Something from the weekend….Foraging, gardening, making and treasure hunting

I had such a lovely weekend! The weather really does help of course, and all the sunshine hours make such a difference!

I spent a lot of the weekend gardening….the front garden has been transformed after many hours of hard work and is benefitting from having been totally dug over and filled with plants! I can’t wait to see it all bloom, although I guess I have to wait til Spring for that. Still, it looks better already and has tidied up the front of the house no end.

We did some great foraging too…..we picked loads of blackberries and elderberries from the local common, as well as some sweet pea pods and honeysuckle berries I’ll be planting for next year. We also raided the back garden, and came back indoors with stacks of apples, more blackberries and greengages too. There is a medlar tree that is also looking rather full, but I think we have to leave those a little longer before harvesting them.

We spent an absolute age rinsing the elderberries, plucking them off their stalks, rinsing them again and then bottling them….I hope it’s going to be worth it! We made one bottle of elderberry schnapps and one bottle of spiced elderberry liqueur….can’t wait to try them! I made jam from the greengages, and it was probably my most successful yet….it tastes yummy and is the perfect consistency so I’ll have to share some tips soon!

As is traditional, we also visited the antiques market on Friday and the car boot sale on Sunday….I picked up some great treasures to use at the wedding and the place was really buzzing in the fine weather. It was also the crafts and  farmers market on Saturday, and we dawdled around there awhile, spotting some great new stalls too.

Other than that, it was a weekend of domesticity, relaxing, cooking endless amounts of marrow, walking the dogs and watching more Buffy. Bliss!

Here are a few photos from the weekend…..

Ems x

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Tuesday Tutorial: Jewellery Picture Frames

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I actually first made these to display my jewellery in at a pop-up shop I was exhibiting in, but once I’d brought them home I thought they’d just be perfect for keeping my own collection all tidy! I have a beautiful big jewellery box, and a big hat box that’s crammed with jewellery too, but despite all that my things invariably end up strewn across the fireplace in the bedroom!

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I have my flavours of the month, then they get buried underneath the next favoured few, and before too long I’ve forgotten what I have! This way though I get to show off several pieces at once, keep them all de-tangled and then just swap them back into the jewellery box when I want a change!

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These are super easy to make, and only took me moments. They’re cheap to put together too (I made them using bits and bobs I already had at home!) and don’t take any special skills!

What you will need:

  • Picture frames (broken, or with the glass and backing removed)
  • Pencil
  • Ruler or tape measure
  • Small cup hooks
  • Drawing pins
  • String
  • Mini pegs
  • A bradawl tool, if you have one, or something sharp and pointy if not! (Please be careful!!)
  • White tack or picture nails

How to make:

1. Along the top edge of your tallest frame, measure the inside edge and mark out where you’d like each hook to go using the pencil

2. Using the bradawl, start off a hole at each mark

3. Screw your hooks into the holes, ensuring they all end up facing the same way

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4. Along each side edge of another frame, measure out and mark with a pencil where you’d like a string to cross, leaving a good 5cm in between each

5. Push a drawing pin into each mark

6. Tie string across and between each set of drawing pins

7. Attach pegs to the strings

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8. Now they’re ready to go on the wall, either suspended on nails or just attached with white tack (like mine!)

9. Hang long necklaces from the hooks, and rings, brooches etc. from the pegs

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10. Stand back and admire your work!

Ems x

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Something from the weekend: Fudge, walks and White Russians

Another little whistle-stop tour of my weekend…..

Saturday:

Lie in due to headache….followed by a naughty breakfast of Staffordshire Oatcakes with cheese and bacon…into town after that, to buy eggs from the farmers market as well as some much-needed fudge….

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Some home-alone training for the dogs, leaving them for twenty minutes at a time to pop into town…coffees back at home in between and reading up on the upcoming Hitchin Festival….

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A little gardening, plus a good couple of hours building our new barbecue….Home made veggie Moussaka for dinner….

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….then watching The Big Labowski whilst drinking White Russians.

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Sunday:

A lovely morning walk at Chick Sands….followed by a walk around the car boot sale and more home-alone training for the hounds….

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Gardening and barbecue prep after that…..then Adam’s parents over for an afternoon of grilling meats and other goodies….and some slobbing on the sofa for the evening, watching The Fifth Element….

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Bank Holiday Monday (yay!):

A stunning walk around Ickleford, through beautiful fields of barley with blue skies above….

