Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year - look out for each other

I want to wish you all a very happy new year.

I'm not one for resolutions really, but I know 2012 is going to be a very special year for me and my family, and I hope it will be for you too.

Whatever you're up to tonight, have fun and I hope you're with the ones you love.

I'm not big on New Year's Eve.  Somehow it always makes me a bit maudlin.  I'm lucky that I have friends and family around me to pick me up, but not everyone is so fortunate.

If you're feeling low, the festive season can seem like a sad and lonely time.  If you're missing loved ones, suffered a break-up or bad fortune, you are not alone.  There's always someone to talk to.

If it helps just one single person, then please pass this around.


0300 123 3393


08457 90 90 90

Alcoholics Anonymous

0845 769 7555


Info line 08000 50 20 20 

London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard

0207 837 7324


0845 767 8000

Preventing young suicide 

For people in Northern Ireland

0808 808 8000


0800 1111



0808 2000 247

Eating Disorders Association  

0845 634 1414

0808 800 4444

NHS Direct 

0845 4647

No Panic

0808 808 0545

Stay safe and look out for each other. xx

List compiled by the lovely Big Fashionista.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

After last year's offering, I think I'll make this something of a tradition.

So here, to wish all my lovely readers, supporters and twitter friends a wonderful Christmas, is my perfect angel.

Wishing you an yours a magical Christmas and a new year full of good health and happiness. xx

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

My Ultimate Christmas Song

The year is 1994.  I am 20.

The preparation to a night out begins with shaving my (then) boyfriend's head and helping him lace up his 18 hole Doc Martens, before pouring myself into skin tight black jeans and a body hugging crushed velvet black body, applying WAY too much scarlet lipstick and dousing myself in Body Shop Dewberry oil.  Then the backcombing of my hair begins, followed by a can of Silvikrin hairspray.  Given my penchant for smoking Rothmans and drinking Jack Daniels, I am a walking fire hazard.

Every Friday and Saturday night (and pretty much most weekday nights) is spent in the town's 'alternative' nightclub.  The air is filled with Patchouli oil, visibility is virtually zero due to the cigarette/spliff smoke, and walking to the bar is like wading through treacle due to the snakebite and black sodden carpet.

In order to dance here you have to fight for your space.  You either join the shoe gazers shuffling to the Jesus and Mary Chain, else you violently pogo with the punks and the skinheads to Sham 69.  Nirvana unites everyone.  A bit of Madness, Nightboat to Cairo tests your mettle, and here is where I perfected my somewhat 'confrontational' dance style which does not go down well at family weddings.

Then, something monumental happens.  This song comes on.  The moshing stops. Harmony reigns.  There are arms held aloft.  A head appears behind me and between my legs and I am raised aloft, 6 ft in the air.  When I look down, I see a shaved head, completely covered in a spiderweb of tattoos and we gently sway.  Everyone gently sways.  When the song's over, I am returned to terra ferma.  The mans does not utter a word, and I don't see him again.  Even my (then) boyfriend doesn't kick off.

It's a beautiful moment.

I was tagged by the beautiful Nicki for Claire's meme: My Ultimate Christmas Song.  I am now tagging:

Christine at Thinly Spread
Tim at Bringing up Charlie
Fi at Childcare is Fun

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

How to make Peppermint Snowflakes

After much Twitter debate the other week about whether or not to get presents for Ruby's Nursery teachers (opinion was split about 50/50), I decided I'd make them each a token handmade gift.

I devised this alternative method of making peppermint creams because I'd bought a fancy-pants icing cutter/plunger thingie and was determined to get some use out of it!  I'd tried it with no success on air drying clay for my tree decorations, and regular peppermint cream mix (icing sugar and water).  Perhaps it was because it was designed to cut royal icing?

(affiliate link)

So, instead of mixing icing sugar, I simply added a few drops if peppermint to the ready made icing and kneaded it in.  It's a great way of being able to cut out intricate shapes that the normal icing made from powder doesn't seem able to cope with.

