Wednesday 31 December 2008

Another Year

After the weeks of work and preparation Christmas seemed to come and go in a flash as usual. A wonderful time was had by all made interesting by my newly repaired oven exploding in the middle of cooking Christmas dinner. Fortunately the turkey was cooked so we plied everyone with more wine while we pan fried the potatoes and parsnips. No one seemed to mind. On Saturday Stewart and I abandoned the boys to a house full of cold leftovers, and while they had parties in our absence we drove to Scotland to visit his parents.

On Sunday we had a lovely day out at Glamis castle which was beautifully decorated for Christmas... unfortunately no photos allowed inside so here's one of the imposing exterior.

And on Saturday we had a drive around the beautiful coastal towns of the East Neuk of Fife in glorious sunshine but bitter cold - stopping briefly for the obligatory photo - Stewart with his Mum and Dad.

Before Christmas I showed a few sneaky peeks of things I'd been working on and now I can show the finished items. First of all the Klimt book for Jude...

Like I said it involved eating a lot of chocolate to get all those foils... especially as I made two (the first one didn't quite fit!)

And in return Jude made me this beautiful Klimt book too...

Exquisitely stitched of course.

Even inside, the attention to detail was beautiful. Thank you Jude... I love it!

The second sneaky peek was this doll... Angela had commissioned me to make a doll of her husband Neil. I've never had to model a doll on a real person before so it was quite a challenge, but one that I really enjoyed.

And this is the end result...

But what is really exciting is that you can read what Angela and Neil thought about the doll themselves because Angela has got a blog at last! I've been nagging her for a long time so please go and visit, leave her lots of comments and encourage her to keep blogging because she produces beautiful work that needs to be shared.

I've now got a house to clean, food to restock and work to finish for mid January so I might be gone a while. Meanwhile I would like to wish you all...

A Very Happy New Year!

Saturday 20 December 2008

Happy Christmas!

Well, the present got wrapped, the class was prepared and the dessert got finished... I even got some sleep! Should you be wondering (and even if you weren't... indulge me) the dessert was a Christmas cheesecake. When Joe did his GCSE in food technology he chose cheesecake as his "product" which meant week after week of different cheesecakes which we all tried and tested. As a result we've become cheesecake affectionados. When I decided I would like to make a Christmas cheesecake we got quite carried away thinking of all the different flavours we could include. So this is basically Nigella's New York cheesecake on a ginger biscuit base, with the vanilla and lemon replaced with cinnamon and orange, topped with a cranberry compote... it was well received!

So with all that done, the last class taught and the last commission delivered, today I've actually started some real Christmas preparation... helped of course by a glass of mulled wine and the obligatory Christmas CD.

There has been lots of baking...

And I've even managed to get a Christmas cake in the newly repaired oven - okay, it won't be the most mature cake we've ever had but I've just taken it out and it smells pretty good! Still time for marzipan on Tuesday and icing on Wednesday!

The decorations have gone up... including the mistletoe (a girl can hope???)

And the tree was finally put up and decorated with lots of old favourite decorations and several new ones this year too - thanks to some lovely bloggy gifts!

My favourite though is still my fairy. Sometimes I think she must be as old as me... but not quite! She always looks a bit of a floozy with her sparkly knitted dress and broken wing, as though she's had a glass or two too many but out she comes year after year to top our tree.

I've a sneaky feeling this might be my last post before Christmas... still presents to wrap (and buy or finish making!) plus on Monday I'm driving Jacob and two of his friends all the way to Birmingham. Not like other families, to see a pantomime or perhaps the ballet... but to see The Mighty Boosh! I'll tell you all about it when I come back.
Meanwhle, thank you all so much for sticking with me and my rambling. It has been lovely to meet so many blogging friends this year. So I'd just like to wish you all...

A wonderful, peaceful and happy Christmas!

Tuesday 16 December 2008


I'm tired, I need to go to bed but I've a pudding to finish which I'm taking to our Zigzag Christmas lunch tomorrow, stuff to get ready because I'm teaching in the morning, a present to wrap... so I'm blogging instead. Sound familiar? Well I've some overdue thank yous and I had to show you my paper tree made from folded magazine pages. First seen demonstrated by Moogsmum... (I think) but I'm too tired to find the link. Then I had lunch with a friend last week (lovely lunch thank you Pat!) and she had made one too which inspired me to give it a try.

I think I may have cancelled out all the good of recycling the magazine though by then taking a spray can of gold paint to it!

Anyway... those thank yous. First to Maria for this gorgeously wrapped surprise which turned up at the weekend.

Inside were these two beautiful hearts which will hang on my tree if it ever gets put up. Thank you Maria.

And the second parcel contained these fabulous wiggly bags from Angela... who really must get a blog!

Not only that she included some emergency chocolate too! Thank you Angela.

Angela has recently opened a wonderful shop in Peterborough selling all sorts of fabric and art supplies so if you are in the area do pay her a visit. There will be an official opening in January so I'm sure I'll tell you all about it again as I'm going to be involved.

And to finish... some good news! I have a working oven which has meant the first batch of Christmas baking this week!

I'm now going to bed... the other jobs can wait until the morning!

Saturday 13 December 2008

Silver Pebbles!

