Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holly

Today my mother and I went to my dad's grave. I drove her as she was nervous of the icy roads. She brought some flowers, a rose and some bulbs for the spring. As always, I stood by my father's grave and cried. After we had our quiet moments, we went to Mount Usher Gardens and had a cup of tea in the cafe there. It was lovely there, all Christmassy, with beautiful trees. They have some lovely shops there too and we went and bought some white fluffy stars for the Christmas tree and a white wooden duck. We had a nice afternoon, and when I got home, my hubby had got some holly for me to put over our pictures.
This is the one thing that makes Christmas for me, putting holly over the pictures. When I had it done I breathed a deep sigh and relaxed, now it feels like Christmas is here. It's the one thing my dad always wanted to do, and always said it was Christmas once the holly was up. And obviously it got imprinted onto my brain, as I feel exactly the same. I miss him so much, especially at this time of year, but now the holly is up I feel it is Christmas and he is here, all around me, as ever.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Babies, mangers and light

A few days ago we put up our Christmas tree, and our crib, and gradually, other Christmas decorations. I don't usually put the tree up so early, being a firm believer that Christmas begins on Christmas Day and continues for 12 days after that. However, the last few days have been so busy with INYB's production of the Nutcracker that I decided to do it a little early. I put my nativity scene up as well. This is a very plain and basic nativity made from olive wood, that I have had for several years. The starkness and simplicity of it appeals to me.
As usual, I put the whole scene up, including the baby Jesus. This doesn't trouble me, which is strange really. As a child, I went to Midnight mass with my parents and when we got home we had a little ceremony of putting the baby Jesus in the crib. Until then, the little stable held only Mary, Joseph and the animals. And the whole thing continued, with the Wise Men being moved a little each day from their starting point behind the crib somewhere to arrive at the stable on Jan 6th.
For my own nativity scene, however, I have always put everything up at once, baby, Wise Men, camels, the whole thing.
I have a friend who always says to me - oh no - baby Jesus doesn't arrive until Christmas Eve - you can't put him in now! And I have always shrugged this off as not important, which to me it isn't. But until this year I hadn't really thought about it. WHY isn't important to me whether my nativity scene has the baby in it or not?
I thought about it and I realised. I am not a religious person in the sense of churches and prayers and hierarchy. I am, however, a very spiritual person, in the sense that I respect every other living creature, human, animal or plant. I believe that there is something of God (whatever you believe God to be) in every living thing, and it is up to each one of us to reach out to that 'something of God' in each other living creature. So it doesn't matter to me whether baby Jesus is in my nativity or not. Jesus and his teachings are always here. He is in every moment of every day. He is in every person that I speak to. He is in every person that I ignore.
This will make some people smile, because I really am not a religious person. But I do genuinely believe that God is in every one of us. And that Jesus showed us the way we should try to live. So whether my little nativity has its baby or not, its irrelevant.
The message is here, in everyone's heart. If we can't find it, then we need to look harder. A few years ago I made Christmas cards with the message 'And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness knew it not'. Each card was water coloured and it took me ages, but to me, somehow, the message was important. No matter how dark it is, there is always light. Christmas is hard for many people who have lost loved ones. But the message is always there. No matter how dark it is, the light will always come back.
And amidst the glaring flashing shops, the canned music, the constant cries to spend more money to get yourself the perfect Christmas - amidst all this, is the message of hope, light and love.
Christmas is about love, love for each other, acceptance of each other, sharing with each other. That's what each present means. Love, share and accept. Personal items don't mean a thing. Who has dinner where doesn't mean a thing.
What matters is what is in your heart.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Music


This time of year I always listen to a lot of music. There is so much beautiful music written for Christmas, and of course all the carols that are sung at this time of year too. Last night we had the annual carol service in school. The day before, I had been asked to play with Senior Choir, they were going to sing John Rutter's Star Carol. I love this piece, and have played it before, but it is quite tricky, and so for the sake of everyone's stress levels we opted for Oh Holy Night. Not one of my favourites, but a very popular one. The soloist was beautiful, and the choir did themselves proud. It was lovely. Yesterday morning another piece of music got added into the mix, and I played for the boys choir who sang a jazzy version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. This was a bit more of a challenge, partly due to the lack of rehearsal time, but also because the accompaniment wasn't written, out I had to make it up as I went along (with instruction from the music teacher as to what she wanted). It was something I hadn't done for a performance before, and it was great fun.
My favourite carol of all is I think, the Coventry Carol. Closely followed by In Dulce Jubilo, and In the Bleak Midwinter. You will see a theme there of voices in close harmony and the yearning to have been at Bethlehem and to have had the chance to share at first hand in the experience of Christmas.
Music is for me an integral part of Christmas. I couldn't imagine Christmas without it. And while I love the big numbers like Messiah, Winter Wonderland and Hark the Herald Angels (with Handel's tune, not Mendelssohn's I'm afraid!), the true message of Christmas for me is found in the simpler haunting melodies and achingly beautiful harmonies of composers like Tavener, Vivaldi and Leontovych.
Happy singing everyone!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

