Monday, 30 May 2011

An Award!

Am betwixt trips and have settled down with a cuppa to discover that I have won an award!  Chuffed - feel like I've been accepted into the blogsphere!  Thanks to my lovely new bloddy*, Gem at Treasures From the Cherry Tree. (*Great word, Cuckoo, so I've pinched it.)

In accepting the award I must provide ten facts about myself.  Here goes:

1.  I am nosy.  I make no apology for it.  I absolutely cannot stay away from the window if I hear something going on outside and I have been known to bump into things because I'm too busy gawking rather than watching where I'm going.  It would be dangerous for me to own binoculars.

2.  I failed my first driving test for not exceeding 20mph. I cried and snuffled the whole time which probably didn't help either.

3.  I played basketball for the county (only the summer league, but still!) as a teenager.

4.  I am a stickler for good grammar and spelling.  Text-speak makes me grit my teeth, especially when my Mum uses it.

5.   Love dogs, hate cats, scared of horses.  Terrified of wasps.

6.   With anything medical I am a wreck.  I am super-squeamish and faint over anything even remotely gory (specifically the sight of blood, pus and needles).  Many, many, many things make me retch; snot being the biggest offender.

7.  Through work over the years I've met quite a few famous people, mostly sports personalities.  One (now very famous) motorbike racer pestered me for ages to go out with him, almost to the point of harassment.

8.  Diet coke gives me the heebies.  I quite like the taste of it but rarely drink it - it's dirty stuff.  My husband is addicted to it and will even crack open a can for breakfast.  Revolting.

9.  I absolutely cannot sing but, bizarrely, can do an amazing impression of Julie Andrews singing.  Seriously, you should hear me belt out 'Do-Re-Mi'. The look on my husband's face when I did it for the first time was priceless.  The Sound of Music is my favourite movie ever.

10.  I know every single word of Rappers Delight by the Sugarhill Gang.

So that's a bit of me!

This award is doing the rounds and so I am going to pass this award to two new bloddies of mine who I don't think have received it yet:
Both Tracy and Ashley have lovely blogs - check them out.  I will look forward to learning more about them.

So I'd better finish packing for Paris now.  You could grow bananas in our house right now; we've got our own heatwave.  I'm trying to dry a few clothes ready for my trip and the weather today has been filthy so the heating is on.  Phew!
Have a nice (short - yay!) week. 



Thursday, 26 May 2011

Time with the Fam

Yes, he may have toasted the wrong daughter in his speech on my wedding day (and no he wasn't drunk, bless him, it's a long story!) but I think I have the best Dad in the world.  It's a bit early for Father's Day soppiness, I know, but he is treating my sis, my mum and me to see the Take That concert in Newcastle tomorrow night so he deserves a special mention. 

I do like Take That but it's my sister who's the real fan.  I am just so looking forward to having some quality time with her and my Mum.  The three of us get on really well together, my Mum is cool, and we just don't see enough of each other these days so we'll have a fab time together.  Dad's paying for the lot - hotel, food, drink and [ridiculously expensive these days] tickets.  Thanks Dad; ♥ you lots.

Work is finished for a week now (next week I'm off for a cheeky Paris break - eek!) so I've just got to paint my nails and pack my spangly jumper.  We're on an uber-early train in the morning so I'd better get an early one.  Rather embarrassingly, I'm looking forward to having two 4-hour train journeys when I can sit and crochet!  Bliss! I've nearly made enough squares for my first ever blanket so I'll be badgering people for advice on how to block (?) and stitch together soon... you might want to hide from me... 


Tuesday, 24 May 2011


The Shakespeare Mercure, Stratford upon Avon
This is where we've been the last few days - The Shakespeare Mercure in Stratford upon Avon.  It's a gem of a hotel, right up my street, with squashy sofas, wing-back armchairs and open fires.  Loads of nooks and crannies too so you can hide away and cosy up.  

We saw a few sights....

Shakespeare's Birthplace

Anne Hathaway's Cottage
....and had the much-longed-for cream tea.

