Saturday, 31 March 2012

My Week In Instagrams

  1. The weather has been so great this week, it feels like spring has really arrived. The sunshine is so good for your mood and its been lovely to spend so much time outdoors.
  2. We planted a load of seeds for our vegetable patch this week, I'll keep you updated about how they get on.
  3. My lovely husband bought a big bag of onions for £1 and made them into tasty onion marmalade.
  4. I saw these abandoned shoes on the street. They are so intriguing!
  5. Friday night is always home made pizza night in our house. I'll post more about how we make our pizzas next week.
  6. Yellow is my favourite colour, and I love the contrast of these blossoms against the clear blue sky.
  7. We made pesto from the wild garlic we picked in the woods. It is great with pasta or on pizzas. I'll post about this recipe soon too!
  8. Its been sunglasses weather all week, hooray!
  9. How pretty are these anemones? I went for dinner at my friend's house on Wednesday and she had them in vase, the are one of my favourite flowers.
That's how the last week looked for me. How was your week? Good I hope. I hear the weather's going to get colder again next week, but I'll try not to let it let me down. Have a great weekend!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Quotation of the week: Explain it Simply

Font: Quicksand Light | Feather brush by Kerri Crau
This is one of those truths that I feel like I already knew but never explained it with this clarity - perhaps I didn't understand it well enough! And who's going to argue with Einstein? I have always found if I'm struggling with something I'm trying to write, it is a good test to explain what you want to say out loud to someone. If you can't explain it clearly to them, its time to go back to the drawing board. Clever doesn't have to mean unintelligible!

Have a great weekend,

PS. The background for this quotation was inspired by early cyanotypes by Anna Atkins. You can view them online on the Victoria and Albert Museum's website

Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Found Alphabet: A

I love having little iPhone photography projects, I feel like they make me keep my eyes open and look more closely at the beautiful small things in every day life. My latest project - I only started it today! - is called The Found Alphabet. I am challenging myself to find every letter of the alphabet from A to Z in my travels. I will also post these letters on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #foundalphabet if you would like to join in!

Here is the first letter of my alphabet, A, which is also the first letter of my name, hooray! I found it on a metal label on a telegraph pole on the way to playgroup with baby Joe this morning. I loved the functional look of punched and embossed metal labels.

I hope this post inspires you to keep an eye out for the little details that make life interesting this week.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Four Things: Albums for Summer Afternoons

The weather has been so beautiful here in the UK recently, it has felt like summer. It is wonderful spending so much time outdoors, one of my favourite things is to hang out with baby Joe in our garden, watching him play and explore. When the weather is hot, there are a few albums I always like to listen to, ideally while lying in the long grass, looking up through tree branches at a clear blue sky. These are four of my favourites:

1. Crosby Still and Nash "Crosby, Stills and Nash": One of my Dad's favourites that he has passed on to me. On a hot sunny afternoon I like to imagine that I am living in Laurel Canyon in the early 70s...

2. Jose Gonzalez "Veneer": I listened to this album a lot when it cane out, then forgot about it and have recently been rediscovering it. So chilled out and beautiful, perfect for quiet contemplation.

3. Scott Matthews "Passing Stranger": I first heard this on a hot afternoon in the garden following a big house party the night before. It soothed my hung over head that sunny day and it still does now. Shades of Jeff Buckley about this, but that's ever a bad thing...

4. Rodrigo y Gabriela "Rodrigo y Gabriela": On the family holidays of my childhood my Dad would always play the Gypsy Kings tape, and I think of flamenco guitar as as an instant sound of sunshine and holidays. Rodrigo y Gabriela are amazing guitarists who I would love to see live. In the meantime, this album is perfect garden afternoon and BBQ soundtrack material.

I hope you like my sunny afternoon picks. What are your favourite albums to listen to on a hot day?

Monday, 26 March 2012

Download Free Photoshop Brushes

Feather brushes by Kerri Ann Crau
Hi friends, has this new week started well for you? I hope you had a great weekend. We had such fantastic weather this weekend here in the UK, and spent lots of time in the garden playing with baby Joe in the sunshine. I was also very excited because I discovered all about downloading free extra Photoshop brushes online. I edit my photos and images for this blog using Photoshop Elements 10. I used to use Photoshop CS2 at work before I had baby Joe, and imagined Elements wouldn't be able to do very much, but since I can't currently afford to buy full Photoshop for myself, I got Elements as a compromise. I have actually been really impressed with it, and find I am able to do pretty much everything I want with it. (Well, the one thing I miss is creating actions, which as far as I can tell you can't do in Elements, unless anyone reading this knows otherwise?)

