We blog, we bake.
We craft, we create.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Podgy Bakes Christmas

Hello there, it's Podgy the baking Panda here with you today. For those of you who have been sleeping the month away, let me tell you it's Christmas Eve today. For those who didn't know that...... PANIC!!!!!!

We're all prepared and just waiting for the fat guy in the red suit here at The House of Bears. I thought I may as well indulge in some festive baking. Do you all like shortbread? We love it here. I consulted my trusty cookbooks for a recipe and found the ideal one in The Great British Book of Baking (first series)

For those who don't have the book, here's the recipe

150g unsalted butter (very soft)
40g icing sugar
200g plain flour
50g corn flour
Caster sugar for sprinkling.

I whizzed up the icing sugar with the cubed butter in the Kenwood, until it was soft and creamy looking. I then sifted the flours on top and whizzed until the mix came together as a firm dough.

Then came the hard work, rolling out the dough, pheweee, I'll have huge muscles after this.

I wanted shaped biscuits, so pressed some out, in my own inimitable style

I re rolled my dough, whilst gathering flour on my fur!!

Then pressed more festive shapes. I think I'll need a thorough licking down after all this!

I baked my biscuits at 180c / gas 4, for 18 minutes, left them on the tray to firm up for a few minutes, then decanted them to the cooling tray.

Goodness, there's enough here for a hug of hungry bears.

I think I'll start with this one.

Wishing you all a safe, happy Christmas. We hope it's all you would wish for, and for those facing troubles, we wish you peace and better times to come.

With love from the bears

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Impatience is My Virtue

Hullo there. Did you know it's 5 days until Chritstmas? As requested by one of our dear followers, we took a festive photo by the tree. I hope you like it.

Anyhoo, I decided to write a post mainly to show my finished page from the WOYWW post. I left you watching paint ( or rather, distress stains) drying. My page was all to do with my frustration waiting for our pawly fridge freezer to be fixed. I hate waiting, and I get stressed when things go wrong and are beyond my control. We waited 17 days from the fridge/ freezer breaking to being fixed, and it seemed a very long 17 days indeed. As usual, I journalled my emotions.

On top of distress stains I layered texture paste through a harlequin stencil, then once this was dry I added more distress stains, some alcohol inks, more distress stains, even more distress stains........

I then added my image, which was stamped on tissue paper, which disappears once glued onto the page with Mod Podgy. I stamped my sentiment in the same way. I had some very gluey paws after that feat, let me tell you!!

The end page was quite pleasing though, a play on words to suit my pawsonality. I think it says it all.

The fridge freezer is working now, humming along nicely and full of delicious cheeses and party foods, ready for a feast fit for a bear on Christmas Day. In case we don't post again, we wish all our followers a Very Merry Christmas, a safe and Happy New Year and peace and happiness to all.

See you in the New Year for more bear antics.

With love from the bears

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

WOYWW - Merry Artmess

Hello there. Wednesday again? Wow, isn't December steaming on? I've been busy wrapping Christmas presents for my love, Clarissa. I hope she likes what's inside, I made her a paw made book.

I've not really indulged in any Christmas themed crafts this year. I didn't even make all of the Christmas cards, but resorted to buying charity cards instead. Podgy has baked a few Christmassy treats, but with the fridge freezer being out of action the last two weeks, even that's been difficult. Still, it's being fixed today so hopefully he'll fill it with mince pies and other delights.

Now, the real reason I'm blogging is the wonderful world of WOYWW. If you're confused by the acronym, click on the link and see what it's all about. Join in and share your desky delights with the world, like me.

Here's my Wednesday mess for this week, the bright beginnings of an art journal page, plus a smaller art journal that I added texture paste to whilst I was decorating the larger journal. Sometimes it's easier to work on two pages at once, especially for the stuff that takes ages to dry.

Anyway, my page is all to do with the fridge freezer breaking ( see about two posts below for the boring story) and how I hate to wait for people to come to the house; you spend the day constantly looking out the window, wondering if every little noise is a van drawing up, dashing to the bathroom and imagining you hear a van pull away at that moment.... I guess I am just an impatient little bear at heart, and this page will reflect that.

As you can see it's a bright page, I used my much maligned distress stains, first adding Gesso to my page, then smearing the distress stains randomly over the page. I added a spritz of water and let the colours run into each other a little, leaving to dry thoroughly before adding more colour. I then went mad adding drops of alcohol ink in complementary colours. Texture paste scraped on through a stencil added some depth. I'll glue the image on once everything is properly dry. I've stamped it on tissue paper, and if I add enough Mod Podgy to the page,the tissue paper will magically disappear, leaving the image behind.

