Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - A year of changes..

2013 has been a big year for us. In  January we will still living in Northern Scotland patiently waiting for our tenant to move out of our house so we could relocate and start an exciting new chapter of our lives. Jim's new job had started and so I was left 550 miles away counting the days till we moved south. We finally moved in on January 31st to a house that had, for the 4 years since we'd bought it, only really existed to us in photos.

We start January 2014 once again waiting patiently for another very exciting change to our accommodation. This time a six month complete remodel of our 1900s bungalow that will transform it into a New England style two storey house.

Enjoying the sunshine...

At the end of 2012 I had taken a break from blogging, but by April this year I resumed, tempted back by a bloggers competition. Although I didn't win it, I did go on to become a Center Parcs ambassador, get a new office chair and win a house clean and John Lewis vouchers, none of which I could have done without the blog. A reminder to us all that blogging can be a powerful thing...

Although our house move meant I temporarily lost a dedicated space for sewing, it was still a busy year for my Pfaff. I completed two quilts, three pairs of shorts, two trousers, several bee blocks, three swap cushions and several applique t-shirts. By the end of next year Theo's bedroom should have been transformed into my office and sewing space.

Several of this year's highlights came courtesy of the brilliant and welcoming local community we moved into. There were tractor rides, woodland work parties, apple pressing days, open air films, bike rides and community picnics, nearly all of which we attended as a family, often roping in my parents too..

Maybush Copse picnic

And beyond the village we roamed the county on a (never-ending) quest to find the south-coast's best breakfasts. Though the winter months have been quieter on this blog, as we head into spring I am looking forward to sharing tales of our build, along with cooking, photography, sewing and our life in the country. Our 2014 is looking pretty exciting already and I hope yours is too...

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Friday, December 27, 2013

And so this was Christmas...

Ugg gloves for xmas!

So Christmas came and went with its usual alarming speed. The run of ill health in this house continued with colds and coughs plaguing us. Jim did an excellent job of doing all of Christmas dinner himself (and clearing up on his own when I crawled to bed at 9pm) and our little house expanded at the seams to accommodate everyone for the day. Next year we shall be swimming in space... we hope!

Theo didn't quite understand the fuss this year, but was more than delighted by the visitors. When he realised his cousins were coming for the day he camped out on our windowsill all morning awaiting their arrival.

In the evening, shortly after the last of out guests had gone, the skies opened for an almost apocalyptic downpour. The deafening sound of the heavens emptying themselves on our flat roof made me convinced it was about to cave in. When it had passed, we peeped outside and saw the lawn covered in hailstones.

The following morning it was still in evidence and so, with a leap of imagination, we were treated to that rarest and most surprising of things on the south-coast.. a white Christmas... or a white Boxing Day at least. I'm clutching at straws I know, but the boy enjoyed it...


So with the festivities behind us at least we are battling to restore full health to everyone. We are halfway through Jim's leave already and I feel like it is slipping through our fingers. So many plans, so many things we wanted to do and people to see... I must be patient.
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Friday, December 20, 2013

We're off to meet Hugh!

You may have noticed I like to enter competitions, but I don't enter them randomly. I only bother with ones that involve some sort of creative challenge and that are for a prize I actually want to win.

A couple of month's ago I saw on Twitter that River Cottage were doing a competition to win tea with Hugh, a cookery class and tour of River Cottage. A prize I really wanted to win! To enter they asked for a photo that involved fruit and as luck would have it, I had the perfect pic - the one I took of Theo after our community apple harvest in October. So I entered it and tried my best not to obsessively stalk the River Cottage Twitter feed whilst I waited to hear who the winner was...

Yesterday they finally announced the winner and it's US. We are so excited!

So next year we are off to meet Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall for tea, which will be a lovely excuse for a short break in the West Country too.  I cannot wait to share the whole adventure with you! What a year 2014 is shaping up to be already!

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

This little gadget has changed my life!

The other week I was asked to review a new gadget which has just been launched. I read the press release, watched the video and knew instantly that if it did what it said it did, I was going to love it!

But first a bit of background. As you can imagine as a military family we spend more time than most hanging pictures and we do it in a variety of surfaces. Everything from the impenetrable concrete walls of the houses in Cyprus to modern stud walls in Scotland. It is always a stupidly stressful exercise and it always results in messy holes which we have to cover up when we leave.

