Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Still Here!

Yes, I'm still here but life definitely seems to be getting in the way of blogging. Things are set to change though as the tea room I run has been sold and so, from the end of June, I shall have more time on my hands (unless I get myself another job, which I suppose would be a good thing financially, but otherwise isn't something I'm overly keen on...)

One blog post I had in mind was a book review round-up; I love reading and I love to share what I've read but I know I'm not particularly good at writing reviews with my opinions usually stretching to 'it was good' or 'I didn't enjoy it very much'. So, rather than doing a review for each book I thought I would lump them all together in one post every now and again.

Here is the pile of books that need to be 'discussed', teetering away on the edge of my desk just waiting for the day when I have a few spare minutes to get to the computer and start blogging. The two at the bottom were actually read in 2014 and can be ignored, but those from Styx and Stones upwards have been read this year. Perhaps I'll do a 'First Quarter Review' post. Yes, that will be just perfect, especially if I can finish off the book I'm currently reading before the end of the month, giving me another tome to add to the list of books to review badly. Bet you can hardly wait!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Dining Area Switcheroo

Way back in April 2013 we painted a couple of the walls of the living/dining room area in a lovely green (Vert de Terre by Farrow & Ball); then at some point last year we decided to go the whole hog and have the entire living/dining/kitchen space painted the same colour; we'd been a bit nervous of it overwhelming the space and making it feel dark, but we grew accustomed to it very quickly and now really like it. Here's a photo of the largest wall in the living room area with the colour added.
However, there was one wall which was left out when the rest were painted because we had a couple of large/heavy pieces of furniture in the way, and we just couldn't be bothered to move them. So we lived with a single white wall in the open plan area, until last weekend.

This is the wall in question in some of its various guises since we moved in:

The photo above shows pretty much how that wall has been for quite a while now, well right up until the weekend.

And what caused this turnaround? Well, just before Christmas hubby and I were at our local auction room (Lawrences in Crewkerne) and we spotted these cabinets. And we both fell in love with them.

Hubby was off work at the time having had an operation on his neck, so he went along to the auction to see what sort of price they were likely to achieve and to put in a bid if the price was right. Well, you've guessed it, the price was right and we ended up with the gorgeous cabinets (plus another one that we couldn't leave without.) Then there was the issue of where the cabinets would go. And really, there was only one place they could work. So we put an advert in our village shop offering these two cabinets for sale and within a couple of days they were sold.

That left us with a lovely blank wall to paint.

And we all know that the family that paints together...

Two coats later and it was time to move the auction cabinets in from their temporary home in the garage.

And here there are in all their glory. The one on the left a cabinet of curiosities, the one on the right housing our collection of travel books and a few other odds and ends.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

A Stroll Along the Coronation Street Cobbles

On New Year's Day hubby, my Mum and I were up and at 'em early (what luck none of us had bothered staying up til midnight to ring in the New Year...) as we headed to Granada Studios in Manchester to visit the old Coronation Street set. We are all big fans of the show so were probably a little over-excited, to say the least and our 'fan-dom' was evident when between us we managed to answer nearly all of the questions that the tour guide asked on our way round the sets (we were actually starting to feel a bit embarrassed of ourselves come the end.) The tour starts with a short film looking back over the highlights of the past several decades of Corrie, followed by a look round some of the inside sets (no photos allowed, unfortunately) including Carla's flat, Gayle's house, the Duckworth's back room and then, the highlight of the inside part of the tour, The Rovers Return. Clearly this is only going to mean something to you if you actually watch the programme, so apologies to anyone who isn't quite such a fan as I am (and if you're not, why not?!?) After the sets we had a chance to look at some props including Hayley's cardboard coffin, Hilda Ogden's curlers, Vera Duckworth's hairnet, Deirdre's glasses and lots more (I know, it really doesn't sound very interesting unless you are a Corrie fan, does it?!) And then, finally, the moment we'd all been waiting for, a short countdown and the doors of Nick's Bistro were thrown open giving us our first view of The Street, cue the music and action:
With the chance to wander up and down those famous cobbles
And pretend to go into a few of the famous properties; here's hubby paying Gayle, David, Kylie, etc a visit
Before stopping for a pint of Newton and Ridley's finest

I'm holding my bag like that in homage to Roy Cropper and his infamous shopping bag, in case you were wondering why I look even more of a wally than usual...
Here's a view down the ginnel behind the terrace houses
Time to pick up a quarter of sherbert lemons and a copy of the Weatherfield Gazette
Not forgetting a pint of milk and a loaf
Before jumping on the bus and heading for Eccles...

