Monday, 29 December 2008

In limbo

Merry Christmas! Yes, I know that I'm a few days overdue, but I didn't get a chance to post on the big day as we were too busy playing with B's new toys! We had a lovely time up with T's mum and B had a great time playing with his uncles and aunts and cousins. I hope you all had a lovely time too.

I always feel a bit in limbo at this time of year, as if I'm waiting for normality to return, for everything to start again, and from reading other blogs and talking to friends I know that I'm definitely not the only one. I'm trying to make myself slow down a bit and enjoy this time with B before he starts back with preschool/childminder and I start back at work properly (I say properly as I did take a couple of projects up to T's mum's!) next week, but at this time of year, after a couple of days off, I always get itchy fingers, wanting to get on with some new projects! I've got lots of plans for the next year, including plans to look after myself a little better so that I have a bit more 'off duty' time than I've had over the last few years. It is wonderful being a mum and having a business that I enjoy so much and can fit around my family (well, fit around them most of the time anyway!) but the downside, as every other work-at-home mum knows, is that it's so easy to spend every waking moment, plus many moments that you shouldn't really be awake, working. I've been reminded lately though that in order to do both of my jobs to the best of my ability I need some down time every now and then. Not exactly earth shattering news, but something that I need reminding of every now and then!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A domesticated Christmas

Today has been a day of packing up orders to be delivered or collected, baking and wrapping presents. I usually make my own gift tags but I've run out of time this year. I had some left over from last year but I ran out this afternoon. A Print a Day came to the rescue with these downloadable ones! I only came across this blog last week and I think I will be going back for more. The matching notepads are cute too!

The house is looking a complete mess with wrapping paper and piles of washing everywhere, but at least it smells lovely! B and I made gingerbread this afternoon using this recipe. He's getting pretty good at measuring out the ingredients and mixing, rolling and cutting out dough, but he still needs to improve his washing up skills!

Monday, 22 December 2008

The sweetest sound

Is B softly singing to himself as he's falling asleep - Twinkle twinkle little star has never sounded so lovely! I've just been standing at the bottom of the stairs listening to him.

I've taken him to music and dance sessions for about 18 months now, but it's only been since starting preschool that he's really started enjoying it a lot more and started singing to himself. Another favourite is Old MacDonald - did you know that he's got a robot and a fire engine on his farm?!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Welcome to the mad house!

B's birthday party yesterday was a fun, mad, crazy, hectic couple of hours. We had 12 children (plus parents), mainly 3 year olds, playing pass the parcels, musical statues, treasure hunt, eating the usual unhealthy party food and generally running round in a state of excitment! T had bought some glow sticks to put in the party bags and we decided to get them out after having birthday cake. That was definitely a good idea as dancing around with the lights off waving glow sticks round helped to calm everyone down!

Half the children there, including B, also had the preschool Christmas party in the morning, which was the perfect opportunity for me to decorate his birthday cake and generally run round like crazy cleaning and tidying. The cake got lots of compliments - but then I had to confess that it was a train cake mould from Lakeland that I'd borrowed from a friend! Lots of fun to decorate, just a shame that there are sweets left over from the decoration :P

Today has been a lot calmer as B has been at his childminder and, apart from packaging up and posting the last Christmas orders, I gave myself a very rare day off - and it has been lovely and relaxing - well, apart from the best part of an hour that I spent in the post office queue that is. I'm actually feeling a lot more relaxed that I have for at least a couple of months. B's party is done, I've only got one more Christmas present to buy and two more to make, if you don't count the ones that I will be helping B to make, the neighbours' cards to deliver and a few presents to wrap. I spent most of today writing Christmas cards and wrapping presents in front of the television, and I'm feeling very organised at the moment. Of course, that will change next week when I start packing to go up to T's mum's for Christmas itself!

Right, more episodes of CSI and a bag of malteasers are calling my name, so I'm off!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

'Tis The Season....

To stay up late finishing commissions.

To wait for HOURS in the queue at the post office.

To wonder where on earth the last twelve months have gone.

To feel quite chuffed with how far I've come business-wise.
This Christmas season has been busy, but I seem to say that every year! I've been lovely and busy with commission, some of which I can show you here, but others will have to wait until the New Year when everyone has opened their gifts.

I am pleased with the direction I've taken the business this year. As soon as I got my hallmarking sorted I was able to start creating some of the designs in my sketch book that used more silver. I still can't quite decide what silversmithing techniques I like the best though! I love making bangles and soldering, but I've been surprised at how relaxing I find pierced (sawn) work like my daisy cuffs. And it's obviously been satisfying that other people have liked my designs too! There are some new sketches in my book that my fingers have been itching to start work on, but I've been good and concentrated on finishing my Christmas orders. I am looking forward to the New Year, though, as I've promised myself some time to work on them then. B will be going to his childminder for an extra half day after Christmas, and I've got plans for that time!

Tomorrow is the last day for orders in time for Christmas, and the last parcels will be posted on Thursday morning. Tomorrow will be the only day this week that I will not be standing in line for what feels like hours at the post office as it's B's third birthday and I will be slightly busy putting the finishing touches to a birthday party to which 12 children are coming - I must be mad!! I will let you know you it went and how much hair dye I need to cover up the resulting grey on Thursday!

By the way, the gremlins have completely and utterly eaten the photo that should have been in last Tuesday's post so I'm going to have to take another one when I've finished the party organisation!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Sorry Mum!