Even now we are in our own home, the hole creating hasn't stopped and the walls of our house are peppered with messy scars in the crumbly plaster.

The gadget I was offered to review is called a Hardwall Takker and is in very basic terms a hand-powered drill. At its base it has a drill bit and there's a wind up mechanism at the side which you turn to push the drill bit into the wall. It doesn't sound like it should work, but it does on every surface we have used it on and it makes a really neat perfectly formed hole which you can then slot one of the provided "takks" in to. The result will hang up to 12kg in weight.

Since we received it we've used it on the solid walls inside the house (we fortunately have a couple of walls we are removing in the spring, so lots of room to practice!) and on the external wall of the house. I have used it to hang the Christmas cards display and Jim has used it (in preference to the drill) to hang our Christmas wreath on our outside wall.

It's incredibly easy to use and so much quicker than charging up the drill and getting the extension cord out. In fact there is only one very small way I can fault it, which is that because the drill bit is in the centre of the base, if you want to make a hole in the corner of a wall close to the ceiling, you physically cannot place the Takker in the space, but honestly, I can live with that.

It may not be the most technologically sophisticated piece of kit, but its simplicity has completely won us over and we think it's going to be a big hit, particularly with military families!

If you want to find out more about the Hardwall Takker their website is here.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Brit Sewing Thursday Linky (12th December 2013)

So after a less than productive week last week, I am pleased to say I have had time back at the sewing machine! I have basted a quilt and I have finished the wonky windmill blocks for the mini quilt I am making for the doll quilt swap. I may have to juggle these blocks around a bit, but I'm going dizzy looking at them at the moment.

I think as we are heading into the Christmas period I am going to rest the linky from now until 9th January to give us all a chance to relax and/or catch up with our sewing, but I'm very much looking forward to hearing what you've been up to and sharing the quilt I have been working on in the new year...

Until then please feel free to share whatever you have been working on this week...

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Day 6 of the Center Parcs #CPGift Christmas Competition

Back in October we were excited to be selected as one of the Center Parcs Family Bloggers for 2013/4 and we have been enjoying helping them with their monthly challenges, whilst also looking forward to our family break at Longleat Forest in February.

Today we are helping them out with a fantastic Christmas competition. Every working day till 19th December they are giving away a Santa sack full of Center Parcs goodies and one additional winner will also win a short break at a Center Parcs village of their choice.

During the competition, which always starts at midday, Center Parcs will share a Vine clip of a mystery Christmas gift via their Twitter account and to take part, all you need to do is re-tweet it including your guess of what the mystery gift is

Of course a six second clip makes it pretty hard to guess the gift, which is where we come in as we have an extra clue about the gift to share with you today. Here it is...

Find out more about the competition on the Center Parcs website and see the full terms and conditions here.
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dunelm Christmas winner...

We have a winner!

The random number generator picked comment number 20 of 26...

Which is Pisces Cate...

Congratulations Cate, your Dunelm Mill goodies will be in the post soon and if you missed out, make sure you come back tomorrow when this blog will be involved in a very special Christmas giveaway!

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Back to normal...


It's good to see this boy back to his normal self at last. Over the past 10 days he's been laid low with every symptom of the winter lurgy you can imagine (and really you don't want to imagine.) Somehow by sheer luck I avoided catching it, but the stream of broken nights and a tired fractious toddler took its toll on everyone.

He finally went back to nursery on Friday morning and we then spent the weekend catching up on everything, sleep included. By Sunday night I no longer felt like Christmas and university deadlines were hurtling towards me at an uncontrollable speed and things were back in some sort of order.

In the fog of the last couple of weeks I had almost forgotten what the old Theo was like, how he smiles constantly, is easy company and wants to engage with everything and everyone. When you are in the thick of something it's very easy to forget that you will eventually pop out the other side, but it's good to have made it through.
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Friday, December 6, 2013

Decking the hall with Dunelm

You may remember that in October Dunelm Mill asked me to review some of their new vintage inspired Rose & Ellis range. Last month they got in touch again and asked me if I'd be interested in creating a festive scene using some of their Christmas products. How could I possibly say no!?

