Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Art of Feminine Beauty

Alas, this is a shorter post than I had planned, for having just composed and typed it all, blogger informed me that I had a 'conflict' and wiped the lot! Bah!

I had been writing all about my love of vintage women's magazines from the 40s and 50s, and beauty books from the same time. I am lucky enough that my library has not only procured for me a copy of The Art of Feminine Beauty by Helena Rubinstein, but the copy they have obtained for me was published in 1930! I love to think of all the other women who have read it, all the different dressing tables upon which it has sat. I wonder if they were young ladies, impatient to put their hair up and wair make up, or brides-to-be wanting to be as lovely as possible on their wedding day. Perhaps women who were beautiful to everyone else, but had one tiny flaw they wanted advice on. I think of whoever it was who bought it new, if they saved up their pennies for it, and wonder which tip they tried out first. How did it come to be bought for a library? And once it was there, how many ladies borrowed it?

One thing I have commented upon before is how nowadays, many cosmetic firms try to scare and bully us into buying their creams for our crows feet and wrinkles and sagging skin, while back then ladies were romanced into buying things to enhance their loveliness. How much nicer is the positive attitude!

Here are a few passages from the book so far: is neither wholly the gift of God, nor the gift of the cosmetician. An important part is always played by the desire to be lovely, and the willingness to make small daily sacrifices to achieve it. If you follow the rules for your type and age, you will keep your loveliness to the end of your days.

...a woman's beauty will be a gracious curve from youth to, shall we say, later youth; for the weight of the years seems to be resting ever more lightly on women's shoulders.

...there are others who, not considered to be beautiful in their younger days, have in later life developed into recognised beauties. Such women, by intelligent cultivation of their persons, make for themselves a second and even a third youth more lovely and impressive that that of the springtime of life.

...Every intelligent woman who really cares can become at least good-looking. How much farther she goes will depend upon herself.

If you click on the title to this post, you will go to the lovely Fleur De Guerre's blog, where she details a vintage-inspired skin care routine. I have been following this for a few weeks now, and I love feeling connected to all the hundreds of women before who have stood at their dressing tables, or in front of bathroom mirrors, massaging cold cream into their faces.

I do believe that I shall carve out a few minutes reading time this week, and make a list of tips from Helena Rubinstein to try! I hope that you are all having a glamourous week, and are enjoying the wonderful sunshine which has accompanied the start of September.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Thank You!

Good morning!

I do hope that your morning is as good as it can be, and it started with a cup of tea in the prettiest cup you own! It is still raining here, so I am getting plenty of use out of my new brolly!

I had a few spare minutes just now so I thought I would take just the tiniest of peeks at my blog before going to work, and I have to say that to find comments and such kind and lovely ones, not to mention inspirational, has put a real spring in my step! Thank you so much.

And as an aside, I also love owls and mushrooms, although I prefer red-and-white-polka-dot toadstools even more, and acorns and oak leaves, pumpkins and many gorgeous things to think about at this time of year!

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Lovely Labels

When I first started blogging, I didn't know about Labels. I suppose it could be argued, that I still don't. I vaguely knew that if I used labels, people searching the internet might find me. So, when I wrote about a lovely snowdrop walk at The Gardens of Easton Lodge, I knew to put that in the labels to help people find me. But...I had not realised how messy it makes the word cloud on my blog, to be too detailed in my labelling. So I have sat down with a pen and paper and made a list of labels I shall use going forth. And going backwards, I am going to slooowly edit my old posts to reflect my new lables. I am rather looking forward to it, as it will be rather special to read through the last 5 years of my life!

Talking of labels, when I dropped into Waterstones on my way home from work, I found that Cath Kidston has published a little book of sticky lables. So pretty! Also, Lakeland are selling pretty labels to stick on jars of homemade jam. There is something rather lovely about a well written label.

It is that back-t0-school thing again! Some of the labels I will be using are fairly self explanatory, such as 'fabulous friday' or 'rainy days'. Here are some of the others:

Table For Two to cover posts about dining out and culinary adventures away from home.

Ripping Yarns in which I will talk about my adventures in knitting and crocheting.

Cooking Up A Storm is where I will share recipes with you.

Delightful Days Out will cover all my little adventures out in the big wide world.

In My Shopping Basket is where I will share lovely purchases, and hope my husband does not read this bit too often!

The Dressing Room is where you will find my 'what I wore today posts'.

At My Dressing Table for hair and makeup talk.

High Days and Holidays for birthdays, weddings, all those lovely red letter days.

On My Bookshelf for what I have been reading and book reviews.

Mimi Makes for my crafting adventures.

