Friday, 24 June 2011

Sips To Soothe The Soul

Can you hear my kettle boiling? I often miss the whistling of my old kettle, but am coming to appreciate the soft and rapid bubbling of my new electric kettle. When I have a gas hob again, I will definitely be dusting off the whistling kettle....but for now the electric kettle is suiting us well. It is something of a revelation to have boiling water within a minute or so of wanting it!

And I am afraid to say that this afternoon I was in need of a cup of tea to soothe the soul. Although the interview did not go badly, actually, they said it was good....there was someone better. So no job. On one hand it is nice to know that I did not embarass myself, but I can't help feeling that if you don't have a job it doesn't matter if the interview went terribly, not too badly or rather quite still don't have a job!

I know that in the future months I may well look back at this and think about how silly I was to be feeling so melodramatic, and hopefully I will be looking back from the vantage point of having a fabulous new job that I love, that will make me wonder why I stayed so long in what I am doing now, but it is so hard to see how that day will come about. I am now, frankly, feeling terrified. In a little over a month, I will be employed only 17 hours a week, and that is just not enough for me to get by on. Of course my lovely husband can help out in the short term, but in the long term we both need to be working, and I feel bad, like my failing at work shouldn't cost him money he works so hard to earn. I feel like I am grasping at straws, casting about for any idea of what to do.

I am not proud about what I do. Essentially I need to keep the money coming in, but I also would love to work at something that I believe I make a difference somehow in. That is one of the reasons why I have loved working in libraries so much.

I keep getting told that I have to put on a brave face at work and play the game...but frankly, in this moment I just dont want to. I want to cry and shout and scream, I want to smear my makeup all over my face and cry and show them how bruised and battered I am feeling. I want to not go into work, to lay in bed, to curl in a ball, to burn with anger and just stop being the grownup.

But I won't do that...I can't remember which silver screen star said it, but one of them did...'that just isn't showbizz' and while I know this isnt showbizz...I do believe that we are all stars of our own stages. So I pour a cup of tea, have my quiet cry, despair at ever hearing anything other than 'we are sorry, you weren't successful this time' put on my red lipstick and try again. Its just it feels awfully scary when it appears that the glitter has worn off your sparkle, the diamonds are turning to paste...

But I won't go on. I don't want this to be an unhappy place for me or for anybody who is kind enough to stop by to read my little writings. So, things to cheer:

1) I have a cup of tea and a 'spiced and iced' bun from Marks and Spencer, surely a combination to salve sore souls.

2) I am crocheting with the most amazingly soft dove grey alpaca yarn from a company called Drops. I had not heard of them before, but I will be buying from them again. It is an apple cosie to match the covers of Persephone books!

3) There is a vintage fayre on tomorrow, just five minutes from work, so I shall pop in on my tea break.

4) I have taken up doing 10 minutes of yoga in the morning, which makes me feel....good.

5) I have an audio book to listen to whilst I crochet.

6) Blog friends old and new.

7) I am off to Henley Regatta next adventures to look forward to.

Thank you for listening, and wherever you are, I hope your teapot is always full of good cheer!


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Tomato and Lentil Soup (with rather too much dried chilli)

Lightly fry an onion in a little oil, and when soft, stir in a crushed clove of garlic. When it starts to smell fragrant, stir in a good shaking of dried rosemary, and a handful of red lentils (about 2-3oz) and a chopped red pepper. Stir in a tin of chopped tomatoes, and about 700ml stock. Add a pinch of dried chilli, then bubble away until the lentils are soft, which will take about 15 minutes. Give it a whizz in a food processor (I used my beloved vitamix) then serve with a smile and a sofa to relax into, and a box of tissues to dab at your nose with! Enjoy!

A Day Spent In Bliss

There are some days that just flow, somehow. Not necessarily special days, not birthdays or anniversaries, but just some days when you wake up, and everything just seems right. I was going to say that it is the kind of day where the sun is shining, but while there has been sunshine, there has also been torrential rain, and even that has been just right.

