More Monkey Adventures

Day 22 of Advent and Monkey was getting himself party ready by practising his dancing.

Day 22 Monkey's practicing his sitting down dancing

He only does ‘sitting down dancing’ as his legs are a bit uncoordinated.

Day 22 Check out the moves

He can still bust some fancy moves though.

Day 22 7 in 1 Tool

When he finally stopped boogying and took a proper look at his gift, he discovered that the instructions for his 7-in-1 multi tool were written in Chinese.  Sadly Monkey does not speak or read Chinese.

He’s worked out that there’s a saw at the top, then a can opener on the corner, an extremely sharp blade/knife running down the side, a bottle opener to the left of that, and a screwdriver on the bottom right corner but he’s stumped about the rest.

Do you have any idea what those remaining holey bits do?!

x

Monkey’s Advent Adventures

This is essentially a guest post by Barn as what follows is his creation – an idea he came up with to visually share his advent calendar with family and friends – I thought you might enjoy it too 🙂

On Day 1 there were Minion socks and Day 2 a miniature but very powerful torch (ideal for camping trips).  On Day 3 Monkey was introduced to the scene…

Day 3 – A passing Monkey was drawn to the bright colours on the tree and asked what was going on.  After having the concept explained to him he asked to join in then immediately lay claim to the contents of box no. 3.

Day 4 – Curious Monkey discovered a Man Flu treatment in his box…and immediately felt a headache coming on.

Day 5 – Monkey got so excited he was biting his nails, and actually got a trifle over giddy.  When he finally got the wrapper off he was very pleased with his new chocolate friend.

Day 6 – Barn went for a bike ride and came home to find Monkey anxiously watching out for him at the window.  Monkey gave a great big cheer when he came in, then rushed off to get in the shower with his new shower gel.

Day 7 – Monkey was sent to climb up and collect the box from the tree.   He was quite out of breath when he got back but felt it was worth it for a chocolate snowman.

Day 8 – After having his breakfast Monkey was in such a rush to get to his present that he got his hand stuck in the box.  After freeing himself and opening the gift he decided to laze around and do nothing but dream and eat the chocolate bars he’d received.

Day 9 – Monkey upped the festive spirit by popping on his new reindeer antlers for the box opening.  He was gobsmacked by the Santa socks he got.

Continue reading

Oh Christmas, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

It’s the 1st of December, which means only one thing – we can start opening our advent calendars!  Hooray, hooray, hooray!

I’ve been very excited about advent this year. Like, really, really excited…the fit to burst kind.  You see, earlier in the year I decided to save up and surprise Big Sis with the Selfridges beauty Advent calendar.

Big Sis's Calendar

To say I was thrilled that I managed to get one, despite them being limited availability and selling faster than the proverbial hot cakes, would be something of an understatement.

That has been exciting enough in itself, but then I’ve also put together personalised calendars for…

DIY Advent No. 1: Baby socks filled with gifts pegged on a string washing line - pre-printed numbers cut from an 'in the January sales' bargain price calendar and glued to ordinary laundry pegs
DIY Advent No. 1: Socks on a Line – Pre-printed numbers cut from an ‘in the January sales’ bargain price calendar and glued to ordinary laundry pegs. Baby socks were filled with gifts then pegged onto the string washing line.

…Mum…

DIY Advent No. 2: More 'bought in the January sales' bargains - this time little self assembly gift boxes which have been filled with little gifts and hung from a white tree branch. This is an artificial one with a stand which I already had, but you could spray paint an actual branch and wedge it in a pot.
DIY Advent No. 2: More ‘bought in the January sales’ bargains – this time little self assembly gift boxes which have been filled with small gifts and hung from a white tree branch. This is an artificial one branch with a stand which I already had, but you could spray paint an actual branch and wedge it in a pot.

…Barn…

This is Petit Man's childhood Advent calendar, now hanging on the fireplace of his first own home :-) Some left over pieces of green satin and cream damask pattern fabric were sewn into little pouches and numbers written on the fronts using a gold pen. They were then filled with gifts and tied onto a gold cord using contrasting ribbons.
DIY Advent No. 3: This is Petit Man’s childhood Advent calendar, now hanging on the fireplace of his first own home 🙂
Some left over pieces of green satin and cream damask pattern fabric were sewn into little pouches and numbers written on the fronts using a gold pen. They were then filled with gifts and tied onto a gold cord using contrasting ribbons.

…and a joint one for Petit Man and Mme. E (he’s green, she’s cream, and they both get something on the 24th).

So you see, since January I’ve been building not only calendars, but also a huge level of gleeful anticipation about handing them over 🙂

Gorgeous advent calendar containing handmade scented wax melts - from Busy Bee Candles
Gorgeous advent calendar containing handmade scented wax melts – from Busy Bee Candles

Then, when I went yesterday to deliver the goodies to Mum and Big Sis, they surprised me with an advent calendar of my own.  This tipped me over the edge of reasonable adult behaviour, such that I could barely sleep last night through sheer excited anticipation.

