Wednesday 30 January 2013

In My Kitchen In January

I've wanted to join in Celia's inspired "In My Kitchen" series for a while. It's a lovely way of keeping a record of what goes on in the heart of a home. And you can tell a lot about the the weave of what's going on in the rest of life, way beyond the kitchen, from the ordinary warp and weft of kitchen doings.  I love the hidden stories that such everyday things tell. As January is nearly over and it would be nice to look back at a year's story of what's been happening in my kitchen at the end of 2013, I am posting this only just in time but better late than never!

The story my kitchen has been telling in January is through...

... Nürnberger Elisenlebkuchen made according to a German recipe I found here in my search to recreate those delectable, soft, German, spiced cookies that sometimes come in lovely musical box tins which play "Silent Night". I have tried my hand at various Lebkuchen recipes over the years but until now, have not got it right. I discover that the secret is that the "echt" version contains no flour and a lot of candied peel. Although my German is sketchy, I think I have more or less figured the recipe out correctly and the results are extremely moreish. Just as well as the recipe made over sixty cookies! The biscuits sit on round wafers called "Oblaten" which, if you are in the UK, you can get from the German Delicatessen here. They are a bit like the large priests' wafers used at Mass. You could always use rice paper, torn or cut into squares as an alternative. You need something though, as the Lebkuchen are soft and quite sticky. They should be kept in a tin before eating and they do improve over time although they are extremely good straightaway, if you are greedy, like Mrs T, and can't wait for them to mature for a week before trying them!

... My Procrustean chopping board! Procrustes was a very unpleasant individual in Greek mythology who forced his guests to sleep in a particular bed. If they were too tall, he cut bits off them and if they were too short he stretched them on a rack. Nasty. Like all the best stories it has an underlying message and the myth is alluding obliquely to the human desire to make the world fit ourselves rather than the other way round. Not good. Anyway, I digress! My chopping board is Procrustean because although I don't stretch it, I do keep chopping bits off it! I bought it originally from the market in Sansepolcro, in Umbria, about ten years ago to replace an old mahogany one my grandfather had made my grandmother in the 1940s. Used by her, and then me, everyday, it gave way under the strain and had to retire, at least from everyday chopping duty. This one was a bit of a bargain but it was too long and rather heavy so it had an inch sawn off the end. The truncated version was just right but unfortunately constant use and washing and then drying on a drainer that does not drain very well, had caused it to split and worse, develop a most off-putting culture of black mould. In her January mood of noticing and clearing up mess and clutter, Mrs T held up her paws in horror and decreed another inch had to be sawn off! So here it is, still with some visible splits, but hygienic again and I am trying to allow it to dry, after use, more carefully.

... Carrot and red lentil soup with dill - snow food when everyone was home and hungry and I couldn't get to the shops. Very good actually. Just an onion, a bit over a kg of carrots and about 100g red lentils cooked in the pressure cooker for five minutes with a litre of homemade stock and blitzed to a nice, thick, comforting puree with a bunch of fresh dill, past its sell by date, but still apparently in the land of the living.

... Chai latte spices mixed according to Anne's wonderful recipe here waiting to be made into frothy chai lattes like the one below.

... Tins too nice to throw into the recycling bin. I confess it, I am a sucker for nice food packaging. I buy both olive oil and wine because I like the labels as much as for the contents! The French olive oil tin came from Waitrose and the olive tin H brought back from his Greek trip in the autumn with the fattest and most splendid kalamata olives inside, that either he or I had ever seen. Now that both oil and olives are spent, the tins are sitting on my kitchen windowsill while I wonder what to do with them. Possibly I might grow herbs in them. They are far too jolly to throw out, anyway.

