Category Archives: Seasons

It’s That Time of Year Again

So, here we are again at that time of year when everyone seems to go crazy, often completely overboard just because it’s Christmas. A special time of year, yes, but Christmas is only 1 day. One day, not 3 months, which is how it now seems to be. It was back in August when I first spied Christmas cards and mince pies for sale in the supermarket; mince pies with a use-by date of 31 Oct 2016! And as we hit December running, I can’t find my usual things in the supermarket, because shelves have been reorganized for Christmas stock – row upon row of chocolates and sweets and all the good things to eat. Horrendous queues at checkouts; one would think we’re going to be snowed in for 6 months with the amount people buy “just in case unexpected visitors arrive!” The stress and worry, never mind cost, usually on credit cards that take over a year to pay off, of buying gifts for everyone including neighbours, the cat, and anyone else who happens to pass or ring the doorbell. Houses in our town decorated since October with icicle lights blinking from the guttering, and Christmas trees on sale in November, which will have shed all their needles by 25 December.mr-mrs-snowman

I may sound a bit of a grouch, a kill-joy, Scrooge, a person who hates Christmas, but I am not. Quite the contrary. I think it is a magical, wonderful time of the year. I just wish it didn’t start so early, that the commercialism wasn’t so intense because nowadays, that sparkle, that anticipation has been killed. It just isn’t the same any more.

In my childhood home, the Christmas tree didn’t go up until Christmas Eve, long after we kids were in bed so that in the morning, there it was in all its glittering glory with our presents – mostly handmade by my parents: clothes and toys, just a few each, stacked underneath. As children in the 1950s and early 1960s we were extra lucky, although we didn’t realise it at the time.

Every year my German grandmother would send over a large parcel to us in England. It would be packed with all the lovely, delicious treats of Christmas that were then unobtainable here: glittering Advent calendars, iced gingerbread hearts and Lebkucken, and Pfeffemusse, marzipan filled Stollen, and so much more. I think it was smell of that parcel I remember most, that wonderful spicy cinnamon and ginger smells that said “Christmas is coming.”

tree Christmas in the Domino house is a very quiet affair now. We do have a tree, an artificial black one with gold baubles and one two other little sentimental decorations. We stopped doing presents years ago, except for the littlest children, and how much simpler and more enjoyable it has become. We’d rather folk spent their money on themselves, not on us. We don’t have turkey to eat, we don’t like it. We might indulge in a Christmas pud and a few mince pies, but no crackers to pull on the table. No fuss, no hassle, simply a large enjoyable meal in good company in an atmosphere of calm serenity to relax in.

Don’t get me wrong. I love large family gatherings. The noise, the laughter, the company, and I do so wish I could have all of my family at mine one year, but we are many and scattered far afield. Thank goodness for the telephone and internet so we can at least speak to each other even if we can’t share a hug and a kiss. The thoughts are with family. With friends. With those we have lost and those who are new to the fold. With memories. To me, this is what Christmas is all about: Family. Not the gifts, not the food, not the decorations, as much as I love seeing them. It’s also about magic. Father Christmas and sleigh bells, and the Christmas movies to make you laugh and perhaps shed a tear.

I’ll leave you with what is one of my favourite Christmas carols. Apologies if you’ve heard it before but I’m sure many haven’t. Whatever Christmas means to you and whatever you do this Christmas, do have a good one. A safe one. A warm one, from the heart.

Silly me: I meant to include the English lyrics. These are the closest and best I’ve come across for translation.

The Bells Never Sound Sweeter

The bells never sound sweeter
Than at Christmas-time.
It’s as if angels would sing
again of peace and joy,
How they sang at blessed night!
How they sang at blessed night!
Little bells with their holy ringing,
The earth chimes along!

Oh, when the bells ring out,
As soon as the Christ child hears them,
He swings from the sky
Hastily down to earth.
He blesses the father, the mother, the child
He blesses the father, the mother, the child.
Little bells with their holy ringing,
The earth chimes along!

It chimes with a sweet sound
Far across the seas,
So that all will take delight in
The blessed Christmas-time.
All rejoice with beautiful song,
All rejoice with beautiful song,
Little bells with their holy ringing,
The earth chimes along!

 

 

The Garden in November

Slowly, imperceptibly, Earth has tilted towards winter again, and as the clocks are forced backwards an hour, daylight increasingly less and less, my garden is still proving to be a delight. The start of this month in the UK has been dismal and grey, turning my mood to grey too and wishing I could withdraw under the duvet until spring. It’s only because we’re having such a colourful autumn that I haven’t quite sunk into S.A.D mode completely. However, this morning the sun is out and before my backyard is plunged into shadow for the remainder of the day and until next March, I ventured outside with the camera to capture the garden’s last flush before tonight’s frost plunges it into hibernation.

