Thursday, 27 January 2011

January Poem

One of my favourite gifts from Carl this year was a bundle of 12 envelopes tied together with gold ribbon. There is an envelope for each month, and in each envelope is a card with a handwritten poem about that month that Carl chose out for me. I was tempted to open them all and read them in one go, but I have decided to read them one by one in their appropriate month. What a wonderful gift, and one that I am going to share with you...

January opens
The box of the year
And brings out days
That are bright and clear
And brings out days
That are cold and gray
And shouts 'Come see
What I brought today'
~Leland B Jacobs

Chilly Days

My eyes have felt gritty and red the last few days, and I have started that tell-tale tickle in the back of my throat that I know means I am going down with the latest cold that is doing the rounds. It has made me want to snuggle and be warm and cozy. Last night, I definitely had the shivers, and wrapped myself in my favourite white shawl while I half-watched Michel Roux's 'Service' on BBC2. So to me it has been a chilly few days, but mental chillyness rather than actual chillynes...until this morning!

I was just getting dressed ready for work, arranging my new peacock-feather fascinator in my hair, when my phoned twinkled to say I had a text message. It was lovely Carl, telling me to be sure to wrap up warm as it was very cold outside. I am so glad he warned me! It was, quite literally, freezing! I really needed my gloves and scarf, and I was pleased that I had my travel mug with me to get a cup of tea for the bus. I took my shawl to work today so I could wear it while the heaters tried to blow some heat into my little library.

The light has that brittle haziness to it that really cold days have. There is what we called when I was a little girl 'dragon's breath' in the air. People's cheeks are rosy, and the pavements glittered slightly with frost this morning. The daffodils are not out yet, but I did come away from the WI Market this morning with the most glorious snowdrop in a little pot. It is a double snowdrop with tiny green flecks on its skirt. It looks for all the world like a ballerina's tutu.

This is the weather for electric blankets and hot chocolate, warm baths and dressing gowns warmedon the radiator, chicken stew and dumpings, a blanket over your knees.

Mimi's Jingle Belles

Good evening and welcome to my first Jingle Belles post! Today has been so bitterly cold it is not hard to imagine that we are back in December, and it doesn't seem too unseasonal to be talking about Christmas!

As everyone knows, my favourite drink is tea, but I do like a nice cup of coffee too, and tonight is just the evening for a cinnamon latte...deliciously warming, and it makes me think of Christmas! Join me with a cup of something warm and slightly festive, and let us sit in candlelight and start making plans. for a merry Yule in 2011!

Bearing in mind it is only January, this is not the month for us to start knitting gifts, crafting our cards, or getting out the glitter! No, this evening is for us to start making plans, that we will spend the rest of the year bringing into being. There are few things I love quite so much as a new notebook, and one will be useful for the coming months, but for tonight, just some sheets of paper will do. (Although do try and go on a little shopping trip soon to get your Christmas notebook! Mine is not often Christmassy in itself, and usually has plain pages).

What word do you like to use for Christmas? Are you a Christmas, an Xmas, Holidays, Yule or Winter Solstice person? For me, it is Christmas, sometimes Yule. Whatever your word is, put it right in the middle of the page to start what we used to call 'spider diagrams' when I was a little girl, but now seem to be called Mind Maps.

Your first branch is for 'spirit'...what kind of look and feel do you want to bring to Christmas this year? Red and white, a la Nigella? Gold? Tartan? Brown paper and red gingham? Brights? Champagne and antique gold? Shades of white? Victorian? Vintage? Shabby Chic? Choose one or more and put down any words that come to mind. Jot down any scents, colours, flavours, anything at all that describe the kind of Christmas you are drawn to this year. What will your signature symbol be this year? A dove of peace? A sprig of holly? Snowflakes? Robins? Choosing one thing to make your focus makes it easier to carry your theme through your cards, wrapping, decorations...If you have the time and inclination, you could creat a whole mood board for this...go through some December magazines and rip out pictures that appeal to you. Last year, I went for gold sparkly wrapping paper, ribbon and little pastel feather bird ornaments to clip on.

