Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Puttery Afternoon

I have an application form that I really should be filling in, but there is something about this April afternoon that makes me see just why Elizabeth Von Arnim called it The Enchanted April. I am propped sitting on my bed, propped up on a cloud of pillows, with an afternoons work strewn around me. There is the job description (for my own job, that I am reapplying for!) and the radio. My dishcloth that I started knitting this morning, a novel, a few recipe books, my phone, my lovely bristle hair brush that makes my scalp tingle, and a pad of paper with lots of notes on subjects diverse from 'a menu for my royal wedding tea party' to 'evaluating partnerships associated with key strategic objectives' taking in 'books I should like to read' and 'pennies spent today' along the way!

The windows are open, and the curtains seem to be breathing the sweet afternoon air, swelling gently in and out. There is a blackbird singing, and the breeze is swishing through the brances and leaves.

To be fair, I have done some work on my application. The bones of it are in place, my initial opening gambit is pinned to the page with ink. But my mind wont focus, it keeps skittering away like a butterfly, and already I have arranged insurance for our new home, sent an email to a dear friend, and perused the brocante pin board more times that I ought! In just a moment I am going to take myself off to the kitchen to experiment with some wheat free vegan scones ready for Friday. But perhaps just a line or two more of knitting before I go...

To me, April afternoons like this are forever England. Even though it is a work day for most people, somehow I expect to hear the thwack of a cricket bat against a ball, or to catch out of the corner of my eye bunting fluttering at a church fete. It is cooler than it looks, you need a cardigan to cover your arms, but it is sandal wearing weather necessitating pretty painted toenails. I feel like these moments are almost liquid, that they could go on, and on. That part of me will always be here, typing and reading and knitting and thinking and planning. Wearing a flowery dress with red lipstick, flicking my hair over my shoulder and marvelling at how it is growing, at last, at last! That even as the radio beep beep beeps the hour with radio 4, time is still at the same time. I have a lot of uncertainty at the moment, a lot of change is afoot. Some is good and I can control, such as our move, but it is still the unknown, but a lot is unknown and I can't control, like my work situation. But somehow, through it all, I will keep this little moment of calm and quiet.

In just a few weeks, someone else will be sitting in this bedroom, making friends with my squirrel, seeing that tree out of their window. But just on the edge of their hearing, they will hear a happy sigh, and that will be me, still here, still here.

Mimi's Jingle Belles

Good afternoon ladies!

While on the one hand it seems a bit odd to be thinking about Christmas on a sunny April afternoon, on the other hand, an afternoon like this really lifts my spirits and makes me feel excited about life, which is just the right feeling, for thinking about Christmas!

Perhaps this month we should be sipping iced tea or coffee while we set to our tasks! So, thusfar together we have pinned down on paper the essence of Christmas this year, started to make ourselves a map of how to get there, built up a little nest egg to spend later in the year, got a strategy in place for making or buying Christmas cards, and also found a space to store things in. Phew! And it is only April! Just think, if we are this organized now, how wonderfully stress free this Christmas is going to be, and how much more we will have got done by then.

Lets start by giving the tin or jar or where you are keeping your Christmas money a little shake. Isn't it lovely to hear the coins rattle? Now it is time to top it up a bit, and to think as you do so, of the generations of women before us who had similar secret stashes. I am reading Peace and Plenty by Sarah Ban Breathnach at the moment, and she writes a wonderful little piece about just this thing.

Next, how are the cards going? Did you decide to start making them now? Or are you just thinking about a design? Is there something you can buy today, to help later? Perhaps some beautiful coloured ink with which to write the cards, or perhaps you know you will need a particular craft punch or card blanks? This would be a good time to go through your address book, and make sure it is up to date. My current address book is a little Cath Kidston one, and happily it does not yet have too many crossings out as friends and family get married or move home!

While you have your address book out, it is time for a little diary work too. You need to flip all the way forward to December. Somehow, that is only 8 months away! Now I find that every year, December fills up before I know it. Between birthdays and wedding anniversaries, before you even get to Christmas parties, there are book clubs and the like to consider as well. So, two things to do now. Firstly, decide when you want to be finished preparing for Christmas, your deadline by which the cards will be written and sent, the presents made, bought or wrapped, the tree trimmed, everything but everything (except cooking the dinner and such things that are by necessity impossible to do before hand!) is done. The point at which you can breathe in a nice long breath, let it out, and know you have nothing left to do. Don't make it too early so that you put yourself under too much pressure, but at the same time, do try and give yourself a few days at least to really enjoy the build up to the big day.

