Christmas Giveaway – THE STORIES


This is where you, my favourite global blogging community, get to decide who you would most like to see receive the Christmas Light Catcher.

There are eleven nominations.

It’s really simple – the stories each have a letter at the top, you just select your favourite two as a first and second choice.  The story that receives the most votes wins the light catcher.  But this is the hard part – It’s really hard – each nominee is worthy, every little story is wrapped around a wonderful human being, how do you choose?  [Left to my own devices, I’d probably just send them all a light catcher! I’m glad it’s not me choosing!]

Remember, you may select two only and the poll will only let you vote once.   There are no rules, no right or wrong – just your considered opinion, or feeling for or gut response –  whichever one you go by – then simply select the two nominees who touch you the most and mark the corresponding alphabet letters in the poll box at the bottom of the post.

Thank you for your participation and for joining with me in this somewhat experimental attempt to spread a bit of  unexpected rainbow filled light out into the world.

The poll will be closed and no further votes will count after 6 pm [NZ time] 3rd December.

In the interests of getting the package sent off as quickly as possible to the winner [mail slowing down horrendously from this point on of course], if you entered someone in this giveaway could you please contact me privately via the email address on the ‘Contact Me’ page with the postal details of your nominee just as soon as possible.



I have a wonderful friend for whom this beautiful light catcher would be a perfect gift. Each of its strands holds a special significance, as if Pauline had her in mind.

She gifted her friendship to me more than thirty years ago and, thanks to a miracle and the protection of angels, it is a gift that continues.

Over twenty years ago, on my birthday, she was involved in a serious car accident. My birthday became her life day, a constant reminder that life and each passing year is a precious gift.

Her many injuries, requiring numerous surgeries over the years, did not injure her bright, cheerful nature and positive outlook on life. Although she lives with constant pain you wouldn’t know unless you asked, and then only if she chose to tell you.

She has an enormous generous and loving heart, and her home is warm and welcoming. Family, especially her two grown daughters and her dear Mum who passed this year, is important to her. She loves to bake and craft individual gifts for her family and friends. She is always busily thinking of others.

She is a gifted musician and amazing music teacher. She plays the flute and sings like a Robin. She incorporates music and fun into classes for children and lessons for adults learning English. All come to her classes eager to learn and leave singing with joy and acceptance.

At Christmas the family gather round to decorate the tree and “remember the moments” marked by ornaments made by smaller hands, collected on travels, or signifying achievements and occasions like graduations and engagements.

I know my friend would treasure this beautiful light catcher as another reminder of life’s precious gifts and moments that make it magic. Thank you Pauline for the opportunity to express openly how much I value her friendship.



I would like to nominate my friend Angela. she is a true angel and particularly at Christmas time.  She helped me and my fiancee as he left this world, delivered my baby, is a nurse manager of a busy city hospital and looks after her three children in her spare time. She also helps organize her hardworking husband, two dogs, has a garden and has THE most wonderful Christmas dinner every year for multiple people.  She’s just another unsung hero is my friend Angela, who loves Christmas and quite frankly MAKES Christmas for all of us.






Melanie (my daughter) was diagnosed with a brain tumor a few years ago now and, while her 5 yr survival chances were estimated at 50/50, she is still “with us”. Because of the tumor, and so much residual damage from numerous radiation and chemo treatments, she is unable to hold down a regular job. Her focus is very good, but her memory less so. She has internal damage; nausea is quite common and she loses her balance periodically however, her church has employed her regularly a couple of days a week but, other than that, her income is totally from government allowances. She lives a spartan existence. Prior to the diagnosis, she was a single Mum and a very competent kick-boxer!

Her daughter is now independent, and  Melanie is still going to kick-boxing classes albeit on a non-contact basis. Given her balance issues, any move that involves a spin is a delicate movement for her but she soldiers on.

I would like her to be considered because despite her circumstances, she is always befriending less fortunate people, is always volunteering for something but, most importantly, is very content and appreciative of her life. I recently spent 2 weeks with her in her little apartment and was so proud of her because she had little more than the basics (no tv and no internet), but couldn’t think of anything she really wanted for Christmas. From her perspective, she has a little apartment; a daughter that she is proud of; lots of friends; and a family who love her. From her perspective, she has it all!

