Tuesday, 30 December 2008

My best bestest play

After days of indulging ourselves we've finally managed to do something again. Girl monkey said to me that she had the best Christmas ever and I think she is right. For once she had all the food she liked, stockings in bed, presents under the tree and lots of friends to play with. We stayed home this year. Usually it is a huge palaver to please both sets of grandparents and the monkeys miss out an awful lot because of all the traveling we have to do. I hope to repeat the good times we had this Christmas next year. 

Anyway today we went to see the best play I have seen for young children, based on the fabulous characters of Charlie and Lola. Mr Betsy suggested we go and I had no idea what to expect but it was totally and utterly brilliant. The stage and the props were a delight, there were surprises for the children and the cast were great. Andrew Cullimore is Manchester's answer to Zac Efron and we can only hope to see more of him!

Please if anyone has the opportunity to go and see this show this week you will not be disappointed. 

I haven't done any crafting in the last 10 days or so and can't wait to start again. However I promised the children to just do things with them this holiday. In order to get in the mood again for the new year I bought Craft 01, 02 and 03 today and Betz White's Warm Fuzzies. She makes the most adorable things. 

I cannot believe that tomorrow is New Year's Eve. I can so vividly remember last year's and the year before that one. I considered having a quiet one with the monkeys but we are now really looking forward to a party with friends. Bring on 2009! New Year, New Me!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone. May your holidays be filled with joy and laughter. XX

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Ding Dong Merrily on High

For those of you who have been following me recently (blog-wise or in real life), you will have noticed that I am in Christmas jolly overdrive. I just feel that I have been given a new leash of life and am making the most of it. 
Christmas for me is one of the best times of year, it brings out the best in people and with such a wonderful community spirit in Manchester I can only be very, very happy indeed. 
Today was all about being in the spirit of Christmas and I enjoyed a lovely lunch with friends and all of our children, dancing madly to Christmas songs old and new, putting on our Santa hats and all that.
Tonight I gate-crashed a carol singing party along the road of one of my friends. Well I wasn't exactly gate-crashing, in fact I was invited but I was the only one not to live on their road. We enjoyed mulled wine and mince pies and went knocking on all the doors, singing our carols and holding beautiful lanterns. The children just loved it and so did I. Years ago I wouldn't think I could ever sing (badly) at someone's door at Christmas but this was the second time this month we went out to do this and it was just so joyful. Isn't that what life is all about, bringing joy to other people and thoroughly enjoying it yourself? 

Monday, 22 December 2008

Happy Holidays!

I must have said this a hundred times but I just love the holidays with the monkeys. We've always got lots of things to do and it is nice to get a lie in sometimes as well. I think I had the first lie in of the year, Mr Betsy's never one to get up in the morning to feed the children. They stayed up a little later than usual last night, so bless, I had an extra hour this morning. 

The first day of the holiday we made traditional Dutch poffertjes, little pancakes with butter and icing sugar. We made a whole mountain and in some of them we'd hidden a chocolate button or a kruidnootje, a little ginger biscuit. Girl monkey had seen this on a Dutch cookery program and wanted to try it out, it was delicious. 

They made Christmas cards for friends &

the gingerbread house their daddy bought them. I am not sure if he'll get to see any of it as they started eating it pretty soon after it was done.

The house is looking so lovely for the holiday season that I wanted to get some new bed linen as well. It might be a lonely Christmas, it is not going to be a cold one! I got some East of India ribbon recently (code 3157 for those who'd like to get this) and got enough to decorate two pillow cases and a duvet cover with it. 

I should have ironed the sheets but hey life's too short as it is. 

Just finished my necklace orders and as it is still early I might watch a nice Christmas movie. The next few nights will be late ones because we'll have Christmas celebrations, yippee!!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Last week of term!

We were all very tired in Busy Betsy's home. The last week of term is always a little trying. What with all the plays, concerts and parties. This week two of my friends turned 40 (there were 3 this month, help!) and we had a fabulous evening organised by the wonderful Innerglo ladies. But most of my time was taken up with this : 

Sewing curtains! I know, it is not a very attractive picture but it somehow sums up the challenge. It felt like I was decorating a castle, these curtains were so heavy and voluminous. Thank goodness my friend told me they are hanging fantastic!

What else did I do this week? Knit one of my birthday friends a scarf. I made it from grey blue and burgundy wool, various colours and patterned strips of cotton fabric and blue satin that gave a very nice fringe like texture. It looks quite short here but in fact it was quite a long scarf.

Then of course I had the toddlers round for arts and crafts class. I did show them some Hans Arp mobiles but as it is the season to be jolly we made Christmas tree mobiles rather than find a deeper meaning of a blob. 

