Saturday 13 July 2013

It's all about the Red, White and Blue

I've had quite a trend going with my crafting just recently, and it's all about red, white and blue!

I think the abundance of patriotic colours in the stores here, and my eagerness to make some stuff that will remind me of my American adventure, has lead me down this path!

My current crafting obsession is quilting. I love the feel of fabric, and I like the idea of making things that have a purpose.

This is the first of 2 Wiggly Whimsy quilts I made, using a pattern from the Moda BakeShop by Rebecca Silbaugh. I used up scraps of Patriotic fabrics from another quilt (still in progress) that I bought at Jo-Anns, and used natural muslin fabric which I purchased at Walmart. Yes, Walmart ;)
I bought a cream coloured fleece and a striped cotton for the binding, also from Jo-Anns. I quilted it simply, with a stitch-in-the-ditch pattern, without batting, as I thought it would be too thick for the Florida climate. I made another quilt, using the same scraps and background fabric, with a red gingham binding. The striped one is Tom's, the gingham is Jemma's. The kids love them, and like nothing better to snuggle under them whilst watching a DVD at night. Even in July.

Armed with the scraps leftover from the backing to my Work in Progress quilt, I searched the web for a Union Jack pattern, and found a great foundation paper piecing pattern here courtesy of Susanne Klemm. Even though I had never done any foundation paper piecing before, I quickly worked it out, and ran up this flag in an evening. I then put a navy border round it, sandwiched and quilted it, and used up the leftover binding from Tom's quilt to finish it off. I was so chuffed with how it turned out, and I am itching to make another one. I may use some patterned fabric in the next one, to make a more Cath Kidston-esque flag. It will even up my USA vs UK projects as well!

The weather has turned positively monsoon like this weekend - whilst the sun is out and shining back in the UK. The remnants of the Tropical weather system Chantal is to blame for the rain, although we haven't had as much rain as we did last summer. The kids are one month away from returning to school, and I must say, these holidays haven't been as tortuous as previous years. Jemma takes herself to the pool most days, and Tom has been at day camp this last week, evening up the days he prefers to sit indoors on his laptop ;)  I have this years school supply list now, so will now start getting the things they need, ready for the start of term :)

It's homemade pizza night tonight, so I'm off to roll out the dough...

Sarah xxx

Saturday 1 June 2013

What a difference a year makes...

This time last year, we arrived in the US. We approached Dulles through a massive storm cell, and I really thought we were not going to make it, it was that bad! The first night we had to go to CVS to buy emergency umbrellas, as it was absolutely throwing it down!

We had a fabulous weekend in Washington D.C, introducing ourselves to the culture and traditions of this great nation we were lucky enough to be calling home.

The man in the chair. Abraham Lincoln, the man who restored the Union. He was on Tom's things to see list, and to see him in real life is so awe inspiring, and fitting for the Father of the Nation.

The Capitol, the heart of government. It was probably quiet in there, seeing as it was a weekend. But you know there are always going to be people working away behind the scenes ;)

Then we flew down to Jacksonville. The humidity hit us as we got off the plane! It was like walking into a sauna, and it was 7pm! A sign of things to come.... Two weeks of car buying, lease signing, shopping, shopping and more shopping, and we finally moved into our new home.

The summer was filled with trips to the beach, and the pool. More shopping. And lots of painful admin - literally in the kids case, as they needed more immunisations to complete their certification for school requirements. Driving tests and licenses. Military IDs for everyone. School enrollments and open days. Meeting lots of new friends and neighbours. BBQs and dinners. And 4th of July :)

Our neighbourhood had a parade, full of fire trucks and police cars, and of floats, golf carts, boats, cars all bedecked in the red, white and blue. America does national pride very well, patriotism is evident all around, and not just of the 4th of July :)

Then, in a flash it was August, and back to school time. The kids had a longer summer break than they were used to, and they were ready to get back in the classroom. They didn't know what to expect. We didn't know what to expect. But I am SO PROUD of my kids, they got stuck in, they didn't complain, they got on with it. And they have excelled. Tom has been on the Honor Roll all year, with straight A's on his report card. Jemma has found it harder, but has accomplished so much, and has been recommended for an Honors program when she starts High School in August. They made friends quickly, and although they stand out for being different, they have used it to their advantage. Many times ;)

We made it through the Autumn, emjoying the spectacle that is Halloween. WOW, the costumes!! There were 2 huge shops that opened purely for Halloween. As soon as November came, poof!, they were gone LOL. Thanksgiving was a first for us, but we spent it with good friends eating our body weight in food ;)
Christmas was quiet, spent making new traditions with neighbours, and then having a small get together with some fellow Brits on Boxing Day, to keep those traditions alive :) The New Year was seen in after some competitive Kinect playing, and dodging fireworks from gung ho neighbours LOL.

