Monthly Archives: November 2015

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More Festive Hosiery From Rocking Dog

Santa's Tankards, Rocking Dog

Santa’s Tankards

In between doing a brilliant Kim and Aggie job on Andyman’s mum’s flat (just who does need eight can openers?!) I have been trying to soldier on with a little bit of heart slowing sewing. Worryingly, I have to have my blood pressure taken this morning, better fit some sewing in before I hit the surgery!

Late night sewing is getting to be a speciality of mine, and I finally forced myself to bed at 2am on Saturday night. The results of my labours are festive hosiery made from some ?50’s fabric featuring lovely jolly tankards. Complemented by vintage gingham, floral braid and brushed metal buttons they somehow look quite Tyrolean! In past incarnations the fabric had been kitsch curtains before I bought it to make French style aprons for a vintage garden party.

Now, these stockings are looking for long term caring homes. A stocking is for life and not just one Christmas! My own beloved tartan stocking was made by my Mum and has been with me for as long as I can remember. It’s a long time since it was filled, but I still hang it up every year just in case! There was always a clementine in its toe and of course we continued the tradition with our own brood who always groaned because none of them liked this lovely Christmassy fruit. The other contents in my stocking would typically be puzzles, bouncy balls, felt pens, chocolate coins, fart cushions, trick cigarettes (how un-PC now!) etc… Does anyone out there remember the shells which you put in a glass of water and would magically let out tendrils of brightly coloured tissue paper?

Alas this year is the year we finally put an end to stockings for Sorrel, Alex and Olivia. As Lord Alan Sugar would say “it’s with deep regret…..but..” Of course at 29,28 and 22 you really can’t get away with a pack of Happy Families, tendrilly shells and trick cigarettes! I won’t miss the wrapping but I will the excitement of all of us (sometimes six fill size humans plus Real Live Rocking Dog!) snuggling into bed “to do the stockings”. Maybe we’ll just have to conjure up another tradition to replace the stockings. Perhaps we’ll drink Champagne and eat Pannetone all snuggled up on Christmas morning.

The vintage glittery folk as ever are hopeful that just maybe this is the year I will relax and let them adorn parcels. Sorry folks I still love you far too much to part with you!

I think my festive hosiery making is now at an end for 2015. Swimming in treacle (aka cleaning and caring), wedding flowers for a truly gorgeous bride & groom and polishing up a fabulous brass bed ( I will have to show you before and after photo’s in a future blog) beckon this week. Whatever your week brings I hope you’ll feel happy and fulfilled, and not too windswept!

PS. Just had to play my most favourite Christmas record ever over the weekend. It must have been talking on the phone to my brother across the pond that made me do it! Love this. Miss you bruv’!

2 am Tyrolean Inspiration, Rocking Dog

2 am Tyrolean Inspiration

Tankard Swilling Glittery Fellow, Rocking Dog

Tankard Swilling Glittery Fellow

My Childhood Stocking, Rocking Dog

My Childhood Stocking

Swimming In Treacle!

Rocking Dog Stockings Hung Up With Care!, Rocking Dog

Rocking Dog Stockings Hung Up With Care!

Things have happened this week which have made me feel as if i’m swimming in treacle. Not nice. So, I thought i’d have a little bit of respite and do a little blog before the weekend begins.

Before things started being very unpleasantly chaotic I managed to complete some Rocking Dog Christmas stockings. Material Mountain has as per usual provided an avalanche of fabrics and trimmings to complete this enjoyable project.

Which stocking is your favourite? I really like the ones which feature fireplaces. The fabric was purchased at one of the wonderful Vintage and Handmade jumbles held at Rangeworthy Village Hall. It is a / 1950/60’s fabric made in France and it’s edge displays the fabric title “Aberdeen”. The French designer seemed to have a very rosy and warm view of this very cold sea ravaged city! I also used a vintage trim bought at the Jumble’, and lined the stockings with a jolly gingham. I found myself singing “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” whilst sewing these retro stockings!