I nearly gave my parents a heart attack one car journey when I was growing up. Well, to be honest, there must have been many car journeys that weren't exactly enjoyable with my brother and I bickering in the back, but this one journey was particularly memorable! I must have been about 7 years old, maybe a bit younger, and I decided to see what would happen if I opened the car door while we were driving along the main road. Needless to say, the result was my Dad pulling over straight away, and being soundly told off and smacked. My parents realised that this was what child locks on car doors had been invented for, and I never tried anything like that again! In my defence, I was actually carrying out a scientific experiment as I was wondering whether I would be able to open the door or whether the force of the car moving along would hold the door closed. My parents were not exactly impressed with this explanation though!

So, why am I sharing this childhood memory? Well, I after the car journey I had with B this morning I now realise how much stress I caused my parents! We've always had the child locks on both back passenger doors and also the lock on the windows so that they can only be operated from the driver's controls. This really annoys T when I'm driving as I won't take the lock off as I know that he'll only open the window and let the cold air in - he just doesn't seem to feel the cold! But anyway...... B suddenly realised this morning that he could reach the buckle on his seat belt and promptly undid it. Cue yells of fright from me, demands that he sit properly and STAY STILL!!! and pulling over to the hard shoulder of the motorway as soon as we could. The rest of the journey (thankfully only another 10 minutes) was spent with B crying as I had told him off so much and me trying not to cry as a) he had frighten me and b) I was feeling so mean and horrible for making him cry so much. But my theory is that if I've made him realise how serious it was and how much he frightened me then he won't do it again! I did think about trying to find a device that fits over the buckle so that he won't be able to undo it, but then I realised that he's got to learn that he mustn't undo it himself unless I've told him that he can. I think he's got the idea - T and I had a chat with him about it before bed time this evening. I think sometimes that all these safety devices that we can buy nowadays don't do children many favours in the long run as if you go over the top with different locks, guards etc then the children don't learn how to deal with and recognise danger for themselves.

So, I'm sorry Mum and Dad for giving you such a fright all those years ago! I'm sure that B will give me a few more grey hairs in the next few decades!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Daisy daisy

I realised last night that I never did show you what I wore to the wedding we went to at the end of October, so here it is! I've been wanting to make a larger necklace version of my daisy pendants for a while, so I took the wedding as the perfect excuse to make myself a prototype, and I'm really pleased with it. I was really comfortable to wear, and it stood up well to B wanting to play with it! He's careful with 'Mummy's jewels', but nearly 3-year-olds are only so careful so B is a good tester of my jewellery! Anyway, I have made another to tempt someone (hopefully!) and put it on the website here. It wasn't an easy one to photograph, though, which is why you've got a rare photo of me modelling!

I've also been making lots of daisy pendant bases. I try to keep some of these in stock as they are a popular commission but I have been running low. I even managed to decorate a few and actually photograph them for you to see! I've used onyx, aquamarine and some gorgeous rubies on these three.

The aquamarine one is for my Grandma for Christmas, but I've put one in on the website too. Grandma liked the one I was wearing when I saw her last and asked me to make her one, which was great as I never know what to give her - there's nothing she needs and only so many photo frames and cushions that she can fit into her flat! I think it's safe to post a picture of this Christmas present and Grandma is one member of the family who I know definitely doesn't look on my blog!
10.30pm Okay, who's put gremlins in my computer? The picture of my necklace has flown away! I've promised myself an early night though, so I'll find it for you/retake it tomorrow! Maybe the computer went into shock at the thought of showing you a picture of me....

Sunday, 7 December 2008

A quick update

I've managed to get quite a bit of work done this weekend. T and I made a deal - he looked after B in the morning while I worked in my shed until lunch time, then we did family things - more of that later. I did manage to take some photos today but I haven't yet had time to smarten them up, so I'll post them tomorrow instead. In the meantime there's a couple of quick updates for you...

Firstly, the last day for orders of made-to-measure items that require hallmarking is this coming Tuesday, 9th December. This includes items such as cuffs and bangles (like the one above), although it is always worth double checking with me to see if I already have what you need in stock. The relevant products will have this information on their pages. The last date for all other items is still Wednesday 17th December.

Secondly, if you fancy a new pair of earrings for the New Year then have a look at the ones above! These are the pair for the December newsletter prize draw, gorgeous garnet briolettes wired onto sterling silver hoops. In case you haven't noticed, I'm enjoying using briolettes in earrings at the moment, and I was really pleased with these when they arrived from my supplier this week. If you'd like to try and win a pair then all you have to do is add your details to my mailing list by completing this form. If you can't wait until the New Year then you can also find them made to order on the website for as long as my supply of briolettes lasts!

Handmade Pledge

You may have noticed the Handmade Pledge logo over on the left hand side of my blog. It refers to the Buy Handmade campaign that encourages everyone to avoid the horrible Christmas queues in car parks, on roads and in chain stores and buy our loved ones something more unique and thought out instead. I'd love for everything I ever give anyone to be handmade, either by myself or by another crafter, but I've found that I can't give certain people something handmade every year - my Dad did love the cuff links I made him for Father's Day, and the children I knitted scarves for last Christmas liked them, but I don't think that they'd like that every year.

I've decided, though, that everyone will get at least one small thing handmade, whether it's fudge or a bookmark. And mass-produced, excessively packaged boxes of smellies and holiday novelties will once again be banned from our house!

So, why not join me? Don't worry, I'm not suggesting that you buy every present from me (although don't let me stop you if you really feel that you need to!) but instead of raiding the 3-for-2 gift box shelves at Boots, why not have a browse through some of the websites of some independent artists for something more personal? Etsy is a good place to start, and remember that you can narrow your search to shops in the UK or even more local to you if you want.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Look at this!

Today was a tuition day - Phil was given a day's silversmithing tuition for his birthday and for once I remembered to take photos of what was made during the day. I usually forget until students have left! Anyway, he was busy working away all day, and I just had to show you my favourite of the things he made - this fantastic ring!

