Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day 12: Angel

If you like vintage Advent Calendars, you might enjoy this one from the 1950s. 

Behind one of the doors is an angel which ties in perfectly with the prompt for today. Can you see her?

I don’t think she is all that easy to find so I’ve added an extra picture.

I'm linking with Julie over at Julie's Scrapbook.  

Monday, 11 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day 11: Snowman

Each December, Terry and I meet up with my sister and brother-in-law to swap Christmas presents, catch up on gossip and share a nice lunch. This year we decided to meet at Rosebourne a garden centre on the outskirts of Andover.

After a delicious lunch and much laughter, we spent some time walking around looking at all the lovely things on offer, and found a group of snowmen and snowwomen. Is there a collective noun for a group of snow people?   I can’t think of one although a family seems to fit the bill.

 I had to smile when I saw these two. Can you feel the love?

I'm linking with Julie over at Julie's Scrapbook

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day 10: Holly and Ivy

The Holly and the Ivy: Robert Shaw Chamber Singers. From the album, "Songs of Angels, Christmas Hymns & Carols."

I'm linking with Julie over at Julie's Scrapbook.  

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day 9: Christmas Bauble

In this short clip Rowan Atkinson aka Mr. Bean visits Harrods in search of Christmas ornaments – enjoy!

I'm linking with Julie over at Julie's Scrapbook.  

Friday, 8 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day 8: Sleigh

I was going to share a photograph of a sleigh full of toys, but then I remembered this jigsaw puzzle and thought…aha!

It came from a charity shop, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found it was missing a few pieces. What confused me was the ‘jigsaw complete’ label attached to the box. It would have made it a whole lot simpler had I realised I was never going to find the tip of the dogs tail or the little bird in the tree!

It took a long time to complete partly because of the missing pieces and partly because it has an iridescent finish which makes it difficult to do in anything other than natural daylight (something we are short of in the winter).  

I still love it even with the missing pieces, especially as the design is by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone.

Photograph of Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone 
from Dean & Son Ltd, via Wikipedia

Janet and Anne were prolific illustrators, and their work is now eagerly collected. I to put together a bibliography of their books back in 2013. It's not been updated for a while, but you will find it here should you be interested.

I'm linking with Julie over at Julie's Scrapbook.    More from my Advent Calendar tomorrow. 

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day 7: Bells

Ding dong merrily on high, In heav'n the bells are ringing: Ding dong! verily the sky Is riv'n with angel singing Gloria Hosanna in excelsis!

With thanks to Pexels for the image.  (All images licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license).

E'en so here below, below, Let steeple bells be swungen, And "Io, io, io!" By priest and people sungen Gloria Hosanna in excelsis! 

Pray you, dutifully prime
Your matin chime, ye ringers,
May you beautifully rime
Your eve'time song, ye singers
Gloria Hosanna in excelsis!

Title: Ding Dong! Merrily on high
Composer: Anonymous (Traditional)
Lyricist: George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848-1934), English composer.
The carol was first published in 1924 in The Cambridge Carol-Book.
From: The Choral Public Domain Library

I'm linking with Julie over at Julie's Scrapbook.    More from my Advent Calendar tomorrow. 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day 6: Robin

Our Thrushes now are silent,
Our Swallows flown away,
But Robin's here, in coat of brown,
With ruddy breast-knot gay.
Robin, Robin Redbreast,
O Robin dear!
Robin singing sweetly
In the falling of the year.

From Robin Redbreast
By William Allingham

With thanks to Pexels for the image.  (All images licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license).

I'm linking with Julie over at Julie's Scrapbook.

The lovely Sue from Extrawurst shared a link to a song by Bing Crosby. As Sue said it’s not White Christmas, and it’s not even seasonal, but she thought I would enjoy it. I’m listening to it as I type this, and I absolutely love it, do have a listen if you have the time. 

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day 5: Stained Glass

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

Christmas: John Betjeman.  From John Betjeman's 'Collected Poems', published by John Murray.

With thanks to Pexels for the images (All images licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license).  The Dorchester Hotel image from Moments Blog: Dorchester Hotel.

The poem 'Christmas' by John Betjeman performed by Lance Pierson

I'm linking with Julie over at Julie's Scrapbook.  
More from my Advent Calendar tomorrow.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day 4: Christmas Book(s)

Today I'm going to re-visit a couple of Christmas books from previous posts.

The Night Before Christmas
The night before Christmas and other Christmas poems has been on my shelves for a very long time. It's in poor condition with missing plates and damage to the binding, but it was a gift from a dear friend and is very precious to me.

More images from The Night before Christmas and other Christmas Poems here

The Night Before Christmas
The Night Before Christmas 

The Christmas Kangaroo
The Christmas Kangaroo is an enchanting story about Mirram the Kangaroo and her son Joey. One Christmas Eve they meet a very harassed Father Christmas, behind schedule, and with his sleigh still laden with undelivered toys.

I found this delightful book on a trip to Australia in March 2011. If you are ever in Adelaide, I recommend a visit to Michael Treloar Antiquarian Booksellers on North Terrace, where this book came from.  

