Monday, June 29, 2009

My very own Garden Party and THREE winning cyber-guests!

My 40th birthday Garden Party was a day to remember!It began in the morning, with everyone busy... Son 2 was detailed off to fill 15 jam jars with water and arrange bought flowers and garden flowers of his choice in each one.He put them on every table we were setting up, and I later found some dotted around the house on window ledges and other charmingly unexpected sites.Son 1, who recently had his own (12th) birthday, kept busy by trotting back and forth from the supermarked as he or we remembered something else we needed! It's only 2 minute's walk away, but he did take to cycling there as the day went on. He was buying his own ingredients for a children's punch, which he kept topped up all afternoon. He also made the cute doggie poster, which reads:

'Please do not leave your drinks on the floor or your food where I can reach it. Thank you! :) Signed: raja the dog
SVP, ne laissez ni vos boissions par terre ni vos assiettes ou je peut arriver a manger ce qu'il y a dessus. Merci! Signe: raja la chiene'
Mercifully, we were not alone in the morning. Sylvie, who lives across town, arrived to help while her son was at his BMX club. I really didn't take many photos at the party (far too busy having fun) but you can see Sylvie here in the lovely white flowered dress, chatting to Penny, in the blue African dress, who arrived to help at lunchtime. Sylvie chopped a huge amount of vegetables for crudites, (merci, Sylvie!) and Penny put to good use her experience of Pimms parties past and present, and also moved furniture with me (thanks, Penny)! Dagmar and Emmanuel also came to help from lunchtime onwards - sorry that I was getting a bit stressed by that point, guys! They were very kind, and made open sandwiches with my favourite ingredients - baguettes purchased fresh by Son 1, smoked trout, air dried ham and cream cheese. They put my herb garden to great use garnishing the sandwiches - I wish I was that inventive. Once finished, they got to work on the watermelon... Danke, Dagmar, et merci, Emmanuel! You can see Dagmar in the photo below, but Emmanuel was an elusive subject for a photographer, it seems...I was arranging furniture, children's games, tables and tablecloths - I had bought a wonderful job-lot of old linens (including two huge sheets still in their packaging) for 8 euros at Frip Relais the previous week...For shade, we knew the roofed terrace wouldn't be enough. Our poor accacias didn't survive the winter storm, and the new one growing from the roots couldn't do much (look at what happens to grass in dry heat, British friends!). I bought two 'sails' from IKEA, for 29 euros each, which can be easily fixed to your house wall, or handy posts...
The men in particular seemed to admire these, and each sail provided fantastic shade, one at the back of the house...
and one at the front!Ben bought me this fantastically versatile parasol for my birthday, so we were ready for the guests to arrive...And arrive they did! We had French friends from the neighbourhood and from church (plus two other British/Irish friends who also go to our church). We had plenty of English friends from the wider area, some of whom we haven't seen for nearly a year, so it was great to catch up... And we had British, Irish, French, African, American and German friends from the international church we joined when we first came to the area.Part way though the afternoon, the sun moves towards the front of the house, and the moment the shade appeared at the back, a line of chairs was moved round...Under the 'sail', Ben brought me my birthday Victoria Sponge (with his homemade lemon curd, of course). He did use 'magic' candles, that won't blow out, though! Everyone watched. And watched. And laughed. Magic candles work in all languages!Finally it was time to to cut the cakes! The second one had homemade cherry jam in it, and yes, Chris did cycle to the party, and indeed, he does do the Tour de France routes - he likes the nearby Pyreneean cols... Spot the girls who colonised our 'sitting room' area under the parasol, too!The boys were mainly out the front in the pool.Here's the other food - Dagmar and Emmanuel's sandwiches; Sylvie's vegetables; scones made by Jane and Helen with Ben's jam, and clotted cream I brought back from Edinburgh; Isabel's blackcurrant clafoutis (that had gone before I had a chance to eat any!), Matthew's lemon cake, my biscuits and shortbread (thanks for the recipe again, Sumea!)Our youngest guest was much admired..And I think she had a good time!Finally, most people had gone, and the select band of Sylvie and Patrick, Francoise my French teacher, Penny and Matthew and Ben and I relaxed out the back while a good number of our sons continued to splash in the pool. Son 1 got his telescope out, because he has a solar filter which allows you to safely study the sun.And then they had all gone.Ben and I had a swim in the deserted pool, and later a romantic meal of leftover food and wine for two, before we even considered moving everything back in...There was a lot of washing up, but the dishwasher makes a huge difference...I liked the way the girls had arranged my cushions...
And on Sunday, vintage linens on the line!What pretty detail, and all thrown in for 8 euros. I actually offered 10, but he wouldn't take it. But that's a story for another day...I had such a lovely time at my own garden party, but let's not forget the amazing parties that went on for me in blogland the previous weekend! I was impressed, I was touched, I was jealous at times... but I promised a small French vintage prize to the post that most entertained me, so I had to choose the most entertaining party post... It was impossible to narrow it down to one, so below are my three most entertaining parties from last weekend - do go and visit them for one last blast of party fun!Caroline from Lace Hearts - the dresses, the decor, the dancers, the wellies... what more can I say?Sarah from Red Gingham - fancy coming all the way from New Zealand, just for me (and a weekend in London, followed by a week on the sunny Med...)! And possibly the craziest of all, despite not having any snow, horses and carriages, boxy dancers or hot air balloons (you just had to BE there) is dear Lululiz from Lalaland, who brought both Kajagoogoo (for reasons too complicated to explain) and Take That (probably no need for explanation).
So thanks so much to all who came to the real or the virtual party. Caroline, Sarah and Liz, if you'd like to email your addresses I might just (tragically) have to pop out to the local Vide Greniers on Sunday afternoon and find you a vintage goodie each.
Tomorrow, a browse through some wonderful cards and presents...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Beautiful Day!

