Reading My Way Around the World

Monday 25 December 2017

Happy Christmas Everybody

Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas and a peaceful, healthy and happy New Year.  

Thursday 21 December 2017

Winter - Ring out Solstice Bells - Advent Scavenger Hunt Day 21

This is probably my favourite day of the Winter ... the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere  - the Winter Solstice.   The Solstice is officially this year at 16:04 on the 21st, the exact time of sunset here.  And from here on in the days start getting longer again ... yaaaay :)  Although I must say, the early dark evenings, with fire lit, sparkling glittery lights everywhere and the smells of Christmas cooking make these days so special and cosy.  The work is done, I've looked back on the year with satisfaction and I'm happy now to be settling in for the quiet time of the Yule period to recharge the batteries, settle in to just being, and over the next couple of weeks setting desires and intentions for the coming year.

Wishing you all the blessings of the season - here's some cheery music from Jethro Tull to dance around the kitchen with.

I'm joining in this month with  Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Christmas Crackers - Advent Scavenger Hunt Day 20

Every year I swear I'm not going to buy any more silly Christmas crackers for next year - or at least have a go at making my own and every year I renege and buy them.   These were  brought to the house last year by a visitor, so they may well do the trick.  

I'm joining in this month with  Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt  

Monday 18 December 2017

Mistletoe - Advent Scavenger Hunt Day 18

I'm at a bit of a loss today for the Mistletoe prompt as it's something we don't see around here very often - and now, after watching this video about it, I'm not sure I want it in my house again!!!  Check out the history of why we kiss under the mistletoe.

I'm joining in this month with  Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt  

Sunday 17 December 2017

Wrapping Paper - Advent Scavenger Hunt Day 17

I love wrapping papers and buy far too much of it!  Years ago it became clear to me that I needed more colour around me which was why I was endlessly buying notebooks, colouring pencils, papers and wool.  
Art has never been one of my things - music was scheduled against it in school so I didn't get the need to play with paint and paper out of my system.   So a few years back I joined an online art class with a wonderful American artist called Alisa Burke.  One of her classes was on doing pre Christmas things and one module was about creating Christmas wrapping paper yourself.   Hers looked much like the one on the right of this photo which I bought the other day in our local supermarket.   Mine on the contrary looked like something that a five year old would reject!!!!   Still, I can dream on and no doubt I'll skill keep buying the bright shiny and coloured in things.  

I'm joining in this month with  Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt  

Saturday 16 December 2017

Sleigh - Advent Scavenger Hunt Day 16

You don't see many sleighs around these parts .... so I'm heading off on a musical tangent for this one.

There was a brilliant programme on the BBC iPlayer for the last few weeks, about backing singers for the big rock and pop bands.   It's called "20 feet from Stardom" and was absolutely brilliant.   These singers, who have backed people like Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones and countless others are among the best musicians on the planet and vocally could out-sing any of the stars that they stand behind - but the conclusion of the programme was that for the most part they were happier out of the limelight.

One of the early stars was Darlene Love who was a part of the Blossoms in the early 60s - they were the girl voices behind Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Dionne Warwick, Tom Jones,  The Beach Boys and dozens more.   Darlene was also the main voice on Winter Wonderland on A Christmas Gift for you from Phil Spector.   Her first lead vocal was on the song He's a Rebel which was credited to the Crystals - lots of skulduggery was going on in the music biz in those days.  She went on into acting and still sings - an amazing voice.

Which leads me to today's prompt ... Here she is singing the wonderful Sleigh Ride with Ronnie Spector from the Ronettes - It's a live recording and I love the trumpeter doing the horse sounds :)  What a band.

I'm joining in this month with  Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt  

Friday 15 December 2017

Tree Before Dressed - Advent Scavenger Hunt Day 15

 Our neighbour has a Christmas tree farm - and I love having them there - it's like Christmas all year round.  Some of the big ones at the back will be sold off for greenery only, but at the moment there's a queue of people buying his lovely spruce trees.  There's a few sad wee specimens in behind the wall closest to us and looking for one to photograph today, I felt like going out and wrapping some tinsel around them to cheer them up.
The don't drop any needles and the smell is heavenly when we bring ours into the house ... I'll get up to buy one this weekend.

I'm joining in this month with  Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt  

Thursday 14 December 2017

Snowman - Advent Scavenger Hunt Day 14

I had to get all the decorations out of the attic to find this wee fella - well, at least now I'm ready for the tree.

He's a bit demented looking, but this is definitely a snowman, an ornament from Belleek Pottery.

I've had a real laugh trying to hunt down some of these clues Julie, thank you for putting it together.   You've made me want to go out and build a snowman if we get more snow.  It's certainly cold enough for it here today.

