Friday 28 September 2007

Miss Scarlett, In the Kitchen ... with the Sewing Machine

My daughter is going to a Murder Mystery party tonight, her character is no less than Lady Blah di Blah an aspiring 1930s actress. Sounds like fun but only if your mother has a staggeringly beautiful collection of vintage evening wear to choose from! Do you know I don't own one evening dress - school runs, trips to the supermarket and visits to the pub don't really require much in the satin and silk department. What is a girl to do? Well after a week of sighing and frowning, last night I dragged out an old black velvet dress I had when I was pregnant (It does get better I promise)! She was not impressed and the youngest thought it was hilarious that her sister was going to a party in mummy's voluminous, misshapped dress (revenge at last, she thought).
I had a vision and I knew that Janome would not let me down. Now I have no sewing skills, have never followed a dress pattern and have been known to glue gun fancy dress costumes together in the past and I seem to remember a certain snowman's outfit having a few staples in it! I am more House of Idiot (does anyone remember the French & Saunders spoof) than House of Elliot (I loved that series!) but it worked miraculously. I nipped in the waist, slashed and ruched the neck and sleeves and attached an old black fabric rose to the side. It looks good, just hope it doesn't fall apart tonight, mid-murder!

Along with the feather boa, splashes of diamante, my oldest was determined to squeeze into the vintage gloves in the first photo. She has tiny arms and wrists but just couldn't manage it. They are tiny, tiny gloves but gorgeous. So she is having to make do with this vintage pair of chiffon polka dot gloves that I found.

Someone who has (perhaps misguided) faith in my sewing skills is Samantha at Plump Pudding. Look what she sent me for my birthday. This gorgeous needlecase and pincushion. They are so pretty, you always choose the loveliest fabrics. Thanks Samantha for thinking of me, I know just how busy you are at the moment. Do you offer sewing lessons as well? At least I now look the part.

On the sewing front I found these vintage French sewing magazines and have decided to put them in my Etsy shop.

They have the most gorgeous graphics and lovely little patterns (they are in French!) and would be perfect for collage, scraps, sewing etc.

Doesn't she look lovely, I'm missing not having an evening dress now ( a shop bought one, not a glue gunned, stapled together Janomed one!).

One more mystery to clear up before I finish. Just the other day I searched and searched for an elusive ball of blue rags. It had mysteriously disappeared, now who would want it I wonder...

... another case solved!
Have a good weekend.

Monday 24 September 2007

Ups and downs

If only I'd have looked into my crystal ball ... I would have realised that the return to school had been a bit too easy. That we were slipping quite effortlessly into the routine and coping well with the early morning starts. If only I'd looked into that ball, I might have forseen that things were bound to go pear shape at some stage!
Well it happened this weekend. The girls had parties and shopping trips organised - we were, as usual, the acting taxi service, the catering corps and cashpoints. What more could a girl want? Well a 48 hour running battle with your sister would be good! It started on Friday night and ended at some point yesterday early evening, at some unknown time the girls had declared a truce and were able to spend some time together without a return to battle! I'm putting it down to being tired and the return of homework but this crystal ball predicts lots of early nights for the near future (take note girls if you're reading this!).
Also, sorry puss for not realising that you weren't just putting on weight in the old jowl area and that middle age spread was for some reason spreading to your face. That chubby little cheek look was in fact an abscess - sorry! Thanks M for doing the emergency dash to the vets! (No I couldn't find any pretty photos of that!)

I was determined to slip away for an hour's peace yesterday, and was very glad I did. Look what I found at the car boot. These gorgeous china cups and saucers were 50p each! A summer's garden on my shelves to make me smile! Aren't they pretty?

