Saturday, 17 May 2008

Hello, All!


This is just a quick little note to say that we had such a wonderful time in Bruges- chocolate a plenty, lots of sights and adventures- and I am looking forward to a good long blogging session later, with lots of photos to show as well. For now, dear Mr Carl needs to use the laptop, so au revoir for now, have a fabulously scrumptious Saturday, and I look forward to telling all later!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Early to bed, Early to rise...

Seeing as I have to be up and about to leave our dear little flat for a half hour walk to town at 5.30am tomorrow morning, I will be early to bed tonight! Why so early? Because our train bound for Bruges leaves Kings Cross St Pancras at 7.55, that's why!

We are staying overnight, then coming back Tuesday morning. I will be abandoning my afternoon tea for Belgian hot chocolate instead, climbing an unfeasibly tall bell tower, and taking a boat on the canals.

See you Wednesday to share adventures and pictures! Hope you have all enjoyed brilliant sunshine and a scrumptious Sunday today,


Friday, 9 May 2008

My First Sock!

Poor Mum was not feeling well today, so we didn’t spend the day together as we normally would. Instead, I took a gentle walk into town, and had an iced coffee while I read the paper, and then ventured into the park, where I sat on a bench in the shade, and finished my first proper sock. (I say proper as in four-needled-finished-with-Kitchener-stitch. I have made two-needle slipper socks before, but not proper socks!)I was so excited I could have turned cartwheels! Silly me though, as soon as I got home, I cast on the next sock, but knitted four rows before I realised I had the pattern slightly off...I should have been starting on knit one purl one every row, but I was doing purl one, knit one every other row. Oops! Still, at least I noticed before I got too far. Already I am thinking ahead to my next socks....something simple in a dark, fine, soft yarn for Mr Carl, I think.

~There will be a picture, but the light in here is so poor tonight, it will have to wait until tomorrow!

Today I Am Wearing...

...a white cotton Victorian-style nightie, with a cardigan and a twinkly brooch. The cardigan was knitted by my Mum, and is a plum colour shot with violet. Just right for wafting about the house in bare feet with bright pink toenails, and feeling airy but cosy all at the same time.
I have started my own little welcome-home ritual now that the weather is so much warmer. When I get in, I throw open all the windows, and change into my nightie-and-cardi outfit. Then I fill a washing up bowl (kept just for this purpose!) with some cool water, and pour myself a cup of iced tea or coffee, and sit with my feet in the cool water for a little while. Such bliss!
What warm-weather-ways are there for you to welcome yourself home?

A Stroll Through Dedham

Afternoon Tea at Dedham

More Pictures From Dedham

Mimi Afloat!

The BBC has failed me, but in the best possible way. For days and days, their weather forecast for my little area of the country has been rain, rain, rain. So, we didn’t plan much for the weekend, except for lots of cups of tea, and listening to a talking book together. Saturday dawned so beautifully, that we decided we should make the most of it while we could, packed up a picnic and drove up to Dedham. Dedham is one of the most beautiful, quiet little villages, and is just down river (or perhaps up river?) from Flatford Mill, which was painted by John Constable.

We timed our arrival well- it was lunch time, so most people were eating, which meant that there was not a large queue to hire a boat, and go for a row. Last year when we came, we had lunch reservations so only had time for a half hour on the river- this time, we pushed the boat out (sorry!) and hired the boat for an hour. Carl rowed first, while I reclined happily back in my seat, with my crocheted shawl about my shoulders. There were some beautiful little ducklings bobbing about on the water, and in the distance I could see a large house peeking through some trees which could have been Longbourne, or, if I squinted a bit, Pemberley.

Then I took the oars, and really enjoyed rowing, although perhaps it would be fair to say that I rowed with more enthusiasm than skill! After a while, we came to a bend in the river, where a beautiful tree was trailing its branches low over the water, and decided to pull in there for our picnic lunch. Crunching an apple and watching the world sail by, we really felt so content.
After that, we decided that we would have a go at rowing together, which was so much fun we kept rowing like that for the rest of our time on the river. We went a bit further towards Flatford, before turning round to come back to the dock. It felt so lovely sitting on the same seat together, and each taking an oar. I felt like it is a good metaphor for marriage, being in the same boat, working together and all. It was terribly romantic as well, and I really felt that I should have had a little book of poetry to read from! It was a little bit bittersweet at one point as well, as rowing together made me recall the closing words from Aunty Alex’s many, trust few, always paddle your own canoe.

