Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Wednesday Bliss: Lists...

Well, we all know I love making lists. This regular feature is definitely evidence of that. But, I love making lists even more so at this time of year. Christmas lists, shopping lists, present will very rarely find a moment when I don't have a notebook and pen within close reach ready to join things down as they come to mind. Needless to say, this past week has full with lots of planning for the run up to Christmas, so let me share with you all what I've been planning, and what I'm thankful for.

1. Food. Not only the food I can put on our table on a daily basis but, all the lovely food that I know we will eat over Christmas. Week by week I've been putting little bits and pieces in our shopping trolley to put away for over the holidays. A couple of days ago, I rummaged through the back of the cupboards and in the bottom of Christmas shopping bags and was pleasantly surprised with how much I've actually managed to collect, and am more thankful than ever that we haven't broken the bank in the process.

2. Creativity. Ok, so I know I mentioned this in last weeks post but, I'm more thankful than ever for my creativity around Christmas time, as it means I can make unique gifts and wrappings for my friends and family, making the day all the more memorable. I'm already planning a Christmas crafting afternoon with my 4 year old niece next weekend, potato printing wrapping paper and decorating my mum's kitchen with homemade paper chains. This simple little things are what makes Christmas so special, and help to forge new traditions as well as re-vamp old ones too.

3. Small Businesses. As you all know, this is something I feel quite passionate about. They are the saviors of our high street. The days are fast disappearing and I still have a few presents left to buy so I'm scheduling in a pilgrimage to Cardiff Christmas Market on my day off next week with the intention of buying those last few gifts from the small independant retailers, and putting my money into the hands of the producers.

4. Family & Friends. I love planning things with my family and friends. Who doesn't?! But, this year it feels all the more special. For the first time in years I will have a proper break over Christmas, and have managed to fit in lots of lovely socialising time with my nearest and dearest. In my diary for the weeks ahead I've got a Christmas Tree Festival, a carol concert or two, a good old fashioned Christmas night out, a festive get-together with some of mine and the Mr's oldest and dearest friends...and who can forget the big day itself...

5. Christmas Day! Now, this is going to be a big one. Usually it's a quiet affair, just me and the Mr, my Mum & Dad, and my sister comes home from London but, this year it's set to be the stuff BBC sitcoms are made of. There'll be 11 of us in total, including in-laws and elderly neighbours too, and I can't wait. And keeping in with the tradition of big outrageous Christmas dinners, I even paid a visit to Hawkin's Bazaar for a few daft after dinner games too. This should be a goodun!

How are you all spending your Christmas this year? Will it be big and bold like mine, or more of an intimate affair? I'd love to hear what you've got planned.

See you soon,
Hannah. x

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Think Big, Shop Small...

This coming Saturday 6th December is Small Business Saturday. This nationwide event backed by credit card company American Express, no less, is dedicated to celebrating those small businesses which help to keep our high streets alive, and keep them from turning into clone towns filled with huge chain franchises which can ultimately suck the personality from our city streets.

You may not even realise it but how many of you by pass the local corner shop to buy a pint of milk and head straight for the Tesco Express 2 minutes further down the road? Or do you buy all your fruit and veg from the local supermarket when there's a green grocer right at the end of your street? Or how about stopping off in Greggs for a baguette and a coffee, walking straight past the bakery which has been churning out 'split tin' loaves for over 50 years.

So, in honour of Small Business Saturday, I thought I would share with you all a few of my favourite small businesses, in hopes that you will all buy atleast one gift for a family member from a small business this year, and help boost your local economy.

Nestled away in the hill top town of Llantrisant, this adorable little patchwork shop is a must for any fabric-a-holic, like myself. Not only does owner, Susan, stock patchworking fabrics and supplies but, she also runs courses for budding beginners looking to try their hand at making a patchwork quilt. This tiny little shop is an Aladdin's cave of fabrics, sewing kits, supplies and lovely gifts too. From cushions and doorstops, to sewing bags and cute little projects in a jar, you're sure to find something for any family who loves sewing. 

This interiors and gift shop can be found in the Cardiff suburb of Pontcanna, about 10 mins from the city centre. She is a proud stockist and painting guru of Annie Sloane Chalk Paints, and boy does she know her stuff. They also run painting workshops to learn the perfect techniques to shabbying up your furniture the Beti Biggs way. But, if decorating isn't your bag, don't worry, these guys have got tonnes of gifts and little trinkets to choose from, to cater for all. 

Not exactly a high street business but, a small business none the less. This website is a crafters heaven, stocking a whole array of supplies from yarn to embroidery thread, fabric, and washi tape...even lampshade making kits. The Homemakery was started up by a lovely lady called Kate who ditched her job in coporate finance to follow her dream of opening up a crafting boutique. So, if you're looking for a project to keep you busy on these cold dark winter evenings then bypass Hobbycraft for a second and head on over to The Homemakery.

Ok, this one isn't exactly a high street business either but, a small business it is, with world domination prospects to say the least. The Pretty Nostalgic Society started life as a bi-monthly magazine once sold on the shelves of WHSmith but when editor and founder Nicole decided to take things in a different direction she had no idea what a can of worms she would open. Once a magazine publisher, The Pretty Nostalgic Society now produces a quarterly compendium (it's first issue has just gone to print in time for Christmas. Yippee!) and is looking for members to add to it's growing readership. If you love nostalgia and all things vintage, or are just looking for a slightly slower less consumeristic pace of life, then this is the magazine for you. It's fab!

