just an old-fashioned girl

Hello and welcome. I'm glad you dropped by. If you´re looking for something a little nostalgic of bygone eras with a timeless elegance and a little modern twist – in other words, something slightly “retro” – then you should feel right at home here in my shabby chic room. Month by month, there will always be something new to see so I hope you´ll enjoy your stay and come back again soon.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

For years Dora´s little dachshund friend, Tessa, has been trying to learn Dora´s 3-ball trick but so far the best she can do is to pick up 2 and practically choke herself by holding one behind the other. At least in her Christmas costume she´s outdone her best friend.
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Strange Pet Presents

This version of The Twelve Days Of Christmas “sung” by various pets made me laugh. I doubt very much that any of these things would be high up on most pets´ Christmas wish list – the guinea pig certainly doesn´t look too sure about his gift - but I think you´ll agree that they all deserve a visit from Santa next week...if he can squeeze down the chimney with all that stuff in his sack!
video

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pets´ Christmas Wish List

I think that, if Dora could write, high on her wish list would be a sandpit to dig her ball in and out of, a pair of thumbs so that she could catch more than one ball at a time and a mouth big enough to hold four balls instead of "just" three. Unlike the pets in this video I don´t think she´d include either a can opener or a pogo stick.
video

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pets´ Christmas Auditions....woof, meow!

This video which I found at YouTube is so cute and funny I simply had to download it and share it with you.
video
If you enjoyed this - and you´d have to be Scrooge if you didn´t - come back again soon to see the finalists.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Stars Freebie

Here´s a little early Christmas present.

If you´d like these festive jewelled accents, you´ll find them HERE all zipped up and ready to go.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Filling The Silence

This year I´ve been finding the hiatus between my Christmas preparations and the big day itself rather depressing. As long as I was busy doing something positive – and I DO NOT mean laundry! - I felt quite cheerful. But now that the Christmas tree´s in place and decorated, my house looks festive, my cards have been posted and my presents are wrapped, I think Now what?...and start to brood on my health problems and doctors´ appointments and the kind of doomy gloomy stuff that I´ll have to face in January. There seems to be a sudden silence that comes between the sad tinkling sound of Christmas baubles shattering on a tiled floor and church bells joyfully heralding Christmas Day. 

Enough of this! I´ve found my own personal solution. It may not be everyone´s way of banishing the blues on a cold, rainy December day but it certainly works for me. I simply click on BBC Radio 4 Extra´s Listen Again feature - http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4extra/programmes/a-z/player - where I have an entire week´s worth of my favourite comedy programmes. In the past few days I´ve been cheered immensely by various funny folk such as David Sedaris, the cast of the vintage Dad´s Army / Steptoe And Son series and the hilarious members of the panel in I´m Sorry I Haven´t A Clue. I always particularly enjoy the daffy definitions of the ISIHAC comedians. Here´s a small sample of those which have kept me laughing today: 

pensive – something you can write with while draining the potatoes.
dogmatic – a dog without a clutch
aperitif – dentures
cherish – rather like a chair
bumbling – jewellery for the buttocks (May only be understood by the British!)
lackadaisical – a bicycle made for one. ( Ditto by those acquainted with old songs.)
menacing - male voice choir
gear – alcoholic drink for ventriloquists
Gandhi - a bow-legged ventriloquist
gateau – a French ventriloquist´s boat

Got a touch of the winter blues? Don´t despair. A smile may only be a couple of mouse clicks away.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Rudolph And Roses

After an unexpected snowfall yesterday I awoke this morning to a miserable drizzling rain. In this kind of dreary weary winter weather there´s nothing as welcoming as a splash of colour at the front door but in December the choice of flowering plants is limited. Red cyclamen with its fragile drooping blossoms is quite beautiful as is the more flamboyant poinsettia but neither of these will tolerate a sudden drop in temperature so this year I decided on a less conventional display on my doorstep in the form of 3 small rose bushes which I found at a local market stall. No sooner had I bought them than I spotted a dear – pardon the pun – little basketwork reindeer looking at me beseechingly and just begging me to take him home. I fell for him instantly and the fact that he was carrying a tiny shrub with red berries just added to his appeal.

