A Pillow Book

I wanted a blog to reflect my life and, as with most people, I do and am many things, so decided to create a Pillow Book. It will have thoughts, ideas, observations and little snippets of my day to day life. So, thank you Empress Consort Teishi....... I bow to you and your great work and hope, in some small way, mine might be great too.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Daring to dream....


 I have, for much of my life, known the name Martin Luther King Jr. I got to know much  more when my eldest children  studied the American Civil Rights movement for their History 'A' levels. There is not much I can say that hasn't already been said about the injustices  that black Americans endured. Unbelievable really, a country that welcomed people from all corners of the world, that fought for freedom for the downtrodden across the planet could allow, within its own borders, segregation, injustice, apartheid.

The BBC has broadcast several programs this week, the 50th anniversary of The March on Washington. Still, so many years later the words are just as powerful, heartfelt, emotive. People power is astonishing, the film footage of ordinary folk, dressed in their Sunday best getting up in the early hours, travelling for many miles to make a difference, to be there, to witness change. They stood in peace, side by side, old, young, black, white, and listened to history being made, their country would change, their lives forever different. And now America has it's first African American president,  his path to the White House started that very day, as the historian Professor Clayborne Carson said when we dare to dream, to take action "things that were not possible become possible". 

There is much in this world that needs changing, still many injustices, children starving, dying of curable diseases, living in slums, having no education. Where are their rights? Who is marching for them? We live on a very small planet of which we are all citizens, we should believe that the 'not possible becomes possible' for all not just those of us who can march, who can vote and speak out. Where is their dream? 


“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” 
― Mother Teresa

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

And finally summer has arrived....






Yes, finally summer is here....

My youngest daughter sang before she could really talk, she hummed along and gurgled in her cot, I used to put her in the garden and she would sing to the bees...she has sung daily her whole life. When she left middle school she sang to a backing tape, Your Song,  brave and alone, the hall was silent and her voice filled the space, she made her year head cry and was then asked to sing at the  final assembly, more weeping. At the big school there has been little chance to sing, sadly,  she was in the choir for a while, but it is mainly populated by older students. We talked at length about how to get her singing in public, it was decided that learning an instrument would be the best thing, a guitar most likely. I mentioned it to a dear friend, a friend who married a folk singer a few years ago, conversations were had and friend's lovely husband volunteered to teach my daughter. So last week, on a fine summer's evening, we visited their little cottage by the side of an old railway track. The warmth of the day was still in the air and heady scents enveloped us. My friend and I decided to go in search of elderflower whilst leaving daughter and husband to their lesson, too much of an audience is no good thing at the start of learning to play an instrument. Off we walked along the old track an abundance of blooms all around, sadly many out of reach, but finally we were able to fill our bags. Summer evening walks are one of my most favourite things, conversations of life, love, family and stories recalled from shared events..... We walked back up the lane and could hear a guitar being strummed, a voice carrying on the still night air....Tea was made, cake cut and we all sang. Then just my daughter, oh what a wonderful sound, an old song from the year I was born, Catch The Wind, having never heard it before she sang it in her own way, goodness how my heart grew....what a truly beautiful sound...

So, promises were made of much practise and a tuner to be purchased.  Off we went into the summer night, a bag full of elderflower, guitar and music in hand...

The next morning on waking my whole house was filled with the heady scent of elderflower..summer in a bowl, that evening after purchasing some citric acid from the village pharmacy " making elderflower cordial?" I was asked..a conversation of best method, of how much needed and whether to try making champagne ensued. Then back home to grate lemons and oranges and steep flower heads for a day...with little effort two good bottles of elderflower cordial made. I know each time I pour some into a glass and top with fizzy water or maybe some prosecco I shall be transported back to a summer evening when scents and songs were caught on the wind.....



Elderflower Cordial

I have read many recipes and this seems as good as any and like most, I did add citric acid but didn't have unwaxed fruit  I just scrubbed lemons and orange in hot water then dried them off.

  • About 25 elderflower heads
  • Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150ml in total)
  • 1kg sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional)



Inspect the elderflower heads carefully and remove any insects. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the orange and lemon zest.
Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.

Strain the liquid through a scalded jelly bag or piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using). 

Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a
couple of minutes.

Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles
with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks.

