Sunday, 24 July 2011

Sunday Evening Thoughts

Good evening...

...well firstly thank you for questions, I will start to answer them one by one! I hope to have a little more time and spirit for blogging this week. Carl and I have had some rather bad news, and sadly until he sees a lawyer tomorrow, I cannot share the details. Suffice to say things have been rather gloomy this week.

However we have had a lovely Sunday together. I have been to a vintage fayre where I bought a pair of lovely soup bowls, and then home to Carl, and an afternoon of Sense and Sensibility on dvd, this time the Emma Thompson version. 1995 was a good year for Jane Austen adaptations! Since trying OPIs Start To Finish base coat and top coat, I find that my manicure lasts at least a week, so I have started doing my nails on a Sunday afternoon, and having a film to watch while they drive is just lovely. This week I have very pale natural looking nails, as I am visiting a prospective employer whom I wish to impress! I loved Sense and Sensibility. Recently I have developed a sudden appreciation for Alan Rickman, and his interpretation of Colonel Brandon is wonderful. He is so repressed by his own feelings, knowing they are unwanted, and then when Marianne sees the light it is like a dam bursting forth with happiness!

So, the first question was how did I get into blogging. Well, I was reading blogs before I had heard the word blog. I remember searching for a craft project online, and discovering and became a regular visitor. Then I discovered and they had a page called 'blogs' and I discovered other people like me who liked to make and write. I started my first blog on livejournal, because a friend from work used it. I called myself 'she of the sceptered isle' and wrote about knitting patterns and recipes, crafts I had made, things I had cooked. I remember in particular teaching myself to knit, and buying expensive yarn for my first project, a purple fuzzy and very long scarf. I would really encourage buying nice yarn to knit with for the first time as it feels heavenly to work with and you end up with something you are really proud of at the end! I think my writing 'voice' was quite a lot more quirky back then, perhaps a little self consciously so. I was very young, in my defence!

I am not sure why I stopped writing on that blog...I have always wanted to keep a diary but have never really kept it up, so perhaps it was just the same kind of lapsing.

Anyway, I also discovered which just spoke to me, and I loved (and still do!) Alison's writing. She once linked to and I realised that there were other people writing about the kinds of things I love and do, and it was towards the end of the year when I start to think about things I want to do over the next year, and it all just came together. I remember sitting with a pen and paper for ages trying to decide what to call the blog, and what to put in the 'about' part at the top of the blog. I haven't changed it since ten, so I must have got it about right!

To begin with, writing was a bit odd, because it was like sending words out into nothing. Not even an echo to hear back! I was so happily surprised and amazed when I started to get comments and visitors to my blog. I try very hard not to get too het up about numbers and things, but it is amazing to think that there are people out there who come here to read my musings.

I think my writing has changed a little bit on here, at one point I was writing almost essays, and I think that was because I was also writing little bits for Alison at Brocante Home, something I would love to get back into doing. Recently it has evolved a bit more into a kind of journal, with recipes. I would like to try and get a bit more organized, with more recipes and reviews, projects and how-tos as well as little articles and just journally bits.

I do love writing here and find it a wonderful outlet, although it is odd having a conversation and really only knowing your own half. I hope I am not tempting fate, but I am jolly lucky never to have had hateful comments as some bloggers have, such as the lovely which was another blog I was reading back in the early days, and still do. I do find myself wandering around sometimes, composing blog posts in my mind. I have one in mind on my new walk to work, talking about the beautiful little row of terraced Victorian cottages that I go past, but that is for another day.

To me, my blog is almost like a patchwork blanket that I work on from time to time. There have been times when I have not posted as often as I would like to, but having a blog never really goes away. I like that it is never finished, that I am always adding a little bit more here or there to it.

A blog that I really enjoy, that I have mentioned recently is and I love how Lucy shares so many photographs. I think that is really lacking on this blog, although that is part to my ineptness with modern technology, but also because blogger does not seem particularly well set up for sharing photographs. I would like this blog to be a little more illustrated than it is though!

I realise I have talked a lot, but I am not convinced that I have really got down to the nitty gritty. I suppose I started this blog because I was reading a lot of blogs and thought 'I can do that too' and it was a way of finally keeping a diary. I am surprised to see that it will be 6 years this December! Time has passed by in a flash.

I hope you all are having a lovely Sunday evening, and I will be back to answer more questions soon, and, I hope, with better news.