You will need:

250g ready made royal icing
50g 70% cocoa chocolate
few drops of peppermint oil
edible glitter (optional)
cookie/icing cutters

Makes approx 35 snowflakes.  I costed this up from my local supermarket and reckon it costs about £1.50 not including the wrapping or edible glitter.  Incidentally, I couldn't get hold of edible glitter in my local baking shop, only lustre powder.  They said they'd taken it off the shelves because imported glitter was labelled 'non-toxic' rather than 'edible' and they were seeking reassurances it was safe. Eek!

Add a few drops of the peppermint oil to the icing and knead in (the ready made icing seems to take more than the powdered version, so I added about 4 drops).  Roll out with a rolling pin having 'floured' your surface with icing sugar.  Try not to roll too thin as it makes the cut shapes too fragile.  About 50-75mm worked well for me.

Cut out your shapes and place on a tray covered with grease-proof paper.  Pop in the fridge to harden a little.

Melt your chocolate over a saucepan of water, taking care not to boil or get water in the chocolate.  The easiest way I found to coat my snowflakes, was painting the melted chocolate on with a brush.  They were simply too tricky to handle for dipping and I wanted one side white and the other chocolate coated.

Put a blob of chocolate in the middle of the shape with your brush, then gentle draw it out to cover the points of the snowflake.  Try and work quickly, and if your chocolate starts to harden in the bowl, re-heat it. Don't worry too much if it looks messy - it will dry neater and anyway, this will be the underside.  If it's really messy, just tell the recipient your child made them!

Pop back in the fridge once the chocolate has hardened.  The addition of a chocolate coating really makes the delicate shape more sturdy.

If you're using edible glitter or lustre powder, add this to the bare side once the chocolate is firm.  Again, I used a clean, dry paintbrush for this.

Place into little polythene gift bags, add a label and tie with a bow - voila!

Are you giving your child's teacher a gift for Christmas?

BritMums Video - Does Father Christmas Visit your House?

I'm joining in for the first time!!

Apologies, but it seems at the moment there's always at least one person in this house with a snotty nose and unbrushed hair!

As I've totally lost my voice due to tonsillitis, I thought I'd post this taken a few days ago - when I could talk. Ahh yes, talking...I miss that!

I’m a BritMums Video Blogger

Monday, 19 December 2011

Christmas Photocrafts Challenge

Oh dear.  I so wanted to have a completed make to share for the Kodak Britmums photocraft Christmas Challenge.  I've managed to assemble all the equipment I need and found a photo I want to use, I'm just lacking the energy and fitness to do it.

It's been one virus after another here and I feel like I've been under house arrest for weeks.

So instead, I'll have to show you what I want to do, and hopefully update once it's complete.

We always leave a treat out for Father Christmas and this year I want to make her his own special plate.  She He's specifically told me that a mingy mince pie and a glass of milk won't cut it this year - she he wants a huge chunk of Stollen and a large glass of port.

So, I'm going to make a special plate for this purpose, using one of my favourite photo's of Ruby.  I've chose this one because it has just the right mix of 'butter wouldn't melt' and devilment in her eye!

I've sourced some specialist paper online that will turn your prints into water-slide decals, and I'm going to print this picture and transfer onto a china plate.  I've also downloaded a child-like writing font, so I can add the message "Santa, I've been a good girl'.  I'm not sure that's true, but I think the piece of stollen will look nice sitting on that!

If you want an easier, cheaper, and more child-friendly craft, you could do this with your kids by cutting and gluing a photo onto a paper plate and getting them to write their own message to Santa.

Hopefully I'll be able to show the finished product soon.

I'm Taking Part in the Kodak Christmas Photo Craft Challenge

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Visiting the Nick Jr TV studio

As a blogger I get some truly amazing opportunities for which I'm hugely grateful.  Ruby is also a very lucky girl because we get invited to places most little girls don't get to see.

None more so than our recent behind the scenes visit to the Nick Jr studio in London.  Such a special day was it, we even got to take 'school ted' with us so he could write about it in his diary and Ruby got to stand up at nursery for 'show and tell' and thoroughly enjoyed telling all her little friends where we'd been and who we met.

Myself, Louise, Carol and Pippa and our kids were all invited to a tour of the set and a special meet and greet with The Bopps.

