Saturday, 18 December 2010

One I made earlier

Ok, these aren't recent creations, but since I not yet been able to take photos of my recent work, here are a couple I made earlier.

The first is my first ever commission, a friend asked me to make a Russian style doll for her daughters birthday, her daughter is called Honey (isn't that the cutest?) hence the name on the front of the doll. I ended up doing it free of charge, it was so nice to make this and I really feel that this particular doll shows a huge improvement with my embroidery skills. This one is also quite a lot bigger than others I have made, around 10 inches tall.



The little baby is attached to the inside of the tummy pocket, so she doesn't get lost.


The second is, to my shame, a ridiculously late Russian Doll swap. Monda was so so very patient, it actually took a year for me to get this to her, which is um, quite pathetic really. These are Monda's photos, thank you Monda for letting me pinch them to show here.



I do not have photos of the sweet little Russian Doll Monda sent to me, as it is in France, but I will share as soon as I am able to take a few pics next time we head over there.

Monday, 13 December 2010

It's Raining Again

Those of you who have been readers for a while will remember I suffered from Postnatal Depression after Bluebelle was born. I did not blog for a long time as a result, it took a while to find myself again.

Since having Bear, it has hit me afresh. It crept up on me like a slow rising tide, and before I knew what was happening, I have found myself stranded again. I sit in bed day after day, sometimes just numb and silent, and often angry and obnoxious. PND is so cruel, it's timing so perverse.
I have decided to be a bit more candid about it this time, more than anything because being creative and posting about it here does actually make me feel better, it is a small achievement in my otherwise mostly unproductive days, and it is something I do for me. I expect cleaning the house or washing clothes is a heck of a lot more productive, but it's not quite as appealing when I am in my darkest moments.

The childrens Christmas list has played on my mind like a double edge sword. On the one side, it is marvellous that I am committed to delivering those hand made gifts because it forces me to drag my sorry ass down stairs and hook up the sewing machine. On the other hand, it has also brought me much anxiety and pressure, and the ensuing guilt as Christmas edges nearer and I realise I am not likely to fulfil all of their wishes, is quite unpleasant.
So, I have made a pact with myself. I WILL make everything on the list, it just might not happen before Christmas.
So far, I have completed Ambers cushion and book bag, the cushion turned out quite well, despite the wonkiness, and the book bag was going swimmingly until I attached the straps, but I might be able to fix that. I have also made a gift for Boo and now need to do another for her and two for Hoozel also. I will take photos soon and share, the days are so dark it is difficult to get a good shot.

I am thankful to have an incredibly supportive network of friends and family around me, and I know with their love and understanding, I will find myself in this fog, it might just take a while. I hope you don't mind me sharing, it is not my intention to turn this space into something dark and gloomy, quite the opposite, I hope it will allow me to shine a little of the light that appears in my otherwise dark days.
Much love and Christmas sparkle to you all <3

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Doodle Series - Monarchs - Matilda of Flanders

It's been super interesting researching royal history to find my next subject. There are so many obscure monarchs that I have never before heard of!
For my next doodle, I chose Matilda of Flanders, Queen of the English. It was this that really tickled me.

According to legend, when Duke William II of Normandy (later known as William the Conqueror) sent his representative to ask for Matilda's hand in marriage, she told the representative that she was far too high-born, to consider marrying a bastard. After hearing this response, William rode from Normandy to Bruges, found Matilda on her way to church, and dragged her off her horse by her long braids, threw her down in the street in front of her flabbergasted attendants, and rode off.

Gosh, what a way to start married life! You can read more about Matilda here.


Sorry you can only see half of the image again, I am having difficulty resizing photos on this blog, it is driving me slightly mad. To view the full size version, visit my Flickr photostream here.
To those of you State side, who are celebrating Thanksgiving today, Happy Holidays to you!


Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A Stocking for Christmas

Well, so much for one handmade gift per child, try 3 on for size, THREE!
Ambear bust in on me yesterday when I was working on the surprise cushion, I hastily stuffed it back in the bag, and had to fathom an excuse RE the sewing machine poised ready for action and various fabric scraps here, there and everywhere.
"What are you making Mum?" she asks.

