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Wreath (not) a vase on Monday – deck the halls

Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Fa la la la la la la la! ‘Tis the season to be jollyWelsh carol dating from 16th century.

In this case it’s spruce but I’m sure you’ll get the idea 😉  Last Sunday, I went to a wreath making course at Ordsall Hall, a couple of miles from where we live.  I’d decided earlier in the year to make our door wreath – My Chap usually comes home with a really blingy one from one of his florist pals.  So I’d been on the look out for a course… the one at the Hall, you could bring your own greenery too….and it was a good price too.

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How to make a wreath
Huge thanks to  Kate from the Gardening team at the Hall – she was great.  Do have a look at their plans for the garden for 2018. Their 1918-style allotment is back for 2018.

We could take cuttings from our garden so I took rosemary, some cinnamon sticks from the spice cupboard, pine cones we’d picked up from Worsley woods and some extra spruce branches.   There was all sorts of things to add, sparkly ribbons, baubles etc, but I decided to keep the wreath fairly minimalist – and emphasise food 😉

  1. There was a ring of moss (on the back) and spruce branches on the ring already which I added to.  It’s time consuming to make this yourself (and hard on the fingers) and we were only there for a couple of hours.
  2. Lay out where you want everything to go first, and think about the layers of decoration – branches first.
  3. It’s exactly the same principle to attach anything to the wreath, wrap the wire tightly around twigs and, and poke the wire through the moss and thread back through tightly and snip off.  For the pine cones, wrap around the lowest level of
  4. Group things in odd numbers, as it looks more natural – same in gardening too.
  5. I tried dried chillies but they disintegrated 😦
  6. Remember to water your wreath carefully, with a jug now and again,  otherwise the foliage will fade.
  7. After I took the picture on our front door I added bells on ribbons too.
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17 December 2017 – my wreath hanging by the door from the Great Hall, Ordsall Hall

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In a Vase in Monday – winter childhood memories (and fuchsia too)

“Hope”  Leia Organa in Rouge One (2016)

I’ve been thinking about Winter alot this week, it was the metrological start of Winter on last Friday, 1st December.   It’s been cold, but sunny in Manchester, we’ve had a couple of nights of frost so that’s finished off the final flowers – apart from the perennial wallflowers and some violas. Christmas is on everyone’s mind – trees and decorations going up, toy adverts everywhere.   I’m feeling fairly ambivalent about Christmas this year – despite looking forward to spending time with My Chap.  We had a wonderful wedding day, and we’re incredibly happy together. But this has been a truly dreadful year – we each lost a brother this year. Both incredibly loved and missed – I can’t express in words how devastated I am about my wonderful brother Matt – I think about him every day and I always will.

However, I know that we have to carry on with life. Christmas coming has got me thinking of childhood memories too. I did something I haven’t done for decades and bought an Advent Calendar.

4 December 2017 – climbing fuchsia ‘lady in black’ and Winter moons illustration with

But first, in this week’s In A Vase on Monday, I’ve picked Lady in Black which is a bit of an unusual fuchsia – it’s a hardy, climbing fuchsia. My mum, who loves fuchsias, bought it for me a couple of years ago.  it’s still getting established and is only about two foot high and not really filled out yet. It lives at the end of our garden on our decking, so it’s the very last fuchsia still flowering.  There were more flowers when I picked them but they fell off as I walked up the garden – typical.  I’m only a day late for this link up which makes a change 🙂

The fuchsia is displayed in a bud vase which has appeared in IAVOM regularly, as have fuchsias – including for the last two weeks

The print came from a magazine – it’s a picture of a Wolf along with the three moons associated with winter – Cold moon (December), Wolf moon (January) and Snow Moon (February). Most of these names originate from Native American or Celtic descriptions. There are three other prints, so I’m sure they’ll be appearing on the blog another time too.

4 December 2017 – Our bistro table on the decking Summer 2015 (with yoda too)

I’ve not got a picture of the decking in winter, but here’s a photo from a few years ago – it’s my sanctuary.  We spend alot of time, relaxing and thinking especially as it gets the last of the evening sun.  #dreamingofsummer.   You’ll also notice yoda peeking out from the fuchsias. He makes me smile every time I see him. He’s appeared on the blog many times too. check out #yoda

Advent Calendar 

It’s no ordinary Advent calendar it’s a Lego Star Wars one. I’ve thought about buying one for a couple of years but this year thought I’d buy it and think of all the happy times with Matt. We had a very large lego collection and spent hours playing with it.