Love, Mimi xxx

Sunday, 17 July 2011

New Blog Discoveries

I do love discovering a new blog, and I love stumbling across them by accident, although it does always make me worry that there must be so many other lovely blogs out there that I have not yet stumbled across!

Here are some recent discoveries, all on a vintage/retro theme: which has lots of lovely vintage video clips and exerpts from vintage books in which a blogger lives as though in the 50s for a year the story of a blogger losing weight using a diet book from 1958

I am enjoying reading through the archives of these. Just the thing with a pot of tea!

Enquire Within

I read an interesting interview with Audrey Tautou in Marie Claire magazine, in which at one point she mischeviously suggests to the interviewer that he will be in trouble with his superiors back at the magazine because the readers will want to know things like what creams she uses in her beauty routine, but those arent the kind of answers she wants to give. It is true though, isn't it, that with people we admire, particularly in the public eye, that we want to know more about them, in the hope of capturing a little of their magic for ourselves.

I love reading some of my vintage magazines where the stars of their day happily reveal what lotions and potions they use, and some even had shades of lipstick named after them. How wonderful!

I like reading interviews with modern day stars to get to see a hint of their own personality come through. Not 'celebrities' who are famous for being famous, but people who have a talent or a star quality. I love how irascible Alan Rickman appears in his interviews!

Now let me start by saying that I am under no hallucinations that I am a star, but it does seem to me that I have seen on several of the blogs I read posts where readers are invited to 'ask me anything' and then some follow up posts are written answering the questions. So, I thought it might be fun to try that here. I am aware that while the comments function allows a certain amount of interaction, it does not allow for enquire within!


Saturday, 16 July 2011

The Bride's Book

A few weeks ago, I was browsing through a copy of The Lady which had been passedon ot me by a friend at work. There was an interesting little article which mentioned a book that had been given to Princess Margaret when she got married, and was found amongst her things when she died. It was simply called 'A Book For Brides' and I really wanted to read it. I have several housekeeping books from that time and love the advice in them. A while ago Carl bought me 'How To Be A Good Wife' which was a facsimilie edition of an advice guide from this era.

A little internet searching revealed that the book had been published by Forbes, and the British Library had a copy in its archives. I filled in an interlending form, and more or less forgot about it. So you can imagine how pleased I was when I unpacked the van delivery at work this morning and found a padded envelope which contained the very copy I had seen on the British Library website.

It is a delightful little hardback in dark green which smells wonderfully of old books. There are numerous essays for the bride inside, covering everything from planning her wardrobe to cooking the meals to decorating the house by authors as diverse as Evelyn Waugh and Marghanita Laski. I am most intrigued to read the essay by the latter, as it is called 'Hard Labour for Life'!!

There are one or two advertisements inside, one for Elizabeth Arden make up. Of course some of the advice is terribly old fashioned an out of date, but I do think there was a lot of sense about and quite a lot of it can be adapted for today. I will let you know any gems as I discover them and put them into practise!

I have also brought home from the library today 'Mr Digwell' which is a book about growing and cooking vegetables. Starting in the 40s, Mr Digwell featured in comic-strip style advice, showing how to grow the veg, and then Patsy starred in a comic-strip style feature showing you how to cook it. This book features an alphabet of fruit and vegetables with the accompanying strips. Visit for more!

Then lastly I have a book about 'meals for beginners' not that I am a beginner having been cooking for the two of us for the past seven years, but it is always nice to have some new ideas.

It looks like it may have finally have stopped raining now, but to be honest it still feels like a rainy afternoon, so I shall stay curled up on the sofa with my books for now, and perhaps make a pot of tea in a little while.

I hope you are having a lovely Saturday!


Thursday, 14 July 2011

Upon Cucumber Sandwiches, for Dinah

Yesterday I turned 6 loaves of bread into sandwiches- half became cream cheese and walnut, and the other half became cucumber sandwiches. Now a cucumber sandwich is quintessentially English, and very delicious too. I have had cucumber sandwiches at home, at our wedding, at The Ritz, and Claridges. You would never think that such a delicate little morsel could be the cause of shredded nerves, but oh, it can be.

You see, the thing with cucumber sandwiches is that they are best eaten as soon as possible after making, so they don't go soggy. Which in normal circumstances is fine, you can either make them and then eat them, or if you are making a packed lunch to take to work then if they do go a little bit soggy then at least it is only you eating them! Imagine my dilemma yesterday, when I had 30-40 guests arriving at work for a retirement tea party at 12, but at 10.20 I had to be two villages over doing a school assembly, and wouldn't be back till 11.30. Did I make the sandwiches at 8.30am and risk soggy cucumber syndrome, or did I try and make them at 11.30 and risk not having them done in time?

