Monday, 27 December 2010

Love.... love...... love


 Hello everyone and Merry Christmas from Nicholas & Steele! As you can see time has flown by and I have been rather neglectful with the blog. Big apologies but not to worry, with new year just around the corner, I have already added 'keeping up with the blog' to my list of new years resolutions.
Well we had a great time in the shop in the run up to Christmas and I am happy to report a promising first Christmas at Nicholas&Steele. With our fair share of inclement weather it was a challenge at times, but nothing that a few late openings and extra open days couldn't resolve. We are so grateful to all our loyal clients and friends who braved the weather especially to support us in our first Christmas. We will not forget your kindness and hope those special vintage pressies went down well with your loved ones.

On one of the quiet days I set about making my 1950's inspired Christmas bunting. I found a wonderful tale in the Ladybird book range about a robin who attempts to steal a bit of tinsel from a Christmas tree for his wife's nest. His best intentions soon turn to trouble when he finds himself trapped and having to hide in the Christmas tree. When one of the children choose him as their present he breaks into exuberant song and the family set him free after declaring it to have been the best Christmas present ever. What a joyous tale so I turned it into  bunting using transfer paper. Take a look;


One of my favourite items we had in our shop this year were these fabulous Walnut keepsake boxes hand made and painted by Sarah fishburn.


Each one is unique, and gilded in gold or silver leaf. 

But the most exciting arrival in the run up to Christmas was my original Domenica More Gordon dog.
Those of you who have read my blog before might remember me writing (positively gushing) about her. I have shamelessly coveted her dogs from the moment I clapped eyes on them. Domenica held a much awaited sale in the run up to Christmas but as demand exceeded supply (just 15 dogs were for sale) a lottery system was deployed to make the sale as fair as possible. Each prospective buyer had to have their name entered into a hat and a draw occurred on the 10th of December. I could not believe my eyes when I received an email from Domenica congratulating me on being drawn out of 377 names for dog no. 9. I was astonished for two reasons;

 a) I have the worst luck
         b) I have never won anything

so, when a week later a box arrived at the shop with a sketch of a dog on the wrapping, I could hardly contain my excitement.

This is what we found

 It is an English Bull Terrier which we have named  'Bulla' after my Nana's dog who lived in India with her and was a  cross bully/staffie.
This is Iona and her Bulla.

This is me and my Bulla
Definitely not as high maintenance (the dog that is) but lovely nonetheless! As these dogs are very special it became my combined Christmas and Birthday present.......for the next few years and so, I hatched a plan as I felt it was only fair. I decided to try to make one for Steve for Christmas of our dog Roxy. I had made one before (also in the previous blog) and so set about making a boxer dog. On Christmas day Steve unwrapped another of my brutes. We now have a sweet little menagerie of felt pooches.

Meanwhile I turned my attention to Christmas at home. Now, as an Anglo/African I admit to feeling the blues at this time of year. My family are 10 000km away in Cape Town and I used to (pre- recession, mortgage, new business) travel home to spend Christmas in the sun however this year, new business and all we decided to spend it here but it is very difficult to get into the spirit when your heart is somewhere else. But, I think we did alright. I decided to stick with a, you guessed it, vintage theme. We also bought a potted tree this year as I simply cannot bare to see our unwanted tree on the pavement in January. (I appear to be turning soft in my old age).

Little reindeers from Steve's mum lined our mantlepiece

Blown glass 50s baubles tied to the tree with ribbon.

Our vintage baby Jesus finally found it's purpose

A sweet Christmas Russ teddy got it's moment of glory too.

and my all time favoutite South African beaded nativity set (complete with weird bug eyed babyJesus).

Our chandelier also got the vintage treatment.

Another wonderful Christmas present was this. I have been hinting quite heavily, for the past few months, that I felt well and truly left out of the 'Steven Nicholas union jack furniture club' and so my wonderful and talented other half made me one for Christmas.

This 1930's bureau was his best yet and I am so delighted to have his best piece to date in our living room.

Roxy and Moses have still got an eye on one another but the entente cordiale will continue, as long as the weather stays bad and Moses stays out of the cold.