What a great morning we had and I would thoroughly recommend it to any Corrie fan; there is talk that this old set is going to be demolished to make way for apartments, shops and office buildings. I can't say I'm surprised since it's a prime area of real estate right in the middle of Manchester, but it will certainly be a pity that a piece of television history will be lost for good (although if you're not a big fan you probably won't feel too fussed!)

Monday, 5 January 2015

Happy New Year! And some book talk.

How are we already five days in to the new year? It's a good thing that my resolution to blog more regularly wasn't an actual real life resolution. I've realised that making resolutions is pointless since I rarely manage to keep them and, let's face it, if something was that important I wouldn't wait until the new year to put it in to practice. The only thing I try to do year on year, is read more books than the year before. In 2013 I managed 28 (and a half), 2014 was a rather disappointing 24 (and a half) - sad face. I blame the laser eye surgery which rendered me practically unable to see for a couple of weeks let along read the small print in a book (and audio books definitely don't count towards the annual total.)

If you have the fortitude to plough through this blog from time to time, you may have noticed that I review the books that I read. I review them badly; that's not to say that I give the books bad reviews (such as nil points) but that I write poor reviews. It is certainly not among my (few) talents and it doesn't help that my memory is poor and I can barely remember what a book was about once I've finished it (or sometimes even while I'm still reading it.) Yet still I persist. Sorry. But at this point, as a fresh year of reading begins and I realise I only managed to write reviews for 13 of the 24 (and a half) books I read last year, I've decided to spare you those 11 reviews and simply list the books with a sentence or two to say whether, in my most humble opinion, they were worth the paper they're printed on.

Death by Darjeeling - Laura Childs. The first in a cozy crime series set in a tea room (seemed kind of perfect really considering my current profession!) Enjoyed this one.
The Sisterhood - Emily Barr. Jury's out on this one. I enjoyed it; expected it to be predictable, which it was in places, but there were also a few twists. Psycho-thriller-lite.
Mini Shopaholic - Sophie Kinsella. Oh dear. Once upon a time I loved reading the books in this series, but that was a while ago. Picking one up after such a long time has made me wonder were they always this dreadful/predictable/badly written/cliche-ridden, or is it just this particular book? I don't think I'll read any more to find out.
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson. LOVED it. A bit odd to start with, but once it got going the constantly twisting-turning plot that went full-circle was a joy. Thoroughly recommend.
Sentenced to Death - Lorna Barrett. From the Booktown series which I consistently enjoy, and this one was no exception.
Gunpowder Green - Laura Childs. Gave the second in the Tea Shop mystery series a go and enjoyed it as much as the first; happy to keep going with these.
The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party - Alexander McCall Smith. Ahh, Mma Ramotswe, how do I love thee?! This series never fails to disappoint, instantly transporting me to another place where all is comfortable and good (in the end.) I would thoroughly recommend the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series to anyone who wants to read a gentle, comforting, happy book.
The Vintage Tea Cup Club - Vanessa Greene. Oh dear. Trite, predictable, disappointing. Steer clear.
Thai Die - Monica Ferris. From another cozy crime series which I consistently enjoy. Again, it didn't disappoint.
Coming Home for Christmas - Julia Williams. So, I thought I'd read this to get me in the mood for the festive season. Humph. It's not even set at Christmas! What a con. Again, trite and predictable so don't be fooled by the title if you're looking for a seasonal read.
Fear on Friday - Ann Purser. UK cozy crime, so slightly (but only very slightly) darker and grittier than any US cozy; I very much enjoy this series and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a gentle 'whodunnit' without wanting the twee-ness that some cozies bring.
And the book I started in 2014 but didn't finish until 2015: Styx and Stones - Carola Dunn (which will be reviewed 'properly' soon.)
And there you have it, my book list for non-reviewed titles of 2014. Did you read any fantastic books or fantastically disappointing ones last year?

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I do hope you all have a lovely Christmas (and a Happy New Year, in case I don't get back here before 2014 slips into 2015.) We've had a lovely festive time so far in December with tree-buying, decorating, DC's school Nativity play, a night away for our wedding anniversary, mulled wine, Snowballs, lots of chocolates, neighbourhood parties, carol services, present wrapping, tropical fish-buying, shopping, cooking, jigsaw-ing and it's still two sleeps til the big day!
Our main Christmas tree
Home-made decoration
Tree no. 2: sponsored by Starbucks...
Festive drinking vessels and teapot
DC decorates the Christmas cake
The Treat Trolley - an annual tradition!
Decorated mantle
My little Nativity sheep
Elf brought this present a little bit early as Santa couldn't carry it on the sleigh
Fish - as requested by DC
The annual Christmas jigsaw gets under way!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Book Review No 13: A Crafty Killing by Lorraine Bartlett (cozy time!)