Star Wars came out when I was 11 and my brother a year younger. We went to see it with our amazing Uncle Fred, who loved the theatre and films. We saw it in Leicester Square in the West End of London and I remember the crawler opening very clearly

‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…’ Star Wars – A New Hope (1976)

and ducking as the Imperial battle cruise passed over. We loved it, and watched the film three or four times that summer. And countless times since then.  We had lightsabers toys at Christmas – wish we’d kept them but I think they were in a right state. We were hooked on Star Wars and watched the subsequent films many, many times. I’ve written about Star Wars on the  blog too – it’s definitely a shared experience for people my age watching all three films at the cinema, waiting for the next instalment, and like many I wasn’t particularly impressed with all aspects of the prequals.

4 December 2017 – The Ghost, The Phantom and Sabine Lego Advent Calendar 2017

My Chap wasn’t much of a fan, as he’d only seen Phantom Menace (1999) and all he could remember was the jar jar binks character (not impressed). But he’s taken me to see Force Awakens (2015) and Rouge One (2016) and enjoyed them very much, so I think he’s slowly getting hooked. Only a minor eye roll when I bought home the calendar.  But, I’m looking forward to opening the doors, building the toys and thinking of my brother.  My favourite characters are Leia and yoda – there’s a lot of wise thinking in Star Wars including advice for managers 😉.

I really must read The Princess Diaries by Carrie Fisher 🙂 although I’m so nackered I think I might need to get an audio book instead.  I read Postcards from the Edge many years ago and loved it. She’s a great loss to the world  and also taken far too young.

I’m so excited about The Last Jedi – fortunately I know quite a few geeky Star Wars fans so will have people to talk to about it with, but it won’t be the same not taking to my brother about it.

My Chap and I are both hoping that things will improve in 2018 – I’m doing my best with exercise, eating well, mindfulness, yoga but most of all being kind to myself and self-care too.  But time heals and helps – and hope helps too.

#365daysofselfcare this week involved:

  • Managing #anhouroutside everyday – I went for walks around the neighbourhood and at work, and gardening. One day it rained so persistently I was potting up in the porch.
  • Finding some new mindfulness articles and guided meditations about managing pain 🙂
  • Ordering the Christmas food so I don’t need to stress, running round to get it at the last minute. My Chap works ridiculously long hours in the run up to Christmas so can’t do much to help.
  • Getting out the Star Wars dvds 🙂
  • Booking a Christmas wreath making course. Cathy who hosts in a Vase on Monday over at Rambling in the Garden has her door wreath as her ‘Vase’. Do have a look 🙂

Are you a star wars fan or are you looking forward to another film over the Christmas Holidays? 

There’s a fuchsia called star wars but it’s stopped flowering in my garden now… But it will be back – it’s always here like The Force

Carpe Diem

Love Bec xx xx xx

P.S. I bought My Chap a Thornton’s chocolate Advent Calendar so he wasn’t left out 😉 I bought both items full price and wasn’t asked to write about them.

Happiness – one week and five things that helped #1

The human mind always makes progress, but it is progress in spirals.
Madame De Stael (1766-1817), a woman of letters, at the heart of European romanticism and a leading opponent of Napoleon.

This year has been very tough, I’m not ready to go into details at the moment, but I’m beyond fortunate to have my family and friends around the world, supporting us all – but most of all My Chap whose been my rock since the day we met.  Im SO excited to be marrying him later this year.

My health hasn’t been great, including much increased arthritis pain too, contributing to bad sleeping and chronic exhaustion; but I’m working on all sorts of strategies to help me.  I am grateful to everyone who supports me, the NHS staff, colleagues, friends and family – I’d be in a pickle without them.

Amongst these tough times, there has been times of happiness, things and people that have made me happy. As part of my mindfulness practise, I’ve been noting them down, more systematically, in my diary.

I’d been thinking for a while that I’d like to start writing a regular post about what I’ve  been grateful for and/or what’s make me happy.  I was inspired by:

They’re great ladies – one I’ve known for years in real life too (first in Manchester and now she lives in Worcester) and the other lives round the corner from me – though we’ve not yet met face to face. That’s the Internet for you – hopefully we’ll meet up soon.  They write thought-provoking blogs, touching on wide ranging topics including feminism, life with a chronic pain condition, running, the outdoors, food, cooking, life in Manchester and the West Midlands – many adventures and plenty of gin 🙂

Please have a read of their blogs

1. Journals – gratitude, health notes and ‘to do’ lists

7 May 2017 – stigu journal, calm journal and ‘to do today and tomorrow’

I love my Stigu Planner*** (http://sticktostigu.com/);  it’s a combination of a diary, note book and to do lists. They describe it as a rest and zest handbook – there are themes for each month, weekly practise activities – some of them are really funny cartoons. I had a stigu journal last year too – it’s not too ‘full on’, supporting my wellbeing, without being all about ‘rules’.

The Calm Book – calm the mind, change the world*** is great for suggestions on Nature, Sleep, Travel, Work, Creativity, Relationships, Food  (www.calm.com), with affirmations and visualisations (there’s an app too).  The daily questions are:

  • What made you feel calm Today?
  • What are you grateful For?
  • What were three highlights of today?

