Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pinterest: Dream Home

Matthew and I are currently being a little bit 'nesty' at home. We've been in our current place a little under a year (crazy to think - feels like much much longer!) and the start of the fresher weather and lighter mornings and evenings is making everything feel a little more springlike! We are currently working on our back guest bedroom and have other plans afoot too....it's a fun time to pin some ideas :) I think in April I'll take pictures of all the rooms and let those of you who haven't visited see how the house is coming on! Do you have any big springcleaning or DIY plans?

According to Martha, these colours are the best for houses and work nicest together as colurways.  I was quite amused to see several of my favourites here!


Love this idea - attach favourite old shirts to a canvas for instant decor.  I think this will be happening over summer with some of mine and Matthew's favourite oldies!


Source: fab.com via Claire on Pinterest

Matthew and I just fell in love with Brugge when we visited last year (for serious, it even made our Christmas card!), so I'll be putting this in a room soon, methinks.


I've been puzzling over how to make the home gym feel a little more cosy, and thought these shelves might do the trick.  Similarly, I wondered if these might work in the kitty lair/dining room.

Source: imgfave.com via Claire on Pinterest

A year round camp in an attic room?  Oh Matthew........

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Recent Reads

I am doing pretty well with my reading this year - it's been such a joy over the past few years to get back into the swing of reading regularly and searching for new and interesting books!  My daily commute is a real treat.  Here are a few of my recent reads: as ever, a bit of a range!

Return - Karen Kingsbury

I'm really enjoying the Baxter family saga.  It's frothy and pleasant, and Kingsbury conjures up the Midwestern niceness of her characters in a sweet and engaging way.  It's a fun read, and this is the third book in a five book arc.

Dear Fatty - Dawn French

Loved this book and love Dawn French even more than I originally did (which was buckets!) having read it.  Made me giggle and snicker like a schoolgirl, and also left me in tears.  I enjoyed this as much as I did Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, which was one of my favourite books of last year. Highly recommended.

Left Behind, Tribulation Force, Nicolae - LaHaye & Jenkins

I'd heard about this (thirteen(!) book) series before, but when it was featured on Glee I just had to take a gander.  Oh my.  Way to turn theology into a strange mix of biblical referencing, repetition, banal dialogue, gore, and more repetition.  Despite this, it's a good trashy read - I swooped through the first three books and quite enjoyed the shock horror tone and the incongruous plotting mixed with actual moments of pathos and suspense.  Not great literature by any means, but pretty entertaining.  However, I think after three installments I am done!

The Seamstress - Maria Duennas

This was our bookclub novel last month and it wasn't half bad!  Spanning a huge swathe of history, it evokes a time and place beautifully and was written well.  I quite liked it, but others in my book group adored it - definitely worth a read!

Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea - Chelsea Handler

I loathed this book.  As I'd enjoyed Bossypants so much, someone suggested this as a similar read.  I really didn't like Handler's 'voice' and found it a dull read, peppered with crass anecdotes and attempts to shock in place of actual interest.  Boo.

Fireproof - Eric Wilson

Loads of my friends had enjoyed this book, and the film of the book, so I gave it a read.  It's very much like the Baxter books mentioned above - good, clean fun; easy to read; a brain break after a long day!

So, what have you been reading?


Project Life Tuesday: Finally getting on!

The Mom Creative

It's been a fair old while since I last linked up with Jessica, and the reason is simple.  This year I made the leap from the digital PL format to the actual, real life scrapbooks.  It's such fun but the discipline of taking time to do things little and often, save little whatsits, take plenty of pictures and send them off for printing has taken a wee while to get the hang of!  It's a lot more work than the digital version, but I love seeing it come together in a real, concrete way!

I'm really enjoying it and can already see what a treasure this album will be to look back on.  Matthew is being very tolerant of my happy dances when I get a few pages done.  January is coming on nicely and February's in process.  Here's a peek at the first four pages....


Pictures from a blog meet, a postcard, a dog on the tube moment, and Leela-paws helping me budget!


More pictures from the blog meet, including a shot of the very pretty Rose!  Fry in his laundry basket, a few notes on events, and a thank you note from a project I sponsored on Kickstarter (love that site!).


Letters and texts, oh mys - finally, a place to keep my post to look back on!  I'm loving the range of what can be included in the folder and have lots of plans as the year progresses!


A few more bits and bobs - can't wait to do a little more next week!


Monday, February 25, 2013

Happy Monday!



