Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Geeky craft swap: June

I enjoyed the Dainty and Ivory craft swap so much last month that I couldn't wait to take part again for June. This month had a "geeky" theme, and being a complete geek myself, this appealed to me immensely! We were all matched up at random, and I was assigned Hannah as my recipient. She told me a few facts about herself and her geeky loves, and from there I set about putting together a geeky package for her. 

Hand-beaded dragon bookmark
What I sent: 

Hannah loves reading, especially fantasy and fairytales, and one of her favourite mystical creatures is a dragon. I found this beautiful dragon bookmark, and customised it by beading it in her favourite colours- greens, blues and golds. 

One of her geeky loves is the book 'A Song of Ice and Fire', now Game of Thrones... a geeky interest we have in common! I spent the best part of a year reading all the books, but I actually prefer the TV show... which doesn't happen often! Since Game of Thrones is a show I love as well, I thought I would make Hannah two types of brooch. The kilt pin represents 3 of the main families battling it out for the throne- the Starks, the Lannisters and the Targaryens. The fabric brooch is a more subtle nod, with the coveted crown in the centre. 
Stark, Lannister and Targaryen kilt pin
Game of Thrones fabric brooch
Star Wars made Hannah's list of geeky loves, and I wanted to make something a bit different. I took a classic quote from Han Solo to Princess Leia, and made it into a blank greetings card: 
Greetings card inspired by a classic Star Wars quote! 
As per the rules of the craft swap, all participants must include a little bought gift in the parcel as well. I'd never heard of Studio Ghibli, but Hannah likes it... and a little search on Etsy revealed this cute unicorn pin as a Studio Ghibli character. I thought he was perfect, as she also told me she loves pastel colours (check!) and another of her favourite mystical creatures is the unicorn (check!)
Studio Ghibli pin
What I received: 

My geeky gift-giver was Joanne Burgess. When signing up to the craft swap this month, I confessed to my complete geekery, and listed some of my indulgences as reading, writing and TV shows like Breaking Bad, The Wire and Game of Thrones. 

The package I received from Jo was delightful! First, I opened a letter with numbered clues as to what my parcel contained. Since I make no secret of the fact I enjoy a freebie, Jo sent me a "bonus" gift of a kilt pin finding. I can't wait to make something pretty from that! 

Jo doesn't watch Game of Thrones, but she did her research and made me this stunning 3D beaded dragon. I can tell that he was made lovingly and took a lot of time- and now he is right at home nestled in my geeky study next to my George R.R. Martin collection. 
Danaerys Targaryen's dragon
Keeping with the Game of Thrones theme, I also got a beautiful handmade necklace, inspired by a dragon's egg. It was also very thoughtfully made in my favourite colours. A cheeky bonus of dragon-shaped jelly sweets was also very welcome! 
Pretty dragon egg necklace
I was lucky enough to receive a couple of lovely "bought" gifts too. In my opinion, nothing beats the feeling of opening a new, crisp writing set or notebook. Since drinking tea is one of my favourite pastimes, this writing set was made for me! 
The macaroons look divine!
A fellow Breaking Bad fan, Jo confessed to actually wanting to keep my final gift... I don't blame her, and I can't believe I've never seen this around before. It's a wooden spoon, stamped with Heisenberg's face! I now want to run out and buy one for all my friends who share my love of Walter White. Definitely a wooden spoon for displaying proudly in my kitchen. 
Heisenberg spoon... just, wow!

Friday, 6 June 2014

A lovely, kind gesture- Golden Peacock is mine!

I had a lovely experience recently when I was on the receiving end of an unexpected act of kindness by a fellow member of our creative blogging community. A couple of weeks ago, I posted about how I had been drooling over Jo Conlon's Golden Peacock painting on Etsy for well over a year, but could never seem to get the money together to buy him (read the previous post here). 

Jo read my post, and got in contact to say that she really wanted Golden Peacock to belong to someone who appreciated him, and that was more important to her than the cost. So... she offered to sell him to me for considerably less money, putting him within my reach! 
Hanging proudly in his new home!
He has now safely arrived in his new home, and doesn't he look great?! I think the colours complement my living room decor perfectly, and the gold in the painting shimmers beautifully in the light from the big windows. 

