Friday, 24 December 2010

And then the wheels fell off

We had 6 inches of snow last weekend, which just Doesn't Happen here. We went snowballing and sledging and basically made the most of it. I'm not sure who was the most excited but I suspect it may have been Mr DC.

Thank you for all the get well wishes - they worked temporarily but then this week they wore off. We had a big old family Christmas planned - the first time in years we would have almost all been together on Christmas Day. Unfortunately the world had other plans and as a result of illness both at our house and at my poor sister's, we'll be at home. While I am currently well, I am tired - I wrote down the dosage to give Tall Small this morning as her temperature hit 39C AGAIN and walked downstairs and couldn't remember whether or not I'd actually given her the medicine.

Still, there is an end in sight, we hope, and in between alternating doses of Calpol and Calprofen the Smalls are in good spirits. And we had a delivery of heating oil today (thank you Team Flitwick!), and Mr DC braved the supermarket so we will have a proper dinner tomorrow instead of fishfingers.

Before it all kicked off, last weekend we had a lovely party for little people and decorated a small village of gingerbread houses and made sparkling crystal snowmen and Christmas trees.

Patterns adapted from instructions given at Spoilt Rotten beads

So, there's a lot to be grateful for, and we will hang our stockings up this evening and have a lovely time tomorrow, albeit not as planned. I hope you're all well, and happy, and that your Christmas is really, really wonderful.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Better late than never

We've been as busy as everyone else this last week or two with end of term school stuff (roll on Friday!), two craft fairs, music practice, parties to plan and on and on and on. I still have to make a Bollywood outfit (help) and wrap presents and post some cards, but we're getting there.

Unfortunately my lovely plans for a a decorating weekend and a full day of sewing today were destroyed by a rampaging stomach bug that felled Tiny Small at the weekend and then me today (72 hours incubation?! Someone's having a laugh).

Anyway, I messed up Splash of Colour so instead I give you a Splash of Light in two parts, first Mr DC's birthday cake groaning under the weight of hundreds and thousands. Is it me or are they just far less vibrant than those of my childhood. I really wasn't going for tasteful here:

And second, my astonishingly blonde and beautiful Tiny Small dressed as Santa Lucia - I "made" the crown with tinsel and IKEA battery powered stars, and she put the rest of the outfit together herself. Paired with furry boots she looked good enough to eat, but I settled for ginger star biscuits instead. And even better was the fact that her fabulous elder sister let her parade around and have a whale of a time without once complaining that it should have been her turn.

Hope you're staying healthy. I'm feeling almost able to eat some dinner which given that I couldn't even face water this morning is a big step forward, believe me!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Highs and lows

The week just past has included a heady mix of emotions here, and I'm hoping for a rather more even keel over the next few days. Can I start with a plea? I kept myself occupied one afternoon this weekend by sewing a large quantity of Wiggly Bags for the Liberty Rose Trust to be given to children undergoing cancer treatment. I made them using Florence's pattern and instructions, and if you can possibly spare an hour to do the same, they would be grateful for any you could send. They really are very straightforward and you will feel very proud of yourself afterwards, I promise.

Wiggly bags in memory of a very brave little boy

From one extreme to another - two gorgeous little babies came into school to meet everyone, and of course, babies need bibs, and two babies need lots, so I've been making those too and loving every minute (well, except those where the tension went wonky). There couldn't be a much better excuse to indulge in soft brushed cottons and some new Tilda florals.

Sunday was, of course, a time for remembering those who gave their lives for our country. It's always a day that stirs up strong emotions, and this year my composure was challenged again as Tall Small's choir joined another group of children to perform in a special concert of Remembrance. The standard of singing was wonderful, and the Senior choir (older teenagers) were nothing short of remarkable. Tiny Small clapped so hard she nearly fell off her seat. This time next year she'll be up there with her sister and I shall lose any shred of self control I ever possessed.

And the highest high? Undoubtedly a letter from the BBC for clever Tall Small, who managed to achieve a prize I yearned for during my entire childhood.

Yes, it's a Blue Peter badge!!!!

This has unsurprisingly, become her most treasured possession!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Danger in Hatfield

I've been making my own jewellery for a very long time, starting with simple earrings in my teens, and on through bracelets and necklaces. I've dabbled in bead weaving and up until the last year or two I've used cheap findings, glass and plastic beads and been always slightly disappointed with the results.

And then I met Emma Silverpebble, and she's not only become a treasured friend, she's also introduced me to a whole new world. I've talked about the art clay, and the silver chain before, but recently she took me to a gem show in Hatfield and introduced me to semi precious stones and now I fear I'm lost forever.

