The Button Box

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Who has a button box nowadays? I haven’t asked but I’ll bet my daughter or daughters-in-law don’t.  I have one but it’s small in comparison to the one my grandmother owned. So far as I’m aware she wasn’t a great one for sewing. Neither was my mother but she too had a considerable stock of buttons. One of my earliest memories is playing with the contents of my grandmother’s button box. I’d sort them into colours and sizes, count them, make patterns in the table and generally stay happily occupied for what seemed like ages.

Lynne Knight’s book The Button Box: The Story of Women in the 20th Century Told Through the Clothes They Wore begins by describing the delights of her own grandmother’s button box.  The book is on my list to order from the library. She writes:

           ‘I used to love the rattle and whoosh of my grandma’s buttons as they scattered from their Quality Street tin’……. [they] reached back into the past with metal-shanked beauties from the nineteenth century and came forward into my childhood with the pale blue waterlily buttons….’

The thing about button boxes is, at least in my experience,  that the contents are rarely used. Rather they are collected ‘just in case’ or because ‘they’re too good to throw out’ when the clothing to which they were once attached is discarded.

My grandmother’s button box was an old biscuit tin, my mother’s a bamboo lidded basket with handles brought back from Japan, and mine is part of a set from Dunelm… it serves the purpose but doesn’t do much in the excitement stakes!

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It’s not often that I investigate the contents of my own button box but I was looking at some old school photos of my children recently. I was reminded of my daughter who, aged about seven, asked if she could have a ‘proper’ school cardigan instead of the hand knitted variety that she had been wearing up until then. My knitting days were all but over.

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The triangular green button was cut from the last school cardigan I made. It was a basket-weave design – the uniform called for a green cardigan but with no stipulation as to the design so, with a love of the non-conventional, I put my own spin on it forgetting that children just want to be the same as their peers! I remember being so thrilled when I found some little peach coloured rabbit buttons for her baby cardigans. There were white rabbits and yellow ducks too but I’ve no idea what happened to them. Flower shapes were a favourite too but although I must have done, I can’t remember using the pink hearts. Babies don’t wear much in the way of hand-knits now, do they?

I’ve lots of metal button salvaged from the 1980s shoulder-padded ‘power’ suits that I loved wearing. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever use these buttons again. I don’t really sew any more apart from the odd replacement shirt button so I suppose the contents of my button box will remain just that.

 

 

 

 

Three lunches and a hot water bottle

It’s been such a busy week and my blog has taken a back seat. On the plus side I had an unexpected, completely free Sunday and used it to work on my novel. I wrote and edited and wrote and edited and…….you get the picture. Writers each have their own way of working. Some choose to write the whole and then go back and edit. Others, like myself, cannot move on until satisfied with each paragraph. The writer Dorothy Parker once said “I cannot write five words but that I change seven.” I can identify with that. I’ve no idea how many I wrote but I ended up with 2,000 satisfactory words and I was very happy with that.

I had three lunch dates this week. I did try to be mindful of my Slimming World membership!  The first was a belated birthday lunch with an old friend i.e. she is a couple of years younger than me but is a Friend of thirty-eight years standing. We went to a pub that I used to visit regularly in the 1970s. In those days they served scampi and chips in a basket for 55p. Isn’t it funny how the little details stay in the memory? It’s undergone many transformations over the years but it must be seven or so since I was last there so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We both decided that a starter and dessert was more appealing than a main meal. My Greek salad was ample with a very generous helping of feta cheese. It was really tasty but totally overshadowed by the ‘white chocolate creme brûlée with raspberry shortbread’. Oh my goodness, it was amazing…the best creme brûlée I have ever tasted. My friend chose the same and agreed wholeheartedly. The shortbread was sprinkled with raspberry sugar. Yum, yum, yum! That reminds me, I still haven’t tried the lavender shortbread again. The first batch I made didn’t quite make the grade.

