Monday, 29 December 2008

The best Christmas presents

A poem from a Tall Small.

A shiny anglepoise lamp with a daylight bulb so I can make jewels for tiny people at night. I need more practice taking photos with it but I am happy! Thank you, lovely family!

Friday, 26 December 2008

Rudolph the grubby hoofed reindeer

Imagine the squeals when we descended on Christmas morning to find this scene in the kitchen. Dirty hoofprints. Blown leaves.

A pile of oats on the floor.

And an upset box on the counter with an incriminating foot mark.

Turns out Rudolph enjoyed his reindeer food (oats & glitter on the lawn) so much he came in through the keyhole to find some more - Father Christmas needs to tether him more securely next time!

Fortunately he didn't get his grubby little hooves on these. Yum.

Hope your Christmas has been, and continues to be, everything you hoped for!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Back at last

Well, it took four visiting BT engineers and heaven knows how much money spent on phone calls to our ISP at 10p per minute but we are finally reconnected. The broadband has been up for 48 hours so with luck it is now fixed for a while ...

It wasn't all bad though - the enforced break meant lots of crafting time and gave my mouse arm a rest. I have tennis elbow apparently brought on by a combination of knitting and blogging - I kid you not. Let me serve as a horrible example to all of you as I face a shot in the elbow in the New Year if it doesn't improve :-( The most annoying thing is I've spent the last 10 years as a programmer with nary a twinge!

There's lots to show you, but I'll start with a little backpack I was asked to make for one of the girls at school. This was my first commission (well, sort of - she's making a donation to the school rather than to me) and I was very pleased with how it turned out. The little pony is adapted from the unicorn at stitchado and I added a tiny beaded name charm too. I had plans to do something similar for my two but am rapidly running out of hours!

Argh, the light. It's either horribly flat or artificially yellow at the moment. I'll have to rig up a light box at this rate!

We've made our gingerbread house this week too - I did the basic construction and the roof tiles but other than that it is a small person construction. They are deservedly proud of themselves, and are quietly pinching sweets off it thinking I won't notice ...

Leftover gingerbread trimmings make fabulously crunchy ice cream topping, and if you add bananas and edible pink disco glitter - well, how much more Christmassy could it be?!

Huge apologies if I owe you email. Hopefully normal service will be resumed now!

Monday, 1 December 2008

All is calm?

I love Christmas, and every year December 1st sees me overjoyed that Advent is here and I am finally allowed to admit my excitement. This year we've been inspired by stunning visions of advent crowns and wreaths, and I remember how as a child I always looked at the Blue Peter version and wished I had one (but candles and tinsel? EEEEEEK! No wonder Mum said no!) So we duly broke out the glass paints and jam jars, and made a wreath of hazel twigs from the garden, and looked forward to last night when we could light the first candle.

And was it a serene and elegant occasion? Was it a joyous family celebration? Or was it a big squabble over whose candle jar should be the first to be lit? See if you can guess ...

(It all turned out well in the end. I don't think anyone is emotionally scarred, but what do I know?)

Friday, 28 November 2008

Teacher presents

Another quick one - our connection is still horribly flaky, and our ISP and BT are busy passing the buck between them. Neither has yet sorted it, and rarely have I felt so powerless. Grrrr. (I wrote this 2 hours ago. It's taken that long for the %&^$£* connection to come back up).

Today we made a start on teacher presents, courtesy of Lina's lovely candle tutorial. I nearly burned my fingers off with the hair drier (and it overheated and cut out at one point) so how glad am I that I don't have a heat gun to hurt myself with?

I'll need to warn them about the tissue paper before they burn them into a small inferno, but my experience of pillar candles is that the outsides don't tend to burn anyway so hopefully they'll be OK!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Quick! Type rapidly!

We've had half a week of very intermittent internet connectivity - it could go down again at any second so I shall make this as brief as possible!!

Congrats to all those who guessed I was/am making angels - 8 of them to be precise, plus 7 shepherds, 3 kings, Mary and Joseph. Not entirely alone - I made 9 of the tunics plus all the headdresses, haloes, crowns etc; while 3 other heroic mums shared the other tunics between them.

This is what they are looking like so far - they still need poppers at the neck instead of safety pins, and models who allow me more than 2 seconds to put on anything other than the angel ...

Huge thanks to clever Gina for the loan of the tunic pattern. And now I have pushed my luck far enough with the internet, so I'm off!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Almost overwhelmingly lovely!