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Another trip into town to visit the Humanitas shop and to buy sweets….then some more gardening time as well as some wedding stuff whilst sat outside in the sun eating too many sweeties (including strawberry ones shaped like brains!)…

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A lazy dinner of nut cutlets then more weddingy stuff before an early night.

Lush.

Ems x

Wednesday Wants….. Washi washi washi

Right. Before you say ANYTHING, I am allowed to obsess over stationery and packaging, *for professional reasons*. And so what if I did spend an inordinate amount of time last week building a washi tape dispenser in my studio? It was *for professional reasons*.

I mean, I have to ensure the goodies I spend hours making are carefully wrapped up against those brutal Posties, and the goodies also have to be pretties don’t they? And washi tape is just so incredibly versatile too….I mean, what other tape could you make such pretty mini cupcake bunting from?!

Needless to say, I’ve become a little obsessed about washi tape lately, but all the cool people are, and any combination of Japanese kitsch, pretty packaging and super cute stationery is bound to get me over-excited, so I’m going with it. And now you are too….here are my favourites….

mt 2012 Autumn NEW- Japanese Washi Masking Tapes / 6mm Slim Twist Cord A set of 3

Twist Cord A set of 3, from Little Happy Things, £3.39

New-Sanrio My Melody Paper Deco Tape / 15mm (Pink)

Sanrio My Melody Paper Deco Tape, Little Happy Things, £3.73

MT ex 2012 Autumn NEW- Japanese Washi Masking Tape / Map


MT Map Japanese Washi Masking Tape, Little Happy Things, £4.75

Green and White Grids Washi Tape / Masking Tape - Classic, 15m, 1 Roll

Green and White Grids, GoodiMochi , £1.83

Pink Inch Scale Washi Tape / Masking Tape - 10m


Pink Inch Scale, GoodiMochi, £1.83

Fluorescent Color Washi Tape / Masking Tape // Your Choice of Color - Yellow, Pink, Orange, Green // 10m, 1 Roll


Fluorescent Color Washi Tape, GoodiMochi, £1.83

Black and White Chevron Washi Tape / Masking Tape - 10m


(*cough* Twin Peaks) Black and White Chevron, GoodiMochi, £1.83

Heart in the Clouds Washi Tape


Heart in the Clouds Washi Tape, Wishy Washi Tape, £2.03

Washi Tape: On the Road

On the Road, The Sewing Post, £2.03

NEW- Moomin Carriage and Umbrella Series Japanese Washi Masking Tape / Salmon Pink

Moomin Carriage and Umbrella Series in Salmon Pink and White, Little Happy Things, £5.93

Ems x

How To…. Transform a nasty dresser into a nice dresser

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You may have heard me going on about the dresser we’ve been transforming for our kitchen, and I’m so pleased with the results that I thought I’d share how we did it here.

We bought a very orangey-varnished dresser for the kitchen from a local-pick-up Ebay seller last year, and although it’s a nice shape and size, it looked very dated in its finish. So, we decided we’d give it a make over, to make it brighter and fresher, and here’s how…..

What you will need:

  • Your dresser or other piece of furniture
  • Fine grade sand paper (an orbital or palm sander makes it easier if you can get one!)
  • Lots of scrap paper or newspaper
  • Masking tape
  • Wide and narrow brushes
  • White (or any colour for that matter) DURABLE kitchen-friendly paint (we used Wilkinsons Durable emulsion)
  • Tester pots in contrasting shades for handles (we used Wilkinsons emulsion tester pots in pastel shades)
  • Satin finish durable varnish
  • A piece of dowel for stirring the paint and varnish
  • Sugar soap
  • Rubber gloves
  • Protective goggles and mask (wear these all the time you’re sanding and preferably when you’re painting too!)
  • A clean cleaning cloth

How to do it:

