Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pinterest: Homemaking

I love when I have time for getting our house neat and tidy. It's been lovely over this cool and crisp weekend to be able to get things organised a little and feel on top of chores a little more! I would love to have more time to devote to keeping things lovely, but alas, time's a precious, precious commodity and there just aren't enough hours in the day to get done all I'd like.

Still, we tick over nicely, and my list of things for the holidays grows....and grows.....and grows! One place I get a lot of inspiration for homemaking and doing things around the house has to be pinterest - there is such a wealth of tips and advice.

Here are a few pieces I've enjoyed recently.

I've wanted to make a proper household planner for a while now - I've tried and failed several times.  I think I might do one over Christmas to use in the new year - I seem to be getting more and more organised as I get older!

I can't wait to try this on some of our dingier linens!

I'm going to do this challenge throughout January - what better time than the post Christmas crazies to get our house, quite literally, in order? 31 days to get the house sorted.  I like it!

Soooooo many amazing tips.

Source: via Claire on Pinterest

I can't wait to do this one evening this week!  Love the idea of a cinnamon and orange scented home, yummy!

Modge podge-ing book pages onto canvas?  I think I'd like to do this for my Claire Lair....if I can bring myself to harm a book! 

Question time: What are your favourite chores?  What are your least favourite?

Sunday Social: Childhood

PS Details of my latest giveaway (for a parcel of fun!), can be found here.  Do feel free to join in - I love a good giveaway! 
Linking up once again with Neely for Sunday Social!  This week the focus is our childhoods.

1. What do you miss most about being a kid?

I miss the silliness, the energy, the possibilities. I was a total tomboy who loved to swim and run and cycle and climb trees.  I had a wild imagination and loved to write stories and poems and read books.  I still love to do all of those things, but life definitely gets in the way...

2. Did you have a nickname growing up? What was it?

Not really.  Claire-bear cropped up from time to time when I was very small, but never really stuck.  When I went to boarding school, age 11, we had a terrifying but very good music teacher called, well, let's just call her Miss C. She had a tradition of giving you a nickname in her very first lesson, a nickname which would be yours until you left the school.  I was a little afraid - what would mine possibly be?  She looked me up and down, looked at my name on the register and then said "Thornley....well, your nickname will have to be Prickles."  The hedgehog became one of my favourite animal shortly after, and the nickname stuck throughout my five years at that school.  I got off lightly compared to some of the other nicknames given!

3. What was your favorite thing to do at recess?

Play games with my friends, run, or read.

4. What did you want to be when you grew up?

A teacher, a writer, a singer, a newcaster, or a mummy.

5. What was your favorite toy?

I loved Lego (my parents still have tonnes of our old Lego at home!), was devoted to my teddy, Jockey Bear, was a very good adoptive mama to my Cabbage Patch Kid, Janet, and was never happier than when reading a book.

6. What is the funniest thing you did as a kid that your parents still remind you about?

Probably the cauliflower story.  When I was wee, my mummy took me shopping up the street.  While she was chatting in the greengrocers, I evidently decided that I was hungry, and started to reach out of my pushchair for a snack.  Did I snaffle an apple?  Some cherries?  No.

I picked up a cauliflower and merrily started munching away (I've always loved veggies!).  My mum glanced down to see her dainty wee dot of a toddler chowing down on a big, raw cauliflower.  When I grew up I had my first proper job in that same greengrocers - auld wifies would come in the shop who remembered my antics!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Thank you

For everything you lovely people bring into my life, thank you.  Thank you for reading, commenting, believing, inspiring and sharing.  I really do feel so blessed to be able to write and share my little life here, and to be able to do this wonderful life alongside you all.  Your kindnesses and understanding mean more to me than I think I'll ever be able to communicate.  So thank you.