Lunch number two was to celebrate my husband’s birthday. We visited a pub which always offers several fish dishes. Depending what is available wholesale, the menu varies. When I saw that there was fresh dressed crab on offer, there was no other choice for me. With a sprinkling of black pepper and a dash of vinegar there’s none better. It came with thick slices of soft brown bread and a salad. Two lunches out so far, and salad both times. No pudding today!

My daughter took an afternoon off work today and we met in Bridgnorth. It’s closer to her than to me but is the nicest place between the two of us. Winner of five Britain in Bloom gold medals it is situated on the edge of the River Severn in Shropshire and is split into low town and high town, the latter being reached by means of the cliff railway (or a road…thank goodness). Evidence suggests that this busy market town originated during Saxon times, and certainly the Saxon caves, known now as the Hermitage Caves were in existence then, with King Alfred’s grandson being the first inhabitant, though it wasn’t until the Normans built a castle and that a larger settlement was formed. The town boasts an array of architecturally interesting buildings. I really do have to get more practice at taking photographs. The few I took were very poor so I’ve decided not to include most of them.

 

At The Brasserie I chose a mushroom and melted cheese baguette with chips, onion rings and side salad. Shortly after we’d finished the waitress walked past with a plate of lemon meringue pie. It looked amazing and I can’t pretend that I wasn’t tempted but I did manage to resist.

Bridgenorth is a ‘moochy’ sort of place so we walked the length of the High Street where I bought a hot water bottle (more in a moment) and a couple of OPI nail polishes.   I chose a deep red and a deep purple, both pearlised which I prefer. Daughter bought new pillows and treated me to a notebook that I’d admired and then we had a coffee.

I’ve been suffering from ‘shin splints (severe cramp, not in the calf as usual, but in the shins). Extremely painful, it starts across the instep of my foot and is apparently caused by either excessive exercise (haha) or extreme cold. Now I know the weather has taken a turn for the worse in the past week but this is England in September, not a time of year known for its freezing temperatures. The only way to relieve the pain is vigorous rubbing and heat.  Though it happens during the daytime, it affects me more at night. I like to get into a cold bed but wonder whether if I warm it first, whether it will help, hence the hot water bottle.

Not the most exciting photo but here’s what I came home with:

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Three busy days and a lie-in

“What’s it like being sixty?” my younger friend had asked me last year as the big birthday had just happened. https://thisissixty.blog/2017/04/22/whats-in-a-name/

It was as if she had expected that upon the flick of the ‘sixty-switch’ I would somehow give in and become noticeably older.  I took great pains to assure her that I was no different – perhaps a little different to when I was twenty or thirty, but certainly no different to forty and I named my blog after my reply to her.  Well, I now concede that maybe there is a difference…just a little one but noticeable nevertheless. And that difference is that I get more tired more quickly. I hate admitting to the fact but it’s true.

Thursday is my day for looking after my Two youngest grandsons. The two little boys (aged 26 months and 11 months) are totally adorable but there is a reason why nature prevents us from having babies in our sixties!  Just getting two of them ready to go out and into their car seats has me wanting to lie down and recover. In term time I take them to a playgroup. With travelling time this fills up almost three hours and I never thought I would say this, but I have missed it during the summer holidays.  We tried a holiday group but neither the eldest or I enjoyed it (the baby couldn’t care less) so this week we went to town. We did a few mundane jobs like going to the bank and to Boots where I knew my favourite silver shampoo was on a buy 2 get 1 free offer. Truly, it is quite amazing how excited a grandmother can get when she thinks of things to fill up the baby-care hours!

“Cafe, cafe,” shouted the elder one as we passed Coffee 1 where I’ve taken them a few times before. There were no seats available (at least none with an adjacent space large enough to accommodate my twin pushchair).  He wasn’t happy. I knew this from the vociferous vocal objection he raised but we soon found a comfortable spot in Debenhams and settled down for a rest. The boys had some suitable-for-toddlers wafers, banana and drinks that we had taken with us and I had a large cup of strong coffee.  After lunch back at home we went for a short walk. Daddy returned at 2.30 which was a nice surprise as we had expected him an hour later.