It's situations like this that remind me how lovely it is to be part of a creative community, where appreciation of crafts and talents outweigh everything else! I am very grateful for Jo's kind gesture, and I am delighted to have this stunning new addition to my home. My little girl approves too- here she is checking him out, and saying "awwwwwwww!" 
Awwwww... a beautiful peacock!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

My first craft swap experience

I have liked the idea of craft swaps for a while now, but never found one in the UK to participate in. Around a month ago, I was joining in on a Twitter chat with #craftblogclub and Hannah at Dainty and Ivory said she'd be interested in running one. 

The theme was "spring" and we were all allocated a partner at random. I got Sally Bee Makes to create a parcel for, along with the information that she liked sewing, music, organising, reading, dog walking, kettle bells, shopping, Africa, flowers, lots of colour and sun. I also discovered that her favourite colours were yellow and purple. It's quite difficult to decide what to make for someone you know very little about, especially since my social media stalking revealed that Sally is frankly amazing with a sewing machine! Alas, my skills are somewhat limited. I decided to make her a few handmade items instead of one larger gift. 
My gift parcel
I made a lined "Jordy Bag" for Sally- if you have never made a bag before, I can't recommend the lined Jordy Bag more- it's fairly easy for beginners and it comes out a gorgeous shape.  I thought this might fit in with her love of organising, and would perhaps come in useful for storing/ carrying small sewing projects. The fabric I chose was bright, flowery, and adding a red lining gave the bag an overall "African" feel to it. 

Sally seems to enjoy wearing handmade, judging from her blog. I added a kilt pin to the parcel- since her favourite colour is purple, I thought she might like the floral, purple glass beads. It's one of my Pink Robot designs. To complement the pin, I included some matching handmade purple beaded earrings. On top of the handmade items, we were asked to include a little bought gift too- my gift was a floral hardback notebook, which I thought matched the bag perfectly. Who doesn't love a notebook, with clean, crisp new pages?!
Russian Doll kilt pin, beaded, matryoshka
Kilt Pin from my Pink Robot range
My package arrived the same morning I posted my gifts. It's so exciting to receive a mystery package... and an occurrence which I certainly enjoy very rarely. Jane had made me a lovely bracelet from buttons in all my favourite colours. I particularly liked the style of clasp she had chosen. The box and wrapping paper was equally beautiful, and she had even made me an origami peacock- he is now sitting in my study alongside this swan. My bought gifts were peacock-themed too: a cute lip gloss and a scented sachet for my drawer. It's so lovely to receive a gift from someone you don't know, especially when it's obvious that they have made the effort to send things you'd like. 
The lovely things I received
I've signed up again for this month's craft swap- this time, with a "geek" theme! Since I most definitely enjoy geekery, this is right up my street. Hopefully, lots of people will get involved- making and receiving lovely things while having fun in the process. If you're interested, get in touch with Hannah to sign up!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Gorgeous peacocks from UK Etsy sellers

Etsy is one of my favourite websites out there at the moment- it ticks all the boxes for me. Generally-speaking, it's more affordable than shopping on the high street, it supports independent creators and retailers, and provides an unrivalled selection of completely unique treasures! I really enjoyed writing my "cherry blossoms" post a couple of months ago, so decided to write another Etsy post, on peacocks. I have fallen in love with these majestic creatures over the last year- decorating my living room in peacock-inspired colours and obsessing over peacock patterned fabric, home d├ęcor and gifts.

Here is a selection of my favourite peacock-themed items currently on Etsy, from UK designers, makers and artists:
Golden Peacock - An original framed painting by Jo Conlon
Golden Peacock, by Jo Conlon
I actually hold this painting solely responsible for kicking off my entire peacock obsession... Golden Peacock by Jo Conlon simply belongs in my house! There is a space on my living room wall which is exactly the right size (it's a big painting!) so I have been visiting and re-visiting it on Etsy for well over a year now, but with maternity leave sapping my funds, have never been able to scrape together the money to buy it. At £260 plus p&p, it is not a whimsical purchase. It is, however, to this day the only painting I have ever fallen in love with, so one day Golden Peacock- you will be mine! 

