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A vintage year and a new me

Hello,

Once again, I’ve stayed away too long and that guilty feeling from not blogging has finally forced my hands to get typing.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. I had high hopes of posting lots of festive baking and craft ideas this year but as usual, life tends to get in the way. I’m used to juggling lots of balls but there were a few too many family and work baubles to juggle over Christmas.

This year had an exciting beginning, as I started my new job as the Commissioning Editor of Papercraft inspirations magazine and attended CHA (Craft & Hobby Association) in LA last week. It was an amazing experience and great to be able to speak directly to the craft brands and their designers. There are lots of photos on the Papercraft inspirations blog if you want to check out some of the new releases for 2013.

GCD Studios

This photo was taken of the stunning GCD Studios stand at CHA. Their was so much to see that I completely lost track of time on this stand. The attention to detail was unbelievable. They even had a faux grass floor to add to their garden tea party theme.

Now you may not believe this . . . actually, if you’re a woman then you probably will believe this . . . the dreaded question of ‘what shall I wear to the show?’ and the thought of a new year and a new me did in fact trigger a feeling of panic. This resulted in a complete overhaul of my entire wardrobe. It’s been something I’ve been meaning to address for a while. Anyone that saw my wardrobe would assume I’m in a state of mourning due to the number of black items of clothing I own. Frankly tragic and not at all representative of who I am.

So to revive my look, I decided a shopping spree was in order. I love the style of 1940′s and 1950′s women’s clothing and although the retro look is fashionable, the high street shops didn’t have what I was looking for. Instead, I visited the charity shops and independent boutiques on Gloucester Road and Stokes Croft in Bristol. I was unusually excited about this shopping trip. I had pictured finding the most amazing vintage clothing in the charity shops but the reality was quite the opposite. There were mostly outfits from the 1980′s that came complete with scary shoulder pads and pleated polyester skirts. Eeek.

Cox&Baloney

I did however stumble upon a little gem of a shop called Cox & Baloney. It’s quite simply, vintage heaven. The interior is quirky and utterly wonderful.  There’s a selection of authentic vintage clothing and accessories but it was their collection of retro style dresses that really caught my eye.

Shop1

I actually purchased two gorgeous retro style dresses from this rail. I could challenge you to guess which ones but I would like to make it clear that the blue petticoat wasn’t on my shopping list.

Shop4

The shop interior is so unique. It was wonderful just to spend time looking around. The changing rooms are sectioned off by two recycled wooden doors and the shelves are styled with a collection of beautiful vintage items.

Knickers

Fancy pants on a washing line. I knew I liked this shop and now I love it. I think they hold knicker making classes as well.

Shop3

The collection of vintage home furnishings on display gives the shop a lovely homely feel.

Table

The tea room is a wonderful space and the log fire was burning during my visit.

Teapot

The mismatched chairs and china tea cups add to the quirky edge of the tea room.

Tea

I was completely overwhelmed by the choice of tea. After debating for some time, I came to the conclusion that a classic tea named ‘Mr Darcy’ was clearly the tea for me.

Washing line

After heading down a small, winding staircase, I found the studio where they hold various classes.

Workshop1

I’m sure I gasped when I first came down the stairs. It was like an Aladdin’s cave of floral print dresses, gorgeous bunting and little treasures like fabric birds and crochet hair clips, that you can make during the various classes.

Moodboard

As I turned to go back up the stairs, I noticed this fabulous mood board on the wall. It reminded me of my student days when I studied fashion and textiles/surface pattern design.

Fabric birds

I definitely left Cox & Baloney feeling inspired to pick up a sewing needle again. Leaving the shop with a couple of new dresses felt pretty good too. Retail therapy at it’s best.

Angela x


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Social Butterfly

There’s no doubting the fact that my sister Helen is a social butterfly. She’s a whirlwind of laughter and high-speed conversation, and social gatherings just aren’t the same without her.

This really was the perfect theme for her birthday party . . . and probably also why there’s more than a hint of Marie Antoinette in the cake stand I chose for the occasion.

