Category Archives: Shopping

Holiday Bazaars

Lk LawrenceI went to my first holiday bazaar this past weekend. For years this one has been an annual event for us. Some of the vendors are familiar but their things are always fresh and new.

I love the ambiance of country bazaars. There never seems to be a hurry and people, strangers, take time to stop and chat. Instead of coming home from a shopping trip tired, I come back from these feeling good, happy and sometimes a little nostalgic.

One year is a particluarly fond memory. Our daughter suggested that all of the Christmas gifts be home made. I quickly amended or expanded that to mean you could purchase hand made items. I’d never have time to make everything. How did my grandmother do it?

We started out early that year and it soon became like a treasure hunt. We found amazing gifts. Ones that meant a lot to the givers and recievers. In fact most of the gifts are still on display in our homes. At least the ones we didn’t eat. ☺

Time consuming, oh yes but so much fun. We made friends and memories that will stay with us a liftime.

Priceless Fake

I’ve always been a lover of fake jewellery. I love the freedom of wearing pieces without the fear of losing or breaking them. I do own real jewellery… my diamond engagement ring, a gold watch my mum bought me one Christmas, plus a couple of lovely gold bangles, ruby earrings… and I really treasure and value each piece. But I rarely buy real jewellery myself and over the years I’ve purchased probably hundreds of pieces of fake, or junk, jewellery. Some pieces have been around for years and I’m still wearing them now, others have been purchased to go with one particular outfit and discarded soon after. There’s no guilt attached, as I console myself with the fact that the pieces cost me next to nothing. But is all fake jewellery worthless?

Apricot pearls 3Recently, I had an apricot pearl necklace restrung. It belonged to my beloved grandmother and holds lots of precious memories. She used to let me rummage through her jewellery box when I was a little girl and as I grew older she’d gift me pieces of her jewellery, sometimes for birthdays, but mostly just because she wanted to do so. While the apricot pearls are beautiful, I never saw her wear them. Maybe she felt like me, and was worried about losing them. What she did wear, almost every day, was an Aurora Borealis beaded glass necklace that, although pretty, had no monetary value. AB necklaceWhile I inherited many pieces of her jewellery when she died, it is this glass necklace that I treasure the most. When I wear it I can almost feel her presence and energy radiating from the crystal and warming my heart. To me, that’s far more precious and valuable than the most priceless jewel.

These days, I’m getting much better at wearing and enjoying all my jewellery and do try not to worry about losing it. How about you? Do you have a special piece of jewellery you worry about wearing because it is so valuable? Do you prefer to wear fake or always choose the real thing? I’d love to know 🙂

The three little words my husband dreads to hear…

For the first time in what seems like months, the Joneses house is relatively dust-free having come through what AJ jokingly calls phase one of our refurbishment/redecoration plans. He has threatened to send me back to work as, since retiring last year, I keep coming up with ideas for the house. He says the words he dreads to hear are “I’ve been thinking…”

Hmm, maybe I have been thinking quite a lot recently, but it’s such fun 🙂

Since August last year we’ve had the bedrooms, landing and hallway redecorated and new carpets fitted. We also decided to do something about the living room floor’s stripped floorboards which had seen better days. With last winter being sooooo cold, we noticed there were several gaps between the boards causing draughts. After much deliberation, we decided to have a new wooden floor laid by local fitters. AJ wanted it laid on the diagonal but I wasn’t too sure. I’m very pleased he managed to persuade me because I love the result. Kitchen 4

In the way of things, it left our battered old doors looking very sad, so they were replaced too. All this work was well overdue and mostly the house had been pretty neglected for several years while we were both working.

This week saw completion of the kitchen refurbishment. The kitchen is exactly what I hoped for. We had it completely replaced a few years back, but because we were at work and were unable to supervise the job several things were completed which I hadn’t really wanted. The company who carried out the work went bust shortly after completing our kitchen and we discovered that sub-standard appliances had been fitted which left us with a non-functioning cooker and a sink that looked perpetually grubby despite continued cleaning. Now, thanks to a really great local company, we have new quality appliances, a worktop I am totally in love with, a breakfast bar and extra cupboards. It still needs finishing touches, like window blinds and breakfast stools, but I’m very pleased with it.Kitchen 3kitchen 10

Of course, the problem with renovating/redecorating is it soon eats through the bank balance, so I’ve promised AJ to stop thinking for a while so both he and his wallet can recover. I’m not totally ready to be project free though and am planning to start work on the garden next. I want to try my hand at re-laying the patio and have already bought some ready-mix concrete, decorative pebbles and various tools and bits and pieces. Plus, inspired by Kit’s gorgeous and colourful garden, I have a list of bulbs and perennials to plant throughout the garden. All that should keep me busy for a while.

How about you? Do you like refurbishing your home? Hate it? What has been your favourite/least favourite project?

Sticky Fun and Games

Here in the UK we’ve had soaring temperatures and, until the last few days, almost unbroken sunshine. Glorious. Hoards of people have been out and about enjoying themselves and the shops have taken full advantage with summer sales popping up everywhere. Of course, yours truly has been indulging herself, and I’ve managed to bag a few bargains.

