Monday, December 29, 2008

Hats off to the girls!

So how's your holiday? Mine's going far too quickly in a flurry of crafting and gaming, and eating and drinking, and, well, you know how it is! Having been under the weather for a few days, I spent a little longer in bed each day; awake from very early, but just chilling with tea, telly and a bit of knitting, and managed to finish Meret #2 for a friend, in this chocolate brown which you can't actually see in the photo thanks to the lack of daylight that the Solstice/Yuletide brings with it. The shortest day might bring a celebration of the 'Thank the Goddess that the days will be getting longer from now on' variety, but they also make for rotten photographic lighting conditions. I didn't have any chunky yarn so I used two strands of DK together and knitted the small size instead of the medium, and it actually knitted up slightly larger than the one that I did for me!

This flash aided photo is a little better, but looks a little washed out compared the the real thing. Never mind, you get the 'picture'. RAFLMAO!! Sorry, bad joke there! Must get back to work so that I can inflict my terrible sense of humour onto my students and not onto  actual grown-ups. I think all teachers develop a juvenile sense of humour eventually. I have colleagues that can reel off the most awful jokes known to man. Or boy. Actually, I think the boy bit is probably more relevant. Schoolboy jokes are in a whole class of their own. Ha ha ha! There I go again. Pun central tonight! Maybe I need more adult company. That'll cure me!   

So where was I? Ah yes, lounging in bed with the Golden Compass, a cup of rose tea and my knitting! This is what came next. Was  it inspired by the Golden Compass? Maybe so. All I can tell you is that it certainly wasn't the shape I'd been intending to knit when I cast on! I had been intending a sort of stocking cap, but it morphed into this sort of slouchy tam with pigtails.



I really, really love it. It's good for those bad hair days too. You know, where you're just slobbing around the house, nowhere to be and you just can't be bothered to wash your hair because, well, you can do it tomorrow right? (Of course, I'd never do that!) And then you need to pop out to the post office or some such other mindless place. What should you do? Spruce up, or cover up? Well, what can I say? My post office already accepts my eccentricities. I think me and my eBay shop and my various craft or book swapping activities keep them in business. Well, probably not entirely true, but hey, I'm the one waiting in line with an armful of parcels and jiffy bags in one hand and a book in the other. Especially if it's pension day or child benefit day. It has been know to queue for almost an hour in there!


Have I mentioned how much I like this hat?


In the Yin and Yang of the craft world though, with every success, there must come a complete balls up. Here's mine. This is PMC, Precious Metal Clay, for those of you who haven't succumbed to this expensive little habit yet. 'What's wrong with that' I hear you ask? Well, I spent a couple of hours modelling this sweet name tag pendant from PMC which is 99.9% pure silver in an organic binder (the matt white stuff), fired it in my microwave kiln for only four minutes and cracked it open half an hour later to find a puddle of silver. Well, the puddle had hardened somewhat, but you get my drift. I won't even show you the results. Very very disappointing and expensive results! If I was to melt the silver and use a mould to make something else, what could I use as a mould? I'll have to look into it. 



Never mind! Regular readers may remember the troubles I was having making some polymer clay pens. I just couldn't get the right pen to encase that wouldn't curl in the oven, then the lovely Ducky kindly sent me a couple of packets of special biros from the US which I've only just had a chance to play with. So these are last nights experiments. Look Ducky, they worked perfectly! Thank you so much! I actually fired these really slowly too. Ten minutes in, ten minutes out of the oven for a total of forty minutes. The goddess is worked in a translucent clay and then dry brushed with some gold acrylic to accent it a little. She's supposed to help me concentrate with my work. Well, that certainly worked today. Not! Today my gift from M arrived, Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii, so I've been playing that most of the day! Wow! Nintendo do it again! Mario got me hooked on video games and this certainly got me hooked today! Of course it didn't help that I hadn't read the instructions properly beforehand and couldn't figure out how to pause it!




I also finished my floral flares! They're not really flares, they're boot leg, but I like alliterations!

How cute is this? Felt flowers and leaves appliqué-d with embroidery thread.


Even cuter on, believe me! And it's incredibly hard to take photos of your own legs! These look like hippy designer jeans now.

This is my next project. Can you guess what it is yet? UK readers may 'get' that reference, if you're not a Brit, then I'll just say it's a quote from a certain antipodean artist and entertainer and it probably completely gives my age away *lol*


Not long now till New Year. I for one, can't wait till this year has gone, it's been a bad year for almost everyone I know. With the current global social and economic crisis I don't think things will get much better and looking online at predictions for the coming year, it looks like many people agree with me, but I try to be optimistic. It's always darkest before the dawn.