Hmmmm. It seems a week of daily posting burned me more than I had thought! Many thanks for all the lovely comments on my pictures; it's rather lovely to think when I'm tuned in to Woman's Hour that many of you are too.

So, as you may have seen all over the place, last weekend saw a swarm of bloggers descending on various locations around London. I missed the CL Fair on Friday (I didn't dare take Tiny Small in case she was spirited away and made into a lovingly handcrafted tree decoration) but did make it to the Big Smoke for lunch on Saturday, and had the most fabulous day. Ali tagged all the attendees to do a Six Things meme - six things I love and six people to tag. The things I loved about the weekend number more than six -and, predictably, it's all the people who were there - Domesticali, Lucy Locket and her big sister no-longer-blogless-Ally, Moogsmum, Emma Silverpebble (and her delicious Tiny Pebble), Michaela Stashbasket, The Vicious Chicken and NBM.

There were, of course, delicious gifts flying back and forth - anyone would think it was nearly Christmas!

Top to bottom, left to right: Lesley's Christmas trees; Lucy's birds; all that's left of Michaela's fudge; Ali's wreath; Emma's bracelet; Ally's beads.

Thank you all so much for a lovely day!

Now, I'll give you three guesses as to what's been occupying my time this week (not you, Gina!!!):

Answers on a postcard ...

Sunday, 9 November 2008

My faithful friend

Kitchen poetry, day 7.

I love my radio. It is almost always on when anyone is in the kitchen, be it Mr DC listening to Radio 1 in the morning, me tuning in to shout at Jeremy Vine at lunchtime, or the default setting of Radio 4 for the rest of the day. Sometimes I can't hear it over the sound of all my other kitchen friends (washing and drying friends, perhaps the most useful kind, if not the most comforting) but it's good to know it's always there to fill any awkward silences.

I have really enjoyed Kitchen Poetry week, though I don't imagine I'll be starting daily posting any time soon! My hat is off to all of you who manage it. I can't!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Useful brushes

Kitchen poetry day 6

Nearly done! This week I've been busy on the last push for a big fundraising auction at the school, joint with our local playgroup. Tonight was the night - and we raised an unbelievable £3500 before adding in tickets and bar sales. For once, I am speechless.

And shattered.

Friday, 7 November 2008

View from my window

Kitchen poetry , day 5

This is the view of the village church from a funny little window that's next to the cooker hood, and above head height for me. It's home to a collection of plates and pots and mugs painted by the Smalls. They need regular washing as they tend to collect that sticky dust peculiar to kitchens - unless that's just my kitchen, of course, in which case I might run away and hide ...

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Guess how much I love them?

Kitchen poetry day 4.

Chocolate fudge hearts made in the silicon sweet tray I *had* to have and have spent 2 years trying to find a use for. It's not real fudge, as the stuff I made was not a patch on Mrs Magpie's, (it ended up crunchy!!!) but Nigella's express version is yummy straight from the freezer ...

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Keepin' it real

Kitchen poetry 3

Lest you should think I inhabit a Country Living home (and believe me, anyone who has been here will be laughing hollowly at this point) here is our 'control centre'. And to think I wonder why I'm always forgetting things!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

What's cooking?

Kitchen poetry part 2.

This is our beloved oven. It took us six years to replace the old kitchen after moving into the house, and Mr DC designed this one himself around this specific oven. Because he planned it so carefully, the kitchen works perfectly for us - it might not be the way the professionals would have had it but that doesn't matter. The oven cost more than the rest of the (Ikea) kitchen put together and it was worth every penny.

Cooking on there today is my favourite little pan, with cinnamon, cloves and allspice in some water - much cheaper than scented candles and gloriously festive!

Monday, 3 November 2008

I may regret this

Here's my first contribution to Kitchen Poetry week, from SimpleSparrow via Domesticali, Driftwood and Fan My Flame ... and you?

Bread from my favourite recipe - I make this every couple of days.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Through the keyhole

I know a tiny pink cottage with a golden doorbell.

There are windowboxes and pink checked curtains,

a little garden with shell flowers, and a clock on the wall,

But who lives in a house like this?

A tiny yellow bunny who likes to snuggle by the fire at teatime (and whose alarmingly bulging eyes suggest she might have a thyroid problem)

I made this house as a present for my niece's fifth birthday party. Smalls Tiny and Tall offered lots of advice and sang songs from High School Musical to keep me motivated and stop me running off to do the ironing instead. The birthday girl was very pleased and the other two have been asking for their own versions so I think it must have tiny girl appeal. I had planned lots of embroidery for the garden and to have climbing roses around the door, but that would have involved starting it earlier than two days before party day (and in fact the bunny had no ears or legs until an hour before we drove to the celebrations - hence no time to fix the eyes).