During my shopping sojourns, I’ve noticed a preponderance of those annoying discounted stickers that they place on sale items which advertise by what percentage the item has been discounted and/or the sale price. No amount of nudging, scraping, scratching, wetting or tugging can remove these things. They’re never unobtrusive either, but are always in loud, garish colours that stand out a mile. You may manage to dislodge a few tiny pieces around the edges, but most times the darn things refuse to budge. Persist, and you’re left with puckered or stretched areas of the material that highlights where the sale sticker once lay. The worst culprits seems to be those stickers that they place in the heel bed of shoes. They are almost always impossible to remove.

Recently, I couldn’t resist a pair of adorable strappy sandals. I didn’t need another pair of sandals, but since they were just sitting there, the only pair remaining of their kind and in my size, you know? I mean, how is a girl supposed to resist? But I digress. Positioned in the heel bed of one sandal was, you guessed it, a sticker declaring by how much percentage they had been discounted. And would it budge? No, it most definitely would not. I was tempted to leave it, but fearing it would be visible as I walked, proceeded to do the usual scraping, wetting, peeling thing. I eventually gave up. So how come, a few days later, while on a shopping trip with girlfriends and having spent what seemed like hours in changing rooms dressing and undressing as we tried on just about every dress in the high street, did the sandal’s sticker miraculously remove itself? Did it do so surreptitiously and unobtrusively? Not on your life. Unknowingly, I walked out the store proudly displaying a bright red circle with white lettering on my derriere announcing 30% off! Cue muffled, but slightly hysterical, laughter from friends as they pried the offending sticker off my jeans amid cries of “if only it were that easy, and we could pop a sticker on our backsides which would instantly reduce them by thirty percent”.

After lunch, during which they plied me with a couple of glasses of vino, purely for medicinal purposes of course (seeing as I was still pretty mortified, I think that counts as medicinal), I was able to see the funny side of it. There followed some hilarious conversation about if we could place a sticker on any particular part of our bodies and instantly remove some of it, which part would we choose. After some animated discussion (you can see that when we get together the conversation is pretty intellectual), it was decided that we were only allowed to have one sticker.

For my sticker I think I’d chose my tummy, but then my thighs could do with a bit of trimming as well. Hmm. Would have to give this some serious thought before finally deciding.  Which part would you choose?

A Smelly Weekend

This weekend my house has been filled with a pungent aroma I never imagined I would smell in all my 37 years with my husband. The aroma is that of garlic, something he totally hates the smell and taste of and thus something I never use, although I love the flavour. I’ve known him walk out of restaurants and dinner parties because of it, and it’s one of the main reason he doesn’t like going out for meals. So you can imagine my surprise, nay, shock at him asking me to buy several bulbs of it when I did the weekly shop Friday.

160px-Garlic_Bulbs_2Had he blown his mind, lost his marbles, decided to be adventurous after all this time? None of these things. We grow a lot of our own vegetables and Dave had read in a gardening magazine that a spray made from garlic will get rid of black and green fly, something our broad beans, one of our favourite veg and the only one we freeze, are suddenly plagued with. He decided to give it a go.

Now, there is a lot of sense in this idea as it is well known around the Mediterranean that garlic keeps away the mosquitoes and probably why a lot of it is used in continental cuisine. Indeed, it is probably this fact that led to the ancient practice of hanging bulbs of garlic around your neck, in windows and doorways to keep away evil spirits and vampires. I haven’ t seen any vampires whilst abroad so it obviously must work!

The recipe for this spray consisted of mashing a whole garlic bulb in a pint of water. I told him not to put all the water in the food processor, just a few drops and top up after, but no, he put the whole pint in the machine and switched on. The garlic and water overflowed the bowl, spilled over the work surface, sprayed the walls, dripped down to the floor, and even into the dishwasher. Great! And guess who was left to clean up? Yup, me!

Dave’s second attempt proved more successful and the mixture is now fermenting in the garden shed ready to be mixed into a gallon of water next weekend and the plants sprayed.

The house smelled of it all weekend but he didn’t dare moan. In fact, he commented that it wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be, and thankfully Saturday was a pleasant day and I could leave the doors and windows open. This brought me a rather enjoyable after effect as, sitting in the garden enjoying the sunshine as I read my book, the fountain bubbling in the pond, wafts of garlicky smells drifted across the lawn from the kitchen, bringing back lovely memories of holidays abroad, and if I shut my eyes I could imagine I was back in Greece again for a few minutes.

800px-Broad-beans-after-cookingI’ll let you know if this stinky concoction works but what I am left wondering is if the beans will be infused with the flavour of garlic – something I’ve dared not mention to him. The taste will tell!

The Floozie in the Jacuzzi

During our married life, AJ and I have moved house ten times and lived in six different parts of the UK. One of our moves was to the Midlands where we lived a few miles from Birmingham. This is a city of great cultural diversity and we have always loved it. Even though we now live in the south west, we often travel up to the city and enjoy visiting some of our old haunts. Things have changed a great deal in the twenty five years since we lived there, but we still love the vibrancy and the energy of the city.

