Wednesday 26 January 2011

Another gorgeous buy - featured artist.

Hi everyone,  I hope you are all having a great week :-)  Thanks for all your lovely comments on my last post, I will try and remember to tip you all off next time there is an Amy Butler sale :-)

In this post I am featuring the lovely Becky's work from Red Bird Jewellery.  My Mother-in-Law had her 60th recently and I wanted to get her something a bit special for it.  I had looked around the usual shops but nothing really appealed to me and it all seems so mass produced nowadays :-(  So, I popped over to Folksy for a nose and remembered about Becky's pretties.

I ordered a gorgeous flourite and silver necklace as seen above, the photos really don't do it justice, it was stunning.  In fact I was hoping my Mother-in-Law wouldn't like it so I could have it back and get her something else but she loves it and wants to wear it on the cruise she is going on soon :-)  It came packed in a lovely little box tied with ribbon - there are no high street shops that offer that service as far as I know - another reason to buy direct from the artist.


I have decided to feature artists on my blog every month or so to share these gorgeous creations and to help support buying hand made.

Becky kindly let me interview her (in fact she also interviewed me a few days ago, click here to see), I hope you enjoy it :

Tell us a bit about yourself ...

My name is Becky, I live in a little village nestled under the North Downs in Surrey - but am originally from a little town in Derbyshire. I got to Surrey via living in London for a while, and it's great to be back in the countryside again.

What do you make?

Jewellery, using silver, copper, gemstones, and crystal. I also dabble with silver clay.

Why do you use that medium?

I love silver, but it is ridiculously expensive at the moment. I also love using copper, it's such a rich colour. Since I bought my torch, I've really enjoyed experimenting and seeing what I can do with a little fire and some metal.

When/ how did you start crafting?

I've always liked to try new stuff, I've tried so many crafts from applique to upholstery, but one day a few years ago I went on a jewellery making class in a bead shop and got completely and utterly hooked. The great thing about making jewellery is, that there is always something new to learn - and so many different methods and materials within the field, which appeals to my constant need to learn new skills.

When did you start selling your stuff - where do you sell?

I've been selling online on Folksy and also on Etsy since September 2009. Both are great places to sell (and shop!) and I've really enjoyed being part of a marketplace, but at some point I'd like to set up my own online shop - and also sell in a bricks and mortar shop.

Do you also have a day job, or is this your main job?

Not any more - I tried working 3 days in my old job as a research manager for a publishing company, but couldn't manage it once I had 2 children. I was always stressed out and exhausted, so I made a break - became a registered childminder and now look after a couple of friends' children for a few hours a week and work on jewellery the rest of the time. Life is a lot more balanced and happy now!

Where do you get your inspiration from?

My designs tend to be quite clean and simple, and I  get lots of inspiration from nature. But I also get inspiration from particular gemstones - sometimes they just cry out for a particular design.

What is your favourite music to craft to?

My taste is pretty eclectic - I'm not averse to a bit of Dolly Parton, or some jazz but at heart I'm a 90s indie kid - so I like to listen to The Stone Roses, The Smiths, The Pixies, Throwing Muses etc.. To be honest though, mostly when I'm making I like to listen to Radio 4!

What is your favourite piece of your own?

That is so tricky - at the moment I am wearing a pair of these and a matching necklace that I made (but haven't made to sell yet).

Where do you do your crafting (specially built studio - sofa??)

I use the spare room at the moment, BUT we move into our new house at the end of February, and we're planning to build me a little studio - hopefully sometime this year......eeeeeeeeeeeeeep (am a little excited!)

Thanks for that Becky, I am rather jealous of the fact that you will soon have your own studio! 

Keep your eyes peeled for future artists appearing here and if you want to be featured then just send me a message via my profile area, I am sure all my followers would love to read about your work.

Have a fab week everyone.

Friday 21 January 2011

Gorgeous buys and more makes ....

Hi, thanks for all the lovely comments on my last blog post, I hope it has inspired some of you to give it a go :-)  I have been looking at more Melt and Pour bases for soap making and there are some fab eco-friendly ones available and also some with less chemicals in than your normal shop bought soap so I think I will give them a go next time.

