Tuesday, 28 December 2010

This year Father Christmas brought us, two bad backs, one nasty case of sciatica,
one ricked neck, one case of food poisoning,
two bad coughs, a high temperature
and a partridge in a pear tree.
Ho Ho Ho.

Despite this we celebrated Christmas in all the traditional ways,
waking way too early with two over excited if peaky children,
opening mountains of presents before 8 am and spending the whole day clearing up, eating my our own body weights in turkey, ham and chocolate
and drinking more than should be allowed for one woman with extreme sleep deprivation.
In fact there was a point mid Christmas morning post presents
and pre drinkies with friends that found me locked in the bathroom,
soaking in the tub with a large glass of port.
Still if you can't do it at Christmas, when can you?

As an antidote to all the over indulgence and madness of Christmas day
the blonde bombshell and I took his new bubble gun for a walk in the local park on Boxing day

with some surprising results.

Hope your Christmas was a wonderful and restful time.
Nora xx
and if you were wondering, yes I did steal the title for this post from Tom McRae.

Friday, 24 December 2010

With a growing sense of anticipation our tumble down end of terrace is nearly ready for Christmas.
I have been cleaning since first light, with only a brief break for well needed tea and chat mid morning, the ham is in the oven and all the decorations are finally up.
The boys are getting their treats ready for the great man, no saucer of hay this year, but plenty of carrots and a VERY LARGE sherry.
So apart from the mountain of presents waiting to be wrapped all I need to do is wish every one out there who is kind enough to read my ramblings a
May your turkeys be moist, your wine be fizzy and your presents every thing you ever wished for.
Love Nora xxx

Sunday, 19 December 2010


This sign has been making us laugh every time we walk past the station.
Guess I should send it in to private eye!
Hoping you are loving the snow too.
Love Nora xx

Friday, 17 December 2010


Every family has them,
we are trying to forge our way and make some of our own with the boys,
but I guess the best traditions are the ones that just happen.
For some reason, personally I blame the waft of the Kaftan and the slip slap of the leather flip flop, growing up my family had some strange traditions.
The kind you only realise are odd when you leave home,
go to college and drunkenly start telling all your new friends about them,
to be met by giggles and a bemused silence.
As I said I blame the kaftans.
The first was that we never and I mean NEVER wrote a letter to Father Christmas.
We always from the beginning of December onwards called up the chimney.
Every night, after night after night.
Apparently once you are in December the great man is ever vigilant
and always doing his rounds.
He listens down the chimney to hear if you are being good little boys and girls.
So if you lean over and tell your Christmas wishes to the fire place,
chances are he will be up there with ear cocked.

"Please Father Christmas, I have been a good girl all year"
(agitated coughing from one or other parent)
"I have done all my jobs"
(frantic rustling of kaftan)
"and haven't fought with my little brother at all"
"He knows if you're lying you know"
"Any way I would really really like every single Sindy doll thing ever made please.
Oh and a girls world"
Now you see I thought every one did this,
and I would be very happy to know that we weren't the only bunch of odd balls out there.

But things can only get stranger.
A few years ago I had in my employ a whole Bevy of beauties of a global nature.
But pertinent to this story are
a flame haired Viking, and a clog dancing American.
In one of those rambling don't you just love Christmas conversations that we all just so love at this time of year,
some one asked the clog dancer what she left out on
Christmas eve for Father Christmas,
"Milk and cookies!" she replied
and promptly became indignant when we all fell about laughing,
"That is SO American!" some one was prompted to say.
"Well what do you leave out?" she replied and claimed the sherry and a mince pie was just SO English.
At this point the Flame haired viking piped up, "well we have to leave out a bowl of red rice porridge"
"Well you have to you see, you leave it out for the gnomes as an offering, otherwise they come and interfere with your livestock"
Gnomes! Gnomes! what is Christmassy about Gnomes, any self respecting person knows you have ELVES at Christmas.
A lively and slightly heated discussion ensued
which resulted in me doing an elf dance all the way up the corridor
just to prove my point.
But over that we shall draw a discreet veil.

But then it came my turn to fess up.
You see we didn't leave sherry and mince pies out for Father Christmas,
oh no, we didn't leave out cookies and milk
and neither did we leave out red bloody rice porridge,
what ever the hell that is.
We left out a saucer,
yes a saucer,
of hay and a carrot for Rudolph and all his friends.
Lean pickings over at the Hippie woman's house thought our antlered friends.

And thus we lived in blissful ignorance until some time in the late 1970's, a life full of shouting at chimney breasts and tiny and unfulfilling meals for reindeers.
Then the fateful year came.
Christmas morning started early, and after an excited hour snuggling in between our hungover parents comparing our hauls,
the younger sibling and I decided it was time to go and check on the hay situation.
Only when we opened the front door the carrot was still in pole position, but it would seem the hay had thankfully gone.
Until that is the younger sibling piped up
"Mummy why is the hay in the hedge?"
While at the same time we could hear the scurrying of a slippered foot and hasty slamming of the back door.
Yes that's right folks,
Father Christmas had sprinted out the back door
throbbing head clutched manfully between is hands
and eyes hardly focusing
had flung the offending hay as far as he could
whilst Mummy Christmas played the whole
"I wonder why the door is stuck today" routine for all its worth.
Unfortunately for all four of us the wind was blowing in the wrong direction and the hay flew straight back in to view.
As I said I blame the Kaftan.
Here's to hoping your Christmas traditions are as bonkers as ours were.

