Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Christmas 2013

My Christmas mantle.
It has been the loveliest of Christmases.
This time last year I was horribly ill, with full-blown 'flu. I missed out on so much in 2012 that I was determined to make the most of the festive wonderfulness of 2013. And I did. Just a few highlights (I love a list....)
  • A North Pole Breakfast. Delivered while we slept, by one of Father Christmas' elves. We came down to festive tableware, Christmas tree-shaped crumpets, gingerbread cookies and gold-star topped chocolate cupcakes. Plus hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows. Beautiful Girls' eyes nearly popped out of her head.
  • Lovely days out. To see "The Nutcracker", to visit Father Christmas and his reindeer, to Christmas markets, to National Trust properties which had been beautifully decorated for Christmas.
  • Friends. Long, lazy, boozy lunches, while the children play around us. Quick catch-ups over a cup of tea. A special night out with my Best Friend, to a Christmas storytelling cafe. Baileys hot chocolate at the Christmas Market with Jen. Long, handwritten letters enclosed in Christmas cards. It must be one of the best things about this time of year, having the chance to catch up with those we don't see nearly enough of.
  • Carols. Despite the fact that I have a truly terrible voice (and I'm not being modest here; it's a running joke in our family how tone-deaf I am) I still love singing and Christmas carols send a shiver down by spine. We went to Beautiful Girl's school's candlelit service at the nearby church and the sight and sound of the children singing "Silent Night" in English, French and British Sign Language....gulp... am sure I wasn't the only embarrassing Mummy with the tissues out. And listening to my Beautiful Girl (who sings in a strong, sweet, clear voice definitely not inherited from me) singing "Away in a Manger" during Christmas Eve Mass did it again.
  • Home. Our home has felt like such a cosy, warm, twinkly place to be this holiday. I spent an entire 8 hours cleaning on the day before Advent began and then, when all was clean and sparkling we slowly dressed our home for Christmas. Halls were decked with boughs of holly, and also with mistletoe and ivy. Our tree is beautiful. Every year we say, "This is the best tree yet," but this year it really is. I can't take a photograph which does it justice, so just imagine... A tree which is over 6 foot tall, bushy, verdant and green, large enough to fill the bay window. Now decorate it with simple white lights and lovingly collected traditional decorations, none of which match, but which somehow work together... There. I told you. Gorgeous, isn't it?
  • Food. My God, we've eaten well this holiday. Two hams, one of which was cooked in ginger beer and glazed with ginger preserve and shared with friends, the other of which was cooked in cranberry and apple juice, studded with cloves and glazed with cranberry sauce and eaten in sandwiches, with pickles, with cheese and the last of which ended up in a turkey, ham and leek pie last night. Two cakes, one of which was Sue's recipe for an almondy sponge covered in homemade mincemeat, then topped with a spiced crumble and eaten with orange spiced cream and the other of which, a traditional Christmas fruit cake, hasn't even been touched yet. As well as lots of roasted chestnuts, mulled wine, Prosecco, caviar, cheese and crackers, mince pies, satsumas, trifle, industrial amounts of chocolate, homemade gingerbread cookies and homemade cranberry, white chocolate and macadamia cookies. Plus, of course, Christmas lunch, cooked by by Mum this year and declared a triumph by all. Phew.
  • Books. On the first day of Advent the Christmas books came down from the attic and were kept in a basket next to the fire. Although my Beautiful Girl seems to have grown out of many of them, neither of us could contemplate Christmas Eve without "'Twas the Night Before Christmas". And, although, like everyone, I knew the story of  "A Christmas Carol" I actually read it for the first time this year and utterly loved it. I've resolved to make it a personal tradition to read it every December from now on. Finally, these lazy days between Christmas and New Year have been filled with a jaunt to a favourite bookshop and the (enormous, brilliant, but somewhat-in-need-of-editing) new Donna Tartt novel.
  • Gifts. I know it seems shallow to say it but the modest number of gifts I received this year (we had a "no-gifts" deal with almost all of the adults in our lives) were thoughtfully chosen and it did make me happy to receive the new Nigel Slater book, a Cary Grant film ("The Bishop's Wife") and some gorgeous Orla Kiely notecards. My Beautiful Girl bought me a wooden necklace that she had seen at a craft fair in the weeks before Christmas and had saved her pocket money to buy. Bless her sweet heart, she was so excited to give it to me and gleefully presented it before opening her stocking or any of her other presents on Christmas Day.
  • Family. I have, of course, saved the best until last. How I love having two whole weeks to spend with my favourite people in the whole world. How nice it is to play daft games with my aunty and uncle, to kiss the soft, downy head of my brand-new nephew, to eat a slice of cake lovingly baked by my Mum. This, of course, is what is really best about this, and every, Christmas.
And now, the New Year is almost upon us. Tonight, midnight will probably pass us by as we will go to bed early, in order to get up early and watch the sunrise on 2014, as we did last year. Later in the day, family will come for lunch ( a luxurious fish pie and lots of green vegetables followed by an orange and mincemeat trifle) and then on 2nd January, the decorations and tree will come down and the house will seem empty and clean and bare. The grocery shopping will arrive and vegetables, fruit and pulses will feature heavily as I try to compensate for the gluttony of the last few weeks. Although I will be sad to see the end of Christmas I do like the fresh, clean feel of a brand-new year. I like the blank pages of my new diary (and my new toothbrush, pants and socks - a personal tradition) and the feeling that this will be the year that I lose weight, exercise more, save some more money and be an all-round better person. We'll see. But in the mean time, a very, very, Happy New Year.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Reading List - November 2013