More Candles!


I got some time to try more of these today. These candles came from Ikea and they are the short ones. They have a mixture of brads and gems on them. I think I'm getting the hang of it now, though they are still a bit messy for my liking. But definitely an improvement! I have more ideas now, but no more candles so guess what I'm buying tomorrow! If anyone wants me I will be in my craft room...........

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Candles


I have wanted to try this out for ages, stamping on candles. This is my first attempt, which had a few teething problems. The tree is a little greyer in real life than I wanted, but overall its not too bad. There are little gems on the tree, and my idea was that the snowflakes turned to gems as they landed on the tree. I haven't had time to try out another, but having got some advice from different crafty friends I hope to get a chance in the next few days to give it another go!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Advent

I can't believe it's Advent already. We lit our first Advent candle last Sunday and I have put up the Advent tree that I made a long time ago. I was really pleased with it at the time, because I made it from felt and fabric that I had already and I didn't have to buy anything for it. The numbers are getting a little tatty now, as they were only glued on and some of them are falling off! The first Christmas we had it, it was just the two of us and we took it in turns to fill each pocket with something small for each other. Now it's just the children that do it, and even thought the eldest is now 21 they still do it - and there's always a family discussion as to who got the star last year. This year I bought some pocket gnomes from my friend Carol to fill it - one of the pockets has 2 gnomes in it, so that son no 2 can give one to his girlfriend too!
Two of my children are performing with Irish National Youth Ballet in their production of The Nutcracker this weekend. I've just been baking mini gingerbread men which I am going to ice as Nutcracker Princes and mini gingerbread ladies which will become Snowflake Angels for their first night party. While I was baking I put onone of my Christmas CDs for the first time this year and had a great time singing along to White Christmas. Happy Advent everyone!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Christmas cards at last



Well about time too - I finally got all my Christmas cards made and dried and photographed. And I found the card reader and got them uploaded onto the PC. I kept them very simple as always with a variety of papers and snowflakes and inks. These are just two of my designs. I have also made some calendars which I won't put up as they are presents, so I will save them for posting up in the New Year. Next on the list......a badge to wear to Jackie's workshop on Sunday - my oirignal idea isn't going to work unless I get lucky in town on Saturday, so it will have to be something else - thinking cap now on!.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Broken

Yes unfortunately I feel a bit broken just now. My laptop decided to die on Sunday night, which is very annoying. I managed to get my photos and some other stuff off it, but I still haven't got my email contacts. I have an iol email address so I have to investigate how to do that, if I can manage to turn the laptop on in safe mode. So I am back on the family PC and I don't have the luxury of sitting by the fire and TV with my laptop. I'm not sure what's going to happen next, I can't afford a new one and my lovely mum has offered me an early Christmas present so we will see. On top of that the boiler isn't working properly although the Bord Gais technician who turned up over an hour BEFORE his alloted appointment slot says it is. And because I wasn't here, my hubby couldn't show him what the problem was. So that's been re-booked. Sigh. And we also have a dead bike, thanks to a road accident last week but very thankfully not an injured son.
I wanted to put up some Chrismas cards as I have finally started making them, but without the laptop I have to find the card reader in order to load them onto the PC and so that's another grrrr. I am trying to be positive and remember all the good things I have, but you know how sometimes it all just gets a bit much.........I'll be back!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Poetry Allowed