Have a great week, you beautiful people.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Oscars!

Hollywood's biggest night is here!

Haha, can you tell I've been watching lots of 'E!' as I recovered from my cold?  They love to give something a zhuzhy hook, and the Oscars are always referred to as 'Hollywood's Biggest Night'.  Now, if I lived in the States, I would *totally* have an Oscar night party (gowns! Bubbles!  Sweepstakes!), but the time difference makes that impossible here in London.  I could happily stay up till 5.30am to watch the whole shebang....but not if I need to be up at 5.45am to teach a full day!  So instead I'll get up at 5.15am to look at the gowns and the wins, and will record the whole thing to watch tomorrow evening.  The Oscars recorded is always delicious anyway - fast forward through the dull bits, replay the 'I-can't-believe-he-won/-wore-that/-said-that' moments, freeze frame Clooney.  Ah, Clooney.

As a former film studies student, I love the awards season and trying to guess who'll take home which prize....here are my picks for the big four, plus the supporting acting gongs.

Best Picture:  I'm feeling Argo for this.  It's always tricky to win Best Picture when your helmsman isn't nominated for Best Director, but Affleck's been getting great heat in the lead up to the awards.  If Argo doesn't win, perhaps Silver Linings Playbook might sneak it.  I enjoyed it, but don't think it's the best picture of the year...but with Weinstein on side, who knows? Other potential winners might be Lincoln (the Academy loves history!) or The Life of Pi (animals! Visuals! Ang Lee!).



Best Director: I think it has to be Spielberg, for Lincoln; but I love that Haneke is in the mix for Amour! Always lovely to see gentle, quieter, well-crafted pieces in the line up.



Best Actor (Leading):  Daniel Day-Lewis, man.  First up, he's awesome.  Second, he's playing Lincoln.  I think this category is his!

Best Actress (Leading): This to me is one of the wide open categories.  Chastain's been the front runner for a while, Lawrence everyone loves (including me.  She's my biggest girlcrush, tied equal with Emma Stone), and Wallis and Riva are the youngest and oldest ever noms in this category.  So I'm going to be controversial and plump for the fifth contender, Naomi Watts for The Impossible.  Chastain and Lawrence might have a stronger chance....but I'd love Watts to pull off an upset.  Plus, the Academy loves a good 'based on a true story'.



Best Actor (Supporting): Please, please, please not De Niro.  I love him, and some of his roles are in my top twenty performances ever.  But in Silver Linings Playbook I found his whole schtick a bit tired, frankly.  Maybe I've seen him playing a quirky parent too many times?  He's such a sublime actor, I don't want him to win for this performance!  Of the rest, my heart says Waltz for Django Unchained, my head says Arkin for Argo.

Best Actress (Supporting): And ye shall call her HATHAWAY, for that is her name.  She sings!  She gets thrown around!  She does close ups bestrewn with tears and a genuine snot bubble!  She dropped 15 lbs! She had her hair hacked off on camera!  If Anne Hathaway doesn't win for Les Miserables, I don't know what else she could do to win an Oscar.  I feel she's got this category sewn up....time will tell!



So those are my calls.  I'm almost always at least half-wrong....I wonder what tonight's ceremony will bring? Who do you think might win big tonight?



Saturday, February 23, 2013

Beauty



As much as we worry about our height, our weight, our hair, our teeth....the older I get, the more I realise that this statement is true.  There's a quiet beauty, an inherent confidence, a sense of being which comes from being happy, content, in a place of giving and of love.  And sometimes I think it's nice to remember that.  Happy weekend, all.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Five Minute Friday: What Mama Did

Five Minute Friday

Linking up with the delicious Lisa-Jo, writing about someone very dear to my heart, my mummy.  I love her to pieces, so the chance to sit down and write about her is a real treat.  I'm afraid I don't have any pictures that really do her justice - like Matthew, she doesn't like pictures to begin with, so the choices are slim at best, and I don't have any on this new computer.

Yet.

Watch out, mother :).

GO.

When I think of my mum, many scenes play out.  Family dinners; gallons of tea shared; books passed between us like illicit substances (ah, the Thornley-woman addiction to words!  She, Sian and I all share this compulsion to dive into the black and white lines of joy, sorrow, horror, adventure); the friendly call of "jammies, please," after a long day at work; the big squeezy hugs as I headed back to school; the fail-safe cupcake recipe which gains more fans every year.  She's quite the woman, and if I grow up to be half as cool as her, or half as cool as Matthew's mother Barbara for that matter, I will be high-fiving myself all the live long day.  Both families thrive and thrill to strong, impressive, kind women.

