Tuesday 25 November 2014

Au Naturele!

I ordered these simple plywood shapes with the intention of painting them but when they arrived found they were very pretty already.  They've been laser cut so the edges are burnt a lovely rustic brown and on one side the edges are slightly "distressed".  So I decided to keep them 'au naturale' and have decorated them using just my pyrography pen and a bit of red ink for the robin.  On the hearts I've stamped images in a light colour and then burned over them. 

You might remember I used the same technique last year on cut wooden slices.  I've bought some more this year to sell at my next craft fair on 6th!  Yikes - better get burning!

Friday 21 November 2014

Dala Horses everywhere!

Where does the time go?  Only a month till Christmas so I think I need to get into present creating mode!  I've always loved the Scandinavian style Christmas and Dala horses are a favourite image at this time of year.  My sister is a horsey person and loves adding to her Christmas decorations each year so I think she will like a set of these felt horses. I used the new papercraft dies from Eline Pellinkhof at Cuddly Buddly.  I simplified the patterned decoration a bit and didn't use all the tiny dies.

And there's more......  I found these wooden shapes on ebay from Wiff of the Woods - perfect for painting.  I used the same dies to cut the decoration pieces and used some of that horrible felt they give away with craft magazine free kits.  I can't make myself throw it away even though I never make any of those kits up.  I knitted a few of the little horse sachets for a recent craft fair and filled them with Christmas spices.  They sold out but I found this one left behind under a chair the other day - absolutely love that spicy scent.  And finally I've stamped some simple cards using a small stamp set also from Eline at Cuddly Buddly.

There's a nice history and video on the making of Dala horses on The Swedish Wooden Horse Company's website.

Sunday 2 November 2014

Do you know Julie?

Julie Arkell that is.  We've been very honored to have Julie as artist in residence right here at Ruthin Craft Centre for the past month and she's been kept very busy with workshops, open studio days and today - on her last day here - there was a 'Walk and Talk' when we learned much more about her artistic background and the creation of the "Away" exhibition.

And what a delightful person she is.  We spent a lunchtime open studio with her last week when we chatted about her work, collecting vintage bits, Wales, the difficulties of overflowing work spaces, and she was quite happy to pose for photos and sign copies of the exhibition publication - I forgot to take mine with me! 

I never know whether photos are allowed at the craft centre - I have never asked as I fear they are not!  However I'm just going to sneak in this photo I took of my friend in the gallery and hope you won't tell anyone.  I'm sure Julie wouldn't mind me sharing it with my select little band of followers and I'm hoping it will encourage you to visit and admire if you are anywhere near in the next month - although Julie is returning home these little creatures will be staying put until the end of November.

Friday 3 October 2014

Stitiching at Sugar Plum Tearoom

My friend and I treated ourselves to a lovely evening of creative stitching with the fabulously talented Vicky Trainor of The Linen Garden yesterday.  She held a workshop at our favourite Sugar Plum Tearoom at Homeward Bound.

What a lovely time we had cutting, stitching, chatting and enjoying tea and cake and we all created something beautiful. 

There's nothing like getting together with other like-minded crafters to give yourself a boost of creativity and I think we'll all be rifling through our fabric stashes today looking for bits and pieces to make another brooch that will of course be better than the first.

But just look at the beautiful creations we all took home!  A whole gardenful of prettiness!

I'm really looking forward to the next workshop - whenever that is - but in the meantime Vicky now has her own mini-shop within Homeward Bound to inspire and delight. 

And of course, even if you are not a stitcher or even a local, Sugar Plum is always worth a visit when in the area - afternoon tea there is to die for! :)

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Bunnies for Babies

A month or two ago I wanted to make a little gift for a friend of a friend who had just produced a beautiful baby girl.  I sewed a simple bunny from a template I found in a book.  I wanted to use fabric that would be soft and of course would wash well and decided to try a pretty tea towel I came upon in our local bargain basement shop. 

Well after that the bunnies started to multiple - as they do - and I went out and bought more tea towels.  I also modified the pattern to make the bunnies a bit easier to stuff and finish off neatly. 


After about half a dozen bunnies I had the horrible thought that I should have washed the tea towels first - the labels did say there might be shrinkage.  But what about the bunnies I'd already made - I was worried.  Well one bunny very bravely came forward and volunteered to join my next load of washing in the machine.  

I'm happy to say pink bunny survived intact apart from a slightly frayed ribbon, though he is now about half an inch shorter than his friends! 

Thursday 18 September 2014

Interiors and Waterfalls

Thank you all for your lovely comments and birthday wishes on my last post.  I thought you might like to see inside Tyn y Simdde.  The interior is simple, comfortable, functional and most of all as beautiful as the outside.  You can read about the history and restoration of the house on the owner's website here:   http://secludedsnowdoniacottage.wordpress.com/  - who knows, you might even want to stay there yourself! 