Now, I realise, in hindsight (such a beautiful thing!) that I should have been honest, and said actually Amber, I am working on your Christmas treat, so on your bike! (That means 'get lost' in British btw).
Instead, I fumbled and stuttered and declared, "I am making you a Christmas stocking!"
Why? WHY?! I don't even know HOW to make a Christmas stocking.
"Oh cool" says she "Are you making one for Hoozel, Boo and Bear too?"
"But of course!" says I. Three words spring to mind. Glutton For Punishment.

Anyway, the hole I had dug was to deep, there was no way out. The stockings must be made. The children insisted on choosing their own fabrics too. Being as Ambear was the perpetrator of this plan, I made hers first. I made a stocking shaped template with an old cereal box, cut the shapes out, forgot to account for seams, scrapped the shapes and cut them out again, this time with seam allowance. I wanted a fold over top in contrasting fabric, but I sewed these on wrong, facing out, by accident, in my typically bungling fashion, so they don't fold, but they look pretty all the same. The stocking emerged from the work table barely 90 minutes later, freshly ironed and was presented to Ambear.

"Oh COOOL!" says She "Can you embroider my name on to it?"
Cue much muttering under ones breath, and a great few expletives once the child had departed. I embroidered Ambers name on to a white scrap, stitched it to another white scrap, right sides together, with the intention of making a reverse applique.
I reversed it, and it was crooked, pissed as a fart, wonky donkey all the way to timbuktu. It looked SHIT.
So, I stitched some fabric to the reverse, and attached it as a kind of homespun wonky gift tag instead. Phew, I present it to Ambear.
"Oh thanks Mum! I really like it... can you just..."
NO! It's finished, begone with you child, I have three more of these things to make.


Anyhow, the requests have since flooded in from the children. A Book bag and doll for Amber, a Bag for Hoozels PE kit and a bear (ffs), Boo needs a bag for her farmyard and animals, Bear needs a quilt (though I do not think I am quite ready to tackle a quilt yet), they have given me a list, a LIST. Just ideas apparently, they say, hopefully, raising their eyebrows and carefully pointing out the vintage linens they want me to masacre for their projects.
Thank goodness we are visiting our home in France this Christmas, I will be sure to return laden with my fabric stash, so that the mass genocide of my vintage bed linens can stop. Assuming I have not hurled myself into the river by then, phew, am feeling the pressure a bit now!

What gifts are you making for the holidays?

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Doodle Series - Monarchs

I was sifting through some of my doodles recently, and realised that they truly are doodles in the most doodley sense, that is to say, I prepare pens and paper, sit, think and draw. None of my doodles are pre meditated, I simply draw what comes to mind, and that really, is the essence of a doodle, don't you think?
There is something inexplicably calming about allowing ones thoughts to wonder, usually in the most colourful and fantastical way. In my doodling daydreams there are toadstools and butterflies, birdies and rainbows, houses made of gingerbread and always a blue sky, oh yes.

I do enjoy doodling so, it is also the easiest creative outlet for me to fit into my day, as the children are always keen to join me when the pens and paper come out, and thus we are quite often found, one little (or large?) family, silent, or often noisily, scribbling away at the dining room table.

I decided though, that it would be fun to give myself a doodling project, a theme perhaps, as I have noticed that as of late, most all my doodles contain gingerbread houses, toadstools and birdies and what not, and well, it started to get a bit "samey", so after much thought, I settled on the theme of Monarchs.
Royal history is fascinating, don't you think? I had so much fun researching the different monarchs from years gone by, there are just so so many. My foray into history really spurred me on and it was oh so difficult to choose my first subject, but choose I did.

I am not going to limit myself to only great British monarchs, but England has such a rich history and the royal family are an endless source of fascintaing facts and imagery, it was difficult not to begin on home turf.
I knew I wanted to start with a she rather than a he, and as soon as I read about Queen Elizabeth the First, I knew it was she who would feature in the first of my Monarchs doodle series.

