Two party dresses
Yes, I’ve already got one.
No, I don’t need two more.
Yes, I am aware of the state of my bank balance.
Party Planning Princess mode
We’re in full party-planning mode at the moment with not one but TWO parties coming up. Our annual Halloween bash will be closely followed by my husband’s ‘significant’ birthday party, which we’re holding at the old Frank Cooper’s marmalade factory in Oxford.
Now I love a bit of party planning. I go a bit Martha Stewart if the truth be told. I’ve photographed enough weddings to know what makes a good bash and I’ve spent enough time on Pinterest to understand how high some people set their party bar! Ah yes, I do like a challenge…
We’re hosting a good old-fashioned Prohibition-era speakeasy for Spence’s party. There’ll be illicit cocktails, moonshine, gangsters and flapper girls aplenty. His band will play and there will be one or two surprises along the way. I need to get pinning and planning!
For now though, my focus is on Halloween - we made the cupcakes above a couple of years back so this year I’m on the look-out for even more ghoulish treats. I have my green & black witches’ tights and the boys have costumes ready, but it’s the treats and sweets that make a Halloween party go with a bang, no? That and the blood-based cocktails*…
*not actual blood, but enough cochineal to turn one’s insides pink for a week
A doable dinky abode
Lou at Little Green Shed put me on to Sara Emslie’s book and as soon as I saw inside and peeked at the author’s own, beautifully small and minimal Victorian terrace, I was smitten. It is a fab book for those of us who live - or plan to live - in a small house.
Since last summer, we’ve been systematically and ruthlessly culling our possessions. Well, I say we. My husband has dutifully shipped carloads of ex-possessions to charity and the tip but has done much of the heavy lifting with a look of bemused confusion on his face. Having said that, he is coping well with things disappearing and is most accommodating when a supposed relaxed weekend turns into an opportunity to clear out the utility room.
And I have to admit, living with less stuff is truly liberating. I am a total convert and review and edit our possessions on an almost daily basis these days. There’s a financial benefit too; we’ve raised over £800 by selling the things we no longer use.
After all, how much space does a family of four really need? In our uber-expensive area of the Cotswolds with a mainline train into London, square footage is at a premium. Suddenly a dinky abode is looking doable and that feels great!
Do you have a ‘signature scent’? I think I do. Since I was about 20, I’ve worn Chanel No.5. I dot about with other perfumes but always have a bottle of Chanel No. 5 on the the go.
I’m the same with candles. The White Company’s Winter is a mix of cinnamon, clove and orange and to me, it smells divine. It’s not available all year round so I get my fix when I can. As soon as it’s dark, I light the candles - one on the window sill, one on the kitchen table and a large church pillar in a storm lantern in the fireplace - and the smell of Winter pervades our evening. I love it.
The carefully considered wardrobe
Have you seen Boden’s autumn collection? Of course you have. We all have. The catalogues just. keep. arriving.
But I’m not complaining. Losing weight has completely changed my shape and I have had to pare back my wardrobe to only those things that fit, flatter and stand up as classic pieces. Obviously, *dons innocent face* the ‘it must fit’ criteria meant I was left with very little that actually did fit me any more.
So I made a list, invested wisely and now have a capsule wardrobe or sorts. Yep. It’s true. And it’s marvellous.
I know exactly what I have, what I don’t have and perhaps most importantly, I know what I don’t need. Admittedly, I’ve spent a fortune on clothes (hello Boden) over the last few months, but these are clothes that will last, clothes that work with multiple pieces and clothes that I love. The flip side of that indulgence is that the charity shops in Chipping Norton are now fit to burst with all my older clothes. My indulgence-benevolence circle is intact…
These Boden flat T-bar points were one of the first things I bought. They go with everything and consistently receive comment (always good) whenever I wear them. Just wish they weren’t now sold out so I could buy the navy too.
And this Ravello top in navy painted leopard is awesome. Paired with Chelsea Turn-ups in navy or brown or alternated with the Bella top or the Paris blouse and I’m sorted with about 5 different outfits for work.
Yes, my postman now hides my parcels in a secret spot only he and I know about if I’m not in (so my husband doesn’t stumble upon yet another order), and yes, I have a wardrobe largely dominated by Boden.
