Merry Christmas

Well, we’re as ready as we’ll ever be, and I’m about to log off, relax and enjoy an afternoon glass of wine with (hopefully) some crap Christmas telly.dsc_0206I did finish some of the new aprons, but there wasn’t a chance to photograph them (red is very difficult in good light, but in winter, almost impossible). I’m happy to have the ‘reject’ one to keep and wear on Sunday (I always keep the one I am least happy with), the rest will be for next year now.dsc_0002I bought an extremely cheap box of tat from Ebay…dsc_0004to use with some tree rejects (the things that weren’t strung etc) to make a wreath. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but I love it. It only took about 20 mins to make and then a painful hour to fix to the door!dsc_0007It’s on just in time for the weather to turn nasty, as the remains of Storm Barbara head our way. The door has a small overhead porch so I’m hoping it survives alright, but as pretty much everything on there is plastic, it should be OK.freddieSo that’s it. I’m quite excited about not leaving the house for a few days and for the first time in forever, we genuinely don’t have anything planned for almost a week (we do have guests, here and there, but I have a stocked freezer and cupboards, ready). I’m thankful we’re all healthy and happy and together for Christmas so I hope for the same for everyone I know.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Wonderful 20017.

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

 

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 ūüôā

Butterflies at the Natural History Museum…

I went to London last Tuesday, all on my own, complete with book to read on the train (well Kindle…on my phone actually, Robert Harris ‘Enigma’ which I loved) to see the Wedding Dress exhibition at the V&A. ¬†It was great, not just the exhibition itself, but sitting on the train reading, having lunch in the museum and wandering around the galleries without bored kids in tow.

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But it made me feel guilty, as we rarely take the kids ‘into town’ and it’s only a 40 min train ride into Victoria, so I decided to take advantage of an inset day on the Friday and I took them to see¬†the Butterflies at The Natural History Museum. ¬†M was away for his IronMan in Austria (he did it – hurrah!) so it was just me and the munchkins and it was good fun. ¬†They became a bit tired and whiny by the afternoon and we ran out of steam and didn’t get around even half of the Museum, we’ve been before and will, no doubt, go again so this wasn’t a problem.

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The butterflies were great, it was quiet, there was certainly no need to have pre-booked our tickets, in fact we were allowed to go in early as there was no queue. ¬†Of course, like everyone else, I had my phone out the entire time attempting to snap photos of the ever moving beauties, but I made lots of time to just watch them and it was fascinating seeing the long, curled tongues sipping nectar. ¬†I’d have loved a shot of the chrysalis, all lined up, as they really were fascinating, but that area was quite busy and I don’t like to take photos at the expense of blocking other people’s¬†views.

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Charlie was keen to get his phone/camera out too and if you’re wondering why F has his hoodie up, it’s because the very first thing that happened when we stepped inside the tent, was a butterfly landed on his head and he instinctively tried to swat it only to have me yell at him in horror. ¬†Luckily it flew off before he smacked his own head, but he thought it best to put his hood up just in case it happened again. ¬†I think killing the exhibits might be frowned upon ūüėČ

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They loved both my frock and newly dyed hair. ¬†My top tip? ¬†Go through the side entrance to the museum (the butterfly tent is outside so you don’t enter from the museum anyway) as the queue was ridiculous, it was very, very long and I got totally confused why no-one was using another entrances, apparently it was simply because they don’t know to, or so the guard told me.

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Back home, I struggled to get going this morning. ¬†My attempt to re-arrange the studio and shoehorn all my ‘stuff’ in has got out of hand. ¬†I had hit the stage when it felt like I’ve been working for days but with no obvious results so I woke determined to sort things out. ¬†It hasn’t helped that I’ve not been sleeping very well, largely down to the humid weather we’ve been having. ¬†I waited patiently for the forecast rain all weekend, but it never arrived, we had the odd spot, but not the stormy showers I was expecting and certainly not enough to clear the air. ¬†Not only does it make our bedroom (built into the original loft) hot but the studio and kitchen, with all its glass is like working in a sauna.

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Today, I finally feel like I made it over the hump, as it were, and I can step into my workroom without tripping up on piles of boxes. ¬†Again, I’ve made myself crack on with unfinished jobs. ¬†The old office chair, kindly given to me by my bosses¬†at The Imperial War Museum (it was out by the bins ready for collection but is, apparently, a designer classic, clearly no-one knew that or I’m sure they’d have never have let me scavenge it!!) has been re-covered ready to go into F’s new room. ¬†Phew, another unnecessary thing removed from ‘my’ space (I use M’s Aeron chair, which is much better for my back and currently has no home…it’s a bit like his old camera, I figure if I borrow it long enough it just becomes mine…no? ¬†Have I got that wrong ;)).

