Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Thursday 31 December 2009

Next on Purple Podded Peas . . .

Who has come to live in the garden with the senior under-gardeners and the Spice Girls?

All will be revealed in 2010 in the next episode of Purple Podded Peas ;-)

In the meantime, Cliff and I are getting ready to see in the New Year and the Blue Moon at a Murder Mystery supper (the dessert is cooking - it's Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Chestnut and Chocolate Truffle Cake - yum yum), the studio assistants are curled up asleep somewhere warm and we wish you all a very very happy New Year - Hurrah!

See you in the New Year

Thursday 24 December 2009

All the trimmings

Before I take a few days off to enjoy Christmas, there's time for a final rummage in the bottom of the bag of PPP's Winter Mixture . . .

Christmas just isn't Christmas without all trimmings,
this Christmas Eve morning
I decorated
The Christmas Cake

Chopped, mixed, seasoned and prepared
The Stuffings

Stirred, sweetened and sampled
The Cranberry Sauce

and Gooseberry Sauce
(because we're having Goose and have lots of
home grown gooseberries in the freezer)

With preparations well under control -
the goose and vegetables and pudding are in the larder
and giblets ready to go in the stock pot,
I'm now putting my feet up and listening to
Carols from Kings

Here's King's College Chapel yesterday,
viewed from my car as I waited at the pedestrian crossing
along 'The Backs' yesterday morning.

Thank you, I'll find a moment to enjoy re-reading your
kind comments on all the PPP's Winter Mixture posts,
I hope you enjoyed joining my Yuletide celebration
as much as I had fun rummaging in the paper bag
of sweet spicy treats.

A very Merry Christmas from me,
my under-gardeners and Spice Girls
and the studio assistants.


Tuesday 22 December 2009

Walking in a winter wonderland

Dipping into the paper bag of PPP' Winter Mixture I picked out . . .

A Winter Solstice Walk

You can, of course, snuggle up in the warm
with a cup of tea and a mince pie and
let Cliff and me do the walking for you

Here we are on the Ickworth Estate,
you can see the eliptical dome of
Ickworth House
far across the snowy fields.

Past the Suffolk Sheep digging through the snow
to graze on the grass beneath. In a couple of months
their new born lambs will be skipping over the slopes.

Through a dark forest with tree trunks
painted with frosting by the North East wind.

Look up through the branches -
giant globes of Mistletoe bejewelled with
pearl-like berries.

Follow me into a magical snowy world . . .

. . . to see the mid-winter sun
at the turning of the year
cast its golden rays over the glitering snow.

The paper bag of PPP's Winter Mixture isn't yet empty - I'll have another rummage to see what I can find.

If you're traveling this Christmas, stay safe and take care.


Sunday 20 December 2009

A village Christmas

Let's have another dip into PPP's bag of Winter Mixture . . .

A Christmas wreath
This is the wreath I made from the evergreens
cut from our garden. Pushed into a twisted cane ring
we've used for years and embellished with gilded
pine cones and ribbons saved from chocolate boxes.
Cost: nothing!

We've put up the decorations -
Straw stars sent from a friend in Prague,
ceramic stars and hearts from a local potter,
little tin doves and glass drops,
wooden soldiers and some lovely
Ukrainian dolls.

The Village Church
"All for the Carol Service" reads the Church Flower Rota,
more evergreens from our garden, plus a few sprigs
of Honesty seed heads and some twirly gilded split canes
and the job's done.

Time to lend a hand decorating the Church's tree . . .

and spiral garlands round the ancient stone pillars . . .

pillars which are scratched with graffiti from the
time of the English Civil War.

Carol Singing
We regaled the pub with 'While Shepherds Watched'
and in return received a pile of loose change
and a humbug each!

We sang 'Once in Royal David's City' to a baby and his
nan at a bedroom window;
and 'The Holly and the Ivy' to the tree surgeon.

Have you ever noticed that thatched cottages don't
have gutters? The water just drips off the overhanging
thatch - and if it's a tad nippy, the water freezes
making the most enormous icicles!

A cosy fire
After two hours singing carols in sub-zero temperatures
and trudging through the snow covered lanes,
there's nothing like a real fire to warm our
hands and toes.

Mulled wine and mince pies
Of course!
And spicy hot apple juice and cheese straws
to tuck into.

While our socks and the fivers and tenners
dried out in front of the fire!

Now we can count the donations
in the festive collecting bucket . . .

and relax and laugh with good friends.

That dip into PPP's Winter Mixture has really got me into the Christmas spirit - hope you're feeling festive too. I'll be back soon to have another rummage in my brown paper bag of Yuletide delights.

Friday 18 December 2009

It's snowy!

No prizes for guessing what I'll find in my bag of PPP's Winter Mixture this morning!

Snow! Lots and lots of snow . . .
the snow started falling late yesterday afternoon. I knew that it was on it's way as there were Tweets from the east of the county describing the snow-storm as it came in off the North Sea, an hour later and there were a few flakes in the icy wind. When Cliff came home he only just managed to get through the accumulating snow on the highest point of his route home over the border from Cambridgeshire into Suffolk.

And this morning . . .

Here's the front of our house in a very wintery scene.

The trees in the churchyard are outlined in the snow
which blew in from the north-east.

In our garden, our beautiful Yew tree is decorated
with a frosting of white; it's also alive with
Mistle Thrushes, Redwings and Blackbirds
feasting on the berries and sending puffs of
powdery snow into the icy air.

