Thursday, 31 January 2008

Baby it's cold outside

Finally I have finished this little girl, she was supposed to be sent today, so I am a day late, and I still have another to finish tonight. And yeah, it really IS cold outside, brrrrrr.

This winter theme really threw me, I mean, it should have been easy, but I had no wintery fabrics, and really wasn't sure how else to interpret this season without frost and snow, anyways, I got there in the end, it certainly took me a while...

I will be back tomorrow with some blog and etsy love, I must go and finish the other winter dotee, bonsoir!

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Dotee Mania

In my newbie enthusiasm I have signed up for a ridiculous amount of Dotee swaps on Swap-bot, as well as a couple of private swaps.
In recent weeks I have become more and more disillusioned with the whole swapping business, I have been flaked on an awful lot, or I have felt disappointed with the parcels I did receive.

I put SO much time and effort into my swaps, I spend around 4-5 hours on each dotee (at least 6 now I am beading them) and the other swaps I have joined that have required I go shopping for specific things have ended up being verrry expensive, because I REALLY want my partner to be pleased with what I send. So, it is very disheartening when you don't receive such nice packages in return.

Just as I was about to jack it all in and concentrate on private swaps only, I started receiving some WONDERFUL packages, that brought a smile back to my face.

First up, huge round of applause to Sena from Kentucky, this is her first ever dotee, for the Valentines swap, and it is just the cutest!

I was SO SO SO excited to receive this beauty, it was hard to pick out the details with my camera, but there are some really lovely embellishments, and Sena also sent me a couple of items from my profile wish list which was just super thoughtful, THANK YOU SENA!

The next little beauty to arrive was this...

This dotee is from the Winter swap, and was made by Zoe in the UK. She included a charming note about her creative process, explaining how she chose the colours and the embellishments, I can see so much thought went into this lil girl and I am truly delighted with her.

Theres more, oh boy is there more, I have really been spoiled this week.
Michelle in Vermont sent me this little baby for the Creativity January swap...

This was her first Dotee also, I think she did an amazing job, I especially love the fabric and colours on this dotee, it is so cheerful!

Lastly, I also joined a Maytroshka swap, I haven't yet made mine but today I received from my swap partner and I nearly squealed like a starving piggy when I saw it.

Aren't they divine? These are from Mary in the US, I just love the colours and the HAIR! I must try hair on my dotee's some day.

Thank you Thank you wonderful swappers for restoring my faith, I am so happy to have received such lovely gifts from you all!
I have SO many dotee's to make now that I am starting to feel a little overwhelmed. Also, I have become hyper self-critical, I just can't help it, I will get half way through making one and I just don't like it, so I start all over, I HAVE to stop that because it is just becoming ridiculous now, I have more abandoned Dotee's than completed Dotee's and that's not good!

I completed one tonight for the Winter swap, just in the nick of time too, there are only two days till the send deadline and I still have one more to make for this swap, eeek! It was too dark to take pics but I will post some tomorrow, I am really pleased with how it turned out in the end!

Until tomorrow my pretties, sleep tight <3

Monday, 28 January 2008

Time for the Chop

If you are a man, just turn away now, skip to another lovely blog and come back tomorrow when this one has moved down, trust me, you will be grateful for this advice.

Today it was time for our little Goat friend, Littlefoot, to part with his family jewels. Carla insisted he must have the chop before he could move to his new home, as his new room mate Rollo is also a buck and two bucks makes for much mayhem.
Willow was already castrated when he came to us, but Jo, his previous owner, gave me a full run down of the shocking proceedings, which involved no anaesthetic and a very evil looking clamp, she cried, I almost cried when she told me, and we don't even have balls!
Needless to say, having heard the gruesome details, I was NOT looking forward to subjecting poor Littlefoot to the dreaded chop.

It's funny how animals sense the impending doom. Every single time I have had a tom cat neutered they have gone missing on the morning of the op. Littlefoot seemed too, to have somehow telepathically picked up on the mornings promise of pain and misery, he ran back and forth across the lawn in a frenzy, huge balls swinging behind him, as though enjoying his last moments of life with full tackle.

The vet arrived bright and early, armed with a steel case. Despite the bright blue skies, today was bitterly cold, the grass was crunchy underfoot with a thick layer of sparkling white frost. The vet mumbled something about the conditions not being good, and just as I was about to scarper, lest I be witness, or worse still, a partner in this crime to this ghastly deed, the Vet asked me to grab Littlefoot by the horns and hold him still, my escape plan had been foiled before I had even turned my back.
To my absolute relief, Monsieur Vet pulled NOT a frightening clamp from his case, but a massive syringe, evidently pumped with a suitable anaesthetic. I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

A scuffle then ensued as Littlefoot decided he did not want to be held by the horns whilst this stranger hovered with a huge needle pointed at his neck. The vet made no attempt at helping me restrain him with the other hand, and kept waving the needle around, causing me to panic that I was going to be on the receiving end of a lethal dose of Animal meds, that would render me paralysed for god knows how long, then the paranoia took hold. What is this man wasn't even the vet? What if he was some evil criminal who was going to paralyse me then rape me and plunder my home? Where is the bloody clamp he is supposed to have? OMG OMG OMG!
Just as I was about to let out a piercing scream and run for my life, the mystery "is he a vet or not" plunged the syringe into Littlefoot's neck.
I would like to tell you that all paranoid delusions left me there, I mean, I CLEARLY saw the syringe go into Littlefoot's neck.... But Littlefoot wasn't looking sleepy, and my hand was feeling distinctly numb, HE MUST HAVE STABBED ME FIRST WHEN I WASN'T LOOKING! No, I really am just a foOoOOOl.

