Sunday, 4 November 2012

Half-term Images

A dewy cobweb....

A new bakery....

No fairies, unfortunately.....

A favourite bookshop, comes with a woodburner and homemade cakes...

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Storecupboard Challenge Update

We survived. No-one starved; in fact, no-one even noticed. We ate pretty well on the whole. For breakfasts there were bagels from the freezer, muesli or porridge (or indeed my new favourite, muesli porridge). Lunches were mostly leftovers, although there was a bit of ham that got used up in sandwiches. Snacks came from the fruit bowl. And for dinner in the evening we ate rice and dahl topped with crispy, spicy onions; shin of beef stew and vegetables; spaghetti and a tomato, anchovy and chilli sauce and a vegetable risotto. Rather carbohydrate-heavy, perhaps and certainly not enough meat for the Lovely Husband, a committed carnivore, but generally speaking, quite good grub.There were a couple of cheats though. One afternoon we met Jen and the kids for tea and cakes after school, so there was just toast with slices of cheese and apple for supper that night. And Friday night, after swimming, always means fish and chips. On the whole though I think it was a pretty successful venture. There is something incredibly satisfying about using up things from the cupboard, fridge and freezer. And the fact that I spent a fraction of what I normally do on grocery shopping is equally satisfying. A fiscally responsible woman would have transferred the money saved into an ISA or other high-interest account. An organised woman would spend it on Christmas gifts. I am neither so the money saved will stay in my account until I fritter it on books and macaroons.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Storecupboard Challenge

The Waitrose delivery that arrives each week came in considerably fewer bags this time. I have been closely following the Storecupboard Challenge over at The Quince Tree (one of my all time favourite blogs) and was inspired to try and follow suit . In a nutshell, the idea is to try and minimise food waste by using up all those packets, jars and tins which lurk at the back of the cupboard and in the bottom of the freezer while new stuff is bought and shoved on top of it  (or, at least, that's what happens in our house). I know it's going to be more of a challenge for me than for Sue. I have considerably less time, skills and knowledge than her, not to mention a pretty paltry storecupboard to begin with. Still, I'm up for the challenge. There's fresh stuff I've had to buy - milk, butter, fruit and vegetables. There's been a trip to our wonderful local bakery for a loaf of bread. But other than that I'll be surviving on whatever I can forage from the kitchen cupboards. I know - I'm practically Ray Mears....

Monday, 1 October 2012

Ladies Day

The Beautiful Girl and I had a Ladies Day out on Saturday. We took the train to the really very lovely town of Great Malvern where we took part in a knitting workshop, here at the knitting parlour. How nice to spend the morning with an expert who can guide you in a sweetly supportive way, helping you with whichever aspects of knitting you might find difficult (for Beautiful Girl it was casting on, for me, ribbing and following a pattern). After our morning we went for lunch, stopping at a deli for salads, then wandered the pretty town, browsing in second hand bookshops and choosing presents for Daddy at the old-fashioned sweet shop. We eventually made our way back to the stunning Edwardian station, which housed a lovely tea room - and had just enough time for tea, cake and buttered crumpets before our train left to bring us back to Brum.
It was the nicest way to spend a Saturday. My girl is growing up so much and it fills me with joy to share such times with her. Maybe in a year or two, we'll be proficient enough with our needles to attend a Rowan workshop in Yorkshire... I best start saving...

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Iced Ginger Cake....

....from Jane Brocket's lovely Vintage Cakes. Just the thing to come home to when you have been buffeted by wind and rain on your Sunday walk....

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Heirloom Blanket Ta-Dah!

It's finished! My blanket, which I've been crocheting for.... ohh, forever (actually, since June 2010). And I love it. Oh, I love it so much. It's absolutely enormous - so big that I can't take a proper photo of it. It drapes over the side of our king-size bed, with room to spare. Here it is again, all folded up.
A close-up of the pretty scalloped edging, thanks to the pattern from Lucy at Attic24.
The loveliest thing about my blanket though, is the way it feels. It is so soft and warm, so cosy and comfy. And finished just in time for these chilly autumn nights.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

September Days

Life is good. Busy, but good. How could it not be when I have a lovely new Chanel nail polish, when the new series of Downton Abbey starts tonight and when there are rose and violet creams to accompany it?