Roxy opening her present - a walking cape for the cold. (short haired dogs need it in minus weather)

Moses stoned on catnip- hessian mice laced with the stuff. ( he returned the favour by leaving a chewed up Finch on the kitchen floor on boxing day) charming chap that he is.
It is very easy, when racing around, to forget that Christmas is about a tiny baby who was born in a stable and who changed the world forever. As we did the last of our Christmas food shopping two nights before Christmas I looked around. I saw rushed, irritated, unhappy people, too angry to even smile and say thank you to the checkout lady, who told Steve she knocked off at 10pm then would do her  Christmas food shop from whatever was left over in the store. She smiled as she handed over our change and wished us a merry Christmas.

Humans are strange creatures full of contradiction; able to love and care so deeply yet able to be so selfish and silly at times. I suppose they knew what they were saying when they called it 'the silly season' nevertheless I felt humbled and couldn't help but imagine what that little baby who grew up to be a man, and said things like, "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth" and "blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God" would think of us today. Wherever you are, may Christmas be a time of Peace, love and joy but above all love.

God bless

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

 This morning we woke up to a blanket of snow. Not too bad for London.  We are often the last place in the UK to get snow, so when we do, it's a fait accompli that the rest of the UK has ground to a halt. True to form the news this morning reported the closure of all major airports, mainline trains and Londoners downed their tools, called time and headed for their local pubs, commons, parks or simply their sofa to while away a white Thursday.

Sadly, we have no excuse as we live two minutes away from our work so at Nicholas & Steele it was business as usual.

Seven buses had run into trouble at the top of Durham Road as the gritters hadn't been out yet.
We started the day with a class of rosy cheeked students, flushed from their 'arctic' journey to class. Several pots of tea were consumed before we were ready to pursue a morning of invigorating creative enterprise.  Take a look at some of the projects we have been busy with.

It's not just my students who have shown enterprise. Last week, in preparation for the Rokeby Christmas Fair, Steve and I tried our hand at candle making.

Steve and I  cutting wicks

Dipping the wicks in wax

Trimming and pinning the wicks in place

The candles were scented

Steve painstakingly cut and punched round discs for the tops
Saucers were matched

Bows were tied....and
Tadaa...! tea cup candles.
French Marseille soaps arrived and were bagged and decorated with vintage brooches. The shop smells heavenly!

I created vintage sewing kits complete with pin cushion, thimble, wooden cotton reels, ribbon etc
Vintage inspired Christmas stockings arrived. Each one is patchworked and hand embroidered.

Lavender, drawer sachets were filled with soaps or dried lavender

A trip to Maileg finally bought some more beautiful new bunnies to the shop. 

as well as the princess and the pea, and sweet little matchbox mice.

These little Christmas gnomes also found themselves at N&S.

The sweetest Baby Bunnies jostle for a place in their wagon.

By the time we got to the fair, we had enough stock to hold several but nevertheless, had a very successful morning.

Several other new pieces also found their way to N&S this week including this Kidney shaped dressing table which we spent a happy Sunday afternoon collecting from West Sussex.

A gorgeous Display Cabinet

Some Christmas puddings made using the original Mrs Beeton recipe along with some vintage baking items.

a vintage radio

A beautiful Adderley Cornflower tea set

A beautiful Plant Tuscan Pink tea set from the 30's

A Royal Worcester Queen's Garden tea set in mint condition

We have also started putting together these picnic baskets crammed with lovely little vintage bits.


and some lovely little heart decorations 

 The snow came early this year bringing out the snow leopard in our cat Moses...

...... and the Spring hare in our dog Roxy

Inside the shop, our raging thermostat keeps us cosy and it is so pretty watching the snow fall outside. Naturally, as with all small businesses, inclement weather can play havoc with the bank balance but we keep reminding ourselves; this is a lifestyle choice and the weather (along with our cash flow) will improve.

Elsewhere, the entente cordiale continues... as we speak Moses and Roxy inch closer and closer together on the sofa. Can cats and dogs who are avowed enemies actually put their differences aside in favour of shared bodily warmth? My money is on a resounding 'No'! but  you never know, perhaps a Christmas miracle is on the cards.

Till next time, wrap up warm and keep the faith.