Monday, November 26, 2012

The Old and the New, plus a little more info on Advent

Ben and I, belatedly, got round to trying this year's Beaujolais Nouveau last night:
It's an important tradition to us, not only because it's a good thing to join in French customs, but also because it marks an anniversary for us - eight years ago we came out to look for a rental house near Toulouse because Ben had been offered the job here. I was fairly ill and for many years I found it hard to look back on that time with any pleasure, but now I can taste the Beaujolais and reminisce with enjoyment on our first visit and all the years that have passed since!
Thank you to everyone who has already signed up for A Pause in Advent this year. We'll be starting on Sunday 2nd December, as Advent begins quite late in 2012! For those who want to know more, the idea is that we post on any subject which allows us to calm down and think straight at a busy time... Many people have a religious or spiritual take on the event, and many use the pause as a way to emphasise the value of simplicity or traditions old and new, and to dwell on the importance of people above profit at this consumer-driven time of year. We write about what we've been doing, what we've been thinking, and what we hope for. Will you join us?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Pause in Advent, 2012

Some sweet people (in the USA, Britain and France) have expressed the hope that we'll be doing the Pause in Advent again this year - thank you so much to them for keeping the thought going while I'm so busy! The answer is yes, I will be delighted to host this four-week event again, where you are invited to post every Sunday or Monday in Advent, on any subject of your choice that helps us to think about the quieter, calmer aspects of getting ready for Christmas. Please see any of my posts in previous Decembers for examples, and let me know if you'd like to get involved this year! I'm so busy teaching that I may only manage the once-a-week posts, but I think I'll need those Pauses to take a moment to reflect on what Advent and Christmas should mean to me. Will you join us, please?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Family Celebrations!

Our frenetic activity over the last week was all to get ready for a wonderful celebration in Edinburgh:
I didn't think to ask permission to blog photos, so there are no faces in this photo, but the dashing naval captain is my father, marrying his beautiful bride, whom you see here holding her vintage family prayer book. It was a really special event. Maybe I'll be able to show you more photos when I've spoken to them after the honeymoon!
You have my permission to see me! I bought the outfit second hand, but at a rather classy (and therefore more expensive than usual) shop in Edinburgh called Mona's Catwalk - well worth visiting if you're in the area! Mona and I had a lot of fun playing dress-up, and I like the results. I wore my handmade mother of pearl button necklace, and a vintage coat that I picked up on the local sales page on Facebook - no photos of that yet, but I have high hopes that my brother in law got a photo of it!
I'm OK showing you these charming faces - they are my family's former minister (she's moved on to a new church now) and our two boys, who scrubbed up nicely for the family event, I think!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Purses from the elephant box

Some of the little wonders that I've shared with you over the past few days seem to have crept into the elephant box since my mum inherited it. But one thing I remember from the box's days with my grandmother was a collection of Victorian purses:
The three at the top are miser's purses. It's well worth 'Googling' these things - such a wealth of information and images which my grandmother would have loved! I think she did see the internet once or twice  - what she could have done with it...
Lovely little charms (the boar is my favourite) on this faded purse.

This one comes with a letter (I'm sorry - I can hardly read it but I know it's addressed to 'Dear Mary').
The purse with its ring was left to dear Mary - I think the ring was a family one and had been put onto the purse quite recently for her to inherit it. Really, it must be very old! I have got to knuckle down and transcribe the whole letter...

It's lovely to share these wonders with you, and to read your comments. Jenny, the elephant box is 'standard' box size - these things are just very small! Loved your comment, though.

Editorial note: I'm taking one of my blogging breaks - but this time it's going to include other internet activities too! I'll check my emails, though, for anyone who really needs to get hold of me... have a lovely week and I'll be back online Sunday 18th November!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hand-decorated Pincushions

I can tell you one thing:
The women who made these pincushions would have been blogging about them, if they'd had the opportunity!

Can't you just imagine them, sharing patterns over the net?
Buying beads and silks online? Although, I think a trip to the shop would have been a lot more exciting - I'd love to have gone with them!
I imagine that they got a lot of their patterns in newspapers and periodicals.
This one has faded so much, but in a way the photo brings out some of the details, and the incredible depth of the painting.
Very textured paint, this one.
I love this one - shame about the mottling.
Punched and stitched cardboard - how incredible!
I imagine these talented ladies gave away quite a lot of their handicraft - so they'd have liked this challenge from The Year of Less! I'm going to be joining in, but I know I won't be able to make anything as beautiful as these 100-year old pincushions, collected over the years and found by me in the famous Elephant Box.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Shiny front door

I think I told you, back in September, that not only was I busy at work, but that I also had a front door to paint!
Our door was completely sound, but it had a couple of problems - Raja the cocker spaniel had scratched away at the 20+ year old varnish:
(Lovely Christmas wreath by a member of our local MOPS group, but weathered varnish quite visible...)
And the varnish was orange - no two ways about it. Cute summer wreaths can only hide so much varnish.
And orange varnish on the inside of the door (never photographed, because it was so horrible) made the whole of our entrance area dark and miserable. The light dawned when I stuck a white poster (Kings and Queens of England, from The Times) on the inside of the door and the whole living room lit up! I knew I had to paint the inside of the door shiny white (no photos yet - I have a few last things to arrange in the area) and Ben and I decided on Basque red, the same as our gate, for the outside:
This is the only photo where the colour really comes out, but here are a few other angles:

Did you spot the hen door mat?
I bought it for myself as a treat, for when the door was finished... it went down on Friday afternoon!
At the moment, I'm enjoying the pristine finish too much to add anything to decorate the door, but it was fun looking back over photos of what I've done in the past!
For Christmas, though, I'll certainly be contacting Amy to see if she's making her wonderful Christmas wreaths again! I'm happy enough creating my own seasonal efforts, but nothing beats Amy's proper wreaths for Christmas...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Little Mary and her six frocks

Little Mary has lived in the elephant box for decades - maybe a century!
She was an absolute highlight of my rainy Saturday afternoons with my grandmother.
She's so stylish, and she's all drawn by hand...
I've been guessing that she was 'born' in the 1860s and the similarity of her dresses to Tenniel's Alice in Wonderland could mean that I'm right. And don't you love her shoes?
I'm crazy about her travelling outfit, too!
I'm not so keen on the yellow with ermine (ermine???), although it looks warm...

I wonder if this is a party dress for winter, or an outdoor summer dress? I'm rather getting the impression that Little Mary has a winter wardrobe, so I'm going for this one as a Christmas party dress.
I think this is her day dress.
This is how she 'works'. I'm a bit upset about the lack of  hat for her hat stand - I really can't remember if there was one in the envelope when I was little, but there certainly isn't one now...
Good night, Little Mary!