Family

Birthday Cakes

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It was Izzie's birthday on Saturday.  She is now 8 years old and very tall (with lots of beautiful dark hair), very intelligent and super-affectionate.  She loves to dance and is always doing little shimmies and dance moves, often absent-mindedly.  Her appetite for reading is huge, her bookshelf is crammed and she devours all kinds of stories.  I am lucky to have a close relationship with her and I adore her.  I would do anything for her.  So when she and my sister asked (at the last minute, natch) if I would make a rainbow cake for Izzie's birthday, of course I said yes.  

Trolls is Izzie's favourite film at the moment (in fact, she saw it today at the cinema for, I think, the fifth time) and if you've seen the film you will know it is allll about the rainbows!  So I promptly ordered a pack of little figurines, a set of rainbow food colour gels and googled the instructions. 

I have had a half-hearted attempt at colouring cake batter previously; I used a ridiculously small amount of food colouring and ended up with a slightly peachy-coloured sponge when I was attempting for Battenberg pink.  This time I was generous with the colouring and got it everywhere . My fingernails have splodges of violet and green, despite multiple scrubbings, and earlier this evening I noticed a drip of red colouring down the kitchen cupboard.  This, my friends, does not make me happy!  The cake ended up really tall and skinny so I added some support by poking a few wooden skewers through it.  It still tilted slightly but what the heck, I knew it would be pulled apart by a pair of kiddos.

I covered the cake all over with buttercream and made some rainbow coloured lettering and stars to decorate the top.  The little troll figurines circled the bottom of the cake.  

I was apprehensive about cutting into the cake.  It looked okay when I was putting the thing together but you never really know how these things are going to work until you cut through them, especially because the outside of the cakes had 'browned' to an odd colour in the oven.  Izzie gave a little gasp of glee as she pulled out the first slice and Ellie's eyes lit up! Such a happy auntie moment.  We all had [giant] skinny slices of it with coffee after our food and it tasted fine too.  Not as delicious as my usual cakes because I followed a recipe that made the cake firmer and less buttery but it was good enough.

I have made nearly all of Izzie's birthday cakes over the years, I have shared them previously on my old blog but as I am about to close it down I thought I'd post them here.  I have never made Ellie, the youngest, a birthday cake and I think it is about time I started.  

For Izzie I have made (based mostly on her TV or toy obsessions) cakes decorated with Waybuloo, teddy bears, Rapunzel, Tinkerbell and monkeys (I think the jungle one was my favourite).  Pics are posted below if you fancy having a look (the Rapunzel and Tinkerbell characters are plastic, I should point out!)

Thanks for popping by.  Have a lovely week.

Nicki xox

Making Christmas Memories

These three photos sum up my festive mood at the moment:

1) a pair of ceramic house tea light lanterns bought at the Bath Christmas market last week,

2) a stolen afternoon for Andrew and me in front of the telly with Home Alone 2, tea and mince pies, 

and 3) my adorable little niece at the village Christingle service a couple of weeks ago.  

Things are not quite calm and bright yet but I feel as though we might be getting there. My workroom is finally straight after a thorough sort out on Monday morning - I just have a bundle of thread skeins to wind onto bobbins and then I will feel organised enough to complete the embroidered bookmark commission that I am currently working on.  

We are still eating ready meals, though, so I am planning a whole menu for next week (which I privately refer to as 'Christmas week') so that we can eat lots of seasonal vegetables and comfort food like mashed potato and risotto in the run up to Christmas Day.  We still don't have a tin of Quality Street in the house and I need to rectify that tout de suite! 

I have been out and about over the last couple of days; yesterday was Lizzie's Christmas-hairdo-day and then I went off to a watercolour class that I'll be joining weekly from February.  I have been looking for a good art class for months and finally managed to reserve a space at a Wednesday morning class.  I have got some homework to get started on throughout January and I have put some lovely sable paintbrushes and art supplies on my birthday wish list.   

