Friday, 28 November 2008

May your treetops glisten & your children listen ...

It's Friday again, surely not! What happens to all those days in between? I'm guessing we're all chasing our tails right now, I'm feeling a bit like one of those hamsters in a wheel, running round and round and round in circles. Not only has this week whizzed by, it's been so so so cold. So cold and no snow - can't help feeling a bit cheated. With the promise of snow last weekend and Little Sister putting us all on constant sledge alert, all we've done this week is shiver. No snowballs. no snowmen, no pretty Narnia like gardens to greet us in the morning, just cold with nothing to show for it!

I went to buy some doughnuts the other day from the baker and couldn't open my purse, my fingers were so numb. (Yes that's me in the photo looking marvellously attractive as I face the elements with my terrier under one arm, vintage tartan blanket over my knees and snow covered trees whizzing past behind me) It's been the kind of weather where you just want to be holed up at home, hands tightly wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate and at least two cats and a blanket on your lap! I would have added yet another eiderdown to my bed too, if I hadn't been put off by the thought that my legs would just crumble under the weight of them all - poor old Mr Roses... I hope we get a couple of days of snow over the holidays - a White Christmas for once, wouldn't that be lovely.

When I was little, watching "White Christmas" was as much part of Christmas as Turkey, presents and Morecambe & Wise. It seemed to be always on BBC 2 and I loved it!! I'm going to try and get a copy for my girls to watch as we always seem to miss it when it's on. I think I always cried too . So all this snow wishing led me to make another nostalgic lavender sachet to put in my Etsy shop. I wonder if I put one under my pillow and wish very hard, the snow might come ...

A very big "thank you" to everybody who has been buying sachets and pillows from my shop recently. I am very grateful and happy and building up a nice little relationship with the lady at the Post office!

Not only is it the end of another week, but also another month is drawing to its close - it can't be December next week, how did that happen? If, like me, you are not particularly organised in the Christmas preparations dept and the thought of making an advent calendar rather than buying one seems just like one thing too many, have a look here at my cheat's, no sew Advent. Is it really a year ago that I wrote that? Oh how i love blogging, being able to look back and see exactly what you were up to at any given time of the year - and, in my case, it seems I'm still just as disorganised ...

Have a great weekend and if you see any of them snowflakes, blow them over here please!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A question of balance

It's always a question of balance isn't it? When I'm busy sewing or ragging our home crumbles. When I'm busy cleaning and tidying and am unable to make anything then I'm not a happy bunny. Sitting in front of the sewing machine and catching sight of the pile of ironing, dusty shelves and dirty windows is as frustrating as running around with the hoover, dettox in one hand and duster in the other, and walking past a pile of fabric and sewing and having to ignore it. I know I'm not alone and yet from reading other blogs you always seem so much better organised than I am!

After weeks of crafting and watching the hour hand speed round on the kitchen clock I decided to tackle the mess that is our kitchen. I decided the only way to do it would be to do it properly, not half heartedly and to devote enough time to it to feel happy with the results. We're not just talking washing up, sweeping the floor, the stuff that gets done about three times a day here, I mean the taking down of things from the shelves, the sorting through of junk that was threatening to stage a coup in one corner of the room and the pile of ironing that was, at one point, taller than me!

Well I did it, I did it and it felt good. I did it happily knowing that i'd achieved all I wanted to do at the sewing machine. Things have been washed and dusted and rearranged, jugs and pots that haven't seen the light of day for a while have found new homes on the shelves and it feels good once again to be sitting at the kitchen table.

We finally managed, well I say we, I mean M, to frame and put up a couple of prints that had been hanging around for far too long. Far, far too long. I love these prints, they're very special - one was a gift from a dear friend and the other a happy find at a car boot.

They came into our home months apart and yet I knew they belonged together. I won't tell you how long they have been waiting to go up on the walls, but it's been a long time - we wanted two similar frames and just haven't had the money for new ones recently.

Fortunately a game of musical chairs with some other prints meant that we could use these two frames that were in the loft and they now sit perfectly under the long kitchen shelf. I haven't stopped standing in front of them since Sunday afternoon, just smiling at them and the way their colours go so well with the all the bits and bobs on the shelf. I guess sometimes it's good to wait.

A bit of rearranging in the bedroom too - I am now in hibernation mode and this cold weather makes me want to snuggle up in bed with a good book as early as possible. But I really, really feel the cold and can't get into proper dormouse mode unless I'm nice and toasty which means that more and more eiderdowns are joining me in bed, only to be thrown off in the middle of the night when of course I'm feeling impossible hot and then frantically searched and groped for in the morning whilst I lie in bed and bury my head in them and psyche myself up to trundle downstairs ... now if any of you clever ladies could come up with a remote control for the eiderdowns please let me know!

