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Christmas is coming… my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

21 Dec

Conversation Pieces Christmas 1  Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

So, Christmas… this year, I’m all about the snow. Since it seemed unlikely there’d be actual snow (*shakes fist at the sky*), I wanted to create my own little snowy scenes. Guaranteed snow if you will!

Add in a new obsession with terrariums – even the word is fun to say – and I knew I wanted to make some sort of mini magical display. Not having an actual terrarium (I did find one in a junk shop but it was (a) expensive and (b) larger than you’d expect), I decided to use a few large jars that we had in the flat.

photo 26 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

And yes, there may have been a Game of Thrones inspired theme going on (you know Scotland is Winterfell right?).

photo 34 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

Then I added sugar, glitter, a plastic wolf and some tiny trees (most of which came from Homebase, the others from a train model shop!).

photo 46 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

And not to give up my obsession with foxes completely, I added an arctic fox into the mix too.

photo 221 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

Now you if follow me on instagram, you might have already seen the above picture… this is the cautionary bit of making a teeny terrarium. I managed to drop some of the sugar on the floor and before I could clear it up, the fox-owl-cat gleefully rolled around it, purring like crazy, until she was one very sugar-covered cat! While all I could do was laugh…

photo 14 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

Anyway…  as well as the tiny terrariums, I thought it would be good to turn our living room window area into a sort of terrarium too. (I’m not sure if that makes any sense but it did in my head when I thought of it!)

So I bought a few paper balls from a budget-friendly party supplies website

Except my ‘a few’ turned out to equal a lot. And they were bigger than I’d expected…

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Which is why some are on the floor as ‘fallen’ snow…

(Also this year’s tree is squint. I’d love to say it’s a deliberate thing but it’s just how he likes to rock!)

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And the others are suspended from the ceiling as ‘falling’ snow…

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The main reason for the on the ceiling/on the floor thing is that putting up paper snow balls – using fishing wire which is pretty much invisible – is somewhat trickier than we’d anticipated. Especially when you have a really shaky ladder. (Why are they always so shaky?) And one of you wants to take photos instead of holding the ladder. Ahem.

photo 43 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

And on the tree? (Who’s called Eric Nordman – after True Blood’s Eric Northman – and because he’s a Nordman fir. Last year’s was Bruce, the Blue Spruce!) Well, the army men made a comeback

photo 12 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

So along with a whole lot of ceramic stars that we made, there’s a troop of golden army men, guarding our tree!

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photo 33 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

Or intent on destroying things on the tree… I can’t quite decide!

Conversation Pieces Blog Christmas 2 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

And on our mantlepiece this year, my favourite thing is our Instax photos bunting…

photo 24 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

Which is just some little golden pegs, a golden bit of string and a few pics from our travels this year. Simple but possibly one of my favourite crafty things ever.

Conversation Pieces Blog Christmas 4 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

And a bit more snow (paper snowflakes this time) above the couch… I did mention I was on a snow theme right?

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And our wedding deer looking a bit festive too… since why not!

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Hope you all have a sugar sweet Christmas! 

And I wanted to say thanks for all your lovely comments, tweets and emails in 2012, you wonderful, brilliant, funny, amazing people. You really are what makes blogging such fun – and why I keep coming back here to share some random little pieces of my life. So, a huge thank you for always putting a smile on my face!

Here’s to an amazing 2013 xxx

Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

8 Dec

photo 2 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

Last Christmas, I mentioned in a blog post that I was working on a book project… and Handmade Christmas it was!

It’s a festive crafty book published by Penguin in the States and Australia. (The downside is that it’s not published – yet – in the UK so I don’t get to hang out in book stores next to a pile of them going “I did that” at random people!)

Anyway, when they got in touch to ask if I would like to contribute to (and get paid for!) the book, I was like hells and yeah!

Then I realised that the deadline for all the crafty projects I would have to create/write about would be just after Christmas… which you know is not the quietest time of year. So in the run-up to last year’s Christmas, I spent lots of time making lots of things that I couldn’t blog about… until now.

They asked me to create, write-up and make the prototypes for 4 Christmas projects… my brief was that they should be fun and funky.

So here… drum roll please… are my 4 projects.
A UK exclusive if you will!

