Reasons to be cheerful

October 9th, 2015


Reasons to be cheerful:
1. My friend made her batch of Christmas puddings and gave me TWO of them. She makes the BEST puddings I have EVER tasted. All I have to do is steam them. The one in the picture is the smaller of the two and is waiting its turn in the pressure cooker. When they’re done, they’ll have their lids popped on and be put away to mature over the next couple of months to be totally delicious for Christmas.

They can’t be steamed in the pressure cooker with tight fitting lids; instead they wear little caps of greaseproof paper (2 layers) and tin foil over the top tied with string to keep them secure. This allows the steam to permeate and circulate without pressure building up inside the pudding bowl and blowing the top off. The big one is already in the pressure cooker and the aromatic fumes of the irish whiskey she gave them a dose with is filling the house. Glorious!

2. My Christmas cake is looking lovely. Unwrapping it and feeding it with spirits gives me a frisson of excitement; that sense of getting ready for the festive season and happy days ahead. I’ve just given it a chug of Southern Comfort which we had left from last year which is why it looks so wet and shiny. The house smells like a distillery this morning!

I waited for the alcohol to sink in and covered it up again. There, all wrapped up to go back in its box for another week.

3. My third reason for being cheerful is that the sun is shining again and it looks a good drying day. The smell of washing dried outdoors is the reason why Mrs God made clothes lines.

So, three reasons for being cheerful and it’s not even 10.30 yet!

A little Hello from a cat I made with a couple of pieces of wool and some embroidery floss. A pretty sprinkling of French Knots on its tummy kept me busy while I watched the Great British Bake Off the other night.

Now, off to find Nadiya’s marshmallow and icing sugar fondant recipe!

You are my sun, my moon and all my stars

October 6th, 2015

My latest papercutting is  based on a quote from E. E. Cummins:

“Yours is the light by which my spirit’s born: – you are my sun, my moon, and all my stars.”
As you can see, I like to take pictures from the cutting mat (see above), the mounting and then to the final placement in a frame. Here it is mounted on a sheet of Coredination archival paper. It’s actually an olive green but my colour management isn’t brill and it just looks dark.

Here it is in the frame, the one I bought from TK Maxx to go with the bedside cabinets.
(I cheated and left the glass out just for the photo – you know how troublesome dealing with reflective surfaces can be).

It suits the carved panelling on the cabinets very well and they look made for each other.

I also bought a new lightshade from Ikea. Very frou-frou, like a tutu on the ceiling:

The bedroom is looking quite lovely but have got to be mindful to not turn it into something too girly on account of Mr Smith who remains unequivocally male and not appreciative of the softer feminine things that I find so exquisitely wonderful.

The shade has an amazing tactile property. It’s made from paper that feels like it’s been given a wax coating and is compulsively OCD touchy and squishable for it.

Jess looked on with a steady eye wondering what her mummy was up to now. And last pic of the day, Cat, from down the road. He just loves being around Gracie. Here he is giving me the Midwich Cuckoo stare – eyes as green as Tommy Knockers, the ‘is the Cat’s cafe open yet’? look.

Well, October now. Getting colder. It’s lovely seeing the leaves turning into shades of gold, russet and orange. I think autumn is my favourite season. Summer was a bit of a wash out and it’s been a very chilly year. I’ve been togged up in my flying jacket and jeans to keep me toasty for the last month or so, on and off. As E. E. Cummins said: ‘“The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.” He really meant Ireland , not the world!

Anyway, a quick ‘Hello’ from Cat and a Byeee from me!

Sewing for Christmas – half-hour pear decorations for the tree Free PDF

October 4th, 2015

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’m sewing a bunch of pears to add to this year’s Christmas tree decorations. They’re quick and simple sewing makes and can obviously dressed up for blingy trees or given the rustic cottage look or whatever is your ‘thing’.

I want a partridge to go with them but haven’t put a template together for that yet. Maybe next week.

The free pear PDF template and instructions are here:

I hope they are clear enough but it really is an easy pattern. I did all the layout and graphics in Illustrator, just for info.

Anyway, we’re in October and I have got a head start on lots of things to avoid charging round the shops like angry pants Christmas Eve (again) so a quick pat on the back to myself for some level of forward planning and organisation this year (bloaty head, ha ha).

Christmas Preparations


Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas for me without a big cake. Rich, moist, flavoursome, covered with thick marzipan and royally iced. Mine was made last week and included crystallised ginger and pineapple. It had its first chug of brandy this morning. I’ll do this every week until early December when the marzipan layer goes on and by then it will be nicely mature.

I found a gorgeous book on cake decorating in a Dublin charity shop for €2. It’s brand new. Big, hardback, lots of pages sumptuously photographed designs. My *Wow* find yesterday. So, am looking ahead with cake decorating ideas with big excitement! But, hint-hint, Smithy, I’d love a Mary Berry cake book to land in my stocking this year.


I’ve made a collection of Christmas mice. So far, the ones made are pin cushions to be given as little presents which is why I haven’t shown them yet. I want to make a few more to mount on old cotton reels to hang or stand as decorations for Christmas. Am thinking a big one would make a lovely door stop. They’re not  done yet but I hope I’ll have something to show you next week and share the template then.

