fudge

Monday, 16 January 2017

I Am Officially GREAT!!!

And it's all thanks to this little bundle of joy:



Well, with a little help from her Mum (my niece) and her husband.

Little Maia my great niece was born at 39 weeks on the 13 January 2017 at  10.08 weighing in at 8lb 1oz.

Now all I have to do is wait until March when they all come back to the UK from New Zeland so I can have my first cuddle.

I CANNOT WAIT!!!

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Established 1832

County Stores in Taunton:


That could be me sitting on the bench outside couldn't it?

This was going to be a post about the history of one of the oldest established shops in Taunton, certainly one of the longest still running shops that, until recent times, was entirely family owned.

County stores was due for closure this month.  Then It was given a reprieve until the end of March and yesterday it was announced that 'due to overwhelming local support it will remain open for the foreseeable future'.

Just what that foreseeable future will be remains to be seen.  I suspect it will only be until they find a new owner for the premises but hopefully that will take a while.

So I thought I'd write  post about this iconic shop, a place where, if you can't find it anywhere else, you will almost certainly find it at County Stores.

A place where you can buy handmade chocolates, handmade ON the premises.  A place where they not only have their own bakery making bespoke cakes for all occasions but they've also had the same baker making them for over 30 years!  A place where you can take afternoon tea, buy exclusive and often locally sourced gifts in the gift shop, chocolate olivers, little paper packets of herbs and spices, dried fruit for your Christmas cake sold by the lb and so much more.

But that's a post for another time because this morning I read this post by my bloggy friend K about a trip to the Birmingham Christmas markets with her daughter.

K and I have daughters of a similar age and every time she write about her it touches my heart because we share so many of the same fears and joys as we watch our girls grow up and form their own lives.

I'm going to be honest (because I always TRY to be honest here), there are times as a parent when it's been HARD.  Only fleeting moments and usually because of silly things like not being able to go to the loo on my own for several years.  There have been times where I've longed for just a few minutes to myself.  Times where I haven't wanted to have to think of them first before making any plans.  Times when I've just wanted to be ME.

But they were very fleeting moments and the more time I have these days to do just that the more I miss being the centre of their lives so I cherish each and every second they choose to spend with me.

Last week, believing that County Stores was due to close in the next few days I asked Miss Mac if she would like to have afternoon tea with me.

Being truly my daughter she jumped at the chance!

We ate cake:


Both of us had our eye on the last piece of cherry cheesecake so of course I let her have it and I settled for a slice of chocolate and ginger torte which was delicious.


I took her photo so we would always remember this special moment.


Got her to behave long enough to take a 'proper' photo.


Caught her unawares with this one in the gift shop.


And proved without question that she is indeed my daughter!


And found this - jelly with GLITTER which made us both so happy.

I'm going to miss County Stores SO much when it finally closes it doors and I will write a proper post so I can share the wonder that it is before that happens.

But right now, well, right now I'm just revelling in the wonder that is my beautiful, funny, lovable Miss Mac.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

It's That Time of Year Again

A time for reflection.  A time for introspection. A time to take stock, to make plans, set goals, turn the page and open a new book etc.

And a time to ponder ...

WHO ON EARTH LOOKED AT THESE AND IMMEDIATELY THOUGHT THAT IS THE PERFECT GIFT FOR SARAH???


I confess, I was flummoxed (I have taken on board your lament for lost words BP and have resolved to incorporate the odd one here and there over the next year starting with flummoxed)

Flummoxed verb: To confuse someone so much that they do not know what to do.


What the hell ARE these things I hear you ask.

AS WELL YOU MIGHT!

I confess, I had no idea either.  I'd been ripping open packages and parcels with gay abandon (yes, BP, I AM old enough to say that) and these floppy rubbery things fell into my hot, sticky, chocolate smeared hands at 8:07am on Christmas morning stopping me in my tracks.

I flapped them at Miss Mac.

'Oi, whatisit' I mumbled through a mouthful of Malteasers.

'Dunno' she muttered back attacking a particularly well wrapped present with her teeth. 'Things you stick on the window?'

I licked the middle bit and attempted to slap them on to the laptop screen but they just fell off.

'Bloody useless window stickers' I grumbled and put them to one side until my eyes could focus enough to actually read the label.

There's always that ONE gift isn't there.  You know the one.  For men it's usually a car cleaning kit picked up at the petrol station or a miniature multi-tool that snaps as soon as you try to pry out the teeny, tiny screwdriver.

