Tuesday 30 December 2008

With thanks

Oh I've got so many to make that this post may end up sounding rather like an Oscar's speech. But it's true, I'm a very lucky girl who has an awful lot to be thankful for. I shan't get too sentimental or wallowy though, but instead say a few thanks for the efforts of other people for making my Christmas really special.

1. To our little town for turning on the old-fashioned Christmas magic.
(Hopeless photo, so cold my hands were shaking!)
A wonderful tree, crib scene in the market square, living nativity service (complete with camels!), carols with the Salvation Army band on Christmas Eve and for bringing back the traditional competition of dressing the shop windows for all they're worth. More thank yous then for some real beauties that made our Christmas to; the ironmongers,
the gift shops, the retro shop, and the toy shop (oops a bit misty but still very magical!)
2.To Sairer for a lovely, vintage, giveaway surprise on Christmas Day.

3. To the BBC for The Christmas Good Life, The 39 Steps and Starter for 10; three things I've for once had the time to sit and watch and really enjoyed.
4. To everyone who came to the carol service and clapped even when we wobbled a bit!
5. To our lovely, lovely friends who can't possibly understand how thrilled I am with their gift of this gorgeous radio. I've had to tie my fingers in knots to stop myself from buying one and they didn't even know!
6. To the RSPB for looking after the wonderful little wood, up a twisty lane near our home, with hidden paths, fallen logs for clambering on, a shallow stream for splashing and building dams in, for bird boxes for the spring birds to come, but mostly for the peace and quiet and much needed fresh air after all those days inside.
7. And to all the lovely people who blog and are kind enough to leave me a comment. I appreciate every single one and wish I had more time to reply and visit more. Thank you so very, very much, really hope to get round and visit more next year.

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas, ours was quiet and noisy, calm and chaotic but most of all joyful and lots of fun. I'm looking forward to the year ahead with lots of plans for the garden to mull over while the weather is still so cold. Have a smashing New Year's Eve, see you in 2009!

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Crikey it's Christmas

As ever it's turned up like a bolt out of the blue in the middle of December as if I wasn't expecting it. Now you would think that being so obsessed with the festive season as I am, that I'd be a bit more organised but here we are again, a week away with lists and lists of things still to do. Preparations are at least under way though, decorations are almost finished, (just a few more fairy lights to pop up because you really can't ever have enough in my opinion), the veg order is in and our wonderfully smelling tree is happily sheeding in the corner.

I tend to change things around every year and these bargain baubles I found in a charity shop are cheering the dresser up. My favourite decorations though are the paper chains we enjoyed making at the weekend. Every so easy, only £1.80 and they bring back endless memories of the last week of term at primary school, party games and being able to take your own toy in on the final day.

My two finish tomorrow and I'm off to a proper dinner and dance with colleagues on Friday night. On Saturday I'll get a few hours at the Farmer's Market in town to stock up and then drinks in a very cosy village pub with a lovely friend in the evening.

Tomorrow is the final choir practice before the carol service on Sunday which I've been looking forward to since I joined in the summer and we're singing some wonderful stuff. Monday will be my last day in the office and if I can fight my way through the wrapping paper we should just make it to the big day on time.

Not sure if I'll manage to get back on line before the festive season really begins as Woody is chained to the laptop trying to get all his work done poor thing. So, this is the best time to wish everyone in the blogging world a very, very merry Christmas full of joy and peace and all best wishes for the year ahead. Have lots of fun!
P.S. This is the most adorable e-card I've ever seen, sent by my parents. Click here if you'd like to take a look.

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Winter wonderland

Oh what a joy - seasonal weather arriving in the right season for once! Snow in April makes me miserable and even if it comes in January I still feel cheated that the Christmas card images have arrived after the event.
So you can imagine just how giddy I was this morning when my littlest man came into our room, with eyes as big as saucers, to tell us how white everything looked outside his window. I'm such an enormously, over-excited child when the merest prospect of snow is mentioned.
I could sit and watch the lacy curtains drift across the rolling hills outside my window all day long. Sadly today I watched most of it stuck in the bloomin' car! Around here it takes just a sprinkling to reduce the main routes into the city to gridlock.
For almost two hours we tried and tried to get in, only to be faced with long, long queues (about 7 miles!) of stationary traffic. In the end we gave up and turned tail, feeling bad and very frustrated about having to cancel meetings and not turning up for work when the roads now are clear and the fields just dusted with snow.
But it has been beautiful to look at as I've worked at home in my bedroom that looks out across the deeply wooded valley. The boys had a walk home from school with their daddy of the stuff childhood memories are made of; snowball fights, slippy slidy skids and cold pink cheeks and fingers.

Preparations for the festive season are well underway at No.25. Delicious treats are being stashed away, advent calendars opened and a few vintage, seasonal treasures spirited home from town.
Some vintage glass baubles and a dear Christmas plate were mine for just £2.
And these are for my boys, a little piece of Potteries heritage from the soon to be bankrupt Spode factory.
I remember a plate like this my mum had when I was little with its charming design. All my grandparents worked on the pot banks, like most people in this area, but today very few firms are left, with most production outsourced to the Far East and those left are going bump.
On the upside Emma Bridgewater and Caroline Zoob have all their ceramics produced here and are doing a lot to keep the industry and it's specialist skills alive. Woody interviewed Caroline Zoob this week and reports she's a very nice lady and as soon as his article is published I'll pop it on here.

If you're a fan of the white stuff I hope its falling in a very convenient manner and making where you live look gorgeously festive.