Firstly, I went to the Clarins Spa which is actually situated within a Debenham's Department Store. Now when I first visited last year I was a little hesitant about the location, but oh my, you soon forget you are in the middle of a shop. To be fair, you are in a room within a shop, and a proper one at that, not just a partition, but still, it is hard to remember there are people shopping just yards away. With the lights down low, tucked up in the cosy bed and soft music playing whilst you are massaged and pampered, it is easy to float off to a place of bliss. This Triactive Facial was a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law, and I had been saving it up. I have had a facial at the Clarins Spa before, but this was my first Triactive one. I have to say that for me it was really effective, the products smell divine, the emphasis is on personalisation to your needs, lots and lots of massage and relaxation. I enjoyed the process very much, from the eye mask at the beginning, and being asked to breathe in deeply the scent of lavender to the scalp massage at the end, but I think my skin was more glowy after the facial I had there previously. After that facial, I had lots of friends at work stop me and ask me what I had done to my skin because it looked so good, which was really lovely. My skin did feel really smooth though, and it was a lovely way to spend an hour.

After that, the train to Witham, with the rain tapping lightly at the windows. Happily it held off while I walked to my destination, which was lunch with the lovely Angela and my goddaughter Lucy. We had a veritable feast - grilled halloumi, lamb koftas, falafel, salad, houmous and toasted pitta bread, washed down of course, with pots of tea!

Then back to Chelmsford where I ordered us Sky tv at last, at last! We have had no tv at all since we moved, and whilst on one hand it has been nice having a break from it, we are ready once again, I think. I ordered the package that gave us TCM as I love that channel and am looking forward to black and white films already! I had a voucher from Grazia magazine for a free trial set of the new skincare range from Benefit. It said that it was worth £10 and to be honest I was a little cynical, so imagine my delight to be given a little box that opened to reveal three samples in minature bottles big enough for at least a weeks use! I have taken a photo, which I will share when I do a review of the products. They are meant to boost radiance which is my main skin care concern at the moment. I will report back!

Then I walked home where I read a back issue of The Lady, painted my nails bright red, then poured a long bath where I soaked reading The Debutante by Kathleen Tessaro which is just delicious. It reminds me vaguely in atmosphere of The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, and I am enjoying it very much.

Next, a little light cooking for supper. One of my standby recipes, for tomato and lentil soup, although I seem to have overdone the dried chilli a little bit, so I am alternating sips of soup with dabbing of my nose!

I cannot remember if I have shared this with you yet...but I have a job interview on Friday morning, for a job within libraries. I am feeling strangely calm....I was before the last one, and that didn't work out so well! I am not sure if it is a good sign or a bad sign. I am in the same room as the last interview which I don't like, although I know it doesn't have anything to do with anything. Oh well, we shall see!

Love, Mimi xxx

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

This Evening I Am...

...sitting at home in the twilight alone, as poor Carl is working late...

...boiling the kettle for the third time for the cup of tea I still haven't managed to make...

...breathing in cool air from the open window...

...feeling slightly headachey and feverish...

...yet still listening to The Best Of The Corrs on my laptop...

...crocheting another apple cosy...

...wearing red, which is fast becoming my signature colour...

...looking forward to my day off with Mum on Friday...

...thinking how writing a blog is rather like writing an open letter to the world, and the loveliest of people read it and reply...a special thank you to Dinah for your words which are a real comfort...

...trying to decide if I want a bath before bed or just to wrap myself in the soft covers and drift off to sleep...

...wondering what to buy my father and father-in-law for father's day on Sunday...

...feeling so grateful for friends and family...

Monday, 13 June 2011

Lovely Craft Magazines

Once upon a time, eleven or so years ago, I came across a single copy of the most amazing magazine on a market stall. It was Martha Stewart Living magazine, and I had never seen anything like it before. It had recipes, home makeing ideas, craft projects, all kinds of things. It was so obviously not just had a style all of its own. I searched the stall for months, but they never had another copy. I begged and begged my newsagent, taking in my precious copy to show him, and eventually he agreed to try and get it for me. It meant he had to get it shipped over from America, and it took so long that each copy was always out of date before I got it, but I didn't care, I loved it so much. Over the last decade, happily, it has become much easier to get, and now you can wander into WHSmiths to buy it. Part of me likes being able to get it easily, and in date, but part of me misses the loveliness of having it shipped over. I only keep special issues of it now, and have Valentines, Easter, Halloween and Christmas issues from every year going right back to 2000.