Whatever you're doing for New Year, have a good one!!


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Yuletide Greetings

It's been a fun few days despite the seasonal lurgy imposed on me by my young relative - thanks Paris! I had lots of splendid pressies, including an almost life size cat carving from my mate Gill, which kinda freaked Pippin out; she saw it and her tail puffed up and she crabbed around it for a minute before she realized it wasn't an enemy cat invading her territory. I also had a lovely garden ornament - a baby dragon cupped in a hand, a dragon wind chime (see a theme here? *lol*), books, candles and incense, a money chest which my sis pyrographed for that a proper word? Pyrographed? To have decorated something using a pyrography technique? Hey, I just invented a new word! I got craft stuff and kitchen stuff, and still have a gift to come as M's present to me never arrived in time. My present to him? Well, for years he's talked about having singing lessons. M loves music and singing but is unfortunately completely tone deaf! The years I've had to endure his drunken, off key singing and I thought it's time to see if we can do something about that. Hee hee! He's terrified and excited at the same time. Mwahahaha! My evil plan is set under way! The only thing that I'm terrified of is that I may have created a monster. A karaoke monster. If I start him singing, he may never stop! He may drag me to pubs for karaoke nights. He may demand some singing Wii game. Wow! What have I done?? Best not to think about it yet!


So Christmas day started with the usual gift giving - Joe opened his presents and as usual, his Christmas toy was destroyed in about five minutes. He has a specific routine when it comes to dismembering a soft toy. First he chews it's eyes and nose off, then he rips the ears off. Then the head is torn off and its innards are plucked out, and finally, when its guts are spread all over the floor, he chews on the skin a little. Thank god it's only a toy eh?  

Pippin also helped.


Then we did the round of parent visiting, first to M's mum, then to mine. Dinner was at Mums and Sis had stayed the night with her new kitty Senka. Senka is very cute, but is apparently having seizures at the moment; no-one knows why, and until her insurance kicks in, Sis's a little afraid to take her to the vets, otherwise it may be classed as an existing condition and her insurance won't cover her. Anyone have any experience with kitten seizures?

We each had a scratch card in our Christmas cracker bag (like crackers, but with hats, party poppers, sparklers, a gift and a crafty challenge) and Mum's ticket was a winner! Hurray! 


Dinner was lovely although we all ate too much as usual.




After dinner we went back to our house where C came round and there was much drinking, and game playing and general hilarity. We played Mario Karts and Wii Sport and listened to cheesy Christmas songs for the rest of the night.


We enjoyed nibbles, like these home-made chocolate fruit crisps which are easily made by melting some chocolate, then mixing in dried fruit and rice crispies. I shaped them into rough balls shapes; hell, lets get it right, I just dropped them in a lump from a spoon *lol*, then let them cool in the fridge. Yummy!


I also toasted some sunflower seeds by spreading them on a baking tray, then covering them with soy sauce and cooking them in the oven on a very low heat. These are a gorgeous savoury nibbles, quite light.   


I hope you all had a good day. I have lots of crafty stuff to show you next time; right now M is waiting to play some mad war game on the pc, so I'm let him get his fix and I'll be back later!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Are we nearly there??

Yes we are!! Well, I am anyway! M has had to dash out on his bike for a last minute gift. As he only really has one to get, I wonder who that's for?! *lol*  I think he left his Internet shopping a little late this year and whatever it is he's got for me hasn't arrived yet. Mind you, he probably only ordered it yesterday! I don't call him 'Last Minute Larry' for nothing! (His other nickname is 'Half a job Harry', but that's another story!)

The fudge has been made and boxed up ready for the lucky recipients. The presents are wrapped. The house is decorated and nearly tidy! As usual for this time of year, I have a stinking cold courtesy of my cousins four year old granddaughter! Does that make her my third cousin? I think it does! We (my Mum, sister and I) did a family visit on Monday, then went late night shopping at Bluewater, the humongous shopping centre in Dartford. We left at nearly nine o'clock and there were still people in there shopping like mad! We had a nice chocolate malt and visited the craft market and winter wonderland outside too. It was all so pretty and I treated myself to a couple of bottles of perfume oil from the Body Shop, a key ring Capt Jack, a peacock sun catcher and some new lippy which tastes like melons :-) I don't often get the chance to do a bit of girlie shopping, so it was nice for a change!



