Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Eat Vegan this Christmas!

I've put together some yummy recipes which are freely available on the web. I have tried the mince pies and the Chestnut Paté en Crôute and they are both lovely. I'll be trying the boozy ice cream soon...

Vegan Mince Pies

If you would like to make your own mincemeat this makes enough for four mince pies:

50g (2oz) Mixed Dried Fruit
100g (4oz) Dessert Apples, peeled and chopped (coxes are ideal)
Quarter of a teaspoon each of Ground ginger, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Cloves
2 teaspoons of brandy

Cook the apple in a very little water until soft. Remove from heat and stir in dried fruit, spices and brandy. Leave to cool. (Recipe from Solihull Animal Aid).

I'll be having this on Christmas Day! We tried it and it blew me away it was so delicious! I love Chestnuts!

Chestnut Paté en Crôute

Big Boozy Yule Cake

Boozy Vegan Ice Cream More booze! Red wine and brandy this time.

If you see something you like and the temperature is for a gas oven and you have electric click here to convert.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Meditate your way to Christmas calm

During the festive season or holidays we all need to take time out to relax. We should do this anyway as relaxation is what Christmas is about, but many of us will spend the time running after our families, wrapping presents, shopping and cooking. It’s sometimes hard to remember to keep calm when it’s Christmas Eve and you haven’t managed to find time to shop for presents or buy the Turkey.

While all this is going on and you’re switching off from work it’s the best time to try to meditate. The best time to meditate is officially when you are fully dressed and able to sit on a chair with no distractions, but I don’t think this suits everyone. Trying to switch off during the day actually meant relaxation didn’t come to me easily and I became frustrated as a result.

Then I tried it last thing at night before I went to sleep. It was also difficult at first but I listened to a man guide me through the Alexander Technique of tensing all your muscles one by one and letting go. I focussed on an image of a wall of colourful wool in bookshelves. I noticed how I felt after taking deep breaths. I felt amazing.

To be honest I didn’t expect it to work so I tried this a few times and then forgot about it. I thought I would just remember to breathe deeply whenever I was stressed. Which was wrong of course.

Then I was lucky to meet someone who gave me her meditation CD. It was brilliant and I found it worked fantastically well on me. It took me a few attempts to get over the feeling that I was doing something weird, then I was away. I remember the first time I felt a heightened sense of calmness. I felt high but without the sense I was out of control of my body, and of course I hadn’t used any substances.

If you are new to meditation I would suggest trying The Meditation Podcast. The voices in it are incredibly soothing and lull you into relaxation mode just before you begin the meditation. There is a wide choice of podcasts but I found the ‘positive thoughts’ one to be most beneficial to me. When I first listened to it two years ago I found myself imagining myself walking with a book under my arm in a wonderful tree-lined park. I wondered whether I desired reading or to write a book. In any case I resolved to write more and read which led me to a writing residential where I made my decision to become a journalist indirectly.

Self-actualisation is a very powerful process. When you listen to this podcast you will imagine yourself as you want to be. In the following years you will find yourself subconsciously taking little steps along the pathway to get to where you want to be.

Powerful and relaxing at the same time. So choose a time in the day which suits you (take your iPod in the bath if you have to) and practice meditating. It’ll come after a while and you’ll feel amazing when it does.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Book Review: Make me I'm yours...Christmas

It's a week before Christmas. You're shopping for presents after maybe making for your shop/s, fulfilling Christmas orders with one hand while talking to your Aunt Maude on the phone with the other. It's probably manic. I know this. But.

This book is so cute and amazing I just had to tell you about it. If you popped into a shop you could buy it full price if you are too late to order from Amazon or look for it in your local library. There is plenty of time to just squeeze in some making for yourself or for personal presents. You could make snowflakes out of white tissue paper to stick on tealight holders for example. Your children could even do this.

There is a nice mixture of last minute small baking projects such as cupcakes and biscuits which are beautifully decorated and would be lovely to make on Christmas eve. There are a couple of cards in there which are very simple and look great. It's a small book but the quality of the projects more than make up for this.

On the long term project side there is a quite simply stunning white stocking covered in gold beads which would work well as an adult stocking to put at the end of your bed! There is also a felt version for the kids.

The instructions at the end of the book are very concise but simple and easy-to-follow. I love the style of this book. It was a real gem waiting for me in the library and thought I would share with you.