  1. Prepare the area you’re going to work in by ensuring you have good ventilation, your piece of furniture is free from any obstacles, and any other furniture or belongings are covered in newspaper to protect them from saw dust and paint. Also remove any handles etc. and take off the doors and drawers to make them easier to paint separately.
  2. Decide which areas of the furniture you want to paint and which you want to leave as exposed wood, and put on your goggles and mask.
  3. Sand the entire piece, just roughly all over, so that the first layer of old varnish or paint is roughened. This level of sanding will suffice for all the areas you want to paint.
  4. For the bits you want to leave as exposed wood, continue sanding until all the old varnish or paint has gone, and you are left with a nice smooth surface and a more natural colour.
  5. Now mask off these areas you want to keep un-painted with newspaper, sticking this down carefully to the edges with masking tape so that none of the not-to-be-painted surface is exposed, but all of the areas to be painted are exposed.
  6. Wearing your rubber gloves, pour a little sugar soap onto the cloth and clean away the dust from the sanding, so that your to-be-painted surfaces are nice and clean. You’ll need to wipe over a few times with water too, in order to get rid of the soapiness.
  7. Now you can finally start to paint! Don’t forget to stir the paint pot well before starting!
  8. It’s better to paint three or four very thin coats as opposed to one or two thicker ones, as you’ll get a better finish and the paint job will be less prone to chipping. Use a narrower brush to get into all the nooks and crannies and corners, then a bigger brush to fill the larger areas.
  9. Let the paint dry THOROUGHLY in between each coat….it’s hard to be patient but the finish will be much better if you are!
  10. Keep painting thin coats all over the piece until you have a good coverage, then leave it to VERY THOROUGHLY dry before carefully removing the masking tape and newspaper.
  11. Now you can clean the un-painted surfaces with the sugar soap, and get on with the little details.
  12. Lightly sand the handles and clean them with sugar soap.
  13. Then paint each one in your chosen colour, again in several thin coats, waiting for each coat to dry in between.
  14. Once those are dry, stir your pot of varnish well, then take a small brush and thinly coat each handle with the varnish. Again, you’re likely to need around three thin coats.
  15. Once the varnish is dry, replace the handles and doors and drawers, then fill up your dresser with pretties, sit back and admire your hand work!

All in, our dresser cost less than £100, including the piece itself and all the painting things. A bit of a bargain I think and well worth the effort! So much so in fact, that we’ve already done our kitchen table to match (with exposed wood top and white legs) and we’re planning on painting the chairs in the pretty pastel shades of the dresser handles!

Hope this is useful and you enjoy your project!

Ems x

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Wednesday Wants…. I Am A Bird

I came across these stunning treasures on Etsy a few weeks ago, but was very happily reminded of them today when they featured in a daily ‘Etsy Finds’ email!

I Am A Bird is an enchanting Etsy shop hosted by the wonderfully talented Madeleine Belanger, a 21 year old artist and jewellery designer from British Columbia, Canada. Madeleine also has a darling blog that you can find here, but it’s really her stunning jewellery that has my attention.

Taking inspiration from her surrounding Canadian landscape, colors and animals, Madeleine hand paints each completely unique piece featuring owls, deer, evergreen trees, squirrels, racoons and birds.

You can even order a bespoke piece by Madeliene, and I think a pet portrait necklace would be an incredible gift!

fox necklace in wood necklace- framed fox necklace- hand painted unique fox necklae

Fox in wood necklace, £30

How adoringly crafty is this little fox?! This beautiful pendant was made from unique wood retrieved from wine vats, which has been cut, sanded and drilled by Madeleine’s Dad! The pendant has been painted and sanded, then filled with a crystal clear resin.

honey harvest bear- fall fashion wooden bear necklace- wheat field dark wood- iamabird black friday cyber monday sale

Honey harvest bear, £30

I love this sweet little grizzly bear who stands in front of a wheat field. Another original painting, every order is completely unique!

summer owl - turquoise teal summer fashion owl- hand painted wooden necklace black friday cyber monday sale


Summer owl, £27

I adore the teal backdrop to this owl necklace! It just looks stunning against the blonde wood and golden owl.

Framed Fox Necklace- Hand painted wood fox necklace- reclaimed wooden fox necklace

Framed fox necklace, £40

The oval shaped pieces rather remind me of cameos, and I find this little fox utterly enchanting! The wood, which is recycled from old bed posts and the like, has been hand stained.

honey bee spring fashion necklace- hand painted bee necklace- honey comb wooden necklace

Honey bee necklace, £30

I’m loving bees at the moment, so this one was bound to appeal to me. For this particular style, a hole is drilled into the wood and the bee is forever suspended in his quaint little home, safely behind a super glossy resin.

valentines bird wood slice necklace- hand painted wood slice necklace


Love bird necklace, £17

And the super-cute winner is this Love Bird necklace! The little loops are secured into each piece of wood, and from those the pendants hangs on a silver chain….you can even choose the length and colour!