After last nights midnight encounter with a patch of fox scent, I had to bath the Hound of the Baskervilles this morning. Joe does not like baths. Not one little bit! I tried to entice him to the bathroom with a treat, but he was having none of it! He ran away and hid in his bed. In the end I put him on his lead and dragged him into the garden, where I handcuffed him to the garden bench (well, tethered his lead anyway) and shampooed his stinky butt!  Then I let him shake himself and allowed him into the house where I hair dried and brushed him. He actually quite liked that bit! He looks all fluffy now!

And look! I've been so creative recently! Funny what you can find to do when you know that  assignment's waiting for attention!

A bit of glass painting for my shop in the new year.

A new Meret which Keilo is guarding for me. I know, I know, it's brown! Not my colour at all, but fear not! This is for a friend at work who wears alot of brown, and it's stash busting, coz let's face it, I'm never going to use this colour for something for me!

What else have I been doing then? Well I have this pair of jeans which are far too long for me and kind of boring, so I decided to jazz them up by cutting of the bottoms so the hems would fray, and then I'm appliqué-ing felt flowers over the bottom of the legs. I'm not finished yet but I like how it's going. Don't worry, you'll get to see them when they're done!

And I've also been enticing my mate Gill to buy a Wii fit! I tempted her to buy a Wii after playing it with her and her son last month, and then she popped in yesterday to drop off some presents and after her son Kynan spied the Wii balance board I got them both on it!

Such good fun! Hope you all have a great Yule/Christmas full of fun and games!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's beginning to feel alot like Christmas!

I'm now officially on holiday!! Hurray! Two blissful weeks of guilt laden lounging. Why the guilt laden? Well, I just know that I won't do as much as I need to with my TESOL assignments because it's Christmas and I need a break! M's Birthday was on Thursday and I bought him MarioKarts for the Wii so we had some time playing that (after the tantrum caused by the Wii needing changing to 60 khz or something, very confusing, especially for a man with the patience of a gnat - don't worry, it's all sorted now, a quick trip to the WWWeb cleared the confusion). Thursday was also the last day of term (- hurray!) and although lessons were 'as normal' for the morning, we had the Principles Lunch (free grub in the nice restaurant - where usually old ladies go to eat the meals cooked by the catering students and served silver service) we were promised that the afternoon lessons were cancelled, then they weren't, then it seemed that students went when they handed in their last assignment. One of my students has been away for a couple of weeks and was way behind, so I stayed till about 3pm, then left him with one of the other tutors who had a student behind too. I sneaked off because I wanted to take M to see Quantum of Solace which was showing for the last day. Daniel Craig is probably the best Bond, you can definitely see him as a soldier, Secret Service, trained to kill, while I have to say the others never were plausible. I did enjoy the film, although I think the storyline was weak. M is a big Bond fan and has read all the books, and this was definitely an all business film, so he enjoyed it. Afterwards we went for a meal so that M could have his obligatory steak and chips, his all-time favourite meal, then we spent the rest of the night playing the Wii.

Quantum of Solace

Released: 2008

Go to IMDb page

Information ©

Quantum of Solace

Daniel Craig, Mathieu Amalric, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Jesper Christensen, Rory Kinnear,

Friday was spent doing necessary health stuff, dentist and hospital, so I was glad to get that out of the way. Then Friday night, the girls and I went round to Linda's house where she cooked a Christmas meal for us all, and we had Secret Santa and all manner of fun and games. We are quite rowdy when we get together and it's probably best that we didn't impose our rowdiness onto some unsuspecting establishment. We all have to be so proper at work and set a good example to the students, that we do tend to let it all hang out when we're off duty! I think Linda's family of males (husband and 3 teenage sons) were all hiding upstairs, poor things; they must have been terrified by the army of shrieking women that descended on them for the night, although it must have been nice for Linda having female company for the night.

We all had to spent a fiver (£5) and buy a generic Christmas present which we then put into a big Christmas sack and we all drew a present out at random. I actually made my presents for the draw as you would expect. I made this very autumnal coloured bracelet (not really my colours, but alot of the girls wear neutral colours, so I thought it might suit someone there.) The beads are glass and quite pretty in real life.

Then I made a couple of Christmas Tree decorations by needle felting inside cookie cutters. This tree was the first one and I trimmed it with sequins and beads, and some gold trim.

Then there was a gingerbread man, unfortunately I didn't have any gingerbread-y coloured fibre, so he's a very dark gingerbread! I sewed the icing in embroidery thread first of all, but I didn't like the way it finished, so I piped some glitter dimensional paste on to give it a raised edging.