He came to the day with some clear designs in mind, and used the rolling mill to texture the silver with skeleton leaves, calulated how much silver to cut out for the ring, did lots of sawing, filing, sanding and soldering, used my lovely disc cutter to make the holes and melted scrap metal to make the little balls on top of the ring. The ring was oxidised at the end to highlight the texture. Doesn't it look great? And this was his first go at silversmithing too.


It's the same every year. Once the University craft show is finished I suddenly realise just how close Christmas is! In the last few years, though, I've also had a countdown to B's birthday as it's only a week before Christmas. This year is the first year that he's realised that his birthday is coming soon, and I'm really looking forward to seeing his reactions on the big day itself.

Anyway, the show last Sunday was a big success - thank you to those of you who dropped by to say hello. It was especially great to see some familar faces from previous years, and I had fun catching up with some of the other regular stall holders too. We did have one bit of disappointing news, though, as the Univeristy has decided that this is the last year that they will organise the show. I'm certain that this will be the main item on the agenda at the Wessex Guild of Craftsmen AGM in the New Year as we try to figure out whether it's possible for us to add it to the list of shows that we organise so that it can keep going.

I've been busy this week with orders from the show, including the luxurious earrings above - a warm mix of smoky quartz and delicate rubies! I think I'm going to make a couple more pairs of these for the website, so watch this space! I'll have some photos to show you tomorrow, including one of December's newsletter prize draw earrings. All the names for the November earrings were put in the hat (B's woolly Thomas the Tank Engine one) yesterday and he pulled out Nicola New's name, so Nicola, watch out for a little surprise winging your way!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Time for bed!

Well, the new jewellery is priced up, all my pendants are displayed on boards so that I can hopefully just put the boards up on my stall and save myself some time in the morning, everything I need for tomorrow is (hopefully!) piled up on the dining room table ready to pack in the's definitely time for bed!

B and I did manage to get most of our jobs done yesterday. He's really proud of his new car seat, bless him, and loves the fact that the base of it has two pull-out holders for his drink and snacks! I love the fact that it's not so far off the main car seat so that if he drops something he's more likely to be able to pick it up himself. The only thing on my list that I didn't manage to get done yesterday was soldering, but I've been able to make up for that today as T and B went over to my parents for the afternoon. The soldering jobs I had to do were putting bails on the backs of these pendants. The leaf is sterling silver with autumnal tourmaline beads. The tree is fine silver, made with precious metal clay. I've oxidised both pendants to highlight the texture. I've decided to make the tree a made-to-order item on the website, maybe with the option of different beads - you can just about see these in the picture. What do you think?

Anyway, I'm off to get some sleep before tomorrow! Night night!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Rush Rush Rush

That's what I seem to be doing this week - rushing everywhere! It's partly because B and I have had a bit more of a social life this week (birthday lunch with a friend and her little boy on Monday for example - quite a relaxed lunch too considering pre-schoolers were about!), partly the usual rush on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to get lunch finished before preschool, and partly because I've got my last show of the year this coming Sunday.

I know I've got enough stock, but I'm having the usual last minute panic about needing more in different colours, different sizes etc. I had thought that I was getting over this but obviously not! I've also been busy designing and making more made-to-order items for the website, including the moonstone and sterling silver earrings above. These were textured with my favourite hammer - and if anyone had told me a few years ago that I would one day have such a thing as a favourite hammer I would have thought them slightly mad! I do love the texture this hammer gives - you can see it on my silver birch bangles as well. It's a hammer that I inherited, and I love the fact that it's got so much history.

The show that I'm doing on Sunday is the University of Southampton Christmas Craft Show. It's in the Staff Club on University Road from 10am-4pm, and it's usually really well signposted. It's quite a big show - my mum usually does half her Christmas shopping there when she comes and helps me out - and there's live music and good food too! If you're coming along please stop and say hello! And if you end up being tempted by the lovely sparklies on my stall and spend £30 or more I'll give you 10% off!

The necklace above is one of the items that will be on the stall if it's not bought off the website before then - the beautiful bead was made by Becky at Chameleon Designs. I've got another two beads of hers in the same style, and I just love them. The colours are just gorgeous and the beads are so tactile - have a closer look!

Right, that's it for now as I really must get to bed - B and I have to be in town early tomorrow to get him a new car seat and me a couple of last minute display bits for Sunday, then it's back here for lunch and Nicky's little boy is coming to play for the afternoon, then some friends are coming over, then I've got some soldering to do ........... and hopefully I'll get a couple of minutes quiet sit down too!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

All hammered out!

At first glance this photo may not look much different than this one, apart from the angle, but I promise you that a lot of work has gone on between each photo shoot!

Today has been a day of hammering, and my shoulders are definitely telling me that I need to do something else tomorrow! Each of these rings has been hammered on both sides, half of them have been cut open (I have to close them before hammering them otherwise they lose their shape), and in the middle of the picture you can see a chain that I have started. Once the rings have been linked together the next stage is to solder closed the ones I re-opened, link through the next row of rings to make a double chain and solder those links closed again. It takes quite a while, but it's worth it! This lot of rings will become a necklace and a couple of bracelets, both for commissions and to go on the website after hallmarking.
On a completely different note......Happy Birthday Nicky! I hope you've had a lovely evening and I'll see you tomorrow.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Lots of thinking time

B and I got back at teatime from a loooong journey Up North - and I am allowed to write it with capital letters as our weekend destination was Stockton-on-Tees, 300 miles from home. I know that that won't seem that far if you're reading this from the States but the roads over here aren't long straight highways and it's the furthest I've ever driven on my own. We went to visit a university friend and her husband while T had a much deserved weekend off. It was so good to see them, especially as we hadn't met up since last December and they are off to Texas for a year come January. We also stopped off at T's mum's on the way there and back for a rest - it is definitely very handy having relatives who live halfway along a long journey!