Your display would not only be appreciated because of the nature of it, but she would think that she had won the lottery!!!!



Perhaps it was love at first sight. I didn’t quite know it then. Almost fifty years ago, till grieving for my late wife, I was cajoled by my brother to attend a twenty-first birthday party. Standing in a room full of happy young people, I didn’t know where to put myself.
I was rivetted to the floor. Then. Across the room I saw her. My soles were freed. Over I went, and we stayed in each other’s company for the rest of the evening.
We made a date. I waited for over an hour on Victoria Station, until she came running towards me. We sat in St. James’s Park. A pigeon pecked at the remains of a boiled egg on the tarmac. Simultaneously we each said: ‘Cannibal’. That was it. It was love. Love for life.
The marriage ended abruptly six years later. The light she had brought to my life went out. The love did not.
After almost forty more years during which we each remarried and led separate lives; and I was widowed again; we met once more at our son’s fortieth birthday party. We talked once more. At one point I realised that the rest of the chairs around the table at which we sat had been tactfully vacated.
Within weeks we were back together. The light had returned. Six more years on, it does not wane.
The lightcatcher deserves to be with her.
My nomination is a fellow blogger, Marlene.  I know, a bit odd, since I don’t know her, except through her blog, and her comments on other blogs we jointly follow.  She came to my mind straight away, and even though I sifted through my nearest and dearest, my thoughts kept returning to Marlene, so Marlene it is.
I’m always touched and impressed by her soft, gentle positivity in her blog posts, and comments on other blogs and a recent one on The Kitchens Garden where she said she keeps her vibration as loving as possible so each encounter in the world reflects that. I do like that sentiment.
I think she deserves this beautiful gift of light and joy.
 My friend, Amy, is someone who is most deserving of an unexpected gift out of the blue! She is a woman who has been challenged by the loss of several loved ones, and been disappointed by the actions of others. She opens her heart, make herself vulnerable, and in the process is sometimes taken advantage of.
She never quite realizes that she is deserving of love and goodness.
Yes, she has been blessed with good health, a steady income, and the love of one who means much to her, but those things don’t negate the fact that she needs reassurance, support, and love.
She works hard, every day. She loves passionately, every day. She grieves deeply, every day. She deserves goodness, every day.
My mind went immediately to someone I got to know through blogging, my friend Crystal. We have met a few times to get to know each other though she has moved farther away and works longer hours now. She’s been raising her daughter pretty much all alone all these years and done a very good job of it. She is also a veteran having served in the military state side. Having just purchased and moved into her new (quite old, in much need of love) home, the dangler would be just the thing to bring good Chi into her space. With her kind heart and great photographic talent, and her Native American heritage, I can see the dangler hanging on her porch outside her front door. I’m sure she would appreciate it. How could someone not.
 My friend Harry would never put this light catcher away with the Christmas decorations. He would give it a prominent place in his house—after much experimenting for the very BEST place, (Harry can be a bit artsy fartsy)—-making sure the sunbeams would strike it just so, then he and his dog and cat would dance with all the rainbows on the floor and walls in the same spirit of joy and fun he spreads like a tonic wherever he goes. He has lived many years and well knows the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but still, like a child of the light, seems to carry Christmas in his heart every day of the year. You might say he himself is a light catcher. Since he is much more accustomed to giving gifts than receiving them, he would be flabbergasted to receive this beautiful one, out of the blue, for no reason at all.

I would like to nominate a friend of the past 25 years, Sue.  She is gentle and kind but with a core of steel.  She has had a difficult 18 months, having lost her father some years ago at a comparatively young age, and now having had a very ill mother who nearly died countless times because of an abscess on the brain.  Sue works at a responsible job for a Big 6 accountancy firm 4 days a week.  She has a school age daughter.  Her mother lives some distance away but was fortunately able to be treated in London at a hospital near Sue, and now lives with her and the family for some of the time.  Sue made it clear to her employers that her mother was her priority and stuck to that, despite the veiled job loss pressures the firm put on her, as these places do, and the general volume of work, and spent as much time with her as possible and beyond, sleeping in all sorts of awkward expensive and cheap places.  And yet whilst all this is going on she has never once complained and is still always unforcedly cheerful and amusing and caring about her friends, asking about them and remembering details.  She is a bright, funny and loving person and I always come away from time with her with a lightness of heart, despite her peculiar loyalty to Shrewsbury Town FC!  She considers time spent with her friends a privilege for her but the privilege is for us, even though she would never understand that!

