Monthly Archives: January 2012

Feeling Fuzzy About Felt

I’m feeling fuzzy about felt at the moment, particularly laser cut felt and especially Michelle Mason’s Stella rug, available in black, cream or purple.

Michelle Mason Stella Rug BlackShe also does matching table centrepieces. I’m hankering after the cream rug but know it would last all of five minutes in our house before one of the cats threw up on it or a bunch of teenage Goths trampled it with their New Rocks. So until I find a safe place to put it I’ll satisfy my laser cut felt hankering with my bargain £1.95 Enchanted Forest Place Mats from Dot Com Gift Shop.

Enchanted Forest Placemat - DotComGiftShop

Yes, they are cream placemats. After I diligently followed the cleaning advice to sponge clean only, I too thought it was a mistake to get cream as they started to look like they might grow legs and take themselves off to the bin in shame. So despite thinking I was sending them to their deaths I spritzed them with Vanish and put them in the washing machine on a cool wool wash and they not only survived but look as good as new. So they are in fact semi-practical. If you’re still not convinced, they’re also available in black or red at £3.95 each.

Enchanted Forest Placemat Black - DotComGiftShopDo you remember Fuzzy Felt? I think that is at the root of my hankering for felt…

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Pseudo Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I bought ‘Leon: Naturally Fast Food Book 2’ a few weeks ago and have not stopped using it since, it’s even taken Nigella’s special place on the recipe book stand. Their ‘Sun-Dried’ Tomato recipe was one of the reasons I bought it. Homemade sun-dried tomatoes? In winter? Sold!

Cut about 9 tomatoes in half and place on a baking tray, sprinkle with salt, pepper, fresh thyme, a tablespoon of olive oil and leave to dry in the oven overnight at 50-60 degrees C. As the name suggests, the idea is not to cook the tomatoes, just to dry the moisture out of them.

Oven Dried Tomatoes - Before

My oven is quite cool and took ages to dry the tomatoes out, (24 hours!) but next time I know to have it on a slightly higher heat so it might actually be cheaper to make rather than buy sun-dried tomatoes.

Oven Dried Tomatoes - After

When they have sufficiently dried out take them out of the oven and store in a sterilised jar with enough olive oil to submerge the tomatoes, a sliced clove of garlic and some more thyme. Et voilà!

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You’re Welcome Baby

I’m at the age where lots of friends are having their first babies and really it’s all the excuse I need to look at cute baby pressies. There are so many more gorgeous things available than when I had my little bundle of joy fourteen years ago.

This car seat cover solves the question of whether to put a snowsuit on baby who ends up being a bit squashed in the car seat with all the extra fabric, or tuck a blanket round him which inevitably gets kicked off en route to the car. A fantastic idea in some sweet designs or custom made if coordination is your thing. They are by Sophiemarie for around £30.

Baby Car Seat Cover - Sophiemarie

Spots and Dots for Tots make some gorgeous baby blankets that can be personalised for baby and feature members of baby’s family, there are several different sizes and styles available from £22.50 up to £75 for this ‘My Family’ design.

Spots & Dots for Tots - 'My Family' blanket

Sirbubbadoo’s baby burp cloths are 100% cotton with a design on one side and soft raised dots on the other and could be used as a baby changing mat or dribble cloth. This set of two Matryoshka design burp cloths are £12. They also do bibs and blankets in some lovely unusual designs.

Sirbubbdoo baby burp cloths

Baby changing bags are often really babyish looking, the designers seem to design them with the baby in mind and forget it’s the parents who actually use them. I think Graham and Green’s stag print changing bag is neither too babyish nor too girly and would probably get the thumbs up from mum, dad and baby.

Stag print baby changing bag - Graham and Green

This sleep thief romper is very sweet and will raise a weary smile from knackered new parents. For the really sleep deprived it is also available as a gift pack with a coordinating sleep mask for mum or dad. Babes and Babies also has a good range of breastfeeding tops and although they’re fairly pricey you can often snap up a bargain in their sales.

Sleep Thief Romper, Babes With Babies

Almost makes you want your own doesn’t it?

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A Fervour for Fonts

I’ve just got around to reading ‘Just My Type’ by Simon Garfield, a great book about fonts that was given to me for Christmas. It’s a really interesting look at the language, history and use of fonts and how they influence us. Great stories and facts fill this book, such as that Steve Jobs studied calligraphy at college and how this influenced Apple’s products.

