Sunday, 27 October 2013

A Change Of Address

The clocks changed last night, and in my mind, that means we are in autumn properly now. There is a big storm coming our way, so as soon as the shops open I will be popping out to stock up on some essentials like milk and teabags, but also some cosy treats like a big bag of new tealight candles and apple juice to serve hot, steeped with Earl Gray teabags.

It feels like I have had a few storms lately - you will have noticed that I have not been posting nearly as much as I would like - Dad had another stroke about 4 weeks ago now, and has been in hospital ever since. It feels like my days are a long round of work and hospital visiting, which is leaving me tired right out. But, the good news is that Dad is not in any danger now, we are just waiting and hoping he will be able to talk properly again, and swallow properly again sometime soon.

Another change - I can't quite believe I have finally made the decision, but while I fully intend to carry on blogging, and to ease myself back into blogging more regularly (I have missed it so much, and so many ordinary days filled with wonderful little moments, like my satsuma peel falling into the shape of a tiny rose, or a candle-lit pancake breakfast have gone un-shared), I have decided that my time with blogger is at an end for now.

I have (I hope, successfully!) imported this blog to wordpress. I will be leaving Little Sips of Tea up here at blogger, but new posts will come from wordpress.

So, if you would like to come visiting, please say hello to me at

And please, if you too are in the path of the storm (be it the winds and rain that are headed our way, or something more personal) then batten down your hatches in either a practical or comforting sense, and take care of yourself.


Monday, 23 September 2013

Suddenly Summer, Suddenly Autumn

After the long winter we had this year, Summer seemed to arrive very suddenly - almost overnight. There was no gentle warming up to summer; it was as though she was determined to make up for her lateness with her brilliance. And just as suddenly, she has slipped away, like Cinderella as the clock struck midnight.

Suddenly, it is Autumn.

But what a strange autumn so far. I love autumn, it is the season I feel most at home with, and look forward to every year. Somehow we have missed the early morning misty starts to the day and the cool crisp air, and moved straight to the dull gloomy days, where it looks like it should be cold, but it is too humid still.

Perhaps I am being impatient. After all, the leaves haven't really started turning and falling yet. But I do hope that we still get autumn 'proper'.

On a cool grey Sunday, where it is suddenly autumn, there is really only one thing to make for lunch - soup. This is my staple autumn/winter comforting soup. I am sure I must have posted the recipe here before, but just in case, here it is again.

Throw a walnut of butter into a large saucepan and set to melt and gently bubble. Meanwhile, chop either 1 large or 2 small leeks, then throw into the butter, stir round, and let meld gently together.

While the leeks soften and become fragrant, peel and chop 2 parsnips, 2 carrots, and 1 large or 2 small potatoes. Throw them all into the pan with the leeks.

Add boiling water from the kettle to cover the veg, and stir in either a chicken or vegetable stock pot (those jelly-like alternatives to stock cubes).

Bubble away for 15-20 minutes, then shake in some peas or sweetcorn - or if you are feeling decadent, both!

After a minute or two of bubbling, carefully blend the soup. I do it quite roughly, so there is still some texture to it. You can add some milk at this point if you like, too.

This will make enough for 4, easily. It has a slightly sweet taste from the carrots and parsnips, and feels warm and comforting. If you want to make it more substantial, you can add in some pasta, or shredded cooked chicken, but more often than not, I love it just the way it is.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Wednesday Surprises

I had one of those delightful impromptu lunches today, with my lovely husband. We suddenly realised that we were both free at the same time, and in close enough proximity to meet. We walked through the city hand in hand, chatting about our mornings, and running a mental list of Where To Eat.

I discounted several, and then Carl suggested Stewart's. Hmmm. Stewart's.... I hadn't been in for over a year after several bad experiences, so I was a bit hesitant. was nearby, and is an independent teashop, and a pot of tea was just the very thing I wanted. So, we went. And oh, oh, oh, I am so glad I gave them a second chance! They changed hands about a year ago, and it is so much better, right from the moment you walk in. I didn't realise that it is Chelmsford's oldest tea room, although thinking about it, that does make sense, as the other three are much newer. It is tucked away down Tindal Street, all tall and narrow, but quite charming.

My sandwich came with a little ramekin of salad and some homemade coleslaw, and my ceylon orange pekoe was leaf tea rather than bags. A really refreshing lunchtime break, and I shall definitely be going back. I was intrigued to see that they are offering a scone workshop on Saturday - I wish I could go, but we already have an engagement. I must remember to keep my eye out for their future offerings.

If you fancy taking a pot of tea there sometime, here is their website

My second surprise started off a little less welcome...when I left the office to go home, I realised that I didn't have my keys, and was locked out! And even worse, I had my dear friend Annastasia visiting before we went to burlesque class together. In previous days, I might have panicked and fretted, but instead I decided that the universe was telling us to have a picnic in my (communal) garden, so I picked up a few bits from Marks and Sparks, and we sat on the grass eating our picnic quite merrily until Carl came home and let us in!

So, two surprises for the first Wednesday in September...I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

A Little Sip of Something New

While I may be ready for seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness, blackberry picking and snuggly blankets, it seems that Mother Nature has other ideas. Not that I am complaining, really - after the long winter we had last year, some extra days of sunshine are welcome indeed.

However, the sunshine hasn't stopped me thinking ahead to warming drinks for when the temperature dips. I was in a little sandwich shop just across the road from work on Monday, when I spotted some tiny bottles, about the size of my index finger, with intriguing flavours labelled on them. Lemon and Ginger, Peach, Pear and Honey, Apple, Ginger and Spice, and Rhubarb, Apple and Cinnamon. I picked one up for a closer look, to discover they are little bottles of concentrate to make hot drinks with - each one makes 15 cups. So somewhere between a liquid herbal tea and a grown up Ribena!

At £3:00 each I decided that it was a very affordable treat, and took the Rhubarb, Apple and Cinnamon back to the office. although it was too warm, really, I couldn't resist trying a cup - and really enjoyed it. I like the idea of having a little line of these bottles on my desk, and it feels almost medicinal to prepare, as you pour out a teaspoon of liquid for each cup.

If you want to try them for yourselves, go to

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The First Day of September

And suddenly, September is here. I was out late last night, visiting a friend, and came home as the clock was striking midnight, and August slipped away.

I love September. To me, it is the coming of autumn, that back-to-school feeling, the promise of leaves to come falling and whirling from the trees like confetti in the air. Cosy comfort food and hot chocolate, hot water bottles and pumpkins and conkers and acorns....and all things lovely.

For the first time in a long time, we woke up when our bodies were ready, rather than when the alarm went off. It was blissful. Over the first cup of tea for the day, Carl suggested a trip to Hylands park. It is a short drive away, and one of my favourite places to walk. As it was the first Sunday of the month, the Farmers Market was on which made it even nicer. I bought a book of parlour games from the second hand bookstall there, and then we took a gentle walk down to the lake, stopping to lay under a tree for a bit, and look up at the branches silhouetted against the sky. The first little hints of the coming autumn were there to be seen - scattered green acorns on the ground.

After our walk, we drove to the nearby farm shop to buy the first of the new season apples. We came home with bags of Katy and Festival, and the biggest Bramley I have ever seen. I love the farm shop. We used to go more regularly when we lived a little bit closer, but we have been starting to go a bit more often. This is the perfect time of year to start shopping there, as the apples start to appear, and the big bins are filled with corn-on-the-cob and pointed cabbages.

Then home, to a pot of tea and a blackcurrant flapjack. I used the vintage cup and saucer I brought back from Aldeburgh this year. The saucer is an elongated shape, so the cup sits on one side, with space for your biscuit on the other. We drank our tea while we watched 'The Moving Finger' which is a Miss Marple mystery - and we watched the older version, filmed in the 80s, rather than the newer one.

While I sipped tea and watched Miss Marple, I wound all of the wool in my stash into balls, which was very therapeutic, and all the balls are now sitting in a wicker basket, along with the two crochet blankets I am making. There is the ripple stitch sea-coloured blanket which I have not done any work on for some time, and then the giant granny square blanket in different shades of green which I have started more recently.

Tarragon pork for dinner, and then a bath with the new issue of The Simple Things magazine, lit by candles.

Now, sitting in the dimly-lit living room, with a pile of print-outs about September and autumn from Brocante Home, that I have collected over the years. Making plans for hazelnut being my signature autumn flavour this year, and looking forward to cosying up our home when I have finally finished the big declutter.

All that I have left to do now is the Narnia (our walk-in-wardrobe-closet), the storage boxes under our bed, and the bookshelves. I am still enjoying the process, but starting to be very, very ready to be finished. I am at that point where it feels like I have come so, so far, but still have a fair way to go. I think the flat will look done when the Narnia and under the bed are finished, but I am looking forward to a proper sort out of the bookshelves. I am going to leave it for last, as I am looking forward to our home looking finished.

A gentle start to a September, full of plans for new books to read, a special wedding, a trip to the Aldeburgh Food Festival, and starting to plan for Christmas.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Rainy Saturday

I feel like Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole this week....almost like I tripped over on Monday, did a forward-roll, and somehow ended up in Saturday! I have been working long hours and coming home tired, but wanting to continue with my decluttering. I haven't made as much progress as I would like this week, but I have recognised that it is better to do a little than burn myself out.

I have been falling into bed with The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (actually J.K. Rowling) and reading until my eyes are gritty and heavy. It is a curious book - I enjoyed it - and didn't guess who the killer was - but it took a long time to read. Perhaps it was because I was falling asleep sooner than I would have liked, and haven't had lunch hours to read in, but it did feel slightly slow-moving. I hope that she writes another though!

And so to today, Saturday, at last, Saturday. It almost felt like an autumn morning when I walked into town earlier. It was damp and almost raining, the sky all hazy and smudged and blurring into the moisture in the air. While I was in the bank, the rain drops which had started to fall tentatively, almost as though tapping you on the shoulder to catch your attention, suddenly came down in a torrent.

