Girls just wanna have fun

And failing, that make the best of when your Mother takes you to Basildon Park…

basildonpark

Kate and I took a turn around our local National Trust property Basildon Park yesterday, as we both found ourselves at a loose end and rather fancying some fresh air. The daring sorts we are, we ate rusks by the ha ha, Kate indulged herself in a bit of manual mowing (new favourite past time), we both waved at the trees (much to the amusement of some sensible sorts wearing moccasins), and then Kate fell asleep in her chariot while I sat and watched the world go by overlooking the Berkshire countryside. This was purely self indulgent and wonderful! One thing you don’t get an awful lot of time for looking after a small person (fantastic though it is!), and having been an only child I realise is something I often took for granted, is the opportunity for head space. This blog is of course equally self indulgent but exercises the same opportunity, to have a good old fashioned think. How I have missed it.

biscuiteating

katemowingAnyway I have to say I returned from our escapade a much jollier person, having cleared the debris to make room for some new plans of action. So much so in fact, Kate and I have booked in another session next week.

I am only grateful that Basildon Park has large expanses of lawn so we don’t create bald spots, and there are an abundance of trees to greet to keep the experience fresh. We are now also bidding on some grown up and mini moccasins to blend in with the other weekday patrons.

Kate has also put her name down for a course on 17th century basket weaving. Girl after my own heart.

Loaves and Fishes

fish

London Aquarium

hand

Emily and fish

Helen and Emily

yellow snow

Yesterday I met up with my dear friend Helen and her daughter (and my adopted niece) Emily, for a visit to see the ‘fishes’ at the London Aquarium. It was wonderful to see them both, and as is always the case, Emily had grown up beyond all recognition and kept me in constant fits of giggles with her exclamations of ‘oh no’ at the sight of anything untoward,  and was a lovely reminder of how amazing a place the world is when you have only 2 years worth of experience, and aren’t yet 3ft tall. The shock of the sensation of touching ice was enough to provoke tears, but a hug from Mum was all that was necessary to put everything to right again. These girls have a very beautiful relationship and friendship, and it was great to be part of their world for a day.

Sadly, however, not m/any snaps of our trip were in focus owing to the lack of light, a ban on flash photography, and the adventures of someone who is two, but this is of course by-the-by, and the good news is that no one was tempted by the yellow snow.

I have become a bit obsessed by bread blogs lately. I haven’t yet pursued this avenue of baking, but I am doing a fair amount of research with thoughts to entering a loaf into the Tilehurst Horticultural Association’s annual show. I fear I will face stiff competition owing to last years offerings, but I hope that 3 months of practice will hold me in good stead.

If not, I will be accepting ideas for a ‘garden on a plate‘ – this year’s theme being ‘The Olympics’. I consider that there is more than one way of being creative with a spring onion…

Cooking the books

Going to the libraryI must share with you something amazing! There is a place about a mile from where I live, and in exchange for your details you get a little plastic card, and with that card they let you walk out of the building with up to 24 books/talking CDs/DVDs for period of three weeks (or more). And you haven’t heard the best bit yet….

…it’s all for free!

I know!

Along with marmalade, Radio 2, and David Dimbleby, the library is by far one of my best re-discoveries, and I can’t believe that it has taken me so long to re-enter this magical literary emporium, albeit with a slightly misguided 70′s exterior. It brings back incredibly fond memories of being little and cuddling up with the giant crocodile in the corner of the children’s section, catching up on the latest adventures of Topsy and Tim, or finding a new ‘Judy Blume’ in my teenage years and giggling at the ‘rude bit’ which could be easily navigated by the most thumbed page.

My journey back hasn’t disappointed. The same musty smell fills the building, a combination of carpet tiles and decaying paper, and the same lady librarian with the bejewelled spectacles, and the nervous one who takes ages preparing the stamp. There are the same red edged shelves neatly marked with catalogue numbers, the same green and yellow draylon chair that we used to fight for possession of, being much comfier than any of the other plastic offerings, and I was heartened to find that even the old BBC computer still remained in the corner by the wonky blind on which to look up a required title.

This week is a slightly busy one and so I have been forced to limit my account to ‘Brilliant Business Plan’, ‘Bags, Bags, Bags’, ’101 ways with felt’ and ‘The Grown Up Gap Year’, all of which are proving most inspirational, although I am still grappling with the notion of ‘fabric mixology’ in one of them. Liquid mixology on the other hand appears to be second nature, so I am encouraged that it will come in time.