I Love Your Blog: Permanent Title Currently Under Construction

The fourth installment of my 'I Love Your Blog' series turns to the blog of my dear friend, Christy, Permanent Title Currently Under Construction.  She and I started blogging about the same time and I've been an avid reader of her blog ever since.  Even better, I now get to count her as a very dear friend.  She's an utter gem, and it was great to get her input on this!  Thanks, honey. Here are my questions and her answers:

How long have you been blogging? 
I've been blogging since March 2005.  So about 7.5 years.  WOW!

What do you blog about? Do you have a specific goal with your blog (i.e. reviewing products, using it as a ministry, promoting a business), or is it more a record of your life?
 My blog is a record of my life.  It's mostly about my travels, my experiences in Toronto, the books I read, and it's a lot about music.  If you need to find new music, read my blog, because I'm pretty sure that every second post contains an album recommendation.

What is your favourite thing about blogging? 
 My favourite thing about blogging is definitely the friendships that I've made through it.  I had no idea that would happen when I started.  I've met a lot of people IRL from blogging, and some of them have been great friends of mine for upwards of five years.  Most of them live far away, but through Skype/Facebook/MSN etc. we've been able to develop friendships over the miles.

Of course, I feel that blogging has made me a more comfortable with writing.  After about a year of blogging, I was amazed at how much easier it was for me to write anything.  My thoughts flow through my fingers so easily.  I'd love to carry this over into creative writing, but can never find the time.

The other thing I like about blogging is that I have this awesome archive of my life.  If I'm feeling down about myself, I scan my archives and find myself thinking "hey! I'm cheering for this girl!'  It's become a nice little boost.

What is your least favourite thing about blogging? 
 My least favourite thing about blogging is when long-time bloggers stop blogging.  I always understand their reasons for stopping, but I miss them nonetheless.

Do you have any favourite posts on your blog – pieces you’re really proud of, which document something special, or which seemed to strike a chord with your readers? 
 I think my fave post was a very personal post that I wrote about my mom's struggle with MS.  I don't talk about it much and I was glad that I opened up about it.

Whose blogs do you love?
 Blogs that I love include yours, of course, Miss Ash's (, SCVD's (, and any of the ones on my blog-roll that are infrequently updated or defunct.  I also get a kick out of WIGSF (, because he'll either quote something obscure from the Simpsons, tell a hilarious story about his dad, or write something that offends me, so I'll leave a rant about my love for the CBC, the environment, new music, etc.

As for a recommendation for you, you need to start reading Cafe Jabbacino (  I met her twice IRL this year (once in Toronto, once in Victoria) and she's awesome!  She's a big reader, crafter, cat-lover, and a great cartoonist.  Go read it now!  You and Jabba should become blog buddies too!

Do you have a topic or a theme you especially like writing on? 
I love writing about music and books. A lot.

You're a teacher - do any of your students/colleagues know you blog or do you prefer to be incognito? 
 None of my students know about my blog.  For the longest time, I wouldn't mention that I blog to any of my colleagues, even those with whom I was developing close friendships because I didn't want to mix work and blogging.  Eventually I started to open up a little bit about it to my very close friends from work because our friendships were surpassing being colleagues.  Because I've met so many friends from my blog, it became difficult not to talk about it with people who were close friends.  However, none of them have ever asked to read it, and never have to my knowledge.

Do you like meeting and connecting with your fellow bloggers? 
I LOVE IT.  This summer was the summer of the blog, and I visited/traveled with five other bloggers!

What tips do you have for bloggers growing and nurturing their blogs?
My biggest tip would be not to worry about having your blog fit into a specific template, and not to worry about attracting an audience.  Just write about what you want to write about and all of the great benefits of blogging will come from you being yourself.  :)

Thank you so much for taking part, Christy!

PS Details of my latest giveaway (for a parcel of fun!), can be found here.  Do feel free to join in - I love a good giveaway! 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Back on track

September's an odd month, health wise.

I'm so busy I vary wildly from eating far too much (the return of school lunches, birthday doughnuts and late night snacks grabbed after marking) to not eating enough (waking up faint and with excruciating leg cramp one morning this week as I'd eaten and drunk far too little the day before -oops!). 