We also had a steak and red wine feast at the hotel brasserie, a gorgeous [mushroom] risotto at a local Italian and a rather rough-and-ready G&T with chips at a slightly dubious bar on Sunday when we arrived (Sunday was the day for football, apparently, and I have learned to accept that Manchester United will always manage to scupper any romantic plans I have).  At least the win kept my man smiling.

But my favourite part of our little break was yesterday afternoon.  We'd been out for brunch at Cafe Rouge (Eggs Benedict), mooched around the shops and strolled by the waterfront.  The weather wasn't great, it was quite dull and blustery, so after having a quick nose around Shakespeare's birthplace we headed back to the hotel for a cup of tea in the lounge.   We didn't move from there for three hours!  I had my crochet, he had his book and the nice waiter kept topping up our teacups.  It was so warm and quiet in the lounge, I could see out of the window from my spot and when it started to pour with rain at 4pm, I can't tell you how utterly content I felt with my husband snoozing in the armchair beside me.  Although I have to say it felt like a glimpse into the future!

From my old lady chair by the window I had a good view of this little beauty in a shop opposite.  I kept imagining it in my kitchen, brightening up my mornings.  So, yes, it came home with me: 

I'm going crazy for this stuff at the moment. In Waitrose this evening I picked up a new cake tin:

I am a sucker for a cake tin.  I've got loads in various shapes and sizes - I really didn't need any more.  They had a set of three round tins in this Union Jack design too - I resisted today but I just know I'll be putting them in my trolley before the week is out.  Somebody stop me!  (Or better still, provide me with good excuses as to why I might need more tins.)

So back home and I'm 3lb heavier.  Dammit, just sneaked back into the ten stone mark.  Arrggggh.  I thought I'd seen the back of the tens for good!  I won't be beaten - I've stocked up on loads of healthy food and I'm starting my exercise DVD again tomorrow.  It's called the 30 Day Shred.  I can't tell you if it's any good or not because it's a 30 day programme (obvs) and I only ever make it to day four before I forget about it.  All I can tell you is that it's twenty minutes of absolute torture every day and the music on it is rubbish so you need to hit the mute button and use your ipod instead.  (This has the bonus of blocking out the instructor's cheesy 'motivating' one-liners too.)  People swear by it on the WeightWatchers community boards so it must work.  Blinking diets.  Why do I love food so much?!



Saturday, 21 May 2011

...and relax...

So we have a few days off work and started our long weekend in the very best way - a lazy brunch in the conservatory.   It was just mushrooms on toast with lots of fresh coffee (and the leftover toast with jam) but it was dee-licious.

As it was his birthday the OH got to choose the day's activites:  that's the way we roll around here.  Usually, on a birthday, we catch a gig or a show and have lunch or dinner somewhere nice.  The poor love was seriously exhausted this week and just wanted to stay home.  We had the most luxurious day -  do you know what we did?  We napped.  Like old people.  We spent the whole day napping, eating and reading.  It was awesome.  It felt seriously decadent snoozing at 3pm on a Friday.

Refreshed from our lazy day yesterday I got loads done today.   Pottered around the house, got lots of washing and ironing done then baked [and we ate] a Victoria sponge birthday cake.  (I can't show you a photo because we were both so desperate for cake that I cut and filled it before it had properly cooled. We ate it warm from the oven.  It might have looked like a wreck but it tasted like heaven, I promise you.)  Mum and sis popped over with my gorgeous little niece (who spent the whole visit badgering me for bananas, milk, raisins and chocolate) and then I nipped out to get some shopping.  I picked up a couple of gorgeous Chanel nail varnishes - a kind of vampish grey/purple and a really clean pale beige/natural colour.  Chanel nail varnish is the biz.

We're off to Stratford-upon-Avon in the morning for a couple of days; it's a freebie and the hotel that we are staying in does the most amazing cream teas.  I've saved my weekly WW points and it won't be pretty.

So I'll leave you with a photo of the birthday boy.  Tell me about it, stud!

He is going to kill me.



Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Home Alone

I am home alone tonight and loving it - husband is fine dining in London.  Without me!  So [in an ever so slight huff] I warmed up a tin of soup for my supper, ate it from a tray on my lap and read a book.  Finished up with a chocolate frog and a cuppa.  Heaven to be a slob for the night but I shan't let him indoors know that.

