Monday, 30 December 2013

Magic and Sparkle

Well it's all over again for another year, and while most of us who are well and with those we love enjoy the madness of Christmas. If like me , you have young children you may also be a little relieved when all the fuss is over.

Anyone who has read any of my blogs will know I have been bitten by the crafting bug recently. I have now several unfinished projects in needlepoint, sewing, aromatherapy, knitting and my newest and current favourite, needle felting. I am really enjoying all of these and of course crafting for me is the perfect way to avoid writing. Procrastination is something I know lots of creatives struggle with.

Enough of me. I wanted to share with you two fantastic projects that my sisters successfully completed this Christmas. The first is a beaten up and unloved gaudy doll's house lovingly restored to glory by my sister Lesley and given to my youngest daughters as a Christmas gift. They are delighted with it and have played with it every day.

This is Nancy and Florence opening it.

As you can see it has been beautifully and lovingly decorated throughout, even down to the curtains on the windows, all made from Lesley's old PJ's.

The front door has a a painted wreath and our family name, Scandinavian style. I love it

Linda has not been slacking either this festive period. She invited the family over on Christmas Eve for a lovely lunch of Fish Pie and divine salted caramel chocolate mousse. This alone was beautiful and delicious, but what got us all talking was her decor. As usual her home was warm and inviting with fresh seasonal flowers and greenery. Her tree was beautifully, stylishly trimmed. See the photos below.

The whole house looked gorgeous but the piece de resisistance is this 

This is her feature wall in her living room. Seriously, who paints their wall, no HAND paints their wall for Christmas? My sister that's who. Isn't it just divine? We were all gobsmacked,although I don't know why, she has always been super creative.

I am so proud of my amazing sisters and  I am resolving in 2014 to spend a lot more time with them.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Gift Bag Tutorial, Easy Peasy

Gift bags make wrapping easy, but  they can be pricey. I have started making some of my own from paper I already had at home, craft and scrap-booking paper, magazines and old books.
Here's how I did it. I opened up a paper bag that I had and used it as a template for my bags.

I put  this on top of the paper that I had cut, or suck together to make the right size. Then, using a ruler I folded the paper in line with all of  the folds in the template, pressing firmly to ensure a crisp edge.
My bags were made slightly taller than this template, and using the folds as a guide, this template could be used to make bags of almost any dimension.

Once the bag is folded then just tape or glue the bottom and sides to create your bag. The bottom can be tricky, but be patient, if you get lost just go back to your bag template and follow it. I reinforce the bottom with a rectangle of cardboard, either glued on the inside or outside. Depending on what you intend for the bag, you may wish to give it card sides or strips where you attach your handles.

This time my gifts were small and  not too heavy so I only reinforced the bottom.

When the bag is glued together you may want  to fold over the top to give  the handles a little more support. Hold the sides of your bag together and punch two holes close to the top edge and thread through a ribbon or twine as a closure. You can make two handles or a tie as I have done in this instance.

I made 5 bags to house small gifts for my work colleagues, I'm delighted with the finished item. Fun, festive, and completely unique.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Gratitude is Great

Gratitude is catching. We were brought up celebrating the American Thanksgiving Holiday as it was something our mother really believed in. Her love of the gift of Thanksgiving won her thousands of  friends and admirers and enabled Belfast to have a beautiful piece of art by Andy Scott celebrating gratefulness, and reminding us to be thankful. I am not one for God, but I try to show gratitude to people in my daily life.

Anyone who has read this blog at all will know I am addicted to Pinterest. This week I wanted to combine a desire to show thankfulness and my desire to create. I wanted to give the girls who work in my daughter's daycare a little treat. I have noticed over the last few weeks some of  them looking tired and drawn, it's that time of year, cold weather, short days and concerns over paying for Christmas. All of these things take their toll on energy levels, so I can up with an idea for a little treat for them to enjoy during their day so they would know how much they are appreciated.

