Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Christmas Blessings.

Well, how was it for you? I have loved Christmas this year. Truthfully I can't think of a Christmas I have not enjoyed, though some may have been more difficult than others financially, emotionally, etc. This one came after a year that has been hard, really hard, on lots of levels and yet I have found myself loving it all the more because of it. Almost to the last I felt as though some force was testing me as I finally fell to the dreaded flu which has apparently swept the country, but HA! I beat the blighter, finally recovering the day before Christmas Eve to find I had somehow completed and posted all the list of orders which had almost overwhelmed me during the last two weeks as I sat at the machine sewing away like some poor creature from the depths of a Dickens'novel, only leaving my post to tend to the equally poorly Isabella begging hugs from the sofa. Not only had I managed this quite to my surprise, but as the fog that was a soaring temperature cleared I realised I had almost finished the list of handmade presents for friends and family too including door hangers

boxes of our homemade vinegars and jellies, little muslin parcels of herbs picked and dried from our garden nestling between the bottles and keeping company with homemade liquers; two pairs of fingerless mittens embroidered with flowers,

a rag doll and cot quilt set (dolly has already been much loved and petted thank heavens),

an appliqued & embroidered draught excluder (which I cannot work out how to photograph!)

and finally, finally I completed the quilt for Isabella which I had so stupidly said I would make earlier this year when optimism was still my best friend! Am I boasting? You bet I am!!!

As ever, I have photographed these badly, but I am so very pleased with the quilt which is the first I have ever freehand quilted on my machine. I love the way it puckered so beautifully after washing to make pockets of snuggly fabric just like the ones I had seen in shops; I love the combination of colours, all pink and lilac on one side with a contrasting reverse of cherry scattered fabric against the white border; I love it all and though I did not manage one for Lucy (hadn't mentioned it luckily) I have cut out most of the squares and will make it for her birthday in March (!).

The children were all here for the big day with boyfriends and girlfriends in and out at various points. It has been relaxed, full of large meals round the table - 10 for Christmas lunch this year - enormous buffets with cakes and quiches and relishes all prepared to the wonderful sound of the Carols from Kings on Christmas Eve as the twilight fell...just perfect. The same table has seen us gathered for games after cold walks by the sea with little Isabella wrapped up in her new pink fluffy coat, icy winds whipping the waves into huge breakers crashing onto the shore as flocks of gull soared ever higher in the spray. Derelict engine houses resting their weary stones precariously close to the cliff edge, of which there are many in Cornwall, have been inspected while ponies graze the cliff paths all around.

A delicious bowlfull of mussels freshly picked by Dave and Elias was consumed with much enthusiasm accompanied by glasses of chilled white wine, fingers wet with the salt water of seafood cooked in nothing but their own juices, evoking the beach with every scrumptious mouthful. Lucy and Elias unfortunately discovered us greedily scoffing in the kitchen and joined in, the once heaped bowl of indigo blue shellfish disappearing with unseemly haste as we raced to beat each other to the sweet morsels hidden within.

The evenings have consisted of roaring fires as we snuggle up to watch Cranford on DVD, a couple of episodes an evening to enable two of the younger ones to join in before they are gently shooed to bed leaving Davey and I to watch the last flames die down by the lights of the Christmas tree with our books close at hand.

As ever, I find I am looking ahead and planning for the New Year. All those new chances, all those wonderful possibilities. Change and hope and a growing list of New Year's Revolutions (a Lauren-saying from many moons ago which has stayed with us)to pin onto my board in the sewing room. I have planted the last bulbs finally in the garden and look forward to the sight of the snowdrops so delicate and pure outside our kitchen window followed as they are by the daffodils which I love for their sunshinyness, the brilliance of the yellow making the sun appear in every room they are gathered, spilling out of vases and jugs, and particularly looking wonderful in the Cornish Blue striped jug. And then the tulips, scarlet and beautiful, but I am running away and looking too far. If only I could bottle that excitement at the thought of another fresh, clean year.

It truly has been wonderful Christmas and for that I am so very thankful.

Happy New Year everyone xx

Monday, 22 December 2008

Happy Christmas Everyone!

Time is overtaking me and so I am going to leave my little blog until the New Year though I am hoping to grab some quiet moments to catch up on everybody elses when I can.

