Friday, 21 December 2012

Thrifted Decs and Fairy Lights

With today being Winter Solstice (if you are reading this then, by Jove, the world hasn't ended. Hurrah!)  I felt it time to share my fairy lights with you (that is not a euphemism) 

I feel as though the Yuletide Spirit has finally graced me with her presence. The UK may be dark, miserable and wet at the moment, but this makes me feel all the more warm and cosy and all the more festive. Those fairy lights seem to burn somewhat brighter whilst the rain lashes against the window and the wind howls down the chimney.

Although we decorated our home way back at the very beginning of the month -  I am firmly in the longer-they-are-up-the-better-but-never-before-December camp - there are certain holiday items of mine that I never tire of looking at. I delight in taking them out of the box and greeting them with a cheery "hello". And I feel a little sad when I have to put them away again, knowing that it shall be 11 months until they are back in their places.

Being a whole hearted thrifty shopper, all of my beloved dec's have come to me via gifts, charity shops, car boots, the local jumble or the January sales -  usually right at the end of the month when things are super-dooper cheap. Especially in the case of the second hand items, I never stop wondering, as they stare back at me from their perches, about who they belonged to and if they were as cherished by their previous owners as they are by me.

One such item is a 1980's plate. It may hail from the decade of my birth -  but it has a very 40's looking scene glazed on to the front and it is this picture that makes me grin. From it's place in the kitchen windowsill, it is the thing I gaze at as I am washing up another load of plates and bowls. Yuletide in my home tends to be an steady round of making tasty treats and then the inevitable washing up that comes afterwards. As I scrub away at a stubborn piece of baked on cake mix, I wonder about if this lone plate has always been so, maybe on someone else's window sill or perhaps the soul survivor of a whole set that was only used on Christmas Day?

 A couple of years back, as a beautiful gift from an overseas friend, I received a pair of ruby red 1970's Avon glass goblets. When they arrived I knew that they would look even more jewel like if lit from within. A couple of tea lights later and the deal was sealed. Originally belonging to my pals mother, she had decided she no longer wanted them and so they winged their way to me.  I am pleased the report that they are now a permanent fixture of our end of year celebrations.

And lastly, upon the tree itself, nestled amongst the baubles, artificial greenery and twinkly lights are a set of wooden ornaments that I thrifted the year me and my other half moved into our flat. They are simple, but effective and they cost me all of 50p. A Santa, a Snowman and a Tree, dotted about and smiling out at me. 

I spy them when I am watching endless Yuletide TV specials and smile back.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Wartime Farm Charity Knit

What ho wondrous folk! This a very special post for a very special cause.

A couple of months back, I was contacted by the fabulous vintage knit designer and author Susan Crawford. Those of you adept at this knitting malark (I have yet to learn) will be all too familiar with her wonderful vintage knitting books and patterns. I can but stare at the photos and weep.

She had an idea that would sweep me off my feet and into fund raising mode without a moments hesitation.

With the success of the BBC Wartime Farm series in the Autumn, she wondered what I thought about her idea to design and sell a sleeveless pullover just like the one Alex Langlands wore on the show. She would be selling it for a mere £5.00 as a downloadable PDF.  I thought this most excellent.

But the best bit was yet to come (being further down in the email) Susan wanted to help raise funds for the Women's Land Army Tribute -  by giving half of each sale directly to the charity. She had very graciously asked me to become involved with seeking permissions for copyright, helping with press releases and ensuring promotion. 

Just as well -  for I cannot knit (weep)

I got in touch the lovely ladies at the Women's Land Army Tribute to and my contact at Octopus Publishing -  who handily cover all press for the Wartime Farm Team. Information and much enthusiasm was shared by all.

A truly versatile sleeveless pullover for kiddie winks and adults a like, the pattern comes with full instructions and yarn suggestions. I think this would look a treat teamed with a nice shirt and trews or over the top of a frock.

Smart enough for work, tough wearing enough for play, authentic enough for the most strident vintage enthusiast.

And so -  there we have it! 

Pretty much all ready to go and be knitted by your own fair hand! 

The official release shall be on the 9th January - but this can be pre-ordered now and shall be sent straight to your inbox - just in time to be knitted and worn in the snow (you know it's coming) and worn again and again through the seasons. 

I am so proud of being a part of this -  I could burst. 

Please -  spread the word good people on your blogs, twitter, facebook and anything else you can think of! There is a handy blog button on the top left sidebar -  feel free to use it on your own blogs if you so wish! It is 250x250 but can be made smaller should you so wish. I recommend PicMonkey for this.

