Sunday, 4 December 2016


Wow, thank you so much for your response to my Advent boxes! I was worried that I'd gone a bit over the top with them (ok, I definitely did go a bit over the top) but you all liked them and could understand why I'd bothered - for the love of crafting mainly, and for the love of Christmas. Isn't it interesting how appealing things are in miniature form? I bought a couple of bits for those boxes from a dolls house website and I did enjoy browsing those sites. I could really get into the whole dolls house thing given half a chance, but it's probably best if I never go there. But thank you very, very much for your comments. 

Well, this weekend has been a whirlwind and I am completely exhausted. We have a beautiful new, four-legged addition to our family called Molly. We collected her yesterday afternoon from our local branch of the Retired Greyhound Trust. She is two and a half and was taken in by the charity when the trainer who owned her retired, which is why she's younger than the usual age for a retired greyhound. 

It's been bonkers. She's never lived in a house before so, while it's not quite like having a puppy, there is still a lot of work to be done with training around toileting, food and sleeping. She needs to wear a muzzle when we go out on walks as, to be blunt, she thinks that all birds, squirrels and small dogs are to be chased and eaten. She's only ever been around greyhounds so she needs to learn to play nicely with other dogs, especially smaller ones. The muzzle will come off soon; she's bright and very motivated by treats and praise. We took her to Bosham this morning, a favourite place of ours, for her first sniff of sea air. If all this sounds like a lot of work it is, but we are all a bubble of Molly love.

At home she was at first very quiet, a little anxious, and followed us around. She only settles when we all sit down, which is practically never, as we are always up and down, in and out, doing things, so she is constantly underfoot. But she's also delightful and mischievous and there is definitely a playful side there. She loves her bed and keeps pilfering things - slippers, jumpers, oven gloves - to put in her nest which we all find adorable. She likes picking up shoes and putting them down in places where the owner can't find them. I found one of my boots under the sofa earlier. Mealtimes are interesting because she has never been around food preparation - before, she got fed and that was it. As soon as we sit down at the table she appears, sniffing around plates and all cooking smells are fascinating to her.  This afternoon Bella and I made mince pies and I just helped myself to one from the tin (guiltily, in case Molly saw). When my back was turned she had her paws up on the worktop and was trying to open the cake tin with her teeth! So, basically we are getting to know each other and it's hard work but wonderful.

Christmas preparations are ongoing in amongst all this madness. Eucalyptus is currently my new favourite thing and I've made a little indoor wreath from an embroidery hoop. It took about ten minutes and I love it. The silver green of the eucalyptus is so pretty, I really like having it in the house, and it smells fantastic too. I cleared everything off the mantel this week and tried to put back one or two things and I think it looks better that way.  I gave my round shelf a little festive attention and treated myself to the Christmas copy of Country Living. I have ordered a turkey and ham, and bought cards and stamps. Of course I haven't written or posted any cards, but simply knowing I bought them makes me feel a whole lot more organised. 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Twenty Four Little Boxes

I made my own advent calendar this year, twenty four little boxes each filled with something to make, eat, do, look forward to, or play with. Oh, I have had some fun with this project. It has taken me a long time, but I have enjoyed it so much.  

I started thinking I'd just fill matchboxes (you can buy plain crafting matchboxes quite cheaply) but they weren't always big enough, so I bought a few of those plain brown lidded boxed from Hobbycraft too, the ones sold for decoupage, and found a few other boxes here and there which I covered with brown paper.

Thinking about the contents was so much fun and I'll admit that I may have gotten a bit carried away at times. The look of the inside of the boxes was as important as the activity we'd do. I wanted to create little Christmas vignettes, so that a tiny scene would appear as the matchbox slid back.

I raided the children's toy boxes and pilfered cars, animals, Playmobil figures, Barbie shoes and Sylvanian Families crockery. For some, I got out my crochet hook or needle and thread and stitched something tiny. I made Fimo food and ordered a few little odds and ends from a Dolls House Miniatures website. I rummaged through magazines, last year's Christmas cards and old printed Instagram photos for suitable backgrounds.

Some are filled with treats; chocolate coins or a promise of hot chocolate in a cafe after school.

Others are filled with suggestions for activities we can do together; make paper chains, bake gingerbread, make a wreath to hang in the house, hang paper snowflakes.

For some, we have decorations to hang on the tree. I'm rather fond of that felt mistletoe, I'm looking forward to hanging that somewhere.

These ones below are intended to be taken away and played with - I am hoping I'll find half this stuff in Bella's dolls house soon, then I'll know it's been used for it's intended purpose.

And then there are the scenes I made, and the numbers on these boxes sometimes correspond to dates in the diary. So, the box on the left is for the day we plan to choose our Christmas tree, and the one on the right for the day we collect our dog and take it for a walk. (It kills me that I could not find a small toy greyhound anywhere!)