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It’s the second time I’ve re-covered it, the first was done in the nice vintage gold linen, but that had worn through, so I’ve gone for a super heavy blue tweed. ¬†It doesn’t feel that nice to touch (it really is very weighty, when I sewed the Weekender Bag above, which I originally bought the fabric for, I nearly cried trying to get the side seams stitched together, with their multiple layers!) but it’s tough and should cope with a little boy mistreating it.

Nearly forgot to mention the lovely cushion came from Felicity at Eclectic Handmade.

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I’ve also finally glued and waxed a rocking horse I’ve had since¬†I was a kid. ¬†Yet more of the typical ‘junk’ I hoard. ¬†This has followed me around for years, I stripped it back in 2009, and sadly I can see from the photo I took at the time (as above) that storing it in the roof alcove, directly in front of a glass window, has done it no good¬†and has left me with¬†cracked paint to deal with.

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Oh well, it’s glued back together and waxed, maybe I’ll find time in another 5 years to give the head a coat of varnish to stop it flaking even more ūüėČ

I need to get back to sewing now, I am very aware how quickly this school term is flying.  Tick tock and all that!

Crackers..!

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This year I decided to make my own crackers as I get sick of buying quite expensive ones (to be fair, I often buy them in the sale then stuff them in the ‘Christmas’ box for the next year) that contain tat that no-one really wants, even when I think I’ve chosen really nice crackers with good gifts inside. ¬†It slightly takes the thrill out of hoping to be the one to get the mini screw driver set (always my favourite and the most useful filler) but at least the boys wont be disappointed by getting the lipstick holder, again.

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I went for this ready to fill set, by Meri Meri as I fell in love with the brightly coloured ‘Nutcracker’ theme. ¬†They come with all you need, except gifts, to make up some very festive looking crackers. ¬†There are some things that I wasn’t happy with, but I’ll get to that bit in a mo.

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The boys actually get three crackers each (the box contains ten, so three for each of them and two for me and M, we are on our own, at home, this Christmas and the boys LOVE crackers so they can have one a day to spread them out).  I bought suitable gifts (not all pictured, for the day itself the boys get not-entirely-cheap Hexbugs) Рthe Batman is a USB memory stick for M.

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For myself, as I was paying for it, I bought a little bronze deer….I was buying it anyway, but decided to pop it in my cracker for fun, the idea was not to open the box when it arrived so at least I’d see it for the first time when the cracker was opened but whoops, I forgot. ¬†At least you get a photo this way. ¬†(The deer is from the UK based Etsy seller Romantic Eccentric, who has the most amazing snow globe necklaces, amongst other things, that I’d love to own).

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They are going to look great on our Christmas table!

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So, those problems I mentioned. ¬†All the contents of the kit are great quality, but this actually makes it quite difficult to get the back of the card to joint together (it’s quite stiff and shiny), there is not nearly enough gold ribbon and the lovely gold glitter stickers that you add to¬†make the buttons, lapels etc do not stay on, so I had to glue them into place in the end. ¬†They do stick initially, but as they are also quite stiff and as the card has a gloss finish, they keep peeling off. ¬†Would I buy this kit again…you know I would, despite the problems, all are easily fixed and the finished crackers really do look very nice.DSC_0027

It was a new introduction, for me, to the brand Meri Meri but I really love their designs and bought this year’s tags from there as well.

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On a separate note, I said I’d show photos of our tree.

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I’m really thrilled with it this year, just buying the few new decorations has made it feel fresh and different, even though all my old favourites are in there as well. ¬†Sadly, I can’t get a decent photo of it, not even when I’m using the tripod, but you get the idea.

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I’m closing up shop soon, so I can concentrate on the family and so I don’t have to stand in line for hours at the post office, which I confess, I hate. ¬†Business this year has been much quieter than usual, but I think this reflects my lack of new designs and general crap-ness at blogging etc. ¬†On the plus side, I have never felt so ready or relaxed about Christmas, which feels great as it’s going to be a tough one this year, without Mum.

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Right, I’m off to make sausage rolls and mince pies for the freezer, after I’ve put our newly decorated kitchen back together…it’s so pretty, and clean, and tidy, I’ve waited YEARS for this and just in time for Christmas ūüôā

Vintage Tree…

I really got over-excited this morning, when putting the vintage decorations on the tree on my studio. ¬†I’m not sure why it made me so happy, I know in the scale of ‘life’ putting baubles on a tree really shouldn’t have such an impact but I really did enjoy myself.

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One of the first things I did was quickly photograph the boxes open, so I can put the baubles away ‘in the right place’ when the tree comes down. ¬†I know. ¬†I’m weird like that. ¬†I also found myself leaving everything ‘exactly as it is’ in terms of crappy bits of string etc dangling down, I like the imperfections, it’s what makes these beauties so special.

