DIY personalised noticeboard

I’ve wanted a pin board in our kitchen for a while but every time I looked on Amazon I was amazed by how expensive and ugly they were. So when I saw how inexpensive a plain pin board from Ikea was I thought I didn’t have much to lose by attempting a bit of decoration myself.

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I wanted it to reference this picture we have in our otherwise plain kitchen so picked paint samples from our local diy store to match.

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(I have painted cork board with acrylic paint in the past and that’s lasted about 15 years so I think cork could be quite a versatile surface.)

Then it was just a case of masking out a pattern and slapping on some paint. Couldn’t be easier.

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I let it dry for a couple of hours then removed the tape and arranged the pins, which came with the board, and it’s ready for hanging.

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I think this would be a fun activity for kids or those not particularly confident in their artistic skill as the effect can be quite striking with minimum effort. Hope you enjoy trying this out, Mel.

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Kew Gardens, London

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I’m a complete gardening obsessive, and whilst I only have two small gardens, I love visiting grander gardens to get inspiration for my own home.

Kew Gardens is a beautiful place to while away some time on a sunny afternoon in London.

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Famous for its grand glass houses, it is home to wonderful planting schemes and exotica from all over the world. Check out these giant lily pads, prickles cacti and amazing red pineapples which I spotted whilst there.

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Whilst I love some of these ideas, they are sometimes hard to take home and transfer the idea into something useable for me. So with my house in the colder climate of England I thought that the  ideas of clusters of cacti planted together is definitely something I could use.

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Similarly, whilst I dont have a grow house, I thought that some macrame hanging players would allow me to create something similar to this stunning orchid wall that they had. The little pops of colour look amazing, and as they are orchids should last well.

I also spotted the cutest idea for an alternative ‘party’ gift. They had these amazing planters which were based around cocktails. They were planted up with all of the ingredients to make your favourite drink.

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What a great idea. I love a good grin and tonic, so maybe bringing a small cucumber plant, a juniper blush and an indoor lemon plant with a bottle of gin to a party would make a great alternative gift for a green fingered friend.

As for outdoor inspiration I loved the structures and lines that were in the more formal gardens, and I’ve planted box bushes around my borders in the back for a more structured look, which looks pretty all year round.

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Have you been to Kew, what did you think? If you are planning to go I’m sure you’ll have a great time, Kate x

Personalised Baby Grows

I’m getting to that stage in life where people I know are starting to have babies, and not having children myself I’m never certain what makes a nice gift for someone. Do I go super practical and get the money something I know they will need but might not be that exciting (like a load of nappies, or some vouchers for a shop), or do I buy something sentimental but realistically something they probably don’t need?

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So when my friend Mel (fellow blogger on this site) had a beautiful baby I wanted to get something useful, but to personalise it in a way which wouldn’t make it special for her. I made this cute baby grows which I customised for her baby.To start with I deliberately bought baby grows for older babyies (6-9 months) as I knew she would be inundated with gifts for new borns, so this helped to spread the cost as she got older. I also picked blue, because I’m not one for saying that people have to wear specific colours, and it would give her a bit of variety.

To make this project you will need:

– an iron

– iron on transfers or printable iron on transfer paper

– baby clothes with a flat texture, cotton is ideal (I chose baby grows)

– scissors

First iron the clothes to make sure that your transfers have a flat surface to adhere to.  The cut out the transfers you’d like to use and place them onto the clothing, until you have a pattern you are happy with.

 

Once you are happy with your layout then start ironing. You want to ensure that the water reservoir of your iron is empty, and put it to the hottest (but not steaming ) setting. Gradually work from top left to bottom right on the garment, so that you can remove the backing paper as you go, and avoid burning your new creation. Follow the instructions that come with your product. I found that I needed to heat the paper for about twice as long as the guidance said. Make sure you are applying an even pressure to help bond the details to the clothing. You will know when you have heated it enough as the backing paper should come away easily. I found that it was easier to test a corner of each piece of paper, by gently pulling it up, and if it didn’t come away I just heated for as little longer and tried again. If you are doing finer details I would recommend pulling from the edge of the paper with the least detail to the more heavily detailed edge to prevent tearing the picture. For example if you were doing a letter ‘W’ you would pull from the bottom edge with two points up to the top edge which has three, as it would be less likely to tear than if you did it the other way round.