I drew a picture frame and magic scarf from the bag. The scarf is sort of a long stretchy tube which you can wear as a conventional scarf, or expand the tube to wear as a snood, or a sort of poncho type thing, it supposed to have a load of possibilities (hence the magical title) but I haven't examined them all yet.

I've been playing with my kiln which you may remember I got for my Birthday? I've been trying to get hold of some dichroic glass to play with, but haven't managed to win an eBay auction for any yet, and haven't found a source near me, so I shoved a couple of glass nuggets in last night to see what would happen. I put in a clear one and a black one, and I put the black on on top of the clear one and fired them in the microwave. Well, after only 3 minutes, the hole at the top of the kiln was glowing really red hot so I took it out carefully, left it to anneal for 30 minutes (annealing it is where you let the glass cool down really slowly so that the glass doesn't get thermal shock and crack) and then looked at it excitedly. The 2 blobs of glass were fused together but you could still see them as distinct shapes, so I fired them again for another 4 minutes and they became one bigger blob with a darker colour in the middle and a pale colour on the outside. So then I was going to fire a piece of microscope slide glass with some PMC flakes and some glass beads to see what would happen, but the slide wouldn't go into the kiln, too long you see. So I put a few flakes and a couple of turquoise seed beads on top of the blob and put that back in, and it sort of worked!

Look, you can see the PMC binder fired off and the silver is exposed. The green blob was originally a silver lined turquoise seed bead, so I don't know what happened there. I may pop it back in today and see what happens if I fire it again! I can't believe I did this in my microwave!!!! I can't wait to get some proper glass to play with!

Today is fudge making day and I may make some cookies whilst we're in the kitchen. What do you have planned?

Today is the Winter Solstice - Happy Yule and Solstice to you all!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Happy weekend!

Hello hello! How are you all? Did you have a fun weekend?? I did, see my happy face? Well, Saturday M and I went to the German Christmas market at Birmingham which I would have had photos from except that the weather was absolutely torrential and I didn't dare get my camera out to expose it to the monsoon-like conditions. Really, it was that bad! I checked the weather report before we left (yep, us Brits tend to do that, I don't know why, they're never accurate) and it said the weather would be cloudy, but dry. Ha! What a load of rubbish! The spray was so bad on the way up there that the traffic signs were in high warning, flashy flashy mode all the way there, and we passed at least 3 accidents! We kept hoping that it would clear up, but it never did. We'd left super early in the morning so that we'd miss the rush hour, and so that M could get back in time early enough for the football - ManU were playing and M's fanatical about his footy! Anyway, we managed to get there so early that nothing was open! Sheesh! So we traipsed about in the downpour for a while, orientating ourselves and finding where the market was, and M's face was getting longer and longer till he had a mini tantrum and said that if he didn't get an umbrella and something to eat, he was going home! So we bought him an umbrella and found him some crappy fast food sustenance and he was happy enough for a while. The market was lovely and I found lots of gifts for me, but not the couple of gifts I had left to buy. And I did try. Honest! I even went back for a second look, having installed M in a cafe with a cappuccino and a newspaper, but nothing for Mum, MIL and a secret Santa gift for the girls annual Christmas dinner and party on Friday. We buy a general present and they all get put into a pile, then dished out at random. I find it hard to buy a general present that most of us would potentially like, and we're all quite different. I may make something instead. Hmmmm.

Sunday was the Hafla which is a big fundraising extravaganza which is held twice a year. There's normally guest dancers, soloists's and various troop dances. Everyone gets to dress up and dance, and we all take picnics and have a great day. My costume was not as tribal as I'd normally wear, but I did get lots of compliments and as I really didn't have the time to make a costume this year, I found this beaded and coined butterfly top and scarf combo on eBay and teamed it with my sari pants that I made in the summer and some of my handmade hair falls. It was very very sparkly and I think I enjoyed that for a change, once I'd got over the initial eye blindingness of it! I actually outdid myself and covered myself with glitter too; you know what they say, "In for a penny, in for a pound!" I wasn't alone on the glittery front, lots of the girls were sparkling that day!



There were quite a few different styles, tribal, folk fusion, Bollywood fusion, lots of Latin fusion, Egyptian, Turkish....


Fulya did some wonderful fan veil work. I love the way the silk just hangs in the air. I'm a poi twirler myself and the effects are really similar. This almost looks like fire poi, which I'd love to try, but don't have the space to practice in my tiny garden, plus I have a large GSD who is very very interested in everything I do and has had poi smack him in the face on more than one occasion when he's got too close!


Charley B. was only 16 and this was her first solo performance! I just know that I wouldn't have been brave enough to do a solo at her age!