Her birthday celebration this year was postponed whilst she was happily travelling around Australia. I guess that makes her an international social butterfly now. It also made the birthday party, a welcome home party as well.

Judging by Helen’s reaction when she first saw this extravagant display, the cupcakes were a success.

Squeals of excitement are to be expected when you lavish vanilla cupcakes with buttercream and sprinkle them with edible glitter.

I designed the butterfly toppers especially for these cupcakes. The illustrations are printed onto thin, white card and the butterflies are individually cut out. You can download my illustrations for free, if you’d like to make your own cupcake toppers.

The original photographs are quite bold and bright (much like Helen’s personality). I’ve added a vintage effect to these photographs and I love the look so much, I’ve included a vintage version of the download as well.

I should probably mention that these cupcakes were baked during the first of my recent house moves.

I temporarily stored my baking equipment at my parents house and as the party was at the same location, it made sense to bake the cupcakes there. A situation did arise when I had only two hours before the guests were due to arrive and I was frantically opening large boxes, trying to find my cupcakes cases and edible glitter.

Whilst waist deep in carelessly unpacked baking equipment, I realised that my baking powder and kitchen scales were in fact, at my friend’s house and this meant that I’d have to use an old set of scales that seem to adjust the weight of ingredients when you’re not looking . . . plus dash to the shops for an increasing long list of missing ingredients.

Thankfully, there were few witnesses to the kitchen chaos and calm was restored by the time the guests, and guest of honour arrived. Did you doubt for moment that Helen would be fashionably late for her own party?

The cake toppers are easy to make. Two matching butterflies are attached back to back with tacky PVA glue and a cocktail stick in the middle. You can add a quick finishing touch by knotting a short length of pretty ribbon around each of the cocktail sticks.

A sprinkling of iridescent edible glitter gives that essential (and rather girly) ‘ooooh’ factor I wanted for these cupcakes.

Of course for a truly OTT display, I didn’t just stop at cupcake toppers. By scoring either side of the butterfly centres, you can lift up the wings and embellish the cake stand as well.

In a way, I’m glad I kept hold of these photographs for a month or two. It’s nice to look back and remember the party . . . and the few sunny days the British weather allowed this summer.

With Autumn setting in, I’m already thinking about pickles, chutneys and dare I say it . . . Christmas cake. Crumbs.

I hope you enjoy making your own butterfly cupcake toppers.

Angela x

Butterfly cupcake toppers (vintage)

Butterfly cupcake toppers (bright)


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A new home in a quaint cottage

Hello,

I didn’t mean to blog and stay away for so long, I promise.

In the last month, I’ve moved house . . . twice.

The first move was temporary, as I stayed with friends for a month. The second move was to a lovely little cottage in Bristol.

I’ve been without the internet for a couple of weeks now. I know it sounds like a small inconvenience and I shouldn’t complain but I honestly didn’t realise how much I relied on the internet until now. Mainly because of how often I feel the need to consult Mr Google for general life advice and cooking tips.

With the internet back in my life and all . . . well, most of the boxes unpacked from the move, I’m feeling much more settled and ready to get back to crafting, baking and blogging.

Living in a traditional English cottage has always been a dream of mine. I’ve always had mixed ideas of what it might be like. Cottages sound charming but I’ve only ever lived in modern houses and it’s difficult to embrace log burners and night storage heaters when you’re used to the comfort of central heating.

This time round, I decide to chase the dream.

Don’t get too excited though, as I’m just renting for now. It’s a bit like ‘try before you buy’.

The cottage itself is small but lovely. There’s a plaque on the outside wall dating the cottage back to the 19th Century. It’s had an extension since then, which I’m very pleased about because I’m sure the bathroom would originally have been an outhouse.

The log burner, fireplaces, flagstone flooring, wooden beams and Belfast sink do tick all the right boxes for the country lifestyle I’ve always wanted.

My fascination with old English cottages could be associated with my love of period dramas. AKA Bonnet films. Any film featuring ladies wearing bonnets whilst sipping tea and riding around in fancy carriages, can generally be found amongst my DVD collection.

