Friday, August 31, 2007

XYZ is for... The End

So my month with the Encyclopedia of me Meme is at an end. When I started, I was worried about taking on quite such a big commitment. Perhaps I should have trusted my instincts, because I have found the second part of the alphabet quite a slog to get through and I can't say I am sorry to have finished. I found that posting almost daily has taken away much of the true joy of blogging.

Simplesparrow said it so well recently in her advice to a new blogger "post when you feel inspired and let it come from your heart". I completely agree with her and I'm going to go back to doing just that.

It's a big week for us next week - back to school and preschool for the boys and the first stage in Mark's Aspergers assessment - speech and language. I'm looking forward to it and dreading it in equal measures. Have a really great weekend - I'm going to make an effort to truly live this one from the heart.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

W is for... Whoot

When the owls started appearing at Moonstitches, I fell in love. Then came the tutowrial and other cuties began to pop up. I meant to get round to one of my own and months and months later, I finally did.

Only I left my little owl alone, and when I got back, he had turned into a Great Horned Owl.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

V is for... Vintage Buttons

When I last visited my Mother, she had a mysterious box. You know sometimes you can tell there's something exciting inside without even looking? I felt it.

Vintage buttons - lots - six pounds by weight! I nearly wet myself. They had come in as a donation at the charity shop where she works and she was sorting them to be carded up for resale.

The first words on my lips were 'How much for the lot?' and then reality kicked in. How long would it take me to use six pounds of buttons? But I wanted them - to touch them, sort through them, wonder what beautiful garments they originally adorned.

So I've volunteered for a little (or as I've come to realize, fairly Herculean) task. To sort and sell on these glories for the Hospice.

So at least I get temporary custody, if not outright ownership. A duty of care if you like (alongside a big clean up job, because they're pretty filthy some of them).

I've got light ones, chunky ones,

dark ones (engraved 'Saville Row'), tortoiseshell ones,and crazy multicoloured ones.

Now I need a bit of advice - call it market research if you will. Would people prefer to buy in small or large lots? Do you like your vintage buttons in sets or a mixed bag? E-bay or Etsy? I don't have an Etsy shop, but I've always harboured a secret shopkeeper fantasy - maybe this is my virtual chance?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

U is for... Untidy

Okay, it's high time for another 'airing your dirty linen in public' confession. I am not one of life's naturally immaculate people (I can hear my father snorting from here). Barely controlled chaos is more like it. Case in point - the shelves in my office stroke craft room.

There is some order to it, honest, but you might not guess it at first glance. As I look at them in the cold hard public light I ask myself many questions:

Why do I still have a copy of 'The Idiot's Guide to Baby Names' hanging about? Because believe me, that boat has well and truly sailed.

Couldn't I find more attractive storage boxes for my fabric paints than those ancient Pampers wipes cartons?

It's August - do I honestly need a Halloween lantern or my set of plastic Easter eggs to hand?

But in my own defence, I do know exactly where to lay my hands on the stuff on these shelves and they are one of the hardest working storage spaces in our house. I just wish I had the knack of turning functional into beautiful, oh and keeping it tidy.

Monday, August 27, 2007

T is for... Tragedy

Prone to exaggeration - who me? Well, possibly a touch. But it really hacks me off when my lovingly sewn book cover turns out to be too small for the ******* book.

And I used my precious jumbo ric rack too. Serves me right for thinking I was clever enough to sew without instructions. Yet another one for the 'crafts gone bad' hall of fame. I should know better than to approach the machine while suffering from PMT.

There's only one cure. Tea. With biscuits. Preferably chocolate.

Grudgingly I have to admit that all is not bad in the world. Humph.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

S is for... Sailor

To celebrate the sun today we decided to have a little fun messing about on the river and took a boat trip on the Thames.

I've always loved being on the water - when I was twelve, I learned to sail in a Wayfarer dinghy and spent every summer for the next 5 years enthusiastically freezing to death
in Dover harbour. Luckily, hubs is fairly keen on floating holidays and so we have rented a canal boat on the Kennet and Avon and chartered a yacht in the Greek Islands. There's something hugely relaxing about just watching the water go by.

Even the crafting has had a watery slant to it today - just a little peek, because it's a surprise...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

R is for... Routine

Blogging at the weekend - it's just not popular is it? I always feel like a bit of a billy-no-mates here at my computer on a Saturday or Sunday. Like everyone else has exciting and fun weekend plans which render them far too busy to go near a monitor. And it's worse with this being a Bank Holiday Weekend and all, but hey, I have no shame and an A to Z to complete by the end of the month.

