Wednesday, 24 December 2008

All Is Calm, All Is Bright...

Well it is Christmas Eve, and for now I have our little flat to myself. Carl is at work and will be until about 3:00pm. I have the Christmas lights on, and the television off. I am being serenaded by Bing Crosby, and have wrapped up all my gifts, and between sneezes (a cold, just in time for Christmas!) have put them all in bags ready for when we go visitn family this evening.

I want to have a long hot bath, watch The Bishop's Wife, and paint my toe nails read. Then, I think I am just about ready for Christmas! Although there is a little pottering in the kitchen I would like to do if I have time....

I hope that wherever you are, you are bathed in the lights of the Christmas tree, and are feeling peaceful and serene too. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Living in a Snowglobe

We haven't had any actual snow here, but I feel like I have been living in a snow globe none the less. You know, when all is calm, and then it is shaken up and down and suddenly there is a swirl of glitter and commotion? Well that feels like my life at the moment.

There have been things that have made me glum...such as a favourite aunt having a very painful operation, and an uncle being rushed into hospital and not being expected to make it...and wonderful things, such as a job interview which resulted in me being given a library all of my very own! In between it all there have been Christmas cards to write, Carl's birthday, and a Spa Day too. oh, and a trip to Bury St Edmunds...

I have finished work now until January, so I hope to have a little more time to blog...I feel awful for letting things slide here for so long. Other news though, Carl is having a new laptop for Christmas, which means that I will have his old one...which means more internet time for me!!

I hope that all is a-shimmer and a-sparkle in your house, with mince pies in the oven and Bing Crosby on the radio...

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Tastes of November

When it gets to November, I get an overwhelming craving for citrus fruit. I love to buy paper bags full of satsumas from the market, or pile up great big oranges in my fruit bowl. When I peel them, I try and do it how I did when I was a little girl, so that the peel looks like a little person, with the stalk of the orange as the belly button! I am going to try slicing blood oranges and regular oranges, and chilling them in the fridge with a few splish splashes of Cointreau to make a grown up fruit salad!

One of my favourite things in November is when the different coffee shops start doing their seasonal coffees. Oh, the bliss of a gentle Sunday in town with the papers, and a new coffee to try. My favourite this year is gingerbread latte, but I also love maple syrup latte and have discovered that dark cherry mocha is nicer if you can stand the embarassment of asking for it with one pump less mocha and one pump more cherry! (Thanks for the tip Dan!) Starbucks used to offer a Hot Chocolate Peppermint Bliss, and while they don't do it any more, sometimes I still order a hot chocolate with peppermint syrup because it is so scrumptious!

Be very, very warned away from Nero's Latte Amaretti....sounds divine, tastes u.g.h.!

November is for me the month of vegetable soups so thick that you can stand your spoon up in the bowl, hot porridge for breakfast, and peppermints.

Usually by now I would have made my Christmas cake, and enjoyed cleaning out the mixing bowl, but I am not making it until December. Instead, I am dreaming of my first mince pie....bliss!

Congratulations, Fairycake Girl!

I had the pleasure of receiving the most wonderful news this evening. I opened an email from the lovely Fairycake Girl, to read that she has a beautiful baby daughter named Holly. She is very tiny, so send her special thoughts.

Love, love, love to you all!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Sigh...

...fear not, I shall definitley be back later this evening or tomorrow with a lovely post about all the scrumptious tastes of November, but today I need to vent!

When I was at my last doctors appointment about my ears, I was told I would be referred to the ENT clinic. I went away quite happy, secure in the idea that there would be a goodly long waiting list. So shock, horror, when a letter dropped on my mat yesterday with an appointment in December.

Now here comes the snag. According to the letter, my GP and I had discussed the Choose and Book system, and I had chosen the appointment as detailed in the letter. The problem is that we did not talk about it at all! And I cannot make the appointment. So I went online, as instructed in the letter. I didn't mind too much that the letter sends you to the wrong part of the website, but what I did mind was that when I managed to log in, I was told there are no other appointments at all. So I called the helpline, as instructed on the website. I explained that I cannot make the appointment, and was told that there are no others.

Ok, fair enough, but I cannot go to that appointment I said. 'So you want to cancel it?' Well no, I don't..because that would mean I don't get another appointment. I still want to see the specialist, just not then. In the end she suggested I wait a week or two, and then try again in case other appointments have been added.

And this is progress? Sigh.....

Still, on to other, happier things...I just found out that I can plug the memory card from our camera right into our laptop....so I hope to be sharing more photos soon!

I hope that you are having a scrumptious evening!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Little Things..

I have spent today thinking about the tastes of November, and I am looking forward to a scrumptious post tomorrow! I have just been visiting some favourite blogs, and over at www.tillystea.blogspot.com something caught my eye, and I thought I would borrow it for today. I would love for you to join in and borrow it from me!

Outside my window...an empty space where our dear little car used to be...we sold it last night! (A new one is coming, but I do miss our old one!)
I am thinking...I am looking forward to snuggling up in bed in a few minutes!
I am thankful for...my lovely husband, blog friends and November days
From the learning rooms...it is almost impossible to choose just 5 favourite novels
from the kitchen...autumn vegetable soup with toasted cheese sandwiches
I am wearing...revlon red lipstick, long black skirt and black and white animal print top (really tiny print, it doesn't look as trashy as it sounds!) with a skinny black patent belt
I am creating...paper baubles made from doomed library books for my craft sale!
I am going...to bed after I finish this!
I am reading... The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory
I am hoping...the new car comes soon! And I get my Christmas cards done in time...(they arrived a week late today, and I had to send them back as they were all wrong!)
I am hearing...Carl listening to the news and setting the world to rights.
Around the house... Carl hoovered while I washed up
One of my favorite things...Christmas coffee in town...maple syrup latte, gingerbread latte, dark cherry mocha, peppermint bliss hot chocolate....mmmmm :)
A few plans for the rest of the week: making more things for my craft sale, Mum and Dad round for dinner on Friday, work on Saturday and 'Tinsel Town' on Sunday (switching on of the lights, carol singing and so on).

Care to play?

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Sight...

I thought that over the next few days I would do a little series of posts about exploring November through the five senses. I am going to start with sight...

One of the things I love about November is how things change and shift almost imperceptibly day by day, and then suddenly you blink and realise just how much things have changed. For example, every morning, I throw open our bedroom windows to let in plenty of air, and love to look at the tangle of trees outside. A few weeks ago, the leaves had turned brilliant shades of yellow and gold, but were still on the trees, almost as though they were a feather boa thrown around the shoulders of a twenties starlet. This morning, the branches are almost bear, and just one or two leaves cling on, defiantly.

I can more or less tell where I am in town by the leaves on the floor. The path to my front door is carpeted in acidy coloured hornbeam leaves, while I step off of the bus into a soft mound of golden oak leaves. If the scuffling scrunching noise as I walk comes from sycamore leaves, then I must be walking over the bridge.

One of my favourite sites in the morning is spiders webs, bejewelled with dew and glistening in the early morning haze.

Last week, dear Carl had some time off work, and every evening I came home to our front window being all aglow with candlelight. Candles and autumn leaves, the colour of November. Bare branches stark against the sky, but fuzzy through a fine haze of mizzle. A bowl of satsumas. The first patches of frosty grass in the morning, looking for all the world as though if you nibbled it, it would taste of peppermint creams.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Popping Up To Say Hello

...well so much for my new months resolution! Well, one of them anyway. I have been happily beavering away for NaNoWriMo and am finding writing really cathartic and exhillerating, but the flipside is that there has not been so much time for blogging.

I hope to better this coming week...

Unfortunately my ear is no better, and I have now yet more antibiotics and a referral to the ENT clinic. Your good wishes have done me so much good though...thank you!

I have also been busy making things for a Christmas Craft Fayre. I am using orphaned books that would have been pulped had I not rescued them. One of the things that I have made, and perhaps my favourite, are little wreaths to hang from door handles or prop on book cases, made from holly leaves punched out of book pages.

We just discovered that we can plug the memory card from our camera right into the laptop, without any leads at all, so I am hoping for this to be a slightly more illustrated blog, too.

I have a rumbly tummy now, so I am going to potter into the kitchen for a Chai Latte, and some scrumptious tiny Cinnamon Rolls that I picked up at Ikea yesterday.

I hope your November is passing in a happy bustle of loveliness too..

Friday, 31 October 2008

Day Two From The Sofa

Today, my ear is banging and crackling a little less, but I still can't shake this headache. That is the one thing above all other I am hoping for. If I take all my antibiotics, wrap up warm, one morning soon I will wake up and my headache will be gone.

Until then, my sore-ear-gloom has been lifted a lot by the kind comments here...thank you everybody! I think blog friends are the sweetest people, and I wish I could let you know how much it means to me to go to write a post and find kind thoughts waiting for me.

It is another very cold, very bright day here. I have just finished sipping a chai latte, and am trying to map out the rest of my day. It is so easy for the hours to slip by in a haze of daytime tv and blogs and ebay! (I did just buy a vintage silver christmas tree, but it was such a bargain, and exactly what I was looking for!)

Another hot bath is in order I think, it is about the only thing that seems to ease my head at the moment. I want to bake a pineapple upside down cake (one of the coziest things in the world to do, to me) and read the October and November chapters from the wonderful Romancing The Ordinary. I have finished knitting my scarf, so that will go onto my list of things-to-take-photos-of. I was going to be at a Christmas Craft Fayre with a friend from work, but she has had some bad news and now I will be doing it alone, so I should really get cracking on making some things for that at some point.

I find it hard to just sit and rest, even though I know that is the best thing for me. I feel like I should be doing something...anything!

I can't believe that tomorrow it will be November. I finally get into autumn, and it is slowly changing to winter! I am looking forward to November- I am going to be taking part in NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month) and although I don't think I can commit to that AND NaBloPoMo (most on your blog every day month!) I am going to be blogging more too.

In November, I have so much to look forward to- serving mulled wine with one of my best friends at a firework display, having Sunday lunch where we had our wedding reception, a walk through the woods, getting ready for Christmas, and so much more...

