Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Tea Room at Kellie Castle, Fife, Scotland

The Tea Room, Kellie Castle, Fife

The Tea Room at Kellie Castle, Fife, Scotland

I spent a delightful day here with my friends daughter. They live in a little croft overlooking the Firth, about three miles from Kellie Castle. So on a lovely summer day we walked to the castle down country roads. Taking a small packed lunch with us.

The gardens at Kellie Castle are lovely. You can have a wedding in them or other events. What a delight it would be to do so.


Monday, March 30, 2009

The Blue Castle, L. M. Montgomery, Book Review

A charming delightful book. The book I read from was dated 1926. The central character is Valancy Stirling, don't you love that name? Who is in her later twenties and has led what only can be called a very grey, molded, restrictive, socially overbearing life. She lives with her mother and her Cousin Stickles, all is ugly.

LMM writes 'Valancy, so cowed and subdued and overridden and snubbed in real life, was wont to let herself go rather splendidly in her day-dreams. Nobody in the Stirling clan, or its ramifications, suspected this, least of all her mother and Cousin Stickles. They never knew that Valancy had two homes - the ugly red brick box of a home, on Elm Street, and the Blue Castle in Spain.' Thus the title of the book - The Blue Castle.

Valancy also delights in reading John Foster's books about the woods, which she gets from the library, even these are eked out by her mother, who does not know how much she enjoys them.

She is having some trouble with palpitations of the heart, so decides to go to the doctor, and not their own family clan doctor. This is a big step for Valancy. While at the doctor's he is called away urgently to see his son in Montreal, who is involved in an accident. A few days later Valancy receives a letter in the mail from the doctor, stating that she has a very serious heart condition and has only at the most about a year to live.

At this time Valancy makes a monumental decision in her life. She is going to do exactly what she wants to do. She wants to live life, what ever short life she has left.

Thus she decides to help a young woman, Cissy, who lives with her father, the town drunk Roaring Abel. Cissy has been ostracised by the town for having an illegitimate baby, that died at a year old. Cissy has never gotten over this and is herself dying of consumption, TB.

In comes Valancy to live with them, as their house-keeper and companion to Cissy. The Stirling clan are beside themselves, what will people think.

Into this pot is thrown the other leading character, Barney Smith. Nobody knows where he came from and he drives around in a terrible old car, called Lady Jane. Is he a jail bird? Is he a murderer, all stories abound. At best he is a reprobate, or so the town thinks, and therefore a very bad association for one's good name. But Valancy likes him, and decides to ask him to marry her, explaining it's only for a year.

He lives on a beautiful island in a lake, it is idyllic. Here Valancy blossoms, from a very plain woman into an alluring, interesting, and somewhat beautiful woman. The island is her Blue Castle.

And who is John foster?

I will not tell you anymore. You must try and find the book for yourself to read. I managed to find it at my local library, filed in what they call old shelving. Books that you have to request, and they are brought down to you, in all their mustiness, and expectation of what forgotten stories will unfold from within.

I cannot finish this review without addressing the book written by Coleen McCullough, published in 1987, The Ladies of Missolonghi. I read this book a long while ago and just loved it. It is set in Australia, where as LMM's is set in Canada. At that time I did not know of LMM's book.

The story and plots of the two books are so similar. As I read 'The Blue Castle', 'The Ladies of Missolonghi', kept coming back to me. The word plagiarism does come to mind.

You must read them both, first LMM's book, then Coleen McCullough's book. See what you think.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple, Book Review

Dorothy Whipple can take what would ordinarily be a mundane predictable story and takes it to the pinnacle of character studies. With just as much insight into a man's thinking, as a woman's.

Someone at a distance set after WWII, is based around a wealthy, upper class family, the North's. Mr North, is a co-owner of a publishing house in London, and goes up every day on the train. Ellen his wife is a stay at home mum, but is very busy with a big house, and looking after all the household duties. As this is post WWII and domestic staff, willing to live in the country are hard to find. Their eldest son, Hugh, who is doing his national service time and their daughter is away at boarding school.

What falls into all this British country idealism, Ms Louise Lanier, a young French woman who is socially conscious of her working class position, in her small town. She had for a long time secretly dated Paul, the son of a wealthy town family, but he had jilted her for the socially acceptable Germaine, right family, right class.

