#PaperHaul Box 3 – The Bird Box

I am a bad, bad blogger. Bad. Bad. Bad.
This post should have been up a looooong time ago – I’ve just been so busy and so tired that pretty much everything has fallen by the wayside, and I’m sorry.

I am especially sorry because I have really been wanting to share this with you – the third #PaperHaul box, which I have chosen to call The Bird Box.

This is definitely my favourite #PaperHaul so far.
I love birds and bird imagery, so the theme was perfect for me. Even if I wasn’t already thrilled with the theme, the contents are so pretty I defy anyone not to love it.

As with the other #PaperHaul boxes, the contents are a mixture of postcards, cards, pretty papers, tags and stickers along with a washi tape. The washi tape in this box is truly beautiful, with its colourful birds on wire silhouette, I’ll definitely be getting a lot of use out of it and will probably have to track the design down so I can get more!

Some of the things in the box are so pretty that I can’t actually decide if I want to use them and send them to people or keep them for myself. I’m considering framing the black wing print card, even though I can think of someone it would be perfect to send to – is that selfish?

The papers are also my favourite of all the designs I have received. I love the retro kitsch flamingoes, and the colours of the peacock feather design are so lovely (my poor lighting and deficient photography skills do the colours absolutely no justice). I’ve recently started following a lot of Journalling/Scapbooking type people on Instagram and I really want to give scrapbooking a go. These papers would be great for that, if I can get over the fact that all I really want to do is look at them!

The pigeon stickers and little notecards are lots of fun. I love the idea of sending the little notecards to people out of the blue, just because I like to think it would put a smile on their face.
I currently have two penpals, one in the US and one in Paris, so having a supply of cards and pretty things to send is very useful, plus the things you get in a #PaperHaul box aren’t your bog-standard, mass-produced supermarket cards that are both common and naff (#judegemental).

I can’t even imagine how much work goes into putting these boxes together around a theme, but I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen so far and am very much looking forward to my next box.

Have you signed up to #PaperHaul yet? If not, you can find out more on their website here. The boxes are monthly and cost Β£10Β + p&p.
If you’re a beady sort of person then there is a new #beadhaul box launching soon – find out more here.

Hope you are all well,
Love,

Betty

x

NB. I have received a discount on the box price as a reviewing blogger

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DIY: Blackboard Jars

I actually made these jars back in July, for my birthday party. Unfortunately, I got completely sidetracked by being stupidly ill and so have only just round to posting this.

I got the idea from a couple of pictures on Pinterest; jam jars as glasses with blackboard name panels!

I liked the jam jar idea because I have tonnes of jars but never enough glasses for everyone at a party, especially not when people put their drinks down, forget which one is theirs and need a new glass. Now, I know you can get those little charms to put on wine glasses, but like I said, I barely have enough glasses to go around in general, let alone wine glasses!
So basically, this idea seemed like the answer to my entertaining related dilemma. I also liked the fact that if/when I make jam again, I can still use the jars and just write what’s inside on the blackboard panel rather than making labels.

It’s so simple to do and people seemed to like the novelty, although some people seemed completely perplexed by the idea of drinking out of jars.

You only really need three things: jars, blackboard paint and a paintbrush. If you want you can also use masking tape to mark out the area you’re going to paint, but I decided to go freehand (I also couldn’t find any masking tape in the house).

Various Jars
Blackboard paint. I bought mine on eBay but you can also get it in hardware stores.

Doing this as a tutorial seems a bit basic. Take your jar, decide where you want your panel and how big, paint it on then let it dry.
I found it was best to only paint in one direction and I they needed at least two coats and in some cases three to get a relatively even and full coat.

You can write on them with regular chalk, but I got some liquid chalk pens, like the ones they use in cafes and restaurants. The result is a lot better and it does wash of, although if you leave it on for more than day you need quite a lot of soap and elbow grease to fully shift it.

If I’d have been going completely Pinterest, I would have bought ribbon and tided it round the top if each of the jars. I settled for assorted paper straws, which still looked cute.

I was really pleased with them. I think they’d be great at some sort of casual DIY style wedding – hopefully I’ll remember this long enough to use it at my own wedding, however far in the future that might be!

Shame the summer is more or less over, so the jars might end up in the cupboard until I set about jam making again. Although, they might be cute for mulled wine?