And then I was lucky at one of the school fairs where I had a stall. They were selling raffle tickets with the main prize Take That tickets. Now I have always been a fan of this band but recently I have developed deeper feelings for these guys and their music (one of them still single and living around the corner!). Call it mid-life crisis, but whatever keeps the girl happy, right? Anyway didn't win the tickets but got this gorgeous set from Moth, a lovely boutique in West Didsbury, Manchester. Green is one of my favourite colours so this will go so nicely with my outfits. 

Friday, 12 December 2008

The Festive Season has started!

It's been a mad mad week but oh I am enjoying this so much! And with this I mean the December festivities. It is the best time of year for family fun, friends get together, school plays, fairs etc and we had all that this last week. And I am thoroughly enjoying myself writing this all down, listening to Take That (booked my tickets last week, yippee), drinking a lovely cup of tea, gazing at my Christmas tree and warming myself by the fire. It can't get any better (take note Mr Betsy!). 

So what exactly happened this last week that I couldn't get to my computer? Well for starters I had the lovely little ones from the arts and crafts club round to learn about Matisse. We did 'drawing with scissors'. We looked at some of the Fauve paintings but then focussed on his later life and we tried to interpret this into our own works. The children made fabulous 'Under Sea' versions, gardens, pink snowmen. It was fabulous. 

Then as I was making dinner, guess what happened? We heard a knock on the door and when we opened there was a huge bag of presents from St Nicholas. We believe possibly left by one of his helpers. The monkeys were thrilled to bits. And so were Mr Betsy and I, there were some yummy treats for us too. 

The rest of the week seems a little blur. Every day we had either a school play, school concert or a school fair. One of the things girl monkey did this week was to play a tornado in the Wizard of Oz, I was a little puzzled by what this might entail but she showed us some great choreography. 

Today I was finally able to sit down for a little while and enjoy the tree. Every year I say we will get it closer to Christmas but as soon as St Nicholas has been the monkeys get so excited over Christmas that I can't resist. It was a very special treat to do the decorating after school yesterday. In between all the commitments this week I have been very busy to get the house very homely. Even though this is a temporary home for us I need it to feel like home, especially at this time of the year. Mr Betsy got us some new book cases last week and since I rearranged all the furniture and put up a lot of the Christmas decorations it feels like we are in a new and very cosy home. 

Today was the one but last school fair. I added some more colours to the bead ball necklaces. As you might know purple was never my favourite colour but since it is growing on me I have even added this shade to my range!

Being in a homely spirit, I got myself some lovely lavender water and ironed these gingerbread gift bags that I sewed this morning with it. All nicely smelling for the fair. The last one tomorrow and then I can relax for a few weeks (well whatever that means in my book!).

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Recycled bottle-tops Christmas wreath tutorial

This is quite scary to put a tutorial on my blog but having had so many great comments I couldn't resist sharing this information. Like many of you I have been collecting bottle tops for a while as I was told they weren't recyclable. Some of the toddlers in my art class use them occasionally in their collages but there are still plenty in my tubs. So I came up with the idea of using them in a wreath (don't ask me where I got the idea from, one of those that comes into my head late at night). 

So first I got my tub of bottle tops and found a sheet of cardboard that I cut from one of my boxes (about 50 x 50 cm). 

I then got a large fruit plate and a small one to draw precise circles (if I could ever draw a perfect circle without my plates I would be so happy).

Then I made myself a nice cup of tea (optional) and started gluing the tops on with PVA (my all time favourite glue).

I covered the whole surface...

and then spray painted them with white craft paint. At the same time I spray painted some twigs that I cut off in the summer and bound in a wreath. The bottle top one I tried to sprinkle with red glitter but a gust of wind did the work for me, hence some areas are rather heavily sprinkled and others not but it kind of adds to the effect.

Once finished the monkeys played around with it but now .....

.... it is hanging nicely on my wall. 

For the twig wreath I cut some small circles from red felt and again using PVA glued them on some of the twigs. I really liked this effect. I cannot ever throw anything out and when I made these wreaths in the summer to hang around the garden I didn't think I was going to use them inside but I am glad I did. I love circular shapes and am very fond of Christmas wreaths but I could not bring myself to buy one in the shops. These did not cost me anything at all and will hopefully be used again and again. 

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Gingham at the Christmas Fair

Fascinated still by Yvonne Droge Wendel's talk yesterday at the Whitworth I started to look around the house today to see if I had any obvious ginghams, apart from the stash of fabrics in the sewing basket. I absolutely love gingham patterns and my favourite colour is red although I have used the navy blue one for party bags, wall hangings and in projects with a Dutch theme (I wonder why?).

