Just being ME

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happy new year ...

With bubbly in one hand, and time on the other, I make a wish for 2008 to be a Prosperous and Happy New Year to all I have met over the latter few months of 2007.

I really do believe that through the blog friendship I have made with you all, and reading all the thoughtful comments left for me, has been instrumental in giving me added confidence to make a huge decision, which is going to lead to a change in my life in 2008, which who knows without you, I may never have made.

Bottoms Up!


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boxing day dippers ...

This is what some of us Southerners get up to on a Boxing Day morning. For a few years now we have been going down into Worthing to watch these very mad, but charitable fools take a dip. The first year of going we were more intrigued then anything else, and walking along to Splash Point to see them was more of an afterthought, as we usually just looked around a few of the shops at the sales. Anyway we discovered what a laugh it was and it has now become one of those events we go to every year. Last year at least 100 dippers took part, and proceeds every year go to the local hospital cancer care unit. As you can see there was another great turnout out of brave souls and spectators this year, and a dog!

ready, steady ...


enjoy the moment (don't be fooled by the lovely blue sky, that sea temperature is extremely cold)

a very hasty retreat back to the shore!

With both of us amongst hundreds of others, looking on in our lovely snuggly warm fleecy attire, with two great Cheshire cat grins on our faces and having a real good laugh at some other poor beggars expense. This is a great event, catch it if you can.


christmas classics ...

Raymond Briggs' unique characterisation of Father Christmas is based on his father - "Father Christmas and the milkman both have wretched jobs: working in the cold, wet and dark."

"People often ask about the technique in (The Snowman) - it is done entirely with pencil crayons, with no line in pen or pencil and no washes of ink or watercolour."

"In Fungus the Bogeyman I wanted to show the petty nastiness of life - slime and snot and spit and dandruff, all this awful stuff which is slightly funny because it detracts from human dignity and our pretensions."

The Worthing branch of retail chain British Bookshops Sussex Stationers, in Montague Street, is supporting Chestnut Tree House children's hospice's competition. The task is to design a Christmas card for the hospice, which is based near Arundel and is the only children's hospice in Sussex.

Raymond Briggs, illustrator of The Snowman, will be choosing the winners of each age group. The winning designs will be transformed into Christmas cards which the hospice will sell next year. Last year's winners, along with an exclusive design donated by Mr Briggs, will appear in the shops at the end of this month.

For more on Raymond Briggs click on this link.


and the winner is ... stollen!

The results from my December Poll are in, twenty five votes were counted, and ten of you like Stollen the best, well I can add another vote, 'cos I do too! Does anyone know when Stollen became available in this country, I certainly don't remember seeing this on the Christmas tea table when I was young?

Seven of you like Yule Log the best, not that keen myself, I do find the chocolate buttercream a bit sickly, although I do always like the little plastic decorations spiked in the top, I have lots from year's back, saved in a little tin. Will I ever re-use them?

Four of you like Mince Pies the best, I like them too, and recently I have been eating rather too many, since discovering some great Sainsburys instore bakery shortcrust ones, which could easily pass as homemade if sprinkled with a little extra icing sugar! I shant tell if you don't?

Only two of you like Christmas Cake the best, not surprising this gets low votes. I never buy or bake a Christmas Cake, it just never gets eaten. I don't think it is because it isn't liked, but because of the fact that everyone always feels stuffed after that mound of turkey sandwiches, that there just isn't the room for it?

I am so pleased two of you 'hate all of them', one cake I forgot to suggest was Tunis Cake, would you eat this, or is this just something else left to go stale in the cake tin?


wishing you all a very merry christmas and a happy new year ...

I thought I had better get my card off to you all today, before the last post!

Cheers everyone for taking time to read my blog, and for all the great comments left. I still can't believe how many great people I have met in such a short space of time!

Please keep in touch in 2008.

Louise x

Don't forget today is the last day for 1st Class post, you can send by Special Delivery tomorrow.

May the season bring you everything you are hoping for.


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gluhwein ...