Anyway, I spent about half of the journey singing 'Old MacDonald' with B or playing 'What can you see?' (our version of I spy where we take it in turns to ask what each other can see - well, he can't spell yet!). During the other half I discovered that travelling a long distance with a sleeping child in the back allows alot of time to think up jewellery ideas! I only hope that I can remember them all to sketch them down! I hope that I can get the opportunity to get into the shed tomorrow to get working on a couple of them too so that I can share them with you. I think I will be hammering some of those rings too......

Now, however, I am off to bed to catch up with some sleep- night night!

P.S. If anyone knows of any craft classes/workshops running next year in the Dallas area, please let me know so I can pass them onto my friend. She's planning on using the year in Texas to catch up with lots of crafting!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Anyone built a cloning machine yet?

As that's the only way that I'm going to be able to get all my non-business related crafty projects done! I found the Purl Bee blog via another blog I read a while back, and I keep adding more of their brilliant ideas to my list - because, of course, the 4, no make that 6 knitting projects, 2 cross stitch pictures and the 4 scrapbook albums that I've currently got on the go, not to mention all the instructions and materials that I've been gathering for other 'must do' projects, aren't enough. I know I don't have to explain myself to the rest of you addicts out there!

Anyway, here are my current favourites from the Purl Bee tutorial list - enjoy!
Table Runner
Bobble Dress
Connect the Dots pillows
April Showers scarf
Purl Beret

Thursday, 13 November 2008

On my desk today

Today has mainly been a day of napping in bed to try to fight off a cold (I just haven't got time!), doing admin jobs and preparing for a couple of commissions. You can see the results of the preparation above - lots and lots and lots of jump rings of various sizes and wire gauges! They've all been soldered closed and the next job is to hammer them, cut half of them open, weave them together to form an interlinked double chain and then solder the rings closed again. It'll take a while, but it will be worth it!
You might also be able to see a couple of small flowers cut from silver sheet in the background - they will be turned into a couple more pendants like the tourmaline one I posted a couple of days ago.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Fancy some new earrings?

Just a quick post tonight to let you know that the random number thingy as come up with number 64 which counting down my newsletter mailing list means that the winner of the October earrings is.....

Congratulations Veryan, I'll email you for your address.

If you fancy trying to win the earrings for November then click on the brown box to the left to join my mailing list. This month's earrings are crystal and sterling silver, the type of earrings that go with everything!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

P.S. Nearly forgot...

I will be sending out a newsletter with advanced warning of my new workshop dates tomorrow, as well as doing the draw for October's earrings. So, if you fancy trying to win a pair of earrings and would like to know the new dates before they go on the website, click on the big brown box on the left!

A very pleasant afternoon...

I spent a very pleasant afternoon today doing a talk and demo at the Hedge End Arts and Crafts society down the road from us. It's been a while since I did a demo, and it's certainly the first demo I've done where I've taken along my silversmithing equipment - or some of it at least! I obviously couldn't take along the bigger heavier bits of kit. I had lots of fun talking about how I got started jewellery making, the materials I used and some of the techniques I use. I demonstrated the different stages in making a bangle, with a few 'Blue Peter' moments where I got out one I'd made earlier to speed things up a bit! I took along the gorgeous lampwork beads that arrived last week from Mindy too, and they were very much admired and rightly so. I have such plans for these beads!

I've been busy with commission work over the last week or so, and also trying to rebuild my stock of the goodies I know sell well at Christmas shows, namely simple lampwork pendants and my daisy pendants. I've got to make some more though as they seem to be selling nearly as fast as I can make them at the moment and faster than I can get them on the website! A friend popped over at teatime to buy a birthday present and went home with two pendants, and I sold 3 more when people popped in over the weekend. Not that I'm complaining, of course, but the ones I'm planning to make tomorrow will definitely be on the website before I show anyone else! I've also been doing a lot of pierced work, and this simple but sweet tourmaline pendant below is my favourite so far. I've got some more polishing in the tumbler as I type, and I think I'm going to add sapphires to one of them. I think that they will become a made-to-order item.

As a family we've also been busy spending time with my friend's beautiful miracle girl - Gracie came home last week! Considering that they had been told initially that she may not survive, that fact that she's out of neonatal, let alone home, is definitely a miracle. Thank you to those who texted/emailed/phoned etc to say that you were praying/sending positive thoughts - it was really really appreciated. The doctors still say that brain damage is a possibility, but I find that so hard to believe when I'm holding her as she is just so perfect. I guess only time will tell, but all the signs are looking positive so far.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Never talk about politics or religion....

Well, those are the two topics you're not supposed to talk about over dinner, aren't they? I've never really been one to talk about politics, especially those of another country, but I must admit that I did breathe a sigh of relief this morning. Well done America for not just continuing with the same old tired tune. I just hope that Obama keeps his promises, because, whether we like it or not, what he does now will affect us all.

My head hurts!

I had one of those days yesterday when I had so many ideas coming into my head that it hurt! I think the problem is that I haven't been able to get into the shed much over the last week or so, and so haven't had the opportunity to do more than sketch my ideas down. Never mind, I suppose it's better than having the opportunity and no ideas of what to make!

I did manage to finish some new earrings, though, so I thought you might like a preview before they go on the site. I may not have been able to get into the shed, but wrapping briolettes and polishing is something that I can do in between setting up train sets for B! As you can see, I'm still playing around a bit with the settings on my new camera. I'm also experimenting with a new fabric background - I wanted a 'softer' look than the paper I'd been using. What do you think!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Highs and very low Lows

It seems so much longer than 8 days since my last post. So much has happened and to be honest it's been an emotional rollercoaster. I think I'd better start at the beginning....

