Saturday, 31 December 2011

Welcome 2012....

Image via

The turn of the year is just 12 hours away and I've been thinking over the events of the past twelve months, and those that may be in store in the coming year. I've also been pondering what my new year 'ambitions' will be for 2012 (as my friend R says, ambitions seem so much more positive than resolutions).

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My plan is to have a word of the year as opposed to a long list of ambitions -a word that I will hopefully remember as I make and take the day to day decisions, plans, and opportunities that arise throughout the year.

The end of the year also brings to an end of my first six months of blogging - and it has been something that I have loved becoming involved in...more so from the inspiration of some amazingly talented bloggers out there, but also as a means of marking the small things that make up who I am.

Pinned Image
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...if you feel so inclined (me, probably not so much - certainly not the dancing on the table part!). But however you choose to mark the clock striking twelve this evening, I wish you all a wonderful new year - I'm already looking forward to lots of post-reading in 2012.  

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Image via Prairie Perch

It is early afternoon on Christmas Eve

I have one more handmade gift to press and wrap in readiness for tomorrow

I'm looking forward to speaking with my family in Australia this evening (as they will be waking to their Christmas morn)

All ingredients are purchased in readiness for the dish I am taking tomorrow for Christmas lunch at my friends (the traditional ex-pat 'orphans' Christmas - complete with catering for vegetarians and those with gluten intolerance!)

I'm thinking that one (or two) mince pies for supper is perfectly acceptable

And I'm still thinking about the absolutely gorgeous production of The Nutcracker I saw last night by the English National Ballet
Image via ENB website

It was simply enchanting and has put me in the perfect mood to celebrate the magic of Christmas.

Wishing you all a joyful and merry Christmas

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Carolling....last time....I promise...

... well apart from the ones during the Christmas Day services at church, but I promise not to blog about those.

This post was also a chance to post a gratuitous photo of the gorgeous St Paul's Cathedral. I was there on a cold, crisp Tuesday evening this week with about 2000 other people for the Lord Mayor's Carol Service. After standing in the opening of the great west door for about 40 mins directing people to their seats and handing out programmes (which was my means of getting to actually attend the service - volunteering for my hospital's charity - but after about 25 mins my voluntary role became increasingly chilly!) I was able to sneak into a seat at the front of the nave, just near the dome to enjoy the service.

I always think that Westminster Abbey is my favourite church in London, but every time I am in St Paul's I'm torn - the symmetry and beauty of Wren's design is just breathtaking.

The carol service was lovely, but (and I'm not sure I should admit this), but I was almost more excited with another celebrity spotting episode....
Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) of Downton Abbey (image via)

Though in actual fact she was looking more like this...
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Those who are regular readers of this blog will know that I was excessively a little excited in the autumn when Dowton Abbey returned to our screens here in the UK. So even without the beautiful period costume, I was pretty impressed to see Lady has already made me look forward to the 2-hour Dowton Abbey Christmas special on Sunday night... but I promise not to blog about that either!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Christmas Carols...

Wednesday evening marked my first Christmas Carol service for the season (I have two more scheduled in over the coming can never attend too many Carol services in my opinion, particularly when they are held in gorgeous old churches lit by candlelight). Wednesday's service was held at St Bartholomew's the Great, in Smithfield London, located next to one of the hospitals at which I work. The annual service helps to raise money for the hospital's charity, which supports various clinical services in the hospital.

The church was founded in 1123 as an Augustinian priory and has been in constant use as a place of worship sine 1143. The extensive history of the church is easy to see in its spectacular architecture. The church is also frequently used as a setting for film and television - including Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love, Elizabeth the Golden Age, and Amazing Grace.

Here are two additional pictures so you can see the beauty of the church (better than I was able to capture it from my pew in the nave)...
Image via Daily Mail

Image via

After the service, all of the guests repair to the Great Hall in the hospital for mulled wine and mince pies (my first for this year!)
The hospital was also founded in 1123, by the prior of the abbey. The North Wing of the hospital in which the Great Hall is located was built in 1732 and is renowned for its Hogarth murals. The walls are decorated with plaques which list the various benefactors of the hospital over many years. And isn't the ceiling beautiful? Here is a close-up...

And so you can see how lovely this space is, here a few more images...
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The Hogarth Murals - Image via

So, the Carols and minced pie have worked their magic - I'm now filled with festive spirit! I hope you are all enjoying these last days as Christmas approaches...

Sunday, 11 December 2011

A December Saturday in London...

London decided to play host to the most beautiful winter weather yesterday - bright blue cloudless skies and lovely sunshine...but my goodness it was cold. 

The weekend has focused on celebrating the birthdays of two good friends. I met the first on Saturday afternoon at the theatre to see 'Three Days in May' which is about (oddly enough), the three days in late May 1940 just before the evacuation from Dunkirk when Churchill and the war cabinet discussed (and dismissed) the possibility of negotiating a peace treaty with Hitler - excellent production...I'd highly recommend it to anyone living in or near London. The theatre where it was being held is right at the top of Whitehall, near Trafalgar Square, so given that I was a little early, and the sunshine so lovely, I decided to spend a few moments admiring one of my favourite London landmarks...
Admiralty Arch

Trafalgar Square itself appeared to inundated by hundreds of Santa's - they were pouring in from all directions. I tried to grab a few pictures, but as I wasn't prepared to cross the road into the square and join the Santa-melee, you'll have to excuse the picture quality...

I'm still yet to determine the reason for their presence...