This is the first year I have not had my annual pumpkin carving party. Some of the people who come have had a baby and don't have so much time for that kind of thing any more...I have not been feeling great, and to be honest, time has escaped me a little bit. Now I have my autumnal windowsill set up, I wish I was doing it. I don't think I am going to carve my pumpkin because it is so beautiful as it is, but I thought that tomorrow I might make a roast chicken dinner, with apple cider to drink, and an autumny dessert- maybe apple crumble? I shall light lots of tea lights, and we shall snuggle with a scary film, and I shall plan a return to form next year!

Although it is lovely having our little flat tucked out of the way, it does mean, sadly, that we don't get Trick or Treaters. I really wish we did, and look forward to future years when we may live somewhere a little more visible. I hope that this Halloween brings you all treats, and no tricks!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Autumn Windowsill

I am really behind with posting photographs...I shall have to flutter my eyelashes at Carl and ask him to help me out! Until I can show you a photograph of my autumn windowsill, I will describe it for you. I have my footed glass cake stand in the centre, upon which is sitting a very warty and gnarled pumpkin. To one side is a square vase full of bronze chrysanthemums, and to the other, a small liqueur glass with just a few chrysanthemum heads. Scattered along the windowsill are some beautiful autumn leaves that I gathered this morning on the way home from the doctors. they are mainly sycamore leaves, but there are also some oak amongst them- they range from a brown-paper-parcel-brown to burning flame orange, with every variation in between.

Amongst the lot are scattered twinkly tea light candles burning brightly in the dusk. It makes me smile to think that when Carl comes home from work tonight, the first thing he will see will be our window shining brightly.

I am feeling a bit glum this evening, as my headache has not shifted yet, and my ear is crackling and banging away. I don't much like the idea of surgery on it, but neither do I want to continue like this. Sigh. I think I will have a hot bath before Little Dorrit, take another paracetamol, and curl up with my knitting.

An Autumn Thursday

It is chilly at home today because I have thrown open every window in our dear little flat to let in plenty of fresh air. When my fingers got too cold to type I closed the living room windows, but it is still cold in here. In a little while I shall close them again and put the heating on for a few minutes. From the living room window, I can see the most amazing colours. the sun is shining through the trees, making the leaves seem even brighter than they are, a riot of greens and acid yellows.

The kettle is on to boil, and I am curled up with my favourite, softest blanket. I have a small bouquet of autumn leaves which I am going to arrange in a vase next to my chyrsanthemums and pumpkin on the window sill. I gathered them on the way back from the doctors this morning. I have been feeling under the weather a bit lately, and finally gave in and went when I could not take another day of headaches, sinus pain and sore ears. Perhaps I should have been less stubborn and gone sooner, because it seems that my right ear is so infected that it has perforated my ear drum...and the (very lovely lady) doctor has said that she wants me to go back to the ENT clinic with the possibility of surgery. Sigh. It is probably the right thing to do, but really? For now I am going to snuggle and read and take my antibiotics, and day dream of snuggly autumn adventures to come...

To Market, To Market

Walking to work today, the air was cold enough so that every breath I took escaped as what I called ‘dragons breath’ when I was a little girl. I love days like this. I have had a lot happening over the past few weeks (a dear Aunt has had a stroke, I have been under the weather and Carl has been working late an awful lot), and had fallen into the habit of catching the bus to work, but lately I have started to walk again, and am getting so much pleasure out of it. I leave ten minutes earlier than I need to so I can really absorb it all, and have time to be diverted on the way. I love to scuffle through the leaves, which are really crunchy at the moment. I adore the sweet almost coffee scent that rises up from a path of freshly scuffled leaves.



The light has that wonderful quality of being somehow sharp and hazy at the same time, and the sunshine is brilliantly dazzling. This morning I had a particularly lovely walk into work, as it ended with a quick trip to the market. I love the feeling of having some pennies in my purse and a shopping list of lovely things. First of all I visited the cheese stall, to buy some goats cheese. Tonight I am cooking roasted peppers filled with goats cheese and lentils, and then for lunch tomorrow I am making my favourite goats cheese, roasted pepper and chicken salad. When I got there they only had 1kg logs, which (as much as I do love goats cheese!) was just way too much for me, so the lovely man cut me a smaller slice instead. Then I moved on to the flower stall, as at this time of year I get a yearning for what I think of as Mrs Miniver chrysanthemums. I was torn between a deeper brown, a bright firey orange, and a smaller-flowered bronze somewhere between the two. I chose the bronze, and enjoyed carrying them through the market in their heavy paper wrapping. My last port of call was at a stall that sells all manner of dry goods, where I bought a tub of hot chocolate for my sister.

I really wanted to buy a new pair of slippers, but the slipper man was not there today, and I would have loved to loiter at the wool stall for a little while, but the clock was ticking, and work was calling.

Mimi Makes Tartiflette

I have recently read the most wonderful book, Remedy by Anne Marsella. It was really quirky and reminded me a lot of Sophie Dahl’s Playing With The Grownups. Remedy is an American living in Paris, and in one passage, she mentions eating Tartiflette for lunch…it sounded divine, all potatoey, cheesey, bacony and comforting, and I decided right away that I had to have a go at making my own version. I have been making a similar dish for years (thinly sliced potatoes and onions, layered in an ovenproof dish, pour over a cup of Bovril, a tin of macaroni cheese – yes, really, but it makes all the difference – and bake for a couple of hours) but this sounded so much more luxurious.

Described variously as ‘this rich and luxurious potato dish straight out of the French Alps makes an indulgent supper for two’ and ‘Tartiflette is the perfect palliative supper dish for chilly autumn and winter evenings’ and ‘warming winter food at its very best’ how could I resist? Unbeknown to me, Carl’s train was delayed on his way home, so when he finally got home, he was cold and tired and hungry, and I am pleased to say he was greeted with the most heavenly comforting smell of dinner. I served it with some rare lamb and peas, and it is definitely something I will be making again. Here is how I made it…(I found several different recipes, and melded them together, so this probably isn’t traditional, but it is delicious!)

1kg waxy potatoes
2 large onions
3 rashers of bacon
Knob of butter
100g cheese (I used a combination of leerdammer for that sweet-nutty-meltyness, and cheddar for that sharp-tangyness)
250ml double cream (or nearest pot size to this)

1) Tie on pinny, preheat oven to 175 oC and flick radio 4 on in the background.
2) Peel and thinly slice the potatoes
3) Put them in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender.
4) Meanwhile, Peel and thinly slice the onions, and fry them in a knob of butter until soft. Put to one side.
5) Chop the bacon into small pieces, and fry until not quite crisp.
6) Drain the potatoes.
7) Grate the cheeses together.
8) Drain the potatoes, and layer half in an ovenproof dish.
9) Scatter over the bacon, the onion, and half the cheese.
10) Layer the rest of the potatoes over.
11) Pour over the double cream.
12) Sprinkle over the rest of the cheese, grind over some black pepper.
13) Bake for 20-40 minutes, until bubbling and golden.

This made enough for us both to have a large portion for dinner, with plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day, when it tasted even better!

Unexpected Weather

1.45 this afternoon found me ensconced happily in our local noodle bar, with two dear friends and my Godson, merrily gossiping and enjoying chicken satay vermicelli. Suddenly, a movement outside caught my eye, and to my amazement, it was simply pelting down with hail! We tried to wait it out, but I was due back at work for 2:00 and ended up having to make a dash through the hail back to the library. Although it was cold, and I had not brought my umbrella with me today, I did not get too wet because it was hailing so hard a great many of the hailstones rebounded off of me rather than soaked in!

Now, as suddenly as it began, it has stopped, and the light has an almost golden quality to it. Just a small adventure in my day, but remarkable nonetheless- I can’t remember the last time we had a proper hail storm.

It has served to remind me that winter really is on its way, Summer is well and truly gone, and we are in the midst of a scrumptious Autumn. I can hardly believe it is going to be November at the weekend. I don’t feel like I have quite hit my stride yet this Autumn, and I am going to spend the next few days really snuggling into it.

Tonight when I get home, I will be heating apple juice to make mulled winter Pimms, and hanging my autumnal wreath on the front door. I have bought my pumpkin ready for Friday (the wartiest, ugliest one I could find, which is strangely beautiful!) and I am going to put it on a cake stand on my windowsill. I am going to scatter some candles about the living room, and look for a soft new throw for the sofa, order Mrs Miniver to read (again!) and bake a pumpkin cake with orange buttercream frosting. We are going to visit our farm shop at the weekend, and buy just one or two each of lots of varieties of apples and pears, drink apple juice and finally finish knitting my autumn scarf.

Wherever you are, I hope you are having a scrumptious, blissful autumn.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Reading, Baking, Listening, Making...

Over the last few weeks I have read Mister Pip, The Priory by Dorothy Whipple and The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory. I adored the Priory, Mister Pip was a lot better than I thought (although it did take a sudden sinister turn towards the end) and I am devouring The Queen's Fool. My happiest discovery this year so far has been Dorothy Whipple!

I have been baking a little, too, and planning to bake. The ever lovely Vintage Pretty has given me a recipe for pumpkin cake with orange buttercream frosting. I had to make a special trip to get a can of pumpkin puree, and this Sunday I am going to be tying on my pinny and baking up a storm.

I have been listening to Sex On Fire by The Kings of Leon. I am hardly ever, ever, ever up with 'current' music but this is really catchy. I have also been discovering and enjoying Hilary Hahn, who is an amazingly talented classical violinist. Bliss.

I have been making a scarf, and planning a tea cozy, and a hot water bottle cover. Also I have been planning some Halloween gifts for my work friends. I am going to cut squares of black tissue or crepe paper, fill them with spooky sweets, and tie with orange ribbon. Then I am going to make some little tags out of orange card, and stick a black button on them, and draw legs coming out, to make button spiders!

I also want to put up my autumn wreath on the front door, and am toying with the idea of making a halloween wreath too. I love to decorate our little flat!

