Friday, 27 August 2010

Delightful Decorations

OK, so Friday doesn't quite follow Monday. I apologise, I don't know where the week has gone!

Finding ideas for decorating a garden for a "Twinkle, twinkle little star" party is quite a challenge. Other people had had star themed parties but nearly everything I read involved fairy lights and the assumption that it could be dark when of course our party was taking part during broad daylight!

I decided we had to have bunting to cover our 22 metre of fence and was quite fixated for a while on finding parcel paper that was white as that was the kind of texture I wanted. In the end I came up with wallpaper lining which was nice and cheap. I was going to apply stars to it by cutting a star shape into a sponge but that wasn't very successful, just looked like a splodge instead of a star. So I experimented with potato printing and hey presto, we had bunting!

I wanted to make the gate to our garden a welcoming entrance. So one of the useful star ideas I did make was to make 3D stars here. The ones I made were only halves, so that I could stick them around the gate.

The other decorations didn't get photographed and I could kick myself about this because I spent a long time on them, the pinwheel windmills especially. I bought some hot pink and purple A4 card and cut each one into a square then glued it to foil and then cut the corners inwards to make pinwheels pinned onto bamboo canes. It was a very windy day and one or two did not survive! But they were very useful for providing directions, bringing people in from the front of the house and showing them where the drinks fridge was, just by masking labelled arrows to the bamboos.

We laid out all the food indoors in our dinning room which I was keen to have a little decoration. So I bought a piece of white organza with silver glittery stars on it for a table cloth (our house is now covered in glitter!)

I also collected about 20 glass jars and bottles in the weeks leading up to the party. I soaked them and applied white spirit to get the labels and glue off them. I tied different types of ribbon around some of them. Then on the damp afternoon before the party I pushed the pram along the river and collected different wild flowers and grasses. Together with lavender, roses and buddleia from our garden I arranged them in the jars and spread them across the window of the dining room. My mum said it looked like a fairy might pop out!

Monday, 23 August 2010

All partied out!

Ok, it's been a while since I blogged last. Bambino's party is over and done with and I think it was a success. Around 30 friends and family came along bringing food and drink, which eased the load on me considerably. Even so I spent two days in the kitchen making and icing cakes (much to bambino's disgust). This included re-icing the top tier of our wedding cake.

I spent many more hours making decorations which I wasn't sure, even on the morning of the party, that we would use, owing to a really mixed weather forecast.

We also had a very interesting approach to the photos... all will be explained...

For now let's stick with cakes. I made two types of cupcakes, Lemon & Poppyseed Cupcakes and Little Louise Cupcakes. The latter I did not make the meringue tops because I wanted fluffy icing so I just followed the directions on the icing sugar packet to make butter icing. I wouldn't make the lemon cakes again, there was no milk in the recipe, only yoghurt and I found them a little dry.

To decorate I bought 200 mini stars from an Ebay seller and I followed those fab Little Birdies' instructions for chocolate monograms. These were really fun to make although I've completely done for my diet eating the leftover chocolate! I also used this idea to put Bambino's initials on the re-iced wedding cake and to create a shooting star. I used a bit of florists wire for this, taped to the greaseproof paper and just piped over it. I wouldn't recommend this. Of the 10 stars I made only one survived!

To finish off I made another sweet, decorating treat. I shall call them marshmallow lollies, their American creator calls them Smores. (Sorry, I think that's a terribly unattractive word for something you expect someone to eat!) And these were the surprise hit of the day, we only had 4 left. I thought people would think them too sickly, but they loved them!

Tomorrow, decorations...

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Daisy Tiara

I've made a few tiaras, for me, for my sister and for one or two friends but I've never made one just for the hell of it before last week. Obviously I am hoping that I will sell it but I wasn't intended for anyone in particular.

It's a combination of swarovski crystals and pearls, silver plated wire on a silver band.

