Monday, 14 October 2013

Notes, Thoughts, Advice to my Daughter Upon her Journey to University

Notes, Thoughts, Advice to my Daughter Upon her Journey to University

What a milestone, what a landmark occasion, you, off to University! And what advice do I have to pass on to my youngest, to my Sister Golden Hair Surprise? And you are my surprise, the child that has always thrown me for a loop, my darling mini-me. You, my tigress, tiny but tough, meeting each challenge with panache; my little partner in international crime, negotiating England with me, with both angst and happiness, wide-eyed at all that new world presented to us.


 I am in awe of you. You navigated our new world with such strength and drive. Nothing could stop you. You met each challenge with a certain je ne sais quoi - remember your French?  I love how fearless you are and always have been. World, watch out, Anja is on the horizon!


 I hope for you, that you make decisions that will make your time on this earth as fulfilling and bright and as joyful as possible. I hope you will be happy, that you will spend your life enjoying all there is and taking advantage of all the bounty that comes your way. I hope you will spread your joy, that you will be strong for others, an advocate for the weak and powerless, that you will rise to the top in order to make life better for everyone. I want you to ENJOY what has been given to you, to understand that you do belong here, that this world is a beautiful gift and that this life, this time on earth, is not only priceless, but finite.  Take the reigns, girl, gallop…No, run! Run through these fields of life. You only get one chance, and you got a good one. Make your mark, make a difference. Be good, be strong, be kind, because you are.


But, most of all, I want you to know that you are loved, that you are precious, that you always have people who are there for you, come what may. The world can be cold, can be harsh, but you will always have a home, a soft place to land, and people who love and need you.


 So fly, Little Bear (hmm, Little Bird works better here), take off on those furry little wings, make your mark! You are one of a kind. The world is full of promise; your life has only just begun. Enjoy, smell and pick (if no one is watching) the flowers, and plant a few yourself. The world is your oyster. You are here for a reason.


With adoration, with affection and joy, with happiness, with hugs and kisses,

Your mama, who loves you always and forever  Xxxooo

PS Just so you understand, I’m not actually ready to let you go. 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

My 50th Birthday

     For some reason, I’ve always associated the age of 50 with images from the 1950’s. Mostly, I see my grandfather, who died when I was only two, in a black and white photograph, holding me in his arms. He is wearing glasses, black plastic across the top and wire on the bottom, and although he’s wearing a baseball style cap, it’s obvious that he has a buzz cut. He looks old-fashioned, but not necessarily old, although the two are sometimes hard to differentiate in these old black and white photographs. I think he must have been 50 in that photo. I’ll be 50 on Friday. 

     How do I feel about turning 50? Well, I guess I feel luckier than anyone younger, because they might not make it this far, and to be alive is luckier than we can ever imagine. So, in that, I refuse to wish away any of the years (or days or hours or minutes) I’ve existed by denying my age. Why would I? That’s tempting fate, kind of like parking in a disabled parking spot. Although, now that I think about it, I must admit I have no problem with taking mommy/child spots. I wonder what that means? 

     My life at this point is pretty damn wonderful and I feel like the future is full of promise.  I adore my family and friends and I think I’ve been blessed with a sunny outlook and that really impacts how I see the world and how I feel on a daily basis. It’s interesting how quickly time flies now, and yet when I look back 20 years, it all seems so very long ago. I’m happier now than I’ve ever been, but I think I would have said that 10 years ago, too. It’s rather like how I felt about my children when they were growing up. When they were babies, I often thought to myself, while marveling at their flawless skin or stroking their silken hair, “Now, this is the best time,” but then the next stage would come along and I’d think, “No, this is the best stage,” and so on. 

     At this age, I think more about what I have now and how precious it all is, but I also worry more about loss. I do mourn sometimes the innocence of youth, how we thought things would never change and time would always creep along so slowly, which ironically, at the time, was often frustrating. The hardest part of getting older is realizing the finiteness of life and being afraid of the changes that are inevitable and wondering how I’ll handle some of these changes.  Still, understanding the finiteness of life has allowed me to make some pretty big decisions that changed my world for the better. Life is like that, I find. There’s always a flip side and more than one way to see things.
          Life is singularly precious and the older we get the more we realize this by loving what we have with such intensity, yet also intensely fearing its demise. I guess that is what you call bittersweet. But right now, today, it’s more sweet than bitter, so I’ll take that and run like the wind. Happy birthday to me.

    

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Lake District

Oh, magical weekend in Cumbria. The landscape a feast for my eyes, everywhere I look it's beautiful. Yes, it certainly seems as Wordsworth so lovingly wrote,  like the "most loveliest spot that man hath found." I never tire of looking at England, it seems that every corner I turn presents me with more joy.


What a wonderful Valentine's Day surprise, a visit yet again to the Lake District. The last time we visited, it was very snowy. This time we wandered the landscape that Wordsworth so lovingly wrote about, the paths upon which he contemplated his words, the cottage where he wrote The Prelude. 


It's possible that it was this stream that inspired his line, "...and what clear stream shall with its murmur lull me into rest?" I think I could wander these hillsides, these paths, for a lifetime and never fail to be inspired by their beauty. 


Blue skies, stone walls covered in bright green moss, a path traveled by many, and now by us.


Yes, it's really as lovely as it appears, surely more so. Every mile I beg Jonathan to stop the car so I can get out and breathe the air and take just one more photo.






 The narrow roads make for anxious driving, I'm glad my husband is used to these one-way bridges.

Who lived here and when? The landscape bears human traces but nature is all around. What an inspiring vista.  Can you imagine looking at this everyday?


