Sunday, 27 December 2009

Wild Geese

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

I took these photos last Sunday, walking by a frozen lake, in the late afternoon half-light with M and the dogs. Whilst uploading them this poem came to mind, that I had read in an anthology some time ago and all but forgotten. It is a little melancholy perhaps, but I think there is beauty in it, and hope too, and it just seemed to fit.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Glowing lights

St Christopher's Place


"a rather bling but strangely sad looking Santa..."

Christmas morning muffins

I will be making these tomorrow morning. Recipe here if you want to try it, photograph from last year.

Merry Christmas

The tree is decorated with coloured baubles, glowing lights and tiny glass stars, the presents are wrapped in newspaper (not to be Scrooge-like, but both cheap and eco-friendly) and swathed in ribbon (which will be recycled!), and the house is full of food and drink. I am signing off now for a couple of days (but have scheduled a few Christmas-themed photo posts) to eat clementines and gold coins a-plenty, peel a mountain of potatoes and parsnips, and, most importantly, spend time with loved ones. All that remains is to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, hope it is full of joy and wonder (and many a mince pie).

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Sunlight and tinsel

Venturing out into the winter wonderland to buy a tree, bringing it home, draping it with lights. The scent of homemade mince pies, cloves and cinnamon, lingering in the air. Marvelling at sunlight on tinsel and winter greenery, and through geranium petals in the cold, cold conservatory, as it broke through the clouds mid-afternoon. The snowy garden, tranquil in the late afternoon light. Making plate after plate of canapes for the drinks party this evening, mixing festive cocktails, popping corks, greeting old family friends. Spiced nuts and retro Snowballs, complete with glace cherry, and a cake stand piled high with tiny squares of chocolate brownies, dusted snow white with icing sugar and edible glitter. Music, the clinking of glasses, laughter, conversation.

Speaking to M on the phone, a few counties away, wishing he was here.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Last minute Christmas wish list addition

One of these please, either will do.

*I appreciate that dog photos are not really that exciting unless you know the dog(s) in question, but having just spent 24 hours with these two, and loving the sheer cuteness of them both, I felt I had to share.


After the last few more-than-a-little-hectic weeks, I am now in beautifully snowy Norfolk with the family for the Christmas period with nothing to do but potter around the kitchen, pick programmes from the Christmas Radio Times, help decorate the Christmas tree (Mum and Dad always save it for my sister S and I to do) and other such enjoyable, but non-taxing, activities. Oh and sleep. The last few weeks have been fun, but there just wasn't enough time in the day to go to work, do present shopping, attend office Christmas parties or drinks with friends and still get the full eight hours. I am looking forward to a week of just relaxing and being with loved ones, which was started off very nicely by a short visit to M's family home in Northamptonshire yesterday, before heading over to Norfolk today, where we played with the dogs in the snow, took photos of the bare winter trees, cooked a delicious supper, drank bubbly and sat by a log fire.

Good, wholesome fun and not a crazed Oxford Street shopper in sight.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Festive Fete

Here are some photos from last Sunday's WI Christmas fete. The day was so much fun, though very hectic! There were crafty stalls and vintage, a Viva Cake tea room and a Christmas tree decorated with pearls and floral fabric decorations floral. There were carol singers, a very talented double bassist and the well stocked WI produce stall which J and I ran for most of the day. I don't think I sat down once in the whirl of labelling jam and pricing baked goods, laying out tablecloths and arranging stall displays. Not to mention all the clearing up at the end! All photos by M who was absolutely wonderful, not only taking all these photos (I didn't have time!), but also giving up most of his day to help out with stringing up bunting, carrying heavy items from the street to the hall and all sorts of other odd jobs that really can't be much fun if you are a guy with no interest whatsoever in the WI. Thanks M and to everyone else who came along!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

One Simple Joy

Hop along to Alicia's lovely blog 'Well hello, Chicago' where I wrote a guest post (here) for her earlier this week on the theme of 'One Simple Joy'. I really enjoyed writing this for Alicia, as well as reading all the other guest posts she had put together, and feel very honoured to have been asked to get involved. Thanks Alicia!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Baking and decorating

Just checking in whilst my freshly painted nails (a bright holly berry red) dry before I head out to a Christmas party tonight. Still busy busy but I wanted to say 'hi' to all you lovely selves. Office parties one and two have been and gone, without anything embarrassing on my part which is always a bonus, though I could hardly keep my eyes open on Friday at work as I had had less than five hours sleep Thursday.

The last 24 hours has largely consisted of industrial scale baking and cutting out Christmassy fabric for jam pot covers for Sunday's fete, though I did find time to go buy a tree on Friday afternoon and decorated it Friday evening with M and C (and a glass or two of bubbly because we were feeling festive). We went a bit crazy with bits of ribbon and old pearl necklaces in addition the usual glass baubles. I even strung up a few old brooches to add extra sparkle. I also managed to squeeze in a trip to the Bust Craftacular with a WI friend where we multi tasked, handing out fliers for tomorrow as well as browsing all the wonderful goodies on show.

