Wednesday 30 November 2011

Advent tree

We have a new Advent tradition this year - an Advent Tree! We bought this on our wedding trip in Berchtesgaden Germany, despite Mr W claiming that there wasn't any room in our suitcase. I'd never seen one of these before and thought it was quite a novel idea. The tree has 24 little hooks on it, and there are 24 little Christmassy ornaments on it, one to be hung up each day of the advent period. We shall endeavour to remember to do this each evening as we light the advent candle.

Monday 28 November 2011

10k run run!

I'm very proud to share that, having been upping my runs since the completion of Couch to 5k, which I began in September, I took part in my first ever running race yesterday. Not just a 5k, I actually ran in a proper 10k event, the Eynsham 10k. (Eynsham being a large village about 20 minutes run from me). I managed not to get put off by the vast number of runners overtaking me at the start, got into a steady pace and slowly started overtaking the odd runner here and there. It was a little disconcerting when as I approached the end of the first of the two laps, I heard panting and then was overtaken by six or seven very speedy runners, but I managed to put on my own sprint for the last 500m (the marshalls were quite surprised to see someone who was finishing so late putting on such a spurt) and went under the clock at 1 h 4 minutes. When I looked up my timing chip time in the afternoon I found that I'd done it in 1h 3m 50 seconds, no mean feat on less than 3 months of running.

Less impressive was the resulting sugar-low which rendered me incapable of finding where I had left my car. Husband, in Leicester for the day, was completely unable to help, and it took half an hour of wandering around in tears before I found the car park. But small details...

Time to find a half marathon I think!

Sunday 27 November 2011


As I write, I'm sitting listening to the Advent Carol service on Radio 4 - this is one of my signs that Christmas is getting close. I love advent carols almost as much as Christmas carols, especially O Come O Come Emmanual and Lo he comes with clouds descending. I shall be lighting our advent candle tonight - it's always handy when advent starts before the beginning of December because you can get through that extra bit of candle before the numbers start.

I am excited about Christmas this year. It's been so long since Mr W and I had more than 2 days together (our honeymoon in fact), and it's the first time that we've been in our own house! We've worked so hard to get it to a presentable stage that it will be a pleasure to put the decorations up and have people around. I don't feel terribly Christmassy yet - well, there are 4 weeks to go - I think it is to do with the the still unseasonably warm weather. Just hoping that we don't have snow this December - the 8 hours in the car to take our nieces to the ballet in London last year was something that I'd rather not repeat with this year's excursion!

I'm not sure I'll have time to participate, but several of my very favourite bloggers are organising it, so here's a quick mention for Austen in Advent - do go over and check it out!

Saturday 26 November 2011

Beautiful books and carpet

The highlight of the past week has been finally getting new carpet in our dining room and hall.

Unfortunately, not having had a dining room before, and only having a small table (the kitchen table from my childhood) we are somewhat lacking in things to put in the dining room.

Well, that's not strictly true. As you can see...

(Apologies for the dreadful light in the picture...)

My non Virago fiction was currently residing upstairs in the third bedroom, but I didn't really like having the books in there. The room is somewhat grotty (and will be our next redecoration project, hopefully over the Christmas break), and as it's the smallest bedroom it was absolutely crammed solid. The plan is to move them back once it's decorated, but y'know, I quite like them there... (Poor Mr W's books are still in the garage)

Sunday 20 November 2011

This weekend

This weekend has been all about preparing for Christmas. I know it's not even advent yet, but I know how busy the weeks before Christmas get and I want to be able to enjoy events and be able to be spontaneous rather than worry about the things that I haven't done.
So this weekend has seen:
1. Wrapping of Christmas presents (extraordinarily exhausting, and still one more for Mother-in-law, yet to arrive to go).
2. Parcelling up Christmas presents to be posted
3. Ripping Christmas cds to itunes to create a Christmas playlist for advent tea party
4. Devising of cake menu for advent tea party
5. Reading of Christmas issue of Good Housekeeping magazine for inspiration
6. Purchase of poinsettia when Mr W offered to buy me flowers
7. Sampling of Waitrose Brandy Ice Cream (delicious)
8. Sampling of mini Christmas cake (oh how can I resist eating the big one?)
9. Attempted purchase of Christmas tree (foiled as the garden centre only had a paltry selection this early).

