New Year's Eve, Sleepfest or Spanx?

Would it be wrong to not go out New Year's Eve?  Would it be frumpy to go to sleep and not see the new year arrive with the serenade of mulitcoloured ariel explosions?   Traditionally we would go to a neighbour's home for eats and a chitchat.  We took turns in the cul de sac that we used to live in to host the event.  Food was brought by all and a true feast festooned the table.  We dressed in finery and exchanged news on the year's events,  how much the children had grown, what school, university they were now at, and established whether we were all still at XYZ company and agreed that payrises are non existant.  You know the conversation don't you?  You know what happens then too, one or other of you diverts attention to the food table and reaches for the vol au vent that you don't really want on your hips but better there than thinking of something else to say. Nonetheless this familiar companionship was reassuring in its predictability.  A comfort blanket to wrap around ourselves for the arrival of the new and unknown.

There have been years in which I slept through the ringing in of the new year. When my children were very young and I was desperately grabbing sleep, all the sleep I could get.  In those years I didn't feel guilty, I was too tired to feel anything let alone guilt or frumpdom. Yet now I have no excuse, I would be making a positive choice to 'do nothing.'  There needs to be a sexier name for this. When asked what I am doing for the New Year I want to positively affirm 'I am going to a bedbash, or a sleepfest.'  Mr Him currently wants to go out to our local social club but I'm hoping that if I tell him the alternative is a 'bedbash' he may change his mind, or not.

Yet there is an alternative, to invite a few friends to our house for nibbles and drinks.  Friends means conversation that is deep, humourous and the vol au vents stay on a plate in the centre of the table. Friends aren't so much the comfort blanket but the Spanx to support us during the arrival of the new. Friends know where to hold you in over the coming year. They know your problem bulges and stress muffins.

So Mr Him and I will either rally up our Spanx who are currently planning on being at home in their own frumpdom or we will go to a sleepfest.  Either way we will not be going out.


We went out!

I cossetted myself in a shawl and companionship.  We went to friends for a quiet evening in to be comfortable and peaceful in welcoming in the new year.

The one about Tartan

Highland Fling
There's a preponderance of tartan around necks nowadays in England and Pinterest.  I have yet to buy into this trend as I am struggling to find the exact colour scheme that will match my complexion.  It will be very last year when I do, especially as January is arriving fast.   The lack of a plaid scarf won't stop me embracing all things Scottish as will be seen when I attempt the Highland fling at Hogmanay this year after a few Highland spirits, or maybe I’ll stick with the spirits and forget the fling on these creaky knees.

I am old enough to remember British Caledonian uniforms and indeed wearing kilts during the last Tartan Revolution. I was in my 20s then. I will state now that I will not be revisiting the kilt. I can only see that as Highland mutton dressed as lowland Lamb, in my case at least.  The wrinkles on my face are quite busy enough without being accompanied with a checkerboard pleat skirt held together with a hefty safety pin.  Yet I do love the ‘All things Highland' fashion, the wider picture.   There I find  scope for a person of mid age such as myself, especially as All Things Highland includes medicinal whisky, Drambuie and shortbread biscuits, not to mention wool and faux furs, and a tartan scarf, if I can find the right shade. I will make it clear that I will not be embracing bagpipes, not personally, and that will surely please my family and neighbours. 

So far my nod to All Things Highland is bed linen.  I found this plaid set in a sale.  The cushion was an extravagance but I think its cosy for a bedroom in
winter. The real selling point to me was that it’s reversible.  I can have a tartan week and if he asks for a stag weekend I can turn it over, perhaps to his disappointment, but that would be another story. 

This set reminds me of castles with  thick stone walls, wall sconces,  roaring fires and a lonely bagpiper piping in the misty mornings.  This is a sound not of dreams and imaginings as one of our neighbours used to be heard playing the pipes over our Sussex fields on a Sunday morning, bringing sounds of his homeland to our village.   There was romance in the instrument being piped as I cooked the family meal.