Friday, 21 November 2008

Seaside sachet sewing (this week's tongue twister)

A big 'thank you" to everyone who has been leaving such lovely comments recently, it means a lot! Also a huge, huge apology to everybody for my inability these past couple of weeks to visit as many blogs as I would have wished. It seems that the sewing machine and I are now joined at the hip and we have been spending most daylight hours sitting side by side at the kitchen table. Fortunately we're good mates and get along fine and dandy, but I must say I do feel the need to spread my wings and (I'm saying this in a hushed voice so that Janome doesn't get too upset) leave the house!

The sun was shining the other day and I couldn't bear it any longer, I went out into the back garden to sit on the steps and enjoy the fresh air. My poor garden has been sadly neglected these past few weeks and is almost looking unloved. It felt good to breath in some air and feel the sun on my face. I was surpised to see amongst all the dead leaves lots of new shoots appearing already. I'm guessing it won't be long before we'll be able to get out there again, planting bulbs and sowing seeds, just the little matter of Christmas in between!

This morning I drove over to West Sussex to visit a friend. I decided to take the coast road, it felt so good to see the sea stretching out to the horizon. Sometimes when I'm cooped up I lose all sense of place, I don't know if that makes any sense at all, but it was good to see what lay beyond the four walls of my kitchen. So I drove along, one eye on the road, the other taking in the rows of beach huts, moored boats, a pier miles in front of me and another still visible behind me in my mirror and took a deep breath.

it's frightening sometimes to think where the days go, even more frightening to think that it was a year ago, practically to the day that I wrote this post. I had no idea this week when I was busy sewing that a year ago I'd been making much the same things. Perhaps the need for whimsy is even greater at this time of year before the real excitement of Christmas kicks in.

A recent find of some beautiful vintage fabric and a new stash of ribbon was all I needed to get me going this week. Gorgeous seaside images and cheerful brightly coloured ribbons, Janome and I have been having fun. Little bundles of nautical nostalgia.

Alongside these seasidey "postcards" are two that I really love. Wild ponies in the English countryside

and an old fashioned country fair. All bundled up looking bright and cheery in my Etsyshop. Talking of fairs, "Good luck" ladies to all of you lucky enough to be going along to the Vintage and handmade Fair tomorrow. I know you are going to have so much fun, enjoy meeting each other and spending lots and lots of pennies on all the beautiful things I've been seeing on all your blogs.

Have a wonderful whimsical weekend

Monday, 17 November 2008

Sew hard

I think I've achieved the unachievable this weekend, I made a teenager happy! So happy in fact that I was left in an alternating state of euphoria and amazement. I always know when Big sister's going out that there will be the usual lament of lack of clothes to wear. I wish I had her lack of clothes. If all her clothes ever got to the wardrobe instead of the back of the chair you would not be able to close the door on them she has so many. Strangely though whenever it's time to go out she always has "nothing to wear". So I had been waiting for this to happen in the run up to Saturday. Big Sister being a sensitive soul realised that now was not a good time to ask for some money for clothes shopping, she being the one with the most disposable income at present in the Ragged Roses household.

I have long admired her long range ability to zoom in on any food that has been brought into the house, As I walk through the door after a visit to the supermarket she is down the stairs like a shot, It seems that now she is showing the same magpie-ish talent for fabric. After a week full of compliments on the tartan taffeta I was using to make some Christmas goodies, I realised that something was afoot ... Could I, would I pleeeeeeeese make her a tulip shaped tartan skirt and a t shirt with a black crow on it for Saturday night. Also as she wouldn't be around much until Saturday, would I mind spending all of Saturday doing it? Now, I am not a dressmaker, I do not own any patterns and as I've said before have resorted to staples and glue guns for fancy dress costumes and school plays. Fortunately the stars were shining on me and I got it right!
The skirt fitted just right at the nipped in high waist, billowed at the hips and ended a couple of inches above the knees (don't ask me how I managed it). The crow on the t shirt was just the right crow, just the right size and just the right colour (and, no I'm still none the wiser about the crow! The fuzziness of the photo below shows, I'd like to think, Big Sister's reluctance to stand still and her impatience to get back to her GCSE revision - haha)

Watching Strictly Come Dancing that evening with Little Sister and wowing at all the high scores I wondered if I perhaps might even have got a 9 or 10, not for my saucy salsa or raunchy rumba (let's keep my mum dancing out of this) - not even for my poor dressmaking skills, but for that rare and quite elusive thing - a moment of complete understanding between mother and teenage daughter. Please excuse my five minutes of glory ...