If my crystal ball had told me a few months ago that I'd be enjoying my own blog and making my cosies etc to order I would not have believed it! I got another order last week for 7 cosies and a dozen pompoms! I've managed to cut 5 metres of fabric into strips this weekend (very good for venting any frustration) and have remembered to get the plasters in this time to protect my thumbs! So I'm going to be a busy girl for the next couple of weeks. Apologies if I'm not able to catch up with all your blogs as regularly as I would like to do.

Something that constantly surprises me is the kindness of bloggers. Niki from Nostalgia at the Stone House, spotted my green eiderdown in an earlier post and contacted me to ask if I would like a matching vintage bedspread that she didn't want anymore! It arrived this weekend and is beautiful! Thank you Niki - it was so unexpected and lovely! My bed seems to be gathering layers weekly although I think I'm more "mummy and the mountain" than "Princess and the Pea"!
Thanks to Louise at Beachyscapecodcupboard for nominating me for a "You Lift me up" Award (perhaps I shouldn't have spent the first half of this post moaning !). This was another wonderful surprise. Instead of nominating anybody in particular I think it's only fair to share this with all of you because I think we all lift each other's spirits.
Right I better get back to my ragging. Now the house is calm and quiet, I'm looking forward to the girls coming back from school ... ding, ding Round Two ...

Thursday 20 September 2007

Let's just call it recycling ...

Is it the same in your house? I suspect I'm not the only one. I spend days tidying, sorting, clearing, recycling, taking things to charity shops, making space and ... regularly visit the car boot to find things to fill the space again! I can't go shopping without a trip into the charity shops (the bane of M's life) and I can't resist waking up early on a Sunday morning, tiptoeing out of the house and spending an hour or so by myself at the local car boot.
Last Sunday was an exception. My oldest had to be at school by 7am to go up to London to sing for Wateraid. Everything was planned with military precision, packed lunch was made, clothes were chosen the night before (no mean feat) and alarm clocks were set. Everything was done to avoid disturbing our youngest child, who will wake if the wind changes direction and is not the easiest of people to be around when serious lacking in the sleep department (mind you, are any of us?). What we hadn't bargained for was the barrage of phone calls at 6,30am from teenage girls asking for a lift up to the school - aargh! Let's just say by 6.35am we were all (youngest included) washed, dressed and ready to go. So off we all trooped to the car boot - it was nice to have some company but I had forgotten just how much time M spends examining all the CDs whilst I want to be haring around finding all the bargains! Not so many bargains on Sunday but I did find some more vintage French buttons for my (ever expanding, space taking collection). I love their colours and the graphics on the cards.

I also bought this old soap box to add to my growing collection of boxes (and, it seems an ever increasing collection of soaps too - I can't resist the smells of vanilla, almond, honey and milk mmmmm). It's such a pretty box and looks great in the bathroom. Not only does it look good but I didn't realise until I got home that it was crammed full of old letters, wedding certificates, letters, newspaper cuttings, calling cards and old stamps too. A life in a box, a little account of life and death in a rural village a century ago, it was a wonderful read.

My youngest too had a dabble at the old bargain hunting. She found this old 1920's/30's painting and fell in love with it. Partly because it was painted by somebody who shared her first name and also because she said the mother in the woods with her little girl picking bluebells reminded her of me and the little girl looked like her. I think it's very sweet and for only £2 we couldn't say no!

Perhaps the best bargain of the week was these 2 french enamel tins. Great for containing those extra shells we found over the summer and some beautiful "Robin's Eggs" soaps (soap again) that my friend gave me for my birthday. We didn't even need to get up early for these two tins as I found them on the way home from school! Somebody else had been having a clear out and left a pile of goodies on the pavement for people to take! My friend found a beautiful pair of old wooden shoe stays and I also found a lovely little wooden cupboard to paint. Well I couldn't really resist ....

Monday 17 September 2007

It's the little things ...

