Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Christmas Make: Table Centre

As the coming weeks are set to be very busy for me, I'm getting even more organised than usual and have made a huge dent in my Christmas preparations. The Christmas cakes are boozing nicely in their tins and they still have about 2-3 weeks before they get decorated. The cards are all written and ready to post and 80% of the pressies are all bought/made and wrapped ready for Santa to dish out. There are few ideas more bouncing around my head which will get put into action over the weekend as Sunday is Tree Buying Day. But more about that next week!

Today I want to show you a quick project that I did the other day which will be my table centre for the Christmas season. I used a pack of plain white candles from Ikea, a bag of cinnamon sticks which I got at the wholesaler (£6 for 1kg, yes thanks! shame they're not edible...), and a few boxes of candy canes plus a few odds and ends from my stash.

I spent a merry half hour with the glue gun and produced these lovelies:

I think these will look lovely grouped together in the middle of the table. I had toyed with making a floral display but after seeing something similar to this on Pinterest I knew flowers were out and candles were in!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Ready to put my feet up

A couple of weekends ago, I went to an upholstery workshop at Make Do & Mend and learned how to make a footstool. I had wanted to make one for aaaages so was mega excited to actually do it when the day came. I was amazed how straightforward it is and will definitely be making more for gifts!

Here's how it turned out:

These cupcakes are cute enough to eat!

Queen Anne legs, very shapely!

So this lovely footstool has now taken up residence in my living room and is ready for my to put my feet up which by reckoning will be sometime early January, such a busy schedule in the next few weeks!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Don't like it? Then get rid!

This time of year signifies the run up to Christmas and all the excitement of what that brings. When I was little, my mum would use this time of year to have a clear out and would get me and my sister to tidy out our bedrooms and get rid of some things. She used to say we had to make room for anything Santa might bring at Christmas and explained that some boys and girls weren't as lucky as us and might not get many presents from Santa. This was how she got us to clear out old clothes and toys and we would happily take them to the charity shops, knowing that some other children would get the nice toys we liked so much.

This has kind of stuck with me and when I'm having a clear out, I try to find the items a new home. I don't like throwing things in the bin (especially as they end up in the landfill) particularly when they have nothing wrong with them. I might not want it anymore but someone else would probably want it. That's my theory anyway!

After reading A Thrifty Mrs's recent decluttering post, it has spurred me on to have a clear out and get rid of some things. Although I haven't committed to the 90 items that she's ditching, I have found myself getting rid of a a lot of things. I've cleared out my wardrobe, my desk drawers and office and there's now a large selection of items in the charity shops that previously belonged to me. There are also some things that went to the recycling bin or which have been stored away in the 'to be upcycled into something else' pile. I've been slowly decluttering for a few weeks now and it feels liberating to get rid of the stuff that's been dragging me down. This decluttering has also transferred to my email inboxes (all 3 of them), my Facebook and Twitter feeds and even the blogs I'm subscribed to. I've deleted/unfollowed people and organisations that I'm no longer in touch with or interested in or which plain annoy me, which makes way for new additions. I feel like I've shifted some dead weight which was dragging me down and making my social media dull and uninteresting.

There are still things that need gotten rid off but I'm being careful not to take too much more on in the run up to Christmas. I've already earmarked January as the month to get rid of the utter crap that's in the loft. Our house is not the biggest and we do have a storage issue so we cannot afford to hoard stuff that no longer has a place in our lives. It's rather addictive once you get started! For me, decluttering means freeing up space not just in my home but in my mind too. It makes me feel lighter.

I recommend ruthless decluttering on a fairly regular basis in order to keep on top of it. Here's a few questions I ask myself in order to speed up the process:
What is is?
Do I like it?
When did I last use it?
Will I use it again?
Will I miss it?
How can I get rid of it?

Go on, spend ten minutes decluttering and see how much better you'll feel!

Monday, 21 November 2011


...Is it me you're looking for...?

Yes, I am still alive and no I haven't dropped off the face of the earth. The last ten days or so have been a bit of a whirlwind of activity including: 2 school shopping nights, 1 Christmas bazaar, a trip to High Wycombe to see my in-law family, another trip to High Wycombe to visit Country Baskets (the mecca of Christmas decorations and other supplies) and much required Christmas shopping, 5 days living in Worcester but working in Birmingham, the same 5 days of having to wear someone else's clothes cos I forgot my own (don't ask!), the same 5 days of stupidly late nights and even stupider early mornings, an evening of complete knackered-ness and last but not least, driving in the region of 400 miles to achieve all of this.And that is only the things I can remember, there must be another 5 things I haven't mentioned!

