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My little word for 2015

I've spent the last year keeping the word 'Move' in my thoughts. It's proved useful in some ways. We've moved house, and I've tried to move a bit more in the physical sense and i've tried my hardest to move on from some people (and things) in my life, but I think it's time for a new word. 

So for 2015 i'll be working towards 'Make' as my word to keep in mind! 
I want to make more things - at least one, decent, usable, actual thing a month. we really need to do some Making for this house for it to become a home. I want to make more of an effort - with my appearance and with some relationships. I also want to make more friends. And more memories - by doing actual fun things rather than just thinking that one day we should get round to stuff. 

So that's that - in 2015 I'll be concentrating on the word 'Make' and everything it can bring to my life!  

Be right back!

I keep coming back here and not knowing what to write. Right now my brain is full of ideas but blank of all words - in essence I'm a bit short on blogging mojo right now. 

I guess it's not the worst thing it the world to take a little break in December but I had all these plans for gift guides, diys, fun festive posts with Flash and December Daily updates - then my computer died taking with it the drafts and psd's I was working on for said posts - and my motivation! 

I'll be back - I know I will - I enjoy it here and my head is teeming with ideas - it's just when I sit down to write right now they don't come out. I blame the dead computer (because blogging from your phone (or Kindle) is a pain in the ass!) but maybe I just need a few weeks off from feeling guilty about not blogging (please tell me other people feel this too!). 

So I'll be back sometime before the end of the year with my word for 2015 and hopefully some renewed brain power and fingers crossed a working laptop!

Have a wonderful Christmas! 


A November round-up and some December goals

November was a busy (read - expensive) month. Jim was away in India again in October and a bit of November and usually when he's away I take time to chill but somehow I filled it with more stuff than I thought I had, but had a great time. November saw me throwing a Crafternoon where we made some christmas decorations, Flash and I had loads of lovely cuddles whilst it was just the two of us, I picked up the awesome drawing Lianne Mellor did of the pup, Toni and I had a lovely afternoon photowalk, I went the Home is in Manchester, Jim came home and we went to see The Gaslight Anthem and very randomly, Lady Gaga, and then the three of us had a lot of muddy woodland walks, quite a few meals out and started eating stollen like it was going out of fashion! 

Now, for Decembers goals; 


Festive DIY - Hot Chocolate Stirers

One of my favourite things to make for gifts at Christmas is hot chocolate on sticks. They are so simple to do, but are such a great gift to give because everyone loves hot chocolate don't they! 

I've written about making these before but since then I've found a much better recipe that gives a richer, creamier and just generally nicer hot chocolate. I usually just make milk/dark chocolate stirers but this year I thought I'd mix it up a bit and make some white chocolate ones. 

What you'll need;
  • 600 grams of chocolate - I used 350g of white and 300g of  a mix of dark and milk chocolate. If you're using white chocolate you'll need a bit more of it to make the mixture really thick! And you could also just use 600g of one type of chocolate. 
  • 120ml double cream
  • 397g tin of condensed milk (this is just the standard sized tin which makes it easy!)
  • Ice cube tray or brownie pan (I used this Wilton one and an ice cube tray as it makes slightly more than the brownie pan)
  • Lollipop sticks or mini spoons. 

What to do;

