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Friday, 21 December 2012

Festive Bakes

Well this was the year that I vowed the majority of my Christmas gifts would be home-made.  To me, one of the main components of Christmas is scrummy food!  Unsurprisingly, I decided to make some baked treats to give as gifts.

Chocolate Truffles

After everyone on my Christmas forum was raving about giving home made truffles as gifts I decided I had to make my own.  Back in November I purchased some metallic petit four cases, with the intention of using them for truffles.  I have made ganache before for icing cakes, but never used it to make truffles.  The actual baking part is child's play, I used this recipe;

The only adjustment I made was using German dark chocolate instead of the recommended 70% cocoa (Lindt etc) - I may be biased, but I just think that German Chocolate has a far deeper taste.

The assembly was very, very messy!  It was a bit of a struggle not to let my OCD take over as all the shapes were slightly irregular, but I am very pleased with how they turned out.  I made 3 different types of truffle; malibu and white chocolate, dark chocolate rolled in cocoa and salted chocolate.

Festive Jam and Pickled Onions

As you may remember, back in the Summer I went blackberry picking on our local heath.  After thoroughly cleaning the blackberries I decided to freeze them to make something later in the year.  After dismissing my initial idea of a blackberry vodka, I decided to make jam.  I wanted something that could be put in my Christmas gift hamper, after scouring the net I found this recipe;

The cinnamon and nutmeg in this recipe made it very festive!  Unfortunately I didn't have enough blackberries and so I had to bulk it out with some raspberries that were also lurking in my freezer.  This was my first time making jam and although my first attempt didn't turn out perfect, it was great fun.  I was worried that the jam would be too runny and so a lot of jam makers advised the use of lemon juice for natural pectin.  I decided to use the juice from two lemons and it was a big mistake!  My jam set like concrete :( I was so worried it would have to be binned but luckily I found another site that told me how to rescue it.  Gently warming the jam, hot water is slowly stirred in until the desired consistency is reached.  Perfect!

When I was younger my Nan made Pickled Onions every Christmas.  The smell of briny onions still brings back fond memories from my childhood.  It is for this reason (and the fact that I am a pickled onion-aholic) that I wanted to make them again this year.  As soon as family and friends found out I was making a batch, the requests soon came in for some.  I made mine mid November, they have had 6 weeks to mature and should taste great!

Mince Pies, Millionaire Shortbread and Chocolate Candy Cane Fudge

A few years ago I started making mince pies throughout December.  I am not sure where I found the original recipe, but it called for citrus peel to be added to the pastry.  Since that first recipe, I always make sure to add orange peel and now I use the juice from the orange to amalgamate the pastry.  This year I even added a tablespoon of cognac to the mincemeat - yum yum!

Since adding my Millionaire Shortbread recipe to the blog, I have had a few comments and even my lovely Mother in Law mentioned how much she enjoyed making it.  It seemed fitting that I added this to my baked hamper.

I am a little in love with Kirstie Allsopp, and when I saw this recipe for chocolate fudge, I had to try it!

I have to say that I felt a little let down by the recipe.  Usually when using icing sugar you are advised as to whether it needs to be sieved.  Kirstie's didn't mention sieving the icing sugar and so I didn't bother - big mistake!  As soon as I tried to mix the icing sugar in, any lumps stayed whole and would not separate, failure!  There was no way I could salvage it as it was, I needed something that would distract from the small lumps of icing sugar in the mixture.  I had an epiphany - crushed candy canes!  They would add a lovely minty flavour and add a subtle chewiness to the texture.  I added 3 to the mix and it turned out heavenly.

The only problem with giving away all of these yummy treats is it's effect on my waist line :( We have a house full of left-overs that I seem to be working my way through ;)

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Upcycled Glass Sweetie Jar

Back in the Summer, a friend and I developed a bit of a glass obsession.  It all started when I saw a tutorial on glass etching a beautiful trifle bowl.  Well I knew I needed one, but was loath to pay almost £40 for a similar one - especially as I was worried that I would mess up the etching process.  We decided to scour the local car boot sales in search of one.  Sadly we never found the trifle bowl (although my wonderful bestie brought me one for our wedding anniversary, I am still too scared to etch it!) but we did manage to find a tall retro glass sweetie jar.

