Monday, 31 October 2011

Aren't I a lucky girl?

It was my birthday last Wednesday and I thought I'd share the lovely gifts that I received.

My birthday cards.
I received my presents from my Mum and Dad on the Wednesday, they came to our house for afternoon tea - Ray had made scones and a Victoria sponge.

'A stitch in time' mug and coaster set (from Lakeland), which also came with a useful tin.

This bracelet (with its matching ring below) came from John Lewis and is made from two lovely pieces of amethyst. The ring is also made from amethyst, it's huge, but a small ring would just disappear on my fingers.

My other present from them was a lovely box of violet and rose creams. I love these old-fashioned chocolates - the box is rather nice as well!

My sister and her husband came for lunch yesterday (Sunday). From them I received a great Sony camera. Our old one is playing up, probably from overwork. I've taken lots of pictures over the past year, both for this blog and the Elsie May and Bertha website, so this new one will be really useful.

My lovely new camera.

The other thing I received was a book of knitting patterns. I was given a book for my birthday last year called 'Vintage Fashion Knitwear' by Marnie Fogg. This is a lovely book of knitwear going back to 1900s, but it didn't have any patterns in it.

1940s knitwear.

So when I saw this book, 'Vintage Knitwear for Modern Knitters' by Lise-Lotte Lystrup. This book has some lovely vintage knitting patterns that have been updated for modern fibres and sizes. I'm looking forward to making some of them.

Evening top from 1954.

Tube top and bolero, from 1951.

If you like to knit, and like vintage-style this book is definitely for you.

I was a lucky girl, wasn't I?


Monday, 24 October 2011

Making cards

I've been making cards for birthdays and christmas for years as I like to give people cards that they'll not receive from anyone else. Plus I just like making things!

Initial C birthday card.
'The history bit' (thanks to Wikipedia).
The custom of sending greeting cards can be traced back to the ancient Chinese who exchanged messages of good will to celebrate the New Year, and to the early Egyptians, who conveyed their greetings on papyrus scrolls. By the early 15th century, handmade paper greeting cards were being exchanged in Europe and handmade paper Valentines were being exchanged in various parts of Europe in the early to mid-15th century

By the 1850s, the greeting card had been transformed from a relatively expensive, handmade and hand-delivered gift to a popular and affordable means of personal communication, due largely to advances in printing, mechanization, and the introduction of the postage stamp. This was followed by new trends like christmas cards and the mass production of greeting cards.

Floral heart birthday cards.
You can now buy christmas cards in all shapes in and sizes from high street shops, online shops where you can personalise your cards and the many numbers of people who make their cards, like me, for themselves. Many of these people sell their cards and I would encourage you to support these makers. Many charities also raise funds through christmas cards especially,  so they're also worth supporting.

Purple cat birthday card.
Back to me.
As well as giving someone and unique card, a handmade card shows, I think that you've taken that extra time to design and make it for a specific person. Plus many of my cards have been framed by the recipients, so they're more like a present.

Knitted flower birthday card.
Now, before I get shouted at by those people who can't or aren't able to make their own cards, I don't think that their choices are not personal etc. There are some lovely cards out there, I've received a good few of them, I just like to make my own.

JTH 70th birthday card.

Big occasion cards.

Shirley 70th birthday card.

Over the past few years my family has celebrated a few big birthdays and anniversaries.  In 2008, there was my Dad's 70th birthday. I made my first concertina card for him for that (see JTH card above).

My Mum's 70th was in the following year
and her card  was another concertina one (see 'Shirley' card below). These cards allow me to make a bit more of 'splash' and have photos as well as the embroidery and work on them.

Golden wedding anniversary card.

Christmas cards.
Some of the christmas cards that I make, also allow me to give a small present as I attach handmade christmas decorations to them. To make posting easier I use the flat felt christmas decorations that I make (see right). Any of my handmade christmas decorations can go on a card if they're being hand delivered.
With christmas only being a couple of months away, I'll be starting on making my christmas cards soon. If you don't have time to make your own you can still send a small present with your cards by slipping one of the Elsie May and Bertha decorations inside (more flat felt decorations will be added to the shop soon).

Whose cards will you be sending this christmas?


Monday, 17 October 2011

Autumn colour

There's lots to be said about each of the four seasons, but I think that Autumn is probably my favourite. You usually still have some sun (though not as hot as it was a couple of weeks ago!) and the colours in the gardens and parks etc are quite wonderful. It doesn't even bother me that much if it's raining (as long as I'm not getting too wet) as the changes in light make different colours become more visible, e.g browns and greens. Sunlight highlights the reds and yellows. With all of this colour outside, I like to bring some of that inside through
Golden chrystanthemums
One of the best flowers at this time of year to show autumn colour is the chrysanthemum. They come in all sorts of colours, but for this time of year the reds, golds and yellows are perfect (I'm rather partial to the bright green ones in spring and summer).

The chrysanthemums pictured in this post are from Ian Forber's green grocers (at 116 Victoria Road, New Brighton), where he also sells a wide variety of plants for both indoors and out. His wife, Karen, has a great eye for flowers and colour and there's always something beautiful to buy in the shop, especially if they're leftovers from a bouquet commission, as these gold chrysanthemum were (they were for a golden wedding anniversary). They sell quite a lot of local flowers as well (cornflowers, wallflowers etc) that you can't buy from your local supermarket.
Creamy yellow chrystanthemums.
One of the advantages of going on holiday to Scotland in late August is the the autumn colour. Who needs to go to New England in the fall when you have whole forests and hillsides full of reds, yellows, browns etc?
Autumn colour in the garden of the Glengarry Castle Hotel
As George Eliot said "Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."

