‘Eau-la-la’

Perfume is the most intense form of memory.  Jean Paul Guerlain

IMG_3170

Do certain perfumes trigger memories, no matter how distant they may be? Certainly this was the case for me, when my daughter opened a door of The Body Shop advent calendar at Christmas, and out popped a miniature bottle of White Musk. This took me right back to the age of 15 when I discovered this evocative scent, which encompasses notes of lily, iris, rose, vanilla, and cruelty-free synthetic musk: The Body Shop’s products are not tested on animals. White Musk featured in my life for many years, but curiously my daughter, who happens to be 15, couldn’t wait to give me the petite sized eau-de-toilette. In her eyes it was a relic. Hmm. My current perfume, Lolita Lempicka, evokes memories of a different kind, when one year my brother bought it for me as a Christmas present. We are fortunate enough to have a top notch perfumery in our town where one can obtain the most exotic of scents. The characterful lady who owns Fascination has been running it for over 20 years, and knows all there is to know about perfume on an international scale. Lolita Lempicka was launched in 1997, and is a blend of exotic liquorice, vanilla, florals and musk. The scent lingers for a long time. A perk when visiting Fascination is that one comes out of the shop with a bag stuffed full of intriguing product samples. And indeed my dear brother walked out of the store with a ‘goodies bag’, after purchasing my Christmas present. Dousing himself in one of the samples for the office party, he certainly did smell sweet, receiving many compliments. From. Men. Ah. He was convinced that the lovely lady from the perfumery had bestowed upon him gifts for the boys. It was a memorable night.

Lolita Lempicka
Lolita Lempicka 

A perfume paradise – Fascination – the North of England’s fragrance wonderland …

IMG_3363IMG_3362

IMG_3364IMG_3365

IMG_3315

IMG_3317
The interior of Fascination

IMG_3318

IMG_3314
Perfume by Jean Paul Gaultier

IMG_3320

IMG_3366
Bal a Versailles by Jean Desprez – the purest and most expensive natural ingredients are used to create this warm and richly textured perfume. It has been revealed that Michael Jackson wore this as his signature scent.

‘Where should I apply perfume?’ a young lady asked.

‘Where you want to be kissed.’

Coco Chanel

IMG_3321

History snippet Perfume was first used by the Egyptians as part of their religious rituals, through the burning of incense and the application of balms and ointments. The word, perfume, comes from the Latin, ‘per fumus’, meaning ‘through smoke’. In 2004-05, archaeologists uncovered what are believed to be the world’s oldest perfumes in Pyrgos, Cyprus. The perfumes date back more than 4,000 years ago. Perfume bottles became as elaborate and exotic as the oils they contained, the earliest specimens dating back to about 1000 BC. In 1370, the first modern perfume – a blend of scented oils and alcohol solution – was made at the command of Queen Elizabeth of Hungary, and which became known as Hungary Water. In the 16th century, the art of perfumery prospered in Italy, followed quickly by France, the latter becoming the European centre of perfume. Today, Grasse, a small town in Provence in the South of France, is considered the world’s capital of perfume. In England, perfume reached its peak during the reigns of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. Queen Elizabeth could not tolerate bad smells and ordered that all public places be scented.

IMG_3171

Perfume and advertising Today, advertising plays a huge part in the perfume industry, enticing us to buy into the dream of a more glamorous life. We are offered approximately 1,000 new fragrances a year. ‘Celebrities’ are launching perfumes by the dozen, attracting the teenage market. Buying a perfume can be image based, and is often a conscious response to clever advertising. Before advertising, selecting a scent was based on ladies following their instinct, and not fashion. Smart.

IMG_3358IMG_3267

IMG_3322IMG_3172

The five most popular perfumes of all time (June 2014)

1. Chanel No. 5 by Chanel

2. Joy by Jean Patou

3. Shalimar by Guerlain

4. Opium by Yves Saint Laurent

5. L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci

A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting.  Christian Dior

What your scent says about you FLORAL – ultra feminine, dress style – casual, good-natured, lively. CITRUS – confident, efficient, a born organiser, a classic beauty. EARTHY AND WOODY – uncomplicated, bold, not overly feminine, articulate, modern. ORIENTAL – romantic, sensual, warm, intense.