At the time I didn't really pay much attention to my purchase.  I loosely discussed etching it with cute little gingerbread motifs, but never got round to it (I will be more organised next year!).  When I was pulling out my glass jars for jam making last week, I suddenly remembered I had it.  Unfortunately it was too late to try out something elaborate with glass etching as I currently have a gazillion other Christmas present crafts that I am rushing to complete.  I planned to just give it a thorough scrub and fill it with an edible gift.

A few weeks ago, I planned to make some vinyl snowflake nail decals to accompany some pretty Gosh nail varnish and a file, a sweet mini nail set for some of my girly friends.  The snowflakes cut beautifully, and I excitedly set my cameo to cut out 12 sets.  Stupidly I didn't check the snowflake size against my own nails, trying them, I realized they were ever so slightly too big!  A huge waste of expensive vinyl and time.  I do hate to throw anything away (secret hoarder tendencies) and so they were chucked back in the drawer with the idea that they would come in handy for something.

Well, I had the brain wave of combining the two and I am very happy with the results!

I used this jar in my Nan and Grandads foodie hampers.  I will be posting about this on a separate post, fingers crossed I will remember to link it in here!

I think I paid £2.50 for the jar, I remember grumbling that it was more expensive then the other glassware I was buying at the time.  A quick look on ebay has revealed that similar ones on ebay sell for over £14, so it would appear I definitely got a bargain!

I will be dragging my friend along next year too, I was so pleased with how this one turned out that I will definitely be on the look-out for more.  I also have a glass hurricane lamp and tall vase with absolutely no idea how to transform them - fingers crossed inspiration will strike!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

First Fete

Well, I had my first fete today and really enjoyed it.  Granted I made very little, but there was interest for my Family Tree Paper-Cuts and I was urged to try out some actual Craft Fairs/Fetes rather then a general one.  There were lovely Christmas carols and it was nice to chat to people about my crafts.  I even took along my knitting (desperately trying to finish a Christmas present!) and it was nice to knit and watch the children.

Here are some of the photo's from my stall;

The pink stand was a pot stand that I managed to get from poundland.  It was originally white, but I purchased a spray can of hot pink paint and managed to transform it.  I bought some bauble hooks too and really like all the available space it gives me to hand my wares.

I may be brave and try an actual craft fair next year!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Personalized Family Tree Paper Cut - Anniversary Gift

Last Tuesday, it was 19 years exactly since I sashayed down the aisle of Canford Magna Church, with my hair in angelic ringlets and sporting a beautiful princess dress.  19 years ago my cousin married her childhood sweetheart and gave me the privilege of being her bridesmaid.

Lisa is extremely family orientated, she home educates her children and is like no Mother I have ever met - her offspring are very lucky.  We lived together for a large part of my childhood and she is pretty much my big sister.  She is the one I turn to when life has hit me hard, the one I celebrate with when I have caught a break and the one who is always supportive and never afraid to give me her true opinion if she believes it is for my own good.

All of this means the pressure for me to show her how much she means to me is enormous!  Originally I had the soppy idea to buy them both the Now 1993 album - however this was a bit of a gamble.  They got married in 1993, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they loved the music of that year.  It was a no-brainer, I needed to find something meaningful and personal to them - A true reflection of just how wonderful they are.

Whilst researching ideas to make for the Christmas fete, I stumbled across the wonderful sentiment of a Family Tree paper-cut that was personalized with each of the family members names.  I won't link to any as it isn't really fair to the wonderful Artists for me to pick apart their work.  Needless to say I was smitten!

The prices of these online were £40+ for a framed piece, initially I couldn't understand why the price was so high, but after spending 4 hours designing just the tree, I soon realized why.  My first draft (from start to finish) took about 5 hours, and after initially being very positive, my heart sank once I finally had it framed.  Here is the first draft;

It just didn't look right :( I am a shrewd perfectionist, and to me this cut looked exactly like it was - someone saw the pricey ones online and made a bad attempt at replicating.  By now it was midnight and I had arranged to deliver the present first thing in the morning.  I could have cried, how could I possibly hand this over as a gift?

After a largely sleepless night (filled with frustrating dreams of digital design and cutting) I decided to give up on sleep and make a second attempt.  I knew that the problem with the first attempt was that my OCD for symmetry was being over-whelmed by this more 'organic' design.

