Monday, December 29, 2008

time to potter

I know I should be doing at least some of the things from my holiday to do list but I keep getting distracted by pottering.  I do love to potter so today I blanked out any feelings of guilt, made the most of not being at work, and pottered to my heart's content.  After a long wander in the freezing cold (and lots of snuggling up with the cats) I spent a good part of the day messing about on the computer making 'digital collages' of Dot and Pat.  It was fun!  I've also been making a few things using these images and my new craft tool/toy but I will keep that under my hat for... ooh... the next six months or so?  I don't know really, but I'm not ready to spill the beans just yet - it might be the world's worst idea that I just got carried away with so I will at least sleep on it before publicly humiliating myself.

Tomorrow Graham and I are off for a whole day's charity shopping (yippee!) and I haven't even shared any of the goodies from last week's trip, including the best hairclips ever made (in need of a little t.l.c. admittedly) and a fabulous(ly awful) knitting pattern.  I never get round to sharing my charity shop finds on this blog, maybe because I find photographing objects frustratingly tricky.  I'll try to have a dedicated charity shop treasures post in the not too distant future.  Oh!  And a post all about books!  I got some real beauties for Christmas that it would be selfish not to share.  So many plans...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

the presents of christmas past

Christmas is over.  Boo.  But don't bah humbug too heartily because... that means I can share some pictures of the lovely presents I purchased/made for others without ruining any surprises!  Hooray!
The plate above was made (improved? upcycled? repurposed?) by Kitty and Dude who are based in Edinburgh.  I bought it at Made In The Shade and have been coveting it secretly.  I think the plate was originally very pretty and with the addition of silver lettering...  Sigh...  In the end, I did manage to find enough Christmas spirit to part with it and gave it to my friend, Bernadette.  It did make me think of her as soon as I saw it after all.  I know I did the right thing... so why does it hurt so bad?  Hee hee!
This is not the greatest ever picture of the greatest ever printed canvas bag.  I got this (in blue and in purple) for a friend in London and for my sister in France.  If you've ever lived in Scotland, you will certainly recognise our national fare!  The girl who made these was so lovely and searched through the whole pile of bags to find the two most perfect prints for me.  I was torn between these prints and her Tunnocks tea cake prints (some of the tea cakes were sparkly red and were very hard to leave behind) but I thought these ones were a shade more perfect for those who might be missing Scotland.  On my way up to Elgin for Christmas this week, I spied someone with one of her teacake bags all the way up in Arbroath so I get the feeling we'll be seeing more of her work in the future.  Hooray!  As far as I can see, there is no website for this talented lady but her name is Gillian Kyle and she works under the name of Weird Wild Dog.  I found her at a Glasgow Craft Mafia market.
These notebooks came in very handy as presents for boys (a.k.a. those creatures who are so hard to find gifts for).  These were made by Madness of Many and were a top bargain!
Stumped with what to get for one last boy (my godson, Rudi) I whipped up this last minute monkey from a pair of socks that were going spare.  With his skulls and crossbones he's perfect for a boy.  He's the shortest sock monkey I've ever made (usually I use knee high socks which stretch to a five foot monkey once stuffed!) but I was surprised how much I liked the way he turned out.  Unfortunately, Rudi is too small for button eyes but the felt ones are quite cute. 
Last but not least, Graham and I went all domesticated and started making chutney.  Our first batch (which was quite delicious if we do say so ourselves) was pear.  This week we aim to make some apple and tomato (if we can find enough empty jars).  We kept some of the chutney for ourselves and gave some away.
This is the label we designed.
Watch this space for a chutney related competition/giveaway!  More details to follow...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