So, having marked that down, something I like to do, although you may not wish to, is to go through and mark in my diary how many weeks left to that day. So, say I decide my deadline is going to be Tuesday 20th December, then next to Tuesday 13th I mark '1', next to Tuesday 6th I mark '2' and continue going back about 10 weeks. How far you go back is up to you, it is just amazing how quickly those last weeks whiz by!

Now, back to December! One of the things that I love to do is to watch Christmas films, but somehow last year, it seemed to be Christmas before I knew it, and I never quite got to watch as many as I would have liked. You may have something else that you love to do - perhaps settle down with a whole pile of Christmas magazines, or go to a carol concert, or bake biscuits....but whatever it is that you love to do, the kind of thing that is all too easily edged out by other commitements, by last minute wrapping, these things you need to put in your diary now. That way, when it comes to November and the invitations and events start rolling in, you can be sure that you will still have time to fit in the things you love best.

Next month, we are going to start to look at gifts in a bit more detail. Until then, have a fabulous month!

Dishcloths and Bunting

Good morning!

I hope later today to have time to write out a little post about my Easter weekend adventures, and also my Jingle Belles post, but this morning I am thinking about dishcloths and bunting!

I am sitting in bed with a cup of tea at my side, Radio 4 is in the background, and I am surrounded by a little pile of happiness. There is Swept Off Her Feet, the new Hester Browne novel, and a selection of recipe books ready for me to make my shopping list from for my Royal Wedding Tea Party on Friday, and also knitting needles and a ball of dishcloth cotton.

Yes, really! Dishcloth cotton that I bought yesterday on my way to work. There was a choice of bright white, or a coffee cream colour, and I was drawn to the coffee cream shade. Not just for practical reasons, after all, that bright white won't stay bright white for long, but somehow the coffee shade just sang out to me. Now I know that there is a good reason to wonder why on earth you would knit your own dishcloth when they are so cheap to buy that they are virtually disposable, but you know, I really think that when you spend time and money on this kind of thing (the cotton was only £1.50 and will make 2 cloths, each which will take about 2 hours of continuous knitting, or an evening or two of knitting interspersed with other things) you are not spending these things for the end result, but for the experience of making them.

There is something lovely about taking a bit of time and effort to focus on what is really rather a lowly household item. Something really satisfying in lifting the steaming kettle from the hob with your own made dishcloth to protect your hand from the heat. I can't help but think that a few of these, with some homemade cleaning products would make a lovely housewarming gift too.

Not only that, but there is something very comforting about knitting a simple pattern which is quickly finished, for very little outlay on yarn. A sense of accomplishment, the ticking off of something finished. My favourite pattern to use is 'Chinese Waves', and if you click on the title of this post, there should be a link to take you to it. If not, just ask google and it will take you right to the pattern. It is a delicious little pattern, one row knit alternated with a knit one, slip one row. Like riding the soft waves yourself, knit, slip, knit, slip, and the clicking of your needles soothes you and lulls you into domestic bliss.

One of my little jobs for later on is to sort out my bunting and perhaps give it a quick press in readyness for the tea party on Friday. I love bunting, for its sole purpose is to cheer and look beautiful, and imbue a sense of festivity and frivolity to any occassion. Now I think about it, dishcloths and tea towels can be a kind of bunting in the kitchen. Imagine a drawer from which you can pull a fresh dishcloth and a fresh teatowel every morning, like a magician pulling a string of handkerchiefs from his sleeve! They can be pretty or practical or both, but a joy to produce with a flourish, to decorate your kitchen for the day.

I have my eye on a new set of tea towels decorated with tea pots and the Union Jack. I am waiting to move into my new kitchen, but as I move from this one, I am going to take time to retire those that are past their best.

Wherever you are, I hope you are having a lovely Wednesday!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The Gift of Love

Gifts by their very nature are lovely things, but there are some gifts that surpass themselves, that make you sigh with pleasure, and as well as the thing itself, you appreciate the feeling behind the thing, the fact that the person has thought about you, understands you, 'gets' you.