... I said I was a sucker for packaging! This is a special edition ceramic Marmite jar that contains, not Marmite, although it did originally hold a tiny pot of the stuff when I bought it, but newly-whizzed-up porridge oats which I blitz in the food processor, a bag at a time, to make my own version of instant porridge for breakfast on winter mornings. Much cheaper and nicer than any commercially produced, "instant hot oat cereal". Normally I am in too much of a rush to add anything fancy but there is always time for a quick swirl of maple syrup as in the pic below!

... My new hyacinth-blue, flower-pot jacket, that I crocheted to cover a pot of budding hyacinths brightening a corner of the kitchen work surface. I used the remnants of a skein of beautiful, variegated Noro Light Silk Garden yarn left over from a recent make and I'm rather pleased with it, not least because I designed it myself and it worked!

Have a look at Celia's inspirational blog Fig Jam And Lime Cordial for her wonderful culinary explorations and to see what is going on in kitchens round the world!

Saturday 26 January 2013

Sargasso Sea-Ripple

Some of you may remember me beginning my sea-ripple blanket back at the end of August / beginning of September last year, inspired by the constantly shifting colours of the sea that had struck me while by the coast, in Dorset, earlier in the summer. It all began swimmingly and I took, what I thought was a lot of care in sorting out the array of colours and arranging them in an order which I thought would work. It's a big blanket, (or will be), so, of course, it's yarn-hungry. I had chosen to use Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino primarily because, although it's expensive, it comes in the most wonderful range of nuanced colours and this is what I was after - the pale silver and white of a cresting wave or breaking ripples slipping onto sand, the eau de nil and translucent pale greens of shallow water, the deeper teals and turquoises of mid-depth lagoons and the whole range of blues, through to violets of the open sea in its different moods. Of course a lot of these colours I had to buy, but some I already had left over from other projects and in the cause of thriftiness, (or at least in opposition to downright profligacy!), I wanted to be as economical possible by using any colours already in my stash that seemed to fit the overall palette. With hindsight, this was, at least partially, a mistake.

To begin with, all went well and I fairly quickly hooked up the first run of stripes, two rows of each of the twenty seven colours and had even begun the first few stripes of the second run. My sea-ripple then became becalmed like the Sargasso Sea and not a breeze or breath of wind disturbed its hooky surface! I told myself that it was a "WIP" and that the reason it was not progressing was that I was "busy with other projects over the autumn". To some extent this was true as I was making a number of things as Christmas presents to give away and there are only so many hours in the day, free from work, in which Mrs T can hook away, but "being busy with other projects over the autumn" was not the real reason it had become becalmed.

I got it out again a couple of weeks ago, after months with nary a ripple disturbing its surface. Fortunately there were no eels in its sea-weedy folds, unlike the real Sargasso Sea, or mercifully any other livestock for that matter(!) but the depressing truth hit me that the real reason that it had become becalmed was that the Colours Were Not Working and on closer inspection there were specific colours that were playing out of tune with the rest. And yes, you've guessed it, the rogue colours were principally those ones that I had already had in my stash and thought I could eke out the new ones with. The worst offender was a soft heathery purple which I had had a slight reservation about originally but which I had suppressed. Unfortunately this colour had come early on in the run of stripes which meant that in order to remove it I would have to frog virtually the entire thing. Eeek!

But once I had seen the purple for what it was - a cuckoo in the nest - there was nothing for it. So frog it I did, much to the chagrin of Duck, my crochet mascot, who regards frogging as a dirty word and an even dirtier concept! He has a particular penchant for blankets and when he realised what I'd done to what he thought was a blanket almost a third of the way through, he was most upset, as you can see and did all he could to stop me frogging any more!

Here he is nursing what remained of the blanket at the end of the frogging, i.e. not a lot!

In the process of frogging my hours of work, I discovered that the purple was not the only "cuckoo" - the pale sandy colour, "String", also had to go and two greens that had, like the purple, come from my pre-existing stash had too much red in them and were jarring painfully with the blue tones of the rest of the colours.

