Friday, 25 February 2011
It was a cool and windy night in the little cottage . . . all was quiet except for the scratch, scratch . . . scratch of the sunflowers next to the doorway against the glass of the windows. It was at once a comforting sound. Oh how nice it felt to be cosily tucked up inside, next to the fire . . when the wind outside roared around the eves and the rain lashed against the bricks and mortar of her cosy little home.
On an evening such as this there is nothing better than warming your toes next to the fire while you curl up in your rocking chair with a good book . . . the kettle simmering away on the top of the old wood stove . . . life is good.
It is quiet evenings like this that Norah enjoys the most . . . free to do what she will with her time, and lost in her own thoughts . . .
But what is that she hears??? Can it be? It is! The telephone rings and Norah is all agog, just who could be calling her on this cold and windy night? It's not her birthday, nor is it anyone else's??? Oh, she does hope that nothing is wrong and that nobody has been suddenly taken ill!! Oh my!!!
A quick hello and a sigh of relief! It is Mrs Brown the head teacher at the local Infants School calling. Norah has the reputation for being one of the best baker's in the village (please don't tell Mr Jones who own the local bakery . . . shhh . . . ). It is the week of the Infant School's annual Spring Fete, an event much looked forward to in the village each year, and Norah has been asked if she would kindly contribute a baked good for the tea tent!
Oh my! What a lovely surprise. She had forgotten that it was that time of year already and Norah quickly and quite happily steps up to the charge ahead of her and announces that she will most positively be most happy to contribute in any way she can!
Now that call was an unexpected and most wonderfully astonishing turn of events! Off to bed she must take herself so that first thing in the morning she can get busy creating and baking some delightful treats for all the local villagers and children!
Up at the crack of dawn and immediately after her usual breakfast of porridge and fruit Norah goes to work. She gathers her ingredients around her . . . butter and fresh farm eggs . . . flour and sugar . . . jam . . . milk . . .
She is quite famous for her jam tarts, although she would never brag about them herself . . . but it is a commonly known fact that her pastry, as light as a fairie's breath is second to none and when you combine that with the tasty thrill of her homemade cherry jam . . . well you have a treat that is guarenteed to bring a smile to even the most dour of countenances . . . even Mrs Treadlestuff, who lives at the other end of the village and who has been known to even scare the big black crows, who are afraid of nothing it seems, except for her . . . away from her garden flowers with her scowels and scorn . . .
Norah gets to work. She sings a happy song as she rolls and fluffs and huffs and puffs . . . pastry is buttered and folded and rolled out again, and again, with each gently rolling becoming flakier and lighter . . . then cut out into crimpled rounds and placed into her mother's old tart tins . . . cherry jam placed just so and in just the right quantity so that it won't run out all over the pan . . . just bubbling gently and sweetly to just the right consistency.
A few will get the added treat of a soft marshmallow baked on top at the end . . . food for the angels, she knows . . .
Wonder of all wonders . . . there is just enough flour, butter, sugar and eggs left to make some cheerful little gingerbread men for the kiddies. Oh they love them so! What a wonderful treat everyone is in for!
If there is only one thing better than snuggling next to the fire on a cold evening . . . it's baking for people who enjoy and appreciate the fruits of your labours. Sigh . . . life is indeed very good!
A life is good . . . that holds joy in it's score
Small children . . . old folks and an open door,
Where friends are welcome and the poor are fed,
And dignity and truth dwells at it's head . . .
God Bless til next time.
Wednesday, 16 February 2011
Norah spends a quiet life in her little cottage on the edge of the green wood . . . nestled somewhere in between here and there . . . and now and then . . .
She has always lived here, although, to be sure at one time, the little house was quite filled to the rafters, with mam and pa, and all of seven brothers . . . her being the only girl. In those days, the house was always filled with noise and bustle and plenty of comings and goings. It was crowded as would be any small house such as this . . . but it was filled with love and so it didn't matter overmuch . . .
Pa worked in the local mines, and . . . one by one, as they came of age . . . her brother's also took up work in the mines . . . Mam spent her days in the little cottage, keeping the home fires burning, and everything swept and tidy. The laundry alone could take up hours and hours of a week that was filled to overbrimming with one thing or t'other . . .