1. A Ho Ho Ho Vintage Plate Wall

IMG 8716 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

I’d had the idea of doing this pre-Christmas – having a plate wall that spelled out ‘Hello’ but never got round to it. Basically this brings together two of my favourite things: vintage plates and washi tape.

photo 11 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

I made two sets. One for me to keep and one for the book (as I didn’t know if I would get them back).

IMG 8715 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

The ones I made for me are actually a bit better than the ones I made for the book – suppose that’s always what happens with your second go!

Instructions:

You need: 6 plates, 2 rolls of washi tape, scissors, a scalpel and something to hang your plates up with.
1. For H’s, cut 6 x 6cm pieces and 3 x 4.5cm pieces of washi tape.
2. Place one 4.5cm section in the middle of plate, then two 6cm pieces on either side to make your ‘H’. Repeat.
3. For O’s, use other colour of washi tape and cut 6 x 5.5cm pieces and 6 x 5cm pieces.
4. Place one 5.5cm piece to the left of the centre of your chosen plate. Then use your 5cm pieces to make a ‘C’ shape. Then use the second 5.5cm piece to turn the C into an O. Repeat.
5. Use a scalpel to trim any edges and tidy up your letters.
6. Attach wall hanging to the back of your plates.

2. A Christmas Pudding Pinata

IMG 8717 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

This is probably my favourite Christmas crafty thing I’ve ever made. As well as the one for the book, I made some for my little cousins for Christmas. Getting the videos of them, smashing them open on Christmas morning, had me in peels of laughter.

IMG 8706 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

It was also one of the craziest projects I’ve made (and I’ve made a whole heap of tiny gingerbread houses before!)… it’s actually the cutting and the sticking down of the tissue paper that takes the most time.

It was worth it though. One of those stick on a Christmas movie, have some mulled wine and get glueing activities!

The only downside is that I was in such a rush to finish these in time for Christmas and the deadline that I didn’t take many photos (what kind of blogger am I?). So I’m tempted to make another this year for that reason alone!

photo 21 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

You need: 40cm round balloon (you can use other sizes); 1 x old newspaper; 20 sheets printer paper (approx); Wallpaper powder paste (from a hardware store); 2 packs of brown crepe paper; 1 pack of white crepe paper; 2 sheets of green crepe paper; 1 sheet of red crepe paper; String (white); Chocolate coins

Tools: Scissors; Paintbrush; Knitting needle or slim screwdriver; Balloon pump (optional); Large cooking or plant pot (optional); Wooden spoon (for breaking your piñata!)

Instructions:
1. Inflate the large balloon, either using a balloon pump or a lot of your own breath!
2. Cut the strips of newspaper to into 3cm wide strips.
3. To keep your balloon from moving about, place it in a large cooking or plant pot.
4. Using a paintbrush, brush the paste onto your strips before applying them to your balloon. Important: Remember to leave a hole at the top of your balloon so you can put your chocolate coins in.
5. Once you’ve completed your first layer, leave to dry. And then repeat until you have three layers.
6. For the fourth layer, use printer paper (it will give you piñata the firmness it needs for getting whacked!)
7. Once your piñata has dried, it should feel rigid. Pop your balloon – keep hold of it so you can pull it out easily.
8. Put the chocolate coins into your piñata.
9. Using the knitting needle, create two holes near the top on either side and put the string through these.
10. Cut some circles of printer paper and use these to seal up the top of your piñata.
11. Cut your brown crepe paper into 4cm strips, fold in half longways and cut into them to make fringing.
12. Starting at the bottom, cover your piñata in fringing.
13. To make the ‘cream’ of your pudding, make some white fringing, extend it down your piñata for a ‘dripping’ cream effect.
14. Cut out holly leaves and stick to your piñata. Cut some circles of red crepe for the berries.

3. Gingerbread Moustaches

IMG 8707 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

So I love moustaches… and I love gingerbread cookies… so this one was a given! The ‘hairy’ ones are my favourite. Also I have no idea why they photographed them upside down for the book. Maybe it’s more arty that way!