Cobweb Weekend

It has been a simply beautiful weekend, one that I want to share with you even though it is already Wednesday evening, and time has flown by once again.

I was thrilled on Saturday morning to open the door to one of those wonderful autumnal mornings, where the air is fresh and crisp and hazy all at the same time, dry leaves are blown from the trees, and you are glad of a scarf. Everything was all a-shimmer and a-glitter, and I was fascinated to see a large spiders web on a brick wall, all beaded with drops of dew, and home to a large spider. I don't normally like spiders very much, but this one was so beautiful that I found myself feeling rather friendly towards him. He had a mottled pattern on his body (yes, he was that big that I could see a pattern!) that put me in mind of a smoking jacket!

Sunday morning we opened the front door to be confronted by the foggiest morning that we have seen in a long time. The roads were wreathed in rolling mist, and as we drove along, a cobweb on the wingmirror of the car, all beaded with dew that sparkled like diamonds in the bright sunlight, fluttered like a beautiful flag.

Just as both cobwebs were beaded with drops of dew that were like precious jewels, so was our weekend scattered with jewel-like moments. Steaming cups of coffee drank in shared quiet, whilst listening to the beeps on radio 4. Walking hand in hand through the town, while a gospel choir sang behind us. Dropping a glittery bath bomb into a steamy bath. Driving past where we had our wedding reception, remembering snatched moments of that day. The fields filled with rolling, swirling mist, with hazy sunshine breaking through.

All ordinary moments in one way, and yet extraordinary in another, because all of them were little moments to be saved and savoured, the ordinary moments that make up special memories of a perfect weekend.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

A Dangerous Pursuit?

When most people hear the word library, they imagine a dusty place full of books, quiet, librarians shushing and such things. When you think of reading, you think of a quiet, solitary pleasure.

Perhaps the last thing that reading and books and libraries and such like make you think of is danger, but I had a train of thought over a cup of tea which led me to the conclusion that indeed, reading is very dangerous indeed, in the way that an adventure or an expedition is made exciting by the edge of danger that runs through it.

I think perhaps that this is going to be the kind of post which calls for a cup of tea and perhaps just a small slice of cake on the prettiest saucer that you own. I have my cup of tea at the ready here, and am going to try and explain what I mean.

You see, I think that every time you read a book (or indeed a poem, and even blog) you are changed by it in some way. There are some books that I have been reading at particularly eventful times in my life, which will forever more in my mind be tied up with memories of that time. There are books that have challenged or changed my thoughts on particular subjects, books which have taught me a new skill, or a new recipe, or word, which I have gone on to weave into the fabric of my life.

Whether you love a book, hate it, or even remain indifferent to it, to some extenct, I believe that every book stays with you in some way, your whole life. Some you feel more than others. Some have created a powerful feeling in me, or created an atmosphere of some kind, which has stayed with me. There are books who have made me fall in love with the author, and I have gone on to devour everything else they have written.

Let me pluck some examples from my mind- since reading 'The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Love' I whip up a recipe for something called 'chocolate stuff' in times of stress or need of something homemade and sweet. Since reading Mrs Miniver, I always think of her when I see a particular kind of chrysanthemum. Since Reading 'Someone At A Distance' I think of a particular French woman whenever I hear the name 'Louise'. (Perhaps I should have named this post 'a particularly dangerous pursuit, with all my uses of the word particular'!)

I was reading Nigella's new Christmas book, and in one recipe she describes the ends of french sticks as 'the elbow ends' and I knew right away that I shall always think of them as such.

Now all this, and I have not yet got to the danger. You see, given that what we read has the power to stay with us, to change us, how brave we are to read at all, for so often we do not know what we are getting until we are in the middle or have finished with it. Oh there are various authors we suspect we will like, because we know how they write, or what they write about, but how did we discover them to begin with? We took the chance. I find it fascinating how different people can read the same book, and yet have very different reactions to it. It must be strange, as an author, to write something, and then have people interpret it in so many different ways. I heard a quote recently, that there are as many ways to God as there are people; perhaps as well, there are as many different versions of a book as there are readers.

I don't know if I have explained myself very well here. I think that reading is a joyous thing, and I love libraries and books and poems, and I love that little edge of danger too. I just has not seen reading in this kind of light before, I had not realised how brave you have to be to open yourself to being changed in some way, to not know exactly what you are going to get, but to believe enough to take the risk.

There was an advert on tv a few years ago now, where librarians were going crazy in the staffroom on their teabreak, and then break over (and chocolate snack finished) they straightened their glasses, patted their buns into place, and filed back out into the library all staid and respectable again. On their break, they were very different to their stereotypical image; in the same way, in a sudden flash of light, I have come to see reading as very different to its traditional image.

Still on the theme of reading and poems (aren't you glad you had that slice of cake now?) I have been reading the Sunday Times today, and found a fascinating article about poetry. The article is about teaching the love of poetry, and suggests that children should be taught poems by heart whilst at school. While I do love poetry, there are not many poems that I can claim to know by heart, so I want to rememdy this. I have been talking about poems with a friend recently, and being able to share poems has been really pleasurable.

So, now it is October, and I still have that back-to-school-feeling from September (although I am now going to call it a turning-over-a-new-leaf feeling!) I have decided to try and learn one new poem by heart a week. Here is my first one....I hope you enjoy it.

Autumn Day

Lord, it is time. The long summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
And on the meadows let the wind go free.

Command the fruit to swell on tree and vine;
Grant them a few more warm transparent days,
Urge them on to fulfillment and press
The final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no huse now will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
Will sit, read, write long letters into the evening
And wander along the boulevards, up and down
Restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday, 26 September 2008

Mimi Goes To Covent Garden

I have a lovely friend at work, and very occasionally, we go on an adventure to London together. Yesterday was one of those days, and I knew from the moment I woke up that it would be lovely. As I was looking out of the bedroom window, breathing in the morning air, a squirrel ran across the garden, and started digging. Later, as I finished a phone call, the caller, rather than saying 'have a nice day' told me 'a lovely day lays ahead'.

Every time I go out with Julia, we always start by wondering what on earth we will find to talk about all day, and end the day wishing we had longer to finish our chat. As soon as we got to Covent Garden, we found a cafe with outside seating, and sat drinking black coffee and watching the people around us. Bliss.

Revived, we set off to find the Cath Kidston shop. Even with the aid of a map with the destination marked on it, it was really hard to find. It didn't help that we set off the wrong way along the road to begin with, but even when we were on the right track, it was slightly elusive. It isn't actually at Covent Garden, but along the road, across a road, round a corner, and in almost a back alley. Just as we thought surely we must have gone wrong, we saw a shop painted the most delightful duck egg blue, and suddenly, we were there!

The shop had a limited range on display as they were having a refit, but even so, the bliss, the loveliness of seeing the catalogue come to life around me. It was so good to be able to pick things up, touch and feel, and really see the things. They were displayed beautifully; there was a dresser, and a kitchen table all covered with things, and a little cot made up with the baby range, and a wonderful pick-and-mix style display that held all the little things. I came away with a roll of wrapping paper (such lovely quality that I thought I had picked up two sheets together), two flowery dusters, a packet of polka dot tissues each for me, my friend, and my Mum, and lastly a flowery book bag. At the counter where you pay, there is a display of vintage jewellery and cups and saucers. Oh, I could have spent an awful lot of time and money in that shop!

We breezed through Paperchase, and wandered through Covent Garden. As I had been hoping, there was live music, provided first by a string quartet, and then by an opera singer. With the music still ringing in our ears, we went on to Carluccio's where we ended up having lunch. The Italian waiter flattered us outrageously, calling us 'girls' every two moments, and the food was heavenly. I had a salad of smoked chicken breast, potatoes, green beans and roast peppers in a balsamic dressing. I ordered tiramisu for dessert, and Julia had lemon tart; we each ate half and then swapped plates! Downstairs, in the delicatessen area, I chose a strawberry tart for Carl, which they put in a cunning little box so that it would not get crushed before I could get it home.

From there we flitted first into Penhaligons, where I sampled Violetta, and then into L'Occitane where Ju sampled Eau D'Amber which was really heavenly. Then we meandered in and out of a few of the stalls selling Pashminas and the like, before wandering over to Trafalgar Square, where we sat with tea watching the fountains and the crowds before popping into The National Gallery.

Really, the place took my breath away. I have been before, but not for a long time, and I had forgotten how magnificent the place is. The building is special enough in itself, the doors are heavy and whisper slightly as you push them open, and the light is just amazing. But there, hanging on the wall, with nothing but a reverential distance between you and them are such wonderful works of art. It seemed almost sacrilege to spend so little time there, to be honest, but at the same time it was good to breeze through, and feel certain that I will have to go back for a longer look before long.

It is such an odd sensation, after years of seeing prints of Sunflowers by Van Gogh, or Monet's Waterlillies, to suddenly be seeing the originals themselves. The colours in the works by Constable took me by surprise, and I feel so priviliged to know that I can go and look at them any time I want. They are just there, there is no entrance fee to the gallery. Of course, you have to pay to get to London, and I know that I am fortunate to live so close, but just knowing they are there, waiting for me is the most amazing gift. I fear I am gushing a lot in this post, but really, it is quite overwhelming.

We don't have any art in our living room. Instead, we have a wedding picture printed onto canvas, and framed pictures from our parents' and grandparents' weddings, a variety of snaps of the two of us, and then there are my little seasonal displays dotted about the room. Although I would happily argue that my writing desk is a work of art, there is no art hanging up, and I feel like I don't need it just at the moment, because I have my own private gallery in London, just waiting for me to go back and explore some more.

Time For A Sit Down

Later, after I have had a bath and a cup of tea, I will post all about my adventures in London. Yesterday included a trip to Covent Garden, Cath Kidston (the shop, not the lady, but oh how lovely that would be!), the National Gallery and some other delights as well.

But for now I want to let you know what I have been doing with my day off, and then you will see why I need a sit down!