As you can see, I'm still at the watching paint dry stage right now, always such an interesting pastime, I think!!

While I'm waiting, I'll go and peruse some other WOWYW desks. TTFN for now, I hope no one is too stressed with Christmas preparations. Merry Christmas to all who celebrate the occassion. Xxx

With love from the bears

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Sew Sew

Hello there dear friends. It's Horace here yet again with another sewing project to show you. You know when you first start to sew, and you buy every single scrap of fabric you see, just because it's pretty, and you're sure you can find some use for it? Well, that was me when I first got my sewing machine. I didn't even have any idea if I could actually make anything, never mind an idea of what to make. At cub school, I had been bottom of the class at anything arty, and my sewing skills were certainly lacking. I couldn't follow a pattern for the life of me, and following written instructions left me scratching my furry head in confusion. I am a visual learner, so I turned to Youtube in the hunt for easy to follow tutorials that did not have 55 million stages for one simple make.

I found so many great tutorials, including several for making zipped bags ( or purses, as they insist on calling them in America). As you only need some squares of fabric and some wadding, I thought this would be a great project for my veritable stash of fabric

I didn't have any matching pieces of fabric, so went for contrasting colours for the outside of my bag.

I adhered my fabric to the wadding with temporary sticky spray.

I then cut around the wadding,

I find when I try to sew in a zip with my zipper foot, the fabric starts travelling to the left of the machine as I sew. Is it just me? Does my fabric try to escape my furry clutches? Anyway, eventually I managed to sew the zipper to both the outer and inner fabric.

I decided to add some stitching to the outer fabric, for a more quilted look,
Don't look too closely, or you may see my wonky workmanship!

It gets worse, oh well. These are only for my use. I don't think my quilty stitch is suitable for present making just yet.

The bags will come in handy for various bear needs; a small smackeral perhaps, or some arty bits and pieces, or both?

With love from the bears

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

WOYWW - I'm a Bit Biased

Well hullo there again. I think I have the right day this week, last week I posted my
WOYWW desk on Thursday, I was totally convinced it was Wednesday! I also forgot to add a link to Julia's blog, where you can find out all you need to know about this fun phenomenon. This week I'm on the right day, and have the link up too. Go me!

So, what is on my desk this week? Well, I'm making bias binding from sheets bought from Asda. I need a veritable amount, and bias binding is not the cheapest thing to buy, so I thought, how hard can it be to make my own? Not very, is the answer.

As you can see above. I bought a 2 1/2" quilting ruler to aid with the cutting. My bias binding needs to be 2 1/2" wide and I am hopeless at cutting a straight line, so decided this would be a good purchase. There are lots of youtube videos on how to make bias binding, so I won't attempt a convoluted explanation. It's all to do with folding your fabric so it is cut on the bias ( means it is stretchy, I think).

Once I'd cut 3 million strips, I needed to sew them together, to create one continuous strip of fabric. I kept sewing the strips together until I was left with this, below.

I'm almost buried in bias binding!!! I think that should be enough to edge my quilt!!

Now, before I start on that task, I shall visit some old friends at their desks. See you all soon.

With love from the bears

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Baby it's (not) Cold in There

Hello there everyone, isn't December zooming by? Do you have your decorations up yet? We put our tree up on December the first.

For some reason, our tree always looks blue on photos. There is nothing blue on it at all! How odd, it's a green tree with fake snow ( of course, even in The House of Bears, it doesn't snow indoors. The decorations are all gold or brown and the lights are all white.

It was a mixed day for us, lovely and relaxing whilst decorating, then rather stressful when I went to the fridge for a small snack, only to find it was warm inside, and everything in the freezer was either partially or completely defrosted. Not knowing how long it had been faulty for, we couldn't take the chance on using anything, and had to chuck away about a months worth of food, including all the Christmas party food, I could have cried.

Looking on the bright side though, on checking the guarantee, we found it ran out the very next day. I was on the phone right away to report the fault. Unfortunately, an engineer can't come out until next Tuesday, so we are fridge and freezer-less until then. That's of course, if it's an easy fix.

I didn't realise just how much stuff goes in the fridge, from spreads and cheeses, cold meats and drinks, to the opened jars and all the little bits you pop in there, just to be on the safe side.