Downstairs is one large space divided by the beautiful wooden stairwell that my cat Titch enjoyed racing up and down in the evenings.  The kitchen has everything you need and the two large sofas in the living area are sooooooo comfortable.

Upstairs there are two lovely bedrooms (one double and two single beds) and a landing area with two rocking chairs for daydreaming and nature watching.  There's a tiny cosy bathroom with a very efficient shower cubical.

Absolutely all you need for simple living is there and who wouldn't dream of living in such a spot.  But of course if I lived there it wouldn't look like this - where would I put all my STUFF!  However there is an answer we found at another Under the Thatch cottage we stayed at in February.  The owner had a large shipping container in an unobtrusive spot nearby and we guessed it was full of all his STUFF. 

The sun didn't come out from behind the thin cloud cover on our last day and we stayed around the cottage but late afternoon we took a walk through the forest to the waterfalls on the Mawddach River nearby.

We will be back!  I'm plotting our next escape already!

Friday 12 September 2014

Return to Tyn y Simdde

Of course I was going to return to this delightful cottage as soon as another opportunity arose.  This time I've used my birthday as an excuse!  Arrived late Wednesday evening just as a beautiful pink moon was rising over the hills opposite.

Thursday dawned to bright warm sunshine and of course I got my camera out first thing.  This time we've brought my cat Titch.  She's never seen so much open space and was a bit daunted at first but soon got used to it. 

Here she is having her first sight of sheep!  There are lots of birds around and a whole family of Robins - who seem to be having their first sight of a cat!  Naturally I'm a bit worried about her hunting and she is, but definitely prefers searching out the many mice and voles in the bank at the back of the cottage - she's only manged one so far and luckily I was on hand to shout and it got away.

This morning is rather disappointingly cloudy so far but I'm hopeful of a brighter afternoon.  Yesterday was glorious and we took a trip to nearby Barmouth for a walk on the beach.

And of course the traditional ice cream and a paddle in the sea. I can never resist getting my feet wet.  The very pink ice cream parlour was too cute - I choose mango sorbet.

Being mid September the evenings are cool, which is a good excuse to light the wood burner and as my son is here this time he got it going.  There's nothing like a real fire for bringing a room to life is there - we still have one almost every evening at home!

We haven't decided what we'll do today - our last full day -  I'm happy to just stay around the cottage and get on with some crocheting but we'll see what the weather does.  And Titch is very happy to spend her day stalking mice - she knows I'm not best pleased and looks very guilty doesn't she!

Friday 5 September 2014

More Pretty Purses

September is a busy birthday month in our family - second only to December which has even more! 
I've made more zip purses as gifts as they are always useful.  Earlier in the summer I made cut off denim shorts from some jeans I had "outgrown" for donating to the Greyhound Rescue Wales charity shop where I volunteer and I didn't want to waste the "legs" so used some for my purses. 

Have to admit the stretch denim was not at all liked by my sewing machine but making sure the stretch was across the purse and not top to bottom worked a bit better.  Love the ladybird braid I ordered on Etsy as while ago and this ladybird stripe fabric I've had for years and years was just perfect for the lining.

I don't have a smartphone but have made my purses to fit them.  They are also the right size for pocket digital cameras.  I've a smaller purse that fits my phone and I clip it to the inside of my handbag so that I can grab my phone quickly without emptying everything out onto the floor to find it at the bottom.

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Blackberry Time

Here's another gorgeous image from Herry Perry (see my Thimble Tea post below).  It seems the good weather has returned after a very miserable Bank Holiday Monday when the brambles at the bottom of the garden took a real battering from cold wind and rain.  Now the blackberries are not really worth picking but the garden wildlife still seems to be enjoying them so I don't mind at all.

And I've already harvested plenty of other fruits including cherries, plums, tiny strawberries, a few raspberries and of course there are apples to come.

However my favourite garden harvest this year is going to be the nuts from my Cobnut bushes.  I grew three bushes from nuts I'd forgotten about and found at the back of the fridge.  They had started to sprout so I planted them in small pots and three started to grow.

That was four or five years ago now and last year was the first time they fruited (or is it nutted?)  There were just a very few nuts.  But this year I've quite a good crop and I think there will be a bag full.  I've been buying cobnuts from Allen's Farm for years and I'm really chuffed this year I'll be able to eat my own aswell. That is if the squirrels in the front garden don't find them first.

I tried a couple last evening and they seem ready so I think I'll pick them today - sorry squirrels!  However they are already gorging on and hiding away beechnuts, hazelnuts and acorns from the front garden - not to mention the birds' peanuts!