I hope you all have the loveliest of Christmasses full of love and cheer and laughter. Take care xxx

Friday, 19 December 2008

Almost Here!

Not sure if that refers to me or Christmas! The time has just flown away from me and has been spent in a whirl which has been testing at times to say the least. Isabella has been so very poorly since last week with a raging temperature and chesty cough. Her little body has lain limp on the sofa with only whimpering emanating forth, this interpersed with crying of the 'want hug' variety. I have also had Lucy ill with the same cough though no temperature, and then Dave and I finally succumbed too. I have not been this ill for years and have found myself sitting hunched at the sewing machine in the kitchen (warmer than my sewing room and couldn't leave the littles anyway) trying to fulfill orders around the various demands of the sick...as you do.

Still, enough of that. Today sees Isabella in better spirits, stating she 'want somepin eat' and Lucy brighter too; Dave and I are fine, just a little weak from the pleasure of the lurgy and I have sent out what I sincerely hope and have convinced myself will be my last Christmas order - woohoo!!! Now I can sew and knit like a mad thing in a desperate attempt to complete the gifts for everyone else as the budget dictates it's that or nothing! Best to be honest about such things and talking of beautiful handmade gifts, go look at Diana's from Pebbledash who has the most wonderful eye for things. I love her blog for its serenity and the beautiful pictures often highlight this wonderful county we both share whch makes it even more lovely to me. She is also very lovely and I am lucky enough to now count her as a friend, so pop over and have a look.

So, in between the frantic preparations I hope we will manage more decoration making like this one of Mr Dave's (the Christmas tree not the fairy which is all Lucy's own work).

Lots of walks like these as I so have missed the fresh air.

The beach of course will be included.

A spot of gardening ready for the excitement that the New Year always brings, full of hope and possibility and promise.

And I also hope there will be plenty of time for some crafting for myself because I love it so, though obviously that will be after the big day methinks. Generally, I am looking forward to slowing down and seeing what's around me again, and that time is almost here...almost.

Have a lovely day xx

Monday, 8 December 2008

The Tale of a Princess.

This wonderful blaze of colour is what greeted Lucy as she swept the curtain back this morning. So dazzling was the display of the showing-off sky that she called for the camera, hoping to hold on to its beauty before the inevitable rain won the daily battle and turned our world pewter grey once more. We stood on the doorstep, chill wind whipping round the camellia as we struggled to find a gap between pollarded chestnut and jutting rooftops, and in the end settled for anywhere the sky shone through, anywhere we could bathe in its burnished glow for just a moment.

Isabella had far more important things to think about. "Want be Pincess," she announced racing to the wardrobe where Miss Lucy's vast collection of dressing-up clothes resides (thank you Granny-mother)and stood expectantly before it as I rummaged through the vibrant folds of a myriad guises. Within this wardrobe of age-softened walnut there are the makings of many a play as fairy dresses spill over gossamer wings and tiaras sit atop gowns fit for a princess. Should the tale involve castaways and shipwrecks then pirate garb of tattered trews nestle with eye patches and cutlass (fake I hasten to add!), a choice of headgear featuring skull & crossbones or white spots on navy depending on your mood, and even a flag for the ship can be found. Dancers can choose from ballet tutus and leotards or Haiwaiian skirts and strings of brightly coloured flowers for the ley. There's a lion cub, a devilish Hallowe'en outfit or two, wands and Darth Vader and even a Welsh national costume because Granny-mother liked the colours...but Isabella wanted to be a Pincess so first she donned her beautiful tiara encrusted with diamonds and pink garnets (!).

Next came her dress

and then she rode away on rocking dragon to save the Prince from a cow ... as you do.

Finally, this brave Princess did what most Princesses do: she put her coat and scarf over her beautiful gown, took big sister to school and queued in the Post Office for aeons and aeons till her mummy, Queen Pipany of the Wold, offloaded her parcels. They walked along the river as the mist came down, an eerie light settling over the deepening rivulets of the turning tide and the haunting cries of the hidden river-birds wheeling their way through the thickened air.

"We go home now and eat cake," declared Princess Isabella.

And we did!

Bye for now xx

Friday, 5 December 2008

An orange a day.

The festive mood continues apace, yesterday involving the slicing of oranges to make tree decorations. Isabella helped of course and we started by choosing the most orangey looking oranges in the store - not as obvious as it sounds as there were a plethora of rather anaemic looking fruits for some strange reason.

