Come visit with me as I stitch and craft my way from one Christmas to the next - I like to have Christmas projects close by me all year. I have a particular fondness for Santas and Angels. If you have the time, leave a comment so I know you've visited.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Gingerbread - the aroma of Christmas

My house is filled with the smell of freshly cooked gingerbread - it's lovely! This afternoon I made my first batch of gingerbread for 2009. I now have 160 gingerbread babies in my kitchen - half packed into airtight containers, the rest packaged up in groups of three in little cellophane bags. In December I always have near the front door a basket with bags of gingerbread ready to be given to departing guests as a take-home treat. I've been making these gingerbread babies every Christmas for at least 20 years. My recipe is so simple, and always turns out well. I particularly like it because it's done in stages. It's a soft, chewy gingerbread. Here's the recipe:
Place in a large saucepan: 1 and 1/3 cups brown sugar (press the brown sugar down well in the measuring cup); 3/4 cup golden syrup (or 1/4 cup treacle and 1/2 cup golden syrup), 180g (6 ounces) butter, chopped into small pieces; 1 tablespoon ground ginger. Heat, stirring, over low heat till the sugar dissolves and all ingredients are combined. Turn off the heat, cover the saucepan and leave it to cool slightly for 30 minutes or longer.
Meanwhile, combine in a large bowl 1 cup of self-raising flour and 3 and 1/2 cups plain flour, mix well, then make a well in the centre. Lay out 3 pieces of plastic foodwrap (about 45 cm or 18" long) ready for the dough.
Lightly beat 2 egg whites, add them to the cooled sugar mixture and whisk to combine. Then tip the sugar mixture into the flour, and stir to combine. I use a wooden spoon to start, then get into it with my hands to mix in the last of the flour. With clean damp hands, break off a third of the dough, knead it lightly for a minute or so till it's smooth, then wrap it in a piece of plastic food wrap. Repeat twice with the rest of the dough. Refrigerate the dough for an hour or longer.
Preheat oven to moderate 180deg C (350 deg F). Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Roll out one piece of dough between 2 sheets of baking paper to about 6mm or 1/4" thickness. Cut out desired shapes using a biscuit cutter. I use a gingerbread cutter about 6 cm (a bit over 2") long for my gingerbread, and this recipe makes about 80 gingerbread babies that size. Place the gingerbread shapes on a baking tray a little apart (they don't spread much in the cooking). I usually get 20 of my babies on each tray. Cook till the gingerbread changes colour - about 8 minutes for my size gingerbreads, longer for bigger pieces. Cool for a few minutes on the tray (they're very soft when they come out of the oven, but soon firm up), then transfer to a cooling rack. Once they have cooled, store them in an airtight container and they'll remain fresh for weeks. I always make a double batch (ie 9 cups flour) when I bake these. I'll probably make 6 double batches of these gingerbreads in December - mostly for gifts.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas in the Kitchen

My kitchen windowsill houses my Christmas salt and pepper set collection, a wooden Santa toothpick container, and Santa mugs.

On top of the fridge I have Santa teapots and biscuit barrels. My Christmas fridge magnets are on the fridge doors - well, most of them. I also have a few magnets (4 large gingerbread men) on the rangehood, a couple of Santas on the dryer in the laundry, some Santas on the filing cabinet in the study, and a row of plastic and metal Santas running down the side edge of the fridge.

Friday, November 27, 2009

More Christmas pics

Still in the lounge room. This pic shows my little trees and reindeers coming down the stairs.
This is my display case of tiny Santas.

The door between the lounge room and the study. It has Santa cards (I save all my nice Santa cards each year) and a set of Aussie 12 Days of Christmas ornaments I stitched a few years ago. The dog is my 16 yr old Bichon, Ellie.

Three of the framed cross stitches I have in the lounge room - L&L's Gift Pf Peace and Spirir of Christmas, and Vermillion's Portrait of Santa. I also have Vermillion's Nine Santa Sampler and LA's Santa Reunion hagng in the lounge room.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jolly Old Fellow - Progress pic

It's nice to be working on Jolly old Fellow again. It is a big change from the large loose fabric of Angel of Hope, but it didn't take me many stitches on JOF to adjust back to the smaller stitches. I've now stitched the sky section of page 8, and I'm looking forward to stitching with the more pleasant (for me) floss shades of the hat. I'm about a quarter of the way through page 8 right now.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Angel Room

Here's my Angel tree. It's another dowelling tree, slightly smaller than the Santa tree. This one is about 5 ft tall. The Santa one is 6 ft tall. My dowelling trees are home-made. Just a length of 2" square wood with a series of holes drilled through the sides. Each hole takes a single length of dowelling that forms the two side branches. Then near each side branch there's a hole drilled in the front of the wood frame to take a shorter piece of dowel for the branch that comes out the front. It has a hook on the back positioned so it hangs at the right height on a picture hook that was already on the wall. After Christmas the dowelling branches come out for easy storage.

