Friday, 28 February 2014


Can you guess where hubby and I were last week?

The island of Maui to be precise. An all expenses paid trip courtesy of hubby's employers. Please don't hate me. It's a big old shindig that they organise every year and the top performers (mostly sales people, and some others [hubby is part of the 'others']) are invited, along with a guest. Talk about lucky. This was the trip of a lifetime, and the company are super-generous so not only were flights and accommodation paid for, we were also given nearly $500 to pay for food and drinks at the hotel, $300 in travellers cheques to spend as we liked, $750 to pay for 'experiences' organised by the company - we chose helicopter flights and deep-sea fishing, two dinner and drinks receptions, a concert by Train on the final evening, and various gifts throughout our stay. Yep, it's fair to say our jaws dropped and dropped again; and again.

As you probably know, Hawaii is a fair old distance from the UK (over 7,000 miles) and it took us pretty much a whole day to get there for a five-night trip (this was one of the reasons we decided not to take DC - he stayed with Grandma and Grandad.) Suffice to say we were a little shell-shocked when we first arrived (6pm on the Sunday Hawaii-time, which was 4am Monday in the UK - 24.5 hours after we'd left the house), but a good night's sleep helped get us back on track and Monday morning we were raring to go off on a road trip in our hire car. We headed along the coast to Lahaina, an old whaling town which contains many buildings of historic interest. Unfortunately, the buildings have all been filled with shops and 'galleries' selling all manner of tourist tat and a quick drive along the main street was enough for us to decide we didn't really have any desire to get out of the car and explore (aka trudge round various places selling key rings, t-shirts and fake hula skirts). Instead we headed for the outlet mall. Yes, we're classy like that - reject the historic whaling town in favour of a discount GAP. I'm going to do a separate post on the things I bought while we were on Maui, so if you're not interested in that sort of thing you can always skip that post.

After we had shopped we then dropped, and had lunch. This is pretty much the only photo I took in Lahaina (unless you count the one of hubby eating lunch and I'm sure you don't want to see that). This is the view from our table in the restaurant - not a bad one, eh? As you can probably tell, the weather wasn't great - warm but overcast and a little drizzly - not exactly what we had travelled all that way for!
Still, we were happy to be there because, let's face it, it's not everyday you get to go to Hawaii.

After lunch we hopped back in the car and drove out of Lahaina and towards Kahului; but on the way we saw a rather interesting place at the side of the road called Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop; it sounded too good to resist so we pulled in to investigate. And I'm so glad we did.
The peanut butter pie was DEEEEE-licious; a crisp crumb base, gooey chocolate and peanut butter filling and a sweet caramel sauce plus chocolate curls and peanuts on top. We (well, I...) got it to take away, but the food they were serving inside looked fantastic too, making us wish we'd had our lunch there. I'd definitely recommend a visit if you ever find yourself on Maui.

After a brief visit to Kahului (there's not masses to see, although I did find a secondhand bookshop where I scored five cosy crime books for $8; gawd, it sounds like all we did was shop, but honestly we did do some exploring too!), we headed back to the hotel for an evening dinner reception and traditional Hawaiian luau (hula dancing, conch shell blowing [mmm-hmmm], etc.) Hubby and I had to cry off early though as jetlag caught up with us around 9pm and our bed was calling. Upon returning to our room we found some lovely gifts awaiting us courtesy of hubby's company - a huge Lands End tote bag, two Under Armour sun visors (here I am modelling the bag plus one of the visors, and a shell necklace that we were given at dinner)
and a voucher for each of us to exchange for a pair of Oakley sunglasses at a stand that was to be set up in the hotel lobby the next morning. We were being truly spoilt, and it was only Day One.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Corners of Our Home: Downstairs

Continuing the very short series on random corners in our house; as with the upstairs shots, I snapped all these photos in one go, and didn't move anything for the camera - these are 'as is' shots, the good, the bad and the ugly.

