Sunday, 19 December 2010

Cracking fun

Last night I sat down and made all of my crackers. I was surprised how easy it was and it only took me about 2 hours to make all 12 (in fact I made 13 but the first one went quite dramatically wrong).
It's a simple process and I basically followed this guide from Kirsty's Homemade Christmas.
I didn't bother to measure anything (I like my crackers to be organic, and I'm lazy) but I regret not using luxury paper as recommended - mine was thin and ripped a bit while I was scrunching it and tying ribbons on.
Essentially, I placed 3 toilet roll innards in a row, end to end, on the wrapping paper and cut a rectangle that would wrap about one and a half times around them.
I used a tiny square of double sided tape to fix the snap in place, a small piece to fix the edge of the paper to the middle tube and then rolled all 3 tubes up in the paper, fixing the long edge with a long piece of double sided tape.
Then I pulled one of the tubes out around 1-2" and scrunched the paper between the 2 tubes. I tied this with a ribbon, filled the cracker and repeated the scrunching on the other end. Since I don't have a paper perforator I snipped little holes all the way round both ends of the cracker so that the paper will rip when they're pulled - if you don't do this you'll have a tug of war over your dinner!
And that's it! Kirsty goes on to top her crackers with lots of amazing decorations and I may try to do this next week. Right now I'm pushed for time and cracker decorating comes pretty far down my list of priorities!

I bought the 12 snaps and hats on ebay for about £5. Other than that, I only needed the toilet roll innards (the one time of year I encourage wanton use of toilet roll around the house!), wrapping paper, double sided tape and ribbon.
I got my husband to pick 12 jokes form the internet (we'll see how funny these are soon) and added these, with the gifts. I find places like Hawkins Bazaar (a sort of toy and joke shop), craft shops and markets useful for finding lots of small gifts. I try to keep the price low, but if you look for nice things to put in them you will end up spending £3-5 per cracker in my experience so making several can work out expensive. Plus you end up walking around shops putting things in toilet roll tubes...
This year I've used a chocolate bar, nail varnish, a pocket tape measure, 2 key rings, a Sheriff's badge, a finger puppet and the dice bags I made. In the past I've used alcoholic miniatures, those flat pack toy planes, sweets, mini soaps, needle books, lip balms and small ornaments. I find, as with most gift related things, women are easier to buy for than men!

Has anyone else made their own crackers? Any helpful tips? Any gift ideas?

Friday, 17 December 2010

A Christmas Party

I didn't have time to write about this last week, but I went out for my work Christmas meal on Friday.
We went to Bordeaux Quay, on the waterfront in Bristol city centre and had really nice time.
Bordeaux Quay has a restaurant upstairs and a deli, bar and brasserie downstairs. The whole place has an organic and local theme, with most of their regular dishes provided by local organic farms and other ingredients sourced locally and as fresh each day as possible. Water is filtered and bottled (and some carbonated) on site each day in reusable glass bottles and they have an excellent selection of organic wines, beers and ciders.
It's this sort of thing that pushes the price up, but although it is expensive, for the quality of food and service you get, it's certainly not over priced.
Surprisingly, then, their Christmas menu was slightly less than several other restaurants in Bristol's centre this year and we happily decided to give it a go this year.
For starter I had a Bruschetta of Gorgonzola, sage and walnuts, which was fabulous. I followed it up with an equally good Rainbow chard, ricotta and rosemary tart and finished with a Pear, cranberry and almond tart. Their house red was really very nice and I wish I'd paid more attention to what it was!
We swapped our Secret Santas over the starters and everyone got something very apt. We're a pretty close nit group so there are rarely bottles of wine or chocolate exchanged, people usually get something funny or nice and specific to them. I was given an adorable vintage cherry print scarf and an amazing little hat by my good friend Jamie (I know, Secret Santa was a secret for about 3 minutes). My cross stitched gift was very well received as well.
Smashing hat
The lovely Jamie
At the end of the night we were offered the day's left over loaves for free and I took home a massive sourdough loaf which was delicious, doubly so for being free!
We ended at a very responsible 11pm and went home without anyone having done anything embarrassing. All in all it was a very civilised affair and a good time was had by all!
I'd thoroughly recommend Bordeaux Quay to anyone looking for a smart place to eat good food in Bristol.

