It’s a girl thing

I know that there are at least a couple of men who regularly take a look at my blog and in the interests of equality I have to say that you are most welcome to continue reading this post, indeed it may even interest you, but I’m just warning you – it’s a very girly subject and I don’t want to upset anyone’s sensibility . It’s so girly in fact that I’ve even borrowed my friend Leigh’s blog name for the title of this post because it really is a girl thing.


I am SO fed up with buying  trying to buy bras. I have friends who pick up bras from M&S or similar, choosing a colour and a style that they like the look of  and barely looking at the actual construction, and they just know they’ll fit. I have other friends who buy from a specialist lingerie shop and again, seem to have no problems. I even have one friend who picks up bras from supermarkets in packs of two, throws them in her trolley (you know who you are) and says ‘they’ll do’.  But when you are, let’s say, generously endowed, buying bras is nothing short of a nightmare. It seems that if you’re a B cup, you’re catered for pretty much anywhere. There’s not a great deal to accommodate and it’s a lot easier to adjust the bra you’ve chosen so that it fits comfortably. There are other advantages – you can buy shirts and blouses in unforgiving materials and so long as they’re your size, you’re sorted. Not so if you are a little larger: if it fits your bust it’s too large on the shoulders; if it fits correctly on the shoulders, the buttons won’t fasten. And it gapes – it always gapes. A small accolade for M&S here – they invented a double button style which has additional buttons that do up on the inside and this does help but it’s limited to only a few garments each season. I digress – back to bra buying.

For around twelve years, maybe even fifteen,  I bought repeated versions of the same bra which was sold by Ballet. Unfortunately the company went bust – pun intended. As soon as I heard this was happening, I bought up the entire remaining stock in my size from my usual store (five or six of them) and, having several already in use, was OK for quite a while. But one by one they went by the wayside and I struggled terribly to find anything which felt as comfortable or, in my opinion (and after all it was me wearing it), fitted so perfectly. It was time to find a suitable replacement style. For some timeI bought all kinds of bras, some better than others but none like my faithful Ballet style.  It was time to heed the advice and ‘get properly measured.’  Have you actually tried getting properly measured? I tried it. The results were, to say the least, interesting:

In John Lewis the recommended bra was excruciatingly tight around my back, though the ‘expert’ pronounced it a perfect fit. Apparently I was too used to ones that didn’t fit properly and was wearing them too loose. I trusted her, after all she was trained, so I handed over a small fortune and wore it the next day. By lunchtime I was back in the store to show here the deep red weals in my skin.

So I got  ‘properly  measured’ again, this time in Bravissimo (curiously a different measurement to John Lewis) and again parted with a not insubstantial amount of cash.  No red weals this time but the wire came so high under the armpit that every time I moved it felt as though I’d been stabbed.

The lady in Debenhams measured me differently again (The size matched John Lewis, the cup matched Bravissimo but neither combination matched all together). I felt as if I’d been put in a straight jacket; I could barely breathe! The larger size was certainly more comfortable even though the assistant adamantly told me was too big and would allow me to “fall beneath the wire!” I bought it and I didn’t fall beneath the wire but it soon be came clear (the first time I wore it) that the cup was too small. I may not have fallen below but I certainly rose above!

My final excursion into the world of expert bra fitters was an independent lingerie shop. Again I felt that the recommendations were too tight around my back but we eventually found one which seemed to be reasonably comfortable. I can’t bring myself to tell you how much I paid for the prettiest bra I’ve ever owned. Suffice to say it would have paid for a sizeable shop in Waitrose. But it was to wear with the dress I’d bought for my daughter’s wedding so I felt it was justified….until I’d been wearing it for about six hours. Feeling increasingly uncomfortable I went to my hotel room and discovered not only red weals but BLOOD! It had rubbed my skin so badly that I was bleeding!

No wonder so many women (or so we are told) wear the wrong size. Not only is measuring inconsistent but bras vary so much in size that it makes the whole thing completely pointless. What fits in one make doesn’t necessarily in another. What’s even more frustrating is that different bras in the same make don’t even fit the same. M&S please take note; your inconsistent sizing is probably the worst of the lot.

