Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Gingerbread House 2013

(Apologies if you've already read this on my knitting blog -- but thanks for stopping by.)

I present the 2013 Gingerbread House!

It always surprises me what 5 adults and 4 mini-Coopers - given gallons of icing, a sleigh full of sweets, a few bottles of fizz, and lots of laughter - can do.

This year we decided to build a country pub  which we named the Four Loons for the four mini-Coopers (not so mini anymore - little Louis, at 11 3/4 is the only one shorter than me.  Marvellous Mads, scrumptous Suzy and gorgeous Gen all tower over me).

Mads created the bar with draught beer pumps, and the bottles of spirits on the wall behind the bar.

Suzy created the elf bartender to complete the scene.

Caroline provided a couple of picnic tables for hardy visitors who want to enjoy their beer, egg and chips outside.

Genevieve or Caroline made this jolly snowman....

...and whoever didn't make that one, made this slightly less jolly version at the side of the tavern... the see-saw created by Louis.

At the side of the pub you can see the kegs stacked up for loading into the pub cellar.

And I love Santa's feet poking out of the chimney!

Behind the pub there's a skating rink, a bench ...

....and a mysterious abandoned pair of ice skates.

Which leads to the question you've probably been asking yourself?  WHERE ARE ALL THE PEOPLE?  Why have the pints of beer and meals been abandoned?  Where are the ice skaters?  Why did they leave their skates?

And the answer can only be...  DALEKS!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who - a UK television institution and Louis' favourite show.  So in honour of this landmark, Daleks are attacking the pub.

Louis and Suzy created these Daleks and I have to say that despite my best efforts these photos do not do them justice.

They are true masterpieces of confectionary.

Luckily we can see that the TARDIS has just landed (for those of you uninitiated it's the blue Police Box the Doctor travels in) and I expect Doctor Who will sort out the Daleks before they can EX-TERM-I-NATE anyone.

Finally, regular gingerbread house viewers will know that Pat (the big Cooper) pretty much always takes the gingerbread house in an unexpected direction.  And this year was no different.

Pat arrived on Sunday determined to include the HS2.

For those of you not in the UK HS2 is a proposed high speed train link between London and cities in the North which is coming under a lot of criticism as it will cost a gazillion pounds, and not everyone is convinced it's justified by the benefit of taking 20 minutes off the time for a rail journey from London to Birmingham.

As you can see our version -  HS2.5 extends all the way to the North Pole.

Pat's second construction is this wind turbine.  Wind turbines are loved for being alternative energy sources, and hated by pretty much anyone who has one near their home.

And how cute is that tree with the little presents. Maybe that's what the Daleks were after.  Afterall there is NO WAY Daleks are ever making Santa's 'nice' list.

But every gingerbread house comes to an end and when my merry band of gingerbread artists leave I take stock of my kitchen.  My poor kitchen, where every surface is coated with a thin layer of icing sugar, and my sticky floor is covered in broken sweets and pretzels.

I take it all in, sigh and think how incredibly lucky I am to have this tradition and these amazing people in my life.

If you made it this far - thanks for stopping by and being part of it all.  However you are celebrating the season I wish you all peace and joy.

I'm off to Canada for Christmas and can't wait!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

It's so much fun!

Whenever I start to think that I have no room in my heart, mind or house(!) for another craft obsession one comes along.  And invariably it requires new tools, and supplies and ....  and my latest obsession is no different.

If you had asked me a couple of weeks ago if I had any interest in machine embroidery I would have pondered a second and said 'no'.  But ask me today -- and I'd tell you I can't get enough of it!

My impression of machine embroidery a couple of weeks ago was that it was sort of flowery stuff on towels - and of course it can be - but there is a whole world of designs out there.

They cover pretty much everything you can imagine - and a few things you probably couldn't!

My machine has a simple editing programme that lets me design and edit my own stuff - so I can feed my word crafting obsession in stitching!

Really the possibilities are endless.

Initially I was embroidering anything on any piece of scrap fabric I could get my hands on.  I learned a lot through that (and I'll write a post with my 'tips for beginners' soon) and decided it was time to do something 'real' so I bought a few plain white tea towels and came up with a couple of designs for my friend the Caked Crusader.

I was really pleased with how they turned out.

Learning to correctly position and line up the designs took a bit of research but I think I did pretty well for a beginner!

And today I stitched 3 'Love to'  designs - documenting in thread my obsessions.  I was delighted when I remembered a spare frame I've had hanging around for ages!

I'm considering restitching the designs in different colours (I'm not sure about the green in the Knit design) - but have it hanging in my craft area for now.

Monday, 31 December 2012

Christmas Gift Crafting

I'm just back from Canada and fighting jet lag - I think it's much harder in the winter when these dark grey days make staying in bed seem like a great idea!  But I had a really lovely Christmas with my brothers and sisters and their families - and a few jet lagged days is a small price to pay.

This year I wanted to make most of my presents - and I'm happy to say I was pretty successful.  Of course, me being me, despite starting well in advance I still ended up doing finishing touches on Christmas Eve!  But the gifts were all well received and definitely worth the effort.


For each of my brothers and sisters I made one of these family cushions (I put cushions in before I gave them!) - and I was so pleased with how they turned out.  

