We held our annual winter cabin weekend with the kids and grands in January. When you total up our kids, partners, grands, and great-grands, hubby’s and my family total 22. Soon to be 23 as a great-grandson is due in March.
Eleven made it to the cabin. Since COVID, everyone makes their own decision to go or not go. No pressure. This was our 24th year of doing this and I’m so grateful for this tradition. Our family has spread out along the west US coast so it’s a time to come together in person and catch up on our lives.
And let our lives go for a little bit. No hustle, no bustle, just us. Visiting, eating, playing games, eating, painting rocks and wood and canvases, and yes, eating. (I came home and had to go on a diet!)
The cabin we usually stay in is no longer rented out, so we found a new place for this year. Smaller, but with two separate living spaces so we were cozy but not on top of each other.
I don’t know if I’ve ever relaxed as much as I did at this year’s cabin. Food prep was simple and we only left the place once, to check out a distillery in a nearby town. In fact, that’s really the only “adventure” I can tie to this year’s cabin. I had a lavender-infused lemon drop. Never had anything like that before and it was yummy!
Now cabin is over and we’ve all gone back to our lives. Hubby and I are blessed because our kids are close, not only with each other, but with us. So we talk regularly throughout the year. It’s just nice, once in a while, to gather in person, you know?
Our daughter brought this sand thing and it mesmerized us all. It’s very peaceful to just watch the sand fall. Very meditative.
Hobbes here. Jillian is a bit stressed over a litany of things happening in her life so I told her I’d take over her post this month—actually, I hijacked it. 😀 I know I haven’t helped her out much lately other than to sit on her head in the mornings to wake her up, knock things off the table for her to pick up and constantly assist her in exercising by having her get up and down to open the door to let me out on the porch or back into the house. I’m pretty helpful that way.
We’re in a new year now but man, did we have some adventure—well, I did—in December.
It started the month the Sunday after that weekend they call Thanksgiving when the humans brought in the tree. I love, love the tree. I don’t know why they don’t leave it up all the time. They put this brown blanket under it and I love snoozing under the limbs with the scent of pine— or whatever that tree is—in my nose. Maybe a fir? Doesn’t matter. I love it. I never mess with the pretty baubles on it. I’m dignified like that.
Wrapping boxes is another thing Jillian does while that tree is up. Don’t know why. It’s kind of a weird habit. She hides them under the tree like she thinks no one will see them there. She also gets a bit peeved at me while I help. I mean, she needs that tape and the scissors batted to the floor, right? And the pen she uses to write on sticky little sheets of paper is just so tempting. It rolls quite nicely. Biting the paper and sitting on it to cut it for her is also fun but she fusses at me to get off of it. Testy woman.
The biggest adventure of the month was this small human coming to visit with his parents. He squealed every time he saw me and chased me. Little terror, he is. I tell ya. I’d get the nerve to venture out of hiding and, as soon as he spied me, he was after me. Crazy little human. He also couldn’t say Hobbes so he called me Bob. Bob? Oh the indignity.
They stayed for what seemed forever but Jillian said was only seven days. God created the world in seven days but I bet his seven were more peaceful than mine even with all the work he was doing.
Anyway, they eventually went home and I was able to enjoy free rein in the house again without living in fear of a tiny human chasing me and yelling, “Bob.”
Life is sort of back to normal now. They just took my tree outside after Epiphany so, I’m sad about that and about the brown blanket being back in that cabinet at the end of the hallway.
Here’s a picture of me hiding on Jillian’s bed on my favorite blanket, with the door closed, so the Bob fanatic would leave me alone.
Jillian here. Happy November. I’ve been having a mixed month and a half. I went to two weddings and a memorial service for a colleague. I also had four friends lose their mothers in one week. That was a bit startling, to say the least. One of them, her mother had been ill with a second bout of cancer for a while and one of the others, her mom was 95 and hadn’t been doing well for a while. It was still kind of sad to lose them both in the same day—I knew both of those ladies well as one was my college roommates’ mom and the other was a colleague in Tallahassee’s mom who I often went to dinner with when I was over there. The other two, I didn’t know their moms, but they are special friends and my heart hurt for them.
