Sunday, 30 December 2012

Thoughts On A New Year

I love this time on a Sunday afternoon, particularly in autumn or winter. It feels like a candle slowly burning down, giving the warmest and best light, and at the same time, you know it is going to flicker and smoulder soon. And so it is, not only is this that lovely dimly-lit time on a Sunday afternoon, the end of a weekend drawing closer, but it is the burnt-out candle-end of the year, as well.

Several friends have written lovely posts reviewing their year. This has been such a year, such a whirl, I can hardly get my head around it. I have been in the depths of gloom more than once, I have been sleepless with worry over my work, and now feel I have found my vocation in my new job. I have met some wonderful people. I have been to Paris, I have shared some amazing dinners and days with those who are special to me. I have performed burlesque on stage, turned 30, and worn red lipstick almost every day. It has been quite a year.

I can barely believe that tomorrow is the last day of 2012. I have lots to look forward to in the year ahead. I still have some uncertainty about work as I am on a temporary contract, but I feel that I am where I need to be at this time. I can't wait for burlesque classes to start again, and have also signed up to a ukulele workshop in January! At our annual New Year's Eve party, we go round the table and say one thing we have learnt this year. I had been planning to play the ukulele (which I had planned to learn in secret!) but that hasn't happened...but at least I can do it next year! And I have a card trick to demonstrate this year, which I learnt in a recent night out!

Next weekend I have a craft swap which I have organized with the lovely Carla from Ducking Fabulous, which will see 8 of the sweetest ladies I know gathering to exchange hand crafted goodies. Carl and I have decided we are definitely going back to Paris to explore further, and I also want to eat at Gordon Ramsay's again, see the view from the top of The Shard, go to a burlesque afternoon tea, and maybe, just maybe, this will be the year my novel finally gets written. More and more often, sentences are rising to the surface of my mind, like bubbles. I think it will start 'The moment the utterly improbable became the completely inevitable happened in a heartbeat.'

I am going to start reading the Persephone books in the order the were written. I am going to be following along Brocante Home's Year of Puttery Treats and also Simple Abundance. I am going to keep on wearing my red lipstick, and take up wearing seamed tights to go with it.

I love this feeling of a bright new year, glimmering ahead. A fresh start. Dreams to be made real. And I plan to blog about it all. I do hope you will join me, it just wouldn't be the same without you.

Happy New Year!

Love Mimi xxx

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The Vintage Tea Cup Club

One of the lovely things about working in a library was how many books you could stumble across by accident. Customers handing them back in, unpacking new books, tidying a display. I was worried, that having left, I wouldn't be able to enjoy those serendipitous discoveries any more.

Luckily for me, I still have some very good friends who work at the library, and know my taste, so they put books aside for me, or order them in, if they think I might like them. So when I get a note or call to say there is a book in, I never know if it is going to be something I have been waiting for, or a surprise.

When I popped in on Thursday, it was a mixture of both! The one that caught my eye immediately though, was one of the surprise books - The Vintage Tea Cup Club. It had a review by Trisha Ashley on the front, who is without a doubt one of my favourite authors, so it boded well.

It has a beautiful cover, and I am pleased to say that the inside lived up to the outside! Sadly it is a first novel, so there are no more to devour (but I hope she will write more!) but happily it is the kind of book that leaves you wanting to devour more.

It belongs in the category I think of as a Grown-Up-Enid-Blyton: a light easy read that draws you in, and has a happy ending. The only tiny thing I could pick at here is that it isn't really a tea cup club, but if that is the least I can find wrong, that has to be good!

The story opens at a car boot sale, and Jenny spots a beautiful vintage tea cup, and quickly realises it is part of a small tea set. At the same time, two other ladies spot it. Maggie and Alison and Jenny decide to share it - it will be used first at Jenny's wedding, then Maggie will use it for a wedding she is the florist for, and then Alison will turn them into tea cup candles. As the story unfolds, their friendship develops and we get to know more about their lives. There are no surprise endings, but sometimes, that is exactly what you want. Something to unfold happily and leave you warm inside.

Incidentally, I have been toying with ideas about my hair colour recently. I am naturally brunette, with red highlights, but have been colouring it the red of my highlights all over for about a year. I have been wavering as whether to continue to be red, and channel Joan Harris from Mad Men, or go chocolatey brunette. One of the characters in the story has red hair, and I loved the descriptions of some of her outfits, so I am going to stay red for now, and keep an eye out for some clothes to recreate some of her looks from the story!

One of the ladies in by book club was kind enough to give us each a special notebook designed for you to keep a list of books you want to read, books you have read, and books you have lent out. I am looking forward to filling that in over the coming year. I have been taking photographs of book shelves in Smiths by the train station, so I can order them from the library, and have saved a literary supplement from a newspaper in the week which had several titles which caught my eye. A whole year of reading ahead, what bliss!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

All Was Calm, All Was Bright

Christmas this year has been like a delicious long sigh, breathing out all the tension and breathing in joy carried on a breath of the scent of tinsel, gingerbread and Christmas tree.

In those last few days before Christmas, it felt as though everything would never be done, as though time would be sure to run out before my to-do list was ticked off. But in the event, everything got finished, and everything was just as it should be.

Mum and Dad and my little brother (who at 26 and well over 6 feet tall isn't really a little brother any more!) came for afternoon tea on Christmas Eve, and we watched Miracle On 34th Street. The day had started well with a head massage at a local salon, which was utterly blissful. It ended beautifully, with my first midnight mass at the local cathedral.

I was surprised how dark the cathedral was from the outside, but when we walked in, it was lit with so many candles, and the air was wreathed in insense. The choir sang beautifully, and it was a really good way to start Christmas Day.

By the time I got home, I was so tired my eyes were heavy. I slipped into bed, grateful for the softness of the pillow and that it was time to sleep. We started Christmas Day with coffee and croissants eaten by the light of the Christmas Tree, and opened our stockings and gifts. After that we spent the morning with my family, and the afternoon with Carl's family. It was a lovely day, and I was struck as I always am, how, after all the hustle and bustle and build up on tv and in magazines and online, how utterly simple the day is. How simple but perfect to spend it with the people you love, talking, eating, playing games.

As always, I felt quite overwhelmed by the lovely and thoughtful gifts we received. One of the gifts I am most excited about was from Carl - a sewing machine all of my own! I am already thinking about all the things I can make and sew! It was lovely as well to see people opening gifts we had bought or made, and seeing that they liked them too.

I woke up yesterday with my usual thought that this is the furthest away from Christmas that we can be - oh dear! But also I love the thought of a new year ahead to fill with adventures, a new diary, a new calendar. Writing January instead of December. New Year's Resolutions and targets to be made. Stirrings of ideas for Christmas next year, presents to be made and squirrelled away, cards to be designed and filled with glitter before being sent on their way.

It feels like I have been waiting to exhale for a while, holding my breath without realising it. I hope that my blog has not been too gloomy a place to visit recently. I suddenly feel much, much cheerier.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Love Mimi xxx

Friday, 21 December 2012


Perhaps it is because it isn't Christmas Eve, but I finished work today and did not feel Christmassy at all. Instead of hurrying home, knowing it was all beginning, I stumbled home and am sitting here with a fuzzy head.

I am hoping it is just tiredness, a week of busyness at work, some nights where I haven't slept well, and much to do in readiness for Christmas.

I wish this was a lovely scrumptious little post like so many I have read this evening, but I don't quite have the energy for it. I feel a bit drained. But the tree lights are on, there is a light supper of salmon cooking in the oven, and tomorrow I can wake up refreshed and renewed, ready to set about working up a little Christmas spirit.

I shall have a bath later, and light a candle, in the most delicious scent 'inspiritus' and listen to Sufjan Steven's Joy To The World, and smile as I look over the last year, and start to think about the year ahead.

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

Love Mimi xxx

Monday, 10 December 2012

A Week On...

A week on from the fire, and things are starting to feel normal, although every time I walk through our door, the smell of smoke needles me and makes me gasp and my heart flutter. The little garage room that burnt is still blackened and a shell of what it was. Scorch and soot is still everywhere. According to our letting agency, the management company is waiting for the loss adjuster to come out before they will do anything, but they have said that the smoke alarms are working again...not that they worked the first time! (It seems likely they were wired in and the wire burnt through).

It has been a full week, and we have just come back from the most delightful weekend in Paris. Nothing like immersing yourself in another culture to forget your worries! More with pictures later, but just a quick thank you to all of you for your kind words and thoughts.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


Before I start this post, let me just say, we are safe for which I am hugely, hugely thankful.

But, I found myself, at half past five this morning, offering a fireman a cup of tea, and in fact, tea for all the firemen. We had been woken up just after 4:00am by what I thought were drunks shouting in the street. Until my lovely husband told me I had to wake up because there was a fire. I had to put on my dressing gown and shoes, find a box to put our snake in, and get out.

I was still half asleep but immediately awake. I could smell smoke. I could hear shouting. I was terrified. My dressing gown wouldn't go on, I had to take it off again. The nearest box had baubles in it for Christmas, I literally turned it upside down and rushed into the living room to give it to Carl to put Casper in.

I couldn't get my shoes on. I fumbled and got them on. Carl told me to wake the neighbours, to make sure those above us were awake, while he got Casper into the box. I later jokingly said I must be an obedient wife, to go upstairs in a burning building without a second thought because he had told me to!

We stumbled down the stairs, with the smoke getting stronger. Nothing felt real. We spilled out onto the road, and our neighbour from upstairs was just about to phone the fire brigade when 3 fire engines pulled into the road. We stood, dazed, as smoke poured from the fire.

Our flat is first floor, but underneath us is the car park, and to the side is a storage area which is always locked, and it was here that the fire was, right next to our car - I was terrified it was going to explode. The fire crews were like a team of ants, swarming everywhere, checking everyone was out, fighting the fire. An hour or so later, they said we could go back in. Our lungs were sore, but we were safe.