Inspired by a lovely post of kitchen domesticity here http://vintagepretty.org/2008/09/18/baking-to-save-a-soul/ and the lovely idea of toppling into autumn here http://yarnstorm.blogs.com/knitblog/2008/09/on-the-cusp.html I have spent the day in the kitchen.

I have made four portions of cornershop curry, four portions of vegetable soup, four portions of shepherds pie, four portions of chicken comfort pie, four portions of kofta curry, four portions of fishcakes, a batch of cheese scones, and there is a chocolate pudding baking in the oven as I type.

I have thrown open every window in our dear little flat, and thrown away some flowers that had faded past their best. I have hoovered every room, made a pile of library books to back, and magazines to be recycled, and have straightened out the sofa too.

I have a tired but happy glow, and am looking forward to sinking into a hot bath, with the thought of posting about yesterday to look forward to, some more knitting on my mohair scarf, and painting my nails the colour of hot chocolate.

Wherever you are, I hope that this Friday finds you savouring the start of a scrumptious weekend.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Little Luxuries

Yesterday was a simply blissful Saturday. We had lots of adventures, and ended the evening with our tummies aching from too much laughter. The hilarity came about after too much sugar, too much wine, and too many friends sharing silly stories. My lovely friend Angela had a pudding party for her birthday, where we each took along a pudding, and we made a kind of buffet of it. I took a chocolate genoise royale which I really enjoyed making (from the Baker and Spice cookbook) and there was also tiramisu, apple strudel, chocolate brownie mountain, chocolate and almond birthday cake, AND ice cream! We had wine and champagne, and sat around telling stories of odd things that happened at work, indiscretions of our friends, and had such a lovely time.

We also had a little show and tell time, in which I showed off my new tattoo. Yes, really! Terribly out of character, I know. I feel sure I must have shared that I have a tattoo before, but just in case I haven't, I have a little rose with the words 'carpe diem' hidden away on what I have been describing as my left ribs. Just recently, I have felt that it isn't finished. I have lived with it for eight years and love it still, but I felt it needed something else. So yesterday morning, I had the original tattoo redone, and then the most beautiful vines and leaves added. It means a lot to me, as Carpe Diem is something I really believe in, and the vines to me represent the growth that comes from seizing the day.

Afterwards, as to be expected, I was a little sore, so I spent the rest of the afternoon at home drinking tea and reading The Times. I love a big fat newspaper, it is one of my greatest pleasures. I came across a really interesting article, which was all about 'little luxuries' in which various society figures were asked to name their little luxuries. I have to say that I think I must live in a very different world to the people interviewed for the article- their ideas of luxuries included 'a beautifully balanced horsebox', 'manolo blahniks', and 'paul smith custom jackets'. Phew! I have to say, that my ideas of little luxuries are somewhat...littler!

1) A beautiful ball of yarn in the most wonderful teal green. It is a mohair mix, so it is delightfully soft and fuzzy. I think it is called 'blur' and it is almost as thin as kidsilk haze. I am knitting myself a very simple keyhole scarf with it, to keep me warm in the coming cooler months, and to add a splash of colour to grey mornings.

2) Something nice for my toilet toilet in the french sense that is, so some Cath Kidston bubble bath to bathe in, rose scented handcream by the sink, and a luxuriously rich conditioner for my hair. Little bottles and tubes of lovely things make me feel on top of the world.

3) Persephone Books I have just finished reading 'Someone At A Distance' by Dorothy Whipple. It is a library book, and I do not want to give it back just yet, because although I have finished reading it, I am not finished with it. It is the kind of story that has a great many bits in it that I want to copy out, to savour later. I have not yet met a Persephone Book that I haven't loved, that hasn't drawn me in, made a real connection with me. Also, with their simple dove grey covers and wonderfully vibrant endpapers, they are things of beauty indeed.

The wonderful thing about thinking about little luxuries and little pleasures is that once you start, you could just go on. I could have talked about my secret stash of Lipton's Yellow Label Tea which I have not been able to get hold of in this country, and so beg friends who are visiting abroad to bring me back a box. I could talk of my Ruby Woo lipstick which I have only to slick on to feel two inches taller and three inches slimmer! I could talk of my feather pillows, and lavender pillow spray, of my cassette recording of Ballet Pour Adeline, or the heavenly bunch of lillies adorning my windowsill.

Then I could move on to my little pleasures, the hour long telephone call with a dear friend, the card in the post from a favourite aunt, the way my godson holds my finger and grins at me, all eyes and dribble at the moment. The way the air is cooler in the mornings now, and how the moon has been really glorious recently. The way Carl often starts his emails to me 'Hi Sugar' and comes and adjusts his laptop on my lap, to make sure that none of the wires or leads are being bent, in the same way a new parent might adjust the way their partner is holding the baby.

Tell me, what are your pleasures, what are your little luxuries? And when you have told me, make sure you go and indulge in some of them, with bliss!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Lovely Things

I do so wish there was a way to portion up a bit of the loveliness that surrounds me just now to share with you. Little bundles of happiness that would fall through the letterbox, burst open, and shower you with scrumptiousness. You would be able to feel the cool breeze blowing through my window, and smell on the breeze the scent of a heavenly bunch of Stargazer lillies that are waiting for tomorrow, when they will be a birthday present for my Aunt.

Just recently, everything seems to be about packages and post, parcels and surprises. I had a wonderful card from the ever so lovely www.vintagepretty.org which has two vintage Parisian ladies sharing tea on the front, and some ever so sweet words inside. Yesterday was my Mum's birthday, and I so enjoyed putting her present together. She loves roses, so I got her a jug with roses painted on it, a bunch of pink roses, rose tea bags, rose bubble bath, and two Lush bath bombs scented with roses. In the evening our little family took her out for dinner, and at the end there was a birthday cake iced with roses and pink candles. She beamed with happiness, but really, I had so much fun planning these things, that it was almost a present for me!

One of my dear friends at work is going on maternity leave on Wednesday, and I have been working on a scrapbook of messages from colleagues for her. I am also making her a nappy cake, and organizing a dinner out for her.

To top it all, we are going to visit my Aunt and Uncle tomorrow. It is a two hour drive, taken earlier than I would like, but they are such fun to see, I really can't wait. Aunty Dottie in particular, has this manner about her, that whenever you talk with her, even about the weather, you just feel uplifted and special. My Mum and Sister will be in our party, and we all cook something to take with us, even though we are told not to, and we have such fun. I am making a wonderfully gooey chocolate pudding (if it goes down well, I will share the recipe!), my sister is making her signature cupcakes, and my Mum her wonderful cheese scones.

Tonight there is Strictly Come Dancing to look forward to, and then the last night of the Proms. I have such eclectic taste in music, and have been amusing myself by playing Mozart on you tube, interspersed with the Puppini Sisters, Elvis, all sorts!

Oh, and I have discovered the delights of Dorothy Whipple! I have ordered her books from the library before, but I don't think it was quite the right time for me. Then I was in bed the other evening, listening to the radio, and they read a little from Someone At A Distance as the Book At Bedtime. I ordered it from the library, and am loving it. I feel the same about it as I do about Mrs Miniver and The Enchanted April. I find it fascinating how sometimes it is just not the right time in your life for a particular book or author, and then something subtly changes, and it is like you were made for each other.

As if all this were not enough, lovely Moonroot has nominated me for an award, as a blog she loves! People are so kind, especially those of you who visit me here. I shall be naming blogs I love shortly, but choosing just seven will be hard!

There is just time to boil the kettle for tea, and to say that I hope you all have a wonderfully scrumptious weekend!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

First Autumn Leaf of the Year

I can hardly believe that it is September already! And as much as I love autumn, as much as I think it may even be my favourite season, I don't really feel like we have had a proper summer yet.

I was going to post about how all the magazines proclaiming the fashions for autumn make me feel like shouting back 'but it is summer!' (despite all efforts of the weather to suggest otherwise!) but...I was walking to work yesterday, when a beautiful, large sycamore leaf, edges tinged orange fell at my feet. Suddenly, I realised that like it or not, September is the month that brings us the end of summer and the beginning of autumn.

I am particularly enamoured of this September, because the 1st fell on a Monday. I love when it is a new month and and a new week. September feels like a little new-year to me, because it is the time of back-to-school, newly sharpened pencils, fresh exercise books and new beginnings.

Sometimes I feel like I don't get time to pause, to halt for a moment and take it all in. So I took today off work, just so I could settle and realise that this is September, this is now. It may sound odd, but I really wanted to take a new pencil and write 'Monday 1st September 2008' on a fresh piece of paper on Monday, but I never quite got to it. So today is my day for pondering and absorbing the new month.

I have a lovely friend coming for lunch later, and this evening I am going to meet some work friends for a drink after work. I never, ever go for a drink after work, or a drink at anytime really, so I am really looking forward to it. I am going to iron my prettiest dress, and am even thinking of pinning my hair up, after I scrunched it out of the way at work yesterday, and several people sweetly said that it looks good up. You know, after being with my dear Carl for seven years, and married for one, it has been a long long time since I walked into a pub alone. I feel a bit shy and nervous, but at the same time pleased to be stepping out and being brave alone.

I have been listening to this a lot today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAwR6w2TgxY

I really love the quirkiness of the music, to me it sounds a little Bjorkey. Alice is one of my favourite children's films too. When I was a little girl, there was a drapery called Wenlocks in town, and it had a large display window, in which would be a bed, made up with bedding that you could buy inside. For a month or so they had Alice in Wonderland bedding on display; one side was scenes from the film, and the other was pink hearts on a white background. I saved up my pocket money for weeks to buy it. I thought that Mum had thrown it out years ago, when I moved away; when I stayed with her the night before my wedding, I got to sleep in my brothers bed, and when I walked into his bedroom, the bed was made up with that very duvet set!

I hope that you are having a scrumptious September day today, whatever you may be doing!


Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Pillows

For the first time in ages, I am home early in the evening and have the flat, laptop, tv AND kettle all to myself! So here I sit, with a steaming mug of peach tea by my side, skipping from blog to blog.