When I think of my mum, and what she did, and what she does, one quality really shines out.  I'm spoilt for choice really - she's wicked clever, funny, understanding, verbose, kind - but the one quality I most admire in her, the one I covet the most for myself, the one I'll no doubt tell my children all about is her incredible penchant for hard work.

My mother is a grafter.

Never content to sit back and do the minimum, she gives 100% to all that she does.  She's had great success in so many areas, and I'm so proud of her for that, but even prouder of the bucket loads of work she's put into it.  She left school young, worked hard, raised three kids, then started studying up a storm.  She earned her degree and postgrad at the same time as me - commuting down to Aberdeen on the early, early train, then back each evening (that's four to five hours of commuting a day!).  I pipped her (barely) to be first in the family to graduate university, she was mere days behind.  

Now she works long hours helping children and families and I am constantly amazed by all she achieves and how much time and hard work she puts into things.  Whenever I'm tempted to take my foot off the gas, I think of her and getting back into the game happens swiftly.

My awesome, talented, hard-working mum.  I'm so proud of her!

STOP.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Aaaaaaaa.....

.....tchoo!

And how are you all, lovelies?

Here I am battling a bit of a cold - after gamboling through winter term and Christmas in rude health the London germs have finally caught up with me.  Heavens be praised it's a relatively minor sniffle though, and while I'm bummed about some of the cool things I've had to miss out on (cocktails, baby snuggles, being able to breathe correctly), it's also fortunate that I've fallen ill over break, when I can actually curl up and chill and recuperate, rather than trying to teach while run down!

I can hardly believe we're halfway through the school year!  The September rush feels like yesterday, but before we know it we will find ourselves deep in exams and assessments and the rush of end of year.  How time flies!

Apart from the lurgy, half term break has been lovely - time to rest and relax and catch up.  The house always gets so unruly when Matt and I are both working mega-hours, so it's nice to catch up on tidying and sorting (later today is my study, which is a tip!).  It's also great to have time to hang out with the katzen - they are just so sweet!

So, chores and cats and inbox clearing beckons, so I'll sign off for now.  Wanted to check in - blogging will return to its usual frequency soon. :)

Have a great day!


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Free from the February Funk

You may (or may not) have noticed that I’ve posted a little less recently.  It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, it’s more that the annual battle between February and me has been raging on, and while I can now say I have the upper hand (half term break does that to a girl!), it was iffy for a couple of weeks!

February has long been the least favourite of my months, and it always kicks my butt a little.

Luckily, several lovely things (the arrival of our beautiful niece, on whom much much much more later; a valiant attempt at a difficult goal; a gorgeous wedding in York with some people Matthew and I adore; a change in the weather - from grey and wet to crisp and bright; more time together with Matthew; half-term break) have all arrived/happened in the past week, so the February funk has well and truly been defeated.  Like a boss.

And it feels good to be back in my regular groove, with fresh insights providing me with the necessary perspective to see how lucky I am.  My life is not perfect (but really, whose is?), but it is beautiful.  I’m so blessed to live the life I do.  

To be kind and and gentle and sometimes a little shambolic, and to have people need me and appreciate this part of me.

To loved and be loved.  

To see the wonder in a spiderweb, a dancefloor, a baby’s gurgle.

To wake up beside my love and to go to sleep after chatting the evening away.

To dream big and to hope just as big.

To be inspired by the people and things around me.  

To have the chance to help.

To have not just one family, but two, who treasure me for me and who let me be part of their stories.

To have three little furballs who make me giggle every day and whose cuddles soothe many of the hurts of the day to day.

To have a job where I feel I’m making a difference, which challenges and stimulates me - and frequently cracks me up.  

To have friends who challange me, inspire me, love me and make my world beautiful and strange and wonderful.

To sleep long and hard and deep.

To be reasonably healthy - sure I’d love to be skinnier, but I am hale and hearty and healthy.  

To have a hundred stories and thousands of words in my head at any one time, ready to play and sing and share.

To have time to read and write and yomp up hills in the blue skies and frosts of a February morning.  

To have a past to learn from and a future to look forward to.

To live in one of the most beautiful, vibrant, ridiculous cities on earth.  

To have money.  Sometimes with savings and student loans and the stuff of life it may nor seem like much, granted, but enough to send birthday cards in the mail, buy a new cardigan when the old one frays, or grab a mocha on a murky Monday morning.