Monday, 20 August 2012

Lazy Days

Since we returned from our holiday, life really has been lived in the slow lane here. There have been a couple of trips - to the library, the museum and the swimming pool. For Beautiful Girl there has been Pony Club, play dates and a day spent with Nanny but there has been A LOT of sofa time too. Which is not to say its been entirely unproductive. In fact, something rather exciting happened last week... Beautiful Girl caught the crafting bug! The above little creatures - an owl and a pussy cat, obviously, were made entirely by her. I cast on and off and threaded a few needles but other than that the knitting, stuffing, sewing, choosing, snipping and even crocheting (the cat's scarf) were all her own work. I cannot tell you how happy it made me to sit and craft together, nattering away - I only hope it was the first of many times to come. And as for my own crafting... well, I might have a Ta-Dah moment of my own before too long. So excited about that!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Dear blog,

I am sorry I have been so neglectful of you lately. I'm sorry there is so much I haven't shared with you: our trip to the Hay Festival, a whole half-term, my birthday, our seaside holiday. All I've got to share with you is this PB & J cupcake from the farmers' market.... and a promise to try and be more attentive during the next few weeks.
Jo x

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Beautiful Girl Quote of the Week

Me: "So, you need to choose an Olympic value and draw a calligram for it. How about "determined" or "courageous"?
B. G.: "Erm, I think I'll do "indefatigable."
Me: ".........OK.... that'll work......."

Tuesday, 29 May 2012


The view seen when lying on one's back, under the dappled shade of a beech tree, on a glorious Sunday afternoon in May.

Saturday, 26 May 2012


Every time I buy a paper-wrapped bunch of flowers it makes me feel like Mrs Dalloway. Unfortunately, I am not decorating my house for a party. Rather, I have to go home to unblock the Hoover nozzle and tackle that paperwork mountain. I decide to delay these tantalising jobs and instead stop off somewhere for a frothy coffee in the sunshine.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Three beautiful things

1. The smell of lavender that wafts up from the bush which I push past in the garden, on my way to peg out the washing.

2. A cream tea and a good chinwag, shared with Beautiful Girl and my Best Friend, in the sunshine.

3. There is a job which I've been putting off for ages. Tonight I decide to just hunker down and get it done. Three hours later and I have a horrid headache but it's done and I feel so much better.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Weekend Fun

One of the New Year's Resolutions I seem to make every year is to really appreciate the weekends. To make them restful but filled with fun. It rarely happens. So much of the weekend gets swallowed up by things I need to do, rather than things I want to do. Schoolwork, housework, trips to the supermarket, ferrying Beautiful Girl to riding lessons and birthday parties, trips to town to buy new school shoes or renew bus passes.... I'd say "boring" but that suggests something calm and unharried. Last week we decided, for no reason whatever, to buck the trend and go away for the weekend.

We went to Shropshire which is, after last summer's wonderful holiday there, my new favourite county. Saturday was spent in Ludlow, such a lovely little market town. We had fun in the old castle, followed by a big lunch. There was shopping too - a gorgeous French linen nightgown for Beautiful Girl (far nicer than anything I sleep in), pretty china for me and this being foodie central, lots of grub! On Saturday night we stayed with a beloved aunt and uncle who filled us with good food and a little too much wine and kept us up late talking. Sunday dawned, grey and wet, but we didn't let it deter us. Off we went to visit Wroxeter, a Roman city (Beautiful Girl is obsessed with all things historical. Entirely due to Horrible Histories I should add) and then to Attingham Park (I am obsessed with all things National Trust. Due, in no small part, to Downtown Abbey) where we dripped all over the beautiful carpets, then stripped off our rain gear and had the most elegant and delicious afternoon tea. (Lovely Husband: "Is that it? I could eat that on my own, in 5 minutes flat...).

A great weekend - it's strengthened my resolve to keep that resolution. And as for the "lose weight and exercise every day" one... (coughs shiftily and looks away).....

Monday, 9 April 2012

Easter Weekend

Easter Sunday

Easter Monday

Wightwick Manor And Gardens

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


I went to a lecture recently, given by Jung Chang, author of "Wild Swans". (Whenever I think of that book I get residual feelings of guilt because it was a real distraction when I should have been revising for my A-Levels, many years ago.) The subject of the lecture was "Happiness" and Jung Chang's central premise was that happiness is brought about by fulfillment, found through work. I agree that work that you love, work that you consider meaningful, is hugely important. If it pays you a living wage all the better. Is it the key to being happy though? Not for me. For me, happiness is about having people to love and people who love you. And beyond that? It's the little things that make me happy. Like the sun shining. And eating almond brioche for breakfast. And pretty vintage plates.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Before and After

Life - 48 hours pre-Ofsted inspection.
Work. Work. More work. Mounting panic at how much work there is left to do. Work. Tears (Beautiful Girl's). Tears (mine). Work. Dinner (3 cups of tea and a stale doughnut from the bag in the staffroom). Work. Work. Tears (mine again). Work. Work. Work. Increased panic, edged with hysteria. Work. More work. Can't sleep - 3 a.m. - get up to work.