Beautiful Blogs and Lovely Corners of the Internet

I had an email from the lovely Alison at Brocante Home this week, letting me know about the Seasonal Scrub starting in September. I do love a good clear out every now and again! I have decided it is time to do the same with the blogs I read and websites I visit. It is a source of anxiety to me that some of my favourite blogs and websites have been stumbled upon by happy accident, which makes me fret that there may be so many more out there, unknown to me!

I have been missing some favourite bloggers too, who have lost their blogging mojo, or are taking a break. Even worse than this, some blogs have disappeared altogether! So I have decided to update my blogroll and the list of blogs I have saved in igoogle. I hope you will find some new treasures amongst my list, and if you have any suggestions for me, I would love to hear them.

Some favourite bloggers have started new blogs...I have to say that it is something that I serioulsy considered after not blogging here so long, but this is 'home' to me. This is where I want to be. I feel like it still 'fits' me. So here I am, back again!

Interestingly, I have removed one or two because I realised that the writing just brings me down, that when I first found them, the aesthetic really pleased me, but is no longer my taste. It feels strange to let them go, because although I know they are still there and I can find them again, it seems final somehow, deciding to stop reading them.

But time is finite, and there is not enough time to do all the scrumptious things I want to, to read all the books and magazines I want to, so I am not going to waste time on blogs or websites that I don't love any more! Here is a little selection of some of my favourites...I do so hope I have not missed any off by mistake! is the new home of the lovely Annastasia who used to blog at Pretty Little Parcels (I say new, but it has been a year nearly, and I still had not updated my blog list!) so much more than just a blog...utterly scrumptious! Somehow, I discovered this while looking for instructions for homemade Christmas crackers! the very first blog I discovered. Not vintage, but great for crafts and seasonal activities. discovered via brocante home. Wonderful for sparkly flowery loveliness and I can never visit without wanting to start crocheting something! the lovely Alicia Paulson writes about her every day life and crafting in Portland, Oregon. She has a real way with words and takes wonderful photographs. one of the most lovely things for me was to discover that Vintage Pretty is even nicer than her blog! We share a lot of interests, and luckily for me, lovely chatty phone calls too! through Jane I discovered Persephone books, and have baked scrumptious rock cakes! the Vintage Kitten has not posted for a while, but I hope that she will be back soon. I love the kitsch look of her blog, and the life she posts about. Bliss! Fleur writes for The Chap magazine, which has been one of my happiest literary finds of late! On her blog she will show you how to set your hair in pin up girl curls, and shares her adventures drinking cocktails and taking tea in London. a tresure trove of heavenly novels by Dorothy Whipple and the like. Hot Water Bottle fiction at its very, very best. not updated for a while because she has been writing another book, but Nigella shares things like a favourite mascara or chocolate bar, alongside a cocktail recipe!

So there they are, my current favourite websites. Do tell me...what am I missing? Do share!

Jolly Brolly

Several months ago, I spent a happy sunny afternoon at a vintage fair at Cressing Temple. Many lovely things there caught my eye, but there was one thing beautiful above all: a vintage purple umbrella. It was elegant and frilly and flouncy, and I just knew that if I owned it, not only would I never mind when it rained, but I would skip down the street, avoiding the puddles and spreading cheer. Alas, when I enquired as to the cost, the lady replied 'I want £50 for it'. Firstly that was rude (I want doesn't get, as my Mother would say!) and secondly, it was too much for my purse.

So imagine how pleased I was when I popped into Miss Selfridge on my way home from work today, to discover an umbrella in the same shape and style, only cream with a black-and-cream polka dot frilly ruffle instead of purple, and more to the point, only £15! Even better, as I emerged from the shop, it began to rain. Just as I suspected, I didn't mind in the least, and practically floated home! A man driving an impossibly large truck even stopped and waved me across the road, so I like to think that I am spreading a little happiness with my frilly brolly!

La Rentree

The rain is drip, drip, dripping outside my window this afternoon. The air is perfumed with the freesias in the bouquet I carried at my sister's wedding on Monday, and the rain. It is cool but not yet chilly, and it is a good afternoon to be at home with a pot of tea.

Perhaps it is because we have not had a proper summer; perhaps it is the come-down after my dear sister's much anticipated wedding; perhaps it is just that I have not had a holiday in 2 years, or a week off work since I started my new job.

Whatever it is, I am feeling under the weather and slightly out of sorts.

You see, everything inside me is whispering urgently 'autumn, autumn, autumn!' Everything outside is whispering 'autumn, autumn, autumn' and the two combined are very loud indeed, and is August! Summer!

It is not that I am wishing time away, but I just feel ready for September and the new-term back-to-school feeling which accompanies it. At the same time, I feel slightly guilty, like I should be wringing every last drop from summer. But it is hard to be properly summery when every day brings showers!

