Thursday, 26 April 2007

Scrumptious Evening

Ooohhh ladies, I have such a scrumptious evening lined up! As you know, Mr Carl is now working in London, and tonight he is going out for a works dinner, so I will have the whole of our darling little flat to myself. When I get home I am going to run myself the bubbliest bubble bath, and jump in with my Bathina Bath Hat and an aromatherapy face mask and a cup of rose tea. When I am done soaking, I am going to snuggle into my fluffy dressing gown, and have some dinner. Dinner tonight is going to be dreadfully decadent- a dinner from Marks and Spencers and one of their lovely chocolate pot desserts. I am going to light some tea lights while I have this, and watch a dvd. I have Doris Day Young At Heart to enjoy, and while I watch that I am going to be sticking and glueing some more wedding invitations.

Hope you all have a scrumptious evening too!

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Enchanted April Tea Break

One of the things I love most about April is the unpredictability of the weather. On Sunday, I got a sunburned nose whilst watching a St George’s Day Joust, and today I had to catch the bus in to work to avoid the fat, heavy raindrops!

And happily, often the weather in April suits my mood. Today I am in the mood to blast the hairdryer under my sheets before I snuggle down to bed, to peel satsumas and eat them whilst reading a book, and to properly enjoy a rainy day. I am lucky enough that my library is in the basement of a big building of council offices. Even better, on the top floor is a staff restaurant. I don’t normally venture up there, but the view is so good, and you can see the rain clouds rolling about, so today, up I went. I planned to sip a cup of tea whilst browsing an old Country Living magazine, but when I got there I discovered they are doing cream teas! So I had a cup of tea, a heavenly light scone spread with strawberry jam and proper Cornish clotted cream. I find a proper tea break restores the spirits just as much as it quenches your thirst. Utter bliss!

Today I Am Wearing...

....Another new dress, I am afraid!

Ah, but you see, I have reason. It was pay day, and it is a Peacocks dress, so not a great many pennies. And it is so very me! In fact, it is such a scrumptious little dress that I think I should stop excusing it and try to win you over with the deliciousness of it!

The bodice is boned, and it has two little shoe-string straps. It ends just below my knee, and is white with a beautiful black print of flowers and vines all over it, with a large bold border of flowers. It should have a big thick black belt with it, but I didn’t quite like it- perhaps I shall buy some wide silk ribbon instead. I am wearing it with my little tight black Nigella cardigan, and my darling black high heeled sling-back peep toe shoes. For a splash of colour I am wearing green eyeshadow, and today I feel like I should be sipping cappuccino in a street cafĂ© in Rome.

Allow A Love Of Beauty To Be The Foundation Of Your Daily Life

On the homepage of Idyllic Days, there is a quote- ‘Allow a love of beauty to be the foundation of your daily life’ which really got me thinking. I am going to spend the next few weeks pondering over little ways to make life more beautiful. Like buying some more pillow spray, so I can breathe in peppermint and nutmeg as I drift off to sleep. Like buying a pen with fantastic green or purple ink, so my handwriting will make me smile, even if I am just writing out a dewey number at work.

And also, little ways to make life more…well I am not quite sure what the word is, but I will try to explain what I mean. I recently read The Goddess Guide by Gisele Scanlon. I can heartily recommend it, not least for the gorgeous black velvet flock cover! In part of the book, she talks about how, when she was a child in the 70’s her family did a lot of things that are very popular now. Things like reusing furniture, hand-me-down clothes, thrift shop finds and so on. Because it made sense and was economical, as much as being green. Using home made cleaning products, all of that. Carl loves to watch ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’ each week, all about alternative energy and using what you have, and very practical.

Please bear with me on this ramble- perhaps now might be a good time to refresh your cup of tea? I don’t like the idea of being an eco-warrior exactly, but I do like the idea of living in harmony with the seasons, and doing as little damage as possible to our environment, and as much good as possible. To this end, we like to shop seasonally, and refuse carrier bags where we can. We shop at the local market and farmers market, and use the supermarket for the rest. We use local businesses and independent shops over big chains where we can. We recycle, and reuse, and I love, love, love charity shop shopping. (Or thrifting, as it is scrumptiously named in America).

And yet all of this, I do not know what to call it. ‘Green’ ‘Eco friendly’ …nothing seems to quite fit for me. This thing is very much entwined with my love of vintage housekeeping, vintage way of life as well. So, what to call it? I still don’t know. Perhaps it doesn’t need a name, but I feel it would be useful if I had a name to call it. If you go and visit you will see better what I mean, perhaps. Her website matches how I feel about these things. But I have digressed a lot. What I was trying to say is that I want to do little things to make life more beautiful, and little things to make life more…whatever word it is that I shall use for ‘green’. One of my ideas is that while we reuse carrier bags a lot, surely it would be better not to use them at all? So on my next day off that I get to visit Mum, I am going to ask her if we can play on her sewing machine and make some strong calico bags that I could use to put my shopping in rather than take carrier bags. I am planning a nice visit to the fabric shop, and what trimmings I could use to make them pretty. Perhaps a vintage flower print? Perhaps I could embroider veggies on one bag? Applique a hen and a cow on another? And when I have made them, as a special reward I am thinking of treating myself to a Cath Kidston oil cloth bag as well!

