I was sent a copy of Upcycle: 24 Sustainable DIY Projects, by Rebecca Proctor. If like me, you like to dabble in different crafty projects, without being particularly expert in one, but want impressive results for your energies, then these fairly simple, but striking high end upcycle projects, with step by step instructions will appeal. I love this wine box ottoman above, it can also be made with apple crates.
Some of them are more obvious upcycle projects, it wouldn’t be an upcycle book without a pallet project for example. But the difference here is in the finish, all of the projects are designed by international product designers, so they wouldn’t look out of place in a modern art gallery.
Another project that appealed was this Morgan Rope Mat, made from sailing rope.
You can see the step by step instructions, with diagrams are clear. None of the projects have more than two page spreads of instructions.
Lots of the upcycle projects allow you to simply transfer existing craft skills to a project, this is a great one for cross stitch fans for example.
Crochet lovers might enjoy taking their skills to an upcycle project. It’s all double crochet, so not too challenging. The shape is formed by crocheting around the bottle, so again, no complex crocheting instructions to follow.
I wouldn’t attempt everything in the book – woodwork always seems like a lot of work, although I have to say the clear instructions demystify that for me a lot – but there are definitely a few more projects I could have shared here as ‘ones to try’. I found the presentation, with introductions about the designers and information about each material that was being upcycled inspiring.
Make your favourite printable organisation tools reusable with a frame and dry wipe marker.
The Post Office Shop challenged me and three other home and interiors bloggers – Becky from Thrifty Home, Amanda from The Ana Mum Diary and Jen from Love Chic Living – to come up with clever ways to use your home printer. Knowing the others would come up with some amazingly creative, stylish and heartfelt ideas – do check them out via their links above – I have attempted to wrack my brains for a slightly different tack. I want to share some stylish organisation ideas.
I’ve been trying to get myself and our home more organised, those who now me know that that perfectionism/procrastination combination can be a killer. One thing I have really been focussing on, and reading up on, is time management. I was getting tired of seeing the same of things still on my to do list, and of feeling like my goals, dreams and plans to really move me where I want to be, kept getting put on a back burner. If you recognise any of those feelings, you might like some of these tools, plus they look stylish too.
To do lists
Making a really huge to do list is cathartic, getting it down on paper helps. But…you need to break that list down somehow, or it overwhelms you. A distant, but gorgeous relative of mine happens to be a designer with a whole collection of gorgeous printable planning tools, finding her printable shop has really helped me organise different areas of my life.
I use Alexia Claire’s printables to plan the content for my blogs and my daily to do list. I do a monthly plan for the blog and then look at it each Monday to work out what posts need writing and when. The family planner set is great for anyone who has more than one project or person to juggle! having a planner with multiple columns for each day is great for me when I am planning content over more than one blog or over social media.
Start the day with 20 minutes planning
The time you spend planning your day at the beginning of each day, or at the end of the previous day is well worth it. If your brain knows what it is doing when, it doesn’t waste energy panicking, worrying and stays more focussed. Although, I am trying to allow some less scheduled time too, as I also know I am a rebel who gets bored of a schedule!
Take the day holistically, think positives!
When I need to be really on task I like a daily planner, with lots of room to focus. Alexia’s Daily Planner takes the day holistically – including exercise, food, three positive things (at the bottom so cut out of the pic below) as well as a to do list. It’s also great for reminding you that health is important. Plus it looks great!
Analyse your to do list
If I don’t look at the tasks on my long to do list objectively, then I just end up leaping from one to the next and worrying about things which actually aren’t important, while spending ages on things that really don’t help me get where I need to be at the end of the day. To do this I am trying to use the Urgent Important Matrix…
Urgent or Important?
Look at the tasks you have to do objectively using the matrix below.
If something is urgent and important, we get it done, but It is very easy to get bogged down in urgent not important tasks i.e. people interrupting you to do stuff for them, and even non urgent, not important tasks i.e. procrastination, checking facebook, leaving the tasks that are important, but not urgent for another day. Sadly often these are important but not urgent tasks are the ones that involve meeting our dreams and goals, or truly moving us forward.
