Monday, 30 December 2013

Relaxed enough to knit

I've been trying my very hardest to stay calm and not overdo things this Christmas.  If something doesn't get done or bought, then so what? I didn't get every christmas decoration I possess out this year either.  So what have I learnt from this?

1) Christmas doesn't need to  be a headless chicken act, BUT
2) I will get all my decorations out next year (I didn't get the sherry feeling**)
3) I will prep my vegetables the night before.
4) I will put aside boxing day for doing nothing.

** That sherry feeling.  I only drink sherry at Christmas and it goes straight to my knee joints and ear drums.  I feel wobbly on the feet and everything goes quietly hazy.  The Christmas lights are fuzzier and my face assumes a gormless grin.  I missed that because I didn't have any sherry and, even if I did, there weren't enough decorations to twinkle.
Inflation has hit the Christmas Stocking Market.  When I bought the little chocolate coin bags for my 28 and 26 year old babies they had 'notes' in.   Commonly referred to as square dosh in our family.

The little silkie hens are coming on a treat. The picture below was taken on Christmas day 
 And this one was taken at lunch time today.
They are so beautiful - their little legs are impossibly thin and their little necks are just like miniature pipecleaners but they are growing before our very eyes. I'm not sure how big they will be but I think about the half the size of my laying hens.  The black one was smaller when they arrived but has grown much faster than the little lavender grey one.

So now the house is quiet (apart from Karin and I putting the world to rights and the clack of our knitting needles).  Can you guess what this is going to be?

Yes you're right - it's a bunny.  I'm getting ahead for Easter. (Just kidding I was supposed to have this ready for Christmas).

Ben came to stay on Saturday.  He sleeps with me. Sometimes he lets me have a little corner of the bed.  He is so cuddly in his little sleep-suit that I have to squeeze him all the time.
So now I preparing for next year's classes.  
I will be making the pattern for 'Picture the Year' available to download on the blog with a new 'month' each week so stand by for the first one on 9th January 2014. A paper copy will be available at High Street Quilting each week as well. Each pattern will have the design to trace and the verse to embroider as well as the dimensions of the pieces.  I'll be posting fabric requirements this coming Sunday.

Happy New Year to everyone.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

It's the cheepest Christmas yet

Would you look at this?  My Christmas present from Will arrived a few days early yesterday in all its fluffy glory.
Sorry the picture is a bit blurred - they wouldn't keep still! They are little Silkie Chicks - two weeks old and absolutely gorgeous. They are in a hamster tank at the moment with a special heater and I can hear their heartwarming little 'cheep cheep' as I write.  When they grow up they will be even fluffier. They won't be going out to join the other hens until they are a few weeks older though.  Lucky them - it's horrible outside and although the sun comes out every now and then, the rain and wind are winning at the moment. 

Work was manic up to the end on Friday but I have a week and a bit of peace before I start up again, not the two week break I intended (she says between gritted teeth) as I have to return to work early, but I am going to make the most of my time at home.

Last Saturday I started a little wooden tree at our regular session on 'the hill'.
I covered the wood with some paper I had and then I photocopied a page from a lovely magazine (Father Christmas is getting a subscription for me).
It's called Simply Vintage and it now comes in English but I decided to get the French version still as I like to keep in practice in case my numbers come up and I can afford that little stone cottage in France.  Anyhoo...
The papers are painted over with dark green (Plantation Pine) and then rubbed back.  A few buttons and some 'shabbying'.  I love this - thanks Sandra for another great design.

The vitamin packed smoothies are working their magic and I feel as fit as a fiddle now.

The predominant flavour in this Vitamin C delight was the strawberry, despite the other robust ingredients.

The green version always make me feel good - this little lot was less than 250 calories and packed with good things.

Juicy tomatoes, tangy cheese -  all toasted on a pitta bread. If you haven't tried Food Doctor pitta bread and like seeded things do have a go, they are very tasty.

I painted a last minute gift for a lovely friend at work:

Good old Ikea mirrors and one of my favourite floral patterns - another thank you to Sandra for great ideas.