Hello everyone, and thanks so much for all your birthday greetings and your wonderful garden party posts. My own party was held in glorious weather yesterday afternoon, with about 40 friends of all ages. I'll do a full post about our party tomorrow, but for now here's a shot my friend B took of me, Ben, and the table, just before everyone went for the food with surprising enthusiasm for such a hot afternoon...
We had a lovely day.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Garden Party - Please do come...

Just an updated post to say how much I've loved your wonderful contributions to my virtual garden party, everyone! It's been a fantastic way for loads of my friends to get to know each other, just as I hope my 'real' party will be next Saturday. I've left a little comment next to all the links below, in the hope it will tempt more people to 'visit' a new blog and find yet another marvelous garden party guest. Prize-giving next week, after my actual party...Elizabethd from French Village Life (France) - oooh, that gateau...
Jayne of Country Cottage Chic (England) - what a civilised party - I need that cake next Saturday!
Melanie of A Country Dream (England) - I think she's bringing her crochet!
Valerie of Dotty Dotty (England) - She booked the Pimms bus! Is it too late for me to ask them to drive south..?
Lululiz of Lalaland (England and France!) - thank goodness we cleared the helipad!
Bekimarie from The ramblings of an everyday mummy (England) - what lovely paper lanterns

Olga of Where are you... (Poland) - Now I've seen that dress, my garden will seem forever incomplete...
Sarah from Red Gingham (New Zealand) - she's making a two-week trip of it, folks!
Caroline of Lace Hearts (England) - Love the customised hat - I may try this, but the boxy dancers..? Hmm...
Ashley from Peacocks and Dragonflies (USA) - she could be the best-dressed guest, folks!
Isabel de la Maison Douce (USA) - which vintage dress would you choose?
Josie-Mary (England) - check out her polka-dot dress!

