Sunday, 29 November 2015

Baking on holiday

Who knew that American flour is different from British flour?!  I couldn't understand why my cakes here are not as light and airy as my cakes in the UK :-(. So I have resorted to cake mix.  You know, those packets that have everything in them except egg and oil.  

To my mind this is cheating.  On a grand scale.  No weighing and beating and sieving. Just splosh and stir and bake.  However, it was easy to choose which box to buy:

I'm waiting now to take said mixture out of the oven.....

All I can say is, "Oh dear," and make some icing. 

I miss my UK kitchen. And my sons. And my cat.  Not in that order. 

Thursday, 26 November 2015


View from my computer

Yes I'm still in bed. It's Thanksgiving, and I am grateful for so many things.  One of them is that I can get up when I want to.  Shall I make a list?
My children. They are the best sons a mummy could wish for.  They have turned into intelligent, kind gentle men.
My husband.  Another gentle man.
My brother (of whom I have written too much already - any more will go to his head).
My friends - you know, those people you can tell anything and they still love you, will tell you when you're being stupid or foolish or nasty, who will say kind things when you need care and understanding, but will always tell you the truth.  
And then you know all the rest - enough to eat and drink, a roof (or two or three) over our heads etc etc.
And the bear?  He's called Lewis.  There are three things that are the best things I ever bought for myself with my own money: a car (I still miss it - a dark blue VW Eos hard top convertible with cream leather interior); Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (bought in Blackwells in Oxford in 1974 - it's just beginning to fall apart!); and Lewis (who is just 7 years old, so he hasn't started falling apart yet).
Happy Thanksgiving. 

Monday, 9 November 2015


I'm not very good at keeping my mouth shut.  I mean, I have to have my say, especially if I disagree with someone.  And even more especially if I think they are talking nonsense.  But now I have to belie that here by being very circumspect and keeping my fingers from tapping.  Because the latest recipient of my opinions may read this and I really don't want to hurt feelings.  I really don't.  
BUT he thinks the moon landings are a fiction. I CAN keep quiet.  I can keep quiet....
Here's some photos instead!

Friday, 6 November 2015


We are back in Florida.  In a heatwave.  I had forgotten how hot hot is.  We walked out of the airport to get our car, and I was reminded of those times when you open the oven door and have to stand back because of the heat.  And this was at 9pm!  

But that's not why I'm writing this.  I'm writing this because I've found a new book, and I want everyone to know about it.  It's called Room. By Emma Donaghue.  

I bought it on Tuesday and finished it within 24 hours. It's heart-wrenchingly breathtaking. Literally. I found myself not breathing, with pounding heart and clenched muscles. I had to force myself to put the book down, so that life could happen (which is kind of ironic, as you will know if you read the book). Will it go into my top twenty? It's possible. That's how good it is.
Read it. Please.  

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

What do I do when I'm not doing anything?

It's that time of my insomniac night when I wonder whether or not to lie here worrying about things great and small, get up and have a hot drink, wake husband by putting on the light so that I can read, or trawl through my iPad.  The iPad idea is a bad bad idea. All the literature on sleeplessness pulls no punches about how bad screens are in the middle of the night.  So, of course, here I am on my iPad.  I've looked through the limited photographs I have on it, to try and find some entertainment for this late hour and to see what I've bothered to photograph of my daily life.  What do I do with my days?

 - walk around our fields looking for interesting (silly) things to photograph

 - bake. A lot. 

 - paint

 - garden

 - read

 - play: I learnt just this year that you can crush plastic water bottles.  Oh what fun I have (and how annoying that noise has become to my family)

 - relax

Then there's the sewing and the crochet- no photos of those on my iPad.  
The short version of this blog post would be .....

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Remember that book list? Harry Potter.

Firstly I must apologise for the poor quality of the photograph. It's the middle of the night; I can't sleep but my husband can, so I have the light on very dimly.
Secondly I must apologise that the photograph isn't even half the story - all the Harry Potter books are meant to be here. But I'm not at home; this is the only book I brought with me; the house I'm staying in has no Harry Potter books.  Imagine that!! 
Thirdly I must apologise that these books are at number 18. They belong higher up, but, as I said, I'm not at home, but I suddenly wanted to restart this blog and this list, and with only this book for middle-of-the-night company, what was I to do?
So ... Harry Potter.  I HAVE met a very few people who never understood what all the fuss was about.  Intelligent people with interests similar to mine, some I even class as friends.  But they don't understand the fascination for wizards and spells and good versus evil and the eventual destruction of that evil.  They don't understand the pure escapism of these adventures.  Oh well.  Their loss I suppose.  
I have read the books about half a dozen times.  They are the kind of books I can turn to when I really cannot settle to anything. (Like the way I use Middlemarch - I wonder what George Eliot would think!). And right now I can't keep away from Hogwarts ....

