Category Archives: Seasons

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?

June– Hot, Hot! SUMMER!!

Jillian here – hope everyone is doing fine. It’s already in the 90s here in sunny NW Florida. It doesn’t feel too bad when the wind is blowing, but man, inside the car is a whole ‘nother story– boiling hot. It’s amazing how much like an inferno (one without flames) it can get inside an auto. Aug and Sept are our two hottest months, so something to look forward to….NOPE!

I recently ordered a book when I saw the author on the Jeopardy quiz show as she intrigued me as a lawyer who wrote thrillers. I just finished reading it and it was okay except there was no one I liked in the whole book. I hate it when I don’t have someone to root for, don’t you? The protagonist was a lawyer and made some super bone-headed moves that even a first year law student knows they shouldn’t do. She was quite unlikeable as well– snobbish and a liar. But I kept reading, so clearly, something was appealing to me, right?

Like Laurie, I enjoyed the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and watched some of the festivities online. What an amazing lady she is. Admirable.

The grandson had his last day of preschool summer party and I love, love this photo of him in the mini pool as all the other children were being dried off. It’s just pure joy!

Happy summer to my sweet Baboo as well as all of you!

Spring Has Sprung

It is the middle of March, and spring has definitely arrived in the UK. That was my feeling yesterday when the day dawned bright and clear and sunny, if a little cold but once the sun had risen high enough and chased away the thin covering of frost, we turned off the central heating, changed into t-shirts and jeans, and disappeared into the garden. There is much to do here, Dave busy in his veg plot tilling and raking and planting out potatoes and leeks, me in the back garden picking up bucket-loads of brown and wizened oak leaves. Considering we do not have any trees in the garden, let alone oaks, these were the result of gale-force winds last autumn which blew in masses of leaves from a stand of trees several streets away. All good for the compost though, and I had purposely left them to help protect the garden from winter.

The next task was erecting a new obelisk I had recently purchased to house a rampant, beautifully-perfumed honeysuckle rather than let it scramble through the flowerbed as it has in other years. The morning turned decidedly warm, so once this job was complete, we enjoyed sitting around the patio table enjoying our mid-morning coffee. Such bliss after being trapped indoors for so long. It gave me time to look around the flowerbeds, appreciate the spring displays, and plan my attack for the next few weeks.

Everything is growing and shooting well and over the past few months we have been treated to a fabulous display of crocus and snowdrops on the front lawn, as have all the neighbours and local children on their way to and from the school at the bottom of our road. Now the delights there are hyacinths in full bloom along the forsythia hedge, also coming into flower, and the tulips in full bud waiting their turn. The perfume from the hyacinths is intoxicating as you walk around. We love them. Grown indoors each Christmas to so scent the house, they are then planted outside where they thrive.

What I am most thrilled with this year is the clumps of miniature daffodils scattered around the back garden. I buy several pots of them from the supermarket each year, let them flower indoors and then plant them outside. The past few years the show has not been good as they have succumbed to being eaten by tiny slugs. This year we were prepared and the critters didn’t stand a chance, the displays of them scattered around are so bright and cheerful it was worth the effort.

The wall baskets and a few pots are looking good too. I love this time of year, as it heralds the end of winter with so much to look forward to and enjoy.

I said at the beginning that spring had finally arrived here. Today it is returned to winter in some respects. The day dawned grey and shrouded in heavy mist which has now turned into incessant rain. Good for the garden but not for those outside in it, so we are staying indoors, the heating is on and I am back in a thick sweater. Tomorrow is promised to be warmer and drier, with a good week forecast. Hooray!

Kit Domino’s websites and blogs

Crowning Glories

I love a bobble hat. No idea why, but they make me happy 🙂 I have dozens, well, perhaps not dozens but I have an awful lot. My collection started relatively conservatively, with a couple of dark-coloured ones, but lately I’ve gotten much more adventurous. This is my latest acquisition – reckon people will see me coming from a mile off, but I absolutely love it!

Walking Vivvy here in the chilly UK, a good hat is an essential item to brave our winter elements. There are some really fun ones around these days, and this is next on my list (maybe I can get AJ to buy it for my as a Valentine’s gift?) What do you think? Would you wear it?

The history of the bobble hat is an interesting one. Apparently it dates as far back as the Viking era, supported by the fact that a small statue of a Norse god wearing one was discovered early in the twentieth century. Bobble hats, or pom-poms, often depicted military rank or regiment in some European nations, and it is said that sailors often wore them to stop them hitting their head on the low lying beams of a ship, especially during rough seas..

They became popular during the Depression, apparently because they were a relatively cheap way to keep heads warm. They remain an effective and economical buffer against the elements, and their growing popularity in modern times has meant that we can now access a wide array of styles and colours.

What about you? Are you a pom-pom/bobble hat lover?

Website: www.fayeavalon.com

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?

Late Autumn in England

Burnham Beeches

It is hard to believe here in the UK it is the middle of November due to the mild weather we are experiencing. Autumn began early, at the start of September but because of the warm weather and little wind, the Fall colour change and leaf drop has been slow and thus protracted, much to people’s enjoyment. And it goes without saying the garden has been in flower for longer, with many plants throwing up still more blooms. This has caused us one or two dilemmas in that most of the borders, pots and tubs should have been put to bed last month but it hurts my heart to do so when they are still giving us a good display.

As an example of how mild it has been, this Sunday Dave and I were called for our booster vacs at our doctor’s surgery. The morning dawned bright, the sky blue with no breeze or chilly wind, a bonus for us as we are about 800 feet above sea level here and close to the Bristol Channel where the Atlantic winds blow strong; rarely are there such calm, quiet days. We decided to walk to our appointment, about half a mile away. More to the point, no coats were needed!

This late mild weather is something we’ve experienced before. Some 30 years ago on mid-summer’s day we had the central heating on, but come Christmas, the boiler was turned off, the windows and patio doors opened, and we had clematis in bloom in the garden, sprigs of which decorated our Christmas table! And if my memory serves me right, back in 1962, it was a mild autumn but, come Boxing Day (26th Dec), heavy snow fell heralding the Big Freeze of 62/63 when the country did not thaw out until March! I’m only hoping this warm weather is not a portent for a freezing, snowed-in winter. Back to the present…

I’ve learned to enjoy the autumn colours far more than I ever did, this coming from taking up painting when I now see things through different eyes. There is a tree we pass every week on our way to do our weekly grocery shop. During the summer little notice is taken of it but in autumn, it comes into its full glory. I don’t know what kind of tree, only that is is large. Each year, more and more people are taking note of it, many stopping to take photographs. Its colour and shape make this a magnificent specimen, and I simply must include it in a painting soon. I say that every year I see. One day…

Talking of paintings, I have at last finished the large (30 x 20 inch) floral piece I have been working on for several months and it is now proudly hanging on our lounge wall. It is a representation of a collection of flowers we had growing in tubs and pots along our patio fence, a small snapshot of the summer display we had. The hardest part has been thinking of a suitable title. After long deliberation and discussion one came to mind. So I can now unveil “Flowers of Summer”. I hope you like it.

Flowers of Summer

Kit Domino’s website and blogs

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

Sunflowers and Daisy Fun

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.

Kit Domino’s website and blogs