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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Last minute gift ideas - Hot Chocolate Spoons...

One of my first ever pins on Pinterest were some hot chocolate spoons, I'd never seen them before and they looked such a fun idea. Since then I've seen all sorts of varying ideas for these crop up but I've never got round to making them...until now :)

I love giving little home made presents, last year I made a selection of truffles. Chocolate is always a good option at Christmas (Andrew knows to always shower me in it!) but I wanted to make something different this year so I finally made me some hot chocolate spoons! I've never been organised enough to give wholly homemade gifts but these make a great stocking filler or little additions to gifts.

They're equally great if you're in need of a last minute gift idea as you can source all you need from the supermarket! If you can't find wooden spoons then plastic or metal ones would be equally suitable.

These weren't a last minute dash for me, I actually ordered these spoons in ages ago for a craft event at which we made these exact spoons. When they arrived I realised that the spoons were far too shallow to hold adequate chocolate for a decent hot chocolate (who wants hot milk with a dash of chocolate?) friend Lizzie came up with the genius solution of using plastic shot glasses.

Using shot glasses results in delicious ultra-chocolatey hot chocolate, yes I tried them out, quality control and all ;)

Simply melt your chocolate with your preferred method and spoon into a shot glass, add a spoon and decorate with chocolate drops or flakes. You can either keep them simple with one type of chocolate or mix it up by layering or marbling contrasting chocolate.

Once you've finished pop the spoons into the fridge for an hour or until set (they set really quickly).
To remove from the shot glass simply dip each spoon into a cup of hot water for a couple of seconds, this should melt the chocolate sufficiently to remove from the glass without ruining the design.

Then pop into a plastic bag and decorate with a label and instructions!

Some practical notes: I got 4-5 spoons per 200g chocolate. Also, two of my chocolates split as I pulled them out of the glass. I'm not sure why this happened but it could have been because I was a little late in adding the spoon to the melted chocolate for these ones. If this happens, don't despair! Simply heat up a metal spoon in hot water, dry and rub over the inside of the chocolate, stick back together and then run the spoon over the seam to secure it back together and leave to set.

I used a range of milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and orange chocolate (I was thinking of a Terry's Orange in a mug, oh yum). My test spoons were made with cheap chocolate, I nearly always use Value chocolate for baking, Sainsburys and Tescos are both really great and you can hardly ever tell with cakes etc...but I would advise on good quality chocolate for these drinks as you can definitely taste the difference.

This is probably it now for me before New Year...I did have plans to post about some pretty wrapping ideas but I'm working right up to Christmas and frantically finishing wrapping the rest of the I'm going to be realistic and wish you all a Merry Christmas now! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with loved ones and build some truly fun and joyful memories as this year draws to a close.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

D.I.Y. cardboard stag head...

We had a Downton Abbey themed Christmas party on Thursday at Andrew's college. It was the perfect setting as it's an oldy-worldy college with high ceilings and dark was just sat waiting to be downton-abbey-ized! My friend Michelle was heading it up and she is the most incredible party planner, she transformed the college so beautifully! Seriously, I'm trying to convince her she could totally juggle being both a vicar and a party planner (the complete package for any wedding right?!).

My favourite part of the decor were these cardboard stag heads...stag heads and antlers are all over the internet at the moment so this is a perfect alternative if, like me, you'd prefer not to have a skull in your lounge :)

Sadly my photos aren't particularly great, this is due to two reasons. Firstly it was only as I was going to bed on Wednesday night that I remembered I hadn't cut out all the pieces so I had a slightly rushed early morning craft session Thursday morning. And secondly I was having far too good a time at the party so it was only as I was leaving that I thought to take any these were taken just as I was walking out the door!

But hey, they looked great dotted around the room. We used this tutorial over at Instructables, except we made the template larger. Head over there for how to make this fab DIY!

Here are some photos of the process...

All cut out and ready to be assembled...

And then everything just slots together like magic before gluing the head to the backing (I don't have a glue gun so I used strong glue instead, it seemed to work just as well). To help the head stay straight it's worth cutting the slots in each piece fairly wide, otherwise it forces the cardboard to twist.

And one final photo of it up on the wall! I stuck mine on a little bit lopsided so it has a slightly quizzical turn of it's head, I'm going with that it makes it endeering...haha!

I'm going to stop now before I allow any more awful puns pass my typing fingers :)

I hope all your Christmas preparations are going well! I've still got a little bit more shopping to do but I think I'm on track! Have a great week :)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Kanzashi flower cushion...