 These strong stone walls covered in bright green moss, they are still maintained today. Why? Because, they work better than any modern invention could. They've stood for hundreds of years, and we see, as we pass, farmers repairing them. Tradition and heritage lives on.


No, this is not a golf course. Can you see the sheep grazing? This land is protected for everyone's eyes.

Look at the architecture of this building that was built in the 1600's.  Naturally, they used what was available to them. The stones are beautiful and stand strong after hundreds of years. Rumor has it that  Charles Dickens enjoyed some refreshment here.

And so did we! Gotta love that English beer.
The pathway to Wordsworth's cottage, one of my favorite poets of all time. Very special to me. 

I'm in the back garden of Wordsworth's cottage. Well, I never....

And here I am, at Hill Top Farm, home of Beatrix Potter. We were lucky to happen upon a day when there were very few visitors.  Normally, there are 400 to 600 people a day lining up for hours outside, so the guide said. But today it was very quiet, and very lovely and very sunny. Possibly, it was the way she experienced many of her days writing about Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck, and many of her other enchanting creatures.   I remember reading these tales to my girls.

This is Wray Castle, where Beatrix Potter first fell in love with the Lake District when she was sixteen years old. Her family rented this property for the summer and it was then that she became forever entwined and inextricably tied to the area, and eventually moved here from London in her late twenties. It was here that she wrote her timeless tales of childhood wonderment that continue to charm and entertain children the world over.  A librarian at heart, I hope that you have read these lovely tales to your children. This land does exist and possibly the creatures of these tales, too. At least, it felt that way to me.













Thursday, 7 February 2013

Come Dine With Me Mushroom Ravioli with Homemade Pasta

Oh, what to make for my starter on Come Dine With Me? Goat toasts? Grilled chilli shrimp? Crab cakes? No, it had to be something out of this world, something amazing... something difficult, yet spectacular, kind of like me! Yeah, I'm a bit difficult sometimes... just sayin'.


And then it hit me (like a barn door)! What impresses like nothing else? What is difficult enough that most won't attempt it, or at least won't have the tenacity to keep trying until they get it right?  Yep, this would be killer, this would be the recipe that would knock their socks off... homemade mushroom ravioli using homemade pasta! It's not easy, it tastes amazing, not to mention the texture and bite is incomparable.


First, we start with a few easy ingredients. Mushrooms, mascarpone (or cream cheese), garlic, butter and thyme. Frankly, this is so easy, you could make it off the top of your head.


Easiest recipe ever, feel free to be casual with this one, you can't mess it up.
Chop a small container of mushrooms, 2 garlic cloves, and saute in a medium skillet over medium heat in a nice size chunk of butter.  Add a few sprigs of thyme and some salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are very tender but don't let them get hard or dry- like some people on Come Dine With Me (who shall remain nameless!). When mushrooms have cooled, add in small carton of mascarpone or cream cheese. Start out adding half the package, taste (a lot) and  when it's to your liking,  you're done! Let this mixture cool, while you try your hand at homemade pasta.

For the pasta, you will need 107 grams of double oo flour and 1 egg. Dump the flour in a small pile on your countertop, make a little well in the middle and add one egg. Next, start incorporating the flour, a bit at a time from the outside to the inside. When you have a chunk of dough, knead over and over until the dough feels stretchy and pliable.



Next, separate your dough into 4 balls. Keep these covered as you work with individual pieces. Start on your smallest setting, and run each piece through a pasta machine 4 times.



 Lay the pasta sheets out on the counter, and make sure to cover each one with a clean cloth. Next, place a large spoonful of mushroom mixture on the dough and continue at 2 inch intervals. 


Now, place another sheet over the mushrooms in order to create the ravioli. Using a bit of water, moisten the edges, press down to create a seal and cut out to create the most fabulous ravioli you've ever had.


Now, drop the ravioli into gently boiling water, and boil for about 3 minutes. Carefully drain, place on serving plates and top with your choice of sauce.  Butter and garlic are very nice. Serve and wait for pure adulation. You're gonna get it, I promise. 


Try this recipe, and keep on trying till you get it right. You won't regret it, I promise! 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Seal Watching at Donna Nook National Nature Reserve

Every November and December, grey seals give birth to their pups near the sand dunes at Donna Nook Nature Reserve on the North Sea: a wildlife spectacle which attracts visitors from across the UK. I have it marked in my Google calendar, and this year we made it out there at a most opportune time.

The seals are scattered near and far, like boulders on a beach.



At last count, according to the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, on Monday 10 December there were: 433 bulls, 427 cows, 1018 pups. Total pup numbers born on the reserve this year now exceeds 1500.


It is incredible how close you can be to nature in all its beauty. 
Donna Nook National Nature Reserve  is probably the best place within the U.K. for photographing grey seals.



A baby and her mommy.


So close, but of course we couldn't touch the little sweety.

Enjoying the day with my little grandbaby Cash.

 It was a cold and clear day. Much better than the last trip here, when it was sleeting and so very cold.

 My lovely beauties, if only I could talk Anja into coming out for a visit.
Fun times with my baby boy Cassius Christian.

Another baby, so precious to see.

Nature up close and personal. A real privilege to enjoy.

The Donna Nook Nature Reserve is so very out of the way, not many make it here to observe this amazing phenomenon.

Our beautiful boy Cash.

Cash was mostly interested in maneuvering the terrain while we observed all the wildlife.

The child is not yet two, but his presence is undeniable!

Another incredible baby.

I originally called it spooning, but oh, it is so much more!