I was asked by Helen Martin, a fellow contributor to Amelia's magazine, for my favourite christmas song for an article she is writing. Its up now so you can now read about the other contributors favourite songs, and also see a silly Christmas picture of me.
My favourite song is by Slow Club, and its called Its Christmas and You're Boring Me. I feel the opposite about my mister but its such a beautiful song.
Helen's article has also introduced me to a few other BEAUTIFUL Christmas songs too
I finished my job, forever, on the day that most schools broke up for the Christmas holidays. So I feel like an over-excited child with 2 whole weeks stretching before me. Long lie ins and staying in my pyjama's until mid day. Mulled wine at lunch time. Pottering around my flat with Christmas decorations. Laughing at my misters obsession with checking the weather forecast and his minute by minute updates on the state of the snow. Buying a gold 1950's vintage dress for New Years. Brownies for breakfast. Decorating my Christmas presents and crafting things for my baby brother. Harry Potter at the cinema and making honeycomb at home. Spending time re-organising every inch of our flat; My misters camera shelves, our photo boxes, my fabric, our books; no item has been left un-touched. Wondering if the snow will keep us apart from our families this Christmas.
Heres some snippets of Christmas around our place.
The mantle piece is an ever changing smorgasbord (what a word) of vintage pretty red things from around my house. Plus an ornament garland, a doily garland, a fabric garland and a love heart garland. Garlands a go go.
Some close ups...
Sadly missing a star. I would like to learn to crochet a big star for the top of my tree.
And 2 more garlands (obsession?) in the hall, at the top is some vintage lace threaded onto a piece of string and underneath is a christmas garland made for me by a lovely friend
I hope you too are enjoying these festive days. Even if perhaps Christmas isn't your thing, because I know for some, it isnt. I hope you can enjoy a few days off and some good food and that you have some time to curl up with a good box set and some mulled wine.
And also, don't forget to do something charitable this Christmas. Yes, because its good, but also because it will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. For ideas, even if you can only spare 5 minutes, see here.
So, my last christmas article is now up at Amelia's. This concludes the writing, photography and crafting marathon I subjected myself too this week. My very busy last week in my current job. The week with three work christmas parties, and the resultant hangovers afterwards. Excuse me while I lie on the floor in a hungover stupor for a while.
But I've loved writing them. I found 'the zone'. And I hope you've enjoyed reading them.
So. You know what to do....
Hop on over to read about my ideas for home made Christmas decorations. Let me know what you think!
Teacup baubauls! Currently making me ridiculously happy every day.
This probably won’t surprise you, but like last year, I am going to try very hard to make this Christmas a hond- made one. (See last years Christmas crafting projects hereherehere and here) This is for numerous reasons, including not having very much money. But also because I happen to think that Christmas does not have to be expensive. I am planning on buying very few gifts, and I mostly (butnot always) prefer experiences to things. We are also preparing for a thrifty, low spend Christmas. This is why you will not find a Christmas gift guide or wish list on my blog. I like to read them, I do. I like to see the very cute finds and learn a little about the authors of the wish lists. And its nice to dream, right? But, sometimes, these lists make me feel very focussed on spending money. And I don't have any to spend. Or, as Pip so aptly puts it (she reads my mind, I swear) 'it is easy to get overwhelmed with the BUY'.
Illustration by Ellie Sutton, commissioned by me to go with my article at Amelia's magazine.
I have been busy crafting away for a few articles for Amelia’s magazine in which I am encouraging everyone to make something this Christmas. Even if they dont think they are very crafty. I have chosen easy ideas that anyone could do, using stuff that is either going to be thrown away or is at least easily accessible in most homes. My tutorial with 5 ideas to make your own Christmas cards is here.
My mister and I love living in London. We love meeting each other after work and going for food in Soho and then buying frozen yogurt on the way home. We love celebrating our anniversaries by exploring London's royal parks, cafes and galleries. I love strolling along the South Bank, by the river. I love meeting my friends for drinks after work in some new exciting bar, I love going to gigs and clubs and I adore the markets and vintage shops. I do.
But London is not our forever home. I have dreamed of living by the sea since I was a little girl, and when my family started holidaying in Wales when I was 15, my dream became articulated in living in Wales. In Pembrokeshire. In one of my future dream houses; a cottage with a pink roof.
We are not yet done with London. Not yet. She has more for us, I can feel it.
