Saturday, October 31, 2009

Young guisers visit a watchman in the Grassmarket in 1957

We don't really do anything for Halloween in our family, and I had no plans to post today, but I've been so charmed by this article in the Edinburgh Evening News that I decided to show you the main photo (sorry, not available on line, so grotty photo!) and a few pararaphs from the text, which is by Judy Vickers. Please enjoy some traditional, and very innocent Scottish celebrations! 'Trick or treating may be an American invader, more or less unheard of on this side of the pond befre the 1980s, but a children's tradition of dressing up and hitting the streets after dark on Halloween to beg for pennies or treats has a long history here.

'But instead of using the vague threat of a "trick" if there is no treat forthcoming, guisers in Scotland traditionally perform a song, tell a joke or otherwise earn their apples or nuts.

'There was no Matalan or Asda for the parents of yesteryear to snap up a bargain vampire or skeleton outfit.

'Homemade was the key - and judging by theese pictures, in the 1950s that amounted to raiding your parents' wardrobe for headscarves, shawls, football scarves and assorted caps. Blacking up faces - or covering them with masks - also has a long tradition in Scotland: it was meant to represent the dead on All Hallows Eve, the night before All Souls Day.

The Chrstian festval was laid on top of an old Celtic one - 31 October was in ancient times the last day of the year, called Samhain by the Druds, meaning summer's end.

But by the 1950s children were rubbing blacking into their faces as part of their disguise (hence guising).'

I thought that was charming information, and explains how the children who will come to our door tonight (to be greeted by a very enthusiastic Son 2) are called 'guisers'. Have a safe and happy time yourselves, whatever you are doing.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Charity Shopping with Older Boys...

...I have proved it can be done!

Rule One - spend some money on them, first. Rule Two - let them spend some money from their doting grandmother. (And look - you wouldn't have found that little Lego knight in the meccano kit if you'd bought it new!)
Son 2's interpretation of Rule 2 - Dinosaur Top Trumps (on top of the recipe he cooked for grandma last night). He got an annoying Harry Potter wand too.
Quick aside- Son 1 made this great Norwegian dessert last night....
And then install them on a convenient bench (outsde Stockbridge Scotmid) where they can play their Nintendo DS games while I carry on shopping!
It worked a treat. I needed a handbag as the old favourite was fraying badly at the edges. Look what I found:
Good condition, real leather trims, WHAT'S THAT ON THE LABEL..?
Frankly, I think it's a fake despite the good workmanship, but everything fits neatly inside (for now).
Continuing the bright and pastel blue theme (and putting it all into my matching bag from Serenata), I got some great food-related items: more fondue forks in case we have more than 6 people at a time (we love choc fondues in the winter); silicon cup cake cases which, if they work, will be much more environmentally friendly and also cheaper than paper ones; a sweet enamel steak-and-kidney pie tin (although I won't use it for that) and two silvery napking rings (one pewter, I suspect) to make a more matching set for the kitchen table.
In Tesco I've also been stocking up on foodie essentials for Brits stuck in France as Christmas approaches (I made my own a few years ago - what a palaver!):Having completely forgotten to photograph the fleecy duffel-coat I bought, here is my last photo: a summery top and a roll of early 90s LA border (I loved that colour scheme at the time).
So we did it! Everyone had a good morning and I have had my fix of UK Charity Shopping for the autumn.
Apologies for the grainy photos, as Edinburgh is gloomy and my parents' photo editing programme seems to have lost a lot of its handy features! My mum is doing well and everyone is really enjoying the family time together.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rainbow Swap, an Evening Without Electricity and the Utmost Challenge

My Rainbow Swap blue parcel from Kate made it through the English and French Postal services to get to me this weekend! As the internet had been down for a week, I'd managed to mislay my under-used camera, so I got no photos of Son 2 helping me to open the delightful parcels. Now that everything is up, running and re-found, I thought I'd take you on a tour of the house to see where some of my lovely blue gifts have found homes...

The over-loaded hooks in the kitchen now hold this great little vintage apron, which I wore on Sunday to cook for friends - I felt so good!
The cake stand has some blue embroidery silks at its base, and smells great thanks to the Laura Ashley spice bag with that sweet little blue button!
More clutter, this time on my bedside table, but look at the lovely blue polka-dot notebook!
In the vintage sewing box, look at the buttons and that amazing, large rickrack...
I realise now that I forgot to snap the pretty scarf hanging over my wardrobe, but here is the lovely Cath Kidston card which Kate sent with all her super blue gifts - thanks so much, Kate! What a great swap.
The candle-lit image above sets the tone for yesterday evening, because we had a very unexpected powercut of almost two hours at tea time.
Everyone responded in their own unique way. I had fun lighting a lot of candles, and congratulated myself on having matches and candles ready to find for just such an event.
Son 2 decided to get crafting by candlelight.
I took photos of lovely candlelit effects!
Ben got out the camping stove to heat his supper.
Son 1 took out his telescope and took advantage of the night sky without its usual light pollution.
'Muuuummm, will you STOP flashing the camera?'
Here are the moon and Jupiter, without the aid of the telescope.
And now to the 'How is the Challenge of the Utmost Kind Going?' question...
I found a second hand filing cabinet! We had a mega-spend weekend when the internet was down, so now I need to tell you about it. Some friends had a garage sale and we bought a good DVD player/recorder from them to replace our broken one. Score one on the Challenge. On the Sunday I went to visit their Vide Greniers stall and mentioned my quest for a filing cabinet. They had one in their utility room! I went to pick it up and it is now full (too full?) of our files. I may need another... Anyway, Score two.Do you like the thrifty decorations? Doilies from Veti'Relais plus IKEA magnets from years ago... Score three.

