Monday, 12 December 2016

Not only Santa Klaus looks good in red

The story goes that Santa Klaus originally wore a green outfit, then one day a company that sells a brown fizzy drink that is popular the whole world over decided he looked better in red. So who can imagine him wearing green now? Red is the most vibrant of colours bringing cheer during the winter days. There is definitely something about red that perks us all up. Red cars, red jumpers, red lipstick, red telephone boxes, red berries all make us feel happier, brighter, more enthusiastic. A well known airline decks its stewardesses in red hats and matching red lipstick which are guaranteed to make all heads swivel, so eye- catching  they are. Rudolph the reindeer has a red nose which makes him the ideal leader of the pack.
So here I am on the look out for red things today and feeling cheerful, hope you like them.

Here he is, the man in red delivering his presents

Red berries cheer up the winter hedgerows and are easy for the birds to see

Red for festive cheer

red is always a great colour choice for a sports car

red is surely the best colour for anything to do with love

red is the best colour for a phone box, easily spotted

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

A Vegetarian Winter Warmer

In the wintertime, meals that can be made in advance and heated up are a wonderful to come home to after work or a long walk. Stews, casseroles, hot-pots, can all be made in advance. It's good to have a Vegetarian alternative for all the non-meat eaters and this soup is just perfect, even non-vegetarians will like it.

Vegetarian Winter Warmer

Serves 6

2 leeks, washed and thinly sliced.
1 clove garlic, crushed
200g red lentils, rinsed
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
200g canned cannelini or chick peas

Heat some oil in a large saucepan and gently cook the leeks until soft, for about ten minutes. take care not to let them brown.
Add the garlic and cook for another few minutes.
Add the carrots, lentils, potatoes and a litre of vegetable stock
bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and let cook gently, covered for about 20 minutes,
Season to taste and check that the potatoes and carrots are cooked.
Add the drained beans and cook for another 5 minutes.

To serve drizzle over some olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.

Ready to go

Easy Peasy Chocolate cake

There's nothing like the smell of a chocolate cake baking in the oven to make you feel all warm and happy inside. On my blog you will find lots of recipes for chocolate cakes and Brownies.
Feeling down - make a chocolate cake, friends coming round - make a chocolate cake, looking for a quick recipe to end a meal with friends - make a chocolate cake, want something to perk up an ordinary week day supper - make a chocolate cake.
Today's recipe is super easy. make sure you always have a 200g bar of good quality chocolate hidden in the house and you can whip this lovely, fudgy, squidgy, chocolate cake up just like that, and it will make everyone feel happy and special because you made it for them with love.

Let's call it Chocolate Torte so it sounds even more special.

200g chocolate
200g butter
4 eggs, separated
200g caster sugar

20cms baking tin with detachable sides, lined with oven proof paper.

Heat the oven to 180 c

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a saucepan over a low heat, stir and set aside.
Beat the egg whites until stiff and then mix in the sugar.
Add the beaten egg yolks and pour in the chocolate and butter mixture, blend gently.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35 - 40 minutes.
Let cool and then remove the sides of the tin and gently slide onto a pretty serving plate
Dust with icing sugar and decorate with fresh raspberries if liked.

Hope you like it and it adds warmth and cheer to your winter.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Looking for the light

At this time of year we are made aware of light in different ways to the summer months.
Halloween lanterns, fireworks, the moon in the afternoon, the bright starlit sky, the golden sunsets. They are all welcome sights through the winter.
We need the light, if you don't get enough you might get SAD, especially if you live in Scandinavia.
The dark evenings and short days mean we light our houses from the minute we get home from school or work. We can have dimmer switches, pools of light, firelight, all sorts of ways to create a warm and luminous atmosphere.

Artists are particularly aware of light, Van Gogh loved the light in the South of France, he captured it on canvas.

