Cross Stitch, Simple, Effective And Therapeutic

cloth pinks

Cross-stitch is a classic and beautiful craft.  It is also therapeutic as I discovered recently. I had an operation and was laid up for over 4 months. Life is frustrating when I am idle and, being confined to bed, I wanted to do something creative.  With cross-stitch all that’s needed is a cloth to work, some pretty cottons, a needle and a little pair of scissors to snip the thread.

I buy the cloths which already have designs printed on the fabric.  This is known as stamped cross-stitch. The cottons are available in lovely shades and I enjoy planning  the colours for each cloth.

Counted cross-stitch, is another form of cross-stitch. Here a design from a printed graph is transferred onto an even weave fabric and the stitches are counted as they are sewn onto the fabric, to replicate the design.

Some Cross-Stitch History

Cross-stitch is a traditional and very old form of embroidery. The earliest cross-stitch sampler (a piece of cloth embroidered to demonstrate a beginner’s skill) can be found at Pilgrim Hall, Plymouth, Massachusetts and dates back to 1653.

Examples of cross-stitch can be found in museums world wide. It was used to decorate linen like pillow cases, sheets and table cloths. Clothing was frequently embellished with cross-stitch too.


How To Do Cross-Stitch

Cross stitch can be done in the traditional style where each stitch is completed, one stitch at a time. The Danish method is when you stitch a row of diagonal stitches along the one way and then the crosses are made on the way back.

I found a gorgeous web site called “Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials” which demonstrates embroidery stitches beautifully – here is the link to the cross stitch section

The Future Of Cross-Stitch

It seems that cross-stitch is becoming cool again. The Sun newspaper ran an article on Tuesday, 28th August 2012, entitled “Why Cross-Stitch Is Achingly Hip Again” .

Kids are copying graffiti and producing their own street designs in cross-stitch. This new version of the craft is called “Urban Cross-Stitch”.

So not only is cross-stitch traditional, it’s hip too!

cloth blue


A cross-stitch design can be as simple or complex as you like. If you are stressed, lack creativity and just generally out of sorts, get out your cloth and start stitching, you’ll soon feel a whole lot better. This time-honoured craft has so much to offer both beginners and experienced stitchers.

So, if you’ve never tried cross-stitch, please do, you’ll love it!

rose cloth

The Beautiful World Of Books


Pollyanna : a childhood classic

Books have comforted, entertained and educated me. The first book I remember being given was Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses.” I read it often and loved the poems and illustrations. From there I went on to Noddy and Enid Blyton became my literary idol. I read her books throughout my childhood and relished the adventures of the Famous Five and the Secret Seven. Sadly though, the recent film of her life called “Enid” has diminished her status in my eyes, when I discovered how flawed her character actually was.

I went on to read the children’s classics like ‘Little Women” (I liked Jo best), “Heidi” (who made little girls fall in love with Peter and the Swiss Alps), “Pollyanna” (who taught us the “glad” game). I found so many heroines. It was  because of “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier that I eventually visited Cornwall.

When my English teacher said that “Great Expectations”  would be our set work book, I was not impressed never thinking that Charles Dickens would  become one of my favourite authors and that his name would be the one I looked for when I scoured secondhand book stores.


Legal Text Books

I started studying for my degree and books became a means to an end. After I graduated I was able to go back to reading for pleasure.  However, the years of study  forged my relationship with my law textbook so now they’ve also become an integral part of my reading life.

I started reading the fabulous Jane Austen about 15 years ago and love the way she embedded her social commentary into the stories. When I visited her burial place in Winchester Cathedral some years ago, it felt like being at the grave of an old friend.

A relative newcomer to my lifetime love affair with books, is Alexander McCall Smith. I was introduced to him through his much publicised No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series which are are set in our neighbouring county, Botswana. Mr McCall Smith has done a mountain of good for tourism in Botswana as his sensitive portrayal of the people of Gaborone has encouraged numerous people to make it their holiday destination.  His stories are simply told and have wonderful characters. Most of his books have developed into a series – his readers don’t want to let go of the people he has created, like Isabel Dalhousie in the “The Sunday Philosophy Club” series and William in the “Corduroy Mansions” series.

There are numerous books which have added substance to my life – no blog post is big enough to hold them all.

Life would be a much poorer place without being able to escape into the beautiful world of books.

The Meaning Of “The Twelve Days Of Christmas”

Photo RL Pieterse


“The Twelve Days Of Christmas” has been referred to as a folk song, a Christmas carol or a nursery rhyme. The words speak of the gifts that were given on each of the twelve days of Christmas. The twelve days are the days from Christmas day until the beginning of Epiphany which is 6th January.

Some believe that the song may be anecdotal or legendary. But there isn’t any evidence of this. I like the theory that is is a song from the 16th century which was written to teach the basics of faith to young people. Again, there doesn’t seem to be any real proof of this.

