Monday 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas 2012

I want to wish you all a Happy Christmas and to say thank you so much for all your support this year.

Thank you to everyone who reads, those who follow and most of all to those of you that take the time to comment either on the blog or privately. It is very kind of you and so much appreciated. 

Whatever you are doing, I hope you have some good times over the 'holiday' period, either with family, friends or just having some you time, and that you end up refreshed and ready for a new year. x

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Old school drinks for Christmas

During my childhood, at family parties there was a ritual, a real tradition. Granddad would be the barman.

"What would you like Lily?"" I'd like a snowball please George." That's the way it always went.

Edie would express interest in a snowball, as would Maisie and Dolly. Marie and Ann could usually be persuaded too.

The elderly Advocaat, the Miss Haversham of the drinks cabinet, would be found, dusted down and then shaken up to see if the separated layers of liquid would amalgamate into one custard-coloured mass. There would be some discussion and scrutiny to determine whether it was old enough to be life-threatening. The whole process could take a while. Then, only then, would start the search for some equally antique lemonade.

My sisters and I would say, can we have a snowball? Pleeeeeease? The answer was always no. Not until you are older.
So, last night on the TV Nigella helped herself to a lovely snowball. She enjoyed it in only the way Nigella can. I told the story above. Then tonight, the man of the house came home with all the makings! I wonder if he thinks I'm going to go all sexy domestic goddess on him. Maybe if I drink enough of them ;)

I can reveal it's like cream soda with ice-cream in. All topped off with a maraschino cherry. Cheers!

On the home front

I've been getting the house sorted over the last couple of days as once I've done the trip south and the trip north, we have guests.

It's been like an archeological dig getting the spare room ready, so much stuff to shift. But progress has been made!

Picture 1: Roast chestnuts, my favourite food :) Deer vase: ebay, poinsettia wreath: charity shop (25p)
Picture 2: Alpine oil painting: car boot £1.50, cushion: fine little day, folksy curtains: ebay
Picture 3: spare bedroom, chair: car boot £8, plaster lamp base: ebay, lamp shade: salvation army £2, cheesecake pic of Sophia Loren: a present
Picture 4: Balalaika lady cushion: freckleface, crinoline lady cushion made from an old tea cosy: jumble sale, embroidered dutch people picture: present from my sis, plaster heads: inherited from my grandmother
Picture 5: foil garlands: inherited
Picture 6: tree and me, embroidered blouse: car boot 50p

Here's a good antidote to Xmas stress :)

Sunday 16 December 2012

Christmas decorations

Everybody has a favourite christmas decoration from when they were little, don't they? Mine was this old cat. She hung around an old glass bauble which got smashed a couple of years ago. She has also lost an eye at some point. I've done an emergency operation with some bostik.

My friend J has an enviable collection of old baubles. He found these at a car boot a few months ago. "I bought just the one with two eyes but ended up feeling so guilty at leaving the one eyed one, that I went back so they could be reunited."

If he donated them to me, the one-eyed deer would fit in rather well with my partially sighted cat. Just a thought, J.
 J:"The fairy has an improvised fuse wire wand and her wings and outfit are made from the net bag from some garlic." 
I love this nativity scene, especially set against that oil painting.

This little owl perched on his twig is adorable. I love birds on the tree.

J: "I'm not against themed decorating with careful colour schemes, ideally I'd like to go to the trouble of doing both. If I had to choose though, it'd always be what some might call an eclectic mix of old tat."

Me too.

Do you have a favourite decoration either now or from your childhood? And what is your favourite, carefully coordinated or mix of old tat?

Monday 10 December 2012

Collections: Dutch clogs

Sometimes I don't realise how many of something I have until I put them all together and then I think 'Oh! that's a collection.'

Some things tend to be distributed around the house and then other things I put all together. But I find it hard sometimes to think of the best way to display a collection. I have laid these clogs out together for the first time today and quite like them all in a line. What do you think? How do you display your collections? Any imaginative suggestions?
In other news, I have been baking. Mince pies. They look rustic, but actually they are as light as air courtesy of this dead easy recipe. I know because I've already scoffed one.

According to the lady from whom I bought this carved platter (car boot £2), her father brought it back from Hungary many years ago. I've got a bit of a collection of them too...

