Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Q; What has 6 arms, 6 legs and makes a lot of noise?

A; The tickle monsters, that's who!

My chidren love to see themselves on the computer. Hey, DP preens himself in a glass window as he's talking so to be a star of screen, however small is a big thrill for them. Today (you may not believe this) I finally figured out that if I pressed the little button marked 'use my pictures as slideshow' as my screen saver, then all my memories are flashed up constantly and ever-changingly as pictures of my beloved kids (and everyone else) float across the screen. I guess I should have saved those risque pictures DH took of me on holiday to disc, eh? Oh, well, as long as the vicar doesn't come around when they flash across the screen I might be OK. Convincing Sarah that that is not the way to dress for a night out might be a different matter. Ho hum.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Cath Kidston meets French Chic on the doorstep.

La Redoute, the home of french fashion, have Cath Kidston licenced products for the bed. Duvets, sheet, pillowcases and blankets in her distinctive roses on blue or white are all available to order on their website, here.

From abc to the history of impressionism... for 5 year olds?

Waterlilies; Claude Monet.
I have spent the day at work... I'm a supply teacher, so somedays I don't know until 8.30 that I'm going to work, but today was pre-booked. I like that, it makes arranging pick-ups so much more easier. The only disadvantage with work is that it interfers with crafting, but it pays the bills. Today my work was in a small school where the maximum class size was 22. It's in a nice area, with nice staff and I had a really good time.

This afternoon, especially, I was with the reception. These children are aged 4 and 5, and so full of beans, but really willing to learn. My brief was to look at the painting, talk about the colours and let the children play with some chalk. The teacher's final words were "It doesn't really matter what it looks like as long as the children have had a good time."

And how! By the end of their session, each child was covered in chalk, mostly all over their hands & uniform. It's a good job it brushes off easily, or I'd have been for the highjump. But the experience had been so wonderful for them and me that I was left feeling... tired, yes, but really content with the standards these children had achieved. Satisfaction guaranteed. They had made their own little masterpieces like Claude and each one had made it different. the last little lad had rushed and made a dark shadow that looked just like someone leaning over the pond; one little girl had used all the chalk just as is and her painting fairly sang with colour. We had an art-gallery session at the end when we all looked and commented on the quality of the light, on how different effects had been achieved and compared our work with Claude.

I tell you what, people might pay millions for his work now, but my afternoon amongst the waterlilies with reception was priceless.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Delicious view! Cute blog of the day.

Crochet is in, this weekend. Dolliedaydream has taught herself over the weekend and looks set to be off with the crochet bug, while away in Devon, Posy has the most appealing picture in her post today... You must go and see!
Wouldn't you just die for a fireplace like that? It's gorgeous, Posy and if I were Alison,I'd give you the award for the most scrumptious blog of the week!

My own contribution to this crochet frenzy is a small square... it will be the cover on my bed when I have a chance to finish it, but for now, my knees keep warm!

10 Years of ME; Happy Birthday, Mary!

I had a lovely weekend... away with my lovely husband!! His team that he supports (not premier league, but really local; does that count as the football equivalent of organic?) were playing in Gateshead. Well, I say Gateshead, I mean the International Athletics Stadium. Well, I say the International Athletics Stadium, I really mean the teams played on the pitch and all 300 supporters sat together in one small area of this 19,000 seater stadium. Such are the pleasures of supporting your local team (who happen to be the BIGGEST club in Knowsley; the perils of being too close to Liverpool) and while he watched the match, he said the best place to leave me was the Metro centre... well, I couldn't say no, could I?

So I have had a lovely weekend of shopping; Borders, Leeds on Friday night, Metro Centre on Saturday and York City Centre on Sunday. Spent money? You betcha!! But I had a really good time doing it, and I'm sworn off shops/shopping and portals of unlimited consumption until.... well, 10th February at the earliest.

