Monday, 31 December 2007


The sky outside is darkening, and the sun is setting on 2007. Somewhere in the quiet of the night, in the split second before the bells chime, champagne corks pop, and people cheer, one year will melt away, and a new one will begin.

I love new year. I love the potential and promise, plans to be made, diaries to be filled first with appointments, and then with memories and thoughts. I like to see in the new year, preferably with a glass of something cold and bubbly, and with people I love about me. For a few years now, as with this year, we will go to visit some dear friends, have a delicious dinner, each play our song of the year, then write out our hopes and predictions for the new year, and read those we made last year.

I like to put on a party dress and spray on my new perfume, but I don’t like all the razzle dazzle of a big party. I think new year is personal, somehow. We all have reflections to make, people to think about- new friends, old friends, family, people we have lost, or are loosing, new friendships that are just beginning. Hopes and dreams realized or dashed, or sometimes just faded away.

Tomorrow, I shall be turning out my cupboards in the kitchen, always a good way to start the new year in my opinion. Then I shall go online and order all manner of nourishing and nurturing goodies to be delivered to restock them. I like the peaceful bliss of knowing I have good, healthy, wholesome…..soulsome…food in my cupboards. Ingredients, again, the potential for so much that is good.

If you find in your own cupboards

125 gms butter or margarine
175 gms castor sugar
2 large eggs
175 gms self-raising flour
2 lemons, preferably unwaxed
60 gms granulated sugar

then you have the ingredients to make the Luscious Lemon Drizzle Cake that I made for Carl’s birthday.

1) Tie on your prettiest apron, and put on some happy music.
2) Preheat the oven to Gas 4/180 oC and grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.
3) Cream the butter and sugar together until they are soft and fluffy.
4) Beat in the eggs.
5) Fold in the flour.
6) Stir in the finely grated rind, and juice from one of the lemons.
7) Bake for about 30 minutes.
8) Whilst the cake is cooking, remove the peel from the other lemon with a zester, and mix with half of the granulated sugar.
9) Squeeze the juice from the lemon and put it in a small saucepan with the other half of the granulated sugar.
10) Simmer for about 3 minutes until syrupy.
11) Prick the top of the cake with a cocktail stick, then drizzle over the syrup.
12) Scatter the lemon zest and sugar over the top, and allow to cool.
13) If you have some in your cupboard, sprinkle over a little edible glitter. And if it is for a birthday, add a single cake-decoration-sparkler in the very middle.

In previous years, I have made targets for the new year, rather than resolutions. This year, I chose just one, to nurture myself. I think I have done well overall, but to be honest, I find having targets just a bit more fun. Also, they are easier to reflect upon.

I shall think of more tonight, no doubt, as I close my eyes and see a cloud of champagne bubbles, but for now, these are some of my targets for 2008:

Learn to mix a mojito
Use my new pasta machine
Write more letters
Keep a book journal

I must say goodbye now, because I am off to the hospital to visit Dad. It is strange, sitting there, not really knowing what to talk about. Wishing you could make it all better. I try to always make some kind of skin on skin contact, a hand squeeze here, there....because I think that if anything goes in, perhaps that will be it.

The difficult times have been made easier with your kind thoughts and wishes, and the good times have been a delight to share. May you all have a wonderful new year, and I look forward to sharing 2008 with you!

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Thank You

You know, just posting about my family troubles made me feel better. But your so very kind comments, thoughts and prayers have really helped too.

I have just typed a post about how Dad is, the ups, the downs, the confusion of feelings, and despite it all, the Christmas that we had, but it just doesn't flow well. Perhaps it is too soon? I have to go to work tomorrow. I am dreading it, because I will need to tell people. I am not ashamed, just worried, because when people are kind, and I am already feeling a litte fragile, it is too much to bare.

Although it was a little sad, visiting the hospital on Christmas day (too many people without visitors) it was lovely to see Dad, and we did have a day that had glimmers of loveliness in it. Hugs shared. Tree lights twinkling. A promise of afternoon tea at Claridges to come. Blinking awake and realising that it is Christmas Day. Cups of tea, and Mum's sage and onion stuffing.

I hope you all had scrumptious Christmasses. I will be back tomorrow, with a recipe for a lemon birthday cake that was just heavenly. A little thank you for your support and kind words. I just wish you could all be here now so I could offer you a slice still warm from my oven.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Swirling Mists

Last night was the shortest of the year; at 5:00 it was as dark as if it was the middle of the night, there was a beautiful moon glowing, and mist was swirling all around.