It’s so beautiful with wonderful illustrations and pictures; I can’t write in the book – I tend to write in my stigu journal instead.

For well over a year, I’ve been making a note of my arthritis and pain symptoms, as participant in Cloudy with a Chance of Pain, (www.cloudywithachanceofpain.com); it’s a citizen science project run by the University of Manchester investigating if there’s a connection between weather conditions and chronic pain.  For me, warm, dry weather definitely helps my arthritis pain; I’ve been tracking it with an app as part of the project.  I’m looking forward to reading the wider results.

Also, I’ve been doing daily mindfulness practise for a couple of years now, and reflecting on what I’m grateful for each day – so I’ve decided to be a bit more organised about writing them down, so I can look back in the future, as my situation improves.

I’m grateful for all these things these things, and yoga too.

2. The Garden (and Gardening) 

Hand with two rings with mud under fingernails, sedums in background

7 May 2017 – been replanting sedums for My Chap – mud under the fingers as usual. 

I managed to get out in the garden every day this week, sometimes it was for only half an hour to water the plants. It’s been v windy and dry here.  We’ve managed to sort out, cut back and clear alot of the ‘dead wood’ from the winter. We’ve planted some shrubs too.  Ive written before how my garden is my solace; I know I ‘need’ to spend as much time as I can outside – even if it’s just drinking tea in the garden – when I’m too exhausted to do anything more.  I’ve been planning which flowers to cut for next week’s In a Vase on Monday too.

  • A summary of my ‘In a Vase on Monday’ offerings since 2015.
  • Cathy hosts the meme over at Rambling in the Garden – here’s her summary. Each post will have links to people (and their vases) contributing from all around the world.

3. Afternoon Tea with a pal 

Cakes sandwiches on a three tier vintage China cake stand

7 May 2017 – Afternoon tea at Vintage Ambience, Monton, Salford

I spent a lovely afternoon with my friend, and her beautiful baby girl, we talked about life, the universe and everything – wedding planning too. I met her at Cottonopolis Women’s Institute (www.cottonopoliswi.com) She’s wise and kind,  much more crafty than me, and makes great cakes too. The afternoon tea at Vintage Ambience*** in Monton was top notch (www.vintageambiance.co.uk)

4. Smoked Salmon Salad

7 May 2017 – smoked salmon salad in the garden


It was a bank holiday weekend here in the UK , and, the weather was lovely, so we had lunch in the garden everyday. My Chap is a great cook, and makes a great salad – this one had lovely heritage tomatoes too. My Chap and I talked about what what veg we might grow in the garden this year; cherry tomatoes haven’t grown well these last few years, we don’t have a greenhouse, so I don’t think this helps.

The smoked salmon reminded me of all the men in my life who’ve loved it. My Uncle Fred introduced me to it when I was about 18 months old. He, my Aunt, and my Dad grew up in Hackney in East London before, and during, Second World War with many Jewish neighbours so it was a staple food for them.  My love of cooking comes from them, I feel their influence and love every day, even though they’ve all passed on a good few years ago.

5. Wedding Planning 

7 May 2017 – wedding countdown website


We’ve been trundling on with our plans – we’ve spoken to our friend about invitations, I’ve met my dress designers, bridesmaids dresses are on track and we are meeting our florist soon too. Our photographer is great too and every time we go to our venue, we love it even more, they make luscious cake too.  Ours is going to be an unconventional wedding – just the way we want it.  My Chap is doing so much of the arrangements as I’m under the weather, it’s a team effort – Roll on September 🙂

The quote from Madam De Stael, was in my Stigu Journal, reading about her reminded me, we must persist. As Stigu notes elsewhere , life moves in spirals, only you can decide in which direction.  I’m  moving in the right direction… Slowly but getting there.

What have you been grateful for this week? 

Carpe Diem

Love Bec

xxx

I’ve mentioned activities in Friday 28 April to Thursday 4th May 2017
***Please note: I paid full price for both journals and afternoon tea, I wasn’t asked to write a positive review.

Wordless Wednesday – Azalea ‘thinking of home’ bush

pink azalea flowers

Electric pink azalea ‘Thinking of home bush’ 20 April 2017

A falcon hovers at the edge of the sky.Two gulls drift slowly up the river.Vulnerable while they ride the wind,they coast and glide with ease.Dew is heavy on the grass below,the spider’s web is ready.Heaven’s ways include the human:among a thousand sorrows, I stand alone.
Du Fu – Influential Chinese Poet (712-770) – Also he wrote often about azaleas

In a Vase on Monday – first and latest fuchsias

In search of my Mother’s garden, I found my own. 

