2013: my year in pictures

Apologies if you've seen nothing but "review of the year" type posts for the last few days. But it's something I'm very fond of. I love looking back over my photos of the year and remembering and reflecting and smiling. I only photograph the pretty stuff, so it's most definitely a highlight reel - don't think my life is all pretty pastel dreams! This year has certainly not been that.

First up are my springtime favourites. Spring came very late, but we did eventually get some very pretty blossom. I've enjoyed lots of wanders around my city (Oxford), a visit to a beautiful Artweeks show by Found and Sewn, a meet-up with a bunch of other bloggers, a wander around Waddesdon Manor to enjoy the first colour of the year, and lots more...

Next, it's my summer favourites. It was so very lovely to have a proper summer this year. I spent lots of time in the garden - bliss! And enjoyed the beautiful flowers and butterflies in the Oxford Botanic Garden and Waterperry Gardens, and finally made it the Columbia Road flower market - crazy yet beautiful!

Thirdly, we have my favourite seaside shots of 2013. I adore the sea, as you can probably tell, and desperately need a regular sea fix. One day, we will move to the sea. For now, we visit as often as we can. The shots below are of Christchurch in Dorest (those beach huts!), Jersey (a lovely trip home to see my family), Devon and Cornwall.

Next it's my favourite pics of my home and my knick knacks/vintage kitsch stuff - or treasure as I like to think of it. Pretty things that make me very happy. Especially at the moment, I spend a lot of time at home, so it's very important to me for it to be a happy, colourful, pretty space. I've had so much fun thrifting this year and also making things after my wonderful sewing course. More of that to come in 2014!

Then we have my favourite Blythe shots of 2013. My collection has massively slowed down this year. Only two new girls this year: Tarts and Tea (purchased from the lovely Candy Pop on the first day of the year!) and a factory girl that's currently in pieces. And my Casual Affair went to live with my sister. This year, I plucked up the courage to take some dolls apart and matte their faces and change their eye chips. It made a huge difference to my photography, and as soon as I have some strength I will tackle a few more! I was also extremely fortunate to attend my first ever Blythecon in New York.

Then we have my favourite autumnal shots of the year. Autumn this year was spent in New York, Vermont and Maine - a stunning way to enjoy my favourite season for colour.

And last, but definitely not least, a round-up of some of my favourite shots taken on my travels this year. We have a row each for the Lake District (a week in June and it didn't rain!!!), New York, Vermont, and Maine. I turned 40 in October, so went on a fabulous USA trip to celebrate.

And that's a wrap! Thank you for sharing my blogging year - a whopping 74 posts this year. I've thoroughly enjoyed it and am immensely grateful for all your views and comments and inspiration. I'm excited to see what 2014 has in store - lots of change for me, that's for sure. I wish you all the most wonderful, happy, creative and fulfilling year ahead. xxx

Coastal Acadia: tonic for the soul

Before 2013 draws to a close, I wanted to share the last instalment of my wonderful USA trip with you. Back in October, I was very fortunate to go on a special trip for my 40th birthday. I've already blogged about

This post takes you on a tour of some coastal highlights of the absolutely stunning Acadia National Park in Maine, to complement those gorgeous fall leaves.

First up, we have Sand Beach. One of our first stops on the Park Loop Road and very accessible. We were so lucky to have a day of glorious sunshine on our last day.

One of the lovely things about Acadia National Park is that there are so many places to stop, so you can literally pull over and jump out your car whenever you want (which for us, was very often!). Below are some beautiful view points looking back over to Sand Beach.

Another beauty spot was Monument Cove. This wasn't so well sign-posted, but I'm so glad we found it. Just so many different vantage points to explore and some fabulous rocks. I could sit and watch the waves crashing for hours, listening to the seabirds. So peaceful.....

The coastline was fascinating - I loved all the rock formations - I named the one below "Crocodile Rock" - can you see it? We really enjoyed soaking up that sunshine too.

And last, but not least, we have Boulder Beach. I adore those giant pebbles! We had this place completely to ourselves and it was pure magic, just sitting in the sunshine listening to the waves. Ahhhh take me back!

I'll leave you with some glistening sparkling sea and sunny blue skies :)

A handmade Christmas

This year it's been a rather handmade Christmas. With me not working at the moment we are rather counting the pennies, so handmade made sense financially. But I have to say it's been an absolute joy to have the time to be able to make presents. And having recently completed my beginner's sewing course, what better opportunity to practice?!

