Tuesday, 30 November 2010

25 days til...............

Snowy Surrey, (it is today!!)
Tuesday  30th November 2010

Dear Father Christmas,

I am writing to tell you that I have tried to be a good girl this year. It's very difficult but I think some of the time I am?  As you know for the last 40 something years I always get so excited at this time of the year. To help me count down the final few weeks  I always have an advent calender. This year it is one that I bought in Nuremberg, Germany,  in 2008, when I was lucky enough to go to the Christmas market there.

There were stalls upon stalls of wonderful Christmas delights and my Hb and I spent 3 days wandering around this beautiful city and enjoying the festivities.
We bought lots of new Christmas tree ornaments and decorations.

At night we sipped warm Gluhwein which made us glow and filled the cold night air with the scent of Christmas.

While we were there in December 2008 we bought several German Advent calendars, just like the ones I used to have when I was a little girl. They are so nostalgic. This is the one I have chosen to hang up for this year and I am so looking forward to opening the first window tomorrow morning.

It's a lovely double length which I will hang up by my bedside table tonight. These days it takes me a little longer to find the little number on each window. I open a window every  morning, right up to the morning of Christmas Eve.
Even my "baby" daughter and son (now aged 24 and 21) still have an advent calendar....not sure my son would approve of that snippet of info if he ever read this blog!) Actually there is no chance of that so his secret is safe just between the 2 of us....

When I was small I always wrote my wish list to you on 30th November and sent it to you up the chimney. This year my  husband has offered to do this for you ..... so here goes;

Jane's Christmas wish list 2010.

If I have been good enough, any of these would be super......
  1. Some cutters so that I can continue to experiment with my precious metal clay I so enjoyed making my pendant recently.
  2. Some new Body Shop shower gel and soaps, you know me, I do like these, and a girl can never have enough of these things.
  3. A solder sheet and solder block for my jewellery making.
  4. Estee Lauder White Linen body lotion, my favourite smelly and I have managed to run out of this (how timely).
  5. Last but not least and in fact this is my biggest wish for every Christmas......................
To have my nearest and dearest sitting around my Christmas table , laughing and joking over dinner and the awful jokes in the crackers. To see their faces when they open their presents  and then to enjoy playing silly games and chatting well into the evening....Christmas bliss.

Thank you Father Christmas,

Love Jane

Age 40 something xx

I will not forget to leave out  the sherry and mince pie for you on Christmas eve and the carrot for Rudolf ;0)

(I hope everyone is enjoying my ** to Christmas, the days are really flying by now. My next Christmas post is about none other  than our Christmas Tree which we hope to buy at the weekend, Jx)

Friday, 26 November 2010

Yuletide York

Last weekend my Hb and I travelled up to York for his annual work Christmas party, held on the Saturday night. He works for a company who have offices around the country and each year the party is hosted by a different office. This year it was the turn of the Leeds office and they decided to host it in York. We always make a long weekend of it and pay for the extra night on the Friday. His company are very generous and the rest of the weekend - all the food,drink etc is taken care of. We are indeed very fortunate.

I always do a little research for a meal on the Friday night and came up with a restaurant with the amusing name of "Ate O'Clock". We arrived at (you can guess 8 o'clock!) and found a beautiful little restaurant set back down an alley way. If anyone ever goes to York I can really recommend it. Everything was first class, right from the menu..
..to the food and the delicious drinks and cocktails. The pudding above was my "Trio of lemon " pudding and had no less than a homemade lemon meringue, lemon cheesecake in a pot and shot of limoncello, oh my goodness it was fab.......

After we had finished our meal we decided that rather than head straight back to our hotel would would take a  late night walk to walk off some of the food (and drink) we had indulged in. As you can imagine fuelled by this wonderful food and drink we positively glowed during our night time walk around the city centre. It was quite a cold night and we could see our breath visible in the air as we walked. Although all the shops were closed for the night they looked so beautiful with the Christmas  lights shining. No these photos are not blurred due to my camera shake it's just that my camera needs holding still for a while to capture night time shots..honest! I actually find them very atmospheric

Magical shop fronts....


It was a really memorable walk around the ancient streets. On the right  is the famous Betty's tea rooms all shut up for the night. During the day the queue stretched around the corner!

We then made our way back to our hotel for the night.

After a good night's sleep followed by a full English breakfast served in our room (such bliss!) the next morning we again set off for the city centre. We were staying a short bus ride away.

This time in daylight the streets looked very different and were also SO busy. We have visited York in the past so we have been inside the Minster but still loved to view it.

