Sunday, 30 December 2012

Thought for the Day



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An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across
 her neck.
One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of
 water.
At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.
Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments.
But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half
 of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.
‘I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.’
The old woman smiled, ‘Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the
 other pot’s side?’
”That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path
and every day while we walk back, you water them.’
For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table.
Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.’
Each of us has our own unique flaw.  But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives
 together so very interesting and rewarding. You’ve just got to take each person for what they are and
 look for the good in them.
So, to all of my cracked pot friends, have a great day and remember to smell the flowers on your side
 of the path!
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It's a nice thought for the New Year, isn't it.

I saw this on another Blog: www.learningfromdogs.com and I liked it so much I thought I'd share it with you. I recommend you check out the Blog. It's very interesting.





Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas tea for the family.


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Here at the cottage we had a lovely Christmas tea-time with the family.
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For those of you who were not able to make it this year, we missed you! We love you and let's hope you make it next time.
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When the washing-up is done, I'm going to have a little sleep! zzzzzzzzzzzz

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Cribs


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Back in 2007 my church in England had an exhibition of Christmas cribs. People were invited to bring in their cribs for display and a small entry fee was charged for the pleasure of looking at them. They were gorgeous and many of them told wonderful tales of family history.
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I have become accustomed to showing them again each year because they are so pretty. Do please click on the pictures and read the words.
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I know that many of us are struggling with the question 'where was God last week when all those beautiful children and their teachers were shot' and there is no answer really: but we must have hope. Without hope we have nothing. We must have hope that the world will become a better place and where better to start than with a new life - a new baby born to save mankind from themselves.

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I have to believe that most people are good people.


Please take a few minutes to look at these lovely scenes and try to find some hope in them.

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Do you have your own crib? If not, why not get one? make one? During the Christmas period, when we are all so fixed on over-eating and indulging ourselves, why not have a focal point in your room, which when you gaze at it, gives you HOPE.

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I want to wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
May your God go with you wherever you wander.

Star

Monday, 17 December 2012

Dylan update - his 2nd Christmas.


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Yesterday, being Friday, was a good day for Dylan to help me with the decorating of our Christmas tree. Although he didn’t really feel very well, he was very helpful, unpacking all the baubles for me and putting them on the tree, very carefully. When it was finished, it looked very nice. He has already decorated his own tree at home so you could call him experienced!
Last night he had a sleepover with me while his mummy and daddy were entertaining some business associates. When bedtime came, he climbed into his bed and snuggled down. I have lost my voice entirely! for now so his Grandad took over with the story and then played guitar and sang to him till he went to sleep. I have a big clock in the room where Dylan sleeps and he likes to listen to it tick-tock. I think it has a soporific affect on him.

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With help, Dylan was able to put the star on the top too!

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…and after all that work, he got to choose a special biscuit.

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The cards are quickly filling up the window ledges…
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and the dresser …

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and I am looking forward to the festivities to come and to sharing them with you too.
I’d love to know how your preparations are going?

Star - with apologies to those who have already read this post. As you know I can only post here if I post there first and I know there are quite a few people who only read here and not there and vice versa now so it seems. I have made new friends, but I don't forget the old!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Icy Mornings


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Ice & Snow

People never tell of ice
Or the snow that glitters nice
Or of the icy crunchy snow
Of that most people do not know
The crunch that sounds beneath your feet
As your sole and ice compete
When in the morning as you wake
You see a single white snow flake
You look out of the iced window
The look out seems so very low
Because the snow fell all night
It has left behind its sheet of white
Helen Windass
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Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
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Winter-Time

by Robert Louis Stevenson
Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,   
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;   
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,   
A blood-red orange, sets again.   

Before the stars have left the skies, 
At morning in the dark I rise;   
And shivering in my nakedness,   
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.   

Close by the jolly fire I sit   
To warm my frozen bones a bit; 
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore   
The colder countries round the door.   

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap   
Me in my comforter and cap;   
The cold wind burns my face, and blows 
Its frosty pepper up my nose.   

