Housekeepers Carousel

By Alison December 20, 2010 21 Comments 6 Min Read

Well now. Here we are. Trapped indoors by knee-high snow with a list of gifts that look as though they might just go undelivered by the reliable work-horse that is Amazon and a few still in the shops that the cancellation of all local train services is making impossible to collect.
I feel quite giddy! Around these parts we are about to enjoy the kind of austere Christmas that probably hasn’t been seen since World War Two. Without basics like milk and bread and loo-roll if the councils  don’t get their act together and do something about roads treacherous with snow and ice! Where in the name of Christmas are the sweepers and the gritters and the men with spades??  Hysteria is me.
Anyway with a child still in his dressing gown and slipper socks, and a head stuck in a book, and all other preparations for Christmas done and dusted Chez Brocante there is nothing left to do but open up my file of scrumptious things and regale you with all those things I’ve been meaning to share for an age, alongside one or two notices about all things Brocante I  really must pass on, and right down at the bottom of this post, a little competition…
* First things first: my email. If you have emailed me recently and I haven’t responded or indeed if you have been waiting in vain for word from me and received nothing but deep silence for your troubles, then  please forgive me for I have sinned against the Googley Gods and fiddled with my Gmail settings and in the process caused bedlam with filters and drafts and all manner of other things those with too much time on their hands are prone to fiddling with. Which means that lovely emails have been automatically filtered into files before ever reaching my in-box and emails I thought had been sent have been languishing on the chaise longue that is my draft folder for three weeks. I am RUBBISH with a big fat R. But trust me, I’m on it and will get back to you as soon as a root around my archives reveals the full extent of my troubles. I just thought the whole world had fallen out with me. Again…
* Next up Dottie Angel. Because I love her and I want to be her and live her life and feed her chickens. Sort it out please Santa, I’m in the mood for a life swap…

* Now the house that I would like to wake up in on Christmas morning. Because I want to open my presents sitting beneath that tree and take all the lotions and potions in my stocking straight to that bathroom where I would beautify myself silly and come out looking like a shabby chic version of Marie Antoinette. See the rest of the house here

* Now this… An invitation from 1809,  for one Miss Lydia Goulet to attend a Pleasure Ball, with a motto I do believe we should write on our hearts: “While we live, let us LIVE.” Isn’t it time we planned a Pleasure Ball in our own living rooms?
* Next my word for 2011: BETTER. I want to feel better, look better, love better, write better, be better. This year I have come to the conclusion that expecting more from yourself isn’t unkind: it is essential to improving your life, and while I know that gratitude and acceptance matter at this stage in my life I am coming to understand that drive and ambition will help me build upon the sturdy foundations I have spent the past five years laying. It is time to be better. To ask for more from who I am and what I am capable of. More on this in the New Year my sweets…

* Next up : Reading for Vintage Gals like me and you. Miss Millions Maid by Berta Ruck and Mrs Oliver Onions (!) is thoroughly daft and an absolute riot in quite the quaintest sense of the word, making it perfect company for a snowy afternoon spent in one’s very own snowed in prison. Then a browse around Girlebooks should provide you with enough free literary joy to see you through the season, without having to trawl your way through the hallowed halls of Gutenberg…
* Now an app that took all the images in my Flickr account and gave me a 34 second whizz through the last seven years of my life. Get yours at and see the very essence of your life flash before your eyes…

* And finally a teeny tiny competition. Because as always I need your help. You see in 2011 I plan on making changes here at Brocante  in line with my belief that progression sometimes demands change and recognising that in order to remain passionate about my on-line life  I need to channel my energy into writing about that which inspires me I will be looking to ever so slightly alter direction again in order to be better. So BrocanteHome doesn’t go stale.  This is nothing new and it doesn’t mean that Brocantehome will be unrecognisable: it simply means that as I have done every year I will be re-assessing what works and what doesn’t here, how my workload needs to alter to accommodate  not just that which keeps a roof over my head, but also that which allows me to write about what it is to live a BrocanteHome life in 2011, something I suspect is very different from what it was in 2005 when I first created it.
And so to have the chance to win a copy of the utterly scrumptious book above, I want to hear your views: how has your life as a vintage housekeeper changed? Is a  perfectly kept house the sign of a misspent life? Has the influx of housekeeping info available on the internet made it less interesting to you? Do you blog? Has the way you read changed? Do you own a reader? Are you looking for personal stories from a blogger or links to even more online inspiration? What do you think of the scrapbook way I blog? Would you be interested in more blogging how to’s? More book reviews? More vintage finds? You tell me…
Be as constructive as you can and your name will go in a hat to be drawn on January 2nd. So there’s plenty of time to gather your thoughts on Brocante) Many big thank you’s in advance.xx