A Nazi in Paris

Tilly posted this link to some amazing colour photos of Paris under Nazi occupation on 'How to be a Retronaut'.
I know they're propaganda material, but I was enjoying seeing some colour shots of real women for once.
Check out those amazing wedges!
 Then I saw this picture, and it all came back into focus. Suddenly it's not so fun.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Gifts for nerds

In the unlikely event that any of you have a friend who roleplays to buy a small gift for, I thought I share what I've put together.

I'm referring specifically to those who do tabletop roleplaying, also known as pen-and-paper roleplaying - Dungeons and Dragons and the like. For a full explanation see this wiki page or alternatively this very acurate description, but essentially this is a game of make-believe with rules and statistics and to do it you need paper, pencils, rubbers and veriously sided dice.
I had to find cracker sized gifts for 4 friends who do roleplaying and I thought that giving them a set of items they can keep and use at each game would be a good gift.
The dice I bought from ebay for about £4, the pencils are Ikea pencils with the writing scraped off and the rubber is from a stationers.
I made the pouches from some old muslin I had laying around and matched the colour of the dice to the ribbon I used.
Voila, nerdy cracker gifts for less than £5.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

And now the news...

It's been another busy week and the time I've not been at work (boo) or crafting (yay), I've been putting up sparkly things around the house and  sleeping. I'm actually pleased for these busy times. Although I'm  feeling dead on my feet, have a whole host of ulcers in my mouth and a permanent sore throat, I've got a lot done and even been out again which  is very satisfying, it's nice to feel well enough to keep busy.
Type A? Me? Never.
Despite my moaning, I am really enjoying making my presents and decorations. The cross stitch I did for my colleague was very gratefully  received and has spurred me on to get the other bits and pieces done.  Fortunately, I've now finished the quilt for my Nan. Parts of it are wonky, some of the stitching is a different length to other bits, and I've managed to put several pintucks in by accident but it's finished and looks fine from a distance!
 I'm actually very happy with this quilt. It's my first try at patchwork and quilting and I quite literally made it up as I went along. I've learnt some lessons about how not to make quilts (don't try to put the
whole quilt through the small gap under the arm of the sewing machine - it won't fit. Also, don't use silk for half the squares because they'll slip around like nobody's business) and I will definitely return to
quilt making in the future.
Next I need to make a bag, some little dice bags (I'll be posting about these soon as 'gifts for nerds'!), another framed cross stitch (this time a motto for my history tutor) and my crackers! How long till
Christmas again?

Still, in my travels to get bits and pieces to make all of these with, I saw Vintage Vogue patterns at 40% off and snapped 2 up. They're usually so pricey that I don't bother, but I couldn't resist these ones! Expect to see these before spring (maybe).
On Saturday I put down my sewing to go to the Garrison AGM and Christmas Party. The Garrison is a WW2 reenactment group for a Royal Artillery unit (they play with massive 22lb guns) and have an ATS regiment (the 93rd Searchlight operators) attached to them. I've joined them now and ordered my ATS uniform and will be going to several events next  year. I might even be able to make a week long trip to Normandy for a big international event in the summer!
I was pleased to find that everyone I met at the weekend was very welcoming and friendly and after a couple of hours I felt like one of the family. I've met reenactors in the past who were so obsessive that they were quite unfriendly to people who were making enquiries, but fortunately everyone at the Garrison seems very relaxed and more than happy to give pointers and, more importantly, tell me not to worry about getting it all perfect at the start. As soon as I get my outfit together I'll be sure to post plenty of pictures! I'd thoroughly recommend that if anyone is thinking about getting into ATS reenactment, the Garrison is a good  group to get in with. They also have the only fully working searchlight in the UK at the moment!
Weirdly, I met the lady that sold me my checked skirt on etsy at the party! Small world...

For Surrey girls (I know there are a few of you out there) I'd recommend you have a look at the Watercress Christmas Leave event. I was going to go, but due to family commitments I won't be able to make it *sad face*. There's going to be 40s music and food and steam trains, with a lot of people in WW2 uniforms and civilian dress, all for a very reasonable £15 a head. What more could you want?!

Finally I need to direct you over to this slightly odd but rather wonderful giveaway by In the Heyday. It's UK only and I'm down for 2 entries. Fingers crossed - this would look lovely on my hall wall!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Stockings for Christmas!

Just a quick note to say that if you're looking for new undies this Christmas, you should head over to Retro Chick's blog where she has a link to a special offerat What Katie Did - get 3 pairs of retro seamed stockings for £10 - that's one pair free! I've bought 3 in nude and 3 in black.
These stockings are hard wearing (speaking as someone who ladders 4 out of 5 pairs of stockings and tights she put on) and look great on.
The discount only works through the link on Retro Chick's page though!