Looking up in the early evening sky you will see the moon and the stras if it is a bright evening, so look and wonder and make a wish or two,

early sunset bathes the town in a golden glow

mezza luna

Carved pumpkins catch the light

Morning sun lights up a golden orchid

a cheerful pumpkin lights up a dark evening

Never get enough of watching the sun go down

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Whenever I feel afraid

Yesterday I woke up thinking about the difference between emotions and sentiments or feelings.
I asked a friend of mine how she would define it and we both agreed that emotions are more fleeting, something you feel for a brief time and need to be kept under control, whereas sentiments are long lasting and involve a relationship and need looking after and nurturing.
We talked the film 'Inside Out' and neither of us could remember the five emotions represented by the little people in the film. we got as far as Joy and Sadness, they were the main characters and at the end of the film you realize you can't have one without th other, then anger and jealousy. Then we both remembered Fear. That is the one that we always seem to hide, keep it to ourselves whereas the other four kind of get noticed by the people around you.
Being afraid of things is the right there from the start. Some babies cry desperately when you switch on the vacuum cleaner or hair dryer, other babies think it's funny and dance and giggle as you push the hoover round the room.

As it's just been Halloween and there is a lot of Fear involved in that what with spirits, witches, bats and ghouls, I'll share a lovely little scene with you.
Lots of people don't know what to make of Halloween but for little children it seems to be an occasion for a bit of fun together and that can't be bad can it?
Anyway think of a dear little 3 year old girl, let's call her Katie, sitting watching 'Hotel Transylvania' with her little friend Becky. They are both clutching popcorn wrapped in cones printed with bats and witches and black cats. Becky gets a bit frightened so Katie puts her arm around her and draws her close, 'Don't be frightened Becky, I'm here for you'.
Isn't that just what we all want to hear all our lives? We all need a Katie!
I'm here for you, don't be afraid.

A long time ago when I was so much younger than today I had to walk along a lane to get home and in the Autumn and Winter months it was getting dark and deserted when I got there, so I took a breath and ran like the wind with this song in my head from the musical 'The king and I', not out loud of course because that would have been frightening seeing as I 'm tone deaf!!

I hope this post cheers you up, gives you strength and take care.

Things look different in the morning

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Scary Recipe for Halloween Fun

Double, double, toil and trouble,
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble,

Macbeth Act 4 Scene 1

Here's a recipe for a Halloween supper, a vegetarian stew that will have you reciting Shakespeare and giving a cackle or two. It's a bit like an Autumn Ratatouille lots of lovely seasonal vegetables washed and sliced and then slowly cooked together with your choice of seasoning.
The beautiful colours of the Autumn leaves are found in the pumpkin. I love Autumn. In Spring the sight of the blossom will lighten your heart, in Autumn the bright yellows and oranges will warm your heart and prepare your soul for Winter.

Halloween Vegetarian Stew

400g can of chickpeas
1 red onion peeled and chopped
500g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 leek, washed and sliced thinly
500g passata, tomato sauce
450ml vegetable stock
400g can butter beans
200g spinach leaves washed (optional)

Magic spell seasonings, to be added according to your taste)
curry powder

Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and cook for a few minutes until softened.
Add your favourite seasonings, curry powder, paprika, coriander, salt and pepper to taste and stir gently.
Add the leeks and cook gently for another few minutes until the leeks are softened.
Add the chopped pumpkin and stir gently then add the tomato passata and stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, stirring and tasting and uttering magic spells.
Add the butter beans, spinach leaves and chickpeas and mix together gently..
Check the seasoning.
Serve with boiled rice if liked, or crusty bread and salad.

This is a great recipe to prepare in advance. Let it cool completely and then cover with clingfilm and store in the fridge then just heat gently until it is nice and hot.
Just the thing to come home to in the evening.

 Happy Halloween everybody, take care and have fun!

Easy to get your five-a-day with this stew

A friend made these halloween cupcakes, delicious!!

It's easy to carve a friendly face to keep you safe on Halloween night

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Rambling On

If this title was written by Bob Dylan it would  probably be 'Ramblin' on' . Just saying, cos he won the Nobel prize and all that. Anyway this is rambling post with random thoughts which we surely all have.
Driving along the motorway through a built up industrial area all at once the sky cleard to reveal a most magnificent sunset, blazing, golden, glorious. Reflecting on the contrast between the factories and the sky all sorts of philosophical thoughts started to swirl in my head. For some reason this verse by Emily Dickinson popped up

Who has not found the heaven below,
Will fail of it above:
For angels rent the house next our's
Wherever we remove.