Mrs North senior answers an add in the paper for a companion. Feeling left out and not payed enough attention to, even though she has her lovely own house and a companion servant, plus the family do visit here, she feels slighted.

So begins the circle of events that spiral down to the breaking up the the North's happy family. Very near the beginning you know this will happen. It is the character studies that carry this story through. I was able to jump to the end and read it, which usually would totally ruin a book but not this one. You just want to read what they think, why they act the way they do, and Dorothy Whipple is a master character builder.

A few quotes of the many I enjoyed.

Ellen says of Louise, "When you don't mind how rude you are, you have every advantage."

Speaking of old Mrs North and Louise's relationship together, Ms. Whipple writes 'They were very pleased with each other.'

Louise's parents looking at a photograph of the North's said 'She has a sweet face," said Madame Lanier. 'What a very nice family. They all look so happy.'

Louise's thoughts, 'For a long time, she had been looking on at money without having any herself. It was too bad. The lack of it had ruined her life. If she had, had money, Paul wouldn't have left her for Germaine Brouet.'

In reference to Avery, 'She always had to listen carefully, ..... he barely moved his lips when he spoke. It gave her the air of hanging on his words, which he thought very attractive in her.'

Louise looking in the mirror, after having married Avery. 'She always gave as much pleasure to her own eyes as others. More, in fact, because she alone knew what perfect finish she had achieved.'

Mrs Brokington an elderly close friend of Ellen's. 'They were silent during Ellen's tale, the old woman saw or thought she saw that it was the child, Anne, who was keeping her parents apart. But she said nothing. It was too late the divorce had happened. She wouldn't throw Ellen into worse agitation and confusion by saying that Avery might not have wanted it at all.'

Well I could go on and on quoting passages from the book.

It's hard from our 2009 viewpoint to understand the class system of the time period. But I can say of my own experience as a child in the 60's it was strong. I'll give you an example.

Of a baby boomer class of 40 children strong, only one child passed her eleven plus examination to go to the prestigious High School, every one else was denigrated to the secondary modern school. This was so based on the class you came from, what your parents did for a living.

After five parents kicked up a rumpus, saying it was impossible for all the other 39 children to have failed, they got their children into the Grammar School, not even the High School. Class distinction at it's worst.

To be quite honest the curriculum at the secondary school was very good, but it was the stigma, you just cannot know how that felt to work so hard as an eleven year old, know you truly were good enough and not make it. Not to wear that uniform.

So I can just a little have empathy for Louise Lanier.

Do read it. It is available through, Persephone Classics.

Persephone Books reprints forgotten twentieth century novels, short stories, cookery books and memoirs, by mostly women writers. It is their 10th Anniversary this year. Someone at a Distance was among the first group of books offered.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Needlepoint Sewing Basket

This was a delightful find at my local thrift store. I was in the right place at the right time, another second and it would have gone. It's delightful, such loving work put into it. I would say from the legs, that it is late fifties, into the sixties. In any case, It's is own piece of furniture, standing for itself. Roomy for all my stuff!

Needlepoint Sewing Basket


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dichroic Glass Hearts in my Etsy Shop this Weekend, and one in my Lil Bit Brit Corner Store Now


The above dichroic heart I have put in my Lil Bit Brit Corner Store. My first item for sale in the Corner Store. I'm so excited. It's the type of thing you always wanted to do as a child and couldn't, because all this technology was not available then. So pop on over and take a look.




These other hearts I will put in my Etsy store on the weekend.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Little This a Little That

I bought these notepads, different designs, but same genera. I call it my Fu Manchu set, because obviously it's Chinese and it reminds me of 1930's Shanghai era. I found this paper at the dollar store, I had originally gone to look for packets of seed. 10 packets for one dollar, to get a jump start and start some seedlings indoors.

In the Simla room, my mandevilla vine made it through the winter, but is looking tatty, dried out leaves all on the floor. The three begonias around it are doing well, and if one had a warm climate all year obviously they would flourish. I would love an outdoor fuchsia, they do grow in England, and our winters are no colder, I must find one.