We have visited Orlando - Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure theme parks,  plus SeaWorld, and have been to Busch Gardens in Tampa. We dipped our toes in the Mexican Gulf at Clearwater. We went tubing down the Ichetucknee river, and swam with manatees at Crystal Springs.

Mark is fully trained and working hard at the Naval Air Station, flying several days a week and getting stuck in with training students. He was awarded a Commendation, which now sits proudly on the wall next to his other one - a matching pair!!

This year has been a steep learning curve. You think you know what to expect when you arrive. You think you know America - we've seen it on TV shows and in movies. But living here is different. You see their patriotism daily. The kids learned the Pledge of Alleigence pretty quickly, as it is said every day at school. They play the national anthem at the start of every sporting activity - from an NFL football game down to a fun run. They fly the Stars and Stripes from their houses with pride. They defend their constitution fiercely. Their right to bear arms is part of who they are. It's literally in their DNA makeup. They may not all own guns (and alot do), but they all see it as given that they could bear arms if they needed to. They grieve with their fellow Americans, near and far, when tragedy strikes.
Living here reinforces the view that we are 2 nations divided by a common language too. The kids, obviously being exposed to Americans every day at school, have picked up a tiny twang, and use American words (candy, soda etc) with their friends. I tend to translate on the fly, sometimes saying things that get a puzzled look in reply before I realise it. And everyone just "loves our accent"!!
It no longer takes me over 2 hours to do the weekly grocery shop - I have worked out what substitutes for what, and I have a few places I can go to if I am craving something British. Our local Publix supermarket has a great wee range of Brit foods, and I always head there if I am having a bad day to get a Mars Bar fix ;)

And the best bit? (Apart from the large choice of craft shops of course) THIS is the best bit...

Waking up to this every morning. My little pond. There is always a choice of wildlife to spot. And, no, that does not involve any alligators ;) But we have fish, turtles, and a huge array of birds that visit our little bit of water. The sun doesn't always shine, and the sky isn't always blue (shocking I know, this is Florida?) but the locals are friendly, we have a roof over our heads, a reliable (if a bit battered) mode of transport, and food on the table. Life is Good. As long as we are healthy and looked after, I could live anywhere in the world. And for now, that is here in Florida, which is an added bonus... And one that I am eternally grateful for.

Sarah x

Thursday 25 April 2013

New artwork

Wherever we live, we always try to pick up home decor pieces that remind us of that place. When we lived in Gibraltar, we bought lots of the rustic white and blue ceramics that were super cheap in the Spanish markets. We also bought a framed print of a painting of the Rock, and also acquired a large aerial photo of Gibraltar. Oh, and we also brought back a little boy, who was born at the Royal Naval Hospital Gibraltar. I think he is my favourite memento ;)
Fast forward to our arrival in America. In our shipping we brought copious Union Jack themed items for our new Florida home - Union Jack cushions and tea towels mainly. Oh, and a teapot. We have the archetypal "Keep Calm and Carry On" plaque. And a Union Jack photo frame. I have a couple of shopping bags, and an amazing bag with a pieced Union Jack flag on which was made by a friend of my Mum. But I didn't go completely overboard with the Britishness lol. And yeah, we have a few military pictures too... Planes and stuff.

So, we have been here 10 months, and I have been starting to look for things that will remind us of America when we go back home to Blighty. I have already spoken about my America themed quilts that are under construction lol, but I wanted something else. Something cool. Something American...

And I found it at World Market...

(See the Union Jack photo frame ;) )

I love it! It helps me and the kids with our American geography, and it looks cool!! I am hoping that when we get home, I can point out all the states we have visited. So far, that is just one. Yep, we haven't made it out of Florida yet. OK, maybe 2, if you count the weekend in D.C before we flew down here.... 

