Archive for May, 2014

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Gavin.  It shows him in front of an enormous hedge in the Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh yesterday.  By coincidence, Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda were there too yesterday but they didn’t meet Gavin. Perhaps they were on the other side of the hedge.

gavin and hedge

I had a wonderful plan to leap up early and pedal 40 miles in the early morning sunshine before breakfast.  The alarm went off on cue, I woke up, the sun was shining, I rolled over and went back to sleep again.  Sometimes, as Robert Burns said, the best laid plans….

I was wandering round the garden after a late breakfast, taking pictures of a fine oriental poppy…

oriental poppy

…when who should appear on a bicycle but Dropscone.  He wasn’t cycling far though, merely crossing the town to pay a bill. Having discharged this obligation, he returned for a cup of coffee and a dainty biscuit.

He has been away for a few days acting as a golf referee at an international children’s golf tournament near Edinburgh.  He would have had a better time if he hadn’t had to spent eleven hours on the course in pouring rain and lashing wind on Wednesday.  He was very cheerful all the same.

When he left, I completed my tour of the garden.

rosa moyesii

The Rosa Moyesii is looking better by the day.


I would have to lie on my back to see the colour in these Nectaroscordum

allium and insect

I am not sue what sort of insect this is on an Allium

Burnet roses or Scotch briar

These are Burnet roses or Scotch briars

When I finished my tour,  Mrs Tootlepedal and I went up to the Moorland bird feeders, as I had been asked to fill them today in the absence of the regular volunteer.  Mrs Tootlepedal was armed with binoculars and was hoping for a sight of a hen harrier on the moor behind the feeders.

She didn’t see a harrier but I was happy enough with a woodpecker and some spring cones.


I also liked this view of the woods on the other side of the Tarras valley.

Tarras woodland

We couldn’t stay long as I had an appointment to meet a lady from our camera club in Newcastleton who was bringing over some pictures for our photo exhibition which starts next week.  I just had time to mow the middle lawn before going up to find her. She was on time and will come over again next week to see the exhibition.

After lunch, I looked at another fallen walnut tree branch which Mrs Tootlepedal had tidied up in the garden.  The yellow lichen seems to like walnut…


…and then we put our bikes in the back of the car and drove the eleven miles down to Longtown.

The attraction of Longtown, an otherwise unremarkable town, to Mrs Tootlepedal is that it lies in the middle of the Solway Plain, a very flat piece of country.  We intended to ride a gentle fourteen mile  route but thanks to missing a poorly signposted turn, we managed to achieve a fifteen mile circle.  In the beautiful sunny weather, with a light breeze to keep us cool, we didn’t mind the extra mile at all.

I stopped from time to time to take a picture as we went along.

Longtown pines

There are some very striking pine trees in this part of Cumbria

buttercups verges

Many of the verges were lined with buttercups

The sharp eyed will have observed Mrs Tootlepedal disappearing into the distance in the two shots above.  She was in fine fettle and we kept our average above 10 mph for the journey.

Road side spectators watched us whoosh past with barely concealed amazement.

pony near Longtown

Near the end of our journey, we passed one of my favourite buildings, Arthuret Church, and I added yet another shot of this impressive edifice to my collection.

Arthuret Church

When we got home, we had a cup of tea by way of refreshment and Mrs Tootlepedal went out to do those things that a gardener does in the back border….


…while I mowed the front lawn.  Luckily, the two forms of physical exercise which I enjoy most, cycling and lawn mowing, are not much affected by my sciatica.  Leaning forward and taking your weight on your arms must be the secret.

I had another look round when I had finished mowing.


The Astrantia is a treat whichever way you look at it.


The Primula by the pond was worth looking down on too.

Flag Iris

The Flag Iris at the end of the drive was in full flower after a sunny day

It was such a lovely evening that we decided to drive up onto the Langholm Moor and have another look for hen harriers.  This time Mrs Tootlepedal saw a male flying low over the hill as soon as we stopped and we had an entertaining time watching it swoop along the ridge.  It was well in binocular range but a little too far away for my camera.  At one moment we saw what looked like both a male and a female together.


I had time to look at Tinnis, my favourite hill….


…before we headed home for tea.

