Thursday, 29 September 2011

Bit of this, bit of that

As excited as I am to wear my new winter boots, legwarmers and knitted dresses,  I am loving this late September sunshine.  Fully expected to be wearing my denim shorts with tights by now but I've gone back to bare legs for a while! (The razor blade in my bathroom is enjoying a brief revival... tights really are a lazy groomer's best friend.)

I had to see the doctor yesterday morning and spent a few quiet minutes enjoying the view from the surgery.  The surgery is in a pretty part of the village, sits on a little hill and the waiting room has huge picture windows so that you can look right across the fields whilst you wait.  This big imposing house, next to the car park, looked lovely in the sunshine:

Look at the colour of that sky!  

It is quite unlike me to dawdle, in everyday life I mean.  I'm usually rushing from one thing to the next and I don't pay much attention to my surroundings.  It was so refreshing to take my time for a change, I will try to do it more often.

So last weekend was pretty full-on.  We had some utility china (an ebay purchase) to pick up in Somerset which is about three hours away from us.  We booked a lovely pub/B&B for Friday evening and made a night of it.  Best thing we've done in ages.  It was great to have such a spontaneous weekend away and the pub was a real find.

It was called The Three Horseshoes and was in a tiny village (with very narrow winding, spooky, roads) called Batcombe.

The room was nice.  Small, but very comfortable, with lovely views.

But it was really the pub downstairs, and the food, that made this place such a treasure.  We arrived at about 7pm, dumped our bags in the room and bagsied a lovely big scrubbed pine table in the main bar area next to the fire.

We started with a couple of G&Ts then moved onto a bottle of wine and a game of dominoes.

You do have to knock on the table when you can't go don't you?  That's the way we always played it with my granddad anyhow and that's the way I made Andrew play too.  I think he was a bit embarrassed in such a busy pub but you've got to play these games properly or not at all, in my book.

We had a lovely dinner but our eyes kept moving to these beauties on the bar:

Forget smokey bacon crisps and salted peanuts (peeled from those cardboard sheets with topless ladies on), this pub served olives, pistachios and homemade pork pies as nibbles.  Amazing idea.  They looked so appealing and were even served on the most gorgeous small thick rustic wooden boards with a dollop of relish (got to get me some of those wooden serving boards...).  We had planned on making a long night of it but ended up crashing out at 10:30.  Must have been the fire.  Or the wine.
Always take a self-portrait when we do anything fun (well, not quite anything...)

Breakfast the following morning was equally delicious.  Again, a big scrubbed pine table, this time laden with coffee, toast, newspapers and juice.  We had a full English each but there was also a selection of cereal, fresh fruit, yogurt, toast and preserves.  Y-um.  I love having a leisurely breakfast at the table but we never do it, the furthest we get to sitting down for breakfast together is at the kitchen counter or sitting in the conservatory.  Setting the table for brekko is definitely on my 'to do' list when the new dining table arrives.

On Saturday we drove to 'the house of the utility china'.  Oh my.  There was such a lot of it.  The items were listed in bulk by a couple who were moving house.  They had collected loads of the J&G Meakin Glamour Rosa china and just sold the lot off.  I also bought a bulk lot of Meakin Glamour Celeste and some Johnson Bros Greydawn bits.  The lady I bought from was absolutely lovely.  We had so much in common and I could have chatted with her all afternoon.  Whilst Andrew and her husband were loading the car with my new goodies, I spent time looking at the rest of the lady's vintage china collection (she had yet more utility china), the AMAZING sugar flowers that she makes and photos of the cakes she has decorated in her time.  She has also been a member of the WI for a long time and we chatted about that too.  It was fab.

I loved unpacking my china when I got home but as we don't have any sideboards in the dining room right now, I just don't have anywhere to store it all.  I will do a proper post to show my beauties off in all their glory when the dining room is finished but for now I will share the JUNK SHOP that my home has become.  Spot the china piled under furniture and on the floors.

