Tuesday, 31 December 2013

On This Day...

On this day in 2005, my beloved step-father, Gordon, died. Memory Eternal.....

And our much-loved dog, Basil, was born. Happy Birthday, Prince Vasyl!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Jaffa Cake

                                      Introducing Jaffa Cake, my very first hamster :-)

Friday, 27 December 2013

New Pets!

We had promised DD4 that we would take her to buy a new hamster after the recent death of her much-loved pet, Charlotte, so we set off this morning to the pet store in BlogTown. They had several litters of hamsters and we really liked one particular group of hamsters which had very individual personalities - so much so that we instantly found nicknames for all four of them.

The Hubster and I really loved one particular female which we nicknamed "Jaffa", but DD4 preferred a much darker coloured hamster, and chose that one. The Hubster immediately decided to buy Jaffa for me as my belated Christmas present from him, so we are now a three-hamster family :-)

Photos will follow when the new arrivals have settled in to their new home and DD4 has decided on a definite name for her new pet....

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Happy Times

Our Christmas was as wonderful as it could have been, given that our beloved Mr and Mrs DoomHamster are across The Pond, but we were able to Skype with them last night which helped a lot, being able to see them and talk to them :-)

We went out for Christmas lunch with our dear John, and out of all of us, he was the only one who managed to completely clear his plate on all three courses of a gargantuan dinner, which is very impressive for a 91 year old!

We spent the afternoon visiting family members and generally had a lovely time. We are very blessed.

PS I was less than impressed with the Dr Who Christmas Special show - very, very disappointing. Downton Abbey's Christmas special was a vast improvement on the whole previous series, though, which more than made up for it.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

Christ is Born!
Glorify Him!

Wishing you all a joyous and blessed Feast of the Nativity of Christ :-)

Monday, 23 December 2013

Playing With Penguins

Driving down the hill towards Longleat House....

It is always a thrill to get closer and closer...

There is a Penguin colony at Longleat now, and it is possible
 to walk through a path and interact with them.

They seemed to like showing off their swimming skills!

Or just lazing around and chilling.

This baby penguin was quick to walk out and greet us. 
He was standing right next to me :-)

And he was fascinated by DD3's dangling backpack strap.....

Indoors, you could watch them swimming
 and even buy fish to feed them..

I can't wait to go back again to see them!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

A Winter Holiday, Part One

Last week, The Hubster and I went for a much-needed few days holiday
 to Center Parc at Longleat with the two Young Ones. 
The weather travelling down  was dreadful; 
this was the view as we approached the
 second Severn Crossing bridge in heavy rain. 
Prayers for a safe journey had been 
said at the family icon corner before we left home.

The weather was much better in Wiltshire! 
The whole "Center Parc" park complex is built in a forest,
 and is a wonderful place to stay.

There were lots of festive decorations around the park:

Lots of Christmas trees!

The grounds had some lovely lighted scenes...

....a fairy-tale village with artificial snow to enchant the children,

                                             And a tree adorned with colourful nesting boxes!

There were some very friendly reindeer.

And some animatronic ones which sang Christmas songs and carols....

I preferred the real-life ones :-)

Snowman statue carved out of a tree trunk!

...and some people dressed up as  fairy-tale creatures, who chatted to all the young children.

The outdoor pools and rapids were very popular
 despite the cold weather and occasional rain.

These are the animals most commonly seen at the park: 
deer, squirrel, rabbits and ducks, all made out of shrubs, moss and wire cages.

Another Christmas tree.

And another view of one of the lighted sculpture scenes.

More tomorrow!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Recently Read

Re-visiting an old favourite :-)

This is a highly readable, encyclopaedia and  timeline of the Sherlock Holmes canon. A serendipitous charity shop find, it now has a permanent home on my shelves..

This volume contains all the known short stories written by Elinor Brent-Dyer, author of the Chalet School series. Some are better than others, but all are enjoyable.

And another old favourite; I thoroughly enjoyed this re-reading!