IMG_3259IMG_3258

Perfume trivia

  1. The sense of smell diminishes with age, which is why older people often wear too much perfume.
  2. Women generally have stronger senses of smell than men.
  3. Smelling a scent you perceive as pleasant has a positive impact on your mood.
  4. Almost every perfume contains rose and jasmine.
  5. Coco Chanel was the first female to produce a designer perfume.
  6. Perfume is banned from many office buildings in the US.
  7. Because of differences in body chemistry, temperature and body odours, no perfume will smell exactly the same on any two people.
  8. The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar are the biggest spenders per capita on luxury perfume in the world, purchasing a new bottle every two months, compared with the average Westerner, who buys one every six months.
  9. The three enemies of perfume are: sunlight, heat and air.
  10. If stored correctly, the shelf life of most perfume is three to five years, although perfumes with a higher content of essential oils have a longer shelf life.

IMG_3165

A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.  Coco Chanel

If you’re a ‘citrus’ girl and struggling to find your signature scent, don’t despair …

IMG_3261

I think Ralph Waldo Emerson had it right …

Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting some on yourself.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog :)

Tea, Glorious Tea!

Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.  Chaim Potok

IMG_3013

Does tea make everything better? According to William Gladstone it does:

If you are cold, tea will warm you,

If you are heated, it will cool you.

If you are depressed, it will cheer you.

If you are excited, it will calm you.

And I’m inclined to agree with him. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, with Turkey being the country where most tea is drunk per person. There was a little gasp from me as I read this information, feeling for sure it would be the UK. Certainly in our household tea is a valuable commodity, and has been a source of comfort on many occasions. When friends pop round, I automatically switch on the kettle to make a ‘brew’ – that’s if it is daytime – night time finds me popping a cork! Be there a problem, some happy news or a good gossip going down, there is a constant flow of tea on tap. Forget the ‘selfie-stick’, my Irish sister-in-law must have a ‘tea-stick’ supporting her addiction to the stuff. My great-auntie, who practically swam in a sea of tea, is testament to its health benefits having lived to the grand old age of 106. Indeed, tea can help stave off heart disease, and protect against tooth decay and gum disease. The recommended amount of tea to drink per day for optimal health benefits, is four cups. There is a quote – origin unknown – which really sums the whole tea thing up to us Brits. Ahem.

To an Englishman, tea is of far greater importance than toilet paper.

IMG_2990

Drinking tea became popular in Britain during the 17th century. Tea rooms flourished from the 1880s, and these were regarded as respectable and fashionable meeting places for Victorian ladies. Despite the current economic climate which has seen many restaurants close, the traditional British teashop is thriving.

There is an abundance of teashops in my neighbourhood. A favourite is The Blackbird, which is very much a traditional teashop in terms of specialising in loose leaf tea and cake, yet there is a shabby chic feel to the interior which I like. There are a couple of cosy corners taken up with squishy sofas and soft throws – a perfect setting for a relaxing read of one of the many books housed in a huge bookcase. There aren’t many teashops which make the ‘perfect’ cup of tea, but this is one of them. No teabags or minuscule metal milk jugs. The Blackbird serves the tastiest of tea leaves brewed in teapots, accompanied by floral china milk jugs. The cakes are home-made and always fresh. Light lunches are available, and The Blackbird serves an afternoon tea which could rival that of The Ritz.

IMG_3042IMG_3020

IMG_3017IMG_3033

IMG_3040

IMG_3041IMG_3046

IMG_3043

One of many quirky signs displayed!
One of many quirky signs displayed!

IMG_3070

You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.  C. S. Lewis

A Taste of Tea Etiquette

*     Always place the teacup back on the saucer in-between sips of tea.

*     Always look into the cup whilst sipping the tea – it is considered rude to look elsewhere!

*     Absolutely no using tea to wash down your food.

*     Never stir your tea in a circular motion: place the teaspoon at a 12 o’clock position in the cup and softly fold the tea back and forth two to three times to the 6 o’clock position. Always place your teaspoon back on the saucer to the right of the cup when not being used to stir the tea.

*     The risen pinkie finger is now one of the most common faux pas whilst sipping a cup of tea.

IMG_3151
Drop the pinkie!

Tea is one of the main stays of civilisation in this country.  George Orwell

There is another popular tearoom close-by which is of a quirky nature, and is a favourite of young and old alike. Alice’s Tearooms is themed on Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland. Even a trip to the toilet is magical, evoking Alice’s passage to Wonderland … With a fine selection of loose leaf teas, Wonderland Cake, Mint Aero Milk Shake and an indulgent Afternoon Tea menu – there is something for everyone.

