Thursday, 31 May 2012

humpty dumpty

Humpty Dumpty - poor old thing. He fell off a wall, and there was nothing anyone could do to put him back together. In some versions he does get up again and everyone is happy, phew! I know this because Humpty Dumpty is a big part of my life right now. My son is obsessed!

I probably sing this nursery rhyme 100 times a day. We have a dedicated bookmarks folder for YouTube videos. We act it out with every combination of toys and hats possible (the hat falling off is very important to my son). So when I saw this 1960s nursery rhyme fabric panel, I just had to get it!

I found this at NehiandZotz on Etsy, a shop full of bright, kid-friendly vintage fabrics. There were two panels, so one will definitely be a playmat and the other... well, either a playmat for someone else or... who knows? One thing is for sure, though, Humpty will have to remain intact at the centre of the panel!

I love the 1960s colours all the little details for babies and toddlers to enjoy looking at and finding. My son is also a big fan of turtles and tortoises, so I bet he'll love this little guy! It wasn't cheap to buy these but sometimes it is just worth it for something unusual that will bring so much pleasure.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

my new favourite summer drink!

What's a tea addict to do in hot weather? Recently, thanks to an Instagram photo from Elsie of A Beautiful Mess, I was inspired to try the Arnold Palmer: it's now my new favourite Summer drink!
The Arnold Palmer is mix of tea and lemonade. Just sweet enough without being too sweet, it is both refreshing and complex - it makes lemonade so much more grown-up! It also has a great cocktail-like feeling to it.
You can use any mixture of tea and lemonade to make this, and even though strictly speaking it is 50% tea and 50% lemonade you can play around with the proportions too, according to taste. Here's my favourite version of it:

  • Place two Earl Grey tea bags and one Lemon and Elderflower in a mug, cover with water just off the boil and leave to cool
  • Place a couple of sprigs of fresh mint (preferably from your garden or windowsill) in a jug with a few handfuls of ice cubes
  • When the tea is cool (or cool-ish depending on how patient you are!) pour it into the jug and cover with about 750ml of lemonade

Obviously it's even better if you have a pretty glass vintage jug - we only have a plastic one. We do however have lovely antique French café glasses which were originally meant for serving Pastis.
A sprig of mint in the glass is pretty, and I'd like a slice of lemon too, if I happened to have any to hand. I love the combination of black tea, lemon and mint, with the fragrant, floral hint of Bergamot (from the Earl Grey) and Elderflower.
Obviously this is made for drinking outside, in the sunshine! We have been predicted a return to cold weather, and yesterday the skies were grey and grim, but the sunshine returned in the afternoon and the warmth is persisting for now!
We have lots of lavender and it is coming into bloom now, which fills me with happiness. And if you fancy another inspired Summer drink, check out this idea for lavender lemonade, which I came across on a lovely blog I recently discovered called Tamara's Blend. As soon as the lavender is in full bloom I will be trying it out!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

staying serene

At the start of the year, I chose a word, serene, as a catalyst to help me make the most of the year ahead (read the post here). So I was delighted when I won a giveaway by The Rusted Chain. Their handstamped necklaces gave me the opportunity to choose a word to wear around my neck.

Looking at their site, it seems they no longer offer the particular custom option I picked for my prize, which makes me feel even luckier to have received my serene necklace with it's pretty little stamped star. I asked by email if I could have a pale green bead with the necklace, but I think I'm even happier with the white pearl they chose.

Serene was a good choice of word: it's been hard to stay serene at difficult times, but that's why I chose it. Having the word in mind has helped me to hold it together! I will wear my necklace often to remind me of the calming creativity, strength and blue skies I associate with the word.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

garden colours

The sun is out at last! Suddenly I realise all this rain and unseasonal cold weather has been having an adverse affect on my mood. In the sunshine everything smiles. At last I'm seeing the garden. My carrots have vanished without a trace! But the roses are about to appear.

Poised and ready... by the end of the month there will be an explosion of yellow, pink and red. Roses are picky but generous flowers. Careful treatment through the flowering season and we'll still have roses in December. But the most important colours in the garden this weekend have not come from flowers but rather cheap plastic...

...because it's time to play outside and play with water! Suddenly family life seems freer and easier. Doors and windows open, bare feet. This time last year we had a crawling baby and the garden seemed full of dangers. Now we have a toddler who loves nothing better than to fill the paddling pool.

And we can cool our feet in the fresh water, drinking Arnold Palmers (iced tea with lemonade) and feeling the warm sun finally wake us up from winter.

I have no problem with laundry in sunny weather. I am happy just pinning things out on the line, then taking them down again, "bone dry" as my mother would say, and with that sun-warm fresh garden smell. My son likes to line up the clothes pegs in order of interest and (almost) colour. Then he calls it a "choo choo".

