, cases are falling, and the Government talking of how and when to ease us out of lockdown.

Now, I don’t know about you, but since Dave and I had our first jab, we are feeling a lot more cheerful, if that could be possible. Whilst we are always happy and comfortable in our surroundings, enjoying life and the current situation as best we can, it feels as if a lot of the pressure has been lifted, pressure we hardly realised was there. More noticeable is the fact that we are both sleeping better, more soundly and since the jab, I haven’t had one peculiar or weird dream, nor am I waking up several times during the night. Of course, a good night’s sleep does lead to a less stressful day. Now I’m woken up by the dawn chorus of robins and blackbirds, not by the urgent need to use the bathroom countless times; although Dave does put that down to my age. Cheeky man!

I’m now in the mood to venture out on a daily walk, something I’ve avoided due to the bad weather and you-know-what. I’ve missed ambling around our local park and woods and need to get out there and watch springtime wake up. Before long the bluebells will be out in the woods, and I don’t want to miss them this year. I’m in need of their inspiration.

Yes, folks, there is a light that is getting brighter at the end of the tunnel we’ve all been crawling through this past year. We’re getting there. Things are getting better and I am determined to make it a good one. If we’ve got through all this together, we can get through anything.

Keep on shining, light, we need you.

Kit Domino’s website and blogs

Looking Forward, Not Back

Another year begins. Thank goodness we could say goodbye to 2020, but the less said about that, the better. It’s a time to look forward, not back, and think about what is to come, make a few plans, list a few goals. One of which, is to publish my next novel in the Filton Shield series plus a self-help book.  We have plans to have a new kitchen fitted; mind you, we’ve been planning to do that for the last 5 years! I seriously intend by the end of this year, the kitchen will be upgraded, the long-needed and yearned for eye-level oven installed. Meanwhile, whilst the weather here in the UK is cold and wet, many parts enduring snow, between bouts of writing and painting, housework and reading, I take daily pleasure in watching the birds in the garden and, more importantly, hunting for signs of Spring. And I’ve found some. Hurrah!

Yes, lurking by the front hedge, the snowdrops are up and in flower, patiently waiting for a sunny day when the white flowerheads can open fully and perform their delicate nodding displays. Mixed in with these I spy the first of the crocus (yes, I know the plural is croci, but to me it’s easier to say and people know what I mean) growing the lawn are up, their long purple flowerbuds holding tight until the sun shines on them. They’re a little late arriving this year; most years this particular variety is in flower as early as New Year’s Day. And looking across the lawn, I can see more and more dark green and white striped sword leaves of later crocus poking through the grass, a promise of a colourful display to come next month.

We missed last February’s crocus flush as we were abroad on holiday, likewise the early daffodils, but they too are growing well, their leaves coming through since December. So too are the hyacinths planted in the shelter of the long hedges. And my ever-faithful hellebores are in flower with more to open up as the weeks move along.

What are starting to come into flower, and rather early, are our wallflowers, the plants surrounding the drive looking exceedingly verdant and healthy. I don’t think I’ve seen wallflowers plants so vigorous. I’m looking forward to them being in full flower as their perfume is wonderful on warm spring days and fill my heart with joy.

To help us through the dark dismal days of winter we grow many flowering plants and bulbs indoors. Hyacinths, whose intoxicating smell fill the house, the bulbs of which when the flower is finished, we plant outside along the hedges to flower year after year. And we have two cactus plants, a white and a red flowered one. I noticed yesterday my white “thanksgiving” cactus is in bud again after dropping its last flowerhead just before Christmas. Along with these we have a lovely red amaryllis. Usually a single-stemmed plant, this year it has outperformed all others by throwing up three flower stems, each with magnificent scarlet flowers.

And, of course, my orchids. It wouldn’t be the same without these exotic but easy to grow plants around the house, these two magnificent specimens sitting on the mantelpiece.

So yes, Spring is definitely on its way here and there is so much to look forward to and am eager to get outside and start the spring tidy but that must wait at least until late of February. Hopefully, if the world has sorted itself out by the autumn we can plan another trip abroad, a lot depends on many factors, but it is something else to look towards, as are visits to garden centres. But what I’m really looking forward to is the sun and summer. To be able to sit in the garden with my morning coffee or evening cocktail, to feel the warmth on my body, see blue sky and smell the roses. It will all come in time. Simple inexpensive pleasures that fill the heart and swell the soul. Bring it on!

