Thursday, 29 March 2012

Mimi The Pirate

Just popping in whilst nursing a cup of tea to let you know that I am still not feeling fantastic. I had another very bad night, which culminated in a trip to the doctors this morning. I don't remember a lot about it as I still had a temperature, but his verdict was that under my cold I had a throat infection, and I now have antibiotics which are starting to make me feel a little bit human again. Oh, and he took one look at the eye that is swollen shut and makes me look like a pirate, and proclaimed that I also have an eye infection, so I have drops for that.

I started the week feeling sad to be leaving my twenties behind...but now I am more than ready to start my thirties, I don't like the twenties so much any more!

I am resting and sleeping as much as I can today as I am desperate to be well enough to go to London tomorrow for my birthday treat!

Hoping that you are all well,

ps Moey, I have been finishing off a little handmade something for your parcel, and had planned to go to the post office today, but I think it will be next week now...

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Sandpaper Throat

I have been trying so hard to avoid the latest virus that is doing the rounds, but over the course of last week, my throat started to feel just the slightest bit tight when I swallowed. By Saturday evening, I felt properly throat hurt so much it made my ears ache and head ache, and I had a temperature. I got up in the night and fainted...happily my lovely husband came and picked me up, but I don't know how much I like that when he is woken up at 1am by a mysterious bang, his first thought isn't 'burglars' but 'wife'!

I went into work yesterday morning, and came home again at lunchtime, and here I am again to stay. Before I left work, I looked up my sick record and saw the last time I was off sick was in I don't feel too guilty. The pity of it is that I don't feel well enough to enjoy being at home, but I am hoping with a few days rest I will start to feel more myself again. At the moment I am at that vexing point where I can't smell or taste...but the good side to that is while I didn't smell my toast burning this morning, I couldn't taste it either!

I have lots to post about soon...I am making painted Easter eggs as gifts this year, had an exciting adventure on Saturday, and have plans for my birthday on Friday which involve taking tea at Brown's hotel in London!

Until then, I hope you all in good health and avoid the illnesses going around. If you do succumb, then I have found cooled chamomile tea with a teaspoon of honey stirred into it offers at least temporary relief from a scratchy throat!


Thursday, 22 March 2012

Another Spring Evening

Today it was warm enough for me to slip outside at lunch time, and leave my coat behind. I had a few errands to run, and it was lovely breathing in the spring air, and feeling it against my skin. One of the lovely things on my list of lunchtime jobs was to deliver birthday cards and gifts to two friends who work in the library. I went to the market and chose bunches of orangey pink tulips and mystery daffodils for them. I love it when daffodils are so tightly in bud, that you have no idea what they will be like when they are open. Often they are traditional yellow, but sometimes you get those beautiful pale ones, and then there are the kind with the bright egg-yolk orange centres.

I finished in the office late afternoon and came straight home. Oh, how I love being at home! I have got bed linen laundering, all the windows open, and a pot of tea that I am working my way down. Sometimes I find being home alone a little quiet, so I have Little House On The Prairie on in the background. I have turned out the freezer, made a note of what I have got in there, and reorganized it. I have also made a note to find some interesting recipes for is something that I quite often pick up when it is on offer, and I hadn't realised I had quite so much!

In a little while I am going to go into the kitchen to make Tuesday Tarts from Attic24 (even though it is Thursday!). There will be enough for dinner, and then some left over for lunch tomorrow.

Walking home earlier, seeing so many branches frothing into blossom, I remembered a fact that Mum told me the other day - apparently it takes two weeks for spring to travel from Lands End to John O'Groats! I like that kind of useless information!

I found out my decopatch glue earlier. I don't think I am in the mood for it this evening, but I want to start decopatching some little plastic eggs. As Easter gifts for our family this year, I have brought some small baskets which I am going to line with shredded tissue paper in Easter colours. For each member of the family I am going to blow an egg, paint it and then paint their name on it. I am going to put in a few small decopatched eggs, and a handful of tiny foil wrapped chocolate eggs. The idea is that each year from now on I will give a new egg or two, so they will build towards an Easter Tree collection.

Perhaps this evening is more an evening for some gentle knitting. I have so many things I want to work on at the moment! I think perhaps I will either do a few rows on the red bolero I started a few weeks ago, or add another stripe to my ripple stitch crochet blanket. All I really want this evening is to light some candles, watch The Apprentice that I recorded last night, eat dinner and drink tea.