So here's what I did with my kanzashi flower! When I made the cushion I initially made a pompom to go in the middle but it ended up looking like a slightly confused Scottish beret :) I had just tried out making the kanzashi flower and decided it would make the perfect finishing touch to this cushion, which I made for my niece.

For how to make the Kanzashi flower then I shared this tutorial recently.

These cushions don't have a removable cover but are simple and quick, perfect if you're after an easy project!

What you need:
Kanzashi flower
Dressmaker's pencil
Sewing machine
Needle and thread
Embroidery thread
Circular template (I used a wok!)

1. Use the circular template to mark out a circle on two pieces of fabric and cut out.

2. Place the fabric right side facing and pin together. Sew together using the sewing machine, use a zigzag stitch to prevent the fabric fraying. Leave at least a 10cm gap between the beginning and end of the stitching.

3. Turn it the right way out by pulling the fabric through the hole. Press the fabric.

I'm sorry...but I just can't look at this pic without seeing a mouth!
4. And stuff! Don't stuff to full capacity as you need some room to pull the fabric in the centre (I actually removed some of the stuffing after this photo). Sew the gap closed with a slip stitch.

5. Thread your embroidery thread and sew though the centre of the cushion, bring the needle back through the cushion to the front and then sew back through again! Pull the two ends of the thread to make a dimple in the centre of the cushion. Continue to sew the embroidery thread back and forth through the cushion a few more times before finishing up with the two ends being on the same side. Tie in a knot and trim.

6. Now you just need to hide the embroidery thread with a decoration, I used the kanzashi flowers, attaching them by sewing them onto the cushion, but you could also glue them with strong glue.

The flowers got squashed a little from sitting in the 'dimple' but I think they were the right finishing touch...I certainly don't see a Scottish beret when I look it now!

I hope you've all had a great week, here's to the weekend! It's looking set to be a good one with a visit from my folks, first Christmas party of the month and a local Winter festival!

Happy Friday!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

D.I.Y. advent calendar...

Woohoo it's the first day of advent! Christmas music can legitimately be played. Christmas decorations can go up without the rolling of eyes. And...advent calendars can finally be opened!

Obviously I would not forget all about the fact that December was fast approaching, and of course I wouldn't have forgotten all about making an advent calendar until yesterday...oops. I said I'd make one this year, up until now we've always ran out to buy one last minute. I was always about chocolate calendars whilst Andrew always liked the traditional calendars. This year we decided to go with chocolates on the tree (which I'm pretty sure is just a way for Andrew to convince me to put the tree up early) and, whilst not a 'traditional' calendar, a calendar with verses leading us up to Christmas day.

I knew what I wanted to do for the calendar, I just completely forgot about the fact I had to make it! So, yesterday morning I got last years wrapping paper out and made this origami cube advent calendar. Origami cubes (or balloons) are one of the few pieces of origami I can do, I normally get completely lost when making anything to do with paper that suggests how simple these cubes are!

So, just in case there is someone out there who is also last minute in getting their advent calendar, here's how I made mine...

I used last year's wrapping paper and some gorgeous tissue paper (the red paper above) that I bought and completely forgot about last Christmas. Whilst it's totally do-able with tissue paper, they are more fragile and more difficult to inflate...I just loved the paper too much to not use it!

First up print out your verses and numbers onto plain paper. Cut out your verses, numbering them on the back. I cut the numbers out as I went so that I could easily keep track of where I was up to. I found a great list of verses over at Yahoo Voices. Here's the list if you don't want to click through.

Dec. 1 John 1: 1-5 
Dec. 2 Isaiah 9: 2-7 
Dec. 3 Isaiah 11: 1-10 
Dec. 4 Jeremiah 33: 14-16 
Dec. 5 Luke 1: 5-10 
Dec. 6 Luke 1: 11-17 
Dec. 7 Luke 1: 18-25 
Dec. 8 Luke 1: 26-38 
Dec. 9 Mathew 1:18-21 
Dec. 10 Matthew 1: 22-26 
Dec. 11 Luke 1: 39-45 
Dec. 12 Luke 1: 46-56 
Dec. 13 Luke 2: 1-5 
Dec. 14 Luke 2: 6-7 
Dec. 15 Luke 2: 8-12 
Dec. 16 Luke 2: 13-14 
Dec. 17 Luke 2: 15-18 
Dec. 18 Luke 2: 19-20 
Dec. 19 Micah 5: 2-5 
Dec. 20 Matthew 2: 1-2 
Dec. 21 Matthew 2: 3-6 
Dec. 22 Mathew 2: 7-8 
Dec. 23 Matthew 2: 9-12 
Dec. 24 John 1:14

Onto the cubes...

