Friday, 5 November 2010

Celebrations

I love the Autumn festivals of Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night. They involve none of the major work and just-want-it-to-be-perfect stress of Christmas, yet they mark the passing of the year (and my favourite season) in a way I love. This year we spent Hallowe'en at the Winterbourne Gardens, where they had pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, mulled cider for the grown-ups, Edwardian servants sharing spooky stories and a hunt around the grounds for 13 black cats. The highlight though was the Gardens - the trees were aflame with shades of orange, amber and even deepest red. It was an incredibly beautiful sight. I've long harboured a dream to see New England in the Autumn but until that day comes, Winterbourne makes a good substitute. Later, when it started to get dark, there was trick-or-treating with little friends, then home to pumpkin soup, hot dogs and the gleeful raking over of goody bags.

Last night was Bonfire Night and we went, as we do every year, to our lovely friends. They provide fireworks and delicious bangers and mash and I take homemade gingerbread to contribute towards pudding. An evening packed full of fun and laughter, it was the perfect antidote to the drizzly, isn't-it-getting-dark-early gloom.

This morning I am awake first. I come downstairs and make a pile of recipe books, mail-order catalogues and previous year's planners. I settle down for an hour or two with this pile and a tray of tea and toast. It's time to start thinking about The Big One.....

Monday, 25 October 2010

Books etc.

I have been having such good book karma recently... everything I've read over the last couple of weeks, I've really enjoyed, even those random books that jump into the pile from the library. First there was Anthony Capella's "The Various Flavours of Coffee", the story of a Victorian coffee merchant, which was much more thrilling than it sounds. My next book was a just-can't-wait-until-Christmas-to-give-it-to-you-present from my Best Friend, "Diary of a Provincial Lady" by E. M. Delafield. Oh my goodness, this was wonderful, and what's more came in this beautiful Cath Kidston edition. Next was the new Maggie O'Farrell, "The Hand That First Held Mine", which is simply the best book about motherhood that I've ever read and - possibly - one of the best books I've read in ages. And finally, "Tortilla Curtain" by T.C.Boyle, an American novel about the lives of illegal Mexican immigrants - not at all easy to read but still a book I'd absolutely recommend.

To continue on the literary theme, I've been to hear two writers speak about their latest books too. First Best Friend and I went to hear Lionel Shriver speak. She reads brilliantly and speaks with such erudition and intelligence, I could have listened to her for hours. Then on Thursday Lovely Husband and I took the Beautiful Girl to hear Anthony Browne speak about his role as Children's Laureate. We met him afterwards and he was very sweet to the Girl, signing a copy of his latest book for her.

I now find myself in a strange state of limbo, having read everything on my shelves at least once and am at a bit of a loss as to what to choose next. What have you been reading recently? Any recommendations will be greatly appreciated!

Edited to add: I went with the new Lionel Shriver, "So Much for That" and I loved it. An incredible beggars-belief story, masterfully told. Highly recommended. The good book karma continues....

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing?

I have a mild obsession with eating seasonally. This is less to do with a worthy high-mindedness about food miles and supporting local business - important though they may be - and more to do with simple greed. I like to eat food when it tastes best and it tastes best when it's in season. I would no more want to eat strawberries at Christmas than I would a shepherd's pie on a July afternoon. At this time of year my thoughts turn to soup - butternut squash, please - to pears and mushrooms. But principally to apples and to the pig. It was only when I considered what I ate one day this week that I wondered if I was becoming slightly too obsessive: for breakfast, apple and cinnamon granola; for lunch, a ham roll and an apple; and for dinner.... sausages with apples cooked in the pan with them. Oh, and a slice of homemade apple cake. Could this be considered Too Much of a Good Thing? The thought of the roast pork with crackling and apple sauce I am planning on cooking this weekend would suggest not....

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Snatched moments.....

The combination of a meeting I'm attending finishing earlier than I expected (how often does that happen?) and the Beautiful Girl having a playdate after school, means I find myself in the city centre by myself with a couple of hours to spare. I decide to get an early start on the Christmas shopping then almost immediately give it up as a bad job. Instead I get my nails painted a luscious plum colour that makes me happy every time I admire them. Which is often.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Favourite things #5

I heard someone say once that the cello plays the sound of the human heart. It seemed to be both a beautifully apt and utterly true thing to say. After all, the cello produces one of the most perfect pieces of music ever, Bach's "Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major".......