Sonia of Vintage Rose Designs (USA)
Louise, at The Whispering Poppies (USA) - oh, a party on the beach - we'll get there by cycling...
Juanitatortilla (Switzerland) - never been to a Swiss/Asian Garden Party before? Get over to this one ASAP!
Alexandra, Domestic Novice (Scotland) - what a wonderful, rosey handbag!
Lissy Lou and the two little boys (England) - a marvelous, secret garden venue...
Sharon, of Clover Cottage (England) - Aaliyah has to be the youngest blogger I know!
Della, of Della Grace's Life (USA) - an incredible cake...

Mandy, of Live, Laugh, Love (England) - vintage crystal bouquets? Why didn't I think of that? They're lovely...

Clare, at Summerfete (England) - a late addition - I'm so glad I found this lovely party!
Fleur, at Marble Rose (England) - a Pimms teacosy? I have now officially seen it all...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Charity Shops of Edinburgh - the personal review

Having thoroughly checked out four of the seven areas on the Edinburgh Charity Shop map, I've decided to write a little review. It's very personal, as it's only about what I experienced, and what I wanted out of a charity shop in the last week, so don't take it too seriously! But if you ever shop in Edinburgh it might be useful, and I hope it will be entertaining too. I've grouped these charity shops according to the map.

Stockbridge, Ferry Road and Davidson Mains Stockbridge is my standard (and superb) area for a charity shop trawl if I only have one day. It's a charming, village-feel, part of Edinburgh, an easy walk away from my parents' home. The houses are old and characterful and the inhabitants fairly well-off and interesting. This of course makes for interesting and good-quality donations to the charity shops! Some that really stand out are Barnardos, which has wonderful vintage displays (not for sale) and a small vintage clothes section, and St Columba's Hospice shop, which has recently transformed itself from the sad neighbour of the classier shops into a wonderful trove of vintage china. Oxfam, Shelter and St John's ambulance also have second-hand bookshops here, and Oxfam Music is well-stocked. You might find anything in Stockbridge, but it is probably particularly good for clothes.
There is only one shop left on Ferry Road, but as it's very near my parents' home I go there quite often. Last year I had a wonderful visit, when I bought, among many other things, the vintage dress I'm going to wear at my garden party! This time I found nothing (to Elizabethd's amazement) but that's just the luck of the draw. I've never been to the Davidson Mains shops - they are far off the beaten track and mainly serve the local community, I think.

Leith and Abbeyhill Leith Walk, heading from the city centre down to the old port of Leith, is a broad, elegant road that has plenty of space for lorries to pull up outside the shops, so the charity furniture shops are collecting here. Their stock seems good and regularly changing, and they also stock smaller items for the travelling visitor! Several Edinburgh charities collect together all their vintage stock and put it into one shop, and St Columbas' Doo-Cot (his dovecot, if you were wondering) is the Hospice's very charming shop, with a lot of china, embroidered linen etc. The advantages are that this is a charming shop with wonderful stock. The disadvantage is that the prices are accordingly high. Still well worth a look. Further into Leith, the Victorian port architecture is impressive, but the area is quite a strange mixture of hard-faced women swearing at their kids and tourists. The charity shops mingle with the Pound Stretchers, and are the smartest and most cheerful shops along the Leith roads. All well worth a visit.

Oldtown and Newington

One of the roads of the Old Town is full of charity shops - it's variously named South Bridge, Nicholson Street and Clark Street, as you walk along it. It's near the university so there are many students both working and shopping in the charity shops, but plenty of elderly ladies too! The shops along the road can be divided into those which aid the big, national charities and those which are for the local Edinburgh ones. More than anywhere else I found a sharp diversity between the two types. The 'big' charities have clean, modern, characterless shops, and the elderly ladies running them often told me, 'Oh no, Head Offce have decided that we don't stock buttons any more'. The local charities are often a bit more interesting, with perfectly clean but less 'snazzy' shops, and a braver idea of what they are prepared to stock. I found my best buttons, and the best chat, in a far-flung local charity shop which I'd never seen before, even though I'd been charity shopping down that road last year. There is some overlap, and it is never pointless to look in the 'snazzy' modern versions, but they are all a bit too 'Mary Queen of Charity Shops' and not enough 'Aladdin's Cave' for a real treasure hunter.