Before frogging out the "cuckoos"
Although the frogging was rather drastic and, I have to say, filled me with dismay when I realised it was necessary, it's taught me quite a lot.

1 It is not always easy to predict in advance how colours will work together in a large scale piece like a blanket just from seeing the colours in the skein or ball, even when set out in the order in which they will appear.

2 Even colours that do seem to work together, play differently and sometimes unexpectedly in an overall run of repeated stripes.

3 If a project gets becalmed, it's probably because something fundamental has gone awry and it's worth fixing it rather than just ploughing on and not loving it. Having frogged out the "cuckoos", progress is now flowing again and much more easily and enjoyably. I like to have several projects on the go at any one time - small things as well as a bigger thing - but if the bigger project never gets picked up, something's gone wrong!

4 Thrift is a virtue which most of us are conscious of the need to cultivate but it needs to be deployed carefully. The waste of money, if I had simply never finished or enjoyed the sea-ripple, as it started out, would have been shocking. Better to bite on the bullet of the artistic requirements of a project and save up, if necessary, for what it needs, than spoil it, by cutting corners for parsimony's sake.

5 If your instinct tells you a colour is not quite right, it probably isn't!

6 Lucy of Attic 24, in her interview in Simply Crochet, a while back, which you can read about in her post here, made the point that for any crochet project - and I guess especially for a big one such as a blanket, - it matters that everything about it should make the heart sing - the colours, the yarn, the pattern. She is so right. If those things are not making the heart sing, the Sargasso eels may have the last word!

7 Frogging is not the end of the world. It cost a pang to undo so much but it hasn't taken nearly so long to make good again as I thought and not a scrap of yarn has been wasted. The yarn that failed to sing in the sea-ripple will sing elsewhere, I am sure, and everything else has simply been recrocheted back in place. So if your fingers are hovering over something that you think in your heart of hearts needs frogging, I'd say, "Plunge in and get the awful sense of unravelling over so that you can begin again!"

After recrocheting and omitting the "cuckoos"
And if your heart fails you, remember the literary queen of frogging in Homer's Odyssey, Penelope, who spent all her days while waiting for Odysseus to return home, weaving a beautiful cloth at her loom. Odysseus' long absence had raised the hopes of a raft of uncouth suitors who had taken over Odysseus' house and were hoping to pressurise Penelope into remarrying one of them, for surely after all this time Odysseus would never come back.

Penelope however, being a wise and canny lady, with no flies on her, in order to buy herself time, promised she would choose one of them when she'd finished her weaving. The suitors accepted this but what they did not realise was that every evening, by torchlight, Penelope frogged all the work she had done during the day thereby ensuring the weaving would never reach completion! Every evening for three years, unravelling the whole day's work - can you imagine?!

You might think the suitors would have noticed that the cloth never grew but luckily they were so befuddled with drinking the wine from Odysseus' cellar and making merry in his great hall that for three years she got away with it and they were only alerted to her ruse when one of her maids gave her away.

Fortunately for all concerned, at this point Odysseus does come back and the suitors' game is up. I like to think that in the peaceful aftermath of his return, as Odysseus sat by the olive-wood fire in his own hearth, drinking the dark wine from his Ithacan vines, out of his two-handled golden cup that Antinous, one of Penelope's suitors, had once rashly dared to appropriate, but never in the end drank from, he told the magical stories of his adventuring journey back from Troy and Penelope went back to her weaving. And instead of making a future shroud for her father-in-law, Laertes, which was the original purpose of her work, she perhaps turned it into a tapestry incorporating scenes and pictures of what she heard and she never unravelled a single stitch! And when Odysseus' storytelling finally came to a close, the tapestry was finished and was hung beside the great bed Odysseus had made himself, with a living olive tree acting as one of the bedposts, a glorious and triumphant riot of artistry and workmanship attesting that frogging never has the last word!