You need: 140g unsalted butter; 100g dark muscovado sugar; 6 soup-spoons of golden syrup; 350g plain flour; 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda; 2 teaspoons ground ginger; 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon; Icing sugar (optional); Chocolate sprinkles (optional)

Tools: Scissors; Thin cardboard (best from a cereal box); Tin foil; Rolling pin; Baking trays; Baking paper; Cling film; Scalpel (or butter knife); Saucepan; Spoon or teaspoon

Instructions:

1. Draw moustaches onto thin cardboard. Then cut out. You now have your templates.
2. Wrap in a thin layer of tin foil – so you end up with some silver moustaches. The foil stops your template from sticking to the dough.
3. Put your moustaches to the side and make up your gingerbread mix.
4. Melt your butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan. Then in a bowl, mix together your flour, bicarbonate of soda, and spices. Add your melted butter mix to your flour mix, and knead together to make a firm dough.
5. Roll out the dough until it’s about 5mm flat.
6. Press one of your moustache templates into the dough and then cut around your template using either your scalpel or butter knife.
7. Gently lift your moustache from the rest of the dough and place onto the baking paper-lined trays.
8. Bake your moustaches for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Leave your moustaches to cool.
10. To decorate them, mix icing sugar with a little water until you get a smooth consistency. Then with the back of a spoon, apply the icing sugar onto your moustache. Add some chocolate sprinkles on top to give a ‘stubble’ effect!

4. Ceramic Letter Banners

photo 42 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

And finally… I love these. This is one of those ideas you have and then panic about whether it will actually work.

I pitched this to the editor before I’d even done a trial version. Of course it would be easy to make tiny little ceramic letters and then string them together…

IMG 8704 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

Actually it was pretty easy… which as you can imagine was a big relief!

IMG 3783 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

You need: Half a pack of ceramic modeling clay (available at all good art stores); 2m of baker’s twine

Tools: Alphabet metal cookie cutters (available from baking departments); Cling film: Chopping board or cutting mat; Rolling pin: Cocktail stick: Needle: Baking tray

Instructions:
1. Roll out your clay – onto your chopping board – between two layers of cling film until 2mm thick (approx).
2. Peel back the top layer of cling film and you’re ready to start.
3. Select the cutters you want to use… I chose letters that spelt out ‘let it snow’, ‘santa baby’ and ‘merry xmas’.
4. Press your chosen cutters into the clay – just as you would with cookie dough.
5. Remove each letter from the clay and place on a baking tray.
6. Before baking, use a cocktail stick to make holes in your letters. For L’s, I’s and other ‘narrow’ letters, poke the cocktail stick through the side of the letter to make one hole. For bigger letters, like M’s, X’s and S’s, poke the cocktail stick through the front of the letter to create two holes. (This is what you will thread your baker’s twine through.)
7. Bake at high heat for 15 minutes or time/temp specified on clay’s packaging. Allow to cool and set overnight.
8. Taking a needle, thread your baker’s twine through the front of your letters.
9. Leave enough baker’s twine on each side to create a slipknot. (Having a slipknot means you can adjust the loop so it fits on fiddly branches!)

IMG 8703 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

I’d originally planned to put ours on the tree but then remembered I couldn’t blog about them until the book was out (and yeah I pretty much always blog about my Christmas tree, even back in 2009!)… so instead I strung the ones I made for me and put them in our letterpress tray instead.

IMG 40051 e1354971035209 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

Which in the end, I loved more than the banner itself!

Anyway, so that’s it. That’s what I was up to last Christmas, every night after work, with Elf on in the background… This year, all my crafty projects are just for us, which is kind of relaxing because if they go wrong (like this one did) then it’s not like there’s a deadline to worry about!

Merry Christmas everyone!

I’m now off to decorate this year’s tree, while watching Elf… some things never change!

A trip to New York… or the holiday and the hurricane

19 Nov

Life Is Weird NY Conversation Pieces Blog.jpg A trip to New York... or the holiday and the hurricane

Sometimes life is weird. And sometimes, it’s weirder than weird.

Back in the summer, my other half decided he wanted to take me to New York as a surprise birthday present.

So on October 28th, we went to New York…

Now if you were following the news at the end of October/start of November, you might have an idea that the surprise he’d planned was outdone by a bigger surprise…

conversation pieces blog street art nyc A trip to New York... or the holiday and the hurricane

Yes, we arrived in New York, just before hurricane Sandy (also known as Super Storm Sandy or the Frankenstorm) showed up.