In the evening, I updated my cycling stats and found that this year I have done more miles by the end of May than I had by the end of June last year.  This is very satisfactory but may also explain why I feel a bit tired.  I am still working my way back to full fitness after the illness that laid me low two years ago and have to be careful not to overdo things.

The non flying flower of the day is another view of that pond-side Primula.




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Today’s guest picture is the result of another visit to Edinburgh by Mrs Tootlepedal in her role as grandmother.  It shows Matilda being transported by a personal travel solution.


We were all being transported today.  Mrs Tootlepedal was physically transported  by car and train to Edinburgh where she was spiritually transported with joy at seeing Matilda.  While there, she reverted to Shank’s pony and walked six miles during the day.  Her journey home was made miserable by the fact the the train company had sold tickets for an eight coach train but had absent mindedly only provided four coaches so she had to stand in a very cramped vestibule for over an hour.  She had enjoyed her day nonetheless.

I, after a quick blackbird shot…


…and an admiring glance at an Allium…


…was transported to Carlisle by bus.  When I got there, I joined a good turnout of members  of the Carlisle Community Choir for a rehearsal and performance in the old Fire Station building.  This was abandoned as a fire station after the great floods of 2005 and is now lying empty but in good condition.  It was never quite clear to me why we were doing a half hour lunchtime concert in a deserted shell of a building but I have no doubt that there was some good reason.  The choir sang quite well and and the small audience received us enthusiastically so it was very enjoyable.

My satisfaction was compounded by the timing working out so that I walked out of the concert and more or less straight on to the next bus home.  This left me plenty of time for a 25 mile easy pedal in warm sunshine.  Cycling is always a pleasure but there is no doubt that the pleasure is enhanced by a bit of sunshine and the chance to get some suntan on one’s knees.

I had a walk round the garden when I got back.

A large flag iris has appeared.

flag iris

And in contrast, two more delicate newcomers are another geranium and a white Icelandic poppy.

geranium and poppy

More sensational poppies of a different sort are about to burst into flames.

oriental poppy

I had a busy time because the warm afternoon had brought things out.  Flowers…


An astrantia, a quiet but wonderful flower.


A spirea

…and other things.


The bees were out in force too.


A frog was keeping an eye on things

Sandy came round for a very short and gentle walk and we started by driving to the Kilngreen where the regular heron was standing on yet another rock…


…and a wagtail was rocketing vertically up into the air off the stones beside the river to catch insects.


Then we parked the car at the Episcopal Church and strolled across the Castleholm.  It was still pleasantly warm but the sun had gone behind clouds by this time.  We caught a glimpse of a nuthatch but there was no action at the nest so we walked up beside the race track. It was looking very orderly having recently been mown…

Castleholm racetrack

…and at the top corner it was framed  by buttercups.

Castleholm racetrack

We walked across the grass to look at another possible nest site on a branch.  On our way we passed these..

tree fruits

Beech nut with extra tiny spider

…and a rabbit who had obviously read John Updike.

rabbit running

The nest was occupied  by blue tits and we watched while they busily went in and out, mostly too quickly for a photograph but once or twice, slowly enough to get some sort of record.

blue tits

Ominously, we couldn’t stand watching for too long as the midges were beginning to bite.  The miserably cold winter of 2012-13 meant that last year was almost midge free but I fear that we will pay for this year’s mild winter in multiple midge bites.

Still, we moved off in time and got home safely.  When he had arrived for the walk, Sandy had looked at our garden from an angle that I don’t often use as I normally look at the garden from the house. He suggested that bis view would make a charming picture.

Cottage garden

I agree.

I was going to use a pale Aquilegia as the non flying flower of the day…


…but Mr Grumpy took off (catching me by surprise) while I was watching so here is a traditional flying bird of the day.  I am always slightly surprised that a bird that looks so slim while standing, can look so broad when flying.

flying heron






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Today’s guest picture shows a  cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae).  It was cleverly spotted and adeptly snapped by my daughter’s partner Joe in their London garden.

cinnabar moth

I had a day of practising moaning and by the evening I had just about got the hang of it.  Everything was fine when I got up but for some unfathomable reason getting out of the kitchen chair after half an hour of eating porridge and reading the newspaper gave me a terrible twinge down my leg.

