New Arrivals

Guide dog puppy Baden

Nicola here. It’s January 2nd, a new year and a new month have just arrived and it’s often a time when people look forward to what the future might hold. It’s not always a time to make changes or resolutions; it could be equally nice to embrace and continue the good things about the old year. I have no specific resolutions for this year but I do know that it is going to bring big changes, the first of which is arriving on Thursday. Yes, it’s time for our next guide dog puppy to arrive and 10 week old Wren is joining us in two days! We’ve been busy puppy-proofing the house and garden, preparing her cosy bed and choosing some toys for her. Rainbow is briefed on her role as guide dog mentor and we are set to go. Out of the dogs we’ve trained, three have qualified as guide dogs so far and we are hoping she will be the fourth.  (The photograph is of Baden, who qualified last year.) We’re going to give Wren’s training our absolute best shot and we can’t predict what will happen but we’ll do our best. Which is a pretty good metaphor for the year, really. There will be tough times (the experience of trying to wrestle a dead rabbit from the jaws of an over-excited puppy in full view of hundreds of people is one memory that will stay with me forever, as is the one of the puppy who “sang along” at the theatre) but that’s how it goes. So very best wishes to all of us for any resolutions, changes and new arrivals that may be coming our way in 2024!

New Year, New You?

XmasChampagneHAPPY NEW YEAR!

Christina here. Have you all been busy making new year’s resolutions and starting the year as you mean to go on? Me – not so much.

I think one can safely say I’m a “bah humbug” type person when it comes to new year’s resolutions. In short, I gave up on them years ago because I simply never stuck to them – not even for a week in some cases. So what was the point in making them? I just ended up spending money on expensive gym memberships I was never going to use or a bunch of vegetables I soon ditched in favour of chocolate. Willpower is difficult to summon up!

DarumaThere is one tradition I always follow at New Year though and it’s one I picked up when I lived in Japan. The Japanese celebrate New Year rather than Christmas and one of the things they do is to buy a little papier-mâché figure of Daruma. He is based on Bodhidharma, a monk who lived some time during the 5th or 6th centuries and was supposedly the founder of Zen Buddhism. These Daruma figures represent luck, perseverance, endurance, and the spirit to keep going despite setbacks – what the Japanese call ganbaru, or to do your best.

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On the Seventh Day of Christmas

Stencil.default (2)Nicola here. It’s New Year’s Eve here in the UK, with fireworks, celebrations and all the traditions that go with the ending of one year and the start of the new. One of my favourite new year'e eve traditions was celebrated by my grandmother for many years – She would open the windows at the front and back of the house to invite good luck in and the front and let bad luck out at the back! However this might just have had the practical intention of airing the house after all the smells of Christmas cooking!

It may be the end of December, but in an older tradition it’s only the seventh day of the “twelvetide,” the 12 days of Christmas that started on 25th December and end with Twelfth Night on 5th January. In the medieval calendar there was still a lot of festive celebration to go!

In the carol, on the 7th day of Christmas my true love sent to me seven swans a swimming. In the old 7 swansCeltic tradition the seven swans were linked to the seven known planets, elegance and mystery personified. In the 17th century, when the carol originated, swans were seen as good omens, tasty to eat and a source of warmth from the feathers and down. The Christian interpretation of the song was that the seven swans symbolise the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Stencil.default (3)There’s a rather nice idea here the binds the 12 days of Christmas to the idea of New Year’s resolutions. We all have different gifts and qualities. For example, some are good teachers, others can encourage and motivate people and some people are creative. In the New Year, whether or not we make specific resolutions, we can all plan to use and enjoy our own unique gifts.

A very happy New Year’s Eve! Do you have any special traditions you enjoy at this time of year or resolutions you are intent on making?

The Joys of January

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

The holidays are over!  You've:

Roasted your turkey.

Navigated and possibly refereed your relations.

Watched or fled the football games.

Wrapped presents or shoved them all into gift bags because that's easier. Panda Xmas tree 2

Taken the ornaments away from the cat.

Eaten all the Christmas cookies/fruitcake/latkes and wished for more, or decided enough already!

Watched the ball drop at midnight of 12/31 to usher in 2015 (though in some Maryland towns, it might have been a crab, or a donut or a canvasback duck that dropped.  <G>)

Made your resolutions.

So now:

RELAX.

I like January because it's usually such a peaceful contrast to the holiday season. 

January is a good time for working. 

A good time to get together with friends to brighten up gray days. 

A good time to toss those resolutions that are totally unrealistic or involve self-hatred. Winter Wonderland

Instead, do things you enjoy.  Watch a favorite flash mob video.

Or a cat video(It's well know that the infrastructure of the internet is pictures of cats. <G>

Read a good book.

Read SEVERAL good books!  

Image012
Enjoy the peace. 

And maybe the bagpipe flash mob or Irish stepdancers.  <G>

What do you like to do in January?

Mary Jo

Looking Forward… And Back

Fireworks.jpg 1Nicola here, wishing everyone a very Happy New Year from all
the Wenches! As well as being a new year it’s also a new month. January, which
was known as Wolfmonath in the Anglo Saxon calendar. In the Northern Hemisphere
January is a
Aconites dark month with long nights and winter weather. Yet it is also the
month when snowdrops and winter aconites start to push through the earth to
signal the start of spring so it is a time of new beginnings.

JanusJanuary takes its name from Janus, the Roman God of bridges
and doorways. Janus has two faces, looking both forward into the new year and
back to the old. So as well as being a time perhaps to make plans and
resolutions for the new year, January also gives us a chance to reflect on the
good things that happened in the past year. For me a couple of the UK highlights
were the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee which made so many people feel incredibly proud
and patriotic, and the London Olympics, which created a mood of enthusiasm and
euphoria throughout the country. On a personal
Edinburgh note, training Rochester the Guide Dog puppy has been a
great experience and a research trip to Edinburgh was a real highlight.

Looking
forward into 2013, I am very excited about the launch of my new Regency series, Scottish
Brides, in the summer and also to some very special anniversaries during the year!

What about you? Do you have fond memories of 2012 and any
special plans for 2013?