It was a good few minutes before Littlefoot crashed out. Voila, time for me to make my move back to the house, after all, the goat was out cold, there was no need for an extra pair of hands, au contraire....
It's funny, because when I was a child I wanted to be a vet, today I thank my lucky stars that I had the most horrendous, smelly, maggot eating fool as a Science teacher at school, god forbid I had actually enjoyed Science and been subjected to THIS as a career.

What followed, is really just quite unpleasant. My role as Veterinary Nurse involved me holding Littlefoot's legs akimbo and passing various tools, which were asked for in French. Of course I had no idea what the words for Scalpel, some kind of scissors etc were in French, and the Vet shook his head with obvious disdain and loudly proclaimed my ignorance to be VERY inconvenient as he man handled my goats balls with one hand and clumsily grabbed tools from his tray with the other. All the while, I tried to admire the sky, the tree's, anything but the bloody sight before me, whilst repeating quite abruptly every time my attention was required "Je n'aime pas!" I DON'T LIKE IT!

Willow, who was quite intrigued by all the action, pressed his face into Littlefoot's crotch at the most in-opportune moments.
The whole thing was quite barbaric, though thankfully, I'm sure, nothing as barbaric as what poor Willow must have endured.
There was a moment when Littlefoot seemed to stop breathing, he was quickly lifted to the goat house and rubbed vigorously by the vet before being buried up to his neck in a ton of hay, to keep him warm.

After paying the Vet, and waving him off, I popped back to the operating spot and found two large perfectly formed testicles placed on the stone table. How kind of the vet to leave those for me. What did he suppose I might do with them? Do the French make Pate out of those too?
I didn't want to put them in the bin, since the hounds will happily ransack it should there be any form of meat inside, so I tossed them over the fence, into the ditch, and quite forgot about them.

Later that afternoon, I saw our elderly (age 90) Neighbour strolling by, two balls in hand, he asked "Did Simon lose something?".
I suspect you will forgive me for not providing photos today.
Littlefoot is ok, if a little sore, and the balls, well, who knows, pate anyone?

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Day Trip, yay!

Today, we went to the beach....

We built sand castles....

We ate chocolate crepes....

Which were very messy.....

We saw lot's of cool stuff....

It was lot's of fun!
More photos on my Flickr album, I am SooOoOoO tired, now I just need my bed.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Red skies at night.....

You know, when the sun is going down, and the Sky looks like this....

That the next day, is full of promises. Today, did not dissapoint. I woke up to this...

Glorious blue sky! It was so warm today, considering it is mid winter. We all trooped outside, Simon fixed the fence the goats have been smashing, whilst I set about giving our pathways a good sweep. The kids whiled away the morning bouncing on the trampoline and doing a little fishing with the rod Simon made for them, out of a stick of Bamboo (these are the best kind, right?), everyone was just all smiles and happy, what a difference to your day a little sunshine can make.

I didn't do any of the things I planned to do today, the day just kind of carried me away on it's own path. But I did get a chance to snap some pics this morning, in accordance with my Project 365 promise, yay!
I am getting a little better at using the camera now, and have more or less got to grips with the whole "Depth of Field" thing, now I need to concentrate on light I think.
I took a few photos of some of my family members who I haven't featured on my blog yet...

This is Ambear and Sleepy Bear....

My beautiful Amber is 8. You may have noticed I often refer to the sproglets as Ambear and The Hoozel, if you were wondering what that's all about, well, the French pronounce Amber as Ambear, and they call Hazel, Hoozel, we thought those names are kinda cute and so they stuck. Sleepy bear is actually Sleepy Bear number 2, the original sleepy bear, who was very precious indeed to my eldest, was sadly lost on route to Budapest, he tumbled out of the car somewhere between France and Italy, and was very sadly, never to be seen again.
Amber was horribly upset for weeks, I tried desperately to find an identical replacement, but he was an unusual kind of bear, and I eventually gave up the search and bought her a new Sleepy bear. He isn't exactly the same, but he made her smile again, she always carries him around with her when she is at home and loves him so.
Sometimes, she still gets upset about the first Sleepy Bear, and worries about where he might be and what might have happened to him, maybe one day I will find him again (or at least - his twin).

This is Stan the man, one of our puss cats, as you can see, Stan thinks grooming is for wimps! Which is a shame, since he is white as snow... or was, before he discovered dirt.

This pretty lady is the eldest member of our little animal family, 16!

We inherited Tina from Simon's mum, who passed away nearly three years ago. She is very frail and arthritic, but still rules the other cats with an iron fist, they are all terrified of her and move away from the food bowl when her highness wants to eat. She is also an amazing mouser, what she lacks in speed she more than makes up for in stealth, unlike Stan, who only hunts flies and spiders!

We had a visit from Carla today, as promised. She came to meet our two wayward goats, and I am delighted that she has agreed to offer them a home with her and her goat Rollo, who is lonely since losing his brother last summer.
She has kept goats for 20 years, so we know they are going to an experienced and loving home.
Carla herself, turned out to be absolutely charming too. She has kindly invited us over to dinner, and I am sure we made a real friend in her today.
It's funny actually, because the goats, as well as bringing a little magic and mayhem into our lives, have also brought us closer to some truly wonderful people.
The family we got them from are now firm friends, we spent new years with them and get together often, and I am sure we will be seeing lots of Carla too, and thus we won't be saying a permanent goodbye to our naughty goat friends, when she comes to collect them next weekend, that eases the guilt and sadness somewhat.

