Friday, 31 December 2010

Goodbye 2010

I quite like looking back over the year, thinking about things that have happened, places visited and memories shared. I often think that is why I take so many photos. I love to look through them and feeling that bitter sweet sensation of remembering a past moment held forever in a snap shot. I think the most significant thing about 2010 is that I have learnt so much about how to live my life. If I find time each day for something I love, then I can't fail to be happy.

There have been so many things that I have loved about 2010, but I have tried to make a list of my top 10.

  1. Sharing so many wonderful times with my family and friends, they are what really makes life worthwhile and the times I look back on with happiness and forward to with excitement
  2. The holidays with my family to Wales,  Wellington Country Park, Butlins and camping trips in Kent
  3. There were two quite major milestones in 2010; my husband and I both turned 40 and celebrated 10 years of marriage
  4. There were also a number of crafting firsts; my first quilt, my first knitting and stitching exhibition at Ally Pally, my first blog and my first homemade Christmas
  5. The creation of the potting shed in the garden and the acquisition of our second allotment plot
  6. Growing vegetables and eating them all year round, including plenty for Christmas dinner
  7. The mushroom foray at Wildwood, I can not wait until mushroom season next year
  8. My bike...I love my bike. It is probably one of my most prized and used possession along with my sewing machine. My bike is at the top of the list for a makeover in the new year
  9. Dancing and running
  10. Realising that you can ask for help and people listen, you are never alone despite your perception

Leeks for Christmas Dinner

My potting shed in the snow

Homemade wrapping paper and tags

Wishing everyone a very happy and creative new year xxx

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The best laid plans

The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
(The best laid schemes of Mice and Men
oft go awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!)
Robert Burns, To a Mouse (Poem, November, 1785)
This Christmas I was going to be so organised and I did quite well. I made nearly all of the presents myself and quite a long time in advance, improved my wrapping skills and got most of them to the right people on time. However due to being far too casual with my planning, there is one truly special friend whose present is still under our tree. I have made truffles for her on three occasions and they have all been eaten without making it to her, not because I am mean but because they have to be eaten within a week of making them. There is nothing else for it, I shall have to make a truffle making kit for the lady in question. She is after all the kind soul who gave me the sour cherries in the first place and it is almost unspeakable that she is yet to taste them.
Some people are very special and it is not always easy to show how much they are appreciated.
I once asked Josie how she decided who to make friends with as she always wanted to make a friend where ever we went,
"Find someone who looks pretty and try to talk to them", she replied and I always thought it was incredibly good advice. All of my friends have some qualities that I admire and I can talk to all of them. For this particular friend, there is a great deal to admire, the list would be endless. She has effortless style of which anyone would be envious and the most beautiful home, the type I imagine mine would look like if I did not have children and all my mummyish things had not been Charlied. My house would of course not be anywhere near as beautiful or perfect but I do love having something to aspire to. 
The thing I like most about this friend is the loves in life that we share. We could probably go anywhere together and have the most fabulous time, particularly if it involved anything to do with gardening, art or beautiful things. We have shared good times and bad. She held my hand during one of the lowest points in my life and wiped my tears. A true friend is one to treasure and I look forward to being old ladies together one day.
For the lady who brings a little bit pink into every one's life

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Vintage Buttons

For me, vintage buttons are just as precious as diamonds and to receive some unexpectedly through the post made my day. When the parcel arrived, I knew immediately who it was from. It rattled and felt like a box. I did initially guess jewellery as I had so many beautiful necklaces for my birthday, but honestly you would not believe my delight when I discovered vintage buttons.

I was going to sit down quietly with a cup of coffee and look at them all, but Charlie squirrelled them away before I got a chance. For despite being up most of the night being sick and not having eaten, the lure of buttons was too much for him to resist. When I was younger I loved my Grandma's sewing room and spent hours up there admiring the buttons,  tidying the reels of thread and sticking coloured glass headed pins in her hedgehog pin cushion. I would be difficult to say whether I liked going through her jewellery box the most or her button box.

These are my favourite ones from the box I received today. How lovely to have such a wonderful friend who knows me so well and can understand everything that Ridgeway Cottage is about.