NY News Conversation Pieces1 A trip to New York... or the holiday and the hurricane

We arrived at our hotel – just as a mandatory evacuation was announced. Unsurprisingly, some people were a little stressed by being told they had to find a new place at such short notice. Thankfully having stayed in NY before, we simply phoned a hotel we stayed at before and managed to get their last room. Lucky sods that we are!

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The next day was my birthday… in a very shut New York. We were in midtown Manhattan, where there were only tourists and ‘crazies’ on the streets. (Yes, it did feel a bit like a movie!)

And everyone was in search of food… there were no cafes or restaurants open, room service was off the menu and even all the Starbucks were closed!

Finally, after walking through blocks and blocks of empty streets, we found a deli selling crisps, juice and giant pumpkins!things to do conversation pieces A trip to New York... or the holiday and the hurricane

So we celebrated ‘worst case scenario’ birthday New York with a pumpkin instead of a birthday cake, eating Cheetos instead of food and bouncing on the bed… well, because who doesn’t do that in a hotel room? (If you don’t, you should. It’s like your constitutional right… or something like that.)

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And then… well, on Tuesday, New York was still shut. On Wednesday, the MoMA was open – and that was it. Which was pretty crazy. You don’t often see ‘I Am Legend’ style New York. By evening, whole blocks were in complete darkness with only the Empire State Building to light your way.

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By Thursday, our lovely original hotel reopened (we’d been on standby at our emergency hotel) and we managed to persuade a rather nice taxi driver to take us there. (Not many had gas/petrol or were willing to drive to Brooklyn.)

It was a little more open than Manhattan, so we went in search of actual food… some shopping, and some street art. (Since street art doesn’t close!)

Street Art Brooklyn Conversation Pieces Blog1 A trip to New York... or the holiday and the hurricane

By the time, we’d had our first proper meal (it’s amazing how delicious a little seaweed wrap tastes when you’ve eaten only Cheetos for three days!)… we were beginning to feel more like we were on holiday…

conversation pieces brooklyn A trip to New York... or the holiday and the hurricane

We wandered about, we strolled, we sauntered, we meandered (yes, the subway still wasn’t working properly)…

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But it was great… we snapped some street art, found a junk shop, did some thrifting (of course)…

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Oh and we shopped. I splashed out on a lavender coffee, a pink bobble hat and a Leah Reena Goren dress. (It has kitties on it and pockets… essential purchase!)

Street Art NYC Sloth Conversation Pieces Blog A trip to New York... or the holiday and the hurricane

And then… well, then my other half got very, very, very sick. We didn’t realise it then but he’d caught the Norovirus (the winter vomiting bug). And that was that.

(This sad sloth represents how we both felt about that!)

Street Art NYC Matt Dillon Conversation Pieces Blog.jpg A trip to New York... or the holiday and the hurricane

By Sunday, he was well enough to go out and explore New York again. (Matt Dillon is here to represent how happy we felt about that!)

We had 8 hours before we had to be at the airport…

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So we went to a flea market, then took our unused Halloween masks to Manhattan…

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And it was a gorgeous day. Look at that beautiful blue sky… Hello Chrysler Building.

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And a cool crisp Autumn evening… Hello Election themed Rockefeller Centre.

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And then it was time to say goodbye…

But there was one more surprise left. I got the Norovirus too. In an airport. In front of a whole queue of people waiting for their plane. Let’s just say it wasn’t my finest moment!

Elf Conversation Pieces Blog.jpg A trip to New York... or the holiday and the hurricane

Back in Scotland, we decided that drastic times called for drastic measures – yes, it called for Elf.

“Why are you smiling like that?”
“I just like to smile, smiling’s my favourite.”

And everything was right in the world again.*

 

 

*Ok, that’s a bit of a lie. I was still very very very sick and had some really freaky feverish nightmares that may or may not have been inspired by Elf. But heck, it’s certainly going to be a trip we’ll never forget. We’ll be those old people going ‘We were in New York when…”. Hopefully I’ll leave out my spectacular puke performance in the airport though!