Black are my steps on silver sod;   
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;   
And tree and house, and hill and lake,   
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.
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How like a winter hath my absence been (Sonnet 97)

by William Shakespeare
How like a winter hath my absence been   
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!   
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!   
What old December’s bareness every where!   
And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time;
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,   
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,   
Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:   
Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me   
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,   
And, thou away, the very birds are mute:   
  Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer,   
  That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.

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These beautiful icy mornings are magical for me. There is something other-worldly about the quietness 
before anyone wakes up and starts moving around. The air is so crisp and clean.

Here in the cottage garden the birds wait for their food.

 The robin shows off his red breast and the pigeons chase each other tirelessly around the vegetable patch killing time until I bring their bread out for them.

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With apologies to anyone who has already read this post over at Wordpress. I find that I can copy a post from there to here with little problem, but when I try to post new here, I'm told I've run out of space.  Isn't that interesting.

Have a wonderful week everyone.
Star

Saturday, 24 November 2012

My visit to Bristol


I've been away this week - to Bristol in the west country, to visit my eldest son, Rob and his partner Kelly. That's me with Rob when he was a tiny baby.  Well, not so tiny actually. He was 8lbs 8ozs at birth and is a healthy 6 ft. 4 inches now! The picture was taken in the summer of 1974.

Little was I to know that the weather would be appalling whilst I was there, with persistent rain and flooding. Luckily their house is near the top of a hill so I kept my feet fairly dry, but by day three Rob didn't have a dry pair of shoes left to take him to work.

It was very nice to visit them for a few days and see life going on in a different place.  Bristol is a fascinating place, but this time I didn't see much of it. I only had one coat and a pair of suede boots with me so I couldn't risk a drenching.  We are very used to rain over here and lots of wind because it is an island, but I felt like a bit of pampering.

So now I'm back, I have a bit of catching up to do.

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving Day with family and friends and a good Christmas to follow. Like me you're probably up to your neck in the preparations already!


Friday, 16 November 2012

Bertie Saves the Day



Let's all snuggle round the fire on this dark November evening and Oma will read you a story.  Wait a minute, let me give the coals a poke and release some more heat.  That's better.  Now, are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.

This is the latest in my stories about Bertie, the wise rabbit. In this story Bertie goes shopping for bananas, but when he gets to the supermarket he finds he doesn't have his purse with him. ..

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Bertie Saves the Day

The animals in Hardwick Grove have always been the first priority to Mr. and Mrs. James who live at no. 38.  Recently things had changed.  There was a new person to take care of:  a small boy called Dylan, their grandson.  He referred to them as Granddad and Oma and he went to stay with them every Friday.  He was two years old at the time of this story.

Dylan loved bananas.  He knew that if he was a good boy, he would get a banana but today there was only one banana in the dish on the table.  Standing on tip-toe, he could just see into the fruit bowl.  Gripping the side of the table and standing on his tip-toes, he could see the stalk of the banana pointing upwards at the figure of The Green Man, which was hanging on the wall.  The Green Man smiled down at Dylan.  He could foresee the future and often gave a hint of what was to come by changing his expression.  Today he was looking benevolent.

When Granddad had finished his crossword puzzle and Dylan was finished playing with his circus train, Granddad stood up, stretched and asked Dylan the question he was waiting to hear.

‘Would you like a banana, Dylan?’

‘Eh!’ replied Dylan.  He couldn’t quite manage ‘yes’.

‘O.k., let’s see if there are any in the fruit bowl.’

Dylan ran and Granddad walked to the table in the dining room where Oma’s large, wooden fruit bowl stood.  Dylan jumped up and down in anticipation.

Picking up the banana Granddad unzipped it for his grandson.  He was just about to give it to him when the main part of it snapped off and fell to the floor right in front of Pippa, the one-eyed dog, who snaffled it immediately and then looked incredibly guilty.

Dylan went quiet.  Then when he realised what had happened, his eyes screwed up and tears began to spring forth alarmingly.  He found his voice and started to howl, at which point Pippa slunk away and hid under the sideboard.

Sitting in his house in the garden, Bertie, the wise rabbit, heard the commotion and decided to investigate.  He pushed up the top of his run with his nose and hopped up the garden path and in through the kitchen door.  Mrs. James was standing at the kitchen sink, wearing her best floral apron and washing some tasty-looking cabbage for lunch.

