Monday, 14 March 2011


I like slate placemats - simple, robust and easy to clean. In particular I like these ones from London Kills Me - they have a dandelion pattern so it breaks up the slate and stops it looking to harsh. Also, their website pointed out you can use chalk to write dinner guests names on as place settings which I hadn't thought of!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

taste - sunday morning coffee

Yesterday morning I nipped over to Linlithgow to catch up with my friend Michelle - and she suggested Taste, a wee cafe and deli in the town. I had heard her mention this place before and I am always up for finding new cafes and places that sell cakes and interesting foodstuffs.

I drove over - using my sat nav for the first time - and given I am the most nervous driver in the world quite enjoyed my wee jaunt. The sat nav unhelpfully fell out of its holder half way there but I have to say Ms Sat Nav is a plucky gal and continued to politely direct me from under the car seat.

I had an Americano with warm milk and a slice of gingerbread loaf with butter. The coffee was excellent - sometimes Americano can be served a bit bitter and with too much hot water. Yes, it is meant to be a long drink but I prefer it with a bit of the espresso syrup taste and texture to it - which this was. The milk came in a small jug, nicely warmed - not scorched - and with a wee cap of froth. The loaf was moist but managed to stay firm and not collapse under the butter spreading. Getting gingerbread loaf right is not easy - too dry and it crumbles, too moist and you risk creating a close packed shelf of loaf under the knife.

After a second Americano - which was as good as the first so was impressed with the consistency - I ordered a peppermint tea [we talk a lot - therefore a lot of coffee/tea is needed!]. And they use Tea Pigs! Which I love - I really like fresh mint leaves but next best thing is Tea Pigs.

The service was good - polite and helpful but not intrusive and on a Sunday it is nice to not feel rushed.

I didn't have a lot of time to browse but they have a great selection of chutneys and pickles, a small wine selection and an amazing array of cakes, pastries and pates. I will definitely be back.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

the project - site visit

Stairs from 1st floor to mezzanine

Things move very slowly then suddenly speed up. The past few weeks has seen a flurry of emails to sign off the final-final-final plans for the kitchen, bathroom and flooring. It is amazing that you can think you have thought of everything and then suddenly there is a teeny tiny detail you missed that is incredibly important and must be agreed, like, right now.

Beam reaching up from 1st to mezzanine floor, wee bit of dining platform

The big jobs are also being done - the inside is now all plasterboarded with wires poking through and plug socket spaces appearing. It is at this point you realise that there isn't a plug socket just where you will need one because seeing it 3-d is very different to a paper plan.

Andy standing at the bathroom door, down the corridor towards the two bedrooms

We are also beginning to see the space and get a better feel for it now the windows are all in and the house is a lot lighter. This means the mezzanine seems huge but the bedrooms smaller. The dining platform is taller than we imagined and the garden a bigger space. It is like Alice in Wonderland - sizes and shapes change with every visit. But luckily, so far, we haven't thought 'oh my God we don't like it' - more 'oh my God why can we not move in tomorrow'!

Andy in his hard hat and fetching yellow vest...

However, it is a conversion which means the secret hidey holes we had in the old place and our current rented accommodation will not be available. Two challenges for me - to be a lot tidier and to not hoard. Those who know me well will understand the challenge this poses. The clear out we did a year ago needs to be repeated with an even harsher edit. So I need to see this as a fresh beginning and a chance to declutter rather than a hard and emotional break up with shoes I haven't worn since university and 'archiving' every single card, postcard and letter I have ever been sent.

Where the stained glass window will be put back in as part of the internal wall that encloses the dining platform - as you walk down from the mezzanine or sit at the dining table you will be able to look through the stained glass

And if I manage to do this, and perhaps make some ebay money too, then I can invest in this lovely simple but quirky Keith Brymer Jones 'word' crockery...I particularly like the 'what comes first the chicken or the egg' egg cups and the 'porridge' bowl.

customer service - the post office

For three weeks now I have been trying to post a parcel. Travelling umpteen miles across the UK hasn't helped but neither has the lack of post office facilities. Which still apparently close on Wednesday afternoons [who can keep those kind of hours?] and stop doing any actual post office type work at random times like 4pm, the only times I actually had free last week. So, this morning I got up earlier than I usually do on a Saturday to catch the post office down the road because it shuts at 11.30am - go figure], housed as part of the local co-op.

I needed something to post the birthday present to my sister in - nowadays unless you go to an out-of-town Staples or big supermarket it is quite a challenge to track down items like brown paper or the larger size of jiffy bag. Train stations [which I spend a scary amount of time in] used to often have post boxes and stationery shops that sold postage items beyond stamps. Not Euston's WH Smith, though, I discovered.

