Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Making bath bombs with kids!

This post is titled "making bath bombs with kids" but to be honest it should be called "making bath bombs with my eldest, who's 7, because god knows what would happen if I let 2-year-old Phoebe near citric acid powder".  You get my point.

Lillia has been angling to make bath bombs at home ever since she went to her friend's birthday party at Lush and got to make their "space girl" bomb with glitter, purple dye and the works.  And to be honest I've been pretty keen on the idea ever since I was given James Wong's book Grow Your Own Medicine a few years ago.  So I finally ordered some citric acid powder from Amazon and bought up several pots of bicarbonate of soda and we were pretty much good to go.

We mixed up our bath bomb ingredients according to the recipe - citric acid powder, bicarb, olive oil and lavender oil and worked it into a dryish mix that could be pressed together in our moulds (unwilling to splash out on proper bath bomb moulds I used silicone baking cases which worked a treat.)  Lillia loved adding all the ingredients and measuring out the powders, though bear in mind we were clad in aprons and latex gloves! Lillia found the citric acid powder made her a little sneezey if we were too quick with our getting it into the bowl, but as long as we went slowly we found she was fine as we weren't creating too much "cloud".

Then we added dried lavender leaves that I had kept in a hand sewn pouch since I picked them in June 2009.  Four years ago!  FOUR!!

It still smells divine, and mixed with the lavender oil it smells even more so.  The first bomb we used in the girls' bath near enough knocked them unconscious with the sheer amount of relaxing aromas that exploded around the bathroom.

Lillia spent some time pressing the mix into the cases and making sure they were neat.  We made lemon and lavender ones too by using the same bowl we had mixed our 100% lavender ones in and adding lemon oil in place of lavender oil - this produced a lovely citrus bomb with a hint of lavender. Lovely.

The best part though of course is the moment they are ready to be dropped in a warm bath and release their oils and their fragrance in a fizzy explosion. Lillia can't get enough of these fizzling delights.  She is already planning her next range of out Lush! :)

Sunday, 4 August 2013

A day at the seaside

I am taking a little holiday from Instagram in August.  It may turn into a permanent break.  This is not for any sinister reasons at all.  I bloody love Instagram, I love it so much that I can barely keep up with the hundreds that I follow!  But I feel it has started to distract me too much from daily life so I just want to step back and slow down on the social media front, a little blog post now and then after the girls are in bed feels much less consuming.

But there's another reason for my Instagram break.  I feel I have started to be too influenced by the trends that come and go.  One day everyone's posting pictures of friendship bracelets and beaded crochet necklaces, the next it's overnight oats and pretty filofax pages, or toadstool lamps and bunny ornaments.  I love it all, I love to gawk at other people's lives and homes and interests and creative talents but I feel I am really losing sight of what *I* am truly into. I feel it's all too much some days and I get utterly exhausted.  I know this sounds completely doolally, but bear with me and I shall explain myself, and the photos have relevance too, I will get to that in a minute.

I recently read an absolutely brilliant comic strip explanation of how to live with an introvert. I am an introvert and there is a bit of this article that explains the way I feel most of the time so utterly accurately I nearly cried with relief that somebody had hit the nail on the head so perfectly:

"Extroverted people gather their energy from their surroundings.  They absorb the 'good vibes' of the people around them...Introverted people make their own energy and....'give' it on social contact.  This means that they naturally find most interaction exhausting and need time to recharge."

(For the full version click on the link, thanks to the author/artist Schroeder Jones for this.) 

So for me the social side of Instagram is both wonderful (great online friends, contact with a range of fabulous like-minded people all over the world) and terrifyingly exhausting (can't keep up with conversations, difficulty keeping up with ever changing feed, requires a lot of 'energy'.)

In addition I have begun to find that I sometimes take photos thinking of how they will be received by the audience rather than what I think.  I do that here on this blog too sometimes. I am not sure at what point I started to stop trusting my own instincts and sharing what I thought of as good and started to try and create photos with only others' approval in mind.  I don't do this all the time, but Instagram has made me more inclined to do it. 

All the photos in this post were taken by me* over the last few weeks in the garden and on a day out in Margate.  I never had any intention of sharing them anywhere but on the annual DVD of photos-to-music I do at the end of every year for the family.  I haven't edited them or spent hours choosing them, I just picked the ones I like best and stuck them in.

And you know what?  I feel better already.  This blog should reflect my own voice and my own likes and I think this post does.  So maybe this little break is working already? 