Often cycling sorts this sort of thing out so I went off for a gentle 14 mile pedal past fields of buttercups…


…and along leafy lanes lined with wildflowers…


…and although I felt fine when I was pedalling, I was just as twingy as ever when I got off the bike.

Thereafter, I spent the day intermittently standing up, sitting down, lying down (on a bed and in a bath) and wandering aimlessly about in an effort to find that magic moment of relaxation that loosens the muscles and miraculously cures the sciatica.

I did take a few pictures while wandering around.

welsh poppy

A welsh poppy with a tinge of red on a petal.  Is this a the result of a feed deficiency?


My favourite rhododendron. It is going over but it is keeping its colour very well.


The first foxglove of the year.

dark irises

The dark irises are thriving but they are not in the right place.  They will be by next year.

vegetable garden

Mrs Tootlepedal’s hard work metaphorically and actually bearing fruit in the vegetable garden.


Two variegated hostas which flank the entrance to the front lawn.

I even took some pictures while standing at the kitchen window.


One of our many blackbirds. This one was temporarily king of the castle.


A rather baffled looking sparrow on the drive.


The nearest that I got to a flying bird

great tit

A welcome visit from a great tit.

And while all this was balm to the spirit, nothing seemed to ease off my leg so very little useful came of the day.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help with the driving for the disabled and very much enjoyed having a go on an electric bike.  She described the experience as feeling as though she was sailing through the countryside on a mythical barque.  She had also enjoyed the drive to Brydekirk and back along the wild flower fringed lanes.

After tea, she went off to judge the bookmarks at a local SWRI fun evening and I went with Sandy, who had been resting well all day,  to the Archive Centre.  Jean is home from hospital but not yet well enough to join us.

The non flying flower of the day is a white potentilla.





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Today’s guest picture is another of the Santander statuary spotted by my brother on his Spanish jaunt last month.  He remarks that the figures look a little put out by the building works.


It was a grey and windy day and I took the opportunity to give my legs a rest so while Mrs Tootlepedal went off for a solo breezy cycle ride, I went up to the Moorland feeders with Sandy as it was his day for refilling them.

No sooner had we got out of the car than a flash of white caught my eye.  It was a male hen harrier flying low over the moor opposite the feeders.

hen harrier

In spite of the dim light, the camera was just able to pick it out against the grass but it soon disappeared when it flew over the bog cotton.

bog cotton

The bog cotton was well worth a look in its own right, painting the hillsides with vivid splashes of white..

bog cotton

We didn’t stop when we had filled the feeders as the wind was cold and Sandy is recovering from pneumonia and probably shouldn’t have been out at all.  I couldn’t resist a pheasant shot before I left though.


After a cup of coffee and a slice of sour dough bread, Sandy went off home to rest.  Mrs Tootlepedal had returned from her cycle ride while we were having coffee and she complained that her back tyre seemed flat.  When Sandy had gone, I checked the tyre and it was indeed flat as a pancake.

She rides on very durable tyres so I was surprised at this but I got the tyre off and inflated the inner tube to see where the puncture was.  There was no puncture.  The chances are that the deflation must have been caused by an insufficiently tightened valve top.  I was a bit annoyed with myself for not trying to inflate the tyre when it was still on the bike but Mrs Tootlepedal took advantage of the situation to give her back wheel and sprocket a really thorough clean.  I put the tube back in the tyre and have left it off the bike for the moment to see if it is still inflated tomorrow.

It wasn’t a great day for photographs of flowers because of the thick clouds and the wind but a Geum was near the back door so I shot that.


They have lasted very well and there are still more to come as you can see.

Not every plant in the garden was planted by the gardener.  Nature sometimes has a shot herself.


I had to visit the doctor before lunch to formulate a plan of action regarding some joint niggles and this went very satisfactorily.

By the time that I had got home, a light rain had begun to fall which lasted on and off for the rest of the day.