Thank you all so much for your lovely birthday wishes and comments. It will take me a while but I will try and visit all your blogs this week. I seem to be a bit behind on the old catch-up and need to walk away from my new friend, Janome, and read what you've all been up to! Yes, after 24 hours of being too scared to open the box, I finally read the instructions and had a go on my new machine yesterday, I was beaming for hours apparently! Amanda, Sarah and Steph, I'll try and send the lavender off some time this week, sewing machine permitting!

I had a wonderful birthday and was spoilt rotten. A picnic on the Downs, a long walk and dinner out. The sun shone as if it were midsummer and the presents were piled high! M you can relax now, the pressure's off for another year!

Look at this beautiful eiderdown, isn't it pretty? Doesn't it look lovely with my old apple green one too? Thanks M.

Some days I feel like nobody listens to me, the cries for children to hurry up and get ready for school, the shouts that dinner's on the table or the reminders to get that homework done all seem to be unheard. Some days I feel like I'm just shuffling around, muttering to myself ... but on days like Saturday I realised just how much my family listen. I spotted this eiderdown when we were out one day during the holidays and M must have remembered how much I loved it.

M also remembered about the milk bottle shortage and presented me with a huge bag of the sweets and this little jar of goodies (methinks he's been reading my blog).

Along with the sweets was this vintage wooden box to add to my collection, filled with, amongst other things, nougat, treacle tart chocolate, chilli jam, choccie biscuits and French mandarin lemonade. You see he does listen!
My daughters both bought me books and I suddenly realised why the eldest had been quizzing me so much recently whenever we'd gone into bookshops. I spent an afternoon during the holidays watching Chocolat with her on telly and commented that the author had written a sequel, Lollipop Shoes. Well my mutterings hadn't gone unheard - my youngest got me the book. What I'm trying to say in a very roundabout way is that it wasn't the huge pile of presents that made me happy it was the little things behind the choosing that did. Like the way my eldest remembered how much I love this packaging and how my mum always carried a packet of Parma Violets with her ...

I've not been the only one being spoilt around here. The cats, having divided up the house between them over the past few months, have been enjoying my presents too. The upstairs cat who reigns supreme in our bedroom is loving the eiderdown ...

... and the below stairs cat seems to be loving my sewing machine box!

It's the little things ...

Friday 14 September 2007

At long last ...

Well the house is much tidier and calmer this week and we're slowly getting back into the old school routine (unfortunately!). Fortunately the children aren't disappearing under a mountain of homework just yet but I'm in danger of disappearing under a pile of papers brought home from school daily requiring a signature, requests for particular things to be brought in on various days, new club permission slips, noting on the calendar or, invariably, money.

I'm slowly getting through the "things I need to get done" list, and will, hopefully, although this rarely happens, move on to the " "the things I would really like to make but never have any time to " list. There are so many things I've been wanting to make recently and have been dreaming about over the summer, we'll see... I have found time to sort through my fabrics and bits and bobs and get things ready for some more ragging.

I finished a tea cosy for an order for somebody this week. As you can see I've put out an extra cup and saucer for you to join me. Friday afternoon tea with friends and a blog or two to read...
The things that's got me so excited this week is that, finally, after squirreling away some of my Etsy earnings I've bought myself a new sewing machine! I've never had a new sewing machine, my friend has lent me hers but it's not working and for years I've been hand sewing everything! So this morning I went and bought my new toy. I can't tell you how happy I am. It's nothing fancy but it's good for someone like me, who's Domestic Science teacher called "very slow indeed!" ( I don't know how she never noticed that I was off school for two months with bronchitis and whilst the other girls were showing off their sewing skills on their skirts and pyjama cases I was still trying to understand just how to sew in a straight line without asking for help!).

I'm considering, and perhaps justifying, the sewing machine as a birthday present to me - yes, it's my birthday tomorrow! Now you see how nice it would be if you could pop over for a cup of tea this afternoon! I'm not sure what we're up to tomorrow although the girls want to go boating again as a special treat for me(!!!!). We're all going out for dinner in the evening too.