Birmingham Town HallBirmingham has some of the best examples of Victorian architecture in the UK. The Council House, built in the 1870s, is the home of Birmingham City Council and houses the council chamber, the Lord Mayor’s suite, committee rooms and an ornate banqueting suite with minstrels’ gallery. The exterior balcony on the first floor is now often used by winning sports teams to address the celebrating crowds who gather below in Victoria Square.

Victoria square is considered the centre of the city and the point from where road sign distances are measured. The central water feature in the square, The River, was designed by Dhruva Mistry who won an international design competition. It depicts a bronze statue of a reclining woman basking in the surrounding water.The RiverThis is the largest sculpture in the square, and is now more affectionately known as The Floozie in the Jacuzzi.

But a visit to Birmingham isn’t complete without a little retail therapy and a trip to the commercial centre called The Bull Ring. This has been an important part of Birmingham since the Middle Ages when, in 1159, a local landowner obtained a charter to run a textile market there. Today The Bull Ring shopping centre is one of the busiest in the United Kingdom. BullringAt the main entrance stands The Guardian, a nearly two and a half metre tall bronze sculpture of a turning bull, created by Laurence Broderick. The Guardian, or more commonly known as Brummie the Bull, has become a very popular photographic feature for visitors to Birmingham, and every time I visit the Bull Ring there are always hoards of people surrounding the sculpture. It is strangely beautiful and rather cute.

After a busy morning’s shopping, I’m ready for a bit of peace and quiet. One of the nicest places to relax is at the Edwardian Tea Room, housed in the nearby Museum and Art Gallery. The tea room not only offers some delicious cakes to go with a nice refreshing cup of tea, but original paintings adorn the walls and offer some food for the soul. We never visit the city without wandering the hallowed halls of the Art Gallery and taking a look at their wonderful Pre-Raphaelite collection. They have a large collection of works by Edward Burne-Jones, but it’s a painting by another Edward I’m always interested in viewing. Night Leading the Stars HomeNight Leading the Stars Home, by Edward Robert Hughes, is one of my all time favourite paintings and I have a poster of it in my bedroom. Sadly, this trip the painting was in the archives, but I was able to leave my contact details with the information desk who will inform me when the painting is on display again. Ah well, any excuse for another visit 🙂


Little Lodgers

As some of you know, our second guide dog puppy, Vinnie, went into early training in February because he was a particularly challenging little boy who was actually diagnosed by a vet as being hyperactive (well, we could have told … Continue reading

House Party!

Does anyone still hold sales parties at home? They used to be all the rage years ago. In the 1970s Tupperware parties were popular. In fact, I became a demonstrator. Off I’d trundle every evening with my suitcase packed full of it; it was certainly an art fitting it all in. Once you’d sold to the value of what was in the case, it and Tupperware were yours to keep – it was the only way back then how I could afford to buy any. I demonstrated for about a year, out one or two evenings a week. What finally made me stop was one client, having invited and expected 20 people to her home, had bought 20 fresh cream cakes to go with coffee. Not one person turned up, to the lady’s utter embarrassment. I felt so disappointed for her, and in those days no one had freezers so she couldn’t even store the cakes. I didn’t even own a refrigerator then! Tupperware is brilliant. I still have and use much of what was in that demonstrator case, so it’s at least 40 years old.

There were lots of jewellery parties too. I particularly remember the Sarah Coventry range and had bought some lovely rings and earrings, only to find out I couldn’t wear them as I had an allergic reaction to the metal and I can only wear gold.

100_5782When I moved from London to the West Country, some one hundred miles away, to a new and what was at the time the largest new housing development in Europe, I knew no one, and at first it was very lonely. Most people were in the same predicament, so house parties soon became popular, selling everything from Tupperware to Ann Summers sexy lingerie. There was a rival cosmetics range to Avon, called Vanda. I still have a glass bottle which held bubble bath, and is perfect for a single-stem flower. One of my favourite ranges was a brand of pottery including mugs and pot scourer holders, butter dishes, canapé dishes, vases and up to full dinner services. I still have one remaining item, a little flat dish that I use to hold rings and things when I’m working in the kitchen.

The parties were a great way to get to know neighbours and make friends but they ended up becoming more a competition of who could serve up the best and most innovative buffet, when really just a cup of coffee and a biscuit would have been suffice. It was the “in” thing at the time to make dips for crudities from dried soup mixes, and instead of tea or coffee, wine was the norm.


My “Vanda” vase

The last sales party I went to was in the early 1980s, for cubic zirconia jewellery, then fairly new on the market. I treated myself to a solitaire ring which I still wear on occasion. I remember at the time kidding my father it was a real diamond. “Let’s see,” he said, “only diamonds can cut glass.” And he promptly dragged it across their glass coffee table – to leave an enormous, deep scratch right down the middle of it. Mum was furious with him!

I suppose much of the demise of the sales party has been caused by the Internet, where it’s so easy to buy anything you want now. Either that, or I’m a Billy No Mates and no one bothers to invite me any more!