Happiness is…

Happiness is…dropped feed dogs and a darning foot….oh and a garden!

My lovely other half has an alluring way of softly asking, “can we do a card for my dad…my brother…my god-daughter…?” I do love his use of the word ‘we’. It is a team effort, I sit at the sewing machine and create and he…ummm…well he watches sport on tv. When I question this, he asks whether I would rather be the one watching sport…and, well, I don’t, so I guess he really is doing me a favour!

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Mark’s mum and dad’s anniversary (51 years!)
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Mark’s dad’s birthday – he loves the seaside (particularly Cornwall)
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a card to welcome Mark’s niece’s new baby
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Mark’s brother’s birthday card…hope he’s not offended!

I am not really complaining; I really enjoy a bit of free motion machine thread-drawing.

My other love is outside in the garden:

The pots and hanging baskets are bright and colourful.

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The cosmos I sewed is finally coming in to flower.

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My old blue strawberry planter never did well with strawberry plants…or herbs…or anything, but now the sempervivum (houseleeks) have decided that it is the perfect home and are thriving!

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The dwarf sunflowers have taken a long time to flower (too much shade from the trees, I suspect) but are now showing their finery.

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Even the aubergines are in flower!

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The tomatoes are huge – just need them to turn red now.

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Our cats have the cleanest paws on the street!

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Oh and the cylcamen are flowering (which makes it feel rather Autumnal)

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Our wild area is coming along nicely – lots of flowers for the bees and butterflies. We still have a lot of turf to dig up to sew our wildflower meadow, but we’ll get there eventually.

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Max the cat has the softest, fluffiest tummy in the known universe!

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The apples are nearing ripeness…

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…and finally, the new solar fairy lights work a treat!

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a touch of Spring cleaning

Yes, I know it is July and not technically Spring, but I have indeed been Spring cleaning. I had my fourth craft fair on Saturday and a few things have sorted themselves out in my mind.

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Mark came to help me at the Yatton Keynell popup shop and was really good at making sure everything looked just right!

I started Deerey Me wanting to try lots of things – because I like making so many different things – hoping something would come to the surface. I think it now has. What I enjoy most is free-motion machine embroidery and applique and I think I should keep my stock to this theme. I will sell cards and pictures and zip pouches and to that I may add brooches and tea cosies and aprons, but all will have my style of free-motion twiddliness.

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a storm in a teacup


One thing that has not sold at all at craft fairs and not too much recently online is the larger tote/shopping bags, so I am going to stop making them as stock (except the book bags). I am happy to make anything at all for custom order – tote bags, slippers etc – but I won’t keep them in stock and I won’t take them to craft fairs. My one exception to all this is Ellen Mouse. I love her too much not to have her around – and I don’t want all that CE testing to go to waste.

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Ellen Mouse..er…Mice…er…Mouses


So, my friends, I now have some stock to clear out of my way. I have decided to take them out of my Etsy shop and sell them a few at a time on my Facebook page
, so why not head over there, ‘like’ my page and see what bargains pop up each day!

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Facebook bargain number 1 – reduced from £8.50 plus postage to £4.50 including postage

In addition, the more free-motion work I do, the faster I get, so I am now able to reduce the price of my cards from £4.50 each to £3 each!

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two little owls card

Finally, and I shall whisper this…my Christmas shop is now open over at Etsy: Deerey Me Christmas shop. I had a couple of people buying stocking-fillers on Saturday and thought I should be ready for the early birds. The Christmas section does include some non-applique pieces, but…well…Christmas is Christmas and some liberties may be taken!

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Skandinavian style Christmas stockings

the difference a bit of sunshine makes

Yes, sunshine makes a difference in so many ways, but in particular I am thinking about product photos. I have quite a few pieces to add to my Etsy shop and have been waiting for enough light to make the photos pop. Finally, the sun has shone! (these will be going in my shop very soon)

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The cats have been enjoying the sunshine too…

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…and so have Mark and I, with a visit to Lacock Abbey!

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More photos in Deere Diary!

 

 

beach huts, gardens and a wee bit of free-motion quilting

This is less of a tutorial than a nudge to give free-motion machine sewing a go – whether it is embroidery, applique or quilting. If you are like me, you may have put off dropping your feed dogs and going for it, and I am here to tell you it is easier than you might think. All you need is a sewing machine that allows you to drop the feed dogs (usually a switch at the back of the machine’s table somewhere) and although not absolutely necessary, I do prefer to use a darning foot. I have heard of people taping thin card over the feed dogs if they cannot be dropped.