Your next branch is for many are you giving this year? Are you going to make them? If so, have you got any ideas yet? Are you going to go semi-made by taking a photo and having your cards printed? Will you be making them all from scratch? Buying charity cards? Buying handmade cards from etsy? Sealing them with stickers? Sealing Wax? Will you write them in fountain pen or gold pen or silver pen? Will you fill the cards with glitter or Christmas confetti? Those wind up paper butterflies?

Now for wrapping..and this will probably be influenced by the 'spirit' that you have chosen, and by the gifts you choose to make. Brown paper with gingham ribbon? Metallic paper? Will you use gift bags or boxes? What about vintage scarves or Christmas print fabric tied Japanese furoshiki style, perhaps fastened with a vintage brooch? What will you use as gift tags? Baubles painted with the recipient's name? Their photo? What about your trimmings?

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without any gifts said Jo from Little Women, and she was right! The last year or two, I have taken the approach of making batches of gifts for different groups of people in my life, and buying individual gifts for others. For example, all my work friends got the home made bath melts. All the boys got fruits of the forest rum and rum and raisin fudge. Uncles and Aunts got homemade jam and chutney. What groups of people do you have in your life? Could the members of your book group have a notebook to use as a reading diary? Or as I did one year, a vintage tea cup and saucer planted with a hyacinth? Would you like to make all your gifts this year, or some of them, or none of them? Would you like to buy handmade gifts from somewhere like etsy? Or will you buy gifts and put them together as little gift baskets?

There are still of course lots of other little things to think about....decorations need planning, especially if you want them to tie in with your theme. Are there any from last year you can reuse? Are there things you would like to make or buy for this year? Could this be the year you just use candles and greenery? Or will you spend time making a magnificent wreath for the first time? Will you sew Christmas stockings by hand? Jot it down! Then there are activities to muse you make a day of making your cake? Is carol singing the highlight of your festive season, or would you like it to be? Do you want to take ice skating lessons so you can go and skate on a beautiful rink somewhere? Are you going to have a cupcake and cocktail party? Put it all down there! Are there foods that you would like to have a go at making for the first time, or are there recipes that it just wouldn't be Christmas without? Down it all goes!

It all looks a bit overwhelming on the page to begin with, but as you start to jot down your preferences, you should start to see the distant twinkle of Christmas begin to take shape. After all, we put so much effort into it, we may as well make sure we are spending our time creating something we like! One of the best compliments for me is when someone says 'that is just That is the aim this year, make sure that you imprint your likes on the season!

Hopefully by now you have a sheet of paper covered with ideas and you are starting to feel really excited and enthusiastic. Don't worry, we aren't going to go into overdrive here and start doing everything all at once. Tonight is just to get a picture of what you like, and where you want to go. So much of this is in your hands, and you get to choose how to do it. For example, with your cards...say that you have put down that you are going to make all your cards this is down to you whether you want to count up how many you are going to need to make, and then make a few a month for several months, or if you would prefer to put a card making day in your diary and get it done in one hit. Whatever suits you!

If all this hasn't been too exhausting, there is one last thing before you. Make a rough, a very rough list of who you would like to send cards to this year, and who you would like to give gifts to. It can be as rudimentary as you like...for example 'family x 10, work x 5, book club x 8' or you can go into more detail. This list will be your starting point when we start to plan some of our projects later in the helps to have a rough idea of how many jam jars or knitted scarves or whatever else you are making you need to make!

Oh, and before you go and put the kettle on for a congratulatory cup of tea for working through this, a word about pennies. Christmas costs, there is no way around it. Have a quick think about your spending strategy this year. Will you work out how much Christmas cost you last year, divide it by ten and put that much away each month? Or will you buy one thing each month? Make or buy someone's Christmas gift when you buy their birthday gift? Of course if you are going to be making things throughout the year, you will spend money on ingredients, but the cost will be spread, and you will have less outlay in December. Whichever is your chosen method, find a pretty jar or tin or teacup or somewhere to slip away a little bit extra. Perhaps you will collect £2 coins or 50 pence coins...or just empty your change into it every now and again. This money is just for in December you can buy yourself something wonderful. Maybe a dress? An expensive lipstick? Something from a Christmas catalogue that you would not normally dream of spending money on? A trip to Cath Kidston?