A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket-sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

26 Oct

halloween squash  A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

This week, I fell in love… with a sea green squash and some tiny pumpkins.

Now you can probably guess my general tiredness (and sanity) levels lately… by the fact that I went to buy lunch and came back with a ‘slightly (ok, very) more expensive than a pumpkin’ squash. Yes, I was vaguely delirious about the whole purchase – in the way you should only ever be about an expensive pair of shoes or a new camera (please feel free to insert your own item there).

Even carrying it home (it’s not exactly light) didn’t deter me from my new-found obsession…

P1010173 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

Thing is… I couldn’t bring myself to carve it! Yes, you know you’ve reached a new level of weirdo when you (a) buy a funny looking squash to carve up and then (b) get too emotionally attached to said squash to actually carve it!

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I mean really it’s the perfect shade of Where The Wild Things Are green! It just seemed mean to do anything to it. Ahem…

P1010239 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

Thankfully, we’d bought some pumpkins that I could carve (though does anyone else feel that emptying out pumpkins feels serial killer dark?!) We do take the carving quite seriously – see on the table behind me? There’s a mallet, a power drill, hacksaw etc. Um, yes, that might explain why it seems so dark!

P1010223 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

As well as getting some normal sized pumpkins (and the squash), we also picked up some munchkin pumpkins… possibly the best thing ever (second to the squash of course). Now they’re quite teeny for carving…

P1010291 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

But oh boy are they brilliant! Carve out the middle, stick in a pair of vampire teeth (10p from Asda!), then simply poke two holes in for the eyes (I put the ends of match sticks in so they had a bit more definition here). So easy and how much fun do they do look? Love them!

P1010271 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

So this is our entire pumpkin (and squash) family… a rather handsome set even if I do say so!

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(Um, yeah, this mask has nothing to do with this post… but hey, it’s here anyway. Just in case, you need a small break from pumpkin shaped objects!)

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And oh yes, the dinos… well, that meant we had to have a dino carved into a pumpkin right?

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Stegosaurus pumpkin meets plastic Stegosaurus…

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And oh yeah a Polaroid pumpkin… mainly as this seemed an easier shape than carving another dinosaur!

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Oh and a New York skyline – partly as it gave me an excuse to use the drill to do all those windows!

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Does anyone else see that the Polaroid totally has a face?!

P1010281 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

Ok, this is pretty much the same picture as before – but how cool are the pocket-sized pumpkins? If I had a free day/weekend soon, I would so want to take these guys round town and do a mini photo shoot. (See the soliders/Easter chicks post for what happens to my brain during a ‘holiday’!)

wild thing mini pumpkin 2 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

And just because… doesn’t the munchkin pumpkin make a good Wild Thing?!

I hope you all a lovely/scary/spooky Halloween! (As some of you probably know, Halloween is also pretty much my birthday so I’m taking some time out to do some celebrating/chilling/costuming!)

See you all in November xx (Arrgh! Now that is terrifying!)

 

A rather cool day trip… to Scotland’s graffiti castle

9 Oct

conversation pieces kelburn castle 2 A rather cool day trip... to Scotlands graffiti castle

I like castles. Visiting old, ancient ruins. Learning a bit of history. And wondering how on earth they kept warm. (Does anyone else think they’re too soft to have lived in the middle ages?!)

I also like street art. If you follow me on instagram (or saw my Barcelona post), you ‘might’ know that already.

So… a graffiti castle… well, how darn cool is that?

And in Scotland too!

conversation pieces kelburn castle 6 A rather cool day trip... to Scotlands graffiti castle

Kelburn Castle is one of the oldest in Scotland… and the only one to have been given a makeover by four Brazillian grafitti artists.

It’s also possibly the cheeriest looking castle I’ve ever seen!  How adorable is that sun for example?

conversation pieces kelburn castle 5 A rather cool day trip... to Scotlands graffiti castle

Though I really couldn’t decide whether certain bits were cool, creepy or both!

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And with so many details you could stand there all day… yes that girl has a squirrel on her head and a kitten hanging from her sock. (Just your average day there then.)

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Turns out there was more to Kelburn Castle than graffiti… there was a rickety bridge over a waterfall…

And a leafy valley that  was like something from Jurrasic Park!