But sometimes, on days when our commute to work is delayed, noisy, cramped, hot and smelly, or when I've had to battle my way though the crowds of tourists along Oxford street, when nobody I pass on the street smiles at me all day, sometimes, I wish to be in my future dream house. In an eco house perched on top of a cliff top overlooking the sea. (Or on a house boat. Or ex industrial space. Or tree house. The common themes of my dream houses seems to be 'rural' and 'a bit bonkers'. I can live with that.)
Like this lady, who makes organic skin care products form a beautiful small holding in Wales. Her business was featured in an Amelia's article. When asked about the best bits and the pitfalls are of living in Wales she said; " I love the wild side of Wales most. It’s great to nip out the door and within minutes be in a forest, a meadow, or on a mountain. I love the trees and fields, the castles, the coastline, the views out to the Brecon Beacons, the stunning drive through the Towy Valley. There is a strong craft community here, we have several community run shops, and there is a lot of great food and farm produce about too. The pitfalls… what pitfalls!?"
Or Ashley, from Small Measures who lives an idyllic life in a small mountain community in Asheville, America. She writes about her farm, her bees (bees!), chickens, husband and new baby, and reading it literally like a breath of mountain fresh air.
I uploaded an article to Amelia's magazine this morning (its been a writing weekend!) It is a crafts article containing 5 ideas (Yes 5!) to make your own Christmas cards. They are designed to be easy, so that anybody could make them, using recycled materials where possible.
This morning I received a very sweet parcel from my Dad.
You see, my Dad makes the very best mince pies and mulled wine. The mince pies have just the right mincemeat and pastry ratio, at just the right thickness and texture. And the mulled wine is the perfect balance of orangey sweetness with the pungent clove's and cinnamon. He knows I miss them, and how much I am looking forward to them when I go to visit at Christmas. So he sent me a home made mince pie and a little bottle of his mulled wine, through the post. A little present to congratulate me on my new job.
Bang goes my heart.
P.S The parcel helped to lift my mood after the glum results of the parliamentary vote yesterday to rise tuition fees. Yes, I am devastated. But I'm not really surprised either. Its not over yet though. Nope.
I have started this blog post three times now. I am trying to put into words how I feel about the proposal that will allow UK universities to charge up to £9,000 per year in tuition fees, and the accompanying student riots, occupations and demo's that have been widely reported by the media.
The introduction of tuition fees in 2008 changed the relationship between tutor and student forever, to one of provider and consumer. Variable tuition fees bring the market system into education and turns learning and growing into a saleable commodity, which is arguably precisely what the government want. They get to withdraw state funding and clear the path for their rich corporate buddies to start filling the gaps. In return for their money, students are demanding 'value for money' and 'good customer service'. Universities are cramming more and more students into less and less space, with declining 1:1 tutor time and fewer lectures and seminars. And the emphasis of university is increasingly geared toward fitting specific industry moulds, rather than meeting the needs of the student and preparing graduates with a range of transferable skills and experiences.
I think that education should not be quantified only by its financial worth. Students should not be 'processed' by the system and spat out as market fodder at the other end. The arts and humanities should be as equally valued as science and engineering. The best universities should be available to everyone, and based on academic merit, not family income, and students should not have to worry about mounting debts of thousands of pounds when they graduate.(I graduated when yearly fees were much less than they are now, but after also taking a loan out for London living expenses I am still facing a big debt; one that I am nowhere near paying off. I was told "don't worry about the debt, it wont really affect you. Study now, pay back when your earning". And its rubbish, the amount deducted from my monthly salary is not small.)
“The Prime Minister obscures the fact that the Government is removing 80 per cent of public funding for the university teaching grant and all public funding for arts, humanities and social science courses. Of the £3.6bn provided by the government for teaching in English universities, £2.9bn is being removed in one fell swoop, doing untold damage to our economy, culture and society."
I find the whole thing depressing and sad. For me, this is about fairness and equality. It is about fighting to learn for the sake of learning. Its about protecting the future of the arts and humanities. And its about being real about the impact of these changes on poorer students, many of whom fear a lifetime of debt.
Anyway. Rant over. I'm going to be joining, at least briefly, thousands of people today to lobby the UK parliament as it votes on whether to raise yearly tuition fees to £9,000.
Wish me luck.
You can follow live coverage of the vote in parliament here, and the student demonstration's here
And, If you want to get involved and do something, you can of course join the demo, or you could put a message of support on facebok/twitter or email your MP etc.
Depressingly, perhaps predictably, the vote passed.
There has been a lot of bullshit spouted by the media about yesterdays protests, which is surprisingly (naive?!) biased and one sided. This article, by Enemies of Reason however, is brilliant. Read it.
The wedding quilt for Ray and her husband. To commemorate their spectacular day. To accompany their maiden voyage into the weird and wonderful world of marriage.