The smell of smoke is so, so strong, but happily there is no actual smoke damage. We wandered around, dazed, thankful, everything surreal. It was so cold outside. Then there was a knock on the door, and a fireman came in with a thermal imaging camera to check that there were not hot spots, as we were just above and to the side of the fire, but we were all safe.

Carl has gone to work, and I have been phoning our letting agency, the insurers, Sky and of course our families. There are some electrical issues but nothing major. I am so, so, thankful we are ok.

When we stumbled out into the street, we had our dressing gowns and shoes, and our snake. Not even our glasses. For the hour we were out there, we had no idea if that was all we were going to have again. We came so close to losing everything, and if it hadn't been for the people outside who woke us up, we could have lost much more than just our home and our things.

I need more tea, and to wash the smoke out of my hair. I think I am probably a little bit in shock. I just keep remembering Carl telling me that I had to wake up and get out. I remember him making me go first to get out safely, and being terrified that he wouldn't be behind me any more. All instinct. He kept me safe. He got our snake out, and thought about the neighbours. What an amazing man.

I have a headache, I am tired and hungry and thirsty and smokey, and am coughing horrible black stuff up, but I am here, I am ok, and I am so, so thankful. We have had so many lovely friends and family email or text or phone or send messages on facebook. We are so, so blessed.

One thing I will definitely be doing is putting together a grab bag with some documents and useful things in it, and perhaps keep a shoe box full of wood chips for poor Casper next time. Later I will be phoning the fire department to say thank you, thank you, thank you. I know they are trained, I know it is their job, and I know in the scheme of things our fire was little, but those men came out in the middle of the night and ran towards a fire to put it out. That is pretty amazing, if you ask me.

Today the teapot will be filled and emptied, filled and emptied. I will drink solace and be thankful. Please, don't worry, as we really are all fine, but I just needed to come and share what had happened. Thank you for being there,

Love Mimi xxx

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Scents, Sights and Sounds of the Christmas Season

Although my Christmas preparations may start much earlier in the year, as I like to make my own cards and a lot of my gifts, Christmas proper never starts before December, as it feels too early otherwise.

It was lovely for me that December 1st fell on a Saturday, so we could spend the first day of advent decorating and enjoying the first day of the season properly. We have our white tree up, hung with red baubles. We have red tinsel nestled on the windowsill and draped along bookshelves, and some giant red honeycomb paper balls hanging from the season. We have our red throw on the sofa, and I have lots of jam jars dotted about the room, tied with red-and-white-polka-dotted ribbon, with a candle inside.

We also have some vintage honeycomb paper decorations up, which I bought at a vintage fayre a few weeks ago. They are delightful, and I like to think of how many Christmasses they have seen.

In the afternoon, we walked out into the icy cold afternoon, the air nipping at our cheeks, and into the hustle and bustle of the town. We had gingerbread lattes and a walk through the park. On our way to the park, we stopped at a flower stall on the market, and Carl bought us a simply huge bouquet of mistletoe, which came wrapped in brown paper. It was beautiful to carry, and I can't wait to hang it up!

Just as he was paying for it, the Salvation Army band started playing 'Joy to the World' which is one of my favourite Christmas carols.

This morning, we woke up to the smell of tinsel, the lights of the tree, and I feel so Christmassy and happy. I hope you are having a lovely first weekend in advent,

Love Mimi xxx

Friday, 30 November 2012

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

I have just stopped work for a quick cup of tea, before settling back down to the rest of my tasks before I can go home this evening. I find a proper pause from work refreshes me no end, and I can zip through the rest of my to-do list.

Whilst I was sipping my tea, I took a look at the BBC news website, and was so horrified by a story I had to pop over here to share my outrage with you!

I cannot for the life of me understand how making processed bread even more processed is good for anyone at all, or how bread can possibly be such a 'problem' that it needs such a 'solution'.

Something I would dearly like to do is to work baking my own bread into my routine, but utnil I have the time to do that, I will continue to do as I do currently - to buy good quality bread, and treat it well. After the first day, I put my bread in the freezer, then defrost individual slices as I need them. I never have stale or mouldy bread as a result.

I whizz the crust-ends to breadcrumbs to use in all manner of dishes. And if I were to find myself with some slices to use up, well there is bread and butter pudding, both savoury and sweet, bread pudding, and apple charlotte, pain perdu (or French toast) and that is just off the top of my head.

I have read several articles which suggest that many people who find themselves intolerant to bread may in fact be intolerant to the pesticides used on the wheat, or find the bread indigestible because of the way it has been processed.

There is not only more nutrition to be found in a loaf of artisan baked-by-hand bread than a white sliced 'stay fresh' supermarket bread, but it will fill you up for longer, and be more sustaining - for body and soul. There is so much more pleasure to be found in good bread.

In percentage terms, good bread may cost quite a bit more in terms of time or money, whichever it is you spend to procure yours. But becuase the sums we are talking about is so small to begin with, it is an investment I hope most of us would try to afford at least once or twice, to taste the difference.

I remember my step-brother expressing surprise at how deliciouss the bread is when he goes to lunch with my Mum - a world away from his 'stayfresh' bread. But that is because it is proper bread.

I remember when I was a little girl, walking down to the bakery with my grandad to buy the bread for lunch. The crust would be almost sharp as it was so crunchy, and the inside so soft doughy, it was almost sweet. Some of the fresh bread smell would transfer to the paper bag we carried it home in, and my hands.

I remember buying the bread at a bakers with my Mum, when I came out of playgroup, standing with my nose pressed to the counter watching it go into the slicing machine. A big long handle with a black knob on the hand would be p-u-l-l-e-d down, and then it would wobble and judder back up as the blades sliced the bread.

I can't imagine having such happy memory associations with a 60-day-fresh loaf of bread.

Incidentally, who needs to keep bread for 60 days anyway? If you ate just one slice a day for toast, you would zip through it much faster, and if you made sandwiches for lunch...

Anyway, that is my gasp of horror over...I just had to share! I feel like I have been on my soapbox a lot this week, with my thoughts on voting and now bread. But it is a lovely feeling to set the world to rights. And now, back to my work, before I can go home.

It is ever so cold out there today, so wherever you are, wrap up warm!

Love Mimi xxx

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Day In London

I have a very exciting weekend away planned for December. We are going to Paris, to the Christmas markets, and I just can't wait. I have been to Paris for a single evening, ten years ago, and Carl has been, but we have never been together. We are going with a group of friends, and our hotel will have a view of the Eiffel Tower!

There was only one small problem - having said we would love to go, I realised that my passport had expired five years ago, just after we got married! When I looked into renewing my passport, I realised that there was only just enough time to do it in the usual fashion, and there was still a chance that it would not come in time. There is a special service you can pay for, where you go up to London to the passport office, and take your forms and documents with you, and they fast-track your application and deliver your passport within a week.

Although it does cost extra to do that, and the cost of the train ticket as well, I decided the peace of mind would be worth it, and made the appointment. Then I decided that if I was going all the way up to London then it was sensible to take myself up early and make the most of it. So, I set off with my envelope of passport documents safely in my handbag, and my new purple snood-scarf wrapped around my neck, and sallied forth into a cold, wet day.

It is very rare that I am in London on my own, so I made my first port of call the book shop at Liverpool Street and bought myself a tiny A-Z of London. Then I caught the underground to Temple station, and got off. The lovely thing about being in London on your own with a whole afternoon to fill is that you can meander off as the mood takes you, so when I spotted some lovely public gardens, I took a stroll through them before heading to my first destination - the Twinings Tea Shop.

If you are ever in London, do pay it a visit. It is the original shop and has been there since 1706. It is on the Strand, and very narrow, but it goes back a long way. They do 'pick and mix' individually wrapped sachets of tea, as well as boxes and all sorts of other lovely tea things. There is a lovely display at the back of old caddies and tins and boxes and labels, and even a tea bar where you can taste some tea.

I took myself off for some lunch, and decided I would walk until I saw somewhere I had never been before. I walked in the direction of St Paul's Cathedral, and popped into a little French place for a Croque Madame and quite the nicest coffee I have ever had. I was then moving onto Soho to visit another tea shop, but stopped in at Waterstones on the way to buy a book in case I had a long wait at the Passport Office. I picked up Angel by Elizabeth Taylor. I have never read her before, but certainly will again. Although it was published by Virago, it has put me in mind that I would like to start a project of reading all the Persephone Books, in the order they have been published. I have already read quite a few, so I suspect there will be a fair few I will be re-reading, but they are so heavenly, I look forward to it.

I discovered The Algerian Coffee Store when I was in London several weeks ago to hear Prue Leith speak. It is like an old fashioned sweet shop, and inside has shelves lined with jar upon jar of coffee beans and tea leaves. The window has tiny saucepans with long handles, for making coffee over a flame, and all sorts of other such things. I went in with a list, as I have decided to make up a tea and coffee hamper for my parents-in-law for Christmas.

I hailed a London Cab for the first time ever, crossed London, and made it to my appointment at the Passport Office. Having concluded my business there, I met my lovely husband from his work, and we enjoyed dinner together before going home. It felt lovely having a day for myself in London, having time to do the little things, look at statues, peep into shop windows, and find my way on my own with my little A-Z.

All in all, it was a lovely day - and now I just have to wait for my passport to arrive! What has worked out very well is that I can use my payment for poll-clerking to put towards my passport, so the extra I had to pay for the special service will be mitigated somewhat!

Have you been abroad lately? Or to London? Where is your favourite place to go?

Love Mimi xxx

A Day's Pause For Thought

Somehow on Thursday it will have been two weeks since I did my day's Poll Clerking duty. I cannot believe how quickly days are slipping away. In many ways it was a lovely day, a day to step outside of ordinary routine, and as I have remarked upon in the past, as you sit there with your ruler and pencil and copy of the electoral role in a little church hall, you really do feel connected to all the people going back generations who have done this before. Technology has moved on in so many ways, but when it comes to voting, nothing changes, which I like. I can imagine in the future text voting or on-line voting, but I hope that is a long way off.