My second attempt wielded this, and I am in love!

I am pleased to say that my cousin loved it!  One of the first things she said was; "you should try and sell these" - that's the plan!

I can't say too much now, but I have a few more in the design process for Christmas presents ;)

Sunday, 2 December 2012

My first attempt using Heat Transfer Vinyl - Inspired by my husband, The Grinch

Not many people know this, but I am married to the Grinch.  They say that opposites attract, so I guess it only stands to reason that someone as obsessed and in love with Christmas as I would end up marrying the Bah Humbug type.  After listening to his mantra of "God, I hate Christmas" for the millionth time, I decided to get him back at his own game.  If he hates Christmas so much, then surely a statement tee was in order.

With Chris at work, me fighting a cold and restless, I decided to try out the heat transfer vinyl I recently bought.  This was initially purchased to trial embellishing Children's clothes for the up-coming fete, but I decided my big Kid needed first dibs.

Here are the results;

The process was not exactly straight-forward, but for a first attempt I am satisfied.  Only real grumble is that my cheap ironing board has left a very light diamond pattern in a small area.  In all fairness most of Chris's shirts have this on so I am sure he will barely notice - time for a new ironing board?

Friday, 30 November 2012

30 Days of Thankful - USA Inspired

Borrowing from our US cousins, I decided to do the 30 days of Thankful throughout November. Sometimes it is all too easy to concentrate on what you do not have, instead of what you are thankful for.  Every day I posted on both my business and personal facebook pages things I was thankful for.  So here it is, from Thursday 1st November (technically I only decided to do it on the 6th, but just back-dated the first 6 posts ;) ) right through to today - Friday 30th November.

30 Days of Thankful - Day One
I am thankful for my very loving and supportive Husband

30 Days of Thankful - Day Two
I am thankful for my wonderfully large, loving, and amazing family - both those that I am lucky to be related to, and those that have adopted me into their family through my husband.

30 Days of Thankful - Day Three
I am thankful for my amazing friends. Without them, I do not know how I would have gotten through the darker parts - you always help me to find the light, and make me smile again.

30 Days of Thankful - Day Four
I am thankful for my gorgeous little doggies. Fellow pet owners will understand just how much love and comfort these furry companions can offer! I have an extra special bond with mine, as each joined our home after a particularly difficult, and painful point in our life.

30 Days of Thankful - Day Five
I am thankful for my health. Compared to most in the world, I am in tip top condition. My ailments are minor, and I am hopeful they will stay that way.

30 Days of Thankful - Day Six
I am thankful for my creative side, it has given me much comfort and pleasure

30 Days of Thankful - Day Seven
I am thankful for our wonderful home. It may not be a Palace or a Mansion, but it is ours!

30 Days of Thankful - Day Eight 
I am thankful for my upbringing, and all the people that helped me along the way. It has helped to make me the person that I am today.

30 Days of Thankful - Day Nine 
I am thankful for living in my wonderful home county. From the Sea, to the City, to the Countryside - Dorset really does have it all!

30 Days of Thankful - Day Ten 
I am thankful for my drive and determination. The last two years has seen me work hard to build a business that is growing daily and brings me an amazing sense of achievement.

30 Days of Thankful - Day Eleven 
I am thankful for the invention of the Internet! It is hard to imagine a world where you are not able to find the answer to anything within seconds! The internet has a big impact on not only my personal life, but my business too!

30 Days of Thankful - Day Twelve 
I am thankful for always having enough food in my cupboards to never go hungry. It may not always be what I want to eat, but there is always plenty there.

30 days of thankful - day 13 
I am thankful for my education, it has helped me achieve so much.

30 days of thankful - day 14 
I am thankful to all the very talented and amazing writers out there. You fuel my passion for reading, and ensure that I continue to learn something new each day!

30 days of thankful - day 15  
I am thankful for the hard times that I have endured. I would never wish them upon anyone, but I truly believe that they have made me a much better person for experiencing them.

30 days of thankful - day 16  
I am thankful for my love of baking, that was passed from my Nan to me. Most of my fondest Childhood memories are of being her kitchen assistant, helping to whip up tasty bakes :)

30 days of thankful - day 17  
I am thankful for the kindness and support of others. It never ceases to amaze me just how far people will go to help in times of distress.