I was telling Carla about the dog/tunnel/ragondin fiasco too, remember my dog called Sex? Well, Carla explained, my French friends translated this word as "Politely" as they knew how with their limited English, our dog is not called sex....
My name is Tallulah, and I have a dog called Blow job, oh joy.

Friday, 25 January 2008

365 Days...

And so it begins....
I recently discovered Project 365 on Flickr. I used to take so many photos, of the sproglets, friends, daily life... and somewhere, somehow, I just stopped.
Seeing all the lovely photography on Flickr, images of people's lives, family and homes, art, friends... reminded me how important it is to preserve our memories this way.
Photographs provide such a poignant link to our pasts, a snapshot view into the lives we once lived, the good times we shared, the members of our family who are no longer with us and those that passed long before our own time even began, it is such a beautiful and creative way of preserving a little piece of ourselves, our history, our views.

Project 365 requires that you post one photo for each day, for one year. The subject matter is your own choice, it might be this morning's breakfast, a pile of laundry, your new car, the kids on their way to school, anything goes.

I have been riding my bicycle a lot lately, now that Simon is working away from home I am relying more and more on my two wheels to get to the village and back to buy supplies, go to the post office, or just to pass by the kid's school during their lunch break to say Hello.
So my Day 1 of 365 photo is this...

This is my humble bicycle parked outside the village cafe, or more accurately, a derelict house beside the cafe.
I never used to cycle anywhere in England, I went everywhere on foot. It is lovely being able to get places a little quicker, but golly is it hard work, if all this cycling doesn't get me fit I don't know what will!

I am enjoying it though, the lane to the village is on a steady incline, which means on the way there I literally fly down the hill at full speed, with very little effort at all. I love this journey, whizzing through open countryside, with the sun shining, the cow's and sheep greeting me noisily as I pass, and all I can see is lush, never ending green fields and the glorious blue skies above, the wind whips my hair all around me, and not a car to be seen, it is totally exhilirating, it reminds me why I am here, how blessed I am to be here, I feel so happy that I think my heart might burst out of my chest, and I want to shout it out over the tree top's, sometimes, I do...

Coming home, is another story, the first part of my journey is tough but not crippling, then as I reach the last mile the hill steepens, I can see the beginning of it curving up and away into the distance, and I dread it, absolutely dread it.
As I reach the hill I lift my wobbling rear end off the seat to put all my weight on the pedals and grit my teeth, I'm telling you, it bloody hurts, but it gets easier every time I do it, maybe some day soon I will be able to do it without grimacing.

Anyhooo, I seriously need to reconsider my cycling attire... When I parked up outside the cafe today, I noticed a group of men outside, all smiling in my direction. I am not exactly a super model, so I can be certain they weren't admiring my looks, I smiled a cheerful "Bonjour" and didn't think much of it, until I got home and realised I had a hole in the CROTCH of my jeans, as I zoomed round the corner in front of the cafe they must have had a less than charming view, at least I was wearing my nice polka dotted undies :)

I have a zillion and one crafty swaps to be getting on with my lufflies, so I bid you a heart felt aurevoir and a Bonjournee (good day) mes amis!

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

The Thrill of the Hunt

Wow, what a day. Where to begin? Well, it was gloriously sunny today, thus the only rightful place for me to be was enjoying the great outdoors.
I decided to take advantage of the beautiful light and have a tinker with the SLR camera, to see if I could figure out all the fancy settings, and see what I could do with it.
I wondered around for a couple of hours, snapping here and there, it was proving to be a very warm and peaceful morning. Then just as I was settling down with Simon in front of the lake, for a cup of tea and a chat about the photos I had been taking, we heard the dogs barking from quite a distance.

My immediate concern was that they had crossed over into the farmers fields and were harassing his cows, an offense which is likely to get them shot, and rightly so.
This seemed unlikely as they are generally very respectful of their boundaries, and as we got closer to the noise we realised that it wasn't cows that were on the receiving end of their wrath, but a Ragondin.
You may remember me writing about these horrid creatures a short while ago, they are huge water living rat like creatures, the French hate them, and with good reason, and now our dogs had one cornered in a very long dark tunnel at the foot of the gloopy glop.

Ragondin's are not aggressive animals, but will attack if cornered, they have HUGE teeth, dogs that hunt these animals wear 4" wide nylon collars to protect their throats, as having their jugular torn open by a frightened Ragondin is how many dogs meet their fate, needless to say, upon discovering that my silly hounds had actually followed one of these creatures into a tunnel, I was somewhat distraught.
Nala, our older dog, is more than capable of holding her own, this kind of hunt is in her blood, and we could hear her barking and growling, and presumably attacking at frequent intervals, but there wasn't a sound from our young pup Pip, and when Nala came out of the tunnel, covered in blood, and Pip didn't follow, we really started to panic.

By now I was on my hands and knees in 5" of stagnant muddy lake water, screaming into the mouth of the tunnel for Pip to come out. Nala went back in, and continued to bait the Ragondin, but still not even a squeak from Pip, if he was injured, we couldn't get to him, we couldn't even dig down because he was in a concrete tunnel which was buried 12 feet under ground.
I told Simon to stay there and ran like the clappers to the farmers house.
I arrived on his doorstep, covered from head to toe in stinking orange slime and mud, panting like a woman in the throes of a very painful labour, just as the Farmer and his workers were sitting down for lunch.
After explaining the problem in extremely poor french - something along the lines of "my dogs, in tunnel, ragondin attack, puppy is dead! (insert uncontrolable sobs here) please bring your dogs!" They politely informed me that their dog's were in fact not there, but kindly downed knives and forks, and followed me, guns in hand, back to the tunnel.

