Sunday, 28 January 2007

Popping Up From A Pile Of Books To Say Hello


Gosh, I cannot believe how long it has been. How are you all? I have been having quite an adventure-if you have a cup of tea handy, I will tell you.

The Library Is Closed.

Doesn't that sound dramatic? Libraries don't close. But mine has. Not forever, just (just!) for four weeks, while we are refurbished and have a self-service system installed, and change the layout. But ohh, how different it is. Firstly I am working very different hours- we are not working Saturdays or Late Nights, so have to go in earlier and leave later to make up the hours. And we are so busy out in the library, I have literally not had a moment to go on line and post, or read the blogs that I usually catch up with every day. And I am so tired- I will tell you about what I have been up to at work to cause it- but I am so tired that in the evenings it has been dinner, bath and bed.

You see first we had to pack up all the fiction and all the audio-visual. And considering we were a few years ago the third biggest public library in Europe (or so I am told!) that is a lot of books. I was packing up CD's near a window, when I was aware that a customer was watching me through the glass. And watching. And watching. I looked up to shoo them away and explain we are CLOSED when I realised it was dear Carl on his way to work! Ooops!

The last four days have been spent industriously- I can only imagine that I am going to have arms like Arnold Swarzenegger's by the end of it. The non-fiction needs to have fifty shelves 'found' which we are doing by moving all the books on a shelf that has a gap at the end to the end of the gap. Then taking a few books off the shelf before to go on the start of that shelf until it is full. Then moving the books on that shelf up, and repeating the process. By the end of day four we had twenty shelves which is pretty good I think. There were some rather hilarious scenes when we were passing books from around the corner of a shelf or across a large gap.

So, three weeks to go. Tomorrow I am off to one of the smaller branch libraries to be RFID (self-service) trained. This I do not worry about as one of the lovely girls who drives is taking me with her. But next week, oh, woe, I am off to a different library that means I have to get the train. On my own. And change trains mid way. Oh, woe. If you do not hear from me again after next week, you will know that I took the wrong train and am hopelessly lost, chuntering up and down train tracks and trying to find my way home again!

On to more cheery things than work. I dashed out for a hot chocolate on Tuesday. There is a Thornton's five or ten minutes away from the library, and they do their hot chocolate as take out. For 30p cheaper than on the menu! And they give you a little chocolate in a bag to have with it. Well, I emerged from the shopping centre to was snowing! Not enough to settle, but enough to make me breathlessly happy that it was snowing on me, on me, and I had a proper hot chocolate, and did not have to work till seven that night as usual.

Am ridiculously happy crocheting on my blanket although I have not done any today. You see I have a lovely evening every Monday when my crafting friend visits, and I have just enough wool left to crochet with her tomorrow night!

I have an overwhelming urge to fill my windowsill with hyacinths, daffodils, paperwhites and narcissus (narcissi??) but at £1.50 a bunch, I do not think I will be filling it soon. Instead I am going to get some hyacinths and polyanthus until daffodil season starts properly- besides I do like to save them for my February treat. (Alison at Brocante Home once said that we should buy daffodils as often as we buy milk in February, and I can attest most heartily to this wisdom!)

And one last delightful thing to leave you with. We find ourselves with a few extra pennies this month, as we pay our council tax by direct debit in ten installments, leaving us with February and March where we put the money into our account, but they dont take it out. So we have treated ourselves to a proper whistling kettle! By proper I mean that it goes on the gas hob, not one that just looks proper but plugs in at the wall. It is cream, and delightful. We got a cream trivet to go with it, and are using some of the knitted dishcloths I made last year to hold the handle when it is hot. It does take a minute or two longer, but dear Carl assures me it is more energy efficient, and it is so scrumptious to hear the kettle whistling! If I narow my eyes slightly, so the edges of the flat are a bit squiffy, when the kettle whistles and I look out of the window, I can almost imagine that I am the countryside.

Utter, utter bliss!

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Several Seville Oranges

You know how silly little things make you laugh? Well every January Mum keeps an eye out for Seville Oranges for me- there is a gorgeous proper grocers back home, and although there is a fruit and veg stall in the market here- it is not the same. Well last year she phoned work and left me a message saying ‘I have got Seville Oranges for you’ so I would know to call off the search. Only thing is that the message I got was ‘I have got several oranges for you!’.