A reminder if you are in East London tomorrow to pop by to the fete and say hello, full details here. And a big thank you to Lynne of Tea for Joy fame for mentioning it on her blog.

Right, off to slip into something with a bit more sparkle...a happy, festive Saturday to you all.

(Oh and I think this is my 100th post!)

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Ornament exchange

Remember the ornament exchange I took part in a while back? Well I picked a glitzy Big Ben ornament (wanting to share, in some way, my love for London at this time of year) which flew across the Atlantic (suprisingly quickly) to arrive with Gabby who has written a post about it here.

Glad she liked it, and glad she took photos as I packaged it up in such a rush I didn't have time!

Monday, 7 December 2009


Oh things have been hectic round here. I seem to be either working the late shift or else out catching up with friends before we all disappear into a string of office parties. I have four this year - crazy I know but it's something to do with being part of a small unit that is part of a slightly larger team that is part of a bigger department...I also was also just informed today that instead of doing something sensible like a Secret Santa, everyone in my office apparently buys everyone else presents, something I was not aware of having only been in this job since May. There are only five of us in my immediate team admittedly, but that is four more people onto a present list that I am only vaguely on top of as it is.

I tried to do some Christmas shopping on Saturday when myself and a couple of friends returned to our beloved Cambridge for the day, but it turned into a saunter round the charity shops (very fruitful - but only if, like me, you are in the market for retro, bow-tie wearing, china zebra ornaments, old sets of scrabble or framed cross-stitch pictures depicting thatched cottages) followed by lunch with more friends who are still studying in the city, followed by an unplanned diversion into a church Christmas fete (again, plenty of brilliant finds for us all; vintage Laura Ashley suits, floral cotton dressing gowns, illustrated secondhand wildlife books, even the odd raffle ticket, but nothing that would constitute as an actual gift for a family member or respected colleague per se - though I would love to see my modern-design-loving father's face as he unwrapped a kitsch, Bambi lookalike, china zebra).

This weekend is going to be a mad baking session in preparation for Sunday's WI fete, flyering for the fete at Saturday's Bust Craftacular, with a friend's Christmas party on the Saturday night thrown in for good measure. Yikes.

There are a million and one things I want to post about but haven't had time to yet, including the amazing Wildlife Photographer Awards that I went to see a couple of Fridays ago with Anna during a late night opening of the Natural History museum, and the film 'An Education' that I saw even longer ago. Two weekends ago I was able to sit down with a mug of hot spiced berry cordial with a dash of port, light a few candles and flick through the many postcards I'd bought at the exhibition (see photo above), this weekend I was too busy even to pick up my camera.

I am looking forward to going home for Christmas in two weeks' time, to having time to sit down with a good book or favorite film, to pottering around the kitchen and filling the house with the smell of orange and cinnamon.

In the meantime though I am secretly enjoying the packed-fullness of this time of year, the squeezing in of people and parties and present buying around the day job, making purchases on etsy and Amazon in the lunchbreak and then dashing to the toilets for a flick of mascara and a change of shoes at the end of the day.

At this rate my colleagues may find themselves with only a box of Quality Street and a smile to send them on their way this Christmas.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Invitation to you all come to the Shoreditch Sisters WI Christmas Fete. Details as follows:

Sunday 13th December 2009, 12:00 - 18:00, St Matthew's Hall (opposite Beyond Retro), Hereford Street, Bethnal Green, E2 6EX

There will be stalls selling crafty items and stalls selling vintage, a WI produce stall (featuring some of my own creations, straight from the teacups, cupcakes kitchen, temperamental oven permitting!), mulled wine, carols, a tea room area...the list goes on. If you are in London that weekend, please do pop by, it should be lots of fun and a great opportunity to buy some crafty Christmas gifts.

(And if anyone, London based or not, wants to advertise this on their blog, please feel free to do so - all publicity is much appreciated!)

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Oxford Charity Shops

As promised, photos of my charity shop finds from last weekend in Oxford. From top to bottom: fox shaped salt and pepper shakers (couldn't resist, loving all things fox-related since Fantastic Mr Fox!); a dinosaur mug (for the geek within me); a rose patterned china dish (to add to the ever growing collection of old crockery); a 1953 Coronation mug (I'd been totally inspired by the Liberty's Christmas windows, then on Monday read this post and realised it wasn't just me). I also picked up Ladybird book on honeybees. A pretty good haul all in all.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


(image from here) absolutely where I would like to be right now. This one, belonging to Rita Konig, and written about here just looks so inviting. Very glad Rita Konig is back writing (after Domino magazine went bust) as I think her styling is fabulous.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Monday, Monday

Some chocolate cupcakes to cheer up this dark Monday evening. I baked them two weekends ago but as I haven't baked anything in the past week I thought I'd share. Hummingbird Bakery recipe again - if you don't have the book already, stick it on your Christmas wish list!
(And Alex, very keen to show you my charity shop purchases too - will share them as soon as I am next home in some daylight and can take photos!)