last minute

Looking for a last minute gift?  (I was!)  Why not make one of these sweet birdies?  The pattern is available here for free.  I downloaded the pattern many moons ago but hadn't had the opportunity or motive to try making it.  It turns out these birds are the quickest and easiest things in the world to make and turn out looking lovely.  I made these two for Graham's nieces.  These birds are the same and yet different - my sibling present rule for this festive season! 
I weighted the bottoms of these birds with lentils and put in some lavender so they smell yummy.  I didn't think I liked the smell of lavender but it turns out I do, and I don't think it smells of old ladies at all!  By the way, if you know me and are planning to have a birthday at any point in 2009 then you will probably own one of these birds before the year is out...
Yesterday I got lots of great mail, including a package from my sister.  Among other things, she sent me these decorations that she made with my niece and nephew.  Kim (3) and Angus (1) drew the pictures on fabric and then Kerry sewed on a backing, attached a hanging ribbon and stuffed them.  Kim's decoration is the larger of the two and apparently shows a map of how to get to her school.  How cute!?  If you have children, these would also make a very nice last minute gift, I'm sure.

In last minute shopping (rather than making) news, I did Graham a favour by getting up early and going to the cheesemonger's on his behalf while he was at work.  A couple of years ago, we foolishly went in the afternoon and queued out the door and down the street for over two hours before getting served (what can I say?  Their cheese is good!) so the plan today was that I would go down for opening time at 8.30am.  I actually got there a couple of minutes early but still had to queue for half an hour.  By the time I left the queue was already getting mega long and people in it were getting parking tickets and all sorts. 

So the moral of the story is this: if you were planning on giving someone a cheeseboard, you have missed the boat and should consider making them a bird instead!

Monday, December 22, 2008

memoir monday (eleven) - the christmas special!

Christmas 1986

On Christmas Eve we went over to Mr. Scott's house to have a drink.  When we got home I hung up my stocking and Percy's and Kraig's.  

In the morning I woke up at 5:30.  Mum said not to go through and wake her up until 7:30.  I tried to go back to sleep.  But seeing it was Xmas I couldn't.  At 7:00 Laura woke up (I had given up trying to go to sleep and was now reading).  Every 2 minutes Laura kept on saying, "Can I go through now?  Can I go through now?"  The answer was always, "In five minutes now."

When 7:30 came Laura shouted, "It's time!  Yippee!  Goody!  Yaba Daba Doo!"  We both went downstairs and looked in our stockings.  I got a tracing sheet, a whoopee cushion, comet puzzlers, arithmetic snap and lots of other stuff.  I got a technic snow ranger, a motor for it, 4 batteries and a recorder and a flute case.  From my mum I got monopoly and a magenta sweatshirt.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Spoiled for choice with gift tags

Originally uploaded by sugar*loop

I'm never usually very good with gift tags. I'm always wrapping presents at the last minute and end up making very shoddy looking labels from wonkily cut "sqaures" (quadrilaterals would be more accurate) of the wrapping paper. I know! I know! I'll never make it as a pro-crafter with admissions like that! :)

Last year, however, I used some brilliant and free downloadable gift tags from Kitty Genius. I've also used these throughout the year as they are not out and out festive. This year I'm using Sugarloop's free gift tags (pictured above) which are so stylish and simple and perfect, as well as some absolutely adorable gift tags from The Black Apple. I used the Black Apple tags on some presents this morning and they were instantly elevated to super cute parcels you'd be proud to have under your tree. If you're looking for a last minute way to boost your wrapping credentials, simply click the links.

What did I do before the internet...? I ruined everyone's Christmas with wonky quadrilateral labels of shoddiness, that's what!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

more swap greatness

Originally uploaded by junquedrawerchick

Oh, I'm falling behind on keeping the blog up to date with the ornaments I've been receiving. They've been coming in thick and fast and have all been great. Knowing mail is coming my way has been making me so happy - I get in from work all excited and am rarely disappointed. I got one of these lovely stockings this week. Wow! So much work went into it and I think it will be such a nice souvenir of my first swap. In real life the colours are beautiful - I don't think the camera can quite do it justice. I'll try to find or take pictures of the rest of my haul over the weekend, although I'm on holiday now for over a fortnight so weekends mean nothing to me :) Over a fortnight! That's half a month! That's one twenty-fourth of a year! Hooray!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sweet wreath chew-torial (hee hee!)