Sometimes I divide my tasks up like this, but what I find quickest, is to have this printed out and near my desk as a reminder. Then when I am ordering my to do list into daily chunks, I can allocate set amounts of time to things.
I am hoping the number of urgent things will fall as I get more organised, leaving me more time to crack on with the more important things in life. Reading a book in the sunshine over my lunch break?
Take a break
Even though my working days are short, because I pick up the kids at 3.30, I am trying to take a break at lunch. Your brain needs that time. I do some of my exercise during this time too or walk the dog – some of my best ideas come to me while running, having a shower or walking the dog. It helps to prompt your brain though, so I try to do my to do list first thing, so my brain can solve problems while I am doing other things.
Alexia does weekly meal plans (for when I am really on fire) and I like the addition of the shopping list so you can keep track of things as they run out through the week, ready for next week’s plan. For the minimalists, OllieBird also has a very simple but lovely kitchen themed meal planner here, which you could frame and then use with a dry wipe marker.
Health and Fitness Planning
My exercise always goes in my diary too as a plan. If I miss a slot then I try not to beat myself up, but instead I replan the slot I missed somewhere else in the week. Exercise makes me work faster and better, so I remind myself of that when I feel guilty for not being sat at my desk.
Food diaries can be really useful tools when you are trying a new way of eating or trying to control what you eat. I like this food diary and often print out several copies to stick on the fridge.
Making your favourite printables reusable
Once you find a printable you like, you start to worry about wasting paper, which is why I like the idea of framing some of my favourite tried and tested printables to use with a dry wipe marker. It doesn’t work for everything, sometimes you need the paper to hand. But it worked well for the Olliebird meal planner, and now I just need to find a friend with a laminator, to laminate Alexia’s daily planner.
She wanted to keep the butterflies, she wanted more blue, and a Tardis, and owls and a splash of Wonder Woman. She wanted that stupid cupboard and shelves to not be green and pink flowers anymore…it was making my brain ache trying to pull it all together.
At the same time, I didn’t want to inflict my ideas on her or over style her space. I think it is really important to design kids rooms alongside them, to reflect their tastes and interests, even when all you want is for them to be tidy. We shopped together, planned together and painted together. Now she has space to play her guitar, make up songs, draw at her desk, read, dream and play.
There are colour and style clashes, but there are also lots of consistencies, themes she loves and storage solutions that work.
She inherited the wallpaper on the chimney breast, as this used to be our bedroom. The walls were white, but we used Dulux Niagara Blues 4 (seen above) behind the wardrobe and on the facing wall, with Dulux Mineral Haze 4 on the other two walls. We used endurance paint so it can be easily wiped clean.
Mineral Haze 4 is a greyish white, which really complements Niagara Blues 4. You get a sense of that here, the wall is Mineral Haze, and the wave shelf below is Niagara Blues (It was pink). The Dr Who poster, from WayfairUK, ties in brilliantly with the Tardis Wardrobe.
The wave shaped shelves, which had been long forgotten in a cupboard, are perfect for small trinkets, which we had a little sort through.
We repainted the shabby chic dresser, using the same paint as for as the walls. We looked for planet knobs (they had flowers on) to match the Dr Who theme, but in the end we decided it was easier and cheaper to just spray paint them gold. You can see her desk area on the facing wall reflected in the mirror.
We had so much fun with the Tardis wardrobe.
This solar system mobile looks great against the Tardis. We kept above the picture rail white, which I think works best for high ceilings.
We also repainted this chest, which she had outgrown. If you use Zinsser first, you can then use any paint over the top, we had plenty left from the walls so it was a great way to use it up and make the room match. Bye bye babyish cupboard!