I'm sure you've all got a Christmas market of some description near you this winter. And whilst you may be drawn more to the smells of roast turkey and pork, or the scent of hot Gluhwein, why not take a minute to stop and some of the traders stands and see what gifts they have on offer. Guaranteed you'll be able to find something interesting and unique that you wouldn't normall see in a supermarket or chain store. Go on, try it. You might be pleasantly surprised. 

So, there we have it. Will you be shopping small this Saturday? Even if it's just for a pint of milk, think of our high street heroes as you hand over your loose change and the fact that you are contributing to helping our high streets keep their unique personality.

Merry Christmas!

See you soon,
Hannah. x

Thursday, 27 November 2014

'Thursday' Bliss

Oops! So much for being a regular Wednesday feature, eh? But my 'Thursday' Bliss this week is filled with lots of inspiring, creative things. Just you wait and see...

1. New Beginnings. Last week I began my new job at a local small family run fabric store and I couldn't be happier. It's been strange adjusting to a new job and finding a new daily routine but, I feel so much happier and relaxed already. The Mr is much happier too, as we get to spend more time together and I'm not as sleepy when I walk in the door. Not to mention the fact that we'll get to fit in lots of family time over Christmas as I will no longer be in a shopping centre environment surronded by frazzled Christmas shoppers.

2. Feeling Creative. As you can see from the image above, my recent days off have been filled with much creativity and lots of exciting new projects. The other day, I spent an afternoon pattern cutting and it felt great. This was the first time I've done any kind of pattern cutting work since I graduated University 4 years ago! My creative brain is still whirring and buzzing, which is definitely helped by being surrounded by lovely creative folk everyday in work too, and fingers crossed, long may it continue.

3. Colder weather. Yes, it is finally here! My favourite type of weather is cold, crisp mornings with a bright wintery sun burning through. I love getting wrapped up every morning for the walk to work, stuffing my mittens in my pocket as I head out the door, and pulling my wooly hat tight down over my ears. And what's even more lovely is snuggling up on the sofa with the Mr in the evening, with hot mugs of tea, a blanket and a hot water bottle. (Our old flat is really that draughty.) I don't even mind, wrapping up in jumpers and snoods, and fixing frequent cups of tea to keep warm at home during my days off.

4. Cosy Cinema Date Nights. These are my favourite thing to do with the Mr. We are proper movie nerds, and have been known to attend several times a week. God Bless Cineworld Unlimited Cards! There's nothing quite like, snuggling up in our seats, with a bucket of popcorn clutched to my chest as we get lost in the latest blockbuster. And it's definitely the time of year for great movies too. On our to watch list at the moment we have... Hunger Games, Paddington, The Drop, The Hobbit, St Vincent, Black Sea and Exodus:Gods and name a few.

5. The countdown! Well, are you at all surprised that I've slipped something Christmas themed into this here blog post. Along with my dear friend Ms. Wall. I am an avid Christmas lover, and begin a discreet countdown in my head waaaay back in September when I begin the gather the first few gifts for my mahoosive family. Now, is the time for the real countdown to begin and thus, I have been making lists galore...planning food shopping, writing coming events on the Calendar, and doing little bits of  housework here and there to make sure the house stays spik and span over the festive season. Now, please don't mistaken me for one of those super hardcore Christmas lovers who puts their tree up in early-November but, I certainly do love all the preparations, if only to harness my excitement that little bit more once December 1st comes around.

There we have it. My weekly round up of "bliss". Is anyone getting excited for Christmas yet? Anyone?

See you soon,
Hannah. x

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Wednesday Bliss

Well, well, has been a funny old week. I started off feeling super festive, then that disappeared into an achy exhausted haze, and now I'm feeling quite Christmassy again. It's quite tiring really. 
This last week, I've not only left my job of 3 years working in retail, but I've also embarked on a new venture working (on a much smaller scale) in a local fabric store. It's been tiring adjusting to the new working pattern but now, I've settled in for the evening, while the Mr cackles on the phone with his best friend, giggling like a couple of little girls (not annoying in the slightest), I've got a chance to reflect on what has happened, and compile my list of Wednesday Bliss.

Here it is. Enjoy...

1. Candles. From the dinkiest tea light sitting in a cleaned out jam jar, to an expensive Christmas scented votive from The White Company (I treated myself with gift vouchers), candles have been bringing me great comfort recently. They're the perfect way to help me relax in the evening, with a cup of tea or hot chocolate, and no other light other than that from a comforting film on the telly. Candles can bring great solace in even the darkest of times. From power cuts, to romantic meals, and even just a good old snuggle on the sofa. I seem to have shares in tea lights at the moment, and will most definitely be saving the posh clove and orange scented ones for nearer to Christmas.

2. Blanket scarves. I'm such a wuss when it comes to being cold. I'm not one for cranking up the heating to tropical temperatures in January but, when I get chilly it really ruins my mood. My colleagues from my previous job bought me a lovely blanket scarf and matching hat as a leaving gift, and I'm not ashamed to say, that I have worn them every day since. They're so soft and snug, and perfect for keeping those early morning chills at bay, especially when I'm walking to work over the Taff Bridge. Cor, those winds that whip down the river are evil.

3. Fairy lights. Again, I am all about the comfort this week. I'm not sure if it's from the sheer exhaustion of starting a new job, or just the fact that my body is slowly going into hibernation mode but, I'm in love with all things twinkly. A little sparkle here and there, dangling from a lamp post, or strung up between the doorways of local shops as the evening draws in. I can't help but feel a little of the child-like excitement within me, bubbling up in anticipation for Christmas. Which leads me nicely onto...