Personally I love Christmas decor and think it's a great excuse to brighten up the house at one of the dreariest times of the year, but I prefer to keep it simple and stylish where possible. I checked their range online before I said yes and was excited by what I saw.

Dunelm gave me a budget of £50 to create my scene, which I wanted to place on a table in our hall. The budget proved to be more than adequate, so much so that in the end I bought a few extra bits and duplicates to make a goodie bag to give away (see the end of this post) Here's what I bought...

Purity collection jug (shown with red ribbon taken from reindeer lantern) - £7.99
White reindeer lantern - £2.99
Eat, Drink & Be Merry sign - £2.99
Nordic collection decorative deer with ribbon - £3.99
Nordic collection red metal bells (set of 5, 2 used in this scene) - £4.99
Woodland collection hanging hearts (come on one string, I separated and used as individual heart decs) £4.99
Nordic collection of 3 heart, tree and star decorations (heart only used in scene) £4.99
Nordic collection pack of 12 mini red baubles - £3.99
Tree branch - Free!

In addition I also bought...

5 metres of natural coloured piping used to string cards up - £1
6 sets of Scandia heart pegs (£1.50 each) - £8.94

These I intended to use to string up my Christmas cards, however just one small problem! We currently don't actually have any Christmas cards! So you will have to wait till nearer Christmas to see this lot put together and in action...  

Out of everything I bought, my favourite from the set was the "Eat Drink & Be Merry" hanging sign which at £2.99 is a steal! No surprise then to discover that there were only two left in the Fareham store and I bought them both!

So anyway... I have a little Dunelm goodie bag which I have assembled with some Christmas decorations and one of those great hanging signs, if you'd like to win it all you need to do is...

* Leave a comment on this blog post telling me what your favourite bit of Christmas decoration is
* Leave a second comment if you follow this blog on GFC, Bloglovin or some other method

UK postal addresses only please.  Entries close at midday on Tuesday 10th December and a name will be drawn at random.  No cash alternative. Good luck!

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Brit Sewing Thursday Linky (5th December 2013)

My weeks normally run like a well-oiled machine. I am obsessive about my time keeping, meticulous about my planning and mostly I manage to get photos taken in daylight, blog posts scheduled to meet deadlines and college work completed without it seeping into family time, but this week has been different.

Despite generally robust health, Theo came down with a winter bug last Thursday which came gift-wrapped with a lot of subsidiary infections. We've spent a lot of time sitting on the sofa and there's been a lot of broken nights. Sometimes I've uncurled the extension lead and plugged the sewing machine in and got no further than a few stitches before he's woken crying.

It's behind us now and I am chasing coursework deadlines first so I can manage some sewing time later. I need the time at my machine, like some people need a glass of wine in the evenings and I have missed it this week, but things will be back to normal soon...

Hopefully some of you will have had a more productive week than me?

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

My wonderful washing machine

Tots 100 & Part Select are running a competition at the moment giving bloggers the chance to win a full house clean and £250 of John Lewis vouchers by telling them about their favourite appliance.

Whilst household appliances are not the most exciting topic of conversation, our washing machine has lead quite an interesting life. Well, for a household appliance at least...

I bought it in 2007 when I was a single girl living in military quarters in Germany. Typical to many German houses it lived in the basement. There was plumbing for a tumble drier too, but I couldn't afford one, so the washing machine had a whole floor to itself - I bet even David & Victoria Beckham's new house couldn't top that!

When we got married, we were posted to Canada and my poor washing machine had to go in to storage for two years as it wasn't the right voltage for North America.

Next, the Army moved us to Cyprus, so we filled in the paperwork and requested retrieval of the washing machine from its warehouse. Across the sea it traveled and arrived one hot August afternoon in southern Cyprus, ready for two years duty washing shorts and swimsuits!

But before we knew it we were on the move again, this time to Northern Scotland and I was pregnant. The washing machine was about to face its toughest challenge yet... no not the cold weather kit or even all the baby clothes, my husband had something far worse planned for it!

One day when our son Theo was a small baby, my husband Jim decided to wash an ancient bright orange dry clean only throw in our washing machine. If you've ever wondered what happens to a dry clean only bed throw in a washing machine, I will tell you now... it disintegrates!!!