I hated throwing out so much food, it really goes against my belief that we should try not to waste anything, and having a completely empty fridge and freezer is very alien to us. We usually stock anything that can be stockpiled 'just in case'.

The irony is, we had just made a large donation to the local foodbank, the second that week, we'd donated lots of tinned goods and pasta etc! Isn't that typical?

We are very lucky though, we have been able to afford to shop daily, and of course, having the fridge freezer one day from guarantee was unbelievably lucky. One day later and we would have been worried about how to afford to either fix or replace it. We can't wait to have it up and running again though. Hopefully in time for Christmas.

With love from the bears

Thursday, 4 December 2014

WOYWW? Artymess

Hello there. I haven't posted for WOYWW in ages. I've been in more of a sewing than arty mood of late, it goes in phases. Yesterday I watched a Youtube art tutorial though and felt inspired to create again. I copied the background idea directly from the original, using Gelatos spread from a baby wipe to my page to create the background. I then added some distress inks through stencils, and sorted through my pre cut embellishments to see what Would go well on the page.

Nothing is stuck down as yet, I'm in the contemplation stage of creating, which is the most fun part in my opinion. Believe it or not, the above photo was taken less than an hour ago, in daylight, it's very dreary here.

As you can see from the photo below, the art journal spread spans several pages, I cut a little from the middle page and then adhered it to the front to make a three page spread. Now I just have to decide on a focus for the pages. The original used some lovely flower stamps, maybe I'll do the same.

Now I think I'll go and visit some old friends in WOYWW land.


With love from Horace.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Black Friday Mentality.

Image from @RobD1970 on Twitter

Hello there, did you read or watch the news reports of Black Friday madness across the country? There were scenes of people pushing each other and trampling over others, why? Was there a limited world vaccine or cure for a disease we were all sure to die of if we didn't receive a shot? Nope, TVs and other goods were discounted, some as little as 37% off their 'usual' price. For this, people turned into, well, I can't say animals, I think animals would have been better behaved. They turned into greedy, selfish idiots, intent on rushing to grab their 'bargains' before anyone else did.

There are photos on the Internet of grown adults grappling for possession of TVs, videos of men threatening each other and women clinging onto their prizes as others tried to wrestle them from their arms. Watching some of the video footage, I wasn't even sure if people were really bothered what they bought, as long as they bought something. Was it pack mentally? Do people really get carried along with the crowd and find themselves acting in ways they would never have thought, or did these people go along to the sales determined to just bag something, to 'win their prize' at any cost?

Both the written news reports and video footage made me feel lots of emotions, but mostly sadness, and worry. Have we really all become so self centred and have such a sense of entitlement that we think this sort of behaviour is acceptable? Do we really value TVs and other so called sale bargains above human decency? What would happen if there was an emergency where we all needed to come together and help each other through it?

Later news reports lay the bulk of the blame for these scenes on the retailers, and while they may have played their part in whipping up a buying frenzy, let's not lose sight of the fact that we all need to take responsibility for our own actions. We all have free will, and we are all capable of exercising a little bit of restraint and kindness rather than greed and anger. No one involved in any of the scrummages has anyone but themselves to blame if their greed led to another human being being hurt.

I like a bargain as much as the next person, I love to feel I have a few pounds off my buys, but I don't covet a prize at the expense of hurting my fellow man. I couldn't conceive of any situation where we all felt the need to push and shove, hurting each other, forgetting basic manners and making ourselves the subject of some of the most shameful news headlines in a while. Come on people, the only time we should push and shove is in a life threatening situation, and then we should be pushing and shoving the most vulnerable of society to the head of the queue. A TV, which these people probably already have at least one of in their house, is really not worth losing your decency for.

Hopefully the reports are only indicative of a small minority of the public. I hang on to the hope that most of us still care, that we would be above this sort of behaviour. Let's all do something nice, just because we can, instead of spending money on frivolous rubbish, just because we can.

We've donated to our local foodbank this afternoon, just to show we practise what we preach. X

With love from the bears

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Stocking Up

Hello there, it's Horace here again today to wish you a happy weekend. Is your weather as dull and dreary as mine? Autumn has well and truly set in and it feels cold cold cold. I think we were rather spoilt with an extended summer, lots of dry days and a very mild October. I've been keeping well wrapped up in my lovely knitted cardi, with my pawmade quilt for comfort. As an aside, Ali Wade asked in my previous post, who was the ebear seller for my cardi? Her ebay title is nogoodcat, she's well worth a look if you want to be the best dressed bear in town.