The mist is appropriate at the moment. I have been thinking long and hard about posting this, but, I feel I want to share, perhaps need to, even, and you are all so kind and generous I feel comfortable sharing.

On Thursday, my Dad was admitted to the psychiatric ward of our local hospital. Happily he went voluntarily, but it was a choice of go or be made to go. Horrible words. But he needed to go, he is just too ill to be at home any more, and it has been taking such a toll on my poor Mum. You see he has always had his issues, but since a few weeks after the wedding he has been depressed. He has long periods where he is completely non-responsive to the world around him; he stands and stares into space because he cannot remember what else he should do. Then come times when he is gripped with an obsession, and cannot be reasoned with. He thinks he has an infection and everything he touches he will contaminate. He thinks he must sell the house to settle debts that do not exist.

I went to visit him yesterday, on my own. My dear Carl would come with me, but by the time he is home, visiting hours are after. Mum cannot visit for a day or two in case it makes him want to come home. So, it was me that went. My older brother has washed his hands of us as it is too hard for him to deal with. I am glad that I rang before I went, for although I knew he was bad, I had not realised how bad. I asked what he would like me to bring, and it was too much for him to cope with. After five minutes of other chat, he said he would like a comb, so I took him one. He ignored everything else I took, but held the comb and would not let it go.

It was hard to know what to talk about with him. I had to lead him by the hand to get him to a chair. It is a locked ward. I spoke to the most lovely nurse before I went, John, and he was very kind and reassuring. He said that for now they are just observing and monitoring, becasue although they believe what we have told them, they need to see it for themselves to know how to treat it.

I feel so powerless at the moment. We are pulling together though, and when Carl held me in his arms as I cried into the soup I was making, I did feel that yes, we can pull through this. But for now, this is why there are cards, addressed but not sent. Parcels wrapped, but not addressed. Things left unbought. Planning for a Christmas that will be unfamiliar, that we are stumbling through together, feeling for the way forward.

Now I promise to come back soon, and post on happier things, to give you a list of scrumptious music to listen to, to tell you about my handmade gifts, and to offer you a recipe or two. But for now, I will say Merry, Merry Christmas to you all. The moon shines through the mist, and one day soon, all will be well.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

A Taste of Things To Come

I am sitting in the glow of a Christmas tree while delicious cooking smells waft in from the kitchen. We are visiting dear Carl's parents, and while he is checking that dinner is not burning, I have availed myself of the wireless internet connection and laptop!

I wanted to show you this...and give you a taste of things to come! Thank you all for your lovely comments, so kind of you. Tomorrow we should be all hooked up at home, and I will be able to share pictures more often. This was meant to go with a post I called 'a walk along my bookcase' or something similar.

I hope you have all had scrumptious weekends. It is so cold here, but the haze in the air seems touched with magic to me. Christmas is coming. A lot of gifts have been made, cards written, and although there is still much to do.....there is that magic in the air!

Friday, 14 December 2007

Putting on the Glitz Tonight

Tonight, 30 of us from work are going for Christmas dinner. I am bit nervous as I have organized it- although we all voted on where we wanted to go and when, I still feel responsible for it! I am working today, and didn’t really want to get changed in the toilet before going out, so I have come to work in my outfit for tonight and will just tweak my makeup before I go.

I am wearing a black skirt and my favourite cardigan- chocolate brown, scoop necked, with a scattering of tiny brown sequins around the neckline. It looks prettier than it sounds, I promise! And because I have a big meeting today, and like to feel confident, I have added a pair of my Shoes From Under My Desk. I must have mentioned these before? Big high heels that are impractical to walk to work in, and are not something I would wear when I am with Carl because although we are both short, I am a little less short than he. Anyway, todays shoes are peep toes, high heels, leopard print! So bad they are glorious!

Before I go out this evening, I shall put on some gold eyeshadow, a flick of gold eyeliner and lots of mascara. I like having fluttery eyes.

As I was pondering what to wear today, I started thinking about styles and colours and signatures. A long time ago, over at the ever wonderful I wrote a ‘Mimi Says’ piece about creating a signature style. And while I think it is important that we all have one, it does need to come about naturally and cannot be forced. It is something you evolve into, almost. Now a year or so ago, I went shopping with two dear friends who are both lovely, and have definite signature colours. One is drawn to (and looks fabulous in) shades of green, whilst the other is a blue girl. As for me, I felt a little lost. I had a strong sense of what I like (and still do) but there did not seem to be much theme or signature going on. I liked pinks, reds, lilacs, purples.