"An Unsuitable Attachment" by Barbara Pym.
"Confessions of an Organized Homemaker" by Deniece Schofield.
"Housebound" by Winifred Peck.

A paltry 3 books only this month. This is partly due to the fact that I have several others "on-the-go", but only put them on my list when I've completed them and partly due to the fact that the stinking cold I've had has left me with little energy to read. (Little energy to read? You know, it must've been bad.)

The Barbara Pym was fantastic, of course and it was particularly nice to read it before I attended a dramatised reading, at the Library of Birmingham. It was organised by the Barbara Pym Society who are, as could only be expected, a jolly nice bunch of ladies. And it was followed by a rather good tea - how could it not be?
Also wonderful was "Housebound". A perfect companion to last month's "How to Run Your Home Without Help", I'd definitely recommend reading them together. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Farewell Autumn...

My favourite season is definitely drawing to a close now. Before it is completely over I thought I'd share my Autumn mantlepiece with you. It will soon be time for it to get all twinkly and festive.
Just need to shake this horrid cold and then I'll be immersing myself in Christmas loveliness...

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Reading List - October 2013

"The Donor" by Helen Fitzgerald.
"Untold Story" by Monica Ali.
"How to do Everything" by Dawna Walter.
"Confessions of a Bad Mother" by Stephanie Calman.
"How to Run Your Home without Help" by Kay Smallshaw.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Half-term fun

It's been such a nice week. I love October half-term. A holiday during my favourite season and early enough in the school year that I can actually enjoy it, rather than spending most of it in an exhausted heap. The Beautiful Girl and I have spent time with friends and with family. We've been on some great days out - the pictures are from our trip to Kenilworth Castle, on Hallowe'en - but spent plenty of time on the sofa too. Cosy, comfy days, just how we like them. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Simple pleasures

 I am not a high-maintenance kind of girl. Designer shoes and expensive jewellery mean little to me. However, I do love life's little luxuries and shopping for small treats - a new paperback, a box of macaroons, a bunch of flowers, brings me much joy.This week though I am unable to indulge. A "perfect storm" of financial demands leaves us with too much month at the end of the money. When I go to the bakers to buy the weekend loaf I manage to forgo the delicious - and expensive - little plum and ricotta cakes. I don't stop at the newsagents on the way home for the latest edition of "Country Living" magazine. Proud of my self-restraint I go home and bake a favourite autumnal cake, thriftily using up the last of the rather soft apples and pears. And when I take Beautiful Girl to the library I find a beautiful book to bring home and swoon over. Add a frothy coffee and my afternoon of frugal pleasures is complete.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

