Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Crafting In My Jammies

I am sure I have mentioned before that I have a terrible habit of magpieing. Magpieing, in case I have not mentioned it lately, is when I went to visit a friend, and saw that she had hung baubles from organza ribbon all along her Christmas window, and immediately decided that next year, I would do that! Or realised that I like receiving letters from a particular friend so much because she always uses proper black ink- and resolved to buy myself a fountain pen and find some purple ink. (So, not copying exactly- more borrowing and idea and putting my own twist on it). Or when I went read in a post over at about having pajama crafting days- which is just what I did on Monday. I got up, put on clean jammies and my flowery Cath Kidston apron, and set about making sweets for Christmas Gifts. Found darling (and very reasonable!) boxes at, and filled them with homemade: peppermint creams in the shape of holly leaves, coconut snowballs, marzipan stuffed dates, chocolate truffles, vanilla fudge, and almond macaroons. I opened the door to the postman before I realised what I was wearing…and that was before I knew I had a cocoa smudge (from the truffles) on my nose!

Do give it a go sometime- there is something particularly cozy and lovely about knowing that you are in your jammies for the whole day, with nothing to do but cook and craft and play.

Today is my last day at work before I break up for the holidays. I have taken some leave before Christmas to finish off my little projects, wrap gifts and so on, and some time off afterwards- just to play. I do not have the internet at home, so posts will be a little sparse, shall we say. But what I plan to do is to make scribblings as I go along, and then when we visit either of our parents who do have the internet, I shall update my blog then. I hope you all have a marvellous, sparkly, scrumptious, delicious Christmas!

Walking In A Winter Wonderland...

Aren’t people just marvellous? Really, I mean just fantastic. Just look at these examples….

The friend of a friend at work emailed my friend to say that in her office there would be a sale of Benefit makeup! I was there like a shot, as I am sure you understand. I got a huge bottle of Bathina Bubble Bath…for £9!! And a little pot of Benebalm…for £7! And a few Christmas presents as well….

Vintage Pretty, one of my favourite bloggy friends sent me a gorgeous handmade Christmas card, and a fabulous hand-stitched Christmas decoration. I love it when our postman comes!

A of Pretty Little Parcels left a present on my desk- wrapped in a beautiful gingham bag that she has stitched. She has started a tradition of making bags to put her gifts in- the only condition being that you use the bag to wrap someone elses gift next year! Fabulous- environmentally friendly, and absolutely scrumptious too!

Oh, and words- aren’t they just one of the most wonderful gifts? I have a pale blue covered A4 book in which I write down favourite recipes, poems, knitting patterns- just little bits really. Well from now on I am going to write down words, phrases- lovely bits that come my way. Alicia was posting about Christmas excitement, and said:

I tell you my head would've exploded into a million shards of candy canes and then I would've run in a small circle around the living room while crying tears of joy

Now isn’t that JUST how it is? That if your head did explode with joy, it would burst into candy canes? Delicious!

And Jilly Cooper. Oh, Jilly. I love Jilly. I do. If I feel down and blue, or want to relax, or read something easy, or on those nights when I have run a bath, but cannot choose a book to read from our three shelves…then I turn to Jilly. Particularly to Lisa and Co and the story Christmas Stocking. In talking about it being foggy and cold, she says something along the lines of:

The house had pulled down the sky like a hat around its ears.

Oh, yes. Which brings me on to the fact that I woke up this morning to find that it is a Winter Wonderland out there! We have had frost, and it is c.o.l.d.- and I love it! I love how the sunlight is so bright, and yet brittle. I love how the grass looks like it should taste of peppermint creams, and how my breath puffs out like a dragon! I love needing my gloves, and the way my cheeks sting slightly in the cold. I love that everything looks like a Christmas card. Of course I am afraid of slipping over on the frost, and such winter nightmares, but I distract myself with the idea of getting home from work, and putting on a little pan of my favourite hot chocolate- because I am cold enough to need it!

I can take a hot water bottle to bed (well, I have been already, but I really need it now!) and find out my softest fluffiest socks. I can plan hearty soups for dinner, proper winter food. It is as though Jack Frost drifted off in the autumn sunshine for a nap, and has just startled awake and realised that it is winter! And as if to compensate for his lateness has touched everything with a beautiful shimmering of shivering silver.

Monday, 11 December 2006

Feeling Festive...

As you know, I have been feeling rather festive of late. And while I havenÂ’t swung into full on Christmas Elf mode yet, I do feel deliciously Christmassy. How could I be anything else, with the last few days being as lovely as they have?

It definitely started Wednesday with the wonderful NigellaÂ’s Christmas Kitchen- I have been looking forward to it from the time I heard that she was making a Christmas special, and she did not disappoint!

Thursday, I went back to my little town to meet a friend for lunch and chatting. We swapped gifts early- and it is so lovely to open a pretty package and find something utterly perfect! Lovely Anna had got me some hand made rose and violet creams, and some soap roses to go in the bath. All done up with gorgeous Victorian paper, with matching tag and card! It was raining outside, so we sat in the little coffee shop for ages, and when the drizzle finally stopped, we ventured out to the Shops. We went to the little cake decorating shop, where I bought some edible glitter sprinkles to go on my Christmas Cake, along with a 50Â’s style fawn, and some iridescent fir trees!

When I got to work on Saturday, the Christmas Tree had been put up! I could smell it before I could see it, and when I did see it- oh! You see, the library I work in is in the County Hall, and the tree is four floors high! And it is real! So big and bushy amarvelousous- all hung with ropes and ropes of tiny gold lights, and huge shiny red baubles, and gold bells, and ribbons. Then, Saturday evening we went on the train to go to a Christmas Drinks party. Oh, it was delightful! There was mulled wine, and delicious little nibbles, and their house was so pretty. There were baubles hung from ribbon all along the kitchen window, and tinsel everywhere! The company was lovely- we got to spend the evening with several dear friends, and although we left perhaps earlier than we had planned, it was nice to leave wanting more.

And best of all, I have very nearly finished stitching the 12 Days Of Christmas. I ran out of white thread yesterday! I got some today at lunch, so all I have to do is cross stitch the ermine robe of my leaping lord, back stitch him and I am done! Then all I have to do is find some cards to mount the embroideries inÂ….oh and tonight I am also going to marzipan my cake as I can hardly wait to ice and decorate it!

To top it all, my gift making is going well- I have been knitting hot water bottles, crocheting handbags, and have ordered some boxes to put shortbread and sweets intoÂ…do you know, this time in a fortnight, it will be the day?!

I hope you are all feeling as merry as I am!

(PS Another Thing That I Am Going To Do On My Holidays is to watch some of the House of Eliot on dvd! I discovered we have the first two series in the library!)

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Santa Tea And Gingerbread

I am terrible at two things. The first is keeping a secret. I won't spill your secret, but mine? The moment I had paid for Carls birthday present, all I could do was say 'you have such a good present this year!'. And when I spied two cheerful Santa mugs in a Christmas Shop the last week in November...well it was so hard to keep them for advent! And even harder to keep them for an advent surprise. The mugs are so sweet- I got two, and they are slightly different, but both are 3-d santa heads, with his hat making the handle. They are saved from tackiness because they have that Scandinavian vibe to them. Every morning of advent so far, we have had our first cup of tea of the day in them, and our last cup of tea of the evening, with the Christmas tree lights twinkling upon us.

Now the other thing that I am terrible at is gingerbread. Not eating it, no, no, I can do that! And nothing in mind is nicer than a really firey ginger nut and a hot cup of tea. There is a particular kind (I think they are Borders but I could be wrong) that are really gingery, and are covered with dark, thick chocolate.

Oh, but I digress! The thing I am bad at is Gingerbread Houses. How lovely they look in magazines! How wonderful they look on other peoples blogs. How disasterous it was last year! I had found a kit, with the pre-baked sides and roof- it even had a little window cut out, and a door. All I had to do was fix it together with icing and decorate it...

...All! It was so brittle that one wall snapped in half, and the icing wouldn't stick...and I couldn't find the sweets I wanted to use for decorations....let us just say that it has become a little bit of a joke in our house! Dear Carl tried to rescue it for me- it was so far gone, he had to tie it with string! But even after all this, when I visited the lovely and saw that Ikea are doing kits for £1.50- it crossed my mind for a whole minute that I should go buy a kit!

Perhaps I am better off sipping tea from my Santa mug, and nibbling away on a chocolatey ginger biscuit instead?

Monday, 4 December 2006

What's That Noise?

No, it is not the sound of snowflakes falling-yet. No, it is not the jingle of bells on a sleigh….yet. It is the sound of scrub-a-dub-dubbing in our little flat!

That is how Saturday was spent- making our home ready for the Christmas Decorations. It was rather lovely actually- nothing beats that feeling of everything being fresh and clean and in order. I started work in the kitchen while dear Carl did the bathroom- and we put a speaker into each room so we could both listen along to our current spoken word book- Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs. We popped out mid afternoon to buy our tree. Now Carl is the voice of reason, while I go right ahead and fall in love with a great bushy tree that is taller than our ceiling! Usually I beg for a tree a little larger than is sensible, and Carl begs for one that is a little smaller, and we meet in the middle.

We drove out to the little nursery which is in the middle of nowhere, just how I like these places to be. We wandered around and around, looking at all the potted trees. I squealed in delight at a great tall beauty…and we wandered some more. You see, all the medium sized ones were just…not right. Too bushy. Too…not right. And the big ones were just too large- even I could see that! What to do? We always have a real tree….finally, much out of character, I suggested getting a smaller tree, and standing it on our table. So now we have such a darling of a tree in our living room. All bedecked with 100 tiny twinkling lights, small iridescent clear baubles, and pink and blue lametta. Nestled in the branches is a beautiful pair of lovebirds from Liberty that Mum bought us, and a little silver angel that Carls Mum bought us. And right in the middle- a robin called ruby that we fell in love with while buying the tree. Her body is all sparkly with beads, and she has a bright red feather for a tail. She smiles out of the tree at us- I think she likes having such a sparkly home!

Tonight we have a friend visiting, and we are going to snip out snowflakes and glue together paper chains to go up, while drinking mulled apple juice, and eating mince pies warm from the oven.