So now she looks for several Seville oranges! And she has come up trumps- I have 2kg to play with this year! This means marmalade of course, and my favourite Seville orange ice cream from the Nigella recipe- I think it is in Nigella Bites. I love using seasonal ingredients. There is something so special in knowing that they are here this week, but in a week or two they will be gone. I need to get this months BBC Good Food magazine as that has several (!) marmalade recipes in it, and also Country Kitchen magazine as it has a whole section of ‘other’ recipes using Seville Oranges. (Mmm, citrus Seville salmon!).

Cat Burglar!

Am I alone in feeling tired a lot at the moment? I think it is the weather- that is what I am telling myself. It is so windy here, and often quite overcast. When I get home of an evening, after cooking some supper I am just about ready to go to sleep. Except for last night, when I had two visitors- one expected and anticipated with pleasure, and the other both unexpected and uninvited but a pleasure nevertheless!
The same little black and white kitty I had to evict the other evening came back! I was sitting in the living room, chatting on the phone with my Mum about Several Seville Oranges, knowing I was all alone in the house as dear Carl had popped to the shop, and my friend was not due for another ten minutes or so. Imagine how I jumped when something moved in the corner of my eye, and the little kitty jumped into the middle of the room with a large MEOW! I said goodbye to Mum, then had to let my friend in, and we set off on a kitty hunt. We found her curled up on our bed, and persuaded her into the kitchen- the source of the open window. But she just would not go out! We even tried barking at her! In the end, I had to throw out a terribly elderly banana that I had been planning to make into milkshake to give her something to chase! I think that perhaps rather a large part of me wishes that we did not have to put her out, but could keep her instead

Country Girl Goes To The City

Although I live in a town that would like to be a city, I still think of myself as a Country Girl. We are lucky enough to live almost opposite a large park, and then there is another park with a river that I walk through to get to work. The town I come from I think of more as a large village, and when I go home, the bus takes me down a shallow hill and at the bottom shimmers the silver flat river that is the river estuary that the village clings to. Carls parents live in a tiny village with no street lights- so you see, we are a little country couple. And never do I feel it more than when we go to London, as we did on Sunday.

I took quite the wrong bag, one that does not zip up or close, and spent much time worrying that I would be pick pocketed at any moment. I fretted that I was about to board the wrong train and be carried off to lord knows where. I spent much time being jostled about and being afraid that the map would be wrong, and I would be lost forever in the maze of streets. Of course none of these disasters befell me, but I did find it so tiring to worry about them! In fact, lovely things happened. The weather was cool but very bright, yet with that curious hazy quality. I spent the train journey planning which of the fields we passed would make quite the nicest place for a little farm. I squealed with excitement in the deepest depths of the Picadilly Line, when I spied not one but three little mice scampering about on the line! We had lunch at Covent Garden, and while I nibbled on a still-warm waffle, there were three musicians playing the violin.

The purpose of our London excursion was the theatre! To see a show! My lovely sister and her fiancĂ© had got us tickets to see The Blue Man Group. They had seen it on holiday in Las Vegas and loved it. As did we. It is ever so hard to explain them. Let us start with they are three men, all painted blue, who never speak. They do a lot of drumming in their show, and play with colour and light a lot. There is a lot of humour too. And there is an amazing band to accompany them. For example, near the start of the show, one Blue Man is drumming. He has two drums. There is another Blue Man either side of him, and one squirts some red paint onto his drum, so that when he drums, it spatters. Then the other one squirts yellow paint onto the other drum. Then more and more paint…it is most assuredly worth seeing if you can. Almost impossible to explain though! I have found one man here in the library who has seen the same show as me, but a few months ago, and we spent much of yesterday saying ‘and did the blue men do that?’ ‘and did they cut the cake in half?’ ‘and did they do the paper thing’? Quite lovely-and what a nice sister I have!

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Today I Am Wearing...

My long black dress, with the lovely violet cardigan that my Mum knitted for herself, but gave to me. I love this cardigan! I am wearing it with a twinkly pink brooch, and I feel very boden. I have a rosebud hairpin behind one ear, my greeney eyeliner, and I have been wearing my oh-so-high heels (charity shop bargain!) but now I am in my little black ballet pumps. When I get home tonight, after I have cooked up a little dinner, and been to the shop, I am going to change into my long grey wool skirt, and heated slippers! Cozy!

