Monday, 29 June 2015

In support of local artists …..

Tabitha Mary's Embankment Suspension Bridge print - image from the website

Back in March, I took my little ‘Evie and Lola’ business to Westoning Spring Market. It was a lovely event with lots of fabulous small businesses showcased – most of whom I have followed since, with interest.

The one that stood out to me the most was Tabitha Mary. A collection of really beautiful, modern illustrations of iconic places in the UK. I loved the style, and it fits in well with postcards I have been collecting on our caravan travels, with the intention of decorating the caravan with them, as a kind of log of our travels.

Back at that fair, I admired the art, but was disappointed that none of the pieces were of places special to our family. I made a note to myself to keep an eye on the website, in the hope that Tabitha would add a print that was relevant to us.

A few months later, I heard that Tabitha was exhibiting at one of my favourite, and certainly most frequented, cafes in Bedford – Pavilion in the Park. (whilst on that subject, if you life anywhere close to Bedford, you must go there!  it's beautiful both in the day; for breakfast, lunch or coffee, or even better; go along to one of their excellent Supper Clubs.  You won't be disappointed - I promise).

But back to Tabitha's collection … I loved every print, as I knew I would, but just couldn’t choose between the newly commissioned Bedford images.  So, I did what I almost never do; I spoke up, and asked for what I wanted. I e-mailed Tabitha, explained about my postcard collection, and asked if she could do postcard sized prints for me.

Tabitha Mary's Bedford Park print - image from the website

Of course, Tabitha was incredibly lovely and helpful, as most owners of small businesses are. She explained that she would print four images to a page, and directed me to her website to choose the ones I would like.

While on the website, I spotted the Kilimanjaro print. This immediately brought back memories of seeing that very view, from a hot air balloon, on our honeymoon, five and a half years ago. So along with the postcards, I had to order a customised version of that too. It was supposed to be a gift for my husband on our 6th anniversary, but when it arrived, I couldn’t wait that long, and gave it to him right away instead!

Tabitha Mary's Mt Kilimanjaro print - image from the website

So my point in this story is twofold; support small and local businesses – they are usually extremely happy to go the extra mile for you, and if you want something, speak up and ask for it. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

I was inspired to write this after reading this lovely post from Katie Gregory - another Bedford blogger, who also asked for what she wanted, which ultimately added to my choice of beautiful Bedford artworks to be displayed in my caravan. Go and have a read. Then check out Tabitha’s website and blog for yourself. And maybe even commission a piece for your own town!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Brightening Up Everyday Jobs (Hillarys Blinds Craft Competition Entry)

Last week, Hillarys Blinds were kind enough to send me a metre squared piece of their lovely fabric, so that I could craft up something lovely, to enter in to their Craft Competition.

There were four lovely fabrics to choose from:

I chose the pretty, Orla Keily-esqe Daisy Pistachio and stared thinking of what to make.

When the fabric arrived, honestly, it was so lovely, I wanted to make a cushion from it!  I thought about a cushion trimmed with yellow ric-rac, to set off the yellow in the daisies.  A quick look at the craft competition entries from last year though, and the few starting to trickle on to this years' Pinterest board, suggested to me that a cushion just wasn't going to cut it.

I needed to be a little bit more creative with my entry, I thought.  But I was stumped.  Honestly, I had this lovely metre of fabric, and couldn't decide what to do with it!  This happens to me a lot with lovely fabric - I just can't seem to settle on the project worthy enough of cutting in to it!

Anyway, I dithered long enough that the deadline was looming and I just needed to get something done, so I changed tack.  What had I been meaning to make for myself for ages, but hadn't ever seemed to find the time for?  Would this competition bring the kick up the bum I needed?

While I was thinking, the washing machine started beeping at me - I'll just put the washing out while I think about it.  Then, oh my goodness, check out my peg basket!!

What a disgrace!  It's held together by duct tape, doesn't even hold all my pegs, and the slightest gust of wind tips it over, scattering my page all over the garden for the dog to eat!

So that was it, a new peg bag was getting made, but I didn't want the usual coat hanger style, as I thought that would probably fall off the line too.  I thought one that clipped on the line would be nice and secure, and still be able to be bought in the house easily when I'd finished using it.

I remembered a bag I was making, following the excellent instructions from Very Purple Person's blog. If you need to make a quick reversible tote, I recommend you check her tutorial out. 

I remembered that at the time, I thought that the handles could pop together.  I only wanted one handle for my peg bag though, so I went about changing the pattern piece.

