Friday, 20 March 2009

Sybaritic Spring Afternoon

One of my favourite books is The Gentle Art of Domesticity by the lovely Jane Brocket, who you can read over at In one of the chapters of this scrumptious book is a memory of an essay written as a student, and teacher's comment 'what a sybarite!' if only you take 'addicted' out of the definition, being a sybarite seems a lovely thing to be. I am going to alter the definition for the way I think of it, as being 'a coinoisseur of luxury and pleasures of the senses' for however lovely the subject of the addiction may be, the nature of addiction itself, is not.

Which is a roundabout musing on the nature of luxury and the pleasures of the senses, and the way I am spending my afternoon. It is a wonderful spring day, which seems all the more of a gift as it was born wreathed in chilly mist this morning. I have every window in our little flat open to let in the Spring, but I have the bedroom door closed and the curtains pulled. I am sitting in bed, with a mound of feather pillows at my back, a cup of tea in my favourite floral mug at my side, and a pile of books and magazines next to me. I have had a nap, been texting with a dear friend, and am going to do a little cutting out of magazine pictures for one of my scrapbooks. The books I have include 'Knitting' by Sarah Dallas that the library ordered in for me, so I am also daydreaming of yarn and needles.

It feels really decadent to be in bed in the afternoon, with Radio 4 in the background, and not to be ill! You see, I had such a busy day yesterday- I worked until 6:00pm, caught the bus back into town and then worked in my other library until 10:15pm as we had the author Xinran speaking....and then had to be in work for 8:30am this morning! I was feeling so sleepy this morning that I was really glad that I had 'time off in lieu' or 'toil' this afternoon- they gave me back the extra hours that I worked last night. The thing that kept me going this morning was the thought of an afternoon nap, and sybaritic pleasures!

I feel the cool breeze blowing through the curtains, but am pleasantly warm as I am wrapped in my soft dressing gown, and have on my feet the slippers that I crocheted for myself. At my back is a fluffy cloud of feather pillows.

I can hear the gentle murmer of Radio 4, and a garden full of birds singing so beautifully to me. I love to hear 'the beeps' on Radio 4 marking the passing hours.

I can taste hot fragrant tea, and crumbly shortbread, just the thing for a light snack where the aim is to tempt the taste buds rather than fill the stomach!

I can see a tempting pile of books and magazines, my favourite mug, and the new avon catalogue waiting for my attention, along with one of my scrapbooks. I have one scrapbook for pictures of clothes/styles/makeup that I like, and another for inspirational, beautiful pictures from magazines such as Country Living. I really want to start another with articles that I want to read, and to start a box folder like my Mum has, labelled 'ideas to try'. It is so intriguing, I am going to beg her for a peep one day!

I can smell the shortbread next to me, and there is an echo on the air of the Past Times Lavender Room Fragrance that I sprayed just before I got into bed. I love room pefumes, but would never touch an aerosol or an air freshener! So not only a sybarite, but a snob, too!

Recently, when I come here to share little things about my day, I will mostly have a few ideas for things that I want to include, but it tends to come straight from my heart onto the page, with a few tweakings for clarity. Occasionally though, I have a post that brews for a little while, like percolating coffee. I have one in my mind just now. Spring flowers are perhaps not the most original thing to write on, but they are my favourite of all flowers, and I have seen so many beauties on my walk to work each day, that I really want to give them a post of my own. Just this morning, there were daffodils of every kind, tete-a-tete, narcissi, hyacinths, crocuses,violets, even some tulips...I feel like nature is somehow emptying her jewellery box and scattering it over the earth for us to enjoy.

I really hope that at least one person who visits here and reads this will plan themselves an afternoon of sybaritic pleasures, and really savour them.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Fabulous Friday, Wonderful Wednesday

Although I do adore my new job, I do miss having every other Friday to spend with my Mum. Instead, it is one Friday a month. The good thing is that we really make them count! This last Friday started a little rockily, as my bus was half an hour late, and I got heckled by some drunk tramps for that time, but once I reached my destination, the day was just lovely. First Mum and Dad and I shared a cup of coffee in my favourite coffee shop. It is a little independent shop, and the view out of the window is the beautiful church opposite, and the heavenly florist next door. They do a 'Continental Coffee' which is coffee with cream and chopped nuts, utter bliss!