The sparkle from these babies is like nothing else. Even in dim winter light they glow and flash. By firelight they are stunning.

These tiny mulberry pendants are made from 2.5 mm rhodolite faceted rondelles (I originally thought they were rhodonite but now I think I misheard), 30 per drop, stitched with the narrowest bead needles I could find. Paired with freshwater pearls, I've hardly taken these off since I finished them.

I'm thinking I need to find an outlet for these - I am quite addicted to making them, and everyone I've shown them too in real life seems to like them as much as I do. What do you think (she asked, trembling slightly).

Just wait till I show you the labradorite ...

There's another gem show coming up at the end of the month. Heaven help me.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Just to prove I can be colourful

I spent most of my teenage years dressed exclusively in black. There were literally no colourful clothes in my regular wardrobe. All my makeup was black, my nail varnish was black, my hair was black, my lipstick was black. Get the picture? I hope you do because all the photographic evidence has been destroyed.

Teasel hedgehogs eat conkers!

Perhaps this partly explains why I am not generally sad about the onset of autumn and winter - lack of colour, and the need to wrap up and feel warm doesn't really feel that alien to me. Or it could be argued that I'm such a miserable wotsit most of the time that the switch back to GMT makes no noticeable difference.

Our autumn table, complete with lots of brown corduroy and mad mushrooms

These days there is a lot more colour in my daily life, be it in clothes, felt, food or courtesy of two small people. I love (and wear) the reds and browns of autumn in preference to any others. And I do sympathise with those who miss the colours of spring and summer - so Emma's Splash of Colour series seems like an ideal opportunity to seek out colour around my home.

We replaced the sick lens on our camera, and I'm not really comfortable with it yet - I keep misfocusing, but hopefully these give and idea of what's happening round here these days!

Well, of course we have a lilac music stand - don't you?!

PS I can't resist saying a HUGE well done to an old friend who's been featured a lot on the news today - Leo James, whose team has made a breakthrough that could save us all from colds and vomiting viruses one of these days. I haven't seen him for a while, though Mr DC still socialises with him regularly. I was rather stunned to hear him speaking from my radio at 7am - what a clever chap!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Revisiting old friends

Some of you were kind enough to be interested in the painting I mentioned in my last post, so when the sun came out for 5 minutes this afternoon I rounded up some of the pieces I still have and took them for an outing into the garden. Poor old things, it's the only excitement they've had in a while.

I started taking painting classes at a shop near where I used to live - the Burnt Owl in Burnt Hills, NY - in 1997, then painted most days till we left the US in 1999. I have tried to get back into it back here in the UK, but the lack of a dedicated permanent workspace rather held me back. Sewing and knitting seem much more portable to me, but I suspect I may be alone in that!

This was one of my first pieces, a favourite of Mr DC and the only one that's in regular use. It holds hairbands and brushes for the Smalls and while there are a number of problems with it, I'm very fond of that silly sheep.

I was very keen on traditional stroke work, and in fact this was the piece that had me signing up for the various courses in the first place. It's a bit tatty and dusty now, and I rather wish the background wasn't jet black, but I painted this design over and over on oval storage boxes that I still use.

The thing I liked most about this style of painting is that you don't need to be able to draw. At all. I cannot draw to save my life, but I can trace patterns and base coat them and follow the instructions to add colour and shading in the right order. The clever people are the designers of the patterns, and I was lucky enough to be taught by Pat Parker who designed this one - this is her version just to prove that hers is the real skill here.

This is a tray I started, and didn't finish. It's a design by Betty Caithness, whose pieces I adore. I doubt I shall get back to it any time soon, but you can see how bits of it (the children and their tree) are done, while the stones at the bottom are only basecoated as yet and the houses need a lot more work.

The patterns and brushes are still up in the loft. Maybe one of these days I'll dig them out again and see if I can remember any of what I learned!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Bring on the pumpkins!

A friend recently told me she'd read in a lifestyle magazine that now is the time to switch summer cushion covers for autumn ones. "Surely no one does that?!" she laughed. Well, it turns out that now I do ...

I made this cover using some of the fabrics from Jacqueline Paton's irresistibly cute Harvest Town range, found at a little quilting shop in the town where my parents live, and some rusty coloured satiny stuff I'd had stashed away for years (quite literally). The pattern is based on the technique described recently by Elizabeth at Oh Fransson!, but mine's ended up a little bittier as I started with smaller scraps and winged it. The next one will have larger panels - oh yes, there will be another.

Autumn brings the colours I love the most, and I have an enormous soft spot for this style of folk art, born from the decorative painting I used to do when we lived in upstate New York and I had an entire loft devoted permanently to crafty pursuits.We lived in a converted white clapboard chapel and I would hide away in the roof at the top of the spiral staircase and paint and sew and weave. Sigh.