Anyway, now that progress is advancing happily on my blanket, I find I have more than made up for lost time. It is now again almost a third of the way through, although I may have to do more than my expected three runs of each set of stripes - taking out four colours from the original scheme in total means the blanket will be about 12"shorter than anticipated if I don't add some additional repeats.

But never mind! My Sargasso Sea-Ripple is no longer becalmed! And my frogging pales into insignificance beside Penelope's!

I am also happy because, inspired by Kat at Needles & Natter who has made lovely colourful handles for her crochet hooks - red and blue ones spotted with cheerful white polka dots and a fabulous stripy rainbow one too - and armed with her instructions as to how to go about it, I have turned my boring old grey aluminium crochet hook into a more sprightly, daisied version using some oddments of blue, white and yellow Fimo polymer clay. To be strictly truthful I think I should have made the handle slightly longer down the hook but the supply of available Fimo in the house was restricted to what H had left behind from a modelling fest a while back and I had to make do with what there was. It felt a bit strange using it for the first couple of rows but now it feels very comfortable in the hand and I just love the look of it!

The passage from Odyssey Book 19 in which Penelope tells the story of her cleverness at unravelling her weaving for three years to the stranger who will turn out to be her long absent husband. Homer in fact tells the story twice. The first time at the beginning of the Odyssey in Book 2 when the suitors indignantly recount the story of being hoodwinked by Penelope to Telemachus (Odysseus' son)  but I prefer the second account when Penelope tells the story herself!
Do you have any dramatic frogging experiences that give Penelope a run for her money? Or any becalmed projects? I'd love to hear any tips you have for dealing with them.

Happy Weekend Everyone!

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Friday 18 January 2013

Tripping The Light Fantascot

In the space between Christmas and the New Year I found a fantastic, easy-to-make and quick-to-complete hooky project - Tracy St John's "Fantascot" pattern which you can download for free here. (And while you're at it, check out her fabulously bright and cheerful "Groovyghan" pattern too.) Leslie of Crochetbug gave me the idea for making a Fantascot with the gorgeous version she made for her mother before Christmas. You can see it at its finish here (rather more professionally hooked than mine, I freely confess).  The Fantascot sounds more like a dance step than a crochet pattern but a delightful hooky pattern is what it is, for a patchwork of crochet made using various stitches in a range of motifs and panels that are then sewn or crocheted together to make a snuggly, neck-warming cowl. Like all the best design ideas, Tracy St John's design is essentially simple but beautifully effective.

It's designed to use lots of colours and you could easily conjure it up, I suspect, out of oddments left over from other projects. I did not do this, I am afraid. Before Christmas I bought some beautiful Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran in a range of colours, that supplemented a handful I had already, and I deliberately saved starting the project until that lovely lull that happens between Christmas and the New Year when there was space to savour every hooky stitch.

I had a little play around with my watercolour pencils to sketch out a design that I thought would achieve a balance of the colours I had, but regarded this as a guide rather than a constraint and I am rather pleased with the result. It would make an excellent project for someone relatively new to crocheting as the techniques required, apart from the Catherine Wheel panel which is slightly trickier, are straightforward and each section is relatively small to complete.

You could also easily swap or repeat a panel if any particular one proved too complicated.

The Debbie Bliss Aran is a thicker weight yarn than that specified and I had to use a bigger hook - a 5mm one as opposed to a 3.5 mm - so my Fantascot is a bit bigger than the pattern indicates but not much. I compensated by reducing the depth of the border and omitting the edging on one or two of the panels and it's worked beautifully - bright, warm and cosy and very enjoyable to hook up.

Although the Catherine Wheel stitch took a little fathoming out, it proved rather addictive and given half a chance I could have gone on Catherine-wheeling for some considerable time once I'd got the hang of how it went! Isn't it fun?

I love the patchwork effect all the different panels make.

It's proved very wearable

and has sparked off all sorts of possibilities in my head for using the motifs and stitches in other projects.