We then sliced them mostly thinly, though I did get carried away occasionally as I chatted too much with my helper and forgot the task in hand.

We placed these slices on several trays and popped them into the oven on the lowest setting for ages. Oh how I envy those of you with Agas and Rayburns with their warming ovens just perfect for jobs such as these. Still, I do love our huge range oven which has fed so many people on a regular basis without so much as a groan (please don't let me regret that now Christmas looms large!).

Isabella's help mostly took this form...

When thoroughly dried out and cool I threaded the slices with wire to hang on the tree where they now hang like little stained glass windows allowing the twinkly fairy lights to glow through as is NOT shown in this appalling photograph taken in a hurry this morning.

Ah well, they are easy to do and very pretty. You can also wire on bay leaves, cinammon sticks, anything really, so why not give them a go? Yes, I know I'm bossy but there we are! Righty oh, a slightly better Christmassy picture to leave you with.

Have a lovely day xx

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

That song keeps buzzing round my head at the moment, though truthfully I only repeat that one line and hum the rest as I haven't the foggiest what the words are. Foggy is another word that repeats in my head with an endless persistence, much like the never-ending cycle of the merry-go-round, slowing, slowing and then building up with the next quick push from an unexpected corner. In my case, the corner isn't really so very unexpected as it takes the form of emails and orders...by the barrow load. If I thought last year was anything to go by, my very first Christmas as a small business woman (gosh, that sounds good) then I was wrong. I thought I was busy then, but when I look back it was busy because it was new to me. I had only been 'open' for a month or so and was so surprised to receive orders, any orders, that I felt that I must be as busy as it was possible to be, bless my poor naive soul.

I had no idea how much I should have in stock or what to stock in all honesty. What I liked and had made for my own family over the years - the basis I have built this business on - suddenly seemed not good enough, amateurish even, to my nervous eye. The wonders of self-confidence or lack of never cease to amaze me. On the one hand, there I was the exhausted mother of a one and a half year old, fairly demanding baby who couldn't seem to finish anything she started before one of the somewhat large brood needed something, and on the other was this determined yet foggy-brained me who had worked with dave through the summer to learn all about website building, photography, copy writing, designing, making...oh the list is endless. I can't wuite see what I was doing in hindsight and can only put it down to hormones still not settled post baby! If ever there was a way to make yourself feel like you're messing up, I think I found it.

This year I built stock ready for the Christmas rush I hoped would come, listened with an ever-depressed ear - if there can be such a thing - to the doom and gloom of the credit crunch and crossed my fingers as hard as I could. I have been amazed how busy I have been and how quickly stock has needed replenishing (a lesson for next year - there is no such thing as enough!). My confidence has certainly had a little boost as I must be doing something right. I have also been so thrilled to see that the items ordered have been across the entire range from bags to babbits, lavender hearts to lavender sachets, door hangings for children to door hangings for adults. It isn't always easy to have a wide range of goods on the site, but it is what I wanted it to be and so far, touch wood, it seems to work snd if it isn't broke as they say...

I am lucky as I love what I do and, so far, the fates, gods or whoever have looked after me. Let's just hope it continues this way and that I somehow manage to lose the foggy feeling that has resulted from not being able to switch off at night, the lists of 'things to do' running past my eyes as I stare into the dark and that blasted song milling around my almost addled brain....It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

Bye from me and The Angel Gadriel who is now in her 21st year of sitting on our tree (thanks Tom x) xx

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

A gentle weekend.

The children recovered from their colds as quickly as children invariably do. I on the other hand grew feverish, sneezed with a highly tiresome regularity and turned my nose into a festive rendition of Rudolph's own with my endless wiping of the poor thing. I usually get a cold about once every one or two years which lasts for precisely one day and is thus indulged with snuggling close to the fire and a delicious hot toddy or three. To my utter disgust this one ran into day two and continued its merry way into day three for good measure at which point Mr Davey insisted I take to my bed, something I have to be forced to do as I love the idea, but can only endure it if I am well enough to actually enjoy the experience! Hence, it never happens. Sunday saw me ensconced beneath our quilt with a pile of knitting and the Country Living Christmas edition, and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed myself despite the exhaustion of endless sneezing fits. I did however get up for a brief while in the afternoon with the appropriate permission from Dave to make the Christmas pudding; well, it was Stir Up Sunday after all.