An autumn weekend

Saturday morning and the farmers' market is teeming with autumnal bounty. I buy a quince, for the way it will perfume the kitchen first, then for stewing with sugar and lemon juice, to be eaten at breakfast. I also buy a crisp baguette, stinky cheese and slices of fancy cake. Mine will be saved until Downtown Abbey, although the rest of my family will devour theirs as soon as they walk through the front door. Best of all, I also bring home these beauties...
Sunday afternoon and, tummies full of roast beef and Yorkshire pud, the temptation to put the TV on and snooze the afternoon away is great. We decide instead to brave the drizzly afternoon and go for a walk in a favourite spot.
Home later, to tea and crumpets in front of the fire. A little crochet time too. What a lovely weekend.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Reading List - September 2013

"The Red House" by Mark Haddon.
"Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class" by Owen Jones.
"Trying" by Mark Cossey.
"The Spare Room" by Helen Garner.
"The Fortnight in September" by R. C. Sherriff.
"Red Joan" by Jennie Rooney.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Reading List - August 2013

"The Homemaker" by Dorothy Canfield Fisher.
"Dare Me" by Megan Abbott.
"Breaking the Silence" by Diane Chamberlain.
"Italian Shoes" by Henning Mankell.
"Casual Vacancy" by J. K. Rowling.
"Kitchen Essays" by Agnes Jekyll.
"The New House" by Lettice Cooper.
"Summer Things" by Joseph Connolly.

Some really great reads this month. The three Persephones were wonderful, of course and I loved "Casual Vacancy". Looking forward to reading her next, now.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

A Quietly Productive Day

Today I have.....
* weeded the front garden,
* pruned the jasmine that was threatening to keep us captive, Sleeping Beauty-style,
* cleaned all the spent pots, ready for autumn bulb planting,
* helped the Beautiful Girl build a frog habitat,
* weeded and scrubbed the patio,
* cleaned the airing cupboard, "rationalising" the towels and lining the shelf with scented, rose-sprigged liners,
* made salted caramel popcorn (and munched my way through it watching Toy Story 3),
* baked a batch of fork biscuits with the Beautiful Girl,
* made dahl, topped with crispy spiced onions,
* finally written a blog post, albeit a boring one,
* addressed all the invitations for Beautiful Girl's birthday party,
* supervised bath time and read a chapter of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" aloud.

No wonder I'm tired. Bath, book and bed await....

Reading List - July 2013

"Instructions for a Heatwave" by Maggie O'Farrell.
"An Academic Question" by Barbara Pym.
"Moral Hazard" by Kate Jennings.
"The Gargoyle" by Andrew Davidson.
"The Twelve" by Justin Cronin.
"All the Beggars Riding" by Lucy Caldwell.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Reading List - June 2013

"Wonder" by R. J. Palacio.
"House of Elliot" by Jean Marsh.
"Dark Places" by Gillian Flynn.
"The Newlyweds" by Nell Freudenberger.
"Life, Love & Vintage Housekeeping" by Alison May.
"Everything and Nothing" by Araminta Hall.

Saturday, 22 June 2013


So, I thought I'd ordered 2 red peppers when I did the online grocery shop. When I unpacked the bags earlier I discovered that 2 kilos is a lot of peppers. 11, to be exact.
Want to know how much I spent on red peppers at Waitrose this week?
I can't look at that without wincing.
Meal plan for this week...
Monday - stuffed peppers.
Tuesday - roasted red pepper soup.
Wednesday - erm....pepper risotto.
Thursday - ..... nope, all out of ideas now!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Three Beautiful Things again...

... because sometimes you need to look for the beauty on a grey Monday...