First up, the new dresser in the dining room.  Clearly not styled at all (sorry to disappoint), simply piled with china for storage more than anything:
There are books haphazardly thrown on shelves and we even have things thrown on the window seats too.  We are having the floor redone this weekend and I can't wait.  I know this parquet stuff is very old and expensive but frankly it's knackered and looks awful.

There's more china in the spare room:
...together with the booze from our drinks cabinet and the baking supplies from my baking cupboard.

The windowsill in the spare room is piled with cake stands, lamps and glassware.  It is driving me crackers.  I can't wait for the furniture to arrive but I've been informed we have to wait another month.  Arrggh!!

I will do some proper photos of the china when we get our house sorted for everyone who I share a utility china fetish with.  I  now realise that I have got loads of pink and blue china but very much need to build up my green items.  If you are interested in swapping a Meakin Glamour Jade, Grindley Almond Petal or Johnson Bros Greendawn item for something pink or blue, please get in touch!

So I've had a quiet week.  I needed it.  Read a fab book mentioned here on the Florence and Rose blog (it's a lovely blog, you might want to linger a while).  The book is called The Help and is set in Mississippi in the early 60's.  It is a story about race, class and friendship.  It's definitely a feel-good story and I'd recommend it.  Thrilled to hear that it has been made into a movie; there are some strong characters in the book and I'll enjoy seeing how they have been interpreted.   So now I need something else to read.  Any recommendations?

In between the reading I have been practising some Christmas crochet:

Ha!  Funny little thing isn't it.  I downloaded this stocking pattern from Ravelry.  There are a few tweaks I'll make to the pattern when I make them for realsies (I'll make them in thicker, neutral coloured yarn) but I'm planning on hanging these on my tree if they look any good.  Not bad for a first attempt (and if you'd told me last Christmas I'd be able to even make this, I'd have snorted derisively!).

We're planning a quiet weekend too.  I might nip off to the local car boot sale on Saturday morning but apart from that we're taking it easy.  My stepson, J, is coming to stay this weekend and I think he has school gossip for me - he texted me earlier this afternoon to tell me he doesn't fancy M as much any more (he has liked her for two years now) but he fancies K instead.  Love it when he tells me this stuff!

Still have loads to chat about but I'll be back in a few days.

Hope everyone has a lovely weekend.



PS And thanks, Sam, for the blog award!  Am thrilled. I'll do a proper post for it next time x

Sunday, 25 September 2011

First Anniversary

We got married a year ago today.

This weekend I have been thinking about all the little details of our wedding: 

The night before, staying at the hotel with my sister.  Having beauty treatments in the spa all afternoon together.  Drinking champagne in the lounge and trying to calm my nerves.  Mum and Dad coming to join us later for pudding and more champagne.  Sis snoring all night (ha! she had a cold) with me lying wide awake beside her, willing the morning to arrive.  

Couldn't eat breakfast.  The hair and make-up lady arrived super early.  The morning was quiet.  Unnervingly quiet.  Mobile phone service was low at the hotel so texts from friends and family were not coming through - I worried that everyone had forgotten!  The minutes crawled by.

Then, suddenly, people started to arrive.  Time sped up.  From high in our room overlooking the courtyard I drank champagne and watched, unseen, Andrew and his friends, J, my dad and my brother in law all fussing with buttonholes having their photos taken.  Fixing their cravats.  The only thing that Andrew was in charge of for the day and everyone wore the wrong things.  The best man wore the wrong cravat.  My dad wore mum's corsage instead of his buttonhole.  

The bridesmaids appeared:  my cousins two little girls.  They were so excited to be princesses for the day and couldn't wait to have their photos taken.  I didn't realise that in the adjoining room, whilst I was having my photo taken, panic prevailed:  the littlest bridesmaid's dress was too small and her petticoat hadn't been altered so it was huge.  (The wedding outfitters had advised that alterations for children didn't need to be tried out, there was nothing that could go wrong - pah!).  The next hour was fraught with females getting ready.  Niece screaming and crying (she was a flower girl but so ill with a cold she had to be kept away for most of the day), hair being fixed, champagne being poured, wedding gifts and cards being delivered.  I was starting to feel stressed, I just wanted to go downstairs and marry my man.