So I asked some friends. The man replied that I should do them in the morning, it would be easier for me, and besides, people expect cucumber sandwiches to be slightly soggy! Amusing, but not convincing. But the lovely Wendy suggested that I make up the sandwiches by buttering the bread, and then slip the cucumber in at the last minute. So that is what I did. Only, to make things even easier, I sliced the cucumber in the morning, so at 11.30 I just had to fill and cut the sandwiches...and it worked like a charm!

For cucumber sandwiches, for me at least, the bread must be white. But brown or white, it must, must be as thinly cut as you can manage. Then a light spread of butter, taken up to the edges please, and a single layer of slightly overlapping slices of cucumber. I like to cut mine on a mandolin as you can get them ever so thin then. Then press down on top the other slice of buttered bread, cut off the crusts, and cut into your choice of fingers, squares or triangles. You should get 4 of whichever shape you have chosen, so they are quite tiny. You will also end up with a bag of crusts to go and feed the ducks with!

There is a variation on this of which I am rather fond. For this one I prefer brown bread, and I leave the crusts on, but you do whatever you like best. Instead of buttering the bread, I use a thin spreading of cream cheese (like Philadelphia), a layer of cucumber, and then some torn mint leaves scattered across before topping with the other slice of bread. Delicious!

I came across our wedding menu on my computer earlier.

Afternoon Tea Menu

In celebration of the marriage of

Carl and Naomi Claxton

Saturday 11th August 2011


Afternoon Tea Sandwiches

Egg mayonnaise with cress, ham, grated cheddar, cucumber, cream cheese with chives, smoked salmon, chicken with tarragon


Freshly Baked Scones

with cream and jam


A Selection of Tea Pastries


Selected Teas


Earl Grey

English Breakfast


Wedding Cake

Moist Cranberry and Cointreau Fruit Cake

Madeira Cake Delicately Flavoured with Lemon

We served pink champagne for the toasts. I remember there being concerns within our family that people would still be hungry, and there was a campaign to have bottles of wine on the tables too...but I am glad we went our own way. Everybody was full to the brim, and so much tea was drunk that wine really was not needed. The room was beautiful, all the tables laid with mismatched vintage china, and we printed our menus onto card, and I found a craft punch in teh shape of a tea cup that we used to decorate them with. Such happy memories!

You Say Pom Pon, I Say Pom Pom

In the lovely Mollie Makes, or else Handmade Living, or perhaps even Making Magazine, there was a small debate about whether it is 'pom pon' or 'pom pom'. To me it has always been the latter, and I just can't imagine why you would say it any other way! I know it all depends on what you have been taught when you are little, but it is so odd to hear a familiar word sounding different. Or indeed, to read it. Whilst browsing in a book shop today, I came across a new section in the baking books. There were two particular titles, both of which looked beautiful. One was called 'Macaroons' and the other 'Macarons'. I was almost certain that the latter was some kind of dreadful spelling error, but a little internet research shows it is no such thing! A macaroon is, apparently, a singular item, but a macaron is a pair of them sandwiched together, usually with icing. There is also a coconut macaroon, which is a different beast entirely. Even so, I am sorry, but in my mind, it will always be macaroon whether they have been sandwiched together or not! (The long oooh sound in it is the same sound you make when they come out of the oven and work!)

Now macaroons and I have a nice little history. My mum makes the best macaroons in the world, using the word to describe a singular little bite (they aren't quite biscuit, not quite cake, they are a special thing all of their own, as anybody who had had one will know!) but they are a million miles away from the 'new' fancy macaroons of today. They were little nubbly mounds of ground almonds, egg white and sugar, baked lightly in the oven to give a sweet chewy delection. One year, for Christmas, she gave me a recipe notebook and included her recipe in it, and I have made them to take to work several times, and they have always gone down very well. Best of all, I nearly always have the ingredients in the cupboard!

It used to mystify me though, when I saw in magazines and on websites these beautiful smooth little macaroons in pastel colours. How were they so round, so smooth, so perfect? Well, having started to see them everywhere lately, including the cover of a lovely issue of BBC Homes and Antiques magazine, I have resolved to find out, to master the macaroon, and make it my new signature bake. (My sister started on cupcakes and has now made the melting moment her own, and I do love the idea of having something that people associate with me. I also love the idea of presenting a box of perfect macaroons as a birthday gift. But I digress...)