“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don't they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.” ― Ray BradburyDandelion Wine



Saturday, 4 May 2013

Random acts of kindness....

I have always believed that intrinsically people are good, that an act of kindness is always repaid ten fold and that the best times are ones that don't cost a bean. So, I was heartened to hear of a new phenomena that is growing at the moment called 'Suspended Coffee' or 'Caffe Sospeso'. This charitable act started in the working class areas of Naples over 100 years ago. When someone had good fortune they would pay for two coffees and leave one for someone less fortunate than themselves, as a little thanks and to share their luck. It is a delightful tradition but one that sadly in more recent prosperous times went out of favour. But, in 2008, the Italian writer  Luciano De Crescenzo wrote a piece about Cafe Sospeso and soon a global movement began. Cafes in Quebec, Melbourn, Russia, Holland and Bulgaria have for the past few years allowed customers to purchase two coffees, one for them and one to be left for a homeless or destitute person. In the UK Starbucks has launched a campaign encouraging customers to leave a suspended beverage. Now the cynic in me questions why at just this moment in time Starbucks has chosen to launch its very own Suspended Coffee movement, I am sure the words tax evasion have nothing whatsoever to do with it, but the fact that they are matching the cost of the coffees as a donation to the charity Oasis Trust can be no bad thing. 

Now, I don't frequent coffee shops, and I feel £6 for many people is quite a lot to spend too often so I have researched other possible random acts of kindness. An American woman Robyn Bomar wrote a blog post about her 38 acts of kindness to celebrate her 38th birthday. She  did things such as leaving cookies for her postman, helping people with their shopping, placing restaurant vouchers on the tables of families and just walking away. From this beginning she started The Birthday Project. The idea being on your birthday doing something for someone else. I applaud her spirit and it has most certainly made me think. On Saturday mornings I listen to Saturday Live, each week they have a short section where people call in and say 'thank you' to someone in their lives who has shown them an act of kindness, most often it was a stranger who had gone out of their way to be kind and caring. This morning's two were a man who, after travelling back to England by ferry penniless, had unsuccessfully tried to hitch a lift home, late at night in the pouring rain he decided to knock on the door of a house that still had lights on, the couple fed him, washed and dried his clothes, gave him a bed, breakfast and in the morning he set off home.  Another was a man who, tearfully, recounted having to travel to St Lucia after his son had been badly hurt in an accident. The family of the man in the next bed showed him and his son great kindness by bringing food for them every day.Every week I listen and think how wonderful people really are. An act of kindness need not cost very much, just effort and time,your motives may well be questioned but do it anyway.  Try it out and see, I am quite sure it will be addictive, give joy to you and the recipient at best and can do no harm at worst....


Links to the blogs mentioned.

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. 
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. 
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”










Sunday, 14 April 2013

Dolce Far Niente....



Delicious idleness is something northern Europeans find hard to achieve. Is it the climate? Or protestant work ethic that makes the very concept of sweet doing nothing so alien to us? I would say the same of our North American cousins. But travel south, and the closer to the Equator anywhere in the world dolce far niente is a daily occurence.

As a child I can recall frequently lying in the sun, with nothing to do, just watching an ant crawl up a blade of grass. Or on a beach, trickling the sand through my fingers, listening to the shingle move with the waves. But now I feel guilty if I sit and do nothing. But is that nothing not restorative and good for our total well being?

I attended my Aunty Jean's funeral last week. It was a Humanist Ceremony, a celebration of a life, poetry and letters shared and favourite music played, there was time for us to sit and think, recall or to really listen to the music. My Aunt loved the arts and was a great letter writer but the one thing that struck me was my cousin telling of how, when he was a small boy, on trips to London after lunch they would visit an art gallery. There he would be sent off to look at whatever he wished whilst my Aunt would sit in front of a favourite painting for some time and just look, say nothing but take in all that was in front of her. I am sad I never knew she did this, and sadder still that I never had the chance to sit alongside her and just look too. But I do know that she,  in her heart, understood la dolce far niente.

