Friday 30 September 2011

Off the beaten track

On a gloriously golden September afternoon who could resist a walk by the lake?

The English Lake District attracts many thousands of visitors throughout the year. The energetic ones spend their time walking, climbing and sailing whilst others photograph or paint the magnificent scenery. The majority come to sit or stand and stare then take some light refreshment before the homeward journey.

We left the lakeside yesterday to visit the ancient stone circle at Castlerigg. It was built by Neolithic man around 4,500 years ago and sits on the brow of a hill with magnificent views in all directions.

Was this a place used for trading goods, for worshipping the gods, or was it used for Neolithic 'gatherings'? No one will ever know for sure.

Today it is looked after by the National Trust and we leave our lives of clutter to come and marvel at the ancient simplicity of the place.

With a soft wind whispering round the stones our own shadows merge with those of our ancient ancestors.

Below is an artist's impression of Neolithic man. The Lake District was a wild inhospitable place in those days and scratching a living from the stony soil would have been extremely difficult. How different this life would have been to ours.

I wonder what Neolithic man would think to our life of leisure and pleasure.

Enjoy your weekend

Monday 26 September 2011

Beautifully upcycled

One piece of advice will always remind me of my mum and dad.

"Don't throw it away because you never know when it might be useful."

How right they were! One person's 'junk' is very definitely another person's 'treasure' and my parents kept cupboards full of treasured bits and bobs of every shape and size. As a result they were able to create, repair and rebuild all kinds of things over the years. Sadly my parents are no longer here but I know they would have been amazed and delighted to see some of the beautifully crafted pieces of jewelry that are featured on Etsy these days. All cleverly utilise upcycled materials. Here are just a few of my favourites.

Necklace and bracelet by Dishfunctional Designs (uses broken china)


Necklaces by Mermaids Tears Jewelry (uses sea glass)

Necklace by Button Soup Jewelry (uses vintage buttons)

Bracelet and necklace by The Key of A (uses keys of all types)

Ring by London Particulars (uses vintage watch parts)

My final choices are created from vintage silver spoons. They are all made by LTCreates Jewelry 



 Variety of rings

If you have an upcycled favourite that is featured on Etsy feel free to leave the name of the shop in the comments box, I'd love to take a look.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Stories fondly remembered

My daughter has built up quite a large collection of Ladybird books over the years. Her love for these little books began when she was a child and the collection continues to grow thanks mainly to thrift shop finds.

Looking at the books I spotted several of her favourite stories and one in particular that was my husband's favourite when he was very young. His mum read the story to him when he was 3 or 4 years old and amazingly all these years later he can still quote several lines from the book.

I wonder if anyone else can recall this particular story.


Typically it's a sad tale with a happy ending (thank goodness, I hate sad endings). Judging by the fashions I think it was probably first published in the 1940s but remained on sale well into the 1970s.

Little dog Ginger lives on a farm in the heart of the countryside where he regularly plays with his friend Tommy. But one sad day Tommy tells him he must go and live in the big city and poor Ginger is bundled into a crate and taken to the station.

Tommy waves goodbye to his friend as the train passes (note the obligatory spotted hankie).

When he reaches London little dog Ginger is met by Joan who fastens a collar round his neck and drags him through the busy streets to his new home.

But of course Ginger is soon in trouble. When he breaks the arm off Joan's best doll he runs to hide but in doing so upsets a bucket of water which angers Mary the maid.

Mary and Joan (clutching her broken doll) go looking for Ginger who is hiding in the tool shed. When they find him the poor terrified little dog is locked in the shed as punishment. But thankfully Ginger is eventually able to make his escape.

And of course he wastes no time in finding his way back to the open countryside and the farm where his kind friend Tommy is waiting for him.

And the story ends with . . . .

So the friends remained together,
Friends for ever and a day,
Going out in wind and sunshine,
Out across the farm to play.

Thank goodness for happy endings!

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Life amongst woodland folk

Don't you love this picture of woodland folk running to the post box with their letters. They are just in time to catch the last collection of the day. Before the days of email our village post boxes were emptied two or three times every day, but sadly not any more.

This cute postcard and the ones that follow were sent several years ago to my daughter by her Granny.