The Bopps are a regular feature to our morning routine, showing on Nick Jr at 7.35 each morning.  Ruby loves them so much and hearing her howl with laughter at their antics is a great start to the day.  If you're not familiar with the programme, well, how can I describe it?  I guess I'd say they are a bit like the 60's show The Monkees meets traditional British panto.  Lots of singing, dancing and slapstick comedy. Take a look at some of the clips here.

Keith and Stan are such genuinely lovely guys and had so much time for the children, chatting and joking around with them.  Give them a follow on twitter, they'd love to say hi, or check out their Facebook page.

We're really happy to hear that they are going to be performing at Wychwood Festival next year - we must get tickets!

While we were at the studio, we watched them filming some special Christmas links for Wake Up World which will be broadcast all next week.  It was fascinating to see behind the scenes and we can't wait to see the finished result on the telly.

We met the insanely beautiful and talented Helena Dowling, presenter of Wake Up World, and Ruby was totally starstruck - she even gave Helena a little kiss!

I can't believe how well behaved Ruby was.  She kept completely quiet throughout the filming, and managed to resist the temptation to press any buttons!

Make sure you tune in to Nick Jr in the mornings to catch The Bopps on Wake Up World.

We want to say a huge thank you to Nick Jr for organising this special trip and to Keith, Stan, Helena and crew for taking time out of their busy schedules to welcome us.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Me and my shopping are famous (a little bit!)

After being on the lovely Weekend Kitchen show with Nick Coffer the other week, I got a phone call from the producer of BBC 3 counties radio's breakfast show.  It seems I am getting a name for myself as a bit of a rent-a-gob!

Anyway, they wanted to run a piece this week about how the current economic climate is affecting families and if/how they are changing their shopping habits.

I agreed to meet the interviewer at my house on Monday and he did a quick recorded chat, and then walked down with my to my local supermarket to see me in action!

I can't begin to tell you how odd it was in my local shop, walking around with a young man shoving his dictaphone in my face.  I got some strange looks, and Lord knows what the staff thought - permission to record was sought beforehand so they knew we were coming!

The old man was a bit worried when I told him what I'd agreed to - he didn't want people thinking we were struggling!  I found this quite interesting - I mean, you don't have to be on the breadline to cut back or watch the pennies do you?  What do you think?

Equally, I was then worried and didn't want to come across as one of those infuriating "poor me, poor me we can't afford our second ski holiday this year and our Christmas hamper will have to be Waitrose not Fortnum and Masons".

Anyhow, here's the recording, there was loads more I wanted to/could have/forgot to say.

Click the picture to hear my 3 minutes of fame!

So I'm curious, have you changed your food shopping habits recently?  What are your tips to save money on your food bills?

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Fabulous Fabric Crafts with Dylon Paints

I don't need to remind you what a HUGE fan of Dylon products I am.  I'd happily play with them all day long.

product name

I was recently offered some fabric paints for Christmas crafting, and although I'd used them before when Ruby created her own TShirts, I was keen to try something a bit more grown up this time.*

*read: I wasn't sharing.

I wanted to try and be as creative as possible, so let me know what you think.  Here are some decorations I made for Ruby's tree using the Dylon 3D paint to add texture and interest (silver glitter paint and deep pink pearl paint).

I made them using felt table mats, and simply cut out the pieces with scissors.  I managed to get a set of 2 placemats at a knock down price - these were in all the department stores this year, but clearly didn't sell well so you can get them very cheaply (who'd have thought that place mats you can't wash or wipe would be a flop?!).  I bought mine in BHS but I've seen them in John Lewis and Debenhams.  Of course you could use ordinary felt and cut shapes yourself, but I like the thickness and firmness of this felt, plus it's a whole lot easier to cut out shapes that are already there.

The paint is incredibly simple to use.  Just squeeze it out just above the surface of the fabric - a bit like icing a cake.  After a while of doing these my hands did begin to shake though!

Once dried I threaded some clear nylon thread to hang (my weapon of choice for tree decorations as it's very strong and almost invisible).

I love the way they move gently on the tree, and by adding detail on the front and back, you get a real 3D feel.