Here's to the start of a new collection.... of Americana....

Sarah xxx

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Skirts, bath bombs and a flower...

So, while I may not be crafting with paper just now, I am certainly not short of crafty things to do...

I have toyed for a while with trying to make some clothes. I have done so in the past, but not since I was at university. I tend to be lazy, and not finish my seams properly, and literally make do and mend ;)
But, inspired by some blog posts, I have bit the bullet and made something. A skirt. A maxi skirt. With ruffles :) I found an excellent tutorial here and went to JoAnns to get some fabric. And this is what I ended up with...

I love it. It's not perfect - a bit wonky in places, but I am blaming my sewing machine which took great umbrage at sewing jersey fabric ;) I have fabric for another one, but will wait for the walking foot to arrive for my sewing machine, as maybe I will have better results.

One of the other Brit wives out here on exchange found an awesome deal on our local Groupon, to take classes at an organic studio - making cheese, candles, soap and other such things. A few of us decided it would actually be quite good fun, so we signed up. I took a bath bomb making class on Monday night, and it was brilliant :)

We came home with a tray full of bathbombs that we had made ourselves, and a small tub of jello based soap. It was really interesting, we made 3 different types of bath bombs, and came home with a booklet with all the instructions and recipes. The next class I'm taking is a soapmaking class, and we come home with a big slab of soap!

Finally the flower. Tomorrow is ANZAC day, and the Australian Air Force guys here are having a remembrance service on the squadron. I asked my Aussie friend, if it was appropriate for me to wear a poppy - in the UK on Remembrance Day the British Legion sell little paper poppies and we are encouraged to "Wear your Poppy with Pride". As this is a day of remembrance for Australian and New Zealand forces who have fought and died in World Wars, and other conflicts. Having a Great Grandfather who fought in WW1 and a Grandfather who fought in WW2, and being a military spouse, I always try to wear a poppy. Unfortunately, the Americans don't seem to have them, so I missed out wearing one in November. Today, I had a bit of a brain wave and decided to make my own out of felt.

I found a tutorial here, got some red and black felt, and a few seed beads, and set to work. I am quite pleased with how it turned out, and will definitely be wearing this poppy with pride tomorrow.

Today has been a very pleasant day, blue skies and a slight breeze, so I took the opportunity to go down to our community pool to swim a few laps and soak up some rays :) Sometimes it's hard work being me... :P

Sarah xxx

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Work in progress...

I like to dabble in different crafts. I always have. I think I have a bit of ADD when it comes to projects - since being in the US I have scrapbooked, made cards, knit, crocheted, made jewellery and sewn. I think just walking into JoAnn's gave me so many ideas of things I wanted to make. And it's slightly cheaper to get the materials over here, so that is a bonus!!
Anyway, on one of my visits to JoAnn's I spied some American themed fabrics - red, white and blues, stars, stripes etc - and I had a brainwave. I decided to make a quilt. Yep. A quilt. Hmmm. So, I bought a transformer for my UK sewing machine (with winnings from a Super Bowl sweepstake no less) and found a pattern I liked. Actually I found a ton of patterns I liked. I think I am going to be making a few quilts...I digress...  I finished off some other projects, waited patiently for visitors to vacate the guest/craft room, and this past week I finally got the courage to cut the fabrics, and start to sew up the blocks...

 This is how the layout of the quilt will be, and I am pondering whether to add some applique stars to some of the blocks, or to just leave them plain. And it's a bit bigger than I thought it would be...

So, now I had a pile of leftover material. I spent an evening cutting it all into 2.5 x 2.5 inch squares. I went and bought some muslin material for the background, and cut that into squares and rectangles.
This is how that quilt is coming along... I am using the Wiggly Whimsy pattern that I found at the Moda Bakeshop.

I am liking doing all this sewing. Next step is to find a even feed/walking foot for my machine so I can actually quilt them LOL.

In other news... Mark's parents came to visit, and we went to the St Augustine gator farm on Anastasia Island. We saw the gators being fed, and they are really fearsome creatures... I am really hoping one doesn't decide to take up residence in our back pond...