Everything Elizabeth Goudge wrote is magnificent and so wonderfully embued with strong Christian values and superb characterisation. This is the final volume of the Eliots of Damerosehay trilogy.

Now that I have finished my NaNo 2013 project, I have had the fun of finally reading the latest Discworld novel by Sir Terry Pratchett.

Raising Steam tells the story of introducing the concept of steam engines- and therefore the railway - to Ankh-Morpork and its inhabitants, with predictable and highly readable results.

It was nice to learn far more about Harry King and his wife in this volume, and both Drumknott and Lord Vetinari reveal hidden depths....

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Happy St Spyridon's Day!

 Saint Spyridon the Wonderworker, Bishop of Tremithus

The island of Cyprus was both the birthplace and the place where this glorious saint served the Church. Spyridon was born of simple parents, farmers, and he remained simple and humble until his death. He married in his youth and had children, but when his wife died he devoted himself completely to the service of God. Because of his exceptional piety, he was chosen as bishop of the city of Tremithus. Yet even as a bishop he did not change his simple way of living, handling his livestock and cultivating his land himself. He used very little of the fruits of his labor for himself; instead, he distributed a greater share to the needy. He manifested great miracles by God's power: he brought down rain in time of drought, stopped the flow of a river, raised several people from the dead, healed Emperor Constantius of a grave illness, saw and heard angels of God, foresaw future events, discerned the secrets of men's hearts, converted many to the true Faith, and did much else. He took part in the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea [325], and he brought many heretics back to Orthodoxy by his simple and clear expositions of the Faith as well as by his mighty miracles. He was so simply dressed that once, when he wanted to enter the imperial court at the invitation of the emperor, a soldier, thinking that he was a beggar, struck him on the face. Meek and guileless, Spyridon turned the other cheek to him. He glorified God through many miracles, and was of benefit, not only to many individuals but also to the whole Church of God. He entered into rest in the Lord in the year 348. His miracle-working relics rest on the island of Corfu, and even today they glorify God with many miracles.

By St Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

No. 1

Thrilled today to find that my blog, The Garden Window, which is now my book blog, is currently ranking at the No. 1 listing  for the phrase The Garden Window at Google Search :-)

Monday, 9 December 2013

From The Little Mountain

A fascinating documentary about Orthodox monasticism in Virginia.


I very much enjoyed the first episode of this new series:

Dogs And The People They Own

I took Prince Vasyl out for a walk this afternoon.  We were both happy to be out and we were very much enjoying the warm sunshine and the lovely, blue, blue skies after several very grim days of bad weather.

We walked past one bus shelter where there was a gentleman replacing the posters in the advertising hoardings, and he stopped what he was doing to walk over and say hello to Prince Vasyl. Naturally, Vasyl was delighted to have fuss and attention made of him, and it turns out the man also has a golden labrador, though much younger than my Prince.

We spent a very pleasant ten minutes talking about the joys and perils of being owned by labradors, and he gave me some hints that he had found useful when training his dog. Both of our dogs had played the Use The Living Room As A Wall Of Death game, and we were in fits of laughter recounting their exploits. It never fails to amaze me how sociable and nice most dog-owners - or dog-owned people! - are in our town.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Bethlehemian Rhapsody

Very clever!

Something That Made My Hair Curl

.... and not in a good way, either!

Last week, I had occasion to take something to the school for DD4 which she needed and had forgotten. The school has absolutely no mechanism for allowing children to collect (from a secure and controlled central point) any truly essential things which parents might need to drop off for them and even less interest in being acommodating; there is however a public right of way which runs through the campus,  so I merely arranged with DD4 to be in a specific spot at a specific place during her break and I met her, very quickly handed over what she needed and walked out....

On the way out, I saw a group of 6th form students walk back into school ready for the afternoon sessions. One girl was busily berating her boyfriend and I quote her loud statement verbatim:

"Well, you can't talk because you were the one who shared the f*****g photo of my f*****g tits to your f*****g friends all over England!"