1. A new recipe for a veggie shepherd's pie, with a rich lentil, tomatoey sauce and a topping of sweet potato mash, cheese and fresh thyme is a roaring success.
2. I discover an album I bought years ago and never really listened to properly (Ani DiFranco's "reprieve") and it's just want I want to listen to tonight.
3. A fig-scented candle.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Not Camping

I am Not Camping. Well, technically speaking, the rest of my family are Not Camping too. This needs explaining, I realise...

The Beautiful Girl and I have only ever spent one night apart and that was six years ago, when she was two. My Best Friend was celebrating her upcoming wedding in the traditional way by gathering her closest friends around her in a lovely hotel with a spa to enjoy massages, swims, saunas and facials before cocktails, dinner, wine, more wine, ribald conversation and the sort of humiliating "games" which pass for fun on these occasions. I couldn't not go. I didn't want to not go. And so I went. Beautiful Girl was still nursing every night at this point but the Lovely Husband was adamant - all would be fine. I returned home the next day, with aching breasts to cuddle up with a tired and emotional toddler who had whimpered for Mummy all night long.
Fast forward six years. Beautiful Girl is excited to hear that her cubs troop are going camping and decides she wants to go. Hmm... this is the girl that won't even stop at Nanny's house, or with her beloved cousins overnight without Mummy and Daddy. I didn't want to stop her if she thought she was ready, nor did I want her to miss out on what would undoubtedly be a lot of fun. But camping? Where it gets very dark, very cold, where you can hear all sorts of strange sounds around you? On her own? (She is the only girl in her troop and wouldn't be allowed to sleep with the boys.) I did what any mother would do. I made her Daddy go too. OK, so she wouldn't be with me for two nights, but I thought she'd be fine with the Lovely Husband.

Friday evening, I kiss them both goodbye and try to deny the enormous lump in my throat. I keep it together until the car turns the corner and then the tears start to flow. I come back into the quiet house and look around me. I haven't spent a night alone in nine years (I even shared a room with Best Friend on her hen night) and now I am faced with the prospect of two. I vascillate between giddy joy at the freedom stretching before me and despair at the thought of not seeing the loves of my life until Sunday. I can't stop thinking about The Fall and jump at the slightest noise. I decide to do what I always do in situations of crisis  - run a bath and fetch my book. By ten thirty I am in bed and jump when the phone rings. I'm surprised to hear Beautiful Girl's voice on the other end - surely she should be in her sleeping bag by now? There is a quaver in her voice which quickly turns into a sob as she talks to me. I try and reassure her - she will be fine, Daddy is there - while trying hard to hide the wobble in my own voice. We hang up. Half an hour later and I am almost ready for sleep when the phone rings again. Her voice: "Mummy, we're coming home...". By midnight she is in my arms and I am calming her into sleep.

Saturday morning they leave by eight and don't return home until ten thirty at night. The Lovely Husband proclaims camp as being chaotic, poorly organised and full of children running absolutely wild. Beautiful Girl pronounces camp is AWESOME and her day as being THE BEST DAY, EVER. This morning they left at seven thirty, the Lovely Husband driving the twenty-odd miles there and back again without complaint each time. He is patient and encouraging, even when faced with a sobbing eight year old at eleven o'clock at night. What a father. What a man. He hasn't even mentioned the fact that he has had to forgo his traditional Father's Day lie-in and bacon sandwich. I am making him a special dinner tonight, full of his favourite dishes - pulled pork rolls, with crispy crackling, homemade lemony coleslaw and corn-on-the-cob baked with lots of butter, black pepper and dried chilli flakes. And for afters, a key lime pie. I'll even use the fancy coffee maker instead of the cafetiere, despite the fact that it is a faff to clean. He deserves it, my wonderful, wonderful Lovely Husband.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Reading List - May 2013

"Waiting for Sunrise" by William Boyd.
"21st Century Girls" by Sue Palmer.
"Diary of a Provincial Lady in Wartime" by E.M.Delafield.
"Some Tame Gazelle" by Barbara Pym.
"Where d'you go Bernadette?" by Maria Semple.
"The Rapture" by Liz Jensen.
"Still Missing" by Beth Gutcheon.
"Mutton" by India Knight.
"Sharp Objects" by Gillian Flynn.

