Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

Happy new year! December 31, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — lauravw @ 2:27 pm

Let’s hope it’s a good one. I don’t think I’m making any resolutions as such, but I’m planning to take more care – both of myself and of others. I’m hoping 2010 will be a healthier year for me, and so I’m going to make sure I relax as much as possible.

I have quite a few sewing projects in the works (not that sewing always counts as a relaxing activity – there may have been the odd occasion where I’ve wanted to throw a sewing project out of the window…), so I want to take time to work on those. I also have big travel plans for later in the year, so there’s work to be done making plans and booking things – we’re planning to fly into San Francisco and out of Seattle, with a road trip in between the two cities. And I plan to make sure I spend time with family and friends – we’ve already got a few things on the calendar for the start of the year, including a trip to see the Nutcracker at the end of January.

I hope that 2010 brings good things your way.


Scandinavian visitors December 29, 2009

Filed under: Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 7:06 pm

We’ve been lucky enough to have a flock of redwings visiting our garden over the past few days. The snow and cold weather seems to have brought them here, and now they’ve arrived they are feasting on red berries growing on a bush in our neighbours’ garden. On Saturday we went for a walk and saw plenty of them in the neighbourhood. There are much better photos of them on the RSPB website, but I made a little video of one of them eating berries.


A very Victorian Christmas December 26, 2009

Filed under: Books,Christmas,Interiors — lauravw @ 11:39 am

Just before Christmas I was invited to a Christmas party at a friend’s house. I was very excited about this because they live in a Victorian house. It’s true that many people in the UK live in Victorian houses, butI think this is one of the few that are decorated to look like Queen Victoria is still on the throne!

I arrived to find a very sweet little home, with candles everywhere (which goes some way to explaining why my photos are so dark). Even the Christmas tree had real candles in it (inside tiny glass lanterns). The Christmas cards you can see on the mantel in this photo are Victorian, as was pretty much everything in the house – the bathroom fittings, the beds, everything. I’ve put pictures from the evening on Flickr if you’re curious. I loved how all signs of the modern world very hidden from view – they do have a TV, but it’s inside an antique cabinet, and cables and plugs are also out of sight.

This year I have been reading two enormous books about what life was like for the Victorians – The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed and Consuming Passions: Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian Britain. I don’t know what it was that made me take a sudden interest in the Victorians, but I have enjoyed learning about how they lived.


Merry Christmas December 24, 2009

Filed under: Christmas — lauravw @ 9:57 am

Merry Christmas! We’ve woken up to a snow covered garden this Christmas Eve, which means I keep popping outside to put out more food for the birds. There are many of them busily flitting around the garden as I type this.

Other than that I don’t have much planned for today – we were expecting family over for a Christmas Eve lunch, but I think the bad weather might have put a stop to those plans. I’ll be baking some brownies later, which tomorrow will be turned into a brownie tiramisu for our Christmas Day pudding. And speaking of brownies, Erica’s snowman brownie pops are brilliant – perhaps I could make some of these next year. I’m sure by now you’ve already seen Megan’s tiny gingerbread houses, but do take a look if you haven’t – they really are very special. One more thing I’m making a note of for next year is this stylish environmentally-friendly gift-wrapping.

The tree decoration in this photo is not ours – it lives on Eloise’s Christmas tree, along with many other pretty decorations. We visited them a few days ago and their Christmas tree was beautiful.

Whatever you’ll be up to over the next few days, I hope you enjoy it!


Brown paper packages tied up with string December 20, 2009

Filed under: Christmas — lauravw @ 11:47 am

The Christmas presents are all wrapped up, and under the tree… no wait – we don’t have a tree: they are wrapped up and sitting in a box upstairs, so that the cat doesn’t untie all the ribbons when we’re not looking. But at least they are wrapped…

For this year’s wrapping, I kept it both low budget and environmentally friendly (I love how those two things go together). I’ve used brown paper on all the parcels (which is also great because if you run out, it’s very easy to buy more of it without having to go into the city).

Tied around each of the parcels is some black papery twine I bought earlier in the year (I knew it would come in handy some day!). I made labels from red and green card, and then attached each of those to the parcels with a little sticker. The stickers are my favourite part: they are copies of Christmassy postage stamps from around the world. There are some really pretty ones – here are a few of my favourites. I don’t remember where I bought them from – they have been amongst my craft supplies for a good few years – but I suspect it was somewhere like Hobbycraft or WHSmiths – nowhere fancy. If I see some more I’m going to buy another set.

And as for Christmas music, “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses is my favourite Christmas record. There’s a little video of it on You Tube, accompanied by a film of Christmas lights on a house going on and off in time with the music. It amused me, anyway!


Christmas decorations December 17, 2009

Filed under: Christmas — lauravw @ 8:25 pm

I started putting up our Christmas decorations last Friday – I don’t like to put them up too soon, but as soon as I started unpacking the things we’ve collected over the years, I wished I’d got them out sooner. It’s been such a cold, dark week (with snow on the way tonight! And freezing cold gusts of wind!) that the fairy lights have been both pretty and cheering.