2016-10-21-12-05-48The cosmos is still in flower, the pinks and whites a dazzling splash. They were worth every penny. I usually grow this plant from seed but this year, because I wanted the space to move plants from the long border for the planned revamp, I didn’t sow any. These I bought as small plants which have done me proud.

The cosmos is interspersed with dark brown flowers from my chocolate cosmos, my favourite. It not only looks pretty but smells of chocolate. Wonderful! Now this has been a success. I’ve tried for many years to keep this plant over winter but every year, good old Choccy always dies on me. But not this one. It survived, now in its second year and I am hoping it thrives again next year.

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We haven’t been able to carry out the planned revamp this summer, so that has been put back until next year, and thus the long border has been left to do its own thing this summer, and gaps filled in with pots of plants rather than planted.

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Faithfuls have been the fuchsia, grown from a cutting from a cutting taken years ago from my childhood home back in London. We don’t know the variety, but always refer it as the Hounslow fushia. The nigella has been flowering non stop since early spring. It pops up everywhere, in various shades of blue, pink and white, and self-seeds readily. Another plant I can always rely on is the everlasting wallflower (Erysimus), whose long stems of mauve flowers keep coming and coming. It flowers for most of the year so, even in winter there is always this gorgeous splash of colour. I’m on the lookout for the orange variety, but having difficulty locating one.

2016-10-21-12-09-01One plant family I’ve only recently come to like is Heuchera. Its many different varieties have the most varied leaf colours I know, from lime green, through to almost black. The flowers are nothing special, usually white or pink spikes but the beauty of this plant is that it grows in almost any position and doesn’t die back in winter. I must get some more next year. I have the perfect bed for it near the patio doors.

So whilst the rest of the garden succumbs to the autumn chill, I can at least for the time being enjoy the splashes of life thriving in my little plot.

I just wish someone would tell my rhododendron it’s not supposed to flower until next May!

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It’s That Time Again! By Valerie J. Patterson

It happens every year.  There’s simply no escaping it.  You can’t run from it, hide from it, or even overlook it.  Every September–like clockwork–it happens.

What is it?  That time of year when summer ends and fall begins.

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy all of the seasons.  Each one brings about a creative resurgence that I absolutely love!  Winter, with its stark beauty, beckons me outdoors and into the crisp evening air to wonder at all the exquisiteness of a fresh falling snow.  Spring, with its rebirth of everything green and colorful, pulls me into the lushness of showers that result in bursts of vibrant flowers and carpets of green.  Summer, with its endless azure skies, romances me with ocean sprays and huge golden moons lighting up paths in the sand.  Autumn, with its brilliant grandeur, lures me into carefree times of yesterday when I played in the leaves, enjoyed hayrides, and carved pumpkins.

But there is something else that fall does–it comes with shorter days and less rays from the sun.  This is without a doubt the one thing about fall I dislike.  It’s dark when I rise and the darkness comes calling just a short time after I leave the office.  Sigh.  I love the cooler temperatures, but bemoan the fact there is less daylight to enjoy them.

There’s nothing I can do about it.  It happens every single year.  And I so very much look forward to those days when the daylight creeps into longer hours.  Ah yes, that too happens every single year!

Until next time, may a lilting fall breeze lift your hair, caress your face, and gently blow through your mind to inspire you.

To Tree Or Not To Tree, That is the Question by Valerie J. Patterson

To tree or not to tree.  That is the question.  Not quite Shakespearean, but close enough.

The holidays are a lot of work.  You’ve got the baking, the shopping, the wrapping, and the decorating.  And that’s just the preparation.  All of these things tie together to make the holidays festive, memorable, and delicious, but when it’s all over, have you ever wanted to just leave the decorations up a little longer than past New Years?  What’s acceptable?  When is it too long?

The norm in our neighborhood seems to be outside decorations need to come down–or at the very least no longer lit up–after New Years’ Day.  I was a rebel this year and not only left them up but also left them lit up until January 9th.  The weather that Saturday was a pure gift, and I spent the morning out in the front yard while the bubbly hubby was at work.  Removing all the decorations and lights was a bit of a bummer, reminding me how quickly the holidays pass.  When I finished and went inside, I stared at the tree standing proud in the center of my picture window, and I didn’t have the heart to tackle that as well.

One more week, is what I thought that evening as I turned down the lights and sat on the sofa with the bubbly hubby and watched the lights.  Just one more week, then I’ll take it down.

And then I talked with my sister-in-law, Tracy who told me she didn’t want to take down her tree, either.  Instead, she removed the Christmas decorations, replacing them with Valentine’s Day decorations.  She shared a photo and I was convinced.  This past Monday, Steve and I went and bought some Valentine’s Day decorations and this Saturday, I will change my Christmas tree into a Valentine’s tree.

