Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas everyone!


The flu struck - so no posts this month! No Christmas party either, though we did make it to the Carol Service.
Better now - so Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Press cuttings

Isn't this just wonderful - such a shame that it's sized only for babies up to 6 months. What about adults up to 50 years? Anyway, the pattern was published in the Daily Mail earlier this week and you can see it by clicking on the image above - it was far too nice to keep to myself!

It most definitely wouldn't fit me anyway as I think my head has grown several inches this week after seeing the mention below in "Quick and Crafty" magazine - which took me totally by surprise! I feel very humble too as there are so many wonderful blogs to be found and mine's really very ordinary in comparison to a lot of them. But nice to be mentioned anyway.

As usual we are all becoming very busy in the village. Our Christmas tree hasn't gone up yet, but the Lunch Club party is next week and I've been nominated to make the bread sauce again - that's 12 pints of the stuff!! Don't mind really - that's the easy part. I've also been nominated to play the piano for the carols, now that really is scary. Hopefully 100+ massed voices will drown out the multitude of wrong notes that are sure to occur, and if they are heard, well, we'll all have enjoyed at least 2 glasses of wine each, and most of us probably more so nobody will mind anyway. (Note to self - remember to wear elasticated waistband this year!)

The Lunch Club party where so many people freely give of their time and money to make a really special occasion for our elderly villagers to me epitomises the spirit of Christmas. So often it is lost in the cacophony of shop tills ringing and raucous TV shows. I particularly like this extract from a poem which nearly featured on my cards last year ...

I do enjoy all the hustle, bustle, shopping and preparations for Christmas, but sometimes I think it's good to take a few moments to remember what it's all about.
OK, now you've done that get moving again - remember there are only 22 days left to do EVERYTHING!!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Amy's getting thinner!

Amy in her "Guess the Weight of the Dog" outfit.
Christmas is coming ... and the goose might be getting fat ... but Amy's latest diet is working!! Instead of her usual regime of food combining - that's any food she can rootle out, combined with any other food she happens to be able to obtain from one gullible Russian human in particular - she's been restricted to plain dog biscuits and limited portion of meat in the evenings.

My friend Elona is the worst culprit for feeding Amy, but she has been visiting her family in Russia, and while she was away Amy lost 8 cm (about 3 inches) off her rather substantial waistline. She now measures a (mere!) 104 cm (41 inches) around her middle! And I think this time Amy will have the last laugh as Elona is expecting a baby in the spring. Elona's convinced that she will never be as fat as Amy, but we're keeping a record and Elona has already reached 99 cm!!!

Meanwhile we're surrounding ourselves with all sorts of baby catalogues and planning to make lots of baby goodies in the new year to compliment our existing babychange bag. Watch this space! Meanwhile Elona is proudly wearing her DevonBears T-shirt...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Daughter's visit brings chaos!

"Let's have a photoshoot!" said Rosie.... none of my friends at Uni will believe how big the newfies are." So we did.

She invited Ben onto the sofa - this is normally TOTALLY forbidden. He became a little over-excited ....
and tried to sit on Rosie....
had to be restrained ....

..... then became totally hysterical.
Meanwhile Amy sulked as she adores having her photo taken and hates not to be the centre of attention. When sulking turned to petulant barking the photoshoot was cancelled and all canine participants removed for a cooling-off period.

Rosie also wreaked havoc with my little knitted mice! Now I'm not the fastest knitter, but had managed to complete 3 mice ready for the Yuletide Fair at Saltram House next weekend. I'd hoped to take at least half a dozen with me. But Rosie fell in love with them. Above you see Ralph, Alice and Fred. Rosie has now rehomed Ralph into her bag to take back to Bristol, together with a personalised hot water bottle cover, lavender heart, spiral bound DevonBears notebook and assorted sundries.

At least she didn't help herself to a needlebook - my answer to using up all the vintage blanket scraps ...


But she has thought of lots of things she'd like me to make her for Christmas!

Only a month to go!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christmas is coming!

Wow, I hadn't realised how long it was since I last blogged - time has simply flown past! Here at DevonBear Designs we've been lucky enough to have some of our products featured in various magazines - which has led to a significant rise in orders. Christmas paper bunting has proved to be particularly popular -



- I guess it's a bit different to more traditional Christmas decorations - it was certainly great fun to design.

As well as Christmas orders, I've also been busy getting ready for the Yuletide Craft and Food Fair at Saltram House next weekend and have added little knitted mice to the cupcakes I'm offering in support of the Gables Animal Rescue.

And yes .. that is Craft and FOOD Fair. Can't wait! All profits may well be spent before I leave the event!!

