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Sunday, 29 December 2013

Christmas Rocky Road Slices Recipe - Nigella Style



Some of you may remember that I over-hauled Nigella's frangipane mince pie recipe a few weeks ago, well I had already made these bad boys and stuck them in the freezer ready for Christmas.  Now they are defrosted and nearly gone I thought I better share the recipe with you.

This recipe is perfect for those with littlies that like to feel they are helping to bake, as there is very little cooking involved - the majority is weighing and mixing :)

As with all my borrowed recipes, this involves a few tweaks to make it personal to me :) Baking isn't about rigid directions, it's about adaption, experimentation and most importantly having fun!

Ingredients


250g dark chocolate
150g milk chocolate
175g salted butter at room temperature
4 tbl spoons golden syrup
125g amaretti biscuits
75g chocolate cookies
150g hazlenuts
150g glace cherries
125g mini marshmallows

Method


Chop the chocolate into small chunks and place in a pan with the butter and golden syrup.  Gently heat over a medium heat.

Place the biscuits into a freezer bag and bash with either a rolling pin or pestle.  You need a combination of crumbs and different sized chunks - this recipe is all about the different textures within the chocolate.

Repeat the same procedure with the hazlenuts and place in a large bowl with the biscuits and marshmallows

Cut the glace cherries into different sized pieces and add to the nuts, marshmallows and biscuits

Once the chocolate, butter and syrup has fully melted, remove from the heat

Pour the chocolate mix over the biscuits, nuts, marshmallows and cherries.  Using a large spoon, very carefully stir to coat everything in the chocolate mix.

Tip into a large foil tin (either square or rectangular) and spread out with a spoon - try to make the depth as even as possible.

Place in the fridge to firm (about 2 hours)

Once set, take a ruler and measure the tin.  Decide on how large you would like your pieces, and mark with the ruler and a knife.  Cut through gently.

These can either be eaten straight away, or frozen.  If freezing, ensure they are tightly wrapped to prevent freezer burn.  They will take a few hours to defrost, and should be stored in an air tight container for up-to a week.

You can dust with icing sugar, but personally I hate the stuff!

Check the beautiful glass stand and dome that I got for Christmas, perfect for displaying and storing these bad boys in ;)





Banoffee Pie Recipe

Now regular readers will know that I have a gluten free version of this recipe here, but I somehow forgot to share the original recipe, so after a lovely family member requested it, I figured it was time to write it up :)  I whipped one of these up for a family gathering over Christmas, and have fallen in love with it all over again!


Equipment


Food processor with blade attachment - for turning the biscuits into crumbs, you can use a freezer bag and rolling pin, but I prefer this way
20cm spring form tin - you can go larger or even a bit smaller, but ideally it should be spring form as removing the pie from the tin otherwise will be a nightmare
Microwave - for melting the butter
Mixing bowl
Electric whisk - good luck if you decide to whip cream by hand
Pestle - for pressing the biscuits into the tin, clean fingers or the back of a spoon can also be used
Spoon
Knife and Chopping board
Hob and Pot

Ingredients


1 405g tin of condensed milk (for those short on time, you can use the caramel version and skip boiling the tin)
100g chocolate chip cookies
200g digestives
150g butter
2 large (or 3 small) ripe bananas
284 ml double or whipping cream (I use elmlea double light as I like the cheese cake type texture/taste, and I can fool myself into thinking it's less calories)
1 flake

Method


Take a large pan and fill with water, bring to the boil.  Remove the label from the condensed milk and then place into the boiling water.  The whole tin must be submerged at all times (apparently it can explode if not covered!) so keep topping up.  Simmer on a gentle boil for 2 hours 30 minutes.

Place the 250g of digestives, and the 100g chocolate chip cookies into the food processor and blitz into crumbs.

Cube the 150g butter and place in a microwavable bowl.  Keep blasting for 30 seconds, then stir - repeat until fully melted.

Pour the melted butter into the biscuit crumbs and blitz to mix - you will need to use a spoon to ensure all crumbs from the bottom are included.

Place this buttery biscuit mix into the spring form tin, and press into place with the pestle (or clean fingers/back of the spoon).  The mix should be even, with a level surface.  Place back into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Once the time has passed for the condensed milk, carefully remove the tin from the heat and place in cold water to cool for about 10 minutes.

Once cooled, open the tin and place the contents into a bowl.  Stir to incorporate any uncaramelized (lighter coloured) bits, and then set aside.

Slice up the bananas and layer them on the biscuit base.

Pour the condensed milk caramel over the biscuits and level off the top - place back in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to firm.

Whip up the cream and then spread on top of the caramel.

Bash up the chocolate flake and sprinkle on top of the cream

The pie should be kept in the tin, in the fridge until just before serving.

To remove from the tin, place a food tin (baked beans etc) underneath the spring form tin, in the center.  Carefully work the sides of the tin down, moving from section to section, a bit at a time.  Eventually the sides will come away leaving you with the pie resting on top of the tin base.