I have noticed many of you love to have mulled wine warming up on your stoves over the Christmas period, so do I! Last Christmas we made our first ever visit to Germany, we loved it and hope to go again in the near future. We stayed in Cologne, where we had so much to see and do, the markets, the cathedral, shopping and of course the brauhaus!

Our highlight of the trip though was visiting the numerous Christmas markets scattered around the city, each one easily reached by train and tram. The evenings got very cold and so a good excuse to have a warm mug of gluhwein or two whilst walking round, or post mugful as in my case staggering, me and alcohol just don't mix! If you fancy trying some, we have discovered you can buy the very same thing over here in Lidl, we always stock up with a few bottles for over the festive season.

In the photo above you can see my two lovely terracotta mugs. We happened to stumble across a mediaeval market along the Rhine, where they were serving gluhwein in these, I liked them so much I sacrificed the deposit you pay for the mugs and brought them home, miraculously they made it in one piece!


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two of my loves ...

May your flowers be even better than the pictures on the packets!

Now you know where my love for gardening and Mabel Lucie Attwell comes from. My interest in Mabel Lucie Attwell postcards started with my granny, a few years before she died she had to move into a home, and whilst we were sorting through her photographs I came across this postcard. It was the first time I had come across Mabel Lucie Attwell, and I thought it was just so sweet and was in raptures, anyway not surprisingly I ended up taking it home with me; a little boy holding a packet of seeds, surrounded by flowerpots.

This card was produced in 1936 by Valentine of Dundee, and is postmarked 24 June 1937, addressed to my grandparents. There friend Molly was having a lovely holiday in Margate.

Kath from Beeswax has dedicated a garden theme MLA card on her blog to me, how kind is that!

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go nuts for walnuts ...

Now is the time to make the most of walnuts in their shells. Most of those you see in the shops will have been imported, but in years to come we are likely to see far more home-grown nuts. Changing weather patterns, in particular warmer springs and summers, have seen farmers in this country experimenting with everything from olives and apricots to tea and walnuts. Though walnut trees have been grown in Britain for thousands of years, it is only recently that growers have begun to reap consistent crops of ripe nuts, and as a result more and more are planting walnut orchards.

I only buy walnuts at Christmas, I don't bother with those mixed bags, even as a kid I remember the almonds always being the ones left in the bowl at the end of Christmas, not that we didn't like them, but you could never crack open the blasted shells! We don't just eat walnuts at this time of year, throughout the year my local Waitrose usually sells them in their shells, you just scoop as many as you want into a bag, weigh, and then get a shock at the price!

A few years back I bought this lovely nut bowl from Lakeland, the nutcrackers that came along with it are really good, they have no problem breaking through the shells. I noticed last year Boots were selling something very similar, and this year I saw something similar in Lidl too.

Click on this link to see the health benefits of walnuts.

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christmas comes just once a year ...

But a thorough clean doesn't. Before putting my tree up every year I have a Christmas clean, most people may just have one in the springtime. To be quite honest our home always looks respectable, I just hate to be caught out if a visitor turns up out of the blue. I know housework can become obsessional, although when you had a mum who would be vacuuming around your bed at the crack of dawn, it's no wonder you turn out the same! Anyway before the tree goes up I can go through the ritual of just thoroughly cleaning those places that get ignored at other times of the year, like vacuuming around the skirting boards and under the settee, running the feather duster along the curtain rails etc. I really do feel so much better for doing this, and once I have been through the pleasure of putting up and decorating the tree, I can then just stand back and admire!


christmas cat ...

A lot of you have a cat around the place, this one's for you!

Here’s my advice be
as merry as mice
And take a part in
their glee – O
And when that’s done
there’s capital fun
In the pussie’s Christmas – tri – O!

Christmas Cats - Printed by Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd

blogger, me ...

What do you do on a Saturday morning and how has it changed for you over the years? Well, in

1962, I didn't do anything as I hadn't even of been thought of;
1972, I was spending my pocket money in the local toy shop; a few years later in
1977, I was swapping things on Multi Coloured Swap Shop;
1982, I was nursing a bad head from the night before, no not through alcohol, but by returning from the nightclubs in Brighton at three in the morning; a year later
1983, I met J, so smitten was I, most Saturdays mornings were spent with him;
1986, I was shopping in Sainsburys, as this year we set up home together;
1998, I moved with J to a larger place with a garden, so I would be spending time outside, and
2007, I discovered blogging!

