Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Brightening up the garden...

How does your garden grow? drawing

I thought I would share with you some of my bargain finds from B&M to brighten up the garden. As I'm not exactly a keen gardener, and often forget to water plants, I wanted a couple of low maintenance items to start to get my garden summer ready! You can't get anymore low maintenance than these. I bought fake flowers that came in plastic plant pots at £2.99 each and put these into the bright blue tins. I am also loving these bright pink flower solar powered lights. (just £3.99)

Brightening up the garden B&M

For those warm, summer's evenings sat on the patio furniture with a (non-alcoholic) Shandy in hand, I bought some pretty little lanterns to cast a nice shimmery light over proceedings.

Lantern B&M

I was debating whether to buy some plastic bunting that can stay outside. I've got lots of fabric bunting, but thought it would be nice to have something I don't have to fetch back in. I'm still not sure if plastic bunting is a bit tacky (says the girl with fake flowers and bright pink fairy lights in her garden!) I think its because it reminds me of a used car dealer's forecourt. What do you think about plastic bunting? I'm sure some Cath Kidston oilcloth bunting would make a great addition though? 

Cath Kidston bunting
Cath Kidston oilcloth bunting on eBay.
I've also been doing some doodles on stones. I get a little frisson of guilty pleasure, when I draw on something other than paper. When I was a little girl, I would draw on everything - furniture, walls, books, anything I could get my hands on. My mum would give me a sponge and some soapy water and make me clean it off as punishment. On one occasion I had drawn on my bedroom wall, and was marched upstairs with sponge in hand and told I wasn't allowed to come down until I had cleaned it off. (I know what you are thinking - a modern day Cinderella story!) My mum was quite surprised when she came up to see her little girl had scrubbed her way through five layers of paint to show every colour that room had ever been. Unfortunately, I no longer possess this vigour when cleaning. When  I saw some decorated stones on Pinterest, it brought back memories of drawing on stones and doing chalk designs on the road a la Tour de France, so I grabbed some from my garden and had a go. I've done these with Pebeo porcelaine marker (fine). Maybe next week chalk art on our street.. I'm sure my neighbours would be thrilled!

Doodles on stones.

Kids would love to do this. Pick some up from the beach and get them to decorate with pictures of their seaside trip. I also think these would make a cheap but pretty wedding favour. You could decorate them with a quote, simple picture or your wedding date.

Is your garden ready for summer?

Monday, 24 June 2013

My weekly sketch...Sewing

My weekly sketch, of things I love, this week is...Sewing. There is nothing so satisfying in life as creating something. I love the feeling of having made a gift with my own fair hands. For my wedding, I made hand embroidered stockings for the guests staying in the hotel and filled them with treats. My brother got a cushion one year for his birthday and my sister-in-law a tote bag. To be honest, I do not know who gets the most pleasure out of these things. (Well in the case of my brother I have never seen the cushion again...) When I first got my sewing machine as a gift from my parents one birthday, it was my sister who saw her opportunity to utilise this and redecorate her home. We made blinds (unfortunately they didn't fit the window - note to self do not let sister use a tape measure!), curtains and pillowcases all in the first weekend. My initial fervour dwindled and sewing is a more sporadic hobby these days. I really want to take to the sewing machine once more and get creative.

I love starting a new sewing project, and sometimes I finish them. I have a huge collection of abandoned projects. I have three half-finished patchwork quilts alone. I am going to try and finish some of these. My husband rolls his eyes when I come home with fabric, as he feels, as I've got three huge boxes of it that I may already have enough. He is wrong! Who knows when you might need to make something in a hurry? Or when inspiration will strike? Or some other form of fabric emergency?! Okay so he may have a point, but we wont let him know that. I think it is time to start using that material. 

What are your favourite sewing projects?

Sunday, 23 June 2013

What I did this weekend...

We went to FORGE arts and craft fair in Sheffield this weekend, organised by Hallam Roses W.I., and brought to my attention by fellow Yorkshire blogger Emma from Oh Gosh blog. They were raising funds for their W.I. and the charity Roundabout. There was plenty to see and it was great to support all the local talent. Unfortunately, we didn't get to stay long, as my little baby boy decided to have a little bit of a meltdown. I still managed to find some nice items to take home and grab some cake, as my husband frantically rocked and attempted to soothe my son.