This lovely old phone in the hallway; mind you, it takes ages to dial a number so it's best used just for answering calls rather than making them (although round these parts we still have five-digit phone numbers so it's not so bad if you're only making a local call.)
A corner of the windowsill in the hallway featuring (from left) a small wooden bowl which I bought in New York, a postcard depicting part of our village 'in the olden days', and a lovely wooden house complete with map of the area that my dear friend Rachel (of Lazyhill Gallery fame) made for us.
A pile of books on a chair in the corner of the snug which have nowhere to live since we sold the bookcase at the weekend.
The corner of the snug where the bureau and bookcase used to live, looking much lighter and brighter these days.
A lovely bookcase but it's looking rather untidy with that great big photocopy of an aerial photo of our village balanced on top and an unsightly pile of DC's books and comics on the second shelf.
I know it's all part of the joys of having a small child, but the 'pirate ship' cardboard box is hardly a thing of beauty. Not to mention the garish letter and number foam floor tiles stacked by the sofa. Admittedly, I'm to blame for the latter as I got them out of the cupboard and haven't found anywhere else for them to live, yet.
As above - part of the joys of having a small boy child is the basket of swords, shields, bow, arrows and other assorted weaponry; oh, how my OCD nerves jangle when I look at this. Luckily, in real life I don't tend to notice it too much as it's tucked behind the dining table so it's not in my line of vision.
There you have it, some random downstairs corners that you might never otherwise see on here.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Corners of Our Home: Upstairs

I thought it might be interesting to do a couple of posts on random corners in our house; I snapped all these photos in one go, and didn't move anything for the camera - these are 'as is' shots, the good, the bad and the rather ugly indeed.

Our bedroom. At least it's tucked behind the dressing table so you can't really see it, but it's still yucksville. But then, is it ever possible to have a bin in a room that looks attractive? Even stacking rolls of Cath Kidston wallpaper behind doesn't help. Oh yes, that's the wallpaper that we're planning to hang on one of the walls in our bedroom. We've been in the planning stages for over a year now. The wallpaper has been purchased and that's as far as we've got. Impressive, don't you think?
Over on the other side of the room is a corner I really rather like. This is the top of hubby's bedside table. I gave him the wooden box for Christmas; 'Thorley' is a name that goes way back in hubby's family and it's also one of DC's middle names. I'm rather impressed with how hubby is using it to contain his reading material; actually, I'm rather jealous.

Here's a corner of the windowsill in our ensuite; it contains my collection of glass bottles, plus some shells, starfish and a bit of driftwood. I'm not trying to introduce a beach-y theme to the ensuite, but I do seem to have some beach-y items (dust collectors) going on. Hmmm.
 GOOD (because it's cute)
A corner in DC's room with a basket crammed full and spilling over with his cuddly toy collection. Awwww.
The spare room: old lampshade, books that were moved up here at Christmas time and haven't been rehomed; photos, etc that need hanging on a wall somewhere. Basically the top of this dresser in this room has become a dumping ground. Luckily this post is entitled 'Corners of Our Home' because actually this entire room is pretty much a dumping ground, but I don't have to show it to you right now.
A sweet little corner on the landing, on top of my unread (non-cosy) bookcase. Another wooden box (perhaps I could repurpose this on my bedside table in the manner of hubby's Thorley box), a ceramic owl from the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and a collection of photos

The guest room. Nice collection of Sanctuary Spa products; ugly lamp. I'm having an issue with bedside lamps in our house at the moment.
So there you have it - a few random corners of our home, upstairs. Call back soon (if you can stand the excitement) for random corners downstairs.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Wardrobe Experiment

Back at the end of October I started an experiment in my wardrobe.
Excuse the mess, but this is what it looks like on a daily basis, no smartening up for the camera.
I turned all of my clothes hangers the 'wrong' way round (see, backwards facing coat hangers).
Then each time I wore something it was hung back in the wardrobe the 'right' way round.
I gave the experiment three months and at the end of January I checked through all the clothes that were still hanging the 'wrong' way. I wanted to see why I hadn't worn them. The reasons fell into several distinct categories:

1) wrong season - there were short sleeved, summery clothes which obviously weren't going to get worn from Oct-Jan
2) smart clothes - I don't go to many places that require me to dress smartly!
3) clothes that didn't fit - some too large, some too small
4) clothes I no longer liked or which no longer suited me
5) some that I simply haven't got round to wearing even though I like them

What to do? The clothes from categories 1 and 2 were given a pass through to the next round (but they probably still won't get worn for the same reasons that they haven't been worn since last October) and the clothes in categories 3-5 were taken out of the wardrobe and put on the bed. And then I tried them all on. Turns out that some of the clothes that I didn't think fitted, did fit; some of them didn't; some of the clothes I thought didn't suit me did, and some I thought did suit me, didn't. And some of the clothes that I just hadn't got round to wearing fitted/didn't fit/suited me/didn't suit. Confused much?