Although, having said that, perhaps more people would vote if it was to be done using modern technology, as they might perceive it as being easier to vote. Not that it is hard at all, but I am surprised so much by how little people know about voting. We had a very low turnout - 10% exactly for my polling station and not much more than that nationally. Ok, we were not electing a new Prime Minister, but there were some candidates for the Police and Crime Commissioner post who hold what I think are really quite dangerous views. The thing is that minority parties like that tend to have a very active and mobile voting support base, and the danger is if that if everyone does nothing, then people who hold views we may find abhorrent could be legitimately elected into power.

I have had some conversations with friends, colleagues and acquaintances about why they didn't vote, as I am curious, genuinely, why when women died to give us the vote, they would not use their vote. Why in some countries people die for the fight for democracy, why you wouldn't vote. And I came to the conclusion that people just do not know enough about voting in this country. I don't know whose 'fault' that is, but I do know that if we want to see the fabulous turn outs and voting as in America, then we need to change something.

I heard a lot of 'but I didn't have time'. Polling stations are open from 7:00am in the morning until 10:00pm at night, so there is plenty of time to try and fit it into your day. If you are really busy, and it does happen, then you can register for a postal vote, and simply pop the form into the post.

Some people told me that they had not voted as they had lost their polling cards. I can understand that to some extent, but the polling card does have it printed on it that you do not need it to vote; it tells you your polling station and your voter number, but all you really need to know is where you have to vote and on what day.

The saddest thing I heard was too many people telling me they didn't vote because 'they didn't know anything about it'. Not that they didn't know the election was happening, but they had not received printed information through their door about the election and the candidates. Now I can't help but think this would have been useful, but at the same time, so many of us have access to the internet. We do not have printed information put through our doors about the train times, but most of us manage to catch one. We do not have printed information put through our doors with the film times, but we manage to get to the cinema and see the film we want to.

Having said all that, I realise that we all have a lot going on in our lives, that sometimes it just isn't possible to vote. The train that gets in late, the family member who goes into hospital, the day that just goes awry. But we had several frail elderly ladies who turned out despite having hideous heavy colds, because they wanted to exercise their right to vote. I felt proud of them, and proud to be part of the process.

When you are a poll clerk, you have to be at the station for 6:30am to help set it up ready for opening at 7:00am. You do not leave until just after 10:00pm when the station closes, having helped put things away. It is a long day, and there is something rather nice about planning ahead, packing a little basket with things to do when it gets quiet, another basket with food and plenty of tea things for the day. A day so outside of normal routine. And with such a small turnout, it gave me plenty of time to think about Christmas, think about things I want to do next year. Just time to pause, and think, and feel connected to so many generations who have gone before.

If you do one thing as you sip your morning cup of tea today, please decide that next time there is an election, you will vote, if you possibly can.

Love Mimi xxx

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair

When I was eighteen, I had long, long hair, almost down to my waist. I have red in my hair, but mainly when the sun shines on it. I remember having about a foot chopped off it once, and spending three hours in the hairdresser getting highlights, only for my boyfriend du jour to enquire if I had been sitting in the sun a lot, because my hair looked a bit lighter.

I have flirted with shorter hair, but never short hair since then. I have had chin length bobs which grew down to shoulder length, and one memorable cut where it flicked out at the bottom, which I never could get another hairdresser to recreate.

And then there was the disastrous spur-of-the-moment trim a few months before I got married, which left me looking like I had been hacked about with shears, was much much shorter than I wanted, and put paid to my long time dream of wearing my hair pinned up with flowers in it on my wedding day.

Since then I have been very wary of hairdressers, and although I have had a few different hairstyles, the emphasis has been on growing it long. A few months ago, I suddenly realised, I have hair that I can class as long again. (I questioned poor Carl from time to time about how he would describe me to the police if he had to!)

I think I was the last one to realise my hair had got long - although several people had commented, I realised that at the back, it is about an inch short of waist length again! I have been worried the last few months that the ends are starting to feel really dry, and was worried about having to get them cut off. So I have interrogated a hairdresser and booked an appointment for a trim in December (my second or third haircut of the year!) and in the meantime was looking for a really good conditioning treatment.

When I was in Boots the other day, I noticed a new haircare stand - Bumble and Bumble on one side, and Ojan, who I had not heard of before on the other size. The products were pricey, but promised to do amazing things to my hair. Happily they had some samples, so I took a sachet of deep conditioning treatment home. At first I thought it was an old sample, as it felt kind of solid in the sachet, but when I read the back it explained that it comes as a solid and you warm it in your hands to turn it to oil. You massage it into dry hair and scalp, wait 20 minutes and wash it out.

The scent is a little unusual, it somehow reminds me of chocolate and cigarettes, but not in a bad way, even though I hate the smell of smoking. It washes right out though, so isn't really a problem. I have to say I was amazed at the difference it has made to my hair with one application. I know nothing can mend split ends but they didn't have that bushy look any more, and my hair was smooth and slippery and bouncy and swishy. I found myself running my hands through it most of the day.

I would love to invest in the full size product, or perhaps some of their serum, but I will have to save up for that. In the meantime, I have a few more sample sachets to use, that the lady running the stand kindly gave me. If you have an outlet near you, I definitely recommend trying it!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

A Busy Few Weeks

I can't believe we are already getting to the burnt-out-candle ends of November, where all the days seem to smoulder like a candle that has just gone out. The mornings start damp and misty, and never seem to really brighten, before the light dims, and the day fades away.

Somehow time just seems to be racing away. I love these days though, the scent of the leaves which were crisp just a few weeks ago, and now smell slightly sweet as they damped and stick to the floor as though decoupaged. Days like yesterday, where mist hides the top of the buildings, as though the day was pulling a woolly hat down over its ears. Mornings where the cool of the air pinches your cheeks and makes them rosy, even in the five minutes it takes to walk to work.

Days which sadly haven't left much time for blogging, but I have so much to tell you. About my day poll clerking on Thursday, about my trip to London yesterday, to get a passport, the reason I need a passport, all the things I have been busy making and doing.

But that will be for tomorrow. For today I need to go to market and buy the spices for Christmas Pudding Vodka, and wool to knit a tea cosy for a Christmas present.

I just wanted to drop in and say hello, to make sure that you know I have not forgotten here, that all is well, just busy.

But also, to tell you about the newest and most lovely blog, written by one of my closest friends. The lovely Angela, who I have known for ten years now, has started blogging at (if you can't guess from the name of her blog, she loves tea just as much as I do!) So please, pop by and say hello, and take a look at the amazing vintage teacup candles she has been making for our charity afternoon tea next weekend.

Love Mimi xxx

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Happy Halloween

When we were little, living at home, we celebrated Halloween simply. We had stretchy black witches dresses that Mum sewed and seemed to grow with us, and she always did a special tea. In fact, one year, she made it look so gruesome that none of us would eat it! We never went out trick-or-treating as I don't think it was so popular back then, but would have a lovely time at home. Mum had a ceramic cauldron which really was a casserole dish which she would fill with pick and mix size sweeties, and stick plastic bugs to the outside. We always had a carved pumpkin alight as well. In later years, when we were too old to dress up, she always made some kind of Halloween display, and we had the cauldron ready for trick-or-treaters.

A few weeks ago, I was telling her how much I would like to have trick or treaters visit, btu we never do. Our old flat was tucked around a corner, so unless you knew it was there, you would never find it. Our new flat is upstairs and you have to buzz to get entry, which I suspect is offputting to trick or treaters. So, Mum said, why didn't I go to hers this year? I don't know why I haven't thought of it sooner, as I did, and it was the most lovely day I have had in a long time.

I spent the morning with one of the girls I used to work with in my little library on the hill. We haven't seen each other for ages, so it was really good to catch up. We drank several pots of tea, and watched the sky become sharp with sunlight and then cloud over, the wind whipping dried leaves and branches against the windowpane. From there I met Mum from her work, as she was on a half day, and we shared a pot of tea in the most delightful teashop, Truly Scrumptious. It is the kind of teashop with flowery tablecloths and mismatched vintage china - in other words, the best kind! Upstairs they had rooms full of vintage clothes and china and all sorts of vintage bric-a-brac for sale, and we had a lovely time browsing.

On the way home, we stopped to buy a large tub of marshmallows for the trick-or-treaters. Our plan was to make up little tissue paper pouches of sweets. We had to form a little production line in the end. Mum cut squares of orange, black, and orange-with-black-spider tissue paper, and I filled them with a few wrapped sweeties and a pair of marshmallows, then Dad cut a length of raffia for me to tie them with. We made lots, and filled a little wicker basket with them.

I loved how Mum had decorated the front porch for the evening - there was a Halloween wreath on the door, a pile of pumpkins (not carved, just heaped in the corner, looking beautiful) and a spiders web with a glowing spider in it. In the window burnt the carved pumpkin. It looked very Country Living. I was so excited when we had the first knock on the door! We had so many trick-or-treaterss that we ran out of pouches and had to make more, twice!

I have to say that I know a lot of people don't like trick-or-treat and think the children are all rude and horrible and will throw eggs everywhere...but my experience couldn't be more different. Our youngest visitor was a four month old baby called Grace dressed as a pumpkin in her mother's arms, visiting with her big sister, and our oldest were some teenage witches. Without exception they had all made the effort to dress up beautifully, they all said thank you, they all said halloween, and were perfectly delightful. There was no silly string, no eggs, no toilet paper, just fun. Their eyes were so wide when we offered them the basket of tissue paper bundles, and it was so nice to see something so simple bringing so much pleasure.

Mum cooked a delicious chicken casserole for dinner. I really miss her cooking, living away from home. She is very kind with sharing her recipes, but there is definitely something special about your Mum's cooking.

Carl came over after he had finished work, and knocked on the door with a 'trick or treat' as I had promised him some sweeties if he did! I hope that your Halloween was as lovely as mine.

Love Mimi xxx

Monday, 29 October 2012

Things I Have Bought Today

A new bathmat in aubergine purple, soft and fluffy, reduced in a sale to a price so silly it would have been positively rude to leave it on the shelf (£1!!)

