Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Christmas Preview

I think it's close enough to the big day that I can show off a few of the gifts without concern that the kids will spoil the surprise.

The first thing is not actually handmade, but was assembled at home. That would be the
kitchen, from Mum & Peter. It's so cool, really sturdy, and weighing in at almost 90lbs, should stand up to whatever abuse they're liable to throw at it. Thanks so much, Mum & Peter - they are going to be so jazzed about it! Toby suggested making some oven mitts to go with it, which I will probably get to soon.
A big thanks to Erik, too, who helped Toby put it up last night - so that I didn't have to!
Next is a little something for Noah - he's so into carrying his tool box around that Toby decided the boy needed a toolbelt. How could I fail to oblige? Found the pattern in this book, and with just a minor tweek here and there, my boy is as handy as they come. And I'm sorry, but I think the mattress ticking fabric is beyond cute.
Finally, that which I must confess to being most excited about. A month or so ago, Toby and I were looking through a slew of kid catalogues together, trying to get some idea of gifts for the kids, and we saw this:

I also saw the price tag, and thought, "Surely, I can make that for a lot less." Then Toby said aloud, "Surely, you can make that for a lot less." So, the challenge was given and received. And I think what I made might even be cooler. (Toot, toot on my own horn)

Half a dozen pockets for all sorts of things, and three embroidered velcro signs: Post, Shop & Cafe. This is my first real go at embroidery, people! How exciting! And though it's probably not the best part, but pretty high up there, is that everything (so far) was free! All scrap fabric from my stash - the only thing that needs buying is the tension rod to hang it with.

So now the kids can sell stuff, dine out or post letters. Looking forward to Christmas morning!

Monday, December 21, 2009

How we spent the weekend

A lot of this, poor man...
No reason why he shouldn't help a little...
And when they got too cold or tired, we did this...
...and this.

It was a good weekend.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


So I woke up Friday morning with an unexplainable compulsion: I must make myself this hat. Now. Ewenique Yarns in Bel Air happily obliged me with a couple skeins of a wool blend and mohair blend, and by evening, I had this soft, warm and sweetly apple-y green hat. Love it.

This was all Providential, as I had no particular need for a hat at the moment, aside from the fact that I didn't have one. I had no clue of the approaching snowstorm, nor any premonition of the couple feet we would get within 24 hours of the knitting urge. I tell ya, folks, the kindness of God is a marvellous thing - He even works through obscure pregnancy urges...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


After a very pleasant Thanksgiving with family, it's been busy and yet quiet around here. Nothing of great significance going on, but we've been making and schooling and doing.

My Singer Athena 2000 (sewing machine - duh) has all but died - definitely on her last legs (or spools). There was a frenzy of comparison shopping and trying to figure out: do I want mechanical or touch pad-face? What speed? How many stitches? How much? At the end of it all, I realized that in spite of the Black Friday sales, if anyone else was to receive a Christmas gift this year, my new machine would have to wait. Enter my sweet friend, Mandie, who has generously provided me with a long-term loaner. And so the business continues...

Business in the form of more hanging pockets, to organize Phoenix card supplies...

... a sewing machine cover for the mini-machine Abigail got for her birthday - after all, all Mommy's machines had them...

...a knitting bag, complete with internal pocket for yarn, external pocket for whatever, and 2 internal loops for knitting needles and/or keys.

Thanks go to Zoanna, who kindly provided all the scrap material I've been able to make stuff with!