Mark and the kids decided to play about with my camera, and try a spot of Hadouken-ing. In their PJ's. In the front yard. Mind you, not as bad as my other half deciding that the driveway is a great place to do a spot of sunbathing...

My gardening exploits seem to have taken off spectacularly. I wanted to try and grow some herbs and try some tomatoes and chilli pepper plants... Well, just about every. single. seed has germinated, so I think I will be providing some herbs for my friends and neighbours...
I think that'll do for now ;) I'm off to get myself some lunch - egg mayonnaise in fresh baked rolls. Yep, I think I am turning into Barbara from the Good Life...
Sarah x

Sunday 7 April 2013


LOL... I am sure that title will either intrigue or scare people... But everyone who knows me, knows I am a bit la-la-cuckoo sometimes so shouldn't be too surprising...

No, I feel unstable in a different way. I am trying to balance stuff again, and seeing as my circumstances have drastically changed so much in the last year, I just thought it would be pretty straightforward to pick up where I left off once the boxes were unpacked. Umm, no. And it's taken months for me to realise this.

I am still exploring my new surroundings. Encountering new things on a daily basis. And sometimes, I just get so overwhelmed that I just become a hermit. I won't leave the house (apart from grocery shopping) for a week. Then I go all out the next week and meet a different friend for coffee every day. Then I hide for a week. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I was reading something on a message board a couple of months back, and found I sympathised with some posters on the thread. And they called themselves introverts. I looked into it, and found that I too am an introvert. I find constantly being around people can be exhausting - like they are draining the energy from me. I need quiet days by myself to recover. Don't get me wrong, I love going out with people, and socialising, but I can't do it all the time. Certainly no every weekend. Mark and I were talking about this one night. And he said we were both unstable introverts. He has done a course about it for work, and knows a darn sight more about it than me ;) We both wondered whether we were always like this, or that our circumstances had made us this way.
When we were first married, we spent nearly every weekend with his best friend and his wife. We never felt zapped of energy with them. It was just normal. Then we had kids, and we were posted abroad. Our friends divorced while we were abroad. We have always lived away from family, which has made us very independent. Did it also make us introverts? Even when back in the UK, we pretty much kept ourselves to ourselves. Mark's frequent deployments meant that when he was home, he wanted to do things with the family, and not socialise with the guys he had spent 6 weeks in a tent with.
Now, once more, we have been posted overseas. We live in a community where arms have been spread open to welcome us. We have made a lot of new friends, and we also have some old ones that were also posted across with us. There have been weekends where we have had invites out Friday, Saturday and Sunday. By Monday I am exhausted. At the moment we have visitors - the inlaws - and I know that by the time they leave, I'll be so ready for them to go! I hate having to be "on" all the time, I need to switch off, and my MIL, well, she needs to be doing something. All. the. time. Or talking. Or asking questions. LOL. It just gets a bit much, and then I get cranky, and mark and I end up falling out... ;)

I am not really sure why I need to write this post. Maybe I am just wanting a place to get it down and out of my head. I am wanting to craft, but can't as the guest room is also my craft space, and I had to pack some stuff away for the visitors.
But I am torn. I no longer have design team obligations, but I am reluctant to scrap. I have a ton of new photos. I have a ton of old photos. I have a ton of really old photos. I even started Project Life, but lost my drive. I am trying out new crafts, more sewing and less papercraft. I also want to make some jewellery. And quilt. I am so in love with quilting just now. I have at least a dozen quilts I want to make!! I am also running. But that's a whole other post...

I'll leave you with a family shot of us at St Augustine, taken on a day trip during Spring Break. And yes, I was frozen. I had gloves on.  It's not all sunshine and cocktails here in North East Florida ya know...

Catch y'all soon ;)

Sarah xxx

Monday 11 February 2013

NAS week 252 - Christmas '12

This weeks sketch over at Nuts About Sketches, is a great 2 pager with lots of photos - perfect for a Christmas round-up layout!

I used photos from all of December, not just Christmas Day, as long as they had a Christmas theme.  We had fun with a set of chocolates that spelled out Merry Christmas - trying to find as many anagrams as we could. We didn't in fact eat the chocolates, as they had been completely man-handled!!! I included the teacher's gifts, some mince pies I made, and the contents of our fridge, as well as photos from Christmas Day - the presents and our dinner ;)

I suppose it just goes to show, that wherever in the world we are, Christmas is always a great celebration!


