Sunday, November 29, 2009

not here but there: English Mum

I'm still not here, but scoring retro points over at English Mum by making Coconut Ice.

A letter came home with Pink Daughter lately telling me that her school would be closed for a day for health and safety reasons. This appears to be the new way of saying 'because of civil service strike action'. I'm delighted with this original method of expression, and think it could be quite widely applicable. I shan't be able to attend christenings or pay taxes in future for health and safety reasons. You may feel you can't comment on the Coconut Ice for health and safety reasons. That's ok. Our health and safety is paramount.

Friday, November 27, 2009

not here but there: From the Right Bank

I'm at From the Right Bank today, while the charming and inscrutable Ally moves house, and I'm talking about interiors within interiors. Do come over and say hello.
[Images: From the Right Bank]

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

character and ingredient envy

I looked at this book with some doubt when Scottish Husband brought it back from Atlanta lately. It took me a while to get over the hairstyle, the exclamation mark, and the general air of being pleased just to be among friends.

By the time I'd flicked through to the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich under a silver dome plate cover, I was quite a fan. I'd like to be an American too. I'd like to forge sincerely ahead, bring my family values to cooking, celebrate Elvis's birthday and live on oyster-stuffed quail instead of boring old toast. I'd like to have tremendous confidence, chat-show genes, charming openness and a larger washing-machine.

And I'd like to have the phone number of whichever US department is in charge of Foreign Aid as I urgently need these ingredients: grits, graham crackers, jack cheese, refrigerator biscuits and vanilla wafers.

Monday, November 23, 2009

a good and kind thing

Comrades, gather round. Look what postie brought today:

Isn't that lovely? It's hanging now on my kitchen wall, and is a perfect addition to my preponderance of pink, though I might dignify this one by calling it burgundy.

And there was more, lots more. All this came from Jaboopee, the preparation of whose tax return you'll see in the top right hand corner of the above image. That's deliberately fuzzy so that you won't print it out (I know your sort). It's print 1 of 1, and mine. In years to come, people will etc. etc., and she paused her typing for another sip of the celebratory fizzy.

Now wasn't that a good and kind thing to do after hearing me go On and On about my impossible giveaway dreams? Why can't you all be more like Jaboopee?

Friday, November 20, 2009

unrequited love and a train accident

After my bout of creative muttering and sprucing up the juvenilia, I decided the best approach to this Christmas Poem contest was to ignore most of the suggested topics, even the elf, and go straight for that old reliable theme, unrequited love, with a train accident thrown in for Christmas cheer.

A Suitor Finds His Love No Longer Suits

Yes, I know I said I'd dance you
To land's end and on;
Your shoulders reflected candlelight
As we spun to Gershwin songs.
I recall how the walls slipped moorings
With your lowered eyelids;
We dwelt in sheets and scented suds,
High on dalliance stilts.
Yes, I made you all those promises
And vowed I'd hold them fast;
I knew not then their fragility,
Their shelf-life now long past.
I loved you for your two fair legs,
Till the fall that befell you
For since that train mowed you down,
You're half yourself, and blue.
Yes, I gave you gems, my legless dear,
And every cliché I know;
I thorned my thoughts with yearnings
To pluck your red, red rose.
But I'm downing rose, and cannot stand
By all we said we'd do,
For if, my love, you cannot stand,
Then why should I stand you?

I'm not very confident of winning but the unsuccessful giveaway entries have taught me acceptance and stoicism.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

angst & this & that

Whenever I have a go at anything that could be considered craft, such as yesterday's exercise in footstool millinery, I think of e.e. cummings' lines about the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls:
they believe in Christ and Longfellow, both dead,
are invariably interested in so many things-
at the present writing one still finds
delighted fingers knitting for the is it Poles?
and they give me pause. I mention this because a friend tells me that there is insufficient angst and introspection in my blog. She's right. I've tended to channel the angst into my imaginary violin-playing, but from now on I'll ensure that it gets recorded right here.

Thank you all for your encouraging remarks, and the fabric, Jane, is from KA International.

Moving on, here are some of the lovely cards I bought from the Copper Swallow this week. Could everyone to whom I intend to send them please look away now? Thanks.

They're made by Serena with an old typewriter, stamps and imaginative flair.

And Pursued by a Bear points out Some Blind Alley's poem contest, a route to incredible fame. "Hmm, abab, cdcd, efef", I mutter creatively to myself.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

a hat for a stool

One of Habitat's Ingvar stools has been floating around my house for ages. Inspired by all the busy creativity that goes on around here, I thought I'd make a soft seat for it. So I added a round feather cushion and topped it off by making a loose cover to match one of the sofas.

I'm pretty proud of this, so don't you go saying anything disparaging about it in the comments. I think I'll paint the stool itself white, just like everything else.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hilary Mantel, drives superb

This is Hilary Mantel, author of the bleak and beautifully observed An Experiment in Love and the less portable Wolf Hall, on reading newspapers:
I understand the despondency and lassitude that overtake the reader at the repetitious parade of human folly, and the evidence, reinforced on a daily basis, of nature's malignity and the indifference of the gods; but me, I just like the small ads.
And this is the whole article, from the Guardian (with thanks to our Nottingham reader for the link). It speaks of how writers get their inspiration, but also, along the way, of bridesmaids' dresses, dodgy car dealers, royal engagements and old school reunions. To borrow her own term, it drives superb.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

giveaway tips

I know I go on about giveaways a bit, but they are a complex and little understood area of considerable sociological significance. As a veteran of many, many giveaways and winner of one, I feel that my expertise may help the next generation of bloggers and I'd like to share with you some tips I've gleaned along my journey.