Get tongues wagging and those needles clicking!

Friday, 14 December 2012

Brr-some Birthday Carouselling

There are few things that excite me more than an old fashioned carousel. With horses that bob up and down to chirpy music. I don't think I have been on one, if at all, since I was a wee small thing with bunches and a dolly under my arm.

So, imagine my delight, when upon rocking up to a Christmas Market on London's Southbank, I was greeted by a nostalgia inducing whirl-a-gig for only £2 a ride. 

And on my birthday no less! 

I clapped - well - slammed my fur-gloved hands together to make a dull thudding sound -  and ran up to the pay booth.

 I chose my steed. John, a slightly snarling black equine, was in the running, but I plumbed for Ronnie. She looked like something Mary Poppins would magic right off of the moorings and into a race. Which would be won and celebrated with song.

Although this didn't happen (much to my disappointment) I could have gone round and round and ROUND all day. Well worth every of it's 200 pence per ride.

After strolling up and down the rest of the market and parting with cash for some photographic artwork by Quirk London ,who has an amazing stall there, we headed for home and a nice fat steak.


Monday, 10 December 2012

Letters by Hand

Do you hand write much these days? No, me neither.  Apart from cards, diary appointments and.... letters to my penpals. On the whole, I like to take time out to sit and write them a letter on paper, with an actual pen.

It worries me that the art of letter writing is going to fall the way of vinyl, cassettes and CD's. The younger generation being all a wash with no handwritten memories to hold on to. A recent conversation with a teen in my midst made me frown a lot. It was all about texting and facebooking -  what was the point of writing something if it was not school work? 

Now -  I am as down with the kids at the next, but there are some things I think should not die out.

That said,  I am also partial to a tippy-tappy-typed letter, usually when I have left it a long time between letters and I know that I am going to be scribbling for a long time. I am also fond of an email or 2. I have become firm friends with my penpals over the years, and I like the instant connection that email provides.

However, you cannot escape the fact that giving and receiving a hand written letter, full of slices of news from someone's life, in ink and to keep forever, is a grand thing. I have boxes of letters from past lovers (so pleased I didn't burn them along with the photos. Sigh) and pen-friends and I have lost many an evening after stumbling across a box of them. They are like a little window into the past. Not only about their lives at the time -  but also my own. With the answering of questions I must have asked in my last letter. 

From my early teens to now, from parts of the UK to Europe, Canada, Australia and the States, I would not be without my friends of pens. I have read about their loves, losses, new jobs, the beginnings and endings of relationships, children, marriages, pets and holidays. It is all there, bound up and kept safe in decorative boxes. 

Just waiting for me to unravel and revel in.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Autumn Leaves and Curious Sheep

Just as I am not ready to forget about Summer -  it appears that I am hanging on to Autumn with the same gusto.

It was, for the most part, a glorious one. You usually know what you are going to get with this season. The leaves will always change colour - and that is all I need to keep me a happy gal.

If the sun comes out, say, on a free Sunday afternoon, then all the better. It means that we get to walk around one of our bestest National Trust haunts - Polsden Lacey. Not only am I in love with the grounds, the Edwardian hostess stories of the former owner Mrs Greville, but also the fact it is where George VI and the Queen Mother honeymooned in 1923.

 I like to think about them all as I wander around the grounds - the parties that were held, the famous and infamous guests who attended, and a young couple in love and with free reign over the whole estate.

I doubt they grabbed fistfuls of leaves (and pebbles - ouch), chucked them in the air and ran underneath them like me. Kicking up the leaves is fab - but making it rain tree foliage is something that makes me stupid happy.

Along with getting the most out of a summer frock with the aid of thermal undergarments and pair of woollen tights.

The downside of a leaf shower is the hair accessories it leaves behind (pun intended)

Walking round such a large estate has it's drawbacks. Like not actually being prepared for an hour and a half trek. A saunter? I could handle that. But a full on march was not on my agenda. Alas, The Beard had other ideas. Which involved water logger tracks and a field full of curious sheep.

My poor brogues.

On a major plus side -  we saw hardly another human soul and had the walk all to ourselves.

Apart from the aforementioned sheep.

The sun was out, the leaves were a-changing and the autumn fruits were ready to be gobbled by the birds.

I did spy some rosehips near these glorious red jewels -but fear that my idea of making rosehip anything this year has passed me by. I could not reach them, let along pick them. 