I thought I would share some of my recent buys with you as I do love looking at what pretties people have bought :-) Just after Christmas I popped into the Cambridge Calico and they had these cute little scissors and some lovely metallic thread and felt balls, oh I love buying craft things.

Can you see that lovely fabric those pretties are sitting on ..... John Lewis had 50% off some Amy Butler fabrics, I couldn't resist!  Oohh I can see how people get a fabric addiction.  I wanted more and really wish I had now as it was only £5 a meter but I talked myself out of it, why do I always do that gggrrrrr :-( When I went back another week it was all gone :-(

I also bought a lovely fat quarter from Calico and some threads and a crochet hook from a haberdashery in Ely.  Waahooo I have a crochet hook - all I need to do is work out what do with it now (any good basic crochet links gratefully received) :-)


With all this new fabric I really need to learn how to use a sewing machine pretty soon I think ..... the Christmas trees still haven't gone up in the loft so the sewing machine is still up there :-(

Another thing I bought recently was after having a chat to Mango Cheeks about what she uses in her lovely hair (her hair is thick and curly like mine).  She told me Almond Oil is great so I popped to Holland and Barrett and got some.  I also saw these shampoo bars near the till on offer, they smell scrummy and I never knew they even existed so can't wait to try them out.  I am currently using up all my mainstream hair stuff like brill cream (yes I use brill cream lol) and the shampoos before I can use these, I will let you know what they are like.

Now this little buy and I am soooo excited about  ...... a cute little bike basket.  

I know, it doesn't look much but I just can't wait to bike down the allotment with it on the front of my bike.  Last year I mashed a few potatoes trying to carry them back in a bag as they got caught in the wheel - no more mashed potatoes for me :-)  My hubby thinks I should take mischief Ted in it - I think he has dreams of me turning into Alys Fowler and wearing one of those gorgeous little dresses she wears - not sure my village is ready for that just yet :-)
Picture of Alys Fowler with her lovely little dress - image taken from Chronical Books with thanks.

Also this week I have been creating some lovely button heart cards.  I made some hanging wire button hearts the other week and was pondering on what to do with them.  After thinking for a while I thought they would be lovely as part of an eco-friendly Valentines card. 

So I got some eco cards and envelopes and some little sticky pads.  I stuck the wire heart to the card which is supplied with some nice ribbon.  The recipient can then remove the heart and hang it up so the card/gift lasts years rather than just a week or so :-)

Not sure if the idea will prove popular but I like it :-)  I am popping some in my blog shop and facebook shop to see if anyone else likes them :-)

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Making Soap

Hi everyone, hope you are all having a fantastic week.  Just wanted to give a virtual wave to all my new followers, hello and welcome :-)  Also a virtual hug to all my loyal followers :-)

Annie over at The Felt Fairy is having a Monthly Make challenge, here is my January make :-)

This weekend I had a very rare 2 hours to myself and I just knew I really wanted to try out this soap making kit that I bought in the middle of last year.  I have been wanting to try it out for ages but it has just been moved around the house as I never seemed to find the time to try it out.

This kit had everything I needed to try out soap making.  It had two moulds, lavender scent, colouring and some M&P (melt and pour) base (the big clear block you can see in the photo).

To start you have to take your M&P soap base ....


and grate it up or cut it into small chunks.  I quite enjoyed grating it so went with that method, just look at those cute curls :-)

I then popped this into a bowl that was sitting in a big pan of hot water to melt it down.  This didn't work too well for me as as soon as some melted it seemed to reset again when I stirred it.  I decided to change tactic and pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds and then a further 10 seconds until it melted.  That seemed to do the trick so I then mixed in the colour and scent, it sets really quickly so I had to re-melt it slightly before pouring it into the mould.

Thinking about it I think a little water got into the mixture on my first attempts to melt the M&P so I am not sure if that is what was making it set quickly - can any soap experts out there shed any light on that for me?

So here are the finished soaps, they smell lovely and I am pretty happy with the results :-)

the only shame is that I had all this left over M&P as my moulds were full but it made a lovely snowball looking soap lol :-)  I may be able to melt it down again and use my moulds for that.

I really enjoyed trying out soap making and am now going to buy some more M&P and experiment a bit :-)  I do love kits like this that ease you into a new craft which can seem quite scary to start with.