Cut out 24 (or 25) squares of paper 20 x 20cm.

1&2. Fold the square diagonally into a triangle and open out, repeat on the other corners. Open out. You should have two diagonal lines.

3. Fold into a rectangle.

4. Fold into a square.

5, 6 &7. Take the top left corner and pull out. It will open into a triangular pocket, fold flat. Repeat on the other side.

8. Fold up the verse (small enough that it can sit into the middle of the triangle) and place into the centre of the triangle.

9&10. Turn the triangle 180 degrees so that the open side is facing you. Take one of the outer corners on the top side and fold up to meet the apex of the triangle. Repeat with the other outer corner. Flip over and repeat on the other side so that you're left with a diamond.

11&12. Fold the right and left corners into the middle. Repeat on the other side.

13. Fold the top layers down into triangles.

14, 15&16. Open out the side pocket and fold the triangle into the pocket and push flat. Repeat for the other triangle and then flip it over and repeat on the other side.

17. Fold the top point down into the centre, open out and fold the other way. Repeat with the bottom point. This gives the cube more defined edges.

18. Open out as shown.

19. Gently blow into cube until it is inflated, pull the corners slightly to help achieve an even cube.

20. Cut out the corresponding number and stick to the cube with a little bit of washi tape.

Now just repeat that 23 times!

Now it's time to thread them onto the twine!

21&22. Thread a needle and tie the two ends of the thread into a knot to create a loop. Feed the end of the twine through the loop. Gently pull the twine through the top of each box, holding the paper taut. Once you have threaded all the boxes on (I did two rows) trim the twine, leaving plenty of length to hang them.

This took me about a morning to complete, with stops and starts whilst I got distracted with other things. Cutting out the squares was the most time consuming part but the boxes came together really quickly...just remember to put the verse in whilst it is still a triangle - I forgot a couple of times and had to unfold them!

I'm off to open up the first day of the calendar, have a great first day of Advent :)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How to make a kanzashi flower...

I bought Making Magazine for the first time back when it released it's September edition...I couldn't resist all the Japanese styled's not often I drool over a pincushion but they well and truly had me hooked! Less than an hour after sitting down with a cuppa to read I moved onto trying their Kanzashi flower tutorial. They suggested using them as a brooch but I had them in mind for a decoration to form part of my nieces birthday present. Once I started I just couldn't stop!

I tried with different fabrics, I found stiffer fabric worked best for me as it held it's shape well. I think they're so pretty, I want to try to make a garland from them next!

Here's how I made it...

What you need:
Fabric (I used 100% cotton in these photos)
Measuring tape
Needle and thread
Button (optional)

1. Cut out 5 squares 12cm x 12cm

2. Take one square and fold into a triangle (right side facing outwards). Press with the iron.

3&4. With the folded edge facing you bring the right and left outside corners up to the top corner and press the edges.

5&6. Turn the diamond over and bring the outside edges into the centre.

7. Fold in half and hold in place with a pin.

8. Trim the end with the raw edges.

9. Repeat with the remaining squares of fabric.

10&11. Feed the thread onto the needle, and thread each petal onto the thread (make sure they're facing the same way!) and tie both ends of the thread together.

12. Next ease each petal into your desired shape.

13. Sew the petals together on both the top and bottom side of the flower. Trim the thread.

14. Next cut a circle of fabric and glue to the behind of the flower (not pictured). Next decorate the centre of the flower, for this one I simply glued a little circle of the fabric but a button would look sweet!

You will get different effects depending on the type of fabric you use, how many petals you have and how you decorate it. Here's the first one I made...

The things you could do with these are endless, They'd make cute hair accessories or brooches, or additions to handmade bags or home accessories...I made two which I added to a cushion...but more on that in a different post!

Have any of you read Making magazine? I've struggled to get hold of it and am thinking about taking out a subscription...the craft ideas were so contemporary and beautiful.

Have a great day!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

D.I.Y. painted terracotta pots...

I picked up these mini terracotta pots from Nest at Burwash Manor (if you're ever in the Cambridge area it is well worth a visit, it's a really sweet collection of shops with a lovely deli and tea shop). The pots were too good a deal to turn down so of course I bought far too many of them! I mentioned in my last post that I meet up with some friends for craft evenings so I thought it would be fun to decorate these together. I thought I'd share what I made today. It was slightly addictive and I carried on into the next's had been ages since I last picked up a paint brush and I found it so therapeutic! One is currently housing my make up brushes, another is on my bedside cabinet next to my jewellery tray and I think I might use the other to hold some craft supplies.