The rain gave me some time time to get photographs ready for our annual exhibition which starts next week.  Considering how many pictures I dump into my blog posts every day, you might think that it would be easy for me to find ten to print out but the enormity of having to reject one thousand and ninety of the two thousand pictures I have posted since Christmas alone makes it very hard.  A lot of them are easily discarded as they are not sharp or big enough for a print but there is still a huge amount of choice.  Why this one and not that one?  It makes my head hurt and, in the end, I never feel that I have chosen the best ten.  Still it is done and that is a relief.

Mrs Tootlepedal was gardening away in the light rain so I went out to see what she was doing and took a few gloomy pictures while I was out there.


A well camouflaged frog


The dark blue irises have opened out.


Some daisies brightened up the dull day.


A hosta was quietly impressive by the front lawn


A purple geranium has been added to our various geraniums in flower.

solomon's seal

So far the Solomon’s Seal and the gooseberries have avoided the sawfly. Long may this continue.

In the evening, we went to our local choir practice and were slightly handicapped by the fact that no basses at all turned up.  Still, we did some useful practice and even got two new pieces out.

One was a well known song (though not to me) called “Could it be Magic?” by Barry Manilow based on a prelude by F Chopin.  Some members of the choir greeted it as an old friend. I may grow to like it.

The other was “Cantique de Jean Racine”  by G Fauré.   This is very slow and in French.  Even if I do grow to like this one (which I may), we might have to search carefully about to find an audience that would like to hear us trying to sing it.

The non flying flower of the day was found in the vegetable garden.  It is a chive.





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Today’s guest picture, sent by my sister Mary, shows a stained glass window from the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow.

More stained glass

Once again we enjoyed  fine weather today which was better than the forecast.  I was pleased to be able to get out for a pedal after breakfast in dry conditions and with a tolerable breeze blowing.

I stopped at the newly gravelled section of the road.

Wauchope road with gravel

It looks wonderfully smooth but in fact contains hundreds and thousands of little bumps, every one of which you feel as you cycle over it.  Not only does it bump you about but it slows you down too as energy is dissipated by the uneven ride.  Add to that the possibility of being peppered by grapeshot as cars rush past you, grossly exceeding the recommended speed limit, and you can see why it makes me a bit grumpy.

It doesn’t last for long though and I enjoyed the rest of my ride on smoother roads.

Waterbeck road

The farmers are very busy on every side and many fields have been cut for silage already….

silage cut

…turning the country from rich green to a pale dull brown.

One of the highlights of the trip for me was seeing two cuckoos flying past when I was on the top of the hill at Callister.  I often heard them but I don’t think that I have ever seen a cuckoo before.  I was able to identify these two because one or both of them was going ‘cuckoo’ as they flew past me.  I also met wagtails, curlews, oyster catchers and a buzzard on my way.

The cycling did my aching joints quite a bit of good and I spent the rest of the day feeling quite cheerful.

The garden is a riot of colour at the moment and today I was concentrating on things that are blue or at least blueish…

Iris, Geranium and Aquilegia

Iris, Geranium and Aquilegia

Lupin, lithodora and bluebell

Lupin, Lithodora and bluebell

Viola, Aubretia and Polemonium

Viola, Aubretia and Polemonium

…when Mrs Tootlepedal distracted me with two new primulas by the pond….


These are going to look very pretty in a day or two.


…and I distracted myself by noticing some curiously claw like additions to the Euphorbia flowers.


Mrs Tootlepedal spent most of the day in the garden but I had to go off to man the Tourist Information Point at the Kilngreen after lunch.  My usual day is Friday but I have swapped with another volunteer this week.  I used to do Tuesdays but got fed up because I never saw any tourists to give information to and today wasn’t any different.  Only one visitor came in and he was just killing time and didn’t need or want me to tell him anything.

Luckily Sandy came in to keep me company and this gave me time to pop down to the river to see the heron…


Standing on a rock near the Town Bridge today

…and go to the dentist to get some treatment  after my recent tooth extraction.

I was seen to very promptly and got back to the TIP and Sandy went off to do some resting at home.

The air was heavy and there was that warm smell of impending spring rain in the air as I cycled home after shutting up shop but it came to nothing and when Mrs Tootlepedal went up to get some manure from her manure mine, I went with her, camera in hand.

The bluebells are still showing well on the hillside beside the road…


…and the lambs in the field….