I discovered that the French have a wonderful word for this time, the pre-autumn but back-to-school time, which is La Rentree. Quite literally, The Return. It fills me with excitement, and I think it is just the thing to cure my summer blues. I believe I have mentioned a lovely novel, Remedy by Anne Marsella before. In this, the main character develops a kind of 'uniform' to wear to work, and I feel like doing the same thing, almost as going to buy new school uniform. I find myself wanting to buy pencils and notebooks, and my eyes are drawn to the rich purple nail polishes in the shops.

I find myself thinking of 'school rules' for myself, and feeling betwixt and between as I don't want to give myself too much to live up to, but want some little challenges too. So far I have settled on eating an apple a day, as that feels suitably back-t0-school-ish and also autumn-ish for me, and of course has the benefits of being fabulous for the skin! I also want to walk to work more than I have been, although that will be much easier when it is not raining so much!

I will be thinking of other little things too, and will share them with you, as well as letting you know how I am getting on with the others!

So do put a pot of tea on, and drink with me to the coming cosiness of autumn, and a fresh new school year for us all, no matter how long ago it was that we last went to school! What would you like to learn this year?

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Persephone Days

I have mentioned before how much I adore Persephone Books...everything from the soft dove grey of the covers, to the richness of the paper, and the font. Thats even before we get on to the stories! Today is what I think of as a Persephone Day. It is grey outside...the sky is the same dove grey as the covers, and it is saved from gloominess by sudden swathes of light as the clouds roll away. There is the slight sweet smell of rain to come hanging in the air, and when I think about breakfast, all I want are boiled eggs and soldiers, and a pot of tea. When the rain finally starts to spit, I spot the most beautiful umbrellas; the sudden flashes of colour from them as they bob along jauntily remind me of the unexpected brightness of the endpapers of Persephone books.

I can hardly believe that it is May and not only have we had rain today, we have had hail! And now it is evening, and I am settling down to watch Midsomer Murders, and I have half a mind to go and fetch a jumper or a blanket to snuggle under. Today has been a day of good things, little tasks ticked off. A nappy cake made for a friend who is going to a baby shower (photo to follow, probably Saturday or Sunday, along with 'how to'), another dear friend who is housebound by a problematic pregnancy has been visited, the fridge has been cleared out and reordered, a vegetable chickpea tikka masala has been cooked, and a cupcake has been knitted. My new red lipstick was worn, and a birthday present for my brother-in-law-to-be was bought. Hester Browne's new novel 'The Finishing Touches' was bought, and I have started reading it already. Little things, but pleasing. And now I am going to fetch that blanket as I am starting to shiver, and I shall decide whether to add a few rows to the jumper I am knitting (4ply yarn on tiny needles means that I seem to knit forever and never get very far) or start another character from the nativity scene I am knitting (yes, really and truly! Its a long story....perhaps one for another day!).

I hope that you are tucked up warm and having a lovely evening, and that tomorrow will bring us all some sunshine.

Mimi Makes Up

One of my favourite books is 'The Shops' by India Knight (actually, I love pretty much everything by India Knight!) and one of my favourite parts of this book is the chapter on make up. She points out that make up is can feel too Rubenesque to enjoy shopping for clothes, but the very same curvy you can happily slick on a lipstick without worrying does it fit, is it too tight... Also, unless you are shopping at the very high end cosmetic counters, a shopping trip to refresh your makeup bag is going to cost far less than a trip to perk up your wardrobe.

Now I think about it, I am sure I have read an article somewhere about in times of economic hardship, sales of luxury lipsticks in bright colours go up, because they are an affordable luxury and they make us feel better.

I have some friends who never wear makeup, mainly, they say, becuase they never learnt how...some of them feel too shy for red lipstick, and others just don't know what would suit them. Now, a lack of makeup really isn't my problem, as my poor husband will tell you. I have always been a girly girl, and although my 'look' has definitely evolved over the years, I have always been happy to play.

So, if you don't know where to start or don't have much experience, the first thing to do is start a scrapbook. When you are reading a magazine or a newspaper and see someone looking fab, snip out the picture and clip it in. Sometimes you will be lucky enough to have the makeup used listed, but even if you don't, it is a really good way of getting to know what looks you like. Don't feel you have to stick with one look either! At the minimum you will need a 'look' for day time and another for evening. Why not go further and think about work day looks, day looks for when you are not at work, and looks for when you just want to have fun!

Now start experimenting. There are lots of good but cheap makeup companies out there...Collection 2000 springs to mind. This way you can try out colours and techniques and products without being out of pocket if you don't like something or don't get on with it. Then when you know what you do like, you can go to one of the slightly more expensive counters. The counters which have staff can be intimidating, but are a great way to try out products and pick up techniques. Also, they are great because someone else can look at you and suggest colours that you would never normally go for.