Another little nod I made to the trend was to make myself comfortable in a newly 'Highland' refurbished local village pub and enjoy a mulled wine last week.  There was a slight twist to the decor, instead of a stags head on the wall there was cowhide on the floor and a chesterfield sofa.

Christmas Drinks and Icing

Mr Him's Sloe Gin
Mulled wine

Its been a strange week.  I'm finding it hard to get into the Xmas spirit, even though I've tried.  I've tried in the village pub with a mulled wine, I've tried at home with Mr Him's sloe gin

Frankie & Bennys
 and I've tried with a French Martini at Frankie &  Bennys ( a chain of  old style New York bars.)  
French Martini (yum)

Sloe Gin making is an autumn tradition in our house. It is a well organised operation that involves Mr Him taking me into the countryside in the spring to scope out the location of blossoming Blackthorn trees.  The sites of his target are mapped in his brain and stored until needed in the autumn.  Then once again, as the frost arrives, Mr Him ventures into the countryside with a container and climbs his targets, foraging for fruits.  It should be noted that these two trips, are the only ventures Mr Him makes into the countryside, without persuasion. 

Meanwhile I stand by laughing and worrying, in that order. The Sloes are then poured into a demijohn along with gin and sugar.  Over the next few weeks Mr Him ventures into  a dark cupboard everyday and shakes.   He tells me its the gin he's shaking but who knows in that dark understairs cupboard.  Towards the end of autumn its filtered daily over a week.  
Sloe gin factory in kitchen

Mr Him is not the only one who prepares for Xmas.  I have made the Xmas cakes, as you know,  (Christmas Cake and Eccentric Brits). I  decided to take the plunge and ice them, gritter effect or not.  I seem to have succeeded which is the end to one tradition, snow and gritter effect icing.

Cake nut free for young online shopping genius

cake for rest of the family
To reassure you that alcohol is not the only beverage that features in my life I did also this week visit the coca cola truck, Holiday's are coming.  

The Christmas Cake and Eccentric Brits

Christmas preparations for some in the UK, including me, involve soaking a homemade fruitcake in copious quantities of brandy.  Once the cake is suitably tanked we traditionally cover it with a yellow plasticine like paste made from almonds then smother a mix of raw egg white and sugar on it to harden and little plastic decorations stuck in to make pristine white snow scenes.  This concoction is then said to be ready and delicious.  It's served for tea on Christmas day to which everyone who is invited to partake politely declines as they either cannot stand Christmas cake or are still full from lunch. 

A new tradition has emerged in recent years,  buying Christmas cake from supermarket already pasted with marzipan, iced and decorated and still declined at teatime.  For my part I still make a cake but I do not make the traditional heavy duty millstone.  Instead I use a recipe that involves English tea instead of butter.  Yes my cake drinks tea and brandy,like me.  The result is a light fruit cake that is fat free but sozzled, again like me.  Additionally I don't put a sheet of yellow almond paste over it as I make my cake nut free.  

That leaves me traditionally with the challenge of decorating and not getting bits of cake in the icing as the marzipan would act as a barrier.  Last year I stuck my gastronomic fingers up at the challenge and  embraced my 'snow after the gritter has been through' affect. 

My cake is made. This year I've cut it into 2 so as the young on line shopping genius can take a piece away with her to Devon. 

Last Saturday Mr Him and I found we were both  feeding it brandy.  Forget the icing, gritter affect or not,  we'll just drink the cake this year.  

This was a new bottle!

If you think what we Brits do to our Christmas cake is eccentric you should see what we do to our Christmas pudding. 

War of the Worlds on Woking

A few weeks ago I witnessed the Shard looking as if it  had a leading part in a interplanetary conflict that would do HG Wells proud. Alternatively it was practicing for a the Christmas episode of Dr Who and flexing its muscles to take on a Dalek.

Yesterday Mr Him and I  went to see, or rather hear, HG Well's planetary  battle, Jeff Wayne's musical version of The War of the Worlds was on in Brighton.  The show was fabulous and made even more so by the presence of the live, 3d, in the flesh Jason Donavon, and conducted by Jeff Wayne himself.