You can buy it here from Amazon. But hurry!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Lavender Hearts

It's been a few weeks since I blogged here. There has been a lot going on. Studying journalism at home means there is always something challenging on my 'to do' list so I've made sure I've made time to relax and sew:

I started these lavender hearts on my birthday at the start of October then November happened with flu and a cold and plenty of minor illnesses getting in my way! December is feeling like a much more positive month and despite RSI in my right shoulder from tweeting too much on my blackberry I've managed to knit too! It's a good job I'm ambidextrous! (You will need to alter the knife and fork round if you ever lay the table for me!) This is the man hot water bottle cover version of my pink one here.

(All my photos are smaller than usual in an attempt to disguise the rain induced darkness!)

I will post before New Year I'm sure but I will closing my shops in about a week or so and won't open them again until Tuesday 3rd January 2012.

I've had a wonderful year craft-wise. I've finally sold quite well this year although of course I want to up the stakes next year and identify the handmade side of my shop which has sold and make more of it.

This is the year I made the first steps along the road to becoming a journalist. It's been scary at times and I'm sure the road ahead will bend sharply sometimes but I have no regrets after investing what felt like a lot of money in a journalism diploma. It's always a risk when you are struggling financially to do that.

It's been a year of conflicting demands at home and disappointments. Happiness and hard work. Recognition and sometimes ignorance of how hard I'm working. The downside of working at home is, of course, that when you're offline no-one knows just how hard you are working. But I hope you recognise that work and enjoy my blog/s and shops!

There will be more blog posts on here over the festive period. But for now Peace and love. Enjoy your christmas!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Book Review: Crafting with Cat Hair

OK. So I admit I had a few preconceptions about this book when I was asked to review it by Quirk Books. I am not a cat owner so my view is somewhat skewed here as I can't try out any of the projects nor does any of the cat care advice appeal to me personally. So I have had to try and imagine I'm a cat owner. Lets call my imaginary cat Rhubarb.

If I did have a cat called Rhubarb I would be thrilled by this book. As a vegan I quarrelled with myself for a few months on whether I would continue to use wool and felt. In the end I decided I would. But for those vegans who have an issue with using wool due to the sheep taking part in the same industry as that which produces meat I wonder if this would provide a good alternative? Taking fur from your cat after brushing doesn't hurt it in anyway. I would be interested to hear from any vegans on this.

The amount of projects are amazing. I had no idea cat fur would felt in the same way as wool roving. The projects are really well thought out and easy-to-follow.

These mittens are so cute!

There are no patterns as such, just the pattern for the cat motif which you trace and felt with.

To top it all off you get a whole section which contains advice for cat care (which of course will come in useful when grooming Rhubarb!) and lots of lovely pictures of cats...What more could you want?

Crafting with Cat Hair by Kaori Tsutaya is available on Amazon UK here or Amazon US here

I was sent this book to review by Quirk Books.

Christmas Postal Dates

Christmas is almost upon us and the month countdown has begun!

Cross Stitch decorations available in my shop

For those of you who are international readers/buyers who may be buying online for the first time or for those of you who have forgotten how soon the postal deadlines are here is a reminder:

Mon 5th December (In just 10 days!)

South & Central America, Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, Asia, Far East (including Japan), Australia and New Zealand

Fri 9th December (Just two weeks left)

Eastern Europe, USA and Canada

Mon 12th December

Western Europe (France, Germany)

Sat 17th December

UK Second Class and Recorded Signed For™

Tue 20th December

UK First Class and Recorded Signed For™

So if you live in Australia, France, Germany or the US get shopping if you want something from the UK!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A finished Refuge Blanket!

Hooray! I finally have a blanket to send to Refuge! What a great feeling!

Refuge and domestic violence charities are the subject of severe cuts to their work which will have a huge impact on an already slim service. Needless to say without putting too much of my personal life up on the blogosphere the charity is very close to my heart and it was a nice feeling when I felt very motivated to crochet the blanket.

I know there are a lot of knitters and crocheters out there who probably knit blankets all the time for charity and wouldn't dream of writing a whole blog post about it but as this is the first time I've made anything for charity or indeed knitted or crocheted a blanket I thought I would mark the occasion!

