Saturday, 14 December 2013

‘Twas the night before Christmas holiday...

...and all through the house

every creature was stirring except for this mouse.

The stockings were packed in the suitcase with care

in the hopes that BA would fly them swiftly through the air.

Bunny in her pyjamas, Little Flower sitting in her lap,

were reading a Christmas story while last-minute gifts mama wrapped.

Nordicware gingerbread cake tins

Gingerbread house cake with icing sugar snow!
When all of a sudden there arose such a clatter,
the girls sprang from their chair to see what was the matter.
When what to their weary eyes did appear
but mama smiling in the kitchen surrounded by gifts of good cheer.

She was dressed in her apron, surely not at this hour?
And her clothes were all tarnished with sugar and flour.
A spice-scented cookie she held delicately in her hand
and she grinned like a queen who ruled all the land.

“I’ve found it!” she cried. “What?” came the girls’ plea.
“At last I have found the perfect Christmas cookie recipe!
“I needed a recipe that was tasty and quick.
“And these fruitcake cookies were just the trick!”

Walnuts, raisins, cherries, figs...
“The ingredients make dough logs that I slice
“into cookies when needed, and they make 60 – quite nice!

“On my list I have so many handmade gifts
“that I’m glad to find a recipe that makes loads and is swift.”
Then a wink of her eye and a twist of her head
gave the little girls warning that it was soon time for bed.
She spoke not a word but went straight to her craft
and filled all the gift bags, tied them with ribbon, then laughed:

“Look at the bags and the jars balanced steady.
“There are so many presents, it looks like Santa’s been here already!”
While papa settled the girls in bed safe and sound,
mama packed up the goodies to deliver all round.
Early next morning they bundled the kids the car
and readied themselves for a Christmas afar.

And she was heard to exclaim as they drove out of sight:
“Happy Christmas to all, I hope we have a smooth flight!”
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year! 
Chrissie x

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Handmade gifts: Mulled Wine Spice Kit

I’m afraid I won’t have any photos of our Christmas decorations for you this year. The halls aren’t decked, the tree won’t be put up...but the stockings are being packed into a nice big suitcase, because this year we are spending Christmas with my mother and grandmother in America!

Every year I bake Christmas cookies for friends and neighbours, but because we are leaving soon, I don’t have the time to devote to baking lots and lots and lots of goodies. So in addition to the chutneys and jams I made during the autumn, I’m making mulled wine kits:

This is a super-speedy gift that still has the touch of handmade care. Some sugar cubes, cloves, allspice berries, star anise, a slice of dried orange, a few gratings of nutmeg, a cinnamon stick and half a vanilla pod are all tucked into a little muslin bag and hung on a bottle of red wine.

I bought some muslin bags from ebay, but you can find them in supermarkets, cookware shops or even make your own from muslin fabric. The bottle is adorned with the spice bag and a gift tag, with the instructions written on the back:

Pour the wine into a saucepan, add the spice bag
and simmer for 30 minutes.
Happy Christmas!

I added one of my little crocheted Christmas trees to the gift tag for an extra special touch. I’m giving a bottle to our house sitter, as part of a gift bag for Bunny’s teacher, some bottles for wine-loving friends...

Dried oranges are simple to make. Slice one orange very thinly, place on a baking sheet and sprinkle liberally with icing sugar/powdered sugar, about a tablespoon or so per slice.

Bake in a 100◦C/200◦F oven for 2-½ to 3 hours, until dried and deep orange.

I have a tried-and-true Christmas cookie recipe that I will share soon; I can’t make it through a Christmas season without baking at least one thing! These will be for the postman, the bin men and others who work year round helping us in our daily lives.

I will be taking a few treasured ornaments to the States, and speaking of ornaments, let me show you the sweet toadstool that I received from Carol of Tales from Spring Cottage as part of Ladybird Diaries Decoration Swap:

A pretty little house, and there is some pretty stitching on the back as well

Thank you Carol!

Although I’m a bit sad not to be unwrapping all of our tissue-covered ornaments and stringing fairy lights throughout the house, I am over the moon to be taking Bunny and Little Flower to see their grandma and great-grandma for a super-special Christmas! (And, my crafty friends, I will be packing a full suitcase into an empty one, because I want extra space to fill with goodies I will find at JoAnne Fabrics, various craft stores...I wonder what Martha Stewart has added to her craft range since last I visited? Hmmm...)

Now I must get back to packing and making more last-minute gifts, and I’d better test out one of those spice bags to make sure I have the recipe just right...

Chrissie x

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Bloomin’ CAL: Strawberry season

We’ve had a very cold, blustery day here in the south of England, with a biting wind and icy frost. Certainly no weather for strawberries...or is it?

Off my hook this week is a new winter hat for Little Flower. I made her a little strawberry hat last year, and when she realized she had outgrown it, she asked if I could crochet another one.