In other news, very tired and busy with work so things may be quiet on the blogging front but will be popping in and out over the next few weeks. Only 24 more working days until the Christmas holidays! Can't wait!!

Wednesday 16 November 2011

An ABC of me...

...or "too much information". Reading with Tea did this meme yesterday and as I'm tired and uninspired, here are my answers!

Age: 27.5

Book Size: Something portable and in paperback.

Chore that you hate: Taking out the garbage/doing the hand washing-up.

Dogs: As long as it’s nowhere near me, you can keep yours (I stole this answer from Yvann, but how true for me too!)

Essential start to your day: A swim. Immersion in water wakes me up and makes me feel I've done something useful before getting dressed.

Favorite colour: Pink. If there's a choice of colour, I want it in pink.

Gold or Silver: Silver generally, but I wear white gold wedding and engagement rings - but that's silver coloured rather than gold surely?!

.Height: 5' 6"

Instruments you play: Euphonium, baritone, trombone, piano - I used to play the flute too. I also play the triangle with considerable skill.

Job Title: Reading Room Supervisor (Radcliffe Camera and Gladstone Link)

Kids: are best when you only borrow them and can give them back..

Live: Oxford, UK.

Milk: semi-skimmed (1.5%-2%) or soya if on my cereal. Soya doesn't work in coffee or I'd have it all the time.

Nicknames: V, Veri, and at work I seem to get called "pet" a lot by my new team.

Oldest living relative: My Gran - 83 I think.

Pet Peeves: Husband watching fail videos on You Tube, it raining when I have to cycle home.

Quote from a movie: "It's a bloody euphonium" (Brassed off)

Right or Left handed: Left!

Siblings: Nope, but now I have a sister AND brother in law! Yayy!

Time you wake up: Just before 6.05 due to the fact that the wake-up-daylight-lamp is set a tad earlier than my phone alarm. I don't actually wake up properly until mid morning, sometimes not even til after lunch.

Underwear: Yes. Except when I forget to pack it...

Vegetable you hate: Where to start? Brussel sprouts, turnips, swedes, parsnips, beetroot. And do not even mention cabbage to me…

What makes you run late: Struggling to get out of bed, having an extra cuddle with my husband.

X-Rays you’ve had: Teeth. But the latest one did not show up the fact that my roots on my wisdom teeth were growing at a funny angle and that I should really probably have gone to the hospital for its extraction. Also had a chest xray aged 10 for a heart murmur.

Yummy food that you make: Cake, in all sorts of forms.

Zoo animal: Penguins!

Phew! Are you still reading?!

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Christmas cake baking

Have made a Christmas cake, using the wedding cake recipe (but using gluten free flour) - I hope it will be tasty. Since the recipe gave quantities for a square tin, I used the mix left over to make a mini 4" cake, which I decorated with leftovers from the wedding cake I made the other weekend... Isn't it cute?

Sunday 13 November 2011

This weekend

This weekend has been only a half weekend as I was back at work today; I hope this will be my last Sunday for a while. But not all is lost; I spent my teabreak rereading the Persephone Books A place in the country by Jocelyn Playfair - had forgotten what a wonderful tale it is.

I had a productive day yesterday, and now all of our Christmas cards are written - just awaiting Mr W to sign them, seal and stamp them. The Christmas cake spent four hours in the oven and smelt wonderful. And all of this followed on from a race around the shops on Friday lunchtime which leaves me just 3 presents away from completing my Christmas shopping. Two of these will be books, I just need to decide quite what my mother in law and Mr W's sister in law would like to read... Always tricky!

