Saturday, 31 December 2011

4x6 Photo Love November (belated)

Dear Shimelle,
When you are designing your very clever multi-photo layouts please bear in mind the challenges you are giving us not only to follow them, but to take photos of them afterwards!

It wasn't until I received the prompt for December that I remembered that I had never actually got round to doing last months.  I distinctly remember thinking 'I don't have eleven photos of the same theme' but obviously that was as far as I got.  Now this is one project that I am absolutely 100% determined that I am going to finish and so I could not let November pass by in a blur of 2 empty page protectors.  So I figured that it was in November 2010 that I went to the Cologne Christmas Markets therefore I am completely entitled to bore you with photos from that which I have shared before.  
Here comes the photography problem.  It is a double page layout with a slim divided page protector sandwiched between the pages.  On a dull and murky day, how do you photograph that.  
You start with the double pages on their own, out of the album.
You then put the divider alongside the first page
You then take about ten photos that you discard before putting the layout in the album and taking a photo of the back of the divider next to the second page.  Does any of this make sense?
Now I need to have a look at how the project will end with the 12 photo December edition.  Has anyone out there managed to complete the whole album before the end of the year?

Friday, 30 December 2011

Farewell to 2011 and all that

Well not long now until we say goodbye to 2011 and welcome in 2012.  My main feeling about the year is that I will be pleased to see the back of it, for it has not been a good year for us here.  My husband lost his job around Easter time,  and my father in law died in August.  My husband has struggled with both situations and it's been tough all round.  But it's easy to focus on the bad and I intend to redress the balance here and concentrate on the good bits.  Highlights of the year include:

  1. My daughter met her boyfriend and within the year has bought a lovely new house with him
  2. She 'adopted' the cutest little puppy
  3. My son graduated with a 2:1 degree in Politics in the summer and we so enjoyed his graduation ceremony
  4. He's now embarked on a Masters degree in African Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies which is part of the University of London 
  5. He started a weekend job at Stansted Airport so is now financially solvent again!
  6. I became Godmother to my niece's daughter
  7. My sister and brother in law celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary
  8. My niece discovered she is expecting another baby in February
  9. We've already booked our flights to spend a week at my sister's house in Portugal in July 
  10. We had a wonderful Christmas with all our family together, no stress, no arguments, good food, good wine and lots of laughter
So just one day to go ... we're not socialising this NYE.  The first year in absolute ages that we haven't gone out somewhere.  Our daughter and her boyfriend are hosting a fancy dress party at their house and so we have the puppy coming to sleep over - she would be mightily confused to see her 'dad' dressed up as Buzz Lightyear and her 'mum' as the Queen of Hearts, not to mention the 20 others taking over her house in various disguises, I think she is better having a quiet night in with us!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Back to the classroom

Not literally, of course, schools don't go back until next Thursday and when we do return, we hit the ground running.  First day back we have Year 11 GCSE mock exams starting and Senior Presentation Evening later on.  You'd have thought they would let us have a day's grace before making us work wouldn't you? 
No, the classroom I am referring to is the one in my study with the computer and all my crafty bits.  I've been awful at doing the last couple of Shimelle classes that have been daily prompts over the course of the month and I hate signing up for something that I don't manage to complete.  So I have gone 'off piste' and signed up for a couple of classes that other people have mentioned.
One that Mel mentioned over at Curiouser and Curiouser and one that Rinda mentioned which is Creative Jump Start .  The first one, called 'Just one sketch' sounds like it will be fun and not only that, it's to raise funds for a good cause so I'm looking forward to that.  Two prompts a week for six weeks, that's doable - right?   And for a bargain price of £5.  The second one had me when I read the title.  A Creative Jump Start is just what I need to start the new year off properly.  And just to make it perfect - it doesn't cost a penny!  Yay!
Can I tempt anyone else into joining in too?

They both sound good and I'm looking forward to them both starting.
New Year's Resolution?  Done!!!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Christmas roundup

Once again I had to struggle to get everyone agreeable to the annual family photo.  It's so much easier when children are younger and more happy to pose for the camera!  And this year we had to factor in a time-delay shutter with an energetic puppy who just wanted to escape and play ...
We have had a lovely couple of days here, Christmas day at our home and Boxing Day at my sisters.  I feel truly blessed to have such a great family and as people have grown up and found husbands/wives/partners everyone has joined into the extended family so well. 
This is just a quick post for the moment to wish everyone a happy and healthy post-Christmas - I'm enjoying blog hopping around to see what you have all been up to, not too much time to leave a message on every blog at the moment, but I will be back!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The great sprout debate