At that time there just weren't the craft magazines there are now, and most of them came from America. There was a newsagent that used to sell American Cross Stitcher magazine which I loved to read but never wanted to sew anything out of. And then there was Crafts Beautiful. Now it isn't that it wasn't good at the time, but after a year or so of Crafts Beautiful, it seemed to recycle itself and go round on a loop. It didn't really speak to me any more....every project was very so-so, and I wasn't seized with the urge to go and make things right away. Or....ever.

Oh, how things have changed, and particularly in the past year or two. It started with Simply Knitting magazine which I don't buy any more, but did buy for about a year. Modern, lovely projects! Things I wanted to knit! That I could knit! And then Sew Hip which felt more relevant to me. And then, I discovered Selvedge. It was one of those moments when everything changes. Here was this magazine which was really expensive, really specialised...and I understood! I got! I was inspired by! It was like being in a secret club. There were other people out there like me, who like the things I like! But much as I love it, Selvedge is not really a 'how to make' crafts magazine, and is quite grownup. Imagine my pleasure when Making Magazine came out. It was like Selvedge's younger cousin. More friendly and accessible, with lots more projects in. A million miles away from Crafts Beautiful! Not as expensive as Selvedge...and just bliss. The Vintage issue remains my favourite. I could read it 100 times and find something new in it. I have made many of the recipes and projects in this issue, and it even inspired me to get a fringe cut it!

So, being fully content with Making, the odd issue of Selvedge and a regular dose of Martha Stewart, I really couldn't have wanted for more. But it seems that in the world of craft magazines, it is either feast or famine, and we are in a fabulous feast period! Handmade Living is just on the second issue and is utter, utter bliss. I like it even more than Making. Somehow everything is just a little bit more to my taste. Run out and buy a copy now! The first issue had an interview with Jane Brocket, who I love, and the second has a pattern from her new knitting book in it. I am very seriously on the verge of subscribing to this one. If I get the job I have applied for, this may well be my reward!

Also on the second issue, which has only been out for a day or two, is Mollie Makes. Oh, Mollie Makes! What can I say? An utterly blissful magazine. Almost like a blog in paper format, with a mini craft kit free with each issue, there is nothing else out there like this. It has managed to find its own niche, somehow. There are projects in it, but it is not just about the projects. It is inspiration in paper covers. Oddly, when I read the first issue, I decided I liked Handmade Living more. And as a crafting magazine, I probably do. But Mollie Makes has grown and grown on me. It is beautifully styled, and is almost not a crafting magazine, more of an ideas and inspiration magazine about making things, with some projects thrown in. Oh, it is too hard to explain! But I like that I get more out of it after putting it aside for a few weeks then re-reading it. On my first read, I thought 'apple cosies?! pish, posh, who would ever want to make those?!' On re-reading it, I thought 'hmmm...well my apple does get a bit bashed about in my handbag....and they look quick to make....and don't take much yarn....and two days later I have 3 apple cosies! I took one to work today and left it on my desk, and had a constant stream of people asking where I got it and saying what a good idea it is!

If you click on this link hopefully you will get whisked off to youtube to see the beautiful little film they have made to go with the magazine. I showed it to my lovely husband who commented 'oh look, they have the same kettle as us. Oh, they have the same EVERYTHING as us. Oh....she's you!' which made me smile.

The other magazines I like to keep up with are The Chap, although they really should bring back The Chapette section, and Vintage Living magazine. All to be savoured with a cup of tea, and a notebook to hand to jot down new ideas!

Happy reading!