If you want to try this yourself you can buy M&P off e-bay at a good price, then you need to add a scent (the M&P has a slight scent of ammonia so you really do need a scent) and a colouring.  Give it a go, it is great fun and very satisfying :-)

Friday 14 January 2011

Smiley Happy People :-)

Wow, thanks for all your fantastic and helpful comments on my last blog post re green cleaning and corsets :-)  I think I may do some experiments at home with different green cleaning attempts and blog about the results - it seems it has struck a cord with a lot of you.  That really has made me smile as I want to leave this earth with the smallest dent I can on it and it is nice to know others feel the same.  My lovely friend Helen from Little Lambs has lent me a fab book on cleaning with Bicarb of Soda (along with some great craft books, thanks Helen x) so I will let you know any tips I find out from that.  Does anyone know where you can get a big quantity of Bicarb of Soda or white vinegar from by the way ?

Other things making me smile this week is the Stylish Blog Award that was given to me by the following blogs:

Emma Bear Forever - She makes the most gorgeous things and has a lovely blog filled with a mixture of crochet, knitting, felt, lovely buys, inspiration and her cute dogs :-)

Fin and Gabs - This is a new bloggy find of mine, wow she is talented !  She makes to most fab things, writes mag articles, runs a shop that I am frankly rather jealous of (stationery heaven!).

Victoria Plum - She bakes scrummy cakes, makes gorgeous things ranging from cute stockings for Christmas to Sloe Gin all whilst looking after the oh so cute little Plum.

Thanks so much, not sure I am particularly stylish but I am so happy you all love my blog as much as I love reading yours :-)

I also received the Liebster Blog award, this is for smaller blogs with less than 300 followers, thanks to Flowering Cherries for this:

Flowering Cherries - Another new find, this lady is fab at crochet (and has a gorgeous new set of bling crochet hooks), knits, does gorgeous watercolour butterflies and loves nature - how fantastic!

Thanks Flowering Cherries, I am so glad you found me so I could find your blog :-)

Now for one of these awards I have to list 7 things about me, I will add extra one or two as I have the award several times.  I have blogged quite a lot of things about me in the past so I hope I don't bore you :-)

1)  I used to have a pet lamb called Daisy - must try and find a piccy of her.  She was sooo sweet and was left by her Mum so we had her at home to rear her for a while.  I really missed her when she left and couldn't eat lamb for many years after that.   In fact I think I have now gone off lamb again after just typing that.

2)  In fact we had some random pets as a child, we also used to have a partridge called Peter, also a bat called Billy and just for a few hours a Python that someone found in their garden.  Mum was petrified of the latter and I remember her leaping onto the settee in her dressing gown as soon as she saw it being bought into the room by my Dad :-)  My Dad is a vet, hence the random pets :-)

3)  Apparently I am a Rabbit in the Chinese New Year Calendar and am meant to have a great year this year - wahooo!  I am married to a pig (sorry I mean Boar) and we are meant to be a great match thank goodness.  I used to work with a fantastic lady called Samphan from the Philippines who taught me quite a lot about the animals and their traits, it is amazing how close they are to your personality.

4)  I suffered from OCD hand washing whilst at secondary school, it was triggered by bullying.  I did however get myself out of it thank goodness, it is horrid for your life to be controlled by things like that!  Now I am really relaxed about germs, hence why we hardly ever get ill I think.

5)  I have built several web-sites in the past and managed a really big one, I rather like web-design and learning about optimising them, sad but true :-)

6)  I sometimes buy a whole pavlova for my Birthday as I know no one else in the house really likes it so I get to keep it all to myself ;-)

7) I haven't owned an iron since May last year when mine broke.  I did borrow one for a wedding in June but have used the slower spin, shake and hang method since then and body heat gets rid of the last creases :-)  Heating elements consume the most energy in our houses so that is why I don't have one - well that is my excuse and I am sticking to it ;-)  The last time I got the ironing board out the kids thought it was a surf board :-)

8) I have quite a wide range of music that I like from Orbital to the Rolling Stones, I even have the Mary Poppins music CD.