The Hazel Arch is looking stunning
- now, this is why it's worth making some
architectural structures in the garden!

The tabby one is out and about, brave girl! . . .
her ginger brother is fast asleep in the studio ;-)

The hen-house looks like it's been transported to Lapland
- what a shock for my under-gardeners!

Nutmeg Spice is being brave - come on girls!

I hope you're safe and warm wherever you are today, enjoy the winter spectacle!

Another dip into my bag of PPP's Winter Mixture very soon,


Wednesday 16 December 2009

PPP's Winter Mixture

Last weekend Cliff and I found ourselves in Lichfield where we had an overnight stopover to break a long journey home. We stayed in The George Hotel, in a room high in the eaves with William Morris curtains and a view out over the tiled roofs and narrow lanes. After a drink in the cosy bar (a Stone's Ginger Wine for me please!) we had a very good dinner at a Nepalese restaurant and in the morning we bought a game pie from the Christmas Market and looked around the town (sadly the most tempting shops weren't open as it was Sunday), but the sun was shining so we waited in the Cathedral Close listening to the thunderous organ music accompanied by the 'chack-chack' calls of the Jackdaws flying around the steeples, until the service finished and we could have a quick look around inside the Cathedral, which was beautifully decorated for Advent with evergreens, seedheads and purple ribbons.

One shop that was open was a little traditional sweet shop, so we popped in to admire the rows of big glass jars. I remembered my Grandparents always seemed to have a bag of 'Winter Mixture' boiled sweets and wondered if they would have some . . . and they did :-) not quite as I remembered as these are individually wrapped in cellophane twists, but the smell - mmmmmm the smell :-) that brings back so many memories of winter, sweet spice and herbs, licquorice and peppermint, cloves and anise.

So, inspired by my paper bag of old fashioned sweeties, I'm decking out my blog with a festive cornucopia . . .

Yes, this morning it snowed - just a little bit -
but enough to give a festive frosting to the rooftops
and the trees. The north-east wind will blow
and we will
have snow - more coming along before the week's end.

There's something special about bringing branches from the
garden inside to decorate the house. I suppose it's one
of our Christmas traditions that is far far older than the
commercial Christmas or even the Church festival.

Here is the box of Yew, Bay, Holly and Ivy
I cut from the garden, all ready for me to make into
a Christmas Wreath for the front door.

Bubble & Squeak
After trudging around the garden in the icy cold,
I fancied something warming for lunch - and what could
be more yummy than Bubble & Squeak topped off with an egg?
Mmmmmm, feeling more festive already!

Sweetie, anyone?

Oi! I didn't mean you you!

And, I almost forgot - Sophie, whose blog Flatlanders is a wonderful
roundup of design, art, culture and food that is to be found in
East Anglia, interviewed me about art and blogging - so you can
read a little bit more about me here, and while you're visiting
Flatlanders have a little browse around and see what a
special corner of the England we live in.

More of PPP's Winter Mixture coming soon . . .

Tuesday 8 December 2009

London Part 3: Highgate on the hill

Yes, if you picked answer 'c' to my little quiz, you guessed correctly - we did indeed go for a walk in a muddy and overgrown graveyard. But, not just any cemetery, we went to somewhere both Cliff and I had wanted to visit for many years . . . Highgate Cemetery. This is the pinacle of the Victorian art, architecture and sociology of death and mourning - if that sounds a bit morbid, think again . . .

At the beginning of the 19th century London's population more than doubled within 30 years, the infra-structure of the city couldn't cope - and that included the disposal of the dead. The existing graveyards became squalid, rat infested layers of corpses. As part of the major works needed to make London a more pleasant place to live, it needed new areas in which to bury people - the greatest and probably the most famous was the huge cemetery on the hill at Highgate in north London.

Death was part of the Victorian culture - stipulated durations of mourning for a spouse, child, parent; symbolism on memorials; mourning fashion and commemorative jewellery; printed cards and poems - all these added up to a lucrative business which must have employed many people, not only in London but in every town throughout the country.

The people who buried their loved ones in Highgate Cemetery where mainly the wealthy and notorious. Self-made men and women who were the celebrities of Victorian London, they wanted the most fashionable in style and they wanted to be remembered for perpetuity.

To see the West Cemetery you have to join a guided tour; our guide was charming and extremely knowledgeable, she led us up a flight of mossy stone steps into the dark ivy clad woods which now engulf the thousands of tombs . . .

Through the entrance to The Egyptian Avenue
a 'street' of family tombs.

To the great Cedar of Lebanon,
an ancient tree pre-dating the cemetery,
now standing high above the tombs in
the Circle of Lebanon.

Past tombs of husbands, sons, fathers and brothers;
mothers, daughters, sisters and this young bride
forever alone in her tomb below her fashionable
upholstered armchair.

A showman's lion snoozes
above his master . . .

A bare-knuckle fighter's loyal hound
lies at his master's feet as the seasons
turn year after year . . . forever.

And everywhere there are beautiful angels -

angels carrying garlands of flowers
as they walk through the shady woods . . .

and angels asleep on their
mossy stone pillows.

Victorian art and architecture at it's most sentimental, one of London's hidden treasures. And at the top of Swains Lane you'll find Highgate 'village', home of well-heeled 21st century Londoners, we had a nice lunch at The Gatehouse (one of the many good pubs) and looked in some of the smart little shops before setting off for home. There are so many corners of London I've yet to explore - I wonder where our next visit will take us?