HG Wells wrote the story when he lived in a Victorian house in Woking. The concept apparently was what would happen if there was an alien invasion on Horsell Common, near Woking. Now until the arrival of Carluccios I was with Wellsy on that one.  Would the world notice an alien invasion on Woking or even care?  I know Woking very well and am glad to say that now that Carluccio's has opened there I would be one of the first to defend the town, well Carluccio's, in any such battle.  Prior to the opening of Carluccio's I was preparing to build my own Voyager and summon the Martians myself.  In the town's defense, it is the only one I know with a, dare I say life-size, Martian in its town centre.

The Woking Martian Tripod

Woking, an unlikely town hero is also  Malice in The Jam's Town called Malice.

As for the the clothes thing.  I wore the Dolce & Gabana suede skirt seen in the 'blouse and roast potatoes' blog,  the scarf from the wine blog,  necklace from '30 divided by zero' blog.  Don't say I don't recycle.  Added to the mix is a new viewing for you but 2 year old purchase of mine,  Renee cascade twinset in black.

Christmas Jumper and a Nero's Mince Pie

It's that time isn't it,  and this year I have succumbed.  Not from choice, dear reader. No, because my colleagues  decided that for our departmental lunch we had to, absolutely had to, wear Christmas jumpers, that Great new British phenomena that has taken us by 'explosive cyclogenisis'.  Yikes! What's a discerning tvshopaholic to do?  Decline the lunch or wear a jumper ringing out Ding Dong Merrily every time someone squeezed passed me?  A dilemma dear reader.

I enjoy socialising too much to totally discard option two.  Yet didn't we cringe when we saw them in Bridget Jones, dear reader. We were meant to!  They were cringeworthy.  Now, to the absolute horror of myself, a dedicated connoisseur of  clothes, I found myself having to own one.

For something that I may only wear once I went to a surprising amount of trouble.  I toured the high street for just the right texture, colour and design.  After marching in and out of the high street stores I declared it useless and vowed to google 'Christmas jumper' 'glamorous' as soon as I got home and order online. However with time pressing I reflected and on Sunday as the supermarket was about to close and therefore be quiet I snuck down and lurked amongst the rails of jumpers.  Not only did I find the one, the jumper, discrete, with penguins,  I also found a friend, equally shiftily rummaging along the knit wear, guiltily purchasing for her office lunch.

So dear reader, having procured my jumper  along with  a packet of tomatoes and bunch of celery, that I was pretending to Mr Him  I had gone out for, you can imagine my disappointment at not wearing it let alone attending the lunch.

Thursday night I was taken ill and found myself  on Friday not consuming turkey and trimmings as pre-ordered but paracetamol by drip in hospital, and not a Christmas jumper in sight.  It appears that the very thought of a I, a TVshopaholic, wearing such an abomination as a Christmas jumper (discrete with penguins) in public  brought about a stress migraine in the vicinity of where I would wear such  an eyesore, the tummy.    The stress of the lovely sticky hospital bracelet is another migraine to happen let alone the complete body migraine from the hospital gown.

As for the lunch, my colleagues kindly texted me to say they were raising a toast to me, poor consolation for missing lunch.  I did manage a mince pie (from Nero) on the sofa late afternoon watching my favourite channel  doing what I do best, TV shopping.  That app got tapped.

Lunch would have been so much cheaper, jumper included.

The Serious One, about Wine

On Friday we strolled along a local festive light strewn street and made our way to a wine cellar for  a tasting event.

I am now about to tell you something that will stun you, dear readers from California and France.  In Britain we do make wine and sparkling at that.  There you are, our secret is out.  With the warmer climate we have been having vineyards are popping up in the South of the UK like rabbits, from Cornwall to Kent. We aren't knocking out rubbish either.  Our local vineyard has made a sparking wine that beat Bollinger in blind tastings, so I was told.

Whilst sampling the local bubbly I listened to the benefits of our local soil and climate on vine growing.  Apparently we are 70 miles from Champagne as the crow flies and our subsoil, being limestone, is similar. The Champagne subsoil dips under the channel then pops up at the South Downs of England or thereabouts and the South Downs themselves provide a rain shadow.  This means that, to my absolute delight I live in the goldilocks zone of wine making in Britain, or one of them.  