The Scandi stockings are made from a contemporary remnant and linked with the gingham they feel a bit Swedish. Oh such lovely memories of our trip to Stockholm in December 2014. The stockings’ loops are joined by heavy vintage mother of pearl buttons and some litle metal wings (bought in Stockholm).

Alas, there was only enough bunny fabric to make one stocking. An up-cycled charity shop piece I lined it with a jolly spot fabric. I decided some bunny food was needed, so made carrots from felt and synthetic cushion filler.

Voila! Some stockings to be hung up with care this Christmas-time. ( link dedicated to Sorrel x)

Another job completed is the bespoke advent calendar. The numbers are a bit of a mixture this year and many are numeral gift tags bought in Ikea. This calendar is winging its way to someone this weekend. Happy Days!

Whatever you are doing this weekend I hope you have a lovely one. Wrap up warmly it looks as if there is a cold snap on its way! I think i’ll be doing a bit more swimming in treacle….but thankfully life does have a way of sorting itself out. Love Rocking Dog x

Scandilicious!, Rocking Dog

Scandilicious!

Scandi' inspiration, Rocking Dog

Scandi’ inspiration

Bunny Feeding Time, Rocking Dog

Bunny Feeding Time.

Cheery Aberdeen, Rocking Dog

Cheery Aberdeen

So Very Retro!, Rocking Dog

So Very Retro!

It's For You!, Rocking Dog

It’s For You!

Who Is Going To Be Taking Delivery?

Who Are the 2015 Rocking Dog Advent Calendar Recipients? , Rocking Dog

Who Are the 2015 Rocking Dog Advent Calendar Recipients?

Rocking Dog has been organising another bespoke advent calendar. Unlike Last Christmas my latest edition is not going to be going to empty nesters. Each mysterious brown paper bag is filled with activities, jokey gifts, tasks to fulfil and hopefully lots of fun and laughs will be had over the days of advent. I can’t give too much away i’m afraid. The doorbell will be rung very soon for one lucky (?) family. As all serving staff seem to say these days ” Enjoy Guys” AAAAAAGGGGHHhhhh!!!!

It is evident I need some calming music. Aaaaahhhhh that’s better!

Oops! The Pesky Things Have Escaped!

Hanging Around!, Rocking Dog

Hanging Around!

Indeed, some pesky things have escaped! I just couldn’t help myself, I bought one or two new Christmas decorations and couldn’t resist hanging them. Those empty cup hooks along my cookery book shelves proved all too tempting for my haul. Pretty!

When I am reading an interiors feature in a magazine I always love to scrutinise the home owners book shelves/ coffee table. My shelves display a plethora of Jamie O, Nigella, Delia, Ottolenghi and Skye Gyngell books. What I wonder does that say about me? I very rarely send cookery books off to the charity shop so there are remnants of my tentative first steps into culinarydom! That Hamlyn cookery book dating from 1973 started me off on my Pineapple Upside Down Cake odyssey. Sometime very soon a Jamie Oliver tome will be pulled from the shelf for his delicious Beetroot Gravadlax recipe.

Elsewhere in the Rocking Dog Kennel tangled fairy lights from my childhood tumble down Material Mountain. Alas no electrician seems to want to touch them – so unlit they’ll stay. Perhaps i’ll twirl some new lights around them to festoon them with light. I have such memories of my dad every year untangling the glittery chain, twiddling each bulb and exclaiming “God love a duck” when the lights refused to work. Eventually he’d manage to get the lights working. He’d then half heartedly but methodically swathe the tree with the lights before sinking into a chair with a tot of whisky and cigar. Mum and three tired kids would then set to work with boxes of oh so familiar tree ornaments, tinsel, lametta, and net skirted fairies. All the while Jim Reeves would be serenading our frouing.

Spanish Madonna has never gone away. A Christmas gift last year from Andyman, I could not bear to send her into the attic so soon after unwrapping her. In the workroom a jumbled jar of bottlebrush trees, cheery spotted mushrooms and ballerinas await cakes and parcels to adorn. Meanwhile a jar of old fairy light bulbs are hoping to be strung into a nostalgic garland if time allows.

