Monthly Archives: November 2013

Clovember Rambling



Quite a lot of my friends have been having fun with Clovember, a month-long daily posting of their clothing. It’s been lovely, not just to see their different styles but to get to see photos of them each day. I see faces I love and interesting clothes and grumpy morning faces and people throwing silly shapes. I haven’t joined in because (a) I feel it’s a good day when I manage to get dressed and to the bus or train on time without adding photos into the mix, (b) my school has a blazer rule so my choices are rather limited to boring or very boring, and (c) I currently hate almost everything in my wardrobe.

I’ve been thinking a lot about clothing lately, as you do when the other 97.3% of your brain is occupied by teaching and can’t handle anything more challenging. My mother, who is buying me a gorgeous winter coat, put her finger on something that’s been bothering me lately about my style. What I realised was that a lot of my general blahs with myself comes from the fact that I find my wardrobe uninspiring these days. While I am never going to be someone who is fashionable or follows trends or looks like a model, I really like well-cut clothes in beautiful colours, and I appreciate that a striking outfit can make me feel immediately better about myself. I used to think I had a very definite sense of style, a combination of laid-back, preppy and vintage. I had certain stores that I shopped from and knew exactly where to go when I wanted something. It helped that I have been given a lot of my mother and grandmother’s incredibly beautiful jewellery, handbags, beaded clutches and scarves. Over time I have added to that with things I love, and with a rather massive shoe and handbag collection. When I moved to London, I got rid of a lot of things I knew I would never wear again, and the rest are in storage. I’ve added some warmer things to the mix since I got here, but it was mostly whatever I could find on the spur of the moment that I needed. As a result, my wardrobe over here is an odd mix of items clothing – just not my kind of clothing. I pretty much wear the same things each week, including the same jewellery, and as a result, I feel stuck in a rut. I decided to have a quick look at some of my favourite stores, both at home and stores I’ve discovered in the UK. I feel slightly relieved to discover that my style mojo has not completely disappeared…I can still find clothing I love and that excites me. Now to snag a few of these charmers before they disappear!


Warming up November


While I do love autumn, I have to admit that I’m finding November more trying than I remember it last year. It’s dark when I’m headed in to school, it’s dark when I’m headed home, and the darker it gets, the more I think of the sunshine at home. I find myself turning on all the lights I can, and when I find a sun patch, staying there and basking in it until it goes away. My cats would be proud of me.

I think there’s just something about this month that makes me homesick. This is the month of Thanksgiving dinners with family, Thanks+Giving potlucks with friends, the Macy’s parade, massive shopping sales, crispy red and gold leaves, Red Cup Day at Starbucks, and when Target puts out their Archers Farm mint hot chocolate.

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Since that line of thinking leaves me nowhere, I’m doing my best to warm up November. Today I stayed near the stove, basking in its warmth, making some pumpkin chocolate chip muffins to make my lunch box a bit more cheerful. I watched a sunset and picked a few apples from the tree in the back garden. I commiserated about the dark with one of my housemates, who is Australian and also missing the sunshine. I strung fairy lights in my room for the first time since college, broke out the good tea from Fortnum & Mason, investigated my book haul from over half-term, binged on Bach, and lit all the candles I could find.

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This weekend I buy cocoa and make a batch of soup, collect some more acorns and leaves for my window bowl, and hopefully begin my annual reread of Mrs Miniver. What do you suggest to warm up November?


Renegade Craft Fair

After a rather hectic week back at school, I went into London to meet a couple of friends for the Renegade Craft Fair. It wasn’t the most welcoming morning; all I could tell when I popped my head out was that it was cold and bloody dark, and by the time I got into Waterloo, it looked like the scene in Harry Potter where the weather changes as the dementors board the train. I considered hiding indoors and having a quick coffee at Starbucks before I realised how feeble that was, and I headed out into the downpour. I looked at market stalls, popped into bookstores warm from the steam of generators, had a warm and delicious caff breakfast where the beans slopped into the fried egg and mushrooms with a delicious kind of rightness, and where my tea cup was constantly refilled with the kind of tea you can stand a spoon up in. I even poked my nose into iKnit London, which I haven’t been to for a few years now.

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Eventually I hopped back into the station and made my way to the East End to meet Jane and Kat at the Old Truman Brewery where the fair was being held. It’s an amazing space, even if they were not still selling beer (or, in fact, any beverages in the hall…would have been perfect if they’d had some tea or coffee, and they would have made a killing).