I don't know if I mentioned earlier this week, but I counted up and realised I have 5 jobs. 5! And I am in the middle of working 9 days straight. They aren't all whole days and it won't kill me, but I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to waking up on Wednesday morning!

Tomorrow I must remember to buy some cumin, cayenne pepper and paprika, as I want to make the cover recipe from this month's Vegetarian Living Magazine. They are halloumi spring rolls with a roasted cauliflower dressing and look really delicious. I will let you know how they go.

I seem to have strayed into rambling and musing rather than proper posting so I will leave you with my love for a beautiful spring evening,


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

New Domestic Routines

Earlier this year, I treated myself to The Art of Homemaking programme over at Brocante Home, and I am so glad I did. I have always enjoyed Alison's writing and programmes, but this one seems to really click with me somehow. Maybe it is because it is the one that I need right now? Who knows...but it is all about housekeeping as a way to prime your canvas for homemaking. It helps you to develop your own routines, so your home runs like clockwork, and you have the pleasure of knowing that everything is taken care of.

With going back to work full time, and this short time of having 3 jobs, and it being spring, which always makes me want to start fresh, it really is a good time for me to get some good routines going to support me. The other evening, I found myself alone, so I sat down with some notebooks and got scribbling.

First I made a list of all the jobs that have to be done in each room every day, and then every week, and then periodically, perhaps monthly. Then I took the 'every day' tasks, and tried to put them together into a morning and evening routine, so they will be done on automatic pilot. One small tweak I have made is rather than taking the rubbish and recycling out in the evening (Carl often used to do that after one of us had done the washing up) I am taking it out on my way to work in the morning. It is only a tiny thing, but it means I am doing it when I would be going out anyway rather than one of us going out in the dark. Early days yet, but the new daily routine seems to be working nicely for us.

The big decision I had to make as far as cleaning went was if I wanted to do a different room each day, a different task each day but in all the rooms, or do everything on one day. For now, I have opted for the latter. The plan is to do it on a Monday when I come home from work, unless I am working late, or we are going out or having company for dinner, in which case I do it on Tuesday. Then if I have done it on Monday, on Tuesday I choose one 'periodical' task like defrosting the freezer or cleaning the oven (I wipe it out after every use so it doesn't need doing more often!). If I have done the cleaning on Tuesday, the periodical task moves to Thursday. Friday I write a menu plan and do the grocery shopping online, and clean out the fridge ready for the grocery delivery. Sunday is the day for fresh bed linen. Carl likes to have a hand in some of the tasks, so the laundry tends to be his, although I do put it on from time to time, but in general I have not included it here, as he takes care of it.

I got home from work yesterday afternoon, and felt a little tired. I didn't really feel like was a beautiful afternoon, and I would rather have sat and read. But I looked around and realised that it would be so much nicer once everything was clean and in order. I also realised that I couldn't do it on Tuesday because I am working late. So I put on some music and got down to it..and I am really glad I did. I finished just before Carl got home, by which time everything was clean and neat, and I had candles burning in the living room, and lavender oil in a diffuser burning in the bedroom. The kind of home you would want to come home to. I hope the routines will help keep me on the straight and narrow and not be tempted to put things off! I think that having a regular day for menu planning and ordering groceries will be a really good thing too. Over the last few months I have found it harder to settle down to doing it regularly, so of course I end up buying some milk on the way home, something for dinner, something for our lunchboxes, which really adds up. So I think this way will save us some money as well as being more organized!

Talking of being organized..I did want to post about our Mothering Sunday, but I want to go and get dinner ready now, so when I come home from work this evening, it just needs to go in the oven to reheat, so I must away to that.

I hope that spring is smiling on you today

ps I have taken to using a lot of natural cleaning products based on vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and lemons. I am really pleased with how efficient they are, and I was also thinking that I know a lot of friends with children who have bought all kinds of cupboard locks to make sure their little ones don't drink their Cillit Bang or the made me realise how wrong it is to use chemicals that could kill us to clean with. Ok, if the baby drinks the vinegar it isn't going to do it any good, but it isn't going to do it as much harm as if it gets into the bleach bottle. As well as being good for the purse and the environment, homemade natural cleaning products are just better all round! They make sense...and with essential oils, you can choose how they smell, as well!