We travelled up to Suffolk for a family wedding on Monday afternoon. We left an hour later than planned and for once that was not my fault! Katie, one of my closest friends, called to say that her waters had broken and she was sending her husband over to collect a few bits. She didn't actually need them for a few weeks at least, but what a woman in labour wants, she gets!!
When we got to Suffolk we called in to see my Grandma for lunch, another high, and then continued onto another very close friend, Kate, as we were staying with them. It had been far too long since I had seen her last and it was so fantastic to see her. Her little boy is 7 months younger than our B, and has the same name! They got on brilliantly together.

There was another high on Sunday too -a friend that Kate and I went to 6th form with came over with her husband. Their first baby is due in December after a long long battle to get pregnant.

A lovely lazy morning then the boys (2 dads and 2 Bs) went to the park while Kate and I sorted lunch and wedding presents etc. The wedding was wonderful. Very small and low key and intimate and fun. We actually introduced Debbie and Marcus, but for once I hadn't been trying to match make, just inviting lots of people round for Sunday lunch! I used to work with Debbie and Marcus, to borrow a phrase his brother uses, is my sort of cousin. Our Dads were each other's best men, they've known each other since they were teenagers, that kind of thing. My parents were obviously at the wedding too, which B loved! I forgot to take my camera to the wedding but as soon as Dad emails me some photos I'll add one here!

So, another day of highs with one slightly worrying low - Katie's labour hadn't progressed and she was now due to be induced Tuesday morning.

We wanted to be able to stay longer in Suffolk but T had to be on the Isle of Wight for work in the evening so we had to leave after lunch. We decided to take the boys to Felixstowe, though, and have a run on the beach and have lunch there. They loved it, as you can tell from the big grins! We did have to bribe them with chocolate, though, to get them to stay long enough for the photo! I am so pleased that the boys got on as well as their Mums do. Little B was apparently really upset when Kate packed the bed that my B had slept on, and my B keeps asking when little B is coming to his house to play. We're not leaving it nearly so long this time, February halfterm hopefully.

So another day of highs with a couple of small lows - saying goodbye to Kate and her family, and worrying about how Katie's induction was going.

Wednesday and the rest
I can honestly say that Wednesday and Thursday felt like the longest and lowest days of my life so far. I hadn't slept well, partly as T was away and partly as I was worrying that I hadn't heard from Tim, Katie's husband and was imagining the worst. You know how everything seems worse at night!

Tim phoned at just gone 9am with the news that I'd been dreading. Everything had been going really well until the last ten minutes. To cut a very long story short, the baby was oxygen deprived and had to be resuscitated twice and then rushed to neonatal. Tim was initially told that she may not survive. By the time he started making phone calls Gracie was nearly 9 hours old and improving by the hour, and things have been getting better and better since then. Thank you so much to those of you who knew what was going on and were praying for Gracie! Katie has now been able to hold and feed Gracie, and I've been into see them twice so far. As I said, it's been a long and initially very low few days, but as they say, things can now only get better! Gracie is a big full term baby, and she's got everything going in her favour.

So, that's been our week. Sorry for the long gap between posts, but I hope that you can understand why!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Pretty Pictures

Oh I do love my new camera! I don't think I had realised how basic my old one was until I tried some others. Mind you, the old one did me well. The photos it took in lovely natural light were good, some so good that magazines accepted them for step-by-step projects pictures, but it just couldn't do inside photos.

Anyway, these are some of the earrings I've made this week. I've revived an old design and given it a new twist. The original design had discs made from silver art clay and were flat, but this time I've used discs cut from sterling silver and hammered and domed them. The design is on the inside of the discs and picks up the colour of the beads beautifully. I've used garnet, amethyst and Swarovski crystals so far, and I expect that more variations will follow! I've just added them to the website.

The Lavant show was a good one today, and I've got some more Christmas orders to work on. We're off to a family wedding in Suffolk first thing tomorrow morning, though, so I going to give myself a day or so break!

P.S. Sorry that I'm not replying to comments at the moment - I don't mean to be rude but Blogger won't let me leave comments on anyone's blog at the moment, not even mine! I'm hoping that it'll resolve itself while we're in Suffolk. I do read all the comments though!

Friday, 24 October 2008

P.S. I Love You

For once I didn't feel much like going into the shed to work yesterday while B was at his childminders. I guess I was just feeling a bit washed out after the busy weekend and after teaching a 3 hour workshop Wednesday evening. I hadn't spent an afternoon beading in front of the television for months, so when the postman delivered "P.S. I Love You" from Lovefilm, I decided to get out the materials for a couple of necklaces I'd planned and indulge myself!

The 2 necklaces I made use lampwork (the purple by Izzy Anderson and the black by Caroline), Swarovski crystals and some lovely silver twisted tubes. It's been a while since I made necklaces that didn't involved sawing, hammering or soldering, but these were very relaxing to make and I'm really pleased with how they turned out. They took a lot longer than I expected though as I ended up needing a lot of tissues as I watched the film! I always cry at sad bits in films, and I've got even worse since having B! T is away for a couple of nights next week, so I think I'm going to hang on to the film for another week and curl up on the sofa with some more tissues and some chocolate and watch it again!

The necklaces will be going on my website tomorrow evening after my craft show at Lavant. I've been really bad at uploading new products lately, sorry. It's partly because I've been so busy with commissions and work for galleries, partly because I've sold quite a few bits before I've had a chance to put them on the site, but alot to do with my appalling camera. It was great for taking photos outside in perfect light, but not for inside, and let's face it, perfect sunny light isn't exactly reliable in this country. I have finally got a new camera, so I've spent this evening taking lots of photos with the view of uploading as much as I can tomorrow evening. I'm really pleased with my new camera - for one thing it's got a far better macro setting than my old one - just look at the close up of one of Izzy's beads!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

You're It...

