Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Can you see George?

If you read the previous post you will know that we lost a precious teddy called George when daughter no. 4 was about 4 years old as she is in this photo. Can you spot him here in the photo? He was always this close! This is a cute memory of my youngest who will be 20 years old in two weeks time!! I can hardly believe it!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

I've been tagged!

I've been tagged by driftwood to provide 8 random facts about myself so here goes.

1. I love water and mountains either separately or together

2. I have a wide variety in music taste from Bach to Santana to Coldplay to Celtic and Gregorian chants!

3. I love travelling and have a number of friends around the world but several in the US whom I love to visit.

4. I had three children under 3 at one point and then a fourth came along 5 years later and they are all girls! I was at home for 11 years with them all before going back to work part time.

5. I am a Myers Briggs Practitioner (Personality preference assessment tool) and have been a Personnel specialist working with Christian charities for the last 15 years.

6. I love owls and have a collection of all sorts - both furry and china/wood. I also love teddy bears - especially small ones. In fact when daughter no. 4 was born I found I indulged my love of soft toys generally and that she was only too pleased to be the recipient and we took delight in naming each one personally. Our favourite was a very small teddy (only 6ins) called George who one day got left on a bus on the way back from ballet class!!! Oh the sadness, oh the woe of that day. He could never really be replaced even though we found one a bit like him but bigger.

7. I thought I would never have an animal in the house until I agreed 6 years ago to have a rescued cat called Alfie. He came with just two teeth and no tail (had been removed because of an accident!!) and he was one of the loves of my life until he had a stomach tumour in April this year and my husband took him to the vet and returned with an empty cat basket! Sooooo sad. We are hoping that in the new year we will venture to have another rescued cat to come and live with us. He will have to be male as we are a house full of females apart from my husband!

8. I love baking bread and cakes and would happily have a stall and sell them if I didn't have a day job and the need to earn more pennies (to help daughter no. 4 to to Uni) than I would earn doing that.

Well, that was a lot more difficult than I imagined. I found there were lots of things I could say but I didn't know whether they would be interesting enough to be read by anyone else but then ....

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

November!

No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds!
November!

Thomas Hood

I came across the little poem last night at a gathering I was at. It pretty much sums up the time of year. But if you feel the need for colour then do check out http//doyoumindifiknit.typepad.com there are some gorgeous colours there to brighten your day.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Foraging in Devon!

and look what I found! Hubby and I had to go down to Devon for a board meeting and while he was in there giving his presentation I was out on the high street flitting from charity shop to charity shop! I couldn't believe how many there were in such a small stretch of road! But I picked up this almost double bed sized blanket all hand knitted, no doubt lovingly by someone. It must have taken simply ages.
And then I found this which is really thick and cosy. And these
lovely linen bags just waiting to be filled with lavender. They were from a shop called Adam's lace which had a real mix of stuff.
I had a great time in the car knitting and crocheting for several hours. I had a craving to do some knitting last week so started a scarf with some interesting wool I brought back from the US three years ago now. The crochet I am doing at the moment is lots of red flowers like the ones on the tote bags in an earlier post, to put on my gifts at Christmas!
So whether it will be death by blankets or death by magazines or even death by bags, I am not sure but things are accumulating round here. This week sees me out with the day job for three days, one of which is organising and hosting a day conference so I need to get myself focused and crafts will have to take a back seat until Friday.
Oh, and I did make some of Jane Brocket's rock buns tonight when we got home. It's been a long time since I made rock buns - I have a recipe that I wrote down at school when we did 'domestic science or DS' as it was called then! Jane's recipe is very good and they turned out delicious. Hubby was very happy!

Friday, 16 November 2007

Guess who I met at the Fair?

I was walking up one aisle when I came to a stand for Persephone books which I was amazed to see as I had planned to make a visit to the shop on the same day to buy two Christmas presents. And who should be there but Jane Brocket (her blog is Yarnstorm and she has just written and published the book "The Gentle Art of Domesticity"). It was great to be able to tell her face to face how incredibly eloquent and accessible her book is and how much she is a woman after my own heart. The book is currently on my bedside table and I only read it last thing at night as I am rationing myself. It is one of those books I don't really want to come to an end! The photos are gorgeous and Jane writes so well, expressing what so many of us have felt for so long and providing a 'why' behind what domesticity is all about.

The Persephone folk were very helpful and I was able to purchase both my books there and so didn't have to make the trip to the store after a long day shuffling along aisle after aisle of inspiration. I was all tuckered out when I eventually got on the train but no rest for me when I got home as daughter no. 4 wasn't feeling well with a bad cold and had two student friends here. So I set to, and made some homemade chicken and fresh coriander soup which we had with some nice bread and a range of cheeses (this is our favourite meal actually - soup, good bread and cheese), followed by homemade chocolate chip muffins. I certainly slept well and I think she felt better!

