Let there be light! William & Joseph ‘Wuthering Heights’ candle

This @williamjosephcandles is lovely. A really subtle herb-y, green scent- it smells way more expensive than it actually is. I fancy the Manderley candle next! #brontes #wutheringheights #emilybronte #candle #home #hygge:

I love candles. After a brief flirtation with melts etc- which I use in the kitchen, but they’ve never really won my heart- I’m back into candlelight in a big way. Everything about them is so soothing, especially when it’s January and we’re suffering fairy light withdrawal (I’ve never understood why we take away all the lights at the DARKEST point of the winter…) I always, always feel better if I have a candle burning. Although I’m a bit wary of ordering candles online, after too many ‘bathroom cleaner’ scented gambles, I couldn’t NOT buy this could I? After all, it’s one of my favourite books, I have a slight Bronte obsession and I wanted to smell the moors of my home county. I figured I’d take a risk.

William & Joseph are committed to producing high quality candles, most of which have a bookish theme (I’m after trying their Rebecca-inspired ‘Manderley’ candle especially, although their Gatsby and Sherlock scents interest me, too.) The Wuthering Heights candle takes a while warm up to its full scent, but it’s worth the wait: a subtle ‘green’ scent, slightly masculine but clean-smelling, it’s lovely. There are notes of pine and juniper mixed with jasmine and bergamot, with rosemary and cedarwood. It is perfectly representative, I think, of Catherine and Heathcliff- or Kate Bush in a field.

hqdefault I’ll admit, I was a bit worried about the pine element, as it so often is overused to the point of causing a headache, but I needn’t have worried, as here is serves to lift the rest of the scents. The overall scent is one of brooding moors after heavy rainfall, rather than bathroom after the overuse of bleach. I think the candle smells much more expensive than it actually is- very often candles are hugely pricey and smell synthetic, but this is reasonably priced for a good sized candle.

The candle itself burns cleanly, too. No smoke and an even burn mean that I’m able to light it without worrying about soot marks too, which makes Benn very happy. No one wants black marks above their mantelpiece, do they?

I’m excited to discover other scents from William & Joseph- it was hinted on Twitter that they might get around to a Baby Jane scent one day (I suggested face powder, lipstick and gardenias..) which I would buy in. a. heartbeat.

You can buy William & Joseph candles here. The candle I bought was £14.99 and  I bought it from Etsy. (Please note: the shop is currently re-stocking glass candles, but you can check out their tin candles while they do!)

Dance like nobody’s watching

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I am not a natural dancer. My hearing isn’t brilliant, so I can often miss the beat. I have the hand-eye co-ordination of a sloth who has had too much caffeine. I certainly don’t look like a dancer. But that doesn’t mean I don’t try. I mean, I watch Strictly! I know the names of certain dances!

I have certainly tried very hard in the past to be a dancer, although I came to it quite late. Much to my mother’s despair, I was never interested in ballet and she never forced it on me (I was much more your dinosaurs-and-motorbikes kind of girl as a preschooler.) But later on, a relatively well-known dance company came to my school and, desperate not to be the pudgy, badly bullied girl with a bad haircut I was, I signed up. I was good at Drama and thought I could put aside my self-esteem issues and become A DANCER! I tried so hard. I went on the outing to the dance studio. I went to see the dance company perform. I can’t actually remember if I performed. Maybe I’ve blocked it out. Oh, I was so bad. I was awkward, from being a teenager. I was awkward because I was picked on by the girls who took to dance more naturally. But by Jove, I can still remember that ridiculous dance and I could still probably perform it, although having gone through puberty proper and childbirth since, it’d be quite a tricky ask. And a  few years ago I used my Christmas money to sign up for jive lessons. I loved it. For about three weeks until I discovered I was pregnant and then my life became one of nausea and exhaustion. I still can’t hear ‘Rock Around The Clock’ without my feet beginning to shuffle though.

I never dance in public- I haven’t been to a club since the Romans were being chased around Anglia by Boudicca- although I’ll have a quick mum-shuffle round the dancefloor at a wedding if I’ve had enough gin and the buffet has had enough vegetarian food to keep me going. I love dancing. But dancing with others is not my passion. No. My passion is dancing around my kitchen, by myself, flailing to something probably from the 80s. Imagine me, dear Reader, only this evening throwing myself about to Bowie’s Modern Love and Wham!’s I’m Your Man, dressed in leggings and a man’s jumper thrown over a dress that resembles a scandalously short monk’s cassock. I looked ridiculous- but I was happy.