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Fade to grey ...

This morning I had to go into town to collect some concert tickets for Big Sister. As the box office is actually on the seafront I decided to take a stroll along the beach. You would think that with the beach so very near I would be down here all the time, but in the summer it's far too busy and we prefer to go along the coast to more quiet spots to enjoy the sea. However, this beach in winter is something I love. Before we had children M and I would walk down here on Christmas Day enjoying a more quieter romantic festive moment.

Today the weather was grey and crisp, not too cold but still there was a chill in the air. Across from the box office stands the shell of the old West Pier, its blackened skeleton standing forlornly adrift at sea. I remember the day of the storms and then the terrible fire, people flocked down to the seafront to see the tragic demise of one of our city's true beauties. So today it stands beyond repair, leaving melancholy hints of what might have been ...

Its neighbour, the Palace Pier, is still thriving. Today its colours are muted against the grey sky and it looked more like some sort of surreal construction site standing out to sea. I don't know if you can spot the helter skelter with its fairground blue and red stripes - that has to be the best thing on the pier, those first few seconds when you go helterskeltering down it and are almost jettisoned out to sea are not for the fainthearted!!!

I love the greys that have replaced the blues of the sea and summer sky down here.

At home, out walking in the countryside or even doing the shopping those colours are just sad and depressing, yet down here they just lend a sense of calm to the place.

I love the way the seafront is transformed at this time of the year, in summer the seafront is bustling with people and awash with vibrant colour and noise, and now its colours have been bleached, the sound turned down and you can see it for what it really is with its winter coat on.

The grey fading light followed me home, yet there were a few splashes of unexpected colour to surpise me.

I don't think I would have noticed them if the sun were shining, yet after the soothing and strangely comforting monochromes of the beach, their vibrance and brashness made me smile.

And if I'd had a few more pennies, this little chap would have been coming home with me ... I wonder just how much that doggy in the window really is.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Sweet Little Mystery

Inside my head I am in my twenties, sometimes in my late teens. On Friday night when we went to the concert I was in my mid twenties, living in my very grotty flat in London with M in the nest that was our bedroom (the flat being so small and grungy that neither my flatmate nor I made any attempt to do anything with the cupboard that passed for the living room and our bedrooms became our "worlds"). Listening to John Martyn sing his beautiful haunting lyrics was like watching those years play before me. Could it really have been twenty years ago? Looking at the faces of the people sitting around me, I could see the same thing was happening for them. So I sat there listening and gazing - gazing at a much changed John Martyn in front of me and the people around. We had all grown, time had passed, the years had brought experiences, new life, changes and perhaps a little wisdom, but what hadn't changed was the beauty of his music and the tenderness of his voice.

Whilst it is not too good a thing to dwell in the past for too long (and Mr Ragged Roses has reminded me that I am in danger of becoming too nostalgic as the days pass) I can't help but treasure moments like these, when the past and present entangle. On Saturday night I was in the kitchen making a pudding. Early evening, a bleak day demanding sweet sugary treats. As I stirred the grated apple, sugar and cinnamon, it's spicy sweet fragrance transported me immediately back to my mother's kitchen, I was there standing beside her eagerly waiting her wonderful cooking. Later on when we sat and ate our pudding I could see the same look on my daughters' faces and I wondered if in years to come the same will happen for them. What will be their soundtracks I wonder?

Friday, 7 November 2008

Bless the Weather

Doesn't it feel good when you can look out of the window on the Friday afternoon and see sunshine, it makes the weekend seem all the more exciting. Today I am a happy bunny indeed! After a week of grey drizzle and a return to the school routine, not only is the sun shining, but Mr Ragged Roses and me are off out to a concert tonight. Not just any old concert, we're going to see the very very lovely John Martyn. Do you remember when you were younger and there was a concert looming on the horizon and the days in between seemed interminable, well that's how I've been feeling since Mr Roses booked the tickets some months ago.

If perhaps one person could serve as the backdrop/soundtrack to the last twenty or so years of my life, it would have to be this man. His beautiful, sweet voice was there in the background when I first met M, he accompanied me on holidays, romantic evenings, highs and lows and even the birth of Little Sister. So I sit waiting, filled with memories and thoughts ...

I have been busy this week. Finishing off jobs that have been hovering near the top of my 'to do' list for far too long. For a long time now I have been in love with Cath Kidston's beautiful bathroom in this book. I've been on the hunt for some lovely old towelling to make some cushions in a similar vein. Finally I stumbled across this fabric a few months ago. Beautiful little birds of paradise sit lovely amidst green foliage. Now, if I made some cushions, chances are they would end up in the bathtub with Big Sister alongside this month's Elle magazine, so a lovely bath towel it was

Complete with bobble trim. Almost too lovely to use and it won't be long before I find either one (or both) of our cats hanging from the end of that trim!

