Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Wordless Wednesday

I wanted an image with trees because of the 'autumn' theme - but felt that after my whole autumn post with a multitude of such photos I wanted something a little different.  This is a portrait of Catherine, with a frosty special effect (from a free CD in a magazine), which I then placed on top of a shot of some trees and made semi-transparent.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

ABC Wednesday - K is for 'Kubla Khan'

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And here were gardens bright with sinous rills
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills, And folding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh, that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place, as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail!
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever,
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean.
And mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves,
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves;
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw;
It was an Abyssian maid
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome, those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, 'Beware, beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread -
For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drank the milk of paradise'.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whilst in an opium-induced sleep, supposedly composed a poem of two or three hundred lines on the subject of Kubla Khan and the palace he commanded to be built.  On awakening he began to write down the poem but was interrupted by 'a person... from Porlock' at the door, and on later trying to resume his writing found that the above fragment was all that he could recollect.  Good excuse!  I love the poem anyway, a series of wonderfully cinematic images that have a visionary feel to them.  Coleridge himself thought the poem 'a psychological curiosity'.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

British Heart Foundation Charity walk at Chatsworth

Instead of Bradgate Park we decided to put our Sunday morning yomp to good purpose and do a sponsored charity walk at Chatsworth House in aid of the British Heart Foundation.    Seventy two miles up the M1 to the Derbyshire Peak District at a disgustingly early hour... and these are some of the images I took 'on the hoof''.

Obvious really!

Sculpture in the park

The first climb...

We're used to cross country walking but this part was truly, truly horrible.
It went on and on and got steeper and steeper - I thought I was going to be sick!

Not sure what this was but it had water cascading from the top of it...

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth cows and sheep

The end...

Saturday, 25 September 2010

ABC Wednesday

J is for ... jogging shoes

I read about the ABC Wednesday meme on Booksplease.  What a great idea! A different letter of the alphabet is taken every week and you post a photo, poem, art work etc that begins with that letter.  This week it's the letter J so this is my entry.

Foto Finish - 'Blue'

Taken on our photo shoot at Burbage Common - Catherine was wearing my Mum's old duffle coat, my Mum's old gloves, and holding a blue heart that we found in a magazine.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Never work with children or animals...

Tried to do a quick photo shoot with the cats in the garden yesterday evening.  I had to work fast as there were amazingly large thunder clouds heading our way and the light was fading.  Pepper ruled herself out from the finished pictures by looking as if she were possessed and trying to stand on her head, whilst Mrs Pod kept running towards the camera every time I pointed it at her.  Even Posky, who is usually more alert to striking a pose at the sight of a DSLR camera than Victoria Beckham, was more interested in investigating a compost bag than co-operating.  Charlie was having his own problems - Ben seemed to be creeping up on him with some kind of malevolent intent and it was making him nervous.  Finally, I got these!

'I can't concentrate - there's a rabbit looking at me...'

'He's still there isn't he? What the hell is he doing??!??'

'How about this? Quick, take it then I'm off, I think he's got a knife or something!'

'Am I getting paid for this?  I'll work for tuna...'

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Pop Art Ducks

Have been obsessed with having a go at this ever since I saw something similar in Digital Photo magazine.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Things on a string!

Well actually they're three hearts on a ribbon - but that didn't rhyme.  From my cheap felt and beads I got on Saturday I made three lavender-filled hearts with a ribbon going through them to hang about being smelly. I may go mad and put a bow or something similar at the top.  And yes, there are only two hearts in the photo, but that's down to my impatience at not being able to fit three in the frame at the first try!  I'm not known for my patience...

And this is a purely gratuitous shot of vegetables chopped up for today's soup.  I am loving the colours...  Think I added too much stock as it's not as thick as I usually have it.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Book Review - Think of a Number

Think of a Number is John Verdon's first novel, a thriller with a retired NYPD Detective Dave Gurney as its chief protagonist, up against a killer who seems to be able to read his victims' minds.  He first writes to them, tells them to think of a number, and encloses a second envelope inside the first with the number they thought of inside it.  So far so interesting, but I did have a few problems with this book.  The first is that I guessed who the killer was way too soon, and I just hate that.  I like writers to be cleverer than I am, especially in a thriller.  The second is the way that it's written.  I wanted to scream 'STOP TELLING ME EVERYTHING AND JUST SHOW ME IT INSTEAD!'.  Gurney's every thought seems to be explained and analysed to the point of tedium. It would have been far more effective to let the reader decipher the character for themselves from his words and actions and would have been far more immediate and interesting.  Another irritation is that everything is told from the point of view of Gurney; the other characters, especially his saintly wife became little more than ciphers.  In fact his wife seems to do little apart from drift about in an orange parka or pick up her knitting now and again.  If John Verdon writes another thriller I'd give him a second chance and read it, as Number isn't a bad book and it kept me turning the pages.  Before he does however, I do hope someone gives him pointers on how to construct a wonderfully complex and intelligent thriller, reading R J Ellory's A Simple Act of Violence would be a great place to start.