So this afternoon I tied on my home-made polka dot pinny with the heart-shaped pocket, and set about making my first batch of coffee macaroons. I got the recipe from a book simply named 'Macaroons' in the 'love food' series. The steps are simple, but precise, and each one is designed to give you the perfect smooth, round, flat top macaroon. One of the first things was to blitz the ground almonds, icing sugar, and instant coffee granules to make them super fine. Instantly, the kitchen was filled with a scrumptious scent that made me feel like I was in a french patisserie. I definitely need both more baking sheets, and practise piping, for rather than sploding out spoonfuls as I do with my normal recipe, you pipe gentle rounds. You then leave them to 'set' for half an hour before baking them at a fairly low heat. I was so excited when they came out looking, although far from perfect, like a macaroon from a fancy shop, in that they had the flat top, and the frilly bit round the bottom. I definitely need practise, as they were not all the same size, and look decidedly wonky, and one or two had run together, but for a first go I am pleased. I have resisted trying one yet, as the next step is to whisk up a coffee cream-cheese icing and to sandwich them together.

One of the lovely things about these is that they look so beautiful, and yet take very small quantities of ingredients. So although ground almonds are expensive, you use so little that a small bag will make several batches.

Now I just have to choose which flavour to make next!

PS Ann- thank you for your lovely and kind offer! I am very touched. When I have finished this tube of That Gal I will certainly let you know. Thank you!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Attic24 Fishcakes

It is all about the kitchen today! I am going to change that in a little while by popping off for an afternoon bath, which is one of my favourite treats, but before I do, I must tell you that I made the most scrumptious fishcakes for tea last night. Well actually, I made them the night before, because I knew I would be exhausted last night, and just fried them last night. They were sweet potato and smoked mackerel and I got the recipe from one of my favourite blogs, Attic24. We had them with a fried egg and some salad, although I think next time we should try some sweet chilli sauce instead of the egg. The recipe made enough for dinner, and the rest I have put in the freezer for lunch another day. I do like a recipe where I get left overs. I think it appeals to the thrifty housewife in me!

The Scent of Scones

This afternoon I have had a strong reminder of why it is so important to get ready for Christmas early! I had to go to HQ for a meeting, and was given some work to do....a giant ringbinder stuffed full to sort and collate the information from. So I put it in my bag, carried it on my shoulder and went home via the town, where I had to buy some supplies for a retirement lunch at work tomorrow. As time went on I was feeling hot and bothered, weighed down and ready for lunch. By the end, I had my handbag, the bag with the ringbinder in it, 6 loaves of bread, 4 cucumbers, 4 tubs of cream cheese, 2 bags of walnuts, paper bowls, napkins, balloons, cling film, Whittards instant iced elderflower tea, scone ingredients.....looking at that written down it doesn't look so bad, but it was really heavy, and I felt like a little donkey at the end of it!

That feeling of being hot and weighed down is something that I really, really hate, which is why it is so important for me to avoid that at Christmas when the crush in the shops is even worse than usual!

But this is not one of my Christmas Jingle Belles posts, it is just a post about how lovely it is to be at home with the windows open, with the scent of baking scones wafting through the flat. Bliss!

After I have washed up from teh scone making, I plan to have a warm bath with my new bergamot and lavender bubble bath to recover from my exertions, read a hand-me-down copy of The Lady, and start to think about what is next on the job front. I had not heard from the last job I applied for, so I emailed to ask about it, and they told me that 300 people had applied! How do I compete with 300 people? I am starting to feel a little bit desperate over the whole situation.

To take my mind off of things, I have been reading the archives of some blogs I enjoy. Diary of a Vintage Girl is an old favourite, and my newly discovered is enjoyable reading too.

Wherever you are, I hope you are having a lovely afternoon


Sunday, 10 July 2011

Sunday Evening Supper

This summer reminds me in many ways of the summer that we were married....terribly rainy! We were lucky because we had the one gloriously sunny and dry Saturday in August, and this year the rain seems less torrential, but very frequent. This afternoon was one of those times when the sky was dark and yet the light bright somehow, so you could hardly see the rain at all, just hear the gentle hiss of it, and smell it on the air.