I don't often get to be home alone.  Husband's football training coincides with my yoga classes (twice a week!) and he's more of a home bird than me.  He certainly isn't one for boozing down the pub every night - sometimes I wish he was but perhaps I'd get fed up of him always disappearing up the road for a 'quick one'.

So I have gathered up my crochet and here's where I'll be for the rest of the night:

Check out the 'viewfinder' border on this picture! I am loving fiddling about with the camera on my phone! 

I love fairy lights and pretty hangy things.   This little wooden heart was one of my bridal presents on my wedding day.  I love it and I will continue to hang it from our bedpost when we are old and grey. 

I've switched my 'Zetter dog' on tonight too.  He looks kind of creepy in this picture but he is kooky in real life - I love him.  It was the first present my husband ever bought me, after a particularly lovely weekend at the Zetter Hotel in London.  One of these dog lights (in bright pink) was in our room.  I loved it so he had this white one sent to me at my new flat as a moving-in present.  He does great gifts, my man.  

It's a good job I haven't seen this huge pile of ironing in our spare room; I might be inclined to do something about it if I had.... ;-)

That's the trouble with sunny, blustery days.  You get loads of washing done and have to do loads of ironing!  I'm rubbish at keeping on top of housework.  Am seriously considering getting a cleaner but it makes me feel a bit lazy.  I don't have any children so I really should have time to keep my own house clean. Also, since researching it, I've found that cleaning firms generally don't clean ovens or windows - those are the things I like doing least! I actually quite enjoy doing the ironing and I do just about manage to flick a duster around but the oven and windows are horrible jobs!  

No cheerful outfit posts from me today.  I've been wearing my usual uninspiring work-from-home outfit of a sloppy joe jumper and chinos.  I have five-day-old hair now which is a first for me.  It feels like it's going to crawl off my head and die somewhere.  But I'm not going to show you pictures of that!  

Hope that everyone is having a fabulous week.  I've got a few days off so I finish on Thursday, we're having a little mini-break at the weekend.  Can't wait.



Sunday, 15 May 2011

♥ing Red

Just lately I have had a thing for the colour red.  I treated myself to a Union Jack mug at the weekend and a new red whisk.  I love red and navy together but red with pale pink makes my heart race.... It's the simple things!

We've had a full-on weekend and I'm shattered.  I have a step-son and we fetch him for the weekend every fortnight.  He adores his dad and seems to like me by association - we get on like a house on fire.  He rules but, OMG, I'm exhausted when he leaves! This weekend I have taken part in two sock fights, listened to a long [enthusiastic and complicated] lecture about Marvel versus DC, watched a gory film about aliens and planned [in minute detail] the party for his 13th birthday that he has chosen to have at our house next month.  (I might need to cling film the house for that particular event.) 

If my step-son had his way, we would stay home all weekend and watch movies, play video games and generally just hang out.  I get cabin fever if I stay indoors for too long (I think because I often work from home) so I dragged the boys to a pretty town near us for a pub lunch on Saturday.

My love for the colour red is slowly finding its way into my wardrobe.  On Saturday I dug out an old red mac that I've had for ages.  Belted tightly with the sleeves rolled up I thought it looked quite fresh.  I like rediscovering old favourites.
Mac - John Lewis, Sweater - Joules, Handbag - Mulberry,
Denim Leggings - M&S, Shoes - Next
Today we went to my Mother-in-Law's for lunch and I fancied wearing my new red jeans, not least because they are stretchy and can easily accommodate a greedy girl's expanding tummy. 
Denim Jacket - Mango, Top - Primark,  Necklace - M&S,
Jeans - Next, Shoes - LK Bennett
I wore my platform peep-toes for a bit of Sunday afternoon glamour.

The thing that always makes me laugh about children is how brutally honest they are.  Or maybe that's just my step-son.  I quite often get an 'oooh, fancy' (in a silly voice) if I've made even the slightest effort.  He has also requested, several times, that I do not wear my jogging bottoms when he has his birthday party because they are [his words] chavvy.  (So not fair.  They are skinny leg joggers and, I think, quite cool.) 