We were at the school's in-house final of Poetry Aloud last night. For those who haven't heard of it before, this is a poetry speaking competition, and it always creates great debate in our car on the way home as to who dramatised their poems too much and therefore didn't really 'speak' them. It's always an interesting and moving evening. Interesting because there are always poems that I don't know and am impressed by, and there are always young people speaking them who I maybe wasn't aware that they had that interest or talent. Moving, because there are always poems that move me to tears. Some, like Sea Fever, remind me of my childhood and my father. Some, like Stop All the Clocks just bring me to tears by the sentiment expressed within them. Last night, we heard Seamus Heaney's 'Mid-Term Break' 4 times. Quite fitting really, given the last 2 times. And each time there were tears in my eyes. I have heard this poem before but for some reason last night, one particular line struck me with more force than it had on previous readings or hearings. The line is - Snowdrops and candles soothed the bedside - although strictly speaking it is the end of one line and the beginning of another. Something about the beauty of this image struck me, where before I was just struck by the last two lines and the devastating message they contain.
The other poem which particularly struck me last night was one that I didn't know - BC:AD by U.A. Fanthorpe. It was the set poem for the Junior section of the competition and so we heard it 6 times. Each time was different, but the last 2 lines struck me just because they are beautiful, and the image they conjure up is beautiful. The poem tells the story of how before became after at the moment of the birth of Jesus Christ, and how some farm workers and Persians
'Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven'.
I like that. I like to think that somehow I am doing that too. And that somehow that is part of the message of Christmas and for this time of year - we are walking haphazard by starlight.
Safe Journey everyone :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The power of words

I was at a funeral last week, and it struck me once again how powerful words can be. The right words can make a bad situation all right again, the wrong ones can cause so much hurt that it is hard to undo. Quotes can bring back memories, so powerful that you can actually feel as if you were in that time and place again. I heard once somewhere (at a Sunday School I think) that words are like toothpaste - once you have squeezed them out of the tube, you can't squeeze them back in again - so be careful what you say.
At this funeral we were remembering a lovely lady who had died quite quickly. She was a grandmother, and the sort of person that always had a smile for you, no matter what, she always asked after you and your family. She never said a bad word about anyone, and she was just always there in the background watching out for people. Someone spoke about her and said that the light that shone out of her was dazzling (and it was) and that this light had now gone, but had gone on to become part of the greater Light that we are all part of, and that shines out of each of us. Somehow I like this thought, it reminded me of the sentiment that no one ever really dies, they live on in our hearts and in our memories.
I lost another very good friend earlier this year, and when we used to chat, she always said that her husband would never die as long as we remembered him and spoke about him. Every Christmas I gave her a card from Our Lady's Hospice telling her that there was a light on their Christmas Tree for her husband. She always told me how much that meant to her. This year there will be another light on that tree, for her.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Hallowe'en!


Here are my baby pumpkins turned into baby Jack-a-lanterns and I had to get them a mummy to watch over them. She is a normal size pumpkin so you can see how small my babies really are!! Over the years I have tried different things on my pumpkin, stars, witches, bats etc, but I keep coming back to the traditional face, sometimes smiley, sometimes grumpy or scary. It always seems to work the best.
I don't really like Hallowe'en very much if I'm honest. I have no problem with the feast of Samhain, or with the world of the dead being closer to us for a while, or even with the thought of witches and ghosts being around a bit more than normal. What I don't like is the whole firework/banger type thing, where it has become an excuse for people to make a lot of noise and nuisance of themselves for no particular reason. Fireworks don't belong with Hallowe'en, it's a far more spiritual and deep-meaning festival. Fireworks are for Guy Fawkes, and we don't celebrate that in Ireland. They are also for celebrating something like a birthday or a wedding. But for many people Hallowe'en is an excuse to throw bangers into your old neighbour's garden, or worse, their letter box. To vandalise things that you would never touch any other time of the year, and to generally go round being a pest and frightening everyone's dogs and cats.
I have no issue with the children going round in fancy dress and knocking for sweeties or treats at their neighbour's houses, but I don't particularly like opening my front door to a bunch of teenagers that I don't know at all demanding something from me with more than a hint of menace. Return Samhain to the druids I say, and let's do this festival the way it's supposed to be!!!
Anyway, rant over......enjoy your pumpkins, fancy dress or whatever it is that you will be doing. My little lanterns will be shining out and keeping the dark spirits at bay, and my warm fire will hopefully do the same for the cold and the rain.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pumpkins