Be careful, as the caramel will start to seep out of the sides without the support of the tin - it is best to eat it immediately, or at least place on a large plate to catch any caramel spills.

Enjoy!




Recipe Over Load

Okay, so the last few months have seen me go from posting once a week, to barely once a month, and I sincerely apologize.  With the smell of New Years Resolutions in the air, I am going to make it up to you with 3 easy recipes.  One of them, (bannoffee pie) is kind of my signature piece, and a definite family favourite!  Just don't let any of them know it's actually a doddle ;)  The other two are more recent trials, and I'm sure they are set to become regular requests too.

Join me in adding festive calories to the waist line, and most importantly enjoy!

Easy Sausage and Stuffing Whirls




Christmas may be over, but there are only a few days left until New Year's Eve, and quick party food ideas are a must! Embracing all things 70s (and my love for cinnamon whirls) I decided to over-haul a party favourite - the sausage roll.

The humble sausage roll is much loved, but seeing as I was planning to use cheats puff pastry, (ready made) I felt these need a little extra to make them special - STUFFING! The great thing about these is that you can mix and match the sausage and stuffing flavours :)

Ingredients

1 block chilled jus roll puff pastry (500g)
400g sausage meat - you can use sausages, just split the casing and squeeze out the meat
Half a pack of 170g sage and onion stuffing
Milk to glaze
Salt and Pepper
Flour for rolling

Method

Remove the puff pastry from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature (about 20 minutes)

Make up the stuffing according to the directions (remember to halve the amount of water if only using half the pack)

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin. Try and keep the pastry in an even rectangular shape.

Squeeze out the sausage meat and spread it across the pastry (right to the edges) until even.  Repeat with the stuffing.

Sprinkle salt and pepper across the stuffing/sausage meat.

Starting with one of the longer edges, tightly roll the pastry so it looks like a Swiss roll. Seal the edge with milk.

Tightly wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees (fan) 220 degrees

Whilst the oven is preheating, take the sausage wrap from the fridge and remove the clingfilm.  Cut the wrap in half, and then keep cutting the sections in half until you end up with individual pieces about 3cms thick.

Place on a well oiled baking tray (or tray with baking paper) ensuring there is a gap between each whirl as they will spread out when baking.

Brush all areas with a milk glaze and sprinkle on a dash of sea salt and cracked black pepper

Cook in the oven for about 25 minutes - make sure you keep an eye on them as they will catch quickly.

They may need to be rotated during cooking, and could take longer or shorter, depending on individual ovens.

Once the pastry has turned a golden brown, and is cooked throughout, remove and leave to cool slightly (about 5 minutes)

Using a fish slice, carefully remove the individual whirls and place on a wire rack to cool (and prevent a soggy bottom).

These can be eaten either cold (from the fridge) or re-heated on a medium heat for about 7 minutes - take care to ensure these are hot throughout before eating (if re-heating)

Enjoy!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Scrummy frangipane mince pie recipe - thank you Nigella!

So unless you have been hiding under a rock somewhere, you will know that poor old Nigella (Lawson) is having a tough old time of it at the moment. Although I've always found her TV shows a little on the caricaturish side, (I can't help but get the giggles and convince myself it is secretly a carry on spin off) the lady most definitely has talent. So in honour of Christmas, and the innuendo rich Nigella, here is her frangipane mince pie recipe - I can honestly say that this is my new favourite mince pie recipe!


PASTRY
175g plain flour
75g butter, cut into cubes
25g icing sugar
1 large egg, beaten



FRANGIPANE
100g butter, softened

100g caster sugar
2 large eggs
100g ground almonds (if like me you are a doofus and bought flaked almonds, you can grind them in a food processor (blade setting) to make ground almonds
1 level tbsp plain flour
1tsp almond extract - if you are using essence, you will need to add more



FILLING AND TOPPING
just under 1 x 410g jar mincemeat flavoured with about 2 tbsp brandy
a few flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
  1. To make the pastry, measure the flour, butter and icing sugar into a food-processor bowl, then process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Pour in the beaten egg and pulse the blade until the dough starts to form a ball. Knead lightly, wrap and chill for about 30 minutes.

  2. To make the frangipane, put the butter and sugar into the unwashed processor and blend until soft and creamy. Scrape down the sides, add the eggs and continue to process. Don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled at this stage. Add the ground almonds, flour and almond extract, and mix briefly.

  1. Roll the pastry out thinly on a lightly floured work surface and cut into 18 x 6.5cm circles. Use to line the tins. Place pastry in tins back into the fridge and chill for 10 minutes.

  2. Spoon a teaspoon of mincemeat into each tartlet and top with the frangipane mixture. There is no need to spread the mixture flat as it will level out in the oven (but do not overfill the tins). Sprinkle a few flaked almonds on top.

  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-17 minutes, watching carefully. Remove from the tins and allow to cool a little on a wire rack. 