4. Christmas Markets. Cardiff Christmas market opened the same evening that the lights were switched on in the city, and it feels positively magical. The smell of hot roasting chesnuts, and bratwurst cooking on an open wood fire wafts through Cardiff like a Christmassy fog. Some of my favourite vendors are back this year, and lots more new ones too. The Mr and myself are planning our date night around it next week, with yummy pork and stuffing rolls, then a hot chocolate before we head off to pick up a few pressies for family too.

5. My husband! I know, this is a bit of a cheesy one but, he really is a lovely chap. That's why I married him! At the moment, I am feeling all the more appreciative of the fella that drives me crazy on a daily basis purely down to the fact that the last week or so has been pretty hectic. At the moment I love nothing more than chilling in the kitchen prodding at something bubbling in a saucepan for tea whilst he sits at the table asking me about my day. It's little moments like this that often get missed but, for some reason, today, I'm feeling pretty appreciative of them...and even more so for him. 

So, there you have it. My list of Wednesday Bliss. Now, come on, share and share alike. I want to know what you've all been getting up to lately.

See you soon,
Hannah. x

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Wednesday Bliss

Ok, so I know the photo makes you think otherwise but today I'm going to try and steer clear of the “Ermagerd-its-nearly-Christmas” vibe and focus on a different list of seasonal treats that are currently making me happy at the moment.
And I'm thinking I like the title of this post enough to make it stick, so from now on these little weekly ditties will be known as “Wednesday Bliss”. How does that sound?

Here goes...

1. Rain! Wait, wait, wait...before you go thinking I've completely lost the plot, let me explain. Being an honorary Welshie, this is one of those things that I've just had to make peace with. It rains here... a lot! So in an attempt to see the silver lining, I certainly am thankful for rain. Be-it walking into work in my wellies and putting the kettle on to thaw out in the staff room before my shift starts, or returning home from a long day, discarding my boots on the door mat and slipping into a pair of clean PJ's...these are definitely some of the perks of perpetual rain at this time of year.

2. Stews & Bakes. A pan of slow cooking lamb, blipping away in the slow cooker, or the smell of a lightly browning Shepherds Pie in the oven. This is the perfect time of year for these seasonal treats. My particular favourite combinations at the moment are a Chilli con Carne style mix, topped with sweet potato mash and baked in the oven. Or celeriac mash and cheese, on top of left over lamb. Yum! This is making me hungry already.

3. Sewing. One of my favourite hobbies by far. I knew that long before I turned my back on the fashion industry. As much as I love sitting in front of my sewing machine, piecing together a dress for myself, or a pinafore for my niece, I much prefer hand-sewing sitting in front of the telly. With a cuppa to hand, my sewing tin perched on the arm of the sofa, and a comforting film to watch, I find it's the perfect way to unwind in the evenings.

4. Reminiscing. This time of year, I always feel particularly nostalgic, not only due to the fact that it was almost 7 years ago in December, at a festive school reunion that my husband asked me if I “wanted to be his girlfriend” but, we recently received our wedding photos from our photographer. Going back through them all and having a good giggle has definitely been good for the soul, and we're feeling very lucky and looking toward the future already.

5. Peace & Quiet. I'm the kind of person that definitely enjoys my own company. When you're working in a job where you talk to people all day, with background music included, sometimes it's nice to have silence. The Mr will often walk in from work, whilst I'm making dinner in complete silence and comments on how strange it is not to have the radio or the TV on in the background. Today I was relishing in the peace and quiet, while I sat hunched over my coffee table, sticking old postage stamps onto luggage tags to make gift tags for Christmas (sorry, couldn't resist a little mention), and it was just what I needed. Bliss!

What have you all been up to this week? What's your Wednesday Bliss? I'd love to her from you.

Until next time...
Hannah. x

Monday, 10 November 2014

The Art of Writing Christmas Lists

Hello lovely readers...
The time has come. I am now in full on Christmas mode! The cookery shows are being set to record on my TiVo, the food lists are being stuck on the refrigerator and the Christmas Market is being assembled in Cardiff city centre. Eeep!
So what better time, to shift those Monday blues by starting to write your Christmas list. If you follow these simple steps (and are on the 'nice' list of course), then you're sure to get what you asked for.

Here goes...

List your wants & needs - Start off with two lists, wants & needs. Wants could be the more luxury items, or things you wouldn't necessarily buy for yourself as they are too much of an indulgence to justify, like perfume or an designer lipstick. Needs, could be anything from a new pair of headphones to replace the ones you left on the bus, or a new pair of slippers so you can chuck that grotty old threadbare pair in the bin, finally.

Little & Large – Why not list a few small items too? That Revlon nail polish you spotted on your lunch break, or that ridiculously cute white Chocolate Snowman in the window of the German Deli, you know you couldn't justify buying for yourself. Or maybe even some posh chutney and pate sets you've seen in John Lewis that you're dying to try out when you next have friends over for dinner.

Don't be greedy! - Yes, we know you've been druelling over a Mulberry handbag for years but realistically, if you can't afford it yourself, is anyone in your family likely to be able to afford it too? If you've really got your heart set on something luxurious then why not suggest a couple of family members pooling their money together in order to get said item for you, so as not to break the bank in the process.

There's no shame in vouchers – I know some people often turn their noses up at receiving gift vouchers, thinking they are a bit of a cop out when you don't know what to get someone but in some circumstances they can be great. If you're a bit of a book worm and have a tonne of novels you want to get into, why not ask for book tokens? Or if you're a bit of a chocoholic like me but really can't justify buying your 18th chocolate penguin before December has even started then why not Hotel Chocolat, or Thorntons vouchers, then you can get your fix without feeling guilty (much!).