Sunday 23 November 2008

Seasonal Pleasures

I've been very good this November. So far my plans for having a "less is more" Christmas are going quite well and early on I've manged to resist my traditional festive splurge on magazines.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not really into self-denial and Woody's eyes have rolled at the regular arrival of another glossy interiors publication, adorned with bedecked trees and sitting rooms, but honestly I've not bought nearly as many this year.
And this is my favourite thing to do with them; tear them up and reform them into my own seasonal version of the perfect magazine spread.
It takes an age but without the ads and the usual articles on festive traditions that appear every year, this way I look and look and look at these beautiful pages for the next 12 months so I really do get more than get my money's worth.
(Btw my awards for the very best this year go to Country Living - definitely back on form - and BBC Homes & Antiques - fabulous vintage-style Christmas tree, paperchains, the lot!)
We've been busy inside over the weekend.
The past few weekends have been full of fireworks, parties, colds, visitors, trips etc and we're all a bit worn out, so this Saturday we purposefully stayed at home with nothing more exciting than plenty of relaxing to do.
Yesterday was filled with games, sticking and glueing, making snowflakes and bit of light dusting (funny how I don't really mind housework when there's no rush before the visitors arrive).
Today was just as restful as we watched the snow turn to sleet and cosyed up indoors with a Sunday roast, a box of paints and Grandma for company. Perfect.

Finally I've found time to snap some of my lovely birthday presents too, these fabulous books (from which I'll probably never cook a thing but will devour them with my eyes) and my precious jug from Ludlow. They're sitting on my bargain cabinet I bought last year and have only just managed to haul in from the garage. Not completely sure what to fill it with but by Christmas I think there'll definitely be some fairy lights, vintage postcards and a few bits of china at least.

Hope you all had as lovely a weekend as I did and especially everyone involved in the Vintage & Handmade Fair - hope it went wonderfully well.x

Monday 10 November 2008


My husband is a true diamond. Just when we were at a low ebb, worn out with the daily grind, laid low with coughs and colds, he pulled the most wonderful and most needed surprise out of the bag for my birthday last week.
A few years ago when it was just us two in the first flush of romance, we spent a weekend in the beautiful and charming Marcher town of Ludlow. It was bliss; beautiful food, charming buildings, a dramatic castle and treasure trove shops to explore. Since that first romantic weekend we've returned a few times on day trips and its one of those very special places that stays in your heart.

Woody is a quiet romantic, not for him regular bunches of flowers, candle-lit dinners or declarations of love. Instead he surprises me every now and again with a really thoughtful gesture or a well considered plan, and trips away to special places are his forte.

For my 30th we went (with baby in tow), for a long weekend in Carcassone in the South of France and stayed in a little town house right beneath the city walls. Our honeymoon was inspired by an idea of his to visit the islands of Britain, so we spent an amazing (if pretty foggy) week on the Shetland Isles.

But you know what it's like with little ones, trips have been a luxury we can't really afford and we've never felt comfortable being away from our little chaps really. Until this weekend. My darling Woody had organised for the adored grandparents to come and stay (just for one night which felt ok), so we tootled down to Shropshire on a dreary November day that showed off the amazing colours of autumn so beautifully.

We stayed in this wonderful pub, where we'd had a delicious meal on our fist visit, and bless him he remembered. In our 24 hours away we spent a pretty good portion of it just sitting chatting, with coffee, newspapers, magazines (Country Living December - bliss!) and more coffee. This was what I enjoyed the very most, getting the chance to laugh and chatter with my smashing chap, my very best friend.
I got to indulge my magpie hunting urges too and visited this lovely place and blew my birthday money in one shot, on a beautiful blue vintage enamel jug and a rosy remnant of Colefax and Fowler fabric which may even have come from the section stocked by Louise Loves ,who's blog and website I love.

It was a short but very, very sweet trip and a birthday I shall remember and treasure for an awfully long time. What a treasure my Woody is. xxx
P.S. I just wanted to say thank you for all the gorgeous comments on my last post about my thrifty kitchen makeover. I feel very flattered and I'm just glad you can't see the close-up finish! It's still a work in progress but hopefully it'll be ready for Christmas.

For those who asked tile paint is pretty good, not as good as new tiles but they were definitely out of my budget so painting them was a good second best. The key is to apply thin layers and I found using a roller much easier than the brush I'd used last time. Make sure it's for gloss paint though or you get hairs and fibres sticking. Most of my tiles were white so repainting them ivory only took a couple of quick coats, but the navy border took a couple more - dries quickly though. Thanks so much!

Thursday 30 October 2008

Kitchen Corner

Slowly, slowly the dreadful kitchen is turning into one of my favourite places to be at home.
The walls have gone from gaudy, canary yellow to soft, sagey green. The cupboards are now cream with wooden handles instead of gold with a typical '80s grey trim. The stalwart of the thrify makeover (yes tile paint!) has turned the yucky navy & white tiles to calming ivory.
The new floor has transformed the room the most, goodbye grim navy lino and hello to a bargain remnant. Not bad for me, half an hour's grappling and Grandma Alice's old butter knife to help slide it under the cupboards!
My thrifty kitchen revamp came in at a bargain £130, with most of the money going on a new sink and the floor. Still a bit more painting and the new work tops to fit (which were going begging at dad's firm!) but it's almost there.
I've used the curtains that hung in the laundry at our old house to line the glass doors, make a curtain to hide the dishwasher and the mess of recylcing and some old bamboo blinds with a vintage trim will be going up at the windows. It'll do us for a few years and I'm really looking forward to rustling up lunch for our friends who are coming to stay this weekend in our cosy new kitchen.
The view from our kitchen window was wonderful this week.
Frost sparkeld across the garden and the view has really opened out across the hills as the leaves fall.
The boys and I enjoyed a half-term pyjama day, far too cold to go out for my two laid up with colds. So we turfed out toy boxes, sorted out jumble and snuggled up on the vintage sofa to watch the snow fall and the garden birds flock back to our bird table.
Just perfect.