Friday, 30 August 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...46/52

Another short and sweet postcard from France on the last night of our holiday. Joining in with Jen at little birdie here are four reasons to be happy from this last week:

1. Oh, you know, after a typical day of noisy pool splashing and swimming it's nice to go outside in the evening and sit peacefully by the still water and do a bit of crochet, like you do.

2. Catching sight of this little lizard on our bathroom window sill. The nature we've seen here is incredible; birds of prey circling in the sky (buzzards we think but no-one is sure), snakes, butterflies everywhere you look all day long, bats at dusk and frogs when it's dark. This abundant nature is all very exciting to a city-dweller like me.

3. A cafe lunch in the beautiful Dordogne town of Brantome -  one of those simple holiday lunches where everything is delicious and the kids behave and everyone is happy.

4. This morning John and I went for a bike ride at about half past seven. I borrowed mum's bike and put my camera in the basket on the front. The sun was still rising and we cycled a few miles up the road to look at a nearby chateau and because I wanted to take some photos of the sunflowers. It was just too perfect for words. I kept thinking I must memorise every single sight, sound and smell, it was so beautiful and still. The air was cool and misty, the hills gentle, the light golden and soft, and we only saw eight or nine cars in the whole time we were out. I came back exhilarated and relaxed in a way I never am after running. The trouble is, I don't think any bike ride will ever match that one, it was just too good.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend, whatever you are doing. We will mostly be driving, sitting on a ferry, then driving again.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...45/52

Hello! I feel a bit naughty here, sneaking off to use the laptop and posting this all the way from France, but I wanted to share some of my happy moments from this last week, and it's always fun to join in with Jen's project. I am enjoying something of an internet break here. We have plug-in internet in the house we are renting but no wifi (apart from the 20 minutes I had at a cafe by a lake last Thursday) so I've hardly been online at all since we arrived. At first I felt quite lost, especially without facebook and instagram on my phone, but now I have settled into it quite happily. I sometimes even forget to take my phone out with me or look for it and find the battery is flat  - that never happens at home. So here are four (and gosh it was hard choosing only four!) little moments from the last week(ish). And yes, I'm late, but I'm on holiday time - I barely know what day of the week it is  - and feel that, like lunchtime drinking, it's allowed.

1. The sunrise when we woke at 5.30 am last Saturday to catch the ferry. I've only set the alarm on my phone twice so far - the first time was when we had to catch our early morning flight to Copenhagen in May and the second was last weekend - so I now rather happily associate the bleep with that "about to go on holiday" feeling.

2. A safe and smooth (and sickness free) channel crossing. The holiday starts when you get on the ferry for me and it was wonderful to see Bella and Angus enjoy this part of the holiday as much as I do.

3. The view from our bathroom window. We are truly out in the sticks here (hence the lack of wifi) and it's beautiful countryside.

4. Long, hot evenings and spectacular sunsets, especially when you glimpse a hot air balloon at the same time.  I know it looks perilously close to the power cables there, but we watched it land safely in a nearby field.

Thank you so much for your response to my Colour Collaborative post on vintage colour. I loved reading your comments and thoughts, I really did. I'm sorry there's been so little blog reading this end but I will make up for that on my return. A bientot!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Colour Collaborative: August - Vintage Colour

We don't have a great many vintage items in our home. A nice Meakin coffee set, my grandma's old Robert's radio and a few jugs and other bits - things that I've bought or have been given to me over the years - but not as much as you'll find in other homes. I love vintage things, furniture especially, but don't have the patience to scour charity shops, car boot sales, ebay and antiques fairs for that perfect piece, that amazing bargain. I know, it's a major failing of mine. I'm seeking help.

So this month's theme was a puzzle for me until, while staying at John's parents' house in Durham recently, I looked anew at this toy. Now, I don't know for sure when it was made but I'd guess it was in the seventies. I can't think when else brown, orange and yellow were used together so much and with such good effect.

