Guinea Pigs…

I keep starting to write blog posts, but then never get around to finishing them or I don’t get the photos together to support the writing (and goodness knows, my writing does need supporting ;) ).  In fact, I spent some of yesterday writing a bullet point post just to get my news together, but it sounded so moany and depressing I’ve scrapped it (I must have seen the new moon through glass again as I’ve never had such a crappy run of bad luck).  Let’s forget all that and talk cute fluffy animals instead.

boysguineapigsThe boys got a guinea pig each for their Birthday.

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Oh my goodness, how have I missed knowing how adorable little piggies are?!  I had hamsters growing up but these little critters top them by far.

(I had planned to take nice arty photos for the post, but I’ll never get this published if I try that, plus iPhoto has totally changed and I can no longer edit the way I could, that’s going to be a problem, I might even have to learn Photoshop properly!).

Nuzzle

Sadly, Nuzzle died after only one week :(  No idea why, by the time I took him to the vets (I noticed he wasn’t quite as perky as he had been on the Saturday, but it was clear by Sunday that he really wasn’t well and I managed to get an appointment  in the store we bought him from) he was dehydrated and they advised me he was in pain and it was kindest to have him put to sleep.

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Big shout out here for our local Pets at Home now, they paid for the vets bill, and allowed C to choose another piggie.  They were also amazing with advice and help when we went to originally choose a pet.  Incidentally, considering the reason we chose guinea pigs was partly because C couldn’t stand the idea of a pet dying on him after only a couple of years, and piggies live for about 8, he wasn’t nearly as upset as I was at the demise of Nuzzle.  Oh and the new guinea pig is named ‘Cuddles’…..I might have to intervene in future pet naming!!

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I can’t think of guinea pigs without thinking of Miss Bumbles and her needle felted creatures.

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I’ve shown all of these photos before, but Ruth’s work is spot on and well worth another mention.DSC_0043 DSC_0029

Guinea pigs also make me think of Racey Helps, who I know I also mention a lot on this blog,

DSC_0161mainly because of ‘Guinea Pig Podge’….oh how I wanted to call one of the new little furries Podge.

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This is one of the few of his illustrated books where the animals don’t wear clothing, but it’s the one I remember best from when I was a child and Gran used to read his stories to us.

I am busy sewing, things for this summer, and also for next winter (trying to get ahead before my first long holiday as a single parent) I really need the shop to pay, it has to bridge the gap between part-time work plus the resulting cost of childcare and remaining flexible for the boys and at home and sewing, but I’m finding it a hard balance plus between that and all the other jobs that need my attention there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  I think that might deserve a blog post all of its own.

Right, off to do a quick animal cuddle before cracking on with the day :)

Gold Tweed Bunny Purses

Forever ago, I started a new batch of tweed purses.  I get emails asking after them often, they are quite popular and sell well but I don’t enjoy making them as much as other things, there are simply too many areas that are difficult and there is always the possible outcome that the zips are so stiff I can’t sell them (it’s because of the curve that I’m forcing the invisible zip into, it doesn’t like it) so it’s taken me a ridiculously long time to finish this last batch.

DSC_0166Last February, I tweeted the above image as I couldn’t decide on bows, or flowers and the answer from lovely twitter peeps was flowers.

tweed bunniesAdvice I then totally ignored, as I’ve had this fixed idea in my head, since I made the first purse, many years ago, that I really wanted to do a gold and red bow version, like the Lindt chocolate treat they are based on.

DSC_0161I then fell out of love with making them, in a big way and they sat all lonely in a box for almost a year.  Poor bunnies.

DSC_0158The thing I was mainly avoiding making were the handles, which is mind numbing and challenges my machine with the thickness of tweed I have to sew through.

DSC_0180I also constructed these a bit differently, in an attempt to make sure the zips moved freely, and as a result had to hand stitch the red silk linings in, which I also kept avoiding.