Exercise has gone the way expected, dropping to a measly hour a week of walking, and in October I'm looking forward to prioritising this aspect.  I can hear the home gym calling me....I just need to respond!

One element of health I've done far better with is getting enough rest.  It might sound simple, but this time last year I was on a downwards spiral and headed for migraines and misery.  This year I average 7 hours a night, with a big top up sleep each Friday.  I feel awesome for it.

So, the first month of trying to be healthy has been a mixed bag, but I am learning routines and habits that I hope will gain traction moving forward.  Here's hoping!

On being simple.

Before now, I've been described as simple, and not in a pleasant way. In a 'less than' way.

Like that's a bad thing.

Like loving rainbows and kittens and walks in the rain is bad.  Like a life of good books and dear friends and happiness and Christmas countdowns is a bad.  Like days spent happy, fulfilled and content are not as aspirational as striving, pushing and having one's elbows out at all times.

Now don't get me wrong, I have my own hopes and dreams.  But the whole rat race, the coming out on top, the driving ambition....I don't really understand it.

Maybe I am simple.  Maybe I'm not smart enough to be that way.

But I'm definitely happy.

I just like to smiling.  Smiling's my favourite.*

And keeping things simple, focusing in on what fulfils and energises me, helps me to smile. In fact, it's something I'm aiming for more and more as I get older.  The joy and comfort of simplicity makes me a better, happier person.  So simple I shall be.

* of course, I get mad and sad like everybody else (especially when I'm hungry and tired!).  And of course there are bad moments and horrible things that happen, and I, like everyone else, try my best to muddle through like everyone, but for the most part?  I'm a pretty happy girl.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Fun Giveaway!

As I mentioned in yesterday's, I'm doing a fall blog swap with a lovely blogger called Katie from California.  I hope her package is there or nearly there by now and that she loves her gifties.  While I was putting together her package (which I loved doing - making up 'Claire packages' is one of my main thrills in life!), I thought it would be nice to do another giveaway!

Earlier this year I selected a bunch of my favourite things, and had people enter a giveaway to have the items mailed to them in a package filled with joy!  The lovely Samantha won that giveaway, and I adored shopping for treats and little happies and books and things to share with her.  So I'm going to do the same now, but make it a bunch of my favourite 'autumn' things - the season of cold nights, Hallowe'en, bonfire night, back to school and the start of the holiday season.  I can't wait to put together a package for the winner!

To secure an entry in this giveaway you can:

1. Leave a comment on this post (please and thank you!)
2. Become a follower of this blog (or let me know in the comments if you already are!)
3. Blog about this giveaway, or link to this giveaway in a post on something else (let me know in the comments if you do so).
4. Tweet about this giveaway (let me know in the comments if you do so).
5. Become a fan of 'Country Mouse Claire' on facebook (button is on top left of the blog, let me know in the comments if you do so).
6. Sign up  to follow me on instagram, twitter, and/or pinterest (buttons above too, please let me know in the comments if you do so).

(One entry per item, maximum of eight entries per person)

I am so excited to hit John Lewis, Paperchase, Lakeland and Amazon to create a custom-made parcel for one of my lovely readers!  I won't make it until we have the winner, as I love to add a personal touch!

Good luck!

 Some of Sam's winnings - sweets and DVDs and books and stationery and yarn, oh mys!

This giveaway will run until 11 pm GMT on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Project Life Tuesday: September 16th-22nd

The Mom Creative
Linking up with Jessica as ever for Project Life Tuesday!  So glad I've been able to keep this going so long!   Last week was a busy one, full of friends and food and fun....and tonnes of work, too!  Here are the pics from the week that was.