With such a cheerful welcoming group on the front doorstep all I can say is who needs poinsettias!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Preparing For Christmas

Since I got back from Scotland I´ve hardly had time to draw breath! For a while I got totally bogged down in idiot work like washing, ironing, cleaning, dusting and scrubbing. After that it was setting up and trimming the tree and generally making the house look festive, something which seems to take longer every year though maybe not quite as long as it used to take when Dora was a puppy and insisted on helping me. I can do without that kind of help! I remember once taking her for a walk the following day and suddenly noticing something silvery dangling from her rear end. It turned out to be a mangled string of tinsel. I won´t go into details of how it got there. You can probably work that out for yourselves.

But I digress. One thing I really do enjoy is making Christmas cards, something which Dora has never taken any interest in, thank goodness. In most cases this means a lot of preparation in advance. For example the following cards have to be printed on both sides, the motif on one side and the pattern of pin holes on the other. Then I prick out the pin hole pattern, cut out the motif and paste it onto a plain card along with a Christmas greeting. Here are just a couple I´ve made which aren´t really that difficult as the edges of the motif are straight, unlike some which have a lacy edging.
Then there are the cross stitch cards which I only send to my very best friends because they´re quite complicated to make. I´ve already described that process in an earlier post so I´ll just show a couple of the finished cards.

This year I´ve also sent some printed cards. Here´s just one in which I´ve used a few elements from A Christmas Carol, one of my Christmas kits.
Which reminds me, included in the above design is a very tiny version of one of a set of three elements which I´ll soon be offering as a festive freebie. So, if you´re also designing your own cards or would like a sparkly accent for a Christmas layout, watch this space....

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Grave Subject

I took this photo in a Scottish cemetery several years ago. It´s one of my favourites.
I particularly like this version as the eye isn´t distracted by the background.
By daylight the angel isn´t at all spooky, just a little pensive, but blended into a Gothic background I think she´s eerie enough for Halloween.
I´m flying to Scotland in a few day´s time so I´d better get my broomstick out and dust off the cobwebs.
Have a creepy Halloween!
See you again soon.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fall is in the Air!

I came across this page yesterday while looking for fall photos and LOs.  One of my all-time favorite pages ever.  It was made using your kit, Vintage Patina.  Just had to share it as a reminder of how perfect this kit is for everyone's upcoming fall photos.

Vintage Patina can be found in Retro Designs store HERE

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Defaced

It´s been ages since I tried my hand at photo restoration. In fact the last time was about 18 months ago when I tackled a very badly damaged photo of my mother as a baby. That was one of the most frustrating tasks ever and took me a long time and a lot of trial and error. It´s one thing to remove creases from clothes but quite another to remove them from faces, especially from faces which won´t have their own natural creases for about half a century!

If you´ve never restored a photo there are three pieces of advice I can offer you before you tackle a very badly damaged one. First of all, don´t be too ambitious. Try something easy like a landscape or if it simply must be a person then choose a photo in which the face has been spared the ravages of time. Faces are quite incredibly difficult to restore. Secondly, keep practising until you´ve learned what the various tools can do and you feel comfortable using them. Thirdly, when you feel confident enough to try your hand at a precious old family photo choose one you particularly love. This will give you the impetus and the determination to succeed.

Having said that, the following photo of my grandmother and my aunt is a good example of what not to choose if you´re a complete beginner.
For a start it´s almost monochrome when it really ought to be sepia but that´s fairly easy to alter. Ditto the splotches in the background. It´s the white crease across the eye which makes it so difficult. At least the eyes in the photo of my mother had been spared even if the rest of the face was like a plastic surgeon´s nightmare.