IMG_3114IMG_3049

Wonderland Cake
Wonderland Cake
Sugar cubes
Sugar cubes
Giant playing card menu
Giant playing card menu

IMG_3053IMG_3068

Teacup chandelier
Teacup chandelier
IMG_3113
The passage to the toilet
IMG_3056
Cheshire Cat cake pops

IMG_3057IMG_3112IMG_3111

There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.  Henry James

IMG_3152

Death Cafe

Did you know meetings at designated ‘death cafes’ are taking place all over the world? Apparently these meetings present an opportunity to chat about life’s end over a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake. Ah.  Lovecrumbs in Edinburgh is one such pop-up death cafe. In fact in 2012 a guide was published on how to run your own death cafe.

Tea is the only simple pleasure left to us.  Oscar Wilde

A Cup of Tea Trivia

80% of office workers say they find out more about what’s going on at work over a cup of tea than in any other way.

Tea breaks are a tradition spanning 200 years.

Tea contains half the amount of caffeine found in coffee.

Tea was created over 5000 years ago in China.

Tea first arrived in Europe in 1560.

Only 30% of people take sugar in their tea, but 98% have milk in their tea.

The idea of ‘afternoon tea’ originated in the early 1800s by Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford. She conceived the idea to ward off hunger pangs between lunch and dinner. Some time earlier, the Earl of Sandwich had the idea of putting filling between two slices of bread.

The earliest tea cups imported from China had no handles. As tea drinking gained more popularity, so did the demand for more British-style tea cups. This fuelled the growth of the pottery and porcelain industry in England. ‘The Potteries’ were located in the Midlands, and today many of the original Potteries are still producing world famous porcelain such as Royal Doulton, Aynsley and Wedgwood.

In 1999, an estimated 37 people in the UK were injured by tea cosies!

When you have nobody you can make a cup of tea for, when nobody needs you, that’s when I think life is over.  Audrey Hepburn

I am sure the above quote would be true of Mrs. Doyle in Father Ted …

Father Ted ~ A Nice Cup of Tea

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N20wHvMPTGs&list=PLqaJSFKzCnqScRDaV3_9LK5Z5rOXaYAKh&index=4

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog :)

Creativity Never Goes Out of Style

A trip to HomeSense is like sailing a lagoon and landing on a desert island awash with hidden gems. A haven of quirky designs at desirable prices; there is something to suit every style. Here I feature some unusual finds, discovered on a recent visit to HomeSense.

First to catch my eye was a stone sculpture. This horse’s head would look amazing displayed on a huge fire place, or as a stand alone feature set on a cabinet in a large hallway. I am not sure who the little guy adjacent to the horse would appeal to, but what a unique side table – perfect for holding a glass of wine.

IMG_2175

My browsing became rather like a safari trek, with the odd farmyard animal thrown in. A striking silver lion’s head captured the attention of a lady nearby. Her face lit up in the same way a small child’s would upon entering a candy store; a woman on a mission – the lady excitedly asked a member of staff to carry it for her. A contemporary interior would be an appropriate setting for this piece.

IMG_2194IMG_2197

Next, the head of a rhino appeared – twice the size of the silver lion.

IMG_2188

I passed by a gentler looking creature, which looked as though it had been part of a glamorous act in a nativity play. The deer’s antlers sparkled with sequins, whilst its ears were splattered with gold glitter; a tassel dangled from its chin. This would certainly add a funky look to a child’s bedroom.

IMG_2190IMG_2193

A cockerel was next to emerge, the detail of which was astounding, and it was incredibly heavy. This would complement French country style.

IMG_2220

Peeping out from the cushion section, I chuckled as I spotted ‘hello you’ – a friendly gift for someone.

IMG_2209

For garden goddesses, maybe this cheeky cushion would appeal – super soft and feather filled.

IMG_2199

Or how about these; again, sumptuous quality – perhaps a little reminder for someone special.

IMG_2214

An accessory for the bedroom!

IMG_2215

A fun cushion for a teenager’s room – and the message really works …

IMG_2185

… And as I glanced to the RIGHT, a most elaborate looking candle holder ‘screamed’ for attention; like a bejewelled weeping willow tree, this would make a statement wherever it was placed.