This boot-shaped dolls house was bought by my mother-in-law for a couple of pounds in a charity shop a few years ago, and is part of the collection of toys that live under the bunk beds in the spare room, ready to be played with by visiting grandchildren. It's seen better days and is missing a few pieces I think, but Bella and Angus love it and play with it every time we stay at their house. When I first saw it I had such a strong feeling of nostaliga. I don't think I ever owned this toy but I certainly remember playing with it, perhaps at friends' houses.

But what surprised me was when John's mum told me that he had one as a child. And when I looked for photos of the original box online, it showed a boy (in a blue polo neck jumper) playing with it on the packaging. That made me even more nostalgic because I think that if a play boot like this was on the market today (and I'm sure there are a few) it would be pink, purple and glittery. It would involve fairies and princesses and would certainly be marketed firmly at girls. That doesn't mean boys can't and wont play with toys aimed at girls, but I wish toys could just be toys, not "girls" toys and "boys" toys. It's everywhere once you start looking, this division between what each gender are told they should play with. 

And it's hard to fight. You can avoid it when you have babies and toddlers; you can buy all the beautifully made, tasteful, gender-neutral, ethical wooden toys you like and your children will love them. But wait until they start nursery and school. I found that within a few months of joining nursery Bella was certain that pink was her favourite colour and suddenly knew the names of all the Disney princesses. She'd turn her nose up at certain toys or colours saying they were "for boys". At four, Angus happily plays with the doll's house, kitchen and shop and I hope he continues to do this for many years because, well, why shouldn't he?

I love the strength and boldness of these colours. They are vivid and assertive and fun, and just say "play" to me and nothing else. There is nothing insipid here, no pastel pink or blue. So there's another reason to buy vintage rather than new, if you needed one -  instead of toys marketed "for girls" or "for boys", we had toys that were aimed at children.

What is The Colour Collaborative? All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when they work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways. We're excited by where this might take us, click on the logos below to find out!

Friday, 16 August 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...44/52

The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.

Joining in with lovely Jen at little birdiehere are some of the little things which have made me very happy this week:

1. Sorting my embroidery threads from one unruly tangle of colour into seven perfect little ziplocked bags. I can actually find the colour I want without swearing under my breath and attacking knots of colour with the scissors.

2. A freshly painted blue-grey front door and a shiny scrubbed and polished letter box.

3. A trip to the wonderful, wonderful Eternal Maker in Chichester with my Mum yesterday. Heaven! The best fabric selection you can imagine. Probably not the cheapest, though, which is why I bought sparingly. The car and forest print fabrics will make PE bags for Angus and Bella and the typewriter print is for me. No idea what I'll use it for but I absolutely love it.

4.  Starting the crochet project I've brought with me for the holiday. 1 square down, 193 to go...

Rather a craft-heavy list of happies this week. Now I've got some spare time I'm finding my crafty mojo again. Thanks for all your comments this week, they've made me very happy too. It was reassuring to know that everyone's life goes at a fast pace and we all struggle to balance things, it's not just a major failing of mine. I am hoping that the next few weeks will provide a much needed rest and lots of time to play with the kids, chat with my sisters, crochet, read, swim, potter around markets, eat, drink... I think there is wifi where we are but I'm not sure how good it is, so I don't know if I'll be here much. See you in two weeks, lovelies!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Holiday Activity Bags

lt has become a little holiday tradition for me to fill a bag with a few activities for Bella and Angus and give it to them right before we leave for wherever we are going on our holiday. I wrote about it here before our trip to the Cotswolds last summer and these bags are very useful things indeed. This year I decided it was high time they had new bags as the old ones were looking tired (and I really wanted to do some applique) so I ordered a couple of these bags and had fun getting creative with fabric scraps and felt. 

The fabric for Bella's name comes from my blogging friend Ada Bea from Vintage Sheet Addict. A while ago we had a crafty swap - I made her daughter a t-shirt and she sent me some fat quarters from her vintage sheet collection. Along with the fat quarters, she popped an envelope bursting with leftover scraps from her stash into the parcel. Ada - thank you! I knew I'd find a use for them.