To read more about Mirram and Joey, please visit this previous post.  
The Christmas Kangaroo
The Christmas Kangaroo

Do you have a forever book?  The one that is long past its best but is still too precious to part with?

I'm linking with Julie over at Julie's ScrapbookMore from my Advent Calendar tomorrow.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day 3: A Favourite Christmas recipe

I’m very partial to a mince pie, and this recipe for home-made mincemeat is especially nice.

1 lb of finely chopped suet
1 lb of currants washed & picked
1 lb of raisins stoned & quartered
1 lb of chopped apples
1 lb of caster sugar
1/2 lb of sultanas
1/4 of a lb of shredded, mixed candied peel
2 lemons
1/2 a gill of brandy
1/2 a saltspoonful of nutmeg
1/2 a saltspoonful of mace
1/2 a saltspoonful of cinnamon

Pare the lemons thinly, simmer the rinds in a little water until perfectly tender, then pound them or rub them through a fine sieve.  Mix all the ingredients well together, press into a jar, cover closely and keep in a cool, dry place for at least 1 month before using to make your pies.

If that sounds too fiddly you could take a shortcut and make these using shop bought mincemeat and Jus Rol shortcrust pastry.

Image and recipe Tesco

2 x 320g packs Jus Rol ready rolled shortcrust pastry
411g traditional mincemeat
Caster sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 200°C /180°C fan/gas 4. Take the pastry out of the packaging 10-15 minutes before you are ready to use it. Unroll the pastry and using a 7.5cm cutter cut out 12-16 discs and line the base of the holes of a 12-16 muffin tin. Cut out the same number of smaller 6cm discs (using either a fluted or star-shaped cutter) for the lids and set aside. Re-roll the offcuts until you have enough lids.
Drop 2 teaspoons of mincemeat into each case, lightly moisten the undersides of the pastry lids with water and use to top tarts, pressing gently at the edges to seal.
Make a tiny hole in the top of each pie with the tip of a sharp knife (to allow any steam to escape), brush with water, sprinkle with the caster sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Sprinkle with a little more sugar and allow to stand in the tin for 2-3 minutes before carefully transferring to a cooling rack. Once completely cool, these tasty festive treats can be put in an airtight container and frozen for up to a month. Simply defrost at room temperature for an hour. To serve warm, just pop in the oven for 3-4 minutes at 180°C /160°C fan/gas 3.


I'm linking with Julie over at Julie's Scrapbook More from my Advent Calendar tomorrow.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day 2: Something Handcrafted for Christmas

I haven't handcrafted anything in a while so I thought I would do a little time travelling to discover what the 1930s woman might have worn for the festive season. Apparently, fashion was laying much stress on the importance of little touches of lace, especially at the wrists and neckline of a plain dark day frock. 

The above pattern appeared in the October 1935 edition of The Needlewoman.

Materials required:
1 ball of coats’ Mercer-Crochet No. 80 in white.
¼ yd of white organdie.
1 No. 4 Milward’s Super Archer steel crochet hook.
I reel of Coats Super Sheen No. 50 white.

Should anyone like the instructions please email me (see email link at right) 

The Needlewoman October 1935.

If a Jabot was not your thing, you also had the opportunity to make a set of lunch mats with the free transfer included in the magazine.

These would have looked quite striking made up in shades of terra-cotta, brown and cream as suggested by the magazine, although I might have opted for red and gold to make them more Christmassy.

Anyone interested in 1930s fashion might enjoy this previous post on my family history blog.  

I'm linking with Julie over at Julie's Scrapbook  More from my Advent Calendar tomorrow.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day 1: Letterbox

Julie over at Julie's Scrapbook is organising a Christmas Advent Scavenger Hunt, and I’m joining in. The idea is to post something each day from the 1st to the 24th December while following the prompts provided by Julie. The prompt for today is...Letterbox

This first prompt gives me the perfect opportunity to share a couple of vintage Christmas cards with you. They are pasted inside an old scrap album which once belonged to a little boy called Teddy. I never knew Teddy, but I know from an inscription on the first page that his mummy and daddy gave him the album on Christmas Day 1933. 

It's amazing how vibrant the colours are after so many decades. 

The covers are a bit worse for wear, but inside is still beautiful.

Tomorrow something handcrafted for Christmas - goodness knows what it will be, but I had best get looking! 

Monday, 20 November 2017

The Squirrel's Breakfast

I know lots of you enjoy vintage postcards so today I'm sharing a few more from my collection.

An unused postcard published by Valentine & Sons in pristine condition. 

Published by J. Salmon and posted in 1940 the message reads;
Dear Mummy, thank you for the lovely Bonzo card you sent me. Please send me some more Bonzo cards but no fairies. With love from me.

