Montreal

Montreal
Cute Houses of Montreal

cocktail

cocktail
A Winter Cocktail

Life changing magic

Life changing magic
The Life Changing Magic

chocolate popcorn



Now, this isn’t so much a recipe post, mostly because it’s not really a recipe, more instructions for life. Making chocolate covered popcorn is something you OUGHT to be doing. Right now. It’s the irresistible, possibly crack laced brother to your normal bowl of popcorn and it’s so easy I feel a little bit dumb writing a blog post about it, but every time I make it, it’s gone in seconds and everyone wants more. Plus, I was making some for last weekends craft fair cake stall, so it seemed the perfect time to blog it.

You will need;

1 bag of pre-popped popcorn. Sweet or salted, your choice. Maybe not caramel and definitely not that cheese popcorn that Tesco have started selling . We don’t have a microwave and I can rarely find a panlid that fits {the boyf on the other hand knows exactly where they are – I think he hides them} so I buy a bag of pre-popped popcorn, lazy, I know, but hey – it’s popcorn!

1 big bar of white chocolate. If you don’t like white chocolate, substitute it for something you do like, but if you use dark chocolate, then you might be shunned by me!

1 big bag of M&M’s, I use straight up chocolate, but you could use peanut, or mint or whatever you fancy really. I’ve seen posts on Pinterest where people have used pretzels too.

And you'll need to;

Pour the bag of popcorn into a large bowl.

Now, break the chocolate up into little pieces and melt it. If you’re like me, in a bowl over a pan of water. If you’re normal and have a microwave, I’d suggest you do it in that!


Once the chocolate is melted. Pour about 2/3 of it over the popcorn. And mix.

When the popcorn is nearly all coated, add the bag of M&M’s, mix, and pour in the rest of the chocolate. Mix again.


Pop the bowl somewhere cool to set the chocolate. Once the chocolate is set, eat. Or pop onto cute little bags for your friends. 


*Popcorn doesn’t tend to store very well, so make sure if you don’t eat it right away it’s stored in an airtight container{there’s not much chance of it hanging round very long though!}
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Ice Ice Baby


I love the little bit of Sheffield we live in – it has pretty much everything we need. Artisan bakeries – check. Restaurants serving every possible food type – check. Hype bars – check. Old man’s pubs – check. More vintage homewares shops than ever necessary – check. And now it has a new ice-creamery, Diddy Cool, which has just opened dangerously close to our house.


I found out at my WI meeting, so of course I text home to let the boyf know about it. I mean, it’s important information. It needed to be shared. I figured we could head down that weekend. What I didn’t expect was to be marched out of the house when I got home that night, for ice cream. But as it happens, 10pm is the perfect time to be buying ice cream as they are open late most evening. {Seriously, they open until 1am on the weekends. Imagine how much better the walk home from town would be with ice cream!}And they deliver. Didn’t I say it was dangerous!


And it was pretty good ice cream too! I got a bit overwhelmed by all the flavours and had a scoop of the honeycomb, which was delicious, and Jim had an ice cream sandwich – which came with 2 different cookies on either side. Plus, because of a promo they are doing, we got a big tub of Banana to take home with us for free too! 



Now, all we need is an actual summer so I can justify eating so much of the stuff!
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Festival Lust List


Last week I received a lovely email to tell me I'd won two tickets to the Wilderness festival through Oh Comely magazine (check it out - it looks so wonderful!). AND it's only 7 days until we set off to Glastonbury, so I've been sat here thinking of my festival lust list - As spare money is alluding me right now my festival going garb will be made up of things I already own or have made! Luckily we already have a tent, an airbed, sleeping  bags and wellies (the important things) and I always manage to pack more clothes than I could ever need, but it's all those little extra bits that you really want but really don't need that cost the money!