So Elizabeth and I spent a fair bit of time getting acquainted, at least I got to know her somewhat. I have to say she was not at all interested in me, given my civilian, bordering on peasant, status.

Very few portraits of Queen Elizabeth 1 exist, apparently the many artists enlisted to paint her Majesty failed to accurately capture her charm and elegance, so most all art works resulting from these sittings were destroyed. I broached this with the Queen and mentioned that a "little birdie" had told me that the true reason was that actually, she was a bit of a minger, wore too much led paint on account of her horrendously pock marked face, and had horrid rotten teeth and piggy eyes. Needless to say, such a comment did not go down well, though I did promise to try and succeed where others had failed and create a most charming portrait.

So, I would be of course be lying had I said it was Elizabeths apparent (or lack of) grace and charm that inspired me to choose her as my subject. It was, in truth, her strength, her absoloute dedication to her country and her oh so inspiring speeches, she was a true leader, a strong woman indeed.

See my Flickr for full size images.

I dare say, Elizabeth thought it quite gaudy and complained I made her look like a faintly surprised clown. I pointed out at least her eyes are not beady and that the colours in her dress would have been much coveted, being as such vibrant colours were not commonly available in those times.

I implore you to read a little about her, and see if you too can be inspired by her strength and the difficult times in which she reigned, fascinating stuff, oh yes.
I leave you with this, Queen Elizabeths speech to her troops as they prepared for battle with the Spanish Armada.

I am come amongst you at this time, not as for my recreation or sport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all; to lay down, for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honor and my blood, even the dust. I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too; and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realms: to which, rather than any dishonor should grow by me, I myself will take up arms; I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.

Queen Elizabeth I - 1588

Monday, 22 November 2010

Scratching the creative itch, rather badly

I have set myself a quite overwhelming challenge to create each of my sproglets a christmas gift, now I do have just (just!) four children, and with almost 5 weeks to go to christmas, one gift a week doesn't seem so impossible - but I get so little time to create, and I am SO slow at pretty much everything, sewing, embroidery, drawing, I like to take my time and get it right. With just over 4 weeks to go, I would be lying if I said I was not a little overwhelmed.

Anyway, I have made a start, a rather slow start. I hit upon the idea of making a cushion for Ambear, using an embroidery which I started 3 years ago (I told you I am slow!) and really ought to finish and make use of. So, I have no fabric, well, not much, and mostly little scrappy pieces that I found at the bottom of the bag

, so in my infinite wisdom, I figured I would use said scrappy pieces to create a patchwork border for the embroidery, and ta-da I would have a cushion front. The embroidery is my own design and features Ambear and her precious Sleepy Bear.

However, the bag was sadly lacking in such tools as rotary cutters and cutting mats and even a decent pair of scissors, actually the only pair of scissors I currently have in my possesion are either teeny weeny embroidery scissors or blunt as a donkeys ass kitchen scissors, can you tell where I am heading with this?

Yes, my patchwork pieces were all pissed, I figured that was ok as I could sew them together straight and um, that didn't happen, and before I knew it, well, I had one seriously pissed piece of patchwork, that wouldn't even iron right, with crazy fat and irregular seams. So my first attempt at patchwork is a complete bungle, the donkey with the blunt ass could have done a better job, but oh well. Here it is anyways.



Notice the lack of eye popping colour, Ambear prefers muted tones, so I did my best to cater for her taste with my small selection of vintage scraps, this will be a completed cushion this week,very soon, before christmas. Sigh.

Boo has been playing with her train set a whole lot recently, and has been dragging it from pillar to post in a rather tired looking plastic grocery bag, so out came the sewing machine (which is fast becoming my firm friend, now that I know how to thread her up etc) and an old vintage pillow case, and this nifty little drawstring bag was made. It seemed a bit plain on it's own, so I embroidered a train design to applique on to the front.