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using a darning foot

Most of the feet for my machine are changed by pushing the release at the back of the foot and reattach just by pushing them back on, but I think a lot of darning feet are like the one in the photo and you have to undo the screw at the side…I am embarrassed to admit that took my a little while to work out! You can free-motion sew without a foot at all, but please do watch your fingers as there is nothing to stop you stitching through more than just the fabric.

To stop the fabric getting out of shape as you sew you either need to hold it firm with an embroidery hoop or – as my lovely friend Karen pointed out to me – you can use a fabric stabiliser. I use stitch-and-tear, which I iron on to the back of the fabric. It gives you more to sew through and you can tear it away when you have finished. You can also get stabilisers that wash away.

I suggest setting up your sewing machine, ironing some stabiliser to a scrap of fabric and just having a play. I was really surprised how quickly I started to get the hang of it.

I find I end up sewing over my starting thread and the criss-cross stitches hold the thread in place, so it is not necessary to pull the thread tail through to the back and tie it or anything – just trim it close. If you are writing with the machine or sewing discrete areas with the same colour thread, just raise the needle and the foot and pull the fabric away from you to give yourself a loop of thread, so it doesn’t pull when you go on to the next bit of stitching. You can trim all the loops at the end – it saves time, rather than trimming each bit before you move on.

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loose ends before trimming

Free-motion applique is a really quick and easy way to applique. It leaves a raw edge to the fabric pieces, but I rather like that effect. You can either cut a shape and sew around the edges or use a piece of fabric, sew your outline and then trim away excess fabric. I usually use the first way, as I like to get an idea of how the finished piece will look, but the second way may be a little quicker. (One little hint: if your sewn line goes a bit wobbly, just sew over it again as somehow two slightly wobbly lines together look like they are meant to be like that). You could pin or tack applique pieces in place, but I find it far easier to use a fabric glue stick. They are designed to be suitable to sew through without getting your needle all gummed up.

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finished beach-hut cards
garden card
garden card

I am now practiced at changing to and from the darning foot (and keep a small Phillips screwdriver in my sewing kit), but still find myself choosing to do all my free-motion projects at the same time rather than switching between feet too often. Today, I decided to do a little (very basic) free-motion quilting, making an ivory satin dolly bag.

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little bag of love
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cone flower and bee quilting
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love
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happiness and marriage

 

 

I had thought I might do some gardening today rather than sewing, but the sunshine kept making way for Spring showers. However late afternoon, the lure of sunshine in the garden was too much for me.

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first clematis flower of the year
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I have a love hate relationship with dandelions
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the wisteria is the best I have ever seen it
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the garden
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the azalea my mum gave us as a low-calorie alternative to a chocolate Easter egg
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bleeding heart and little white alliums
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aquilegia in the shade of the cherry tree
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poppies adding a splash of colour
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poppies like drops of sunshine

Before I go (sorry but Philadelphia is on tv and I am a big fan of Denzel Washington!) I just have a special photo I would like to share – especially for Shellie and Christina! 😉

man and cat in perfect harmony
man and cat in perfect harmony

 

 

 

 

 

 

Larkhall Festival 2014

Yesterday I had a stall at the Larkhall Festival in Bath.  Our nearest shops are in Larkhall – just five minutes walk away – and it is a lovely little place on the edge of Bath, with a real community spirit. There’s a newsagents/post office, a butchers, a deli/bakery, a green grocers, two cafes, a couple of pubs, a pet shop, a hardware store…oh you get the picture. Every year there is a community festival that brings together local residents and businesses, with lots of live music, kids’ activities, competitions…and a craft market! I hadn’t had a stall there before and wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had a brilliant time. It was a successful day financially, and lots and lots of people took away my advertising postcards, but more importantly I met so many lovely people! The day flew by and the other stall holders were so friendly – Diane and Terry were like old friends by the end of the day and the lovely lady with the top hat gave me some useful advice about selling at craft markets (and even offered to share her twiglets!), there was live music from a pianist and a guitarist (complete with his sweet little dog who went from stall to stall saying hello to everyone), and the nice lady selling her jewellery danced with her baby grandchild. The customers were interested in what I make and how I make it and I had some fascinating conversations, I think I may have some new recruits to the Bath WI and one very lovely lady has even offered me a bag of crocheted lace and other fabric!

A big thanks to Cassy for organising the craft market – I just had such a nice day (and amazingly my dodgy knees seem to have held up ok – rather expected not to be able to walk the rest of the weekend). All went so well, I rather wish I had signed up for today’s market too!

Apologies for poor quality photos – I didn’t want to take my posh camera.