I absolutely loved making these presents - from choosing the fabric to cutting to sewing and stuffing - it's been so much fun. And now the presents have been opened, I can safely share some pictures with you :)

First up is a cosmetic bag I learnt to make on my sewing course - I really loved the pattern and thought it made a lovely and very useful gift. I chose the gorgeous kitsch kitties fabric by Michael Miller for this one, as I knew the recipient had a soft spot for this print. And I must confess I loved it so much I had to make one for myself too - but with a different coloured zip for a bit of variety. I chose an aqua polka dot fabric for the lining, as I thought it complemented the colour scheme well. And I had lots of fun making some custom gift tags for the (vaguely) professional touch!

The cosmetic bag seemed like such a good idea, I made more in different fabrics. I knew my sister loved the Tammis Dogs fabric made by Michael Miller (a Tammis Keefe tribute fabric) and I stayed with the same lining fabric I used in my course, as I knew this partnered well. I also fancied making some lavender bags, as I think these are great to pop in your sock drawer or wardrobe - or just to have hanging around looking pretty. So I made a very simple template and got cutting and stitching!

Then, more of the same, but in some different fabrics that I thought the recipients would like. I was very pleased with this pairing of a black and white floral print and polka dots - and the pop of colour provided by a hot pink zip.

I was also very pleased to find a pack of ribbon I had bought from Paperchase a while ago knowing it would come in useful someday. It was perfect for the hanging loops - and I had a lovely choice of colours.

They are definitely not perfect, but I was pleased with them all the same - and I think the recipients were too, which is what matters. I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and are enjoying some R&R. TTFN, Z xx

Merry Christmas!

Just popping in to wish you all a most wonderful and very happy and relaxing Christmas break! I hope you all get to put your feet up at some point and recharge those batteries.

Thank you most sincerely for all your visits and lovely comments throughout the year - they are all very much appreciated. I have thoroughly enjoyed my blogging year (and it's not over yet!) and am looking forward to even more in 2014. So it's a Happy Christmas and ta ta for now from me and the bambis and those pesky dwarves ;) xxx

Thrifting fun in Devon

Well, Happy Wednesday everyone! Can't believe how quickly the time is flying - only 7 sleeps until Christmas - eek!

I went to visit my lovely sister in Barnstaple recently for a pre-Christmas get together and some crafting and thrifting fun. It's so lovely to share interests - we had a fun day (or two!) exploring the many charity shops in Barnstaple, I had some refresher knitting lessons and a tutorial on how to make an empire line Blythe dress, and I helped my sister with some Blythe customisation...I think that first moment when you open up one of your precious Blythes needs some friendly support!! We also found the time for some beautiful bracing sea walks with the doggies, even though the weather was rather wild!

Merry Kitschmas from the seven dwarfs!
A most happy and cheerful crochet blanket find. I'm in love!

I thought I'd share some of my charity shop finds with you today, as I really am super excited by them. Normally, I have the worst luck - I visit the charity shops in Oxford frequently and rarely find anything, so this was a most unusual haul!

First up is the most amazing, happy, colourful crochet blanket. I think this was the last thing I found, and my favourite. It is hard to portray how vivd the colours are - especially the green - it glows! I just love the edging too - haven't seen much like this before.

A most happy and cheerful crochet blanket find. I'm in love!
A most happy and cheerful crochet blanket find. I'm in love!
A most happy and cheerful crochet blanket find. I'm in love!

Next up are some finds from the North Devon Hospice, which has an upstairs dedicated to vintage. I squealed rather a lot when I went up the stairs! I found the most beautiful cotton yellow tunic dress - please excuse the photos - it needs a good wash and an iron - but isn't that print just fab! Roll on spring :)

My happy dress
My happy dress

I also fell in love with these pyrex cups and their yellow rose print. In an unusually restrained move, I left them behind the first day whilst I thought about it (do we have the space?) and went back for them the next day and happily they were still there! I'm so pleased I did. They were only £4 too - such a bargain!

