Monday 19 December 2016

Christmas Past

This is a re-run from a previous year but time is getting away with me and reading this post again gives me a warm glow inside.

Merry Christmas everyone, I hope it is filled with happiness for you all.

Sarah x

The dynamic of my Christmas has changed over the years.  This year different to last and last year different to the previous year ...

But there was a time where I remember the familiar fabric of this time of year, so well worn that it could have been the same comforter brought out time and time again wrapping me in a blanket of contentment and happiness.

My childhood wasn't perfect but there were times it was perfection and Christmas was always such a time.

Christmas began at the end of October when, in a steamy fug my Grandmother gathered together the ingredients for the Christmas cake, homemade mincemeat and the Christmas pudding.

Great bowlfuls of shiny dates, plump raisins and currents, oranges and lemons ready for zesting and squeezing.  Huge heavy based pans and long wooden spoons, walnuts to crack and glace cherries sticky and sweet ....

We each took a turn in stirring the pudding mix and making a wish, usually a hint whispered out loud as to what we would most like to find under the tree on Christmas morning.

Once cooked the cake was wrapped in greaseproof paper ready for feeding drip by drip from the large bottle of brandy.  The pudding swaddled in a muslin cloth and circles of waxed paper sealed the jars of mincemeat before their lids were given a jaunty bonnet of red and white checked cloth secured with an elastic band.

Everything carefully labelled with the date was then stored in the huge wardrobe built into the alcove next to the fireplace in the large bedroom at the front of the house where it sat glowing richly one the dark wooden shelves amongst the fruits of the summer which had been made into pickles and chutneys and jam.

I used to open the door occasionally just to wonder at the array of goodies lined up and breath in the scent of cinnamon and spices.  Sometimes it would seem like Christmas would never come ...

Thursday 1 December 2016

More Christmas Crafting

It's ironic that just a couple of posts ago I said that I often find taking photos for blog posts much easier than finding the words to go with them because in this case taking the photos was the REALLY hard part!

After my disastrous snowman pom pom I did tell you there would be another (hopefully more successful) Christmas crafting post and I owe this one to Anne from Domesblissity for posting this link on her FB page - it a whole lot of clever Christmas things people have made with Mason jars.

If you've read much of my blog you will know that I like to make stuff for people as well as buying them presents for Christmas and Birthdays.

I can't do it with the finesse of some people but I am a trier (as Di said on my last post :-) ) and anyway, who cares?  It's may not be perfect but it will be made with love.

Well, anything you can do with a Mason jar I can do with an empty Douwe Egberts coffee jar right?

Fortunately I love the coffee as much as I love the jars.

They are a great shape and once you have soaked the labels off (a little white spirit takes any left over sticky off) you can use them for loads of things.

They have this great plastic seal on the lids which you can carefully prise off or leave on for a snug fit (they come off and on fairly easily which was great for this project).

The first thing I did was go shopping - already a win win for me!

I bought a pack of fake snow, various gift ribbons, some double sided sticky dots and a few Christmas decorations.

I also had a hunt around at home for things that looked like they might work with what I had in mind.

Then I started to put the whole thing together.

The little snowman was stuck to the bottom of the jar with a few glue dots.

The snowballs were made from threading tiny glass and pearl beads (sorry Miss Mac, that's what happened to your bracelet!) on to cotton (you could use fishing line if being able to see the cotton bothers you) and then sticking them with more glue dots to the underside of the plastic seal I'd removed from the jar lid because it was easier to handle like that. Then just pop the seal back onto the lid.

I also stuck some of them around the inside rim of the jar so they weren't all in the middle.  You could see the dots from the outside so I covered them later with the ribbon around the top.

After sprinkling in some fake snow to cover the bottom I added a little bit of fir and a fir cone with some berrys that I'd pulled off another Christmas decoration.

Initially I'd bought little polystyrene snowballs to hang in the jar but the proportions were all wrong and it looked like the poor snowman was being bombarded with meteorites so I just put a few in the bottom.

After tying the ribbon around the jar I added a Christmas decoration to the side:

And it was done!

So I decided to make a couple more with other jars ...

Like I said, very hard to photograph because of light and shadows on the glass.  I ended up taking these outside and photographing them against the shed door but it was minus 2 this morning and the middle one steamed up a bit!

So here's a slightly better photo:

I made the bunting by cutting tiny triangles from some red ribbon and sewing them onto a length of cotton.

This one is for SD - obviously he doesn't want a snow globe so I pinched one of his die cast VW's and made him one anyway!