I invited Rays hens to contribute fabric that reminded them of Ray. (The gold leather is my favourite contribution!) I chose some beautiful vintage floral fabrics and I then stitched the fabric from the hens together with other fabrics from the wedding; the fabric menu, a few of the handmade fabric napkins, and some pretty floral handkerchiefs that decorated the reception venue. I then backed it with a large piece of vintage floral fabric (Ray really likes florals!)
Here it is laid out on my bed, before I gave it to her. Above our bed is the bunting from my wedding!
Dear Hens, thank you for the fabric squares you sent, and apologies it took me a little longer than expected to sew them together (what's 2 months between friends?!) To the hens who would still like to contribute; you still can! Bring along a pre- hemmed square next time you go round to Ray's and you can stitch it on top of the quilt. It will be the quilt that just keep giving!
At some point Ray or I must tell you about Rays epic hen do too...
I’ve had a very productive weekend. It involved getting sick and then well again. Spreading out fabric squares all over the lounge then eventually finishing a wedding/birthday quilt for Ray (more on that later), frolicking in the snow like a little girl, marvelling at how beautiful it makes everything look. Enjoying unknown quantities of mulled wine at a Christmas party. Having a very satisfying clear-out of our pantry and our walk in wardrobe which were both stuffed full of rubbish we no longer use. Creating one enormous pile of rubbish destined for the tip and another enormous pile of stuff destined for the charity shop (We were hoarding no less than 11 broken appliances, dont you know). Making another batch of home- made washing powder and fabric conditioner, clearing a large load of washing and sorting through a couple of our kitchen cupboards. Spending Sunday evening putting the Christmas tree up, getting tangled in fairy lights and being just a wee bit pernickety about the placement of our bird decorations on the tree (ahem), all accompanied by A Charlie Brown Christmas. And then collapsing on the sofa to watch TV with a curry for a much needed rest. I’m tired just reading about it. My weekends are usually much more sedate than that, but it feels really good to purge our house of its rubbish, finish the quilt and get set up for Christmas.
I have a busy couple of weeks ahead, as I found out I got a new job (hurrah!) which I am starting in January, meaning I now have lots to finish up in my current job, and I am also attending number 2 of a potential 7 Christmas parties this week! Bring on the booze...
I recently bought these 60's floral pillow cases from a pretty vintage shop in Faversham.
The pillow cases are lovely, but what really made my little heart sing was that someone had taken the care to wrap them with ribbon.
For some reason, little things like this make me ridiculously happy.
Have a lovely weekend, cherries.
Hubs and I are hunkering down in our flat this weekend. We need to have a big pre- Christmas clear out; sort through our pantry and wardrobe then give tons of stuff to the charity shop. And we are also going to unpack the Christmas boxes, put up our tree and make decorations. We are totes going to make mulled wine and listen to cheesy Christmas songs all weekend too. Hells yeah!
Last night we cooked a birthday dinner for a friend. It was also a celebration of/antidote too (depending on how you look at it) the snow and frigid weather outside. My mister was in charge of dinner and he cooked up a feast; roasted pork belly with pear, swede, parsnip and carrot, served with steamed cabbage, roast potatoes, and cider gravy. It was warming and delicious and suitably celebratory.
I was in charge of the cake, of course. It involved an alarming pile of chocolate based treats, three recipe's, a calculator and all of Tuesday evening to create. Here she is, my slightly mad, gluten free, rocky road chocolate cake.
It is based very very loosely on Delia's sponge recipe, except that I exchanged normal flour for gluten free flour, added rising agents and 4 tablespoons of cocoa. I also trippled the ingredients, and created a monstrous (in a good way) frosting for it too.
Once the sponge cake was out of the oven and cooling on wire trays, I created the rocky road frosting, to my own recipe. I first melted 2 big bars of dark and milk chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whilst this was melting I made a batch of chocolate butter cream icing. The butter cream and melted chocolate were all combined in a bowl along with mini marshmallows, almonds, raisons, broken crunchie bars and broken chomp bars to make a gloriously lumpy, goey, chocolate feast. You can literally add anything you want to this. The chocolate goo was sandwiched in between the sponge cakes and decadently slathered on top too. I feel high on sugar just writing about it...
To finish I threaded little fabric triangles onto a piece of thread to make cake bunting and covered the base of the cake in liberty fabric and ribbon. When the cake is sliced, it reveals pretty pink and white mallows, raisins and almonds in the frosting.
This cake is good. Heart attack inducing, artery clogging, but decadently good.