Talking of don't want to look like an 80s throwback (unless that is your thing!!) and my Grandad did always tell my Gran that her green eyeshadow looked like 'two sprouts over her eyes'...but don't be afraid! I firmly believe that there is a shade of red lipstick out there for everybody. I don't wear it every day, but I happily wear it to work, to the shops, for an evening out, and sometimes just to do the washing up in. Red lips are probably my signature look, but anyone can carry it off. If you are new or a bit shy, Tesco do a shade called 'Gypsy' which is kind of sheer, and good for easing your way in gently. But is only makeup! You can wipe it off, nothing is permanent. So, have fun and look fab! And once you have got home from the shops with your new liquid eyeliner, look on youtube for lots of great tutorials on how to apply it!

The holy trinity of cosmetics for me is foundation, mascara and lipstick. I want skin that looks dream is that 'lit from within' glow. The best way I have found is to use a primer, namely Avon's Magic X. It makes your skin velvety smooth, and your foundation sits better and lasts longer (I have used Estee Lauder's Idealist, which is the same kind of thing, and for my money, Avon is cheaper and better!). I have not found 'the one' when it comes to foundation...there are plenty that I have been happy with, but not one that is my foundation for life...yet. Being so pale, it can be a bit of a challenge!

Mascara...for me, it is all about va va va voom and lots of lashes! If I could wear false eyelashes everyday, I would. I even had individual ones glued on when I got married! I love a luxurious mascara that opens up my eyes and gives me plenty to flutter with. Perhaps it is because I wear glasses, and everything needs to stand out a bit more behind the layer of glass. I have not found 'the one' that I will be loyal to for life, but two of the best are Maybelline Colossal Volum (comes in a bright yellow tube) and L'Oreal Double Extension Renewal Serum....and always in black, black, black! I have been disappointed in Diorshow Blackout and Maybelline Great Lash, but have on my list 'Falsies' by Maybelline to try out. I have said, I am all about the red, although a nude lipstick or two is always good for when you want the more understated polished look. I usually wear Bare by Boots No 7, but have always wanted to try the lipstick that Nigella is usually pictured wearing. An email or two has procured the information that it is Golden Rose by No 7, so I treated myself to a tube yesterday, and was very pleased indeed. She also wears By Terry Lacque De Rose but that is a lot of pennies, so I will save up for that one! But on to can't do better than to go to a Mac counter for red lipstick. They will try them on you so you get the right one, and there are so many shades. My favourite is Ruby Woo, although I also flirt with Russian Red. I must have six or seven red lipsticks by other brands too, and although to the untrained eye they may look similar, to me, each one is very different.

While I was on my shopping trip to Boots yesterday to procure the Golden Rose lipstick, I noticed a rather fabulous display. To celebrate their 75th birthday, No 7 have released a 'Decades' collection, each one capturing the look of a decade.

Now how could I resist the 40s look? I went away with the lipstick and gloss to recreate the look (and was given a little box of trial size gifts too) and plan to have a go with it today. I think it will go just perfectly with the black and white domino dress that I won on ebay a week or so ago, a pair of red heels, and perhaps my little top-hat-and-veil fascinator. Now I just need somewhere to wear it to!

What a long post this has been...and I didn't even get on to painting your toenails red! I will leave you with one last thought...whenever I sign a wedding book or a special birthday card now, I always kiss next to my name, and leave my lip print!

Wherever you are, I hope that you are not too chilly this morning, and are off to slick on some lipstick! Have a wonderful day everybody!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Adventures With A Clipboard And Ruler

Sitting in a church from 7:00am until 10:00pm, armed with my trusty clipboard, ruler and pen, I had a sudden thought that things really haven't changed very much in Britain over the last 70 years! I was on poll-clerk duty, and as I was marking voters off of the electoral roll, I thought that time could melt away, and I could equally be marking off evacuees during World War 2, or organizing ration books or similar.

Years may have passed, and technology developed, but when it comes down to it, the best thing we have really are clipboards and rulers! Later that night...well, early the next morning, I was on vote counting duty. Again, it was the simple methods that worked best...rubber counting thimbles and rubber bands! I was counting votes and counting votes and counting votes for hours, double checking and signing my initials and again thinking that really this could have been years ago.

It pleases me that in a world where technology rules, we still use the old ways sometimes.

I was much excited to catch a glimpse of myself on the bbc news coverage of the election, although I have to say having worked such a long day I was really not looking my best. I was very lucky lovely husband delivered dinner to the polling station, and my lovely friend Dan from work produced a much-needed Mocha!

