Wednesday 16 December 2015

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 .... Blast Off !

I remember listening to a radio broadcast in the car about the hopefuls who were applying for the opportunity to be the first humans to fly to Mars and thinking why on earth would anyone want to do that especially as it was a one way ticket. By the end of the broadcast it was all I could do to stop myself from rushing home to send in my application in the blind hope that they might accept an ageing Mum of two with a slight chocolate addiction and a couple of dodgy knees.

I've been following Tim Peake's preparation for his flight to the ISS and watched with bated breath at the launch and slightly rocky docking yesterday with my heart in my mouth. When they finally docked successfully and eventually unlatched the sealed door to the Soyuz capsule I nearly cried with joy. Back in the studio , they asked the assembled audience who would want to swap places with Tim and spend 6 months aboard the ISS my hand shot up as if I were back in school as an over-eager six year old in class.

I'll have to content myself with catching a glimpse of the ISS as it passes over the UK at 4.22pm this afternoon although with the today's forecast , it seems unlikely I'll be successful. You can track its progress and see when and where you can see it here on NASAs Spot the Station site.

One thing's for certain though ... on Friday 4.18pm I'll be looking up at the early night sky to spot a glimpse of .. not Santa's sleigh but something far more intriguing !

Go Tim ...

Hey Little Magpie - December blog post

Up on the Hey Little Magpie Blog today - my projects for December using Pinkfresh Studio's Christmas Wishes collection and Fancy Pants Designs Wish Season collection. Please take a peek if you have a nanosecond and I always love to hear your comments.

Here's a sneak peek ...

Thanks for looking.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

The Lure of the Advent Calendar

I adore Advent Calendars - all those little boxes, pockets or envelopes , bulging at the seams with hidden treasure. The boys, this year, spurned chocolate and so I made them a flavoured tea bag version which is going down a storm and I've also discovered Twinings Buttermint Tea into the bargain which is a dead ringer for sucking on a Murray Mint - remember them ? Anything that tastes like a sweet but has no calories gets my vote.

My very first Advent Calendars as a child were of the heavily glittered Nativity Scene variety. Inevitably Baby Jesus would steal the show behind the 24th window. We were easily pleased back then. These days they've taken on a whole new meaning. I haven't seen a single Nativity Scene calendar in the shops this year. They're more likely to be jam packed with 'stuff' as if we didn't have enough. Sign of the times I suppose - it's not worth getting out of bed for anything less that a worthy gift - even the cracker/sleigh/jingle bell shaped cheap chocolate sort from Kinnerton have bitten the dust.

About 4 years ago I suggested to Jo Malone that they introduce an Advent Calendar into their repertoire. This was met with a snooty " Not our style " response but look at them now - touting their £250 box of delights exclusively in Selfridges and Harrods.

You can't move in the shopping aisles now for every variety of gift laden Advent Calendar - even the moggies and pooches get a look in with their vile smelling pet treat calendars. Can't help feeling we're missing the point of Advent - but hey , we're talking instant gratification of the indulgent sort here - what's not to like ?

And yes, I succumbed and am loving every minute but my purchase was capped at £25. I bought the M&S one which I have to admit is exceeding my expectations and brightening every dreary December morning. I'm not a great fan of M&S these days - their website has to be the most intensely irritating in the world. In fact it crashed the day they went on sale but I managed to snag one quite by chance in store the next day... having decided I was NEVER EVER EVER going to shop in Marks again. So fickle.

So far I've had my hair elasticised ( courtesy of Phillip Kingsley whoever he is ) and my cuticles nourished ( thanks to Burts Bees ... but isn't life too short to worry about cuticles when every other part of your body is falling apart ? ) and this morning I have lathered up in shower foam from some company called I don't know what . Who knows what tomorrow may hold - perhaps my elbows will be de-pimpled or my earlobes detoxed or maybe even my long standing battle with cellulite will be miraculously disguised with some seaweed extract of molasses with kumquat essence. It's all a bit much really but hey - it's Christmas although its going to take me at least 10 Salvation Army Christmas boxes to assuage my guilt.

So what Advent Calendar will we see next year ? I'm liking the thought of an alcoholic miniature version ( Emma have you finished all 24 gins yet ;) ? ) or maybe a stationery one , I think someone did a jewellery one last year but the novelty of 24 'cheap as chips' necklaces and nickel plated reindeer earingswould wear off by day five unless you're only eight years old perhaps. Maybe for the men in our lives we could have one including instruction leaflets for how to empty the dishwasher, put a wash on or where the nearest supermarket is located.

Suggestions please !

From the sublime ...

... to the ridiculous

Harrods unveils its $million advent calendar which includes cars, speedboats and solid gold toilets no doubt ... about as tacky as a tube of superglue.

Monday 30 November 2015

Is it a new moon ...

.. or am I just menopausal ? Well, as I'm past all that and the skies are too overcast to spot the moon I can't be certain it's either . Boy am I in a bad mood though.

And whilst I'm at it, who for f***s sake invented predictive text or whatever the hell it's called on a computer. Did I want to write 'cretinous' instead of 'certain' in that last sentence ?

So, another weekend has been and gone. Eldest's 21st and it was all going swimmingly ( although how H would know , I wouldn't know, as he was pretty much absent throughout ) until that is I decided to hoover up some of the mess last night - the usual birthday detritus - confetti, discarded wrapping , birthday cake crumbs. As the men in our house wouldn't know where the hoover is kept, it's always up to me to clear up. The plug I unplugged to plug in the hoover is next to the plug for the router. Identical coloured plugs, leads etc. I managed to pull out the router plug which has rendered our entire internet connection redundant. In most households this would simply involve re-pluuging the router with the possible inconvenience of having to type in the password to re-connect. Not in our house. The thing is on its last legs and H decided to opt for the cheapskate budget package which means that you only have to sneeze for connection to be lost and remain lost for about a fortnight.

Whilst everyone goes into meltdown at my stupidity and I quote here " Nobody would be that stupid as to  unplug the wrong plug"  clearly nobody as stupid except for cretinous me of course , I'm left apologising for getting on with the housework ( on a Sunday evening I might add whilst everyone else is vegging out ). By this time, I am now held responsible for the most heinous crime and my pathetic apologies are falling on deaf ears. I have clearly ruined everyone's lives from H, who now can't watch the remaining 29 hours of tennis that he's sat glued to all weekend, to youngest son who is attempting his homework at 9pm on a Sunday evening having promised me that he'd got it all done on Friday before going ice skating, to a party and out for lunch ... on both days of the weekend.

This tirade of abuse is brought on apparently because H is stressed ( must be all that sport , beer and telly ) and I am hell-bent on spoiling everything for everyone and did I have ANY IDEA as to what a total moron I'd been.

I retired to bed, comforted the cat who is sick and needs to be taken to the vets today ( that'll be my job then as no-one else can be arsed and I partly work from home which obviously doesn't count as a proper job despite the fact that I have to do it 7 days a week ).

This morning, I'll be filling the fridge with food, cooking dinner for anyone who bothers to turn up despite the fact that I'll be out teaching until 8.30 tonight whilst stressed out H attends another party, loading and unloading the dishwasher/ washing machine/ tumble drier, emptying the bins, clearing debris from the boys rooms and generally wondering why I allow myself to be treated like a doormat/mug... oh and squeezing in a trip to the vets  in between my job which isn't really a proper job because I partly work from home.

I'm going to invent a new word now and type it boldly so that f***ing predictive text memorises it for life. My new word is DOORMUG. Now every time I attempt to type words like dormouse, doorman or dormant it will remind me of how utterly cretinous and stupid I really am.

Monday 23 November 2015

How to keep warm ... when you're husband decides to fiddle with the radiators

I write this from bitter experience. Husband decided to 'tinker' with a radiator on Friday . Never a good idea when the temperature outside has just plummeted by 10 degrees or more. I advised against it but this fell on deaf ears.

Husband informed me, after getting out his toolkit ( and no that is not a euphemism for anything rude sadly ) and poking at a radiator valve that was making a strange gurgling sound, that it was something to do with trapped air ( that IS a euphemism for something else ) .

Unsurprising therefore to discover that we had no heating the following morning, as the entire system decided to malfunction overnight and reduce the house to a scene from Frozen. With difficulty I refrained from uttering  'I told you so' and set about emergency measures ; retrieving ancient fan heater from attic, drawing all curtains and doubling up on layers.

It is now Monday morning and we've had no heating for 48 hours. It would seem that every boiler repair man is on triple time, booked until after Christmas or has left the country for warmer climes.
I'm therefore resorting to some handy hints for those married to the kind of husband that decides they're an expert on heating engineering at an inappropriate time of the year.

1. Your hairdryer is your new best friend - set it on HIGH heat and stick it up your jumper taking care not to singe your vest in the process.

2. Talking of vests - dig them out of the furthest reaches of your drawers and layer them up.

3. Cashmere would be nice, if unaffordable, so go for heat-trapping polyester instead and remember to stock up on deodorant at the next opportunity.

4. Open the fridge door occasionally and stick your head in - the 5 degrees of heat will be a welcome warm-up compared to the sub zero temperature of your kitchen.

5. Alternatively do a a lot of baking ( providing your cooker still works ) . I wouldn't advise sticking your head in , especially if its a gas oven. This may look a little desperate.

6. Make sure you're first in the queue for a shower in the morning. I write this having just stood under a cold trickle having been pipped to the post by all 3 men in our house. Having said that it was nice to feel the relative 'warmth' after  the cold water torture had stopped.

7. Pop outside occasionally for another warm up. If your BBQ is still in working order , have sausages for lunch and grill them for a very very very long time.

8. Wear you cat/s for an extra layer of warmth, they're covered in fur and  probably warmer than you. Do NOT let them get down from your lap.

9. In times of absolute desperation , warm your hands under a light bulb. Believe me , I have resorted to this.

10. Warn any visitors not to take their coats of when they arrive. They probably won't stay long so this is the ideal time to catch up on those 'must come round for a coffee' invites that have been stacking up in your diary.

If all else fails ,  as you sit shivering, because the cold has got into your bones and you feel like a polar explorer ( without the joy of seeing a single penguin or polar bear ) even though you are nowhere near a treadmill or a cross trainer ( swear words in our house ) , comfort yourself in the certain knowledge that you are burning calories like billy-oh whilst not even moving ... which will come in handy when you reach for another cup of hot chocolate.

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Christmas Wishes

It seems a little trivial to be posting about something like Christmas in the light of what happened on the 13th November but maybe a little hope and faith in what should be a period of peace and joyfulness will go a little way towards restoring our faith in humanity.

Here is a sneak of my blog post for Hey Little Magpie using the fabulous Lizzie Mackay's adorable illustrations commissioned by the equally fabulous Pinkfresh Studios in their recent scrapbook collection called Christmas Wishes. There is something so beautifully clean, simple and naive about her drawings that makes my heart sing.

Please leave a comment here if you feel inspired !

Oh boy ... so much to say ...

... never enough time.

First things first - to all Parisiens and all those affected by the hideous events of the past weekend may I send my heartfelt condolences. However words are not enough and so I am endeavouring to find a way to put words into actions. It is not enough to simply feel sad and mourn those who lost their lives. We must all be part of the change.

Monday 9 November 2015


If I had to think of one word that summed up this place it would be excess - of everything - food, noise, thrills, shops, rides. Not complaining , just saying. If you choose to go to Orlando , you know just what to expect and that is what you get in bucketfuls. I'm not sure I could live like that though , not without expecting to have a heart bypass within six months. But for a week long roller coaster ride of fun it is just perfect.

Highlights of our trip were the Kennedy Space Centre, our first french toast /cinnamon bun/bacon/waffle/pancake/hash browns breakfast at Perkins and seeing an alligator up close and personal. I showed my ignorance by shrieking 'Crocodile' but I think I got away without it. The boys' encounter in the Zombie Apocalypse shop where they nearly got shot whilst inadvertently wandering behind the counter thinking it was a glass-topped display cabinet, came a close second as did the bumper sticker reading "Keep honking, I'm re-loading" which needed explaining to me.

Or maybe I should include Cowfish in my top ten list - the restaurant bringing a whole new burger/sushi fusion cuisine to unsuspecting tourists ... or the fact that you could order a Fender Stratocaster on room service at the Hard Rock Hotel, complete with amp and headphones for you to pluck, Jimi Hendrix style, to your hearts content. And I really should give an honourable mention to The Cheesecake Factory whose portion sizes deserve a Guinness Book of Records inclusion - one slice of their Reece's Peanut Butter Chocolate cheesecake would feed a small family for a fortnight. And then of course there was the wobbly blue Jello, jostling for position in amongst the doughnut encased hot-dogs and luminous pink marshmallow fluff on the buffet counter at Ponderosa's Steakhouse.

Decisions, decisions. Our days seems to drift from one dining experience to the next , sandwiched in between by a quick burst on the adrenaline pumping, music-thumping 80mph Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios or Der Stuka at Wet and Wild Water Park -a free falling vertical drop into a watery abyss -  never a good idea on a full stomach but we survived ... breakfast intact.

And then there was the shopping. You can segway your way around one of their supermarkets or walk the equivalent of a half marathon, end to end and still barely scratch the service. Needless to say , I did my fair share of craft supply shopping which was sheer heaven.

Ready for take-off

 Rocket Park at Kennedy Space Centre

crocodile alligator

Rock on

This defeated all four of us

 So good to be able to see the horizon at sunrise

Cool Shades

Looky Likey ?

 Choices ... choices

Ubiquitous Palms

Apollo Heaven 

Ron Jon's Surf Shop - surf and skate paradise at Cocoa Beach

Minnion Mayhem


I would happily do it all over again but next time, I'd bring an extra suitcase and ask for a doggy bag.

Today ...

... I have been mostly creating seagull poo - not literally but using a sheet of white vinyl and my Silhouette Cameo cutter and a handful of Sharpies. All will be revealed !

Thursday 1 October 2015

Wear the clothes you want to be ...

.. or something like that . I think the original inspirational quote went " be the change you want to see' or some such.

I was reading my Brave Girls Club quote for the day and came across this article written beautifully by Kelly Rae Roberts ...

Wear Your Joy

A few years ago after becoming a new mama, I missed my old clothes, my old body. For well over a year, I dreaded getting dressed each morning. And over that year, I lost a real sense of who I was.Transitions do that to us. For me it was new motherhood. But for many it’s the process of conforming to “age appropriate” fashion rules. For others it’s transitioning into a “real job” with a dress code. And for many, it’s traveling through a major life transition (grief, caregiving, moving, new job, getting older, and more). Whatever the reason, when we lose a sense of who we are, getting dressed can feel like a chore, a burden perhaps. It becomes a moment – every single day – of unconscious, tedi ous, perhaps even gremlin-filled decisions and self-talk. Not a joyful way to start a day.So. One day, I started to get more intentional about what I was wearing, choosing only to wear clothes that delighted my spirit and lit me up. It was a playful experiment that soon turned into a daily practice. I started to share my discoveries on Instagram and Facebook. Others joined in, too, and a community was born. The results of this practice, I learned, was a way into Joy – not just in the mornings, but into my entire life.Who knew getting dressed could be a conscious meditation of bringing more joy and meaning to our ordinary days? Ultimately, this project reminded me how style isn’t superficial. It’s the call of our hearts, made visible – and wearable. 

Having experienced an ego squashing episode only yesterday as I pulled on a pair of shapeless sludge coloured Harem trousers designed to hide a multitude of sins but only serving to highlight the fact that I had enough wobbly bits and cellulite to feature on one of those banner ads for weight loss,  that proliferate our screens these days, as the ' before' picture. Is it any wonder we hate our bodies when we're confronted daily with a vision of how we think we should look ? When I lost 7 stone ( yes 7 stone ) nearly 5 years ago, I vowed I would never ever wear another shapeless black top or shop in Evans. My wardrobe is now filled with shapeless black tops but I haven't ventured back into Evans and nor do I intend to.  

Today I am turfing out the dark coloured disguises that are stuffed into my drawers ( as in chest of drawers not knickers although not that you'd know it ) and replacing them only with items that make me happy. So, in with the bright colours and out with the sludge coloured harem trousers. This may result in having nothing to wear for the next month but at least I won't start every day on a downer.

Here's the before picture ( clothes not me , you really wouldn't want to see the latter ) 

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 .