Also offering a very generous 20% discount are Hepburn and Leigh, who stock all manner of retro lingerie and hosiery, when you answer their very short survey.
I bought a Kiss Me Deadly roll on girdle to hold up my stockings, as an alternative to the white Van Doren 8-strap suspender belt, which does the job admirably!
They're also offering free worldwide postage today only!

Thursday, 9 December 2010


Lovely LandGirl1980 set me an interview/Q&A thingamy a couple of weeks back and I've finally managed to find the time to write something!

1. Why did you create the blog?
I'd been reading several blogs about vintage clothes and crafting for a little while over the summer and began to think about starting one myself. I thought it'd be good to have someone other than my husband to share my creations and my purchases with. Then I had a friend suggest I start a blog cataloguing my daily outfits and so I created Tea and Crumpets. I haven't managed to post that many outfits, but I have enjoyed sharing what I get up to with everyone and I love reading your comments!

2. What kind of blogs do you follow?
Most of the blogs I read are vintage fashion or sewing oriented. I also have a couple on my regular read list which are about ME/CFS, interesting news stories and general lifestyles.
I like to read about things I'm intersted in, obviously, but I also read several blogs just because the writing is so good. I like to read rants and educational posts and usually I'm not concerned about the topics!

3. Favourite makeup brand?
I'm going to have to be a snob and say MAC. I've used lots of different brands over the years and was always a fan or Revlon, but I've found MAC beats all others hands down. Partly, it's the choice of foundation tones which I like. My skin is a funny combination of yellow tones and snow white, and usually the yellow toned makeups are for olive skinned Mediterranean people, and make me look like I've been tangoed. So, that, the quality of the finish and lasting effects and the expertise when you buy keep me coming back, despite the price!

4. Favourite clothing brand?
Before I started blogging, I would have said that I didn't have one. Since I've been logging my purchases and wardrobe more regularly in this blog, I've realised that half of my clothes and shoes come from Marks and Spencer, or Clarks.
I don't pay much attention to the big designers or to most of the high street. If I'm shopping new I'll usually look in Marks, Zara and maybe a department store and that's about it. The rest of the clothes I buy are either from charity shops or etsy and ebay nowadays.

 5. Your indispensable makeup product?
Probably Carmex. My lips get very dry and cracked during the winter, so keeping them soft is top of my priorities. Carmex does the best job of keeping my lips soft and I always have a pot nearby.

I'm also very keen on my MAC foundation to even out my dark rings around my eyes and my Neals Yard Remedies Wild Rose Beauty Balm, which acts as cleanser and moisturiser.

6. Your favourite colour?
Tricky one. My favourite colours seem to change on a regular basis. I think I'm going for green and red at the moment. This may have something to do with the season. I do like colour, though, and I'm not afraid to wear bold colours or more than one colour at a time. I think I'm still detoxing from my Gothic period.

7. Your perfume?
It's a cliché, but Chanel No. 5.

I used to wear Anais Anaise a lot, but became concerned about the chemicals and gave it up several years ago.
Then, when I got married last year my something borrowed was my Nan's No. 5. She let me keep it after the wedding and wearing it reminds me of that day, and of her. I spent much of my childhood with my Nan and Grandad, as my Mum worked, so we've always been close. The smell of No. 5 makes me think of her in her 60s and 70s, getting ready to go out. She was always immaculately turned out with lipstick, face powder, perfume and pearls even when taking my brother and me to the park.

8. Your favourite film?
Another tricky one. I love The Princess Bride. It never fails to amuse and entertain me even when watching it for the 39th time.
I've also been feating on a whole range of classic films of late which I've come to love; One of our aircraft is missing (less than snappy title, awesome film), It happened one night, Shall we dance (worth it for the roller-skate dance scene alone), A Canterbury Tale (excellent depiction of Britain at war, shot in the middle of it!).
An in no particular order, other films which I'll probably always enjoy; A Life Less Ordinary, LOTR trilogy, The Omen, Godzilla (1954), Interview with the Vampire, Nosforatu (1922)... There are plenty more but that will do for now!