As I made white and milk/dark chocolate stirers, I halved the ingredients and did it in two pans - But if you're doing just one flavour don't split it.
  1. Half the cream and the condensed milk and add them into a saucepans. In each saucepan mix equal amounts of the milk and cream and whisk them together.
  2. Heat the cream and condensed milk over a low flame until it simmers. Don't let it boil and mix it regularly so that it doesn't burn to the pan.
    • I added the vanilla seeds from 3 vanilla pods to the pan the white chocolate mixture was going in because I love white chocolate Magnums and I thought it might be a little like that! 
  3. Whilst the milk mixture is heating, break your chocolate into little pieces - if you're using different types of chocolate make sure to separate them. 
  4. When the liquid is simmering take it of the heat. 
  5. Add the chocolate bit by bit to the saucepan(s) and mix in until it's all melted. It'll start getting quite thick as you add more chocolate. 
  6. When all the chocolate has melted spoon it into the brownie pan so each section is full to the top. 
  7. If you're going to embellish them, now is the time. I added a mix of white, dark and milk chocolate swirls to mine but you could stick mini marshmallows maybe, or peppermint sweets crushed up - anything you want maybe?
  8. Pop the tray in the fridge for about half an hour to allow the mixture to set a little before adding the spoons. If you add them too early you'll spend the next hour on spoon watch - I know this from personal experience! 
  9. Your stirers should be set after a couple of hours, and if you're not giving them as gifts right away keep them in the fridge, or the freezer to keep them fresh due to the cream content! They'll keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge or a few months in the freezer. 
To serve; 
  • Add one spoon to a cup of hot milk and stir until the whole block has dissolved. Serve with whipped cream and marshmallows for the full hot chocolate experience. (Or eat straight off the spoon as I caught Jim doing the other day! He claims he just needed a chocolate fix!)
As you can see the vanilla seeds in the white hot chocolate are really visible and they add something extra that balances out the crazy sweetness that white chocolate tends to have and is really lovely. And the milk and dark chocolate stirers, well they are delicious but isn't hot chocolate always! 

You can see more festive DIY posts on the Cotton Traders Christmas Advent Calendar

Gift Guide - For the dog lover in your life

So recently my friend told me she never had me pegged as a crazy dog lady, but that she thought it suited me so I figured lets go the whole hog and kick off my gift guides by focusing on the most important member of the household! 

I must admit I love shopping for Flash and even though, if I'm honest with myself he really doesn't get what Christmas is besides the time of year we bring a REALLY big stick in the house, it's fun to get him a few gifts for the big day! 

1. The Foobler dog toy I really really wish I'd found out about these things when they were on Kickstarter because try as I might I cannot get one in the UK, but a toy that dispenses treats throughout the day would be magic for any pooch! 2. I am a little in love with these Pugs might Fly tree ornaments. Whist at £29.99 for 4 they're out of my price range this year, one day they will live on our tree! 3. I just adore the prints that Fuzzyard have on their dog beds and I am pretty sure most self respecting pooches will too! 4. Billy and Margot puppy cracker for dog - who says humans have to have all the dinner table cracker fun! These have a hat and a joke too! 5. As the owner of a dog with an Instagram account (don't hate me!) this plush Dogsta toy seems very apt! 6. The perfect Dog Hamper for any dog lover (although maybe I'm just a bit in love with the bone shaped basket!)

December Daily - my first attempt

December Daily is always one of those things I've thought 'that looks like fun' about but never actually attempted. Often with these things, I'm not sure my life is exciting enough, and I never plan ahead and I'm pretty rubbish at keeping the momentum with things! 

This year however I am going to do it. I am. I'm prepared. I'm amped up to do it. I'm going to record my December and I am going to enjoy it! And after the year that 2014 has thrown at me it seems fitting to record the end of it with some celebration! 

Here are just a few of the bits I'll be starting with.

I bought this cute little sketch book from a local art supplies shop. It's the perfect small size and after I had ripped off the binder and replaced it with book binder rings I think it'll be perfect for adding stuff in to. Washi tape. Obvz. Smashbook pen - this has a lovely pen at one end and a glue stick at the other. Genius. And essential for on the go crafting. Random reindeer bunting. Christmas tags. Christmas embellishments. Random, but Christmassy bits of paper - some from my supplies, but others scavenged from the Project Life kits I've bought and then never used. (I'm a big fan of starting and not finishing a project!) I know as I start more stuff will appear in the kit but this is what I am starting with.
I'm planning on using the paper in the book and also adding things in by hole-punching them and adding them to the book. I'm trying to let my brain know that getting through this as a month project, rather than having it perfect is the goal. Although the amount of beyond perfect December Daily books I've pinned might be going against that mantra.

And I'm also going to be trying to keep up with Susanna Conway's December Daily - probably in the book, but maybe on Instagram too! The prompts are here and you can read more here!

Will you be recording December or are you sensible and letting this crazy month go without adding to the mess of stuff you need to do?


A book about Jugs*

*No, not those sort of Jugs - don't be silly. The dog kind.......