I'm joining in this month with  Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt  

Mid Week Musings - Dec 14 2017

We've had great fun this week making a video in the house ...

We rearranged the studio, got every available camera and set to work.

The light was perfect from the morning sun until about midday
The music business has changed beyond all recognition in recent years - especially since the advent of social media, and it too is changing all the time.  It works well for younger performers who have grown up with social media but for older wans like ourselves it's much harder.

Recently I asked a friend if she'd got the new CD and she said :No, I'm waiting for it come up on YouTube so I can download it for free!!  Some friend I thought!!   But I knew she was only joking - still, that's the way a lot of people think.   CDs don't sell anymore - in fact our last album was probably the last we'll record in that format.  So video has become very important -for bookers in clubs, for people to listen to songs and possibly cover them - that's an amazing feeling, hearing someone else singing a song you've written - and for people to just use as a radio station.
After an hour or so the sun got too bright for a while,
before disappearing,
leaving a dark shadow in the opposite corner

The big white blob on the right is actually a light from the sitting room laid on its side
filling in the dark bit.

Goodness knows how it'll turn out - it'll take a few goes to get it right, but it's a fun process to be involved in.
Tom has film editing facilities in the studio and has edited several TV shows both for companies here, in America and in Hungary.

I'll let you see the final results when we have them.

As to the rest of our work, I'm really excited to tell you that I've been accepted on to a programme run by the British Lung Foundation, to train as a singing group leader for people with varying degrees of Lung Problems.  I'll be part of a very small team working in Northern Ireland.
Otherwise, things are winding down now for the holidays - apart from the daily instrumental and vocal practice.   Singmarra finished up last night - we head out for our Christmas dinner party on Friday and reconvene early in January with plans for a concert and for taking part in a locally written cantata for Easter.  Touring is also now finished for the year, and next year's tours are well booked up.  And the one to one classes finish today, with all my students ready to be entered for their exams in the Spring.

All in all it's been a productive year, in spite of, or maybe as a result of, spending so much time off the road.

Now I'm ready to get the Christmas tree up and start wrapping presents ... my favourite time of the year.  

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Favourite Christmas Recipe - Advent Day 13

In Holland and Germany special brews of beers come out for the Winter, stronger flavours more suitable for cold weather.  And among all the different tastes, smells and flavours that we traditionally have at this time of year, our own special drinks are equally perfect for Christmas and I get all excited when I see Baileys on the shelves.  

However, my favourite is sloe gin - homemade in Autumn, or leftover from the previous year.   On its own over ice, or a small drop in the bottom of a glass of bubbly is the ideal Christmas flavour.  

This is the remains of last year's Sloe gin - still yummy

The sloes were ready very early this year - we picked these on 1st October
They're still in the freezer but I'll get around to them early in the new year
and have a new bottle ready for next winter.
I'm joining in this month with  Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt  

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Christmas Bauble - Advent Scavenger Hunt Day 12

I always think of baubles as being round, so this is technically not a bauble, but it is my very favourite tree decoration.  I bought it at a Christmas market in Germany 15 or more years ago.  It's a mini pyramid and works fully - if there is a heat source underneath it the blades at the top turn around turning the little roundabout below.

For three or four years in succession Tom and I did a December tour in Germany and over the years I bought many of these wooden ornaments.  I'm torn between wanting to get back to the Christmas markets and the other side of it - travelling in very cold conditions, including doing concerts outdoors ... not sure that I'm fit enough for that anymore.

I'm joining in this month with  Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt.

Monday 11 December 2017

Nativity - Advent Scavenger Hunt Day 11

I love the day of the Nativity Pageant in  Rostrevor - these photos are from a few years ago.  
We had a similar event on Saturday, although the donkey was double booked this year!  He had to do a pantomime up the road instead of bringing Mary up Bridge Street.  

Singmarra, the singing group that I direct have done the carol singing for the past few years - all our practices pay off in the end.  

Singmarra leading the way 
Mary and Jospeh being turned away from the Inn by the local butcher

After the parade

 I'm joining in this month with  Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt

Sunday 10 December 2017

Bells - Advent Scavenger Hunt Day 10

Yesterday is the start of Christmas here in our village - a craft fair in the Primary School, the nativity pageant, Santa's arrival and then the turning on of the lights.

The local handbell ringers were doing their bit to add to the atmosphere at the craft fair

The higher bells are played by young children, so I've kept them out of the picture, but all the teams are new to this and it's great to hear the lovely gentle tinkle. I tried doing a video of them but there was so much noise in the hall it was hard to hear them properly.  