Until next month, Jingle Belles!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Bright Days

Today was my day off, so I took myself into town for lunch with a friend and my god-daughter. It was such a lovely day that I decided to walk home, and I am so glad I did! The January sun was so dazzlingly bright, I really needed sunglasses! I love it when the air is crisp and the sun seems to make the air almost brittle.

On my way home, I visited the Vintage shop (Truly Madly Vintage) and came out with a pretty chiffon is the colour of a very pale lilac crocus, and printed with pretty flowers and a lilac border. I also found a little pile of magazines, amongst which was a little booklet called 'Helen Temple's Guide To Summer Beauty'. I had to have it...Helen Temple offers beauty advice in a great many of my vintage magazines from the 50's. When it gets a bit warmer and springlike, I will share some of her beauty tips with you!

Do any of you read Making magazine? I bought the first and second issue, but my interest was not as caught as it could be, so I did not buy any more. A friend at work lent me issue 3, which had a vintage theme, and it was wonderful! I am now in a dilemma though...there was an article on making pretty headbands, and the model had a really pretty fringe. My side swept fringe is almost grown out now, so I am thinking 'to fringe or not to fringe?!'

On the morning news, I heard about a community whose library was threatened with closure, so the residents went in and borrowed every single book on the shelves! While a little part of me thinks that if they had used their library a bit more often it may not have been threatened with closure, I do think it is a wonderfully subversive and genteel way to make a protest! A bit like the elderly residents of a village who protested about a lot of traffic being routed through their village by taking it in turns to press the traffic light button all day long!

Talking of villages...I am a big fan of the Village series by Rebecca Shaw, set in the fictional and wonderful village of Turnham Malpas. I was really pleased when the latest installment arrived at the library for me, and devoured it, finishing it this morning. I was a little tiny bit disappointed though....they are generally very cosy happy novels, but in this one there was a bank robber, a murder and the rector behaved in a thoroughly unlike-himself manner. (He is usually compassionate and wise and generally wonderful, but instead behaved like a spoiled child!). I will carry on reading, and look forward to the next one, but I do hope they return to the more familiar pattern soon!

Oooh, and before I go, have you seen the new range of shoes in Marks and Spencer? I bought a beautiful pair this morning, low heeled court shoes in black patent, and a bow on each toe, for under £30!

I hope that the sun is shining on you just as brightly as it is me this afternoon!

Mimi Makes Bath Melts

The first thing I should warn you is that if you are going to make these bath melts as gifts, as I did, and if you are going to present them in a little cellophane bag tied with pink and gold ribbon, then you really need to label them too! One poor lady thought they were some kind of truffle and took a bite! Happily there is nothing in them to hurt your tummy, they just really don't taste good! I made about 60 bath melts, each a bit bigger than a big brussel sprout, but smaller than a golf ball...but the lovely thing about this recipe is that you can pretty much suit yourself (As you will see, as to make these as I made them, you have to make a mistake in the making of them!) Making these is a lovely way to spend a rainy January afternoon, but you will need to plan ahead as you are likely to need to order some provisions. I used but you may find somewhere else that sells what you need.


4tbsp cocoa butter
2tbsp cream of tartar
4tbsp bicarbonate of soda
2tbsp cornflour
6 drops essential rose oil
dried rose petals

(Note...I bought about 100g of each from the website)

The first thing I did was to misread my directions, even though I read them three times! I thought that I had to measure 4tbsp of cocoa butter into a pan and melt it, then add the rose oil, then add this to the sifted dry ingredients before stirring in the rose petals, then 3tbsp more of cocoa butter. My clue that I had gone wrong was when I did this, and rather than having a stiff dough that I could knead, I had a thick soup!

Upon reading the recipe again, I realised I should have melted 1 tbsp of the 4tbsp of cocoa butter and added the rose oil to that, then added the remaining 3tbsp of cocoa butter. No wonder it was such a soup!

