Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas About the House Part II

In my festive enthusiasm yesterday, I showed you a glimpse of Christmas round my house. Well, there's more! Much more!

Only three days to go. The stockings are up and the 7 euro 99 cent bucket is still going strong.

Stained glass baubles from Flora at Through the Round Window hang over the kitchen range. Those knives in the background are evidence of Cooking from Ingredients as a lifestyle blogger should.  And some kitsch: an important counterpoint to all the handmade goodness.

The knitteds.  A bell and tree on the tree.  Baby Jesus safely asleep on his knitted hay.  My favourite Nativity character, the donkey, giving us another opportunity to have a look at one of the Best Cushions in the World 2012 as voted by mainstream cushion experts internationally.

Happy Christmas, lovely readers!  And a special hello to the bloggers I met in person this year in the depths of my reclusion: Helen Tilston and Móna Wise.  And many thanks to the dear commentators who amuse me so wisely and well!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas About The House Part 1

It's a quiet day at work and I was going to show you Christmas About My House. Novel and original at this time of year, I know. But then I got distracted by the tumble-dryer.

While loading it with my fine cambrics I felt once again that quiet moment of inner pride I always experience when I turn the dial past 'iron dry'. Iron dry, I tell myself: if only the bloggers could see that, they'd assume I'm the sort of person who irons everything to gloriously crisp creases.

But then there's Easy-Care to the left. How utterly insulting that is in a household appliance. This family wears only 100% wool, 100% cotton, and 100% linen. That makes 300%: good going, no, on a chilly day?

I had to dust that dial before I could photograph it. Go and check your tumble-dryer. Be honest, now, it's a bit dusty, isn't it, right above the dial pointer? Especially when photographed.  You and I, we're not arrivistes with shiny new tumble-dryers. We've had that same vintage one since the turn of the century. It proves our indisputed dignity.

But I was a bit bothered by the dust nonetheless, as I like things to be clean, so I went and had a cherry. Long-time readers will know that in a world gone mad, glacé cherries are my calming drug of choice.  Just the one cherry sorted me out after the dusty tumble-dryer crisis.  A lesser woman would have had three.

See how I didn't bother with one of those dear little expensive cloth lids on the cherries? That's because the hammer-blows of fate wait for no lifestyle tweaks and sometimes you just need quick access to the cherries.

I'll leave you with a sneak preview of Christmas About My House.

This is the kitchen chandelier, ablaze with electricity,

and a candle, a profound and enduring symbol of the possibility that the electricity may be cut off over Christmas here in rural Ireland while the repairmen are jollying it up with port and stilton.   More Christmas About The House tomorrow, or when the notion takes me.

Monday, December 10, 2012

distracted by Twitter

Twitter has been distracting me lately. I only signed up to keep an eye on a young acquaintance who is starting off in the challenging field of dental assistance, but I soon spotted dear familiar faces and started pottering delightedly about the place.

I think I have grasped the Twitter modus operandi now: one rushes about madly following everyone in sight,  then sits back and watches the great ocean of tweets, while occasionally casting in one's own photo of the reupholstered chaise longue, favouriting other people's chaise longues, and posting three links to one's new blog post in case it is inadvertently overlooked first or second time round.

in my enthusiasm I decorated my profile with peony petals

"Double Yippee!!!" I remark happily to myself, "I can do all that too!" The only minor downfall is that I lack something to sell, which appears to be the crucial undercurrent of the whole determined affair. I have made no charming little pincushions, written no pamphlet on getting ahead in styling, produced no artisan falafel and am still waiting to hear back from those damned dawdlers in the Patent Office about my Rite Price Popomatronic.  Vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose.

But perhaps it is ok to have no motive for the ninja socialising!  Perhaps one can just say a tentative hello!  If I haven't followed you yet, please let me know straight away so that I can remedy the situation. It is awfully lonely over there without you.

Monday, November 26, 2012

presents for particularly nice people

As Vintage Tea Time expressed disappointment at the paucity of present ideas in my most recent post, here are some more lovely things that you may want to give to particularly nice people.

The charming Flour Girls, handmade from flour and salt, come from Skerries, Co. Dublin. There are six of them at €22.00 each,

including guileless Róisín

and Niamh the daydreamer.