A Delightful Nightmare Sunday!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that time flies when you are having fun. And what fun we had yesterday! We visited friends for December’s Brunch Club. The theme- A Nightmare Before Christmas, but it was anything but a nightmare! We were greeted at the door with a wine bottle bearing the label ‘empty tears’ and when we went down into the basement where the kitchen and dining room is, there was a skull grinning away at us, probably as he was pleased to be wearing rather a lot of tinsel! The food was quite delicious- I never got on with tofu before, but there was some really delicious home made tofu jerky that was so savoury that I have become quite converted! I ate rather more of the Christmas Tree made out of salad than I should – but dipping peppers into ‘pureed mole’ (guacamole) was so tasty! Then we had marvellous santa blood soup, followed by a chop- a play on the skeleton throwing a rib to the dog in the film – which- after lovely dessert- we watched.
And suddenly, it was time to go home. It seemed like we had only just got chatting when it was time to leave- but then I think it is the mark of a good evening when you leave wishing you could stay just a little longer.

Oops though- I very nearly gave away Carls birthday present! See how much a glass or two (or three!) of red wine loosens my tongue? The band Trivium was mentioned, and I said ‘OOooooo! Um, nothing!’ Oops. I will reveal all after December 23rd (Carls birthday) just in case he should happen past my blog between now and then…

Santa Baby...

...oh it is silly, I know it is. But I don't ever really feel truly Christmassy until I have watched either version of Miracle on 34th Street! But this year...alas...our video player has died. And the library has it only on video. I thought that was it, this year. But...

...we were at Carls parents house, as they had workmen in and we both had the day off. I was writing Christmas Cards- all home made! And using fountain pen- and not getting it over myself! Then dear Carl announced that he had a surprise. I was hoping for a cup of tea! But instead he switched on the television, and put on a video. From the very first note of music, I knew what it was!

The lovely, lovely Carl had found out a video copy of the 1994 version, and we happily watched it while I wrote out the rest of the cards. I am still feeling all warm and Christmassy now!

I am also feeling all smiley and merry from your lovely comments on this blog. It is lovely to have bloggy friends- and dear Vintage Pretty- I must confess it was your post that made me want to make pasta!

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

What I Am Going To Do On My Holidays

This year, for the first time I have booked some proper time off over Christmas. After I finish work on the 21st, I do not go back until January 2nd! I am very excited. I am like the lovely Posie (; she posted recently about...well this

Here is my dream. I'm sitting on a comfy chair-and-a-half [note: I don't actually have a chair-and-a-half, so a comfy chair would do, but a chair-and-a-half would be even better], in front of the fireplace, sipping hot chai, knitting a sock, corgi at my feet. I'm all caught up with all my work, it's pouring outside but I don't care. Perhaps there is an apple pie in the oven and the dishwasher is going. Even better, there would be something yummy bubbling in the crock pot so I wouldn't have to get up and make dinner, either. The phone's not ringing. The computer is off. Music is on. What should I listen to? I don't even know. Doesn't that sound awesome? If only, if only it would snow. What kind of music sounds like snow?

I hope it is not rude to borrow so much from a blog! But this is exactly how I feel and it was her post that made me decide- I am going to make me a list of lovely puttery, cookery, crafty things to do on my holiday.

I am going to make pasta from scratch. I have never made it before and I dont have a machine to roll it out with- but I do have a Nigella book, and a packet of 00 flour sitting in the cupboard, silently promising me an adventure every time I open the door.

I am going to treat myself to one of the wonderful Jane Austen Mysteries by Stephanie Barron. I am going to read it curled up at the end of the sofa, with a pot of tea and a plate of home made mince pies.

I am going to buy myself some wool, and sit and knit socks for myself, while watching old Christmas Films. I have knit two pairs of socks so far- warm slouchy ones- and given them both as gifts. Now I want some for me!

So that is three on my list so far- do you have anything to suggest I do on my holidays, or is there something special that you are saving up to do for yourself?

Today, I Am Wearing

A black skirt with my ‘Nigella Blue’ jumper. It is very soft, with ¾ length sleeves, and always makes me feel a bit domestic goddessy. I have some little drop earrings in the same colour, and am wearing my sparkly alice band to keep my newly-shortened locks in some semblance of order!


Serendipity: the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident. Also, the fact or instance of making such a discovery.

So many of the things I love most intensely have been blown into my life upon a gust of serendipity. Some of the things that have touched the very core of my being and changed me in some small way- but utterly- have been completely by chance. By accident. Now that I sit blowing on my tea and waiting for it to cool, I cannot help but think perhaps, perhaps if I had not discovered these things in this way or that way, the way that I did- perhaps I would never have discovered them at all. And who would I be now, if that were the case?

Well happily, most happily, I have discovered them and I do not have to think about who or what or where I would be without them. Perhaps the whole of life is nothing but a whirl of Serendipity with us caught in the centre of our own whirl of it? But here are some happy and unexpected discoveries that I have made by accident.

The Enchanted April a sweet lady at work and I were talking about how many days were left until pay day. She mentioned that she keeps a little notebook to track where her pennies go, and when she cannot make it balance, she makes a note of the erroneous figure to an unknown soldier ‘just like in Enchanted April’. First I watched the film, and then I read the book. And I fell very much in love. So much of what was in the book was also in me- but in reading it, I recognised it for the first time.

Carl I was going to a camping weekend for a friend’s birthday. I had a rather bad cough and was going to stay at home, but on a whim I went. I had been told that he wouldn’t be there (an unfortunate romantic disappointment between he and I at the tender age of 14 had put me off him FOREVER). He was there. I was there. And we have been together ever since.

Brocante Home what a scrumptious website! What a lovely Alison who creates it! Vintage Housekeeping, puttery treats, little rituals, aprons, tiny candles, routines, lavender water- changed our home life so much. Made me write! Made me blog! I scrub seasonally! All I was trying to do, when I found this haven on the internet, was to find a website that would tell me how to make my own Christmas Crackers…

Mrs MiniverBrocante Home Alison mentioned this book recently. I got it from the library shelf the same day, and had devoured it by the next. Again, it is like a part of me I had not met had somehow been captured by someone else and scattered across the pages for me to meet. Of course I do not think I am Mrs Miniver- just that the way she thinks, her observations….seem very familiar to me!

Oh there are many more, but how boring for you to read! I just feel thankful for these things. Perhaps the American Thanksgiving Tradition has crept into my consciousness? Anyway, for all of these- and blogs through which I have met some lovely, lovely friends – I am thankful!

The Whirl Of Gaiety

Have you ever read These Happy Golden Years? It is one of the Little House On The Prairie books. In it, there is a chapter called ‘the whirl of gaiety’ and that is just what this last weekend was.

Friday was my day to go to see my lovely Mum. It was cold and damp and very unpromising- but we had a marvellous time. We started with continental coffee (whipped cream and nuts!) then did some Christmas shopping, then popped to Sainsburys (there is not one near me) where I got some 00 flour to play making pasta with. Then she took me to Fontenay Orchard – a little orchard in the countryside that has Concorde pears- they are marvellous, really delicious. This orchard is through tiny winding roads, and all the trees were dropping golden leaves on us like rain. Best of all, there was an honesty box to pay in. I love that trust still exists.

I came back into town, got my hair cut, and then went home to dress for a Winter Ball! How exciting- a proper evening out. It was a fundraiser for the scouts, and we went as it was a friend who works with the scouts birthday. I wore my black dress that looks like the Mouret Galaxy dress, and red lipstick, and felt grown up! We left as the clock struck midnight…

Saturday I had to work during the day, and was more than a little tired from the evening before! But after work, I had dinner at Café Rouge with dear Carl and my lovely friend Lisa. I had the softest steak and a glass of red wine- delicious! Then we went to see the new Bond movie. Oh, I loved it! Very long- so we took in a cup of tea- but good. And then we walked back through the town at ten to midnight- two late nights in a row!

Sunday we went to Cressing Temple Barns where there was a food and craft fair. On the way, it thundered, lightninged, rained and hailed, and there was a glorious rainbow! The stalls were set out in ancient barns, and although we got rained on and very muddy, it was a marvellous morning. We bought irish cream scented coffee beans, and best of all- a proper yule log. It is a beautiful log, about the size of my forearm, with three spaces drilled into it that each hold a tealight candle! Then we hurried home and on to see a friend for Sunday lunch. Convivial company and a roast lunch- nothing better.

So that is what I have been up to- what about you?

Sunday, 19 November 2006

Someone Up There Was Listening!

We came into town yesterday- and although I hate jostling crowds, I did love the afternoon. It was cooler than it has been, and there was a Continental Market it town. We hate hot paella for lunch, and wandered about the stalls together.

Later, we bumped into Mum and Dad and had drinks in Costa (peppermint hot chocolate for me, bliss!). We were on a roll of Good Things- because- in Smiths, I found....the Martha Stewart Living Handmade Holidays special edition I have been wanting so much!

And even better- it lives up to expectation! So when I am home from work today (yes, Sunday! This is my last one) I am going to curl up on the sofa with Green and Blacks Cocoa, and read it from cover to cover and plan my Christmas presents to make.

A random observation- the leaves outside our little flat have turned bright, bright yellow. They are falling like confetti in abundance at the moment- and as I got into the car (dear Carl took me to work this morning!) I looked up through almost bare branches adorned with acid yellow leaves, to a clear blue sky. Quite, utterly, perfect.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Thursday, 16 November 2006

I wish, I wish, I wish!

Oh, oh, ohhh.

One more post, and then I shall not post about magazines again for a little while, I promise.

I was merrily clicking away at today and then I saw it! A special holiday issue of Living Magazine!

It is called Martha Stewart Handmade Holiday Gifts, and oh, oh, ohhh how I want it! But I have no idea how to get it. My local shops dont get it, and the only ebay sellers are in the states....sigh.

Perhaps if I am really good this year, Santa Claus can magic one into my stocking! Until then I shall have to satisfy myself by awaiting the December issue of Martha Stewart Living Magazine instead...

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Stumbling Upon Good Things

I have posted before about how other bloggers will post about something I have been thinking, or seen, or read, and also about how often fellow bloggers give me ideas for things to make, read, cook….

