Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Crafty DIY : Pinecone Wreath

From when we first met, the other half wooed me by starting up pinecone wars on our romantic country walks. Who can resist a cheeky chappy darting out from behind a tree pelleting you with cones? That naughty little grin won me over every time. And don't worry, although my aim may be a little out, at point blank range I do ok to hold my ground. But pinecones have another use, a more festive use without eye injuries -  the classic Christmas wreath.

For this project I cut a ring out of a cardboard box as our front door is under cover, but if you don't have that luxury, use a wire ring from a florist to avoid a soggy cardboard mess. after immense fun getting the whole family involved in collecting pinecones a few months back, I  let them completely dry out and then spray painted them silver. Next, I attached each one to the cardboard ring with thin wire, embedding the wire into the folds of the cones so that it was mostly hidden. Using a door hanger from the pound shop, we had ourselves a nice little wreath to adorn our door.

Incidentally if you are thinking about starting a pinecone war on your next country walk, whip out the old goggles. Not only does this show your opponent you mean business, the eye injuries vastly reduce too. Bonus.


Friday, 7 December 2012

Crisp Winter Sunrise

7.30am on a weekend is always a much more magical time than the ominous 7.30am on a work day. This particular morning I woke up very excited about the weekend ahead of us crammed with fun, festive activities like a Christmas candlelit parade, an outdoor carol concert, a craft fair, mulled wine and ginger cookies, decorating the tree and putting the lights up outside (doesn’t get much better than that). So I grabbed the camera and after wrapping up in seven layers of clothing and adding earmuffs, hat, scarf, gloves and mittens to the mix, I was suitably dressed like the Michelin man and so stepped outside.
The crisp cold air hit my lungs with such impact that I had to draw a deeper breath, but wow, the light outside was a gorgeously mystical pink glow, the frost made a satisfying crunch under my feet and the birds seemed to rejoice at the sight of the sun as much as me. Except I wasn’t singing in a high pitched manner you understand.  It was wonderful just standing there watching the sun very gradually rise above the trees. I can recommend taking a moment every now and then to just be still (mostly unheard of in my world), mainly because it makes that first cup of hot coffee on such a chilly morning so very, very welcome! 


Thursday, 6 December 2012

Crafty DIY : Felt Christmas Star Decorations

Oooooohhh. Christmas is close, are you getting that tingling excitement yet? I did have plans to make Christmas easier on us this year as we’re saving for the wedding and rushing around like festive fruit cakes, but I couldn’t help myself and now I’ve gone and planned an eight course meal for the big day. Ooops.
But, Christmas shouldn’t be easy right? Where’s the fun in putting your feet up? Although that cosy, candlelit pub with the big oak table and roaring log fire and perfectly crisp chardonnay keeps calling our names. As does the snug little tea shop with the scrumptious homemade carrot cake and red spotty tea pots. So I guess we should make some time for relaxing, it’s only polite.
So I’m not making too much this year but this simple decoration took a matter of minutes. The beaded star is made by threading on beads to a thin wire and bending back each time to make the angles of the star and then bending the wire at the end to secure. Next, cut out two stars from the felt, one slightly smaller than the other. Sew them together with a wide length stitch in cotton and remember to sew in the looped ribbon to hang it by. Attach the beaded star with a stitch at each point of the star. Hang on tree.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Crafty DIY : Moustache Straws

As Movember draws to a close, I become melancholy at the thought of my colleagues shaving each of their bushy wonders as a month's worth of facial hair growth has produced some rather dashing efforts in the moustache department - from the comedy to the obscene. All in the name of charity, such a wondrous effort. But I with sleep easy knowing that these little bad boy moustache straws can be made in a fraction of the time and do not come with the usual hindrances such as catching debris or the relentless urge to stroke them.

Simply draw your own on card or print the moustache template below and use a hole punch to make a hole just right to push through your straw. Everyone can get involved - children need not wait for puberty and woman need not wait for middle age, they can wear a tash whenever the moment takes them and join in with their men folk.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Crafty DIY : Larder Makeover

Ok, this may be a bit of a goofy post, but our kitchen larder (or is it a pantry?) was in desperate need of a makeover. Things were getting out of hand. My recipe books and files were taking up most of the room at the back, food was just getting wedged in any old gap, if you were lucky, and I always had to be available if the other half was cooking because he didn’t stand a chance of finding that elusive bottle of soya sauce on his own. It was turning into a mind map that only I could navigate. So I felt a larder restyle was in order.
Hugely inspired by this stunning kitchen cupboard, one quiet afternoon I emptied all the shelves onto the kitchen surfaces which was met with disapproving looks from the other half upon his arrival home. The next part was pretty grimy as I tugged up sticky and soiled floral wallpaper shelf lining revealing bare wood underneath (hurray, something easy to paint on).