Two beautiful examples from the past two days, both of which have left me a little weepy! Yesterday I saw my 'little' (he is in his 20s and towers above me, but is six years younger than me!) brother for the first time since he arrived back from a month in America. He presented me with a package, casually mentioned it was my birthday gift and that he thought he had wrapped it pretty badly, then sauntered off, in his casual laid back way. When I opened the gift, there was a Beany Baby soft toy - a horse, called Secretariat. When I still lived at home, perhaps 15 years or even more ago, I used to collect Beany Babies. I had quite a collection, and I used to love them. I hadnt thought about them in years, but Rob had remembered that I used to collect them, and bought back this one from Kentucky, as it was a place he visited, and the Beany Baby itself was of a horse that won the Kentucky races....and was born on my birthday! (A few years previously to me though!). That by itself was really thoughtful and lovely, but the second gift concealed by the star spangled paper was even more wonderful - a proper feather quill pen and pot of ink! I can't wait to start using it, and love to think of all the writings written in quill and ink. I have jokingly threatened to fill in the application form for my job that I am having to reapply for using it!

Now to this afternoon....I had to work, but Carl had the day off. As he was driving me down the hill from my little library, he mentioned that he had got me something a bit different for Easter this year. When we got home, he said he had left it out for me to see, that I needed to have it this evening rather than tomorrow. Imagine how amazed I was to see a teacup crafted out of chocolate that he had made from scratch by hand! He sat it in a nest of yellow shredded tissue, with a little Lindt bunny keeping watch over it!

I have to say that I feel really blessed to have a husband who will spend his Saturday on one of the hottest days of the year making me a chocolate tea cup! He was quick to point out its flaws....a slightly wonky handle, and a fingerprint captured in the chocolate....but you know, I don't think that a gift from the heart can ever be flawed, and whilst it might not be good for holding tea, it certainly is good for holding a whole lot of love!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Unexpected Pleasures

I love it when life throws up little happy surprises for you. Yesterday evening I was walking home, enjoying the fact that it was still light, when I spotted in the verge two little clumps of bluebells! I love bluebells, and had to resist the urge to dig them up carefully and plant them in vintage cups and saucers to have at home! Instead I contented myself with snapping a quick photo and smiling as I went on my way.

Today has presented me with a lovely lunch with a lovely person (nothing quite like sharing home cooked Spanish food on a sunny day!) and a new haircut, the result of a spur of the moment whim! The lovely Nathan has kept the length for me, but I now have a fringe which I can blow dry straight down and quite vintagey, or sweep to one side out of the way!

An Easter card from my sister sprinkled my toes with tiny egg shaped glitter confetti! And the same lovely sister presented me with two handwritten pages of recipes of hers that I have coveted for ages.

Alas, the steam cleaner I ordered has not yet arrived, but I have the fun of anticipating its coming and looking forward to it! I tend to use natural cleaning products anyway, but I think you can't get more natural than steam! It comes with lots of attachments so I can use it for everything from cleaning the oven to the sofa to the shower!

Just dropping in for a quick hello this evening, I am still working my way through crepe papering easter gifts. Oh, my work giftlets metamorphosised into something different than I had planned! I found really pretty Easter paper cups, so I took pastel coloured tissue paper, and stuffed each cup with a square of that all crinkled up so quite a lot showed at the top. I dropped a Cadbury Caramel egg into the bottom of each one, then some Cadbury mini eggs, then some teeny tiny chocolate eggs, smaller than a raisin! I topped each one with a fluffy pipe cleaner chick, and then a flag, the kind you would usually use to label sandwiches, with the recipients name. Now I just have to finish off my little crepe paper surprise bundles for my family!

I hope that you are having a lovely evening!