One of the reasons that it's been difficult for me to blog so much is that I've upped my sports a bit and am now running twice a week after work and on Saturdays. I've mentioned the Couch 2 5k programme several times now, and on Wednesday I proudly completed the penultimate week, running for 28 minutes. On Saturday I absolutely smashed that on a run with Mr W; we went out over 4 miles and were running for a grand total of 41 minutes. I'm really proud of the progress that I've made from not being able to run at all, to injuring myself on the second session, through to this and have reward myself with some running leggings with pink go faster stripes on. Am sure they helped on Saturday! I find it really good to be outside for half an hour or so after a day indoors even if it's dark and it really provides a way to clear my head from some very busy times at work.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Cross Stitch Christmas cards

I've finally managed to get around to finishing off the cross stitches that I did whilst I had mumps and in the weeks thereafter and turn them into Christmas cards. I'm really pleased with them.

Now I need to make some cards in bulk for the rest of the Christmas card list!

Tuesday 8 November 2011

More Autumn treats

Another firework inspired cake using my bundt tin - have had it for two years and never used it but the occasion seemed right just now. It's just a simple orange flavoured sponge - and at least it came out of the tin!

Also made some parsnip, blue cheese and pumpkin seed muffins - recipe from the Sainsburys magazine. Very Autumnal and beautifully cheesy even if you can't really taste the parsnip.

Monday 7 November 2011

One book, two book, three book, four and five (again)

I'm late to the party, but I still wanted to join in with Simon's wonderful meme, that I did back in May and which is doing the rounds again. Almost all of the bloggers I know seem to have done this recently, and finally I've got around to it. Afraid that out of tiredness and laziness I'm showing all my books in one picture.

1. The book I'm currently reading
This is The reading promise by Alice Ozma, a memoir about a girl who sets out to read with her father for 1000 nights in a row. In fact, with her school librarian father they make it to 3218 nights together. I liked the premise which inspired me to pick it up but I can't say that it's grabbing me so far.

2. The last book I finished.
That is The best of everything by Rona Jaffe. Wow! What an amazing book. Set in New York in the 1950s it follows three career girls and their attempts to have careers and find love. If you enjoyed The group by Mary McCarthy then I'm sure you'll love this. It first came to my attention with a review on Jo's blog here...

3. The next book I want to read.
Outside of the TBR which isn't terribly appealing, I was reminded today that I really want to read the latest Greyladies Book Portrait of Saskia by DE Stevenson. DE Stevenson is one of those authors enjoying somewhat of a revival - she wrote my favourite Persephone Miss Buncle's book - and this book includes a previously unpublished manuscript as well as several short stories. I have to say that I am less excited about the content than about the fact that one of my favourite blog commenters Geraldine has written the introduction!

4. The last book I bought.
The grass in Piccadilly by Noel Streatfeild - I've started collecting her adult novels and have a number of alerts on ebay so that I can find out when any of them become available. They're not always easy to get hold of but they haven't yet reached insane prices which is why I'm collecting them while I can.

5. The last book I was given.
I had a parcel waiting for me when I got into work today from the lovely Claire at Paperback Reader. She had got me these lovely Ladybird postcards, which complement the recent Postcards from Penguin and Postcards from Puffin, and she'd arranged for Penguin to send me the fantastic Lego Ideas Book pictured above. Obviously, I shall be getting my lego out so that I can review it properly in due course :)
I should give honourable mentions to two other books that I have recieved recently which are Autumn Crush by Milly Johnson which I won in a competition over at Dot Scribbles which I look forward to reading as I've enjoyed a number of Milly Johnson books from the library; and The company she keeps by Mary McCarthy which is one of the latest Virago Modern Classics which I have recieved to review on my other blog.

Sunday 6 November 2011


This is what I have been doing today....

It's a wedding cake for a friend - vegan fruitcake - but as she won't see it for a bit - the wedding is on 1st December, I can't yet post the this space! It's quite quirky - anyone like to guess what is on the top?!

Saturday 5 November 2011

Firework night

The last couple of years Mr W and I have been very lazy about going to the Oxford fireworks - they were a bit of a trek from us and no parking, and also very expensive, but, living in a flat in one of the rather posher parts of town we were treated to fantastic displays from all of the people in the neighbourhood who owned big houses with correspondingly large gardens.