Hope you are all well.
Love,

PS. If you are a Pinterest-er, you can follow meΒ http://pinterest.com/bettyleopard/Β πŸ™‚

My Weekend (Mostly) In Pictures: Cake-Pops and Clothes

I decided to give myself a break from work over the weekend and get involved in some things I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

On Saturday, I broke out my cakepop maker, that my sister bought me for Christmas. It wasn’t the first time I’ve used it, but I didn’t take pictures last time! I’m really impressed with it. It’s so simple to use and cooks so quickly. I like cakepops, they’re really cute, but I’ve never been able to get them right with the crumbled cake and frosting method. This bypasses that and just cooks the cake mix into a ball shape! So there’s less faffing around making the cake balls and more time for decorating!
My Cake Pop Maker
Tiny Spherical Cakes!
Jam Filled Cake Pop
Pretty Cake Pop Goodness

I added some sprinkles into the cake mix for fun, putting little colourful flecks throughout the cake πŸ™‚ I’m still experimenting with decoration. Last time I tried standard icing, which didn’t work at all, fondant icing, which worked but was very time consuming and melted dark chocolate, which was the easiest. This time I tried vegan white chocolate, which I was initially disappointed with, but looked better when set, chocolate frosting, which was messy but worked and just rolled in sugar, which was very easy! The ones rolled in sugar also had jam inside, which I did using my new fancy injector nozzle for my piping bag πŸ™‚
That wasn’t the end of my cake related activity. On Saturday evening we went to a 30th birthday party that had a kid’s party theme. There were so many sweets, treats, snacks and cakes! I came away with this beautiful cupcake (I was too full to eat it on the night!), which has further inspired me to improve my cupcake decorating skills.
On Sunday, I moved from baking onto sewing, and got back to work on the dress that I started ages ago! Ideally, I’m hoping to wear it to ZOMGbloggersbash next Monday, but I’m not sure I’m going to get it finished on time. I’d already cut out most of the pattern pieces, so it was mostly just sewing the pieces together, which is quite nerve racking as I’m not the most accomplished seamstress (my most used tool is my seam ripper!). It took me quite a while to get started, but managed to sew together most of the top, both the sleeves and the skirt before I was hit with a mega headache and had to stop. I’ve been taking pictures along the way and will write a blog post about the whole process when I’m done.
My fabric and pattern (I’m making the long sleeve version)
My little silver chick pin cushion (a present from my grandparents) for pinning the pattern and fabric
After lying down for a few hours, dosing myself up with paracetamol and then stuffing myself with pizza, I felt a bit better. We spent the evening with out recently engaged friends, talking weddings, playing boardgames and eating apple and blackberry pie. It was a really lovely end to a great weekend πŸ˜€
Finally, I wanted to welcome all my new followers and thank you all for reading my blog!
Hopefully I won’t be too busy with work to post again this week.
Lots of Love,
Betty
x

Magazines, Because Books Are Long: Dashing Magazine

I love books, I really do. I aspire to owning a home with a library room, where all the walls have floor to ceiling bookshelves. However, like many of you out there, I’m a busy person and I can’t always find the time for books.
Magazines to the rescue!
My interest in magazines has had a bit of a resurgence in the past year, mostly in the form of craft and lifestyle type magazines. Magazines fit more easily into my life than books, smaller, more portable, less precious and with articles that can be read in any order, independent of each other, whenever I have a moment. As well as something to read, magazines serve to teach me things and show me things that I didn’t know about before; from how to make things to new books to interesting websites where I can spend other spare moments.
As part of my renewed interest in magazines, I have discovered as whole new world of online digital magazines. Now, I don’t own an iPad or any such similar portable media device that you can read these digital magazines on, but I still have a good old fashioned laptop that I can read them on (although an iPad would be much more convenient, and cooler). It all saves paper, and that can’t be a bad thing!

One of my recent discoveries has been Dashing Magazine; and I can’t recommend it enough!
Have you ever read a magazine and felt like it could have been (almost) entirely written specifically for you? That’s how I feel when I read Dashing.
Their second issue has just been released, filled with beautiful illustrations, photographs and articles on a huge variety of topics including Etsy, tea, headbands and how to screen print fabrics. It kind of fulfils my every magazine need, with lifestyle, fashion and crafting all rolled up in one. There’s even a feature on having a baby, while not relevant to me, it seems that half the people I know are expecting within the next few months.