Sunday, 17 April 2011

Wedding Bells

I am sure you won't be surprised to know that I am really looking forward to the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William! I love weddings anyway, and I also admire (most of!) our Royal Family. I love the image of England as seen from the outside, of red telephone boxes and buses, of guards in their tall hats and so on...and really, I think that our royal occasions really do show us off in our best light! I know that there are plenty of people who are not interested, but there are lots of us who are, and I love the idea that up and down the country there will be hundreds and thousands and more of us all watching that little piece of history at the same time. I am a similar age to Kate Middleton, and while I am quite content with my own prince, it is odd to think that it could have been any of us walking up the steps to Westminster Abbey! I like her personal style (although she is not very vintage!) and swishy hair, and am looking forward to seeing her dress. There has been endless debates and speculation in our newspapers and magazines about what she will wear, if she will have a tiara, how she will wear her hair. I find some of it quite amusing, because on one hand it really doesn't matter, but on the other hand it is quite interesting. One discussion that I did think was pretty pointless though was asking several hairdressers how they would style Kate's hair for the big day. One of them was talking about a loose unstructured style, and I have to say that I would be really surprised if she went for something like that, because at the end of the day, it is quite a formal occasion! Have I mentioned that I am going to have a little Royal Wedding Tea Party at home? I have invited some friends round and I am going to hang up my wedding bunting, get out my flowery crockery, and bake some cakes and make cucumber sandwiches. I believe we might play games of guessing what colour the bridesmaids will be wearing, and that kind of thing. I am really looking forward to it but a little shocked at how quickly it seems to be coming round! I haven't planned the menu as much as I need to yet, nor gone shopping for things for party bags! (I am thinking of a royal wedding mug, and slices of cake in the kind of boxes you have at weddings, and perhaps those bubbles that come in little bottles in the shape of champagne bottles!). It is hard to think that the day after that, we get the keys to our new flat! This summer, I will have been married for four years. I can hardly believe it, it feels like it was yesterday, but at the same time it feels like we have always been married too! I hope that Prince William and Kate Middleton will have a happy marriage too. They are facing many more challenges than we did, and I think they will have to be strong. Sunday seems to have slipped away today, although we have got lots done. Poor Carl did not come home from work till half past eleven last night, so I let him sleep in this morning, and then we went for breakfast to a lovely little garden nursery which is just around the corner to us. It was warm enough to sit outside, and one of their hens was wandering about while we were eating, pecking at the grass and looking enquiringly at our legs! It really is a pretty place, called 'The Secret Garden' and considering it took us 5 years to find it, I think it earns its name! Right, must tie on my pinny and cook us some dinner. Wherever you are, I hope that you are having the most scrumptious Sunday! Love, Mimi xxx Ps Dinah, thank you for your lovely comments on my posts! Your Easter crafting this year and in past years sounds delightful. Do you blog too? You really should! x

Friday, 15 April 2011


I don't know if it is down to the weather, or just the fact that we are swinging into spring, but the blossom this year seems so heavenly and abundant. It started with a tree at the end of my road, which has beautiful spreading branches. Although it is in a garden, it is so big it hangs over the pavement and I walk under it every day. Just a week or so ago there was the merest suggestion of white dustings at the end of each twig, and suddenly the branches are weighed down with the fluffiest blossom. Along my walk through the park, a delicate haze of pink has erupted into a froth of pink; it is like the trees are suddenly adorned with hundreds of tiny ballerinas wearing tutus! I just adore spring, it is one of my favourite times of year. I love everything from the first white of the snowdrops to the glorious daffodils and crocuses, and now the daffodils are slowly hanging their heads and sighing as they slip away for another year, at least the blossom is coming out to take over the next act. While I was out and about at lunchtime, I spotted the new edition of Country Living Magazine, and the front cover had a beautiful picture of some blossoms in a jug. I wish I had more time at the moment, as it has inspired me to want to make some blown eggs to hang from pussy willow and blossom branches as an Easter decoration, and perhaps to make some for gifts, but with the move I just don't have the time. What I am planning to do though, is make surprise balls. That is where I take a small wrapped chocolate egg (such as a Cadbury Creme Egg) and wrap it in a crepe paper streamer, mummy style! Then you add perhaps a mini egg and wrap a few more layers, then perhaps one of those fluffy pipe cleaner chicks, and keep adding and wrapping. Then you tuck the end in and tie the whole thing up with a bow! I have bought pastel colours, pinks, lilacs and yellows, but I have just ordered some orange online as I was reading Martha Stewart Living magazine, and she did the same thing but rather than make eggs, she made carrotts! So hopefully I can make some of those too. When I sit down to make them, I will take some photos to share with you. I like to give some little tokens at Easter to friends at work, and this year I am going to cut the shape of daffodil petals out of card, then place a yellow cup cake case in the centre, and fill with small eggs, jelly beans and perhaps a fluffy chick. A kind of nest-in-a-flower as it were! Well it is still light outside which is heavenly, and I am feeling very cheerful. I have had a bath with my favourite bergamot and clary sage bubble bath, and gave myself a facial using cold cream. Now I just have to hop into the kitchen and put dinner in the oven before Carl comes in. Then after dinner we need to straighten up a little, because while we are at work tomorrow, we have people coming round to look at the flat with a view to rent it. It feels really strange thinking of someone looking at our things, although I know of course they will really be looking at the rooms and so on. So, that is my evening...however you are spending yours, I hope you are having a wonderful Friday and have lovely adventures to come.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Moving On...