Meanwhile, Rosie's home for the weekend ... she's brought some work with her - but may well find herself packaging Christmas bunting if this rush continues. It's great to have her here to spoil, and husband's off to Twickenham for the England - South Africa match so we can have a really girly time together. Chocolate may feature prominently on our menu, whilst Bridget Jones is sure to find her way into the DVD player!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday afternoon ...

Oh, what a wild, blustery, sodden afternoon we had yesterday. Outside the skies were an unremitting leaden grey as the rain hurled itself against the windowpanes and rushed down through the drainpipes to the well below the cellar. It was dark by four o'clock and I was glad to pull the shutters closed against the stormy weather. It was an afternoon to forget all outdoor pursuits - I had planned to get out into the garden ... being a subscriber to Vita Sackville-West's philosophy that:

"If it is true that one of the greatest pleasures of gardening lies in looking forward, then the planning of next year's beds and borders must be one of the most agreeable occupations in the gardener's calendar. This should make October and November particularly pleasant months, for then we may begin to clear our borders, to cut down those sodden and untidy stalks, to dig up and increase our plants, and to move them to other positions where they will show up to greater effect. People who are not gardeners always say that the bare beds of winter are uninteresting; gardeners know better, and take even a certain pleasure in the neatness of the newly dug, bare, brown earth."

But it was not to be. So I closed the shutters and we all settled into a long, peaceful Sunday evening in front of the fire....
Amy chose to stay with us in the living room, but Ben became far too warm and retired to snooze on the chilly flagstones in the hallway. Husband was busy with the papers, so I picked up my latest project...

The knitting!
I have been inspired by a great blog I found called "Little Cotton Rabbits". I purchased one of Julie's patterns for her knitted cupcakes


and am knitting my own to sell at the Yuletide Fair at Saltram House in aid of our local animal rescue centre, Gables Farm, which helps unwanted and abandoned animals find new homes. Up until Ben arrived I'd always had rescue dogs - you can read Susie's story here from my blog entry of March this year. Her tale was so sad, and now I have a house full of newfies I can't possibly adopt any more - but maybe this way I can help give other animals a second chance.

Susie

The cupcakes are turning out rather well, and if you'd like to purchase one, then you can do so on the DevonBear website. Profits are going to the Gables Farm Animal Rescue Centre - I'm not making them on a commercial basis. To make the little cakes extra special I've put a sachet of organic lavender into each one, so they smell as good as they look, and will keep those pesky moths away!

And finally, from my trusty Book of Days ... on 10 November 1960 D H Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover was first published in its entirety, and the first run of 200,000 copies had sold out by the end of the day. So there!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Autumn pleasures

Over the last week or so I've noticed the days are growing shorter and every day I seem to draw the curtains earlier. Ben misses his evening walks - over the summer months we developed a habit of taking a second or even third walk up through the woods behind the village while Amy remained at home snoozing happily on her bed.

For all the drawing in of the days I love autumn, the way it smells, fruity, damp and smokey, the colours of the leaves drifting down from the trees, lying crisp and crunchy underfoot until it rains again. Autumn fills me with nostalgia for old school days, the start of a new term, clean exercise books and new beginnings even as the year draws to a close. I love the clear bright mornings after a night of rain when the air is crisp and chill and a mist rises over the tree tops by the stream.


In the garden a few last apples lie rotting on the ground, decaying gradually into the soil as the birds have taken all they want. There are chutneys in the larder, dried herbs in jars and blackberries nestling in the freezer ready for autumn feasting. The painting above reflects the final summer harvest and will soon be featuring on some tea towels and canvas totes for Stokeley Farm shop, just a mile or two down the road.

Autumn is also a great time to enjoy indoor pursuits - for me painting is a major pleasure, but I also love sewing and have just taken up knitting again as one of my very best friends is expecting a baby in the spring. I was helping her sort through some very old boxes and we came across some lovely vintage knitting patterns. I particularly liked one for a knitted tea cosy, taken from a 30 year old magazine ......

Back of teacosy.

It was designed by a lady with the wonderful name of Mrs Halcyon Green. The back of the cottage has a single window and three Welsh sheep. I think the front would look even nicer with maybe some embroidered roses around the door. If you'd like the pattern then please click here to download it as a pdf file. I think I'll practice my rather rusty knitting skills for a while before attempting this, but I'd love to know if anyone does try it out, it would make a great Christmas pressie!

And finally ... another couple of exerpts from Vita Sackville-West's epic poem "The Land" (one of my all-time favourites) - from the Autumn verses.....