Enjoy!

If you fancy having these made in advance, and ready to whip out when unexpected guests stop by (Nigella style) then they can be frozen once cool. To defrost, simply remove from the freezer and place on a baking tray for an hour or so.

I have tweaked Nigella's recipe somewhat - I mean otherwise, I could have just provided a link to her site ;) I believe she doesn't chill the pastry enough - this is why I place my prepared tins back in the fridge before filling.  I've also left off the apricot glaze, as personally I just don't think it needs it :)

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Such an adventure!

Oh my goodness, it has been over 2 months since my last post (slaps wrist) as always, I do have a legitimate excuse though ;)

I bought a shop!  I would love to say that it is the best thing I have ever done, but sadly this isn't the case.  My bricks and mortar shop is set to fold after only 3 months, and we will be online only :(

My dream was that the shop should be an amalgamation of the business we bought (shabby chic furniture and homeware), my pieces and the possibility of renting space to local handmade artisans.  For a short while, we did indeed succeed!





Sadly however we have reached the stage where we are unable to continue with our dream.  The shop is making a huge loss, and I've had to pull up my big girl knickers and call time.  I am broken hearted that this wasn't a success, but there are many issues impacting on the decision - family life, money, other business pressures and mainly time.

I am now being left with the sad duty of trying to sell all the pieces and store those that don't sell.  The hardest part for me to face is that we have spent all our savings on this dream, and have been left in debt.  We have to sell our flat next year, and our savings were supposed to be a deposit for our next home - it looks like we may need to rent for a while :(

Everyone keeps telling me that it is better to live a life with no regrets, I at least tried.

Do I wish that I had never purchased the shop?  Yes, but I also know that if I didn't, I would have convinced myself it would have been a huge success.




Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Silhouette Cameo Blades Update

One of my most popular pages is the one about the Silhouette Cameo replacement blades.  If you haven't read it yet, it can be found here.  I am long over-due for the promised update!  I could pretend that I wanted to wait as long as possible to fully trial the blades, but that just isn't true - life keeps intruding on my blog plans.

So as many of you know I have both a facebook and Etsy shop which means I use my Silhouette Cameo a lot!  It isn't just basic shapes I cut with it, but intricate paper cuts and cards like this;


So any replacement blade that I use has to be both economical, precise and hard wearing.

When I first started using my replacement blades, I encountered the same frustration as figuring out the blade settings when I first got my machine.  Because the blade holder I use doesn't have pre-set lengths, you have to wind it by hand and determine if the blade length is suitable by eye!  A lot of websites I viewed suggested measuring the original silhouette cameo lengths (1-10) on a piece of paper and imitating them with my replacement holder; that just isn't going to work.  Typically the blade has to be more pronounced than the original silhouette blade holder or else it doesn't cut through.

If I am to be completely honest, I didn't think that this would be a viable option in the early days, as when cutting my usual 160gsm card I had to have the blade so pronounced it was leaving score marks when simply moving across the card.  With a little trial and error, I soon found that inverting the image (so it cuts out back to front) meant that any score lines would be on the reverse and therefore not visible once assembled.

The only other negative that I can think of is that when higher pressure settings are being used, (anything above 27) the blade holder has a tendency to slide out of the cameo coupling.  I have found a way round this though - I simply wrapped a tiny bit of chalk board vinyl around the blade holder and it gripped the coupling with no problems at all.

These were the only negatives I have found with the replacement blades and as they were easily remedied they don't really cause a problem at all.  Yes it does take a lot of initial trial and error to find the right blade settings, but after this you are all set to go!

The best thing about this replacement blade and holder is that you can purchase different blade angles for cutting different materials.  Also no annoying bits of paper gets stuck in the shaft as there is a pump mechanism that easily clears any paper blockages.

I am so far only on my third blade and have been using it for about 6 months now.  As mentioned before, it is used almost daily and I am much happier with how long the blades last compared to the actual silhouette cameo ones.

I cannot recommend this highly enough!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Adjusting your expectations for craft fairs

Now I have always thought that craft fairs were for you to sell your items - I mean what is the point of paying all the money for a stand/table, working like a loon in the run up to get as much stock ready as possible and then spending a long old day with a smile pasted on your face engaging with potential customers?

Well according to the latest stream of articles and blogs out there, I have it wrong :( With limited disposable income and everyone trying to look after the pennies, craft fair splurges seem to be a thing of the past.  Don't get me wrong, some people are managing to sell enough to make a living at craft fairs, but for most your expectations are sure to be dashed if you don't change them.

I mentioned in my last post about how I had had a terrible craft fair at the beginning of August, and how my two day bank holiday vintage fair was make or break as far as repeating them was concerned - well sadly it was break :(  I spent 70+ hours revising my stock and trying to gear it towards items that I thought would sell well at a vintage fair and it seems that still it wasn't enough.