Not Enough Words For Spring

I love seems such a time of hope and promise and joyfullness. As I walked home from work yesterday, I couldn't help but smile the whole was warm enough to not need a coat, but the breeze was cool. Lots of branches are just bursting out into their first froth of blossom, and everywhere I looked, there were daffodils swaying gently in the breeze.

There really aren't enough words for spring though, in my opinion. This kind of spring is very different to the early spring where the crocuses are just starting to show as pin pricks, and then beautiful splashes of white and purple and yellow. It is a different kind of spring to when the daffodils will be over, and it will almost be summer. I love how the seasons melt into each other, but really, just having one word for each seems so inadequate.

I have a beautiful bunch of bridal crown narcissi perfuming the air at home, and also a big bumch of overblown creamy lemon curd yellow daffodils with trumpets just a shade or two brighter. The daffodils in particular make me think that if they were flower fairies, they would be dancers in frothy, frothy skirts. Which made me think of Spring as a kind of ballet. The opening act, with the little baby dancers being the snowdrops, who really belong more to the last act of Winter, but open the dance for us. The aconites, who are to me cousins of summer buttercups are next, but their dance is very short- blink and they are gone! The crocuses come next to the stage, and they start all crouched down, then as the music starts, they open up. First the yellow, then the purple, then the white. The next act is of course the daffodils, and they have quite a long dance. Then on comes the Easter bunny to throw foil wrapped chocolate eggs into the audience!

I seem to remember that in one of the old books for ladies that I have, or perhaps it was a vintage magazine, there was a section on fancy dress outfits. They weren't like we have them now, dressing up as characters from films or plays or books, but more abstract themes. One was 'twilight' and was a dusky blue dress with purple overskirts, studded with silver stars, with a sash of silver too. I would love to see what kind of outfit they would have designed for spring!

It seems, from reading some of your comments, that some of us share our birthday month - and in one case, the actual day! I think March is a wonderful time for a birthday. It is far enough away from Christmas to be its own special day, and sometimes, if you are very very lucky, it falls on the same day as Easter! March weather being what it is, you can never be sure if you birthday will dawn with torrential rain, gales, snow, or the hottest sunshine...I like that we can cheerfully expect such variety! If you are celebrating a birthday this month, buy yourself the most beautiful bunch of daffodils you can find, and a tiny treat just for you too. I am going to have a few tiny truffles from the florists in the town where I grew up, and got my wedding flowers from. Happy birthday to you all, and happy spring to everyone else!


Thursday, 15 March 2012

Pincushions and Bookbinding

Time seems to go so quickly recently. I can hardly believe that a week on Saturday and I will be locking up my little library on the hill for the last time for ten months. On a happier note, I can hardly believe that I have been going to the Cross Stitch Show at Olympia in London for over ten years now, with my lovely friend Apryl from work. (I say work..I mean the library I used to work in, really).

We start the day by buying a cup of tea to drink on the train, and take part in a workshop or two at the show before looking round the stalls to choose some craft projects to take home. I can't believe how much our lives have changed since we started going all those years ago. I can remember having conversations about a man I had met, and then conversations about how we were looking for somewhere to live together, and then buying the materials to make my wedding invitations. Even that was six years ago! So lots of happy memories to look back on!

Today we took a different route than usual to get there, and it was a real delight. Usually we go to Liverpool Street and then go on the underground tubes, but today we went on an overground line instead. We saw lots of allotments and the Olympic site and so many roof tops and chimneys and houses. Much more fun and interesting than the inside of tube tunnels!

When we get the list of workshops through, we tend to choose them on the basis of time, to make sure that we can get there without having to rush, and if they happen to catch our eye. To be honest, we are happy to have a go at anything really! An hours lesson with a little kit with all the materials you need for around £5 is just perfect. On the whole we have had really good experiences so far, although there was of course the memorable time I walked out of one, but today was the best yet.

We started by making mini cupcake pincushions...a simple but really effective idea, and the lady running the class was just lovely. We started with a square of dupion from which we cut a circle upon which we did a little silk ribbon embroidery for the 'icing' and decorations. Then we did a simple running stitch round the edge to gather it in, stuffing with wadding to make a rough ball shape. Then we stitched it into a little silicone cupcake case. I took some photos, which I will get onto the computer at the weekend. I will definitely be making more of these for gifts!