Recently it has started to click for me though. The last few things I have bought have been red, or red and black. I have painted my lips with red lipstick that makes me feel great and I get a lot of comments on. I have red shoes, and when I paint my nails red they make me smile. I am beginning to think that red is my thing, and for those quieter days, or days when I need a change, then it is brown. Brown seems to go with my colouring well. Today, as I mentioned, I have on my brown sparkly cardi, and leopard heels. It feels good to be growing into myself.

Christmas is only 11 days away, and I am going to be spending this weekend crafting presents for my work friends. I will share after the weekend, as some of them read this! Already my thoughts are drifting beyond Christmas to the new year, waiting fresh and crisp for us. I think it is because I have been filling in some appointments in my new diary. My mind is turning to new beginnings, and the most scrumptious year ever. I am starting to think of things that I shall have as my targets for the new year. I don’t like to make resolutions, as they always seem to be things like ‘I must not’ or ‘I will stop’. I would rather say I will eat an extra piece of fruit each day than loose weight, or better still, learn to mix a new cocktail, or something else equally lovely.

But no, Santa’s workshop must come first. And so I turn my mind to a weekend of crafting in my pyjamas, peppermint hot chocolate drank from Santa Mugs, and parcelling up goodies to send on their way.

Monday, 10 December 2007

All Is Calm, All Is Bright

One of my favourite books is ‘The Long Winter’ (one of the little-house-on the-prairie books) by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In it, she says that after one particular blizzard, when it finally stopped, the silence rang in her ears.

And so it was this weekend in our little flat. We spent Sunday having a good turn out of books and magazines and the little piles of projects that build up; we scrubbed, we hovered, we polished and dusted. We threw open all our windows, and shivered as we aired out the flat and listened to the drizzle drizzle of the rain. Having got everything spick and span we were ready to decorate.

We drove to my favourite garden centre where we had delicious coffee and sat in the conservatory watching the clouds roll across the sky, and people scurrying through the rain to load trees into their cars. One of my favourite things is watching the cut trees being put through the big netting-up device. After that, we scrunched up against the rain and chose our own tree; I like to buy a potted one so that it has a chance of growing over the year, so we didn’t get to use the netter.

We have gone for a Scandinavian-style red and white theme this year. We have a red berry wreath on the front door, and I have hung little red-and-white felt hearts and stars from all of the door handles. We have started to stick our cards up on the doors, and have Christmas music on the cd player. The best room, as always is the living room. We have put our tree up in the corner of the room, and bedecked it with lots of tiny white lights, and little red baubles. There is a small gold fairy on top, and a red glittery robin nestled amongst the branches. Although it sounds sparse, it does work. I was going to bake gingerbread hearts and hang them from gingham ribbon, but the tree looks fine just as it is. We have run some lovely holly tinsel along the dado-rail. It doesn’t really sparkle, but it does have lovely berries that are so shiney they make up for it! The windowsill is the best part – in the middle is a red tin lantern, with a tealight candle in it. We have lots of white church candles of different heights, some small red candles and tall red taper candles there too, and a Poinsettia on either end. We also have our oil burner on there, with some ‘Christmas Spirit’ oil to scent the air.

I still have a few things I would like to do. I want to clear off the wide shelf on the bookcase that I use for displays, and put out a bowl of satsumas, a little bottle of blackberry brandy and a cake stand of little chocolates, amarettis and Turkish delight. I also want to make a ‘Merry Christmas’ banner to hang across one wall.

For now though, the main part is done. And sitting on the sofa, snuggled in the new red fleece throw, sipping tea and watching Cranford by the light of the Christmas tree, the silence and jollity was ringing in my ears.

Friday, 7 December 2007

And Now (Well, Soon) In Glorious Technicolour

It was a full two hours after he came home last night that my lovely husband decided to tell me the happy news. At last! He has phoned up the good people at Virgin Media, and as of the 17th December, we will have the internet (as well as a land line telephone and cable tv!) at home!

I could not be more pleased, because as well as all the useul things like being able to order the groceries from home, I will be able to plug in our digital camera and share pictures with you!

I do try as hard as I can to paint with words here, but I do long to be able to share pictures too. I think it is something that has been missing from my blog. I can't wait to show you little corners of my home, such as my flower pot that holds my knitting needles, or my chamberstick that is all draped with beads. I can show you my red shoes and my little finds. All in glorious technicolour!