A bright pink turban to put my hair in while I am in the bath, so it doesn't get wet, or alternatively to sweep all my hair off my face while I put a face mask on.

Stocking fillers for my husband...I like to start early and squirrel away little treats. I would post here what I have got so far, but I know him to be an occasional visitor to my little blog.

Miss Read's Christmas Book from amazon for a single penny, plus postage. I was so excited to discover this book exists. I love the simple, lovely world of Miss Read, and I adore her descriptions of Christmas. When Christmas preparations start to feel overwhelming, I find reading one of her Christmas stories really centres me again. I was just thinking it would be lovely if someone had written a book on how to have a Miss Read Christmas...and lo and behold, they have!

And lastly, something I did not buy, and shall not buy, but oh, how I would love to! Singer have brought out a new sewing machine, which looks like a vintage machine but is in fact a modern one. If you google Singer 160 Anniversary you can behold it in all its glory...but alas it is £400 which is too, too much!

I feel sleepy now - I suppose to my body clock it is an hour later than it really is, so I am away now, to a bath, a book, and then bed. My favourite evening routine...

Wherever you are, I hope your evening holds similar simple pleasures

Love Mimi xxx

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Pumpkin Pleasures

Just over a week ago, I walked to work and smelt wet leaves for the first time; along with cinnamon and cedar, that is the real scent of autumn for me.

The leaves seem to have fallen from the trees almost overnight, and there were at first lofty piles of them which would get caught in the breeze and scatter about, but now are damp and stuck flat to the pavement.

The days seem to be passing so quickly, that we seem to have moved from the first stirrings of autumn to the sudden crisp cool days of deep autumn almost overnight. We went to see the new Bond film on Friday night, and when we came out of the cinema it was late, and cold, and the moon was dazzlingly beautiful and bright. It had seemed to burn a hole in the clouds almost, and lit our way home.

As we walked home, with the wind nipping my nose, I was thinking of pumpkins, because we had two days of entertaining this weekend, and pumpkins were the order of the day. Yesterday we had Carl's sisters and their partners to visit, and today was our annual Pumpkin Carving Brunch Club.

One of Carl's sisters lives in London and eats in a lot of lovely restaurants, so I wanted to make things extra special. I thought about things and decided to go for several courses of tiny portions rather than my usual serve-yourself-buffet-style cooking. I made my signature hot mulled apple punch which I keep warm in the slow cooker, and serve in teacups with a jug of rum or brandy so people can spike their own drinks to their own taste. I like that it is communal and the drinkers and non-drinkers can share the same drink.

I made a pumpkin dip (roasted pumpkin blended with cream cheese and a pinch of dried chillies) with celery, carrots and seeded crackers to scoop it up with, and then roasted a camembert to go alongside. When people had settled, had a drink and a little graze on the nibbles, I served the first course, which was pumpkin soup served in teacups with a little swirl of cream in the top. Next followed rolling pin ravioli (so called because you don't use a pasta maker) stuffed with roast pumpkin. I served 3 little cushions of ravioli tossed in a little butter, pine nuts, crispy bacon, sage, spinach and sprinkled with a little cheese. Next came overnight slow-cooked lamb stew with dumplings. I found tiny casserole dishes, slightly bigger than a ramekin, to serve it in. I nestled a single dumpling atop the stew with baby chantenay carrots on the side. After that came Nigella's hazelnut and chocolate cheesecake, but rather than making a large one and serving it in slices, I made them in little glass ramekins. They are beautiful, but very, very rich. Definitely one to serve with a cup of tea on the side! I had planned to make marzipan acorns to serve with coffee at the end, but I realised too late I did not have any green food colouring. Instead, I served mini doughnuts! I had seen in the Lakeland catalogue that they had a little silicone tray to make them in, and that you could bake them in the oven, so I decided that they would be the perfect thing to try making.

I am pleased to report that they were a total success! Although the recipe on the Lakeland website said that the mixture would make 8, it made 16! I tossed half in caster sugar and the other half in cinnamon sugar, and they all got eaten within minutes! They were very quick and easy to make and I can't recommend the tray enough!

It was really good to catch up with the family again and we spent a happy day talking, although there was a lot of washing up to do afterwards! Today has been pumpkin carving brunch club, and I got a head start on the catering by making twice as much pumpkin soup as I needed yesterday, so served that as a first course again today. I made pumpkin macaroni cheese for the main course, and blended ciabatta, dried sage, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds and cheese to sprinkle over the top before it was baked. I served a big dish of sausages alongside, and another dish of bitter green leaf salad, with my favourite beetroot and balsamic vinegar dressing on the side. I was really pleased with the macaroni cheese, as I concocted the recipe myself. My dessert was an 'impossible vegan pumpkin pie' which turned out much better than I hoped.

My guests today are some of my favourite people in the world, and it was a pleasure to have them with me for the afternoon. One brought delicious pumpkin and chocolate brownies, and the lovely Annastasia came bearing the most amazing mini cupcakes which looked like they would bite back! Each cupcake had a strawberry jam mouth and macademia nut teeth, and looked scary but tasted delicious.

Inspired by apple day at the farm a few weekends ago, we had our first apple peeling competition - Annastasia is the reigning Miss Apple Peel 2012, but I shall be practising ready for next year! I used a lino cutting tool to carve my pumpkin this year - while it is really effective I think I need more practise to perfect controlling it.

And so we come to Sunday evening. What a difference a week makes...I remember last Sunday I did not feel so happy at all. But this morning, I needed to pick up a few last minute ingredients, and strode out into the cold, the leaves scuttling about my feet, the air cool in my lungs, and just felt happy. It is a good feeling, and I hope that it lasts for me and that all of you feel happy yourselves.

The extra hour in bed last night was much appreciated, but it means I am feeling very sleepy now, but want to finish off catching up with Strictly Come Dancing on the iplayer before bedtime. I wonder if I will have time to knit up a tiny pumpkin before Halloween on Wednesday?

I think that tonight will be a hot-water-bottle kind of night, and tomorrow will be a scarf and gloves kind of morning. Wherever you are, I hope you are wrapped up warm and had a lovely weekend,
Love Mimi xxx

Monday, 22 October 2012


When I awoke this morning, my little corner of the world was wrapped in a soft blanket of mist. The air felt soft, and all the sounds of the day were muffled slightly by it. It was as though somehow, the day knew that I needed to be wrapped in cotton wool today, to be gentled.

And even though I have had news which is more good than bad, thankfully, I do still feel like I need gentling. I am thankful becuase I still have a job, which is much better news than some of my colleagues will have received. But it is half of the hours I had asked for, and not at a library I had asked for. But it is a job, a chance, an opportunity. Even better, I can continue my secondment.

So although I feel mainly relieved, I feel a bit shaky too. There is hope glistening away in the shimmering half light, which is what I am going to hold on to.

I plan to work not too late today, go home and have a quiet hour before visiting friends. I have a card on my desk which says 'All Shall Be Well, And All Shall Be Well, And All Manner Of Things Shall Be Well' flanked by a smooth pebble from Aldeburgh beach and a smaller stone from the same beach, with a hole straight through it. These are my points of reference to stay grounded and when I feel stressed, I try to hold them and think positively.

I think of this blog as a kind of patchwork blanket where I weave the thread of my days. I don't know what colour these past few weeks would be, but I know I am grateful to have this space to weave them, just the same.

Thank you for your kind thoughts and words these past few weeks, Love Mimi xxx

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Thoughtful Sunday Evening

I find myself pensive this evening. It has been a wonderful weekend, with lots of adventures to write about. I still haven't told you about all the inspiration at last weekend's Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace, or regaled you with tales of my first night as a burlesque dancer, performing on stage for a paying audience...and to add to that I have Apple Day at our local farm shop (I had a go at archery, amongst other things) the model railway show, the vintage fayre, or just the general loveliness of autumn days and coffee from a proper coffee pot, falling leaves and the scent of cinnamon and cedar in the air.

There will be time enough for that another day. I find myself this evening with snatches of T S Eliot poetry wandering through my mind.. And indeed there will be time For the yellow smoke that slides along the street, Rubbing its back upon the window-panes; There will be time, there will be time To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; There will be time to murder and create, And time for all the works and days of hands That lift and drop a question on your plate; 30 Time for you and time for me, And time yet for a hundred indecisions And for a hundred visions and revisions Before the taking of a toast and tea.

I had a tempestuous relationship with Eliot when I studied him years ago, but I find he creeps into my mind more and more often now. Perhaps it is that I have just watched The Ghost and Mrs Muir and cried at the ending, and then did the washing up listening to Elvis singing 'It Hurts Me' or that tomorrow I find out if I am redundant again or not, and a dear, dear Aunt gets some medical test results which will I think be bad news, or worse news.

Maybe it is just autumn days filled with rain or just the Sunday evening blues. But I do feel pensive this evening. If I was in Little Women, I would be sitting in my garret eating apples while the rain pattered against the window. If I was in Pride and Prejudice I would be taking a long walk across the fields, getting my petticoat quite muddy. But I am not, I am here, so I shall boil the kettle, run a bath, and settle back with The Persephone Biannual and plan a great many literary treats to come. And try to remember that this too, shall pass.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Storecupboard Squirrel

Last night, I finally made time to turn out the freezer and make an inventory before repacking everything neatly. Having had such a thorough look at our food stores has been really beneficial - I now know exactly what we have got and what needs replenishing, and have an idea of how squirrels must feel when they make their little stores all ready for winter!

I enjoy cooking, so it was no surprise to me to realise that gradually my herbs and spices and flavoured oils etc had taken over an entire shelf in one of the cupboards, but I was surprised to find I have 33 different herbs and spices! And that I was nearly out of sage, all out of rosemary, and my mixed spice had lost its scent, and so almost certainly its flavour!

I have not done a proper 'big shop' for a while, and so find myself without things that I consider staples, such as tinned tomatoes, but am pleasantly surprised to see how much we do have. If we had a sudden unseasonal snowfall and couldn't leave our home for a few days, we could eat very easily, although I must put milk for the freezer on my list so we could still have our pots of tea!

