Saturday, 30 April 2016

Antique Bottles

Back in the 1970's my father and I began to collect antique bottles when I was still a teenager.  It was quite a popular hobby at the time.  Old bottles are really very fascinating.  They record so much of the history of a country, an area and it's people.  The endless shapes, sizes, colours and amazing embossings are endlessly intriguing. 

I spent many hours in our "bottle shed" as it was known washing and cleaning the bottles, carefully arranging the bottles, pondering the bottles. Most weekends we would go out for a "dig", perhaps on top of some old rubbish dump which the landowner was kindly letting us excavate.  Sometimes people very generously gave us their old bottles to add to the collection.  There would be days when I was crawling under old houses, having been given permission from the owner to take whatever old bottles I could recover. All these excursions seemed to me like great adventures.

I loved the old jam jars.  Some of them came in beautiful blue, lilac and purple colours - sometimes because they were made with uranium!  The "football" bottles and marble bottles - those sealed with marbles - were also favourites.  I adored the medicine bottles with their outrageous claims - cures for nearly everything!  They were often filled with alcohol and therefore - unsurprisingly - a great favourite with the public.

One day the reporter from the Ellesmere Guardian came to write a story about our collection and below are the photographs he took of Dad, Mum, ,my sister Shirley and me with some of our collection.   There's also some photos below of our other beloved "old bottles" starting with the Warner's medicinal "Safe Cure". 

Below : Dad and me.  My mother knitted that jersey and made that blouse I am wearing.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Handkerchief Box

I have always loved "old things". Even as a child I was fascinated by antiques and vintage items.  As we live in an increasingly mass-produced, throwaway world I have come to appreciate the workmanship and style of older items even more, whether they be tools, ceramics, jewellery, linen or this - one of the old boxed handkerchief sets of my childhood and teenage years.  

At one time they were quite popular gifts, not only for the lovely embroidered handkerchiefs but the beautiful pictures on the cardboard boxes in which they came.  If my memory serves me right Granny Manson may have given this one to my mother as a gift.  Generally they were stored safely away because no one ever wanted to use them - they were far too pretty! 

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Cherishing The Moment

There's an old saying that goes "wherever you are, be there".  Today people talk a lot about mindfulness, about "being there". And it's so true - every single day is part of the precious mosaic of our lives and if we don't seize the day, what will we seize?  How about the moment?

Like many of us I've had a lot of tough days in my life, days when I thought my life had turned to ashes.  I used to read the Bible a lot and there's a lovely passage in Isaiah which goes:
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.

(Isaiah 61) 

As I watched Andrew working I was struck by how beautiful he was, not just in a physical sense but how beautiful in spirit and nature. We share an extraordinary love, a love I never thought I'd have.  When you lose a lot, when it devastates you to your core, when the grief seems overwhelming, when your life seems to have turned to ashes - it can be so hard to believe there is some "crown of beauty" still waiting for you in your future.  And yet here he was, this gorgeous man who is my partner and fiancee.  The universe just keeps on working it's miracles. It goes on, we go on.  People talk sometimes about "trusting the process" but maybe that's what we have to do sometimes - just hold on tight and trust the process.  

One day you'll find yourself in a sunny room looking once again at a "crown of beauty" and in that moment ironically it will be the losses you survived that will help to fill you with a deep appreciation, an absolute realization, of how full your cup is. And you will treasure that moment - that privilege - utterly and completely and give thanks for another day of loving.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Crabapple The Birman

Crabapple is our pedigree Birman cat. The word that best describes him is "lazy" (well, he's a Birman cat right?).  

He doesn't really like walking and prefers to be carried around by Dad, who also finds it amusing to put Crabapple across his shoulders and carry him fireman-style or otherwise put him on the seat of his walker and use it like a cat-stroller.  Crabapple enjoys all of these methods of "transport". I notice Leonardo has now cottoned onto the "cat pram" idea and sometimes leaps onto the seat of the walker for a ride too.

Crabapple does get into climbing moods though and will be seen on the roof or top of the wall unit or fridge quite frequently.  He also likes draping himself across the roof of a car which he manages to do like he does most things - theatrically.  Yes, he can be quite the drama queen - and he has a huge ego.  I sometimes imagine he is thinking, "Don't you know who I am?"

He's very intelligent and he's really a pretty sweet little guy.   I just wish he had a more enthusiastic attitude to the Santa suit I bought him last Christmas.  He didn't exactly fight it (he was getting attention right?) but I couldn't get one "ho ho ho" out of him, more a "when will this be over Rover?".  Ah well, maybe this year he'll get into the Christmas spirit more.



"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny young Tabitha but in ourselves".
"Yes oh Wise One".
 Crabapple shares his words 
of wisdom with Tabitha
Below : Dad and Crabapple, partners in crime


Monday, 25 April 2016

Grape Full

Above is one of the bunches of purple grapes.  The grapes on our vines are all sweet and refreshing - and seem quite endless!

I bought a cold-pressed, slow juicer and over the weekend Andrew and I enjoyed experimenting with grape juice.  The juice we obtained from putting cleaned individual grapes through the juicer was lovely.   For fun we put some in a bottle and made our own label.

For now I'm stripping grapes from the bunches, cleaning them and freezing them in containers just as they are.  It's what I call one of those "zen" kinds of jobs, like podding peas - invariably slow so your mind seems to wind down and fall into the same sweet, soothing rhythm where you find yourself increasingly - and joyfully - present and grateful.

 Now and again little insects come out of a bunch of grapes - green shield bugs, anxious little black spiders, occasionally a beautiful golden spider.  They only add to the enchantment of the harvest, the connectedness to this rich banquet called life laid out before us.   I ensure them all safe passage back into their busy lives for the life of every creature is precious.

 In other news - at 84 years old Dad is still very fit (even after three knee replacements, beating cancer and other health problems) so it's a breeze for him to take his mobility scooter down to the bottom grape vines and come back loaded with buckets full of grapes.  The last of the sunflowers are still bursting into bloom.


Saturday, 23 April 2016

Walnuts In Pretty Vintage Tins

It's that time again when walnuts fall. It's been a good season and a few weeks ago Verna picked up a large box full of the walnuts which were the first to hit the ground.  They've been sitting in the sun drying since then. 

Today I put these first fruits into old cake tins.  I never shell walnuts until right before I use them.  Stored in the shell they will stay sweet for a couple of years.  Once they're shelled I find they go rancid very quickly.

 I like to store walnuts very securely for one reason in particular - rats.  They love them and will come from miles around to try and raid them. I am told by the old timers that years ago they used to bait rats with walnuts dipped in vanilla - that the rats found them irresistible.  

Over the years I've gathered quite a sizeable collection of old cake tins so these are perfect to store the walnuts in - plus I get to admire the pretty tins and make use of more of them once again. 

Walnuts are great to eat as a snack and to me a chocolate cake isn't complete unless it has walnuts on it although in recent years I've developed a tendency to put them on banana cakes too since banana and walnut is always such a good combination.  Walnut and banana bread is a favourite of mine.