Firstly, I have been struck by an urge for chunky vegetable soup having visited the every lovely Secondly, I have been out on my lunch hour on a mission- Posy posted about BBC Good Homes magazine. As well as coming with a voucher for a free pack of mini baubles from M+S, it also has a free little Christmas Ideas magazine. The good thing for me is that some of the ideas come from one of my favourite Christmas books- Christmas Inspirations by Rose Hammick, and some from a book I have been pondering about buying- Creating Your Perfect Christmas. Better still, you can buy the books at reduced prices! And there is more…the magazine looks great too!

Posy has sparked another idea in my mind- you know how I am for magazines-especially the Christmas editions? Well it seems she is like that too- and she has a photo of all her magazines stacked up, ready to read. Well it strikes me I buy them as I see them, here and there, read them, buy another… Next year, I am going to go out and buy them all at once. It will cost the same, but I think it will feel much more indulgent. I am going to stack them up next to ‘my’ chair with a nice box of chocolates (Single origin from Thorntons have caught my eye) ready, waiting for me.

A lovely piece of post when I got home from work last night: the new Cath Kidston catalogue. Imagine my delight when not only did I fall in love with one of her new patterns-Lapland-but that she even does candles, paper plates, matches now! How to resist? (I probably won’t be trying very hard to!)

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

I Live In Santa's Workshop

Gosh! I have been away for so long. From my blogging, I mean. And I owe too many emails too- all of a sudden, the days have started slip slide skidding away- it must be getting near to Christmas!

I have been doing Christmassy things since I last posted- and doing them on ‘pajama craft days’ that were an idea planted in my head by lovely Alicia at

Sunday was a pajama craft day. It is so cozy when it is cold and dark outside to putter around inside all wrapped up. The only thing that could have made the day better, would have been hot chocolate. Alas, no chocolate in the house- and I wasn’t getting out in my pajamas to get some!

So, Christmas crafts- I have been making Christmas cards. Snowflake cards for nearly everyone, except for 3d angels for work friends, Christmas tree cards for family, and the 12-days-of-christmas series (that I MUST get a hurry up with!) for Carl. I still need to make some cards for the children I know, and then write all the cards I have made…

Best of all, a Christmas wreath is all ready for our front door. Inspired by the same lovely Alicia of pajama craft day fame. Last December she made a fabulous wreath, and I have adapted it. I got a polystyrene wreath form from Hobbycraft, and covered it with strips of felt in bright pink and bright blue. There are embroidered green felt holly leaves and mistletoe, and buttons for holly berries. I embroidered a leaf with ‘Joyeaux’ and then made ‘Noel’ out of glittery pipe cleaners. The whole thing is to be hung with a bright pink ribbon with gold edging. These are my Christmas colours this year! I am going to wrap up presents in bright pink paper with blue ribbons for girls, and bright blue paper with pink ribbons for boys.

Lovely, lovely to make- the mincemeat. I have used the Delia recipe that I make every year, only this year I have added some dried cranberries that I had left over from my cake. I always make too much, so I have some to give away. Always a jar each to my Mum and Sister, then one for dear Carl’s Mum, and a little one for my kind friend Lisa. I used vegetarian suet this year which seems to have given it a slightly strange texture, but Carl has been ‘testing’ it for me and declares it to taste well. There is something really satisfying about a little row of recycled jam jars, all odd shapes and sizes filled with mincemeat, labelled prettily and given little paper hats to wear!

It is funny though…for all of this, I still don’t feel as Christmassy as I normally do. Perhaps I am more relaxed this year, and it is this relaxed feeling that is unfamiliar?

Random thoughts- when I was making the mincemeat, I had my Christmas music cd on (Santa Baby, When A Child Is Born, Mary’s Boy Child, White Christmas, all of those) and the wind was gusting beautiful gold leaves from the trees outside my kitchen window. The air smelled of Christmas, and I felt really contented.

I am reading ‘Bel Canto’ by Anne Patchett. It is really, really good. I am only two chapters in, but I find myself scurrying off to snatch a page whenever I can.

Probably enough randomness for now- except to ask, does anyone know what has happened to Brocante Home? Where has lovely Alison and her scrumptious site gone?!?

Oh, one last thing- well, two- the pumpkin soup was AMAZING, make it (from last post) and thank you all for your lovely comments. I cannot believe it has been a fortnight since I last posted! I will be a better blogger from now on! And again, thank you for your comments and emails, they always brighten my day.

Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Autumn is here!

It’s a funny thing, blogging, or not blogging. I have been at home sick, struck down by a horrible bug that was stalking the library stacks, waiting for me. My first few days of not blogging (not that they would have been interesting posts- oh, my sinuses hurt! Oh, my head hurts!) were spent thinking- what if people kindly come to visit my blog, and I am not posting? Then I spent a week or so planning out lovely posts, where I could tell you all about the little grey squirrel who scurries along the fence at the end of our garden, as if tightrope walking. I was going to post all about my adventures in Christmas cake making, and about the books I have read, and about soo much.

And then I spent a few days thinking- what if- I post a ‘here I am, back again!’ entry, and no one realises I was gone! And then- then, I thought, what if they have noticed I have gone, and then I post all of these things, well, they will be sat reading this for far too long, and their tea will grow cold.

So I have culled much of what I was going to post. But there are one or two matters requiring my attention, and one or two I am determined to muse upon, so…

Thank you to my two lovely swap partners. I have had a marvellous chocolate swap parcel from lovely Thea in Australia- which quite delighted me. Did you know that as we have Freddo chocolate frogs, they have Caramel Koalas?! There was even chocolate cookie dough scented lip balm and hand cream, a delightful Christmas ornament, and flock covered notecards that I sit and stroke while I decide who to write to with them!

And then, lovely Wendy! A Vintage Book Swap parcel that proves great minds think alike, and that vintage swap parcel pals are just lovely people. Imagine opening presents all done up with tissue, and also a peacock feather. Imagine feeling all poorly and snuffly on your sofa, and having a vintage copy of the Wind in the Willows to read, while sipping hot tea out of a wonderful delicate mug all covered with butterflies, and nibbling on squares of Green and Blacks milk chocolate!

Such bliss, so thank you both, so much.

Onwards- this year I made my Christmas cake to the Good Housekeeping recipe in the issue with Jamie Oliver on the front- only I used cointreau to soak my dried fruits, and I baked it for only two hours. It has never crossed my mind to buy a cake- I love the ritual of seeking out the ingredients, soaking the fruit, wishing on my stir of the mix, and then feeding the cake over the weeks, before finally marzipanning and icing it. I love the squirreled-away-hoarding-good-things-for-the-winter feel that it gives me, as well as the glorious smell of cake that pervades the house. I always make sure I need to go out after I have baked it, so I can come back in again to really appreciate the smell! Oh, and I always listen to Christmas music while I bake it, too. This years favourite- as last years- Santa Baby!

Last night we carved pumpkins- I have a lovely friend who always comes to visit on a Monday night, and so we made our Halloween lanterns a night early. It was quite meditative, sitting and scooping and carving and creating together. She very sweetly bought a bag of walnuts for us from her cousins tree- there are enough in the bag to crack and eat as many as we want, and experiment with some walnut recipes.

Today is the first day of proper cooler, darker autumn so far. And I love it. I walked to work under a heavy grey sky, against which were acidy green trees, and the wind was gusting and blowing golden leaves everywhere. I feel really invigorated by windy days. Tonight it is dark outside already, and I still have an hour and a quarter at work. When I get home, my skin will be all tingly, and I am going to bake a pumpkin with cream and gruyere inside by the light of my jack o lantern.

Friday, 6 October 2006

My Magazine Obsession Pays Off!

Oh I am so excited! My magazine habit has paid off- I went out to buy She magazine at lunch time (it is a rainy friday, it is my day off tomorrow- everyone is grumpy at work as the computers are broken...oh yes, I forgot- I don't need excuses here!) ...I opened it....and saw....I am this months start letter! And I have won (apparently!) a bunch of Fairtrade flowers!

I am so excited...I can barely wait to get home and see if my flowers have come- or to find casual ways to let my work friends know I am in print!

(So far my casual way has been to rush up to them saying 'look, look! It's me!' and giggle away.

Happy Fridays everyone!

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble...

I passed a most enjoyable evening last night, with my friend Lisa. We banished dear Carl to the bedroom, and took over the kitchen to make Elderberry Cordial, or as I think of it, Elderberry Rob.

I can heartily recommend making this healing drink (take as a preventative to avoid a cold, or if you have one, as a restorative) but if you do – be advised that a pair of gloves would have been a very good idea.

Lisa picked around about a pound of elderberries from the bushes near her allotment. We stripped them from the stalks (this takes longer than you would imagine) and put them into a large saucepan (the one I use for boiling pasta in- that large!). We then poured in a pound of brown sugar (we opted for dark but I cannot imagine light would make much difference) and sort of mushed it into the berries with our hands. It felt so funny, and we burst as many of the berries as we could manage at the same time. It gave off a marvellous alcoholly mince pie smell, and when we decided we had done the squishing enough, we realised that we should have worn gloves.

Off to the bathroom we merrily tripped to ‘rinse off the elderberries’. Let me tell you, they do not rinse off! Or face scrub off! My hands are just about respectable today because I kept at them with salt and lemon juice, but I have had to paint my nails to hide the stains! Although it must be said that I believe elderberries would make a marvellous dye- a wonderful winey red-purple glossy colour.

We then heated and stirred the mixture until it boiled, boiled it for ten minutes or so, and then simmered it while we watched the first part of Spooks- about five minutes I suppose. Then we let it cool, strained it (mash at the berries with the back of a wooden spoon to get the most cordial out), and I bottled it. I suppose we got about 600ml of cordial out of the berries, and you take it a tablespoon or two in hot water at a time.

It felt very satisfying to have gleaming bottles of elderberry cordial sitting on the windowsill thinking ‘we made that!’

If you want to make it, here is the short version of the recipe, without all my meanderings:

Strip 1lb of elderberries from their stems, and wash them. Crush with 1lb of brown sugar, heat stirring until it boils, then simmer until it reaches a thick syrupy consistency. Pass through a sieve: in sterilized bottles it will keep for up to four years. To take, stir 1-2 tbsp into a mug of hot water, and drink.


Monday, 2 October 2006

Upon a Box of Books, Ginger Cake, and Knitting

I am feeling a bit better now, about the wedding thing. I read a quote on Friday, in a craft shop, that is going to become my mantra.