1. No, no, not the wellies, but that cute little pouch for the side of them. Perfect for storing your hand sanitser and tissues in and a bit of lose change for when you REALLY need another drink but you've left your bag at the tent! 2. Our point and shoot is MIA and my DSLR is a bit bulky to carry round at a festival, as I discovered last Glastonbury, so this little Samsung P&S with amazing panorama capability would be just the ticket. 3. I know it doesn't REALLY matter what booze you take with you because when it's all warm, it never tastes as good, but why not start with something a little classy in your gin and juice? Or, pre-freeze some of these cocktails and pop them at the bottom of your cool box, under the frozen bag of wine and you'll have a nice refreshing drink come Friday morning! {what??? Every one knows that Thursday night's are the new Friday at Glasto, and as long as you don't sober up, you won't get a hangover, so a morning margarita is just the ticket!} 4. As a massive fan of the arm party there is no way I'll be heading to either festival without a plethora of arm adornments. The crafting supplies came out to make a couple of those long noodle bead bangles the other day, but I think a few chunkier pieces are in order to set it off! 5. And as I can't actually dye my hair crazy colours {wouldn't that annoy work!} a little hair chalk might do the trick. 
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What's in my handbag

And now to see what I've been carting about in the huge slouchy handbag I made. The people at Money Supermarket are running a 'What's in your bag' survey to find out the sorts of things women carry about in their bags and to be in with the chance of winning a Mulberry, all you need to do is post what's in your bag and tot up the value of what they all cost, so I thought I'd take part because who doesn't love seeing all the crap people carry round with them on a daily basis {and I'd love a Mulberry too!}


Welcome to today’s contents of my bag*;
  • Cath Kidston Purse (which today contains £12.58, a plethora of loyalty cards and a lot of receipts. The purse was about £15 too)
  • Mobile phone - Galaxy S2 (about £250)
  • My Personal Planner (£15 to buy but full of irreplaceable notes)
  • Some of my favourite pens (£6)
  • My iPod, but strangely no headphones at the moment (it's so old that it's not worth anything right now, but I guess would be about £100 to replace) 
  • Car keys, which given the bag is so huge are lost 80% of the time they are in it.
  • Stila convertible colour in peony. I love this stuff but can't find the same colour any more (about £20 I think)
  • The boyf's kindle for my GOT's reading - finding out what has happened to Arya and Jon now season 3 has finished is a must right now (£70) 
  • Lip balms - Vaseline, and some colours left over from our night out at Bon Jovi - I couldn't decide a colour and ended up just wearing the vaseline! (about £15)
  • My glasses (£160)
  • And some sunnies (£90)
  • Moo mini cards, which reminds me I need some new ones printing up (£10)
  • Beeswax handcream, my mum bought me this from a local bee keeper and it's amazing (£4)
  • there are also a few dog poo bags, some dog treats, a baggy with 5 nose studs in them for when I misplace one, about 16 hairbands, and a collection of hair grips,  but they don't photograph so well.
£767.58 {+£45 for the bag I made}

It's been really interesting totting up everything that's in my bag and realising just how much stuff I cart around with me (and how much all that stuff costs). On a good (or bad, depending how you look at it) day there might also be my DSLR and lenses, some more make-up, the boyf's mini laptop, a couple of notebooks and if I'm lucky some food! Maybe it's a good job I made a cavernous bag after all!
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I showed this post to Steph, who I share a bank of desks with at work, and she insisted on dumping the rubbish from her handbag into my desk. It genuinely was so laughable I had to take a photo. What you might not be able to see is that along side the usual purse and sunnies, car keys and phone, her bag contains her daughters school tie, about 46 crayons and pencils, a candle and candle holder, a plethora of hair bands and clips, ‘paper work’ (otherwise known as a bundle of receipts), a battery for a phone she doesn’t have any more,  Next gift cards, ½ a pharmacy and 2 sachets of mustard! You know, just in case!
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A slouchy leather bag DIY

I've been after a big slouchy, black, leather handbag for quite some time but being a perpetual state of  'I really can't justify spending my petrol money on a handbag' I just can't afford any of the ones I want. But I live in a world where my ambition outweighs my skill 100:1 so I decided to go out and make one. How hard could it be? The original plan was to make one out of an old leather jacket I had, but when the jacket arrived back from the friends house it had been at for years it wasn't quite big enough to make the pattern I wanted, so I went out and bought some pieces of super soft Italian lambs leather. {I still made a bag out of the jacket - just not as big a bag - I'll share it another time!}


