LIFE AND DEATH

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My friend Mary Suzuki passed away at 12:00 noon today. She was a good friend, we were planning to go see an exhibition in the city soon, but alas she went on her way. She was a woman full of the joys of living. We used to go to a lovely Indian restaurant in the place where she lived and chat for hours over delicious foods and a glass of wine, trying to come up with an understanding of humankind it’s joys and it’s problems. I will miss her very much, but I am happy that she had a good and happy life.

WISPS OF MIST DECKING THE VALLEY

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Today the mist did not lift,

at first the rain was heavy but then the mist came,

the whole valley was blanketed in foggy silvery wisps making the dark November day seem almost mysterious,

cosy too as we were inside calmly working on our projects and enjoying the stillness that the mist brings.

Now, as darkness falls and the stove is lit, the warm glow of the fire

burns away darker thoughts that winter brings.

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MIXING MY SPICES

Today I have made the dough for a spicy biscuit, traditionally made Belgium and Holland for the feast of St.Niklaas. It is called Speculaas and many spices are used in the making of it. The dough, which now has to lie still in the fridge till tomorrow is fragile and has to be cooled several times even while working with it. It is put in a mould in the shape of a man or woman, or any other shape, and baked. I have actually never made these before in my life, now is as good as any time to start I think. What I most enjoyed is mixing the spices. I used a whole list of them. The Star Anise I had to pit and then use the pestle to grind the seeds. The scent was absolutely divine. Also on the list were: ground Ginger, ground Cloves, ground Cardamom, ground Coriander, ground Mace, ground White Pepper, ground Nutmeg, and ground Cinnamon. I actually saw most of these spices grow in Kerala, India, during one of my visits there with the tribal people. My friend kindly brought me to her home place in the mountains and showed me all these spices and where they grow, to experience this was an absolute highlight. I’m very fond of using spices in cooking but also as a medicine.

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My friend holding some of the freshly grown Nutmegs and showing the Mace around the nut.  Also some of the Pepper which is grown and which is actually a climbing plant, I did not know that.
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The Star Anise ready to be ground down with the pestle.

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Again my friend showing me the Cloves fresh from the tree, so undried.

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Here the ground spices, and next a very untidy kitchen when it was all done and the dough was in the fridge, I wonder what my biscuits will turn out like, they better be good as they are for a fund raising do.

OBSERVING THE GARDEN BIRDS

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Last year during spring we had two brightly coloured Robins eating from the bird table, one of them was very territorial, I now know that this was the male.  Eventually we had one of their young in the garden during the summer, a very tame little bird, no red at it’s breast yet.  By now though it has become a fully fledged adult and it’s colour is really strong, we have not made out if it is a male or female, it does not display territorial behaviour so far.  In Ireland the Robin population is stable, they are a great bird to have in the garden.

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We have quite a few Sparrows too feeding from the bird table.

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And a well fed Finch.  We are finding that most of the birds that frequent our garden are quite fat looking this year, is it because we had such a warm and long summer?  I wonder, and hope that it will stand by them during the coming winter.

One thing we have noticed since the bird population has come back to feed (we don’t feed them in the summer), is that where last winter we had at least a dozen Rooks visiting, we only have three now.  I am wondering if some of them got poisoned?  But then the Jackdaws, who feed with the Rooks usually, are there in great numbers.  The Rooks go and build nests in old chimney pots, so I was thinking that maybe someone put poison there??  It is quite unusual for the area here to see so few Rooks.  I will keep my eye on it.  Already the Swift population has decreased very much in the last few years here, as well as that, last summer they arrived a month late (I take not every year) and they had already left end of July whereas normally they leave middle of August.

ANOTHER RECYCLING PROJECT ~ ANOTHER UPDATE

The finished product – every minute I spent making this present I so much enjoyed, now waiting for Christmas and I know one little girl that is going to be very happy!
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Today I found a second doll’s bed in a local charity shop and bought it for all of €6 which is extremely cheap, and this one has got a canopy. This is going to be another great project to, when it is all finished and nicely fitted out with matras, pillow, sheets etc… will be another Christmas present for yet another two year old grand child. I am excited about it, the more so as the mum of the child was planning to get her a doll, so it all fits together. It does not look much now but it will when I’m finished with it – fun!
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So today I went shopping for some material, some lace binding, and some other bits and pieces, also a tin of white paint as I will paint the grey away.  I took off all the stuff that was on the cot and washed the blanket, quilt and canopy material, using this later as a model for the new one.  I choose a pink and white check as it is fresh and yet delicate, this for the sides of the cot and for the canopy.  I already cut the material for the matrass, so all going according to plan.  Last night I made out a detailed plan of how I was going to tackle this project, an enjoyable activity in itself.  I will update as I go along.

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A few days ago I painted the dull grey away and now it’s a lovely white.  The matrass and pillow are finished too, only some stitching to be done but that can wait.  And today I made the canopy.

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Next it was the canopy to make, and yesterday I finished that.

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Today I finished making the side padded panels for the cradle, and I put it all together just to have a look, but finishing touches have to be done yet, like putting ribbons on the side panels to attach them to the cradle etc.  It is starting to look good.  Now I am going to hunt for some white material to make the sheets.

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EARLY MORNING DEW

First thing this morning, and a beautifully sunny morning it was, I went into the garden to take these photos. I love to see the sun shine on the dew drops, it makes them sparkle like diamonds. Dewdrops on the grass blades, on the Nasturtiums, on the Leeks. There is so much beauty in minute details in nature, so inspiring.
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GRANDMOTHER’S CHICKENSOUP WITH BALLETJES

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This is a photo of my grandmother, she is the one in the middle between her two sisters.  They all lived during the early 20th century and I have great memories of the days when my ‘moemoe’ (granny) was alive.  She lived in her house on the Breda Baan in Brasschaat, Belgium, and her grown son lived with her, this was in the days that I too stayed with her, my grandfather had died already, it was the early seventies.  But I am thinking back of one particular lovely tradition which I would love to rekindle here with my own family and those of my relatives that are still alive and around here.  Market day would be on Monday morning early in Brasschaat, and the house of my moemoe was just opposite where the market started, all the relatives would call at her house for coffee and the that meant the coffee pot would never leave the stove, the smell was so welcoming, there would be jolly greetings, hugs and kisses, there would be lots of chat and catching up with the week’s family news, and then moemoe and I would go to the market ourselves, we would buy her usual things and we would keep bumping into people my grandmother would know and she would have to chat with them, more chat!  Meanwhile at home a chicken would be boiling away on the stove to make soup, in Belgium 50 years ago mothers would make their soup every day, they would sometimes make chicken soup with balletjes (small pork meat balls) all home made and delicious, the smell would make your mouth water of course.  I have many still older memories of my grandmother, I remember the feeling when she came to see us as children, the happiness that I felt every time this happened is a feeling I have never quite been able to find anywhere else, a particular grandmother love feeling, I was so fond of her.  Now that I am a grandmother myself I know what I can give my own grandkids, it’s not the expensive toys that they will remember or be fond of, no, it is the special feel of having a grandmother who loves you, a great feeling.  Family is important I think, and can give great joy.