‘My fiance asked me what the wedding day was that I wished for, and I said an elegant day with friends, family and music. I asked him, and he said the one that would make me his wife’

On the same day, I went to see Mum and Dad, and they had found an old box of books that were mine, in the garage- we had all forgotten they were there. It was like finding a box of treasure! I have let most of them go onto new homes via Oxfam, but I did find and keep a Good Housekeeping Cookbook from the 50’s, a vintage copy of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and a copy of Gone With The Wind with the thinnest paper, from the mid forties.

Mum and I went on to go to a craft shop (I bought a marvellously clever gold leafing pen- just brush it on, like a marker) and a little nursery, where we stood in a greenhouse full of cyclamen that looked like a field of butterflies, while rain hammered down on the roof.

I have been working on my knitting this weekend, when I have not been at work or doing other things. I love knitting with this wool (rown polar)- it is thick, so soft, and a wonderful colour- like blackberries that have been stirred into cream. I am making a hot water bottle cover for a Christmas present- to be given along with a mug and some hot chocolate, or cocoa. Hot water bottles make me think of cocoa and cozy nights in. I found a post on the blog of yarnstorm

that is just what I mean, and has lovely knitting pictures too.

Yesterday, it rained so tremendously hard, that the water could not get down the drain pipes fast enough, and was making a fountain at the top. The lighting But I was tucked up inside, listening to the radio, knitting, and drinking tea.

And today, today the library staffroom smells like a tea-shop. We wanted to have a coffee morning for Macmillan Cancer Support, but several of us have Friday (the official coffee morning day) off, so we did it today instead. The smell is marvellous. I bought in my coffee pot from home, so there is the scent of fresh brewed coffee mingling with spiced apple cake, cherry bakewell loaf cake, cappuccino cake, chocolate chip cake, spiced fruit buns, and the most amazing ginger cake. I will post the ginger cake recipe as soon as I have appropriated it from the wonderful man who baked it. As soon as he showed it to us, you could see it would be good- all moist and gooey and somehow crumbly at the same time. He bought in greek yoghurt to serve with it, and it was really quite marvellous. Gingery enough to be properly ginger cake, but not so hot as to burn or make you thirsty- with crunchy bits of sugar like you get on top of a lemon drizzle cake, and nuts, and…well, it has made everyone who tasted it smile, and I fear he is getting quite embarrassed by all of us ladies going into raptures every time we see him!

As long as my elderberry cordial making goes well tonight, I shall post the recipe for that tomorrow.

Tuesday, 26 September 2006

My Heart Is Full

Oh, you know, my heart is just full of loveliness! Everyone has been so sweet about my last post- no one has told me I am wretched selfish girl! You have been so supportive- and backing up kind words with offers of help.

Friends at work who have heard the live version of my sob have been lovely, and you my kind blogging friends are wonderful too.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Monday, 25 September 2006

Feeling Blue

On the whole, I try and keep my blog a happy friendly place, as I am, on the whole, a happy person. But I also appreciate this as a little place where I can speak my mind when I am feeling blue- I feel like this is a space where I can speak and be understood. And since no one here is connected with what I am about to unload about, I don’t have to worry about offending anyone involved…

The thing is, our wedding. Well not our wedding itself, but the Wedding part of it- the reception, the dresses and all that. We do not have a huge budget, and even if we did have lots of cash to spare, a Big Wedding would not be us. So a lot of the things we are doing, we are doing them because they make our day more personal, and because they also save money- a happy combination.

Our day, so far. I am making the invitations. I am going to use a rubber stamp to emboss our names in the middle of a card, then use a craft punch to make some flowers in shades of pink, which I will stick randomly around our names. One or two of the flowers will have a little tiny diamante at the centre. Then inside, a slip of paper printed from the computer in a pretty font with the invitation, directions etc.

We are getting married in a little country church. I got my dress in a sample sale, and my Mum is doing the flowers (not the church flowers, but the people flowers if that makes sense). The plan from then on was to go to this little family run golf club about ten minutes away, to have a welcome drink and nibbles on the lawn, while we have a few photos.

In for afternoon tea- sandwiches, salad, quiche, cold meat and a baked salmon, served from a buffet, then trays of scones, strawberries and profiteroles served to the tables. We will have background music on the CD player, and if I can find enough money, I have found a man who can look at a person, then cut their silhouette portrait in two minutes- I would love to have him there, wandering amongst the tables.

Then we cut the cake, have speeches with sparkling wine for the toast, and move from the upstairs restaurant to downstairs for tea, coffee, and cake. Carl and I have our first dance on the lawn, then that is it- we go off, people go off, all in a flutter of confetti.

We got the quote, and it was around £5,000. This is where the trouble begins, you see. I am happy to lose the canapés, which with the welcome drinks account for £825 of the quote. I think the sparkling wine is overpriced- £19 a bottle, and it was meant to be an economy, instead of champagne!! I want to pay the £8 corkage and go buy a case of fizz from Majestic. But this is it- when I was talking about it with my in-law to be, she thought we were not being ripped off over the drink and suggested having just sandwiches for the reception.

Now I am not knocking anyone who wants to have a sandwich reception, but in my mind, that is what I would want for a Christening. I don’t feel like I am asking for ever such a lot, and am happy to lose the canapés, the welcome drink,- I don’t even really want to have wine on the tables as I don’t think it is appropriate for afternoon tea, but have been shouted down.

I am wearing a sample sale gown (which I do love, but it would be nice to have one that no one else has worn, that is just mine), I am making my own invitations, sorting out the flowers, having a cake from the supermarket, and it is getting to the point where I feel there is not much more we can do to economise, to cut back, to reel it in. There is not much more I want to do. I feel like the compromises we have made, we have made in good spirit- and as I say, mainly because me making the invitations means more to me than buying them, but also it is a tenth of the price.

I don’t mind not having a sit down dinner, not having a posh car, all of that. I know £5,000 is an awful lot of money, but considering the cost of the average wedding now is £17,000 I think we have done rather well. I find it really hard to articulate what I mean, but I feel sad, like I am not asking for very much, and am prepared to do with less than that, but not so very much less that it all feels wrong. I know, I know the day is about being married, and that is the most important thing to me. But it is also important to me to share this special day with our family and friends- and if we can’t do that, I am beginning to feel like I would just like to get married on our own and go have tea at the Ritz.

But then again, I feel that I want my family with me, and I don’t want to give up that for the sake of money arguments. (If you are wondering why In-Laws have such an influence, they are making the majority of the financial contribution).

I know it is a bad reaction to stress, but I went and ate a bar of Green and Blacks chocolate at lunch which I know is not the answer, but made me feel better for five minutes. And now I feel bloated and worried that I have spoiled my blog somehow by spilling all of this out here. I will probably take this post down in a few days. But just today, right now, this is how I feel.

Thank you to any lovely person who has read all the way to the end of my little sob!

Thursday, 21 September 2006

Today I Am Wearing...

In honour of the lovely Indian Summer we are fortunate enough to be enjoying, I am wearing my white vest top, with my black and white flower print skirt. The skirt is so nice to wear- it is one of those double layer ones, and comes just below the knee, and curves in gently before flaring out. I feel like I want to get air into my lungs, breeze through my hair and gentle sunlight on my skin today

An Aside- My Thoughts Upon Healthy Eating

I am trying to eat delicious, simple, nurturing and nourishing, seasonal food. I am trying to avoid ‘low fat’ varieties and just have less of the full fat things. For example, I picked some blackberries, stewed them lightly with apple, and stirred them into natural bio yoghurt. Rather delicious, and it felt quite spoiling.

As I discover or concoct them, recipes will follow. Perhaps I shall post the recipe for my favourite five bean vegetable chilli...

I am trying to capture a kind of vibe- part Nigella’s ‘Temple Food’ part Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s fresh-from-the-garden thing, and part Jane Clarke’s Bodyfoods philosophy. Oh, and a bit of the sheer enthusiasm of India Knight. Who has a diet book out next year that I can barely wait for, even though I am so against diets . She just writes so The Shops to see what I mean!

So far I am feeling good…

Is There A Word For This?

If there isn’t, I wonder what the word should be? Not quite a coincidence, something more…

Well, perhaps there is a word already, and I just don’t know it. As part of my eating healthily kick, I bought some oatibix for breakfast, having decided that oats are a good thing. They are rather nice, but I don’t want to have the same thing every morning, so I thought porridge would be good (well, when this Indian Summer we are enjoying is over, anyway!). So I went into the healthfood shop and became confused by all the different kinds. Logged onto one of my favourite websites, went to the Ramble board- and lo! A discussion about porridge (well, oatmeal, but it seems to be the same!).

I spotted Real Simple magazine in our little newsagents, and decided to treat myself to it on payday. (Yes, as if I need to buy more magazines!). I visited my dear friend’s blog and lo! She is talking about Real Simple magazine!

I idly mentioned to my sister that I had seen fabulous matte gold wrapping paper in Oxfam (the shop that sells the fair-trade chocolate and things, not the general charity shop)- and lo! She had seen it too and had planned to use it this year!

Although I am feeling a bit stressed about the reading I have to do (two for bookgroups, and two that have been lent and recommended to me) I wanted to make a list of books- good books- to read and lo! I visit the ever lovely and she asks for suggestions for good things to read!

Perhaps we are just all really in tune?

Is There A Word For This?

If there isn’t, I wonder what the word should be? Not quite a coincidence, something more…

Well, perhaps there is a word already, and I just don’t know it. As part of my eating healthily kick, I bought some oatibix for breakfast, having decided that oats are a good thing. They are rather nice, but I don’t want to have the same thing every morning, so I thought porridge would be good (well, when this Indian Summer we are enjoying is over, anyway!). So I went into the healthfood shop and became confused by all the different kinds. Logged onto one of my favourite websites, went to the Ramble board- and lo! A discussion about porridge (well, oatmeal, but it seems to be the same!).

I spotted Real Simple magazine in our little newsagents, and decided to treat myself to it on payday. (Yes, as if I need to buy more magazines!). I visited my dear friend’s blog and lo! She is talking about Real Simple magazine!

I idly mentioned to my sister that I had seen fabulous matte gold wrapping paper in Oxfam (the shop that sells the fair-trade chocolate and things, not the general charity shop)- and lo! She had seen it too and had planned to use it this year!

