Saturday, August 31, 2013

Theo's 2nd birthday (with toxic green icing)

Picnic time..

Theo turned 2 yesterday and spent part of the day having his first taster session at his new nursery. We visited once before to view it, and on both occasions he dived straight in without a backward glance. This time we left him there on his own for an hour and a half and he was utterly unphased.

The nursery is based in beautiful old farm buildings and operates under the free-flow philosophy, where the different age groups mix and are free to explore inside and out, it even has an on site chef. I honestly couldn't fault it in any way, and I'm excited for him that he'll soon be attending regularly.

In the afternoon we had a family tea in the garden with presents, sandwiches and cake. The day brought to an end an incredible fortnight's leave for Jim, where we have been blessed with day after day of sunshine and have been able to have some wonderful days out locally. We didn't have a holiday this year, but the past two weeks have felt entirely like one, with the benefit of all our home comforts.

For Theo's birthday I made him a tractor cake. I struggle a bit with novelty cakes because appaearance and taste seem to battle each other! I personally think royal icing is pretty horrible on anything except a fruit cake (and even then I'm not entirely sold on it) so I compromised with butter icing (which to be honest, I'm not a massive fan of either) Jim insisted it couldn't be chocolate and had to be a colour (as you don't get brown tractors) so we ended up with cake smothered in headache inducing, highly sugared, highly coloured buttercream.


I know what you are going to say, it wasn't made for the adults! But there were more grown-ups than children at this party and I think most of us just pushed our cake around the plate! Oh for a nice simple chocolate fudge cake!

Fortunately I made cucumber sandwiches and one of my all time favourites, strawberry palmiers too. Now they really are delicious (and stupidly easy to make!)

strawberry palmiers

And after much game playing and running round the garden, after nursery and presents, no nap and far too many jelly babies, Theo collapsed into bed in his new pyjamas with an assortment of his new cars - one happy tired two year-old boy!

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Friday, August 30, 2013

What's been inspiring me during August on Flickr...

This month I've found myself drawn to floor cushions. Personally I think it's because we've moved 3 of our 4 footstools into the loft for storage and my brain has been tricked into thinking we need more low height furniture, but they'll be no reasoning with it! I bet I'll have started making one by the end of September...

A few interior ideas have also crept into my favourites, along with bright and bold quilts, and some corduroy trousers. As the nights draw in the pressure is mounting, I'm going to need to start making the boy some winter trousers soon. It's not just because I enjoy sewing, there is a practical side too. He has the waist measurement of a six month-old (according to the clothes manufacturers!) but the leg length of an 18 month-old. So does anyone have any suggestions for where to buy heavier weight fabrics cheaply online?

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Review : Ozeri Curva thermo glasses

I was introduced to thermal glasses last year when my parents bought us a couple of big ones as a Christmas present. The genius of them, is that the double layer of glass keeps the liquid hot or cold and the outside at the right temperature to handle. Our current pair don't stay in circulation for very long as they get commandeered for drinks quickly and then end up in the dishwasher waiting for the rest of the load, so I'd been planning to buy some more, preferably a bit smaller to stop me drinking gallons of mint tea right before I go to bed!

Right on cue I was offered some Ozeri Artisan Curva glasses to review. They hold 8 fl oz, perfect for a small cocktail or a herbal tea. I particularly like the fact that each glass is subtly but distinctly different from the others in the set, they make a rather handsome addition to our kitchen and we've been enjoying using them.

As well as being dishwasher and microwave safe, they are also good for using in the freezer opening up a whole world of iced cocktail possibilities!

Disclosure : I was given a set of Ozeri glasses in return for this review, but all opinions are my own

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Brit Sewing Thursday Linky

It's that time of the week again, and sewing progress has been slow this week. With my husband on leave and father-in-law staying, there have not been many opportunities for sewing. The kitchen table has even been being used for its proper purpose - heaven forbid!

I did manage to knock up a very quick applique tee for a certain boy who has a birthday on Friday, but other projects have had to be left on the backburner. Hopefully they'll be more interesting news to report next week...

So what have you been up to?

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Monday, August 26, 2013

The beauty of old orchards...


