Grow Your Blog Party 2014

I am excited to be joining in with this huge international blog-hopping party which has been arranged by Vicki from 2 Bags Full. The idea is that everyone who takes part posts a bit about themselves, and a huge (HUGE) list of participating blogs is put on Vicki’s blog, and we all use that list to find lots of fabulous new blogs to read and follow.

So, if you’re new to my blog, here’s a little bit about me.

My name is Helen, and I live in the UK with my husband and two cats. I enjoy many different crafts – possibly too many, as I am always being distracted by shiny, sparkly, colourful things. For several years, my main craft activity has been making jewellery, but I also love making felt characters. I can’t have favourites, so I’ll just say that ‘It’s not unusual’ for me to go back to this particular character time after time: Tiny Felt Tom Jones.

What inspires me? It can be anything. I love colours, I like glitter and sparkles, and I love animals and nature. I am also very fond of my food, so I often find myself drawn to beads and buttons that look edible. I’ve also made a few felt vegetables, some of which you will see if you have a look on my blog.

Feel free to have a look around, my blog doesn’t really have a theme, it’s a bit of a mishmash really. And as a thank you for stopping by, I am holding a giveaway. You can win this bracelet, made by my very own hands:

Arty shot:
The bracelet is made with pinky-purple glass beads and a tiny silver dala horse charm. The bracelet is 18cm long (that’s just over 7 inches in old money). 
To be in with a chance of winning the bracelet all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post below before midnight (GMT) on 14th February. I will pick a random name from the list of comments on this post, and I will announce the winner on 15th February. Please make sure that I am able to contact you if you win, either by your profile or by leaving your email address in the comment. If I can’t find a way to easily contact you, I will pick another name. 
Good luck, and happy blog hopping! 🙂

A walk in Woolston and some photos

We had planned to go for a walk on Saturday morning last weekend, but the weather was downright miserable. It stayed gloomyish until after lunch, when I just decided that we might as well go out while there was marginally more blue sky than grey. We had planned to visit the Woolston Eyes nature reserve which is not far from where we live, but due to, um, technical difficulties, we ended up walking alongside the canal. OK, so we found the footbridge we thought we needed to cross, but the ‘WARNING: HAZARD’ sign was not exactly welcoming. Anyway, we had a nice enough walk, testing out our walking boots for waterproofness (they passed) and meeting several friendly (and soggy) dogs.

So, here are some photos from our walk.

This goose was really not impressed at being told that we didn’t have any food for it. I did feel guilty as both it and its friend were frantically paddling against the current to hopefully gaze up at us in case we fancied lobbing some bread at them. I fear I have made an enemy. o_0

That’s me, on the left. Look how tall I am! Watch out, downtown Tokyo. But also: the light was lovely, and made everything look quite autumnal. It *is* January though. 

Just in the distance, to the left, is where I think we were supposed to be. Oh, well. 

Arty shot of a teasel head. Note the ominous looking sky in the background. 

This is clearly wrong. Dude, it’s the middle of the afternoon. I am quite pleased with how much detail you can see in this pic, considering I took it with a compact camera. It does have quite a zoomy zoom though – stop me if I get too technical. :p

If we’re getting picky, then this isn’t technically that good a shot. However, a) I love the sky, b) I happen to like lens flare, actually, and c) the plant looks like it’s fist-pumping the air. “Onwards…to VICTORY!”

I just love the sky in this one. Purty. 
The Husbinator also took some amazing photos but he doesn’t have a blog, or, apparently the time and/or motivation to upload them onto the PC and get them shared. So you’ll have to take my word for it.
We are going to go try out a camera club meeting on Monday, so hopefully that will motivate us to get out more with our cameras. 

If you liked it, then you shoulda put a skull on it

Happy New Year! 2014…yay, a new number. Woop!

January 1st is traditionally the day where we all rush to announce our intentions to change or improve ourselves, or to ‘mix it up a little’ (yeah, I know all the lingo – I am so down with ‘da kids’). I would like to break with tradition a little by announcing that I do not intend to change myself – I want to be more ‘me’ again.