That evening husband and I drove to Warwick (a little over half an hour away) to meet up with my cousin and family who were in the area for a few days to attend a sporting event.  We met up last August for the first time in about thirty years. It was a great success  – good food and good company – and we enjoyed it just as much this time round. However, the drive home was not as much fun.  I drove thousands of miles annually as part of my work for several years and in the winter this often meant motorway driving in the dark.  I never had a problem with it  but for a couple of years now I’ve been finding night driving increasingly difficult. I have begun to feel unnerved by the huge lorries which thunder past and, despite my glasses being the right prescription (I got them checked recently) I just cannot seem to focus properly when night-driving.  By the time we got home I had come to a decision and said that I am no longer prepared to do motorway driving at night. Fortunately we don’t go out a lot at night and when we do it’s local which I’m fine with. We have agreed that when it is necessary, either husband will not have a drink and he will drive (although am a terrible passenger) or we will stay wherever overnight. I feel like a bit of a wimp but the decision is made.

 

 

 

Friday was another grandchildren-focussed day. This time we took the granddaughters (12 and 6) out for the day to The Valley. From its beginnings as a garden centre it has, over a number of years, morphed into country park which has shops (not the high street variety) , cafes and play areas including a temporary summer attraction – ‘The beach’. Having imported fifty tons of sand they have set up a giant sand pit surrounded by deck chairs. There are a few fairground rides, bouncy slide, swings and water based activities. The eldest granddaughter looked around a little disdainfully at first, probably thinking it was all a bit too babyish but, once she realised that there was no-one who knew her (Oh the indignity of being seen to make sandcastles at her age!) she soon got over her reluctance and both girls had a whale of a time. They most enjoyed bobbing around inside a huge plastic bubbles which floats in water. I was invited to join them but used the excuse that I wouldn’t fit through the entrance hole! Later we rode on the mini steam train through the park to the picnic area where we were lucky enough to take possession of one of the picnic tables. After devouring the picnic they played for a while on the large wooden climbing frame in the shape of a fort.  The train then took us back to the little station and we returned to constructing sandcastles and bought fresh, warm, sugary donuts as an afternoon treat.   Grandparent duty done we returned them to their parents and spent the evening collapsed in front of the TV.

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Saturday was a l-o-n-g day, albeit a wonderful one.  First a seventy mile drive to Headington, Oxford where we joined the long queue at the Park & Ride. Then a walk to Oxford Brookes University for my mature student son’s graduation. Lunch was not on the menu as the timing made it very difficult so we bought coffee and chocolate and looked forward to the reception and promised post-ceremony refreshments (Champagne and cake!) The fifteen seconds of fame whilst one’s child (they still are, even at thirty eight, aren’t they?) walks onto the stage to shake hands with the Vice-Chancellor and collect the certificate that is testament to their hard work (and it was – he did it whilst working full time and having a very young family who, on this day of celebration were thankfully being looked after by their other grandparents) is worth every moment of the entire day it takes up. The photograph of the stage is the best I can offer as I consider that this blog should respect the privacy of my family. Post reception we did the walk/bus/drive in reverse and took son and his girlfriend for a meal. The evening was spent similarly to the one before – exhausted.

And now it is Sunday and I had a much needed and appreciated lie-in. After two sunny days when the washing could have gone on the line (Assuming that I had had time to do it), it’s now raining. Thank goodness for tumble dryers. I’ve swapped the lightweight quilt for the warmer one (the story of bedding-weight in my house could fill a post on its own: there are half a dozen different combinations to enable the warmth & weight variations we seem to need), and have dealt with some essential paperwork and sorted unwanted clothing for the charity bag. I am now going to read the Sunday papers and reflect on the fact that, tiring though the past few days may have been, I am extremely fortunate to have my lovely family to take up my time.

 

WOMAN ~ A Chemical Analysis

A little something that has always made me smile. I hope that you will enjoy it too.

ELEMENT:                  Woman

OCCURRENCE:         Copious quantities in all urban areas with trace elements in most others.