Myself and Ruby LOVE the tree in her room. I know she's lucky to have one, but every single decoration is either handmade or from a charity shop.

Next I tried out the liquid fabric paint.  I was sent a gorgeous shade of turquoise and wanted to incorporate it into my living room decorations.  However, being hopeless with a paintbrush, and having no artistic ability whatsoever, I decided the best way to go would be stamping!

product name

I cut a simple heart shape from a dish sponge, and stamped onto some hessian.

A triangle piece of sponge created little Christmas trees.  These have now been incorporated into bunting and tree decorations and some will be stuck to luggage labels as gift tags.

Here it is in the bunting - this is from a School of Craft kit that I adapted.

And made into tree ornaments. Two squares simply stitched together, use a frayed length of hessian stitched between the two pieces for a hanging loop.  I like the rustic handmade look of these.

You could use this paint on all sorts of fabrics and if it's an item which will be laundered like clothing or soft furnishings, you can fix the colour by simply ironing with a hot iron.

There are no end of possibilities for Dylon fabric paints - you could decorate your Christmas table linen and napkins, personalise shopping bags and cushions, add names to Christmas stockings - the only limit is your imagination.

I've done one more thing with the paint to show you, but I should point out that Dylon customer services quite clearly advised me not to!  I didn't listen though (does that make me a craft rebel).

I've been upcycling a jumper into lots of different things (more on that later) and wanted to make a hot water bottle cover as a Christmas present.  I thought it would be nice to put a motto on the front, and as you just squeeze the paint out, it's easy to hand write, just as though you were using a pen.

Of course, it makes sense that as the 3D paint is only washable at 30 degrees, you shouldn't really use it with a hot water bottle that contains water at nearly 100 degrees.  Just so you know.

I did a trial run before stitching together and laid my fabrics on top of a filled hot water bottle, to see if there were any untoward effects.  There weren't, but bear in mind that I have 3 thick layers of wool material between the bottle and the paint.

Anyway, I think it was worth the risk - I love it!

Dylon fabric paints are available from all good haberdashery stores and branches of John Lewis, or check here for your nearest stockists.

What do you think? Have I inspired you?

Sponsored post: I was sent a selection of fabric paints to sample however no other reward was given.  The opinions expressed here are my own.

Giveaway: Chocolate with a heart from Chocadores

It's time to bring you another competition from my wonderful friends and sponsors, Chocadores.

They are passionate about the quality of the chocolate they stock, and about the ethics and credentials of the makers and chocolatiers they promote.

If you ever needed an excuse to eat delicious, rare, organic dark chocolate, then how about this.  Original Beans will plant a tree for every bar purchased and each chocolate bar comes with it's own tracking number so you can trace the tree you've funded.

"Buy a bar - Plant a tree: Each bar contains a certificate with a lot number, which designates the location of a new tree so that customers can track their contribution. The people and partners behind Original Beans have come together across countries and backgrounds, drawn by a shared passion for farming, a love for the sweet delicacies of the Tropics, and a desire to foster innovation to conserve threatened rain forests."

Chocadores are giving away a bar of Porcelana chocolate by Original Beans to one lucky reader.

Original Beans: Peru, Porcelana 75% Organic Dark Chocolate Bar – 70g

Need more persuasion?

"Discovered by Original Beans in 2006 in the foothills of the Andes, this “forgotten” white cacao, or “Porcelana”, in its original state is ultra-rare and appreciated for its exceptionally vibrant, fruity flavours.  With tasting notes of Kumqat, lime, apricot, raspberry flavours and notes of toasted pecan. Silver medal winner at this year's Academy of Chocolate Awards."

If you'd like the chance to win, simply pop over to the Chocadores website, and take a look at the chocolate bars.  Then I'd like you to leave a comment here saying which is your favourite bar wrapper/packaging and why.  Chocadores will pick their favourite answer and one winner will be sent the bar in time for Christmas (depending on the mail!).

While you're there, why not check out all the amazing chocolate and coffee range if you're still looking for Christmas presents.