All images fromΒ www.dashingmag.com/

It’s just so beautiful and interesting. The pages make me happy and remind me of good little things in life that can be too easily overlooked in a hectic schedule (like bubble baths and a good cuppa). It’s a little bit of escapism from my mind-numbing job.
The only problem is, it’s likely to cost me a lot of money, what with all the beautiful things I want to buy, make and do (definitely need to schedule a trip to JB’s American Diner in Brighton).
I think I can pretty safely say, if you like my blog then you’ll like this magazine. So, once you’re done perusing my pages, go have a flick through theirs – Here.
If you know of any other good publications, do let me know πŸ™‚
Enjoy,
Betty
x

We Be Jammin’

Having been inspired by my new Queen of Crafts book, I decided to turn my hand to a little jam making this weekend. It’s something I’ve fancied trying for a while, I like the idea of preserving and storing fruit and veg produce for the winter. There’s something satisfying and comforting about the idea to me.
Anyway, I was aware that it about the time of year for blackberry picking. I have great memories of picking blackberries with my parent when I was a kid. So, I took myself and Alf (the puppy) off to the local common, where I knew there were vast expanses of brambles and where, a few years ago, the boyfriend and I had a very productive blackberry picking session. Unfortunately this year was no where near as profitable. I don’t know if I was too early, too late or if it has just not been a good year for blackberries. I came home with about 200 grams, which probably wasn’t enough for making a decent amount of jam.
So, the following day I decided a trip into the New Forest, my childhood blackberry picking ground, was in order. Plus I really love walking Alf in the forest, he enjoys it so much. I took my camera along and took a few pictures in between picking berries and getting caught in brambles.

The New Forest on a rather grey but still rather warm day
Blackberries
Alf found a great big wet, muddy puddle to run around in
New Forest Ponies

The forest wasn’t actually that much more profitable on the blackberry front, but it was so nice to get out with Alf and have a walk in the peace and quite, with practically no other people. I’m quite specific about picking berries, which probably slightly reduced my haul. I don’t like to take too many from one spot, I’d rather pick a few from a bush as a walk past, you need to leave some for the wildlife! I got a fair few injuries too, several pricked fingers, a couple of splinters and a very prickled calf :/
Due to the low fruit yield, and the fact that I had definitely decided I wanted to make jam, I made a quick trip to the supermarket to buy some supplementary blackberries, as well as sugar and pectin, which I also needed. The recipe is not mine to share, I suggest you buy Queen of Crafts as a most excellent guide, but here are some pictures of my jam making fun πŸ™‚

Berries; washed and draining (the redder ones came in the supermarket packs)
Sugar and Jam (sorry, bit blurry)
Berries in water (that spoon ended up very purple)
Really hot, boiling jam!

It was actually really quite easy to make, which I was surprised about. The instructions in the Queen of Crafts book are really simple and easy to follow (but you’ll have to buy it to find out how I did it!). I did have a slight issue, having ladled it into jars and leaving it to cool for a while, it was pretty clear to me that it wasn’t going to set. Having discussed with my mum, I decided to empty the jars back into the pan to boil for longer and, apparently, lemon juice (plus extra sugar to offset the sourness) helps in getting the pectin to set. Fortunately, after a second boil, with lemon juice, the mixture looked a lot more jammy. I put it all back into jars (unfortunately it had decreased in volume, down from 4 jars full to 3 and a third), sealed and left to cool overnight. Joy of joys, this morning I most definitely had jam πŸ™‚
I also impressed myself with my resourcefulness as, not owning a funnel and not wanting to get covered in hot, sticky jam, I cut the top off a Pepsi bottle, which served as a fine makeshift funnel!
There was just one final step, dressing the jars up! I have a large quantity of fabric that I have accumulated for non-specific uses, and picked a heart print fabric to make lid covers. I cut out what I thought were reasonably size circles, but when I put them on the jars they were too large and looked a little silly, so I had to trim them up while still on the jars :/ I hope they don’t look too scrappy now. I also made labels, I tried making labels by hand, but just couldn’t produce anything I really liked, so I turned to my computer, and knocked up some pretty funky labels that I think suit me and my jam down to the ground :p

Betty’s Blackberry Bomb Jam
Jam Covers

I’m really very happy with the outcome. I did a fair amount of tasting during cooking and it was really very, very yummy πŸ™‚ I’m not much of one for jam on toast, so I think I’m going to have to whip up some scones or jammy dodgers or something else that I can include jam in!

Hope you are having a good weekend,
Keep on Jammin’
Betty
x

Queen of Crafts

Last weekend I received my copy of Queen of Crafts by Jazz Domino Holly.
I have been really excited about this book since I first read about it in Mollie Makes magazine back in May or June, when September seemed like a really long way away! A craft book written by the daughter of Joe Strummer, is there anything more awesome!? I added it to my Amazon wishlist straight away, then kinda let it slip my mind, until last week when I saw an announcement that it had been released and I bought it right away.