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One of my favourites to open, was an old plastic Jacob’s crackers box that contained a very eclectic mix of trinkets folded in old bubble wrap. ¬†I remember bidding for this but it arrived after Mum became quite ill and was shoved away untouched, ¬†so opening it today was the first time I’d see the¬†contents. ¬†It was quite a large lot of decorations that went reasonably cheaply (oh my goodness, I’ve noticed the Ebay prices this year are through the roof for these things!!) perhaps because it contained some ‘tat’ and wasn’t as perfectly presented as some items.

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It has to be said, I do like a bit of tat and it’s usually here that the real gems lay. ¬†Take the fairy, she is quite knackered, but was sitting at the very top of the box and I was so pleased to remember I’d managed to get a tree fairy in the mix. ¬†Check out her dodgy eye!

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The same box contained tree more clip on birds (I’d already collected a few) which I really do love as Gran had similar on her tree, when we were kids.DSC_0026
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and bunnies…so cute!

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I remembered that a main attraction of this Ebay lot, apart from the fairy, was that it¬†contained a load of clip-on candles, which really did make me a happy bunny. ¬†Our primary school tree had these and they used to light them on the last day of school and we’d each get a present from underneath. ¬†I’m obviously not planning to light these, that would be a bad idea.DSC_0059I also treated myself to a new set of lights, in the form of these little coloured lanterns. ¬†The cable is a bit clunky but the colours are so nice and I think it really works with the old decorations. ¬†I’d love to have an original set, but would be afraid of burning the house down, plus the idea of a bulb blowing and spending hours trying to work out which one doesn’t really appeal.
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Even the scary clown made it up there.

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I found it really difficult to get decent photos, especially of the whole tree so you get one minus the top. ¬†It’s sitting by my work bench, in the middle of the window area, I’m quite nervous of the boys (or cat) knocking it and the misery of a pile of broken glass, I’m sure there’ll be at least one casualty but that’s life.

DSC_0026As it is, I’m happy to take the risk, on order to have something that makes me smile each time I see it.

Back to work, I have the bathrooms and hallway to clean today. ¬†I’m going to put a festive movie on whilst I work, oh yes folks, I really am getting in the mood!

Christmas is Coming….Oh yes it is!

I had plans for lots more designs¬†for the shop, but reality has struck and the knowledge (from previous years’ experience) that the next two weeks will be a whirl of kids Nativity plays, secret santa gifts to organise and trying to get the boys to sit down and write the many cards they want to send, means I’ve given up. ¬† I decided that getting the house into shape, ordering any remaining gifts (oh yes, I got in there early and spent a couple of days ordering everything from the good old internet – I don’t really do shopping in the traditional sense, I’m afraid, I can’t be doing with the crowds and I ease my conscience with buying lots of handmade gifts from small sellers) and generally feeling Christmassy takes priority.

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I had promised the boys we’d start decorating last weekend, on Sunday. ¬†I was quite pleased with the mantel, usually I have to fight the boys for some sense of design over their enthusiasm. ¬†They normally win. ¬†I was especially pleased with the little dog collar made from one of my Gran’s decorations, found randomly in the bottom of an old suitcase that came from the attic. ¬†M dreams that I’ll drop this dog by accident, he HATES it, but I’m refusing to remove it at the moment.

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Most of our decorations have been collected over the years and are quite traditional. ¬†The cute snowman cards were given by Mum to the boys a couple of years ago, I’m glad I kept them now as there is always pressure to recycle all cards, come the New Year, but these somehow ended up in the Christmas box. ¬†I’m struggling, generally, ¬†to get rid of anything with her writing on now, as happens when you lose a loved one.

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In some places the boys took over, they tend to want to put out every decoration they can find, in this case all the bristle animals in one spot.

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I bought the trees today, one large one for the living room and a smaller one for my studio (to cover with my collection of vintage baubles). ¬†I was going to wait until the weekend, but I know it’ll be crazy busy then and in terms of tree wilt and needle drop, I can’t see a few days will make any difference. ¬†The boys get to be in charge of decorating the tree, they will be very excited to see it tonight, on their return from school (I’ll take photos when it’s done).

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For the first time in ages, I bought a few new baubles, all Gisela Graham ones, bought on-line from Perrywood Garden Center which proved to be lots cheaper than many other on-line sellers.  I especially like the clip-on glass toadstools.

DSC_0027This afternoon I plan to make a start on writing cards, which is partly why I’m blogging, so I could show you these fabulous ones bought from Dee Beale, aren’t they lovely?

I realise for many this post is a little early, but with young boys it’s hard to ask them to wait to get in the Christmas mood and I tend to set the beginning of December as the start date for making merry. ¬†Right, I’m off to bake a batch of mince pies whilst wearing one of the new aprons ūüôā