I was lucky enough to  spend an afternoon of delicious idleness last week, I sat in a pub garden, in a beautiful English village, with the surprising warmth of the sun on my back and a special friend beside me. We spoke of life, of love, of grief, and sometimes we just sat and listened to the sounds of children playing, or watched two robins hopping about in the sunshine. A rare time of stillness for us both, but a perfect gift to each in busy lives. This week has made me stop and consider, and I have promised to myself that I shall find, as often as possible, time for nothing, time for really listening to favourite music, time for really looking at paintings or the flowers in the garden, or maybe the faces of those that I love. Because this I know, moments of still contemplation give us time to take order reflect and go on with surety and strength, they are not moments wasted but moments that make us whole.

So, listen to I what say, have some sweet doing nothing time this week and know  you will be all the better for it, that, I most certainly know.....


Sunday, 24 March 2013

Marmalade




"Marmalade in the morning has the same effect on taste buds as a cold shower has on the body" Jeanine Larmouth


Marmalade is a very adult thing. As a child I used to have a spoonful of my Grannie's Roses Lime Marmalade,the one that she favoured. It was bright green and very sweet, and not really very marmalade like at all, as I  now know.  I loved breakfast at Gran's house, she would lay the table the night before. Grapenuts, uncut white bread or a small Hovis loaf, that she would slice wafer thin with the bread on its end, using a straight  bladed knife that my dad would sharpen for her. Never have I  seen anyone slice bread in this way, or so evenly. In fact I don't think she ever bought a sliced loaf in her life, I wish now I had asked her why she did it this way, but as a child you just take things for granted and question little. Side plates,Lurpak butter and warm milk on the cereal. Granny had a system for milk, the creamy top in one small jug, just for cereal, the rest in another jug for tea. Radio 4 on for the news, fully dressed never in nightwear, a ceremonial start to the day. And always, always the green marmalade. It was, I am sure, a secret pleasure for her to buy a jar.  She had spent her lifetime making do and mending, sharing what little she had with siblings then her own children. I now wonder why she liked it, she had very adult tastes, dark chocolate, ginger, fruitcake, oh and brandy in her bedtime milk..... since then, whenever I see the distinctively shaped jars and the vivid green, I am taken back to her breakfast table.

Over the years I have grown to love marmalade, along with good coffee and olives. It is now my Sunday morning ritual to make coffee and have homemade marmalade on toast. I have been making it for years, friends will call and tell me when the Seville oranges are in stock locally. I have tried many methods and many recipes, all producing a wide variety of colours and tastes, on occasions going badly wrong, one year's unctuous thick product finding its way into the bin, sadly.  Dark and strong for cold winter days bright and vibrant amber for summer mornings when I might venture into the garden and feel the warmth of the sun and listen to the birds. Marmalade is not suitable for quick weekday breakfasts, it takes time to prepare, time to slice peel and boil away, time to linger is only right, the flavours are intense and should be savoured.

 This year I chose a Nigel Slater recipe, with lemon and ginger as fine additions to the oranges. It worked well, the recipe is a keeper. I implore you to have a go at making some, you can choose the thickness of the peel and what flavours to add, a little whisky, a little spice. All work well and you can experiment to your hearts delight. A tip I have learned, don't use sugar with pectin, marmalade should be soft not jelly like. Oh and never squeeze the bag with the pips in, otherwise you will have a clouded amber that hides the glistening bright orange slivers of peel. 

Bought marmalade? Oh dear, I call that very feeble.” 
― Julian FellowesGosford Park: The Shooting Script

Orange, lemon and ginger marmalade

Makes about 4 x 500ml jars
Seville oranges 1 kg
lemons 4
granulated sugar 2 kg
fresh ginger 100g
Using a small sharp knife score the skin of each orange and lemon deeply into four from top to bottom. Remove the peel, it should come away easily in four pieces, then slice into thin strips. My preference is for pieces no thicker than a matchstick, but the texture of marmalade is a very personal thing.
Squeeze the juice, with your hands, into a bowl then place the pulp and pips into a muslin bag. Pour 2 litres of cold water into the juice. Push the bag of pulp, and the shredded peel, into the juice and leave overnight. (Their pectin will help the marmalade to set.)
The next day, tip into a large stainless-steel pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, add the ginger, peeled and cut into shreds, then, keeping the liquid at a jolly simmer leave to cook for about 50-60 minutes until the peel is translucent. Remove the bag of pips and pulp and leave until it is cool enough to handle.
Add the sugar to the juice and bring to the boil, squeeze all the juice from the muslin bag into the pan. As the liquid boils, scrape every bit of froth that appears on the surface. This is crucial for a clear finish. Boil hard for 15 minutes then start testing for set. Remove a tablespoon of the jam, put it on a cold plate or saucer and put it in the fridge for a few minutes. If a thick skin forms on the surface it is ready. If not, then keep boiling and retest.
Ladle into sterilised jars and label.