30 days of thankful - day 18 
I am thankful for music, I find that I can usually always lift my mood with the right kind of song. The talent of others never fails to amaze me.

30 days of thankful - day 19 
I am thankful for the gift of laughter. No matter how glum I feel, my mood can always be lifted with a fit of the giggles!

30 days of thankful - day 20 
I am thankful for chocolate! For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with the rich, creamy stuff! And because the Cocoa bean is natural, I can kid myself it's good for me :)

30 days of thankful - day 21  
I am thankful for amazing TV programmes and films. There is nothing quite like being completely immersed in the latest episodes of True Blood or Dexter!

30 days of thankful - day 22  
I am thankful for tea! Yes, I know that sounds random, but I am obsessed with the golden stuff! Nice and strong but extra milky, with one sugar if I'm feeling naughty ;)

30 days of thankful - day 23 
I am thankful to the suffragettes and other Womens movements - without them, I would still be expected to stay home and look after the house, with no say into how it was run.

30 days of thankful - day 24 
I am thankful for hope. In my darkest times, I sometimes fear I have lost all hope. And yet a little ray always seems to shine through :)

30 days of thankful - day 25  
I am thankful for my sense of humor. Perhaps a little on the dark/wicked side, it has helped me to get through many a scrape!

30 days of thankful - day 26 
I am thankful for my bed! It is always super comfy, warm and cosy. Without a doubt, it is one of my favorite places to be!

30 days of thankful - day 27  
I am thankful for my open-mind and willingness to try new things! Every day has a new experience when you greet life in this way :)

30 days of thankful - day 28 
I am thankful for technology - I am able to browse the web from the car, make friends with people from all around the globe, connect with a small business in America and even complete a masterpiece painting with just my finger! (okay and a tablet/ipad) - Invent me a hover board, and I will be in heaven >.<

30 days of thankful - day 29 
I am thankful for the beauty of nature. Nothing like a lovely scenic walk to clear the cobwebs!

30 days of thankful - day 30 
I am thankful for the very act of being thankful! Too many people do not appreciate all that they have in their lives. I am proud that I have stopped to focus on the good, rather than the bad.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Loving my new 'job' - Lots of Christmas makes!

Well, last week I was asked by a friend if I wanted to set up a stall at her work Christmas fete.  I have often wondered about venturing into the world of craft fairs, but have never had the confidence.  Seeing as this was just £5 entrance, I figured it would be a wonderful learning experience and said yes!

The fete is on Saturday 15th December, and as usual I have a zillion and one ideas, but not enough time to try them all.  I am having to be really strict with myself and set small tasks that must be completed before I start something new.  I have a bad habit of starting something, and then abandoning it when I get a new idea.

The aim is to select some of my key jewellery items (such as my Tree of Life pendants) and then focus on them and paper crafts.  This week is dedicated to making tags, gift bags, boxes and cute decorations to sell. I am also having to go out and Nurse, so trying to balance this new business with the existing one is proving a bit tricky!

Here is a sneaky peek at todays makes!

Santa CD Box

Santa DVD / Game Box

Santa Money Card

The cute thing about these is that the belt is removable and actually works to keep the whole thing closed and secure.  I may be a little biased, but I know that if I saw these in a shop, I would definitely be buying!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Bestie's Birthday Gifts

So it was my best friend's birthday last week and obviously I decided to make her a super awesome birthday gift!

I saw a design on the Silhouette store for a 3 drawer gift box and knew that whatever I made her, it had to be packaged in it.  I decided to use heart shaped metal brads for cute little handles, and co-ordinated pastel blue with black.  I am really pleased with how it turned out;

So now that I had the cute wrapping, I need something as equally nice to fill it with.  My friend is a chocolate fiend (bit like me) and so I decided to make her some truffles to put in the drawers.  As there were 3 drawers, I decided on 3 different truffles.

Left to Right - milk chocolate dipped in white chocolate, milk chocolate covered in malibu frosting and mixed nuts, double dipped milk chocolate drizzled with white chocolate

It foolishly didn't occur to me to check the height of the drawers before making the truffles - needless to say they were too big!  Luckily, I had a cute little take away style present box pinned to my DIY gift board (on pinterest) and came up with this

Seeing as this was just a quick printout, it looked quite good - with a little bit of tweaking, it would be perfect!