This year, we decided to do things differently. Our new "village" (far too big to be a village in my opinion) has its own firework display, musical fireworks no less, so we decided to go up there on Friday night. It was the first excursion without my wisdom tooth and I was feeling quite wobby (and not able to say "ooooh" and "ahhhhhhhhhhh" as much as I would have liked) but they were probably the best fireworks I've ever seen and absolutely worth every penny of the £5 each we paid.

My Mum used to make something similar for the firework supper that we used to have when I was little. Sausages, jacket potatoes, soup and firework cake. Until I was quite big, we used to do our own fireworks in the garden at home. The garden wasn't terribly big - although twice the size of ours now - so they used to be quite small, fountains and roman candles etc. Now that we have our own garden, I thought we should reinstate the tradition, although we are not going to let off anything as large as a roman candle owing to the fact that we have not yet got around to sorting out the garden and there is an awful lot of overgrowth which could potentially set on fire. We will have sparklers of course so that we can write our names in the air. My Mum used to make a firework supper when I was little - sausages, jacket potatoes, soup...and firework cake. We won't bother with the sausages since I'm now veggie but I did decide to make a firework cake.... It just looks like a regular ring cake from the outside*

covered with chocolate frosting, but when you cut it open:

(Actually there are swirls of four different colours - purple, green, blue and pink - but only two seem to have made it into this slice!)

Happy Bonfire Night everybody!

*It was actually intended to be a regular round cake but owing to sinking (really not quite sure why), I cut the centre out to save the day and preserve my integrity as a baker.

Friday 4 November 2011

Lovely Snowman things

Thank you all for your kind comments re the tooth. Still very painful, still clutching at my ice packs and have spent all day in pajamas which is most unlike me.

Some lovely things arrived at the start of the week for Christmas and as the Snowman audio book is one of the things that I have been listening to today, I thought I would share them. Some of you may remember my beautiful The snowman cakestand that I had last year; I have been coveting more things to go with it for ages. I suddenly struck lucky when Portmeirion, the expensive china company that makes the range, had 50% off ALL of the Snowman things a couple of weeks ago.

I really wanted Mr W to give me either the pastry forks or the spoons for Christmas; with 50% off he could give me both.
And I'd been eyeing up these cute little bowls for a while:
When I'd popped them in the basket, I realised that I was only a little bit away from the minimum for free postage (well, a bit away but postage was £5), so I popped these into my basket as well.

I absolutely can't wait to get them out for the first Christmas in our new home. The annual advent tea party will be happening as usual, assuming that all goes to plan with the next two weeks worth of decorating. It's so nice to start building up our own Christmas traditions as a couple.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Where have I been?

What's been going on? It's been a while since I've posted - sorry. My head is so busy with work and with training (up to Week 6 of Couch to 5k now and ran for 25 minutes the other day!) that I haven't had much time to think about the blog. Add into the mix a trip to the dentist last week which found that one of my wisdom teeth needed to come out, huge anxiety about it which resulted in alarming palpitations which found me at the GP the night before having an ECG, and then a horrific two hours in the dentists today where the dentist struggled to remove the tooth due to the fact that the roots had grown in at 90 degrees, taking four times as long as the booked appointment. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that it was even worse than I was dreading. So that's where I've been. I'm currently typing one-handed as my other hand is holding an icepack to my face - it looks like I've got the mumps all over again. On the plus side, wisdom teeth have to be worth a lot for the tooth fairy and Mr W has promised to let me take the credit card to Hobbycraft as soon as I have recovered.

I have things that I want to post about, especially as I start to prepare for Christmas and exciting things are arriving in the Mr and Mrs W residence, but that will have to wait for now. It's also firework night this weekend - hurrah! In the meantime, here's a quick snap of some amazing peanut butter cookies that I uploaded a week ago and never got around to writing about. Recipe was from Baking Magic.

(I could show you a picture of the amazing 90 degree root but I think that would be too gross)