Monday, 31 December 2012

In 2012 ...

I knitted and crocheted

I cooked and baked

 I sang and listened to others sing

I involved myself in politics and campaigns

I supported local independent traders

 I went out and about in Bristol ...

... and in London

I went on holiday to St Ives

I started running and went on a diet and ...!

I survived the Jubilee but entered into the Olympic spirit.

I made holiday lists and managed to cross most items off them!

I met Fatmumslim's Photo a Day Challenge but didn't quite meet my own challenges to photograph A Month of Dinners or my Advent countdown.

All in all it's been a good year and I've certainly had fun trawling through my posts and reminding myself of its highlights.

Here's to 2013!

PS  I've thoroughly enjoyed reading other bloggers' reviews and greatly admire those whose photos are better displayed than mine.  Any tips on how to create mosaics on blogger would be much appreciated.

Friday, 28 December 2012

When in London yesterday ...

... We visited the pre-Raphaelite exhibition at Tate Britain.  A wealth of bright colour, fine detail and laden with symbolism - too much to take in in one session, but we did our best.  I've often wished a ticket to major exhibitions such as this one allowed for a return visit.  My favourite artists were Millais and the lesser known Scottish artist  Dyce, but this is Laus Veneris by Burne-Jones.

... Followed by the Turner Prize exhibition, which I would not normally have chosen to visit, but for a few quid more, and in the interest of keeping an open mind ...  Well, it was interesting.  No really!  Paul Noble's 'painstakingly detailed and engrossing drawings of the fictional metropolis Nobson Newtown' were fascinating, although not what I would chose to hang on my wall.  We didn't have the 93 minutes it would have taken to sit through Luke Fowler's documentary on the work of Scottish psychiatrist R D Laing, but it sounded promising.  Spartacus Chetwynd's performance started as we were preparing to leave so we only caught a few minutes of individuals dressed as zebras(?) manipulating rag dolls.  It may have become clearer as it progressed!  Elizabeth Price's winning entry, The Woolworths Choir of 1979, was the most accessible and I wish I'd been able to see it through from beginning to end.  There was a very informative section on church furnishings and once I got used to it the Clap Click soundtrack was strangely soothing.

... We walked along the Embankment and watched the (almost) full moon rise from behind The Shard.

... We ate at Wahaca, at the request of my elder daughter.  It's a Mexican street food restaurant founded by Thomasina Miers, a former Masterchef winner, whose television series on Mexican cooking I enjoyed.  We opted for a selection of small dishes to share and experimented with new ingredients and flavours including pibil pork, Mexican corn mushrooms and plantain.  It's a colourful, noisy restaurant.  The service was friendly but not always accurate and portions were small for the price, but maybe that's just Covent Garden for you.  We certainly had room for puddings.  The two pictured above were churros and chocolate and vanilla icecream with toasted pumpkin seeds and cajeta.  We left with a pack of serrano chilli seeds and I'd certainly return.

... We took a leisurely stroll back to Victoria Coach Station via Trafalgar Square and St James' Park, stopping to view the latest occupant of the Fourth Plinth - Powerless Structures Fig 101 by Elmgreen and Dragset is of a child on a rocking horse, symbolising a future to hope for and celebrating the everday battles of growing up.  I like it.

These post Christmas day trips to London are becoming an enjoyable new tradition.

Christmas Eve/Day - A Review

Love Actually DVD
New pyjamas
Midnight Mass
Christmas stockings laid out (and filled!)
Refreshments for Santa & Rudolph
Lie in (the joys of teenage children!)
Bucks Fizz and Nigella's Christmas Morning Muffins
Emptying stockings
Unwrapping presents
Walk around the harbourside in the sunshine
Smoked salmon on Mark's ciabatta while dinner cooks
Phonecall to sister in Edinburgh
Prawn toast and Vietnamese spring rolls
Crispy duck wrapped in pancakes with plum sauce
Sticky belly pork with egg fried rice
No room for pudding
Dr Who Christmas special
A glass of Baileys Irish Cream

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

On the Twenty Fifth Day of December

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day.
Don't clean it up too quickly.

Andy Rooney (American radio and television writer)

 As if ...

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

I wish you all a blessed and peaceful Christmas.

On the Thirteenth to Twenty-Fourth Days of December!

It was all going so well ...

And then, as it inevitably does, Christmas(?) finally caught up with me.