In pointing out the genuine qualities of the cottage it’s only fair that I also mention that my dream of living in a cottage also conflicts with fear of creepy crawlies.

To clarify, I love nature. I just don’t want it crawling on me. Or near me.

Anyone who’s familiar with the British seasons will know that September is the time that spiders seem to migrate indoors.

I’m convinced that I’ve had more spider incidents in the past two weeks than I’ve experienced in my entire life. Although, it must be working as therapy for my Arachnophobia. I soon stopped screaming and now, I just give a heavy sigh and quickly reach for the vacuum as a standard response.

Yes, I know the vacuum sounds a little unfair. The trouble is that I’ve tried using a harmless and natural spider repellent and they’re just not taking the hint. I decided that it was either me or the spiders . . . and spiders don’t pay rent.

I wish the lucky horseshoe above the front door would bring me some luck in keeping out the spiders.

I don’t want to upset you all with my tales of creepy crawlies and the cottage really is lovely. so I’ll finish with a brief overview . . .

My Cottage Diary 

Flagstone flooring is wonderfully authentic. However, it has shredded my mop and is impossible to clean. Ten buckets later, the water was still dirty even after using a scrubbing brush. I’m fairly certain that I need to ask Mr Google about resealing the floor after my overenthusiastic scrubbing.

Woodlice. There are many. They seem to appear from nowhere and sadly seem to love my cork bath mat. Very disturbing.

Dyson should have a new advertising slogan as their vacuums are so powerful, they are capable of sucking either a centipede or a millipede literally out of a hole in the brickwork. This was unexpected. No, I didn’t get close enough to distinguish the exact species as I was too busy having a bug related meltdown.

The spider battle continues.

I’m hoping to get the log burner working next week. I don’t want to wish the summer away but I’m secretly looking forward to Christmas with a log fire.

Angela x


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A Cake Worth Celebrating

This month my gran and grandad celebrated sixty-two years of marriage. I love them dearly and to mark this special occasion, I was asked to bake a cake for the garden party.

My family take the subject of cake very seriously. You may or may not be surprised that no one takes it more seriously than the men.

Generally speaking, if there’s a quantity of butter icing and/or chocolate involved, then it will get the vote from the women in my family.

After a long debate about what kind of cake would be best, my father (best described as a cake purist who prefers fruit cake or it he’s feeling adventurous, a daring plain sponge with sultanas), pointed out that he didn’t want any of ‘that fancy icing business’.

The lack of appreciation for good icing skills was indeed disappointing. And also slightly amusing. Mainly because of the time I invest in the ‘fancy icing’ he was referring to.

And then I had a fleeting thought. I remembered the British cake of all cakes. Drum roll please for . . . wait for it . . . the Victoria sponge.

Of course, it was meant to be. A cake perfectly suited for a typically British garden party like this.

Needless to say, everyone was satisfied with this idea. Few things will never go out of fashion. The Victoria sponge is one of them. Along with the little black dress and other timeless classics.

Sometimes the less is more approach works the best. A cake recipe doesn’t get much simpler than the Victoria sponge.

That said, I wasn’t satisfied with just making a two layer sponge cake for so many guests. Instead I baked three layers of sponge cake and trimmed either the bottom or top of the stacked layers. In the case of the middle layer, I trimmed both.

This does take a bit of time to do but I did it for four reasons:

1. Levelling out the top of the middle sponge had to be done anyway. This allows the sponge layers to be stacked together neatly.

2. Personally, I prefer a cake like this to be completely soft and moist on the inside. The golden cake crust is best left on only the outside edges.

3. I was able to give my father a tupperware container full of cake crusts. This is his favourite part of the cake and kept him happy.

4. Most importantly, it enabled me to sneak in an extra layer of jam and buttercream into the cake. Hurrah.

Of course the problem with making such a simple cake is the absence of an iced greeting. Pretty cake bunting was the perfect solution.