  1. fromthepines says:

    I love your scrapbook style! I love all the little bits. I like to see vintage treasures, love book reviews and anything else that would be of interest. I am sure if you are interested.. I am interested! Cant wait to see what you do!

  2. Laura says:

    I love the insights into your life, your honesty and clarity and enjoy celebrating your triumphs with you. I'm not so bothered about little frou frou things to buy, but I love the books you bring to my attention

  3. Heather says:

    Truly, I look forward to your blog as a 'lifeswap' of my own (as you mentioned above with Dottie Angel). What I love most about your blog are you musings about your day to day life, your posts about family and friends, your posts about your fears and dreams and frustrations. It's like a I have a friend halfway around the world that I can rejoice and sympathize with. I also love your puttery treats and book reviews. If you wrote a book, I'd buy it in a second. Your blog is my absolute favorite on the web. A treasure I am lucky to have found randomly about 4 years ago. I check it every day. Best wishes, Alison, in 2011! Merry Christmas! Thanks for all the inspiration.

  4. Jenny says:

    I love your work. Have for a long time. Sometimes I wish it was more streamlined…I don't even know all the places to find you…Posterous? RSS? Email? Where else? But it's always scrumptious. I love your "voice" encouraging us on and the practicals you provide. Maybe switch up the pink-polka-dots and stream-line Brocante's "logo"? Best of luck in the New Year!

  5. I love Brocante Home!!! So many lovely vintage things to see and so many great home-loving things to do!! Thank you for being YOU!!

  6. I have enjoyed greatly your lovely blog. I love the concept of "vintage housekeeper." I am a mother of seven, farmwife and lover of keeping our home. I am particularly fond of your puttery treats. I love planners that are lovely, all the way down to the grocery list. I dream, too, of an Aga in my kitchen and all the lovely things that could be made with it. I'd love this book…would put it right next to my lovely copy of The Virginia Housewife by Mrs. Mary Randolph.
    Thank you for all this fun.
    A Real Virginia Housewife

  7. chrissie says:

    It may sound melodramatic but my finding your website has been a lifesaver. Invalided out of work as my ex dumped me on my Silver Wedding Day. Tied to the home, I browsed looking for kindred spirits. I love my home, enjoy vintage and have to decorate on a budget but love to alter things to suit me. You spoke to me Alison. All you said I thought yes that is me ! I related so much. My humour has been a boon to me and I recognised the same trait in you.
    I loved the original 2005 Brocante Home. Found it easy to navigate. Have ordered many of the books you mention. Christmas ones always a treat. Different from what I can find in ths shops. Puttery treats a favoutite, always comforting. I log on every day and feel cosy and inpsired. I have cried and laughed with you and have lived in fear that one day you will say I am too busy to carry on with Brocante. Please keep on keeping on. Wonder if you know the pleasure you have brought ?
    Personal stories yes. be good. Shared recipes might be an idea . House Tours as they do on Hooked on Houses ? Easy for me to say do this do that !
    Thanks for keeping me up.
    A very Happy Christmas to you and Finley.
    Hope 2011 is kind to you.
    Love Chrissie X

  8. Janet says:

    I think you have the lovliest way of writing and have enjoyed following you thru the years. I do not follow any other bloogers, because they don't hold my attention as you do. The puttery treats are wonderful. The advent calendar has been such fun. I would like to see something written to address people who have their lives turned upside down every week by shift work, if possible.

  9. kathy t says:

    I love your blog! I recently found you -I wish I could remember how-oh dear ! I love your stories -I love your photography -What would I want for next year -umm-well I do plan on starting a blog -so yes I would like more tips on blogging and photography. I would love to meet you and other followers on tweeter -like once a month or even once a week ., Love inspiration for decorating, meals, cleaning, organizing , feeling darn good about ourselves, any thing really -I turn 50 in 2011 and I too want to "be better" , maybe daily ways we can make a difference to someone that day , stress that our family is so important -how to make our spouses feel most important . Maybe do a online book club here with your readers . I just know however you 'update" your blog -it will still be you and your perssonality will still shine through 🙂 and I'll be here reading . Thanks for the chance for a give away.
    Blessings and Merry Christmas !

