Sunday 31 May 2015

I've Got The Sewing Bug: The One Where I Make a Dress & an Apron... *Hillarys Crafts Competition Entry*

I've got a new hobby! Sewing! 

I love a good hobby... I sort of collect them...from baking, cooking, knitting, reading and crochet to paper cutting, card making, up-cycling, and adult name it, I do it! 

I like to fill any spare time I have doing things I truly enjoy (part of my #beingkindtomyself initiative) and for me, being creative and making things from scratch is one of the biggest joys in my life. I tend to be a bit of an all-rounder, and am willing to give everything a go - I've even been on a lino cutting and chocolate truffle making workshop in my time - I like to be diverse! One of the skills I've always wanted to learn but never had the equipment or confidence to take up was sewing - I'd done some hand sewing and stitching on small craft projects, but up until I fell pregnant with Bert, I'd never even touched a sewing machine. 

This all changed when I met my beautiful friend Janet, who is an amazing seamstress and super-mummy to four gorgeous girlies - we met at our local WI group and hit it off straight away...she runs fantastic evening sewing courses from her home in Bedford (Kitchen Table Sewing), and before I knew it I'd signed up to one of her beginners courses! On this course I made a gorgeous tote bag, and a set of two cushions for Bert's nursery. It was so much fun, and I got to grips with the basics of a sewing machine. 

Janet very kindly let me borrow her machine for a while after our course, and I got to work making Bert (who was still in my tummy at this point) a gorgeous reversible and wipe clean play/changing mat which I'd seen on a Kirstie Allsopp programme. I absolutely loved the items I'd made, and vowed that I really must get myself a sewing machine so I could make more lovely things. 

Bert's reversible changing mat which I made using Quentin Blake's 'Cockatoos' fabric back in 2013, to match Bert's nursery...One of my first solo sewing makes! 

Then Bert arrived, and well, as most parents will know, when your first baby arrives all hobbies and crafts go out of the window for a while..! 

Fast forward 20 months, and with a shed load of weight lost, my confidence building, and much more time to enjoy crafting again, I found myself longing to learn some new skills and expand my crafting repertoire. 

At one of our regular coffee, cake and park meet ups with our kids, Janet and I got chatting about my weight loss, and how much I was now enjoying fashion and clothes shopping now that I was at a healthy weight and a size 12. Janet is a huge fashion lover too, and makes loads of her own clothes - I am constantly ooh-ing and ahh-ing at her incredible makes wishing I had the skills to make my own clothes too, but secretly feeling like I'd never be good enough to make myself something to wear - then as if by magic (it's still possible that Janet might have actual factual mind-reading skills!) she made me the kindest offer...a free place on her 4 night dress making course to make the fabulous Megan dress pattern from 'Love At First Stitch' by Tilly Walnes

I couldn't resist: all I needed to do was buy the pattern and turn up with 2m of my choice of fabric! SOLD! Janet has been majorly supportive throughout my weight loss journey, and I was so touched when she said how proud she was of me and that she'd love to give this to me as a way of celebrating my achievements - thanks mate, if you're reading this, I totally appreciate it. 

So I set to work choosing my fabric and managed to find a fab Royal-baby-inspired blue fabric covered with stunning white crowns - quirky and colourful, perfect for my first "for me" sewing make. Before I knew it I'd spent 8 lovely hours at Janet's kitchen table with four other awesome ladies fitting and making beautiful dresses for ourselves. It was such an awesome process, and this week I finished the dress and I wore it for the first time yesterday - what an amazing feeling to wear something you've crafted from scratch!! 

The making of the Megan dress...

If you haven't come across it before you must have a read of Janet's fabulous blog Kitchen Table Sewing, and if you're local to Bedford get yourself on one of her courses - she's even doing a 'make your own knickers' night soon! Amaze!

Janet has very kindly once again let me borrow one of her machines for a while, and so I haven't wasted any time in cracking on with some more sewing projects. Umm-ing and ahh-ing about what to make next, the sewing fairies were obviously shining down on me, because I was emailed by the people over at Hillarys blinds to say they were launching a new bloggers craft competition where they'd send you a meter square piece of one of their new roman blind/curtain fabrics for you to craft with, and if you wrote about it in a blog post, they'd enter you into a judged competition, where their favourite entry wins £1000 - sewing and a competition? This is possibly the best ever combination for me as I am a mad "comper" (competition enterer!) and really enjoy creative competitions like this. 

So I chose the rather beautiful Daisy Pistachio fabric from Hillarys, and my brain started whirring into action to decide what I could make...