Love 'em?  or hate 'em?
Sprouts seem to be a bit like Marmite, you either really like them or you really don't.  And I fall into the 'really don't' category.  Over the years I've tried to disguise them in many ways, cooked with pancetta, cooked with chestnuts, stir fried or boiled.  Still don't like them.  Husband and daughter love them, can't understand why I don't.  So when I charged the husband with the job of picking the sprouts off their stalks, he asked how many I needed.  He figured most people would want at least six.  SIX?  I don't think so.  One is more than enough for me!  When you buy them on the stalk it is very deceiving how many there are, I had bought two stalks.  Turns out you get about 50 sprouts on each stalk.  I think we have more than enough.
Do you have a favourite vegetable that Christmas dinner HAS to have?  For me it's parsnips, parboiled, dipped in flour and coated in parmesan cheese.  Back in the oven for the cheese to crisp up.  Yum.  But it's also the roast potatoes.  Crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle.  Mind you, I'm quite partial to carrots cooked in the microwave with a few cubes of butter and some demerara sugar to make a glaze.  And peas.  Can't have roast turkey without peas.  But I think I'll pass on the sprouts.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Altered agenda

Well one thing I did not factor into my Christmas preparation schedule was a hastily arranged trip to the dentist, but that's what I ended up doing yesterday.  Although I drag myself to the surgery for a check up every six months I have a bit of a fear about going and get myself into a bit of a nervous state whilst waiting for my name to be called.  So when I brushed my teeth on Wednesday night and a corner of one of my teeth crumbled away, taking a slither of the back of the tooth with it - I knew it was not good news.  I'd had x-rays taken a year ago and had been for a check up six months ago so I convinced myself it couldn't be anything serious right up until the point at which I sat in the waiting room and imagined crowns, caps, root canals, extractions ..... Fortunately he had a quick look, decided that all that was needed was a white filling to make good the missing bits and he was able to make a temporary repair there and then.  Of course I need to go back in the New Year to have a permanent filling done but hey, I'll worry about that in January!  And it's only going to cost £40 for both appointments, both treatments and the six monthly examination.  Phew.
So here we are, the day before Christmas Eve and I seem remarkably cool, calm and collected.  There must be something I've forgotten!  Life has changed a great deal for us in the last 12 months and I have to say that I will be pleased to see the end of 2011.  But then I think that there have been good things too and I should be concentrating on them.  Daughter has a lovely man in her life and they are happy in their new home with their little puppy.  Son is graduated and embarking on his Masters degree.  We have our health and will be spending time with all those we love over the next weekend.  The cupboards are full and the fridge and freezer overflowing with goodies, there are gifts wrapped and waiting to be opened.  OK Christmas, I think I'm ready for you.
I hope that wherever you are and whatever you are doing, you have a lovely weekend and a peaceful Christmas.  

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Busy busy busy

Yesterday afternoon we had my goddaughter come to visit while her mummy went to have her hair done.  Sophie is now 19 months old and there is a brother or sister arriving at the end of February so her Mummy is going to be very busy in 2012!  Christmas preparation had to take a back seat while she was here, as we had far more important things to do.
Like ... a bit of internet shopping
and making a hat for teddy
So the making of the mince pies had to wait until she had gone home 
Another thing to tick of the list!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

A Tuesday smile

On the BBC news this morning they showed this Youtube clip which is one of the most viewed at the moment and it made me smile so thought I would share

 I've got a million and one other things I ought to be doing but it just made me smile so much I had to pass it on!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Can I ask your opinion?

Having been into town this morning and having a beautiful Shellac manicure, should I be using my pampered hands to do this
 or this
And remember, the continuation of our friendship may depend on the answer you give ;-)
Have you ever had a Shellac manicure?  They are amazing.  Practically guaranteed to last at least 2 weeks, and I have found that mine last about a month.  They are so durable.  I'm not one for spending much time in beauty salons but this is my one luxury.  
So as it would appear that Christmas really is less than a week away, I have been busy in the kitchen this morning.  Now have mince pies and sausage rolls all cooked and in the freezer and there is a Victoria Sandwich cake cooking at the moment that will be joining them very soon.  I've been into town and stocked up on some amazing bread that they bake in our branch of M&S.  It is a 'cob' loaf, that nice crusty circular shape and has red Leicester cheese in it.  I bought three; two to freeze and one to have with some homemade butternut squash soup that I made this morning too.  Yes, I have been busy!  
Tomorrow I intend to make my cake.  We're not into traditional Christmas cake here, it's only my husband that likes it, and that's a lot of cake for one person to eat!  So I will be making a whisky cake and putting a bit of icing at it on Christmas eve.  Although it's still a fruit cake it's nowhere near as 'heavy' as the traditional recipe and doesn't need to be made well in advance.  Plus I need to make my sticky toffee pudding as the alternative dessert for Christmas day.  There's a fair few of us that aren't really lovers of dense fruity food and sticky toffee pudding is a perfect lighter option.  
How is everyone else getting on with their preparations?