'Just My Type' Simon Garfield

You could lose hours gazing at these intricate typographic illustrations of London by Vic Lee; available in West, East, South and North each word is made up of and surrounded by themes from that area. Although my heart really lies in the south and west of London, East London is definitely my favourite of these.

East London by Vik Lee

This Modern Wooden Alphabet Necklace by Little Red Lantern makes me imagine letters dropping from the wearer’s words and collecting round her neck.

Modern Wooden Alphabet Necklace - Little Red Lantern

I’ll leave you with this beautiful video ‘Refraction – The Alphabet’ by Jesse Zanzinger.

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Art Deco Aspirations

Art Deco is probably my favourite design era, our wedding had a very loose (dare I say it?) theme and since then I’ve been hankering after Art Deco in other ways.

This necklace/collar from Etsy shop Amorous Cat’s Attic was on my Christmas list; I thought it would Art Deco-up a few plain tops.

Or this wonderful ring made from Art Deco watch parts from Noble Studios Ltd?

Noble Studios Ltd Steampunk Ring

These Art Deco style printable playing card designs from Memories Emporium are fabulous, I’m not sure what I would use them for but maybe the artier among you can think of something?

Art Deco Printable Playing Cards

This antique monocle necklace started life in the late 1800s as an optical lens but Renee Loughlin Designs has given it an Art Deco twist with chevrons. Not sure my deepened frown lines would be worth it after an evening clasping this to my eye so maybe best for decoration. Delivery is very good value from the US.

Antique Monocle Necklace

I adore this Art Deco door knob that Kim Ladd has turned into a wine bottle stopper.

Art Deco Door Knob Wine Stopper

Always forgetting the recipes of those cocktail classics? Ugly cushion covers? Solve both problems simultaneously with these Classic Cocktails Pillow Covers. Choose from Margarita, Manhattan, Gin Sling, Whiskey Sour or Daiquiri or all five.

Cocktail Classics Cushion Covers

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I (Maybe) Want to Ride My Bicycle

Last October I chickened out of joining my new mother-in-law and sister-in-law on a Cycletta bike ride and opted to cheer them on at the finish line instead. How lame of me…

But they’re doing it again and despite having only ridden a bike twice in the last 20 years my hankering for fitness has got me thinking of joining them to test the theory of whether you do ever forget.

This gorgeous and not-so-expensive bike from is tempting me even further.

Hollander Bike

Cycletta organise seven 40k bike rides a year round the UK that are open to women only and cost about £45 to enter. Although fairly pricey, the routes are traffic-free and well marshalled with a ride rescue crew that come and help out if you get into any problems and there are plenty of free things after the ride like goody bags and pamper sessions. For spectators there are food stalls and entertainment so kids aren’t screaming round the fields like loons waiting for their mums and aunties to ride past.

For the really motivated, some of the locations have an option to do an 80k route! I am in awe of anyone who even contemplates riding the equivalent of two marathons on a bike.

Some of the locations have places where you can hire bikes and this worked really well for my sister-in-law, unfortunately my mother-in-law got a dodgy one and the gears dropped off a couple of kilometres in meaning she had to do almost the whole route in second gear. But she did it!

Cyclists out there – am I mad to consider a 40k bike ride in May when I’m not a cyclist?

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Travelling with Glass

I’ve just returned from a long weekend in San Francisco visiting my brother and whilst I was there he asked me to come along to Crate & Barrel to help him pick up a dining table and chairs for his new apartment. It’s only a short walk from his apartment but with no car we had lots of comedy moments negotiating the equivalent of London’s Oxford Street with a well over-stacked sack barrow we borrowed to get the three massive boxes home and up to the fifth floor. When we returned the sack barrow to the shop I spotted this cold beverage jar with stand.

Cold Beverage Jar & StandI’ve never seen anything like this in the UK and immediately had romantic notions of serving traditional lemonade on the patio in summer out of this. I also thought my husband would really like it as he loves all things decanter-y.

Imagining the nightmare of getting a large glass item home on the plane I didn’t get it. But as I’d been hankering after it all weekend, just before leaving for the airport I decided I’d go back and see how safely they could package it up for a plane journey.

I didn’t know Crate & Barrel did UK delivery. I didn’t even think to ask. That knowledge would have saved me buying a cheap carry-on bag and a breathless sprint through Heathrow airport chasing the man who had accidentally taken it with him when he got off the plane.

