Monday, 31 December 2012

A Stitch In Time

Well that's Christmas over for another year.  All the decorations are down and packed away in the shed. We said a fond farewell to our Christmas tree as we dismantled it and thanked it for making the cottage feel warm and festive for the last month.  I dusted and polished while H1 hoovered and H2 lurked about in his bedroom, pretending to be too busy to help.  As if.

Now everything looks a little bare, so as a New Year treat for myself and the house I always buy a few bunches of scented lilies to brighten up the place and remind us that Spring will come again. Their smell fills every room and makes us feel light, cheerful and positive.  Perfect when it is pouring down outside.

So now we are on the cusp of a brand new year, full of hope and excitement and for me a little trepidation too.  2012 was such a fabulous year for us, especially since moving to the cottage,  I am a little nervous as to whether 2013 will continue in the same vein.  I do hope so. 

I rarely make New Year Resolutions as I can't cope with the pressure and invariably I have broken them by January 2nd.  Pathetic isn't it?  However, this year I have decided to set myself a bit of a challenge, brought on by several different factors.  As from tomorrow, I intend to purchase as many of my crafting supplies second-hand.  Wow, big deal.  Yes I know, it's not a huge thing to do and I have been thrifting for most of my life.  I just feel I need to get back to it a bit more.  My reasons are these:

  1. I need to preserve as much money from my dwindling savings as poss.
  2. I need to make some money to support my family.
  3. I want to preserve Planet Earth and keep it healthy for my children and because I like living on it.
  4. I love things that have had a life but can be loved and used again.
  5. It takes imagination to live a thrifty life.
  6. I think it could be fun!
I find I have been heavily influenced by my Christmas presents; Kirstie's Vintage Home and Granny Chic.  I don't really want to fill my home with vintage items as I'm not that keen on the dark colours and hideous 70's wallpaper, but 'vintage' is just a gorgeous word for 'old' and if I love it and it is second-hand, that's fine by me.  It won't be easy to ignore all the beautiful fresh fabrics out there and there will be times when I may fail dismally, but I will be honest with you if that happens and confess to the world.  I want to use my finds to make new things or use them in a different way and maybe mix them up with modern fabrics from my (very small) collection.  I want to make presents and cards in an imaginative way and learn new skills while I am at it.  Talking of which...

I absolutely LOVE paper cutting!  It is totally addictive but it does give me neck ache somewhat.  I used the template from issue 2 of Homemaker magazine to make this heart.  I have ordered a book on paper cutting so I can use this new found skill in the year ahead.  I bought a diary yesterday that cost the princely sum of £1.  Excellent, but very boring, so I gave it a bit of a spruce-up, Windy Island style!

Half an hour of easy fun, some glue and fabric scraps and voila!  Most pleasing.  Now I am off to find some less-than-gorgeous bath sheets that could be cut up and used as dishcloths and general kitchen cleaning cloths.  Thank you Granny Chic!  I wish you all a very happy, fun and crafty New Year!  Love from Thrifty Windy Island Handmade. xxx

Saturday, 29 December 2012

A Tiny Little Quilt

I love these days of Christmas holidays.  There is nothing to do but relax, read and craft.  Sometimes I push the Hoover around in a half-hearted manner and when it stops raining, I hang washing on the line.  That's about it really.  I am bored stiff with the television though, as there is nothing on that I either haven't already seen or would not watch anyway.  So it is to my new craft knife I turn today.

I wrote about paper cutting before Christmas and had a little go at it, with rather poor results.  Bit difficult to know what to draw, really.  Mum and dad were given a gorgeous paper cut Christmas card that she kindly gave me today.  So I copied the design, which was simple but beautiful, and set-to.  I loved every second and though I say so myself, I am rather chuffed with the finished article.

I drew the design on the reverse of this patterned paper, as it is white and therefore easier to see where I was going with the knife.  I like the doily-like pattern against the cream card and I added a bit of lace ribbon, just because I wanted to!  I have no idea what I will do with it, other than prop it up on the dresser and look at it.  I think I want to do more now.  I think I may need to buy a book...

And speaking of such things..

