Thursday 18 December 2014

Sugar Plum

 Dear friends,
The hours of daylight are at their shortest as we approach the winter solstice and again, as with each passing year, I find that "carpe diem" and "wonder" become two faces of the same thought.   The children and I feed off each others' desire for enchantment and, in our own rough and ready way, we cultivate delight with true hearts and giddy minds.  I observe them from the corner of my eye endlessly drawing, colouring, cutting and see that their need to embellish the everyday humdrum mirrors my own. It's a time for giving and I have lost count of how many handmade cards Angélique has gifted her fellow classmates.  On complimenting Angélique's maternelle teacher on her impressive array of sparkly pullovers this week, she retorted that the short and often grey December days begged light in any shape or form, even in a handful of glitter.  She is right, of course, but in my mind the bleak weather makes little difference and, when the mornings are frosty and the late-rising sun bright, I watch the pinks, mauves and grey of the winter sky unfold behind the intricate shadow puppet trees and imagine frost-flowers, silently unfolding before me on the windowpanes.
I also love the day dawning in heavy freezing fog when the garden seems to float and everything turns to silver.  I'm almost disappointed when the swirling mists clear and daylight invades once more but I leave the Christmas tree's twinkling lights on and recall the colourful candles poised heavily on my childhood tree waiting to come alive with the strike of a match. The children and I are praying for snow.  We crave the peace and silence it grants.  I'm knitting a stole with a yarn named Snowbound in the hope that the températures will drop and our world will be white once more.  The yarn refects the exact grey of a heavy winter sky.
I have knit another hat; a second Rosewater by Tin Can Knits, this time with Madelinetosh's Sugar Plum colourway.  If many of us remain unsure of the original definition for 'sugar plum' it has with time crystallised into the definition of the excitement and childlike wonder of Christmas.  In the 1600s, as 'sugar plum' passed into general usage, it came to have its own assoiated meanings quite apart from fruit.  If your mouth was full of sugar plums, it meant that you spoke sweet, and possibly deceitful, words.  If you stuffed another's mouth with sugar plums, that meant a sop or bribe which served to shut someone up.  The Oxford English Dictionary also spells out that throughout the centuries 'plum' came to mean something desirable.  Surely, that is what this precious period of Advent spells out too?  Children's desire mingled with the hope of adults accompanied by a resounding refrain of 'Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all Men'.
All the pictures of Paris above are taken from our old and very beautiful neighbourhood; la Galérie Vivienne in central Paris.  The picture below, fellow knitters and teashop enthusiasts, is the one and only L'Oisive Thé, situated in the 13th arrondissement in Paris, which I finally set foot in for the first time fortnight ago.  Vibrant, cheery, stuffed with fabulous yarn, books and teas, suffice to say I have been dreaming of this street corner of inspiration ever since.  Aimée, the American/French owner holds the most amazing workshops on a regular basis.  I have watched, over on Instagram, with fascination the visits of designers Gudrun Johnston and Stephen West unfold and plan to be part of the fun in 2015.  Go take a look; it will bring a smile to your faces.
I have also included two hares - Miss Hyacinth and Edmund Elf - as there have been a lot of hares being created behind the scenes in preparation for Christmas.  My notes for my Sugar Plum hat may be found here.  Mickaël kept laughing at me whilst he took the pictures above as it appeared I was praying to the baubles.  I see his point!
I wonder what you are hoping for during this last week before Christmas?
A bientôt,

Saturday 6 December 2014

Prelude To Winter

 The Hirschwald is an enchanted place on such an evening, when the mists lie low on the turf, and overhead the delicate, bare branches of the silver birches stand out clear against the soft sky, while the little moon looks down kindly on the damp November world.  Where the trees thicken into a wood, the fragrance of the wet earth and rotting leaves kicked up by the horses' hoofs fills my soul with delight.  I particularly love that smell, - it brings before me the entire benevolence of Nature, for ever working death and decay, so piteous in themselves, into the means of fresh life and glory, and sending up sweet odours as she works.

Elizabeth von Arnim, Elizabeth And Her German Garden (Virago Press: London, 1985), pp. 82-83 

This is a short post, dear friends, for this morning I am catching the train for Paris to spend time with my family and to visit for the first time the best tea and knitting shop in the capital; L'OisiveThé.  I have shared the above extract from Elizabeth von Arnim's first novel with you as I think it is important to remember, as autumn slips into winter and spring is too far away to comfort even by anticipation, that the decay which surrounds us is simply a necessary prelude to rebirth and greenery.  In winter enjoying nature can require more effort but it is important - for our sanity - to see things from a different perspective even if that may mean finding beauty in death.  Fortunately there are enchanted tales to spin during those long evenings and Christmas to prepare for! 

Before bowing graciously to the muted shades of winter with festive snatches of green and red I leave you with a few last glimpses of late autumn splendour caught on the final day of November beneath a giant ginko tree with dancing-skirt shaped leaves twirling gracefully to the yellow ground.
Angélique is wearing her new Tin Can Knits Prairie Fire short-sleeved pullover in the Madelinetosh colourway Molly Ringwald.

And I, below, am loving my Fairysteps Mary Jane shoes!

Warmest wishes to you all!  Let us all enjoy Advent as those December days slip away so quickly, wouldn't you agree?

Stephanie x

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