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my stall at the Larkhall Festival
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my stall – pleased with my appliqued tablecloth
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setting up
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his master’s voice? No…a cream and jam scone in the audience!

I didn’t need to make much more stock for the market, but made a couple of vinyl/oilcloth bags as they seem to go down well and a few more cards:

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oilcloth bag
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child’s vinyl bag
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cards
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and more cards
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thank you card
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p.s. I love you
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every cloud…has a silver lining (and beads for raindrops?)
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teacups – makes me think of my friend Irene

What’s more, it is a bank holiday long weekend, the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the wisteria in the garden looks gorgeous alongside the apple blossom…what my friend Annika would describe as a ‘blooming tree’…ah, fond memories of afternoon tea at the Royal Crescent Hotel with my favourite Swedish ladies.

 

 

Easter is coming, the bunny’s getting thin…

Easter is coming

The bunny’s getting thin*

Here’s a little bag

To collect chocolate eggs in!

*I reckon all that running around hiding chocolate eggs (without eating them) is bound to keep the Easter bunny skinny!

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I usually make my drawstring bags with linings and separate casings – and sometimes I even quilt them – but had the idea that if I could make them simply enough, I could price them so they could be used as gift bags. To keep the inside tidy without lining I have used my favourite French seams. You sew the front and back of the bag wrong sides together, trim the seam allowance, turn it inside out, press it and sew the seam again with right sides together, The effect is to enclose the raw edges within the seam.

I have also unleashed my love of applique and free-motion embroidery on some Easter cards:

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Of course before Easter, here in the UK we have Mother’s Day on 30 March (would have been my dad’s birthday, so have to mark it with lots of ice-cream!). I made some pretty flower and teacup cards with mothers in mind:

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All currently available in my shop: Deerey Me on Etsy.com

Mind you, before either Mother’s Day or Easter we have Shrove Tuesday on 4 March…best known as pancake day! I haven’t made anything to sell for pancake day…but I will be making pancakes mmmmmmmm. In my opinion you can’t beat good old lemon and sugar. What’s your favourite pancake?

 

of mice and men..and cats

Last night was wild – and not in a good way! The noise of the wind and the feeling that the house was shaking was somewhat unnerving and watching the updates on the Dorset coast (where we have a tiny wee holiday flat) was downright scary. We have friends who live there permanently and I hope they are ok as I see many people were evacuated and spent the night in a local pub or in a school. If the flat flooded, it’s just things, but people are far more precious. It has been one storm after enough, each stronger and more damaging than the one before. I heard on the radio this morning that 41,000 properties are without power this morning. Watching it from our safe, dry house in Bath it feels apocalyptic, so how must it feel when the waves are crashing over your home or your farm is is two or three metres under water or even in the middle of London buildings are collapsing in the path of the storm? It is still windy, but the sun is shining and the worst of the latest storm is over. It feels as though the whole country is praying for calm and sunshine and Spring.

This morning I opened the living room curtains to evidence of a stormy Valentine’s day…I wonder who attempted to charm their loved one and was beaten by the wind?

after the Valentine's storm
after the Valentine’s storm

I know this post is supposed to be of mice and men and cats, but I want to reverse the order and start with the cats.

of cats

Our two cats were as freaked out by the storm last night as we were, and it is so nice to see them calm and soaking up a sunny respite in the weather…

Max, dozing in the sun
feline sun-worshipper
who? me?

…even if naughty Rio tries to destroy the sofa! (it’s ok, I made extra strong covers for the parts of the sofa he scratches…not a pulled thread in sight)

naughty cat!
naughty cat!

…and when I made him stop, he decided to read the paper, and really got in to it!

Rio in the paper
Rio in the paper
newspaper cat
newspaper cat

of men

Yesterday was Valentine’s day. Mark and I don’t tend to do a lot to mark the day, but had intended to go out for lunch yesterday as Mark had the day off. The weather was so awful, we decided to stay in and had a Chinese takeaway in the evening instead. I made Mark a card…a free motion machine embroidery of Max the cat. Quite proud of it actually; didn’t draw it on the fabric first, just sketched it in stitches. It is so much fun drawing in thread!

free motion machine embroidery cat's whiskers Valentine's card
free motion machine embroidery cat’s whiskers Valentine’s card

I also made some shortbread hearts and split them between Mark and our elderly next door neighbour…sharing the love (and the calories!).

shortbread hearts
shortbread hearts
glittery shortbread hearts

As for me, I was treated to red roses, champagne and a big ole chocolate heart! (sorry phone photo is so grainy – had just come back from doc pulling around my dodgy knees and was not getting up to fetch proper camera!)