I am still a bit torn with how I feel about our move. I am still going to miss the squirrel, and our first home together, but I think excitement is beginning to overtake me now! Which is good, I think I am going to need something to carry me through what I know is going to be a tough job. You see, as you have probably worked out from reading my blog, I am a hoarder! I love things...I hate the idea of throwing out something that could be useful one day. I am really looking forward to a good clean start, and mean to keep everything decluttered and peaceful! We are at the stage now of trying to work out what to take, in what order, at what point we live here, at what point we live there. To get our organizing started, I have bought a big box for us to store 'household' paperwork in...our lettings agreement, utilities bills and so on. Then I have bought a smaller box file each for us to put in our own things, bank statements, payslips and so on. I have so many of those stored up! I think this will be a good time to have a cull and put them in order. I know I still have paperwork from my mobile phone before last! Looking around me I cannot imagine what a job it is going to be to sort through everything, pack it all up and move it, unpack it and order it! To help, I have of course bought a new notebook. I think I am going to start by listing room by room what needs doing. For example, in the bedroom is our wardrobe. I need to go through and be ruthless about which clothes I take, and which I give away. One job for this evening is going to be to go through our dvd collection and whittle that down a bit! It is the 11th today..19 sleeps and we get our new keys! Eeek!

Crafting Sunday

Yesterday was the latest of our 'Crafting Sunday' afternoons. This time we were at the lovely Apryl's house. I dont know what the word is...contentment comes close...but there is a particular feeling of sitting and crafting with a group of other is really blissful. Apryl's house is just lovely. You would never see it in a magazine, but it is really homely. There are photographs on almost every surface, and drawings by her children. There are throws and cushions everywhere, most of which she has made. There are cross stitches on the wall, and everything is a happy memory from somewhere, captured with needle and thread and put on show. While I cross stitched on my 'Keep Calm and Carry On' sampler, Nastassia was crocheting a fancy square, Wendy was knitting a carnation, Carla was embroidering a sausage dog, and the children were decopatching various items. We talked of projects to come, projects we have made. I went home with the pattern for a crocheted Union Jack cushion. We are like that, very sharing with patterns and ideas. There is nothing jealously guarded or skill unshared. It is a bit of a crafting week; tomorrow evening I am off to the little village of Writtle, and there in the Village Hall opposite the duck pond, I will be making Egg Cosies For Easter. I can't wait!

Something Fishy Afoot!

Well it was the most wonderful combination of circumstances this weekend...the sun was shining, it was my Saturday off, and Carl did not have to work! We had a vague idea of what we wanted to do with our Saturday, and it was just the right mix of plan and impulse. We walked into town holding hands in the sunshine, and suddenly noticed a crowd around a shop window. Ever one to be curious, I wandered over for a peek. What do you think, but a floatation spa and fish pedicure shop had opened! I had heard about fish pedicures before, and found the idea a little weird, but seeing the little fishies swimming about in their tank, I decided we should seize the day, and five minutes later, we were both sitting there with the little fishies swimming about and bubbling at our toes! The closest I can describe the sensation is as the bubbles of champagne feel on your tongue, that is how the fish feel on your feet. They were lovely and smooth afterwards, and gave us plenty to talk about! After that we continued into town, dropped off some forms with our new letting agents, and breathed a big sigh of relief to hear that the flat is definitely ours from the end of the month! All references and checks were fine! Hurrah! Then we had lunch, and from there on to the cinema, where we used up some gift vouchers and saw not one but two films! The first was Limitless and the second Source Code. I did enjoy them both, but also found myself wishing I had a vintage cinema, with usherettes, and old fashioned films! Home tired but happy!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Skinny French Kitchen

I mentioned that my copy of The Skinny French Kitchen had arrived, didn't I? Well I have had a cursory flick through it, decided it looks delightful, from a the writing to the styling to the recipes, and as a result it is much too nice to not absorb properly. So, I resolved to put it to one side until I can really read it properly. Which doesn't explain why there are wonderful smells coming from my kitchen! There is a Coq Au Vin Blanc bubbling away, Skinny Mashed Potatoes boiling, and Creme Caramel cooling on the windowsill! This morning before work I remembered that we have a friend coming for tea, and I had no idea what to make him. I thought I would have just a little flick and see if there was anything suitable in the book, and there was so much I wanted to make! I was torn between not reading the recipe titles so they would still be a surprise when I read the book properly and wanting to look at them all to choose the best thing to make tonight! I think I managed to strike just about the right kind of balance! I had a Lakeland gift voucher for my birthday, and I exchanged it today for a potato ricer. I have wanted one for ages. they look like a giant garlic crusher, and work in exactly the same way, only they extrude your cooked potatoes instead of garlic, and by all accounts give the fluffiest mash ever. Ten minutes more and I can tie my pinny back on and go and find out if it lives up to its reputation! If you are thinking of adding to your own cook book collection, I can recommend The Skinny French Kitchen. I have had the most wonderful time in the kitchen, stirring and whisking and baking and boiling. It sounds a bit labour intensive to make coq au vin blanc, while making a custard for the creme caramels, and in fact making the caramel, but it is all so clearly explained you just kind of waltz through it. I think I must be having a French Phase at the moment! I am working through the Brocante Home Muse programme, and am trying to tune in to my 'inner Mimi' and I am beginning to think she may just talk with a hint of a French accent! I sat in the coffee shop earlier reading a book about French women while sipping an iced coffee, came home to cook my french dinner, and I have just ordered some French films from film flex! It has been a delightfully warm and sunny day today. The kind of day that is made for spring dresses and bare legs and a swish of your hair and a cool breeze. I hope it has been lovely for you too!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Cold Comfort