To own a home, in all its ‘getting-there, projects-and-plans, ‘oops-I-inadvertently-ironed-the-carpet’ glory.

And that’s why I can’t hate the February funk, even though it makes me a little blue for a week or two.  Because it never fails to remind me just how lucky I am.  I feel renewed.

Glad to be back.  How are you, lovelies?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

SUYL: Organisation tips/ideas

This week we're all linking up with Kelly to share our organisation tips!

Organisation is a topic close to my heart.  As a teacher, you have to be organised, and you have to encourage your students to be organised too.  I think I'm very organised most of the time, but every so often I have a mess up - the joys of being a flawed human!

As a child and a young teen, however, I was hugely disorganised, and I found just getting things done very stressful.  I would frequestly be late, with the wrong equipment or in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It really used to upset me an awful lot.  Then, in my early twenties, I decided to take action and I turned a major corner.  I worked and worked and worked at it, and now I have lots of strategies and ways to keep things running correctly a good percentage of the time.  A few of my faves are:

Spend time organising a calendar.  So simple, so basic, so vital.  I actually have three that I co-ordinate up a couple of times a month - I have an Erin Condren planner (because I'm a sucker for shiny, pretty stationery), a Google calendar (so useful, and easy to access on my phone, at work, at home, anywhere), and Matthew and I also have a joint calendar with Matthew on the wall of the kitchen.  This is a new addition, but means with school events, work trips, social engagements eyc., we can each keep track of what's going on.

To-do lists are a good thing - within reason!  I used to be the queen of the great long list, but now I limit myself to a maximum of seven action items per day.  I used to add everything to my to-do list, including the day to day stuff, but now my to-do list, whether it's one thing or four things or seven things, is all stuff I need to get done as soon as possible.

Have 'homes' for things that you need to access quickly.  For example, my keys have two homes - in my bag or on the third step.  My phone is either with me, or in my bag, or next to my bed.  My important documents life in the box or the file.  Ibuprofen, inhalers and benadryl?  Cupboard above the kettle :).

Getting rid of stuff helps with organisation too, I think.  I love to have lots of books, DVDs and stationery, and that's unlikely to ever change.  'Stuff', however, I am whittling away at, every month.  My new rule is that for something to come in to the house now (books etc. aside, because I live for books!), it either has to be new and useful (i.e. a griddle pan, on the wish list at the mo!), new in replacement of something else (hello, tin opener!), or something where there's currently nothing (for example, our spare rooms need furniture - they are rather barren!).  To buy something new, I generally make sure something else leaves the house!

I meal plan in a flexible way, and plan our shops in advance.  I make lots of soups, stews and sauces on quieter weekends and freeze them down for healthy, yummy, weeknight suppers.

I have a combination of bank accounts and clear goals for saving, giving, spending.  As with most things I believe in being gentle with yourself and flexible too, but these goals are important.  I need the flexibility so when the unexpected occurs (hello, big giant scary dentist bill) I can react and roll with it, but keeping the goals solid is so important too!

I am still learning how to be organised, but it's getting better all the time.  I love finding other tips and tricks, so this link up should be great fun!  I look forward to gleaning some new ideas.  I also love finding ideas here and there on the internet - here are a few of my recent pinterest faves!


I'm using these printables at the moment (when it's not crazy busy!) and they're making food shopping *so* much easier!


We've started using these tips around the house and it's really helping! 60 hour weeks and organising our home is a real challenge, but we make progress each month!


This is a one day ambition, ha!


I'm toying with the idea of doing this next month. 31 days to get organised...


We are working on routines for cleaning, to make the time we spend cleaning useful.

Looking forward to reading all the tips!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Country Mouse In The City: The Night Shift

Last Thursday Miss Eileen and I took a break from working, hanging out and going for coffee and went to a really fun event at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London's South Bank.  I had met a lovely girl called Ceri at a blog meetup a couple of weeks back:  she works for a really cool orchestra called the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and when they had an event she was kind enough to mention my name when some tickets were available.  I love classical music so of course I snapped them up and Eileen and I were keen to go see the orchestra's take on Vivaldi's The Four Seasons.