IMG_2186

For any wannabe warrior, this could be all the reassurance you need to do battle with – ultra heavy head gear; and with a reduced price tag; from £129.99 to £99.

IMG_2180IMG_2179

The photo of this vibrant lampshade does not do it justice. It was approximately 60 cms in diameter, and appeared to be hand crocheted. I would have scooped it up if I’d had somewhere to hang it – simply stunning.

IMG_2210

For a useful and attractive gift, these boxed postcards would be ideal. Each box contains 100 postcards; for dog lovers, book lovers, and style lovers.

IMG_2212

Couldn’t resist this girlie make-up bag with cute message.

IMG_2224

An easily recognisable brand – but a cookbook? I was intrigued. Italian Minestrone Soup with 250ml/8fl oz of Coca-Cola added; and Cherry Cup Cakes with the addition of cherry Coca-Cola. Hmm.

IMG_2221IMG_2222

An interesting selection for the garden.

IMG_2217IMG_2216

This reached my waist in height
This reached my waist in height

I came away from my trip to HomeSense, delighted with my purchase of a glam looking British Bulldog.

IMG_2588IMG_2590

Just before I go, here are two of my favourite accessories from HomeSense, bought a couple of years ago.

I adore this clock. It has a diameter of 74 cms/29″. Made from wood and given a distressed finish, this would make a fabulous feature on any wall; it keeps great time too.

IMG_2575

This Moroccan lantern is part of a pair. One tiny tea light is all that is required to bring a magical glow to a dark corner.

IMG_2585

Create your own style, it will always be in.  Wendy Sefcik

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog :)

‘Do-Re-Mi …’

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. Victor Hugo

I let out a whoop of excitement – my singing lesson was booked. This time next  week I would be running over the local sand dunes Julie Andrews style: the beach would reverberate with The Sound of Music, and I would be surrounded by an army of dog walkers keen to master Do-Re-Mi. Better still, The Partridge Family could be replaced by The Austin Family: son on guitar, daughter on drums, and me belting out I Think I Love You to all and sundry. Wow. You know what they say: ‘Think Big – the possibilities are endless.’ It did dawn on me I may be having a mid-life crisis, but hey-ho this is something to be embraced, as inhibitions are cast by the wayside as years fly by. My son was a huge source of encouragement leading up to said singing lesson (possibly by never revealing his true feelings). He supervised voice training in the kitchen. My sound waves bounced off the walls to Gabriella Cilmi’s song, Woman On A Mission. I switched between this, and Kylie’s, I Should Be So Lucky. I advised son and daughter that after a few lessons I would be ready for them to accompany me on guitar and drums. Hmm.

IMG_2041

IMG_2034

The launch to fame day arrived. Clutching a bottle of water, I hot-footed it down the road to the singing academy. I must confess I was harbouring a few nerves: my mouth felt like it had been scrubbed out with a scouring pad. How was I going to talk to the teacher, let alone sing. A door to the singing studio opened. Oh crikey! The teacher wasn’t much older than my son. I had expected a plump lady – older than me of course – with a matter-of-fact approach. You see I was brought up in the ‘old school’ way and it is comforting to stick with what you know. But I had already shaken off the comfort blanket by choosing to sing. And so here I was, face-to-face, with a young lad straight out of drama school. Now Matt did have a great voice: a mix of Michael Buble and Justin Bieber. He sang in a jazz band and his idol happened to be Michael Buble. I loved Michael so I was sure Matt would like Gabriella. But he hadn’t  heard of her. I was surprised. After all she was young too. My hopes were dashed. No longer feeling like a Woman On A Mission, I waited tentatively as Matt produced a song book. I certainly wasn’t  going to be ‘… so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky’ either. Even Kylie was out of the frame as Matt asked whether I knew Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Er. Yes. I had been holding out for Abba at least. There was worse to come. Matt had chosen Hushabye Mountain: a lullaby, which had been sung by Dick Van Dyke in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The song was alien to me but I rolled with it. And indeed did I roll, for Matt told me to get down on the floor. Oh my. He emphasised the importance of warming up. I was hardly prepared for a spot of aerobics – dressed in jeans and high heeled boots. What would happen next? The singing lesson had turned into a thirty minute adventure, which could well end up with us quaffing ‘lashings of ginger beer’ and spending the night with Uncle Quentin.

