Saturday, December 22, 2007

New blog abode

Now I can't promise that the new place is in show home condition, but please drop by and say hello over at the new 'domesticali' blogging abode.

Bye bye Blogger, I'll miss you. You've been a good friend, but your comments shenanigans finally drove me to desert you.

I'll leave this old blog up here, but pretty please would you update your blogrolls and subscriptions, because I'm the new kid on the block over there and I need my chums.

Thank you for sharing so many good times with me here. Wishing you all the merriest of Festive Seasons and a hope 2008 that brings you joy.

Friday, December 21, 2007


There have been all manner of problems recently with non-blogspot bloggers leaving comments over here. Judging from the last few days, if you don't have a google/blogger account, you've just given up. I don't blame you. But it's sad without you. So over the Christmas break, I'm going to be busy with a little blog nesting.

I'll let you know where to come and find me when I've unpacked. Somewhere a bit more welcoming hopefully.

The wonderful goodies in the photo arrived from Jennifer at
Scissors Paper Glue yesterday. The boys were very put out that I was allowed to open my parcel when they have to wait for Christmas! If you want some similar booty of your own, she has an etsy shop. With lots of ephemera. I love that word, don't you?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Preparations 8 - Primped and packaged

Feels like we're entering the home stretch now. A little bit of wrapping to indulge in, some last minute distribution and the big day will be here.

Dishcloths have been ironed (what a hoot - I don't really understand 'blocking', but the wavy edges look somewhat straighter) and packed up with vanilla sugar and cookie cutters and a gingerbread house kit for good measure.

vanilla sugar wrapped
Chocolate pretzels baked (Mama? Why you making those poos?)

But he ate enough of them once they'd been dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled.

The recipe was from the Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies special (thanks Michelle!) . Call it a little Christmas gift from me to you to say thank you for stopping by here and leaving such lovely comments.


1 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
Unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

In a small bowl, combine flour, 1/2 c. cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside.

Beat butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Add flour mixture, 1/3 at a time, beating on low speed until combined. Divide dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 2 to 24 hours or until dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove one dough portion from refrigerator; keep remaining dough portion refrigerated. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Sprinkle work surface with sifted cocoa powder, repeating as needed. Roll each portion of dough into a 9 inch long rope on prepared surface. Twist into a pretzel shape and place on a cookie sheet, 1 inch apart.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until just firm. Cool on the cookie sheet on a wire rack for one minute, and then transfer to to the wire rack to cool completely. Repeat this process with the remaining dough.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

'Tis the season to be Jealous


Why am I home with the bath bed boy routine and leftovers while Hubby is eating at Gordon Ramsay at Claridges tonight?

Oh the photo is theirs. When do you think my kitchen last produced something like that? Holey moley, sometimes I really miss corporate life.

Well, bits of it anyway. But I know you get all that family work life balance stuff. It's hard to put it into words, but Sooz has found the perfect analogy. And done it brilliantly. Go and read her post.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tomte fabric

Yes, I spent a small fortune, but it was SO worth it.

Design by Ruth Vetter: 'Tomtar'

Perhaps I'll even iron it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Dallas sent me this lovely little embroidered bird recently.
It has nested on my bedroom door handle so I can see it when I wake each morning. It's the little things that make me happy.

Dallas's blog ( is one of the most cheerful places I visit . Do you ever label blogs in your head? My mental tags for you all include talented, funny, thought-provoking, visionary, savvy, self-aware, outrageous, genuine, beautiful, stylish - I could go on and on.

But apparently one of the words which comes to mind when you stop by here is 'nutty'.

Thanks for the award Kitty! And for her advent calendar story alone, I'm passing it on to Laura.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Preparations 7 - the Nativity

Johnny's preschool nativity was yesterday. I'd show you photos, but they all look like this (he's the snowflake on the far left).

The parental paparazzi were out in force snapping away in the non existent light trying to capture something. Sometimes I think it's better to forget the camera and be in the moment. The only in focus photo I achieved was the box of tissues thoughtfully provided by the nursery.

I helped myself, because I knew I'd need them. I cry at all Nativities, even those that don't involve any offspring of mine. Just show me a wonky tinsel halo and I'm off.

Gorgeous sunrises get me in the same way. Something about innocence and new beginnings I think. If I were Megan, I would be able to find something profound to say. But I'm not.

Happy weekend people.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Preparations 6 - letter to Santa

Raymond Brigg's 'Father Christmas' has a lot to answer for.

The antics of this off season Santa - a grumpy glutton who's catchphrase is 'Bloomin' Christmas' - have captivated my boys. So much so, that Mark's letter to Santa this year started with 'I hope you won't be too drunk to get here'.