Saturday, 22 August 2015

I am here

1. What happened to all those weeks?
2. And what has happened to my top twenty book list?
3. Have I been doing nothing?

1. Well, the question of time ... that could take a long time ... groan ...
2. I have lost my list and, in the nature of lists, it will have changed since I made it.  So I will have to make another one.
3. I have not been idle.  I've been drowning in a sea of thread and fabric and wool, making quilts and wall-hangings and pillows and cushions and trying to get on with my crochet blanket.

Now, where is a pencil and piece of paper ....

Wednesday, 8 July 2015


I've started an online course.  A multi-media thing.  Inner Excavation by Liz Lamoreux.  Another side-track from finishing my book list, I hear you say.  Oh but wait until you see what fun I'm having!  
There's my camera.  There's glue.  And a journal.  And tissue paper.  And fabric.  And paints.  And pencils.  And stamps and ink. And of course my cat.

There's a special Facebook page for this course, and I noticed how lots of my fellow 'students' were using photo-collage. I was going to ask how they'd done it, then I decided that I was perfectly capable of finding that out for myself.  And I did.

Another new toy 😃

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

More flowers instead of books

I've succumbed once more to the blood and gore and nastiness of Game of Thrones - the books, not the television series (I'm not THAT bloodthirsty!). As an antidote to that, I occasionally wander around the garden taking photographs of the flowers, especially the roses. You can see why ...

Isn't nature soothing? 
(Have I mentioned that gardening is hard work?!)

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

My garden today

I'm starting a new book today. One of my birthday presents from my baby son (he's thirty now!). 

But it's sunny and pleasantly warm outside, so I decided to search for the best place in the garden to sit and read. 
Here maybe?

Or here in the shade of a poplar tree, overlooking my meadow?

Or here in the shade of the apple trees (which incidentally are full of tiny, promising, apples)?

Or here on the verandah of my cabin?

Or here amongst the scent of roses?

In the words of Blackadder, "Oh, the agony of choice!"

Monday, 22 June 2015


I'm still reading - it's not a book on my top 20 list, but it could be.  

Reading about someone's love of/obsession with food makes me want to pick up the cudgels again and be creative in the kitchen.  ... Maybe.  (This picture is pink because I took it in our bedroom and the closed curtains are red - I was too lazy to get up and open them)

I haven't been blogging even though my dizziness is gradually waning. I've been gardening instead.  I've been creating quiet corners in my garden.  Like this one.  

The idea is to have secret spots in the garden where I can escape from the everyday and read or contemplate or enjoy the plants.  As yet I haven't had time!  This gardening stuff is hard work and time-consuming but oh so satisfying.  

Perhaps I should spend some time here, finishing my book list blogs!

Friday, 5 June 2015

One day ...

One day I'll feel better and more able to compose more than a few sentences.
One day I'll find the list of my favourite twenty books.
One day I'll figure out how to  ...
You get the idea!
One day soon ...

Sunday, 24 May 2015

How long is a hiatus?

The first rose of summer in my garden

A shady area in my garden

Bluebells collected from my meadow

Blue sky over my garden

I'm still reading. And I still have my list to complete.  If only this dizziness were as a result of the beauty outside my window!  
But the sun still shines :-)

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


I am resting. 
In my cabin. 
Amongst my fabrics. 

Looking at the flowers on my table.

Slowly making things

Looking out on my garden.

And generally keeping still and quiet. Labyrinthitis sounds like an obsession with walking around in circles. In fact it means that if I'm not still and quiet, my brain will go around in circles and I fall over! 
Sshhh! Be still.  

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The list: number 19

Als Ich Deutsche War by Christabel Bielenberg

My grandfather was my hero.  He didn't do anything that would be considered as heroic, like save 
lives or invent a cure for a dread disease or anything like that.  But to me he was wonderful.  Rooting around in my mother's papers (when I was about ten - everyone did that, right?) I found a card with 
my grandfather's name on it ... It was dated 1915, at the start of WWI, and said 'Discharged from the army.  Unfit to be a soldier.'  Well, I was shocked and immediately had to confess to my mother that I had been looking through her things!  The explanation - that my grandfather was only 15 at the time and had lied about his age - only made me worship him even more!  It was worth the telling off for being nosey.  
In WWII he was a miner and therefore didn't fight, but after the war was over he went to Germany for 
a couple of years and lived in Berlin during the blockade.  He learnt German very quickly and, apparently, when I was born decided I would be a linguist!  He was always telling me tales about 
his German friends and this my fascination with Germany began.  
Both my grandparents taught themselves Russian.  (They were communists.) I can remember seeing notebooks filled with incomprehensible scribbles. There were three columns: Russian Cyrillic, Welsh, English.  So when I was at Grammar School, I was of course learning Welsh and French and Latin, which were all compulsory; then, thanks to my grandfather, German and Russian.  
But back to the book... I'm really interested in German history, especially of the Second World War. And I really can speak and read German but always need practice.  So I read the book in German.  It's about a British lady who marries a German, lives in Germany, and then when the war breaks out finds herself caught between the two countries and cultures.  Her husband was one of the brains behind the  assassination attempt on Hitler.  This book charts their lives through the war, and how an English lady coped as an alien, trying to give her children a normal anti-Nazi life in a war-torn country.  
At the opposite extreme I have just read A Nazi in the Family by Derek Niemann, another fascinating insight into those times.