Our outdoor tent is worse for wear, leaving it out most of the winter did not help. It did keep the wood dry, but a month ago, it took off in a wind and bent a pole. Unfortunately I went to IKEA and it was a one season deal, two years ago, so will have to try and resurrect it for the summer.

Bo is going to take some photos of my hearts on a choker, which I will put on Etsy, maybe my Lil Bit Brit Corner Store. He'll like doing that , playing around with his camera, and I'll get some good photos.

Have you seen Higglety Pigglety's Blog. she's an artist and does wonderful little drawings. I am tempted to buy a couple of boxes of her notelets, I think free shipping. They remind me of a book I had as a child, 'Little Gray Rabbit', I should see if i can find that book on e-bay. I had that book long before I had any Beatrix Potter books.

My 'Far Pavilions' movie arrived from Netflix. It's a terribly condensed version of the book. I wish the BBC would do it. It is absolutely worth a remake as a series. M. M. Kaye the author spent her childhood growing up in Simla 'The Sun in The Morning'.

I'm romping away on 'Someone At A Distance', even though I did a picky, read of the ending. Dorothy Whipple's character studies hold you. My friend C's book is a veritable kaleidoscope of coloured stickies marking what I think are key statements. But I think I have too many key statements.

This Indian brass tray/table is on a traditionally wood carved base. It's about 100 years old. I picked it up on e-bay, from Montreal, Canada. I put a bid on it and forgot about it, so was delighted when I won it. It is the most beautiful one I have ever seen. The gentleman I bought it from said an Indian friend gave it to him, before he left the area and it sat in has attic for many years. I just love the detailed work and colours.

Have a great day.


The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet, by Colleen McCullough, Book Review

Can you open a book review, by saying absolute rubbish.
After reading the first opening chapter, which I thought held some promise, from there onwards it was downhill. Victorian Gothic gone arie. I enjoyed reading Sanditon, which was an unfinished manuscript of Jane Austen's, which was finished in the style of her writing, so thought I might enjoy this.
Colleen Mccullough of 'The Thorn Birds' fame, made into the for TV series, and a book which I do very much like and would recommend, 'The Ladies of Missalonghi', should never have gone down this path. I hope she writes another book to redeem herself.
Mary has been left at home, the spinster, to look after their mother, their father died two years after Lizzie and Jane married. It opens with mum dieing, Mary is now 38 and has changed so much as to be interesting and a beauty, in the line of Lizzie. She has saved up the allowance Darcy gave her for looking after the girls mother, keeping her off his hands and out of his way. With this money she intends to travel England, see the poor and write a book about it, publishing it with her own money. Mary very much likes the writings of Argus, a socially conscious person, who turns out to be Angus, the love interest in the story.
Lizzie and Jane's marriages, have not turned out to be particularly happy. The story center's around Mary, and Darcy's hunger for power and his wanting to become Prime Minister, therefore having to keep his wife's family under wraps. He regrets marrying beneath him. Lydia is an ongoing disgrace to the family.
Darcy has a younger half brother from his father's liaison with a Jamaican lady of ill repute, who he has brought up. Ned is totally loyal and loves Darcy, who was good to him as a boy, but now as an adult willingly does his beckoning, what ever Darcy may call for and more.
Mary leaves on her travels, trying to do so as cheaply as possible, by stage coach. This leads to all sorts of problems. Eventually she is hijacked by a highwayman, found by Ned, then taken by a Father Dominus and The Children of Jesus, who live in the caves in Derby shire. Here she is held prisoner, to write a dictated book by Father Dominus. Who turns out to be an old servant of Darcy's father. Stole the gold which was acquired illicitly by Darcy's father and buried it under an alter in the caves. Mary thinks the children who he has acquired, probably from their parents for gin money, that help him in the caves and only leave at night, may be murdered when they reach adolescence.
Well need I say more. I did not read the book all the way through, just skipping through and read the end. It wasn't worth the time.
Do read 'The Ladies of Missalonghi' a delightful story.
P.S. Oh dear! I just found out that The Ladies of Missalonghi and L. M. Montgomery's Blue Castle have a great similarity of ideas. I will have to find Blue Castle to read.

Friday, March 20, 2009

New Widget My Picks

I added a new widget 'My Picks'. This I will change every one to two months, to keep you up with what's on my book pile, for reading.