I'll be perfectly honest - although this wasn't exactly difficult it WAS very time consuming and there was a lot of trial and error finding out what worked and what didn't.  I finally realised (going completely against the grain) that less was more and to keep them simple.

Hopefully the recipients will like them as much as I do.

Monday 28 November 2016

How (or more to the point WHY) Did She Do THAT!!!

It's been a while since I last brought you one of my expert guides hasn't it?

In fact it's been a while since I brought you anything much!

Well, this week I'm looking to rectify that and I'm going to start by giving you an expert guide in not one but TWO different areas.

Firstly - do you remember last year when I decided I was going to make all my own Christmas decorations and I got a load of old toilet roll inners, covered them in silver glitter paper, cut them up and made paper chains?

Well, that didn't go so well really - they all popped apart and I was just left with loads of scraps of glitter covered cardboard.


I'm not one to let a little thing like complete failure put me off so I decided that this year I would ....  Wait for it ....


After the HUGE success of my pom pom garland for my niece (and that fact that I found a load of white wool) I thought I'd make some pom pom snowballs.

Only I got bored after making one.

But I found a great use for it:

And I got excited again so I thought I'd give it another go and make a pom pom snowman for Miss Mac.

Here he is ...

She LOVED it said there was no way she was hanging that in her bedroom, it would give her nightmares!

Ungrateful child - It's no worse than the decorations I found in Sainsburys!!

Now that IS the thing of nightmares!

So anyway, I'm going to carry on making my own decorations and I might even bring you something later in the week that will surprise you!

Moving swiftly on ...

I'll bet at some point everyone has had (or still has) a piece of pine furniture.

I've got lots because it's inexpensive and everyone needs furniture don't they?

Anyway, I'm not a HUGE fan of pine despite having so much of it and I'd been feeling my house was rather ....  ginger!!!

The thing that was bothering me most was this:

No, NOT Miss Mac (although she can be fairly bothersome from time to time).

The pine cabinet behind her.

I know, all GOOD bloggers take proper photos as they go alone with projects but well, I'm not one of those so I had to dig around for a photo with the cabinet in it before I did anything to it.

The first thing I did was remove that trim at the top, it was too frou frou for me and it immediately looked much better without it (luckily it was only held on with a couple of screws).

I wanted to paint it but SD really didn't like that idea so I decided it might look nice if I stained it a light oak colour:

NOT the colour I was going for at ALL!!!  Also NOT the colour it said it was on the tin!

I hated it even more.  Obviously AFTER staining it I did a bit of research and discovered that pine really doesn't take stain very well and you are supposed to use some kind of sealer before staining it to stop it absorbing the colour unevenly.

Fortunately SD hated it too and agreed that I could now paint it (all the while telling me mournfully that he had quite liked it the way it was before I'd done anything to it - VERY helpful SD!!).

So now I'm painting it.

And painting it ...  And painting it AGAIN!!!

I think I possibly should have sealed the stain before painting it ...

That bloody colour KEEPS bleeding through as it dries giving it a pinky tinge ...

Not to mention the fact that there are 8 paned of glass in each section which means there are 96 - I said NINETY SIX!!! edges to paint each time!!!

It's a complete nightmare.  I haven't masked the glass off because I'm rubbish at doing that and I either mask over the bits I need to paint or end up pulling half the paint off with the tape so I've got a couple of razor blades from a friend who resprays cars so I can chip the paint off the glass when it's dry.

Having said all that (and really - DON'T ever do it yourself!), I do like it much more that I did before although I now wish I'd left the top and the knobs natural wood and just waxed them.

Who knows, I might actually get it finished at some point, maybe in time fro Christmas ...

Wednesday 9 November 2016


Inspired by my dear friend K I thought I'd post a few of the photos I've been taking lately ...

One day last week I woke up to blue, cloudless skies so I put aside everything I had been meaning to do and took off on my bike.

I had planned to ride along the river but I was drawn to the canal instead.

I'm so lucky that this is literally just at the end of my road.

Once I started I didn't know where to stop so I carried on for about 5 miles just drinking in the beauty of the Somerset countryside at it's best in Autumn.

The first lock at Firepool

I love the lazy meander of the canal with it's still water and the bicycle propped against the fence

A couple of miles in and there is a row of canal boats tied up for the winter - it looks like someone is still using this one.

Some of the bridges are so low I have to duck to ride under them and the path narrows so one wobble and I'd be IN the canal!

On the other side of the bridge the countryside opens out into fields, it's SO beautiful!

And the same bridge on the way back

Someone has built the tiniest of summer houses at the bottom of their garden right on the edge of the canal.  It's just big enough for a single chair - what a perfect place to sit and just be ...

