Monday, 25 March 2013

Easter egg decoration time

The girls are still at school for 4 days this week and it's time for the annual Easter egg competition. This year is famous people (as I'm sure it was last year!) Anya chose an actual person and Tara chose someone from TV. See if you can guess who they are! Anya's egg first.

Have you guessed who these guys are?

Fancy windows? Stone bricks? Who lives in a house like this?

Whoever it is likes wearing a crown and sits on a throne on a red carpet. Have you guessed yet?

Of course - the Queen in Buckingham Palace guarded by Beefeaters!*

Now Tara's which is a bit trickier unless you are a fan of 80's cartoons!

Hmmmmm - tricky isn't it? The people in this seem to be in some sort of wood/forest.

A masked horse? A girl wearing a tiara/crown? Some sort of Princess maybe?

And this? The red bits are lasers if that helps? Answer below!

The egg is She-Ra (Princess of Power and twin sister to He-man) with Swiftwind (her horse) They are hiding in Whispering Woods from a Horde Destcructo tank! Well done if you got that one :)

*We explained about the difference between Beefeaters and the guards who wear bearskin hats in front of the palace and she understood although is still going to call them Beefeaters as she reasoned that most of her class won't know the difference!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Food from Pinterest

As you may well know by now I am an avid pinner - I resisted for a long time but then just couldn't any more! This week I have been trying out some of the things from my Food board - great for when you want inspiration. I've already posted about the kale crisps (which reminds me, spinach must go on the shopping list!) and I have had mixed success with some others from there.

The first thing I tried were these two ingredient biscuits.

We often seem to have a surplus of over ripe bananas in our house and the girls were getting a bit sick of banana bread so these seemed like a good idea. They were ok - a bit meh but edible. The first mistake I made was to add more oats then specified - I won't do that next time! I'm going to try them again with some honey (the originals didn't really taste of anything other than oats) and maybe some raisins or cranberries. I may also try chocolate chips as an alternative. It's too good an idea to give up on so I'm going to try different things until they are a success!

We love Chinese food in our house but our local Chinese is very expensive so I was keen to try this home made chicken fried rice. It was delicious and will be featured in heavy rotation on our meal plans for the foreseeable future! I used fresh carrots rather than frozen and I have to say that using the sesame oil made the world of difference to the taste. I didn't use anywhere near as much rice as was called for and even with the reduced rice we had enough leftover for me and Matt to eat for lunch the next day! A big thumbs up to this one!

This is as simple as it looks - bananas and Nutella (or generic Asda chocolate spread!) I couldn't be bothered to get my blender out so I added a bit of milk to mine as I was using a stick blender in a jug and I wanted it a bit more liquid. I'm going to make this again but with those lolly maker plastic things for the girls for summer :) It was nice by the way with a good blend of banana and chocolate. I also didn't measure out the chocolate spread and just used what was left in the jar!

These Greek style turkey burgers were delicious! The feta cheese added a great flavour and the seasoning was good too. I didn't add olives as we didn't have any and next time I would use regular bread buns instead of pitta. The amounts needed made 4 thick burgers - you could opt for thinner burgers and have some chips etc as a side. We didn't need anything with our burgers though and we were all full afterwards!

This vegetable tian was nice but would have been better as a side dish to something like chicken or fish - there wasn't enough there to feed all 4 of us and our picky eater only ate the potatoes! The blogger is spot on though about the correct amount of seasoning - it would have been fairly boring without adequate salt, pepper and thyme. Also the trick of adding foil to the roasting veg does make them sweeter - who knew! I also used the oven on gas mark 7 (not gas mark 6 as in the recipe) and I ended up cooking them for a lot longer (about half an hour longer) so bear this in mind of you are having it as a side and don't want to ruin the rest of the meal!

So that is my round up of meals tried from Pinterest - this Tiffin is next to be tried! Do you make meals from Pinterest finds? Which are your favourites?

Tuesday, 19 March 2013


How exciting! The lovely Clare from Dolly Cool chatted to me on Facebook to let me know that she had seen me featured in Gift Focus Magazine which it turns out, is a magazine sent out to traders/buyers for giftware!

I've been featured as part of an article about BCTF and I'm thrilled to notice that I'm the only newcomer to be featured!