Most of the shopping is done and my friend and I are off the the hairdresser tomorrow.  The presents are to wrap (Christmas Eve Tradition where possible).  I'm off the put some toad in the hole in the oven for tea and tonight I will be finishing a Cotton Rabbit for someone special.  I might even have a little tot of red wine.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Many a stocking was stitched

There was a Mavis and Gladys Workshop at High Street Quilting on Saturday 7th December.  The night before I got some paints out (bearing in mind I haven't been painting on 'the hill' since 23rd November and am suffering serious withdrawal symptoms).  I had some white bags for the patterns so I thought it would be nice to decorate them for the ladies.
I painted on a coat of gesso to seal the surface then washed a thin coat of Winter Blue over that. The snowgirl was painted with Light Buttermilk and decorated with yew boughs. A few snowflakes were added with my lovely dotty tool and a little bit of pen-stitching and a cinnamon heart finished the little scene.
I laid out all the parts of the pattern - there is nothing worse than forgetting some element.  Sadly I very often do because I am a bit of a last minute person. (New Year Resolution I think).
I decided not to bake for the class because some generous person or persons unknown had given me a nasty cold. Cupcakes from the kitchen of viral plague did not seem appealing.  So I schlepped down to Aldi for some award winning Mince Pies and a choccy Santa for each bag. Oops did an extra one find its way into my shopping basket?  It's ok I destroyed the evidence later that night.

After a lot of fabric choosing and little bit of machine maintenance:
 everyone settled down to sew.
A bit of machining, a bit of tracing, 
 Quite a lot of hand sewing,

 Nearly there...
I have to say it was one of the most industrious group of people I had worked with. I hope everyone got far enough with the stockings to finish them - some were very close, but it had been an intensive session and I think there were some sore fingers at the end!  How different they all looked too. The variety of fabric choices and interpretations always amazes me.

Sunday saw John fixing my tiles in the bathroom which needed some attention. I fell asleep on the sofa and when I woke up Steph had washed the dishes. Just love 'em for looking after their mammy. Ben was his usual charming self despite being a bit under the weather. Although I did find a lemon and a stock cube underneath the sofa after they had left.  He is into cupboards, literally, at the moment.

I've had two colds this winter.  Normally I get one every 5-10 years - very thankfully I've never had to suffer during every winter season.  I have decided I'm not eating enough veggies at the moment and have paid the price.  Easily rectified though.  Get home early enough to prepare a decent evening meal, don't stress over work so much and (my favourite bit) eat/drink your greens!
I think I would get bored before I ate all these but a quick zap in the liquidiser produces my green goddess drink. 
Please ignore the state of my glasses - I reckon it's a small price to pay to have the dishes machine washed!  Actually this was a bit bitter with the savoy cabbage so I added some apple juice and it was lovely.  The small glass will be my afternoon pick me up.

So - halo polished I am ready to meet the day.  I need to keep energy levels up because it's only 16 days to Christmas - argghhhhh.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

25 Action Packed Days to go - someone help!!

I don't put my Christmas decorations up until much closer to the time.  I used to do it on Christmas Eve, but pressure from my little ones meant that I relented and put the decorations up on the first day of the school holidays. A few years ago I made the Christmas Countdown in the picture below but sometimes I don't get it out in time!  I decided that this would be my first decoration this year but will only put the others up as usual.  I never turn the lights on until Christmas Eve though!
I had to use the flash and it looks quite stark in the photograph but it is actually much softer by the light of my little lamp.  I just can't believe there is so little time left though.

It's been such a busy week so I haven't taken many photos. I did take some of the progress of my Snow Family Christmas Stocking pattern ready for Saturday's class.
 First the outlines
Then the painting
Some snowflakes and a bit of pen stitching and finally
A few words round the edge.  A coat of sealer and the pattern is ready for use.
This is the fourth stocking in the series, the patterns are printed and we are ready to go.I'm having to post this from my phone as I  am having trouble with the broadband. Ben crashed into it this afternoon while vacuuming. I wish I could post his laughter as he ran up and down the room. I bought the toy from our school fair for £2. Good bargain eh?

A serious moment as he got ready to go home for tea. Makes your heart sing doesn't it? Have a great week

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Madly stitching snow people

The Snow Family Christmas stockings are coming on apace.  Three of the stockings are on display at High Street Quilting, advertising a workshop on 7th December. 
The fourth stocking is still in production, although if I drop off to sleep while I'm sewing again I'll never get them finished.  One minute I was sewing, half an hour later I woke up with that sore nose feeling you get when you have been snoring, how attractive I must have looked!  
This particular one is destined for Stitchin Heaven, hopefully arriving before this Saturday.  I'm just putting the finishing touches to the instructions.  I decided to ask David to cut a wood pattern for me.  Then I thought it would be a good idea to protect it with a layer of paint.  Do you think it looks very plain?  Are you getting my drift?  It's just crying out to have the Snow Family painted on it isn't it?