Lace Brushes by Nadine Pau | Mesh elements brushes by Falln Stock
Although there are lots of great preset tools that come as part of the package, I have been really excited to find out that it is quick and easy to download and install free extra Photoshop tools. As I think I have mentioned in previous posts, one of my all time favourite blogs for free digital resources and Photoshop tutorials is the incredible Pugly Pixel blog, written by Katrina. The freebies she creates are absolutely AMAZING, I can't believe how generous she is in sharing her work like this. I also recently purchased her digital extras for just $5 usd. I cannot recommend this blog highly enough, it is a treasure trove.

Watercolour brushes 1 and watercolour brushes 2  by fudgegraphics | Blotches by Aless
She is also great at curating free resources and tutorials from other sites and it is through her recent posts about lace brushes and watercolour graphics (pastel watercolour wash effects are everywhere at the moment, aren't they?). Following the links she shared, I discovered Deviant Art, another fantastic source of free digital resources. I went a bit crazy downloading free Photoshop brushes, and wanted to share my favourites with you today because when you find something great, you want to spread the love, right? I had previously thought about brushes in terms of drawing lines and shapes, but these brushes are more like using rubber stamps, and because they're brushes you can set the pixel size and colour as you wish.

Cross stitch embroidery brushes by Nadine Pau
I just cannot believe how generous so many talented people are about sharing their work for free. The resources you can download free of charge are amazing, what a great world we live in where so many people are happy to share so much, they must have earned some very good karma!

I hope you are as excited as I am about all these fun new tools to play with. I'd love to know about your favourite sources of free web design resources. Have a great Monday!

PS. The font I used here is La Belle Aurore from Dafont and the frames are Vintage Inspired Label Shapes, part of the extras blog bling from

Saturday, 24 March 2012

My Week In Instagrams

1. I made chocolate chip banana bread. I'll have to share the recipe for this some time, it's so delicious.

2. The primroses came out outside our front door. It feels like spring is really here now.

3. We bought some apple juice made from apples from the orchards at Shenley Park. We had this on the tables at our wedding reception.

4. I listened to some tapes from the 90s!

5. I saw this lovely mosaic in a garden wall near where my parents live.

6. All the flowers are blooming in the sunshine this week, we've had great weather.

7. This is one of my favourite views in the world, the view from the landing window at my parents' house.

8. On Sunday we went back to Shenley Park, where we had our wedding reception. The walled garden there is so beautiful, we were really lucky to find it.

9. My Mum knitted this beautiful blanket.

That's what my week looked like this week. I hope you had a good one too! Have a great weekend,

Friday, 23 March 2012

For Tough Days

Font: Oswald
In past Quotation of the Week posts I have used quotations from famous and wise people, but this week I just wanted to post this little phrase since it is one that helps me a lot. When our baby was first born, I found the early months incredibly tough (I'm sure I'm not the only one!). The early days of parenthood are so relentless and gruelling, especially if, like us, you have a baby who is very colicky in the evenings and wakes a lot at night. One of the hardest things about having a baby, and one of the things that got to me back then, is that there is no way out of it and however hard it is you can't give up or change your mind.

This was a phrase that someone said to me in those weeks (and months!) when you wake up after yet another terrible night and wish you could escape but know you can't. Whenever I am struggling with things in life, I often think this little mantra to myself and remind myself to just keep going because nothing lasts forever.

If you are currently in those tough, tough days with a young baby I hope this might help you too, or if you're struggling with anything in life at the moment. Sometimes all you can do is keep trudging along and wait for things to change, I know they did for me and I'm sure they will for you too. And today is Friday, which is always a good thing!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Ideas for a Roast Chicken: Part 1

This week whole chickens were reduced in the supermarket so we decided to get one for the week on a bit of a whim. I always think of a roast chicken as a challenge to find ways of using up every little bit, and roast chicken is so easy to make and so completely delicious (obviously non-meat-easters won't agree, sorry for such a meat heavy post!). I thought you might be interested to see my ideas for getting the most out of this humble roast chicken. I think this chicken cost us about £4 and weighs about 2kg. Incidentally, I can't say we always buy organic meat, but we are concerned with its welfare and we do only buy meat where the welfare and farming standards can be assured. This chicken came from a reputable supermarket (beginning with a W...) and isn't from one of the mega economy supermarket own brands, which I don't trust. As you will see, even an expensive chicken can still work out pretty cheap per portion if you use it cleverly.