Alice Walker, writer (1942- )

Hardy fuchsias are tough – mine have been flowering well, despite very wet and windy weather in Manchester.  By the time I got outside, in daylight, to pick the fuchsias the rain had pulverised the flowers on two of the three bushes I have planted around the garden.  These are picked from the bush outside the kitchen window, as it’s more protected from the elements.  I took the photo at 2pm with a flash, as it was so gloomy.

pink and purple fuchsia, pink dianthus and cotoneaster in hand painted lavender pattern vase

21 Nov 2016 – fuchsia, pink dianthus and cotoneaster in hand painted (by me!) vase at 2pm in the gloom.

Fuchsias are the first flowers I remember in my Mum’s garden when I was very little – I thought they were like ballerinas.  My Mum adores fuchsias, and has always had lots of hardy and tender ones all around the garden in pots.  I grew up in Berkshire and our garden was heavy London clay so many of her favourite plants were in terracotta pots on the patio – I learnt to garden with her.   My Mum is  nearly 80 now (please don’t tell her I said that 😉 ) and still has many pots filled with fuchsia, around her large patio – and often brings another fuchsia for our collection.  My Chap just smiles and finds another space for them.

I’ve cut cotoneaster too, which is next to the fuchsia by the front door, the bush is covered in red berries and the leaves are turning red – it looks glorious – I don’t know the variety as this was one of the few plants in the garden when I arrived. The cotoneaster is proping up the fuchsia stems just like it does in the garden. The dianthus  was a gift and this is the very last flower – the plant never really got going this year as it’s been so wet.  I bought the fuchsia in Morrisons of all places and it’s tom thumb (or a relative) – It grows to window hight which makes a lovely view when I’m washing up.

21 Nov 2016 - cotoneaster, hardy fuchsia and pink dianthus

21 Nov 2016 – cotoneaster, hardy fuchsia and pink dianthus

I decided to take a photo indoors too – I rarely do take indoor photos of anything as my house is quite dark (north facing) and small so there’s always something in the background.

21 Nov 2016 - cotoneaster, fuchsia and dianthus in my hand painted lavender vase.

21 Nov 2016 – cotoneaster, fuchsia and dianthus in my hand painted lavender vase.

I painted the jug at ‘Pottery Corner’ in Chorlton*, Manchester in March 2016, using glass paint.  It’s just one of the many things I’ve done with my WI pals from Cottonopolis WI www.cottonopoliswi.com, in Ancoats in Manchester.  I was really pleased with how well they came out, as I’m quite clumsy and not much of an artist.  Do come along if you’re local or look out for a WI – it’s not what you think it will be like 🙂

purple vase and jug - hjandpainted by me at Pottery Corner, Chorlton

March 2016 – Painted vase and jug – I painted at Pottery Corner, Chorlton, Manchester with the lovely Cottonopolis Women’s Institute.

Looking back – first fuchsias (and first terracotta pots) 

I looked back on Facebook and found some photos of the first pots I had in my garden.  My Mum came up to visit in May 2010, bringing some spare terracotta pots, and we spent a happy few hours planting them up.  The number of terracotta pots has grown rather alot since then 🙂

Pink, purple fuchsia, petunia, lobelia' helicrysum, pelagoniums in Pots. Copyright R Jones

First pots in my garden (with fuchsia, petunia, lobelia’ helicrysum, pelagoniums) – August 2010

hanging basket and pot with pink petunias, fuchsia and lobelia - orange rose

19 November 2016 – Flowers from my garden in Summer 2010 – my first pot and hanging basket,  with my solitary rose

In August 2010, I wrote  (on facebook),

more pots in my garden – I had such fun planning these… could be turning into a closet gardener…

In fact, I’ve always been a gardener but I lived in flats in Manchester for over 20 years, so had no opportunity to do much.  I’d garden when I was at home at my Mum and Dad’s house down South.   A small garden was the number one priority when I was looking for a house to buy.

I wrote about my Mum and her love of gardening in one of my early posts in February 2015 and fuchsias get a mention too.   Considering how many fuchsias I have around the garden, and how long they flower for, I’m really surprised how rarely they’ve appeared in posts or in Vases:

I love fuchsias and have plenty of tender ones which live in the garage over the winter (as we don’t have space for a greenhouse).   I really must remember to pick and photograph more fuchsias next year.

I’m dreaming of Spring and planting bulbs in pots in the porch where it’s dry and my Chap is distributing the pots around the garden.  This week Cathy has a very zingy pink Chrysanthumum which is making me think of high summer.  Do have a look at her post on Rambling in the Garden, where people from around the world post pictures of flowers from their gardens and localities.  No matter how grey and wet the weather is, these beautiful photos and descriptions lift my mood.

Have a lovely week and I hope it’s dry where you are.

Carpe Diem

love Bec xx

* I paid full price for my painted vases and wasn’t asked to write a blog post about Pottery Corner.