The first thing I will post is a photograph of my Christmas cake that I iced this afternoon with my Mum. I have it on my glass cake stand, and I have made the icing stand up in little peaks. I have sprinkled edible glitter over the surface so it shimmers and glimmers as it catches the light; there are two trees, and a deer. Finally I scattered about some little silver balls before declaring it 'done'.

I wish I could share a slice with you over a nice cup of tea while we talk of Christmasses past. I hope this weekend sees you caught up in some scrumptious piece of Christmas. I have done the work of writing out my cards, and have the decorating of the tree to look forward to. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, make time for a cup of tea and think about the happy memories that you want to create this year.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

The Best Headache Cure, Ever

Today, my head pounds. I feel cranky. I blame the late, fraught night I had last night. You know when you are so very, very tired, but you are too overwrought and shaken-up-and-down-inside to sleep? Because you wrote Christmas Cards for five and a half straight hours, then battled round Tesco, where you do not like to shop, spent more than you meant to, and still forgot things? Then you also couldn’t sleep because your husband was sorting out the recycling and rubbish to go out, with the kind idea that it would help, but really just makes you feel like you should have done that but DIDN’T. Well, that was last night, and today my head pounds.

But I have found a cure. The company of lovely friends who let you rage at them over people say they are looking for something, when they mean: look for me. And most delicious of all, a Hot Chocolate Milano from Café Nero, and a buttery jacket potato with prawns. And a new library book.

After that, my head is still pounding, but a little less. And I don’t feel quite so jangly now.

Cinnamon Whirl

Wow. It is Thursday already. I haven’t posted for ages. On Monday it would have been a week, which is not so bad, but somehow time has slipped away, and here we are, on Thursday. Firstly I should thank you for voting for me in the Brocante Home Puttery Treats Challenge. So, so kind of you. I should also invite you to make a fresh pot of tea, for I have lots to tell you about. In particular, the Cinnamon Whirl that was my weekend.

It was a whirl because we were so busy, but cinnamon as it was a good whirl, and because we were doing Christmassy things. Saturday, we went to London. The more I think about it, the luckier I feel I am living here. 40 minutes or so from Liverpool Street, but far enough away that London may as well be another country, when I want it to be. Far enough away for it to feel like a treat for me (even though poor Carl goes up every day!) when we visit. Our destination was to be Hyde Park, to visit the Winter Wonderland, but first we went to Selfridges.

Last time I went to Selfridges, we (a friend from the library and I, out in town together) stumbled across an enchanting Christmas section. We were heading for the books when we spied it, and resolved there and then to come back with our respective husbands and choose one perfect decoration each. So there we were, surrounded by an abundance of Christmas decorations, and it was so hard to choose! There was every kind of bauble you can imagine, including a delightful red one, that had a little window in it, trimmed with red tinsel, and in the window sat a little tiny robin. I knew I would regret leaving that one behind! There were Santas and Angels and Reindeer and Stockings, every colour you can imagine. I chose out a little box of tiny silver and gold sweet cases, and some red felt Poinsettia decorations as gifts. Choosing ‘our’ decoration was harder. Of course I am always drawn to vintage things, and this year our theme is red and white Scandinavian style, but we wanted something we could bring out every year and say ‘this is the decoration we bought the first year we were married’.

Eventually, we settled upon a beautiful clear glass bauble, with a slightly flat bottom so it can be hung from a tree or used as an ornament; inside sits a little tiny father Christmas, smiling merrily at us all.

The Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park was lovely. There was a haunted house that had been decked out for Christmas that I thought was slightly out of place, but there was also an ice-skating rink, a 50m high observation wheel, a German market, and a café selling hot chocolate and Winter Pimms. We started with refreshments in the café tent – tea for me, of course, and then wandered along to the German market. It was lovely to see something so obviously different to what we have here. I wish I had bought more, but somehow it was enough just to look and know these things exist. There were delightful ornaments carved out of flat pieces of wood, and large gingerbread hearts, reindeer skins and more. We bought a bag of white granules of candle wax; you pour them into a dish or glass (or even your hand!) push a wick in, and it burns as though a normal candle.