It's also been unusually quiet at home. Mark is spending the week with his Grandparents and Johnny has been really missing his big brother. It's just not as much fun playing cars on your own - nobody to fight with. Roll on Tuesday when they can return to the normal schedule - play, fight, yell and scream, get separated, find themselves magnetically attracted, play - and on and on it goes 'till bedtime.

Just in case you are also wandering around looking for some weekend fun to be had, here are some blogs I read which begin with the letter R
Red Felt Flower

Ruby Crowned Kinglette

Red House

Red Shoes Blog
Red Fish Circle
Ragged Roses

Rose Vintage


Reddy Made

And a photo of my Rudbekias for Amy. She's after late summer excitement in her garden and these are fitting the bill in mine.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Q is for... Qwerty

1. DSC_05302007-07-14_18-15-28_crop, 2. green typewriter, 3. typewriter of capricorn, 4. typewriter fun, 5. Typewriter, 6. typewriter, 7. Typewriter Detail, 8. Typewriter, 9. Typewriter

Created with fd's Flickr Toys.

Given the amount of time I spend on the computer, it's an absolute disgrace that I don't touch type. I did do a course when I was about 15 - but I only made it up to about 30 wpm touch typing and I can go faster than that looking at my fingers. I do use plenty of them, just in a haphazard kind of way. So I reverted to my own idiosyncratic ways.

But those crazy letter recognition things get me all the time. I hate the patronising way they tell you to enter the letters exactly as you see them, right after you've cocked it up once.
And hooray for me - I came up with a Q!!!! Only 9 letters left...

P is for... Pippi Longstocking

As a child I never read Pippi Longstocking, but I think I would have loved it if I had. I saw this wonderful edition, illustrated by Lauren Child, while we were glamping and I had to buy it there and then.

It saved our bacon as we got stuck in a major traffic jam shortly afterwards. Thankfully the boys were totally enthralled by Pippi's shenanigans. Well, if you don't count several billion interruptions from Johnny demanding to be shown the pictures.

I know the Ragged Roses
household are loving their copy too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

O is for... Old photos

Pictures from other people's childhoods are a source of great fascination to me. Pouring over them to see if there are any signs of the adult they are to become. So I thought I'd share a few of mine.

My little friend Kirsten and I, in Fiji on my second birthday. She's got the balloon (and some fabby rick rack trim going on) and I've got reading matter - bookworm then, bookworm now.

My brother and I at some petting zoo in Holland. He is the same age in that picture as his eldest son is now and they are so similar - it's their expressions, right Tess?
And with my folks aged 6. We were living in the Cayman Islands at the time and my Dad was playing in the band for a production of South Pacific. This was opening night, all dressed up in our best south sea islander finery. I still remember the words to most of the songs from the production. Check out my Mum rocking that halter top look too!
I'm in the middle of reading Tokyo Cancelled by Rana Dasgupta - thirteen passengers stranded overnight in an airport amuse one another by telling stories. One tale deals with a 'memory editor' whose job it is to sift through the memories of strangers, cleansing them of painful experiences to create a DVD. It is marketed under the name 'MyPast' to individuals of a generation forgetting their own history. Something about it reminded me of the experience of blogging. Perhaps I need to take my role as 'memory editor' more seriously.

Monday, August 20, 2007

N is for... Nostalgia

There's a slightly idyllic haze over the last few days. Everything about our glamping trip had a retro kind of wholesomeness about it.
From waking up in your snug little cupboard bed.

To going out in jim-jams and wellies to collect the breakfast eggs.

Getting the stove lit.

And that first cup of coffee, from beans which you hand ground.

Spending the day stalking chickens, or doing a spot of hand sewing for a certain little project.

No wonder we were reluctant to say goodbye.

I have come home with a new appreciation of the things I take for granted (hot water on tap, good lighting) and a sense of distaste for all the waste and excesses of our modern lives. The sheer 'go faster, have more' nature of our existence. Funny how staying on your own turf can broaden your horizons far more than travel.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

M is for... Motivation

Phew - I'm beginning to run out of steam with this Encyclopedia of Me thing. Are there really 26 interesting things I can say about myself? I'm beginning to seriously doubt it!

But I am not good at stopping things I've started. Particularly when I've publicly stated I'm going to do something. When hubs and I first got married we lived in Japan. Close to his work in Yokohama. Unfortunately, my job was in Tokyo.

