Sunday 28 February 2010

February Full Moon

'Is the moon tired? she looks so pale
Within her misty veil:
She scales the sky from east to west,
And takes no rest.

Before the coming of the night
The moon shows papery white;
Before the dawning of the day
She fades away.'
Christina Rossetti 1830 - 1894
It's the last day of the shortest month of the year and there is a full moon sailing in a cloudy sky. The February full moon is called the Snow Moon, the Ice Moon or the Hunger Moon, though it has other names in other cultures. For example, some colonial Americans may know it as the Trapper's Moon while the Cherokee name is Bony Moon and the Choctaw people call it the Little Famine Moon. Meanwhile the Sioux know it as Moon of the Racoon or the Moon When Trees Pop and that last name seems to me to be similar to the Chinese name of the Budding Moon.
I found this version of an 18th century English recipe for 'Moon Shine' – and this is not for the alcoholic beverage! I have simplified it as much as I can, though I have to say there are some steps that seem quite confusing.
It is made in a large half-moon shaped mould and in one large and two or three smaller star-shaped tins.
  • Boil two calves feet in a gallon of water till reduced to a quart.
  • Strain, allow to cool and skim off all the fat.
  • Take half the jelly and sweeten with sugar to taste.
  • Beat the whites of four eggs and add to mixture.
  • Stir over a slow heat till it boils.
  • Strain through muslin till clear.
  • Put it in a clean saucepan and add an ounce of blanched sweet almonds ground very finely in a mortar.
  • Add two teaspoonfuls of rosewater and two of orange-flower water.
  • Strain through a coarse cloth.
  • Stir in four large spoonfuls of thick cream.
  • Stir it all together till it boils.
  • Have ready the dish you intend it for.
  • Lay the half-moon tin in the middle.
  • Pour the above blancmange into the dish.
  • When quite cold remove the moulds.
  • Mix the other half of the jelly with half a pint of good white wine.
  • Mix the juice of two or three lemons with some sugar.
  • Add the well-beaten whites of eight eggs.
  • Stir it all together over a low heat till it boils.
  • Sieve it through muslin until it is quite clear.
  • In a china basin carefully fill up the spaces left after the moulds were removed.

  • Let it stand till cold.
    I would add one final step . . .

    • Now throw away!!
The full moon always rises at sunset while the new moon always rises at sunrise.
Much of this trivia I have gleaned from the internet. I was pleased to see the moon tonight though it is not shining brightly and I guess we will have more rain before morning – oh joy!

Today’s Flowers #82 – White roses for purity

White roses for purity . . .

The White Rose (die WeiƟe Rose) was a movement founded by University of Munich students and their philosophy professor to resist Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. The group conducted an anonymous leaflet campaign from June 1942 until February 1943 calling for active, non-violent opposition.
The six founder members were arrested by the Gestapo and beheaded in 1943 but the text of their last leaflet was smuggled out of Germany through Scandinavia and into UK where it was edited.  Allied planes dropped millions of copies over Germany in that year.
The White Rose of York (Rosa alba) is an heraldic symbol of the House of York and is now regarded as a symbol for Yorkshire. It represented the Virgin Mary, often called 'The Mystical Rose of Heaven'. White  symbolises light, innocence, purity, joy and glory.

Thank you to the Today's Flowers team for hosting this lovely meme. If you would like to see more flowers from around the world, please click here.

Pet Pride - Never far from my side

I have mentioned before that Frodo is my velcro dog. I cannot leave a room without him noticing and following me. Barry always knows where I am because Frodo is always close by - he is the canine equivalent of a toddler! No secrets in our house . . .
Frodo is extremely responsive, coming immediately when called - he spins on a sixpence to obey - apart from the time when a decomposing deer carcase proved much too inviting and he disappeared inside it for about an hour, deaf to everything but the grinding of his teeth and the champing of his jaws.
When deliveries are made to the front door he sits at the top of the stairs, watching, ready to leap to my rescue.He doesn't like strangers coming into the house but quickly realises that because they have been invited in they are no threat.
An occasional pocketful of treats makes a pleasant outing even better!
When we are out walking he regards it as his job to look after me, which entails him keeping a sharp look-out for strangers, two-legged and four-legged. Once spotted, he fixes a baleful glare and barks warningly.
Somebody approaches - who goes there?
We have always played hide and seek with our dogs, to keep them alert to our whereabouts and close to us, but it is extremely difficult to hide from Frodo as he checks on me every few seconds - never more than 12 seconds pass between his glances.
Walking with dogs is one of life's greatest pleasures. Buddy Liver Spots is always on an extending lead because he can't see very well and wanders off in wrong directions. Currently Jenna is also confined to a lead to help her shoulder injury heal.
Thank you to Bozo and his human for hosting this lovely meme. Click here if you would like to see more pets to be proud of.