SD and I had a bonfire at the farm - I could watch the flames for hours.

But I went for a wander along the pretty lanes and fields.

Where the sun and the light at this time of year are just stunning!

Yesterday a few of us planted some spring bulbs around the trees in the wildlife garden at the park - hopefully I will be able to show you some lovely flowers in a few months.

Finally - my gorgeous girl dressed up for Halloween on dress up day at work.

Such a lot more to share but words are evading me at the moment in a way that photos never do.

Back soon :-)

Thursday 20 October 2016

A Voice In The Dark

Treey asked me yesterday why I haven't blogged for a while.

There is no single answer for that.

It's a combination of things I guess.  Lack of time is one of them and lack of inspiration is another.

Is not that I don't have anything to say, plenty of things happen on a daily basis that I could write about but I guess I'm just going through an inspiration lull.  It happens, it will pass, I'm not too worried about it.

Last night there was a bit of a commotion outside.  This is happening on a more and more regular basis.

The focus is a block of flats behind the flats opposite my house.

The flats opposite my house are well maintained and mostly privately owned, there is rarely any kind of trouble or noise from them.

The other block of flats lead towards the town at a right angle to these flats forming an L shape.  These flats are council owned.  They were built in the 60s and they are fairly run down.  There has been talk over the years of pulling them down and replacing them with new housing.  They could be nice flats.  They are in a great position and near to the town.  They are a good size, so much bigger than modern boxes with well proportioned rooms, big windows and balconies.  Put them alongside the river of canal and they would be seen as premium housing!

These flats are seen to house what some people may call 'the dregs of society'.

Those aren't my words or beliefs.

It's true to say there are people living there with drink and drug habits.  It is also true to say that there is a high level of unemployment within that community.  It can't be denied that there are people who live there who do not envisage any other way of life for themselves.

It would also be true to say that there are people living there who are none of those things and are just victims of their own situation.

It can't be a pleasant place to live.  If I can hear the commotion from my house how much worse must it be to have it going on outside your door?

Sometimes the altercations are very loud, they sound violent, the police are called.

Sometimes, like last night, it's a single voice of a seemingly desperate person.

I don't know the details of last nights commotion.  I could hear a girl crying and shouting.  I suspect a man was involved (although I couldn't hear clearly).  I think she was outside trying to make him hear, to get a reaction.

I wanted to tell her to STOP!!!

To walk away.  To forget he existed (if it was indeed about a HE).

To move on, to build a better life, to be the only person she needed with anyone else only adding to her life rather than being dependent on them.

I wanted to shake her and ask her what it was she thought all the shouting and crying was going to achieve.

Was it going to make everything alright?  Was it going to fundamentally change whatever was going on?  Was it going to make life good and happy?

No - it wasn't.

I don't know her, I don't know what it was about, I'm not really in any position to judge or even have a view but I do.

I probably haven't been in her position but I do know what it's like to feel as desperate as she sounded.

I also know that if someone is capable of making you feel that desperate then you have to walk away from them.

I know that they will keep you in that place until you loose sight of yourself and that feeling of desperation will always stay with you.

I wish I could show her that what she thinks she wants is just a facade, it's not real, there is so much more out there and, even if there isn't then it's better to be on your own.

I wanted to tell her to start living her own life - to start OWNING her own life.

I wanted to tell her that there was another way.

I could be so wrong about what was going on last night but i wasn't wrong about that desperation.

I hope she sees a way out of whatever situation she is in and I really hope she finds ways of being happy.

Wednesday 5 October 2016

The Curious Case Of Miss Gabrielle Ray

Monday was bin day in the Mac household.  The wheelie bin is only emptied once a fortnight while the recycling is taken on a weekly basis.

I pulled the bin from it's position in the small area to the front of my house (not for me the long haul down the drive Val) and on to the pavement outside the gate.

I noticed a piece of paper on the ground where the bin had been.  As I picked it up I realised that it wasn't a piece of paper after all but a postcard.

A very old postcard...

So I took it into the house to look at it more closely.

On the front was the picture of a lady wearing a large hat with flowers in her hair.  The style was early 19th century and the name on the front was Miss Gabrielle Ray.

On the back was some writing:  "Mr Richard Jolly on his 30th birthday" and, under that, "P.S. Ray is only a stage name of mine".  The postmark is April 23 05.  At fist I assumed that the card had been posted in 2005 but, on closer inspection, it was clear that the stamp was much older than this and it could possibly have been posted in 1905 which means that it could actually have been written by Ray herself.

I was curious so I did a little digging.