I spent a long time scouring Pinterest for shapes and ideas and came across this one that I loved. I didn't take photo's as I went {as per usual}, but here was the process;
  1. I cut myself a template from some baking paper. I fiddled about with the size a bit, because at the size mentioned, it seemed massive {it's still massive btw!}
  2. I pinned the template to my lining fabric and cut it out. I went with this black and pink tartan that has been in my fabric stash for about 3 years!
  3. Once I had the lining cut and sorted, I cut another square of fabric to make a zip pocket out of. I used this tutorial to add the zipper, and sewed the pocket onto the 'wrong' wide of the lining fabric. 
  4. Now i started to play with the leather. As it wasn't cheap to buy, I went carefully and drew the shape of the bag out on the 'wrong' side in chalk. I wasn't about to go all gung ho and cut right into it. Once the shaped were all cut out, I got out my pins and things got more complicated. 
  5. I had bought a long, 2 way, centre closing zip to use as the closure. I knew that the zip wasn't as long as the opening, and I wanted it to look nice and tidy so I decided to 'close' the ends of the zip. I'm not sure if that's what it's called, but I am sure you know what I mean. Here is the tutorial I used. 
  6. Actually adding zips on bags with lining's always baffle me and I have to follow a tutorial. I can get one of the sides right, but the second side always evades me - it's all about getting the 'right' and 'wrong' sides of the fabric facing the right way. My brain can't quite figure it out at all so this is my 'go-to' tutorial. Maybe one day it'll come naturally, but that's not happened yet!
  7. Once I had wrangled with the zip, and it was all sitting the right way round I started looking at closing up the bag. With the bag inside out, meaning the right sides of the leather were together, and the zip a little bit open in the middle, I sewed up around the bottom edge of the bag, right the way from the top. 
  8. Next I did the same with the lining, but made sure I left a gap of a couple of inches in the lining, so I could turn the bag the right way round. I pulled the bag through the gap in the lining and it was starting to look like a bag!
  9. Adding the loops with the D-rings for the straps however was slightly more complicated than I thought. On the tutorial, as she's using cotton, she doubles up the bow-tie shaped loops used to attached the strap. I tried this. It turns out even my wonder machine can't sew though 6 layers of leather and two of cotton! So I had to go back to the drawing board. This time I used just one layer of bow-tie shaped leather, stitched on both sides. Sewing through 4 layers of copy and 2 layers of cotton still proved a little challenging and the stitching isn't at all perfect. I think I'll try and get some rivets to attach this as it'll look better. I just need to find them first!
  10. I have two strap options for the bag - I have a long, cross body strap that I bought from U-handbag, and a shorter, shoulder strap. The shoulder strap is made from a long piece of leather, sewn together into a tube and turned right-side out. I attached the clips by looping them through the leather, sewing it back on it's self and tying a know to cover the stitching {it looked a little raw and the strap was pretty long so this is a win win!}
  11. My last task was to top stitch around the zipper of the bag - which I'll be honest should be simple as I was just top stitching from the ends of the zips, but it is a little wonky. Ooooops! 
I think all in all it took me about 6 hours to make and about £45 worth of materials which I don't think is bad for a super soft leather bag. When I am a little bit flusher, I might attempt to make the same sort of bag, only I'll use a more distressed, slightly hardier leather and learn from my mistakes! 

So there you go, a slouchy, black, leather bag that holds pretty much everything I could ever need. Not sure if you need a cardigan or a scarf, it's ok, they'll fit in the bag. Don't want to leave the kindle at home, ah, there's room. Need to smuggle sweets in the cinema, sorted. Can't find your car keys? Just dig a little deeper, they'll be there somewhere!

**Some amateur thoughts on working with leather - I hadn't thought much about how slippery and stretchy the leather would be, no matter how many pins and bulldog clips I used I've still got area's of puckering and gathering. And I use completely the wrong stitch length - everywhere. I thought the closer the stitch the more secure it would be, but on leather, it just works to perforate the material, and especially on the straps I have found it just makes it tear really easily.**
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Fancie Book Club - The Night Circus

Obligatory shot of my cake and book - this month it was a cherry and vanilla scone.
I've been a bit slack with my bookclub posts. I do have an excuse thought 1. I had other plans that were pretty important 2. I hadn't read the books (although after last nights chat I am not sure many people had either)

But June's bookclub book thoughts are here - We read the beautiful, magical wonder that is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I know it came out last year so many of you may have read it so this may be old news to be telling you all that you HAVE to go out and buy this book because it's pretty much the most enchanting thing I've read in a long while, but I'm going to do it anyway!