I know, I am totally incorrigible regarding my love of Christmas decorations and you know who!

Cook Book Heaven, Rocking Dog

Cook Book Heaven

Strictly Come Dancing, Rocking Dog

Strictly Come Dancing

Oh Deer!, Rocking Dog

Oh Deer!

Heirloom Tangle, Rocking Dog

Heirloom Tangle

Spare Bulbs, Rocking Dog

Spare Bulbs

Mache Madonna, Rocking Dog

Mache Madonna

A Weekend Up North

Real Live Rocking Dog Taking A Dip, Rocking Dog

Real Live Rocking Dog Taking A Dip

We were lucky enough to have an invite up north before the mayhem that is Christmas truly kicks in. We ventured North on Friday afternoon and a journey that should have taken 4 1/2 hours ended up being a stressful 7 1/2 hours, but heh ho! Things got so bad that I ended up playing guess the flavour of the crisp with Andyman. After many guesses and many hints he finally sort of guessed Winter berries and Prosecco. I kid you not M & S have bought out a bag with the aforementioned flavour, and to over-gild the lily have scattered the crisps with minute gold stars! We then had guess the flavour of the sandwich, and before we knew it we had wasted 3/4 of an hour and moved half a mile! Please let me know how YOU while away time on a laborious car journey.

We finally reached the beautiful Lake District with a starry crisp night to greet us. How unbleached the skies are there, and definitely somewhere I’d want to invest in a telescope (preferably with Prof Brian Cox to guide me through my constellations!).

Next morning we awoke to a fantastic view from our bedroom, alas, with none of the predicted snow. We were out on the fells before you could say Jack Robinson! Real Live Rocking Dog anxious to impress and keep up with our friend’s proper dogs (two black Labradors) took the icy plunge in the tarn complete with his tartan coat.

The scenery was truly amazing and felt so untouched by mankind. Some of the higher peaks sporting a sprinkling of snow, reminded me of a row of Pandoro cakes lightly dusted with icing sugar. Eight or so miles of brisk walking and chatting through bracken, marshland and stoney tracts we were ready to eat and tackle two lovely bottles of Barolo.

Sunday, a shorter but steeper climb, we all felt as if we were on top of the world. Overlooking Lake Coniston we were buffeted by the cold November cross-winds and took refuge by clambering back down an unorthodox route. There were hundreds of foxglove plants as we trekked downwards and I couldn’t help thinking how wonderful the fells must look with this beautiful species in full bloom. We passed a house with the most stunning topiary, and it somehow all felt rather surreal with the amazing backdrop of towering crags.

After eats at the Bluebird Cafe it was time to bid a fond farewell to our hosts and tackle the journey home. Real Live Rocking Dog pleasantly exhausted, and with no crisp flavours to adjudicate, we had a good trip back.

Though it was short, we had a lovely time with gorgeous friends and in a truly beautiful patch of England. Feel so lucky.

Bedroom View, Rocking Dog

Bedroom View

The Noisy Neighbours!, Rocking Dog

The Noisy Neighbours!

Terrific Topiary!, Rocking Dog

Terrific Topiary!

Snow-capped  Peaks, Rocking Dog

Snow-capped Peaks

Natures' Amazing Colours, Rocking Dog

Natures’ Amazing Colours

Hilltop Sculpture, Rocking Dog

Hilltop Sculpture

Rocking Dog’s Scented Sewing Session

Packed Up & Ready To Go, Rocking Dog

Packed Up & Ready To Go

After two very muddy and blowy dog walks Rocking Dog escaped the elements and took refuge in the sewing room! I finished some stashes of masculine spiced lavender sachets and then got down to the business of sewing some Christmas stockings utilising fabrics found on Material Mountain.