Some of the fitted/suited clothes went back into the wardrobe, still hung the 'wrong' way round and awaiting their fate in the next round of the Great Wardrobe Experiment as it shall henceforth be known. And the rest (seven in total) were listed on eBay - four were still brand new, with tags (the shame), including these two
And, can I say, eBay came up trumps and the six tops and one dress that I sold made a grand total of £134.55! Yes, I have to pay some fees out of that, but still that's not bad, is it? Two of the tops in particular did really well, with a brand new Cath Kidston one (below) selling for more than twice what I'd paid for it
and a top from East (below) that I'd bought in a charity shop in Edinburgh for about £3 and enjoyed wearing quite a lot (before it slipped into category 4) sold for £27!
The other tops and dress did ok, some I lost money on and some sort of evened out when you take into account that I'd had some wear from them or hadn't paid masses in the first place. So, what do you think? Are you game for the Great Wardrobe Experiment? Let's clear out our closets and make some cash at the same time!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

What's On My Bedside Table

After the handbag post, I thought I'd continue the (short and relatively unheard of) series dedicated to those who love to have a bit of a nosey around. And so without further ado, please may I present to you my bedside table. Please, do have a sit down and have a drink of water if the excitement is too much for you.

When we first moved in I was using a small table as my bedside table, but I really wanted something more substantial and with more storage options. One day, when I was driving through Beaminster I decided, on a whim, to park the car and pop in to a shop selling vintage, upcycled, etc furniture and the like. And, like the handbag, fate had stepped in because there in that very shop was exactly the sort of bedside table I had been yearning for. Made from oak (I believe) in a gorgeous warm shade, smooth to the touch and the perfect size with both a drawer and cupboard for storage. If I remember rightly, I did hand over the best part of £50 for this beauty; no doubt at a car boot sale or in a charity shop I'd have got it for much less, but I was happy to pay the price to get my hands on this lovely.
 Let's take a little peak inside that drawer, shall we? Clockwise from the top: brush, hairbands, glasses case, bamboo box with nothing in it, Winnie the Pooh tin containing hair grips that I never use, pumice stone, nail clippers, tub of foot cream, tube of lip balm, packet of tissues, small tub of lip balm, hand cream, comb. You can see why I needed a bedside table with storage.
And inside the cupboard section. Top shelf: old camera (the sort that needs a film - shock horror!), box at the back with assorted junk that I really need to get rid of, wooden box containing odd bits of currency left over from trips overseas. Bottom shelf: selection of magazines awaiting perusal.
 And sitting there underneath: a pair of trainers.
And on top we have: a selection of books, read, reading and to-be-read (plus a random hairband).
Digital alarm clock. Love this little chap, he makes it easy for me to listen to R2. Please ignore the dust, it's not cleaning day til tomorrow...
Lamp. When I bought this one and his matching friend I loved them. Now I no longer love them but they will stay until we find suitable (read: fantabulous but at the same time reasonably priced) replacements.
And last, but most importantly, the books. From the bottom:
The Hare With the Amber Eyes - lent to me by my next door neighbour but as yet unread
A Tale of Two Cities - a Book Club book from last year; I'm about half way through and struggling, but I will not be defeated (however, it's taken me so long to read it that I have no idea what the story is)
Raising Boys - something to dip in and out of; clearly if I don't read it, DC will grow up to be a dysfunctional adult, so I'd better guilt myself into reading it sooner rather than later
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - just finished it, need to review it
French Pressed - current read, cosy crime
So there you have it - that's my bedside table. Care to show me yours?

Monday, 10 February 2014

What's in My Bag?

I've seen a lot of these posts floating around in BlogLandia (that's where we all live, right?) so I thought I'd jump on the blogging bandwagon and post about the contents of my handbag too. Fascinating stuff, eh? Can you tell I'm running short of ideas for new posts at the moment..?

Actually, it was quite a good thing to do as it meant I had a mini sort-out and decluttered a few bits and pieces, not to mention several dust bunnies and other unidentifiable detritus.

So, let's begin. Here's my handbag.