On Sunday evenings I like gentle wind-down cooking, and on rainy Sundays I like something sustaining. I am also rather fond of storecupboard cookery, so this recipe for Tomato and Chilli Risotto ticked every box!

Gently fry an one diced onion in a little oil until soft. Stir in 200g arborio rice. Empty a tin of chopped tomatoes into a pyrex jug and make up to 1 litre with boiling water. Pour a generous splash of this into the rice and onion mixture. Stir until the rice absorbs the liquid, then add some more. Keep doing this until about half of the liquid has been used up. Then stir in 2tsp dried mixed herbs before carrying on with the rest of the tomatoey liquid. Just before you add the last of the liquid, stir in a teacup of frozen peas then add the last of the liquid. All of this stirring and adding should take about 20 minutes. Stir in 1 tsp lazy chillies (or 1 chopped chilli) and some torn basil. Check for seasoning and serve.

You can vary this recipe according to what your storecupboard yields. For example, you can add in chopped celery with the onion at the beginning, you might prefer sweetcorn to frozen peas, and if you have some grated cheese, that is very nice to add in at the end.

This is enough to serve 2, with leftovers to make into fried risotto balls another day. If I was doing that, I might put a small chunk of mozzarella in the middle of each ball, and would serve with a green salad. Be sure to get the rice piping hot throughout if you are reheating to avoid food poisoning!

Right, time to hang up my apron for the evening, and off for a bath in the Lavender and Bergamot bubble bath that I had delivered with my groceries this morning....have a lovely evening!

Thoughts From My Dressing Table

As you drive to our home, there is a roundabout with a set of flats to the right of it. In the window of one of the flats is a proper dressing table, the kind that you imagine every lady from the 50s had in her boudoir. One day I shall have just such a dressing table, but for now I content myself with a mirror on the top of my chest of drawers in the bedroom. I have a cup and saucer which I use to store jewellery and bottles of perfume (in their boxes of course) lined up across the back. One drawer is devoted to cosmetics and beauty potions...nail polish, bubble bath, makeup, hair flowers, false does me very nicely for now, and I really enjoy putting my face on for the day.

I have a basic routine, and then sometimes, particularly if we are going out I like to take a bit longer. Last weekend, I curled my hair with hotsticks and brushed it out to give me a kind of 40s set, pinned in a hair flower, painted my lips bright red, and finished with a puff of perfume. I love the ritual of it all. Bliss!

I am always on the lookout for new products or potions to add to my arsenal, and whilst I enjoy having one or two luxury products, I don't think that cost is necessarily an indicator of quality. For example, I have a Chanel lipstick which bleeds everywhere, even if I use a lip primer first, and the best eyeliner I have ever used is Collection 2000! Recently I have tried out a few new products, so here are some thoughts on them...

Benefit's B.Right Skincare Range

Now, I really wanted to like this range, as I do love Benefit, and the aim of this range is to give bright, luminous skin, which is for me the holy grail of skincare. The packaging is really cute, and I particularly like the way the bottle lids are decorated to make them look like corks. I was even lucky enough to get a free sample of the range. It came in a beautiful box which opened to reveal a tube of cleanser, a bottle of moisturiser and a tiny jar of eye cream. Each was a minature version of the full sized product, and it was lovely that they had made the effort to reproduce the range in minature rather than just put the products into sachets. So at this point I was feeling really well disposed to the set...but I just could not get on with it. The cleanser was so-so, it smelt nice but I didn't really feel any big change in my skin. The tube was quite hard to squeeze too...hopefully that isn't the same in the normal sized version. The moisturiser was the most made my hands feel so sticky I had to wash them afterwards, which really isn't what I want in a moisturiser. The eye cream wasn't sticky, but I don't really think it did anything for me. So overall, I was left a bit sticky, and not particularly glowing. I am distinctly underwhelmed, and think alas it is a case of style over substance. However I have at least one friend who has bought the entire range and raves about it, and at one point much of the range was sold out, so clearly it does suit some people's skin, just not mine!