DSC_0167But the realisation that Easter is nearly upon us, and the idea that another year might pass before these were actually photographed and listed spurred me to get my act together and get them out there.  As you can probably see, the light was less than perfect yesterday, but I knew we were in for some rain so I just did my best to take decent photos, in order to get the purses listed (here if you’re interested).  I hate doing this, I always intend to take updated images at a later date, but find I never do, which is very unprofessional, but it’s that or miss my target again.

DSC_0179On other things, life isn’t really letting up around here, I have a million things to do at once and to top it all off, poor F broke his arm at the end of last week.  On the plus side, I feel like I’m staying on top of it all (only just!) and I’m really enjoying having the kitties around for company during the day.  At least I can pretend I’m talking to them instead of myself, which makes me feel a little less like a crazy person :)

Kitty Cats…

I don’t think I’ve been absent from my blog for so long before, I’m not quite sure what happened as I’ve been meaning to write a post for ages, but a bit like when replying to emails, I’m good when I’m on a roll, however, when I drop the ball for a while I really struggle to get going again and then I feel guilty for not replying and put it off further.  Stupid really.  I have a saying with the boys about eating the frog, ie getting the thing done first that you don’t want to do as then you can relax and do the fun stuff rather than worrying about munching amphibians.  Not that writing this blog is like eating a frog, but it can feel that way when you’re out of the groove.

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I remember mentioning, last year, that the Easter holidays had been a bit crappy, one of the bad elements was that my lovely can Smilla died, and it wasn’t a quick death, it was drawn out and sad and in the end I had to have her put down.  She was 16 and ‘had, had a good life’ but I was gutted.  This was her favourite spot during the day, sitting under my desk, sunbathing as I worked.

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I’ve always promised the boys we could have kittens, so over the summer I’ve been avidly stalking our local RSPCA website, as I know you need to be quick to get your name down to reserve kittens (in all honesty, I’d have been more than happy to have cats, but then I’ve had the pleasure of playing with kittens many times as a child, so it felt fair to offer the boys the same).  A few weeks back we were lucky enough to be approved to bring home two sisters, now named Birdie and Tuppence.  As with many rescued cats, they are a little timid but are getting braver daily and we are very excited to have them.

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Granny Square Crochet Blanket by Driftingalong

I wanted the transition for coming home, to be as gentle as possible, so to emulate their beds in the cattery, I bought crochet blankets for lining the cat baskets.  DSC_0142

Retro Ripple Crochet Blanket by Woollie Treasures

They seem to use hand knitted and crochet bedding a lot at the RSPCA, they have a room with it all stacked up, neatly washed, it’s like Granny square heaven!

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Crochet Blanket by Grannyman Crochet

I like to think it made a difference (plus the blankets looks nice covering the spot on my sofa where they prefer to sit….in contrast to the foil wrapped around the arms to attempt to stop any scratching.  I can highly recommend all the sellers above, they are all beautifully made (you can click on the links below the photos to get to the shops and I hope they forgive me for using their lovely creations for cats and not babies).DSC_0151

One a last word on adopting a cat, I do recommend it, don’t be put off by the process or even the price, the cats all come spayed, micro-chipped, wormed and ready for re-homing, many are quite timid and will need help settling in, but it’s just so lovely to see them relax and show their true characters and you can give yourself a pat on the back for giving an animal a home that needs one.

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What else?  World Book Day.  As usual, I was rather lazy and bought an incredibly cheap outfit on-line, then pimped it with some trim, a better top hat, leather gloves and my purple brogues for ‘Willy Wonka’ and C went as his namesake, complete with a Wonka bar (did it contain a golden ticket? – of course it did, I’m not that mean a Mum!).  My enthusiasm for providing costumes really is zero, I know this makes me a bah-humbug, as the kids love dressing up….do I still have to do this once they go into secondary school??DSC_0145

My top tip for buying cheap costumes on-line, especially when you have tall kids, is to buy the adults ones and adapt them, they are always far better made then the kids versions.  I did have to take a tuck in the shoulder of this one that ran down the front and back as for once, it really was an adult size (I find they nearly always come small), but I couldn’t have bought the fabric to make this for the price I paid and it didn’t take long to alter.