Saturday 27 February 2010

Camera Critters #99, Shadow Shot Sunday #93, Swim, swan, swim

Swan, swim over the sea.
Swim, swan, swim!
Swan, swim back again.
Well swum, swan!

These swans didn't swim over the sea but they did swim very fast towards us, expecting (and receiving) food and then they swam away again when it was all gone!
Thanks must go to Misty Dawn and Tracy, the organisers and hosts of these enjoyable memes. If you would like to see more, please click on Camera Critters and/or Shadow Shot Sunday

Six Word Saturday

Been away too long - back now!
I try to keep up with blogging, commenting, regular memes, but sometimes I simply can't! After all, one of the reasons I stopped working was to reduce stress/deadlines and then found myself thinking on different days that I HAD to post this, that or the other. Daft, I know . . . but anyway I've sort of caught up now - till the next time!
Thank you to Cate from 'Call me Cate' for organising and hosting this meme.
To see more thoughts please click here.

Thursday 25 February 2010

SkyWatch Friday Season 4 Episode 33

Late afternoon walk, February 21st, 2010.
It had been a dull, overcast day, though mostly dry. The skies looked stormy and sure enough we had rain later on . . . and every day since. The water table must be extremely high by now and we are fortunate that we do not live on a flood plain. I half expect to see ducks and geese and swans in our garden, it's so wet  . . .

Thank you to the hard-working SkyWatch team who organise and host this meme.
To see skies around the world please click here.

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Treo and the Dickin Medal

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
An eight-year-old black Labrador called Treo is to be presented with the Dickin Medal for animal bravery. The Dickin Medal equates to the Victoria Cross and honours acts of extraordinary courage. HRH Princess Alexandra will make the presentation at the Imperial War Museum later today. Treo is now retired and living comfortably with his handler and his family. He can enjoy the safety of home and the treat of playing with a tennis ball, his nose now needed only to sniff out rabbits.

Sgt. Dave Heyhoe with Treo
photo courtesy of BBC

Safer in Afghanistan, Iraq or Stafford?

Stafford Hospital has killed more people in the last few years than have died in military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and 9/11 put together. Between 400 and 1200 more patients than would be expected died between 2005 and 2008. Public money has been spent on a private inquiry which has not discovered any more than was already common knowledge among relatives of patients. Successive interviewees paint an appalling picture of neglect, incompetence, carelessness, poor hygiene, lack of compassion and bad medical practice.
Chief executive Martin Yeates who was paid an annual salary of £180,000 and will receive £1m in pension payments was apparently too unwell to attend the private inquiry.
He had been suspended on full pay of more than £3,000 a week pending the outcome of the inquiry.
Relatives of affected patients are demanding a public inquiry.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

ABC Wednesday Round 6 F is for Ferns and Fiddleheads

Much of the Forest is covered in large, sharp-edged Ferns known as bracken. At this time of year, February, last year's plants lie brown and dry (or would be if it would only stop precipitating) while under the soil new growth is awakening. Bracken Fern is one of the oldest known Ferns with Fossilised remains pointing to its existence over 55 million years ago. It has a widely spreading rootstock from its rhizomes, maybe as much as one metre underground between individuals, from which large triangular Fronds emerge. When they first appear they are tightly-curled and known as 'Fiddleheads', resembling the Fiddlehead (scroll) of a violin. Bracken Fiddleheads are used in Oriental cookery, cooked Fresh, salted or pickled, or sun-dried. Rhizomes and fronds have been used to make beer, and starch from the rhizomes has been used as a substitute for arrowroot or as Flour to make bread.

By late Summer the plants can be as tall as 8' (2.5m) Though not impenetrable they can present a Formidable barrier, particularly when wet. Dogs and deer, Foxes, badgers and smaller mammals have little difficulty but humans are sometimes deterred by them (well, this human is . . . )
Ferns have neither Flowers nor Fruits and reproduce by means of spores on the undersides of the leaves. Bracken spores are linear rather than the more common circular Form of other Ferns.
Bracken is toxic to cattle, horses, pigs and small rodents, though usually they will eat it only when there is nothing else available. It also allows little else to grow because of the chemicals it produces, though bluebells, wood anemones and mosses are unaffected.
The Fiddle, or violin, has several Fs. The scroll is often called the Fiddlehead, there is a Fingerboard made from ebony, two F holes and often Four Fine-tuners.


