Because life’s celebrations shouldn’t cost the Earth

Monday, 11 August 2014

Dr. Livingstone's 'Crocodylus Niloticus' I presume.....

We're hosting a Victorian themed Halloween party later this year and the children and I have been using the summer holidays to get ahead with preparations.  We have crafted some fantastic, if rather macabre, decorations (which are going to be featured in a national magazine!) and we're now busy planning menus.

Today we made 'Crocodylus Niloticus' in honour of Doctor Livingstone's search to find the source of the Nile, as well as highlighting the evils of slavery.

 The Nile Crocodile in pastry form!

Check out those teeth

We made two versions but in between dodging the rainstorms, which apparently are the result of the tail end of hurricane Bertha, we ended up with the 'before' pictures of one and the 'after' shots of the second!

Watch your fingers!

The first specimen was made using shortcrust pastry and when cooked it looked much better than the second, created with puff pastry. This was due to a lot of the detailing being lost as it 'puffed' up during baking.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Polish Pleasures

The Krakow Experience

Continuing in our mission to expose the children to as much culture and travel as possible, we've just returned from a quick trip to Krakow.  We wondered if they might find it rather similar to Prague, but they were more than able to distinguish between the two cities and had a fabulous time.

Much of our time was spent soaking up the sights in the Rynek Główny, Krakow's beautiful main square which dates back to the 13th century and is Europe's largest medieval square.

Panoramic shots by George

We stayed at the Hotel Senacki, a lovely little boutique hotel situated on the historic Royal Way, the old route of Kings and Queens as they processed from Wawel Castle to the main square.  The position couldn't have been more perfect as it was literally a two minute stroll to either stunning location.

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul from hotel window

Wawel hill rises high above the river Vistula and behind its heavily fortified ancient walls are the awe inspiring Cathedral and Castle.  As the seat of Poland's Royalty, it was site of the coronation and burial of practically every Polish monarch. The cathedral has a number of chapels and one of the most beautiful is King Sigismund's, its stunning gold dome claimed by some to be the best example of Renaissance architecture outside of Italy, if not within. 

Sigismund's Chapel

After careful deliberation we had decided to take the children to Auschwitz and as part of the preparation for this we visited Kazimierz, Krakow's former Jewish quarter. This in itself was a very moving experience and a simple whitewashed sign served as a reminder of how swiftly families, who had been resident in the area for hundreds of years, were so brutally eradicated.

Auschwitz is obviously not your usual holiday experience and it's difficult to know how to describe it without sounding trite or insincere.  I also wasn't sure whether it was appropriate to take photographs, let alone share them on social media sites but I feel we all have an obligation to educate ourselves, and our children, about the horrors humans are capable of inflicting upon others.

The sun shone throughout our visit and the meadows surrounding the camp were full of summer flowers, with birdsong filling the sky, and it was this air of normality which was so frightening - To know that mass murder took place in these grounds, within living memory, was a very sobering thought.

As we drove away our Polish guide pointed out the town of Oswiecim which exists in the shadow of the death camp.  After decades of trying to separate itself from the dreadful legacy of torture and mass murder, it has now adopted the slogan 'City of Peace' for its official title and hosts a number of festivals, concerts and other events designed as initiatives of world harmony.  Auschwitz was a difficult day and it was comforting to end the trip on a positive note.

One final positive element to the trip was sharing our time aboard the coach with a lovely American couple who were extremely gracious in giving their time to our children who were full of chat and questions!   Marty and Cheryl are very well travelled and have grandchildren of an age with our kids so were able to connect with them in a very natural manner.  We are fortunate to live in a very beautiful city which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a perfect base for exploring the North of England and Scotland, and we would be delighted to show it off to such pleasant visitors!

The food in Krakow was delicious and cheap, we indulged ourselves with pierogi (dumplings), bigos (stew) and placki ziemniaczane (fried potato cakes) at the Bicicletta Restaurant, a lovely little diner in the Jewish Quarter and the meals came to less than £5 including drinks. We also enjoyed plenty of street food including Zapiekanka, a Polish version of pizza or open toasted baguette loaded with mushrooms and cheese.

Sampling the local cuisine

We also found time to visit the Wieliczka salt mine which the children loved, but unfortunately the basic camera we took with us was unable to cope with the lack of light underground so we didn't end up with any pictures worth sharing.

Our niece is booked to fly to Krakow next month and will hopefully enjoy exploring this beautiful city and welcoming country as much as we did.

Curious George

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Teacher Appreciation

End of Term Treats

As this academic year draws to a close, it's time to get stitching and crafting to remember all those hardworking individuals who make such a difference to the world of our children.  

Alice requested a little handbag mirror, made using my trusty badge machine for her teacher.  I based the cute applique on the 'Apple Thanks' digital stamp which available exclusively at Handmade Harbour. 