I gave up and decided to return to the trial & error method and trust my own judgement. I’ve found bras that fitted but none that are particularly comfortable and the shape of some is just plain weird.  I’ve given up trying them on in shops.  I now order online. I can try them at my leisure and with a variety of different clothes. Before Christmas I ordered four from M&S. None fitted well. Last month I sent an order to a specialist bra manufacturer for £350 worth (£70 each = desperation).  I returned them all – too large, too small, too scratchy, or too oddly shaped.

Even more desperately (and fast running out of time before I ended up with nothing in my bra drawer at all),  I returned to the M&S website. I ordered seven. At least the prices are reasonable. Despite all being labelled the same size, two were too tight at the back, one had straps so thin that I can’t imagine they’d have supported a 32A never mind me, one fitted at the back but the cup gaped, one was too large at the back and the sixth was just utterly hideous. The seventh looked curiously like the old favourite Bally bra. A little bit of stretch in the cup, comfortable at the back, straps that are just slightly wider than standard and not unattractive.

I tried it on… I smiled… I wore it the following day – all day…  I ordered four more of the same.


You have to hand it to M&S…


…it does sell exceedingly good leather gloves!

I have rather a liking for gloves, in particular leather ones, and specifically the ones sold by Marks and Spencer which offer outstanding value.  They are beautifully soft, especially so after just a few wearings. For many years I have been receiving them as gifts from my husband and daughter. I look after them and they serve me well. I refer here to the gloves rather than the husband and daughter, though I do try to take care of them too.  Daughter will testify to this as she was on the receiving end of a stern talk from her mother yesterday regarding a particular safety issue in which I regarded her to be negligent!

“I know,” she said, “It’s because you love me.” Spot on, daughter dear.

Back to M&S leather gloves: it’s rare for me to be without a pair (when outside, obviously) in the cold weather but I wear them not only for reasons of warmth. I like the look of them too and have colours to go with just about anything that I care to wear. Over the years some colours have been replaced as needed. I’m on the look out now for lime green ones and hope that M&S introduce this colour as, having tried other brands, I’ve found them not to be as good. I suppose there are exceptions but they probably come at an exceptional price!

Gloves have been worn as a fashion item for centuries, made from all manner of luxurious fabrics. In the past those worn by the upper classes were often lavishly embroidered or embellished with gemstones. I can’t imagine that sales today are anywhere near those reached in the fifties when women wore them for every occasion, including neat white cotton ones in summer. Following Audrey Hepburn’s look in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) long white gloves were considered very glamorous. The well groomed woman was expected to wear gloves in the city or town, when going to church, to lunch, dinner or a reception, to a dance, wedding or official function, and to the theatre.  It was expected that she remove them when eating, drinking or smoking, but not when shaking hands.

Initially worn only for protection (think workmen’s thick protective gloves and gauntlets worn for fighting), gloves have also been worn as part of custom and ritual practice by ancient societies, and as part of investiture ceremonies for monarchs where they symbolize the granting of tenure.  During the Middle Ages, knights were given a ceremonial glove to show understanding between he and the landowners. The knight was expected to provide military service and to be deprived of the glove for misdemeanor was considered very degrading.

The Fashion Museum in Bath (UK) is reputed to have one of the finest collections of gloves in the world:

Christmas break, Christmas cake


Nativity scene made by my son years ago.

I won’t be posting for the next couple of days as I’ll be a little tied up!  I spent much of yesterday cooking (some to eat and some to freeze) and preparing for guests.  We’ve spent an almost-Christmas evening with the same four friends many times and it’s always enjoyable. Supper is served buffet style and the drink flows. It was after midnight when they left … so a later night than I’m used to nowadays. I slept like a log.

My Christmas cake, lighter than a conventional one,  was made using the apple cake recipe that I’ve been using for years, but now topped with icing, glacé cherries, walnuts and almonds. Whilst I was at it I made a lemon & lime drizzle cake and froze it for later.

imageAt this time of year Magazines are full of recipes for leftover turkey. I never have any left over because by the time we’ve made Christmas night sandwiches it’s all used up. (What better than turkey and stuffing sandwiches with pickled onions on the side? Yum yum….one of the best Christmas traditions).  This year I deliberately bought an extra crown which I cooked and sliced and covered in peppercorn sauce and mushrooms. I now have several portions ready for use over the next few weeks.  I do find we have all kinds of  other leftovers though but I never waste anything. I like the challenge of creating meals from odds and ends!

