Friday, 27 November 2009

Cold and Bright

These days, it seems that I stir awake before the day does, and when I go out to work, the morning is still hazy and smudgy, as though it is a parcel still wrapped in tissue paper, waiting to be undone. When I come home at night, the day has been wrapped in a soft but cold blanket of night; the sky is inky dark, my breath hovers on the air in front of me, and the cold prickles at my nose. A thin sharp slice of moon is luminous in the sky and lights my way home.

There is a quiet kind of hush in my mind. I crave home and my home comforts. Being out at lunch time is good for me, as I get fresh air in my lungs and daylight on my skin, but I must learn not to go out into the town. I made that mistake today- I had to buy a birthday present, and visit another couple of shops. I had not brought lunch with me, so I needed to get that too. I felt so harried and hurried and hunted. I got the gift, but lunch was so hard...everywhere I went there were long queues or loud crowds, and when I eventually got back to work with a sandwich, the staffroom was heaving with people. Sometimes, I just need to be alone, away and quiet. I think that next time, I will take my walk in the park, and sit and watch a tree shiver away its last leaves, instead.

This is only a little post to say hello, because I need to be in bed before it is much later. Tomorrow, to Bury St Edmunds for the Christmas Fayre, and adventures there!

Goodnight, wherever you are! Don't forget to blast your sheets with the hairdryer before slipping between the covers!


Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Wouldn't It Be Wonderful If...

..I have been reading a lot of books recently about healthy eating and healthy living, because in a year or so, Carl and I want to start thinking about a family, and it is really important to me to give our baby the best start in life by being as healthy as I can.

Now I don't know about you, but 'healthy eating' and 'new year, new you' and all that kind of thing often seems ever so dull. I have been lucky enough to stumble across a few lovely books though,(Sophie Dahl's cookbook, Vidal Sassoon's Year of Beauty and Health, Jean Kent's beauty book from the 50's, Dr Pamela Peeke's Fit for Life, Champney's Year of Beauty and Health) and they have left me feeling much more inspired.

I was sitting on the bus yesterday, when I sudenly thought wouldn't it be lovely if next year I spent eating foods that are delicious and health giving? Whipping up batches of pear and cinnamon muffins for breakfast, crunching my way through bowls of different varieties of apple, savouring squares of dark chocolate, and having a lunchbox full of scrumptious things to look forward to each day.

Wouldn't it be lovely if I spent next year taking walks to look at the changing seasons, and feeling fresh air in my lungs? If I take the time to do stretching to make me feel more elegant when I walk?

Wouldn't it be wonderful to think of a year of skin-softening bubble baths and deep conditioning hair masques? Toes painted red and hand cream rubbed in? Scalp massages and facials...

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have year of nurturing and taking care of myself? That just sounds so much more appealing to me than the idea of 'must lose weight' 'must eat healthily' and so on. Rather than thinking about inches lost, I want to concentrate on vitality gained. I know I have talked before about having new years targets rather than resolutions, but I am definitely going to tweak things a bit more this year, and have a 'wouldn't it be wonderful if...' list.

It will have things like 'wouldn't it be wonderful if I chose a beautiful photo album from paperchase, and use it to keep a record of our year? Sticking in cinema tickets and menus from restaurants and pressed leaves and so on' and 'wouldn't it be wonderful if I had a tea cosy I had knitted to keep my pot of tea warm?'

Do tell me, what would be on your 'wouldn't it be wonderful if...' list?

And now I promise not to get too ahead of myself, and will stop thinking about new years, and start thinking about Christmas instead!

Blustery Day

This week has been one of the blusteriest that I can remember recently. There have been cool days, milder days, days speckled with rain, but all of them have been windswept. When I went out this morning, it was difficult to walk it was so blowy, and my hair was whipped about my head like a medusa. It has been really invigorating. Somehow, the day feels scoured clean and bare. It was really bright when I walked into town, and had all the freshness of a February day.

Carl is off to Paris tomorrow for work- just a day trip...although he will have to leave horribly early, before even the birds outside have blinked awake, he will be safe home again with me my bed time. I can't believe that we live in a world where we can just pop to Paris for the day! I know he is not going to have much time for anything other than work, but I am sending him off with a pocketful of Euros and a wish for Marie Claire Idees magazine!

After lunch with some dear friends today, I went for a little wander around the shops. Although I should be looking for Christmas gifts, my attention was caught by books...for me! I was very good and resisted, but I shall certainly be ordering them from the library. There is one about celebrations by Lucia Van Der Post which is all about lovely things to do for Easter/Guy Fawkes/Christmas and so on. There was another by the author of French Women Don't Get Fat about women in the workplace, and another one that looked good too, but for the life of me I can't remember what it was!