In TK Maxx I bough a tin of peppermint hot chocolate and a tin of spiced pumpkin tea. I bought some gorgeous Anna's ginger thin biscuits  from Ikea. I made peppermint bark ( melt milk chocolate, spread over a small tray, melt white chocolate, spread over milk chocolate, sprinkle crushed candy canes over the top, put into fridge to set. then break into pieces and eat, yum!)

And in a gift bag I made from cheerful magazine pages and scrapbook paper I added a bag of marshmallows.

You can probably make out  the home made paper bunting around the bag too here.

I also made a very simple card and wrote a little verse inside,

For all of the fun that we have every day
For helping us grow in so may ways
We thought you deserved a nice little treat
A tasty hot drink and something to eat
We thought about it
And we want you to know
We think you're amazing
Love from Nancy and Flo.

I am really pleased with the end result, I had such fun making all the bits and the whole thing cost me less than £10. The manager told me this morning they were all delighted. Job done :-)

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Channeling my inner American

I love Pinterest, it has become a bit of a thing to be honest. Mostly I adore other people's talents from afar and gain inspiration for projects I will likely never complete. The ability of people to come up with fun and creative activities for children, reinventing things others would throw into a skip into something beautiful, or useful, or both is true creativity.

I have become very interested in the cult of make your own ..... soap powder, fabric softener, stain remover, floor cleaner to moisturiser, lip balm or sugar scrub. In the current economic climate, and with a family of 4 growing girls it makes total sense to me to economise on things that aren't so important. I wouldn't think of buying cheap loo roll or chocolate, they are important, but floor cleaner? Who cares if it does the job? Why pay top dollar for a premium loo cleaner if a few pence worth of white vinegar does the same thing?

I looked at several excellent blogs such as and A Bowl full of lemons with fantastic ideas, but there are tons if you search, pinterest has thousands of great ideas. I made my own washing powder (laundry soap) following one of these great ideas. The American sites have two main recipes, one for liquid soap ( too fiddly and too much storage required) and powder. This was usually a combination of washing crystals, Borax and grated household soap.

I don't see the point in grating soap as we have soap flakes available in most supermarkets so I used these.I couldn't get Borax but online I discovered that Biotex is the same thing.

After a little experimentation I discovered that equal parts of each of these was the best combination. I use one scoop per load and have to say I am very happy with the results so far. The washing smells clean without smelling fragranced and I have now added a home made laundry softener to finish it all off too.

I use one cup of warm water, half a cup of white vinegar and one third of a cup of cheap hair conditioner. mix well and decant into an old bottle or clean milk container for storage.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Creative Bursts

I've come over all crafty. I'm hooked. I blame  Pinterest and my sister Linda. They both present beautifully home made goods with what looks like minimal effort. I have made  fiddly but fun goodies for the nursery Halloween party , some home made Kombucha Tea, and my own laundry soap ( I will be posting about these over the next few days ), and now I am into cross stitch.

Well I have always loved cross stitch, it is highly addictive and I am significantly better at it  than I am at knitting. It's easy to tell if you have stitched in the wrong place, and in most cases one stitch won't ruin the whole project. My main problem is my flakiness. Starting projects,and  buying supplies is my forte. I started this cute Country Companions cross stitch when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter.

it is very fiddly and complicated with multiple colours and textures in the tree and the hedgehog, but I am making progress, as you can see.

 The only down side is the daughter who's nursery I was making it for is 16!! maybe it can be for my first grandchild.

I love a craft shop or stationers and could easily max out  the credit card on pretty coloured thread, wool and papers. Paper is a long standing passion.

My sister and I visited Belfast's Craft World yesterday ( dear god they have a website, I'm DOOMED) and I got quite giddy with the delights on offer. I managed to restrain myself to some essentials; some new cross stitch fabric, in sexy Christmassy red, (what to make?) some lovely scrapbook papers ( I don't scrapbook but it was lovely and printed on both sides) and some poly stuffing for a Christmas gift I am making currently. I was impressed with my restraint, aren't you?