If you have never done it before I would highly recommend it. What a lovely warm feeling to know a child will be comforted by the bright colours of my blanket while staying in a refuge with their mother.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Finishing the Refuge blanket

Yes! I've finished the 30th square for the Refuge Comfort Blanket. It's a good job I didn't attempt an adult blanket as I am still quite a slow crocheter!

I've steam pressed the squares and tied all the threads in. I started to crochet all the squares together with single crochet yesterday afternoon and was amazed at how easy it was. It's so much easier than knitting a blanket and then sewing it all together. I'm satisfied at the way the squares look when together as it was supposed to be a completely random patchwork of bright colours and bits and bobs which I had left over in my stash.

It's been living inside my Ravelry knitting bag but will soon be sent off to Refuge which is just as well as the deadline for receipt of them is in around two weeks' time! Phew!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

A frothy coffee with crochet

I've had a bit of an unfortunate fortnight. There was a shock two mondays ago, also last sunday, I caught very bad flu on sunday too and there has now sadly been a severe motorway crash next to the town where I live. It's shocked me and my thoughts are with the families and friends of those lost and injured.

I made myself these vegan scones this morning as an elevensy treat with a cup of decaf coffee which I whisked to make it frothy. It cheered me up on a drab day!

I've been so ill I wasn't able to leave bed from sunday through to wednesday so I feel as if the week has been lost. With a very high temperature, a foggy head and severe fatigue I was only too happy to close my eyes and sleep it off but when I opened them again I indulged myself in some Ravelry time.

I opened a Ravelry account a few months after I fell ill in 2009. Since then it has grown hugely in size and now even has its own shop full of merchandise which sells out so much I literally had to run two weeks ago to purchase a Ravelry knitting bag!

It's great for reading what other people are obsessed with in terms of knitting and crochet. Also, now I'm into crochet as well as knitting I'm finding it twice as enjoyable. I browsed the free patterns and found a really bright crocheted paper chain idea to use up any remnants of the lovely acrylic I bought last week. Wow! So amazingly colourful! I'm looking forward to draping mine on our christmas tree to brighten up our room!

I also found a beautiful new crochet blog to read. Alice lives in Wellington, New Zealand which is a stunning part of the world and I'm very much enjoying reading her posts about balancing studying with crafting and pictures of Alpacas! I will talk more about balancing studying with crafting in another post but it can be challenging at times! Also her pictures of yummy bright yarn make me want more bright acrylics to be mad with! Perfect.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Refuge Comfort Blanket

Well, what a odd collection of colours and yarn! This is half the squares (15) needed for a child's comfort blanket for the Refuge/Simply Knitting fundraising campaign.

I think pretty much every colour in the rainbow is going to be in my blanket. I have used up every last bit of my stash. All the odds and ends from other projects have been randomly crocheted in in no particular order or pattern. I hope the fact that is completely odd will help when I sew it together and it looks like a complete mish mash of colours and textures!

I used the blanket as an excuse to buy some yarn yesterday. We have had a new shop open in Taunton which sells a wide selection of colours in acrylic so I bought six bright florescent colours (Stylecraft DK 'Special') for under a tenner.

Let me know if you have crocheted/knitted a blanket for Refuge.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Vegan Carob Cupcakes

I got the ache to bake this afternoon. I haven't made any cakes in the oven for a while, preferring to make a little cake just for one serving in the microwave in an attempt to cut down my intake of...well, cake.

I found this recipe online for vegan cupcakes as, strangely, I haven't baked a batch of vegan cakes in the 18 months I've been vegan.

I halved the recipe and found that in our fan-assisted oven on 150C they were done in 12 minutes. Also I found the mixture to be a little on the salty side what with the baking soda *and* salt. I very rarely add salt to anything and can always taste it when told to add. So next time I will leave the salt out. Also, I'm growing a little tired of carob cake as this is what I make for myself as a dessert. So next time I will try orange cakes (the WikiHow recipe tells you how to make the cakes with fruit puree) with orange icing just for a change.

If you aren't vegan I would recommend trying this recipe. You wouldn't need anything particularly 'vegan' as such, just soya milk and it would give you the chance to try it in your tea.


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Book Review: Pattern Magic 2

I do not make clothes. I will freely admit this. I'm not afraid to make this admission publicly to the world. However I enthusiastically accepted a book on clothes-making from Laurence King Publishing as I am a) curious and b) wish I was more inclined to use my sewing machine and sew my own clothes.