Angus's name is made up of a mixture of scraps from my fabric stash.* I attach the fabric with bondaweb then straight stitch around the sides to stop them fraying, and make it look nice. I just love this kind of sewing. 

Filling these bags is fun. It's a bit like doing a summertime Christmas stocking, looking for things which are small and inexpensive but entertaining too. I've been putting these bits and pieces away for a few months - sticker books, snacks, pens and paper, toys - and try to find a few things that will keep them amused throughout the holiday, not just the journey. I'm especially please with Bella's Village in a Bag, both she and Angus will enjoy that a lot.

Yes, the snacks are not healthy, but it's a holiday. I'm aiming for "treat" not "lunchbox" here. I'll put an apple and banana in each one on Saturday morning.

It was interesting to read through my post from last year and see what has changed, in particular my comment that Bella and Angus don't travel that well. Things have improved here -  mainly as they are both one year older and so can converse and understand things better, and give us more than two minutes notice for toilet breaks. But also it's because we stopped using the in-car DVD players. There were too many demands for different films, too many awkward, back breaking twisting-around-to-adjust-the-settings moments for the passenger, so many competing noise levels. Now they sit and look out of the window, look at books, talk to us and each other, day dream, sleep. Sometimes they are bored but I think that's ok. It's good for them to be a bit bored sometimes. And we can inflict our taste in music on them too. 


*My fabric stash is getting out of hand. It's full of scraps and small folded pieces - like maybe twenty types of fabrics in each colour, it's a messy rainbow in there - but the pieces aren't big enough for an actual project so I still need to buy more when I want to sew something. I feel a project coming along, of the quilt variety. I really fancy making a hexagon quilt. I've been watching Charmaine and Sandra create beautiful things with hexagons lately and I am very inspired. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Quick, Quick, Slow.

This summer holiday has been wonderful in many ways but it has not been well balanced. It is quick, much too quick, then slow. Crazy, hectic, rush-around days followed by spells of inactivity and relaxation. 

We break up for the holidays and I set about my to do list with in a perky and efficient manner. 

All wardrobes and chest of drawers are emptied, sorted and refolded. Nothing is spared. 

I throw out, among other things, eighteen tops, eight bags, five belts, two bikinis and one bridesmaid's dress. There are things in there from ten years ago! My name is Gillian and I am a shameful hoarder. We give six bin liners of clothes to the local charity shops.

Then to stay with Abigail for a week of fabulous sloooow; lavender farms, cricket matches, village fairs and day trips. Bliss.

But then we're back in Leeds - for only forty eight hours - and its quick, quick; unpack, washing, ironing, emails, appointments, constant rain, re-pack, Then garden is a mess but there's no time to do anything about it. Then we get to Durham and it's slow again; trips to the park, a little shopping, coffee and cake, family time, relaxed breakfasts, long evenings and time to finish some crochet bunting for a friend.

Then home, and quick!, rush-rush, unpack, wash everything (oh look, it's raining again, hello tumble dryer) and prepare for the arrival of my sister, Anna, and nieces who are coming the next day. Sweep and vacuum, shop and bake. I forget to put the chocolate chips in the peanut and chocolate cookies because I am so distracted.

We set the alarm clock every day and are up and out early each morning for the kids' swimming lessons. The car is given it's annual pre-holiday, once-a-year-only, wash and wax.

We go to the farm and the park. Lawns are mowed, hedges trimmed and weeds pulled up from the garden. John paints the front door and garage doors. The car gets new tires. The house is delightfully noisy all week with the sound of small people busy playing. We make yogurt push-up ice lollies and they are a dramatic failure. Not sweet enough for the kids and the yogurt has "bits in" which is about the worst thing that can happen, apparently. I liked them.

Homemade pizzas were much more warmly received, thank goodness.

Then we wave goodbye to Anna and the next day our good friends from university and their children come to spend the night, More washing, vacuuming and cooking ensues. In between that we just about remember to buy Bella and Angus their school uniform. John makes a pot of chilli. We have a lot of fun, drink a lot of wine, laugh a lot.