 This person had a particularly difficult start to life through an abusive family. Finally free and eventually with a trustworthy man, a veteran with his own challenges she was defrauded of her home and the legal system let her down. But she fights for her family and has pressed for fair treatment for her husband while rebuilding her life. She works for a large number of not for profits. Since I met this person blogging and have come to know and admire (maybe a little adoration too) her through her blog it is the community on line that she has created that speaks volumes. She helps people fulfill dreams – I read countless testimonials to how people start writing because of her encouragement, finding outlets where none existed before. Now she is running a competition to raise money for a sensing dog – yet another small but significant addition to an extraordinary portfolio. And boy will she adore the light catcher and keep it out all the time.
My friend Puwen is an idea machine with the ability to move beyond ideas into action.  A number of years ago, I came back from a visit to California with an idea for gardeners to donate vegetables to food banks.  The outreach coordinator at my church put me in touch with Puwen, who she said was trying to get more fresh produce into the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).  When we finally connected by phone, we talked for a couple hours.  I connected her with a farm network that donates food from fields that can’t be harvested, talked about gardens, church gardens and then school gardens.  We talked about getting donations from the farmers markets and community gardens.  We talked about advertising gardening as a healthy way to get food. We threw around a lot of ideas.  Then Puwen went into action.  She got space at the local library for a garden, arranged pickup of left-over vegetables from farm markets and started  talking with the schools about the amazing lessons that could be built around a garden: math, science, history, biology, botany.  The first year, we hauled in 10,000 lbs of fresh vegetables to AFAC, some of it delivered to Puwen’s house.  Now the take is  more than 200,000 lbs.  Unfortunately, the need has grown as well.  But we’ve got people donating, being educated about plants and gardening, and just enjoying the way gardens look.  And that’s not bad.  Feeding people is good.  Feeding people well is even better.


Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!

A Complex Giveaway for Christmas

As my American friends celebrate Thanksgiving, and as Advent approaches it is time to not only be grateful for all we have, it is also time to think about those who maybe have less or maybe need a little brightening moment in their lives.  In keeping with the true spirit of the season, this is the time for giving.

Let’s join together and bring back a little of the giving spirit here in Contented Land and see what we can come up with.

I’ve made a traditionally coloured Christmas Light Catcher – one that can be kept especially for this time of the year or, if the winner is so inclined, to hang up all year round.


I love making these light catchers, to me they are a really special combination of textures, light and colour – they are always woven with the magic of intent and good wishes for the person for whom it is destined and time and thought goes into each one.

I don’t have much I can give, but I can give this.  I want to make a giveaway that is absolutely altruistic – no-one can enter for themselves, each must think of someone else and put in a little effort to share what that person means to you and why you want them to own this light catcher.

I know it means a bit of thought and effort – different to a usual blog post – but I do hope you will be willing to take part.

Anybody, any where in the world is eligible.

This is a giveaway with a difference and every reader of this blog who wishes to take part gets to nominate someone to receive the gift and gets to be a voter for who will finally receive it.

Here’s the process:

  1. In a private message to me, details found in the ‘Contact Me‘ page, please share a little about what your nominee means to you and why you want them to be gifted this light catcher.  Names and other identifying factors can be omitted if you choose – after all, they are not necessary, just tell a little story about why you would like them to receive this special gift.  You have seven days from the date of this post to share your story – approx 300 or so words only please.  (I’d be really grateful if you didn’t wait til the last minute to get your story in too, but that’s just a timing thing.)
  2. At the end of the seven days another post will be made where I will cut and paste all the stories minus your identification and a poll will go up.  You will be able to vote for your first and second choices from the stories.  The story with the most votes gets the gift.
  3. The poll will close three days after it opens.
  4. I will send the catcher directly to the person you have chosen in time for Christmas.