Garrendenny Lane is changing focus and clearing its existing stock. Among the bargains are a few things from the lovely Penelope range from Greengate.
Penelope table runner from Garrendenny Lane

Myself, I own the Penelope apron and am quite the figure of fun as I feed the birds wearing it over my eighties-revival legwarmers and artsy dresses. 

And finally, a blanket.  Stylists always fling them casually over sofas for that perfect touch of colourful warmth, and I'm damned if I'll be left out of the casual flinging. 

The dear Foxford blanket from Clery's was a childhood stalwart,

and for a more modern alternative there's the beautifully simple
Lighthouse Stripe range from Runaway Coast,
also available in fuchsia and other, lesser colours.

It's traditional in my household to complete the present-purchasing by the 1st of December, so that we can then put all our oomph into being smug and having a glass of port at lunchtimes.  I am well on the way along that thorny path and hope you are too. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

alphabet magnets

I haven't bought your Christmas present yet, despite brainstorming day and night and plaguing Google with your hobbies and your size in slippers. Along the way, though, I've spotted quite a few things I'd like myself, and postie is bringing them in avalanches to my door. 

alphabet magnet set from Nice Day Designs

The daughters, aged 5 and 7, would be offended now by being bought the alphabet but if I could get away with it I'd get them Ruth's charming magnets

While engaged in humanitarian Xmas browsing, I also spotted that a new book, The Irish at Home, featuring 35 beautiful Irish homes, has been published without my house in it. Surely some mistake?   

Monday, November 19, 2012

giving the new spectacles a chance

We are unalike, you and I. When you don't blog I know that it is because you are Tortured By Fame, but when I go a few weeks without posting it is because I can't see my screen.

"Give them a chance," the expensive young optician said of my new spectacles, through which everything was a distorted haze. Giving them a chance has been very enjoyable: unable to see emails, work documents or hungry-looking family members, I had the luxury of drifting into the glad old reverie of storage solutions.

What can I store in my new seaside tin, bearing in mind that the household theoretically eats no biscuits?

Amid the peace, I realised that my persistent daily thought is "What have I forgotten?" Your birthday, of course, and the request for nothing homemade in my lunchbox any more, please Mama, and the medicine, but also that worrying category of things that I've forgotten that I've forgotten.

Homemade Biscuits

What I have been able to do is garden, and I can sense my interest switching full-force from cushions to gravel. If you are a gravel expert and habitually post about gravel issues, please get in touch now and I will follow your blog and read your gravel-related tweets.

I have a vision in mind of how a sandstone gravel courtyard would look, amply planted with juniper trees and hardy perennials, with myself in a sundress and fancy wellies sitting at a pale blue wrought iron table next to the mosaic feature, but Scottish Husband says I will need a backhoe digger.  How the heart sinks. Could you direct me to your archive posts on backhoe diggers?

Friday, October 19, 2012

I surely need striped twine

Striped baker's twine is the latest thing I need. A roll of it in every colour, to cover all eventualities. 

From The Twinery, the mothership of twine. It is available in Ireland from here.

I cannot, in fact, think of a single eventuality, but am instinctively convinced that twine will return me to a simpler existence, where our family will live in a sparse yet cosy cabin   a sort of indoor prairie, if you will  in which we will sit on rough-hewn benches, transform outgrown garments into patchwork dishcloths,  and eat bowl upon bowl of hearty porridge.  It will be emblematic, all 18 large rolls of it, of breaking free of the shackles of consumerism. 

One can also buy smaller quantities, but would it be enough?
[Image: The Twinery]

Until the courier arrives with the twine, rough-hewn benches, beginners' patchworking kit and organic hand-selected oatflakes, I have my final fling with clutter by upcycling a bottle.

An empty Bombay Sapphire gin bottle makes a fine lamp.
Blue Daughter added Blue Teddy. 

I drank the gin myself, made the lamp myself, and was briefly self-satisfied until I started fretting about where I would find an incidental-looking vintage metal display unit in which to store the rolls of twine.  The sort of thing that looks as though I spotted it in a chicken-shed and reclaimed it, but without having to go and peer into local chicken-sheds as I am too busy for that, too busy planning my Quaker future with all the lovely, lovely twine.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I used to feel sorry for people like me

I used to feel sorry for people who browsed in the Lifestyle section of the library. Did they not find knitting and scone-making mundane and transient? Where was the romance and rigour in 30 Ways To Transform Your Room With Curtains?