First of all I did the easy bits. I completely removed the border and increased the contrast.
After that I removed most of the blotches from the background, also from the baby´s christening robe and started on the face and hair using a combination of the patch and clone tools. I also used these tools to repair the white strips which were caused by the removal of the uneven border.
Then I lightened the shadows around the hands and the collar of the blouse.
I still wasn´t happy about the work I´d done on the eye so I slightly darkened the inside corner. Then I touched up a few more tiny faults, after which I had to stop before I went too far and destroyed the natural look of the photo. I think knowing when to stop is really important. I tend to get obsessed over little flaws so I have to restrain myself from doing too much. At this point I went off and brewed some strong coffee so that I could look at my final result later with fresh eyes.
Well, not quite my final result. I still had to change it to sepia. For absolute beginners I intend to write a little tutorial sometime on how to do this. It really isn´t difficult though. Basically, if you´ve saved your photo as a jpg. you´ll have to change your background to a layer so that you can add a colour overlay. 
I felt at this point that it was as good as I could get it but, as I´ve said before, I can never leave well alone and I thought it needed just a little more contrast. When I use it in a layout I can decide which version I prefer.
And all it needed now was a border. (I´ve already written an easy tutorial on how to do that but then, all my tutorials are easy. I don´t pretend to be an expert.) I thought that a stark white border wouldn´t be appropriate so I sampled a beige tone from the photo itself for the border.
One down, at least one more to go but I´m saving the worst for last!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Compromises

Usually by this time I´ve already been to Scotland but this year instead of putting it off indefinitely I decided to compromise and go in November instead. I hoped that by that time I´d finally have had the source of my headaches diagnosed and successfully treated. At least the first of these assumptions has proved true. To cut a very long and boring story short my problem is caused by a dislocated atlas bone. That´s the aptly named bone which holds the skull in place. The treatment is complicated so I won´t go into that right now, but considering the fact that I couldn´t get a consultation with – yet another! - specialist until the end of November, I may still have to stock up with painkillers before my trip. At least, after a year of agony, now that I finally have a diagnosis I feel a lot more optimistic than I did before. With any luck I may even feel up to designing again once I feel better.

And, talking of compromises....by sheer coincidence, after a week of rain, I was again checking up on my strange “whiterose bush when I was astounded to see THIS!
 
It looks very much as if one of the little gardeners has decided to compromise by painting the Red Queen´s roses pink! But there´s apparently no pleasing Her Ferocious Majesty. At least the usual culprit is off the hook...

It´s such a pretty colour too as you can see from the close up.
 
Poor Dora is already starting to get cabin fever. As I mentioned earlier it´s been raining a lot here recently which means she can´t stay in her beloved garden after I bring her back soaking wet from her daily walks. She´s smart enough to realise that if it´s raining at the front of the house it´s raining at the back too so she just settles down with a sigh and a hard-done-by glance at me. She knows quite well that I can do absolutely ANYTHING including causing a downpour. Such faith....and so misguided, not to say unfair! At least she´s willing to make a compromise. She knows I won´t let her out on her own if it´s chilly and if the grass is still wet as she´ll only roll about in it and probably catch her death of cold. So she´s perfectly happy to take me with her to play for half an hour or so until one or other of us – always me – gets fed up and wants to go indoors again. If I´m really lucky I´ll even get to play with the ball as well especially as she usually decides on two of them but I´m afraid my role is usually as a spectator while she does this... 
 
I call this trick How To Demolish Two Balls With One Nose. Clever, isn´t it? No prizes for guessing what Dora´s getting for Christmas!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lying Low

I´ve been lying low for a while, both literally and figuratively. To say that I´m suffering from headaches is comparable to saying that root canal treatment without an anaesthetic is like toothache. It´s nothing serious though. It just feels like it is but these are almost certainly transference pains from my neck bones, the only part of my spine which wasn´t treated in the clinic due to lack of time. However, I have an appointment with a specialist next week and I´m sure he´ll find a solution. In the meantime, thank goodness for paracetamol!

The above explains why I haven´t been either very productive or particularly creative recently although my garden certainly has been with very little help from me. It seems that I´m not the only one who´s been lying low. You may remember my quirky white (?) rose bush and the crafty little gardeners who always do their best to try to please the Red Queen by painting the roses red. Well, I was rather concerned about them all summer because these roses remained entirely white and I began to suspect that the ferocious monarch had finally lost her patience with the little fellows and carried out her threat. Now THAT punishment would cure anyone´s headache! Then, just a week ago after a short rainy spell had kept me indoors, I went back out into my garden and this is what I saw....

 
It looks as if they got a lot further with their painting this year as it´s not just a few petals they´ve managed to paint before Her blood-thirsty Majesty caught up with them but three entire flowers, which is a record. As usual it´s the dopey, lazy one that got caught before he´d even started while the real culprit was lying low in the shrubbery and got off scot free. Better luck next year, dopey...
...and Keep Your Head!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Neither Here Nor There

Contrary to appearances – or non-appearances – I´m still here, at least in body if not entirely in spirit.