  10. Helen says:

    I've had so much pleasure from your work over the years – having been through an…unpleasant… relationship breakup I was touched by your honesty, highly amused by your sense of humour, constantly impressed by your ingenuity and vision. I've been wracking my brains trying to come up with a new direction for you and the one I always come back to is the rampant desire for brocantehome books. I love your housewife's planner and the other planners you've created and have placed them lovingly in my decorated folders but what I would really love is to have a 'proper' book, perhaps a year planner with puttery treats for every day and seasonal celebratory ideas. I feel very strongly that you are the housekeeping (by which I mean the whole of housekeeping, cooking, decorating, cleaning, and the all important emotional and spiritual aspects etc.) equivalent of Nigella and Cath and Kirstie (Lawson, Kidston and Allsop). Perhaps your new direction should include books and multi-media. I don't see why you shouldn't be as successful as the Pioneer woman – you have the same honesty and appeal. So there's my tuppence-ha'penny, hope it helps, best wishes to you and Finley and I look forward to seeing what the new year brings.

  11. Colleen says:

    Love this look of this book – and it's been one of my mantras for years!!

  12. Gena says:

    Well….Hmm,I have always loved everything you write Alison,I especially love the interesting links to websites etc.Because my circumstances have changed in the last two years and I have to actually go out to work,I fear I have become rather sluttish in the housekeeping department and I tend not to have the same interest in the housekeeping tips,mainly because my time at home is limited sadly,I would like to see more sort of spiritual posts that have cropped up on BH before,posts that speak of heart and home,the odd piece of poetry or quotes that I tend to carry around with me in a notebook! I suppose I enjoy being inspired I always loved the pinboard too. recipes! I always loved finding new recipes on BH! It remains my daily fix and I am always thrilled to find a new post xx

  13. BECKY GROFF says:

    love your website. i would like to see more of your place and where youlive, since i am in the USA.

  14. melissa says:

    Oh sweetheart, too tired tonight to be clever enough to answer your questions at the bottom of your blog 🙂 but always love coming here. And thanks so much for the Girlebooks link. Had been there in the past, but forgotten them. Have now downloaded enough books to last me for awhile (I say that!). Merry Christmas, dear Alison.

  15. Katherine says:

    I don't think the influx of housekeeping info on-line will EVER make it less interesting to me! I struggle with routine, so I am always looking for inspiration to clean and organize my home… I love the way you blog–I have a blog, but have neglected it the past year. My husband bought an iPad for me for my birthday, and I just downloaded my first book (I'm trying to download a couple that you've sent in the Advent calendar, but they're not working for me–researching that!!)–but I don't think I'll ever completely abandon *real* books… I am very interested in more vintage finds, and I also would love to see pics of your house/town/country more often–I really enjoy reading about your days, and like to picture it (like, one time–you walked to the post office–I was wishing I could see pictures of what you were describing–it's like another world for me…). If you had a picture-every-day blog (365 blog?), I would totally read it–because, as much as I dream about drinking tea in England one day, I don't know if it will truly ever happen… 🙂

  16. Jennie says:

    Alison your blog is so beautiful and you write so well that it always makes my day when you have posted. There is never enough on the net about housekeeping. I need help with organization and I too feel the need to be better. Have a very Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2011.

  17. Carlie says:

    I do blog, and blogging info might be a good thing for me. I love the personal bits about your own life…you're a kind of a literature style "character" to me that I enjoy following along with and thinking fondly of. I love the scrapbook fashion of blogging and your Housekeeper's Carousel has been my favorite recent addition. I get so excited when I see it in my feed. I do like recommendations, your puttery treats, I loved it when you treated a specific area with your puttery style…I remember fondly the one on the refrigerator and the one on the automobile. I think my vintage housekeeping has changed in that I now strive for breadth instead of depth. I try to clean as many things as possible during The Scrub, for instance, not clean the floor as deeply as possible. I am starting to be wary of the word vintage because it suddenly feels a touch cliche or something, that's new. I also have inserted a balanced touch of feminism into my philosophy…housekeeper as strong, capable and respected person, not just submissive and lovely. I love vintage things but don't like the pseudo-vintage stuff that's being cranked out by modern factories…all the "vintage style" stuff you can find on Ebay these days. Another way my personal housekeeping has changed is that I have started to get more exotic/eclectic/vintage and less straight vanilla, farmhouse vintage.
    Oooo…I thought of one more thing. I'd love it if you covered interior design techniques a little bit somehow. I have no idea how to put a room together. I have small ideas for cute things but I really lack big picture design sensibilities. I don't want you to turn into a design blogger but if you could throw in a tip or two from time to time I'd love it.