Of course I couldn’t track down the original pattern, which I had sorta mashed together from various sources last year, so I decided to improvise again. A baby earflap hat pattern was increased until it fit Little Flower’s head, the strawberry stem was spotted on Pinterest, but I didn’t like the leaves that accompanied it, so I made my own. Pale yellow yarn stitched on for the seeds. (I will happily cobble together all the elements into one coherent pattern upon request – just send me an email!)

She is very pleased and wears it with pizzazz – and gets many a smile from passers-by on the street!

In other crochet news, I finished the first ball of yarn for the Manly Scarf:

I am loving the shades of this yarn! But I must tuck it away so it is not discovered...

And like so many of us, there are a few other makes in the works that must stay secret until I will entertain you with a funny item I found in the latest Graham & Greene catalogue:

My, my, what gorgeous pom poms used decoratively on the wall! Remind you of something

Oh, I am just so on trend...but wait, let’s look a wee bit closer...

Good grief! Do you see the price tag on those posh balls of tissue paper? Three for £19.95?!?  I have £40 worth of pom poms on my wall from the Rainbow Birthday Party! And heck, mine are multi-coloured, which Graham & Greene would no doubt value at £29.95 for three!

Don’t you just love love love being a *maker*? I am sure most of you have experienced a similar crafty smugness, yes? Tell me about it and revel in it here!

And don’t forget to link up your hooky projects below!

Chrissie x

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Christmas Decoration Workshop

Thank you so much for all your warm wishes for my birthday – it most definitely was one of the best birthdays *ever*!

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent Monday at a Christmas Decoration Workshop with Caroline Zoob, author of The Hand-Stitched Home. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the day, since I knew most of the decorations would be using papercraft techniques, of which I have no real experience. But the workshop did not disappoint!

The day was spent at the beautiful home of a close childhood friend of Caroline’s – it was stunning, straight out of Homes & Gardens magazine. All crisp and white and Farrow & Ball and linen and giant antique mirrors and fresh flowers and marbled tables. (Our hostess obviously doesn’t have young children!) She welcomed us most graciously with hot tea and biscuits and was very kind indeed. I wanted to stay there forever, and I think I probably could have hidden in a nook and managed it...

But I digress. We went to the conservatory, which featured a long table to seat us six crafty souls taking part in the workshop. Zinc buckets held bottles of paint, paintbrushes and pencils, and our workstations had sweet ceramic salt cellar-type pots to hold small amounts of glue, and demure votive-sized tumblers for the paintbrushes (note to self: try finding these to replace the plastic pot lids and Ikea cups you normally use at home).

Also at our workstations were large sheets of Christmas templates and lovely cream cards tied with thin paper string. The most alluring part of this workshop, to me, was the wide range of weathered, sepia-toned papers we were to use for our craft. I have never seen such interesting and beautiful sheets – antique letters written with pen and ink in flourishing handwriting, vintage sheet music tattered at the edges with wear, pastel-toned old maps and pages of antique Parisian fashion catalogues. I was excited but also nervous to be cutting up these lovely little pieces of history!

And cut I did...

A little glue, a little card, a little cutting, and those papers worked their way into beautiful cards, sweet gift tags,

and delicate hanging ornaments.

Caroline coached us throughout, helping us refine our snipping skills, gain confidence with the delicate papers, and brainstorm unique ideas for the templates (I'm thinking vintage wallpapers...). She explained that all of these ideas could also be used with fabrics, which I used to create a jolly Christmas card:

The stockings were made with antique linens, bondaweb and card, then hung on a paper string washing line. I stitched grass with green embroidery floss, and added “Ho Ho Ho” at the top with one strand of red floss.

I’m not sure I’ll be sending this to anyone, I might just frame it for a seasonal wall hanging!

On our departure we were given goodie bags filled with vintage papers to decorate all of our cards and envelopes. All in all, a creative, indulgent day out, complete with a delicious lunch and great conversation with like-minded people. Caroline Zoob was a gracious, kind and inspirational teacher, and luckily she’s planning future craft workshops!

Oh, before I go, remember those busy buzzing sounds emanating from the kitchen on my birthday? I don’t need Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry, I have my own perfect bakers:

I just had to share this photo with you, can you believe my Darling Husband, who has never baked a cake in his life, created this work of art with my Bunny? A rich chocolate cake topped with raspberries and a dark chocolate ribbon. I was utterly gobsmacked!

Happy crafting!
Chrissie x

Sunday, 1 December 2013

This getting older malarkey...

...ain’t half bad! Today is my birthday, and I am being thoroughly spoiled:

Presents in bed

Breakfast in bed

Hubby did well making me the tastiest breakfast in bed I have ever eaten!

A beautiful new sewing box from my girls

(Bunny received one from her grandma for her birthday, I was so jealous! So now I have my very own...)

Bunny's sewing box on the left, mine on the right

I have received the kindest gifts from my creative friends, both near and far...

I’ve been treated to a pottery lesson courtesy of my Craft Club friends!