By this point, I really was convinced my puppy was dead. To make matters worse, as I arrived back I could hear the children's cries as the bastard goats ransacked the house in our absence, and saw Simon charging around the lake towards them, whilst the farmers and me ran towards the tunnel.
Nala was still going crazy inside the tunnel, Simon returned with a torch, and now I was howling like a banshee.
A little torch light revealed that the tunnel curved off at an angle, preventing us from seeing the action. All the while I was howling Pip's name.

I may not have mentioned before, that we named Pip before discovering what this word meant in French. Not long ago, some French friends of hours, informed us, with great amusement I should add, that Pip, is actually a French slang word for sex. I am sure you can imagine the look of surprise on the Farmer's faces, as I was lying down in the mud screaming SEX at the top of my voice into the tunnel, what a time to feel frisky!

Nala came out when called, and promptly went back in, then Simon saw Pip in the tunnel, covered head to toe in mud and dragging himself down the tunnel on his knees. Hope was restored, he might be injured but he was alive! After a few minutes he was dragged to safety, he was so covered in mud that we couldn't see if he was hurt or not, I held him against me and ran back to the house with him as fast as my very out of shape legs could carry me.
I put him straight under the shower, and was relieved to find there wasn't a scratch on his body, he was just very shaken up and cold.

Meanwhile, now that the pup was safe, Simon was trying to call Nala out of the tunnel, whilst the farmers, rather enjoying the action, egged her on to kill the Ragondin by screaming ATTACK! ATTACK! into the tunnel at regular intervals, Nala, always being one to follow orders, politely obliged and came out a few moments later, bit the farmer, presumably as a warning not to bellow at her like that again, then trotted back to the house.

The goats had a whale of a time during all this commotion, having burst into the house and attacked the fruit bowl, sending all manner of objects crashing to the floor whilst the children looked on helplessly.
So now we were faced with our muddy selves, two very muddy hounds, a floor littered with two dozen half eaten apples and pears and broken glass everywhere. Needless to say, my peaceful morning was somewhat shattered. The clock struck two, it was time for the children to go to their party, oh joy.

Peace was soon restored, we were all treated to a warm shower, dogs included, muddied clothes thrown in the washing machine and the children ferried off to their party, albeit a little late. Nala had a few minor cuts to her face and ears, one particularly nasty bite that punctured her cheek, but is otherwise safe and sound and looking rather smug that she at least won the battle.

I popped round to the farmers later in the evening to give them a bottle of scotch, by way of an apology for interrupting their lunch, they were already quite merry from their evening aperatif, and said how impressed they were with our Ragondin Killing hound, eager to learn where they could acquire one of these fearless little dogs, they also commented on the pup's rather charming name.
After parting with the scotch and receiving a handful of chocolates for the children in return, I made my way back home and promptly collapsed on the sofa.
Forgive me for not doing my Blog Love post today, I simply haven't got the energy.

I will leave you with some of the photos I took, there are more in my Flickr for anyone who might be interested to see just how crap my photography skills are :)

The lake

Trying to achieve "depth of field"....
I wonder who lives here?

Monday, 21 January 2008

Parlez Vous Francais?

Here it is, nothing spectacular, just a humble pencil case for myself, with a message for the sproglets - ever since they learned that a pen or pencil is an object you can pick up and scrawl on things (walls/clothes/bodies - rarely paper) with, I have been fighting a never ending battle to preserve my pens. Sounds dramatic, I know, but if you were me, you would understand.

You see, when I need one, there are never any to be found. As an example, I bought a pack of 6 new pens last week, just boring old blue ink pens, today, there is not a single pen anywhere, where do they go? Perhaps they join those odd socks in the bottomless abyss of nowhere, who knows? One thing I do know, is that they do not stay where I left them, so, being as I had to make a pencil case for one of the sproglets friends, who's birthday it is this Wednesday, I figured I would have a little practice attaching a zip, and made one for myself first, now perhaps my pens and pencils will be safe.... we shall see. The girls think it is very amusing and keep making a point of touching it, just to bug me, le sigh.

The zip doesn't look so hot, but I know what I did wrong, and so Ingrid, the birthday girl, will hopefully get a more perfect specimen of pencil case.
Do you like the little mushroom bead I added to the zip?

This is actually the FIRST thing I have ever made for myself, and what a nice feeling that is! I made everyones Christmas presents last year, most everyone received a framed embroidery by me, I wish I had taken pictures before they were all ferried off to their destined new homes, alas, I only have a photo of the one I did for Simon.

The basket is full of eyes, not eggs! I wish I had paid more attention to the detail on these, since everyone missed the eyes in the basket thing and thought they were eggs. I had only just started embroidery when I made this, I hope I am a little better now!

SooOo, today I went for my French lesson, it is held locally by a very kind English chap who offers these group lessons for free in his home.
I haven't been for a while, and now I remember why, it is so boring! I didn't actually learn any French, since most of the ancient members of the class (I think I am the only person under the age of 70, aside from my friend Janice) insist on chattering all the way through about how much they love parsnips, how their dog/cat/wife has the runs/piles/gall stones, or how many cans of butter beans one can fit in a standard size eco friendly shopping bag, all riveting subjects I'm sure, just not when I am supposed to be learning French.