I love quilts.  Making them, the feel of them wrapped around me on a cold evening, I love the cosy look of them folded up on chairs or the end of a bed.  I love the essentially hand-made essence of them.  It is time I made a quilt again as a whole year has gone by since I finished my last one, but I'm not ready yet for a full-scale quilt.  I just wanted to make a mini one that could be done in an evening.  But what purpose would such a small item have in it's life?  Umm, it could keep a book warm!  It could be the sort of hand-made book you can stuff into your bag and drag out for scribbling a note or sketch when inspiration strikes; it could have pictures stuck in it, or scraps of fabric and paper; a recipe or poem, anything and everything!  Here it is.

I made it in semi-darkness last night.  The light in the dining room is pretty bad for sewing and I could hardly see what I was doing, so it is far from perfect.  Also I'm not happy with the way the pages have gone in, it was too fiddly, so next time I will do it better.  I like the quilty feel of it and it reminded me of the soft baby books the children had years ago, but with real pages!

Of course it was crying out for some buttons and an old piece of lace that I've had for years.  It wouldn't win any prizes for beauty nor perfection, but for once, I'm trying not to care.  I made it in the dark, for God's sake!

The sun has finally come out, albeit a bit late in the day, but I feel I must go out in it, just in case I wither up from being indoors for too long.  Have a lovely day and thank you for reading. xxx

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas Past

Well, that all went by in the blink of an eye!  How fast can one day go, after weeks and weeks of planning, thinking and making.  Was it worth it?  I'll say!

We had a lovely, quiet day, just the four of us.  For the first time ever, I was awake before the children and when I went in to wake H2, I could hardly believe my ears when he muttered, 'Happy Christmas mum; can I have five more minutes please?' before he turned over and snuggled down again.  What?  Who is this strange child and where is H2?  I woke the other two, to the same retort, so I went to let the dogs out and feed them.  By the time I had done this the troupes had rallied themselves and were ready for action.

It is fair to say that as your children get older, their presents get smaller but more expensive, therefore it didn't take too long for Pea and H1 to open theirs, but H2 had quite a satisfactory stack and got stuck in with abandoned glee.  Lots of paper tearing punctuated with 'Wow!', 'Yesss!', and 'Thank you!', took care of a good half an hour, while the rest of us entertained the dogs and ourselves.

Then it was my turn...

I am extremely happy and content.  There is no more to be said.

This little item of pure gorgeousness just added to the heady mix of excitement and joy.  I am a woman complete.  To be honest, any vintage tea-cup makes me hop about in the manner of a ten year old girl in a sweet shop and if it is stuffed with potpourri, a pin cushion and hand crocheted doily, I am boarder-line ecstatic.  My family know me so well.  Fortunately they were all pleased with their hand made items too, so happiness all round.

We are a family of book lovers and most of our presents were made up of brand new books both longed-for and unexpected.  They will give us many hours of pleasure, inspiration and knowledge for  years to come.

We didn't get a white Christmas sadly, more a soggy brown one as the rain kept falling and the wind kept blowing.  Thankfully, we are all safe, warm and dry and have plenty to eat, thanks to our lovely friends who gave us piles of chocolates and yummy things.  I just have to make sure we all get out each day to walk it all off!

Where ever you are, I hope you had a super Christmas Day and will continue to enjoy the festive season.  Thank you for reading. xxx

Monday, 24 December 2012

We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

This is it, it's almost here!  After months of planning, weeks of panic and hard work, it's all done and now we can sit back, relax and let it happen.  Give yourselves a big hug for being so amazing.

There is however, no snow, which would have made it perfect for so many of us, and at the very least a diversion.  Instead we have yet more relentless rain.  How much more water can the land take?  In many parts of the country, not much, I imagine is the answer.  On the island though we seem to be managing quite well.  The fields are water logged in places and  have formed vast lakes in others.  The animals are becoming mud-caked and bedraggled.  Farmers are working hard to feed them hay as the grass has been trodden into mud, but thankfully it is reasonably mild so at least they don't have to cope with biting cold too.

We took the dogs for a walk this morning, before it started to rain again.  Fortunately no one complained this time as I warned him not to!  The promise of hot chocolate and mince pies on our return kept him going.  The countryside was sodden, dark and bleak - but I love it like that!  It was lovely to see how people are caring for their sheep and horses out there in the fields.  Back home with two soaked and filthy dogs to clean and a pile of wellies by the back door, we thought of the ponies who live next door. They have been taken out of their field and put in the barn so they are cosy and dry.  Pea and H2 decided to give them a Christmas groom and some apples and carrots.

