Friday 26 October 2007


This is not good news for my tight purse strings. Caroline Zoob has only gone and relocated her entire operation to Stoke-on-Trent! Its just down the road from the Moorlands and is where I went to school. The Emma Bridgewater factory shop is already there and I assume CZ is investing in the wonderful, traditional skills of the Potteries which is great news seeing as how the rest of the industry is practically on its knees. All my grandparents worked on the potbanks, my dad's dad was a teapot maker and his wife (my grandma) stuck the handles on. The iconic bottle ovens have all but gone but many of the skills remain. The sad fact is that its so hard for the likes of Doulton, Spode and Wedgewood to compete with cheaper foreign imports and of course how easy it is to pick up some pottery for your kitchen at the supermarket. So when you do buy a special piece its great to know that its supporting a traditional local industry and I'm so pleased CZ and EB are producing their wares in Stoke. Bad news is the factory shops have some great bargains and I just can't resist!

Smoke-on-Trent in my grandparents day.

"It's a fine day if you can see t'other side of the road."

Sunday 21 October 2007

Busy in the sunshine

Two fab weekends in a row, I can hardly believe it. And making it all so much better is that we have Woody at home to enjoy every minute with now, hurrah! Although it was so sad that his Sunday paper closed (and it really was a great read) things really do look, well at least they seem to be, sorting themsleves out. W is now writing an in-depth sports interview each week with some high-profile, regional sporting figures who are all very impressed with what he's written and one, an England cricketer nontheless, has posted his interview on his website. I'm so proud of him. Brilliantly this feature pays exactly what his late-night Saturday work used to but he can do it in much more sociable hours and we get him back for the weekend.

So, we're really making the most of this brilliant weather and spent most of this one outside. On Saturday we drove up to Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, somewhere I've always faniced having a look at. It's a lovely town with tons on independent shops (not even a Boots or WHSmith's in sight) and has a lovely bohemian, arty feel. We had a lovely time in the playground and watching the canal boats but didn't hang around for too long as mooching around gorgeous interiors shops isn't quite the boys idea of a grand day out but I did find thirty seconds to bag a treasure I've been hankering after for ages in a charity shop.

Isn't it lovely and will make the perfect home for the Christmas cake I've got plans to decorate. I admit defeat, I'm not even going to tackle making one but hopefully I can manage a bit of icing one from the farm shop. What a cheat!

Its been a brilliant treasure hunting week for me. This lovely tea trio arrived from Niki at Nostalgia at the Stone House, a treat to myself. I can't wait to enjoy a quiet five with tea and cake in the new house, shame my camera really doesn't do it justice though.

More lovely glass; another candlestick for the collection and a beautiful trinket jar, perfect for buttons. Amongst other things I picked up a wonderfully huge, crisp, white damask tablecloth (like one mum has) and a matching napkin for £3.39, a sweet embroidered cloth which I think I'll use on top of a chest of drawers we've been promising ourselves, to display my pretty things on (£1.50) and an embroidered brooch I won on ebay arrived too.

And these lovely hearts arrived from Catherine at Mollycupcakes, lovingly handmade they're going to make very special gift tags for some very special people at Christmas. The lovely snowman peg is already reserved for hanging B's advent calendar and the sweet little robin heart will be on my bedroom mirror I think. Lovely!
Today we stayed closer to home and treated oursleves to a fantastic lunch at The Old Smithy, Beeley on the Chatsworth Estate. Fab food and great atmosphere followed by a lovely walk out of the village which had wonderful surprises. First of all we discovered Chester, a charming goat who we fed some of his vegetable treats that he'd managed to drop the wrong side of the gate. Over the stream and back over the bridge we headed along the lane and discovered the most amazing, shed/bothy/hut which looks like it might be a potter's retreat as there was a clay kiln, oven-type thing. There's a verandah, tin chimney, log pile and benches and would make an the perfect bolt hole for a few days peace and quiet. Oh if only...!
There were a few excitable chickens running around too which delighted the boys. Then we came across the biggest pile of logs (well tree trunks really) that would keep your winter fires in for a decade and we wound our way back to the village swings before a peaceful, sleepy drive home.
A peaceful, lazy weekend, just perfect. I'm a very lucky wife and mummy.Love you boys Xxx

Thursday 18 October 2007

When I win the lottery...