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Once you are done then the only thing that remains is to wrap the present.

I hope you enjoyed this, and let me know what you made with yours, Kate x

Metallic Effect Knot Earrings

 

I’ve been really enjoying the 80s revival in fashion which we’ve seen over the last couple of years, but when it comes tow 80s jewellery, unless you have a laser cutter at home, it’s hard to make your own.

I then came across this great post  http://www.one-o.it/diy-gold-knot-earrings/ where they were using DAS and spray paint to create giant knot earrings. This got me to thinking that I could do something similar with polymer clay, which would enable me to use whatever colour I wanted, and by using real silver leaf or gold leaf I could add a genuine metallic element which would work well.

I decided on a classic black and silver combo, but it would work equally well with a hot pink and gold leaf, or dark blue with bronze leaf. The possibilities are endless.

You will need:

Polymer clay in the colour of your choice (I used black I. A piece about the size of a malteaser)

Metal leaf (I used silver leaf about a matchbox sized piece)

Baking tray

Sharp knife

Two stud backs

Strong glue

Kitchen foil
To start with take the polymer clay and knead and roll in your hands until it is warm and flexible, and roll it into a ball.
Then wrap the ball in your silver foil. It should naturally stick to the surface of the polymer clay if it is at body temperature.

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Start to roll the ball into a long sausage shape using your fingers, trying to keep the width even the whole way along the line. The silver foil will naturally create a crackle effect as the piece lengthens.


Then loosely tie a knot at the end of your length. When you are happy with the shape of your knot cut the length off and gently place your piece on your foil lined baking tray.


Bake according to the manufacturer’s instructions and leave to cool.

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Once completely cool glue the stud back to the rear of your earrings and once dry they are ready to wear. Shoulder pads and blue eye shadow are optional !

Butternut Squash and Sage Soup

Sometimes I buy a vegetable with the intention to use it for a specific purpose, then I change my mind at the last minute, use half of the ingredients for another dish, and am then left with a lonely turnip, Jerusalem artichoke, or in this case squash. In those times, rather than waste it , soup provides a great opportunity to create a tasty meal with store cupboard staples that can be enjoyed fresh or be frozen for when you are more in the mood. The below recipes is a simple recipe which can easily be adapted with most squashes or root vegetables.
Ingredients:

1 medium sized butternut squash

1 vegetable stock cube

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

Handful of fresh/ dried herbs (I’ve used sage as it stays evergreen in our garden)

Olive oil (optional)
Method:

Cube your butternut squash and remove the seeds. You can remove the skin (which makes for a smoother soup) but I like to keep the added fibre in.

Place in a pan and fill with water so that the squash is 3/4 of the way covered up the side of the pan.

Deskin and quarter the onion, and add the peeled garlic cloves with the onion to the pan.

Add your stock cube and bring to simmering point. Simmer for approximately 20 mins. Allow to cool.

Once cool use a blender / food processor to blitz to a smooth consistency. I normally have to do this in batches owing to the size of blender.

Warm in pan to serve and add seasoning and your chopped herb. Drizzle with olive oil to finish.

 

Travelling Graffiti Spots

As you know I love travelling, for the opportunity to explore new cultures, foods, and to see things from another perspective.

One of the things I’ve often enjoyed about Europe is that they have a real skill for street art/ graffiti.

I first noticed the difference, when at the age of 14 on french exchange, I was picked up by my exchange student’s brother from being dropped off from the school coach. Cedric kindly pointed out to me the streets of graffiti in Orleans (where I would be staying), he asked me how I liked their local ‘artists’, and it was apparent to me that he was not joking, and that this was a source of pride in the area.