Over at www.yarnstorm.blogs.com Jane is having a giveaway, and to win a copy of her book, you have to leave a comment saying what your favourite domestic activity is.

There are so many delightful domestic activities that it is really hard to choose just one, but mine is my evening before-bed ritual. While I am brushing my teeth, Carl pours me a glass of water, and then while he is brushing his teeth, I fluff up the pillows and spray them with pillow spray. (If I think I will get away with it, I also turn on Radio 4!)

In the winter I love a peppermint and nutmeg spray from Boots. I love it because it reminds me of snowy forests, and somehow figgy pudding too, although perhaps it is the idea of figgy pudding rather than figgy pudding itself!

In the summer I like lavender, and at the moment I am using a spray from Past Times which is just heavenly.

For my absolute favourite bed time, I like to have the windows wide open for an hour or so to let the cool air in, and I like to have a good book to read.

Just typing this makes me look forward to bed time!

Sweet dreams everyone

Sunday, 24 August 2008

If I Were A Kitten, I Would Purr

It is a perfect rainy bank holiday Sunday afternoon. I have just worked my way through several Sunday papers, and several more cups of tea, and later on I have a bath bomb from Lush to look forward to (Geo Phyzz) which I shall enjoy whilst reading Eclipse, the third novel in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. Dear Carl is in the kitchen cooking me a surprise lunch, and just a little while ago, I was puttering about in the bedroom, and spotted a grey squirrel tight-rope walking along our garden fence, dodging the raindrops as he went. I have been online and ordered the yarn for my ripple stitch crochet blanket...after spending hours choosing my colours, I abandoned them all at the last minute and chose Oatmeal, Slate, Poplar, Berry and Lagoon from here

http://www.wool4less.co.uk/King-Cole-Homespun-Chunky_AIIWX.aspx

Tomorrow I hope to go blackberrying, and all in all, I am so happy that if I were a kitten, I would purr.

Isn't that just a delightful phrase? I would love to claim it for my own, but I have magpied it from London Southern Belle, who has a scrumptious style of writing. Here is the post that I borrowed it from:

http://londonsouthernbelle.typepad.com/london_southern_belle/2008/08/doorbells-and-sleigh-bells-and-schnitzel-with-noodles.html

I hope that you are all having a wonderful bank holiday weekend too.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Dahlias, Violet Ink and Strawberry Jam

Well I must say that today has been every bit as lovely as yesterday was frustrating! I finally found my elusive keys....under my seat in the car! I got to work, and there was an envelope on my desk with a little Thornton's box stuck to it. It was the most beautiful anniversary card from one of the library girls, and inside the box were two little heart shaped chocolates. Delicious! The copy of Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer that I ordered a few weeks ago was waiting for me, as well as a jar of homemade strawberry jam from the very lovely Apryl and her family. Apryl brought some of her jam and french stick to the Great Gatsby party a few weeks ago, and I was in transports of delight over it, so you can imagine how lovely it has been to come in from a rainy evening to sit down to a cup of tea and strawberry jam on toast.

Oh but it doesn't end there! I was shelving some books when one of the subject specialists came up to me and asked me if I have a dip-pen. I replied that I did, and she gave me a bottle of violet ink. She had bought it to use in her fountain pen, and despite it being labelled as suitable for such a pen, it had clogged it up.

Just before I was about to go for my morning tea break, my Mum dropped in to say hello, and asked me to pick between two beautiful bunches of dahlias. One was all shades of pink, and the other bronzey oranges. Now usually I would pick pink every time, but today I was really drawn to the orange. When I asked what the occasion was, she said just because. What a wonderful reason to be given flowers!

Oh and there is more still! Did I mention that I was lucky enough to win £100 of vouchers for Wallis, Dorothy Perkins, Top Shop, Miss Selfridge or Burtons? Well they arrived, and I sallied forth to Wallis in my lunch time. As I type, I am wearing the new dress I chose....this one:

http://www.wallis-fashion.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?beginIndex=0&viewAllFlag=&catalogId=20551&storeId=12557&categoryId=119948&parent_category_rn=45252&productId=778738&langId=-1

It has rather a lot more teal in it than the picture shows. I chose a necklace and earrings which go with it, which I almost never do when I am spending 'real' money. I can't wait to get dressed for work tomorrow!

As if I needed anything else to make the day more lovely, on the way home tonight, I ended up sitting in one of those sideways-seats on the bus, and every now and again I saw snatches of the most beautiful pink-and-blue sky as the sun set gently. How blissful! And now, now it is time to send an email or two (sorry I have been off the radar Tash!) then it is a hot shower for me and in to bed with a nice book, cup of tea and radio 4. Oh, and the lavender pillow spray I found in Past Times the other day.

I hope that all of you have had a scrumptious Tuesday too.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

This was the very first Persephone Book that I came across, and possibly my favourite, too. I say possibly because it is very hard to choose a favourite when everything that I have read from this publisher has been an utter joy. When I first heard a rumour that this utterly scrumptious book was going to be made into a film I was so pleased, but also a little worried, because the cinema here in Chelmsford does not tend to show anything that is not a mainstream blockbuster.

Having discovered that the film was to be released last Friday, I was so excited, but my hopes were dashed when I discovered that indeed, it was not to be shown at our cinema. Happily though, there is a more enlightened cinema a few towns over, and lovely, lovely Carl took me to see it on Friday. (I did say that it would be quite ok for him to see a different film while I watched Miss Pettigrew alone, but he insisted, and although declared it 'very girly' enjoyed it too). I was a little apprehensive because I was a little worried about what they may have done to this wonderful book, and because on the drive over I read a very negative review about it.

What can I say, but I came out wanting to go right back in and watch it again! It really sparkles, Amy Adams is a delight as the frothy Delysia, and Frances McDormand was very good too. She wasn't the Miss Pettigrew that I had in my mind, but I found her interpretation interesting, and although the film does not follow the book exactly, it really does capture the spirit, and if you get the chance to see it, do, do, do!

If you visit here http://www.persephonebooks.co.uk/letter.htm (you want the 30 July letter) you can listen to a snippet from the audiobook, and indeed, you can order a copy of the book itself too, should the mood take you....

While I was at the cinema, I ordered a cup of tea to take in with me, and while I was waiting, I picked up one of those free little posters for the film, which described it as 'A Sparkling Champagne Cocktail of a Film' which I completely agree with....although it has left me with a hankering for a champagne cocktail to drink!

A Trip To Dorset...or Devon

When we were telling our families about our proposed anniversary trip, poor Carl kept getting confused as to whether we would be in Devon or Dorset. How he smiled when we reached the Inn at which we were to stay; there was a turning off of a little windy country road. On one side of the turning was a sign saying 'Dorset' and the other side was 'Devon'. I am not quite sure where the road that led to the Inn was, as it was right in the middle! The Inn was another mile or so down this even smaller, twistier country road. I had the most wonderful feeling of being nestled in the depth of the countryside.

The Inn itself was just what we were hoping for. There were a few annexed rooms in which you can stay, which formed a courtyard at the back of the Inn. The courtyard was filled with flowers in pots and hanging baskets. Because we had a much longer trip down than we had imagined, thanks to some awful traffic, and because we had got rained on when we stretched our legs in Axminster, we decided to eat our dinner at the Inn, and I am so glad we did. I had home made steak and kidney pie, and we shared a chocolate orange gateau slice for dessert, which again was home made. A Tia Maria coffee was just the thing to finish with, and I went to bed feeling very warm and at home.

Our Sunday appointment at River Cottage HQ was not until the afternoon, so after a homegrown home cooked breakfast (the sausage, bacon and egg came from the farm next door) we headed off to Bridport. We soon discovered that the reason it is only 40p to park there on a Sunday is that everything is closed! I found a marvellous shop called Girls World that I really wished was open. The window was full of crocheted blankets, flowery flasks and other such wonderful vintage lovelies! I loved how as you walk up the high street, you can see rolling hills and country side; the town really felt like a little island amongst the fields. We had a cup of coffee and then set out for River Cottage HQ.

Although we left plenty of time to get there, we nearly did not make it at all. You see it is very secluded, and my directions from google maps were not all they might have been. (I was flummoxed by being told to leave in a South Westerley direction, when the choice I had was left or right!) We finally asked for directions at a petrol station, who kindly said that people often got lost, and pointed us in the right direction. When we turned onto the road it was on, we realised that although we had been driving for 40 minutes, it was only 10 minutes away from the Inn! The thing is, it is not a big tourist attraction, and apart from when there is an event it is just a working farm, so there were no big signs. All of a sudden, I spotted 'Park Farm' on a gate, and we were there!

We parked the car and went to join a group of other people in the field, and admired the view. The farm is down in a valley, and there were rolling hills, and a clump of forest, and just breathtaking beauties all around. Because it was such a steep descent to the farm, we were collected in a converted trailer attached to a tractor, and taken down that way!

It was so amazing to actually be there, and although we only had a few hours there, I felt like we were really immersed in what they are doing there. We caught the end of a jam making demonstration, and got to sample runner bean chutney and strawberry jam, both very delicious. I bought a copy of the Preserving Handbook that has just been published by River Cottage, and now have lots of plans for blackberry brandy, apple and lemon curd and rows of shining jam jars. I had some local cider, and Carl had elderflower bubbly while we waited for some lunch from the Barbecue, and then we had an ice cream each. I really wish I had not had the vanilla; whilst it was scrumptious, it could not compete with the Somerset Cider Brandy and Raisin that Carl had! There was a self guided circular walk that took you around the farm, past the orchard, chickens, goats, pigs, a cow, and polytunnels. Unfortunately part of the path that made it a circular walk was closed because of all the rain, but we still got to see lots and lots. When we came back to the cottage area, we saw a bit of salami making demonstration, and then went to explore the cottage garden, and I must confess to shamelessly peeking through the cottage windows!

After that, we had a cup of tea while we watched a demonstration of how to prepare fish. We were lucky enough to be given some crab and some lobster to try, and then before we knew it, it was time to catch the tractor back to the car park!