Friday, 25 May 2012

fragile charms

I was really looking forward to sharing this idea. It never occurred to me it might not go to plan! Inspired by a gift tag tutorial by Kirstie Allsop (seen on TV before Christmas - couldn't find it on the web) I wanted to make tiny letter-printed charms from Fimo clay, in blue and white like fragments of china.

They were intended for some charm necklaces I'm making but unfortunately they turned out to be rather too fragile to cope with the attachment of a jump ring! I'm new to jewellery making - this was my very first try - so it might be my technique with the pliers. It was more fiddly than I expected! But I'm wondering if perhaps these tiny charms are simply too delicate for the type of necklace I had in mind... If you'd still like to try making them (perhaps larger, sturdier versions?) you'll need...

Plus I used a heart punch designed for creating icing hearts for cake decorating (not pictured above). I just rolled out the Fimo like icing (frosting) and punched out the tiny hearts. I used metal letter stamps to imprint my friends' initials, before baking them for 30 mintues.

Once cool I coated them with a layer of metallic blue paint. When it was dry, I distressed the blue using a cheap nail file, then painted on little dots of silver around the edge. Finally I coated them with Fimo varnish.
I think they are pretty, but I'm not quite sure what to do with them now!

Thursday, 24 May 2012


Thoughtfulness is an amazing quality. Thinking about those other than ourselves is what makes groups work: family, communities, societies. So, in a world where cyber bullying and "hate tweeting" is a widespread concern, I find it inspiring to encounter so many instances of thoughtfulness in the sphere of social networking.

This week I've been ill, and it really brought a smile to my face to receive this darling little fabric owl keyring. I love the cute eyes and all the different fabrics. And it comes all the way from Singapore, thanks to the thoughtfulness of my lovely friend Laura of Blue Eyed Night Owl, who visited there recently.

A while back, Jenna of Sew Savoir Faire tweeted a photo of this cute owl tupperware she'd found in a local superstore. When I tweeted back to say I wished I could get one, she offered to send it to me! Just like that. To someone she only knows via blogging and twitter. Amazingly sweet, right?

The very next day she got one for me and when the parcel arrived there was an extra little cute tupperware too, with ladybirds & flowers! The sweet owls and bright colours always make me smile, especially when I think of Jenna sending them all the way from the USA.

I made Jenna this owl pin to say thank you, then took ages to post it off, so I'm pleased to say it finally arrived yesterday! Laura, perhaps a little something will make its way to you too...?!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Judy's vintage fair

Usually I think of the blogosphere as connecting me with all kinds of faraway people and things, but I'm discovering it can inspire on a local level too. I found out about Judy's Vintage Fair from Claire of claireabellemakes, a fellow Cambridge blogger and lover of craft and vintage.
I hopped on my bike during my little one's nap and happily paid the £2 entry fee ("they made you pay to spend money?" said my husband incredulously) just to spend some time gazing at too-small-for-me elegant dresses and rummaging through piles of old silk scarves and curtains.
The Guildhall, built in 1939, is a pretty ugly building but it made a great setting, with its huge mint-coloured organ towering over rail upon rail of colourful clothes.
There was bunting a-plenty, and lots of well-dressed stall-holders working their vintage style. I couldn't resist the prettily mis-matching teacups and found myself indulging in a strawberry cupcake (certainly the best one I've ever had, although that's not saying much since I never got caught up in the cupcake craze).
Having bumped into my friend Jenny who owns a vintage boutique (Jemporium Vintage) I found myself running out of time and quickly started trying things on. It began to dawn on me that what I really wanted was to find a pretty dress. Instead I found this cute kid's bed linen:
Then had to grab this cream tweed tux-style jacket, which I thought was good value for £10 (although it is called an "affordable" vintage fair, I came across many lovely items around the £50-60 mark).
Finally, on a sale rail I dragged out this pretty, spriggy dress... it barely looks vintage to me (1990s, right?) but that just a sign of ageing I suppose!
I just loved shopping somewhere so different, with a great atmosphere. It may not have been the cheapest place on earth, but it was a delightful and rewarding vintage fix.

*update* you should check out Claire's great post about the fair - the photographs are wonderful and really capture the atmosphere! Plus she has a whole lot more detail about Judy's Vintage Fair...

Friday, 18 May 2012

tea party invitation

I finally got round to making an invitation for my forthcoming tea party and I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out! I had a serious lack of time to design it, so I took every possible shortcut! I used:

- teapot and teacup templates from this book
- felt tip pens for hastily-scrawled red & blue decorations and bunting
- a pretty and regal border from The Graphics Fairy (wonderful source of vintage clip art)
- Scarlet Ribbons font
- Acorn image editing software

It's taking place on a public holiday for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, hence the red, white and blue theme!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

still smashing

Although the first wave of Smash Book enthusiasm may have subsided a little, I've found it has become a small but essential part of everyday life, this process of gluing and jotting, a lazy, haphazard version of scrapbooking. It's great for saving my son' first artworks (like the sponge-printed plane above)...

