Tag Archives: lifestyle

Help, I just lost all my followers!

Hello… is anybody… out there?

 

Would you like to know how I lost all my followers with one simple click? Or is that to clickbaity?

So, I transferred from self-hosting to hosting back with WordPress and lost all my followers. I mean, I don’t think they mass unfollowed me because they didn’t like my decision to move away from Hostgator (did you?) but the list has been lost to the ether and the kind people at WordPress can’t get you back. So if you followed me and would like to stay on board for this erratic tour of the rabbit hole feel free to sign back up.

If not, this is awkward… but I get it. No, I mean honestly, it’s no big deal, I’ll just… I’ll just be over here doing a thing…

Actually this is probably a good thing, because I’ve decided to see it as a sign that the time is right for a fresh start. I’m not reading in the same way I used to. Back in the early days of this blog, if I only read a book a week I saw it as a personal failing, now I’d take it as a sign that I am crushing life and getting my children to bed at a sensible time on a regular basis.

And speaking of blogging when you have children, or blogging about books when you have children. I read a lot of picture books these days and had been hesitant to post about them because that’s not what people followed my blog for. Well they’re not following me anymore! So I’m going to post a bit more about early literacy and the books I read with my daughters without feeling too bad about it.

I’ll be updating my About Me to reflect my new world order in due course (if the baby lets me, she pretty much runs the show these days) but feel free to check out my back catalogue if you’re curious as to why anyone did follow in the first place.

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo

iconiconI wouldn’t normally buy a book about tidying up, but everywhere I’ve turned recently people seem to be gushing about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying or the KonMarie Method, so I thought that with a baby arriving this month it might be worth a read.

It’s a very short read but as for being a “simple, effective way to banishing clutter forever”? I’m not convinced. And that’s before you get to her claims that it helps her clients lose weight, improve their skin and transform their careers…

Firstly, I found her constant repetition of the phrase “putting your house in order” really disconcerting. I’m not sure whether that’s been translated literally from the original Japanese or poorly translated by someone who isn’t familiar with every day English, but whenever someone talks about putting their house in order in my experience, they are usually referring to putting their affairs in order before they die. So far, so bleak.

I disliked the fact that the KonMarie method focuses on throwing out anything that doesn’t “spark joy”. The author writes with pride about the hundreds of 45 litre rubbish bags her clients have thrown out, the never worn clothes that have gone to the bin and how her clients have learned to eagerly await the arrival of the bin men… it all sounded incredibly wasteful. While I appreciate the need for a good declutter now and again (we’ve taken a lot to the charity shop and put it on ebay while getting the house baby ready), nothing in the book seems to get recycled, just binned. And she has a real fixation with binning. It’s like a one woman crusade to promote landfill.

As a book lover, I think her attitude towards books was the worst for me. Not only does she encourage her clients to throw out any books they don’t truly or deeply love but she counsels people that they are burdening and oppressing their families by passing on the items that they no longer want to them. I can’t speak for all readers, but I love it when a friend or family member passes on a bag of books that I haven’t read to me. And she advises people to keep their bookshelves out of sight in wardrobes, where you should also store such items as wedding albums, souvenirs and mementoes… if you insist upon keeping these, she’d really rather you didn’t.

I admit, I’m probably not Kondo’s target reader, but I have to say, I struggled to understand the deep admiration that fills most of the writing you will read about her. Instead, I was left with a deep concern for her wellbeing. Kondo seems to eagerly reminisce about how she started reading her mother’s lifestyle magazines at the age of five, before taking up compulsively cleaning the family home every evening after school. Throwing away her parents’ and siblings’ possessions if she felt they weren’t in frequent enough use. She recounts one occasion on which she had a kind of breakdown on the bedroom floor at not being able to get her room clean enough for her liking and heard a disembodied voice talking to her… throughout the whole book it seems as though she uses a need to tidy as a way of avoiding living life in the outside world speaking very critically of her family (she admits towards the end of the book that her issues with tidying may relate to her relationship with her mother). And really, what kind of family sees the older brother allowing his little sister to declutter his bedroom? Just weird.

I got the impression that Kondo’s insistence upon treating objects as people, thanking them for their day’s service, unpacking your handbag to allow it to relax after a hard day, holding them to feel whether there is a “spark” between you suggests she’s more comfortable with things than real life. While Kondo’s ritual cleaning of her handbag into specially constructed drawer compartments every evening might be viewed as eccentric, her storage of dishes on the veranda throughout the day sounds unhygienic to me (pollution? wildlife?) and as for her suggestion that shampoo bottles need to be towel dried after each use to prevent them becoming slimy… I can’t imagine wanting to live with someone who allows their surrounding to exert such control over their everyday life and happiness. Life is too short.

So while lots of people have fallen under the spell of the KonMarie method, I politely decline to jump on the bandwagon, preferring to sit in one of my reading nooks with a good view of my heaving bookshelf, mantelpiece and walls which are covered in family photos because that sparks joy in me.

