Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Spring Equinox

Happy first day of Spring in the UK!

we are so lucky to have supermarkets that can bring Spring to our homes for a few pennies and
after being blanketed in snow, some fresh colour is very cheering.

These little viola got purchased then forgotten, but were hardy and survived the snow, still in their punnets they await planting and as the snow melted their smiling faces reminded me that today is officially the end of Winter!

The beast from the East was in  the UK only a few weeks ago, causing dangerous road conditions and school closures, then we had more this weekend with a blanket of snow in London and suburbia. 

I'm not very well at the moment so resting up.  Youngest son has filled the house with the most delicious aroma of lemon, garlic and corriander as he made  Lebanese potatos for our lunch - his speciality, known as Batata Harara (we ate them all but they look like this/link for recipe on caption).
  After good food, the next best thing when you are poorly is nice post.  My blogging buddy Nana sent me this delightful book as a birthday surprise, and crammed in quite  a few other lovely things, including tea and chocolate! I am reading the book at the moment, it's brilliant, would make a fantastic film.  I have also had lovely pen pal letters from Laura and Karen, blogging buddies in the USA (thank you all).

Here's hoping that Spring is settling in and that we will see flowers carpeting the woods very soon.... in the meantime here are some snaps of Brighton before the snow.

Thursday, 1 March 2018


I have had a truly lovely weekend in Krakow, Poland with hubby.  We spent my birthday exploring the Wieliczka Salt Mines where absolutely everything below ground is made from salt - you can even lick the walls!  The mines stretch over 178 miles of passageways, of which only 2.2 miles form the tour route open to the public.

 The most spectacular memory I have taken from this trip is of the salt lake, deep down some 135 metres below ground, the water is a beautiful emerald green.  The surrounding salt walls had intricate carvings.   Music concerts are performed down here ocassionally in a specially built auditorium as the acoustics underground have exceptional quality.

 I would have loved to swim there but unfortunately it wasn't allowed!  I imagine it would
be very therapeutic - within these mines there is a sanatorium for people with various health conditions to stay overnight as the salt is known to help them.
(We ourselves were suffering heavy colds/blocked noses and surfaced no longer congested!)

My pictures of the chandeliers don't do them justice, they are made of a wooden frame and every single crystal has been hand cut from salt - there were many of these lighting the caves and they made a truly spectacular atmosphere.

Throughout the mines, from the 13th century to the present day, the mainly Christian workers created their own chapels underground and decorated them by carving into the salt chambers to make these wonderful wall friezes and statues.  Their faith was an important part of their daily routine, with a church service every morning in the various chapels before starting work throughout the mines.  There are also some statues of elves created by superstitious hungarian workers who were later introduced to the mines .  It's hard to believe these statues are centuries old, they are perfectly preserved of course, being made entirely of the salt rock.

This is Kinga's chamber, the biggest underground chamber in the World.  She is the patron saint of the salt miners and was Hungarian, marrying her Polish prince.  The scene depicts the legend where her engagement ring was found in a lump of salt  (she was not a materialistic girl and had thrown it away can read the story here).

The Last Supper

The mines are supported throughout with large pine pillars, many of which have absorbed the salt over the centuries, making them very strong.  Pine was used because it is flexible and absorbent.  Some of the floors were tiled with cow licks (blocks of salt produced from the mine for farm animals to lick). Horses worked in the mines until as recent as 2002. They were highly valued and specific workers were assigned to their wellbeing and care.

We also visited Schindler's Factory which was well worth the tram ride and lengthy walk, the freezing minus fifteen degree snowy outdoors made it particularly bracing!

'Strong,close up, Ready'
Having seen a film in the little theatre within the factory (which I cried all the way through!)  I had a better understanding of the huge risk Schindler took in protecting his Jewish workers.   He was a Nazi intelligence officer, sent to spy in Poland then later put in charge of this factory producing enamel pots and pans.

He had strong morals and could not stand by and watch people being treated so badly by the German occupation so went about ensuring his workers were safe, better fed than those outside, had fair working conditions and then later protected his Jewish workers by moving them away to safety when they were about to be transported to death camps.  He spent everything on bribing other SS officers to spare his workers  and eventually after the war was bankrupt.

