Monday, 31 December 2012

Quiet New Year's Eve

The lady is alert (as if) preparing herself for the festivities in the evening. The boys are taking a nap on a comfortable bed. Sounds familiar?

Happy New Year everyone, human or not!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Silent night

I hope you are having a most relaxing holiday season.

It’s not The Snowman and not even It’s a Wonderful Life but Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander is the film that feels the most like Christmas to me. Once again we were lucky to have it broadcast and I spent the three hours glued to the screen.

The Christmas Eve mass held in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican is another broadcast that has become a tradition also here and as usual I kept the TV open until the end. An extra bit of ceremonial solemnity is good for you every once in a while I think.

He has been asleep for hours and now Im trying to force myself to have some rest, too. Tomorrow we may even remember to unwrap the presents. It will be just the two of us until Boxing Day so we forgot all about them tonight. Age does bring certain advantages, I’m happy to report.

Photos in this post from: 1 Florence, 2-4 Rome, 5&6 the Vatican.

Tapestry at the Vatican Museums.

Monday, 17 December 2012


This winter, nature has certainly done her best to speed up reaching our Christmas spirits. It’s been snowing almost constantly for days and there’s no end in sight. This time we should have no worries: my persuasions finally worked and he ordered a snow blower that should be here in a couple of days.

The house is practically ready to welcome the festive season and we still have one more week to go, which is most unusual for me. I am no magician in the kitchen but the preparations by the oven are now under way. Yesterday I did some baking, among others two units of my favourite Christmas cake (a fruit cake flavoured with brandy) pictured above. The recipe can be found in one of my very first posts here. Happy pre-Christmas time to you, too!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Better safe than sorry

I’d like to remind everyone living in an older house about the importance of measuring the indoor radon levels to see whether any improvements are required to lower the concentration of this radioactive gas in your home.

If your house was built before your local building regulations included radon protection, especially if you happen to be living in a risky area but are unaware whether any protective insulation or ventilation has been carried out since, now is the time to order a home measurement kit from your local authorities.

The measurement must be made for at least two months during the cold season so this is the time for the northern hemisphere. We made it last season and are safe. Everything I discovered last year about this cancer-causing gas, how to measure it in your home and where to find maps to give you an indication about radon levels in your area can be found in my post here. Let’s hope you will be safe, too.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Winter kicks off

November was very mild but suddenly winter is here, a month earlier than last year. We don’t have much snow yet but it’s been cold, at night around -20°C (-4°F) and during daytime around -10°C (14°F). With a few layers of pullovers I can just about manage it.

We have spotted a new visitor lurking around the bird feeder hanging from the apple tree visible from our kitchen window. Strangely, the winter birds do not seem to mind the larger newcomer that is sitting on the upper branches of the tree every now and then. I zoomed it standing a few steps away from the window to avoid disturbing it so the photo is not very clear. As far as we can tell, the creature looking straight to the camera is a female Eurasian sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (varpushaukka) – far more dangerous for the winter birds than our Jack. The little ones should watch out!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

HT 2: Crochet bedspread

Choosing photos for the previous post reminded me about the Handmade treasures series I started in late October. My original plan was to introduce one item weekly but the first week has now turned into a good month. Our recent trip to Spain will serve as an excuse for the delay this time. Let’s worry about the frequency of the sequels later.

If you have visited my blog before you will have realized I’m not the black-and-white-and-grey sort of a person. In fact, that would be the colour palette I’d find the most uncomfortable to wear. I like my life to be colourful (never mind the fact it often isn’t) and this is also reflected in my clothing as well as home decor. So there was no escaping when I saw this crochet patchwork bedspread at a flea market several years ago, soon after I had moved to my old house in the countryside.

It is particularly the bright red and the ultramarine green (very fashionable in clothing now about a decade later) that please my eye in this piece. So does their matching harmony with the dark blue and greyish pale blue. I also like the orderly pattern of the diagonal rows that is enhanced by one round of grey around each square. And the red round around the completed spread adds the perfect finishing touch.

Unlike so many of my treasures, this item is hardly ever hidden in a closet. It is just the ideal size for the wide one-person bed in the alcove under the eaves in our upstairs ‘studio’ that used to be my daughter’s bedroom but now serves as my study. Sometimes I spread it on the extendable wooden bed made by my grandfather – another handmade treasure with a story to share one day.

Needless to say, when I bought this bedspread there was nothing in these colours in the designated room before. Now the red and the green are the accent colours there. For me, decorating often goes this way, gradually evolving around a fascinating textile of some sort, sometimes intentionally, sometimes intuitively out of a happy coincidence. I guess that’s just the correct kind of an approach for someone whose favourite items in her home are the handmade pieces.