A lot happened in 2013, including The Big Move’, and now that I am back in the UK, I realise just how un-me I have become. So this year, there will be more fun, more daftness, and yes, I’m afraid, more puns. I will do my best to ensure that at least some of the puns are new, if that helps at all? If not, I am planning to make more chocolate truffles, so I could always post some to you all in recompense.

So yes…the blog title. I finally got round to photographing some pieces of jewellery which I made ages ago. And by ages, I mean almost 6 months ago. That’s…well, it’s a disgrace, frankly. The earrings were featured in this blog post, for goodness sake:

Anyway, the sun was shining so I made good use of our newly-tidied conservatory (I know, we have a conservatory now!) to take some photos. So the first of the earrings to be listed in my shop are these delights:

I’m not really sure what possessed me to pair quite eerily detailed brass skulls with fairground-esque striped glass beads. I do like them, I think they work, but they’re definitely…’quirky’ (although thankfully, they fall short of being ‘whimsical’, because ugh, that word). 
I think even the earrings themselves are a bit concerned…
“Are these meant to be hot air balloons? Are we steampunk?”
“Well, I know I’m not steampunk, thankyouverymuch. Maybe it’s a Christmas thing?”
“Are skulls festive? I don’t feel festive. I feel bloated.”
“It’s that time of year, I’m exactly the same. I couldn’t look at another mince pie.”
“That’s because we’re skulls. We don’t have optic nerves.”
“Or vocal chords. So we can’t actually speak.”
“She didn’t think this one through, did she?”
“Nope. Not one bit. Shame, really.”
The sad thing is, I’ve not even had a drink. 🙂 

Anyway, as a special New Year’s treat, I will leave you with a choice of earworms. You can either have the leotardinous (well then, it should be a real word) Beyonce’s song which was cruelly mashed and diced to make the title of this blog post, or you can have a Gloria Gaynor anthem. Beyonce’s video has fantastic dance moves, but Gloria’s has a disco beat and massively unimpressed women loitering on a staircase. Plus, it’s Gloria. And the lyrics are perhaps more suited to the start of a new year.

Chocolate truffles – the first batch

The title may be slightly misleading, as I have made white chocolate truffles before. However, I haven’t made these dark chocolate truffles before, and they are a trial run as I plan to make some for Christmas pressies.

So, onwards to a world of chocolateyness. I used a truffle recipe from the BBC Good Food site, just a plain recipe which can be jazzed up a bit.

Basically you bash up a few bars of dark chocolate:

 I did see a recipe which recommends whizzing the chocolate chunks into finer pieces in a food processor, but I didn’t fancy having to clean that as well. Moving on…

Heat double cream and a bit of unsalted butter over a low heat in a saucepan:

When the mixture is almost simmering, take it off the heat and pour it over the chocolate bits. Mix in until you have a smooth chocolatey gloop (technical term 😉 ). 
At this point, if your mixture looks like mine, you might like to swear under your breath and reconsider carrying on with the recipe. Like me, you may decide to carry on anyway, and beat the chocolate mixture a little more, just out of spite. The next step is very important – choose your flavouring:
I am definitely going to try more exotic flavours at Christmas (the chilli and ginger truffles sound delicious, as do the balsamic ones), but I went with the ‘traditional’ flavouring: booze. 
I split the chocolate mixture into two bowls, and added the alcohol a teaspoonful at a time. I still wasn’t convinced that the mixture was right, so I wasn’t going to go mad adding loads of alcohol to something which might end up in the bin. After adding the alcohol and stirring well to mix it in, the chocolate mixture needs to chill for a few hours. I know how it feels. I sent the bowls to sit in the conservatory, aka the ice box. 
A few hours later (or even better, overnight), when the mixture has chilled, use a teaspoon or melon-baller to scoop up small amounts of the mixture and shape into balls. Note: recipes I’ve seen talk of ‘cherry-sized’ amounts. My truffles vary in size between large cherry and apricot. They have booze in them – no-one will really care. 😉 
Place the truffles onto a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper (which I couldn’t find  – tin foil works as well). That is the messy part over with, the next step is quite therapeutic –  rolling the truffles in cocoa powder:
I could’ve done this for hours – it’s quite relaxing. Once the truffles are coated with cocoa, they get another rest on the paper/foil-covered tray to chill again. Here they are before spending the night in the ice box:
The Husbinator has done a pre-chill quality control check, and he said they are very nice. The Jack Daniels one was quite boozy (oops!) and the Baileys one was much creamier, but not as  boozy. I was planning to try these out on my colleagues, so this could be interesting. It might perk up an otherwise dull Monday. 🙂