There was such an array of baking that I struggled to decide what to buy. It all looked so delicious. We opted for some lovely moist chocolate cake, some flapjack and some white chocolate and Tobelerone brownie. I must admit I had a little nibble of the flapjack on the ride home, as I couldn't wait, but the rest was devoured with a nice cuppa when I got home. I thought it was only fair to give my hubby half a taste of them.

I got this adorable sock monkey (from the Ginger Zoo), a cute panda origami card (from Terrible Lizard) and a deep repair hair mask. (from Lovely cosmetics) The sock monkey and card are for my sister-in-law, but I got the hair mask for me. It has left my hair luxuriously smooth and silky. I cannot tell you how much I love the smell too, as it reminds me of going to the perfumery in Grasse, France, as a little girl. 

Seen as I was having a naughty weekend, I thought it was about time I had my first post-pregnancy Nandos. It is an addiction! My husband commented on the beaming smile I had all day once we decided to have Nandos for tea and its true I did!

We then had a quick visit to Hemsworth Water Park, which I hadn't visited since I was small. My grandparents would often take my siblings and I when we were younger. It was a lovely nostalgic walk down memory lane.

It consists of two lakes (with a bridge ideal for poohsticks), pedalos, a cafe, a play area, a small beach?! and a miniature railway. It wasn't the greatest of weather, so we didn't stay very long. Infact we ran back to the car, (just as my hubby offered to buy me a White Magnum icecream. Gutted!) when the torrential rain arrived.

Hemsworth Water Park is free, but parking costs £2. There are also additional charges for different activities, Playworld is £2.50 per child, the railway is £1 per person, paddle boards, mambo canoes and ocean duo canoes are £1 per person.

Hope you all enjoyed your weekend.

How to improve your photographs in post production.

As the title says these are free and easy ways to improve your photos without having to fork out for expensive programs like Photoshop. I understand that there are a million things you might want to change about an image, and these are quite basic fixes and effects, but I thought I would share what I have discovered in trying to alter my images. I have used two programs to create these effects: GIMP and Perfect Effects 4.

I understand that top photographers have already framed their image perfectly and altered their camera setup to get crisp colours. For us mere mortals, the first thing I suggest you look at is the crop function (in GIMP Tools -> Transform Tools -> Crop) and Brightness-Contrast (in GIMP Colors -> Brightness-Contrast) The great thing about GIMP here is you can actually see exactly what it will look like before you make your selection. I always like to have a copy of the original image saved and open, so I can see the change. It is also worth doing incase you change your mind about the changes you have made (although there is an undo function in Edit) For most photos this is enough, as you have a beautifully framed shot and your colours look vibrant.

Other things you may wish to look at are in Filters in GIMP such as looking at sharpening an image (in GIMP Filters -> Enhance -> Sharpen) There are many effects you can use to alter your image in GIMP such as an old photo effect, lens flare etc. However, I am now going to use Perfect Effects 4 to create some Instagram type effects. First open up your image in the home screen, then change over to the effects screen once it is opened. Down the left hand side there is an array of effects that you can use, simply click on the box and it will show you what your image will look like. Then if you are happy with your image click the Add button on the right hand side bar. Your image will not be altered until you press Add. The portrait retouch is good for smoothing out skin imperfections and fixing red eye. The vintage effects have the feel of Instagram. You can layer effects by continuing to press add. The image below is using Brandon (in Vintage) and White Round (in Borders)

The image below is using Vintage Postcard.

I have also created these little doodles and pieces of text that can be added to the image by using a transparent layer on GIMP, as I have used in previous posts. You could just draw directly onto the image, but I created a full page of random sketches that you can just then copy and paste across.

Hope all you Instagram fans will enjoy using these techniques to change the photos you hold on your computer. As I continue in my quest to take better photos, I'll be sure to share my tips.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Yummy simple lunches

I've really been enjoying using Warburtons White Sandwich Thins to make some yummy quick lunches this week, so I thought I would share them with you. Firstly I made Caramelised Onion, Mushroom and Chicken Bruschetta.