I reeeeally should have put this away for christmas, although she also needs a bag for her building blocks, wooden farm and animals and oh the list goes on, back to the sewing machine goes I....
What have you been sewing lately?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Apple Compote for Breakfast

Around this time of year, we make the most of the ripe fruits that abound at Autumn by preserving them. There are two apple trees at River Cottage, but these had long since given up their bounty before we arrived.
I was feeling a bit of a pang for the mountains of fresh fruit we would be picking if at home in France, and after discussing this with the children and finding they shared that sentiment, we had to concede it is simply not cost effective to make your own raspberry, strawberry or apricot jam (our favourites!) when you have to buy the fruit.

The Hoozel asked if, as a compromise, I could make some Apple Compote. This is very much a staple in France, children eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or sometimes all three! Hoozel loves to dollop it on to muesli with greek yoghurt, with ice cream or rice pudding, or alone with hunks of crusty bread. The latter never much appealed to me, but it is very much common place in France.

Anyway, how could I refuse? Apples are not as pricey as berries so I picked up some Bramley apples and set to work, and I share the recipe with you here.


If you have never made compote, or are not sure what it is, rest assured it is super easy and super tasty! A compote is basically any chopped up fresh fruit, simmered in sugar syrup. It is only a small amount of sugar, so it won't set or preserve like jam/jelly, but it keeps in the fridge for around two weeks and freezes well.

8 Bramley Apples (or other fresh fruit)
Sugar approx 100g
Butter approx 100g
Spices such as ginger or cinammon can be added if you like
And the most indespensible ingredient of all, LOVE :)

I have stated how many apples I used, I rarely weigh anything, unless I am baking, and prefer to add sugar to taste, being as I made it for the children, the less sugar the better, but feel free to pile it in with reckless abandon until it tastes just so, but I would say 150g should be the maximum, otherwise you're getting into jam territory and it will set.

1/ Peel, core and chop the apples into chunks. Melt the butter in a heavy based pan/pot and throw in the apple chunks, return to the heat (medium) and stir until all the apple is coated with the butter.

2/ Add around 100g of sugar and stir in, continue to stir until the apple begins to breakdown and become mushy. Reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer and leave for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick.

How long it takes depends on the types of apples or fruit you use, so use the time as a guideline only, once your compote is smooth and all the apples have collapsed, it is ready.
Store it in the fridge in sterilised jars for up to two weeks. 8 large Bramley apples will make 3-4 jars.


Hazel heaped it on her muesli this morning, and swore she could taste the love in it <3

Rediscovering the bottom of the bag

The duvet cover on our bed is possibly 10 years old. Simon brought it with him when he moved in with me, I never really liked it much and for the most part it has been relegated to the back of the cupboard. However, it seems to have somehow ended up being the only duvet cover we brought with us to the UK. It is perfectly fine except for having lost it's buttons many moons ago, resulting in the entire duvet being on it's ass each morning and the duvet cover on the floor.

Honestly, I don't know why it has taken me so long to get my act together and stitch new buttons on to it, what can I say? I am a slovenly bitch like that (as my mother likes to remind me).
Anyway, I finally stitched on the buttons, a variety of multi coloured pretty buttons from my sewing box, Simon was slightly alarmed to see his old brown duvet cover updated so, and asked why the buttons could not match. I on the other hand, felt illogically, insanely pleased, isn't it funny how such a simple task as repairing some loved and worn part of ones home, can give you such a sense of achievement, or am I just a fool?

When we left France, we left in a car, leaving pretty much all our wordly belongings at the house, to be collected another time - that time has yet to come!
Given that we had one cars worth of space only, I had to pack pretty wisely, clothes and bedding went in first, a selection of the childrens favourite toys and books, and by the time I got around to considering my crafty wares, there really was not much room, so I stuffed as much as I could into one large shopping bag.

Most all of my fabric was left behind, save for a couple of pieces. I started digging around that bag last night, and found a whole load of unifinished projects, one being a pillow case, embroidered with birdies, the transfer is from Jenny Hart's Sublime Stitching- which I highly recommend if you have never embroidered and wish to try, it is so user friendly! I think I perhaps started this project almost 3 years ago, and just one birdie remained to be stitched, so stitched it I did, and now the pretty pillow sits atop Hazels bed, and I am pleased as punch!


