Wednesday, 28 December 2011


After a busy Christmas Eve and Christmas Day my tradition for Boxing Day (the day after Christmas Day) is to veg out, and for me that means doing puzzles: a jigsaw puzzle or a favorite crossword or sudoku puzzle. Boxing Day shopping is not for me, I am not a great fan of shopping at the best of times so Boxing Day shopping is definitely out.

Jigsaw puzzles according to Wikipedia:
"were originally created by painting a picture on a flat, rectangular piece of wood, and then cutting that picture into small pieces with a jigsaw, hence the name. John Spilsbury, a London mapmaker and engraver, is credited with commercialising jigsaw puzzles around 1760. Most modern jigsaw puzzles are made out of cardboard, since they are easier and cheaper to mass produce than the original wooden models."

The word "puzzle" has its roots in a word from Old French: pusle meaning “bewilder, confound” is a form of the obsolete verb pose (from Medieval French aposer) in the sense of “perplex”. The use of the word to indicate “a toy contrived to test one’s ingenuity” dates from the mid-19th century.

Why do puzzles appeal to people? Puzzles are a mental challenge and apparently keep the mind sharp. For me focusing on a puzzle is also an escape. I find a jigsaw puzzle occupies my mind but still allows me to mentally relax.

There are also visual puzzles. I don't know if others have ever had the experience of looking at something but not being able to recognize it. The side of the brain, (I think it depends on whether you are left or right handed which side this is), that likes colour and form for their own sake is content but the analytical side of the brain is knocking itself out trying to find a pattern or recognize the image.

I have seen my cat Oscar (in kitty heaven now unfortunately) looking at something new, in the house or outside, and approaching very carefully, obviously he didn't recognize this new thing and wasn't sure if was friend or foe; sometimes he would run up and touch the object and then almost launch himself into the air to try to get away.

The picture at the beginning of the blog today is taken after the sun hit my frost covered plastic owl, looks like he is smoking doesn't it? The process of frost evaporating is called sublimation.
I looked through some of the pictures in my archive and found some that were a bit puzzling, and they are the main subject of today's post. What is this one? Some kind of fruit perhaps?

Well you might be surprised to find that it is and edible fungi, although the colour is a bit bright and I was once told to be careful of the bright, showy ones because they were not good for you.

I am sorry about the grainy quality of the next one, I took this a few years ago with an old camera.

Well in fact it is a picture that I took in Costa Rica of a very small frog. We were on a guided jungle walk and this is the picture I got when the guide picked this one up to let us have a closer look.

Any ideas on this one? I can tell you that it was taken in southern Italy, but I am not sure whether that will help much.

This is a picture taken inside and ancient olive tree, up towards the sky. Even though the tree had a gaping holes in its trunk it seemed to be otherwise healthy and held not only leaves but also olives.

This next one is a puzzle to me because I don't know what it is. I took the picture while on a walk in Umbria, Italy. It is a berry, maybe a Mulberry, but I have never seen it before. There is a larger picture below, showing a cluster of fruit.

You can probably guess what this one is even if you have never seen one before. Hint: I took this picture in southern Arizona.

Yes it is a cactus skeleton. I was fascinated, I had never seen one before.

I don't think this one is particularly puzzling, but it is funny. It's a cactus again, but this one is alive and masquerading as a giraffe.

This one is intriguing to me, it is a reflection in a small pond with an overgrown stump partly submerged. When I look at it, it almost appears to be a view of the distant forest rather than reflections.

The next one is a float, surrounded by reflections from a nearby dock.

I find this picture interesting because of the sign, which advertises a Bake Shop (which was nowhere in site), and it sits beside this old relic of a truck. I wonder if someone put it up as a joke.

I just like the quizzical look I got from this blue heron.

Here is a closeup of a piece of weathered driftwood.

Obviously a snail, but what caught my attention was where it was, see the following image. It is on a leaf on a ledge? What the.......