A Warburtons White Sandwich Thin
Torn up strips of chicken breast (I used Tesco Everyday Value Chunky Chicken)
A handful of mushrooms
1/2 a red onion
A clove of garlic
Olive oil
Soy sauce
1/2 tsp Sugar
Chicken Oxo

Chop up mushrooms, red onion and garlic. Fry red onions slowly on a low heat until soft. Add mushrooms to the pan, but keep separate from onion. Fry mushrooms until brown. Add a splash of Soy Sauce and  1/2 tsp of sugar to the onion. Add chicken breast and garlic. Toast Warbutons Thin. Pile chicken, mushroom and onion onto toasted sandwich thin. I had this with a little salad.

Next I made mini mozzarella and chorizo pizzas.


Warburtons White Sandwich Thin
Tomato Puree
Buffalo Mozzarella

Toast your sandwich thin. Squeeze on a little tomato puree. Add torn up bits of mozzarella and chopped up chorizo. Place under medium grill for a few minutes until cheese has melted and chorizo is sizzling. Dust with a little dry oregano.

I was really happy when I found these, as they are thin and precut, they are ideal for many different uses. I just love it when you find something simple and delicious. I also like to make my own version of the Nandos starter of red pepper dip with pitta bread. I toast the sandwich thins then cut them into strips. Chop up some tomatoes and red pepper into small pieces, put them into a small bowl and add either some Medium Nandos Peri-Peri sauce or some sweet chilli dipping sauce. Okay so I've made myself hungry now. Maybe my hubby will pick up a Nandos on the way home. 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

My weekly sketch ...Photography

Sketch photography

My weekly sketch of things I love this week is.....Photography. This is a very recent passion, spurred on in the large part by a desire to document my little family. My sister has always had a keen eye for photography, and takes some really beautiful pictures. She owns the food blog Bilberry Tart, and as you can see the photography on the site is stunning. (The recipes are pretty yummy too!) My husband bought me a Canon SLR camera for my birthday, and my sister has been introducing me to a world of ISO and apertures (well I took some of it in). My husband and I have always had little photography competitions when we go out, so I'm hoping with my new camera to be reigning champion. 

For my birthday, I also received The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby, which I'm really enjoying reading. He delivers his expertise in a chatty and humorous fashion. Some of the advice is more technical than I'm willing to go and more money than I'm willing to spend, but he also has really simple tips. One of my favourite tips is sure to stop one thing I am always guilty of on photos; having my eyes closed. He says when you are taking group shots ask the people you are photographing to close their eyes and to open them on the count of three. You then take the photo a second after you say three and everyone should have their eyes open. 

I'm also starting to drive all my family mad with instagram and what's app. They are getting a constant barrage of pictures of my baby boy. Sometimes I take so many that it becomes a flicker book of his every move. I was intending to learn how to manually alter images in an instagram type fashion on my computer using GIMP, but then I found the free to download program Perfect Effects 4. This has many of the masks that you can get on instagram, plus some excellent retouching features to smooth out wrinkles and imperfections. (Post to follow on free and easy ways to improve your pics in post production.)

If you enjoy taking pictures please take a look at the Yorkshire Bloggers Photography Competition. More importantly don't forget to SMILE!

Monday, 17 June 2013

How to make pretty picnics

For my birthday, I asked for a picnic basket, and we have already been out in the sunshine making good use of my present. In the summer holidays my 4 year old niece is coming to stay, and I can't wait to create some pretty pink picnics. She is quite the picnic connoisseur, and is often seen setting one up on the living room floor. Therefore I'm going to have to pull something out of the bag to make it special.

How to make pretty picnics
1. Pink hearts melamine plate by Emma Bridgewater.
2. Linen sprig acrylic tumbler by Cath Kidston.
3. Linen sprig melamine bowl by Cath Kidston.
4. Linen sprig acrylic wine glass by Cath Kidston.
5. Children's melamine tea set by Emma Bridgewater,
6. Pink hearts melamine bowl by Emma Bridgewater.
7. Pink Tweed Dress by Oasis.
8. Linen sprig plate by Cath Kidston.
9. Linen sprig melamine stacking mug by Cath Kidston.
10. Butterfly bunting by Laura Ashley.
11. Pink rose girl's dress by JoJo Maman Bebe.