Valentine’s treats
red roses!

of mice

I keep an old style Ellen Mouse in my work room/dining room (not CE markable as has bead eyes and whiskers that will pull out under 7kg of tug) and I use her as a model for when I get requests for additional clothes for a re-homed Ellen Mouse. Until this week she has had to sit on my fabric shelves in nowt but her vest and frilly pants so I pinched a tiny bit of some trim I was given to make her a dress…reminds me of a 1970s Laura Ashley maxi dress.

Ellen Mouse in her vest and pants
Ellen Mouse’s new maxi dress

What’s more Ellen had nagged and nagged about extending her range…so now in my online shop Ellen Mouse cards and Ellen Mouse zip pouch bag!

Ellen Mouse greetings card
Ellen Mouse zip pouch

While in the mood for free-motion machine embroidery I made a couple more zip pouches, sketching first and then doing a bit of applique and embroidery: available in my shop.

blue tit sketch for free motion embroidery
blue tit zip pouch
cone flower and bees sketch
cone flower and bees zip pouch

I also made a little zip coin purse/makeup bag – the fabric is just too pretty to need any embellishment!

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I am still experimenting with products to decide on my ‘niche’ and plan to make some paper sculptures in the coming week, to see how they go down with my customers. Here is one I made earlier (lots of years earlier).

paper geisha
paper geisha

some more Valentine’s cards

I am still grabbed by the free-motion bug and have made a load more cards (in my shop now: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DeereyMe) Here are a few of them.

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This week I plan to make some zipper pouches using the same techniques.

 

Christmas seems like a long time ago now, but I would like to share a couple of my presents that really help with the day job.

1) A bobbin sidewinder from Mark’s mum and dad. This fantastic little gadget is battery powered and allows me to wind bobbins really easily and without having to unthread and rethread my sewing machine…cool!

bobbin sidewinder
bobbin sidewinder

2) A Roberts DAB radio with bluetooth from Mark. I know it is lazy, but the bluetooth aspect of this lovely retro style radio is brilliant – I don’t have to leave my sewing machine to change music or audiobook or volume and it stops when my phone rings – perfect. I love it. I couldn’t photograph it without including the painting on the wall beside it. An oil painting by Helen Campbell. It never ceases to inspire me – I see more in it every time I look at it and can find myself staring at it for far too long. Helen and I worked together in a London investment bank 25 years ago or more and it is strange to see how far away we now both are from our banking days.

Roberts radio
Roberts radio

 

In other news…for months and months there has been a note on the chalk board in our kitchen reminding me to mend Mark’s work chinos (actually for a while it reminded me to find and mend them). It is quite some time since I did any dressmaking and I have never made trousers (except for a bridegroom mouse) and I guess I was putting it off. This weekend I finally got around to taking out the old broken zip to see how it had been fitted and sewing in a new zip. It was fiddly, but I am quite proud of myself for having persevered and not just throwing out the trousers. A bit of an iron and they are fit to go!

replaced zip
replaced zip

 

In addition, you may remember I shared with you Max the cat’s efforts to fit in to a too small box…

cat in a box...well almost
cat in a box…well almost

…well I am pleased to announce that he has now found a box he can squeeze in to! Yay for Max!

Max in a box
Max in a box

 

Finally, we had another sunny day yesterday so Mark and I went for a walk locally – heading away from the city in to the countryside. There is more in Deere Diary.

 

 

 

 

 

Be my Valentine…?

I don’t know where this week has gone. I seem to have been busy every waking moment and yet so many ideas have yet to be realised. I am now starting to turn to ideas for Valentines Day – for the shop, not for Mark and me! At best we are likely to have something nice for tea, although the last couple of years when we agreed not to get each other gifts, Mark has come home with a large bouquet of red roses anyway.

First things first though; I have framed the Little Red Riding Hood piece. What do you think?

Little Red Riding Hood, framed
Little Red Riding Hood, framed

Also, while my mind was full of woodland farytales, I made a batch of mushroom/toadstool pincushions – so much fun to make.

I think my next fairytale will be the Princess and the Pea – I can picture it very clearly in my mind.

So now to Valentines. I have a load of ideas and started working out some free-motion/applique cards. I hadn’t tried much free-motion writing until this week and have been pleasantly surprised with the results (although I think you can see the difference between the beginning and end of the week). These will be in my shop next week, once the packaging arrives.

Firstly, my love of bees could not be contained:

bee mine!
bee mine!