So the poor washing machine had its guts filled with thousands of tiny pieces of fabric which clogged up all the pipes and machinery. It was not a happy washing machine and it ground to a halt mid-cycle! As you can imagine my husband was not flavour of the month (I never liked the bloomin' throw he was trying to wash anyway!)

Many cross words were exchanged while we worked out a plan. Eventually he forced open the door and soaked up the deluge of water (a drum full!) with every towel we owned, then he spent several hours cleaning out the insides of the machine before tracking down the spare part to replace the latch on it. I was actually quite impressed he managed it!

So apart from the odd orange bit of fluff working its way out of the machine every now and again, it is still going strong and I think Jim learned his lesson about reading washing labels and I learned mine about underestimating my husband's DIY skills!

This blog post is my  entry into the Tots100/PartSelect ’Love Your Appliance’ competition.

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November's Flickr eye candy

1. Wild Waves pillow, 2. Serentity, 3. d9pfull, 4. tufted, 5. East Head II, 6. Autumn Jewels, 7. Three Gates Gallery stock, 8. Light Harted (Reindeer Light Painting), Hertfordshire, 9. Twinkle block  

I'm still struggling a bit with the new Flickr, but if you can put the navigation issues and the breakdown of community aside, there's plenty of inspiring stuff still to be found. Autumnal landscapes, solid quilts with low volume sashing, light painting creations and interior loveliness. It's good to gather it together once a month and look at it with fresh eyes.

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Brit Sewing Thursday Linky (28th November 2013)

This week most of my sewing has been focused on my project for the Doll Quilt Swap. I mentioned last week that I'm really pleased with the partner I have been assigned as she looks lovely in her photo and her images on Flickr and her blog show we have very similar tastes.

I really think having a partner you feel you have common ground with really makes the whole process so much more enjoyable and less stressful! I had a partner in a swap last year who right from the start I knew I would struggle making for and it really took the pleasure out of it.

Anyway, my lovely partner in this swap has expressed a liking for warm colours and this wonky freehand windmill block. So I have been experimenting this week...


The top layout definitely works better, but I'm not sure about the grey low volume fabric, it's just a bit too...  grey! What do you think? And while we are at it, I have a question about swap extras. Have you received any good ones or given any that were well received? I'm always looking for ideas

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And finally, I have had a few questions from new followers about how this weekly linky works, so I thought I'd do a recap...

 (1) Add a link to a recent blog post with sewing/quilting content below using the blue "add your link" button bottom left

 (2) We ask that you use the HTML code in the box above to add the linky badge to your post. It's not compulsory, but it helps readers to find other blogs taking part, so we all benefit.

 (3) No restrictions on linking the same post to other link parties, though those link parties may have their own restrictions of course!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

So here's a funny thing...

When I started working in radio all those eons ago, the naive and optimistic young me thought that as I worked my way up in the industry one of the many perks of the job would be free stuff, but I was wrong.  I did get a few free records (and yes they were largely actually records) and I got a random longlife ready meal sent to me when I did the night shift, but that was pretty much it.

So forgive me if I chuckle a bit at this morning's post...

I got nothing when I was working in mainstream media, but now when I have a small blog, I get a box of personalised crisps with my name on. A lot has changed in twenty years I think, not just the technology to produce stuff like this, but also the question of who makes us buy what we buy.

Have you watched that movie The Jonses? You really should....

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

The shifting sands of East Head

East Head is a sand dune spit at the entrance to Chichester Harbour and right at the eastern end of West Wittering beach. I first visited by boat in my twenties when we'd cadge a lift on whatever floating vessel we could come by, bringing with us ball games and disposable barbecues. I borrowed a sailing boat once, forgot to put the bungs in before we set sail and only noticed when I saw it had sunk in the shallow water where we'd moored it. We got it afloat and made it home just, bailing out all the way.

Later I cycled here, via the small ferry that crosses from Bosham to Itchenor, and had similar mishaps with a puncture and a passing stranger who stopped to help us.

These days we come by car with dogs and a small child and just as my life has changed, East Head is always evolving too, a constantly shifting spit of sand anchored to the mainland by the briefest of hinges. If you look at historical charts you can see how the whole land mass has moved around the clock face over the years, from 3 o'clock in the 1700s to 6 o'clock where it is now.

These places that we return to time and again become markers in our lives, ways to measure the changes while all around us the sands are shifting.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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