The smell of the Yorkshire lavender was very heady and soporific, however The Archers Omnibus made my blood pressure rise considerably! When is the dreadful manipulative Rob going to be stopped in his tracks?! Grrrrrrrrr!!! I have a feeling it could be a very long and distressing storyline. Andyman makes fun of my love of the radio soap and has a habit of creating all the farm noises…very badly. My dear brother once had to dig out a basement in a New York brownstone to create a sound studio ( I rather think complete with pit filled with gravel to simulate someone walking on a rough pavement). Poor chap needed a back operation soon after this gigantium challenge.

Anyway enough of Rob, Ambridge and Linda Snell’s Calendar Girls my sewing session proved productive. Eight lined stockings await hanging loops and frouing. I think there’ll be some jingle bells to add to the Scandi’ inspired stockings and a felt carrot to adorn the one featuring white rabbits. Watch this space for the finished articles.

Driving back through Bristol earlier this week I was horrified to spot three houses already sporting Christmas decorations. Love Christmas decorations that I do, the thought of six or so weeks with them makes me feel quite nauseous! If I was being a real Victor Meldrew what does all this extra electricity cost to Grinch a house for such an extended period, I presume considerably less than a Cannabis factory!

Pattern Matching, Rocking Dog

Pattern Matching

Sacks To Fill, Rocking Dog

Sacks To Fill

Scented Contents, Rocking Dog

Scented Contents

The Vintage Washerwoman!

The Housewife Is Efficient If The Clock Is Correct, Rocking Dog

The Housewife Is Efficient If The Clock Is Correct

I have been the Vintage Washerwoman! Laundering, starching and pressing, Rocking Dog has been dealing with a mountain of vintage hand embroidered table linen. The delicious pieces will be for sale at Rocking Dog’s festive sales (Saturday December 5th The Original Vintage & Handmade Christmas Fair at Chipping Sodbury and Rocking Dog’s very own sale on Sunday 13th December).

I particularly love the German wall hanging in the large photograph. Being someone who is persistently chasing her tail I like the ironic phrase “The housewife is efficient if the clock is correct”. I think this piece will be adorning my kitchen sometime very soon!

There are festive cloths sewn with pine cones, stars, candles, holly, baubles and bells. Another laundered stash feature florals. Violets, apple blossom, roses, daisies and other embroidered flora ramble over table cloths and tray cloths. How lovely to lay up a table with snowy sprigged linen, vintage china and delicious homemade cakes. What could be more lovely than enjoying a vintage tea in front of a blazing fire.

Continental window panels have been reconfigured by The Dog into pretty decorative cloths. Oh too lovely to dry dishes but sweet hung from a kitchen peg to add detail to a tired kitchen.

Vintage Washerwoman, Rocking Dog

Vintage Washerwoman

Laundered & Starched, Rocking Dog

Laundered & Starched

Festive, Rocking Dog

Festive

Floral, Rocking Dog

Floral

Drying Dishes, Rocking Dog

Drying Dishes

Time For Tea, Rocking Dog

Time For Tea

Rocking Dog Loves Manuscript Paper

Italian Food Parcel, Rocking Dog

Italian Food Parcel

Oooooh how I love a good bit of manuscript paper! The true definition of a manuscript is that it is a handwritten piece of work rather than work which is typed or word processed. So, manuscripts could include a handwritten recipe book, love letters, old property deeds, Bob Cratchit style account ledgers, etc…etc..

I was fortunate to find some beautiful manuscript papers on a flea market stall in Perugia. Not being in the least bit proficient in Italian I have no idea what they relate to, but they look quite official. Many have been stamped, I believe that they are Sardinian. The papers are dated 1832 and 1838, and for being nearly 200 years old they are in remarkable condition. In England this is a period when Charles Dickens is writing, Victoria ascends the throne (1837) and Brunel’s steamship SS. Great Western crosses the Atlantic (1838). The delicious bundle cost me a bargainous 15 euro’s and I am going to be very mean about how I use the precious sheets! My first thought was to get some photocopied to use as wrapping paper. The script marries so well with decadent velvet or satin ribbon, a silk flower, ostentatious label … the possibilities are endless!