Finally, in February, I expect to Find Frogs in the garden pond. Thus Far, there are none! I suspect they are sensibly still hibernating in the deep mud. The Fish are becoming more active though many of the Sticklebacks didn't survive the cold spell. Perhaps this year the Frogspawn will be more successful!

Thanks go to the ABC Wednesday team for their hard work in hosting this meme. Click here to see more Fs!

Monday 22 February 2010

Microfiction Monday #19

Susan at 'Stony River' hosts Microfiction Monday where stories are told in 140 characters or less. It's fun! To read more please click here.

'What do you mean, "Where's your cane?" I'm the White Rabbit, not Fred Astaire. I don't dance! Ask Alice.'

Sunday 21 February 2010

Pet Pride - Buddy Liver Spots sleeps

Buddy Liver Spots sleeps, heedless of the younger dogs playing around him, but he springs into action the minute he realises we're going out. He's an old boy but still wants to be involved in everything . . . especially if it's food-related!

Thank you to Bozo and his human for their work in hosting this meme. Why not click here to see more lovely pets?

Today’s Flowers #81 Crocuses

Finally we have some flowers in the garden! They're not very far advanced but I was delighted to see them! Spring flowers look so delicate but are really very hardy - they grow and bloom despite frost, snow, hail and icy blasts. 

Thank you to the TF team for working so hard in hosting this meme. To see more flowers from around the world please click here.

Camera Critters #98 Feeding the birds

There is a small local nature reserve near us. It boasts a large lake and many trails. The birds are so accustomed to being fed by visitors that they swim or fly speedily across the water to anyone they see.

In this photo there are mallards, Canada geese, swans and a coot. Two young lads are attempting to hand-feed the swans. They're braver than I am - the swans hissed at me when I approached but then I didn't have any food for them!
I have only seen one pair of swans at this reserve but there are many mallards, a couple of pairs of Canada geese, a number of quarrelsome coots and I only saw one pair of moorhens. There is also a tree full of cormorants and herons which share their perching location with lots of gulls. Thank you to Misty Dawn for hosting this meme. To see more critters please click here.

Saturday 20 February 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday #92

Sometimes these 'bird cages' have plants in them
. . . but not today!

Thanks to Tracy from 'Hey Harriet' for hosting this meme.
To see more shadows please click here.

Just for Adi

Adi wanted to see what our dog beds were like . . .
Gus in one of his less elegant poses
Not nearly as soft as your bed/s Adi, but the dogs do sleep on the chairs, settees, our bed, the spare beds . . . and, occasionally, the floor.

Friday 19 February 2010

The Fifth Blog of Augustus Lazarus Cooke (Gus)

Gus gets his toes wet . . .
Hello everyone!

It's been a funny sort of week. We went out with Tia and Foxy on Monday (their Humans were having 'half-term' – I don't think that's anything to eat but they were all very pleased to be having it) and the next day Jenna was limping really badly. She has been limping on and off and the Humans were making her rest and trying to stop me leaping all over her. She's also going bald!! Well, it's not really that bad but her fur is very thin in parts and she's chipped a couple of bottom teeth – not surprising the way she catches that fast-speeding ball in mid-air!

Anyway, the Humans decided she should go and see Phil-the-Vet so Mr H and Marnie took her on Tuesday. Phil-the-Vet thinks the hair loss might be 'hair-moan-all' – I think that's what they said. Well, when they came back they said Jenna was only to go for walks on a lead for two weeks. I thought a lead might be a bit narrow to walk on but then Jenna explained that it meant she'd have to wear a lead and not be allowed to run about. Sounds pretty dull to me! So yesterday Mrs H took Jenna and me to a place we'd never been to before, with a large lake and lots of birds. They came rushing over to us making all sorts of funny noises. Mrs H walked us all the way round the lake and took lots of photographs too. I wanted to rush about but I had to stay on the lead as well 'coz it wouldn't have been fair if I'd gone off the lead and Jenna couldn't. It was good – lots of different smells and although it rained a bit it wasn't cold. Mrs H said we must have been practising for Maypole dancing as we'd twisted our leads round and round. When we went home Mrs H took Buddy and Frodo out for a walk and I kicked up a fuss 'coz I wanted to go too. I didn't create for long – after all, I am a Labrador and we are a patient breed.

On Wednesday Mrs H and Marnie took me to see Nadia-the-Vet – she's the one who mostly looks after Frodo. When I was born I had an 'unbelievable hernia' – something like that - and Charlotte and Ali said it would probably close up on its own but Nadia-the-Vet said it hasn't so I have to have a little operation soon. I think that means I go and spend a day with Nadia-the-Vet – I'll like that.