There are other projects to be completed, and all of a sudden, being wthout my stash doesn't seem such bad news, it is a great time to make good and complete previous works.

Monday, 18 October 2010

A Doodle a Day

At least, in the absence of my fabric stuffs, I will try and do a doodle a day!

This is called "My Neighbour is called Frankie Fox" in Berol Felt Tip pens and Stabilo Fineliners, oh and btw, my neighbour really is called Frankie Fox!


4 is the magic number

Did you know that Boo is now 2? What a big girl my baby has become, isn't is crazy how fast they grow?

Nala and Pip are still with us, I say this with a degree of surprise as Nala is getting on a bit now, she will be 14 on her next birthday and is feeling her age, her whiskers have never been more grey and she is a bit slower these days, but she is a strong old girl and still enjoying life, Boo loves the naughty dogs!

Our return to the UK in March has seen us go through a period of crazy upheaval, moving house when you are pregnant is never a walk in the park, but moving countrie's, and then moving house AGAIN, is really a bit much. Alas, I lived to tell the tale, and our new house is so lovely! We are only renting at the moment, and after months of searching, we finally stumbled upon River Cottage.

After staying at my sisters cottage, with no garden to speak of and bang smack in the centre of town, we are utterly relieved to be back in the countryside with some room to breathe. I never realised just how much I valued our space and some peace, our new home does not have quite as much land (about 1/5 of an acre) as we had in France, but even just a little is medicine to my soul, and the views are tremendous. I haven't taken any photos from the upstairs windows yet, but will do today, the views are awesome in every direction, and there are cows everywhere!


The bridge over the river, this lane leads to a creepy old school, a bit like hogwarts, and we never see anyone coming or going from there, so strange....

Views from the garden

Anyway, no sooner had we moved into our lovely new house, and set about getting ourselves settled, baby number 4 decided to make an appearance!


Our beatiful baby was born on the 17th of September (just 3 days after Boo's 2nd bday), weighing 6.9lbs, and it was the hardest of ALL my pregnancies AND labours, so really it was no surprise it was a boy that inflicted all that discomfort :) He is an absoloute peach and sleeps like a dream though, so I shant complain too much!

Introducing, Bear Geoffrey (Geoffrey after my papa). I cannot believe I have FOUR children, FOUR, you need a special car to get 4 kids in you know, it's a big number, and really, I am still in shock! Needless to say, I think we might be stopping at 4!



He is a very serious little chap, as you can see, all frowns and grimaces, and so unlike my girls, honestly, if the midwife has not handed him straight to me as he popped out, I might not have believed he was mine, he looks so different to how the girls did as newborns - they all look more like me, where as The Bear, is the double of his (very handsome!) father.

I will take more photos soon, as I have a little more time now, what with me being on semi maternity leave, and I say semi because technically speaking I am still working, just from home, and not quite so much. Oh and in the woeful absence of my fabric and bead stash, my crafty fingers have begun to twitch, so I cracked open the felt tip pens and started doodling again, it feels good to be creating after such a long break! I will share photos soon....

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Long time no see!

I have been a terrible terrible blogger!
Life has taken so many twists and turns that I barely know where to begin....
As you know, I went back to work shortly after Boo was born. It took me to the UK and back weekly, it was Hard with a capital H, and after much deliberation, we made the very diffiult and gut wrenching decision to return to the UK :(

We landed back on British soil in March this year, and have been staying at my sisters 600 year old cottage, in Hertfordshire, whilst we look for somewhere suitable to rent. We are moving to our new house in 3 weeks, in the meantime, I am 45 days short of a fully baked bun, yes, baby number 4 is almost cooked - I have no idea how we will manage with 4, my 4th happy accident!

Our new house is a victorian cottage set beside a river with surrounding fields, and yet just a stones throw from the town. Not as pretty or peaceful as our beautiful French house (which we could not bare to sell, and sits empty awaiting our return), but lovely all the same, and after camping out at my sisters for so long, it wil be awesome to have our own space again.

