Who’s a spoiled princess?

That would be me! And it’s not even Christmas any more. :D

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The other day I spied the first snowdrop in my garden. So I ran out, picked it, and put it on my bedside table inside the little ink bottle where I’ve forced some forsythia, pussy willows and poplar twigs. Waking up to this little bit of captured spring makes me feel so very pampered.

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But then, you’ll never believe what happened next!

A gift arrived from Norway, from my wonderful friend Vibeke. In it was this beautiful hat, the rosebud hat, which she knitted herself. Isn’t she so clever to be able to knit such a beautiful thing? But I didn’t just get the hat. V also included a lovely notebook and some tea. I absolutely love notebooks and absolutely love tea.

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I’ve already worn rosebud on a walk at the beach and it’s so soft and warm that I can tell it’ll be a treasure for years to come. The notebook will be filled with daily positive thoughts, and, in that way, will also become a treasure for years. Thank you so much dearest V. If you all have a chance, go visit Vibeke’s beautiful blog “a butterfly in my hair”. Guaranteed you’ll love it…and her…as much as I do. Oh, and I have a big secret to tell you. She will be hosting a humongous giveaway in the month of March as part of her birthday celebration, and some of my stacking rings will be involved.

So I was just feeling spoiled to the max, when a lovely lady came to the door. Her name is Rosemarie and she reads my blog. She came to my Art in the Garden weekend, and has been keeping in touch ever since. She is so sweet. She brought me a beautiful little book and some Ms Grey tea.

She had to send away for this sweet little book to Castleton, New York!!! It’s called “If You’re Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbows”. It’s written and illustrated by Cooper Edens.

I love each and every page, like this one; which says:
If tomorrow morning the sky falls, have clouds for breakfast.

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And this one:
If you have butterflies in your stomach, ask them into your heart.

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Butterflies in the heart. I love that. Much better than asking them into my brain…which I must be doing because it’s where they usually end up…butterfly brain…that’s me. :D Thank you so much for your thoughtful gift Rosemarie.

I also have to show you two other little gifts from two more thoughtful friends. My neighbour to my East snapped this photo of Morgan sitting on the old window box supports outside my bedroom window. My neighbour loved it so much that she made some cards from it and gave one to me. And, the last time I visited Dalyce, at my most favourite used book shop, she threw this little booklet into my selection of books for free. She’s incredibly generous and always saves me old books, photos, pictures, old magazines, anything she thinks I would love or can use in my art.

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Love this little booklet. It’s written in that strong salesmanship style which promises financial freedom, untold riches and fame if only the customer buys the course. The 4 page, hand signed letter was written to a Mr. R. T. Williams P.O. Box Drawer 687, in Victoria BC on May 3 1921. I wonder if Mr. R. T. ever took the school up on it’s SPECIAL OFFER FOR TWENTY DAYS ONLY SO ACT TODAY splashed in red all over the newsletter, and, especially since the cost is “a trifle” at $65, and 15 yr old Rob Brennan is already selling cartoons to a newspaper just days after beginning the course.

Somehow, I suspect not, because the stamped return envelope is still there in the pocket on the first page.

What fun for me to have this pristine little piece of history.

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What ever shall I do with it now. I think I want to paint on it. Hey, do you know about my FB friend Mark Powell? He’s the most incredible artist, and, like me, loves to draw on old documents. Except he uses black pens. He’s amazingly talented. Bet he’d fill the pages with some wonderful portraits.

Off now to gather my thoughts and maybe do some painting.

Oh, Drawing challenge, if anyone would like to join, is hosted by our friend Joke right over here, and the the words are: The Unexpected. Pop over and tell her you’re in and she’ll link you up for the weekend. What fun we’re having. :D

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Walking with the Sandhill Cranes

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A bit of a distance from my mountains is the delta of the Fraser River. Across this rickety little bridge is a small island full of organic farms and the George C Riefel Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

On this drippy winter day I drove out there to see something spectacular, special and rare.

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Walking thru the sea of mallards, the occasional American wigeon, wood duck, teal and moor hen, along the paths being serenaded by red winged blackbirds, chickadees and towhees I came to the objects of my affection.

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The glorious and elusive winter visitors, the sandhill cranes.

I knelt on the ground and stayed with them a while.

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Then I walked thru the sanctuary and found all 11 birds. I made a small video to share with you all.

If you’re anywhere around the Lower Mainland, I encourage you to make your way here to walk with these magnificent birds before they fly away.

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In the last light of 2014

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I’m looking at the photo of the mantelpiece in the morning light on the last day of 2014. I’m looking at my Christmas candles which were new and tall just a few days ago, now burned down to the candle holders, and at my new candle which Chantal made for me. A generous bee’s wax candle, clean burning and non-toxic, wrapped with a silver wire and protected with a beautiful, green phenacite.