I took myself into town to change my library books, buy some toiletries, get my eyebrows tidied up, and have a bit of a wander. I returned The Cuckoo's Calling to the library and collected the first novel in the Phryne Fisher lady detective series. It is set in the 20's, and I have watched and enjoyed the tv series (Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries).

I treated myself to a soy milk hot chocolate with hazelnut syrup and a giant bourbon from the Costa at the train station, which is close enough to home for the drink to still be hot when I got there.

Now I am settled down with a pot of tea (the hot chocolate is long gone, alas!) and the window open. The rain is falling so finely now you can hardly see it, but it's perfume is filling the air, and when the cars drive by, you can hear the rain on their tyres. I think there are few things more lovely than a rainy Saturday afternoon and nowhere to have to be, or to go.

I am watching Kirstie Allsopp's Home Style that I recorded the other evening. I have said it before, but I do love Kirstie. IT seems this series is basically things that have not made the final cut in her previous series, but I am still enjoying it. This one is about hosting gatherings - and definitely has an understated Christmas feel to it. Out of curiosity, I searched for 'Kirstie Christmas' on amazon - and she has a Christmas book out in September, hurrah!

Talking of Christmas - I am designing my cards at the moment, and starting to think about gifts. I want to make the majority of them again this year, so it makes sense to start early, so I can have the enjoyment of making them, rather than it being a rush. I brought home a magazine which has given me some ideas, but what was a bit frustrating was that a craft punch they have used, and has given me lots of ideas does not appear to be available to buy any more, oh dear!

I am babysitting my godchildren this evening, so will be taking my new library book with me, as well the crochet blanket I am working on. Bur first, I have a few more hours of Saturday afternoon pottering to enjoy.

Wherever you are, I hope you are having a scrumptious Saturday.


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Once In A Blue Moon

Ps Don't forget to peek out of the window tonight - not only is it a full moon, it is a blue moon!

Brilliant Baking

Life is very busy at work at the moment, and I think it would be entirely fair to say challenging also. I was rushing between meetings this afternoon with more of a smile than usual - because I was looking forward to sitting down with a pot of tea and the new series of The Great British Bake Off this evening.

And here I am, and how blissful it is. I feel like I have earned my relaxation time, as I have tidied out a drawer, and washed up after dinner. Now I have the light on very low, and a candle burning. The Great British Bake Off is just starting, and my pot of Whittard's Afternoon Tea is really fragrant and delicious.

Peaceful, gentle evenings...blissful. The thing I love about the bake-off, apart from it's being about baking, is how encouraging Mary Berry is to the contestants. She nearly always finds something to complement them on, and offers constructive advice for how to do it better next time. There doesn't seem to be that ghastly build-up at the end to see who is going to go home, either.

Normally I would be sitting here clicking away with knitting needles or crochet hook - and while there are some things that I need to work on (Christmas gifts!) tonight I am content to just be...

I hope that the Bake Off will inspire me to do some baking of my own. Although most of my time not at work is being divided between decluttering and reorganizing and reading The Cuckoo's Calling, I rather think I would like to spend some time with my pinny on baking up a storm. I haven't made any of Sophie Dahl's pear and ginger muffins for a while, and I love those..they remind me of autumn. And although we are basking in the summer sun right now, I am already starting to feel excited for the first unfirlings of autumn. I am starting to get the stirrings of back-to-school and new notebooks and leaves and acorns...

Sunday, 18 August 2013

More and Less

It came to me yesterday afternoon, while I was on my hands and knees, reorganizing the saucepan cupboard. When you have too much, you can't actually appreciate what you have. When you have just enough, somehow you appreciate it more. I know that I am very lucky to be in the position to experience 'just enough', let alone 'too much'. And I have to say, that although it is hard work, I am systematically working through our entire flat, and every one of our possessions, decluttering, downsizing and reorganizing what is left, it is so rewarding.

I started following the Brocante Home Trash It or Treasure It programme, but as it went on an hiatus, I didn't. For the first time, I was really bitten by the bug, and so I have continued. I still have a way to go, and because I have been focussing on drawers and cupboards a lot so far, to the untrained eye it might not look like lots has changed, to me, everything has changed, and I couldn't be happier.

When I was first dating Carl, he was a 'social smoker' and said he would give up. But he found it harder to do than say, and however much I wanted him to give up, he had to be ready, in himself. And so I think it is with this kind of editing and stripping back. I have wanted to do it in the past, and have started Trash It or Treasure It or Flylady only to fall by the wayside...but this time I am ready.

I think I am probably about half way there, but already my sense of peace is increasing so much. The local charity shop is getting bags and bags of donations, which makes me feel good. I realised, while sipping a cup of tea this morning, that there isn't a single thing I have got rid of that I regret. There are things that I have loved, but outgrown. Spares of things I haven't used. Things I have bought to 'make do' that never brought me joy. So I am setting them free to find new homes.

It feels so good to be doing this, and to be doing it because I really want to. I finished the kitchen yesterday, and just making a pot of tea this morning felt easier. It isn't just about the decluttering, although that is vital - it is about the reorganizing of what is left, and thinking about little things that will make life easier or better, or more comfortable. I have started a list of projects to look forward to, once I have finished:

Covering the kitchen table in oilcloth (inspired by tea at the Cragg Sisters) and paining the chairs
Designing my own book plates to go in my books
Replacing our chest of drawers in the bedroom with a second hand dressing table
Buying some of those removable hooks which stick onto the wall, to hang up some of our framed photographs
Making a pompom rug for the living room floor

I also found this blog post very inspirational -

Although I have a full time job, I do love the work I do in our home, and it was really interesting to read about someone else seeing it as a privilege too.

Right, time to roll up my sleeves and tackle another cupboard....

Postcard from Aldeburgh

Coming back from Aldeburgh is a slightly strange experience. It is only 1.5 hours away by car, but it feels almost like stepping from one life into another. So close, yet so far. A different way of life entirely. It struck me, on our last full day, as I wandered along the seafront to the baker to buy croissants, that this tiny coastal town has so many more amenities than the city in which I live. There is the aforementioned bakers, who do the most wonderful croissants, which sell out so quickly you are wise to order them the day before if you want to be certain of getting any. Lawson's is a delicatessen where I fell in love with a delicious 'happy carrot salad'. We bought home some bacon from Salter's, the butchers, as it is such good quality. There is such an array of hotels offering morning coffee or afternoon tea, just ready and waiting to welcome you in.

There are certain charms that Aldeburgh holds, that I would never expect home to be able to compete with. Our little city can't possibly also be the seaside, and there can only be one iconic shorline scallop sculpture. I wouldn't expect to walk down our city streets to be lined with delightfully named quaint little cottages.

But....although it isn't all about shopping, wouldn't you expect that in a city, we would have a proper butcher, a baker, a deli? I don't want to sound snobbish - we do after all have a Gregg's and there is a butcher in the market - and we boast two Marks and Spencers - but it isn't the same.

Apart from the beautiful, beautiful pebbley beach and crashing waves, I will miss the simple shopping pleasures for daily provisions. But I always find, that whatever I might find lacking when I return home to the city in which we live, the peace of Aldeburgh always comes back with me. And our own little home isn't lacking in pleasure or charm for me at all. As much as I enjoy our stay in the little blue cottage, there is something blissful about home.

And so I am sitting, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, slightly perturbed by the influx of teenagers in very short shorts and wellies (it is V weekend), but looking back and smiling on a week of adventures by the sea.

Spotting none other than Ben Wishaw in the queue in the fish and chip shop on our first night. Walking along the shore to the next village, Thorpeness. Rowing on the lake there in a little yellow boat. Climbing to the very top of Orford Castle, the wind whipping my hair about my head and my skirt about my legs. Afternoon tea at the Cragg Sisters, with chocolate cake too big and chocolatey to finish, even with a second pot of tea. Sitting on the beach, the pebbles warmed by the sun and the waves splashing at our feet. Walking on the pier at Southwold. A happy hour spent browsing in the independent book shop at Aldeburgh. And then another spent in the second hand bookshop, just further down the street.

But best of all, just slipping into a different world for a bit. Having time to wander and ponder, and soak up the scenery. Smiling at the names of the cottages - my favourite was 'Half Past Six Cottage' - and all the efforts that have been put in to making them look beautiful. Window boxes of lavender, hanging baskets swinging in the breeze, a door knocker in the shape of a crab.

Suffice to say, we had a lovely time. I think in busy moments it will help to remember that all that is just 1.5 hours away.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Off On My Holibobs!

I am blinking like a sleepy owl, and my eyes feel slightly gritty. Yes, it is twenty to one in the morning, I haven't packed a thing, and I am off on my hols tomorrow morning!

The good news is that it is just a little drive up the coast, so there will be time to pack tomorrow morning (although I wish I had had chance to do it tonight!).

I can't wait to get to Aldeburgh, to swim in the sea, feel the pebbles beneath my feet, and just let the peace and calm wash over me.

I wish I could send you a postcard, but alas, will not have internet access while I am there - so I will catch up with you when I come back. Let's share a pot of tea then....


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Points of View

In some ways, since I changed jobs last, nothing has changed - and at the same time, everything has changed. Not only am I in the same building as I was when I was in the Cabinet Office, I am in the same room, only 2 floors above. What a difference those two floors make though! There is a meeting room next to the office, and when I look out of the window there, my view is a higgledy piggledy hotch potch of roof tops - and I love it.

It even looked beautiful today, with a veil of rain drawn over it. The part of the building that office is in is the old part of the building, the part built in the 1930s. One of the other offices I work in is in the new part of the building (my team is split over several offices) and it is all steel and glass. Normally I don't find the newer part of the building pleasing to look at, but in the glass lift up to the fourth floor, you get a great view of the city, all the way to the hill where my little-library-on-a-hill is planted.