I had forgotten how lovely orchards are at this time of year. All dappled sunlight and boughs heavy with fruit. We have never found pick your own farms in any other country we've lived in except the UK, and it is a joy to be back in Sussex to be able to visit them once again. 

Pick your own is such a simple, cheap entertainment to fill an hour on a bank holiday, and whilst everywhere else along the coast was packed with people, we only saw one other family at the farm we visited.

Theo, like most children his age, can't get enough of fruit, so was happy to accept the invitation to "try before you buy" sampling the different varieties of plums and apples like a connoisseur. We bagged about 4lbs of plums and got back in the car to hear Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi playing on the radio. 

"They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
And they charged all the people
A dollar and a half to see 'em
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone.."

It was strangely apt because we're currently fighting to keep a 200 year-old orchard that's just yards from our house. I hope these places are still around when Theo grows up...

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

I sold a photo to the Guardian!

My favourite photo of the week

This morning I woke up to a strange and slightly baffling email from a chap called Rob. He was emailing me to congratulate me on my photo being used by the Guardian/Observer newspaper and asked if it was the first sale I had made through Alamy. Alamy is one of two photo libraries I have pictures with, the other being Getty. I update Getty regularly when they request licenses for images (through Flickr) but had pretty much forgotten about Alamy, which I discovered as a result of my photojournalism course last year.

After replying to Rob's email to say I knew nothing about the picture being used, he sent me a link to the article. The photo is of my mum and Theo on holiday in Wales last year and has been seen before on this blog in a couple of guises (sorry about that!) Alamy will of course eventually send me me payment for its use, though I don't anticipate it being too much, but it just goes to show that if you put yourself out there, you never know what surprising rewards will come your way...

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

I'm going to Blogtacular

I decided a few weeks ago that I really must make an effort to go to a blogging event soon. Other bloggers seem to gain a lot from these networking events and of course it's lovely to put faces to URLs too. Miraculously almost as soon as the thought had crossed my mind, Blogtacular, an event specifically aimed at creative bloggers, was announced. 
It is frustratingly far off (9 months!) but the lure of attending an event for my niche has persuaded me to opt for this, rather than one of the mummy-blogger events that are taking place sooner. By buying an early-bird ticket I have taken a bit of a gamble, as I don't know anyone else who is even thinking of attending, let alone has bought a ticket! Here's hoping I won't be left in the corner on my own come May!
Anyone else thinking of going?
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Friday, August 23, 2013

Our garden plan...

Jim has spent most of this week working on a major garden project for us... that story I am saving for another post, but before we start showing off any finished work, I thought it's probably a good idea to do a post about our plans for the garden.

Our garden was pretty overgrown when we bought the house 4 years ago, but after a succession of tenants, it's in dire need of some TLC. We have already refenced 90% of the boundary and ripped out dozens of plants and weeds, but there is so much more to do. The long-term aim is to create a garden that reflects our seaside location and has spaces for the many things each family member wants from an outside space.

This is a simple plan of the garden as it stands now. The top of the map is north... roughly

There are five main projects we are aiming to tackle...

(1) Remove tree stumps and create raised vegetable bed surrounding existing brick base with new railway sleepers
(2) Level large flower bed (removing more tree stumps) and turf area
(3) Add fence and gate to separate front and back gardens
(4) Move boulders and plant box hedge along Eastern boundary
(5) Beautify (!) our yard which has become a dumping ground for wheelie bins and the various bits of rubbish we have found in the garden, and is the view from my sewing room/spare bedroom!

We are not by any means experienced gardeners, six years in military housing definitely put paid to that! But we are hungry to learn, and eager to transform our small green space. It will be a long project and a steep learning curve, but as the Pinterest mosaic shows, I am collecting ideas all the time!

When we are complete we'll have to start thinking about garden furniture and installing a hot-tub (I wish!) Talking of which if you're looking for supplies for hot-tubs visit this website.

This post contains promoted content.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Brit Sewing Thursday Linky (22nd August 2013)

So.... I finally finished the summer skirt I started making about a month ago! Or rather I finished making the skirt and finally got round to photographing it! If you remember this is the skirt I got a bit cross with and I'd like to explain why, because despite appearances this skirt is far from perfect...