It's such a versatile design and looks equally gorgeous when used in paper crafting, as this fabulous card expertly demonstrates.  It was made by the very talented Teresa over at The Fat Cactus, a beautiful blog well worth visiting.

George wanted a string of bunting for his French teacher who has had the pleasure(?) of teaching him for the last two years.  He reports that she always goes the extra mile for her pupils, and has even been known to bring in enough home-made crepes for the entire class!

We found some lovely fabric which was absolutely perfect for what we wanted, as it features various French patisserie recipes, including pancakes and crepes.  Another plus point was the black background, which will complement any colour scheme, and also shouldn't need washing too often when hung in a busy classroom or steamy kitchen!

In order to use the fabric as economically as possible some flags are actually upside down but they still look pretty cute and really rather shabby chic.   Bunting always makes a perfect gift and I posted a nice and simple tutorial here should you fancy whipping up some up for yourself. 

George then designed and printed an elegant bag topper to use as packaging, which I inked and glittered.

Thank you to all the wonderful teachers who have touched the life of my children!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Teacher Appreciation Gifts ~ Tutorial

Upcycled Gift Box

Scroll down for step-by-step instructions....

The children and I got creative over the weekend and made some adorable school themed gift boxes.  They are the perfect size for holding small presents or perhaps a few yummy home baked goodies.  We also designed and printed various tags including 'Back to School', 'First Day of School' and 'Top Teacher' versions.

They were very easy to make, simply using the bases of two upcycled fizzy drink bottles.  The little polka dot fabric leaf was free motion embroidered onto a scrap of green felt.  To make it an even more family friendly project, you could draw a leaf shape onto card or paper for a young child to colour.

I am going to put one on the breakfast table for each of the children on the first day back to school in September, filling them with cute rubbers, loom bands and a new memory stick for holding homework. 


Two empty plastic bottles
Red tissue paper
Red ribbon
Gift tag
Small scrap of green felt
Small scrap of green material

Scissors or craft knife
Black thread
Sewing machine
Computer for tag (optional)

Step One
Carefully cut the bottom from two plastic bottles. They often have a line around them which can be followed but a height of anywhere between 4 and 8 centimetres is ideal.

Step Two
Cut or drill a hole in the base of one of the plastic pieces and insert a twig as the apple’s stalk.

Step Three
Cut a leaf shape from the scrap of green material and layer it onto the felt.  Using your sewing machine, stitch around the leaf, adding in veins.  Go over each line twice and aim for a ‘sketchy’ feel to create texture and interest.  Glue the leaf into place next to the stalk.

Step Four
Wrap a little gift in red tissue paper and pop inside the bottom apple piece.

Step Five
Create your apple by placing the two bottle halves together.  Depending on the thickness of the plastic you might be able to gently insert one piece just inside the other.  If your bottles are too rigid for this simply use clear sticky tape to hold the two halves together.  Glue or tie a length of red ribbon over the join.

Step Six
Create a gift tag with suitable wording, ‘Back to School’, ‘First Day at School’ or ‘An Apple for the Teacher’ all work well.  Tie to your gift box with twine or ribbon. 

What will you put in yours?

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Appliqued Journal Cover

You might remember this appliqued linen gardening journal which I made for my father-in-law's birthday last year;

Well, he loved it and it now seems someone else did too......

Tania used it as the inspiration for her new tablet cover!

Isn't the blogging community great?  I just love that we can all visit gorgeous blogs and find stitching inspiration from every corner of the globe!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Vintage Fair Bunting

Lest we forget

One of our local schools is holding a Vintage Fair next week and all proceeds are going directly to the British Legion, a charity which supports past and present servicemen and women and their families.

I happily stitched up a few strings of bunting to help decorate the stalls.  I've had the Union Jack fabric since London 2012 and the red gingham flags were upcycled from one of Alice's old school dresses, whilst the blue floral fabric is from a pair of vintage curtains. My great granny would definitely have approved of such a thrifty approach and like me she would also have simply utilised whatever was at hand!

Friday, 27 June 2014

Free Motion Embroidery - Owl Keyring

Cuddly Buddly Craft Challenge

This month's Cuddly Buddly Craft Challenge is 'Beads and Charms'.  This is a great theme as just about any craft is improved by the addition of a few beads or charms!

I actually chose to widen an already loose theme even futher, stitching up a cute little owl using this Marianne Design die, rather than just adding beads to an existing design. It is now perfect as a keyring or handbag charm!  I've written a full tutorial which will be published on The Cuddly Buddly blog during the challenge.

Now that you've seen my attempt, it's time for you to whip up your own creation.  Once you've finished upload a picture to the Cuddly Buddly challenge page to be in with a chance of winning a lovely £25 gift voucher to spend on any of the 12,000+ products stocked in the Cuddly Buddly shop.
Good Luck!