Anyway, I had my presents wrapped and strolled down the road. I perused the stationery section and saw one large size of build-it-yourself box. I asked the post office woman if she had any smaller boxes - no. I showed her what I was sending and asked if there was anything that suited - again, no.

So I had to choose between a flimsy, tiny envelope you could spit through or a massive box that ran the risk of ramping up my sister's expectations as to the size of her gift. So I decided to go with the box and asked how much it was. I was told I had to go and purchase at the co-op till and then come back to pay for the postage. I thought this was a bit daft but couldn't be bothered arguing.

I paid for my oversized box, went back to the post office bit of the shop and spent a good five minutes figuring out how to get the box from flat to box-shaped while Ms Post Office looked on through the plexi glass. Finally I managed it [thanks for the help there] and filled it about a quarter full [sorry Alice!] and started to fill out the address section.

As I did so, another customer came up and asked for a large Jiffy envelope 'the ones you do for a pound' and the post office woman reaches under the counter and produces a padded enevelope of the type that has a gusset [eugh - weird term but that is what they call it!] so you can fit larger items than flat paper/cards in. Just the perfect size and type for what I am sending!

I looked on in disbelief - and after the guy had bought it I asked the post office woman why when I asked she hadn't suggested it - her response was that I was asking about the stationery on display, not what she had behind the counter, and had asked about 'boxes' not 'envelopes'. But I didn't know there WAS anything 'behind the counter' [and, by the way, what else is she hiding back there...] or that precision terminology was required! How can you ask if you don't know? I pointed this out, along with the fact I had shown her what I was attempting to send so surely she could have put two and two together and suggested something that was more suitable and cost less - the box being 3.59. I got a blank stare and a 'do you want to send it First Class?

I did want to send it First Class [4.50!!! - but then you could say its my own fault for being late with it in the first place]. I asked if it would get there on Monday or possibly Tuesday given the weekend. I was promptly told that the post had already been picked up [at 10am - this was now, after all the box gubbins, about 10.45] and it wouldn't go in the post until pick up on Monday and so probably wouldn't arrive until Wednesday or Thursday and, in fact, it probably would have been better to just send it Second Class! So why did she ask if I wanted to send it First Class?!?!

So, dear sister of mine, you will recieve a large not-even-half-full box that cost the best part of a tenner - a tenner I would much rather have handed straight to you [or given to a good cause] - and gave me a customer-service aneurism.

I try my best to support local shops and businesses. I signed the Post Office petitions and emailed my MP to say they shoudln't be closed down. I am always nice to shop staff and waiting staff [having been there myself]. And I know it was 10.30 on a cold and miserable Saturday morning. But seriously, work tends to go by much faster and easier if you actually try and help your customers.

And now I understand why my husband uses e-gift cards...

Friday, 11 March 2011

tea towels

I like the traditional tea towels you get - plain white with a coloured stripe - but I also like graphic ones. Not chintzy ones with scenes of the countryside. Blackline drawings and domestic themes that are not pink and girly [pink is not my favourite colour]. Here are some I have seen recently -

Biscuit tea towel by Charlotte Farmer from Bloomsbury Store - there are also tea cups, cakes and tea spoon ones -

Cassette tape tea towel from Rockett St George where you can also get ones with a typewriter, Eiffel tower and cutlery themes

Of course if I was a really proud housewife I would buy this tea towel commemorating the Royal Wedding!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


Today I had a rare day off and decided after weeks stuck in offices, trains and conference rooms in hotels across the UK some fresh air was needed. So I set off for a short-ish [5 miles] walk up through the back of the university and through Mine Woods.

On the way I enjoyed the views of a rather misty and atmospheric Stirling.

I also said hello to the horses at the riding school.

Walking through Mine Woods I spotted a rock with three abandoned mittens - each one different so no pair - three lost gloves looking a bit soggy and sad!

I then popped into Clive's for a bowl of broccoli soup - which was lovely and warming and indulgent. It wasn't thick and gloopy [I like chunky soup but not soup that is like a paste] but managed to have a robust cheesey flavour alongside the veggies.

It was good to just have a few hours away from work and the demands of email and phone. It gives you a bit of perspective and refreshes you. Now that the weather is getting better I am looking forward to getting back into my routine of a Friday walk and exercising a bit more.

Pancake Day!

Yes - it is Shrove Tuesday - this means I am off for a walk stopping by the cafe for pancakes for lunch then heading home to cook them also for dinner! Yum!