Luckily, I had plenty of ingredients left, and I realised I had more or less doubled the oil that I should have used, so I added in another quantity of all the dry ingredients. It was still far too wet though, so I blended some porridge oats to a fine powder and stirred in enough to make the stiff dough, then rolled the mixture into balls, then rolled the balls in more dried rose petals and then chilled them.

They are are beautifully scented, and you would really only want one in a bath at a time. They fizz and dissolve, then release the rose petals, and leave a sheen of rose oil on the water surface which moisturises the skin. Blissful!

(Just in case you want to follow the actual recipe, not my muddle, sift all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Melt 1tbsp of cocoa butter and stir in the rose oil. Add this to the dry mixture, then stir to mix, then stir in the remaining cocoa butter, and knead lightly. Roll into bowls, rolling in more rose petals is optional. In this version, you don't need porridge oats!)

Of course, the most important thing is to make some extra bath melts, so you have some to, ahem, test drive! If I make these again, as well as labelling them, I may give the with a candle, and perhaps a pretty cup and saucer or a pretty bath hat! Happy making!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Join Me?

Before you start to read this post, do put down your tea cup, as I don't want to cause anybody to sputter tea down their nose! Now, with my somewhat spasmodic posting last year, I never got to tell you what I did for Christmas Gifts...not properly! So here is a little roundup, from a crafting point of view.

I made all my Christmas cards again...several different designs. Funnily enough, the first design was very elaborate (baubles cut out and trimmed with ribbon and sequins, stuck on card embellished with more ribbon, sequins and beads!) and each design became slightly more simple! The next design was several tree shapes cut out green card in varying shades. Then each tree was folded in half, and glued to half of another tree, so they ended up almost like a fan of trees. Hard to explain, tricky to make, but pretty to look at! Then I got some teeny doillies, and folded them and snipped them into snowflakes, glued to cream card and embellished with some sparkles. My favourite cards were the easiest, and the last I made. I photocopied some vintage Christmas cards from my collection, and punched circles a bit smaller than a Jammy Dodger biscuit from them. I stuck these into the middle of my little doillies, then I decorated them with glitter, stick on bows, tiny stick on reindeer...all manner of sparkles!

For the girls at work, I made Rose Bath Melts. Where I went wrong, I think, was not labelling them as poor lady bit into hers thinking it was some kind of truffle! I made them by melting cocoa butter, and then stirring in bicarbonate of soda for fizz, cream of tartar, baking powder, oatmeal, rose oil and dried rose petals. I rolled it into balls, then rolled these in rose petals, and tied them in little cellophane bags with pretty ribbons.

I made all manner of other little bits...a notebook cover for a special friend...rum and raising fudge...Black Forest was all such fun. I wanted to make those Snuggle Blankets which have arms so you can be really warm and toasty, but alas, it turns out that the fabric cost much more than the ready made thing. Normally that would not stop me, but I was giving them to ten people, so it would have been unaffordable for me. I bundled up a snuggle blanket with extra goodies...for one person, an Agatha Christie novel and some shortbread in the shape of Scottie Dogs. For another, the Christmas issues of American Country Living, Better Homes and Gardens and Selvedge. Oh, and I gave sets of Marmalade, Strawberry Jam, and Chutney.

I was actually inspired by an issue of Selvedge magazine from a year or so ago. It had a section called 'The Handmade's Tale' and it featured women who make their Christmas Gifts, with some patterns, recipes and ideas. One made jam, another crocheted covered coathangers. One made covered notebooks, another little dolls. It made me really want to have a go at a handmade Christmas. I didn't give exclusively handmade things, but the majority of my gifts were...and I loved making them. Happily, most people seemed pleased to receive them. I always have a little bit of self doubt!