The roof is also glass in that part of the building, and as I stepped out of the lift, I could see the big fat rain drops splattering heavily against the glass, and caught the merest hint of the scent of rain in the air. The village on the hill looked smudgy and blurred from all the rain.

Not a good day to be outside - but a beautiful day to be inside, and observing it from that point of view.

Now I am home again, and it is blissful to be here. I have continued my decluttering - this evening I did my bedside table. There is so, so much to do, and yet with every little area that I tick off, I feel so much better - almost lighter.

I have a charity shop bag that I am steadily filling, and recycle what is not good enough to go to the charity shop. I was meant to be at a boot sale with a dear friend at the weekend just gone, but a family matter kept me away. Part of me is thinking of continuing to add to my boot sale pile, but I made the happy discovery that you can trade in some books with amazon - so I need to see which of the books I have ready to go I can do that with. It looks really straight forward - you find the book on amazon, it offers you a trade in price, you type in the isbn number to confirm it is the same book, and then they give you a postage paid address label to print. You send off your book(s) and then they credit your account with an amazon gift card to the agreed amount. Lets hope it is a simple in practise as it is in theory!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

What Matters...

Pretty Nostalgic is one of my favourite magazines, and I love it so much that I can't read an issue in one sitting. It only comes out every other month, which I actually really love - I would so much rather read one really good issue less frequently, than have a poorer issue more often. The quality of the writing and articles is really good, and they catch my interest. Added to that the great design, the gorgeous heavy matte paper they print it on - and it really is a delight of a magazine.

Issue 8 was no exception - I still haven't got quite to the end of it, but am savouring it slowly, and have loved what I have read so far. They have started the 'Pretty Nostalgic Pledge' which reads 'Spend Wisely...Waste Less...Appreciate More' - wise words to live by, indeed.

But it was an article about Josephine Tey which has really given me much to think about this month. As soon as I saw her name, my interest was peaked, as I read a fictional murder mystery featuring Josephine Tey, who was a real-life mystery author. A moment later, I spotted that the article was by Nicola Upson, who wrote that very book - and so I refilled my teacup, and read on.

As interesting as it was to learn a bit more about her writing, and Josephine Tey, it was this passage which interested me:

"My partner, Mandy, had a friend called Irene who died recently, a few days short of her 100th birthday. Mandy and I would often visit her at her Plantagenet cottage where she'd lived since she got married in 1935. Irene was an amazing woman who told remarkable stories, and her home was full of everything that had mattered to her over those long years, so being with her was like walking straight into the world I write about..."

...her home was full of everything that had mattered to her... - that is what got me thinking. I have been thinking about decluttering recently, and have been starting to work through the Brocante Home Trash It or Treasure It programme - but I haven't really got very far so far. But that phrase, those words...if someone walked into my home now, would they see the things that mattered to me? I am lucky enough to have a lot of things that do matter to me, but equally, there are magazines that I have read, and wouldn't miss if I gave them away or recycled them. Gifts where the intention was more precious perhaps than the physical expression of it. Books that I have read, but is time to set free. If someone was to walk in and think that all of what they could see were the things that mattered most to me...well what would that say?

And so, inspired by that, and a dose of Little House on the Prairie (how I long to live in a log cabin sometimes!) I decided it was time to stop thinking, and just start. And whilst there would be a good argument for starting with the most cluttered area, instead, I decided to start with one of the more neglected areas - our airing cupboard. I have just come back from a trip to the charity shop where I have donated two sets of really good towels, a bedding set, several aprons, and a few other bits and bobs. The truth was, lucky though I was to have lots of really nice towels, I don't need four different sets. And somehow, by having less, it feels like having more. The airing cupboard is now a lot less full, and it is easy to see what we have got, and to get to it. Knowing that someone else is going to get use out of the things we have given away feels good, too. And the things that are left - well, it sounds silly to say 'the towels matter' - but they do. One set is a very good set which Mum bought for us when we moved in together. She works in a shop which sells them, and as she gets a staff discount, we were able to have something much nicer than we would otherwise have been able to afford. And there is something about feeling like you are getting a hug from your Mum when you use a towel that she gave you, and you remember using the same kind of towels at home.

Rather than hunting for wherever the clean tea-towels ended up, they are neatly stacked all together. I have put the duvet cover, sheet, and pillow case from our other bedding set into the remaining pillowcase, so it is all neatly kept together.

A curious thought, that less feels more abundant than more. But perhaps having more than you need, can actually be quite draining on the soul?

I have a long way to go, I know. I want this to be a very thorough process, and that will take time. I want to do it all at once, but I don't have the luxury of the time all in one block to do it. So I am going to try and satisfy myself with doing bit by bit, drawer by drawer, shelf by shelf, but doing it really well. Setting things free to find new homes. Making space in my life to appreciate what we have, and hopefully to make space in our lives for new adventures.

So, looking around, is what you see what matters to you? Or like me, are those things being drowned out slightly by other things, things it is time to set free?

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Where Were You When You Heard The News?

In my little corner of England, summer has swept in and is dazzling us with plenty of sunshine. Monday was hot and still, one of the hottest days that I can remember. I was working from home during the day, and sat with my feet in a bucket of cold water, just to keep cool enough to concentrate on my work.

In heat like this, it is hard even to sleep. The nights seem slightly restless, and even when you do finally doze off, there is a part of you that seems to stay awake, murmuring gently and slightly plaintively that it is so, so hot. When it is time to get up, our radio switches on to the Today programme on Radio 4, and it seems that rather than wake up straight away, I slowly become conscious of listening to the news, and then realising I must be awake.

So it was Monday morning. And one of the first things I heard, was the news that there had been so much speculation about - that the Duchess of Cambridge had gone to hospital to have her baby. During the day, from time to time, I checked the news, but nothing. And then, in the early evening, we left to visit a friend, where we had the most magical evening, and delicious dinner imaginable.

We sat in her courtyard garden at the back of her lovely little cottage, surrounded by sweet peas and blooming plants. Her husband-to-be lit tiny tealights which glimmered away as the gloaming slipped quietly into the twilight, and then they cooked us dinner. They made paella, in a paella pan, on a little camp stove, right in the middle of the table. It was such a relaxed and delightful way to have dinner cooked - we all took it in turns to stir from time to time, and it was just heavenly and relaxing.

We normally see each other quite often, but as we get nearer and nearer to their wedding, understandably they have more demands on their time - and so we chatted and chatted and chatted, until a fat drop of rain splashed down, and heralded more to come. So we hurried and scurried and swept everything inside, and then sat down with a cup of tea. All of a sudden, we remembered that we hadn't checked the news for ages - and so Carl did - and we heard that Prince George Alexander Louis had been born late in the afternoon.

I remember being at secondary school, when apartheid ended with the election of Nelson Mandela as president - and one of my teachers saying 'you will always remember where you were when you heard this news'. This is the first time an heir to the throne has been born while I have been old enough to be aware of it (there are a few months difference in age between me and Prince William) which feels quite momentous - and as if that perfect, magical evening spent with friends wasn't enough, I will always remember it for the extra reason, that it is where I was when I heard that the new baby Prince had been born.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Howard's End Is On The Landing

While I am on my sabbatical from libraries, I find that I have to put a little more effort into finding things to read. When you are surrounded by books all day long, especially books that are constantly being borrowed, returned, packed up to be sent off to another branch, or unpacked, or displayed, it is so, so, easy to always have a list as long as your arm that you want to read.

I have my Persephone Project to work on (I have just re-ordered the very first title in the series to read - I started it last time, and it was reserved by another reader, so I had to return it) but I like to have at least one book on the go, and another lined up. I can of course still visit the library, and I often do, but in all the years I worked in libraries, I have rarely browsed as a reader normally would, and I am not very good at it.

Part of the problem is that it is hard to browse in a library you have worked in. You are slightly too familiar with the stock, and never lose the urge to tidy up a display, or reshelve something that is in the wrong place. So on Saturday, we took a little drive to the newly opened library in Springfield. It does feel good to work for an authority that is opening libraries, rather than shutting them, and this one is being run with the assitance of volunteers. It isn't a large library, but has the feeling of space and airiness in it which is lovely. And most heavenly of all, all the books are new. I have often thought that libraries are like the most wonderful bookshops where you don't have to pay, but never has this felt more real than browsing in that library (it is Springfield Library, should you like to visit it yourself). Being smaller, I wasn't quite as overwhlemed with the choice available as I sometimes am at larger branches. I came away with several craft books, a novel or two, and the feeling of utter luxury and abundnace.

Part of my desire to visit the library came from having driven past it the night before, on my way to book club. I had seen the architects plans when it was in the earliest stages of planning, and I was delighted by how much the library looked like the plans. Book club was at the home of the lovely Agnes, and when she pressed into my hands a brand new Kirstie Allsopp craft book that she had got from Springfield Library only that day, I was resolved that I needed to visit!

I wish I could take you to Agnes' home. It is a real reflection of her, and you leave feeling...better. Such is the same as spending time with Agnes. Always, you feel better. Her home is simple but lovely, filled with her paintings, and the conservatory opens into a garden filled with lush blooms. I am sure a lot of work goes into it, but she makes everything seem effortless. We drank tea from Denby teacups, and ate homemade fruit cake, and discussed Howard's End Is On The Landing by Susan Hill. Have you read it? If you haven't, rush out to your library, and borrow it now. I am willing to wager that you will love it enough to want to buy it.

I think it is fair to say at the start, that as much as I love Susan Hill, and as much as I love this book, if she wasn't Susan Hill, I could imagine this being a blog project rather than a book. But I am so glad that it is a book! Whilst looking for her copy of Howard's End, Susan Hill realised that she has many books that she either hand't read at all, or wanted to re-read, and so resolved to spend a year 'reading from home' - that is, only reading what she already owned.