Goodness knows, the world is an unhappy place at the moment. My mind is an unhappy place a lot of the time and my body- well, that’s a battleground all of its own. But when I am enthusiastically throwing myself around the ground floor of my house, music turned up, safe in the knowledge that no-one can see me (save my son, who may or may not enthusiastically join in by spinning on the spot so much that I have to boogie away from him in order to not feel sick myself.) It feels good. I’m not judging myself, no one else is judging me; I’m not really thinking. If I did, I’d probably be horrified by the ‘shapes’ I’m ‘throwing’. But it’s my kitchen, my music. I love it. Afterwards, I know I’ll feel tired and a bit daft, but I’ll also feel euphoric, even if only for a bit. I won’t change politics, I won’t change the things that stress me out, but I will have a break from them. Ultimately, it’s an escape from my own brain and that is always welcome.

I’m not one for a ‘new year, new you’, because quite frankly it’s nonsense. But a quick dad dance round the kitchen to old-school Kylie? Sign me up.

Looking forward, looking back

20161230_150620 This year… well. It’s been a tricky one and, I’ll admit, that sometimes it’s been hard to rationalise what’s been happening in the world. It’s been a confusing, sad year and there have been times when it’s seemed scary and unknowable. I’m not sure if 2017 will be any better in that respect, but I have to believe that there will be hope. Otherwise, what’s the point?

From a personal perspective, 2016 was OK; I navigated the world the best I could. One of my highlights was talking to Lauren Laverne on her radio show about my experiences with postnatal depression. After that conversation, one of my friends opened up to me about her experiences. It felt good to help someone and for me to acknowledge what I’d gone through (which I hadn’t done hugely openly before) and to know that I was helping someone else. I want to keep having these conversations, to keep helping others where I can. Mental health issues will continue to be important and as anxiety about the world increases, we need to support each other as best we can. We need to help each other. I want to be kind in 2017; goodness knows, it feels like we’re going to need it. I also need to help D understand about kindness to others. It’s never too early!

2017 will also mean changes: D will start school in September (which I cannot quite believe), but this poses questions for me. I always knew I wasn’t going to have another child, so this period means that I can start to look at my career- I’ve been working three days a week for the last three years. Do I increase my hours? Stay the same, but pick up more freelance work? Study? I don’t know yet. It’s quite thrilling but also terrifying. I’ve never really been good with change; my life has been pretty risk-averse! But I want to start exploring avenues and options that I’ve never been confident enough to try. I want to embody the fearlessness of Carrie Fisher (whose novels I would like to read in 2017- as well as finally getting round to seeing Star Wars!)

stay-afraid-but-do-it-any-way-what-s-important-10041241My new years resolutions are simple: sort out my passport (it’s due to expire this year- and it’s still in my maiden name, despite the fact that I’ve been married for nearly six years!); bake something sweet and vegan so that my boss can eat some of the cake I take into work; write to three people I admire (after Victoria Wood died, I sorely regretted never having written to her. I might start with Alan Bennett. After all, it worked with Angela Lansbury!); and to grow red sweet peas, even though I’ve heard they don’t smell much. But it’d be wrong to not grow my favourite flower in my favourite colour, even if I only do it once.

Other than this, it’ll just be business as usual- trying to keep my anxiety about the world in check, being kind to others where I can and trying to sleep well (insomnia is an unwelcome friend at the moment.) I just want to try my best in 2017.

I wish you and yours a happy, peaceful 2017.

Divine Divas: Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)

"Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" (1962) bette #davies joan #crawford #horror:  So this has gone a little off-piste (I’ll be reviewing Of Human Bondage in the next few days), as I’ve been trying to go in order of film release, but I requested this from the library and it came earlier than expected! Anyway, welcome to the mother of all rumour-filled films, in which Misses Davis and Crawford- long rumoured to be bitter enemies- are sisters ‘Baby’ Jane and Blanche Hudson, trapped in a co-dependent and unravelling relationship that isn’t fun for anyone. A washed-up and now alcoholic former child star, Jane is forced into the role of carer of her sister, a more successful actress who was disabled in an accident caused by Jane’s drinking. Jane’s mind becomes more and more unstable as the film progresses, putting her sister-and those around her- in grave danger.

babyj2 I love this film. It’s campy and outrageous and surprisingly quite funny. I ADORE Bette Davis as Jane; her level of ‘meh’ in some scenes actually make me laugh every time I see them. I think every performance is fantastic and that this is one of those films deserving of its cult status. I understand why people become slightly obsessed with it. (My Twitter cover picture is the one above; my Facebook profile picture is of ‘Baby’ Jane applying lipstick. I am quite biased.)