The start of the article is on the right hand side and on the next page are the featured traders.

And there's me at the top left hand side :) If you want to get a closer look then you can see the magazine online using this link :)

Better go and get cracking with some work for BCTF myself!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Sunday Snippets

We made a bed last weekend but had to clear the floor first and this is the stuff that was still to put away afterwards!

Brown bear got comfy in my vintage child's chair that is coming to BCTF with me.

My Ted and Agnes bag and I went on a trip to Leeds on the train.

I gave my talk to the students in a room overlooking the cricket ground at Headingley which was quite nice :)

And I bought this gorgeous (and much more green in real life) bedspread when wandering back to the bus in Headingley :)

Sunday Snippets is brought to you by Tinniegirl

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Leeds Met student talk

So yesterday saw me heading back over the border into Yorkshire to talk to some first year students at Leeds Met all about setting up your own business and social media. I only had a sheet of notes with rough ideas to talk about but I surprised myself by talking for nearly an hour. Luckily I was helped by Esther who is the students tutor as she kept asking great questions that allowed me to clarify what I was talking about! The students had some good questions at the end too so all in all a good day out. Of course it helps that the charity shops of Headingley are good for a wander round!

Random photo but you can't have a blog post without a picture!

I recommended some links to the students yesterday and said that I would share them on here rather than have handouts - they may be very helpful for other small businesses and my readers so feel free to share (with links back though please!)

I've curated this board on Pinterest with various pins for small businesses. Some link back to a talk I've given before about social media that you can find here (or just click on the link from the Pinterest board) I also spoke about Craft Soup on Facebook. We have a public page that everyone can view and a private group that if you fit the criteria, you are more than welcome to join!

I also asked Craft Soup group members if any of them had advice that they wished they had been given when they started out in business and here's what they said.

Corinne said 'To believe in myself more and not be so scared of looking at my finances properly. To dream big and not believe that everybody knew more than I did. Part of the fun is to make it up as you go along!' Oh and 'And to actually set targets with time scale!'

Barbara-Anne said 'ask more questions and listen to the answers!(take notes or use a Dictaphone)
*do a decent business plan(wish I had in the beginning)
*wish I hadn't listened to the 'friend' who told me I wasn't good enough
*learn all you can and never say you don't need to learn more - I have had a baptism of fire on social media and computer technology and I am a million miles away from understanding it all
*makes sue you know the rules & regs that cover your particular thing ... don't wait until trading standards tell you you got it wrong
*believe in yourself and your product/business'

Jo said 'Keep a tight rein on the finances (mine used to be a MESS) that old adage - take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves is so true!'

Andrew said '1. As above, but to realise that making a business and making things to sell are not the same thing and are not always compatible with ideals.
Decide and plan what you want and keep track of it, but don't be afraid to change or modify it as circumstances change.
2. Spend time learning the skills of both in the real world first before making your own way. Both to understand what's required and to actually have enough cash to make it work.

Kirsten said' All of the above, and above all, LOVE what you do'

Liz added '1. Don't try to reinvent the wheel - use all the help and advice you can.

2. Make it easy for your customers to buy from you. Try to put yourself in their shoes and realise that what's important to you may not actually matter to them. (ie they may not care about the elaborate technique or process you've used - they just want to look good at the school gate or make their best friend happy by giving them a lovely gift).

3. The one I still need to keep telling myself - Be confident in what you do - (or at least try and seem like you are) if you believe in it, so will the customers.

4. Practise what you preach! And definitely be realistic about all your overheads (like I'm not!)

Christine said 'Try having a part-time job that pays regular income whilst you become established
*Do your research and see if others see making similar things and then try and find something that makes you unique.
*Make better records of money!

Sarah said 'Just from a design point of view...go with your gut, make what you love not what you think you should make. If you love what you do it will shine through in your work'

Jane said 'Don't be afraid to change, diversify and try new things. As you grow as a person, so should your business grow with you. And network, network, network!

Corinne came back and said 'Just thought of another one! Value your time! If you spend 3 hrs making something this should be included in your costs otherwise you don't have a business!!!! Materials+ overheads+ labour+ PROFIT ( yes the big scary word) make a business. Wish I had understood this much earlier!'