Wherever we go we take ourselves with us, so it's our thoughts and are eyes that make what is around us appealing.
 We just have to wait a while and something nice will happen, look for the beauty around you every day, whether it is a person's smile or greeting or a lovely sunset.

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Thursday, 13 October 2016

Words that open your heart and your mind

Bob Dylan has received the Nobel prize for literature. It's the first time that it's been won by a song-writer. It's probably the first time that I haven't rushed off to buy a book written by the Nobel prize winner, so many books that I've only read because of that prize, Beowulf by Seamus Heaney for example. Actually I didn't read all of it but I thought I should as it had won the Nobel prize.

I know most of Bob Dylan's songs they followed me through my youth. The very first record I ever bought with my pocket money was' Hey Mr. Tambourine Man', sang by The Byrds but written by Bob.It is still one of my favourite songs and still works it's magic on me. In a film where Michelle Pfeiffer was an ex Marine and went to teach in a rough school she uses this song to get  her students attention.

Another favourite was 'Like a Rolling Stone' the chorus of which can be sung at the top of your voice going along in the car. 'Blowing in the wind' is arguably the best song for peace, it was supposedly written in ten minutes in a cafè. Its' message echoes down the years, as relevant today as when it was written.
'Forever Young' is a heartwarming wish for us all, Bob Dylan's songs are powerful and poetic. They open the mind and they open the heart.
Olivia Newton John singing 'If not for you' is a sweet and gentle love song, sung by Bob Dylan it is husky and sensual.

No doubt Bob Dylan's nomination will cause some discussion, but I was thinking that maybe we need to be reminded of the message in his songs. Some were written over forty years ago and are still relevant today and always.

Just look at the questions he asks in 'Blowin' in the wind'.

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?

How many times must cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea?

How many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?

How many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn't see?

And then there is the verse from 'The Times they are a changin''

Come senators, congressmen please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway, don't block up the hall,
For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled,
There's a battle outside and it's ragin'.

Then there is his beautiful love song 'If not for you', which along with 'I will' by The Beatles and 'Your song' by Elton must surely have sent shivers down the spine of many a lover.. I know, I'm one!!

If not for you, my sky would fall, rain would gather too
Without your love I'm nowhere at all,
I'd be lost if not for you
And you know it's true..

Maybe it's time to listen to all his songs again, thinking about today.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Poem for the Day, Autumn Walks

Anyone lucky enough to have seen New England in the fall, or Autumn, knows what a spectacular display Nature puts on and anyone who lives in a country with seasons knows the joy of walking through golden fields, crunching dry leaves underfoot, caressing a shiny conker, or horse- chestnut, breathing in the first smoky scents and chill in the early morning air, the mists across the fields, the golden sun ever lower in the sky.
Here is a poem by the American poet John Greenleaf Whittaker ( 1807 - 1892) to accompany through the beautiful Autumn days.

The autumn time has come,
On woods that dream of bloom,
And over purpling vines,
The low sun fainter shines.

The aster flower is failing,
The hazel's gold is paling,
Yet overhead more near
The eternal stars appear.

And present gratitude
Insures the future's good,
And for the things I see
I trust the things to be;

Hope you like it!

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Changing seasons

A friend of mine has got a tattoo on her arm , it's a verse from a poem by Dorothy Frances Gurney (1858 - 1932), it means a lot to her because it reminds her of her mum. We can all understand that, I'm sure we all know what it means to be reminded of your mum, especially if she is no longer here. It's a poem about a garden,

the kiss of the sun for pardon
the song of the birds for mirth
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.

It is nice isn't it? You can feel the warmth of forgiveness and the sounds of a happy heart and love.

I haven't got a garden I've got a balcony and as I was snipping and pruning my plants to prepare them for Autumn I was thinking about this poem. I love the changing seasons, and I have rituals that I really enjoy and cherish for moving from one season to the next. My summer plants, the geraniums, plumbago and bourgainville are still beautiful but they are now sitting alongside a few pots of purple heather and cyclamens that I know will pass the test of the winter months and flourish through to spring.
Even though the sun is still warm the signs of Autumn are around us all day long, from the colour of the falling leaves, the sunset moving slowly across the sky, the fading flowers, the shortening days, the flock of birds getting ready to move south, the feel that all is preparing to face the colder weather.