Once the play had finished, K and I decided to repair to somewhat more refined surroundings for a drink to celebrate her birthday before joining the second birthday dinner in the evening. So, a brusque walk up through Piccadilly and Mayfair saw us to the door of one of my favourite hotels/bars in London...

The Connaught Hotel - unfortunately, it is somewhere I only get to visit on special occasions due to the incongruence between the prices on their wine list and my budget - but you do get a lovely provision of complimentary bar snacks. I also managed to indulge in some (for me) pretty impressive celebrity spotting - sitting next to us in the bar was Matthew MacFadyen (aka, Mr Darcy from the P&P film) and his wife Keeley Hawes. After a very civilised hour or so, we ventured further west to meet our other friends and continue the celebration.

And I couldn't resist picking up this little sweetie at the supermarket this weekend. Robynne from Robynne's Nest had the most beautiful photos on her blog last week of miniature pointsettias (I'd highly recommend a visit to her blog to see for yourself). So, when I saw this for the princely sum of £2 I couldn't resist... doesn't quite have the gorgeousness of Robynne's jam jars lined with music manuscript, but I thought it was quite charming nonetheless...

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Back to the history books...

I studied history all throughout highschool - however, spending ages 14-15 studying Australian history (afterall, my school was in Australia), and ages 16-17 studying ancient history, has not really equipped me terribly well for appreciating living in England today (and in reflection, I now can't for the life of me think whatever enticed me to study ancient history...)

England, and London in particular, is incredibly steeped in history - I mentioned in my last post that one of the hospitals where I'm based has had a hospital on the site since the late 13th century. It is also the site where William Wallace was executed, and not far from where protestant heretics were burned during Mary I's reign. The history around the other hospital site where I am based is a little more recent but no less gory - it is the stomping ground of Jack the Ripper, and the Elephant Man actually used to live at the hospital.

My point is, that wherever you turn in London, you are in a place that has seen centuries upon centuries of human experience. My knowledge of English history from Queen Victoria onwards is reasonable, and my Tudor history is not bad either. But, throw in the Plantagenets or even the Georgians, and I am more than a little lost. Which is why I was delighted to stumble across this in my local Waterstone's last weekend.

Written by Simon Jenkins in association with the National Trust it covers major segments of English history from the Saxons onwards in chunks of ten pages - a whistlestop tour through the last 1500 years, but enough to whet my appetite and get the major events and players in something resembling the correct chronological sequence in my head. And now that it has actually turned cold here, something to curl up beside the heater with on a quiet evening...

Monday, 5 December 2011

Preparing for Christmas...

The 30-day simplification project is coming to an end, and I can start looking forward to Christmas. Over the past few weeks I have culled every cupboard in my home, made two trips to our large council recycling centre, rearranged bookshelves, altered clothing that I wasn't wearing into items that are much more suitable for my wardrobe/lifestyle, finished making Christmas gifts, downloaded photoshop actions, and finally, organised all of the photo folders on my laptop. I have a couple of tasks left to do, but they will need to wait until the filing solutions I've ordered have arrived.

So, this weekend, I've been able to look forward to all things festive (...and many thanks to those of you who made such lovely comments on the little winter coat decorations -they are now wrapped in brown paper and red gingham ribbon, and are in the custody of Royal Mail on their way to Australia...). The Christmas tree has made an appearance, squeezed into a corner of my sitting room. The little lady above is my favourite decoration - a gift from my mother and sister a few years ago.
I have two lovely Carol services to look forward to...the first is work-linked. I work for a large hospital trust in London, and on one site, there has been a hospital since the late 13th century. It is located adjacent to St Bartholomew's the Great (a church made famous in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and other films...), so each year our hospital charity hosts a carol service in the church followed by mulled wine and mince pies in the great hall of the hospital - it always seems to mark the start of the Christmas festivities to me. This year I am also volunteering (by ushering and handing our programmes) for the Lord Mayor of London's charity fund-raising Carol service at St Paul's Cathedral on the 20th - so I'll also get to enjoy that service as well.

Then there are also the various Christmas parties, and catch-up with friends that seem to squeeze into each spare evening during this season. Plans for the big day itself are still up in the air but will hopefully be sorted soon.

And in terms of receiving, I was delighted to win my first blog giveaway last week - from Simone, at The Bottom of the Ironing Basket.
After reading about these products on Simone's blog, I'm so looking forward to enjoying them - a little treat for my skin, now that the cold winter weather has finally arrived. Thanks Simone!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Handmade Christmas Ornaments...

For the last 15 years or so, a small group of girls that I attended high school with have had a pre-Christmas catch-up on the Saturday before Christmas. A key part of this catch-up was that we each brought a small gift for each other - I'm not entirely certain now how the 'rules' were determined, but it quickly evolved to the specifics of 'handmade' and 'Christmas decoration'.
Now, there have been quite a few years where I have not been in Australia for this event, but still partake in the gift giving and receiving. I will also have to admit that there have also been a few years where I have resorted to purchased decorations (there were some lovely paper-cut decorations from Prague one year that found their way back to sunny Sydney).
Fortunately, this year I found some ready inspiration from Alicia's blog posie gets cozy. Alicia has been making ornament kits for the last four Christmas seasons, and they are simply beautiful. This year I've decided to make each of my Sydney friends a little winter coat from Alicia's 'Snow'Day' collection
Image and pattern via
And here are my finished versions...
...a little bit of northern hemisphere Christmas warmth to add to their southern hemisphere celebration...