Bertie, being a magical rabbit; a tribute given to him by a recent visit from the fairy queen, was able to stand tall and wear clothes like the people who lived in the house.  He could also talk to the humans just as if he was one himself; although this was all temporary.

‘What’s all the commotion?’ asked Bertie of Mrs. James, who wiped her hands on her apron and turned to go into the living room.

Bertie soon understood what was wrong and kindly offered to go to Sainsbury’s and buy a new bunch of bananas.

‘That’s very kind of you Bertie!’ said Mr. and Mrs. James in unison.

Mr. James opened his wallet and found some money to give to Bertie.

‘Here, take my little purse,’ said Mrs. James, helpfully. She gave Bertie the little purse, which was sparkling with sequins all over it.  It really was very pretty.

Dylan had stopped howling and stared in amazement at Bertie, the wise rabbit, who stood in front of him resplendent in a beautiful brown tweed waistcoat and a pair of corduroy trousers to match.  Dylan had never seen such a big rabbit before even at the zoo where some of the animals were as big as a house and others had necks so long they could reach up to the clouds.

‘Off you go Bertie, don’t lose the purse.  I’m very fond of it.’

‘No, of course not,’ said Bertie, puffing himself up with importance as he hopped away out of the front door and up the street.

A few curtains twitched as Bertie passed by, but nobody came out of their house to stare.

When Bertie got to Sainsbury’s he soon found the bananas.  They were on a stand near the door all bright and shiny yellow.  He chose a nice big bunch and put them in his basket.  Then he got distracted.  He could smell carrots and sure enough there they were, lots of them on another stand nearby, all red and appetising.  Bertie’s tummy began to growl.

‘Perhaps I’ll just stop here and eat a few carrots to keep me going.’ He thought, but before he could indulge himself, a store detective came across and tapped him on the shoulder.

‘Don’t even think about it, sonny,’ said the man, looking fierce.

Bertie was not a young rabbit, but the man couldn’t see that.  To him a rabbit was a rabbit and it ought to be back in its hutch or better still out in the fields somewhere.  Bertie took the basket to the check-out, but when he got there he couldn't find the purse.  He hunted through all his pockets, there were six in all, but there was no sign of it.

‘Is there a problem, sir?’ asked the girl at the till, looking bored.

‘No, no problem,’ said Bertie, but my purse is lost, that’s all.

‘No money, no bananas, sir’ said the girl.

‘Yes, yes, I know’ Bertie answered the girl impatiently.

Then he said, ‘one moment, please keep the bananas, I’ll be back in a minute.’

He had seen a way out of his current dilemma and he didn't want to miss the opportunity.
Two little old ladies were pushing their shopping carts over to the doorway.  Neither of them looked as if they could lift anything more than a feather hat.

Quick as a flash, Bertie was by their side and offering to help them take the shopping to the car, better still lift it into the boot for them.

The old ladies looked at Bertie and then at each other.

‘Do you see what I see?’ said Olivia to Amy.  ‘Is that a life-sized rabbit or are my eyes deceiving me?
‘Amy adjusted her glasses on her nose.’

‘It’s a rabbit,’ she replied, ‘and it’s talking.

Bertie followed the ladies out to their car and helped them to pack their purchases in the boot.
Afterwards one of the ladies gave Bertie a tip.  He put it carefully in his pocket where the purse should have been.

Bertie was a wise rabbit and this had been a good idea.  He pursued it until he had enough money to pay for the bananas and then he went back into the store and paid the check-out girl.

‘Found it then, did you?’ she smiled.

‘Not exactly, no,’ he answered, but I found a way around it.

With the bananas safely in a bag, Bertie left the shop and made his way home to Hardwick Grove.  On his way up the hill he had to pass a number of pyracantha bushes with their berries all shiny and red to tempt the birds.  Something else was hanging in the branches of one of them, something with sequins all over it, something that looked like Mrs. James’s purse.

‘It is Mrs. James’s purse,’ exclaimed Bertie, ‘but I can’t reach it.  I need a stick.’