... this is the first thing I will buy. How gorgeous - but as we've just had to spend a ridiculous amount on the car (£350 for new tyres and brakes - ouch!) I suppose it will just have to go to the bottom of my list. It's a beautiful thing and would make my constant whingeing about how impossible it is to listen to Radio 5 Live on Medium Wave, disappear overnight - are you listening Woody? Even so, its a whopping amount to spend on a radio (£200) isn't it, however beautiful, even if it is in my most favourite CK pattern but I am a pauper and must accept this.

So I will have to satisfy my cravings with buying other people's Christmas presents from her lovely catalogue and hoping my numbers come up. I'm really trying hard to not spend at the moment but being frugal isn't really in my make -up. I haven't got a lot to spend and I don't really spend much but it would be better if I didn't spend anything at all. I was very good here on Sunday, the Chatsworth House shops. I often lose my head in here when the Christmas stock is in but I bought just one thing this year, a lovely large wire-work heart to slot cards in for display which is just perfect for my collection of vintage christmas cards.

It was a lovely misty autumn day and the trees across the estate look fabulous
in their autumn clothes.

I got a couple of lovely things in the post this week, a pretty embroidered brooch and a vintage candlestick to add to my little collection (pictures over the weekend hopefully). The lovely Jennifer at Buttercup and Roses has started a similar collection which looks just beautiful and is a real inspiration for my teeny version. If only there were flea markets in my neck of the woods! Looking forward to the weekend and fingers crossed we may get a moving date next week -
I'm so bored of waiting!

Sunday 14 October 2007

This Englishwoman's home is her castle

I haven't really blogged about the other side of my life really, the alternative side to my passion for vintage treasures, floral things and cottage gardening - well, here goes.

My heart really lies in the 13th century - honestly it does! As a child my parents took us on lovely holidays to Wales and the West Country and as everyone who grew up here knows, the weather is often pretty rubbish so instead of getting wet and cold on the beach, mum and dad took us to castles and cathedrals and enchanted us with tales of knights and ladies and for me it inspired a live times' fascination with "the olden days".

From stories about the mason who might have built a pillar we were looking at in Exeter cathedral when I was 8, I ended up studying medieval history at university, dabbling in a bit of living history re-enactment to running the 800th anniversary market charter celebrations for Leek earlier this year. The TV programme Robin of Sherwood (and ok i admit the rather lovely Michael Praed and Jason Connery) had a huge influence on me when I was a young teenager and from there I got really interested in 'bad' King John and thesedays I'm gripped by most of the issues during his reign which was only years from 1199 to 1216, which considering there's been eight centuries since then, its a bit odd to know a lot about such a short period of time but anyway, that's me.

For me its an amazing period in our history, full of adventure and daring-do and I think its a shame that so few films or tv programes are made about this time, especially when there seems to be wall-to-wall stuff about the Romans (again!) and the Tudors (oh no, not again!).

Sir Barney guards the keep staircase

As you can imagine, having two small boys I've been just waiting for the day that they get interested in knights and castles so that I can bore them rigid with the intricacies about mail shirts, how castles were built, why when knights fell off their horses they weren't really stuck helpless in the mud and all that caper and - hurrah - Barney has just adopted some of my childrens' castle books and wants to know more. So, this weekend we went to one of my favourite places having promised to take him to a 'proper' castle. (We live close to Peveril Castle in the Peak District which is very dramatic but a bit small for a little boy expecting a whopper.) Richmond in North Yorkshire is wonderful and we've enjoyed a lovely day up there before. I love it not just for the castle but it has a lovely market, gorgeous shops, beautiful river walk and the town is so pretty. I didn't have any joy treasure hunting in the charity shops but got the most lovely Christmas card of Richmond for Woody as he loves it there, but I'll wait to show it on here until Christmas.

View of the semi-circular marketplace from the top of the keep

It was the perfect day, the journey there and back was a breeze and the weather was grey but dry. Barney and I explored the keep and Woody played 'jousting' with the boys on the grass to the sound of much squealing. 'Sir' Barney and 'Sir' Archie are now fully equipped with wooden swords and shields and the castle you'll be pleased to hear is safe from dragons.