OK, this is a bird, rather an interesting angle, but what are the lines? One appears almost to be coming out of his head. The sparrow was sitting atop a fence outside a sailing centre and the lines are actually the rigging of one of the boats.

Mystery flower?

It is the flower of a Tulip Tree, or Liriodendron Tulipfora.
Here is a macro for you to ponder. See the complete image below for an explanation.

This is something I saw when out walking on a frosty day. Two pairs of work gloves decorating a pine tree.

The next two images are both closeups in that they don't give the whole picture, but I think the second one is quite recognizable.

But why was a Double Bass in a park at the beach? I didn't ask, but it seems to be a pleasant place to practice.

One last image. I think it could either be something very small or very large.

It is very large, it is a rock formation in the Grand Canyon.

OK, I heard you saying ENOUGH already. I hope you have enjoyed my visual puzzles.

"Nothing puzzles me more than time and space; and yet nothing troubles me less, as I never think about them." Charles Lamb
May all, or most of, your puzzles have a solution but be satisfying.

If you haven't heard "Il Volo" before you will be amazed at how mature their voices are for their age. This is a treat too because it is recorded live in the arena in Verona. Italy.

Now that Christmas is past, I can share these images of three recent paintings; all are watercolours. The first is a commission of a Border Collie. The second is a painting of a blind, but pampered and happy, cat. The third is the image for our 2011 personal Christmas card.

Happy Whimsy Wednesday, until next week,

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Yuletide Warmth

 I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
"I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
 And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
 Hen­ry W. Long­fel­low
Christmas is almost upon us. We have been very busy decorating and baking in preparation for welcoming family and friends to our home. Here are some glimpses of what Christmas looks and sounds like in our house.

Flower, candle and ornaments above and below

This is one of our many Nutcrackers

Our house is filled with holiday decorations, treasures that we have accumulated over the years, some homemade and some gifts; each one holds memories and is lovingly displayed and then carefully packed away for another year. We pick out a real Christmas tree each year and it is brought in and decorated about a week before Christmas.

Hand painted bauble from Switzerland

Our tree top angel has seen many Christmases

This season is all about food, friends and family in our house. Here is a glimpse of appetizers for a gathering of friends and family. Our Christmas dinner includes turkey and all the trimmings, we start with appetizers including oysters (a remembrance of a Christmas my husband spent on a farm in France over 30 years ago) and end with the traditional plum pudding bathed in brandy and flamed before serving.

Appetizers for gathering of friends and family

I have a particular weakness for seasonal sweets: shortbread, sugar cookies, nut crescents, maple cookies, fig pinwheels. This year I made a Gingerbread Trifle (gingerbread cake, apple compote, apple brandy, custard and cream) which was very tasty and not too sweet.

Fig Pinwheels and Chocolate Drop Cookies

Shortbread with snowflake design

Sugar Cookies and Nut Crescents

I love having flowers in the house, especially at this time of year when the garden is devoid of them. Pictured here are a beautiful amaryllis, white lilies and Christmas Cactus.


Amaryllis Bud

White Lily arrangement from friends

Christmas Cactus (blooming at Christmas too)

We fill the house with music, from early music to modern.  We start Christmas Day with a recording of Christmas Bells and then a selection of Christmas music on a tape my husband made 35 years ago.

Years ago we started the tradition of reading Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" aloud in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It is a wonderful book to read aloud - the richness of the story makes each reading different and we find new things every year.  Dickens used to give readings of his works and today there are performances by many groups mixing the story with music.  I also enjoy the old Astaire Sim movie version of the classic and hearing Dylan Thomas recite "A Child's Christmas in Wales".

All this is part of our Christmas.

We send along our best wishes for peace, warmth and friendship. However you celebrate the season, I hope it brings a glow to your heart, a tear to your eye and a smile to your lips.

"We wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year" is the music on this card image that I call "Woofers and Tweeters":

"We wish you a Merry Christmas":

Happy Whimsy Wednesday, until next week