Outside there’s frost and frozen puddles, pussy willows and loads of time to chat over lunch. Inside there’s clutter in the kitchen, a slow bathroom sink and the windows need cleaning.

This is life.

Life is light and shadow, burnt ends and fresh starts. It’s protection and vulnerability but right now it’s mercifully calm. It’s mercifully calm here. Grace for the moment. For this day.

This is how life goes.

It takes grace. And it takes notes, and it takes another year and another try. Another try at happiness and not cynicism and dread. Of contentment and hope, not frustration and fear. Of positive energy sent into the world. Of organised, serene balance.

And the sun is setting.

Goodbye 2014. Thank you for all the lessons.

Hello 2015…I’m ready. :D

Happy birthday mom

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kitchen talk

Three

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It’s not easy being a Christmas baby. One’s Boxing Day birthday is often very conveniently wrapped up with a Christmas celebration, but we’ve always tried to make it a special day for mom in some way.

My mother turned 80 years young yesterday, and we celebrated in grand style at the beautiful, Christmas-shiny home of our friend Jane. About 30 of mom’s friends came to help celebrate her birthday, and a huge treat for me because my son Jonathan and his lovely girl Chantal were in town and could join us. We all had a lovely time with plenty of yummy nibbles, plenty of wine and wonderful cake.

Happy birthday and many happy returns of the day mom! We love you. X

Chloe cuts her hair for Cancer

Chloe has been wanting to do this for some time now, and even threatening a shaved head for a period of time, (We are ever so glad she reconsidered the shaved bit), but she sent us examples of styles and finally settled on a short-ish bob which would allow her to donate the maximum length to her chosen charity, 360 Hair, a local non-profit, pro bono business, which makes wigs for children suffering thru chemotherapy.

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So off to our salon, Raw Hair Lounge, and an appointment with the lovely Chelsie, who brushed C’s hair and separated it into sections…

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…and cut it off. (Yes, C kept her eyes closed for it)

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And there we are. Twelve inches of clean, lustrous auburn locks all ready to be mailed away.

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Then a little bit of trimming, a little bit of product, a feeling of freedom and the soft, warm-hearted glow of doing something good and right…

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…and VOILA! Our beautiful child.

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I’m so proud of her drive to help, to save the world, to do all she can. :D

Got out of town, Princeton, part one

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Hi everyone, it’s Monday night and I just drove into my dreary, rainy city of black forests and snow capped mountains, but my spirits are full of gold leaves and small towns, grasslands, rivers and lakes.

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Chloe and I spent the long Thanksgiving weekend at our friend’s cabin, with five parental units, seven 20-somethings, six dogs, two cats, two horses and one huge roast turkey.

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How lucky were we to have a weekend of horsey kisses, campfire chats, table games, late evening silly movies and chilly morning breakfasts?

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Very lucky indeed. More tomorrow. :D

The Druids next door

“There is stillness, the stones hold us. Still.” (Druid saying recorded by Romans)

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In the next door village of Stanton Harcourt is a stone henge. The village is named for it: from Stan (farm) + tun (beside the rocks).

It’s a little known Neolithic monument built by people of the early bronze age (2900 BC). Much of the archaeology of the area has been destroyed by Roman-British medieval farmers as they plowed the land. And, the henge which remains is a tiny fraction of an enormous area of barrows and prehistoric settlements all along the Winrdush/Thames valley.

It’s a miracle that the stones exist at all. They have been gathered, toppled, buried, plowed over, used in the construction of the RAF Stanton Harcourt during WWI, and dragged over to the Windrush River to serve as a bridge. By the 1940s, when a renewed interest in this archaeological treasure led to a large dig, there were only three stones standing.

Today, the area is known as The Devil’s Quoits. As with most ancient treasures, Roman-Christian traditions dictated a redirection of any pagan religions, so the area was re-imagined as God giving the Devil a telling off for playing quoits on a Sunday and the Devil had a temper tantrum scattering the quoits forming the henge.

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It may have been lost to history but for aerial WWI surveillance work, which showed the circle and ditch and facilitated the 1940 investigation, and, in 2002, work began to find the stones and rebuild the henge.

Come, walk up to the first earth circle with me, and let’s climb to the top.

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The henge is very large, 2200 ft across. There are/were two Tumuli (burial mounds) excavated in 1940. In the very centre of the great circle is a woman. She stands 5’3″ and, by her bone structure, is believe to be of the Celt. She had a flint knife, a jet slider for her clothes, seven flint arrow heads and a bone pendant in the shape of a looking glass.

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The second burial is located at the North entrance to the henge, underneath a “break” in the ditch circle. It is a man, 5′ 10″, with a ground-down gap in his teeth on his left side, suggesting that he repetitively held something between his teeth. Around him was a smaller ditch intersecting the large, primary ditch. Buried with him was a traditional beaker, dating him to the Beaker people, (early bronze age), seven flint arrowheads, and the same bone ring pendant.