This year I planted lots of seeds for ornamental gourds (which I have grown quite well before) and pumpkins. Unfortunately because of the wet summer we had the snails and slugs in our garden came forth and multiplied like never before. So many of my carefully minded seedling were just digestive juice. Out of 2 trays of seedlings I have ended up with these 3 pumpkins. Now, in order to put this in perspective I should add that the one on the right is the size of a tennis ball. And the largest one is the size of a small Galia melon. Im not entirely sure how I will carve them, if at all, but I think I may go for my standard of stars round the edges. When I brought them into the house I was reminded of the Hallowe'en, a few years ago, in fact, many years ago, when I couldn't get a big pumpkin to make a Jack O' Lantern. I was panicking because the children would be so disappointed without their Jack O' Lantern for Hallowe'en. All the pumpkins in the shops were so small. So I hit on the bright idea (well I thought so at the time lol) of buying 4 small pumpkins, one for each child, and carving an individual face or design on it. And that's what we did. We had 4 small pumpkins on the mantelpiece, each with a different face, and each with their own nightlight inside, and each child was happy. Somehow it seemed a very special Hallowe'en.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Snoopy!



Last Saturday I went to the Cara Craft Supplies shop for a special Saturday opening and demos. It was great fun, to meet up with people and to see all the nice crafty things and I made a pretty Christmas tag too. But the best thing was that the lovely Jackie had made me a surprise - a little Snoopy to put on my bag. She made it after reading about my bag here, so thank you again Jackie, it was a lovely thing to do :D




The night before I had been out to dinner to some friends and I made this card to say thank you to them for all the hard work and the lovely evening we had. I used an embroidered brad that I bought at the shop, it's from My Mind's Eye and the paper is from Scrapbook Walls, Light Summer Flowers, it's double-sided. I carefully stamped the back with my little 'Hand Made by' stamp that Julie gave me last Christmas and then I carefully wrote the card and carefully posted it without actually adding my name under the stamp on the back! Oh dear :D

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Where to be on a very rainy day

Well the picture says it all really - cats definitely have life sorted out......a nice warm bed to sleep on and a friend to snuggle up to. And when you have had enough of that you can go downstairs and eat some food and sit on someone's lap or in front of the fire.
Its a very strange day here, torrential rain for the most part, but then suddenly a few moments of beautiful blue sky and bright sparkling colour. I have made some French Onion Soup for later, and we will be lighting the fire and looking forward to Friday and a few days off school and work.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Beady Bag

Anyone who knows me, knows I love my bag. Its black with purple spider webs and skulls on it and studs and rings. It used to have a chain across the front of it too, but one of the loops came loose and it kept falling off so I had to remove it. But I now have a collection of badges and ribbons, and I recently bought a piano button which I am going to sew on it. A colleague in work the other day noticed my bag and told me about beady bags. Apparently about 50 or so years ago, Traveller women used to carry these beady bags, onto which they had sewn various beads, buttons and other decorations. Each item had a special memory or significance. This button or that bead reminded them of a person, or a place they had been, or an occasion. And they used to swap with other women to add to their collection. He said that my bag was a little like that, and indeed it is, although I don't want to give any of mine away!!



And here is mine, I have tied some ribbons onto a ring at the top, these are just purple and black ribbons that I had in my collection. On the pocket I have Petra's daisy and a black felt flower with a purple centre that was made by Sian (in hindsight I should have chosen purple with a black centre as I don't think it shows up very well). The red one says 'Princess of Darkness' which I think is fun, cos although I like black and purple and punky/goth style stuff, I am a big softie and a real flowers and sparkle person! The black one on the bottom right says 'My imaginary friend doesn't like you' which is what I would love to say to some people I know but I am way too polite! Also, I would have loved to wear this when I was a teenager, but would have been too timid. Unfortunately I have lost some badges that I really liked, sometimes the pins just come loose, or get damaged and I can't use them any more. I buy them when I see them and they catch my eye, and when I have sewn on the piano button it will be the first button so maybe I am starting a new phase :D

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More Dragons!