Saturday mornings will never be the same again! Now as soon as J sets off for work early, I jump on to the computer to check for any comments left and then try to visit everyone who have been leaving comments on both of my blogs, as you know, this can take quite a while. Anyway don't think I spend all of my time procrastinating doing this, in between I am jumping up and down, catching up with chores, supping numerous cups of tea and coffee, and water if I remember, basically trying to do everything that I haven't got around to doing in the week. I must confess though that my garden has taken a back seat, I love the outdoors and I am known to be out there in all weathers, and even though it is winter I have a long list of jobs I need to do, maybe tomorrow?

Now I really am off to wrap up some Christmas presents, I have a pretty casual attitude towards Christmas at the moment, but probably by the middle of next week, when I realise what I haven't yet done, the panic will set in!

violent veg pin badges ...

For any of you who have looked in to my garden blog lately will know what I want in my Christmas pillowcase this year? Looking through the brilliant Violent Veg website I have discovered you can buy these great pin badges, although they are currently out of stock, which is actually good news, as the more sold the more money goes to the charity. I hope the production line is busy making more?

Collect all 5 fun Violent Veg 3D pin badges in one fell swoop. You can share them with your friends, or pin them all on your lapel or your bag or wherever. Just buy them and you’ll be helping to support the vital work of our chosen charity, The Anthony Nolan Trust.

Each badge comes with its own Violent Veg cartoon and more information about The Anthony Nolan Trust, the charity that takes back lives from leukaemia. The Trust will receive the full net proceeds from your purchase of these badges.

Did you know that there are around 7,000 children and adults in the UK seeking a suitable bone marrow donor to give them their chance of life? By buying these badges, you’ll be helping the Trust to continue their lifesaving work. Thank you.

Also, the Trust needs to recruit more people aged 18-40 to the Anthony Nolan bone marrow register, especially more young men and people from black and minority ethnic communities.

The Anthony Nolan Trust is a registered charity no. 803716.


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o tiny tannenbaum ...

Until I can take a photo of my Christmas tree, I thought I would leave you with an image of my little pottery one, this comes out without fail every year and sits on my kitchen window sill, I am always reluctant to pack it away on twelfth night, but at least the piece of Cornishware I have to take away for space, can go back. I bought this little tree many years ago in Lakeland, when it was still known as Lakeland Plastics! I rate this as one of my best ever buys, I really like it, I have never seen a similar one anywhere else, unless you can tell me different?

Kath from Beeswax wants to know how tall the tree is, I must confess I hadn't thought of measuring it! It is 36 cm tall from the base to the top of the star (14 inches in old money) and 18cm (7 inches) across the widest part of the base of the tree.


buying the presents ...

I wish you lots of presents from
The boys and girls that love you
And may your Christmas be as bright
As stars that shine above you.

Buying the Presents 1934

The notion of exchanging gifts at Christmas can be traced back to the Magi (the Three Wise Men) who, guided by a star in the sky, travelled to Bethlehem to offer gifts to Jesus: gold, incense and myrrh. However, it was not until the 1860s when the story of Santa Claus (St Nicholas) became fashionable that the idea really took hold and it became popular to give gifts to members of your family and friends.

Do you remember your school nativity? I went to a Catholic primary and the nativity played a very important part in the school calendar, well what else would mum have done with her old tea towels? What about Christmas carol concerts, recorders polished (and tuned!), screeching to the tune of Little Donkey, proud parents looking on, such happy times were had by all.

The Christmas tradition seems important to all of you, thanks for all your great memories of the nativity and of Christmas celebrations, I was really amused by all your exploits! Marie screeched on her recorder like I did, but Fiona was a true professional, she really could play. Michele's comment was a classic, I am seriously going to consider hanging entrails from my tree next year, just imagine the look on your visitors' faces!

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feeling blue ...