OPI Start to Finish

I am really lucky as I have strong nails that grow quickly, even when they receive little attention from me. I have never been one to wear gloves for washing up or even to remember to use handcream regularly. I usually find myself disappointed with manicures in spas or salons, as I have not yet had one that did not leave me thinking I could have done better myself! Although, when my nails are longer, I do like getting them shaped by someone else, but the price of a manicure isn't really justified for that! My favourite nail colour is red, and I have a great many in my collection, from cheap budget lines to higher end lines. I have scarlet, burgundy, wine, robin, cherry, almost every shade of red you could imagine. One of the things I canot bear is chipped nail polish, and if I do have chipped polish myself, it tends to be because I have been doing some kind of work without protecting my nails, or more likely, have been feeling down and neglecting myself a bit. One of my favourite nail polish ranges is OPI as I love the shades, the quirky names and find that they last for ages before they chip. So you can imagine that I was eager to try out their Start To Finish product, which is a base coat and top coat in one that strengthens. Now this is definitely a product work investing in. It really protects your polish, so the colour lasts for ages without chipping qhich is a definite plus. Also, it gives even cheap polish a really expensive sheen. I am currently wearing 'Double Decker Red' by Rimmel which cost about £2 but have had lots of comments on it, and several friends have asked if it is OPI.

Benefit That Gal

Face primers are one of those things that are easy to dismiss as superfluous, but when you have tried a really good one, you realise they are worth their weight in gold. For me, a good face primer almost acts as 'soft focus' on the skin, smoothing out your complexion and making a great base for your foundation. That Gal goes one better, and gives you a bit of a glow so you could, in a hurry, or on a day when you don't fancy doing full make up, skip the foundation and just wear the primer. The first primer I ever tried was Estee Lauder Idealist, and I have to say it was amazing. It makes your skin feel like velvet, but is really expensive. I bought some for when I got married, but have not been able to justify the price tag since. Avon do something called Magicx which I have tried and found very close to Idealist but at a much better price. However, since we have moved, I have not found a new Avon Lady, so I have been trying out That Gal. It is really different to the other two, both of which are a creamy coloured creamy textured thick liquid. This is pink in colour and far lighter in texture. While I like the glow it gives me, and feel I look better with it on than off, nobody else has commented on my complexion, whereas I had plenty of comments when I was using Idealist or Magicx. To be honest, I would class it more as a skin brightener than a primer. While I am happy using it for now, I don't think it quite justifies the price tag, and I will be looking for a more traditional primer next time. I do have Mac's Prep and Prime for lips which I find to be really good, so I shall either save up for the face primer from that range, or find an Avon lady!


Friday, 8 July 2011

Back To Basics

While I was painting my nails 'double decker red' last night, I was pondering on the post I mentioned yesterday, Maximum Glamour. Now I don't often comment on blog posts, but I did on this one, to thank Fleur, and also to voice the thought that the things she suggests are things that I know already, but need to be reminded to do. Sometimes things are so basic, I find I think I know them, so kind of slip out of doing them. Does that make sense?

Not just with glamorous things like nail painting and hair flowers either, but with housekeeping and the like. For years and years I used to sit down religiously, every week, and write out a menu plan from scratch, then produce a shopping list and take it to the shops. After a few years I started shopping online, but always with menu plan and list in hand. Then I stopped. I think one week I was getting really stressed about not having enough time to do it in, and dear Carl suggested we just wing it, buy some things, see how it goes. And I did. And still haven't gone back to menu planning. The thing is, what first started to feel like a treat actually now tires me out. I have been fed up with not having a proper routine and plans for a while now, but the ennui has made it hard to get back into the very thing that I know I really need to be doing.

Also, I realise that it is much more expensive in terms of money and time and sheer effort to buy on the day every day. Popping in on a lunch hour to pick up sandwich filling and milk, or popping to the shop on the way home for something for dinner. So knowing that we will need to be watching the pennies, and finally thinking, no more of this, I know better, I sat down the other day and made a menu plan. Time ran away and I didn't quite convert it to a shopping list, but I have just signed up for Ocado deliveries and shopped from that plan. And it feels so, so good! Even better, I signed up for a one off payment each month that means we don't have to pay for deliveries. As I am planning a weekly delivery that worked out pounds cheaper. Then my shopping came in at about £65 (truly terrifying really, when I first started shopping, £40 would have been more than enough!) and I found a voucher for £15 off if you spend £ I got some extra freezable staples for less money!

I know that Waitrose and Ocado are seen as luxury and high end, and I have no doubt that you could spend a fortune with them, but their branded products are price matched to Tesco (who we grew to hate) and their essentials range is really good value. Plus, we are only eating meat once or twice a week, so it really isn't so expensive after all. Definitely a habit I wish to continue, although I will report back after our first delivery to see if it matches up to my expectations (what is nice is that their delivery slots are hourly, rather than two hourly, and even shopping today I could choose 8.30 Sunday morning!).