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Beside the Tumulus of the man was a pit of animal bones. Animal and human bones were also found in the ditch around the henge. These were probably other burials and animal sacrifices, but that information is most likely lost to the plow, and only the rabbits, who call the ditch bank their home, are privy to what lies scattered beneath.

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We walked the circumference of the ditch and I collected my own archaeological treasures.

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In the druid culture, ravens are a link between this world and the next. In return for the henge offering me some precious bones, I left a gift of three raven’s feathers in the Western stone.

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In case you’d like to read the 1940 archaeological study here is the link: Excavations at Stanton Harcourt 1940

Linking up with Judith and the Mosaic bunch. :D

Quiet days

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The world is very liminal today.

It’s a grey day here where things can go either way.

The river is very still.

Robert and I wonder if the river is still because of a storm downstream. Too much water downstream. Is that even possible? We like the idea.

The clouds are luminous, the world is wet, all is as perfect as perfect can be.

The Chilterns View, a dreamy holiday stay

The other day, Robert and I gave Catherine a ride into London.
We picked her up from a dreamy little cabin in the middle of nowhere. It’s a little holiday complex called The Chilterns View, and, for being so central to practically everywhere, it’s standing in the middle of the lovely Chilterns countryside, beautifully isolated with fields, trees and wildflowers.

R drove up into the middle of a field and asked, “where is the path again?”

There’s a path?!?

But yes, there was a line where the clover wasn’t quite so high.

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He said, “follow me. :D ” and walked past a fire pit beside a pond…

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…past a little rustic shelter…

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…down a narrow path lined with wildflowers…

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…up an even narrower path between trees…

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…and onto the front porch of the little cabin.

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Inside…OH WOW! To me, the little cabin looks like a bijou cigar box made form the finest, rarest woods to keep the precious contents perfectly safe.

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Everything you might need is all contained within that little jewel of a box. There’s a two burner kitchenette, a ultra modern bathroom, a little sitting area around a woodburner and a wonderful, comfy bed.

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This is the view form the front porch. Couldn’t you just sit out here and paint, write, photograph all day?

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The outer skin of the cabin is a tough and beautiful canvas.

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And THERE’S A HOT TUB!!!

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This is the patio space where you can sit and have a glass of wine. (and look out over that view)

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I loved this boot pull and welly drier beside the front door.

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This is R’s look of, “One more shot and we really have to go, V.”

(sigh) I know.

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I can see this being a fantastic artist’s retreat. :D

In case you would like to check this wonderful place out, here are the contact details again.

Third day in Prague ended up being a long and wonderful one

Holy smokes, where is the time going?

The time is just running by and it seems to me that all I’m doing is walking round from place to place, cross town and back.

Mornings in Prague are the loveliest. Just as the sun begins to warm the ochre walls and light up all the golden decorations.

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That’s also the best time to peek into every church and thru every doorway without the summer tourists getting in the way.

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Then I got on the metro and tram system…

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…and made my way to Vyšehrad, a 10th Century fort and cemetery.

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Came to find Neruda, Dvorak and Smetana.

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Also came to see the view over Prague. Do you see Prague Castle over there in the distance? That’s how far I’ve come,

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It’s a bit less city here, more garden.

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And then I went to the other side to find my grandparents.

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Here they are. The block marble plaque on the crypt translates as “members of the Alemann family”, and in the crypt are my great grandparents (grandfather’s side), my grandparents Karel and Anna, both of his sisters Maria and Ella, his brother Emil, and his sister’s companion Zora.

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Here is the church below the cemetery. This is the church my great grandparents were married in.

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And now for something completely different, a combined photo titled V and the magpie feather because…

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I’ve made my way back to Prague to the Dali Exhibit!

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I so love Dali. Everything about surrealism, expressionism. crazy, zany-ism. Love it.

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Left: self portrait with cod piece… :D

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Rows and rows and rooms full of Dali.

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And on a floor right above Dali is Alphonse Mucha.
You must know this Czech painter and illustrator, or at least know his style. It’s so iconic.

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And, how lucky are we? On the floor above is a Warhol exhibit! Our cup of soup runneth over. :D

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Yeah, me too.

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And, in the evening, I went to the top of the tallest Gothic bell tower in Prague, called Jindrisska, up those little stairs, to sit under three ancient bells named Maria (1518 and 500 kg), Jindrich, (1680, and 3350 kg), and Dominic, (1850 and 1000 kg), and watch a dramatic performance featuring a friend of mine, the son of my cousin.

It was the most unforgettable experience.

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One more full day in Prague and off to E on Sunday. :)