Archives for category: Decor

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Everytime someone whinges “but it’s not even December”, an elf loses their sense of purpose, and gets turned out into the cold. Help save jobs in Santa’s Workshop by keeping the festive spirit alive! Forget S.P.E.W…that’s so 1994. Elves of today have a new campaign and slogan – Christmas should be forever, not just once a year. ūüėÄ

Yes, I know…I’ve gone a bit OTT, but people can bah-humbug me all they like. I’m still not going to change; I just love Christmas. I was making plans for this occasion even before Halloween had been and gone…Actually, I probably started as early as spring when I went looking for pine cones during our nature rambles.

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Early May saw us at Spring Wood in Walley which was practically covered in gorgeous bluebells. Quite by coincidence, it also had a lot of pine trees in the vicinity…The ground was full of pine cones, much to my delight. If you live in Lancashire, another great place to gather pine cones would of course be Beacon Fell.

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I wish I’d thought of bringing a bag or basket with me because I could only carry the cones in my coat pockets. They were very large and deep pockets though, so I did collect enough pine cones for craft purposes. The little branch that some of them were attached to could come in useful for another project, so I took that home with me as well.

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As it’s my first time working with pine cones, I had to do some research on how to prep them. According to various online sources, there are a number of methods. However, a vinegar bath seems to be the popular choice. Mostly because it not only cleans them, but also kills any bugs that may be hiding within. It will stink the room out as well, but that can’t be helped! ūüėõ

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It’s advisable to grab a pair of tweezers so you can remove any visible debris before doing anything else. There’s probably all sorts of muckiness trapped in the scales. After that, put the pine cones in a bucket or large bowl. Mixing the solution is not an exact science, but it’s roughly two parts water and one part white vinegar.

Leave the cones to soak for about 20 minutes or so. You might want to weigh them down with a small dish as they tend to float to the top, and the cones need to be completely submerged in order to be cleansed thoroughly.

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As you can see, the pine cones close up when wet, but this is normal, so no need to panic. They open up again once dry. From here onwards, there are two ways you can proceed. Either lay them out on some old newspapers or a towel, and let them dry naturally, or use your oven.

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I am not certain if there’s a difference in the outcome if you opt to do it either way, but I have heard that airing cones can take a few days, whereas the oven gives a much quicker result. Plus, it has the added benefit of further bug-proofing your cones.

As I was impatient, I put them in the oven on the highest setting and took them out after about 45 minutes. It was probably a little too long as a few of the cones turned darker. I didn’t mind so much as some of them will get painted eventually, but for future reference, I’ll take the cones out after half an hour, or turn the heat down.

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When the pine cones are dry, it is recommended that you coat them with some sort of clear varnish in order to preserve them. The smaller cones were quite brittle, so the lacquer did help slightly in keeping the ends from flaking off. I am not keen on gloss, so it was a matt spray that I used. You can’t really tell from the photo above, but the pine cones that I sprayed have a smooth sheen as compared to the ones in the tin trough which have no varnish on them, since I will be painting those at a later date when making some of my Christmas ornaments.

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Pine cones fully sanitised and glazed, I could finally relax and enjoy a small batch of truffles I made earlier. What could be more Christmassy than chocolate? Truffles are a simple treat to make, whether for yourself, or friends and family.

The recipe is pretty forgiving as not a lot can go wrong…It’s basically ganache that has been allowed to set, rolled into little balls, and coated in ground nuts, cocoa, or any other ingredients you like. To make these, I used:

150gm Dark Chocolate – Chopped
150ml Double (or Whipping) Cream
25gm Unsalted Butter

Melt the butter in the cream until the mixture begins to simmer. Then pour it into a bowl with the chopped chocolate. Keep stirring until the chocolate melts and blends smoothly with the cream. If you want to add other flavours, such as coffee or Amaretto, now would be the time to do so.