Then, things started to quieten down.  The last photos were taken before the ceremony began.  Mum, dad and I started to relax:

And then, quick as flash, I was walking into a room with a string quartet playing and Andrew waiting for me.  He'd been told not to look around at me as I walked in and I had to tap him on the shoulder to say hi!

Our friends and family, the people I like best in the world, were all there looking fabulous.  The music was lovely, the weather stayed fine, the food was lush and we had the most amazing day.  I loved every minute.

 It was truly the happiest day of my life.  

Happy anniversary, Drew.  Bring on the next 30!


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Vintage goodies and planning a road trip

A hard week so far and I'm ready for the weekend.  So let's chat about shopping.

We had a bit of a spending frenzy on Saturday - first of all we went to a vintage fair in Northampton.  I had arranged to meet a seller there to pick up a couple of bits of china and I'm so glad I went, it was lovely!  It was only a small event but every single stall was worth a  look.  Every spare surface in the room had something pretty or interesting plonked on it.  Tea and cake was available, served on mis-matched china, and 40s music played in the background.  Everyone was super friendly, in fact there was a very festive atmosphere, and it was the nicest way to spend a Saturday lunchtime.  The next one is in Olney on 8th October and if you live nearby it's worth making the trip.  I bought a few vintage goodies - a pressed glass jug, an etched glass bon bon dish, two little jugs and a bird cage.

Then we popped across to Olney to check out the Food Fair (love this town, would move there if I didn't like my house so much) and from there to Brackley Antique Cellar.  (Brackley Antique Cellar is another lovely way to spend a couple of hours.  Relatively quiet, loads to look at and a sweet little cafe.)  

By Sunday we were ready to veg out on the sofa.  My MIL invited us over for lunch again (well we invited ourselves really) and we had another lovely big feed up.  Have I told you that my MIL does the most amazing roast parsnips?  I don't like them ordinarily but she does something funky with proper fat and a big glug of maple syrup.  They go all sweet, sticky and crunchy on the outside... delicious.

Anyway.... she gave me some china!  So chuffed.  Having listened to me waffle on about utility china she was reminded some bits that her MIL gave to her years ago and dug it out for me: 

It's so pretty.  There are dinner plates, bowls, side plates, cups and saucers - four of everything.  I let out an embarrassing little squeal when she unwrapped these for me though:

They are cute little spoons (tiny coffee or egg spoons really) with floral ceramic handles.  She'd polished up the silver and they look perfect - even prettier in real life.  She told me that she had a jam spoon and butter knife to match at one point but can't find them... I had to sit on my hands to stop myself rifling through the drawers.  Hope she unearths them some day!

Speaking of china, I had fun on Saturday displaying my (now rather large) collection on the new dresser. 

Until Saturday the china had been displayed randomly, with all four colours mixed up (I do have yellow and green, just not as much).  It took me ages to dust it all and put back in colour order - I can't decide what to do so I'll keep playing until it looks just right.

I have to tell you, I'm very excited.  I've found a huge job lot of vintage china (again pink and blue!) on ebay.  It was a good price but collection only so Andrew and I are making a road trip to somewhere in Somerset on Friday to stay in a B&B and pick up the goodies.  Cannot wait!  Andrew thinks I'm barking - we are talking about A LOT of china here.  It has apparently been sitting in their loft for years unused. What a way to spend your anniversary weekend.  I will have a lot of surplus china so I think I'm going to do a little giveaway to share the love in a couple of weeks time.

Finally, I really must dash but I had to show my latest crochet project.  It's a custard jug cosy.  

Yes, I know it looks like a mug cosy that went wrong.  