Yesterday, together with the lovely Silverpebble and a very cute and happy baby pebble, I descended on the Dotty Cookie household. The purpose of our gathering was to learn how to make precious things from silver clay. First of all we were treated to a delicious lunch by Val - a tasty butternut squash soup, some homemade bread and the most amazing pudding made from chesnuts and apples and meringue... I did take a photograph but it was out of focus so you'll just have to use your imagination! We then got to work, modelling tiny pieces of silver clay into discs and applying a liquid clay through stencils to make a design on the surface.... so far so good!

The clay pieces were dried out in the oven while we prepared for the next stage in the process. Usually Emma does this over her gas hob in the kitchen but being without a gas hob in Val's kitchen we resorted to using one of these... a bit of an experiment.

I would like to point out that at this stage I was holding the baby so can take no responsibility for what happened next. Someone (I'm not mentioning any names) applied the blow torch to the little clay discs which were resting on a wire gauze... they began to glow (use your imagination again... I can't hold babies and take photos)... they began to glow some more. Then without any warning they burst into dramatic flames. There was nervous laughter which rapidly became hysterical. Tiny small and Tall small found the sight of three slightly hysterical grown up women very amusing. When the flames died down, the clay had turned to silver as it should but it had also melted and fused to the gauze. We prized them off and put them into a bowl of water to cool and although they had lost some definition, I'm really pleased with my "silver pebble" and can see the dragonfly very clearly... which is pretty amazing as I didn't have my glasses with me and couldn't see a thing while I was making it!

The results might not have been as planned but I had lots of fun and a really lovely day... can we play again soon? Please?

Friday 12 December 2008

A productive week

A few things finished, and some more things started... not all of which I can show you but progress indeed! The first thing was a challenge that started in August to make a Klimt inspired cover for a blank book... just a little glimpse of the finished item which is on it's way to Jude. I would like to point out that the making of this book involved great sacrifice on my part as I had to consume several boxes of Ferraro Rocher chocolates for the wrappers. Well you can't make something inspired by Klimt without a bit of gold!

I've also finished off another commission... a doll which again I can't actually show you yet for a couple of weeks. This one really was a challenge!

There has also been a little bit of this...

and a few more of these.

And I've even managed to make a start on these...

Not a lot finished on the degree work though... maybe next week! There was also an exciting bloggy meeting today with alchelmy and fire (and some darned good lunch!) but you'll have to wait until another time for that!

Monday 8 December 2008

And the Winner is...

Twenty names were written out on little pieces of paper...

They were folded up and put into my new Chistmas plate - which was bought for mince pies but as my oven is still not repaired* there haven't been any mince pies.

My very able helper then interrupted his ironing and picked out a name... which you may not be able to read...

But it says "Kitty No. 1 & No. 2" so a Chistmas parcel will be on it's way to Kitty Wrinkle and her two children. If you email me with your address Kitty, I'll get it on its way today.

Sorry the rest of you didn't win - would like to send you all a copy of The Wishing Eel - although you could all buy a copy!!!
This week I'm finishing off my current Opus module, finishing a Christmas present for a certain someone (Yes Jude... it is the book!), finishing a couple of commissions, writing my Christmas cards as well as all the usual teaching, cooking, cleaning etc so I may not be around much. See you at the end of the week for a progress report!
* The part arrived on Thursday and I have contacted a man who is coming to fix it after work one day this week... but won't say which day.... arrrrgh!

Saturday 6 December 2008

Busy Work!

I've had a lovely day with the nine girls and two boys who came to Young Embroiderers today and in the words of my sons' reception class teacher... "They did lots of very busy work"! So I thought I'd share it with you.

There were lots of dolly peg angels finished, dressed up in all sorts of finery! I love the expressions on some of their faces.

Nikki and Matthew finished their coasters...

and so did Cathleen and Quentin.

There were Christmas cards made

and even some wrapping paper.

And Molly (who is only 8) decided she would like to make a snowman... and so she did! All her own design and rather super!

I leave you with a rather splendid example of an embroidered sampler. You may recall last time we met we made crazy crows. One of my helpers, Mary, took the idea and came up with her own fabulous version covered with beautiful embroidery stitches. He looks more regal than crazy!

Friday 5 December 2008

Young Embroiderers

Tomorrow I'm wearing my "Young Embroiderers leader" hat for our Christmas meeting. I was told that traditionally they always make an ornament, a card, a present and some wrapping paper... so as I'm fairly new to the job I thought I'd better not break with tradition... well not this year anyway. So much of this week has been spent gathering materials, working out methods and preparing samples. First of all the ornaments which you've already seen, the dolly peg angels.

Next I worked out a couple of very simple designs for some cross stitch cards... and remembered after about 10 minutes why I never want to do cross stitch again. It is so laborious (and I've made a fair few samplers in my time!)

For the present I made these appliqued felt coasters (I was sent the pattern - thank you Judith - which I think came from "Fabrications" magazine) which I really enjoyed making. They were quick and fun to make and very effective.

Not only that they are practical too... perfect for a Christmas Cuppa!

And finally against my better judgement, because I don't see what it has to do with embroidery there is some snowflake wrapping paper made from brown paper, sponged with white paint over paper snowflake cutouts. Pretty but not embroidery! I'll take photos of what the children make tomorrow.

Don't forget to enter my Christmas giveaway - even if you don't have children of your own... borrow some!