Now, time for a market research question: For the crafty among you - what features would the perfect craft-bag have? Regardless of the craftiness in question, every bag I've ever bought had one little thing I didn't like or didn't use or didn't have. What's your must have: long or short straps? Velcro or zipper closing? Small hole for yarn feeding? Plastic pouch for stamps? Reinforced pocket for scissors? Give me some good feedback, and I might be able to come up with something special for you - you never know...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday nights

a good fire

popcorn and caramel apples

apple cider

our new game, sneak attack

all we need for a great family night

Friday, November 20, 2009


This must be one of the best tools to organize your Christmas shopping: Wishpot. The ultimate wishlist, it pulls all other wishlists together into one central location. It also allows you to organize what you'd like to buy for others on your list, and even has a price comparison facility. For those who buy online or know those who'd like to shop for you online, this is a great tool. It's free to sign up, and the biggest thing (at least for me) has been the ability to create a wishlist for websites that don't have the facility (ie Vision Forum). And did I mention that it's got a baby and wedding registry? So cool. Check out my wishpot, if you're interested - you know, for research...

Monday, November 16, 2009


So, remember that neck warmer I made for Toby? The one that was too small and I accidentally cut into when trying to modify?
Well, yesterday I ripped it out and made my own version. We're looking at a 2x2 rib running width ways and a sewn seam up the back. It fits beautifully, and I have some more of that lovely alpaca left (though not much).
I'm happy and Toby's happy. Not bad for a couple hours' work.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A quick poll

At the moment, orders can't be placed on my Phoenix website, but I am considering an upgrade. I'd love to know if anyone would be more likely or willing to place a card order if I put the payment facility on the site, or if emailing me orders is sufficient. Feedback, please!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

I'm not sure...

Most of this looks pretty cool, but the ginger just seems a bit of an overshare, somehow.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I *Heart* Yogurt Pots

I am a loser. I know. What else would explain such a lame title? But it's true. I've come to think of yogurt pots as one of the most versatile pieces of rubbish-fodder in our home. Their uses are legion, for example:
  • Measuring cups - the cheap, store's own brand are about a one cup size, and they live merrily in my flour, sugar, rice, etc. tins.
  • Bath toys - poke holes in them or leave them whole, the kids can't get enough of them. And if they get gross, throw them out.
  • Painting pots
  • Tea bag bins - not the most aesthetically pleasing, but it does the job and it all goes into the bin.
  • Baby stacking toys - different sizes work better for this, but Ellie still had a ball with them during the girls' school work the other day.
  • Playing telephone - yes, my kids still do this.
  • Beach/sandpit toys - put a bunch of little ones inside one or two big ones, and you've got castles and turrets, and no one cares if you lose a few. Any leftover sand stays inside, if you're clever enough to keep the lid.

I know there are more ideas and I know some of you have them. Please share with the class. After all, I'm now loathe to throw them away and Toby's getting concerned that they're starting to breed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The store is open!

Online store, that is. As of today, I have my own Phoenix Trader website where you can view the products, ask questions and find out more about the products on offer! Not that you couldn't before, but still...Come check it out!

Fort McHenry

The next installment of Why I Haven't Posted Anything in a While - after Toby's week away in Cranbury, NJ, he took a day off and we did the local tourist thing by heading over to Fort McHenry. It was one of those places you could live near for years and never get around to visiting, so it was nice that we did.
Not that you can tell an awful lot from the photos, but for the uninformed, this is where Francis Scott Key wrote The Star Spangled Banner during the War of 1812. Nice little bit of history for the English transplants. I realize only now that we didn't take any photos of the flag that inspired Key so. How dumb.

It was a nice day, though, made complete by listening to a rousing rendition of our national anthem by some school children on the way out. Very sweet.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Trunk or Treat

Goodness, this is out of date now, but I had to show off my cute family at our church's Trunk or Treat affair:

Falling in with the treats chest - my littlest princess clearly needs to work on "perching"

3 princesses, a knight, a jester, and (below) a queen on her throne (though Abigail insists I was a duchess).

Loads of people came and had fun, in spite of (and perhaps even because of) the rain. It was a great night, and I'm so glad we got to be a part of it!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pumpkin-Nut Cookies

You'll need:
1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

1 15oz can pumpkin

2 tsp baking powder

2tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp ground allspice

2 eggs

1tbsp vanilla

4 cups flour

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

1 recipe Powdered Sugar Icing *

1. Grease a cookies sheet; set aside. In a large bowl beat butter for 30 seconds. add sugar, pumpkin, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, baking soda, and allspice. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl.

2. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in the flour and stir in pecans.

3. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 1 inch apart onto cookie sheet. Bake in 350F/180C oven for 12 to 15 min. They don't spread much, but more "puff" up a bit.
4. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Cover with icing.
*Powdered Sugar Icing: combine 4 cups sifted powdered sugar, 1/4 cup milk and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix to spreading consistency, adding more milk if needed. The recipe considers this icing as optional. I disagree - it totally make the cookies. Yum.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ooooo, breakfast!

I am so totally making this and this over the weekend - who's with me??

Winter dresses

I'm working on a few more winter things for the girls, since things at the stores seem to be geared towards private school uniforms or "working girls" (if you get me). Since my daughters are neither (ahem), I've started with some more cross back dresses for Ellie.
Nice and warm, being two thicker layers, it's also a two-fer, being reversible with the pink and denim. And as Toby pointed out, I know that the strawberries are upside down, but I prefer to think of it as "headed toward her sweet little mouth".

Works for me.

More dresses and a recipe for some mighty fine Pumpkin-Nut Cookies to come.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Playing some tunes

First up is Abigail, playing something in the children's book about floating in a boat.

Next is Anna, playing one of her own compositions.

I can assure you, it'll be a long time before I'll feel brave enough to share a video of my own playing...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

From scootin' to walkin'

Because you need to see it to believe it...

What do you do on a rainy wet day?

This is some of what we do:
We make some soup - awesome Corn Chowder

We play the piano (had some great video of the girls, but it'll have to wait - Blogger is being weird)

We root through Mommy's cupboards

We turn on the heat (for the first time this season)

Work on a few knitting projects (because one is never enough)

A bit of schoolwork (loving Our Island Story for history)

Later, we'll do some baking (I'm seriously thinking about some chocolate cake, among other things), sewing, and coloring in some of these do-dads.

So, what do you do?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Most who know me, by now know that I've begun a little business venture. Phoenix Trading is a greeting card company that sells through independant "traders" (like moi), rather than retailers. They are beautiful cards that I first started buying when we lived in Birmingham, and was really excited to find I could get them here in the States.
So if anyone would like any info on what's on offer, feel free to contact me or visit the website!

Monday, October 5, 2009

A New Baby and a Good Friend

The day after my birthday, Arthur James Schofield entered the world. We are very glad to welcome him, and as a congrats to the new Mom and Dad, we'll be sending off a couple of things to make their lives as new parents a bit easier.

First, a soft and snuggly nursing cover. Lovely and warm for those Chicago winds!

Next, a baby blanket. For obvious reasons.
And finally, Chocolate Hobnobs. If you don't know what these are, get thyself to the British foods section of your local supermarket. They are essential for nourishment following the birth of a new person. Truly.

Now, Danielle has not made anyone new lately, but there are a couple of boys that she 'prepared earlier' (very efficiently). I've been wanting to make her one of the Amy Butler bags for a while now, but struggled to find just the right fabric. Until now.
I think she likes it. Goes well with her hair (and I wondered why she didn't like pink...)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Story time

This is what story time tends to look like in the Gayner household...
More like a descent into chaos.
My little chair across the room - that strategically only seats one - was very peaceful.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Birding Pockets

Just the right place for watching out the back deck window, I've been looking for a great little table to put in the corner for our bird books, binoculars and nature books. Upon the eagerly anticipated arrival of Handmade Home, I saw her wall pockets and the light bulb switched on...
Made rather differently from hers - flannel from the girls pencil rolls is the backing, instead of a blanket, and a totally different shape to fit the wall - it was definitely the inspiration that I needed to fix the problem. My clever husband completed it for me by hanging it with a re-purposed towel rail (that Noah ripped off the wall a while back, I might add).
Not too shabby!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Warning

This is what can happen around here if your nap goes just that bit too long...