Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holiday season

It's been a few days since I posted - guess we're all in the same boat here as it's just been so busy over the festive season - I hope everyone had a wonderful few days and managed to relax and enjoy time with family and friends in amongst all the madness?!  I have now escaped up north to Northumberland and am happily ensconsed in my sister's beautiful renovated priory farmhouse. The Priory was built for an Augstinian Cannoness and the Priory Nuns looked after the 'Lady Well' just up the fell.  St Paulinus (it is said!) baptised many hundreds of pagen celts in its tranquil waters; it does have a very peaceful feel to it - you can almost feel St Paulinus watching, it has a very definite spiritual atmosphere.    The view from the farmhouse window is just about as far from my view in London as it could get - here I look out onto fell and river, sheep and cattle.  We have just got back from a wild, wild walk over the fells, completely exhilarating and makes coming back to our log fire even more welcoming.  I feel as if I can finally sigh with relief and give up all my London cares and worries to the cleansing northern winds and relax into recharging my batteries ... I hope wherever you are, whatever you're doing, you are also winding down and having some 'me' time.
The meandering stream south

and north...

Lady's Well - Holystone Northumberland

Figure of St Paulinus

Beautiful lichen in the woods

and more of the same...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Camera Never Lies

I've had a camera - a variety of camera's - most of my adult life and when you're blogging a camera is a necessity.  My current camera is a point and shoot bog standard Nikon Coolpix which takes fairly decent pictures, however I don't always remember to take it out with me and so miss numerous photo opps!  I was considering this problem and came to the conclusion that I would be far better relying on the camera on my iphone 4 as I always carry this with me.   My next deliberation was how to improve the quality and 'viewing pleasure' of the photos I take.  I'm not a trained photographer and although I have a good eye they'd hardly win any medals.  So I decided to download a few photography apps to help me out.  For the princely sum of around £3.50 I have 4 new toys to play with - Instagram, Pixfx, PicFrame and Toy SLR.  I can take a photo, or use one in my album and add a filter, other light effects, frames and the such-like.  The results are much better than my previous attempts and I've had a lot of fun playing with all the different effects.  Here are a couple that I took today...
Toy SLR, PicFx & Instagram

Toy SLR & PicFx

Instagram & PicFrame

Monday, December 19, 2011

Best Reads 2011

As those who know me will testify, I have almost always got my nose buried in reading matter of some description or other - actually, I think I'm the literary equivalent of promiscuous as I don't really care too much what I'm reading - I suppose I'm a bit of a 'word slut' in that pretty much anything  goes...classics, contemporary novels, poetry, self-help, magazines, flyers through the door, menus and even on occasion (rare) Heat magazine.
I cannot think of anything more blissful than a whole day free to read, lying on the sofa, cups of tea and complete absorbtion in a good book.  In fact I know I have developed a particularly bad habit over the last year or so, if I walk into the staffroom and someone's dropped their paper/magazine on the table, the first thing I do is start to read it (bit of a standing joke with the staff now) and should I go into a coffee shop that has papers/magazines, well, whoever I'm with gets short shrift as I polish off the latest headlines and gossip with my latte - conversation? Who needs that when there's something to read.  Anyway, here are some of my favourites from this year, ranging from the weird to the wonderful and I hope you are inspired to pick some of them up and try them for yourself...
This just speaks for itself - thought provoking and inspiring

Ladies who fly! A great fictional insight into those women that flew planes during the war

This is probably the best novel I've read for some time - if you haven't - you must!

I love his books - scary but in an intellectual clever way

She's mad! But it makes for great reading

Beautifully written and engaging

This book has turned some of my previously held beliefs way upside down.  Regardless of what you believe it's thought provoking in the extreme!

Such a talent - try Bixton Beach too

Takes over where Michael Newton leaves off

I might even use this as one of my NY Resolutions

An honest, moving account of how she coped with losing her husband

A master of poetry

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas decs

I promised a post about my dried oranges...I make them pretty much every year - it's become one of our treasured family traditions.  I love the smell of the oranges as they dry, it makes the house smell amazing and the sight of the tree garlanded with oranges is magical.  So here's how you do it:

Step 1: Oranges!

Step 2: Slice quite thinly so they dry out more quickly

Step 3: Lay on baking tray and blot excess juice.  Then place in oven on lowest
 setting for 3 hours before removing to dry on top of radiators to really dry out.