I simply put my chicken on a trivet in a roasting tin. I put several cloves of garlic and one lemon, quartered, in the cavity of the bird, and rubbed a bit of oil and salt and pepper onto the skin to help it crisp up. I put it into a preheated oven at about 180 C for 1 1/2 hrs or so - I just followed the roasting instructions on the label. You can check it is cooked through by cutting between the leg and body and checking if the juices run clear.

Once cooked, I jointed up the chicken and put it in one dish, as seen in the picture above. I don't think of myself as any kind of expert on carving meat, I just cut off both the legs, the wings and the breasts, keeping them as whole as possible, and then picked off as much of the rest of the meat as possible. I also kept the garlic and lemon that had been cooked inside the chicken, and the fat and juices from the bottom of the pan. If you don't need to use it all straight away, you can always wrap up the cooked chicken and freeze it for later. I don't know why I didn't think about freezing cooked meat like this earlier, it would have been a really useful thing to do when I was single since it can be hard - and more expensive - to cook single portions.

In a separate large saucepan, I put all the bones of the chicken, along with an onion, a couple of carrots, the green tops  from a couple of leeks, a few bay leaves and some peppercorns, to give me a stock pot. I also added the stalks from a bunch of parsley, since we happened to have some and it is a classic addition to chicken stock. I would normally also put in some celery but we didn't have any. Don't worry, stock ingredients aren't set in stone! I covered the stock ingredients with water and brought it to the boil. I then turned the heat down very low and let it simmer for a few hours (I didn't measure the time, I just set it going after lunch and turned it off after dinner). Strain this mixture and you have a fantastic stock to use in soups, sauces and risottos. If you don't need it straight away you can always freeze homemade stock. I am always amazed at the difference it makes to cooking when I am able to use real stock (nothing against stock cubes, I use them all the time!), it is nutritious, and it is basically made from a few vegetables and some bones you would otherwise have just thrown away.

Aside from the stock, the first thing we made with our roast chicken was hot roast chicken sandwiches with garlic mayonnaise. I knocked this up really easily, just adding a squeeze of lemon juice and a clove of garlic grated with a Microplane grater to a large dollop of shop bought mayo. Never one to waste anything if I can help it, I use the lemon and the garlic cooked inside the chicken. We used some of the breast meat from the chicken to make delicious sandwiches with a load of this super-tasty mayo and some rocket. If you have any garlic mayo left, it is great with chips, or prawns, or almost anything you can think of (ok, maybe not cake..)

 I have lots of ideas for how to use up the rest of our roast chicken, I can't wait to share them with you soon!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A Walk In The Woods

Yesterday we went for a walk in the woods near our house. I love the spring time when everything is green and budding. We went hunting for wild garlic, or ramsons, which are just in season now. They grow all over the woods, whole carpets of them along with the bluebells which will be coming out soon. They are easy to find because or their strong smell! We picked lots of ramsons, and had a lovely walk as well, with lots of chances for photography practice. Baby Joe had so much fun in the baby carrier, he loves being up high with the grown ups!

I'll share our ramson recipes with you soon, just as soon as we have made them!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Our Dorset Honeymoon

I thought it would be nice to share some photos from our lovely honeymoon with you. We went to Dorset for our honeymoon mainly because my grandma owns a cottage there where we could stay for free. Since we were doing our wedding on quite a tight budget, we didn't have much money to spend on going somewhere exotic, and we have always loved staying at the cottage. I have been going on holiday there since I was a few weeks old so it has a very special place in my heart.

Although our honeymoon location was based on necessity as much as choice, we had the most wonderful two weeks and if we could do it all again with more money, I wouldn't change a thing. Partly this is because holidays in the UK always remind you what a beautiful, amazing country we live in and how much there is to discover practically on your doorstep. But another thing I hadn't considered was that we were exhausted by the time our wedding was over, and it was the best thing to be going on a honeymoon we could drive to. We could travel whenever we liked, in our own car, we didn't have to worry about being anywhere on time, we were there door to door in 3 hours or so, and we didn't have to think about vaccinations, time differences and airport transfers. And the advantage of going somewhere you've been before is that you can really relax because you don't feel you have to rush around seeing every sight there is to see just in case its the only time you're there.