The book that I just can't put down at the moment is 'Jean Harlow, An Intimate Biography' which I picked up for 50p in a charity shop. I have always admired Marilyn and Audrey, and of course I had heard of Jean Harlow, but I had no idea about the life she led until I started to read. When I have finished catching up with you, I am going to pour myself a bubble bath and sink into the foam with a cup of tea and this book!

But before I do that, I must unpack my shopping bag. A rather eclectic mix- a little egg cup in the shape of soldier for Carl. You see, I have my TV-AM egg cup, and the only other egg cup is a vintage flowery one! Seeing as he has a mug with soldiers on it (the kind in the red outfit and the big black hats, not camoflaged soldiers!) I decided this would go well with it. Lakeland sell them, and they even come with a little cutter that makes the toast into actual soldier shapes! I bought a little box of mini baubles in Paperchase, and also a big brown gift box that I am going to use to wrap up Mum's Christmas gift. Lastly, a tiny bottle of red nail polish, because really, you can never have too many! Later this evening I will be watching Spooks and painting my toes red!

I have been busy crocheting for Christmas, and still have a few cards left to make...I am off to Bury St Edmund's Christmas Fayre on Saturday with Mum, and am really looking forward to a hot chocolate laced with Baileys while I am there. I have done quite a lot of shopping, but I feel like I have quite a way to go. Still, I don't feel stressed at all, so that is good!

Our organic veggie box was delivered while I was out...I know that it sounds silly, but opening it really is like opening a treasure chest. Everything looks so tasty and lush, and seasonal. It makes me feel very River Cottagey! Tonight I am going to cook some white fish in a little parsley sauce, which I will serve with some creamy mashed potatoes and broccoli. Then tomorrow we will be having vegetable soup, and supper on Friday will be potted crab on walnut and cheese bread with a wintery salad. I feel hungry just thinking about it! Just as well satsuma season is here, as they are my favourite fruit of all!

This has been quite a long catch up...I do hope your tea has not gone cold! Just a few other little thoughts, while they are in my mind...I have been stitching felt robins for decorations. I think I might do a little tutorial on them. They are ever so simple, but look rather sweet. Cath Kidston are selling something similary for £12 for 3, and I have made about 8 for £3! My gift wrapping scheme this year is going to center around brown paper and bright red. I plan to wrap gifts first in either red tissue paper or red sparkly paper, then wrap over the top of that in brown paper, then tie a bright red ribbon on. I have also bought some slightly darker than brown paper paper, which has white polka dots on it. It is a slightly Scandinavian flavoured style, mixed with Country Living style.

It has been so lovely to catch up...wherever you are, I hope you are having a wonderful afternoon!


Saturday, 14 November 2009

Scrumptious Saturday

You would think that when I was woken up by rain and hale tapping at my window on my one Saturday off a month, I would be a bit dispointed...and to be honest, I would have thought so too, but I find myself very cheery this wet Saturday afternoon.

I spent last night drinking pink champagne with my lovely husband and lovely friend, and as he stayed over, I got to do lovely things like make up beds with hot water bottles, and cook pancakes for breakfast.

It is terribly blowy here today, and wet and cold too, but we ventured out as there was a craft fayre on in the little village where my library is. I have to confess that I felt a bit let down....a lot of the stalls were franchises, and a lot of the crafts not really to my taste, but I am very glad we went. I bought a stained glass disc for my godson- it has the nativity scene on it, and I am hoping that it will hang in his bedroom every year and become special to him. We also bought a jar of honey, and a Christmas card, as it had given me an idea for a card to make next year.

Then home, where I found that Tesco had delivered us some dvds- An Affair To Remember and Brief Encounter....what better films for snuggling on the sofa and watching on a wet Saturday?

There is a little gloom in my saturday though...another of my favourite blogs has gone. It is farewell to the Vintage Kitten- you will be missed! And if you are reading, I did try to read your last post, but it said that I had to be an invited reader. I will miss you...I hope that you may visit here some time. If you fancy an email any time, you can get me at mrsclaxton07 AT hotmail DOT co DOT uk

I hope that you are all having a scrumptious Saturday, and the rain soon passes away. Until then, have fun splashing in the puddles!