The next workshop was even better, and it has really captured my imagination. We did bookbinding, and made four books! The materials were lovely, creamy heavy cartridge paper, and your choice of cream or red linen thread. I used cream on my pamphlet bound book, and red on my Japanese Stab Stitch bound book. The last two books we made were really simple, where you fold one sheet of paper, make one cut, and have an eight page book at the end of it! We then made a miniature version. One of my favourite things about this workshop was that we got lots of ideas for other things we can do, other materials we can use, decorative ideas, so much more. I am going to be buying myself an awl and some cartridge paper at some point over the next few weeks!

One thing we did notice was that there were fewer stalls and people there this year. I suspect it is this wretched 'economic climate' that is to blame. One thing that was nice was that where the stalls were spaced out a bit more, we didn't get as crushed and buffeted about as usual! I spent very little...I really wanted a Diamond Jubilee Sampler to stitch, but there was not a single pattern there. Oh well! I bought Carl a bag of rum truffles from a delightful chocolatier, and a packet of brooch pin backs for me, which came to less than £5! Not a single ball of wool or cross stitch kit appealed enough to make me open my purse. I am not really worried about that, as I have plenty of things at home, but it is definitely unusual not to buy more! I got lots of ideas for things to do as well, including a button necklace that I would like to try.

So lots going on on the crafty front, and lots on the home and work fronts too. I have started in my new job...which I think I am going to like. It is really strange though, after nearly twelve years in libraries, I know them inside out. Here, I am unsure of myself and find myself asking a lot of questions. I went into my first meeting to take the minutes and found myself in a room with a lot of important people. I know we are all people and all important, but it was slightly intimidating. I am working three jobs at the moment....I am winding up at my little library while starting my new job, and I am still doing some evenings for the enquiry service too. Because of that it feels like I have very little time at home right now, which I find slightly stressful because I love home. I really need some time to myself so I can get the house straightened up a bit, and put some good routines in place to make it so I can take care of our home and put healthy tasty food on the table without too much stress. The last few evenings I have been in bed before nine though, which rather cuts down on the time available. I am not complaining though, as I am very, very lucky to have a job at all.

It's quarter past nine, and my eyes are feeling heavy and gritty with tiredness. I was planning to do a little craft this evening, perhaps watch a film, but I think the thing I really want to do is take a hot cup of tea to bed, and read before falling asleep.

I wonder what I will dream of? I have been having very vivid dreams recently. I have been thinking a lot abotu different things. I can't believe that two weeks and a day I will leave my twenties behind me and be in my thirties. I am not really hung up on the number, but it is a strange thought, to leave something behind and move forward. I feel like I really got to know myself in my twenties. I discovered red lipstick and craft and vintage and homemaking and really branched out in my crafting, of course I met my husband, got married, moved out of home, moved again. I wonder what is next for me? I don't like finding threads of silver in my hair, or that there are lines forming around my eyes, but over all, ageing is a privilege, and the alternative is death, really! So I am not gloomy, but perhaps a little philosophical. Looking back at things I wish I had done, things I want to do, to be. there seems so much to do, so much.

Wherever you are, sleep well, dream well, and may tomorrow bring you everything you could wish for.


Ps Dear Moey, hopefully you will have received my comment on your blog....

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Snowdrops at Easton Lodge

Dinosaur Days

Good evening!

Thank you so much for your kind words and lovely comments about my new job! I am thankful beyond words, and can't wait to share my adventures with you once I get started!

On Saturday, Carl and I spent the day in London at the Natural History Museum, as I wanted to see the dinosaurs. I had never been before, and reading Rattle His Bones, a Daisy Dalrymple mystery which was set in the Natural History Museum in the twenties made me really want to go. I was overwhelmed by the building itself; it is really magnificent, very decorative, and you could spend an entire day just studying the architecture. It seems that every surface is carved or painted or decorated, and I cannot imagine the work that must have gone into it.

In the central hall is a cast of a skeleton of a Diplodocus, whom the museum have nicknamed Dippy. He is really quite magnificent, and we lined up straight away to go and see the rest of the dinosaurs. To be honest, there was a part of me that wished the museum was as it was in the twenties. It is very much set up to appeal to families and children, which I understand, but is quite bright and gimmicky in places. However there is enough of the old museum there for me to be able to squint my eyes slightly and pretend! We also visited the mineral rooms and the vault to see the precious stones, as that was another area of the museum featured in the story. We enjoyed a much needed pot of tea, as looking at so many wonders and treasures really takes it out of you! I think we are so lucky...I know that not everyone has easy access to London, but for anyone who can make their way there, all the wonders of the museum are free, as are most of our museums. It is something you almost end up taking for granted, but when you go, you are reminded of how lucky you are.