So now I was short on what to fill my drawers with.  I knew my bestie liked my Tree of Life necklaces, and so I decided to make her one.  Last year I made her a Lapis Lazuli charm bracelet, and so it seemed fitting to make her the Tree of Life version.

When I finished the box, I added tissue paper to each of the drawers which not only held the gifts in place, but gave a nice finish too.

So I had managed to fill one drawer, but i was still two down - I decided to crack out the Christmas chocolate molds.  I actually had lots of fun creating these

I finished my little cellophane bags with curling ribbon - for Christmas I plan to use both Red and Green to make it really festive.

My friend seemed genuinely happy with her gifts and it has made me think that maybe a home made Christmas will not be un-achievable after all :)

First Christmas Present is Complete! Knitted Converse Booties

Well, almost two weeks ago my car decided to break down :( Trying to be super thrifty, I attempted a DIY fix and prayed it was just the battery being affected by the cold weather.  Sadly it wasn't and my little Smartie decided to cost me £700!

Down side to this is that we have been pretty much cleared out of our Christmas present fund, the upside to this was that I was forced to stay at home.  In a way, this was a positive thing.  Chris is always complaining that I never take the time to just relax, that all my time is spent running around after the businesses or visiting family.  Without a car, I had no choice but to stay in.

Trying to make the most of my time, I decided to start on Christmas preparations =D I now have 11 jars of pickled onions (5 plain, 6 spiced) fermenting away in my cupboards and I have finally managed to complete my first Christmas present.  I honestly was worried it wasn't going to happen, shamefully these have been about 6 months in the making - but here they are;

I had originally planned to make these as a new baby gift for Chris's youngest second cousin - he is almost 10 months now!  I made a cute bumble bee fixie hat for him to celebrate his birth and hopefully he will just about get a month or so wear from these little bad boys.

When I originally started this project (way back in February 2012) I used a pattern that a lovely lady on LiveJournal supplied - but after 3 attempts I was ready to give up.  The rounded white tip just wasn't symmetrical and it was driving me insane!  After leaving it for a few months (and making the fixie hat instead) I stumbled across a revised version here and I finally managed to complete both boots first try.

I really hope that the Mummy loves these converse booties as much as I do :)

Friday, 9 November 2012

Movember Inspired - Moustache Nail Art - DIY Silhouette Cameo

For those of you not in the know, Movember is the act of growing a moustache to raise money for Men's Health Charities.  Eh?!? I hear you cry!  Basically on the 1st November, a man is supposed to record a photo of his clean shaven face.  On a daily basis, a photo is taken to show the progress of the Moustache.  People will donate money to him, which in turn is then given to his preferred Male Health Charity.  November then becomes known as Mo-vember!

Personally I think it is just a bit of an excuse for men to try out the Grizzly Adams look without fear of repercussions/arguments; Significant others can not possibly complain about the new face fuzz, as it is all for a good cause ;)

To show my support for my male friends that are in the running this year, I decided to create some cute Moustache nail decals.  Okay, okay, you've got me.  Firstly its an excuse to use my Silhouette Cameo, secondly like most Etsy sellers, I am obsessed with accenting things with cute little Moustache's, and thirdly I had some spare vinyl from making my friend's wedding present :oP

You can either download a Moustache image direct from the Silhouette Store, or convert a royalty free jpeg.  I chose the latter as it allowed me to manipulate it however I wanted.

A quick scan of google found this rather wonderful nail art template;

To download - save as image and then open in Silhouette Studio - Re-Size to A4

After importing it the Silhouette Studio, I was able to paste my Moustaches in and adjust each size to fit the nails.  After I had my 10, I simply deleted the template and aligned all my nail decals in a line with little space between.

Using a scrap piece of vinyl I cut them out - If you are using a smaller then A5 piece, make sure you adjust the Cameo settings accordingly and always use a mat.  If you don't, you risk ruining both the blade and cutting into the plastic of the machine - believe me!

I originally used the pre-set vinyl settings, but my pinkie finger moustaches were ruined.  I slowed the speed right down to 2 and eased the pressure to only 5 - second cut was perfect!