Sunday, 8 November 2009

To Bed With Grand Music

It is little secret that I love the wonderful publishing house of Persephone, and have discovered many a new friend amongst the dove grey covers of their books. Until now, I had not read Marghanit Laski, but the synopsis of To Bed With Grand Music on their website enticed me. It sounded as though it would have a little of the same flavour of that most wonderful of books, Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day.

I started reading it on Friday evening, and finished it on Saturday evening, when I was partaking of a midnight bath to try and bring some heat back into my chilled body after going to see the fireworks.

I was amazed at how some things never change- the book opens with a husband and wife saying farewell as he goes off to fight in the War. They talk of how much they will miss one another, and the husband consoles the wife by saying that he won't promise to be physically faithful, as he couldn't do without a woman for as long as the war might last, but he would only sleep with women that didn't matter, so it wouldn't really be cheating. As a wife (and I suspect, a woman!) I found this viewpoint flabbergastingly awful. Perhaps I am being naive, but I would hate to hear my husband saying such things to me! The reason things never change though is that quite a few years ago, just before I met my wonderful husband, I had a boyfriend who was going to go to Europe, exploring. On one of our last afternoons together, he gave me almost the same speech! Needless to say, that was the end of him, and thank goodness, as a short while later dear Carl came into my life.

But the point remains...if for a moment World War 2 seems a long time ago, suddenly, it seemed like it could be happening to a sister, or a friend.

The story itself is very interesting...the wife goes from being utterly sure of her own fidelity to a series of affaires, and the unravelling of her character, her persuasions and justifications are very fascinating to read. Alas, she is not a terribly likeable character, but the story is so well written, I devoured it and shall certainly read more of this author. I think she is going to be a new friend!

I have one thing troubling me though, and that is that I cannot decide for the life of me how I feel about the ending. In one way, it is very neat, as a certain occurance at the start is met full circle at the end; but another end it is very messy as much is unresolved.

I wonder if perhaps we are meant to infer and intuit more than I did, or perhaps the things that remain unresolved are not as important as I think they are...but I would have liked to have known what happens next!

Sparkles, Sparkles, Everywhere!

After work on Saturday, I wrapped up nice and warm, and took a walk from the top of the hill where my little library is all the way to the bottom of the hill to the fireworks display. It was cold, dark, and everything that bonfire night should be.

It was wonderful to see so many families venturing out into the dark together, and there was a really happy buzz in the air. Our path across the fields was lit by a series of energy saving lightbulbs hung at waist height from a string. Amazingly, they looked really, really pretty, like fairy lights.

At the end of the path, there was a huge bonfire ready to be lit. We knew that the fireworks would be good, but had not realised that the fire itself would be so impressive. When it was lit, we held our breaths while we waited for it to catch. There were whispers of 'smoke!' and 'oooh, oooh, a spark!' and then suddenly, the whole thing was alive with liquid fire, dancing a tango in the evening breeze.

After it had been burning for half an hour, and we were just starting to get warm, the first screeching rocket heralded the start of the fireworks. They really were beautiful, and a good mix of sparkles, bangs, and starbursts. There were three 'sets' and then the finale, when our eyes barely had time to drink in one explosion of magic before the next was starting, and that had barely registered before another one went off. It built to a crescendo, and there was a split second of quiet before everyone broke into applause.

I have never liked the bangs of fireworks, but do love the prettiness in the sky. I wish I could capture some of their magic, but on the way home, Carl and I were talking about the magic of them, and despite all the articles in newspapers recently proclaiming that Halloween has overtaken Guy Fawke's Night, I couldn't help but wonder how they could think that, when across the country there are fields and fields of people, families, friends, old, young, all gathered to share in upturned-face wonder at the spectacular show of the fireworks.

Wherever you are, I hope that you have enjoyed the sparkle of fireworks this weekend.

Love, Mimi xxx

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Remember, Remember, The Fifth of November...

I walked home this evening in the dark, with the cold nipping at my nose and a smile on my lips. I can't help but smile when there is the scent of woodsmoke in the air, and the fizz-whiz-sparkle-crackle of fireworks going off.

There is something magical about fireworks to me, a kind of happy feeling I get, like when I read the opening section of the Lord of the Rings and read about the grand party, with fireworks. One of the things I love about them is that they are very seasonal things, and mark a particular night...although in recent years, people seem to let them off on almost any night over a month either side of November 5th itself, which I do not like!

Because it is what I think of still as a 'school night' we are not going out tonight; instead, later, after peppermint hot chocolate, we will go outside and write our names in the cold night air with golden sparklers. On Saturday, we are going to the village firework show, where Carl will stand behind me with his hands over my ears, because the bangs hurt them.