In my list making, I have included everything except for the fridge, because I see that as very temporary storage and perishable - there is no point to me saying I have milk in the fridge on a list because there is always milk in the fridge; meat in the fridge is there because it is about to be cooked, etc.

I now have my google spreadsheet all set up, with colours for the main categories of food (blue for dairy, red for protein, etc). The only thing that could make life a bit easier is if I had the magic kind of phone where you can access google docs on it, because then if I was in a shop and couldn't remember how much of something we had, I could look it up. Having said that, the plan is definitely to shop online as much as possible, except for the local market for fruit and veg etc, so I shouldn't really need to look things up while I am out and about!

Hopefully seeing at a glance what I have already will make menu planning easier. For example, I knew I had some pork mince in the freezer, but knowing I have some dry noodle nests and a jar of peanut butter means all I need to do is buy some new soy sauce, and sugar snap peas, and I can make pork-and-peanut-noodles for dinner. Although that won't be tonight...I have my friend and her parter coming to dinner tonight, and he is vegetarian. I am thinking of a spiced carrot and lentil soup, served in small portions in teacups as a starter, and steamed pumpkin and syryp sponge pudding for dessert...just have to decide what to put in the middle!

But before I get to any of that, I have to fill in my application form for the restructure at work. And remember to go and put my out-of-office reply onto my work emails, and try not to look at them as they come in....

But first, time for a bolstering cup of tea!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Looking Back

My progress on turning out my cupboards and stock taking and replenishing the kitchen has been slow but steady this week. All that is left is the fridge and the freezer. I wish I had been able to do it one evening this week, but long, intense days at work have left me so tired that my evenings have been stumbling through dinner and a shower, then into bed, where I fall asleep, book in hand.

I have Monday off work. It isn't a day off as such, it is to complete my application form for a job in the restructure which is happening within our libraries. Voluntary redundancies have been granted, but there are still too many of us for the posts that will remain, so those of us left fill in our forms, and then wait. By the end of the month I will know if I have a job or not.

You would think that I would be terrified...part of me is a little worried that I am not. It isn't that I am by any means confident of securing a post - after all, I was made redundant in the last restructure. It is more partly that I am just too worn out to have the energy to be terrified, and partly because when I was made redundant last year, it was the worst I could imagine happening, and I have survived.

Looking back to this time last year, I had left the big library in August. In the second or third week in September I started working part time in one of the branch libraries to make up my hours. My life was just starting to settle into a rhythm of getting on the train on one day, on the bus another day. I remember meeting my friend who lives in Witham for lunches in a lovely little cafe called The Well - pots of tea and jacket potatoes. I remember a long, straight road to walk down from the train station to the library, and one of the houses along the road often had bags of windfall cooking apples. I remember coming home and making batch after batch of apple puree for the freezer, whilst listening to Alan Rickman read The Return of the Native.

I remember Carl being made redundant, too. Being so thankful that we pulled together rather than apart. When he got a new job, just before Christmas, the elation. Knowing how important it was to him to be employed on his 30th birthday and being so glad he got his wish.

I remember having so much less money, having to choose my pleasures wisely, and discovering Oh Comely magazine, falling in love with it for an issue or two, but then moving on. I remember dark evenings in our new little flat, lit with flickering candles. Being pleasantly surprised by how warm the flat is.

It will be 2 years in January that I first heard about the first restructure in which I lost one of my jobs. Soon I will know about this job, either way. I wish that just for a little while, I could live with certainty. I remember when I was working my one contracted job, and all the little side jobs here and there, not being able to see the way forward, not being able to sense or imagine what might come next. A bit like when you wake up in the pitch dark and can't see your own hand in front of your face, although you know it must be there. And there was something in front of me. I had from March to August in a new office and made some good friends and put a lot on my CV. I am now working in the Cabinet Office and again, there are wonderful people there and I am working in a world I could not have imagined before.

So I keep telling myself that this too, shall pass. What will be will be. That all shall be well. But it is hard. I know I am luckier than most, because if they do make me redundant, I have my secondment to finish. Everything feels so tentative at the moment. It is very hard not to shrink into yourself and be afraid.

So on Monday, I shall do the best I can with my application. I will be thankful for the safety net of my secondment. I will check the job websites just in case, so I can have an idea what else might be available. I will try to be positive and remember that whatever happens, even if it isn't how it feels at the time, is for the best.

Recently, I have been having a strong urge to nest. To set up my stores, to make our home cosy and comfortable, to replenish the things we need, to get settled in for whatever is to come. I think a lot of that is autumn in the air, but a lot of it is also the uncertainty of work. I am going to do some baking at the weekend. I remember making a pumpkin caramel cake last year, and I think I will make that again this weekend, and perhaps make some bread, too. Simple pleasures, to soothe the soul.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Storecupboard Progress

Inspired by Quince Tree 65, I decided it would be a good thing to make a list of all the provisions we have in our food cupboards, fridge and freezer. I especially like how QT65 used a different colour for protein, carbohydrates etc. I was full of good intentions, but after eating dinner and washing up, I have managed only to turn out the tea and coffee shelves and the small dry goods cupboard.

I do this periodically anyway as it is good to know exactly what you have and haven't got lurking in the back of your cupboards, and I like just being able to check my spreadsheet to see if I have the right herbs and spices for a particular recipe rather than having to go and check. I like the feeling of everything being shipshape and catalogued neatly - a relic of so many years spent working in libraries coupled with the autumn feeling of squirrelling away stores for cold weather.

I am so tired this evening I can barely keep my eyes open, so I am signing off to go and snuggle in bed and fall asleep listening to Radio 4. Tomorrow evening I am going to tackle the larger dry goods cupboard, and the fridge and freezer. The next part of the plan is work out which things that I like to keep a stock of need replenishing (tinned tomatoes, lentils, arborio rice etc) and which things I need to use up (frozen meat etc).

Then is is just a case of working the latter into a menu plan, and seeing how well I can do with the Storecupboard Challenge that I mentioned last week. I have How To Feed Your Family for £5 A Day by Bernadine Lawrence to read to get some ideas. I think my Mum used to have an older edition of this when I was a little girl, so I am hoping to discover some forgotten childhood favourites in there, as well as some new ideas.

Heaven forbid that either of us should ever be in a situation where we start the day with our jobs, but end it without, but I like to think that should that happen, or should we be snowed in, or whatever else, we could not just survive for a few days, but eat well.

What are your favourite store cupboard items?

Love Mimi xxx

Suddenly, October

I came home from work at half past five today, which is uncommonly early, and stopped at the shop to buy some milk. Even as I stepped out of the shop, dusk was falling, the gloaming was settling, and the light was fading beautifully.

I got home and opened all the windows to let the last of the daylight in, and turned the oven on while I put together a sausage-and-sage-and-onion-pie for dinner. In the time it has taken to roll the pastry and mix the filling and decorate the top with tiny cut out pastry hearts, anoint with milk and place in the oven to bake, the sky has deepened first to royal blue, and now to navy, so dark it is almost black.

Suddenly, it is October. Autumn is no longer coming, it is here. We saw out September in wonderful style with a weekend at Aldeburgh; we stayed in the delightful Curlew Cottage that we stayed in this summer, and spent two days at Snape Maltings at the Food Festival. I enjoyed a tutored chocolate tasting with Rococo Chocolates - salted milk chocolate topped with goats cheese, lemon zest and cracked black pepper was an utter taste revelation to me! We went to a black-and-white themed dinner dance, and were put to shame by the energetic dancing of the other guests, most of whom were at least twice our age!

On the way home we stopped at my parent's house, I miss seeing them so much as I used to since I started my new job. We enjoyed dinner and just sitting and talking. I came home with a bag of Concorde pears (they are amazingly delicious and worth watching for. Curiously Marks and Spencer sell them at a premium in a posh box; Morrison's often sell them in their value bags!) and a bag of craft magazines. Food for thought and the tummy!

I can't wait for my husband to come home tonight. A pot of tea, a home cooked pie, candles alight, and home, home together.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Food Stamp Challenge

It seems that menu planning is never far from my mind, recently. Perhaps it is because of the change of season and the foods coming into their best, the anticipation of apples and pears in abundance, or perhaps it is because there have been several lovely new cookery books, magazines and tv series recently. Whatever it is, I have been thinking more and more about What To Cook.

It is a tricky balance for me, as I am working long hours, and it is very easy to fall into the trap of having no time to plan, so you end up having to get something on the way home from work, which really isn't very satisfying. Somehow it seems impossible to come out of a shop with change from a £10 note, but then again, perhaps part of the problem is that we so rarely pay with actual money nowadays.

This time last year we were adjusting on living mainly on one salary; the spectre of another restructure and another possible redundancy beckons. The idea that there won't be as much money seems very real again. Even without that, I found myself walking out of the shop the other evening, tired and worn to a ravelling, having paid money for food that wasn't particularly inspiring, but was easy and quick, thinking 'surely, for the money I have, I can do better than this'.

For the budget I have for food, I should be able to provide tasty healthy seasonal meals. I can, I know I can, from experience. But it has felt a bit more of a struggle recently. And then in a timely way, I came across this post over at The Quince Tree: I quickly totted up how much I would have to spend...there are two of us, so two times four is eight, seven days in a week, seven times eight is fifty six, which isn't bad at all, and isn't that different to what I have in my budget now. Until you realise that is dollars not pounds, so I would actually have £34.58 which really isn't so very much after all. I don't want to throw myself into doing this right away, I want more time to think. But the seeds are planted, and I am thinking away, ideas bubbling.