If you are in the UK you may well find yourself a trifle snow-bound today. It is blowing a blizzard here as I write and three inches or so have fallen and settled since first thing this morning. I shall certainly not be going anywhere by car today, I can see. May just have to go out and throw a snowball or two in keeping with my "Vive la joie!" motto for this year though! And if I hadn't already made a Fantascot it would be the perfect hooky project to curl up with while the snow quietly swirls and settles driftily outside.

Stay cosy, if you have snow!
E x

Wednesday 16 January 2013

January Joie de Vivre

I always seem to get bitten by a spring-cleaning bug in the early weeks of January. I think, it's the departure of the Christmas tree and other Christmas decorations which suddenly seems to create the illusion of uncovered space. And in that space I find piles of "stuff" that have quietly accumulated and grown unaccountably large in the soft twinkly shadows of the fairy lights and got away with it under the early December darkness and general distraction of Christmas bustle.

Piles that now have nowhere to hide, in the bleak, longer light of January afternoons, without the cover of Christmas fuzziness to distract attention. The rest of the household regards this annual bug of mine with some dismay, as one never knows quite what will be grist to my mill! So far, however, this year it's mostly been my own "stuff" that has been the target of my attentions - teetering piles of papers and books on the study floor, waiting to trip the unwary; ingredients in the larder bought "just in case I ran out over Christmas" that really need using up because I didn't run out; odd purchases made because they were "a bargain" that have lurked, unused, cluttering floor or shelf space since they arrived home with me months ago; piles of fabric and baskets of yarn for a variety of projects which I have been telling myself (fictitiously, it seems) are "works in progress", etc, etc

And there is something therapeutic and even joyful in clearing, tidying and cleaning at the beginning of the year I find - it helps me to find some clearance in my head and begin to navigate the seas of the New Year. While the demolition of most of my piles has resulted either in things such as books, papers, fabric, yarn etc being properly put away where they belong and the recycling box has been the recipient of quite a lot of paper, packaging and other recyclables, there have been one or two more creative phoenixes to rise from the Christmas ashes.

One is this:

Nearly two years ago I bought two sets of white-painted, wooden letters that were going for a song in a sale. I don't really know why I bought them but they "seemed a good idea at the time"! I think I imagined propping them up along a bookshelf or perhaps painting them and hanging them on a wall but never got round to it and so they sat for the next twenty months, wedged down the side of a small chest of drawers in my study gathering dust, cobwebs (and er spiders - eek!).

In the course of my post-Christmas spring-cleaning, they were unceremoniously hauled into the light of day and a critical eye turned on them. If they were not going to be put to use, I told myself sternly, they must go the way of the charity shop. One set of letters said "LOVE" and the other set said "HOME". One of the reasons they had never made it out of the packaging was that although I liked the idea of the letters, I wasn't quite convinced that the words themselves were right for my wall space. Pejorative remarks were made by H about the idea of "LOVE" appearing on the living room wall and I had got a great deal of scornful stick for picking up a little wire sign, for 50p from a bargain bucket in a garden centre, a few years ago that said "garden"  in curly letters. I sprayed it a soft green and was intending to hang it by the garden door but such scorn was heaped on it, as a statement of the obvious, that it never made it and the idea of hanging up letters in the house saying "HOME", I felt, might court the same derision.

Removing the letters from the packaging, because even if they were going to the charity shop I was still entitled to look at them properly(!), the idea occurred that I could make an anagram from the letters to say something that hit the spot more adroitly. But "LOVE" and "HOME" aren't that easy to make anagrams from, or not anagrams that say anything you particularly want to hang on your wall. Too many vowels for a start, although you might do better than I did on this. Any improvements on "LOOM", "MOVE", "MOLE,"VOLE", "HOLE"?! Not that easy is it?!