I'm joining in this month with  Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt - a post a day (more or less) leading up to Christmas.
You can check in here for the details of the prompts and the list of who else is playing and to join in yourself if you fancy playing along.

Saturday 9 December 2017

Christmas Toy Sack - Julie's Virtual Advent Calendar Day 9

One of my favourite things to do when we're travelling is to have an hour to go in to local charity shops.   I spotted this sack in the corner of the Sue Ryder Shop in Jedburgh.

There's something about the treasures you find in charity shops - a bit of glass, or pottery, or clothes that are much more interesting than anything in the huge shopping centres which just drive me nuts at this time of year with Christmas music blaring out incessantly.   Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas music, but not for 2 months solid ... The child in me deep down expects Santa to arrive that night, every time I visit the shopping centre!!

I'm joining in this month with  Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt - a post a day (more or less) from now until the 24th.
You can check in here for the details of the prompts and the list of who else is playing and to join in yourself if you fancy playing along.

Friday 8 December 2017

Holly and Ivy - Julie's Virtual Advent Calendar Day 8

A few of us spent a very leisurely Sunday afternoon at the weekend making Advent wreaths.   Two of my friends are German and this is a big tradition from their part of the world.   I love going around taking things from my garden - bits of everything that's growing, including lots of Holly and Ivy.  

I'm joining in this month with  Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt - a post a day (more or less) from now until the 24th.
You can check in here for the details of the prompts and the list of who else is playing and to join in yourself if you fancy playing along.

Thursday 7 December 2017

Mid Week Musings

I love that there are still leaves clinging on to the branches,
even though they are now brown and ready to fall.
and even inspite of last night's fierce wind.

Today as I write, I'm watching the seabirds struggling to stay aloft in this fierce wind that started blowing last night. We wound up our Singmarra Choir practice very sharpish as the trees looked like they were at right angles to their roots.

It was carol practice last night as we're taking part in the village pageant on Saturday - I'll post photos afterwards.  Always a lovely event to take part in, we lead the children from the local integrated school (yes, we still have segregated education here so it's necessary to give the integrated schools special status) up the street, Mary on a donkey led by Joseph and a collection of tiny angels and shepherds, up to the crib which is at the Christmas tree.   Then Santa comes to turn on the lights and hand out sweets to the children and we head to some warm hostelry for a quick scoop of something liquid.
There is snow forecast, so the evening should be perfect, as long as this wind dies down.

Don't forget as you get ready for Christmas, we have CDs for sale.  Every CD we sell goes towards us making another one.  There is still time to post anywhere in the world for items to arrive by Christmas. 

Angel - Julie's Virtual Advent Calendar Day 7

I'm a bit out of sync with the list Julie put up for following this fun Advent Scavenger Hunt - but things aren't happening in the right order here.

I love this angel.   She was a Christmas present from a friend a long time ago made by a lovely Polish girl who used to be part of the local Camphill Community staff.

I'm really enjoying this little daily focus on something seasonal - it's a joyful reminder of how lovely this time of the year can be.   Thanks Julie for organising it.  
You can check in here for the details of the prompts and the list of who else is playing and to join in yourself if you fancy playing along.

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Robin - Advent Calendar Day 6

This year has been very cold, but usually at this time of year and towards the end of November, I'm still out planting bulbs.  And this chap followed me around while I got some last minute daffodils planted - three years ago.  He practically posed for the photos ... really funny.

We have a few robins in the garden this year too - I love seeing them, they're so cheeky.

I'm joining in this month with  Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt - a post a day (more or less) from now until the 24th.
You can check in here for the details of the prompts and the list of who else is playing and to join in yourself if you fancy playing along.

Tuesday 5 December 2017

First Christmas Card - Advent Calendar Day 5

Some friends are very organised - this arrived on Saturday in the post - a fun start to the month :)

I'm joining in this month with  Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt - a post a day (more or less) from now until the 24th.
You can check in here for the details of the prompts and the list of who else is playing and to join in yourself if you fancy playing along.

Monday 4 December 2017

Christmas Book - Advent Calendar Day 4

I spotted this book at the gift shop in Woodbury Mining Museum last week - looks interesting - full of lots of useless information - the best kind :)  It might be a present for someone else, but it may equally well be a present for the house.

I'm joining in with Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt - a post a day (more or less) from now until the 24th.
You can check in here for the details of the prompts and the list of who else is playing.

Sunday 3 December 2017

Saturday 2 December 2017

Something Handmade for Christmas - Advent Calendar Day 2

This is something I knitted for the holidays for a friend - little fuzzy jumpers for some baubles - pity about the less than imaginative box, but hey ho we can't have everything - maybe next year lol

Do you fancy joining in?   Then the list is on Julie's Scrapbook and I'm sure she'd love to have you join in.