I just put some baking parchment over the pattern and redrew, from half way along the strap, so that once cut on the fold, there would only be one strap on each side of the bag.  Does that make sense?  You could use any tote pattern in this way, if you'd prefer a squarer peg bag, for instance.  Also, you don't really need to 'box' out the curved bottom with the darts, but I think it makes the finished bag nicer.

From there, I pretty much followed the original pattern instructions, except when it came to sewing the strap together at the shoulder, I sewed each strap closed and then used my very handy Kam Snap tool to put a bright yellow snap in the centre of one of the flowers.

And voila, so much nicer than the old one!

And finally, and action shot of it hanging on the line!  I really love my new peg bag!  Is that totally sad?  Wait, don't answer!

Thanks very much to Hillarys Blinds for sending me this lovely fabric.  Mr Rowberry even commented that our new peg bag was nice and made in lovely fabric!

And I think I've just about got enough fabric left for a cushion … with yellow ric rac trim …!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Are you ready for Fathers Day?

Regular readers of my blog will know that there's not much I like more than a bit of 'virtual' shopping.  I mean, apart from winning the lottery and then doing actual 'money is no object' shopping of course :-)

Anyway, with Fathers' day coming up (21st June, just in case you'd forgotten), I thought it might be a good time to do a spot of 'for the men' internet shopping, and share my finds with my lovely blog readers.

First up, a gift I bought my husband, for his birthday last week, that would be equally great as a Fathers' day gift:

The Wilkin & Sons website has lots of different preserves and sauces, that can be personalised with wording of your choice on the label.  I bought my husband some Tomato Ketchup, which I personalised to say 'Daddy's Dip Dip' on the label (my husband and girls have ketchup with just about every meal, and it's known as dip dip in our house) and also some Hot Mango Sauce, which he also loves, and I had labelled 'Joe's Hot Stuff'.  What bloke doesn't want the ego boost of being called 'hot stuff' every time he puts sauce on his burger?

Next up, something I actually am going to order for my hubby for Fathers' Day, so I'm hoping that I can trust him not to read this post!   I have ordered from The Crafty Giraffe before - I ordered a gorgeous 'santa key' and wooden keepsake gift tags at Christmas, so I can definitely vouch for the quality of their products.  This year, Daddy Rowberry will be getting a hammer and tools set for Fathers' Day, personalised with 'Daddy can fix it' which is a pretty commonly used phrase around this house!

I hosted a 'My Showcase' party recently as an afternoon tea for my local 'at home in the day' friends.   It was a great excuse to have a natter and try lots of gorgeous beauty products, whilst the kids played in the garden.

While I didn't spend my £40 hosts voucher on anything for my husband at all (shame on me?), I did notice that they have some lovely products that even the least 'metriosexual' man would love!

I am sure that my husband, who is not at all interested in any kind of beauty products,  would love this Gentleman's Tonic shave cream, and combined with a lovely shaving brush, I think this would make a beautiful gift for a man at any time of year.  The products smell lovely and even better, if you host a party, you could get this, plus a little something lovely for yourself, for nothing!  Check out my friend Clare's My Showcase Facebook page to book a party.

For the eco-friendly, outdoorsy Dad out there, how about a pack of these adorable fire-starters, handmade in Cambridge and available from Etsy, they would make a great gift, with an I.O.U. for a camping weekend with the kids.

Add in a hip flask, filled with a tot of his tipple of choice, and you've got the perfect gift for the adventure-Dad!

Whilst on the subject of handmade gifts, how about these cool t-shirts, for the Daddy that's a Star Wars fan?  This set would be especially cute for a new father with a baby boy.

These are also available via Etsy, from a lovely shop called Blue Ivory Lane, which is another small UK based business.  I always try to support small UK based businesses whenever I can; you can get something quirky, that's great quality and can often be personalised to suit your recipient, to make it that bit more special, and at the same time, you are supporting small businesses, which need all the help we can give them!

So that's it - I've covered foodie dads, DIY'ers, Metrosexuals, the outdoorsy types and the geeks.  Who have I missed out?  I think there's something for everyone in there, but let me know in the comments if you think I've missed anyone out and I'll make sure I cover them next time I go gift shopping!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Gluten & Dairy Free Cornbread

My lovely friend Lucy, over at Mrs Bishop's Bakes & Banter, posted a recipe for Homemade Corndogs last week, and it reminded me of one of our favourite 'treat breakfast' staples, since going Gluten Free.