Anyhooo, I have discovered that all the lessons in the world cannot match the learning power of actually spending time with French people. In little more than 6 months I can now hold a conversation with my friends in French, it is of course, completely cobbled together and my grammar is shall we say, um, rather basic, but I am UNDERSTOOD, and this, I believe, is what matters.
I have a really funny new book too, called "Merde - The REAL French you were never taught at school", which offers very helpful phrases in French which I am surely to use anytime soon, such as "Espece de salaud, je vais te casser le gueule!" which translates as something along the lines of "You bastard, I will smash your face in!" Most useful, don't you think? I must remember that next time the baker brings me a Baguette instead of a sliced Loaf :)

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Yaaay for the weekend!

I was woken up rather early this morning to the sound of a very chirpy Bonjour. I do not take kindly to being woken at the weekends, but when I went to inspect I found our local baker on my doorstep, silly old me had forgotten we had arranged for our baked goods to be delivered, and the rude morning awakening was soon forgiven when she tootled off to her van and returned with fresh croissants and pain au chocolat, still warm from the oven, they looked and smelled delicious!

For the first Saturday in history, I was supping fresh coffee and devouring croissants before 9am, Simon was most impressed with my early rising, but not as impressed as he was with fresh croissants in the morning!
They were quite delicious, I should have taken a pic, but I'm afraid they were settling in satisfied tummies before it occurred to me to whip out the camera.

Croissants are of course, one of the perks of living in France, the only drawback is that they have to be eaten fresh, simply because they are so fresh (not filled with preservatives or processed muck) they stale very quickly. So a morning delivery, straight from the bakers oven, is most appreciated of course! The bread too has to be eaten the same day, try and take a bite the next day and you are in serious danger of cutting your mouth to ribbons! In England they deliver milk to your house, in France, freshly baked yumminess, I know which I prefer :)

We have had a fairly relaxing day, and despite the sproglets very loud and traumatic cries of protest, we decided to pay a visit to a local Brocante. Everyone in our family, except of course me, dreads these trips. I cannot leave a brocante or junk shop without inspecting every single shelf and overflowing box, lest there be a wee treasure hidden somewhere that I might otherwise miss. The family hover around whingeing and moaning and asking when we are leaving, it is at these times that I develop temporary deafness as I go about my thrifting.

I found some really lovely things today, first up this adorable little children's book, which I couldn't resist as it has such charming illustrations, I think it is 1930's, and I love that the previous owner has scrawled her name, Francoise, in the front cover, in that winsome curly script that the French children learn at school (even my own sproglets now write that way).

There are some more images from this dear little book in my Flickr album, if you care to take a peek.

I also picked up 3 very sweet fashion magazines, all dated 1931, I love vintage clothing and the images in these magazines are just beautiful.

Aren't they wonderful? Again, more in my
Flickr album.

I was up till an ungodly hour last night finishing a Dotee Doll I am making for my swap Partner, Lindy from the Netherlands. Lindy really wanted a dotee, so we arranged a swap, and I am so pleased with how this little baby turned out.

It is my first try at beading, and it is far from perfect but I am pleased as punch with the overall effect. The fabric reminded me of a Japanese Kimono fabric, so I gave this lil girl asian style eyes, and beaded in line with the existing fabric pattern. It took me HOURS, but it was so worth the effort. Simon said I should sell these, but I think it defies what Dotee's are all about, money can't buy the love that goes into my dotee's, the making of them is a pleasure, but the greatest pleasure, I think, comes from sending it out into the world for someone to enjoy, with your own best wishes and a little piece of your heart to boot.
I hope Lindy will like it!

My Dotee craziness has got slightly out of hand, and I am now involved in several dotee swaps between now and the end of February, it will certainly keep my crafting hands busy!

I haven't forgotten my Etsy love post, but will do it tomorrow instead, as I have already rambled on enough for one day ;)

Thursday, 17 January 2008

The Gloopy Glop

The rain keeps on coming down and I am so miserable with it now, I am really not a winter baby, roll on Spring!
There has been so much rain that the lake is now almost full....

It overflows into our woodland, which turns this area into a seething mass of mud, water and teeny tiny fish, the water area you can see in this photo below is what we refer to as, The Gloopy Glop.

It is about a foot deep, and since I haven't yet got some wellies, I took a photo from afar. It stays like this right up until Spring when the rain finally lets up, in the meantime the children make many a trip back and forth with a bucket, trying to save all the tiny little fish that slip through the lake's overflow, a futile task, but generous all the same.

There are so many things I have wanted to take photos of, but it has been so dark and overcast that taking photos indoors is nigh on impossible, I seriously need to invest in some decent lighting!

I have been twitching so bad to do some decorating, I need a big project to keep me occupied, and so I have set my sights on this sad little mess...

Le caravan! This little baby was here when we bought the house, despite it's rather tired exterior it is actually in pretty good nick inside, and still has it's original 70's curtains! I am going to tackle the interior first, and wait for a stretch of sunny days before I clean and paint the exterior.

I really want to paint it in colours, I have been desperately trying to find the photo of Cath Kidston's Pop Flowers caravan, has anyone else seen it? It is so jolly and bright, I am determined that our little caravan will be as pretty, and am toying with the idea of polka dots, I have never seen a polka dotted caravan before, sounds fun!

I did have Le caravan earmarked as my little private craft studio, but since I do most of my crafting in the evening, it seems rather pointless as I will not be traipsing all the down there in the dark to fetch supplies, so, it will be our little guest retreat, or somewhere to hide and read when the kid's are rioting :)

Speaking of the sproglets, they were off school yesterday, as per the norm for Wednesday, as it was grey and rainy outside I let them loose in the kitchen to do some baking.
They were so enamored with the fairy cakes I made last time that they insisted on making some themselves.

They wanted honey flavoured fairy cakes, which I must say turned out perfectly, I just replaced some of the sugar content with a hefty dollop of sticky honey, courtesy of our neighbour Raymond and his busy bee's, the result was quite delicious.