Since the weather has turned, I need something to occupy my paws, so I've turned once again to my trusty sewing machine. Despite only possessing the machine since May this year, I've built up a rather large stock of material, mostly fat quarters and remnants, of which I've made a ridiculous amount of tote bagsand not a lot else so far.

I wondered what else I could make that would be quick, easy and fun, I racked my furry brain for ideas, when suddenly I realised, it's less than six weeks to Christmas. What does every good bear need at Christmas time? A stocking to house his presents from Santa, of course. Serendipitously, I had a small stocking pattern in my Quilt Now magazine, so I set about cutting three stockings, one for me, one for Podgy, and one for young Arnold, our bear cub.

Luckily, I also had some Santa patterned cotton in my fabric stash to last wayyyyyy beyond bear years, this stocking sewing was obviously meant to be! I was 'sew' excited (sorry, couldn't resist) that I forgot to take any 'before' photos. Oh well, Podgy came in whilst I was sewing the stocking tops, and snapped a rather odd angled picture of me at the machine.

Note to all who decide to make stockings with felt tops- if you make a mistake, it's almost impossible to pick your stitches from the felt. Take it from the bear who tried!

Anyhoo, despite my fancy stitched top going awry, I did at least manage to stitch not one, not two but three decent looking stockings that any self respecting bear would be happy to leave out for Santa to fill.

I'm rather pleased with these. I think I'll have the red patterned stocking, and gift the Santa stockings to Podgy and Arnold, I hope they'll be pleased.

Whenever I've attempted to stitch anything with a curved line before, I've produced a puckered finish, this time, before turning the stocking the right way out, I snipped slightly into the curved line, making sure I didn't cut right through my carefully crafted stitches. When I then turned the stockings the right way out, the curves were pawfect. Yippee. Do you think Santa will come and fill these beauties on Christmas Eve? I certainly hope so.

Now, what else can I stitch that is quick and easy on my paws?

With love from the bears

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Day I Deleted Facebook

Hello there dear bloggers, how are you all? It's Horace here on this chillsome November day, in fact, so chilly that I'm sporting my lovely autumn knit. Do you like it? I bought it from an ebear seller. She knits the loveliest jumpers, cardi's and hats. I'm quite addicted to her selling page and fast running out of 'paw'ket money as i just can't stop ordering.

Note the poppy in the photo above, I've still got in on now, although I shall be exchanging it for a Children in Need headband shortly, ready for Friday's charity day.

Anyway, what have the bears been up to? Well, not an awful lot at all. I've been feeling a little pawly, so have resorted to trawling Internet sites, as that requires little energy. One site I seemed to waste a lot of time on was Facebook, far too much time in fact. I found myself constantly clicking on the website numerous times a day, scrolling through my news feed, only to reach the end and scroll back up to start again. It had become a mindless, and slightly depressing, habit. No longer was it any fun, it held little useful information, and I found myself feeling rather negative about the whole experience, BUT, habit meant I still clicked, scrolled, read, scrolled, and scrolled again, with absolutely no purpose and gaining nothing in the process.

When I found myself clicking on the Facebook tab for the umpteenth time in my convalescence, I suddenly stopped, paw raised in mid air, what on earth was I doing, and why was I doing it? I was learning nothing, the amusement and entertainment factor was practically nil, and reading that X was 'fed up' of her life, Y had just 'eaten a burger - feeling stuffed', Z was '**** 'with her '****husband' was just depressing and slightly weird. Why do we need to know these things about each other? Before Facebook, would we ring each other and announce 'just had a burger', ' watching X Factor on TV, boring'? Would we stand in the street and announce ' fed up with my hubby' 'kids driving me mad, roll on autumn term'?

Without knowing it, I had let Facebook take over my life. I'd take photos of restaurant dinners, coffee with friends, cakes I had made, and post them to social network, because it was the 'done thing'. I'd write inane updates and constantly check to see who had 'liked' my posts. I'd scroll through Facebook pages of people I hardly remembered from my past, adding 'friends' just because I had once shared a classroom with them, or they were friends of friends. At a recent family wedding I caught myself telling my nephew I would share the photos 'on Facebook'. Whatever happened to getting together to view the photos, to writing, emailing, visiting, talking to people individually?Why had we all resorted to the lazy way of keeping in touch by mass sharing?