Next year my pretties, next year.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

My Hair Curling Arsenal ~ 5) Bendy Rollers

Oh hai there comrades! How be all of thee? Well I trust.

Here we are with this months instalment of the my Hair Curling Arsenal. 
If you are new here (hello!), then you can find all of my previous posts here.

These came into my life after a look in the good old £1 shop. 2 packs later and I was off home to relive my youth of an uncomfy nights sleep and frizzy hair. Or so I thought. 

These bendy foam covered stylers surprised me to say the least and are now a firm favourite  on the what-to-curl-my-hair-with circuit.

I have found that I prefer to work with the longer ones out of the pack, especially for the back of my head as they are just that little bit simpler to use.

I wet my hair before I commence -  usually with mousse, leave in conditioner (as in this case) or setting lotion. Always on dry hair.

I roll the hair downwards and then bend the ends upwards to hold them in position. If you tend to roll your hair upwards then you shall have to do the opposite - but I have found this a little digging to sleep on.

 I have been curling my hair for a good few of years now and have found my own pattern to work to -  so this is not a structured set.

One thing I really like about these is the amount of hair I can get on them. They are completely adaptable to my mood (read: enthusiasm level) as I can grab great bit wodges of locks for loose waves or much smaller sections to give a much tighter result.

 I then cover it all in a headscarf and get me to sleep. Which I find really very comfortable. I remember these from the early 1990's - when crimping was out and foam rollering or plaiting damp hair was in  - and sleep worthy they were not. 

However -  I also do not remember ever sleeping in a headscarf to keep them all in check and I had a penchant for slumbering on a selection of my favouritist teddies as opposed to an actual pillow. I feel all of these attributed to my former unfavourable feeling towards these devices.

The next morning - and they are all dry and ready to be unwound and styled.
Before I set to it with a brush - I run my fingers through it all to separate the curls. 

I then pull my "aaargh my curls!!" face -  which results in my nostrils going into over drive.

A bit of gentle brushing and it is all soon sorts itself out. I do not tend to use pomade -  it does very little for my hair other than weigh it down. I rely on hair spray and pins. My hair always drops - it is a fact I have have had to get my grumpy oh-but-its-not-FAIR!!!! self used to. 

It's just the way it is.

I find that a set using these lasts me a good couple of days with at least some shape. I tend to re-roll large chunks of dry hair at night to keep the shape longer.

For a couple of quid, they were well worth the punt and have become a firm feature.

Ease of Use:  8/10

Comfort when Sleeping: 7/10

Longevity of Curl: 8/10

Friday, 16 November 2012

New Foresting

We are lucky to have friends who live in amazing places. Chums who are happy for us to kip over for the night, or a weekend or a week. Budski's who ask for a nominal fee for a phenomenal stay.

A small cottage on the edge of Lyndhurst, in New Forest, is one such place.

The wandering and -  for the most part -  friendly wild ponies greet you right outside the gate.  I have never, ever lost my childlike entrancement when it comes to all things equestrian. Although I long ago gave up the mucking out, the brushing down, the tacking up and the hacking about the woods, they still make my heart flip.

I am always respectfully wary of them - just as  I would be an old mare who is as placid as can be. Them beasts all have big old teeth and long, kicky legs.

But, the smell of them, the noises they make and their gentle presence is, for me, one of the delights of walking in a damp forest on an Autumn day. 

After such a walk, albeit not brisk by any means, but cold, undulating and long, it is only right and proper that copious tea, cheese on toast and cake is slurped and chewed.

Faces drawn in the condiment of your choosing are compulsory.

There is much village-ness to be had in Lyndhurst and out of season is always, for us, far more glorious than the height of summer. It meant a peaceful and unhurried visit to an old graveyard with a not-as-well-know-as-she-should-be inhabitant.

It was not until recently that  I read the original book for the first time.  The Disney version of events is all I have ever known. Not, in my eyes, a necessarily bad thing, but it is always nice to read the actual story as intended.

After a chillsome pootle in and out of the charity, antique and chocolate shops, it soon becomes time to return to the cottage. 

Via the pub. Naturally.

As the night draws in, the fire is lit by The Beard and I am able to potter about in a galley kitchen making hot food for cold tummys. 

And generally trying to hatch a plan so that we can live somewhere like this full time.

My lottery win just keeps on missing me. Motherhubbards!