There’s no getting around the fact that ‘anniversary’ is a long word. That said, I was surprised at how simple and quick the cake bunting was to make.

The letters are die cut from pink paper and I snipped a small triangle to use as a template when cutting out the bunting pieces.

For a bit of variety, I’ve used scraps of patterned papers and some of the bunting pieces have been cut with mini scalloped scissors. The scallop pattern is mini not the scissors. Miniature scissors would be ridiculous.

I punched two small holes at either side of the bunting pieces and then threaded them together with pink Bakers twine. I then tied the Bakers twine to the wooden skewers and inserted the cake bunting into the sponge.

It’s a great way to give a really simple cake like this that WOW factor when guests first see it.

I would have loved to have saved a piece of the cake for you. Even if just to show you how it looked when it was cut . . . but after second helpings . . . I’m sorry to say that only crumbs remained of this delicious cake.

Angela x


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A Fancy Pants party

I mentioned that July is a busy time of year for my family and it really is. Both of my sisters have birthdays in July and weather depending, it’s a month of family BBQs and summer parties.

I took a chance with the brief bit of sunshine we had last week, and proudly displayed my Fancy Pants bunting in honour of my sister Claire’s birthday.

Now I know this looks like I’m airing my (oh so pretty) laundry but I promise that these are handmade paper pants, of the bunting variety.

Perhaps this wasn’t exactly what American Crafts had in mind for their Dear Lizzy Neapolitan papers . . .

But I’ve been dying to make paper pants bunting for ages and I just knew Claire would love it.

I’ve decorated the paper pants to make them more fancy because . . . well frankly, if you’re making pants bunting then they need to be very fancy indeed.

If you first discard any thoughts of underwear requiring practicality, then you’re on to a winner with this bunting.

I love frills and lace, so it was only too easy for me to indulge in the theme of this party.

The pants are delicately strung together with lace and ribbons. I’ve embellished these pretty little pants with paper and ribbon roses too. The paper ruffles are cut using a scalloped border punch and I pleated the scalloped strips of paper before stitching them directly to the paper pants.

Absolutely no measuring was involved in the making of this bunting as that would have spoiled the fun.

I made Claire a matching frilly Fancy Pants birthday card too, which raised a smile.

Of course it wouldn’t be a party without plenty of cakes. . .

As Claire really loves cupcakes, they got an even bigger smile.

I wanted the cupcakes to look just as frilly as the pants, so I really went to town with the butter icing.

I found an unusual piping nozzle amongst my excessive cake decorating supplies that is wide but narrow in depth. The nozzle has one flat side and one zig-zag side. I quickly discovered that you can achieve very different effects depending on which side of the nozzle is facing up. I especially like the look of the zig-zag folds of butter icing as they remind me of a ribbon rosette.

Join me for more cake soon.

Angela x

You can download my Fancy Pants templates for free if you want to make some of your own:

Fancy Pants template1

Fancy Pants template2

Fancy Pants template3

Fancy Pants template4

Fancy Pants card template

Here’s a link to the papers I’ve used:

American Crafts Dear Lizzy Neapolitan collection


2 Comments

Hello

Thanks for stopping by to take a first look at my blog.

I can’t quite believe that I’ve finally stepped out of my comfort zone and faced my fear of modern technology. I have a fear of spiders too but I’m in no rush to resolve that issue.

I love crafts. I love craft blogs. I love how they inspire me and I love the thought of giving back some inspiration through this blog.

The thing I’m most looking forward to is allowing myself the time to make or do, all of those things that get pushed aside with our busy everyday lives. This is my ‘me’ time.

If I want to spend time decorating teacups with lace, then that’s perfectly acceptable. That said, July is a very busy time of year for my family.

I don’t know if any of you have this with your own families but July seems to hold more birthdays and anniversaries for us, than the rest of the year put together. I’m just glad that Christmas and July are spaced far apart. I don’t think my busy crafting hands could cope otherwise.

Stop by again soon. I have a craft project in mind for my next post and I can’t wait to share it with you.

Angela x

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