9 books in one month - think that's the record for 2013, so far! Some great reads too. I loved the Barbara Pym and the "Provincial Lady" in particular. I had really looked forward to the new India Knight novel but, in all honesty, I found it to be a bit.... well, boring. I'm a huge fan of Ms Knight's, so it pains me to admit it, but it's definitely not her best.

I did enjoy listening to her speak at the Hay-on-Wye Festival over the Bank Holiday weekend though. We only went for the day, but what a day it was. Each of us saw some wonderful writers speaking about their work (for me, India Knight & Audrey Niffenegger), browsed the book stalls and soaked up the glorious sunshine. Aside from the cost of lunch (£13 for a crab sandwich and an elderflower presse. £13!?!) it was a wonderful day. I'm already looking forward to next year. I'll just remember to take a picnic...

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Afternoon tea with Persephone books

I have a Lovely Husband. One of the forms that his loveliness takes is his willingness to chauffeur me ( I don't drive) around to places he has no possible interest in going to himself. Like yesterday.... for me, an independent bookshop, hosting an afternoon tea on behalf of Persephone books, sounds pretty much a perfect afternoon. For the Lovely Husband... not so much. But as it was in a rural location, well over an hour's drive away the only way I was going was if he was taking me. Which he did, generously and uncomplainingly. And was it worth it? Totally. The bookshop was wonderful, the best of its kind, the tea was served in vintage cups from a teapot covered in a Persephone-grey cosy and there was the best news from Nicola Beauman, who was there from Persephone (there ARE more Dorothy Whipples still to be re-published!).
If I was a Lovely Wife, next weekend we'd be going to a football match, followed by many hours in the pub. But I'm not, so we're going to the Hay Festival instead.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

More makes...

I blogged recently about my adorable youngest niece. Today I want to share something I've made for my eldest niece. She is one of the most extraordinary people I know and I love and admire her beyond words. She recently had her first baby (making me... gulp... Great Aunty Jo) who is an utterly peaceable, contented and happy baby. For her I made this little granny square blanket. It really is small. Just big enough to tuck around those chubby little thighs while she's in her car seat.

Gosh, it really needs blocking, doesn't it?
And for my beloved Mum's birthday, a rather "rustic" (i.e. squashed!) looking pavlova. I stuck some sparklers and a candle in the top and it seemed to go down well.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Reading List - April 2013

"The Joy of Less" by Francine Jay.
"Seating Arrangements" by Maggie Shipstead.
"The Home Handbook" by Rachel Simhon.
"The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year" by Sue Townsend.
"Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn.

My two "guilty pleasures" feature on this month's list. Don't tell anyone - it's embarrassing to admit, but I love a good housekeeping manual as well as a decently written thriller (of which "Gone Girl" is a brilliant example).

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Three beautiful things, from a "nothing happening Sunday"...

1. The amount of dust picked up in the bedrooms by our swanky new vacuum cleaner is horrifying, yet deeply satisfying.
2. The last mouthful of Sunday lunch - a sweet and sticky roast parsnip, crisp Yorkshire pudding and tender, deeply savoury roast beef - when you've left the best bits till last.
3. The smell of a new paperback.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Saturday morning

I love Saturday mornings. I love to get up early (I'm a lark, in that sense) and have an hour or two while the rest of the house remains sleeping and silent. By the time my two owls are stirring I am ready to don my floral-sprigged apron, roll my sleeves up and get to work because Saturday mornings are the time I clean my house. A couple of hours hard graft and  I can put down the feather duster, pack away the Hoover and start to potter. I walk down to the bakery for the weekend's loaf and croissants. I might pick up a bunch of flowers. And Saturday morning is my baking time, for it's lovely to start the weekend knowing there's something in The Tin. This week it was chocolate chip cookies, using Nigella's recipe from "Feast". The best Saturday mornings of all? They are the ones when Spring has finally arrived and you can fling open the windows and the back door and reward yourself with a frothy coffee, a still-warm cookie and a sit in the sunshine.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Four Happy Things