The house is based on a lovely tutorial from UK Lass In US, and the bunny is from Julie's tiny bunny pattern. I see more of both in this household in the near future ... I wish the light had been better, but I had to go with the photos I had since we're heading home before the sun is due out again!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

A confusion of seasons

Despite the weatherman's protestations to the contrary, and the snow in many parts of the UK, here in East Sussex it is definitely still Autumn. The Smalls and I have left poor Mr DC to fend for himself and come to visit my parents. They are surrounded by lovely National Trust properties and today we decided to visit Sheffield Park Gardens, along with my sister, her family, and half to population of the South East. It was heaving!

If you look closely you'll see there's a bridge on the left of that scene, and it was jampacked. No stopping! Move along down the bridge please!

When we lived in the US we used to drive miles into New England to look at the foliage, and became what was charmingly termed 'leaf peepers'. Well, you can do that here too, admittedly on a smaller scale.

See that house? People live there. Very Lucky People.

The parking was a bit of a disaster area, and we saw examples of dump-the-car-and-run that any resident of Rome would have been proud of, but it was worth it.

PS To the makers of Spooks (and look away if you haven't watched it yet): I know you don't like us to get too attached to any of the characters but re-the ending of Monday's episode - did you have to? Sob, wail.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Zippity doo dah

Once upon a time I had a trusty Singer sewing machine that made straight stitches and zigzags and on which I made bags and ballgowns and all manner of prettiness - as long as it didn't need buttonholes, and as long as I could sew zips in by hand. A couple of years ago I convinced Mr DC that I really needed to be able to do free motion quilting and lose my fear of buttons - and oh, by the way, it would be fun to get to grips with zips too.

Look what I can do now!

Instructions for a basic boxy zip pouch are given by Three Bears, but I've added tags and linings and changed the proportions to make pencil cases as the take home gifts for Tiny Small's birthday. The middle sized pouches are good for make up or tiny sewing kits, and the really weeeeeeny one holds a hair bobble or two and slides onto the end of a little hairbrush so it's always ready for ballet class.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Well, really!

Just how much blog excitement can one woman stand in a single weekend? First came a much anticipated meeting with the queen of crafty blogs, the delightful and extraordinarily talented Julie from Little Cotton Rabbits. Julie asked me to test knit her cupcake pattern (it's fab, and fun, and full of pictures of knitted cakes) and it turns out we live only thirty miles apart so we met here for tea on Friday. Tiny Small and I were enchanted by her bag of little cotton animals - rabbits and bears and badgers, oh my! And imagine our excitement when Julie produced these tiny lovelies for the girls:

I haven't stolen them yet, but I do love them as much as the Smalls do. Thank you Julie, for a lovely morning. Again, soon, perhaps?

And as if that wasn't (weren't?) enough, yesterday saw the arrival of The Box! My poor postman - I saw him through the window extracting a tape covered box from the back of his van and was lying in wait by the front door when he knocked. It was a very, VERY hard choice, but these are the three delights I chose to keep. The girls petitioned extremely hard for the ribbons. I was after wool, but in the end they won me over - anything for a quiet life. What I put in is a secret but the box is heading back to Trashy tomorrow after a very long journey round the world!

It's looking a bit the worse for wear ...

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Tread softly

Twelve years ago, Mr DC and I were married on a gorgeously sunny October day with champagne and feasting. Forward to the present day and now there is coffee in fairy mugs, and a sunny anniversary picnic with this little lot. I couldn't think of a better way to spend last Sunday.

Many thanks to everyone who wished us a happy anniversary. Fancy Elastic tagged me for 7 random things, so I thought I might try to think of 7 random things about our wedding.

1. We were married in Oxford, even though we were living in the US at the time.

2. We had a one night honeymoon at Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons as we'd run out of holiday - we'll gloss over the fact that it cost about the same as a week in the Canaries!

3. My wedding dress came across the Atlantic in a box; I clearly remember the agony of waiting for it to come onto the luggage carousel at Heathrow.

4. The hotel had our little wedding as well as a big wedding on the same night, both using the same disco. Unfortunately we ended up with the B-team on the decks until Mr DC's cousins staged a coup...