My first lesson was that gathered elastic waist skirts are not super-flattering on anyone above the age of 10, and that is doubly the case if you use (as directed in the tutorial) twice the width of fabric you need for the back panel and then gather in using nothing but elastic. This is kind of obvious now I write it down, and that's why I was kicking myself so much! I'd advise anyone thinking of using the tutorial (or a similar one) to use 1.5 times tops.

Also of note is that gathered elastic waist skirts are really really unflattering on adults when they go below the knee, as they tend to balloon out at the hips, which is why this one ended up a little shorter than I usually wear. I did consider remaking it completely, but with summer rapidly disappearing, I thought there was a real danger my motivation to complete it would dwindle. So it is was it is, wearable, but not the most flattering item in my wardrobe. As always though, a sewing project is never a wasted experience, many lessons have been learned.

And so it is time to move on to new projects! I am trying hard not to buy new fabric, but it is not easy! Particularly as I think I've fallen a little bit in love with the Camp Sur fabric range from Birch...

This would make such a good boy's quilt and I've just finished one for Theo. I have no excuses to buy it - Help!

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

5 pieces of advice for new quilters...

There are lots of things I have learned since I first started quilting 5 years ago. Here is my personal list of the five things I wish I had known at the beginning. I'm sure everyone will have their own ideas about advice for new quilters (and probably completely disagree with mine!) so please feel free to add your suggestions via the comments at the bottom of the post!

wash your wadding not your fabric

Most beginners quilting articles I have read usually prescribe pre-washing fabric, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I have never pre-washed fabric and I have never had any problems as a result.

Somewhere once I did read something that said modern cotton fabrics no-longer needed to be pre-washed, but that's the only contradictory view I have read. Far more important to me is to pre-wash your cotton wadding, and yet I hardly ever see that advised.

Yes, some people love the wrinkled antique look, but I'm sure I'm not alone in being disappointed when I found the intended look of a quilt altered after first wash. I now pre-wash for shrinkage every time.

buy decent thread

I've lived in some pretty remote places and my thread supply has been quite unreliable at times, so I've often had to resort to whatever I can lay my hands on. I learned the hard way that cheap thread breaks or splits causing knots or repeated re-threading of your needle. I now make a rule to only use G├╝termann thread and I have purged my thread stocks and removed everything else. 

buy a 1/4 inch foot and use it

This sounds kind of obvious, yet most new quilters roll their eyes when you tell them they need to buy another presser foot (what another expense?) and the truth is you can get away with using the standard foot for quite a long time on simple designs, until you use a more complicated pattern. Then suddenly the small difference in seam allowance is enough to mean a design won't match up. Another one I learned the hard way when I made the assumption my standard foot was 1/4 inch (it isn't!)

The most common cry for help I have from friends who have recently taken up quilting is that they are having trouble joining the ends of their binding. It seems to me that 9 times out of 10 the root of the problem is that they have begun attaching it at a corner. Marci Baker of Alicia's Attic explains in this video how to seamlessly and easily join the ends of your binding if you start in the middle of a side, and there's an even easier way to do it if you buy a binding tool, as the Missouri Star Quilt Company demonstrate in this video.

This is actually worth repeating a few times till it sinks in, because when I first learned to quilt I actually ended up a little terrified about making mistakes. Quilts are handmade (whether with the aid of a machine or not) they are not mass-produced items. Do your best, and of course unpick if you make mistakes, but don't get hung up if things end up a little wonky, it's part of the charm.

So now it's over to you! I'm sure you probably disagree with at LEAST one of those points, so what advice would you give to first time quilters?

Monday, August 19, 2013

I'm Instagrammer Of The Week!


Over the last 4 weeks I've been hooked on Tots 100's Instagrammer Of The Week which they award every Monday. Through it I have been introduced to the stunning photos (and blogs) of My Two Mums, Sew Pretty, Fiesty Tapas & Cake Photos Life and given a small window into their beautiful and varied worlds. 

Today most unexpectedly I became the latest winner - Woo!

If you want to find out more about Instagrammer Of The Week, you can read all about it here. In the meantime if you have an Instagram account, leave a comment below with your username and I'll look you up. I'm feeling inspired to find new people to follow.
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Sunday, August 18, 2013

South-coast breakfasts : Driftwood Cafe

Eating breakfast out topped Jim's list of things he wanted to do on his birthday today (yes our birthdays are three days apart) so after our disappointing experience of a fortnight ago, we decided to select our venue from a safer source, starting at the top of the Trip Advisor recommendations...