If you have stayed with my little ramble this long, I really do think you deserve a biscuit with your tea! Thank you if you have stayed with me! And do tell…what little things do you do to make your life that little bit more scrumptious, or ‘green’?

130 Miles There, 100 Miles Back

This Saturday has been my favourite wedding activity so far. Dear Carl, myself and our Mums set off for Haslemere in Surrey to see lovely, lovely Sam of Idyllic Days ( Unfortunately one of the motorways was shut on the way down, so Carl navigated us through a myriad of tiny villages, which were oh, so beautiful, that I was secretly really rather pleased that we had been diverted. So much wisteria! And in several villages, all the eaves and window frames had been painted a delightful bottle green. It is much more hilly than here in flat, flat Essex, a thing which always pleases me.

When we got to our destination, Sam was so nice. Perhaps I should explain- Idyllic Days is a scrumptious company that hires out vintage china, glass, linens, deck chairs…you name it! And we are hiring cake stands and tea cups and so on for our afternoon tea wedding reception in August. We visited so we could chat about exactly how many of which things we would like to hire, and also to be able to have a look at her treasures. And oh, what treasures she had! While we were sitting in her living room, I noticed a bunch of dried hydrangeas which I took to be a very good sign indeed- for they are our wedding flowers!

After we had finished there, we went into the little town for a wander. I was very taken with it- there was an organic tea shop (unfortunately we did not have time to visit) and a health food shop that wasn’t Julian Graves or Holland and Barrett! There were lots of little independent shops, and also a gorgeous library. Small and like stepping back a few years, but in the best possible way. Before we went we had a picnic in the car, and it was divine sitting sipping coffee and just relaxing in the utter gorgeousness of it all.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Derelict Beauty

There is a house on my way to work that draws my eye every time I pass it. It is about half way down the long straight road that I walk down, on the left hand side. It is a large old house, yet curiously near to the street. I suspect when it was built it had a garden at the front which has now been eaten up with tarmac and concrete. It fascinates me because it is so decorative and beautiful, yet so faded and neglected at the same time. I have lived in my little flat for three years now, and the house was like it even back then. There are panes of glass broken that no one has repaired, but in a secret way I am a little pleased, because it affords a little glimpse of the rooms inside. I have daydreams of restoring it to its former glory, and plan what we would use each of the rooms for. I imagine getting rid of all the weeds and the nasty concrete in the front, painting the window frames and showing the house some love. Because that puzzles me- who owns this glorious building and yet cares so little for it? I know repairs and renovations are expensive, but surely it would be better to sell it than to own it and let it slowly die?

This morning bought the most beautiful sight. A wheelie bin has been blown or knocked over, and the lid has fallen open showing rubbish that has been waiting to be collected for how ever many years it is now that the house has been uninhabited. And around all this decay and neglect, there are the most glorious wisteria creeping over everything. They are the most wonderful lilac colour, all muted as though they don’t want to compete with the beauty of the derelict house, but complement it. I love how nature doesn’t discriminate, and will touch anything with its beauty.

Tomorrow we are off to Surrey to meet the lovely, lovely lady who has the most scrumptious business- She hires out the most amazing vintage china and such things- picnic hampers, glass, all kinds of lovely things. We are going to hire cake stands and cake plates and so on for our afternoon tea wedding reception, and she kindly said we could go and look at what she has got! I can hardly wait. Then on Sunday we are off to Cressing Temple for a St George’s Day celebration. There is going to be jousting and a medieval fair and so on. And then? Then it is back to Monday again! Hope you all have the most scrumptious weekend!

Monday, 16 April 2007

Today I Am Wearing

Well, tomorrow I will be wearing my new dress! I popped out at lunch time today to get some sun, and the most fabulous dress caught my eye. It was bright green with white polka dots, in a very fifties shape. It has a kind of ruched thing that could be a belt if it were not part of the dress, right under the bust, and then the skirt is really full and flarey. They had it in red, white, black or green. Although the green had caught my eye, I looked at the red (I have a lot of red, pinks and purples in my wardrobe) as I just don’t have any green in my wardrobe. Certainly not such a BRIGHT green. But then I remembered a friend talking about colour therapy, saying that sometimes you are not drawn to what might be your favourite colour, but to a colour that is perhaps missing in your life. And as the dress was only £20 I decided to go with it, and buy the green. So tomorrow I will be wearing my new bright green polka dot fifties dress, with high heeled black peep toe shoes!