Pickled Gherkins

Mr Smith loves these and we get them in every year. Until recently, I wouldn’t touch them – they look like slugs or something out of Stingray. Warty amphibious creature things. Green and knobbly trawled from stagnant ponds. Ghoulish and ghastly like Shrek snot – or worse!

If these were alive, they’d be the cause of the sink holes that are emerging all over the world. Just use your imagination as to how they would do this but I bet you don’t have to think too hard – almost obvious, isn’t it?!

Anyway, Smithy had to have a ‘couple’ (ha ha, more like half a dozen) and finally persuaded me to have a nibble. They are ruddy lovely! I’ve been missing out on these for years and years! So a few more jars of these are on the Crimbo shopping list already but if bought too early, they’ll be lucky to last until the big day.

Christmas Shopping

Well, I’ve made a start. Ordered some stuff from Amazon. A few things.

Chinese Lanterns (Physalis)

I love these gorgeous plants and looked around the local garden centres for one all summer but couldn’t find one. Then, calling round to my neighbour last week I saw she had a lovely bush and told her how beautiful it was. She was a star and brought me round some seeds, a peat pot and a little lantern plucked from her bush.

The papery outer casing for the fruiting body become beautifully intricate like delicate paper cuttings as they die off and produce their seeds. There are lots and lots of little seeds like sticklepips inside the orange ‘berry’ (see pic) but I forgot to ask and she forgot to tell me what to do with them them so I Googled.

What to do with the seeds

Anyway, the long and the short of it is to cut open the orange ‘berry’ (careful – the berry is full of vitamin C and is edible BUT anything else around it is poisonous – it belongs to the Nightshade family) and winkle out the tiny sandy-coloured seeds. Rinse off the ‘flesh’ and pat them dry before storing them away in a water-proof container.

Keep the box safe until February or March then sow them  in small peat pots with seedling compost.

Plant them near the surface approx. an inch apart with just a light covering of compost and keep the compost moist, but not wet, somewhere reasonably warm.

Plant in a spot that gets plenty of sun AND plenty of shade once the threat of frost is over, around May time.

Fingers crossed I remember them by then and they root happily.

Picture Frame

I found this frame in a charity shop. It’s been washed and scrubbed with sugar soap and is ready for its first sanding in preparation for a white eggshell coating or two of paint. Unusual picture frames are hard to find – unless you pay for them in places like TK Maxx (which I do as well because there is so much to crush on in that place and it has me hooked like a crystal meth addict!) so finding this one for a couple of euro was a happy stumble.

So, lots of frames now…. Time to get on with some papercut designing and get them filled. Unfortunately, Dr Evil has nicked my Mojo and am waiting for some kind of deep space sparkle to awaken and get me going again, like a dash of magic and inspiration. At times like this it’s best to take a big break and change the pace a bit.

This afternoon, come rain or shine (weather forecast says ‘light’ rain – this means it will rain during daylight hours and stop when it gets dark) I’m off for a walk around the Curragh. Sheep graze happily over swathes of it and magic mushrooms abound. No, that’s not where I’m getting my mojo from, btw. I mention it as an item of interest. My neighbour told me yesterday.

Time to get my jammies off and put some proper-normal gear on for my trek around the Curragh.  Have an easy day and enjoy yourself.

Who’s living in your garden? Or, who’s been sleeping in my shed?

October 1st, 2015

I got up yesterday morning to see veils of white over hedges and bushes all over the garden! Of course, they’re dewy cobwebs but goes to show just how many spiders (along with all the other little creatures) we share our homes and gardens with. The pic above is my Catoniasta wearing what looks like a huge collection of hairnets.

The pic below is a lovely big Rosemary bush. More hairnets or lots of little garden ghosts caught in spider traps. I listened closely but couldn’t hear any wailing or rattling of chains so I don’t really think so.

As the day warmed up, the dew evaporated and the webs returned to their gossamy cloak of invisibility (which they wear for Good and not evil) and let the spiders go about their business catching those horrible flies for their num-num soup!

Great British Bake Off

Did anyone see the Great British Bake Off last night? Sad to see Flora go. It’s sad to see any of them go, for that matter.

I laugh at the way Tamal anthromorphises his bakes ‘Come on guys, there’s a lot resting on your pastry shoulders – take up the responsibility’. Ha, Ha!

Nadiya frets and worries but has a tremendous practical and pragmatic approach to all the challenges. She’s eminently sensible, thinks through the challenges with logical deduction and still experiments with design, flavour, colour, etc. Chewing gum flavour was a bit off the wombat for the GBBO, though!

Ian  – well, put me off with his Road Kill bake the other week. Nuff said.

Anyway, I’m rooting for Nadiya and can’t wait for next week. So exciting!

Back soon with some pics and pattern to make Christmas pear decorations. I’m hoping to have the time to make a small garland with at least one partridge (you can see where I’m going with this now) in between the pears to hang on a little tree.

Bye for now!

Bless This House

September 26th, 2015

Bless This House. Says it all, doesn’t it? It’s my latest paper cutting and I hope to be posting one for sale this evening (I usually make limited editions of five).

It’s got squiggles, acorns,  a nice hot cup of tea, a daft rabbit running on the roof of the cottage, an apple tree with a couple of ripe wind falls and a swallow flying happily overhead.

Made me happy designing and cutting it.

It’s now backed, mounted, framed and in a new home not too far away (not mine).

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