And... I got my favourite magazine!! Yes, the Feb/March copy of Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion was in! I've been collecting this magazine for as long as I can (about 3 years now) and I love it. The magazine always has articles on craftspeople and their studios, features houses which have been decorated with love , care & a complete disregard for the less-is-more philosophy and always comes with a paper-doll to cut out and play with. What more could a girl want? My favourite article this month is about childrens' rooms and, yes, I know the space isn't there for Sarah's room to look like this, but I had to show you Hadley's room; a room for any 5 year old to lust after. I can feel a spring clean coming on... Sarah, do you like blue and red? Silly question, really. (apologies for the bad scan)

I spent Saturday when I wasn't shopping sat drinking coffee and reading through this and my other weekend treats, the American Country Living and a copy of The Idiot-proof Diet, recommended by the Daily Mail as the most readable diet book this year so far. OK, I'm game.

York had their residents weekend on, which meant, I think, that if you live there you got free entry into a lot of the local attractions. They had music and street entertainers, too. I thought it was a lovely idea, because there must be whole months in the summer when it's hard to walk down a street for the tourists, let alone have a visit to a major attraction. Somehow I find it hard to think of people living in such 'quaint' towns as Shrewsbury, York and Ludlow, and yet they do. I also bought some felt squares from a street stall and some wonderful dotted ribbon. I'm making some lavender hearts and these will be just perfect for the fronts!

And today? I'm at home with a James. He's not feeling 100%, poor thing, so it gives me a chance to do something... clear Sarah's room? make little hearts? re-arrange my kitchen cupboards? Or shall I snuggle up under his blanket with him and watch Spiderman, Power Rangers and all the rest of the brain rot TV? No contest, really, blanket here I come!

Friday, 26 January 2007

Do you want a good laugh?

You know when you've been caught out? Well, over in America, Capello does! Go see her blog for a really good chuckle!

girls just want to have.... Love hearts?

Well, we had our first ever Girls Night In last night. Only 4 of us could come so that meant reduced numbers, but we still downed an impressive two bottles of wine (between us, not each) and spent a good few hours talking about life, love and little children. We also planned next time's meeting for February 22nd, and decided to read and discuss a book, the Kite Runner, author... I can't remember. which is a problem as I'm supposed to get a few copies of it to hand out to the girls who couldn't come. Oh, pooh.

The party bags went down well, everyone giggled at the idea of love hearts but then admitted that they were a sure-fire favourite that they hadn't had for years. I love them, I have at least one packet a week and it is my favourite not-too-bad-for-you food treat. Guess I'll have to think of something else for next time... handmade soap, or little hearts from felt like Charlotte? I'll work on it; I've got three weeks, anyway.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Liverpool's Celebrating!

This year is the 800th anniversary of Liverpool being granted its charter to be a city..... wowee! And next year we are the European Capital of Culture, plus this july is the 50th anniversary of when Paul and John met, so it's a big thing for Beatles fans. the council have got allsorts planned, go to to see the choices. There will be street parties and big events all over the city this summer so, for the next two years, Liverpool is celebrating!

I'm a relative newcomer to the city, coming from a village 12 miles away. Liverpool has always been my local city, but I'm a small-town provincial by upbringing. However, I've lived in the suburbs now for 14 years, and I have to say, I like Liverpool. There's a fair bit of culture, a fair bit of social life and a good tradition of comedy and friendliness. If you've never been, why not give it a go in the next two years? Book a travellodge room and come for a couple of nights. See the two cathedrals, have lunch at a little bistro, walk along the sea-front and take the ferry cross the Mersey.... yes, they really play the music as you get off and on... Come to Woolton and see the hall where the Beatles began, visit Speke Hall and book your place on the Lennon and McCartney home tour. Mad on sport? we've got two football grounds and everyone has an opinion. Theatres, cinemas and nightclubs... grief, I'm beginning to sound like an advert exec. It's an ideal location for a short break, though, really. When money's tight & we don't want to go away, we take days out and there are loads of places. I like my city. I like living here and I think I'm going to send off for a street party pack to celebrate its birthday. It's a grand old city, Why not?

Sites to visit if you're interested are;

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

I like little presents!

Tomorrow is the first night that we hold a Girls' Night In. My friend, Paula (Hi Paula!) and I are having a few friends round for gossip & fun. we'll drink a little wine, listen to the Puppini sisters, talk about ourselves and plan some more nights in. So, to celebrate, I've made little parcels (I like parcels!)