Went the weekend well?

First a quick plug for my wonderful hairdressers Scott Bailye where I went for my monthly trim on Friday.  The brilliant Hailey does my hair and she is just the funniest, loveliest person.  She can boost your morale and make you laugh more than anyone else I know.  Scott's salon does a lot for local young people, taking on apprentices and going to the local college to teach, they also always do well in the hairdressing competitions, and are generally the nicest, friendliest salon in the area.  So after that...

I popped into a local garden centre whilst waiting for D to have his hair shorn (he would want me to add that he doesn't go to my hairdressers, he goes to see Ron the Barber!), and got three free plants that they were giving away to good homes as they were all on the point of death.  I always feel so sorry for unwanted things like that so brought home a Chocolate Cosmos, a Hellebore, and a Cranberry.

Plants on the verge....

The Cosmos does have a couple of flowers on it (that do smell like chocolate!), so I took the opportunity of taking a couple of close-ups of them.

This first one was actually out of focus but I played around with it and now really like it as it reminds me of a water-colour painting.

This one was a better shot technically but I think I now prefer the 'faulty' one!

I also got around to taking a photo of some of the large squares I've crocheted for my latest project which is a throw for the sofa in the living room.  What I find really strange about this image is the colour of the bottom squares which look blue, when they are in fact khaki green.  Don't know what my camera or my image-processing software was thinking here!

Saturday morning Cath and I were off to Stratford (D was doing a photo shoot in Coventry), with a discount voucher for Lakeland in our hot little hands.  Oooh, what to say about the lovely stuff in Lakeland?  There are so many things in there that you never knew you needed or wanted, in fact you didn't know existed.  We saw Grumpy Old Women Live do a sketch about Lakeland which was so funny and so accurate we cried with laughing.  It also made me go and buy Cath a banana-guard from there and wrap it in an extremely large box for Christmas that year... Anyway, I digress.  Here is a picture of Cath before we went into the shop, with nose against glass coveting all the lovely things...

Amongst the many things I saw and fell in love with in there were these Santa Tealight Holders.  I just love them!

And this Knitted Heart Decoration.  If I don't have a go at making one of my own then I'm a banana.

As well as these Scandinavian type heart decorations

After much browsing, debating and mathematical calculations I decided to add to my meagre collection of a cakestand and single-serving teapot and cup from the Henrietta  kitchen range.  It was buy two get a third item free, plus £5 off.  So I ended up with this haul: a large teapot, three mugs, four small plates and four bowls.  They are far too nice to be kept in a cupboard and will be going on display in the kitchen.

After that excitement (I can't even remember what Cath bought except I seem to think it involved a monster tattoo kit for your hand...), I had to pick up our tickets from the RSC (and don't even get me started on how bad their customer service in the Box Office is!!!) for December.  D and I are going to a preview evening for the opening of the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre in December, as well as a one man show with Roger Rees later the same month, (for West Wing fans that's Lord John Marbury!).  Then Cath went mad in Alexon and bought three tops, and I bought a hoard of bits from a shop that was much, much cheaper.


We also saw a band called Captain Dangerous performing in the street.

And after collecting D, we got home just in time for me to get a photo on my phone of Charlie pulling a really bizarre face.

As Cath and I aren't walking this morning, D and I may have that joyous experience of going to a DIY store - sometimes it just has to be done...  And I am desperately trying to finish the book I've been reading a couple of pages of before falling asleep every night.  Plus there are those hearts to be started on...

Thursday, 16 September 2010


Just saw the funniest parody of the new IKEA advert on, just had to re-post it.  The first video is the advert, the second is the 'making of', and the third is the parody.  Priceless!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Because today is the 70th Anniverary of the Battle of Britain...

High Flight
by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds...and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of...wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
For a historical account my talented husband has put a blog post together at .

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

My salad days...

I've been trying to up my intake of vegetables and have found the easiest way to do this is to have more salads and soups.  For lunch today I made a huge salad and had it with a pitta bread and hoummous - delicious!  I liked it so much I took a picture of it - well the salad part anyway.