Monday, 27 April 2015

The list: number 20

Martha Quest by Doris Lessing.  

I was first introduced to the work of Doris Lessing when I was 25.  I read a review, in The Times, of 
The Summer Before the Dark.  I went and bought it immediately.  Thus was I led to the life (and the 
five books about) Martha Quest.  Teenage angst, the uncertainty of life in Southern Rhodesia before it became Zimbabwe, unsatisfactory marriage, war, prejudice, uprooting from home to live in a foreign country, mental breakdowns, women's rights.... All human life is there. 

I have read all her books.  She was a genius (Nobel Prize for literature), and she influenced me greatly, when I was an impressionable young thing looking for role models.

Maybe she's a good choice for our Book Club.  Old fashioned now, I suppose, but still genius for all that.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

The List

I spoke truthfully in my last blog.  I did feel a list coming on.  And I have made it.  But it needs some explanation, I feel.

For a start, it was impossible to restrict myself to twenty books out of the thousands I have read.  That stalled me, until I was helped out by Professor Carey (of the Unexpected Professor, which I wrote about last time).  He suggested to me that I expand my choices so that I have fiction and non-fiction lists - leaving out poetry and plays - gulp.  For the record, my favourite play is Shakespeare's King Lear and my favourite poem is Mary Oliver's The Journey; well, actually it is Keats' Ode to Autumn, but I'm really trying to bring myself into the twenty-first century.

Then I had to decide between a straight list, or a straight list with explanations against each book.  Oh the dilemma.  

Finally, I have decided to blog my list in sections, starting at number 20 and moving up, one, two or three books at a time, depending on my time and on my aching fingers!

If anyone reads it after all this I will be very pleasantly surprised.

My brother ( helped me to decide on how to make my lists.  However, when he wrote that our text conversation was exactly like my being with him, because he couldn't get a chance to reply to anything, I realised it was time to work on my own.  Thanks, little brother.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015


It's not as vital or impressive as nor even on any similar scale (obviously!) to discovering the Americas or discovering penicillin, but it's still exciting for the individual ... well, me. I mean the discovery of a new (to me) author, then discovering he/she has written more than this one that has turned my heart over. 

(CP Snow, discovered in Oxford in 1973)

It's happened to me many times. Each time has been the same. First the discovery of a new book - that I know, almost before opening it, is going to be special.  And it is. I don't want to stop reading it, but equally I don't want to finish it. I carry it around with me. Everywhere. Even when I know I'll have no chance to read it. It's the most important reason to have a handbag. 

(Handbag bought specifically because a paperback can fit in it)

Then the discovery that the author has written more. Such excitement. And relief. I don't have to worry about what I'll read next. The decision has been made for me. 

It started with the onset of being able to read. I still remember suddenly realising (apparently when I was just two and a half) that I was reading the words of an Andy Pandy book in my head and not listening to my mother reading it to me.  It was a magical magical moment, and I have never forgotten it. 

So my latest discovery is doubly exciting.  

John Carey.  'The Unexpected Professor.'  Of English literature.  At Oxford.  Not only is this book utterly brilliant.  Not only are there more.  But also it's about books.  And Oxford.  Well .....  I've had to read it really really slowly, to prolong the enjoyment.  This has meant putting it down and walking into another room.  It's meant going out without it!  It has also, wonderfully, meant going to my bookshelves to get books that he discusses, to remind myself of the author or the poem or the play.  It's all very exciting for me. 

I can feel a list coming on.

Saturday, 4 April 2015


I went to Oxford for the day.  Down memory lane.  Took in Jesus College, of course.  And Magdelen, Balliol, and Christchurch Colleges. Blackwells of course, and the covered market.  Lunch at Browns.  Christchurch Meadow and the Botanical Gardens.  The best company and great fun.
Of those beautiful buildings, all cleaned now, so you can see the wonderfully yellow Cotswold stone?  None.  
Of my lovely companion soaking up some British history and good memories to take back home to New York?  None.
Of our really tasty lunch, presented so prettily on a plate?  None.
Of a tree trunk? Yes of course.  It's a lovely tree trunk that reminded me of an elephant's foot, but ....

I shall go back very soon and inundate you with the beauty that is Oxford!
I didn't even buy a book!