For images of a client’s room before and after the KonMarie method see this Guardian article. Personally I think the before image looks more interesting… the after is like a room in a nursing home…

Tea Party Planting: Alice in Wonderland style floral arrangements

As the world and his wife know by now, I’ve got a big thing about Alice in Wonderland, so it may not come as a big surprise to learn that my eye has been caught by flowers planted in oversized tea pots or giant cups and saucers like the ones from Marks and Spencer and Interflora below.

iconShopping in a junk/antiques shop in Huntingdon this weekend (I prefer the term junk shop, they still existed in my youth… now everything is vintage or antique, I grumble and digress) I found this giant tea-pot which I think will be perfect for planting something up in- I’m torn between an English Ivy/miniature rose combo or a more practical herb garden. It came with a plate to stand it on, but unfortunately that didn’t survive my boyfriend knocking them both off the table, though the tea-pot has which is impressive.

Tea pot planterFor more inspiring tea party decor, check out my friend Laura’s blog post about her trip to the Peace in the Park festival in Oxfordshire which paid tribute to the county’s Lewis Carroll connection.

Rose Petal Biscuits #SundaySnack

rose biscuits rose flavoured cookiesI made these rose petal biscuits for midsummer’s evening last week using the crystallised rose petals that I made at the same time because I thought they had a very Midsummer Nights Dream vibe- I could easily believe that they are fairy food. They are really pretty and perfect for a fairy themed or romantic look, though you could just as easily leave the rose petals off or use another decoration.

Ingredients

Biscuits

  • 225g salted butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon rosewater
  • 280g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Decorations

 

Method

Cream together the butter and sugar using an electric whisk then mix in the other wet ingredients.

Once these are fairly smoothly combined, stir in the flour and baking powder until everything is evenly stirred in.

This dough is quite tricky to handle, especially if you’re making it on a warm day as I was. The easiest way to manage it is to shape it into a sausage and chill in the fridge or freezer until it’s fairly solid and then cut thin slices (about 3mm thick) from the sausage which will bake into the biscuits shown. If you want to use a biscuit cutter for a heart shape or similar, I would chill the dough until solid, roll out to 3mm thick between sheets of greaseproof paper and then freeze that before cutting the shapes out. This dough makes a lovely biscuit but is very difficult to handle.

Bake the biscuits for 10-12 minutes in an oven which has been preheated to 190°C until they are a light golden colour, then allow to cool on a cooling rack or fresh greaseproof paper.

When the biscuits are completely cool, beat the egg white with the water or rosewater (this depends on your individual preference, I find that the additional rosewater in the icing makes the biscuits a bit too perfumey, but if you like them strong add it to the icing in place of the water) before using an electric whisk to mix in the icing sugar so that it has a light, fluffy texture. Add in food colour very gradually until you’re happy with your shade. Then spread on the cool biscuits and sprinkle with crystallised rose petals.

As the icing contains uncooked egg whites, be careful feeding to people with weakened immune systems and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Crystallised Rose Petals

crystallised rose petals

This weekend I spent a lot of time hanging out in my garden, chilling out with my guinea pigs, weeding the borders and checking out how my crops were coming along. I decided to make some rose petal biscuits to celebrate midsummer, and thought that crystallised rose petals would make a lovely decoration. If you’re an organic gardener, they are really easy to rustle up. All you need is a rose, some greaseproof paper, an egg, a paint brush and some caster sugar.crystalised roses step by step

 

 

Pick your rose, and gently pull off the petals, abandoning any that are torn or spotted.

 

 

 

 

 

Gently paint each petal with some lightly beaten egg white, I add a tablespoon of water to my egg whites for a thinner and a finer glaze.

 

 

 

 

 

Gently sprinkle caster sugar all over the rose petal, shake off the excess and then lay on a sheet of greaseproof paper to dry for a few hours.

 

 

 

 

Lavender and Honey Candles

Lavender and honey candles

I’d really been enjoying the sunshine, being out in the garden with the smell of blossom and the buzzing of the bees as the days got warmer… and then the summer disappeared leaving me with rain and gloom. Since Jon is in Cambridge this weekend and the rain had me stuck in the house, it seemed the perfect opportunity to try making some tea cup candles and bring the feeling of summer indoors using beeswax and lavender essential oil for that summery feel.

These were really easy and turned out really well- all you need is beeswax, essential oil, wicks, tea cups and an old saucepan. The wicks, oil and wax pellets were relatively cheap online and the tea cups were a steal in local charity shops. The blue cup and saucer came to 40p earlier today and the pink tea cup and saucer were £1.50. I even got a new saucepan for £1.95 to melt my wax so that my pans didn’t get damaged.

 

tea cup candles step by step

 

 

1)      Measure out your wax, I found that to fill a tea cup I needed about two cups full of pellets.

2)      Set up a double boiler so that the wax doesn’t burn and allow your beeswax to melt slowly.