And if you were wondering the photos are of christmas decorations made by the children and the ginger one's school.
Except for the icicles.
Thats the view from the little brother's window up there in the frozen north.
Nora xxx

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

I saw this game over here, and thought it would be fun to join in especially as there is a lot to be excited about at the moment.
So here is my happy list

1. Apparently I am not working today! Until 5 minutes ago I was convinced I was teaching on the foundation course over at Wimbledon College of Art. But NO my mistake, I'm not in again till 3rd Jan. WOO WOO! what to do with all that extra time?

2. I hadn't left the house yet!

3. Billy Bragg signed my tea towel. I love Billy he has been my number one musical hero since the mid 80's, I was however a little a) drunk and b) excited when I met him.

4. I was one of the three stand in Listed Londoners on the Robert Elms show on BBC London yesterday. And he remembered who I was! I had rung in to talk about my shed in the summer.
I'm about 3/4 hour in if you fancy a listen.
I've played along with this game for years so was very excited to be joining in.

5. The Christmas duckies are back again.

6. Taking part in the South West Jumble at the weekend. My first craft fair, it was such good fun and a fantastic venue.

7. All the wonderful and encouraging comments left by every one
after my last post.
Especially from my Mum by email,
who threatened to sue me for deformation of character,
sorry Ma but we all know its so very very true.
And The every wonderful Auntie Rose who said I should be crowned for writing it. Thank you!

8. "Deck the Halls" Flaming Nora's Christmas get together
when lots of lovely ladies gathered together
to make the most fantastic decorations,
and eat what to me is the very essence of Christmas.
Mince pies and Quality Street.

9. Taking the boys on our annual trip to buy the tree.


What is your little bit of happy, you can join in here.
I will return soon with a tale of Christmas past.
Love Shed Lady xx

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

a tale of many layers.

I knew what was coming, I had seen that look in a persons eye before.
And we are after all right slap bang in the middle of the nativity play season.
So it came as no surprise when the blond one's preschool teacher asked me to make not three as tradition dictates, but six wise men.
I was happy to hear that the Mary, the innkeepers wife and the approx 250 shepherds I made many years ago when the ginger one was there were still holding out and didn't need replacing.

And so we peel away the first layer of the story to see the second.
Which is that thank goodness Grandma was a hippie.
I was wondering what to make the tunics out of when my eye was caught by the bin bag full of stuff my Mum had brought over recently.
She has been moving from here to there and back again for years now, and so occasionally has a clear out.
And being the sentimental hoarder I am she is under strict instructions to run things by me before throwing them out.
Now in this bag was a collection of kaftan's going right back to the early 1970's.
A ha! thought I they would make the most perfect wise men ever.

And so we need to peel away another layer and go back a little further in time, as these were no ordinary kaftan's, they were beautifully embroidered African kaftan's.
Why would a suburban housewife from Guildford have such items.
Guildford being so very very conservative, with both a small and a large c.
But this was no ordinary suburban housewife from Guildford.
You she she was only pretending to be from Guildford.
Really she was a barefoot, cow bell toting multi cultural Hippie, and before that a mini skirt wearing groovy chic supporting a bleach blond beehive upon her usually dark head, from Newcastle.
And before that she had come straight from deepest darkest Africa to the perpetual cold and drizzle of a Lancashire winter.

And so its time to peel back another layer, right back to the end of world war II, when my Grandfather newly demobbed and with a growing young family decided that the only way was up, and enrolled in night school. After much diligent study he procured him self a job in the colonial civil service and promptly upped sticks to live the ex-pat life near the Victoria falls.
He and my Grandmother managed to remain frightfully British, however their eldest daughter became African with a side order of British, much I suspect to their chagrin.
By the time she was 18 and her little sister 16 life in the colony's was not what it one was and in fact was becoming a little hairy in places, so the girls were dispatched home to stay with and Aunt and Uncle in the family heartland of Lancashire.
Eventually this Aunt and Uncle would become two of the most important people in all of our lives, but at that point, moving to a two up two down stone cottage in the moors with an outside privvie was a bit of a shock to those two exotic beauties.