Or maybe I could combine the two and write a book of my own…

The Vyne

The Vyne - drive

The Vyne

green

face on a tree

host of golden daffodils

chicken

gardening

Today I put on some tweed, and thereafter felt a sudden need to plan a day ahead that would match my outfit. As luck would have it, a free range mother came wondering past as inspiration struck, and we thus bundled ourselves into my little ‘blue bullet’ and headed for ‘The Vyne’, (a National Trust property near to Basingstoke for those who aren’t familiar), that is both magnificent and magnificently tranquil.

I watched that chicken dig that hole and then hide three worms down it. She then surreptitiously stood in front of said hole with the passing of other hens.

It made me fall in love with her.

And feel very guilty about what we’re having for dinner.

The inside outside predicament

Walking Stick Cabbage

I have a bit of a thing for blogging, but it is rather somewhat of an indoor activity. And I have been mostly outside. Because that’s where the sun has been. You see my predicament.

Whilst not in front of my laptop however the rubble has been cleared from the back bedroom so the plasterer can get in and do his thing (who build’s airing cupboards out of breeze blocks anyway?), the cars are shiny clean, the fence is mostly painted, two veg patches have appeared as if from nowhere, and a daily monitoring of our two seed trays now occurs at around 8:30am every morning in the hope that something green might appear. As yet this is not affirmative, but I am excited at the promise of a seven foot cabbage nonetheless. With a kid rocking some retro velour.

You will also be terribly pleased to know I am sporting a new hair do, this time with slightly more emphasis on the choppiness of the fringe, and with a tad more blonde added. I would be kidding myself if I were to say it looked any different, but a timely lop does have the effect of making me feel that little bit more perky. Happily this appears to have also translated into a discount on my car insurance. Think I now have grounds that an eyebrow re-shape is a totally worthwhile investment…

Have a lovely time in the sunshine x

Connect four

Friends

A happy littering of serendipity has befallen me lately. This year so far I am back in touch with at least four people that I haven’t spoken to in years, and it’s been truly lovely to catch up on all the news and latest plans for cars/babies/extensions/holidays/hair do’s, and another opportunity to extend my straw poll on whether I should attend ‘Strictly Live’ next year. Lucy told me it straight; ‘Men doing latin’.

Incidentally, happy anniversary Lucy and Charlie for next week, wishing you many more.

Old friendships being rekindled has also got me thinking about all of the people who contribute to my bubble. Indeed I am the sort of girl who has never found herself as part of an enduring group, rather I have formed alliances over the years with all sorts of different people where our lives have crossed paths. My old Guide leader, a naval colleague who is currently transporting my reindeer slippers around the world, and the daughter of a vicar who moved to Reading – who knew a friend in university halls – that went to school with my ex-boyfriend, are amongst these treasured people. And I love it. I love that the history of my friendships often have no interconnection with any others, but when we all get together on occasions, we all get on famously. I love that when I see my friends, the variable mixture of personalities leads to us doing different things, talking about different things, and invariably learning different things. This feeds me like nothing else does and I am fast learning that whereas abandoning dairy and chocolate has been possible (bar that one after eight that would have gone off), a life without the company of these people is not. You see therefore the return of four more makes me inordinately happy.

Cheesy, but this is so.

I would also like to take this opportunity to pay my dues to the Poppet who sent me the card above. In it she reminds me that ‘Life can be hard, but it has many rewards, and the cherry on the hypothetical cupcake (we eat a lot of cake), is the time spent with friends’.

I thank her for many things, particularly for understanding my most recent predicament of being a stalk. I can only hope that she is one day rewarded with her Mother-in-Law understanding that a carnation and chrysanthemum combo is no longer socially acceptable.

Out with the old, in with some more

It’s quite unfortunate that ever since we moved house last October, our old possessions seem be on a mission of self destruction. It started with the bathroom mirror, a lovely round one with nobbles around the edge which regrettably left the windowsill one morning, under it’s own steam, and came to a messy end on the tiled floor. Next was a favourite vase, that developed an almighty crack for no apparent reason, and soon the base parted company with the rest of the thing and that was that. The latest example occurred this morning, when one of the bedside lamps began making a rather worrying fizzing sound accompanied by the smell of burning, and so was rather promptly turned off and unplugged. This is to name but just a few of our affects that have elected for an untimely end.