Would another language increase the options? This line of thought proved more hopeful and when D offered to increase the range of letters by sawing and adding to a couple with the judicious application of some Plastic Padding (smells noxious but seems capable of extraordinary miracles of mending and creation, that stuff) new possibilities opened up. Of course it was not quite open season on the alphabet - even model railway technowhizzes have their limitations but with D's considerable skill and ingenuity, the field increased significantly!  The "H" was sacrificed to provide two "I"s. It also supplied a bar to make the "V" into an "A". One of the "E"s was cannibalised to become a "J" and we were in business - or nearly. The snag was that "LA JOIE" on its own wasn't quite right. What it needed was another set of letters saying "LOVE" in order to make, along with the remaining letters, unused from the first packs: "VIVE" and I would be able to turn two floating words into an anchored phrase! As luck would have it, (for a bit more than a song, but not  much), I managed to track down a pack saying "LOVE" on Ebay. Now I had enough to make "VIVE" using the "M" from "HOME" chopped down, to make a second "V", the spare "I" from the "H" and the new "V" and "E" supplied by the second "LOVE".

But I didn't want just plain white letters; I got it into my head that I wanted the letters in my favourite flowery fabrics.

So armed with a sheet of Bondaweb and some scraps from my fabric stash box under the bed, I made some. I'd never used Bondaweb to apply appliqués to anything other than fabric but it worked like a dream.

You have to remember to reverse the letters before you trace them onto the paper of the Bondaweb

but otherwise it was a doddle and the adhesive works just as well when you iron the appliqués onto lightly sanded wood as on fabric. I love them and they make a joyful and encouraging textual reminder (acceptable to all!) to cherish the joy in life. The phrase is, of course, also a bit of a pun on the erstwhile acclamation used for French Kings and Queens, "Vive le roi! Vive la reine!" which adds a certain je ne sais quoi to its appeal somehow.

Only three letters remain unused - two "O"s and an "L" - dare I risk tempting fate and sticking these to the door of the smallest room in the house I wonder?! Possibly not, if I want to hear the last of it!

The other happy result from my January clear-out has been the making of some traditional Nürnberger Elisen Lebkuchen. More on these in due course, as also on the sad story of frogging my sea-ripple blanket back almost to the beginning : (

But despite this and despite the fact that the house has been stricken again by colds and 'flu - beginning to think I ought to mark the front door with a chalked cross as a sign of a house of plague - looking at my letters I can't help but feel cheery : )

VIVE LA JOIE indeed!

Saturday 5 January 2013

On The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Not twelve lords a-leaping but a bare-branched, wire tree, laden with twelve Epiphany stars, (hooky ones of course!), courtesy of Ana's lovely pattern here. Ana has another lovely winter star pattern here. I had to make several of both before I could make up my mind which ones to go with, on my wire tree. In the end I decided on the slightly more solid, Granny ones. I made them from Cascade Ultra Pima cotton on a 4mm hook. Originally I was going to restrict myself just to shades of blue but in the end I couldn't resist adding in some other colours. As Ana says, the stars need blocking to make the points, well, pointy but the results are beautifully starry! I love them!

I find Twelfth Night or Epiphany rather mesmeric. The arrival of the strange and enigmatic wise men emerging from the shadows of the rising sun with their strange and enigmatic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, I find mysterious and intriguing. What fascinates me particularly is not that they realised that the Christmas star was new but the fact that they were looking for a sign in the first place.

What restlessness, what questioning was in their hearts, that meant they were they searching? It must have been intense, because having observed the star, they up and leave their homes, (and presumably their families), for an unknown destination without hesitation. The journey is not only unknown but fraught with peril. They run into trouble in Jerusalem with wily old Herod and are lucky to escape his clutches and make it to Bethlehem at all. Having done so, we're told by St Matthew, that they return "by another route"  to avoid running into Herod's heavies, but I always feel there's more to it than that - how could they go back exactly the same way when what they had experienced had been so life-changing. My hunch is that they not only returned home "by another route" but that when they got home their whole lives took "another route". As life often does when we experience our own epiphanies or light-bulb moments.