I am definitely going to find time to sit down and really enjoy the menu planning process. I like the idea of having different styles of dish for different Monday Soup night, Tuesday pasta night... and I am also really looking forward to trying out some new recipes. This week on the menu are sweet potato and smoked mackerel fish cakes from Attic24, and then I am going to use the remainder of the sweet potato to make rolling pin ravioli later in the week.

Thank you so much for your kind words everybody, I am trying not to be too glum on here, but being able to share how I really feel and receive such kindness back really helps. Now the only other favour I need is...if you need a PA, do let me know!


Thursday, 7 July 2011

A Thursday in July

This week is a week of firsts and lasts for me. It is the first week of the new opening hours in our libraries, so suddenly my working week is very different to what it was. I am really sad that I will never have Fridays off unless I take leave, but happily I will be able to see Mum on a Thursday instead, as I now have 2 Thursdays off a month in exchange for working Saturdays. Now my little library on the hill opens earlier though, I will not be able to go to the WI market any more which is a shame.

It is also the first week of the new managers at the big library...and I am finding it really difficult. I am quite sure they are finding it as hard as I am, but if they would talk to me, or just look at me occasionally I would feel a whole lot better. Within a few days, I am going to be in my last month of the big library. That feels strange and so sad. On Friday, when the other managers left, everybody thought it was my last day too, so they threw a beautiful (but, for me, overwhelmingly sad) tea party for us. Alas I spent much of the time in the bathroom in tears becuase I am not ready to say goodbye yet. One of the loveliest things, they made (actually made, from scratch!) a book for each of us with messages from all the staff in it. I haven't been able to look at it yet, but I will. I was also lucky enough to receive a little pile of parcels, but I haven't been able to look at those yet either.

I suppose one of the problems is that whilst I am never going to be happy to leave, at least the situation woudl be eased a little bit if I had something to leave to go to. But nothing, and no hint of anything either. I had a really upbeat careers advice session with a professional, and been given a training grant, but since then I have met with nothing but dead ends and frustration. And I know, I really know, that we are in a downturn and there are many applications for every job. But I could never be so rude as to not at least acknowledge an application. Even if it was an automated outright rejection email, just something....when I do have a job again, I will never treat people as I have been treated.

So you can probably tell I have been finding it difficult to keep my chin up at the moment. I just feel as though there is this gaping black hole in front of me, and I am being inexorably moved towards it. You can see then, how Fleur de Guerre's post (click the title of this post to find it, or go to her blog via my sidebar, it is the post titled 'maximum glamour') just hit the spot for me. I looked down and realised I have chipped nail polish. That will never do! So I am going to spruce myself up a bit and try and keep my chin up. It is so hard though. I think it is the stress and being a bit run down, but I woke up with my ear bleeding again today, so I am waiting for a call from the doctor to tell me when I can go in and see him. Perhaps once I have some ear drops, freshly painted nails and a walk in the fresh air, I will feel better.

It is one of my favourite kinds of weather today - bright dazzling sunshine with terribly overcast skies, the threat of rain, but wonderfully invigorating wind. I find it really helps blow the cobwebs away!

I am babysitting for my godchildren this evening...alone! So I will also be preparing Carl a supper-on-a-plate for when he gets home, and I fancy a little dabble with some crochet too...and of course, I have the rest of my Daisy Dalrymple novel to read!


Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Pimms and Sunburn

There are some things that are just Terribly English, and Henley Royal Regatta is one of them. Everything is so lovely, and I am really glad I had a chance to go this year. The sleepy little town of Henley-On-Thames is suddenly awake and awash with ladies in frocks and men in blazers. And oh, what blazers! So many different colours and patterns representing a multitude of rowing clubs.

We were lucky enough to have seats right against the edge of the water, and although it was overcast it was warm...rather too warm towards the end of the afternoon, and I ended up cooling off by sitting on the bank with my feet in the cool water, watching the rowing races whilst sipping Pimms.

We had to be a little bit naughty with our were really only meant to be drinking it in the Pimms tent, but that meant that we would miss races, so we decanted ours into disposable coffee cups!

One funny thing was that in the programme for the day, it gave you the crew list for each race, and the weight of each team member (shudder!). You can imagine how we were intrigued that the ladies in the Ladies Cup were all around the 16 stone mark! We could only imagine that they had big strong shoulders and a lot of muscles...until they rowed past and we realised that whilst it is called The Ladies Cup it is in fact a competition for male rowers!

