...seen through a slightly smudged, secondhand pair of rose-tinted glasses

Monday, 20 October 2014

Before the rain

I love taking pictures when it's like this - dark, foreboding skies and sunshine. Not kind of what you expect. A battle of the elements. There's more drama, more contrast - the photos look the way I want them to look, if that makes sense…quite often they don't! Especially landscapes.
Having said that, I took loads of the view from the window yesterday morning, because every time I checked, the scene seemed to shift: brighter, darker, greener, hints of orange.

It's often windy when it's like this too. I went for a quick, blustery walk, and just as I reached the top of the hill where the lane flattens out, I found I was heading towards a rainbow. Definitely one of those lovely moments. Beautiful and uplifting.
Kicking myself for leaving the camera at home, though they're tough to photograph don't you think? Hard to catch the magic. Feel like I've seen a lot of rainbows in the last few weeks - more than I can remember seeing for ages - but usually as I'm rushing to and fro from school, so no time to stop. Strange old autumn weather.

And as if to make a point, when I turned to head home, the rain arrived!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Hedwig owl costume

I was up really late last night finishing off, but it was worth it, because today I've been basking in the warm glow of being the best mummy Ever!

Obviously it won't last, so I'm enjoying the moment...

I'm not going to pretend the costume's quick to make, but it is straightforward, so if you're not in a rush and would like to have a go, here's a little run through.

You'll need an old sheet, a balloon, glue and lots of newspaper.

Cut a head-sized hole in the middle of the sheet and slip it on.
Get them to hold up their arms and cut to fit. You'll end up with a sort of circle. It doesn't matter if it looks a bit rough - all adds to the feathery effect!

I pinned and machined a row of stitches down each side, to give the wings more definition, but the costume would work just fine without this.

Zig-zag the wing edges, then make a paper template for the feathers, and cut plenty out of the remains of the sheet, plus any other fabric scraps you like. Quite time-consuming this part, but it makes a big difference I think. Once you've got a decent pile, start sticking them on the wings. We used ordinary PVA craft glue.

The head can take a while too, though this is the most fun part - certainly for the kids. Good old papier mache! Make sure the balloon is as big as possible and that you've torn up lots of newspaper, then get sticking with some runny glue (watered down PVA).
Use a brush to spread the glue all over the top of the newspaper pieces too, so they're nice and smooth. Check you've covered the whole balloon. The ears are scrunched up bits of newspaper, covered in more gluey paper.
For a sturdy head, best to let it dry between layers - this is when you need a bit of patience.
We did three layers altogether.

Paint it white, pop the balloon and cut the paper carefully at the bottom until it fits (a slit at the back helps)

Work out where the eye holes should be, then draw big owl eyes. Make a beak out of cereal box card, bend to give it a ridge down the middle - then, below the eyes, cut an upside down v, the same width as the beak. Feed it through the v, keeping it angled down. Sellotape in place inside. Make a mouth hole under the beak if you want.

Cut out smaller feather shaped pieces from the sheet and snip them in half. It looks good if the first row hangs over the edge a little, then just keep going round.

We cut a few little bits to go round the eyes, but it's totally up to you how much you decorate the mask.

Finally, tie some string through holes in an envelope addressed to Harry Potter.

I was kind of hoping to take another picture, but the snowy owl I picked up this afternoon was muddy and quite dishevelled with a few tomato ketchup splodges down the front….still, no matter, because Hedwig won a prize! Hallelujah!

She was so excited as we walked to the car.

'I'm not going to wear this again Mummy - next time I'm going to be something EVEN BETTER!'

Yeah....I know...

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Giving a hoot about dressing-up days

I'd hazard a guess that for many parents, events like World Book Day are less about the joy of reading, and more about the angst of finding a 'favourite character' costume for the kids to wear to school. And preferably not Harry Potter or Hermione…though you can't knock the quick-delve-in-the-drawers-or-dressing-up-box option.
In my daughter's class last World Book Day there were nine Harry Potters and 4 Matildas (blue dress and a hair band) - I know this, because she was one of them.

On the whole, I tend to stubbornly steer clear of competitive dressing-up - apart from possibly Mr Twit's Beard a few years ago. I did get quite carried away with Mr Twit's Beard!

But then the other day, I got one of those forlorn looks from my daughter that just made me sort of crumple inside.
Her class had to dress up in something purple for a special party at her new school - I was chuffed to bits to find a purple cardy and a dress with purplish flowers.
She wasn't so chuffed…especially when she saw her friends glammed up in sparkly lycra, Strictly style. That's when I got the look.
The best dressed prize went to an impressive bunch of grapes.

BAsically I was shamed into action. So, when a letter came home about the school's book week with a dressing-up day thrown in for good measure, I thought I'd pull out all the stops.
By the way, don't be worrying you've inadvertently missed something: the official World Book Day isn't for months - this just seems to be a warm up!