I adore this yellow rose print :)
I adore this yellow rose print :)

And then my eyes spotted the most fabulous quilted dressing gown. This beauty was just £2.50!! Isn't the print just divine? It came complete with a vintage tissue (used!) in that pretty pocket :) Now all washed and fresh as a daisy. I was originally contemplating cutting it up to make some things, but I don't think I can bear to, so it will stay hanging up for me to admire, and remain a photo prop. I might just have to parade round in it on Xmas day too :)

Granny chic
Granny chic

And that's not it! In this treasure trove of vintage goodness, I also found the beautiful double bedspread below. And THE most amazing seven dwarfs at the top of the page. Aren't they absolutely fabulous? I couldn't believe my luck when I found them :) They are now brightening up my white Christmas tree - and (hopefully) safely located at the top, out of reach of cats :)

A most beautiful pink bedspread

In a different shop I found another fabulous crochet blanket in different shades of purple. I must confess to having quite a large collection of them - perhaps another blog post to show and tell....

More crochet blanket love
More crochet blanket love

And last, but not least, as I was paying for my happy multi-coloured crochet blanket, I spotted some vintage Christmas decs on the counter: 5 for 50p!! Would have been rude not to, so santa and Mr Snowman came home with me, along with a pink bauble or two!

Mr Snowman
Awesome santa

All in all, a thoroughly lovely trip and a most fabulous haul. Now I need a bigger house!! Wishing you all a super lovely and very happy and relaxing Christmas in case I don't "see" you before then! Hope all your preparations are going well. It's been a bit of a handmade Christmas for me this year - pics to follow once the lovely recipients have opened their presents :)

Crafty bloggers' evening at Cath Kidston, Oxford

So what do you get when you mix a bunch of Oxford bloggers, the Cath Kidston store in Oxford, mulled wine, delicious noms, and some Xmas crafting activities? A whole lot of fun, lots of chatter, much distraction, photo taking and shopping!

I had a really fun evening with NatashaVickiCathrynCatherineDina, and Rosalind. The lovely people at CK had laid on a marvellous feast and prepared some very pretty crafting tables, ready for us to make our own Christmas decorations from a kit.

Bloggers' crafty evening at Cath Kidston, Oxford
Bloggers' crafty evening at Cath Kidston, Oxford
Bloggers' crafty evening at Cath Kidston, Oxford
Bloggers' crafty evening at Cath Kidston, Oxford

We started very enthusiastically, but it wasn't long before the temptations of an empty Cath Kidston store lured us away from crafting.... It was all looking so pretty and so Christmassy.....

Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford

I just adore the wallpaper that runs up the staircase - I'd love a feature wall in this....

Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford

I completely fell in love with the mushroom print and came away with some fabric (I'm thinking tote bag, with a red polka dot lining to start with...), a mug and a plate :) And those pastel spoons looked so good with it, so they came along too...

I think I went a bit mushroom crazy - LOVE this print!
I think I went a bit mushroom crazy - LOVE this print!

As we were leaving, the very lovely people at Cath Kidston pressed a goody bag into our hands. This was inside...

Our goody bag
Our goody bag

As I was rather too distracted to finish the task at hand during the evening (I blame the mulled wine and fabulous company!), I finished sewing my santa back at home and he now has pride of place hanging on the fireplace :)

Cath Kidston Xmas decoration I made

Thanks so much to Charlotte for arranging the evening and to everyone at Cath Kidston for looking after us so well - it was lots of fun.

It's a big day for Cath Kidston today, as the new flagship store in Picadilly has just opened (the largest in the world!). Definitely on my must visit list the next time I'm in London. And watch out for those Cath Kidston taxis!!

Glistening golden Acadia

So before autumn says its final farewells, I thought it would be good to share the third leg of our fabulous USA trip, in all its autumn glory. From Vermont, we enjoyed a very scenic (and rather epic) drive to Mount Desert Island in Maine. We stayed in another lovely Airbnb place in pretty Somesville - the perfect location from which to explore the stunning Acadia National Park. The Park had been shut, along with all the other national parks and monuments, as part of the government shutdown in October. Luckily for us, it reopened a few days before we arrived and I am so thankful it did. Acadia really is the most stunning location, especially in the autumn.

All of an autumn whirl

We were lucky enough to enjoy some days of sunshine and it just transformed the autumn landscape into a magical glistening, golden, sparkling wonderland. There really is nothing quite like it. Dancing dappled light, golden warmth, fiery leaves - it really is tonic for the soul.

Warmth
Autumn aflame
Walking the red carpet in Acadia National Park

You access most of Acadia National Park via a very well maintained Park Loop Road. Even just driving round this is something very special indeed. But we like to walk in the dappled light, feel the sun on our faces and play in the fallen leaves. So we did. Rather a lot :)

Al and I goofing around in the leaves
Al and I in Acadia National Park
Look up, it's so pretty *1*
Golden dapples

We spent a lot of time with cameras glued to our faces, as well as with our heads staring up - there was so much to look at, every which way!