I was sure these 1950s half aprons would be a hit!  The feedback on facebook had been immense and so imagine my surprise when not a single one sold.


I knew that Marilyn Monroe was always a firm favorite, especially among vintage lovers and this frame was beautiful!  A layered paper cut of Marilyn Monroe, what's not to love?  Sadly the facebook feedback was a hit, but at the craft fair I had very little interest for her.


I knew from experience that the Rockabilly gang loved to frequent the establishment that the craft fair was being held at and in their honour (and as they are a secret love of mine) I whipped up these Munsters, Herman and Lily layered paper cuts.  There hadn't been much love for them on facebook, but my husband was greedily eyeing them up and at the craft fair I had a couple swooning over them for ages - I was sure I had a sale - sadly not.



I got very obsessed with these reversible hand bags and ended up making 7!  Family and friends were in love with them and I had hints about Christmas presents from all and sundry - when they didn't sell at the craft fair I was really shocked.  There was some interest, but no one even came close to a purchase.

I also whipped up hair bandannas and re-jigged all of my displays - in fact my layout was the best yet!





Over-all the feeback I received was great - my online sales are increasing and I have people from all over the world purchasing my items - the only thing I can think of is perhaps the price puts people off impulse buys at craft fairs - there really is no solution to this.  I barely make minimum wage on most of my items and so it is impossible to lower them - this is after all a business.  I think we are in a society of bargain hunters and handmade attracts the opinion of "well if she made it, so can I" people don't understand how expensive the equipment is or how my experience and design flair is something that has taken a while to build up.

People are being advised to see craft fairs as a way to exhibit your work - the aim should be people taking business cards away and you making a great impression on them.  Personally I believe that my time (and money) may be more effectively spent on online advertising as I should be able to reach a much wider potential audience than I can at craft fairs.  Of course it could just be that I haven't sold at a event that is right for me and my products.

I have 3 more craft events this year that I had previously agreed to - I will be doing these and unless there is a major turn around in buying habits, I think that will be it for me.


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Busy as a Bee!

How is it almost the end of the Summer?  How is it that I am now so busy that 14 hour shifts are the norm?  If I could have the pay cheque to support the hard graft I think I could somehow cope - but after averaging it out at a terrible £4 an hour I am distraught.  I am even beginning to think that working full time at my trained profession wouldn't be as bad as this hard slog :(  But today is a slump - most days I wouldn't trade my two businesses for the world!

Many successful handmade business blogs and articles I have read state that the first few years are an absolute horror show of juggling work, life and family - the light at the end of my dreary tunnel!  I am trying to remember that I am doing this so that I have the luxury of working from home 90% of the time and still be able to afford the finer (well at least not smart price basics!) things in life.

Summer means craft fairs!  I have now totaled 3 since the beginning of July and although the money that has changed hands has been abysmal, I have learnt a lot and to some degree enjoyed doing them.


This was my hallway the night before my very first craft fair at Hoburne Park.  In hindsight it doesn't actually look like that much stock, but at the time it felt like tons!


This was Hoburne Park Craft Fair held by The Dorset Etsy Team on Sunday 7th July - my first formal craft fair.  I cannot even begin to calculate the amount of time that went into researching, creating stock, props and packaging - it was the best part of 40 hours and after taking £14.50 I was pretty bummed.


On Saturday July 20th I went to Honeybrook farm to try a second attempt.  At 2pm I had taken about £2.50 and was ready to go home.  By 3pm this had risen to £12.50 and by the end of the day £34.  Not great but a definite improvement!


A few days after the Honeybrook farm fair I decided to crazily turn my hand to organising our own fair on my local high street.  The council were over-joyed and I got to turn my hand to a bit of designing (still love my flyer design).  We only had 5 stalls and in hindsight our location was not exactly great.


I think I fared the worse on the day - £4 in sales :( The wind was also so bad that I managed to lose a frame (blew over and smashed) and my poor cards got battered to pieces.  I wanted to give up but realized that this attitude isn't going to help push the business!

So I have had a little re-think about the stock I take to craft fairs.  Cards are notoriously slow sellers - plus mine were getting too battered by the elements.  My Jewellery was not easily seen and I spent most of the day re-arranging it after it had been blown about.  A lot of my items are personalized and although it's a great idea to take samples along it isn't going to be financially viable to over-load my stall with none purchasable items - it doesn't make for good impulse buys!

So my thinking cap is well and truly on because in under two weeks I have the biggest event I have ever dared to tackle - the pitch fee is £45 and it's a two day event!  I am scared, worried and anxious that this is going to leave me severely out of pocket!  I will persevere and hopefully report back with new items and a positive attitude!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

My Alice in Wonderland Obsession

Now it isn't exactly a secret that I have a love for Alice in Wonderland, and seeing as it is my shops most popular item, it would appear I am not the only one!