Schindler was buried in Jerusalem on Mount Zion, the only member of the Nazi party to ever be honoured in this way.   You can read more about him here

We spent a lot of time walking and taking trams around town exploring in the snow, we were keeping to a budget and believe you will see much more using public transport, getting lost is all part of the experience!  We found a traditional Polish restaurant serving basic home cooked dumplings - we chose ours stuffed with potato (freshly made for us) as I'm veggie but they had meat ones too.  This little kitchen was like being in someones home, the staff were attentive and it was very cosy.

bagels for sale

Krakow market square
we also visited the underground museum, directly under the square which was, and to some extent still is, a cloth market.  When excavations were done, various artefacts dating back over a 700 year span were found, giving insight into how roads were built , the spices that were imported and traded for cloth, the trade routes and also information of the people themselves because a large part of this city and stretching beyond, is an ancient buriel ground with various coins and items of jewellery, shoes and cloth found.  It was well presented and only took about half an hour for a very informative look round.  It was too dark for good photography but you can see some here

Seriously under dressed!

That's it from me - enjoying the equally Siberian temperatures currently 
in the UK and plenty of snow.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Nature Journal February

According to the BBC news, Siberian temperatures are coming to the UK and we can expect freezing cold and wind for two weeks.  My garden doesn't know this yet and is busy preparing for Spring.
Just in cases I bought a huge sack of rock salt for the drive and pathway to ensure we don't slip on the ice that is bound to come our way.

Valentines day was spent surrounded by daffodils.
 "We love because he first loved us" 1 John 4:19
I am no longer overly of any religious pursuasion but felt this Bible quote would mark the day well.

The squirrels didn't hibernate this Winter and have been very active, this week they have been scampering around taking nuts which I put out in the mornings and are aggressive towards the neighbours cats who know better than to get too close. 

I found some lovely quotes for my February pages and added them to my journal:
I like this one best:

"To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow" Audrey Hepburn

Although I painted some, I have seen no violets but am hopeful as they usually come up in my garden and the woods in February.
On a sunny morning a beautiful red admiral butterfly sunned itself on the south facing wall of the house, my sketch doesn't do it justice.  It was, of course, perfectly symmetrical with velvet wings gently flapping.

"Come forth into the light of things
let Nature by your teacher"
W. Wordsworth

At senior school, my class group was 'Wordsworth' and we were expected to memorise his poetry, which I didn't appreciate at the time.  I don't remember the quote above, if I had paid attention, it would probably have had a big impact on me and become my motto in life.  I was too busy sneaking out of school and off to Portobello Road on a bus for the day (London) to worry about
poetry, school or choosing a life motto at the time.

I haven't felt very domesticated lately but got my bread machine out to make pizza dough last weekend.  No kneeding involved as the machine takes care of that.  All I had to do was  the rolling of the dough which I find quite relaxing. Everyone can put their own toppings on, so it's easy work.  It's very satisfying to see the results all lined up ready for the oven, and then gliding off, glass of wine in hand......

I am laid low with a virus, sore throat, aching body etc., in fact the whole family has it.  I didn't go to work today and have slept a lot.  So hopefully next time I post here I will be cheerier.  Thanks for stopping by, leave a sign (0)  that you have passed this way, or better still, a comment is welcome. Before I go, thank you very much for leaving comments on my last post, it's really appreciated...

By the way:

I imagine blogland like a room full of 173 people (at last count) crowded in with the light off, just about 14 faces are visible at the front, those are the ones that usually leave comments and are friendly.  It would be lovely if the ones in the dark at the back left a comment sometimes.......

Monday, 12 February 2018

Nature Journal Sunday

Here's another page for my nature diary - I am really enjoying this little diary as I don't have time to try and paint a masterpiece and usually fail, this is just about manageable, as and when, it keeps me interested in what's happening around here in suburbia/airport/woodland sunny Surrey.

I saw what I am guessing is a sparrow hawk on a fence next to fields just off the road on my journey to work three times this week, I drove down there again today at the same time determined to admire him for longer, despite posing on the fence on weekdays, he seems to have Sundays off - I will persevere as want to try and photograph him and then identify him - my painting doesn't do him justice, he's huge with a lot of brown on his back/head wings and a lovely dappled cream and light brown chest and belly. I think the new estate recently built over old rough land and woodland here has pushed wildlife further towards us as their space diminishes.

At last my library book has come:  The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom, I felt pretty annoyed with myself to visit her house in Haarlem, Netherlands, before reading the book (although I knew her story).  I know it will be a good read.

We had hailstones amid bright sunshine, I went to the gym, cleared the garage and caught up with the laundry.