  18. Anna says:

    I really like the lists and organizing tips–less excited about charming little things to buy. . . finding things to buy is never a problem! That being said, you do have good taste. But I'm generally interested in paring back, pruning off excess, and enjoying what I already have, rather than acquiring more. Best wishes in the New Year!

  19. Chaya Bluma says:

    I actually really enjoy your stories about your life – I have a little boy the same age as Finn – so I can relate. I 'like suggestions for products and books, and especially some of the great online apps you've recommended. But mostly I come back because of the whole vision of the site – it's like having a scrumptiously decorated room I can go into while I have my morning coffee and dream about a different way of living (one where I actually "keep house" and can decorate with vintage everything). So thanks for that! Have a wonderful holiday!

  20. Valerie says:

    I hardly think I'm your "average" vintage housekeeper, as I have a full time job and no kids, even though I'd love to be a stay at home mom! It's a funny life isn't it? When I started reading your blog years ago, I was aspiring to be a lovely vintage housekeeper and hoping the days of doing it as a vocation would be soon. But these days I just aspire to be a beautiful, joyful person, whose home is hopefully decent and exudes peace and joy if not cleanliness and order at all times. But in spite of these changes in my life situation (i.e. the doubtfulness that I will do a seasonal scrub in 2011) I still enjoy reading your blog. I identify with you in many ways and love your voice and your authenticity. So even if your subject matter veered into different directions, I'm sure I'd still be reading! I'd love to see you do something different if it's what is truly coming from your heart. And perhaps if it is radically different you could start an offshoot blog?

  21. Katherine says:

    A misspent life? Perhaps there's some truth in that. While a chaotic home reflects a chaotic mind, an overemphasis on achieving the perfect home can lead to neglecting what's most important – namely, the people who live in it. I remember the resentment I had as a child when my mother nagged on about the household chores, comparing our (far from slovenly!) home with those of her friends who had much more money to spend (and cleaners popping round once a week…) It felt that the house was more important than we were.
    Now, with two hyperactive young children (one of whom has a lot of behavioural issues stemming from an underlying condition) housework feels overwhelming and there seems to be no point in trying to make the house look nice – they'll just wreck it again in five minutes. Meanwhile, the mess gets me down. So I guess what I'd like from Brocante Home is gentle encouragement, small steps towards order and niceness, while not forgetting that its the people who make up a home, not bricks, mortar or possessions. I tried out Flylady years ago, but found it got more and more complicated – so many emails! – and has got increasingly commercial. I don't need to buy another set of dusters – I need someone to motivate me to use them!
    In general, what I want from a blog is authenticity – not necessarily warts and all – but an honest account of the writer's life, of where they're at (not some idealised version of where they'd like to be) Most blogs that I read tend to be visually inspiring and tending towards the positive, but without too much Pollyanna-ish spin on how wonderful life is etc etc. Sometimes an honest sentence about feeling tired or depressed or overwhelmed can mean far more than a treatise on gratitude; "Wow! She feels that way too." Mainly, I think a blog works when the blogger is writing for herself, shaping the blog how she wants it and not trying to second-guess what her audience wants (that's not intended as a criticism of your blog, btw!) Perhaps there's a difference between building a blog and building a website/brand – the first is more authentically personal, the second is more geared towards selling/marketing a product; the question then becomes which of these you would prefer? The likes of Jane Brocket and Amanda Soule, who have landed publishing deals based on the success of their popular personal blogs… or are you aiming to become a brand, like Martha Stewart, Cath Kidston, Shabby Chic etc, in which case the personal is less important than the product/service that is offered? Only you can decide, and I wish you all the best with it.

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