All the fun of the fair!

Well, I really did have some fun! The smell as you walked in from outside was very Christmassy - cinnamon, oranges, cloves wafting across the aisles packed with goodies, many of which were handmade. Here is a little snapshot of what I bought. Above are some bags from http://www.bill.brown.com/ They had them on special offer and were only £10 each, all sorts of shapes and sizes and I bought these two for my friend in Canada and her daughter who is living at home. Lots more on the website.
This little pot has a delightful handmade fragrant candle inside.
And this little bag also has a candle inside and some bath salts. These were both from the Fowey candle company down in Cornwall - http://www.foweycandlecompany.com/ It was a lovely stall and the people were so helpful and friendly, nothing was too much trouble for them. They obviously delight in what they do and are a family business.
And if you are a regular reader of Country Living you will remember the article about the lavender boys at Long Barn. Here are some gifts from their stall which had the most delightful aroma of lavender permeating the whole aisle they were in. I am sending these to my friend in New Jersey who just loves English lavender.


And these lovely hearts were from Bespoke Country which had many different things heart-shaped and shaker/Nordic style. It was their ribbon which was featured on the CL Christmas fair advert last year that actually made me want to go. They have a good website and mail order catalogue too.

There were other things of course, like beautiful earrings made from handmade paper by Circle and Dash. I bought a pair last year and they are so light to wear you hardly feel you have them in your ears and they come in the most gorgeous colours and shapes. No one was taking photos though and I didn't actually take my camera. I think I would have felt rather conspicuous if I had wandered around taking photos of each stall and it wouldn't have been easy given the crowds there.

It was a real feast for the senses and I think most stalls were doing a very good trade. It was certainly as packed as last year. I found it really inspiring seeing so many little goodies that people had made as well as delighting in all the colours. textures and aromas. I wish you could go, I know you would enjoy it! Maybe next year? We could meet there for coffee? What do you think?

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Are you going to the fair?

I am tomorrow! Lucky lady that I am. Sorry about the photo but it was the best I could do with a need to be quick. I went to the Country Living Christmas Fair last year for the first time. I was SO drawn to the advert last year as it showed hearts (a favourite of mine) and red heart and check ribbon. Daughter no. 1 and I made a day of it and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Although I do remember it being absolutely packed out and there being very little room to move in and out of the aisles. I shall take some food provisions with me as everything there is very expensive but I am really looking forward to being inspired by so many hand-made goodies and creative crafts. I'll let you know what I discover. I am also planning a little visit to Persephone Books as I shall in that area, to buy some Christmas presents. What a fun day!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

English Thanksgiving?

Pumpkin Pie! Or the remains of it! Today we had a roast chicken dinner (I don't always do a roast dinner on a Sunday at all) and our three daughters who no longer live at home came for lunch. It was great to see them all and to hear all about what they are up to. They don't live far away and we are often in touch during the week but it's been a while since they were all here together for lunch. So I thought today was the perfect day to have pumpkin pie which I have wanted to make for a few weeks now. I have made it before with fresh pumpkin and I remember hubby didn't like it! He didn't like this one either which was made with canned pumpkin (Waitrose!) and had lots of spice in it. I think it is the texture he doesn't particularly like. But the girls loved it and took a piece home with them each. Daughter no. 4 was working all day today in Bond Street so we've saved her plenty!

It is good to be thankful. We have SO much in this country to be grateful for and much we take for granted. I think the American Thanksgiving tradition is a fun one (and the Canadian one too which is in October) and a sobering one as time is taken to be thankful for family, friends, food, nation, gifts, skills and talents, peace and freedom.

On another note, what is it about crafts that just somehow doesn't connect with folk here? I was speaking to some people I know reasonably well today and they were asking me how I was. I said I was having a great time at the moment being able (because I am not in full time employment) to devote time to what I really love to do in the way of crafting, sewing, crocheting, papercrafting etc. You can see the sort of glazed look that comes over as if you are some alien who likes to do this thing that surely nobody does anymore. "Oh, I used to do that but I now just buy something in Primark" was one response I got!!! Yes, it is tempting to buy at such low prices (but at what cost to others is the question and I have absolutely no idea what the answer is to this) but how much more fun to produce something handmade.