There's the Hoozel showing them off!

I really am terribly forgetful and forgot this weeks Blog Love post, which should have been posted on Tuesday, the sieve head strikes once again! I may have forgotten to post, but I certainly did not forget to keep checking out lovely blogs, so here are my findings for you.

It was so hard to choose this week! I have narrowed it down to 3, but check the "Blogs I'm Reading" list on your right, as I have added some other new favourites there too.

First up, I am head over heels in love with the Rosehip Blog, written by a very talented lady called Beata, from Vancouver, Canada.
Her crafts are to die for, her writing thoroughly addictive and her photos truly awe inspiring, just check out these adorable Babushka dolls she has made..

Of course I am a sucker for polka dots, but they really are super cute! You cannot fail to be inspired by her whimsical creations, go take a peek!

Next up is
My Romantic Home, written by the ever talented Cindy. This blog thoroughly lives up to it's name! Cindy presents photos of her decorating projects and some beautiful images of her garden, which will encourage green fingers in addition to making you green with envy!
Just check out this girls dining room....

Isn't it divine? Her beautiful home has not gone unnoticed and is soon to be featured in America's Romantic Country magazine, I wish I could get it here in France :(

Lastly, but by no means least, is
Freckled Farm, a delightful concoction of family, home and crafts, presented by the very lovely CammyK.
She takes wonderful photos and her family look good enough to eat, she also has a very sweet giveaway for readers at the moment, so go meet her!

Well that's me done for today, I have a HUGE amount of crafty swaps I need to catch up on so I really must dash, a bientot mes amis!

Friday, 11 January 2008

Mud & Hair Stripes

The rain has been pouring down the last couple of days, and the wind has been whipping up a storm. All this makes for a very bad internet connection (our cables are overhead) and MUD, mud everywhere!

I desperately need a new pair of wellington boots, as mine have a huge hole in them. I have had a hard time choosing some (I really liked the red/pale blue ones at Joules Clothing but these are now discontinued, booo!), and I really hate buying things I need, so alas there are no new wellies winging there way to me just yet, and my suede boots are becoming less and less suede looking by the day.

Mud brings with it mayhem, the children most always forget to remove their shoes before coming in the house, and their arrival home from school is usually punctuated with much shouting about shoes and shoe racks and mud mats. The dogs are another story all together, they both dig, a lot, then come charging into the house, on to the sofa, on to the beds, into the beds, and thus into my bad books as I add another heap of muddied bed linen to the every growing pile of dirty laundry, that renders me almost suicidal.

Laying a Parquet floor in our main living area (You can see the photos on my FLICKR page) seemed a great idea, and actually it would have been, had we not chosen the beautifully neutral finish of oil, as opposed to a slick varnish.
The Oiled floor does indeed look wonderful, but has proved to be massively impractical, as it can only be cleaned weekly with a very expensive specialist cleaning solution. Thus I spend a great deal of time on hands and knees with a damp cloth wiping up muddy prints, bits of food and sticky patches of jam (I have been on a Jam Tart baking frenzy). Mud, I swear, is the bane of my life, with the oiled parquet flooring coming in a close second, if only because of the mud.

When we bought our house, it was of course intended as a holiday home, and so all the refurbishments we carried out were done with that in mind. Now that we are living here permanently we have realised that our budget refurb does not stand up to daily wear, in addition to the fact that this house is much too small, we have lots and lots of work to do this year....

We are currently awaiting planning permission for an extension which will literally double the size of the house (approx 120m2+). All being well, the building will start in early Spring, and should be finished by Autumn, by which time we will have gained 2 more bedrooms, 2 new bathrooms, a library/craft room and the kitchen will be extended into the bathroom we currently have, and an entire new roof. It is an overwhelming amount of work to say the least, and incredibly frustrating as no further work can be carried out on the existing building until the extension is complete.

I desperately want to crack open some tins of paint and start decorating, but it is futile given that it will all be trashed when the building starts, and so for now I have to satisfy myself with planning how it will look, which is no easy task given that I fall in love with almost every interior idea and colour combo I encounter, I wish I didn't have such broad and eclectic tastes, it makes choosing so much harder!

Today marks the first time in my life that I have had a real hair disaster. I was so pleased with the haircuts the village hair salon did for my sproglets that I promptly booked myself in for a cut and highlights.

My hair is naturally blonde, but darkens considerably in the winter when there is no sunshine, so once a year I have a few sneaky highlights to lighten it up.
I reeeally wish I had asked around before succumbing to the lure of dirt cheap hairdressers, or indeed, French hairdressers.
From the moment Monsieur Dominic wheeled out his little tool trolley and started fiddling with the foils I knew something was amiss. It was hard for me to see what he was doing at first, as he started at the back of my head, but as he moved into view I became more and more alarmed.

It was obvious he had NEVER done foil highlights before, it is debatable he had even ever been shown how to do highlights properly. He seemed to be randomly plucking a strand of hair here and there and slapping peroxide on it with great gusto (I normally have a more gentle dye, but they did not offer me a choice on this occasion).
At this point, he had already done almost half of my head, and I did not feel it would be a good time to stop him, and so I calmed myself by clinging to the rather hopeful idea that perhaps this is just how they did it in France.
Just when I was almost convinced of this, Monsieur Dominic called in his wife, who upon seeing his handiwork looked more alarmed than I, before nervously JOINING him in butchering my hair, presumably he realised he was working too slow and decided to draft in his untrained wife to complete the second half of my head. I just sat, very still, scowling at my own appearance in the mirror.