I painted two of the pots and used decoupage for the other. I haven't really dabbled in decoupage before but I found this gorgeous paper in hobby craft so I wanted to have a go! I love how it turned out.

To make: simply cut up small squares of paper (you can use any paper but thinner paper will give the best result, I used specific decoupage paper) and glue to the pot. I applied mine in quite a uniform fashion which when looked at close up means the separate squares are quite evident. Next time I think I'll add them at different angles and overlap them more...what do you think? Once the whole pot is covered with the paper apply a layer of glue over the pot to smooth down any loose edges, leave to dry. Next I painted the inside of the pot, leave to dry between layers.

I painted two different patterns. I used electrical tape to mark out the patterns on the pots. Admittedly that was because I didn't have any masking tape but the electrical tape peeled off really easily so I would definitely use it again...just make sure you leave the base coat to dry before sticking the tape to it. I painted two layers of paint for the triangles and 3 layers for the cream base coat and bronze stripes.

I still have a few pots left, any idea on what else I could do with them?

Have a great Thursday!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Autumnal notes...

I feel like Autumn is quickly giving way to Winter so I decided to change up what I was going to share today so that I could share this cute D.I.Y. whilst some leaves still remain on the trees! A couple of times a month I meet up with some friends to get crafty together. It's so much fun trying out new things whilst having a good chinwag :)

My friend Lenny shared this idea for Autumnal lanterns. I think they're such a sweet way to bring a touch of Autumn into the it is a really simple but lovely D.I.Y.

Lenny collected loads of gorgeous leaves and then dried them in the airing cupboard. I just came onto the scene once the leaves were already dried so it was an even simpler project for me :) The only issue was deciding which leaves to pick!

What you need : dried leaves, glass jar, PVC glue or modge podge, glue brush

What you do: Simple apply a thin layer of glue to the jar and adhere the leaf to the jar. Brush glue over the top and edges of the leaf until it lies smooth against the glass (this might take a little patience!). Repeat with each leaf. Leave to dry and then finish with a top coat of glue.

This leaf was particularly mischievous, it felt like it took me forever to get all the edges to stick!

How do you see in Autumn? I'd love to hear any seasonal craft projects you've completed.

Happy Monday!
(You can see how to make a handle for your glass jar over on the post I shared last year on making decorated hanging jars)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Marshmallow and ginger cake...

I have managed to get so behind with my little blog! I have lots of craft projects to share with you but I just can't seem to find the time at the moment to sit down and write a post! Life feels a good sort of busy though, I have just started to attend some lectures run by my husband's college so much of the time I would usually set aside for blogging is currently spent reading for those instead. So bear with me, things might be a little quieter around here for a while...or, more likely, my house will be neglected so that I can do the much more fun task of blogging instead of, say, the washing up :)

Anyway, I'm pretty sure you didn't click on 'marshmallow and ginger cake' to hear all about my let's talk cake.

I went round to a friend's last week to watch the final of Great British Bake Off. I have a confession, this is the first bake off that I have watched. I am so ridiculously bad at following a series but I finally managed this year! Of course, it would be completely wrong to watch the final without eating cake...right? I had seen this gorgeous recipe in my latest Good Food Magazine which I knew would be perfect for such an occasion :)

My photo really doesn't do it justice, the marshmallow icing in the magazine has been toasted with a blowtorch has sparklers coming out of it - so amazing! I searched for an online version of it but there isn't one on their website so you'll have to make to with the photo of my version!

The only significant changes I made to the recipe was to make the butter icing less gingery by excluding the stem ginger and syrup that they recommended. It resulted in a lightly spiced sponge and icing balanced with the sweetness of the marshmallow icing (which is really meringue not marshmallow)'s a keeper for me!

Toasted Marshmallow and Ginger Cake (from Good Food magazine Nov 2013)

For the cake:
100g butter or margarine
100g soft dark brown sugar
100g black treacle
140g golden syrup
225g plain four
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2tsp salt
125ml whole milk (I used semi-skimmed)
3 medium egg yolks (keep the egg whites for the icing), whisked.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius and line a 2lb loaf tin.

1. Melt the butter, sugar, treacle and syrup in a saucepan, whisking continually until smooth. This will only take a couple of minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

2. Mix the flour, bicarb, ginger, cinnamon and salt together into a bowl. Pour in the warm syrup mixture, milk and the egg yolks, whisking until well combined and smooth.

