Monday, 26 December 2011

Boxing Day

Warkworth, Northumbria.
Wild and windy. Somewhat bracing.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

It must be Christmas time

Peace on earth and good will to all (wo)men...

Hope Father Christmas is good to you!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

My First Christmas Cake

One fruity and boozy Christmas cake, baked, fed, marzipan-ed, iced and be-ribboned by my own fair hand.

Oh alright, I cheated with a Delia pre-weighed mix... And on the icing... But hey. I made this.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Making a list and checking it twice

Waxing festive around the house.

Well, it's far too cold to go out, and puss has absolutely the right idea ...

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

To Paraphrase Noddy Holder, It's (Not Quite) Christmas

To paraphrase Noddy Holder, it's (not quite) Christmas, but I've been busy listing lots of gorgeous vintage greetings cards on Etsy.

My grandfather worked for a greetings card company in Preston, Lancashire, UK for forty years. When the company closed, he bought the original sketches and drawing that the cards were printed from. Most date from the late 1940s and early 1950s. Sadly, the drawings are largely anonymous, being done by commercial artists employed by the company. He gave me an old suitcase full of these, and a good many more, from sentimental mottos to tall ships in full sail to kitschy cottage gardens.

Fab, aren't they?

Monday, 14 November 2011

Easy as A B C

Love love love this typography themed Etsy treasury, perfect for feeding the type / letter obsession ... Also love that it features vintage ornamental numbered arrows from my Etsy shop, hurrah.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

John Bull Special

New eBay purchase ... A nostalgic treat to myself, as there was a set at my Nanna's for the cousins to share. Grandad was a litho printer, you see. We used to print and draw on paper samples and offcuts.

It was pre-owned by some small boy called Philip, and hails from, of all places, Chorley, Lancs, my birthplace. I feel I was destined to own this.

Love the 'John Bull' font: the rubber type is more like a pre-Helvetica simple sans serif.

Prepare for many a handprinted birthday-slash-Christmas card, friends and acquaintances!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Insipidity and Intrigue‏

A better guide
Image originally uploaded to Flickr by shawnzrossi

I have been re-reading Mansfield Park, my least favourite Jane Austen. My favourite is Persuasion, for romance, although Pride and Prejudice is funnier.  

I am finding Fanny Price much less insipid than previously: I am surprised at her wry insight and sly observations, and am discovering that she has a more vivid and animated inner life than I recall. I think this passed me by on first reading, perhaps because I was too young? 

Also, I am noticing inordinate amounts of seduction and intrigue, frequently openly discussed by the characters. Noblemen kidnapping innocent young ladies, unwed mothers, underage elopements, co-habitation, runaway wives and women "under the protection" of men who are not their husbands ... I wonder ... What a fab PhD that would make! 

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Amphorae and Monkey Tails

Capuchin B&W

Image originally uploaded to Flickr by ushtey

Courtesy of Simon Garfield, I was delighted to learn this morning that the symbol @ - which in English is called an "amphora" (as in a jar or unit of measurement) or an "ampersat" but is more often known as the "at sign" - is called "monkey's tail" in German, "pig's tail" in Danish, or "dog's tail" in Russian. In French, it is "snail", and in Czech, "rollmop herring" ...

All far more evocative, no?

Friday, 4 November 2011

For the love of ... CathrineHolm

There is just something so satisfying about the CathrineHolm Lotus pattern enamel ware. I think it's the primary colours and the nice clean cutouts, oh, and the sleek modernist shape.

Looks like I'm not the only one! This is definitely on my wish list ...

There's a lovely little Flickr group too, for a bit of enamel eye candy ...

According to this appreciation site, CathrineHolm was an ironworks company, rather than a person. I am so disappointed, I was imagining some kind of Joan Holloway 1950s style goddess ...

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Just My Type

I've been savouring Simon Garfield's book about fonts and typography Just My Type

I am a self-confessed type geek - not sure if its down to granddad being a printer all his life or just my obsession with books and words. This is like a holy book. Garfield's thesis, so far, seems to be the importance of the relationship between type and meaning, rather than type and syntax.  The book is a tour of the history of typeface and issues and anecdotes beyond.

How can you not love a book that has as an epigraph a story about a printer's apprentice who set his lover's name in type and swallowed it? And he devotes an entire chapter to my favourite character (and close contender for my favourite English language word), the ampersand! My hero.

He begins with a discussion of the Marmite font, Comic Sans, which attracts a fair amount of vilification and scorn in the font world. Comic Sans is widely used - for the ropier side of home desktop publishing, yes, I mean you church newsletter writers - and is widely despised, as the Ban Comic Sans website shows.

I do dislike Comic Sans myself, for its ubiquitousness and for its blandness - ok for comic books, not ok for medical leaflets and powerpoint - and because it's just not that appealing a design. But I was reminded, while reading, that it has its uses: we used it frequently when I taught ESOL in Manchester for students who were illiterate or unfamiliar with the Roman alphabet, as it closely resembles handwriting and has no confusing serifs or formally shaped letters like 'g' and 'a'. I think it is also used for dyslexics as well.