Now for the part I hate, picking blogs to pass the award on to.  I absolutely love all the blogs I read so I would like to pass this award on to a few new blogs I have found recently (pick which ever award you like).

Bear Footprints - this is a blog by a real life friend of mine.  She blogs about making things, her poor hubby's broken leg, her gorgeous kiddies and her chickens and veggie patch - pop over and say hi :-)

Bristol Parenting Cafe - this blog is about family life with 3 kiddies.  It is fun, packed full of lovely photos and craft projects.

Supercutetilly - this lady makes some gorgeous things, be warned if you pop over there you will want to buy something :-)  In fact I want to buy everything she makes. 

Red Gingham - this blog is filled with gorgeous makes, fab bakes, eco washing clay (which I must make and blog about) and her gorgeous garden filled with flowers and veggies.

Wabi-Sabi Wanderings - love this whimsical blog, packed full of eco craft projects (including some fab felt projects) and gorgeous photos of family life living in a century old farm.

Now before I go (sorry if you are asleep already :-)  I want to share with you these gorgeous piccies.  I recently sold a few hair clips to the lovely Pippa from When I Get The Time, they were for her daughters for Christmas.  Just imagine how my heart melted when I saw these photos on her blog.  Pippa has her own little Misi shop, to see her gorgeous handmade dolls click here Pippa's Misi Shop

And then another one of my customers gave me a giggle when I saw her wearing one of the hairbands I made in this photo (I haven't asked her permission to use her photo yet so you will have to pop over to hers for a giggle :-)). 

WARNING PHOTO OF SID THE SNAKE COMING UP (just in case you hate snakes, if you do look away now)  ......

To finish here is a photo of little Sweetpea who was very chuffed to be able to hold Sid for the first time.  Now eldest Sweetpea has had him for a few weeks and got used to him we allowed her to hold him,  He really is a lovely snake.

Monday 10 January 2011

Cleaning and corsets :-)

Thanks for all your lovely comments on my last blog post, sorry I can't reply to you all individually, time just seems to be so limited lately :-(  Not sure why but the time just speeds past - ggggrrr how dare life get in the way of my blog love :-)

Now this is a bit of a random blog post.  During last year I started in earnest to try and get rid of chemicals in my house that I use for cleaning etc, this is something that I want to do more of this year.  What with more articles in the press about links with certain cleaning products to things like breast cancer and also seeing the reaction that things have on my little sweetpeas skin it makes me think before I buy.  We also had a scare when middle Sweetpea was little and I caught her munching on a toilet gel thing that hangs over the toilet bowl - that was the first and last time I bought any chemical scenting products :-o

I thought I would share with you some of the things I have found out whilst doing this.

Below is a picture of my yukky sink, we get quite a lot of soap build up on the bathroom sink due to buying bars of soap rather than pump soap.  We don't use pump soap due to it causing our hands to get really dry, middle Sweetpeas hands used to bleed they were so dry then we changed to more natural brands of bar soap and the problem went away within a week or so.  We also live in a hard water area so have real problems with limescale build up.   

I have been using soda crystals and vinegar with a drop of tea tree oil to clean our sinks and bath.  Tea tree oil is meant to be a good natural disinfectant.  Just pour some soda crystals in the sink and add a little vinegar and the tea tree and scrub as usual.  If you have limescale around the taps then soak some toilet roll in vinegar and the wrap it round the tap (as in top photo) - leave for about 20 mins and wash away.

It really cleans the sink well and the limescale completely disappears when treated with vinegar a few times.  This is due to limescale being alkaline and vinegar is acid which breaks down the alkaline.

Vinegar can also be put down the toilet (I won't expose you to a picky of my toilet :-)).  We had some limescale down the toilet pan and I tried the coca cola idea but that didn't work.  I then poured vinegar down the pan and left it overnight and voila it was gone in the morning.

Vinegar is also a good fabric softener - pop some in your conditioner draw and it softens the water for you.

For washing up I have been using ECover washing up liquid which is fab and I also use their surface cleaner for the kitchen sides.  Method also make some lovely natural cleaning products but are quite expensive so I wait for special offers on them.

I would really like to get rid of all our chemicals eventually so any tips or recipes for home cleaning products or shampoos etc would be fantastic!