He looked around for a stick but he couldn't see one anywhere. Then he saw a dog carrying a stick across the playing field back to its master.

‘I know,’ said Bertie, ‘I’ll throw a banana.  The dog will chase after it, dropping the stick for me to pick up.  He pulled a banana off the bunch and put the rest of them under the bush till he came back.  Then he waited till the dog was looking in his direction, taking care that the dog didn't see him. He didn't want the dog to chase him or bite him! He threw the banana as far as he could across the field.  The dog chased after it.  Bertie came out of hiding and ran fast across the field to pick up the stick.

When he got back to the safety of the bush, the dog was back with his master.  He dropped the banana at his master’s feet and was looking around for his lost stick.

Bertie was out of breath.

He poked the stick into the bush until he freed the purse and then put the purse back safely into his pocket.

‘Now to get these bananas back to Dylan.’

He bounded along, swinging the bananas round in circles inside their Sainsbury’s bag, until found the sign for Hardwick Grove came into view.

‘This is it.’ He smiled.

When he got in, he looked around.  The people were all in the back room, watching television.  Bertie emptied the contents of the purse into Dylan’s piggy bank and then took the bananas into the back room and gave them to Mrs. James.

‘Thank you Bertie.  You are a good rabbit.  You've saved the day.’

Bertie says ‘Always keep your valuables in a safe place.’

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Traditional English Christmas Cake


It's time to start the preparations for Christmas, here in the cottage, but I'm not talking chocolates. Take a peek inside the tin and see what I'm cooking today...

Here are the ingredients for an 8 inch round or a 7 inch square tin:

10 ozs currants
7 ozs sultanas (golden raisins if in America)
4 ozs raisins
2 1/2 ozs glace cherries (quartered)
2 1/2 ozs whole almonds (blanched and chopped finely)
2 1/2 ozs mixed peel
grated rind of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of Brandy
7 ozs of plain flour (all purpose flour if in America)
1 level teaspoon of mixed spice
2 ozs ground almonds
6 ozs butter (room temperature)
6 ozs soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon of black treacle
4 eggs

and this is the method:

Prepare the dried fruit; cut the cherries in four.  Blanch the almonds, chop finely.  Mix the prepared fruits, almonds, peel and lemon rind together in a mixing bowl and pour over the brandy. (If liked leave overnight.)

Sieve the flour and spice and add the ground almonds.

Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream together until light and fluffy.
Beat in the treacle.  Add the eggs, one at a time and beat in thoroughly, adding a little of the sieved flour with every egg after the first.

Fold in the remaining flour mixture with the prepared fruit etc., half at a time, gently and thoroughly until well mixed.

Line the inside of the tins with a grease  proof paper insert and brush inside with melted margarine.  Place the mixture evenly into the prepared tins.  Tie several thicknesses of thick paper or newspaper around the outside of the tins.  (This prevents the cakes from over-browning.)  Smooth the top of the cakes with the back of a wet spoon.

Bake on middle shelf of a very slow oven (electric 290 deg. F., gas no. 1.)  Allow approximately 4 hours for a 7-inch square or an 8-inch round cake.

Remove from the oven.  Leave in tin to cool slightly, turn out, remove paper and cool on a wire tray.
When quite cold,wrap in double grease proof paper and store in an air-tight tin until required.


Don't forget to feed the cake with some Brandy! You will need to poke holes in the top of the cake with a skewer when it comes out of the oven and is still warm. Then, using a tablespoon, spoon over 3 spoons of Brandy, or you could use three capsful. Watch with delight as the Brandy soaks into the cake.  It will make a slight sizzling sound. The feeding will need to be done again, once or twice before Christmas arrives.  The Brandy will add to the delicious flavour of the finished cake and also help to preserve the cake if you can't eat it all at once.

This is a very rich cake so small slices should be given (and often!).Next time I'll come back and tell you how I decorated it.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Computer Upgrade - Update

I took my computer into PC World to see if I could have some more memory put into it but sadly NO was the answer.  It is a Laptop and the maximum it can have, in terms of RAM (Random Access Memory) is 2 GB's. It is only two year's old!  I looked at the new computers, which all seemed to have at least 8 GB's of R.A.M. in them and noted the prices!!! To get a good one costs £699 or $1117.33.