The Beautiful Girl has just started learning to play the cello and brought it home for the first time this week. Apparently it can also make the sound of a cat being tortured by a lusty warthog, at the bottom of a very deep well....

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Blackberrying

Sunday morning. A walk along the river. Stained fingers and mouths. Later, after lunch, a crumble, with custard. Autumnal bliss.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Favourite things #4

One of the results of having much less time in the evenings, I've found, is that a lot of TV and Radio 4 has gone by the wayside. Other than the Today programme in the morning while having my tea and toast (what can I say? I'm a creature of habit) I've hardly watched or listened to anything while it's being aired. Thank goodness then for BBC iplayer. It's allowed me to listen to Murakami short stories and to Kathy Burke on Desert Island Discs (the Lovely Husband has been a little in love with her since her incredible performance in "Nil By Mouth". But after she chose records by The Specials, Joy Division and Frank Sinatra, I'm seriously worried that he's going to try and run away with her). It's also meant that I could catch up on the wonderful "Roger and Val have Just Got In" and on episodes of "The Great British Bake Off". Come to think of it, if the Lovely Husband does abandon me for Ms Burke at least I'd have iplayer to keep me company....

Monday, 13 September 2010

So much for posting more frequently.....

The busy business of the holidays has meant that I've found it much harder to post than Iwas hoping. And now...sigh... the holidays are over for another year. Those six weeks are so precious, yet they slip by so quickly. And with my Beautiful Girl turning six during the last week of the holiday, the analogy is too clear to be ignored. She had a wonderful birthday - a picnic in the park with her friends, where she tucked her party dress into her pants to go fishing for minnows in the brook - then, on her birthday itself there was pancakes and presents, pony rides and Pizza-That-A-Man-Brings and the chocolatiest birthday cake known to Girl.
The time since has been one of change for all of us - the Beautiful Girl has a new teacher and a new classroom, the Lovely Husband has a new role at work and I am working full-time for the first time in - eek - six years! Already, the juggling act that I'm required to do as a working Mum has threatened to overwhelm me. It seems less of a juggle and more of a stagger, under the weight of everything I've got to do (have given up on the idea of a To Do list and now have a To Do book!). I think it'll be sheer bloody-mindedness that will get me through - I'm determined to do a good job as Mummy and as Teacher but also to live a life that is not just busy, but one which is full. So in the week and a half since term started, in between the Hoovering and the planning lessons, the sewing on of name tapes and marking books, the making of beds and the making of resources, I have carved out time for fun stuff too. I've been to my Book Group meeting (we read Carol Ann Duffy's book of poetry "The World's Wife" - wonderful, read it!), strolled round the farmer's market to buy sunflowers, crocheted a row and a half of the Heirloom Blanket, read a fantastic "literary thriller" ("The Bed I Made" by Lucie Whitehouse), been to a folk music concert at the Symphony Hall and baked lavender shortbread. The shortbread, by the way, is divine. I've used a recipe from "The Vicar's Wife Cookbook" and it is the best shortbread I've ever made - buttery yet crisp, lemony with just a fragrant whiff of lavender. And, as I tucked a foilwrapped piece into the Beautiful Girl's lunchbox this morning it made me think, maybe I can pull this off, after all. Watch this space..............

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Three go to Dorset...






