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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Pop up sale

At my annual sale in May I met some people who said they would like to have a pre-Christmas rummage through any linens and china that I might have by me. They are dropping by tonight to have a look, so I've set out a pop up shop in the house. It was fun doing this.

I had not realised what a hoarder I've become....

What would life be like as a minimalist? I guess I'll never find out the answer to that question. I love my 'stuff.' Love sorting it all out, washing it, piecing it all together. But it would be quite nice if they took some away this evening so that I can go out and find a bit more.....

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Shopping locally

There is a village close by called King's Cliffe which has a really high concentration of artists and makers living and working there. Today, a group of them held their annual Christmas shopping event, which is held in the village hall. It was such a great idea: every stallholder came from the village or the immediate area, and they were selling a variety of goods, such as ceramics, jewellery, cakes, bags, willow baskets and lots more besides. Sometimes, I must confess that craft fairs are a bit disappointing (too expensive or I just don't really like the stuff!), but this was definitely not the case today:

Sue Kirk's wonderful willow baskets and decorations. Live music and plenty of cakes and fresh coffee:

Lots and lots of good things to buy.

I loved these little white ceramic acorns:

A tiny paperweight:

Original artists cards (the wren is one of my favourite garden birds):

And afterwards a short stroll in the beautiful village with its pretty limestone houses and cottages:

I came away with lots of business cards and plenty of ideas for the magazine!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Vintage tea tins

Birds, tea tins, colours...there is a strong theme emerging. I love to collect tins because you can still buy them for a pound or two, and when I get them home and put them together, they always make me feel happy. Perhaps it's the thought that they have been involved with the ritual of taking tea, so many hands making so many pots of tea over the years...a comforting image. 

And I've been making little ceramic gift tags with Das clay, from an idea in Sania Pell's book The Homemade Home, and using my new typewriter stamps from the V&A. Very relaxing. 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Power of Making

Yesterday was a great day. I went to London, and did three things: I met one of my oldest friends for lunch, I visited the Power of Making exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum - oh yes, and I did a spot of work (but not very much).
The above image is the sight that greeted me when I finally emerged from the V&A - a pop up ice rink and carousel outside the Natural History Museum. It was really magical. My entire visit to the museum fits into that category. I have wanted to go along for so long, and I wasn't disappointed.
The actual exhibition is all about crafts in modern life. There are all sorts of skills on show, from traditional ones, such as saddlery and dry stone walling, to computer-generated furniture and many cutting edge methods, too. 

Photography wasn't allowed, so I can't show my favourite exhibits. But I loved the words about making in the catalogue:

"For many people, making is critical for survival. For others it is a chosen vocation; a way of thinking inventing and innovating. And for some it is simply a delight to be able to shape a material and say: 'I made that.' The power of making is that it fulfils each of these human needs and desires."

I didn't have nearly long enough at the V&A, and I'd like to go back for day with my sketch book. But I did find time for a visit the shop. It was amazing, so many beautiful things....this is a little selection of what I bought (minus the Christmas never know who is reading:

I was too late for the cafe, which was closing its doors when I finally emerged from the shop, but I couldn't resist taking a few shots as it was so special. I could just imagine settling into one of these little nooks for tea and cake on a winter afternoon:

Yes, a repeat visit is urgently needed. I didn't even venture into the other galleries, and I would love to see the textiles and fashion. Highly, highly recommended.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Make do and mend

When we visited the Imperial War Museum at half term, I spotted these Make do and Mend posters in the shop. They only cost a few pounds each. I had a big blank wall in the bathroom, so I bought a large, plain rimless frame from Dunelm and put it up this weekend.
We did a similar thing for my son's room, with a retro tube map. Cheap and easy pictures.

* Thanks for your comments. I have found out that it is a fault with Google that means I am currently unable to reply. They have solved the spam problem recently, so I am hoping that someone, somewhere, might fix the comments facility, too. x

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Party plans

This year, we'll be having a small open house type party near Christmas. Today,  I made the invitations. A few quick watercolours, four on an A4 page, photocopied on my computer printer, did the trick.