I wanted to make something I knew I would use and enjoy, but the fabric's colour scheme didn't particularly match any of my decor, and I didn't want to craft anything too random - I wanted it to fit with my home, my personality and my blog...then it struck me! AN APRON! 

I collect aprons - I had a pretty impressive 18 different aprons in my collection, and I have genuinely worn each and every one at some point during my baking at home. I decided it would be awesome to make myself one from scratch, using an existing apron in my collection as a guide, and so I set to work cutting out my pieces and working out how to construct it. 

Before I started I went on a lovely shopping trip to buy little extras to add some fun detailing to the apron: a gorgeous length of bright bottle green grosgrain ribbon for the neck loop and side ties, some cream ric rac (who doesn't just LOVE ric rac!) and some green buttons from my button tin!

Using an existing Cath Kidston apron as a guide, I tentatively cut into the Hillarys fabric...

Pinned in place and ready to cut! 

Once the main body of the apron was cut out I worked on pressing, sewing and finishing the seams on each edge of main apron piece. Next, I added the side tie ribbons and neck loop - ensuring to remember to backstitch to keep it all securely in place - I finished the raw edges of the ribbons and fabric with pinking shears to reduce fraying. 

Sewing in the ribbon side ties. 

After sewing in place the side ties and neck loop, I decided to add a length of cream ric rac to the top neckline of the apron for some fun detailing - I wanted to play around with other stitches on the sewing machine I was using, so I went for a zigzag stitch to hold the ric rac in place. 

I then added two green buttons underneath the neck loop ribbon, which really helps to bring out the green within the fabric. 

Then I moved on to finishing the neckline...

Pinning in place some facing to the back of the neckline piece 

I added this piece to the top back of the apron on the neckline to add strength and hide the placing of my neck ribbon loop. This was what had been done on my original Cath Kidston apron I was working from, and I wanted to copy the shape and make as closely as possible! It wasn't too tricky to do and has made the finished item much neater and more professional looking.

Next I moved on to adding a front pocket.

Pinning on the pocket piece 

Once the main apron was constructed, the side ties and next loop was in place and the neckline finished, I was ready for the final step: to cut out my pocket piece, pin it and then sew it in place. I decided to make it a two pouch pocket by running a seam down the centre of the main rectangle to divide it in two, and added a little green button to the centre of the pocket for a fun bit of detail. 

Pins, pins, pins - they really are your best friend when it comes to sewing! 

Once the pocket was in place my make was finished - a quick press, and I was soon dancing around my kitchen in my lovely new apron! 

The finished article: up close and personal to the double pocket.

My stitching might not be straight and perfect, but it is lovingly handmade, and I'm so proud of it!

T'ah D'ah!!!! My hand sewn apron in all its glory! 

I didn't waste any time in getting my bake on, and made a yummy cashew nut wholemeal loaf to enjoy with dinner last night while prancing around showing my new apron to anyone who would look (namely my husband, Bert and even the cat - she was totally unimpressed!)

Proud as punch in my new Daisy Pistachio apron! A double whammy as I was also wearing my handmade Megan dress! Hooray for my new hobby!

Fresh bread anyone?

I love the ric rac detail with the green buttons across the top...

and adore the bright green grosgrain ribbon ties - such a fun bright colour! 

There's nothing like a bit of awkward posing with a homemade loaf of bread! 

Pride of place amongst my rather large apron collection: number 19 is gloriously handmade by me and I couldn't be happier with it. 

One of the best things about hand making items from scratch with fabrics that you love is when you manage to be extra thrifty and salvage a second make out of the leftover scraps...

An added bonus - there was even enough fabric left over to make a cute and handy little pouch to keep my new kindle safe from scratches! I love it when a plan comes together....

I had so much fun creating these items I will enjoy using at home, and found the challenge of not working from a specific pattern really exciting and liberating - having just worked with a fairly complicated dress pattern as my first 'big sew' it was refreshing to work outside of the perimeters of a set in stone pattern - it's fun to wing it sometimes! 

I'm absolutely loving this new hobby, and am excited to get my own machine one day soon (maybe for my birthday?! hint hint!) ... I think my next make will be the pyjama bottoms from Love At First Stitch by Tilly Walnes (if you haven't got this book I highly recommend it, it is the perfect beginner's book!) 

A big thanks goes to Janet for all her encouragement, guidance, and for letting me borrow her machine to indulge my new love of sewing! 

Have you ever used a sewing machine? What has been your favourite make?