Sunday 9 December 2012

A bit of this and a bit of that

We went here the other day and bumped into this fellow who is an old family friend of the man of the house. He chatted to us for a while telling us all about his life as a blacksmith. It turns out you get to travel all over the world in this line of work. I love the fact that there are people keeping the old crafts and skills alive.
We had a freezing walk along the beach at Redcar, which is where they filmed the Dunkirk scenes for the film Atonement. The winter sun was low in the sky and the wind was fierce. The dog loved it.
We went by his Mam's house where I photographed some of her treasures in situ before they go off to new homes.
There were lots of family get-togethers which went on late into the night. The last session involved an impromptu singalong. The only rule was that each song had to be connected to the last either by a word in the title or the band name. An undeniable highlight was his sister-in-law's rendition of Paradise by the Dashboard light. I WANNA KNOW RIGHT NOW! whilst prodding her husband wherever she could find a soft spot. Punch and Judy meets American rock. Definitive.

So now we are back, slightly shattered. The man of the house got the tree down from the loft this afternoon and this has all started. 

I tried a CD I found at my Mum's; Rosemary Clooney does Christmas songs. 

Dodge City. There's no room at the Inn for that one. Go straight to the Charity Shop, do not pass Go.

Monday 3 December 2012

Two places beginning with M

We were due to be in Marrakech this week, but circumstances dictate that we go to Middlesbrough instead.

Malesh (never mind).

I've been practising my arabic. 'Ya habibi!' (You are lovely). 'Wahid kobbaya fi moya min fadlik' (a glass of water please) and my favourite 'Inti humara' (you are a donkey). Although I wouldn't dream of using that last one. Unless of course I found myself confronted by a confused donkey. In which case I would tell him he was lovely and possibly even ask for a glass of water on his behalf.

This is what I was looking forward to. Adventure, warmth and colour. The souks, the food, the Atlas mountains, Yves Saint Laurent's house....oh the list goes on. Being a Sagittarius fire horse, I love to travel and to see how other people live. Hopefully we will get to go another time. Inshallah. I keep using that one.

I also like it when people tell me about their travel adventures. If I don't know where they are going I get the atlas out and look it up. Secret pleasure. The checkout man in the supermarket has just been to Pakistan for three weeks and my friend A is off to Berlin for four days. How about you? Off anywhere nice?

Picture 1
Picture 2
Picture 3 Debi Treloar
Picture 4 Henry Bourne for Elle Decor

Sunday 2 December 2012

Recipe No 2: Lentil loaf

I was just sitting in bed minding my own beeswax (not strictly true, I was minding other people's, nose deep in blogland), when the man of the house delivered breakfast in bed.

Nice start to a Sunday. Got me thinking about food. We are going to have a roast today, so I thought I would share my recipe for an easy, tasty lentil loaf.

You will need:

Bouillon or a vegetable stock cube
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
red split lentils
1 onion
1 clove garlic
mushrooms (optional)
courgette (optional)
red, orange or yellow pepper (optional) (I just use whatever we have in the fridge)
Sunflower oil
mature cheddar cheese
1 egg

1 Dissolve a teaspoon of bouillon or a vegetable stock cube in some boiling water. Add to a pan and pour in some red lentils. You decide on the quantity of lentils you want depending on how big you want your loaf to be. Put on to boil for about 15 minutes until they are soft. Throw in a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs for even more flavour.
2 Dice your onion and chop all the other vegetables into a small cubes. Fry in a pan until soft, probably about 10 minutes. I tend to put the garlic in for the last couple of minutes as I don't want it to burn.
3 Drain any water that remains from the lentils using a sieve. They don't have to be dry as a bone. It should end up as a moist mushy mass when you put it back in the pan.

4 Add the fried vegetables to the lentils. Stir in some grated cheese. I put a small handful in, the stronger the cheese the less you need, that's why mature is good.
5 Take the mixture off the heat and add the egg (it needs to cool a bit or you will get scrambled egg). Mix in thoroughly and then pour the mixture into a sponge tin. I use one of those ones with the separate sides and bottom so you can remove the loaf from the tray easily. A pyrex would cook it equally as well or a loaf tin, but it makes it more difficult to serve. I don't grease the sides.
6 Cook in an oven at 200F (fan or electric) or Gas mark 5 for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

It is nice when first cooked, but it really improves with age as the flavours come out. Eat with salad the next day or use it like pate on sandwiches or toast.

Bon appetit!

p.s. I got distracted by real life and didn't publish, so we've had it. I'm now sporting a right good belly.

Saturday 1 December 2012

In which I dressed up

Yesterday I spent a bit of time lusting after things in this most wonderful etsy shop.

So last night when I was getting ready to go out I decided that that was the look I was going to go for.
White dress, 50p car boot, blue top £3 charity shop, vintage velvet rose corsage, I've forgotten.

I came downstairs and the man of the house started grinning.

Him: What are you going for, a folksy peasanty look?

Me: I'm channelling Frida Kahlo.