This morning I went to church for my eldest niece's school advent service.  It was very sweet; there is something about children singing Silent Night or Away in a Manger that tugs hard on my heart strings and puts a lump in my throat.  This morning there was a mishap involving a small boy and his microphone - it gave my sister and I the uncontrollable giggles.  The more we tried to stop ourselves laughing, the worse it got until eventually Sarah erupted in a shout of laughter and fell behind the pew with her shoulders shaking and eyes streaming. My mum and grandma were there too and had no idea what had tickled us; in fact my grandmother looked a bit cross that we were misbehaving in church.  Makes me laugh just thinking about it now. 

After church, when Izzie had gone back to school, we all squished into Mabel (my little fiat), cranked up Feliz Navidad on repeat and navigated the winding country roads to a local garden centre for a full English breakfast.  It really was the most lovely morning; my grandma was in the front of the car with me having a little seat shimmy and sing-along.  It made me happy to see her so cheerful as she was wired up to a pacemaker on Saturday and is feeling a bit sore and sorry for herself.

Tonight Andrew and I are watching the football with a takeout pizza and I am going to give myself the night off with my knitting.  Back to the needle and thread first thing tomorrow morning so I can get my work done before Christmas.

Hope everyone is having a lovely week - thanks for stopping by again :)

Love, Nicki 

xOx

The Country Brocante Winter Fair

Little scandi-style gnomes, handmade from antique linen.  Small army coming to the brocante.

Little scandi-style gnomes, handmade from antique linen.  Small army coming to the brocante.

Making little wool houses, drinking tea and eating prettily wrapped chocolate.

Making little wool houses, drinking tea and eating prettily wrapped chocolate.

Love little houses.

Love little houses.

Pretty silvered glass votives and distressed metal chamber sticks coming to the brocante.

Pretty silvered glass votives and distressed metal chamber sticks coming to the brocante.

Furry supervisor.

Furry supervisor.

I have got my head down at the moment, rushing around preparing for the Country Brocante Winter Fair which we will be exhibiting at this weekend.  If you are planning to attend, I'd love for you to pop over to say hi.  In the absence of any 'proper' photos I have attached a few iphone snaps which give a flavour of my week.

Andrew, my husband (and head of finance, packaging and logistics for The Little Green Door) is running the stand with me this time.  He has taken some time off work to travel with me, set up the stand and he plans to run the stall each day with me too.  He *says* he wants to meet customers but I think he is going to keep his eye on me; the shopping there is fantastic and last time I came home with a pair of pale pink garden chairs in my friend's already jam-packed car! 

We are staying in a shepherd's hut close to Cowdray and I am so excited.  There is a tiny kitchen area, cute shower room and a little woodburner so we won't miss many home comforts.  I hope it is as romantic as it sounds!  My lovely Mother in Law and her dog Daisy are babysitting Lizzie so she will have a wonderful time too.

The fair is at Cowdray Park in Midhurst this Friday 25th and Saturday 26th November.   Buy tickets and find more information here

Right, I am off to dig out my blackboards, attach noses to gnomes and then I hope to embroider a few hanging hearts in front of The Crown (have you seen it?  It is SO good.  The music gives me goosebumps).  

See you soon! 

Love love

Nicki 

xOx

Birds, Hedgehogs and Fat Little Mice

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"We are both like Snow White, but in different ways." pondered my niece, Izzie, last week when she came to stay.  With her glossy dark hair, fair skin and rosy red lips I could guess at her own resemblance but me?  "Well, I look like Snow White and you act like her"  she offered.  Cute.  That girl knows how to charm me.  Snow White is my favourite of the Disney princesses and although I'm not keen on the idea of cleaning and cooking for a small army of dwarves, I love how she keeps that cosy cottage so pretty and cosy, with the help of bluebirds of course! 

We were re-filling my bird feeders at the time.  I am a nature nut and although we have a small garden, living in quite a rural area means that I can entice various species if I get the right food.  Unfortunately, birds do not have the best table manners (finches are the worst!) and the seeds they drop seem to be providing a continual feast for a fat little field mouse.  (I like to think there is only one; the same missy every day.  I realise the reality is not so cute...).  I need to get out there more often with my dustpan and brush.  Said fat little field mouse was in the garden yesterday afternoon.  She was driving Lizzie crazy. as she nipped between bushes, the shed and the log store.  I am torn between letting her nest in the garden and encouraging Lizzie to catch her (yep, not so Disney).  She is very fat and I absolutely do not relish the idea of a gazillion small rodents in my living quarters.  I am going to send Andrew out for a humane trap this evening.  