The key to enjoying the making was definitely starting early, and making things that were not obvioulsy Christmassy. Setting strawberries, cherries, redcurrants and blackberries to macerate in jars of rum in August didn't make me feel out of season! So, and this is the part I do not wish you to snort tea at, I plan to start early again this year. It is the Squirrel Approach to the festive do a little bit every now and again, and hide it away, ready. One thing I am going to do is to put away £10 or so in a little jar each month on the 25th, so I have a lovely little nest-egg to spend when it comes to December (or should that be Robins-egg?!). Now, I don't intend on turning my blog into Christmas-All-Year-Round, and indeed, nobody complains more than me when the shops start to sell Mince Pies in September....but I might from time to time write a little post about my adventures in getting ready for Christmas this year. Perhaps a reminder to tuck away a little money...perhaps my recipe for Sloe Gin....nothing too Christmassy too soon, I promise!

Would you like to join me? To start December this year with a treasure chest of little lovelies tucked away, ready to enjoy? If so, just read the posts titled 'Mimi's Jingle Belles' and we can play along together. If you want nothing to do with the thought of Christmas in January, then please ignore such posts!

Before I go, I must tell you about the bargain that I found today, and some plans I have for gifts! Now my gift list is rather long, partly because I have 2 jobs in 2 different places, and partly because I have a great many colleagues and friends at one of those jobs! While it is lovely to have a long list of people I want to give gifts too, there is no getting away from it being an expensive business. So imagine how thrilled I was today, when I came across a shop selling tiny hot water bottles, (about the size of a sheet of A5 paper!) for £1 each! I can buy some lengths of thick wool felt in different colours, and make each person their own hot water bottle and cover! I designed a pattern for one a year or so ago, so will use that. I can decorate them with applique initials or button flowers....I don't plan to start those until the autumn, but they were much too good a bargain to pass up! Because they are so small, they shouldn't take much fabric to make the covers.

So if you are joining me on my Jingle Belle Mission, then the task for today is just to think about what you could make, Christmassy or not, and tuck away for gifts. Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling! Using scraps of fabric to make bunting...gathering flowers for pot pourri...crocheting or knitting sprigs of holly and misteltoe...making candles in vintage tea cups...painting mugs...knitting scarves...crocheting snowflakes...cutting silhouettes...

Here is to a wonderful, creative year!

Favourite Things For A Dark Wednesday Afternoon

A cup of rose scented tea in the floral Union Jack mug that I rarely get to use if Carl is at home...flickering pinpricks of candlelight from tealights dotted around the room...the pink polyanthus in a little cream tin bucket my lovely sister bought me...painting my nails...making minestrone soup for tomorrow, and chilli for tonight...comments from lovely bloggers...the purple throw on our sofa that makes me think of Cadbury Dairy Milk new slippers...discovering a 150 year old book at work which gives advice for every month of the year...a vanilla latte at starbucks on my way hyacinths in my spring flower bouquet flowering at last...

Monday, 10 January 2011

Sunday Bliss

I love Sundays, I always have. When I was a little girl, I used to go to Sunday School with my big sister. We wore our best clothes, and a lovely old (to me then, probably not more than in her 50s really!) lady used to collect us and take us. We used to do lots of lovely colouring, then have a sweet from a jar for being good, before going into church just in time for the blessings. The air was scented with incense, which I love, and sometimes there was a Teddy Bears Picnic, or we would make an Easter Garden or Palm Crosses. When we got home, we would watch The Waltons while Mum cooked one of her amazing roast dinners...usually chicken, with a roasting pan of gravy bubbling on the hob.

Sundays now are different, we don't really go to church anymore unless it is Harvest Festival or a special service. It is the only day of the week I never have to work, and lately we have started going for a swim together, and then having breakfast in town, perhaps buying a newspaper, or taking a gentle wander through town. This Sunday, for a change, we went to Hylands House which is a short drive away. It has huge gardens and woods and although it was cold it was dazzlingly bright, and it was a joy to wander about. I am rather scared of dogs so ended up having to jump behind poor Carl once or twice, but other than that it was lovely. I took some photographs which I will download soon to share with you.

When we got home I was really chilled through, so I had a wonderfully long soak in the bath. Alas, Boots have discontinued it now, but they did a Clary Sage and Bergamot bubble bath for a while, and I had some of that, and a hot cup of tea. I love afternoon baths!