I was also reminded of the sheer joy of playing with fonts. I was a kid when the Apple Mackintosh was born and my computer geek dad had one of these:

I think we forget now how revolutionary the visual nature of the Mac operating system was - surely the late Steve Jobs's real legacy? Me and my best mate, the Pink Floyd fan (yes, you!), would play around on it for hours constructing newspapers and writing stories, making full use of the entire range of fonts available. San Francisco for the ransom notes, and Gothic for anything 'antique', of course. Happy days.

On the same theme, I just love this witty greetings card, a recent Etsy find ...

Saturday, 22 October 2011

I Thank You

Recently, little signs have been popping up imploring you to water the trees in the street. Council cutbacks, I suppose.

This irreverent take on the concept, spotted outside the tube stations, tickled me ...

Saturday, 15 October 2011

New Addition

I picked this sweet vintage book up recently: I love books with dedications and old-fashioned illustrations. Can't decide whether to keep it or Etsy it. Maybe I'll just gaze at it for a while and then make up my mind...

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Vague Science - The Cartoons of Stephen Collins

Loved this cartoon in the Guardian Weekend mag on Saturday by their new cartoonist Stephen Collins...

Image by Stephen Collins from

See more on the Guardian website - also love the 'I am the Internet'one. Genius.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Welsh tiles

Image of Welsh Scrabble originally uploaded to Flickr by afagen

I heard this rather lovely word being discussed on the radio this morning - on the Chris Evans show on Radio 2 of all places. I was stuck in traffic on the M11 and had grown bored of the Today programme. They were using it to talk about the Welsh rugby success.


It's Welsh and means, according to Oxford Dictionaries Online, "a stirring feeling of emotional motivation and energy".

How poetic.

Another favourite Welsh word - I only know two so far, of course -  is "cwtch", which means "a cosy corner" or a "safe place". Sianuska uses it in the name of her splendid blog A Cwtch and a Cuppa, which I recommend you visit when in need of beauty and sustenance.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Saturday, 8 October 2011


We had a lovely day, the boy and I, pursuing our favourite past-time: hunting for treasure.

After a frustrating visit to an auction house - the words "As seen on 'Flog It'" should probably have warned us no bargains were to be had - we ventured to Lewisham to the best salvage yard in the world.

I just wish I needed gigantic crystal chandeliers, cast iron radiators and a million mismatch chairs. Not to mention the five foot bronze of a parrot ... One day ...

Thursday, 6 October 2011

National Poetry Day

I just realised it's National Poetry Day. Go over to Poetry Archive immediately and read this gorgeous poem - you can even listen to the great man himself reading it.

Poetry Archive | The Whitsun Weddings by Philip Larkin

Like Totally

Revisiting my teens and indulging in a little 1990s nostalgia thanks to this splendid post over on Design*Sponge...

Design*Sponge | Living in: Clueless

Remember this?

Such a witty film. Best moment has to be Cher's debate club speech on offering aid to Haiti
And so if the government could just get to the kitchen, rearrange some things, we could certainly party with the Haitians. And in conclusion may I please remind you it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty. Thank you very much.
I never rocked the knee highs and mary janes look, but still ... like way influential....

[uploaded to YouTube by]



Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Jammy Dodgers

First steps in jam making.

Rather pleased. Much easier than expected, set but not too set, and ever so strawberryish. Yum.

Highest praise from my friend's three year old, Little O, who must have it on crumpets for breakfast..

Thursday, 22 September 2011


Last night, while all were sleeping, I heard a Noise. Like someone was in the garden. And the security light came on. And stayed on. You can imagine how my heart leapt into my mouth. The boy L slumbered peacefully on, so I screwed up my courage and stuck my head between the curtains.

I saw a vixen and a small cub frolicking around on the patio, nipping each other affectionately and wheeling round and round playfully. They were about a foot from the bedroom doors, but couldn't see me - I guess because of the reflection - so they came close and were completely unspooked. It was delightful.

Fox and Fox Cub

Originally uploaded to Flickr by kevinb_irl

Some people consider them a menace, I know, what with tipping over the bins and strewing the ground with greasy chicken boxes and babies' nappies, but it was beautiful, graceful and, well, kind of sweet.

It was a real reminder that while human may rule the school in the daytime, the night belongs to the animals ... even in the suburbs of London!


Vintage pop-up at goes monthly

Vintage pop-up at Alice House NW6 6NJ goes monthly, hurrah!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Yon Bonnie Banks

This time last weekend, we were regretfully driving away from the brilliant wedding of my doc cousin and his fab lady and towards an Easyjet flight back to London and reality.

The wedding was held at Boturich Castle and the scenery of Loch Lomond and the mountains beyond was simply breathtaking.

It took me back to my misspent youth / awkward teenage years listening to - among other things, I hasten to add - Scots rockers Runrig. Here for your delectation is their interpretation of the traditional folk song Long Lomond (Enjoy, Jo!).

Congratulations Tom and Fi, and thanks so much for inviting us to celebrate with you!


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