We've had hedgehogs every night, too.  They also drive my dog insane but hedgehogs are my favourite wild animal.  But then, as I type that, I remember bats and badgers which I also love.  Ahhhh summer.  I love it.

I have been crazy busy finishing up orders from the Summer Brocante at the end of June and the very last Cabbages & Roses overdresses will be sent out this week.  I also took a few orders for bespoke embroideries at the brocante, which I finished last week.  I will be attending the Cotswolds brocante at the end of September and the Winter brocante in Sussex at the end of November.  I'll put details on here in the events section when I get a minute but I'd love to see you there. 

I am off bird-watching with my dad this evening and really looking forward to it.  He retired earlier in the year and I've been wanting him to come with me for ages; it was him after all who I take after with my love of nature.  I have packed a pair of binoculars, a field guide and a notebook and made a quiche for us to eat when we get back.  What a lovely way to spend a summer evening, hey?

I hope everyone is having a wonderful week and that your weather is appropriately seasonal.  It is hot hot hot here and I love it.  A proper summer.

Love

Nicki 

x

PS The kitchen and dining summer sale is still going strong over in our little shop.  It will continue until the end of August so snap up a bargain quick! 

Β 

"When you cuddle, you feel safe."*

*said Izzie, aged 7. 

For new readers, Izzie is my eldest niece.  She came out with this little gem, conversationally, as we snuggled under the covers last time she stayed over.  I think she was a bit scared, spending the night in a creeky old cottage, and these words of wisdom were casually imparted as she lined up a small army of cuddly toys, on the pillow next to her.

My husband had, kindly, moved into the spare room for the night so that Izzie and I could share a bed.  All I can say, after sharing a bed with Izzie for the night, is that I can understand why sleep deprivation is considered a form of torture. Several times, just as I was about to drop off, I had a sharp jab in the ribs or a stage-whispered "Auntie Nicki, are you asleep?".  Eventually, I was asked to make up a story.  I told her I would if she just closed her eyes.  

Making up a story sounded like a doddle to me.  I write short stories and make up little children's tales in my head all of the time.  But at 10pm after a day of intense activity with aforementioned 7 year old, my tired mind was blank.  I gingerly started the story of Princess Clara who lived with her mummy and daddy in a beautiful, crooked, stone castle... "What colour was Princess Clara's hair, Auntie Nicki?" My response - long dark hair - satisfied the brunette little girl next to me for a few seconds.  Until I mentioned Princess Clara's long pink gown and sparkly pink shoes.  "They sound lovely Auntie Nicki.... I have a pair of blue sparkly shoes you know.  They're my party shoes..." And on it went.  The story became a conversation with Izzie constantly interrupting to question a detail ("I thought you said his coat was blue?") change the name of a servant or the words of a spell.  Telling her to close her eyes as I recited the story only led to the pair of us trying to secretly peer at each other with one eye squinted open, quickly closing it as we spotted the other spying.  Iz fell into an exhausted slumber at 10:30pm and I slept fitfully for the rest of the night waking on the hour to check that she was still breathing.  This, I remind myself, is precisely why I would make a rubbish (and exhausted) mother.

Those words about cuddling have been playing on my mind ever since, though.  You really do feel safe when you cuddle.  Giving someone a long, tight, hug during their panic attack can be a real help (it is for me).  When I was ill with anxiety and depression last year, my counsellor recommended I bought a teddy bear, for cuddles when there was no one around to administer them.  On the basis that I have a very placid and tolerant dog at home, I didn't buy a bear but if I had, I'd have chosen one of the ones I now stock in the shop. 

Pop over and have a look - perfect for big or small children and uber-snuggly.  I have more Maileg toys coming soon, complete with pyjamas and other, fancier, outfits.  My nieces give me the best excuse to stock them.  Last weekend, when the Maileg order had just come in, Izzie (7) chose the large fluffy bunny and Ellie (20 months) chose the tiny mouse in knickers.  Truffle the pig is my favourite! 

Have a lovely weekend and thanks for popping by.

Nicki 

xOx

Happy New Year!

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Happy new year!  Are you ready for 2016?  I am.  