Mrs B


Disclaimer: This post is my entry into the Hillarys Crafts Competition. I was sent a 1m x 1m square piece of this Daisy Pistachio fabric which is from Hillarys new roman blinds and curtains collection in order to create something marvellous with it! :-)

Friday 29 May 2015

Quirky Animal Cards & Prints from Sophie Morrell *REVIEW* & *GIVEAWAY*

You might remember that I introduced you to the gorgeous illustrated cards and prints from Sophie Morrell last Christmas, when I featured their fabulous Christmas cards here on the blog. Today however, I wanted to share with you some of the other work available to buy at Sophie Morrell online. Plus, the chance for one of your lovely readers to win a stunning framed 10" x 10" print of your choosing! Hurrah - we love a giveaway! 

Richard Morrell is the artist behind Sophie Morrell the company (named after his daughter, Sophie) and his designs are so full of fun! If, like me, you're an animal lover who appreciates a good helping of humour to boot, then you're sure to love his work. From sheep and ducks, cats and dogs, pigs and brown cows to hedgehogs, owls, penguins and reindeer - there really is something for everyone within his collections. 

The Sophie Morrell greetings cards are separated into different themed categories, and the majority of the cards are blank inside, and therefore pretty multi-occasion! Handy! 

The card ranges are:

-Bee Squadron (Bees)
-Brown Cows (Cows)
-Cat Food (Cats)
-Dogs Dinners (Dogs)
-Duck Pond (Ducks)
-Foxxz (Foxes)
-Flower Power (Flowers)
-Funny Bunnies (Rabbits)
-Heavy Weights (Elephants)
-The Hedge Blog (Hedgehogs)
-Hen Party (Hens/Chickens)
-Horse Box (Horses)
-Ice Cubes (Penguins)
-Nut Squad (Squirrels)
-The O'Dears (Reindeer)
-Piggy Bank (Pigs)
-Snuggly Sheep (Sheep)
-Wise Guys (Owls)

As well as ranges for:

Each card is priced at £3.00, or you can buy a mixture of 8 cards for just £10! There is also free postage & packing on all orders. 

I wanted to share with you all a few of my favourite greeting card designs from the Sophie Morrell ranges:

Divebomber, Dinner Date, Chandelier, 
Blue Rinse, Cedric, The Great Escape
Prime Suspect, Sausage Dog,  Bacon Burger

Why not have a peek through their ranges, I'd love to know which cards are your favourite...

I can't possibly choose just one favourite card, I have four! ...and here they are...

'Semi Skimmed' blank card £3.00 

'Chandelier' £3.00 blank card

'Sheep Station' £3.00 blank card

'Sly Stallone' £3.00 blank card

As well as the card ranges, Sophie Morrell also offer a selection of framed and unframed prints to buy. 

Unframed prints are priced at £20, or 2 for £35, 3 for £48. 

Framed prints are priced at £40-£48 and come in your choice of white shabby-chic or black shabby-chic frame. 

Here's a selection of some of the prints available:

So many beautiful prints to choose from...

Again, it's hard to choose my absolute favourite prints from Sophie Morrell, but my top two are:

One of my favourite prints from Sophie Morrell - 'Inhognito' 

My other favourite SM print: 'Lucky Duckies' framed print £40. 

I love the elegant shabby-chic/French country kitchen colour palette Richard uses in his work, I adore the humorous titles, and think the playfulness and silliness in his illustrations are just charming. 

If you too like the designs from Sophie Morrell then why not head over to their Social Media platforms and say hello...

@_sophiemorrell on Twitter
@sophiemorrellart on Instagram 
Sophie Morrell on Facebook
Sophie Morrell on Pinterest

Luckily for you, my lovely readers, I have a brilliant prize from Sophie Morrell up for grabs...


I have one 10" x 10" framed print of the winners choosing from Sophie Morrell to give away! 

All you have to do to enter is fill in the Gleam App below. 

GOOD LUCK everyone! 

Mrs B 


(UK entrants only please)

WIN a 10"x10" Framed Print from Sophie Morrell

SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

More competitions at ThePrizeFinder 

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Biscuiteers! *REVIEW* & *GIVEAWAY* (Father's Day)

My lovely husband's second ever Father's Day is coming up and I've been having fun choosing some lovely gifts for him - I love special days like this, and try to make a big effort to celebrate each and every one of them - it is so nice to be able to take a moment to say 'thank you' to the awesome people in your life for what they do. Liam is the best dad to Bert I could ever have hoped for, and I have a rather lovely (surprise) gift up my sleeve for him on 21st June - I can't wait to give it to him! 