In the summer I got a very random email from a man who'd found photos of Flash on my (embarrassingly neglected) Flickr account. He said he was writing a book on Jug dogs and was struggling to find pictures to use. He asked if he could use some picture of Flash and, well, of course I said yes. So here we have Flash's first appearance in a published book, one you can buy on Amazon.....He has seven photos included in the book that span from the day he came home to us to now, at 2 1/2 years old (there also might be a few words on Jug ownership from Jim and I too!).
There are also loads of cute pictures of other Jugs too but most importantly our little pup is kind of famous - only problem is, it's gone to his head and he doesn't get out of bed for less than at least one bacon strip these days! 

A trip to Home Is and a mooch around the Northern Quarter

Last Saturday I spent my afternoon giving a little tour of my neighbourhood to Toni from Lemon Freckles and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was lovely to see the area through someone news eyes. I've written about where I live before so didn't end up posting any of the pictures but she wrote a lovely post here. We've decided to make it a sort of regular thing - getting together and having a mooch about with our cameras. We're even planning on getting our pooches involved soon too! 

Anyway that afternoon made me realise that I want to do more with my weekends rather than catching up on housework and stuff so last Saturday I hopped on the train and headed to the wrong side of the Pennines for a look round the Home Is event - a gorgeous interiors market. I missed the one earlier this year and felt I just couldn't miss out again!

We actually spend a lot of time in Manchester. We have lots friends over there, and it's where Jim grew up and his family still live there but it's not somewhere I've spent time alone. Every time we go there are plans and places to be and no time to just wander about so my plan was to head to the Home Is event in Ancoats then take a bit of time walking round the Northern Quarter without an aim or purpose! And you know what it was a lovely day.
The Home Is event had some beautiful exhibitors and I may have made a couple of small purchases, although i did really want one of these tweed throws but no matter how beautiful they were, £370ish is a bit more than I will ever have in the 'throws' budget (Does anyone actually have a 'throws budget'? Is this something I should have?)
And then my wander around the Northern Quarter was great.  No purpose, no need to be anywhere, no set times for anything - just me. I arrived home and demanded to Jim that we take more random trips to places for a few hours just because it was fun. 

What did you get upto with your weekend?

WIN a top and a bag from Brakeburn!

When were were on holiday in Cornwall earlier this year, one of the shops at the harbour had started stocking a new brand that I absolutely fell in love with. It's a new brand I'd never heard of, Brakeburn, and given that my size was out of stock in all the bits in the shop, and the manager said he'd only had it in a few weeks and was having to re-order way sooner than thought, it was popular with the other people in Mylor too.
When we got back I started looking on their website and found even more things that I really loved. So I got in touch with the guys at Brakeburn and asked them if they'd like to do a giveaway for you guys, and as they are so lovely they agreed to it. They were also kind enough to send me a couple of pieces from their new collection too.

I chose the Bella crew, well, because I just love a good striped top and this was one of the tops that I saw in Mylor and fell in love with. 99% of the striped tops I own (and there are a LOT of them) are navy and white, so adding a shot of red into the mix makes me super happy. It fits like a dream, even after I've stopped eating Paleo (but these pictures make me think I need to start again....ooops)
And then we have the Stag shopper. I chose it because of the awesome print. When it arrived I fell in love with it even more than I thought I would. The colour is beautiful, I adore the little stags, and it's super roomy! I've been using it for taking all my stuff to WI meetings, popping to town and not needing carrier bags, going to work and dog walking - now if you don't own a dog you might not realise how much stuff they require - poo bags and water bottles, treats and balls and if we're staying out late maybe a jumper or something! Everything fits - easily!
So, if you'd like to win both these items, worth £60, in your size (well the top - the bag is a fixed size!) all you have to do is enter the competition below through rafflecopter. To enter you'll need to pop over to the Brakeburn site and leave me a comment below with your favourite thing from the website. You can get a couple of extra entries through Rafflecopter too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(Sorry about the awkward poses - I'm really not a fashion blogger!!!!! Thanks to Gemma for the pictures too!)