I put in the slow cooker a dish which turned out to be delicious, but when I make it again, I will put it in a slow oven instead. I cut up 300g of lamb into bite sized pieces, and threw it in with a chopped red onion, a tin of tomatoes, a diced red pepper, half a cubed aubergine, some cinnamon and oregano. We let it cook for ages, and threw in some fresh mint and diced feta at the end, and ate it on a bed of rice. I put it in the oven to bake for a bit, and it reduced down and went all thick and sludgy, just what I was hoping now I can use the leftovers to fill pitta breads with! Carl says that if I make it again I should use a bit more lamb, and to be honest I probably agree....but it is nice to see how far you can stretch these things!

I was hoping to settle down to a nice long post, but a lovely friend has invited us to dinner tonight, and in an email she mentioned cinnamon and chocolate meringues, so I must away! Wherever you are tonight, I hope you have something delicious awaiting you...and a big thank you to everyone for your lovely kind comments!

Friday, 7 January 2011

A Library-ish Year

Something that I started doing last year, but stopped without meaning to, was to keep a list of things I have borrowed from the library, and how much they would have cost me should I have bought them full price, or on amazon. By the time I had lost track, it was April, and I was up to over £300! I really could not afford to keep myself in books if I had to buy them. One of my new year's resolutions is to resurrect the here we go!

Moonraker, Ian Fleming
I was leaving work one evening and needed something to read for the bus. I had put another Bond novel on display, as it had been republished with a really feminine cover, and was not going to issue where it should live. Running out of time before the bus, I picked it up, and discovered that I love James Bond novels! So to take me over the new year, I chose another, and was pleased to discover that I enjoyed this one as well. I don't think I would want to buy them, unless I was going to collect vintage editions, so I am glad I borrowed rather than bought.

Goldfinger, Ian Fleming
Another instance of leaving to go home and wanting a book for my handbag (its funny, I think of a book as a handbag essential, along with a hairbrush, tissues, lipstick (or two!), keys, purse and phone! Oh, and a mirror!) This time I wanted something I knew I would enjoy, so picked up another in the Bond series. So far, I am only 10 pages in, but I am enjoying it.

Rose Elliot's Vegetarian Meals In Minutes
We are not vegetarian, but do eat vegetarian meals quite often. I don't think that we need to eat meat or fish at every meal to be healthy, and I like to eat seasonally, so books like this help give me new ideas. Plus, a book that offers meals in minutes is a definite advantage when you work and get in not long before a hungry husband on some days! This is one book that I am going to keep an eye out for in charity shops, and maybe even think about buying on amazon one day.

So, one week into 2011 and I have already saved £24.97/£17.59...not bad! What I need to do now is get into the habit of using the library like a normal person. That is, going to the library. There is a lot of serendipity about working in get exposed to an awful lot of books you might not have known about. But it does mean that you tend to fill your library card in the manner of a magpie feathering its nest! Lots of books left on your desk by friends, recommended by readers, that you noticed while shelving...but there is something about purposefully browsing, going into the library with a list of books to find, or just to see what there I am going to try and get out there on my lunch hour every now and again and browse properly. A whole year of authors to discover, old favourites to revisit... I can't wait!

Afternoon Comforts

Today has been a stormy day for me. Things at work have got a lot worse and are going to get worse before they are better. I don't want to go into too much detail, but I am going to have to be strong for a lot of people. I was glad it was my half day today. I took my shopping list to town with me, and with my polka dot umbrella over my arm, I sallied forth to tick the things off of my list, and leave my cares behind me.

Firstly to the market to buy some 3ply baby wool. I chose a pale cream, as I am going to knit from a vintage pattern. The pattern is for a pretty lacy shrug...basically, a very cropped cardigan which is almost just back and sleeves that I can wear to keep warm when I am reading in bed.

Then on to the grocery stall. Oh how I love to see all the seasonal fruit and veg piled up. On my list today were courgettes, a red pepper, a red onion, an aubergine, and as an afterthought some avocados. All but the last are destined for a lamb, feta and vegetable bake to be stirred into pasta for dinner one evening, and the leftovers stuffed into pittas for lunch the next day.