I've always enjoyed preparing for a party (even my son's 16th, which gave me a few sleepless nights, although it all turned out fine!). At college, we had very simple ones - usually because of lack of funds. We'd go to the market and buy wooden crates full of satsumas and heap them up in bowls in every room of our unlovely rented place. A few pans of mulled wine on the stove,  and even that chilly house became  fragrant and festive.  

When I was in hospital I promised myself that if I carried on getting better, there should definitely be a party again this year, and my husband agreed wholeheartedly. So far, so good....

Friday, 18 November 2011

Vintage details

I have really enjoyed making this flock of birds with scraps of felt and vintage fabric. I think they are destined for a colourful Christmas tree. They couldn't be simpler to make - just my kind of project (thanks to my mum for spotting the idea in the Christmas House Beautiful magazine).
I've been playing with other Christmassy ideas this week, too. Home made oatcakes, peppermint creams....all have appeared, and vanished again, in our kitchen.

These oatcakes (a Jane Cumberbatch recipe, from her book Recipes for Everyday) are so simple and delicious. Just a mix of oatmeal, a little melted butter, sea salt and water. Great with cheese and grapes. They could be packaged in a special tin, like this beautiful old fruit cake tin that I found recently:

As we're talking details today, as I was sewing away at the birds with my new over-the-counter reading glasses perched on my nose, I couldn't help noticing the name of the colour on one of my reels of thrifted thread: 'dark lovebird.'   I have also clocked nutmeg, rose, myrtle, violet and mink. But I think that 'dark lovebird' has to be the best description of a colour that I've yet heard.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Striding out

Our village is swathed in sunshine today, making up for all that murky grey weather last week. I had to get outside. It was a solo expedition: younger son and husband are off playing football, older son is in his lair, doing his homework.

This view could almost be midsummer! It's so still today, almost balmy.

I thought I'd missed all the hedgerow harvests while I was mouldering away in hospital, but I spotted quite a few of these plump looking chaps today, and wonder if it might not be too late for a spot of sloe gin after all. I did hear that the fruits are best after they've been exposed to a couple of frosts. I'll pick some next time I'm out.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Friday night preview

I popped over to my friend Tracey's Christmas preview night last evening at her shop, Foxtail Lilly, in nearby Oundle. It looked sooo good, very twinkly and subtle. Just what I needed after a long, grey (and rather boring) day at home putting the finishing touches to this month's magazine.

A glass of cava and chance to browse through some seasonal goodies....

 My photos don't do it justice - if you'd like to see more of the shop. x

PS I still can't post replies to your comments. It is making me quite cross!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Bring me sunshine

A soggy, grey dawn on Monday found me on an old airfield near Lincoln at an antiques fair. Not everybody's idea of fun, perhaps, but as I pulled on my wellies and shouldered my loot bag, I was feeling very chipper indeed. It wasn't great for the dealers, whose stock was decidedly damp and forlorn, and obviously, browsing is not very relaxing when you're drenched, but there were a few goodies which made it all worthwhile. This set of three pink floral platters had to come back with me, and the jolly fabric underneath.

Skittles in ice cream colours....totally useless, had to have them.
Now it's deadline week and I am out and about a lot for the magazine. Back soon, though.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

A pink vintage dress

So far it has been a week of humdrum domestic matters: leaky radiators, an old car that gave up the ghost and had to be replaced and laundry, when I spotted this beautiful, but admittedly totally impractical dress yesterday, resistance was futile.

It is pink, it is sparkly, it glows in the afternoon light and it was less than £20. I think it is probably a 1960s dress, judging by the label and style.

Even though I am not sure that I could actually wear it (all dressed up and nowhere to go!), I can use the excuse that it will probably appear in a shoot for the local magazine that I edit. Our new issue is out with our Christmas gift guide inside, and I commandeered quite a few of my vintage buys, the ones that I don't always have room to display at home, but always knew they'd come in useful.
Here is a little taste of what we did: local shops lend us their merchandise, which we then pose for them. You can see an e-magazine version at

I love these silver shoes (above) which I borrowed from Sue Ryder Vintage and Retro in Peterborough.

No shortage of suitcases to make this shot for the children's gifts. And there is photographer Lesley Anne's lovely baby making his modelling debut.

I found some great Christmas accessories while I was putting together these pages, but I'll post about them when we get nearer to December. It still feels far too early to be considering Christmas in anything but magazine-land.