Heather said 'Get in touch with a small business advisor and find a mentor. Learn about tax and vat, it's the boring side of the creative industry, but I would have taken a lot less years to get where I am if I had gotten help.
Build a brand. I'm most impressed by the people who have good logos and packaging and presentation, nice tags, stickers, good photography. Look professional. I'm still working on that one!

Lynne said 'I spent so much time on getting my branding right that I didn't have time to make enough items for my first fair. My husband said to me 95% of your customers won't even notice, if they like your product and it looks good they will buy it. But to me it was the most important thing. I now realise he was right (but of course I won't tell him that ) it is important but should not take over your time so it becomes your only focus. The first item I sold was a Gothic skirt so I got the bag and the girl said have you not got a plastic bag so I can shove it in my bag. I had spent time and cost to make these bags so different that everyone would know she'd bought from my stall and come rushing over to buy something so my advise to anyone is yes get your branding but don't get bogged down with it it more important to you than most of your customers.'

Phew - long post! If you are a student who is reading and I said I would mention something in particular and it's not here, just leave a comment and I'll answer :)

Monday, 11 March 2013

New postcards!! New postcards!!

As many of you will know I make my own business cards and while they are fabulous and I will keep making them, the idea of making lots of them for BCTF was a little bit daunting! So after speaking to two lovely friends Leigh and Tracy (who are both doing BCTF) I decided to have some postcards printed. And here are the results!

 The front of the cards :) They are made from recycled cardboard so aren't shiny at all which I like.

And the back with all my details on. There is also room for people to scribble notes on - perfect for noting down which items they liked :)

And the ever important recycled logo which is essential for Swirlyarts :) I've ordered plenty so they may well make it to future events too!

Friday, 8 March 2013

52 books in 52 weeks - part two

I'm slowly keeping up with my 52 books in 52 weeks challenge but only read 3 books in February (slacking!) Here they are.

I got a review copy of this book (it's out at the end of the month) and I enjoyed it immensely. It is set in the Croatian town of Gost and weaves the story of an English family that move into a house and the man they hire to help them fix it up. There's more to it but I'll leave it at that!

This is a book about what happens when the world goes to hell after a global pandemic. The main characters are stranded on a refinery platform in the Arctic and it's a book about their survival. It's brilliant and the author tweeted at me, looked in my shop and told me he liked my Wombles gift tags! Exciting stuff!

I really didn't like this book. At all! Luckily it wasn't a long read. The twist at the end came too late to redeem the rest of the book. I think I may have missed out as I haven't read any books by Viginia Woolf and it's very much an homage apparently. Oh well!

I'll be back next month with this months reads - if I get any read that is! 9/52

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Craftivists rock!

I went to the unveiling last night of the #imapiece jigsaw pieces at The Peoples Museum in Manchester and it was brilliant. There were over 600 pieces there and it was fabulous to see them all displayed together. I'm just going to show you lots of photographs now :)

This was taken outside looking in as I left. You can see the scale of the installation.

Sarah Corbett (white t-shirt) is the organiser and craftivist who organised the whole concept. She is pictured with her crafty avengers Mr X Stitch, Deadly Knitshade and Hilary from Craft Blog UK.

The lady being photographed here made over 22 pieces for her friends and family to embroider and stitched quite a few herself.

I saw loads of pieces that I really liked so here are some pictures of those.

You can see better pictures on my Flickr stream. And of course here's my piece in the installation.

If you want to join in then there is still time - the installation is going to Belfast at some stage in May so you can get stitching. Find out all the information here. And if you don't want to be involved in this particular project, check out lots of other ideas here.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Kale crisps :)

They don't sound too appetising but they are delicious :) I found the recipe on Attic 24's blog and promptly added it to Pinterest so I could find it easily again!

This is what they look like when they come out of the oven :) You basically empty half a bag of kale into a baking tray, add a bit of freshly ground salt, a bit of olive oil (not too much) and bung them in the oven for 25 mins at gas mark 2. Easy peasy!

And here are the girls tucking in - they loved them!

And this is why being the chef is the best idea - you get all the big crisps!

Have you ever tried these? What do you think? Any other flavours? We are thinking of trying some spinach next :)