Pretty Eileen at our games night on Saturday.
Matthew chose to be the 'Flying Ratmen' in Small World.  It was pretty clever!
I sent a package off to Cali for my fall blog swap partner, Katie.  I'm looking forward to seeing if she likes it!  It also inspired me to do another package based giveaway soon - I love making 'Claire packages!'.
The Tower on Friday night.  I love how many cool sights there are here in town!
Matthew and I went to Bodean's for our anniversary dinner (because we're classy like that ;)).  Absolutely delicious - their pulled pork sandwich is divine!
What's a celebration without a cake?
Thursday I met Matthew and his colleagues for drinks an a tonne of amazing Chinese food (Drunken Monkey in Shoreditch is brilliant - try the set menu!  Ooooh, and the English garden cocktail too!).
I made a cat out of a CAT script.  My class were suitably amused, and now he is our class messenger.
Cocktails and yumminess with Miss Laura last Sunday.  I really am so blessed to have such awesome friends.
We we we so excited.
My classroom in 'tidy' shocker.
Another fun, busy week - looking forward to seeing everyone else's posts!

When I Grow Up, I Want To Be Matilda...

Yesterday I watched a great webcast on Roald Dahl with my class (teacher friends, I'll link to it when the video becomes available).  I'm a huge fan of his work, having grown up reading his books avidly.  I've grown out of a few of them now, but some are still well worth a read.  None more than Matilda.  Is there a book better suited to a bookworm?

I don't think so.

I think I still want to be Matilda when I grow up!

Who is your favouriteDahl character?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Worth remembering

How lucky I am. And grateful as ever to count the blessings. Have a great week, all!

Sunday Social

Sunday Social

Taking time off from my lazy-busy weekend to do some blogging.  Don't you just love autumn?  Linking up for Sunday Social - such a fun way of meeting new, awesome folk.

1. What is something you have wanted to do but are afraid of?

I'd love to get back into doing (amateur) musical theatre.  I used to love being on stage, but a few bad experiences (re: some mean people who made me feel a little stupid and small and untalented!) put me off.  And then life got busy.  I'd love to be on stage again.
2. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

As corny as it is, I'd just like to be happy.  Maybe I'll be in London, maybe not.  Maybe I'll be married, maybe not.  Maybe I'll have kids, maybe not.  maybe I'll be teaching, maybe not.  So long as there are books and cats and cuddles and lie-ins, I'm sure I'll muddle through!
3. What are you looking forward to before the end of 2012?


And a trip to Bruges, a visit from the parents, catch ups with lovely folk, and no doubts lots of giggles, fun and silliness too!
4. What are your hopes for your blog?

I just hope I can keep writing and enjoying it, and whatever else happens I hope I can continue to do so. :)  The words and the connections are the heart of it all - anything else is an additional blessing.
5. Do you always see yourself living in your current town/city?

Honestly?  No.  But London has ways of surprising everyone, so I wouldn't bet the bank on that sentiment ;)  I think the country may claim me back one day, however...
6. What is your morning routine?

At the weekends my routine involves lots of coffee and time in pyjamas.  During the week it's alarm at 6, then wash/brush/spruce as required to be out the door clutching a coffee in my shiny travel mug by 6.30-ish.  To the tube, 45 minute tube journey across town (often with a seat, but not always....), up and out at Swiss Cottage, in the staff room by 7.30 for coffee and muesli, then either a 7.45 start (meetings) or 8 o'clock (boys arrive).  a crazy whirl first thing....I keep trying to psych myself up to rise at 5 and work out, but so dice!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Things I Like

Working hard.

The sweet and silly nature of eight year olds.

The mellow chill of autumn breezes.

Reading a book that makes you laugh and cry on the tube. Thanks, Caitlin Moran.

Saturday morning downtime.

Reading poetry to my class.

 Dreaming big.

Crunchy leaves.

Getting a seat on the tube.

 Vanilla lattes on a cold Wednesday afternoon.

 Breaking out the slow cooker.

The tang of autumn mornings.

Glancing at the 'Christmas' folder on my computer and thinking 'not yet'. But soon.

 Jacket potatoes with butter.