Thursday, 21 February 2013

In praise of yellow...

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
amber, ash blond, aureate, aurulent, blonde, canary, champagne, chrysal, citrine, citron, cream, fallow, flavescent, flavicomous, flavous, fulvid, fulvous, gold, goldenrod, honey, jaundiced, lemon, lutescent, oatmeal, primrose, sallow, straw, sulfur, sunshine, tawny, xanthic, xanthodont, xanthous, yellow, yellow as a crow's foot, yellow as a guinea, yellow as a quince.......
  
daffodil, and sunflowers and the middle of daisies, pansies and party dresses, the back of a soft bristled baby brush, chicks, egg yolks.....Advocat....bananas...and did I mention sunshine?
 
I will not allow this to become a list of all things yellow but it has, you must agree,  been a dark and dismal winter, if you have been in England that is, if you are one of my Thai readers then you will wonder what I am on about. I failed to plant the pots by my back door in the Autumn because, well because, IT NEVER STOPPED RAINING......but this week finally a glimpse of sunshine. The feeling of warmth on my back made me determined to plant a splash of colour by the doors to my house. At my local market I was able to purchase fifteen canary yellow primroses for a very small amount... I then spent an extremely happy afternoon digging and planting. Now when I return home the gloriousness that is yellow greets me, when washing up the nodding of stems can be seen in the window box as the breeze catches the petals...my beautiful pale blue front door looks fresher for the splash of yellow and I can't help but grin...for there is no colour greater than yellow for making you feel happy. I could never wear yellow (wrong skin tone) have not decorated with yellow since the 90's when non gender nurseries were required...but yellow flowers are always to be found in my winter garden...and maybe if I am brave and take note of the weekend fashion press you may well see a little splash of citrine about my person in the months to come.

It has been half term here and I have spent the most delightful of weeks, pottering and making things, painting some old chairs, making cake and catching up with friends. I have collected many moments  and have vowed to never leave it 20 years between visits (one old friend) and to always say yes when asked on a walk....because dust only ever comes back, there is always laundry to be done, but who knows how many times we will be able to walk to the top of the hill....


Haiku (The low yellow...)

The low yellow
moon above the
Quiet lamplit house.


Thursday, 14 February 2013

For it was not into my ear you whispered..but into my heart...



It is Valentine's Day and all across the land women are putting on a brave face because the man in their life doesn't 'do' Valentine's Day. They say:- it is too commercial, I love you without having to prove it by giving you a card/chocolates/taking you out for dinner..... it is better to be spontaneous on another day, then it really means something.... but do you take your lady out for dinner? Are you spontaneous? When did you last bring home flowers? Make breakfast in bed for her? Go on tell me! If you can't remember then you're most definitely a charlatan!

Life is busy and your partner will spend her days smoothing it out for you in many very small ways.  She might get grumpy now and again, and shout but all she is asking for is a little recognition, so that she might know you really do care. So this weekend,look her in the eyes, kiss the back of her neck, pour her wine when she is cooking, dance with her in the kitchen, draw her a bath and light candles. This will make amends for the lack of card today, and next year don't forget her on Valentine's Day, she knows it's commercial, you know it's commercial but a little humility is needed, make a card, take her tea in bed, just remember.....

What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined together to strengthen each other in all labour, to minister to each other in all sorrow, to share with each other in all gladness, to be one with each other in the silent unspoken memories?
- George Eliot


Friday, 1 February 2013

Mary Berry, I love you......

Please do not be shocked by my admission, I am in no  doubt that there are many out there who feel as I do, and they too love Mary Berry....
 
I have slowly but surely over the past 27 years been teaching myself to cook, I am, although I say so myself, pretty good these days. It is a bit of a passion of mine, I have cook books stacked by my bed and shelves groaning with them. I watch many cookery programmes, have folders full of cuttings from newspapers and magazines, just a little bit of an addiction you might say. I can now put together a pretty tasty supper without need of a recipe, pasta, chicken, curries and soups, I am a throw it in the pot kind of girl. Baking, however, is a whole different thing. I have learnt, at personal cost, that baking  has a few rules you must adhere to, do so and you can't really go wrong...well not often!
 