Others were just for fun (I have no desire to go ice skating, for example) but I enjoyed creating them. The bottom left box with the two red stockings is for Christmas Eve. Two miniature versions of the red felt stockings Bella and Angus will hang on their bedposts.

This one is for me. It's dated the 17th, the day after the last day of term and our staff Christmas party. I expect I may feel delicate, and certainly tired. It's full of copper kettles, woollen mittens, a basket of yarn and a crocheted throw; a planned day of resting and nesting with tea and crochet. 

Now they are all wrapped and lined up in a row on the living room windowsill, ready for the coming days. Today's - filled with chocolate coins - was well received, but chocolate always is in this house. As always, it's the making that's as much fun as the end result with a project like this.

Happy Advent friends. 

Sunday, 27 November 2016


Such a deliciously slow and steady weekend. No agenda, no real commitments or places to be, and John at work so it was just the kids and I. We stayed in our pyjamas until late in the morning both days, each doing our own thing; watching the iPad, eating toast, reading magazines. I kept thinking that I really should be doing something productive, but I didn't, I just dug out another unread magazine and put the kettle on again. Ridiculous, isn't it, the insidious guilt that creeps in when we're relaxing and doing nothing. Like we're not allowed to do that. 

Yesterday, a friend and her son came for lunch. I made leek and potato soup and her three year old was adorable and quite taken with Angus's train track. In the afternoon we walked into town to see the Christmas Lights switched on in the town centre and meet up with some friends from school. It was nice, although bitterly cold. I was glad John had arrived home from work and lit the fire while we were out. Today I did a lot of Christmas shopping online, which felt productive, even though I sat in the kitchen drinking coffee the whole time.

Bella is currently obsessed with baking. Before 8am this morning, she was whipping up a batch of cupcakes and was remarkably competent and independent with the whole thing. (Until it came to clearing it up. I did that.) But bless her, trying her hardest to pipe the icing onto the top of the cakes, wearing her Christmas jumper, her hair still wild and tangled. We took the cakes to my parent's house this afternoon for a family gathering to celebrate my mum's birthday this week. She was proud of herself, and I was proud of her.

I finished another pair of socks and have to say that I love the grey and mustard. These will be a gift. In other crafting news, I have almost finished my cross stitched Christmas napkins, and have made a start on Bella's crocheted koala. Two legs and one and a half arms, to be precise. And I've been putting together a different kind of advent calendar for the children this year, on and off over the last few months. Twenty four little matchboxes, each filled with something different. I'm looking forward to showing it to you.

Lastly, we passed our home check from the retired greyhound people. I was at work so it was John they spoke to, and I think they were checking us more than the house or garden, you know, making sure we're not lunatics. So we go to pick up our dog this coming Saturday. Thank you for all your well wishes with that.

Wishing you all a happy, calm week.  

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Crocheted Christmas Stockings

Don't worry, the decorations aren't up yet. I'll wait until at least until early December. But I was in the loft, rummaging through the Christmas boxes, looking to see if I had any cards, wrapping paper or gift bags leftover from last year. I dimly remembered buying a load of cards and bags for something ridiculous like 50p in Waitrose last January, and I'm trying to get organised and think about what I need to do over the next four weeks. We are hosting Christmas this year, and I'm feeling the pressure. I wrote an epic list today, two pages, broken down into sub-categories.

Anyway, before you know it, I'm pulling out baubles and faffing around with decorations to show off my new stockings.

I can't honestly say that we needed any more Christmas stockings - the children use these ones which I made a few years ago - but I just liked the look of them. The pattern came with the one I used for my socks and is by Sandra Cherry Heart. It's a brilliant pattern for using up small amounts of yarn. I used up a satisfying amount of almost finished balls of DK, some wool, some acrylic, just whatever I had lying around. You could even avoid darning in the ends if you wanted, as no-one would ever wear these, but I did. I found it strangely satisfying. 

Half finished balls of yarn annoy me, as I try to find projects that use them up then invariably end up buying more yarn as I don't have enough. I'm almost through my yarn stash now - apart from balls I've bought for specific projects - and it feels liberating. 

I like the colours. They are my kind of colours, but then it's my yarn leftovers, so that makes sense. They will be hung from the mantel in December. They are very stretchy so I know that I  - I mean Father Christmas - can squeeze all kinds of awkward shaped gifts inside. But they were an altogether lovely festive crafting project and I enjoyed every stitch. 

Thank you so much for all your comments on dogs and greyhounds. It was lovely to read them all and feel your support and good wishes. We have yet to pass the house inspection, which happens tomorrow. Our neighbour is replacing his fence; if you remember his progress was hampered by a laurel tree in our garden which had grown over the boundary, but we've finally had it chopped down. But there is a gap there, and I'm not sure how much of an issue that will be for them. We'll find out tomorrow. But, even if we have to wait a while longer - until the fence is fully in place - we'll be adopting a greyhound eventually. We're pretty committed to it now. I even dreamt about it the other night. 

I will keep you all posted.