At Slimming World this morning I’d gained half a pound. Without last night’s revelries I reckon that it would have been a half pound lost. After SW I got my hair done and then we’re off to visit friends this afternoon. This will be the 29th or 30th consecutive year (we’re not sure). We’ll exchange presents and drink wine and wonder where the last year has gone. Then, once home I’ll be preparing for tomorrow.

So that’s it for a couple of days. I wish you all a very merry Christmas indeed.


Bits and pieces

I won the Christmas raffle prize at slimming World. Our group leader does one of these herb & spice ‘crackers’ each year and I’ve always coveted it. I could, of course, make my own, or even just stock up on new jars but it’s just not the same as winning!


The ‘S’ in the middle is for star anise. I don’t think I’ve ever used it so look forward to trying it out. Apparently it is the fruit of an evergreen tree which is native to southern China and is mostly used in savoury dishes.

Our dedicated Slimming World group leader is running our usual Monday class on Sunday (Christmas eve) morning. The next class will run as usual the following Monday (New Year’s Day). All designed to keep us on the straight and narrow – though she’s not unrealistic! I think attending on New Year’s Day is a perfect time for a new start (and I’m sure to need it by then).

We had an unexpected overnight visitor last night. Youngest granddaughter decided that, at seven, she is now brave enough to stay over without her big sister (who has always been happy to stay unaccompanied). It was lovely to peep in late at night and see her fast asleep. They always look so gorgeous, don’t they?  I recently wrote about Elf (on the shelf). He came with her so we had to think of an adventure for him. Quite what he did, we have no idea, but he was found this morning driving a Playmobile dustcart and eating a happy hippo wafer biscuit. Granddaughter seemed happy with that.

I finished work yesterday for a thirteen day holiday. HOORAY!! Although we’re only closed for two days, because of how my work days fall, I’ve only had to take two days annual leave to get almost two weeks off. This morning eight of us gym ladies met for coffee and mince pies.  A couple of glasses of Bucks Fizz, shortbread, chocolates, macaroons and sausage rolls later, we got around to the coffee and mince pies!  We also had a secret Santa with restrictions ….no chocolate, no alcohol and a budget of £4. It certainly tests ingenuity! I received a useful shopping bag which folds up into a tiny package that fits into even a small handbag. If only I remember to take it with me! The boot of my car is always well stocked with shopping bags but do I remember to take them into the supermarket? Rarely.

My night-cramps have improved, though not completely disappeared. Peculiarly, it mostly attacks my shins or across my instep. Rarely does it occur in my calves which is, for most people, the common place.  Whether or not my four-pronged attack is working (see below) or I’m just going through a better phase, I really don’t know. The banana, in case you’re wondering is a source of magnesium, a lack of which is thought to be a cause of cramp. The Epsom salts are reputed to help. The hot water bottle is probably the greatest help. As soon as the warning comes (I feel a tightness in the muscle) I make sure the bottle is in the right place and it really does seem to ward it off. Fortunately by the time it’s cooled,  my legs seem to have relaxed. Who knows – perhaps it’s all in my mind.






Continued … a post about blogging

Following on from my recent (apparently well received judging by the comments left) post, I’m going to write a little about some of the other blogs I like to read. Links can be found on the right hand side of this page.

Simple Living 31 is hosted by Marlene who, like Jane at Shoestring Cottage loves a bargain and is kind enough to share her information about where to find them. Marlene’s blog has an added dimension though – she posts some fabulous photographs of birds, particularly those that visit her garden. I don’t know how she does it – visitors to mine are few and far between. It’s not like we have a cat or any other predatory resident. We even have a lovely safe, cosy (in bird terms) home for them but we never get any takers. Marlene also shares recipes and collects pretty china. Like many of us, she writes about whatever takes her fancy at the time (at least I think she does. It could be, of course, that she has it all planned out for months ahead! Do you, Marlene?)