Firstly:- make sure you have time, baking and speed really don't go together, if you rush then disaster may well follow.
 
Secondly:- use good ingredients, real butter, free-range eggs, proper vanilla essence. IT DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
 
Thirdly:- (thirdly?? is that a word?) Invest in digital scales. Baking really is alchemy, from all that I have read there is, I know, a right and wrong way to do things. Now  dear reader you will say "but my granny made a sponge by eye and it was always perfect". That is all well and good but remember, by the time you watched her bake she was your Granny....so most likely she had been baking for years and years and years, you were not around to see her early mistakes. My own darling  gran made a lovely sponge, 2 eggs, 4oz of Spry, 4oz of sugar etc. Her only method of measurement a very old and battered Tala cone, everything was put in a bowl and beaten together with a wooden spoon and always perfect. But believe me when I say accuracy is going to produce greater consistency.
Fourthly:-(I am saying nothing) Everything should be at room temperature.
 
Fifthly:-sift flour twice.
 
Sixthly:- (I am regretting this now)line pans with baking paper. There is nothing worse than half your cake sticking to the bottom of the tin...
 
Seventhly:-...(please God) Don't over beat the mixture once the flour is added...it makes for a tough cake!
 
Eighthly:- Weigh everything out before you start, I am really bad at doing this, and do not practise what I preach. When starting out it is a good idea, so you don't miss out any ingredient (yes I have missed out many things on many occasions) please learn from my mistakes..Because children come and talk to you, the phone goes, it starts to rain on your washing...(American readers...we dry, or mostly don't, our washing on lines in the garden, necessitating on much dashing in and out to stop it getting wetter, it is a quaint old fashioned quirky custom us Brits have)
 
Ninthly:- (just going with it now) always set a timer because any of the above can happen and you will forget what time you put it in the oven! I have burned many cakes due to chatting on the phone.
 
Tenthly:- For surefire success use a Mary Berry recipe!
 
She knows all there is to know about baking, she advises and guides and if you follow her recipe/advice they just work.
 
I don't know when I first became aware of her, she has just been there all my cooking life. She is like a beloved mother who is no nonsense but fun and you can trust her fully. Now I have not been lucky enough to have a mother who taught me to cook, and my memories of  school domestic science lessons and cooking leaks in a white sauce really put me off for a very long time...but to Mary I have turned again and again. As do many of my friends, a recent chocolate cake brought into work by a colleague, quite perfect..a Mary recipe...
 
I won't gush because somehow I don't think she would care for it...but having recently listened to her on Desert Island Discs and this week watched the BBC documentary on her life, all I hoped seems to be true. Not an easy life, pain and loss, but fun and love and many friendships, much cooking and passion, hard work but most of all a close family a mum and wife....So Mary, if I might be so bold, thank you for being there for me over the years and if you should ever think you would like another daughter, might I put myself forward....I promise always to do the washing up!
 
So here is the Mary's recipe for Victoria Sandwich, it has been one of those cakes that I have always had a lot of hits and misses with, but one afternoon this week after work I followed Mary step by step and perfection was achieved.... my only change to her recipe was apricot jam, it was all that I had, but somehow I don't think Mary would mind...and it has made me determined to make jam this summer....now what is Mary's recipe for that?????
 
How to make the perfect VICTORIA SANDWICH
 
For the sponge
225g unsalted butter softened (if your butter is cold cut into cubes and sit in a bowl of warm, not hot, water for a few minutes)
225g caster sugar
4 large free-range eggs at room temperature (see I told you..)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
225g self-raising flour sifted
1 tablespoon milk at room temperature
 