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Let it the ganache set in the fridge for a few hours (it took four hours in my fridge). You’ll know it’s ready when the little balls keep their shape after you’ve rolled them in your hands. The first one I made sank into a sort of squishy blob, so back into the fridge the ganache went.

I used unsweetened cocoa and ground almonds to finish off my truffles, but you could also try dipping them in milk chocolate or desiccated coconut. After coating them, I left my truffles to chill in the fridge overnight so they could solidify further. I am not sure what the shelf life would be for homemade truffles, but that might not be much of a concern…If your family is anything like mine, it won’t be 24 hours before they’re all gone.



In other news…

Processed with MOLDIVI’m very happy to say that the relaunch of my Etsy shop is going well, and I have made quite a few sales since opening it a couple of weeks ago. As a gesture of appreciation, all customers will receive complimentary gifts of either sweets or scented tealights, along with a small discount for their next purchase. Thank you all for your support…It’s been awesome! ūüôā


It’s been a long time coming, but my Etsy store will soon be re-opening. Back on sale will be the previously mentioned DIY Spa Foot Scrub Kit, which (as can be seen on the postcard above) has gone way past its prototype stage, and was trialled awhile back with great success…It really was a pleasant surprise when all the kits sold out as quick as they did, despite the lack of any publicity beyond word-of-mouth amongst my own social circle.

There will also be a couple more new items, including this Chalkboard Door Hanger Gift Set, which would make a great present for kids, and a perfect stocking filler. I gave one to my daughter last year, and faster than you can say “YouTube”, she’d personalised it with her own ‘On Air’ sign to keep us from knocking on her door when she’s busy vlogging. Oh, how quickly they grow up!


As yet, I haven’t got a specific ETA for when all the products will be ready to make an appearance. However, it’ll only be a matter of weeks, and definitely in time for Christmas orders, so as they say…watch this space! ūüėé


Money might not be able to buy you happiness, but as a cousin of mine used to say, it can buy lots of things that will make you happy! ūüėÄ

The last year or so, I‚Äôd been regularly dosing myself with little bursts of joy in the shape of monthly subscription boxes, but the trouble with them (since their contents are usually meant to be a mystery until receipt) is that they can be a bit hit-and-miss. Every now and then, when you get a lovely surprise in the post, it‚Äôs like Christmas come early, but on other occasions, you find yourself faced with a bundle of disappointment. Still, there’s always the option to recycle anything you’re not so keen on as a present for someone else whose taste or lifestyle runs different to yours. You‚Äôd have at least saved yourself the expense of forking out for that year‚Äôs Secret Santa, so it‚Äôs a win-win.

As I don‚Äôt tend to use cosmetics often, I could see a lot of products going to waste if I subscribed to the likes of Birchbox or Glossybox since both are too beauty-specific. For me, the ideal box would contain a broad selection of items. Back then, the best one that fit this description was from PopSugar. Unfortunately, it was (and still is) far too expensive. Plus, it doesn’t deliver to the UK, which means it’s basically no good to me at all. However, as these subscriptions grew in popularity, an assortment of boxes began to appear on the scene, from those specialising in geek collectables, to the ones curating samples of whisky.


The first one I tried out was Fancy Box, but after the initial excitement had worn off, I realised that most of the stuff I’d been sent seemed to be overstock they were trying to get rid of. By this time, Birchbox had started to include in their repertoire other things apart from toiletries and make-up, but the range was limited so I continued to um and ah.

Then everything changed when I came across My Little Box. At ¬£14.95 (including postage), it ticked all the right boxes: affordable, great quality, wonderfully packaged and best of all, a wide variety of unique products – Lifestyle, Fashion Accessories, Gadgets, F&B, Home Decor, and some were even Craft-related. Each month’s box also had a theme that came with its own mini magazine.

I wish I‚Äôd kept up-to-date with my blog as not a month went by when I wasn‚Äôt pleased with the delivery from My Little Box…literally everything was worth posting about, so it’s a good job I took lots of photos which I’m happy to share.