We will eat jacket potatoes and hot tea, and ooh and ahh, and I shall go home filled with the wonder of the magic of fireworks, and how much they can warm your heart on a cold autumn night.

They are not the only heart warming thing,, my lovely readers are. When I logged on to post this, and to wish you all a Happy Guy Fawkes Night, I found such kind really does help to know there are such kind wellwishers out there, thank you. I hope that your bonfire night is extra sparkly, with toffee in abundance!

Love, Mimi xxx

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Things I Have Learnt Today

Already, at 6:00 in the evening, the inky darkness is pressed against my windows, and I am sitting in a pool of lamplight. I have not done some of the things that I thought that I would (or should!) today, such as making some Christms cards, or working on Christmas gifts, but it has been a lovely day.

One of my dear friends visited me and I cooked my favourite green risotto (it is a Nigella recipe, where you puree some cooked peas with butter, parmesan, black pepper and nutmeg, then beat it into the risotto at the end of cooking time), I have had a hot bath, many cups of tea, read a little, visited the internet a little; and this is what I have learnt today:

1) Sometimes, having a day not go to plan is a good thing. I have not made any Christmas cards today, but I have had a thoroughly lovely day anyway

2) It is wise to check with your little brother before you buy something from his amazon wish list. My suspicions were raised that it was not very current when there were only two items on it, and both of those were no longer available new...luckily I checked before buying, because he had forgotten he had a wish list, and already had both things on it!

3) Just as you think a particular magazine is losing its sparkle, the next issue, the one that you think will be the last one you buy turns out to be fantabulous and amazing. Easy Living has a fab gold notebook for 'bright ideas' free with it, a great interview with Kirstie Allsopp (one of my favourite ladies!) and was completely back on form.

4) Aforesaid lovely Kirstie Allsopp has made a followup to Kirstie's Homemade Home....Kirstie's Homemade Christmas, to be shown in December on Channel 4. I can't wait!!

5) Scarlett Johansson is multi talented! I have always loved her as an actress, and wish I could emulate her retro-hollywood glamour look, but now discover she can sing, too! (Click on the title of this post to listen, and admire her new brunette look). I think she sounds a little like Amy Winehouse....without all the drink and drugs!

6) Most of the ladies I know love Richard Armitage, and will be glued to the tv tonight to watch him in Spooks. None of us fancy Harry, but are all very sure that they must not kill him off, or we shall be marching on BBC HQ!

I hope you are having a scrumptious snuggly evening,

Love, Mimi xxx

A New Book

Although working in a library, and being a library member saves me thousands of pounds a year in books, I do still spend some of my pennies on them. Sometimes, there is a book that I just can't wait to read, and other times there are books that are so scrumptious, I know that I want to own them, not just borrow them.

One book that I was very excited about was Cath Kidston's new book, Sew. Although I enjoyed her previous book, Make, I was a little disappointed that there was not much actual making in it, mainly embellishing bought things. (Which is not a bad thing in itself, but much better if she had called the book Embellish instead!)

I started to hear that Sew had very positive reviews, and I doubted that the library would buy it, becuase it comes with the fabric and haberdashery to make a bag, so decided to treat myself.

I found it at rather a good price on amazon, and ordered it early to avoid the postal strikes. And waited. And waited. And waited some more! I reported it missing not once but twice, so they sent me a new copy, and a month after my first order, it arrived.

It makes me want to pull out my sewing basket right away and start stitching. Apart from the bag, there are so many lovely projects in it. Naturally the majority of them are made in Cath Kidston fabric, but you could of course use other...although she has started a range of craft fabric which is cheaper than her normal range, so for a special project, the cost should not prove prohibitive.

There is a lovely pattern for bird or heart shaped lavender bags...I think they would make lovely Christmas gifts! Also, a patchwork blanket that I would like to make next time one of my friends has a baby.

They styling in the book is really delicious, and makes me want to embark on a Cath Kidston spree...but as I have been Christmas Shopping online today, and also have a sizeable stack of Christmas magazines to work through, I shall be restrained!

New Nightie

Much of the shopping that I have been doing recently has been Christmas shopping- but I was in a shop with Mum yesterday lunch time, when I saw something that I just had to have!

Now, curiously, considering that dogs terrify me, I love Scottie Dogs (well, pictures of them, not the creatures in the flesh) and as Mum was trying on coats, I spotted a nightie with a Scottie Dog on the front (click on the title of this post to go have a look at it!)

There were also some sparkly red socks that seemed to go with it very well, and before I knew it, I was at the till buying them!

