Friday, 25 September 2015

Let's Celebrate the Makers

Christmas is coming ( I know , it's still a whole quarter of a year away but I never have been good at that thing called delayed gratification ) and the High Street coffers will be getting fat , let's put a few quid in the crafter's hat.

I will be trying very very hard to shun the lure of online shopping and that well know department store's Monty replacement dreamed up by the marketing gurus in a city office sometime in July. Instead I'll be buying from my favourite crafters who were all out on parade last weekend at the Handmade Fair at Hampton Court.

I NEED to show you some of the fabulous thing they've made. Here are some of my favourites, photographed alongside their beautiful creations.

Allow me to introduce ...

Lucy Elisabeth , freehand wirework artist whose work I covet. You can find her creations at She also takes commissions for private work , such as this beautiful 'written' lyric - I hope my husband is reading this.

This is Kirstie Perry from Somerset , textile artist, one of whose fabric brooches I bought for a friend, in the shape of a hummingbird.

You can find her work at - what a delightful gift for Christmas and boxed too. I have my eye on the fox ... and the bluetit ... and a few others besides.

These caught my eye too. I've already bought a pattern to make a 21st birthday present for eldest son but the chances of being able to make it in time are diminishing. Rosy Hammersely at will do all the hard work for you , if like me you have a bulging drawer of unfinished crafts awaiting attention and too little time.

Elly VValler makes beautiful notecards - what a perfect present - beautifully wrapped. You can find her work on Etsy or contact her by emailing

These took my eye - always a sucker for a bear.

Here's lovely Isabelle from Creative Quilting in Hampton Court - a treasure trove of all things quilting and sewing - who used to come to my scrapbooking classes. You can find her here at She runs lovely workshops - a wonderful way to spend a morning .. or two.

Magpie and the Tambourine can be found on Facebook at Love their domed displays like this one ...

Who wouldn't want to find one of these delightful needle felt kits in their stocking on Christmas morning ? Beautifully packaged and very reasonably priced between £8.50 and £15 . Right to the top of my Christmas wish list. She makes the most beautiful crochet cushion kits too. 

More domes ... can't get enough . This sweet little Christmas dome is from Acorn and Will and I had to restrain myself from buying a Christmas decoration in September ... but I will be snapping this up come end of October when I'm allowed to go wild on Christmas.

This is Luna Russell from Silverdashery who had the most beautifully composed stall and the most exquisite jewellery for creative makers inspired by the world of haberdashery. You can find her work at

I have my eye on this pretty needle and three necklace.

So, let's here it for the crafters - I hope this has sewn a little seed of inspiration for your Christmas shopping. Thank you Sandra for my ticket - can't wait for  next year's Handmade Fair.
Managed to hitch a lift in Kirstie Allsopp's buggy when she wasn't looking - way to travel eh ?

Thursday, 24 September 2015

A Feast For The Eyes

I visited Petersham Nurseries last week with dear friends for a celebratory lunch ( surviving GCSEs ) and couldn't think why I hadn't been in such a long time ( until of course we got the bill for lunch ).

The space is divided loosely into room sets - every one a masterpiece of composition and design.
I'll let the photos do the talking ...

I feel a new collection collection coming on - fell in love with these translucent milky green glass vases.

I can never resist taking a photo with me in shot hiding behind the lens.

 Even housework would be appealing using one of these brooms ... who am I kidding ?

We had to laugh at the price tag on this mirror and even more so when we realised we'd missed the one at the front ! Anyone got £1,500 to spare ?

Lunch was sumptuous too but blind yourself to the total and remind yourself that you're worth it .

Monday, 21 September 2015

Head and shoulders knees and toes ...

... knees and toes.

Funny how things happens eh ? I'd been dreading renewing my Driver's Licence in the almost certain knowledge that it would require finding a Post Office that processed applications, queueing up at said Post Office, finding somewhere to park near said Post Office when raining or all three.

I should have been relieved that I'd get to replace my old photo which looked like either all the blood had drained from my face , or I was off to a Halloween Horror Fancy dress party or that I'd just been told I'd be stuck in a lift with Simon Cowell for at least 3 hours.