So now the chest co-ordinates with the black desk she chose. It is also blackboard paint! And we repainted the other pink wave shelf with Zinsser followed by Mineral Haze 4, to co-ordinate with the Niagara Blues 4 on the wall.
We managed to introduce a bit of an owl theme, this blue owl lamp from WayfairUK was the perfect thing to sit on her dressing table which also doubles up as a bedside table. I couldn’t believe how perfect it was when I spotted it and it is reasonably priced. It is available in dusky pink too.
The old toy box was already painted exactly the same shade as the walls. The owl bag we bought in a gift shop on holiday, and it is perfect for storing teddies.
Another little trick that made a big difference to the room was this broderie anglaise valance from WayfairUK, it hides the ugly divan base and drawers under her bed. The bed base was from free cycle, we just added a new mattress. I know I could have ironed it before I put it on the bed, but shhhh sorry, I don’t iron.
Thanks to Dulux for supplying the paint, and to WayfairUK for some of the items featured.
It was hard to miss the She Bakes Chocolate Benedict Cumberbatch Sculpture, lovingly nicked named ‘Chocobatch’ over the Easter weekend. It was created By Jen Lindsey-Clark of She Bakes and Tim Simpson and the team at Plunge Productions for UKTV Drama.
I managed to track Jen down to tell us all about it. She’s a busy lady, apart from being able to make Benedict out of chocolate, Jen also runs a wedding and event cake company, She Bakes, and sings with vintage harmony group, The Close Shaves.
When I contacted Jen during the course of this interview, one day she was busy tidying up ‘Chocobatch’ for his Westfield shopping centre appearance, another day she was making one of her signature Croquembouche for a wedding, the next she was dancing Lindy hop, and then catering for a tea dance. Jen is stylish, incredibly multi-talented, and such a lovely, warm and witty person to chat to.
The Close Shaves – Jen seated, far right.
How did you get into baking?
I have fond memories of sitting cross-legged on the lawn as a child making scrumptious mud cup cakes to feed to my teddies and, if they were lucky, my family. Reassuringly my taste in ingredients has changed somewhat but my passion for creating delicious treats certainly hasn’t.
How did you become a chocolatier, how long does it take to train?
I originally trained as a pastry chef in my twenties. I worked in fine dining in restaurants and hotels for a decade with some very talented pastry chefs and learnt from them and also went to Slatteries school of chocolate in Manchester to do various courses. That is where is fell in love with chocolate as a medium to create with.
It is very tricky at times, lots of science involved, it can be bad tempered and uncooperative rather like a small child. However when it is understood properly and you are patient and thoughtful with it wonderful results can be achieved. Also there is generally no waste. If it all goes wrong you can melt it all down and start again and there are always many enthusatic assistants on hand to volunteer as taste testers.
I set up She Bakes in 2010, providing elegant and delicious celebraton cakes to Sussex and surrounding counties. I specialise in chocolate cakes and croquembouche…
Croquembouche by She Bakes
Can you tell us about the process of making Benedict out of chocolate?
Rather like making a large decorative celebration cake which is my usual line of work at She Bakes, I had to prepare all the components of the Cumberbatch separately before assembling him on site at the Westfield Shopping centre on Good Friday 2015.
The head was cast using a silicone mould created by Plunge productions’ lead sculptor and M.D Tim Simpson. The Body and legs were then sculpted and feet finished at the last stage. Buttons, collar, bow-tie were all individually made and then attached, the hands were also cast from silicone moulds made by the team and fitted with screws so they could be reattached easily on site.
Jen of She Bakes working on Chocobatch
Why did you choose Benedict?
Benedict Cumberbatch was chosen by UKTV Drama Channel the client that Plunge productions and She Bakes made it for. They did a poll with their viewers on the UK’s dishiest actor and Benedict won. Of course this meant that he needed to be made out of chocolate immediately!
How much chocolate did it take to make him?
It took around 40kg of chocolate to make Benedict. 40 kg of 35% cocoa solid Belgium Milk Chocolate .