Owl burner

My calendar has a little scented wax melt for each day, and came with this pretty ceramic owl burner.  Today’s scent is called ‘Crazy’, which to me smells of pine and pepper – which is surprisingly nice.  A certain someone commented on the appropriateness of it for me.  I think that sort of remark’s just not necessary.

Mum, Big Sis and Barn loved their first gifts and sent pictures, which made my day extra fun too.  Petit Man will doubtless call me tomorrow morning about today’s gift, because he’s hopelessly disorganised like that 😉

1970s advent calendar

As Big Sis and I observed, advent calendars have come a long way since the days when we took turns to open little paper doors to find, if you were lucky, a picture of the Star of Bethlehem (if you were unlucky it was a drawing of a tree bauble).

Come to think of it, I think I’d actually still rather like one of those.  And now I wouldn’t resent it being Big Sis and Bro’s turn to open a door.  Probably.

Oh, and by the way, in case you hadn’t guessed it yet, I REALLY LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!  May the joys of the festive season be upon you too because more Christmas themed post are inevitably going to follow.  Only 24 sleeps to go… 😉

x

8 – 12 Course Menu, with paired drinks

I have been a bad blogger.  There have been reasons for this, but I won’t bore you with them.  Instead I shall offer a gourmet feast for your delectation.

Birthday Dinner TableHowever, before I do that I’d like to quickly address a couple of things:

Firstly, number of courses…it helps to know how many you’re creating so you can brag say, “I cooked an X course meal for eight people”.  I promise, I can count up to twenty and beyond, without even using my fingers and toes, but on this I’m a little confused.

When making the count apparently certain parts of a meal don’t qualify as a course.  If you discriminate against certain foodstuffs in this fashion, and don’t include palate cleansers or coffee, then this would be an eight course meal.  I have questions about the validity of this counting method.

Then there’s the order of courses… Soup before salad? Cheese before dessert? Where do palate cleansers fit in? Surely there must be some kind of standard?  But no, apparently not.  I’m telling you, a quick look around the internet and you’ll see what I mean…anything beyond three courses the whole thing’s up for debate.  Right or wrong, this is how we opted to do things (‘we’ being me, of course!).

Centre pieceThis meal was a really fun thing to do for Big Sis’s birthday.  I had an awesome time, from planning to consumption. Hopefully everyone involved enjoyed themselves just as much!

Recipes will follow, as will the update on the now completed Cupboard Challenge, but for now, let me run you through the menu…

Amuse bouche - dried plums soaked in Armagnac, stuffed with duck breast pâté and topped with crisp pancetta.

Amuse bouche – dried plums soaked in Armagnac, stuffed with duck breast pâté and topped with crisp pancetta.
Drink pairing: Prosecco

Now, those eight courses I mentioned – that includes the amuse-bouche…but are you supposed to include them?

Hand made wild mushroom ravioli with white truffle butter sauce

Hand made wild mushroom ravioli with white truffle butter sauce
Drink pairing: Prosecco

Roasted tomato bisque garnished with crumbled feta

Roasted tomato bisque garnished with crumbled feta
Drink pairing: Wheat beer

Twisted Waldorf Salad - savoury profiterole filled with celery mousseline, topped with diced apple and toasted walnuts, served with a maple syrup and mustard dressing

Twisted Waldorf Salad – savoury profiterole filled with celery mousseline, topped with diced apple and toasted walnuts, served with a maple syrup and mustard dressing
Drink pairing: Dry cider

Lemon sorbet (Not home made.  Don't judge.  Time constraints guys, time constraints!)

Lemon sorbet.  Not home made. Please don’t judge me…time constraints guys, time constraints!

Seriously now, why do palate cleansers not qualify as a course?  In a meal of this type they’re about the same size as other things that pass muster.  Seems a little wrong to me.  It’s like saying, “You’re just here to clean my mouth out…you can’t be a course, you’re not substantial enough.  You’re not even really food.”

Poor bullied sorbet 😉

Continue reading

Nancy and the Scarlet Slipper

Hot on the heels (sorry) of the dragon slaying shoe, I was asked to do another shoe cake – this time a friend of mine wanted to surprise one of his friend’s on her 50th birthday.  He said she likes shoes and her favourite colour is red…apart from that, the design was left to me. Shoe cakeTaking a huge amount of inspiration from the extremely talented Iris Rezoagli of Cake Dreams by Iris, I created this high heeled shoe cake.

The shoe box cake is a four layer vanilla Madeira cake, filled with strawberry jam and vanilla Italian meringue buttercream.High heeled shoeThe gumpaste shoe was made using the heel mould and sole cutter from the kit I used last time.  However, because I decided to go with a platform sole, it was necessary to create my own toe and heel strap templates.  There was some cursing involved.  And maybe a little bit of pencil throwing.  Got there in the end though.