Sarah x

Thursday 7 February 2013

Today, this blog is brought to you by the colour teal...

Once upon a time, my favourite colour was purple. Then I went through a brown phase. As I neared 40, I had a green fetish - even my kids told me not to buy another green top...  But just recently, it has been all about teal. And turquoise. And aqua. And still a bit of green.

My iPhone Otterbox case is turquoise and teal. I was elated to find out that the Jacksonville Jaguars colour was teal - Go Team Teal!! Even if the team isn't that great, their uniforms are ;) The plethora of goodness inside the large craft shops here have lured me away from paper, and enticed me into dabbling into other crafts - knitting, crochet and even sewing. And a lot of it has included the colour teal.... Erika, I hope you are ready for this....

It all started with this knitted throw. I bought the beautifully soft wool just before Christmas, and knit up a storm over the festive period. It is so soft and warm. And soft. And goes perfectly with the cushions I brought over from the UK - my finds of the century in TK Maxx ;) The wool is Caron Simply Soft (see I told you it was soft) and the pattern is from their website and is FREE!!!

So, I had some wool left over. Not one to waste my scraps, I found a pattern on Ravelry to make a wee coffee cozy...

My wee owl coffee cozy :) Although I did do a double take when I saw this photo, as I thought the button eyes resembled, erm, cough cough, breasts.... Buswams, as my Nan used to call them... But I think that was just me, and to make sure that I don't make the mistake again, I bought some buttons with 4 holes ;)

Continuing with the knitting theme, I found a really pretty felted bag pattern, again via Ravelry.  I made some felted bags a few years ago, using a pattern I found on Cathy Zielske's blog, but I couldn't find where I have saved it, and it is no longer available.  So, I went out and bought a couple of balls of Patons Classic Wool, in teal (of course) and made this gorgeous specimen...

I crocheted a flower using this pattern, and a couple of spirals from this pattern to add to the flap, as I didn't fancy doing embroidery on it.
Next on my to-do list was a tartan sash for the Burn's Night Supper the VP-30 Brits arranged in the Officer's Club at NAS Jacksonville for the Squadron. I ordered a couple of yards of US Navy tartan material from Atlanta Kilts, and they were kind enough to over night it to me so I had plenty of time to run up my sash. Imagine, if you will, the squeals of delight when I opened the box to find the tartan was navy and TEAL!!! Um, yeah. I was pretty much like a kid on Christmas Day, opening the best present ever....
And it was perfect with my bargain Calvin Klein dress I found at Ross....
So after hemming up a sash, I had the realisation that I didn't have a brooch to pin my sash. I had saved this tutorial for making a flower out of felt, and thought I would try using the tartan fabric to make a flower brooch. I fused 2 layers of material together, to make it thicker like felt, and used a glue gun to stick the petals in place.
And I was pretty darned chuffed with the result! The centre of the flower is an old button that came from a denim shirt I adored when I was at college. I found it in the small collection of buttons I brought across with me. Kinda makes the brooch more unique ;)
Knowing that my sewing machine was working well with the transformer, my crafty fingers were itching to do some more sewing. I picked up some fabric remnants in Walmart, along with some bias binding and thread, and a Simplicity sewing pattern, and managed to produce this....
A cute apron. In aqua and teal.  It probably looks better on that chair than it does on me, and both my husband and my son both asked why it had so many pockets.... But I think it looks cute. I have plans to make one for a friend who has just started up a little baking business... It'll definitely look super cute on her ;)
So, that's my teal-tastic crafting spree! This week has mainly been about the colour red, but that's another blog entry...
Sarah x

Sunday 3 February 2013

NAS weeks 247, 248 and 249

Back again, with more Design Team layouts from Nuts about Sketches
Week 247 - The Capitol
This is about as closse as we got to the Capitol building when we were in DC. We tried to keep to our plan, and not get sidetracked to going places we hadn't planned. So we just took photos instead lol. I have really enjoyed doing these photos, but I am finding I revert to red, white and blue for alot of them hahaha...
Week 248 - Family captured

These are more photos from our family photoshoot in May.  And I used one of my favourite collections - Echo Park, For the Record 2 - Documented. I am having a love affair with all things teal/aqua/turquoise...