I made numerous notes as I drank.  It appears, from my scrawls, that the dimness of the room combined with  several half glasses of sparkling caused me to become quite deluded in my Mr Him.  I can think of no other explanation for my last notation. 

Once the buds burst in the spring the vines must be protected from frost, which in the UK is still a risk in April.   This means dedicated people go out at night once the thermometer reaches 1 degree and light tin pots of paraffin wax walking them down the rows so as the warm air mixes over the vines and frost does not settle.  I can tell you, dear reader, that if those dedicated peoples didn't do so I certainly would be tempted to heat up the air around those said dedicated peoples  with a bit of nagging. 

The buds have to survive until June.  Then, as summer arrives, the flower emerges along with tennis whites. Wimbledon is upon us and we know what happens then, rain.  Wine making in Britain is not a venture to take on lightly.  

At one time, in France, it was thought sparkling wine was the work of the Devil and a monk called Don Perignon was tasked with  removing the bubbles that had formed naturally. However across the channel, London was reveling in sparkling wine and artificially creating bubbles by adding yeast.  This caused the continentals  to go back to Don Perignon and say 'Hey, Monksy, put the bubbles back, we were wrong,' or something rather like that.

Rain, frost and tin pots of paraffin aside our local vineyard has produced award winning sparkling wine, including the 2010 best sparkling wine in the world.

During the evening we tried very generous measures, half glass each time, of 6 different vintages and grapes. With each pouring the room got louder and conversations more bubbly.  English reserve was set aside and the cellar became a venue of first names and handshakes, some laughter too.

PS  I'm making use of my animal print scarf, fashionably long and tassled,  to adorn my jean clad knees

The Gargoyle, the Witch and the Vertical food, (not by CS Lewis)

It's been a busy week.  I was at a conference in London for 2 days. (see When seeing red in the city is a good thing.) I went to a Christmas market, a wine tasting and it was  the young online shopping genius 20th this week for which I purchased a meal.  Being the mother of a 20 year old requires some commiseration and lots of face cream.  This has been emphasised by the appearance of The Witch to a mirror near me  in the mornings.

Followers on twitter will be aware that she had been visiting me in the mornings.  I found her lurking behind glass, any glass that I wandered past.  She was incredibly opportunistic.  The first time I spotted her she had hair like twigs, sort of prongs protruding  at all angles.  Her eyes were wide with a crazed stare.  On the first occasion she had disappeared by the time I had emerged from the bathroom.  Once she became more persistant she would remain all day, and follow me to work.  I do warn you, dear reader, as many of my twitterati claim to have seen her in their bedrooms.  Women tend to be her victims.  

One day   I saw her on the platform at the station as I waited for my train.  Again she was behind glass. However the authorities seem to be aware as there was a warning on the front page of the paper. 

I have not figured out her purpose other than sheer fright.   One of my readers advised me that his gran was visited by the witch and she found vanishing cream effective. A work colleague suggested that covering all mirrors with a cloth at night may work.

I have tried many potions, pentagrams and  spells,  Some from my favourite channel over the last few weeks but the witch's wrinkles are chasmous and numerous and the hair too crusty.   She needed a good hair day and she wasn't getting it from me. 

Then one day last weekend I   had my hair cut.  The witch disappeared but I am now visited by a gargoyle.  This causes me to burst into raucous laughter every morning which is a better start to the day.  Having dealt with the witch I was more readily able to enjoy The Birthday even if I was laughing manically.   Well when you're old enough to have a 20 year old there is no point in worrying about The Witch so might as well laugh at the Gargoyle, whilst the teeth remain. 

For the young online shopping genius' birthday, who incidentally is not visited by a witch or gargoyle, we went out for a meal at Zizzi.  This is a chain in  UK specialising in Italian food.  

The young online shopping genius decided that as she had eaten horizontal food for the first 20 years of her life she would now try vertical food.  It tasted the same, dear reader. 