I used gift wrap to make the bags and filled them with pink and fluffy treats. Love Hearts are my favourite sweet because they take me back to my childhood. I found the shoe keyrings on sale straight after Christmas, ditto the lip gloss, while the pencils are incredibly cheap at Instore. Enough for a grown up girl's party bag, I think?

At future meetings we intend to discuss some serious Chick lit. Any ideas? I like Warnings of Gales by Annie Saunders, or perhaps I don't know How She Does It by Alison Pearson. Nothing heavy or Boker prize winner. we also plan to have a chocolate tasting, a wine tasting and a cookie swap evening. I suppose we could have a few craft nights, with paper crafts and sewing.

I'm looking forward to it a lot. keep reading to find out how it went!

Pretty Little Parcels

I love packages through the post, I love getting them, sending them and opening them, so when my friendly Scottish postman knocked yesterday, I knew I was in for a treat.

Some of my post-christmas bonus got spent on an ironing board cover from Cath Kidston. I've lusted after one for a few years, tried to get one on sale and finally thought blow it, and ordered myself one last week.

I love how the parcel comes in red stripes.. I love red... and when I opened it I felt like Christmas had come again.

I couldn't resist taking pictures of the cover off the board...

on the board...

and how my ironing basket looked two hours later. At this point I feel obliged to tell you that my Darling Husband usually does his own shirts and never gets to the bottom of the basket. There must have been twenty shirts plus other bits in there, but I wasn't going to stop until I'd done them all...

And this is Sarah. She loves the clean basket, too. I hope she's a better housewife than I've been so far, but perhaps if I keep getting better she'll learn by osmosis.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Flower Power

Saturday is Football Day... and I go to visit Ma (that's my mum to the grandchildren). Well, I took my wool with me, I needed to fiddle today, and I got down to crocheted flowers. Sally-Anne has a thing for flowers. They turned out OK, just a simple chain and then petals around the centre. I got some ideas from a free flower pattern search on tinternet & made my own from there. Anyway, I wanted to use one straight away, so I made a headband, like the ones that were popular in the early 70's and, I have to say, it's not bad. Sally looks cute in it. Quite a success.

The picture is fuzzy, apologies for that, but the idea is there. Sally wants one for all her friends and acquaintances, but only after I knit a scarf for her doll.

Friday, 19 January 2007

Is crochet big, or what?

I crocheted my way through the telly-watching last night. Criminal minds on Channel 5, I love it. The scarf is nearly done and here are the pictures to prove it.

Then today there was no phone call. It's fun on supply, it's a win-win situation; phone call = money= living well this week, no phone call=time= opportunity to do something. So, I went to Borders to see if I could get the American Country Living magazine because, apparently there's a divine picture of red velvet cupcakes on the cover (see Brocante Home Chronicles for details) No luck. I did browse the craft books, because Valentine's Day is not far away and looked at the new(ish) Cabbages and Roses book and a couple more books. Anyway, the point is when I sat down at one of those squishy leather armchairs they have dotted around, the coffee table had about 3 or 4 crochet books. Now, I would love to meet the person who put them there because I'd like to know; is crochet in this year? Am I, so to say, hooked on the latest craze? If I am, it's a new experience because I'm usually the last one in the game.

New book today; Rescue From Domestic Perfection by Dan Ho. It's actually a birthday present for my SIL (who doesn't read this blog) She's in the process of renovating/rebuilding a lovely Edwardian semi in Crosby and the book appealed to me as suitable for someone who needs reminding that perfection is not a really desirable aim if it comes at the cost of personality. As Dan Ho puts it, "Perfection is a cheap caricature of style" He asks us to think in our pursuit of the perfect home;

You can fill your home with things every decorating diva has deemed must-have;
you can cook all your food in the manner of celebrity chefs; you can edge your
perennial borders in a manner that emulates that of the chief groundskeeper at
Kew Gardens. But these will all be pointless style exercises unless and until
you understand what style really means... The first place to start is inside-
rather than worrying about how things look, coordinate, taste and smell, simply
start thinking about who you are inside. If you can do this much, I promise you
will be well on your way to true style.
Covering house, garden, furniture and eating/food, I hope it will be a useful and stimulating present. And I get to look through it first before I wrap it. Sorry, Pat.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Please won't someone get me out of here!

