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Archive for December, 2009

I’m not altogether sure what happened to 2009 – it’s probably buried under nappies and brightly coloured plastic.

I have some plans for 2010 and look forward to being able to write all about them.

(The door, by the way, is one I spotted in Wells, Somerset, on Christmas Eve. I resisted the temptation to peek inside, but couldn’t resist the temptation to photograph it for my collection of door pictures.)

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Well, that was a longer than anticipated posting hiatus – caused by a combination of Christmas (expected) and a family outbreak of norovirus (not expected), and in the ‘Most Worrying Things About Being A Parent’ hit parade, we have a new entry at Number One: ‘Eight Month Old Baby Has Temperature of 107F. At Midnight. On A Bank Holiday’. (He’s fine now, by the way.)

From high temperatures to low temperatures – the snow. We had snow before Christmas and we have snow now. These photos were taken before Christmas and the effect of the morning sun, the cloud and the snow had me dashing outside in my pyjamas to capture it. I absolutely promise that these photos have not been altered at all – I wouldn’t have a clue how, for one thing. It really did look like this, and it was extraordinary.

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My guilty pleasure is … a good Regency romance novel. They are totally addictive, and I now pick them up for a penny plus postage on the Amazon marketplace. This is what the postman brought me today:

My habit started, as so many do, with Georgette Heyer. I scoured the charity shops of Edinburgh for Georgette Heyer novels, which I devoured, and read again and again. And then, I was given a Mary Balogh novel, called ‘Irresistible’. It wasn’t Georgette Heyer, but it was good reading. Although I was a bit taken aback when the hero and heroine went considerably past the chaste kisses allowed to Miss Heyer’s protagonists (and that only after a proposal had been made and accepted, naturally). And these two were without the benefit of wedlock, too. Shocking!

But with that novel came the seeds of my downward spiral into romance addiction. Several years later, when I was leaving London, a friend who was helping to pack my books noticed ‘Irresistible’ and said, ‘Oh, I work for her British publishers!’ and so, when I went on maternity leave, sent me a bundle of Mary Balogh novels. She also included some Stephanie Laurens books – her writing is not fantastic, and the characters get up to all sorts of unlikely things in carriages and conservatories, but they’re good fun, and Powys libraries seem to stock a never ending supply.

Mary and Stephanie led me to Liz Carlyle, purveyor of some seriously brooding heroes. And then Amazon thought I might like Sabrina Jeffries. The reviews were inconclusive, but it’s called ‘Never Seduce a Scoundrel’, for heaven’s sake. Got to be worth a shot.

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Yesterday, I decided that the time had come for me to embark on my first serious attempt at cake decorating. Up to now, I had flirted with the idea – a sift of icing sugar, the odd sprinkle, some fruit, or perhaps a flower or two. But nothing involving proper icing, food colouring or special equipment. I mentioned here that I had a plan.

Well, first step was to glaze with the apricot jam which I was sure I had – but which I couldn’t find. So my home made gooseberry jam stepped into the breach. Then the marzipan, then the icing. I was going to do royal icing but then decided, for my first attempt, to take it a bit easy, so used ready roll stuff. It went on quite smoothly – there are lumps but I’m pretty sure they’re actually cake.

Then it was time for the actual decorating part, for which I used some of my new food colouring gels and some special ivy-leaf cutters, both from here. Getting the right shade of dark green took a long time, as I carefully added colour to the icing. And then added more, somewhat less carefully. As the colour got deeper without getting darker, I realised that there was no alternative. I was going to have to darken it – with black. I very gingerly dotted three dots of black gel into the icing, and a bit of kneading later, I had my ivy green. Then it was roll, stamp and stick, until I had almost the desired effect. It isn’t exactly as I planned, but it’s pretty close, and for a first attempt, I’m pleased.


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Wish granted…

I asked for frost, and this is what I got:

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Sunshine

After some truly miserable weather, we woke up this morning to a lovely crisp, sunny day. I took the dogs out for a walk and enjoyed the effects of the light.

The dogs were not interested in the effects of the light but found some other things which have no appeal to me whatsoever, and needed firm discouragement before they left them alone.

And there were a very few hips left, spared the depredations of the birds – at least for now.

So, some more sunny days like this, please – and some frost would be nice.

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Well, by popular demand (you always knew you were popular, Pinky!) here’s a run down on my shopping activities in York.

My word, there’s some lovely shopping in York. I imagine that whatever your interests, you could have a fine (and expensive) old time in the shops of York.

Anyway, my focus was on pretty things for sewing and baking. I bought these rather exciting kitchen things:

I have lots of plans for these beauties. By the way, notice the gorgeous retro tin for the icing bag:

I also got some lovely sewing things. Fabric from Cath Kidston to make summer tops for the Little Girl, ribbon and buttons to go with some other fabric to make a dress for the Little Girl, fat quarters for my first ever patchwork quilt and some random fabric with snowflakes on which I bought on a whim because I thought it was pretty. There’s also some luscious silvery embroidery thread which I am dying to use. The picture doesn’t do it justice – it’s glorious.

The ribbon and buttons, by the way, came from a wonderful shop called Duttons. Duttons for Buttons, it says outside – they’re not kidding.

It’s heaven. They have everything from shirt buttons costing pennies, to huge mother of pearl jobs for a fiver. And they have other sewing things – ribbon, felt, embroidery things. What a fab shop.

And then, when we were in Fenwicks looking at clothes for my friend, I popped by the Guerlain counter to see if they had some Nahema I could sniff. I love Guerlain scent, and usually wear either Mitsouko or Apres L’Ondee. Well, I had one sniff and was infatuated. And over the next hour, my infatuation developed into a deep and abiding love. My goodness, it’s gorgeous. It is the most wonderful rose perfume, but at the same time as being the most perfect rose, it’s so much more than roses. Which makes no sense at all, I expect. Unless you’ve smelled Nahema.

I also had a lovely time in the Early Learning Centre for Christmas presents for the Little Boy. I really like the Early Learning Centre!

So, there we have it – the spoils of a shopping trip to York. Next time I’m going to pack light so I can bring more back.

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I spent this weekend in York, visiting some lovely friends. This is the first time I’ve been away on my own, without husband or children, since my daughter was born two years ago. I was thoroughly spoiled – sleeping in, breakfasting out, dinners and wine, cocktails and shopping (more of that later!).

We also had a lovely walk on Sunday, during which I took lots of pictures of the many lovely buildings. Much as I’d like to be healthy, bright eyed and slim, I’m not sure I’d want to take anything called a ‘bile bean’.

And then there was a lovely selection of doors – starting with the Minster:

And it had been raining rather a lot in York, so the play park was somewhat out of commission:

And you may notice that there is a sign telling you that you absolutely must not park:

And finally, I leave you with a picture of the late afternoon light on the Minster:

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What a difference a day makes, and the difference is…

Well, actually, the difference is a few hundred pounds spent on carpet and a trip to IKEA, plus more time than you’d think spent trying to get modern self-assembly furniture to fit against walls that aren’t straight in any direction, and corners that are anything but right-angular.

Still. We now have a playroom for the children, where once we had a very, very cold room that despite our best efforts we never used for anything, and which consequently was always filled with stuff that was put ‘out of the way’, and so never could be used for anything. The children love it – the little girl spent a happy hour taking everything out of the drawers and putting it somewhere else, and the little boy rolled happily on the new carpet.

And actually, once the children went to bed, we found that it made a very nice room for the grown-ups too…

As the word for my very first ‘weekword’ was ‘contrast’, this seems appropriate. A contrast between use and disuse, cold and warm, order and chaos, colour and lack thereof. Splendid!

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