This was the home version and not the one they were asked to write at school. He proudly informed me that one had gone on for two-and-a-quarter pages! I shudder to think. How did I breed such a consumer?

But at least he's hospitable. Because he's designed a sign to direct Santa to refreshments. As an 'in return' gift.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Preparations 5 - tree quest

It's Christmas here this Sunday. My in-laws arrive for their own personalized celebration and so all decorating deadlines are pushed forward by 10 days. Normally this would not be a problem. Hubby usually starts emptying the loft of all things festive on December 1st and begging shamelessly for me to put it all up. I agreed to do it this weekend, if they helped me clear up the house first (you may call it bribery, I call it incentive).

They whizzed around and soon all was ship-shape, so off the menfolk went to pick a tree.

The selection of our tree seems to appeal to some cave man instinct within them. They just love it, in the same way they hate almost all other forms of shopping. And without me grumbling away as the voice of reason, they get away with buying something that is really much too large for our hallway and has to be manoeuvred into the house in a kind of bizarre tribute to an episode of Monster Moves. Trees, Televisions, Trucks - bigger is always better in blokeworld.

But our favourite tree guy was SOLD OUT. On December 9th?? We are on a tree waiting list. I kid you not. Which means my new decorations are still homeless and my old friends still in boxes.

But on the plus side, I did get the marshmallows scraped off the baking trays and packaged up for Johnny's Montessori teachers.

And my Magimix is still functioning, although the whisk attachment will never be the same. But hey, it's all blog-fodder. Which is my new Zen approach for dealing with disaster and disappointment.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Costly cooking

Christmas cooking can be a costly business. Because I am not sure the whisk attachment of my Magimix was built to take the strain of a batch of homemade marshmallows. Halfway through, it started making a grinding of metal on metal noise and I had to finish off with the hand held beater. I'm too afraid to check if the damage is terminal.

Because, if it is, they may yet prove to be the most expensive marshmallows of all time. As I type, they are setting on a couple of baking trays. I also have my doubts about whether they will ever come off.

But the boys have pronounced them fabulous.

Or the mixture anyway. What's not to like about pure sugar with a touch of gelatin? Now excuse me while I try to clear up...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Rather odd meme

Recently, Joanna tagged me to do a seven things meme. I was trying to come up with something random, when I came across this at Pea Soup. It struck me as totally random, so I'm doing it instead. Rule bender? Me? Never.

What kind of soap is in your bathtub right now?
None! Before you faint with shock, we have a separate shower (which I prefer) so baths are strictly of the bubble variety only.

Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator?
Er, no. And I didn't even have to check!

What would you change about your living room?
I'd have a wood burning stove in it.

Are the dishes in your dishwasher clean or dirty?
Dirty. It's not full.

What is in your fridge?
Gherkins, olives, 3 different jams, 3 different mustards, wine, milk, butter, wasabi, capers, pickled onions, ketchup, mayonnaise, miso paste, yoghurt, one sad lone jelly, innocent smoothies, wine, beers, bacon, broccoli, celery, carrots, beans, spring onion, red peppers, salad, cheese, anchovies, secret chocolate bar for emergencies, did I mention wine?

White or wheat bread?
Both, probably going mouldy. We waste a LOT of bread, because I only really like it very fresh.

What is on top of your refrigerator?
It's built in. Dirt probably.

What color or design is on your shower curtain?
Glass door, accessorized by unattractive limescale spots.

How many plants are in your home?
About a dozen. One is from a cutting given to me by a friend for my 21st birthday. Another is a cactus I inherited when another friend moved to Washington. He lives in Edinburgh now. I dread him returning to ask for it back, because I'm rather fond of it.

Is your bed made right now?
No - hubby's in it.

Comet or Soft Scrub?
Asteroid? Facial Wash? Que?

Is your closet organized?
Not too bad.

Can you describe your flashlight?
Black, lights up when you press the switch.

Do you drink out of glass or plastic most of the time at home?

Do you have iced tea made in a pitcher right now?

If you have a garage, is it cluttered?
Not so much cluttered as full, very full. No chance of getting a car in there!

Curtains or blinds?
Blinds in our bathroom since the lady who lives opposite phoned me up at 7am to tell me that the Builders next door had just watched me take a shower. Frosted schmosted.
Curtains elsewhere (but we only draw them upstairs really).

How many pillows do you sleep with?
One. It's a memory foam weird one. I like it.

Do you sleep with any lights on at night?
Nightlights in the boys' bedrooms.

How often do you vacuum?
Can I plead the 5th? When I can't ignore it any more. Or whenever hubby wears his stupid chenille socks which shed all over the carpet.