I think the festive gumdrop wreath is becoming a Christmas tradition in our house.  Fun fun fun and very sweet, in more ways than one!  I came across this idea on the internet a few years ago (I think from this lady?) but I can't remember where for sure, so here's my own little how to:

1. You will need...
... a polystyrene wreath, cocktail sticks (snapped in half, hence the splinter that's been bugging me all day), ribbon of your choosing and sellotape.  I just put a few strips of sellotape round the baldy wreath where the ribbon will be tied to stop it cutting into the polystyrene.  This festive baby is heavy once it's finished!

Of course, you will also need gum drops:
These are not always the easiest to come by here in the U.K. (what is it with making fruit pastilles etc. fruit shaped these days?) but I will share my insider's info with you...  Morrisons stock American hard gums which are perfect for the job.  I used six packets but Graham and I couldn't resist nibbling a few each and I think the wreath needed them more than our expanding waistlines.  I'd recommend getting seven packets, just so you don't have to try quite so hard to resist munching.

What to do:
Stick the blunt (snapped) end of the cocktail stick into the flat base of the sweet and then stick the sharp end into the polystyrene.  Keep sticking sweets into the front and sides of the wreath until it is pretty much covered.  I should say the gaps don't look this glaring in real life but the flash showed them up.

Eventually you will get...
... a festively sparkling sweet wreath to hang on your front door!  Then you can peek out at visitors like a strange little Christmas elf, as I am demonstrating here...

Last year one of our upstairs neighbours told me our wreath had made her smile every morning, which was nice to hear.  Graham has been eavesdropping this year and has already heard the wreath love spreading among neighbours and visitors.  It's Christmas!  Yay!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas makes blogging so easy

This is the third decoration I've received from the swap.  I am calling him Whaley and I think he's great!  So shiny - difficult to photograph but lovely to stroke - and made by a lady called Taryn Conway.
The blurry photo above (the Christmas tree kept moving thanks to cat attacks and I don't want to spend all of my Sunday trying to get a better photo) is the decoration I had planned to make when I signed up for the swap.  I made a set for myself and some for friends a few years ago.  However, there were no nice red and white buttons in the shops this year and I couldn't find any ribbon I was happy with. 
I got some lovely giant green ric-rac and made this tree.  I decided it was too messy to send out but now I really like it - very shabby chic!  Still, it was mega fiddly to make and my brain might have exploded if I'd made ten of them.  I might bear this in mind for next year though as it does look really cute on the tree.  Would the addition of googly eyes be a step too far?  Hee hee!
And here is the decoration I ended up sending out.  I used my sewing machine and some sparkly thread (that stuff is so frustrating to use and got tangled up every 30 seconds or so) to sew simple lines on black felt rectangles and left the ends sticking out.  Then I pricked a hole through a shimmery snowflake table confetti thingummy and sewed it on with a bead.  I added a plain felt backing and a ribbon hanging loop.  Voila!  It's meant to look like a frosty night sky with the first snowflake falling... I think!  It's funny when you have to make SOMETHING to meet a deadline.  This is not at all what I had in mind.  Today I like it.  Tomorrow I won't.

Last night I made all my Christmas cards.  I'll share them later, along with the dramatic story of last year's Christmas cards...!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

advent calendar

Every year for the past eight years or so, my sister and I have swapped advent calendars.  We spend all year finding little trinkets to put in them but every November I still end up with a mad rush to find the last fourteen gifts or so!  Advent calendar time always comes round so quickly.  You're thinking it's a Christmas thing but it is nearly a whole month before plus my sister lives in France so you need to allow postage time.  For 2009, I'm going to make advent calendar eye peeling a top priority because Kerry has given me some real beauties this year.
For starters, the advent calendar arrived with a little wooden decoration pegged to each of the 24 pockets.  If these decorations had been wrapped up inside the pockets, it would have been the best advent calendar ever but they were just an added bonus!  My favourite one is the yellow scarfed ice-skater shown above.  She's lovely and has such a purposeful skating stride.  I haven't hung the decorations on the tree this year because I'm loving seeing them on the advent calendar too much!  Apparently Kerry found two sets of these decorations (so she has a matching set to keep) in a charity shop for 3 Swiss francs which is about £1.50.  What a bargain.
These lions were in pocket number 1 and keep making me chuckle.  I think they spent their childhoods clenching and relaxing to build up buttocks powerful enough to grasp documents reliably.
Today I got these tiny spoons.  I love the tiny!  That is a 5p piece beside them.  I think I might string them on a chain to make a little jingly necklace of them, although they would look very cute hanging on the Christmas tree too...