West End, Gorgie and Dalry Anyone who reads Ian Rankin's Rebus books knows that, as with Leith, I was on a walk from tourists' central Edinburgh to some more workaday areas, here. I began on Shandwick Place and, with a few problems on the map, moved to Dalry Road. It looks like a more or less straight line on the map, but it wasn't. However, the shops were great. Even the national charities had some interesting stock, and the local ones like Bethany Christian Trust (always good) turned out to have fantastic stock from my point of view. The Salvation Army shop was particularly good for clothes and chat. Back in the West End, I found that two out of the three shops marked on the Queensferry Road had shut, but that the St Columba's Hospice shop was fantastic and worth the short walk. It was stocked by four very interesting people, aged from 20s to retirement, who seemed to be having fun as a team and displayed stock according to their strengths. Thus, antique china rubbed shoulders with funky retro clothing, and all was well laid out. The staff also knew a lot about other Charity Shops (this doesn't always happen), and recommended a trip to Portobello, the seaside town outside Edinburgh, for a lovely combination of sea and charity shopping. Sounds good for a future visit!

It was in this last shop that a gentleman asked me if I was doing a PhD in charity shops. Do you think I have enough material?
Tomorrow I will publish a Garden Party post - letting you know all the lovely ladies who are involved, who will be posting their own Garden Party ideas and images either on Saturday (my birthday) or Sunday. Of course my own party isn't until the following week, as I couldn't get it ready so soon after flying home. Thus, your Garden Party posts will be all (OK, most) of the partying I do on my actual birthday - looking forward to them! Sign up on the original post if you still want to join in!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

From Edinburgh back to France

It's after ten at night in the south of France, and we've used up the cooling evening by mowing the lawn, having a dip in the pool, eating a slightly riotous evening meal (Ben's eating out tonight - things go a bit crazy without him at times!) and setting up the electric fan in the boys' bedroom. Now that the sun has gone down it's nearly cool enough to sleep, as long as all your windows and doors are open and you have an anti-mozzie thing plugged in. It's good to be home.

However, on my last day in Edinburgh I had a really rather good time. My sister arrived, which was great. It was her birthday on Monday and I'd given her a lovely pendant made by Juanitatortilla. She was wearing it on a long black velvet ribbon which she'd wrapped several times round her neck to make a choker. It looked fantastic! (Sorry, no photos, but you can see her shoes in a later picture in this post!). I also gave her a super book, Love Pink, which I'd read about on Niki's blog, a vintage book on handwriting analysis (her hobby) and her own personalised version of our family tree. Later in the evening I showed the females of the family what I'd bought in my charity shop trip of the West End and Dalry. (There is no link here, the computer's just being silly.) One of my first finds was this vintage sewing tin - it says 'workbox' in the top left corner. There are little curved 'shelves' for bobbins of thread inside, although it must have originally come with sweeties in - from Basset's. This little rose bowl was a real find. I was so anxious to find one on my travels that when I spotted this on, filled with artificial roses, I snapped it up without really looking. When I got it home my mum pointed out that it is cut glass and considerably more valuable than I realised! It looks good with our French roses in it now.
In the same shop, run by Bethany Christian Trust, I found this handful of photograph folders from the 1930s. Do you see the legs on a sunbathing beauty? I must take proper photos of these for you all later, because they are marvelous. £1 the lot.
This book is by Petra Boase, who is a contributor to my wonderful Flea Market Style book. She produced this one ten years ago, but it was still worth the weight problems of bringing it back on the plane!
On my way back down Dundas Street, I stopped in an antique shop. This is not like me, and even less like me to buy anything, but I expect I will be given a bit of birthday money so I spent some in advance! (Do you do that?) I found this hand-covered fabric box which will be lovely for holding my lace collection.
In the same shop I couldn't resist this old chocolate box full of buttons. The lady in the shop was great, and her stock would be very appealing to lots of people who read this blog. She tells me her daughter blogs too, so I will have to look her up!
Here, then, is the last of my Edinburgh treasure, most of it from the charity shops of Dalry. I'm wearing the greenish tunic dress with a pair of rolled-up denim shorts at the moment - that was a good buy!Life has been hectic since I got back! It's lovely to be home but I think that I will be blogging a lot less until after my party is out of the way... I have all the preparation to do plus a very enjoyable, lucrative, but lengthy, set of 34 interviews to do as an external examiner at one of the Toulouse universities. I have a few posts prepared in the run up to our blog garden party on Saturday/Sunday, but then it's break time from blogging, I think! Do sign up for the garden party if you'd like to join the fun...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Only one charity shop? What's got into Floss?