It's the husband's birthday today, so what better time for a treat breakfast, consisting of homemade granola, followed by crispy bacon, maple syrup and ….

Gluten, Dairy and Sugar Free Cornbread

I've adapted this recipe, from Gluten Free on a Shoestring, which is an excellent resource for gluten free recipes.  There are also a couple of books available, which look really great, so definitely worth a look, if you need to eat Gluten Free.

I've made the GFOAS recipe many times, just as it is, and it has always been delicious.  I now need to be dairy free as well as gluten free though, so I have made some adaptions, and thought I'd share my new recipe with you.

This has been a favourite with us as it's so easy to make, travels and keeps well (for picnics and weekends away in our caravan) and looks impressive for a treat breakfast.  It's also very good served savoury with chilli, or sweet; smeared with jam, or topped with good vanilla ice cream.

Gluten & Dairy Free Cornbread


2 cups cornmeal or polenta
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
2 teaspoons baking powder (GF)
1 egg
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 cups almond or soy milk
4 tablespoons agave syrup (can also use maple syrup or honey)


Preheat the oven to 200 decrees celsius (slightly lower for a fan oven).

Preheat a large cast iron frying pan with 1 tablespoon coconut oil, or grease an 8" round or square cake tin.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Mix the egg, milk and honey in another bowl.  Whisk well and the add the slightly cooled (but still liquid) coconut oil.
Add the wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined.

Pour the mix into the pan and bake in the oven for 20 minutes (possibly more if not using a pre-heated pan - test with a skewer like you would a cake)

The cornbread will be light brown, with darker, golfed brown edges.  If you used a preheated pan, the bottom will be lovely and crispy.

Slice into wedges and serve with crispy bacon and maple or agave syrup.


Tuesday, 31 March 2015

'Frozen' bike bag

Oh my poor little blog! It's been totally neglected for months! I have felt so ill and tired that there was just no energy left for blogging. But, I'm starting to feel much better now, and so sewing and blogging can recommence. Hooray!

I will explain all in another post, but for now, I'd like to share a quick project I made for my big girl today. She had a new bike a few weeks ago and I have been promising to make her a bag for it. Of course, it had to be made with 'Frozen' fabric - what else?!

I am really pleased with how it turned out and it was a really quick and simple make, which is just as well, because of course the small girl wants one too and she will not wait!

I used this pattern from Sew Can She and made a couple of minor changes. I used Kam Snaps instead of Velcro, for the fabric loop that attaches the bag to the bike. I thought it would be stronger and look neater. My loop also goes over and then under the bar on the bike, rather than under and then over, as the pattern suggests. Again, I just thought it would look nicer that way. I also added a snap to close the flap to the front of the bag. I might also add a long shoulder strap, attached to both sides, so that the bag can be carried along, once off the bike.

There's plenty of room for all those 'precious' things, that change on a daily basis, and must be carried with us at all times!

We've been riding our bikes much more lately, now that I've swapped my sporty bike for a proper Mummy bike.

I love love love my new bike! The basket is big enough for a very decent picnic and the small one loves being towed behind. She will be joined in there soon, by a little furry pal. We're getting a puppy! The girls of the household are extremely excited. Daddy's yet to be convinced!

Here she is, three weeks old. Have you ever seen a cuter thing? She will be with us in 7 weeks, and will have us wrapped around her tiny paw in no time, I am sure.

Something I haven't shared on the blog so far is that I've started a little enterprise. I'm selling my sewn creations under the name 'Evie and Lola' through a Facebook page, Etsy and at local craft fairs. It's going well so far and I'm loving it. Pop along and give me a 'like' by following one of the links below.

I'm thinking I might just pop a couple of these bike bags in the store, what do you think?

Evie and Lola on Facebook

Evie and Lola on Etsy


Sunday, 11 January 2015

Customising Kids Jeans

It's been a while since I posted anything and I really need to catch up. I've got so much to tell you about. But for now, I thought I'd share a quick little project the biggest girl and I did this week.  

She's got some lovely skinny jeans from Zara, that were passed down to us. They have had lots of wear and the knees are finally giving out.  There's still lots of wear left in these jeans, other than the knees, so we decided to do a quick repair job. 

I had this image pinned on Pinterest for ages and to be honest, was glad of the chance to give it a go.  My girls usually outgrow clothes before they get to the point of needing repair, so this has been my first chance.  