Now when I took the job I checked the map. It didn't seem too far. Little did I know I was signing up for a 2 hour each way commute via one of the most crowded means of transportation in the known universe. You know you see films of men wearing white gloves and shoving people onto trains. Well they're not just a tall tourist tale.

When Andy told his colleagues what I had planned, they were dubious. Westerners and Japanese alike. And unbeknown to me they had a little sweepstake for how long I would stick at my job. Estimates varied from 3 days to 6 weeks. Even hubby, who was well aware of my stubborn streak couldn't see it lasting longer than that. After all, I was only teaching English and I could do that on my own doorstep. But I lasted out the whole year of my contract.

That commute was hell on earth. Even now, there are CDs I can't listen to, because I played them on a continuous loop through my earphones in an effort to pretend I was somewhere else, away from the sweaty salarymen and chikan (perverts) who use the crowded trains as a cover for feeling up anything in a skirt.

Now, when I look back on it, I wonder what on earth motivated me to do it. But I'm kind of proud that I stuck it out. I expect I'll feel the same way about the Encyclopedia in time, but for now, I'm having a few days breather - we've got a glamping trip to go on...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

L is for... Limelight

The puppet theatre was the project that really caught my eye when I got my copy of Bend the Rules Sewing. I've been waiting for the chance to rustle one up and it came this weekend.

With amazing levels of self-control, I forced myself to use the fabric I had, though there was a quick shopping expedition for the tension rod and dowel.

The resident thespians are loving it. Today's highlight was a play about a wombat and a remote control.

"The wombat pressed the remote control, which magically turned into another wombat. They played together. Sometimes the wombat played tricks on the remote control and sometimes the remote control played tricks on the wombat. The end."

My mother has complained that there aren't enough pictures of Johnny on my blog. Perhaps it's because he's forever hamming it up in front of the camera.

Monday, August 13, 2007

K is for... Knitting

If you've been round these parts for a while, you might remember my efforts to learn how to knit. I wanted to make some little Christmas stockings, but they proved too ambitious and I am ashamed to admit that I gave up. Months later though, I did buy a copy of 'Kids learn to knit' - a wonderful little book pitched at 6 to 9 year olds. Spot on for my levels of patience.

I don't know what made me pick it up tonight - perhaps for a bit of mindless yet absorbing activity. I had a phone call today giving me a date for Mark's multidisciplinary assessment at the hospital and for some reason, it's sent me into a bit of a tailspin. I need distraction.

Funny thing is, both boys wanted to knit too. So with one 'knit stick' and some 'string' each and no idea, they began. And so did I, only I did have two sticks and some gorgeous alpaca that Tasha gave me ages ago. Hey, I may be a novice, but it doesn't mean I have to use bad yarn right?!

I'm planning on a Hooting Henry - hoping he comes with extra wisdom.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

J is for... Joining in

Johnny is a natural born joiner. Perhaps it's all part and parcel of being a little brother, because face it, if Mark was jumping off a bridge, Johnny would be there, attempting to leap first. It works for jumping off hay bales too I discovered...

But if I'm honest, I've got the younger sibling participation gene too. The latest escapade is the Back to School swap over at Friday Prize. We're exchanging a tote bag and notebook for capturing all those crafty inspirations and if you're me, a hundred ideas for fun things to go in that package are whizzing round my head.

I wonder if excitability and enthusiasm are younger sibling traits too?

Anyway, if it sounds like fun, pop over to get details of the sign up from Heidi. The deadline's Wednesday. Who wants to play?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I is for ... Ideas

Or lack thereof. I'm running dangerously low on thoughts for this whole 'encyclopedia of me' thingummy. Panic - I have nothing for J K L M N or O and my P idea is a pretty weak one. Help! Perhaps I can do a 'Johnny singing the alphabet song' trick and treat elemenopee as a single letter? No? Well, I'd better come up with a plan 'b' fast then.

Usually when I find myself stuck for inspiration, I leaf through one of my cuttings books. I started making them when we were house hunting for our first place. It allowed me to let off steam by doing some virtual nesting, so they are chock full of decorating ideas:

A few storage and display ideas, some of which have made it onto my walls in reality:

And the odd seasonal celebration idea:

It's such fun looking back at over 10 years worth of inspiration. How my tastes have changed (although perhaps scarily some have hardly shifted at all). How my pre-occupations suddenly started to include gardening and kids rooms.

How do you collect yours?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

H is for... Hair

Here's where I admit my huge envy of people with perfect hair that suits their character and always manages to look stylish. I'm not sure that I have ever achieved it though, despite mine being long enough to sit on, shaved off, and many things in between over the years.