Since then I’ve taken the opportunity to snap good graffiti and street art on my travels, and thought I’d share with you some places where I’ve found the work to be particularly impressive.

One of my favourite graffiti spotting cities is Valencia in Spain. It’s a beautiful old city surrounded by ultra-modern futuristic developments right on the coast, with some amazing street art.

Another great place to spot graffiti is France and it isn’t just the big cities which have great street art, often with a political / ironic slant. Check out this example of stencilled street art from Limoges in Languedoc.

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It doesn’t always have to be political to be street art, and I’ve found some painted walls, like these below from Split in Croatia, which were just really pretty and gave you an idea of the history of the place.

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Sometimes I don’t even ‘get’ what the graffiti is about but I still enjoy looking at it for its whimsical and vibrant take on things. The below example are from Porto, Portugal, where there were a LOT of aliens.

 

Where are your favourite places to spot street art? Are there any apps you’d recommend to help me keep up my treasure hunt for them?

Thanks for reading, Kate x

Becky Falls, Dartmoor

Last summer my partner and I were travelling down to Cornwall from Glastonbury and we decided to drive over Dartmoor and to take a lunchtime stop over at Becky Falls. It is somewhere he had visited and loved in his youth, and he had memories of a Tolkien-esque magical kingdom that he wanted to revisit. I, on the other hand, fancied seeing the wild ponies in Dartmoor, and coming from the flatlands of the East always welcomed the opportunity to see some ancient woodland and a bit of undulation. 


Needless to say we were not disappointed, the drive through Dartmoor was spectacular, and we spotted the obligatory wild ponies and I was amazed at how empty the roads were. It is obviously a slow way to traverse the area owing to the animals in the roads, but it just gives you time to drink in the amazing views, so no complaints from me. 


Becky Falls itself was a real treat, the car park is just across the way from the actual park, where there is a small cafe and animal nature reserve with meerkats, owls and the like. The good news is that when you are in the actual park it is big enough to still feel ‘wild’ and to give the impression of isolation, and a complete lack  of era. This is something I really enjoy, thinking that it could be 2016, or it could be 216 CE and you have no concept of time when you are there. 


A truly beautiful stop over and well worth a visit if you are in the area.


Have any of you got any tips for places to visit in Dartmoor? Would love to hear from you, Kate x

Chocolate Millet Munchies

Growing up I was always a fan of those chocolatey crispy cakes with the egg on that you got at Easter. Now that I’m older I tend to like my chocolate darker, and my snacks chewier (a la Carob 9 Bars – yum!), and this recipe reminds me of those crunchy chocolaty snacks but with a denser flavour and texture.

These snacks are made with puffed millet which is a great source of protein, iron and calcium, but you could equally swap this out in favour of puffed quinoa or the more traditional puffed rice. If you do then you need to replace according to volume as opposed to weight else the mixture won’t stick together.

Ingredients:

300 g Dark Chocolate

300g Milk Chocolate

150g Melted Butter

100g Puffed Millet

80g Crushed Digestive Biscuits

5 tbsp Golden Syrup

50g White Chocolate

Method:

Melt the butter, dark chocolate and golden syrup in a pan until evenly combined.

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Stir in the crushed digestives and millet. Then pour the mixture into a loose-sided non-stick pan.

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Melt the milk chocolate and pour this on top of the mixture.

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Allow this to cool whilst melting the white chocolate in a pan.

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Using a fork drizzle the white chocolate over the top of the milk chocolate.

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Allow the tin to come to room temperature before putting in the fridge for about 2 hours. Then cut into bite sized pieces and enjoy! Kate x

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Mini Polymer Clay Pots

I’ve been messing around with polymer clay for about a year now after my friend Kate introduced me to it. I love how cheap it is, meaning I can experiment without breaking the bank, how clean it is to work with, because I don’t have a studio, just a small table in my sitting room, and how quickly you can produce something – I’m hugely impatient so if I can’t finish a project in a day I’m not interested.