Edited to add: I found a picture of our old chapel house here. I cried when we left it, even though I was very happy to be coming back to the UK. It was a wonderful place to live.

But seriously, who wouldn't want to live here?

Or here?

And how I wish we had a pumpkin stand in our village - maybe I should set one up!

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Last Night

Mr DC and I had an awfully big adventure on Saturday night. See if you can guess where we went:

Does this give you a clue?

Or this?

How about this?

Yes, we were at the Last Night of the Proms!

Katie Derham in the middle!

We have a contact, you see. A lovely friend who is a member of the BBC Singers, and has the voice of an angel, has access to a few Last Night tickets every year. Up until now we've turned them down (!) but this year we said YES, and I am so glad we did. What a truly wonderful evening.

Our seats were astonishingly good - right behind the back row of the BBC Symphony Chorus, so the sound was breathtaking.

I know there are a lot of people who question whether such a display of flag waving (flags of all nations, I should add) and patriotism is really appropriate these days, but I defy anyone not to have been caught up in the atmosphere, and not to have joined in the joyous singing of Jerusalem and the rest. There have been some negative reviews of the choice of both soloists and programme, especially the replacement of the traditional hornpipe, but what can I say? I was there and it was FAB!

This was the view from our seats!

If you are both curious and completely at a loss for something to do this afternoon, we do appear in the iplayer recording at about 83 minutes in, right at the end of the National Anthem. Mr DC is the unfeasibly tall man in a red tie next to the strange people in masks, and I am the short round person next to him in the gold top.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Blast from the past

Ali's post about badly behaved jellies triggered such a longing in me that I've been hankering after a certain jelly receptacle ever since. And lo, Steamer Trading came up trumps in the shape of a plastic rabbit mould. I was excited, the kids were excited, even Mr DC was excited.

We bought strawberry jelly. We bought lime jelly (tastier than expected). We ignored the packet instructions and made the jelly extra stiff - though it could have done with being even stiffer. We mixed, we poured, we waited.

Then we chopped up the green jelly, inverted the mould and held our breath - till we turned out Mr Bunny in all his lurid red glory.

I was transported straight back to being 8 years old.

But what I hadn't banked on was Tiny Small's horror at the thought of eating any part of the "poor little rabbit" when it came to teatime. She cried and ran from the room, and only returned when the beast was safely chopped up and served out and covered with ice cream.

I now wonder whether I did the same when I was little and that's why my mum's rabbit mould stayed safely in the cupboard above the boiler ... and I know what we're not going to be having at a certain someone's birthday party, that's for sure!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

On the trail of Peter Rabbit

Thank you for the camera concern - it seems to be the lens rather than the camera, which is annoying but not terminal. What I didn't tell you was that we discovered it while we were halfway up Lingmoor Fell in the Lakes and had to fight to get any reasonable shots for the whole two weeks we were on holiday there ...

Still, there are lots of lovely memories of long steep walks to breathtaking viewpoints, even if the shots are blurry. On one very memorable day we set off early to a secret carpark in Sawrey whose location was passed on by a very friendly National Trust warden as the only hope of parking anywhere near Beatrix Potter's house at Hill Top - a visit we've avoided for years because of the alleged parking nightmares and the overcrowding.

This time we collected tickets for late afternoon entry and in the meantime took ourselves off for a walk along the paths Beatrix Potter trod - and drew, and described. We read The Tale of Mr Tod under Oatmeal Crags where he has one of his residences; we looked at the Tale of Jeremy Fisher at Moss Eccles Tarn surrounded by the water lilies Miss Potter planted there:

And we lunched at the Tower Bank Arms where Kep the collie tries to find out where Jemima Puddleduck has run off to.

The National Trust helpfully provides information about which houses in Sawrey were used as the settings for which stories, but the most astonishing are at Hill Top itself - every room, every piece of furniture appears in a Tale somewhere.

Tom Kitten's residence, anyone?

And we even found Peter Rabbit - not in Mr McGregor's garden, but in the meadow next to it - look closely and you may see him to the left of the tree!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Book results and a slight disaster

Something BAD has happened to our camera. Our beloved, now fairly elderly, Nikon D70. It lives in a safely padded bag in a cabinet drawer when it's not being used, and is pulled out and put away many times each week. Last week I pulled it out to find that some had put it away minus the bag, but I just tutted quietly, stowed it safely and moved on with the day. Unfortunately the next time I came to use it, it turns out that while it was unprotected, the lens edge has been badly cracked and the poor thing can't autofocus any more. I rather suspect small hands closed the drawer too vigorously on it. We just hope it can be repaired ...