Sue at the cottage at the end of a lane ( writes on similar themes. Having been self sufficient on a smallholding and campsite, she now lives in a Suffolk cottage where she shares with readers the ups and downs of life. It’s an interesting thing – most of the blogging community know each other only via our blogs and yet, in many ways, we know more about each other than, say, the people we see every day at work.

Food, finance, fitness, family and flowers…things that, to a greater or lesser degree, interest us all. Faith writes the Much more with less blog and has won awards for her financial writing and was a finalist in the UK Money blogging awards earlier in the year.  A bit like me, she dips in to any subject that takes her fancy. I really like her flower photography.but have to admit that her food posts and recipes are what interest me most.

I like people who find contentment in the every day and for this reason I enjoy Bless’s posts ( She has great ability to see good in the smallest things. She ends her posts with five things that she’s grateful for that day and its  a sharp reminder to celebrate the good in our lives.   A recent post describes the ceremony of almsgiving at the Buddhist temple which she attends and the sermon which focused on the importance of good friends – something which I have often mentioned as being of great consequence to me.  I always find it interesting to read about other cultures and beliefs. Earlier this year I visited a Buddhist temple and it was fascinating. I keep meaning to write a post about it. I will endeavour to do so soon.

Now to Leigh (it’s a girl thing) … what a coincidence that we both ended up becoming mature students in our fifties and studying similar degrees. Leigh did it whilst travelling around Europe in a motor home, and later England on a narrowboat! There’s dedication for you. During this time she’s also published a couple of books on direct selling and network marketing, another about her travels (from her dog, Martha’s perspective)  and yet still found time to write her blog on girl-stuff.

Finally mummy and me is written by Charlotte who, as well as having an academic career, writes travelogues for people who travel with young children. It’s not advice I need currently but Charlotte is a friend and its nice to keep up with what she’s doing.

And that’s enough about blogging for now. Tomorrow, I’m changing the subject!




A post about blogging

Today I’m going to blog about blogs! The post will be in two parts: Firstly I’ll talk about the blogs I enjoy.  Over on the right hand side of my blog page, you’ll see a list of links to Blogs I enjoy reading. I wonder if you’ve ever taken a look at any of them. I used to buy a lot of magazines but got disillusioned with the same stories and articles which seemed to do the rounds albeit slightly re-hashed. Given the steep cost of some of these magazines I decided to stop buying them. Good Housekeeping, one of my preferred ones, now costs £4.40. Astonishing! I occasionally pick up a used copy from the gym but for the most part, having a few favourite blogs that I can dip into when I want has filled the gap nicely. It’s like having my own online general interest magazine.

Part 1: Blogs I enjoy reading I’m not going to describe every one but here are a few of them with a short description of the reasons I enjoy them:

Margaret is a professional writer who lives in South Devon. I met her recently when I went to stay near to where she lives. She is such an interesting lady who has a great love for the subjects about which she writes which include day-to-day life, her family, home, antiques and cooking delicious food. She also takes some fabulous photographs of her own lovely part of England.

Jane at Shoestring Cottage writes, as you might guess by her blog name, about living on a budget. I guess we all have a budget of some kind and, if you’re like me, often wish it was a little larger.  Some of Jane’s ideas are too radical for me but she offers an interesting perspective on stretching that budget whilst still enjoying life.

Fancying France’s June describes her blog thus: The musings of a ‘femme d’un certain âge’ who longs to live in France. This describes it perfectly. Passionate about the food and wine, fashion and culture, she shares her love of all things French.

Frugalfashion is written by Penny. She’s a very stylish lady who loves to shop in charity shops and imparts her unique brand of fashion advice to those of us of a ‘certain age’.   Penny also writes a second blog which focuses on politics and other serious topics. This can be accessed from her fashion blog.

Starting over at Sixty is the story of Paula’s journey from finding herself unexpectedly alone at sixty to where she is today, a couple of years on. It is a very open, honest and thought-provoking account of how she has come to terms with her situation, ‘not just surviving, but thriving’ (to use her own words).

Part 2  This part will only be of interest to readers who have their own blogs.