I recently took part in my first ever blog swap. Hosted by Lisa at Bobo Bun, it had a lovely premise- swap four happy-making things, one from childhood, one which is homemade, one which is vintage and one in a favourite colour. I was lucky enough to be partnered with Nikki, of Tales from Swallow Barn. She was a fantastic swap partner, proving to be thoughtful, as she trawled my blog for ideas for things that would make me happy; generous, as she sent a wonderful boxful of goodies and patient, as I was a whole month later than our agreed on swap date! (Sorry again, Nikki!) She's also a better photographer than me  - hence my "borrowing" these photos from her blog! (Thanks again, Nikki!)
First, what I sent her...

Something homemade - sloe gin; something from childhood - gobstoppers and jazzies in a rustly paper bag; something vintage - an embroidered tea tray cloth and something in a favourite colour - a pretty sky-blue teacup and side plate.
And here is what I was lucky enough to receive...

Something homemade - that stripy box holds a whole heap of lavender bath goodies (two each of lavender soaps, candles, bath melts and bath bombs AND a crocheted lavender heart!); something vintage - sweet little tray; something in a favourite colour - this BEAUTIFUL version of my favourite Barbara Pym novel and something from childhood - Bunty! This made me hoot in delight when I opened it. Bunty was my favourite comic as a childhood, once I'd grown out of "Twinkle" that is, and my favourite story coincidentally, is also the one Nikki remembers most fondly.

All of these goodies were sent in a brown paper package, tied up with string... (I'll pause here to let your mind hum along to Julie Andrews....).
The swap lived up to it's name, making me very happy and I feel lucky to have had such a lovely partner. Now, I'm off for one of those lavender baths!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Sweetie cupcakes for a sweet niece

My baby niece is turning 3. Unbelievable how quickly time flies! Like all my nieces and nephews she is growing into a delightful little person - she is funny, smart and beautiful. She is also, quite simply, the cutest kid to have ever lived. She's sit-on-your-hands- cute.... you know, the sort of cute where you have to sit on your hands to stop yourself from squeezing and squishing her.
One of the best things about being an Aunty is that you get to indulge your nieces and nephews in ways which you'd balk at with your own children. Hence, for Baby Niece's birthday party... sweetie cupcakes!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Reading List - March 2013

"Raising Girls" by Steve Biddulph.
"The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" by Aimee Bender.
"Weekend Wodehouse" by P.G. Wodehouse.
"Winter Ghosts" by Kate Mosse.
"Simple Living" by Lorilee Lippincott.
"Miss Buncle's Book" by D. E. Stevenson.

"Miss Buncle's Book" was possibly my favourite read of the month. It was a delightfully cosy book, perfect for a long Bank Holiday weekend. The Wodehouse was wonderful too, of course, even if I did end up peppering my conversations with "What, ho!"s whilst reading it. These monthly book lists don't take into account the myriad magazines, newspapers and online articles I read, nor the books I read to the Beautiful Girl (currently "A Bear Called Paddington" by Michael Bond) or the books I read to my children at school (currently "The Twits" by Roald Dahl). I should, perhaps, start including the children's books I read as children's literature is a real passion of mine. In fact, at the beginning of the week we (Lovely Husband, Beautiful Girl, The Sousin and I) made a pilgrimage to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden. Athough only small it was packed with things to see and do. In particular I loved the replica of his little writing hut, his "nest" as he described it, with its comfy writing chair and desk, thermos of coffee and supply of chocolate. The girls loved all the activities in the Story Centre. And we all loved the chocolate cake (a la Bruce Bogtrotter) in the cafe!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Reading List - February 2013

"Dotter of my Father's Eye" by Mary & Bryan Talbot.
"This is a Love Story" by Jessica Thompson (bought solely on the basis of it's beautiful cover. Sadly, it proves the adage to be true).
"Home Comforts" by Cheryl Mendelson (my pick, for this month).
"February" by Lisa Moore.
"Fresh Apples" by Rachel Trezise.