And then–if I am still reluctant to take it down and put it in the closet–I will make it a St. Patrick’s Day tree!

So what about you?  To tree or not to tree?  What’s your choice?

Until next time, may the simplicity and beauty of tree lights bring color to your life!

Quiet Winter Days

P1010919I like the month of January. For me it’s the quiet month. The holidays are still giving off an after glow but if anything that adds to the quiet.

Here in the Pacific NW if we are going to get snow it’s usually in January. And, since we don’t see a lot of the white stuff life slows down.

However even if we don’t get much snow we do get a lot of rainy overcast days that are perfect for a hot cup of cocoa, or coffee, or whatever, and a good book. My favorite things.

It is also a good time for me to get into in the house projects like cleaning out closets and drawers or starting an afghan. I used to start sewing projects at this time of year but I haven’t even taken the sewing machine out to do mending lately. And, not planning to either. ☺ I also don’t get into cooking projects though I can see that it would be a popular one.

The picture is from the old house the back lawn sloped down to a creek where a bench sits and there are open fields that add to the winter wonderland image.

I hope you are all enjoying the first month of 2016. For me each month and season is special but I’m not in a hurry to rush the year along. Instead I’m just enjoying life in the slow lane.

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Exhibitions

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Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness … The opening line to Ode to Autumn, a favourite poem of mine by John Keats, may be familiar to many of us from school days. The words always conjure up this time of year for me, … Continue reading

September Sighs

100_6991Slowly the world has slipped into September and autumn, in the process forgetting to bring summer to the UK. Despite the highest ever July temperature recorded this year on a day I was abroad – typical! –­ it’s been a horrible summer with the wettest and coldest August since goodness knows how long. As a consequence the garden hasn’t thrived this year. Many plants have succumbed to wind damage, my tall obelisk blown over at least four times due to the strong winds we’ve had, but thankfully the clematis clinging to it for dear life has survived and still flowering well. We’ve lost many plants: petunias dying early, fuchsias suffering with early leaf drop and other plants just not bothering to flower. The begonias in hanging baskets are suffering with mildew too, thanks to the damp weather. This has been disheartening for both Dave and me but there’s not a lot we can do about the weather. We can control the weeds, but not the sun.

100_6990So now begins the process of putting the garden to bed, putting in cyclamen and pansies for autumn and winter displays, and planting bulbs for next autumn. That said, autumn is a time when a lot of flowers come into their own and our dahlias and chrysanthemums are putting on a fine display, bringing a late splash of colour and a feast for the bees. Looking around this morning every plant had bees on it, some having one on every flower, the air full of buzzing!

100_6996There haven’t been many days I’ve been able to sit outside and enjoy my coffee or read a book. The sunshade has only been put up twice all summer – last year it was in use every day. Also missing this year are the butterflies. We’ve had one or two visit the garden, but nothing like the spectacular numbers of recent years. But it hasn’t been all doom and gloom. One evening last month, I was invited by my daughter Katie to an open-air theatre production of Treasure Island. I’ve seen many plays put on by this amateur dramatic troupe – the Sodbury Players ­– they’re very professional, so I knew I would be in for a good evening.

 “Bring a picnic, a chair, a warm jacket and a brolly,” she said, “it always rains when we perform outside.” The brolly and jacket were not needed. For once this year the evening was glorious. It was warm, although a chilly breeze did get up come dusk. The venue was in the beautiful gardens of an Elizabethan farmhouse, Camers, perched on an escarpment of the Cotswold hills, which affords magnificent views over the countryside across to the city of Bristol in the distance.

I neaPirate Katierly turned the car around on route as of all evenings, this turned out to be flying ant day, and I simply hate flying ants. The air was amass with them but by the time I’d collected the grandchildren, and we’d parked the car in the field below the house, the ants had either found new homes or filled the bellies of the many swifts and other birds feasting on them.

After being entertained by a violinist as we enjoyed our picnics, the play began. Katie’s part was “an angry pirate”. She was brilliant, as were all the actors. One of the things this troupe does well is ad-lib and improvisation when things don’t quite go to plan. They always make it look as if it was meant to happen, this night being no exception. Being Treasure Island, one of the props used was rifles, firing blanks for sound effect. Except one didn’t work. Three times Long John Silver aimed his rifle, three times nothing happened. “Damn,” he said, “all the rain’s made got my gunpowder wet.” (Laughter from the audience.) He raised it again, and in a loud voice shouted, “BANG!” causing much hilarity in the audience and for the cast.

The performance was good, highly entertaining, and it was lovely to be able to spend an evening in the company of my two grandchildren, whom I don’t see a lot of now they are young adults. I do hope they invite me to next year’s performance.

And hopefully next summer will be better all round.