I have certainly not been disappointed and, even though I’m really busy, I pick it up at every available opportunity.
The book itself is beautiful. Just on an initial flick through I already knew I was going to love it. The pages are filled with beautiful colours, great little illustrations and photographs that accompany the projects.
There are sections for handicraft, woolcraft, patchwork, baking, preserving, gardening and beauty, amongst other things, the full gamut of crafting disciplines, and more than enough to keep even the most voracious crafter occupied. Don’t think that the wide range of crafts covered means it’s a whistle stop tour that lacks detail and doesn’t allow for you to properly engage with the crafts. To my mind, each chapter contains as much detail as you would want to find in any book devoted to introducing a single one of the crafts covered here. I’m sure once you become more proficient you’ll want to read more and search out new projects, but this is a wonderfully comprehensive starting point. Plus, the range of crafts might lead to you taking up something you hadn’t originally intended to.

Illustrations inside the front cover

Contents Page

The book opens with a lovely introduction written by Jazz about the resurgence in the popularity of crafting, her childhood and how she got into crafting and creating and her involvement with the WI (Women’s Institute). It is written with a lovely personal tone, in a way that it feels like she has sat down with you and is going to impart her great wisdom to you alone. This continues throughout the book as she takes you through the various crafts, from the basics of tools and terminology, through to techniques and tips, then on to practical modern projects and hosting craft based events. She walks you through knitting a chunky scarf and a bow headband, sewing a cake-shaped pin cushion and a knitting bag, various patchwork items, baking sponge cakes and jam tarts, making a range of jams, whipping up your own lip balm and body scrub and that’s just a sample of the projects covered. There’s something in there for everyone. I can’t wait to try out the bow headband, and all the baking looks delicious, to be honest, I want to do all of it!

At every stage the book makes everything seem so easy and accessible, acknowledging that you might not be a master straight off, but always being encouraging. Jazz also makes efforts throughout to highlight the modern aspects and relevance of the crafts. There’s no way you could come away from this book thinking that crafting is only for the elderly!
Everything about this book is just an absolute joy. It’s beautiful, inspiring and packed with so many hints, tips and advice. Jazz Domino Holly totally makes it onto my list of inspiring women, talented, resourceful, motivated, funky and beautiful to boot. Plus, she has a leopard print sewing box!! (It’s not one of the projects but I’m pretty sure I can make one on my own). If I wasn’t inspired, I’d be jealous!
I personally love the little Clash/Rock N Roll/Rebel references that are sprinkled throughout – Hey, Ho, Let’s Sew πŸ˜‰

I have been into making things and crafting for a while already, but this book has served to further ignite my passion and inspire me to turn my hand to so much more. I am also really interested in her final chapter on setting up social craft groups. Jazz started her own WI group in Shoreditch, London, known as the Shoreditch Sisters, which have helped revolutionise the image of the WI. Now, starting my own WI group might be a bit much, but I would definitely be interested to get a group together to knit, sew, drink tea and eat cake together.
In my opinion, everyone should buy this book (and also, get yourself a copy of Mollie Makes).

If anyone would be interested in getting a craft group together in Hampshire then get in touch.
Happy Crafting,
Betty
x

Hey, I’m posting, is that not enough……

Well, this is pretty surprising, another post in less than a month! I might finally be catching on to this whole blogging lark. Still haven’t managed to get my post on my plans for my next year done yet.
I suppose this might cover one of them. I’ve spent the past few days filtering through eBay looking for craft materials. I have plans of making jewellery and accessories. I got a sewing machine for my birthday, her name is Dolly, and I asked for it because I intended to make things, so I figure I should probably start making things. I’m not exactly highly skilled in the sewing department, so I think I’ll start off with bags and cushion covers. I’ve been working on designs, now I need to commit and buy fabric. The thing is, my plans start getting complex, and my list grows to include eyelets, ribbons, chains, fabric paints etc. Then I start my jewellery plans, that require no use of my new sewing machine at all, but do require chains and pins and clasps and pliers. This is starting to look expensive. Hence eBay, an attempt to keep costs down.
Usually, my plans tend to fade at this point. I’ll spend ages looking at eBay, adding stuff to my watch list, then losing enthusiasm and letting all the items end without buying anything, accumulating in my ended items list. I’m doing better this time though, I’ve actually bought some moulds and fimo to start making stuff. If I make it on to the next stage and actually make stuff, I’ll let you know. Maybe, if I get far enough, I might be able to try and flog some of it to you πŸ˜‰
Betty
x