9. What country would you like to visit and why?
Gosh, I'm more indecisive than I'd thought. I haven't travelled a lot, I've only been as far abroad as France and Belgium and to the Republic of Ireland and I'd love to see more of the world.
I don't much like hot countries - I prefer dramatic scenery and old places to beaches and terrace cafes.
Iceland is towards the top of my list because of the above. I find the history of Iceland very interesting and, while I'm not sure what there is to do and see beyond the Þingvellir, volcanoes, snowy things and fishing ports, it's always appealed to me.
New Zealand is also on my 'to see' list. Again, the dramatic scenery and history (I wrote my dissertation on the medical techniques of the Maori people) are the main draws, but their liberal politics and general 'hippy' tendencies appeal. Plus I've been told it's much like England was 50 years ago in terms of community feeling and crime and the like, which sounds lovely - all the good bits of the past with all the mod cons of today!
I have wanted to see Japan for a long while, although as lovely as some of it sounds, certain aspects of the culture that friends who've lived there tell me about put me off a bit. So short visit only I think.
America is another country that interests me, each different region having its own appeal. Mainly, I'd like to see places I know from TV and films; New York, the Florida quays, Louisiana, New England, Washington. I think each has its own character but I have a feeling I wouldn't enjoy America for very long. I have no basis for this statement though and am prepared to be proven wrong! My husband spent some time in California as a teenager and remembers it fondly (though this may have something to do with the draw of local girls to his accent) so I expect we'll be seeing some of the states in the future.
Canada interest me far more. Again, a country of different characters and dramatic scenery. Nova Scotia and the Rockies particularly interest me.
Then, more practically, there are most of the countries in Northern Europe; Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland... the list is long and I would like to think it's achievable over the next few years.
So, to answer the question I guess the answer is anywhere with snow and mountains...

10. To be chosen by blogger.
After the travel essay I think I should keep this brief.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
This is a question that's on my mind a lot at the moment. I long for a job that I look forwards to going to, and that doesn't keep me awake on Sunday nights for stress and worry.
Right now, I'm sold on the idea of opening a haberdasher/drapery and running my own business. There are lots of problems with this, the first and main one being start up capital, but It's something I'm planning and investigating and thinking through properly, so it may still happen!
If I had the time/energy, I'd probably retrain and become a historian or archaeologist focusing on the early middle ages, or possibly an events organiser. Wedding planner would be up there too.
That and housewife. My impractical dream job...unless I win the lottery!

Pass on the baton - I'll keep this short and sweet;
Canadian Twenty Something

Miss Magpie Musings
Welsh Pixie

Monday, 6 December 2010

Crafting like mad

I've been so busy making things for Christmas this last week, I've barely had time to do anything else!
This is just a quick post, mainly to say thank you to some lovely people and to show you some of what I've been doing, before I get my head back down and sew.

Firstly, Jen's 10pm Cookbook has arrived! It's every bit as wonderful as I thought it would be. What shall I make first? Sherried Livers? Crunchy Prune Cream? Frankwiches? The world is my Oyster.
I am having a few friends over for a pre-Christmas dinner and I think they'll be the perfect audience to try one of the fabulous recipes out.

Secondly, The Vintage Knitter has given me an award! I love her blog too - go and see her...
Thank you!
Thirdly came Land Girl 1980 tagging me for one of these interview thingamies. As soon as I get a chance I'll be posting that up.
So thanks to all of those lovely ladies, and to all of you who read and comment on a regular basis - it does feel nice to know that you're interested in what I have to say and I am planning a reward very shortly (it's not bribery, it's a giveaway. Honest).

So I know you're all desperate to see what I've been up to.
I've finished my Secret Santa cross stitch (good job as the party is on Wednesday!) and framed it tonight. I'm very happy with the way it's turned out and I hope that the recipient will be pleased with it.
It only took me about 2-3 hours to do and the only cost to me was the frame, as I had all of the cross stitch bits beforehand.
I've also sewn the patchwork pieces together for the quilt I'm making and will be assembling and quilting the whole thing this week I'll post pics when it's all done. Finally I've cut out my pieces for a bag I'm making my mother in law. She runs kids clubs and is always carrying loads of stuff around with her, so I thought I couldn't go wrong with a new bag! I'm using the pattern from 'Quilt Yourself Gorgeous' and it seems to be going ok so far!

I also spent Saturday at a 'Homemade Christmas' workshop. We made loads of bits and pieces, but the main focus was on wrapping presents. The pictures below are the various bits I made - if anyone would like to know how any of these were made (they're mostly pretty self explanatory) just let me know and I'll do a quick guide! The workshop was excellent and I learnt quite a lot of basic skills which I'll be able to use on lots of other crafty things. I must say that learning how to wrap a box properly is probably worth the cost of the course all on its own!
This wreath was made for the kitchen using a bridal hoop and then decorated with bunches of thyme and bay leaves, and pouches of mulling spices.
Another kitchen decoration with dried fruit and a chilli!
Wrapping a box and a bottle (useful skills!).
Spare gift wrapping - soap.
Gift bags for the tree. One is a fabric covered toilet roll inner and the other a cone made from wallpaper.