Should funds allow, I’d go crazy and buy all of these….and probably lots more on the shop besides! And with an exceptionally reasonable £3 shipping cost, it’s all the more tempting!

Ems x

Living for the weekend….dealing with the post Christmas blues

That sky is grey again. And it’s all cold out there (and not in a Christmassy-winter-wonderland way). Still, the weekend is already here, and so I’ve been thinking of ways to fill it with fun stuff to take my mind off the fact it’s no longer Christmas. (Yes, I *am* still talking about Christmas, sorry)…..

Planning for the year

January is always full of the dulls. Everyone is shattered after the festivities, low on funds, and trying to catch up and get back to normal. But I find that there’s nothing like having something to look forward to to cheer me up, so I’ve been enjoying making lots of plans. I’ve bought tickets, made bookings, and started organising fun adventures to keep me busy and excited for the months to come. Get your diaries out!

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DIY Projects

With all the Christmas decorations gone, I know I’m looking forward to sprucing up the house a bit and starting work on some little DIY projects I’ve been planning. We have a Welsh dresser to sand and paint, and a few little tables and plant stands that I want to make-over. It’s a cheap and fun way to spend time, and you get the reward of something pretty to brighten your home at the end of it!

Bring in the Spring!

I don’t know about you, but I’m aching for the new season already! I’m bored of the cold and grey, and I want to see the Spring flowers come up. I’ve instigated this ahead of schedule by buying some lovely stocks to brighten up and scent the house…they look great in the Moomin Papa hat vase that I got for Christmas!

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Baking and Cooking

I know that every other person is on some kind of diet or detox, but I firmly believe that in order not to go cold turkey, you need to slowly wind down from the festive gluttony. I’m still not used to *not* having a pudding after every meal (yes, including breakfast) and being surrounded by naughty treats. And so to ween myself off, and hopefully shed a few of the holiday pounds, I think it’s only sensible to get doing some good home cooking and baking. You’re more in control when you make it yourself, so you can start to think more healthy and reduce portions, whilst still technically treating yourself and avoiding going into complete withdrawal! I have had some success with new recipes, including making French Onion soup for the first time in years….yum!

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Check on those resolutions!

It’s not too late to revise them, so have another look at whatever list you may have made and think about how realistic it all is. If you’re getting on well, well done you! If not so much, there’s no shame in re-working your list….you’ll do better for it in the end! I have done OK so far…..I have started getting myself sorted by way of a spider diagram (LOVE THEM), as well as playing around with the new pop-up studio Adam gave me for Christmas to help with my photography!

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Go for a walk

I’d much rather kick off the new year with a nice country walk than a fad diet or detox. It’s far more fun and much easier to stick with too! The weather has been pretty gruesome all told, but the rain seems to be staying away rather more at the minute so why not take a nice long stroll this weekend? Extra points for finding a pub lunch along your way!

Whatever you get up to, I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Happy adventuring,

Ems x

How To Tuesday…. Personalise your own bunting

With a dull grey sky outside, and a distinct lack of festive decor inside, I thought now would be a good time to share this rather cheerful crafting project!

A little while ago I decorated some of my bunting collection with ‘Under A Glass Sky’ as a sort of banner to hang up at my craft market stalls. And so now that I’m taking a break from stalls over the winter, I decided it should brighten up my little studio….and it does!

This project is dead quick and easy, requiring NO SEWING, and is a lovely way to display a message…..you could decorate some butning with a new baby’s name as a gift, or make a ‘Happy Birthday’ banner. I have used my own bunting, which I bought a while ago from Rex International….I may well post a how-to on how to make your own in the future though!

What You Will Need…..

  • Bunting….one flag per letter, plus one flag for each space (for example ‘Happy Birthday’ would require 14 flags)
  • A contrasting fabric for the letters (I used a cotton casement which is easy to work with)
  • Tailors chalk or fabric pencil
  • Sharp scissors
  • Iron-on hemming tape
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Liquid fabric glue
  • A small spatula or paint brush

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How To……

1. Mark out an outline for each letter on your contrasting fabric, ensuring each fits nicely onto your bunting flags

2. Cut out the letters as neatly as possible

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3. Turning each letter face down, cut short strips of the hemming tape and lay on top of the letter, covering as much of the fabric as possible but ensuring you don’t go over any edges

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4. Flip the letters over and place one at a time onto the appropriate flag, ironing into position to secure

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5. To seal each letter safely onto the fabric, neatly glue the edges down with just a little fabric glue, but making sure you glue all around each letter. If you prefer, you can use a hand applique stitch to secure the edges instead….but it will take a lot longer!