Standard toothbrush or electric?
Standard. My teeth just destroy toothbrushes, so I'm forever changing mine. Must be small head or I bang my gums and give myself ulcers.

What color is your toothbrush?
Pink and white. With orange rubber tongue cleaning ridges on the back. What a gimmick.

Do you have a welcome mat on your front porch?
We have a doormat, but it doesn't say welcome. In fact, some animal has been nibbling the corner of it, so I think it currently says 'unkempt'.

What is in your oven right now?
One of those mats which you can take out to rinse off the burnt on gunk. Ha ha ha - yeah, right.

Is there anything under your bed?
No (it's very close to the floor. On purpose, because otherwise I'd stiff all manner of rubbish under there. Glad you didn't ask about the spare bed.

Chore you hate doing the most?
Cleaning the oven. I discovered there are companies who will come to your house and do it for you though. How cool is that?

Do you have a separate room that you use as an office?
Yes - office come craft space. My lair. Mwa ha ha ha.

How many mirrors are in your home?
Nine. Now ask me if I glanced in even one before I left the house this morning.

What color are your walls?
Cream mainly. One green downstairs loo and one pale yellow living room which I'd prefer to be cream.

Do you keep any kind of protection weapons in your home?
My children?

What does your home smell like right now?

Favorite candle scent?
Very fussy about scented candles. Currently it's a winter spice number.

What kind of pickles (if any) are in your refrigerator right now?
I've already given you a far too detailed run down of the contents of my fridge. Weren't you reading properly before? Or is this just to catch me out?

Ever been on your roof?
No. What the hell would I want to do that for?

Do you own a stereo?

How many TVs do you have?

How many house phones?
Are you going to burgle me?

Do you have a housekeeper?
No. Well, me I suppose. But I'm not sure they took up my references before they employed me.

Is there a smoke detector in your home?
Several. Even one in the loft since our neighbours house burned down. Dodgy downlighters. And ours was built by the same developer. And has the same lights. Oh bugger, there goes another sleepless night.

In case of fire, what are the items in your house which you’d grab if you only could make one quick trip?
When we did have to evacuate (see above) we just grabbed a boy each. And then had soul searching discussions later about why Hubby had chosen the one he did first. So glad I was dashing up the stairs at the time shrieking 'get the kids' instead of having to choose which one.

Tagging? When you read these things, do you sit there reading and thinking 'Please don't tag me' or feel sad when you didn't get tagged? I just steal them shamelessly if I want to do one. Suggest you do the same.

The Good Life

Being a woman of mystery isn't my usual style. Time to come clean about my much anticipated day yesterday. I went to London to meet up with Alice of The Magpie Files. Which would have been enough excitement in its own right (especially as she had promised a visit to the Champagne Bar in the new St Pancras - the woman has style). But she had other plans up her sleeve too. After a quick stop at Liberty, we jumped on a bus and arrived here:

Any guesses yet? Perhaps this will help:

Persephone + fairy buns - it could only mean Jane Brocket of Yarnstorm. She was speaking at a
Persephone Lunch about the domestic arts (knitting, crocheting, baking, quilting, a great deal of reading) as practised by her. And she made cupcakes (to match the books of course) for afternoon tea.

Jane is an amazingly gifted speaker and I was totally engaged (well, apart from the part of my brain that was busy wondering who the other people in the room were, because I had already spotted Julie Arkell and Janet Bolton in the audience). She brought along a load of her quilts, tea cosies and embroidery for us to see.

Perhaps it's only me, but it is so weird seeing in real life, something you've seen on a blog. New, yet familiar. Much the same as meeting bloggers in the flesh, which, in my experience, has never been anything other than delightful.

Alice and I made a new friend too (Hi Kristina!). She SO needs a blog, she knits, she sews, she bakes, she's charming. I've spoken before about my personal crusade to indoctrinate all crafty folk into the wonderful world that is blogging. Come on Kristina, dive in, the water's lovely.

And as we sat in the Champagne Bar of St Pancras, sipping our bubbly and nattering yarn, sewing, life and the universe. I had a moment of blinding clarity. Life is good, very good.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pinny perfection

The slowness of the post across the pond forced Sarah to spill the beans about there being a little something headed my way, so I've been rushing to the door every time the postman's van appears. And here it is, proof that a watched pot sometimes boils, a perfectly gorgeous apron.

Sarah wouldn't have known that the colours of the flowers pick up the bluey tones of my kitchen cabinets and the tan, the floor tiles. Uncanny though isn't it? She has much better photos than mine - in fact, I had admired the apron when she posted about it, never thinking it was destined for my kitchen. Hell, it even matches my dishes, so I just had to show you.