Although I am feeling a bit stressed about the reading I have to do (two for bookgroups, and two that have been lent and recommended to me) I wanted to make a list of books- good books- to read and lo! I visit the ever lovely and she asks for suggestions for good things to read!

Perhaps we are just all really in tune?

Monday, 18 September 2006

An Adventure In The Kitchen, And A Plague!

Oh! How I do love Sundays! I must surely have mentioned before how they seem special somehow- perhaps as they are the one day that I never ever have to work. (Although, alas, alack, I have signed up to work several this Autumn as we are short of staff). This Sunday was no different…

After a delightful cup of tea in bed with Radio 4, we went blackberrying in Maldon. I had part of a cappuccino cake I had made left, so we dropped that off with my parents, then went for a nice long walk to gather blackberries. Sadly, so many had died and withered on the bush! We got two small ice cream containers full- enough to make half a bottle of blackberry brandy with some left for a blackberry-apple stew- but I felt sad for all the berries that had gone to waste. We are thinking of going to a different village on Thursday evening to get some more- need to make that other half of a bottle of brandy!

We enjoyed lunch with my parents before setting off back home- where I settled with a pot of tea and the Sunday paper, and then the Boden catalogue! I made a loaf of bread to go with veggie soup ( a new bread machine recipe that uses less salt, no sugar and no milk powder, unlike my old one) and then made lunch for today.

I sat and stitched on my 12 days of Christmas cards (Five go-oo-ld rings!) and watched Spooks. Oh, I am glad that it is back! And I can scarce wait for tonight to see the outcome. Such delicious nonsense!

Now one thing- is anyone else under attack by wave after wave of Daddy Long-Legs? I counted seven in the kitchen this morning! They are everywhere- I even had one flying round my feet in bed the other evening which made me jump out of my skin! Has anyone else found themselves under attack? And short of closing all the windows, is there a nice (ie not soaked-in-chemicals) method of repelling them?

Saturday, 16 September 2006

Saturday Morning Musings

I have snatched five minutes from rushing round the library, which is frankly, twitchy today, to post some random musings, before I forget.

I happened upon this wonderful, darling skirt, and I really want to make it. I suspect payday (Friday) will see me rummaging through the ultrasuede on the market stall!

I went to a wedding last night. It was lovely, really, wonderful. It had a beautiful simple elegance to it- the bride carried a cloud of gypsophilla tied with organza ribbon for her bouquet...which I caught! She had made individual cupcakes for her wedding cake, and bought the flowers for the tables that morning. We arrived horribly late as we got very was in Chigwell, and we ended up in Barking- neither of which is anywhere near where we live, in Chelmsford! But we were made to feel welcome- and best of all- I did not stress. Being late for things makes me really stress usually. Even though our lift was late and we got lost, I did not get all hot and prickly as usual, but went with it- I was pleased.

Another thing- I saw a programme on Channel 4 about how obesity can be really quite dangerous in pregnancy, and even cause risk to the unborn child. I had never really thought about it. While I am not obese, or trying to get pregnant at the moment, I am a little heavier than I would like to be, and I am getting married next I have decided it is time to look at eating more wholefoods and seasonal fruit and veg, and cutting out some of the chocolate and bits.

As for exercise, plenty of nice long walks in the park, picking up autumn leaves and so on I feel. Definitley not wanting to diet which is a bad word in my book, just cut the sugar and up the good habits a bit!

Happy Saturdays everyone!

Thursday, 14 September 2006

My One-Hundredth Post!

As dusk fell last night, the air turned cooler suddenly, and then a rushing noise filled the air. The rain simply fell down out of the sky, hitting the ground so hard it made a kind of mist. Then, the three hour thunder-and-lightning extravaganza began.

To begin with, we had the blind in the living room down, as thunder and lightning terrify me. They actually make me jump, and I hate the storm headaches I get. But our blind is a little narrower than the window, so I could see some of the flashes anyway- and decided I would rather see them properly.

So we had the blind up, lit our candles, and sat and watched what was a really spectacular storm. There was lots of sheet lightning, and once or twice it was really hard to tell what was a train going by (the train line is at the bottom of our garden) and what was thunder!

I sat on the sofa with my tea, and cut out Christmas cards. Have I mentioned what I am doing for my Christmas-cards-for-work yet? I am making paper angels that will stand up- very simple, all in white. Then I am pricking a design around the hem of their dress, and brushing some gold on for a halo. After that I am going to make each one a scroll that says 'Merry Christmas'. I have cut out the angel shapes with scallop scissors.

It was quite a cozy evening really, sitting sipping tea, watching the storm, making cards and chatting to Carl. Our dear little snake was all hidden away in his tank, as I felt like doing this morning. He curls himself up, then tucks his head under one of his coils. He is all miserable and sad at the moment as he is getting ready to shed. He won't eat for a couple of weeks or come out to play until he finally sheds, and then he is right as rain again- I hope he sheds soon, as it makes me sad to see him so blue.

When I walked to work this morning, I put on my pink sandals to go with my long pink skirt and sparkly pink hairband (I wore a white top, so it was not a pink overload!)- well, when I got to the subway crossing, I discovered that one end was completely flooded! I had to back out, go back down the road, cross on the crossing there and go through town to work instead. A nice little adventure detour with which to start the day!

Wednesday, 13 September 2006

Drawing On Your Resourcefulness, Not Your Resources

"I am sure no one needs me to spell out the benefits of a do-it-yourself approach to Christmas. In the present economic climate, as the cliché runs, the high cost of this annual saturnalia, coupled with the thought of all the bills to come, must make parents everywhere come out in a psychosomatic rash round the time of the first frost. The solution is to draw on your resourcefulness rather than your resources, in other words, do-it-yourself.

Without going to the lengths of breeding one’s own turkey, and brewing one’s own liquor (though I’m all for that too) it is possible to slash the cost of Christmas at a stroke by making presents, cards, decorations in the peace of one’s own home (let others tramp the cold, wet streets and elbow their way through crowded stores) from a variety of inexpensive materials. It’s not only possible, and financially desirable, it’s also entertaining, absorbing and thoroughly rewarding, as I hope this book will demonstrate.

First, I’d like to veto the notion that home-made articles need apologising for. This attitude is hopelessly out of date, and belongs to the Age of the Amateur when home-made suggested flaccid jumpers with pompoms at the neck, wee felt Scotties to pin to your lapel and sinister disembowelled dolls into which you inserted your carefully folded nightdress. Nowadays, we say not home-made but hand-made, and complacently await envious oohs and ahhs. Not since Victorian times as there been such a fever of knotting and beading and patching…quite seriously, there couldn’t be a better moment for do-it-your-selfishness-the handmade look is fashionable and sought after…"

How I sighed with pleasure at reading this passage the other day! Although it is about Christmas (only one hundred and something days away!) it sums up what I love about making things and crafting in general, in cooking, in living the way I do-drawing on your resourcefulness rather than your resources. Although, having said that, I do think if you are going to go to the trouble of crafting or cooking, you should do it with nice things. No point labouring over a scarf to have a scratchy nasty result, or baking a meant-to-be-sumptuous chocolate cake with cooking chocolate! Although…it is nice to know craft and cooking can still be done when funds are low…

But enough, I digress! Read through that passage once again. Now tell me when it was written? This year? Last year? 1975! From a book by Jocasta Innes, that I picked up at the car boot sale that we did, for 20p…..

Tuesday, 12 September 2006

What I Did In My Holidays...

Oh, I have had the most wonderful week off work! Well, I say off work- I did a lot of work, just not at the library…

If you don’t know about the Seasonal Scrub, pay the lovely Alison a visit at you won’t regret it! The Seasonal Scrub is, in essence (for me at least ) a kind of spring cleaning in the fading days of summer, to make the home ready for cozying in for autumn and winter. It needs to be warm enough that you can throw open every window in the house, and dry plenty of clothes on the line, but cool enough that you feel all autumnal afterwards!

The Seasonal Scrub is a focussed burst of cleaning rather than decluttering- so before I embarked upon the Scrub itself, I had a major throwing-out session.

Then I spent the week scrub-a-dub-dubbing, dusting, hovering, pulling out the sofa, turning the mattress, turning out the cupboards and drawers…and now everything sparkles and is tidy and clean, and home.

Such bliss! It was pretty exhausting, but it is a kind of exhilarated exhaustedness, to know that for just this moment, everything is in its place! After all the scrubbing, I got to do the fun part- choosing which ornaments and things go on display for now, which throw to put on the sofa, which oils to burn, candles to light, and music to play. I love the puttering so much…

Today I Am Wearing

I went to town on Friday, to buy, of all things, some temporary tattoos. Dear Carl and I went to a murder mystery dinner that evening (lots of fun!) and his character was a boxer called Mike Bison- and he needed tattoos for his costume!

While I was in town, on my temporary tattoo mission, I spotted a dress in New Look that made me do a double take- before I knew it, I was trying it on, then getting in line to pay for it! And today, I am wearing it.

It is a wrap dress- I have wanted one for ages, but this was the first one I have tried on that is flattering! It has a collar and deep v-neck, and ¾ sleeves. It comes just below my knee, and is in a wonderful scarlet red. It makes me feel all slinky, and has a 40’s vibe to it. Better yet, it was only £12!

I painted my nails red to match, and have red lipstick on today too.

What are you wearing today?

Saturday, 2 September 2006

Fabulous Friday

Today I am working, so yesterday was my Friday off. I went to see Mum, and we spent the morning shopping for clothes. Now I love clothes, but rarely seem to get to shop for them. I worked out that although I have done functional clothes shopping (you know, I need an outfit for a wedding, I need new shoes for work) I have not gone out and done browsing 'I don't need anything, but am going to buy something just because I love it' shopping for six years, when I started working at the library.

Oh, the joy that is Asda! In a town a half hour drive away from where Mum lives, they have opened a whole shop just for clothes! It is so, so cheap. It was amazing to be able to pick up things and not worry about how much they cost- to be able to risk falling in love before looking at the price label. I tried on lots and came away with some treasures.

1) A pair of new slippers for dear Carl- soft grey, to keep his toes warm.

2) A new pair of slippers for me- gorgeous pink ones, with pink pom poms on! Some of the money goes to Breast Cancer, so they are fabulous in all ways!