It is just as well that you read these posts with your own voice in your mind, and do not have to listen to least for today, as I have gone down with a cold and am very husky and croaky sounding! Last night I just could not sleep at all, and was by turns hot and cold, and in the end I got up and opened all the windows in our living room, and sat drinking cool water in the dimly lit room with cool breeze fluttering through the windows. I sat for a few hours reading and and resting my eyes by turns. Although my cold is undeniable (I seem to be saying atishoo every five minutes!) I wonder if the coming changes are anything to do with my sleeplessness last night. I can't deny I am really excited about our move and our new home and the fresh start, but this is the first home I lived in with my husband, and we have been here 7 years. Suddenly, leaving seems really sad, even though we only rent so it was never going to be forever, and there are plenty of reasons for us to go. I don't want to stay, but I don't want to leave either! How very contrary. Tonight we must fill in forms for reference and credit checks to be returned tomorrow. We hand them in tomorrow then wait to hear back. I need to contact our current landlord to see if he will let us out of our current contract a week or two early. So much to do, so many people to notify, contracts to end, new ones to arrange. I know it will be worth it, but it is scary still. So tonight I plan to have a warm bath and take my book to bed with some chamomile tea. I am trying to think about all the positives, seeing this as the biggest Brocante Home seasonal scrub that I have ever done, and thinking about all the lovely new domestic routines I can set in place. I am sure I mentioned this in yesterdays post, but I can't wait to have a kitchen table! In less than a month, all change! I know I posted about this only the other day, but I think I need to keep talking through my feelings so I can get to grips with them. At times like this, I have a line from an Alanis Morisette song going through my mind - "...and every little thing is going to be fine, fine, fine..." I know it will be fine. Give us 6 weeks and we will be tucked into our scrumptious new way of life and I will have so many photographs to post...but getting from here to there seems an awful lot of hurdles away! Wishing you a peaceful Sunday evening love Mimi xxx

Friday, 1 April 2011

Mimi Gets Lippy!

I was really excited to read that Poppy King has collaborated with Boots No 7 to produce a capsule lipstick and lipgloss range, and as I had some birthday pennies to spend, I decided to add another red lipstick to my collection. Last time I bought from Boots No 7 range, it was their 'decades' collection, and the lady advised me to buy the lipstick and the gloss together, however I really don't like the feel of gloss on my lips, now my hair is longer it sticks to my lips, and I prefer a matte finish. Also, the lipstick was perfectly fine with a good depth of colour on its own, so this time I decided to just buy a lipstick on its own (even though the gloss had much nicer packaging!) The lipsticks come in pastel coloured boxes, decorated with tiny polka dots which I have read were inspired by Marilyn Monroe's beauty spot. The lipstick itself is in a plain silver-ish case, and when you take the lid off, Poppy's signature is revealed. I chose 'History' as it was the reddest shade available, which came in a box somewhere between mint green and duck egg blue, the inside of the box being a heinz tomato soup red. So far, so good! A slip of paper fell out when I opened it, which read "Congratulations! You are entering the wonderful world of lip colour. Did you know that women have been painting their lips for centuries? And why? Because it has teh power to totally transform your mood in a way that no other cosmetic can. Boots No 7 and I are thrilled that we can join with yo in celebrating the joy of lip colour and most celebrating being you. I have designed these special shades to help you do just that. Love, Poppy." Hmmmm....well....congratulations? For buying a lipstick? And where else would I be entering, if not the world of lip colour, having bought a lipstick? Yes, I know women have been using lipstick for years. Yes, I guessed to make them look and feel good! Yes, lipstick can make you feel great....but not this one! The first thing is the smell. It is not strong, but it smells of Copydex, faintly, which is a kind of fishy glue. Not the thing I want to think about when I am doing my makeup! Then there is the colour....pretty in the tube, but just too, too sheer on. If you want to feel great wearing lipstick, then I think you need to be wearing lipstick. When I put on my bright red Russian Red or iconic Ruby Woo, I feel great. I feel in a red lipstick kind of mood. This goes up one step from nude, and to be honest, I don't think anyone reaches for nude lipstick when they want to make a statement! It could be argued that it is good for women taking babysteps and finding their confidence in wearing red lipstick, but I think a better path would be to go and buy some Benetint or a red to suit your colouring, chosen with the help of the girls on the Mac counter. I am disappointed because I really wanted to like it, but I won't be wearing it again. It's a shame you can't return such things! I think I feel the way about this that I do about mild cheese...unless it is a naturally mild cheese eg marscapone, what is the point? If you don't like cheddar, don't buy cheddar, why buy a mild cheddar?! If you don't like or want to wear red lipstick, wear something else! Or actually, wear this! I do wish I had something lovely to say about this, and maybe the other colours are better, or the gloss would deepen it enough....but alas, not! Still, at least I have plenty of other lipsticks to keep me going! And you only find the fabulous ones after buying a few disappointments!