Cinema Mimi

Oh, how I love films! I love to go to the cinema, although we don’t manage it very often. I think perhaps it stems from my love of reading, and stories- getting to see a story, as it were. I love the glamour of vintage Hollywood.

When I saw the film of the Enchanted April, I was utterly captivated. On Sunday Carl had to work, so I sat at home and made wedding invitations while watching Mrs Miniver. I have to say that I much prefer the book, but the film was very enjoyable too. I have an Audrey Hepburn boxed set that I am working my way through. I have had them a year now, and only watched three- I feel like I don’t want to ‘use them up’ too quickly. A bit how I feel about Amelie- I have only watched it once, and I fell in love with it. I feel that if I watch it too often, I will spoil it somehow. And yet other films, I have to watch if not often, at least regularly. (Miracle on 34th Street for example. It is not Christmas without it!)

Carl really loves films as well, although he likes more modern things- and has an utterly encyclopaedic knowledge! We can flick a channel, see the merest snippet of a film, and he knows what it is. So on Saturday I signed us up for a dvd-hire service. Not terribly vintage or glamorous, or so it seems on the surface! I have put down lots of blockbuster style titles for Carl, and then lots of Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn for me! Now that dear Carl gets home so much later than me, I should have time some evenings to slip into my slinky pink robe, pour myself a gin and tonic, and watch a vintage film before serving dinner!

Friday 13th

This Friday, I LOVED my postman, and HATED my hairdresser. The day started really well. It was my treasured Friday off, and I had spent Thursday using a days leave to cook up a storm in the kitchen and fill my little freezer (root veg cous cous, meatballs in tomato sauce, vegetable and bean soup…).

Then the postman buzzed to be let in, and he delivered me a parcel full of goodies from Connie in America. We were partners in a vintage beauty swap, but we ran into some troubles- she only got part of my address given to her, and by the time we realized what had happened, the post office had sent it all the way back to her! She kindly sent it again, and it was utterly scrumptious. Everything was done up in fabulous scented rose-printed tissue paper that had scalloped edges, which felt so spoiling to unwrap. There was the prettiest vintage handkerchief, a pillar candle in gorgeous pinks that smells of candied apples, a perfect pink lipstick and nailpolish, and then also a fabulous pearly necklace. Everything just went together so well, a perfect little package. I wish I could say I was ever so restrained, but alas, I am not- and no sooner had I finished exclaiming with delight than I had painted my nails with my new polish!

The rest of the day continued beautifully- Mum and Dad had come to town, and we shared coffee together before Mum and I went for a wander round the shops. It was after I said goodbye to them and waved them off on the bus that it went wrong. You see, I knew I had five or six hours before Carl would be home, and it was so sunny it seemed a shame to just go back home. So I thought I would get my hair trimmed- I know it is vain to say so, but ever since I have been using my straighteners and new deep conditioner, I have been loving my hair! It is a bit like how Evie from the House of Elliott wore it, but slightly longer- too long in fact. As there is a hairdresser in town that I get a corporate discount from, and as they had an appointment ready right away, I decided to go in for a trim before going home.

Oh, ladies, if only I had remembered it was Friday 13th! How different things might have been. Never before had I realised how much of a females confidence is tied up in how she feels about how she looks. My hair is utterly spoiled. She cut it so, so short. I had asked for an inch off the bottom, keeping the bob shape. What I got was something very different. The back is all layered, right up to nearly the top, so instead of having a smooth long layer of hair, all you see is the choppy ends. My fringe is really thick and chunky, and s.h.o.r.t. and the sides of my hair seem to be missing altogether. It all seems to be flicky spikey ends, everywhere. I got home, put on a hat, and sobbed. I know it might sound ever so superficial and vain to be so shallow, but I just feel terrible. Every time I look in a mirror, I want to cry. And I only have three and a half months to grow the whole lot back before the wedding!

So, I am taking a hair, skin and nails supplement from Holland and Barrett three times a day, doing a lot of scalp massage and trying to soak up some sunshine! Let it be a warning- never go to the hairdressers on Friday 13th!

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Blissful Weekend

Two utterly sparkling bits of treasure this weekend! And one dull, tarnished piece.

First sparkle; I was wandering home from town on Good Friday with dear Carl. We happened past a certain charity shop that I do love, but is slightly out of the way of my normal route home, and is usually closed by the time I get there. Not today, however! And there in the window was the most glorious thing- a fat red book, with ‘Better Homemaking’ stamped on the cover. I asked if I could please have a look at it, and when I peeped inside I knew I had to have it! The introduction says that we may live in very different homes in very different places, but that we all have one thing in common- the ability to welcome a new friend into our lives, and to make this book that friend! Published in the fifties, it has sections on every subject you can think of- from laying out furniture in the rooms, to cooking to beauty routines to knitting patterns to tea-leaf reading for your coffee mornings! I happily parted with my £3 for it and am working my way through it now. Surprising really, how much is still relevant today, although I think I will be declining the bleach facial mask!