..... and what a time they had! We stayed on a Featherdown Farm, which was so much fun and a wonderful experience for the Beautiful Girl. The "tents" (to a seasoned camper, calling these luxurious structures, with their running water, flushing loo, wood burning stoves and comfy beds seems a tad ridiculous) were situated in a field with it's own chicken coop and little pen for a couple of goats, named Tom and Petal by the Beautiful Girl. I wish I'd taken more photos with the blog in mind, so I could show you some of the sights we saw but instead, in my inveterate list-lover's way, I'll have to make you a list of my highlights:-
* watching Beautiful Girl running through the field towards us, carefully cradling a just-laid, still-warm egg in her cupped hands, enormous, proud, look-what-I've-found smile on her face;
* fresh, locally-caught sardines with a Parmesan crust;
* a long, long walk (rather longer than we intended after we mis-interpreted the map!) through beautiful Dorset countryside, singing made-up nonsense songs to each other to keep the spirits up;
* a day at Weymouth beach (this resort was a real surprise to me, I'd snootily imagined tackiness galore but instead we found soft, clean sand, gently lapping sea, a traditional Punch & Judy show and donkey rides - Beautiful Girl fell in love with one of the donkeys, of course and spent the last of her holiday money on a rosette proudly proclaiming "I rode BeeJay";
* tucking up the Beautiful Girl each night in her adorable bed-in-a-little-cupboard, Heidi style;
* campfire stew, made using the farm's own beef, eaten from an enamelled tin cup;
* poking around the weekly flea market and shopping in "Girl's Own Store", stockists of many, many lovely things in the little town of Bridport;
* on a wet and windy day taking a long walk along a pebbly beach, followed by a warming lunch of local seafood soup and a hefty slice of Dorest apple cake;
* Beautiful Girl making instant friends with children from the other tents and experiencing the freedom to run around, inventing games and exploring without constant adult supervision;
* lunch at Wild Garlic restaurant (run by Masterchef 2009 winner, Mat Follas) - elderflower and champagne cocktail, onion tarte tatin, trout en papillote and mixed-berry Eton mess - yum;
* waking up in the night to the pitter-patter of rain falling on canvas;
*finding fossils on Chesil beach;
* sitting in the evening with the Lovely Husband, reading together by candlelight, no sounds except for the crackle of the stove, pages turning and the occasional soft murmur so as not to disturb our sleeping child.
Now we're back home with mountains of laundry, little collections of random pebbles and shells and the smell of woodsmoke in the Heirloom blanket. Best of all though, we've brought home with us just the sort of childhood memories that I want the Beautiful Girl to have.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Away Day

Five little heads - all in varying shades of blonde, from Lady Ga-Ga platinum, to strawberry blond, to just-two-more-winters-before-it's-brown - all bent over the sand, digging away. Three mummies, free to have long chats about the most important things in life; children, crafting and cake. Happy days.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Busy, busy, busy

This time of year is always manic in our house. The Lovely Husband has been working on a project which has completely taken over everything and has swallowed him up into 18-hour days. I've been so busy at school with all those end-of-term jobs that need to be completed. And we've entered into wedding-birthday-end-of-school-year-party season. The combination of these things means that our home life has descended into chaos. My kitchen floor looks like the before shots on "How Clean Is Your House", the Lovely Husband has no clean pants left and the Beautiful Girl has eaten more spaghetti-with-butter-and-Parmesan dinners than I would ever happily admit to.

In the midst of the madness though, there have been moments of loveliness. Lovely Husband and I had a rare night out, just the two of us. We went to Winterbourne House again, only this time instead of blazing sunshine and cream teas there was live jazz, by candlelight, on the lawns. It was a very special evening.

Then there was my birthday. Lovely Husband is officially World's Best Present Buyer and I've started life as a 34 year old (eek! How did that happen?!?) with a fantastic pile of books, perfume that makes me smell like peonies, series 1-5 of "House" (Hugh Laurie joining my Older Men I Have A Crush On list) and the most, most beautiful flask for picnics, camping holidays etc. On the day itself he was poaching smoked haddock at 6:30 a.m. for my favourite breakfast (omelette Arnold Bennett - yum!), complete with chocolate birthday cake. He's not called Lovely Husband for nothing, you know. In the evening friends arrived, laden with thoughtful, generous presents and we scoffed homemade rocky road and drank strawberry bellinis. All in all, I had a wonderful day and, without getting too cheesy, felt blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.

Now we are all three finished with work and school for the summer and have very quickly found our holiday mojos. Only the second day in and we have already spent a lot of time in pyjamas. Got lots of lovely plans though and hope to blog a bit more often, as well as catching up on all the wonderful blogs I've not had time to read recently. Right now, bacon and eggs are calling though. (Another great thing about the holidays... plenty of time for greedy breakfasts!)

