Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Country Living...

This weekend we discovered why the majority of people round these parts drive a 4x4 of some description. Husband arrived home late Thursday night from London. On Friday morning we awoke to snow but managed to get the car out and we drove to our nearest town, where I work. I went to the office, he stocked up on food for the weekend - as well as the wherewithal to make our Christmas presents (which included an entire box of 50 lemons). He came back and collected me at the end of the day. Although snow was lying on the ground in our village we are relatively high up. To be honest, I assumed that was the end of the snow.

Saturday morning we awoke to a further 2-3 inches, freezing winds but gorgeous blue skies. We spent the morning making the first half of our Christmas presents (post to follow) and then after lunch set out for a walk. We were planning on attending a black tie ball in the nearest town that evening; it wasn't until we realised how icy the road was at 4pm that it dawned on us that driving just wasn't going to be an option in our car. The road we have to use to get to the main road is bordered by a river in parts: one false move/slide doesn't bear thinking about.

Given that no taxis would come out and no buses had come through, we telephoned our friends. Who, amazingly, came to the rescue. Which saw us, rather comically, dressed in black tie (me in a knee length cocktail dress) accessorized with thick socks, wellies, enormous tweed coat and hats/gloves sliding down to the main road to be met by a 4x4 which got us safely to the ball and back.

Sunday morning brought further snow and we were again marooned at home, spending the day making more Christmas presents. Monday, however, we awoke to 3-4 more inches of snow and what appeared to be a blizzard. We trudged/slide down to the main road, this time wearing snowboarding trousers along with my tweed and wellies, to try and get the bus to get to work. No chance. The road hadn't been gritted and not even a snow plough had been through. Still, we waited 30 minutes just in case and then abandoned the wait. No buses. No taxis. Working from home it was.

This morning the bus still didn't turn up, despite the main road being a bit clearer. I ended up getting a taxi - it was such a beautiful drive in through snow covered fields and silhouetted trees. Sadly the cloud cover was far too thick to see any of the lunar eclipse. Luckily, the buses were running for my return journey; another pleasant drive through Exmoor. The sheep actually had their heads entirely covered by snow as they attempted to find something to eat and the whole countryside is so muffled and silent that the bird song travels in a very eery fashion. I think Exmoor is made for this kind of weather: it looks so stunning and magical blanketed in thick snow. Almost as if we live in a film set.

Friday, 17 December 2010


Someone I know just got engaged. I want to send them a list of wedding blogs that they *must* read. But, it's a while since I read lots of wedding planning blogs*. So, I ask you, what are your "must read" blogs, themes of which are weddings and wedding planning. I have a basic list, but I would really like your recommendations too. No matter how big/popular the blog or how small/niche it is. Please share your google reader favourites, if you don't mind helping me out.

*I read one or two, of course.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Shak-Shuka (or, shopping for baby showers)

Lots of people I know have had babies recently. Friends both real and in real-life. Sometimes, they fall into both categories. Consequently, I've had to spend some time looking at and buying baby presents recently, which has been my first foray into baby-item purchasing. I didn't really know where to start, so I went to the British High Street and the first shop I came to. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't eco. But the rabbit and elephant and teddy were quite cute.

Today, Christina posted some shoes from Shak-Shuka and I followed the link. (Seems like everyone is reproducing at the moment). And found the most darling eco boutique for babies and mamas. Based in Holland, but will ship anywhere. I particularly loved the recycled plates with ellies on and the little zig zagged babygro. And the bamboo cutlery? Perfect. They are 10 Euros - shipping is 6.95 Euros. Combined with one of those gorgeous bibs: I can see my baby shower presents lining up before my eyes...

All photos by Shak-Suka. 

Co-op Membership Community Fund

When we first moved to Somerset, it was a bit of culture shock to say the least. On that first weary night we drove into the nearest town, looking for food. All of the take-away joints either looked dismal or were closed. Exhausted, we pulled up in front of the Co-op, which was, mercifully, open. It was, I think, the first time I'd ever been in a Co-op. I was surprised to find that so much of the produce was fair trade. I still do a lot of my supermarket shopping there, including things like cotton wool pads, as even those are fair trade. Fair trade is very important to me.

On one of my earlier trips, I was invited to join the membership; every time I shop there, what I spend represents my share of the profit and it is converted back into a dividend for me - and I can either opt to have it paid to me or into the community membership fund.

That community membership fund is then paid back to the community in the form of grants. Groups can apply to the fund for a grant; so far this year The Co-operative Members have donated £1.2 million to local community groups across the country. It is a registered charity and is governed by The Co-operative Community Investment Fund (CCIF). This board of trustees are responsible for ensuring funds to projects are given in line with the Charities Commission guidelines. Grants vary from a minimum of £100 to a maximum of £2,000.