Anyway here's where I found gingham : 

Cushion covers on my Ikea chairs (a Swedish look, fabric bought in UK and inspired by Dutch interiors)

On the cover of a book about Dutch food :

On jam jar lids (French). I have been collecting them for a while because I love the pattern, they are very useful storage jars and look miles better than plastic containers.

Tonight Mr Betsy and I took the monkeys to the Manchester Christmas Market. I was told the best market in Europe at the moment and whether that is true or not we had a fabulous time. Plenty of gluehwein and food from all around Europe abound, we really felt on holiday. It was a little too crowded to take pictures but I was pleased to see the red gingham at the Dutch Cheese stand and at another German food stall. This universal pattern lightened up the place.

Something else lightened up the market : the fabulous Christmas lights. The trees were tastefully decorated and the lamp posts had the most adorable light parcels hanging off them  (sorry pictures not great....) 

Apart from all the food we bought I found these adorable Christmas tree decorations. I do not know who made them but there is a sticker saying Made in Cubria. I look forward hanging them in the tree. 

Tomorrow we are off to Ikea, better get some rest now (partying students permitting!)

Friday, 28 November 2008

Cloth and Culture NOW 2

Recently I visited the cloth and culture NOW exhibition at the Whitworth Gallery and I was lucky to be able to book a place on their one day conference today. There were several speakers and artists giving their view on the topic 'A Sense of Place: art and the construction of identity'. 

One of the artists that I most admired, Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene (gosh this is hard going in the middle of the night!) presented a slide show with some of her other work. The ones in the exhibition entitled Autumn Collection are just fabulous, roses embroidered on rusty objects typical of life in the country. I have always had a soft spot for rusty items and have had a rusty lamp and candle sticks in my own home, be it not embroidered! She kindly let me take a picture of her work. 

I took the opportunity to visit another favourite piece again: Architectural Monument by Lina Janike:

And I listened to a very good talk by the Dutch visual artist Yvonne Droge Wendel. Her presentation was about the universal use of the gingham pattern and it's possible origin or rather a lack thereof. She was very funny and the slides just great. Check them out on her site Universal Pattern

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

"My Little Shopping Bag"

I can't quite believe it's nearly 10 days since I last sat down to write anything but hey there we are. It has been quite an exciting week, not least because of the great success of our "My Little Shopping Bag"! We've done a lot of sewing, selling, promoting and received the loveliest comments. Rosana and I were absolutely thrilled!

Anyway the week started with a fun evening of wine tasting in a local tapas bar organised by the lovely Olayinka of UKTogether. There were about 50 wines on offer but after about 20 I really couldn't taste anymore. We've made it good though by ordering some so we can taste some more at home. That was a great solution don't you think?

Then in between sewing we went to another great event organised by the wonderful ladies of Innerglo. I was so looking forward to this event and it really didn't dissappoint. Innerglo is a fabulous new social networking group for mums in Manchester and Cheshire and their events are extremely well organised. We got talks from a business consultant about work-life balance (sometimes hard to get right), a lady who had been on Dragons Den and a couple of life coaches. In between we socialised and best of all drink Champagne! 

Then on Friday the little ones from the Arts and Crafts Club came along to do some stamping. We used ready made stamps and made our own from cardboard, potatoes, funky foam and stamped pictures, gift wrap and textiles for shoe bags. The mums now have the lovely task of sewing these, I am looking forward to the results!

And then on Saturday we had the first big event with our bags and they went down fabulously. We couldn't have hoped for more and best of all they are now being stocked at Pixie in Didsbury. This store just sells the most adorable baby clothing and the coolest and most beautiful children's wear. 

I don't really know what happened with the rest of the week apart from catching up with sewing orders and sending of Phoenix cards parcels. To end the night I will quickly finish this little girl.....

Monday, 17 November 2008

'tis the season

I am starting to get very excited about the Christmas season, almost as much as girl monkey. Ever since she was a toddler she's been mad about Christmas. For a number of years she was asking from March onwards when we would put up the tree and unpack all the baubles. We've got a big box with all the decorations in it and it is just a treasure chest for her. I have been collecting decorations since I was little, some are from the fifties, others handmade from the seventies and every year I add some lovely little trinkets. So far this year I bought a teeny weeny little pig (I LOVE pigs!), little wooden reindeer and a teeny weeny Pinocchio from our trip to Italy. 