For all of us who live in the South of England we may be in for a let up from the rain over the next few days, let's hope for some dry, clear days with blue skies. These miserable, grey, cloudy days can really start to get you down. Many of you have had really debilating bugs too, so I hope you all feel better soon.

Gina from Gingerbread was interested in seeing my twig lights lit up, so here they are in their full glory!

Since writing this post we have had two lovely days, clear skies, sunny but frosty cold. I love days like this.

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thanks for your time ...

Since I started a blog (or two) a few month's back, I have become to realise how many friendly people there are out there, blogging shows no divide. Thanks everyone for all your interesting and at times heartwarming comments, I really appreciate and enjoy reading each one of them, every day. What a fun pastime it is, and I would recommend it to anyone, a great opportunity for sharing your favourite things with everyone and great for everyone to share theirs with you, rather like a virtual Womens' Institute!

I have been thinking of doing the odd update, some of my posts have been sparking some debate, and also doing this would give me the opportunity to share interesting comments with you, or to answer the occasional question which I may get. I am going to tag this on to the end of the post in different colour italic text, take a quick look if you can?

A couple of things concern me. Every now and again I put a link to blogs of interest in my posts, if anyone feels unhappy about this, please let me know, and I will take it off. The last thing I want to do is to cause unnecessary stress to anyone!

And another thing, if I give you an award please don't feel any obligation to pass it on, but please accept it in good faith, and if I ask any questions of you and you feel unhappy answering them, the same applies.

Keep those comments coming, and don't forget please vote on my polls, your vote counts ...

A message for Captain Rupert, as I said blogging shows no divide, boy bunny comments are most welcome! Nonnie, this is a Cornishware clock, I love it, my mum brought it back from a visit to the T G Green factory shop in Derbyshire, unfortunately for some reason it has stopped working, not because of the battery, I hope to get a new unit fitted sometime, I really would like to see it working again.


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remember daisy ...

Who remembers Daisy, in fashions by Mary Quant?

When I was young, most Saturday mornings my granny and grandad would take my brother and I, in the Hillman Hunter, into the village to the mecca of a toy shop, Arbors. We were given pocket money to spend on whatever we wanted, music to the ears of us kids! I usually bought dolls clothes or accessories for either Sindy, Pippa or Daisy.

Here, Daisy is wearing a flirty little number from the London range, a filmy white-spotted red muslin frock called Dotty.

When I did the first rough drawings of my designs I used to mark the focal point with a daisy so I could decide later. But the daisy always looked better than anything else. The daisy was always lucky for me so we used it again for the cosmetics - M.Q - and of course for the doll.

Click on this link to see some of Mary Quant's iconic fashion designs from the 1960s, they are fab!

Michele had a daisy bedspread and a lovely MQ dress, lucky thing, and reminded me of Biba and AquaManda, of which I do remember the jazzy packaging. Carol's dad had a Hillman Hunter, my grandad's was a white one! Joanna has Sindys in her loft, maybe we could get to see these sometime? And Kim had a Sindy wardrobe, well funny you should say this, my best friend Stephanie had the wardrobe, dressing table excetera and I was always insanely jealous, still haven't quite got over the fact even after all these years!


a very vintage 1960s christmas ...

I love this picture of me with my dad, brother, granny and mum, spoon in mouth with great anticipation for either trifle or Christmas cake, no change there then. This picture was taken at G and Bant's house (don't ask) in December 1968, looking back they were doting grandparents and as they only lived about a mile or so away, my brother and I would spend many a Saturday morning with them. Talking of trifles, my grannys were legendary, they were always set on a slant, we tried telling her many times that her fridge shelf must be unlevel, would she listen?

No Nintendo Wii's here, it is really difficult to focus in on what presents we had, but I am sure we loved them whatever. My grandparents always had a real Christmas tree, I bet those needles got stuck in my woolly tights! Oh, I've just noticed the colour of my brother's hat has changed, I suppose he didn't want to wear one the same as his little sis?

Brother and sister arguments, not around Granny's Christmas table, my brother and I were taught how to share and we were very good at it. Look at us in the picture sharing a Tom Smith's cracker or two?

