Sunday, 15 April 2018

April

Spring has sprung!  The first bluebells are just coming out,  the roadside verges are full of celandine and the trees are budding new leaves, the woods are full to the brim with the green shoots of bluebell which should be in flower when I return from holidays in 3 weeks in a lovely fragrant carpet, also wood anemones.


 Everything is growing late this year, not surprising after the two cold setbacks we had in the UK in the last few weeks.  Due to the rain, today was my first opportunity to check bluebell progress and also my last spare moment before we go on holiday.   Wild primrose in the woods was a lovely surprise, they are everywhere.




 Moss and lichen creating a lovely soft velvety carpet in shady areas.


I am packed for Vietnam, I didn't have time to show you what I am taking, but will post some pictures on return.  We were given a whopping 30kg luggage allowance each but have taken less than half that and intend to put our cases in storage when we go on our boat trip in Halong Bay and the overnight trains/visit to Sapa.  We can pick up our cases on the way down to Hoi An where we will be on the beach for a while. 

Back in 3 weeks! 

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Easter Weekend

A walk in the fresh air to see some very large cows grazing, the brown one had surprisingly curly horns.

lots of celandines and scatterings of wild primrose. 



 My nature journal page for March is rather empty, as all we had was snow, rain and cold, I didn't get out much and had to use my imagination .  No sign of toads under my shed yet.....





 we tested the panoramic option on our camera although it was a misty, grey day it captured everything well.



There has been much on the news about plastic waste and how it is impacting on our environment Worldwide.  I wrote to McDonalds a few months back asking if they will look at changing plastic straws for paper and reducing plastic waste, they replied recently to say they are indeed  doing just this, having found a biodegradable paper straw alternative which they will test in some of their restuarants - on the news this week they announced this.  So pleased to see that this influential food chain is responding to the need for change.  Hope many more will follow.


plastic waste, low tide Costa Rica beach 2017

It was the picture above that stayed in my mind when I went along the tideline during my holiday in Costa Rica, I was looking for shells, there were hardly any, but there was a lot of plastic waste, including this toy plastic pig with tiny little shell creatures attached like feeding piglets, twine round it's neck - says it all really.




It's Easter weekend and we are eating hot cross buns and chocolate Easter bunnies and contemplating the religious significance of the day.   Easter bunnies have absolutely nothing to do with Christian Easter, they didn't die for our sins like Jesus, they are apparently of German pagan origin.


 I do like to be out in the woods at Easter, this is an old silk painting I did some years ago.



 
I am busy now with last minute planning for our holiday in Vietnam next month, as there will be a lot of travelling around (air, rail road and sea) from the cities to the Northern hill tribe villages and back to the city and then to the beach, we need to plan our luggage to be as light as possible!









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).

https://gourmandelle.com/batata-harra-spicy-roasted-potatoes
 .
  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

Krakow

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 ....you 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.......