 A chorus of miaows and purrs when I arrive home from school.

 Curling up on the sofa and doing not much of anything.


A post from Poppet

Oh helloes!

I fort that as both Leela and Fry ad written two you all, I wood do a little pooter hijacking of my own!  My name is Poppet (or Pops, or Popsicle, or Honey, or Mamma-cat) and I am the biggest (and strongest, cleverest and most bootiful, if you ask me) of Maffoo and Clurs three katzen.  The wee wuns are only four months old but I am nearly TWO!

That makes me very growed up and importunt, don't yew think?

Anyhoo, I fort I would type a quick note to let you all no a little bit about me.  When I am not writin, I enjoys napping, fightin the itten katzen, and miaowing at Maffoo and Clur.  I have quite the range of miaows, from friendly greeting to heartfelt yowl of I-know-I-as-dinner-but-I-rilly-like-complaining.  I loves the weekends cos I gets lots of fusses, visiters come to pay omage, and I get to go OUTSIDE!

Witch is where I am off now.  Later, oomans!

Poppet 'I don't need a middle name' R.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy Badgerversary!

Image source

Happy anniversary, Matthew!  I can hardly believe it's been four years now that we've been partners in crime.  I love our silly, shiny, fun life together, and I'm so lucky to bimble through it all with a man as kind and funny and clever as you.  Thank you for believing in me always and for making me chuckle on a daily basis!  Love you oodles!
Image source

Five Minute Friday: Wide

Linking up with Lisa-Jo for five minutes of words and thinking amongst the hustle and bustle of this thing we call life.....

This week's prompt word is wide.


Sometimes the width gets to me.

The sheer scale of human-ness, of this life that we share, seems too big, too wide.

Mighty mountains, deep oceans, constant connectivity.  Money markets and twenty-four hour newcasts and political pointscoring.  Penguins marching across Antarctica, civil war in Syria, the iPhone 5.   

Sorrow deep enough to make your soul curl up into a ball - loves lost, hearts broken, paths forever changed.  A dark shadow on an X-ray, a moment gone awry.  Joy high and blessed and heavenly enough to make you wish for a pause button, to freeze forever that moment of joy - a newborn's cry, a first 'I love you', a soaring moment high above the workaday motions of cooking, cleaning, working.

There's so much to take in, so much to address.

But somewhere within this vastness, this width, this breadth, there are the simple things that join us all, whether we are in London, Fayetteville, Aruba or Beruit.  The joy of home, of belonging, of having somewhere to call your own.  The universality that children bring out in us all - to protect, to shield.  The bond of families - whether biological or created or a hotchpotch of friends who walk this journey with us.  The compulsion to believe - in God, in science, in music, in something.

And this narrow band, this commonality, makes the whole wide span of humanity all the more beautiful to observe....and a lot easier to understand.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pinterest: 38

The busier I get, the more I like to daydream about being at home, making things nice... I really love our house (number 38, hence the board name) and I have so many little (and big!) things I'd like to do.  From framing art to redesigning the garden, there's an endless to do list in my head.  I may just need to commit it to paper sometime soon, haha!

Here are a few lovely things I've 'pinned' recently!

I love the contrast of colour and muted tones on this. I'd love something a bit like this for our dining room, whenever it changes back from being a kitty hideout!

As a girl who loves a good countdown (96 days to Christmas, y'all), I can't help but think I need this in my life!

I adore this pillow. Cute and sweet and a little British too - parfait!

Source: via Claire on Pinterest

I would love this for our spare room! A great pop of colour, and the drawers would be ideal for storing linens! I am definitely saving for this when next I have some spare money.

Source: via Claire on Pinterest

Love this idea! I'd love to find a pallet to 'live' under the dining table or my desk...two prime cat hang outs!

Another dining room fave....or maybe the hallway? I really do need to make a list!

Happy Anniversary, Mum and Dad!

Congratulations on another fabulous year, and thank you for all you do for us!