The kids make dens.

I have to have a two hour nap on Sunday afternoon. I honestly could not keep my eyes open. I very rarely sleep in the day. I associate napping with being ill or with the dark days of early parenthood. It feels like such a waste. If I had the time to indulge myself like that, to absent myself from John and the kids, then I'd at least like to do something nice with my time, like read or crochet. Not sleep. I think it was my body's way of telling me to stop.

I will slow down, soon, just as soon as I've packed and popped into town for baby wipes and contact lens solution. I feel like I'm in one of those anxiety dreams where you have only ten minutes to pack and you're going to miss the plane and you can't find your passport. 

Oh, holiday. I am ready for you. I am going to re-balance. Are you better at balancing things than me? Please share your tips.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Fun with Felt and Mollie Makes

It feels like there hasn't been much time for crafting this summer holiday. Moments have been snatched here and there (usually when we've been staying with friends and family) and I've had fun with a few little projects but not accomplished half of what I wanted to. So, instead of making the children something useful like PE bags (boring) ready for the start of school in September I thought, I know, it's absolutely essential that Bella and Angus have a felt fox and raccoon to play with. Their summer holiday will not be complete without them.

The pattern for these rather handsome little fellows comes from issue 23 of Mollie Makes. Yes, I am still working my way through my year-long subscription, determined to make one thing from each issue. I think issue 23 came out some time around February - I am quite behind, it's true, but very much enjoying browsing these old issues for inspiration. Funny how old fashion and interiors magazines sap my inspiration but old crafty pages do the opposite. Even if a certain pattern or idea has been aimed at a particular season, it's easy enough to change elements of it to suit me.

But I didn't change a thing about these animals - I followed the (very good) pattern to the letter and enjoyed every little stitch.  I find this kind of hand sewing so relaxing and each one was completed in a couple of evenings.

And from issue 29, which I think came out fairly recently, I made these two little ice lollies, a Rocket and a Fab. 

I was instantly drawn to their old school, ice cream van charm. I did deviate from the pattern though. 

I edged the Rocket in straight stitch as the pattern said but thought it looked messy so I edged the Fab in blanket stitch. I love blanket stitch - it's so smooth and tidy looking. I could make those stitches for hours. Am I weird?

Ultimately the ice lollies will end up in Bella and Angus's toy shop, but in the meantime all of these goodies will be put in their holiday bags along with some other bits and bobs to keep them quiet and make them happy when we are away. I'm making new holiday bags - I'll show you them later in the week when they're finished. Ooh, holidays are coming!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...43/52

The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.

It's been a busy week. It's been a tiring week too, but mainly it's been very happy. My sister Anna and her two girls came to stay and it's been such a treat having so much time together to chat and catch up, and to have some precious time with my nieces who I see only two or three times a year. So, joining in with my friend Jen at little birdiehere are a few of our happies from the last seven days:

1. Three beds all in a row. My nieces, Jennifer and Eleanor, shared Bella's bedroom this week. There was much whispering and giggling long after they should've been asleep.

2. Bella's passion for all things royal continues - she drew this picture of a palace guard last weekend. She started it over about three times before deciding this one was suitable. Great concentration was needed and my job was to pass her the felt pens. We are going to post it to Buckingham Palace. Wouldn't it be wonderful if she got a reply?

3. Fun on our local city farm. The birds and animals are quite tame and roam about among the children. Although to be honest the main attraction for me was the indoor play barn where my sister and I let the kids loose on the toys and sat down chatting with cups of tea for a couple of hours. 

4. Gladioli, £2, looking pretty on the mantle piece. 

I wish you all a fun weekend. It's cool and cloudy here and we are very much hoping it doesn't rain as John has just painted the front door. We've got friends coming over later with their kids to stay the night so I need to tidy up and get the hoover out. I am starting to feel like a small hotel, one which doesn't charge but where the proprietor drinks slightly too much wine and makes the guests sleep on sofa beds among the toys.