When we had returned the boat, we took ice creams and had a stroll along the river bank until we came to a spot that looked perfect for stretching out upon. There Carl put his hat over his face and had a little siesta, while I layed with my head on his lap, watching other people row up and down the river, and just letting my mind wander and meander about.

It seems that absorbing so much beauty is quite tiring as we were both yawning when we got up to walk back into the little village, and rather peckish too. So what else to do, but to take afternoon tea? And where better to do so than at the Essex Rose Tea Room? The timber-framed building is almost 500 years old, and most of the length of one side is taken up with windows made up of hundreds of tiny squares of glass. We sat at a table for two, and had the Tiptree Cream Tea (the tearoom is owned by the Tiptree Jam Factory, which is why it is a Tiptree Cream Tea) which was a large pot of tea, and two scones each along with clotted cream and tiny tip strawberry conserve. Utter bliss!

Feeling rather full we took a gentle stroll through the village. There was so much to see there, so many little details to store away in the mind. There was the most beautiful wisteria climbing across several of the houses, a wonderful muted lilac colour, at once vibrant and understated. We walked past a pub which had the most wonderful thing running along all of their windows- a book shelf! And better yet, the books were all vintage, old, beautiful books. I wish I could have seen their spines to see what they were, but just seeing them from outside was lovely.
It was the kind of day that you wish would never end and I have a feeling that it won’t be very long before we have another little trip to Dedham. Who knows, perhaps next time we might be able to row as far as Flatford!

Love Many, Trust Few, Always Paddle Your Own Canoe

After so many days of rain, the day dawned bright and sunny, which was soothing to me as it was the day of Aunty Alex’s funeral. It felt slightly odd- we sat near the front of the church, first Mum, then Dad, then my sister, then me, then Carl. Although I was very much part of our family party, I also felt slightly apart, in a new little unit with Carl. I found so many parts of the service upsetting. I thought it was barbaric in some ways; Uncle Bernard, having to sit there, composed, while surely all he wanted to do was scream. I hated seeing him so alone, as well. When he walked in, although he was with family, you could see how isolated and desolated he was. When Aunty Alex’s son got up to do the eulogy, he was near to tears for much of the time, and all I could think was that he should not be alone up there.

Without wishing to be maudlin, it has made me think about how I would like things to be when I go. Having said that it was barbaric, it was also very beautiful and peaceful. There is something special about the process of the service, about being able to stand and cry, reminisce, and smile through the tears. A kind of release, at the end. I was rather shocked at the start of the service- I knew of course, that she hated the name Alexandra, and was only ever known as Alex, but what I didn’t know- and neither did much of the rest of the family- was that her name was actually Edith Alexandra. The eulogy ended with one of Aunty Alex’s favourite sayings –love many, trust few, always paddle your own canoe. Wise words.

We didn’t go to the crematorium afterwards, but instead went into a favourite little coffee shop, and had tea and scones and teacakes- Alex’s favourites- and remembered her together instead.
As we got home, the sky darkened and the heavens opened. Somehow, it felt just right, and it was good to be able to potter about the house to the rhythm of the raindrops.

East or West, Home Is Best!

I was flicking through the television listings the other day, when I noticed a programme called ‘I Have the Best Home in Britain’ and it got me thinking. Surely, we ALL have the best home, or should aspire to...the best home for us. My idea of the best home is probably a bit different from yours, and yours from mine. I didn’t watch the programme, but I really hoped that ‘best ‘ was not being used to mean biggest or most expensive. To me, our little flat is not my dream home, partly because we do not own it, but I still want to make it my best home NOW. The things I have in it, I want to be pretty to look at and lovely to use. I want it to be the best it can be for now, while at the same time happily dreaming about my dream home. Does that sound contradictory? It does to me, a little bit, but I know what I mean. I want to fully appreciate and love where I am now, but still know where I want to be.