I used a pattern but it just wasn't the right shape for any of our mugs.  So I tried to adapt it, frogged it about five times, swore quite a lot and ended up with this.  The cosy turned out the oddest shape and the only item of crockery that it fits in the house is this dinky jug.  I learned loads from attempting it though and won't be defeated - you're all getting mug cosies for Christmas :-)

Have a great week!  



PS Thanks so much for all the lovely comments about our wedding photo.  I love any excuse to get the wedding album out so I promise to share a few next weekend to celebrate our actual anniversary (I'm  milking this anniversary somewhat aren't I...).  We got married at an amazing venue so the photos are lovely.  

PPS Hello to my new followers and I'll see you at yours soon xxx

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Married bliss

Sunday night.  The most relaxing night of the week for us, I love it.  Let me set the scene for you: 

We are in the sitting room.  It's a chilly evening so the curtains are drawn and the woodburner has been lit.  It's a dark little room and the three small table lamps are providing just enough low light to make the room feel cosy.  The fairy lights are twinkling cheerily and the lantern in the fireplace brightens up a dark corner.  I'm sitting right next to the fire in my slippers with the dog snoozing at my feet and a glass of sherry beside me.

Sounds nice doesn't it. 
But it's not quite as civilised as it sounds.  

I do, indeed, have a glass of sherry.  I love a little nip of sherry, especially when it starts to get cold.  Andrew hasn't been keen previously but seems to have developed a taste for it this year.  I'm still sipping my first glass and he has just finished his third.  This is making me inexplicably cross.  I have been watching him out of the corner of my eye and I think he is downing it in one.  Like a shot of tequila.  I am only surprised that he hasn't banged the glass upside-down on the coffee table.  

We are sharing a bowl of crisps.  Well, I say 'sharing' but really it's more of a subtle scrap.  Survival of the fittest, if you will.  He is shovelling them into his mouth by the handful and I, consequently, am chomping each dainty mouthful as quickly as possible so that I can grab another.  The bowl has been refilled once already and I am seriously considering confiscating it whilst I'm blogging.  We will probably have a little bit of a bicker about it in a minute.  I'll complain that he's eating all of the crisps and he will look at me, bewildered.  It won't even occur to him that I'm sitting here struggling to keep up with his mammoth munching session.

It is always the same when we share food.  Andrew loves his food and can put away loads of it.  This is one of the [many] things I love about him, even though it drives me crazy.  Previous boyfriends have been too worried about their physique and subsequently have had smaller hips than me, which is never good for morale.

The TV is on too and the husband is glued to it.  Glued.  His football team played this afternoon and won.  He watched the match; cheered and whooped all the way through it.  He is now watching highlights of the very same match and laughing at the cheesy cartoons of the players.  Cheering at the goals.  Telling me to 'watch this one'.  I don't get it.  He knows what the score was, he knows exactly what happened, so how can he be fascinated by clips of the match?  It baffles me.  And it makes me a teeny bit cross every time he tells me to watch it.  I can't quite muster up the enthusiasm that he has.  I try to whoop too, but I can tell he thinks it's feeble.

I like to observe the way that we live our ordinary life.  The things that drive me crazy also make me smile.  I laugh every day - a lot.  Where I am right now, the life I am living, is everything I ever wanted and more.  I am so thankful for the people in my life and everything I have.  I am a lucky girl. 

It is our very first wedding anniversary next weekend and I've been thinking a lot about the wedding.  Remembering all the good stuff.  Little moments popping into my mind that I never want to forget.  I wish I had been blogging during the run up to my wedding.  I'd love to read back on it.  

The photo below is one of my favourites from the wedding album.  The day was bright and sunny for the most part but there was a spell of cloud and a slight smattering of rain. 

I think that we look like stars in a period drama. I love it.  We don't look like the sort of couple who spend their evenings sitting on the sofa in their slippers silently squabbling about a bowl of cheese and onion crisps, do we.