Plus an embroidered cloth I already had, on which the old printer, newly fixed, sits. Scores four and five, perhaps...
See my lovely red gingham portrait by Sarah, there? But now, hmmmm... The new computer. Ben bought it, honest! And now everything works again!!! However, Score zero, or possibly negative one hundred, on the Challenge.
We also had a successful time buying second hand ski gear for the boys, as well as trading in Son 2's old ski boots. Decathlon, the huge sports retailer, runs 'Trocathlon' events twice a year, where people can sell their old sports stuff and recieve the profits in Decathlon vouchers. A huge Score for Reduce, Reuse and Recycle from a major retailer - what a pity that stores around the world don't do the same! Maybe it will catch on... We used our vouchers this weekend to part-pay for winter trainers for the boys. I also picked up the box above, which is wonderfully Quirky-meets-Arts-and-Crafts-Movement, and this charming lace collar, over the last week and a bit.So tomorrow it's off to Edinburgh for a few days, where, as many of you have already observed, I will not be visiting the CK shop! Frankly, I won't really be shopping at all, because it's a visit with the boys and I think we will mainly be having bracing walks in the Botanic Gardens and trips to museums. Son 1 thinks he may do a post for you whilst there...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Floss goes Country Living

I've had these photos for a while now, and I've been longing to share them with you! When the work was finished on our terrace roof and pillars, Raja and I finally got to play 'Country Living Photo Shoot'. The rotting wooden pillars that held up the roof have been replaced, at the front, by brick ones; locally made, probably, as we're in such a brick-making area. As with all these things they look really bare and new.
Ben's dad suggested spraying them with slurry (sport the farmer) to age them and encourage moss and lichen growth. Ben was very relieved when I reminded him that natural youghurt is a more pleasant route to the same end! Haven't done it yet, though...
I put the basket-weave chair, found beside the road earlier in the year, back in place to hold a few potted hen and chicks, and discovered that Ben had left his own Country Living-style arrangement on the terrace. I quite liked it!
The pumpkins and gourds needed to sit outside in the sun to dry out after harvesting , so I thought I'd get them looking good while they did it.
Add a few late roses and some berries from the Coulee Verte.
And the secondhand garland I bought at Frip'relais the day before!
I was quite chuffed with the result, which I have now moved round to outside our front door. It looks a bit thinner now, as we made 'butternut gratin' yesterday!
This is just a glimpse of some of the non-edible gourds we had on the front window ledge last autumn and winter.
In the spring I had these lovely miniature irises in the same place.
Later on I filled the gap with hen and chicks - see how bad the woodwork was getting?
I fixed that this summer, when Son 1 got this photo of me!
He also gave me these heliospermum (I think) for a colourful summer display there.
And this is what it looks like now... lots of Crown of Thorn gourds and some trusty hen and chicks.It's good to be back - the boys and I are on holiday now and enjoying the autumn sun before we head off to Edinburgh on Wednesday.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Advent - Telling the Story

Wow - so much has been happening here! Ben guessed that the internet problem was no more than our elderly computer finally giving up on us, and he was right! He's bought a new (gulp, yes new) computer and spent yesterday setting it up, and here I am, no internet problems at all! We do now have a French keyboard, which is AZERTY instead of QWERTY - this is zhqt hqppens zhen you try to type English)style on it1So thanks for your very kind comments over the past week or so, and I look forward to getting back in touch with you all. This is my fourth pre-advent post, and I'm really enjoying your coments - thanks for taking the time to let me know what you think.
I was saying the other week that I think it’s a good idea to give children the basics of the Nativity Story. In the UK many children will take part in a Nativity Play at school, but even they get a bit muddled about which bits are in the Bible and which bits are additional fun for the school play! I know that in France and the USA, state schools can’t do that kind of religious, or even semi-religious play, so to me it’s a useful bit of basic education if children learn a little about the birth of Jesus at home. I’m not only writing for Christians here, as I know that many Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs in the UK are very happy for their children to take part in Nativity Plays, seeing them as education in the faith of others. Thus for people of any faith and none, knowing what is meant to have happened at the birth of Christ is a valuable addition to the stock of General Knowledge we carry with us in life. Indoctrination (for or against) should be optional!
You can tell the story with good picture books (of course, there are vintage Ladybird ones…), or with a Nativity Scene, which the French call a crèche. Lots of Advent count-down Nativity Scenes are now available – ours is Fair Trade (smug, smug, smug) but sadly no longer available. What’s really good is that the children can play with it and move the characters round as much as they want, as well as having the fun of finding the next item each day…
I hope that I'll be able to do a post on French crèche scenes and other story-telling goodies, when our technological backlog allows!For now, just tell me YOUR stories, please!