…and the new growth on the conifers beside the field…


…all made for a very pleasant scene.  I walked along the path through the wood beside the river…

woodland path

…in the hope of catching a glimpse of a squirrel but I had to settle for the pleasure of the walk alone as the squirrels remained hidden.

When we got back, I but several watering cans of buck-you-uppo onto the front lawn and had another look round.  There are some yellow flowers by the pond.

poached egg plants

Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that these are called poached egg plants and when they were originally planted had white rims round the flowers which gave them their name.  These ones are self seeded from the originals and have lost the white in the petals altogether.

Reading Mrs Uphilldowndale’s blog last night had made me look at the ferns in the garden more closely today.  They were worth the look.


The blackbirds had been entertaining the gardener all day with their antics but by this time, they had calmed down a little.


After tea, I picked up Susan and we went to Carlisle to play with our recorder group.  All six of us were present this week and we had an excellent time playing the varied music which Roy had picked out for us.    This was all the more welcome because I have been short of playing opportunities lately.

The was a truly wonderful sunset on the way home but it was over before I could get near a camera.  It rounded off a fine day.

The non flying flower of the day is a new dark blue iris.







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No guest picture today I am afraid as no one has sent me one.  Instead, here is an eye popping colour combination of peony and azalea.

azalea and peony

The weather turned out to be a lot better than the forecast and we had a fine sunny day with warm temperatures and a gentle wind.  It would have been ideal for cycling if I could have overcome my feeling that it was going to rain soon and actually gone out pedalling.  As it was. I managed to find little things to do all day which kept me off the bike.

I had a bit of business to catch up on after breakfast and then the joys of mowing grass and turning compost took over.  These day, each of these harmless activities is accompanied by a good deal of sitting down and recovering afterwards which I enjoy almost as much as the activity.  By the afternoon, I had got the message that my body simply wasn’t interested in cycling today so I gave up pretending that I was just about to go out and spent any spare time wandering about the garden with camera in hand.

It was insect day.  This little fellow got so excited by the Icelandic poppy that it fell over and lay on its back waggling its legs in the air.  Not something that you often see.

icelandic poppy

The bees where everywhere during the day.

iris and bees

On the Irises

dicentras and bees

On the Dicentras of course

beans and bees

But also on the broad bean flowers


And getting tucked into the Geranium macrorrhizum

azalea and bees

And, unusually, there was even one on an Azalea

I thought that the broad bean flowers were so pretty that they deserved a picture to themselves.

broad beans

Plus an appearance of Mrs Tootlepedal’s garden string which I didn’t notice when I was taking the shot.

A pale geranium was one of the few bee free flowers of the day.


It was a very nice day to be pottering about the garden and Mrs Tootlepedal made the most of it by being active in potting and planting and tidying and all those other things she has to do to keep the garden looking good.

The best time to look at a mown lawn is in the evening.

front lawn

I gave the middle lawn a little boost and I will give this one some help too as it is looking rather paler than it should be.  Another few warm days will help as well.

My flute pupil Luke came in the evening and gladdened my heart by playing very well as we got to grips with a well known bourée by Handel.

After tea, we had a real treat. We had had a phone call earlier on the day from a lady Sandy and I had met while out on a walk at the Hollows recently.  I must have mentioned  in passing while talking to her that Mrs Tootlepedal has a simple metal detector which she uses in our garden for fun.  She told us that a friend of her son had dropped his wedding ring while helping with the lambing on their farm and they wondered if Mrs Tootlepedal could come and run the detector over the floor of the lambing shed to see if the ring was there.

Mrs Tootlepedal agreed with alacrity and I was very keen to come to as Craig had offered to let me look over his working water mill while Mrs Tootlepedal searched for gold.

When we got there, Mrs Tootlepedal set to work….

Looking for a needle in a haystack

Looking for the ring in the deep straw of the lambing shed.  It was rather like looking for a needle in a haystack

…while I went down to the mill.

Hollows Mill

Hollows Mill on the banks of the Esk

The mill is used for cleaning and grading grain rather than milling flour.  Unfortunately for me the water wheel is undershot and inside the building and as a result, it is very hard to get a good picture of the wheel at work.  I took some pictures of the wheel at rest.