For women it's a box set of floral bubble bath with matching talc or an oven glove (although I actually NEED a new oven glove because mine got shut in the oven door the other day and it's got a big burnt patch on it now).

Don't get me wrong, I am not UNGRATEFUL, I'm always happy that someone has thought of me and to be honest, I've bought my share of car cleaning kits and smelly box sets over the years too but sometimes I just can't get my head around how someone links me to a particular item.

Take THESE for example:



Yes, these were last years perplexing present, the FOUR wise monkeys ...

I confess to a little hysterical laughter when I opened them.

They actually sat on the shelf in my front room all year because SD said I was incredibly ungrateful when I suggested offering them to his Dad to light the log burner.

I have TRIED to love them, I really have but I was so pleased when Christmas rolled around again and I could legitimately hide them in the drawer to make room for the Christmas cards.

I asked SD if he had any idea what my floppy rubber flowers were for so he actually read the label.

They are NOT window stickers!!

Apparently they are drink covers. SD says the present giver obviously got wind of my middle classed pretensions and thought I might like them for placing over my glass of wine or Pimms when I'm sitting in the garden on a summers evening.

Well, I'm not really much of a wine drinker to be honest (although I DO like a glass of red every now and then) and I find a thumb over the top of my bottle of beer keeps the bugs out pretty well and I tend not to drink Pimms since that time I spent the afternoon quaffing the stuff with Nicolette in HER garden not realising that she's laced it with Vodka and when I left I walked out of her house and fell straight over her garden wall onto the pavement.

So I've decided that rather than ungratefully hide these in the drawer I'm going to sew them to a bikini top and wear them at the annual Beach Buggy get together in Swanage!

There was ONE other odd gift I (or rather Gus) received this year.

I had just got back from the annual Christmas Eve pub crawl and was eyeing up the mountain of veg waiting to be prepared when there was a loud banging on the door.

I opened it to find nobody there until ...

Looking down I saw Sue (she who declared she was a demented woodpecker at the Macmillan coffee morning.  She who hunts for snails under the table at our committee meeting.  She who insists that our Noble Secretary must return the eye of toad stolen from Ladram Bay and she who gave her goldfish mouth to mouth through a drinking straw killing 5 of them with her nicotine laden breath ...) on all fours rummaging through one of those large zip up laundry bags with multi coloured stripes.

She glanced up, fag in mouth.

'Sorry about the cigarette she croaked as I watched in horror while a trail of smoke drifted down my hallway.

'It's in here somewhere she muttered pulling out an empty butter container, a copy of the Independent and four large plastic roses.

MY GOD, I THOUGHT SHE SAID SHE DIDN'T KNOW WHERE I LIVED!!!

'Ah HA' she said triumphantly handing me a foil packet.  'Half before the walk, half after - you have to dangle the carrot you know!'

I looked at the packet with it's odd orange coloured stick like things depicted on the front and what I am assuming was Polish writing.

'Ummm, thank you' I said (having no bloody idea what it was I was thanking her for).

'They aren't ALL for you!  She shouted. 'Open it up, go on, OPEN it!!!'

I pulled at the foil packet, nothing.  I tried to tear it length ways, I looked to see if there was a tear strip.  Nothing.

'USE YOUR TEETH' she bellowed, I haven't got all day!

I ripped it open with my teeth and immediately wished I hadn't as I fought the urge not to throw up in her still open laundry bag as the disgusting smell hit me.

'Tripe sausages' she announced with some satisfaction - 'For Gus, half before his walk and half after!.

So yes, I am reflecting, pondering and attempting to be less ungrateful for the gifts these (genuinely) kind and thoughtful people bestow on me and my dog.

Happy New Year everyone.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Christmas Past

This is a re-run from a previous year but time is getting away with me and reading this post again gives me a warm glow inside.

Merry Christmas everyone, I hope it is filled with happiness for you all.

Sarah x


The dynamic of my Christmas has changed over the years.  This year different to last and last year different to the previous year ...

But there was a time where I remember the familiar fabric of this time of year, so well worn that it could have been the same comforter brought out time and time again wrapping me in a blanket of contentment and happiness.

My childhood wasn't perfect but there were times it was perfection and Christmas was always such a time.

Christmas began at the end of October when, in a steamy fug my Grandmother gathered together the ingredients for the Christmas cake, homemade mincemeat and the Christmas pudding.