Dave and I both love cooking and have devised a plan to enable us both to get a bite of the Christmas cherry so to speak. This year it is his turn to cook the Christmas dinner and mine to make the pudding, such an enjoyable task that I was not about to give it up because of a cold. Goodness it was good to get back to bed after all that mixing though. Wishes were made whilst stirring by the children who were present - most of them on this occasion - and those who were absent received phone calls telling them to imagine they were stirring (while we actually did it for them) and make their wish that way. And here is the delicious end result: Mr Dave's Figgy Pudding,a gorgeously unctious mix of figs, nuts, zest and alcohol all made to his very own recipe.

And again...

And here is one of the bowls we use as we always make two

I also have moved forward with the little rag doll I am making for isabella and she now has a dress and hat trimmed with lace that once belonged to my Grandmother and now belongs to me.

Her face is yet to be finished, but she now has a little mop cap with a tiny bow nestled close to the brim. I so love making this.

A pair of lace-trimmed bloomers

So she is almost complete now - I hope Isabella loves her as much as I have loved making her.

I also managed to get some more paperwork done and some business planning for next year. How lovely to be trapped in one place and able to let the ideas just flow. I got increasingly excited at the thought of moving things forward, seeing where I could take my little business which has steadily grown over the last year and taught me so much about everything concerned from packaging, designing, making...oh the list is endless, but perhaps most important of all is what I have learnt about myself. I realise I am far more of a perfectionist than I thpought I was, far too hard on myself when things invariably go awry once in a while and far too ready to work myself to an early grave. On the positive side though I have noticed a gentle increase in self-confidence, always a huge problem for me, so Hooray for that!

Have a lovely day xx

Friday, 21 November 2008

Colds and Christmas.

The two little girls have colds of the nose-streaming, shadow-eyed variety. And so do I. The kitchen table is strewn with paperwork for the business which I have let slip a little recently and last night seemed a good time to bring it back into order as Mr Dave was away for the night due to work. It had obviusly slipped a little more than I thought as I finally went to bed at a quarter to twelve and there is still a small amount left to do. Still, no matter; I like the feeling of restoring order into chaos and that's just as well with a family this size. So, today two young ladies snuggled under covers on the settees (even though they are feeling fine in themselves, hence Isabella leaping around like a banshee every so often) and Mama has supplied copious plates of vitamin laden 'snacks'. They are like me in that they never lose their appetites through illness (depression, happiness, anger...you get the picture).

As I raced out to get some work in from the sewing room, I noticed this broad bean growing - well, flowering actually - by the steps. How many times I must pass this spot and yet only today did I notice just how well this determined self-seeded bean is doing. My mouth waters at the possibility of an out of season mini-feast.

Things are creeping along slowly on the Christmas present front with orders obviously taking priority. My recent foray into appliqued houses originated in this partly completed draught excluder I am making for my daughter, Lauren, who has the most enormous gap beneath her door in her student house. I am hoping it will eliminate the howling gale currently sweeping through her room and enable her to feel her Mamma is with her, keeping her warm as she works. More pictures when it is eventually finished, though I must say I find this kind of work extremely trying when attempting to get decent pictures - any tips most gratefully received please.

Other gifts in the making include this diminutive young lady for Isabella who absolutely loves dolls and has a mother who absolutely loves rag dolls. She will soon have her face, hair and some clothes to keep out the chills...

...and will also be wrapped up with her own quilted cot cover and embroidered pillow.

It's reversible too.

With embroidered flowers on the pillow. Oh, I mentioned that already. Dire light in this room today, but I am trying to avoid Isabella seeing.

The quilt I am making for Isabella is almost ready now, I just need to find a fabric for the back. Dave and I have our eyes firmly fixed on some beautiful Japanese material with cherries scatterd over a white ground...just lovely, but we shall see.

(Nearly there, I promise). A Christmassy door hanger...well, it could be hung anywhere actually - over a mantle, from a tree, on the wall.

And just so you don't think I play all the time, here are just a few of the huge pile of lavender and chamomile sachets to be completed for an order wending its way to Richmond later today. Can't even smell them my nose is so bunged up. Hot toddy tonight, mmm.

Bye for now xx