Hollows Mill

Hollows Mill

The present wheel is twenty years old and should last for another twenty years at least.  There is a grand collection of gears, belts and miscellaneous machinery to look at in the mill.

Hollows Mill

Outside you can see the sluice that controls the flow into the wheelhouse, a grand commemorative plaque for the restored wheel and caul and yet another belt driven device.

Hollows Mill

The mill is set in a lovely spot…

Esk at Hollows Mill

Looking up river to the caul for the mill stream

Esk at Hollows Mill

Looking down river to Hollows Bridge

I went back up to the lambing shed to see how Mrs Tootlepedal was getting on.  I wasn’t the only interested spectator.


Swallows kept flying into the shed to see what was going on.

Sadly, although Mrs Tootlepedal’s machine gave some hopeful buzzes, none of them turned out to be a lost wedding ring.

Craig is very proud of the history of the mill where his family have been tenants since the nineteenth century but also has an eye to the future and has installed some solar PV cells on the roof of one of his large sheds and is working on adding some modern water powered machinery to his arsenal as well.

We had a very interesting time talking to him and will hope to visit again.

The non flying flower of the day is an anemone, hand painted by nature.





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Today’s guest picture comes from the collection sent to me by my brother-in-law Huseyin and shows Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire.

Mottisfont Abbey_2

I got up early and set off up the A7 on the fairly speedy bike in an effort to avoid some forecast showers.  As a plan it worked well as I saw a huge shower blow across the Ewes valley in front of me on my way back down the road and it had cleared away by the time that I had  got to where it had been.  I was so cheered by this that I hardly noticed the shower of light rain that got me a bit wet a mile or two further down the road.

The rest of the day was much the same with alternating sunshine and showers.  I did get to wander round the garden.

leaf with rain

A summary of the day

There are quite a few promising rosebuds about but for the moment we have to make do with the Rosa Moyesii.

Rosa Moyesii

The chief bird residents are sparrows and blackbirds.  One of the blackbirds seems to have come off worse in one of the many blackbird battles.


It flies about regardless and looks quite chirpy.

The sparrows are everywhere, even in the newly turned compost.


They are in family groups with anxious parents shepherding demanding children around.

A swift zipped across the garden at speed…


…while a jackdaw held a watching brief from a nearby telephone pole.


There were a couple of new flowers to be seen, a Veronica…


…and the first of many big daisies.


When Mrs Tootlepedal came back from singing in the church choir, she was soon busy in her greenhouse doing  the sort of things that people do in greenhouses (it’s a mystery to me).

I was busy looking at bees.

brown bee

There were a number of these light brown bees about today, all with full pollen sacs.  The bees seem to like the Dicentra more than any other flower in the garden.  I know nothing about the habits and tastes of bees but I am surprised that they seem to ignore our large display of Azaleas altogether.  The more usual white tailed bees were about as well.


Also on a Dicentra

I made some vegetable soup for lunch and soon after enjoying a plateful, we set off for our choir in Carlisle.  We made an early start as we were combining the singing with some shopping.

Our choir practice was extremely hard working because we have three engagements coming up and not as much time as we would like to prepare for them all.  Nevertheless, the hard work of the musical director and his excellent accompanist is paying off and the choir knuckled down well and sounded really quite musical.  I just wish that I had been able to find a choir with a good musical director like this years ago when my voice might have been more up to meeting the demands which are being made on it.

When we came out of the practice, the heavens had opened and the road outside the church had turned to a river.  We were seriously worried about our chances of getting safely home but the rain eased off as we left Carlisle and the garden was in sunshine when we arrived back.

A rook in the walnut tree was enjoying the quiet evening air.


Up above, the sky was criss-crossed by darting swifts….


…but the occasional rumble of thunder behind the house reminded us that the weather was fickle.


I am hoping that the weather settles down during the next week as it has been very windy recently and this and the frequent showers have made planning cycle rides and walks a dodgy business.

In the absence of any satisfactory flying birds, I have taken Zyriacus’ suggestion to heart and am putting in a non flying flower of the day instead.  It another shot of the newly arrived Veronica.  I like the little pairs of dancing shoes which each flower has.





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