I designed the name collage in the Cricut Craft Room and then cut it out in Silhouette heat transfer flocking.  

I was pretty excited when I discovered this stuff - as until then I had no idea how I was going to use the collage!  The flocking is on a transfer sheet, so as long as you remember to flip your image before cutting the rest is reasonably straight forward.  

I ironed the flocking on to the felt (this took longer than I thought it would!), sewed up the seams and then finished the cushions with large co-ordinating buttons.


My niece Sarah and her boyfriend Ryan  have just bought their first home so I designed and decorated this frame for them. (Freddy is the cutest dog in the world!) 

I started with a plain frame that I painted a lovely shade of blue.  I cut the words out in vinyl - again using Cricut Craft Room for the design work...

and then stuck them on to the frame.

I painted the front of the frame (covering the vinyl) with a pale mushroom colour and then used a stencil to add the blue and pink dots. I finished it off by stencilling on a few flowers in gold.  (The paints I used were Eco Green Paints which come in beautiful colours.  They are my favourite acrylic paints at the moment!)

When the paint was dry I carefully removed the vinyl exposing the dark blue paint underneath.

For my niece Dylann I made a scrapbook page in Craft Artist using a photo of her and my father which has always been one of my favourites.  To me it looks like he's a 1930's con man, and she's a little lost orphan who has attached herself to him -- in a film you know by the final scene she'd have won his heart forever.

I used the same technique I used for Sarah's frame to decorate this one.  

This final (non-knitted!) gift was for my best friend and her family -- who have been building gingerbread houses with me for 21 years. I made the scrapbook page in Craft Artist and printed it on photo paper.

I painted the frame gold, and then added the vinyl lettering (once again, designed and cut from the Cricut Craft Room).  I added six (six!) layers of ultra-thick embossing powder.  I stamped into the final layer while it was still hot and then added a thin layer of crafty notions gleam - because I love the stuff!

 I also knit up some gifts - but I'll post about those on my knitting blog another day!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Gingerbread 2012

Somehow 2012 is coming to a close -- what an amazing year it has been!  Of course every year for the past 21 years we've marked the beginning of Christmas with the gingerbread construction and this year was no different.

After last year's Who-ville masterpiece  I was feeling a bit of pressure when it came to picking a theme.  There was a lot of interest in an Olympics gingerbread display but I thought that recreating the stadium might be tricky(!) and I really, really like snow on my gingerbread house.  So I vetoed that and decided to go for the snowiest place I could think of - Santa's workshop.

The Coopers (Pat, Caroline and the 4 minis - Gen, Suzy, Mads and Louis) arrived late Sunday morning a week ago and we set to work planning the general layout.  They embraced the theme and quickly decided we needed elves on the inside of the house at work, and a conveyor belt bringing the presents from inside the house out to Santa's sleigh.  

From there we were off!

I really love the help wanted sign - although clearly UK employment law would never permit the bit in parenthesis.  Apparently employment lawyers have not yet hit the North Pole.

 The elves are hard at work inside the workshop, warmed by the roaring fire (Mads made that) ....

...preparing presents to send out to the sleigh through the conveyor belt door.

(These photos were taken before we put the roof on.)

Outside of the workshop, Gen added a solitary elf is ice fishing (even elves gotta eat, although I don't think Santa got that figure from a fish diet)....

... and behind the elf you can see the conveyor belt is full of presents ready for loading into the sleigh.  

I hadn't noticed while we were building the house but only the sack of coal has actually made it into the sleigh.  I'm not sure what the meaning behind that is - perhaps there is a mini Cooper worried about what list they're on!!

Suzy created this great Santa and Rudolph, and the sleigh was a joint effort by Pat and Louis.

Of course, where you have reindeer, you have a reindeer feeding station, and reindeer - errrr - droppings.  

Our gingerbread creations are nothing if not sophisticated!

Although I vetoed the idea of an Olympics theme, I did suggest that a 'nod' to the Olympics would be ok.  And from this little display I think it's clear that Santa was a bit of a team GB supporter!  I think that explains their phenomenal performance!!

Tom Daley apparently trains at the North Pole (why not?).  Here he's at the top of the diving platform waving to his adoring audience (the little green elf).  

...and a pair of swimming trunks are floating in the pool - lost by some poor diver who we can only assume is in hiding while he looks for something to wear.

A bird bath, some trees and a lumpy but adorable snowman (Caroline's annual addition) finished the exterior.

The mini-Coopers are pretty grown up now - Louis is the youngest at 10 3/4 years old.  They are all quite expert in the art of building with sweets and their creativity amazes me.  But adult or 10 3/4, we all enjoy watching the Grinch (animated version) and Charlie Brown's Christmas while the roof sets on the house.
For those of you who wonder what happens to the gingerbread house - well, the following Sunday afternoon  the Coopers have a Christmas party.  While the adults enjoy minced pies and some mulled wine the children stare longingly at the house until towards the end of the party when they are gathered into the playroom, the house is placed in front of them and they are allowed to tuck in.  This year the demolition took about 4 seconds.   

Thanks to anyone who is still out there and made it through this crazy long post!  Wishing you all the best for the holiday season!!!