Dare to dream! – It's Christmas after all. You don't have to be sensible all the time. If you've always wanted to try your hand at a monster lego project, or complete a 2000 piece jigsaw, or fly a remote control helicopter in an open is your chance! Christmas is all about surprises, and imagine that feeling of being a kid again, opening your favourite toy and playing with it throughout the holidays. You're never too old to have that tearing off the paper and cheering “Oh my goodness! It's just what I wanted!” moment.

Now we've got the prep work out of the way...go forth and write Christmas Lists. Then all you need to do is find a nice fried with an open fire, who will let you leave your letter in their hearth for Father Christmas to collect. Eeek!

Can you tell I'm excited yet?

See you soon,
Hannah. x

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Hump-Day Happiness...

Ok, so I'm not 100% on the title of this feature but nevertheless, I think it would be nice if this became a regular feature on this here blog. I'm the kind of person who likes to have nice things to constantly look forward to. So in writing these regular blog posts on a Wednesday, making a list of things that are currently making me happy, or events I may be looking forward to, it is definitely helping me toward slowing down and appreciating the simple things in life. Therefore, without further ado, here is my list of things which I am particularly fond of at this time of year/this week...

1. Pumpkin Streusel Muffins!!! Holy cow, these are good...and the recipe for them comes from lovely friend, Lisa's, blog called Sweet 2 Eat Baking. Lisa is an amazing baker with such an incredible imagination when it comes to recipe ideas. I would love to spend the day in her head, thinking up all the incredible flavour combinations and ideas she comes up with. I made these muffins this Sunday, just past, and took them to my mum's for dessert after Sunday lunch. They were devoured with a cup of tea, and a healthy dollop of creme fraiche on the side. She even asked me to leave a few behind for the next day. Next on my 'To Bake' list is Lisa's recipe for Toffee Apple Pudding! Phwoar!

2. Winter Pyjamas, Yes, they are finally out. In all their fluffy, brushed cotton glory as I heave my PJ drawer open in my bedroom. Yippee! These chilly evenings, and even colder mornings are finally calling for bed socks and dressing gowns, and snuggly sets of pyjamas gently toasting on the radiator, just waiting for me to dive in. How I love to hibernate.

3. Christmas Cake. Well, I had to get something Christmas related in here, didn't I? In an attempt to have a slower, more thrifty Christmas, I have gradually been gathering the ingredients for my Christmas cake over the past few weeks. A bag of sultanas in our weekly shop, popping to the deli on my lunch break for some candied mixed peel, nipping into the local mini-mart on my way home from work for a bag of ground almonds. I've been determined to save some pennies this year and using what little spare change I have left in my purse to purchase little bits here and there, and it's really making a difference. Try it. You might be surprised.

4. Gun Powder, Treason and Plot! I've always been fascinated by the story of Guy Fawkes, ever since my Primary School History lessons. One of the things that I love about our British Heritage is that we can keep a festival going 400 years after it happened, when nothing really actually 'happened' in the end anyway. I love how each family has it's own traditions when it comes to Bonfire Night, be-it trooping down to the local rugby club for a community run display, or simply sitting in your living room window with all the lights off watching everyone else's fireworks in your street. My favourite tradition was several years ago, whilst I was in Uni. I would be in charge of the baked potatoes, and all our friends would congregate in our kitchen picking their favourite toppings before wrapping them in tinfoil, and tea towels then we would trek across the field opposite our house and sat at the top of the hill by our Uni which overlooked the river Medway. We would watch all the fireworks for miles around,whilst eating our steaming hot jacket potatoes and drinking maybe a can or two of cider, before finishing off in our 'local' for a night cap, all chilly and rosy before heading home to bed. Bliss!

5. Pretty Nostalgic Society. And last but not least is something I am particualry passionate about. This organisation started life as an independant magazine for vintage lovers and history geeks, such as myself. It has now morphed into the wonderfully retro 'Pretty Nostalgic Society' becoming a some-what co-operative for those who are passionate about crafting, baking, making, using traditional methods, up-cycling, recycling and just generally a less consumeristic lifestyle...and more importantly supporting local makers, and small British industries. Created by the lovely Nicole, Pretty Nostalgic is about to launch it's first compendium in December, as an official society, and as a Pretty Nostalgic Pioneer, I cannot wait! And, even better, if you're watching those old purse strings as much as I am at the moment, then you can now get a Quarterly Subscription so you don't have to fork out a lump sum of money to get your mitts on the new mag. What are you waiting for?!

So, there you have it. My weekly round-up of seasonal and not-so-seasonal things that make me happy. What is making your week particularly enjoyable so far? I'd love to hear from you.
And if you've got any suggestions on what I should call this weekly blog occurance then I would love that too. Answers on a postcard...or in a comment. Whichever floats your boat.
Or you can get in touch with me on twitter or instagram too.

Hannah. x

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

5 Steps to Simple, Unrefined Bliss...

Happy Hump-Day everyone!! I know, I know, before you start moaning at me for jumping on the Christmas band wagon in October... Just hear me out. Take a look at my list below of 5 simple seasonal pleasures that I'm loving right now, helping me on my way to understanding the true meaning of simple, unrefined bliss...and I'm sure you'll all be feeling warm, fuzzy and festive in no time.

1. The clocks going back. Not only does this mean that I get yummy October sunlight filtering in through my bedroom window a little earlier than usual. It also means that the nights are starting to draw in, and by the time I arrive home from work I am in full on hibernation mode. The fairy lights in the kitchen go on, the Radio does too (The Archers at 7pm, anyone?) and I settle in for the night, splitting my time between the kitchen and the living room, which are the warmest rooms in our draughty little flat.