But now, thanks to a find via Photojojo I have a chance to find the ultimate 'do'. And yes, this really is a photo of me, but the 'before' is not my real hair. Not too far off mind!

Whaddaya think? Too much? I've always fancied being a redhead...

Go on, do yours, you know you want to.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

G is for ... Glamping

Never heard of it? Neither had I until this afternoon. I took the opportunity of Mark being over at a friends house to slip off to Borders with Johnny and pick up the latest Blueprint. And there I discovered it - glamping, or glamorous camping.

Now I may be the last to have heard the term, but I have booked the trip - it started with this innocent little newspaper clipping:

Staying on a working farm - the boys would love it. And then I hit the website and I was sold.

Tents, yes, but with double beds - proper beds people - and wood burning stoves.

I'm liking this idea better and better. Visions of wafting round my wood burning stove, rustling up supper while my children gambol in the fresh air.

So we're going glamping in Wiltshire this summer. And don't be thinking I am some girly wuss who is not acquainted with the inside of a proper tent - I spent a very memorable summer mapping glacial meltwater flow in the wilds of Norway. That glacial meltwater was the closest thing I saw to a shower in 3 weeks - by the end of that, my rucksack was practically walking by itself. Believe me when I tell you, I've done my fair share of tent-time.

So a bit older and a bit wiser now - glamping all the way!
(pictures from Featherdown Farms)

Monday, August 06, 2007

F is for...... Frenchy Bag

And also fabulous hubby, who took the boys paddling in the brook and swimming at the pool, thereby allowing me to make a new late summer, early autumn Frenchy Bag, by Amy Butler.

The pattern was a prize from Lisa's Amy Butler Pattern Contest - it arrived on Friday and I had it whipped out by Sunday morning (including a Saturday shopping trip for interfacing and new school shoes - I could have done without the shoe shop stress, but these things have to be done!).

The proportions are great for slinging over the shoulder, yet feeling secure under the arm, and all the interfacing gives it a kind of padded squishyness which I also find pleasing.

I spend a large proportion of my blog-browsing time drooling over stuff that is freely available in America, but nigh on impossible to find (or hideously expensive) over here. When I was hunting down the Barcelona Skirts pattern, I discovered U-handbag stocks a comprehensive range of Amy Butler patterns, and guess where I got my mitts on the Moda birdies too?

I'd like Lisa, even if she didn't have a fab bag making supplies shop, but I am very glad she does.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

E is for... Eight things

Okay, I give in. I've been tagged three times for this eight things meme, so I'm going to have to suck it up. You guys are killing me! Is it not enough that I've committed to a 26 part encyclopedia all about moi, no, you want eight more factoids. It's Sunday, day of rest. I shouldn't be having to think!

I decided to abdicate responsibility, so I asked the family over lunch.

Me: So I have to tell my blog friends eight things about me. What shall I say?
Mark: Tell them you wear glasses.
Johnny: Tell dat roo a weewee naaas mama (tell them that you're a really nice Mama)
Hubs: Say you're a yummy mummy
Johnny: Roo should not eat mamas, EVER.

I'm so relieved that I have managed to instill one or two core values in my children. But they didn't really come up with the goods, and I'm too hot to think. Will eight random items from my kitchen cupboards do it? I've always thought you could tell a lot about a person by the contents of their kitchen cupboards.

  1. Soy sauce, industrial sized bottle from the Chinese grocers.
  2. Gherkins - also a vast jar. I'm the only one who eats them, but I love them. Ready and waiting for TV time munchies to set in.
  3. Vanilla sugar - jar of caster sugar with vanilla pod halved and tossed in. Always good to have in the back of a cupboard somewhere.
  4. Tinned button mushrooms. Yes, they're nothing like real mushrooms, they're odd and rubbery, but I like them in my stroganoff.
  5. Coriander seeds - 'tis the season of roasted Mediterranean veg and they're so much nicer with a spoon of these crushed and thrown in.
  6. Butter waffles - good as biscuits with coffee, even better with ice-cream.
  7. Spaghetti jar - I am a very disloyal pasta purchaser and buy all manner of different shapes and brands. We get left with lots of packets, all containing less than a portion of pasta. Hubby curses when he opens the cupboard and they all fall out. Tee hee.
  8. First Aid box - cute tin isn't it! Plasters, paracetamol, Arnica, Calendula, Antihistamine. All emergencies covered.
And eight tags too you say? Okay, from my extensive list, blogs or bloggers beginning with 'e', or with 'e' in them (I'm getting desperate). NB - If you're naming a blog, ones beginning with E are woefully under represented in my Bloglines!