After several hours of painstakingly detailed digital colouring I have managed to create this;


I know I'm biased, but I absolutely love it!  I have a feeling that it will be the first of many in this series :)

Here are the other Alice in Wonderland items in my shop;



To celebrate the launch of our latest Alice in Wonderland print, I decided to create a treasury filled with beautiful handmade Alice in Wonderland items from other Etsy sellers, it can be found here.



Thursday, 11 July 2013

Super Scrummy Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes


Wimbledon may be over, but the nations love for Strawberries and Cream is still running high!  These gorgeous cupcakes contain the two most loved Summer ingredients and have a secret jammy surprise - easy to make and sure to go down a storm!

Ingredients - Makes 12 Cupcakes

115g Caster Sugar
115g Self Raising Flour
115g Margarine (or butter)
2 Medium Eggs
1.5 teaspoons vanilla essence
Strawberry Jam

284ml Double or Whipping Cream
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
50g Sieved Icing Sugar
6 Strawberries to decorate

Equipment

Apple Corer
Syringe / Plunger Icing Set
12 Cupcake Wrappers
Ice Cream Scoop
Electric Whisk
Metal Cupcake Tin
Scales
Sieve
Wooden Spoon
Mixing Bowl

Directions

Preheat the oven to 170° celsius

In a bowl measure out 115g margarine - this should be at room temperature.  If like me you've forgotten to take it out of the fridge early, nuke the measured amount in the microwave (high setting) for 10 seconds.  Measure out 115g caster sugar and tip into the bowl with margarine.

Starting on a slow setting (feel free to hit high if you want your kitchen decorated in margarine) start to cream the margarine and sugar together.  Gradually increase the speed until the mixture is light and fluffy!  Whisk in 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Sieve 115g self raising flour and set aside.  Crack one egg into the bowl and add one heaped tablespoon of the flour, whisk on a medium setting until fully mixed - repeat with the final egg.  Mix in the remainder of the flour and whisk on a high setting for two minutes.

Place the 12 wrappers in the cupcake tin.  Using the ice cream scoop divide the cake mixture between the 12 cases.



Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes - baking times are never an exact science, so they may take slightly longer (or shorter) just remove when lightly brown and they spring back from the touch.

If like me you have some home grown strawberries, now would be the time to pick them :)


I can highly recommend growing your own - the humble strawberry is pretty hardy, and these organic ones were divine!  Was slightly worried as they seem to be a much deeper red than store bought, but I think it is just the strain :)



Store bought ones are also fine :) wash your strawberries and leave them to dry until you need them.

Once baked remove the cupcakes from the oven and turn out onto a wire cooling rack.  You will need to wait until they are fully cooled before the next stage - this can take 1-2 hours.


Using the apple corer, carefully hollow out the middle of the cupcake.  Don't throw this away!  They are perfect for snacking on, or you could use them to make a mini batch of cake truffles :) Be careful not to go all the way through the cupcake - you want to aim or about 2/3 of the way down.



Fill the syringe with jam (I found a smooth, no bits jam works best!) and then pipe into the hollows.  Be careful not to over-fill, you should aim to have them flush with the cake.


Pour your cream and vanilla extract into a large bowl and start to whisk.  Again start on a low speed or else you will end up wearing your bake.  Once the cream is starting to thicken, add in the sieved icing sugar - carry on whipping until you achieve firm peeks.  It's very easy to over-whip so when you see the cream is starting to hold it's own shape, you should knock the whisk speed right down again.

Using a piping bag decorate the top of the cakes with the cream mixture, paying extra attention that the jam opening is fully covered - it is supposed to be a 'surprise' after all ;) If you don't have a piping bag, you can always spoon the cream onto the cake - just be careful when placing over the jam or else it may show through.

Your strawberries should now be nice and dry, so remove the top and cut in half.  Then press lightly into the cream on your cupcake.

Because these are made with fresh cream they should be stored in the fridge - the sponge will go slightly hard when chilled, simply take it out of the fridge for 10 minutes and allow it to come to room temperature before serving - light and fluffy once more :)

Boil kettle, make a cup of tea and enjoy the fruits of your labor!





Mad about the Girl - Why I'm Defending my Beloved Bridget

I have made several refferences to Bridget Jones on my blog.  As regular readers will know, I often think of myself as the Bridget Jones of the Infertility World.
Where Bridget can look at any food item and tell you how many calories it contains, I can tell you whether it has a neutral, positive or negative effect of fertility and whether it should be consumed pre or post ovulation.  Bridget has a flat strewn with relationship and self help books, mine is littered with books on fertility and various guides to achieving the (seemingly impossible) goal of a baby.  While Bridget battles an increasing deluge of friends becoming Smug Marrieds, I'm beginning to despair as my friends become Smug Mothers.

Bridget wasn't created for my generation - in-fact if Bridget was an actual person, she would only be a year younger than my Mother!  When she was first 'born' I was only 10 - men, booze and fags were probably the furthest thing from my mind ;) I am rather abashed to admit that I only knew of Bridget's existence once the 2001 film came out.  It was still another few years until I settled down with the books - since then I've been hooked!