I was super-efficient this morning and managed to chargrill a red pepper, saute it with onion, butternut squash, sweet potato, broccoli, and some smoked paprika, then throw it in the slow cooker with some tinned tomatoes so I have some yummy soup for tea (I've just added a tin of chickpeas as well).

On the cat side of things, Pod is less itchy, Charlie has lost his collar, Pepper vomited, and Posky is inserting himself into blogs.

Book-wise, against my better judgment I have bought The Winter Ghosts in hardback from a charity shop.  I keep hoping Kate Mosse is going to be a better writer than she's proved to be so far (endings are really not her thing...), so we shall see.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Home alone...

Today Ben, the cats and I have had a lovely time at home together.  D is at Silverstone so we have had the house to ourselves which is such an unusual treat for me.  In the week I'm at work, and at the weekend we're either out and about, or I'm out or shopping etc etc etc so today has been a really nice change.  I got most of the shopping yesterday with just a brief trip to the 24 hour Tesco very early today.  Then after D had gone I got the boring stuff out of the way and cleaned the kitchen.  After stopping for this...

...I chopped up some carrot, swede, potato, and leek, cooked them for a few minutes in the frying pan then threw them with some vegetable stock into this...

...which is my tiny, new slow cooker, ideal for one or two servings, and which I got for the bargain price of £3.99.  The result was that after I'd liquidised it, I ended up with the most delicious Winter Vegetable Soup for lunch.

Then in between watching a few episodes of StarTrek: Voyager (with the Borg in them), I made some cupcakes and then put a bramley apple filled with sultanas, spices and some sugar into the slow cooker as an experiment.

As well as making some of the tried and trusted Gingerbread Cupcakes, I became adventurous and tried these, which are Chocolate Orange Cupcakes. I then became very ambitious and put Orange Buttercream Frosting on top.

If D gets back in time tonight, and if I haven't had a glass of wine or two by then and fallen asleep... we're thinking of going to see The Secret in Their Eyes at Warwick Arts Centre.  It's a Spanish film and won this year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Oh yes, and Pod has Cat of the Week this week for her exemplary behaviour at the vets yesterday.  She had a sore ear and also had to go for her thyroid check (she's fine and has put on weight as well so the tablets must be the right dose).  She's also got tablets for a skin irritation which should hopefully clear up in a week of two.  Of course the day after she went to the vets is when she started limping on the leg that the cyst is on.  Apparently the tablets for her skin should help with this... so we shall see.  At the moment she couldn't care less and is fast asleep on the basket, the now rather flat basket, that the cat toys are kept in.

Another piece of news that has please me is that the BBC have filmed Patrick Stewart in the Macbeth we saw him in at Chichester.  It was a wonderful production and I can't wait to see it again.  Perhaps they'll show it as Christmas like they did with the RSC's Hamlet last year?  Something to look forward to anyway...

Saturday, 4 September 2010

To Autumn...

Let any, who will, still bask in the south
On the paradisal sand,
It's northerly here - and this year of the north
Autumn will be my friend.
 (From Let any, who will, still bask in the south by Elizabeth Akhmatova)

Ah Autumn, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways...  I saw a post about how Autumn was her favourite season on Jag's Fitness Blog and couldn't agree with her more.  So here are some of the reasons why it's my favourite too.

I love how wonderful it is for photography, we still get blue sky but the sun is lower, the light less harsh and the shadows are softer.  Then of course there are the colours: leaves of breathtaking golds, coppers and crimsons, scarlet and purple berries, and vibrant flowers like sedums, rudbeckias and chrysanthemums. 

I like walking on a leafy carpet in woods and seeing horse chestnuts ready to fall, and pinecones and acorns, and squirrels hurrying about their business.  I like the stubble stretching away across the fields.  I love misty mornings when everything is hung with dew, and there is a crispness in the air that foretells of colder days to come.  I like the way that salads disappear in favour of comfort-food, and the fact that the children go back to school so I can walk around the park at lunchtime in relative peace.   I like the fact that summer dresses can be put away and scarves and hats and jackets in rich colours brought out.  I like the way that wonderfully orange pumpkins appear in the shops and make me want to carve a halloween lantern. 

I like it all so much that I have two weeks holiday booked for the beginning of October; I really like that... 

And after a mention of Akhmatova and Barrett-Browning, how could I talk about Autumn without quoting Keats in the same post?

Cue misty images...

And let's not forget
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
(Oh those colours!)

Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;


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