A Blustery January Afternoon of Delights

Can you imagine the bliss of an unexpected and utterly perfect January afternoon? You see, I am very fortunate in my job, in that should I have a few spare hours, and enough holiday left, I can take a few off at rather short notice. So when at half past eleven yesterday morning, I realised I was having one of those days when I would rather be picking violets instead of shushing the ringing of mobile phones in the quiet study area, I booked two hours leave so I could go home at three.

And oh, what bliss it was! I treated myself to the bus home, and waited in the blustery wind. It is just a touch cold now, deliciously so. I took my book with me, and read a few pages on the way home. The short walk from the bus stop to my little flat is just long enough to enjoy having your hair whipped about your face, and leaves swirling around your ankles, without becoming too cold! When I opened my door, there was a fat little pile of post- oh, how I love post! And best of all, amongst all the rest, there was a real letter, from lovely Tash at Vintage Pretty. I opened all the windows to let the wind blow some fresh air in, boiled the kettle and put my letter to one side to save. Then I sorted some washing, made a cup of steaming hot tea, and some buttery toast, and settled with my letter. The afternoon light had that curious quality to it that makes everything look as though you have just blinked. Then I read my book some more, and dear Carl came home.

And so it was an utterly perfect afternoon. Hot tea, a delightful letter, and the feeling of an unexpected present. So often I am not at home for this part of the day, and it was lovely to see the different light and shadows.

After Carl came home, we shut the windows and curtains, and put a little heat on, to make the place cozy. Half an hour later, we realised that the little black and white cat had come to visit, and was curled up on our bed, quite unperturbed at being locked in!

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Lighter Mornings

I know that slowly, slowly, the days are getting longer, but it has seemed to me to be just as dark as ever. I suppose it has much to do with me working late and going out early, and our library being mostly in the ‘lower ground’ (read mostly underground) so I don’t see much light. But this morning, when I opened our curtains in the bedroom, pulled up the blind and flung open the window to air the bedroom, I was struck!

The sky was the most beautiful shade of blue. And it was light enough for me to see it! So somehow the days are becoming longer- I just hadn’t noticed. Let me try and describe for you what I see out of my bedroom window.

Ours is a ground floor flat, so we are low down. There is our little garden, and at the end of the garden a fence. Our side of the fence is a big green bush- the other side of the fence there are trees who have dropped all their leaves, so are just skeletons against the sky. We cannot see it from our window, but there is then the railway track, and the other side of that evergreen trees. So this morning, I could see all of the bare trees closest to us silhouetted against the sky, and then glinting in and out of a tangle of branches was the moon. Later, when I was pouring myself a lovely cup of tea, I was gazing out of the kitchen window (which shares the same view) and happened to see a little grey squirrel tight-rope walking along the fence!

We are finally finally all ship shape after Christmas. It is so lovely seeing acres (well it seems like acres, although our flat is really quite snug) of empty floor. I love the exhausted but exhilarated feeling that comes after a throwing out and tidying up session. I have my tea-set out on display once more, along with a tiny hand-operated toy sewing machine that belonged to my Mum when she was a little girl. The windowsill is filled with candles at the moment, to bring a little twinkly light into our evenings, but very soon I am going to cram it full with bulbs and tiny tete-a-tete instead.

I have been idly knitting tea-cozies in the evening, while watching The House Of Eliott on dvd. I have a vague idea of a craft fair later in the year, you see. How lovely it is to craft idly, for no particular purpose other than the craft itself. I do adore making gifts, but it is nice to lose the pressure! Having said that, I have decided that I want to crochet a blanket- so that I can say in many years time- this is the blanket I crocheted the year I was married. I have been looking on the internet for patterns- I want something a bit more challenging than just rows of double crochet, but more blankety than bedspready. I have seen some divine bedspreads, but I fear they are a bit more advanced than I am, and I would not get so much use out of it. Having said that, as well as being able to snuggle up under it, I want to be able to put it over the bed and it look….good. Initially I thought I would do something like the beautiful blanket that yarnstorm made ( but then I decided that I would rather make that later as just a lovely blanket. I think the blanket I make now needs to be in one colour- probably cream.

