West Elm Wonderfulness

I’m writing this very early, whilst sitting in bed and drinking coffee, because the very rare occurrence of the boys being away for the weekend means that I can – hurrah! (Sods law I still woke at the crack of dawn, though)dsc_0196I’ve spent a lot of time recently trying to work out the best way for me to balance making a living, with looking after the boys. My oldest finally has his official diagnosis and Charlie will (hopefully) be getting his in the coming year. Having children ‘on the spectrum’ means I am quite restricted in the hours I can work, especially with being a single parent, and having gone through a quite difficult transition into Secondary with Felix it just demonstrates to me how dependant the boys will be during certain periods of their lives. So, it really does have to be working from home (for the moment, anyway) as that offers the flexibility I need, and it has to be sewing, as I’ve already invested so much time into establishing a ‘business’, plus it’s the only thing I really know how to do. The difficulty is it’s getting increasingly hard to compete with commercially made items, especially now that ‘vintage’ (sorry, there are lots of quotation marks today…..always makes me thing of Ross in Friends and I cringe slightly that I use them so often!) is so mainstream, and handmade (resisted the urge to stick quotation marks there) is also so fashionable. I’m not complaining, I love how much lovely stuff you can buy these days, I just need to take some time out properly in January and plan how best to present my work to either differentiate it from commercially made things, or to compete on price. I see beautiful pieces of work on a daily basis where I think about the price versus how much I would have to charge for something similar¬†in order to make it scale. Tricky, but doable. I have faith in me ūüôā

So, in a slightly tenuous link¬†to above, I’m bringing you some eye candy that you will thank me for.screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-06-59-33Every year, I buy the boys some form of decoration critter that goes in their stocking, usually it comes from Anthropologie (See the top photo for this year’s bits and pieces) but as I was reading Facebook this morning, the cutest thing popped up in my targeted adverts from West Elm¬†UK. screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-06-59-18Clearly I’ve shopped there before, for their link to appear in my social media, but I haven’t had a look for ages and I got sucked into a good browse this morning.screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-08-08-24I love the¬†collaborations with artists¬†pieces and this year, I’m really excited to see they’re working with Erika Barratt again (I write again, but to be honest I didn’t know they’d worked with her before until I did some research). How cute are these little ornaments? They are in the sale at the moment on the UK site (sold out in the US, I think).screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-02-15They also have Mimi Kirchner owls!!!¬†screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-06-13Sooooo cute.screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-05-22I was a bit gutted to miss out on a Doug the Pug from the ASPCA Animal ornaments (F would have LOVED one of those!)screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-00-31but I did get a couple of Brimley Cats, which the boys will be very exited about (in case you don’t have internet crazy kids, this collection is inspired by famous internet pets).screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-08-23-29On the US site you can even get tea towels!screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-01-39If the above don’t work for you, what about some Fair Trade handmade ornaments?screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-03-01or (and this is probably more my kind of thing, at the moment) some sequin clip-on birds?screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-08-29-57They have quite a few pretty Christmas bits, much at half price right now, so it is worth popping over for a look.

It’s interesting as having put this post together, I realise that at full price many of the little ornaments are actually more expensive than mine, relatively, so perhaps I do need to be more brave with my pricing? One to think on, anyway.dsc_0193We’ve gone for retro tack again this year, our favourite thing being the foil flowers Mum took off some crackers in the 1980’s. You don’t have to try hard to work out who I get my hoarding tendencies from, I mean, who keeps tacky cracker decorations for 30 years!!dsc_0203My plan for today is to wrap gifts, write cards, and it was to photograph a new Christmas apron for the shop, but the light is so bad I don’t think that’s going to be possible…dsc_0187I might even find time to watch Elf and eat a mince pie ūüôā

 

Glyndebourne 2015: Ravel

Let’s pretend I haven’t been absent for most of this year, we’ll just gloss over that and crack on with this post, which I started forever ago but never actually published. ¬†Sorry.

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to be invited along to my Sister’s annual Glyndebourne trip, something I get super excited, because I don’t get out much and I love any opportunity to not look like a bag lady.

This year we were lucky to get to see Maurice Ravel’s short operas,¬†L‚Äôheure espagnole¬†and¬†L‚Äôenfant et les sortil√®ges.

Now, I really don’t think I’m qualified at all to give an opinion on the singers, the performance or the music, I just know if I enjoy something or not and inevitably, for me, the staging plays a big part of this. ¬†The operas were very short, witty and really enjoyable to watch, below is Glyndebourne’s own blurb and photos (taken by¬†Richard Hubert Smith) to give you and idea (you can read more and see video snippets here)

‘L‚Äôheure espagnole , a Feydeau-esque sex farce about a lusty Spanish woman juggling lovers while her husband is preoccupied with clockwork mechanisms, evokes a Spanish flavour through Ravel‚Äôs use of native dance forms including the jota, the haba√Īera and the malague√Īa.’

atymtdnrgyknzjelievozmayxvk244tbklib8gmpkrl1ihd5rbjcqxpckpdu

L‚Äôenfant et les sortil√®ges , with a libretto by the French novelist Colette, is both a whimsical ‚Äėlyric fantasy‚Äô and a morality play with a deeply serious core. Fairy tale characters, furniture, crockery, plants and animals come to life to chastise a peevish child who has been tormenting them. All ends happily, though, when the child learns compassion. The score features echoes of Gershwin as well as an eclectic blend of influences ranging from Bach and Monteverdi through Massenet, Wagner and Puccini.

The set and costume design for  L’enfant et les sortilèges were a complete delight, very clever and only a pinch below The Cunning Little Vixon, which is still my favourite.

et7rkvncjezm7uv7wgnmaprma1fo0irmnrguw5zx
nzs8pmxprbzqs75wwdwn
wbudzhhdoph9jjdzmgz6

yfnbwogrp3fotg0aij9b
(All the above photos are stolen¬†borrowed from the Glyndebourne site and are taken by Richard Hubert Smith, who I hope does’t mind, as I am saying nice things)

Glyndebourne2

As for what I wore (clearly, VERY important)….

Eyelashes2

yet again, fancy eyelashes from Paperself…..

me looking bleurgh

an Orla Kiely dress and Chie Mihara shoes. ¬†I’m so predictable. ¬†(All ‘old’, in fact I think these are the first every CM shoes I bought, many, many years ago). ¬†I hope you appreciate my posting this rather unflattering photo taken quickly in the bedroom I was staying in…my hair is looking rather Bonnie Langford, the curl did drop a bit later.

Glynndebourne

I even polished my nails, which rarely happens as I chip it in an instant, I also took my Victorian purse with me, which I made after the original batch was sold in two days, including the sample one I’d planned to keep for myself. ¬†I have more on these in the next post (oh yes, there will be a next post – go me!).

We had a glorious time. ¬†It seems an age ago now, especially as it’s such a damp and chilly day right now, picnics in the grounds of posh opera houses are but a distant memory. ¬†On the plus side, I’m back to shop sewing after a rather long stint of blind making that’s taken up a lot of the summer and I’m very keen to get things knocked back into shape, so hopefully I’m back on a roll ūüôā

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 ūüėČ ). ¬†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.

Scratch

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 ūüė¶ ¬†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.

DSC_0145

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!!

DSC_0046

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

DSC_0049

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.

DSC_0164

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 ūüôā

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…..

DSC_0145

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.

me

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 ūüėČ (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.

DSC_0142

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.

ew_black_polka_dot_swimsuit2_large

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 ūüôā

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 ūüėČ

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!

DSC_0185

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.

DSC_0145

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 ūüėČcrapwrappedI 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 ūüôā