Alison and I spent a happy morning on the Hill where I finished my little reindeer which is Sandra's Shape of the Month.  How cute?
I don't know how Sandra manages to come up with all these cute shapes, month after month but I love them.  Check out the little line of reindeer outside her shop.  

Mavis and Gladys were in action again last Thursday but the class was a little depleted - a couple on holiday and some at the Lumiere in Durham.  It was lovely to be able to give much more individual help to the ladies that were there though.  We still managed to polish off most of the cake.....

Toffee Pecan Cupcakes and Smartie Cookies.  They were supposed to be stem ginger cookies but I couldn't get the lid off the jar of ginger and there were no strong boys to help at the time.

I decided to run a class after school for adults, expecting half a dozen to come but fourteen were there last week.  I'm just running it until Christmas because work is so very busy. It takes a long time to prep everything for classes. I'm so looking forward to a time when stitching is my only work.

A wafting of roast pork has just come from the open kitchen door.  I better go and put the vegetables on.  I made the yorkshire pudding mix this morning so that I could settle down for a good stitch this afternoon.  Lucky I did really, considering the unplanned nap.  

So tonight I'll be finishing the blanket stitching on the stocking whilst watching the Texas Grand Prix, happy in the knowledge that I did all the ironing this morning.  It makes a pleasant change to feel a bit smug on a Sunday night rather than wondering where on earth the weekend went. Have a good week.

Monday, 4 November 2013

In my defence.....

1) I had all the ingredients;
2) I comfort eat;
3) It will last me all day;
4) It's smaller than it looks....

A stack of waffles with maple syrup and 2 rashers of smoky bacon.  Mmm.  It really will last me all day, partly because there's not much else in the fridge of course.  Do you love my plate?  It's one of the last few pieces that I got for a wedding present.  I have one bowl, some cups, two side plates and a gravy boat - how old-fashioned does that sound?. I got married in 1982 and it was our everyday china.  Sadly I saw a cookery programme a little while ago where the chef used this as 'vintage' china. Cheek.

I've had three days off work this week (it's half term), so I have been doing more sewing than usual.  A quick trip to the dentist and the hairdresser was squeezed in.  I have been making some stockings for a workshop (and patterns for sale).  I have a book with sketches in for different ideas I have.  It also has lots of loose pieces where I have picked up a scrap of paper when an idea occurs.  The stockings are a conversion of the ideas on to fabric.  Trouble is once you start you just want to keep going. I'll put the pix on next week because they are not quite finished.

One of my favourite excuses for baking is Halloween. Steph bought me a biscuit cutter the shape a pumpkin last year.  These are vanilla crisp biscuits covered with orange flavoured candy melt and decorated with some black icing.  I also made some little chocolate and vanilla cupcakes.

These were destined for the ladies at the quilt class but I saved some for the family too. When I got home from the class I had a little bit of grown up Halloween celebration-
Actually it was a bit bitter even for me so I put a splash of lemonade in. Lush.

With the housework crying out to be done, I sat down to make some little Halloween bags.
I have a very useful roll of brown paper.  I stamped some letters, 
traced some shapes on to fusible web and used a block of wood to shape the bags.  I added some ribbon handles to match and filled them with a tiny oranges (which looked like a pumpkin) some little chocolates and a recipe for pumpkin soup.
I finished them off with some labels I had painted at the Crafts House a couple of weeks ago.  These are just ordinary little white tags, painted with Antique White and aged with a greeny-brown Tim Holtz stamp brushed lightly round the edges.
The recipe for the soup was one my mother used to make for the boys with the pumpkin flesh left from the carving.  The first time she made it the top came off the salt cellar and dumped about a tablespoon of salt in to the soup. She scooped out as much as she could before it dissolved.  It was lovely in the end, despite being really salty!

I have been making cinnamon buttons for one of my projects. I bought the little cutters ages ago at a show but this is the first time I have made them. They need to dry for 48 hours so I will report on how they are faring.

 Strange ingredients - apples, glue and cinnamon
 Mixed like scones
 rolled out and stamped
Drying on waxed paper.

Last thing on the agenda this weekend was a firework party - I walked down to John's house - fell over a paving stone, twisted my shoulder and bruised my knee.  I thought I had broken the camera but it still works! here are some sparkler displays.

I had to scrape the first frost of the year from my windscreen on Saturday. Hey ho. Whatever the weather I hope your week ahead is a good one.