...ideas for things I want to make, snuggled up alongside odd bits and pieces, cute photos accidentally printed out on the wrong setting... discovered half by accident (I will definitely be sharing these on my blog when I next make them - my first experiment was devoured by the whole family before photos could be taken!)

...and pretty things tucked into envelopes to be taken out and admired, calling forth memories each time (the owl was drawn by Laura of Blue Eyed Night Owl on an envelope).

I find I don't have many "full" pages because I haven't been thinking in terms of "pages" - instead just popping things in on whichever page seems to suit them. I've kept the "instructions" shown above because I like to re-read them and remind myself of the Smash Book ethos: "nothing's right, nothing's wrong". It's liberating, and it keeps it quick and experimental. I also wanted to share with you this inspiring video, which Masha of Hearting Handmade introduced me to: get messy, crumpled, random, textured... and enjoy!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

touching the ephemeral

When I heard that Ashlie of PaintingBliss had chosen 'chapbook' as her theme for the Sketchbook Project 2013, I was intrigued. I had no idea what a chapbook was!

In fact, as wikipedia helpfully explains, the term chapbook encompasses a diverse range of printed ephemera in the form of cheap little booklets: tracts, nursery rhymes, courtship advice, recipes, poetry, songs and random amusements. I was amazed to discover that the one of the most important historical collections of chapbooks was practically on my doorstep, in the Samuel Pepys' Library, in Magdalene College, Cambridge.

I was fortunate to be able to visit the library and look at one of the volumes of chapbooks in Pepys' collection. What was particularly special was to be able to touch and leaf through these ancient pages. There are so few surviving chapbooks, as they were not designed to last and at a time when paper was expensive the pages were re-used in the household (something I also like to do, in different ways, for different reasons).

I wish I could show you photos of the tiny leather-bound volume containing many, many thin yellowing pages of chapbooks, with often beautiful woodcut illustrations. I saw a selection from the "penny merriments" collection: it included palmistry lessons, poetic guides to seducing women, dialogues between squabbling spouses, 'the gentlewoman's cupboard unlocked' (useful recipes), and a particular favourite: 'a new merry book of all fives', containing numerous lists of five things, such as 'five things that are hardly hidden' and, if I remember rightly, 'five animals to avoid on a hot day'!
The image above, taken from a blog post about broadside ballads and chapbooks, is probably scanned from this 1977 edited book of the penny merriments. But - and I shiver slightly as I type this - I have seen, and held, the original.

{from my notes}
I think after this wonderful experience I may have to join Ashlie in choosing this theme for my next Sketchbook Project!

Monday, 14 May 2012

child's play

I managed a little trip to my friendly local craft superstore this weekend and realised how much I still love the kids' section. It's where the brightest colours and easiest projects can be found, taking me back to happy, messy childhood memories.

I needed some decorative paper for a project (more on that in a future post) and decided to make some myself using that awesome childhood method: potato printing! The last time I did this I was about 11 years old, making holly prints for wrapping paper: we still re-cycle that paper every year :)

From a tiny potato came childlike stars and hearts, and I used the back of a crayon for polka dots. It was exactly the look I wanted: like it had been done by a child... but not my under-two-year-old child since I still wanted a little bit of order and neatness... more like if a six-plus-year-old had done it!

There's nothing more liberating than reconnecting with one's inner child. I spent a therapeutic evening making pretty patterns and look forward to turning the paper into something fun too...

Saturday, 12 May 2012

DIY recycled envelopes

I love making my own envelopes out of recycled materials. An easy trick is to keep an old envelope and unfold it to use as a template. But then I saw some pretty wooden envelope templates on the Blue Eyed Night Owl blog and found them irresistible.

You may have noticed that on the inside of those ominous white envelopes containing bills, bills and more bills (and occasionally junk mail) are pretty patterns: from simple blue polka dots to intricate flags, triangles and hexagons. Why not turn those envelopes inside out and make them into something new? From this...

To this...

It's so simple: all I do is open out the envelope and trace around my template (if you want to use an envelope as a template just stick it onto some card and cut out first). Make sure you line up any folds on the security envelope with where you want your folds to be on the new envelope:

Then it's just a matter of folding the edges and gluing down the centre and bottom of the new envelope. I've found that it works best to use mod podge and a small paintbrush so you can be really precise and get a strong hold. Use only a thin layer or the paper can pucker.

Finally, add a stamp, sticker or decoupaged image to add your own personal touch. Et voilĂ ! These small envelopes are perfect for holding little gifts or notes.

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