What do you think?  Do you know someone who deserves an unexpected gift?



Now here’s a little about the light catcher.

It is a three strander with three AAA crystal balls and several crystal rondelles threaded through out.  The main strands are threaded with red and green beads of crystal, glass and acrylic, many hand made. There are twelve charm threads with more crystals holding the different charms.  There are many, many charms on this catcher and more can be added when the winner is known, especially for that person!

The right strand includes a sun; a heart; a house with two children and a cat and a dog and a pentacle for protection.  Beneath that hangs a disc with ‘Remember the moments’ written on it.  This strand may represent past or present Christmases – it is for the child, whether it be within or actual.

The centre strand holds the archangel Gabriel; a bell and a musical semibreve and a book.  This represents the spiritual content of the season – the magic, the stories, the music. It celebrates the message ‘Peace on earth and goodwill to all’  It is for making memories old and new.

The left hand strand holds a Buddha; a bird, a butterfly, a holly leaf and a flower; a lantern and finally a small disc with the word ‘miracles’ engraved into it.  This strand reaches out to include all the world in the spirit of giving.  This includes all ethnicities, all religions, all nationalities, all kinds of beliefs and all ways of life.  It includes the wonder of nature and reminds us that we are all, every one of us, united on this fragile blue globe that hangs in the darkness of space and each of us is a light that shines into the world if we so choose to be.


For those of you interested in monetary value, the Christmas Light Catcher is valued at $NZ75.00

I hope you will share your special people, I hope you will come back to help choose the winner.  I hope you will enter into the spirit of this Season of Giving.

Thank you for coming by today, I love that you did!   ❤




The Teeny-Tiny Courtyard Make-Over

Those of you who have been reading and following for some time know I live in a teeny tiny house with a teeny tiny outside space that I have over four summers experimented with.  First I planted some climbers and perennials in the sour and empty soil.  I buried garden waste for a year, planted lavender, thyme, mint, parsley and other herbie type things and watched as over a year everything began to grow at a rate of knots.

Then last summer I decided to grow my own vegetables and turned the teeny-tiny courtyard into a salad lovers nirvana.  Everything grew extremely well but I had nowhere to sit and enjoy the lovely summery days and evenings.

As I live a stones throw from the best farmers market in the country with a full and exciting complement of organic vegetables, this year I decided to claim back the space and make myself a lovely outside room for the wonderful summer, which I am told, is about to descend on the southern hemisphere.

This is my aspirational picture:

Aspirational garden photo 15

Now I know I can’t have much of what is going on in there – the courtyard is half this width to start with – nor do I want to spend the summer heaving myself up and down off the ground – but the colour and the texture and the ‘come hither’ vibe is what I’m going after.

As Robbie Burns so famously said

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.”


The garden was left to wither and fester and give up the ghost over the long hard winter not yet entirely passed, so that the spring clean would be a bit of a doddle.  [Throw in another ‘Hey-ho!’ if you feel so inclined round about here.]

I bought six super large trash cans, thew away the lids and planned to fill them with my super composted soil and distribute said trash cans tilled with super soil on top of the other grey concreted areas surrounding my teeny tiny house and introducing some much desired green into my daily viewing pleasure.

Working in this teeny tiny space was tantamount to trying to do jumping jacks in an outhouse


That photo was taken the day I started work.

The plan – have I told you yet? – was to remove all the built up gardens and make more space for a larger table and four chairs and just to have the newly potted jasmine and some smaller pots of colour and maybe a few cloths and dangly things and some bright coloured cushions on top of some new chairs and don’t forget a nice new table with maybe a pretty lacy cloth draped beguilingly over it …….

The rusty old fence would be painted in a fetching shade of blue-green and the concrete slabs power blasted clean and maybe painted a fetching brownish-greyish shade to ground everything.   The magnificent Boston Ivy would be cut back severely and put in a tub.  The magnificent jasmine would be encouraged to keep as many of her tendrils as possible and would also be tubbed.  The rest would be sacrificed to make way for smaller, tidier, newer and more colourful pots of flowers.