Although I *loved* our Christmas and New Year celebrations, I have been champing at the bit to start a new year.  2015 didn't start off very well and a small incident shook my confidence massively.  I got a grip of everything towards the end of the year and just felt impatient to work on my new venture and my 'self-development'.  (Sorry, I have to warn you that this year is going to be a huge learning curve for me and I bet I'll be getting deep and using knobby psychobabble.)

Anyway, we saw Wicked! at the theatre yesterday in London.  It is my new favourite show.  At the very start I had a sinking feeling that it wasn't my cup of tea but came out singing "Wonderful, they call me Wonderful" as you do.  Loved the whole back story of the witch.  Seriously, a sparkly pretty good witch and a green, dark, bad witch on stage together being besties?  Perfect.  Really want to take Izzie, my little niece, to see it.  She would love it.  

** I just have to interrupt this blog post to let you know that I had new, wireless, headphones for Christmas and oh my word they are a revelation.  I can dance about the house without getting in a tangle with the cable.  Currently doing a seated shimmy to that bonkers song about peanut butter jelly.  As you were. **

We've had a really relaxed day today and it has been super cosy.  Fires roaring in both rooms downstairs and a spoiling breakfast of huge English muffins with smoked salmon and scrambled egg.  I'm cooking mac and cheese later and then I promised to join Andrew for a game of Rock Band on the ps4.  Can't decide whether to be lead singer or lead guitarist.  Decisions.

(The random photo above is of Lizzie on Wednesday.  I changed the seat covers in my sewing room to ivory linen and she's not allowed on them with her mucky paws.  Isn't she a cutie.)

Have a fab weekend!  

Nicki 

xOx

Christmas Catch-up

Well, I was rubbish this Christmas.  

We hosted Christmas for our family for the third year running.  Usually (if I may say) we have our lunch prep nailed.  By the time our family starts to arrive, the kitchen is [reasonably] tidy, the smell of roast potatoes and turkey wafts enticingly and I have a glass of ice cold bubbly awaiting everyone.  

This year, I don't know what happened, but I was so disorganised.  Maybe I got complacent.  I dunno.  Here's my sorry tale:

  • Roasted a gammon joint on Christmas Eve thinking my dad (who doesn't eat turkey) could have it for lunch.  Forgot about it, left it in the fridge, threw it away untouched yesterday.  Sigh.
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  • Made mashed potato after a special request from stepson. Forgot to give him some.
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  • Fell out with my sous chef [Andrew] over the brussels (cooked for too long) and the apples (not chopped finely enough for the red cabbage dish).*
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  • Took more than 90 minutes to roast the potatoes (put them on the wrong shelf of the roasting oven).  Guests arrived starving.  Lunch an hour late.  Guests *forced* to eat sausage rolls and Quality Street as amuse-bouches
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  • Burned a pan of maple roasted parsnips.  To be fair, I do this every year.  I always roast two panfuls: one roasts to perfection, the other burns to a blackened crisp.  Kind of an accidental tradition now I think.

You know what though, it was the loveliest day.  The table looked pretty, my nieces turned up in crazy cute party dresses and the food (again, if I may say) was plentiful and delicious, if a little late.  We began our celebrations with white peach bellinis and finished off the day with a few competitive rounds of Giggle Wiggle

Boxing Day was spent, just Andrew and I, at home.  We lit a fire, caught up on Christmas TV (Downton Abbey!  *happy tears*)  and gorged on leftover turkey, cheese, chocolate torte and banoffee pie.  

Come Sunday we were ready for round two:  mum and dad had a little gathering for my extended family.  It was cray cray, involving nine children, two of whom were riding around the ground floor on a mechanical mouse.  Two others were playing football (soft ball) in the hall.  Two more (and a couple of dads) watched Escape to Victory in the living room.  My thespian cousin (13) bravely performed songs (beautifully, tear-jerkingly) from Les Mis in the conservatory.  The biggest, Tom, spent the day dolling out huge hugs and the littlest, Ellie, simply ran everywhere observing all of the above, admirably avoiding the two on the mechanical mouse who could not stop grabbing her to pat her tiny ponytail.

Of course, we still have a few remaining days of Christmas to celebrate.  These lovely long lazy days as we prepare for a new year.  Reading, knitting, pottering and not doing very much at all.  Perfect.