Week 249 - Jax

This is the view from Hooters (yeah, don't judge ;) ) at Jacksonville Landing, looking across the St John's River to Downtown Jacksonville. The thundery skies made the light amazing, and when the bridge lit up it looked almost surreal. Jacksonville, although a sprawling metropolis (it is the largest city in the USA in area) also can be hauntingly beautiful.
I used the Echo Park Everyday Eclectic collection on this layout, and added a few brads to finish it off ;)

I think that is me all caught up with DT layouts ;)


Sarah x

Saturday 2 February 2013

NAS 243, 245 and 246

As promised, I am doing a catch up with my Nuts About Sketches Design Team layouts. I decided not to re-apply for my place on the team, purely because I felt I wasn't giving it the dedication it deserves, which is really unfair to Shawn and the rest of the team. Life is good, but life is also busy - we have a much more active social life over here, which is great, but it also means I am finding that I need to juggle more. I am making the memories, but not always finding the time to record them, which is not a bad thing I suppose, but when you have obligations - yeah, not so good. I am also delving back into crafts I haven't worked on in ages - my sewing machine got an outing this week, and also I am knitting up a storm lol...

So, without further ado, here are some of my layouts

Week 243 - Snow and Shorts

Another Hogwarts layout. It was very odd walking around a theme park, in shorts, when there appeared to be snow on the rooftops. 

Week 245 - Not so super dry

Another Island of Adventure layout.  We went on back to back water rides - Dudley Doo right, and then Popeye and Bluto. We got slightly damp on the first one, but absolutely drenched on the second ride. We were even wringing out our socks we were that wet!! Jemma was dripping, and I took a photo of her to stick onto FaceBook.... It wasn't until after I had got the photos printed, that I realised she was wearing her SuperDry T-shirt - and the irony hit me... So that is where the title came from :)
I enjoyed pulling out my Autumn Leaves journalling stamps again, to make the journalling spots for the bottom of the layout. Sometimes I forget what things I actually own...

Week 246 - Iwo Jima

One of the places I really wanted to visit in Washington, DC was Arlington Cemetery.  I wanted to go and see the Kennedy plot and the Eternal flame. I wanted to see all the monuments celebrating the sacrifices the US Armed Forces have made for their country. I thought it would be a good introduction to the whole ethos the US has about its treatment of it's military personnel - whether they be active duty, retired or a veteran. It had to be one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I have photos of the rows and rows and rows of white headstones. Of the flames at the Kennedy plot. But the most awe inspiring sight, is the Marines memorial - otherwise known as the Iwo Jima memorial. The statue is a copy of the iconic photograph taken on Iwo Jima, when the Marines capture the island and raised the Stars and Stripes. It was amazing. And the cloudless blue skies behind it made it even more outstanding.


Sarah x

Friday 1 February 2013

Hey, where did January go?

Um, yeah, and December too...

So here we are, February 2013. Happy New Year! A bit belated I know, but sincere all the same :)

Christmas and New Year are just a blur now, we had a blast! We were invited to several parties, some of which will become new traditions for us. And we hosted a small gathering for fellow Brits on Boxing Day - we need to keep our traditions alive too!!!

Anyhow, I am planning on doing a bit of a catch up with my Nuts About Sketches Design Team layouts, but I will start with the latest one which went live on the blog this past Monday...

These photos were taken on the last day we were in the UK before we flew out to start our Florida Adventure... 

My daughter looks so pale, and her hair looks so red hahahaha. Tom was still slightly co-operative with the whole picture taking thing. Um, yeah, the boy has become camera shy. Or if he does let me take a photo, then he has forgotten how to smile. He had another Picture Day at school this week, and I am praying that the photos are better than the sullen faced pre-teen that we got last time...

Anyway, the papers I used here are from Echo Park - Everyday Eclectic collection. I love the hot air balloons, and the sentiment is so perfect for how we were feeling. Although we only had 4 months between being told and actually leaving, it felt like a lifetime, and to actually be flying out was a bit surreal...

But it is a distant memory now (well it was 8 months ago!!!) and we are thoroughly enjoying this great opportunity in a wonderful state with so much to offer :)


Sarah x