The Driftwood Cafe is situated in the heart of Emsworth town centre near the Hampshire county border, nestled between the many independent shops that this lovely market town benefits from. It's decked out in muted blues with wood paneling, copious cushions and a very rustic nautical feel. It's open seven days, and on Sunday's between 10-5pm. When we arrived just before 11am was pleasantly bustling with people of different ages.

Jim opted for the cooked breakfast which was "very nice and a good price" whilst I tried the Eggs Benedict with a really fantastic homemade Hollandaise sauce, and we picked a toasted teacake for Theo, not baked in house, but supplied by the excellent local Westbourne Bakery.

The food was good and arrived quickly and the whole place had a very clean and welcoming vibe with the decor clearly having been well thought through. They have a very pretty little garden at the back where you can be served with canine companions in tow (always good!) and they also offer a very tempting looking afternoon tea, and an impressive array of cakes.

We suspect we will be back to try both the garden and the tea, especially as we have relatives visiting next week. Definitely a venue add to our list!

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Holiday postcards...from the West Coast of Scotland (competition entry)

Every summer British holidaymakers pack their suitcases and flock south. Like birds on an inverse migratory path they board planes and ferries, desperate to get a few degrees of extra latitude under their belt.

I hold my hand up and admit for many years we joined them, until the imminent arrival of our first child in 2011, left us constrained to a choice of holiday destinations within driving distance of our new military posting in Moray. So the west coast of Scotland it was!

Of course the doom-mongers warned us it would rain relentlessly, and I the eternal optimist, cautiously packed wet gear whilst praying for just one day of sunshine so that we had pictures to wave in their faces on our return.
Lunch at Kishorn Seafood Bar, west coast of Scotland

But yet against the odds here we were, sitting astride the verdant lawn of the wonderful Kishorn Seafood bar overlooking a sun-dappled loch, dining on fresh seafood and enjoying not one isolated day of sunshine, but our fifth consecutive day. 

Around us diners were seated at rustic picnic tables reading newspapers and munching on fresh prawn baguettes, and the only noise was the gentle hubbub of their chatter. It felt like we had stumbled upon an extremely well kept secret. Where were the tourists? Where was the litter? And where the heck was that rain everyone had said we'd have?

Caught up in the preparations for the arrival of our son, our planning for this trip had been woefully under-prepared. By rights we deserved a dud vacation, but by chance we had stumbled upon a destination that exceeded all our expectations. 

On the sands at Morar
Castle Tioram, Scotlan's west coast
Tobermory, Isle Of Mull

As we sat on our benches at the Kishorn Bar taking in the plentiful Scottish sunshine, we took stock of the sights we had seen so far that week. Beginning on the A86 where fleeting glimpses of a sprawling mansion across a loch prompted us to pull the car into a layby and take a closer look. We were at the shore of Loch Laggan and the majestic property the other side of the water was Ardverikie House the location of TV's Monarch Of The Glen. We were just two hours into our trip and already impressed...

On day 2 we negotiated the twisty country roads to meet the ferry that took us to the Isle Of Mull arriving in Tobermory the fishing village made famous by the BBC's Balamory. We drove up the coast on the quest to find a place we had seen on the map called Calgary. Arriving in a tiny hamlet we turned a corner to discover a white sandy beach with turquoise water lapping at the shore.

Our third day was spent at Castle Tioram the crumbling fortress on the remote Ardnamurchan peninsula where access is by foot across a tidal causeway. The following day we drove to Mallaig stopping midway on our journey to climb the hillside beside the Glenfinan Viaduct, taking in stunning views of Loch Shiel and capturing photos of the Jacobite steam train on its route to the coast.

Our eyes had feasted on some of Britain's finest scenery whilst our stomachs had taken in some of its best cuisine, and we weren't at the end yet! Ahead of us lay the beautiful gem that is the Isle Of Skye with its copious tiny bohemian art galleries and dramatic views of the islands of Eigg, Rum and Canna...

This is my entry to the Travel Supermarket Holiday Postcards competition, for a chance to win £1000. 

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