Simmy at Echoes of a Dream, Amy of Every Little Thing, Veronique of Little Elephants, Hay of Sew-Eco, Ellene Mcclay of Deciduous Soul, Erin of House on Hill Road, Erin of Buddy Rooster, and Eren of This Vintage Chica.

Phew. Might just have to go and have a gherkin to reward myself.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

D is for..... Desk

The middle of the summer holidays is no time to be talking about homework, but come September, Mark will be in Year 2 and will be bringing some home. Egads - I don't even want to think about how we're going to fit homework into the mayhem that is the evenings round here. Much more pleasant to think about desks.

Oh e-bay, sometimes you are just too kind! I picked up this little lovely for a tenner. An old primary school, lift the lid, twin desk. Excuse me while I take a moment to wallow in nostalgia, remembering many an hour sat behind something similar. I loved school - what a girlie swot!

Well, I've sanded and waxed and polished and the desk is now up in Mark's bedroom. I need to make a covered foam pad for the chair, to raise him up a little higher, but he's loving it. Perhaps it's because he's yet to realize that it's really for doing homework. Drawing is so much more fun.

Friday, August 03, 2007

C is for... Christmas

Did you know there are only 53 mornings with Johnny in pre-school, between now and Christmas? I had to quote this statistic when an incredulous hubby caught me sewing robins today.

Because this year, I don't intend to be in a frenzy in November (yeah, right!). I adore Christmas - the anticipation, the food, the carols, the sense of celebration. There's nothing else quite like it.

One of the most memorable, was the first year after we got married. Hubs and I were living in Japan, where Christmas is not a public holiday. It is sort of recognised, but in a singularly commercial way, with unforgettable slogans like 'Have a Santastic Christmas' and a character called 'Captain Santa'. But nothing was standing in the way of our festivities.

We bought a tree - a fake one - in early December. It didn't seem very big in the shop, but when we got it back to our tiny apartment we realized that we would have to sleep underneath it, if we wanted the luxury of a futon and a Christmas tree.

I baked the tiniest ham you've ever seen and hacked a turkey into bits to fit it into the oven-in-a-microwave. And we celebrated, in pixie hats and reindeer antlers, with a slightly homesick Englishman and a barking mad German (who brought stollen).

Thirteen years on, and we still have our Japanese tree, and although we have a real one at Christmas now, I like to put up the plastic-fantastic version too and remember our very strange, but strangely wonderful first Christmas.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

B is for... Baking

Most folk get their baking skills at the knee of their mother (or grandmother), but that's not the case with me. I come from a family of non-bakers, whose desserts consist mainly of fruit, with the occasional yogurt or ice-cream for variety.

In a bid to carve my own niche, the first thing I cooked without supervision, age 10 or so, was a baked pudding. A banana and chocolate thing which consisted of slitting the banana, skin and all, slipping in squares of chocolate, wrapping in foil and baking. I was so proud, putting the little parcels on the plates of my expectant family.

My father unwrapped his, hooted with laughter and said 'Look, my banana's done a poo'. It's a miracle I ever went back in the kitchen quite frankly.
But in spite of the emotional scars(!) I really enjoy baking.

It's a kind of alchemy - from variations on the basic flour, butter, sugar, egg combination appear all manner of fanciful treats.

Today was a vanilla cupcake basic batter, with blackberry jam swirled through it and a fluffy meringue frosting.

And I got to fiddle about with the twiddly bits of decoration too. Joy!

And at least from my offspring, I get the lip licking seal of approval for my baking.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A is for...... Anxious

Do you ever get that antsy feeling - worrying about something, but not quite able to put your finger on what it is. I've been feeling restless and edgy for days now and my jaw is aching because I'm clenching it in the night.

The crazy thing is, I have absolutely no idea why. Still, it's not the worst thing I have done with my teeth while asleep. I was once woken up by some rather indignant shouting from hubby. Whilst dreaming about being attacked, I had bitten him really hard on the shoulder. Thankfully I've only done it the once!

Bella Dia has kicked off an Encyclopedia of Me meme which I'm joining in with. I'm not usually one for long lasting projects - more of a quick and dirty girl. The thought of getting bored and giving up halfway through fills me with horror. But it might be enough to keep me blogging over the quiet months of summer. So many people seem busy or away or on a summer break - feel like I'm talking to myself. So stop and say hi so at least I'm not anxious about having no blog-friends!