Photo from BBC Website

Now on to corsets, see I told you this post would be random :-)

I watched the new Lark Rise to Candelford last night on BBC1, oh how I wish we still wore such beautiful dresses.  I love this programme not only as it is really well made but the lighting of the whole programme is just lovely, almost sepia sometimes and the clothes - well they are just exquisite!  The way the dresses nipped in at the waste and then flow out, so feminine.  Those lovely collars and puffy shoulders ....  and then there is the gorgeous fabric used to make them .....  I can dream but think I may look a bit odd walking to school in one of those gorgeous dresses :-)

Thursday 6 January 2011

Christmas Pressies ....

Thank you for all your lovely comments on  my last blog post and apologies for scaring some of you with Sid's photo :-)  I will warn you in future if Sid is going to star in a blog post.

I thought I would share with you some of the things I made by hand or thrifted for Christmas pressies this year.  I have already blogged about my chocolate covered ginger and vanilla sugar, these went down very well.

I also made some rum truffles with cranberries this year too.  I got dragged into a Secret Santa which, to be honest, I didn't really want to take part in as I already have a big family to buy for - bah humbug me :-)  Now, I didn't want to go and buy something that would just be chucked away so thought I would make something instead.  Luckily I picked out of the hat a close work mates name and I knew she would love something made of chocolate or handmade (she wanted one my little ladybird clips for her birthday :-)).

I made her these rum truffles with some cranberries in them.  They were yummy - of course I had to do some controlled taste testing for safety reasons ;-)

Here is the recipe if you want to give them a go, they are really easy to make:

200g plain chocolate
75g butter
1 tsp vanilla essence (or rum if you want rum truffles - I put 2 tsp rum in mine :-))
225 icing sugar - sifted
2 tbsp double cream
Handful of dried cranberries or whatever other fruit or nuts you think would suit the recipe.

Break the chocolate up into a bowl, add the tsp of vanilla essence (or the substitute).

Melt down in a microwave or in a pyrex bowl over hot water.

Gradually sift in icing sugar and add cream in intervals.

Stir in any fruit or nuts you would like to add.

When completely mixed together pop the mixture into the fridge to firm up a bit.

Take it out of the fridge and scoop out some with a spoon.  If it has become too firm then pop it in the microwave for around 20 seconds to soften again.  Roll into a ball, when all the truffles are made roll into icing sugar (or nuts or chocolate sprinkles) to cover them .

It was really nice making these for my friend as middle Sweetpea helped.  As I was working Boxing Day we spent Christmas afternoon making them together to take to work on Boxing Day.

I found this fab book for my Granddad Pete who has a garden full of gnomes.  In fact it was rather hard to part with this book and some of the photos were so funny :-)

I really need to find my Granddad one of those big toadstools!  I think I want a gnome for my garden now as they always make me smile :-)

This last present went down really well with the my parents and my in-laws.  We got them an A4 calendar made up with photos of the children and us through the year.  Here are some of the photos I picked for it.

At our fav location, the Marina in the village.

My hubby and little sweetpea at the seaside in Mallorca at our fav bar.

At Angelsey Abbey, when you gotta go you gotta go :-)

The older Sweetpeas at Waterside Antiques trying on the gas masks, this photo really makes me giggle :-)

Little Sweetpea looking cool at a wedding we went to in June.

In a war bunker in Mallorca, I was trying to take a landscape shot when middle Sweetpea popped up.

Me and Sweetpea at a wedding in June (excuse my crappy hairstyle but somehow the kiddies and Mr Sweetpea looked fab but I forgot myself - typical :-)).

The calendar was fantastic quality and we will be doing this again next year I think.  I got them from Boots who use Photobox to produce them.   It took a while going through my hundreds of photos but was well worth it as the parents were so chuffed with them.

Hope you are all having a great week.