On Saturday I met with friends for a delicious brunch, laughs and middle aged moans! I wrapped up Italian sponge fingers and good Italian chocolate together with a recipe for tiramisu for the girls. I bandaged the goodies in some
commercially printed manuscript paper strung together with twine. Madagascan vanilla pods embellished the parcels and smelt divine.

Hope you have a lovely week, and that all is not windswept and wet in your part of the world.

Vanilla Pod Detail, Rocking Dog

Vanilla Pod Detail

Dressed To Impress, Rocking Dog

Dressed To Impress

Flea Market Find, Rocking Dog

Flea Market Find

Photographic Backdrop, Rocking Dog

Photographic Backdrop

Script & Bling! Rocking Dog

Script & Bling!

Letters & Lace, Rocking Dog

Letters & Lace

A Quote To Ponder Upon

A Quote To Ponder Upon, Rocking Dog

A Quote To Ponder Upon

With the terrible events of the last few days in Paris and Beirut, a simple and poignant quote.

Marble bench by Jenny Holzer 2003. Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.

Italy On A Great Big Delicious Plate!

Treasures Of The Sea, Rialto Market, Rocking Dog

Treasures Of The Sea, Rialto Market

I couldn’t resist a scrawl to eulogise the wonders of Italian food! Yes the scenery is stunning, the art treasures legendary and the skies blue…. but the food…truly sublime!

Where some love the prospect of an empty sun lounger I love having access to a cooker! I adore visiting food markets, local shops and even supermarkets abroad. Cooking with the freshest and at times, unfamiliar ingredients is a true pleasure for both me and the rest of the Ferguson clan.

Whilst visiting a fruit store in Umbria, we were told of a German potter and her Italian husband baking and selling bread from their family kitchen two days a week. One Sunday we ventured up to the nearby Medieval hilltop town and visited this artisan bakery. I was so charmed by this entrepreneurial enterprise. A delicious selection of breads was duly purchased and then we were invited to drink coffee at the semi-chaotic family table. So there we were, drinking espresso’s and eating divine freshly baked prune and ginger rye rolls. Bliss! A bread maker I am not, but I did wonder whether there would be a call for freshly baked cakes from my oven ….something sweet for the weekend.

In Volterra I spotted meringues so fungi like, and chocolate salami so…. salami like! Meanwhile in Umbria we ventured into a magical Christmas bedecked Michele & Co with cakes simply too pretty to eat.

In Venice, shops were stocked with heavily iced and sweet jewelled horses. On 11th November Venice celebrates the Festival of St Martino. The story goes that Martin, a soldier of the Roman Empire was riding with his soldiers near the city of Amiens when he spotted a poor freezing beggar. He cut his cloak in half and shared it with the beggar. The moment he gave the man his cloak the sun came out and this phenomenon is known in Italy as the Estate di San Martin (a short period of time in November when the weather is relatively warm). Martin was made a saint for his great humility and generosity. The festival is special for children as they go about Venice banging on pots and pans and are given money and candy. The shortbread horses are baked and decorated and signify St Martin on his horse.

Again in Venice, we ventured out early to go to the famous Rialto Market. Fruit and vegetable stalls together with the most amazing choice of fish made this an eye popping experience. We bought clams for Spaghetti Alle Vongole and spotted the gorgeous Francesco da Mosto… almost good enough to eat!

Good wines, good food, good weather…Saluti!

Have a great weekend and hope you enjoy gorgeous things to eat.

Globe Artichokes, Rocking Dog

Globe Artichokes

Edible Flowers, Rocking Dog

Edible Flowers

Polpi, Rocking Dog

Polpi

Fritto Misto, Rocking Dog

Fritto Misto

Bottled Yumminess!, Rocking Dog

Bottled Yumminess!

Artisan Breads, Rocking Dog

Artisan Breads

Meringue Mushrooms, Rocking Dog

Meringue Mushrooms

Michele Magic, Rocking Dog

Michele Magic

Equine Icing, Rocking Dog

Equine Icing