"If you may snatch before the rain
Crisp days when clods will turn up rough;
Gentleman robin brown as snuff
With spindle legs and bright round eye
Shall be your autumn company....

...Then may you shoulder spade and hoe,
And heavy-booted homeward go,
For no new flowers shall be born
Save hellebore on Christmas morn,
And bare gold jasmine on the wall,
And violets, and soon the small
Blue netted iris, like a cry
Startling the sloth of February."



Monday, October 13, 2008

Demented

I'm a great fan of the Demented cartoon strip by Jacky Fleming which comes out in the Mail on Sunday magazine. I particularly enjoyed this week's offering which I think just about sums up the last few months .....

.. and not just the weather!! Enjoy.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

News from Ben

Hi everyone!

It's me, Ben Dickson, reporting in. Shockingly Mum hasn't posted in our blog for a whole month ... that's one whole month without Amy and me getting mentioned on the internet. UN-BE-LIEVE-ABLE!!

So .... what's been happening here in deepest darkest Devon? Apart from rain that is! Well, we've been to the beach a lot ....

We don't go too often in the summer as it gets very busy and Mum says me and Amy do not behave very well. But all the families with baby humans have gone now so I can charge around at 100 mph on the sand and go swimming again. All the families with picnics have gone too, so Amy can't plonk herself in the middle of their picnic blankets and refuse to move until they give her food.



We had our own picnic on the beach, Mum and one of her friends and our most favourite people, Elona, took lots of nice food - good - but sat up on the rocks where we couldn't reach the sandwiches - BAD BAD BAD!!


We sat and looked at them to show them how thin we were and to try to make them give us their food but they just laughed! Huh! We will call the Dog Rescue People!

Mum has bought us new collars. She said it's no good buying us leather ones because they just go mouldy and funny with all the swimming so she would get webbing ones. There was a problem though. It was easy to get a collar for tiny little Amy who only needs a size 24". But big strong me needed a 27" and Mum couldn't find one anywhere in webbing, just leather.

Then she found this wonderful American site called Big Dog Boutique. She chose a very pretty girlish one for Amy called "Pink Lemonade" and "Seaside Stripe" for me - very masculine. Here we are modelling them. It was very hard to sit with our backs to the camera but we managed it for oh about 0.1 of a second. Mum said she was very impressed with the site, the collars arrived in less than a week and not too expensive either.


Mum has been busy upstairs in her workroom for EVER. She says it is something to do with Christmas. But I don't understand. That's not for ages yet. I remember last year that I was responsible for pruning the Christmas tree while Amy helped with the cooking. Now I'm older and wiser I'm going to cook as well! Mum is sure to need my help too. Mum's been busy with some downloadable stuff for Halloween - this bunting thing again. Here's the Halloween bunting ... lots of it is black - just like me, so I know it's very attractive!

And finally ... for other Devon dwellers - you MUST get Devon Today October issue. An article about our Mum is in there!! A picture! And our names are there too - a whole page just about DevonBears. So we is famous after all.

Goodbye from your favourite newfie
Ben Dickson.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Of bunting, beer and TWO competition winners!

What a busy weekend! But here's the names of my competition winners. There are going to be two prizes - first for Cait O'Connor as I just loved her suggestion of the Huggy Bag - irresistible! And secondly for Faith for the sheer quantity of wonderful names - some of which will definitely be used for future products. Meanwhile a big fat

THANK YOU

to everyone who took the time and trouble to leave suggestions. I'm just sorry I can't give everyone a prize!

Last week was the Dartmouth Regatta and our friends Rory and Elona took the bus with us to Dartmouth to spend Saturday afternoon/evening there. The Red Arrows were scheduled for 5.30 pm and Elona was particularly looking forward to this as she only moved here from Russia last year, so has never seen one of their spectacular shows. The crowd was full of anticipation ...

Pavements and balconies were crowded ..... the men had appropriate nourishment in their paws!


And then ..... the cloud came down.


Sadly no Red Arrows after all. This summer has been dreadful - I've spent more time knocking water off the canvas roof of the gazebo than I have sitting in it. Last night the rain was lashing against the windows - in a way it's almost a relief that it's September now as at least we can stop hoping for good weather. Although the economic doom and gloom news is so awful it feels as though it's going to be a long winter. So I thought we needed cheering up, and have spent the last few days developing DevonBears' answer to the credit crunch. Yes, it's PAPER bunting!!
OK stop laughing and get back on your chairs. It's cheerful, colourful, fun and cheap! What could be better? It will encourage people to have parties and make them smile. Well, I like it anyway.