But I also have in my wardrobe a small collection of carefully considered, well-made pieced that go with more than one other thing and will last beyond a single season. I need to size down in a few layering t-shirts and a denim mini (yay!) and I’d like a black cocktail dress (just because), but other than that, I’m completely sorted. And it feels GREAT!
*scratches eyes and blinks in the sun*
It’s been several months since I updated this space of mine. A lingering case of writer’s block coupled with a new project, a busy summer and a heads-down approach to make some healthy changes to my life and whadda know, it’s nearly October.
I’ve still been alive on Instagram - I find it so much easier to communicate through photographs when I am rushed and stuck for ‘proper’ words, so thank you for all the love you’ve shown me over there these past few months.
But now I’m endeavouring to be back here, sharing some bits of our lives this autumn. We have a ‘big’ birthday celebration for my husband coming up, our annual Halloween bash and a beautiful place in the world to do it all from.
Life is good. Life is even better being 4.5 stones lighter but that’s another story for another day!
Mud. Mud and books
Last week, Louis and I and my cousin and her son made our now annual pilgrimage to the Hay Festival in Wales. A whole four days of my nine year old and I gloriously lost in authors and words with no hint of an internet connection. It was wonderful. Wonderful and muddy.
But the mud didn’t deter us one bit.
Because as well as a frankly jaw-dropping and eclectic line of up of speakers and authors - Arianna Huffington, Ian McEwan, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Hieatt and Judy Dench anyone? - Hay is also the venue for the extremely impressive Hay Fever for kids, with children’s authors, illustrators, story-tellers and cartoonists inspiring and shaping young minds at every corner.
We went to comics workshops and listened to children’s authors tell rapt audiences how they get their inspiration and why they write. We delved into the science behind Star Wars, spent a hilarious hour with Murderous Maths author Kjartan Poskitt and listened to Mitchell Symons perform his wicked but oh so funny cautionary tales.
We met War Horse, went to see Michael Morpurgo talk about war, met fantasy monsters, heard tales from New York author Kate O’Hearn, saw Rob Brydon, Cerys Matthews, Sean Locke and Dick and Dom and even appeared on Friday night’s One Show (blink and you’d miss us!). We bought tonnes of books and came away happier for the experience.
If you haven’t been to Hay and if, like me, you have a child who loves reading, it is a must. Held every year at the end of May, it runs concurrently with the HowTheLightGetsIn philosophy and music festival in the town of Hay so there’s always plenty to do and see. Plus it is set in the most beautiful Welsh countryside.
What’s not to love about Hay? Well, maybe the mud. Did I mention the mud?….
Yesterday we got some terrible and unexpected news. My husband’s job has been made redundant and we’re left reeling. This has happened to us before but the shock this time is immense and the reasons - on the face of it - seem unsound.
But nevertheless, the decision stands and once again, we face an uncertain future.
We all deal with the immediate aftermath of shock in different ways. Normally I am calm, reasoned and constructive but yesterday I just flopped. Big tears, smudged make-up, puffy eyes and I’m ashamed to say, a lot of feeling sorry for myself.
But at the same time, in an effort to distract a little from what I was feeling, I posted a few pictures on Instagram and felt the warmth of a virtual hug wrap around me in an instant.
So I just want to say thank you. Thank you to each and every one of you who sent me encouraging and sympathetic messages yesterday, and thank you to those of you who are still sending them today. They mean so much to me - and to my husband.
We’re down. but we’re not out. And having you IG friends there, pinging my phone every now and then, is such a comfort. The community that I’m proud to be a part of is wonderful and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
Nature in the Home…
I’m fond of this little plant. A gift from my Mum. He’s a cyclamen and meant to be outdoors but he’s doing quite well on the windowsill so that’s where he’s staying for now.
I’m glad Lou’s Nature in the Home is back. I have quite missed my pottering about with the camera, foliage and flowers in hand.
I have silly friends. Silly, wonderful, funny friends who are willing to dress up for Eurovision, dance to rubbish music and seem to have an inordinate fondness for fake moustaches and vodka.
I also have a rather full bottle recycling bin. Sign of a good party no?
Did you do Eurovision this year?