PHYSICAL PROPERTIES

  1. Surface is often covered in powdery painted film
  2. Boils at nothing; freezes for no reason
  3. Melts if given special treatment
  4. Bitter if incorrectly used
  5. Found in varying grades from virginal state to common ‘ore
  6. Yields to pressure applied gently to selected points

CHEMICAL PROPERTIES

  1. Has great affinity with gold, silver, platinum and precious stones
  2. Absorbs great quantities of expensive substances
  3. May explode spontaneously without warning or reason
  4. Softens and takes on a rosy glow when immersed in hot water
  5. Most powerful money reducing agent known to man

COMMON USES

  1. Highly ornamental – especially in sports car
  2. Can be a great aid to relaxation

TESTS

  1. Pure specimen turns bright red when discovered in natural state
  2. Turns green when placed next to a better specimen

HAZARDS

  1. Highly dangerous in inexperienced hands
  2. Possession of more than one considered illegal

 

A confused jumble or medley of things

Today’s post is a gallimaufry. I shall explain. It means ‘a confused jumble or medley of things’. If you already knew that, forgive me for assuming that you may not have done. I didn’t – at least not until I recently read a post on one of my favourite blogs. Which only goes to prove that, in order to expand one’s vocabulary, studying English Language is no substitute for reading an excellent blog!

First up is the dreaded weight subject …though, not quite so dreadful as it might have been. Regular readers (and there are now around 60 a day, which is fabulous) may remember that I gained 2.5lb on my holidays. Well, at the next weigh in I had lost FOUR pounds! The following week I stayed the same but am trying hard again this week. I will be weighing in again on Thursday this week. I’ve been out for lunch today with my gym friends. There were eleven of us and several chose a starter in addition to their main course. I feel rather virtuous to report that I was not one of them. My salad topped with poached pear, goats cheese and quinoa was delicious. I’ve eaten quinoa several times in restaurants and enjoyed it, but when I recently cooked some at home, it was horrible. I wonder if perhaps I didn’t cook it for long enough.

Favourite TV dramas

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Have you been watching Poldark on TV? I’ve really enjoyed it and will be sorry to see it finish next Sunday but I’m pleased that a fourth series (which will cover books 5 and 6 of Winston Graham’s series) has been commissioned. Filming begins in a few weeks time. Since the series contains twelve books, one can hope that filming will continue for a while yet. One of the things I really like about Autumn (apart from the wonderful earthy smell in the air, the vivid colours as the leaves change and the fact that it’s time to wear boots again) is that both BBC and ITV usually offer a few good drama series. A second series of Doctor Foster with the brilliant Suranne Jones (one of my favourite actresses) was filmed last Autumn but I can find no information on when it will be shown. Another drama that I enjoyed was The A Word which centered around a young boy with Asperger’s syndrome. Set in the beautiful Lake District, the second series has recently been filmed. I know this for sure because my brother was one of the on-site lighting electricians. He gets to meet some interesting people in his work and sent me a photograph of himself lunching with the female star, Morven Christie (the pregnant one in The Replacement). I am really hoping that Happy Valley will return too but understand that a third series is yet to be written. Since I am a fan of Sarah Lancashire, I’d also love to see another series of Last Tango in Halifax but can find no information to suggest that this will happen.

Something else that I mentioned on an earlier post is that I was looking for an August food challenge. I am undertaking to cook a minimum of two new recipes a week and have come up with a not-so-shortlist of around fifty potential recipes. When you have been feeding people for more than forty years, cooking something completely different is not easy, so I’m sure to have made something not too dissimilar from each recipe. Nevertheless I’m looking forward to seeing how they turn out. I’ll update you as and when.

Talking of cooking – we were given some plums at the weekend. Using a dozen of them in place of the apples in my favourite apple cake recipe (with a couple of ounces of ground almonds to counteract their wetter consistency) I was rewarded with an incredibly moist and very tasty cake. I had to try a very tiny slice of course, just to check that it’s edible! Husband loves it. I think I shall be making it again.
I start my new job tomorrow and  I’m very glad to see that the dress code is smart casual since that is mostly what I have nowadays! I can just about scrape a couple of business outfits together if needs must. Many years ago a manager told me that one should never decide whether they like a job or not until they had done it for three months. I’ll report back in November!