Him: Oh yeah. Well in that case you need a tash. Do you want me to draw one on?

My friend S came to pick me up.

Her: Ooh you've made an effort.

Me: Yes, I've dressed up.

Her: (in fleece and tracky bottoms) Me too. I've come as Waynetta Slob.

Later at our friend B's house, our other friend L was suffering because of her allergy to the dog and cat, so she put her scarf across her face. As her breathing got more laboured and wheezy, S turned to me and said:

She's come as Darth Vader.

That's what I call a successful evening of dressing up.

Friday 30 November 2012

Another year older

Forty six. It's not so bad if you say it quickly and just keep walking. Or wash it down with a glass of wine.

It was a bad day, part of a bad week which has included food poisoning, a journey through floods, getting a house located 200 miles away ready for tenants to move in today, but by far the worst of all, on my birthday, the loss of a wonderful lady to cancer.

People have been so kind. I received lots of lovely birthday messages and last night I received a bouquet of beautiful flowers from the people most directly affected by the bereavement. That set me off again.

But I don't want this to be a really miserable post, so here is a video currently doing the rounds on facebook. This is a message of hope and inspiration and you cannot help but be moved by the beatific smile on the man's face towards the end of this film. It's as though the weight of the world has been taken off his shoulders.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Works of Art: Baba Yaga

This is the actual illustration I was trying to place when I was doing this post. I adore these book illustrations by Nathalie Partain from 1932.

Here is a more modern variation on the theme illustrated by Jessica Souhami. Love this one too.

Whilst reading her biography I noticed that her parents are descended from Russian Jews and here she is illustrating a Russian classic. It really interests me to see how we are shaped by elements from our own past and that of our forebears and how we sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously find ourselves going down a similar path.

My interior design taste most closely reflects that of my paternal grandmother. What about you? Any inherited traits or tastes? I'd love to hear your stories.

Friday 23 November 2012

Axminster; blue, green and red

Some photos I took a while ago on a trip to Axminster. Not sure if the parish council will want to use them as tourism publicity shots, but there you go.

The ancient Vauxhall Viva was parked in front of us. I would have loved to have seen what the driver looked like. I always like to check out people driving interesting vehicles, to see if they match, like owners and their dogs. It pleases me inordinately if they do.

I like the font with its proper joined up handwriting. I can't help thinking of Viva Las Vegas. Which do you prefer the Elvis version or the ZZ Top?

Thursday 22 November 2012

Hell or high water

Come hell or high water, I have to get to Somerset this weekend. But it turns out that there IS high water, and that, combined with gale force winds is making it all a bit hellish.

So, today's drive has been postponed and I am hoping against hope that I can get down there tomorrow, and most importantly, bail out again on Sunday.

Luck be a lady. Fingers crossed. Inshallah.

In the meantime, here is the most glorious giveaway.  This place is Jean de Florette meets Chocolat meets my dreams of rural French living. Je veux... Si tu veux aussi, go to the link and leave a comment.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Song for the day: Cilla Black

It's all very retrospective and nostalgic in our house at the moment. I've sorted through the old tapes, and am just working my way through the records. So whilst I am thinking about music, here's a song from my childhood.

My dad used to make up compilation tapes for us and this (below) was a great favourite. 

I remember singing it to my class at school, no accompaniment. Since I can't sing in tune and couldn't remember all the words when confronted by a sea of small bemused faces, it was a little bit excruciating. I just kept going round and round while my classmates put their heads down and their shoulders started to shake. God knows how many times I sang that chorus. The teacher had to stop me in the end. That single act should be the dictionary definition of 'merciful'.

It's been 36 years since that notable day. I am told that time heals, so no doubt the chagrin will fade eventually.


Monday 19 November 2012

It's not my fault

Really. This is the house I went home to after my first few days in the world and this is how they dressed me.

So, you see, it's no surprise I turned out the way I did, with cuckoo clocks and cow bells and edelweiss and pictures of chalets everywhere.

Here's my latest dirndl, I got it in a charity shop in Bristol earlier on this year. The t-shirt was from a car boot, 50p, the vintage edelweiss bracelet came from ebay and the clogs were bought in Sweden on my holibobs earlier on this year. My first ever outfit post. I'm not a natural in front of the camera, but I'm learning to be brave as I get older.

Do any of the rest of you out there have any shots of you in a dirndl, either now or then? I'd love to see them, maybe start a gallery.

Saturday 17 November 2012

My doll's house

The capodimonte flowers look OK don't they? It's a bit minimal, just sits on a shelf most of the time, but look, there's a teeny tiny surprise inside...
...the smallest cuckoo clock you ever did see! :)