Peacock bird messenger bag and pouch git set in rare Amy Butler fabric
Messenger Bag, by Handmade With Joy
This messenger bag and purse set caught my attention as soon as I saw it. Crafted in rare Amy Butler fabric, it's one of a kind and stunning. I particularly like the colour combinations in this set- they give it a quirky, vintage-type feel. The cute little Eiffel Tower charm also attracted me to it, as I love Paris... peacocks and Paris in one gorgeous bag... what more could I ask for? 
Handmade journal - Peacock feathers
Handmade peacock journal, by My Parlour
This handmade peacock journal by My Parlour would make a perfect, budget gift for a creative friend, writer or fellow blogger! Hardback with 80 blank pages, I think I would really enjoy scribbling down ideas for my future posts, and it's a great price at only £7.50. 
Hand Painted Silk Scarf - Peacock Design
Hand-painted silk scarf, by Mandarin Duck Craft
This beautiful silk scarf is hand-painted to order by Mandarin Duck Craft. At £38, it is affordable designer luxury, and I think it would make an amazing gift for somebody special. I love the colours the artist, Luo Tao, has chosen- and the fact the design is painted freehand. 
Oriental Peacock Fan Chinese New Year Card
Oriental peacock fan, by CreativMichelle
There is something quirky and wonderful about this oriental paper fan. It incorporates cherry blossoms with peacocks, and would add a real element of interest to a room. Michelle uses 3-layer decoupage to build the images, and the fan comes with a presentation stand. At £6.49, I think this is incredible value for money! 

Right now you can get £5 off your first purchase at Etsy using this link.

Liebster Award Nomination

Make Thrift love Life has been nominated for the Liebster Award! When thriftylilpixie got in touch to say she'd nominated me, I carried out a little research online. I discovered that it's an award passed between fellow bloggers- a way to acknowledge and promote people's favourite little-known blogs, within the blogging community. It's also a nice way to find out more about the people behind the blogs you read every day!

The German word "Liebster" is roughly translated into words such as sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.The rules seem to evolve and adapt a bit, but the general gist remains the same: 

The Rules:
  1. Each person must post 11 random facts about themselves. 
  2. They must also answer 11 questions about themselves. 
  3. Now pick between 5-11 of your favourite blogs to nominate for the Liebster award. The blogs should have less than 1000 followers. (Note- some versions say under 200 followers!)
  4. Create a set of 11 questions to ask your nominees. 
11 random facts about myself: 
  • I am a marathon runner, completing 5 marathons to date. 
  • My fastest marathon time was 3 hours 38 minutes, in Paris. 
  • I work in education as my "day job".
  • One day, I'd love to have a pet tortoise called Richard.
  • My favourite colour is purple. 
  • I'm only 5'1" tall so I wear heels a lot!
  • I have tiny size 2 (euro 34/ 35) feet. 
  • I have a sister called Fiona. 
  • My car is a trusty 10-year-old Toyota Yaris- it's never failed an MOT!
  • I sell crafts under the brand name "Pink Robot". 
  • While on maternity leave, I ran a craft group for new mums called Baby Brain. 
 Questions posed by Thriftylilpixie for me: 

What's your favourite thing about blogging? 
Learning new things from other bloggers, and being able to find the answer to any question imaginable, just from visiting a blog. I find the writing process therapeutic too!

What's your favourite blog? 
This one is too hard to give a definitive answer... I have various favourite blogs which I read for all different reasons. I do love the photography in A Beautiful Mess, however!

Where would be your dream travel destination?
I'd love to see more of Asia. I went to Thailand on honeymoon, and it was the most beautiful place with the most beautiful people. 

What's your favourite food? 
A toss-up between Japanese and Italian cuisine. A simple and fresh noodle stir-fry is amazing, but if I had to eat one food item only for the rest of my life, it would be pasta. 

What's your guilty pleasure? 
Double Coronation Street on a Monday night!

What are the words you live by? 
The Japanese proverb, "Nana Korobi Yaoki", meaning "Fall down 7 times, get up 8" is a good one, to remind me to keep chasing my dreams. 

Where do you get your blogging inspiration? 
I tend to write about what's most important in my life at one time- at the moment, lots of my posts are about my daughter and my home life. 

What makes you laugh? 
I do enjoy out-of-order jokes! 

What is your favourite beauty product? 
Maybelline "The Falsies" mascara... I have tried lots of other (and more expensive) mascaras, but I can't beat this one and keep coming back to it. 

What is your go-to wardrobe staple? 