Could it be these handsome young men?

I had a project which kept me in the house for most of this afternoon - I was using some online software to make sense of a family tree, based on the certificates and other documents kept by my mother's family.

To be honest, we have no idea who any of these young men is. My mother suggested we pick the best looking and claim him for an ancestor. Thus, I am proud to tell you that I am directly descended from the suave chappie on the top right. My mother and I were in no doubt..?
However, we do know who this couple are - my grandma's parents. My mother remembers her grandmother well.
There are few photos, but many certificates and one or two family records. This sad little page records the birth of the man in the photo above - he was one of the last children in his family, and one of the few to survive. His mother wrote down times as well as dates for some of the births and deaths...I also spent a little time today mending my father's jumper. I had to go to the downstairs sewing table to find the right thread.Inside are a lovely collection of vintage and modern sewing things - just whatever my mum and grandma needed (they shared a house, and therefore sewing equipment, for years.)
This thread was perfect, even if the photo doesn't show it!Even though the charity shop had nothing of interest, I did find this charming bracket looking for a home on my parents' basement window ledge yesterday. Apparantly my mum bought this back in the '80s, and my grandma was horrified and refused to have it anywhere! It's been given to me now, and will hopefully find a good home in France.I'm very touched to have been given this award by sweet Sarah, of Red Gingham!Thank you so much, Sarah! I suspect that most of you already know her lovely New Zealand crafting, thrifting and family blog, but any who don't have GOT to get into visiting it...
Now, I am allowed to award this to five more fabulous blogs. I hope it's OK, but I have a plan for this award... Every now and then, you know how it is, I stumble across a lovely new blog that somehow I've never seen before. I'd like to give this award to one of those blogs today, and save the other four for new discoveries in the future. I hope that's OK, Sarah?
So my fabulous new(ish) find, which wins the Fabulous Blog award, is Della Grace's Life. Della is the self-styled 'Queen of Random', but her random posts have a tendency towards the vintage, the thifty, the charming, the frighteningly youthful... Go and find out for yourselves!
Sarah also tagged me (actually, Mandy says she's tagged me too, but I can't find that post, Mandy. If it's the same tag, will you accept these answers, please?) The challenge is to list six unimportant things I love. I've listed six before, but this time I'm going to list six unimportant things about Edinburgh that I love, seeing as Edinburgh is my home for the week:
1. Long summer evenings. It's not dark at 9pm. It's not TRULY dark at 10pm. There is a pay-back in the winter but it's probably worth it.
2. The science and technology room in the National Museum of Scotland - the boys can spend literally hours in there with all the activities.
3. The charity shops!
4. The dates and mottos carved on many of the old buildings.
5. The tablet (ask for further details if you don't already know!)
6. The Botanic Gardens.
Thanks so much for this tag - it was fun! I've already tagged my six, so I think I'd better not send this one any further, I'm afraid.
More charity shops tomorrow, perhaps, as I've finished my trawl through the family archives..?