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Vintage and Handmade Textile Fair

Vintage scraps of flowery fabrics; old wooden French cotton reels; green spotty ribbon to wind onto the reels; Liberty fabric-covered buttons. Tea and cake in a pretty courtyard. Long, uninterrupted converstaions with friends. It was just bliss. I'll definitely be back.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Deadly sin #4

Pride
OK... I'm not even going to pretend I'm anything other than utterly beside myself here.... I've been trying for so long to teach myself to crochet and then one day I have a breakthrough. All of a sudden I can do it! More than that - it's easy!
Whenever I sew or knit something I always enjoy the process but the end result is a bit... well, it's never quite how I imagine it will be. This time though the end result is (she says, immodestly) absolutely gorgeous. It is set to be a blanket for our bed, but as we have an enormous bed I've got a long way to go.
I took the blanket to show my aunt at a family get-together at the weekend (she is the most talented "domestic artist" I know) and she called it an heirloom. An heirloom! My Heirloom Blanket. Yep, absolutely beside myself.............
Just to add: the yarn is Rowan DK Extra Fine Merino. It's wonderful stuff - the colours are soft, yet deep and it is deliciously soft. I bought 4 balls, then, when I was certain it was working went back for more... only to find it on sale for less than half price! Bought 40 balls for £80, rather than £170. Even the yarn gods are smiling on the Heirloom Blanket!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Half term's been and gone....



............ and we had a lovely time.

I hosted a birthday afternoon tea for a friend who was visiting from Cornwall. It was so wonderful to see her and her two children and get our little group of friends together. The tea was yummy too. Did you spot my little collection of vintage teacups? And my cakestand, made with thrifted china? Am particularly proud of it because I've wanted one like it for ages, but couldn't justify the £40-ish I kept seeing them for. Mine cost the grand total of £3.25.
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We are big fans of Lauren Child in this house so when we heard a production of Charlie and Lola's Best Bestest Play was coming to town Beautiful Girl and I had to go. I wasn't at all sure how they would manage to bring the irrepressible characters to life but they did, wonderfully. Keep a lookout for it coming to a theatre near you!

Monday, 31 May 2010

Deadly sin #3

Sloth
Saturday afternoon. Beautiful Girl has her crayons, a pile of blank paper and Cbeebies. I sit on the sofa with a little project..... and sit..... and sit..... Lovely Husband comes home, baths the Beautiful Girl and puts her to bed while I sit..... and sit.....

(By the way, am very excited about the project and looking forward to posting a few pictures very soon.)

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Where has all the sunshine gone?

Wasn't it gloriously, blissfully hot this weekend? We took full advantage of what felt like the onset of summer to have the First Barbecue of the Year on Saturday. Yummy food, lovely friends and just a little too much Pimms contributed to a really wonderful evening.
Then on Sunday we had a day out here at Winterbourne House and Botanical Gardens. The gardens at Winterbourne are wonderful (naughty blogger forgot the camera, so I can't show just how beautiful) and the house -a stunning Edwardian building - has just been refurbished too. To celebrate this the House held an Edwardian Fete. There was Punch & Judy, croquet on the lawn, a coconut shy and teas to be taken on the wisteria-bedecked terrace (jam and cream-laden scones, de rigeur). Best of all, for Beautiful Girl at least, there were donkey rides too. She has long held a love affair with all things equine - unicorns being her most favourite thing in the entire universe - with ponies and horses coming a close second, but after two rides on a donkey she was absolutely smitten. When she won 3pence on the roll-a-penny she solemnly announced that she wasn't going to spend it at the fete but would instead save up for a donkey of her very own. After a visit from Nanny yesterday, to watch her dancing in her school Maypole Assembly, the Donkey Fund now stands at a healthy£1:03. Maybe we should start looking into stabling options.....

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Small pleasures

Each morning I have a few precious hours between dropping Beautiful Girl at school and heading off to work myself. In an ideal world I'd spend this time reading, baking, gardening or doing a little crafting. More often than not, however, it gets swallowed up by drudge work - washing dishes, shopping for groceries or preparing the evening meal. Today it is school work that demands my attention but - hurrah - the sun is shining so I take my books out to the garden, where there is homegrown lilac and iced juice in a thrifted jug.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Deadly Sin #2



Greed
My usual trick with cookery books is to buy them, ooh and ahh greedily over the photographs, mark the pages of all the recipes I'm going to cook, then put the book on the shelf, promptly forget about it and turn back to Nigel Slater. It is therefore surprising to find myself actually using my new Sophie Dahl book this week. For breakfast I've made bircher muesli with blueberries, walnuts and honey (see above) as well as rhubarb compote with orange flower yoghurt and pistachios. And for my Mum's birthday tea: Victoria sponge with orange buttercream and homemade raspberry jam.
All were yummy although I remain slightly disappointed - apparently when you buy the book the lifestyle doesn't automatically come with it. Who knew?

