Category Archives: Special Days

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

An Exhibitionist

It has been a busy month for me to date, leading up to my art group’s 25th Annual Art Exhibition. I was delighted when the committee asked if they could use one of my paintings (“Sunflowers”) on the advertisement poster, placed in local newsletters, on many sites and pages on the internet, and in local shops and libraries.

For me this year, the hardest part was in deciding which paintings to put on show. I hadn’t painted much these past 18 months and several I had done, I had scrapped – they were not good enough for me, which did not leave me a lot of choice. There were seven I considered, finally whittling it down to five. Two were on stretched canvas so didn’t need to be framed, the remaining three did. My usual supplier did not have a lot in stock but eventually I found three which were perfect.

The exhibition had to be cancelled last year and with Covid restrictions still in place it was a tough call as to whether this one would. One thing was definite: we would not be able to put on refreshments for our visitors, a great shame as this draws people in, makes them stay longer in the relaxed atmosphere, creates conversations and makes friendships. We worried we would not get many visitors. It also meant money raised from teas/coffee/cakes etc would not be made. We charge a minimal entrance fee, run a raffle of professional artists’ work who have demonstrated or taught at our group, exhibitors are charged a small fee for each artwork shown; and take a small percentage of sales. Once fees for the room hire for the weekend are removed, what remains goes to our chosen local charity, this year our hospital’s Long Covid-19 Research Project, a subject close to my heart as one of my nieces, a nurse, caught the virus last year whilst nursing and is still suffering long-term effects.

We were amazed by the number of people who came through the doors over the weekend: 164, mainly on Saturday. Sunday rained and of course the Euro Cup football final was on so this kept visitors away. Also pleasing was the number of paintings were sold, almost £1,000’s worth. Unfortunately, unlike other years, none of mine sold this time although everyone expected the sunflowers and the jaguar to sell, but I am far from not downhearted. It was lovely seeing fellow members’ work selling, especially some who despite having been painting for many years had never sold anything before. Along with the raffle raising nearly £300 it meant once deductions were made the charity will receive a cheque from the club for about £800. We call that a success!

Here’s a few snaps taken by me of my paintings and a bit more of the exhibition.

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

Dilemma

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!

‘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

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?

Moving Day

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!

 

Kit Domino’s Website and Blog

Busy Doing… Lots

Whooo…sh! Where has the past month gone? After last month taking time to smell the roses, this month I can’t keep up with everything. Having switched on my “do something” button, I’ve found my lost mojo and am now in a spin with so much going on and am well and truly back on the novel writing track. But that’s not all! I’ve been inspired enough to delve into the paintbox once more, with a new piece in progress which is coming along well and am pleased with it so far. But not ready yet for the great reveal.  Hopefully, that will be soon. If I’m still happy with it…

I have also been getting to grips with a new writing tool on the computer whilst I write. You would think that was enough to contend with, but oh no. All my working career I found the more pressure I was under, the more I could achieve. The busier I am, the more gets done. And to prove the point, last week saw me revamping my website/blog, streaming off the gardening section into a new separate site (Kit’s Garden). Now all I have to do is keep up with it all as well as find time to sit back, enjoy the garden, and remember where and what day it is!

Ah, September, month of mellow fruitfulness and birthdays. Lots of birthdays including our daughter’s 50th. As a special card, I made one using several photos of her over the years. She adored it, as did the two grandchildren, whose birthdays are also this month, along with a dear friend’s, my twin sisters’, my sister-in-law’s. Am sure I’ve forgotten someone. Need to check. Back in a moment … Yep! My other sis-in-law’s. Boy, am I glad this month I also finally got round to setting up an online calendar and networking it across the three computers I use or I would have forgotten her. That would not have gone down well.

On top of all this, these last few weeks I’ve been figuring out and setting up a new laptop my nearest and dearest treated me to. Poor man, he was getting so annoyed at my constant grouching how slow my old lappy was. Well over 7 years old with an ailing battery, it had been a good workhorse. Lately fit only for doing online jigsaws, not that I’ve had time to do any this month.

There have been some pauses in the pace though. We’ve had lovely weather here in the UK the past few days. Enough for Dave and I to spend mornings in the garden. Taking time to read the newspapers or a book as we enjoy a coffee in the warmth of the sun. Relax a little. Do a little weeding, a bit of idea throwing for next year’s displays. Much needed respite from sitting at the desk too much.

I shan’t be at the desk for a few days next week either, as I am finally trundling off to Reading to spend time with my mother and sisters. Hurrah! It will be the first time since February I have been further than our local supermarket and I am looking forward to the drive cross country. But not as much as seeing my siblings and mother again. It’s been too long.

The four of us intend celebrating being together for the first time since last Christmas; to belatedly celebrate my mother’s 94th birthday back in March; raise a glass to mine back in April; and as I mentioned above, to celebrate my sisters’ birthdays next Monday. On Friday I am making them a birthday cake but, shhh… don’t tell them, it’s a surprise, and knowing my baking skills, it might not turn out so well. I might have to resort to buying one!

Must dash. There’s things still to do, such a shopping. The larder and fridge are bare and the freezers both half-empty as we’ve been without a car for nearly two weeks as repairs were needed. Thankfully it is now back sitting on our drive. So places to go and family to see before lockdown swings in any tighter.

Enjoy your month, whatever it brings.

Kit Domino’s Website and Blog

Gallery

Crafting, Anyone?

This gallery contains 6 photos.

It’s been a busy month for me, promoting Rudy’s Heart, my newest romance. It’s also been a crafty month, and I’ve found that a lot of crafts require group effort. At the very least, it’s more fun with a group, … Continue reading