I first saw it when I was about 15 and it wasn’t much later that I discovered one of my favourite books, ‘Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud’ by Shaun Considine, which is a biography of the two actresses told through their apparently bitter rivalry (which is disappointingly debunked by Karina Longworth in my favourite podcast, You Must Remember This.) I remember being being especially taken by Davis’ transformation into the deranged Jane: layers upon layers of caked makeup and a creepily innocent smile. In contrast, Crawford had to be really persuaded to abandon her high-glamour look, which she didn’t really do. In some of the earlier scenes, she is eerily beautiful for someone who has been locked in one room for twenty years, and Davis later complained that Crawford wore ‘falsies’- and that, in a scene in which she had to lie across her chest, it was like landing on ‘two footballs’.

Is it scary? Not really, by modern standards. I imagine there were scarier films being released even in 1962, to be honest. But what it is is a hugely entertaining film in which two greats allow themselves to be parodied (to greater or lesser degrees!) and to admit the ways in which their careers were permanently changing.

Angela Lansbury, the NHS and looking forward to Christmas

Hello! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? How’ve you been? I’ve been good, if busy, and life has done that thing it does sometimes where it sort of meanders away from you in a haze of stress and too much junk food because you’re too tired to eat properly. I’ve also been hding from the news and stuff, because I’m not 100% sure how I’m coping with the wider world on a daily basis. It’s a wonder we don’t run around wailing at the state of it all.

So, on a smaller scale, where are we at here? Well, D had an operation on December 2nd- a fairly straightforward one, to remove his adenoids and to put grommets in his ears. We’d first had him tested just before last Christmas and discovered that he did have a degree of hearing loss. As I’d had glue ear as a kid (and I have an on-going processing disorder as a result), I suspected he might have it himself- so I was relieved when we knew what it was and how it would be treated. And, unlike me having the op in 1990, he didn’t have to stay in hospital overnight, which was a HUGE relief. He was diagnosed quickly and within eight weeks of confirmation, he’d been operated on. Thank goodness for the NHS- it really is bonkers that some people want to get rid of it. I can’t praise the staff at the Royal Alex highly enough. Every single person who worked with us and D throughout the whole process was lovely and I’m very grateful that they have given him his hearing back. He’s got a whole new part of the world and it truly is a bit of a marvel to see.

You may also be wondering why I’ve mentioned Dame Angela Lansbury in the title of this post (unless you follow me on social media, in which case you’ll totally know what I’m on about…) D has become slightly obsessed with Murder, She Wrote on ITV3 every evening. We were channel-surfing one night and he asked to watch a bit. I figured there was not really any harm and: BOOM. His new heroine is Jessica Fletcher. It’s now a bit of a shared passion of ours, if I’m honest.

Anyway, I wrote to Dame Angela, asking whether it would be possible to have a signed picture for him. I had read that she usually sends out printed autographs- this was fine- although I explained about the operation and D’s love of Jessica Fletcher. So imagine my surprise when we received this:

15039737_10154002715702267_7634002859009306621_o She even addressed the envelope herself (I double checked the handwriting with examples online.) And so, dear reader, there is proof that there is good in the world in 2016- and that good is Dame Angela Lansbury. I framed it and hid it until the night before the operation; D insisted we take it with us to the hospital, much to the bemusement and amusement of the adults who spotted it. It now lives on our mantelpiece, as if Jessica Fletcher is our long-lost aunt. It makes D happy, confuses the hell out of Benn and makes me feel like I did something cool for my kid- everyone’s a winner.

And now term has ended, I don’t have much in the way of work to do over the holidays and all is well with the world. D is going to be Joseph in the nursery Nativity, I am going to read and knit (I won a £250 Etsy giftcard, which I seem to be intent on spending on new yarn, despite good intentions to use it for gifts throughout the year) and just unwinding. It’s been a whiplash of a year and I just need to recover. Who knows- maybe I’ll get back into the blogging spirit!

Sunday Tea: T2 Breakfast teas

Last weekend, T2 had a free shipping weekend and so I decided to order their Little Gems box- twenty tea bags that showcase T2’s best teas, across black, green and tisanes. The packaging was absolutely GORGEOUS and it’s a really good way of learning what T2 has to offer.

Dear @t2tea, your packaging is SO pretty! #tea #home #autumn:

Originally an Australian brand, they are now branching out across the UK and they genuinely have one of the most interesting ranges of tea out there; there is literally something for everyone. Anyway, I decided that as this blog series is called Sunday Tea, I’d focus on the breakfast teas. T2 has a staggeringly huge range of breakfast teas and there will be something you like, I promise. I’m just gutted that I can’t go into a shop and smell all of them.