Anyway, we settled on Hedwig, Harry Potter's snowy owl - somewhat random, and a rather liberal interpretation of the 'favourite character' theme, but it fitted with my 'make stuff for school rule', which is, only things I've already got at home are allowed. Definitely no buying.

I had a sheet, a balloon and plenty of newspaper.

The dressing-up day is tomorrow and I still haven't finished ….if it works out I'll post a pic!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The nearly but not quite so-so Show

I thought it was going to be a so-so show after a rather slow Saturday, but thankfully things picked up on Sunday. You never can tell really; my friend had a better Saturday - still, I think overall we both felt it had been worth it: good feedback and lessons learnt.

Not that decent sales meant a heap of cash…they're not exactly money-spinners my toys. Not really the sort of thing people are prepared to pay a lot of money for, but that's okay. I'd rather make fiddly bits and bobs than big stuff - though realistically big and simple might stretch my teeny margins.
Thing is, I'm a seasonal crafter - I've only ever sold at fairs in the run-up to Christmas, and I don't want it to feel like a chore, so I'm going to stick to what I like, which is the small stuff. The time-consuming, fiddly small stuff! Best to stop there before I start belting out the chorus of, 'It's not about the money'...

One exception to the 'not going big' rule though is the bunnies, which have been expanding. This was my mum's idea, and a good one, because they're more like a small pillow pet, so actually have a use besides being a squidgey soft toy. I only made one, and can't show it to you because it sold before I remembered to take a picture…should listen to my mum more often.
I didn't sell many of my Christmas decorations, so, possibly a bit previous with those. Hopefully have more luck in a few weeks time.

The atmosphere was great in our big old Vintage Pavillion tent - there was vintage tea party going on down one end, and singing and dancing 40's/50's style straight across from us. By midday it really was buzzing; plenty of people looking around, including Catherine, my lovely blogging friend from Ditsygran Quilts. Really good to meet her in person, and she very sweetly bought one of the little hand knitted mice. Catherine is such a talented crafter - her knits for her grandchildren are adorable: she also recently learnt to quilt and to crochet, and now does both like a pro. So annoying!

Sharing the stand was great from the nattering point of view, but it also meant we could take it in turns to have a wander. Loads to do and see and eat and buy - and I only got round a fraction of what was on offer. I know it sounds sales-pitchy, but there really seemed to be something for everyone at Malvern - classic cars, cooking demos, gardening galore, all manner of machinery, dog agility competitions -  I even found a Tintin shop! Made my day that. And then there was the giant veg: something else, the giant veg. What makes a person want to grow monster onions? What's that all about? Amazing though. The photos don't do them justice - should have put something standard size beside the onions so you could see how colossal they were!

I'll definitely be back…but buying bulbs and blooms and gorping at giant veg rather than selling I think.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Jumble by name and jumble by nature

Nerves jingling a bit now, though in a good way I think! Still have the occasional wave of fear that I won't sell anything, but mostly I'm excited; and sure, there's nothing more I can do, seeing as the show's tomorrow…

SO pleased I'm sharing the stand with a friend - definitely takes the pressure off, and we'll have a laugh, whatever happens. There's also a bit of me that's looking forward to escaping for two days...is that bad?  I'd kind of hoped my husband was going to have a full-on home alone with the kids experience, but they're all away on sleepovers! Sod's law, hey?

The main reason for the jingling nerves is the Malvern Autumn show is in a different league from anything I've done before - it's an all singing, all dancing proper 2 day County fair, and it's vast! Gardening, fair rides, food, cookery demos, cars, animals, flower arranging, and monster vegetables. Thousands of people go, but not necessarily to buy crafty things if you know what I mean, so it'll be interesting to see how it pans out. We're in the Vintage Pavillion, which is a rather chi-chi way of saying a big old tent, but apparently there'll also be a band playing and a bit of tea dancing and jiving going on, which sounds fun.

So I've got halfway down a page without mentioning my stuff….this time I thought it'd be a good idea to pep up my Jumble Betty display. A friend of my husband's very kindly made me a tiered stand, and I covered cardboard JB letters with all sorts: paper, fabric, napkins, yarn. I've got to say, this took A LOT longer than I was expecting, especially the knitted T. Which is why there's only one.

You'll probably recognise some of the toys, but there are a few new ones too.

I've a few vintage bits and bobs I've picked up as well, so it truly is going to be a right old jumble!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Cafes, customer care and curiously cute kitchens

Still no bloody broadband.

Three engineers out so far and each one has said it's someone else's problem. Sound familiar?

So I’m writing long lists of stuff I want to check and drinking troughs of Cafe coffee, when time allows.

