Wednesday, 27 August 2008


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 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

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:

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:

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 (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? 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.