Then I painted the walls with grey emulsion and the shelves and door with white gloss. I actually left everything to dry for a week to be thorough and avoid smells and tacky patches. In the meantime, I organised our larder contents into boxes, baskets, tins and jars, all of which I had around the house. That long, small shelf with the tins? Well that’s an old red CD rack with the holders ripped out and repainted, turned on its side and fitted with various clean tins I found in the recycling bin.

The herbs hamper once housed an exciting dinner at a race event. That homemade egg basket was a gift. The glass jars were either Asda specials or charity shop finds. All the baskets have been collected over the years from car boots and jumble sales. I stored all the obvious things at the front and moved all of the tins and bulky items to the back where they are still accessible but not on display spoiling the uncluttered feel. I found a new home for the recipe books and now they're easy to get at too - bonus!
The inside of the door had been used for photos which were getting a little gnarled at the edges, so I framed my two favourite pictures from when we first moved in and added hooks for a small set of drawers (for food colouring and stock cubes) and my favourite chopping board and recipe book holder. Next was the fun job of eventually piling it all back in again, it was like a great big jigsaw puzzle to figure out. I labelled everything on display with printed card labels attached with either sticky tabs (to the baskets) or spray glue (for the tins). They will probably one day get laminated to avoid them looking tatty.
This makeover has worked a treat, a TREAT I tell you. I am no longer frightened to venture inside and the other day I walked through the kitchen, arms laden with washing. The other half was cooking. He turns and opens the larder door as I hold my breath and freeze on the spot. He retrieves what he wanted, closes the door and resumes cooking. Cue little dance before I drop the wash load into the machine. A glorious moment and with that I poured myself a little glass of wine to celebrate. Oh, it’s the little things in life J


Monday, 19 November 2012

Amazing Beach Hut on Sleds

This beachside shack is just stunning, I literally gazed at the original post and then scrolled to the top and started all over again. This routine carried on for quite some time. This innovative wooden structure is mounted on sleds, movable by tractor and spends its time overlooking a stunning New Zealand beach and seascape. There are more glorious pictures here at the drawl-worthy Desire to Inspire. The original design is from Crosson Clarke Carnachan Architects - sheer brilliance. I will now spend the rest of the commute home this evening dreaming about finding a bit of beach somewhere to create our own little piece of genius.




Monday, 12 November 2012

Crafty DIY : Hand Painted Sign

With only eight months to go, the wedding preparations are in full swing. Any spare moment is taken up with speed spray painting or hurried paper folding or manic machining of the bunting. Oh, the bunting – 150 metres to date. It sounds a lot right? It all fits into a small carrier bag. Weird and slightly disappointing. Anyway, many of the things we are making for our homemade wedding cannot be shown here yet as that would spoil the surprise, no? But there are certain things that I have been working on that have been designed to complement our home before and after the wedding so that they can be enjoyed for more than just the big day. Like this hand-painted AMUSEMENTS sign.

I used an old laminated shelf from the bar (when it used to be a plain ol’ shed), but you can use any bit of wood you happen to have. I gave it three coats of satin white. Having taken the dimensions, I created the text to fit the area, printed off the letters and used this method here to draw around the letters leaving an impression on the old shelf which I could then paint without it running over the edges. I chose greys, black and yellow (I am loving yellow at the moment – I’m having fun adding little splashes of yellow to the lounge, will post more details soon). I decided to paint the ‘U’ and ‘ME’ in yellow, well, because I am in fact a massive goofball and love a bit of romance, and hey it’s for the wedding, so I don’t need to be ashamed!

I painted the edges in black gloss – I can hear my mum shouting all the way from France “Use a ruler, ZoĆ«” – no such luck matey, the wobbly edge is there to stay (although truth be told I really should have masked it off for a nice crisp line). I chose the word AMUSEMENTS because this is going to be a big part of our wedding day, but that’s the only clue you’re getting.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Places to Visit - Badgers in Chilham

If you’re local to Kent, I can highly recommend taking a trip to Chilham, not only to wonder around this beautiful Tudor village boasting a snug little tearoom and welcoming real ale pubs all off the main square, but to visit Badgers on the main road through. Badgers is a small and friendly garden centre who offer cream teas in the cafe, the most wonderful cake displays and ploughman’s lunches to boot as well as a delightful gift and trinket shop and the most inspiring outdoor collection of shabby chic seating, weathered statues, rustic furniture and vintage garden finds – great fun to explore and I always come away with lots of ideas.  