Thank you friend. The other great thing about it is the enormous pocket, which is just what I need to stuff all my tissues in. I have the most stinking cold and I am cross about it, because I need to have lunch tomorrow. And taste cupcakes. And possibly drink Champagne. And not infect people. Damn. I'm being all secretive, but I am so looking forward to spilling the beans after the event.

Echinacea is my friend. And positive mental attitude. I do not have a cold, my nose is not streaming, I am healthy and not at all infectious.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Holiday Traditions Exchange

As much as I would love to claim 'being super-organized' as one of my Holiday Traditions, I feel it might be stretching the truth somewhat.

But I did manage to get my parcel for the Holiday Traditions Exchange posted off to Eren today.

Recently, I watched a documentary series called ' The Mummy Diaries'. It followed 5 families, where mothers had been diagnosed with forms of incurable cancer. As they struggled to prepare their children for the loss of a parent, the women were encouraged to write a Mummy Manual, covering all the details of domestic trivia which would be useful to their families in the future.

As you can imagine, it was harrowing viewing, but it did bring home to me how truly important our little rituals are to out families and how special a Mother's role as their caretaker can be.

So Eren, I hope you don't mind, but when I sent off your parcel, I made a copy of our Christmas Traditions for here too. Because some of them are silly and may make you chuckle, but to us, they are priceless.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Six sixes

I turned thirty six yesterday. Do you want to know the best thing about it? All year long, I've been thinking I was thirty six already. What a gift - an extra 365 days!

It made me think of my student days - I did a variety of part time jobs (supermarket shelf stacker, sweetie barrow salesgirl, contract dry stone walling, child minding, barmaid...) and when I got paid, I would put a £5 note in a random pocket of my clothing. I cannot tell you the you how much joy I generated for myself by coming across one unexpectedly during a lean week. Unexpected pleasures - they're the best.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Things are beginning to feel decidedly end-of-year-ish round here. There's something about the last few days of November that sends me into a flurry of nesting. Suppose it is probably linked to the short days, hunkering down for winter and trying to impose order on the house before the relative anarchy* of the Festive Season.

*I mean anarchy, relative to real life, not anarchy of my relatives, who are, on the whole, fairly well behaved.**

So my cupboards have been treated to some new hooks

to hang our winter woollies on.

Our finances have been squared away (yes, those are credit card slips - guess we hadn't reconciled them in a while).

And I have the most gorgeous calendar (from Sarah) ready to track the passing of the new year.

We're all set, let the festivities commence.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Small pleasures

A morning shaft of sunlight in our bedroom (something of a rarity in these grey November days). The simple delight small boys take in the antics of a naughty shadow-bird.

Preparing some jars of Vanilla Sugar for friends.

A timely reminder to notice the little things.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Trouble brewing

Two steps forward, one step back. Mark's ever patient, ever smiley teacher wasn't looking too smiley when she cornered me in the playground this afternoon. I know that look and it's not good.

The irony of it is, I saw the latest episode of this coming. Parents' evening was 2 weeks ago. She was really smiley then, but I told her, trouble was brewing - I have learned to recognise the early warning signs, but I don't think she took me seriously.

This time of year is a nightmare with Mark. The endless Nativity Play rehearsals which bore him rigid, the attacks of the wanties brought on by the proximity to Christmas, the appalling weather thwarting every opportunity to let him burn off some steam outside.

I can't do much about the triggers and I am so utterly fed up with having to cope with the outcome. And so we enter a spiral of negativity, at home and at school, that sweeps everyone along with it, miserable and clinging on for dear life.

The Autism Support Outreach worker is going in to school to observe him on Monday and the Sensory Processing Disorder lady on Tuesday. And on Thursday I am running away from it all to Bath with Hubby for a few days of pretending it's not our problem.

And then, just maybe, I can summon the energy and the insight to get us moving forward again. My newly framed print by Jen of Swallowfield is called 'I feel lucky'. Let's hope it's a talisman.

The 's' word

Today seems an appropriate day for a Euro-centric post (given that our American chums will be far too busy stuffing their faces with turkey and vegging out to read blogs - Happy Thanksgiving though guys).

Now, don't hate me, I know, we're crafting like mad and pledging ourselves to Handmade, but sometimes, shopping just has to be done. I used to try to spend my gift cash at my local independent toy shop. But I obviously didn't spend enough, because it closed down recently. So sad.

In looking further afield, I discovered a little online gem for the under 5 crowd, called Izziwizzi Kids. This contraption had Johnny's name written all over it. Monkey scales (if anyone comes up with a tutorial for handcrafting those, I'll eat my shorts).