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Led astray

"I'll tell you what, you go and visit your mum and while you're gone I'll cook dinner, hoover, unload the dishwasher and generally tidy up the house."
You'd think after 31 years of marriage he would know better than to believe such houseworky comments.  I busied myself in the kitchen while he de-iced the car, brought the vacuum cleaner into the lounge while he thawed out frozen fingers and hunted for his gloves.  But once I had waved him off and seen his car drive off into the distance I rushed upstairs and turned on the computer.  While waiting for it to fire up,
I wrapped a few presents
Unwrapped a few chocolates
Got excited about the snow
and then checked out Sian's blog.  It never ceases to amaze me how she manages to find such quirky, interesting websites on the internet.  I imagine that while she sits 'High in the Sky', she has chefs cooking magnificent dinners in her kitchen, little gnomes landscaping her garden, housework fairies doing her dusting and ironing elfs doing the worst housework job in the world.  While this hive of activity is going on, Sian is sitting serenely in her craft room, creating masterpieces and browsing the internet while Johnny Depp feeds her peeled grapes. How else would she find time to pass on the fab websites she finds?  A blog post or two down I came across the link for Tagxedo.  Next thing I know is that it's half past 11, the roast pork is still a raw joint of meat in the fridge, the oven isn't even switched on and don't even think about vegetable preparation.  But I have created this
which is the words to Santa Claus is coming to town in the shape of a Christmas tree.
She's such a bad influence ;-)

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Mixed emotions

This part of December always feels bittersweet to me.  There's the general hustle and bustle of being busy and preparing for the big day in a week's time.  School broke up yesterday which is always a nice feeling, no more office work for me until January 5 2012.  Doesn't that sound good!  Last day of term is always relaxed, the kids are off timetable and there's carol concerts and final assemblies.  The Sixth Form always lay on entertainment for the rest of the school and it always seems to involve them impersonating the teachers and sketches based on whatever reality show is popular at the time.  The younger girls love it although they always come out of the hall somewhat overexcited and really noisy! Now I need to crack on with all those jobs I was putting off for when I had a week to myself.  And the list of things 'to do' is somewhat longer than I would like!
Christmas was always magical when I was growing up, my parents went totally out of their way to ensure it was a wonderful time even when we were grown up.  My mum would be baking for weeks in advance, everyone's favourite foods would be prepared and the kitchen cupboards would be groaning with the amount of food she had cooked.  So many happy memories, and so many family traditions that both me and my sister try to keep going even though we now have grown up children of our own (and in her case, grandchildren!).   Christmas really was my mum's time of year.  Which makes it all the sadder that she lost her fight with cancer just one week before Christmas in 1997.  So in memory of my dear Mum, I'm just going to share a Christmas Candle with you this weekend.  

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Dear diet ...

... it wasn't my fault.  The ladies in the kitchen brought in some cakes for the school secretaries.  The ladies from the uniform shop brought in some chocolate biscuits for us too.  The English faculty gave us Lindt chocolates.  The science department gave us chocolate mints.  The Senior Leadership Team gave us a tin of biscuits too.  We're doing our best but there are only six of us .....

Friday, 9 December 2011

Calendar Girl

There were three classes at the crop last weekend and the final one was by the very talented Anne Freeman who had designed a calendar that fitted into a cd case.  Such a clever idea and just what I needed for the new year.  Here is the cover:

And here is what it looks like when open:
Here are the 'odd' months:
And here are the 'even' ones:

It was made out of squares of Basic Grey 'Out of print' paper and I absolutely loved making it.  It is so nice to have a personalised calendar to have on my desk.
The circle on the cover page was stamped onto one of the sheets, and I believe that the date grids are simply  downloaded as a Word document.  Simple but oh so effective.

Thursday, 8 December 2011


It's that time of year.  Time to get the address book out, queue at the post office for overseas mail to be weighed and the writing of cards.  It used to be my job.  Just mine.  Then I realised that at least half the people on the list were actually from the husband's side of the family and roped him into helping.  He started with good intentions.  Each card had a little individual message written inside and the handwriting was beautiful.  'I don't know why you say this takes forever' he said.  By the end of his pile of cards, it was a different story.  There was no 'To  ....' above the printed sentiment and the from part just said 'Paul, Deb & Family'.  No message.  I gave him a knowing look.  I know that some people include a family newsletter in their cards; I find this interesting, but for some reason the husband thinks it is wrong to boast about everything you've been doing in the year.  So there is no annual catch up from this household.  I don't make many cards.  I'm not really a card maker, but at the class on Saturday Denise taught us how to make a lovely folded envelope
(Camouflaged among the branches of the Christmas Tree)
and how to stamp a design on a rather pretty shaped and embossed card
Hands up all those people who noticed that I was somewhat heavy handed with the stamping of the shapes around the edge.  Not so much 'O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree' more like an Enchanted Forest.  Denise's looked fantastic, that girl is a dab hand with a blending tool and an ink pad.  I thoroughly enjoyed the class but still think that I'm not really cut out for intricate card making.  Must remember:  Less is more ....