How I was to be found for most of our trip!
Walking the red carpet in Acadia National Park
Golden skies

There was an absolutely stunning tree just outside where we were staying in Somesville, which was ablaze with colour. I'd love a carpet of pretty maple leaves, please :)

This gorgeous tree greeted us every morning
A fiery tumble of leaves
Nature's gold
I love autumn!
The fall

On a grey day I had fun with some Blythe photography - those gorgeous autumn leaves shine all by themselves!

Autumn girls
Hello!

There is so much to see in Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island - I can highly recommend a visit. The coastal scenery is absolutely stunning too - but that's another post or this will never end! You can see the rest of my photos in my Mount Desert Island set on Flickr. I'll leave you with some shots of Jordan Pond and it's beautiful crystal clear water, Somesville and its pretty bridge, and a beautiful sunset at Southwest Harbour.

Crystal clear water at Jordan Pond
Jordan Pond
The man from milk tray
Mount Desert Island Historical Society, Somesville
Sunset at Southwest Harbour

My new best friend

I've wanted to learn to sew for ages. About 5 years ago I bought a tiny John Lewis sewing machine. It was red and looked very pretty. But I didn't know how to use it so it stayed in its box. For years. Much time passed and I went on a "make friends with your sewing machine course" which was good, but I never seemed to have the time to practice (photography was always so much easier...) and I didn't know where to start really with following a pattern, etc. So more time passed and my little red machine stayed in its box.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I had the pleasure to attend an intensive sewing course for beginners with Louise Paeman. It took place over two Saturdays and as well as covering how to use your sewing machine, we actually made some things, learning how best to place our patterns on our fabrics, how to cut out, how to follow a pattern, how to sew in a zip, and lots of useful tips and tricks. I absolutely loved it and can highly recommend Louise's courses if you are in the Oxford area.

Just as I was about to get stuck into the first bit of real sewing at the end of our first day, my little red machine decided to die. Louise kindly lent me her machine and my goodness, it was a dream! Chalk and cheese! So to cut a long story short, I decided on a beautiful new Janome sewing machine for my 40th birthday present. I love it! It's my new best friend. And at the moment, I am particularly relishing the speed control - as you can see I have it set to tortoise speed :)

The first thing we made was a reversible tote bag. I chose some beautiful vintage fabrics - the large print is Roundelay by Jonelle (not sure who made the lining fabric).

Tote bag I made
Tote bag I made
Tote bag I made

Our second make was a cosmetic bag. I decided to use a different fabric again for the lining, which made it more complicated, but I love the contrast. We used iron on interfacing to give the bag some support so it would stand up OK. And we gave it a flat bottom - and a zip! Not bad for the second thing I've ever sewn on a machine!

Cosmetic bag I made
Cosmetic bag I made

I found the fabric when I was on holiday in the USA, in a tiny store on Mount Desert Island in Maine. It is a Tammis Keefe Tribute by Michael Miller Fabrics called Tammis Dogs.

You can read more about Tammis Keefe in this great Tribute post on the Making it Fun blog

- I adore her designs. I wish I'd bought more, now...

Cosmetic bag I made
Cosmetic bag I made

I'm rather pleased with my makes. There are some wonky bits, but you don't really notice them. And I'm going to make more - this machine is not going to hide in a box!

Vermont in the fall

Well, just about! We made it to Vermont in mid-October, at the tail end of the season. Most of the leaves had fallen, but there was still plenty of colour around and everything was still looking sooo beautiful (and fallen leaves still make very beautiful photography subjects!). We stayed in Southern Vermont in a place called Hubbardton on the edge of Lake Bomoseen (see my previous post for photos of the gorgeous Lake House we stayed in).

A Maple leaf colourwheel from Woodstock, Vermont
Three in a row
I love yellow leaves!

We wanted to avoid epic drives, so decided to explore the areas in reasonably easy reach of where we were staying. Day one kicked off with a visit to Woodstock. We found a fabulous farmer's market to pick-up a delicious lunch and I think possibly the finest gluten-free wrap I had on holiday :) The village was so pretty. There were pumpkins and decorations outside all the houses and piles of leaves to swish around in.