I decided enough was enough. I was ready to reclaim my private life, Facebook was about to be culled, I'd find the delete button and be done with it, easy peasy, or so I thought. First, to log into Facebook and select my privacy options, scroll, click, scroll, scroll and click some more........there is NO delete button, Facebook have no such thing; instead you have the option to 'deactivate my account'. Facebook are sure you will miss them and want to come back. So sure, that it seems this is the only option if you wish to leave. I duly selected the 'deactivate' option, but this really annoyed me. Why couldn't I leave if I wanted? Why did Facebook retain all my information, why was my page held ready for when I was certain to return?

A Google search led to details of how to find the hidden 'delete' button, I needed to click 'help', then 'manage my account', then another click to 'deactivating, memorialising, or deleting' my account. Hoorah! Now I was faced with two paragraphs of text. I scrolled up, down, down up, once more - no 'delete' button, so I reread the paragraphs. Aha, Facebook had been cunning; instead of 'delete', the words 'let us know' were subtlety underlined. I clicked quickly on the link, fearing Facebook might swiftly delete the option.

At last, I now had to confirm I would like to delete my account ( thank you Facebook, for presuming I don't know my own mind enough to not waver at this point). Was that it? Well no, now I had to confirm my password, in case I was an evil hacker trying to delete Facebook accounts maybe? Was that it? No, now I needed to prove I was not a robot by typing in almost illegible text in a box. Surely my account was now duly deleted? Not quite, Facebook informed me my account was 'deactivated' and would be deleted in 14 days, if I didn't try to sign into my account in the meantime that is!!!

What a 'paw'laver!! Social media is obviously so sure of its popularity that it assumes, if you decide to leave, it won't be long until you're back. Well, not me. The people I want to keep in touch with know my personal information, those who don't have it were probably not 'real' friends in the first place. Have I missed having a Facebear account since deleting my account, not one bit. I know social media has its uses, but I don't believe it holds any pertinent information that can't be found through other means. Since deleting my account I've read more books and rediscovered my love of word puzzles. Of course, as soon as I'm feeling better, I'll get back to more art and crafty pawsuits too.

Goodbye Facebook, I'd like to say it's been fun, but I cannot lie!!!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Not Another Mini Book?

Well hello again, it's Horace here with you in my natty new top. Do you like it?

That's not really why I decided to blog though. Remember my previous post about recycling paper bags? I thought I'd give you lovely people a tutorial on how I made it. But first, in true Blue Peter Style, here's one I made earlier

We're lucky enough to have a book binding machine, so for this paper bag book I used that and bound each page seperately, as you can see, there is no real cover as such and you can see each addition at the side of the book.

Inside I decorated some of the bag, but left other interesting features exposed. Here I added a pocket for tags or photos by cutting back the original bag.

Depending on how you fold your bags, you can make side or top pockets, or just glue all the openings down and have a conventional style book. The beauty of a paper bag book lies in its versatility.

For my next book, I decided to use one size of bags, and thanks to Tesco delivering their fruit and veg in paper bags, I had a plentiful supply. I cut the handles from each bag.

Then used a bone folder to produce a neat crease down the middle of the bags.

In my paper bag stash, I had a Build a Bear bag, with these fabulous handles on.

I decided to use these in my project, so mercilessly chopped them off.

I used double sided sticky tape...

Which was rather more sticky than I realised, it took me five minutes to unstick my poor paw from the tape!

Once I released myself, I placed the handles in the folds of the bag and stuck them down.

Voila, the covers of the book.

Luckily I remembered to ensure the handles were placed evenly. Wonky handles are so last season!

The red handles, coupled with the fact that it's twelve weeks until Christmas, inspired me to make a Christmas memories book. So out came lasts year's leftover Christmas papers. Wow, we bought a lot last year!

I began by decorating the covers of my book...

Adding stickers from the paper collection for interest....

I toiled into the small hours by candlelight ( okay I'm exaggerating a little, it was lamplight, but it was still toil!)

I decorated the insides of the book, leaving areas of bag showing, I think this adds to the recycled element of the project.

By folding the bottom of the bag up into the book, I was able to create small pockets, that can hold ATCs, tags or photos. All I needed to do was add a small strip of double sided tape to the edges of the fold, to keep any memorabilia from falling out.

Once I was happy with the placement of my pages,

I sewed them all together, by piercing small holes into the centre of the pages, and using wax thread to secure.

I think my book looks very pretty, and now I just need to wait until December to add my special memories

After all that hard work, I need a rest, so I'm off to catch up with some of my favourite blogs.


With love from the bears.