So, I didn't start work until 1pm today. plenty time to fiddle a little and visit a friend. Nice cookies and coffee, Paula! You need to get a blog. Anyway, I had time to pop down to a local knitting shop, Knitwise on Smithdown Road, Liverpool. It's a little Aladdin's cave of good quality yarn. I wanted some Sirdar Firefly to crochet a scarf, one of those full-of-holes creations that stretches to the ground when an enthusiastic 5 year old grabs you. And, yes, the nice lady, Angie has some and, yes, it came home with me (red, of course) and, yes, I will probably go back for more because, at £4.50 it strikes me the scarf would be a perfectly acceptable home-made gift for the fashion conscious acquaintance... but...

She also holds Stitch and Bitch meetings on a Tuesday night.

My evenings are usually spent at home, I do go to a reading group (sadly cancelled tonight. Hope you're all well soon, girls) and I will be going to Girls' Night In next Thursday, but they are both monthly meetings. Do I need a little fun on a Tuesday? Can I afford to go into a den of temptation every Tuesday and still come out with a bank balance good enough for the bank manager to leave me alone?

I don't think I'm brave enough.

Stitch and Bitch, I wish you well. I may (after I finish Crafters' Anonymous meetings) come to see you, but for the foreseeable future you and I will be like ships that pass in the night. And, yes, I'm looking out for icebergs.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

I Love it when a Plan comes Together!

From mess to less, and it didn't cost a penny!

The day before yesterday, the kids school bags looked like this;

Yesterday I corralled them and put them in a cardboard box I had lying around; It's effective, but it's not pretty.

Today, I emptied a basket with toys (junk/charity or a new home) and... Joy of Joys! It looks quite good. With a little judicious rewarding (home points and/or sweets) the 3 darlings will remember to put their bags into it. Now, do I need to make a cloth cover to hide it away permanently?

On an unrelated matter, I told yesterday how I had got Not Buying It by Judith Levine and inadvertently caused a furore on another website. Apparently, independent retailers are unable to get this book for another 2 weeks because the Big Boys of the corporate world have swallowed up all available supplies. For example, Mostly Books are an independent bookstore who have to wait 2 more weeks for the book. I am so sorry! And it's not even my responsibility. However, I do feel guilty because it was a rash purchase that Tesco's didn't need me to make to improve their profits, whereas I could have waited a few weeks until I get to a local independent book store to pick up a copy. I will try more carefully in future to support the little guy. I wouldn't let a child on the playground get away with intimidation, but it seems to be what business is based on.
The book is also really interesting reading. I will be reading it thoroughly and, I think, refining my concepts of what is an 'essential'.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Who said that thing about selling bread for hyacinths?

The wonderful thing about getting better after a cold and blocked nose is that there comes a time when you can smell again. I walked into the house today after shopping to smell these beautiful hyacinths (thanks Mum!) They've been blooming for a couple of days while I've been ill and I've actually complained to DH about their lack of smell. Being male and a realist he said it was a good job I couldn't smell them, as they would probably have set off my hayfever. Men, huh?

And the shopping! I had a bit of a non-essential day, I'm afraid. Aside from food, including a rather nice Twinings green tea with pineapple and grapefruit, I (had to ) get this stuff. The Country Living magazine is one of my favourites, and cheers me up every month. The chopping boards are red and blue, same as my kitchen. Red for meat, blue for something else, probably. The two red dishes are pottery and I bought them because I'd seen the rectangular ones on Nonnie's blog the other day. The book is, indeed, called Not Buying It and is by Judith Levine, detailing her year of not spending money on non-essentials. Yes, I get the irony. The little photo frames are 24p each at the moment. They are Christmas shapes, and I'm going to use them this year for the dated decorations I give to all the family's third generation. It's a tradition I started in2000 and I really love to do this, finding good decorations, often half price after Christmas and putting a name and a date on them in some way.