For those of you interested in attire and adornments I made use of a Tiana B dress and Lola Rosa beads from The Channel with a splash of red on my nails, of course.  

When seeing red in the city is a good thing

Dear reader,  this week I attended a conference in the city of London.  The subject was payments and how I would be shopping in Europe online sometime soon. As an intrepid shopaholic I found it necessary to explore this subject for the well being of my Guess purse.  Oh it was worth it dear reader.  I discovered in the future I may be able to  shop on Rodeo Drive from my settee in Sussex. 

Over the years I have seen the attire of the city loosen enormously from stand up collars and pearls to, well, just pearls, from striped shirts and red braces to sod the braces I'll wear a belt. 

So you can imagine my delight at witnessing flamboyance emerging from the city quarter. Mingling amongst the grey and black I saw a glimmer of spring as a jacket that would put  Hampton Court flower show to shame bobbed around the hall, swaying not so much in the breeze but from the after conference aperetifs.   The red braces of the 1980s were replaced by red bags, red glasses frames, red big bold statement jewellery,  red ties,  red belts and nails, well red, or pink, anything the delegates thought they could get away with.  


The conference attendees  were  a reflection of their city,  red buses and telehone boxes reflected in the garnish that they wore. 

For my part I wore a navy skirt and a delightful blouse with rams heads all over, and peals, of course.    As for the blouse well,  in city parlance I didn't have one with a bull,  bear or stag on so rams had to do. Oh and as I hadn't had the foresight to wear red  I grabbed a bowl of strawberries to accessorise my outfit. 

The next day I went for the 'Scandal'  look and wore a pearl necklace and pearl earrings.  How decadent is that!  Also a silk scarf.  I was really rocking the 'city'. I didn't stop there,  I adorned my wrist with a bronze starfish. 

I left the conference with the promise of my online shopping experience expanding and a vow to dig out my red bag and make full use of it. 

The one with the sombrero and Woo-woo

Dear Reader, Mr Him advised me earlier this week that  we were to go on a date night on Saturday. The appointed day arrived and I used my nails varnish from favourite channel, bathed in rose bath milk, (amongst our managerie we don't have an ass) and since Wednesday I had been plastering myself in a face mask  in preparedness. 

We went to a local,  if you call a train trip local,  Mexican restaurant. 

Starters were frozen strawberry daiquiris with a side order of me wearing a sombrero. Handily the restaurant scatters 'help yourself to a sombreros' around just in case you get the urge to dress up.  Mr Him got the urge that I should dress up. 

 Mr  Him's main was chicken skewers and peppers (no carbs please note dear reader). Mine was a burrito, now with a side order of me wearing a moustache.

Dessert was a delicious popcorn cheesecake which I couldn't finish and I was given a doggy bag with extra chocolate sauce to take home.  To my relief the only side order was a woo-woo and didn't involve dressing up, mainly because the waitress misunderstood him and brought me a cocktail.  Thank goodness. 

I did wear the blouse, and it did make an appearance on facebook. You are to be impressed by the fact that I have made such frequent use of this blouse over the last 6 weeks. 

The Underhand Revenge of the Groceries

You may wonder what made me explore the online world of car parts and groceries at the weekend.  It's a sorry tale, well I was very sorry and so was Mr Him when he found himself on a protein diet.  The tale I will now tell. 
To great gossip our supermarket has lost its frontage, backage and aisledge.  No walls what's over.  In less than a week it had turned from aisles of cabbages and king size sheets  to aisles of cable stalactites. I know this as I've glimpsed inside the carcass that was Oh Great Supermarket,  the Temple of Chocolate and Sauv Blanc. 

I had a plan though cunning as it was,  to go under cover of darkness to the neighbouring town and borrow their supermarket.  It would be a covert and quick operation.   A TVshopaholic could surely pull off such a feat when it involved purchasing.

Dressed in grunge and carrying concealed shopping bags up my jumper  I slipped into my reconnaissance  vehicle which was conveniently smeared with mud.   All the better to slip into the carpark unnoticed.  My car refused to start.  Not even a whimper. I had stalled at the first challenge.  