As well as the warm hues outside, I'm starting to move the house into it's winter colours. Away go the pink, pale green and yellow cushions and accessories, and out come the deep red and gold cushions, knitted throws are strategically placed for wrapping up when it gets a bit chill.

A hanging basket planted for autumn and winter colour (from Ian Forber greengrocers)
Do you make changes to they way your house looks when seasons change?


Monday, 10 October 2011

Chocolate week 2011

Rococco chocolates (they do lovely violet creams).
It's chocolate week (10th  - 16th October 2011). Yes, you read that correctly, a whole week dedicated to chocolate. It's probably been going on for a few years, but I heard about it for the first time this year from a Twitter friend @choc_madness. Who also has her own amazing chocolate website Chocolate Madness. So as a keen supporter of all things chocolate I thought I'd dedicate this week's post to the loveliness that is chocolate.

Cadbury Dairy Milk Image
My chocolate favourites
I like all sorts of chocolate (except the ones with nuts in, not because I'm allergic, but all nuts taste the same to me yuk!), but my default position, especially when the need for chocolate is particularly urgent is Cadbury's Dairy Milk or CDM as it's known by the females of the family. Now for some chocolate purists this, strictly speaking, is not real chocolate, as the cocoa solids percentage is lowish and it has milk (a glass and a half), but for me it's that ultimate chocolate comfort. It has to be cold, out of the fridge, and preferable served with a mug of coffee.

Continental Chocolatier's Tasting Collection Heart (625g)Thornton's Continental's are another family favourite, large boxes are often bought at celebrations times. There's something about a large box of chocolates, almost decadent and film starry. Old 30s/40s/50s films had ladies lounging on their chaise longues, picking a chocolate out of a lovely box.

I also likeTerry's All Gold (dark not milk), Terry's chocolate orange (again dark, these used to be at the bottom of mine and my sister's christmas stockings). There's more Cadbury's, such as Roses and Celebrations. The odd bar of Galaxy chocolate has also been known to pass my lips, but it isn't as good as CDM!

Year's selection of Truffle of the Month
Chocolate Cellar truffles.
Then there's chocolate from the speciality shops. In Liverpool, this means the Chocolate Cellar. I came across them first when they had a stall at the Wirral Farmer's Market, and then they appeared on North West Tonight (in series of reports on how businesess were getting on in the recession), where I found out they had a shop in Liverpool. As well as selling their truffles, they also have a lovely selection of bars, one for every taste. My Dad is partial to the stem ginger one, whereas my Mum can always go for hazelnuts or almonds, I like the ones with the chocolate nibs and there are some are unusual, such as star anise or garam masala. They also make cakes and hold classes on chocolate making so they're a one-stop chocolate shop.

However, as well as all of the above (and that's enough for a few extra pounds on the hips!) there's lots of other lovely chocolates out there. Here's some I've come across (please also note, I'm a sucker for a beautiful box, I have been known to buy the chocolates so I can have the box!).

I hope you enjoy your chocolate week.



P.S. In case you're wondering, the recommendations in this post are all my own.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Our front room

This post is the next instalment in my occasional series on the rooms in our home (previous instalments were on our bedroom and living room).

Our front room - now I call it that, because it was what my Mum and Dad called their front room in their old house, and we have another room that's called the living room. If we were a bit posh I suppose it would be called the drawing room.

The fireplace.
It's our (usually) tidy room where we take guests/visitors to the house. We do use it regularly though, mainly because we record so much TV that there's too much for one Sky+ box, so we have another one in there (I'm not too proud to say that I like watching television). Plus, when I am in there, I'm not allowed to bring lots of stuff in for sewing/knitting etc, which helps keep the room tidy (which is more than can be said for 'my' corner of the living room!) enough for us not to be embarrassed if someone turns up unexpectedly.

This golden yellow settee.
The settee above belonged to my Mum and Dad, we bought it from them when they were downsizing into their current house. The table on the right, with the black lamp on it, sat next to my Grandad's bed in his home in Kidsgrove.

Original artwork
These watercolour and pastel pictures, above the yellow settee, were picked up on holiday in Dunoon, Scotland, over ten years ago.

Green settee.
This settee, along with its chair, were the first bits of furniture that we bought when we'd moved into our house. All of the cushions have been made by Elsie May and Bertha. The mahogany table is more recent buy.

The TV corner
The flat screen TV is pushed against the wall when it's not in use, which we couldn't do before we had the flat screen TV. Old TVs used to take up so much space! The TV stand is a different coloured wood to the fireplace, tables and window surround, but it does match my Grandfather's table, plus it fits exactly into the space!. The curtains in this room are made from dark gold velvet, another result of my Mum and Dad's downsizing.

Alcove shelves
These shelves were made by my better half and hold some of his collection of Lilliput cottages etc and some bits and pieces of my china.

Green chair
I made all of these cushions as well. The back two are embroidered and the front one uses a piece of vintage ribbon work I picked up from a charity shop.
Where the drinks are!
My better half made this cupboard and shelves above, as well. The shelves display a lot of our 'best' glasses as well as the other half's larger Lilliputs, plus it's somewhere to keep the booze!

A cosy corner
Whilst the other walls in this room are painted in a William Morris paint called cowslip, the wall opposite the window has been wallpapered. I spotted this wallpaper (sorry, I can't remember who makes it or what it is called) in the ladies toilet at the Glengarry Castle Hotel, in Scotland. I found out, from the hotel, who their interior designer/decorator was and I was able to buy it from them. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford the matching fabric, which I would have used for cushions, but the yellow background of the wallpaper is exactly the same as the yellow paint on the other walls.

This room has decorative plasterwork on the ceiling and we have a small chandelier.
I hope you have enjoyed the tour.