2. Warm spiced flavours. Cinnamon on my porridge, nutmeg on my latte, and ice cold ginger beer are my faves at the moment. Those smells just instantly transport you back to childhood Christmases, and I love every last waft of it. Not to mention cloves and clementine peel. Oh my goodness, I could get high on those smells like a cat on nip.

3. Candles. From plain unscented tealights that bring comfort and warmth to Christmassy smelling concoctions that make my living room smell like an apothecary. I cannot get enough of candles at this time of year. They're the perfect way to keep cosy and warm as the temperature outside drops, and such a simple low budget way to bring the homespun lifestyle to your home.

4. Lists. Well, I guess that's not much of a surprise, given the nature of this post. But lists are a brilliant way of getting all my ducks in a row, leaving me time to be creative and spend time with the Mr. I usually have several different types of lists on the go at any given moment, the standard magnetic pad which sits on the fridge for day to day (shopping lists, and the like), the Emma Bridgewater weekly planner pad (given to me as a wedding organisation tool but, I love it so much it's still going strong now) for writing down my shifts throughout the week and fitting in chores and blog posting around them, and my sticky note app on my mobile phone, for when an idea pops into my head and I simply must write it down before it dissappears again. I can be a bit of a butterfly brain, you see.

5. Christmas. Yes, I said it. The C-word! I am unashamedly one of those people that gets almost as excited about Christmas as a small child does, if not more-so. I start thinking of Christmas back at the end of September. Once my husband's birthday has been and gone, and the days start to get shorter, my mind starts to wander towards seasonal fare and Christmas list, and gifting for my family. I come from a big family so planning things in advance is a must, and I relish in every minute of it. A bag of chocolate coins here, a tub of candied peel there. Little by little, I begin to piece together our family Christmas so come December, I can truly enjoy all the festivities and not be found rocking back and fourth behind the kitchen table, traumatised because I forgot the cranberry sauce.

What are your favourite seasonal things, at the moment? Any that I haven't mentioned? Or something that is truly unique to you or where you live? I'd love to hear from you all.

Until next time,
Hannah. xx

Friday, 24 October 2014

Autumn Musings...

It's a miserable drizzly day here in Cardiff, and I'm huddled on the sofa with my second cup of coffee of the morning. This time of year always makes me feel particularly inspired, as it is brought to our attention the fascination of the seasons and how, even in a technology driven modern society, we are still ruled by mother nature and her ever changing temperament. The leaves have fallen from the trees in colourful mulchy piles of burnt yellow, and ochre, and rich reddy browns, piling up in the gutters right outside my front door. Just like that, Autumn is here.

Like a slow burning log fire, it has burst into life with sudden drops in temperature, and grey clouds looming over the city threatening with a downpour at any moment. Chilly foggy mornings, that burn through into mild sunny afternoons with thick coats being hastily discarded and slung over a bent elbow... these days are long gone. There's only drizzle and a slight chill on the air now, bringing with it the anticipation of frosty mornings, incredibly coloured sunrises and maybe even a little snow.

The winter duvet has finally been laid out on our bed, and piles of blankets are beginning to emerge on every available armchair in the house, ready for cosy evenings in our drafty little flat. Chunky bed socks and brushed cotton pyjamas toasting gently on luke warm radiators are a regular occurance too.

Even the city can be attractive in Autumn if you catch it on a good day. When the rain subsides for just a minute and the sun cuts through the clouds. The pavements are illuminated. Sunlight bouncing off of puddles, bringing everything to life, if only for a few seconds.

An Autumnal picnic is a must if you can catch the weather on a good day. My picnicing spot of choice is at our local open air museum, on the green infront of the Victorian shops. Sat at a rickety old picnic table, we un-pack flasks of tea or hot-chocolate and little tubs of stew which erupt with steam. These are all polished off in great hunger, and completed with warm Welsh cakes, gritty and sweet with their coating of sugar. Yum!

Hoods are pulled tight, and layers of knits and scarves adorned as the first thought of Christmas shopping begins to creep into my head. I wander in and out of the shops, collecting ideas and a few gifts here and there, to be squirelled away on top of the wardrobe, and ideas are quickly jotted down in my dog-eared notebook which takes up constant residence in my satchel these days. A pinafore for my 2 year old niece, some chilli chocolate for Dad, and a new pair of mittens for me, to replace the ones I bought last year which are now bobbled and moth eaten, scalding myself to take better care of my new ones.

Then just as the rain is about to descend again, and ruin our walk home through the park, we arrive at our front door. Rosy and warm from central heated shops and the in-car radiator, we discard our soggy boots at the doormat and traipse into the house in our socks. The pyjamas are ready and waiting for us to dive in before their warmth dissipates. The kitchen is filled with the billowing smell of lamb in the slow cooker. And before you can say “All Hallows Eve” we are settled. Curled on the sofa with blankets pulled over our laps and bowls of lamb and vegetables in our hands, a comforting film on the telly, I think to myself... Do not disturb until Spring!

*All these images have been taken from my Pinterest page. If you're looking for a bit more Autumn inspiration then why not take a look.*

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Change is afoot...

I wasn't planning on writing this blog post. I was planning on getting ready for work, and editing a few images to show you from our honeymoon in the Lake District, and Cardiff Country Fair which we recently attended on a little birthday outing for the Mr.
Somewhere along the way I've got lost, and the time has just run away with me, and before I know it, it's mid-October and I still haven't posted up any wedding photos, and I still haven't begun to upload the ones from the country fair.