A few months ago, I noticed that a food bank had just been started, and was appealing for donations. I had a tumble of feelings - good that something is being done to help people who need it, sad that there are people who need it, and vaguely horrified by the list of foods requested, tempered by the realisation that when the wolf is at the door you will of course eat whatever there is. It isn't that I wanted to donate caviar or lobster, but UHT milk, instant mashed potato and tinned meat just isn't very inspiring. I pray that I will never have to find out what it is like to need a donation of food just to keep going, and I know that if I did I would be grateful to have something to feed my family with, but reading through the shopping list, I couldn't help but think surely there is a better way of feeding your family cheaply, than this? And just because people are in straightened circumstances, that doesn't mean that you stop liking nice food. And nice food to me doesn't necessarily mean expensive food. I had a thought flitter through my mind that it woudl be lovely to get together with some of my friends to share our favourite thrifty end-of-the-month recipes, that are so tasty you would be happy eat them any time of the month, even on payday! And then I thought that we could print that little booklet and put donate it with the food boxes. But then I thought, surely that would be a bit patronizing. Yet then again, if you haven't been taught to cook from scratch, it must be bewildering to suddenly have to do it. And it never fails to amaze me how many people don't know. Just the other day, we walked through the park, round the pond, and noticed a couple who were feeding the ducks with entire flatbreads, bagels, and fresh from the packet Kingsmill bread...hopefully they will never have to cut back, and maybe I am judging them harshly, but I can't imagine that there is a lot of cooking from scratch in their kitchen!

The Words Out Of My Mouth II It is officially Autumn. This means that there are certain things I’ll enjoy doing with my family and friends that only feel this good in the autumn months. If I were to try to recreate them in the Spring or Summer something would be out of place and that is why I love paying attention to the seasons and really making the most of them. These are some of things I’m looking forward to this Autumn - Slow Cooked Food Being outside on a warm Autumn afternoon Baking using cinnamon and nutmeg Watching any period drama – Pride & Prejudice (Colin Firth version), Merchant Ivory films, Downton Abbey etc.. Watching any one of these (or all three)….. I make fires I wear sweaters and big socks I drink much more tea And consume more sweet potatoes......

The Words Out Of My Mouth

Really it is my favorite time of year, when the house smells like {homemade} peppermint cleaner and for a short while everything is clean inside and out. Because then the fun starts...the pumpkins and apples and cinnamon, and warm stews and hot breakfasts and woolens and pink cheeks...fluffy down blankets and hot water bottles for icy toes. There really is nothing like that first piece of pumpkin bread, or the first mug of cocoa, and my personal favorite seasonal debate...what exactly constitutes "too early for Christmas music".

Autumn Equinox

Something I have been trying to do more over the past year or so is to pay attention to nature. When I think back to my childhood, my memories are very wrapped up in the seasons and the turning of the year, and nature. Little things like filling up jam jars with rose petals and water to make 'perfume' in the summer, squeezing between the rose bushes to gather the best petals, to waiting for dark and wrapping up warm to go out to the school bonfire party, watching my breath like smoke in the air.

The more I read about Steiner and Waldorf education, the more I recognise from my own childhood. I went to a conventional school, but at home we enjoyed simple pleasures, and exploring nature was just something that we did. We didn't have a nature table per se, but I always seemed to have pockets of pinecones and conkers or acorn cups, can even now never walk past a lavender bush without trailing my hands through it, and love watching for the spiderwebs of autumn jewelled with dew in the mornings.

I have definitely been more aware of the phases of the moon this year, and had a note in my diary that it was the autumn equinox this Saturday past. On one hand it is a gentle prompt to really start getting things cosy, as from now on, there will be more dark than daylight. Whilst I love long summer evenings as much as anyone, but dark evenings lit with candles, snuggly blankets on the sofa and a tasty stew bubbling on the stove have a charm of their own.

I wasn't expecting quite such a sudden and definite change in the weather though - on Saturday it was sunny and warm, almost hot...a lovely Indian Summer day. Sunday was as different as day to night - cold and grey and blustery and wet. I went to London to visit The Cake and Bake Show at Earls Court. It should have been a lovely show, and I did enjoy going, but they had sold far too many tickets, and as a result it was too crowded to see anything very easily, and I spent a lot of time getting very jostled about. However, we did some wonderful cakes made for a competition on a beach theme, Mary Berry from an extreme distance, and heard lots of shrieks when Paul Hollywood appeared on the stage!

Alas on the way home, we found that Earls Court Station was not where we left it (in other words, somehow we got lost!) and walked for ages in the wind and rain before catching a bus, then two tubes to get back to Liverpool Street. I got home bedraggled and tired, as there was also a bus replacement service on, to find our living room alight with candles, a hot bath running, and a cup of tea. What a lovely homecoming.

I went into work early this morning as I had lots to get done...I was at my desk not long after 7:30am. I came home at 4:30am, which means that whereas usually I would still be at my desk right now, I am at home drinking tea, with a gammon joint roasting in the oven to be eaten with parsley sauce later. It is times like this that I could not agree with Jane Austen more when she said 'there is nothing like staying at home for real comfort!'

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Autumn Morning, Autumn Evening

When I stepped out of the front door this morning, I was wearing my trench coat with the button flower bouquet brooch, but still actually gasped because it was so chilly. A proper autumn morning, where your skin tingles, and everything feels really crisp and beautiful. When the air is this cool and crisp, it somehow feels cleaner, and as it fills my lungs it makes me feel invigorated.

I was at my desk for 8:00am this morning, and didn't leave until just before 7:00pm, and when I emerged from the labyrinthine corridors of my building, the cool temperature once again surprised me. The light was already graying and dimming before my eyes which surprised me more. I know that it is the autumn equinox any day now, and suddenly the evenings will start to draw in even more, but the sudden dusk at the close of the day came as a surprise.

I am going to tuck myself up in the warm now, but leave the window open so some of the autumn evening breeze can drift in while I sleep. I love these first days of early autumn, knowing that the rest is ready to unfurl in front of me, like a pathway made of autumn leaves ready to scuff.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Cosy Evening

One of the little rhythms that makes up the patterns of my days is the radio. We seem to wake up just a moment or two before Radio 4 comes on in the morning, and we lay and listen for a while before we get up. And in the evening, I love Radio 4 on again, to go to sleep to. There always seems to be something interesting to listen to, and I find the regularity of the beeps marking the hours, and the regular features soothing somehow.

I have just heard on the weather forecast that there is expected to be a ground frost tonight. I can't believe how just a Sunday or so ago we were sweltering in the sunshine! But I am more than happy to welcome the autumn in, more than ready to skip into my favourite season. One of the things I like about autumn is the preparation, the planning ahead for Christmas, the choosing of my autumn fragrance, the laying in of stocks of tealight candles and cough syrups. Perhaps I was a squirrel in a former life!

Something I did today to get ready for the coming autumn was to buy new bedding. We now have inky violet sheets and pillow cases, and a duvet cover and second pair of pillowcases scattered with tiny pink roses, in what almost looks like Liberty print. There is also a soft violet blanket to go across the foot of the bed.

With the overhead light low and just one side lamp on, a candle burning, and Radio 4 playing, this room is like a little autumn cave, all warm and cosy. I really could never get up again, and was happily ensconced by half past nine this evening.

I really do think that money spent on your bedroom is always money well spent, after all, we spend such a lot of time here. And also, it is never too cold to sleep with the window open, just a little!
Sweet dreams wherever you are!
Love Mimi xxx

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Scenes From a Scrumptious Sunday

Sundays remain for me the best day of the week, even though for the time being I am lucky enough not to have to work on Saturdays either. This past week has flashed by, and I can hardly believe that it is Sunday again already. I seem to have done so much, and also still have so much on my to-do list outstanding.

We have had a family lunch to celebrate my little brother's birthday. I can't believe he will be 26! He is much taller than me so isn't really my little brother but it was lovely to see the family together again. As we walked down to the restaurant for lunch, the Salvation Army Brass Band started to play which was lovely to hear. Although it is far too early in the year, listening to them makes me feel slightly Christmassy!

On our way back home, we bumped into a friend we went to school with, and don't see nearly often enough, so we stopped for a cup of tea with him, before continuing on our way. I wanted to buy some new bedding, a pretty set printed with bird cages, but alas we needed a king size cover and they had only singles, so that will have to wait for another day. (Although we have a double bed, we have a king size duvet on it, to make it extra snuggly)

Now I am snuggled on the sofa with a cup of tea catching up with the premiere of Strictly Come Dancing, seeing the dancers discover who their partners will be. I do love Strictly, and love that it carries us through autumn into winter and deposits us gently on the doorstep of Christmas.

I have a newspaper to read, and there is a lavender scented bath in my near future. Gentle pottering about for a Sunday afternoon, watching the light fade outside the window, feeling the temperature drop slightly, feeling evening creeping on gently.

Wherever you are, I hope you are having a lovely Sunday Love Mimi xxx

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Scrumptious Salad and a Sweet Dessert

Last week, on the way home from babysitting my godchildren, I popped into the supermarket to pick up a few bits. It was Morrisons rather than my usual Waitrose, and it was nice to have a look round somewhere different. Something that really caught my eye was a bottle of inky purple salad dressing made with beetroot and balsamic vinegar. Now I don't like beetroot but I love balsamic vinegar, and over the past few years I have discovered a few things that I didn't used to like I suddenly did (like aubergine) so I decided it was worth trying a bottle.

I am really glad I did, as I have been using it in the most scrumptious salad. I have this lovely little bowl to take salads to work in. In the lid is a little screw top container for the dressing, so you can dress your salad just before you eat it, and the salad doesn't go soggy.

Into the lid-container I pour some of the beetroot balsamic dressing, then into the bowl threw a few handfuls of salad leaves, a mix which included spinach and red chard. Then I added some quartered baby plum tomatoes, and slices of cucumber. I have been using an apple corer to take out the seeds, then slice the cucumber into half moons. I added some shredded chicken, crumbled goats cheese, and chopped walnuts. When it gets to lunch time it is just a case of shaking it all together, then drizzling over the dressing. Do try it, it really is lovely!

I woke up from a dream the other morning, in which I had made a trifle using battenburg cake and chocolate and cherries. I really wanted to create it for some friends, but while I managed to buy battenburg cake with no problems, I couldn't get the cherries I wanted or the chocolate custard, and was on a bit of a tight time scale. So I abandoned my plan to recreate my dream dessert, and instead used a base of battenburg cake and drizzled it with tinned pear juice, then topped with some of the chopped pears. I repeated those layers, then did a layer of custard, and decorated with piped cream coloured pink, and soem edible pink glitter. I would have garnished with cherries, but I didn't have any, so I garnished with cubes of batternburg instead. In retrospect it might be the kind of dessert best made in shot glasses rather than cocktail glasses as I served it, as it is rather sweet. One day I must try and make my dream trifle instead!
what have you been cooking lately?