The pic's not a good one - I'll try to take a better one tomorrow when there's some natural light. But if you click on it and get the large version you'll get a clearer view. I love my dowelling trees because you can really see all the different items. There are almost 200 angels on my tree this year.

This ggroup of agelsis in the corner of my sitting room.

The same group of angels as in the top pic, but on this pic you can also see the Angel of Love on the wall.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christmas pic - entry foyer

When you stand at my front door, this is what you will see. Downstairs is the lounge room, with my vintage tree surrounded by gifts. Upstairs is my Santa tree and my Santa tin collection. The Santa tree is made of dowelling, and hangs on the wall from a picture hook. It has only Santas on it - around 300 of them. The "Merry Christmas" sign is made of bread dough, and was a gift from my sister 23 yrs ago. The Santa mask on the left and the large Santa on the table are two of my favourite Santas.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christmas in my Lounge Room

The first pic is of the White Santa corner. The tall Santa is one of my favourites - he has such a sweet face. I don't actually have many white Santas, as for me Christmas is burgundy, red, green and gold. I tend to go for the brighter colours I guess.

Next to the White Santas are the candles and candle-holders. I only ever light the candles on Christmas Eve - but usually only tealight candles in the candle-holders. I rarely burn a Christmas candle, and I never light a candle that's in the shape of a Santa. I just don't think it's right to burn a Santa! I have had many of the candle-holders for over 20 years, and there are a few that I've rescued from garage sales or thrift shops.

The next photo is of my two Santa cardboard masks, which I bought at a Stitches & Craft show in 1995. This is the first year I've hung them on a white wall. Usually I hang them on a brick wall, and they have nice brown eyes. This year, not thinking ahead, I put them up on a white wall didn't like their white eyes, so I popped a piece of black card behind the eyes and that made them look prettier and healthier straight away. I actually prefer them against the white wall.

The final pic is the TV corner. I have a row of light Santas on top of the telly - I tend to pick either very stable or unbreakable Santas for the telly top. Mostly they stay where they're put, but occasionally there'll be a mishap and a Santa will nose-dive to the floor when someone cuts a corner en route to the study - the door is right near the TV.

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Angel is home from the framer

and she is just gorgeous (but I have to admit to a hint of bias). She is very large - we had to put in a stronger hook to hold her, as she weighs 8kg (nearly 18 lb). I picked her up yesterday and brought her home, even humg her on the wall, and then noticed that she had clear glass in the frame, not the diffused (non-reflective) glass I had asked for. We have such a light-filled house that i always get non-reflective glass. So she had to go back to the framer for another ight. But all is well now. She's settled into her Christmas home, and I just love her already. I'm thinking that after Christmas I will hang her in the study.

More lounge room pics

This is my snowpeople collection. It's only small, and started by accident just 2 yrs ago. Snowpeople aren't big where I live - it never gets to snow here, and at Christmas we usually have a heatwave, so I never really did associate snowpeople with Christmas.
This photo is a closeup of a section of the photo I showed yesterday. These are some of my nesting Santas - there are more upstairs in the dining room. Behind the nesting Santas, on the left is a gorgeous Russian looking Santa bottle, one of my favourite things.

This is another close-up of yesterday's pic. These are my bell Santas. There are wooden Santas, fine china Santa bells, porcelain Santa bells, earthenware Santa bells, and one brass Santa bell.

This is a close-up of my trinket boxes. This is one of my favourite collections.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another Christmas pic

I'm starting on the lounge room today. It's a big room, and the theme down here is Santa, though he does share the room with a small number of snowpeople and a few other non-Sants ornaments. My lounge room is where we spend most of our time. It's on the lowest level of the house (it's a three level house, with the entry being to the middle level). When you come down the stairs, this ic is what you see. Starting at the top left, there are trinket boxes, bells, and some fattish Santas on top of the stereo. Next is my vintage tree - it looks as though it's made of a collection of green wire bottle-brushes. I recall having a tree just like this one when I was a youngster. They were the first type of artificial trees readily available in Australia - in the early 1950s. Around this tree are all the Christmas gifts, and baskets of Christmas crackers and take-home gifts for visitors. On the trunk next tot he tree is a collection of mainly nesting Santas, though there are a few other Santas there too. That's a sfar as this pic goes. I'll continue the lounge-room tour tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Christmas is coming to my house ,,,