If this book were only about that, it would be lovely in itself, but it is more than that. She muses on the fonts that are used in books, how we arrange and organize our books, why we don't read some books, ponders on poetry, talks about travelogues, discusses diaries...she evokes the atmosphere of the London Library so well that I am determined to buy myself a subscription just as soon as I can afford one, and relates all manner of meetings with writers such as T.S. Eliot and Edith Sitwell.

I know it is said you should never judge a book by its cover (although publishers know that we do, and spend a great deal of money on this!) but the cover of this book appealed to me enoromously - it shows the spines of some old bound books, close up - one with the title of the book itself, and the author's name, and the other with the subtitle. It reminded me of a notebook that my Mum bought for me several years ago, when I got the job at my little library on the hill. It is a hardcover notebook, only a bit smaller than Howard's End Is On The Landing, and the cover is the spines of old books, lined up on a bookshelf. I had resisted writing in it until now, because I knew that it was meant for something special, and that I needed to wait and find out what that was. Well, this is it. I using it as I read Howards End Is On The Landing to make notes of the books and authors that she recommends that I want to read for myself. And when I read my next book, I will do the same. I so often come across a lovely phrase that I want to pin down on the page to savour, or a word to look up, or else any number of other things to look up. A piece of music or poetry mentioned, or a map of just where a particular place is, or so many other things. From now on, they will all go down in here....a kind of reading journal, but more.

When I read the following passage, it resounded deeply in me. It is that feeling of reading someone elses words, and seeing how eloquently they have captured something that you yourself feel, but either didn't know it until that moment, or could never have dreamed of articulating so well:

Books help to form us. If you cut me open, you will find volume after volume, page after page, the contents of every one I have ever read, somehow transmuted and transformed into me. Alice in Wonderland. the Magic Faraway Tree. The Hound of the Baskervilles. The Book of Job. Bleak House. Wuthering Heights. The Complete Poems of W H Auden. The Tale of Mr Tod. Howard''s End. What a strange person I must be. But if the books I have read have helped to form me, then probably nobody else who ever lived has read exactly the same books, all the same books and only the same books as me. So just as my genes and the soul within me make me uniquely me, so I am the unique sum of the books I have read. I am my literary DNA.”

As well as giving me plenty of ideas for what to read next, it has made me realise that my own bookshelves need some attention. It has been in the back of my mind for some time now to design my own book plate, and take off all the books, one by one, decide if they still need to live with me, or be set free to find a new home. To rearrange them, and hopefully discover some treasures I had forgotten I find old friends, and fall in love with my books once more.

This is a comforting, cosy read. It feels almost like having free reign to rummage through someone's bookshelves to get to know them better. I now have the first in her detective series on order from the library, and a list of other books to order. This is definitley the kind of book to settle down with, notepad and pen next to you, and a full pot of tea to hand, and with an air of happy expectation, open the cover, and begin. How could you resist a book which starts:

The journey began one early autumn afternoon, in the old farmhouse where i live, surrounded by the genly rising hills and graceful trees, the ploughed and planted fields, the hedgerows and flower borders and orchards and old stone walls, the deer and birds and hedgehogs and rabbits, the foxes and badgers and moths and bees of Gloucestershire. I climbed two flights of elm-wood staris to the top landing in search of a book, and found myself embarked on a year of travelling through the books of a lifetime....

Monday, 22 July 2013

Summer Days

At last, at last, summer is here. And not only the sunshine, but the feeling of summer. I have been so busy with work, and several side projects that when I looked at my calendar at the weekend, I had to blink in surprise. I knew it was July...I knew it was mid July...but suddenly it seems it is late July! And only two weeks until my summer holiday!

I can hardly wait - we are going back to Aldeburgh, to stay with our friends in a darling little cottage not a five minute wander from the sea. There is something magical and tranquil and restful about Aldeburgh, getting there is like a long drink of cool water on a hot summer day, or a long slow sigh, followed by a deep breath of fresh air. I wonder what it says about me though, that my first thought, on realising how soon our holiday will be here, wasn't to plan what to pack, but what to read, and make!

I am working on a simple crochet granny square blanket in the moment, in lovely shades of moss green. Rather than being made up of lots of little granny squares, the whole blanket is, in effect, one giant granny square. Although having said that, a bit of me would rather like to take my ripple stitch blanket to work on, which is inspired by the seaside, although this time, the pleasures of Lyme Regis.

No trip to Aldeburgh is complete without a visit to the bookshop, but I shall take a book with me at least - and I have ordered one of the Jane Austen mysteries by Stephanie Barron - Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron. I can't wait for it to arrive!

As far as what to pack clothes-wise, then it will be lots of summer dresses and swimming costumes, so I can go swimming in the sea in the morning as often as possible. I shall take my big pink hat with me too - last year, when I walked along the coast to the next village wearing it, I was recognised in the post office the next day!

I suddenly feel refreshed, too. As much as it is lovely to have summer, September will soon be here, with it's newly-sharpened-pencil scent and days full of promise of new starts and learning. I have started a notebook, jotting down books I want to read, to make my own reading list. It is so long since I came home from school with one of those! I have started to think about the things I would like to learn, and how I want to learn them. Such a lovely, promising time of year. Adventures to be had in the sun, memories to be made to last us through the cooler days....

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Happy Little Discoveries for a Tuesday

Today has been a day of happy little discoveries. Firstly, I came across a single copy of the new issue of Pretty Nostalgic Magazine which I snapped up with glee. I love Pretty Nostalgic. I love everything from the matte paper which has a lovely scent (yes, I am sad enough that I sniff magazines as well as old books!) and a beautiful slightly muted colour palette, to the fact that they have kept their integrity by releasing it bi-monthly rather than monthly. I would much rather read a really good magazine less often, than read a padded, diluted magazine more frequently.

So, new magazine in bag, I decided to take myself into Marks and Spencer for a pot of tea. Sometimes on my lunch hour, I just like to take myself away from work, and decompress. A pot of tea in Marks and Spencer's cafe is actually a surprisingly nice way to do it. Although it is always bubbling with noise and people, it tends to be a happy noise. Your pot of tea comes with a tiny biscuit on the side, and the milk comes in a tiny china jug. I love to sip and read a book or magazine, or just people watch. Today I was struck by how many of the customers were ladies. There were older ladies who had clearly been friends for years, sitting and lunching and chatting. There were young Mums bouncing babies on their knees, and everyone just seemed happy.

It was on my way to the cafe that I made a particularly nice discovery though - our Marks has a new mini beauty hall. I can't put my finger on why, but something about it reminded me of a French Department Store. Perhaps it is that I have just finished reading 'Miracle on Regent Street' which is set in an old-fashioned department store, and also several books by Jamie Cat Callan, which are about capturing that French Woman magic for yourself. Perhaps it was just that there were several French brands on the shelves. Whatever it was, I was soon entranced by the shelves of products on display.

The perfumerie intrigued me with the elegant bottles. I spritzed on some violet scent from the most beautiful atomiser bottle - and although I love violets, it was rather too many pennies for my purse today. And in any case, my eye was then drawn to the botanical designs on the perfume bottles by Fragonard - in particular Vetiver, which I may treat myself to next pay day. It smells almost masculine to me, and reminds me of cedar and bergamot and musk, but also quite feminine at the same time.

The hair care products include some of the Philip Kingsley range. I have always wanted to try his legendary hair elasticizer, but I remember when I was going to order a sample from his website, the postage and packing was almost as much as the product. So not only did I not have to pay p&p, I discovered a trial sized set of elasticizer, shampoo and conditioner for only 50p more than the elasticizer on its own!

There were some shelves of makeup - I didn't recognise the brands, so want to do a little research before I think too much about them, but they looked nice. Several of the skincare lines were French, and again, I want to do a bit of research before trying any of them out.

The whole area seems really well chosen and curated - the kind of products that you don't see just anywhere a good range of prices, and somehow they have created an aura of prestige without making it intimidating.

My plan for this evening is to do the washing up, settle down with a pot of Ceylon tea, and read Pretty Nostalgic magazine while watching the sun slowly fade into the gloaming of evening. Wherever you are, I hope your evening is blissful too.

Love Mimi xxx

Monday, 10 June 2013

Newspaper Clippings

My love of magazines is well documented on this blog, I think. I also love to read newspapers, and to tear out articles to pass on to friends or family. I was at a family funeral last week, and the final reading was a poem that Aunty Enid had torn out of a newspaper and saved - they found it in a tin with some other bits and bobs. I like to think that when I am gone, one of my cuttings or tearings will flutter out of a book and be saved to be read at the funeral.

I cancelled my subscription to Mollie Makes magazine today. It isn't that I don't like the magazine anymore- although I do think it has lost its way from when it began - but I just can't rely on it to arrive. Once again, for perhaps the fourth or fifth time, I have spotted it in the shops and it just hasn't arrived at home. I love the early issues, but sadly I have found them less and less inspiring.

I was thinking about cancelling my only other subscription, to Homemaker, but the new issue of that did arrive and it was just charming, so I shall keep that up a while longer.

There are few other magazines that I buy regularly now. There have been a whole host of new craft magazines in the past few months, all in the vein of Making. I dabble and try one from time to time. I don't buy the Chap nearly so often now that they seem to have less room for the Chapette, and I went off Vintage Life some time ago as the content shrank and shrank.

It has been a while since I felt a real frisson as I discovered a new magazine. Marie Claire Idees still does it for me, but is so very hard to get hold of - perhaps that is why? Although I think that nothing will ever beat a proper print magazine, there are some truly fantastic online magazines available. My heart skipped a beat when I discovered Hey Doll magazine today and best of all, there are 5 issues to read - and even more incredibly, they are free!