Autumnal Daughters. The purple and yellow colour combination works less well in the Home

Fruit and flowers, lifestyle essentials both. In the background, a new hook for my apron. Progress.

The Internet says that marigolds will dry well upside down. I'll believe it when I see it.

But now, after a ten year gap during which my interest in storage solutions has blossomed, I've rejoined the library to keep the Daughters supplied with books, and my first stop is that same Lifestyle section. With the awareness of experience, I frequently interrupt my study of advanced dusting techniques to check whether anyone is lurking nearby in Epistemology or Ecclesiastical Theology, feeling, in turn, sorry for me.

Pizza is our meal of choice here since I had the idea from the wonderful Sue at The Quince Tree of parbaking and freezing homemade bases. Topped with goat's cheese, roast peppers, sweetcorn, sweet chilli sauce.

Another pizza: spinach with nutmeg, potatoes, blue stilton.  Very nice, very nice.

The Aran jumper my mother knitted for the Sindys, as they were feeling the chill.

My younger self was wrong, I realise now. Right for her age, perhaps, but wrong overall. The stuff of life is in the weft of a tea towel, the cobalt rim of a bowl, in comparison shopping for thermal vests.

Monday, September 24, 2012

the profound mystery of airing

For a few sunny September evenings, the shadows, strong and certain, come into their own and Scottish Husband's t-shirts on the line are suddenly beautiful.

Les vêtements de Bartley Aardvark, al fresco.
Scottish Husband says that he is tired of his stereotypifying name
and wishes to be known as Bartley Aardvark.

Jayne asks, in puzzled response to my recent desire for an Aga Airer, how airing works. Is there a stage in the laundry process at which the outside air becomes too harsh, too overwhelmingly airy, and the clothes need to be brought inside for some calming domestic air before they are folded and placed in the armoire? How does one tell? Is it worth the refolding effort?

As I struggled to reply, I realised that I don't really understand laundry at all, and have just been blindly following convention. Does anyone else have an insight into the objectives and intricacies of airing?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

For Jane, who asked about the apple bread

It's a disgracefully long while, Jane, since you asked me for the recipe for the apple bread I mentioned. Finding the cookery book took a lot of rummaging, and the limiting factor of the household efficiency model is that there aren't enough rummagers to cope with the quantity of mislaid items, even though I spend every waking moment returning things to where they belong.

The recipe is essentially for normal yeast  bread made with the addition of stewed apple. Because of my compulsion to tweak recipes, my version has departed from the original to such an extent that I wanted to find the original, correct text for you. Everything I bake always converges eventually towards my favourite food, hot cross buns, and so it was with my more recent incarnations of this apple bread.  Anyhow, the version given here is ever so nice, especially, as is remarked, with cheese.

These pages are from The Student Cook Book: Eating well without mixer, microwave or money by Sarah Freeman. There was a time when it saw me through many a dinner party.

Monday, September 3, 2012

I'd like an Aga airer

My heart has been set for nearly twenty four hours now on owning an Aga airer. As it tends to set to a consistency more like jelly than concrete, my broad policy is to purchase nothing, but pursuing my yearnings to the brink of boredom has become quite a hobby.

a lifestyle-rich airer, or should I say lifestyle-riche? from here

This airer looks very appealing, doesn't it?  If employed in real life, however, I suspect my ditsy tea towels would fall into the copper pans of richly bubbling sugo di pomodoro and I'd soon be needing a restorative swig of whatever those intriguing little bottles contain.

from here

This one is more practical, if not quite as Louis Quinze as I'd aspire to. Socks might get snagged by gilt curlicues, so one must be sensible.  Otherwise, all it lacks is folding feet...

from here

... which this one has, but is it a bit ho-hum or merely channeling the ho-humness of the tiles and microwave oven?