Memorably, he once told me I looked like 'one of those sophisticated mums'.  Not sure what that meant, I was wearing a pair of over-the-knee boots at the time.  Today, rather alarmingly, upon seeing me dressed and ready to go he declared chirpily: 'well, hello teen!'.  I'm 34, that's not good.  


Saturday, 14 May 2011

Pretty Nails and Crochet

Gorgeous weather and it's a Saturday too.  I'm making the most of being up before him indoors and I'm catching up on my blog, reading everyone else's and having a quiet coffee.

I painted my nails yesterday and had to tell you about another favourite product of mine. 

I have said before that I err on the side of grunge most of the time.  Whilst I would love to have perfect make-up all the time I just can't do it.  I'm in awe of people who can do fancy blending things with eyeshadow.  I just feel like I'm wearing muck on my face when I try.  Plus I have fat eyelids (ha!) and look puffy-eyed in eyeshadow.  I tend to stick to glowy skin products and the most adventurous I get is to use a green or blue eyeliner instead of my usual grey.  I love nail varnish though.  I keep my nails natural for work but like to go bright for the weekend.  This colour is a favourite of mine; it's a gorgeous glossy red (OPI Vodka and Caviar).  I wear it a lot.  Now I know what you're thinking.  Painting nails is a faff, right?  Well here's where my product recommendation comes in:

Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat is truly awesome.  Your nails are dry within minutes.   Properly bash-me-on-whatever-you-like-I-won't-smudge dry.  I can't recommend it enough.  I would never paint my nails if it wasn't for this stuff, I just get too impatient waiting for them to dry.  I buy it from here (which, incidentally, is a great site).  It isn't cheap but if you like painted nails without the faff you should give it a whirl.

We've got my step-son here this weekend so I generally get to fit in quite a lot of crochet whilst I watch them kill zombies on the XBox.  I've been practising the bobble stitch so that I can have a go at making one of these gorgeous blankets that Mrs Cuckoo makes.  I am insanely jealous of this blanket and my life won't be complete until I have one!  Here's my attempt at the stitch.

I love learning new stitches and I think I need a couple of WIPs at any one time so that I get a bit of variety.  It can be quite monotonous making granny squares, however pretty, when you're desperate to try other projects!



Wednesday, 11 May 2011

A Lovely Cake Blog

Have you ever been to Amelie's House?  It's a makey-bakey-cakey blog and right up my street.  This lady is seriously talented - her cake decorating (especially the hand painting) has to be seen to be believed.  She also does some lovely recipe posts and presents the recipes in a really cute way.  

If you haven't checked this blog out before I promise that you won't be disappointed.  And if you pop over there by 6th June you'll be able to take part in the giveaway that Natasha is having to celebrate her blog's 'new look' and the 600 follower milestone!   



Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Big Bum, New Shoes

Did you order a pair of trousers in a certain size expecting them to be on the generous side only to discover that the zip won't meet?  Did you disbelieve your eyes and double check the sizing on the website to find out that the next size up is the biggest they do and actually you're not sure even they will fit?  Did you resign yourself to having a large bottom for eternity and throw a slightly self-indulgent paddy?   ME TOO! 

Whaddaya do?

You buy shoes.

Sparkly pumps from Next:  Miu Miu style without the price tag.

Uber-comfy moccasins from Next.  
(Not much to look at off but these are so nice on.  They make my feet look smaller and go a treat with skirts, cropped trousers and jeans alike.  They are also uber-comfy, did I say that?)

These strappy sandals from Bertie in tan (and that may or may not be the same pair in black) have a nice little wedge so glam up your outfit a bit without crippling you.  The turquoise ballerinas are from New Look - SO comfortable, an eye-popping turquoise and just £7.99.  Not leather, obviously, but what the heck.  My feet can take a bit of pretty plastic for just under eight quid.

And if a bit of shoe shopping doesn't cheer you up, you can rely on your Mum to text you 
a sunny photo of your ♥favourite niece♥ watering the pots.

This photo made me smile today, more than any shoes could!



