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 and the lovely idea of toppling into autumn here 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 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.

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!