I won't lie, it took me some time to get started on this book, mainly because I have been utterly foolish and filled every waking moment recently with doing stuff, but once I started, it was the sort of book that made me sack off an entire days worth of promises and chores to sit in the sun and read. But it's also the sort of book that as it neared the end I found my self putting down and wandering off from and reading only a few paragraphs of, so as not to finish it too quickly (please tell me it's not just me that does this!).

Our bookclub group taken by Sarah
The book follows the lives of Celia and Marcus and their somewhat unwitting circus bedfellows. Celia and Marcus, unbeknown to them at the time get forced to compete in a magical challenge by their guardians. We, like them, know little of the challenge and discovering it as it unfolded was one of the compelling stories. As the story progresses, we are introduced to not only the magical circus but to great midnight feasts, illusions, and encounter a couple of twists along the way. But strangely it wasn't the characters that I fell in love with, who whilst interesting, probably aren't the main focus of the book, it was the circus I was picking the book up to find out more about - I wanted to know about every tent and every bit of magic it contained. My only issue with the book would be that it left me a little  that the circus didn't exist in real life, which is where http://www.nightcircus.co.uk steps in!

It's hard to discuss a book without going into detail, in case someone hasn't read it yet, so I am not sure I can do it justice, but please if you haven't read this book, go out and do so. And if you have read it, did you love it, and how many times have you gone back to re-read it?

Next month we're reading The Thirteenth Tale, which one of the ladies says is her favourite out of all the books we've read!
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Review - GHD Style and Protect Gift Set



My beauty regime is pretty pathetic - I have a bathroom full of lotions and potions, promises and dreams, that get forgotten in a world of being late for something ALL the time. I can just about remember to moisturise but cleansing and toning - hmmmmm, what?

But my hair, that's a different story. There is no way I could do the same with my hair - It's just not that manageable. I've spent my adult life going from long to short, fringe to no fringe, blonde to brunette in an attempt to make it do what I want. At the moment I am 18 months into growing out a graduated bob that was conceived after a sick day watching too much 90210. I loved it for a couple of years, but then I missed my long hair. I wanted beachy waves and fishtail braids, but my hair has never done the perfect beachy wave, even when it's been dried full of salt from the sea and now my hair is almost long enough to fishtail, they are so 2012! Give me 6 months and I'll want another change although I've promised myself no fringes, no matter how sweeping it is, until winter.

But long or short it's far too thick and naturally left, it sits somewhere between frizzy and wavey - without mounds of products or wrangling with the straighteners I really shouldn't leave the house. So when the people at Brit Bloggers got in touch to offer me some GHD styling products to review I jumped at the chance. I've been a huge fan of GHD's since my uni housemate came back after Christmas with some in 2002, they might not be the most hard wearing of straighteners (I'm on pair 4 and I've currently got to wrap the cord tightly round my fingers to stop their random crazy beep beep, beep beep, beep beeps) but I haven't found anything else that tames the beast that is my hair so well! 

And when my package arrived I was suitably impressed. They sent me the Style and Protect Gift Set, which is worth £39. You know I am a sucker for packaging, so the nicely textured box, with the gold logo, makes me happy and is a great place to store all my hair products too, as Flash loves trotting round the house with any bottles or tubes I haven't put out of reach of his little puppy jaws!


Inside the box I received a paddle brush, 2 sectioning clips and a Straight and Smooth Styling Spray and a Final Shine Spray. When I cut all my hair off I got rid of my old paddle brush (it was ready to be replaced and it just too big for the shortness) and as my hair grew I never replaced it. I honestly had forgotten how much better I can use a paddle brush when I'm straightening (and how good they are at cutting through the tangles my hair inexplicably creates when I sleep). 

I've never used a heat styling spray before, well, I did once, but it made my hair crackle and steam so I didn't try it again. I've used this on my wet hair before drying, and also during the straightening process. Even though it is a wet spray, it doesn't seem to soak my dry hair so there is no fizzing or cracling as if my hair is burning when straightening, which I am guessing can only be a good thing. And it smells lovely  too which means I've been using in between washing too. I'm not sure if it's the fact I'm using a more suitable brush, or the spray, but my hair is certainly less frizzy when straightening.