For the very special Leanne x

Monday, 20 December 2010

Wrapping Presents

The wrapping of presents is one of my favourite parts of Christmas. Each year the week before Christmas is spent wrapping the special presents for my closest family who I'll be with on Christmas Day and it really does take me all week. I love spending ages on at least on present for each person. I like to make my own wrapping paper, tags, bows and all the other little decorations that make the presents completely unique.The fabric pom poms are from Little Miss Momma Blog, which is completely brilliant. I've also made a pom pom hairband for Josie and a pom pom clip for myself.

The first day of the holidays is when Josie and I wrap her presents which is accompanied by hot chocolate for her. When my husband goes out for his work Christmas party, I have a wrapping evening, watching all the Christmas cooking and crafting television programmes and drinking mulled wine. My favourite wrapping session though is on Christmas Eve, when everything finally comes together. This year is even more Christmassy with all the snow outside.

Sunday, 19 December 2010


 If I had known before just how easy it is to make truffles then I would have been making and eating them for years. If you were on my truffle list and haven't received any yet, blame the snow and please accept my apology. Josie and Charlie are making sure that none go to waste. They are quite delicious.

There is a secret ingredient, sour cherries soaked in brandy. However this could quite easily be substituted if you weren't lucky enough to have a friend pick you a bag of sour cherries in the summer and the foresight to soak them in brandy for several months. I think it is just as simpe to buy dried sour cherries and soak them in a tot of brandy, but doesn't bring back memories of stoning them whilst sitting in a deckchair in the garden in the summer sun. The truffles are not expensive to make so if they are for someone special, you could splash out on the best chocolate you can afford. It needs to have at least 70% cocoa though and why not go for fairtrade?

Recipe for Sour Cherry Brandy Truffles

150mls Double Cream
75g 70% Cocoa Chocolate
50g Sour Cherries soaked in Brandy 

Decorations - Cocoa / dessicated coconut / edible gold dust / edible glitter

Finely chop the chocolate and place in a mixing bowl (we used a blender to chop because it was noisier and kept little fingers away from the chocolate). Heat the cream in a pan over a low heat until just before boiling point and then pour over the chopped chocolate. Slowly fold in with a metal spoon until all the chocolate has melted and all is well mixed. Add the chopped sour cherries and mix gently. Place the bowl in the fridge for a couple of hours. During this time you could make some Gift boxes. 
When the mixtures is ready, roll into small balls in the palm of your hand and then roll in which ever decoration you have decided to use.

The truffles need to be stored in the fridge and eaten within 7 days which shouldn't be too much a problem. I doubled to recipe and made 45 truffles, gave lots away and still had to make a second batch the next day.

For the very lovely Bee

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Jesus Set

When Josie was little she always referred to the Nativity as the Jesus Set which I still love the idea of . There's Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Kings, the wise men, the sheep, the donkey, the star and baby Jesus. It's a set.
This week I have been treated to two traditional Nativities.

Charlie was a shepherd with the classic tea towel on the head costume. When he had been practicing at home, he had insisted that I joined in the actions and he also did this during the performance. He was, as every child is, completely adorable.

Josie was a star in every sense of the word. She stood up in front of a huge crowd and sang a beautiful duet with her friend Emily. A verse from O Little Town of Bethlehem. I could have watched it over and over again. It is one of the joys of being a parent, watching your little angels in the Christmas Nativity. Christmas has begun.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

My latest 'to do' list

At the weekend I celebrated my 40th birthday and I had a truly fabulous time with my family. I looked at my life and decided that I pretty much had everything that I wanted. There weren't really any unfulfilled dreams, apart from having a dance studio in my house. I never really became a professional ballerina, but still wear leg warmers to a class on a weekly basis. So I decided to make a list of all the things that I would like to do before I die. There are of course plenty of lists out there. 101 things to do before you die is a book with its own related website and bloggers dedicated to the list, which really appealed to me, however there were lots of things on the list that I would never want to do ever and a number I'd done already. There is practically no choice, I am going to have to write my own and seeing as I have until I die to do them, I feel I probably have just a little less time than that to write the list.

So far I have a total of three things on my list and volunteers to do each one with me. I'm quite optimistic, it could definitely go very well.

Things to do before I die

  1. Swim in the sea on New Years Day
  2. Travel on the Trans Siberian Express
  3. Travel on the Orient Express

I am completely seduced by the romance and style of the 1920's and would most definitely need a sympathetic wardrobe, accessories and luggage for the trip. Perhaps I should add that to my list?