For the filling
6 rounded tablespoons of raspberry jam
 
To finish
caster or icing sugar
 
2 x 20.5cm sandwich tins buttered and lined
 
Preheat the oven to 180deg C/350deg F/Gas 4 Fan 160 deg C
 
1. Put the butter in a bowl and beat until smooth and creamy.
2. Gradually beat in the sugar, then keep on beating for 3/4 minutes until the mixture becomes very light and fluffy or until the mixture is almost white and very fluffy in texture, you will need to scrape down frequently.
3.Break the eggs into a bowl add the vanilla and lightly fork just to break them up. Slowly add to the creamed mixture a tablespoon at a time. Giving the mixture a good beating after each addition, scrape down the bowl. This will take about 5 minutes. If the mixture looks as though it is about to curdle add a spoonful of the sifted flour before adding the rest of the eggs.
5. Sift the flour again, this time onto the mixture, add the milk and gently fold the flour into the egg mixture using a large metal spoon. Do this as lightly as possible to make sure you keep in as much air as possible. Stop when there are no streaks of flour visible.
6. Divide the mixture equally between the two prepared tins, spreading evenly to the edges.
7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and springy when gently pressed.
8. Remove the tins from the oven and leave for a few minutes. Run a blade around the inside of each tin t loosen the sponge, then turn our onto a wire rack.
9. Once cool put one cake onto a plate, spread over the jam, top with the second cake and lightly sprinkle with sugar. Store in an airtight container and eat withing 5 days (a guttural chuckle here because does anyone ever  think a cake would possibly be around for five days???? Not in THIS house!)
 
Happy baking......
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
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Thursday, 24 January 2013

“The snow doesn't give a soft white damn whom it touches.”


Photo: Walk to school!
My walk to work....


In the dark post Christmas days when Spring seems to not even be a whisper on Mother Nature's breath, occasionally a gift is sent to lighten the mood, add joy to the day and a rosy glow to the cheeks.  The promise was made, but it had been made before only for disappointment to be the order of the day. But last week the promise was fulfilled, the morning started with the tell tale glow from behind the curtains, a certain silence. A glimpse outside and there it was, the magic of snow, covering my garden, the roads and hills afar. I felt smug as for once, wisely,  I had stocked the kitchen with provisions enough to last for several days, so there would be no need to venture from the village for some time...


School opened for those who wished to come, and what a day was had, full of of snowball fights, and snowmen built, icy hands and wet toes. A day to be stashed away in young hearts to be   recounted many years hence.



Even better Saturday brought with it icy temperatures but a
bright and sparkling day, lunch in an old English pub, one with a real fire at it's heart and a welcome for all. Then off to  Badbury Rings for a walk and views across the county....



Families having fun, despite the National Trust warning against it, snow knee deep in places and still untrodden, the glorious white spreading as far as the eye could see, a glow across the horizon, childrens' laughter glittering all around. Home to a fire and mulled wine, time to defrost and think back on a day of wonder. A memory collected.......
 

“There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance.”

William Sharp quotes ((pseud. Fiona MacLeod) Scottish Poet, 1855-1905










Friday, 4 January 2013

Collect moments, not things.....

 



When my children were small we danced a lot, under sevens don't have inhibitions. Sometimes in the kitchen or we would push back the dining room table, crank up The Mavericks' Dance the Night Away and off we'd go. But that was over a decade ago these days, very rarely my, now big, daughters will indulge me but my son stands rod straight and just asks "what are you doing?"  Christmas wasn't great in this house because of, well many reasons,  but New Year was wonderful.  All my children home, my brother and family here and with him came my youngest niece,  under seven still and ripe for dancing!  So there we were on New Years Eve, me making margaritas with little one chatting away,  Pencil Full of Lead on the iPod, our feet started tapping and off we went...."again, again" she cried, so repeat, then next Spit at Stars and again until we collapsed,  laughing and exhausted, little one saying she needed to touch her toes because she had a stitch, my kitchen a dance floor once more.

My new year's resolution is to,collect moments, and there were many, many moments over the last few days to start my collection well. Moments to be recalled when the decorations have been packed away and visitors have left and we are in the dark days of February, I shall, with a smile, recall charades, chairs squeezed around the table, pots of tea, conversations, meals prepared and eaten together,laughter and love, oh and Spitting at Stars, a last dance maybe, but most certainly a moment collected.

Everyone is struggling and the news some days makes us want to weep but the things that matter, that give joy, and will be recalled time and again for many years to come are moments of fun, of laughter, and shared experiences. So why not join me in 2013 and you too do some collecting of moments, not things....

ps A thank you to Anne Thornton and her New Years Eve post for inspiration for my resolution.