It's for sale at £42.50 and I would lurve to make some matching jewellery.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Picture This

A very good friend of mine has recently moved house and so yesterday we took Bambino to her first party, their housewarming. It's also both their birthdays today and tomorrow! So a pretty fantastic present was required. I was their bridesmaid about 18 months ago and took loads of photos on the big day. I found that be bridesmaid was great for taking photos because everyone moved out of my way. (Perhaps I just look scary!)

So I had a good pick of photos to make them this present. My dad very generously gave me the piece of wood which he cut and routed for me.

I found the idea on my favourite craft blog, here... I think next time I would stain the wood, as per the little birdies and I obviously need to check out real Mod Podge since my waterer down PVA glue didn't really do the trick on the canvas effect. Still, my friend seemed pleased.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Lack of Blogs

Oh dear, a whole week has elapsed since my last blog...

There are numerous things I was to blog about but I've been too busy doing them to blog about them.

They include
  • Rescuing my favourite sandals
  • Having a go at this to make a present for a friend
  • Making a tiara
  • Making more organza corsages (have now sold two!)
  • Making Mono Suns for sale... all will be revealed next week.

Am off to a good friend's party tomorrow and looking forward to showing off Bambino. Oh, there are now three sunflowers open in the garden. I am a happy girl!

Friday, 23 July 2010

Why I love Sunflowers

By now I guess the fact that I love sunflowers is apparent. However I don't think even I realised it until I was planning our wedding. It then occurred to me that I have sunflower things all around me; mugs, a tray on my dressing table, artificial flowers in a large vase etc.

I think it started when I went to France at the age of 17 to stay with a fabulous french family (who I am still in touch with). They were feeding the fish belonging to some neighbours who were on holiday. These neighbours also had swimming pool and this pool looked out on to a stunning view of field beyond field, full of blooming sunflowers, as far as the mountains. We would swim in the pool and then go down to the bottom of the garden and pick fresh figs from tree. It was heaven, an experience which I am sure will stay with me forever.

So it seemed obvious that I would have sunflowers in my wedding bouquet, they're such a happy flower and I like colourful weddings, especially in summer. I think that's the reason I like sunflowers; their fantastic, vibrant, sunny colour and the fact that they make me feel cheerful. Above is sunflower from our garden a couple of days ago. This morning I've come downstairs and it's raining. It's little dark and gloomy. But this flower is now opened fully and it almost seems to be smiling, providing little splash of happy colour in our garden that makes me smile back.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Beachcombed Beauties

For a while now I've had an idea for a new jewellery range that I haven't quite managed to get to grips with. A couple of years ago when I went to the Scilly Isles with my parents, as well as shells (I have a serious shell addiction), I bought back some pieces of glass and pottery which had been buffed and smoothed by the sea.

The question was how to add a a loop to them so that they could be hung on necklaces. I was going to have a go at just gluing a jump ring on them but the answer came to me when I was rooting through my box looking for a jump ring. Quite often bolt rings come with a piece to complete the clasp, They have a larger hole at one end to attach to the bolt ring and a small hole to incorporate into the other end of the necklace. I put a dab of glue on the back of the glass or pottery piece and stuck the large hole to it so that small hole protruded above the piece.

It seems to work. Then I had the idea of layering pieces and that's how I came to arrive at this pendant with a glass piece and a ceramic piece.
I am keeping the necklace featured here for myself. I also made these lovely earrings from porcelain flower beads that I have been hoarding for a long time.

More pieces will follow, eventually, and I'll add them to my Facebook page in the hope of a couple of sales!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Our Centrepieces

When I first had the idea for our centrepieces I don't think I really expected to succeed. I certainly spent quite a lot of time and wasted quite a few sunflowers trying to get it right!

We had six tables at our wedding so I bought six storm lanterns and was thrilled to find six vases which fitted inside the lanterns and left a gap for the sunflowers to fit in. I even managed to get them quite cheaply from a poundstretcher shop.