After this, Dad went home and Mum and I went on to Tiptree. There is a veritable Aladin's Cave of a craft shop, and we spent a happy hour in there. I got some wool for a present I am making, in shades of dusky plum and muted lilac, as well as some ribbon, marabou feathers and tiny diamantes for my Easter project. Then we went on to Perrywood which is my favourite nursery. It is a real tonic, just wandering around you breathe more deeply and gently and relax right away. We decided to go back into the town where we had started the day with coffee, to look in the charity shops, and to go into the florist, as it stocks the most wonderful old fashioned things for Easter. I came away with plenty of treasures, and when it came time to go home, rather than go on the bus, Mum drove me back so I did not have to carry my little hoard!

Because I will be working on Saturday, I get a day off in the week, and today is one of those days. I am making a real effort not to do too much on these days, as it is so easy to rush around and wear myself out! We had a flat inspection due sometime this afternoon, so I didn't really want to be out for that, so a day puttering at home it was to be. Bliss! I finished knitting and sewing together a hot water bottle cover that a friend at work asked me to make for her, and then crocheted most of one half of a pair of slippers. I just have two rows to go in slip stitch edging, so I shall do that in a bit. My friend Angela came for lunch, and we had a lovely time sipping tea, and nibbling on a chicken salad and catching up. I have some potatoes baking in the oven for tea later (I am going to scoop them out, mash them, then refill them with some left over vegetarian shepherds pie filling, top them with the potato and put them back in the oven) and plan to make a cup of tea in a moment. Later on I will be working on my Easter project, and I think a long hot bath is on the cards later....

Wherever you are, I hope that the sun is shining on you and you are having a wonderful day too.

Springing Forth

Sunday was for me the first day of Spring. I don’t think that the first proper day of Spring can be determined by the date, or even by the weather, for last Sunday the morning was just as spring-like (although the afternoon was filled with hail!), but a sudden shift in the atmosphere, and a feeling you get. For me it is like Mole flinging down his whitewash brush and burrowing out into the spring air; of everything bursting forth in abundance, and my heart dancing along with the daffodils nodding in the breeze. The first day you can happily go out without your coat, and want to fling open every window to let out winter, and let in Spring.

How else to celebrate such a day than with a thorough airing of our little nest? All the washing went out to dry on the line in the breeze, and our windows were as open as they would go to let in that lovely breeze. I decluttered, hoovered everywhere (even along the ceiling in case of any tiny cobwebs!) scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom both, and then sat down with a cup of tea to drink it all in.

Carl asked me if I didn't think that I should be spending more of the day relaxing rather than working so hard. Whilst it sounded very tempting, I think that the feeling you get when everything is all neat and clean and tidy is just so scrumptious that it is worth the work!

One of the best bits about having a clean canvas is getting to pretty it all up. Along my windowsill I have a white velvet bunny peeking out, which I bought a year or so ago at Paperchase, a vase of daffodils, and three polyanthus. Oh, and a tiny bluebird on a clip that I bought in a florist on Friday. Such fun to come home to!

Il Sole De Luna

A week ago Friday, at lunch time, you would have found me in a tiny café in South Kensington, sipping wine with a friend before we visited the V&A ‘Magnificence of the Tsars’ exhibition. The café was called Sole de Luna, the single/lonely moon depending on your translation. I could have sat there for hours, I was in good company, the pizzas we ate were handmade and good, and we had no need to be anywhere at any particular time. I wish I could go into the whole day, but it would take me too long (but the exhibition was truly magnificent, and we also went to Evensong at Westminster Cathedral, which is strikingly beautiful- and the service was sung in latin by the choir, which sent shivers down my spine, and later still, we returned to South Kensington for a long dinner at Dino’s which included the best carbonarra I have had, several coffees and grappa for the men) and also I fear I would be distracted from my intended subject…the moon.

