Thursday, 30 August 2012

Crafty DIY : Coffee Stencil

Like a child, I love it when the coffee arrives with a stencilled design on the top in cocoa. The excitement is close to the moment a sparkler takes the flame. So I thought I would create a little magic and a stencil for home and quite honestly, when I get a moment I'm going to be making a few more designs too. Messy, but fun.

As a self-confessed laminatoraholic, I laminated a sketch of some leaves and then placed a mug over the stencil design and marked a circle around the outside to cut out (so that the stencil sits firmly over the mug without falling in). Then I set to work, cutting out the leaf design with a craft knife.

To spruce up your frothy coffee, place the round stencil on top of your mug (the design is much clearer if the froth is right up to the edge of the mug - learnt that the hard way, still love it though). Gently sprinkle a little cocoa powder or chocolate sprinkles, remove the stencil and wow your guests after dinner time.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Crafty DIY : Chocolate Leaves

Chocolate leaves. A very pretty and easy way to turn a plain pudding into a decadent dessert. Simply gather a few desired leaves from the garden (make sure they're not poisonous - I used fuchsia leaves) and carefully wash them. Next melt your chocolate in the microwave in 30 second bursts. You may notice that these leaves are a little rough around the edges. This is because I used what was in the house - white bubbly chocolate, so it didn't melt completely smooth. Should you use a finer milk or dark chocolate, your edges will look a great deal smoother, but I'm happy with a little wonkiness.

Take a small, clean paint brush and carefully paint the melted chocolate onto the back of the leaves, right up to the edge of each leaf. Resist the urge to paint your tongue and keep any chocoholics at bay throughout the duration of this DIY. Once finished, lay the leaves on a chopping board covered in foil and refrigerate for roughly half an hour. Gently peel your leaves away from the chocolate, leaving behind the pretty veins. Decorate your pud as you wish - I made these to pretty up some chocolate marshmallows. Or store in the fridge until you need to use them. And then let the chocoholic back in to clean the bowl. Or be selfish and do it yourself.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Loving the Garden Cinema

Cor, every warm evening (alright, that's not that frequent in Kent), we're hooked on the outdoor cinema. It's so much fun and so nice sitting outside. Originally posted here, we learnt from our mistake (picking a dodgy Brit rom com) and are now watching action films which work out very well on the big screen, I mean spare sheet. We finally managed to get our cube lights working again, so thought I would post a couple more pictures of our little homemade cinema in the garden, as they really do make it. And the popcorn.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Crafty DIY : Glass Bowl Display Ideas

Many thrilling charity shop adventures have left me with a few glass fish bowls and containers, so I thought I would post some ideas of what you can use them for if you find yourself drawn to these sorts of glass goodies too. Our household is supposed to work on a one in, one out policy, but quite frankly, I very rarely throw anything away and if it's past it's use by date, I usually turn it into something else. So instead I have become sneaky with where I hide my acquisitions when they're not in use - thank goodness for our massive attic.

I shall sort these in order of most difficult - first up, a simple succulent terranium. Take a glass bowl, give it a clean, drop some gravel in the bottom (mine was stolen from the back garden), make a well, pop in your chosen succulent plant (also stolen from the garden), tidy up your gravel, make a cup of tea. Water sporadically and you have rather a nice centrepiece. Perfect as a gift too.

Right then, the next one, a giant hurricane lamp. But only if you can handle another tough step by step. Take a glass bowl, give it a clean, drop in some sand (decorative sand is great, play sand is fine too), wedge in a church candle, make a cup of tea.

And lastly, a simple vase. Take a glass bowl, give it a clean, pour in a little water, drop in your favourite bloom, celebrate your triumph this time with a glass of wine, hell, you deserve it. Good work.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Crafty DIY : Simple Pebbles in a Bowl

Naturally energetic and excitable, my favourite pastime often comes as a bit of a surprise - beach combing. I could literally spend hours (and often do) scouring the beaches for a myriad of natural treasures and then taking mini steps back to the car having laden every conceivable bag, pocket and woolly hat available. On my birthday and as our first activity together as an engaged couple (alright, quit your puking), we went beach combing in Cornwall. I usually weigh the car down with the most amazing slabs of slate destined for the garden, but this time we explored virgin territory and found a cove which was littered with stunning pebbles broken with white lines.