Bridget has helped me through many a tough time.  She taught me that it's okay to not have life figured out at almost 30 and beyond, that drinking too much and making a tit of ones self isn't the end of the world and most importantly that basically being a slathering nut job with more than a smidgen of body loathing just means I'm normal.

Imagine how delighted I was at the beginning of this year to learn that Helen Fielding was dusting off her Granny Pants and bringing my Beloved Bridget back!  I was pretty sure that after the fairy tale ending of 'The Edge of Reason' that Bridget would have morphed into a Smug Mother and although I would have felt I'd lost an ally, I would have been over-joyed for her.

A few months ago I noticed a few journalists were giving back handed comments on the release of number 3.  To my resounding squeals, the extract released showed that Bridget was in-fact the same old, familiar, very slightly neurotic Bridge.  It would seem I was part of the minority that was over-joyed at this revelation - apparently the world has moved on from the 90s third-wave feminism that Bridget encompassed, and that seeing a woman that is (by all rights) in her late 40s behave in this 'dated' way is completely unrealistic!

Really?  So despite the fact that single life (both chosen and circumstance) is on the increase, the journalists are stating that people of Bridget's 'age' are no-longer on the look out for Mr Right - and if they are, then they certainly aren't sending regretful drunken tweets.  Their social networking interactions are of the reserved, and oh so very mature manner.

I thought that 40 was being touted as the new 30?  Is it just my part of the world that features 40 something females behaving in an oh so familiar way to us 20 somethings?  Maybe it's being part of the generation after Bridget was aimed at, but I have never thought of her drunken behavior as anything but amusing and quite sweet - she isn't stripping at work functions, taking part in drunken brawls or passing out in the street.  Her behavior has always been very tame compared to most that I have had the misfortune to witness.

This notion that Bridget would hit mid 40 and morph into Mrs Sensible career lady is insane!  It would appear that the grumblers out there believe that 40 is the mandatory age to morph into a 'grown up'.  In a society that urges women (and men) to embrace their age and continue living life to the fullest, it seems a rather bizarre concept that Bridget must conform to the out-dated concept of 'acting your age'.

More than ever there is increased pressure for Women to have it all - we have all these milestones that we secretly aim to complete by certain ages (so very guilty of these).  We try to under-cut them and out-do friends, family and those in the lime light.  Failure in any of these areas is felt on such a personal level - we feel inferior to others that achieve what we can't.  Admitting you are struggling or that life isn't quite as you planned is seen as a weakness, a taboo subject that no-one wants to admit to.

Bridget is very normal in many senses of the word - she struggles to achieve what she wants on both a personal and business level.  When Bridget fails, we don't see her as any less of a person; in fact most of these endear her to us even more!  The world needs Bridget to tell them that it is okay to fail, that it makes you no less of a person to not have the man, the baby and the house.  In fact Bridget makes us realize that to fail makes us normal!  To have wobbly bits that we hate is a wonderful embodiment of human nature.

All of this is why I am still 'Mad about the Girl' and why I will go on to defend my beloved Bridget

Thursday, 4 July 2013

AWOL Again!

Apologies to regular readers, I know I have been somewhat lax recently but I have a really good reason - no really it is a good one!

We have the first craft fair of the Summer lined up for this weekend (Sunday 7th July) and in a bid to not be running around like a loon at the last minute under-prepared, I have been snowed under with making and assembly for the last few weeks.

In my head it would be easy; grab some shop stock, cobble together some signs and I would be ready.  Sadly this was not the case, two weeks later and I am still spending every waking moment rushing about.  What I predict will take just an hour or two seems to be stretching into 4 or 5!  I have learnt that I grossly miscalculate time predictions, thank goodness I started well in advance.

So here is a photo of our first mock set up - proof that I have indeed been busy!


There are about 14 papercuts that have been made just for this show - along with a dozen or so ones that will be sold unframed.  Posters have had to be re-printed and bagged, jewellery has has to be made and nifty packaging designed and made from scratch.

Although somewhat stressful, I have really enjoyed it :) Hope to update soon with the final trial run, this will be a dress rehearsal with full signage on display :)

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Superdrug Colour Rewind - Hair Dye Remover Review - Part One

I started dying my hair at the grand old age of 15 - fast forward to 12 years later and my hair has become a dried out mop of horror. 

I started with black - I loved Marilyn Manson and Slipknot and needed the world to view my hair as an extension of my sheer awesomeness!  This phase lasted until I was about 19; almost 4 years of the darkest of darks layered over my hair. I alternated between black, black-blue, black-purple and even tried dip dyed black and red.  At 19 I wanted a change and decide to bleach it so I could dye it red - after an initial day of ginger (luckily I was favouring the sporty baseball cap in this period) I switched to a dark red.  Next came a few years of alternating between different shades of red and then various browns.