Friday 15 August 2014

Elizabeth Craig's Thimble Tea

A recent post on a favourite blog Shelf Appeal featured the illustrator Herry Perry in Elizabeth Craig's book on Entertaining.  I just had see more and found a reasonably priced copy on ebay.  What a delight!  Published in 1933 it's full of advice for "The Modern Hostess", whether entertaining "with the help of one maid, of a staff of servants, or single handed"!

 There are dozens of entertaining occasions covered by Elizabeth, from "A Bride's First Dinner" to "Tea for Two in Wintertime" and everything else in between.  But my very favourite has to be "Just a Thimble Tea".  Here is just some of Elizabeth's advice:

"Every little while I give a Thimble Tea, to which I ask a few chosen friends.  In the summer-time we sometimes hold it in the garden.  In winter it is held in the cosiest corner of the room close to the fire with ship logs ablaze in blue and purple and fiery red........If you want to start Thimble Teas first count over your friends who are interested in needlework, whether it be simple knitting or embroidery, or fine sewing.  It matters not what their taste is so long as they are of the Sister Susie sisterhood (I've tried to look up what this means with no success).  Then send out invitations to come to tea and bring their work along with them.  I would not invite more that half a dozen at a time.  For a Thimble Tea I usually write "from 2.30 to 6 pm" on my invitations..........As this is a Thimble Tea she (the hostess) must produce her daintiest tea cloth, doilys and tea serviettes.  If she has a hand-worked tea cosy it is a good idea to have a teapot rest to match - a strip of knitted wool stuffed firmly with cotton wool and sewn lengthwise to form a woollen roly-poly.  This must be invisibly joined at the ends to form a circular roll which in turn must be firmly sewn to two rounds of plain knitting with a round of stiff cardboard slipped between to form a stiff base for the nest.......... Boil the water for the tea at table with the aid of an electric kettle or a spriit lamp, have your tea caddy ready beside the teapot and a little plate containing slices of lemon in case some guests wish their tea a la Russe.  Have milk as well as cream for lots of people do not care for cream in tea (too right - yuk!).  Then arrange little plates of dainty sandwiches, shortbread fingers, or jam-jams, almond or coconut macaroons, spiced rock cakes, and anything else you care to have within reach of all.  Provide at least one muffin dish of hot scones and have what is the very latest idea, a plate of tiny canapes of bread rounds the size of crown pieces spread with savoury paste and kept carefully out of sight till everyone has finished with cake, and then brought out and offered as a savoury finish......

.......No matter your menu, tea over have food cleared away if teaing in the sewing room and settle down again to work and gossip.  In the summer-time serve tea when possible in the garden.  If raining have it indoors with the fire lit.  Decorate the room with glowing plants.  In winter-time decorate your room with red flowers or berries and red or white candles, serving tea when possible in a different room to that in which you work or in a room opening off your working room."

Phew, I haven't done that much copy typing in a long time!  Good job I proof read it!  I'd not heard of jam-jams before but there are lots of recipes on line.  Here's a nice one.

And this is Elizabeth's 1933 recipe:

Rub 4oz butter in 7oz flour, stir in 4oz castor sugar, half teaspoon baking powder, half teaspoon ground cinnamon and moisten to a rollable dough with yolk of egg.  Roll out on a lightly floured pastry board, cut into rounds with the top of a wineglass or a fancy cutter, bake till crisp and golden and if by any chance through incorrect management of the oven the cakes spread out of shape you can recut them again with the same cutter as soon as you take them out of the oven.  But don't wait till they cool at all or they will break in the cutting.  Put two rounds together with jam then sprinkle with castor sugar.  Apricot or raspberry jam is best for jam-jams.  If liked you can use ground Ginger for flavouring instead of cinnamon. 

Of course there were no oven temperature gauges then - today bake at 190C (375F) for about 12-14 mins.

Lastly, these are Elizabeth's suggested Tea Menus:

Bread and Butter
Cucumber Sandwiches
Layer Cake, Strawberry Filling
Strawberries and Cream
Petits Fours

Raisin and Nut Bread
Cheese and Pimento Sandwiches
Hot Buttered Tea-Cakes
Spiced Fruit Cake
Iced German Biscuits

Bloater Cream Sandwiches 
Ham and Cress Rolls
Buttered Crumpets
Chocolate Eclairs
Tangerine Layer Cake

Note - Make Bloater Cream Sandwiches with brown bread.  Use bridge rolls, split for Ham and Cress sandwiches.  Hot buttered teacakes can be substituted for Crumpets and Cream Buns for Chocolate Eclairs.  Fill Tangerine Layer Cake with tangerine honey and cover with tangerine icing.

If you enjoyed this I might share a few more gems in future posts.  What about "Tea in Heather Time" or "A Scramble Party" ?


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