Norah took up employment in the nearby village . . . cleaning and cooking, and watching the children for the local Vicar's wife, whose various duties around the parish took up much of her time . . . so much so, that she had no time for housewifery skills, and so Norah was very much needed by her busy little family . . .
As her brothers grew up, they fell in love and married sweet village girls . . . They moved away to more hospitable climes and opportunities . . . leaving Norah on her own with Mam and Pa. Norah never minded. There was no other place on earth she would rather be than in this gentle home, filled with love and happy memories.
Pa grew old and retired from the mines, but soon fell ill . . . and with her mam no longer being able to cope with it all on her own . . . Norah, ever the dutiful daughter, and never having been given any such romantic opportunities . . . stayed at home, having long since given up the ideas of hearts and flowers . . . and finding a love of her own. She was content to stay where she was needed, and for as long as she was needed . . .
In time she came to be alone in the little brick house, her Mam and Pa having gone to their rest . . .
Now the small house is empty of voices and noise . . . except for her own steady footfall upon the old stone floor. It suits her just as well . . . she has memories enough to keep her warm on a cold winter's eve . . . and plenty of work to fill her days . She has perfected the art of enjoying her own company, and, whilst she would never turn away a knock on the door, she is content to warm her toes in front of the fire of an evening . . . with nothing more than a good book or some knitting to keep her company . . . or perhaps a tune or two on the wireless, or even a story to listen to . . . The Archer's having long been her favourite for many years!
She's never felt the need or room for a television, but with the Royal Wedding coming up in the spring, she just might succumb to the temptation . . . She missed the last one and is quite looking forward to this one . . . they seem such a lovely young couple and she wishes them well.
Things have been modernized somewhat since her parent's day . . . there's an electric stove now, to do all her cooking on, and an electric ice box, which keeps her goodies ever so fresh and tempting . . . although she still uses her Mam's china salt box. A small pinch in her oats in the morning, as the Scottish would do . . . and of course it has it's many other uses . . . not the least of which is to look pretty on the faded wall above the stove . . . where it comes in very handy from time to time.
The old Welsh Dresser, which was the pride and joy of her Mam, still stands as a sentinel against the backwall in the old kitchen . . . all her treasures and trinkets on display . . . some new, some old . . . some neither one nor t'other . . .
It makes a good place to set her telephone . . . she remembers the old days of party lines . . . and one ring or two . . . how exciting it would be to get an actual call, the further away the better. The old excitement still rises in her chest when it rings . . . could it be one of her faraway brothers, or perhaps a sister in law, or niece or nephew (she loves them all so) . . . with news from afar and a tale to tell???
Or even a cherished neighbour with some news from the village and all that's going on . . .
She is a girl of simple tastes . . . not needing much to keep her happy. A simple chest of drawers holds all the clothing she might need, and a wash stand, a china basin and jug for keeping herself clean. Perhaps one day she will invest in a modern bath . . . but for now this does the job. Her parent's wedding picture takes pride of place on the bedroom wall . . . her Mam was a beautiful bride and her Pa . . . so handsome on the day. She has her Mam's eyes and her Pa's smile.
Her one luxury is her bed . . . it is here that she has allowed her fancy to fly free, with it's flounces and frills and pretty pink roses . . .
In the old days there was not room enough to indulge in such frippery, but now . . . since there is only she . . . she has thought to herself, why not . . .
Why not indeed! A pretty white iron day bed with a matching rocker do so easily bring a smile to her serene face and a song into her sweet heart . . .
It is a life of comfort and peace, free of care, and filled with simple blessings and indulgences. It is a happy life and she could wish for no t'other, but the joy that each day brings . . .
Memory builds a little pathway
that goes winding through my heart.
It's a lovely, quiet, gentle trail
from other things apart.
I only meet when travelling there
the folks I like the best,
For this road I call "remembrance"
is hidden from the rest,
But I hope I'll always find you
in my memory rendezvous,
For I keep this little secret place
to meet with folks like you.
~Helen Steiner Rice
God keep you til next time.
Tuesday, 15 February 2011
There is something very satisfying about building something yourself with your very own two hands . . . Back in the 1990's my ex husband, our children and myself built our own house on some reclaimed swamp land in a rural area of New Brunswick in Canada. When it was done that house meant the world to us . . . and I am sure the main reason was because we had put so much personal effort into it.