As you can imagine it was also an ideal opportunity to do some of our Christmas shopping as there are some very original shops in York, as well as the staple high streets shops which are found anywhere. The Shambles is a very famous street in York where originally all the butchers sold their meat. Nowadays there is a single sausage maker there but the old building are fascinating with their low doors and ceilings. The buildings nearly touch one another as they now lean forward so much with their old age.

As the queue for Betty's stretched round the block, and we have had the pleasure of having our afternoon tea there in the past, we headed instead for a lovely, little known tea room, situated in the Mulberry Hall china shop. We had our tea served from this wonderful Christmas china tea service..I was so delighted at this touch. Is it possible for tea to taste so special when served in such a way...I think it does! I know it is a good marketing ploy by the shop but I also thought it really made our visit so memorable.

The tea room is on the upper floor of this shop, at the front. We sat by the window where the two Christmas trees are close together on the outside wall. We so enjoyed watching the bustle of the shoppers below and it was good to rest our legs for a while. Before we headed back to our hotel to get ready for the party we took a last stroll around the grounds of the Minster where it is so peaceful.
It was then time to head back and get into our party clothes. It is always fun to dress up for these occasions. The party was lovely but I really think my fondest memory of our recent trip to Yuletide York was the late night walk around the deserted, sleeping city centre. It was such a contrast to the daytime and we felt that for a short time that it belonged to us.......and our ever so slightly tottery legs!!

Bye for now,

Jane x

(Don't forget to keep up with my **days to Christmas posts...the next one is coming up mid week next week when it will be time to really count down - it will be 1st December, time is now really flying by).

Monday, 22 November 2010

33 days til..............

Before I start this  latest post I really wanted to thank everyone for the kind comments they have left. I really had no idea  that I would find so many like minded Christmas lovers out there. I really appreciate people taking the time to leave their comments and for joining me on my hopefully, lighthearted, fun journey towards 25th December. Time really is ticking on now with only 33 days to go....

For my 3rd countdown to Christmas post I thought I would share with you some of the Christmas jewellery I have made. I love to wear seasonal jewellery. I suppose that is a perk of being able to make you own, if you see an inspirational bead then you can make it into something or I can use my silversmithing skills to fashion something out of silver. I would never wear more than one piece at a time, that would be overkill, but I always find that if you wear something Christmassy it is a great topic of conversation and can even be a great ice breaker at a party.

As you already know I do have a slight addiction to buying rather expensive one of a kind lampwork glass beads, I showed my autumn goodies in a previous posting.

These are some of the Christmas pieces I have made over the years....one of my favourite is this snowman bracelet...

It totally screams Christmas and is deliciously over the top.
Whenever I wear it I always get comments and smiles. It cheers everyone up! I teamed the beads up with some very festive snowflake charms I bought.

(Remember you can click on any of the photos to see the details).

Being a greedy girl I also have a second snowman
bracelet which is smaller than the one above and
a little more subtle, I also love the little Christmas trees on this. I also managed to source some matching holly green and deep red beads to match.

A third (well a girl can never have too many, can she..??) bracelet I enjoy wearing is this more delicate floral bracelet which I teamed with rock quartz and lovely sterling silver pine cones...I do sometimes wear this piece during the year as it is not obviously a Christmas bracelet.

After bracelets I obviously needed a necklace and I have a real favourite one....
This lovely necklace has beautiful one of a kind Christmas roses lampwork glass focal beads at the front and one of a kind white ribbon glass beads, together with some rock quartz. I often wear this for my Christmas parties as it is very subtly Christmas and goes with everything especially the LBD (or little black dress!)

Also you may remember that at my visit to Bead Heaven (aka the Big Bead Show in October) I bought some very sweet Rudolph  the red nosed reindeer one of a kind lampwork beads shown here on the right...

You may be interested to see what I did with them.......................................

Here they are...I bought some pretty sterling silver snowflakes and wire wrapped them using Swarovski crystals and some unusual new ear wires.

I have not worn these yet but I am sure they will cause some smiles...such happy, fun earrings.

So as you can see that I have a good selection of Christmas jewellery to choose from and yes I do also have some other Christmas beads in my stash which have not yet been more than admired in their box!

Does anyone else have Christmas jewellery they enjoy wearing? I would love to hear about it if you do.

As this has been a light hearted Christmas piece I thought my verses today should reflect the same ..so  here are a festive joke or 2...enjoy!! ;0   (groan!)

The Last  Reindeer
A reindeer walked into a pub, strolled up to the bar and ordered a pint of lager.