When we started trying for a baby in 2010 I was worried that the constant dying of my hair whilst pregnant could cause development issues - I went to a professional hair dresser and had blonde highlights put through my then dark brown hair. Initially I hated it, but after receiving so many compliments I stuck it out. After our first loss and a few more months of trying I thought screw it and went back to red. Since then I have alternated between shades of red and brown.  After getting bored of the red fade (so much upkeep for a lazy person) I switched to dark brown and have stuck it put for the last 6 months.

Well it's Summer and I fancy a change - in fact I fancy going back to my original hair colour! Only problem is I'm currently dark brown and really don't fancy a bleach bath. The solution; a hair dye remover.

I've done my research and after factoring in the that I am probably going to have to pay out for a dye close to my natural colour after using the dye remover, I settled on Superdrugs Colour Rewind. At £7.99 a pack, it is the cheapest and I found out after purchase that it has also really good reviews. When I read the packing in-store, it was almost word perfect for Colour B4 which was encouraging.

So here is my before shot; please excuse lack of make-up and ratty hair!


I am trying to keep the lighting similar in all shots so you can see a more accurate colour - I would like to say my poses were also similar by intention, but sadly this must just be my 'poser' face ;)

I'm pretty far from my natural colour and am more than a little skeptical that this is going to get me closer. Heck I'm fairly confident it is going to be such a disaster that I am going to end up cancelling family plans tomorrow to dye over the new car crash that will be my hair.

So what's in the box?



We have the horrid Deli style gloves (seriously are nitrile gloves too much to hope for?!?) instructions and 3 bottles of various chemicals. 

The reviews have told me it stinks of egg and a family member that used Colour B4 admitted she dyed over it just to get rid of the smell! I'm worried that my work colleagues are going to think I've developed IBS :(

As recommended I also grabbed a wide tooth comb (I have a plastic one reserved for hair dying - it tracks my various colours and is in as sorry a state as my hair) and the obligatory towel around the shoulder combo.

Donning gloves I followed the instructions and mixed the two bottles - the initial smell wasn't as bad as I had expected, yep it's eggy but there is an undercurrent of rotten strawberries and malt too! I love the applicator tip, it is long and narrow and much easier to use than others. The liquid stays white - this makes it easier to applicate and I wasn't worried about skin staining :)

I have never sectioned and applied dye to my hair as thoroughly as I did with this - if the result comes out streaky there is no way my skills are to blame! It took ages, about double the length of time I usually spend slathering on the dye (you've missed a bit seems to be my hairdressers most used term with me). In fact it took so long that I am fairly certain I could see some lovely caramel tones coming through, but that could be wishful thinking ;)

Then I decided to go off plan and wrap my hair in cling film.  I'm not crazy (well not when it comes to this anyway) lots of other people were using cling film and a hair dryer to give it a boost and I do like to experiment ;) On the box it tells you to sit in a room that has no drafts while your waiting for the 60 minute development time. I figured that wrapping my hair in cling film and giving it a quick blast with the hair dryer should help to get things going (it's gotten a little chilly in here today). I probably blasted my hair for 40 seconds with the hair dryer, I wanted to give it a kick start, not melt clingfilm to my hair.

So here I sit waiting for the 60 minutes development time, with my head in cling film and my husband cracking jokes about my gassiness! This better be worth it.

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The horror that is the rinsing!  I have never stood in the shower rinsing my hair for so long!  Seriously my arms are cramped beyond belief and I can barely pick up the hair-dryer to style my fringe.  Because my hair is slightly longer than shoulder length I doubled the amount of rinsing for each stage.

After the first rinse you have to apply the buffer lotion - the design is terrible!  Firstly the cap is plastic sealed - getting a grip on this whilst in the shower was near impossible!  I had to dry my hands (flooding the floor) and then use my towel to get a good enough group.  It tells you to apply half the bottle, but there is no way of telling how much you have actually gotten out of the bloody thing!  I ended up guessing and used way too little on first application :(

On first inspection it does look lighter.  This is the most horrific of photo's (of myself) that I will ever willingly post - eyes are bloodshot from shower marathon, it's now dark and I am sporting my fluffy dressing gown, you have been warned!


My hair feels so soft!  Seriously I am a veteran dyer and love the just coloured feeling, but this feels more 'natural' the best way to describe it would be child soft.  Further research revealed that this is due to the colour rewind removing not just the dye, but the build up of shampoo, conditioner and styling products that accumulate over time.

Now I was a little shocked upon waking to find that my hair had in-fact darkened slightly;


The manufacturers claim that the only way this will happen is too little rinsing - Seeing as I rinsed my hair for double the amount of time (45 minutes of rinsing!) I don't see how this can be the culprit.

The ends of my hair are maybe one shade lighter then the original, and the top is maybe two.  I do have some lovely caramel 'highlights' that have wormed their way in, but my natural roots are still visible.