Bookish Delights

Today I received a belated birthday gift; done up in Tiffany Blue paper, a sage green book slid out. A volume of poetry by Edward Thomas. The cover itself is really tactile, smooth heavy card with a slight grain, which opens to reveal ever so slightly cream pages. Alas, it does not say which font they have used, but it is elegant, and slightly spare, so the words carry all the impact themselves. I am not yet familiar with Edward Thomas, but I have a feeling that he will be a new friend. I came back from town today with Easy Living Magazine and Good Housekeeping. Easy Living jumped into my basket because it has a trinket tray by Celia Birtwell free on the front. There were two designs; a dark tray with birds, or a paler tray with Parisian detailing. I chose the latter! I am rather taken with trays at the moment. I have my cold cream, pears soap and witchazel on a tray in the bathroom, so all my cleansing products are together. I want to put my tea things on a tray next, but this one is too small for that. Perhaps I shall use it on my bedside table. Good Housekeeping came home with me because there is a feature by Kirstie Allsopp on throwing a Street Party in honour of the Royal Wedding. I love Kirstie, and I am really looking forward to the Royal Wedding, so I had to have it! I am not having a street party, but I am throwing a small afternoon tea, inviting some friends to watch the wedding and partake of some tea, sandwiches and cakes. One of my friends is vegan, and another does not eat wheat, so Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World is a book I have borrowed from the library and bought home today. I need to start planning the menu, and have decided that wheat free bread cucumber sandwiches should tick both boxes, and I hope to find some cupcake recipes that will keep everyone happy too! I will be happiest if I can manage a menu where everyone can eat everything rather than trying to remember who can eat what! As I mentioned in my previous post, I have just finished Miss Buncle Married, the sequel to Miss Buncle's Book. It was a real delight. The way Stevenson captures thoughts about certain things reminds me of Mrs Miniver. Miss Buncle (now Mrs Abbott) is house hunting and cannot find a satisfactory house, because she has an image of the perfect house in her mind, and none of the ones she has seen so far are that house! It is book club tonight. We have read The Hidden Heart of Emily Hudson, and our next book is Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. I enjoyed the former and am looking forward to the latter. I think of Niffenegger as a 'good' author, which I know is terribly subjective, but I think of as good quality writing, and also enjoyable. A book that I have had in mind to read for a while, and finished last night was Mr Rosenblum's List which is about a Jewish refugee who arrives in London with his wife during World War 2, and is issued a booklet of instructions about how to live well and fit in in England. (It includes things like 'talk halting English rather than fluent German and do not talk in a loud voice). He adds to his list, and the last thing he needs to do is to join a golf club, but because he is a Jew, no club will accept him. At last he decides that if cannot be a member of a club, he will make his own! I thought it was going to be a gentle read, and it is indeed gentle and whimsical on the whole, but also there is a lot of depth and sadness. It is quite deceptive really, light to read but some of the observations really do pierce you. I was intrigued to read about a cake that his wife makes, called Baumkuchen, which you make by spreading a thin layer of batter then grilling it, then adding another layer and another. When it is cut, it resembles the rings in a tree. Each layer is in remembrance, perhaps of a person, or an event. In the book it is made as Sadie tries to come to terms with losing her family, and it is described as tasting of sadness, which reminds me of a novel I have read reviews of, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which is about a girl who can taste the emotions of the person who has prepared her food, which gives her an insight into their interal lives. I must put that on my list of books to read! When I got home this afternoon, the postman had been, and a day before I expected it, I have The Skinny French Kitchen by Harry Eastwood, who also wrote Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache. It is full of French recipes which she has made a little kinder to the waistline. I really like the quirky whimsical nature of her writing, and I find her recipes work really well too. I think I won't have too much time for cooking over the next few weeks, but once I am settled into my new kitchen, it will be nice to have a new book to cook from. I have also just subscribed to a new craft magazine called Molly Makes. It launches in May, and has the feel of being a cross between Making magazine and Selvedge. So that is my little round up of my reading for now....what are you reading?