I must also admit that I was a little intimidated as a novice to see the unusual but highly impressive creations on display in this book, 'Pattern Magic 2' by Tomoko Nakamichi. Originally published in Japan but translated into English, this book is amazing. It's origami for clothes.

This 'disappearing tie' is fantastic and would completely solve the problem of ties leaping up to whack men in the face in the wind, thus defeating the object of a tie, which is of course to look smart and tidy. Or, it would just look cool on a woman. The book has lots of easy-to-understand instructions and a basic pattern which needs enlarging at the back of the book. You use the same pattern to adapt for all the projects in the book.

This is a ball-shaped accordion (a jabara). What a fantastic shape for a sleeve!

This project is comprised of knotting fabric. The author says 'By bringing together several knots that resemble tiny bells I have created a unique garment that evokes the sound of bells ringing'. How poetic!

Overall this is a hugely inspirational book to look at if you are a beginner with clothes making from patterns. If you have been making clothes for a few years I would say definitely buy this book if you haven't got it already!

You can buy it here on Amazon.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

A trip to Bath

Yesterday I made a trip to Bath to relax before my new job begins on Monday.

I made my way to the Fashion Museum eagerly after it was highly recommended by someone I follow on twitter. I wasn't disappointed. What a treasure trove of dresses and history!

There are all sorts of dresses and fashion on show, from the 18th century to the present day. The text by the dresses used literature to illustrate the era. Fanny Price from Mansfield Park by Jane Austen was called upon to show how a dress-shaped jacket was seen as the must-have fashion accessory of its day and Fanny was cast out of her class due to not owning one!

My eyes came to rest on an Alexander McQueen dress in the wedding dress section. Queen Victoria's dress was very black and well worn as one would have expected.

This was my second favourite display after the wedding dress section! It was focused on the 1940's and I loved each and every dress in it. My only complaint was that there wasn't more in each section. It reaffirmed my feelings that I'm glad I didn't grow up in the sixties with all the mini skirts and fluorescent colours! It was certainly based on the idea of a very very skinny girl!

Afterwards we had a wander round the city centre and looked around the Victoria Art Gallery. I stood before the large Gainsborough paintings in awe.

Sadly my enjoyment of Bath was (only slightly) hindered by not having much spending money. Last time I went there I certainly splashed the cash, but then that should change in the near future! If you find yourself in Bath I would definitely recommend the Fashion Museum!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Lavender Sachets

It's been a long day today. After an interview this morning I have finally made it back into full-time employment!

So I took some time this afternoon to chill and use some of my 'Tilda' charm pack up by making some lavender sachets.

I have a huge bag of lavender lurking away after a former colleague kindly donated some a few years back. I never got round to making any lavender sachets with it as I got distracted by felt! I'm going to have another practice session with the sewing machine on some scrap material to see if I can go round corners and curves.

The sachets will have a 'patchwork' feel as the fronts will be different from the backs. I love the smell of lavender and may keep a couple for myself/presents.

Very traditional like bunting and so easy to make : )

Monday, 3 October 2011

Book Review: Print & Pattern

This is such a wonderful book. I couldn't believe how beautiful it was when I unpacked the bundle of review copies from Laurence King Publishing. My excited fingers opened the book and unleashed a feast for my eyes.

'Print and Pattern 2', released on Monday 10th October, is absorbing and relaxing to delve into. A sensory romp through an encyclopedia of print. Divine.

Marie Perkins started the 'Print and Pattern' blog when she was a textile designer compiling mood boards. It's a fantastic blog which you should check out and read along with buying this book.

The above pattern is a design by Lotta Glave, a Swedish designer, who is inspired by folk art and her children. These patterns were used on cards, trays, napkins and dishcloths.

This fantastic design bursting with a rainbow of colour is by Alys Paterson, a Bristol-based artist in the UK. Her clients have included Waterstones, Habitat and John Lewis. The designs were all used as greetings cards.

Another couple of pages bursting with a rainbow, these are designs by Belly Button Designs, a card designer. This time they're based in Manchester with their own retail shop.

Becky Carr is the talented lady behind the company 'Owaboo'. Inspired by Japanese designs and retro patterns her designs have been used as greetings cards. She is an 'old school' designer who draws out her patterns then scans them into photoshop.