All of my efforts had been on beads. I’ve had a few commissions, and made some necklaces I’m pleased with but was looking out for something new to challenge. So when my friend Cecilia sent me this link http://www.yutasegawa.com/miniature I leapt into action.
These tiny pots, currently in Heal’s, were just too cute and perfect not to try. Part dolls’ furniture part stunning ceramic sculpture they seem like the thing you could produce endlessly without getting bored.

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The stone colour was a Sculpey clay straight from the pack, the pink was one I got in a selection pack but the green I mixed myself, marbling it with gold to give it a bit of interest. The only tools I used were an orange stick and a tooth pick.

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I plan to make a number but always have a selection of five on display – in line with the Japanese notion of five being lucky. Melissa x

 

Hearts In A Row Necklace

So, you can’t help but notice that there are the cutest heart necklaces popping up in all the best shops. They are just perfect with a skinny white vest or to pretty up an oversized shirt or a beach outfit. Trouble is they are just too expensive! A DIY version was definitely called for…

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First I assembled the things I would need. I love any excuse for a rummage around in my craft shelves, (more on those in another post!) and I decided I would make my heart beads from whatever polymer clay I already had. I wanted soft colours that would complement each other. The great news was that I had some lovely granite, a China blue and some slightly sparkly white. I loved the way the colours worked together.

The linen sewing thread had the natural look that I wanted and I decided on some little silver beads to go in between the hearts.

I found a set of 3 heart-shaped plunge cutters in a fab hardware shop in nearby Stamford.They are intended as icing tools but I knew they would be great for what I needed.

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The set looked like this. I went with the smallest size for my hearts.

I broke off a small piece of polymer clay. This ball was large enough to make about four beads.

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I rolled it between my palms until it felt smooth and more pliable.

Then I rolled the clay out so that it was about half a centimetre thick. I used a rolling pin but a glass bottle would do fine. The super intelligent amongst you will have noticed that the clay has changed colour! Sorry forgot to photograph the white in my enthusiasm! The heart shapes were easy to cut and the plunger mechanism means that they pop out of the cutter without any hassle. I gently smoothed any rough edges with my finger.

 

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The thing to do next was to make a hole through the bead with a pin. I wiggled it a tiny bit as I was not sure if the hole would close at all during baking.

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Then bake! I used three different types of polymer clay, some Fimo Effects, some Sculpy and some that I bought so long ago that I can’t remember the brand. Of course the instructions on the packs were for different oven settings and times so I plumped for somewhere in the middle, put them on a baking sheet covered in foil and they turned out fine. Look at my treasure! I made enough beads for two necklaces.

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I cut two very long lengths of thread. I estimated by looping the linen thread around my neck twice to allow for the knots I would have to tie. The second length was exactly the same.

I won’t lie to you, the next bit was a bit trickier than I expected. You know when you are sure that you have something but you can’t find it? I thought I had one of those collapsing needles that flatten themselves to fit through tiny holes in beads. Turns out I didn’t!

Getting the thread through the minute hole on the needle was a bit tricky but I did it.

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I threaded on a white heart on one piece of thread, then I knotted the two pieces of thread together above the top of the heart. Just to clarify, only one piece of thread goes through the bead.

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Then I passed the other piece of thread behind the bead and made a new knot at the bottom of the heart. The bead was now secured.

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I chose to add in a silver bead after each heart bead and I made a simple knot as before to secure the beads by just wrapping both threads around my finger and pulling the tread through.

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I used a pin to wiggle the knot as near as possible to the bead and then pulled the knot tight.

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I started in the middle of the necklace so that I had a better sense of how it would look.

I carried on and alternated the colours.

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When I had enough beads, I knotted the two ends of the necklace together firmly. I am all for simplicity and didn’t want a clasp. I had made it long enough to simply knot the ends together and finish it off with a couple more of the silver beads.

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All finished! I love the relaxed colour palette and the circle of love hearts.

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