Only a few weeks in, and I’ve had a change of heart on the Cafe front too. I’ve been going to the same one pretty regularly for a year; making use of the wifi when there’s no point traipsing 35 minutes home between pick ups. I have the same coffee every time, the staff are the same, and still I’m lucky if I get the faintest flicker of recognition. Not the best feeling really, being instantly forgettable! Even a smidgeon of interest would be good, and we’re talking small town here; a steady trickle of customers; they’re not exactly run off their feet.now you see, I’m writing this wondering why I've stuck with it for so long! Anyway, when one of them was monumentally unhelpful about my failure to get online, I popped across the road to another Cafe, where I instantly got connected, and the next time I was in, the girl remembered my coffee. Such a small thing, but that’s all it takes.

Back to blog business and promised pics of a few summer french finds. 
I think my favourite ever buy at a french flea market/Vide Grenier has got to be this small, vintage toy kitchen by Comme Maman. Maybe you remember it?  

So imagine my utter joy when I spied another one! Couldn’t believe it! Though had to hold my breath as I watched a woman right by it hand over some money..huge wave of relief when she picked up an old doll’s wardrobe. 
The kitchen is rather tatty and rusty with bits missing, like the other one - I think it would have had a little water container so you could fill the sink, and there'd have been lots of tiny utensils. Need to do some investigating.  Another thing to add to the flipping list...

I happily handed over 3 euros, and the kitchen was mine. My husband wasn’t with us at the time.and not being the biggest fan of the first one, his face was such a picture when he saw it. Sort of bewildered resignation. 

The kitchen has now joined the orange kitchen in our kitchen. 

This find had wider appeal - it’s vintage Tupperware and has a clever little draining handle for olives, gherkins and the like. One euro well spent I think.

Another pyrex dish, and the eldest's first apple crumble. Don't know why he's looking so glum, it was delicious! I know I've got a fair bit of pyrex, but it was only 50c.

A little wooden couple that made me think of the rather weird candlestick I got last time.

Lovely antique salt cellar - a little dear at 8 euros,  but I've been looking for one for a while.

This was only 50c - always handy to have a place to display tiny things. I thought I might jolly it up with a bit of decoupage and sell it, but if I do, I’ll probably want to keep it. This is the problem...

A lovely vintage four-in-one game in great condition.

If there is a plus side to all this internet strife it’s that I've really pushed on with my crafting.  The toy pile is growing and it all looks bright and cheery, so I’m feeling pretty happy about that. I’ll hopefully be able to show you some Jumble Betty stuff next week. Maybe even from the comfort of home, wouldn't that be great? 
And exceedingly unlikely.

Monday, 1 September 2014


basically how I feel after a good chunk of time away from blogging; loads to say, but I don’t know where to start really, or if any of it’s remotely interesting; I swear it’s been like pulling teeth getting a few sentences down. Doesn’t take long for the general daily fuzz of life to stomp out the blogging habit it would seem. And rather ironically, since I’ve been thinking about posting, our internet connection’s mysteriously vanished - no chance of it being fixed until the middle of September either. So annoying, after cutting back on my online time when the flipping thing WAS working. Still, the self-imposed laptop ban definitely helped, I got a lot more done. Not to say that juggling kids and craft didn't have its moments - often I’d get frustrated, or they would, but I got enough stuff made up for the Malvern Show to just about extinguish that small flickering flame of panic. Only four weeks to go. See, I can say that now without feeling ever so slightly sick.

I will show you what I’ve done when things settle down - I’d love some advice - but for now I just wanted to get going again and say hello. 
It’s been a good summer on the whole, and when I say that, I’m choosing to overlook the times I felt more like a ref than a mum; the bickering’s been wild - who said kids get easier as they get older? The only improvement I’ve noticed is they no longer wake up a dawn. And I’m getting some tedious teenage behaviour from the 12 year old, though he does make me laugh with his love of vintage sitcoms - this holiday he watched the Dad’s Army box set - all 39 hours of it. Totally bonkers.

Anyway, for all the squabbling, tantrums and the countless times they chose to ignore the things I asked them to do, I’ve kind of got used to the kids being around. Dreading the return of the school run; hours hanging around car parks, and hounding them to do their homework.

Still desperately clinging to memories of our lovely holiday in France - so relaxing being away from it all for a while, in a different space, even with all my making bits and bobs. I spent many happy hours knitting or sewing under a shady pine tree, watching the kids mess about in the water. Have to say that’s another thing that’s got easier - I no longer have to chase after them, like an anxious shadow.

I’ve even been a bit rubbish at taking holiday photos, not a single sunflower shot, which has got to be a first, though I did snap a sunset or two.

No such lapses on the Vide Grenier front, obviously... Managed to squeeze a few in, and can’t wait to show you what I found, just need to get the kids sorted for the new term. And find a cafe with wifi.