Cushion-making & a board game guide

Last Friday I started making a cushion for my grandmother who I'll be seeing on Christmas day. I chose tiny floral prints that, to me, feel wintry and snow-speckled, but that I'm hoping will look fresh and spring-like later in the year: I'm full of changeling perceptions and I'm hoping she will be too. The darker turquoise print that you can see is part of Denyse Schmidt's Hope Valley collection and is one of my favourites and a print that I'm hoping gives this collection of colours a bit of I fear that without it they could be rather wishy-washy.

Friday was one of those days when I loved the different processes of everything I was doing and revelled in the fiddliness of the tiny pieces from cutting them out, to piecing them together, snipping the loose threads away and pressing the seams. Notable, because some days I just feel frustrated by these things and race through them burning my fingers on the iron as I go: pressing the seams open on 2" squares has ample digit-burning potential in the wrong frame of mind!

Unfortunately, the light had gone by the time this last photograph was taken, hence the rather hideous colours. I've always pressed seams to the side in the past, but pressing them open has been something of a revelation. It seems to give a neater finish and, once sewn seams have begun intersecting one another, also makes a smaller task of unpicking a small area to realign things. And yes, it makes me post photos of things from the back instead of the front (those are photos for another post, as I haven't got around to photographing the finished cushion yet).

Which leads me to board games (yes, something of a non sequitur to cushion making). In the winter we tend to play a huge amount of them and I'm always on the look out for new suggestions. I thought I'd put together a list of some of our own favourites, just in case, like me, you're trying to winkle out some new ones to play over Christmas.

When our children were much younger my sister-in-law bought us what we refer to as 'The Crow Game' but which is actually called Orchard and is made by the wonderful Haba company. The playing pieces are small, coloured wooden pieces of fruit, dispensed from tiny wicker baskets. It's a wonderful game for colour recognition and counting and, because you work as a team against the crow, there's none of the tension associated with other games if you're playing with a very young child who is prone to nose-planting their face into the carpet and howling if they lose. We played it often until our youngest child was about 6. It feels like a very special heirloom quality game and it's now been safely packed away into the loft to be brought out if and when we have grandchildren. A miniature, more inexpensive version is now available too, but as an indulgent gift, the larger set is will be very much treasured.

We've also passed many happy weekends playing Post the Most from Orchard Toys, a game where you take on the role of a postmaster or mistress and race your way around a 3D island delivering letters and parcels. At first the rules seemed very complicated, but they're worth persevering with as once you've learnt them it's a wonderful game and is loved by everyone in our family. It's recommended for age 6+, but we've played it from about 4+ and it's only recently that it's started to feel as though they've outgrown it.

The game that I remember playing with my own father, right through childhood and the sulky teenage years, is Othello. It's a wonderfully simple game, but one which, with age, can be played with increasing levels of strategy and planning, thinking several moves ahead. We have our own set now and our children love the black and white shiny counters, which somehow make me think of after dinner mints, as much as I did at their age. Unfortunately my husband won't play this game with me, as my years of training have made me unbeatable and I tend to take on my father's highly-competitive and high-spirited persona when I play against him.

Our most recent board game purchase is Harry Potter Cluedo. We bought this in September for my daughter's birthday and the fact that we are now photocopying clue sheets, having worked our way through those that came with it, I'm guessing that we must have played this nearly fifty times. It's played in the same way as the traditional Cluedo, but has been fully Potterised in a way that works wonderfully. Players apparate through fireplaces to get to different locations, paying to do so with pinches of flue powder and a whole host of other Pottery details have been added in to the way that the game is played.

For times when I'd really rather curl up with a book and have some peace and quiet, I suggest playing the traditional Chinese Checkers.We all seem to get caught up in our own strategy during this game and the room becomes an oasis of calm. Perfect. In the same vein, several years ago, my sister bought my daughter Mice and Cheese Peg Solitaire. It's the perfect game to play alone, but we frequently play together too by taking it in turns to eliminate a mouse. It's the most adorable set and I believe there are other animals available too.

By contrast, noisier games that we love are Don't Say It, which I believe may be similar to Articulate (does anyone have both and know which is better? And is the adult version of Articulate playable for children?), Pass the Bomb and Pictureka Game, which we play a lot.