* Obviously I didn't take the last picture with me in it, hubby took that one, but well done if you questioned my attempt at taking credit for all of them.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Home Improvement Hero: Patio revamp

I like a challenge me. Which is pretty handy considering the challenges life tends to keep throwing at me.  So entering Moneysupermarket's Home Improvement Hero challenge was right up my street.  The challenge?  "Improve the appearance or functionality of a room of your choice" in my home.  The catch?  You've can only spend £50 to do it.

The hardest part was deciding which part of my home would get the improvement.  Then the heatwave arrived and hubby got a new BBQ and I realised our patio was...well...a little neglected...


Hmmm.  As you can see it was somewhat lacking in...anything at all.  Just a load of old pots, a wonky table and a disused parasol holder (out of a job since a hardy gust of wind dealt with the flimsy parasol that once existed).  A quick scan of eBay revealed that £50 wasn't going to solve my wonky table problem, though hubby will deal with that once he's finished with all the other jobs in the garden.  But £50 does go a long way...

Ta da! A far cry from the bleak corner it once was don't you think?  Although unfortunately money cannot change the weather and it was raining by the time I took these "after" shots. Ah well, I feel the bright pink parasol and the pretty candles more than make up for the lack of sun, not to mention the all-important bunting :)

So how does it all add up?  This home improvement cost me £51.54.  And here's the lowdown on where to get all the bits and bobs pictured:

The parasol was £30 from B&Q, which I think is quite a bargain.  It comes with it's own storage bag in matching pink too so it's easy to store away without it becoming filthy in the shed, or spiders setting up home over winter and falling on your head when you open it up in the spring *shudder*

The storm lantern was a particular bargain from Sainsbury's for just £6! It was half price in the sale and it's pretty big actually. It's VERY sturdy and very smart.  I am extremely pleased with this as I can pop it on my hearth indoors in the winter months.

The candle in the storm lantern is a must for all crochet/knit/yarn geeks like me.  It has a cable-knit texture.  It was £5 from Amazon.  You can get all manner of knit effect candles if you search on Amazon, and plenty of other online shops too.


The jar candle holders were basically free, unless you count the ribbon of course but I had that lying about in my ribbon box.  I tied ribbon and lace around the jars in order to get all rustic and shabby chic, and I think it worked quite well.  I really love the lace one especially.  The crochet one was made by crocheting with crochet thread over a Gu dessert jar.

The pattern I used as a base for this was on Ravelry here and I modified it to fit a short wide jar and added a little shell border to the top.  (A little tip with these crochet jar covers: I always dab some superglue around the top rim to stick the cover in place and make sure it doesn't slip down.)

The plant is fake (fooled you!) from Ikea, as is the white pot (from Ikea, not fake).  The plant was £6.50, the pot was £2.25.  This was a particularly good buy as I can use it inside when I am not brightening up the outside! Plus I can't kill it, which is a great advantage for me with plants.

The bunting was made from Bonus DK yarn, £1.79 a ball from Hobbycraft.  I made this before for Lillia's meadow party and thought I'd make some more for this project.  I made up the pattern and it's very simple really, I can post a tutorial if enough people are interested, just let me know by leaving a comment.

The seat cushions are B&Q value range, I got them for £4 on eBay and I'm not sure that B&Q do them anymore, but they do similar ones, or you could just make them I guess with some plain fabric and a bit of wadding. But it's the school holidays and quite honestly I don't have the time or energy to whip up pretty cushions whilst I am running around after two little whirlwinds of energy all day, and working too!
The blanket was dragged outdoors from the sofa where it has been in constant daily use since Lillia's 4th birthday

All in all I am delighted with how it all turned out.  We are having a BBQ in two weeks time for some old university friends and all their kids. In our tiny garden in should be interesting fitting everyone in!  But at least the adults will have somewhere nice to congregate and drink pimms whilst the children trample the geraniums and terrorise next door's dog.  Happy days.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Custard Powder

I have a tin of Bird's Custard Powder in my cupboard that really needs to be used up before it becomes an antique. 

So I searched the interwebs for decent custard powder recipes and was led staight back to a book I have on my shelf....

Ah, good old Nigella and her cake-making genius.  The Birthday Custard Sponge recipe has custard powder in the cake mix and in the buttercream.