Another Salmon card posted in 1933 - the message reads;
Dear Helen, I hope you had a nice time at Auntie
 Stella's the other day. I'm sorry darling to hear that all your dollies are sick & naughty, but 'praps they are well and good again now! Aren't these two little bunnies darling.
Only four days more here then mummie and daddy start for home, so Helen will soon have her surprise present. Lots of love and kisses my sweet pet from mummie and daddy xxxx

An unused postcard published by Valentine & Sons

An unused postcard published by J. Salmon Ltd

All the cards that follow are published by Valentine's.
This card and the one that follows were sent to Virginia in 1938, and they both have the same message which is;
Lots of love from Nannie xxxx

Another card from Nannie this time the message reads:
Dear Virginia, I hope you are being good. Have you been walking in the rain? I have. 
Lots of love from Nannie

This one also posted in 1938 says;
See you Friday darling. 
Love from Nannie

This one posted in 1937 has no message but is covered in kisses so a message of sorts.

Rain on the green grass. Rain on the trees. And rain on the house-top but not on me!
Damaged card with no message. 

This one posted in 1954 reads;
Dear Lesly hurry up and get well soon. With love from Janet and Jan.

This final card is for the little girl who requested more Bonzo cards but no fairies. đŸ˜‰

*The first twelve postcards are illustrated by Rene Cloke the last one is by G. E. Studdy.   

Sunday, 12 November 2017


I’m not quite sure where my enchantment with old circus wagons got its start!

I’ve always been a fan of the old more so than the new—perhaps a side effect of having a godmother who specialized in teaching Modern European History and who took me along as a child to movies about Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, and Mary, Queen of Scots.
Or perhaps it was a result of reading my way through childhood, with plenty of fairy tales populated by knights and dragons, along with Greek myths and their panoply of magical creatures.
Whatever the cause, I knew almost from the minute I thought of creating a series of children’s books about a cat in a small town circus museum, that one of the stories would weave a mysterious and old circus wagon into the plot. And so the second Finnigan book became, quite naturally, “Finnigan and the Lost Circus Wagon.” The plot revolves around the arrival, at the little museum that has become his home, of a decrepit wagon that has seen better days, but holds a valuable secret. In the course of the story, crooks must be outwitted, the mystery must be solved, and Finnigan’s presence must remain a secret to the humans in the story.
But here I want to share my utter fascination with these wagons, which harken back to the Golden Age of circus parades. Imagine, if you will, a time before television, before MTV, before the Internet! Back in the day, before we had the world at our fingertips with our smart phones and tablets, everybody turned out to watch the circus parade that heralded the wonders to be found under the Big Top that had just arrived. But it wasn’t just the panoply of the performers and the clowns and the exotic animals that drew the eye. The wagons that doubled as bandwagons and storage wagons and animal cages were an extravagantly theatrical art form of their own.

The Finnigan books began with a combination of a real kitten in the family, and the fact that my younger daughter is a contemporary circus aerialist—think more Cirque du Soleil than Barnum & Bailey. Circus, kitten…kitten, circus…you might imagine that the books were inevitable! But an added element was that my daughter and I, for the past several years, have made what amounts to a yearly pilgrimage for inspiration to the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, built on what was the original home of the Ringling Brothers Circus.
The wagons there, many of which have got intensive restoration, are jaw-droppingly beautiful. There are fairy tales, and tales of valor, beasts both mythical and real, and scenes of incredible imagination. Lions roar, tigers leap, mermaids and dolphins cavort, and St. George battles a magnificent dragon. And nestled in amongst them quite naturally--although technically not a wagon--is the spectacularly embellished Gavioli pipe organ, built in Paris in 1905 and trotted around the United States to various carnivals via railroad for decades. I could spend days rather than hours walking among them, admiring their artistry and craftsmanship, and reflecting on just how much courage and strength it has always taken circus folk to embrace a disciplined and gruelling life of entertainment on the road, conjuring magic and laughter and wonder from town to town.
And so when I began to draw the illustrations for this second Finnigan book, it wasn’t much of a leap to draw some of the pictures either from a few of my favorite historic wagons, or from posters and signs from a century ago. Like I said, I generally favor the old over the new! 

So here’s a gallery of some of my favorite wagons, and some of the incredible details that never fail to spark my admiration. To old circus wagons, and the colorful history they still bring to life!

Mary T. Wagner is a former newspaper and magazine journalist who changed careers at forty by going to law school and becoming a criminal prosecutor. However, she never could step away from the written word entirely, and inevitably the joy of writing drew her back to the keyboard.

A Chicago native, this mother of four and recent new grandmother now lives in "coastal Wisconsin," where she draws much inspiration for writing from frequent trips to the shore of Lake Michigan, watching the waves ebb and flow and make shifting mosaics of sunlight on the sandy lake floor.

Her first three essay collections - Running with Stilettos, Heck on Heels and Fabulous in Flats garnered numerous national and regional awards, including a Gold E-Lit Book Award, an Indie Excellence Award, and "Published Book of the Year" by the Florida Writers Association. Her latest essay collection, When the Shoe Fits…Essays of love, life and second chances rounds up her favourites and reader favourites into a "best of" collection available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.  Her newest publishing venture is a series of children's chapter books for young readers. Finnigan the Circus Cat the first book in the series was featured on my blog here. Finnigan and the Lost Circus Wagon is the second book in the series. If you are interested in acquiring a copy (and I heartily recommend it), you can do so here

I know readers of my blog will want to join me in thanking Mary for such an interesting and entertaining post. Thank you Mary.   
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