I bought it in New York using money I was given for my 40th birthday. It was one of those 'fate' handbags (everyone has something that they were fated to buy, don't they? or is that just an excuse I use?) For my birthday darling hubby had given me tickets to Chicago (the city, not the musical); while I was there I was doing a little bit of shopping with a friend and we popped in to Cole Haan (a US brand I had never heard of.) While my friend was looking at boots/shoes I started looking at handbags and this little beauty caught my eye. I ummmed and ahhhed over whether I should buy it and in the end talked myself out of it. I probably spent the rest of my visit to Chicago thinking about that bag. Fast forward a couple of days and I was in New York (a one-night stopover on the way home.) I had a lot to cram in to just about 24 hours, so I hit the ground running. After dropping my bags at the hotel, I got the subway down to SoHo. And as I exited the subway station what was the first shop right there in front of me? Yep, that's right Cole Haan. So I went in and I looked at the handbag again and I drooled over it and I talked myself out of buying it one more time. After a spot of shopping in SoHo I caught the subway up to Columbus Circle, and when I saw my third Cole Haan shop of the trip I finally gave in. I went in to that shop, I handed over my credit card and the 'Valise Kendra' bag was mine. It came in a beautifully soft cotton pouch (which I still have), it was wrapped in tissue paper (which I might still have somewhere) and it was placed reverentially in a large card bag with rope handles (which I definitely still have.)

And now, just over two years on, the inside of it looks like this. Yep, that's the way to treat the most expensive bag (in fact, probably the most expensive thing other than a car or a house) you've ever bought.
And this is what was inside the bag when I decided to do this post. Looks like a very interesting pile of crapola, non? What would a psychologist have to say about me from this, I wonder?
 Let's break it down into sections: extra shopping bags. Yep, I like to shop. There are usually at least three other of the cotton shopping bags in my handbag, but they just happened to be in the wash today.
 Random pieces of paper: receipt for some food from M&S, guide to the Westfield shopping centre where I went on Friday and a half-used sheet of stickers belonging to DC.
A bag containing some money. Not the proceeds of some dodgy deal I've just done, but in fact my tips from the job I have one day a week in our village tea room. I took the tips to Westfield and used some of them to buy a book. This is what was left.
 Tissues; some new, some used. You probably want to stop reading my blog now.
 Various items for the treatment of ailments and such like. Clockwise from top left: hand cream, fresh breath spray (never used it, so you might want to steer clear of having a conversation with me should we ever meet), sachet of Gaviscon as I'm a martyr to heartburn, several plasters, ibuprofen tablets, one neurofen migraine tablet (again, I'm a martyr), vaseline for use as lip balm.
General 'food' items: half a packet of M&S sugar free sweets (I can vouch for the warning on the back that reads "excessive consumption may produce laxative effects"), box of Smints that sounds like it only contains one or two mints, chocolate coin for bribing DC, chocolate orange biscuit left over from Christmas. Always good to have in case of emergencies.
Train and underground tickets from the day hubby and I went to see the Olympics - Super Saturday no less; I think it's fair to say we lucked out in the ballot. I've no idea, though, why these tickets are still in my bag 18 months after the event.
 Umbrella (Cath Kidston London design), two biros, black suede gloves.
 And last, but not least, my purse. Cath Kidston green spot design.
So, there you have it: my handbag, the story behind it, and the contents thereof. Would you care to share the contents of yours?

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Bureaux de Change

Remember this lovely bureau from the hallway?
And this bureau + bookcase combo from the snug?
Well, the painting of the snug caused a bit of a rethink on furniture and it currently looks like this. The bookcase that sat atop the bureau is still there (although it has been sold and [fingers crossed] is being collected at the weekend)
while the bureau itself now lives in the hallway. It fits perfectly (it's slightly wider than the previous bureau which means extra storage in those drawers) and looks just right.

The bureau that formerly lived in the hallway is currently residing in the garage awaiting its fate which will probably be eBay, truth be told, as we can't think of anywhere else where it can comfortably live. We bought it at auction when we lived in Reading and hubby used it as his desk for a couple of years; since moving to Somerset it has resided in my office (as storage) and the hallway and now it's surplus to requirements. Much as I love it - the wood is such a gorgeous colour - I think it has to go (insert sad face.) However, the bureau that now lives in the hallway does at least have some sentimental value (as well as being very useful for storing all sorts of stuff - wallpaper samples and candles and batteries and sunglasses [we have somehow managed to amass eight pairs between us; say wha?!?] and all sorts of other things that can't find a home anywhere else) since it used to belong to hubby's grandparents - it's a family heirloom, no less! See the drippy stain running down the far right side of the top three drawers? Hubby's dad did that when he was a young boy by knocking over an ink pot (and he got a proper telling off by all accounts.)

Oh, and if you're wondering where the 'Request Bus Stop' sign is, it;s down the back of the bureau - I knocked if down there when I was dusting last week and haven't been able to summon the strength to move the bureau out and reclaim it (actually that's a fib, it's nothing to do with summoning the strength, it's more to do with being too lazy.) Hence the vintage Fruit Gums advert that has taken its place for the time being.