Mum recently gave me several bags of magazines from where she was having a clear out, and we talked about how much we both love a good magazine. She said that it was her Aunty Mollie who gave her the taste for them, when she was a teenager. It is the same Aunty Mollie who used to let me play with a tea set and use sugar-strands for the 'tea', so as well as being responsible for our love of magazines, I think she sewed the seeds for my love of tea, too! Amongst the magazines that Mum gave me was a bag of torn-out articles and recipes and craft ideas from women's magazines from the last 40 years or so. Some made me smile slightly sadly - there were several about feeding your family cheaply, from when I know now she must have been up against it - and some made me smile happily to see old favourites in print. Intriguingly, I found a recipe for 'Naomi Bars' (my given name) that I mean to make one day soon. I have never heard of them before!

There really are very few things nicer than settling down with a pot of tea and a new magazine. I would love one day to bring an idea I have had simmering in my mind to life. I have an idea for a newsletter-magazine-thing called The Teapot would be one sheet of A3 paper, and origamied up into a little square, and tied with ribbon to a teabag. I can see the logo in my mind - a teapot pouring out a stream of flowers, buttons, pins, spools of thread, etc. One day, I will have to bring it to life. But for now, the kettle is calling.

Love Mimi xxx

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Lifesaving Tea

Making and drinking tea can mean so many different things in so many situations. I have celebrated happy moments with a pot of tea, commiserated with friends over a pot of tea, shared secrets, celebrated engagements, and restored frazzled spirits, all with tea. When welcoming visitors into my home, my hands reach to fill the kettle and arrange the cups and saucers almost by themselves. In the face of bad news, I have almost sleepwalked to the kettle. Sometimes tea is the only way to celebrate, sometimes the ritual of it feels like the only thing anchoring you to the ground.

Having walked all the way to the end of the longest pier in the world at Southend-on-Sea on Saturday morning, we discovered a little shop selling things to raise money for the wonderful work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. It is hard to believe that such vital work relies on charity. So you can imagine I was more than happy to do my bit and contribute - particularly as they were selling boxes of Lifeboat Tea, with a proportion of the profits going to the charity.

We brewed our first pot yesterday, and it was really delicious - rich, strong and fragrant. The only problem is that when we want more, it is a long way to the end of the pier! 1.3 miles, in fact. We walked down, and it was just the perfect weather for it. Warm and sunny enough for it to be pleasant, but without having to worry about burning, and enough breeze to make it really comfortable. As we walked along, we passed several rows of benches, facing out to sea. I couldn't help but think it would be lovely to spend an entire day on the pier, watching the waves, and knitting. Then I got to imagining Miss Marple on her holidays, sitting and knitting and watching, and wondering if she would prevent a murder by observing those around her, and using a few well chosen words. I think there was a Poirot where he was on holiday and warned someone about a murder - and it turned out he was warning the would-be murderer not to do it, although you don't realise that at the time. Come to think of it, I wonder what would have happened if Miss Marple had been sitting and knitting on the pier, and Hercule Poirot wandered past, on his own holidays.

Perhaps I have Poirot and Marple in mind because of the other souvenir I bought from the shop at the end of the pier - a copy of The Floating Admiral which was first published in the thirties, and was written by a group of crime club authors - including Agatha Christie. Each one wrote a chapter, and then passed it onto the next - a kind of game of literary consequences.

Although a lot of the seafront at Southend is filled with arcade amusements and the like, and there is a whole mini theme-park right next to the pier, the pier itself is refreshingly unspoilt. Even when you get to the end, there is a place to buy an ice-cream, a place for lunches, and the RNLI shop, but nothing gaudy. There is a train line that runs along the pier, so that you can ride the train either there-and-back or just one way as you prefer. We were happy to catch the train back, and actually got more of an impression of the length of the pier from the steady constant slow speed of the train, rather than our somewhat irregular perambulations!

All that fresh sea air made me sleepy that evening, and I slept really well. Oh I do like to be beside the sea-side...

Monday, 27 May 2013

Lilly Scented Evening

Friday was a bitter-sweet day for me - it was my last day in the Cabinet Office, in a job I have loved, with colleagues who have become friends. I intend to be working there again at some point in the future, but it is sad leaving, for now. I had been at my desk about an hour when my phone rang, and one of our receptionists said they had a delivery for me. I went down to see what it was, and for the first time in my entire life, I had been sent flowers to work.

It was a beautiful hand tied bouquet, from the florists at the train station- the same florists that I walk through the train station on my way to and from work just to smell their flowers! It has pink gerbera daisies, stargazer lillies, irises, and a beautiful pink rose along with some foliage. They have slowly opened over the weekend, and our home is filled with their heavenly scent. They were from the Councillor who I have been working for.

Then Nicole, who I have been working with for a few weeks bought me a lovely bottle of wine, which was really kind. Just as I was about to take the flowers home on my lunch break, my manager arrived at my desk accompanied by the rest of the office - with a lovely card, and some gifts. They had bought me a tea pot and two matching cups, along with a selection box of different kinds of teas, and then some hot chocolate and mini marshmallows too. I was so overwhelmed and touched, and am going to take my teapot to my new office and think of them every time I drink from it.

Just before I left, the lady who is taking over my councillor gave me a bottle of champagne - I have been so, so touched by the kindness of my friends.

And so tomorrow a new adventure begins - I wonder what it will hold!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


Little sips of lemsip and dabs of olbas oil have been sustaining me through the last few days whilst I struggle with this cold. It has been as though the weather has been mirroring my sniffles, with overcast skies and chilly winds, and the occasional spot of rain.

So you can imagine how beautiful it was to walk home in sunshine today. The air was still cool enough to burn my sinuses, but it was bright, at last. And as I walked along the little row of Victorian cottages that line one of the roads between work and home, I was struck by the profusion of beautiful flowers blooming in the gardens. Pansies seemed to almost dance in window baskets, and a shock of bluebells had forced their way up underneath a fence. A spray of sweet peas, not quite in bloom yet, but with one or two brave early flowers leading the way, leaned over a gate, reaching out and swaying in the breeze. The next garden offered huge, overblown, blowzy irises. I adore irises - they always look like a painting of themselves, even when you are seeing them in reality. One uncut front lawn was bespangled with dandelion clocks. Utter bliss. After so many months of winter, I was amazed to see that suddenly, everything is in bloom.

And then it hit me - it is mid May, nearly June, so really, it is time that the flowers were in bloom. They are so welcome, no matter how behind they feel!

All this blooming puts me in mind of a quote that I have pinned to my flowery noticeboard at work - Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it turned into a butterfly...wise words, and I hope that even though my time in the Cabinet Office is drawing to a close, it will prove to be a butterfly situation for me!

I collected a Jane Brocket book from the library on my way home - The Gentle Art of Stitching - and visited the yarnstorm blog this evening as a result. Jane has written a post called Repository in which she said This blog has proved to be a useful distraction and source of consolation in recent weeks and months when terribly difficult things have been happening. It's a little repository of good things, small highlights, and positive moments. These are by no means representative of my days, but I put them here to remind myself that they still exist. The thing is that life goes on, that it's counterproductive and not good to be completely submerged by sadness and despondency (that way madness lies etc). Better to acknowledge the bad parts, know that good times will return, and endeavour to keep a balance. which reminds me of something from Mrs Miniver. In it, Mrs Miniver muses on marriage, and says that some of the best aspects of marriage are having somebody's eye to catch at a dinner party, and having someone to save up little stories from your day for, turning them out in the evening like pebbles from your pocket. I couldn't help but relate that to blogs, too. I have always talked about the difficult times I have faced as well as the good, but it is really true that my blog is a repository for me, of my thoughts, and life, cups of tea drank, books read, things made, adventures had, and little happy things observed.

Nothing more, nothing less. Just a little repository. It is lovely to always have somewhere to be able to come and turn over old memories, should I want to. I don't very often read my archives. When I do, it tends to be when I want a recipe I have posted here. But I love knowing that if I want to relive the year we moved or got married or a particularly birthday, or just recapture the feeling of a certain kind of afternoon, when only a bath will do, then I can.

Sometimes I think about blogs, about blogging, what it all means. But today, it just means comfort, peace and joy.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Picking Violets on a Wednesday Afternoon

Many years ago now, when I was working in the second library I had ever worked in, and the one I was to stay with for longest, I worked with a lovely, lovely lady called Angela. Angela is tall and willowy with curly hair and an innate sense of style, who ate bread and honey and understood. One day, when I had had a bad week - nothing was really wrong, but I was just quite blue, she left an envelope on my desk. Inside was a Winnie the Pooh card, the original illustrations, not the Disney version, of a scene of Piglet picking violets. The caption was 'Piglet Picking Violets'.

We decided that some days, you just want to pick violets. It was a kind of recognition that some days you just have to be gentle to yourself, throw over your usual routine, and pick violets instead.

I suspected today was going to be a Violet Picking Day, so I arranged to go home early in the afternoon, after a team meeting. It has been a drizzly Wednesday, and it has been lovely hugging that early finish to myself all day. The violet picking started with lunch in the tea shop with the same lovely Angela who first gave me the card - it was heavenly to catch up, and linger over a pot of tea.

At our team meeting, I had to bite my lip at one point, because the announcement was made that I am leaving the Cabinet Office. In a week and a half. This is one of the winds of change that has been blowing through my life lately. The maternity leave contract I was covering is coming to an end, and I have been lucky enough to secure a post until the end of March as a team leader in Business Support. There is a big part of me that is going to be very sad to leave a job I adore, and colleagues I have become close to, but I am also looking forward to new challenges, and will be keeping an eye out for jobs in the Cabinet Office in the future.

But even so, I was still sad to hear my leaving formally announced. I was pleased to be able slip away afterwards, and go home. I got home around half past three, and did one of my favourite things in the world - took an afternoon bath by candlelight. To my mind it is the perfect Picking-Violet-Day activity. Laying in the hot water reading by candlelight and sipping tea, I felt my mind start to relax and the tension slip away.