With 3 kids, full time work and my wayward hounds, there is little time for my creative pursuits, and it doesn't help that all my lovely fabric and bead stash is still in France, oh how I mourn my stuff, not having one's belongings around is somewhat dislocating, don't you think? I even miss my books, and my bed linen and my own kitchen utensils, who would have beleieved that a wooden spoon would make me so nostalgic?
More than anything I miss my home, and whilst I know we are exactly where we are supposed to be at this phase in our lives, it is still hard not to pine, just a little, for our French life and all that went with it.

I shall try and be a good blogger, and post at least a bit more frequently than the average once a year!
If by chance, you are still here and reading, thanks for remembering me and sticking around!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Is anyone still there?

Gosh! I can't believe my little blog has been so quiet for SO long, what can I say? The YEAR (a whole year - and some!) has just flown by, naturally, I have lots and lots of news.

Where to begin?
Well, the last time I posted, I had just popped out baby number 3 - and I am pleased to report that Boo (as she is affectionately known in our house) is doing just fine.

It is wonderful having a little one tumbling about the house again, and Ambear and Hoozel (whom were none to excited about the idea of a baby sister) have been wonderful, incredible, super awesome big sisters, cupid aimed true and clear when Boo arrived, and we all got a direct hit, she is just adorable.

Here are a few photos to show you how she has grown....

4 months old....

6 months old

8 months old, with Ambear

10 months old

First Birthday!

Isn't she a peach?

So much more has happenned since then too, births, deaths, new jobs, the house has moved on leaps and bounds (though god help me - it still isn't finished!).
However, before I fill you in on the details, I should probably explain why I have been absent for so long.

Not long before Bluebelle was born, my grandmother passed away, my beautiful Nana Ann was 84 and had battled with cancer for nearly 10 years. She was taken from us in August 2008, due to my advanced pregnancy there wasn't an airline in the world that would return me to the UK for her funeral, and needless to say, I was devastated by this loss, more so because I knew she had hung in there and fought so hard to meet her third great grand child, it still fills me with great sadness that Bluebelle won't ever meet Nana Ann, she truly was a very special lady.

I guess things got a little on top of me from that point on, I was already struggling with pregnancy and the loneliness that comes with living in rural France with no car and no contact with friends or like minded folk.
When Bluebelle was born, I was engulfed by the most awful depression, which I now know to be PND.

PND is something I had little or no experience of - I realise now how naive it sounds, but I always thought depression was a state of mind one could snap themselves out of with enough effort, but I learned that it is actually a very debilitating illness and never more so than when you have a new baby to care for, and little or no support because of your location.

Needless to say, I did of course get better! It was a difficult time, that sometimes seemed never ending, but I am lucky to be blessed with an incredible family and the most awesome friends, somehow I dragged my ass to the light at the end of the tunnel, and am happy to report that nowadays, I am just fine and dandy!

It's difficult to start blogging again after such a long absence - part of dreaded having to explain where I had been, but having talked it over with Simon, I realised that this is my blog, I enjoyed writing it so much, I should just pick up where I left of, and really there has never been a better time, because I have just recently started crafting again, more about that soon!

I guess the other major event is that I got a job, it was so random and so unexpected, but one of those too good to refuse opportunities, and it has truly helped me rebuild my confidence and remember that I am more than just a mummy!
My new job means I have to travel a lot, sometimes I am away from home for days at a time, not ideal, but how you appreciate family and home so much more when you are given a chance to miss them some!

I will leave you with a few more photos from the last year or so, and will write again soon with some updates on my crafting!

Also, just because I have been quiet, doesn't mean I haven't been reading all your lovely blogs and admiring your lovely work - and if by some miracle you are still reading mine... thanks for hanging around and Happy New Year!

Ambear is nearly 11!

Hoozel is still a little crazy

Lulu the pony came and lived with us for a while...

And Simon, still hasn't grown up...