Friday, 3 December 2010

Snow Days

Nothing changes the world like snow. It makes the ordinary extraordinary. I could just walk around in the snow for hours if it wasn't just so cold. Yesterday I stood in the garden and watched the snow and it was silent, beautiful and silent. I love the way that snow slows down the world and pretty much brings public transport to a stand still. I know that is probably quite irritating for a lot of people, but I like everyone being at home because it's snowing. Snow makes the world shimmer and shine. I'm now dreaming of a white Christmas.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

All that glitters

After the tragic and shocking news of my friend's death yesterday, the start of December was a much needed lift for my spirits, a reminder of just how precious those moments are you spend with those who are dear to you and the start of a magical month in our house. The glitter is officially out and the Christmas making has started. My "to do" list has been filled with all things Christmassy, there were Christmas songs on ipod and dancing in the kitchen. I made wrapping paper with Charlie, Christmas cards and Josie did her Christmas Cards all by herself. It is such a special time of year and so very exciting.

For Angela

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

It snowed

If you wish hard, you get what you want sometimes and when I looked out the window this morning, there was the blanket of snow I had been dreaming of. I loved seeing the children so excited and it did fill me with Christmas cheer. However I have just discovered that another wonderful person has died and I am so shocked. This wonderful lady gave everything to the young refugees from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran and Iraq. Her heart was made of gold.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

I've been singing the lines of that song for days now, looking expectantly out the window every morning for a blanket of snow or willing any snow flurries that do come our way to settle, but I'm beginning to feel a bit hard done by, a tiny bit left out. As the rest of the country appears to be in the grip of a cold snap, with record low temperatures and inches of snow, we have just had frost and a few flakes of snow.

These frost crystals are just so beautiful. I love the geometric formations, they are incredibly delicate and truly dainty, practically perfect.

I have also been crocheting some snowflakes, inspired by the lovely lady at Attic 24. They need to have the ends sewn in, be ironed and starched but they really are addictive to make. Perhaps I can make enough for my own sprinkling of snow as well as keeping my fingers crossed for tomorrow morning.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Mini Quilt No. 2

After making such a lumpy bumpy quilt earlier in the week, I really felt that I could do better. I left my iron out and ironed after I had stitched each area and there was a massive improvement. I ironed, cut straight edges, matched the edges up and ironed, ironed and ironed some more and it really did work. I feel quite confident that I have mastered mitred corners now, so I'm really excited about mini quilt No. 3.

Friday, 26 November 2010

The finished tea cosie

I'm really pleased to say it was finished on time, wrapped and given to the lady in question the night before her birthday.

I was also really happy with it, there were no obvious or drastic mistakes and I have been inspired to knit more. I could have quite happily kept it for myself.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Bright lights, little city

It's officially the festive season in our land, the Christmas lights have been switched on by a man up a ladder outside the fabric and yarn shop in Canterbury. There was a crowd of about 80 people and stars from the Pantomime including John Thomson but was quite disappointed that Sid from cbeebies wasn't there, especially seeing as he is a personal friend of Charlie's after meeting him at Leanne' wedding. However it would be perfectly lovely if our next Christmas tradition started in 2010 could be going to see the lights switched on with Lisa and her gorgeous boys. The tradition would have to include choosing Christmas books in the bookshop, a visit to Hip Hop to challenge Kirsty to a babysitting job and a half, the beadpot for us mummies, the sweet shop incase the children aren't crazy enough and the chip shop because they just looked so cute sitting together in the window with their light savers, eating chips.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Mini Quilt No. 1

I'm still learning about making quilts. I've read blogs, books and watched videos on YouTube, but I really do learn by doing. I'm not one to be methodical, read and rer-ead the instructions and take a great deal of notice of what people say. I have to just try it and learn by my mistakes. This mini quilt took me a couple of days and I have learnt two very important things. I have finally learnt how to mitre corners, after several messy attempts on other projects. You need to have one long piece of fabric, measured, ironed and cut and you need to put onto a straight edge. This may not be news for those who have made quilts before but nowhere had I seen this simple and very important piece of information highlighted with enough intensity for me to take any notice. If it isn't long enough to go all the way around, ironed and all  the edges straight, it will go wrong. The second thing I learnt was, you can never iron enough. Stitch it, iron, stitch a bit, iron, stitch, iron, iron and iron again. I did not do this and the quilt is really quite lumpy. Actually it is very lumpy and not up to my perfectionist standard, but I know for next time... mini quilt no.2.