In the meantime, I thought I'd share with you a genius Father's Day gift idea, and give you the chance to win something FAB in time for the big day...

You might remember I introduced the wonderful Biscuiteers to my blog readers a couple of years ago when I attended their Christmas Press Night - I've been a huge fan of their stunning biscuits for a long time, and regularly use their cookery book to make my own at home. It's thanks to the Biscuiteer ladies that I know how to use Royal Icing (cheers guys!)

Their stunning hand-iced quirky little biscuit sets are the perfect gift for anyone with a sweet tooth whose fond of a biscuit or two (EVERYONE!?) and this Father's Day they have some pretty awesome collections especially for Dad. 

Liam was sent one of their Father's Day tins to try out at home (oh, the hardships of being married to a blogger!)...I opted for the Toolkit Biscuit Tin priced at £43.50 as Liam is pretty fond of a spot of DIY, plus it came with a personalised Beer glass biscuit as well, to which I had "Daddy, you're the best!" inscribed in icing! Awesome!

The biscuit collection comes in a beautiful metal tin - decorated with a tool kit illustration in a gorgeous colour palate of yellow and grey (my favourite colour combo!) - the tin is a beautiful touch and hubby already has plans to use it in his shed/man cave for all his manly bits and pieces (nuts & bolts etc!). 

The biscuits are so beautifully presented - wrapped in yellow tissue paper, and stacked on corrugated sheets stuck down with a small blog of dried icing to ensure each biscuit stays in place, the biscuits arrived completely unscathed despite having been posted - that's a mean feat in itself. 

'Daddy, you're the best!' personalisation - a gorgeous extra! 

I loved the personalised beer glass biscuit - the detail they manage to ice onto each of their biscuits is exquisite and from baker to baker I know just how difficult it can be to work with icing, so hats off to them! It's a great touch, and means you can make the tin extra-special, fantastic. 

Top layer of the tool kit tin. 

The tin contains 16 or more handmade biscuits which are all lovingly iced onto rich, super-chocolatey traditionally baked biscuits. Biscuiteers use the finest 100% cocoa powder, eggs, British butter and flour and some very difficult to measure golden syrup. Mixed, chilled and then hand cut using their own special cutters, they are then baked in their bespoke baker's oven and cooled on wire racks before being iced and packed into Biscuiteers tins. As homemade as if you had the time, skill and energy to do it yourself. 

Whoever said tea & biscuits was a girly pursuit? ...A biscuit platter for the manliest of men! 

Liam has been busy doing lots of manual work in our garden of late, and this tin of wonders has been the perfect tea break treat for him - chocolate biscuits in the sunshine, is their anything better?

He was super-chuffed with his manly biscuit tin, and couldn't get over how intricately decorated they were. He was also majorly happy that they were chocolate flavoured (he's a big chocoholic!)

Mmmmm.....which one would you eat first?

Luckily for me, I have a very generous husband who has shared his yummy biscuits with Bert and I. So I can vouch that they are truly scrumptious! Bert devoured a little screw-shaped biscuit and then proudly shouted 'More! More!' (his latest word!) bless him. 

Not a bad accompaniment to a day full of gardening, eh Daddy?

We still have about half the biscuits left, and are planning on enjoying them together this weekend with an afternoon cuppa! Perfect. 

The manliest tea & biscuits in the world ever? There's no denying this Daddy is COOL. 

The toolkit includes bolts, nails, spanners, screwdrivers, hammers, a beer glass, pliers and saw shaped biscuits. They each have a great balance between super sweet with an edge of saltiness (the perfect combination in my humble biscuit-eating opinion). Each one was iced to perfection, and they certainly made for an impressive display come tea-time! 

As well as the toolkit gift box Biscuiteers also have so many other amazing ranges that would be perfect for Father's Day:

-classic cars 
-big breakfast
-bike race
-jocks and socks
-Green fingers/gardening
-Mr Men
-The Good Life (veggies etc)

What an amazing choice!

For those on a slightly tighter budget (or watching their Daddy's waistlines) why not buy your Dad a personalised beer glass biscuit or a single jolly ginger? 

If you'd like more info on the ranges from Biscuiteers then why not follow them on their social media platforms:

biscuiteersltd on Twitter
Biscuiteers on Facebook
biscuiteersltd on Instagram
the biscuiteers on Pinterest 
biscuiteersltd on YouTube

Disclaimer: I was sent a personalised tool kit biscuit tin for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions are my own. All photographs are my own excluding the single personalised beer glass, jolly ginger, big breakfast tin and Biscuiteers logo. 