Friday 1 December 2017

Letterbox - Julie's Virtual Advent Calendar Day 1

I almost squealed with delight when we passed this cafe yesterday in Ponteland in the Cheviot Hills I finally know where the Cheviots are now - just in case I ever go on to The Chase!).

Not only was there a big red letter box outside it, but look at the name of the cafe.  We were en route to our last gig in Denholm last night so we only had time to stop for a take away coffee, which was excellent.  But it was as pretty and inviting inside as it was outside.

This is Day 1 of Julie's Advent Scavenger Hunt - a post a day (more or less) from now until the 24th.
You can join in here for the details of the prompts and the list of who else is playing.

November 2017 Scavenger Photo Hunt

It's the end of another month - the year is passing fast - and it's been so good to be back out on tour again.   I'd forgotten what hard work travelling and performing each night is, but I'd also forgotten the sheer delight of being back on stage.  So all my photos for this month's Scavenger Hunt come from this trip through England and the Scottish Borders.  
Thanks as always go to Kate at I live I love I craft I am me for hosting this delightful bloghop each month.   As well as the fun of finding photos to match the words it's also a chance to get a glimpse into friends' lives in other parts of the world.  

So here's mine.  

1. Blue

The mining museum at Woodhorn near Ashington in Northumberland.   The sky was so blue - perfect early Winter weather, freezing cold but thankfully dry.  I loved the architecture of the wheels against the sky and the museum, which has an interactive mining experience as well as an exhibition of the Washington Pit Painters, really brought alive the tough tough life of the miners and their families, from the earliest days right up to the Miners Strikes in the 80s.  Very interesting and sobering afternoon. 

2. Me

Well wrapped up and freezing cold at the Christmas Market in Chester.

3. Starts with a ...... W 

The Pit Wheel at Woodhorn

4. Rainbow

Driving through the Lake District last week this beautiful rainbow popped up - right on cue.

5. Arch

The ruins of Jedburgh Castle in the Scottish Borders - how about that for arches..

6. Toy

Every folk club holds a raffle to help with their funds and for nearly 30 years Tom has been buying raffle tickets - at every club we play at.   When he won his first bottle of wine years ago we reckoned it probably cost him about £200!!  
The raffles are always fun - whoever wins the box of chocolates or sweets has to share them around, usually under the nose of the singer , humph
This was the result of his winnings one of the nights this trip - a Kinder egg!  which produced this crocodile when opened and put together - "Don't forget his fish!" was the retort behind the drivers wheel! 

7. Swirl

Isn't this lovely?  We went to a folk club concert early this week and the singer was playing this guitar...  I thought it fitted perfectly.   Some of you may have seen him - Stanley Accrington.   It's the funniest evening I've spent in years.   A real belly laugh.    Stanley's a hoot - a clown, a jester and a very clever wordsmith.  A comedic commentator on life and all its anomalies and quirks, skilfully dropping in some very poignant thought provoking songs that kicked our emotions back into touch, and then rescuing them again with some hysterically funny observations.  

8. Brush

I love these everything shops - whether you need a brush or a beach ball, an egret or a lampshade, this is the place to find it.  You might even find a pair of leggings !   A heater would have been top of the list this week - this pic was in Jedburgh.

9. Nail

Back at Woodbury - these are Dog Nails (spikes) - large headed thick, mild steel nails for fastening rails to wooden sleepers.  
I have to confess this prompt had me stumped and after searching for weeks looking for a really impressive and imaginative photo for nail, this one arrived just in time.
the exhibition followed a young lad of 13 becoming a man and going down the mine for the first time, the experience of going underground, the ribald humour of the men, the desire to get the top job of the hewar - a man who basically stayed crouched down in a space smaller than one metre high for his entire working day and working life.   What a life!   When it came to reading about the strikes in the 80s which I remember very well, I felt so sorry for these people who's lives were totally controlled by the establishment and the strength with which they fought back.  
But, in spite of the lack of jobs, I'm sure there's very few would wish to be back underground.  

10. My own choice

A guy was making huge bubbles at the Christmas Market in Chester last weekend - I managed to catch this one before the children burst it.  What is it about bubbles that makes everyone smile - such a simple delight.  

So that was my month.   I'm writing this on the ferry heading homewards, head full of ideas and plans, and looking forward to this month at home, getting Singmarra ready for the village pageant and taking part in the various events that lead up to mid Winter.

Head over to Kate's blog to check out the other Scavengers and we'll reconvene in January sometime.