Monday, 9 May 2011

Cake decorating efforts to date...

Man alive, I'm craving cake today.  Badly craving it.  I'm working at our Milton Keynes office tomorrow which, happily, is right around the corner from Starbucks.  I have already decided that I'm heading there first thing to fetch a cappuccino and a chocolate muffin.  Who cares if it will wipe out most of my WeightWatcher points for the day - I'll have butternut squash and bananas for dinner.  (Zero point saviours; get me through many a binge.)

So, with cake on the brain, I thought I'd do a post on my cake decorating efforts so far.  These are the only ones I have ever made, I'm a complete beginner.  We all have to start somewhere! 

My first novelty cake.  I was really proud of this at the time even though the Waybuloo characters are porkier than they should be:

Izzie loved it and watching her chubby little hands make a beeline for De Li (that's the pink one, I know it isn't obvious!) made the stress and frustrations of making it (oh yes, there were tears) all worthwhile.

Grandma's birthday cake - a hippo in a bath tub (a Maisie Parrish cake).  Grandma wasn't impressed, she thought I was calling her a hippo.  Seriously, she went in a bit of a strop.  She's 79.

(these are especially awful photos, sorry, 
I was probably shaking after Grandma's reaction!)

This Easter cake is another Maisie Parrish design.  I made it last year:

Fun, fun, fun weaving baskets out of sugarpaste! 

I made these little carrots and bunny paws and popped them on the top of iced cupcakes.

This toadstool was for a friend's daughter's birthday party.  I think it is from a Debbie Brown book.

And this one is taken from a few Maisie Parrish designs.  It was for my niece's second birthday.

So there we are, my very modest collection of cakes.  



Sunday, 8 May 2011

Bit of Bling

I've been sorting out my accessories today.  My necklaces hang on one of those little headless lady stands (what are they called?) and it is always toppling over.  

It seems I've acquired quite a collection over the years.  I have put loads in the charity bag and these are some of the keepers:  

I go for either small silver pendants or big statement necklaces, like the ones in the pic.  I like the look of long necklaces and lariats but they get in the way and irritate me.  The ones in the photo above are mostly from good old M&S.  The particularly glitzy one at the very bottom is from Butler & Wilson.  I bought this necklace years ago and have always saved it for evenings out but just lately I've been wearing it with ordinary t-shirts and jeans for the day.  It looks quite cool - I think because it isn't quite as sparkly as it was.

I have another with pearls and spangles which I wore yesterday with a breton top.  

(Oh.  That's not a very good picture, sorry, it's a bit blurry.  We had been out for the day 
and I had enjoyed one or two glasses of wine.)

This necklace is from Jigsaw.  Pretty, no?  I wore the top with my indigo denim leggings (no, not jeggings, that's a silly word) and ballerina pumps.  I thought the necklace pimped up my clothes a bit for a mooch around Cambridge and slightly boozy lunch with the other half.  

We had three delicious courses in Cafe Rouge, wandered around the town and loitered by the river.  We were planning to punt but the weather was iffy.  Rain and river rage [husband's] could be disastrous.  I bought a gorgeous cornflower blue silk top in Reiss and then we came home and ate rum and raisin ice cream cones watching a bit of telly.  All loved up.

Back to normal this morning.  Had a bit of a tidy up, showered and popped on my Bliss Softening Socks.  These socks are pricey but they rule.  They are gel-filled and you cover your feet with cream then pop on the socks for half an hour.  My hideous trotters are soft and pretty (ish) after a session with these.

Husband typically chose to enter the bedroom at the precise moment I was wearing nothing but these and a big old pair of fluorescent pink pants.  

'Babe, they clash' was his passing comment.  

If ever you didn't want your new husband catching you unawares...



Friday, 6 May 2011

Gin O'Clock

How can a short week feel so long?!  

It's 6:30pm and way past gin o'clock so I've just logged off my work computer and am going out in the garden for a drink before it gets cold.  Lead the way, pooch.

I'd write more but, you see, there's a rather handsome man in my garden 
and he's got a gin with my name on it.