Sunshine and Showers

Well it is nearly a fortnight into June and I must say that I am finding the weather most strange. One minute it is showering, the next minute flowering! Today I set out in the rain with flowery raincoat and polka dot umbrella...yet on the way home, not eight hours later, I was nearly overcome with heat from wearing my raincoat to walk home! I had to take it off and carry it in the end, and as I type this I have the windows all open and the sunshine streaming in!

Yesterday was a relentlessly rainy day which was such a shame, as I was went to a baby shower at a little cottage in the prettiest little village. If you close your eyes and imagine the quintessential English village with thatched cottages and roses around the door, you could almost step into that thought and be where I was yesterday! The garden was filled with the most glorious flowers, lots of bunting, and tea things in a gazebo. Alas the rain was so heavy and it was so windy, we had to abandon the garden to sit inside. I didn't mind too much though, becuase it was such a lovely cottage, the kind with lots of exposed beams inside, a piano, and a fireplace! After the gifts were opened, we had the most scrumptious buffet lunch, and then played a few party games. One where there was a lot of margin for trouble was where you had to cut a piece of string, the length of which you thought would fit around the baby bump exactly, and the nearest one! We were all sent home with pieces of fruit cake wrapped up in flowery napkins, and those who won the games took home minature potted roses too. What a delightful day, and only a shame that the weather echoed the theme of the day and showered!

To be honest, the weather is echoing my moods a bit at the moment. I still can't quite reconcile myself to the idea, or understand really, that at some as-of-yet-undefined point in the not-too-distant future, I will be leaving my lovely library where I have worked for 11 years, and all my friends there too. I don't know where or what I am leaving to go to, and it is so hard to think about it. When I am there, I feel so sad, looking at all the things and people I am going to miss. Silly things like the smell of the periodicals stack, or knowing it won't be me decorating the Christmas tree this year. Someone else will be sitting at my desk. I will be some unknown place other, but everyone else will be walking through the same doors as they always have, taking off their coats and starting the day. All those little insignificant but gem-like chats you have with someone while the kettle boils...all gone. I know I am lucky to have had so much for so long, but I still can't quite believe in it. It would help if I definitley knew when I was going, and where too. I have applied for another post within libraries at another library, but it may mean giving up my little library on top of the hill to do it.

Do I sound spoilt? I know that in this climate any job is a job worth having, but the thought of losing my big library, and then my little library for a new unknown library, and one that in all honesty I would only be going to for the sake of having a job, although I hope very much if I do go to I would come to love.....well, it is a hard thought. When I first heard I was being made redundant, apart from the horror and sadness of losing my job, I felt real terror about not having any job, and the financial aspects of it are a worry I must admit. On one hand I know I must have a job and as a wise friend said today, the worst that can happen if I am offered this job is that I hate it...but it would still be a job. But I can't help but wonder, is that enough? I don't expect to be handed a plum job on a plate, but is doing something you love somewhere you love too much to ask? Perhaps it sounds as if I have rose tinted spectacles on. I know a lot of people have to take a job they don't like to keep a wage coming in. I know many jobs are done out of necessity rather than love. But...I want more.

I have a friend who was forcibly moved library in a previous restructure, and whilst she was devestated at the time, has come to love her new life in her new library. Perhaps that will happen to me....I have a favourite quote, which I have mentioned before and goes something like this '..there have been many times when I have shed bitter tears, when if I had understood the situation better, I would have celebrated my good luck instead'. Another way of saying that everything happens for a reason, I suppose. What I really need to know is what my reason is, right now. That would help.

I feel so uncertain about everything. There is a big part of me that thinks maybe it is time to look outside of libraries, and although I would be so sad to leave, I feel like I have left in a way already. The problem is, I have no idea what to look for. I am not a big believer in stars and horoscopes, but I do think of them like a personal weather forecast. All of mine said that there would be many big changes for me this year, and recently the theme of changes in career and jobs and perhaps money and travel come up. I wonder how it happens? And yet I know I have to make it happen for myself. A dear friend this morning lent me a beautiful quote in a wooden frame which says 'the best way to your future is to create it'. Inspirational, but a little daunting at the same time.