She Bakes Benedict Chocolate Cumberbatch
How much would it cost to buy?
It would cost around £15,000 to have a replica made. The original would cost a lot more to buy now, as it has become a sought after piece of art. To some Cumber fans I think you could say it is priceless.
What do you plan to do with it now?
It was made for Taylor Herring, PR Company for UKTV. They have him in their offices. After he starred in their promotional film, they took him back to their offices to devour the rest I suppose?
Which part did you enjoy sculpting?
I enjoyed sculpting his hands and shoes. The head was expertly carved from clay by Tim Simpson of Plunge Productions, we then made a food safe silicone mould from the clay head and it was incredible to finally be able to fill it will melted luscious milk chocolate to reveal the chocobatch head once set. The finish was superb and the likeness amazing! We used the actor’s measurements and assessed images from red carpet appearances to help perfect Benedict’s look and create an accurate model even down to the smallest detail.
Which bit will you eat first?
I didn’t get to eat any of it…it was for a paying client! I do of course have to taste a few bits in the process and make sure it is setting well. The real chocolate buttons were very nice to make and tasted delicious.
Which would you rather lick ChocoBatch, or Benedict?
Neither…Chocobatch has been licked by a few too many already and the real deal is not really my type. He’s a great actor though , even if he can’t say penguins properly…Sweet.
How do you stop yourself eating as you make?
Now, tasting is totally necessary of course when cooking and creating for others to enjoy, just to make sure it is still delicious. I tend to try and think of the chocolate that is staring up at me ..melty..shiney, sexy, unctuous, as money…money that should be in my bank account as profit not in my tummy as naughty nibbles. Nigella has already done the dribberly, seductive, chocolate scoffing thing so it’s not part of my business plan for She Bakes. It does of course take a lot of will power and sometimes the chocolate wins, but everything in moderation and all that.
Did anything go wrong?
It was a bit stressful at times…when I had to put his chocolate head on in front of 300 shoppers at Westfield shopping centre…that was a little nerve racking to say the least! I am however used to working under this kind of pressure, creating and personally delivering wedding cakes is possibly one of the most nerve racking jobs you can have. No emergency braking please!
Thankfully everything went to plan and we got him there in one piece and looking gorgeous.
The only panic we had was when the crowds descended on Benedict and started to eat him! But by this time it was over to UKTV and associates to protect him. The security team worked tirelessly to protect ChocoBen and his bits and by the time it came for me to say goodbye to my special Ben I felt confident that the british public had had their fill and even the real Mr Cumberbatch would be happy with our efforts.
Why choose Westfield Shopping Centre to display him and not your home town Brighton?
The TV and PR companies chose where it would be displayed. I guess they wanted as many people to see it as possible and they thought somewhere near London would be good. However, Chocobatch is not my first choco sculpture, my previous creations have been Brighton landmarks, and were created with cake inside too!
Brighton Chocolate Carousel by SheBakes.co.uk
Brighton Pier Helter Skelter by SheBakes.co.uk
I have weddings and birthdays to provide yummy sweet treats for, but chocolate sculpting ideas are brewing and it would be great to tackle another celebrity…maybe in dark or white chocolate this time or a combination of all three. Any suggestions would be welcomed…who would you like to see/smell in chocolate??
Thanks to Jen for taking time to have a a chat, it’s been fascinating to hear all about She Bakes. Get in touch with Jen via the contacts on her website if you are looking to commission a unique cake for an event.
Printers are no longer just for printing out documents, the odd photo or tickets. You can get so much more out of your printer and make some fab things for your home or children’s play or kids’ bedrooms. Ink is also cheaper than it used to be, cartridges go a lot further, and so it is okay to mess up and learn as you go.
Print onto wood
I would never have thought of doing this, but with a bit of practice you can make wax paper transfers and make signs, slogans or add pictures to crates or plaques.