Living with regret (or not as the case may be)

I'm not normally one for falling apart in public so I apologise for this post, but it's been eating away at me and at some point if you don't let things out I'm sure I might implode!

One of the things I have learnt this year is that I don't deal with regret that well. Not the sort of regret that comes from not buying those boots you just HAD to have and realising they are sold out, or the regret you feel what you realise you drank far too much last night and did something stupid, but the sort or regret that completely envelopes your life and makes it hard to think straight. The sort I am trying to move past at the moment. 

My word for 2014 was MOVE. And whilst I've embodied the word in a physically 'we've moved house' and a 'I'm walking further to and from work' kind of way, mentally my frame of mind hasn't moved past things that have happened.

For 6 months now I've been struggling to deal with this regret and feeling of loss and it's starting to eat into my day to day life. I feel like it's consuming me and I can't find a way to win. I knew Jim being in India would be tough as there would be a lot more nights alone in the house, but I don't think I had quite prepared myself for what that would do to my brain. I'll be washing up and thoughts that I just can't shake will hit me and then it ends up with Flash looking at me like a crazy woman as I'm crying washing glasses and spoons (when it's just me there's always an abundance of glasses and spoons to wash!)

So far my saving graces have been keeping busy as much as I can - filling every spare minute with something and when I don't have the time filled I've been going swimming. The gym down the road is open until 10 so when the regret starts to build and I catch it in time, I've popped down for a swim. My brain still works in the same way but I am too focused on breathing and the pain in my knees to give them too much time - the plus side is no-one can see the tears if you're in the pool.

But I can't carry on this way. I hate the way I feel and need to figure out how to get back to the old me. I need to move past the heartbreak and I need to get on with my life and it can't be a life that includes these episodes, but I can't quite figure out how to do it right now. Does any one have any tips for getting past the thoughts that just won't go away? (And yes I have been to the Drs but they aren't very helpful!)

An October Round-up and some November goals

October was one of those months where we were super busy and also super chilled all at the same time. Sometime weeks were so busy Jim and I barely saw each other whilst others were filled with nights on the sofa watching movies and making lovely food. We managed some time to enjoy the new living room, I bought loads of stuff on ebay - including a few hundred felt balls! I conned my brother and my dad into some DIY for me, We went to see Death from Above (which was awesome) Jim went to India, just for 3 weeks this time - not nearly enough time for me to do something silly to the house! We had a great WI planning meeting over burritos and have some awesome things planned for 2015 - plus, we're swishing this Friday if anyone fancies it? 

One of the things I had planned to do in October was make Flash a Halloween costume and well, I managed it and thought I'd share my little zombie dog with you too. Isn't he the cutest member of the walking dead you've ever seen? 

So, now on to November's goals

I know the 'C' word is mentioned a few times here but it's November and it has to be done and with Jim away I need something to occupy my brain until he is back - once he is though, we have a busy few weeks so it needs to be kind of thought about before he returns!
What have you got planned for the month?

Lust list - Some local Sheffield must haves!

Sometimes I forget how spoilt we are in Sheffield for awesome little independent shops and makers. There is currently a bit of a situation in the city where there is a planning application to knock down a stretch of shops near my work that houses some of these greats independents, which would just be a complete travesty for the area  as it really is the independent that make it so great here, (but even with the threat of eviction facing them it must be great for the couple of shops involved as they've got some national coverage.)

With all the focus on Sheffield's indies, I thought it might be nice to showcase some of the other local businesses that I'm loving at the moment! 

1. I've been on the look out for a simple necklace I can wear all the time and this Tar and Fether braille necklace fits the bill. 2. You know my love of gin and this Sheffield made gin is meant to be delicious Loxley distillery gin, 3. How cool are these Skull candles from Moonko - I love 99% of the stuff they sell and these are no exception. 4. This cute mountain brooch from Snowbird Artworks has stolen my heart! What round up of Sheffield products would be complete without a nod to Hendersons Relish? 5. This Jo Peel Print forgoes the usual bottle image for the building. 6. And this Mellorware apron is firmly on my Christmas list - Lianne is a member of the same WI as me and is a superstar - also watch out for some Flash related stuff from her in the new year too!