A word about the trash can utilisation – are you curious?  Trash cans are affordable – clay pots the size I need are not.  Trash cans also keep the soil damper than clay pots which are inclined to dry out quickly in the heat.  Holes are drilled around the sides, about 30 – 50 cm from the bottom, depending on the kind of plants that are going in. Then pebbles are poured into the can, up to the hole height.  This is the water catchment area.  Excess water drains out the holes.  Fill up with soil and good compost and plant away.  It worked a treat for me last year, though I was using smaller tubs rather than trash cans, but the principle is the same.  Place smaller tubs in front for maximum disguise and over plant for maximum effect.

This was the scene after four months of zero sun in this courtyard and constant rain and icy temperatures.  All that is alive is my hardy and much loved jasmine and a rather bedraggled and woody lavender.


A month later it looked like this

Halfway 1

And I’d hit the wall – the built-up garden was maybe a metre smaller than before, the six trash cans were all filled with rich black soil, planted up with native shrubs and some petunias and lobelia and lined up outside the kitchen door, where in time to come they will offer me a nice screen between my kitchen exit and my neighbours front door.

Black garden bags were filled with the dead and dying – the aged garden furniture was designated new status as pot holders, every available container was planted up with a mixture of pansies, lobelia and petunias and random self sewn herbs and vegetables from last season.

Three more trash cans had been purchased, filled with soil and heaved on top of the remaining garden beds, because there is nowhere else to put the unwanted dirt.

I’ve realised that my original scheme is going to require some creative thinking.  So far I have images from the movie ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ going round and round in my head.  This requires me to pour a trowel full of soil into my pockets, and every morning as Siddy and I wander through the green and leafy surrounds of our park, to shake said soil loose and leave it there.  I’ll have the remainder of these built up gardens gone in about half a century I guesstimate.

But, never give up, never say die!  In the meantime while I work away on that plan, here is what I’ve come up with for this summer:

finished 1

What you can’t see from the above photo is that the trash cans are planted up.  There is a Meyer lemon, a Papa Meilland rose and a winter flowering Viburnum; each one surrounded by hanging petunias and lobelias and pansies – come Christmas it should be a riot of colour, a sensation of scents and all the plastic containers will be invisible.

Except I bought $12 plastic chairs.  Not knowing yet if I can remove the remaining built up soil without the rusty old iron fence falling down or the old brick wall at the back toppling over, I thought it best to hold off on my super-dooper wrought iron bohemian style table and chairs this year and make do……. and these are surprisingly comfy.

November 3 15

This is my chair – that’s my book keeping it safe for me.

The heat pump engine is mostly hidden beneath a bench which holds all the pots that are coming on as replacements as required.  It also holds a sun-drenched corner kept especially clear so one pampered kitty can stretch out and get his daily dose of vitamin D.

Siddy has claimed his chair

November 9 15

It’s a work in progress and all I can say is that one of the blessings of living in a teeny tiny house with a teeny tiny courtyard is that one spends a great deal of creative time making things work.  This courtyard works as long as no more than three people and a puppy and a cat are here at any one time.  Although, if you fancy dropping by, we could squeeze a fourth onto the step if pushed – there’s a spare cushion.  🙂

And I’m sorry if you came by looking for the give-away – it will be up in a few days.   Promise.

And for all Siddy’s fans, here’s a smile especially for you

Siddy Smiles 19 11 15

Isn’t he just gorgeous?

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!

The Hedgies Just Flew In

Evening All – or good morning, depending where in the world you may be!

I thought you might like to see these – biggify to really admire


They arrived this morning to join my [late] first coffee and blog reading time.  Flown in all the way from Wales to join my lovely Welsh Dragon


Orlando’s Aussie Mini-Me from Sharon



And my Blue Flying Pig from Lisa

Flying Pig June15

The book shelves are getting animal heavy!