But I got it back in one piece and proudly presented it to my husband to the underwhelming response of… “Meh”. He’ll change his mind when he pours himself a glass of traditional lemonade on the patio…

Have you seen anything similar to this?

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Not a New Year Resolution

I spent the last two weeks of December mainly cooking and eating so it’s hardly surprising I’m joining the masses by starting January mainly exercising.

Exercise is something I’ve never found attractive or easy and I’ve spent most of my life actively avoiding it. I didn’t just skip the occasional P.E lesson at school, each term I’d think up a reason why I couldn’t do P.E for that entire term. Lucky for me up until the age of 27 I could eat more or less what I wanted and stay roughly the same size. Not so now.

Gourmet Chocolate Pizza

The only times I’ve ever been able to exercise regularly were:

a)      When I was pregnant. Each week I did yoga, aqua-aerobics and antenatal aerobics and continued even when I was past my due date. What motivated me was that I didn’t know anyone who was pregnant or had kids and I desperately wanted a support network of people in a similar situation to me.

b)      Ten years later I decided to get fit. To start with I was phenomenally bad. I couldn’t run for more than a few minutes without feeling like throwing up but within a couple of months I was running five miles fairly easily. I loved how it made me feel so I started going to the gym too and speed walking with a colleague most lunchtimes. When I changed to a new job that included gym membership as part of my package, I started boxercise and spinning classes. My team at work signed up to a 10k and I surprised myself by running all the way, I came last in my team but whatever, I was proud I didn’t stop.

Now these are not major achievements by any stretch of the imagination, but as I had never really participated in or enjoyed exercise it was a breakthrough for me. Both times I LOVED IT. My figure changed, I felt strong and healthy and I was still slim but became toned too. These were all by-products of why I was exercising, which was originally to get fit or meet people but quickly became about how exercising made me feel. I didn’t own a set of scales and I wasn’t interested in weighing myself when I went to the gym as it wasn’t about that.

About a year into my second exercise epiphany I met my lovely husband. We were eating out more, I was drinking more and my endorphins came from the early rush of love. As I didn’t need exercise to give me my endorphin hit my exercise fell by the wayside. That old cliché of gaining happiness and gaining weight came true for me.

Since then I’ve not got back into exercise really. I’m not obese; according to the weight/height ratios I’m barely even overweight. But my body is not what it once was and I feel bad about it. This doesn’t motivate me to exercise though; even working for a fitness company with free gym membership wasn’t a motivation.

I’ve had occasional spurts of exercise and dieting, most notably driven by panic – of a beach holiday maybe, my wedding, not fitting into my bridesmaid dress two weeks before a friend’s wedding. Each panic-induced time I started exercising way too late for it to make any real difference and I just felt negative about it. In my last two and a half years of mainly being inactive I’ve weighed myself every morning. I’ve put on a few pounds, lost a few pounds, put them back on, lost them again, put them back on… and it isn’t getting me anywhere except a yo-yoing waistline.

Trainers and skipping rope

The only time exercise has ever worked for me is when I have just exercised to feel good, exercise does make me feel good. The less I exercise the more prone I am to feeling negative, unhappy, disillusioned and self-critical about everything I do, which makes it harder to do anything let alone start exercising again. I remind myself of the time I fell off the treadmill or when I fainted and threw-up in a circuit class (yeah, that was embarrassing). I tell myself bad things and don’t have any perspective. For example I often remind myself that I weigh more now than I did when I was 9 ½ months pregnant. That sounds bad doesn’t it? Now, let’s add some perspective. I was sixteen when I fell pregnant and before being pregnant had a 24” waist, i.e. the body of a teenager. It is unrealistic for me at 31 to expect to look the same as I did when I wasn’t even an adult yet. I know… I’m frustrating.

Since I’ve known my husband his exercise routine has stayed pretty much the same, he goes to the gym 2-4 times every week. For him exercise is about being healthy and nothing more. He tries to inspire me to eat better and exercise more because he wants me to be healthy and not because of what I look like (or so he tells me!). I think I need to re-learn this.

So in late November I started exercising again. I’ve been doing some running, fallen in love with Zumba (who knew it was so much fun?) and joined the gym. I’m not going to weigh myself anymore. I’m going to get fit again and enjoy myself. I’m no longer going to hanker after the perfect body but instead will hanker after all those lovely endorphins…

Now, tips please! What helps you stick at exercising?

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