Another job I ticked off my list this week was the cutting back of all the lavender in the front garden - there was masses of it - this photo shows about a third of it. There were so many bundles that I fell over them on the way back into the house, landing on the front door step buried under a heap of lavender, waiting for M to come and help me up again, not a very fragrant sight.
The lavender is now drying in various baskets and hampers around the house and it all smells delicious. But there is a limit to just how many lavender sachets a girl can make, even a girl with a brand new sewing machine...

... and, as a birthday present from me to you I'm going to offer you crafty ladies some lavender. If anyone would like some please leave a comment etc and we'll pick some names next week.

Hope you all have a good weekend. Janome and I will be having lots of fun!

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Nice and sloe

We had a great weekend seeing friends and being outside, trying to cram in as much of the last of the summer's sunshine as possible. I know from reading other blogs recently that I'm not alone in noticing the approach of Autumn. You can smell it in the air and, whilst we're enjoying these last few days of summer there is no denying that things are changing.
I always think that September is a bittersweet month, it marks the end of summer and lazy days with the children but it also brings with it the excitement of something new, fresh and exciting.

Once I've recovered from the shorter evenings (which for me is the hardest of the changes) and Autumn has finally taken hold, I do feel strangely refreshed and excited by things. After the gloom of the children returning to school and before the grey gloom of a British winter, there are those few weeks of being able to go out and enjoy the changes. Long walks in the countryside, good books to read, a change of clothes, something good to watch on TV (fingers crossed) and the planning of Christmas (!) which at this stage of the year, before the frantic shopping and mass consumerism of December, is still enjoyable ( and I know I won't be talking like this in a couple of months time!).

One of the things that always marks the ending of Summer and beginning of Autumn is our annual trek onto the Downs to pick sloes for sloe gin, which makes the perfect pressie for Christmas. At the end of the holidays we were out walking and found that the sloes were not nearly as abundant as usual. Emma was that you? Either someone had got there before us or it hasn't been a particularly good year. We usually pick them a few weeks from now after the first frost but we realised that if we waited any longer there would have been none left to pick. Don't be tempted by their beautiful bluish tinge to pop one into your mouth, they taste disgusting!

It really is very easy to make sloe gin. For every 1lb (450g) of sloes you pick, you need 4oz (100g) sugar and a bottle of gin, plus a few drops of almond essence (optional). Remove stalks from sloes and wash them. Prick each sloe with a darning needle (the kids love doing this and have not yet ended up with fingers resembling pin cushions). If you can't be bothered to prick them and a mountain of sloes does look quite daunting - just stick them in the freezer overnight or for a few days and they should burst by themselves.

Put the sloes into a large-necked screw top jar(s) and add sugar and almond essence if using. Fill the bottle with gin (no need to use an expensive brand), screw the lid back on and place in a cupboard for about three months (Or until Christmas is fine). Shake the jars every once in a while and you'll notice the sloes infusing the gin with their gorgeous colour. At the end of this time, strain the sloes and liquid through muslin and pour into pretty bottles. Easy! The hardest part is waiting ...

It really is a gorgeous drink, warming and rounded. It doesn't taste of gin at all. Worth making just for the colour and remember to make an extra bottle to keep for yourself!

Friday 7 September 2007

It's Friday ...

... so it must be sweets day!! Every Friday during term time we always pop into the sweet shop on the way back from school for some treats. Today being the end of that first hard week back I think we all deserve being a bit naughty.

I made these hearts over the holidays, in the evenings. I just kept them by the side of the sofa and had a little go when I fancied. I'm happy with the results - they're fun, pretty, bright and have got a taste of summer about them.

I'm really pleased that most of them are made using recycled fabrics too.

Anyway if you see anything you like, rather like a child in a sweet shop, they're available in my Etsy shop. I'm also willing to make hearts in other colours too if there's anything you fancy.