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New York Breakfast: I’ve never been to New York, but I’ve always fancied it, probably because I’ve spent hours watching stuff like Flight of the Conchords, a misguided Sex and the City era in my teens and Jerry Orbach in Law and Order. It’s loud and brash and I just love the whole idea of it, despite the fact that I am very much a homebody at heart. This New York Breakfast tea takes the idea of an ACTUAL NY breakfast (and, let’s be honest, the food is part of the attraction) of pancakes and turn it into a tea. The result is a robust black tea lightly-but deliciously- flavoured with vanilla and cinnamon. I am genuinely considering ditching my usual early morning Earl Grey for this as my everyday tea. It is really lovely and I will be buying some.

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English Breakfast: Earl Grey is my default tea of choice if I’m drinking tea where there isn’t much, but I don’t mind the odd cup of English Breakfast tea (although people who know me do look at me funny if I ask for it over a flavoured tea. But sometimes you just gotta keep it simple, right?) The quality of English Breakfast can vary; it’s essentially a basic tea, often made of ‘tea dust’, the broken bits of tea leaves-most often Sri Lankan Ceylon tea, and so can be really cheap. Fair enough. This tea, however, is not a run-of-the-mill tea; this is The Good Stuff. The flavour is light without being cloying, a criticism I sometimes have of English Breakfast tea; it can be so claggy that you feel it stick to your teeth. This is not one of them. It’s a classy brew with a lighter flavour than you might expect, but it’s still full-bodied and robust enough for the first cup of the day.

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Irish Breakfast: Something slightly odd- although I don’t usually drink unflavoured teas, I will always, always make an exception for Irish Breakfast. Not sure why- maybe it’s the 25% of Irishness I carry in my bones (not enough for citizenship, unfortunately, boo…) or maybe because it seems so much more of a punchy tea than its more delicate English counterpart, but I love it. In fact, it’s a perfect biscuit dunking tea, too; I particularly like it with stroopwafles/Dutch waffles from Tiger. It’s really good stuff, especially with a hangover/fry up etc. Anyway, T2’s Irish Breakfast tea is what it should be: strong, delicious and warming. Perfect for cold winter days and no-nonsense cups of tea.

t125ae023_melbourne-breakfast_r1 Melbourne Breakfast: I wasn’t quite sure what a ‘Melbourne’ tea would comprise of, seeing as I shamefully don’t know all that much about Australia (which means my Aussie friends have great fun making up deadly animals and outrageous facts to alarm me.) Actually, T2 has a range of Australian breakfast teas to represent different areas and their characteristics. This one is a sweet vanilla tea with rich undertones from the tea to balance it out- it’s not a tea that tastes of artificial sweetness at the expense of the tea itself. It’s a lovely blend, much lighter than the New York breakfast tea and quite a soothing one at that.

Let me know which of these teas you like/you’d like to try!

Christmas 2016 at Bluebird Tea Co.*

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Ah, I feel like I can actually tell you about the package I received the other week! I’ve had a horrendous cold and no sense of taste to speak of. However, all is right now, chez Pomfrett and I can reveal some of the exciting things Bluebird has to offer this festive season.

Some favourites from previous years are back- Snowball and Christmas Cake (the one with the sparkles!) are joined with two new fruit blends: Mulled Cider and the delightfully named Hey, Sugar Plum.

Snowball is as delightfully sweet and coconutty as I remember it being from last year; the big news is that this year, there’s a vegan option (although most of Bluebird’s teas are vegan, the marshmallows in Snowball prevented it from being so in previous years.) I’ve had to keep this one from D, who caught wind of it and nagged for some. But a 4-year-old and caffeine? You’re having a laugh! (He was placated with some caffeine free Gingerbread Chai.)

My response to fruit teas at this time of year is usually ‘does it go well with whiskey?’ and I can say that both of these do. Hey, Sugar Plum is a delightful blend of fruit and spices- it tastes like some kind of Victorian plum pudding and it is lovely.

My favourite, though, is Mulled Cider. It combines two of my most loved flavours: apple and spices. It’s warming, seasonal and, yes- it goes really, really well with alcohol in a warm drink setting (completely necessary when full of cold or, just…cold.)

And let’s talk about the other bits I received. All the hype this year has been on the Advent calendars- which do look amazing- but I think the crackers deserve some praise too. I really like the design of them and D and I had fun pulling them apart. Inside we found a tea joke, a teabag of one of the regular tea blends and a hat. They’re fun and would be great for a Christmas get together with friends.

Finally, I am LOVING Bluebird’s new candle range. I received the Snowball candle and I’m burning it as I type. The thing I like about the candles is that the scent is noticeable but not overpowering and, as much as I love a Yankee candle, sometimes you don’t want that level of scent.

Overall, it’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas over at Bluebird!