I let Evie choose from a selection of fabrics in my stash, strongly pushing her towards one that amazingly very closely matched the accent fabric already on the jeans.  

Of course, being a 4 year old, the last thing she was going to do, was the thing I wanted her to do, so she chose some Frozen fabric. Of course!  Anyway, it turned into a cute opportunity to have Olaf peeking out from the hole in her jeans, so I wasn't too disappointed.  

For those of you with similarly clumsy kids, that fall often, and therefore get holes in their trousers, here's what I did:

Cut a scrap of fabric, bigger than the hole you want to cover, and cut a piece of bondaweb or similar, to the same size. Before ironing the fabric to the bondaweb, place it over the hole and trace an outline around the hole itself, and cut that middle piece out.  This is because you will want the fabric around the hole to stick to the jeans, but you don't want the fabric that shows through the hole to ge sticky, else you will end up ironing it to the other side of the jeans leg and sticking the leg together!

Next, iron the bondaweb to the fabric scrap. Remember that whereas you normally want the sticky side to be on the reverse of the appliqué fabric, in this case, you want the sticky on the front, so that it sticks to the reverse of the jeans, with the right side showing through the hole. 

Make sense so far? Still with me?

I then cut around the fabric so that it was patch shaped, with no corners (I find these are the bits that start peeling off first)

At this point, I noticed that the other knee was about to get a hole soon, so I made a little patch to reinforce that from behind too.  I didn't cut a hole in the middle of that one because the jeans are still just about in tact at that point and I wanted the glue over the weak point, to hold them together a bit longer.  I'm hoping that as the jeans wear out on that other knee, Elsa and Anna will start to show through!  

Peel the paper backing of your new patches and iron them on to your jeans, as per the instructions on your bondaweb/vliesofix.  

Turn the jeans the right way out and voilà, the hole is patched from the reverse and in this case, there's a cheeky little Olaf peeking through.   

The bondaweb should be strong enough that you can stop right there, especially if you got the strong stuff, but I fancied adding a bit of extra detail, as per the origional inspiration.  

Luckily, these jeans already had some decorative stitch details, and I had embroidery thread to match. 

So I just made a few cross stitches around the hole, which echo the features already on the jeans, and hold the patch in place a bit more.   This part was fiddly, since these are age 4 skinny jeans and therefore quite narrow. There was lots of turning inside/rightside out and muttering under my breath, but I really like the end result. 

More importantly, Evie loves it!

I secretly can't wait for Anna and Elsa to start poking through the other knee. And that won't be long, because I made the stupid mistake of telling Evie that's what will happen, so of course she's constantly picking at it, trying to get the hole open!!

Have you got any creative ways of getting more wear of your kids clothes? I'd love to hear about them.  

Monday, 24 November 2014

Operation 'Get Healthy'

This weekend I've been feeling rubbish. I woke up with a stinking cold on Friday morning and I've got all sorts of random aches and pains. I didn't make things better for myself by having far too many glasses of prosecco with friends on Saturday night. Yesterday was largely spent feeling sorry for myself. I slept until midday and didn't get out of my pyjamas all day. Thank goodness for lovely understanding husbands!!

Last night culminated in this, the ultimate comfort food following a hangover (albeit I had it for tea, not breakfast!)

Not too unhealthy. The bacon was grilled, the hash browns oven baked and the eggs fried in the tiniest amount of coconut oil. But at the same time, there isn't much on that plate that's feeding my body, helping my poor damaged coeliac guts to heal and my body to get better.

I followed up with some pineapple and cherries, but still, if I want to feel better, I need to eat better.

So, this morning, this happened.

That's a much better start to the day - all juiced up and then made into a smoothie with ice and the avocado.

It's the Juice Master's Turbo Express smoothie and I plan on starting the day with it for at least the next 7 days. I'm eating nothing but fresh, raw fruit and veg for breakfast and lunch, whether whole or in juices/smoothies and then we will eat 'clean' healthy meals in the evenings, based on meat and vegetables, no grains, no potatoes, nothing to slow our systems down. We will reassess after a week and see how to go on from there. I say 'We' because they hubby's in on it too.

I'm hopeful that after a week of healthy eating with no dairy, grains or alcohol, I'll feel the benefits enough to be motivated to continue. I'll let you know in a week! For now, back to my smoothie ......

Fancy following my progress? I'll be posting my juices, smoothies and meals over on my Instagram feed. Come and follow me! @Wannyrow