This is a Christmas Gift I am working on

I have some  more stars to complete, then a border and I hope to turn it in to a small cushion. The girls are to represent my youngest two. Do you like it?
Now, I must stop writing about all the things a I need to make, and get on with making them, enjoy your weekend.

Saturday, 2 November 2013


This is the poem I wrote at school when I was around 11 or 12. My English teacher Mr Barton told me it was fairly rubbish. Myrtle was incensed by this and sent  it off to The Christian Science Monitor where it was published in the US edition. From there it was picked up by The New Book of Knowledge Annual and they sent me a whole $10 to publish it in the 1984 issue. It's utterly pretentious but I'm still proud of it.

Rainbow by Tracey Smyth (aged 11 and a half)

She floats above us in sunny wet
Her colours iridescent
With stars, on her never ending tour
Of circles all florescent.
Of miracles, and laughter too,
Of birds' eternal song,
She never stops her joyous spree,
But laughs and carries on.

She is an infinite circular flower
With petals all aglow,
She never does any wrong
She would not stoop so low.
She flickers in a momentary spin
And after circling the sky
She whispers her sweet, "Adieu,"
And gracefully says , "Goodbye."

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Halloween High Jinks

I came over all creative today. It's a combination of having time to spare, and a way to get my creative juices flowing.On Pinterest I slathered over all the home made goodies American Soccer moms have perfected over years of PTA bake sales. I am not American, and I am no soccer mom, but I like to try things, and I want  my kids to see that I like to try. My little ones are having a Halloween party at nursery, so they are going to be guinea pigs.I went to the supermarket with my list and bought supplies.

I started off with something simple, apple and marshmallow-mini teeth. Not exactly complex but fiddly, footery and messy. They taste divine, the combo of a lovely crisp autumn apple spread with smooth peanut butter and 3 or 4 marshmallows, yum.

I had to cocktail stick the ones for the party tomorrow, and tossed them in lemon juice to prevent browning.

Next on the list was jelly worms, apparently simple as soap suds. Just pour jelly into straws secured in an upright position with an elastic band, simple, not. I poured I dribbled I sploshed I cajoled but I'll be damned if I could get more than an inch of damned jelly into an actual straw. Any straws I managed to get jelly into just emptied out into whatever receptacle I was using-I used several. So after washing up 4 plastic jugs, a mug and a tupperware bowl and a stack of plastic straws I gave up. I can buy Jelly worms, they're not dear.

Next on my hit list was cheese string and pretzel broomsticks, I am well chuffed with these although I know my two minxes won't eat string cheese- good thing too!

Then it was the turn of the strawberry ghosts. I think they're cute. I put some sherbet on some of them for added texture, I couldn't get hold of popping candy at short notice. 

I'm pleased with my first foray into Halloween fun food. I'll have to try something else for Thanksgiving.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Literary Genes

I got some surprising and very welcome news this morning. I was dropping my two youngest children off at daycare when the manager handed me an envelope and told me our middle child, Nancy has had a poem she "wrote" selected for a national anthology. The surprise was not  that I doubt Nancy's wonderful storytelling gifts, or her use of language but at just 3 years and 3 months old she can neither read nor write!
The children in Nancy's group were given a template with blanks, of a simple poem and they had  to come up with the rhyming words to fit in. I'm thrilled with her efforts, and let's hope there is more to come .

Young Writers are the organisation that are encouraging our children to develop their literary skills.

I wrote a poem as a child that was published in the US version of The Christian Science Monitor that was later picked up by The World Book Encyclopedia this was c 1982, lets hope my creative juices haven't dried up! I'll have to look it out and let you read it.

This is Nancy's Nursery Rhyme

Nancy's Day Out Rhyme  By Nancy Conway (3)

I went to Disneyland for the day,
I sang Twinkle, Twinkle all the way.
Loafy and Lily went with me,
I was as happy as could be.
We travelled by plane, it went really fast,
It was fun, we had a blast.
The weather was really hot and sunny,
We saw Minnie Mouse, it was funny.
I had chicken nuggets to eat,
And then we had pudding for a treat.
I saw Cinderella everywhere,
And played with Tinkerbell when I was there.
I had a great time,
Thank you for reading my nursery rhyme.

