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?