IMG_2039

Matt too got down on the floor, and demonstrated some relaxation and breathing techniques. If only my jeans weren’t so tight. An ancient flashback to the New Seekers prompted wistful thoughts of a floaty dress – smock style. Now if only I could  ‘teach the world to sing’ … 

IMG_2037

I was jolted back into the room by Matt tickling the ivories with one hand. Well at least I played the piano better than he did. And what a good job I could read music which helped me gauge the notes of the tawdry tune. Matt only had one song book so I had to huddle up close to peer at the words. Blimey. Any closer I would be in his lap. Matt sang a bar, and I followed. Not only was he surprised at how well my voice was projected across the room, I was too. Could my ‘letting go’ be borne out of sheer frustration as to song choice: a lullaby. sung by a bloke. from a child’s film? Mmm. We finally sang the entire song. As a duet. Together. As one. Such was the feeling of surreality that the experience was of an out-of-body one. Well, if I had helped to fan Matt’s ego then the whole exercise had been worth it. He was keen for me to book a further lesson but I declined. I would have to check my mid-life crisis schedule first. Hmm.

We are what we sing.  Anonymous

I did manage to find out some benefits of singing.

  1. Your posture will get straighter and you’ll gradually look more confident.
  2. It’s a good workout for your lungs.
  3. Singing improves circulation and tones abdominal muscles.
  4. It’s good for the brain and will enhance your mental awareness, concentration and memory.
  5. Singing has been proven to boost your immune system.
  6. You’ll probably live longer, in general.
  7. Tests have shown that singing reduces the risk of heart disease.
  8. The natural stress reliever, oxytocin, is released when you sing, which has been found to alleviate feelings of depression and loneliness.
  9. You’ll sleep better, as a result of being less stressed.
  10. Singing releases endorphins, which make you feel instantly happier!

My top tip would be to wear something loose like Demis.

IMG_2030

Demis Roussos was a famous Greek singer. He sold 60 million albums worldwide, and became an unlikely kaftan-wearing sex symbol. Forever and Ever was No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart in 1976. Top song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5or2CMvYIE And I shall go on singing forever and ever … in the kitchen.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Have a great week :)

Moving With Style – The Final Chapter

IMG_1814

Moving with style it was not. After a flurry of activity over the past few months, finally our new house feels like home. Indeed I feel it is a magical dwelling as stars dance before my eyes. Could that be due to a frenzy of painting? But what a journey it has been.

All boxed up and ready to go at the beginning of July, the chain collapsed two days before we were due to move: someone pulled out of their sale and purchase at the last minute. And so I found myself unpacking and setting up home in our – er – home. As if it were not enough banging up pictures, of which we have in abundance; most of the furniture had been sold as we were down sizing. Thoughts of relaxing on our squishy sofas were squashed. And thoughts of a candle lit dinner, seated at a huge dining table with lashings of wine, instantly evaporated. It was a balmy evening so thoughts turned to sitting in the garden, but my beloved swinging chair bed had been scrapped. It was on its last legs, but oh! what luxury it would have been at the time. As I pointed out to my son and daughter – ‘Look on the bright side, we have beds.’ Hmm. I could tell the dogs were nonplussed too. They had no baskets: one of the sofas adorned with a fluffy throw had been their bed. I tossed a spare double duvet on the floor for them … and we too joined them there for the evening. I just stopped short of drowning my sorrows in a rather decent bottle of celebratory Champagne, which had been purchased for the move. Drifting into a pond-like state, my mind re-ran mini episodes of house viewings …

IMG_1822

‘Walk like an Egyptian’

This lady was a genealogist, and her home was filled with antiques. She gave me a run down on all the neighbours, and knew the state and price of houses for sale in the immediate locality. Naturally her house was top notch and best value for money. I wanted to call her Hyacinth, from Keeping Up Appearances. She offered to give me a tour of ‘the estate’ which was your average English run of the mill back garden: so not very big. Ahem. This garden consisted of artificial grass – of which the vendor was very proud – and mounds of rocks, reminiscent of a miniature Stone Henge. Swags of rope and fake seagulls ‘topped off’ the look. Apparently she had wanted to create a seaside garden. Hmm.