Yet there is something else that bothers me. It is as if 'crafting' and I use the term in a general sense, is more inferior to other occupations; a sheer luxury perhaps in this high activity, define-me-by-job culture. I do also think that in the UK we have lost some of that respect there has been the past for crafts and crafting. It is no longer really seen as cool and whereas my mum's generation all learned to knit (socks and other things for the war) and sew and this was seen as a key set of skills, it seems somewhat 'flaky' now and unless you are with likeminded people, you don't actually get your knitting out!! This of course doesn't apply to all those wonderful people all over the UK who are now part of knitting and crochet groups and whose interest has been rekindled by Debbie Stroller and others. I get the impression (as I have been in the US on a few occasions and have a number of North American friends) that things are different in the US and crafting is just more acceptable, expected as part of what you might do and catered for by the wonderful outlet stores like Michaels. Enough from me! I'd be interested in what others think on this topic.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Paper crafting

Today I have been doing a little cardmaking! I have two very good friends who have birthdays this month and this is one of the cards I made using rubber stamps. I love this effect which is a bit like painting and of course you can use as many extra bits and pieces as you want! I prefer to keep it simple so the happy birthday piece is raised on little sticky foam bits and there are a couple of heart brads for interest. The picture doesn't show the holographic glitter on the pink flowers but this just finishes it all off nicely.





I also decided on the design for our Christmas cards this year. Again keeping it simple is the key especially when I shall probably end up making about 80!!
And here are the little totes ready to go. Today I popped into the Poundland and bought a fun little 'crispy teddy' for the one year old(it just has a flat body which is very crispy and crunchy to touch!) and a flower sticker album complete with stickers for the nearly three year old.

I was tempted to go to the I knit London event today where Debbie Stroller of Stitch and Bitch fame and Jane Brocket (Yarnstorm) were going to be interviewed plus of course no doubt the most wonderful stalls full of wool and accessories. I have only recently discovered this link and the fact that there are knitting and crochet classes etc plus meeting up points all over London.
I have Jane's book "The Gentle Art of Domesticity" which is absolutely wonderful. Truly a woman after my own heart and very eloquently expressing all I have felt and thought about domesticity for years.

More Raspberries! More Brownies!

Check out these little guys! I found them on the way down to the compost bin! There they were all delightful and rosy hanging all by themselves amidst the compost bin to the left and the forsythia to the right. So I had to pick them and of course taste them! They are the variety known as Joan J and recommended by Gardners World I believe. I bought this particular variety because my mother in law is Joan J and I thought it would be fun to have raspberries named after her! She is 81 and still going strong in Somerset, living in her own flat, driving around and generally enjoying life.
So there wasn't enough raspberries to make anything with and daughter no.4 was very keen I made some brownies. This is a great recipe from my friend in Canada called: Lazy Gormet Brownies. I added a few sprinkles on top to make them more interesting. Here is the recipe:

LAZY GORMET BROWNIES

1 cup of butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup soft brown sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
3 eggs
1 cup SR Flour (or all purpose plus 2 tspn baking powder)
2 tspn vanilla
chopped walnuts if desired

Melt butter in a saucepan, add sugar and cocoa. Add eggs one at a time. Stir well. Add flour (and baking powder if using). Add vanilla and nuts. Pour into 9" x 13" baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 mins. Yummy!

Thursday, 8 November 2007

The sewing machine has come out!!


Two little totes for two little girls I am going to visit next week. They are the daughters of someone who used to work with me and I am so looking forward to seeing them.
Well the sewing machine has had its cover on for longer than I dare to admit! But it is SO good to get it out and to create.
I am just loving this time and space I have right now to do this kind of thing.
It's a long time since I made a tote and I am sure they are pretty makeshift really so I ought to get someone to show me how to make a really pucker job (with seams all neatly hidden etc etc!) but I really enjoyed making these. The blue and red crocheted flowers I found on Teresa Franco's blog. They are really easy and quite addictive. Teresa has some other lovely patterns on there so do go and check it out.
I also managed to sew a table runner from some delightful provencal material I brought back from France last year!!! So that is sitting prettily in the hallway right now.
So what next you may ask? Hmmm, something for the season and time of year I think so I am off to see what Christmas fabric I might have stashed away.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Sweeping the leaves




So it has to be done! This is how I spent some of my time last Friday and now nearly a week later it is almost just as much covered again.


But how beautiful Autumn has been this year! We went away with our church for the weekend down to Battle, near Hastings and the colours were very special.

Hmmm still not entirely sure how posting more than one photo works on these blogs. I am sure there is an easier way. I have all sorts of ideas of what I am going to say and the photos that will work with it but somehow getting the camera connected up to the computer and then downloading and finding the photos, not to mention trying to load them on here in the right order, seems to be putting me off! I am sure all you regular bloggers have a secret way of doing it that is really easy and I would love to know how so do leave a comment and let me know! I the meantime enjoy the colours and these wonderful blue skies and bright sunshine days. I think tomorrow the weather is turning for most of the UK and it will be more like it is supposed to be in November! Hey ho.

Last week I was picking the last (I guess!) of my raspberries! Can you believe it? This was my first year of growing fruit and they are absolutely delicious.