Rebecca Elfast is another Swedish designer who has studied architecture. She is inspired by nature and would like to see her designs on fabric as well as paper.

Rob Ryan may be better know to readers as 'MisterRob' on etsy. Based in London, he is known for screenprinting and paper-based craft. Rob's clients include Liberty and Urban Outfitters.

Silvia Dekker is a Dutch freelance illustrator with a very cute portfolio! Her work has been featured on tableware, bedding and a range of fabric.

Cosmo Cricket are an American couple who design sheets for scrapbooking.

There are well over 60 designers in this pleasingly-heavy book. They are all available for commissions and they're websites are often heavenly to look at too. I was delighted and thrilled with this book. I know you will be too.

**I was sent this book to review by Laurence King Publishers.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Win Digital Scrapbooking Software

MyMemories approached me to ask if I would like a review copy of their digital scrapbooking software along with another copy for one lucky reader of this blog.

There is so much you can do with this software package. There are a certain amount of free backgrounds you can 'purchase' from the store but there is also a huge array of brilliant scrapbooking backgrounds for just $2 or $3. You can create a calendar with your own photos, gift tags, cards, or create your own picture using all the wonderful embellishments which come with the software. It's only taken me a few days to get to grips with the layout and buttons. I even managed to compose a demonstration page or two!

[Click on image to enlarge it]

You could create a beautiful journal of your time spent with that special person or fond memories of your children. It's so versatile you could really get creative and create a stunning keepsake for future generations of your family.

[Click on image to enlarge it]

To enter:

Go to the MyMemories website and tell me in a comment on this blog which digital scrapbooking kit is your favourite.

For extra entries:

* Follow the MyMemories blog.

* Like MyMemories on Facebook.

* Follow MyMemories on Twitter.

Please leave an extra comment each time you follow the blog, follow the twitter feed and like on facebook otherwise I won't recognise your extra entries when I come to draw a number randomly : )

$10 off for every customer:

MyMemories are also offering $10 off any purchase you make in their store, or off the MyMemories Digital Scrapbooking Software.

Use your $10 off code here when you purchase the digital scrapbooking software.

Use this coupon also for $10 off any item in the MyMemories store.

Copy and paste this code:


Feel free to give this code to family and friends too!

The giveaway winner will be chosen at random. The more comments you leave the more of a chance you have of winning. The deadline is 5pm GMT, 12pm EST on Thursday 12th October. It's open to international readers and the winner will receive downloading instructions in an email.


Saturday, 24 September 2011

25% Etsy discount ends friday

It's the last few days of my etsy sale!

Just enter the code SEP11 in the space for a coupon code when you checkout an item in etsy.

You can get 25% off these christmas decorations:

or how about some fabulous felted balls or felt letters?

I won't be having another sale anywhere this side of Christmas so this is your last chance to grab any felt you want before prices go back up on etsy!

Book Review: Indie Craft

'Indie Craft' is a book by Jo Waterhouse. It's pure entertainment. I don't think I could have had more entertainment walking into an alternative craft exhibition.

It features the work of 29 artists working with a range of materials. There is crochet in here, felting, embroidery, sewing, knitting, cross stitch and paper. Projects often combine two or more of these and look amazing as a result.

Each section features an interview with the artist and some excellent photographs of their work. It took my breathe away when I opened the book due to the depth of colour and quality of the art/craft.

Also the work challenged me as I love alternative crafting but haven't come across some of the methods used in this book before.

This is my favourite section of the book! Artist Patricia Waller works in crochet and adds materials such as wire, wood and metal to create alternative works. Her work is a display of violence with dark humour.

This photo below is also a favourite. This struck me as being in the vein of Tracey Emin who also draws on real-life experiences of relationships and emotions. Joetta Maue is an American artist who sews the most amazing embroidery. I have featured one photo of her work but the others in the book are simply phenomenal.

Kate Westerholt works in cross stitch with a definite indie twist!

Shauna Richardson is an Irish artist crocheting with mohair wool.

This book is a must have if you love novelty, alternative, indie, call-it-what-you-want crafting. Projects such as 'Knit the City' have put a spring in the step of alternative crafting. It's a lovely book to keep on the coffee table and you will find yourself staring at it in amazement!

You can buy 'Indie Craft' here on Amazon.

*This book was sent to me to review by Laurence King Publishing.
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