Great bowlfuls of shiny dates, plump raisins and currents, oranges and lemons ready for zesting and squeezing.  Huge heavy based pans and long wooden spoons, walnuts to crack and glace cherries sticky and sweet ....

We each took a turn in stirring the pudding mix and making a wish, usually a hint whispered out loud as to what we would most like to find under the tree on Christmas morning.

Once cooked the cake was wrapped in greaseproof paper ready for feeding drip by drip from the large bottle of brandy.  The pudding swaddled in a muslin cloth and circles of waxed paper sealed the jars of mincemeat before their lids were given a jaunty bonnet of red and white checked cloth secured with an elastic band.

Everything carefully labelled with the date was then stored in the huge wardrobe built into the alcove next to the fireplace in the large bedroom at the front of the house where it sat glowing richly one the dark wooden shelves amongst the fruits of the summer which had been made into pickles and chutneys and jam.

I used to open the door occasionally just to wonder at the array of goodies lined up and breath in the scent of cinnamon and spices.  Sometimes it would seem like Christmas would never come ...

Thursday, 1 December 2016

More Christmas Crafting

It's ironic that just a couple of posts ago I said that I often find taking photos for blog posts much easier than finding the words to go with them because in this case taking the photos was the REALLY hard part!

After my disastrous snowman pom pom I did tell you there would be another (hopefully more successful) Christmas crafting post and I owe this one to Anne from Domesblissity for posting this link on her FB page - it a whole lot of clever Christmas things people have made with Mason jars.

If you've read much of my blog you will know that I like to make stuff for people as well as buying them presents for Christmas and Birthdays.

I can't do it with the finesse of some people but I am a trier (as Di said on my last post :-) ) and anyway, who cares?  It's may not be perfect but it will be made with love.

Well, anything you can do with a Mason jar I can do with an empty Douwe Egberts coffee jar right?

Fortunately I love the coffee as much as I love the jars.


They are a great shape and once you have soaked the labels off (a little white spirit takes any left over sticky off) you can use them for loads of things.

They have this great plastic seal on the lids which you can carefully prise off or leave on for a snug fit (they come off and on fairly easily which was great for this project).

The first thing I did was go shopping - already a win win for me!

I bought a pack of fake snow, various gift ribbons, some double sided sticky dots and a few Christmas decorations.

I also had a hunt around at home for things that looked like they might work with what I had in mind.


Then I started to put the whole thing together.


The little snowman was stuck to the bottom of the jar with a few glue dots.

The snowballs were made from threading tiny glass and pearl beads (sorry Miss Mac, that's what happened to your bracelet!) on to cotton (you could use fishing line if being able to see the cotton bothers you) and then sticking them with more glue dots to the underside of the plastic seal I'd removed from the jar lid because it was easier to handle like that. Then just pop the seal back onto the lid.

I also stuck some of them around the inside rim of the jar so they weren't all in the middle.  You could see the dots from the outside so I covered them later with the ribbon around the top.

After sprinkling in some fake snow to cover the bottom I added a little bit of fir and a fir cone with some berrys that I'd pulled off another Christmas decoration.

Initially I'd bought little polystyrene snowballs to hang in the jar but the proportions were all wrong and it looked like the poor snowman was being bombarded with meteorites so I just put a few in the bottom.

After tying the ribbon around the jar I added a Christmas decoration to the side:

And it was done!

So I decided to make a couple more with other jars ...



Like I said, very hard to photograph because of light and shadows on the glass.  I ended up taking these outside and photographing them against the shed door but it was minus 2 this morning and the middle one steamed up a bit!


So here's a slightly better photo:


I made the bunting by cutting tiny triangles from some red ribbon and sewing them onto a length of cotton.


This one is for SD - obviously he doesn't want a snow globe so I pinched one of his die cast VW's and made him one anyway!



I'll be perfectly honest - although this wasn't exactly difficult it WAS very time consuming and there was a lot of trial and error finding out what worked and what didn't.  I finally realised (going completely against the grain) that less was more and to keep them simple.

Hopefully the recipients will like them as much as I do.

Monday, 28 November 2016

How (or more to the point WHY) Did She Do THAT!!!

It's been a while since I last brought you one of my expert guides hasn't it?

In fact it's been a while since I brought you anything much!

Well, this week I'm looking to rectify that and I'm going to start by giving you an expert guide in not one but TWO different areas.

Firstly - do you remember last year when I decided I was going to make all my own Christmas decorations and I got a load of old toilet roll inners, covered them in silver glitter paper, cut them up and made paper chains?