But, change is afoot. These first few weeks of married life have been a rollercoaster to say the least and I'm hoping it'll slow down into a nice,gentle meander down the lazy river real soon. 
I'm trying to decide about the direction in which I would like to take this blog. I've made a few small changes, and a couple of really big ones in my life recently which will hopefully allow me some time to be a bit more creative and actually start taking this blogging 'lark' seriously.

I hope, if there's any readers still out there, that you will continue to come along on the ride with me. After all, isn't that what this blog is all about? Muddling my way through life, whilst I try to slow down a bit and appreciate the good things we have infront of us. And I am certainly taking steps towards doing that. Just bare with me whilst I get used to this re-adjustment period and I promise, you won't be disappointed.

Special Thanks also need to go to my lovely friend Miss Charlotte Wall, for the inspiring quotes board on her Pinterest. Whenever I can't find the words for something, guaranteed, she will have a pretty and inspiring graphic that will hit the nail on the head. Thank you! 

Friday, 4 July 2014

The Wedding Countdown has begun...

Well hello there folks. How have you all been? I know, I know what you're thinking... Where the HELL have you BEEN?!
Well you see, I'm fast turning into one of those sad brides who only ever talks about work and wedding stuff, and as much as I know you nosey bunch would love to know how it's all going, I fear I may bore you to tears if I keep bombarding you all with everything wedding related.
So here I am with a wee update and a few pics of what I've been up to while I've been off the grid as such.

First off, I've started making the toiles for my flower-girls dresses which will be worn by my two nieces, aged 2 and 4. These will be made in a scrumptious Belle & Boo fabric, with a blue sash round their middle, but I am yet to buy the rest of the fabrics. Luckily, the toiles fit perfectly, so once I have all my materials there will be no stopping me.

I've finished the bunting which will strung up on my French wine crate for guests to drop their cards into. Just waiting on a bit of DIY help from my Dad to fix some wooden dowel into the corners so it can hang in pride of place.

The invitations took the best part of 4 days to put together from start to finish! Including a couple of days on Photoshop with my Dad tweeking the illustrations which my best friend/his best man did especially for us. The final day, my Mum and I slaved away at the dining table for the best part of 8 hours writing invitations, tying raffia and stuffing envelopes...which was eventually followed by a stiff, well deserved, celebratory drink.

I've been quite pleased with my DIYing and upcycling capabilities with the wedding, and my fiancee is even more pleased at some of my projects which I have managed to fulfil for almost next the nothing. I'll let you in on a little secret. That wooden crate project cost me £1! The lovely staff from Jamie's Italian in the shopping centre where I work, kindly let me have these wooden crates, when I spotted them outside their back door one day. They were headed for the bin! And the paint? This was left over in our cupboard under the stairs from when our landlord spruced up the flat before we moved in. The only thing I had to buy was the paintbrush. Yippee!!

And the picture frame project for our tables was also a hit. Those picture frames came from Poundland, and were revamped with the remains of some Farrow & Ball tester pots. They will be filled with some vintage posters but, the finer details of that, I shall be keeping under my hat.

And so, before I give away all of my DIY secrets before the big day, it is with a slightly heavy heart that I must bid you all farewell...for now. Tomorrow marks exactly 8 weeks until the wedding so, while I try and crack on with rounding up all my craft projects and chasing up a few overdue RSVP's (grrr!), I feel I need to put this blog on the back burner for a little while.
But fear not, my dears, as I shall be back post-wedding with several mega updates for you all, and lots of info on our DIY projects and hopefully some lovely loved up photos of me him, for you all to 'coo' over.

So then, lovely blog readers...the next time I 'see' you all I shall be the brand spanking new, and shiny Mrs Daley!!! Eeeeeeek!

See you soon.

P.s. In the mean time, if you really can't bare to miss out on all the wedding action, then you can keep up to date on the latest goings on, on my instagram account.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

On writing a book...

I know things have been quite quiet around these parts lately so I thought it was high time I let you in on a little secret.

I have a bit of a confession to make. Not a guilty one at that, but a confession nonetheless. There is a reason why things have been quiet on the blog lately, and that is because I have been writing, and writing a lot. You see, I've started writing my first book.

This is something that I've been wanting to do for a while, and has always been right there at the top of my list of things to do before I'm 30. If there is one thing I have learned in the past few years, (especially whilst at Uni too) is that I am a terrible procrastinator. So, deep in the abyss of January blues I decided to make a list of things I would like to achieve not only as a married woman, but in the near future also, and it occurred to me then that 30 is both a long way off, and not that far at all, then it also occurred to me at the same time... “What's actually stopping me from doing it now?” And you know what, I couldn't think of a single reason as to why I shouldn't start pursuing this now, or why I should wait until my 29th birthday and suddenly panic.

So I started scribbling down ideas, and tapping little notes into my Evernote on my phone during my lunch hour, and before I knew it, I had some real solid ideas developing. Yikes!

Now, as much as I hate to rain on my own parade, let's not get too excited here. I am still in the stages of mind-mapping and scribbling down memories of recipes, and ringing my mum everyday to see if she still has that old recipe for such-and-such that Aunty so-and-so who used to know Grandma, had. But nevertheless, this book is in full motion and hope it will continue to gain momentum until I am through.

This is a very exciting time for me, because this is actually the first major project I have set myself since I graduated and cut my losses with the fashion industry 3 years ago. I sincerely hope that you will come along and join me for the ride.
I don't want to give away too much now, as I'm still very much in the planning process and until I understand fully how I can protect my material and recipes, I will be keeping things quite close to my chest. However, if there is something I simply cannot keep to myself then ofcourse I shall be posting about it on this ere blog (if anyone is still reading it).
Are you with me folks?!