We decided to eat out that evening, but found this more of a challenge than we thought. Everywhere was closed in Axminster, so we drove over to Honiton, where it was exactly the same story! By that time, I was just too hungry to wait until we got back to the Inn, so we pulled over into a Little Chef for tea!

By Monday morning, it felt like we had been in Dorset for weeks, and I was really sad that it was our last day. I am happy to say that lovely Carl has promised me that we can go back! We went into Axminster in the morning, and I fell even more in love with the little town. There was a barbers with a sign in the window saying that they also sold farm eggs, and a chemist where the windows displayed only pink toiletries. There was a craft shop which had shelves floor to ceiling, and was a delightful jumble of wool, fabric, and odds and ends. There was a little library, and so few chain stores it was wonderful. My favourite shop was the River Cottage Farm Shop and Canteen. Now there is somewhere I could happily shop every day, and I really wish that we had taken a cool bag, as the cheese and meat counters looked amazing. We chose some things to take home for us (beer, cider, spiced apple cake) and for our families (honey biscuits) and after dropping them back in the car, returned for elevensies.

We had tea and scones in the garden at the back of the canteen, and I enjoyed it so much. The pot held three cups of tea each, the scones were big and light, and there was cream and jam too. The garden was so pretty, and I ended up taking pictures of the fruit-and-vegetable shaped bunting!

After this, we drove to Lyme Regis, where I got to walk on the Cobb, which was something I had wanted to do for a long time. The weather was blustery and showery, but the crashing waves and wisps of mist on the sea made it so beautiful that I really didn't mind. We discovered a little second hand book shop, and had fish and chips and tea for lunch before setting off for home.

Happily the journey back was much shorter than the journey down, and we spotted a three wheeled bubble car on the motorway! Of course, the first thing we did when we got home was to put on a kettle for tea, and as this was the actual day of our Wedding Anniversary, we opened our cards, and felt very blessed indeed to have so many thoughtful friends and family.

What A Vexing Day!

This last week has been blissful, and I have a great many adventures to post about. This morning, however, has been most vexing. As with the most vexing of things, it is a trivial silly thing that has caused the problem and makes me crosser because it is so trivial! You see, at twenty past eight I was all ready for work. I had straightened hair and my spotty wrap dress on, a delicious lunch packed up and my new giant brolly at the ready. What I didn't have, and don't have are my house keys. Now the problem is that our front door does not lock without the key, and I cannot possibly go out without locking the front door! I phoned poor Carl in a panick, having ransacked my handbags and cloth bags for the elusive keys. He did not pick up, and I phoned and phoned and phoned, knowing that sometimes he does not hear the phone on the train. When he finally did pick up, I was so relieved, as he had my keys last. It was no good though, because he had put them back in my handbag, and I had already turned it out and upside down.

Imagine how embarassing to have to phone work and say that you can't come in to work because you have lost your keys! Mortifying is not the word. If I am to look on the bright side I will say that at least I have had a chance to turn out my handbags, and have discovered several lipsticks in the process. And I had enough annual leave to 'pay' for the day off. And I do now have time to post about some of my adventures. But I do feel very frustrated. My big hope is that when dear Carl comes home tonight, he will unlock the car and my keys will be in there...

Wherever you are, I hope you are having a much brighter Monday than me!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Back From The Weekend In Which I Got , Glitter On Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Cow

Three days, 400 miles, some very twisty country roads and a sparkly cow incident, I am back! It feels like we were away much longer than we were, and I loved every moment of our Dorset adventures.

We arrived Saturday evening, spent Sunday morning in Bridport and the afternoon at River Cottage HQ. Monday we split between Axminster (blissful town!) and Lyme Regis, then came home.

I will post about our adventures later when I am a bit less tired and have had a few more cups of tea, but just wanted to drop in here to post about the wonderful wedding anniversary gift Carl made for me. I got home on Friday evening after Book Club, and was handed an envelope; it was the first clue on a treasure hunt that sent me scurrying about all over the flat. Each clue revealed another clue, and also a token that I can trade in. There were 12 in all, one for each month of our marriage, and I have lovely things to look forward to such as pedicures and back massages, all administered by my lovely Carl.

I can't believe how fast the first year has gone by. We must be doing something right, as we got mistaken for a newly engaged couple while we were at River Cottage HQ!

Hope you all had a scrumptious weekend too!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Evening Plans

Even better than stumbling on a book that you expect to enjoy, and then discover that you adore it, is to come across a book that you fully expect to dislike, but find it utterly captivating instead. I was so uninterested in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, that I left it until last night to pick up, when I really need to have it read for Book Club on Friday. Of course, this is the wonderful thing about being in a Book Club, you do read things that otherwise you might never have touched. And yet, I wonder, how many other little gems are there out there, undiscovered, because the author took a gamble with the title? I cannot help but feel that book titles can be a lot like marmite, a love or hate thing. I can see that a title like ‘A Short History of Tractors In Ukranian’ is meant to intrigue you and make you snatch the book off the shelf, but it left me cold. Again, it was a Book Club choice, and again, I loved it, giggled my way through it and was so glad I had read it.

When I get home from work tonight, I am going to cook some dinner, and then settle down with my book for a while. I am really looking forward to cooking dinner tonight. I love trying new recipes, and tonight I am going to be making Corner Shop Curry, which is taken from Jo Pratt’s In The Mood For Food, a book which leapt off of the library shelves at me the other day. It is, in essence, a vegetable and chick pea curry which I plan to serve with basmati rice, or if I find some extra energy, home made naan breads. On rainy evenings like this, I love cosy eat-out-of-a-bowl food which is healthy and tasty- food I have heard described as ‘soulsome’ which I think is a beautiful word.

If there is time after all of that, I want to have a little play. The idea for my blanket is still percolating away, and I have got as far as choosing my pattern and which brand of wool to use – Rowan Pure Wool Double Knit. Now I need to choose which colours to use; I am toying with the idea of five, six, or even seven, and am torn between the idea of using a random stripe generator to choose my pattern, or to do it by eye, lay out the first ten or so stripes and then see what looks pleasing next. But, I get ahead of myself. Before I can have my stripes, I must choose my colours, and really, how can I choose between these?
http://www.cucumberpatch.co.uk/pure_wool_dk.htm The colours are beautiful on their own, and to top it all, they have enticing names as well. Who wouldn’t want to sit and crochet with Dahlia, Honey, Hyacinth or Hydrangea?

I started to try and choose by copying and pasting all the little blocks of colour into a word document, and then deleting the ones I don’t like, and grouping the ones I do like together. I found it a bit unsatisfying though, so I am going to print them out, cut them up and shuffle them around. There are several variations of each colour available, for example the blues range from Clay, Shale, Anthracite, Glacier and Pier to Cypress, Marine, Ultramarine and Indigo. Together they would make a lovely blanket, but I want to do something a little more varied. So then I think of taking say Clay, Shale and Pier, adding a green in, perhaps Avacado, adding in a dusky pink such as Tea Rose, but then can’t decide if I should lift the whole thing with Honey or the lipstick bright Dahlia. Then I put them all together and don’t like the way they sit at all. I am enjoying playing with colour combinations though, so although it is a problem, it is a bit like a game of Sudoku- a pleasurable puzzle, where the satisfaction comes from the solving as much as the solution.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Sunday Bliss

Sometimes I find I don't realize just how lovely something is until I speak it out loud, or write it down. Perhaps it is because to write or speak about something you must consciously have noticed or observed it first? Whatever the reason, it was only as I was sending a text to a friend this afternoon that I realised how lovely my Sunday is. In response to her 'what are you doing right now?' text, I replied that I was sipping hot chocolate and listening to the rain.

Let me paint you a proper picture so you can share the scrumptiousness with me! I am curled up in my corner of the sofa, with a discarded pile of newspapers on the floor to my right, and a calligraphy project on the table in front of me. Sharing the sofa with me is lovely Carl, who is working from home, on his laptop. There is a companionable kind of quiet between us, and we are both enjoying the breeze blowing through our little flat, as we have thrown open every window we have. The afternoon light is that curious half-light that accompanies a rain storm, and we can hear the hiss of the rain over the tap-tapping of the computer. I am sipping hot chocolate made in one of my favourite mugs, which is pale blue and scattered with butterflies. We have been talking about our imminent first wedding anniversary, both bursting with secret gifts planned for one another.

If all this wasn't enough, we are lucky enough to have a week off of work to share together, not this week but the next, and suddenly we realised that we really need to be making plans! It is going to be a week full of adventures, and I can hardly wait for them to start.

The first weekend we are travelling down to Dorset for a few days. We are going to River Cottage HQ, and to explore the town of Axminster. I am also scrunching up my toes with excitement at the thought of a stroll along the Cob at Lyme Regis. Later that week we will be spending a day at the zoo, and then on another day we plan to go to London. We have some theatre vouchers that were a gift at Christmas- we are going to go to one of those last-minute ticket booths and see whatever is available, and then are going to have dinner for two at the Ritz. Towards the end of the week we are going to have a barbeque in our garden for our families, and look back over our first year of marriage.

It has been a quiet Sunday, but one of those golden Sundays where in the quiet your mind gently bubbles away. I have plans for things we are going to do together as well as a new list of books I want to read, and the idea for a crochet blanket forming. I have also decided I need to learn how to use flickr as I have discovered a whole pile of photographs that I have snapped to share here, but never quite got to doing- chocolate blancmange rabbits atop vintage flowery plates, pretty shop window displays, and the rooftops of Bruges...

I hope your weekend has been as blissful as mine.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Welcome to Mimistan!

Although it has been frantically busy here since the children broke up for the summer holidays, we do have occasions when we find ourselves in the eye of the storm, and take the opportunity to regroup. Our latest game is to answer these questions:

In Mimistan, what is the national dress?

In Mimistan, we only wear skirts or dresses, we never, ever wear trousers at all. You can tell if someone is from Mimistan because they are always wearing a flower, somewhere. I

In Mimistan, what is the national dish?