The good news is that I am writing and crafting a lot at the moment. I hope I am not using it as a distraction from what I should be doing eg finding my way into a new future. I don't think so though, I think the crafting is soothing to me, and the writing is about me creating something. Who knows, maybe even a future? Ages ago, years ago actually, I had an idea for a series of children's books about two little girls. The stories would be gentle and simple, and within the story there would be lots of projects, crafts and recipes to make, so they would be both story books and project books all at the same time. I have finished a first draft of the first story, so at lest that is a step in the right direction.

Thinking showery, slightly gloomy thoughts, but also with little flashes of silver and happiness, I am reminded of that song from Les Miserables....Don't you fret, monsieur Marius, it's just a little fall of rain. A little fall of rain can hardly hurt me now, and rain will make the flowers grow...

Wherever you are, I hope there are flowers blooming in your garden, just enough rain to make them grow, and plenty of sun to shine upon them.


Mimi's Jingle Belles

Good evening!

The wonderfully long sunny days we are enjoying mean it is no surprise to realise that midsummer is just around the corner...and all at once, Christmas seems both very far away, but also much sooner than you think!

This is of course the May edition of Mimi's Jingle Belles, but in a few short weeks it will be the June edition, and only 6 months to go!

But back to May, and first things first, it is time to add to your little nest egg of Christmas money. Isn't it lovely to feel it growing? Even if you are managing only a few pounds per month, think how welcome they will be in December!

Next, it is time to sit with a cup of tea and look at your mood board and notes you have been making on ideas for themes and so on. Choose just one thing to focus on. Perhaps an idea for gift tags, such as the beautiful holly-leaf-with-red-bead-berry tags my sister made one year, or to write all your cards with a fountain pen and ink, or to have the rat pack singing you Christmas songs every evening in December whilst you cook the dinner. Whatever that one thing is going to be, give it a bit of focus, and think about what you can do to make it a reality. Do you need to create a playlist on your computer? Do it now, so it is all ready for you to enjoy in December! Make those gift tags, buy the green ink cartridges for your fountain pen, or the gold sealing wax and twine for doing up your gifts....but spend some time bringing one of your ideas to life, and getting it all ready for December.

Next, it is time for a deserve it with all the work you have been doing! You can tailor this treat to suit your purse, and either shop on amazon or the shelves of your local library...but wherever you choose to look and whether you are happy to spend pounds or pennies or just time, hunt out a new Christmas book to inspire you. Yes, I know it is May! But a new book savoured now and giving you lots of inspiration whilst there is still time to act on that inspiration is of far more worth and use than the same book obtained at a more seasonal time of year when there is not enough time to act on it! I like to look out for a new Christmas book every year. Favourites include books by Martha Stewart, or Country Living. I also have a Gooseberry Patch book, and love Rose Hammick's Christmas Inspirations. Nigella Christmas is a modern classic, or there is Susan Branch to investigate too. Your theme and mood board might lead you in a particular direction...perhaps you would like a general Christmas book, or just cards, or just food....whatever it is, seek it out now, and start to savour it.

This month is a good month to tackle some of the 'batch' gifts on your list. I like to try and find one or two groups of friends on my gift list to whom I can give 'batch' gifts. For example, my book group all always get the same gift, and so do my work friends, although I might customise these. One year I planted hyacinth bulbs in vintage cups and saucers for my book group, and another year for work friends I made boxes of home made sweets. I have given candles, tree decorations, knitted slippers, cds of christmas music... You don't have to finish these gifts this month, but do try to settle on at least one batch gift, get the ingredients you need, and make a start. You will be so glad you did later in the year! I am crocheting snowflakes to be hung as decorations for some friends this year, so in the evening I sit and create a snow drift with my crochet hook. All that will be left to do later in the year is to package them up prettily with a little label and love from me to them.

So to sum it up, this month is about focusing on your theme, finding a bit more inspiration, and starting to work on gifts. After all that, you really do deserve another cup of tea, and also a slice of cake!