I an reading a Daisy Dalrymple novel at the moment, set at the Regatta in the 20s. I am only a little way in, but I am looking forward to reading the rest of it having been there and seen it all happening.

In some ways not much has changed...there are no big screens like you will see at some sporting events, so you only got to see what happened in front of you, and there was no commentary in our enclosure, although we could hear snatches from the Stewards' Enclosure next door to us. There were brass bands, and an old man punting up and down for all he was worth. Our tickets were not tickets in the traditional sense, but little colour coded cardboard sheilds that came with a little gold safety pin to attach it to ourselves with.

I love such low-tech technology!

During the break for lunch, we took a walk along the river, and discovered a pop-up Mahiki bar. How could I resist going in to investigate once I had spotted the pina colada cocktails they were serving? They had hollowed out pineapples, blended the flesh with the pina colada to make a kind of smoothie cocktail, then poured it back into the frozen shell, replaced the top and inserted a straw. Icey, heavenly, pineappley bliss! The best bit was that just as I had decided that although I really wanted one they were too expensive, the bartended told me they were on two-for-one, so Carl and I both got to enjoy one.

I was reall pleased as well, becuase I had curled my hair for an evening out on Saturday night, and it was still in good shape for the Regatta, and I pinned a white lily in my hair and felt quite retro and tropical all at the same time. I wore red lipstick of course, and my amazing false eyelashes. I know I have mentioned them before, but they are really worth investing in. My Mac cut-to-measure lashes stay on all day and look incredibly natural but fluttery. I had a long flowery summer dress on and felt really good. There is something to be said for researching a dress code...there were one or two people who were decidedly underdressed, and some who had made and effort which was lovely, but were more suited to Ascot than Henley. I have always thought it is better to be overdressed than under, and to have made the effort than not, but after seeing the mix of people, I conclude that it is best to do your homework and come appropriately attired!

Wherever you are, I hope you are having a lovely Tuesday.


Mimi's Jingle Belles

Well ladies, it is time to pour a cup of tea in your favourite cup, and to savour one of those expensive but delicious biscuits, or whatever other treat you save for best. It is halfway to Christmas, and dare I say it, I do believe that we are at least halfway to being ready!

By now you know just what your Christmas is going to look like this year, have all your lists ready, some projects started, some gifts bought and a little nest egg of money nestled away. Doesn't it feel good?

I love that come December, of course there will be things to do, but the main thing on our list is going to be to enjoy the season, ourselves and our families. Just think, none of those awful Saturday-before-Christmas trips to crowded shops before collapsing exhausted into Starbucks, getting back home and then remembering the one thing you were meant to get...

No, no, this year, we will be having a lovely walk and then enjoying a lingering coffee in Starbucks, before going home to watch a lovely black and white festive film on tv!

And to help us get a bit closer, here is the to-do list for this month!

Firstly, tuck away a little more money in your savings jar. Doesn't it feel nice to have that money stashed away? You can start to think about what you might use it for in December, if you haven't already. At least one thing should be something that you have always wanted to buy but put off as 'too expensive' or 'too frivolous' or the like.

Next, some more work on the Christmas cards please, if you are crafting your own. Otherwise, make sure you managed to finish off the craft projects you started last month.

Next, you need to decide on the recipe you are going to use to make your Christmas cake. I like to try different recipes each year, in my quest to find the perfect one. I usually take it from Good Housekeeping or Good Food magazine's November issue (although not necessarily November of the current year!). Make a list of ingrediants and count them up. Now work out how many 'big' supermarket shops you have left till the point you need to bake your cake. Hopefully the number of weeks will be equal to or smaller than the number of things you need to buy! From now on, each time you do a shop, buy one of the things on your list. Making a rich fruit cake can be quite expensive, especially if you need brandy or rum or similar to soak the fruit in and feed the cake with, so by getting ahead now, you won't be denting your budget later.

Last thing for this month, spend a happy hour planning some Christmas fun. It wouldn't be Christmas for me without a visit to the Bury St Edmund's Christmas Fayre, so I will be looking up the dates and pencilling them into my diary. Do you want to go to a Christmas market? Have a day in London? Go to a carol concert? Try to do a little scheduling now, as it is truly terrifying how soon it wil be before you are putting other appointments for November and December in your diary!

Now have a flick through that book from last month. Smile and pour yourself another cup of tea, you deserve it! Well done!