Some of my other observations from the big day included that the ribbon used in rosettes does not appear to be of very good quality! I have spent a happy half hour imagining redesigned rosettes using vintage ribbons and scraps of polka dotted fabric, perhaps with a diamante detail or something like that!

The days seem to have hop skipped and jumped away since Thursday...and I am pleased to say that I finally feel that I have caught up with the sleep that I missed! I would love to sit and compose a longer post just is that delicious time in the evening when the air is cool, and the sky is that peculiarly bright-but-dull-blue, and all the trees are silhouettes. Everything is peaceful, a candle burns low, and it is the long sigh of a Sunday evening slipping towards bedtime. However, I can hear the chinking of things being moved around in the kitchen, and have a hungry husband to feed. So I am going to slip away from you and tie on my new favourite apron, and whip up a quick batch of spicy lentil soup...

Wherever you are, I hope that you are having a peaceful evening, and are looking forward to lovely things in the week ahead!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

New Shoes!

When I mentioned that I squelched my way round London, did I mention that I really, really needed some new shoes as a result? Library work is surprisingly hard on your feet, and you really need comfortable shoes so that you can still be smiling by the time you stamp the last book out at the end of the day.

Now I have developed a terrible habit of buying cheap shoes, and it is one that I have been putting off breaking. You see, there are so many shops where you can buy a £10 pair of ballet pumps, even sparkly ballet pumps...but they just don't last. Having got into the habit though, it is scary to suddenly think about spending £30 or £40 on shoes. But, remembering that my Mum only ever bought me Clarke's shoes when I was a little girl, and knowing that she often had to scrimp to provide them, I took myself off there, and joy of joys, there was a sale on! So I danced out of the shop wearing a lovely new pair of shoes, for £30 instead of £40!

Proper shoes are a feet feel cushioned and I felt much less tired than usual on the way home. Now, if they last longer than my cheap shoes did, I will try and keep this new habit up!
I have had a proper sort out of my shoe cupboard, thrown out everything that was tatty or pinched, and now have a small but presentable wardrobe of shoes. I have tucked some little lavender bags into some of them to keep them sweet. I once read a quote, I forget who by, which said that the world is full of people who think they can get away with wearing something one last time...and that they are wrong!
With this terrifying thought it mind, I shall have to take my eye to my wardrobe next! I do have a particular wardrobe fantasty...the crochet-covered hangers go without saying of course, and that it would be a proper Narnia style wardrobe. This idea came about from reading a scrumtpious book called 'Remedy' and the eponymous heroine wore 'uniforms' of her own devising to work. I love the idea of finding a dress pattern (perhaps a skirt and top instead, but really, a dress) that fits and flatters and is just me. Then I make it up in several different fabrics, so I have lots of different 'flavours' of the same outfit. Imagine how wonderful it would be, dressing for work, and not having to think about it hardly at all. We all have skirts which require a particular top, or a dress that needs a certain bra....but imagine just having to pick one thing out, perhaps choosing a few accessories, but in essence, just being able to dress in minutes.
I think I would be fairly heavily influenced by dresses and ideas from the 50s. If you are lucky enough to come across ladies magazines from the era, do seize them, as the ideas for dressing are just so inspiring and uplifting. In today's magazines, I notice a heavy influence on the negative, such as 'use this cream for getting rid of your wrinkles' or 'hide a big tummy with this belt'. In magazines from days gone by, you would instead read 'use this cream for a dewy-fresh complexion' or 'make the most of a tiny waist with this darling belt'. It is all so positive! There are always lovely ideas for using a brooch to pick up and echo some embroidery, or fancy buttons to make a focal point...sigh!
I wonder what your dream wardrobe would be like?
Oh, and before I go and slip into my bath and head for an early night (I will be up all night counting votes on election night, so I am hoarding my sleep before then), a big thank you to those of you who are still here, still reading me, and have been so welcoming. You make blogging so special, thank you!

Monday, 3 May 2010

The Ministry of Food

Some of our best adventures have been our most spontaneous ones, and this Saturday was no exception. On Friday evening, I took Carl a cup of tea while he was having his bath, and asked him if he could do anything with our Saturday, what would it be?

His answer, perhaps influenced by being in the bath was that he would like to see a submarine. We had a quick think, and decided that the Imperial War Museum was as good a place as any to go see one, and so we set forth on Saturday morning.

Now, a war museum doesn't sound that vintage or girly or, well, me....but I did have an ulterior motive up my polka-dotted sleeve! I happened to know that the Ministry of Food exhibition was on at none other than the Imperial War Museum!