Gather your manicure supplies;

I decided on flamingo pink as I love this combination with black!  I use MUA polish by Superdrug as I find it wonderful to apply, it is available in lots of cute colours and it only costs £1 a bottle!  Although I forgot to picture them, I have some Nail Art tweezers which have ironically been re-purposed as my vinyl tweezers.  They are thin, with a pronounced curve to the tip - this makes them great for gently lifting and applying the vinyl to nails.

I used two coats of the pink polish and waited patiently (well I distracted myself taking photos) between coats, and then after they were thoroughly dry I applied the decals.  This was a little tricky as ideally they should be centralized, and as anyone who regularly uses nail stickers knows - applying one handed is never easy!

The Result!

Enjoy :)

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Gluten Free Raspberry Torte with Cream Cheese Frosting - Cheat Version!

I love baking, and generally I would never use a packet mix.  I personally think that they don't actually save time, they cost more money and usually they don't taste all that great either.  However after rummaging in my cupboard a few weeks ago, I found a Mrs Crimbles sponge and muffin mix that was about to go out of date.  We inherited this packet mix from my cousin, who brought it whilst she was trying out a gluten free diet.  I hate waste, and really couldn't bare to throw it away.

The weekend I discovered the mix, also happened to be the biggest Birthday weekend of the year!  I was already making a madeira cake for my cousin and thought it would be a good idea to whip something up for Chris to enjoy whilst we were there.

Chris loves raspberries and he loves cream cheese.  Coupling the two created this;

I have to say that despite it being a packet mix, it was deliciously moist!  The combination of raspberries and cream cheese isn't exactly cutting edge, but there is a reason they are put together so often, they work!

After watching an episode of The Great British Bake Off, the wonderful Mary Berry informed me that a torte was typically a layered sponge that didn't contain wheat flour - sums my cake up perfectly ;)

Ingredients - Cake

1 x 200g packet of Muffin and Sponge Mix
50g Raspberries - If using frozen, make sure they are fully defrosted
1 x Medium egg
70g Butter, melted
100ml Whole milk / Cream

Ingredients - Frosting and Decorating

150g Whole raspberries
50g Salted butter at room temperature
225g Cream cheese
25g Icing Sugar


Preheat oven to 190c / 170c for fan ovens / 375F / Gas Mark 5

Line and grease two 7 inch round tins, I find using oil spray easiest.

Whisk together the egg, melted butter and milk/cream and then stir in the sponge mix.  Keep whisking the mixture with an electric whisk for 5 minutes.

Gently crush the 50g of raspberries and add to the sponge mixture.

Equally divide the mixture between the two tins

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Make sure you keep an eye on it from 12 minutes, you don't want it to try out or burn.  The sponge is cooked through when an inserted skewer comes out clean and the sponge springs back when gentle pressure is applied to the top.

Once cooked turn out of the tins after 5 minutes and leave to cool completely, whilst waiting prepare the frosting

Whisk together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Sift in the icing sugar and incorporate throughout the mixture.

Once the cake has cooled, take 1/3 of the frosting and sandwich between the two sponges.  Spread the remaining frosting on top of the cake and decorate with the raspberries.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Last Day Before the Christmas Rush

Now any of you that have seen my facebook page, know I am obsessed with Christmas (countless Christmas/Winter themed posts in the last 24 hours).  However, there is one aspect about Christmas that I dread; working an obscene amount of hours.

My main job (the one that makes enough to pay the bills) is running a Dental Nurse agency.  I started this business about 30 months ago, and quit my then job to work at it full time almost two years ago.  The main reason I started the agency, was because I had worked my way up to the top of my career by the age of 22 and had been stuck in a working environment I hated.

When I initially quit the 'day job', we had just suffered our first miscarriage and I believed that the stress I had been put under at work may have been contributory.  I did something I had never done before, I left a secure job and headed into the unknown - I had no idea how we were going to pay the mortgage and I was sure that Nursing at my agency would be a stop gap measure until I found full time employment.

After a few months of barely scraping by, a strange thing happened;  Dental Practices loved the fact that they had the owner Nursing with them and it wasn't long until my reputation grew.  6 months in, I was finally making enough to cover the bills and had enough work to take on additional Nurses.  Fast forward to two years later - Although we are still not making the salary I used to, I have a wonderful job that gave me the flexibility I craved.  The goal posts were moved, I now wanted to be able to work from home and be able to focus on my creative side.