In all honesty the dye stripper smell was pretty much gone from my hair by the next day BUT I decided to do a deep conditioning treatment to eradicate it (almost 100%) and because a lot of hair-dressers claimed that it was a really good idea.  Que me slathering my hair up in a cheap conditioner (less chemicals) and donning my clingfilm wrap again.  I left it in for 3 hours and my hair was still silky soft, but now looked a little less dry :)

So whilst I was waiting for the stripper to develop, I did a lot of research.  One of the blogs I stumbled across featured a woman that had been approached by colour b4 to review their product.  She had hair half a shade darker than my original and used 3 boxes to get it back to her original shade.  I decided that I would do a repeat in one weeks time and see if there was a significant difference.

Pros

  • The smell is reputed to be 'softer' than colour b4
  • My hair was left in amazing condition - I can't remember the last time it felt so good
  • Easy application of the stripper
  • Doesn't stain skin or floor
  • Significantly cheaper than having hair professionally stripped
  • Quicker than a professional hair strip
  • Price is very good
  • Neither product or ingredients are tested on animals
  • Superdrug points
  • Strips hair of other synthetic chemicals (from styling products etc)

Cons

  • The rinsing time is horrendous!
  • The buffer packaging makes it very difficult to use properly
  • Despite using the pack designed for dark dye, it hasn't made much of a difference
  • The smell is still worse than normal dyes
Will update with next weeks repeat!

Well almost 7 months later, I have finally managed to update with part two!  It can be found here

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Konad Nail Stamping - Second Attempt

Well the title pretty much sums it up ;)


I used a lilac base colour of Miss Sporty Clubbing Colour lilac and then stamping plate M44 with the Konad white.  I finished it off with the Konad top coat and some purple nail gems.



I found the stamping much easier this time, although there were some mistakes;


Check out that terrible middle finger ;) but I did manage to not smudge the stamp with the top coat so I'm slowly improving :)



Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Konad Nail Stamping Set - First Attempt

So as most of my readers know, I have a bit of a passion for nail art.  About a year ago I stumbled across the konad Nail Art stamps - I was smitten.  I had planned to put it on my Christmas list, but it completely slipped my mind and until recently I forgot about it.
Summer always seems to re-ignite my nail art passion and so it wasn't surprising that I remembered about the Konad stamps and decided to watch some youtube videos; I fell in love all over again :)
I have been caring for my lovely husband for the last month and had to cut back my working hours.  Treats and none essential items are pretty much a no go.  When my beautiful Beau initially told me he was going to treat me to the starter set, I politely declined.  After all money is tight and we are saving for a house!  When he told me it wasn't up for debate and that he was getting me a thank you for being awesome gift, I went weak at the knees =D He really is a superstar ;)
After checking for the best set, we came across this seller on Amazon and placed an order.  We completed checkout on Sunday and my stamps arrived Wednesday - they also had free shipping :) £24.00 seemed fairly reasonable as well - I made a point of checking individual prices of the items and the set was very well priced.
So here is a quick peek at my set;

I love the box!  It is pink, silver and sparkly!  The items have a good solid weight to them that stops them from feeling cheap and flimsy.  The set consists of 5 image plates (each with 7 images) 1 stamper, 1 product catalogue, 1 french directions, 1 instruction DVD set, 1 set of nail diamonte, 1 image plate holder, 5 polishes 1 top coat.


The different sets have different colours, I specifically chose this one as I wanted the white and I use black, purple and pink all the time.  There is 11ml of polish in each container.


The general idea is to place your chosen design plate on the holder, apply a layer of Konad polish across the image, hold the scraper at a 45 degree angle and scrape across the varnish.  With a rolling action you then stamp over the varnish to 'pick up' the image and using the same action transfer it onto the nail.

When you watch the videos on youtube it is made to look super easy - it isn't and I had already guessed that a lot of practice would be needed!  I originally planned to wait until the weekend when I had enough time to watch the DVD and research the technique, but as friends and family will tell you; I'm very impatient.


Usually my left hand is a lot better than my right - these mismatched Zebra prints were an absolute disaster!  I was placing my hand on the table and rolling the stamp across the nail just like I'd seen on the videos - for whatever reason this technique did not work for me.


This is my right hand - I decided to switch to leopard print and as you can see my 'new' technique seems to work :) I lift my hand off the table and look closely to line up the stamp and nail - I then stamp firmly and rotate, very hard to explain.


Be prepared for mess!  Although the Konad set comes in the nifty box, working with it takes up a lot of room.  I would also advise you have a lot of pre-soaked cotton wool and nail polish remover to hand, my first attempt was messy.  The table has been branded again :(


Once cleaned up and secured with a top coat these initially look fab!  Sadly if you look closely you can see a flaw.


The top coat smudged :( Apparently there is another technique to using Konad top coat that I am yet to master!

For a first attempt it isn't too bad - yes I am still wondering around with the terrible zebra car crash on my left hand, full points for originality ;)