Step 4: Thread with pretty ribbon and decorate your tree
(I used plain red and green/red gingham this year)
 Whilst I was making these I couldn't help pinching a few oranges to make myself some freshly squeezed orange juice - great boost of vitamin C and tasted delicious...

Our tree after the girls had decorated it

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Strictly Update

SORRY! I've been meaning to post since Sunday but it has been so crazy busy that I just haven't managed to squeeze it in.  Anyway, to the important things....'Strictly' was fantastic.  In our family we always say when you're telling a story you have to start 'from the very beginning'... so... We took the tube (tedious)and arrived at the BBC to see a HUGE queue which we assumed was ours! WRONG.  That was the public queue and we skipped past it smiling smugly as we made our way through the security and up in the lift (yes, I really did go in the lift)to the Green Room on the fourth floor.  Moo and I sat and had a couple of drinks and people watched, I was SO in my element as you can imagine.  Standing in front of us in the queue was a certain ex-politician and her companion; Radio 4 were there too interviewing people in the queue with clever questions such as "so, why are you queuing today"  "To see strictly.."  "What do you like about the programme?"  "the dancing"....etc.  In the midst of all this entertainment I hopped out to the deck and took this photo - the sky was amazing -

Then we were called to the studio.  My first impression was that it was so much smaller than it seems on 'the tele'. It was however, just as glittery and showy and as we fought our way to our seats (3rd row from front) I had to pass said politician as it transpired we were sitting next to each other!  Mmmmn...let's just say that she wouldn't get a vote from me for either her dancing or her social skills based on the close contact we had that evening, although maybe it was the scotch egg that I offered her that prompted her to spend the whole evening sitting forward blocking the view, refusing to engage in any eye contact or even introduce herself to her fellow watchers when requested by the compere!  Hey ho, the other celebs were more worthy of our attention especially Dougie freshly washed from 'the jungle' although the bandana didn't look like it had seen the shower for some time.  The dancing was amazing; the glitter was sparkly and the night didn't disappoint in any shape or form.  It really is true tho, the tele puts pounds on as all the dancers are way smaller than they appear on the screen.  Talking of the screen - brownie points if you spotted us on camera, we were there - albeit ten pounds heavier than in real life!!!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Strictly Saturday

I just have to quickly share this - tomorrow I'm off to 'Strictly Come Dancing'.  I am SO excited - although my daughter may pip me to the post on the excitement stakes.  The invite says 'Dress - Glamorous' ! I mean, how good can it get!  Watch this space for Strictly gossip over the weekend...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Things to do list!

I love lists.  I love lists that I can write on specially designed 'list' pads; it's yet another thing I buy a lot of in stationary shops;  that feeling when you can tick something off the 'to do' list is SO satisfying (except I usually end up extending the list).  I have already mentioned my 'Christmas' and 'Birthday' lists that I designed - take a look at them below - but I have now made a Christmas Menu list pad to join them.  Here are some of the things that are on my 'to do' list this week.
Birthday list

Christmas list

Decorate my mantlepiece(s) and the tree

Wrap presents to send up north
Dried oranges to hang on the tree

Gingham cheer to hang the oranges
(Method for oranges coming soon)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Duvet Days

Very favourite film to watch at Christmas is 'Love Actually'.  Cheesy? Check. Nostalgic? Check.  Funny? Check. It ticks all the boxes I could want for an afternoon snuggled up under a throw and it also includes one of my favourite songs... you've guessed it..Mariah Carey...

Monday, December 05, 2011

Moments from the Weekend

Dressing Table inspiration
I spent the weekend Christmas shopping as I'm hoping to send all my gifts up north with family this week, but it did mean I had to try and blitz it all this weekend instead.  It wasn't as awful as I thought it would be!  To start with I made myself a spread sheet (yes! ME!)that covered each member of the family/cost/idea/budget/what I actually spent and even a column to show whether I'd wrapped it.  I thought carefully before I went and specifically targeted the shops where I knew I would get what I wanted, staying away from the 'browsing' element.  It was a highly successful tactic, and bar one present, I'm all done for the northern contingent of my family and riding high on smug self-congratulations!  So here are some snaps from one of my favourite places to visit - Maison and my jaunt down the Kings Road.

Children's toys to die for - especially the mouse in a 'house' or matchbox!

All that glitters..

Dining with elegance

Lebanese flatbreads

made with aubergine, green tomato, peppers and a bit of heat
- I love 'street food' and can't help but try a bit of this and that and this didn't disappoint!
Sloane Square's answer to a Christmas Tree

Glorious wrap in Anthropologie