3) A long, flared at the bottom pink suede-style skirt, with a belt of pink beads (that I am going to make a necklace out of). Fully lined! Washable! Soft! A miracle!

4) My green t-shirt top that I am wearing today - see post below

5) A tight fitting yet flattering jumper in Nigella blue- similar to that which Nigella wears

Then, in the evening Book Club. We discussed PopCo, which I did enjoy very much, and shall probably read again. We also had a lady visit to do a focus group on Fair Trade. It was interesting to see the varied responses and opinions to the same adverts and products.

And I am herding the books back to their shelves like naughty sheep who have escaped.

Today I Am Wearing... new green top- oh, I love it! It is so, so soft to wear, all silky and slidy against my skin. It is long sleeved with a sweetheart neckline. It is almost made out of ladies vest material, but in a moss green colour. It has a velvet ribbon around the neckline, then some pretty lace that lies against my skin. I am wearing this with my long denim skirt, and my new alice band. Since I got my hair cut, alice bands are going to be my signature thing I think. This one is very, very think, and a dull pink glittery colour. It doesn't sound pretty, but it feels pretty- and one or two people have asked me where I got it (the wonder that is Asda!) so it can't be that bad! What are you wearing today?

Wednesday, 30 August 2006

Project For Tonight

I started making sloe gin a few years ago- it is lovely to give as a present, and rather delicious to break out at Christmas, or to warm up after a crisp winter walk! Then last year I branched out into blackberry brandy- I liked this even more! This year I am going to make both, and also try cherry brandy. I bought my cherries from the market at lunch time, and am going home tonight to make it. I have saved my clubcard vouchers so the brandy cost me something like 30p! The beauty of this is that you dont need to buy the best brandy on the shelf either- shops own brand will miraculously transform itself into something really rather special...enjoy!

Sloe Gin

1lb sloes
8oz caster sugar
1 litre gin

2 1 litre bottles (use the gin bottle and another bottle)

Empty the gin into a large jug

Prick each sloe (or make a cut with a vegetable knife) and put them into the empty bottles- half in each.

Sprinkle the sugar over the sloes. (I use a funnel for that made out of kitchen roll. Messy otherwise)! Sometimes I use less sugar, so I can taste it and add more later if I think it needs it.

Top up each bottle with gin, screw the lid on and shake gently.

Put in a cool dark cupboard, and shake gently each day for a week.

Then shake gently each week for two-three months.

Put the gin through a coffee filter (a fine sieve will do, but a coffee filter is better) to remove the sloes and any sediment.

Have a taste to see if you want to add more sugar.

Either pour into one large clean bottle, or several smaller ones.

The longer you can store it before drinking the better it will be. It is drinkable this Christmas, but if you can keep a bottle or two back for next Christmas it will be dynamite!

Blackberry Brandy

I lb blackberries
6oz caster sugar
1 litre brandy

2 I litre bottles (use brandy bottle and another bottle)

Empty the brandy into a large jug

Divide the blackberries between the two bottles.

Sprinkle the sugar over the blackberries using the kitchen roll funnel. I find blackberry brandy needs less sugar than this, but you might like it sweeter.

Top up with brandy, screw the lid on and shake gently.

Shake gently each day for a week, then each week for two months.

Strain the blackberry brandy through a coffee filter, to remove sloes and any sediment.

*Keep the blackberries- they are lovely with ice cream, or stirred into crème fraiche or similar- they keep well in a jam jar in the fridge*

Have a taste to see if you want to add more sugar.

Either pour into one large clean bottle, or several smaller ones.

This is great to drink after a month of storage, but does get better with age.

Cherry Brandy

This is my first year making this, so it is a bit experimental. Hence I am only making 750mls!

1 ½ - 2 lb cherries
3 oz caster sugar
750 mls brandy

2 empty 750ml bottles (use brandy bottle and another bottle)

Empty the brandy into a large jug.

I can’t decide if I am going to stone them or not- probably not. But I will slash them like the sloes.

Divide the cherries between the two bottles, sprinkling sugar over them as you go.

Top up with brandy, screw the lid on and shake gently.

Shake gently each day for a week, then each week for three months.

Strain the cherry brandy through a coffee filter, to remove cherries and any sediment.

*keep the cherries- they are really, really nice. You could even give them in a pretty jam jar as a present as well. They keep fine in the fridge, and are lovely with ice cream. Or dipped in dark Green and Blacks chocolate…mmm…*

Either pour into one large clean bottle, or several smaller ones.

I like to make pretty labels using those little old fashioned card tags that you can buy. And sealing wax sometimes. I like to get little bottles with corks from Oil and Vinegar to put the finished product in. There is something really satisfying about pulling the cork out of a bottle of home made blackberry brandy...


Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Today I Am Wearing... of my favourite outfits. This makes me feel good, whatever. A long brown skirt, that has one of those hemlines where it is shorter in front than back. It is full, but not too full. (It used to have a gorgeous brown velvet ribbon belt, with an on-purpose-tatty rose on it, but that got lost a long time ago!) This I am wearing with my cream, cross-over-front 3/4 length sleeve jumper. It is fine knit, soft and snuggly, and flattering. It gives one a good bust, and a tiny waist-hurrah!

I am wearing flat shoes that make me feel a bit like Amelie- they have two little straps that cross over, then buckle. I feel like I should wear them with stripey knee socks!

Today I am also wearing my cup, practically. I need tea today- hot 'proper' tea to wake up to, then gentle peppermint tea after lunch- and a reviving cup of tea before coming up to work late on the upstairs enquiry desk. When I get home I will need a restorative cup of tea. Picture me today, and you must picture me with cup in hand!

A Whole Week Has Just Dashed By!

My my, I do not know where the time goes. One minute I am planning on blogging about how I made a blackberry and apple crumble last Sunday, using the blackberries that I picked and froze on my visit to my Aunt and Uncle- and the next it is the Sunday after!

In this past week, I have been cross stitching away in the evenings. I was browsing through a pile of old embroidery magazines, and one had a pattern for embroidering one Christmas card for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. I don't do freestyle embroidery so much, and remembered that I had a pattern for something similar in a Jo Verso book- so I am busily stitching away. I am going to send one to dear Carl each day, starting on the 14th of December.

(I would worry about him reading this, and spoiling the surprise but he doesn't read my blog. He said something about it feeling like rummaging in my handbag, which I thought was really rather sweet.)

I have also been decluttering in readyness for my Seasonal Scrub. I have next week off to turn our little flat out, scrub everything in sight, and make it all cozy and lovely for Autumn. We did a Car Boot Sale to this end on Sunday- we made our pitch money back and £4.50 in profit each. I am going to spend mine wisely, on ribbon, or else someother such thing that is pleasing.

I have been reading PopCo by Scarlett Thomas for book club. I must finish it by Friday. I am enjoying it very much- but it is so long. It is not a hard book exactly, but I read what feels like pages for what seems like ages, and seem to move my bookmark very little at all!

I have got a sassy new bob hair cut! I went and got it all cut off on Friday. It occurred to me that more and more I just put it back into a low ponytail, with some tendrily bits. So now I have a cut a bit like Audrey Tatou in Amelie...only without a fringe...and a left parting...and a little longer in the back...and a bit less volume!

Talking of which, I watched Amelie for the first time and fell in love with it. Thank you Alicia, ( for mentioning it in your blog and prompting me to watch it! Carl said afterwards that it is a delightfully quirky film, and it occurs to me that he is very, very right- that is just how I would describe it.

I have been to see Snakes On A Plane- now guess who chose that?! It was laugh-out-loud bad, and we were very impressed to see a corn snake just like ours (only much bigger, Casper is only a baby) slither across the screen. We also enjoyed tutting at how very unrealistic it is-snakes love dark, not light! That snake isnt poisonous! That one is obviously computer animated as they dont move like that! Pah!

I have been busy cooking too- yesterday afternoon I made fishcakes for tea tonight and put them in the fridge, and then made Kofta Curry for Wednesday, and put some in the fridge, some in the freezer. Inpsired by I made some leek and potato soup for dinner- and then I made smoothies to take with lunch today.

I found the recipe in the BBC Good Food Magazine- you whiz up a can of peach silces in juice with a banana and some apple juice- yum!

It comes to my notice how many of my paragraphs here start with 'I'- not a good thing. But this post is about 'What I did in the week I have not posted' so perhaps I can be forgiven?

Saturday, 19 August 2006

Today I Am Wearing... hair in a low ponytail, with pleasing flicky-bits about my fringe. (Yesterday my hair behaved appallingly- all big and fluffy and wonky somehow). I am at work, so I have on my knee-length black skirt, and a purple top with a sweetheart neckline and long sleeves. Despite the blissful sun yesterday, today it is rainy. From my desk I can see the rain dripping off of the side of the library building. I wish I had not left my umbrella at home!

Marrow Boats

Hello Lovelies,

I have had the most amazing break, but I did miss blogging. Just as well that I have plenty to catch up on here…

Stuffed Marrow

Marrow is one of those things that I have convinced myself that I Do Not Like. Perhaps the courgettyness of them? I was pleasantly surprised to find that I do indeed Like It when my Aunt served it while I was staying with her. She gave one to me as we left, so I determined to find myself a recipe. She had cut it into napkin-ring like pieces, and filled them with a tomato and onion mixture which was rather delicious. But this is how I did mine:

Preheat the oven to somewhere about 175 oC.

Take a marrow, and slice it in half, so you have two long marrow boats.

Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and core. Then lightly prick the flesh with a fork. (I am not sure why, but a similar recipe said to do this, so I did).

In a frying pan, brown a chopped onion, and then some lean steak mince. Stir in a goodly sprinkling of dried mixed herbs, and then a tin of chopped tomatoes. Add a pinch of sugar to take away the ‘tinniness’ of the tomatoes.

Spoon the mixture into the marrow boats.

Place the marrow boats on a baking tray, cover loosely with foil, and bake for about 45 minutes (I have a fan oven, so if you don’t, try about an hour).

Whiz together in a food mixer (oh, how I love my Multiquick!) a slice of wholemeal bread, a chunk of cheddar, and a pinch of mustard powder.

Take the marrow out of the oven, remove the foil, and sprinkle this mixture over the two marrow boats.

Bake for a further ten minutes, and then enjoy.