Our national dish is afternoon tea, of course! First we have sandwiches made from very thin slices of crustless bread, spread with either egg mayonnaise with tiny bits of chopped up tomato or cream cheese with cucumber and mint; then we have sultana scones with Little Scarlett strawberry Jam and clotted cream; we finish with tiny chocolate ├ęclairs and strawberry tarts. It is all served on delightfully mismatched flowery china, and accompanied by a big pot of Cornish tea.

What is the flag of Mimistan?

The flat of Mimistan is bunting! It is made from scraps of pretty flowery fabric, which was once used to make baby clothes worn by Mimi herself (this part is grounded firmly in reality; my Mum made yards and yards of bunting for our wedding using fabric left over from my baby clothes!)

What do they do on their national day in Mimistan?

We take the day off of work, and we dress up in our finest clothes. We go out early, and leave little handmade gifts on each others doorsteps. In the afternoon, we get together with our closest friends, and partake of our national dish!

What are the Mimistanians known for?

Mimistanians are famous and skilled hoarders. They are often to be found smoothing out bits of foil from sweet wrappers to use in crafts, stashing away oddments of felt, or buying an extra box of teabags for the cupboard ‘just in case’. Those who do not fully understand the nature of Mimistanians may say they are messy, but Mimistanians know where everything is, until they have tidied up!

I would love to know about your countries! What is life like in Alisonstan, or Tashstan, I wonder?

Catching Up

I am still feeling a little overwhelmed by things at the moment. A big part of it is the PCOS, and then there seem to be a myriad of little things that add up to big things and take up my time. My phone, for one. It died, and the phone company kindly sent a new one. When I put in the SIM card from the old one, I thought it would have all my phone numbers on it….but no. And do I have them written down, in a sensible manner? No! So I have been wanting to text Tash to say thank you for the wonderful spirit-lifting parcel she sent, and have been unable to. I have meant to give her a ring (I have landline numbers written down, but not mobiles, how odd!) but the evenings have skipped past, and here I am.

A lot of my time has been spent in reading, reading, reading, everything I can lay my hands on to do with PCOS. If I had to boil all that information down, I would say:

1) Don’t panic, it is not the end of the world.
2) Do lots of exercise
3) Eat a low GI diet

And as such, I have been trying hard to do all of these. 2) and 3) help me do 1) by making me feel I am taking control, but both take up lots of time! As far as 2) goes, I have been bad at walking to work but good at going to the gym and going swimming. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed swimming, and the only thing that would make it nicer, apart from lovely changing rooms, would be a swimming hat with flowers on it, in the style of Esther Williams. I have also found a lot of my time taken up by 3) in the reading of Low GI cook books, and then the shopping and cooking, and happily the eating! Although the concepts behind it are not difficult, it does require a bit of a mind shift.

But, I am getting there.

I don’t want to dwell on this business too much, because I do love my blog to be a happy place, and I am aware that my innards are probably not fascinating reading for you, or the loveliest thing to read about over a nice cup of tea. But sharing here really helps, it really does, so if I do make little forays into PCOS world, I hope you will bear with me, and accept my offer of a fresh-baked wholemeal apricot and apple muffin!

Winds of Change

Since my visits to the doctors and phlebotomists, and being told I have PCOS I have felt a bit scattered. I have found that people have been either breathtakingly kind (thanks Tash, Angela, Annastasia, Anna…) but also breathtakingly thoughtless. I had an email from someone at work who really should have known better, that left me speechless with anger. I had sent an email to them explaining that I now knew for certain that I was not pregnant, but I did have PCOS, that it would not involve surgery, but I might be a bit…fragile…while I got used to it all. The response was oh, glad it is not a big deal, by the way, did you want it to be a baby? Reading it in type like that it seems like a silly thing to be angry over. But you know, it IS a big deal to me. And what do you want me to say? That I had just got used to the idea that I was pregnant, and then found out that I wasn’t? That I had worked out when I would be showing, when I would be due? How I would tell my family?

I think things like that are too raw to share in an email like that. I think I am going to have to be a bit less sensitive too. The good thing is that I serenely clicked on 'delete' and kept all these thoughts to myself. It really does feel good to share them here though!

Whirlwind Weekend

This morning the air was just delicious, crisp and cool, but with the promise of warmth to come. Sometimes when I walk to work, I can feel the newness of the day. It is a certain quality to the air, that reminds me of the dampness to the wings of a newly-emerged butterfly, the scrunched-upness of a newborn baby, or the rustling of the papery stuff splitting as a new daffodil unfolds. So it was this morning, and it was soothing to have some peace, for we had a whirlwind weekend.

Although the breeze in your hair can be exhilarating and it is beautiful to watch autumn leaves tossed about in a gust of wind, whirlwind weekends can be tiring, as this was, although it was lots of fun. I went to work on Saturday, and then went straight from work to The Gardens of Easton Lodge for their annual Great Gatsby Jazz Party. I went last year for my hen party, and it was such a wonderful evening we went back this year. The Gardens are thrown open, and there is a small marquee which is open along one side, with a dance floor and a live jazz band. They all dress up in 1920’s clothes, and it is so elegant, you could really believe that you have slipped back in time. My lovely friend Anna appropriated for our group the last gazebo, and we settled in for the evening. Although we did not go for dressing in strict period, we did go for dressing up nicely, and everyone brought something along for a shared picnic. I drank babycham and had such a good time.

Anna and I were waiting for the loo when another jazz-goer remarked that we had really dressed up for the occasion. When she had gone, we both had to giggle, as we were wearing what we are often to be found wearing! A dress with beads, a sparkly cardigan, high heels and red lipstick!

I must be an old lady indeed, because as dusk fell, I was drifting backwards and forwards on a swing hung from a tree, thinking ‘oh, I wish I had a cup of tea!’ and indeed, when I got home (at very nearly midnight!) the first thing I did was to kick of my shoes, and make a cup of tea.

When the alarm rang on Sunday morning, I really wanted to snuggle down and sleep some more, but I had to get up as it was our turn to host brunch club. In a change to our usual format, we decided to take everyone up to Dedham, and go for a row on the river, then share a picnic on the riverbank. Although it clouded up and spat with rain once or twice, on the whole the weather was fair, and we had a lovely time. For the picnic, we had a sliced tiger loaf and oatcakes, lettuce, cucumber, and tomato sliced. There was hummus and Moroccan chickpea dip, slices of ham, piri piri chicken and thai chicken. There were sea salt and cracked black pepper crisps, balsamic vinegar and rosemary olive oil. Most importantly, there was a large jug of Pimms! For dessert, one of our guests had made the most heavenly chocolatey oaty biscuits, and another brought with her a delicious fruit salad.

Of course, once we had been for our row on the river, we had to have a cup of tea! Before we knew it, we were heading home for a quiet evening and an early night- and although our weekend had been lots of fun, I was really ready just to be at home.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

All Change

You can probably blame all the rain we have been having on me...it has been reflecting my mood recently. I am sure in the future I will look back on the last few weeks and see things differently, but for now I am struggling to cope with some changes.

I won't go into too much detail as I really want this to be a lovely place to visit, but I decided I had to explain why I have been silent so long. You see, the doctors are unable to tell me with certainty if I am pregnant or suffering from cysts on my ovaries. The long list of symptoms I told the doctor made him think I was pregnant, to the point of getting out his little wheel thing to predict the due date of the baby. When I failed the test, he slid it back into a drawer and called a colleague who put forward the cysts theory. I have been for blood tests and I get those results in a week. From there, who knows? The worst thing, apart from the awful nausea is the not knowing. I don't want to get attached to a baby that does not exist, but neither do cyst-adorned ovaries fill me with joy.

In the spirit of change I left work the other evening and walked straight into the hairdresser and had my hair cut. It is still longer than my profile picture, but is a lot shorter than it was. I like it better now it has some shape. It is a 30's style bob, and I feel like I should be wearing nightie-dresses and sparkly jewellery.

I feel tired by happy this evening, as we have had a real turn-out of our living room. Every single thing has been moved, cleaned, dusted or hoovered. We are soon to be taking delivery of a lovely new home for our little snake, and to fit it in, everything had to move. The writing desk is now where the snake was, who is now where the tv was. the tv is where the book cases were, which are now where the sofa was! I have rearranged every book I own, and made a dispaly of our wedding photograph, the wedding photographs of our parents, Carl's dried buttonhole, and a pretty pink polka-dotted tea cup candle.

We have a lavender candle burning, and I am trying to feel positive. I have felt soothed just sitting and blogging again, and visting some of my favourite blogs, so I will not be away so long again.

I think I hear the kettle whistling.....cup of tea for you?

Friday, 20 June 2008

A New Blog!

Good afternoon!

I have had one of those lovely days where you get a lot done- I have made some cookies for a bake sale at work on Monday, taken a walk to the local shops, bought some food for our little snake, had a cup of coffee and read the paper, done a load of laundry AND made a new blog!

Oh yes, a new blog! Since I have been doing more and making more, I decided I would like to keep the recipes/instructions/photos all in one place, so I have started 'mimi makes' which you can visit at http://littlesipsofteamimimakes.blogspot.com/

I will still be posting here, of course, so do come by and we'll have a cup of tea together. I magpied this idea from www.ljcfyi.com where Jenny has a projects gallery which I have long admired!

I hope you are having a scrumptious Friday!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Things To Do

This week I really must find out my prettiest notepaper and drop a line or two to a friend. She works in the library with me and has been off sick for some time now. I keep thinking I must write her, before I forget all the things I want to write, but somehow, time keeps slipping away!

I also want to choose a cake recipe to bake for our charity cake sale at work on Monday. I think cupcakes, but the kind with a domed top and piped on icing instead of the flat-top kind I have been making recently.

Last but not least, I am going to paint my toenails Cherries-In-The-Snow red, finish off the Tommy and Tuppence series I have been reading, and make some cards.

What is on your to-do list this week?

Each Peach, Pear Plum

...I Spy Tom Thumb! I remember this delightful children's book being one of the most popular on the shelf when I was a little girl, at school. I was standing in the queue for the grocery stall in the market, when all of a sudden that rhyme came back to me.