Exultate's Carols by Candlelight concert in the perfect setting of the Benedictine Priory of St James

Gasworks' Christmas Concert at St George's

Snow storming

                                                 Bristol Harbourside's Winter Wonderland

Bristol Choral Society's Messiah at the Colston Hall

Fromage en Feu's last gig of 2012 at No 1 Harbourside

So I've had little time, or energy, for blogging.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

On the Twelfth Day of December

I liked today's reference to the bishop who suggested that his clergy fill the aisles of their churches with cow dung and horse manure to remind worshipers of the reality of the nativity.  I do wonder what Jesus would make of Christmas in 21st century Britain.  It's so far removed from the stable in Bethlehem that I sometimes struggle to appreciate the impact of the event.  So replacing the incense with an 'eau d'ecurie' might not be such a bad idea after all.

Meanwhile, I attended our local church's Carols by Candlelight service this evening.  We were asked to contribute mince pies.  I didn't have time to faff around with shortcrust pastry so I opted for these palmiers which allowed me to cheat with ready-rolled puff pastry.  The mincemeat, however, was my own, made at the weekend.  You can find the recipe for the palmiers here.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

On the Eleventh Day of December

It's been a busy day - at work all day, shopping for tea and then choir practice.  There's no time for a long post (or a photograph), which doesn't matter as I haven't much to say about today's 'chapter' on the dangers of over consumption of alcohol.

Although I enjoy the odd glass, or two, of wine as much as the next person, I can quite easily take it or leave it.  Good company is what I value, and the ability to enjoy it without making an exhibition of myself or suffering the consequences the following morning.  And if that makes me a boring old party pooper or a sanctimonious snob, well then that's fine by me.  It's about time examples were set of people having a good time without getting legless.  We owe it to society.

Monday, 10 December 2012

On the Tenth Day of December

Apart from our annual summer holiday, Christmas is the only occasion we get to spend extended time together as a family.  The cold and rain serve as incentives to stay indoors and play games or tackle jigsaws but it's not long before I feel the need to get out and about.

We've already lined up a few activities - carol singing for Water Aid, the Bristol Choral Society's Messiah at the Colston Hall, the pre-Raphaelite and Turner Prize exhibitions at Tate Britain, the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery ...  in between which I also hope we'll find time for a few walks around the harbourside or up through Leigh Woods.

Now that my elder daughter is away at university, to be followed next September by her younger sister, these shared moments are becoming fewer and therefore more precious.

The painting is Rossetti's Lady Lilith

Sunday, 9 December 2012

On the Ninth Day of December

For me it's always music that has the power to reduce me to tears, whether it's a hymn my dad used to sing, the track from a Leonard Cohen album or a piece of choral music.  Something reaches deep inside and touches me, leaving me totally exposed.  There's real sadness but it's tinged with joy.  For a few moments I feel truly alive.

The YouTube clip is of Westminster Cathedral Choir singing Lauridsen's O Magnum Mysterium, one of the last pieces of music to make me well up.  It's filmed in the Cathedral which is one of my favourite buildings and where I light a candle every time I'm in or around Victoria.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

On the Eighth Day of December

Today's chapter doesn't make for easy reading.  Homelessness is never a comfortable subject but it is a particularly awkward truth to confront at a time when we are contemplating a week or more of roaring fires, heaving tables and presents piled high under the tree.

There is no quick fix.  Donating £20.48 to reserve a place for one homeless person at a Crisis at Christmas shelter might be the first step.  But is it enough?

Friday, 7 December 2012

Advent Blogging

In addition to posting my own musings, I've been following a couple of other Advent-themed blogs:

Hannah Broadway has been brightening up my day with her bold festive images.

Jen has been matching photos and words to get us in the mood.

Karin reflects on how the way we choose to celebrate is an expression of our inner self.

The Coffee Lady takes an irreverent view of Advent calendars, laser-cut houses and stags' heads!

C puts us all to shame by making her own delightful snowscape calendar.

Lucy embarks on another crocheted masterpiece.

Dotty Cookie devises an impressive series of Advent activities for her children.

Gillian and Charlotte have been making their own edible gifts, while Karen has transformed a branch from her apple tree into a stunning illuminated feature.

So pop over and be inspired!

The photograph is a very poor quality one of our advent calendar.  I really should try to get a better image of it.

On the Seventh Day of December

According to a Cornish Mutual survey in 2011, nearly half the families in the UK no longer eat together at least once a day.