Finally I got this mirror finished, I've been working on it for ages. It's made from papier mache, built on a thick cardboard base, and done in layers. It took a while for all the layers to dry out. I sprayed it with silver paint and then dabbed black over it and then some more silver, poster paint this time. The blue of the dragon is a lovely paper I got in a kit, its like lizard skin, tho the scaley effect doesn't really show in the pic. And his tail is also scaley. I stuck some 'gems' on it to give it an old castle sort of feel. I had a bit of trouble with the back as I had built up his wing on one side and ofc forgot that I needed to have it level in order to stick the mirror tile on it! So some swearing ensued and I had to do a repair job. It's not 100% how I would like it, but it works ok. Now to make a nice space for myself in a corner of my bedroom - pics will follow :D

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Autumn



I love autumn, its my favourite time of year. I love all the gorgeous colours on the trees and the light at this time of year, on those sunny days when the sky is a clear blue. And there's something about the autumn rain, turning all the reds and oranges into sparkling jewels. In the garden you find those amazing spider webs, perfectly constructed and with the dew marking them out like veils of diamonds. I love the idea that everything is settling down for a long winter sleep, ready to wake up in the spring. And when the leaves fall off the trees, you can see their shape, all the branches and bark and how they reach to the sky. I look forward to evenings by the fire and snuggling up with a mug of tea and a good book.


I went for a walk by the canal today and took some photos of the trees and the water. The swans were beautiful and the water was quite clear, but I have to say the amount of rubbish was quite depressing. I still can't understand why people think it's ok to just throw stuff around everywhere. The sun wasn't out, but it was still lovely there.



I spent yesterday dyeing some curtains for my front room. They didn't turn out quite as I intended, as I didn't put enough ties on them for the tie dye to be really effective, but the colour is quite something!! They are bright red. At the moment they are still drying out and then will have to be ironed before I hang them up. I'm not sure how they will look, but it will certainly be different from the cream that was there before lol.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wow what a day!



We managed to raise 2,700 euro for Petra's Trust last Sunday. It was a great crafty day, lots of things to see and buy and do and plenty of cakes to eat too! I made some cards for it with Petra's daisy on them, the badge version is on my bag ofc :D They are made by Ger of LittleSnippets on Etsy. It's so great to see the total getting towards the 20k that's needed to send Petra off for her operation - hopefully the last bit won't take too long to get. Sometimes I wish I had POTS of gold lol.

Friday, October 2, 2009

So who is to blame?

I have always blamed/been grateful to my cousin for my interest in dragons and all things mythical and fantastical. He is 10 years older than me and when I was a child he told me the most wonderful stories of dragons, princesses, pirates, unicorns and knights in shining armour. He also taught me to play chess, and introduced me to yet another world full of castles, kings, knights and pawns.
But recently I took down a book from our shelves to look for some inspiration for a craft project. Its called the Book of Romance edited by Andrew Lang with illustrations by Henry Ford. I have a few other books by the same Andrew Lang with titles such as the Blue Fairy Book and the Brown Fairy Book. These gorgeous books have gold edged pages, beautiful illustrations (the colour plates with tissue paper in front of them) and embossed covers. Opening up the Book of Romance I was transported back to my childhood with pictures of Lancelot, Guenevere and of course dragons. It brought back so many memories of reading these stories with my beloved father, who, of course, also had a great love for dragons and fairies (and, I rather suspect, damsels in distress!).
Surrounded by such people, how could I hope to escape......my dreams were born, and I became a greater fantasy lover than either of them.
So thanks, Daddy and Brian, I'm a richer person for having the both of you :D

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Comments!!



Ooooh I got some comments, its exciting.....and some followers!!! Now I will have to get my act together and put some nice things up here for people to look at :D So I'm starting with a picture of Killiney Beach taken in January 2008, I like the light in this picture and I love Killiney Beach and the sea in general. My dream is to have a house where I can see the sea from at least one window, ah, that would be lovely.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Well it had to be a dragon really -

- I couldn't have a blog without a dragon on it, I do love dragons. If dragons could be real how cool would that be? The nearest thing I suppose are lizards and geckos and I like those too. So here I finally am in blog-land, having no idea how to put little pretty things on the sides of my blog, that's my next challenge. I would like to put Petra's Daisy there for a start. And no, I didn't do my dragon myself I have Carol to thank for that :D go take a look at her lovely blog HERE.
It's a beautiful day here, sunny and warm, although I am still coughing and feeling a bit bleh, its not too bad, and no worse than yesterday, so hopefully will not turn into anything nastier. I'm trying to finish a page for a circle journal atm but it's not really doing what I want it to do grrr. And I'm still working on my mirror frame which is drying atm, and hopefully I will be able to sort the mistake I made.
Here's my quote for the day - Who will guard the living when the dead arise? It's from the book Sabriel by Garth Nix and the inspiration for my title. Great series of books, I love them.
Sab xx

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hmmmmm

I think 'watch this space' might be the appropriate thing atm. Im thinking I need a little techie help :P