Bumping Into Emma Bridgewater

Good afternoon! Happy April! And before you ask, the title of my post is not an April Fool's joke, I really did bump into Emma Bridgewater on Wednesday! But before I tell you about that, a big thank you to all of you for your lovely comments. From birthday wishes to knowing there are other people working alongside me to get ready for Christmas, to just lovely words from such lovely readers, each comment means a lot to me, thank you! I had a wonderful birthday! Poor Carl had to work until 2.30am (he worked from home, thank goodness!) so he could spend the day with me, so I started my birthday by letting him sleep in while I read Miss Buncle Married, which is a really lovely, happy, sweet little story. I opened cards and gifts from family and friends, and shed a few happy tears. As nice as the gifts themselves are, it is even sweeter to know that people understand me, and know just what I like. To think of people taking time to go and find me something, that makes me feel so touched. My pretty parcels included a duck-egg-blue-and-white-polka-dot cake stand, a sellotape dispenser in the shape of a high-heeled shoe, and some hand cream from Penhaligon's. My lovely sister included a packet of dolly mixture sweeties in with her gift, so it was a really sweet start to the day! We dropped into the agent letting the flat we like and gave them a referencing deposit, which means as long as our references and credit checks go through, we can have the keys to our new flat on April 3oth! From there, on the train up to London. It was an older train, which made poor Carl groan as they are not so comfortable for commuters, but for me it was fun as the seats have little tables and you can almost imagine you are aboard a steam train! Because we were longer in the lettings agents than we planned, we were five minutes late to the lunch time talk at the Victoria and Albert museum, but happily they let us in. It was all about The Art of the Chocolatier and was by the lady who started Rococo chocolates. After the talk there were free samples of her divine chocolates, and seeing well-t0-do London Ladies scrummaging for them was both a little fearsome and amusing all at the same time! From there we had a little wander around the museum. I must get Carl to put the photographs onto the computer for me so I can share them. We spent time in the Cast Court which never fails to take my breath away. The sheer size of the casts is breathtaking, and I still can't comprehend how they managed to cast an entire abbey door! Two of my favourite sights - the rooftops of the V&A looking across to the dome of Brompton Oratory, and the window panes all spattered with rain; and a magnolia tree in the gardens, such dark branches and such white flowers, some of which it had shed in the rain. And oh, how it rained! Happily it held off while we scurried across town to the Rococo Chocolate shop, but it was much further than it looked on the map! We put together our own box of chocolates, and have resolved to share one an evening. They are expensive (about £1 per chocolate!) but are so rich and amazingly satisfying, all handmade and fairtrade. Flavours such as violet and blackcurrant, or pumpkin and spice called to me, and I also chose a small bar of violet scented chocolate to take home. They did it all up in pink ribbon, and put them in a little paper carrier bag. From there we caught a tube or two across to Oxford Circus and Liberty. Oh, how I love Liberty! We had a very late lunch there (it was 5:00!) which was afternoon tea - little finger sandwiches, teeny warm scones with cream and Tiptree jam, then some little fancy cakes. I had a pot of 'traditional' tea whilst Carl had Earl Grey. It was really fragrant and had an amazing depth of flavour, and was really reviving. The waiter made me laugh, he was so flamboyant and French, and as the rain hit the windowpane next to our table, he suddenly reminded me of a duck! I did not buy much from Liberty (just one packet of self-cover buttons) but so enjoyed looking round, stroking the wools and sniffing the bubble baths. We also took a turn around the Dining Room, which is where I bumped into Emma Bridgewater! She was there to promote a range she has done exlcusively for Liberty, and would sign anything you bought that day. I have to say that I prefer her more 'traditional' designs, by which I mean her polka dots, stars and Union Jack ranges, but the spatter pattern was pretty. I was so tired by then that we came home, and as we got back, I suddenly realised that this would not be home for very much longer! I do wonder where the next year will take me, but really look forward to sharing my adventures with you!