Monday, 10 May 2010

Favourite things #3

I went to see a concert by the very wonderful Jesca Hoop last night. Her voice is thrillingly beautiful and it felt like such a treat to be sung to by her. But the real joy of the evening for me (apart from being out with my lovely Best Friend) was discovering the fabulousness that is Kirsty Almeida. She was the support act but her and her band absolutely shone for me. Seriously, check her out (and no need even to thank me!)

video

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Loot




While it's not a personality trait of which I'm particularly proud, I also don't mind admitting that I love to shop. Not the kind of shopping where you trudge, dead-eyed, around a soulless supermarket. And definitely not the sort of shopping where you stand under a too harsh light in a fitting room, looking at wrinkles you didn't know you had and trying to squeeze into a dress that is so unflattering that it makes you want to weep. (And the worst part? When you hand the frock back to the, invariably, young, lithe and gorgeous assisstant on the way out, muttering "No thanks," and you can practically hear her thinking "Well, did you really think you could get away with that?!") No, I much prefer spending 15 minutes choosing olives in a lovely deli or rooting around for treasure in a packed-to-the-rafters junk shop. However, I do also love the sort of shopping that you can do at 9:30pm, in your pyjamas, with a mug of tea at your side. One of the great things about online shopping is that you get that little buzz of happiness twice - once when you actually purchase the things and then another a couple of days later when the postman brings a parcel full of Lovely Things to your door. I've had three such parcels this week and have been really pleased with the contents, so thought I'd share my loot with you. The first two parcels contained my Number One Shopping Pleasure...books!

There was a new Persephone Dorothy Whipple, of course ("They Were Sisters") and a copy of Sophie Dahl's cookbook, the styling for which, like her recent TV programme, is absolutely beautiful. Then there was a copy of "Home-Made Vintage" by Christina Strutt, of Cabbages and Roses fame. This is filled with easy sewing projects - although whether they'll be easy enough for me remains to be seen - and again, the pictures are just gorgeous. And finally there was a little book of French vintage-inspired stickers and labels, perfect for re-using envelopes, labelling jars of home-made goodies, sticking on presents etc.

Then the last parcel contained a wooden crochet hook - I've tried to get a decent photo of it but the weather here is so dreary and grey that all my photos are unusably dark. I will get a photo of it, by which time it will have some crochet on! (Therefore be prepared to wait a while....)

Saturday, 1 May 2010

3 Beautiful Things

Today I re-discovered the glorious "3 Beautiful Things" blog (link in sidebar). It's such a lovely idea - to recognise three things, big or small, to be thankful for each day - and it's executed beautifully by Clare. Her writing is just a joy to read. So, in her honour, I've posted my own 3 Beautiful Things for today....

1. This morning I finish "Fingersmith" by the brilliant, compulsively readable Sarah Waters . This afternoon, at the library, I find the new novel by the brilliant, compulsively readable Douglas Kennedy.

2. The brownie, which I tutted at having to pay £2.50 for, turns out to be completely worth it; perfectly gooey and - oh joy - packed with walnuts.

3. Beautiful Girl makes friends with a girl she happens to be sitting next to. Their conversation - based on teacher's names and admiring each other's colouring in - is utterly sweet and sincere.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Deadly Sin #1


Envy

Does it make it more wholesome that the item I covet is a potting table? Or is it just pathetic?

Monday, 26 April 2010

Do you remember how it feels....

.... to fall in love? That initial burst of joy, the wonder that this amazing person exists, the thrill of exhilaration as you realise that you just get each other. And then come the first nights together, when you can't bear to close your eyes to sleep because it means that you will be separated from your new love for eight long hours. You want nothing more than to be with them and all of a sudden everything else seems an irritation to be tolerated until you can wallow in being alone with your loved one again. Well, you may think me a hussy, but it is a feeling I experience quite regularly. Once or twice a year, in fact. Lovely Husband has come to tolerate it, even indulge it, although I'm not sure that he doesn't sometimes secretly get fed up about it.