The moon has been cropping up again and again in my thoughts recently. A week or so ago, I came out of Danbury Library to come home, and the sky was inky, but lit up by a sliver of a crescent moon which seemed to be lit from within. Above it was a star shining brilliantly. At the time I thought that perhaps it was one of those occasions when you can see one of the planets, or some such thing, and meant to check on the internet at home, but alas, time escaped me…

Opposite the library, where I cross to catch the bus is a bank of grass, and there are yellow and purple crocuses in abundance there. The yellow crocuses, in particular, look beautiful at night. They close up slightly, and look like candles, burning through the night until morning comes again.

I learnt a trick once, to tell if the moon is waxing or waning. If it makes a ‘C’ shape, think contracting, getting smaller, waning. If it makes a ‘D’ shape, think dilating, getting bigger, waning. I like being able to look at the moon and knowing if it is in a waxing or waning phase. I also like being able to recognise a few constellations- Orion is the one I can always do, as well as the Plough and the Seven Sisters, but I would like to learn more.

The other evening, when I walked home from work, it seemed that I was walking in a world of smudges. The moon was a hazy smear against the sky, and the air was almost gauzy. Rather than being obscuring, the feeling of being veiled in shadows was really peaceful, and I felt almost insulated against the world.

Thinking back to sipping wine during a Friday lunch time at Il Sole De La Luna, and having mused on the moon for the past week, I cant help but think that it would make a lovely title for a small booklet of lunar-inspired poetry.

Catching Up

I have been reading a beautiful post over at Brocante Home, in which the lovely Alison comments that through blogging she has become more aware of the cyclical nature of her life and emotions, and blogging. She says that in March she disappears, and without meaning to, I have as well. I have had a really busy few weeks, lots going on at work, lots going on at home, and lots going on in my mind. Just as spring seems to be finally springing (although the weatherman assures me it will be chilly again by the weekend), I feel like I am germinating somehow. I have been burrowing about for all kinds of information, having long email conversations with a dear friend in which we end up in discussions about live, love, the universe, and everything inbetween. I feel a strong sense of renewal, of the daffodils bursting forth into flower, of throwing windows open and spring cleaning.

I have been reading a lot as well, and have decided that I really, really must start copying down quotes from books the very moment I read them, as far too often I get swept along in the story, and then forget whereabouts the quote was…and I read a lovely piece the other day, about how perhaps there are certain books that we are destined to read, that seek us out, call to us until we find them. I am almost certain that the book was the wonderful The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I loved this book so much that when I finished it, I did not want to return it to the library. I did, because I knew there was a waiting list, but I felt that if I kept it near, somehow I would not have finished it. The library catalogue record, which sparked my interest, had this to say about it: It's January, 1946, and writer Juliet Ashton sits at her desk, vainly seeking a subject for her next book. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from one Dawsey Adams of Guernsey - by chance, he's acquired a secondhand book that once belonged to Juliet - and, spurred on by their mutual love of Charles Lamb, they begin a correspondence. But it is so much more than that. Desperately sad in places, yet overall wonderfully uplifting; it gently stretches and educates you without you realising it. It is one of those books that slips down easily, yet gives you much to think about.

I would love to have had the opportunity to read more by Mary Ann Shaffer, but alas her health declined and she needed the help of her niece to finish the book, and died shortly thereafter. I feel sad that there are many other books she might have written, but never will now. It makes me wonder, what things are there that we could be marvellously good at, if only we found time to try our hands? I know that writing a book is not something that you just wake up and do, you have to work at it, of course, but Mary Ann found that time, and oh, how she (and we!) were rewarded. Perhaps like me, there are so many little things you would like to find time for, one day. One of my things is that I would love to make a patchwork quilt, and I do long to write books too. I cannot help but think how awful to try making a quilt, find that I love it, and perhaps have a talent for it, but for it to be my only one because I have run out of time. This is not meant to be as melancholy as it sounds, but more a call to arms! If all of us carved out just a little time to try the thing we long to do, imagine how many hidden talents we might unearth! You don’t crochet now, but in a few weeks or so, you could be well on your way to finishing the first in a series of cushions that will be handed down and snuggled upon by generations to come. You can’t cross stitch yet but the spring sunshine will light the sampler that will hang on the wall. You buy your croissants today but by next weekend you could be removing your first batch from the oven…they don’t have to be big things…but how much sweeter our lives will be, when we give ourselves time to try!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Scrumptious Sunday