Thanks for being so understanding. You lovely lot! I'll be back soon, hopefully with recipes.

Hannah. x

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Adventures in Hexi-Quilting: A Beginners Guide

Well, hello folks...

I know what you're all probably thinking. “Well, where the devil have you been?! I keep coming back on this ere blog and...not a sausage!”

I'm not gonna lie, I have been suffering the strains of a creative mental block..of the darnedest kind. And true to my news years resolution I have been learning to say no, and trying to take on new craft projects in order to kick start my brain into action.
But, fear not, dear readers because my absence has not been completely fruitless, for I have been busy hexi-quilting. Busy, what...?

Well, well, well...that's what I am here to share with you. Now by no means am I an expert at this quilting lark but, I thought what better way to learn a new skill than by trying to explain/teach it to others. So here goes.  

Please bear in mind that this is not a full tutorial, as I am currently in the process of piecing together this quilt as we speak, and with the intention of it covering our hefty bed, I predict it shall be finished around...oh...Christmas time?! Hmm hopefully not that late but, I would at least like to make my first steps into married life with one major craft project accomplished. I think I shall call this our wedding quilt. Yes, that sounds nice. (See how I managed to slip in a mention of the wedding even into a craft post. Sneaky, huh?)

Ok, onwards we go. Beware this is a picture and word heavy post. You know how I like to waffle...

Before we go anywhere, let me link you to this website. This has been a god send in terms of determining how many hexagon's I will need for my quilt. Simply enter in the size of the quilt you want i.e. size of your bed. I've found as a rule of thumb with a 3inch hexagon piece, 55” x 70” for a single bed means you will need 161 heaxgons, and 70” x70” inches means you will need 206 heaxgons. For my first time quilting, I've decided to stick to a single bed size.

I actually used a hexagon template from my Belle and Boo crafts book but, this template from Flickr is pretty good. Just make sure your template for cutting out the fabric is exactly 1” wider than the one you're going to use for the paper pieces. This will make your seam allowance much easier to work with.

I started off, by drawing around my paper template about 20 or so times, onto a piece of A4 paper and photocopied this loads. Then employed my handsome fiancé to assist me in cutting out all the paper hexagons as we sat watching endless episodes of Breaking Bad.

Now, let's talk fabric. You can literally use any fabric you like. That's the beauty of hexi-quilting. Years and years ago, it was a way of using up old scraps of fabric from worn out clothing and household textiles, and making them into bedding. Thrifty, eh?
I used a mixture of lengths of fabric I had in my stash, a couple of lovely fat quarters I'd been saving for a rainy day and a couple of old pairs of brushed cotton pyjamas which had gone a bit thread bare in places. Just make sure, you use a combination of fabrics which are roughly the same weight so it will all lie nicely flat when you press and sew them together.  

The next part is where the monotony sets in. This may sound like a bad thing but, to me it is absolute bliss. That's the joy of taking on a project like this. It's one of those nice projects that can live in your sewing bag at the side of the sofa, and you can dip into it whenever you like. If, like me, your a little bit impatient too, you can even start off with tacking a pile of hexagons and then beginning to sew them together. Then when you start to run out of different pattern options, tack a pile more, and so on. (I know a lot of keen quilters probably wouldn't recommend this but, come on folks, this is amateur home crafting, not V&A standard atelier.)

The only thing you need to remember about this project is that neatness will give you the best results but, this is easy to obtain when you've got a nice crisp paper pattern to fold your fabric around.
I also found that using little stitches to catch each corner of the hexagon, worked a lot better in terms of speed/neatness rather than using a good old fashioned running stitch.

To sew the hexagons together, you literally need to just choose your pattern combination, place right sides together and use tiny little whip stitches to sew them together. I decided to do mine in 3's and then 2's, making a long strip, the width of my finished quilt which makes the whole thing much easier to work with, and hopefully help me keep on top of my print combinations as I go along too.

And there you have it folks. That is literally how easy it is. Just a lot of cutting out, a little bit of drawing round templates, and lots of lovely mindless relaxing sewing. If, like me, you've never tried quilting before, or found the prospect of it quite intimidating, then I urge you to try this method. It gives great results and fast, whilst you can also stay in control of how big or small you want your finished quilt to be. If you want to start off on an even smaller scale by making a dolls quilt with less hexagons, then go ahead. Or if you want to go the whole hog, and make a double bed sized heirloom quilt then, the choice is all yours.

I hope you'll join me along the way with this latest sewing venture. But in the mean time, sit back and enjoy getting on with your own hexi-quilt, and I'll be back soon once I've tackled the next hurdle that is cotton batting and wadding. Ooer!

See you soon folks!
Hannah. x

Friday, 21 February 2014

Baking in my PJ's: Honey & Walnut Loaf

So, last time I promised we would talk about cake, and not being one to dissapoint... here I am in all my cakey glory! 
Fresh off the eurostar from Paris I have had the baking bug ever since I stepped back on British soil. I'm not sure if it's the shed load of chouquette I brought back in my suitcase as a Valentine's pressie for the Mr, or just the sheer selection if delectable baked goods on offer across the channel but, from the moment I got home my house has almost constantly been filled with the smell of warm butter and sugar. Can't complain, eh? 

Half of this baking has been for the purpose of my 5th birthday party this coming Sunday. (Yes, you read that right, I'm turning 5, not 25 but, more about that another time.) ...the other half has been out of sheer indulgence, plus a few whinges from the Mr complaining he had nothing to go with his cup of tea. 