I shyly revealed my Aga airer aspirations to Clarissa, a fellow aesthete, at the school gate today after she had admired my hair and I'd admired hers and we'd touched on Goya's later middle period. Clarissa pointed out that using things for their intended purpose is very déclassé, so I'd have to be sure to air the clothes furtively or repurpose the airer as a stand for swallows, hoisted on a high rusting pole in the middle of the south lawn so that the birds could congregate in the darkening evenings, a bucolic vignette to distract me from the discomfort of my slightly damp clothing.

Already the whole airer thing is fraught with hidden difficulty. Do you think I should buy these Ugg Noira sheepskin-lined boots?
Ugg Noira boots from Schuh

Monday, August 6, 2012

My Living Room, by Permanent Magenta

The blog is like a Tamagotchi pet: it needs to have its hair brushed and its water changed or fails to thrive.

I realise it's been a while now since I posted a picture of my lunch, or some fine thoughts I've been thinking, but the best before date on the milk carton is a harbinger of the final weeks of the summer holidays, and childhood years fly past marked by steadily increasing shoe sizes for the return to school of patent feet.

How can I just stop and type with all those days falling behind me?

by permanent magenta

Margaret saw my living room a few posts ago, and painted it.

Just when you're thinking, "ah, I won't bother blogging for a few months," someone paints your living room and sends it to you and you exclaim to yourself that you can never stop posting, never, not while there are still kind people and polka dots out there, and blogging will be all the social interaction left once your dwindling stockpile of Benefit lipstick finally runs out and you become a recluse. Only two lipsticks to go: perhaps four months' supply AT MOST.

And so I bake some tasty apple bread, add a few flowers to quell my sense of alarm, and the Tamagotchi blog and I are back on boogie street.

Friday, July 27, 2012

the rise of the closing question

I notice that the closing question has become a common feature of lifestyle posts, as good-hearted bloggers reach out to engage with their readers.

sudden summer outside the kitchen window

"Here's my fabulous sofa!" has given way to the more inclusive "Here's my fabulous sofa! Do you have a fabulous sofa too?"

this year's crop

People now append a solicitous "How is your vegetable garden coming along?" to "Here's a photo of my homecooked, homegrown dinner! I just love vegetables!"  It makes all the difference.

you like my oilcloth, don't you?

What an admirable trend, and how lovely it is to see Blogtopia becoming a kinder, gentler place.

Are you planning to finish all your posts with a question? 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

God bless the fairies

The search party of shimmering fairies arrived by courier from the UK last week along with a hefty instruction manual on fairy deployment, and by Friday afternoon the missing ring had been located. It reflects the ailing daylight as I type. Thank you all for your helpful and imaginative suggestions. God bless the fairies.

the turf-shed, scene of the joyous fairy find

the turf-shed in the particularly wet rain, for added realism

I have turned off the statistics on my blog. The mystery of why I have so very many readers in Mexico and County Cork had lost all fascination for me, and I decided that one should be peacefully unaware of viewing figures, just as is the case with the calorie count of cheese.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

enough sunlight to take a photograph

Do you remember, Pink, the big glass goldfish bowl you left behind in Simmonscourt when you returned to America? Despite moving house many times since then, I still have it. There it is with the blue hydrangeas in. If ever you want it back just have your diplomats call my diplomats.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

the lost ring

The National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 2004 provides, I am told, that it is illegal in Ireland to use a metal detector.

My ring, the one that I lost in the turf-shed, or possibly in the long grass

The government's great fear, I assume, and it is undoubtedly a justified one, is that someone might use such a device to detect metal.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

what I have been googling lately

Recent strings from my Google search box:

 "Symptoms of tonsillitis in children"

 "Gentle games for cranky children"
[Scrabble, and let them cheat.] 

 "Will lettuce sandwiches do?" 

 "How to find a special gold ring that is lost in the turf-shed" 

 I would like to show you my colourful new spoons:

perfect for eating yogurt

And we're back once again to the Google searches, that window into my life:

 "Yogurt: how much is too much?"

"What to do about hydrangea blooms that wilt soon after cutting?"
[This one is a tested triumph: you just dip them in hot water, then place them in normal tap water.]