Sadly, and with great regret, I had to put a temporary stop to my subscription, but that was due to personal circumstances at the time, and not because I’d found fault with My Little Box. Not one to despair (for too long), I soon embraced other alternatives by signing up to social marketing campaigns. The outcome can be intermittent I’ll grant you, but these methods cost nothing more than completing a few short surveys and/or posting reviews. I was initially a little concerned that this would attract more spam to my inbox, but it’s been a few months in and what I feared has not materialised.

So, if like me you’re not averse to treats (well, we all need a pat on the back just for getting through life, don’t we?!) but are far from being besties with your bank manager, I highly recommend joining a couple of these perfectly safe #GotItFree sites:

bzzagent.co.uk and triyit.co.uk

I have been successful with BzzAgent so far, and turned into a five-year-old ripping open a giftbox as soon as my first freebies arrived – bottles of Dove Shampoo and Conditioner, both full-sized.

In return, all I had to do was post my thoughts on how I got on with the products, but that takes hardly anything out of me since I’m already in the habit of frequently sharing my (solicited or otherwise!) opinions online. The other discovery club Triyit is still in its pre-launch phase, but I received an invite yesterday, so fingers-crossed I will qualify for a box at some point next week.


For those of you who are pretty active on social media and write reviews as a matter of course, Influenster has recently extended its reach to the UK. It works a little differently to the two sites above, since I suspect much depends on your online clout. I only joined up a few months ago, so hopefully I can build up my social impact over time as freebies from the VoxBox look pretty high-end.

I have no idea how long it will take me, but I intend to have some fun along the way! ūüėÄ

…on a tight budget!

At long last, our loft conversion is complete, and just in time for the Easter hols! Work on it actually started last summer, but because it was mostly DIY (apart from rewiring, reinforcements, and boarding), progress was slow.

Not taking into account the metal edging (not sure of correct terminology?!) which still needs to be installed on¬†the carpet around the trapdoor thingy, I now have my own personal sanctuary and craft space, not to mention extra capacity for storage and (maybe-not-so-secret) snack stash. I am beyond chuffed! ūüėÄ

Even before we started building the loft, I had factored in an area for¬†a mini photo booth with chalkboard wall. It wasn’t too difficult to set up, and the outcome was more or less what I pictured in my head. I’m now also thinking I should get a thin plank of wood to slide over¬†the blackboard, painted white, just so I can have another background option…But perhaps that is a job for another day.

This month has also seen us celebrate our¬†wedding anniversary,¬†and although David and I¬†agreed in advance to keep our expenditure to a minimum (due to the loft!), I couldn’t resist getting him a little something, complete with cheesy homemade card featuring¬†puns related to a common interest of ours – Astronomy.

If I’m honest, it¬†was more of an excuse to show off a gift topper rose I’d made using a few of the remaining pipe-cleaners from last year’s Halloween Spider¬†Bun.

 

Using this helpful video, a friend put my hair up in a bun and pinned to it a pair of¬†googly eyes that I’d stuck on a bit of cardboard¬†the night before. I know it’s not really a costume, but still a spookily¬†acceptable (and cute) low-cost, last minute alternative in the spirit of the occasion.

 

Although I haven’t really¬†been experimenting on the culinary front, I did¬†make more of an effort on¬†this year’s¬†Pancake Day. As¬†it’s normally close to¬†dinner time when we get home from work, I didn’t fancy anything too dessert-like, so I decided to make us savoury pancakes with Stilton spinach and mushrooms, topped with bacon and egg. It didn’t look like much after I made it, but¬†was quite rich and thus, more filling than I expected.

What I am particularly proud of, however, is a classic dish that’s also one of David’s favourites. He likes to call it ‘red stuff’ (which we usually get from the takeaway), but is more traditionally known by its Cantonese name¬†Gou Lou Yuk, or over here in the UK as¬†Sweet and Sour Pork. That night’s meal was¬†met with much satisfaction, with only one complaint. Apparently,¬†I’d left the kitchen looking “like an industrial accident” had occurred in there! Luckily for me, our family¬†has a rule I am not above exploiting, and that is…whoever cooks is spared from¬†doing¬†the washing up!