This is the simplest method, and the most comprehensive instructions I have found, from The Art of Doing Stuff
Create gift tags
There are lots of great printables out there, so when you run out of anything you can always print one off. Amanda at The Ana Mum Diary made these gorgeous blackboard effect ones, with a pattern from Cricut Design Space.
Kids love role play and when you can print out actual name badges, or signs or pictures, it can make them really feel the part. It is also much cheaper than buying costumes and merchandise, especially when kids’ character crushes can be short-lived. Years ago we found these superhero badges and pictures and used them to turn small boxes into superhero walkie talkies and printed a city skyline backdrop to a superhero play city in a box. You can also make puppets!
This weekend we took that a little further and turned an old wardrobe into a Tardis, now that my two love Dr Who. It was the printable signs that really made it! More on that soon…
There are lots more ideas here on my Pinterest board. You can even print onto candles and fabric. What have you tried?
What have you got planned for Easter? KatchUp, the private photo sharing service for friends and family, invited me to share some of my favourite Easter activities over on the Katch Up blog today, along with lots of other bloggers, so do check the guide out. One of the ideas was an Easter Nest, so I am sharing a full tutorial here today. You might remember I reviewed Katch Up earlier in the year, it is beautiful space to collect and share your favourite photos with friends and family.
My sister in law and I were just talking about how we really must gather up all our Easter Photos, we have a yearly ‘egg roll’, another family tradition you can also read about over on Katch Up – we need somewhere to pool our pics of this event over the years.
Making Easter nests is a lovely craft, for adults or children.
How to Make Easter Nests
These Easter nests make a wonderful table centre piece. They were inspired by a visit to the Judith Blacklock flower school, which has really inspired me to get creative with foliage. Last week I shared the flowers I arranged, this week I thought I would share how to make an Easter nest, an idea I spotted in Judith’s book. Now this is my version, but full credit to Judith for putting the idea in my mind.
All you need is pussy willow, green gardening wire, a small piece of material, a pastil bag of rolled up newspaper, some foliage from the garden, mini eggs and scissors.
Over the summer my daughter and I made willow headresses at Camp Bestival, so the principle was similar. Soak the pussy willow, it seemed fine just in a vase of water overnight, but you can immerse it all if it seems too rigid. Warm it gently with by smoothing your fingers and thumb along it and tease it into a bend, if you try to just bend it without warming it, it will break, creating a sharp corner.
Knot the ends like this…
We made a series of hoops like this, it is hard to tuck the willow buds through, so after a while we decided we would concentrate on the bottom half of the willow and leave the pretty tops for decorating at the end.
I gave up at this point, it was all looking like it would never come together, but when I came back a few hours later, my daughter was sat there and had piled them up, plus someone had remembered that we had green gardener’s wire.
We used a mixture of honeysuckle cuttings from the garden and green wire to weave it all together. Very roughly, but Judith had said that Hebe was a great plant for foliage, and for disguising thing you don’t want people to see. So I was confident we could hide it!
We added some sprigs of rosemary, foliage and pussy willow tips to hide the messy bits. The first time we put the material and eggs in, they all fell through…
So we wove a wire bottom. I think florists make proper wire structures you can use for this, but there was a misunderstanding between me and the florist’s son who was standing in, and I came home with ring oasis instead which I realised when I got home, wasn’t really what I had in mind.
We stuffed an old carrier bag in the bottom to fill in the space and added some material on top. I wanted to keep it natural, and use hessian, but sadly there was none to hand, so we used this pretty floral fabric instead.
And of course, the exciting bit, adding the mini eggs.
My daughter wants to put it in the garden, so real birds can nest in it, I wanted it as a table centrepiece, but we both agreed that mini eggs rule.
Where do you doodle? My son had a phase of doodling on the walls when he outgrew the transport wall stickers we gave him as a toddler, as a teen I rebelled by doodling on the ballon wallpaper I had outgrown. Doodling is usually trying to tell the world something.