Now whereas the departure of many items of our house’s contents is far from ideal, it does however give me a lovely excuse to visit one of my favouritest places in the world to pick up some more – Manor House Auctions at Heckfield. I went to the viewing of their ‘inside stuff’ this morning, I love it because you really never know what you’re going to find! Some things I absolutely loved:

watering can

Dressing table

Cake stands

Some things were a bit random…Blue chicken

Some things weren’t quite so tempting…

Out of date

Bidding starts at 3:30, I just have to remember that my faithful steed is a Corsa. However, where there’s a will….

Happy Weekend x

Spring is springing

yellowy twigs

My field

snowdrops

At last it’s starting to feel like spring has sprung. It’s been a manky grey this week, but I’m glossing over that and feeling rather cock-a-hoop that I have spotted snowdrops, crocuses and bluebells beginning to emerge from their winter hidey hole, and the world has taken on that comforting warm, little bit like when you put your head inside a bag of compost, kind of smell.

Oh, and as pictured above, ‘my field’ is looking awesome with green grassy stuff popping up everywhere which I am yet unable to identify as this year’s crop. On my last visit there were rabbits and deer munching away to their hearts content, and I might have managed to get a snap, had they not been scared away by the camera lens making a noisy exit into its case when the battery ran out.

I have been trying to keep to a ‘getting fit’ regime recently which has entailed many a walk over the woods and fields, and I’m so glad it has. Recent years have felt like a bit of a tread mill when it was difficult to differentiate between one month and the next, but my enforced ‘at least 20 minutes a day’ has put me back in touch with seasons, and occasionally, sunshine. For which I am very grateful.

So this is what happened…

In approximately a week’s time my beloved and I were set to pack our lives into suitcases, give our house keys to some select strangers in return for rent money, and move to the United States of America. Boston, in fact.

One however can not always foresee the visa application process not following its intended course.

Still our fact finding mission in November last year threw light on a number of interesting points of note I thought I’d share with you – just in case you yourself are about to embark on a similar endeavour.

1) At the car hire place, when offered a free upgrade to a mini van, take it. Your choice of car (although completely adorable and, if you think about it, really quite funny…) means your husband will look like this. All week.

Neil standing next to 'The Beast'

2) When an estate agent tries to sell you a ‘ranch house’, and your mind conjures up a whole host of romantic and whimsical images of skipping through pastures green whilst the cattle graze on yonder hillock – they really mean a wooden bungalow. On a main road. Next to a gas station.

Ranch House in Newton, MA.

3) Ovens are HUGE. Even the little ones. This one was used exclusively at Thanksgiving and Christmas and for the remaining period as useful storage for an overflow of crockery.  This is not unusual. (Point of note – this is the kitchen we removed from our old house in England and we have seen many times since. Did everyone own this kitchen at one time or another?).

The omnipresent kitchen

4) A ‘full disclosure’ is normally provided with every house viewing (or ‘showing’ as our friends across the pond would have it).

Expect information to be forthcoming

5) A garden or ‘yard’ is normally only considered the domain of people with pets or children. Otherwise a deck for the purpose of ‘grilling with friends’ is thought sufficient.

An example of a deck. Perhaps not the best.

6) If you’re posh you frequent Starbucks. If you wear a Burberry hat at a jaunty angle and drive a modified motor vehicle, Dunkin’ Donuts is considered your crib.

The sun shines on the Woburn ('Wooburn') Dunkin'

7)  If One is employed in public services, work must be carried out during daylight hours.

Please note: an actor was used for purposes of re-enactment. This photograph does not represent a true occurrence.

8 ) Unfortunately my dry wit was ill received as it transpires no one has ever heard of Duncan Goodhew.

Local Reading store

9) You can travel half way across the globe, but still end up right back where you started.

En route

10) See.

Welcome to Reading, MA.

Reading, MA. high street.

11) They even have the same newspaper…

The Reading Chronicle

12) Our mini adventure ended with a trip to the beach at sunset where we watched as the plane that would take us home landed, ate chips, and froze ourselves to death. Just like England really.

Plane coming in to land at Logan airport

True Brit enjoying some bracing sea air.

Only a little bit different.