It seems that I've been tagged 3 times (by Lesley, Alison and Tina) by the "Seven Random Things" game that's been doing the rounds on blogs recently. Now, coming up with random facts isn't going to be hard, but trying to come up with seven people to tag is going to be a tricky one as the people I first thought of have all been tagged already!
So, the easy bit first,
  1. When I was pregnant with B I had two cravings - fajitas (one of the few things that overpowered the horrible metallic taste I had in my mouth for much of my pregnancy) and a chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate ice cream from the co-op. T was on standing orders to buy a couple of tubs of the ice cream whenever he saw it as it wasn't in the shop very often!

  2. As any visitor to our house will know, we have a few cows in the house - the picture below shows a couple of the ones that I allow in the kitchen. Picture frames full of postcards, crockery, the ironing board cover etc etc. Children of friends like to try and count them but soon give up after the first 100 - no, I'm not joking. It started when T and a friend started swapping postcards as a joke, and then all our family and friends got involved. It really started getting out of hand when people started giving them to me as well. There is now a strict policy on cow-giving and I try to keep most of them in just one part of the house!

  3. Two of my 3 Grandads are buried in the same church yard. Yes, 2 of 3. My Dad's Mum remarried a couple of years after my Grandad died before I was born. Not only are both my Dad's Dad and step-Dad buried in the same church yard, but they shared the same birthday, died of the same thing and (obviously) married the same woman - and before you start getting strange ideas about my lovely nearly 91 year old Grandma, yes they did die of natural causes!

  4. We used to have a valium-taking, vegetarian, epileptic dog. He developed epilepsy when he was about 2 and I was in the house on my own when he had his first fit, right under the hot iron sitting on the ironing board. I was jumping up and down screaming at him to stop as I was so scared - poor animal! We had to give him valium after a fit and we told that a vegetarian diet might help.

  5. Talking of valium, my aforementioned lovely sweet nearly 91 year old Grandma offered me one before my driving test to calm my nerves. She said that it had worked for her!

  6. I resat my A-levels. I passed them the first time round but not nearly the grades I was expected to get or needed for the uni course I wanted. My mum blamed moving house three times during 6th form and both my Grandads (Mum's mum and Dad's step-dad) dying the winter before the exams. Spending too much time with my first boyfriend might also have had something to do with it! Anyway, I'm glad that I did have to resit. It made me a better teacher as I'd never done badly at anything academic before so it definitely made me more understanding. And I never would have met T if I hadn't resat as I would otherwise have gone to a different uni and not gone into teaching. Which brings me to....

  7. T and I met while we were teaching. I remember him clearly from my interview. Spending time together on Duke of Edinburgh award weekends and A level geography field trips was a strange courtship, but it obviously worked as we've been together for 11 years now!

Right, now for the difficult bit! I think that instead of tagging I'm going to list the people who I would have tagged if they hadn't had been tagged already and the three who tagged me - go and read their blogs and see what they've been up to!

  1. Nicky at Sparkly Treasures

  2. Laura at Beads by Laura

  3. Kerry at Kab's Creative Concepts

  4. Alison at BeaDangles Jewellery

  5. Tina at So What's New Today?

  6. Lesley at Coburg Crafts

  7. Izzy at Adventures in Glass

Monday, 20 October 2008

On the catwalk

Last night was the Sophie's Appeal Fashion Show. It was a busy night with about 350 tickets sold and lots of bidding on auction prizes, so I think a lot of money was raised for the charity. It was also a fun experience being behind the scenes of the show when the models were rushing in and changing between scenes - at one point there were three of us helping one girl get changed! If you fancy reading more about it then have a look at the Daily Echo's website here, and photos of my jewellery being worn during the fashion show here. The piece you can see most clearly in the photos is the necklace shown above and the matching bracelet.

I am very tired today though! I knew that I'd need a good range of bigger pieces of jewellery and Lin (Sophie's mum) had asked me to make a couple of pieces in certain lengths/colours. As my working time during the day has been taken up with teaching silversmithing recently (far more enjoyable than teaching GCSEs at school!) the last pieces of jewellery making were done at night. So it's a soak in the bath and an early night for me tonight! And I bet Lin and Sarah Beattie (the organisers of the show) slept well last night!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Photos at last!

Nicky let me use her camera when she popped over this morning and it has made such a difference! The camera that I have been using so far has been great for taking photos in natural daylight outside, but I've come to realise that it's not up to the job of taking photos indoors, and let's face it, living in the UK I need to be able to take my jewellery photos inside! If any of my family are reading this - I think I know what I'd like for Christmas!

Anyway, these are some of the photos I took this morning, and they are a sneak preview of the new collection of jewellery I will be uploading to the website at the beginning of next week. I've hinted a couple of times over the last couple of months that I've been designing a new range of jewellery, partly in preparation for taking on more wholesale work, and partly because I had a sketch book full of ideas that needed a new material. And that new material is resin.

I have to admit that I had looked at resin jewellery years ago and was not that impressed, but after a lot of experimentation I love the combination of the beautiful range of colours I can produce (I colour the resin myself using a range of different pigments) with sterling silver, and that customers will be able to order specific colours. And the ideas for new designs and variations on a theme keep coming! The blue earrings in the blog competition last week were a preview, but here are a couple of other pieces. The blue pendant is mine (sorry!) as I've worn it every day since making it, but a couple of others in different colours will be on the website soon, as will several pairs of earrings and a few other bits and pieces that I'll show you over the next few days.

Let me know what you think!

My talented graphic designer!