The school holiday period means that some of my spare time is taken up with grandchildren. I already look after my two baby grandsons (10 months and 2 years) one day a week but during holidays also help out with my two granddaughters (12 years and 6 years) when I can. Last week, along with my daughter-in-law, I took the girls plus my 10 year old grandson (that’s the lot – all five now accounted for) to a new play centre that has opened in town. Whilst it’s not the kind of place in which I’d actually choose to spend several hours, it was a definite hit with the children. Not only does it have a large soft-play area but there are mock-ups of several shops for imaginative play, a Lego room, a ‘messy-play’ room, merry-go-round and dodgem cars. The concept is wonderful and I’d have liked something like that when my children were young. It was expensive though so our next outing is more likely to be a picnic in the park!

And finally…I received a very special gift this morning. My granddaughter proudly handed me a bookmark she had made specially for me.

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I’m off now to pack my bag for tomorrow.

My scented garden

Before I begin this post I’d like to leave a message for owners of Blogspot Blogs which I comment on. For some reason I am no longer able to do so. I keep getting the message saying that my credentials cannot be verified. I hope to sort this out soon.

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What do you think of these gorgeous lilies? I love both their appearance and their divine scent. This one reaches around five feet in height and stands at the side of my front door. A single bulb, last year it sported just a couple of flowers but this year there are at least thirty flower heads. More lilies grow next to the French doors at the back of the house, close to the sweet peas which are doing well, but nowhere near as well as a couple of years ago when we were picking large bunches daily. So far this year we have picked three small bunches. I much prefer to see them in the garden but regular picking is the way to get a good display. Ironic, isn’t it?

For years I have had in my garden a robust climbing rose called Madame Gregoire Staechelin….at least, I thought I did!  It’s glossy green leaves contrast beautifully with the fragrant creamy white blooms. Before writing this post I wanted to check the spelling so turned to Google and there it was, Mme. GS on the RHS website – a lovely PINK rose! Well, they’ve got that wrong, I thought. I looked at other sites. and discovered that, needless to say, the RHS know what they’re talking about: Mme. GS is indeed a pink rose and it seems that the flowers on this particular rose give way to ‘attractive hips in autumn’. Not in my garden it doesn’t! Time to turn detective. A trawl around the internet leads me to belive that my rose is, in fact, Madame Alfred Carriere. I’ve been duped!

Indian Summer rose

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Indian Summer is the most fragrant of my roses. Strongly scented, it is a delicate shade of a creamy peach. Alongside other roses it lines the path to my front door. Beautiful Britain has a far more subtle scent but its vibrant vermillion/orange with shades of gold outstrips Indian Summer for colour and its abundant blooms outdo most others in my garden (except for Starlight Express which I’ve mentioned in a previous post).

Beautiful Britain

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In between the roses in the front garden are lavender bushes. Lavender is reputed to drive away aphids. It seems to work as we have very few. Unfortunately this means we also get few ladybirds since they like to feed on the aphids. Nevertheless, for the benefit of the roses, I can do without the ladybirds. I’ve sometimes dried the lavender heads and used them as a pot-pouri. Having recently found a recipe for lavender shortbread, I wondered whether my varieties (Munstead and Hidcote) could be used. The recipe calls for ‘culinary lavender’ but I found this information:  “Though most varieties of lavender can be used in cooking, some varieties are more widely used, including Lavandula angustifolia, particularly the “Munstead” cultivar. These lavenders have the sweetest fragrance among all species of lavender, which creates flavor in cooking”.  I think I’ll give it a go.

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Another favourite floral scent is lilac. I have a large and abundant purple lilac but sadly it flowers for such a short time.  Finally, the scent of honeysuckle is quite beautiful especially on a warm summer evening, even if its growing habit is somewhat untidy.