I changed into my nightie and cardigan combination, and slipped into the kitchen to cook dinner. My favourite kind of cooking, simple ingredients from scratch, therapeutic stirring and simmering. I made a lentil dahl and flatbreads - I just adore making flatbreads at the moment. They are so simple, and yet delicious, and it feels so satisfying to have made them. The magic secret to them is to sprinkle black onion seeds into the flour before adding the water and oil.

I was lucky enough to pass the evening with Midori Green, who is teaching me a gloves routine she has choreographed herself, and from that we went on to burlesque class, where we are learning another gloves routine. It is slow with lots of stretching, and I am really enjoying it.

And now, back home, eyes heavy with sleep. Smiling sleepily, glad I broke my normal routine, and came home early to pick some violets - it is the kind of tonic that makes me smile for days afterwards.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Winds of Change

Just as we had been enjoying some glorious days of sunshine, when spring had come at last, the winds are blowing clouds scudding across the skies again. Carl and I very, very rarely have arguments or disagreements, but he has pointed out gently, more than once, that when we do have the occasional word, I go very, very quiet and tend to bottle things up.

And so it has been here. Winds of change are blowing through my life again, some good, some that I find it harder to see as good, although hopefully in time it will be so...but I find that I do go quiet when I have too much to think about. I do have some gloriously lovely things to tell you about, I know I haven't told you about my lovely birthday and all my other adventures yet - I must sit down with a pot of tea and blog properly.

But I find when I have been away for a while, I need to just post once or twice first, and then get down to 'proper' posts, sharing news and catching up. And so this is that.

I brought a new nightie several weeks ago now - by FrostFrench, a navy-grey with pink roses all over it, trimmed with cream lace. It is my favourite thing at the moment to come home and slip into my nightie, and a thin grey cardigan that I cut the buttons off and replaced with little violet ones. It just feels gentle and soothing. I get in, I change, I make a pot of tea, and I am home.

I have been reading a lot recently. I have read the first in the Beautiful Creatures trilogy, Lace by Shirley Conran, The Night Circus which was utterly enchanting, and The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris. I am now reading The Ingredients of Love which is translated from French. It is a pretty little tale, of Aurelie who comes across a novel which features her very own restaurant, and the description of a girl remarkably like her. She wants to talk to the author, so contacts the publisher...but unbeknown to her, the author doesn't actually exist...

I feel so sleepy this evening, I can hardly wait to get to bed and read a bit more of my story, and then sleep. I was late in the office this evening, and when I got home I made macaroons for a charity cake sale at work tomorrow. I have the lights on low, and Midsomer Murders in the background, and everything is gentle, and quiet. I love home, I love it. It feels almost like autumn outside these past few days, and there is a bit of me that longs to just stay at home with a blanket and my tea. But I have lunch tomorrow with an old friend who I haven't caught up with for a long time, so out I must go!

I will be back though, I will be back. Love Mimi xxx

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Weekend Taster

I am feeling very contented this evening. I have enjoyed vegetable bean chilli with millet and oven roasted broccoli for dinner, eaten in front of The Great British Sewing Bee. A peaceful evening, with many ideas for things to make bubbling through my mind. Having looked at Mum's copy of Vintage Stitching by the wonderful Jane Brocket, I want to make a Suffolk Puff quilt, and when I have finished knitting my Miss Marple Scarf, I want to start a granny square blanket.

While I was searching google for 'Jane Brocket Suffolk Puff' to see if anybody else had been inspired to make one, and get some ideas, I came across some of the most delightful blogs:
Teacups and Buttercups is the kind of blog I will want to sit and read all the archives of. (I also did a little gasp of surprise followed by a big smile, when I noticed my own blog linked to in the blogroll! I am always in slight disbelief that anybody reads my little blog at all, let alone links to it! Surprised but very, very pleased!)
This led me to The Pyjama Gardener whose first post I read was about Sarah Addison Allen, who is one of my favourite authors - how can I not love that blog?

I have much to sit and post about properly. On Thursday I spent a heavenly day with my Mum, including taking tea in a well-named tea shop (Truly Scrumptious!) and a visit to Morrison's supermarket which left me amazed at the variety, quality, and low prices...and with a basket overflowing with red chicory, sourdough bread and other lovely things!

On Saturday it was my birthday, and I had a wonderful day - ended up having a little cry in the morning at how lovely and thoughtful my wonderful family and friends are. I had a visit to a vintage fayre at a Castle, a trip to the bookshop, and a heavenly dinner out.

Sunday saw us going for a long walk around a Royal Horticultural Society Garden, and Monday took us to my family for the day. So many adventures, I must sit down and write about them soon! But for now, the washing up is calling, and then I am planning to get into a warm bed (we still have the electric blanket on!) with my book.

I hope your evening is similarly lovely! Love Mimi xxx

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Three Cups of Tea and a Hot Cross Bun

This morning was one of those days where I woke up in the dark just a fraction of a moment before the radio alarm came on. Our radio alarm clock is very old indeed - my husband had it when he was about 6, I think. It is tuned into Radio 4, and if you have to wake up at ten past six in the morning, then I can't think of a better way.

We always lay together for a few minutes before Carl gets up and makes the first cup of tea of the morning. Then I go into the kitchen and make our breakfasts and packed lunches, and then we always sit together for a few minutes before he has to leave for work.

Oftentimes, I will just get ready for work and head out of the door myself, but some mornings call for another cup of tea - and this was one of them. From our kitchen window, I could see that the light had that slight hazy quality which accompanies a chilly morning.

One of the reasons I have not posted for a while has been that I have been slightly jaded by all this cold - it makes me want to just hibernate under piles of blankets and drink pot after pot of tea. I have been have been dealing with a distressing work situation also, which has been draining me of a surprising amount of energy.

But even though it is, apparently, the longest winter we have had for 50 years, there are signs of spring coming, everywhere I look. We have had the snowdrops, and now the crocuses are out. There are daffodils in the shops. Easter is at the weekend. The days are getting longer. The promise of spring is almost, but not quite, as good as spring itself.

This evening I have been snuggled up on the sofa with a cup of tea, a blanket, a very indulgent box of Laudree Macarons (thanks to my lovely sister-in-law!) and watching the Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood Easter Bake Off Masterclass. When the programme started, I was struck by how beautiful the kitchen they are cooking in is - all lemony-cream walls, a great big dresser, and pots and bunches of golden daffodils everywhere you look. How utterly heavenly. It has left me wanting to do a great deal of baking, to crystallise primroses, make lemon curd, and candy lemon zest. I think I need an extra-long Easter weekend to fit it all in to! I think next year, rather than give Easter eggs or chocolate bunnies, I would like to make jars of lemon marmalade to give as little gifts.

Normally, I am very strict with myself about not eating Hot Cross Buns before Easter. I can't decide if I am going to make my own or buy them this year, but we won't be eating them until Friday. But I did eat one of those Marks and Spencer's chocolatey ones today at work. It was a charity cake morning, and I really fancied one - they definitely don't taste like hot cross buns, but they are scrummy! Very squidgy, very chocolatey, very delicious! I wouldn't have them instead of hot cross buns, but would definitely buy them as well.

I would also like to crochet some little Easter Bunnys, and some owls, as posted about by the wonderful Lucy over at Attic24 - see this post: I wonder what tomorrow will bring - will it be another 3-cup morning? I imagine that later in the morning will almost certainly see another of those chocolate cross buns being eaten!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

A Soft Day, Wrapped In Mist and Rain

Tuesday this week was utterly, utterly glorious. The first taste of spring, and oh, how ready I was for it. Not that I thought it would last, it is too early in the month for pure unbridled spring, but I had hoped that it would flirt with us a little longer. It has though, got steadily cooler, and when I woke this morning and looked out of the kitchen window, everything was shrouded in mist. I like misty days, somehow everything feels muffled and gentle and just different. The mist had cleared by lunch time today, to be replaced first by a soft drizzle of rain, but it steadily increased to an insistent persistent downpour. We had book group this evening, and I sat drinking tea and discussing The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, listening to the rain tapping against the conservatory roof. I wouldn't want too many days of so much rain, but today it just felt nice. I had a busy end to my week - I am on leave next week and wanted to leave everything in order before I left for the day. I didn't quite get there, I have some work that I will need to do tomorrow, but suddenly to have a whole week ahead of me - that feels nice. Expect some more frequent posts next week! I am thinking also of putting on one of those gadgets that gets you to authenticate before leaving a comment. I had 27 comments to moderate when I logged on just now - an unprecedented number, which told me something was up - but every last one was spam. Sigh!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

First Stirrings of Spring

My St David's Day Daffodils are now as open as open can be, so pale and creamy, and pale and lemony, and abundantly ruffley! Even though it is evening now, and we have shut the evening out, they are a beautiful echo of the spring-like day we have enjoyed today.

When I stepped out to walk to work this morning, I was struck by how soft the air seemed. Slightly hazy, and cool enough to need a coat, but warm enough to leave off your gloves, and wriggle your fingers in the breeze.

Days like this make me so happy. I need to make time to walk through the park and look at the crocuses again. Next week, I have a week off work to look forward to. A little bit of time to sit and appreciate the spring.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Welcome, March!

I love March - February has it's snowdrops but it also has icy weather. March has daffodils and crocuses and amongst blustery chilly days can surprise you with sudden warmth and spring breezes. It sometimes has Easter in it, always has my birthday in it, and generally it is a month that makes me full of hope and green shoots of promise.

It also starts with St David's Day. I love marking Saints Days, and as I have Welsh heritage, St David's Day is a favourite. I bought a beautiful big bunch of daffodils for our windowsill, and sat them in a large cream jug to open. One of the things I love about daffodils is how they are always a surprise when they open. While they are tightly furled in their buds, you never know what colour you are going to get. I was hoping a little bit for the traditional bright gold for St David's Day, but was very pleased with the pale creamy outer petals and the pale lemony trumpets. I cooked Welsh lamb for our dinner, and had been planning to buy some Welsh Cakes for dessert, but alas the shop was sold out, and I was too tired to make any.