WIN this Big Breakfast Biscuit Tin!

The lovely people at Biscuiteers have given you, my lovely blog readers, the chance to win a gorgeous tin of their biscuits perfect for Father's Day - you could be the lucky winner of this fab Big Breakfast Tin priced at £39.50 - all you need to do is fill in the Gleam App below. 

(UK entrants only. Competition closes at 1pm on Tuesday 16th June 2015, and your prize will be posted First Class as soon as you have responded with your postal address. If you respond in time it should be with you by Father's Day!)

SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

Saturday 23 May 2015

Homemade Corndogs *RECIPE*

This make has been 100% inspired by Pinterest! 

I kept seeing recipe posts for these homemade corndogs pop up in my timeline, and always a sucker for American diner style eating on a treat night, I knew I just had to give them a go. 

As per usual I did my homework and had a good read of about 5 different corndog recipes online, I combined the best of them all and came up with this failsafe recipe for you lovely blog readers to use at home. 

They might not be the most appealing little blighters to look at - but these homemade corndogs will have you transported to the busy streets of NYC with just one mouthful!

The ultimate American street food, these little dawgs are a perfect weekend treat - the batter is both sweet and savoury, and if you've any batter left over (I had a fair bit) you can keep it in the fridge and use it to make scotch-style pancakes for breakfast - which are equally delish! 


For the batter:

1 ½ cups** fine cornmeal (you can get this from the Caribbean aisle in most supermarkets)
1 ¼ plain flour
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1½ cups milk
1 medium egg
1 tbsp squeezy honey
1 tbsp vegetable oil 
(you can also add ½ tsp smoked paprika if you like a spice hit - leave this out if you plan to use left over batter to make pancakes)

**Sorry to use cup measurements, but I find them really easy and useful for batter-style recipes: you can pick up very reasonable and super cute cup measuring sets from most cookware departments. If you want a really beautiful swanky set of cups then I particularly love these Russet Measuring Cups from Anthropologie (£24). 

What else?:

10 frankfurter sausages
10-20 wooden skewers (depending if you're halving your sausages) 
2L vegetable oil (for frying - can be strained and reused)


1. Fill your pan up with the 2L of vegetable oil and begin to heat up on the hob, you want your oil hot enough to turn a small piece of bread golden brown in just a minute or so. It is also helpful to pre-heat your oven to about 150 and place a baking sheet in there to keep warm - this will be useful to pop your fried corndogs on to keep them warm while you work your way through frying the whole batch.

2.Weigh out and mix up all the dry batter ingredients into a bowl. Mix the milk, egg, honey and vegetable oil in a jug and pour into the dry ingredients to form a thick batter. 

3. Decide whether you'd like to make mini corn dogs (each sausage cut in half) or whole mens - this may depend on the type of pan you have to fry them in - if you have a nice deep pan as deep as your sausages are long, then you can make full size corn dogs, if, like me, you only have a standard height saucepan, then cut each frankfurter sausage in half, dry each one with a tea towel, then insert a skewer up through the centre of the sausage until each one is secured on a stick. 

4. Pour your batter in a tall glass so its easy to fully submerge your sausages into the batter before frying. 

5. Dip your sausages into the batter, let the excess drip off back into the glass, then carefully holding the stick, place your corndog into the hot oil so the sausage is fully submerged and fry for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. I fried two sausages at a time, if you have an extra pair of hands you can rope in to help you then you'll probably manage to fry 4 at a time. 

6. Carefully place the fried corndog onto some kitchen towel to soak up any excess oil, then place on a baking tray in the oven to keep warm until all the corndogs are fried and ready to eat. 

7. Serve with ketchup and mustard to dip, and a big pile of sweet potato fries for an ultimate Saturday night American-style feast! 

FEAST: Homemade corndogs with ketchup & mustard for dipping, sweet potato fries (cooked in the Tefal Acti-fry) and a side of coleslaw! Yum! 

We absolutely loved this dinner, and devoured it happily - it is a fun a sociable meal - and the red baskets that I found in my local TK MAXX store totally made it for me! It would be a great meal to make for dinner if you have friends coming round, or the perfect addition to any sports match watching - team it with a beer & any man will be putty in your hands!

The batter coating on the dawgs is slightly crispy with a light/fluffy layer before you bite into the smoky sausage: the coating has a perfect balance between sweet and savoury and once dipped in your favourite condiment you'll find it hard to stop at just one, trust me! (*May have consumed 4*....oops!)

Happy Saturday everyone!

Mrs B