3)      Dip your wicks in the melted wax to coat them along the length, I used pennies to weight mine and ensure they were straight.

4)      When your wick is securely in place, take your wax off the heat (I added my lavender oil at this stage) give it a stir and pour into the cups.

5)      If your candle has dipped or cracked, add a little more melted wax to level it off before trimming your wick to a safe length.

6)      Hey presto, your candle is ready for lighting.

 

 

 

I am more than a little smug about these. I’ve really been enjoying lying on the sofa as they flicker in the corner. They’d be great presents or decorations at a tea party.

Sometimes people do nice things…

bookcase parrotI bought the parrot in this picture from Etsy in October, and the postman tried to deliver him when I was in hospital having my operation. My boyfriend wasn’t allowed to collect him from the post office and by the time I was out of hospital and able to get to the post office, he’d been send back to the seller Susanna. Susanna got in touch with me to tell me he’d come back to her, and when she heard about my operation she told me that she hoped I was feeling better and sent him back to me, so he is now making me happy by brightening up my bookshelf.

I just thought I would share how nice Susanna (who runs this website according to her Etsy profile) had been to me to remind everyone that sometimes people do really nice things.

Seville Orange Marmalade (complete with literary influences…)

Seville orange marmaladeOranges are not the only fruit, unless you’re making marmalade in which case, sorry Jeanette, but they pretty much are. I know that you can technically add tangerine, ginger, grapefruit and whatnot, but for me, the Seville orange reigns supreme because of its distinctive, tangy marmalade taste, though not before sugar has been added. I don’t know if you’ve ever accidentally eaten a  bit of Seville orange thinking it was something other than a bitter cooking orange, but if you have you’ll understand the quote from Much Ado About Nothing:

The count is neither sad, nor sick, nor merry, nor
well; but civil count, civil as an orange, and
something of that jealous complexion.

If you want to make your own marmalade, and eat your sandwiches as Paddington Bear, intended, it’s pretty easy following this handy how to make marmalade guide from the BBC. Geeky literary quotes about Seville oranges and marmalade on the label are optional, but great fun.

Baby Blanket Boom!

This week I finally got around to finishing my granny square baby blanket for my niece Amelie who was born on January 2nd. I am quite pleased with the crab stitch edging as it’s the first time I’ve used this stitch and like all my crochet knowledge was picked up from Youtube videos.

Amelie's blanket, made using lots of granny squares

Amelie’s blanket, made using lots of granny squares

This wasn’t nearly as late as the baby blanket I made for my nephew Joe who was born in July but got his blanket in October or November… just in time for it to get really cold.The blankets are all based around the idea of the granny square, Amelie’s as 30 granny squares joined and bordered (hint, use a square number to avoid same coloured squares touching) and Joe’s as a giant granny square with little squares around the border.

Joe's blanket, one large granny square with a mini granny square border

Joe’s blanket, one large granny square with a mini granny square border

His mother Laura, who blogs at HelloMisterMagpie kindly got me the Mollie Makes Crochet book for my birthday, so I will hopefully have lots of new ideas for crochet soon, maybe moving onto a more complex pentagon shape!

My Top 5 Bookish Tumblrs

031020103131.jpgThere are so many inspiring book blogs out there, but I find that the Tumblr pages tend to get a little overlooked compared to their wordy companions. Here are my five favourite book related tumblr pages which I like to check for smiles and inspiration.

1. Bookshelf Porn

Bookshelf Porn is not such an overlooked tumblr since anyone who is into books or interior design will be familiar with their page, if not through tumblr itself then through the multitude of shares on Facebook, pinterest, etc. The most famous and the best for a very good reason.

2. Epigraphic

I am a bit of an epigraph obsessive, I really appreciate a well-chosen one but found during my A-levels that others don’t find them as interesting (the epigraph in question was the Sufi proverb in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale). I was delighted to come across Epigraphic a really cool tumblr page which collects pictures or quotations of epigraphs from a wide variety of books. I’ve even added a few books to my to read list as a result of their epigraphs being shown on this page.

3. The Art Of Google Books

The Art of Google Books was a recent find after I read a piece about it on the New Yorker. Collecting scanning errors and quirks that have occurred during the mass appropriation of content for the Google Books programme, it also includes marginalia, tea stains and other evidence of previous readers which will be lost if books go entirely digital.

4. Pretty Books

Pretty Books is edited by an individual and I think it’s all the nicer for it, as you really get a sense of Stacey’s individual tastes and style from the consistently gorgeous images she selects. I envy her aesthetic flair.

5. Ideal Bookshelf

I came across Ideal Bookshelf through Bookshelf Porn which just goes to show the lovely stuff you can find while reading other people’s blogs. The artist creates portraits of people which show them as the books that have shaped their lives and personality, rather than the nose and eyes that genetics have assigned them. I think it’s a lovely idea and am so tempted to get my own.