Every Christmas Eve, I give my family a pre-Christmas gift - a small something that the three of them can share. This year, on Nancy's recommendation, I'll be giving them the award winning game Carcassonne. I'd love to hear what your own favourites are.

Florence x


  1. I like an open seam with small piecing, no bumpy bits to sew or qulit over. There is a great game called Chocolate Fix by Think Fun, age 8- adult- a logic sudoku style game, played by one but an audience can help and the appeal of moving chocolates around a box is very appealing to all. Carsonne awaits my husband and daughter too!

  2. gorgeous cushion...can't wait to see the front! I usually press to the side, but am now tempted to have a go at pressing flat and seeing how it turns out ;-)

    Also, brilliant games compendium...always like a good board fact you are the second person recently to recommend Carcassonne, so am going to purchase it as an extra for the family ;-)

  3. Carcasonne is our family summer holiday day, we go to france and stay in a caravan and its the only time we ever play carcasonne! Seems apt to play it in France. Tip for everyone: suss out the player-in-a-field rule as I've never managed to get my head round it so OH comes along at the end to count the score and wipes the floor with all of us bacause he's got people in fields! Must learn the rule by next summer.......

  4. Settlers of Catan always wins, hands down any day. :) No kids allowed though, they have to go amuse themselves!

  5. Bohnanza. Also Set and Quiddler. Our challenge is that it's hard to sit down and play a game when also holding a baby. So usually we have to divide and conquer. :)

  6. Settlers of Catan & Carcassonne are firm family favourites here. Another game we love & I don't think has been mentionned is "Ticket to Ride" We have the Europe version. All are probably suitable for about age 10 upwards
    Chris x

  7. I love Frustration! We used to play it all the time with my grandma and it's so simple but lots of fun! I've not heard or Carcassonne before, off to investigate!

  8. Carcassonne is brilliant game. We used to play it before we became parents. The only game we seem to play now is "who can stay awake longer?" but I'm sure we'll be back playing board games one day.
    Love the look of your cushion from behind and can't wait to see the front.

  9. We have the Hunters and Gatherers version of Carcassonne and we love it. I've played a few other versions too and there are slightly different rules for each.
    We also love Articulate, backgammon and cribbage. A great one to play with adult/child mixtures is Scattergories. Cranium is also fab.

  10. Carcassone is a great game; I really enjoy it and would love to get some of the expansions. Can't get into Cleudo at all.
    Have you seen Story Cubes? These are dice with pictures on them and you make up a story based on which pictures you get. I am definitely going to get this for my little boy (once he's a bit bigger though!).
    ps. your quilt colours look lovely and calm.

  11. 'Bananagrams' was a gift from my dad a few years ago, and it's brilliant. We bought my parents their own set when they went to Kathmandu with VSO and as far as I can tell it became the focus of the local volunteer social scene! We've played it with grandparents and 8-yr old cousins with equal success. Another long-lived favourite is an Othello-ish marble game called 'Boku', which might not be in production any more (when leaving home I got myself a set on Ebay). Obviously 'Pictionary', and 'Taboo' is excessively fun too (if you try it, make sure you get a UK set - the US cards are very much inferior).

  12. I love that so many of you had already heard of Carcasonne - it had completely passed me by.

    Kerry...I will be looking into the Chocolate game - that sounds lovely.

    Nina - we have Bananagrams too...but have somehow failed to find it addictive. Isn't it funny how some games take you like that.

    Thank you for your lovely comments. x

  13. i'm slow to this but I am going to add another vote for Settlers of Catan which was my Christmas present to my family last year. Friends have also introduced us to Blokus which is fast and fun and has a certain quilting air about it as players take turns placing their pieces onto a grid, aiming to be the first to finish. It sounds like nothing much but we've been addicted to from the beginning.

  14. PS I've read on already and seen the finished cushion. It is beautiful, as are your memories of your grandmother. Merry Christmas to you all.

  15. on your recommendation my mother-in-law gave my boys Carcassonne and mouse solitaire - they made our christmas - we are all completely addicted to carcassonne and already my son has bought an expansion set - thanks ;)


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Florence x