Monday, 31 October 2011

Crafty DIY : Halloween Horrors

Happy Halloween everyone!!! I couldn't help myself! Last night, we introduced a few local bats into our caravan and made some slime to trap the bats, so much, that it started overflowing and was leaking out through the caravan door! And then my eyes popped out at the sheer volume of goo spilling out into the van.

Tonight we will be staying in, needless to say I doubt we will get any trick or treaters where we're living, but I will light the lanterns outside just in case.

Our menu for our tea this evening will be:

Worm Infested Fingers
(Frankfurter sausages poked with sticks of spaggetti and then boiled)

Main Course
Rotting Fleshy Eyeballs & Albino Bogies
(Meatballs with chickpeas in a spicy tomato sauce)
Roasted Brains & Maggots
(Roasted pumpkin in stir fried rice)

Wriggly Worms in Mud
(Childrens worm sweets in mashed up choclate cake)

Bat's Blood
(Pomegranate juice)

The green slime and bats have been a longstanding tradition in our house. I usually put the green slime on mirrors and window frames, but works quite well here, oozing out of the door. We just cut these out of green and black card, which only took a few minutes. You can hang the bats by a strand of hair, so thin that it looks like they are actually in mid air. Try to use hair that naturally drops out each day rather than attacking your own head.

Thanks to Martha Stewart, she inspired me to make these eyeball plastic glasses, which give an unexpected surprise at the bottom of the glass once you've drained your drink. Find some eyeballs on Google Images and print them out, cut them out and stick them with Pritt stick to the bottom of plastic glasses. Special thanks to the other half's mum for sponsoring our lovely mini surprised pumpkins (and our dinner with the leftovers of the pumpkins)!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Crafty DIY : Skull Garland for Halloween

Halloween. My second favourite time of year. Next only to Christmas. Halloween is such a great excuse to decorate the house with cobwebs and dead mice and spiders. Sometimes I can't tell the difference between having decorations up and the house being normal. The skeleton hanging in the lounge usually tells it apart.

We usually dress up and have a celebration of all things spooky or a dinner party with eerily named dishes. We ALWAYS have Dead Man's Hand - a potent concoction of various leftover spirits in the cupboard (nice pun, no?) and top it off with a dead man's hand poking out of the punch bowl. The dead man's hand is in fact a rubber glove filled with water and secured with an elastic band. Pop it in the freezer for at least four hours and as the guests arrive, remove the glove and drop the frozen hand into the punch bowl. The fingers will float upwards, witch (another one!) looks very creepy.

So you can imagine that this year I am gutted (nasty pun this one) that we won't be able to celebrate properly. However I couldn't resist completely and so have made a little garland with painted skulls using what I had to hand such as the underrated king of stationary - TippEx. Although do this craft with the window open, as the smell can be a little overwhelming.

Simply cut out circles of black card, paint your skulls (I'm fairly certain that ghostly white paint will do the trick (or treat) too). Cellotape the backs to some string or elastic and hang wherever you see fit.  Of corpse (Oh, I'm too good!) I will be carving a pumpkin to put out on Halloween as well. Enjoy your spooooooky parties this weekend, if you're not having a party, why not (trick or) treat yourself to a bowl of Dead Man's Hand?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Recipe : Cheeky Cottage Pie

I had never made Cottage Pie before, which I find quite starteling because it's a classic dish and very scrummy to boot. Perhaps part of me was frightened because I knew that I could never make it as nice as the other half's mum's version. So I created a variation of my own and added a little wine to make it a little bit cheeky.

Overall it was very well received, however I would personally omit the kidney beans, however the other half was adamant they should be left in, so I'll leave it to you to decide. And I would cut the carrots a little thinner too! The flavours of the wine and herbs really made it very scrummy though, so I will not be ashamed to cook it for the aforementioned award winning cottage pie expert.

Although there were quite a few ingredients, it was relatively simple to make and quite frankly, is best served straight after cooking so that the potatoes are still deliciously crispy. Reheating this dish makes the mince lovely and sticky, however the tats become a little softer. I cooked this at an elderly relatives house, and she had a pot of finely ground pepper, which I have not seen since I was a kid. But my goodness me, those tats on top come up beautifully when drizzled with a little oil and some ground pepper. Serve with a glass of Red wine to top it off.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Crafty DIY: Laminated Placemats

I came up with this idea a few years back when we were very hard up and had to decorate a Christmas table for 6 people without spending a fortune and it worked out so well, that all our place mats are now like this mainly because you can tailor them to your different colour schemes and seasonal themes and they are incredibly flat so very easy to store. They are also heat resistant, for warm plates at least.

Just raid the arts and crafts stores for your favourite kinds of papers. Thick card works well, as does some texture, however crinkle effects often get straightened out completely through the laminator. I chose a mixture of A4 iridescent green card and pearlised white paper and then created shapes out of the opposite colour and laid it on top before laminating.