Student lifestyle

We visited a friend who is studying in Oxford this weekend. The weather was pretty grim, with wind and incessant drizzle, but I had a very enjoyable, albeit damp, wander down Cowley Road where I made more than a couple of purchases in the charity shops before heading to a branch of the fabulous G&D's Ice Cream Parlour. It may have been cold and wet outside, but inside was so warm and cosy and brightly lit that what was initially an order of 'one small hot chocolate please...' soon had added '...and a scoop of Dime Crunch with butterscotch sauce'. Yum.

The evening consisted of many ludicrously cheap cocktails at a college bop and dancing and dancing. Sometimes I get pangs of longing to be a student again, partying all night then spending the day lazing around with endless cups of tea - but then I remind myself that there was a significant amount of work to do in addition to all that and that there really are plus sides to not having an essay deadline looming.

Lazy, guilt free, Sundays most definitely have my vote today.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Vampires and Werewolves oh my!

(image from here)

Off to see New Moon tonight straight after work. Can't wait, especially after reading this review on Fat Quarter:

'the sexual tension, particularly between Bella and Jacob, twangs in the air with a series of near kisses and half touches'

Oh the anticipation! (though I know I should know better...)


A big thank you to Tooting Squared and The Wild Wolves for my blog awards, I am glowing with pride just like the little lavender cutting above (tenuous link I know, but I took the picture of my mother's green fingered efforts last time I was home and just wanted to share!). Tooting, I will try answer the questions as soon as I possibly can, but bear with me, I have lots I want to post about and seem to be so very busy at the moment. Wild Wolves, I can't seem to get to your blog anymore and so haven't been able to see the relevant post could you please email me the link ( teacupscupcakesblog [at] googlemail [dot] com)? Thank you both!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

State Opening

(image from The Guardian)

Yesterday was the State Opening of Parliament. Just after 11am we all piled out of the office and down to Parliament Square to see the Queen arrive in her golden carriage, flanked by guards dressed in scarlet sitting astride dark, glossy horses. Beneath the grey skies and surrounded by a sea of dark winter coats of the spectators, the royal procession stood out as though the pages of a story book had come to life to walk down Whitehall. In the middle of an otherwise ordinary Wednesday morning, another world, another era.

No-one does pomp and circumstance quite like the British.

Inspiring Women

(image from WI website)

Above is the Women's Institute's new logo, which will become active from 1st January 2010. I have been a member of the WI for just over a year now and feel that the new logo and tag-line are a great move forward, the phrase 'Inspiring Women' describing perfectly how I feel about my experience of being a member.

My early memories of the WI involve morning visits to the local WI market whilst holidaying in South Norfolk, arriving early in order to ensure that the baked goods stall did not run out of its famous chocolate cake before we had chance to purchase one. In addition to this, cheap plants that Mum eagerly bought for the garden, local grown fruit and vegetables and home-made preserves were also on offer, though admittedly we by-passed the crocheted toilet-roll holders!

So far, so stereotypical, bearing in mind that this is an association that is over 90 years old, having arrived in Britain in 1915 with the dual aims of reinvigorating rural communities and encouraging women to become more involved in food production during the First World War.

However, there is far more to the WI than the ever-cited 'Jam and Jerusalem', and in more recent years its aims have broadened so that the WI now plays 'a unique role in providing women with educational opportunities and the chance to build new skills, to take part in a wide variety of activities and to campaign on issues that matter to them and their communities' (WI website).

The branch I belong to, The Shoreditch Sisters, achieves all these broader aims and more. Since joining in late summer 2008 I have, amongst other things, learnt quilting, corsage making, origami and urban cross-stitch, helped create knitted characters for Playstation's Little Big Planet, been on demonstrations against domestic violence, listened to a talk by the leader of the U-Turn Project and entered into debate with the author of a recent feminist text. I do leave every meeting feeling enriched and yes, inspired, eager to try out my new skills or investigate an issue further, and so in this way the new phrase is perfect; the WI is inspiring women everywhere to broaden their horizons or learn something new.

But I also think the phrase works in another way, as an adjective. Along with everything I have learnt, I have also had the opportunity to meet some creative, talented, brilliant women that, living in the vast sprawl of often-anonymous London, I would not, probably, have ever crossed paths with were it not for the WI. So, 'Inspiring Women' too as this collective of inspirational ladies that I have been lucky enough to meet.

I am not sure which way the creators of the new logo wanted 'Inspiring Women' to be interpreted, but I don't really think it matters, it works both ways, and either way it is an apt description of a great institution that I am happy to be a part of.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Bright Star

Oh dreamy. Billowing muslin through open windows, fields of bluebells, walks on the heath. Poetry lessons, cups of strong hot chocolate stirred three times clockwise. A room full of butterflies. Love notes folded into tiny origami and hidden under pillows. A lock of hair pressed between pages. A poet with sparkling eyes and a sideways half-smile. A heroine who knew her own mind and sewed her own creations. Fights in the rain and embracing under leafy summer trees. Velvet jackets and lace ruffles. Books to be treasured. Stolen kisses and a passionate love affair. And woven throughout, Keats' beautiful poetry.

Another Wednesday, another stunning film. Moving, tragic, but exquisite all the same.

(all images from here)