My Aunty Dottie is an inspiration to me when it comes to the comforts of home. She takes care over everything, to make it as nice as can be, but this does not always mean expense. Her little grandson, who was only six at the time, was having a nap on her bed. He noticed that the great pile of soft pillows smells of her perfume, and said ‘Grandma, you have the NICEST things, don’t you?’ which I thought was just lovely.
This is a bit of a ramble, but it is just little things like knowing I have ice cubes in the freezer, made of coffee, so I can offer iced coffee without it getting all diluted. A tube of scrumptious hand cream in the bathroom so whoever washes their hands their can enjoy soft skin. A footbath of cool water at the end of a hot day, for a cool welcome home. A carefully angled lamp that casts a soft, peaceful glow in the bedroom, that is restful to be bathed in. All the little things that make home, home.

Now let me tell you a little bit about my dream home. My dream home has a little garden, with a tree that blossoms in the spring time, and I can have picnics under. There is at least one step up to the front door- impractical for pushchairs maybe, but perfect for standing a carved pumpkin upon at Halloween. There is a larder, which I am going to make pretty by lining the shelves with paper, and crocheting some pretty lace edging to go along the shelves. There will be at least one fireplace, with a proper fire, and a mantelpiece that I can make little seasonal displays upon. I am going to decorate one room, perhaps the living room, or maybe the bedroom, by papering one wall with flowery paper, and then painting the rest a pale colour, picked out from the paper. The window frames and woodwork will be painted a deeper shade of this colour.

Sometimes, when I close my eyes and think hard enough, I can almost hear myself turning the key in the door.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Wow, has April ever been wet?! I really feel that for the last month I have posted about rain, rain, and more rain! And while it has been very wet, it has also been very beautiful, and if the saying 'April showers bring May flowers' is true, well we are in for an abundant May indeed.

I have got a good start on the May flowers- I was shopping in the little market opposite work at lunch time, and while I was queueing up to pay for my potatoes, my gaze fell upon a small crate on the flower stall. The treasures I had spotted were Cornish Anenomes, and I really could not help myself, and bought a bunch which are now adorning my writing desk.

The other photograph is the best shot I could get of our little snake, Casper. He was much, much smaller than when we first knew him. I spent quite a long time trying to get a good shot to show you all, but every time I got him lined up for a good snap, he would move his head! The lovely Tash at kindly posted some pictures of her lovely dog, Gwen, the other day for me, and in return I promised some Casper pictures, and here he is! He is a Carolina Corn Snake, 2 1/2 years old and still growing. He is not poisonous, he is a constrictor, and he is the friendliest little thing you could imagine.

There have been many lovely occurrences in this last week of April, and first day of May. Sunday saw a lovely long chat on the phone with Tash, and when I came home from work on Monday, suddenly, I felt like a bride again. Outside our front door is a tree which is just smothered with frothy white blossoms. As I put my key in the door, a sudden gust of wind made the tree shiver and shake a whole heap of blossoms on me. It really reminded me of the confetti throwing at our wedding. Mum and I saved and dried out all the flowers we were bought for a year or so before the day, and Mum made little card sachets for the flowers, and everyone had their own little sachet of dried flowers to throw. The photographer said that he would count to three, then everyone should throw the confetti. Then he said that we would have a practise run, that he would count to three, but no one should throw the confetti. Dear Carl's lovely Nan didn't get the hang of it at all, and showered us on the first go! Such a happy day.

Wednesday evening, I was so tired that I had an early night, and lay in the dark listening to the pitter patter of rain on the windowpane. Normally I read before I go to sleep, but I was just too tired, and it was rather nice just laying in the dark feeling deliciously sleepy.

As well as buying my Cornish Anenomes in the market today, I also treated us to a punnet of early raspberries. They made a really divine dessert with a cup of coffee this evening. I am going to layer the rest with homemade yoghurt and muesli for breakfast tomorrow.

I am not really looking forward to tomorrow- it is the funeral of my Aunt. It will be a sad day, but a dear friend did say to me today that we should make it a celebration of her life, so hopefully that will indeed be the tone for the day.

I am going to retire to the bathroom in a little while, for a bath filled with Liberty Rosehip and Clover bubbles, a cup of rose scented tea, and a guide book to Bruges, so I can day dream of chocolate and rides on the canal, and hot chocolate and medieval buildings.

I hope May brings you many flowers!