Onwards to the shoe shop for a new pair of slippers. I loved my last pair so much that I wore a whole in the sole! My new slippers are fluffy and cozy, cream ballet slippers with a bow and a sparkle in the middle of the bow on each one.

After that, I purchased 2 packets of tights, and thought wistfully of bygone days when young ladies would have purchased silk stockings instead of tights! And lastly a quick whisk through Marks and Spencer, where I bought some mint and pine nuts, and because I could not resist them, a bunch of flowers. I had been hoping for some daffodils, but they did not have any yet. There were some bright yellow tulips which I adored, but at £10 a bunch, I could not quite justify it. Instead, some dusky purple-pink tulips with some hyacinths. I have put them in a simple glass vase on my dressing table so I can see them when I wake.

Now I am at home, and it is dark outside already, and raining again. I am not looking forward to having to go out again later, but I am off to babysit for my godchildren this evening, and dear Carl will be joining me when he has finished work. It is definitely going to be a raincoat, wellie and umbrella journey, and I suspect I will be dripping on the train. There is something about train travel in the evening that makes me think of the film Brief Encounter.

I had hoped to start knitting on my bed-jacket-shrug, but time seems to be slipping away. I am looking forward to making something just for me, and the soothing rhythmic pattern of row upon row of lace. It really is all about rhythm and ritual for me at the moment. When I have finished here, I am going to have a cup of tea in my new favourite cup and saucer, and a slice of carrot cake. I am toying with the idea of a bath, although I think once in I will not want to get out again, especially not to go out in the dark and the rain!

I hope wherever you are, if there is rain then you have a pretty umbrella, and if it is dark you have a scented candle. And of course, no matter where you are or what you are doing, that you have a lovely cup of tea!


Thursday, 6 January 2011

Daily Rhythm

I think I have mentioned before the habit I have of saving newspaper clippings, magazine articles and photocopies sandwiched in amongst the leaves of my books. Well when I opened my sunglasses case this morning, a scrap of paper fluttered to the ground. When I examined it, I realised it was my horoscope from last summer some time! I am not into astrology in a big way, but I do like Jonathan Cainer's stars, I think of them as a kind of personal weather forecast. Anyway, in this scrap that I had saved, he talked of new new years are new beginnings, but how nature offers us many more- every sunrise, every sunset, even every breath in and out we take can be a new beginning. I remember why I liked it so much at the time, and I am glad that I saved it. When I read it this morning, it set me thinking about new starts.

I am about to go through a big upheaval at one of my jobs which I know is going to mean a new start for me in one way or another. Of course I hope for the best, but you never know. Still, I am trying to look at it as a new start rather than a sad ending, and I don't know what the outcome will be yet. Also, it being a new year, I have got some new years targets and resolutions made. One of which is taken from a puttery treat over at brocante home, in which Alison suggests making a list of 12 books you would love to read this year, and buying them or ordering them from your library. Of course, me being me I will be borrowing them, and on my tea break at work this afternoon, I started to think about all the books I have heard of recently that I would like to read, and started to make my list. There really is no better place to spend a rainy afternoon than in a tiny village library, with the tip tap tapping of rain on the windowpane making you glad to be indoors. Knowing that there are thousands upon thousands of books just awaiting your command to flit to your side, ready for enjoyment. I definitely want to read the new Sarah Ban Breathnach title, Peace and Plenty, and I think I want to read another Dennis Mackail, although not sure what. I want to spend a bit more time choosing my titles...but if you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them!

Somehow the pitter patter of rain entered into my consciousness, and I found myself almost swaying along to it as I shelved shelf after shelf of books this afternoon! It made me smile, and got me thinking about the pattern my days have fallen into recently. Isn't it wonderful to have a pattern to your days again, after the delightful upheavals of Christmas and New Year?