Secondly, I am a big fan of Peter Pan and love the idea of Wendy giving Peter a thimble, when she offers him a kiss – as he does not know what a kiss is (of course, having no concept of what a kiss is terribly sad). I am hoping that the thimble/kiss reference is not too cryptic.

Wendy's 'kiss'
Wendy’s ‘kiss’

Lastly (so far), as a resident of Bath, I felt I needed a little Jane Austen.

Mr Darcy to Lizzie Bennett
Mr Darcy to Lizzie Bennett

In the coming week I will make some more of these, along with some ‘You are my Mr Darcy’, ‘Fly me to the moon’ with some gorgeous space/planets fabric I have, and maybe even some straight forward ‘be my valentine’. I also want to use some of these ideas to make zipper pouches, bunting and lavender bags. Oh and I picked up a pack of 50 small tobacco tins I am going to decorate and fill…along with planting the raspberry plants, sorting out potential crafty nights out for the Bath WI, a bit of mending (I am putting off replacing the zip in a pair of Mark’s trousers, but I need to be brave and get it done!) and of course some guitar practice!

We wish you a merry Christmas…

First things first…or no…actually before that…I must apologise for the lack of attention I have given my Deerey Me website. Such a busy time, I confess I have been favouring the speed and ease of my Deerey Me Facebook page, which has had more than a hint of Christmas party about it. I have all sorts of plans for the new year, including lavishing more attention here.

So back to ‘first things’…I drew the winners of my calendar giveaway. First (Aaron) and second (Emma) who commented over on Facebook, but I was delighted that the third name drawn was lovely Caitlin, who commented here. A Sue Deere Photos calendar will be winging its way to all three very shortly.

Deerey Me calendars
Deerey Me calendars

Most years our house is full of gingerbread houses and yule logs waiting to be collected by friends and family but this year my only request for a gingerbread house was received too late for me to have time to make. In fact my only gingerbread house was a handbag for the WI Christmas Fair…

gingerbread house handbag
gingerbread house handbag

I did have my usual Christmas cake gifts to make and decided to use the spherical bun tin I treated myself to a few years back to make mini fruit cake spheres that I turned in to little fat robins…of course!

fat fruit cake robin
fat fruit cake robin
fat robin Christmas cake
fat robin Christmas cake

My mum is not meant to have marzipan or icing, so her cake just has a hint of edible gold spray and some gold plastic reindeer.

non-iced Christmas cake
non-iced Christmas cake
Christmas cakes wrapped and ready to go
Christmas cakes wrapped and ready to go

I have a little more baking to do before Wednesday and last night was our Christmas street party – a great regular event. One of our neighbours has even put an extra shed in his front garden, which he has converted in to a bar…and this year there was homebew on tap too! We gather around a brazier (not to be confused with brassiere!) and sing carols, drink mulled wine and eat nibbles (the mini meat pies were particularly awesome…). My contribution was these melting snowmen cookies I saw on Pinterest.

melting snowmen cookies
melting snowmen cookies

You can use any sort of biscuit/cookie (even shop-bought), spread a dollop of white glace or royal icing and – before the icing dries – pop marshmallows on a greased piece of baking parchment on a microwave-safe plate and zap for no more than 20 seconds (just long enough that they start to puff up). Oil your fingers and squish a melting marshmallow on each biscuit. When cool and dried pipe on arms and faces. Another time I would use larger biscuits and add fondant scarves. I bought rolos and giant choc button to make hats, but again the biscuits were too small…ah well, we will just have to eat the chocolate.

Talking of chocolate, I made some hot chocolate spoons as little extra Christmas gifts. I bought a big pack of wooden teaspoons and filled them with milk and white chocolate and added Christmas sprinkles and edible glitter; when stirred in to a mug of hot milk they will make yummy hot chocolate.

I was worried that this year, with all the Christmas sewing starting in late Summer, I might be fed up with Christmas before it got anywhere near. However, I am delighted to announce that I was still very happy to decorate the house this week. We have so many Christmas decorations…

Christmas decorations
Christmas decorations

…but there’s always room for a few new home made lavender cats!

lavender cats
lavender cats

Actually, I made so many lavender cats and other lavender bags, I ran out of lavender and had to move on to cloves and cinnamon.

empty lavender jar
empty lavender jar

With all the Wintery preparations for Christmas…

note my reflection in the teapot bauble...tripod and all; very proper!
note my reflection in the teapot bauble…tripod and all; very proper!
Christmas mantel

…it was rather nice taking a moment out to look forward to the new year and Spring with a get well card…

get well card
get well card

I intend to be back here before Christmas, but just in case I get buried in icing sugar and shortbread (what a way to go!), I will take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and/or Winter break.