Thanks so much to the wonderful staff at The Den for all their hard work in loving and nurturing our children.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Love Chain

This is a story I have been writing for the last couple of years. it is a light and humorous take on what  I consider to be the madness of Polyamory.
It is still very much a work in progress. As ever comments are most welcome....

The Love Chain by Tracey Smyth

It began innocently enough, as these things often do. Maggie fell in love with Frank, who was already in love with Petra. Petra loved Frank too, but spent a lot of time with Jason, who was 15 years younger than her and also with Elise, who was French and exotic.

Elise did not want  to meet Jason, or Frank, and jealously guarded her time with Petra. Together they went  to Swedish movies, and sneered at Swedish furniture warehouses. Petra was cultured and wore dark glasses when she was with Elise. They walked down the high street swinging hands, as if on the Champs- Elysee,always hoping to cause a stir.

Elise smoked profusely and Petra found her enticing through a cloud of Turkish tobacco smoke. They sat sipping apple tea on the flat roof of Petra's garage in a kaleidoscope of Moroccan glass lanterns and high ferns laughing loudly at each others incredible wit.

Petra and Elise were companions on Mondays and Thursdays and she alternated her Saturday nights between Elise and Frank. On Tuesdays Petra saw Jason. After a night of intense cynicism with Elise, Petra loved the simple animal passion she felt for Jason. Sometimes they just rented movies and ate junk food.

Jason made Petra feel alive. She felt she was servicing womankind when they were together. Her instructive lovemaking kept Jason on edge,and ensured Petra of nights of multiple orgasms, and a very well tuned fiat. Jason went weak at the knees the first time Petra had let him stay over, and gratefully changed her oil filters before she was up the next morning. In company she looked at the dirt under his fingernails and pursed her lovely lips. In private she smeared him in oil, dressed him in dungarees and told him to call her Miss. She enjoyed watching him tinker under her bonnet as she sat on a deck chair in sky high red heels, almost as much as she enjoyed seeing  the neighbourhood curtains twitch.

Petra's relationship with Frank was just over two years old. They had met at a New Age weekend workshop and had fallen for one another embracing their inner children on rainbow beanbag chairs. Frank, at fifty-nine was the oldest member of this Polyamorous chain. .He was a handsome and vital silver fox of a man with a wide chest and deep soft voice.Women of all kinds were drawn to his gentle nature and beautifully kept hands.

Petra was almost thirty years younger than Frank and reveled in the mostly negative attention they received while she sat on his lap, kissing him  and curling her pretty fingers in his platinum hair. While Frank was very comfortable with public displays of affection he was a little more subtle than Petra and tried to tone down her attention seeking.

Since divorcing his wife Jocelyn 16 years ago he had been interested in and had gradually become  more involved in various polyamorous relationships. The relationship with Petra was the longest of these entanglements  to date. When they had first met he was blown away by her resemblance to Louise Brooks; all glossy bob and cupids bow pout. Up until then he had been involved with serious flat footed matrons who were interested in human rights and cooked worthy but monotonous meals with tofu. Petra arrived in his life like a teetering whirlwind . He stood bemused in her dressing room and marveled at the variety of potions and lacquers, bodices and straps. She opened his eyes to the heady world of glamour, and sight of her firm thighs encased in finest fishnet drove him wild, time after time..

He loved Petra's impulsive girlishness and she had dragged him into the modern world, introducing him to people, music, books and film, and initiating him into mild bondage techniques.Frank's gentle warmth settled Petra, she felt safe in his big bear arms and she was adored. They talked openly about  their sexual desires, and their emotional needs, and for 12 whole weeks loved each other alone.When Elise came into Petra's life the initial insecurity that Frank had felt dispersed quickly as he began to enjoy the short bursts of intensive attention from her, and the relaxed liberty between dates.