I've also managed to make this little lavender cushion to add to my Etsy shop. I found this vintage cotton and love the image so much. I think I had very similar pictures on my cot when I was little, or was it pink teddy bears? It really reminds me of photos from this book, just wish I had more of it ....

This morning, whilst on John Martyn countdown and almost at having to sit on my hands stage, I made some nostalgic lavender sachets for my shop. So there you go, that head of mine that has been buried deep in the sand re the old "C" word is slowly beginning to surface!

Have a great weekend, we're on our way Mr Martyn ...

Monday, 3 November 2008

Lost in Austen

I think that it was on the second or third morning of our stay in Bath that Big Sister reminded me of an email I'd received from Michele months ago asking if I might one day come to visit her in Bath. Well, by the strange power of blogging, here I was, my second visit in three months to this beautiful city, lying in Michele's bed gazing out through the window at the most fantastic bedroom view I had ever seen! Michele, I hasten to add, was not by my side, nor in any other room for that matter - The Ragged Roses had come to stay chez the Custards whilst the Custards had gone on holiday.

The strangeness of this situation lessened with every hour and by the end of our stay it felt like the most normal thing to be doing. As normal as waking up and seeing one of these floating past your bedroom window ... by the third morning I was use to this amazing sight too. I can honestly say that we have never stayed anywhere before where we have felt so much "at home", the warmth, kindness and generosity of this lovely family seems to have imbued the walls of their beautiful home and welcomed us in and completely enchanted us.

For various reasons us Ragged Roses had arrived in Bath in relay. Big Sister and I turned up a whole 24 hours later than M and Little Sister and I was incredibly twitchy about wanting to make up time on my first afternoon. Within a few minutes I had turned into a bonafide Mrs Bennet and was busy clucking and fussing and herding us all down to the Roman Baths. I have visited here before but had somehow forgotten the beauty and majesty of these buildings. My earlier visit had been many years ago in the height of the summer season, this time was a very different experience. Late afternoon on the first winter's afternoon of the year, the number of visitors were dwindling and the light was fading.

The Baths suddenly took on an air of mystery and it was so easy to imagine the intrigues and assignations that had gone on here centuries before. If only we'd had a fan or two to hold and hide behind - it was all too easy to imagine the ladies lowering themselves into the waters and spending the season floating around the Pump and Assembly rooms.

It may well have been the end of October but the mornings were as bright and beautiful as any we had seen this summer. The sunlight hitting the golden Bath stone of the magnificent buildings and urging us to get out walking as soon as we could. So each day we set off early climbing us hills, admiring the breathtaking views, choosing our Georgian dream houses

(this one is mine - we ended up with one each and several in reserve for visitors!).

We promenaded along the Crescents, admiring the architecture and sheer endless beauty of the buildings.

England in October, surely not -

more like the South of France, or Italy ...

We walked down into the base of the bowl that is Bath and had the best walk along the canal.

Peaceful, undisturbed, the sun streaming through the trees, Regency splendour appearing over bridges,

canal boats moored on the banks and our minds free of the day to day hurly burly we'd left behind in Sussex.

We rummaged through treasure troves of vintage clothes (Big Sister heaven), and marvelled at the scale of beauty here. It was like visiting the most ornate wedding cake you could imagine, tier upon tier of carefully crafted beauty.

Beauty in expected

and beauty in the unexpected detail.

Isn't it strange that most days I can't remember why I've gone upstairs, left my keys, parked the car and yet, here I was remembering street names from Northanger Abbey, a book I'd read over twenty years ago at school! I took the girls to the Jane Austen Centre and we spent an afternoon retracing Jane Austen's stay in Bath. It wasn't her favourite place to stay but it offered her so much material for her novels and allowed Big Sister to have more than one Lizzie Bennet moment.

Across the valley from Mrs C stands the most beautiful house . Big Sister would spend every chance she had gazing out the window and saying out loud "Netherfield Park is let at last", hoping for a sight of Mr Darcy or Mr Bingley! And Mr Darcy we found indeed... not a proud, aloof Mr Darcy

but a fun loving guy who was as handsome as we had been led to believe and who managed to steal our hearts - a real pussycat in fact!

Thank you Michele for so many wonderful memories. I have thought hard about my favourite bits of our week, the walks, the views etc and yet the image I am always left with, is the four of us sitting around your kitchen table smiling, eating biscuits and enjoying ourselves so very much.