You can pick up a laminator from most places for about £10-20, however one of my most prized possessions (I know, this fact is extremely goofy) is a brand new laminator that I picked up for £1 at a car boot sale - bargain! The wallets can be found fairly inexpensively at a good stationary store. Simply place your placemats-to-be into a laminating wallet and power that bad boy up. I warn you though, laminating becomes obsessive. Sooner or later, all signs surrounding you will get laminated, I guarantee it.

Once I had finished our new placemat set for the caravan, I put the scraps of paper back in the craft box and found some leftover doilies. I did warn you it can become obsessive. They came up lovely after laminating and look like plastic lace, so I popped them under our lamp and candles in the van as an easier way to clean off straying paw prints.


Friday, 21 October 2011

Canal Boat Adventures

We are lucky enough to have our very own Poon who lives on a canal boat and allows us to join him for adventures every so often. Seeing as the cat needs his medication every day and the rabbit hates to miss out, when we go, the whole family goes to. Poon is the other half’s cousin and an integral part to many of our adventures, be it land based or river bound. His name came to being from the bewildering depths of the other half’s mind. As did a few of these lovely photos shot at sunrise.

For all those single gals out there, the awesomeness that is Poon, is currently available. Intelligent, fun, handsome, and makes a mean curry. So if you know any awesome ladies who like adventures themselves (and preferably a love of all things Dave Mustaine) then please get in touch! Ok, enough of the pimping.

Poon’s canal boat is very cool, recently painted black and red on the outside with a serious A Team vibe going on. I guess Poon would be Face (notice how I am buttering him up…), the other half would be Hannibal with his incessant route planning/cruise controlling and well, I would be Murdock, constantly dancing, climbing and talking gibberish.  

Last weekend we had a great time pootling up and down the river in the last of the glorious remnants of summer. There are two things you should know about the Poon. The first is that he is mercilessly unphotogenic which is the cause of much hilarity in the family (even though in real life he is a handsome devil – more buttering up). And the second is that funny things just tend to happen to poor old Poon.

For example, his boat breaks down. A lot. And one time it broke down in the opposite way and would not stop, which caused much fun attempting to halt an unstoppable canal boat, without obviously the adrenaline rush associated with speed. You generally had enough time to make a brew and dunk a biscuit before having to pull her in. But that’s another story.

Poon tends to attract awkwardness, and we pity that, however the way he handles it always makes us rejoice. As an example, whilst cruising along the Thames with the pirate flag flying, a fellow boater asked if we could pretend that we were pirates and shout at his child for a joke, adding ‘he would absolutely love it’. So Poon enquired as to what the child liked and armed with this knowledge as we pulled away from their boat (at the same time the other half and I quickly jump down to the cabin to steal glances up above at Poon), he shouted at a perplexed child ‘Arrrrrr, give me all your cheese!’ Poon recovered very well after the child stared back at him completely unimpressed and  so instead took it out on us for hiding down below, whilst we were creasing ourselves with laughter.

Anyway, the main story today is titled 'the bashing of the branch'. As we cruise along the riverways, we have a little harmless fun at taking it in turns to distract the third whilst one of the others aims the boat towards the overhanging willow leaves, which can be quite a comedy moment as you unexpectedly encounter foliage all around you whilst the other members of the team timely duck whilst childishly giggling.

However on this particular occasion, the other half was flying solo and doing the distracting and the driving at the same time whilst I was reading in a low seat out of harm’s way. The usually oblivious Poon turned to realise just at the right moment that he was about to be had and quickly ducked whilst smirking some such nonsense about being a Jedi, only to jump up quickly amidst his smug grins just in time to have a sneaky low hanging branch thwack him on the forehead. Which to the other half’s credit and I quote ‘I can’t believe he was silly enough to miss that!’

This was bad enough, but the branch had also taken off his sunglasses causing an overdramatic plop in the water. The next problem was that this had all occurred unwittingly to us (at least for a moment) outside a pub garden full of smiling strangers enjoying their lazy afternoon in the sunshine. Their peace was shattered in this order – the sudden ducking, the laughing, the thwack on the head, the shriek of pain, the splash of the glasses, the telling off by me to the other half followed by awkward giggles from him mixed in with a generous dose of guilt. But to top off this entertaining scene was Poon, upright, proud and acting as though nothing had happened. And then the anger was unleashed after we had passed the punters by. The willow tree game has never been the same since. By the way, he still loves us and continues to invite us back, so no Poons were hurt in the making of this blog post. We love you Poon!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Crafty DIY : Homemade Christmas Cards

I know, I know, it’s a little early, but I thought I would crack on with some Christmas cards ready for posting in November seeing as Royal Mail are likely to strike at the critical time. That and I usually remember to send Christmas cards after the event, so there’s no harm in being prepared. Sorry in advance to all our friends and family as you now know what’s coming in the post!