DSC_0145In the studio, I’m back sewing things for the shop.  We’ve had some beautiful sunny days, despite the cold mornings, and the heat on the glass wall gives a promise of spring.  I need to get photographs taken and the site updated and hopefully, as I appear to be on a roll, that will happen soon.

Roll on 2015, a bit late, but I am now ready :)

I hate Openreach….

Let’s just get to the point in the title.  We have an underground fault just near my house, directly after the main box, it’s basically a junction that some muppet tarmaced over some years ago and when it rains, the water gets in and loads of people lose their phone line and internet, I am the first house in line to it’s easy to pinpoint exactly where the problem is.  I reported the fault in December 2013 and fought a battle with various people, including management at the phone company and Openreach to get it fixed, but it involves traffic lights and a possible road closure and each time they apply to the council, the sun shines, the ground dries up and the computer says fault ‘fixed’ (I am told) and the proposed work plans stop.  Then it rains again…..

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There’s a lot more to this story (I am the bane of my phone and internet company, they pass me around so they can each take it in turns to deal with me, I’m afraid the ‘project manager’ bit of me just doesn’t get why Openreach pour money into sending out engineers daily, but wont actually fix the fault, and insist that a temporary, intermittent service is acceptable, even after a year.  There’s also a whole bit about a temporary line to try and keep me happy that the wild rabbits keep chewing through, but that’s a whole other story).  ‘Chocolate’ and ‘teapot’ springs to mind.  Suffice to say, it’s been raining a lot and sadly we have been without internet and phone lines on and off for a while, but today – hurrah! – the internet, at least, is on, so I’m rushing out a quick blog post to say hello and try to do a catch-up.

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Christmas was wonderful, one of the best in fact.  We were lucky to be invited out to France to stay in my sister and BIL’s chalet.  The boys and I had our first skiing lessons…..I’m a natural ;) (ha ha, well I wasn’t awful, anyway) and we really loved it, so we will be hitting Chatham dry slopes to get up to standard, before we move permanently out to live in France (just kidding V).  My brother and his wife also came along, our first Christmas together since Mum died, it was really special to be with my siblings, I just wish we all lived closer together and could see each other more often.  I got my vintage glad rags on for the day itself and meant to take a photo but never did, this headshot selfie is the best I have.

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I’m sorry the images in this post are quite ‘festive’ looking, I know that come the new year, everyone’s moved on from red and gold, but I wanted to show some of the things given and received.  Sneaked in at the top there (so you didn’t get too bored of my moaning about effing Openreach without a photo to soften the rant) is an Isak ‘Tingleby’ serving set, bought as a gift.  I love these pieces, I have a platter myself, bought some years ago, and I use my own little dishes daily.

DSC_0151Above, the genius fun gifts from BIL, involving a 1970’s quiz and relevant prizes.  I won a bottle of ‘Charlie Gold‘, which is hilarious and smells just as I remember (it’s quite scary, my advice would be to only spray it in large open spaces, we all nearly choked on the mix of that and the ‘High Karate’ which my brother won) and some Bazooka gum.  The sweet lip balms (bought via Amazon) are nothing to do with Christmas gifts, I bought them as pinata prizes quite recently but they are great fun, really do smell like the relevant sweets and I thought would be ideal cracker gifts for next year, if you’re making your own.banglesAbove, is a gift received, some beautiful celluloid bangles that I had on my ‘wish list’, from Passionate About Vintage.

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I also got this Esther Williams swim suit (clearly NOT me in the photo!).  I already have it in red but this is the very best swim suit I’ve ever found for my *ahem* curvier figure, that also has a retro vibe about it and as I swim with the boys every week, it was right up there on my list.