It was a two person job! I filled the lanterns till almost half full with water. The sunflowers were cut off their stalks and quite a lot of the back sliced off too, sunflowers can be quite thick. Then my Mum held against the glass with a long ruler (on on either side) while I fixed the vase in place. Putting the candle in the vase weighted them sufficiently against the water.

I thought they looked fabulous and they went brilliantly with the theme of the day. Best of all, we put them together the day before and because they were submerged in water they lasted all day.

Now I've got plenty of vases and storm lanterns to have similar displays on our mantle piece, like the Christmas mantle I showed you yesterday.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

My Mantel Piece

I do love my mantel piece. I love my parent's house too but it doesn't have mantel pieces or window sills so these things are still, two years on, a bit of a novelty. I tend to use it as a place to showcase special occasions.

This is our mantel piece a year ago when we returned from honeymoon. Our families had saved us many of the sunflowers that were used for the wedding decorations and of course we had cards. It was lovely to have a memory of the wedding as we got back to 'real life' and went back to work.

I acutally thought that I had more photos of different displays on the mantel piece but I have only found two to show you so I shall have to make more effort to record them in the future. One thing I like to do is to have lots of little flower displays. I've collected lots of small vases, bottles and jugs so I can spread the flowers along the width of the mantel.

Here's the mantel last Christmas...

I used storm lanterns and vases to make a pretty outer layer of holly leaves, berries and dried orange slice that was protected from the candle inside. 'Tune in' tomorow to find out how I first did this for our wedding centre pieces.

I also got out my poisettia garland for the second year. I created the pattern for this myself, used yellow buttons for the centres and sewed the flowers to green cord.

Here's the fireplace. I collected fir cones and stuck them in the airing cupboard in a paperbag for a couple of days to dry them and open them out. The orange slices I dried my self over several evenings in the oven on a low heat. I also added cinamon sticks to the bowl to create that lovely seasonal smell. The penguin and snowman are also in their second year and were a real bargain from our £1 shop.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

A Crafty Post!

At last, a crafty post!

I saw these flowers on my fave site, Little Birdie Secrets and was desperate to have a go. So while Bambino was napping I raided my material boxes for organza. I found red, pink and this amazing ivory material with gorgeous scroll embroidery. I've had this for years, it was a remnant and it has been bothering me ever since, you know, the way that really nice materials and beads do. They just sit in your boxes for ages because you're too scared to do anything with them because you love them and don't want to mess it up!

Anyway... I finally have and I love, love, love the results. It strikes me as very bridal so I have popped it on Ebay to see what kind of response I get. I'd love to think about someone wearing it on their special day.

Much as I love it. I love my tiara more!

Friday, 9 July 2010

More food!!!

Ok, I am going to blog about something else soon, really I am. I have a couple of good craft things in the pipeline!

I really love olives, they are one of my favourite foods. You can't beat a few to nibble before a meal, especially with a nice G&T. But it can get really expensive buying the fresh ones from olive bars in various supermarkets.

Last year I read a tip online for making your own marinated olives. So with all the herbs we have in the garden this year I was keen to have a go again.

This is an old coffee jar, it's got a good seal on it. A kilner jar would be good too. I poured some black olives into the jar and then chopped up some mint, oregano, rosemary and thyme (and probably some other herbs that I can't remember) and add those to the jar along with some whole cloves of garlic, just flattened under a knife. Then I covered the bottom of the jar with balsamic vinegar before topping up the jar with olive oil.

We had some with drinks before our BBQ tonight. I removed the olives from the jar carefully and place them in a sieve over a jug to catch and keep all the olive oil. If you don't save and reuse your olive oil then you won't be saving any money, you might as well keep going to the supermarket! You can keep adding new herbs and garlic for as long as the olives still taste good!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

BBQ Veggies

Short post today. I am tuckered out!

As you've probably gathered we BBQ a lot, A LOT and sometimes I feel bad that we're not getting enough veggies, I make salad but that gets a little boring. I don't remember where I found the idea for these BBQd veggies as I've been making them for years and I reckon I've probably changed the recipe a bit.