(Although, on an aside, the food is very expensive. Yes, they have to make their money somehow, but I think I would almost rather pay and admission fee than over £20 for lunch for two! Lunch of the filled baguette, cake and tea variety! So if you plan a visit, go prepared!)

I am thinking of dinosaurs again this evening....I feel like one! It has been on my mind for a while to download the photographs from my mobile phone, and to better organize the folders I have on my laptop. I have also been planning to sign up to flickr or picasa or a similar website, as I would like to be able to share my photographs more easily, and to have them stored somewhere other than my laptop, so should the worst ever happen, I have not lost them all. Well I have been at it for over an hour, and have got all of my photographs onto the computer, in folders that are really a bit jumbly. I have been vexed as some photographs seem to belong in more than one folder...I know I can copy them, but that takes time. Tagging them is the best option as far as I can see, but the best time to do that would be online. So, I signed up to flickr, but then Carl said I would get more storage with Picasa. So I signed up there...and that is where my troubles started!

Somehow, it recognised me, and had already started albums for me with photographs from my blog. Now I don't want to have that, I want to start from scratch and organize things for myself. So I was going to delete them, but then Carl said that would delete them from my blog! Most, most vexing! So then I thought I would go back to flickr but that seemed to want to link itself to a separate account elsewhere. Now I can see that technology that is so far advanced may be very useful, but there really should be a great big 'leave me alone, I don't want you deciding things for me!' button!

Don't I sound grumpy? Technology makes me grumpy! I like to be good at things and good straight away, and I have very little tolerance for not getting to grips with things (for myself, I am willing to give everyone else leeway!). Sigh. I think I need a cup of tea!

Luckily, I just so happen to have a cup of tea that dear lovely Carl has just come and left at my side. I also have some teacakes that I baked today for the first time. I used the Hairy Bikers Recipe, which you can find at the BBC Food website. Two things I would change; firstly, I think a good tea cake really needs some dried fruit in it, so I will be adding some next time. The other thing is, I could only get wholemeal bread flour, so I used that, and found them a little bit on the dry side. So next time I will either add some more liquid, or better still, use white bread flour!

Right, back to the computer for a while...I think I am going to have earned my bubble bath later on this evening! I hope this photograph thing gets see, I want to be able to make those pretty mosaic photos-of-the-month that blogs such as The Quince Tree and Attic 24 do so well. I want to be able to look back at my thirties in a way that I can't really at my twenties, because we didn't really take and download photographs regularly. The plan is to download and organize weekly, and print off a selection to go in a scrapbook or album. I am sure it will get better! There is nothing like technology for making me feel like a dinosaur, and a grumpy old lady!


Friday, 2 March 2012

Happy Things

I would say that this is the kind of post to break out your best china for, to treat yourself to a really nice piece of cake, and to break out your best vintage tablecloth, but I am in too much of a hurry to tell you my news to even put the kettle on!

I had an interview this afternoon and....I have been offered it! I keep telling myself it is only a secondment and only for ten months, but it is ten months of full time working in a job that I hope I will love! It is an amazing feeling, and I have to confess I had a little cry on Carl's shoulder just from sheer relief! I have got a great feeling about the team I will be working in too. I can't say too much yet because there is a bit of negotiating to be done around my start date, and my current job needs to know...but I just had to share the news! So many of you have been so supportive and kind to me, leaving me words of encouragement and hope, and in my darkest days of not seeing a way forward, it really helped, so thank you!

This evening, my book group came to our little flat, and I cooked baked barbecued risotto and pea and mint risotto (wheat free and vegetarian!) which we ate before departing for the big library where I used to work for an Essex Book Festival event, a talk by Marina Lewycka. I discovered I have been entirely mispronouncing her name! She was a lovely, lovely speaker, very warm and relaxed. She read some from her new book, which I think Carl will enjoy as well (some of it is about bankers and the financial situation) and she signed the copy I bought myself as a celebration of new employment. From her web page, I see she speaks quite often, if you get a chance do go and see her...she is really so very interesting!

Tomorrow we are off to London to see the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. One of the Daisy Dalrymple mysteries that I enjoyed in January was set there, and as I have never been it gave me a real curiosity to see it. I can't wait!

I do so wish there was a way to share tea and cake across the internet...I would be cutting you a very large slice indeed!