Conversation Pieces Kelburn Castle camera A rather cool day trip... to Scotlands graffiti castle

It was here we decided to have a bit of a photo off… one of our new things since I got the other half his La Sardina camera.

Conversation Pieces Kelburn Castle 1 A rather cool day trip... to Scotlands graffiti castle

And I think I can admit that he won with this shot. How ‘Lost World’ does this look?!

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On the grounds, there’s also a maze. It’s one of those things that kids probably love but it freaked the heck out of me.

Yes, I see tiny little houses, all alone, set in the woods – and think horror movie thoughts!

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Apparently there was a narrow tunnel you could crawl through to get into this… Yes, I thought it was too spooky to do that!

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Oh and there were some creepy caves too… definitely like something from Lord of the Rings!

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And then… well, then there were these guys. Chickens I think. (These piles of feathers are chickens right?)

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And a goose that seemed intent on having a nibble of my other half’s boot…

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And a whole lot of owls. Quite an easy spot the difference this one!

And there was cake and tea too – but we did the un-bloggy thing and just ate it, instead of taking pictures. (Yes, it does happen some times.)

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Then there was just time for one more look at the castle… I do think it would take you hours to take this all in!

Conversation Pieces Kelburn Castle detail1 A rather cool day trip... to Scotlands graffiti castle

And then it was time to go home… well, with a little trip to Glasgow Ikea on the way. Which might have broken the spell somewhat really!

Dinosaurs, cameras and vintage… a look book & magazine photo shoot

20 Sep

Main Shot zoë house 15 Dinosaurs, cameras and vintage... a look book & magazine photo shoot

Some Sundays, you have pancakes for breakfast. Maybe go car booting. Maybe go on a day trip. You know the usual…

Then some Sundays, you find yourself being snapped by the lovely Lauren McGlynn for a lookbook and a magazine.

And what a wonderful Sunday it was too.

If you’ve not come across Lauren before, she’s an American wedding photographer in Scotland, soon to be based in Edinburgh. She’s also all kinds of wonderful. Super talented. And damn good fun to boot.

zoë house 65 Dinosaurs, cameras and vintage... a look book & magazine photo shoot

Now, anyone who’s known me/this blog for a while will know that I’ve said I’m not a huge fan of getting my picture taken. Heck, I think I’d even told Lauren that on several occasions. (So I think she was somewhat surprised when I first mentioned the shoot!)

But I’ve learned to let go a bit lately. I just decided to stop being so hard on myself. It’s strange but that’s all it took. Who knew?!

Anyhoo… so Lauren came round to shoot a lookbook for Hannah Zakari. (Possibly one of the sweetest shops in the entire world). I had a stegosaurus print from Hannah Zakari – by the super Robbie Porter – so I’d spray-painted some toy dinosaurs gold to go with it…

zoë house 6 Dinosaurs, cameras and vintage... a look book & magazine photo shoot

… and then Rachael from Hannah Zakari also gave me this ace brainbow camera necklace to model.

(You can actually look through it which is pretty cute!!)

zoë house 19 Dinosaurs, cameras and vintage... a look book & magazine photo shoot

And at the same time, it so happened that I was writing an article about car boot sales for the ever so pretty 91 Magazine – so I needed a pic or two for that as well. You can read my car booting tales/tips in Issue 4, page 70 onwards – inbetween Anna Weinreich‘s beautiful home and The Seventy Tree‘s Kerry’s super illustrations.

zoë house 47 Dinosaurs, cameras and vintage... a look book & magazine photo shoot

So Lauren took shots for both… including in my never seen before on the blog (I think?) spare room. Yes that room that you normally pile all your random stuff in and just close the door when guests come round… yip, that room. That’s my recovered 60s daybed I’m sitting on… one of my prized (furniture) possessions!

zoë house 34 Dinosaurs, cameras and vintage... a look book & magazine photo shoot

We even took off a cupboard door in the kitchen… just so you can see what’s inside my kitchen cupboards.

Surprise, surprise, it’s more vintage china!