During the long, cold winter and the short, almost equally cold, spring which I spent mainly in the clinic I promised myself that when summer finally came I´d spend as much time as possible out of doors. 

On holiday in Domburg Dora and I spent most days on the beach, sometimes despite rather than because of the weather which was variable to say the least. We both enjoyed it though, Dora probably more thoroughly than I did. Her mind was completely focused on either chasing her ball along the beach or chasing her cork toy into the sea while mine was at least partially distracted by thoughts of my garden at home in the not-so-tender care of The Infamous Marigold Murderer. On the few days the IMM managed to spend with us he assured me that he hadn´t neglected/killed/under-watered/over-watered or otherwise created any kind of havoc among either my pot plants or the garden itself. Amazingly enough, this turned out to be true. Well, apart from causing the early demise of one of my favourite orchids which, to give him his due, he later replaced. 

Back home again I enjoyed lounging on the lawn in the shade of the rowan tree reading a book, not at all distracted by the thought that I´d only done the most necessary household tasks and was neglecting the ironing almost entirely. Actually it´s amazing how a short-sighted person like myself can convince herself that the house is immaculate simply by neglecting to wear either her contact lenses or her glasses indoors...
This garden idyll was pretty short-lived though because after a while in 38°C with a humidity of 90%, being out of doors becomes more of a curse than a pleasure and my mind kept wandering back to thoughts of the coast and cool sea breezes.

Today it´s overcast and raining, I´m stuck indoors, I´ve done all the idiot work I´ve been neglecting and I´ve been thinking rather sadly that I could only ever be completely happy in a more temperate climate where I could have access to both my garden and the beach. Then I remembered one of the many books I read during my out of doors days, namely Bill Bryson´s Neither Here Nor There, which inspired me to create this composite fantasy world where it´s always June, the peonies are always in bloom and I´m just about to put on my other flip flop, pick up her favourite blue ball, scramble down the cliff and join Dora on the beach.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Banishing The Blues

Spring has finally sprung. The birds are singing, the grass is growing, the forget-me-nots are blooming and the leaves on my rowan tree are just about to open. 

Dora spends most of her day in the garden alternating between snoozing in the sun and doing her doggy aerobics on the lawn. I can´t say I feel fit enough yet to join her. I´m still supposed to be resting though a life of ease doesn´t really appeal to me any more so I take that as a sign that I´m beginning to recover from my recent ordeal in the clinic. Besides, sowing seeds and planting summer flowers don´t actually come under the heading of manual labour, more a labour of love and when I feel I´ve done enough there´s always my recliner to – literally – fall back on. Even then I´m not completely idle as I´ve always got some handwork project or other to keep me occupied. A while back I mentioned I intended to stitch an oriental cat. Well, that´s been finished for quite some time now. I just haven´t got around to framing it yet.

As you can see, I used variegated thread for the background and I´m quite pleased with the result though I couldn´t help wondering if it would have looked better if I´d used the same thread for both the motif and the background so I stitched another slightly smaller version in a different shade of blue....

….and I´m still not sure which I prefer. After that I went on to stitch some smaller oriental pictures just to get all that blue out of my thread box and my system before going on to something more challenging.

 
The next one was definitely challenging but, as you can see, I still haven´t managed to banish either the blues or the oriental theme.

Since then I´ve gone on to a more topical – and colourful – theme of apple blossoms. I think I´ve finally got over the blues in more senses than one!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Not Quite A New Woman

Well, I´m home again having spent three weeks in the orthopaedic clinic, not quite a new woman yet but gradually getting there. The treatment I received included, among others, hot baths with an electric current flowing through them, laser therapy and, most importantly, “Sklerosierung” (sorry, no translation available) which entails a course of glucose injections directly into the spinal ligaments causing them to become inflamed and eventually to tighten them in order to stabilise the spinal column. All this may sound horrific but it really isn´t. Well, the “Sklerosierung” procedure isn´t something to which I´d subject myself willingly if I didn´t know from experience that it would actually work. In fact it´s still working in that the inflammation has set in but the entire process won´t take effect for several weeks. In the meantime I have to take it easy and, believe me, that is not difficult under the present circumstances! 