Little did I know that the beautiful heart I was cooing over on Hannapat’s blog was on its way to me!

And the crocheted flowers Marianne was featuring on her blog, well, I have two little lovelies on the softest, prettiest fingerless mittens she made for me!

My very dear friend gave me these two books with the promise of re-teaching me how to knit and to advance my cross-stitch skills in the new year...

And the wonderful Jooles made me the most perfect patchwork needlecase, with beloved Tilda fabrics...

...complete with my name framed in pink!

And the celebrating doesn’t stop after today –tomorrow I’m spending the day at a craft workshop:

This is my big gift from Darling Husband. I am *so excited* to be crafting with the author of The Hand-Stitched Home! Of course I’ll tell you all about it...

On the heels of an emotional Thanksgiving full of gratitude, I have a birthday filled with love, kindness and creativity – someone pass the tissues, please!

There is chaotic activity in the kitchen, the whirring mixer, the tinny-sounding taps of spoons on cake pans, exasperated exclamations from DH, lots of little girls’ giggles...and I am prohibited from entering. 

My husband is not a cook or baker by any stretch of the imagination, but Bunny has some grand design in mind for me, so I’ve told him to follow her lead (and Little Flower knows how to work the mixer and lick the spatula as well!).  
In the meantime, I will be content with putting the finishing touches on my latest makes, and waiting patiently for whatever is being created in the kitchen...

Life just gets better and better, I don't mind being a year older...have a happy day!
Chrissie x

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Crochet-A-Long: A Little Christmas Tree Pattern

Happy Thanksgiving and welcome to this week’s CAL post! I am so thankful for the blogger community, always so inspirational and supportive...and this week I’ve created a little Christmas tree pattern to share with you:

This year I’m attaching crocheted ornaments to my Christmas gifts. I have yarn for snowflakes, holly leaves, mistletoe...but I couldn’t find a small tree pattern that I liked. So I came up with this very quick, and very easy, pattern.

The tree on the right was my first attempt, but it is a bit too teeny...
I love the simplicity of adorning the trees with just one tiny jingle bell or a few snowflake buttons, but they could be decorated in so many ways...why don’t you make one and share your ideas?

I used scraps of DK yarn and a 3.75mm hook for a close weave, but vary this with what you have in your stash. The triangle is a simple “double crochet two together” at the start of each row. It whips up in minutes!

With the green yarn (or use white, red, any colour, really):

Ch 16
Dc in second chain from hook, 1 dc in each st across (15 sts)
Ch 1, turn, dc2tog, 1 dc in each st across (14 sts)
Ch 1, turn, dc2tog, 1 dc in each st across (13 sts)

Continue in this way until you have only two stitches left, dc2tog, fasten off.

You now will have a sweet little triangle. 

This one was made with scraps of cotton washcloth yarn
For the trunk, with the brown yarn:

Ch 9
Dc in second chain from hook, 1 dc in each st across (8 sts)
Ch 1, turn, dc in each st across (8 sts)

Continue for three or four rows, until the trunk is the size you like. Fasten off, leaving a long tail for sewing.

Now simply centre the trunk with the triangle base, and using the long tail of brown yarn, sew the trunk to the back of the first dc row of the triangle, making sure the yarn doesn’t show through at the front. Weave in all the ends when finished.

And that is it! I envisage a garland of trees, trees fastened onto teachers’ gifts, napkin rings, personalized by children...

What’s on your hook this week? Please link up below!
Chrissie x

Wednesday, 27 November 2013


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in America, a day devoted to gratitude. A most wonderful holiday, Thanksgiving – no matter your ethnic origin, your religious beliefs, your marital status, your education – you can celebrate Thanksgiving.

Everyone, everywhere, is thankful for something. From the breath of life itself to material things and everything in between, Thanksgiving is a day of acknowledgment and appreciation.

Cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg...the scent of home and happy memories!

Tomorrow ask someone what they are thankful for. I asked Little Flower today, and she said she was thankful for the pavement we were walking on...then she proceeded to turn around and walk backwards.

“Walk backwards with me, mama,” she said. So I did. Two crazy gals strolling backwards down the road, all the way home. Lots of giggles.

I am very, very thankful for that moment.

What are you thankful for?

Pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese frosting, recipe from here

Happy Thanksgiving!

Chrissie x

Monday, 25 November 2013

Dried hydrangeas...

The hydrangeas mentioned in my last post were tied with string and hung upside down in my utility room.

How did they turn out? Well, here is the entry hall mirror before, notice the old hydrangeas on the little shelf...

It's an old pub mirror I found in my travels, btw...
...and here are the newly dried hydrangeas:

I also had some old hydrangeas in a jug on the kitchen corner shelf...

...which have been replaced:

But wait, what’s that wee bit of colour in the corner? They’re the Rainbow Party pom poms, of course!

Would you take them down? No, me neither. At least not til Christmas!

Thank you all for your comments and tips on my last post, I am very grateful indeed!

Chrissie x