I have been finding it really hard to be restrained at the greengrocers recently, as the soft fruit season is well and truly under way. Standing and waiting, the scent of raspberries pricks at my nose and makes them irresistible to buy. I have memories of being perhaps three or four, and standing by the raspberry cane in my grandad's garden, pushing my fingers through the netting and eating raspberries warm from the sun. The punnets of strawberries look flushed with sweetness, and then there are mounded piles of apricots, cherries, peaches and nectarines. Such bliss!

I find myself asking for a punnet of this, a pound of that...and before I know it, I am well and truly weighed down! I must keep my eye out for gooseberries, as I love those poached with a little elderflower cordial and stirred into plain yoghurt.

It was as I was unpacking my newest treasures from their brown paper bags that I mused upon their names. Apricot, raspberry, peach....all fruits, but colours too. If I was to say that I painted my toes the perfect raspberry pink, you would know just which colour I mean. You can almost taste the colour. If Iwas to say that my new book has a soft apricot dust jacket, you would know the shade I mean.

And yet, these fruits were a multitude of colours. Some of the apricots were that warm cream colour, but several of them had deep sunset blushes upon their cheeks. Upon closer examination, all of the fruit, when examined closely was a multitude of fruity shades and hues.

My favourite breakfast at the moment is a bowl of homemade yoghurt, sharp and tangy, with a pile of soft fruit on top. I have to confess that I have been choosing the fruit for the colour as much as anything, but the flavours have been pretty wonderful even so. Sweet cherries, bleeding pink into the yoghurt, raspberry stains, glimpses of peach fless. A sunrise in a bowl for breakfast, so to speak!

Yachting Treasures

I have a favourite Aunt and Uncle who are amongst the loveliest people I know. There are so many lovely things about them- every Sunday, he makes boiled eggs for breakfast, and if they are not precisely right, he will cast them aside and start again. She makes the most divine sausage rolls in the world. They have a marvellous way of making you feel at home and relaxed. One of their quirks that makes me smile is their habit of going yachting after their Sunday breakfast eggs.

What is so quirky about yachting, I hear you ask? Nothing at all, except they do not do their yachting on water. Instead, yachting means visiting the local car boot sale! When we visited Mum and Dad for Father's Day, Mum gave me a little bag of treasure from her own recent yachting adventure- five tea plates patterned with love-in-a-mist.

I have one dinner plate patterned with love-in-a-mist, and these plates are the exact match for it! I was so pleased, and as I washed them up, I realised that love-in-a-mist really are my favourite flower. Have I told you the story before, of when I was a little girl, my grandad gave me a packet of mixed flowers seeds to scatter in the garden? Even now, some twenty years on, the love-in-a-mist still come up, and make me remember him, and happy childhood days.

Although I am trying to declutter a little bit, my natural magpie instinct is making me hope very much that dear Carl might take me yachting one Sunday soon, so I can look out for some other little treasures of my own...

So, How Did I Do?

My resolution to do more has been coming along rather beautifully. As well as making Vanilla Iced Cupcakes for Ben's Christening, I also made a batch for a friend's birthday, and iced the left over cakes with the names of my lovely husband and his co-workers, for a tea-time treat.

I enjoyed making Ben's Christening Banner, but it highlighted to me that we really do need to get a printer at home. My plan was to make the banner on my day off on Friday, but I forgot to print it off, so I ended up doing it Saturday evening instead! I could really get into making these banners. At first I really struggled with the idea of cutting up books, but having seen how scrumptious they turn out, I am seeing it as a good way to save a book that would otherwise have been sent to the pulper!

The lemonade....less of a hit if I am honest. I roasted the lemons and vanilla one morning before work, left them to cool during the day then finished it off that evening. I don't know if it was the vanilla or the soda water, but it reminded me quite a lot of soda stream from the eighties, but not in a good way! It was quite sharp, as I like it, but curiously sweet at the same time. Still, it was lovely to come home to a lovely lemony scent wafting through our little flat.

I did pick out a folder, and already it is quite fat with photocopied sock patterns and recipes for cheese-and-apple-bread and so on! Still, it is nice to feel a little more organized. Perhaps I shall have to get more folders, one for recipes, one for knitting patterns and so on.

I have been reading a lot, still Agatha Christie, but I have briefly left Poirot for the delights of Tommy and Tuppence.

One downside to my doing more is that I seem to be blogging less. I really enjoying composing little posts in my mind and taking pictures for my blog, but recently I have been so busy in the kitchen or crafting at my writing desk that I don't seem to get round to it. I shall have to remedy this!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Not My Usual Friday

I love waking up on a Friday morning when it is not my Friday to work. Usually I can look forward to spending the day with my Mum, but today is going to be a little different to usual. I needed to stay at home this morning to wait for the oven repair man to come, and for another man to deliver a new washing machine! Mum had lots of little bits to do at home, so we decided to take a raincheck on our usual Friday.

I really love the posts Alison at Brocante Home does occasionally, where she details the comings and goings of her day, so I thought I would have a go at doing that today. I will pop back every now and again to update the post.

Friday morning...I opened my eyes to the soft light of our bedroom lamp, and heard Radio 4 marking seven o'clock as Carl set a cup of tea down for me. He told me not to get up and make his lunch but stay in bed instead. As much as I do love making him a packed lunch, a late night last night meant I was more than happy for the extra nap time! I got up at half past seven, washed and dressed (in my favourite dress du jour, a simple black dress, upon which I have sewn buttons in the shape of flowers) and got the kitchen in order. I took out the rubbish and recycling, and whilst I puttered about, putting away the drying up and so on, put some rhubarb, vanilla sugar and raspberries on to stew, and the kettle on to boil. I made a breakfast of coffee and homemade yoghurt layered with rhubarb and raspberry compote and banana, topped with muesli, tipped the rest of the kettle of boiling water down my sink, and settled down with the new issue of Marie Claire Idees.

The phone rang, and I had a lovely chat with Mum. It is alwasy so nice to catch up, and when I had finished chatting, I went about our dear little flat, flinging open all the windows to let in the cool morning air. I checked up on a book Mum had spotted for me on ebay (Laura Ingalls Wilder Cookbook) then settled down to knit on my sock, and watch Come Dine With Me on catchup tv (I love to plan out menus that I would serve for that show!) , but thought I would just do a little blogging first.....

One moment all was quiet in my little flat, the next it was full of hustle, bustle, men, and the most fearsome noises! Two men worked on removing our old washing machine and brining in the new one, whilst another got to work on mending the oven. I was slightly embarrased when they asked for an old towel to mop up some water, and I realised I don't have any! We only have our new wedding towels...and most of my tea towels are pretty vintage affairs. Happily I found some old ones at the back of the airing cupboard! There was a strange smell of something scorching, and then as rapdily as they arrived, the men left, leaving me with a fully working kitchen!

After a celebratory cup of tea, I popped to the shops to get some vanilla extract, milk and cupcake cases. When I got back, I whipped up some vanilla cupcakes for Ben's christening on Sunday. I made 30 in all, and iced each one with a letter, so when put together the cakes spelled out his name. I iced them in white, with blue lettering, and then sprinkled the whole lot with edible glitter. Well, I am a fairy godmother after all!

Vanilla Cupcakes

Tie on your floweriest apron, and think sparkly godmotherly thoughts. Put on some pretty music, and preheat the oven to 200 oC/180 oC fan/gas 6.

Place 12 cupcake cases in a bun/mufffin tin.

Heat 75ml milk in a saucepan until nearly boiling, then stir in 1oz butter until melted.

Meanwhile, sift 3oz plain flour and 1/2 tsp baking powder into a bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk 2 eggs with 1tsp vanilla extract for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.

Whisk in 5oz caster sugar.

Whisk in the sifted flour and baking powder.

Whisk in the buttery milk mixture.

You will have a very runny batter; spoon it into the cupcake cases, and bake 10-15 minutes.

Mostly these come out nice and flat ready for the icing, but if you but mistakenly put in 1 1/2 tsp baking powder like I did, you will want to slice off the little peaks!

When the cakes are cool, stir 3-6 tbsp single cream into 6oz icing sugar, then beat in 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. The icing should be thin enough to spoon onto the cupcakes, but thick enough that it is opaque and you can't see any cake through.

Dust with edible glitter, and enjoy!

Evening falls, somehow....not entirely sure where the day has gone. I take a hot shower, trying out a new shampoo after my hair suddenly got tired of my old one...with my hair in a towel and my oh-so-soft dressing gown on, I settle on the sofa with a supper tray. I am so elegant tonight! I have fish pie for one, which is one of my favourite dinners, and a tiny bottle of babycham, which I drink, of course, from a vintage babycham glass. When I have finished this, there will be a tiny scoop of lemon sorbet, and a cup of tea. The lights are dim, and I have a dvd to watch - 'Cake' with Heather Graham, who looks very much like Goldie Hawn in this film. If you were here with me, we could paint our toes bright pink, and sample cup cakes whilst giggling over the film...

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Scrumptious Books

I have happily tripped over one or two lovely books recently:

The Woman's Comfort Book by Jennifer Louden

Radiant Body, Restful Mind by Shubhra Krishan

The Joy of Eating: The Virago Book of Food by Jill Foulston

all three are books to settle on the sofa with, accompanied by a pot of tea and a plate of shortbread. Yum!

Things To Do

Things To Do

In the spirit of doing more, I thought that maybe I would start posting a weekly to-do list, and then report back on my resulting adventures. This week is rather busy; I have to work Saturday, then I have a Christening on Sunday (at which I will be a godmother! Hurrah!) so I won’t have a lot of time for play. Even so, this week I am going to:

Make Roasted-Lemon Lemonade from this month’s Martha Stewart Living magazine

Buy a folder to keep my photocopied patterns/recipes/ideas/articles in

Make a ‘Ben’s Christening Day’ book leaf banner – see http://www.inspirecompany.com/bookprintletters.html

I think that will be enough for one week for me!