Oh and I also really do know now that you can not use material with stretch in it. The green cord fabric had stretch in it and distorted when I sewed. I have done this twice before and will not do it again (well I hope not).

It really does look very wiggly and lumpy but I am going to be making a few mini quilt place mats as Christmas presents for my family, so hopefully I can only get better.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Emma Flower

 Everyone needs a friend called Emma and I have quite a few. The first Emma was my best friend when I was at primary school and just happened to born on the same day as me. When I was 18 my best friend was my Uncle's dog Emma, she slept on my bed, ate my shoes and knew all my secrets. The next Emma I worked with, partied with, laughed with, cried with, drank peppermint tea with, we had children and explored the Kent coast line together. I had another wonderful friend called Emma who looked after me whilst I was pregnant and doing my PGCE and now I even have an allotment friend called Emma. I've never been without an Emma and still love every single one of the above, so when I was looking for fabric to make a skirt out of and found Emma Flower, I thought I should share it with my Emmas....and buy it to make a skirt with.

Emma Flower

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Stir up Sunday

I really love traditions and spending time with my family. One of the best thing about the children getting a little bit older is that we can create our own traditions. On the first Stir up Sunday of my blog, I am going to have my first guest blogger - Josie. So in her own words, she beautifully describes what it's all about.

Stir Up Sunday (5 Sundays before Christmas)

Today I made Christmas Pudding with my dad. First we found all the ingredients and displayed them on the work surface. I took two cooking apples and started peeling them, whilst Mummy and Charlie chopped the almonds in the food mixer. Next I put nutmeg, brown sugar, raisins and a few other things in a huge mixing bowl and mixed them together. I wasn’t allowed to do more so Daddy did the rest. I just know one fact and that is they need to cook for 8 hours!

Charlie using the mixer to chop almonds

Josie's brilliant illustration of how to make Christmas Pudding

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Upcycling knitted tea cosies

There is a little of the charity shop old lady tea cosy about my latest project. The body came from a charity shop, I imagine it was made by an old lady but I am upcycling it into a fabulous knitted 'Garden Party' of a tea cosy, inspired and pretty much completely copied from the fabulous Loani Prior - Queen of the Tea Cosies from her even more fabulous book Really Wild Tea Cosies.

This tea cosy is going to be birthday present for someone who has been such a good friend. A tea cosy probably doesn't really reflect how brilliant she has been but it is being made with time, effort and love. I've made a start and am going to try really hard to get it finished, as the last two birthday presents I've made for her boys were late.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Gigantosaurus Dinosaur Birthday

This year Charlie had a dinosaur birthday. He wasn't particularly worried about what he got as long as it was related to dinosaurs. I did a bit of a dinosaur make over on his bedroom and finally finished his 'dinosaur, pirate, zoo animals, in boy colours with stripes' quilt.



I knitted him a matching dinosaur toy box.

Made him mini dinosaur display shelves

Charlie found all the dinosaurs that would fit in and sorted them into similar types.

We had a joint dinosaur party with Joe and invited  Grampy and his nursery friends, a dinosaur tea party on his birthday and plenty of dinosaur cakes. And his Daddy made a stegosaurus cake with a little help on the decorating.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Life is too short

Yesterday my dear friend Pippa died and a light went out in so many people's lives. Death is never that far away from you, be it an elderly relative, a work colleague, a good friend from the past or your child. Pippa was one of my closest friends from University, along with a couple of other girls, we were in each others projects, choreographies and performances throughout college. There are some people that you just get on with and Pip was the most beautiful, funny and endearingly genuine of people. Mostly I loved her for her observational questions of people's characteristics and mannerisms. She looked at the world, commented and asked with an innocence of actually caring about the answer. She saw the person and the purpose and that is a true quality for admiration. She was the most Welsh person, I have ever met other than my Nan's next door neighbour in Wales. She had the sunshine in her smile and a song in her voice. I remember her for her footprints, her perfectly acted role as the sleep doctor at my insomnia inspired honours project, our end of the evening "bicycles in trees" art installation, the most disgusting cocktail I've ever tasted in my life at our "we're not going to the prom" party and dressing like a princess when we did go to the Prom for my 21st birthday. Life is too short and too precious. Goodbye Phillipa Mahoney xxx

Thursday, 11 November 2010

How to make a bean bag

Charlie and I have been busy today getting ready for his party. We recycled some plastic bottles, painted them and they are going to be for a game of skittles and we have made bean bags. Bean bags are the perfect thing to make with Charlie because he gets involved in every stage.