Let me clarify: I was a total stranger, an adult walking through school grounds, where there were children around who were only aged 11 and 12, who could hear every word of this loud tirade. This young woman felt no hesitation in using foul language in public, regardless of the people around her, and seemed unconcerned about admitting to the world that she was perfectly happy to pose for topless photographs to be taken by her boyfriend, which does not give Mr or Mrs General Public a particularly good impression of her intelligence, common sense or her ability to choose a half-way decent boyfriend.

And this is the type of behaviour which is sadly all too common at the school my daughters attend. It is truly, truly terrifying.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Eve Of St Nicholas

St Nicholas' Eve is always celebrated in our home; I will be praying the First Vespers of the Feast and then at bedtime, the two youngest children will  be putting their slippers outside their bedroom doors tonight, hoping that in the morning, they will be filled with chocolate coins, candy canes and a tiny gift to celebrate St Nicholas' Day.

The lampada will be lit on the icon corner, and the icon of St Nicholas will take pride of place for his feast day.

The wonderful St Nicholas Center has amazing ideas for celebrating this special feast at home, church or at school, and is well worth a visit. There are many super recipes to cook, but this recipe is taken from there especially for those of my friends who will be observing the Nativity Fast: 

Vegan Speculaas for Nativity Lent Updated!
Lemon zest makes these cookies extra special. Dough may be molded, stamped or rolled and cut-out. Be careful not to bake too long, though crisp is tastier than soft.
Molded cookie

Stamped cookiesVegan Speculaas, molded and stamped
1 cup non dairy margarine, such as Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs equivalent, such as Ener-G Egg Replacer, following instructions
3 tablespoons water (in addition to egg replacer liquid) Zest of one lemon
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 350ยบ. Cream margarine and sugar until fluffy. Stir in egg replacer, water and lemon zest. Mix dry ingredients; stir into creamed mixture. If dough is too soft to work, chill briefly. I found it easier to work without chilling.
If using a cookie board mold: Throughly flour mold, bang upside down to remove excess flour. Work dough into mold, keeping thickness even. Make sure dough doesn't extend past edge, carefully push dough edges toward cookie so it will release easily. Over waxed paper, firmly bang one end of mold on surface. Dough should release. With a thin metal spatula, transfer to lightly greased baking sheet.
To make cut-out cookies: roll dough 1/8–1/4-inch thick (this is easiest to do on a floured pastry cloth with a rolling pin cover). Place cut-outs on lightly greased baking sheet.
Bake molded cookies 12–15 minutes, until lightly browned. Stamped cookies 10–12 minutes. Cut-out cookies, time depends on thickness. Cool on rack.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Call the Midwife Christmas Special 2013

Definitely on my "To Watch" list!

Catching Up On the Housework

Today has been a quiet day of cooking, washing, cleaning and ironing. They may only be simple, basic tasks but they are ones which are very necessary to the safe and smooth running of our household and our family. Everyone has plentiful, freshly laundered and ironed clothes, bedding has been changed and washed and in a fit of housewifely zeal, I even took down the shower curtain and ran that through the washing machine too, while I scrubbed the tiles clean in the bathroom!

Some overdue administrative paperwork has also been completed and will be filed away tomorrow. My very first Christmas card arrived today, from a dear Jewish friend who lives in Canada. It is definitely time for me to sit down and write my Christmas cards to be sent  before the last overseas posting date, which is in about ten days. I was also waiting for the delivery of a parcel containing some presents ready for Christmas; luckily it arrived while the girls were still at school and has now been safely hidden away in my bedroom :-)

DD4 was delighted to get a good passing grade in her gymnastics assessment at school; she hates gym and games though she loves to swim, so this grading was an ordeal she was dreading.

DD3 has had the result of her mock GCSE Catering practical cookery exam and she achieved an A * grade, so she is delighted with that. She deserves it as she has worked really very hard indeed to perfect her baking techniques, so this will give her lost of encouragement ready for the final exam next summer. There are only a few more weeks till the end of the school term and we can hopefully all relax and enjoy the Christmas break........