I am however a big fan and regular user of shine products - usually a serum though but the problem I've found with serums is that they don't shine your hair evenly (this could be down to user error) I did find a spray I loved when I was at uni, but that was such a long time ago it's been discontinued! So this spray has been a bit of a shine revelation - no clogging up of my hands or hair and again it smells divine. Plus the bottle is small enough that I'm totally going to be carrying it about with me for a bit of a hair refresh when festivalling.  (look, I take gas powered straighteners to Glasto - this is nothing!)


What I really wanted to show you were some perfectly done, loose curls at the bottom of my hair, but I don't have the skill for that right now, not with straighteners anyway (one of the girls at my WI manages it and she tells me she has a curling wand that creates them - I think that'll be next on my hair wish list) So for now, I've pulled together a pin board of my favourite summery, festivally, hairstyles - I have a good few weeks to try and perfect at least one of these (or find out if the other ladies in the group can try them) so that I look good on one day at Glastonbury.

What I want to know now is, what is your favourite summer hair? And importantly, can you come and show me how to do it?

Disclaimer - I wasn't paid for this post, but I was given the product. 
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FORGE


Are you a reader in South Yorkshire? Or even closer, Sheffield? If so, you need to take note of Forge, an amazing contemporary art, design and craft fair that my WI is curating - our first fair is on the 23rd June and it's all to raise money for our charity Roundabout and our WI group.

We've found a fabulous space at the Workstation (which is right next to the train station) and we have some amazing stall holders lined up - I'm genuinely a little in awe of the talent we have lined up to come and join us - I mean, look at some of the things they're making and doing (click through to Pinterest for the full board). I am going to be so poor by the end of the day as I think I want something from pretty much every stall.




Our WI, Hallam Roses are having a cake stall and trust me, we have some great bakers amongst us, and Roundabout will be there to tell everyone about what they do too. And we're also pulling together a very special 'Made in Sheffield' raffle to showcase some amazing prizes from around the city, including a beautiful skateboard by Lives and Levels, and a load of tasty treats from Sheffield foodies. 

I can't even apologise for the amount of times I've mentioned Forge on twitter and facebook and now here, because I am so proud of what we're doing here and it's amazing to see how hard everyone involved it working to make it happen. I'll be honest - I didn't realise that it would be so time consuming (and I've not been anywhere near as involved as some of the other ladies) but I didn't know how amazing it would be to see this grow into such a cool event. And now we're in June, and the fair is in a few week, I will admit that it's getting slightly scary. A good scary, but terrifying none the less.

So, will you be popping down to see us?
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Rhubarb Cordial


When I was a kid I remember being sitting there with sticks of rhubarb and a bowl of sugar, munching on the tart sticks for as long as we could. The bottom of my grandparents garden was swamped with the stuff. A seemingly endless supply. And my parents have some of that rhubarb plant in their garden, again a seemingly endless supply, and as of last summer, I have a part of that plant growing in our yard too.

And at the moment, every time I see my mum I get more rhubarb. My go-to recipe is this Orangette number, but right now, there is far too much rhubarb, even for eating with wine and sugar. So I turned to Twitter for help and my friend Lizzie pointed me in the direction of this Freshly Forked rhubarb cordial, which seemed to be a wonderfully wholesome thing to make the morning after a night of too many rum punches. It's so simple to make, even with a bit of a fuzzy head. 

Ingredients
6 sticks of rhubarb
250grams sugar (the recipe called for 230g but my scales aren't that refined)
300ml water - I used boiling to dissolve the sugar a bit more. 

To make the cordial
Cut the rhubarb into 1inch-ish sized chunks and throw in a large saucepan
Put the sugar and water in with the rhubarb and bring to the boil until the sugar has dissolved. 
Leave the pan on the heat until the rhubarb is starting to break down. 


Once the rhubarb is falling apart, take off the heat and go and read a book for a bit until it's cooled down. 
Sieve the mixture, pushing all the liquid out - and there you go, rhubarb cordial. I think if I'd used the more pinky sticks, then it would have been a deeper colour, but I like the peachy colour. I used the left over rhubarb pulp in a cake too and it tastes pretty good! 


All you have to do now is find a beautiful bottle to put it in (mine once had booze in it) and you're pretty much set. I've been drinking it with water and lemonade, but I have it on good authority it goes well with Prosecco and I have a feeling it would work with Gin too, well, most things do! 
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