Fall in Woodstock, Vermont
Camouflage
Fall in Woodstock, Vermont
Fall in Woodstock, Vermont
Pumpkin fence in Woodstock, Vermont

Day two was my absolute favourite in Vermont - one of those marvellous serendipitous days, where you don't really know what you're doing/where you're going and plans just evolve, most perfectly and magically. We drove in the opposite direction to the previous day, hoping to find some pretty red barns, white churches, golden trees still full of leaves, and houses with pumpkins outside to photograph (we didn't want much!!). As we drove through a tiny village called Sudbury I yelled "stop the car!" and we piled out in great excitement with our cameras. Everything we wanted in one small perfectly formed location. Pure magic. Picture postcard perfect!

Picture postcard perfect Sudbury in Vermont
Sunflaretastic - what fairytales are made of
Red barns in Sudbury, Vermont
Pumpkin display in Sudbury, Vermont

The day just got better, too. We drove on to Brandon, another pretty, bigger town. I yelled "stop the car!" again as we passed a cool looking antiques store/ice cream parlour (something for him, something for me). OMG. Kitsch heaven, crammed to the rafters, in the most unexpected of places. There was just sooo much to look at - impossible to take it all in. Sadly for me (but thankfully for my purse) I really had no space in my luggage to bring anything back as my handbag was already stuffed with precious Blythes! So I settled on a tiny cute owl and reluctantly put down the matching owl planter, and the bambi planter, and the kitty planter....The pics below aren't great - it was pretty dark inside and I had my wide angle lens on - but you get the general idea!

Antiques store in Brandon, Vermont
Antiques store in Brandon, Vermont
Antiques store in Brandon, Vermont

We enjoyed a wander around Brandon - so many pretty houses with white picket fences and beautiful trees outside. And a strange assortment of figures dressed up in a wide variety of outfits, strapped to trees and lamp posts...We continued a meandering drive, stopping the car regularly to jump out and take pics whenever we fancied. I also saw a black bear - thankfully we were in the car at the time - it looked me straight in the eyes! (Sadly no pictures - I was too flustered to even think about getting my camera out!)

Brandon, Vermont
Pretty white church near Brandon, Vermont

Day three saw another meandering drive, taking in lots of agricultural land - such beautiful scenery. We saw the very photogenic red barn below in Whiting. We then went on to Orwell to do a walk around the Mount Independence Trails - decided it was time to stretch our legs! I also took some Blythes with me for a mini photoshoot in the woods :) Oh and we were treated to a most spectacular rainbow on our return.

Red barn love
1880
Cheerful mailboxes in Orwell, Vermont
Al on the Mount Independence Trail in Orwell, Vermont
The pumpkin girls
Amelia glowing in the autumn sunshine

Day four (our last day) involved taking it easy before our big drive the next day. So we had a leisurely drive around the Stone Valley Byway, stopping in Poultney for coffee and photos and in Dorset for amazing, freshly made sandwiches from the general store that sold everything! Then it was back home for some kayaking on the lake (Al) and some Blythe photos (me)! The owl in the pics below is the one I found in the antiques store in Brandon :)

Pretty bike spotted in Poultney, Vermont
Pastel Chevvy love
The latest in Blythe fashion: acorn hats
Pumpkin patch

You can see the rest of my photos in my Vermont set on Flickr.

Coming next - the third and final leg of our trip - the very beautiful Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, Maine. Watch this space....

Friday Favourites ~ four fabulous vintage sellers

Happy Friday folks! It's rolled around awfully quickly, hasn't it? Today I thought I'd share four of my favourite "go-to" vintage sellers on Etsy. From left to right we have:

  • Thrifters: a wide range of beautifully curated and photographed vintage items from home decor to kitsch ornaments to kitchenware. This is also the source of my fabulous Japanese kitsch cats which I just adore!
  • Fine and Dandy Marazion: the online arm of the most fabulous vintage shop I have ever had the fortune to visit. Full of fabulous kitsch toys and ornaments and other loveliness that has caught Shevie's amazing eye for treasure. Also the source of quite a lot of my own vintage treasures :)
  • Pomme de Jour: a fabulous collection of vintage fabrics and wallpaper and other homewares, based in France. If the 60s and 70s are your thing, then Tanya has it covered. I've treated myself to some of her fabulous fabrics and there are many more on my wish list!
  • KittyKatDance: a USA based store bursting with colour and happy kitsch ornaments and toys and fabulous handmade Xmas wreaths with bambis...a few of my bambis have come from here :)

Friday Favourites ~ four fabulous vintage sellers