The clinic stands close to a small lake in a public park where I used to take a walk most days, especially at the beginning when the weather was warm and sunny. Later it became cold and frosty and one memorable morning I awoke to a white winter landscape. Here are just a few of the many photos I took during those three long weeks.

We put our clocks forward last night but when I look out of the window at my snow covered garden I can only wish that the season had advanced accordingly. Still, this 3D card I made for a nature-loving friend reminds me that, to misquote Shelley´s Ode To The West Wind, If Easter comes can Spring be far behind? 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Longing For Spring

It´s been a long winter and it isn´t over yet. Yesterday it snowed again and it could well snow today too. I´m feeling depressed and Dora´s got cabin fever. Most of Dora´s antics take place outside in the garden. Running around the living room carrying 3 balls in her mouth is fun but it´s not the same as chasing them and scooping them up from the lawn. As for keeping fit, walks are fine and so is running around with her friends but there´s nothing like a real workout on grass. Still, spring is just around the corner and there are usually a few sunny days in March which provide the ideal opportunity for making a start on her keep fit regime which continues regularly until late autumn. Here are some typical doggy aerobic exercises framed by the Doggy Treats freebie QP...though no frame can contain Dora.
I´ll be sunning myself on the patio when she suddenly appears around the corner of the house and heads purposefully towards the lawn as if she´s late for an important appointment. Halfway down she stops suddenly and throws herself onto her back, legs going like pistons and jowls flapping. This is one of her few activities which doesn´t need my involvement but this spring I may surprise her. 

I finally have a date for entering the orthopaedic clinic and will be off next week. I can´t tell you how relieved I am as I know from experience that the treatment there will put me back on my feet again. I may even join Dora in trying to flatten the daisies on the lawn.

I´ll be back in a few weeks. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

With Love From Me To You

Before I take myself off to the clinic – which will be very soon I hope – I´d like to leave you a little freebie consisting of 12 valentine motifs.
I hope you´ll like it and add it to the others from previous years which you´ll find HERE.

And, no, I haven´t forgotten about the Doggy Treats freebie. I´ll post that too before I leave.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Doggy Treats

At Lajuana´s request, and with her assistance, Doggy Treats has recently been added to the kits in my store. Although not a recent kit, it´s one that´s dear to my heart because I made it with Dora in mind and anything tailored to fit Dotty Dora has got to be fun, not only to design but also to use. I particularly enjoyed creating all the crunchy frames and bits and pieces which I think add to its overall light-hearted effect. 
Judge for yourself.


You´ll find larger previews of Doggy Treats in the store and among my other kits here, and if you too have a lovable pet who deserves a treat, keep an eye open for a crispy crunchy freebie QP which I´ll be adding soon. 

WOOF!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Reminders Of Happier Times

Contrary to appearances – or non-appearances – I´m still here though not necessarily chained to my computer these days. When our national poet, Robert Burns, said that “toothache´s the hell of all diseases” he´d obviously never suffered from sciatica. But enough of that.

I´ve received lots of lovely cards today and just had to show you a couple which mean a lot to me as they feature two of my very favourite creatures. This one from my husband reminds me of summer when this butterfly, along with its sisters and its cousins and its aunts, fluttered brilliantly among the buddleias on our patio.

This one also brings back many memories of summer, and to those of you who know me, requires no explanation at all.

Thank you, Herbert and Pauli, for cheering me up on a dreary January morning and reminding me that happier times are just around the corner.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year

Wow, while this Christmas elf was having a late Christmas this weekend with her family, Helen and Dora have been busy decorating for the coming year.  I have always loved this extraction of Helen's very elegant aunt in this lovely setting.  Nice way to start 2013 when I opened the blog this morning.  And those gorgeous flowers remind me that Valentine's Day is just around the corner with spring to soon follow!  

Now, this elf is headed to take down the Christmas decorations at the store and make some room for more kits to be added to its shelves this coming year.  And then, I must download the Christmas Carol QP Freebie and scrap a few pictures taken of my grandchildren this past weekend.

Welcome to 2013.  Hope it is a wonderful year for all of you out there and so hope Helen's upcoming clinic stay will bring brighter days ahead for her.