The very talented graphic designer who designed my lovely logo for me is one of only 19 finalists in a competition to design the first in a line of unique designer coats - please visit Vaute Couture before Monday to vote for her and find out more - hers is the mustard-coloured coat at the bottom right of the page. Be sure to visit her bio page too by clicking on the coat - I love the picture she's drawn on there!

And the winner is...

Kitsch Kitty! Congratulations Lucy - I'll email you for your address and get the earrings posted off to you asap. B's at his childminders today, so I used a random number thingy on the web to 'pick out of the hat' for me.

I'll be back later with some photos!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Wednesday already?!

What do you mean it's Wednesday already?! This week is going far too quickly, but then most weeks seem to be like that at the moment! Mind you, it's far better to busy than quiet when you're self employed. I've spent part of Ben's preschool session this afternoon having a coffee and a chat with T's brother who dropped in while he was working in the area (he lives north of Birmingham so it was an unexpected pleasant surprise) and the rest improving my indoor photos, so I'll have some goodies for you to look at tomorrow.

In the meantime, though, I thought I'd remind you that you've still got a couple of hours until the competition I posted last week finishes. Click here for more details. You don't need a blog to be able to leave a comment, just make sure that you leave me a way of contacting you if you win!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

The right tool for the job

I finally had the chance to read the September newsletter from the Art Jewelry Magazine this afternoon - well, better late than never! I found a link to this great list of the tools needed for different types of jewellery making, from wirework to enamelling to metal clay. It's got photos of all the different tools too, which is great for when you've been told the name of a tool but have no idea what it looks like. It's also been useful in helping me identify a couple of tools that I'd inherited!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

My boys are back!

My boys came home yesterday afternoon! T phoned me when they were about 30 minutes away and so I was sitting in the bay window waiting for them to arrive. I managed to get lots of work done while they were gone and they had a lovely time with our friends in Wales and with Grandma and Grandad (they called in on the journey), but 5 nights is far far far too long. Heavens, what on earth am I going to be like when he leaves home?!

I did take a bit of a break from working while they were away and took the opportunity to do some stencilling in B's new bedroom too - something I'd been wanting to do since I first painted it. I've stencilled cars, trains, bicycles, tractors, boats and aeroplanes around his room and he had great fun trying to find them all. They're not quite as neat as I'd have liked (horrible bumpy woodchip wallpaper) but he likes them, that's the main thing. Ummm - I really must improve my indoor photos! Outside in sunshine ones are good, but my indoor ones look too harsh or washed out and my very simple camera won't let me change any settings. Maybe I should drop a few hints for Christmas?! Anyway, the cars do look a lot better in real life, honest!

And they brought me back a present too - a hot pot for heating my pickle! I asked T's mum if she'd be able to look out for one for me at the car boot sales she goes to, and she got one really quickly. Pickle is essential when you're soldering sterling silver as it's the only real way to get rid of the fire scale that appears after the silver is heated. Pickle works alot faster if it's warm and so far I've been using a tealight food warmer to do the job. This will be far more efficient, and look, I've been able to use it already!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Post number 101 - competition time!

I've realised this morning the post yesterday was my 100th! Who would have thought that I could talk that much? Well, apart from T and the friends I spend ages on the phone with?

Well, I can't let this go unmarked. I logged on to the computer to tell you that the random number generator picked Gill Utting (I've emailed you, Gill, to get your address) to win last month's earrings (if you can't remember what they looked like, not that I really expect you to, look here) and to show you a picture of the earrings for this month's prize draw, but I think I will have to have two competitions now...

Competition number one - October's newsletter prize draw. If you would like a chance of winning these lovelies (oxidised sterling silver, pale green freshwater pearls, garnet and moonstone) then all you have to do is sign up to my monthly newsletter by clicking on the link to the left - the big brown one that says 'newsletter' on it.
Competition number two - to celebrate my 100 blog posts (and the fact that someone actually reads them!), leave me a comment to tell me what you're celebrating - it could be a special occasion, it could be that fact that it's not raining right now where you are (it's been sunny here today too - yippee!!). I will get either the random number generator or B to pick a winner for the earrings below. You have until midnight next Wednesday 15th October! Both competitions are open to those of you from abroad.

P.S. The second earrings are a preview of the new ideas/experiments that I've mentioned - more coming as soon as I've taken more photos!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Tornado warning

One of the blogs I catch up with regularly is Jillian's The Life and Times of The Plume. I love the enthusiastic way she has with words, and it seems as if tackles everything in her life with the same energy and enthusiasm! Anyway, she described herself today as a tornado, twisting and turning from one direction to another, trying to decide which project to do first. That's exactly what I've been like the last couple of days. I've been so determined to be as productive as possible while T and B have been away that this morning I really didn't know whether I was coming or going! I have sawing wire for bangles, cutting discs and then doming then with my two latest toys tools for several different projects, cutting tube for even more projects, soldering etc etc etc. Put it this way, with the amount of work I've done in the shed today, I haven't needed to put the heater on at all, and it's been a miserable damp day here weather wise! The problem is, though, that if I don't give myself an evening off tonight I'll be worn out by the time my boys come home tomorrow!

So, I'm going to leave you with a picture of some of the work I've been doing over the last few days - lots of lovely shiny silver necklaces, bracelets, pendants and earrings, but they're not finished yet - I'll explain more tomorrow!

Umm...I guess I have had a busy long weekend. Oh look - if you look closely you can see upside down mini mes reflected in the cupped discs! I think that may be the closest you're going to get of a self-portrait!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

I'm back!!

Okay, so I haven't actually been anywhere, but I haven't been posting either - sorry! This week has been another busy one, partly due to making jewellery, partly due to teaching jewellery, and of course, family stuff! So..