Most of our decorations are quite old – dating back to my childhood. Mum was telling me the other day how a lot of them came from a little shop in Pateley Bridge in North Yorkshire. This one was given to me when I was a baby, by my brother.

I have added to them over the years, bit by bit. This year I’ve added a papier mache bird from John Lewis (which can be seen here) and a set of handmade paper and card bird ornaments by local artist and crafter Kate Broughton. It’s nice to be able to decorate with pretty birds that have been designed and made so close to home. Each of the birds was supplied with thread looped through the top to allow you to hang them on a tree. We have a garland across our mantelpiece instead of a tree, and so I have been able to perch each of the little birds on a branch, which makes them look even more real.

The garland itself is by Gisela Graham, who is also the designer of most of my other newish Christmas decorations.


Installing a wall sticker December 14, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — lauravw @ 3:02 pm

I mentioned during the summer that my mother had bought a wall sticker (by Ferm Living) at a shop in York called Snowhome, but it was only last weekend that I was able to go and stay with her to install it. I was a little nervous about the process – I was worried we’d make a mess of it and then be disappointed – but it really is very easy to put these stickers up.

Firstly we did the little test sticker included in the pack – so there is now a little bird perched above the doorway to the kitchen.

Then we chose a spot to put the main sticker in – originally it was destined for a bedroom wall, but that spot was no longer available, and so the hallway seemed like an ideal place. We held the sticker up to the wall in a few places and at a few heights to get an idea of what would work best – and then we set to work. You use a little (supplied) tool to flatten the transfer, which makes sure the sticker part is primed and ready to come off once you get to your wall – it also gets rid of any bubbles. Then you hold the whole thing in place on your wall, and go over it again with the little tool (just like using transfers on a piece of paper). Last of all, you peel back the layer of plastic to reveal your design.

I was really impressed with the result – the transfer we used has a smooth, matte finish – and looks like we painted it on. There’s a close-up picture of it here.


Making Christmas garlands December 11, 2009

Filed under: Christmas,Crafts — lauravw @ 7:58 pm

Our local library held an event last Saturday where you could go along and spend a couple of hours learning how to make garlands and other Christmas decorations out of bits and bobs that you might find around your home and garden. The idea behind it all was to have a green Christmas – no plastic, not much money spent, and the sense of having made something pretty all by yourself.

There were two artists on hand to help, and they’d brought with them all sorts of lovely supplies that you could help yourself to while you worked. I made a wreath using bits of hessian, pine cones, dried slices of orange (which smell nice), twigs, and a few dried thistley-things from our own garden, which my mother had helpfully taken away and dried a few months ago (‘just in case they come in handy’ – which they did). I love how it looks, but all that hessian reminds me of that Doctor Who episode with the scarecrows. But perhaps that’s just me…

And speaking of handmade decorations, have you been watching Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas this week? I’ve enjoyed it a lot, even though I am not at the level of society where I can consider spending £10 per bauble! (Well, I could buy one or two, but I think the point of baubles is that you buy 20 or 30 of them, and my pocket money certainly can’t stretch that far.) The ribbon shop looks like a place to add to the list for my next London visit, and I liked the Christmas stocking Kirstie made. I’ve not seen the final episode yet – I’m looking forward to watching that over the weekend.


Christmas at Chatsworth House December 5, 2009

Filed under: Christmas,Places to go — lauravw @ 5:28 pm

Yesterday I visited Chatsworth House in Derbyshire with my parents – my mum is celebrating a birthday with a zero on the end this weekend, and so wanted to go on a special outing. I had no idea what to expect, and I’ve been to seasonal events at stately homes before, only to be disappointed by the poor effort that had been put in. Not so with Chatsworth – it was AMAZING.

So many rooms had been decorated for the season, and all with the most elegant taste. There were lights everywhere (lots of candles – most of which were not real though, I guess due to the fire risk), and the whole place seemed to glow. I’m not someone that usually gets swept up in enthusiasm for Christmas decorations, but I had never seen anything quite like this before. If you get chance to visit, do go – it’s wonderful. It’s on until the 23rd of December 2009 – and I’m told that each year they decorate the house differently, so we’re already hoping to go back next December.

There are some good little cafes and restaurants on site, and if you get lucky with the weather you can have a walk around the grounds. I’ve put some of my pictures from the day on Flickr.


Gingerbread Moomin house December 2, 2009

Filed under: Crafts,Food — lauravw @ 9:01 pm

If you have been wondering what to make for your Moomins this Christmas, here’s your answer: a gingerbread Moomin house. This is one of the loveliest, cheeriest and most Christmassy things I have seen this year. (Via Door Sixteen and Fine Little Day.) There are more pictures in the PDF instructions.

I’ve been seeing a lot more Moomin stuff for sale of late – the graphic novels, shoppings bags, and mugs – and the Moominworld shop has a cookie cutter set that you can use to make the gingerbread houses. I loved the Moomins as a child, and while I like seeing the new products, I’ve not yet seen anything that quite captures the feeling of Moominvalley for me. A trip to Moominworld might be a good idea though…