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I really like to grow Lily of the Valley but, despite several attempts, success eludes me. Our clay soil is quite heavy and I thought this might be the cause but according to Alan Tichmarsh  it is happy in a clay soil and has no preference for acid or alkaline conditions. Maybe next year.

AlthoughI refer to my garden and what I grow in it, it’s only fair that I own up to the fact that it’s not me who maintains it. Husband is the one who does the work, and it’s thanks to him that dinner this evening included this year’s first runner beans. Freshly picked, they were delicious.

Bits of this and that

I spent most of the morning at the gym with friends. Three of us had opted out of the circuit and were there just for the coffee and chat.  I confess that this is always the temptation though, for the most part, we do participate in the exercise, but today we all had our reasons for not doing so – a possibly broken toe for one friend, bad back and strapped-up wrist for another, and stitches from minor surgery in my own case. I was disturbed to find that we have turned into the kind of older ladies who discuss our ailments;  is there any surer sign of ageing? At least we recognised the fact and actively sought to change the subject!

Following a cold start to the morning it is now warm and sunny and as I sit and type I find myself wishing that my garden benefited from the same kind of avian activity as did our holiday cottage. You would not believe the number and variety of birds in that garden. There were frequently six or eight small birds (robins, finches, tits and tree sparrows – until I looked it up in the bird book, I didn’t know that there was such a bird as distinct from an ordinary sparrow) around the feeders and this beautiful Great spotted woodpecker visited early every morning and several times throughout the day. I have never seen one at such close quarters. Quite possibly that sentence should have ended at ‘never seen one’ because I’m not at all certain that I have.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

I suppose with Backbarrow, our holiday village, being a much more rural area than home it is inevitable that there will be more to see but we live in hope, much as we have done for years with the nest box camera. You can read about it here:  A not-so-desirable residence .  The experience has prompted us to buy yet another bird feeder, this time to be fixed to the wall next to the kitchen window. As this is on the front of the house, we’re not sure of its suitability but time will tell. I’d love a woodpecker visitor.

On Monday evening I went to Slimming World and found that I had gained 2.5lb on holiday. It was fully expected and deserved but I get very fed up of the fact that I have no watch what I eat so carefully, but I suppose that’s the case for many of us. I got straight back onto plan and am hopeful that next Monday’s weigh-in will show an equivalent loss.  Right at this moment I have a ‘cooking urge’. Despite that urge leaning towards lemon drizzle cake, I really don’t want to make a cake – we still have half the rhubarb and ginger one from Sunday and there is an apple one in the freezer. I shall concentrate on something savory. One of my daughters-in-law has recently become vegan. I’ve been used to providing vegetarian meals for some years but now have to rethink. I’m going to have a trawl around the recipe blogs and see what I can find. All suggestions welcome.

I had the spookiest experience a couple of weeks ago and meant to write about it but forgot to. A Facebook friend, someone I have known since junior school and have seen occasionally through the years as our paths have crossed, had posted a photograph of her wedding twenty six years ago.  As I glanced at the picture, I was totally thrown by what I saw. I should say WHO I saw, for there in the corner of the picture, standing in the choir stalls, was my mother who died sixteen years ago. I knew, of course, that she was in the choir but I had not known that she had sung at this wedding and, not for one moment, had I expected to see her smiling out from a Facebook page! I’m not sure why but it really unsettled me all evening .

So, apart from the cooking, what’s planned for the rest of the day? I have a couple of drawers to tidy out and I must email a friend to suggest a few dates for lunch . Then I’ll make some ‘new home’ and ‘sympathy’ cards. I sell handmade cards through the gym (for charity) and I noticed this morning these sections are almost empty. I also have a couple of small bits of sewing to do (not my favourite job but needs must) and finally, I want to read this months Slimming Magazine so shall sit down later with a cup of coffee and NO slice of cake (silently chanting my current mantra of two and half pounds, two and a half pounds…).

I enjoy a day like this – nothing out of the ordinary, just spending time chatting to friends and ‘pottering’ at home.  Husband is pottering in the garden – i.e. fixing the new bird feeder to the wall. No work today which makes it extra nice!

I hope you’re having a good day too.