One of the bags of decorations that I kept for about 16 years ended up in the bin a few years ago. This needs some explaining. When I had my own little place when I was about 19, I bought my first little real tree and as I didn't have a lot of money left I got some little decorations and I bought a bag of marshmallow wreaths. These are very popular in Holland and look lovely in the tree with a nice red ribbon. I had put these up a couple of times but then they ended up in a box at my parents. Years later when I was pregnant my dad came over with a lot of stuff, including the box of Christmas decorations. So when we moved up North we got a really big tree and I was thrilled to put all the decorations in it. Girl monkey was just two and loved it all, including the marshmallow wreaths! How did she know they were once edible I do not know as she had not ever seen anything like it. Anyway two little wreaths and many dirty sheets later, they all ended up in the bin. I felt awful! She has never touched anything in the tree since but still adores Christmas.

I was really getting into the spirit today as I had to make some more gingerbread people for a friend (aren't they cute?)....

... and some doves and toadstools for the tree. 

The monkeys chose lovely biscuit stamps this afternoon on our way back through the village. They can't wait to bake. 

And then girl monkey asked me to take this picture to show EVERYONE, bless her. It is a lovely tree stump though, quite fancy one in our garden.

Not sure if I'll be blogging in the next few days as we've got to work hard to get our stock ready for the weekend! It's going to be bags galore again.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Holly Clifton Brown

I was just reading the Selvedge newsletter and came across the fabulous illustrations of Holly Clifton Brown. Please check out the illustrations on her blog they are absolutely fantastic!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Cloth and Culture NOW

There is a lot to say about cloth and culture now but most importantly it is the title of an absolutely fabulous exhibition I went to see today. But the first thing that happened this morning was that the monkeys 'decorated' my bedroom. They felt mum needed cheering up and had nicely put drawings and sleeping beauty cards on the chest of drawers.

Then off I went to the Whitworth Art Gallery to see the cloth and culture NOW exhibition. On show were pieces of contemporary international textile art that had all incorporated traditional methods but worked in a totally new way. I had seen a few of the works before in magazines but seeing them close up was pretty amazing. The detail and craftmanship that had gone into them was just amazing. One of the works that appealed to me most was a photo print on canvas with embroidered detail. 

After coming back down to earth (and home) I started gathering information for a talk that I am preparing about embellishing and refurbishing clothing. With the current credit crunch looming it seems that crafts are becoming more important yet again. Over the last few years there has been a revival of all crafts and I am not sure what the reason is but nostalgia, originality, eco-friendly, make do and mend are a few words that come to mind. I believe the current vogue is only just starting. 

Anyway, I am a great believer in all the above reasons for crafting and refurbished an old skirt myself today. Some time ago this had a funny shade of khaki. It was one of those impulse purchases. I don't have many but it does happen during the sales sometimes. The skirt was a bargain but the colour was just not great. I bought myself some fabric dye in my favorite colour blue and decorated it with some flowers.

The flowers were cut out from a sweater that I felted a while back and the circle shapes were hand sewn on with running stitch.

The rest of the jumper ended up as a tea cosy and some egg cosies. I'll try and put a picture up some day. Waste not want..... 

Monday, 10 November 2008

Where to start?

I am starting to loose the plot a little. With all the craft fairs coming up I know I need to focus but it is hard going at the moment. The Reason (yes it is a big reason)? My stash of fabrics. Well if only it would be a stash, they are spread over a couple of rooms in bags and boxes. Because we moved house quite a few times in the last few years I couldn't be bothered to unpack everything all the time. But now it is getting to me. Mr Betsy doesn't quite see our space problem as he is at work all the time but the monkeys and I would quite like to have a bit more room for our things. I know that a studio on a farm near the seaside is not ever going to happen but just a small spare room for me and a room for girl monkey who keeps boy monkey awake at night now would be nice. 

What is my solution to this fabric problem? 1. get a cheap and cheerful bookcase that I can paint to my liking. 2. Pick up the first fabric that I see and do something with it (this could keep me busy for some time). 

So as I picked up this furry animal print first I decided to make a slouchy dress for girl monkey. 

The fabric next to it had a lovely Tinkerbell print that looked nice for the bias binding. 

And with some left over fabric, beads, buttons and an old zip I made her this brooch to pin up wherever she likes.

I fancied a little denim skirt for myself and found an old pair of jeans in the rag bag that I turned into something useful again. 

The bottom part of the trouser legs ended up in Christmas stockings I made for the monkeys. Yes the cream fleece was the next bit of fabric I picked up. It was a massive shawl that was a freebie with some cosmetics last year. And as is often the case with freebies, the quality of the shawl wasn't great but perfect for the stockings. 

I am now going to put my feet up with a cup of tea, my novel and a piece of home made carrot cake!