Sunday, 4 December 2011

An Eclectic Mix

It’s the first Sunday in December so it must be time for Storytelling Sunday.  As it’s the pre-Christmas season, let’s go get ourselves a glass of warmed mulled wine while I get myself organised.  Can I interest you in a mince pie too?  Freshly baked and still warm, that’ll get us in the mood!

It’s also the day after the Eclectic Keepsakes crop and boy what a fun filled action packed day we had.  Not one – not two – but three fab classes, festive cupcakes, and boxes with little chocolate surprises inside.  So while I think of a story to tell I’ll show you what we did in the first class.  Now this would be an excellent way of doing an abridged version of Journal Your Christmas.  A double paged layout by Debbie Jewell – a countdown to Christmas. 

 P1020977 P1020978


Each number had a little acetate pocket attached so you can either slip a small photo from each day inside it or add a few words of journaling – brilliant!  As the background was on gridlined paper, the instructions read a little bit like a crossword puzzle – 1 across and 2 down …

So the story then.  Well.  It’s about this time of year that we start thinking about putting up the Christmas tree.  And I have a trio of clear memories about that from when I was younger.  Mum loved to decorate the tree and was very particular about the size and shape.  Had to almost touch the ceiling once the fairy was on the top and had to be a proper triangular tree shape.  She would pick out the tree from the local greengrocers and then me and my dad would walk into town at the weekend, collect it and carry it home.  It was about a mile which is long enough when carrying a spiky, unwieldy tree.  One year it seemed to become particularly heavy; I was in front carrying the top end and Dad was behind me in charge of the root end.  Only when I turned round to see if he was walking as fast as me as it seemed to be dragging from his end, I saw that he had let go and was eating a pear from the bag of shopping we had also picked up from the green grocers.  I was not amused!

Then there was the year that we brought the tree home, put it into it’s bucket of earth and left it in the lounge for the branches to settle while we went into the dining room to have dinner.  Only when we opened the lounge door later, the room was full of little flying insects that must have been in the branches and had come to life in the warmth of the house.  Mum was not amused.  The lounge had to be sprayed within an inch of it’s life with fly killer and you needed a safety mask and goggles to go in there.

There were set rules to the decorations, after Christmas each decoration was taken down and wrapped in tissue paper, the tinsel had to go in special paper to stop it tarnishing and the unwrapping of them the next year was part of the magic of putting up the tree.  Little chocolates wrapped in coloured foil would be hung from the branches so that one could be unwrapped each day leading up to Christmas day and even the dog was catered for with little sugar mice tied onto the branches here and there.  There was one year that we spent ages decorating the tree, admired it from inside the lounge, went outside to see how it looked through the window and once we were satisfied that everything was just so, we went into the other room to watch tv.  Probably the Generation Game.  Which was disturbed by a large crash.  We ran into the lounge to be met by a rather guilty looking dog, covered in pine needles and tinsel with a sheepish expression on her face and a sugar mouse hanging out of her mouth.  Temptation had been too great and we must have tied one slightly too low and within her reach.  A slight doggy strength tug and the whole tree came down.

Does anyone else have any tree related memories?

Friday, 2 December 2011

JYC 2 Dec

Shimelle's prompt for JYC today spoke about the weather and what we associate with Christmas.  It reminded me of a nonsense poem my dad taught me when I was little:

Whether the weather be good
Or whether the weather be not
Whether the weather be cold
Or whether the weather be hot
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not

Whilst we love to think of a white Christmas, they are few and far between in this part of the UK.  More often than not Christmas day is a bit like today has been.  Frost on the ground when you wake up, temperature rising slowly but never making it into double figures and a bit of dampness or rain.  But tradition dictates that we go for a walk after Christmas dinner, so no matter what the weather is like, we wrap up warm and head for the fresh air.  This photo is of the lane at the back of my house:  
it would be lovely if it looked like that on December 25th but this photo was taken the year that we had snow at Easter time!

Thursday, 1 December 2011


I'm sure the mathematicians among us will love the sequence of numbers in today's date!  And so December begins, dark and drizzly in my part of the world but the countdown to Christmas officially starts now.  
Advent calendars already have their first door open and when I walked past the Heads of Years office this afternoon, there was an eerie glow coming through the glass of the door.  The door was slightly ajar and I peeked in and saw the equivalent of Santa's grotto in there.  Each of the 5 desks had sparkly lights around them, a Christmas tree was resplendent in the centre of the room and I think I spied an open selection box of chocolates!
So with Journal Your Christmas in mind