All of this results in a distinct lack of presence in any social media or blogging/reading/commenting. In a way I feel disconnected from some parts of my world, which is hilarious because three or four years ago, I had no involvement in social media apart from occasional pop ins to my Facebook account. How things change... What did we do before social media??

Anyway, I digress. I thought I'd share a few pics of my stall at the weekend and let you all know that I have a few spaces left for bespoke orders before Christmas. So give me a shout if you want a unique handmade gift!

Christmas card holders/memo boards

Lots of woolly goodies ready for winter

I am back to blogging but it may be intermittent over the coming weeks as I have a craft fair every weekend until Christmas as well as having a day job and all the usual pre-Christmas prepping in addition to life in general. We're all in the same boat at this time of year, aren't we!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Behind the seams

I work from home for my 'day job' and my home office doubles up as my crafty studio, where I keep most of my supplies. However, when it comes to using the sewing machine, the dining room table is where the work is. Here's a couple of recent pics of my invasion 'sewing studio' in the dining room.

TV dinners for a while...

Freshly ironed fabric ready for projects

I'd love a room dedicated to all my toot creative things where I can have it so perfectly organised and looking pretty. In a perfect world I'd like something like this:

What's your creative space like?

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Bring me sunshine...

The last few days have been so depressingly gloomy here. So dark all day long! I'm sitting here in the middle of the day, with the lights on, that's how dark it is! (pet hate - having the lights on during daytime) I keep looking out the window for even the tiniest hint of blue sky or sunshine but all I see is this:

Depressing or what?!
So, now that the sunshine seems to have left us bereft, I thought I'd share a few pics of my kitchen windowsill which I took last week when we were still blessed with some blue sky, fluffy white clouds and that big yellow ball in the sky was doing its thing. Although these photos are not specifically of the blue sky, you can just about see it through the blinds. I also think these pics are a spot of bright cheerfulness which we seem to be lacking this week

Cupcake cases in a spaghetti jar - super cute!

Herb plants in mugs

Bright greenery, a reminder of summer

There we have it, a moment of brightness in what is shaping up to be an otherwise gloomy week!

Monday, 7 November 2011

A weekend in the kitchen

Wow, what a busy weekend I've had! I spent approximately ten hours cooking and baking in preparation for my turn of the Come Dine With Me competition me and my friends are having. I wanted my menu to be something a bit different and decided to do it tapas style. For those of you that might not know, I was born in Spain and lived there til the age of 7 and then again duting my Erasmus year at uni which means I know a thing of two about good Spanish food!

For some reason I hardly ever cook Spanish recipes, I don't know why. I have always wnated to incorporate them into my regular 'repertoire' - you know, those recipes you know off the top of your head and can throw together in a jiffy. I thought my turn of the dinner party competition was a great chance to make some of the things I know to be the tastiest food in Europe. I made everything from scratch, (with the exception of the bread and the pastry for the empanadas) which is how it took about 10 hours! It was well worth the effort though and I think I have a good chance of winning...

I thought I'd share the menu with you all in case it inspires you to try a few new dishes, or even for you to borrow next time you're hosting a dinner party! If you do use the menu I'd love to know how you get on. I haven't got any pics of the food because I was so involved in the cooking that it never entered my head to take any photos! Oops!

So here it is:

Menú del Día

Chilled tomato and vegetable soup

Serrano ham and chorizo

Manchego, con higos y miel
Manchego cheese served with figs and honey

Pan de ajo
Garlic bread, Spanish style

Platos Principales

Traditional Spanish omelette

Chorizo con jerez
Sherry-cooked chorizo

Empanadas de atún y de pollo
Mini tuna and chicken pasties

Croquetas de jamón y queso
Ham and cheese croquettes

Patatas bravas
Potatoes with spicy tomato sauce

Albhondigas caseras
Spanish style meatballs


Tarta de limón
Lemon tart

Friday, 4 November 2011

Bake List: P-p-p-pumpkin Pie!

This is the season for all things pumpkin and in true American style, I made a pumpkin pie last weekend, using the tart tin I got for my birthday. Now, I've wanted to make a pumpkin pie for ages but was saving it for the right time of year. It even made it onto my Bake List. I even had a can of American pumpkin purée which I got at the posh deli shop. I was super excited about making this pie!