You need
  • An aubergine
  • Mozzarella
  • Sundried tomatos
  • Pesto

Cut your aubergine as thinly as you can. Spread pesto over the slices. Layer a thin slice of mozzarella and a sundried tomato on top.

Roll the aubergine up with the cheese and tomato inside. Skewer.

If you line up more than one roll per skewer it's probably easier for the chef. I went and bought some new skewers recently because PJ hates wooden skewers, they tend to catch fire!

Lately this blog tends to be all about food. Hmmm...

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Tasty treats

As I've already mentioned I am trying to shift a few pounds. But I am a sucker for a sweet treat after my dinner. So I was delighted to rediscover a childhood dessert which not only need I not feel guilty about but I can actually feel good about because it provides one of my 'five a day' and I make it up with sugar free jelly mix.

My mum and grandmother still make rhubarb jelly so with rhubarb currently on offer at Tescos and my new mum status tucked firmly under my belt I was happy to join their ranks (even though Bambino won't be eating it for a while yet!)

Here's how...

Wash and roughly chop the rhubarb

I make my jelly using a double sachet of sugar free strawberry jelly crystals. But I only add the water specified in the directions for one packet. Experiment with your jelly and water quantities depending on how runny/bouncy you like your jelly.

So I add the quantity of cold water directly (1pt on my packet) to the rhubarb in a pan and allow to boil away.

Meanwhile I make up the jelly/boiling water part, two sachets and one sachet's worth of water (1/2pt on my packet)

Once the rhubarb has disintegrated and looks all stringy like this I add the boiled water mixed to the rhubarb mixture and stir together well. DO NOT drain the rhubarb at all.

Ladle into glasses or dishes as you prefer, allow to cool a little before covering with clingfilm and placing in the fridge.

I like my jelly bouncy with a dollop of creme fraiche.

PJ prefers his runny and straight up.

So far I've made more runny jelly than bouncy, not on purpose. Oh well you can't win them all!

Monday, 5 July 2010

All coming up roses...

This is one of my favourite wedding photos, all our friends and family lined up, throwing real rose petal confetti at us. My mum, best girl Kate and I had been saving rose petals for months and I made little cones with our wedding logo on it. Kate passed them round to all the guests straight after the ceremony.

One of my friends, Esme, took this very arty photo of the confetti on the train on my dress, which I really love.

There were quite a lot of rose petals left over, I think we went into overdrive! So I have tried to be very enterprising and have been selling the left overs (and this year's harvest from the garden) on Ebay.

Click here if you are interested.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Guest Tree

This weekend we celebrate our 1st wedding anniversary! It's been an amazing year for us, with the arrival of bambino! I would like to share some elements of the wedding in this blog and I think I shall start with one of my faves, the guest tree...

Basically, instead of a guest book we had this tree and the guests made things to hang on it. I really can't remember where the idea came from but I do know that I was set on having one as soon as the idea came to me and that it was only after my best girl, Kate, and I had set it up that I was suddenly beset by a feeling of horror. What if the guests all thought I was crazy, what if no one made anything for it and at the end of the evening it was still embarrassingly bare?! I should not have worried...

The tree itself was some bare branches I found whilst out for a walk with my dad. I did mist them in silver spray but they could easily have been left bare. They were stuck in a pot surrounded by gravel. Kate and I also decorated the tree with fairy lights. I printed a little message which I put in a photoframe to explain what they were supposed to do.
I raided my own craft supply for things to put on the guest tree table. I also went to the pound shop and bought lots more bits and pieces for guests to make their tokens from. Aware that not everyone is as craft-willing as me I also cut up lots of yellow, flower shaped and red, chilli shaped pieces of card (following our sunflower/chilli themes) and strung with green ribbon for those who just wanted to write a message and hang it on the tree.