Whenever Granny went on a day trip she never failed to mail a card to each of her grandchildren which I think was a lovely idea.


There are always lots of fun things going on in every scene.

Sales and looking for bargains! . . . .   Now there's something we all enjoy!


Wheelbarrow races used to be very popular but I'm guessing they might be considered 'unsafe' these days!

Any game can end in disagreement. . . Lemonade anyone?

If you are familiar with scenes like these then you probably know the artist was Racey Helps. I used to presume they were painted by a woman but in fact they are the work of a man, and here he is.

His name is Angus Clifford Racey Helps. He was born in 1913 and lived in Somerset, England. During the war years, whilst working as a hairdresser, he wrote and illustrated short stories for his young daughter. One day a book publisher entered his hair salon and saw one of the illustrated stories and fell in love with it. This was the start of Racey Helps' career as a writer and illustrator.

I recently discovered a lovely Racey Helps web site and on it there is a short video of the man himself being interviewed about his work. He was a very quiet and unassuming gentleman and quite a dapper dresser it would seem. If you'd like to see it you'll find it on the Racey Helps website.

Although written several years ago, the little story books like the one above are still available from booksellers. The postcards can of course be found on Ebay.

Thankfully my daughter kept all the postcards that Granny sent her and looking at them again has brought back many happy memories.

Until next time

Monday 12 September 2011

A passion for cups

I have always loved vintage china and cups are a particular passion of mine. My favourites are the delicate Victorian ones that have beautiful decoration inside the bowls.

Often the cups that are decorated on the inside have little or no pattern on the outside which is a pity, but it has given me the excuse to collect more recent examples that are covered in flowers of every shape and size. Of course the saucers have to be pretty too!

It's easy to date more recent cups from the stamps underneath but dating older ones can be more difficult as they often have no marks at all.

A few years ago I discovered this wonderful book by Michael Berthoud who is an expert on British porcelain. Just look at his massive collection of cups. Wouldn't I love to own that!

Published in 1990 the book catalogues many examples dating from 1750 - 1940.

The cups below are four from my small collection and date from 1780 to 1930. The bowls and handles each have a distinctive shape. As each shape was fashionable for just a short period of time it makes them easy to date.

Top left - Typical early tea bowl. These had no handle (1780s)
Top right - London shape (1820s)
Bottom left - Blenheim shape with ring handle (1830s)
Bottom right - Deco shape with angular handle (1930s)

It seems someone else around here also likes displaying nice china!

Belinda Jane has been creating a new home for everyone in the old play house. Since the children grew up and no longer played with toys the little house has been standing empty in one corner of the playroom. But things are about to change as Belinda Jane has spent the last few days happily making a cosy home for the dolls.
After a busy morning she stood back to admire the clean china on the dresser shelves.

Then, just before lunch, the postman delivered a mysterious box.

The box had come all the way from the USA where many of Merrily Ann's cousins live.

Belinda Jane couldn't wait to look inside. She removed lots of paper and bubbly plastic whilst Merrily Ann looked on with the kind of smile that said she just might know what the box contained.

Amongst all the papery packing the dolls found the sweetest little cup and plate.

The cup had a pretty daisy and busy bee painted on it.

On the plate was a happy looking hedgehog and Belinda Jane was glad to see that he'd brought his scarf and umbrella with him as English winters could be very cold and wet.

Right at the bottom of the box there was a pretty 'Thank You' card from Julie in America who had made the cup and plate specially for the dolls.

Belinda Jane was delighted and decided it was the very best kind of housewarming gift and immediately displayed the new cup and plate on the dresser.

The younger dolls of course weren't much interested in the new cup and plate. They quickly decided that the best part of the gift was the box and wasted no time in climbing inside.

Belinda Jane quickly pushed the box of rascals away from the dresser before any accident should happen. A box of bouncing dollies and shelves full of fragile china just don't mix!
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The gorgeous little cup and plate were made specially for the dolls by the very talented Julie Whitmore whose blog Julie Whitmore Pottery you will find in my sidebar. When I discovered Julie's work I knew that I wanted some. Many of the items she makes are commission pieces but she also finds time to put a few items into her Etsy shop so do pop over and take a look.