Step 1. Choose your fabric

Charlie is turning into quite a fabric addict, just like me. He wanted the above fabric in both blue and white.

Step 2. Measure it to get the highest number of bags from the piece of fabric, today we made them 15cm x 15cm which is quite a good size for bean bags.

Step 3. Sew two 15cm x 15cm squares right side together, leaving a small gap so that you can turn the bag in the right way and fill it. Charlie turns the wheel on my old sewing machine, lifts and lowers the foot when we get to corners and I guide the fabric. He also choose orange thread.

 Step 4. Fill the bag and then sew up the hole. I think this is Charlie's favourite bit. We use pretty much anything in the bean bag but today we used pearl barley which is really cheap and the perfect size grain.

We've made enough bean bags for each of Charlie's friends to take home in their party bags and he also wants to have bean bag races at his party. They are brilliant for small children to play catch with because they are easier and softer to catch than balls. Josie had the very clever idea of using the bean bags to throw at the skittles we made.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

How about orange?

If someone asked me that question, I would answer "yes". There's nothing dreary or grey or November about orange, other than leaves which are quite November. I like orange, it is cheery and completely unapologetic. Charlie and Josie's favourite colour is orange, neither of them will eat cheese, unless it is orange so there is quite an orange element to Charlie's birthday bedroom make over. I love the simplicity of being almost four years old. If it's orange, Charlie will like it and if it's related to dinosaurs he'll like it.

I've dyed Charlie's cotton cellular baby blankets orange, used a cut up orange sheet to make a ball of yarn  to knit him a toy basket and I'm going to spend the next few days working on his bedroom.

There's also a rather good blog called How about orange. It's not just about orange but about all sorts of wonderfully crafty things.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Black Magic

Sometimes before your very eyes, things change and you don't even notice. For example: Black Magic. I always preferred dark chocolate and so did my Mum. My Dad always used to buy Black Magic for my Mum and Grandma and I used to love choosing. It's quite funny how different boxes of chocolates remind me of different people. New Berry Fruits remind me of my Auntie Joyce, Quality Streets of my Grandad and Matchmakers of the one afternoon per week we used to spend at my Grandma's.

I recently came across an original 1930s Black Magic chocolate tin and it is so very stylish with its Art Deco design, delectable sounding chocolates and inspirational magical romance. My favourite was always the liquid cherry, so much so that I decided there is nothing better for chasing away the dark clouds on a dreary wet Monday, than Black Magic.

These days though, there are not the 12 different chocolates from the original 1930s collection. There are only six and sadly no liquid cherry. I was disappointed but it seems that after staying unchanged for years, Black Magic became far more sophisticated in the 1990s and changed to reflect the fashion for continental chocolates. However they have recently changed back to their classic favourites by popular demand of the fans and all without me even realising. I am glad that they did return to the classics but just wish there were a few more of my favourites. Perhaps it has something to do with Nestle taking over what was the quintessential English company Rowntree. Nestle is just a little too global for my liking, I think I would much rather the chocolates were still produced by Rowntree in York and sold in stylish tins.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Shining lights of spectacular colours

The dark days of November are weighing heavy on my spirit. The cold, bleak weather is drawing closer and I very much feel like I would like to stay inside and not go anywhere at all. I think that hibernation would suit me at the moment, sometimes life can be too harsh but I know that there are beautiful things all around me, I just have to try harder to see them. Through the low grey drizzle at the allotment, I saw shining lights of spectacular colours and remembered just why chrysanthemums they are the darlings of November.

This is my first year of growing chrysanthemums in my new cutting bed and they are stunning.

The red ones have the most buds on with the most flowers to look forward to.

The orange are the most flamboyant and blousy. They are such fabulous flowers, I can't help be cheered by the vibrant warmth. I 'm now looking forward to getting more and more colours and varieties.

For Jack x