Well, that didn't go so well really - they all popped apart and I was just left with loads of scraps of glitter covered cardboard.

BUT!!!

I'm not one to let a little thing like complete failure put me off so I decided that this year I would ....  Wait for it ....

MAKE ALL MY OWN CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS!!!

After the HUGE success of my pom pom garland for my niece (and that fact that I found a load of white wool) I thought I'd make some pom pom snowballs.

Only I got bored after making one.

But I found a great use for it:



And I got excited again so I thought I'd give it another go and make a pom pom snowman for Miss Mac.

Here he is ...



She LOVED it said there was no way she was hanging that in her bedroom, it would give her nightmares!

Ungrateful child - It's no worse than the decorations I found in Sainsburys!!

Now that IS the thing of nightmares!


So anyway, I'm going to carry on making my own decorations and I might even bring you something later in the week that will surprise you!

Moving swiftly on ...

I'll bet at some point everyone has had (or still has) a piece of pine furniture.

I've got lots because it's inexpensive and everyone needs furniture don't they?

Anyway, I'm not a HUGE fan of pine despite having so much of it and I'd been feeling my house was rather ....  ginger!!!

The thing that was bothering me most was this:



No, NOT Miss Mac (although she can be fairly bothersome from time to time).

The pine cabinet behind her.

I know, all GOOD bloggers take proper photos as they go alone with projects but well, I'm not one of those so I had to dig around for a photo with the cabinet in it before I did anything to it.

The first thing I did was remove that trim at the top, it was too frou frou for me and it immediately looked much better without it (luckily it was only held on with a couple of screws).

I wanted to paint it but SD really didn't like that idea so I decided it might look nice if I stained it a light oak colour:



NOT the colour I was going for at ALL!!!  Also NOT the colour it said it was on the tin!

I hated it even more.  Obviously AFTER staining it I did a bit of research and discovered that pine really doesn't take stain very well and you are supposed to use some kind of sealer before staining it to stop it absorbing the colour unevenly.

Fortunately SD hated it too and agreed that I could now paint it (all the while telling me mournfully that he had quite liked it the way it was before I'd done anything to it - VERY helpful SD!!).

So now I'm painting it.

And painting it ...  And painting it AGAIN!!!

I think I possibly should have sealed the stain before painting it ...

That bloody colour KEEPS bleeding through as it dries giving it a pinky tinge ...


Not to mention the fact that there are 8 paned of glass in each section which means there are 96 - I said NINETY SIX!!! edges to paint each time!!!

It's a complete nightmare.  I haven't masked the glass off because I'm rubbish at doing that and I either mask over the bits I need to paint or end up pulling half the paint off with the tape so I've got a couple of razor blades from a friend who resprays cars so I can chip the paint off the glass when it's dry.

Having said all that (and really - DON'T ever do it yourself!), I do like it much more that I did before although I now wish I'd left the top and the knobs natural wood and just waxed them.

Who knows, I might actually get it finished at some point, maybe in time fro Christmas ...

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Autumn

Inspired by my dear friend K I thought I'd post a few of the photos I've been taking lately ...

One day last week I woke up to blue, cloudless skies so I put aside everything I had been meaning to do and took off on my bike.

I had planned to ride along the river but I was drawn to the canal instead.

I'm so lucky that this is literally just at the end of my road.

Once I started I didn't know where to stop so I carried on for about 5 miles just drinking in the beauty of the Somerset countryside at it's best in Autumn.





The first lock at Firepool

I love the lazy meander of the canal with it's still water and the bicycle propped against the fence


A couple of miles in and there is a row of canal boats tied up for the winter - it looks like someone is still using this one.


Some of the bridges are so low I have to duck to ride under them and the path narrows so one wobble and I'd be IN the canal!

On the other side of the bridge the countryside opens out into fields, it's SO beautiful!

And the same bridge on the way back

Someone has built the tiniest of summer houses at the bottom of their garden right on the edge of the canal.  It's just big enough for a single chair - what a perfect place to sit and just be ...

SD and I had a bonfire at the farm - I could watch the flames for hours.

But I went for a wander along the pretty lanes and fields.

Where the sun and the light at this time of year are just stunning!

Yesterday a few of us planted some spring bulbs around the trees in the wildlife garden at the park - hopefully I will be able to show you some lovely flowers in a few months.



Finally - my gorgeous girl dressed up for Halloween on dress up day at work.

Such a lot more to share but words are evading me at the moment in a way that photos never do.

Back soon :-)