What do you doodle? I doodle a lot of houses. Houses apparently show that I am down-to-earth, practical , but need security and control. I often think it is because I learnt to draw them at an early age and my drawing didn’t advance much over the years, as I was forced to do languages instead of art at school.
When I am on the phone on a work call I draw lines and triangles, these lines are a sign of being determined and needing an outlet for mental and physical energy.
When I am procrastinating I draw flowers, a sign of being flexible and creative but also an indicator of emotion.
Even where you draw on the page can be revealing…
You can read lots more about what your doodles mean in this article by handwriting expert Ruth Ronstron, on the National Doodle Day site, which I used to analyse my doodles.
National Doodle Day is 5th February 2016. By donating money to do a doodle, you will be raising money to help improve the lives of everyone affected by epilepsy – what can be better than that?! Why not have a doodle this weekend and pay your money in here?
The products featured are from a collection by Eat Sleep Doodle at WayfairUK. Perfect for the crayon wielding toddler, the teen in need of an artistic outlet, or the grown up dinner party guests in your life. I love the idea of doodling on duvets, little messages for when I am away from them, or doodling on table cloths as a way to bring the family together for some after Sunday Lunch doodling. Which reminds me, I blogged Sunday Lunch entirely from the freezer – leaving even more time to doodle this weekend.
And the best bit is they wash clean, so you can start all over again! I love the bunting too -perfect to recycle for different celebratory events!
After making some simple soaps and fabulous bath bombs (which you should check out – they were so easy to make and looked fab), we decided to order some clear soap and attempt snow globe soaps. Bath bombs and soaps make fun Christmas presents. I had the idea of a robin in my head, but penguins also seemed like a natural fit too.
Trapping toys in soap also doubles up as a brilliant way to encourage kids to wash their hands.
You simply need melt and pour soap, which you melt in a jug in the microwave. We added some glitter and a drop of fragrance. Most places that sell Melt and Pour Soap (we bought ours online) will sell the fragrance and colour too.
We had some bits of opaque soap hanging round, which we used as the bases for these robin snow globes (more on these later), we then chipped at the opaque squares to make them look more like snow, so with the leftover bits we decided to try and make snow bases for the penguins too.
I remember when my daughter first drew a picture that resembled our family. She was three. I was busy watching her baby brother and turned round to take something off the table and it caught me by surprise. I can’t explain the feeling, except it did feel slightly alien, like a communication from another planet, it seemed to come out of nowhere. I was deeply moved to see our little unit represented in felt pen on green sugar paper.
My son was much more reluctant and barely touched a pencil until the Christmas of foundation year, but now he comes home with image after image.
You may have seen in Tuesday’s post that this week’s Through The Keyhole participant created a lovely collection of framed drawings when her son was a toddler. She really inspired me to write this whole post on displaying children’s art work..
Children’s artwork brought together like this can create such an impact. I am impressed that yesterday’s Through the Keyhole found time with a toddler in the house. I love her arrangement of simple white frames which really let the art work speak for itself.
If you are stuck for time or your child is a prolific artist or you want to preserve the small things they create, arranging lots of images is easier with a multi aperture frame or a frame with a multi aperture mount. I need to start another one with all the notes my daughter leaves me. She loves to create little notes and drawings on post its and scraps of paper and I cherish these as much as the pieces she labours over for hours.
I did however make a start with these frames last Winter…my daughter’s is on the left, my son was still refusing to draw at this point, but stuck the owl together. But this year it feels like his time has come to represent the world.
All of these frames (from Wayfair.co.uk) are reasonably priced, especially for something you will treasure for years to come.
What do you do with children’s, grandchildren’s, nieces or nephews drawings? have you got any tips to share on displaying children’s art work?
Conker wreaths make a beautiful Autmumal way to brighten up your door or hallway. My US readers have let me know they are also known as buckeyes or the things that fall off horse chestnut trees! I love spiders, but the rest of my family are petrified of them, conkers however, are meant to keep them away. Did you know they also have moth repellent properties? Perfect for protecting your wardrobe. Continue reading →