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Tales of a Sleepy Mimi

I have mentioned before that I am working long hours recently - it is a curious thing that from when I settle at my desk with a cup of tea (in a cup and saucer of course) holding my pebble from the Aldeburgh beach, to the time I switch off the light and slip home seems to elapse in the blink of an can it be home time already when I haven't done this or that or even start this? And yet at the same time, how can it still be the same day, when I have done so much?

Last night, I dozed off on the sofa, and so decided to put myself to bed. I snuggled down at about 10:00pm and was soon fast asleep. Suddenly, I had a rude awakening! There was a roar, and what sounded like a lorry pulled up outside our little flat. I actually thought it was morning when I woke up, and it was one of the recycling lorries. As I blinked the sleep away, I realised it was only 10:30pm and opened the window to investigate. I was right, it was a recycling lorry, and it was right outside our window. Having done their recycling, the men were happily sitting in their lorry cab with the engine running having a good old chat. Well the next thing I knew was that I was standing their, in the street, in my dressing gown and slippers banging on his window and asking him to ssshhhhhhhhhhh! As people were trying to sleep!

When I woke up this morning, I couldn't find my dressing gown. It turns out that when I got home last night, I hung it up like a coat!

I am beginning to feel that I am finding my feet at work. Today was so, so hectic - my lunch hour came at 6:00pm, but I feel like I proved myself a little bit. That feels good, and I hope it continues!

I am sitting in the living room this evening on my own, as Carl is out at Supper Club. I have watched the Great British Bake Off, which I love, and am sipping a cooling cup of tea. The window is open and the breeze that blows through is really chilly, but so pleasant and refreshing, like an ice cube in a glass of water on a warm day. I am really relishing this gentle slide into the start of autumn. When I walked to work this morning, I saw a beautiful scattering of leaves on the pavements. I am not entirely sure where they came from, as the trees are still green, but it is like the first whisper, again.

Carl and I took a lovely walk in the park on Sunday. We always feel better somehow for going there. Perhaps it is being amongst the greenery and wildlife, or just stretching our legs and getting some fresh air, but we love it there and feel very lucky to live so close. While we were wandering through on Sunday, we decided that we would try and remember to take a photograph from the same vantage point every Sunday, so we can see the seasons change on film.

I would love to carry on and continue this evening chatter, but the clock is creeping towards half past ten, and bed is calling me - hopefully without the recycling van tonight!

Wherever you are, I hope you are having a peaceful evening
Love Mimi xxx

Sunday, 9 September 2012

106 Days Till Christmas

It's no secret that I love Christmas, and the past few years have discovered that my best way of enjoying it is to spread the preparation out over the preceding months so I can really relax and enjoy the season.

So while I hate seeing advent calendars in WH Smiths, mince pies in the Co-Op, and cards in almost every card shop, I have been quietly making plans and crafts at home, and aim to have nearly everything done so that I can wake up on December 1st ready to celebrate.

Seeing that there are about twelve weeks to go to Christmas Day itself made me realise that I only have 8 weeks left if I want to achieve my goal, and I will have to start putting in a lot more effort, as so far it has mainly been planning and designing on my part. But then my mind wandered, and I wondered, in 12 weeks, what else can I achieve?

If I were to make sure I get my five a day every day, that would be 530 servings of fruit and vegetables! Although I try to eat well, I don't think if I counted back 106 days I would quite total that! If I practised my French each day, how much better at it would I be? Just a little seed of a thought, and while I don't want to spread myself too thin, I do like the idea of seeing how far I can get with something in the twelve weeks I have left.

What would you like to improve, or take up by the time you wake up Christmas morning?

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Work Wardrobe

Whether or not to have a uniform was always a topic of much debate when I worked in the library. There was not even a formal dress code, something which I always thought was a shame. Apart from our name badges, there was little to distinguish staff from customers, which could be a little difficult if you were not a regular, especially now we are in the era of not sitting at desks, but floorwalking looking for customers.

Rewind a few years to when we had professional librarians and 'operational' staff, and the librarians were mainly of an older generation whose clothing set them apart from the 'operational' staff. I don't think it was a conscious thing, but it was noticeable. Fast forward a few years, and there are no 'professional' and 'operational' staff any more. The main argument against a uniform, aside from the financial aspect, was that nobody could agree in staffroom tea break debates what the uniform should look like. Nobody wanted Waterstones-style t-shirts, but equally nobody wanted to wear full suits. It was an academic question anyway, but always provoked interesting debate.

When I started managing my own little library, and then the big library too, my working wardrobe definitely changed. When I started with my own little library it was a shift to wearing more 'serious' clothes for the days I was working there. My favourite was a black pencil skirt and a cashmere jumper. When I started managing at the big library, I did have a little shopping trip and bought a few new things to wear.

Now I am working in the Cabinet Office, clothes are once again in my mind. The Councillors wear suits, on the whole. Their advisors wear suits, mostly, but there are some who don't. The PAs wear a wide variety of clothes in varying degrees of formality. The interesting thing is again, there is no formal dress code, but one seems to have established itself in an unspoken manner.

My wardrobe tends to lean towards the vintage style and floral end of things. I made a conscious decision when I started my new job to be very in control of the image I project, and to dress more towards the suit end of things (although without wearing an actual suit!) rather than the more casual end of things. I do occasionally wear floral, but not so often. Last weekend, as I mentioned, I turned out my wardrobe and had a really good time doing it. As well as putting away my more summer clothes and bringing out my autumn-winter clothes, I arranged them with work wear and home wear being distinct. It was very noticeable to me that since starting my new job, my 'home' and 'work' clothes are far less interchangeable, and I actually like that a lot. It makes me feel more 'at home' to not be wearing clothes that I also wear to work, although I do have one or two cross-over pieces.

My work wardrobe is mainly dresses, and is quite mad-men in inspiration, to me at least. My favourite piece is definitely the green Gok Wan dress. To refresh my wardrobe, I want to look out for some nice jumpers for the new season - not necessarily cashmere, but cashmere-look, very Nigella in style. Although I love my dresses, I am enjoying the pencil skirt and jumper or cardigan look. On Wednesday I wore my black pencil skirt with a cream vest top, and over that a little cardigan in slightly sparkly animal print with my red bead necklace, red lips and nails, and nude high heels. It works better than it sounds! It is ways like this that I can inject a bit of personality into my working wardrobe.

I was really interested to see this article on the internet which talks about what secretaries have worn through the years. There are some outfits there that I would never wear in a hundred years, and some I would love to wear!

What would your dream work uniform be?

Monday, 3 September 2012

Stirring Up Some Sleep

Poor Carl is working so hard recently, long hours, and lots of stress. The logical thing would be that he is ready to fall asleep at the end of the day, and he is exhausted, but too overwhelmed and tired to sleep. We are very attuned to each other, which tends to mean if he doesn't sleep well, I don't, so the past few weeks, I have taken getting us a good night's sleep into my own hands.

First comes opening the bedroom window to let in the cool air, and lighting the oil burner. I usually choose a base of lavender, sometimes with a drop or two of chamomile in it to scent the air.

Next comes standing in the kitchen stirring up a saucepan of sleep inducing elixr. I have a little pair of cups which are bigger than espresso cups, but smaller than teacups, and they are just the right size for bedtime milk. I think sleepy thoughts as I stir the milk over a low heat. Sometimes I flavour it with cinnamon, or honey, or vanilla. Tonight I mean business though, so I have added some tincture of valerian and a splash of rum. I can feel its warm tendrils starting the work already!

We have been listening to the same sleep relaxation every night, but I have found a new one to try for tonight. I wonder if we are getting too used to the one we have been listening to and it is not as effective perhaps. I must get to the library and see if there is a CD I can borrow; in the meantime I peruse Youtube and find something there.

Tonight I have one other trick to try - I found a reflexology technique suggested on a website to try. We shall see tomorrow if all of this has any effect....wishing you all sweet dreams!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Sunday Evening Simmer

Sundays remain my favourite day of the week, even though for the last 5 months I have been lucky enough not to work Saturdays (after 11 years of working Saturdays, up to 3 a month). Sunday evenings, right about now, are possibly the best part of the best day of the week. I have had most of the pleasures of Sunday, dinner is simmering on the stove, and I still have a few Sunday pleasures to partake of before bedtime.

We started the day with a short drive over to Hylands House, as we love to walk around the grounds (and I must confess, yes I do often murmur to myself 'of all this I might have been mistress!' in the manner of Lizzie Bennett!) and on the first Sunday of the month they have a farmers market. My Pride and Prejudice fantasies were fuelled further today, because for the first time, we were there at the right time for a carriage ride around the grounds, pulled by a Suffolk Punch named Holly.

On the way home, we took a little diversion to the farm shop to pick out the first of the early season apples. They have a table with apples on and a sharp knife, so you can sample them before you buy them. We like to pick 7 different varieties and take home 2 of each, as that way we can try a different one each day. This time a pair of pears made their way into my basket as well! I love it here, but haven't been for a while. I also picked up some frozen blackcurrants, blackberries, cherries and gooseberries (separately, not in a combination!) so that I can stir them into porridge for breakfasts.

Then we came home, and enjoyed a pot of tea before Carl got to work on a document he is writing for work, and I put all my clothes back into the wardrobe-closet, having got rid of a lot, and sorted them seasonally. It is really lovely to walk in and see everything so organized, and I discovered a few dresses which had worked their way to the back and I haven't worn for a while.

We then took a walk into town together; I bought the new issue of Craftseller to read in the bath later, and a black gel ink pen. We picked up some coffee from Starbucks (have I mentioned that the Pumpkin Spice Latte is coming to the UK?!) and took a walk around the park. I never get tired of walking round the park with the trees and the lake-pond. We spotted a squirrel today, and a lot of ducks.