We got to London in glorious sunshine, and wandered along the Southbank of the Thames together. Carl works ever so near there, so it was really lovely for me to see what he sees every day. Then we went round the Ministry of Food Exhibition, which I really enjoyed. I bought a great many postcards from the shop afterwards, which I have put up on my kitchen cupboards for inspiration. I find the idea of rationing and planning fasicinating, and quite inspirational. One thing that struck us looking round was how many of the ideas which are 'in' today are not new at all, but borrowed from earlier times. Things like growing your own, eating seasonally because there was no other choice, food made from scratch, meals planned ahead...while I would not want to go as far as living on the rations of WW2 (2 oz of tea a week?!?!) I do like the idea of making my lunchtime salad and grating a carrot into it because 'Dr Carrot' is beaming down at me from a Home Front postcard. If you find yourself in London with a few hours to spare, do go and take a look!

It is also worth wandering through the 'Children's War' exhibition while you are there...although it is very sad in places, there is some wonderful social history there, as well as a reproduction 1940s house for you to explore. I could have moved right in!

When we finally left the museum, it was pouring with rain, and before long my poor lovely ballet pumps were positiveley awash! Luckily we had brought brollys with us, but we were glad we had had most of our adventure in the sunshine.

Wherever you are, I hope that you had at least a little sunshine this weekend, and that you had a lovely bank holiday adventure whatever the weather.

The Bran Tub Post

I love Alison's 'Carousel' posts over at Brocante Home, but I didn't want to copy her. Sometimes though, I have lots of bitty things to share that don't really have a common theme. As I was sitting here sipping tea, it occurred to me that I could have a 'bran tub' post, a kind of lucky-dip round up of snippets. Imagine that these little bits are wrapped in pretty silver paper and tied with ribbon ready for you to unwrap, because that is how they are in my mind.

I stumbled across 'From Mother to Daughter' by Vivenne Bolton at the library the other day, and fell so much in love with it that I now have my own copy on my shelf. It is my favourite kind of book; a little bit of baking, a little bit of making, and other such things to do over the year. It is divided up into the seasons, and is a kind of housekeeping journal. Within the beautiful covers are recipes for furniture polish and handcream to patterns for knitted blankets and washcloths. For more of an idea, read the article below, and I am sure you will soon be flitting across to amazon to buy a copy!

One of my favourite magazines at the moment is the December issue of 'Selvedge'. There is an article in there about making things, and it talks about handmade, halfmade and havemade. Handmade is obvious, but Have made is when you buy from etsy or folksy, and Halfmade is when you make something yourself but use ready-made components. So, think making a quiche but buying a pastry shell. Or even better, using Doves Farm Organic Bread Mixes to whip up a loaf of bread in no time. The Ezekiel mix is delicious, and even comes with a little cardboard loaf tin to bake it in. There is something deeply satisfying about being able to make bread on the spur of the moment, and with one of these stashed away in your dry goods cupboard, you will never be too far away from fresh homemade bread!

As I mentioned in my last post, milk from the milkman is one of my new favourite things. You can order up until 9:00pm the night before, and our milkman usually comes before I go out. I have, ahem, borrowed one or two old bottles for a day or two to use as vases for daffodils!

I have been discovering more and more lovely blogs recently, particularly Dottie Angel. I am sure that a great many of you will already know her, but I found a lovely tutorial about crocheting decorative coathangers...follow the link to find the pattern for yourself! I have a lot on craft-wise at the moment, but I do fancy having a go at some of these soon!

Finally, over the last 6 weeks I have loved watching The Delicious Miss Dahl on BBC2. I know she has had some bad reviews, but really, I loved her book (well books, both her novel and her cookbook) and I have loved the series. I made myself laugh when I paused it the other evening to exclaim that we have the same tea cozy!

Bank Holiday Monday

An afternoon spent with a shawl around my shoulders, drinking tea by candlelight, searching the internet for some elusive shades of Country Style Double Knitting Wool with one eye on Poirot, listening to the pitter patter of rain on the window pane. It can only be a Bank Holiday Monday in England!

Last night, we had dinner with Carl's family, and afterwards his Mum announced she had a film for us to watch- Julie and Julia. I had read a bit of her blog at the time she was writing it, so I was really looking forward to seeing it. It was a lovely film on the whole, with some wonderful cinematic touches- Julie and Julia both using the same kind of Le Creuset casserole dish, and wearing tops which strongly echoed each other in some scenes. However the film was slightly hard work because I felt Meryl Streep really overacted in every scene...and I know that Julia Child really did talk like that, but my word her voice grated after a while!

It made me really miss blogging though....and I have missed it. I am not going to go too deeply into why I stopped, but I feel that it is time I was back. I had almost definitely decided to start again, when my lovely husband sat reading my blog, and pointed out how many visits it has had, and that there are that many people who probably don't come any more. I did think about starting a whole new blog, but I feel like this one still fits. I have been here a long while as well, and I hate the idea of walking away from it. So, here I am!