Today, Mrs H went out early with Jenna and I wanted to go too but when she came back Jenna was nowhere to be seen. I was puzzled, then I remembered Marnie saying that Jenna had to spend the day with Phil-the-Vet, having blood tests and a skin by-topsy. It felt really strange without her and I missed her, especially when Mr and Mrs H took all us boys out for a walk. We went to the lake place again but this time I was allowed to run about and it was ever so much fun with lots of mud and puddles. Frodo and I really enjoyed ourselves and so did Buddy, even though he wound his lead round lots of trees. He can't see very well and goes in the wrong direction so my Humans keep him on a stretchy lead so he can have a bit of freedom but not get lost.

Jenna came home this afternoon and her blood's just as it should be but the Humans have to wait a while for the by-topsy results. I want to play with her but I'm not allowed to 'coz she's still got to rest her leg though she's not limping now.

What else has happened? Ooh, yes, I have a proper bed upstairs now like the big dogs and I like that. Sometimes I spend all night on the Humans' bed but usually I sleep next to Frodo. I really like Frodo – he's awesome. I hope I'll be as strong as him one day. I already weigh 20 kilos and Jenna's only 25. Frodo's 33 kilos – he's a big boy, all muscle. I think I am quite strong 'coz I nearly pull Mrs H over when we go out of the front door. I think it's a bit naughty to do that really 'coz she makes me sit and wait before we go out and before I get in the car. It's just that going for walks is so exciting. 

I am good at waiting though. I sit and wait and look and shake hands and lie down and sit again before I eat, even when I'm really hungry and Winston's about to have my food.

Tia and Foxy are coming again tomorrow 'coz Gillian and Callum are going to dog-sit while Mr and Mrs H go out. Marnie and Kiri can't come 'coz they're in a Prance Show and Paul's going to watch them. It's good though, 'coz Foxy plays with me and that means Jenna can still rest.

It's fun when Tia and Foxy come to stay. Last time they were jumping in the water all the time, chasing the ball – well, Foxy wasn't; she's not really interested in the ball. Frodo goes in the water as well and I nearly went in too. I went in up to my knees. It looks fun but 'm not sure about it yet. I expect it's all right – maybe next time I'll go right in.
Shall I? Shan't I? I want to . . . but I daren't . . .

Hwyl fawr am nawr! (That's Welsh for 'Goodbye for now!')

Thursday 18 February 2010

SkyWatch Friday Season 4 Episode 32

It was a grey, dank, damp day today and it rained - not heavily or steadily but intermittently.
The sky was sombre.
The ground was sodden and squelchy but it was milder than of late.
It was pleasant to be outside!
Thank you to the SkyWatch Team for their work and enthusiasm in organising and hosting this meme.
If you would like to see more skies around the globe please click here.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Choosing names

We take such pains to choose attractive names for our children. We think how they might sound when the baby is adult and consider how they might be shortened and whether the initials look and sound right. Friends of ours realised too late that their daughter would be forever BF no matter what her eventual married surname might be. Frederick Alan Taylor may live to regret his parents' choice of names.

Some parents are amused by the combinations and associations that present themselves and mistakenly, at least in my opinion, allow the humour of the moment to cloud their better judgement. At least Teresa Green might marry a man with a more harmonious surname (not Brown) but John Thomas is stuck with his name and the sniggers it can cause.

Names which suit a small baby or young child may not grow with them. John John is appealing but not for an entrepreneur; Sue Sue suits a girl but not a merchant banker. A woman called Willow cannot afford to be short and plump and Hercules must be broad and strong.

I have never been keen on shortened names and hate mine being abbreviated to Jan. It amazes me that some people assume that they can do whatever they like with other people's names. One girlhood friend had a tendency to truncate names but, realising my dislike of this, lengthened mine to Janissimo! You can't win with some people! My eldest daughter has the same penchant and once had a boyfriend called Tony who became by turns Tone and then Toe. Barry remarked that had his name been Toe she would have shortened it further to 'T'. Strangely, she does not like her children's names being altered.

I remember thinking how weird it sounded to hear my college friends' parents calling them by their given names when we had only ever known them as Maggie or Jen or Dave or Pete. When I first met my husband and then started going out with him everyone called him Baz and I am ashamed to admit that there was a part of me that fervently hoped his name wasn't Basil! Sometimes he was called Punchy as he was a pugilist. No-one calls him Punchy or Baz these days though one old friend still calls him 'Squire'.