This theory is based on the assumption that religious meaning has been given to each of the gifts which makes the words more cryptical than nonsensical.  This was necessary as, when the song was written, Catholicism was criminalised in England and this was a way of teaching the youth whilst managing to hide what was being taught.

Photo RL Pieterse

The Lyrics And Meaning

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..

A Partridge in a Pear Tree,”

The Partridge represents Jesus Christ whose birthday we celebrate on Christmas Day. Christmas Day is the first day of Christmas.

“On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..

2 Turtle Doves,”

The Two Turtle Doves represent the Old and the New Testaments of the Bible.

“On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..

3 French Hens,”

The French Hens signify the three virtues of Faith, Hope and Love.

Photo RL Pieterse

“On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ..

4 Calling Birds,”

Here the reference is to the Four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – these Gospels proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ’s presence in the world.

“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ..

5 Golden Rings,”

The first Five Books of the Bible are the Golden Rings. They are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. They record the sins of humanity and God’s response.

“On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ..

6 Geese-a-Laying,”

The Six Geese represent the Six Days which God took to create the world.

Photo RL Pieterse

“On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ..

7 Swans-a-Swimming,”

The Swans are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit which are prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading and compassion.

“On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ..

8 Maids-a-Milking,’

The Eight Maids are the Beatitudes. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful , the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.

“On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ..

9 Ladies Dancing,”

These are the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

Photo RL Pieterse

“On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ..

10 Lords-a-Leaping,”

These are the Ten Commandants i.e. you shall have no other gods before me, do not make any idols, do not take God’s name in vain, keep the Sabbath day holy, honor your father and mother, do not commit murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness and do not covet.

“On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ..

11 Pipers Piping,”

The Eleven Pipers are the loyal Apostles, Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (Alphaeus), Simon (Zealot), Judas (James). Of course, Judas Iscariot has been excluded.

“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ..

12 Drummers Drumming,”

These are the doctrines of the Apostle’s Creed which are:

  1. I believe in God,
  2. I believe in Jesus Christ,
  3. I believe Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary,
  4. He suffered under Pontius Pilot, was crucified, died and was buried,
  5. On the third day He rose again, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father,
  6. He will come again to judge the living and the dead,
  7. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
  8. The holy Catholic Church,
  9. The communion of saints,
  10. The forgiveness of sins,
  11. The resurrection of the body,
  12. And life everlasting.

The hidden meaning in the lyrics of this lovely song is the complete embodiment of the religious meaning of Christmas.

Hope your Christmas is both peaceful and happy.

The Song

Christmas Traditions : Twelfth Night

Photo RL Pieterse

The culmination of the Christmas season used to be celebrated on “Twelfth Night”. Even today, Christmas trees, balloons and tinsel are usually packed away before midnight on the 6th January.  There are rumours about the appalling consequences of not doing so but, like walking under a ladder, no one knows exactly what they are nor should be willing to find out!

Photo RL Pieterse

Shakespeare’s play “Twelfth Night” marked the end of the Christmas festivities in Elizabethan England. “These most brisk and giddy-paced times” he wrote, which aptly described the festival.

Also referred to as the Feast of Epiphany, the Christian aspect of this celebration commemorates the visit of the Wisemen to the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem, Judea. Their gifts were gold, frankincense and myrrh. Even today in the Chapel Royal of St James’ Palace in London, these offerings are made by the British Royalty on the 6th January each year. The gold is changed into money and given to pensioners, the frankincense is used in worship and the myrrh is presented to a hospital.  The gold represents man, born to be King. Frankincense represents the holy man, and myrrh, a bitter herb, represents the crucifixion.  The monarch is represented by two men from the Lord Chamberlain’s office, a tradition which began as far back as the reign of George III because the King was considered too mad to handle the ceremony.

Photo RL Pieterse

In the Green Room of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, another ceremony takes place. In the late eighteenth century as actor/chef, Robert Baddeley, died in his dressing room. He bequeathed 100 pounds to be kept in trust and he willed the interest to be used to”provide cake and wine for the performers” each Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night cakes were essential and much artistry went into their creation. They were iced and displayed for crowds to gasp in awe at the creativity shown.  Mrs Beeton’s cookbook bears no reference to a Christmas cake, only a Twelfth Night cake. She mixed charms into the mixture which symbolised the coming year – she also mixed a pea and a bean. An anchor meant a journey; a thimble, an old maid; but, whoever found the pea and the bean (which symbolised the King and the Queen), led the dancing. The only remnants of this tradition are the charms or coins which we find in our Christmas pudding.

Photo RL Pieterse

Before the calendar was revised in the early eighteenth century, England celebrated Christmas on the 6th January. The eve of that day, the 5th January, is still known as Old Christmas Eve.

Puerto Ricans celebrate “Three King’s Day” on the 6th of January when “The Three Kings” deliver gifts to the children.
Christmas for the Irish lasts from Christmas Eve to Twelfth Night. Irish refer to this holiday as “Little Christmas”.