So there’s me, having my [late] first coffee, applying myself to reading your posts when the lovely postman knocks and we have this

Hedgies4‘This’ is my receiving end of our swap – a blue hand crocheted bath pouf, a crocheted tiny birds nest pocket for hanging in the garden and the expected Hedgehop friend ‘Shy’ and his unexpected travelling companion ‘Tiny’.  Look closely at Shy


How’s that for artistry in the yarn field?  The only difference between these chaps and the real thing is these guys have soft coats and are very cuddly.

Siddy thinks so too ………… ‘Go on, can I have him?  You want me have him, right  ……!’


27 7 15 2

The package came from Jan who masquerades on WordPress as the Snail of Happiness.  She shared her delight with our swap here 

Thank you Jan for your wonderful artistry and kindness – I’m delighted with our new friends and just hope I can keep them safe from the little black and white chap!

And to end, just a heads up my bloggie pals –  if you are thinking of commissioning a light catcher for a Christmas gift, last date for orders is 14th November.


the next post will be about a rather special Christmas Giveaway.  Stay tuned.

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!





The Books Piled Beside the Bed

I went through a spell of not reading earlier this year and had no idea why, though I did wonder if sharing my bed with two little fellows was maybe distracting me from reading as much and as often as I once did.  So my book pile kept growing and I kept climbing into bed and falling asleep without picking up a book from that pile.

My pal Lisa and I were chatting about sharing our reading lists and somehow or other we ended up thinking it could be a shared thing ……… so here we go.  I’m writing this post, Lisa will write the next and if you want to jump in at any stage feel free and link in to this page.

And just because it’s me and it’s my blog and I never follow the rules anyway –  I’m kicking this thing off with a book I didn’t read!

The Luminaries

I started reading the book at the beginning of October and by the end had given up.  I wanted to read it, I really did.  I wanted to enjoy it, I really, really did.  It has everything going for it – it’s set locally, it’s historical, it’s well written – it won the Man-Booker ……….  It appeared to tick all my ideal reading biases………… Or so I thought.

The story is set in my country, in regions I am very familiar with; in the nineteenth century – an era that fascinates me;  is written by a woman and is one of those weighty books with lots of pages – it really ought to be a riveting read.  I love history, I love a big thick book – it means hours being lost in words and worlds not mine…..  And this is indeed a massive tome of 800+ pages, following a convoluted mathematical design and telling the same story from several different points of view………..  I’d read a couple of pages and wonder what I’d just read.  It felt ponderous, like reading the bits of Dickens that become lectures on the spiritual needs of the poor and destitute of London which left me thinking ‘get on with the story already Mr Dickens!’  I’d go to bed and be reluctant to pick the book up – this has never happened before in my life – there is always something to be gained in a half hours dedicated reading time that can stretch out to an hour or even longer whenever required.  I’d pick it up and dive back in and feel no connection to the words on the page.

Eventually I took the advice of my friend Robin who told me she gives a book 50 pages and if it hasn’t drawn her in by then she puts it down.  I gave the book 88 pages and decided there must be a better way to spend the last half hour of every day……….   I decided to wait til the movie comes out!

Instead I picked up ‘We Never Asked for Wings’ the second book by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

we never asked for wings

I loved her first book ‘The Language of Flowers’ and soon found myself just as lost and involved in this new story from her.

In both her books Diffenbaugh writes about loss and finding yourself and about finding a new kind of family.  She tackles some hard questions around how one feels when abandoned, when alone and in chaos and does so without losing hope and without an overdose of syrup.

‘We Never Asked for  Wings’ tells the story of Letty, a young unmarried mother who finds herself suddenly and abruptly fully responsible for her two children when her own parents return to Mexico.  With no idea how to be a mother – her own mother raised her two children and asked nothing of Letty – she finds herself abandoned and having to step up for her teenage son and much younger daughter.  There’s chaos and grief and levels of love and a slow unfolding of hope and resilience and the birthing of a new family.

I felt kind of elated when I finished reading it and the characters stay in my memory – all signs of a good read don’t you think.

So what’s sitting beside your bed, what are you reading now?

I have to go rummage through my book stack now to find something new to start this evening when me and my little furry babies all tuck up into bed – here’s one tired little fellow.

Siddy onchair1 cropped

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!