Although there is a (rather large) part of me that longs to have proper two day weekends every week, instead of once a month, I have to say that in a way, having so weekends off has made me determined to spend the weekends I do have, and my singular Sundays on their own to be the most scrumptious possible. I hope that if and when I do have more two day weekends I will continue to keep them special...but in the meantime, here is my scrumptious Sunday.

There was only time for a very short lay in, but as we woke up later than usual anyway, I didn't mind too much. Of course we started the day with a cup of tea, because really, there is no other way to start, and then while Carl took himself off for a shower, I sat and sipped my tea while listening to Radio 4 and reading Marie Claire (which has a free tube of Neals Yard Frankincense Face Cream with it this month!) and then took myself off for a shower. I have some Amazing Grace conditioner by Philosophy which leaves my hair baby soft and smelling so lovely, so I decided to treat myself to a squirt.

Then dear Carl and I set out to town, and arrived at Loch Fyne just as they opened their doors, for breakfast. Ever since hearing that they do breakfast, I have wanted to go, as it is one of my favourite restaurants. We both ordered poached smoked haddock with a poached egg, and had toast and jam to start. The jam was those tiny little glass jars of Wilkin and Sons jam, which always makes me smile as we gave these as favours at our wedding!

It was blissful just sitting and sipping coffee, nibbling on toast and talking away. After that, it was on to the cinema, where we saw The International- Carl's choice of film I hasten to add! He really enjoyed it, I less so....although the story was well thought out, it was violent in places (I had to hide my face in my pashmina at one point!) and I did not think the ending was a very positive one....

We stopped to collect the Sunday papers before returning home to share them. Somehow the afternoon drifted away, but so pleasurably. I had a dip in the bath (yes I know I had a shower earlier...I just find a warm bath so relaxing!) and then made dinner. I can't remember if I have shared this recipe just in case not:

Mimi's Potato and Onion Comfort Bake

1) Put on your floweriest pinny and preheat the oven to 150 oC
2) Peel 3-4 medium potatoes, and slice as thinly as you can
3) Peel 2 medium onions and cut them into thin half moons
4) Layer in an ovenproof dish potatoes then onions, potatoes then onions, then potatoes again
5) Pour over 1 cup of stock
6) Cover with foil and bake in the oven for an hour
7) Take yourself off to read The Bolter by Frances Osborne
8) Take the foil off, and pour over a tin of macaroni cheese
9) Turn the heat up to 175 oC and bake for 20 minutes more
10) At the same time, slip some organic sausages into the oven to bake

This makes enough for two generous servings, and then leftovers for another night for too as well!

Other things that are making me smile this Sunday are your lovely comments. It is so lovely to hear from people, to realise that there are actually people who take a few minutes out of their day to visit me here. I once read a blog that started off as a beautiful read, but sadly the authoress became completely obsessed with how many comments she did or did not get. The blog really suffered for it, and I really don't want that to happen here, so I do try ever so hard not to think about comments too much...but I can't tell you how lovely it is to know that my words don't just go out into cyberspace, but to lovely ladies who read them!

Also, a dear friend has just booked the two of us onto the most wonderful day course imaginable! At the end of May, she and I will be taking a trip to Norwich to learn vintage hair and makeup techniques of the 40s and 50s! Think red lipstick and finger waved hair! I can hardly wait!

I hope this post does not sound too smug...there has been plenty of daily rounds and work this week, but when I have days as lovely as this, I just really want to share them with you! I hope that wherever you are you are having a wonderful weekend...