My colleague who passed away was an excellent attorney and a very gentle soul. I know those two words don’t usually go together, but he truly was a gentle man. I never, in all the years I knew him, ever heard him raise his voice or get angry. He was kind and really had a great sense of humor. He loved to debate issues even to the point of taking the opposite side of what he believed himself just for fun and to add to the conversation. He called me at the beginning of September and we had a nice chat. He’d just come out of the hospital and had been in a diabetic coma. He never said he was ill other than that incident. I was shocked to learn in mid-October when they announced his memorial service that he died about a week after that phone call—pancreatic cancer. He’d been battling it for 11 months. It just goes to show your last conversation with someone could very well be the last one. I’ll treasure the fact that he called me to chat on that day and am grateful I was there to take the call. I also wonder if he was taking the time to say goodbye to people he thought of as friends as it was a very cheery call. But that was his personality so it didn’t seem odd.
On a happier note, I attended two weddings within a few weeks of each other. Each was outdoor and next to a lake. One was warm and one was cold- weather wise. One was a writer friend in Tallahassee. She had a horrific marriage in the past and I was so happy for her when she found love again with a man who clearly is kind and will take good care of her heart.
The other wedding was a great nephew’s. The girl he married is a sweet young lady and they seem very well matched. I think I posted here before about her bridal shower where they never cut the cake. The same thing happened at the wedding. They did the cake cutting part for pictures with them, but then never served it. It was crazy. My sister-in-law, the grandmother of the groom, finally went over and got some for the people at our table. Usually there is someone there to serve it—even the caterer would have been a good plan—except I’m not sure they would if they didn’t do the cake. It was one of those trendy naked cakes. When one of my friends saw the picture of the cake, she said, “I don’t know who did that cake but they need to get a refund. The person that iced it did a terrible job.” 🙂
I’m heading down this weekend to the grandson’s second birthday party. I’m glad my son and his wife plan them for two weeks before the actual day since he was born Thanksgiving week. Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest times for Walt Disney World and, as they live in the same metro area as the parks, it’s a nightmare (traffic-wise) to go down there then.
Hope everyone has a great month. Here are a few pics of the weddings.
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!
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.
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.
I’m looking forward to it. As I am to next summer.
So here we are in the middle of August and I’m asking, “Where is our summer?” One week of high temperatures and then whoosh! Back to a typical British summer of cloud and rain and coolish weather. Still, at least all the rain we’ve had has saved us many an hour watering the garden. The garden is important to Dave and me. It’s our hobby, shared interest, the means of keeping ourselves self-sufficient in vegetables and, more importantly, the place where we can relax, ignore and forget the troubles of the world and relish in the delights of the flowers, the wildlife, the tranquility. And boy, we’ve needed that these past few months with the many health issues my family has gone through this year. No, scrap that; these last 3 years!
This year, Dave decided to grow sunflowers. Lots of them. We’ve lost count of the number of people who have stopped to look and admire them. People in cars pull over. Others have knocked on the door and asked if they can photograph them. Some just go right ahead and snap away. We don’t mind. It is a pity in some respects the schools are closed for the summer holiday as many children are missing the display, and for some reason kids just love sunflowers.
But it isn’t just the garden that has kept me going during this long, difficult year. There is my writing, and yes I am still beavering away trying to get my novel rewritten and have to admit at times the motivation and inclination have been AWOL. But the urge now is back and I’m once more into the swing of it.
And then, of course, there is painting. I haven’t done a great deal these last couple of years, but this year’s two dog commissions have kept me occupied, if again, at times the inclination was missing. With painting, one has to be in the right mood and frame of mind; at times mine was not. Thankfully, my client was in no hurry for either painting and this weekend also saw me complete a large painting in one day, one that has I think has turned out rather well. I believe that is because my mind is settled again now my family in Reading has recovered from their health problems and pandemic restrictions are lifted. Our lives can slowly but surely and with caution return to something like normality, as it did last weekend.
You may recall my nephew Gary and his wife Nicki, George’s parents, adopted a baby girl almost 3 years ago. Dave and I were included at the official adoption hearing and signing back in 2019. An official naming ceremony was planned for Easter 2020, to which we were also invited but sadly, three times this event had to be postponed because of you know what. August saw the day finally arrive when Daisy’s “Naming Day” could finally go ahead. And what a great day it was.