We had the most relaxing time ever just pottering around, making nice dinners, reading our books in the garden and sleeping about 12 hours a night, total bliss! As with so much to do with getting married, it is easy to get sucked into feeling like you have to make your honeymoon a spectacular trip of a lifetime, but after our wedding, what we both needed was a rest and time to recover from all the stress and hard work that we'd put into the day. Keeping our honeymoon domestic gave us so much more flexibility and less stress, and the fact that it was cheap seemed almost incidental. If you are currently planning your wedding I would definitely recommend you consider making your honeymoon a little more local - there are plenty of chances to go on big trips, but straight after the busiest day of your life might not actually be the time you most want to head off half way around the world.

Incidentally, the cottage in Bere Regis is available to rent if you would like to stay there, maybe even for your own honeymoon. You can see more pictures and book online on

Where did you go on honeymoon? Was it near or far, familiar or new? I hope you had a wonderful time wherever you went.

PS. Want to download this sweet font for free? It's The Only Exception from Dafont

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Monday, 19 March 2012

Vintage Style Greetings Cards

Hello friend!

I hope you had a great weekend. Mine was pretty busy since it was my Dad's birthday, but we had such a lovely time. It was great to spend time with my family, it was one of the best weekends I've had for ages.

This photo is the birthday card I gave my Dad. I wanted to share this little idea for making your own greetings cards from postcards. It isn't really a tutorial, just a suggestion. I had a lot of vintage postcards left over after our wedding (I'll have to tell you more about that some time!). I really wanted to use them, but lots of them were already written. I simply bought some card blanks and these lovely old fashioned self-adhesive photo corners (which I got from Paperchase) so that I could turn the postcards into greetings cards. I love the fact that you can still remove the postcard and read the message on the back, and the person who receives the card can even reuse the postcard.

I used these vintage postcards, which I bought quite cheaply on Ebay, since I already had them, but there is no reason why you couldn't use new postcards as well, or your own photos. I just love the poems and mottos you get on old postcards, like this one, with its wish that your birthday is "right royal"!

This is such an easy way to make unique handmade cards, give it a go!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

My Week in Instagrams

What I did this week:

1. Saw some beautiful blossoms illuminated in the street light.
2. Baby Joe got his first party bag.
3. I celebrated my second Mother's Day and got this fabulous Rob Ryan book.
4. My Mum gave me a new T shirt from Gap sale. I love the print.
5. It was my Dad's 60th birthday.
6. I wore a nice cardigan (!). I loved this pattern clash between the retro floral T shirt (a charity shop bargain bought this week for £2.25!) and my Sarah Lund style snowflake cardi. I'm resolving to get braver about outfit posts - and self-portraits!
7. The adapter arrived for the macro/wide angle lens I bought and I had fun testing them out with Joe in the garden. I'm sure these will be featuring in future blog photos!
8. We ate muffins for breakfast.
9. My lovely husband made a pork pie birthday cake for my Dad. Doesn't it look great with the candle!

I hope you had a great week whatever you got up to, and are enjoying a relaxing Mother's Day today.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Win a Diana F+ Camera with A Thrifty Mrs!

I just entered this competition and wanted to share it with you since it is SO exciting! One of my favourite daily reads, A Thrifty Mrs, is running an ace competition to win a Diana + camera, as pictured above. Look how pretty it is! You just have to leave a comment on her blog to enter - what could be easier! Jump on over to her post now and get in the game!

Be Brave

Credits: Font - Savoye , vintage label shape - Pugly Pixel (premium extras)
I'm not a natural risk taker, but this weekend let's all try to remember to throw caution to the wind a little bit. I don't know who originally coined this quotation, but I found it from a print sold by Three-Sixty Press sold on the Keep Calm Gallery website.

EDIT: I found out this morning that this quote is from Grace Murray Hopper, who seems to have been an all round remarkable woman who said many wise things. I found this out because, by complete coincidence, Sincerely Kinsey posted a print on her beautiful blog featuring the same quotation today as well. What are the chances?

Have a great weekend friends!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Bake Cheese and Courgette Scones

When we were out the other day, we ended up stopping at a cafe so baby Joe could have a break from shopping, which is not his favourite thing these days! I gave him a cheese scone and he seemed to love it, which reminded me of a recipe I have for cheese scones with grated courgette. This seemed like it might also be an easy way to sneak some extra veg into his diet, and make a tasty treat for my lunch too!

In fact they were even easier to make than I remembered, since I now have a food processor. The recipe is from a book called How to Feed Your Whole Family a Healthy Balanced Diet, with Very Little Money and Hardly Any Time... by Gill Holcombe, which has lots of cheap and healthy family recipes, as well as great menu planning tips.
I started by placing the flour, seasoning and butter, which should be chilled and cut into small pieces, in the food processor. I puled it until the butter was all rubbed in and the whole thing looked like sandy breadcrumbs. I then tipped that into a bowl and swopped the main blade for the grated attachment. I grated the cheese, and then the courgette, in the processor and tipped all of this into the same bowl. I mixed all of this together with enough milk to make a dough and turned it out onto a floured surface. 