Outside may be dismal and most un-Christmassy, but indoors it is snug and cheerful.  This is what it's all about for me.  I love making a cosy home and keeping my children warm.  When they were little, I would make them a 'nest' on the settee with blankets, pillows and quilts.  I would make them a hot drink and put a favourite DVD on.  Perfect days.  Now they make their own nests and sometimes they make me a hot drink!  I hope they will always remember their nests and maybe make them for their children and snuggle them up by the fire and fill their homes with a little Christmas magic, all year round.

It's lovely to be home and spend time doing the things we enjoy, without there being a reason.  H1 did some drawing while Pea and I indulged and H1 watched Muppet's Christmas Carol.  Again.

Yesterday I had a little Christmas party for my family.  There are not many of us but as my poor sister is in bed at home with 'flu, there were even less than usual.  The cakes and mince pies were left over from the party. Mum and my sister-in-law both brought food with them, bless, so there was plenty to go round, even with four starving children.  My niece wore her gorgeous bridesmaids dress for a while, then changed into outdoor gear, country-girl style, for a turn round the field and later changed into her nightie, which is more Fairy Princess than Wee Willie Winkie.  She then played hide-and-seek with H2 and eventually roped her mam, dad and me into finding them!  Any one with small children will know what a joy it is to play the same game over and over and over...She became more delighted and excited each time and kept shouting 'Eto! Eto!' which is Welsh for 'Again! Again!'  Really? Oh dear.
The dogs were well behaved and the whole experience wore Puppy out.  He was still asleep at 8.30 this morning.  Now I know what to do when he is being a pain - have a party.

Well all that remains is for me to wish you all a very Happy, Cosy and Peaceful Christmas.  I hope Santa/ Sion Corn brings you all everything you dream of and thank you for taking the time out of your busy lives to visit Windy Island Handmade.

Happy Christmas.  Nadolig Llawen. xxx

Friday, 21 December 2012

Looking Forward

I am completely ashamed of myself, but I am looking forward to the New Year.  A whole fresh page to create new things, enjoy using pretty fabrics and papers, plant flowers in the garden, dream of a long, hot summer, reading new books and making new friends.  Exciting stuff to fill 365 new days with.  Bring it on!

Mum gave me the template to make these paper butterflies with.  If these don't say Spring, I don't know what does!  They are super easy to make which is rather gratifying at this hectic time of year, when patience is wearing a bit thin and we just want The Day here.

I added little wire bodies and bead eyes, then I strung them up on pink thread and tied them to a length of thin ribbon.

I must say I was absolutely delighted with this look.  Pretty, light and feminine.  Within about 2 minutes it had fallen off the door and Puppy was chewing one of the butterflies in a far too-gleeful manner for my liking.  I managed to rescue it but one of the eyes is still missing.  I do hope he hasn't eaten it.  Oh well, we will find out tomorrow - not that I want it back.

I bought a copy of January Molly Makes this morning and this picture really made me smile.  It is just like Pea first thing when I go to wake her!  I shall name it 'The Squashed Princess Pea'.  It also reminded me of my tiny collection of vintage hand embroidered tablecloths; if you can call 3 a collection.

I have quite a few that were made by my mum and nan, years ago, and I use them every day, but these are ones I bought from charity shops on the island and intend to....cut them up!!!  I am justifying this by saying that it is far better to use them for something like a bag, cushion or quilt, where they can be admired daily and have a purposeful life than be left in a drawer for ever more.

A candle is for life, not just for Christmas.  I am looking forward to developing some new ideas for my candles, trying some new shapes and styles and above all, having fun creating them.

Have a lovely day and fill your life with a little glow of happiness. xxx

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Comfort and Joy

Yesterday I had a bit of a shock; my ex-husband reared his ugly head again,in the form of a package full of upsetting letters, just when we were finally starting to relax and believe it was all over for ever.  Typical isn't it? We hugged each other more during the evening and I kept looking at my gorgeous children, thankful that they are old enough to make their own decisions.  The letters are now in the outside loo with the damp and creepy-crawlies, and will stay there until I see fit to do something about them.

He is a nasty piece of work at the best of times and we have all worked very hard to put it all behind us.  I had a restless night and H2 had a bad dream, (hasn't had one for months) and I woke with the old aches and pains due to a night spent unconsciously curled up in a tight ball.  But...we are a heck of a lot stronger now than we were 6 months ago and today is another day, it's almost Christmas and my children deserve to have a peaceful, happy time.  And they will.