2012 09 17 002 Dinosaurs, cameras and vintage... a look book & magazine photo shoot

And Lauren was polite enough to tolerate me doing lots of silly things like juggling the dinosaurs… and pretending to do the congo with them. (The things you do when you’re nervous!)

 zoë house 56 Dinosaurs, cameras and vintage... a look book & magazine photo shoot
Oh yes and we took some shots of me with my cameras… It has to be said, I’m giggling in a lot of these. This was my only straight faced one. And why was I giggling so much? Well, because I was taking pictures of Lauren.

Lauren Polaroids Dinosaurs, cameras and vintage... a look book & magazine photo shoot

Um yeah… there’s a reason Lauren’s the photographer and not me!

Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet… the most sugary sweet thing ever)

11 Sep

IMG 7143 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

Life lately has been pretty sweet… and not just because I made the biggest batch of tablet ever.

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know that I have a shiny new exciting job. (And that’s on top of lovely things like the Mollie Makes Japan feature, winning an award for my old job and oh yes my mister getting an ace new job too.)

Anyhoo, all that said, what I really want to share with you is how to make Scottish tablet.

Last time I mentioned tablet on this blog I got a mixture of people craving a fix and people being entirely confused as to what on earth I was talking about.

If you don’t know what tablet is, it looks like fudge but is creamier and more crumbly. (And better.)

Oh yes and it’s made with sugar, condensed milk and butter. (I’m not claiming that this is a healthy treat here.)

Tablet was also my Nana’s favourite sweet. One of my last memories of her is us having sweet tea and some tablet together. And for that alone it will always have an extremely special place in my heart.

IMG 7137 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

So how do you make it? Well, first thing first, most people will tell you that it’s super hard to make.

The first time I made it, it was so easy that I was baffled by that. Then I tried to make a second batch, using a different recipe, and it went so badly wrong that it never even set. (Yes, sad times!)

So for the third batch, we went back to this recipe. That bit that says “Remove all children, pets and clumsy people from the room. They tend not to mix well with vats of boiling sugar”? Wise words!

Also don’t accidentally touch the wooden spoon that you’ve just the mixture with. (Yes I did that. Yes I may have said some very bad words. Yes I had a horrible white numb bit on my finger for a week!)

IMG 7151 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

We did change the recipe a bit so here’s what we did:

2lbs granulated sugar
1/4lb butter
1 cup of soy milk (because we never drink normal milk)
400g tin of condensed milk
Two teaspoons of vanilla essence

Melt the sugar, milk and butter together.
Add the condensed milk when that mixture starts to boil.
Then start stirring…

Now once this starts to boil again,
turn down the heat and keep stirring.
And stirring. And stirring.
And oh yes, more stirring.

We stirred this batch for a full-on 20 minutes until it went a yummy caramel colour.

IMG 7154 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

Then you take it off the heat… and guess what?

You stir it some more! (Like the ‘keep swimming’ motto in Finding Nemo but with stirring.)

IMG 7153 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

(Concentrating very hard on the stirring here!
Can you tell I wanted this batch to work?!)

Once the mixture was ready, we poured it – very carefully – into a tray to set. Except that wasn’t enough for me…

Back before our wedding, I’d watched to make tablet hearts for the day. I never got round to it so I was determined to try it now.

So if you want to make shaped tablet…

Basically you have to wait until the mixture has slightly set. If it’s fully set, you won’t be able to cut into it. Ours was just right after watching one episode of New Girl (though you can use your own timing method!).

IMG 7156 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

Tip your now set-ish tablet onto a chopping board, choose your cutter and get making hearts…

It should feel almost doughy – like a grainy, warm play-doh!

IMG 7130 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

Oh yeah and I made some tablet bunnies too. Just because! (Anything bunny shaped always makes me think of Peonies and Polaroids now. I guess in the same way that people see foxes and think of me!)

IMG 7136 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

Next you leave it to set… and then comes the fun bit, trying not to eat it all yourself!

I’d originally meant to make this batch when our friends were over from Norway and my sister was back from London, but yes we left it too late and ended up making it just for us!

So that’s my final tip: wait until you have a reason to make this, or you’ll soon realise you’ve just eaten 1lb granulated sugar, 1/8 butter and 200g of condensed milk in hardly any time at all.

IMG 7141 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

Maybe I need to start blogging healthy, veggie recipes instead?