I also managed to fit an evening out into my weekend - I know, I'm a mad party animal!
This was a 1940s dance at Bristol Temple Meads and was a very fun night out. I didn't do any dancing but the band, the University of Bristol Hornstars, were excellent.
I wore my green Butterick dress because, although it's not a wartime era dress, I hadn't planned well enough to have anything else to wear! I think it'll be making another appearance next week at my husband's work do, which is black tie. I don't think I have anything else black tie appropriate!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Wreath-ed in ivy

As promised, I'm detailing the method I used to make a wreath this Christmas.
I should start by explaining that I took a day class last year where I did my first ever floristry. I made a wreath and a table decoration under the watchful eye of a professional.
This year, I showed my Mum what to do, half remembering and half making it up as I went along.
You're getting a refined version of that second method, so although my wreath turned out pretty well, you may want to supplement my instructions with YouTube videos!

Disclaimer out of the way, I'll start by listing materials.

1 Oasis ring (I bought mine from ebay but florists and craft shops often stock them)
1 pair of secateurs and/or sturdy scissors
Some string
Plenty of greenery, consisting of 2 main types;
 - Thick, bushy foliage for the base - I used Conifer branches for mine
 - Pretty greenery like holly, ivy, anything with berries, etc.
Decorations - these can be baubles, orange slices, apples, bows, tinsel, pine cones or anything that takes your fancy
Glitter/metallic sprays (optional)
Old towels to work on
Florists wire
Green florist tape

Once you've cut your green plants, soak them, if possible, for 24hrs in a cool place. This helps to prolong their lifespan in the wreath

Then, lay everything out within easy reach.
To prepare your oasis ring, soak it completely in water, this gives the plants something to drink!
Then, with the seam in the ring towards the bottom, tie a loop of string around the top and pull tight, so that the string cuts into the oasis. This will be where the wreath hands from.
 Next, Trim the corners off the oasis ring with a knife. It doesn't need to be very sharp as the oasis is so soft. You're looking to give the ring a curved top so that the finished wreath looks thick and bushy, not square.
 Now you can start on the green bits! pull out some of the bushy base plants and find the end of a branch. Take a piece off about 5 inches or so long and trim the leaves from the stem.
 Push the stem into the oasis so that the piece of tree lays almost flat on the oasis. Repeat on each side of the ring to make one row, all going in the same direction. Move down the ring about 1 inch and do the same again for row 2.
Every so often, stop and check for gaps. look at the wreath from all angles and hold it up by the string, you shouldn't be able to see ANY oasis - if you leave gaps it'll look tired and thin.
Keep going all the way around and pretty soon you'll have something that looks like this!

Now comes the fun part - the decoration! You should think about the colours and shapes you want now, and try playing with some of the seasonal bits and pieces you got together before. If you have only a few of one thing, you should think about where to place them. Objects like fruit and bows look better if they're balanced left to right or top to bottom.

I decided I wanted to make it look like I'd wrapped holly around my wreath, so I too several short pieces and pinned them diagonally across the wreath. Because the holly has a thick stem, it can become tricky to get it in and keep it in the oasis. So, I took some of the florist wire and wrapped it around the piece of ivy. I then covered this in florist tape and pushed the end into the oasis. If it's long enough, the oasis can be wrapped around the ring, once it's poked through on the far side. This makes sure your decoration doesn't go anywhere once it's hanging up!
 To secure the loose ends I used a bent piece of wire like a hair pin.
You can use the wire in the same way to add other decorations. I used orange slices and cinnamon quills on mine. If you tie a ribbon in a bow, you can use wire on the back of the bow to secure it. For baubles, push a twist of wire into the ball and use the rest to push into the oasis. Pine cones can be secured by wrapping wire around the last few rows of spikes.
Finally, I took some of the ivy berries I'd collected and prayed them gold with a waterproof paint. These were wrapped with wire as before, and pushed in as a clump at the centre top of the wreath.

And that's about it!
I'd urge you to keep holding the wreath up to see what it'll look like on the wall or door, and to remember that minimalistic isn't in the Christmas spirit - keep it thick and full of colour and decoration!

I'd love to see you come up with if you do make one yourself!