T had the day off on Monday so I went into town with a friend in the afternoon to try and find an outfit I could wear to a family wedding at the end of the month and also to the bigger craft shows I've got before Christmas. I had set my heart on a brown dress, something that had been in all the shops last year, but obviously not this year! I did, however, see lots of navy cardigans - something I had been looking for last year. Ummm....I don't do too well at clothes shopping. If I have no money to spend I see lots of things I like, if I have some spending money it's a different matter!

Tuesday morning was spent pottering about the house and then hammering etc in the shed while B was at preschool. I've been busy getting more items ready for hallmarking in time for the Sophie's Appeal fashion show in a couple of weeks time.

Wednesday turned into a sofa day with B as he had a slight temperature and was wanting lots of cuddles. I was pretty certain it was just his last teeth coming through and he was fine by bed time which was just as well as because.....

Thursday was spent teaching silversmithing while B was at his childminder's. I'm really enjoying this tuition. It's very different from teaching a class or small group as the whole day is tailored to whatever the student wants to learn. In this case Helen wanted to learn techniques she could use with her lovely dichroic glass pendants. I also had my weekly jewellery class at Spice Art Studios in the evening. All but one of the students on the course are new to jewellery making this time.

So, all in a fairly normal week - until Thursday evening. Since then I've been home alone, and it's a very strange feeling! We had been planning a trip to see friends in Wales, but as the time had been getting closer I had been getting more stressed about having 5 days (we were planning Thursday evening to Tuesday evening) without being able to do any work so close to the shows I've got coming up. So, T suggested that he take B and I stay here, get some work done and maybe have a bit of a break. B has stayed at my parents a couple of times, but I've never been apart from him for more than one night before, and it's very strange! I've got so much work to do that during the day I deliberately haven't given myself any time to miss them, but the evenings are very stange. It's not as bad as I thought it would be as, afterall, B is with his Dad. I did get a bit of a lump in my throat, though, when I read him a bedtime story over the phone tonight.

I've got lots of work done, some of which won't be finished until it gets back from hallmarking so I can't show you that yet. I'm planning to take photos of some of the rest of it tomorrow though, so it may be worth checking back then!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Pod Beads

I found a cool tutorial while browsing various blogs tonight - a tutorial that makes these lovely paper beads! All you need are a paper punch (the cardmaking/scrapbooking kind), some coloured paper and glue. They are such a simple effective idea, and I've got a dozen or so paperpunches, so I'm looking forward to seeing what shape beads I can make. For the instructions go and visit the Folding Tree's blog here. Have fun!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Last few days!

Nearly forgot to mention earlier - there are only 3 more days of my anniversary offer left! Order any jewellery or book workshop places before the end of September and I will send you a pair of daisy studs. I made some more on Friday to send out with the latest orders, so come and get 'em!

We're going to the zoo zoo zoo....

T is cycling in the New Forest today on a friend's stag do (I'm certain that at least one stop at a pub will be on the cards too!) so B and I decided to go to Marwell Zoo. We've got a season ticket so we've been several times this summer. I usually avoid the weekends, for obviously reasons, but this weekend Fifi and Bumble from the Flower Tots are there and as B enjoys that programme I decided to take him along. We got there at about 10.30am and joined the queue for the first 'meet and greet' at 11am as soon as we arrived, but even so we only just got to meet them and have our photo taken before they had their break at 11.30am! B enjoyed it, though, which is the main thing, and keeps talking about the fact that he gave Bumble a high five. We then had a lovely wander around the zoo, and I was pleasantly surprised at that fact that the site didn't seem at all crowded even though the car park was pretty much full. We took the road train up to the top of the site and walked down the other side so that we could see all the animals that we usually miss out by doing it the other way round. We had to go back and see the penguins at the end, though, as they are definitely B's favourites at the moment.

I think the walking, the sunshine, the excitement and the ice cream (which, as you can see, he enjoyed!) wore him out though, as he's had a lovely nap this afternoon. I've had time to tidy the house up and do some more work on the experiments I've mentioned before. They are almost ready to show you - hopefully I can show you the first by the end of next week! No work for me this evening though as I'm off on a rare night out - a hen night!

Friday, 26 September 2008

Chocolate Mug Cake

Yes, you did read that correctly - Mug, not Mud!

T sent me an email that was doing the rounds at work with a recipe that sounded perfect for trying with B, so this afternoon we had a go! It was a treat for him after he was so good letting me finish a very last minute commission (more of that at the weekend). I thought that I would write out the ingredients etc in case you'd like to make your own! will need:

4 Tablespoons cake flour
4 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons cocoa
1 Egg
3 Tablespoons milk
3 Tablespoons oil
3 Tablespoons chocolate drops (optional)
1 Mug

Add dry ingredients to the mug, and mix well. Add the egg, then the oil and the milk, mixing well to make sure that there aren't any pockets of flour left at the bottom, and try to make sure that not all of the mixture ends up on your child's face.

Add the chocolate drops - the trick here is to make sure that your child puts more in the mug than he does in his mouth!

Put the mug into the microwave and cook it - the recipe said 3 minutes in a 1000watt oven, but that was a bit too long in our 950watt oven, so you may neeed to experiment! Wait until the cake stops rising and sets in the mug. It had to be a cow mug - you'd understand if you knew our house - T used to collect cow things until all the family joined in. I lost count of the cows at 65!

Run a knife around the sides of the mug, and tip the still warm cake out of the mug on to a plate - you wouldn't believe how hard it was persuading B to let me take a photo before he started eating!!

And the verdict? Well, B loved it, but then it was chocolate! I prefer my cakes a bit lighter (maybe it was the oil?), so we'll just have to experiment and make it again!

Thank you Micki for sending T the recipe!


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