I am going to try this with pork mince and stilton cheese….and perhaps turkey mince and Cajun spices also. I like it when a recipe is open to interpretation!

A Scrumptious Visit With My Aunt And Uncle

There are some homes that are blissful to visit- the people there are a delight to be with, and you feel all satisfied and rested and just better for being there, really.

And so it was, that I visited my Aunt and Uncle. I have not visited them on my own before- that is to say, with Carl, but without other family, since I was a little girl and went to stay for a week (many years ago). The journey down was rather good- we survived the M25 even though it was raining. I crocheted away while navigating- I started a handbag from The Happy Hooker by Debbie Stoller.

I won’t go into all the details of our visit, except to say it was bliss. Sitting in the conservatory, listening to the rain drum, drum, drumming away on the roof, while just chatting and catching up. My Uncle is one of those people who is just really, really interesting to talk with. He used to fly for British Airways, and so has a lot of travel knowledge, and a love of gadgets. My Aunt tells me stories of our family, which I love as I feel really connected. We went on a blackberrying walk which was just beautiful- wonderful countryside to look at, rambling along with good company, and filling a bag with delicious things to eat.

Things I took away, in my mind – visit more often. There is nothing like that connected feeling that family can give you. Buy feather pillows- I slept so very well. Having a glass of sherry to sip before dinner is really rather nice. As is taking a mug of Horlicks to bed. And one day, when we have our house, I should ever so much like to have carpet in the bathroom that is all soft and squishy to bare toes. And in that same house, I shall finally have my dining table and chairs out of the loft at my in-law’s house. I shall lay out breakfast, and we shall have a Sunday Morning boiled egg.

A Visit To Longleat

It was with rather bleary eyes on my part that we departed a little after 5am for Wiltshire, and Longleat. Did I mention that I came into some tickets, from my lovely Mother-In-Law-To-Be? It was quite a drive, but, by leaving early we made it to Wiltshire for about half past nine. I never fail to be amazed by the changing landscape as we travel. Essex is so flat, that hills just mesmerize me. I love it when the view looks like it is a patchwork blanket draped over someone snuggled up in bed.

I could blog for a very long time indeed about the infinite delights that greeted us in Wiltshire. For the sake of you all though, so you can read this before your tea goes cold, I shall try to be brief.

We first did the Safari Park element to the Longleat estate. It truly is amazing to be so close to the animals. And even more amazing to see them just roaming about in the fields. I felt so privileged to be there amongst them. We had a camel jump almost across our bonnet, I believe he was showing off his long legs, and reminding us that we were his guest, and there for his amusement- and most definitely not the other way around!

The highlight for me was the Fallow Deer Park. We bought a cup of deer food, and stopped the car- by the time we wound down our windows, these beautiful inquisitive heads were nudging at the windows. There were so greedy! But so noble too. I was able to gently stroke the velvet on the antlers of one, while he was gobbling away. If I ever should find myself transported to being the Mistress of Pemberley, I shall be sure to make sure I have a Fallow Deer Park of my own!

The house and grounds were amazing too- we knew there was going to be much to see, so we booked into a nearby farmhouse bed-and-breakfast so we did not have to overstretch ourselves. That in itself was amazing- a wonderful view of Cley Hill, and scrambled eggs for breakfast that had been laid by the hens in the garden.

Highlights of the house and garden for me were the tea rooms in the vaulted cellar, the slippers-for-horses-so-they-wont-mark-the-lawn, and the boat trip. There is a half-mile lake that you can go out in a boat upon. We went there early on the second day, having seen the queues on the first! It is quite an experience- there are sea lions who will jump out of the water to show off next to the boat, and at one end, some hippos. Despite being as ponderous looking as they are, they are actually really vicious dangerous animals. The only reason you can be in the lake with them is that they have been there since they were little hippos and are used to it- in the wild it would be a very different situation. There is an island in the middle of the lake which is home to two gorillas- one of them a silverback. We saw them- just there in front of us. They really took my breath away.

It was amusing to learn that the very low fence around the island is not to keep the gorillas on the island- they cant swim- but to keep the sea lions off. Apparently they are so cheeky that sometimes they try and get on the island and scare the gorillas- and sometimes even ride the hippos!

A Most Wonderful Parcel Of Delights

A most wonderful parcel arrived for me, from the lovely Donna. (To visit her, go to One of my pleasures in life is taking part in swaps; this was the seasonal swap with a Summer Goddess theme.

I don’t know about just Goddess- this parcel made me feel like a Princess, Goddess, and more! When I opened it, the most amazing smell greeted my nose- lavender and roses, mixed together. I discovered that the box was filled with a delightful myriad of pink tissue-wrapped packages, polystyrene packing beads, and wonderful, wonderful dried lavender and rose heads from Donna’s own garden.

I sat with a cup of tea, and spent a happy hour discovering the many pleasures within. (This is not a boasting post, but I wanted to show how wonderful people are- and here in particular, Donna). Each package was a joy to undo- they had been tied with ribbons of varying shades of pink (or rick rack!) and some had a silk rose slipped in the bow. I loved smoothing out the paper into piles, and winding the ribbons around my fingers to make little bundles. My treasures had a rose and lavender theme- there were my favourite rose tea bags from Whittard (of which I had just run out!) and a beautiful rose-pink cup and saucer from which to enjoy them. There were scrumptious chocolates, and a rose candle to burn. There was lavender soap, and a wonderful little plate with roses on. A handmade lavender heart to hang on my bed, and also a handmade handbag and corsage. The treasures did not stop there- there was also a Shirley Hughes book- Alfie- that was once belonged to Donna’s own little boy, Alfie. And some rose scented burning sticks, which I love. And more…more…I felt so very, very spoiled.

Thank you lovely Donna!

Saturday, 5 August 2006

Today, I am wearing... pink-and-white monsoon a-line skirt with pink ribbon belt. I have on my simple white vest top, and am wearing my hair down for the first time in what seems like ages. It has repayed my by being pleasingly bouncy!

This morning I got a makeover before work at the Benefit counter- so my skin is pleasingly glowy, and I am wearing pink eyeshadow. I know! I thought I would look like I have hayfever too- but it actually looks...oddly ok!

After I have settled the books on the shelves here to sleep tonight, and the library sighs and gently is off home for a quick all-change, and out to a wedding reception.

Tomorrow is more than likely to find me in my white Victorian Style nightie for much of the day....oh the bliss!

Where Has Mimi Gone?

Oh, joy, joy, I am going to be away from work (and hence the computer, and so my blog) for a whole week.

Now I will miss blogging it is true, but I will not miss having an unfettered mind for eight whole blissful days. I have not taken a full week at once this year yet, and finally I realised, I need it. Hot on the heels of this week, I am going to book another week in early September for my seasonal scrub.

But that is then, and this is now. I have some delicious books to read. I am going to putter and cook things that require long simmers on the stove. I am going to try out some patterns from Debbie Stollers marvellous new book, The Happy Hooker (crochet!)

Dear Carl and I are venturing out of Essex, all the way across England to go to Longleat. We were going to stay in a Travel Inn or similar anonymous hotel overnight- but I pulled myself together, and we are now going to stay (for fewer pennies!) in a delightful nearby farmhouse, in the scrumptiously named village of Upton Scudamore. (Sounds to me like a Midsomer Murder town!)

So I will not be about to blog this week. But when I come back I will, I hope, have much to tell...

Tuesday, 1 August 2006

What Are You Wearing Today?

A terribly stylish friend of mine was musing to me a while ago how interesting it would be if there were blogs of what people are wearing. Not in a nasty-panting-down-the-phone way, just in a what a wonderful world of clothing it is out there!

So, today I am wearing a white short sleeved t-shirt that is quite lycra-y and so fitted, but thankfully thick enough material to be flattering! I have one of my favourite skirts on- just below the knee, it is black with a white print pattern on it. It is cut on the bias, so it hugs in and then flares slightly. This I have teemed with red toenails and my hair just pulled back into a low pony-tail.

What are you wearing today?

Paring Down For Summer

This coming Saturday, I have to work all day, and then go from work to the wedding reception of dear Carl’s cousin. And really, truly, in my wardrobe, not a thing to wear!

I am sure you will appreciate the horror of that situation- and I have tried, I really have, to rectify it. I just could not find a thing, anywhere. I have been out every lunch hour for a week, and been thwarted at every turn. So at last, I appealed to Carl to take me to Mattalan- I had never ever been before, but a friend suggested it, so away we went.

Oh, I am so glad I did! I got a new dress for the wedding, a set of new underwear to go with the dress, a fabulous pink enamel colander (somehow the pasta tastes better!) and a gorgeous ironing board cover- all for £26!

I was also really excited by their homewear section. Wonderful vintage floral style duvet covers, a good Nigella-a-like kitchen range…and all…so cheap!

I don’t know if it is the horrors in Lebanon, or just the few cool crisp mornings I have been lucky enough to enjoy, but my nesting instinct is kicking in right now. I find myself planning my Seasonal Scrub. For anyone who doesn’t know, go to and look in the archive for round about last September. It is the most marvellous spring clean in that you do September time to get yourself all ready to nest up for the autumn.

Yes I know it is far too hot and early to be Autumn yet, but….I have a lot of clutter. And the one rule of the Seasonal Scrub (apart from pouring oneself a large gin and tonic at the end) is that it is about cleaning, not decluttering. Magazines are my own downfall. Of course there are some (Martha Stewart Living) that I cannot part with, but a lot of the others, I am going to be ruthless with, and tear out pages that I want to keep, and get rid of the rest. Then come autumn when the nights are for cozying inside, I am going to trim them nicely, sort them out, and make myself lovely scrapbooks of articles and recipes and interviews.

So August for me is going to be my month of decluttering in preparation for the seasonal scrub. Nothing too strenuous, it is too hot for that. Just a gentle paring down, which I think suits summer somehow. I shall also plan my Seasonal Scrub, and even better, start to plan my post-scrub treats.

You see, once all the scrubbing and cleaning is done, each room gets some kind of tiny lovely treat. Last year the bedroom had a new scented candle; the kitchen a week’s worth of new tea towels- fresh flowers for the living room, and a luxurious bubble bath for the bathroom.