Our children's names were shortened, of course, though not by us. Gillian became Gill or Gilly and is only ever called Gillian by the older members of the family – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older cousins – and, oddly, by her youngest sibling, Bethan. If her husband calls her Gillian she knows she has caused him displeasure!

Gareth became Gaz though never Gary but most people call him by his full name now.

Susannah's name was first shortened by her judo coach when she was about six years old. He called her Susie but everyone, apart from older family members – and Bethan - now calls her Sue. I do sometimes call her Sooozzz and Barry's pet name for her is Ozone. (Ozone is an unstable gas which becomes dangerous when heated to boiling point. She's very like her father!!)

Bethan is occasionally called Beth and is always known as B to Gillian and her family which is quite sweet but sounds wrong to me as my late sister's name was Beryl and my brother-in-law never called her anything but Bee.

However, with animals I can indulge my silly side. Our newest pet, Gus, has many monikers and answers to all of them. He is variously Gus, GusGus, GusGusGus, Gussy, GussyGus, Gustopher, Gustopher Robin, Lanky Long Legs, Ploddy Paws, Thunder Paws, Who Me?, Augustus, Little Boy and Lazarus.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

ABC Wednesday Round 6 E is for Ensign

(Ensign from the Old French 'enseigne', Latin insignia)
When we go sailing I am always interested in the flags and pennants flown by different vessels. Sometimes ships in port are dressed overall for special occasions and they always look very colourful and inviting.
'Ensign' has more than one meaning. It can be a national flag flown on ships and aircraft and often has a special insignia denoting a branch or unit of the armed forces. Sometimes it is a standard or banner representing, for example, a military unit. In times gone by it was used to describe the person carrying a standard.
Ensign is a commissioned rank in the US Navy or Coast Guard below that of lieutenant junior grade. Ensign is also a badge of office or power.
As in all things, there is a great deal of data about ensigns and the correct wearing thereof and the following is just a short overview. I am grateful to Wikipedia for much of the information and the depictions of the various ensigns.
In Great Britain the ensigns with which we are most familiar are the Blue Ensign, Red Ensign and White Ensign. They are worn plain or defaced – that is, with an emblem or badge depicting their business, interest or allegiance.
The Blue Ensign is flown by ships in public service, like Her Majesty's Coastguard, Port of London Authority, the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency, the Northern Lighthouse Board and by some long-established British yacht clubs as well as by some ships not in the RN but commanded by an officer of the Royal Naval Reserve.
The Red Ensign, also known as the 'Red Duster' identifies ships of the United Kingdom's Merchant Navy and civilian merchantmen. It is the courtesy flag that should be worn by foreign private vessels in UK waters.
The White Ensign or St George's Ensign is used by the Royal Navy, British Antarctic Territory and the Royal Yacht Squadron.
There is also a Royal Air Force ensign and a civil air ensign, both of which have a sky blue (air force blue) background. The RAF ensign is defaced with the RAF roundel.
There was also, from the 17th century to the early 20th century a Green Ensign which was flown by some Irish merchant vessels.
All ensigns shown here are the most modern versions.
Thank you to the ABC team for hosting this meme. To see more Es please click here.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Today’s Flowers #80 Primroses

The primrose,(Primula vulgaris) one of Great Britain's native plants, is an herbaceous perennial that flowers in early Spring. It is one of the earliest Spring flowers in much of Europe.
I love primroses. My favourites are the wild yellow primroses that grow on roadside banks and in damp woodlands. The primroses in these photographs are cultivated plants and a much deeper, orange-yellow than their wild cousins.

The name Primrose comes from the Old French 'primerose' or mediaeval Latin 'prima rosa' meaning 'first rose'.

Pin flower on the left, thrum flower on the right
Individual plants carry either 'pin' flowers, where the style is prominent, or 'thrum' flowers in which the stamens are prominent. Pin to pin and thrum to thrum pollination is doomed to failure as fertilisation can only take place between pin and thrum flowers.
It is an offence in the UK under the 'Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981' to pick the flowers or remove wild primrose plants. It is illegal in many other countries too.
Flowers and leaves are edible in salads - the flavour ranges from mild to bitter. The leaves can also be used to make an infusion of tea.Young flowers can be fermented to produce primrose wine.

The primrose was Benjamin Disraeli's favourite flower and the Primrose League, an organisation founded to spread Conservative principles, was named to commemorate this.The organisation was founded in 1883 and remained active until the mid-1990s. It was finally wound up in December 2004. Whether this was because it had achieved its aims or because all hope had been abandoned is not known!   
Thank you to the 'Today's Flowers' team for organising and hosting this meme. To see more beautiful blooms around the world please click here.