The first people to get stuck in were my Uni friends, which is why no one could find them for their photographs! I think one of them was staying at the hotel where the reception was and had had a sneaky peek the night before! The guest tree was becoming quite a talking point!

As the day went on there was always someone sat at the table, the most unlikely people having a go at being crafty and people who didn't know each other at all sat with each other. I loved the balloon flower that my very crafty sister-in-law added to the foot of the tree. Unfortunately we couldn't save that.
The simple flower and chilli shapes I cut out were used but more often that not they were part of a more impressive ensemble. These are some of my favourite guest creations...

It really was such a lovely addition to our day and means we have a box of keepsakes which I find much more interesting than a guest book and people certainly had a lot of fun making them. Plus the finished tree itself was really quite spectacular.

I do feel a bit bad, however for the person who had to clear it all up the next day! Thank you Kate, love you! xxxx

Tasty & Low Cal.

As a new Mummy I am trying to shift a few pounds. Let's just say 'a few' and leave it at that! It's also nice to be able to go back to eating some foods which I avoided in pregnancy but unfortunately traditional spaghetti carbonara doesn't really conform to my new low calorie regime. I think it might be the 200ml of cream per person, hmm...

So on Friday evening, with both smoked salmon and eggs that needed eating in my fridge I decided to have a stab at my own version...

Serves 2
200ml creme fraiche
200g smoked salmon, cut into ribbons
2 eggs, beaten
250g tagliatelle
2 or 3 cloves garlic, crushed (depends how strong you like it)
Parsley, chopped

1. Cook the pasta
2. Meanwhile gently fry the crushed garlic in a little olive oil.
3. Just as the pasta is ready, add the creme fraiche to the garlic and turn the heat up a little.
4. Drain the pasta and return to the pan but do not place back on the heat
5. Add the salmon ribbons to the creme fraiche and garlic
6. Stir the egg into the pasta, quickly and then straight away add the pasta to the salmon mixture.
7. Quickly stir everything together and turn out into big pasta bowls, topping with sprinkled parsley.
8. Serve ASAP and hope you haven't forgotten to buy Parmesan. Oh, black pepper is v good too.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Summer Shoes

Normally a big part of my start of Summer ritual is to get out my Summer shoes and put the Winter ones away. This year however, certain things, like the arrival of Bambino, mean that they didn't come out until quite recently.

But I am always struck when I undertake this task how many more Summer shoes I have than Winter ones, probably because I like them so much more. There tend to be more in bright colours, I think they're often more comfortable and since I favour sandal type shoes it feels great to be free of tights and socks.

The only thing is that despite being more comfortable not many of them are comfortable enough to be suitable for walking miles with a pram which is what I am trying to do at the moment. Quite frequently as well I grab for the nearest pair as we hurry out the door.

I shall have to make a real effort to make sure that all my favourites get at least one outing even if it's only in the back garden for the evening BBQ!!

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Still Summer Lovin'!

Another great thing about Summer? Fresh herbs in the garden anytime I need them to cook with. PJ has really got into gardening this year. Earlier in the year before Bambino arrived he and my dad put up a new fence in our front garden. There was seat type thing in the front garden that we were going to throw out and then someone, I think it was my mum, suggested that maybe it could be a shelf for plants. PJ took it apart, sanded off the rust, sprayed it black and hey presto, a shelf for herbs which also looks really nice.

Last year he was really only growing chili plants but this year besides the herbs we have carrots, radishes, corn, courgettes, horseradish and lettuces. It's really nice to walk out into the garden after Bambino's bath and pick a lettuce for our dinner.

We haven't cooked in the house for weeks now, just too hot. Had another BBQ tonight!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

A House Without Flowers...

I really love having flowers in the house but it's not really affordable to purchase some every week which is why it's lovely that when Summer comes along there's often flowers in our gardens which we can bring indoors.

Also, as a new Mummy it seems that everyone who comes to see me at the moment brings flowers which is just fabulous. Today my mantle piece has no less than 7 vases on it!