The upper of the shoe was created using two layers of gumpaste; I made the lacy detail with a heart shaped cutter and two broderie anglaise cutters.  I was initially planing to use Cake Lace but the lace mat I’d purchased wasn’t big enough, and patching bits together wasn’t going to work.  Not to worry, Plan B came out just fine.

(As it happens, I have a future cake planned that will utilise the cake lace, and allows me time to buy a larger lace mat!  That’s assuming I can make it work.  General consensus is that it’s a doddle to use, but I reserve judgement until actual usage has occurred 😉 )

The bow on the shoe and the black flowers (of undetermined species) are both embellished with non-edible diamanté.

PoppyHand modelled gumpaste poppy(ish) flower set against black satin ribbon.

ImprovementsThere are a few key areas for improvement, as detailed above, plus the top of the cake was still sloping at the edges – dammit I will get a straight finish!

That said, I’m really, really pleased with how the shoe came together and the over all look of the cake.  I had fun making it.

The recipient was reported to be delighted and amazed and so all is well in my little corner of the universe.

x

A peek through the window

If you were to peep through my living room window right now (which I sincerely hope you don’t, because that would be creepy), you might deduce that I quite like Christmas. IMG_0028Our tree went up yesterday and underneath it are bags full of wrapped and beribboned presents.  Every time I see it, it fair makes my heart sing with pleasure.

Now, I’m going to get a bit navel gaze-y for a minute here, so you might want to skip forward a bit…

I was told quite recently, by someone once close to me, that the things that are important to me are “just materialistic crap” (another story, not to be told here).   This is the kind of barb that can leave a sore; more than once during my Christmas preparations I’ve paused to question the ‘rightness’ of the degree of pleasure that I’m getting from buying things for people and spending money on non-essentials to make my home feel cosy and pretty.

I find myself to be absolutely ok with it!

Continue reading

Frozen Party

One year on from the cake that got me hooked on fondant and  I was thrilled, once again, to  be asked to help make a special birthday for Barn’s niece.

Birthday girlThis time I not only made a cake, but also planned, designed and styled a whole dessert table, and several other elements of the party.  It was such delight to do!

Frozen Lunch BoxesSnow White has lunchSavoury food was provided in individual lunch boxes containing:

Freshly baked mini rolls filled with ham and cheese,
Olaf Noses and Blizzard Dip (carrots with cheese dip),
Sven Antlers (Twiglets),
Cherry tomatoes,
Crisps.

Definitely no poisoned apples involved!

DrinksDrinks were served in mini bottles with paper straws.

Left to right:

Melted Snow (water)
Princess Potion (apple & strawberry juice)
Winter Frost (blueberry & blackberry juice)

Icicle treeFrozen Table Decorations - Anna and ElsaThe centrepiece to the dessert table: Anna and Elsa stand in snow at the foot of tree laden with rock candy icicles (bubblegum and pink raspberry flavours).

Continue reading

Ageing Boxes

Aging BoxesAs the cost of actual vintage boxes was prohibitive, when I was preparing for Mum’s Vintage Sunflower birthday party I tried my hand at ageing some new ones.

I bought a set of raw wood, cheap pine crates online…the type intended for decoupage and other crafting.

To make ‘wear and tear’ scars, the crates were gouged with a screwdriver, bashed with a hammer and thumped with a bag of screws.

They were then painted with several coats of potassium permanganate solution (1 part potassium permanganate crystals to 50 parts water – it’s bright purple and seems unlikely to be what you want to put on wood…but it’s ok, no purple staining occurs!).  The stain gathers in the ‘damaged’ bits, helping to create a well-used appearance.

Once dried I stencilled on some lettering.

Things I would do differently next time:

  • Before doing anything else, lightly sand boxes and wipe with white spirit to remove any grease and dirt.
  • Stencil before staining and lightly sand lettering to give it a more aged look.
  • Find a way to soften the edges and corners of the crates.

That said, I think these turned out really well for a first attempt…I was certainly happy with how much money it saved and I think they looked great on the table.

x

Vintage Sunflowers

When it came to styling and organising Mum’s 2014 birthday party I decided to go rustic with a yellow and brown colour scheme, using a sunflower motif throughout.Edited welcome signBirthday flowers in ceramic bootsBirthday flowers in a pair of ceramic yellow welly boots.  I spotted the boots lurking in the far recesses of a charity shop and gave the poor, elderly volunteer quite a shock as I let out a whoop of glee at their perfectness!
Birthday garden: water dish, centre front, beloved of small birdThe girl with the 500 other party plans still in her head!Birthday gardenThe weather was kind and people were able to sit out in the sunshine, enjoying the beautiful garden, whilst eating with friends.

_DSC7407Pack your own picnicThe savouries table was set up in a farmers’ market style – guests were provided with brown paper carrier bags and invited to create their own picnic.

market tableFreshly baked bread, crisp and juicy apples, a basket of speckled brown boiled eggs, cheeses wrapped in brown paper, pickles, miniature jars of chutneys, tiny tomatoes that burst in your mouth when you bit into them, and bunches of lively spring onions.

Continue reading