5. We were determined not to have a formal first dance, but our guests refused to start dancing until we did. On the spur of the moment we chose Ella Fitzgerald singing "Let's Fall In Love", not too bad at all!

6. I had a rotten cold on the day and couldn't taste any of the food.

7. The reading during the ceremony was W.B Yeats' "He wishes for the cloths of heaven". It remains one of my very favourite poems - and I know I'm far from alone.

I'm supposed to tag people, but I never do, and especially not since I've hijacked this one! If you feel like having a go, I'd love to read what you have to say ...

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Big Weekend

Tiny Small was born the day before our wedding anniversary but this is the first year both days have fallen together on a weekend, and the first time we have managed for either of them to have a party on the Big Day itself. I was determined not to spend the whole of her day tethered to the oven so for once was organised enough the day before to get most of the baking done. I am, to borrow a phrase from Nigella, "unhelpfully obsessed" with preparing the food for birthday parties. If I could find a recipe for PomBears I'd probably try to make those myself too, that's how bad it is.

The day went brilliantly, with sun and happy children and if there were any tears I don't remember them. There was junk modelling (This kept them occupied for 40 minutes! 40 MINUTES!!!)


face painting

stained glass window making (these are now adorning windows up and down the High Street in our village)

lots of cake

and a very happy four year old. And this year she even managed to blow out her candles without burning her lip. Hurrah! Happy Birthday Tinker Two!

Friday, 10 October 2008

But what are you going to do all day?

When I gave up work, I was asked repeatedly (and in some cases incredulously) how I was going to fill my time. I am sure there were people who thought I'd be watching Phil 'n' Fern and eating bonbons on the sofa. If only! Tall and Tiny Small keep me very occupied - yesterday Tall told her ex-childminder, "Sam, I do miss coming to your house a bit." (More like she misses Horrid Henry, methinks). "But isn't it nice having mummy at home now?" "Yes, and we're giving her a nice rest from work." Ha!!!

Of course, you are all far too sensible to think I'm busy doing nothing, and I'm sure you'll understand why Tiny Small and I chose to fill a sunny afternoon this week with some soap felting action, courtesy of the Little Travelers via Crafty Crow.

She managed most of this by herself, once I'd assembled a little soap-roving-muslin parcel, and she rubbed and rubbed till she had neat little bars of soap each encased in their own colourful felty flannel. They are lovely in the bath, and it means we don't end up with disintegrating soggy soap blobs anymore. See? Useful! I'm thinking Christmas presents ...

Thursday, 2 October 2008

When only sugar will do

Colder days make me feel less guilty about indulging in sugar and stodge. Don't get me wrong, I have more than my fair share in summer too but somehow autumn days make it seem more acceptable! We had a barbecue last weekend and ended it with a UK version of s'mores. We enjoyed them so much we decided on a rerun in the kitchen with marshmallows, digestives and a grill.

No chocolate this time, but no-one seemed to mind.

I love wrapping up and eating outside as it gets darker, with plenty of wine and candles. Yum.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Pointy stick, o pointy pointy

Just a quick one tonight; LoveFilm have delivered Penelope for me, and to say I am looking forward to it would be an understatement. But first, in a shameless attempt to grab some geek points, here's a five minute experiment that's as much to do with showing little people how to record experimental findings as teaching them about the nerves that help them to feel.

You will need two pokey sticks - knitting needles are good - paper and pencil and a willing victim. The idea is to demonstrate the differing density of nerve endings over your body, and figure out the most sensitive parts (steady!)

Choose the area to work on - classics are the fingertips and the back, but legs, feet, toes, arms all are worth it. My little scientists got a bit carried away poking me with knitting needles, for some reason.

Touch the person with either one

or two points, held about a centimetre apart, and ask them to tell you how many points they feel.

I have only just realised what short stubby scientist fingers I have. Harumph.

Record how many times they get this right. We tried 4 times on each body part.

Once you figure out which areas are most and least sensitive you can vary the distance between the needles - if you put them 5 cm apart, can you now reliably distinguish one from two touches on your back?

You can make a little chart, and probably could get creative with graphs and so on.

There is a variation of this that has you running a pencil point slowly up your forearm and noting the places where it feels icy cold as you encounter a nerve ending, but I think mine need to be a bit bigger before we do this. I remember marking the points with felt tip pens and plotting them out when I was about 12. That explains a lot.

And now, though I love you all dearly I'm going to have to spend a little quality time with a glass of red, a bowl of butternut squash lasagne and James McAvoy ...