At the moment I have fallen deeply, desperately in love with Dorothy Whipple. Not actually her, you understand, but her books. I have just finished "The Priory" (one of those beautiful Persephone editions, which shouldn't make a difference, but it does) and now will not be happy until I have devoured everything else she has written. Beautiful Girl understands this feeling. She sobbed bitterly after we finished the third book in Enid Blyton's "The Magic Faraway Tree" trilogy because "th-th-there's no Faraway s-s-s-stories left". At least I can tell her that, in about twenty years time, she's got Dorothy Whipple stories to look forward to.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Back to work blues

Well, Easter has been and gone and, for the most part, it was wonderful. Some bits admittedly, I'd rather have done without, such as the afternoon spent in A & E at The Children's Hospital after Beautiful Girl dropped a paving slab on her foot and the 2 weeks worth of school work that I have left until the last weekend - actually, make that the last day. But the rest of the two weeks were filled with long walks in the sunshine, time spent with lovely friends, far too much chocolate and lots of great days out. Best of all, we have welcomed two new additions to our family: a perfect little baby niece and, at home, Daisy the cat. Despite being a rescue cat Daisy is very affectionate and sweet and we feel so lucky to have her. Last night, while watching a film with Lovely Husband and a glass of wine she was curled up on my lap and I'm not sure who was purring loudest - the cat or me!

Monday, 15 March 2010

What makes a perfect weekend?

I have been struggling a bit over the last couple of weeks. For one reason and another I have been feeling overwrought, overworked, tired and emotional. All part of life's rich tapestry, as they say, but I really needed a good weekend. If asked to plan a perfect weekend, I would probably have to include:-

* celebrating the arrival of Friday by meeting friends and their children after school. Enjoying a large G & T, followed by yummy courgette and mushroom pizza, while our kids find a corner of the restaurant to run wild in, without disturbing anyone else.

* spending Saturday morning at the Farmer's Market with lovely Best Friend and my Beautiful Girl, followed by delicious Irish breakfast at the cafe.

* taking Beautiful Girl to the ballet on Saturday afternoon. (We are so lucky to have one of the best ballet companies in the country in our city and they are currently doing a production of Sleeping Beauty - utterly, gorgeously, breathtakingly beautiful.)

* being woken up on Sunday morning with a card and tissue-paper flowers, all made for me by Beautiful Girl along with tea and toast with honey.

* a long lie-in, followed by an even longer soak in the bath - with a good book, of course.

* spending Sunday afternoon having tea and cakes with my mum and oh-so-pregnant-she's-surely-about-to-burst little sister.

Lucky, lucky me then..... because that's exactly the weekend I got! Hope you had your own version of a Perfect Weekend!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Favourite things #2

I LOVE this Emerson quote and agree with every word.....

"To laugh, often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch...to know even one life breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!"

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Slow but steady....

So goes the progress on my crochet. I managed to accidentally decrease, then increase the stitches on my last "square", so inadvertently made a bow tie. Beautiful Girl has asked me to save it for the groom to wear at her wedding. Am thinking of holding her to it.....
I thought I was being charmingly original when I planted up some snowdrops into a pretty teacup. Then I visited Blogland and discovered that, not only has everyone else had the same idea, but they all had it before me. No matter, it still gives me a little twinge of joy whenever I catch sight of it.


Sunday, 14 February 2010

Afternoon tea

Although Lovely Husband and I have never made a huge fuss about Valentine's Day, it does feel really nice to have something to celebrate at this miserable time of year. Am I the only one who feels this winter is n-e-v-e-r-e-n-d-i-n-g? This year we go out for the calorific splurge that constitutes afternoon tea. The fact that we are accompanied by Beautiful Girl and the ceaseless chatter that she keeps up for her every waking moment should make it less romantic. But it really doesn't.


Edited to add: It is an exaggeration to say that Beautiful Girl talks endlessly without stopping. She is actually utterly silent for her daily viewing of "Mary Poppins".

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Spoiler alert!