May the blessing and brightness of the Christmas star illumine your way ahead; may you find clarity and direction when the road forward is unclear; may you find guidance where it is perplexing or uncertain; may you find sureness of footing and purpose even on a journey into the unknown and may your life's true destination shine beyond and before you always.

Happy Twelfth and Last Day of Christmas Everyone!

with love from Mrs T x

Friday 4 January 2013

On The Eleventh Day of Christmas

Not eleven ladies dancing but the idea of snowflakes dancing lazily through the night air and these floaty, hooky ones coming to rest on the branches of my Christmas tree ...

... as well as a few (less floaty!) biscuit snowflakes on a blue glass plate that I love even though it is wonky and won't sit flat on the table!

Despite dire warnings earlier this autumn of the coldest winter for a hundred years in the UK, Christmas 2012 in the UK has been mild and green rather than cold and white, but no matter, snow remains indefatigably associated with what most of us regard as the essence of Christmas atmosphere. In my thinking, anyway. Never mind that while you may get a touch of snow on the peaks of the more mountainous hills in Israel, Bethlehem Down was most unlikely to have been covered with "snow on snow", "deep and crisp and even" that first Christmas two thousand years ago, even if it was knee-deep in shepherds, lambs and angels! As I say, never mind,  Christmas should be snowy! Even though it rarely is, in the UK anyway.

I think this apparently slightly perverse feeling, in the face of incontrovertible meteorological evidence to the contrary, is perfectly reasonable because actually it's nothing to do with the weather but everything to do with what happens when it snows.  Snow blankets the landscape and the world seemingly holds its breath. We open our curtains or our front door and we are surprised by a magical world where the ordinary and the humdrum look enchanting; everyday noise is muffled to an unearthly silence; beauty and light are everywhere and even as an adult it is hard not to experience wonder.

I think wonder is a commodity in shortish supply in the modern world, which seems more into debunking and rationalising with the head, than simply responding with the heart. Snow, when it comes, gives me a quick shot of what my ancestors in previous generations, I have a hunch, were more readily in tune with, but which, for inhabitants of the 21st C, tends to be quite thin on the ground. Not gone completely, but infrequent - found at the birth of a child, or by the side of someone whose life is ebbing peacefully perhaps, but not an everyday phenomenon. There may not have been snow on the ground at the first Christmas, but wonder was there in spadefuls and it's lovely to try and recapture a little of that for ourselves in Christmases millennia later

So my eleventh day of Christmas blessing wishes you the blessing of wonder in your life.

May you be blessed by the experience of wonder - at the vastness and complexity of creation, at the frailty and genius of humanity, at the beauty of nature, at the miracle of life itself and its origin, at the depths and lengths to which true love will go and may the blessing of winter stillness help you find silence in a noisy world because silence and wonder go hand in hand.

Thursday 3 January 2013

On The Tenth Day of Christmas

Not ten pipers piping but the tens of tens evergreen needles of the Christmas tree and the evergreen bay leaves in my outdoor wreath piping their annual tune of life going on even in the depths of winter.

There are times when it's good to be reminded of the evergreen's tune. Times when, for whatever reason, we feel like giving up on stuff and can't believe we will ever feel positive, sunny and warm again.

May you find comfort in the evergreen's message when the world seems a wintry place and sunshine far away. May it bring you hope and encouragement when the way feels cold and the going hard.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

On The Ninth Day of Christmas

Not nine drummers drumming but nine cosy Christmas things.

May you be blessed with cosiness this Christmastide, with time "to be" rather than time in which you have "to do". May you know moments of freedom from deadlines and responsibility and be able to let go for a space, with the knowledge that the world will still be turning at the end of it and that all does not rest on your shoulders. May you return to everyday routines refreshed, rested and recreated as your best self, ready for all this new year will bring.