I've read several books by this author under the name Lorna Barrett and her Booktown Mystery series is one I have consistently enjoyed, so I thought it was time to give this other series, 'Victoria Square', a try.

Here's the blurb from the back:

Murder is right up her alley... The last thing Katie Bonner wanted was to become the manager of Artisans Alley. But when her business partner, Ezra Hilton, is found lying at the bottom of a staircase, bludgeoned to death, she has no other choice. A collection of booths for artisans and craft sellers in a renovated apple warehouse, Artisans Alley is the main attraction in the quaint Victoria Square shopping area. But business under Ezra had been faltering - enough to provoke someone to murder?
Katie has had more than her fair share of death - her late husband (and Ezra's former partner), Chad, died in a car accident six months ago. But as she digs deeper into Ezra's murder, her husband's death starts to look suspicious. While the cops are proceeding by the book, Katie is investigating by the booths - for the answer to the killer's identity lies in the hidden secrets of Artisans Alley itself.

First things first, the name Artisans Alley really doesn't trip off the tongue. And when it's used in conjunction with the possessive (ie Artisans Alley's), it becomes even more of a tongue-twister. Well, it does for me; perhaps the author could have the new manager rename her business venture, just to make me happy. So, that's my first complaint. Secondly, I'm not sure I really liked the characters; however, I already own the next book in the series so I'm willing to reserve judgement for now and give them one more try (kind, aren't I?!)

But, on the plus side, the story is strong. It's not a light-hearted cutesy cozy, having its dark moments and that certainly helps it stand out from the crowd a little. The characters, although possibly not to my immediate liking, are strong and certainly look like they have plenty of room to develop as the series continues. The setting is interesting too, even if the name is awkward.

So, it's probably a 6.5 out of 10 for this one, with some judgement reserved til I read the next one in the series, which will probably be some time in 2015!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Late to the Party!

I'm so behind with blogging these days; there just doesn't seem to be the time to get to the computer any more. And then, when I am at the computer, I'm either busy doing other things (compiling an allergen list for the tea room menu, for example - gaaah) or I'm tired or I have no inspiration.

Anyhoo, it was my birthday at the end of November, so here's a little round up of what I did: The day before my birthday I took myself off to the mall at Cribbs Causeway in Bristol (my fave 'high street' shopping destination); I managed to spend 7 hours there, and could quite easily have managed another one or two, but I wanted to get home to see DC before he went to bed. I did a fair bit of shopping, picked up a few Christmas presents and a couple of things for myself, so all was good.

My actual birthday was somewhat hijacked by the school Christmas fete; hubby, DC, my Mum & I had volunteered to run the Home Produce/Cake stall for the morning, which wasn't so bad as it gave us first dibs on the lovely cakes!
Father Christmas and his helper arrived by helicopter, like you do!

And best of all, when it was all over we went back home and indulged in this fantastic giant Peanut Butter Cup that hubby had made me for my birthday cake. And once again (see last year's Red Velvet cake), it was really only me who liked it so not too much sharing to be done; several weeks on and I'm still making my way through it...
In the evening DC went for a sleepover at Granny's while hubby and I enjoyed dinner at our village pub. Hubby's wearing a neck brace because he had an operation for a slipped disc at the beginning of November.
Fish and chips for me, belly of pork for hubby. YUM!
The birthday celebrations continued apace as the next day we went to the Mount Somerset hotel for afternoon tea.
DC took the photo below, which helps to explain the angle.

And I forgot to take a photo of the food until we'd pretty much finished - so here's a delightful photo of the detritus. You can see there really wasn't much left, which clearly suggests we enjoyed it very much!
As per tradition, I took some photos of my birthday gifts for posterity.
Quite a eclectic mix this year, including a hot glue gun ('does it shoot glue?' asked DC), some antlers, a Christmas jigsaw tree decoration, a vintage tin featuring the name of my old school, a Streamline pot and a Starbucks Christmas mug to add to the collections
 money, vouchers, coffee, chocolate and a cheese-making kit which my dear friend Liz believes will add another facet to my 'country wife' lifestyle
and lots of smellies (is someone trying to tell me something?!)
 And that was the end of my birthday weekend!