How to make pretty picnics
1. Polka dot dress by Mod Cloth.
2. Provencal rose bowl by Cath Kidston.
3. Picnic basket by Next.
4, Rose earrings by Mod Cloth.
5, Provencal rose flask by Cath Kidston.
6. Melamine 3 tier cake stand by Laura Ashley.
7. Pink gingham dress from JoJo Maman Bebe.
8. Provencal rose bowl from Cath Kidston.
9. Provencal rose beaker by Cath Kidston
10. Floral tea set by Argos.

I'm planning on utilising my masses of pretty pink material, lace and ribbons that my husband berates me for buying. I also have flower garlands and fairy lights for in the trees. I'm hoping to get some butterflies and fairies to hide around. This would make a great idea for a little girl's birthday party. You could pick their favourite park and organise treasure hunts and games without worrying about them smashing into your furniture or trampling your flowerbeds. 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day
How long do I have to sit like this?! When is Daddy getting up?!

Happy Father's Day! This is my husband's first Father's Day, so the household is very excited and ready to celebrate! William bought his Daddy some leather-bound Children's classics. We have most of the adult Barnes and Noble Classics. I think you will agree the illustrations are beautiful.

I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahagony - Ron Burgundy.

Mummy also couldn't resist making this Superman themed card. Super cute! We also made Daddy a mug with footprints on. I hope you have all spoiled your Dads. We got my Dad tickets to see the mighty Yorkshire cricket team for Father's Day. What presents did you get for your Dad?

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it's Superbaby!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Yorkshire bloggers

Yorkshire bloggers

As well as this blog I also run Yorkshire bloggers, which is a site that was created to highlight all of the wonderful blogs that there are based in Yorkshire. It is a place to find new blogs, find hidden Yorkshire gems and connect with other Yorkshire bloggers. It features guest posts from Yorkshire bloggers, has posts that will highlight local blogs, help bloggers to share information, feature inspiration for day trips out and photography, and events where Yorkshire bloggers can meet. I have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback and support this has received in such a short space of time. There are already twenty seven blogs that have signed up to be featured on the site, since it started in April. If you are a Yorkshire blogger or love Yorkshire blogs then please visit the blog. I am very excited to announce that I have just launched a photography competition and cannot wait to see the entries! Please stop by and take a look. 

Yorkshire bloggers

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Newmillerdam Country Park.

Newmillerdam Country Park, Wakefield, Yorkshire.

Just a quick post about a pleasant spot to have an afternoon stroll.  My husband and I visited Newmillerdam Country Park on a sunny afternoon and took a few pictures.

Newmillerdam Country Park, Wakefield, Yorkshire.

As I was taking these photos, I was a little concerned at the overly friendly ducks and geese. (I'm a bit of a scaredy cat) My husband has decided he will be coming here as part of his training for the Chester Marathon in October.

Newmillerdam Country Park, Wakefield, Yorkshire.

We ate at the reasonably priced Fox and Hound, which is across from the Newmillerdam car park. I had a chicken, bacon and barbecue sauce baguette, and my husband had a delicious (I wished I had picked this) pork and stuffing sandwich with a separate gravy boat and perfectly seasoned potato wedges (the ones I managed to prise away from him were just scrummy!)

Newmillerdam Country Park, Wakefield, Yorkshire.

There is also a cute little Italian that we are planning on going to next time. I think the building looks like a little castle and inside seems to have a cosy, intimate feel. We will let you know what we think when we go.

Newmillerdam Country Park, Wakefield, Yorkshire.

For further details please visit Newmillerdam site.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

30 things to do before I'm 30...

This week it was my 29th birthday, and as I creep ever closer to 30, I thought it would be nice to come up with 30 things that I would like to have done before this time next year.

1. Learn how to take better photographs.
2. Learn a second language.
3. Sew an outfit.
4. Send a book I have written off to publishers.
5. Get fit, thin and healthy.
6. Make something to sell and give money made to charity.

7. Write a book of nursery rhymes or poems for my baby boy William.
8. Try eating fish.
9. Throw a themed party for friends for no reason.
10. Enter a competition and win something.
11. Make a kite and fly it.
12. Stop wearing my hair down everyday- find some nice updo styles - try a new one once a week.

13. Put together a family cookbook.
14. Take a disposable barbecue and have a barbecue away from the home (Ladybower reservoir).
15. Have a beach picnic.
16. Regularly go and have girly time with family and friends.
17. Have regular date nights and find a favourite local restaurant.
18. Take a photo every day of the year.