They obviously came home with us and have been used for a number of displays, this one however is as simple as it gets - dropped in a wooden bowl. It can't help but look stylish and funky. The larger pebbles are also brilliant for weighing down napkins too. Cor, might just have to head to the beach again soon, I can feel a shell project coming on or maybe a driftwood mirror...we'll see.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Crafty DIY : Outdoor Cinema

We’ve had an interesting month. It started off with our energy supplier mistaking us for small fission factory. They sent us a bill for a rather extortionate amount of money on top of our monthly contributions. So instead of re-mortgaging the house, we decided to shut down the science lab in the basement and live quietly for the next few months instead. Which has been rather fun. We’ve had to get creative with what’s left in the freezer and most of our summer plans have been abandoned in favour of finding free things to do instead, which quite honestly is pretty much how we roll anyway. So life actually isn’t that much different except we had a moment when we seriously considered hooking the bike up to the fuse box. Turns out pedal power provides diddly squat in the grand scheme of things. Don’t try that at home.

So anyway, with a weekend planned at home in the garden and enjoying the warm evenings, I surprised the other half by rigging up an outdoor cinema – except I needed him to drill a hole, so had to tell him my plan before the grand unveiling. I saw this stunning picture a while back and thought well, we have everything to hand, let’s do this. We dragged our garden sofa over, whipped the sheet off the spare bed and hung it with screws, weighted down with stones, lit a few hurricane lamps, borrowed the projector from work and rigged it up to the laptop. Throw in some popcorn and strawberry milkshakes and you’re onto a winner.

This took minutes to set up and it is soooo worth it. Cinema in your back garden? Awesome. It is a totally different experience. There’s no mobile phones, no nattering, no loud eaters, there are stars, cosy blankets (well, that’s not new, I always take a blankie with me to the cinema), comfy cushions, side tables and if you’re very lucky the occasional bat or disillusioned moth flies by. Cat and rabbit snuggling in are optional. The only drawback is the occasional nearby bark and you have to be careful when choosing what to watch.

We were recommended Confetti (thanks for that Shell) seeing as we’re getting married. I thought a nice British romantic comedy would be fine, as in no loud explosions to make the neighbours think we’re under attack. I fear that Confetti was much, much worse than any action adventure I could have picked instead. The Brits can be quite reserved, so we were not expecting full frontal nudity. Nor were we expecting to see a variety of jiggly bits quite that often throughout the hour and a half either.

Don’t get me wrong, it was hilarious, but if you just happened to close your bedroom window or lean out to admire the bats, you would be mistaken for thinking that you’re neighbours had rather questionable taste in viewing pleasure. They probably saw the candles, the blankets and the 3 foot jiggly bits and thought we were up to something else. I didn’t relax during this film as I half expected the coppers to turn up. So much for innocent wedding related comedies. I think we'll stick to explosions next time.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

A Little Garden Inspiration

We recently spent a weekend in Arundel, one of my most favourite places and a familiar old haunt. It was one of those days when the weather forecast was spot on with its predicted heavy showers. Let's all agree that these days the weatherman is rarely looking out the window when he makes his predictions, so in the UK this is not an authoritative figure to pay any attention to. So we risked it and set out on our seven mile hike. However this day, he was right.

We enjoyed it for a while, the refreshing sploshes on our warm faces, that lovely summer rain scent, the fun flowing paths created as it became heavier, the beautiful spot we found under bright new beech leaves. And then our shelter broke and the rain started to come through. Drop. By. Drop. There are only so many times you can play I Spy trying to take your mind off that trickle down your back. So we eventually decided to just go for it and walked back in the rain, having a go at sheep herding along the way. Don't ask.