Pea sat her science exams yesterday and was happy with the way they went.  She has Welsh Literature and Art today, Geography tomorrow morning and then they have a party in the afternoon, which she is really looking forward to!  So off they all went to school and I had a day in front of me.  What do you do when you want to forget something unpleasant and remember the lovely things in life? 

You put the radio on, you sing at the top of your voice and dance around the kitchen; you make toffee and cookies for the people you love.

You wrap yourself in the comfort of your home and family.

And the things your children have made...


And want to achieve, with hard work and dedication.

You remind yourself that it is Christmas..

And you smile. A lot.  I find that smiling has several benefits. Firstly, it hides any sagging bits on my face and secondly, it makes others wonder what on earth you are up to.  Other happy souls will smile back but those with a shifty disposition will look on you with suspicion and puzzlement.  Good, keep at it!  It is tough at times but much better to smile than frown.

I have just found this I'm so cute and sweet dog practically upside down in the bin.  He came out with a mouth-full of something gross and then shot off round the room and hid under the table.  He knew he was in trouble by the way I yelled all sorts of obscene language at him.  Did he care?  No, he did not.  He is now curled up in a most becoming puppy-like manner, whimpering slightly in his sleep, looking for all the world like an angel.  Do not be fooled, he is a witches' familiar, I am sure of it.  Maybe Santa will bring him a broom-stick to chew.

Where ever you are, what ever you do, do it with a smile and as always, be excellent to each other! xxx

Monday, 17 December 2012


Wind and rain are sweeping across my view today.  It is the perfect weather for steaming up the kitchen windows a la Vianne Rocher and scrying with melted chocolat.

I love the feeling of tearing open a block of chocolate, the sound it makes when broken and dropped onto the board for chopping.  I love the glossy sheen of melted chocolate; the smell and of course, the taste!

I have made chocolate bark, pennies and chocolate covered marshmallows.

I am not a fan of white chocolate, as I find it too cloying and over sweet, but teamed with bitter dark chocolate it turns into something else entirely.  To make chocolate bark all you do is melt a block of white chocolate, spread it carefully onto a sheet of baking paper so that it is about 3mm thick, chop half a block of  plain chocolate into small chunks and sprinkle it over the still warm white chocolate.  Carefully top the whole thing with more melted white chocolate.  The plain chocolate will begin to melt a little and mix with the white as you spread it, making a lovely marbled pattern.  I added some gold stars for a bit of Christmas prettiness.

The best ways to eat marshmallows are toasted on an open fire (preferably a camp fire) or, even better, dipped in melted chocolate and rolled in desiccated coconut or sprinkled with sugar stars.  Oh yum!

These chocolate pennies are just swirls of chocolate on baking paper.  You can have as much fun as you like decorating them.  I sprinkled these with a little edible gold glitter and the ones at the back are studded with silver coated chocolate hearts.

Amazingly, nothing went wrong.  No disasters occurred while melting loads of chocolate, nothing got knocked over and I did not end up in tears.  In fact it was all rather relaxing and pleasant.  I am having to keep the kitchen door shut now as Puppy knows there is something in there that he is convinced is for him.  He would of course eat the lot and then probably die.  He and MAL stole a mince pie yesterday and wolfed it down almost before it hit the floor.  Nothing we could do about it by then, apart from be annoyed that it was the last one.  My sister-in-law's parents' dog ate half a Christmas cake, that her mum had just finished icing.  He then spent 24 hours bringing it all back up on their lovely carpets.  Ridiculous animals; they are very greedy.

After two weeks worth of panic, I think I am now in control - or rather, everything is under control for the time being.  H2's school Christmas play is tomorrow night and thankfully he is really excited about it.  Pea starts her mock exams today.  The first one is Welsh, which she is fine with and she has done plenty of revision, so I'm sure it will all go OK.  By the time they break-up on Friday, they will all be behind her and she can relax over the holidays.  I can't wait for that!  I love having my children home, and the Christmas holls are the best.  There is no need to do anything if we don't want to.  We can be completely content and relaxed and if we drag the dogs down the lanes now and then, to ease the guilt of being slobby, all will be well.  I expect by January I will be climbing the walls and ready to get the house back into some sort of order, but for now I am prepared to let it slide - a little.