  • Only comment on a giveaway post if you want the giveaway prize. This seems quite fundamental, but we're all overcome by our competitive streak at times and I know people who lost the run of themselves when commenting and are plagued by felted elves and inspirational pincushions underfoot.
  • Before you comment on any post at all, ever, make sure that it isn't a furtive giveaway. This means you can't merely look at images, you have to read the text. The blogger may have slipped in a low key giveaway to clear out the unwanted coasters from her Aunt Hilda.
  • Bloggers often claim that their winners are drawn at random, but participants, quite rightly, pay little heed to this and add ingratiating comments to their entry in the hope of improving their chances of winning. You must do so too. If the giveaway organiser is a woman, try a pleasant comment such as 'I like your hair'. For a man, 'how was your meeting?'
  • Giveaway organisers sometimes require that entrants must sign up to join their followers to be eligible for the competition. This is a deplorable practice, a throwback to our playground days of winning friends with penny sweets, and one that I certainly intend to implement one proud day when I hold my very own giveaway.
  • Giveaway winners tend to announce their triumph on their own blogs. It's sometimes a fine line between courteous acknowledgement of your win and shameless gloating. Don't worry if you cross this line.

Friday, November 13, 2009

banana and walnut bread

The lifestyle bus keeps trundling on and if you're not on it baking cupcakes and sewing aprons, you're no one. So I thought I'd better bestir myself from the cheap seats at the back and make something. Today banana bread, tomorrow my own channel on American TV. I'm worried about how the children will take to fame.

You need:
75g butter, 75g sugar, 2 eggs, 2 bananas, 250g flour, 100g chopped walnuts, 3tsp baking powder, 3 tsp ground nutmeg

To do:
  1. Melt the butter.
  2. In an electric mixer, mix together the butter, sugar, eggs and bananas.
  3. Add everything else and mix again
  4. Lined loaf tin
  5. Oven, 190C, 45 min
For a healthier version, instead of the flour use half flour and half oatmeal, which is equally delicious.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Liquorice Allsorts and Wodehouse

In the latest issue of The Gloss, Polly Devlin has a round-up of coping strategies used by people in stressful or anxious circumstances. My favourite method mentioned is that given by the actress Frances Tomelty: a bag of Liquorice Allsorts, a few chapters of 'Just William' or a dip into Wodehouse.

I've turned to Wodehouse (or O. Henry or Saki, others of his ilk) in the past for that same purpose, and although I've abandoned Liquorice Allsorts since I had the misfortune one day to catch a glimpse of their calorie-count and salt-content, 70% chocolate has an inexplicable allure after a day of work, housework and playing with Pink & Blue Daughters, so that I frequently find myself in front of the baking ingredient cupboard on the way to the wine rack, even though it's not on the way to the wine rack.

Not that I drink, or eat anything with sugar in it.

And then there is blog-reading, of course. The breathless excitement of the giveaways isn't good for my weak heart, but, those aside, the waves of images and opinions and fascinations wash over me like a soothing sea. It's a wonder Polly Devlin didn't ring me and I'd have told her that.

Monday, November 9, 2009

personal art

Some of my favourite pieces of art in the house are those of personal relevance.

Such as the giant wall-hanging in the playroom of Pink Daughter as a small, sleepy baby, created by my sister.

Or the oils of flowers and trees painted by Scottish Grandma, which hang in the sitting room.

Friday, November 6, 2009

homework & this & that

Pink Daughter had her first homework assignment this week. My childhood evenings were plagued with essays and fractions when I could have been reading Jackie and Just Seventeen, so I'm going to do hers until she goes to a Swiss finishing school and studies deportment and etiquette. I'm never sure how to address a Marchioness and can't help her with that.

If you'll forgive my boasting, I can do homework a bit faster than she can. I've already written some beautifully curved letters C and coloured in a cup, a cat and a candle.

Also this week I laughed at jaboopee in her dressing gown and rollers in the beautifully overwrought room above, purchased An Education so as to appear to be keeping up with popular culture, and was captivated by Vilhelm Hammershøi's interiors, presented by Silent Storyteller. You're all probably sitting round wondering what to give me for Christmas. A framed print of this, or indeed an original, would do nicely. Failing that, pearls please or some fancy cheese.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

occasional Swedish whims

I believe this may be what they call an occasional chair, so I only sit on it occasionally. Better safe than sorry. Much though I love its vivid stripes, I sometimes think I'd like a Swedish slipcover and a whole new look.

These crisply striped covers, photographed by Martin Cederblad via Desire to Inspire, would be the very thing.

I still haven't managed to source anything like these, with their pretty practicality and echoes of nautical Victoriana. If I were the wonderful Yvonne of Yvestown, I'd make my own, but I think I'm just not up to it despite my valiant purchase of 'Sew'. Doesn't hers look cheerful and inviting?

[Image: Yvestown]

I've also dreamt of being crowned Miss Sweden ever since I started writing this post, but I guess I'm too old now, as well as not being Swedish. So that's it. No slipcover, no beauty queen title. A melancholy day here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

dancing in high heels

I'd sometimes like to be taller. At 5 feet 8 inches, I'm probably of average height but average is only average. At a lovely wedding in Killashee House this Halloween, the merry dancing continued into the night, and as the women spun on I watched many of them abandon their high heels and suddenly shrink. They turned from exotic creatures of grace and beauty into slightly shorter exotic creatures of grace and beauty. What a difference.

Here's the heel height I normally dance in.
[Image: Barefoot Tess]

And here's my planned acquisition, the heel height I can't dance in. Yes, I know, it's not a stiletto and you, dear reader, can do the moonwalk in four inch heels and stilts while balancing a giveaway win on your head, but I can't. I have other talents, but how insignificant they seem now.

So I'm going to practice dancing in high heels. Please stand back.
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