A firm tradition was the “wassailing” of fruit trees. A “wassail” bowl would be prepared and broken roasted apples were placed in it. The men gathered beneath a fruit tree, drank a cup of the brew and threw the rest onto the roots of the tree. They fired shotguns into the branches and shouted, urging the tree to be bountiful. In Surrey, rather than fire guns, they whipped the trunk of the tree. Instead of shouting they sang.
In Somerset their song went,
“Apple tree, apple tree, I wassail thee
To blow and to bear ….”

Twelfth Night is no longer the celebration it used to be.  Maybe, after all the decorations are taken down and the Christmas cards packed away, we should round off the Christmas season of festivities and love by preparing a Twelfth night cake or a wassail bowl as a tribute to Christmases past.

Photo RL Pieterse

My Home Library

I love books.  But now that I have an e-reader I buy very few hard copies so my real library is diminishing as the library on my e-reader grows.

I no longer have piles of books next to my bed waiting to be read, they are stored on my e-reader which is probably a good thing as I don’t get rid of books which means my storage problem is coming to an end.

The books that I do have though, need  to be sorted so I embarked on this task one rainy afternoon. The perfect weather to spend with my books!  There is something comforting about holding a book in your hands, it’s a feeling you don’t get from a  e-reader.

Maeve Binchy

When my daughter was young, she insisted on displaying her books by size.  Biggest to smallest.  This is, of course, aesthetically pleasing but not very satisfactory when you need to find a special book.   I also know someone who sorts her books by colour!  I found it strange that the books on display always matched her decor so beautifully until I realised that the spines of her books were stiff.  I haven’t the heart to question her on their content as I now firmly believe that she shops for books with a swatch of material to match her lounge colour scheme and hides the battered books she hopefully reads, under her bed or in a cupboard somewhere.

Some Of My Classsics


I  keep the same authors’ books next to each other and, although I have most of Charles Dickens’ books on my e-reader, I still cannot resist buying hard copies from secondhand bookshops.  The covers are rather motley, some  are new editions and some are very old.


I organise my non-fiction books according to genre. I have a special space for gardening books and another for recipe books. I keep my travel books in two separate areas – books I have brought on my travels and books about places I still want to see.

Books, books, books, such beautiful things!



I recently enjoyed a glass of 2005 Dalla Cia which is a beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stellenbosch region.

The label aptly describes the taste :

“A bouquet of blueberries and cigar box with hints of spicy and gaminess.  Full bodied in structure and complimentary to all red meats.”

It is important to make sure that a red’s drinking temperature is between 16 and 18 degrees centigrade.   This means that, because of the warmth of our South African climate, you may need to keep a red wine in a cooler or fridge for a while before serving.

I believe in the saying that  “a day without wine is like a day without sunshine”.  A glass of wine adds beauty to an ordinary day.

Ornamental Kale

I bought ornamental kale at the garden shop this morning – their beauty made them hard to resist.

Ornamental kale is sometimes referred to ornamental cabbage and can be found in a variety of colours like purple, white and red. If kept indoors they prefer a cool, well lit room.

Apparently they are edible. Although they take the shape of a flower they are actually foliage. Kale and cabbage are both members of the cabbage family. The difference between kale and cabbage is that kale forms a flower and cabbage does not.

There is another difference though, kale is beautiful but I certainly can’t say the same for cabbage!



It’s impossible to leave the house without  a few sets of keys, bank cards, a driver’s license, address book and so on. Fortunately there are are so many lovely handbags to house these objects  that having  to carry around a heap of things can be a pleasure.  Provided, of course, you have a beautiful handbag.

As a young girl growing up in the 1950’s, I used a handbag for church. This was a lovely little object made out of cane, with a flap over the front and two semi circle shaped handles.  All I needed to carry though, was a handkerchief and money for the collection plate.

A few Christmas’ ago I was given a Nine West handbag which I love. It is a quality object, luxuriously lined. Unfortunately, due to constant use, it is starting to show wear.

So, on Mother’s Day,  I was delighted with my gift of two Polo handbags, each of which serve a different purpose.

One is a barrel shape which holds everything I need for day to day living .  Don’t you love way the flap resembles a a saddle?

The other is small and can be slung across my body – perfect for travel and touring. It is slender but deceivingly spacious.

Such beautiful handbags to touch, use and enjoy.

“Saddle” bag

Travel companion


Cupcakes were always present at family gatherings and birthday parties when I was growing up.  Lately they have become more and more beautiful.  I recently hosted a Baby Shower and these are the cupcakes made by Della van Biljon from Pietermaritzburg for the celebration.  They were not only beautiful to look at but a taste sensation as well.




Are lilies the most beautiful flowers ?  They may be, they’re certainly up there with orchids and roses. Lilies are not only lovely, they have a beautiful name.

The name “Lily” means purity and perfection and apparently “Lily” was on top of the United Kingdom’s 2011 most popular girls’ names’ list.

Beautiful by name and beautiful by nature.