What followed is really quite unbelievable. I was left alone, with the peroxide on my head for what seemed like an eternity, all the while I was convinced it was burning into my scalp and that my hair would promptly fall out the minute they tried to rinse it.
When they did finally come to wash it, I was given a rather slap dash shampoo (no conditioner) and returned to Monsieur Dominic for the cut, oh my.
I have NEVER EVER had my hair cut, in it's entirety, with a razor, but this is what happened, then the wife returned to dry my hair. No sign of a brush, or a comb, just a hand and a very hot hair dryer.

I have naturally wavy hair, not curly, not straight, but annoyingly wavy. This means that any kind of hot air just makes it turn to a mass of frizz unless it is smoothed with a large brush as it is dried.
I left the salon sporting an enormous frizz (which was fortunately calmed by the rain) and enormous inch thick white blonde stripes in my hair, I am ashamed to say that at this moment any notion of giving up smoking went down the drain, I hold Monsieur Dominic personally accountable for my falling off the proverbial wagon.

What is most frustrating is that upon regaling all my friends with the full horror of my hair salon fiasco, they all asked why on earth I had gone to a French hairdresser in the first place, apparently even the French complain about them, le sigh :(

When the children got home they both said how much they loved my pretty stripy hair, oh joy.
The only consolation is that I live in the back of beyond and no one is likely to see the rather bizarre hair do I am presently sporting. I shall have it fixed when I return to the UK in February for my driving test, may the good lord bless anyone who should be unfortunate enough to encounter me on the roads.

Anyhooo my lufflies, I have been busy making more dotee's, here is my latest one, made from Cath Kidston scraps, I have run out of beads and so cut out the stars from a piece of CK fabric and stitched them on to felt backing to create the tail. I love the OTT curls on this one, very Shirley Temple!

Monday, 7 January 2008

Back To School

My lil sproglets went back to school today, whilst it's nice to get a bit of kid free time to do my house work and what not, I do not relish the early mornings that school brings. It seems criminal to wake up when the world outside is still blanketed in darkness, and so very cruel to be dragged from warm bed's on such cold mornings. I hate, hate, hate mornings, and promptly returned to my warm bed as soon as the kid's got on the school bus, bad bad me!

On the upside, the darkness gave way to a gloriously sunny day, I threw open all the windows to give the house a good airing and did a very thorough clean. Since it was so sunny I put some of the washing outside to dry, and thought I would take this opportunity to show off the pretty washstand Simon made for me.... (You can see our geese in the background too!).

I was tempted to hang all my bright vintage linens on it, I always love those kind of pics, the kind that you see in magazines, but this is real life, and my crappy photography skills, so hey, check out the cute pyjamas and faded t-shirts instead! :)

My blog banner is probably a little clue to the fact that I am indeed obsessed with hanging out my washing, there is no logical explanation for it, I just love seeing a line of washing fluttering in the breeze, and the smell of fresh air on my laundry, mmmm.

I have been looking for a large vintage wash stand for yeeeears, the only one I ever encountered was above and beyond what I was prepared to pay, so Simon kindly set to work and made me one, I am sooo pleased with it, when the sun isn't shining I bring it indoors and place it beside the fire. I will probably paint it a nice bright colour in the Spring, and am hoping Simon might make me another, as this one only just holds a full washing machines load of laundry.

I actually have two washing lines outdoors, one near the lake and another behind the house where the goats live, actually one of the goats few saving graces is that they don't pull my laundry off the line! On a warm day I am in and out all day hanging out laundry, I am such a weirdie :)

One of our neighbours stopped by today (and I use the term "Neighbour" loosely, since they are all quite far away) and brought us a pile of fresh eggs. Our chickens are still quite young and so not laying much yet, particularly now it is winter, so it was lovely to get some fresh organic eggs, I love how they are always all different colours.

We are so lucky to have wonderful neighbours, they are always sharing their surplus veggies, fruit and eggs with us. Virtually everyone I have met here produces at least some of their own food, and almost every garden we see has at least a small patch given over for vegetables.
I used to buy organic food back in London, but nothing compares to the deliciousness of vegetables freshly picked from the garden, I'd have never believed it possible that a carrot could taste more carroty, or a tomato more tomatoey, but they do!

Since the girls went back to school and the holidays are over I made them some fairy cakes to cheer them up when they got home from school, heres the mess that ensued...

And the finished product....

These little cups of scrumptiousness yielded big awesome gasps from my girls when they got home from school, and were then quickly gulped down with lemonade, and gone.

I am fascinated by some of the beautifully decorated cupcakes I have seen on flickr, and hope to do something a bit more fancy with my own some time. Part of me loves the homespun mess of the ones I turn out, the other part wants to make awe inspiring cupcakes fit for a queen, but there is another little part that is too damn lazy, and I don't even know how to make that fancy frosting that swirls so beautifully, I have a serious case of cupcake envy.

Before I go, heres a pic of our puppy Pip (AKA PipPop, Pippa, Pippadippadoo, Mr Pippadippadoppolus ha!), he is nearly all growed up and already stands taller than our older dog Nala, I wish he would be little forever, he is such a cutie.

He is a Patterdale terrier, and we hope will go on to be a great hunter, he comes from hunter/working stock, his father has been featured in various working terrier books, so we are hoping he will live up to his name.
The only thing he will be hunting is Ragondin, these pesky creatures are like giant rats that live on water.
They aren't native to France, and cause quite a lot of problems. As well as ravaging vegetable patches and crops wherever they go, they are also tenacious burrowers and this causes the banks of lakes and rivers to collapse.
Each village has it's own Ragondin catcher, who is employed by the Mairie (mayor) and get's paid for each Ragondin tail he presents.
I have heard that some French people make Ragondin Pate (eww), but everyone I have asked has looked non too impressed with this idea, and who can blame them?