Anyway, in the absence of any actual photos, here's a screenshot of the results of the Pass the Book giveaway:

By my reckoning, Miss Read will be winging her way to Rhiannon - I'll be in touch!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Pass the Book

I had a perfectly lovely day last Sunday, sitting in Emma's garden beach hut admiring her jewellery, and trying not to squeak too loudly when she sold lots and lots of gorgeous trinkets. You can see the fun here if you haven't already done so. Mavis and Celia arrived in the afternoon and we had a fabulous impromptu tea party (wherein I proved I should never, ever be allowed to make tea in someone else's teapot).

I spent a good part of the day crocheting pebbles - as you do - inspired by the gorgeous creations of Margaret Oomen at Resurrection Fern. Initially I used the pattern she'd very generously provided at Purl Bee last week, but soon was chaining and trebling and doubling at will - I'm pretty rubbish at following patterns, and using a 0.6mm hook with fine perle cotton there was not much chance of keeping the stitch counts and tension regular!

Sitting in the garden I suddenly remembered with horror that I have Emma's first Pass The Book sitting on my windowsill and it really, really needs to go to a new home. I was sent it by Fiona at Tizduster (clever, clever silver and clay sculpting Fiona) along with some gorgeous silver earrings and some chocolate, many weeks ago. I read this lovely little book by Miss Read in about an hour and a half sitting in the sunlit living room of a beautiful cottage in Suffolk on a birthday weekend trip - yes, that's how long it's taken me to sort this out!

Anyway, it's time to pass the book on, so if you'd like to read it, leave a comment on this post and I'll pick a name at the weekend or early next week. The person whose name is chosen will receive a little parcel of goodies along with the book - not sure what yet but there are bound to be toadstools in there somewhere!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

We need to talk about roses

No, not the pretty flowers, though I am very fond of them. What I want to talk about is this:

Lots and lots of perfect circles punched out of the leaves of one specific rose bush in our garden. It happened last year and I realised that the creature responsible was most likely a leaf cutter bee - at which point I decided to do absolutely nothing and thank my lucky stars we operate a wildlife friendly (read: lazy) garden policy. You've got to be a really persistent weed for me to even consider eradicating you.

Anyway, this summer they've been at it again and while I haven't seen one in the act of cutting, I have seen what they've done with the leaves:

This is just one of those cheap boxes bought from the garden centre and attached to the fence and forgotten. It's behind another rose that they don't seem at all interested in chomping.

You only need to wait a minute or so to see bee activity.

I think we may have mason bees in the bottom half, and also in the loose mortar in the wall of our old house, and I couldn't be happier to just leave them to it. We've stashed lots of bundles of bamboo canes around the garden, and I've now seen a plan for another, fancier bee box - time for my little wildilfe DIY helpers to get busy with the power tools again?

PS Thank you for all the lovely party comments and birthday wishes. If you're inspired to do the same, please do - once I put ideas up here I'm happy for them to be used, though obviously not my words or photos. Life is hectic as it is for all mums of school children at this time of year, so I've been a bit quiet. Lots to show and tell, one of these days!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Glamour for teddies

June is always a big month in the DC household with two birthdays coming very close together. Mine was last week, and then yesterday my gorgeous Tall Small turned 8 and I swear she grew another inch overnight. She's up to my shoulder now, though she has a way to go before she catches up Mr DC.

For the very first time we were able to have her birthday party on her birthday - a terrifically exciting prospect for anyone, I think you'll agree. After the success of the mug painting we were contemplating an at-home pottery party but it turns out one of her little friends has had the same idea for next month. So ... thinking caps on. Here are a couple of clues:

Lots of concentration and creativity and glue and trimmings and sequins.

And a fair few of these furry friends.

Got it? Yes indeed, Build a Bear eat your heart out, we made summer beach costumes for our teddies. Aha! Lots of frantic cutting up of net half an hour before the girls arrived and a lightbulb moment when we realised the beach skirts were far easier if the bears were wearing their ribbon waistbands before we tried to tie the fabric onto them.

There was slightly heart stopping moment when they all looked at me in confusion after I'd explained they were going to use glue to decorate their T-shirts, but they soon fell in with great enthusiasm and I could kick myself for running out of time to take pics of the fashion show.

And the best part of all? Tall Small loved every minute, and was able to spend time with a friend she's known since they were both 6 months old but these days we see only a couple of times each year. When we got to the end of the party one of the girls turned round to her mum and said "You're too early!" And I have to say I felt the same way - this really is a fabulous age for still-quite-little-but-growing-up-every-day girl parties.