We're going to Cambridge tomorrow for some shopping, lunching and, if the weather is nice, punting.  Last time we went punting (at Stratford upon Avon) we collided with a tour boat on the water.  It was very embarrassing.  I was almost peeing myself with laughter (thus rendering self even more useless at steering) whilst he got progressively sweaty and stroppy.  Should be fun! 


Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Bad Hair Day, Good Bag Day

Dress and Jacket - M&S, Belt - Reiss, Sheer Tights - John Lewis, 
Snakeskin Courts - LK Bennett, Handbag - Mulberry
Despite getting up at the crack of sparrows this morning I still didn't have time to wash my hair (as evidenced by extraordinarily straggly ponytail).  I really should get up earlier - I know it's attention to the detail such as washed and blow-dried hair, polished nails and curled eyelashes that make all the difference to your appearance but I err on the side of grunge most of the time.

It mattered not a jot today though, I was wearing my favourite work shoes and carrying a new handbag.  All was right in my world! 


♪♫ Workin' 9 to 5... ♪♫

♪♫...what a way to make a livin'... ♪♫ 

I love this song!  It is one of my guilty pleasures, I know every word, and on a long car journey I'll quite often select the 'guilty pleasures' playlist on my ipod and sing my head off.  I'm driving to Leeds tomorrow for a meeting.  It takes me nearly three hours to get there so I plan to fill my Starbucks travel cup with proper strong coffee and sing my way up the M1.  

I am a little bit excited.  Not just because I get to spend the morning with Queen Dolly, Dr Hook and Five Star but also because I have got a new handbag.  I'm using it tomorrow for the first time.  I know it's sad to say that I'm excited about using a new handbag but there we are.  It's a Mulberry handbag and it's my new favourite thing.  

You can't really tell properly here but it's coral coloured leather.  Eek!  It is the Mulberry Alexa and the colour is called 'watermelon'.  It has a short plaited handle which fits into the crook of the arm and a longer strap which you can sling over the shoulder or across the body.  I have a couple of other Mulberry handbags but this is the first time I've bought one in such a ker-azy colour.  It is summery and fresh - I love it.  Not pink, not red, not orange but a perfect bright coral.  The kind of colour that looks amazing with a tan.  I have a few brightly coloured tops but I mostly wear neutral and nude colours; my beige, grey, khaki and parachute silk pink all look so right with this bag.  I wear a lot of black too, especially for work, but I think the only black item of clothing I can bring myself to pair this with is my leather jacket.  I don't like bright colours with black.

In this photo, the bag is sitting on a footstool.  Quite a loud patterned one, I know.  I love this room, it's our little den, shall I show you?

Our house is odd.  It's very old - two cottages that were knocked into one - and it is built on a slope so we have five levels in total, even though we have just two bedrooms.  This room is at the very top of the house - it is the lightest, brightest and warmest room (everywhere else in the house can be cold and a bit dark, even in high summer).  

You can't see it but those two chairs are in front of a TV - that's where my man watches his football/sci-fi and I watch my trash TV.  The little desk is where I sit with my laptop when I work from home and I also do any sewing up here.  We have books on shelves everywhere in this house, it drives me crazy.  The Mr and I both read a lot and he likes to see books on display.  I don't, I'd rather they were packed away, but we also have several strings of fairy lights in various spots around the house so I reckon I can compromise!  

Here's my little desk.  And some of the trade-off twig lights.

This is the only room that we can have a nice big light in - the ceilings everywhere else in the house are pretty low.

My Mother in Law keeps telling me that I need to remove all of the crystals once a week and wash them in hot soapy water to keep it sparkling.  I pretend not to hear when she says this.  The best it gets is a flick of my feather duster.

And finally, here's my little work chum.  She keeps me company when I work from home and listens out for would-be burglars, the postman and the annoying little boy next door who keeps booting his footballs over the fence.  She also patiently listens to me rabbit on when I'm in the middle of a particularly tricky spreadsheet.

This was her today and this photo makes me smile because I think she looks quite wise 
with a walrus moustache.  

See, you can go crazy in the coconut being on your own too much, thank goodness I'll be seeing real people at the office tomorrow.