For extra entries you can do any of the following and leave a separate comment:

1. Follow Chocadores on Twitter
2. Follow me on Twitter
3. Tweet "I'm entering @missielizzieb's blog competition to win luxury chocolate with @chocadores. You can too here:"

This competition will end at 5pm on Sunday 18th December 2011.  The judges decision is final. Entrants must leave a method of contact with their entry.

Make a Dancing Penguin

The world's gone penguin crazy!

There's Happy Feet, Club Penguin - hell even David Attenborough's getting in on the action.

So I thought it might be fun to make our own, and it the spirit of recycling, I'm basing it on the Easter Chick we made earlier in the year.  I was hoping Ruby wouldn't notice the glaring similarities, but she did. *note to self: must be a more creative and imaginative mummy.

You'll need:

Poster paints in black, white and orange (or use coloured card)
4 split pin paper clips
Googly eyes and small piece of orange felt or card (optional)

We cut out the pieces from a template I made onto card.  We used an old cereal box, but I think these would make nice Christmas cards, so next time we'll do it on 'good' card.

Feel free to click and print this template if you wish, or you'll need a circle for the head, 2 oval shapes for the body - one slightly smaller than the other, 2 feet and 2 wings.

Ruby then painted the shapes.

Once dry, assemble.  Glue the white chest and black head to the black body, then use the split pins to attach the wings and feet.  Add detail for the face, and your penguin is ready to boogie.

I did the cutting and making the holes for the pins, but Ruby managed the rest all by herself. I think she's made a great job of it!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Christmas Cupcakes

The Fabulous Bakin' Boys have launched a new range of treats for the festive season.

The boxes of six cupcakes are available in either mint chocolate or orange chocolate, and we were sent some minty ones to try. Each box contains two each of milk; dark and white chocolate flavour topped cakes.

Each cake is individually wrapped so they suggest maybe popping one in your Christmas stocking - I'm sure Ruby would be more thankful of that than a satsuma or a walnut!

If you can get past the dinner lady mafia, maybe you could pop one in the lunchbox as a festive treat.

Don't get me wrong - these aren't what I'd call 'gourmet' cupcakes, but nor are they pretending to be.  They are not what I would bring out for my poshest guests, but they're worthwhile having in the cupboard for unexpected visitors who seem to drop by, and they make a welcome change from the ubiquitous mince pie.

The cupcakes are available from supermarkets nationwide.

While I've got you, can I also tell you about a cool competition the Bakin' Boys are running at the moment.  They are looking for a mini baker, so if you have a child aged under 12 years, and they have a passion for cooking, get them to enter their new cupcake suggestion here for a chance to win a trip to the bakery and see their cake being created.

Sponsored post: I received one box to sample and review however, no other reward was received.  Any views expressed are my own.

Magpie Monday - Gimme the Drugs!* which I mean Lemsip and Throaties.  Please also send chicken soup, hot water bottles and my new favourite tipple of choice - Port.

*not the hard stuff -don't do it kids it never ends well.

Yes, I'm laid up with flu - cue lots of ahhhs and sympathy.

This has however prompted my only thrifted purchase of the week... a new bathroom cabinet.

Since we left our cavernously huge cabinet behind when we moved house, our toiletries and stash of lotions, potions and ointments which rivals Boots the chemist has been variously stored in drawers and boxes around the house, so a new cabinet was very much on our to-do-list.

On Saturday we set off for a happy family outing to the DIY store (as you do), and happened to drive past a charity shop.  One of those 'proper' charity shops where the stock spills out onto the pavement.  And there stood a lovely mirrored, double door cabinet.

I made the old man pull up while I dragged my achey bones over to have a closer look.  It was clean, neat and tidy and only £6.50. It looked just the ticket to me.

I could see him sat in the car shaking his head in a rather annoying fashion (this is why I shop alone), so I left it.  When I got back in the car, he said it was clearly too small.

Oh yes, clearly. I mean you have a much better vantage parked the other side of the road, looking at it in your rear view mirror, than me, who is standing right next to it...

Anyway, off we continued to the DIY store.  They had lots of choice of cabinets, but they were all much of a muchness size-wise.  All pretty much like this.  The EXACT same cabinet at £61.50.

Well, guess what?  He decided that perhaps it was big enough after all so we went back to the charity shop to buy it.