But I shouldn't have worried because it was all relatively painless and involved no Post Offices whatsoever. I did it online and I am now officially registered with the Gateway or some such which means that I'll never be able to appear on that telly series Hunted where you have to evade capture from  a fiendish team of ex coppers and MI5 people. Presumably I can no longer be considered invisible ( technalogically at least if not socially )  as all of my most personal details ( apart from bra size ) will be available for opportunist cyber hackers logged on to some invincible computer system buried deep in a bunker somewhere under the Mojave desert. Phew.

Not only that but all of my vital organs are now available for hire  donation if I get gunned down by a bunch of disgruntled cyber hackers, ex coppers or MI5 people ... and all because as I was about to log off, a casual little question, casually tossed onto the screen at the penultimate stage of interrogation, asked me if I'd like to save a life or two by donating my vitals and as I was, at that moment, overwhelmingly relieved that the whole process had only taken a few minutes and not the three hours I'd envisaged, I was only too pleased to say yes.

So, if at some distant date you see a knock-kneed, large breasted, blue eyed, wide-hipped person hobbling towards you with a wonky shoulder and ankles that look like they've just endured a 23 hour non-stop flight long haul flight , they may just have received some of my organs - poor buggers .

Thursday, 17 September 2015

No sooner has ...

... your sixteen year old received their GCSE exam results than the rhetoric begins. First we get the newspaper headlines that tell us that passes are up but grades are down or grades are up but passes are down. Then they're picked apart by the statisticians for anomalies or trends . The cockier students will post their results on Facebook or Snapchat or LookathowbriiliantIam social media sites and parents will bask in their children's reflected glory ... or otherwise. Nothing new here and if your children have worked hard and tried their best then why shouldn't you rejoice in their success ?

It's the 'otherwise' that upsets me. The students who tried their hardest but didn't quite make the grade . Or those whose brilliance is in the creative arts , the poor relation of the academic subjects ... sadly. The Holy Grail of a pass in both English and Maths , required of every sixth form, can prove an insurmountable hurdle to those whose sixth forms hopes have been dashed on enrolment day by a refusal to accept them onto their chosen courses because they failed to grasp the finer points of a simultaneous equation or only managed to list 14 of the 15 points in the pre-determined list of things you should have spotted in a written passage if you've got half a brain.

And then there are the schools' own websites  where the Heads wax lyrical about their students' achievements and why shouldn't they if it has been earned and well deserved ? But this is where my despair reaches new depths as I read the following in my son's school newsletter.

The GCSE grades were equally impressive with 92% of pupils achieving A* to C grades. We also saw a significant increase in pupils achieving the very highest grades with 102 A* grades awarded to our pupils. This is particularly pleasing because in the last two years we have worked hard to stretch our brighter and more able pupils.

Oh dear. Did no-one pass this by the ' this is guaranteed to piss off all parents and pupils who didn't manage to reach the giddy heights of excellence' voice of reason ?  
So, if you're gifted, bright or able and managed a long list of A* grades - you can be classified as 'pleasing' but anything less and ... well , draw your own conclusions.

How sad that only the 'brighter and more able pupils' were stretched. If you fall into the 'must try harder' brigade you're damned to an eternity of under achievement. And incidentally, have humans not evolved beyond the 'must try harder' ignorance of public school education of the last century , when you'd be treated to a lashing if you hadn't memorised Homer's Iliad by the age of 8 ? Why not go the whole hog and make them stand in the corner on a stool wearing a pointy hat with a large D on it ?

So, the 'brighter and more able pupils' got stretched whilst the less bright and less able got what? In my book, I like to consider exam achievements as falling under the Comparatives and Superlatives headings of ...

GOOD - A student who can achieve an A* grade without getting out of bed - minimum effort required because he/ she has memorised every textbook to within an inch of its life on first reading and who thinks revision is for wimps. 

BETTER - a student who has managed to achieve a decent grade by working hard and being conscientious.

BEST  - A student who can pass an exam despite having spent most of their school life believing ( and possibly being told ) that they'll never amount to much and that their E grade in the mock exam is their own fault because they haven't put in the effort despite knowing full well that said student is dyslexic or dyspraxic ( or possibly both ). Their C grade is worth a million A* grades and just think ... they may well have actually achieved this despite being tossed onto the forgotten pile of those not considered to be 'brighter and more able' and been totally unstretched to boot.

I seem to write a post like this every year and it never seems to get any better . So, in my loudest voice possible ...