Second treasure- it happened that Easter Sunday is also the birthday of Carl’s sister. We went out for the day with his family, and if you were in Dedham that day and heard splashing and giggling, then you would have spotted me rowing about on the river! It was so delightful- we took two boats, and all had a go at rowing! When I was at the oars, I had to pull them in tight, as there was a mother duck with a flotilla of little fluffy ducklings behind her- some striped like humbugs and others like yellow cotton wool. I didn’t want to poke them with my oar, and neither did I want to create ripples that would have been like waves to them! The weather was glorious, and after we had quite exhausted ourselves rowing, we went to the Boathouse Restaurant for lunch which was utterly delicious. I have not had so much trouble choosing from a menu in a long time! In the end we all shared warm bread with oil and vinegar for a starter, and then I had pigeon breast with caramelized red cabbage, and a decadently rich chocolate pot for dessert. While we were enjoying this, there was a live singer in the background, who reminded me of Lionel Richie. I had to say to Vicki that I felt quite bad that I was getting so much enjoyment out of her birthday!

And the dull piece….I don’t know how things are done in your family, or how they were when you were little, but I saw something in the supermarket that I just didn’t like. What I saw several times were Mums who were obviously stressed (which I can understand, I find the supermarket frazzles me without have children with me) standing in the Easter Egg aisle roaring at their children to ‘just choose one NOW or you aint having any!’ and then when the child chose ‘no not THAT one! It’s too much money! Just have that one!’ and then the child started crying…. When I was little, we always knew that we would have an Easter Egg, and we might be allowed to drop hints as to what we might especially like (to this day, give me a buttons egg with the crackly cellophane and I am a happy, happy girl!) but that was it. I didn’t really know Easter Eggs even came from the supermarket until I was older. I am not really sure where I thought they did come from….but they were lovely things, a surprise, not a thing to be grabbed at before you got smacked! Carl and I are very much planning to have babies after we are married…not straight away you understand, but soon enough that I like to day dream in quiet moments with a cup of rose tea and a chocolate bunny of the Easter Egg Hunts I will arrange for our children…how we will have boiled eggs for breakfast, and the toast cut out with biscuit cutters into little bunny or chick shapes…

Please don’t misunderstand me though…I know that lots of people would like to faff around making bunny toasts and doing easter egg hunts- I know that children are hard work and exhausting. I don’t want to sound like I know it all or that I don’t realise. It’s just that these are things that are really important to me, to give to my children a little of what was given to me as a child. Perhaps I should not be so defensive, but I have visited other blogs recently where the blogger has made a post and there has been a veritable flood of comments either berating the blogger, or berating the berater! So let it just be left that these are just my hopes and dreams for the future!

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Happy Birthday To Me!

It seems to me that birthdays really are the nicest of days! I had such a lovely day on Friday-dear Carl had to work of course, and although I would have had him with me were I given the choice, I got on as well as I could without!

I went on the bus to see Mum for the day-eventually! I missed the bus because a dear friend phoned me for a birthday chat- surely the best reason for missing a bus! So I went to buy a bottle of water, and discovered that the new Martha Stewart Living magazine was out- and it was the Easter special!

When I got to Maldon, Mum and I drove to Tiptree to the lovely little nursery. They do amazing home cooked food there, but we were a bit early. So we had a cup of coffee in the conservatory overlooking the fields, until it was time to get in the queue. Really astonishing- one moment you are all alone, blink, and the next there is a queue snaking out of the door! Had a scrummy smoked haddock pie with salad, and Mum surprised me with a perfect cupcake that I had to smuggle out in my handbag as I was just too full to eat!

We then went back to Maldon, as we both had an appointment at the spa for a facial. I have not been for years, since I moved out of home, and luckily enough I got the lady I used to have, so we caught up. There are so many lovely touches at the spa- your name is written on a mirror on the door to your treatment room, so you feel like a film star! Then you snuggle up in a soft bed while they do your facial, and there is peaceful music playing, and lavender oil burning. You get swept away on a wave of blissful relaxation.

In the Spa Boutique, I treated myself to a deep conditioner that smells of pumpkin, and really does work. I had been looking for one for a while!

Then in the evening my family came to me at home, and we had dinner together. I was sitting in bed with a cup of tea, quite exhausted by 10:00pm (getting older!) and was opening some presents and cards…when…..woosh! Out flew a wind up paper butterfly from one! Made me shriek but happily my tea remained unspilled!