Pumpkin pie

Imagine my dismay and sheer disappointment when I tasted this scrummy looking pie and discovered that I don't actually like it. I could've cried. Now, I've never actually tasted a pumpkin pie, but there was no reason to know that I wouldn't like it. I mean, it's a pie. With proper pastry and everything. What's not to like? Apparently, everything about it is not to like - taste, smell and texture, bleugh! I didn't even finish the slice I thought it was that bad. Mr PC wasn't keen on it either. Major disappointment.

So now it is cut into slices and in the freezer until I find someone who would like it. It's just too pricey for me to throw out (nearly £5 inc the tin of purée). So, if you like pumpkin pie, give me a shout!

On the plus side, the pasty base was perfect, not soggy or undercooked. A perfect bake, as Mary Berry would say. It just tastes yuk!

Here's hoping the next item off my Bake List tastes better!

Have you ever made something that you didn't like?

PS. Have you spotted my new Bake List page?

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Christmas Prep: Christmas Cake Baked

Now that I've had my birthday, I can get serious about Christmas. And now that we're into November (omg where did the year go?!) it's time to get the prep well and truly underway! I've mentioned before that I start thinking about Christmas sometime in the summer, but this is the time of year when I step it up a few gears and get everything planned and organised.

October is the month for baking the Christmas cake and last year it was such a success that I've decided to do the same this year. My Granny's special recipe works a treat and it's just not Christmas without this cake! I've already made one for me and Mr PC and one for my sister and her new hubby. I have an order for one for my in-laws and possibly one or two more in the pipeline. That's how good it was last year *merry dance*!!

christmas cake 2010

The secret to this cake is brandy. And LOTS of it! The earlier you make it the better, and it needs weekly feeding with a generous dose of brandy. I guess this makes it unsuitable for designated drivers, but what I usually do it give them a piece to scoff when they get home.

Here's how this year's cake is looking at the moment:

Can you smell it? It's devine!

It's best stored in an airtight tin, and a metal one if you can. Wrap it in grease proof paper to keep it nice and cosy and to stop the brandy seeping out.

This is my most favourite cake tin ever!!

This leads me to ask you this question - Christmas cake: homemade or shop bought?

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Christmas Prep: Homemade Pressies

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat... and I'm getting organised!!

Last year we decided to have a homemade Christmas, largely due to very tight purse strings and an abosolute abhorration of Christmas the shopping season. This year is the same, we are largely making our presents this year and this time I'm starting early!

This first completed gift is a crochet bag for a little girl we know. It took ages to make considering the size but I think she will like it because it is her favourite colour: purple.

There's supposed to be a flower on the front but my problem is I can't decide which one to use! So I thought I'd ask your opinion. Please let me know which combination works best because I just don't know!

Option 1 - large dark pink flower

Option 2 - small light pink flower

Option 3 - both flowers together

Both flowers together for comparison, the light pink is a fair bit smaller

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Finished WIP: Christmas Stocking #2

After last week's sewing session, I was one down, one to go on the stocking front. I learnt many lessons on stocking #1 and felt ready to tackle stocking #2 with these freshly learnt tips and tricks under my belt. For example, I find that if I draw the line I want to sew with tailor's chalk, I can actually keep straight and make the seam even all the way around. What a revelation that was!!

I would say that making the front with three different prints and incorporating a pom pom trim does delay the process somewhat and whilst I know what I like, I still find it difficult to colour/pattern match. These are the questions I always find myself asking: Does it go, or does it clash? If it does clash, does it look good in a mis match sort of way or does it look like a colourblind person put it together? Will I actually like it when it's sewn together and there's no going back? The dilemmas are endless, and Mr PC always tells me to trust my instincts with these things but most of the time my instinct says to get my sister to pair the colours and patterns for me as she's the one with the 'eye' for these things! 

This is what stocking #2 turned out like, and I must say I do like it after all!!

The pom pom trim caused some aggro, mainly figuring out how to incorporate it into the seam and still have them pointing downwards. Thank goodness for pins! A lot of trial and error was involved in this one. 

The back is a rather fetching tartan pattern with a hint of gold through it which I hope will glint nicely under the light of the tree when the time comes.  And the red lining makes it even more festive.

Also, by a stroke of pure luck (ok, actually some rather anal measuring and re-measuring) , the two stockings are the same size and shape! Huzzah!

These babies are ready for some pressies, come on Santa, hurry up!
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