Some things have happpened since I was last here...I have a new job! I am still running my own dear little branch library, but I am now one of the managers at the flagship branch as well. I have only started that recently, and although it keeps me very busy, I love it. There are things which are less important, but which colour my day...we have started getting our milk delivered in the mornings, from a real proper milkman. I simply adore having the glass bottles in our fridge, and the ritual of washing them out ready to go back. Even the pressing in of the little foil hat to open it makes me smile! I have been crafting a lot...I have started a Top Secret Project (look away Carl, if you are reading this!) I am knitting a jumper! No chunky wool on big needles for me, but 4 ply on tiny is taking forever, but I think it is going to drape well. There is something really satisfying abotu working on something like this.

So, that is have you been?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Little Envelopes of Sunshine

Tomorrow is going to be my blog-catching-up day. I have lots of posts written and emailed to myself, all ready to load. I have three new projects to tell you about, and lots of little things to share over a cup of tea.

Just now though, I want to urge you to go to your writing drawer, take out your lovliest paper, use your favourite coloured ink, and send a letter to someone you love. You see, last Friday I came home to a handwritten letter from a favourite aunt who has been terribly ill. It was so lovely to have proof that she is on the mend, albeit slowly, and it was such a treat to have a letter that was not 'for' anything- not a thank you, not an invitation, not anything but just a lovely, chatty letter for the joy of corresponding. I spent a happy morning writing back to her, and it felt so good just to catch up on little details, share thoughts about the beauty of the snow, and such little things.

Then, I had a 'save the date' card through the post for my lovely sisters wedding, even though as chief bridesmaid I didn't technically 'need' one or expect one. She sent it just so there would be a lovely unexpected little something in the post for me.

And just now, I had an email from my brother who has gone to Afghanistan. I won't see him again until my sister's wedding in August. I did not know it before, but I can send him little letters and parcels free from the post office, abnd I have been sitting here planning things to send.

It is as though the whole universe is telling me to dust off my addres book, and start spreading a few smiles in the post. I have a friend who is having a long and hard pregnancy, so I thought I might start to send her little notes and cards just to try and brighten her day up a bit. There are people I used to work with but I don't any more....people who I have not lost touch with, but am not in touch with as much as I would like, and when I am, it is via email. Not that email and the internet are not wonderous wonders, but really, who wouldn't rather receive a proper letter, or note in the post?

So join with me, and make it a mission to choose one person in your life each week, and send them a little something to let them know you care. Just think of all the little envelopes of sunshine we can send flitting through the post!

Friday, 1 January 2010

My Parent's Living Room...Is It Any Wonder I Love Books?

Marzipan Acorns From Halloween Brunch Club

Some Homemade Christmas Gifts

Snow Day

Christmas Pictures

A Trio of Plans for January

Over glasses of champagne, my lovely hostess and I came up with a few ideas for this new year.

The first one concerns magazines...she was musing over renewing her subscription to Easy Living. Basically both of us think it has staled lately, but just as she decides to stop taking it, it turns out a really great issue. I said that she could stop subscribing, and just try the odd issue here and there whilst investigating other magazines. Then she suggested that what we could do each month is to buy one magazine for each other, on any subject (although obviously chosen with enjoyment in mind) so that we can broaden our horizons, magazine wise. I can't wait to start!

(While I am on the subject of magazines, I must say I have just discovered Selvedge, which looks terribly intimidating, is rather expensive, but is a fabulously good read, and much gentler than it looks. The issue I bought had a history of the sequin in it!)

The other idea comes from our annual visit to the Vitality Show. We enjoyed it last year and were saying that we enjoy the talks and classes far more than the stalls to buy from. Then she suggested how about we each choose 12 different ideas or products, and devote one month to trying each of them, and posting about them. So, in April, look out for Vitaliy Show posts!

Oh, and the third? I have started an extra blog....dedicated to a year of painting my nails red, whipping up face packs and sipping fruit smoothies in the pursuit of my loveliest year yet!

New Year

We are so fortunate to have some friends who are really generous with their time and home and hospitality. Last night, for the fifth year running, we arrived at their lovely home for 9:00pm where they served us dinner. First of all we had home made (and home grown!) vegetable soup, followed by a serve-yourself-course of tender roast beef, roast pork with the crackliest crackling I have ever nibbled, and a variety of veg.

After we had eaten, we pulled names out a sparkly pink cowboy hat (it is a long story!) to decide in which order we would play our song of the year, and explain why we have chosen it. I chose Relator by Scarlett Johansson. She is one of my favourite actresses, and this was the first song I heard her sing. It is really catchy, and makes me feel happy when I hear it. It was wonderful to hear the variety of songs chosen, from theme songs from films, to the Christmas number 1, to some Carpenters!

