Saturday, 22 November 2014

Autumn - home made jam, mulled cider and more

When the Autumn days get shorter, colder and (usually) wetter, I like to stay optimistic and think of the positive delights that Autumn can bring.  I've been thinking of some of my favourite things such as:-

The fruits of the autumn harvest and the many ways of eating and drinking them

including home-made jam from the fruits of the garden

I also enjoy ...

Putting on a warm jacket and getting out and about in the fresh air 

Home made soups - spicy pumpkin and sweet potato soups in particular!

wearing my favourite fingerless mittens

drinking chai tea

clearing the garden and lighting a bonfire

making autumn themed jewellery for my online shop

eating comfort food such as veggie toad in the hole

drinking mulled cider from the cider cups we brought back from Brittany

What is it that you love about autumn?

Sunday, 9 November 2014


On this Remembrance Sunday I'm also acknowledging the 25th anniversary of the falling of the Berlin Wall and of our visit to Berlin almost this time last year.

The city was very badly damaged in the second world war and this is still very obvious today as the city has only very slowly started to rebuild itself and there are reminders everywhere of its troubled past.

The Holocaust Memorial

Modern use for the old wall

A lot of the newer buildings look very similar - very rectangular and very grey. But in a funny kind of way, they provide the backdrop to show off not only the city's bright yellow transport system but also the city's vibrant art - there is graffiti everywhere and it is done with skill and meaning.

Berlin Wall Art

Brandenburg Gate

There are some locations which offer a bird's eye view of the city, such as the department stores around Alexanderplatz

(C&A is alive and well and exists in Berlin, if anyone from the UK is missing it)

and the fantastic view from the top of the Berlin TV tower (especially good for us as we got there just as the sun was setting)

Sunset from the TV Tower in Berlin

Something we really liked about Berlin were the Buddy Bears which just kept popping up everywhere we went. Approximately 350 life-size fibre glass bears were originally decorated by artists and auctioned off for charity and bought by private business to display on their premises, being particularly popular with hotels.  In fact our hotel, having Australian connections, had an Australian themed bear decorated with indigeneous Australian art and, in true Australian style, was also standing on his head.

It seems that these Berlin bears may have started something because, as I understand it, the following year The United Buddy Bears became an international art exhibition to promote tolerance, understanding and the great concept of different nations and cultures living in peace and harmony. They travel around the world on display and have been in Rio de Janeiro for the summer but are due to be on display in Havanna next year.

These bears are a symbol of peace and unity and, as Angela Merkel has said today, "dreams can come true and nothing has to stay as it is". It's a positive thought for us all to hold on to.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Making A Cat Bed From An Old Sweater

Old sweater after felting in the washing machine

Mr P in his den

I recently had a bit of a clear out and came across an old wool sweater in the back of a cupboard taking up loads of valuable space as I haven't worn it for years (being wool, lovely and warm but too itchy against the skin).  So, rather than impose an itchy item of clothing on anyone else, I decided to recycle it into a cat bed for Sweet Pea.  Mr P already has his very macho looking "den" and Sweet Pea wouldn't dream of going near it for fear of being booted out.

So, I set to work.  First of all, the sweater needed to be felted in a hot wash (60 degrees cycle with a trainer thrown in for extra agitation).  It shrunk more than I was expecting, but was still suitable and, once it has been felted, it means that you can cut the knitting with scissors and it won't fray and it can't be damaged by cats' claws.

using stuffing in the neck, shoulders and arms for structure

Before I stitched the neck opening together, I pushed some stuffing into the shoulder and upper arm areas.  I found some matching coloured wool and used a thick needle to overstitch the edges.  

folding the neck over and in

As this sweater had quite a deep polo neck, I not only sealed it at the top end but also folded it back to the inside of the cat bed and stitched it into place.  This gave the back of the bed extra structure.

joining the sleeve edge to the edge of the main section

Next I stuffed the lower part of one sleeve, stitched up the open end and then pulled it around to make one side of the bed before stitching it into position.  I then did the same with the other sleeve.

Extra stitches were needed in the corners to help hold the sides up and keep the shape - although with use, the cat's body will perfect the shape of the bed!

felt flower for that feminine touch

Finally, to give the feminine touch, I added a felt flower decoration to the front of the bed.  The bed was finished and awaiting Sweet Pea's approval.

trying it out for size

But hang on, who is that large cat sleeping in Sweet Pea's bed?  It seems Mr P has got there first.  

Hmmm, this wasn't part of the plan ...