Sally and Saint Anne (1952) - Ann Blyth & Edmund Gwenn


I am ridiculously happy to have finally found the whole of this 1952 film on YouTube, as the clips of it I have seen in the past have been delightful......

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Christmas is Coming.....

As it is now December the first, I will concede that it is indeed permissible to mention Christmas and I can now look at  Christmas themed/related in the shops without rolling my eyes.....

 I have added the Latin Christmas songs, hymns and carols from the Bestiaria Latina: Gaudium Mundo blog by the wonderful Laura Gibbs to  my blog as normal; this year they will be appearing each day just below my blog header.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do, especially as if you click on the links, you can hear extracts from the songs !

Sending love and best wishes for a blessed Advent to all my Anglican/RC/Western-Rite Orthodox friends who are celebrating the first Sunday of Advent today...

Feathered Friends

I feed the birds in my garden every day and during the most recent cold snap, I have been putting out food twice a day as it is disappearing so quickly.  I had to laugh this morning, as I could see a blue tit fly down to the bird feeder, hop around, look very disgruntled and then flew to a nearby bush and was protesting loudly that the food had not yet been put out! Needless to say, I went straight out and refilled the bird feeder, which has been visited by a very messy wood pigeon who has thrown all of the food onto the ground beneath so the actual feeder is empty again......

The cold weather has finally caused the rigid plastic water dish that came with the bird feeder set to crack and disintegrate and I have been racking my brains as to what I could use instead -  the metal ring which holds the water dish is an unusual size and none of my containers will fit it.

 I had an "Aha!" moment and wondered if one of the  rigid black plastic "ready meal" containers we had recently would work, so I rummaged deep in the cupboard and tried it -  it fits well, and because it was designed to hold a frozen meal, should be able to cope with the cold stress of being outside. And if it doesn't, I will be able to buy another of that type of meal and once eaten, re-use the container :-)

Recent visitors have included wood pigeons, jackdaws,house sparrows, blackbirds, blue tits, great tits, a yellow wagtail (which really surprised me!) and magpies. I hope we get return visits from the long-tailed tits we had last winter, which  are the most beautiful little birds imaginable!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Recently Read....

I thought it was time to resurrect my "Recently Read" category; these are books which I have read for the sheer fun of it, not because I have asked for books to review over at The Garden Window.

Because of NaNo in November, I have not had chance to do a lot of recreational reading, but I did enjoy these:

Although I have not worked as a midwife for 16 years, I still love reading about it :-)

Our dear John lent me his wine-making reference book after I sampled a glass of his wonderfully lethal Rhubarb wine !

This was a lovely read about the city of St David's. It was also topical for my NaNo project.

This is an old but excellent guide to St David's, which I have had for a long time and it was second-hand even then.....

I have been making this wonderful book last for as long as I possibly could; I was very sad to get to the end of it. Mother Dolores Hart was an accomplished actress  and gained a certain degree of notoriety for giving Elvis his first on-screen kiss; she gave up her acting career to become a cloistered Benedictine nun and this remarkable book tells the story of her life, her acting career and her life in the convent.

 This was research for my NaNo and I loved every page. When I can afford it, I will be buying a copy for myself but as it is an academic special interest book, it is extremely expensive indeed.

A friend recommended this book and said it would give a great insight into the religious spirituality which pervaded Bavaria at the time when Pope Benedict was growing up. A thoroughly enjoyable book about the life and work of the Pope.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Sad News

We are now only a one-hamster family; Abby's dear little companion Charlotte died last Friday and was buried with full Hamster honours in our back garden on Saturday

I am sure Abby will want another one in due course, but at the moment her grief is a bit too raw and there have been many, many tears. Hamsters are wonderful pets, but I wish they had a longer lifespan....

Margo, who was from the same litter as Charlotte, continues to give us pleasure and we hope she will remain healthy for a while longer yet.