This performance was part of 'The Night Shift' - a set of slightly later concerts with a more informal feel (fresh takes on pieces, interaction with the players, cameras allowed and bar open throughout), and was really fantastic.  The OAE, led by the brilliant violinist Kati, who discussed each movement beforehand with passion, warmth and charm, played wonderfully, really breathing life into pieces that can feel all-too-familiar. The pieces were also different in that they were presented alongside modern dances especially choreographed for this set of performances.  I know a lot less about dance than I do about music, but the dancers were so skilled and really brought some interesting shapes and stories to the piece.

Photos to follow (blogger is having a moment about uploading them, ha!), but I just wanted to heartily recommend the OAE to anyone looking for some interesting, innovative classical music.  The Night Shift was wonderful!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Missive from Leela Nymeria


Greetings all.

First and foremost, my apologies.

It has been altogether too long since my last missive.

Such is life in the field.

Between eating, napping, grooming, and being adorable, time is short.

And Claire's been working far too hard, so access to the laptop has been limited.

Dash it all!


Life continues apace here in the East, and the humans have responded well to their latest training.

Their ability to follow instructions and yield more and more each day to us, their kitteh overlords, is pleasing.

They have also grasped that increased access to sofas and boxes was always a 'when' rather than an 'if' scenario.

As I said, very pleasing.


Now, if I could just stop this blasted precipitation...

Yours ever,
Leela Nymeria R.

Friday, February 08, 2013

SUYL: DIY Projects

This week Kelly's 'Show Us Your Life' link up is all about DIY.  Having bought our first home last year Matthew and I are all about the DIY and we have several things planned for weekends, vacation times and future years.  We are saving and sorting and planning up a storm, so I thought I'd share a few things I've found on pinterest that I'd really like to do in our place!  I will do another home tour before long - partly for our lovely inquisitive relatives, and also because things keep changing and I love to share!

So, DIY daydreams.  Here we go!  These are mainly pretty, crafty, cute stuff - there's also plenty of painting/sanding/topsoiling in the plans!



Love this idea for all our old teeshirts - make into canvases for the walls.!


Brickbooks for the garden.



I am addicted to letters in all forms - love this scrapping paper idea.


I can think of so many places I would like a whiteboard.



Love this way of making prints - I desperately want something on the walls of our home gym.



I would like a wreath year round - may be something like this?

I am SO looking forward to this link up - DIY is my addiction at the mo!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Making time

Even when life is busy, I believe in making time.  Time for rest and friends and writing and reading and cooking and thinking and silliness.  It's important.

This week is a stinker at work - the middle of three parents' evenings weeks (I love the chance to catch up about my boys but the hours of prep are tiring!), trips and reports a-go-go and half-term still over a week away. One of those weeks where at eight o'clock in a cold classroom as you stare at yet another digit you can't quite make out in a scribbled maths equation you find yourself chanting internally ("I love my job.  I love my job.  I love my job.").

And I do love my job.

At some times it's just a bit all-encompassing, but that's the joy and the snap of the Jekyll and Hyde way that teaching is.  Seventy-five hour workweeks in September....and under a dozen a week in August!  I know how lucky that makes me.

So you play the long game.  I know that even though now I'm weary and up to my ears in paper and tired of the ding of the email alert....there's also April Claire, Easter holiday Claire, lying in the sun, sipping wine and reading a book.  Not long.

And in the meantime, I make time.

I plan lessons while I get my hair done.

I read stories on the train.

I type blog posts in the fifteen minute window between parent/teacher conferences.

I stay up late to see Matthew and I wake up early to make worksheets.

And I remember that I love what I do, and I'm lucky to be able to say that.

And almost as lucky to know that half-term is seven short workdays away. :)

Happy Wednesday, all!

Monday, February 04, 2013

Hello there friends.



Source: imgfave.com via Claire on Pinterest


How are you guys?

How has your February started?

I celebrated the end of January and the start of February with a few days of not blogging, and just taking a weekend to read and nap and think.

It was good.

January was a big month.

Lots of laughter.

10 pounds lost.

£1,000 paid off my student loan.

Lots of fun with some wonderful people.

9 books read.

And now February's here.

Onwards.

Hi, I'm Claire...

Hi, I'm Claire...

About Me

I believe in 80s pop, 90s teen movies, and proper thank you notes. I just like smiling...smiling's my favourite.

I write here about London, food, books & travel, and a lot more besides. I'm never happier than when having adventures, cooking for friends, or lost in a good book.

If you'd like to work together, or if you'd just like to say hello, my email is: countrymouseclaire@gmail.com

Please note that on occasion affiliate links may be used in this blog. All items received for review or paid posts will always be disclosed.

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