"Other uses for gram flour"

"Can I get from here to Ikea without changing lane?"
[No, I can't.  I abandon the Ikea dream.] 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Martin Amis' Mother and I

I am keenly aware that posterity will judge me on the cleanliness of my floors.  That judgement was destined to be unkind until Móna, enviably closer than I am to the cutting edge of advances in the area of home appliances, recently mentioned the Dyson Slim.  

the dear, dear Dyson Slim

Day and night I have wielded it since it was delivered.  Day and night, until the charge runs out or I have finally vacummed up every grain of invading sand.     

I smiled as I read the sentences in Experience, Martin Amis' memoir, in which he says of his mother, Hilary Bardwell, later Lady Kilmarnock: 

There were many reasons why my mother loved living in Spain, not least of them being that you could, in most pharmacies, buy speed over the counter. After a while the stuff she liked was declared prescription-only; so she had to put on ten layers of clothing and go to the hospital and pretend to be suffering from obesity (a routine business in winter, but not so easy during the African heat of July and August).  She regarded the drug mainly as a labour-saving device. You could always tell when Mum had scored because the house suddenly became the scene of large-scale cleansings and re-orderings. You would see her going from room to room, singing, with a sofa under one arm and a sideboard under the other.   

It is good to know that I am not alone, that Martin Amis' mother also experienced the matchless euphoria of moving a lamp-table from one side of a sofa to another or seeing how the big red jug might look on a lower shelf.   I think of her as I vacuum.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

baked yogurt

I wasn't at all sure how baked yogurt would turn out but it was a great delight, with the sharp tang of yogurt as a counterpoint to the rich cheesecake-like consistency so that it wasn't too sweet.

To make:

1. Measure 150 ml of condensed milk and 150 ml of yogurt (I used full fat Greek yogurt) into a bowl. Mix them together and spoon into two large or four small ramekins.
2. Bake at 180°C for 12-15 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

I shall be experimenting with adding some lavender or lemon juice next time I make this.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

card giveaway winners

The winners of a set of handcrafted cards are Stan Carey and Jane and Lance Hattatt.  Thank you all for your entries, and thank you to Ruth of Nice Day Designs for offering the prizes.

kitchen flowers, for the sake of including a picture

This isn't a very interesting post, I know, but the next one will be wonderful.  Please have two ramekins ready.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Lemon and Raspberry cakes

I was the only grown-up in the house and that only made it worse. As I watched All In the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry, it became clear that I am a caricature of the middle classes, with their curated finds, chalky paint finishes and the green bling of conspicuous organic consumption. Had there been someone here with whom I could have exchanged knowing remarks about how at least our Range Rover is an ironic Range Rover and no words are written on our cushions, the effect might have been alleviated.   

how reassuringly homemade they look

Sadly helping myself to a 2007 Rioja, I assembled a tv morsel of sundried tomatoes (with garlic) despite my anxious awareness that the sundried tomato concept is totally out of date, especially with garlic. I only intended to have a few of them, merely as a placeholder for the socially acceptable snack whenever it became clear what that was, but as the package was recyclable I felt pressurised to finish them so that I could recycle it during a commercial break.

Cupcakes are the emblem of the middle classes, says Mr Perry. Here are my latest delicious lemon and raspberry cakes:

The class commentary is incidental; these are delightful and worth baking. An honest visitor has said so.

Measure out 3 oz sugar, 3 oz butter, 3 oz flour, 1 oz cornflour, two eggs, and a generous spoonful of baking powder. Add 2 tablespoons of a nice middle class raspberry yogurt (I used Glenilen) and the zest of one lemon and beat it all together in your middle class Kitchen Aid mixer till it is a lovely enticing pale colour. Spoon it into 12 pretty pastel paper cases in a tin. Bake at 180 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

When they are cold, make some lemon icing by adding lemon juice to (organic) icing sugar. Put a dollop on each  cake and top with a fine locally-sourced raspberry.  Blog about them before you serve them with upmarket chilled rosé wine.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

giveaway reminder - handcrafted cards

the furthest corner of the garden

admiring the lovely soaps Hajni sent me

a card from Nice Day Designs
I merely wanted to show you those things. There is a lovely card giveaway from Nice Day Designs on the go for another few days.  How delightful it would be if you won.

The comments are off on this post.  I will take it on trust on this still day that you like my dilapidated red bench and that the soaps are beautiful and that you wish the sky were that blue where you live, where the foreboding clouds loom low.
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