Next came going round the table, one by one, relating to the others the one thing we have learned in 2009, before each writing down our predictions for 2010. These are sealed in an envelope which we all sign, and put away for next year.

Then the clock struck midnight, and we all sang 'For Auld Lang Syne' and drank champagne. Then we opened last years predicitions, some of which were spookily accurate, and some of which were downright silly, and talked until it was time for bed.

Somewhere along the way we had sparklers, and set off one of those Chinese Wish lanterns too. When we were sitting eating breakfast with them this morning, snow began to fall like icing sugar being shaken over a fresh baked cake. What bliss!

Wishing you a very happy 2010 (that is two thousand and ten to me, not twentyten!)


Looking Back At December

December was a busy month for me, as I suspect that it is for many women. This year I made all my Christmas cards, which were minatures with origami envelopes. I also made most of my gifts, including 23 pairs of crochet slippers, which I filled with little treats such as bath bombs, chocolate coins and candles, in an echo of the European tradition of children leaving their shoes out on the feast of St Nicholas for him to fill. I also made Winter Spiced Coffee Liqueur, and hot water bottle covers from old cashmere jumpers. I knitted a cabled cashmere hot water bottle cover for my Mum, and a pair of mittens for myself. I made a Christmas cake which was more of a pudding, but delicious none the less. I stitched felt robins, went ice skating for the first time in years, and went to two Christmas parties. I fell in love with Bury St Edmunds all over again, and emailed myself several ideas for posts which I never quite got to blog. I took lots of photographs, decided that Scarlett Johansson is my new favourite singer (check out 'relator' on youtube!) and bought another red lipstick.

I shed some happy tears on Christmas morning, as I felt so much love from my friends and family in their gifts. I am going to learn to throw pots, have a frilly pokla dot apron, a cd of french women singers, and a cupcake book with silicone cupcake cases in the shape of hearts!

I decorated three Christmas trees in one week, and devoured as many books (but over the month, not one week!).

Best of all was my visit to Bury St Edmunds. Although I had started making my cards and gifts before Mum and I went, I wasn't feeling particularly Christmassy. After a day spent there though, I felt little tendrils of tinselly excitement unfurling somewhere in my tummy. There was the living nativity again, where I stroked a donkey and a dear little sheep creature on impossibly long legs. We drank Bailey's laced hot chocolate to keep warm, and found ourself thoroughly cheered by all the lovely people and lovely things to see and do.

The other thing that really made me feel Christmassy was the last Women's Institute Country Market before Christmas. Mum and I had both ordered a few bits in advance, and when we went in, they had put our orders into boxes and labelled them. Mum had an un-iced cake, mincemeat and a giant pudding. I had mincemeat and a smaller pudding. We also bought boughs of holly, tiny boxes of home made marzipan fruits, and some beautifully decorated cupcakes. The tea was free that morning, and every cup came with a tiny home made mince pie. The atmosphere was lovely, and it made me really look forward to Christmas.

Christmas Eve we had my family come to visit, and I decided to be inspired by Nigella in my catering. In past years, I have made a vast buffet, but this year I cooked a huge fish pie which had prawns, lobster, scallops, smoked haddock and smoked salmon in it. There was trifle for dessert, and amaretto chocolate soya milk to drink. By 10:00pm they had gone home, we had washed up, and were sitting on the sofa in the glow of the tree lights, feeling relaxed and excited about the next day.

We spent most of Christmas day at my Mum and Dad's house. Mum made some new decorations this year- bunting made of Christmassy fabrics, and then used the same fabric to make fabric paperchains! She also had a lovely little tableau using a bough of Christmas tree with pretty lights wound into it, a tiny nativity scene, and a glittery acorn ornament. I will post some pictures so you can see! We spent the evening at Carl's parents house, where we played board games until midnight. It is so lovely to spend time just laughing and enjoying each other's company.

Oh, and I had a new outfit for Christmas! A black and white striped dress from New Look, which looks a bit Parisenne. It has a black blow with some large pearls and crystals, which pins to one side where you would usually wear a brooch.

I hope that you had the most scrumptious of Christmasses, were surrounded by love and laughter, and have some wonderful memories to look back upon.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! I hope that if you stayed up to see the new decade in, you were with people you love drinking a glass of something sparkling. If you were early to bed, I hope you woke up after a wonderful night's sleep with a smile.

It would be stating the obvious to say that things have been quiet around here for a while, but now Christmas is behind me and there is a new year ahead, I hope that is going to change!

But before I get to looking back over December, or looking ahead to January, a heartfelt Happy New Year to you all!