The customer experience was great and best of all, they've let me give all my chums £5 off. So if you want a money off code, let me know your e-mail. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone you are spending money on illicit manufactured pleasures.

Happy shopping (sorry, the 's' word again).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Preparations 4 - Rubber Stamp

It's been a while since I carved a rubber stamp - I forgot how fun and quick a process it is. The only thing is, I didn't really intend to make Santa look like a wino. Although with HIS to-do list, He'd be forgiven for hitting the bottle at this time of year.

If you want to have a go, here is the tutorial which got me started.
Perhaps I'd better have a cup of tea and re-group. This is my new seasonal favourite - even the box is uplifting.

My photos look pants today - sorry, its just so dark and wet and miserable. Natural light? Chance would be a fine thing.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Preparations 3 - Salt dough

*****Edited to add some important painting info*****

Christmas Fair time rolls round again - next Saturday I'll be up to my eyeballs in some kind of crafty endeavour with a zillion clamouring primary schoolers.
Thought we'd have a go at salt dough Christmas ornaments. But a trial run with my resident assistants seemed to be in order.

Recipe: 2 parts flour to 1 part salt. Mix in some warm water to form a dough. Knead for 10 minutes until nice and smooth.

I had anticipated some freehand modelling, but it's harder to do than I had thought. Not sure the under 10 crowd would be too impressed, but my testers perked up when we broke out the Christmassy cutters. My inability to see a cute cutter without wanting buying it evidently has it's up sides!

I have a whole batch drying, so the punters on Saturday can paint one ready formed ornament and model one of their own to dry and decorate at home.

But I'm going to need a vat of hand cream afterwards, because a couple of hours dealing with desiccating effects of the dough has left me with lizard hands. Ick.

*** A couple of folks asked about painting these. I had planned to use Acrylics, but BIG word of warning - they don't work very well. I found out (luckily the night before the fair) that tempera/poster paints work much much better. Apologies for misleading you (and for raiding my boys' paint box)*****

Friday, November 16, 2007

Lurid cupcakes

There's no place for subtlety in the world of child-pleasing cupcakes. Bright is good, but lurid is better.

Cupcakes for Children in Need cake sale.

Mark had to go to school today, dressed as something he'd like to be when he grows up. Amidst a sea of firemen, pop stars, policemen and footballers, he stood out somewhat in his Daddy's tie. He's a Town Planner (I blame the Lego Corporation).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Preparations 2

With my big ball of string I can do anything,

anything, anything, anything at all.

Christmas cards in progress.

Life this week has been a bit like wading through treacle. The Dinosaur School (which goes on for the next 12 weeks) was a huge hit with Mark. Well pitched with lots of adult attention and activities he really enjoyed. He's looking forward to his session next Monday.

I can't say the same about the parents' group. I found it very difficult, sitting and sharing thoughts with people who are struggling with violent family members or getting the next meal on the table. It was heartbreaking and energy sapping and I dearly wish I didn't have to go back.

Reality is uncomfortable to face sometimes and the fact that I would rather not confront these people's realities makes me feel guilty. And over privileged.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monkeying around

Just an hour taken out of this weekend to mooch round Albert Park,

pet the doggies who are out walking, scuffle through a few leaves

and explore the monuments.

Just to be peaceful and breathe. It did us all good.

This evening Mark and I are off to Dinosaur School. I think its a dressed up group therapy programme, to help kids understand their feelings and promote social competence. Oh, and a parenting course, which I am looking forward to about as much as a trip to the dentist. But trying to be all "rah rah isn't this fun" for Mark's benefit. Does anyone know of a big rock I could just go and hide under?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Preparations 1

Is it just me, or are all these 'Handmade for the holidays' tutorials, lists and gorgeous finished items stressing anyone else out? Don't get me wrong, I love them, I'm inspired by them but I'm breaking out into a cold sweat.

I'm going to have to sit down and bite the bullet of a serious 'to do' list. Though I have done the little gifts for Mark's teachers. We decided on coasters for their breaktime cuppa.

So Mark drew a design for each of them.

We scanned it and printed it out on the computer in mirror image. Then it was easy to trace over it with a heat set embroidery transfer pencil (amending the odd spelling hiccup and too-tricky-to-sew design element) and transfer it to a piece of linen.

The idea was for Mark to do a bit of the sewing, but I was having too much fun with the red linen thread to share.

And then we used Amy's instructions from 'Bend the Rules Sewing' to turn them into coasters.

Hopefully they will prevent mug mix-ups at morning break. And at least one item on the list has a tick next to it!