How was yours?  

Nicki

oXo

*If my MIL is reading this, I'd like to point out that it was a mini squabble and we laughed about it ten minutes later.  We are not about to get divorced or anything.  

Rosehips, Pecan Squares and Dads

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Things I have learnt this week:

  • If I am going to successfully run my new little business then I have to spend more time working and less time socialising.  Seeing friends in the week is such a novelty though!
  • Dads do not appreciate candle-light during the day ("It's like night-time in here, can we put a light on or something?").
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  • I have an obsession with rosehips, snowberries and winter foliage.  And glass box candle holders to put them in.
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  • Dads do not appreciate dried hydrangeas ("it's a bunch of dead flowers!" said with bemusement).
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  • Americans know a thing or two about baking.  Martha's pecan squares were amazing!  A hit with everyone.
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  • Dads are brilliant for popping over and helping with woodwork projects (display boards for my fair stands) and curtain hanging (new red gingham curtains are up and looking gorgeous) requiring no thanks except endless cups of tea and a roast beef dinner.

I am planning a busy week starting with my first two supplier orders arriving tomorrow.  I'm so psyched for their arrival that I'm practically bouncing around on my toes at the door, like a tennis player.  Really excited to get everything and list on the website - just hoping everything goes smoothly.  Oh, and if you liked the rustic wire lantern in my last post you'll be pleased to hear that my first lot are landing here next Friday and I'll be shipping them straight out the door.  So many people have already emailed me and there's a bit of a waiting list.  Drop me an email if you're interested too, they are gorgeous and perfect year-round.  (Β£31 plus Β£3.50 p&p).  I love mine.  

Thanks for all of the lovely, supportive comments so far and, especially thanks for taking the time to read my blog.  I really appreciate you popping over and will reply to all comments and questions you might like to leave. 

Have a great week! 

xOx

Flat Tyres and Toddlers

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It takes a lot of energy to bark when you're little.

It takes a lot of energy to bark when you're little.

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It is no longer a drag to get me out of bed in the mornings.  I practically bounce right out and into the shower.  This is a big thing for me - I have never been an early riser.  Husband and dog are both in a state of shock. I tell Andrew that it is my inner Maggie Thatcher rearing its ugly head now that I am A Business Owner (didn't she only need 5hrs sleep a night?) but, really, it's just because I'm happy.

I have been so busy and it is nice to work to my own agenda.  I have made time to see friends and family, but I've also got lots of things done to progress with The Little Green Door.

My sister got a flat tyre on Tuesday afternoon so I agreed to collect her from work and take her home.  Between her phoning at 10am and me fetching her at 3pm, I then found myself taking on the rather frantic mission of locating a pair of toddler toys and reserving them at a store for collection.  And so an impromptu road trip was declared.  With the girls being looked after elsewhere, it was nice to have a rare couple of hours alone with my sis to properly chat.  I cooed over the clothing section whilst we were there and stocked up on Christmas clothes for my lovely nieces, all of which went down very well (particularly with the 6-year-old) when we got home.  (The 16-month-old just looked unimpressed and toddled off clutching the sparkly tights.)

Said toddler came over to play yesterday with my mum and it took me most of the evening to recover.  I feel as though I spent the entire day following Ellie around in that slightly hunched position with my arms outstretched in case she stumbled.  And that girl can move at a fair lick, let me tell you.  It doesn't help that she has discovered stairs and our house has five small flights.  I think I must have scaled them ten times in total, at least, purely so that she could rummage through my cotton spools on the top floor and throw them across them room.  The living room is still a bit of a tip and I've been squinting with back ache all day, but it was lovely to see her.

Today, I've had a quiet day at home with the dog.  I faffed with candles and foliage, made uh-mazing pecan squares, stitched several gingerbread men (for sale at the Christmas fair next week), ordered curtains for the landing (finally - red gingham) and organised delivery of my first stock order.  I've only bought a few things to start off and basically bought only the things that I like, kind of on a 'one-for-me-and-one-for-you' basis.  I've got some gorgeous little lanterns coming, together with a few zinc pieces and some lovely rustic copper Christmas baubles.  They'll be in the shop early next week, with a fair wind.  

oXo