What is your biggest dream? 
To make Pink Robot into a business- making and selling lots of beautiful things including baby skirts in unusual fabrics. I also dream of writing a book. 

My nominees

I'd like to nominate the following blogs for the Liebster Award: 

11 questions for my nominees
  1. Which one of your blog posts is your favourite, and why? 
  2. Where is your favourite place in the world? 
  3. What is your favourite colour combination? 
  4. Do you have any other hobbies, apart from writing? 
  5. What's your favourite joke? 
  6. What is your ultimate ambition? 
  7. What is the best bargain you have ever found? 
  8. What makes you proudest? 
  9. What is your favourite animal? 
  10. Do you have any hidden talents? 
  11. What made you start writing a blog? 

Friday, 25 April 2014

Lara Jill Changing Bag Review

Vlinder Baby Bag
Vlinder oilcloth baby bag, £39.99
When my old-faithful, free Boots Parenting Club changing bag finally gave up and burst earlier this month, I was forced once and for all to find a replacement. I'd been talking about it for months- the bag was really too small, everyone I knew had the same one (resulting in numerous bag mix-ups) and there had been holes in the lining for ages. It had served me well (especially for free!) but with two babies in nappies on the horizon... on to bigger and better things!

Browsing in high street shops, I was horrified at the price of changing bags. Unless I wanted a very basic, small, plain-coloured model, I would have to shell out a small fortune. Quality and function at the right price are absolutely essential- this bag will be used to hold everything I need for two babies after all! 

I turned to independent designers, makers and retailers. Lara Jill bags stood out for me from the rest of the market, mainly because of the gorgeous fabrics and patterns. They are all made from oilcloth, which also attracted me to them- I take my changing bag outside a lot, and a waterproof element is certainly helpful in the Scottish rain! Lara sent me a stunning Vlinder changing bag from her range to put through its paces and review
Love the colours and pattern of the fabric
Loads of pockets and compartments!
The bag was delivered quickly and well-packaged by courier. It was bigger than I expected, measuring 43 L x 14 W x 28 H (cm). The larger size is actually perfect for me, considering I will be using it for more than one baby. I also tend to spend a lot of time out and about and on the move, hence more supplies! There are also smaller bags from the same range available too, in a very similar style. 

It has the option of using a shoulder strap or handles. The handles make it feel like a fashionable adult bag, while the shoulder strap is practically useful. I found that the design of the handles made them soft to carry. The strap is adjustable, so it is easy to hang over the handles of a pram or buggy. Sometimes I go without a pram, instead choosing to wear Heather in a sling- so the fact that the shoulder strap can be made as long as I like is really useful for babywearing. 

There are loads of pockets and sections in this bag, which is a huge bonus for me. There are zip pockets on both the front and back- easily accessible and perfect for my own essentials like my phone, keys and purse. There are also separate pockets on the inside, so no rummaging for dummies, snacks and smaller items! The main compartment is very spacious. Heather and I went out for the whole day, taking all the supplies necessary- and as you can see, there was plenty of room left to comfortably fit her dolly! The 2 elasticated bottle compartments on the sides are a great feature- they accommodate both my water bottle and her milk bottle. 
Easy to hang over the pram...
... or a buggy!
The Vlinder Baby Bag comes with a matching changing mat. It is thin, so doesn't take up much room, yet slightly padded for comfort. The oilcloth fabric really lends itself to this purpose, as it's easy to wipe down. 

This bag is truly multi-functional. We used it as a flight/ travel bag on holiday, and there was more than ample room to carry everything we needed. The shoulder strap came in really handy when our hands were full from carrying suitcases and everything else that comes with travelling with baby!
On a bus in Tunisia
I would highly recommend purchasing a changing bag from Lara Jill- I have thoroughly road-tested mine (both at home, travelling and during a holiday!) and it has ticked all the boxes for me. This bag is clearly made to last, so I look forward to using it for a long time to come. 

Beautiful, budget nursery!

Heather's room
Heather's budget nursery
I am delighted that my first post for Kiddicare's new-look website: Bump, Baby & You has now gone live! I wrote about my experience in creating a gorgeous nursery on a budget, as I know how costs can really add up at this time. 

I passionately believe that the most beautiful baby nurseries are designed with love, and filled with items that mean something. The great news is, they don't need to break the bank! Read my post here at Bump, Baby & You: