Wednesday, 28 November 2012

From A Room With A View ...

I cannot believe where this month has gone to ... it has simply flown by ... and Christmas is almost upon us once again.

When I started this blog I promised myself that I would blog at least once a week and almost a month has gone by since I did so I hang my head in shame ...

So, what have I been up to I hear you say ... Well, I have managed to complete the bedroom make - over and all that remains for me to do now is make the patchwork curtains and get shelves up but the drill has broken and there are no funds in the pot at the moment to replace it so they will have to wait.

It is also a year (on the 26th) since my mom passed away suddenly so I have been a bit melancholy for the past few days and tomorrow would have been her birthday too. It has also been the month that saw 16 year old Miss J tell a boy that she liked him as more than a friend as he has liked her for a few years now and had almost given up so he is very happy! It is also a few weeks closer to Master J returning from a term at university in Finland and in fact he will be home three weeks today. To say I am excited is THE understatement of the year!!

November has also seen me making Christmas cards, decorations, gifts and start planning a possible change in direction for me next year. As much as I want to continue selling the things I make I am finding it increasingly difficult. I sell on Etsy and Folksy but have barely sold enough to cover my costs this year. I also have a business page on Facebook and although I have almost 1000 likers and people always say they like my things it just doesn't seem to help sales. I don't know whether to start doing craft fairs or not. My prices are very reasonable I think compared to some sellers who charged £85 upwards for a cushion but seem to sell a lot of them ... the jury is out at the moment but I need to come up with a better way to make some sort of living ... any ideas and tips gratefully welcomed ...

So ... a few pictures of what I have been up to ...

My patchwork wall which I LOVE!!!

I do love a bit of bunting don't you?

A bit of order at long last above Mr Handemade Lifestyle's wardrobe as all my crafting things were just shoved up there but I "borrowed" Master J's vintage suitcases and hid my stash in them instead.

My corner of vintage delights ...

A very small stack of my many books of deliciousness ... I really must get the shelves painted as well tut tut!

A few more of my handmade moss stitch scarves ... I have sold the last batch so only have these three left at £15 each.

Some painted pebbles have also been completed this month as well as ...

Jars of Christmas Chocolates for a friend's children as well as my own. I just need to do a vegan one for Miss J.

Christmas decorations were made for a Christmas swap over on Faith, Hope & Charity Shopping's blog.

A selection of covered 2013 diaries and notebooks have also been made and are priced £5.50 plus p&p.

And finally, some poppies were knitted and the money donated so all in all quite a productive month after all. Next on the to do list is a bag for my friends daughter for Christmas as well as a cushion for a friend and something for my sister as well ... best get back to it then ... thanks for reading this and I promise not to leave it so long between posts again xx

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Up, up & Away ...

Last week saw me and the family get on a plane and fly off to Finland for a few days. It was the first time we had, as a family, been on a plane and the first flight ever for Miss G.

We flew via Ryanair to Tampere which is a really lovely little town. The reason we went there ...

was to see Mr J who is spending a term doing International Politics at Tampere University. He's been there since August and won't be home until Christmas so we went to see him. It was about 1 degree when we got there and -4 when we left but it didn't feel as cold as it did when we arrived back in the UK.

The Finnish people are very friendly and laid back and are happy to speak English and I would thoroughly recommend it for a city break. We stayed in an Omena hotel which sleeps four people in a room and it was around £40 per night. They have no reception or staff apart from cleaners so that keeps the cost down. It was clean, well thought out and functional. We only need it to sleep and shower in really don't we?

It's the first time I'd seen a double decker train so I had to take a picture!

The Three Musketeers together again and a lovely Finnish church in the town square.

A bit of Finnish writing for you - haven't a clue what it says and how cool is that chair?

On our last day we woke up to snow! Miss J and Miss G couldn't get up and dressed quick enough and we were outside by 8am! They had their picture taken with Santa (aka Mr  Handmade Lifestyle). The picture below this is the local theatre.

Sadly, before we knew it, it was time to board the shop in the sky (those of you who have flown with Ryanair will know what I mean!!) and head back to England ... 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Cold enough for soup?

It's been a busy old week once again ... I've been tidying up the almost finished bedroom but still need to put the bunting up and find a place for some of my treasures. I've also begun work on transforming a small metal dogs bed frame into a luxury double dolls bed and today I will be making some paper flowers for a lovely lady who will be 88 on Saturday.

I felt rather chilly earlier on in the week and decided to warm myself up with a batch of soup. I had some courgettes and leeks waiting to be used up so I went for a Courgette & Leek soup.

This is a great soup which most of the family likes with the exception of Miss G who is so fussy it amazes me but she did eat it with some persuasion.

The recipe is suitable for vegetarians/vegans as we are a household of vegetarians and vegans (I'm the vegan).

Here's the list of ingredients:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced
900g (2lb) courgettes, grated
1.3 litres (2 3/4 pints) hot vegetable stock
4 short sprigs rosemary
salt and black pepper

1.  Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the onions and leeks and cook for 5-10 minutes. Then add the courgettes and cook for a further 5 minutes. Give them a good stir as well.

2. Add the hot stock and 3 sprigs of rosemary and bring to the boil. season with salt and pepper and reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Once all the veg is cooked remove from heat and allow to cool for a short while.

The picture above shows the grated courgettes and any vegetable waste goes into my little compost caddy.

4.  Remove rosemary stalks from the soup and spoon some of the soup into a blender and whizz it to the consistency you prefer. Continue doing this until all the spoon is blended.

5. Serve immediately in warmed soup bowls with some delicious bread.

I do hope that some of you lovely readers will give this a go as it really is a delicious soup. I will be sharing more recipes over the weeks so keep a look out for them. I was going to share a gorgeous, moist carrot cake recipe that is vegan but the evidence was eaten before I could get the camera out! I will try again soon.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Knit One, Purl One ... Ooh I've made a scarf ...

I have been a busy bee lately. What with trying to redecorate my bedroom and carry on with my crafting of gorgeous things to sell, I have been left with no time to do anything else.

My bedroom is coming along nicely now and here is a sneak peak ... it's not finished yet and it will get a blog post all to itself when it is ... but here's a taster ...

It's getting there and is looking better than the Barbie pink it was before!

So, I have spent this week putting the finishing touches to some of the scarves that I have been making. They have been made in a supersoft chunky wool in a range of colours. I have knitted them all in moss stitch which is a favourite as I just love the texture and it gives a bit of interest to the scarf as well I feel. At the end of the scarves I have added some hand made crocheted flowers as well.

I have managed to finish four so far and there are three more that need flowers sewing on to them.

This is a gorgeous caramel coloured one with flowers in autumnal tones and a dark brown scarf with sunflowers.

This is a gorgeous teal colour with lilac and white flowers at the bottom. 

And finally, a very dark purple with matching flowers.  All these gorgeous scarves are now for sale on Etsy and Folksy. My shop name is Birdy in a Pear Tree should any of you be interested.

Thanks for reading xx

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Final Curtain ... or Curtains Finally!!

Around a year or so ago I gave the kitchen a bit of a make-over. The walls went from lime green to a stone colour and I made a feature wall behind the cooker and slapped some aubergine paint on it. The melamine cupboards went from a dirty painted white to the same stone colour as the walls and the kitchen looked fab and will keep me going another year or so until I can FINALLY get a new kitchen to my liking ... sigh

All that remained was for me to run up a pair of curtains ... a small job and with my sewing skills I could do it in no time at all but August turned into September and then October and then November and my mom passed away and I just couldn't do much apart from funeral arrangements and then December and my teenage son had major surgery relating to Crohns and so that was another traumatic time for us as a family and everything went on the back burner and the next thing I knew it was February and the almost 19 year old son had more surgery and before you know it it's September 2012 and still NO curtains.

Last week I decided to make the flipping things as Miss J and Miss G kept on at me now it was dark earlier and they don't like going in the kitchen when it's dark outside as the bogeyman obviously lives in our back garden. So on Monday last week I trotted off to the dentist for a bit of root canal and a good deep clean of the gums as you do. Before I went I planned the curtains and had decided for speed to use a pair of vintage curtains that I had bought last year for £3 at my local charity shop. I decided to trim them to size and make tab tops. This I planned to do the following morning.

What followed was NOT pleasant dear readers ... the pain after the anaesthetic wore off was HORRENDOUS - it made childbirth seem a doddle. I was up to my eyeballs in paracetamol which just about took the edge off the matter but I decided to plod on with said curtains.

I managed to do them and get a before and after picture for you but don't look too closely or you will notice that one is slightly longer than the other but I am choosing to ignore this at the moment but given time I will have to sort it out as it will bug me. At least there are no more complaints about being too scared to go into the kitchen at night.

Luckily I did do them on Tuesday as I spent the next two days in bed in agony and drugged up on painkillers but I am happy to report that the pain that went from the jaw, up to my ear and up to my head has now gone but needless to say I have postponed todays' appointment to have the rest of the deep clean until next week!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Sunshine & A Cloudy Day!

I have not done much on the creative front for a while so I have decided to show you what I have done instead. Actually, that isn't true as I actually got round to patchworking a bedroom wall. I was so pleased with it that I am doing another one as well - blog to follow about that.

The weekend before last was Heritage Weekend in the UK which means that many buildings that are not usually open to the public are accessible and also the entrance fee is waivered in others.

We decided to make the most of this and headed into Birmingham to our first destination which was Singers Hill Synagogue. This is a beautiful building which has been there since the 1800's and was designed by the same man that designed Birmingham Town Hall. We went on a little tour and I was amazed that our guide was friends with someone from my hometown in South Africa. It started with me recognising his accent and I asked if he was South African and he said he was from Zimbabwe but his parents were South African and we went on to discuss where his parents were from etc and it turns out that he knows my little town well. Small world hey?