What do you look forward to most this year?

Kit Domino’s website and blogs

‘Tis The Season To Be Jolly

And suddenly Christmas is almost upon us once more. Despite the difficulties of the past year, it has crept up seemingly faster than ever. I should have been more prepared, after all the shops were playing seasonal music since November, cards and decorations and seasonal food on sale back in September and the Christmas movies on TV since the summer! Not that I have much to prepare. As it has been for the past 20 years, ours will be a quiet time, just Dave and me and my mother, who finally decided yesterday she did indeed want to come to us again. No presents, no fuss, no crackers, just enjoyable food and a little drink or two and even more enjoyable company with the Christmas tree twinkling in the corner, and hopefully a good movie or two to watch on TV.

Talking of TV, the Christmas advertisements haven’t been up to their usual standard this year, in our opinion, although there is one that has moved me to tears. No silly song, indeed, no dialogue whatsoever but the sentiment is so strong it brings a lump to my throat every time I watch it.

https://youtu.be/yg4Mq5EAEzw

With my mother being German, we were bought up with many of the German Christmas traditions, from the Christmas tree never being put up until Christmas Eve, when us children were in bed so it became an extra special magical Christmas morning, to the Advent Calendars, sent from Germany by our grandmother (Oma), years before they became available or popular in the UK. They were simple affairs, a little religious scene behind every dated window or door, and lots of glitter. No chocolates or treats or perfume or even bottles of gin that are so popular nowadays – the ones for adults, that is. These came each year in a large parcel sent from Germany at the end of November, along with a homemade Stollen, Lebkucken, iced gingerbread hearts, packets of Dr Oekter vanilla sugar (because Mum couldn’t get any in the UK), special coffee beans, our presents from Oma, along with other items for Mum and Dad. I will never forget the aroma that filled the house those days when the parcel arrived and opened. Now Stollen and Lebkucken and other German treats are readily available here, much to my family’s delight although nothing yet beats Oma’s baking.

Lovely memories of childhood Christmases fill me each year, and for many a year I have been on a quest to find a recipe my mother would make just after the festivities were over. Years ago you couldn’t buy beer in the supermarkets like you can now. If you wanted to drink beer at home, especially for parties, you bought glass flagons of it from the off-licence section in the pub. When you needed more supplies, someone had to take the empty bottles to the off-licence to be refilled. Of course, the beer went flat very quickly if not drunk and, rather than waste it, my mother would use some of it in beef stews and casseroles and as a special treat, make beer soup! I can taste it now, in my mind. But I have never been able to find the recipe for it. Mother cannot remember the recipe now, nor can she find her German cookery book in which it was written. All I can remember is she used to put custard powder in it.

I have spent many years trawling recipe books and the internet to no avail. Yes, there are recipes out there, but they all include cheese and made with lager, all claiming to be the original German beer soup, but cheese nor lager was ever used in ours or in that Oma made. Try as I might to recreate it adjusting from those recipes, I failed every time. However, a few days ago I came across a site that had many old German recipes from a cookery book dated 1897 and low and behold, there was one for beer soup that sounds very much like the one I know.

Beer Soup
1 cup dark beer
1 cup water
1/2 cup light brown sugar
Pinch salt
1 egg yolk
1 heaping tablespoon flour
Place egg and flour in a heat safe bowl; set aside. Heat beer, water, sugar, and salt until just before boiling. Pour beer slowly over egg and flour, constantly whisking.  Return to pan. Serve hot.

I haven’t tried making it yet, but I intend to.

Of course, Christmas isn’t Christmas without a carol or two, so here is one of my favourites “Oh Holy Night” sung by four gorgeous hunks to sign off with. But before I go, I want to thank you all for your friendship and support during this difficult year and wish each and every one of you a Happy, Safe, Merry and Enjoyable Christmas, no matter how you are celebrating yours. See you in the New Year.

https://youtu.be/a5j_XuATgRU

Kit Domino’s website and blogs

Christmas – In Song

Jillian here. I promise I had my idea for this post before I saw Lavada’s Elvis song. 🙂 I thought I’d share some links to some of my favorite Christmas songs.