Thanks everyone, some great comments, and funny ones on this post! I have so many happy memories from my childhood growing up in the 60s/70s, there are too many to mention, seems like you all have happy ones from yours too. I hope everyone will find some time to dig out some memories from their past caught on film, I for one would be really interested in seeing them. Remember Ker Plunk, Tressy and Sindy, Fuzzy Felts, Yoyos and boiled sweets? Many of you make trifles (even wonky ones) over the Christmas period, you're in good company, so do I!


the christmas morning post ...

Mr Robin the Postman
Is waiting at your door
With my Christmas greetings
And wishes quite a store!

The Christmas Morning Post 1934 - Printed by Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd

Well, after work today, I finally got around to stopping off at my very handy local sub Post Office, nearly didn't as it was tipping down with rain, yet again, and there wasn't a car parking space in sight, after having cursed everyone who wanted to be out at that very second and not relishing getting drenched, I decided to give up on the idea and just get straight home. Then I thought, do I really want to go back out again in the deluge later on, so with that in mind and with one quick turn of the steering wheel, I decided just to go round the block one more time in hope of finding someone pulling out from a space, bingo, a prime spot had just become available right outside the front door, finally my luck was in.

Anyway the main purpose of going was first and foremost to get a card posted off to my Grandpa, my only surviving grandparent, he is in his nineties and lives in Majorca, secondly to buy stamps for the cards which have to go through the post for friends and family, second class I hasten to add, and last but not least to check whether some of the fancy cards with embellishments I wanted to send would need the new large stamp tariff, after poking them through the gap several times, I found two of them did! Just a warning to everyone, make sure to check yours if you are not sure, as recently I sent a fancy birthday card to a friend and she later told me she had to go and pick it up from her Post Office and pay a fee of about £2.00 to be able to bring it home, luckily she is a good friend and we had a laugh about it, although at the time I was very annoyed with the postal system, it seems to me that every direction you turn nowadays there is invariably someone out to rob you?

Talk about spoilt for choice, we have two local Post Offices, the larger one is situated in the main part of the village and a much smaller sub Post Office which is just on the outskirts. Unfortunately the smaller one of the two is constantly being threatened with closure, why I don't know, as when I pass by there is always a steady stream of customers going in and coming out. I hope it doesn't, it would be a great shame and the very personal service it provides, something which is severely lacking in this day and age, would be greatly missed by me and the others who choose to use it.Please help to save your local Post Office by supporting them with your custom.

As Jane put it so well, this post has started a national debate! I must say though all of you support your local post office which is great, I would so miss the personal service which my little one provides, not that I am completely putting down the main post office, it is handy for car tax etc, although I always try and avoid it, one because quite often there is a queue snaking right outside the door and two there is a patronising figure of a man who works behind the counter, one Christmas I was in the queue and he refused a lady Christmas stamps, just because she wanted a bulk lot, I did ask myself at the time can he do this, what sort of customer service is he giving? Talking of Christmas stamps, Jane wants biggers stamps with more value for money! Joanna's life is made more difficult with this sizing business, can they make it any harder for people who need to use the parcel service for one reason or another and my dad would join you in saying, such a shame to lose the night train. Leslie, I hope they can find a counter in one of your shops, so that you still have the use of a local post office and as Catherine says they are a lifeline out in the country, my dad lives out in the sticks and his village post office closed years back and the village shop took over a counter, and now they have had to close, due to lack of custom, such a shame. How are the elderly or young people come to that, who don't have transport, supposed to get to the larger post offices, where my dad lives there is about one bus a day, and you have to walk about two miles to the bus stop, Jane would have to catch a ferry! I do love England but living here is becoming more difficult day by day.


a game for christmas ...

This is a memorising-out-loud game, based on the Victorian parlour game. It appeared in our local community newsletter, many of you love cats so I thought I would share it with you.

It is up to the organiser to keep the game moving at a steady pace, too many long pauses and the hesitant player is out.

The first player announces that the minister's cat is an awkward, or an awesome or an alpine cat, the next player repeats the 'a' adjective, and then adds one of his or her own, beginning with the letter 'b', and so it goes on, round the circle and through the alphabet.