A naming day is a non religious, humanist ceremony performed by an official celebrant whereby a child (or adult) takes their name. The celebrant on this occasion was a man with a wonderful sense of humour and a deep sense of fun. This was confirmed by the small pots of bubble fluid and wands he put on every chair, both adults and children, to enjoy, which we did, during the long ceremony wherein her parents followed by six “guide parents” spoke their vows and committment to Daisy, and her big brother George with help from granny read out the poem “What is a Brother?”. It was lovely seeing my sisters, nieces, nephews, great nieces nephews and members of Nicki’s family we have come to know over the years, catch up on news and general conversation. It is great we all get on so well. The day was full of love, laughter, fun, hugs, delicious food and memory-making. We’re hoping the next family day won’t be too long in coming.
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.
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!
Are you are sitting comfortably, as I’d like to tell you a story. A true one.
Once upon a time there existed a village called Charlton nestled on the edge of the county of Gloucestershire, England. Surrounded by farmland, there were some large houses, a pub, post office, and several small cottages clustered around a village pond. Through modern eyes, it might seem idyllic but life then was simple, but harsh especially in winter as cottages were small, two-bedroomed buildings with no hot running water. Each had a kitchen and a small living room but there was no bathroom and the toilet was outside at the end of the garden.
Charlton was close to what was then the largest factory in Europe (later to become part of Rolls Royce) which designed and built aircraft, including engines and spare parts. Due to its manufacturing importance and its runway, it was a prime target during WW2. Thankfully the village survived the bombings, however, after the war, a compulsory purchase order was issued by the air ministry who wanted to extend the runway to accommodate take-off and landing requirements of a new aircraft, the Bristol Brabazon, and to build what would be the largest hanger in the world to house this experimental plane. The village was demolished, the government rehousing all the residents in brand-new houses in a larger town close by, thus keeping most of the community together.
In 1947, Vera and Albert and their two sons became the first family from Charlton to move into the new semi-detached homes, the national press on hand to record the event. With three bedrooms, a kitchen with storage cupboards plus larder, an anthracite boiler in the corner for hot water, a dining room, a living room with a large open fireplace, and joy-of-joys an indoor toilet, and an even bigger joy, a bathroom with a sink and airing cupboard with an immersion heater, Vera felt like she had won the football pools. Outside was a shed with a coal store and another toilet attached to the house, all surrounded by a large garden in which to grow vegetables and flowers. Some nine months later another son was born – a celebration of the new house Vera would proudly boast.
Reader, 30 years later I married that new son, and a month after, moved into that house to look after my terminally ill mother-in-law. It is where we still live. Whilst for Vera the house was wonderful, for me it was not. The kitchen was cluttered, small, had only one electric socket sited under the wooden draining board by the sink. The boiler created constant battles with soot and ash, as did the fire in the living room. There was only one electric socket in each room, nor was there any central heating. I truly hated the house but put up with it all.
Over time and the years we have altered and changed the house to the extent Vera would never recognise it or the gardens, and slowly I have come to like it. We are happy here. And we’re still improving and changing things. Whilst the majority of it is now as we want, the kitchen is desperately in need of updating again, but a chance situation last week changed that, putting its refurbishment on the back burner once more. Instead, we had a new drive laid. The old concrete one we installed some 30 years back was cracked in several places and breaking up and was always frankly too narrow. Laid within a day and a half, we are delighted with the result. Dave still parks right on the edge, still steps onto the grass to get out of the car, but he’ll learn soon enough. And I’m in no hurry for the new kitchen. It’ll come in time.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my story and trust I haven’t bored you with it. Oh, and the photograph of Moving Day? That’s Vera alongside her father who helped that day and the little boy is my brother-in-law, Bev. Funny thing with Bev too – his wife has the same name as me. Often causes confusion!
Barbara Crawford published this post in our community newsletter and graciously gave me permission to include it in our Over The Backyard Fence blog. Thank you, Barbara. Social Distancing With A Sense Of Humor by Barbara Crawford, Recycler of Old … Continue reading →