There is a chain of reduced price book shops in the UK called The Works, but they also sell the cheapest craft items I have yet to find. A whole wealth of card making paraphernalia as well as art supplies and seasonal items. Perfect for stocking up for card making. However, as you all know, space is a little tight in the caravan, so I only bought a pack of different textured papers, some glistening jewels and a silver pen.

Making cards is easy, you just need to clear an hour or two of your time to prepare the decorations before sticking them down. You will need some pre-folded cards or even buy a pack of A4 card, fold it in half and use standard white envelopes - just jazz up the outsides with a potato stamp (like holly leaves for example) to make it look less official.

Have a play with different designs and layouts, I always find I settle on one or two designs that I love. Then it's easy as you can cut out several templates at one time and have a mini production line going on. Be sure to use decent glue if sticking heavier items such as plastic jewels, however good old Pritt Stick does the job with paper.

I normally use a homemade stamp for the backs of all my cards, however it's buried with the rest of our belongings so I might make a new one, which is very easy and fun to make. I might show you later on. Until then, ho ho ho and all that!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

What a Tune

I'm a big Florence and the Machine fan, not stalker big, but sing along on a requent basis big. So when a friend forwarded me a link to their new song, I was blown away and felt compelled to share it here. It's brilliantly beautiful. I am now VERY excited about the release of the rest of the album. Who knows, they might make it to stalker territory yet.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Taking a Moment

Today is the funeral of a very dear friend. We will miss her so much and wish she was still here to share our giggles. Even though we knew it was coming, it's still hard to believe. So today I will use someone else's words which I feel are more fitting than my own.

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there.
I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there.
I did not die.

Mary Frye

Monday, 17 October 2011

Crafty DIY : Chocolate Log Plate

We cook pretty much everything in the caravan with one big pot and one frying pan, oh and one very small baking tray. But occasionally we find we need something extra for serving, like chocolate logs, which we're eating a lot of recently...

With the woodlands nearby, I recently went foraging and found a small plank of wood. Having cleaned it up thoroughly, I then painted it with thick gloss paint (easy to clean) and created a make shift platter for our chocolate logs. It didn't take long and gave us a cheaper alternative to buying a new plate. So now we can serve up chocolate logs (accompanied by white chocolate buttons no less) even more frequently than before.

Bonjour Marie Jo! J'ai pensé je vous dirais cela ma petite culotte que 'the other half' a réparée enfin mort. C'était un jour triste.

Friday, 14 October 2011

A Little More Space!

Why do some people want to know what colour pants we put on in the morning? We’re one of three caravans on a large campsite, all dotted around, plenty of wide open space between each of us. So why on earth do some people rock up and whilst pointing at our little haven, say ‘hmmm, let’s park right next to them.’ That’s nice and all, but really 12 inches is not that much space between caravans and a little too cosy for my liking, as in psycho cosy. Why do they feel the need to hear their neighbours peeing in the middle of the night? Does it give them comfort to know they are not alone? It sends shivers down my spine. It really does.

Anyway, with that off my chest (thanks for listening), and now that we have moved campsites because of the winter closure, may I present to you our newest extension in the great big outdoors...a winter awning. It is on loan from my very kind folks. The awning, which I lovingly refer to as the conservatory allows us to have a lounge for the first time in months, so with the help of a little radiator and numerous candles, we will be able to continue to sit outside until it starts snowing. And the rabbit is happy too, no more gale force winds rocking his hutch and spilling his oh so precious food pellets.

My folks did however, manage to bring back a delectable selection of poles, not all of them to fit this particular awning, so as with most things in our world, it’s a little wonky, but we don’t mind one bit. It suits us down to the ground sheets. And it provides hours of entertainment whilst we all jump to attention spilling our wine as the cat and the rabbit relentlessly test the perimeter boundaries for escape routes. Except now we have installed the high tech fencing as seen above.

It does mean however that we lose our little garden, but with the weather really passing borderline autumnal some time ago, we have decided to help our plant pots migrate back to the other half’s folks house, where they will be able to snuggle down for the winter.

Other than the new camping lounge chairs (how cool are these? You’re right, they are off the scale!), the interior only cost a few quid to throw together – the rug and lamp, we already had stored, the silver log table I made a while back seen here, the table in the middle is a wooden barrel  planter turned upside down with a wooden tray on top, the fairy light heart is homemade seen here and the net curtains (glamorous, no?) were originally one piece bought from a charity shop for £2 and cut into strips.

Oh, and the lantern – my new love from the Range. Sometimes you stumble upon something and you feel that if you walk away from it, then a little piece of your heart will remain there until the end of time, so I bought it. And love it.

The rabbit hutch in the corner is of course optional, if you prefer a quiet life, I would leave it at home if you’re off on your adventures. If you roll like us, and the pets are more like family members then you will understand that relaxation goes out the plastic windows. All this would not be worth it though without the morning hunger meows from the cat and the frustrated paper shredding from the ravenous rabbit. It's going to weird when we do finally live in a house again - so much space!