Completely unfazed, the barman poured out the lager and passed it to the reindeer, who handed over a ten pound note.
As he handed over the change of a few coins, the barman said "I have to say, you're first reindeer I've seen in here."
The reindeer studied the change very carefully and said. "Tell you what sunshine, as these prices I'm also the last reindeer you're going to see in here."

And these are so bad they made me laugh...

What do you call a reindeer wearing ear muffs?

Anything you want because he can?t hear you!

What do reindeer always say before telling you a joke?
This one will ?sleigh? you!

How does Rudolph know when Christmas is coming?
He looks at his calen-?deer?!

I hope they made you smile...;0)

I have just returned from  a wonderful weekend in York and will be back with a "Yuletide York"  post at the weekend..it looked so pretty with all the Christmas lights and decorations up.

Bye for now,

Jane x

Thursday, 18 November 2010

A night at the ballet

Last Wednesday I was treated by my Mum to a night at the ballet. Both my daughter and I are lucky enough to be regularly taken to the ballet by my Mum and have seen  performances at the Coliseum and the Royal Opera House in London. For that evening we had tickets for the Royal Ballet's "Sylvia" at the Royal Opera House.

London at this time of year is buzzing and as I came out of Covent Garden Tube Station I was greeted by not only crowds of people but also shining shop fronts with glittering Christmas displays.

These wonderful very expensive shoes caught my eye, well we can dream can't we?!

This window display also caught my eye.

It is only a short walk to the ROH from the tube past the Plaza which again shone out in the darkness, although some of these photos are blurry I actually quite like them....they have feeling of movement to them.
The ROH is a beautiful building and I met my Mum just inside by the shops. We then walked up through the building to our seats up in the "gods" in the upper amphitheater.The seats here have a great view but do not cost hundreds of pounds!

The story of Sylvia is simply "boy loves girl, girl captured by bad man, girl restored to boy by god!"

It is taken from a Greek myth showing the trials of love. This ballet was originally shown in the 19th century with music by Delibes' but it was not until 1952 when Frederick Ashton choreographed it for Magot Fonteyn that it became popular. We thoroughly enjoyed our night at the ballet and the buzzing atmosphere of London on a busy, cold  November night. I really felt that this was the beginning of my Christmas festivities!

Bye for now,

Jane x

(PS don't forget to read my **days til Christmas posts, my countdown to Christmas ...the 3rd post  is coming up after the weekend  this week. Tomorrow my husband and I are off to York for a long weekend for his work Christmas party...my first party of the season. I am so excited, York near Christmas time  is wonderful.  I feel a Yuletide York post  in the making, camera is packed.......;0) Jx)


Saturday, 13 November 2010

42 days til.......

For my 2nd countdown to Christmas post I thought I would share some of my Christmas reading. Just like the seasonal jewellery I love to wear, there are certain books I get out from my book shelves as the Christmas Season approaches. One such book is Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol".

The first time I read this book was as a 10 year old in my final year of primary school. My best friend of those far away days was Sarah Chopping, (who amazingly tracked my down and read this blog post about my old primary school), and I were the school librarians. I think the headmaster thought we were very good girls, little did he know that sometimes we took our records into school (7" singles at that time) some lunch times, put them on the record player and "quietly" blasted out the tunes of T.Rex and the like! We were trusted to put all the new books into circulation in the school library. This meant putting in date plates (yes in those days you stamped when a book was due back), cataloging them etc. The real beauty of this "job" was that we had the place to ourselves when the library was shut to the rest of the school and we got to see and handle all the lovely new books which came in. I still love wandering around book shops, there is a certain smell to brand new books...mmmm!

In December 1971 (gosh I do feel old now) a gorgeous  Arthur Rackham illustrated copy of this Dickens's book arrived at school to be catalogued and put into our library circulation - I was totally mesmerised by it. The combination of Dicken's story and Rackham's illustrations work so well. The book was a hardback edition and I decided that I would be the very first person to have it out on loan. I remember the first time I read it, how the story kept me entranced until the very last pages. I wonder what happened to that lovely book.....? I went to an exhibition of Rackham's art at the Dulwich Picture Gallery some years ago and saw some of his stunning, almost Gothic fairy paintings in the flesh..wonderful.

These are the postcards I bought  from the exhibition.
(You can click on any of the photos to enlarge them)

Once I got married I decided that I would try to  re read A Christmas Carol every year at Christmas. My husband even bought me a copy with the same beautiful Arthur Rachmann illustrations. It is a short story and is quick to read.

This is my current copy

I just think it reminds us a little of the true spirit of Christmas and indeed Dickens was a passionate believer in charity towards others and for social reform. He was a man ahead of his time in more than one way. I will be honest and admit that I have not managed to re read it every year, some years don't go quite to plan, but I always make a start.