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6. Make sure the glue is REALLY dry before folding up your bunting as you could end up with the flags all stuck together if you’re not careful!

7. Proudly hang your bunting wherever you like!

And that’s it!

Ems x

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The best bits from 2012

There’s no way I could put as much time and love into this site without thoroughly enjoying it….but there are some elements I enjoy even more than others! 2012 has been a year of finding my blogging feet, developing the look and feel of my site, and deciding what I like to write about most….not to mention what you like to read about!

Now I can see which are the most popular posts with you guys by simply reading my stats page, but I thought I’d share with you *my* favourite posts from this year….

Grayson Perry, Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

Not only was this probably the best exhibition I saw in 2012, but it has to be the most inspirational one I’ve *ever* seen. I came away vowing to spend more time being creative, and with a head swimming with ideas!

Tosca at the ENO

Despite being the second time I’ve seen this production, I couldn’t help but get swept up in the ENO’s stunning Tosca.

Soup Week

My obsession for home-made soups naturally led to a week of soup recipe posts!

Made in Britain Fashion Installation at BIS with UKFT

I thoroughly enjoyed this freelance commission, and was so proud to work with UKFT on such a prestigious project!

There’s no place like London

Whilst I’ve not looked back since moving out of London, it is with great fondness that I remember my 12 years living there, and that incredible last summer.

So, as the year comes to a close, I want to thank you all so much for reading my blog, commenting, egging me on, and helping out in the many and varied ways you do…I hope you continue to enjoy visiting my little site and as always, I’m eagerly awaiting your ideas, feedback and requests, so do stay in touch!

A very happy new year to you all!

Ems x

Catching up…. a week (or so) in Instagram

It’s been a busy couple of weeks with Christmas orders, preparations and hosting, hence the radio silence here on my blog. Still, there’s been plenty going on, and so I thought I’d catch you up with a round up of my latest Instagram posts…..

I enjoyed baking up a batch of Lebkuchen for the Domestic Sluttery Just Desserts club….we devoured most of them ourselves but managed to save a few to share with guests!

We had our Christmas party and house warming the weekend before last, and loved having more guests to stay over as well as a very merry bunch for a festive supper. There were crackers too.

We spotted Father Christmas himself at the market whilst out doing some Christmas shopping. I was worried he was leaving it a bit late!

We met (again) and fell in love with (again) the local Greyhound Rescue bunch….the dogs were all kitted out for the festive season!

I spent lots of time last week readying the house for our guests as well as making last minute Christmas gifts and orders. I most enjoyed making a little Wonderland inspired jam jar, as I’ve been meaning to do one for ages!

You know it’s Christmas time when you have jelly beans for breakfast (thanks Mark!)……

…..and cupcakes for lunch! (thanks Brigitte!)

I painted my nails all Christmassy for a friend’s Christmas party, but we couldn’t go in the end because the trains were all cancelled into London!

Despite my busyness, we still popped to the antiques market on Friday, where I was lucky enough to find this wonderful haul of vintage cameras!

I also fell in love with this gorgeous little cruet set I got…super cute!

We’ve been spying our chances in between the rain to go out for walks with the dogs….we have two staying with us for Christmas along with their owners, Adam’s brother and sister in law

Adam got rather stuck in the mud on one walk though as it had been so rainy! He was stranded for a while and nearly lost a boot!

I made up the mince pies with the mince meat I prepared months ago, and have been feeding weekly with brandy! They are pretty good!

We’ve been loving having the ‘young uns’ to stay…..they got giant knuckles or ‘Postman’s Knee Caps’ as early Christmas pressies!

Buddy has been loving our nice long garden, and my throwing lots of balls for him!

Adam’s brother and sister in law brought LOTS of treats with them, so we have been gorging ourselves!

Yesterday I planned out our Christmas lunch, noting down a time line of when to do everything and sticking labels onto pots and pans and dishes to reserve them!

We went over to Adam’s parents’ last night for a roast lamb dinner….Peanut enjoyed meeting a very attractive new friend there!

Supper was concluded with a delicious pudding of Bannoffee Pie and Butter Cream Meringues. I am still full!

I hope you have been enjoying the build up to Christmas and you’re all set for the big day too!

Ems x