So in true Hannah's Homespun stylee, straight in the door from my slimming group (I kid you not) I donned my pj's and set to work on a Honey and Walnut loaf courtesy of The Hummingbird Bakery: Cake Days book. And, PHWOAR was it good?!

And the best part about baking at bedtime is of course being able to demolish the fruits of my labour at approximately 11am with a mug of tea. Delish!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Operation: Wedding Preparation

As if by magic, my wedding mojo is back and it means business. I've got to say, I am loving every second of it, and hope it doesn't dissappear anytime soon. I think it might have something to do with the fiasco that was our wedding venue, which has now been resolved by us actually upping-sticks and going with a completely different reception venue. Talk about cutting it close, eh?
But all's well that ends well, and I am going full steam ahead with the wedding plans, and will plow down anyone who gets in my way and threatens to rain on my parade.

A friend once described me as a rebel traditionalist. Sometimes I like to do things by the book, and sometimes I like to do things my way and completely throw the rule book out the window.
So in rebellion against this obscure bridal trend which seems to be sweeping the nation, of keeping everything about your big day a is a photographic account of all the bits and pieces I have been collecting so far.

I know, ultimately the details and the layout of my big day will be a big surprise for everyone, because I am still yet to figure this out too but, I've got a few things that I know for certain and I am more than happy to share my excitement and inspiration with all you lovely folks that read my blog.

The devil is definitely in the detail with our wedding, and I have been collecting little bits and piece like a crazy person. Bits and pieces like French wine corks for place settings, old jam jars and crume brulee dishes to hold tealights for in the evening, wicker hearts to hang from door handles, and every available surface, and wooden fruit crates so kindly bestowed upon me by friend at the fruit and veg stall in Cardiff Market which I have been painting white. These will hold items such as confetti pouches, and our Orders of services, and whatever else needs to live in a wooden crate.

These larger jars will sit on our tables and again, any other surface I can cover, and will be filled with billowing blooms of hydrangeas and a whole load of other lovely French stylee flowers, maybe a bunch of lavender here, or a handful of rosemary there.

I am more than excited to make the dresses for my flowergirls using this Belle and Boo fabric. I've trawling the shops for months and became more and more disheartened by not being able to find something that was the perfect balance of quirky/original and girly, without being too twee.
So, the solution? Make them myself ofcourse. I will be doing a couple of calico toiles first to check the fit of the paper pattern is correct, as my poor little nieces may have inherited my short genes even from a young age so I don't want them to be swamped in fabric. No, sirree. The outfit will be finished off my dainty hair accessories, butterfly print tights, and flowers of course.

And last but not least, the invitations. Again, the devil is in the detail with these, and I have been collecting bits and pieces in a crazed stationery fueled addictive state practically since the Mr got down on one knee. Just ahead of making the flower girls' dresses, I think this is one of the things I am most excited about too. I know some people may be reading this and tearing their hair out that I am giving away so much about our wedding before I've even walked down the aisle, but there is one thing I am trying to keep under my hat, and that is the invitations. Here I go with the traditionalist stuff... I am a strong believer in the invitation being the first little taster that your guests have into what the big day will be like, so I'm trying to keep my excitement contained and not let the cat out the bag until these have all been sent out around Easter time. Sorry folks, but you're just gonna have to wait!

So onwards I go with the wedding preparations. I hope I haven't bored you too much already. I fear my friends may think I am turning into one of those boring people that can't talk about anything else apart from how amazing there wedding is going to be. So let's agree to talk about something else next time, eh? Maybe cake! Cake solves everything. Yes...I think we shall talk about cake.

See you soon dear readers.

Love Hannah. x

Monday, 27 January 2014

Lazy Baking Days

Sometimes, when the urge to bake takes you, you just have to go with it. And on this particularly wet and gloomy afternoon, I was seeking almost instant gratification for minimum effort. So, off I pottered to the kitchen in my half asleep state from a very early start (in my pyjamas, ofcourse) and rustled up a batch of perfectly buttery, not to mention thrifty, Cornish Fairings.

The simple act of combining ingredients and dropping them onto a baking sheet in a semi-comatose state was just what I needed, and the result were very rewarding.

Citrussy spiced, biscuits with the perfect combination of crunchy and chewyness to them became a match made in heaven with a cup of tea in favourite new Peter Rabbit mug (a present from the Mr for Christmas). I then hauled myself off to bed for an hour, only to be greeted by the sound of the Mr arriving home from work and joyous calls of “Cor it smells good in here! Have you been baking?” before he swiftly pinched one from the cooling rack.

And thus, that comforting feeling was sustained by the happy notion that I had filled someone else's belly and also made them happy. Bliss. My work here is done!

And in the spirit of spreading that warm and fuzzy feeling. Here is the recipe I used from the Great British Book of Baking, no less.

100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp ground mixed spice
40g caster sugar
50g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1tbsp mixed peel, finely chopped
3 tbsp golden syrup, level not rounded (gently warmed)

Preheat the oven to Gas5/ 190°c.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Add the butter, and rub into the flour mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the mixed peel, followed by the golden syrup to make a stiff dough.

Using your hands, divide the mixture in 18 marble sized pieces and roll into balls. Put on a greased baking tray, spacing well apart as they will spread during baking. (I made them in batches of 6).

Bake in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes. Keep an eye on them though, because of the golden syrup, just 30 seconds too long and they can colour too quickly.
Leave to cool on the tray for 5 mins to firm up before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Best enjoyed with a cup of tea in your favourite mug, and store in an airtight container.