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Monday, 12 September 2011

Stitching with lurve ♥

I have been annoyingly bright and breezy today.  We had the quietest weekend we've had in a long time and it was just what the doctor ordered (literally:  I'm taking medication at the moment that is making me sick, headachy and simultaneously exhausted and yet unable to sleep).    Friday night was a bottle of wine and pizza in front of a DVD, sprawled out on the sofa.  On Saturday we had to pop out to look at some flooring for the dining room.  On the way back we found a garden centre with a really nice cafe/restaurant so we had a lovely leisurely cream tea (which was A-mazing) before coming home and resuming our seats on the sofa.  I am almost ashamed to admit that I was hardly out of my pyjamas on Sunday and was pretty well glued to the spot all day:

Andrew went off early to play football so I took advantage of having the remote control to myself and watched a couple of episodes of Lilies which I've just bought the boxset of and love.  It's a nice cosy programme, just right for when you feel like indulging yourself.  I lit a fire, made a coffee and snuggled up with my crochet.  I'm still loving my giant granny square blanket - it's very nearly finished so I'm hooking at every spare moment, taking it everywhere with me. I was originally making this for the caravan but as we'll be closing it for the winter soon I thought I may as well keep this one as a prototype (!) and make another for the caravan.  Look how big it's getting! (And look at all those ends to sew in.)

The dog enjoys a bit of telly too.  We don't watch much at all, so when we do she is mesmerised! 

She honestly does not take her eyes off it.  Occasionally she will jump up, put her paws on the TV cabinet and wag her tail (usually when there are dogs or animals on the screen).  She switches position a lot but her eyes are on the screen the whole time.  She even grumbles when bicycles appear (she hates them). 

As well as my crochet I've decided to hone my hand-sewing skills and am dabbling in a little embroidery.  

This is just part of a template from Mollie Makes on a piece of scrap fabric. You can see on the left there I've been practising chain stitch, a lazy daisy and running whipped stitch.  Or is it a whipped running stitch?  That, anyway!

I really enjoy a bit of sewing although I'm rubbish at it.  My great-grandma, Nana Mabel, set me on when I was very small (about 6 or 7 years old).  She used to give me embroidery transfers, skeins of thread and little embroidery hoops together with old pillowcases and handkerchiefs to practise on.  I loved it.  It's trickier than I remember but I will persevere - I'm using this book to learn the stitches:

It's a great book.  It describes how to do all of the main stitches (for right-handed and left-handed folk) and there are some really nice little projects too.  I had the book delivered to the office last week together with a book called Quilt Yourself Gorgeous.  My colleagues all loved it and had a bit of a laugh at me - why do they call the books such sappy names?!  Very embarrassing!  I mean, Quilt Yourself Gorgeous indeed... ha!

So that was my lovely, lazy, weekend.  I was very much in need of a proper quiet one after what was frankly a crap week.  The house is upside down because the husband thought it would be a good idea to sell the existing dining furniture SIX WEEKS before the new stuff arrives.  I know that he is the financially sensible one of the two of us but, honestly, I think he's gone a bit too far this time!  We had two sideboards which were stuffed full of cookbooks, crockery, table linen, booze and paperwork.  With no storage until the new furniture arrives, the spare room now looks like a wine-bar-come-bric-a-brac shop (oooh, that sounds like my kind of establishment... I may be onto something there!..).  The dining room is empty except for the new dresser, the (gorgeous!) fridge and a side table.  The light that usually hangs attractively low over the table is now dangerously low smack bang in the middle of an empty room and I've walked into it more times than I care to admit.  I know the husband has bashed his head on it several times too because I've heard the swearing.

Added to all of that, changes are afoot at work which I'm finding a bit unsettling but exciting at the same time.  It's going to be a busy run-up to Christmas.

There, I've said it:  Christmas.  15 weeks, kids! 