Over the holidays we found a couple of really good sweet shops and I was able to indulge my sweet tooth. We all stocked up on our favourites - strawberry bonbons, toasted teacakes, rhubarb and custards, pear drops and pineapple cubes. Do you remember buying bagfuls of Black Jacks and Fruit Salads when you were little? Milk bottles were my favourites and I still love them - did you know that the factory that makes them was badly flooded a few months back and so they're in short supply?

I've always had a secret fantasy of opening a sweet shop - an old fashioned sweet shop with jars and jars of sweets, on wooden shelves. I would also sell cakes and tea , but that's another story .... I love the nostalgic, wonderful packaging of Hope & Greenwood sweets and chocolates and remember reading an article of them and their shop in London. My idea of heaven! They've got a wonderful new website too. Very expensive, but worth dropping hints about if it's your birthday coming up (take note, M). The packaging is so beautiful that I use my empty truffles box for my buttons (not the chocolate kind) wonderful eye candy!
Anyway I'm rambling on again, lost in a daydream of sherbet pips and jelly beans (I know, I haven't been out much this week!).

I've been nominated again this week by Julia and Catherine for the Nice Matters Award. Thank you both very much - I am flattered. I really enjoy both of their blogs and am very touched that you thought of me - thanks again.

Have a great, relaxing weekend and if you've got a minute let me know what your favourite sweets are so that I can make sure that my shop stocks them!

Wednesday 5 September 2007

Just me, Kate Rusby and a pair of flip flops

Just me at home today. Me and Kate Rusby for company. The girls are back at school and it's so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Very mixed feelings today, in a few days time I'll be relishing the quiet and the calm, but today, no. Today I'd rather be hearing the giggles and shrieks of my two girls filling the rooms. Hence Kate Rusby, it's impossible to be sad for too long with her voice in the room.
There have been times during the holidays when I've stared at this poster next to the kitchen sink and wanted today to come sooner. But, fortunately, those moments were not as frequent as anticipated. Thanks M and you beautiful, beautiful girls for a lovely summer.
Now I'm staring at this poster for different reasons. At the beginning of the holidays I made a conscious decision not to get bogged down with the housework. To let things ride, to turn a blind eye to the mess and not get sucked into the daily routine. And I'm glad I did - We all relaxed so much the more for it. That's not to say that there weren't days when the tripping over of Sylvanians or despair at the amount of clothes lying around the house just got too much!!

I'm paying the price for it today though! I apologise if you've experienced any power difficulties in your area today, I think my washing machine is responsible for power surges and severe depletion of the national grid this morning. My teenage daughter seemed to have kept to a regular timetable, set at hourly intervals, of changing clothes these past few weeks and for some reason, clothes that were merely removed from hangers and held in front of her, discarded and unworn, were deemed dirty and put in the laundry basket. Obviously the energy involved in re-hanging them would have caused severe depletion of her energy too!

So today our home is going back to its roots and resembling the laundry that it once was.

I don't enjoy housework. I derive satisfaction from having completed the tidying and cleaning but the bit in between, ie the sorting and putting away just gets in the way! This was the hall table this morning, a testimony of our summer. We don't really need a scrapbook or photos, all we did was on that table. Although I'm racking my brains as to what we needed the WD40 for! (Can you see the damp patch in the bottom corner? My next job is repainting the hall).

This is the table now, order restored. For the next hour or so this is how it'll look before it becomes submerged under bookbags, school newsletters, keys and mobile phones. Clean and tidy it is but part of me (the part of me that doesn't get niggled by all that mess) prefers the table pre-tidy up. It's a table that says - yes, we've had a good time.
Moving on to the flip flops that were on the hall table. I read ages ago that flip flops were great at removing cat/dog hair from furniture. So, wearing flip flops on each hand I've just emerged from the living room having wiped clean the sofas and it really does work. Listening to Kate, a flip flop on each hand, clean clothes and a tidy table - I'm happy now (ish).