Whilst viewing the interior of the property, I was struck by the lack of opening windows. For I had never seen a conservatory with no opening door onto a garden; and the magnificent floor to ceiling windows in the main sitting room did not open onto the back garden. When the vendor asked if I could see myself living here, I wanted to flee. She had already researched my surname before the viewing, and had many images of ‘sacred’ Egyptian cats positioned around the house. Was this woman nuts? She had kept me there for an hour and a half. Oh my. As I made my way to the front door I touched an Egyptian cat which the vendor told me would bring good luck: it wobbled. And I remember having read that cats were such sacred creatures in Ancient Egypt, even killing one accidentally incurred the death penalty. I hot footed it to my car anticipating an almighty crash followed by a high-speed get away.

IMG_1820

Dixon of Dock Green

This house was empty. Set on the outskirts of a local village, the property was formerly a small police station. Enjoying a rural location with far flung views across fields, it looked promising. An attempt had been made to conceal all signs of the property having been a police station, but this had failed. There was a cold feel to the house. The property was swamped in accents of beige. Unimaginative clinical vertical blinds were all around … there was no love. Across the corridor from the kitchen was the original prison cell. Thoughts of Super Nanny sprang to mind: for parents of younger children – what a splendid ‘naughty corner’. We heard rummaging in the garage – a police officer was sorting through an array of intriguing objects. And I wondered whether to salute him. Would he bend at the knees and salute me back, ushering the words, ‘Evening all.’ Did you know Dixon of Dock Green ran episodes for 21 years and was voted second most popular programme on British TV in 1961.

When I stepped outside, I was captivated by the open views and my prospective neighbours. Cows. And the quote by Grant Wood popped into my head, ‘All the good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.’  Maybe life in the nick wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

IMG_1821

Mr. Motivator

There were two things I loved about this house, but sadly they were not part of the fixtures and fittings.

I was greeted at the front door by a super smiley, rotund chap. I do like smiley people. There is a lack of them in my local town and I do wonder whether it is because their make-up would crack with the strain of a smile. Ahem. The vendor enthusiastically guided me around the house which he shared with his father and brother. As we approached the kitchen door, he paused to warn me about the cat. She. didn’t. like. anyone. Not even his father. Nor his brother. She may even attack. Having two cats already, I wasn’t too phased by his words. But in any case I was glad of the large tote bag I had brought with me, which was now placed in front of my body, like armour. The vendor cautiously opened the door whilst I took tentative steps behind him. Well I was blown away by the most beautiful feline ever! Eye contact was made and I crouched down to her level. The vendor looked on in disbelief as this glorious fluff ball swaggered gracefully towards me – as if fresh out of deportment class – and brushed her dainty nose against my hand. There was an instant bond and I felt like ‘Mrs. Doolittle.’ Her name was Muffin. Oh dear. The only creature I knew of that name was Muffin the Mule, and he was a wooden puppet. She should be ‘Duchess’ or ‘Portia’, or at the very least ‘Talulah’. Muffin followed us into the garden. And whilst the vendor apologised for the garden’s overgrown state, my eyes were drawn to an aesthetically pleasing semi-naked statue of a Greek goddess. It had the wow factor and  would look spectacular in the grounds of a French Chateau. I knew at this stage I did not want the house. But I did want Muffin and the statue. However there was still upstairs to see.

IMG_1817IMG_1819

The vendor negotiated the stairs two at a time. I was impressed. Another flight of stairs to the loft conversion, and I could just about keep up with him. What a surprise when we reached the top: three of the walls were covered in floor to ceiling mirrors. An eclectic mix of equipment made up his ‘fitness studio’, including a smattering of lycra. Good on him. Now if he looked half as good as Mr. Motivator in his spandex …

Despite the vendor’s infectious enthusiasm and non-stop smiles: whilst I warmed to him, I could not the house. And as I sat in my car, poised to start the engine, I contemplated making him an offer for the goddess. This could be the start of my French dream.

The home should be the treasure chest of living. Le Corbusier (Swiss/French architect/writer)

IMG_1812

The above were just three viewings out of  – er – 27. Fortunately we ended up moving into the house we wanted, albeit four months later than it should have been. The sale of our house was on and off three times. My daughter had broken up for the summer holidays, but I was waiting until we moved before booking a holiday. Unfortunately this never happened. The summer months were taken up with showing the house and purchasing second-hand furniture to replace what we had already sold! The garden table proved invaluable as a dining table: when the weather was hot, we dined alfresco; when it was not, the table was transported into the dining room. I call it mobile living.