That said, it is nice to know that a top up of all things forest are not too far away.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Winter Sun

It sure is getting dark early these days. You know me well enough by now to know that I love this time of year. However, the brightness of the sun as it dips down behind the houses is sometimes a little too much. Especially as our front room is south facing *squint*

But. It sure makes for a pretty picture.

It highlights the whispy clouds with colours that I have not seen in any felt tip pen set. And if I tried to recreate them, I would end up 1) with brown and 2) using too much of said felt tip and ripping through the paper.

I realise that there are many paints to be had, should I feel myself particularly arty, but there is something alluring about a long set of felt tips. I still have a hankering for an A3 flip board and a set of thick, unfailing markers so I can pretend to be Rolf Harris.

Fret not, summer lovers. If the world does not end when we enter the Age of Aquarius at the Winter Equinox, the days will get a few seconds longer before you know it.

Whilst they are like this, I shall relish every one of them.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Church of Gramps

I am in Ypres, Belgium for this year's Remembrance Sunday.

But last year was no less special.....

The weather was bright and unseasonably warm . And I was up and out by 8.30 of the AM (shudder) on my way to London to attend the annual service at the Cenotaph. 

A veteran friend of mine was laying a wreath on behalf of the ATS and, although I failed to get anywhere even near the Cenotaph, I did see him on a big old screen from about half a mile back.

After the silence, followed by the pomp, The Beard and I headed off on a trip to somewhere new to me, but a place that would have been all too familiar to my Great-Great-Grandfather, who is known to us as Gramps.

During his extensive research, my Pops had found out a lot more about him than I could have ever imagined. Namely, the area he lived in when he joined up. That was enough to floor me.

But then he told me about the church my Great-Grandfather had been christened in. 

Walking past a pub where he possibly drank, through what is now a housing estate and arriving at these gates left me feeling a bit weak and watery-eyed.

But to actually be able to go in, left me stunned. 

It had nothing to do with the jumble sale that was being organised by busy members of the local community. That is not to say that I ignored the vast amount of tat that was just begging to be rifled through. Thankfully, (or frightfully?), none of it was for sale until the next Saturday.

What left me so speechless was the small plaque on the wall. To all the men and boys from the parish who had perished.

Of which my Gramps was only one of many. 

To see W.E.French on a commemoration plague here in the UK, that I could touch and stand next to? Let's just say I am pleased I wore waterproof eyelash goo.

Just as in France, his name was on a wall with people he knew. People from the same locality. Neighbours. People of acquaintance. Friends.

A stark comparison to the great, white walls at Arras, but no less poignant. In fact, a little more so as every one of the men mentioned would have been a member of the church I was now standing in.

I had to let The Beard take over the explanation to a friendly, but slightly bemused, lady who had helped us locate the plaque.

Now. As I have come to write this, it has spooked me slightly that I am wearing the same dress in France by his name, as I chose to wear that day. This was not pre-meditated at all, I literally grabbed a frock I felt comfy in. Odd.

It was only as I left the coolness of the church and came back out into the sunshine of that November day that it really hit me. And it was standing on the threshold of church that reduced me to big, gulping breaths. 

The very same threshold that he would have carried each one of his 3 children, the eldest one being my own Great-Grandfather, over to be christened.

I had to move away and lean on a wall.

We then decided to try and complete the last leg of the visit to the small street that still, to this day, contains the house he lived in.

It is a moments stroll from the church, a reminder of how close knit communities were back then. We know from our research that one of the men listed on the commemoration plaque lived 2 doors up from my Gramps and his young family. 

Did they join up on the same day? Did Gramps hold the arm of the younger man as they waved goodbye from this street?

If all of this -  the pub, the church, the spooky dress thing and being outside his home, standing on the cobbles he would have trod -  was not enough...

.... then there was this on the floor.

Spelt in the way I used to spell my name, granted (Charly is a shortening of my real name. And no. It's not Charlotte *wink*) but still.

My name. There. In the floor.


I don't know how many smokes I smoked whilst standing in that street. It all kind of rushed at me. Like a scene from Christmas Carol when the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge by the hand and down the tunnel to see what has been before.

After I had semi recovered from my wobble, I had to use all my resolve to stop myself from knocking on the glossy black front door of the property and trying to explain the situation. 

I am sure it would have weirded out the current tenants. But, would they mind if I just had a look, could they just spare 5 mins...? 

I didn't knock. I didn't actually go anywhere near the door.

I might let the postman do that for me...


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