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Even without the coffee, though, the craft fair was splendid. There was such a huge variety of artists, and all of them with such lovingly presented tables and goods. I had gone with the good intention of buying unique Christmas presents for family and friends. What I went home with was all for me me me. But my spot of selfish shopping is fine, because I also took home a selection of business cards and can order quite a few of these things through Etsy or Folksy. And I can also have shipped some of the more delicate things that would have been a complete faff to try to get home on the Tube and train, like the amazingly beautiful lamp shade I covet like mad for my little flat.

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When we’d exhausted the hall, we stepped across to Brick Lane for some much needed caffeine and a sit-down. The tea shop was held in a kind of antique/junk shop full of curious things. There was much trying on of hats, and I resisted the urge to pose with the silly mannequins who were shaped like Beyonce. We also popped into Spitalfields’ Market for a quick lunch and a browse of the market stalls. It’s a fantastic space, full of both vintage treasures and homemade goodies, and I think we all ended up getting something we had not planned on, and in Jane’s case, a tiny Lego version of herself, complete with purple hair.

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This was my first trip to Brick Lane, and I’m going to have to go back soon. The street was full of men trying to entice customers into their curry houses, the street venders were selling various foods and mulled wine, and there was at least one shop crowded with amazing-looking bolts of fabric. I’d also like a closer look at Christ Church Spitalfields, which was striking in both size and severity. Definitely time to get out of central London and explore the East End.


Autumn Half-Term

I spent the past few weeks actively counting down to half-term. And I do mean literally counting down; I had a running tally of days that I ticked off before my week of freeeeeeedom.

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After two days in Stratford spent enjoying hotel breakfasts and the biggest shopping mall in Europe, we caught the train back to Cambridge for a quiet week. It was absolutely lovely to have time to bake again. There’s something incredibly relaxing about standing in a kitchen, going through the motions of a familiar recipe, watching raw ingredients turn into something golden and warm. While I am trying to eat proper dinners these days, not the hurried sandwiches I had last year, I don’t have that much time in the evenings to think about or prepare meals, and almost no time to bake. So it was an incredible luxury to just stand in a kitchen and think about what I wanted. In the end I made a plum cake, and a few days later, made another to leave in the freezer for Paul to pull out when he needs a nice cup of tea and slice of cake. I also made more molasses cookies, again with black treacle instead of molasses, but this time browning the butter and adding the treacle before mixing, which created a crisper, almost toffee-like texture. I was going to bring some of those back with me, but got carried away buying books, and ran out of room in my bag, drat it.

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I also spent my usual amount of time mooning around the garden. I’m lucky to live in a green and leafy suburb, but I do miss Paul’s garden. I went out to inspect the changing leaves, admire the hardy white roses which are still hanging on, eavesdrop on the fat birds that hang out around the feeder, and sniff at the cold air. It’s already starting to get dark early, so it also meant I was on hedgehog patrol most evenings, popping up to peer outside and see if I could find the resident hedgie who lives under the shed. No luck this time…

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…and that was pretty much my half-term. Nothing exciting, just peace, quiet, music, books, bubble baths, big cups of tea, spending time with Paul, feeding him stodgy winter food, getting my incredibly long mane of hair chopped off, and the occasional trips into town to do some shopping and revel in the autumn colours on every corner. It was exactly what I needed.

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I also made a point to go to evensong. I grew up listening to King’s College Choir and, although I’d passed the college multiple times over the past year, never managed to make it before. I almost didn’t make it this time, but in the end, found myself joining the long queue waiting in the dusk. King’s is always awe-inspiring, but there is something rather magical about seeing the lights go on in the quad and the slow ringing of the bells. The music was glorious, and the chapel, lit by candles, was dazzling. It’s impossible to be in there without thinking about all the people who have passed through over the years, and equally comforting to see the choristers, who look and sound like angels behind their golden lights, pushing and jostling each other on their way to communion. I gave one my patented Teacher Look until he piped down and then I went back to thinking about church mice (as you do).

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Knowing I’d be in Cambridge for the half-term, I’d been making a list of things I needed to buy. I ended up getting quite a few things on my list, necessary things like a hair dryer, fun things like new nail polish and perfume, household things like candles and holiday decorations, and even some new clothing. It was also an opportunity to get some of the teachery things that run out quickly, like marking pens and stickers, and the things you don’t know you need, but inevitably do…like foam, sequins, and sparkly paper. There will be an English crown in my classroom.

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And, unsurprisingly, I left Cambridge with a huge stack of new books. You know you have a problem when you arrive with one bag and have to buy a small suitcase just to get home. Paul brought me some book finds from the market, a copy of Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch”, which I would not let myself open for fear of getting nothing else done, and then I went mad at Heffers, The Haunted Bookshop, and various other stores. And the worst thing is, I now have nine new books on my wish list that didn’t buy.

Basically, the perfect half-term.