Thought I'd read more this month but I can't for the life of me, remember what!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Home Comforts

For someone who loves domesticity as much as I do, I am, I'll shamefacedly admit, a pretty shoddy housekeeper. I'd like to claim, in my defence that I am both a conscientious mother and teacher and between them these leave me little time to clean the oven or wash down the skirting boards. Honesty compels me to confess though, that I always seem to find time to arrange flowers in a pretty jug, bake shortbread or reorganise my vintage teacup collection. It's a question of priorities I suppose and I've always chosen to put the fripperies that I enjoy before the hard graft. Things are starting to change though and it's in large part to this lovely book. Although it is ridiculous in places (do I really need dozens of pages of closely typed text on stain removing or slightly bossy instructions on how best to remove books from a shelf?) it is also an enjoyable, cosy read. Women of my generation - the horribly named "Thatcher's kids" - were brought up to expect much of ourselves in terms of career and life outside the home and therefore running an well-ordered, clean and comfortable home was not valued or considered important. Hence, I have got to my mid-thirties and am only just getting into a proper housekeeping routine.Of course, the seasonal urge to sort, scrub and clean brought about by the signs of Spring helps too. Plus I've developed a little method of doing a horrid job - scrubbing out that manky under-the-kitchen-sink-cupboard - followed by a lovely one - lining drawers with scented liners or organising the photographs into albums - which is working for me. My home is still FAR from perfect but I'm getting there. Still not entirely sure my mother would agree...

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Reading List - January 2013

I'm always fascinated by other people's reading habits. When I visit friends' houses I love little more than nosing around their bookshelves - usually, it has to be said, with a greedy eye on what I might borrow. So I thought it might be fun to keep a record of my own reading habits this year, month by month. I present to you, the inaugural list...

"Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm" by Stella Gibbons.
"Letter from Point Clear" by Dennis McFarland.
"Kitchen Diaries Vol.2" by Nigel Slater (yes, I really did read this like a novel).
"Pure" by Andrew Miller.
"The Betrayal" by Helen Dunmore (my absolute favourite this month - loved it almost as much as it's prequel, "The Siege").
"The Provincial Lady in America" by E.M.Delafield (wonderful, of course).
"Saints at the River" by Ron Rash.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Three beautiful things....

.... from a quiet Sunday in January.
1. A long, lazy start to the day - a pot of tea, Bon Iver on the stereo and the weekend supplements from yesterday's "Guardian".
2. The Lovely Husband makes his famous Shin of Beef stew. It simmers away for hours, filling the house with delicious smells. By the time I finally get to eat it the anticipation makes it extra yummy.
3. I am loving this month's Book Group book, "Pure" by Andrew Miller.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Welcome 2013

The Lovely Husband and I made a decision to celebrate the New Year in a different way this year. We were tucked up in bed by 10:30pm and asleep shortly after. Woken by the fireworks at midnight, we exchanged a sleepy "Happy New Year" kiss then nodded straight back off again. But on New Years Day the three of us were up with the lark and went for a walk, loaded with blankets and thermos flasks, to a wood, not far from us. We climbed to the top of the hill and hunkered down to watch the sunrise on 2013. There was not a soul around (unsurprisingly) and it was so quiet we could hear the beating of the birds' wings which were flying above us. It was calm, peaceful, beautiful. 
When the sun was fully up and the cold getting the better of us we came home and cooked a big brunch for friends. A long, lazy day followed, full of conversation, laughter, jigsaws, books, naps and crochet. If the rest of 2013 continues the way it started we are in for a very, very happy new year.