I hope you have a great time celebrating!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Country Mouse In The City: Helping Holiday Hampers, and enjoying John Lewis

Image source

One of my main thrills in life is John Lewis.

The very pinnacle of British shopping, an afternoon spent there often includes wonderful purchases, a calm, steadying pace in a crazy world, and delicious tea and scones.  Whenever I'm meeting friends in town or at Stratford, JL is often high on the list of destinations!

So imagine my joy when I learned that my love of John Lewis and my love of helping others were about to crash together in the loveliest of ways...

For the next few months, the Junior League's wonderful Holiday Hampers project, which I help a little with, is to be one of the spotlit charities at John Lewis Oxford Street and Peter Jones Sloane Square. What this means is when you receive one of those little green discs with your receipt and head up to the restaurant for a refreshing cup of tea/ bowl of soup / glass of champagne (dahling), you can choose to bestow your green disc to one of three charities.  At the end of a given period the discs are counted up and the three charities split £3,000!  This would be such a monetary boost at this point in the year, when our project is really busy!

Which leads me neatly to talk about Holiday Hampers.  Hampers is a Junior League project which gives donations of food, gifts, books and toiletries to people in need at the holidays.  We support a wide range of partner agencies - from old folk living along, to women and children in refuges, to families coping with abject poverty in a country where being poor is becoming ever more treacherous.  In each hamper there is good, nutritious food, toiletries (and nice ones - a treat!), and a gift and a book for each member of the family.   What a blessing to be able to give in the season of giving.  Seeing the looks of joy on the faces of the people we help, their happiness at being remembered, treasured,'s one of my personal favourite things about the Christmas season!

Over the next few weeks, I'll be appealing for help in ways various - with donations, registries, and just plain old good vibes.  In the meanwhile, if you are in John Lewis or Peter Jones, please do think of us when you're donating that little green disc!

Have a great day!

If you're a London blogger/social media type and you'd like to share this/blog about this, please do be my guest!

Guest post over on Under A Glass Sky!

I've written a guest post today for my fab friend Emily's blog, Under A Glass Sky.  Click on through for my 'Wednesday Wants' - a.k.a. a loving drool over an awful lot of beautiful stationery! 

Have a super Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Project Life Tuesday: September 9th-15th

The Mom Creative
Another busy week, and another chance to link up with Jessica for Project Life Tuesday!  September's always such a busy month round here, it's nice to snap a few of the moments.  Looking forward to seeing what everyone else has been up to as well :).

Our cats are getting a lot more into the swing of things, and are grasping that their humans need to go to work.  That said they are always delighted to see us return!  Fry is well and truly becoming a cat, rather than a kitten - and he's learned a new party trick, as he can now jump up on the kitchen countertops.  Break out the disinfectant!
Leela loves to hang out with me whilst I work.  The fact that my laptop keeps her toasty is a fabulous fringe benefit, I'm sure!
Poppet doing yoga, in the sun.
Leela contemplates her next move!
On Saturday, Laura and I went to see the hilarious Austentatious, who I'd so enjoyed at Edinburgh.  Once again they were incredibly funny and clever!
Matthew and I popped to the pop up pub in our town hall last Sunday for a pint of ale.  As we're CAMRA supporters, it seemed the thing to do!
Yes, we've started the countdown!
Love this shot of Miss Leela.  Matthew had just finished his burger, and Leela jumped up and perused the plate, as if to say, "Where's mine?"

Sweet boy.
Leela on her tummy warmer.
Laura and I at Giraffe for lunch.
Adam and Ems were at Spitalfields for the market, so we popped over to say hi.  Adam is here doing some classic catalogue modelling posing.
The trademark 'pointing at something in the distance'.
Adam and Ems at her beautiful stall.
Pretty Laura.
Managed to grab a glass of wine with my lovely friend Emer after Open House - was lovely to catch up!  She's such an ace teacher.
Kwak and frites on Saturday - a treat!

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