(I promise I don’t just eat sugar!)

 

Mollie Makes, Japan and me (and tales of a cat cafe!)

1 Sep

Mollie Makes Japan – Convo Pieces 4 Mollie Makes, Japan and me (and tales of a cat cafe!)

So I’m guessing by now most of you know I have a thing for Japan?

Well before we went earlier this year, the lovely Mollie Makes commissioned me to a do piece on crafty, cool and fun places in Tokyo and Kyoto.

As you can imagine I was over the moon… until I realised I was about to do only my second ever photography/write-up piece in one of the most amazing places on Earth. How on earth could I do it justice? (Yes, cue massive stress on my part!)

Mollie Makes Japan – Convo Pieces 12 Mollie Makes, Japan and me (and tales of a cat cafe!)

But I have to say I’m really proud of how the feature has turned out… thank you Mollie Makes for giving me the chance to do this!

As well as my ramblings, you can also read about Ebony from Hello Sandwich who’s photo collage workshop I went to… she’s uber nice, one of those people who instantly makes you feel comfortable, and super crafty in a way I can only admire!

Mollie Makes Japan – Convo Pieces 3 Mollie Makes, Japan and me (and tales of a cat cafe!)

Anyway, the magazine was out yesterday so if you pick it up, let me know what you think! (In a ‘I hope you all really like it’ kind of way!)

Now, if you follow me on Twitter, you might (most likely not really!) remember me saying I took a ridiculous amount of photos in Japan… thousands in fact! Yes, it’s probably my most documented trip EVER. So I wanted to share with you a few things that I didn’t get round to blogging and didn’t end up in the feature… outtakes if you will!

And when I say outtakes, what I really mean is… pictures from the Cat Cafe we went to!

Shimokitazana Cat Cafe 3 Mollie Makes, Japan and me (and tales of a cat cafe!)

In Shimokitazana (probably my favourite area in Tokyo we went to) as soon as we left the train station, we spotted this sign… cat cafe!

Now I can’t remember if we knew about cat cafes on our first trip but it was on our ‘to do/only in Japan’ list so we decided that now was the time.

So we went up the stairs, opened the door and well, there was a man with a desk who politely told us that you pay by the hour and you pay when you leave (in case you love the cats so much you want to stay longer). Kind of like karaoke but with cats instead! He took our drinks order and then directed us to the cat room…

Shimokitazana Cat Cafe 5 Mollie Makes, Japan and me (and tales of a cat cafe!)

Now… anyone who has cats knows they quite clearly have a mind of their own, and the cats at the cat cafe were no different. First up, was this guy – ignoring all the comfy bedding put out for him and sleeping in a plastic bowl.

Shimokitazana Cat Cafe 4 Mollie Makes, Japan and me (and tales of a cat cafe!)

Then there was this noisy powder puff of a cat… yes also ignoring the beds/bedding and napping in a box.

One of the Japanese customers was intent on getting this cat to like him… putting a cosy blanket on his knee, rattling cat toys, making kissy sounds… the cat was having none of it! I wanted to explain to the poor Japanese man that this is the real cat experience… they do what they please!

Shimokitazana Cat Cafe 7 Mollie Makes, Japan and me (and tales of a cat cafe!)

My husband made friends with this stripey purr machine and was quite chuffed that he’d won over at least one of the cats!

And me… well, I happened upon a cat who looks like an even more freaked out version of the Fox Owl Cat!

Shimokitazana Cat Cafe 10 Mollie Makes, Japan and me (and tales of a cat cafe!)

Oh gosh, look at that expression! I felt rather bad for giggling every time it looked at me!

Japan Cat Fox Owl Cat Convo Pieces Mollie Makes, Japan and me (and tales of a cat cafe!)

And here they are for comparison… though now I put the pictures together, I think the Fox Owl Cat might be the weirder of the two! (In a nice way!)

I guess the strange but maybe not too surprising thing about the cat cafe was that it just made us miss our own fluff balls. The Japan cats were cute but not a patch on the Velveteen Cat and the FOC!

Anyway, that’s it… that’s me done with Japan posts!

(Well, until my next trip of course!)

pixel Mollie Makes, Japan and me (and tales of a cat cafe!)
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