DSC_0156Again, in given was this little bundle from the amazing Etsy shop Jurooma.  I’ve blogged about the beautiful felt work from here before, and specifically about the minimalist, but delightful packaging.DSC_0169 Inside is lots of felted goodness.DSC_0171 Including a poppy for my Aunt.  I have a similar one and always get lovely comments when I wear it on my winter coat.DSC_0176I’d originally planned to use the berries as part of the gift packaging, but then I thought it might detract from the fact that each piece is handmade and individual so I gave them wrapped in their original bags and ribbons.

DSC_0146 Finally, a couple of gifts from me to me, just because.  This beaded pouch, which now holds my make-up came from Anthropologie.  I got it on offer when I was buying other gifts to give, yet again it reminds me how hard it is to compete with mass marketed loveliness that is available out there these days.

il_570xN.694098073_sgr7And not exactly new, I’ve owned it quite a long while now but I know I’ve never blogged about it, a vintage, hand-knitted 1960’s jumper from Zest vintage.  I have shown a similar sweater, that also came from Zest, and which travelled to France with me this year, but I’m wearing this little number today as it’s a bit nippy.  I always get stung on the custom tax when I order from Zest (I don’t mind paying the tax, it’s the handling fee that gets me) but even with that added on, I really do think for such a beautiful hand knitted jumper, which I plan to own and wear for years, it’s worth it.

I hope to try and do some blog reading whilst the internet is playing ball, I haven’t opened the shop back up yet as I’m too nervous that I wont easily be able to process orders when it goes back off and with the forecast rain and snow (oh, yes please to the snow!) I imagine it will be a bit erratic for a while.  Wish me luck :)

PS, I should say, the phone engineers are all lovely, I’ve never met one that hasn’t tried to be helpful, it’s just the organisation that needs sorting out.  Seriously, they need a decent project manager on board…..wonder where you’d find one of those ;)

Panic Saturday..?

Not around here it’s not.  Here it’s more like ‘Smug Saturday’, as all my jobs are finished and I’ve just sat down with a nice glass of wine, ready to watch ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, as I feel like a bit of snowy, period drama.DSC_0138 DSC_0172 The tree has been up and twinkling for over a week now, DSC_0153DSC_0154I’m really pleased with the new mice and they fit in well with my existing decorations – bonus!

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As always the house is peppered with things the boys have brought home from school…
DSC_0183Charlie has made a table decoration….clearly he doesn’t take after me! (JOKING!!)

DSC_0175I received a really wonderful gift in the post (thanks J!), some of my Gran’s cross stitch cards.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned these before, she used to stitch them constantly throughout the year in order to have enough to send to everyone.  It’s lovely to know that people have kept them all these years.

DSC_0176 I finished, and wrapped, my last gifts earlier today.  I’ve shown you the above felted goodness by Miss Bumbles/Ruth Rivers some years ago, Ruth makes the most amazing little animals that always make me think of the illustrations by Racey Helps or Molly Brett, I noticed a while back that she had some felting kits in her shop and was unable to resist.DSC_0178 I’d hoped to take lots of making photos for you, but the light wasn’t always great, plus I got rather carried away with the actual process and forgot to grab the camera.DSC_0180 The only thing not included in the kit is a felting block, I was too impatient to order one and used some polystyrene that I had hanging around instead – worked a treat!DSC_0163I really enjoyed my first foray into needle felting.  One of my early jobs in life was as a visual merchandiser for a company I hated, there was a total split between management and the floor staff, lots of people with big egos trying to lord it over the minions below them, something that I can’t stand, and when I got annoyed, I used to sneak into the back area where a friend of mine worked in the stockroom and stab his empty piles of collapsed cardboard boxes with a screwdriver (in a jokey manner, clearly, this does make me sound a bit psycho), the process of needle felting felt similarly therapeutic, I could happily get rid of all my frustrations stabbing away repeatedly at felt.