Most of them are quite small ones, I like to have have lots of little ones spread along the mantle piece ,(more on this another day) which at the moment are full of sweet peas and they smell divine. Now it's entirely down to my Mum that I am lucky enough to have all these because firstly she gave me this wonderful container, which you see on the right, and came round and planted it up for me a few weeks after Bambino was born. Secondly because while I've been watering her garden I have been bringing her sweet peas home!

I'm not particularly green fingered. I tend to leave that to PJ (hubby) but I think pretty much anyone could manage to plant one of these up and look after it, training the plant to climb the canes. And the good thing is that you have to cut the flowers to encourage more to grow!

Monday, 28 June 2010

Party Planning

In August we're having a Welcome to the World Party for Bambino. Since she seems to like the nursery rhyme "Twinkle, twinkle little star" I want to plan the party around this theme. But I've not found a lot of inspiration on the web yet.

There are lots of sites to help you plan a baby shower but very little for babies' welcome parties beyond obvious advice like "Decide who to invite, send invitations"!

We want to hold our party in the garden, in fact we have to. So far we've invited everyone who came to our wedding last year, 46 people, plus a few more! If it rains our house will be heaving! So I want to decorate the garden. Not easy on a maternity leave pay budget! Also all star related decoration tips that I've found like using fairy lights or candles aren't going to work for a daytime party! I am starting to have doubts about my theme, but it's sooo cute so I shall persevere.

Here are the best inspirations I have found so far...

The cake, from


The other thing I'm thinking about is buying a new printer because the one that I have is not very good and I want to design and print my own invitations for the party. I'm looking at a lovely wireless one which would be fab given that I never seem to be sat at my desk!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

More About Picnics!

So yesterday I mentioned The Battle Proms at Highclere Castle which we took our parents to last year and I planned a really special picnic for, all from recipes on the Internet...

Roast Chicken with Cous Cous & Pinenut Stuffing (Everyone liked this)
Crunch Chicken Strips
Roast Duck Plum Puffs (Hubby's favourite)
Smoked Salmon & Potato Tortilla
Prawn & Pancetta Spears
Coleslaw with Mustard Seed Dressing
Elderflower & Passionfruit Smoothie

But the real discovery was Malteasers Rocky Road Bars. They are so quick and easy to make but really delicious and everyone loves them. I have made them many times since and given my mum and mother in law the recipe! We now have to co ordinate when we're all going somewhere that a food contribution is required to make sure that we don't all take Rocky Road!

The concert itself was fabulous and we were very lucky with the weather as it had been drizzling all day! I can thoroughly recommend going, especially if you go with a bigger group. We'd probably be going again ourselves this year if it weren't for a diddy dot baby. Oh well, another time!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Perfect Picnic

The picnic was perfect. We sat in a field near Combe, but the pram top under the tree (bambino decided to nap eventually!) and watched para gliders trying to avoid the trees!

I'd like to pretend that our 'simple' picnic food is down to the fact that I have a baby to look after now but actually I don't normally put much of an effort in with picnics. There's so much fabulous food, prepared and ready to go, available from the supermarkets. On this occasion we just had some nice bread, pate, cheese, olives and crisps.

Last year when we took our parents to the Battle Proms at Highclere Castle as a "Thank you for helping with our wedding present" I did make quite an effort but there were six of us and it was a special occasion. I shall add a post about that another time.

Yesterday also gave us the opportunity to try out Bambino's new travel playmat, which I made for her. It's mainly black and white because these two contrasting colours are those that a baby can see most easily. The other side is red for when she's a bit older. It's just two circles (one is four quarters sewn together) with a thick piece of wadding between and then I added a 'rim' around the edge to keep toys inside. The rim was only two layers thick but it was too tall and too flimsy so I folded it over and tacked it down at various points to make it thicker. Next time (ha, if I make another) I might insert a thicker piece of material in between two layers. Anyway, it seems to do the trick and I made a drawstring bag for it big enough to add a couple of toys too.