My new house sign ... Home is where the heart is ...
My new house sign … Home is where the heart is …

Based upon recent experiences, here is a list of moving tips.

  1. When getting valuations for your house from estate agents, stick to your guns regarding pricing. Research the local area which will act as an excellent guide. One estate agent valued my home at £30,000 less than the amount I received for it, and certainly tried to pull the wool over my eyes with his slimy spiel. Ugh.
  2. Don’t believe an estate agent. Ever.
  3. Camp out on your solicitor’s doorstep to make contact if necessary.
  4. The surveyor is on your side and can help you negotiate a lower price with the vendor.
  5. Keep on great terms with vendor and purchaser. Aim to please. This should be mirrored back to you.
  6. Keep the removal men happy – lots of brews – they will go that extra mile for you. Mine carefully fixed a broken wardrobe.
  7. When a prospective purchaser is due, set the scene. Light fires and candles, ascertain the correct lighting in each room, ensure the house is warm – thus creating a welcoming atmosphere. No matter what you do, it won’t tick all the boxes with everyone, but those viewers’ boxes it does tick will be desperate to pull out all the stops to get your property. Despite the chain collapsing, the original purchasers bought my house.
  8. Do an online shop to be delivered to your new address the day after you move. My daughter took charge of this and made all sorts of wicked and indulgent purchases, which wouldn’t normally be in our every day shopping. Nice one.
  9. On moving day, don’t fret about what you have to do. When the removal men have departed, sit down on your sofa – if you have one – and wallow in savouring a steaming hot, sweet cup of tea. It will taste like the best brew of your life. And if you really can’t stop fretting, crack open that bubbly. You deserve it.
  10. Embrace the thought of your new home as the beginning of an exciting chapter. Enjoy!

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. Jane Austen

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Have a great week :)

Along Came Nelly

Nothing will turn a man’s home into a castle more quickly and effectively than a dachshund.  Queen Victoria

The beautiful Nelly came into our lives on New Year’s Eve: a Miniature Dachshund aged eight weeks, who looks like she has emerged from the screen of a rather exclusive cartoon. ‘Soft, Strong and Long’ – Andrex could rethink their Labrador Retriever toilet roll advert. For the Dachshund’s coat is velvet soft, their grip on your hand is vice-like and their bodies are – well – long.

IMG_1348

Nelly’s a real corker. Indeed if Nelly were on screen in the human world there is no doubt she would be Juliette Binoche. I certainly didn’t appear as elegant as Juliette on New Year’s Eve, although there was a certain je ne sais quoi about me. Edina from Absolutely Fabulous is probably more apt. As the countdown began, I embraced 2015 adorned in an avant-garde pair of PJs, puppy in one hand, glass of Bolly in the other. What style!

With an eight year old Whippet who doesn’t want to play anymore, I made the decision to have a puppy companion for Lola, my daughter’s five month old Jackawawa (Chihuahua x Jack Russell). Or was it because I had been secretly harbouring a desire for a Mini Dachshund.  Is it possible to crave dogs? Maybe it’s part of the midlife crisis whereby I am yearning to show that my nurturing/mothering skills are not quite yet defunct. Hmm. What I hadn’t bargained for was the effect Nelly’s appearance would have on Lola. Already an excitable character anyway – she is three quarters Chihuahua after all – it’s like she is powered by the finest guarana as she shoots across the room bouncing off walls. Poor Paddy (my gentle Whippet) wears a Gromit-like look of disdain … I can almost see him rolling his eyes. Nevertheless, Lola’s exuberance hasn’t deterred Nelly in any way and the pair are firm friends.

IMG_1340

Indeed I am besotted with both pups. No doubt there will be more cooing over Nelly. Even the local builder – a giant of a man – crumbled in Lola’s presence. Their little bellies in particular seem to provoke a reaction of affection. And I do wonder about the purchase of a cropped top this summer … could my belly be deemed as cute I wonder. Ahem.

IMG_1337

The Dachshund’s affectionate, He wants to wed with you: Lie down to sleep, And he’s in bed with you. Sit in a chair, He’s there. Depart, You break his heart. E.B. White – American Writer.

Thank you for taking the time to read this week’s blog – have a great week :)

IMG_1196

Merry Christmas!