I don't know about you, but some books I pick up and never can get into them, and since my time is valuable, I don't slog on if I'm not enjoying them.

Other books are just for browsing, and a little reading, such as O'S Big book of Happiness.

Other books I will get into and just love. These I will write a review on.

Where do my books come from. Well first of all the "What's New" area at our local library. My other source is my friend C, who has introduced me to some wonderful reading over the years.

And sometimes I will buy myself an old book on e-bay, or buy an old discard book at the library. Or my other source is the thrift shop, mostly reference type books from there, such as a recent one I picked up on 'A Pleasure In Words' by Eugene T. Maleska published 1981. Wonderful book on the origins of our English language. I had actually been to many book shops looking for such a book and been totally disappointed.

As Elizabeth Hardwick (1916 - 2007) said -

"The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind."

In these times we need a little of that.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Char and a Chat

My dear friend C. came over for lunch, sharing a cup of char and a chat. Just a simple sharing of time and friendship. I love times like this to slow the pace and savour what is truly important to the soul, friendship.

This is one of my thrifty find tea sets from a while ago. It's actually made in Ireland. The teapot which I found separately to match up is made in England and a different china finish. I love the thatched cottage design. The first time I saw it was when my grandma gave me one odd plate with it on. That was a typical thing my grandma would do, give you one little gem of something, fabric, a little book, a little drawing she had done.

C. and I share a mutual love of books, journals and hand written notes and letters. We lament that children are growing up not even learning cursive handwriting. One's handwriting is so personal, it's like a fingerprint. How can you go through life without the fingerprint of hand writing? It should not be done.

We had discussed some notes from her journal. Her bag is darling, so typical of C.

And just to share my little change around. Well I thought I would put this in here, as I was pleased with the results, and it's in the room we had tea in.

This barrister's bookcase used to sit in the upstairs hallway, where I have now put the old oak coat rack, which was becoming more and more populated with bags, hats and coats, that you could hardly navigate your way past it in the downstairs hallway, and I said enough, let's relocates it to the upstairs hallway, where I weeded out some items, and have a little clear path down here.

Enjoy your friendships.


P.S. That teacloth has the most darling little embroidery on it of a teapot but unfortunately on the other side, will have to take a photo and post it another time. It was embroidered by an elderly lady in a little town in Nebraska. Not that I've ever been there, but have a friend out there who sent it to me.

Where things come from and who gave them to you, plus their little stories i think have so much significance to one.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fifties Nostagia. Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places

I found this dear little book at our public library. They put older books out for .50 cents. It seemed that a lot of older books used to be put out. Also I have not been to the library as often as I would wish. In any case I found this little gem.

First published in 1950, but mine is the 1954 edition. "Dedicated to the Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealers of the United States, whose interest and suggestions have made this guide possible."

It's a guide to restaurants and their favourite recipe, along with a 112 local artists renditions, including a car on many pictures.

Doesn't it just take you back to a different time. I love the colour pictures, which we take so for granted today in any aspect of communications, but lovely colour pictures were not so readily included in print publications then.

Before I came to the States, I could probably count on my fingers how many times I ate out at a restaurant in the UK, but after coming to the States and being a nanny when I first came over, eating out just became a way of life.

I remember my first Big Mac from Burger King, of course that is take out, along with eating at a Diner, so quintessentially American.

I will say though, that we do not eat out that often now.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pink Rose - Olympus Camedia C-770 10X Optical Zoom

Just had to take a photo before their beauty was totally lost. The rose is a tad past it's best. You can see it's just beginning to wrinkle.

I took it with my husbands old Olympus -770 Digital 10X optical zoom Camedia camera. I've been upgraded, although I alternate between that and my old Olympus. It's handy because the batteries and cards are interchangeable.

Bo, has had three of the above cameras. The first one had no sound on the video, and cost almost as much as the fancy, dancy Sony he just bought. That one bit the dust, when Rob and Bo were larking about a bit a wedding and it hit the concrete floor. That was the end of the first one.

The second one with sound he bought on E-bay for around $200, that stopped working after taking a long video at Rob's Middle School Graduation.