I love day trips at this time of year when you can really enjoy the fantastic colours and the atmosphere is magical. Richmond is one of my special places along with Port Isaac and Ludlow and has a very special place in my heart.

Wednesday 10 October 2007

Underneath the spreading chestnut tree

What a wonderful few days we've been having with the weather. Glorious golden sunshine with long shadows and a bit of mist and damp in the air makes such a wonderful atmosphere.

On Sunday we went over to Tatton Park with the idea of watching the red deer rut which you can get quite close to but the lovely weather had tricked them into thinking it's still summer and they were as calm as can be, relaxing in the sunshine. We hired some bikes though, one with a child seat for Archie and the other with a funky carriage for Barney because it was a bit far for him to cycle himself and we had a lovely picnic under the horse chestnut trees. It was great fun whizzing about, mainly because its mostly on the flat and I haven't been on a bike for 18 years! Thankfully its true what they say and you don't forget but a certain part of my anatomy certainly had!

Just before the postal strike hit a few of my latest ebay treasures arrived, yippee! This lovely old eiderdown I think now entitles me to join Jess' Eiderdown Appreciation Society as I've got two now - although trying to wrestle the first one back from Barney is going to be a toughie as he's totally adopted it on chilly evenings - which secretly I love!). The seams are leaking like crazy so it'll probably have to be for display but its so beautiful I don't mind.

Another of my latest obsessions are rosy teacups and this pair only cost £2.50.

Aren't they lovely?

Thanks so much for all the lovely comments I've been receiving. I really do appreciate them and I'm sorry I can't really keep up with replying. Its fantastic to have made so many lovely blogging friends. Talking of friends, I just want to send all our love from our little family to our dearest, lovely friends J & R who' s darling little girl really isn't too well at the moment and is having a big operation on Monday. We're thinking of you all so much. Cuddles and kisses to the bravest, most beautiful girl and hoping to see you all very, very soon. Xxx

Wednesday 3 October 2007

Just seen

Ever have those days when your eyes seem to spot things that mostly they miss? Maybe its the change in the light but everything seems to look so lovely at the moment and I hope these photos show what I mean. Well apart from these as I saw them in a charity shop but all in a jumble of glass that perhaps I usually wouldn't peer too closely at but for once I did.
And I'm so glad I did.
The pretty candlestick was 85p and stopped me buying a pair exactly the same on ebay for £5 when I only need one. I have a plan for a small collection of vintage, glass candlesticks with cream, maybe red, candles on the mantlepiece (please let it be the one in the new house!) all lit up for Christmas. I've got a cut glass one, this one, just bought a sweet one from ebay and have some plain and cut nightlight holders too. Well that's the plan at least!

I've developed a new passion for decanting pretty much everything in my food cupboard into glass jars (you name it, lentils, three types of rice, raisins, sultanas, pasta) and this one (70p) is very small so I think I might pop some smarties in for the boys for treats or maybe chocolate buttons perhaps. And my favourite is the lovely little flour shaker or duster (80p), not so sure what you call it. It looks quite old and is marked with USA on the bottom so I'm wondering if it came from over the Pond.

Perfect for baking so I might brave it and get some mince pies made up for the freezer like it recommends in one of my magazines. Not that I'm usually this organised but we will be having the family over this year but they'll have to camp out in my sister's freezer because ours is wee! (The mince pies that is - not the family?!)

So carrying on the 'just-seen' theme, these pictures are from our visit to Hartington on Saturday, a sweet village on the Staffs/Derbyshire border. It can get a bit busy, lots of coach trippers and the antiques shop is hugely expensive but I think its quite charming and is great for a cheap look around, perfect start for some gorgeous walks and its still a real, living, working village. I've been going there for years and it'll be on my new route to work (if we ever move - still no date). I love old village shops, this one is probably the furthest place out in the sticks that sells the paper Woody works for. You can buy everything in there from The Guardian to a sausage roll and pretty much everything in-between.

And this is a lovely front garden in Hartington that I just had to go back and take a picture of. I've strolled past lots of times but it looked so perfect for an autumn day.

Off to bed now because I'm working late at one of our work fundraising events tomorrow - "An Evening of Autumn Cookery with the Aga Shop in Sheffield". Now that's my kind of event!