This year, I know I fancy a slow cooker for the kitchen (more of an extravagance than usual I know, but I love the idea of coming home to dinner cooked) and also a new oven glove. I have those fabulous tea towels that are blue with pink roses on, and I want an oven glove to match. For the living room, perhaps a throw and some cushion covers for the sofa, in soft snugly shades of cream and chocolate brown. (Mattalan here I come!) For the bedroom I am not too sure yet- perhaps I will find a soft old blanket to make hot water bottle covers from. And for the bathroom, a soft new math mat.

These, along with my glass of gin and tonic will be my ‘carrots’ to get all the work done. My little treats to save up for and source and look forward to.

Serene Sunday

Sundays are such unutterable bliss. They are the one day a week I never have to work, and although I can never decide if I want to see it as the last day of one week, or the first of a brand new one, I love the day just the same.

This Sunday just gone illustrates so well the perfectness of Sunday. Upon enjoying my first cup of tea of the day, I took a mind to colour my hair a little. (I am a particular shade that is most difficult- light brown with enough blonde in it to look not quite dark brown, and enough red in it to look not quite blonde.) So I went a little darker with a sachet of 3-wash stuff, that being all I had to hand.

I spent much of the rest of the day wafting about in my Victorian style nightie, and bare feet. I watched Pride and Prejudice (The BBC version) on dvd; I baked a Caribbean Tea Loaf; I crocheted a gorgeous hexagonal mat for my table, made up of seven smaller hexagons.

We went for a stroll around the park, and amused ourselves a lot by talking in the style of Mr Bennett. We played with our gorgeous little pet snake, and I read the whole of Rebecca Shaw’s A Village Feud.

I really do love Sunday.

Fabulous Friday

Oh, the joy of a week ago Friday. It was a lovely, delicious day- the only improvement possible a cooler breeze and lower temperature!

I went back to the little town I come from to spend the day with a lovely girl with whom I did history ‘A’ level. She is one of those fabulous people who you might not see or speak to for a while, but when you do it is as though you only spoke yesterday. She loves all things vintage, and is a most wonderful mine of information when it comes to the best cosmetics and skin care too.

The bus deposited me outside the church in the High Street-I had a few minutes to wait as my bus got in first, but happily I had both my little handbag fan, and my delicious new novel ‘Little Lady Big Apple’ to pass the time. I have to say, it made me smile so much to look at us. There was I, in my pink sundress with a pink felt flower in my hair, and my wicker basket on my arm. There was she, with her fab black hair flower in, and her bright pink shopping trolley.

We had such a wonderful time- some times shopping just seems to flow and all the treasures in the charity shops throw themselves into your fingers! As well as the charity shops we also did the lovely boutiquey shops, the Emporium of homestuffs, a wonderful little deli, and the organic green grocers.

Despite the heat, we had the most marvellous fish and chips I have had- a lovely place that, most importantly, takes the skin off the fish!

Anna being lovely also bought with her a book list for me- and I ordered this fabulous book (Sew Easy) from the library. It has since arrived (I am catching up with my blogging!) and is quite, quite delicious. It has many wonderful (and easy) sewing projects for the home. And there are so many extras- after the tablecloth section, there is a lemon buttercream cake recipe! I want to make hot water bottle covers (I know, I know, but come autumn I will want one!) and a slip-style nightie, and cushion covers, and so much more!

I bought some lovely treats from the deli, including an organic beer for dear Carl, who sweetly answered my distress call, when I realised I had bought more shopping than I could reasonably carry home, and needed to be rescued from the bus stop…

Tuesday, 18 July 2006

The Dress

Oh dear, oh dear. I have been so good lately. I have been buying fewer magazines. Running out of pennies to spend much nearer to pay day than in months gone by! And then...

Sunday happened. I had seen an advert in our local paper to say that one of the wedding shops was having a sample sale. Sale! Wedding Dresses! How could I not go?

Of course not to buy, of course only to look. I was after all, if not hung over from the beer festival ( I didnt drink that much!) certainly not my best. And it is far too soon to buy a dress now for next August. Isn't it? But I thought a sale would be a good time to go and just have a look, maybe try a few on. I even had dear Carl come with me as I was so sure that I was just looking.

In we went, and I immediately saw two dresses. One, called Honey, was a gorgeous cream colour, with a bunch of fabric flowers at the waist. The other was a brilliant white with tiny blue beads across the bodice. I tried the brilliant white one on first. It is so odd, trying on wedding dresses. You stand there with no dignity in your underwear, and they drop it over your head, then you swim up through it towards the light- almost like changing a duvet cover. And oh, that dress! It laces up at the back, and suddenly, this tiny waist appeared! My stomach disappeared! It was magic. I stepped out of the changing room, and I really did feel like all those cliched sayings say that you will. I did try on Honey- but she did nothing for my skin tone, and made me feel all lumpy and bumpy. I tried the dress on again. I felt like if I did not lose a single ounce, I would still feel fabulous. I looked at Carl. He looked at me.

An hour later, I was laying our wedding dress in the only place in our flat that it will fit (not because it is a meringue! It is full at the bottom, but our flat is petite, and rather filled with books!)- our bed.

Should any of you fancy a peek- go to and my dress is in the bridal section, 1584 (not the price I hasten to add! Just the design number. Wouldn't you think that they would give them lovely names, and not numbers?)

Beer Festival

Saturday was another blissful day. Maybe I should change my blog name to Blissful Days, as that is what I seem to post about. Although every day several times a day I do find myself doing those tiny sips of tea that you have to do when your tea is too hot to drink properly, but you don't want to wait for it to perhaps for now, Little Sips of Tea it shall be.

Saturday was one of those days that I don't have to work. The plan was to wander into town, see Pirates of the Caribbean (Johnny Depp, sigh) and then go to the CAMRA beer festival. Our plan was hindered when we were told that Pirates was sold out for most of the day. A spanner in our works! But between us, lovely Carl my friend Lisa and me, we decided to book for the evening showing of the film, and spend the time before that at the beer festival. And it worked perfectly as it turned out.

The beer festival was so peaceful- the sun shone, and there were no frayed tempers. There were lots of tents, some with beer in, some to sit in the shade; there were many food stalls, an ice cream van, the local paper was being sold, and there were happy people everywhere.

I don't actually like beer that much, but I do like Belgian fruit beers. I enjoyed some Frambozen (raspberries, delish) and a scrumptious perry too. The thing that amused me most was this; I was wearing my pink monsoon a-line skirt with the pink ribbon belt, and had a pink flower in my hair. Lisa was wearing a similar skirt but in blue- we both looked very much like ladies, and there we were, all surrounded by big bearded beer drinking men, proudly holiding our pint glasses in pink-nail-polished hands!

The image just amused me.

The film was fun, and then we meandered home. Our snake proved he has very much a mind of his own once again; he has been ready to shed for a week now, and we had hoped he might shed while Lisa was here as she has never seen it. It seems snakes do not shed on demand though- he waited till we were out the other evening, and promptly stripped off then!

Tuesday, 11 July 2006

A Most Wonderful Day

Hello lovelies!

I am back and feeling much better, thanks. Ms Robyn, I did not get round to the mustard bath, but I did try the honey lemon and thyme- amazingly soothing, thank you! I sipped while wrapped in my crochet blanket, watching an old Hitchcock film- The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Now, do you have one of those days that you think will be stressful and trying, but is in fact, quite wonderful? Today was such a day. We have this marvellous thing called the Three Foot People Festival, for preschoolers in our park. They have a ticket to come in, and there are stands of information, such as us from the library, and also a giant sandpit, petting zoo, face paints, making a magic wand, fairy wings or flower fairies, also baby yoga sessions, our very own wonderful Bookstart session and more. It is paradise. The park is transformed- there are wonderful tents and marquees, and bunting everywhere. There are these giant coloured metal things like towers with butterflies and flowers on them, and an archway for them to enter through (a tall arch for their grownup, and a little one for them!)

I do sometimes find such things stressful- I am quite shy by nature. Small people scare me. But it has been a wonderful day.

Saturday, 8 July 2006

Comfort Food...Comfort Reads

Oh dear, oh dear. In the middle of my researches into how best to cope with this summer heat...I have...caught a cold!

When I try to talk, I sneeze and cough instead, and my nose won't stop running. In the hope that it was uncharacteristic hayfever, I took a hayfever tablet yesterday, but no, this is a cold.

So, there will be more on my stay-cool strategies later, when I am feeling less coldy!

Now I find myself wanting to huddle. Yes, I know it is far too warm, but I find myself wanting to wrap myself up in soft warm fabrics, to snuggle with a book. Depending on the time of day I find cold cold water soothes my throat, or is too harsh on it. Likewise, sometimes sipping tea as hot as I can make it eases my sinuses, and other times scratches at my raw throat. Despite craving salad for the last few weeks, all I really want now is chicken soup, and comfort food.

This urge for comforting has started me thinking- I also crave comfort reads. I have pulled Pride and Prejudice off the shelf, again. And then at work, I was rummaging about in the children's library when a copy of the Very Hungry Caterpillar caught my eye. Which made me think about the children's books I loved as a little girl. Our library was in an old building- it looked like a church almost, having a kind of tower at one end, and inside was (to my memory) one large room, once you got past the little foyer part. Built around 1700, it was once a little school for boys- now the upper floor, the towery part is the Thomas Plume Library, and the public library has moved to a large new building. But when I think about going to the library as a little girl, this is where I think of.

I have tried to upload a picture I found on the is not a good picture, as you always see the library from the long side, not this angle...if it hasn't worked, and you are interested, which you probably aren't, google image seach maeldune centre....but anyway.

So, my comfort reads- books that I loved as a young girl. When I have children, these are the books I want to be able to share with them too. There are more of course, but colds seem to make my brain fuzzy, and for now, this is my list. I would love to hear your childhood favourites, and your comfort reads. Perhaps next time I post, I will post about the books I loved as a little girl who was no longer confined to the picture-book boxes, but starting to roam the proper shelves...

The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr
Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr
The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
A Dark, Dark Tale by Ruth Brown
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs- The Ladybird version (if Dad missed one word, he had to start the whole story again!)
Shirley Hughes- anything of hers really, but especially the Alfie and Annie Rose stories.

And one more book that I was thrilled to win on eBay recently- A Story Party At Green Hedges by Enid Blyton. Mum had won this as a Sunday School prize in the fifties...and if I was very good, I could take it down and read it.

Have a lovely weekend!