I have become increasingly frustrated by the fact that several  Blogspot/Blogger blogs won’t allow me to leave comments because apparently, I am not authenticated (i.e. my WordPress credentials are not recognised by Blogger). This didn’t used to be a problem but I think the Blogspot platform must have had some changes made to it. However, I couldn’t understand this because there are other Blogspot blogs that I have no problem with. I’ve been investigating why this might be and it seems that other WordPress users are having the same issue.  I dug around the internet and this is what I have discovered. It all depends on what comment levels the blog owner has selected. If you have a Blogspot account, WordPress bloggers can only comment if the Blogspot owner has allowed comments from Name/URL. 

Obviously most people will not wish to accept anonymous contributors, but restricting it beyond this prevents contributors who don’t have Blogger (i.e. Google blog) account. So, if you’re a Blogger/Blogspot blog writer who reads mine and wonders why I never read yours – I probably do but I can’t leave comments (this applies to several that I read from time to time and am unable to comment on). You might want to consider the above.

To name just a few…


Simple living 31

Life in my empty nest

Meanwhile, I appreciate the comments from those of you who do. Thank you. I will always endeavor to respond.

POSTSCRIPT:  I am touched and delighted to report that within a very short time of posting this piece, some of my regular readers have already amended the access levels on their own blogs which will allow WordPress bloggers to join them. I really do enjoy the word of blogging and am loving being a part of it.

I do not like snow (but potatoes are good)

We’ve just made the national lunchtime news. Whilst gritters have been out in full force across the Midlands, in my local area snow ploughs have been deployed. I am not excited.


It looks like a black & white photo. It’s not – it’s just the way my garden looked when I got  up this morning. There was already a light covering of snow left over from yesterday which didn’t stop us doing anything but last night’s snowfall topped it up, and getting the car out of the close today is a task not worth attempting. Thank goodness for our ample food stocks; I have no need to go anywhere. Even Tesco Express, a five minute walk away is too far for me, though husband has been to fetch his newspaper. So important is this to him that I can’t think of a weather situation which would actually stop him!

Unlike most small children, from as far back as I can recall, I did not like snow. I considered it as too cold, too wet and too dangerous and was always afraid when my Dad went out to work in it. Of what, I have no idea but I can recall exactly how I felt. As an adult I detest it.  It is, I concede, one of nature’s prettiest decorations and I do not underestimate the magical atmosphere created by a (very light) sprinkling on Christmas Eve, but thicker snow worries me. I hate the thought of my children driving in it, of my grandchildren being driven around in it, of accidents and damage to cars and the associated costs. Snow makes me feel unnerved. I hate the feeling of helplessness, that I can do nothing to prevent it falling and, irrationally, I hate that snow covers up reality – it feels sinister. Yes, I get it – that’s weird!

I hear that my grandchildren are out enjoying building snowmen. Somewhere there is a photo of my very young sons with a snowman who even sported a snow-made top hat. Unfortunately I can’t locate it.  When my own children were young one of the books we most enjoyed reading together was this one:

Isn’t it odd that I should enjoy it so much? Written very much in the style of Dr. Seuss, it was really fun. I love reading with children as much as I hate snow!

My daughter watched The Snowman animated film (from Raymond Briggs wonderful book) endlessly as a little girl. I still watch it every year at Christmas. The pictures in the book are so beautifully drawn and the adaptation to film has been wonderfully done.

Enough of snow –  I just hope it melts very soon.  OH NO! No sooner did I type those words that it’s started again. The flakes are bigger than ever.

Meanwhile … … … I had the following pop-up onto my Facebook page earlier and thought I’d share it.  With the headline Potatoes – more than a bit on the side it’s a selection of recipes which showcase the potato rather than relegate it to the bit that fills up the space on the plate.  How fabulous does this look? Cheap, filling and nutritious, I often think that potatoes are overlooked when they can be used very successfully (and tastily) as the main ingredient of a dish. I shall definitely be investigating the site further.


My blog-friend Bless always finishes her posts with a list of five things that she’s grateful for and today I am going to do the same.

Today I’m grateful for:

  • a warm home
  • well stocked food cupboards
  • that my family and I don’t have to drive anywhere
  • that my Christmas presents are all bought and wrapped
  • my cosy slippers