But my absolute favourite gifts were the wooden triangle people in the top picture.  They appeared from pockets 2 and 3 and have already been promoted to the status of treasured possessions.  

I think Kerry has beaten me in the advent calendar creating competition this year but all this greatness has certainly motivated me for 2009!  Like I said about the decoration swap, "I'll do better next time!"

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Tonight I learned to draw using Adobe Illustrator!  Illustrator has always been a total mystery to me but now it is only a 99% mystery and I used it to create this frog.  I'm not sure if I've mentioned grain edit on here before (I have a feeling I have...) but it's a great blog all about design.  The people (I think it is more than one person) who write it find the most amazing stuff and bring it altogether in one handy place.  Today I visited and they had an interview with a designer called Eleanor Grosch who makes lovely Charley Harper-esque animal designs.  She very generously shared the simplest instructions ever for how to draw animals on Illustrator.  After reading through her sloth example once I was able to draw this frog.  It's not a patch on her beauties but it was so satisfying to learn how to do something new.  I think I could fiddle about with Illustrator now that I have found a chink in its armour.  I'm so excited about it and now I can relax my restless mind, safe with my great sense of achievement...!

Much goodness

Originally uploaded by thesmartestfish

I also got one of these lovely birdies as part of the holiday ornament swap. How lovely? I'm going to hang this one on my wall of many wonders all year round, I think. I can't find a photo of my third lovely ornament on flickr so it looks like I'll have to take a photo of that myself. Oh, the inconvenience! Actually, since I am trapped at work in the daylight hours, it is a bit of a pain to photograph anything just now. Thank goodness for this blogging from flickr thingummyjig.

In other good news.... Where to start? Well, I visited the blog of tigerluxe who made the decoration featured yesterday and followed a link to a vintage etsy giveaway and ended up winning a $10 gift certificate. I have already spent it on these. Yippee! Second piece of good news: someone received one of my handmade decorations and liked it. They left me lovely feedback on Swap-Bot. What a relief! Third piece of good news: last night, while stalking myself on Miso Funky, I discovered that people have been buying my Dot and Pat embroideries. I am excited beyond belief about this. I feel like an artist. (Hee hee - I've moved on from dreaming of being a pro-crafter to claiming myself as an artist!) Yay! Yay! And yay again!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My first ever official swap!

Originally uploaded by tigerluxe

I have received three of the ten Christmas decorations I should be getting from the handmade Christmas decoration swap and they have all been so great! One of my three fabby parcels contained one of these little Mexican wrestling wonders. How good?! I will share pictures of the other decorations soon too. I hope people like mine, which were posted out on Monday. I don't have much confidence in them. I had a great plan (tried and tested) but couldn't get the materials. I had another plan (and got the materials) but it didn't turn out so well. So I improvised and was pleased with the (unphotographable) results but now I'm not so sure and I think I should have gone with the second attempt whose "failed" prototype is looking so much more adorable hanging on my own tree. Anyway, I'm trying to focus on the excitement of receiving and ignore the giving... That's the right attitude, isn't it? I'll just keep telling myself I'll do better next time. I'll do better next time!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Breadcrumbs and butterbeans make chocolate biscuits!"