Well I’m all accessorised out after recent daily blogs, and have just one Christmas accessory left to mention …

the Christmas tree, which went from this …

IMG_1209

to this …

IMG_1230

Festooned with foliage at the garden centre, a thought did cross my mind …

IMG_1196

However, whilst writing the Christmas accessory blogs I was reminded that “it’s not what we have in life, but who we have in our life that matters”

IMG_1213IMG_1177

Also, take a moment to fondly remember those who are no longer with us …

IMG_1204

Make time for yourself … kick off your shoes, crack open some fine wine …

IMG_1200

and enjoy some tasty titbits …

IMG_1202

Ensure man’s best friend is included in the festivities too …

IMG_1198

IMG_1201

IMG_1197

Make time for friends also … 

IMG_1203

and acknowledge a Christmas miracle is not an option …

IMG_1206

Finally, remember that “A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” (William Arthur Ward)

IMG_1199

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Jingle Bells – Christmas accessory blog no. 8

A bell’s not a bell ’til you ring it; a song’s not a song ’til you sing it. Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay; love isn’t love ’til you give it away.  Oscar Hammerstein II

IMG_1189IMG_1190

This is such a jolly sign and is quite substantial.  Made from wood with a metal rustic-style hanger, the sign is adorned with glittering bells and a bow. The words are written in red glitter, and the sign is bordered in the same too. Measuring 28 cm wide, it is just the right size to be eye-catching, adding a fabulous splash of festive colour.

Purchased: local flower shop

Price: £7.99

May our home be warm and our friends be many.  Unknown

IMG_1182IMG_1186

Love my daughter’s Christmas themed bedroom – and so does the cat! I particularly like the deer throw and matching cushion. The throw is big enough to cover the whole bed. Made from an easy washable fabric, both items are incredibly soft – perfect for cosying up by the fire on a cold winter’s night. The design is such that the throw and cushion are year-round accessories.

Purchased: Next

Price: £28 for both

‘Rockin’ Robin …’ – Christmas accessory blog no. 7

To relish a love-song, like a robin-redbreast. Unknown

IMG_1154IMG_1158

IMG_1160

The photos of these exquisite robin candle holders really don’t do them justice. These were an ‘accidental’ find on Ebay, and are quite unusual. Made from glass, the holders have been hand painted and given a textured effect. Each robin is slightly different and they appear to be perched in a tree. Painted in festive colours, the holders give out a warm glow when the tea lights inside them are lit. Not just for Christmas, these will look lovely all year round. Ebay is a great place to find something that may have been used, but nevertheless is in good condition and totally unique.

Purchased: Ebay – search second hand shops and car boot sales for similar quirky items.

Price: £21.00

There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.  Charles Dickens

IMG_1166IMG_1172

IMG_1176

I couldn’t resist these cool, minty penguin chocolates. Made from a minimum of 60% cocoa, these dark chocolates are infused with peppermint and hand decorated. They taste absolutely delicious. I also happened to come across some tiny organza gift bags, and thought of popping a penguin into each one to put on the table on Christmas Day. They will look pretty alongside the crackers and will make a festive after-dinner mint treat.

Penguin chocolates purchased: local department store – http://www.jameschocolates.co.uk

Price £4.50 for 8

Organza bags purchased: local craft shop (also available to buy on Amazon)

Price: £1 for 10

IMG_1136

‘Mistletoe And Wine’ – Christmas accessory blog no. 6

‘Nutkin danced up and down like a sunbeam; but still Old Brown said nothing at all … ‘   Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter

IMG_1108IMG_1122IMG_1124

This wooden set of six Scandi squirrel place card holders is from Next. If you are looking for something different and are not afraid of sticking to a set theme, these name holders will give a quirky edge to the ‘Christmas table’. I think they complement the Nutcracker Christmas crackers beautifully. The set of holders comes complete with blank name cards which slot easily into the squirrels’ tails. They come in two colours – red and grey.

Purchased: Next

Price: £6

Let us celebrate with wine and sweet words.  Plautus

IMG_1133IMG_1135IMG_1136

This wine box with a musical theme is a refreshing change from the usual wine bags, and is a more secure way of transporting a bottle of wine. Many a time have I bashed a gift of wine against the car or a wall, and have prayed that there was not a trail of wine behind me and that my gift would be intact when I handed it over to the recipient. The box is covered in some challenging looking sheet music. There is a co-ordinating gift tag of decent size attached, and a glitzy gold lid with handle.

Purchased: Dunelm Mill

Price: £2.99

Thank you for reading my blog – back tomorrow