Salamacis did a wonderful dragon inspired dance with a gorgeous three layered skirt that seemed to go on and on. Seriously, that thing must have had metres of fabric in it!


Helena also danced her first solo and this Hafla was partly to raise funds for her baby daughter who has cerebal palsy and needs a motorised wheel chair. She was so nervous beforehand even though we all told her she'd be fine!

There were lots and lots of different dancers and I could show you pictures of every one, but I don't want to bore you. These were a trio of dancers who never rehearse, they improvise  and take their cues from each other. I think they must have regular sequences though, they seemed to watch Pauline at the front like a hawk to spot the first move and then they were able to do the sequence, then they'd watch her to spot the next cue, and so on. They were good though.


And the star guest dancer was Pauline Cu who dances a British Tribal style and just did an amazing set, including a sword dance. I could only get a short video though as my camera battery was dying rapidly!



It was just the best way to spend a day; dancing, socialising, eating and drinking, and getting dressed up! I wish I could do it every Sunday!



Thursday, December 11, 2008

Deck the halls with boughs of holly.....

Tra-la-la-la-laaaaaa. Yes, the Yuletide season has finally come to this merry little Shire, M the eternal humbug relented and we put the tree and decorations up this weekend. Usually he wants to wait until his Birthday on the 18th. So on Sunday, we went to MK shopping centre to see the Christmas display, and then we came home and decorated the house. This year was quite a relaxed experience. No tantrums because the ladder needs a degree to extend it long enough to get into the loft where the decorations are , no arguements over tangled fairy lights, no lost important components for this that or the other and no stressy moments because one of the furry minions was insisting on 'helping'.

So the trip to MK? It was a beautiful day, really crisp and clear, with a frosty dusting covering the countryside and a brilliant blue sky. Even an office block in the town looked beautiful.

I don't know about yours, but my bloke hates shopping. However, I starved him beforehand so that he was content enough to graze his way round the shopping centre, eating this, that or the other. He is a bit of a fast food fiend at times though so although I tried to steer him to the more healthier option of either roast pork and apple sauce, or turkey in a roll from the seasonal stalls, he seemed to have a craving for Burger King and licorice sticks. Me, I don't do that sort of thing, I'm vegetarian to start with, and fast food just doesn't do it for me at the best of times. I usually try to find a place where I can get a jacket potato, or a sandwich made up for me as I wait. The Christmas display was as good as always, with the traditional Ye Olde Merry-go-round, all lit up.

This years display featured a fairy village, complete with ponds

Mushroom gardens

and Ent guardians. There was also an old steam train and tiny fairy shops, based on shops in the shopping centre and an enthusiastic but very amateur brass band belting out Christmas classics. We listened for as long as we could, then after sideways glances at each other, we sidled discretely away where our giggling wouldn't hurt anyone's feelings!

We did a little Christmas shopping, but we're not ones for chain stores merchandising. I found a lovely crystal star candle holder for my Mum and that was about it.

Look, progress with the 'Go for Baroque'! I can finally see how it will work. It's upside down here, but you can see where the armholes will be, and the back. I'm currently crocheting the lower back now, which you do from the waist downwards. It looks very sparkly and pretty and as we all know (Yarndancer!) belly dancers are all about the sparkle! The Hafla (belly dancing party with performances) is this Sunday and I'm really looking forward to it. It's always good fun, although it'll be rather more sober this year than in previous years due to my new medication.

I did my last TESOL class this year; we broke up Tuesday night and celebrated with an after class visit to the pub, finally rolling home at 11 o'clock. What a dirty stop-out, and on a school night too! I passed my Unknown Language Journal, regular readers might remember that we had to learn Gujarati, in Gujerati to experience what it's like to be taught in a language you don't understand. I have oodles of time left till we're back in January, so hopefully I'll be able to catch up with my assignments a little. We do our teaching practice in January, which will be nerve racking.

My school breaks up this week and all our overseas students will be travelling back to their families for the festive season. I still don't know who my secret Santa is, I've had three lovely little trinkets so far in my pigeon hole, all with a maths symbol on the paper, which I take to mean that my SS is a maths teacher. The only thing is that there's loads of maths teachers! Hmmm. Will have to think about it! I don't think my gift recipient has guessed me as their SS yet. Mwahahaha! College has another week to go although mentally the students have already broken up and it's a nightmare trying to get any work out of them!

I've also managed to persuade M to go to Birmingham this Saturday as there's a huge German Christmas market on and a craft market, and lots of entertainment. I don't really have much shopping left to do, but I just love the atmosphere. M will just love it if we're back in time for the football. *Sigh* Men eh?



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