There was nothing for it but to phone a friend and get a lift to nearest drinking establishment and ponder how to advance the extraction of groceries. 
A  Baileys and sambucca, goodness knows why, later, I had hatched grocery retrieval Plan B.  This was clearly the drink of inspiration, or delusion.   

Plan B was simple but sharp.   Text daughter and organise a lift to next town for dawn raid.  

All was well and the plan was on target  up to the point the clock struck dawn.  At that precise moment  the Baileys struck .  I had been the victim of  a cunning and evil preemptive strike.  The Baileys tore into me all morning and Plan B had to be abandoned. Once I recovered from the underhand and surprise attack of the creme liquor,  around midday, I realised I was beaten.   I was not going to be able to borrow next town's supermarket.  

I needed to investigate other solutions to the status of empty fridge.  It was time for surrender to  online supermarket shop .  Dear reader,  you know the outcome of this. Suffice to say Mr Him is still enjoying his South African protein cereal to build his stamina and sporting prowess.  ( see Motor Parts and Groceries)

As for the car, the young online shopping genius lent me her automotive engineer who told me the alternator had gone in the car. Again I surfed the net and ordered the appropriate part. 

That dear reader is why I'm a TVshopaholic, albeit with the flexibility to explore online and my deal local supermarket when it's necessary.  Dealing with real life 3d shopping in pastures new last weekend merely caused me to enter into subterfuge only to be beaten by the underhand revenge of the groceries by Baileys Most Foul.  

The current status is that an alternator is in a box in the hall, the automotive engineer is due tomorrow if young online shopping genius gives him freedom and I am about to open laptop and submit another online grocery order.  

Motor parts and Groceries

This week dear reader I ventured into a new arena regarding my purchasing.  For the purists among you this may not count as it wasn't from my favourite channel.  However I am not a purist by any feat of the imagination and my favorite channel won't sell alternators however much I email it.  

Yes, I decided I was so successful at TV and online shopping that it was time  to venture into online car repairs. I am now the proud owner of a new alternator.  

Next challenge is to order an automotive engineer to fit it!  I'm hoping.the young online shopping genius can help me as she has  one. He doesn't come from China but she might keep him in her Ottoman.  In fact looking back on it may be it was two Automans she had wanted not Ottomans.  Oh well I'm not sending them back.  

My other dalliance was ordering my weekly groceries online.  There was something deliciously decadent about receiving a text at 8 am on Sunday telling me my shopping had been packed and was on its way along with Dan, phone number provided to me.  

Oh yes decadence indeed that whilst I slept in on Sunday someone other than me was wandering the corridors of washing up liquid and toilet duck on my family's behalf.  

Dan was due between 9 and 10. After delays in traffic and a flat tyre ( I pointed Dan in the direction of online car repairs)  the groceries trundled up my path at 12.30. 

Mr Him had kindly stayed at home to await the wandering groceries whilst I went out for brunch with relatives. 

He was none too pleased that they were rather tardy arriving not to mention that the cereal I had ordered for him was a South African protein powder to increase his performance,  endurance, survival and sport.  Dear reader, I must confess that I did also aquire for him online a jog around a park.  He can now run around a park at 9 am every Saturday wherever he might be in the world, work or holiday.  He is not yet fully delighted but once the slimline svelt Mr Him breaks out I will be. 

To my credit,  I did bring him home 2 sausages and a bacon slice from my plate, along with a hashbrown which to his dismay I gave to the chickens, advising him that he was on a protein diet, one which to that point he hadn't realised he was on. As if the cereal wasn't a clue!

As a side note I wore the zero cost per wear necklace to brunch which ruined my maths. Cost per wear is now in the region of £30.  I haven't decided whether this makes brunch expensive or the necklace.  There's only one thing for it,  to go to brunch every Sunday and wear said necklace.  There's no need for us to both suffer the diet Mr Him is now on.

Making of Rhubarb Gin

How I made Rhubarb Gin and Mr Him does a BBQ See he's still being sensible. Maybe I should pour the gin down him! No. That would be a...