This is what Wikipedia has to say about her:

Gabrielle Ray (28 April 1883 - 21 May 1973), was an English stage actress, dancer and singer, best known for her roles in Edwardian musical comedies.
Ray was considered one of the most beautiful actresses on the London stage and became one of the most photographed women in the world. In the first decade of the 20th century, she had a good career in musical theatre. After an unsuccessful marriage, however, she never recovered the fame that she had enjoyed. She spent many of her later years in mental hospitals.

From there I went on to find a few blogs dedicated to her life, her career and her postcards.  It's be fascinating finding out a little more about her.

There are a few things about the card which throw a little doubt on it's authenticity.

The writing is on the right hand side where the address should be.  It also appears to be a label possibly stuck over the original text.

It's hard to tell but there may have been writing on both sides of the card at one point but it's so faded and damaged that you really can't tell.

The postmark ...  COULD it be 1905??  I'm not sure.  Did they even use postmarks like this at that time?  Again, I don't know.

The stamp I know IS original and the postmark is where you would expect it to be (partly covering the stamp) so it must have been stamped in a genuine post office - would anyone actually go into a post office and ask them to stamp an old postcard?  Seems unlikely.

The card itself isn't worth anything (and yes, if you were wondering, if I discovered it was worth thousands then I WOULD sell it!) as many thousands of these cards were produced and even if it did turn out to have been written by her (and there is probably no way to find out) then it would still only be worth a few pounds.

But it is intriguing so I will see if I can find out who Richard Jolly is/was and if he (or his family) would like to have the card back.

Of course I can't assume that he was local.  Anyone could have picked this card up at a card fair and there could be any number of reasons why it ended up under my bin.

I like a bit of mystery though so until and unless I discover any further information I shall keep it in my cabinet and look at it from time time.

Monday 3 October 2016

Make Mine A Pint!

Because seriously, who only wants half a Beer especially when it looks like THIS:

Ok, so I'm not really talking about the stuff made from hops - I'm talking about this picture-postcard village just along the coast from Lyme Regis in Devon.

The name Beer isn't actually derived from the drink either, it's named from the old Anglo Saxon word "bearu" meaning grove which referred to the forest that surrounded the original settlement.

You wouldn't have believed that it was the beginning of October yesterday.  The sky was blue with barely a cloud, the sun shone and it was just a BEAUTIFUL day.

See what I mean?

As you can see, this isn't a sandy beach it's actually shingle and pebbles which can make it quite hard to walk on but at Beer they have an ingenious solution to this problem:

You see those strips on the ground between the boats? Well, they are actually rubber mats laid over the shingle.   The top of the beach has more of these creating walkways leading to some lovely little seafront cafes and making them accessible to everyone even wheelchair users.  I'm sure that initially they were used by fishermen to enable them to more easily access their boats  but they have been adapted to benefit everyone.

Only part of the beach has these mats, there is still plenty of unadulterated beach to wander along:

Boats to have your photo taken next to

Rocks to sit on and look enigmatically out to sea

Or even stand on (they are VERY versatile ;-) )

Beer has a long fishing heritage which  is still very much alive today as you can see from the photos of the boats above and fresh fish and Beer crab is for sale right on the seafront.

In the past Beer was equally well known as a smuggling base and the home of notorious Devon smuggler, Jack Rattenbury. It was also famous for fine lace including the lace flounce for Queen Victoria's wedding dress crafted in Beer by Miss Jane Bidney and her team of 200 workers.

Beer is also full of pretty buildings and cottages which, even in October had gardens and hanging baskets bursting with colour.

A stream runs down the side of the main street to the sea with planters full of flowers bridging it at regular intervals

We really did pick the perfect day to spend in Beer.  In summer it can become a little overcrowded but yesterday, although there were plenty of people still around it didn't feel at all like that and yet it was as warm as any day in August.

Beer certainly is a shining jewel in Devon's crown.

Friday 30 September 2016

The Lovely Post (the kind you love to get)

Earlier this week I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. 

This cold is dragging on a bit and dragging me down.

I'm definitely on the mend but I can't seem to shake the cough that's keeping me awake at night.


I happened upon a post by the lovely Sarn at Stamping For Pleasure.  Sarn makes the most beautiful cards and I love stopping by to see what she's been up to.

On Monday she posted about a get well card that she had made.  I mentioned in the comments how much it cheered me up just seeing it and that I was going to pretend it was for me.

Well, next thing I knew Sarn dropped me an email and said she would like to SEND me the card so it really WAS for me and I didn't have to pretend!

How lovely was that?

It arrived yesterday and it's just as pretty in the flesh as it was in Sarns post - maybe even prettier, look:

Thank you lovely lady, this is one card I will cherish forever!