Our lake is now free of Ragondin, but was quite badly damaged last year before we took up permanent residence, we still get the occasional visitor, but they soon scarper when we set Nala and Pippadippa loose on them!

Here is what they look like, big rats!

Sunday, 6 January 2008

The Tale of 2 Goats

I am delighted that people are actually reading my blog and have been almost obsessively checking my stats each day!

I received a couple of emails asking about my goats, why are they so naughty? and WHY did Willow appear at my front door? Allow me to explain....

By the time we arrived here, to live, in August, our land had been somewhat neglected in the previous two years, on account of us only being here for a few days or weeks at a time, the brambles had run riot.

We did a little research on how to tackle this problem, and decided we would get some animals to help.
I wanted pigs, I had read that pigs will eat pretty much anything, Simon thought pigs would smell, and we read somewhere that goats like brambles too, so we acquired two goats from a couple in the area who were giving them away (now we know why... LOL). Willow and Littlefoot had arrived.

Simon built a nice fence, which was intended to stop the goats roaming into the small area in front of our house, and would also block them from coming around the lake, they were left with several acres to themselves, and plenty of brambles to munch.

You would think, with several acres of varied land to graze, open fields, woodland and tasty fruit orchards, that our newly acquired pets would be pretty happy with their lot, but no... the goats weren't interested in land, they were only interested in us, and in the proceeding weeks a battle ensued.
Simon built his fence higher and higher in an attempt to contain the goats. Littlefoot is quite small and not very good at jumping/climbing, but Willow is much bigger and scaled a 2m fence without much effort.

Every time the fence got higher, Willow would sneakily find another way around, sometimes jumping or climbing over a fence on to the lane, and then back over a smaller fence into our front garden, leaving a traumatised Littlefoot alone and bleating angrily to join him.

Every morning we would awake to find Willow's menacing face staring at us through the front door or window, almost smirking, it was written all over his face "You won't beat me!".
Goats are, quite honestly, the most stubborn animals, every time we thought we had outwitted them, they found another way, until eventually we gave up, defeated, we allowed them to roam wherever they chose, besides which winter was looming, most of my plants and flowers had died back and there really wasn't much damage they could do.... surely?

If I leave a door open, they stroll right on into the house, and I have found them stood on my dining table, happily munching out of the fruit bowl on many an occasion.
Another time, I spent an entire afternoon collection chestnuts from our tree's, left the overflowing basket in the kitchen, only to return later to find Willow had munched his way through over half, and to add insult to injury, pee'd on the kitchen floor! He could eat as many chestnuts as he wanted from under the tree, but NO, he had to have mine, such is his attitude, I swear, he totally does it on purpose!

More recently, both Willow and Littlefoot decided that in all our 10 acres of land there just wasn't enough tasty food, and that the verges on the lane looked far more inviting to their palate.
One particular morning just before Christmas, a couple we know were driving me back from the village, and as we turned on to our lane, I saw both goats and our entire gang of hens out on the lane, blocking the road and generally being a nuisance.
This couple had never been to my house before, and so didn't know they were my animals, and the driver started loudly complaining about the "Irresponsible owner allowing their animals to roam into the road" Oh the shame! "It could cause an accident, so dangerous!" He spat, I had to admit, in a very small and embarassed voice "um, they're mine", the ground stubbornly refused to open up and swallow me.

For a time, we managed to train our older dog, Nala, to chase them back on to their side of the land. She loved this new job and undertook her new found responsibility with great enthusiasm, sometimes she was a little over zealous and returned with great clumps of goat fur hanging from her mouth. After a while the goats realised their horns were far more dangerous than her teeth, and now they stand their ground while she scuttles around them, trying in vain to chase them away from the house.

Also, there are still brambles EVERYWHERE, the goats, it turns out, are picky eaters, and never eat much of the same thing in one hit, they like a little bit of this and a little bit of that, oh how I wish we got pigs!

There has been many a time that I have wanted to maim or kill those bastard goats, many a time when they have butted me in the ass, trampled over me in an attempt to steal food I am carrying (getting food shopping from car to house in one piece has to be planned with military precision!), muddied my windows trying to get in (seriously), and Simon's lovely fence lays broken and trampled on the ground, they are a real nuisance, but for some weird reason, we still love them!

We discuss the future of the goats on an almost daily basis, come Spring, the building work for the extension (remember I said this house wasn't big enough for a family...) and the goats reeeally will have to be contained. Just HOW we will do that I still do not know. We constantly toy with the idea of re-homing them, but then I see the big woolly bastard outside, play fighting with his little friend, and knocking over my plant pots, and I wonder what French country life would be without them, I think for now, they are here to stay, that's if Simon can resist pointing his gun at them next time they butt him into submission.

It has been wet and gloomy for the last couple of days, so I have busied myself in doors preparing some more dotee dolls for more swap-bot swaps.
I just finished this little darling last night, isn't she cute?

The theme was creativity, so pretty much whatever came to mind. The ART part was a final addition, since Art embodies so much that inspires me, I see art in everything, and it pretty much summed up my creative flow...

I have become vaguely paranoid that I am perhaps extending the boundaries of creativity a little too far with my dotee's, the faces are um, somewhat different to others I have seen, and I realise that the addition of a pair of legs (I didn't have enough beads for a tail - and OMG those legs were a bitch to make) my dotee's are starting to look not much like dotee's at all, I hope my partners like them :/