I'm not surprised.  A couple of years ago I watched a fly on the wall documentary where a secret camera in the kitchen filmed an intermittent stream of family members raiding the fridge freezer for containers which they zapped in the microwave and then disappearing off with them to some other part of the house.

And not so long ago I seem to recall Kirsty Allsop being taken aback by a participant in Location Location absolutely insisting on a dining room with a table for family meals.

Eating together three times a day was the bedrock of my childhood.  We ate together as a family three times a day.  But then, of course, we didn't have a telly, which I suspect has quite a lot to do with it.  That and those ready meals!

Now I'm not going to pretend that we always eat together around the table but we do try.  And when we don't it's almost always to watch a family favourite on the box.

We also always used to say grace.  We don't any more.  Or at least not until today ...  It's never too late to start again.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

On the Sixth Day of December

What angels will visit me today! What messages am I listening to?

Over on Green & Generous Karin believes that how we celebrate Christmas is determined by how we feel inside.  I agree (and recommend you read the rest of what she has to say), but we are also influenced by the world in which we live and the messages it bombards us with.  It requires a strong will to resist the external pressures to do this or that, and follow your own heart.

Last Christmas we escaped to St Ives where, unfettered by custom or convention, we spent one of our happiest Christmasses in a long time.  But we can't always run away.  Sometimes we've got to stand our ground against the presumptions of how it should be

On Saturday we'll buy our tree and leave it bare - with no more than a few lights - for a week.  Ostensibly to allow my elder daughter to help decorate it on her return, it will also serve as a reminder of the beauty of natural form.

These angels can be found in Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

On the Fifth Day of December

As a frugal Scot, brought up to wait until I could afford anything I wanted to buy, the only major debt I've incurred was our mortgage.  I'm therefore horrified by the pre-Christmas advertising campaigns encouraging people to spend, spend, spend - and pay later.  The impression created is that Christmas isn't Christmas without shop bought canapes, over packaged toys, liver pickling quantities of alcohol ...

Christmas is a time for celebration - to eat, drink and be merry - but by keeping it simple it's possible to have a good time, without breaking the bank.

The photograph is of my dinner tonight.  As part of my countdown to Christmas I've prepared an inventory of my the contents of our freezer and we're eating our way through it to make space for Chinese pancakes, mince pies, soups, bread etc.  Today I had a chickpea and potato stew served with rice, roasted tomatoes and olives and a dollop of yoghurt.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

On the Fourth Day of December

Today's theme was (happy!) families.  I took the hint and phoned my sister.

Communication is important.  A little while ago my elder daughter, away at university, said she would like me to write to her, and that's what I've been doing ever since.  I bought a pack of floral writing paper that folds into an envelope.  There's just enough space for an account of the past week.

I left home in India to return to Scotland when I was only 18.  My dad wrote to me every week.  (When I say wrote, he actually typed his letters after I complained that I couldn't read his atrocious writing!)  I used to look out for those blue aerogrammes and would reread them so as not to miss a single detail.  Text and emails have their merits but there's nothing to beat the physical written word.

Monday, 3 December 2012

On the Third Day of December

Today I should have dared to stop and be still and ask myself what truly brings me joy and comfort.  Well, what with a long stressful day at work, a dental appointment  and tea to cook there hasn't been much time for pause or silence.

Maybe that's the answer to the question I never got round to asking.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

On the Second Day of December

Today's chapter was all about presents.

There were several suggestions:

Give everyone the same present:  I did this on a couple of occasions.  Each time it was a book for families with young children.  The first was Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's River Cottage Family Cookbook and the second was Jostein Gaarder's The Christmas Mystery.

Make your presents:  I've been doing this for several years now.  Not all of them, but the ones I give to friends.  They've all been edible - truffles, florentines, stollen, lebkuchen, chutney etc.    I'll be doing the same again this year.  I just haven't decided what it will be.

This year I'm trying to avoid the big stores and buy presents from independents and local artists/crafters.  Bristol offers an incredible array of Christmas markets (in addition to its usual galleries).  This weekend alone I visited three and picked up a couple of items in each.  And there are plenty more to come between now and the big day.

How do you choose your presents?  Do you make your own and, if so, have your any suggestions for me this year?

PS  Today's photograph has nothing whatsoever to do with presents.  It's just that today being the first Sunday in Advent I got to eat my first mince pie!  It was well worth the wait.