For the past week I have been putting up Christmas decorations. Tonight I have all but finished. So I'm going to take you on a tour of my Christmas house. Today I'm showing the dining room.
My dining room table is in the top pic. This year I've taken a minimalist approach here, just to make it easier for the odd occasion when we actually use the table for eating at.
The next photo is my buffet. It has my Advent tree (you can tell it's not December yet, cause all the stars are red. Each day in December I turn a star to reveal a Santa, so that by December 24 there are 24 Santas and bo red stars showing on the tree.) I love my Advent tree, and I have made a number for friends and relatives over the years. The buffet also has a few special ornaments, some dolly peg Santas I made, and a few nesting Santas.
The third photo shows my vintage Christmas decoration collection, with my vintage Santas standing on top. One of my favourite things in this cabinet is the Nativity set on the top shelf.
The last photo is the top of the chest of drawers. It has my large terracotta Santas, my gourd Santas, and a few other special Santas.
There are six framed Christmas cross stitches in the dining room - L&L's Oh Christmas Tree and Santa of the Forest, Marilyn Gandre's Santa's Workshop and Santa's Great Book, and two others whose designers I can't recall at present.
If you're wondering why I decorate so early, it's because I'm slow, it takes me 2 weeks usually. I need to have it finished by December 1, when lots of people start coming for Christmas visits. I take my decorations down immediately after Christmas, so starting mid November gives me enough time to enjoy it before they all get packed away again.

Cinnamon Stars

I made this (my first ever) batch of cinnamon ornaments last week. I didn't put in a hole, as I wanted to use them as a pot pourri substitute in the bowl shown in the pic, as part of my Christmas decorating. They took 4 days to air-dry, but I left them on their trays for another 2 days just to be sure. The aroma is lovely. I have them in my kitchen, and every so often I get a lovely whiff of apple and cinnamon - it eally does smell like Christmas.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More angels ...

beaded, not stitched this time. The large pink and purple nes are for my Angel tree, three of the small ones (one pink, one purple and one clear) are for three little sisters I know, and the rest will be in a basket under my Christmas tree as some of the take-home gifts for Christmas visitors. These will be my final batch of beaded angels for 2009.
So - it's back to cross stitch - JOF is waiting patiently, but I have 2 more children's Christmas ornaments to finish first.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A little finish

I finished this little Christmas ornament tonight. It's a Christmas gift for a 1 yr old little girl whose name is Georgia. The design is adapted from a LA leaflet Christmas Caboodles I've had for close to 20 years. I think I must have stitched this design for at least 20 children over the years. I stitched it this one on white 22 count hardanger over 1.

I just have 2 more ornaments to stitch for children this Christmas, but that's not the first time I've said that this year - every time I get to this stage I find I have a few more added to the list.

I'm taking a break from stitching for a couple of days while I bead a few more angels - they're for Christmas gifts too.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Some little finishes

Six little bead decorated trees stitched and finished in tiny frames. No designer to credit - they just grew as I stitched. These will be the last of the tiny framed cross stitch designs I will make this year.

I have just two more Christmas ornaments to stitch now - one for Georgia, and one for Alex. That will finish my Christmas stitching, and I'll be able to devote my stitching time to Jolly Old Fellow. I am actually looking forward to stitching on him again.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

HD with another Angel

I've just finished this ornie for Frankie, the new baby sister of Harrie and Perry for whom I stitched Angel ornies last year. Their ornies are pictured in the banner at the top of the page. Perry loves purple, Harrie loves pink - my challenge for this ornie was to incorporate both colours and maintain some individuality in this ornie. The fabric is an iridescent hand-dyed green (not at all like the blue it became when I scanned it) Ausssie fabric by Stitches & Spice. It's 28 ct Lugana Opal, and the colour is Spice Blend Peacock Fantasy. The angel is adapted from TIAG's freebie Amish Angel. I swapped hair for the cap, changed the neckline, removed the floral swag, beaded the wings, changed all the colours, and added some trims. She took me exactly a week to stitch and make up. I think this must be about the twentieth time I have stitched this angel - most of the little girls I know now have an adapted Amish Angel ornie, and I have one on my Angel tree at Christmas.

I now have just one more ornie to stitch as a Christmas gift. Not an angel this time. Perhaps a little stocking filled with presents. I'm going to bead half a dozen angels (more Christmas gifts) first.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Markets, moans, and me ...

This is where I've been lately - at local markets, selling all the things I've been making during the year. Or trying to sell might be a more accurate description. For the past 10 years I've had stalls at local markets in the October-December period each year, selling my cross stitched and beaded Christmas and gift items, and they usually sell really well. This year it is a different story. I've attended 4 markets at 3 different venues, and all have been so very slow. I've still been getting lots of nice comments from market-goers, but very few sales. Today's market was my best one yet for sales, but it was way below the worst sales day last year. I only have another 3 markets booked, and I hope that both sales and the weather improve for them (it's rained at 3 of the 4 markets I attended, all outdoor markets - a major hassle). I certainly haven't covered my market costs this year so far, and I'm still out of pocket for the cost of the materials. Right now I'm debating whether to continue with markets after this year. I'll reserve judgement till this year's markets are over. Though, as I have 4 suitcases filled with things I've already made, I probably need to continue with the markets till I sell at least some of my stock.
My mind is now straying to thoughts of all those extra stitching hours I would have for more projects of my own if I stop making items to sell at the markets ... this could be dangerous territory!