And…we’re back!

Yes, a few short months *cough* after my last blog post (which I’ve just skimmed through and has reminded me that I haven’t unpacked the box with those bat earrings in yet), and we’re all back in the UK. I’ve been back here for a few weeks already, the Husbinator has been back for just over a week. I’ve been too lazy busy to do much crafting, so I thought I’d share some pics of our move to make you all jealous of our glamorous jetsetty lifestyle. Yeah…

So despite our best efforts, the last month before we moved was a stressful frenzy of paperwork and packing. We did get rid of a lot of stuff, but still somehow ended up with over 100 boxes. Yes, I know. Someone will be putting stuff on Amazon or Gumtree in the coming weeks. Packing started off well, by the end, things were just getting thrown into boxes in a blind panic. We discovered that items left in the same drawer as a catnip cat toy will have an alarming effect:

I did already post this pic on Facebook, but it still makes me laugh, so here it is again. Poor stoned Sparty.

The Husbinator was very organised with the boxes, and we stacked them all according to size so that when we got the truck, we could play a very tiring game of Tetris. 

We decided we could manage the move ourselves, although to be fair this decision was guided largely by the fact that we were ignored by all the removal companies we contacted. Humph. So, we (with the help of the Husbinator’s wonderful friend) packed up a truck with all our belongings, and drove back to the UK. Yes, really. It’s as much fun as it sounds. I got to be navigator, chief snack supplier and trip photographer.
Yes, I am still a big child. *chortling*
The drive took about 12 hours, thanks to an extended jaunt round the M25. We got back so late in the evening that we were too tired to unpack the truck, so we did that the next day, and then the following day, the Husbinator took the truck back to Holland, leaving me in our new house with the boxes. The following week, we drove back from Holland to the UK, this time in our own car, but with the cats. Oh, what fun! Here’s a small video clip of us driving into the carriage for the Eurotunnel. You can hear a Mike Oldfield song, and in the background, a disgruntled cat.

That journey didn’t take quite as long, as we managed to avoid the worst of the traffic somehow. The cats, however, were wholly unimpressed with the journey, and the new accomodation. *sigh* The first two weeks they pretty much miaowed at everything, and hid most of the time. Until about 2am, when they decided to shout loudly downstairs until I got up out of bed. Then they would run upstairs to shout there. They are slightly more settled now, possibly because they have tired themselves out.
Flat cat square pants!
I know it’s early days, but despite being forced to go to work for a living this week, we haven’t found too much to complain about yet. Below are some of the highlights so far…
Taken somewhere on our way back from Derbyshire  – I think it’s turned out quite well considering the car was moving at speed and the windows were up. There is something very special about the British landscape. *content*

Percy Pigs! Veggie sweets! There are so many foodstuffs I didn’t realise I missed (I may have eaten my body weight in tinned spaghetti in the last few weeks). 

Tiny pumpkin. Allegedly edible, according to Sainsburys, but I wanted it purely for its looks. *shallow*

Blue lights in appliances are apparently a thing now. It’s slightly spooky, especially when making a cuppa in the dark. 

Tiny pony helping to raise awareness for a children’s charity in town this week. So cute!
I have a workdesk set up now, so in theory, I could start crafting very soon. Not sure what I fancy making just yet though. I still feel like dusting off the sewing machine and making something. Just need to find the sewing machine now…