Gardens, parks, woods and forests and yes even balconies are changing. Just like us, they need to adapt and prepare. We need to boost our immune system to ward off colds and flu, we need to cut and prune and discard all the excess, we're like plants, we need constant care and attention, every day all year round if we want to be able to give our best.

Here is a song to accompany this mood of changing seasons and the passing of time by Joni Mitchell.

A vase of heather says Autumn is here

Summer flowers are still bright and cheerful

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Magic Words

Parents and teachers spend a lot of time reminding children to say please and thank you. Please, thank you and sorry all can have a profound affect on a person. They can have the power to open your heart and heal your wounds.
Many languages do not stop at please or thank you. In German after you have said Danke you will receive a smile and a Bitte. In French, Merci will elicit je vous en prie, in Italian Grazie will get a prego. Americans will follow thank you with you're welcome.
Let's face all these expressions and polite words make life better, they make us feel better about each other.
We don't always practice what we preach though and yesterday I was reminded of this by the sweetest three year old in the world.
We were both engrossed in the quest of Dory to find his mum and dad and I absently mindedly lent over to take some popcorn from her carton. Her little voice was low in the darkness of the cinema,
'You can have some of my popcorn, help yourself', well it wasn't meant as a reproach, quite the opposite, it was an invitation to help myself, but it made me aware that I hadn't asked.

From then on bits of popcorn were pushed gently into my mouth at regular intervals, what more can I say, total bliss.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

My Top Summer Sunsets

The days are getting noticeably shorter. The sun sets two minutes earlier each day, a quarter of an hour a week. It now sets where it did in April. there is something so wonderful about the sunset, while you watch it you know you are a part of something magnificent. We all are, while we watch the sun go down and the sky change colour, every day different colours and hues, every day that magical, wondrous feeling.
So here are my favourite summer sunsets, just to stay awhile longer in summer and linger with the warmth of the sun and listen to the last of the crickets.

Here is a verse from  'Tintern Abbey', written by William Wordsworth in 1789 to read while watching the sun go down.

 And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit that impels,
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.

Sunset over the sea, watching the last ferry of the day

Sunset over the mountains

Sunset over the countryside

Sunset on the river

Sunset on the lake

Sunset in a pine wood

Sunset from a terrace

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

When you need a friend

A friend of mine went through a very bad patch, no matter how much she confided in me nothing seemed to help so she went to a counsellor. These experts in healing the emotions and hurt feelings are becoming ever popular. The change in her was noticeable, she became happier and more positive with each visit. The counsellor helped her to understand why she was so hurt, it is all about healing feelings and emotions.
Psychology is a very popular subject these days for all sorts of situations.
Psychology is even used to make us buy certain products in the supermarket and sell anything from cars to washing powder.
So why can't talking to a friend always help us? Maybe because sometimes we don't want to burden our friends with negativity and give them the responsibility of helping us make decisions.

Hurt feelings are very difficult to mend.

Here is a quote from someone.

'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.'

So try and make those around you feel happy today, to quote Maya Angelou (1923 - 2014)

Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud.'

A gift of flowers is always welcome and healing

Monday, 15 August 2016

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Fill the world with love

Here's an exercise to do that is guaranteed to help all those around you.

Repeat these sentences changing the names, first you put yours, then someone you love, then someone that you have issues with.

May I/ my family/people who hurt me, be filled with loving kindness

May I/my family/people who hurt me be well.

May I/my family/people who hurt me feel peaceful and at ease.

May I/my family/people who hurt me be free of suffering and happy.

Say it every day.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Cheese, Tomato and Onion Tart

Hot summer days mean it's best to use the oven as little as possible, so early in the morning you can make this tart and then it's all ready for lunch or supper later in the day.

Summer days quiche

2 red onions, chopped

250g cherry tomatoes, washed and dried and cut in half

2 eggs, beaten

1 pack of ready made pastry

1 mozzarella, sliced

olive oil, salt and pepper

Gently cook the onions in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes.
Put them in a bowl with the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.
Line a pie dish with the ready made pastry and cover with the onion and tomato mixture.
Pour over the beaten eggs and dot with the cheese.
Cook in the oven for about 40 minutes at 180.

Serve hot or cold. If serving later in the day let it cool completely before covering with cling film and storing in the fridge.