Monday, 5 September 2011

A book, utility china, a blog award and swapsies

We are just back from another trip to Norfolk.  This time it was just a weekend break and we took my stepson and Andrew's Mum.  We were lucky with the weather and spent most of the weekend sitting in the sunshine drinking G&Ts (juice for the stepson) and reading.  (MIL was in charge of pouring the drinks.  Her measures are much larger than mine - I spent both evenings slightly squiffy and zonked out by 10pm).  There was also a lot of basketball, football and volleyball, quite a bit of dog walking, some stone skimming and a smidge of bingo.  We had fun.  I was hoping to visit some pretty local villages but it just wasn't possible what with one thing and another.  Husband has promised we can both nip over for a weekend before the weather really turns.  Yipee!

I've got a few things to waffle on about but I'm in a bit of a hurry to get back to a book I started reading yesterday.  It's by Miss Read and is called 'The School at Thrush Green':

Man, I LOVE these books.  They are all slim little novels and the stories revolve around life in a Cotswold village.  They were written in the 1950s.  The stories are so simple and old-fashioned, nothing much happens, but the imagery is lovely and I adore the words that Miss Read uses.  Here's a snippet:

"The rumbustious January weather continued for the rest of the week, and the inhabitants of Lulling and Thrush Green were as tired of its buffeting as the rest of the Cotswold villages were.  But on Saturday morning the wind had dropped, and a wintry sun occasionally cast a gleam upon a thankful world.  Miss Watson and Miss Fogerty agreed that the weekly wash would benefit from a spell in the fresh air, and Agnes was busy pegging out petticoats, night-gowns and other garments when she was hailed by a well-known voice on the other side of the hedge.  It was her old friend Isobel, wife of Harold Shoosmith, who lived next door."

Ah!  Nice and simple, cosy, reading.  Lovely.

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post about the wonkiness of the house.  I have decided to embrace the wonkiness *punches fist in air* and have set about decorating the dresser.  I won't do a proper 'big reveal' (!) of the dining room until it's properly finished but let me tell you that things are moving along nicely.  I've been hanging a few hearts, for starters...

My china collection continues to grow.  I picked up this little Meakin jug (with the blue tits) last week.  I found it on a vintage china stall.  I love it and find myself liking it even more every time I see it.  There were matching teacups and saucers and a slightly larger jug on the stall too.  So wish I'd bought them.

Oh, and the new fridge has been delivered!  It only arrived on Friday and I've already turned into a fridge Hitler. Every time the husband opens the fridge door I practically pounce on him to make sure that the item he is replacing has been put in exactly the right place with the label facing out.  He must find me trying at the best of times but I think this is going to finish him off if I don't get a grip.


Before I go there are a couple of things I wanted to mention.

Firstly, a huge thank you to a fellow bloddie, Louise, at Tea at Weasel's for giving me a 'Versatile Blogger' award.  I'm thrilled!

Louise is new to blogging but I can already tell that I'm going to enjoy dropping by her blogspot to catch up on her news.

I can't think of any interesting facts about myself so I thought I'd list seven things that I'm loving right now:

1.  Stocking up on Autumn/Winter clobber.  Knitted dresses, slouchy jumpers, knitted harems, leg-warmers and snoods have all been purchased, amongst other things.  Still on the hunt for the perfect pair of winter boots, though.

2.  Reading cookery books and drooling over the hearty stews and soups I'm going to make this year.

3.  Drawing the curtains and lighting the woodburners.

4.  Working on my giant granny square blanket.

5.  Booking a big family summer holiday next year to a house in the French countryside.

6.  Thinking about Christmas cake baking and decorating.

7.  Scouring the charity shops, eBay and vintage fairs for pretty china.

Another thing I'm loving is thinking about what I might make for Lynda's Handmade Christmas Decoration Swap!  

I haven't participated in a swap before so I'm really excited!   If you fancy joining in, pop over to Hookin' with LaaLaa and sign up here.  Go on, it'll be fun.

I think that's it from me.  Stories of two elderly schoolteachers await me.