Life - 48 hours post-Ofsted inspection.
Cuddles. Kisses. Crochet. Dinner (smoked mackerel dauphinoise and green beans). Lavender scented bath. "Upstairs Downstairs" on iplayer. Sleep...blessed sleep....

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Proud Mummy Moment

My Beautiful Girl played her cello in her first "proper" concert. I nearly burst with pride. I'm well aware of how unseemly it is to brag about one's child. I am also aware of the Curse of the Smug Mummy (teenage horrors await) but I don't care. I was - I am - SO proud. She's such a great kid. 

I love you, my beautiful, Beautiful Girl.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Half-Term Stats

Cinema visits: 1
Pony riding lessons: 2
Good friends caught up with: 4
Rooms in the house thoroughly tidied, scrubbed and vacuumed: 4
Exhibitions seen: 1
Arguments over getting dressed NOW because we're going to be late: 0
Delicious lunches in favourite organic cafe: 1
Hours spent catching up on school work: 12
Cupcakes baked: 12
Rows of Heirloom Blanket crocheted: 5.5
Hours spent watching Rugrats: too ashamed to admit
Pottery painting afternoons: 1
Long lunches with the extended family: 2

The week whizzed by, in a blur of slow days. An oxymoron, I know, but that's how it felt. I'm sad it's over, but finally feeling more energised and positive. Still can't wait for Spring though!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Valentine's Day

Elegantly iced prettiness? That I can't do. Squidgy chocolate and hazelnut yumminess? Now, that I can ....

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Saggy old cloth cat

One of my strongest and least expected reactions to becoming a parent 7 and a half years ago was to develop a strong antipathy to many aspects of modern life. Here was this tiny bundle, all pure and innocent, and we'd brought her into a world that, all of a sudden, seemed dirty and dangerous. Watching TV and reading the newspaper seemed to bring into our home a world that revered the shallow and stupid, that valued the acquisition of ludicrously expensive consumer goods above all else, a world where skimpily dressed popstars cavorting and singing totally inappropriate songs were hailed as role-models for little girls. I wanted to protect the Beautiful Girl from all of this. I wanted to deny the fact that we live in a slightly run-down suburb of the second largest city and instead move to a gingerbread cottage in a wood somewhere. In short, I wanted her to grow up in the 1950s.

I did what I could. I ignored the pink sparkly T-shirts with "Babe" written on them and dressed her in dungarees and duffell coats and Mary-Janes. I read her books by Shirley Hughes and Enid Blyton and sang old-fashioned nursery rhymes. I banned any TV channels that included adverts and instead she watched CBeebies and an old Bagpuss DVD. She - we - loved Bagpuss. It was gentle and quiet and thoughtful and it had the best music. I bought the soundtrack and we listened to it over and over. In the car, in her bedroom playing with her toys, in the bathroom while she splashed amongst the bubbles. We listened to it so much that the CD started to stick and jump in odd places. Bagpuss provided the soundtrack to the Beautiful Girl's early childhood.

A couple of weeks ago I saw that Sandra Kerr and John Faulkener, the respected folk singers who wrote and sang the Bagpuss soundtrack (aka Madeline the rag doll and Gabriel the toad) were bringing the songs and music of Bagpuss to our local arts centre. And it was wonderful to listen to those songs again. Here, for you, is my favourite....

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Winter Blues

I've been suffering from an extended case of the January blues, which explains my absence from this blog over the last 6 weeks. This is, on the whole, my happy place where I come to celebrate all those little moments (and hours and days and even weeks) of loveliness that, on the whole make my life a quietly happy one. A combination of factors this winter means that I've struggled to do that recently. Usually I love winter - the cosy, snuggliness of it, the wrapping up warm, the excuse to stay indoors and read and eat custardy puddings. This year though I've found myself desperate for Spring. When it started to snow yesterday - and worse, to settle - I honestly wanted to weep. So resignation was the most positive feeling I could muster this morning when Beautiful Girl wanted to go out and play in the snow. Muttering under my breath, I got wrapped up and we trudged to the park to meet friends. But you know what? We had such fun! We went sledding, we built a snow fort, we spent ages doing nothing more than rolling enormous snow balls into the river in an obviously futile attempt to build an ice bridge. And then eventually we came home, pink-cheeked, cold and tired to hot chocolate complete with marshmallows on the top. You don't get that in May.