I spent yesterday morning with the lovely Apryl, who I used to work with at the library. We had both signed up to a free morning at our Adult Community Learning Centre to learn to repair and renovate clothes. There were ten of us altogether, and we started with the super basics - running stitch and backstitch - but then moved quickly on to some more interesting things. We learnt to sew a hem so that the stitches do not show, and a clever way of joining two pieces of fabric together, again hiding the stitches. We made buttonholes by hand, and then tried making them on the machine as well. We tried a few other things on the machine as well, and I came away feeling confident enough to try out my own sewing machine at last.

We walked back through the park, and I saw to my pleasure that the golden crocuses were starting to come out, on the bank the other side of the river. Around the war memorial, the grass was pricked with tiny patches of purple as the crocuses there started to flower.

We had our lunch at a new teashop, that used to be The Bookleaf Cafe. I do love a good teashop, and it had some pretty touches, but there was definitely something missing, slightly. The service was rather chaotic but the food was good, but it wasn't quite a proper tea shop, for all that it had flowery bunting and vintage china. I don't quite know how to put my finger on it.

That afternoon, I cut out the fabric for a red and white polka dotted dress. I chose the pattern because it was marked 'very easy' and had no elastic or zips to worry about, but laying out the pattern pieces and trying to remember which ones to lay out the right way up and which ones the wrong way up was more difficult than I hoped! I think it is one of those things that will get easier with practice, but I found myself checking and double checking everything several times. Then at last, time to wind up a bobbin with thread and get stitching. That proved a little easier said than done, but I now have most of it stitched - and found I really enjoyed making darts - hopefully I can finish it this week. I have enough fabric left that I am going to make a matching headband!

I hope by the time summer is here I am good enough at using the machine to be able to make lots of simple dresses in different patterned fabrics!

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

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Persephone Project

At the start of the year, my mind turned, as it often does, to projects. I have seen blogs devoted to all sorts of things, from the scary (build up to 100 press ups!) to scrumptious (cook your way through Cherry Cakes and Ginger Beer by Jane Brocket) and I have to say, I found the latter more inspiring than the former!

Although the writer sadly abandoned her blog early on in the challenge, she set out to make a recipe from Cherry Cakes and Ginger Beer, and read the classic chilren's novel which inspired it. It reminded me of another blog I had read, Knit The Classics, which sadly disappeared, where the bloggers knitted items inspired by classic novels.

It came to me one morning, when I was overcome with the sudden but urgent desire to re-read Someone At A Distance by Dorothy Whipple. My project would be The Persephone Project - in which I will read all the books published by Persephone, one after another. I will of course intersperse them with other books, and I anticipate it taking me years to finish. But I will enjoy the journey, I really will. As an added bonus, I plan to cook, make, or do something inspired by each book, and blog about that too.

I would love to buy them, all at once, and have them on their own book shelf to be savoured and picked one by one like ripe cherries, but alas, neither funds nor space will stretch to that. I would like to buy them, one by one, but again, even though they are reasonably priced, I am conserving funds at the moment. So, I shall order them from the library, and then purchase the ones that speak most to my soul. I ordered William, An Englishman a few weeks ago. Unfortunately there was only one copy in the county, and it was out on loan, so I had to wait for it to be returned and then delivered to my branch before I could borrow it. But happily it has arrived, and I have started it, and the project is begun.

I have not yet decided what my cook/make/do will be, but I will let you know what it is when I have thought of it, and post a book review too. Do join in, if you would like to read along with me!

Daffodil Dreams, Snowdrop Shivers

Last night, I dreamt the daffodils were flowering. Every garden was filled with them, and everywhere I looked, there were gold heads nodding in the breeze. Perhaps it is because I fell asleep to the scent of a gorgeous bunch of pale creamy narcissus that my lovely sister gave me on Friday. Today was destined to be a day filled with flowers, the first heralds that winter is nearly over and the start of spring is nearly here - but not daffodils, snowdrops.

If you have been visiting here for a while, then you will not be surprised to know that we wrapped ourselves up warm, and drove to the Gardens of Easton Lodge to walk among the snowdrops there. It is about a 30 minute drive from where we live, and as you get closer, it feels as though you are entering Midsomer Murder Country. Today was bitterly cold, and even as well wrapped up as we were, we were still chilly. It is worth it though, to see the carpets of snowdrops spread out amongst the grounds.

I can't capture in words what it is about these pretty little flowers, perhaps it is their simplicity, their short season, or the fact that they are the first green shoots of hope after winter - whatever it is, I love them. We explored for a little while on our own, walking the length of the Japanese Glade down the little lake. The wind was biting though, and we decided to warm up with some lunch. The volunteers were serving lunches out of a little hut, with no electricity or running water. I think they did an impressive job (although one lady was horrified they were serving instant coffee, and didn't have a barista!) and we had freshly cooked on a gas ring bacon rolls and coffee. The only other menu option was homemade vegetable soup, or a variety of homemade cakes. I really like the simplicity of it - a few things, done well.

After that, we were just in time for the guided walk and talk about the history of the gardens. I knew a few bits from previous visits, but our guides really made the place come alive, and I must remember to look up a biography of Daisy, Countess of Warwick, whose home it once was.

We were so cold that when we got back to the car, we had to have the heaters on, and a blanket over us! Back at home we have enjoyed a gentle Sunday afternoon of Miss Marple, pots of tea, the Sunday papers, and one of my favourite Sunday evening suppers - Nigella's smoked haddock. You bake it in a bath of milk, sprinkled with peas, anointed with a large vine tomato halved, and an egg cracked in. When it is done, you serve it with soft white bread, and it is so simple, warming and comforting, it is unbelievable.

Poor Carl has come down with a cold, so we have eucalyptus oil burning, and I am about to go and make him another hot honey and lemon drink. I don't think it will be a late night tonight. I like sleepy Sunday evenings, but they seem to follow Sunday afternoons so very quickly!

I am hoping to make a little more time to post a bit more regularly over the next few weeks. I love writing, and I miss it when I don't. Coming soon, a review of An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler. The lovely Alison at Brocante Home has mentioned it once or twice, and I was intrigued by the blurb on amazon. I have to say, it is a long time since I have fallen in love so hard and swiftly with a book, and I think, even half way through, that this is a book with the power to change lives.

Wherever you are, I hope you are warm and cosy this evening,

Love Mimi xxx

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Evening Serenade

My evenings have started to take on a lovely pattern, recently. I step into my kitchen, and put on some music to cook too. Just a small thing, but it makes me happy. It is very unusual for me to be home after Carl - normally I have enough time to get home, throw open all the windows and cook dinner, with him arriving just before it is ready.

We have a little ipod dock in the kitchen, (technology!) and I have been stirring, chopping, simmering and baking to Peggy Lee and Etta James. The kitchen is filled with 'At Last' 'I'd Rather Go Blind' 'I Was Almost Persuaded' and my current favourite, 'I'm A Woman'. I find myself cooking in time to the music and humming along. I love cooking, but sometimes after a long day at work, and when it is an 'everyday' meal my enthusiasm can be a little dulled, and I have found this a great way to perk it all up a bit.

Last night I created another soup recipe - this time for Curried Cauliflower and Lentil Soup. I had bought a cauliflower to use in Monday's Thai Green Curry, but somehow forgot to put it in! So I decided to use it tonight instead. I started this, as I do so many of my soups, by throwing a chopped onion in a pan to soften while the kettle boiled. This time though, I saved about a quarter of the onion back, slicing it into half moons rather than chopping it, and threw it into a small pan on a low heat to caramelize. Then I took my cauliflower and grated it into the pan. Be warned, it is a messy job, and cauliflower seemed to scatter itself quite far and wide - but I didn't want to blend this soup, I wanted it to have texture, and grating seemed the perfect way to go. To the grated cauliflower and onion I added hot water from the kettle and a vegetable stock cube, a shake of cumin, a couple of teaspoons of mild curry powder, and a pinch of dried chillies for oomph. Then I stirred into the caramelizing onions a whisper of cumin and a tiny pinch of dried chillies, and stirred them round, turned the heat down low, and left them to infuse. While the soup bubbled away merrily, I rummaged in the cupboard for the dried red lentils, and put in about a handful. I then remembered the half a butternut squash I had, and decided to use that too. I microwaved it until soft, then threw it in the blender with several ladles of the soup, and whizzed until thick, smooth, and glossy. I tipped that into the soup and stirred it in - immediately the soup became thicker, and it seemed to bring it all together, somehow. I served the soup with a spoonful of the crispy spicy onions on top, which I think worked well. I will be thinking more about things to sprinkle on top/stir into our Wednesday evening soups in future! Annastasia brought with her the most amazing wholemeal seeded loaf - the seeds were in the crumb as well as the crust of the bread, and it had real bite to it - bliss.

I really do love Wednesday evenings - a pot of tea with a dear friend, sharing the soup, going to dance class, and coming home feeling good.

Sunday, 17 February 2013


Today has been the sweetest of Sundays. Even though I am so, so lucky, and have two-day weekends now, Sunday stands apart, special and somehow different to every other day of the week. I feel like I have been holding my breath, subconsciously for the past few weeks. I have been busy at work, poor Carl has been busier. He comes home, he eats, he sits up working, and then gets up early to go back into the office. I work until sometimes I feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. It will pass, it will pass, and in a few weeks our lives should be a little quieter.