Have a lovely creative day and thank you for reading. xxx

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Paper Cut

Exactly sixteen years ago today, I did the first of the three most amazing things in my life; I gave birth to my daughter.  That perfect bundle has filled my life with love,  fun, beauty and friendship every single day since and has become an incredible young woman and the person I most admire and would love to be like.  Happy Birthday Pea.

I feel I should point out that she wasn't actually born with fake antlers on her head.  They are a recent addition.

I have recently discovered paper cutting, thanks to the gorgeous Homemaker magazine.  As a child I was fascinated by paper and spent hours engrossed in cutting, drawing and making things with it.  It spilt over into a life long passion for books and reading but over the years got pushed away as babies and life took over.  I sense a long overdue rekindling of the paper-love and I think paper cutting will be my new-found passion.  At least until I make a hash of it and wished I'd never set eyes on it.

Yesterday, while Pea was in Llandudno cinema watching The Hobbit and the boys were quietly employed in doing boy things, I spent a relaxing hour drawing some simple designs that I hope will lend themselves well to being cut.

It can be a bit tricky to know where to start.  I found the best way for me was to just draw a design or pattern and then concentrate on the negative space as this is the bit that will be cut away, leaving the design behind.  I also tried to make sure that it was all connected, otherwise bits of it will end up on the floor, which would be a tad annoying.  As I said, these are basic to say the least.  If you search 'paper cutting' on Google images, be prepared to scrape your jaw off the floor.

Hopefully, in time, mine will be a bit more like this beauty by Emma Daniels.

H2 has been very busy making Christmas dinner in miniature.  He is a sculptor in the making, I think.  He as the ability to look at a piece of card, a twig, an empty milk bottle; see what is hidden inside and then help it emerge.

He made these from a roll of brown paper, scraps of coloured paper and copious amounts of sticky tape.  Jolly good, I say.

I will keep you posted with the paper cutting thing and let you see any disasters and successes as they unfold.  I am really excited about using a different medium to fabric for a change, and the more craft skills I can learn, the happier I will be.  Tomorrow marks the start of the cookie and chocolate making week in my kitchen.  I made some chocolate covered marzipan hearts on Friday.  They were gorgeous.  I would show you what they looked like, but we ate them all, so I can't.

Please feel free to leave a comment, and let me know what you're making at the moment.  Have a lovely evening and thank you for reading. xxx

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Winter Warmer

Another crisp frost covered the countryside this morning.  Ice glittered where water once lay and the hedgerows and fields sparkled in their festive decorations.

By lunch time the frost had melted under the winter sun.  I took the dogs into the field and the sun felt warm and I was only wearing two jumpers!  The Redwings, over here for the holidays, felt it too as they darted about above my head.  Jackdaws have been jumping about on the chimney pots over the last few days; the sound reverberating through the cottage.  It scares the living daylights out of you until you realise what it is.  They are probably checking out potential nesting sites ready for Spring, but I bet they are having fun too.  And yes, there was a feeling of Spring out there in the field.  We have the hardest months of the year to get through first but the knowledge that Spring will come helps us all; animal and human alike.  Mother Nature knows what she's doing and where she leads I follow.  She gave me permission to get excited about it!

Back to the present and Christmas presents - I finally finished this stocking to a much more pleasing standard and sent it off today.  Pea helped a lot by unpicking it, then I cut off the foot part, re-drew the pattern, cut out more fabric, patched it and sewed it all back together.  It took the best part of the day, but was sooo worth it.  I'm really happy with it and felt comfortable sending it off.  It is quite big and thick and feels really nice to hold!  I stitched the baby boy's name and year on the inside, so he will always know it is his and the year he had it made for him.  So no matter how hard he tries to forget and pretend it isn't his, he won't be able to! 

So now I can concentrate on family and Christmas and have a little time to think of future non-Christmas related crafting.  It's a bit odd really; normally I am holding onto Christmas with every fibre of my being, not wanting it to end and getting a bit tearful when it does.  Not so this year, though I can't work out why.  I'm happy about it coming, being with my children, not doing much, enjoying the peace, but I find I am also quite content in the knowledge that it will end.  I am looking forward to developing an idea I have with candles; using lighter fabrics; Spring influenced colours and trying a new craft. 

Next week will be partly devoted to cookie and chocolate making.  And quite possibly more tears and tantrums too!

Have a lovely day and as Bill and Ted once said, Be Excellent to Each Other! xxx