I am getting excited for our wedding, now that we can say that we are getting married this year! We went to church on Sunday to check we are still in the diary and meet the new vicar (the old one moved away last autumn) and we still are in the diary- but there is no new vicar as of yet. It is such a pretty little church, right in the countryside where Carl grew up. To give you an idea of how tiny, there are two blocks of six pews, and a block of nine pews! And opposite the church is open fields, with the tiny glimmer of the River Blackwater in the distance.

I have a lot of craft ideas swirling around in my mind. I want to make buttonholes for my guests- I am thinking of fabric for the men, and perhaps beaded for the ladies, or crocheted. Just thoughts though. And yes, I know it is pathetically, ridiculously early to be thinking of next years Christmas cards…but…I had a beautiful hand stitched felt decoration in my card from lovely, lovely Tash ( and then I saw these adorable button wreaths at and decided that my cards this year will have detachable decorations on the front.

Other things…I am reading ‘Seeing Stars’ by Christina Jones. It is delightful, just like the others- Hubble Bubble and Love Potions. Each is set in a tiny village, and you meet characters from the other books. Hubble bubble is about a lady who finds a cook book and finds that the recipes she makes have magical properties- similar to the effects that the aromatherapy oils have in Love Potions. They are delightfully light, but blissfully enjoyable. I recommend them!

Wednesday, 3 January 2007


Now, I am not afraid that you will misunderstand me, for you know how much I love to decorate for Christmas, right down to my Santa mugs for morning tea. But almost as much, I like un-decorating. I love the feeling of sweeping away the clutter and freshening up, reinvigorating myself and our little flat. Perhaps it has a lot to do with a new start for the new year as well? Yet at the same time, I am still a little bit in that delightful twilight Christmas relaxing mode. Puttering mode perhaps you could call it?

You see I went back to work on Tuesday, for my late night. And I visited the ever lovely Alison at Brocante Home, and read her marvellous ideas for ‘rejuevenating the festive season’ – and resolved to go home and do them all AT ONCE. But of course, by the time I got home it was half past seven, and then I had delicious home made carrot and swede soup for dinner, and it was eight o’clock…but Idid get some things done. I have been through the fridge and thrown out everything that I was fed up with seeing, and rearranged all of the delicious little treats. I bought home bags of fresh fruit and veg from the market, and filled up a whole bag of Christmas paper, envelopes and the bits that seem to multiply and spread…

Next on my list is going to be putting away the Christmas presents, taking down the cards and decorations, and tree….and then having fresh sheets on the beds, and fresh candles everywhere. And best of all, buying pots and pots of hyacinths and paperwhites. And second best, is going to be pulling down the paper chains. I made ropes and ropes of bright pink and blue chains this year, but have found them somehow….irritating. So down they come! Off with their heads! Into the recycling bin they go! Hurrah!

Now all I need to do is buy a calendar and stamps for my thank you letters, and I am nearly ready for the new year that began three days ago…

Talking of the New Year, I have broken with my tradition of making targets instead of resolutions. But I have made just one resolution. To nurture myself. The more I have been thinking about it, the more pleased and excited I have become about it. I am going to have a lovely long bath once a week, and have a face mask and deep conditioner for my hair, and do that thing where you put cream on your hands and feet and then a pair of gloves and socks and sleep like it. I am going to take a multivitamin each morning, and drink more water. I am going to find some new recipes bursting with fruit and vegetables to try out in the kitchen. Oh, and so many more things.

And to finish this little ramble- I have discovered the particularly lovely joy of knitting tea cosies! I bought some crepe 4ply yarn in cream, bluebell and dusky lilac, and knitted up the tea cozy from Hip Knits by Catherine Tough. It used practically no yarn, was delightful to knit, and I am already part way through a second one, just to experiment with colourful stripes. Oh, and I popped into the charity shop on my lunch hour and found a divine long grey wool tube skirt by Monsoon- for £4! It is all stretchy and soft, and is so perfect for curling up in at home. I have also learnt to make pasta thanks to a marvellous evening with an equally marvellous friend, and am now keeping my eye open for a pasta machine in our charity shops.

My tea break is almost over now, so I will post my Christmas adventures tomorrow- but before I go, a very Happy New Year to you all- may it be scrumptious and sparkly, and delightful- just like you are.