There are two styles of wrapping paper. In a little over a week's time, a group of girl friends are all meeting together at my house for our first Girls' Night In. We're going to have a cheese and (non-alcoholic) wine night and plan for a few more meetings. I've got some little 'bits' as a welcome surprise and the paper is to make little bags for them. I don't know whether to scan it or use it straight. I'll fiddle with it later.

The little blue pots are Tete a Tete daffodils/ narcisssi and I've got them for my craft room. I didn't plant any bulbs this year, although I have in the past, but I do love watching them grow. Hopefully as February hits and we may hit more wintry weather, they'll keep my little sitting area bright.

This is the little photo frame in close up. My camera's not cracking at detail, but they are metal frames in snowman, Santa and reindeer shapes. Come next Christmas, I'll put photos in and get the name and date onto the back, probably. That's one of my November tasks.
Enjoy the rest of your day and I'm off now to make some more green tea and read my book. (30 minutes to school pick up!)

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Little effort; big improvement

I am on a mission to sort out this house. This is/was my craft room. I think it was useable for all of a week last summer, when I got in there and made birthday cards for the rest of the year. Then we had a visitor and a big bag of junk to put somewhere and no where else to put it... need I go on? The will to start over being subsumed by the need to do some work and get on with Christmas, it got left.
New year, new me, as the saying goes and I'm on the move. The previously titled "Family room" is now called the "sitting room" and this, previously titled "craft room" is now the "toy area".

Yes, I know, pigs will fly before this room is perfect if I truly think 3 children aged 8,6 and 4 will even remember which room their (junk) toys are stored in. And the name change will probably not stick.

Saturday, 13 January 2007

A grim day in.

I was supposed to be out tonight, but I'm full of cold and not feeling too well. Instead, I've been puttering in the boys' room and moving furniture. Why is it I always want to rearrange things when I'm ill and then I'm surprised when, shivering and tired, I fall exhausted into a chair? It's like I only get inspired when I'm in the throes of a fever. Never mind, it's a grey Saturday and I'm alone with three children while my DH goes to football. At least the flowers I bought last week are still cheerful. I hope they make me feel better, too.
Hopefully after bedtime I can sit in peace and watch a comfort film. Something soft and fluffy like You've got mail. Or perhaps Outbreak. I always used to watch that when I wasn't well before I had kids. Watching a lot of people with Ebola fever had the effect of making me feel better. Strange, I know.
Or, if the DH has to watch Match of the Day (it is Saturday after all) I can read my past copies of Mary Englebreits Home Companion magazine. That, and drink a pot of good old Lancashire Tea.

Friday, 12 January 2007

It's a dismal day here in Liverpool. I'm nursing a cold, and setting up webpages, blogs, etc. Why does everything have to take so long? All I want is to see my name on the net? Is that so wrong?
Anyway, I'll have to load some more stuff on the net soon. I'll see you again tomorrow.

Angel Jem's City Cottage; Mess to less

I have been wanting to start a blog for some time now, at least a year, and never seem to have settled down to it. Well, now I am. I hope to be a good neighbour on the internet and to find some new friends.

So, who am I? Well, my name is Jo, I'm a married mother of three, supply teacher, crafter, reader and creator. I like making things like painted boxes, toys, knitted blankets and tapestries. I'm a Jack of all trades and master of some.

Anyway, onto the pleasant stuff; Why Angel Jem? Well, when I get my little craft industry set up, that's the name I am goimg to call it. I like angels, they remind me of fairies, my family nickname is the Christmas fairy and my initials are JEM so I sign my artwork as Jem.All in all, good enough reasons to call it Angel Jem.

The 'mess to less' bit is even easier. My house is a bombsite. This is after a years de-cluttering, you should have seen it before. I am hoping by putting my (literally) dirty washing out onto the ether to shame myself into creating my perfect house. My city cottage, my ideal home, my little bit of heaven on Earth.

That's where you invisible friends come in. You are my guardians of Home life. For so long I have read and found comfort in the blogs of Alison, Nonnie,Posy and Cherry and now I want to invoke their spirits. If I had a guest bedroom I'd ask them to stay, but it's full. (Don't ask what with. Just see later) Instead, I can ask anyone who finds me here for advice, comfort, HELP!