Over the past few weeks I have taken over the kitchen table as I put together my doll's house. The top has been scattered with glue and paint and scraps of paper. There were times when I thought it would never come together . . . times when I wanted to throw it out the window! I persevered though, and, with a tiny bit of help from Todd at the end (helping me to hold things together so that I could strap them tightly so that the glue could set), this is what I ended up with.
A lovely little house, I think. I used weathered brick papers for the outside, along with slate roof tiled paper for the roof. I had bought some wooden gingerbread trim to paint white and apply on the edges of the roof, but it just didn't work out, and so I had to abandon that idea . . . perhaps in time I can figure out a way to make it work.
I love the white Veranda . . . I know it is supposed to be a deck, but to me it is a Veranda . . . I have always cherished the idea of having my very own Veranda . . . a place where I could sit in the summer months and watch the neighbourhood go by . . . calling out cheerful greetings to friends and neighbours as they pass . . . listening to the birds sing and the bumblebees hum . . .
You can see it is very small inside, only two rooms really . . . but big enough for a start and I know I will have fun with it. I used a Cotswold Stone paper for the flooring in the kitchen and upstairs has mushroom coloured wall to wall carpeting. At first I had painted the downstairs wall halfway up in a cream colour and decorated it with lines to look like paneling with a chair rail dividing the top of the wall from the bottom, the top being decorated in a Blue and White Dutch tile paper . . . but I didn't really like the way it turned out and then I remembered . . .
I had some beautiful Magnolia Scrap Book Papers, called Grandmother's wall paper and so I used that instead. I love the aged, shabby chic look it gave to the kitchen area . . . just perfect I thought! I had another plain paper which matched well in colour and so that is what I used for the bottom of the wall. Upstairs is a pretty pink rose trellis wall paper that I found in Hobby Craft. I used textured white scrapbook papers to line the ceilings, which don't show up in pictures. But they do look really lovely. You'll just have to take my word for it.
So now the house is ready to move into . . . I wonder what will happen next?
Things that I learned:
- even though it all fits together on the dry run, that doesn't mean that it will fit together when you go to glue it together permanently. Be prepared to jimmy and scrape.
- paper stretches when it gets wet
- It is a lot easier to spray paint small things like railings and stairs than to paint them by hand individually. (Something I didn't cotton on to until I got to the very last bits!)
- Strapping, strapping, strapping. Using masking tape doesn't quite cut it. I didn't find it strong enough so had Todd standing there holding things together while I ran around the house looking for something sturdy enough to tie it together without leaving any marks. I finally settled on ribbons, which thankfully I had in abundance!
- foam rubber brushes work wonderfully for spreading glue and paint in large quantities, just make sure you don't use the same ones for both and rinse them out really well after use.
Saturday, 12 February 2011
When I was five years old, I had a doll's house very similar to the one you see above. It was very simple, Colonial style, and just made of tin . . . but I thought it was lovely. All the scenery was printed on the outside of it, in bright colours . . . flower boxes, shutters, bushes, grass . . .
The inside was all painted too . . . gaily painted curtains and floorings, carpets, wall paper . . . all in glorious colour, 1960's colour. My little five year old eyes thought it quite beautiful.
It came with hard plastic furniture. All moulded and of similar colour. There was not a lot of differentiation. It was all pink and blue . . . but you know how children's imaginations work. It was all lovely to me.
I didn't have it for very long . . . my brother decided to park his huge firetruck in one of the rooms one day and pushed out the whole front wall . . . and then he decided to use it as a slide and it got all crushed down on one side . . . that effectively ended my doll's house and it was no more . . . sigh . . .
My best friend, Susan, had a big wooden doll house. I think it had been her mother's back when she was a girl. The back wall was a big door that opened up to show us the inside rooms and it was filled with beautiful handmade furniture. I used to love to go over to Susan's house and play with it . . . and dream.
I am 55 years old now, half a century older than that little girl, but the dream still stands. I have always loved and wanted a real doll house that I can call my own. I am all about making dreams come true in this later stage of my life and so with that dream in mind, I recently purchased a wooden doll's house for me to build and fill.
Its not all that big. I couldn't afford to buy a large one. It's only two rooms and meant to be a retreat cottage type of house, but I did fall in love with it's veranda and windowed front. It's all in a flat pack box now, just waiting for me to work my magic on it.
I hope you'll come along with me on the journey as I realize my childhood dream. I can hardly wait to get started!!