I rolled out the dough to about an inch/2.5cm thick and cut out the scones with a round fluted cutter. However you could just cut them into triangles with a knife, or use a glass to cut out circles. The recipe says it makes about 12 but I managed to get 17 out of this mixture, because I was using a small cutter.

Lay them out on a baking tray with a couple of centimetres space between them, glaze with milk (or you could use a beaten egg if you prefer). Bake at gas mark 7 for about 10 minutes until risen and golden brown.

These were so quick to make and made a delicious lunch for Joe and I, served warm from the oven. Any leftovers will keep for a day or two, or can be frozen.

I hope you enjoy making these scones - don't fear the grated courgette!

PS. Just thought, if you're in the USA, you probably call courgettes zucchini. As you will do if you're in Italy.
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Wednesday, 14 March 2012

What's in my... Fonts Folder?

As you may be able to tell from my previous posts, I love typography, and discovering new fonts. I've found lots of fonts through other people's blogs and pins on Pinterest and so I thought I would spread the love by sharing some of my favourites. I have been using lots of handwritten fonts recently while working on my Dad's 60th birthday photo book, so I thought I would start by sharing some of my favourites.

Happy downloading!

PS. The notepaper background is also a free download, from Fuzzimo, and the scalloped circle label is from Pugly Pixel

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Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Collect Champagne Corks

I thought it would be fun to share with you some of my little collections over the next few weeks. I love collecting things, and have all sorts of little collections on the go. It gives me some focus when I am shopping at charity shops and car boot sales, and collections can make great displays for your home.

I thought I would start with my collection of corks. I know this sounds completely tedious, but they are not just any old corks! I like to keep champagne corks from any time we have a special occasion - a wedding, a birthday, New Year's Eve, a new baby. I write on the cork to remind me when it was from and keep them in this great vintage tin. Looking through reminds me of so many special times gone by. It may be unusual but I love my cork collection!

What do you keep? How do you store and display your collections?

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Monday, 12 March 2012

Make Lemon Squash with Lemongrass

Happy Monday!  Do you remember I posted a picture recently of all those lemons I bought at the market? Well, I finally got round to doing something with them! I used a recipe from the River Cottage Preserves Handbook for Lemon Squash, which is especially perfect since we have been having some really lovely sunny warm weather here lately.

Since we had a stick of lemongrass in the freezer I thought I would add this for a fragrant twist (you can never buy a single stalk of lemongrass so I always end up freezing the rest of a pack when we cook Thai curries). I was inspired by Belvoir's delicious lime and lemongrass cordial, which you can buy in the supermarket here in the UK. We drank a lot of this Belvoir cordial on our honeymoon in Dorset a couple of years ago, especially as a cocktail with sparkling water, ice and gin! The taste always reminds me of sunny, lazy summer afternoons in the garden with a drink, a book and a blanket, and it is this that I wanted to recreate.

So here's the recipe:
  • 7-10 lemons (I think I used the full 10)
  • 650g granulated sugar
  • 1 stick of lemongrass (or whatever extra flavouring you would like - I think root ginger would work really well here as well)
  • water
As explained above, you pare the zest of four of your lemons and set it aside. I used a vegetable peeler because I don't have a special citrus parer, which would create fine shreds (you might have see the type of thing, a small tool with a row of little holes at the end).

You put the lemons in a pot of boiling water for one minute, which flavours the water and makes the lemons yield more juice. I also put my lemongrass stalk in the water with the lemons too. Take the lemons out and squeeze them once they are cool enough to handle. You need to keep going until you get 500ml of lemon juice, which in my case meant adding another lemon's worth of juice, but it will all depend on the size of your lemons.

Put the lemon zest and sugar in a pan with 500ml of the water you boiled the lemons in, and bring this to the boil. When it is just boiling, take it off the heat for a minute and add the lemon juice. Put it back on the heat and bring it back up just to the boil. Then you just have to strain it through a sieve and pour it into sterilised bottles while the bottles are still hot (here are Delia Smith's instructions on how to sterilise bottles and jars - along with a recipe for strawberry jam!).

PS. Another new font I downloaded for this post! I really like this handwriting font, appropriately named Sunshine in My Soul, which I downloaded from Dafont.
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