It's a friend's birthday. Actually, it was a friend's birthday last month, but, true to form, I am horrendously late with her present. This friend is one who values the homemade, who understands that something created specifically for you is also a gift of time and of love. Unfortunately for me, however, this friend is also a talented knitter and sewer, who made me a fabulous knitting bag, with my name embroidered on it for my last birthday and I am embarrassed to give her one of my shoddily, uneven attempts at a felt decoration. Plus it takes me several months to knit even the most simple scarf, by which point it'll be summer. Eventually, after a bit of thinking, a bit of Googling, a bit of shopping, a bit of mixing, measuring and stirring and a bit of prettifying labels, I come up with this - Organic Facial Oil and Detoxifying Dead Sea Bath Salts. The facial oil, in particular, smells divine and I quite want to keep it for myself. Which is a Good Thing, I feel, in a present. Hope she likes it.
Apologies to any friend, relative or passing acquaintance of mine - you may well have just seen your next birthday gift!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Out to lunch

Lovely Husband has taken a couple of days off work, after his trip away. While Beautiful Girl is at school, we go out for lunch, just the two of us. The pear and Roquefort salad is delicious; the two-hour, uninterrupted, laughter-filled conversation is even more so.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

So excited!

There is much excitement here today. Lovely Husband has been on a work trip to the Middle East and Beautiful Girl and I have missed him terribly. But...he's coming home today! TODAY!! No more sleeps until we see him. We are very giddy.

Monday, 1 February 2010

And there's even more snow today!


Yesterday Beautiful Girl and I went to the park. While she whizzed around on her bike (well, as much as you can whizz when you have got stabilisers which you'll NEVER take off, even when you're a grown up) I trailed after her, desperate to spot signs of Spring. I was hopeful for a few early crocus shoots, maybe a couple of buds on the trees - even a snowdrop or two. Nothing doing.... All I could see was frost on the ground and the ducks skittering around on their, mostly frozen, pond. On the way home it even started to snow. I felt cold all evening and went to bed early, with a cup of tea, a hot water bottle and the Sarah Raven seed catalogue, to dream about Spring.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

You're so heavy handed!

I've never felt particularly at home in my body. I'm clumsy, I trip over my own feet, bump into stationary objects and am incapable of closing a cupboard door without banging it (the title of this post was a recurring refrain from my childhood). So the feeling, when trying to teach myself to crochet, of knowing what I wanted my hands to do, but finding it almost impossible to get them to actually do it, is frustratingly familiar. Time after time, I begin a foundation chain and struggle along until I find myself stuck, at which point I groan and eventually shout in frustration. I pore over different "How to-" books and magazines, watch DVDs and videos on YouTube, all of which just makes me want to weep as everyone else seems to find it effortless. Beautiful Girl watches this process and decides to help, by presenting me with a better set of instructions.

"Instrushuns

Plas the string on yor lap
get yor stik
Bgin to croshy
twerl the wul
If that dus not werk tri puling it".

It doesn't do much for my crochet, but does wonders for my mood.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

So this is how it feels to be old....

I went out for dinner with some lovely friends last night. Ate risotto al funghi and panna cotta with a berry compote. Drank a little too much red wine. Felt great last night. Feel rotten this morning. When Lovely Husband and I were younger we would regularly go out at about 5 p.m. on a Friday evening and more or less stay out until Sunday afternoon (with brief pit stops for sleep; no 24-hour bars in the 90's!). I'd pick up a large latte on the way to university or work on the Monday morning and feel right as rain. Last night I had an extra half a glass of wine with dinner and this morning it's taken me a long soak in the bath, a big bowl of fresh fruit and two Nurofen Extra and I still only just feel human. Aging sucks......

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Favourite things #1

Recently I have been listening to Alan Bennett's "The Clothes They Stood Up In" on Radio 4's Listen Again service. I love Alan Bennett. Hearing him read his own stories aloud is...well, I can't find an adjective that describes how quirkily cosy it is, suffice to say, it's a wonderful experience. On its own, it makes cleaning out the fridge bearable. Combine it with a pot of tea and a little gentle knitting though - well, then you might just have found a taste of heaven.

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This morning, as I was distractedly handing Beautiful Girl her tights, before she had put her pants on:

"Mummy - I am NOT a superhero!"

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Ignore it and it might go away.

Domestic disorder reigns. Piles of laundry are waiting to go in the machine and yet more piles are waiting to be put away. The kitchen floor is in desperate need of a wash and toys cover the living room. I decide to ignore it all and bake flapjacks. While they are baking I manage to clear the dining table and when Beautiful Girl gets home from school she sits at the table to practise her spellings with a glass of milk and a still-slightly-warm flapjack. For about seven minutes I feel Calm, Competent and In Control. Shame it doesn't last..........