My only stumbling block with this is finding reliable Nurses.  The biggest headache with running the agency has been trying to find a Nurse that can work so I can focus on running things behind the scenes.

Usually when Christmas approaches I have to leave the house to Nurse more then usual.  We all know that Christmas isn't cheap and so sacrifices have to be made.  This year I had managed to save plenty of money, that would enable me to have a relaxed approach to the festive season.  Sadly fate has intervened.

I am a proud owner of an original Smart ForTwo.  I have had this car since January and she has been an absolute angel.  Sunday, for the first time ever, she refused to start.  After my Father in Law kindly called the AA out to investigate, we found the culprit - a dead starter motor.

Any one that has had any experience with these little cuties, will know that mechanics hate them.  The only mechanics that will happily work on them are either Mercedes dealers, or German Car Specialists.  Two guesses as to what that means - £££

So my entire Christmas budget has been wiped out by my tiny little car.  We are paying out just under £1000 to have it repaired, the bold tyres replaced, and re-newing the MOT and Tax.  That is if it passes it's MOT with no faults - I am yet to have a car pass it's MOT first time.  Many would tell me to ditch the car and buy something cheap, those that suggest that have obviously never owned a Smart car ;)

This unexpected (but thank goodness covered) cost means I am going to have to work like mad to replenish the Christmas fund.  I am very, very grumpy about this.

This is my last day of freedom before the 45-75 hour weeks begin, from tomorrow right up until Christmas :(  My festive spirit has taken a beating today.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

3D Bird Cage Wedding Card

This last week has been very heavy on the craft front!  We had two very dear friends get married yesterday, and knowing their unique tastes, I was itching to create a present and card that I hoped would appeal.

I will detail the present in another post, as it is rather lengthy and I wanted to be able to do the card justice.

When Chris and I got married, we were presented with many beautiful cards.  It saddened me that I would be unable to display them, and instead have them closed away in our memory box.  This gave me the idea of creating a card that could be displayed permanently (if the recipient so wished).

Knowing that the Bride and I have very similar tastes, it didn't take long to come up with a concept - a 3D birdcage.  Coupled with the fact that their wedding had accents of flamingo, I knew this design would be perfect featuring a beautiful flamingo within.

Having another opportunity to use my favorite new toy (my Silhouette Cameo) meant that I would be able to achieve very professional results!  I would love to say that I managed to completely design the cage myself, but I didn't.  I am a great believer in appreciating other artists work, and so when I saw Rivka's design, I fell in love!

Rivka has her designs available on the Silhouette store and I am amazed to say that they only cost 62p for a personal download!  I can't get my head around just how cheap this is.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Silhouette Store terms, you pay once, and can then use the design as many times as you like for non-profit projects.You are also able to purchase a commercial license for just £5, meaning if you wanted to sell the finished article, you could.  

I opted for the middle design (although I may be purchasing the other two) and although I loved the blue shown, I knew that brilliant white would make the flamingo pink pop!

The next step was figuring out where to put the wording for the actual 'card' part.  I decided to design a cute little tag which featured a matching design on the outer side, and some heart felt words on the underneath.  I attached this with some pearlescent ribbon, and et voila!:

The card seems to have been a hit, and I am keen to make some to decorate my work room with.  Having a group of these hung from the ceiling at different heights, would look absolutely darling.  I am also planning on making some miniature ones featuring robins and turtle doves to decorate the tree with.

For anyone that would like the technical details, I used 160gsm brilliant white card for the cage, the flamingo outline was downloaded, edited and converted from the net, and then cut from 80gsm sugar paper.  The designer suggested using glue to assemble, but knowing what a nightmare that can be, I decided to use double sided craft tape - it may have taken longer, but it gave a very clean finish.

The cut settings for my cameo were; Custom - Blade depth 4, Speed 5 and double cut - This gave a very crisp cut that didn't need any re-working.

The total time, including download, re-sizing, cutting, assembling the cage, and designing/printing the tag, probably took me 3 hours.  I think the main reason I took so long, was because this was my first attempt, and I had run out of my preferred A3 card, and had to re-size for A4.