I ommited the chocolate icing, which looked altogether too sickly for my tastes, and just used buttercream for the sandwiching and topping. I then grated some chocolate on top for a little decoration and flavour.

Of course I had a little helper to keep me on track.  She's particularly good at mixing!
It turned out to be delicious and had a lovely moist puddingy texture. Yum yum.

It was also incredibly easy to make - just shove all the ingredients in a food processor and blend!  Then the cake takes 20 minutes to bake, which is great if you need a speedy cakey treat double quick, you can have this whipped up, cooled and iced within the hour.
I made it again this morning in fact.  This time I used only 3 eggs instead of the recipe's 4. 
4 seems a little excessive for one cake don't you think?  Not that I want to question Nigella of course.  But it did seem a little lighter this time round :)
So there you have it! A great use for custard powder, highly recommended, yummity yum x

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Granny Square Tutorial

One of my best friends Clair (@clads26 on instagram) is learning to crochet and I promised her a granny square tutorial to help her along.  I've been crocheting for a few years now and can hook up granny squares on a whim, in fact I often do and I have an ever growing pile of the little things made from scraps of leftover yarn from other projects.  One day they will be made into a huge multi-coloured blanket of some kind...but that's a whole other post. 

So, want to learn how to make a simple granny square?  Alrighty...

I like to start with a magic ring, like this...

(Alternatively, you can just as easily chain 4 and join with a slip stitch into the first chain to make a circle.) 

Hold the magic ring steady...

Now insert your hook into the centre and pull through a loop, then chain 3. It can be a little tricky and that first chain might look a little unstable to begin with, but keep going, it will all work out in a minute...

Work two dcs into the magic ring (I am using American terms here, if you are working in UK terms you are working two tr into the ring.)  So now you have a ch3 (which counts as 1dc) and 2dc in the ring...

 Now ch2 and work 3 more dc into the ring (at this point I like to catch the tail of the magic circle into the stitches as I go to keep it secured out of the way)...

Now repeat this twice more - ch2, 3 dc, ch2, 3 dc, then do another ch2.  Then make a slip stitch into the 3rd chain of the first ch3 you did at the beginning of this round.  In the below picture I am halfway through making the slip stitch, I photographed this to show you where the slip stitch should go...

Here's my wonderful Pointy Arrows to help show you the dc's and the chains...

Give that little tail a pull to close the hole in the middle and make it all nice and neat.

Slip stitch in the next 2dc, then slip stitch into the ch2 space.  Ch5 (this counts as 1dc and ch2) and work 3dc into the same space.  It will look like this...

 Next - *ch1, then work 3dc, ch2, 3dc into the next ch2 space. Repeat from * 2 more times.

Here's some Pointy Arrows to show you how the pattern works...

Once you have worked your way around you will see that you still need to complete the first corner...

Ch1 and work 2dc into the ch2 space where you started.  These 2 dc's will slightly overlap your first ch3, don't worry though, you can pull them about a bit to make them sit a bit better. 

Now slip stitch into the 3rd chain of the first ch5 you made, see where the "ch3" Pointy Arrow shows you below...

Then make another slip stitch into the next ch2 space, X marks the spot...

Now ch5 (counts as 1dc, ch2) and work 3dc into the same ch2 space. *Ch1, work 3dc into the next ch1 space, ch1, work 3dc, ch2, 3dc into the next ch2 space.  Repeat from * 2 more times.  Ch1, 3dc into next ch1 space, ch1, 2dc into first ch2 space and join with a slip stitch into your original ch5. 

Here's some more Pointy Arrows to help show you the pattern you are working...

Now lets make it bigger! And while we're at it lets add some more colour!  Using your new colour make a slip knot on your hook...

Insert your hook into any ch2 corner space and make a slip stitch...

Ch5 (counts as 1dc, ch2)...

Work 3dc into the same space. Now work all the way around making 3dc, ch1 into each ch1 space and 3dc, ch2, 3dc, ch1 into each corner ch2 space. Finish with 2dc into the first ch2 space and a slip stich into the 3rd chain of your original ch5...

Voila! You have made a granny square!

It isn't until I just wrote that all down that I realise how complicated a granny square sounds, when really it's not complicated at all. After the first couple of rounds it is a simple repetitive and enjoyable thing to do.  And the best thing is you can either make a load of little squares to sew together and make blankets, scarfs, hats, bags, arm-warmers... Or you can just keep going - round and round - watching it get bigger and bigger, utter bliss :)