The best bit though? No, not the local cider, although that is good. The grounds are home to many different sorts of wildlife from pot-bellied pigs and rheas to wallabies and capybaras. Not to mention the constant stream of ducks and chickens wandering by. You can visit for free and kids absolutely love it. Ok, you got me, I absolutely love it. Badgers is a real gem in the Kentish countryside, be sure to check it out if you can.






Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Trip to the Beach

On a roadtrip recently to the South Coast, we stopped off at Selsey beach to do a little beach combing for driftwood and blimey, what a bleak day it was. Wrapped up in ear muffs and mittens, we scoured the beach for treasures that we might be able to reuse for the wedding. The other half was happy skimming stones whilst I searched the pebbled slopes with my lovely matey Lou. We also stumbled upon this rather sad, yet sinister looking squid which had ended up on top of a groin. Its melancholy discovery played into the hands of the moody skies and left us all feeling a little creeped out on our walk home. Nothing that a cup of tea couldn't fix though.



Monday, 5 November 2012

Recipe : Gruesome Meatloaf Hand

Ok, I know Halloween is over, but I had to share this. It was so gross (looking not tasting)! It actually tasted very good. And thanks to NotMartha's many attempts, I was able to put her advice to good use and hit jackpot first time! The meatloaf recipe I adapted from here. This was very easy, simply make the meat mix, mould into hands and slather in ketchup and cheese for the appearance of seared flesh. The result was deliciously disgusting and the perfect meal for Halloween.

Add your favourite herbs and spices to the meaty mix, use onions for nails and the wrist bone for extra gruesome credits. I have seen this lots of places served on a bed of mashed potato, but the salad leaves work equally as well, especially with this dressing. Oh what a shame to go back to bog standard dishes for mealtime. No writhing maggot dishes just plain old rice, or wiggly worm colonies, simply noodles instead. Ho hum.



Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Recipe : Halloween Graveyard Dirt

Need a quick Halloween pudding? You thought the mutilated finger biscuits were easy? It gets easier. Grab some chocolate cake, any old cake. Several if you like. We often freeze cake leftovers, these will do. Mash it all up in a bowl. Squirt chocolate sauce all over (we use the ones for ice cream). Mash it up a little more. Stick some plastic skeleton parts in strategic places (these ones were 50p from Asda) and voila, you have yourself a quick Halloween dessert aptly named Graveyard Dirt. By far, the most popular spooky pudding we have ever served, it was literally inhaled.


Monday, 29 October 2012

Recipe : Creepy Halloween Fingers

Oh, the joys of baking disgusting things. Not the taste you understand, these almond finger biscuits are yummy scrummy. And, incidentally, go very well with a cup of tea. No, I mean disgusting to look at so that you have to work up the courage to take a mouthful. Halloween - whoop! These are so simple and the other half did an amazing job with the bloody ends. We served them under a glass dome, which gave our dining room the feel of a mad scientists pad.

If you're making these for a party, you can make them in advance as they keep for a while, just remember to pop them in an airtight container or even an old converted sweet tin works. You could even serve them poking out from under a clean napkin, so that when guests pull the fingers out, they get a nasty surprise. Nasty.



Friday, 26 October 2012

Crafty DIY : Host a Halloween Dinner

Recently we said goodbye to a couple of our beloved friends as they set off on a new adventure on the other side of the planet, lucky pair. Seeing as fancy dress has been a theme throughout our relationship, what better way to see them off than dressed as a skeleton and a massacred builder. They obliged by dressing as Edward Scissorhands and the creepy girl from The Ring (AWESOME homemade costumes - top marks folks). So it only seemed natural to bring Halloween forward and host an intimate spooktastic meal complete with mutilated fingers and pumpkin vomit.

The table was dressed with an old black tablecloth, we hung skeletons and spiders all around the room and draped a rubber snake around a candelabra. The room was lit only by fairy lights and masses of candles setting the mood and I printed out a simple menu for the table, giving a sneaky little preview into the delights planned for the evening meal. WARNING - look away now if you are easily offended, in particular by the word gonads. Ooops. Too late.