I was very sad to hear Oliver Postgate had died. I know I'm not alone in loving his voice, imagination and animation. His programmes always send me straight back to my childhood. I loved Bagpuss and Ivor The Engine particularly. I once ordered an Ivor The Engine colouring book from a school book club. They had sold out of it so sent me a Thomas the Tank Engine book as an alternative. I was not impressed! My favourite Bagpuss episode is the one where the mice have a magical mill that makes chocolate biscuits from breadcrumbs and butterbeans... or does it? I couldn't find that clip on YouTube but I hope you enjoy the mice doing other good deeds in their poetic and musical way.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Oh, the sights I have seen!

I've been wanting to blog about lots of little things lately (food, family, festive goodies etc.) but just haven't been finding the time.  Here, however, are a few of the sights I have seen that I would have liked to share with you all.
Above is Stair Street.  This is one of my favourite little nooks of Glasgow.  There is nothing on Stair Street but stairs.  I think it's so great that such a seemingly insignificant street (with no doors so presumably no residents) was given such a sweetly grand name instead of just being left as another anonymous flight of stairs.
We spotted this strange looking monkey thing-a-me-jig by the bins in a school playground on the way home from our weekly supermarket trip.
I've been enjoying the frosty weather and how glittery everything has been.  Graham has been getting annoyed at all the cliched winter photos I've been snapping (hey, it's my first full winter with a digital camera!) but I did like this shot of the best footprint on my doorstep.  I wonder which of my neighbours it belongs to.
Yesterday we went into town for another free trip to the Lighthouse and lunch at AdLib.  Yum.  Made In The Shade was on (I got a gorgeous handcrafted item but I can't share it as it's a Christmas present and it might blow a lovely surprise) and I saw my brooches and my new mini Dot and Pat embroideries in situ on the Miso Funky stall.  That was a fun and exciting surprise for me!  I didn't take a photo of that but I did take a photo of this sweet little bird box that we saw en route.

Feline festivities

9.15pm: We take out the Christmas tree and the decorations.  The cats very quickly rediscover their love of tinsel.
9.30pm: We have the lights on the tree and the cats are right in there, climbing up the tree and swiping at our hands as we try to hang decorations.
9.45pm: Father Christmas arrives to place the angel-bot on the highest bough.  This final decoration completes the fetsive tree...
9.48pm: We leave the room briefly and return to find the tree only lasted three minutes this year.
There is now the addition of cat sick under the re-assembled tree but I will spare you the photos of that...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I am liking this

Originally uploaded by matte stephens

I have so much to blog about (with photos galore going stale in my digital camera) but so little time and energy. So here is a quick post about an artist I'm liking a lot. Have you seen Matte Stephens' work before? He seems to be mentioned on other people's blogs quite a lot so maybe you have. Everything he creates is pretty amazing but I particularly love this town/city. They look like town houses but what sort of town would have so many (incredibly stylish) cars passing through at one time? If it wasn't for the close proximity of high volume traffic, I would want to live in one of these houses.

Monday, December 1, 2008

memoir monday (ten)

5th December 1986

On Monday Kimberley came over at 3:00 to play with Laura and so did Ruth.  Kimberley goes to ballet with Laura and Julia.  When we got there Ruth and I went to Square Deal.  There was a lot of lipstick and nail-varnish. (It would take up 14 pages if I wrote down all the colours and anyway I can't remember them all.)  There was a colour of lipstick called black cherry.  I put it on my hand along with another colour of pink.  They were nice colours but the stains didn't come off till Wednesday.  When we got home I went outside to get some sticks or to feed the pussers.  It had been raining and everything was gleaming.  I opened the shed door and as I did I saw that a spider had spun a web across the door.  It only lasted a while as Percy jumped up and broke it.  It was a brilliant web and a brilliant day as well.

The picture above doesn't exactly tie in with the diary entry (hey, who said it has to?) but it is so cold here in Glasgow and it got me thinking about how cold winters used to be in the good old days!  This was the year that my dad kept having to dig us out of the house.  These were steps he carved into the five feet or so of snow, so that we could climb over the top of our buried garden gate.  That's our dog, Kraig, in the foreground.  Percy, by the way, was one of the two cats, or pussers as they are called here for some reason...