But for now, I have been feeling like a string being pulled more and more taught. Never enough time. Never enough energy. Too tired, just too tired to do anything at all. It came to a head, more or less, on Friday. I love having friends to visit, and I had two of the girls dearest to me come for a meeting about a secret project, and dinner. But oh, although it was lovely to see them, and they are the least judgemental people in the world, I didn't feel equal to it. I had picked up our vacuum cleaner a few weeks ago, and mysteriously, water came pouring out of it. Needless to say I couldn't use it, but we hadn't had time to buy a new one. I had been bone tired the night before and not washed up. I had meant to come home early and wash up before they arrived, but I ended up having to stay late at work instead. Our forks are somehow disappearing - I have no idea how, or why. Perhaps it is because I have been reading The Little Stranger for book club, but I suddenly decided that perhaps some malevolent force had taken them. After the girls went home, although it had been wonderful to see them, I just felt I should have offered them more. A cleaner home to welcome them into. My judgement, not theirs. Carl was working in the bedroom, and I lay beside him at about half past nine, and just cried. I cried because I was tired, because the floor needed hoovering, because the forks were disappearing, because I still don't have a permanent contract and am halfway through my secondment, because there is so much I want to do and so little time to do it in...I was worn to a ravelling, and cried.

I woke up the next morning, fully dressed. I had cried, Carl had held me, and I had almost passed out into a sleep deep and black. And when I woke up, I felt like I was suddenly breathing clean, fresh air for the first time in ages. I got up, put my hair up, some music on, and did all the washing up. I turned out a kitchen cupboard. Today, we bought a new vacuum cleaner, and oh, how I love it! We got it reduced from £129.99 to £59.99 and I suddenly realised how our elderly vacuum cleaner had been struggling. The carpets look fantastic. Relief, relief at finally getting that job done.

Walking into town, hand in hand, through the park. The air fresh and light and clean in our lungs, and carried on the breeze, the church bells ringing. Sitting knee to knee eating scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast. Smiling, time together, no work. Falling in love with my husband all over again for the millionth time, from the way he smiled at me over his latte cup. Picking up our little bits of shopping, and the aforementioned new vacuum cleaner. Throwing open all the windows. A load of washing whirling in the machine while I hummed along to 'I'm A Woman' by Peggy Lee, and turned out the freezer, thoroughly.

Turning out the freezer was actually really liberating. Another source of relief. Realising I have not been using it in the best way. We have never been ones to have a freezer full of ready meals - I have bread in it, vegetables, meat, fish, fruit, and portions of soups, stews, and the likes that I have made double portions of. Only I realised that I have been using it like a security blanket. I have several packets of chicken breast strips that I bought when they were on 'buy two for..' offers and also reduced because it was the day of their sell-by date. And somehow have never used them, because by having them in the freezer, it feels like I have 'plenty'. A strange way of thinking, and I am not sure I am pinning it to the page as I mean to, but stripping it away, hoarding packets of almost-out-of-date chicken isn't really the best idea. Then I turned my attention to the bags and plastic tubs of unidentified veggie curries and soups and things that I have made at unspecified dates, and realised how many have freezer burn and how many I have no idea how old they are.

So, I took a deep breath and decided it is time to let go. Let go of everything that isn't going to nourish us. Five or six bags of bread with just the heel ends, freezer burned and dry, but held on to 'just in case'. The chicken from May that I have taken out, catalogued, and put back in, time and time again. The freezer is emptier now, but somehow I feel like I have got more. Everything in there I can identify, know what it is and how old it is. And again, the feeling of relief.

The other night, Carl said he wouldn't mind if we had more takeaways over the next few weeks because as much as he is working hard he knows I am too, and I am picking up the cooking and cleaning and running of the household, and he thought that might give me a break. I thought that was so lovely and thoughtful, but also, while I love an occasional treat, I don't want to turn to takeaways out of a lack of time. They are after all expensive, not as good for you as a home cooked meal, and a treat loses its allure when it is a stop-gap replacement. Now I have turned out the fridge, the freezer and the food cupboards, I feel ready to start from scratch again with a weekly menu plan and grocery delivery order. No more picking up things on my way home from work. And part of me feels so pleased that it is so easy to start over. But part of me feels frustrated at starting over again, going back to form a habit that I used to do all the time. Starting again, starting over, a relief and a slight vexation all at the same time.

I really didn't mean this post to be so long. Perhaps another thing I need to start over is posting here, little and often rather than nothing for ages and then a long stream, trying to order my thoughts and letting off steam. Trying to make sense of it all. Being so relieved, suddenly. There are so many other things that I sat down to write about tonight. About Shrove Tuesday and Valentine's Day, and Chinese New Year. My new dress. So many little things. But they will wait. I feel the first stirrings of spring, and it feels so good. It feels like it has been a long winter, both in reality, and metaphorically. The first stirrings of spring are welcome indeed.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Another Week, Another Soup

We are really lucky, I think, that we have a proliferation of unusual food shops in our little city. It has really only been the past few years that they have started to appear, but we now have a Chinese shop, a Thai market stall, a Polish delicatessen, and an Afro-Caribbean grocery.

I shop quite often in the latter - there is a wonderful array for fresh fruit and vegetables at really good prices, as well as some fantastic herbs and spices. The people who run it are really friendly, and I like to support them by buying as much as I can there.

It happens to be on my way home, and has offered some excellent inspiration for my weekly Wednesday soups. This week, I had in mind to make a sweet potato soup, and so on the way home picked up 4 sweet potatoes, a large red onion, a few limes, and a tin of coconut milk. Making the soup was simplicity itself, and I was really pleased with both the cheerful colour of it and the depth of flavour.

This was another of my roasted soups, and I started with cutting the potatoes and onion into chunks, drizzling lightly with olive oil, and roasting in the oven for about half an hour, until everything was soft. I put these into my blender along with a tin of coconut milk, and a good dollop of thai green curry paste. (Do check, if you are making the soup for vegetarians or vegans that your curry paste is suitable for them - many of them use fish sauce as an ingredient). I cut a lime into quarters, and added the flesh from one of the quarters, and whizzed it all up together.

The resulting soup was really more of a puree, so I thinned it with some hot water from the kettle, and threw in a handful of fresh coriander before blitzing it again, and then returned it to the pan to warm through, before serving.

When I eat soup like this, made out of fresh simple ingredients, I get double enjoyment out of it, as I know it tastes good, and is doing me good too.

So, apart from making soup this week, what else have I been doing?

Reading...I reread Dorothy Whipple's Someone At A Distance this week. I love her writing so much, and this story stood up well to a second reading. It is a story of a husband led astray by his elderly mother's French companion, and the aftermath. The first time I read it, I felt more of the horror of the inevitability of some parts of the story, but this time around I was more able to appreciate some of the beauty in the details and the writing. Whipple makes some observations that are very astute, and paints such evocative portraits with only a few words. There is one part where she talks of how the wife has joined the ranks of ladies who eat boiled eggs for dinner, and I knew exactly what she meant. I have started now to reread Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. I am not sure why I am in such a mood to revisit a few favourites at the moment, but I am. Knitting...more on my soft gray sparkly Miss Marple scarf. I seem to have had very few evenings in, but I am enjoying working on it when I have time. The pattern is here if you fancy making one of your own: Eating...a really lovely spicy chicken bake from The Hairy Dieters book. We ate at a friend's house and this is what she made us, it was really delicious, and I have ordered the book from the library so I can try out some of the other recipes. Watching...Poirot of course, the perfect thing for a Sunday afternoon. Buying...dresses for the office. I had not particularly planned to go dress shopping, but as I was browsing, on three different occasions, I found dresses that I loved and were in the sale! First there was a blue and white flowered ditsy print dress which really nips in around the waist; then there was a black lace dress with a black slip dress underneath. The last dress came this morning, a jersey dress which looks like a wrap dress, but isn't. So that is me sorted for work for quite some time to come! These last days of the dregs of the sales can turn up some real bargains - I have three dresses for less than the price of one! I really like wearing dresses for the office (and indeed at home). They are so quick and easy and help me channel a little bit of the Mad Men Vibe.

Before I go, do go and visit this lovely blog and post about the joys of soup!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Seven For Seven On A Sunday Evening

somehow, the weekend seems to lay glinting at the end of the week, like a silver thread, which when you finally get to it, somehow slips through your fingers so quickly. And so it is, I suddenly find myself here again, on a Sunday evening. It has been a peaceful, gentle weekend, just what we needed. I find myself wishing I had just a little bit more of it to come, and feeling slightly blue. I think that it is partly the full moon, partly Call The Midwife being particularly sad, and partly a small personal disappointment.

And so, pondering upon the post I would write, I decided to borrow an idea from the lovely Midori Green, and write a Seven For Seven post, as she says, 'a dash through the week'

Eating The most delicious breakfast at Baroosh, one of our favourite Sunday morning breakfast haunts. They had sold out of their delicious ricotta pancakes, so I chose the vegetarian breakfast instead, as it looked interesting. I am so glad I did! Salty, squeaky halloumi paired with scrambled eggs, baked beans, and an amazing potato rosti. Bliss!

Being Inspired By Miss Marple! Whilst watching an old episode a few weeks ago, I noticed she was wearing a rather lovely scarf. I came across a pattern for it on the internet, and bought some wool in soft grey with a hint of sparkle, and cast it on this morning.

Reading Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries II and also re-reading They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple. There is something about both of their writings which just speaks to the very depths of my soul.

Listening To The ukulele! I have been practising since my class on Thursday. I can change chords - but very slowly! Hopefully with practise that will improve...

Being Horribly Impolite ...well, I hope that it is a good sign that I can't think of anyone I have been horribly impolite to! Hopefully I would realise if I had!

Wearing The most fabulous new dressing-gown-come-house-dress that I got in the sale the other day. It is a floor length wrap dress made of jersey, in leopard print. It definitely needs a slick of red lipstick to set it off. I could happily open the door to the postman although I wouldn't go as far as going to the shops in it.

Trying Out Our brand new duvet! I hadn't realised how thin our old one had got until we went on holiday and had the fluffiest duvet ever - it was like sleeping in a cloud. We collected it yesterday, and I can't wait for bedtime!

I wonder what the week ahead will bring?