My all time favorite is Do you Hear What I Hear by Bing Crosby

Michael Crawford (the original Phantom of the Opera) has a fab Christmas album. My two favs on there are Mary Did You Know and Strange Way to Save the World. The second one always makes me tear up.

Harry Belafonte’s Mary’s Boy Child is another one I love.

A bouncier song is Vince Vance and the Valiants All I Want for Christmas is You – It is def not the Mariah version and I like it much better.

I adore the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Their song, Dream Child is one I listen to over and over. I could only find a live version of it, so I am linking to the words as they are so beautiful.

Seth McFarlane can be vulgar in his comedy, but he does have a wonderful Christmas album. His gift for voices shines in the album songs.

What about you? What are some of your Favorites? And let me know if I screwed up any of the links! Happy December!

November Means Veterans Day and Remembrance Day

Jillian here. Sorry this will be a long post! It’s November and since this is the month we remember our veterans—on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, I thought I’d share some tidbits about the veterans in my own family.

My Revolutionary War ancestor was Thomas Gresham (yes, my U.K. friends, I am related to Sir John and Sir Thomas Gresham—perhaps you’ve heard of them 😁 but that’s a story for another day). One of the later generation younger sons came to the colonies in 1690. By the time of the Revolution, we’d been here long enough to become attached to this place and my five- times great grandfather enlisted in Washington’s Army at the tender age of 15. He survived that long, freezing, brutal winter at Valley Forge (got sick and lost some wages as was too ill to fight for a bit) and also survived the war- thank goodness he did or you wouldn’t be reading this post!  🙂 When I think of what I was doing at age 15, my admiration grows for this young man and all the others who stood with him.

My great uncle, William Eugene Fowler died at the Battle of the Bulge and is buried in one of the American cemeteries in Belgium. He was an army sergeant and died while in battle, but not before saving five of his men and pulling them to safety. My dad, who was a tot at the time, as he was born in 1940, loved his Uncle Eugene. My great grandmother had a portrait of him in a massive oval frame with one of those bubble glass fronts. My dad would carry that thing around even though it was as tall as him. Thinking about the sacrifice Uncle Eugene made—saving others— without regard to his own safety, makes me proud to be related to such a brave man.

My dad enlisted in the Navy when he was still in high school and left for boot camp a few days after he graduated. He was already engaged to my mom. His mom and dad moved from their farm into town while he was gone and he didn’t know where they lived when he got back. And my grandmother had gotten rid of all his civilian clothes as she thought he’d always be in uniform and wouldn’t need them. 😁 —he served during the Vietnam era and volunteered to go over, but he wasn’t allowed as he was a weapons instructor and was needed stateside to train the young me who would go. He’s always felt a little like he cheated by staying in the USA. This is him below:

His younger brother, Robert, always wanted to be in the Air Force. He was a fun person and a real ladies man. I remember him well even though he died when I was almost six. He injured himself in boot camp and was told he was going to be shipped home as his back injury was so bad, he wouldn’t be able to serve. Despondent that he’d never have the life he’d always dreamed of, and with no loved ones near to help him, he took his own life. It was terrible and so sad. My dad was the one who had to tell his father as the Navy commander was contacted by the Air Force as they had the records that Dad was his brother. The commander called my dad into his office and told him.  My poor dad had to make that terrible phone call to his father. My grandmother was never the same. Her bible, at her death, had so many notes in it where she was praying on paper for understanding of the death of her fourth son. I share this to say I don’t consider my uncle a coward. I consider the pressure he was under and the loss of his lifelong dream as the impetus for his actions. If only there had been the kinds of services we have now for counseling back then, I think he’d still be here.

And lastly, my nephew, Kyle ____ (his middle name is Eugene), who is very much like my Uncle Robert, charming, fun and a ladies man (they even look similar), is currently serving in the Air Force. It’s like we’ve come full circle with him and my uncle. Kyle is following Robert’s dream. Maybe not exactly the same exact dream, and we hope the ending isn’t the same, but I do find it comforting that Kyle found his own path, that included military service, and has been following it for more than 12 years now.

What about you? Any stories to share about loved ones who served in your branches of the armed forces?