Anyway, the shul was beautiful and we were told all about its history and the history of the Jews in Birmingham.

After leaving the shul we made our way to Edgbaston to Winterbourne House. This is an Arts & Crafts House and was once the home of the man who started town planning.

Although having lived in Birmingham for some time now this was one place I had never been to. The house inside is stunning but we only had access to the ground floor which was a bit disappointing as had we had to pay it would have been poor value for money. The garden however was stunning and HUGE and luckily it was a gloriously sunny day.

As you will see from the pictures Miss J and Miss G put in an appearance as does a book that I left for someone to find. I Bookcross a lot of books so if you find one somewhere take it and read it, if you don't like it just leave it somewhere else for someone else. I sat and watched loads of people just look at it and walk by. I have only ever found one book this way and I was beyond excited but that's just me - a bookworm. I left alot around Dorset/Somerset when I was on holiday back in July/August and it's always lovely when someone logs it in with Bookcrossing and leaves a comment.

So that was the sunny bit ... Moving on to last Wednesday and the cloudy bit. It wasn't so much cloudy but more like torrential rain threatens to stop play.

We had booked tickets several months ago to go and see the England vs South Africa T20 at Edgbaston Cricket Club and I was super excited to see South Africa play. It was due to start at 6:30pm and it was lashing it down at 5pm when we got there and I was convinced play wouldn't go ahead but at 8:15pm it finally did but instead over 20 overs it was 11 and South Africa got thrashed. In spite of that and the bitter cold and not forgetting the foul language from the men behind us who were drunk and them nearly bursting my eardrums shouting for one of the England players cap a good time was had by all apart from Mr Handmade who has vowed he will never be going again so not to ask him ...

The next blog post will feature the patchwork wall and hopefully, fingers crossed the mini chest of drawers which is awaiting the makeover ...

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your week and have a fab weekend xx

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Art for Art Sake ...

The summer holidays are drawing to a close and Miss G and Miss J are starting to get cabin fever as it seems our two week holiday was years ago. So we decided to get the bus and pop into town. Town for us is Birmingham and about twenty minutes or so by bus. We start by doing the obligatory shopping which consisted of Miss J's constant search for shoes that are nice to look at but also suitable for her 25 minute walk to school (she is starting 6th Form on Tuesday). After searching without success we head to Paperchase so Miss G can ogle at the lusciousness of it all and decided what to buy. Whilst she was narrowing it down to about a hundred items I went to look at the cards with Miss J which resulted in us laughing loud and hysterically to Miss G's disgust. Eventually she decided on a pen and a postcard and with that we set off for a spot of lunch.

We passed the Iron Man on the way and he has been there since 1993 which makes him the same age as my son.

We also went past this willow and plant canoeist which is one of 23 I believe dotted around town to mark the Olympics. I've only spotted around four of them so I am not sure where the rest are hiding!

Food is not always a straightforward affair in the Handmade Lifestyle House. We are a family of five and we have two vegetarians (Miss J and Miss G) a vegan (me) a husband who never eats meat at home but will at any given opportunity when he is out and about and a son who was vegetarian for eight years and then after a year away at university now eats meat.

So we decided to try Veged Out which is a vegan/vegetarian cafe in Fletchers Walk near Birmingham Library. I had a gorgeous potato and spinach curry and the Misses had pizza. I followed that with THE best carrot cake ever - all cakes are vegan - which had no icing luckily as I really don't like that and the Misses had a chocolate cupcake.

We trotted along to the Ikon gallery next as Miss J was keen to go as she is about to embark on A level Art and had been previously with friends.

An enjoyable half hour or so was spent looking at some amazing pieces of art and then naturally we had to browse in the shop where both girls bought a few postcards of some of the exhibits and a badge. 

The top of a building near the Ikon. I just love the little tower.

After this we decided to stroll back down to the bus stop and get the bus home. We went past the new library which is due to open next year. I'm still not quite sure what I think of it and will reserve judgement until it is complete I think ... 

Over the road from this on Broad Street - home to a lot of Birmingham's nightlife - is the statue of Matthew Boulton and friends. 

Matthew Boulton was a manufacturer and partner of James Watt and together they installed hundreds of Boulton & Watt steam engines which made possible the mechanisation of many factories and mills. 

I do wish they hadn't been painted gold though. I preferred the original stone.

I just love the view along the canal and we decided that next time we would go on a canal boat as well.

Miss G absolutely loved this car and cello! Not quite sure of the connection though ...

I can't leave out a few pictures of the Council House and the Town Hall as they are my favourite buildings in Birmingham.

Finally before getting on the bus we were treated to some live music from Bolshy who were AMAZING!!!