And now Carl is serving the dinner that has been simmering on the stove top...a little something that I put together without a recipe, just a gentle potter around the kitchen... Sunday Evening Simmer
In a heavy saucepan, soften an onion, then throw in a carrot or two, cut into coins. Tip in the end of a bottle of white wine, and sprinkle with some dried tarragon. Top up with some good chicken stock, and add a shake of frozen peas. Shred the meat leftover from a roast chicken earlier in the week, and add to the pan. Remember a packet of pearl barley you have, and shake a little of that in too. Then while it comes up to a simmer, whip up some simple dumplings with 4oz self raising flour and 2oz of suet, a good shake of dried mixed herbs, and enough cold water to make a dough. Divide into 8, pop into the pan, place the lid on, and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Perfect Sunday evening eating...

The rest of Sunday evening is going to involve writing out my pattern for the owl mug hug...I plan to do it in the manner of Susan Branch, and is the reason I bought the new pen earlier. Then a bath with Craftseller, and early to bed...

I hope your Sunday is as blissful as mine....

Love Mimi xxx

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Starting Over In September

When I was thinking about the blue moon last night, I thought 'how can it be a blue moon? A blue moon is the second full moon in the same calendar month, and there is one full moon every 28 days or so, so how can it be the second one when it is only half way through the month?' and then realised with a jolt that it was actually the last day of August, and today is the first day of September.

This year seems to be rattling away at an alarming rate, but I have had a lot of pleasure from it. I woke up this morning to greet September like an old friend. She answered my welcome with a little nip in the air, cool fresh air which gently blew through the window as we slept. When I walked into town, I spotted several spider webs glistening, and felt that stirring of the back-to-school-new-year-new-start feeling.

Many of my favourite fruits and vegetables are coming into season - I came home from the market yesterday with a brown paper bag full of Victoria Plums, and I am anticipating a visit to our local orchard for early season apples tomorrow. Soon it will be time to splash cinnamon syrup into my coffee and pull out the extra blankets for the bed.

Almost as lovely as the reality of autumn are these last days of summer, the anticipation, the harvest time. I was on a train one evening this week, and saw this wonderful vast field which had been ploughed, next to a field of corn, the two divided by a row of trees. Dusk was falling, but a piercing shaft on sunlight slashed across them highlighting their contrasting colours. So beautiful. It reminded me of harvest festival when I was a little girl. At primary school we always used to have a special whole-school assembly where each class would do a song or a poem or miniature play. When you got into the last class, the oldest children baked bread and were allowed to help serve it and tea and coffee to the special visitors, who I think were probably governors and so on. At school and Sunday school, we decorated shoeboxes and filled them with tins and shiny apples and boxes of tea to give to the old people. Looking back it seems a little odd that we were celebrating the harvest by giving tins!

The year before we were married, we went to a harvest lunch at the church we were married in, and everyone brought with them a home made apple pie. If you read back through the archives ever, you will know what a disaster my poor pie was, but I remember loving that feeling of celebration, and joining together. I am hoping to find a harvest festival service for us to attend this year, and decorate another shoe box, and fill it with lovely things this time.

There is a lovely little delicatessen in the little village where my library-on-a-hill stands, and they bake their own delicious bread. In the window are some varnished loaves to show their skills, including a sheaf of wheat where the ears are individual rolls, and there are little rolls made to look like mice, too. That makes me really want to make bread, as well. I think that perhaps one evening this week I shall bring home a bunch of sunflowers for my kitchen table, bake bread and make soup. Simple, but celebrating the season we are in, and looking forward to the season to come.

My planned task for this afternoon is to thoroughly turn out my clothes closet. It is time to let go of some clothes that I have kept for several years but not worn, to let go of things that are worn out or don't fit or aren't really me. Part of me is scared to have a small collection of clothes, but the reality is that if I am not wearing the others, then really I do have a small wardrobe, I just have some additional clutter. I plan to start to put some of my summer dresses to the back, and bring forwards some wraps and jumpers. After all that, it will definitely be time for a pot of tea...Ceylon today, I think.
Love Mimi xxx

Savoury Muffins

These little muffins are quick and easy to make, and as they bake in the oven, they impart a warm savoury scent that wafts throughout the whole home. They are delicious hot from the oven with a cup of coffee, but serve well at room temperature later, too.

Tie on an apron, pop on the coffee percolator, preheat the oven to 200 oC, and throw these ingredients into a food processor (I used my wonderful Vitamix)
10 oz plain flour 1 tbsp baking powder 2 eggs 225 ml milk pinch salt 2 generous tbsp dollops of caramelised red onion chutney 1 good handful of grated mature cheddar 1 Spring onion, roughly chopped

Whizz it together to make a thick, unctuous mess, partway between a batter and a dough. Spoon into cupcake cases, and top each with a pinch of grated cheese and a crumble of Maldon sea salt. Bake for 20 minutes or so until risen and golden, and try not to burn your fingers as you eat one fresh from the oven.
This recipe makes about 24, and all of them were eaten at the party I took them to. You could experiment with different cheeses and herbs...rosemary and goats cheese would be nice, I think.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Once In A Blue Moon

Yesterday, someone asked me how I have been since I last saw them, and what I have been doing. In that moment, my mind went blank. I have only been in my new job 4 weeks, but it feels like forever, and it expands to fill every drop of my life at the moment. I go in early, I stay late, it is incredibly stressful, but I love it. Poor Carl is working worse hours than me recently, so I am doing all the cooking and cleaning and so on, which I do not mind in the least bit, and have always felt like I wanted to be the main one to do these things, but it means I am tired, tired all the time. I know it will pass, I know soon I will slip into the groove, but for now, it feels as though I work, come home, cook, eat, clean, sleep, work. I don't blog anywhere near as much as I would like to.

But let us look at the chinks between the hours of work, the little slips of time here and there. I manage to read quite a bit, snatching minutes before sleep closes my eyes to read just a page more. I mentioned the other day that I designed my first knitting pattern. I plan, oh, how I plan. I plan recipes and dinners and parties and days out and sketch out blog posts in my mind, think about Christmas and making gifts and all the things I want to do.

I seem to appreciate the simple things more and more, the beautiful nip in the air this morning which feels like a whispered promise of autumn to come. A pot of tea with a friend. A sharp pencil on plain paper. A new magazine. The softness of a well worn sheet and gentle warmth of a duvet. Clean air filling my lungs. All blissful.

Managing to discover new blogs like this one and reading things that echo half-formed thoughts in my own mind, and my heart aches with the loveliness and sadness of it all. Treasuring handwritten recipes from my Mum, even though she is still very much with us, thinking about one day when they are all I will have left, and they will be all that are left of me.

Something I have been doing, which I haven't posted about much recently, is thinking about the moon. I believe I may have posted something a time ago about how women's cycles are traditionally tied to the lunar cycle. I know from many years of working with the public that we always had more disturbed people round the full moon. I don't think that it is such a big leap to accepting that the moon controls the tides because of gravity, to the idea it might affect how we feel on certain days. Tonight is not only a full moon, but a blue moon, the second full moon within a month. Looking at how I have been feeling this week, I am not surprised. I have struggled slightly this week, felt like I was swimming against the tide. And this morning I awoke, and somehow felt as though something that had been jammed was unstuck.

I certainly don't think that the moon can bring a tall dark handsome stranger into your life or anything like that, more that it can be a kind of barometer of how you might be feeling, a kind of weather forecast.

Enough of that though. I am not wishing the last days of Summer away, but oh autumn, I am so ready for autumn!

Wherever you are, I hope the blue moon is shining on you and you have a wonderful weekend

Love Mimi xxx

Saturday, 25 August 2012

After The Storm

We have just had a thunderstorm which rumbled on for nearly an hour, the lightning flashes feeling as though they were getting more violent and the thunder louder and louder. The rain came down so very fine at first, it was almost a mist, and then hard, really pelting down. We kept our window open throughout, and now the air is cool and scented with the rain, which is now falling just occasionally, almost as an afterthought.

A stormy summer afternoon is a nice time to be home, and I have spent it designing a mug-hug patterned with owls in cable stitch - the first time I have designed and made a piece of knitting, rather than following a set pattern, drinking tea, watching an old Bond film, and pottering about on the internet, visiting favourite sites and discovering new ones.

I have always like the idea of paper dolls, and imagine my delight when I found this website and then this one I love the combination of a little bit of story and the paper doll together. It has given me thoughts for future projects. I seem to have a lot of those swirling round in my mind at the moment!

I also found a new website about being a housewife (although I have a full time paid job outside of the home, I do still very much consider myself a housewife, as well)

Visiting Attic24, an old favourite, a while ago, she talked about the idea of thinking about 'home blessing' rather than 'chores' or 'jobs'. I have been working a lot of hours at work recently, so took Friday off, and devoted much of it to 'home blessing' and really enjoyed it. I did a great deal of decluttering and a fair amount of cleaning, took some donations to the charity shop, and ended the day feeling pleased with my efforts. Our home always feels lighter, somehow, after that kind of activity. Carl told me not to use a day off for cleaning and housework, and to do something for myself, but I actually really enjoyed having a good chunk of time to devote to some jobs which have been niggling at me for a while, but I find myself too tired to tackle in the evenings. I was most happy at conquering Magazine Mountain and now having carpet which had been hidden for a while! I did go into town afterwards for some lunch (a very late lunch, at 4:00!).

Next on my list is to go through my clothes, bring out the more autumny ones, look at what I haven't worn for a while, and think about what I might like in the future. I love the feeling of the changing of the seasons, the setting aside, the bringing out anew. I am really starting to get that back-to-school feeling already. Next time I am at the market I want to look for a big bunch of sunflowers to bless our home with, or a bunch of bronzey chrysanthemums which will make me want to read Mrs Miniver again.

Now I am going to sit and write up my owl mug-hug pattern. Wherever you are, I hope you dodged the raindrops!

Love Mimi xxx