We watched the skaters on the ice – oh, to be so graceful! As it turned colder, we made our way to the observation wheel, and rode high, looking out across the park, and the criss-crossing paths, and the Serpentine. This time our foray into the refreshments tent saw us partaking of the hot Winter Pimms (utterly scrumptious!) and thus fortified, we walked to the Science Museum for the rest of the afternoon.

I always find when I am in London that my energy suddenly leaves me. As we were waiting for yet another tube train to take us back to Liverpool Street, Angela’s husband suggested we have dinner, and moments later I found myself in a Wetherspoon, overlooking the Tower of London, which was quite beautiful.

That evening, we stayed with Angela and her husband, and I slept very soundly indeed.

Sunday was given over to the joy of brunch club. This time it was at the home of our lovely friend Annastasia, and the theme was Thanksgiving. There is nothing like sitting sharing a delicious meal and wine with friends on a rainy Sunday afternoon to make you really thankful for your friends. There was homemade tomato soup to start, with the most amazing warm rolls. I had not realised they too were homemade until she said, and she was sweet enough to share the source of her recipe
To follow there was roast turkey pretending to be a chicken, with really lovely stuffing and vegetables; as if this was not enough we were spoiled with homemade apple and cinnamon pie too.

The boys played in the attic with Scalextric, while we read papers at the kitchen table and chatted.

I really cannot think of a more lovely way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Tagged! 8 Random Things About Me

The lovely Tash from has tagged me to reveal 8 random things about me. I have tried hard to think of really random things. So please do not think me too strange! Alison at and Midori at I tag you!

1) Automatic revolving doors flummox me. I always seem to get there just as there isn’t quite enough time to squeeze in, at which point they seem to slooow down, mocking me for not taking the risk, and causing the queue behind me to tut.

2) When I am not feeling well, the only food I want to eat is Heinz Tomato Soup, with a cottage-loaf roll (which I always think of as a ‘little red hen loaf’) and if I am not feeling too bad, little cubes of cheddar stirred into the soup so they go all melty melty.

3) When I am really tired, I talk gibberish before I go to sleep. Apparently. I have my husbands word on this! He says that we can be having a perfectly normal conversation, you know, the usual things- what have you got on tomorrow, what shall we have for dinner- when suddenly I will say something like ‘how many clovers are in the pie?’ ‘but it is the moon, the moon!’ or ‘have you seen them fly?’. Very random.

4) I need to have a book on the go or I just don’t feel right. It doesn’t have to be the all-absorbing-have-to-be-reading-it-right-NOW kind of book, just something that is there, waiting for me to read. I have been known to pace up and down in front of our three bookcases, waililng ‘but there is nothing to read!’

5) I have a very strange body. No, really. I get a certain kind of headache if there is going to be a thunder storm, and the elbow I broke aches if it is going to be very cold. I have a scar on my thumb, at the base of the metacarpal bone that looks like a tummy button to me. I have a rib that is really, really bendy. And my joints make me feel like a little old lady, clicking and snapping and being stiff a lot of the time. See, I really do have a very strange body!

6) Some days, I can sparkle. I seem to give out a little glow of energy, somehow. I feel good, I paint my lips red (the same red that Dita Von Teese wears!) I put on my high heeled red shoes and I just seem to shimmer through the day. The next day, I will wake up and my hair won’t sit right, and nothing seems to gel. I wish I could keep it up. I have dreams of being a lady who wears stockings. And is perfectly made up. Elegant, I think is the word that I aspire to.

7) In idle moments, I like to plan escape routes and hiding places. That way I am always prepared. See, if the lion did escape from the zoo, I would be ahead of the crowds because they would all be thinking ‘agh! Where shall I run?’ while I would already be halfway there. (To the lion enclosure of course, it would be the last place the lion would want to go!)

8) I love words. I love to discover new words, and to use words that have perhaps fallen out of use a little. They convey our meanings and thoughts, and it is so delicious to have exactly the right word. I read an article the other day about how the word ‘repel’ is falling out of use, and is being replaced with ‘repulse’, although they do not mean the same thing. They both come from the same Latin word ‘repellere’ which means to drive back, but repulse is what you use for when you are physically driven back, such as in a battle. However, you often hear people say on the news, or read in an interview ‘what a repulsive man!’. What they should say is ‘what a repellent man!’.

As I result I love programmes such as QI and books on archaic words. After reading a lot of Jane Austen I seem to find myself falling into her patterns of language when speaking, writing or thinking. Words are just bliss, really. They are there at our command. I like to think of it as learning to bake lots of different recipes rather than just the usual Victoria sponge!