You see, most of my nighties are all very pretty...silky little things that make me smile. But none of them are what I would call cozy, and with November bringing chilly evenings and mornings, cozy is just what I want.

I wore them last night, and was so toasty in bed....I think I will be getting ready for bed early tonight just so I can wear them for longer!

An early night is just the thing for a chilly evening- a hot bath first, and then to bed with a hot water bottle cover, the lamp on low, and an Agatha Christie novel. Perhaps Radio 4 in the background, so I can hear the hourly beep-beep-beeps warningn me when I have read too long and it is time to turn out the lights and snuggle down to sleep.

I hope that when you go to bed tonight, you are just as cozy as can be!

Love, Mimi xxx

Marzipan Acorns

I love autumn, it speaks to my soul somehow. Walking through mist wreathed mornings always seems special; spotting a spider's web jewelled with dew always makes me smile. I have an autumn wreath on my front door, and cinnamon coffee at my side. There is so much that is cozy and blissful about this time of year.

Just recently I have been very drawn to owls, oak leaves and acorns. I don't know why, they just please me indescribably. Mum made us the most beautiful curtains for our bedroom- they are a lime green with swirls of orange and brown acorns all over them. I like to draw the curtains early just so I can see them!

A few weeks ago, I was in my kitchen, looking over my stores, and planning a menu for Brunch Club (we held our annual pumpkin carving party, more of which in another post). I think that one of the nicest things about planning a menu is to plan a little sweet something to go with coffee. Just as you think everything is over, the food has been eaten and the plates are (hopefully!) empty, out comes a little something extra. Sometimes I make peppermint creams or fudge, but I wanted something really autumnal.

My gaze fell upon a block of marzipan, and all of a sudden, I knew just what to do!

Mimi's Marzipan Acorns

Make yourself a cup of cinnamon coffee, put on the radio, and pull up a chair to the kitchen table.

Divide a block of marzipan in half (I like to use the natural coloured marzipan, not the golden one There are recipes online to make your own marzipan from scratch, but I didn't fancy doing that this time!) Roll out one half, and stamp out some autumn leaf shapes (I used a maple leaf cutter as I don't have an oak leaf cutter). Draw on some veins with the point of a knife, then drape them over a rolling pin or similar, so they dry slightly curled.

Colour the other half of the marzipan a light green, or brown, depending on what food colouring you have. Watching the colour marble throughout the marzipan then become even as you knead is such fun!

Pull balls of marzipan off, and roll each into an egg shape.

Melt some dark chocolate, then dip the bottom third of each acorn into the chocolate (the fatter end is the end you want to dip).

Let the excess chocolate dribble off, then sit the chocolate dipped end of the acorn into a little bowl of vermicelli sprinkles.

Put a little dab of melted chocolate onto each marzipan leaf, then sit an acorn on top.

Serve to friends with hot coffee and a smile!

Hello There..

Normally when I have been away for so long, I breeze back in with with tales of adventures and other such lovelinesses which have been taking up my time. Alas, this time, I have sadder news.

The last few weeks have not been without their charms, and I do indeed have some scrumptious things to relate, but they have been overshadowed by a death and a hospital visit.

Carl's Grandad was taken ill a few months ago, whilst on holiday in Thailand. He had an emergency operation on a brain tumour there, and when he was well enough to travel, returned home where they discovered a secondary tumour, which they thought was benign, and that he may have a year or even more left to him. Sadly it is so hard to be accurate with these things, and a week ago Monday we were told to get to the hospital if we wanted a chance to say goodbye.

I am glad that we were there, because he did indeed die that night, just after we got home. It was terrible though. I have never seen anyone so ill, and even worse, heard breathing so painful and laboured. In a way I hope I never do again, because it is hideous to have to sit passively through such suffering, but then again, knowing we were there for him and one another was very special.

The worst thing is that we do not yet know when the funeral will be because of the operation in Thailand- the coroner is involved. I think it will be easier in a way, once we know when. Even whenthings are bad, it is easier to cope when you know what your situation is- it is the not knowing that is difficult.

Then, on Friday, Dad was taken in to hospital with heart pains. He has had heart operations before, and it looks very much as though he will need another. The good thing is that in himself, he feels well, and is very bright. Again, we are waiting though. The specialist needs to see him to decide if he is having an operation, and when. I feel like so much is unknown at the moment.

But, as I said, the last few weeks have not been all sadness. I have tales for you of marzipan acorns, adventures at the sewing machine, walks in autumn mists, and other such lovely things. So, put the kettle on, and lets catch up.