Over on the books site today I've posted information about The Big Readcycle - donating books to Marie Curie - so it's appropriate that here we mention another fundraising initiative, this one cake-related.
Leonard Cheshire Disability are asking for people to Give & Bake, that is gather together a few friends or colleagues, have them bake something delicious to bring along, then put on the kettle and make a donation to LCD while you enjoy all the treats.
If you're a member of a book group or similar you could designate a meeting to Give & Bake and sweeten the book talk with a slice or two of cake, or brighten up the morning coffee break at work with some delicious morsels in aid of a good cause. Follow the link above for full details, and Michael Caines's carrot cake recipe.
- Danielle's talking about Outlander; I haven't read it or seen it, but I must be in a minority of one in that regard - ditto Game of Thrones. Are you a fan of either series (books or television versions)?
- What I have been watching and absolutely loving is W1A: brilliant stuff!
Miranda's post about her mornings is an inspiring read - as someone who always gets up early I can attest to the benefits of that kind of start to the day. As to the evenings, Miranda mentions that she's "a difficult sleeper", and so for anyone like her I thought I'd offer a few suggestions from my evening routine which I find aid restful sleep.
I do the following more often than not:
I switch off the computer around 9.00 or 9.30 (I watch almost no television, so podcasts, blogs, websites of interest usually supply my entertainment).
Next, a bath. A shower is fine, but a bath is better for relaxation. I use Olverum which is wonderful stuff.
After that, around 15 minutes of yoga. Again, this is very relaxing; it also helps to keep my dodgy back in reasonable shape.
I'm posting a lot on Instagram at the moment. I signed up a couple of months ago and am enjoying its immediacy - and everyone's lovely photographs - very much indeed. If you're there, do come and say hello: I'm 'Cornflowerbooks'.
Here in Edinburgh the other day I heard Joanna Trollope at the National Gallery of Scotland talk on a novelist's view of portraiture. "Our faces are our shop window to the world," she says, and a portrait is "the ultimate tribute, the final monument ... having a majesty a photograph can seldom achieve." As a judge of the BP Portrait Award last year she has studied and appraised more 'likenesses' than most of us, and as a contributor to the Imagined Lives exhibition at the NPG in 2011/12 she created fictional biographical material for the unknown sitters of 16th- and 17th-century portraits.
As a novelist, she has always looked at faces very intently - people are her stock-in-trade - and she works with a strong (mental) visual image of her characters, although she has never created a character based on a portrait, as Tracy Chevalier has so successfully done. In her lecture she looked at four famous portraits*, discussed the faces their sitters are presenting to the world, the eloquence of their expression as captured by the artist, and the messages - implicit or overt - they convey.
"... the houses at the town end of Worship Street were just as beautiful as the others, if a little smaller. They lacked the porches and fluted pillars of the larger houses but they had fanlights over their front doors, white doorsteps snowily scrubbed, beautifully spaced windows kept scrupulously clean and shining, and an air of contented solid comfort that was very reassuring. They did not look like houses in which anything could go very wrong. To pass them was to think of shining beeswaxed floors, pots of jelly on a scrubbed shelf and a walled garden behind the house where nectarines grew on the south wall."
We are at the turn of the year as 11.03 tonight is the solstice, so those of us in the northern hemisphere have the cheering prospect of lengthening days ahead.
We'll be needing our warming fires for a while yet, though, so here's a nice passage - and a good tip - for you from Max Adams's book The Wisdom of Trees: A Miscellany:
"The log fire is a simple pleasure that taps into our deep ancestral sensibilities like its polar twin, the fear of darkness and the great wildwood. Its seductive, dangerous display is like that of a wild beast, drawing us to it then repelling us with mortal fear. Fire gives one the feeling of belonging to a crowd, and yet at the same time there is a sense of being utterly alone, absorbed in one's most intimate, private thoughts. The fire is the focus of story and song, of shared and individual memory, of collective knowledge. It stores the memories of whole cultures in its shifting, sensuous flames ...
[An iron basket] is the worst way to burn wood, which combusts most efficiently with an overdraught (unlike coal, which requires the underdraught provided by a grate). Wood should be burnt on the ground, not in the air, and anyone with a modern clean-burning woodstove will find that it burns less wood and produces more heat if the grate is kept full of wood ash and the bottom vent is shut once it was going....
Different species of wood burn differently. Softwoods like pine or spruce burn quite hot but not for long; birch burns very hot and bright but can spit; apple smells the best of any wood; beech and oak burn longest and hottest. And ash, as is commonly known, is one of the few woods (another is holly) whose fat reserves, stored over winter as oleaceous oils, allow it to be burned green; that is to say, as soon as it is cut."
My thanks to Rose for notice of an event to be held at Southwark Cathedral on 13th. February: choral evensong to commemorate the marriage of James I of Scotland and Lady Joan Beaufort which took place at Southwark in 1424.
The service is in aid of the restoration of the cathedral's bells which you can read about here and hear here, and for more on James and his queen, see this post.
The image of the royal couple comes from Forman's Armorial, a collection of 267 coats of arms and plates of kings and queens of Scotland compiled (c.1562) by Sir Robert Forman of Luthrie, Lord Lyon King of Arms; (that is an ancient Scottish office, held in recent years by a former tutor of mine, known in this house as 'The Lyon King'!).
The other day I ordered a dinky little project bag and some stitchmarkers from Jibbyroo Sews on Etsy. They arrived today, carefully wrapped in tissue paper, tied with festive ribbon, and accompanied by an extra lobster claw marker (see above) and a couple of Teapig tea 'temples'.
I'm delighted with my purchases, and most appreciative of the thought and care that Francesca and Michelle, the ladies behind the label, have put into the package.
My thanks to them, and no doubt I'll be a returning customer.