All the group need do is apply through the website for a grant. To be successful a group must:

  • Carry out positive work in the community (it does not have to have charitable status to apply)
And the project must:
  • Address a community issue
  • provide a long-term benefit to the community
  • Support co-operative values and principles
  • Ideally be innovative in its approach
There are many projects in the community here in Somerset who would benefit from a grant from the Co-Op community fund. Without going into any detail of my work, I see all sorts of people who could stand to benefit from a group with a grant. Certainly the local Advice Bureau would benefit from more funding. There are many child care groups who could stand to receive funding, allowing mums (and dads) to return to work. Perhaps increasing their skill set. Hell, the job centre here is so under-funded it's only open 3 days a week, and that can't be because there is so little unemployment.

We could actually really do with a swimming pool. A grant isn't going to build one though, sadly.

(this has been a sponsored post, although, for the record, I think the idea of the community fund is a great idea, regardless of any fee that I may have been given to post. What can I say, "funding" down here is slow, a girls gotta eat).

Cooperative Membership Fund

Cooperative Membership Fund

(Image courtesy of ebuzzing)
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Monday, 13 December 2010

A long weekend in December

This weekend, we did very little. Tree, decorated; fire, lit. Films, watched. Walks taken in the winter sunshine. A spot of shopping. Quite a lot of chestnut and apple stuffing made and eaten. Makes me wish all weekends were 3 day weekends.

photos by me

Sunday, 12 December 2010

vintage tea sets

When we were planning our wedding - and I can't believe that we started that process two and half years ago; how time does fly - we spent a lot of time looking for vintage tea sets. I started out thinking we would hire them but there was a distinct lack of options. Even the ones that looked promising initially turned out to be a disappointment and so we decided that we needed to take matters into our own hands, painstakingly collecting - in conjunction with our families - a hundred sets of dinner plates, tea plates, cups and saucers. (and cutlery too). It turned out to be beautiful and well worth the effort; we took two sets on our honeymoon and even today we eat off some of the tea plates. I also have enough tea cups and saucers for an extremely large royal celebration next April and every single junior member of my family has inherited part of it for their university lodgings.

Mock Up Table

Planning a wedding now and I understand that is a myriad more options. Just today I stumbled across Vintage Tea Sets, a company who essentially offer a similar service to what we ended up doing ourselves. They also sell candles in vintage tea cups and other tea party essentials as well as hiring crockery for events of all kinds. They are also based in the West Country, and, if you are planning a west country wedding (as we did) they must be well worth investigating. I think I must have been drawn to them as they feature two of my favourite things on their website (vintage crockery and peacock feathers).

Top photo by me and of our crockery and napkins. We bought all 100 of those too.
Bottom two photos borrowed from Vintage Tea Sets, showing their crockery.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

What does a wedding mean to you?

And, you may well ask, what does it mean to me?

Hop on over to Anna and the Ring and you will see for yourself what I have to say on the matter... (you can also find a sneak peek at her wedding photos too - what are you waiting for?)

Thank you Anna for asking me to write a guest post and congratulations on your marriage.


Tuesday, 7 December 2010

What would you do...

... if you won a years salary? The prize is up to £40,000 but, in our late 20s, I doubt if many of us are higher bracket tax payers just yet. So, without giving too much away about how salaries are down here... what would you do if you won £20 something K simply by using PayPal to buy something?

Last night, I bought some jam jar lids on ebay - how amazing that would be if I'd won a years salary at the same time. I know, last of the exciting purchases. Christmas presents is what they're for. I bought a candy thermometer too. That's two entries. It's a weekly draw.

If I had won, I would do a few things. I would pay off my credit card bill. And my professional studies loan. Actually, that wouldn't leave much over. Imagining I did have something left over, perhaps I would pick up a few pieces for work. Never hurts to look good when you're at work...

Perhaps a Tuxedo blazer from Ted Baker, teamed with some slim fit trousers. Too trendy for my office, but in my imaginary world, they'd look just lovely. I'd wear them with a loose silk and lace top, in mink and black. In my imaginary world, it may be winter but it isn't cold. No need for cardigans here. And then I'd cover it all up with this amazing puff sleeved coat and top it all off with these beautiful shoes.

This has, of course, been a sponsored post. Thank you.

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Monday, 6 December 2010


Frosty Morning

Frosty mornings with amber sunlight silhouetting sheep and trees against frosty fields, sparkling in the morning light. Cosy evenings snugged up by the wood fire, new blanket over knees.
Slow cooked lamp. Steak. Shepherd's Pie.
TV watching in bed. 
Dunster by Candlelight
Mulled wine, hog roast, lemon and sugar pancake eaten out of a paper bag held in mitten hands.
The sparkliest stars I have ever seen.

(Photo credit)