As Rudyard Kipling once wrote  - Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Hey Little Magpie - September Blog post

Take a peek at my layouts for Hey Little Magpie over on their blog today.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Coping with Sixth Form

It's a big step up . After the furore of the GCSEs , the hiatus of the wait for results, the joy ( or otherwise) of success , followed by a summer of festivals and friends, Year 12 can come as a rude shock.

Parents often think that their responsibility for schooling ends there. Their chicks have grown into fully fledged young adults and it's over to them now to take on the responsibility . Even if your sons or daughters are studying the kind of subjects that you haven't got a clue about , there's still lots you can do to help.

Here's my shortlist :-

  • Gone ( sadly ) are the trips to WH Smiths for new pencil cases and novelty stationery or the queues in Clarks for prohibitively expensive shoes that only fit for about a term and even the sew-in name labels can be consigned to the bin. However , if you're expecting your teen to take it upon himself or herself ( girls slightly less so ) to equip themselves with folder, files and notepads, don't be surprised if they foil your attempts to send them off with a freshly ironed backpack and a clutch of newly sharpened pencils. Youngest son left me in no doubt that he DID NOT need any help getting himself organised. I therefore followed his advice  ignored him, bought everything and laid it casually on his desk as if the stationery fairy had dropped it off overnight. 
  • The school dress code was 'smart casual'. They'll read that as the same T shirt they just slept in and mismatched socks. I bought a few short - sleeved proper shirts ( try not to buy these from M&S unless you want them to die of embarrassment - a lifelong ambition of mine ) and a couple of pairs of chinos and hung them casually in his wardrobe along with new underwear ( pant fairy's responsibility ) and a new pair of shoes as if they'd always been there. 
  • Don't expect a photo opportunity on the doorstep like you may have done in the past - that is SUCH a big no-no. See photo below.
  • Stock up the fridge with snacks and favourite foods for the first few nights and try not to eat them all before they get home.
  • Don't expect any more than a nonchalant 'it was OK' if you ask them how it went and remind them that they've got to do it all over again tomorrow, and the day after that and.....
  • Do ask them how it went as soon as they step over the threshold in the evening and brace yourself for the nonchalant ' it was OK' ..... maybe best not to remind them that they've got to do it all over again tomorrow etc on second thoughts.
  • Expect them to go straight to their rooms and turn on their computers. Any questions along the lines of ' Have you get any homework ' will be ignored so best not to ask . They can always find out the hard way.
  • Raid their backpacks on that first evening because you'll find scrunched up A4 papers about important thing like locker keys ( and payment for ) and text books, parent evenings and syllabus codes... oh and they'll complain bitterly about having been told all day by their new teachers that A Levels are REALY REALLY difficult and if they don't work hard enough they'll fail.
  • Resist the temptation to remind them that A Levels are REALY REALLY difficult and if they don't work hard enough they'll fail. 
  • And finally never forget that teenagers are invincible and that the world revolves around them.

All that said and you should survive the first week . You'll then have to do the same the next week and the week after that and.....

They're not always as grown up as they'd like you to believe. Youngest son confided in me that he felt like crying at break because he thought he was the only one sitting on his own talking to no-one. My heart broke but I know from experience that it won't be like for long . Making new friends, finding your way around and getting used to your new teachers' sense of humour ( or lack of ) will take a few weeks. By half term they'll be wondering what all the fuss is about ... and you'll be off to buy more shirts from anywhere other than Marks and Spencer.

Here's youngest peddling off into the distance ( if you squint closely you can spot him as a spec in the distance ) ... I daren't even suggest a photo on the doorstep so I had to leg it out to the garage and sneak in a quick one after he'd set off, hopefully oblivious to my paparazzi snapping... and doubly embarrassing as I was still in my dressing gown . 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Show us your bakes

Devoted to Great British Bake-off ? Who isn't ?

Baked a cake this week for husband's birthday , inspired by Nadiyha's floating POP can cheesecake showstopper. As one of his favourite tipples is Guinness and the chocolate cake contained a pint of the black stuff then it had to be Guinness can.

I had fun and games trying to suspend it on the end of various poles of varying lengths ( skewers, straws, chopsticks to name but three ) let alone attempt to slather the stick in frosting to make it look as if the pint was being freshly poured into the cake from above. I managed it eventually and I've sent a piccie in to Jo Brand's Friday night show - An Extra Slice . Fingers crossed they show it.