Whilst essentially not all that difficult to master, Gou Lou Yuk does require a lot of prep work, and some of that includes deep frying. Was having our home smell like the local chippy worth every mouthful? Yes. Would I be making it again anytime soon? Probably not! ūüėÄ

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My intention when creating this blog was for it to feature news about my Etsy store, such as upcoming homemade products, and any ideas I might have which could be pin-worthy or even better, lead to commercial viability.

The latter I had no shortage of…The problem was finding the opportunity¬†to put everything together, much less write about it. That’s not to say I¬†haven’t had any time for my craft projects. Quite the contrary…

This collection¬†of gift packaging and gift tags will soon be available (along with the Make-Your-Own Spa¬†Gift Set) at my store when it reopens. I’m just waiting for my loft conversion to complete so I’ll have more¬†room to tinker.

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If you’ve noticed remarkable improvement in these photos compared to pictures in previous posts, don’t worry…there’s nothing wrong with your screen (or eyesight)! These images were taken by¬†my photographer husband David. ūüėĀ Unfortunately, he’s not always available when I’m in arty mode so I make do with my trusty old iPhone.¬†ūüėé

Many of my recent (ish)¬†creations have been related to the presentation of…well…presents, mainly for friends and family. The gift toppers often involved origami or kirigami since both styles are so versatile and economical.

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They work¬†great on gift-bags too…

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…though sometimes I prefer a quicker¬†route¬†sans paper cuts.¬†ūüėĀ

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I’m light years away from matching the skill of Jo Nakashima, but I think my efforts are fairly respectable! If you’re ever in need of a tutorial, consider subscribing to Paper Kawaii which also has a pretty¬†helpful YouTube channel.

After the¬†success I had with my DIY Foot Scrubs, I thought I’d experiment with a few other beauty concoctions. The Spiced Sugar Body Scrub still needs perfecting, but the Whipped Coconut Mousse¬†was a dream. It could be used¬†in a variety of ways¬†– moisturiser, make-up remover, and most effectively, as an overnight hair masque. I infused it with Green Tea and Grapefruit Oil which gave it such a lovely tropical smell.

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When grownup colouring books became trendy, last year also saw me dabbling in an old childhood pastime, with the notion that it would serve as a form of art therapy.

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The outcome was pretty enough, and creating gradients with colour pencils (instead of Photoshop) was a refreshing change, but¬†I simply didn’t have the patience to persevere, so that little diversion¬†didn’t last. Much the same as my attempts to pick up¬†knitting. I did contribute a mini hat or two to The Big Knit though. I wouldn’t say I’ve totally given up on either pursuit…It’s more the case of having to put them on the back-burner for now.

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By this stage, I’d amassed a stockpile of craft materials. There were cheap retail storage options available, but if you’ve got that much stuff to organise, costs do mount up. Fortunately, I had loads of cardboard boxes lying around due to online shopping and they came in handy when I wanted¬†to make¬†boxes for¬†my shelves. All I needed was a roll of¬†hessian and strong double-sided tape.¬†I’ve tried painting boxes and sticking them with patterned paper, but I kind of like¬†the rustic look more.

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It’ll take forever to chronicle all my craft activities in one go, but here’s a little preview of the ones I favoured most¬†– wedding presents for my brother and sister-in-law last spring (above), and a Jewellery Display Greeting Card (below)¬†for a friend who was¬†off to uni. Both relied quite heavily on my skills as a Graphic Designer (particularly my brother’s gifts), but I found the other aspects trickier. The Scrabble Box Frame was quite fiddly to assemble as I wanted everything to be precise,¬†and¬†did require¬†a couple of cracks at it before I got things¬†right. I¬†shall expand on these¬†separately with more in-depth posts at a later date, and will include photos of the process…mine sadly, not David’s. Sorry! ¬†ūüėú

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