This last one, the third one, he bought on E-bay for about $70.00 and it still works. And now I have it and I'm getting used to using it. They're nice little cameras, so if you can get hold of a second hand one, I would recommend it. The only thing is they eat up a charge on the battery, even quicker than his new Sony does.

The macro is better than on my old camera an Olympus IR-500 with a docking station. It is a neat small go anywhere camera.

Well enough on that.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gem & Jewelery Show

Have you ever been to a Gem and Jewelery Show. Well this is a place of total overload. I went the weekend before last. I was meant to go with some friends, but landed up going on my own. Either way you have fun. Take cash and only take as much as you intend to spend, or you will over spend. These are a few of the goodies I bought.

It's been a while since I made jewelery, but it is a lot of fun. I promised some girl friends that we would get together and have tea and a jewelery making afternoon. So hope to do that soon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

50th Wedding Anniversary and a Welcome Back

A party was thrown for two very dear couples. One a welcome back, who are way past their 50th wedding anniversary.
And for these our dear friends a 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration.
A good time was had by all.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Our Only Heat Source, our Jotul Wood Stove

That's what I like to see a nice full basket of wood. We've had this laundry basket since we were married. It was Bo's mum's, so must date back to the fifties. It is very large. I have a smaller one I use for the laundry, but of course we would never get rid of this one, as Bo's mum died when he was four. So when we put the wood stove in we needed a place to keep the wood in the house, and this has worked out very well.

Roses by firelight and a good spy thriller, L'Assassin, set in France, it was a good read. And I think a little gnome.

We have used our Jotul wood stove as our only heating source this winter. Only once or twice putting on the central heating. It has probably saved us between $1,200 and $1,500, which I think is a goodly sum. As we have oil. There have been times when the stove has not quite kept the house as warm as we would like, in the far bedrooms and the kitchen. The heat has to turn quite a few corners to get to the kitchen. The boys have complained, but I've told them to put a jumper on, or wrap up in a blanket, while sitting still.

Those kind of savings can be put towards a vacation, or the bathroom repairs. I know what I'd rather do, but maybe the other is what we must do.

Now the temperature is rising in the daytime. But in the evenings I am still lighting the fire to take the chill off the house and it's so cozy to sit by.

Hope your evenings are cozy.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Bowling Boys

Just some weekend pics of the boys bowling, that's dads and their sons.

Hope you had a great weekend too.

Friday, March 6, 2009

I'm Not Cooking Tonight

I'm not cooking tonight, because the boy is. In fact this is the second night in a row that he is cooking. Tonight he's making pizza. The whole wheat dough I bought. He rolls it out and puts it on the pizza stone, then adds various toppings, then we cook it in the oven at 500f.

Half was gone before I got to take a picture.

Last night Rob made, red sweet peppers, onions and sausage all cooked in olive oil, it was very good.
He's a good boy.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bouquet, Nicky Epstein A Year of Knitted, Crocheted, and Felted Flowers

This is my other journal, by Nicky Epstein. It was on clearance and although I already had a journal this one has quite a few lovely crochet patterns. So because of the patterns, I justified the expenditure. And thought I could always write down projects I am thinking of, or working on, or any crafting meandering thoughts.

Have a nice day, as the Yanks say.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Indian Toran

Posy had a couple of posts about buntings, here and here one she made, the other she bought, and it reminded me of my Indian Torans. They are hung above a doorway or window. Are usually very bright. Sometimes they're made out of old saris made into a patchwork, and others like this are a kind of felt and then embroidered and mirrors put in.

I have these above each of the French doors, that leads into my Simla room. This is my eclectic room of all things Indian.

Simla is a town high up in the Himalayas where the British ruled India from during the hot summers during the time of the Raj. It was featured in the Jewel in the Crown. Also it was where M.M.Kaye grew up. She wrote Far Pavillions and many other books including her autobiography. One book of which is Sun in the Morning, well worth reading.

Update on Tuppy

This is Tuppy the day she came home after her operation. As you can see she is sleeping if off on our bed.
Here she still looks a little groggy

Here she is a couple of days later, with her new toy; which my friend C sent. It came as a little package in the mail. Thank you,

As you can see she likes her new toy and just the thing to perk up her spirits.

Tuppy back to her inquisitive self.

Enjoying the fire.

And just a couple of pics of her compatriot in naughtiness Tink.

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