 Freshly made-over Frank found new lovers easy to find. With Petra's influence he looked sharp in a suit and open necked shirt. For eighteen months he dabbled with a mixture of affairs and relationships.He became entangled with a twenty five year old lap dancer until she introduced him to her father; and a forty eight year old teacher whose loud orgasmic yelping sent his wheaten terrier into a tail chasing frenzy. He peppered his days with the married and grateful and his evenings with scholarly civil servants and curvaceous barmaids. some of these women turned his head for a little while and spending  the night, or a weekend in the company of a fragrant and downy companion was rapturous to him.

The "Poly" lifestyle suited Frank well as he had all of the feminine attention and interference he could handle with a good degree of personal freedom. He felt  that this was a modern and  responsible lifestyle. He had been unfaithful to his wife, despite loving her deeply. Their libidos were rarely in sync and he was determined never to hurt anyone as he had hurt her.

More to come , I hope you liked .......

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Welder and The Wolfhound

This is a rhyming story for children set in industrial Belfast of the recent past. This is probably it's 50th or so incarnation. I really hope you enjoy it and please feel free to post any feedback, positive or negative. I see it as an illustrated story, it needs pictures to carry the story.

The Welder and the Wolfhound by Tracey Smyth

In Harland and Wolfe, on the shores of the Lough
Worked Bradley John Maxwell, a welder from Clough.
High over the slipways he worked mightily hard
In Titanic's birthplace. Belfast's big yard.

Fergus was a wolfhound, big fuzzy and grey,
For a home he'd been waiting  for a week and a day.
Brad entered the kennels to the ear splitting sound
Of all the dogs barking, except the wolfhound.
Brad walked to the end to see Fergus look up,
And Bradley John Maxwell then found his new pup.

Fergus and Brad settled down in the city,
In a wee terraced house that was tidy and pretty.
They walked side by side through the streets of Belfast.
From Royal Avenue, up to Donegall Pass.
They walked towards the Lagan, through Custom House Square,
And over Queen's Bridge, a soft breeze in the air.
They visited the shipyard and walked for a mile,
Under Samson and Goliath,they rested a while.

While watching TV, one dark Winter's eve
The friends heard a tale they could hardly believe.
The Lady Mayoress, her curlers in her hair
And her Right honorable husband had been given a scare.
The City Hall baby had gone in the night,
Bonnie Baby Belfast, what a terrible fright!
Brad looked to Fergus, who was up with a lurch,
The loyal old friends went to join in the search.

Around City Hall, amid sirens and lights
Fergus and Bradley set up their sights.
They searched for a footprint astray in the snow,
If a thief had come past here, the two friends would know.
In just a short time the two found their swag,
swaddled in blankets in an old leather bag.
Sucking his knuckles, tucked under a tree,
His nose was quite blue, he smelled slightly of wee.

The City hall baby was cold, but quite well
The Police all came running with a bark and a yell.
After poking and prodding and cuddling tight
Bonnie Baby Belfast was rushed through the night,
Examined, and changed and cuddled up warmer
The Bonnie wee man was returned to his mother.

Back at City Hall, clear, crisp and bright
Fergus was waiting, in the still of the night.
The Wolfhound was ready, crouched low in the dark,
To trip-up the robber afoot in the park.
The robber fell flat, his boots slipped on the ground
And on top of him pounced a big hairy wolfhound.
Fergus growled in his face, showing his teeth
The puny wee robber lay stock still beneath.
Within a short time, screech! Siren! And Light!
As the mayor's limousine cut clean through the night.
The police carted off the robber in shame,
And Fergus stretched out, shaking his mane.

"We'll call him Fergus Bradley" said the Mayoress with glee,
"And the freedom of Belfast is yours with a Key".
Later that year, early in May,
On a glorious, cheery, blossom filled day
In a City Hall chamber with all VIP's
Fergus and Bradley were given their keys.
The freedom of Belfast was theirs to enjoy,
And a sloppy wet kiss from a bonnie wee boy.

The End