... and at only £5.50 per pack for 18 flags, I'm sure it will add some cheer to the autum and winter months. I'm going to put it all around the office and workroom to give me a summer feeling inside even when it's cold in the garden.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Competition Time!

Hi everyone - I need help! I have a new product for DevonBear Designs which I'm anxious to put on the website, but I have a problem - I can't think of a name for it. It came about originally because of the Babychange Bag .....



Which, as you can see, has a very long handle - to go on shoulder or over buggy handles. Now this is fine, but it left me with a long rounded piece of fabric that was too small for most projects, but too big to waste. Then I realised that the shape was very like that of the bottom of the Amie bag - but probably just a bit narrower....
Here's the Amie Bag so you can see the bottom ..




And I had an idea ... initially just for the nursery. What about making some sort of container to keep things tidy. So, basing the shape on the Amie Bag pattern, but making the interior from 12oz canvas to give strength and some rigidity, I made a pouch shape - then put a large brass eyelet in the back for hanging. (Love all that banging with the hammer - great for working off stress!) And this is what it came out like .....


The new product
And then I thought - but it will stand up too, and why keep it just for the nursery (although it will be good to hang over the end of a cot - maybe with a velcro loop?)

So I made more .....


And then I made one in vintage linen. It looks great hanging next to the Aga piled high with my vintage moulds.

I'm sure other people would find them useful too. And I want to put them on my website, but can't think of a name (got hung up on tidy pocket, which does what it says, but isn't very exciting).

So, as I said at the beginning of this post, I need help. Suggestions for a name for this product would be much appreciated.

And the best one will win a "tidy pocket" by any other name!! Please leave your entry as a comment - the competition will close on 31 August when I'll contact the winner and let everyone else know the name.

Thanks for your help.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Time for Tea


Of course the poem I had in mind when setting the hands on this clock was not Hickory Dickory Dock at all, but Rupert Brooke's Grantchester with its final evocative line ...

"Stands the church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?"

Thinking of honey, there has been a lot of publicity lately about the mystery honey bee illness that has been decimating hives across America and now there are fears that it might have reached Britain. I was talking to a local bee keeper last week and thankfully there are no signs of problems in our locality as yet, and hopefully never.

Certainly the bees have been busy these last few weeks in the gaps between rainfall. First the lavender which thrives in the hot and (normally) sunny garden at the front of the house, and lately they have been drawn to the ice-plants which are just coming into flower. They are so funny to watch on these, they seem to adore the nectar, becoming drowsy and heavy, hardly able to summon the strength to lift themselves in flight!

Of course the ice-plants flowering is the signal that summer, such as it has been this year, will soon be over and autumn will be upon us. I love autumn, the whiff of woodsmoke on the wind as everyone begins to tidy their gardens, the first chill in the air and the woods just edged in gold. But I do hope we see something of summer first! I was asked to paint some beach huts for a local shop to feature on some bags ....
And then I considered all our usual summer treats that have sadly been few and far between this year ... eating in the gazebo, with the starlight and the moon and our delicate Japanese lanterns strung from the trees in festive fashion .... hot summer afternoons swinging gently in the stripey hammock .... sand between my toes and in the sandwiches at the beach ... but maybe September will be fine - there's still time...

Rosie returns from her gap year in three weeks time, it's hard to believe she's been away since January, the time has passed so quickly. She's spent the last few weeks in Thailand, and has ridden elephants, stroked tigers and enjoyed beach parties under a full moon. Returning to England may well be a shock to the system, but it will be wonderful to see her again. She's requested large quantities of Galaxy chocolate, and Mum's roast dinner to celebrate her return!

In the summer I often roast new potatoes with rosemary from the garden and will leave you with this easy recipe ...

You need a nice hot oven. Put your new potatoes (cut them in half if they're large) into a plastic bag with a tablespoon of olive oil, chopped rosemary (garlic too if you like), some sea salt and cracked black pepper, then squidge around in the bag until they're nicely coated. Tip onto a heavy baking tray and roast for 30 mins. Turn over and leave a bit longer if needed - and that's it. Lovely cold too - good to take on picnics (but watch out for marauding newfies - they adore them!). Happy days indeed!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Homegrown is best!

As an amateur vegetable grower I must admit to some doubts regarding the productivity of my patch. Flowers - yes, I've grown flowers all my adult life, but vegetables - no - not until now that is. My kind next door neighbours started me off with some tomato and courgette plants, to which I added runner beans (almost foolproof), aubergines and peppers. We may well have had one of the wettest Julys ever down here in Devon but, fuelled by the warm sunshine we have enjoyed between the rain, my plants have grown and grown and grown.