3. Pour into the tin and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

4. Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes and then use a sharp knife to slice of the top (to give an even surface) and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the ginger butter icing:
140g butter, softened
200g icing sugar, sifted
1/2tsp ground ginger
(optional, add 4 balls of stem ginger, finely chopped, and 1tbsp ginger syrup to stay true to the original recipe)

1. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl and beat until smooth.

For the marshmallow icing:
3 egg whites
175g caster sugar

1. Put the egg whites, sugar, 1tbsp water and a pinch of salt into a heatproof bowl. Place this over a pan of boiling water (keeping the base of the bowl away from the water). Whisk (I suggest an electric whisk to save your wrists!) together over the heat for about 4 minutes or until the meringue reaches the ribbon stage - this is where the whisk will leave a trail that remains visible for at least 3 seconds.
2. Take off the heat and continue to whisk for a further 3 - 4 minutes until the icing has cooled slightly and stiffened.
3. Transfer 1/3 of the icing to a piping bag fitter with a large round nozzle.

To assemble:
Slice the cake into 3 layers (lengthways). Using the widest layer as the base, reassemble the cake spreading the buttercream evenly between the layers.
Next cover the outside of the cake with a layer of marshmallow icing. You can use a palette knife to draw vertical lines up the cake sides.
Take the piping bag and pipe spikes of meringue over the top of the cake.
At this point, if you have a cook's blowtorch, you can lightly toast the meringue - sadly I don't have one of these yet!

It went down a treat :) What did everyone think of the final? I was cheering on Frances so I was happy that she won! They were all so good but her creations were always just so beautiful, and she seemed really down to earth...I guess she proved Paul wrong with the whole boring business of 'style over substance' :)

Happy Monday! Stay safe if the storm reaches you.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

D.I.Y. inspiration - party decor...

Everyone loves a good party right? I never seem to think far enough ahead to plan amazing decor but I have been drooling over these beautiful ideas! So I thought I'd kickstart the weekend by sharing my favourite garlands and wall decor ideas!

1. Beautiful scalloped fans and bunting from Oh Hello Friend.
2. A really fun and colourful honeycomb garland by Oh Happy Day.
3. A Christmas themed 'Joy' fan banner by Somewhere Splendid
4. This gorgeous flower wall by Lovely Indeed
5. A really fun but simple idea of scattered balloons featured on Confessions of a Wisconsin Housewife

Do you have a favourite? I can't decide!
Have a great weekend :)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

D.I.Y. Plaited turquoise and wooden bead necklace...

I want to share my latest 'plaited necklace' with you today (I'm definitely in a plaiting phase of jewellery making!)...I love wooden beads with waxed thread but sometimes they need a little colour to really bring the piece to life (if a necklace can come to life?). And I actually had some end caps that were the perfect size for this d.i.y. - unlike the gold beaded necklace!

I love making step by step photos for projects but sometimes I just want to sit down, play and create as I go...especially when it comes to jewellery making. That's my excuse for the lack of photos anyway!

So here goes...

What you need: 
Waxed thread, large wooden beads (an odd number will look best), smaller beads, wire, end caps x2, jump rings x2, chain (optional), clasp, scissors, wire cutter, flat nosed pliers and strong glue/heat gun.

1) Cut 6 equal lengths of thread (double the desired length of the necklace should give you plenty of leeway)

2) Tie the 6 lengths together and separate into pairs. Holding the thread flat between your fingers plait the thread together. Once you've plaited to your desired length secure it with a knot.

3) Feed three pieces of the thread through a wooden bead and tie a knot. Repeat until all your beads are fed onto the necklace (don't tie a knot after the last bead.)

4) Take the remaining 3 pieces of thread and start to plait. Once you have completed a couple of plaits feed a smaller bead onto one of the pieces of thread. Continue to plait 2 to 3 more times before adding another bead...and continue. Feeding the beads onto the same piece of thread will give the most even finish.

5) Tie both the plaited thread and the wooden bead strand together in knot. Continue to plait the threads together as per step 2. Tie a knot once the length is equal to the first plait.

6) Chances are your knots won't fit into the end caps. Take the wire and wrap it tightly around one end of the necklace, just below the knot. Trim the wire with the wire cutters and cut just above the wire. Next add the glue into the inside of the end cap and push the end of the necklace into the end cap, hiding the wire. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat with the other end of the necklace. Leave until the glue has set.

7) Next use the pliers to add a jump ring to each end cap, and the clasp to one of the jump rings and chain to the other (if you want adjustable length).

And there you have yourself a new necklace!

Happy Tuesday!
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