Things to look forward to in the coming week:
Taking my friend/neighbour to the gym as it's bring a buddy week
Reading my Corrie Ten Boom book
Dipping in and out of my new book purchase: Second Skin, India Flint, all about fabrics, their production, impact on the environment and using natural dyes (recommended by Vintage Vix - thanks, I did treat myself on your recommendation and am very pleased :)
Making vegetarian curry and lentil Dahl
Work, I work with a lot of people so look forward to seeing them all

Thursday, 8 February 2018

This Week

Hi bloggers, I am feeling very in need of the great outdoors, maybe we all are... I haven't much news here but thought it was about time for a blog post so here's what I have been doing this week:

I had a lovely long walk in some woods near here with hubby and was rewarded with catkins and pussy willow  - they looked so much better than the ones behind my own garden fence!  this woodland is a little different to 'mine' as it is the home of the beautiful wild orchids I found last year - no sign of them yet though.  The daffodils were bought on the way home.  We saw lots of signs of Spring and of creature homes (badgers?).

The stone has lost it's 'B' for Brighton think maybe a car struck it (or horse and cart?)

 I love finding things like this, this milestone must have been touched by thousands of people over the years as they walk past, I imagine people, maybe with their horses, throughout the ages (wearing the various forms of dress for the period they come from ... hand made leather sandles, picnics of bread and cheese?) ... am I the only one I wonder who does this day dreaming?  It has always been a problem for me, as a child I would disappear for hours into these imaginings!

 Something lovely everywhere if you look hard enough.  Even lichen can be very pretty in my opinion.

 I just wanted to know who was making this nest, you can't see because they were busy being noisy to distract me away but I think they were blue tits. 

Talking of birds, I found this fabulous silk dress in a charity shop, sadly it is a size 8 so too tiny for me but isn't it beautiful material?  I keep thinking I should go back for it - maybe it could be reinvented, or I could shrink two dress sizes .....

I am painting for my nature journal this afternoon, there's a lot of empty space on the page so I won't show you yet, it needs filling up :)  I get the odd moment when I can paint and it turns out quite nicely but a lot of times in between in doesn't, so painting in a journal is turning out to be good practice as you can't make a mistake without spoiling a whole page,- as I rush things (everything, even eating my food!) this is a good little exercise in patience.... here's that dress again, still on my mind.

I am definitely yearning for the outdoors, flowers, greenery, sunshine - in an attempt to satisfy this craving for all things green I have planted up my bottle garden with tiny succulents (it took ages as everyone has to be air lifted in through the top and planted ever so gently without messing up the nice earthy bottom on which I have put miniature gravel, no expense spared here!  I also have herbs on the windowsills of the conservatory: sage, mint, rosemary, thyme and oregano and keep sniffing them, very therapeutic.

I had a lovely day out recently with my friend to Brighton exploring the charity shops.   We ate in a really good (and reasonably priced) chinese restuarant.  I love going with my friend because we like the same shops and the same food! can't go wrong :) the only thing I don't like is that she always wants to go home before I do!  We both found skirts, mine is navy silk with a 'flippy' hem (I am not good at selfies so will show you when hubby takes a piccie some time)

vegetables with crispy noodles (mine)

duck with noodles I think (friends)

the Charity shop search is in aid of a trip hubby and I will be doing, to Vietnam in the Spring, we will be travelling very light as exploring and trekking around quite a bit.  I don't want to take expensive, fancy clothes but am looking out for anything a little bit different to take with me that can withstand a lot of travel and not much washing.

Planning for travel is almost as exciting as the journey itself, we have a map of Vietnam on the kitchen wall so we can mark the places we are stopping off at and have stuck pictures of the touristy things we plan to do (Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa Mountain villages and exciting places like that) I am especially looking forward to some travel on overnight sleeper trains, they are apparently full of cockroaches, bumpy and noisy - looking on the bright side, I can sleep anywhere (even standing up, honestly!) and I don't mind crawlies so it will be fine.  Planning what to put in the suitcase is not so easy, everything  has to be crease free, easy to wash, light to pack, suitable for beach or town and fold up to the size of a slice of bread!

Back to here and now, I will leave you with the view if I sit up in bed and look out my window, which of course I do, every day.  How lucky to wake up to these trees every day, I will never get bored with this.

Thanks for visiting, I hope my ramblings weren't too much for you.  I do try to keep it brief on my posts but got a bit carried away today.  Leave a message, or a pebble (0) if you have time, bye x