I was hoping my computer would last four years but now I know it won't. It is almost obsolete already and that is why it is so slow. Two year's ago it cost £400 and I've had the use of it for two years.  At that rate it must be cheaper to rent!

While I was in the shop, looking at all the new products, the man in the clinic, who was ever so helpful, I might add, made some changes to my computer to make it work faster.

He deleted the two other user accounts I had on there.  That means that the programmes load faster because they only have to load in one place.

He altered some of the start-up programmes. I don't need every programme I've got to load on start-up. To do that he had to go into an area of the computer which he said I'd better keep out of. I agree.

Since I had a Mastercare agreement, which runs till October 13th, it didn't cost me anything. If he had been able to add more memory, then I would have had to pay for the memory but not the installation, which I thought was fair.

When I got home I moved all my photos and music onto my external hard-drive, which helped a lot. I also deleted a large graphic's programme, which is obviously too big for this machine to handle.

I know that you mac users out there are thinking 'why doesn't she just go and buy a Mac but the trouble is, if I do that I will have to buy all new software too, won't I. The Apple macs are very expensive too,  Perhaps if I was starting out new and was a lot younger, I would buy an Apple but for me, perhaps not!  Also I know that there are a few problems with updated the operating system on macs.

I deleted I-Tunes.  That is a massive programme and I can do without it.  I shall just use the Windows Media Player from now on and buy my CD's from Amazon.

I'm telling you all this in the hope that the information will be helpful to anyone who is experiencing the same problems as me.  I am very sad that my computer is obsolete and determined to make it last a bit longer. The fault is really with the software programmes and the size of them!  The manufacturers think that the more complicated the programmes are, the more they will sell.  Well, let me tell them that that is not true. Simple is best and I wish we could go back to the way it was. Microsoft is a big culprit.  Word and Excel are now so huge and complicated that you need to be a professor to understand them.  All that most of us wants is an easy-to-use, quick to load programme that doesn't cost the earth.

So my conclusions are:

If you are just starting out - buy an Apple Mac.
If you are buying a computer, look into renting one.
Maybe choose an I-pad instead but that's another subject.
Don't put too many programmes or photos or music on it.
Use an external hard-drive for storage leaving the computer itself free of garbage.
Keep the start-up menu clear.
Only have one user on the computer.

What do you think?

Monday, 5 November 2012

Upgrading computers


The picture above shows my American cat, Millie. You can just about see her.  She's on the top floor of the apartment block opposite, peeking out from under the railing.  Obviously she is not afraid of heights! Brave isn't she!

When I logged on to this Blog this morning, I noticed that there was a different background picture.  Why, who knows? I didn't put it there.  I have now changed it back to what I thought was there in the first place. Do any of you have that problem?

I have also tried to change my profile picture to something more up to date, but so far it won't let me. Some days I can post pictures on here, some days I can't.  Most odd. I have not upgraded yet but I think I might do so soonish. I feel more comfortable over here than on Wordpress and it's hard to say why really.  It could have something to do with the backgrounds over there.  They are very 'professional' sort of, if you know what I mean.  They are more for photographers and chefs and business people.  Perhaps over here is more homely and friendly?  Perhaps it's me.

I am currently looking into upgrading the R.A.M on my laptop PC. I made enquiries this morning about upgrading through my CoverPlan with Mastercare and I was told that  it was covered but I would have to take the computer into my local PC World Store, which luckily is not too far away.  I was given the telephone number of the clinic (for PC's), but when I tried to ring it, no-one answered.  Perhaps they don't work on Mondays? I'll try again later and maybe get some joy.

I can't say I'm looking forward to being without it but hopefully it won't be for too long and I do have an (unreliable) spare laptop.  However, it will need to do so many updates that I probably won't be able to use it for three days!

I currently have 2 GB's of R.A.M. and I'm hoping to double it.  What do you people have on yours? and what are your experiences of upgrading?

Happy Monday,

Star