What do you think of what the city has to offer? Who is your favourite local retailer or maker? 

Cable and Cotton lights

One more about the living room and then I will shut up. Promise. (Mostly because I'll be onto another room then! This house is never ending). But I want to draw your attention to the gorgeous Cable and Cotton lights we have strung over the fireplace.

I've loved Cable and Cotton lights for such a long time so I was over the moon when they got in touch and asked if I'd like a set of lights for the new house. The hardest part, having said yes was picking the colours of the lights but eventually I settled on the Sea Salt set (that shouldn't be a surprise to people who know me well) to go with the natural colours of the dining room but when they arrived I'd changed my mind and wanted them in the living room so I ordered an add on of red and purple balls to match the new decor in there! But I've saved the blue balls I replaced with red and purple so when I switch rooms again they match (or I might just buy another set for that room!)
They were so easy to set up - you just take them out of the box and pop the balls over the lights, switch them on and go. As for installing them, I just used a couple of the clips they sell on the website to string them from, then another few to keep the wires tidy!
As you might know if you've read my other living room posts I'm not sure I'm a huge fan of the fireplace yet, but having these lights strung across it, strangely, makes it less conspicuous. They look beautiful and fun in the day time, but give a lovely, cosy, glow at night, especially when I have my candles lit too. I'm just debating whether to go for one of the 'Big Lamps' for the main light fitting too now!
So, give me your thoughts on the lights - did I do right stringing them in here rather then the dining room? Do you like my colour choices? Which colours would you go for? Ones to match your decor or just something fun? 

*The lights were given to me by Cable and Cotton but I wasn't paid for this review. 

DIY Geometric Canvas

If you've seen my last post about our living room, you might have noticed we have a big, bold, canvas hanging above the fireplace. Well, I've had quite a few comments about it since it went on the wall and as it's homemade I thought I'd post the 'how to' in case you fancy something like it in your house too. 

I can't take any credit for this idea as I totally ripped it off from one of my loveliest friends, Liz, at Stitches and Lace. But as she doesn't have a blog, I'm pretty sure she won't mind me showing you what we did.

Liz sent me a photo of her canvas about 6 months ago when they overhauled their entire house (think knocking down walls, converting lofts, painting everything awesome colours, upcycling furniture!) She wanted a piece of art for her walls, couldn't find one, so made one. I fell in love with the idea and vowed to make one when we had our house sorted. I couldn't wait for the house to be sorted, but once we'd ordered the sofa and I had an idea of the colour scheme, I went ahead and did it!

What you'll need;
  • Large canvas - I got this 90x90cm one from Home Bargains for just £5.99. I know it won't be the highest quality but it's worked fine for me.
  • Tester paint pots in the colours of your choice. I chose our colours to match the cushions on the sofa, and used some of the leftovers from picking wall colours! 
  • Frog tape - or a tape with paint sealed edges. 
  • Paint brushes. 
What to do;

I started with by laying the canvas on the floor and taping out the shapes. I'll be honest. I wasn't sure what I was aiming for and just started throwing lines across each other. Liz's tip was to use Frog Tape rather than masking tape and I'd suggest you do too as it doesn't bleed.

Once I was happy with all the lines, (and I'd corrected the ones that had somehow curved) I started planning out the colours in my head. I probably should have thought ahead more and re-drawn the pattern on paper, but as my main plan was to make sure that none of the colours 'touched', and that giant triangle was always going to be the only red space, I thought I'd got it sorted.

The Crown paint I bought came in tubes with foam applicators, which made it super easy to apply, just squeeze and rub. The other testers I bought were Homebase own brand and didn't come with the paint brushes in the lid like I expected, so I had to go and dig out paint brushes. For reference, B&Q own brand testers do!

I then painted my colours in the spaces between the tapes. This is where the plan would have been helpful as I kept forgetting what went where. I also made sure to paint right over the sides and to the edges so that it would be finished - I bought a canvas that didn't do this and it's pissed me off ever since. The most difficult bit of this stage was keeping Flash from walking over the canvas......he's not that into crafting.

Once the paint was dried (I waited overnight as I really didn't want to have messed up) I carefully peeled the painters tape away and marvelled in the frog tapes abilities to not let the paint bleed!