It is something I really treasure.
Some of my favourite quotes from the book are;

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach."

"It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour."

I also enjoy  reading  a wonderful compendium of Christmas stories/thoughts, again which my husband bought me when our children were very young. I love dipping in and out of it, it is something I can look at for a few minutes before I go to sleep or while I have a morning cup of tea before I get going or dash off to work for the day. I don't ever need to read it from start to finish, each piece stands alone.

It is simply called "Christmas" and is
contained within a lovely box sleeve.
The pages are thick and wonderful to

There are short stories, poems and all sorts of pieces about the season and even the pages are scented with Christmas fragrance.

I also get out my Delia Smith's Christmas book and plan my food although so often my cooking plans do not get very far! Each year I intend to make my own mincemeat for my mince pies but usually a jar comes to my rescue. I do always make my own pastry though - so it's only half and cheat! I am quite a reluctant cook, I just feel I have more interesting things to do with my time. It is more important to do things you enjoy doing, not what you think you should be doing. There are no rules and nothing is the right way. Many of my friends love the cooking part and could think of nothing worse than making cards etc etc. Thank goodness for individuality!

I also do enjoy some of the Christmas magazines, the colour really does bring some cheer to the dull days of this time of years and obviously we do dream of snow...........??!

So which Christmas books do you enjoy reading or remember from the past or do you enjoy the magazines of the season? I would really enjoy reading your comments.

One final thought for this posting

"Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts. No matter how we may dread the rush, the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards to be bought and given--when Christmas Day comes there is still the same warm feeling we had as children, the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes."

- Joan Winmill Brown

Bye for now,

Jane x

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Marvellous precious metal clay

Last Sunday I attended a one day Precious Metal Clay course at my local college where I attend my silversmithing classes. It was actually run by the talented Liz who also teaches me silversmithing. Our local college does these occasional "Sunday Taster" classes and they are well attended and book up very quickly.

Precious metal clay (PMC) is a really interesting medium. For my non jewellery blogger friends it is a clay-like medium used to make jewellery, beads and small sculpture. It consists of very small particles of metals (such as silver, gold, platinum, or copper) mixed with an organic binder and water. Once an item has been made it is fired either with a blow torch or in a kiln and the binder burns away leaving fine silver behind. The silver is actually purer than sterling silver and can even be hallmarked as such. Because it can be rolled out,shaped etc the design limitations are infinite. It really is a very interesting material but as it is silver it is quite expensive.

When we arrived Liz had put a great display of work she has made using PMC. She also had brought several books on the subject and each work station had box of materials that we would be needing for the day.

Our learning outcome for the day was to design and make a pendant. There were cutters, textile mats and all sort of other objects to give us inspiration. Once we had thought of our design we were told to first construct it using Fimo (a type of polymer clay). This is very inexpensive and does not dry until baked so gave us time to play with the design.

I decided to try an oval pendant with hearts added on as an extra layer. The brown piece of clay is the Fimo on the left. By using Fimo you could also practice rolling out using playing cards as spacers to get an even thickness.

I also decided to emboss the base of the pendant using the embossing mat shown here. I then cut out the oval shape with a cutter.

I then cut out some hearts and made up the dummy pendant in Fimo. A cocktail stick is used to make the hole for a jump ring to hang the pendant by.

After this it was time to work with the real thing...the PMC is quite tricky to work with. It needs to be kept covered as much as possible because as soon as it is exposed to the air it dries and is non mould able and becomes solid and brittle. We had to keep our work covered with cling film and handle it as little as possible. I repeated the process of texturing ,cutting etc using the PMC.

I assembled a PMC version of my design. This then got put onto a hot plate to dry. Normally pieces get left to air dry for 24 hours but this heating just speeds up the process as we were only there for 5 hours. After drying I carefully filed down any rough edges. At this stage the PMC is very fragile so care was necessary doing this.

Here is my piece all assemble and dry. At this stage it looks nothing like silver - does it!!

I then had to bring it up to a glow using a blow torch and carefully keep it at this temperature for 3 minutes. This burns off all the binder and allows the silver particle to fuse together to form solid fine silver.

Post firing we were told to brush off the white residue using a brass wire brush -  you can see how the silver was now visible. It was very exciting.

To finish off the piece it was put into the tumble polisher and I added a jump ring.

So here is my final piece. It really was a great day and I now have another dimension I can add to my jewellery making.

Bye for now,
Jane x

(PS don't forget to read my **days til Christmas posts, my countdown to Christmas ...a new one is coming up at the weekend and the first was posted last Saturday !)