Saturday 1 January 2011

Christmas and New Year Fun

I hope you all had a fantastic New Years Eve, we were all in bed by 10.30 pm but did have some fireworks left over from November earlier on in the evening.  Little Sweetpea wasn't sure about them again and said that Nanny had to come round and look after her whilst they were going off as Nanny looked after her on November 5th - how sweet :-)

We have had a lovely Christmas holiday after the initial problems with little Sweetpea's emotional outbursts.  There were games of Twister which I got for them before Christmas.  I love the way little sweetpea tried to play whilst learning colours at the same time, who would ever think Twister was such an educational game :-)  I found it easier to play after a vino or two lol.  My Mother-in-Law kindly took over the arrow spinning in the photo above :-)

Christmas Day itself was a bit of a blow out after a terrible nights sleep on Christmas Eve.  The adult Sweetpeas stayed up as we were excited about Father Christmas arriving, by the time we went to bed it was about midnight.  Off we pottered to bed to find little sweetpea had wet the bed (my fault as I missed her 10.30 pm toilet run :-(), whilst changing the bed clothes middle Sweetpea woke up.  Middle Sweetpea then couldn't get to sleep as she was so excited and got a tummy ache.  She then ended up in our bed at about 1.30 am only to keep fidgeting for the next couple of hours.  Little sweetpea then coughed in the night and I heard middle Sweetpea saying something about going to help her, I then heard the words 'oh look, Father Christmas has been' aaaaaarrrrggghh it was 3.40 am!  So then little Sweetpea was in our bed and middle Sweetpea banished back to hers.  Little Sweetpea was allowed to open one stocking pressie to get her to go to sleep again.  Eldest Sweetpea then woke us with a nose bleed at goodness knows what time!  Fun times :-)

We had a quiet day with a visit to the Grandparents in the morning where the Great Grandparents and Aunty were visiting and then we came home for lunch and chilled out all afternoon.

The Sweetpeas seemed very happy with their pressies.  Amongst other things middle Sweetpea got her first sewing kit with a needle book that I made for her with a monkey on it (she loves monkeys for some reason).  I got her a lovely batch of felt from The Felt Fairy for her kit - thank you to the lovely Annie who added a few extra bits in there too :-)   She also got to go to build-a-bear with me yesterday to make a monkey teddy too.

Little Sweetpea got her long awaited for dolly house - I just love this photo of her looking at the box with her little hand on it.

She loved it, in fact all the Sweetpeas loved it and haven't stopped playing with it since Christmas Day.  See that little Sylvanian Family cat in the house?  That is what I hid in the Sweetpeas crackers this year.  Many years ago my Dad hid some Sylvanian Owls in our crackers, I was so happy and excited when that little Owl popped out, in fact I still have it to this day.  I wanted to re-create that lovely moment for my kiddies so I did it for them this year.  Not sure they were as excited as I was as they started to argue over who had what cat later in the day but I think they enjoyed it - kids eh :-)

Now what did Eldest Sweetpea get, yes I am completely bonkers and did say no to this idea but somehow my voice isn't heard in this house sometimes.  Meet Sid the Corn Snake!  I must admit he is very lovely and is now used to us all but I am still feeling guilty about the dead mice he eats :-(  The family promised to have 2 vegetarian days a week to make up for their lost lives but we will see if that will happen.

The dogs got a new present each too, oh how I love watching them open pressies - so funny!  They get sooo excited!

Other lovely moments included little Sweetpea painting middle Sweetpeas toe nails - not sure she will go into beauty as an occupation ....

Making snow globes out of old jars , little Sweetpea loved hers a lot :-)

Well, now we are in 2011 - where did that year go!?  2010's New years resolution was to do more arts and crafts, I had so much fun finding the real me again :-)  I think it is the first resolution I have never broken!

So what are my resolutions for 2011?  I have decided that making ones with things that need to be changed about yourself e.g. getting fit, losing weight etc just don't work and you end up punishing yourself.  I think that if I focus on things I love or really want to do then the things that I would prefer to change about myself will happen as I will be a happier person through to my soul.  This year my resolutions are to get the sewing machine down from the loft when we put our Christmas trees up there and to learn how to use it (or even thread it up lol).  Also I want to learn to crochet, my friend at work can do this so I am going to ask her to teach me :-)  It is rather strange actually as I just read a mates blog with her resolutions on there and they are nearly all the same - spooky :-) Would love to know what your resolutions are ...

Oohh before I go, do pop over to the lovely Jenny's blog where she is having a fab giveaway.  Also keep an eye out here for another of her giveaway's here soon :-)