Then I waited 6 weeks for the living room to be plastered, painted and re-carpeted, to be able to hang it.

And you know what? I love it. It ties together the red and purple of the sofa (which I'll be honest, I wasn't sure about - it's a far cry from the yellow and blue I wanted) with the rest of the room, and as it's so big, it doesn't make the fireplace look all massive in the room which I feared it might.

And because I found the canvas in Home Bargains so cheap, it was all for under £15. What do you think? Love it or hate it?

House Tour - The Living Room

God, this room feels like it's been going on forever. I guess that's the perils of trying to decorate in the weekends and evenings when you have loads of evening and weekend plans that don't include decorating. We started work on the living room at the start of August and finished it mid September. Oooops.
Before the transformation it looked a bit like this; 
 That's right, The walls were a pale yellow with old picture marks on the wallpaper and holes everywhere, the carpet was mucky and the curtains were interesting. Our furniture consisted of items that will be in Jim's attic man cave - a futon and two lounge chairs that will sit up there for computer game playing, as well as a TV stand. We didn't bring our old sofa's so everything was makeshift (although those chairs are so comfy I'm be sad to see them go upstairs!)
Now, four and a half months after moving in, and following nearly six weeks of scraping wallpaper, waiting for the room to be plastered, staring at swatches of grey paint for weeks whilst we decided what to do, some painting, painting and even more painting, some polyfillering, then some waiting for carpets and the sofa's to be delivered and a little last minute zhuzhing from me, we finally have a living room that we like. 
More importantly we have one fully decorated, and almost finished room (just don't tell Jim I said that - he thinks we're done with it).
I have to say that the built in bookcases are maybe the biggest impact, after the walls of course. Painting them white from the cream that they were, painting the back of them dark grey and changing out the handles for the crystal ones I found in TK Maxx has done wonders. I love the dark grey - it seems to balance the dark fireplace. I'm still not entirely happy with the fireplace, what you might not be able to tell is that it's a sort of questionable black, cream and red marble effect. I'm just not sure how to fix it at the moment.  

We also still need to fill the shelves above the TV, but there are boxes upon boxes of books of mine at my parents though so I think we'll be ok. Originally we'd planned to have the sky box, computer consoles and games and things up there but they are all in the cupboard below the TV so the shelves can be used for something else, more interesting!
I'm a bit in love with these little stack of Habitat side tables - It's so nice to have more than one surface to use as I'm not confident putting wine glasses on the floor with our crazy dog! And those brown cushions you can just see there - they are Habitat too, My dad bought them in 1974 instead of chairs for his flat whilst doing his PHD. They've sat in the loft since - but we get them now. They are so comfy, and pretty awesome too!
One of my favourite bits of the room are these Cable and Cotton lights, they look great in the day, but stunning at night! But more to come about those another time. 
One of the big challenges we faced was getting the curtain poles to fit the bay window. The pole we bought from Ikea came with pieces that meant to would have been too big, so I called in DIY Dad and we had a little Ikea hack to do. First we had to cut the poles down, luckily my dad has a pipe cutter so it was easy! Then, the bits that go round the corners are a spring in a rubber case, so we sliced some of the rubber off and carefully sandwiched the curtain pole under the rubber and around the spring so they fit the window! I also go him to put up the picture shelves too. He's pretty useful like that!
Flash seems to have made himself at home, but what do you think?

What we've used - the walls below the picture rail are B&Q colours - Grey Hints. Above the picture rail and on the ceiling we used crown white. In the bookcases we used Homebase Colours - Slate. The picture ledge is from Ikea - the frames are a mix of art we already had and stuff we've bought for the room. The giant canvas above the fireplace is a DIY project. The sofa from Harvey's. The big lamp in the corner is one we inherited from my brothers bar years ago, but you can find something similar here. The small lamp is from Litecraft. The 3 nesting side tables are from Habitat. And the magazine box is Ikea. The grey herringbone curtains are from Very. Curtain rail for bay windows is Ikea with a bit of a dad hack and dunelm curtain pole ends. The voiles are also Dunlem.