And so its time for another layer to be peeled away.
Ma moved to Newcastle to study after a few years where she met another one of those people who was to become oh so very important in all of our lives.
Auntie Rose.
Not an Auntie in the English sense, but an African Auntie which trust me is a very different thing all together.
Auntie Rose was also a new comer to the north of England, coming all the way from Nigeria to study in the same college as Mum.
And so began a life long friendship that has lasted through the Biafran war, marriages, children, poverty, wealth, a purloined lawn mower and 1980's night clubs.
I have many memories from my childhood of the afore said Auntie arriving on our doorstep with mountains of cloth brought back from the home land. Lots of phone conversations where the mystical word "kaftan" was mentioned in awe struck reverential tones (see I managed to bring all the rambling back to the point eventually).
This would be followed by nights of Mum sticking sheets of newspaper together to make patterns for the mythical garment, quickly followed by more nights of frantic sewing, until after a few more excitable phone calls Auntie Rose would arrive with her perpetual gap toothed smile and exotic hair do's. There would be a lot of screeching and trying on of Kaftans before they went out in to the long hot night of a 1970's summer.

Fast forward thirty something odd years and there is that preschool teacher with that look in her eye.
So we peel away the final layer and find ourselves back at the beginning.
Yesterday at 1.30 we all gathered in the hush of the local church, even to an unbeliever like me its a lovely place to be.
The children filled in and sat on the benches. The blond one hadn't spotted us yet so he sat quietly admiring his warm and cozy donkey costume.

But then oh dear, he managed to spot us in the crowd, and that was it, he was off. Not for him the boring old gym benches. No no much more interesting was climbing along the backs of the chairs with his bottom in the people sitting in them's faces to sit on my knee.
Then he was off back to his teachers for a few moments and then he was back climbing along the backs of the chairs again. This went on through the introduction, reading and hark the herald angels.
But when Mary, Joseph, the inn keeper and the inn keepers wife arrived all bets were off.
Blondie realised that his calling was to dance in front of the crib, blocking the view of Mary, Joseph and most importantly the baby Jesus.

But then this too became boring and he enlisted the help of the inn keeper to pick up the straw from the floor and cover the baby Jesus with it, much to the agitation of a rather angelic looking Mary.
By this point I was trying not to laugh too loudly, but at the same time wondering
"why is it always my boys?"

Happy Nativity season to you all.
Love Nora xx

Saturday, 4 December 2010


Last Saturday was the day of my "Get to know your sewing machine" workshop.
Nine lovely ladies brought their sewing machines along.
We all sat down with a cup of tea and some choccie biccies and the Ladies introduced me to their machines, some new, some old and quite a few borrowed.
One poor old machine just didn't make it even past the first simple exercise.
So one of my trusty Bernina's was drafted in as back up.
I think it was a bit like going from a Morris Minor to a Rolls Royce in one quick step.
The first part of the day was spent exploring the machines and all that they could do. Then the second part of the day was all about the making.

I wanted it to be a simple project that was mainly about simple sewing and creativity rather than flashy techniques.
And so a whole bevvy of appliqued cotton tote bags sprang in to being.
I love the fact that every one designed something so different.

I also love meeting and being able to have a go on all these different machines.
I've been hearing a lot about these mini little brightly coloured machines from John Lewis recently.

And they were great at most of the tasks we put them through, but because you can't alter the stitch length, and I suspect the diminutive size, made the applique quite difficult.
But I really liked the cute little draw to keep all your bobbins and needles in.

I was also impressed with this Janome, it seemed more than up to all the tasks set for it, and was relatively inexpensive.

As was this Toyota, with the added bonus of looking super cool!

Hoping your sewing machine is becoming an important friend.
Love Nora xx

Friday, 3 December 2010

We are now in to the third day of no school for the ginger ninja and cabin fever is starting to set in. Right now I feel as though we are living in Sid's room in Toy Story.

Though we have had endless fun in the snow

Before all this wonderful white stuff arrived I was going to be writing about all the interesting things that happened last week,
so I thought I would have a quick picture round up
On Saturday the shard looked amazing.

On Sunday It was the boys friend Louis party.

On Monday I took another photo for Lola's challenge, only took 12 this time, thankfully I got there that quickly and not the 92 Colette had to take!
Interesting stuff this self portrait malarkey.
I guess none of us are really that happy with the way we look.
Its quite an interesting exercise in seeing how other people see us and realising what it is they find interesting.
I've always had a tendency to play the clown and pull funny faces, so its good to have a sensible one, post hair cut when I'm feeling rather good about my self.

On Tuesday I finished my stitched post card, for Beth's post card swap. There is quite a story attached to it which I will tell soon, just need to give it time to arrive at its destination.

On Wednesday we found an intact dinosaur frozen in the permafrost.

On Thursday my stitched post card arrived from Donnell.
Isn't it beautiful?

and then the door opens

how beautifully stitched is this?
I love the contrast between the folksy patchwork and embroidery on the front, and the stark white slightly gruesome medical nature of the inside.
It came through the post like this with the address and a stamp on the reverse.
Apparently the woman in the post office was dubious that it would arrive at all.
I wonder how many people on its transatlantic journey were tempted to open the little door.
Part of me hopes it was all of them!

On Friday I went fabric shopping

And finally on Saturday I made some new friends

at my "Get to know your sewing machine" workshop.

Hope your week was as interesting and productive.
Love Nora xx