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Chazzing (Because It's Not ALL About The Beach ...)

Did I really just SAY that???

Ok, so it's MOSTLY about the beach but SD and I did spend some of the Summer mooching around various Charity/second hand and Vintage shops.

I'm so glad we share that love because then I have someone to carry stuff for me it's great spending time together and between us we have found some really cool things.

I know not everyone will get my love of old kitchenalia but (as you may remember) trying my hand at being a food blogger so those Thermomix people would send me a freebie didn't really work out that well ...

So old stuff it is!

Incidentally - Chazzing is a phrase coined by Emma Kate who's blog is full of such stuff and beautifully restored furniture and Emma Kate herself often running amok with power tools (a woman after my own heart!)

Some of the stuff we find is actually usable but most of it is destined to either sit in the cabinet in the front room or (when I get more organised) one of the glass fronted cupboards in the kitchen and some of it will hang on the kitchen wall once I've decorated adding a splash of colour.

So, want to see some photos?

Ok, well, I faffed about with these a bit trying to be arty - not sure I really pulled it off but never mind ...

I bought this Farmers Market Wall hanging thing from Home Sense with some of my Birthday money - it will eventually hang in the kitchen but for now it seemed like a good way to display stuff
Most of these thing probably date from the 60's 70's with their painted wooden handles and I like the worn look where some of the paint has rubbed off with use.

This ones for Val - I told you I had one too!  

I bought this tiny VW jelly mould from a very odd couple at a car boot sale at the beginning of the Summer.  I didn't really take to the man at all and hesitated about buying it.  He was asking £3 which seemed like a fair price but I went away to think about it.  When I went back only his wife was there and she said i could have it for £2:50 so I bought it and went happily back to show SD.

As he was looking at it the man from the stall suddenly appeared behind him.

'Bought it then did you?'

I nodded thinking 'isn't it obvious I've just bought it unless you think I pinched it while your back was turned!'

' Spose she let you have it cheap - could be worth a fortune you know - I should have put it on Ebay - HOW MUCH DID SHE CHARGE YOU FOR IT????'

SD stood in front of me - 'Then maybe you should have put it on Ebay in the first place - can I suggest that if you have an issue with your wife selling it then you take it up with her?'

Bless him for thinking I need protecting from bullies.

Bugger me if his wife didn't come over a few minutes later sobbing because he's shouted at her for selling it!

What a knob! - I did consider for a moment letting her have it back but I'm not sure it could have fixed the problems in that marriage.

Anyway, this is what all the fuss was about and, although it's probably not that common, it's certainly not worth the fortune he suddenly decided it was once it was sold:

The enjoyment in owning this was somewhat tarnished by this just like the mould itself.

Mostly we have good experiences when we buy stuff.

I love this set of Salter scales with it's unusual oval shaped bowl

And these tiny rabbit and fish moulds

But, it's not all about the kitchen either (although SOME of it still is as you can see by the Spong mincer still in it's original box!)

 SD picked up these old tins - the yellow one is for Iodised Throat Lozenges for the /voice, Mouth and Throat (it says on the tin)  all for the princely sum of 1/9 in 'old' money.

The round tin is Bibbings Carbolised Areca Nut Dentifrice Tooth Powder - which apparently removes tartar, whitens teeth and prevents decay sold in 9D tins (again, 'old' money which I'm sadly too young to really remember).

The Rupert Bear book is only from 1983 which makes it 33 years old but considering it's a paperback it's survived pretty well and it's so sweet.

Another thing that isn't old is this:

 A set of crayons I bought for Miss Mac when she was about 4 from Laura Ashley.  I found them when I was sorting through some boxes and now they live in my cabinet with all the other things I love.

But, like I said, it's not all about the kitchen (not that that IS but you know what I mean).

The tin is another SD find.  It once held Medium Navy Cut Cigarettes and this tin was to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

It now hold the Singer Sewing Machine booklets in the photo.

 One thing you can't see clearly in the photo is this:

The original receipt for a Singer Sewing Machine

 The sewing machine belonged to Big D's Great Grandmother and it was given to me after she died - I found this in one of the drawers.

The receipt is made out to Miss Ivy Chapman (Big D's GGM) on the  17th August 1920 for which she paid the princely sum of £14.16.0 (after a 20% discount).

Isn't it fantastic?

There was of course also SD'd Top Hat that I picked up in a vintage shop in Penzance

And this tin which makes me smile because it pretty much sums up my life!
That isn't EVERYTHING we bought but the post is probably long enough for now.

Is it just me who loves this stuff - AM I completely mad? Does anyone else out there collect this kind of thing?