Anyone who remembers that the minister's cat is an awesome, batty, cantankerous, dowdy, eclectic, fastidious, gregarious, horrendous, indigenous, jumpy, kinky, lazy, mischievious, notorious, opulent, pernicious, quiet, rowdy, sleepy, tortoiseshell, undisciplined, violent, wayward, xenophobic, yellow, zany cat - starts again (deserves a medal more like!). Anyone who does not, is out!

you make me laugh award two, three and four ...

A few weeks ago Michele from Cowboys & Custard was awarded with this, sorry Michele you can't have another one, that mantelpiece of yours just isn't big enough! I thought as it is coming up to Christmas that maybe we were due for another couple plus one, so here goes:

Award No 2 goes to Daffy at Approaching 40 - Daffy is a regular, witty and amusing visitor to my garden blog (link on the side to take you over to the other side, I thought I would take the opportunity to throw in a quick plug)!

Award No 3 goes to Jane at Mull Musings - Jane is also a regular, witty and amusing visitor to my home blog.

Award No 4 goes to Captain Rupert c/o Joanna at Higglety Pigglety, he visits me at both my blogs. I really need not say more, just take a look for yourself, he really does love a good piece of carrot cake!

On their own blogs, their anecdotes of everyday life really do bring a smile to my face in my everyday life, and after a mind curdling stint at work, one really does need this sort of tonic, although preferably with a vodka in, no gin here please!


posting dates for christmas ...

I have all my Christmas cards written, sealed, addressed and stamped ready for the off. Honestly how long does it take?

In case you need a gentle nudge, here are the postal deadlines for Christmas.

International Airmail
Friday 7th December: South and Central America, Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, Asia, Far East (except Japan), Australia, New Zealand.

Monday 10th December: USA, Canada, Japan, Eastern Europe.
Thursday 13th December: Western Europe.

Last UK post dates
Wednesday 14th December: Standard parcels.

Monday 17th December: Second class.
Thursday 20th December: First class.
Friday 21st December: Special delivery.

The cards above shows 'Post Early for Christmas' posters from the 1940s and 50s. If you love nostalgia of any kind click on The British Postal Museum and Archive, to go back in time to see more posting advertisements drawn in this iconic style of the period, they are great, and you can buy them too, just as prints or framed.

the first christmas stamps ...

When Tony Benn became Postmaster General in 1964, he decided that Christmas stamps should be issued in Britain, using the concept of the smaller silhouette of the Queen's head also developed around that time.

Tony Benn also ordered a competition to have the Christmas stamps designed by children, and you can see the winners on this page. There is 'Snowman' by James Berry (aged 6) and 'King Wenceslas' by Tasveer Shemza (aged 6). The stamps were issued in 1966.

This post has reminded Carol from Katherines Dream to try and unearth her childhood collection. I once had a collection too, although if memory serves me right, which happens infrequently nowadays, I gave mine to my step-nephew, many moons ago when he was small? I remember as a kid very carefully steaming the stamp from the envelope and fixing it very neatly on the page, keeping very neat lines. My grandparents lived in Majorca, so as you can imagine I had a huge collection of Spanish stamps going as far back as General Franco! Can anyone remember what those tiny stamp fixers were called, the ones that didn't damage the back of the stamp?

You are so right Alchamillamolly, the fiddly little stamp fixers were called stamp hinges, many thanks for that.

my eight happy thoughts for the day ...

Celia from Purple Podded Peas tagged me for eight happy thoughts meme. I thought I was always happy, having happy thoughts!

1 - On waking, realising that today is Saturday, and

2 - Now I know that drinking tea is healthy, I don't have to stop at one cup, and

3 - If I choose too, I can potter around indoors and outdoors, all day, being able to

4 - Maybe catch up with some dramas on tape, and

5 - Think of enjoying a few chocolates or two, later

6 - Being able to wrap up a few Christmas presents, before

7 - Retiring to my cosy bed knowing that J will be home from his fishing trip in the morning, and

8 - Knowing I have another day to be able to do it all over again, if the mood takes me!

I would like to pass this tag on to everyone who comments on my blog, to tell us your eight happy thoughts, but only if you want, if you really really want to!