And tonight I was proud to present my adaptation of Gordon Ramsay's Fish and Tomato Chowder. It was DELICIOUS!! Here's how it goes....

First put on your very beautiful DevonBear apron


Ingredients

good splash of olive oil
1 or 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
couple of handfuls of small new potatoes (pre-cook these or use up leftovers)
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
a few thyme sprigs from my own garden
2 bay leaves from my own garden
400g tin chopped tomatoes (but I think when my own are ready I shall use these and just add more stock)
1 pint hot fish or chicken stock
2 courgettes, roughly chopped from my own garden
handful of green beans cut into short lengths from my own garden
some chilli flakes to taste
1 lb white fish fillets (the fish van that visits the village every Thursday has a good selection of mixed fish fillets - only £3.50 for 1 lb)
bunch of parsley, roughly chopped from my own garden

Method

  • Heat olive oil in heavy casserole. Add onions and celery, cook for 6-8 mins to soften. Then add carrots, pepper and herbs, then saute for 5-10 mins until veg are lightly golden.

  • Add tomatoes and stock to pan, plus courgettes and beans and chilli if desired. Simmer for 5 mins. Thicken with a bit of cornflour/water if desired, then add potatoes, and simmer to warm through potatoes.

  • Put most of the fish fillets on top of the vegetable mix in the pan. Give the remaining fish to the newfies who are absolutely starving as they haven't eaten for oh - at least 2 hours.

  • Cover and simmer for 5-10 mins (bottom oven of Aga for me) until fish is just cooked through.

  • Break the fish into large flakes and gently stir through casserole. Ladle into bowls and eat in secret so that the newfies don't realise what you're doing.

And that's it! It's so delicious you don't even realise it's healthy too. (Can always be followed with chocolate icecream, chocolate cake or best of all chocolate dipped strawberries if desired!)

Monday, July 28, 2008

The power of positive thinking ....

video

In these days of food and energy shortages, the credit crunch and global tensions sometimes it's good to count our blessings ...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Across the Tamar!

Yesterday we left the sheltered South Hams behind and drove north keeping the moorland and tors of Dartmoor to our right. We (townie husband and I) had a meeting arranged with our PR lady, Sarah, in Clovelly - and afterwards - dogs away at their favourite kennels - our time was our own! FREEDOMMM!!!

Clovelly was indeed beautiful, but we've visited before, and anyway I think my legs are getting a little too old for hills quite that steep. So we didn't linger, but followed the coast road west into Cornwall, heading for the Rectory Tea Rooms (as recommended by Sarah)


Well, Sarah obviously knows a thing or two about scones is all I can say!! The tearooms themselves occupied part of the ground floor of an old farmhouse and were in a lovely location set back about 500 yds from the cliff top. But, as I'm sure everyone will agree, the test of a good Cornish teashop is its cream tea!

This one did not disappoint! (But should cream or jam be applied first? Who knows? Does it really matter?)

Afterwards a walk was definitely required to burn off at least a few of those calories, so we set off a little way along the coastal path. We could see Lundy Island ...

And then a National Trust sign telling us we were close to "Hawkers Hut." Who or what was hawker we wondered. We postulated about Cornishment looking out for pilchard shoals, but they turned out to be "huers". Had to wait until I got home to discover that the hut was named after the Rev Richard Hawker who became Rector of Morwenstow in 1834 and remained there preaching to the smugglers, dissenters and wreckers of the area for the next 40 years.

But what about the hut? We climbed down to it ...

And husband was persuaded to try out the accommodation. He felt it was a little cramped!


But back to the Rev Hawker. Apparently he was an eccentric who is known to have dressed up as a mermaid and excommunicated his cat for mousing on Sundays. He dressed in claret-coloured coat, blue fisherman's jersey, long sea-boots, a pink brimless hat and a poncho made from a yellow horse blanket, which he claimed was the ancient habit of St Pardarn.

He talked to birds, invited his nine cats into church and kept a huge pig as a pet. (don't see what's so odd about that - after all I keep 2 huge dogs as pets and certainly wore a poncho during my 1970s youth). Apparently he spent a lot of time in his hut contemplating, writing poetry and smoking opium. Wow! Sort of like an early hippy then.

On our way home we stopped for fish and chips in Kingsbridge. We sat on a bench looking over the estuary at the fun fair (it's our carnival this week) and decided to go for a wander round the attractions. The Dodgems were great fun, and I was amused by one booth in particular - I'm going to use this photo to frighten the newfies into good behaviour ...

They too could find themselves hanging by their collars like these stuffed toy dogs - and as for the free puppy if you lose - watch out Ben, or you could be donated !!!!!
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