19. Do a piece of art once a week.
20. Solve a rubik's cube.
21. Learn a new word each week.
22. Have a national themed meal and evening once a month.
23. Make family beach footprint casts.
24. Make a time lapse video of William.

25. See Stonehenge.
26. Do something nice for a random stranger.
27. Keep a plant alive and make my garden pretty.
28. Find nice recipes so you can eat green veg.
29. Watch top 30 movies on IMDB.
30. Create a jar and place notes in of all the good things that happen throughout the year to open next year on your birthday.

Okay so I'm not sure how ambitious this will be, but my theory is even if I only do half it should be fun! I'll keep you updated as to how I get on crossing things off my list.

Friday, 7 June 2013

My weekly sketch...Baking

Baking sketch

My weekly sketch of things I love this week is.....Baking. Nothing makes me happier than the smell of cake batter. During pregnancy, the lack of alcohol never fazed me, but the idea that I couldn't lick the spoon whilst baking a cake was simply mortifying. Some of my earliest memories are baking with my Mum or Grandma. To this day, the smell of cocoa powder reminds me of my late Grandmother. I have never been able to replicate her amazing chocolate cakes, but not for lack of trying.

One of my husband's most inspired gifts was my kitchen aid. I am not usually one for exercise, so anything to save effort on my part is greatly appreciated. However, I now have plans to get fit and healthy, so I suppose if I am going to be decadent and bake a cake, the least I could do is exert some effort whisking.

Later this month, I am very much looking forward to attending Forge in Sheffield on 23rd June. It is an art, design and craft fair that has been put on by Hallam Roses W.I to raise money for Roundabout and the W.I. I hear their baking is legendary and urge anyone in the area to join them. You will find me resident at the cake stall eyeing up the tasty treats! More details found here.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Roche Abbey

My Pretty Yorkshire Life : Roche Abbey

Trying to utilise my corporate membership to English Heritage, I decided to have a look on their site for a new place to visit in our area. I came across Roche Abbey, which I had never heard of or been to. My father had some reservations, as he is a creature of habit, and I think would have much preferred a visit to the old faithful Brodsworth Hall. We arrived with trepidation of the impending 'I told you so' s, when it did not live up to much.

My Pretty Yorkshire Life : Roche Abbey

The road down to Roche Abbey is narrow and bumpy, with only room for one car. There is not a great deal of parking, but we went, on a busy bank holiday Monday, there was still some spaces left. Without English Heritage membership, you must pay £3.50 for entry, which I initially felt was very reasonable. I had been concerned about accessibility, but we meandered through the ruins with ease with our pushchair. There is a small sign warning visitors not to climb on the ruins, which we had not seen until we left. I admit I had no desire to clamber atop a pile of stones with questionable stability, but witnessed others being chastised for doing this. It would have been nice for this warning to have been made more clear, as one gentleman looked mortified when he was told by security not to stand on a stone to get an unobstructed picture of his daughter. This is not to say that the staff were rude or unpleasant just that this should have been made clear before entry.
My Pretty Yorkshire Life : Roche Abbey

Roche Abbey is nice for a small walk, a picnic or a nice place to go and read a book sat on a bench. It had a peaceful tranquility even with several visitors walking round. The view of the Abbey is beautiful and I'm sure a more talented photographer could have captured some stunning images. To walk around the Abbey only takes around 10 minutes, but as we wanted to take advantage of the sunny weather we were planning a barbecue for the afternoon, this was ideal. I would propose tagging on a visit to the nearby Conisbrough Castle, if you are wanting a more substantial day trip out. My main issue with Roche Abbey is that I do not think that I would actually go inside in hindsight. There is a public footpath down the side of the site leading to a field that has a comprehensive panorama of the Abbey and plenty of space for picnics. Although, £3.50 is not a lot of money, if a whole family was visiting, I would suggest exploiting the fortuitous public footpath. The English Heritage site includes a shop stocking gifts, books and refreshments.

My Pretty Yorkshire Life : Roche Abbey

The effect on my final image was accomplished by using the program GIMP. (my favourite free to download image editing tool) I did this by going into Colors and then Threshold. I really urge you to try GIMP, as every time I use it I stumble across some great effects. My ambition is to really try to get to grips with all of the endless capabilities it possesses. 

Visit Roche Abbey website for more details.