DSC_0187 F keep coming to watch and asked if he could have the finished deer for Christmas, as I don’t like to disappoint and I can’t give to one without the other, I bought a second kit to make another little critter for C.  I gave them extra scarves and a little pile of gifts to hold.DSC_0189Sorry about the crap photos, I was in a hurry to be done.  They are now wrapped and packed away ready for the big day.

So that’s me ready.  The house is clean(ish) I just polished my nails and tweezed my eyebrows. I’ve planned a nice outfit for the big day itself (I’m morphing into my Mother, who would always put on something nice) and I’m about to get back to Poirot and a large slab of Christmas cake with a slice of Wensleydale cheese.  I hope you’re all set and if not that it goes smoothly next week.

Merry Christmas and see you in 2015!!

A Bit of This…

This is going to be a quick catch-up post, just in case you think I’ve totally disappeared.

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Big thanks to everyone who entered the birdie give away, the winner was picked randomly but my youngest son, closing his eyes and putting a highlighter pen down on the list I’d written – not very high-tech but it worked – oh, and if you can’t see your name above, I’ve zoomed in for the photo so that’s why, I promise, everyone was on there, I double checked.  So the birds flew off to Caroline Joynson, who writes a lovely blog so please do pop over and visit (http://carolinejoynson.blogspot.co.uk/), which reminds me, I found loads of lovely new blogs to read from the nice comments left, always one of the best things about doing a give away, but I’ve been rubbish at saying ‘hello’ and catching up generally with my blog reading, I blame the kids illness, my vertigo (again!) and a morning at the doctors trying to get the oldest seen for an infection.  Life is rather like that around here at the moment.

On a happier note, I have a few things to share.  DSC_0138

These lovely bibs are made my Jenny of A Crafty Hen, they are super soft and so very well made, I always go to Jenny for baby gifts.

DSC_0139I also wanted to show you this fabulous book containing vintage knitting and crochet patterns by Susan Crawford and Jane Waller, I’ve had it on pre-order forever as there were a few delays with its first run, being self-published, but it was soooo worth it.DSC_0141 It contains 60 original patterns that have been re-written and updated, the photographs and snippets of accompanying history are just lovely.DSC_0143This isn’t a book review, I cannot knit so I don’t know how easy the patterns are to follow, but for eye candy alone it’s a wonderful thing and I am planning to bully some friends into knitting something from it for me (for a fee, of course!).

DSC_0151 I also wanted to do a quick shout out for these cute vintage style cake decorations and frill from Cox and Cox, they really hit the mark for me as we had similar on the cake Mum always iced, they will be coming out every year in this house now.

DSC_0137In terms of Christmas, we are getting there (it must be soon, as it’s started snowing on both my blogs…which rather annoyingly tries to crash my laptop when I’m using Chrome), the kitchen table has turned into a card writing factory for the boys, who insist, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, on sending a card to very child they know.DSC_0148 I have put the tree up, all my gifts are ordered and today I started wrapping.  Luckily I had lots of bits left over from last year, for this, so the fabulous Meri Meri tags are back again.  I’ve taken photos of the nice things I’m giving but as so many family and friends read this blog, I’ll have to wait a few weeks to show you.

You’d think I’d enjoy wrapping gifts, I certainly used to, but with two boys it can rather take the fun out of it, especially as I live away from most of my family so in the past I’ve not only had to wrap all my gifts, but also things that other people have ordered to be delivered directly here.  I have to say, the boys stuff is pretty hastily done, I will just blame Santa ;)crapwrappedI did seriously try to buy some things from Firebox, just so I could get then ‘CrapWrapped’, which is a genius idea, but the bits I wanted were out of stock – boo!  They have some great things, though, if you’re looking for quirky but cool gifts.

Right that’s it, just a quick fly by visit before I dash off on school run :)

Christmas Mice…

This is the last of the new festive designs, but it was the first on my list when I decided on the stunning, cunning plan to ‘get-ahead’ and sew only for winter this year.

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As you know, I am a hoarder and I especially struggle to throw things away that have sentimental meaning, I blame both my Gran and Mum for this trait (despite their not being blood related, my Gran having being Mum’s MIL)……yep it’s all their fault!  As part of my collection of ‘things’ I have a little mouse that I made for Gran when I was a kid; after she died it made its way back to me (she’d kept it for years – see, inherited hoarding tendencies ;)).  The pattern, I remember, came from a magazine article that was to sew an entire mouse family living in a fabric log that zipped apart, for years I also kept the pattern but alas, no more, that did actually make it into a bin at some point.

On one of my Etsy trawls, I came across a shop selling old craft book pages and one listing was for the same mouse and log set!  I got all excited and bought the pattern (I assume the magazine article I had originally used was to promote the book), I noticed there were loads of other things in the same shop that I recognised, including many pages from a sewing book that I had once owned and which contained a second mouse I’d often made so that hopped into my basket too.  Etsy is a wonderful thing.

(Part of my writing this post so late is that I was trying to find both the vintage mouse patterns to photograph, but alas I’ve ‘stored’ them away somewhere safely, so safely I don’t know where, exactly).

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I’ve really enjoyed making things with a vintage twist recently, such as the Christmas Fairies and last year’s Winter Deer Aprons (the last of which is listed in the shop).  I think they sit well with my original work and I enjoy the challenge of altering them slightly to make them my own.DSC_0130With this in mind, I immediately saw the vintage mice as a perfect starting point for some little Christmas hanging decorations and being super keen, I got straight down to working out a pattern.  I didn’t alter things too much, although I did completely change the scale and construction method.

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As you can see, I was working on the fabric choice whilst I still had my lovely vintage tree up in the studio……can’t wait to put that up again this year.
DSC_0134This is one of those critters where a production assembly line process really pays off, plus I get a kick out of the neat little piles, just waiting to be stitched up.

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I had lots of fun picking out the fabrics colours and details.
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And by the end of last December they were done!DSC_0148

I say done, but actually they were missing whiskers until quite recently.  
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I spent a long time obsessing about the packaging.  These mice are well over the maximum 2.5cm depth for a ‘large letter’ so they have to be sold in sets of three to warrant the heftier ‘small parcel’ postage price.
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Ideally, I would have liked them to be packed in pretty boxes with clear lids, neatly tied with a  nice festive ribbon, or even entirely clear boxes would have done.  I spent an age trawling for something suitable on the internet, but everything was either the wrong size or insanely expensive, so alas, they will be left separate and simply packaged together for posting out.DSC_0200I’m really pleased with them, they were fun to make, I had plans for further development of the idea but I’ve run out of time this year.  I am less pleased with the photos, it’s so hard to get good images when red is involved, especially in the current light, so I’m reluctantly using the images I have.  That maroon felt used for the boy’s jacket is my very favourite but it’s a total arse to capture!

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Look, they are kissing…do you think they are in love?  Is ‘berry’ girl mouse left out and jealous?!

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The obligatory hand shot, to show the scale.

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They come to life once their whiskers are added.  I did consider further details, like a little top hat for the boy (which is part of the original pattern), but I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s good to just stop,
DSC_0150so they are as they are, finished and ready to go to new homes and hang on trees/cupboard doors/be tied to gifts, whatever you fancy.  You can find them here.

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I’ve kept a set back for our tree as they go really well with the ‘Little Birds’ that I always use.  I imagine that one day, I might have a tree entirely covered in Linen Cat ornaments.

Thanks for all the lovely comments on the last post, especially from anyone who hopped over from the interview at Bugs and Fishes or who is new to the blog, I forgot to mention that I tend not to reply to give away post comments as it messes up the numbers for the good old random number generator, so please don’t think I’m being rude.  There’s still a week to leave a comment if you fancy a couple of birds with wonky tails :)