Luckily we had the last of our Tesco clubcard vouchers (say what you will, but thank goodness for Tesco, otherwise we would never eat out) and headed into town to the local Prezzo. They shook their heads saying they were full up even though there were many spare tables calling us over. Fairplay, we realise that sopping wet hobos in walking boots aren't exactly their target market audience, but we begged and they graciously let us sit outside, away from the paying punters who took the liberty to dress up for a night out.

It turned out to be pretty awesome as we were the only fruit cakes happy to be outside and risk the weather. We had the place to ourselves and although the poor waitress had a bit of a trek to get to us, we were well looked after and that bottle of wine went down very well. That salad was pretty darn tasty too! We took a few snaps as the garden was really well designed (check out those cool privacy screens) and could certainly work on a smaller level outside our bar in the garden. Is there a new project on the horizon? I hope so :)

Monday, 13 August 2012

A Big Shout Out to the Brits!

To all those reading this from the UK, put your hands up in the air and shout a quick whoop whoop (mouth it silently if you're in the office). For this weekend, we should all be proud to be part of Team GB. Hell, even if you're not from the UK, stick your hands up and whoop anyway! Plus, the sunshine came out - for a WHOLE weekend. That meant raiding the garden for some pretty summer flowers, taste testing our new plum tree and cracking open some very British G&T's whilst listening to Five Live. Lovely jubbly most certainly.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Recipe : Salmon & Seaweed Sushi

I'm ashamed to say I made sushi for the first time ever without my Japanese friend, who is probably reading this shouting at her screen 'What are you doing?!' But I found all the ingredients in the supermarket and thought, well that might be a bit of fun to make on our weekend away in the caravan. And it was! It's very easy and I love making meals you get to play with and this was certainly one of those.

They turned out a little wobbly the first few times, but it gets easier. I'm sure there are lots of better ways to prepare sushi, but this worked for me. I made mine rather large, so we were pretty full rather early on. We were staying on a rather dubious campsite at the time, getting ready for a wedding so as the neighbours glanced over to see us making sushi in our finery, we cheerfully waved and took the sushi prep indoors. One did not want to come back to one's upturned caravan with the chandelier ripped out.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Living it up on the Orient Express

I'm sure most of you are aware by now that the other half is a bit of a train goof. He didn't stand a chance really, what with train spotters for a father and a grandfather, it was pretty inevitable. So for an early wedding present we were both very, very lucky and treated to a wonderfully lavish day on the Orient Express to York and back. What. A. Day.

My goodness me, what an experience, you truly are treated like royalty from the second you arrive. The whole team are friendly and welcoming, and although the experience has an emphasis on posh, it's all very relaxed and fun. The posh side of it covers tea from fine porcelain, caviar for breakfast, champagne for your trip home and the complete silver service to boot.

We stopped in York for a few hours and managed to squeeze in a tour of York Minster, which has the largest collection of original stained glass in Europe, most of it dating back to the 1300's. The Shambles are worth a look too if you get the chance - beautiful old buildings overhanging the streets, adorning your path with bucketfuls of character. York really is a gorgeous little town to explore and the Orient Express, well, what can I say other than amazing.

The food was mind-blowingly tasty, course after course just kept arriving, the next more beautifully presented than the last. In fact I let my true colours shine through by asking for a doggie bag for my last two courses as I had already discretely unzipped my dress hours previously to accomodate a little more space. I'm pleased to say I provided a little light entertainment as I wrapped my leftovers in foil and placed these little parcels of joy into a rather beautiful VSOE bag. Classy.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Recipe : Quinoa Pizza Bites

Have you discovered quinoa yet? Its pronounced kin-wah and we discovered it on our detox as a low fat and gluten free alternative to rice and pasta. It’s particularly good mixed with mint sauce and a fried onion and shredded chicken. But today we look at quinoa’s playful side.

As I trawled the interweb for new and exciting ways to use these little cheeky little seeds, I found this recipe over here which turned out to be a lovely surprise as the other half loves pizza and I love healthier alternatives that are less stodgy. These little quinoa bites turned out brilliantly, very, very tasty on their own  or dipped in the tomato sauce. When asked for his opinion, the other half replied ‘they’re damn good, but as far as tricking me into thinking they’re pizza, you should know better than that.’ Fairplay.