We paid practically a tenth of the price, we re-used something that someone else no longer needed, and more importantly I scored a moral victory.

What have you been rescuing this week? Grab the badge and link up. x

Me and My Shadow
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Thursday, 8 December 2011

Handmade Christmas - Plant Pot Bird Feeder

I thought it was about time I showed some tat-to-treasure posts, from some of my Magpie Monday hauls.

A couple of weeks back I picked up this lovely little stash of old terracotta tom pots for not very much money at all (as they're going to turn into gifts, I won't let on quite how tight I've been!).

The same day, I visited the Bedford Pop-Up shop which is showcasing and selling lovely wares from local artists and crafters.  I bought these gorgeous tags from Scarlett Rebecca and I knew somehow I wanted to marry the two together.

So, based on the old favourite 'yoghurt-pot-bird-feeder' which I'm sure you've all made in the past, I made these lovely upcycled beauties.  I hope they will be received as a thoughtful gift for someone who loves eco or vintage-style.

Here's what you need:

  • Vintage terracotta plant pots (you can buy modern ones in garden centres if you can't find old ones)
  • Bird seed
  • Strong string or twine
  • Beads or buttons larger than the drainage hole in the pot
  • Solid fat - vegetable, lard or dripping (from experience though, lard stinks, so better to use dripping or Pura)
If you're using recycled pots, first give them a quick wash and brush to remove any debris.

Loop and knot your string with a bead or button - it looks nice to have one inside the pot and one outside but bear in mind this will mean it won't stand upright, so may affect how you wrap the gift.

Ensure your hole is 'water-tight' whilst at the liquid fat stage by squashing some tin foil around it - there's nothing worse than liquid lard everywhere believe me!

Stand your pots upright in a cup or mug and fill with bird seed.  Melt the fat gently in a saucepan until liquid and pour over until it is filled.

Refrigerate until solid and then it is ready for the birds to enjoy.

I've wrapped mine as gifts with tissue paper, cellophane, coloured raffia and of course, Scarlett's lovely tags.  So much more grown up than a yoghurt pot I think, and the pot and be used to grow seedlings in come the spring!

If you like it, put a pin in it!

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Linking up with Handmade Thursday.

Inspire Me Beautiful

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Wrap up for Winter with Lands' End

I've reviewed clothing for Lands' End before, and so impressed was I with it, I placed orders myself, so it was really nice that they asked me to review a snugly winter coat - for me this time!

I chose the Diamond Down Jacket, which is shown beautifully by their lovely model on the site.

But for here, you'll have to make do with this second-rate model.


The coat is available in Angel Blue, Deep Amethyst or Pink Begonia which I opted for.  Super warm due to it's down filling it also has a water-resistant finish to keep you dry in that horrid drizzly mizzly weather we seem to be having.

I never remember to put a hat on so the hood with faux fur trim is a welcome addition when the winter winds pick up.

Say Hello Eskimo

Perfect for the nursery run; shopping and of course

Walking the dog

What do I like most about it?  Well, apart from the undeniable warmth it gives, I love the shape and inner draw-cord which means you still have a waist and unlike some coats you're not left like some shapeless Michelin man.

The pocket linings are so incredibly soft, it's like slipping your hands into little pillows.  They are lined with the softest fleece I've ever felt and there's also a little internal pocket for a handwarmer which is a nice touch.

It's very easy to move in and feels light unlike other winter coats.  See how versatile it is!

I can do this

and this

and for the boys

Negatives?  To be honest I'd have preferred it a teensy bit longer to cover my derriere, but I have that problem with a lot of jackets and jumpers - guess I have a long body.  There is some feather loss as they do occasionally work their way to the surface and poke through the fabric - like you get on a duvet.  I have to be careful not to wear it with leggings and Uggs and big gold hoop earrings or I'd end up looking a bit Bianca Jackson.

But overall, I do love this coat.  The temperature has dropped here over the last couple of days and I'm already feeling the benefit of the down filling.  I think it's going to keep me snug through whatever the great British weather throws at me.

Sponsored post: I was sent this coat free of charge for the purpose of this review, however any opinions expressed are my own and are honest.