Every morning, I wake to The Today Programme on Radio 4, and lay in the warmth and the dark for 20 minutes of so until my lovely husband brings me a cup of tea. Then I get up and make our packed lunches and breakfasts (today was pear porridge, delicious!) while he washes and dresses. We eat together, and I send him off to work with a kiss. Then it is my turn to ready myself for the day, and walk to work. While I am at work, I enjoy it, but also quietly look forward to our evening. I get in first, and put the kettle on, then get the dinner ready and have a little potter about. Unless it is snowing or raining, I will fling open every window for as long as I can, before shutting them and lighting some candles. When Carl comes home, I always always say 'welcome home!' and then we share our dinner. Afterwards, one of us washes up while the other has a bath, then the other one has a bath. While the baths are happening, our electric blanket is on warming the bed, and we go to bed with our books and snuggle in the warmth.

Simple days, but blissful. I like the routine, the regularity. Of course, we don't do this every single night...I go to a stitching club every month or so, and a book club every month, and a friend comes to tea each Monday....but this is the every day fabric of our lives.

Wherever you are this evening, I hope that life for you seems to be beautiful ribbon on a spool that you can't wait to unfurl. A big thank you to the lovely Dinah...your comments have made me feel so glad to be back here and posting again! And a warm good evening and best wishes to all of you.

love, Mimi xxx

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Storecupboard Hero: Cocoa

Today has been a rather blissful day. I got up early in the dark to make dear Carl's breakfast and lunch to take to work, had a cup of tea, then put my electric blanket on and got back into bed in the dark, and listened to radio 4. I drifted off to sleep half listening to the radio, and eventually woke up at the unheard of hour of 10:00!

I will be working on Saturday, so I had today off, and for the first time I can actually remember, I have had a whole day to myself. Nobody to meet for lunch, nowhere to have to be, no appointments to keep. And so I resolved not to venture outside at all! Because it was bright and beautiful I flung open all the windows, and put the washign on, with the idea that I would hang it on the line to dry. Alas by lunch time it was cloudy and overcast, so it is now hanging up around me in our little sitting room, but it was lovely to air the flat and get the washing up done.

I had the most decadent treat this afternoon...I took a bath scattered with soap rose petals which dissolved into blissful bubbles. I had a candle alight, and the January edition of Country Living Magazine. I can't recommend a mid afternoon bath enough for lightening the spirit in January! Come to think of it, at any time really!

I was out of the bath and dressed again just in time for our groceries to be delivered. I really got out of the habit of having our shopping delivered last year (and a lot of other habits too, as my poorly neglected blog shows!) but I am glad I have resumed it. It is a happy mix of vintage housekeeping and modern housekeeping...sitting down to write out a menu plan for the week, and ordering the wherewithall to produce a week of seasonal, tasty meals. The method of ordering the goods has changed, but getting everything delivered takes us right back in time.

I have my lamp alight now, and a few candles, so the room looks warm and cozy. I have a sausage, tomato and bean casserole bubbling in the oven which smells divine. I like to think that it is a nice home to come home to, and when Carl is back in a few minutes, I hope he likes walking in to cooking dinner smells!

The other scent that you can just catch on the air is a rich chocolatey scent, for I have been baking. I have made chocolate squares...a very quick and easy recipe which has made me once again realise that Cocoa is a vertiable storecupboard hero. I love the connotations cocoa makes me think of dressing gowns and hot water bottles, bluestocking girls studying english literature...and I also love how useful it is. From one little drum of powder, you can make a delicious drink, scrumptious truffles, chocolate cakes, and my new favourite chocolate mousse.

Imagine, if someone offered you half an ounce of chocolate. Even if it was the most lovely quality delicious chocolate, it wouldn't really go very far, and it wouldn't feel like much of a treat. However, should you melt 3 ounces of dark chocolate, then stir in 4 tsp of cocoa dissolved in 4 tbsp water, the yolks of 2 eggs and cool....then whip the egg whites until stiff, then whisk in 1 tbsp caster sugar, and fold these into the chocolate mixture....divide between 6 glasses and chill.....well, wouldn't you rather have that? These are rich and light and utterly divine...tie on your apron and work that magic for yourself!