Friday, 5 February 2016

Handmade valentine's gift ideas

With Valentine's just around the corner I thought I'd show a few of my makes which would be perfect for the occasion!

Here is one of my personal favourites, hand stitched love heart on an embroidery hoop.

If you just like saying it with a card then I have three designs this year:

Do you celebrate Valentine's day, or do you just treat it like any other day. I know this year James is working all day and into the evening so no celebrating at all here, but as some say who needs a day to show someone you love them!
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Monday, 1 February 2016

You know your a cyclist when...

So up until recently I had not ridden a bike in over 8 years, in fact that was only just on a week's holiday at a centre parcs in Holland, so I really haven't ridden properly since I was a teen.

That's had to change recently as some of you will be aware that I do not drive and Sam has now started preschool-which is by our house, not by Alex's school which is about a 20min walk away. So the only way to get between the two is by bike.

So we got my old bike from my parent's house (a boy's bike so my brother's could have it after me!) and bought a child seat for the back, I am about 3 weeks in and finally getting my balance and can finally go around the chicane at the end of the path!

Since becoming a part time, path cycling, cyclist I have noticed these things:

  • People don't smile at you any more, even if it's another cyclist.
  • You're not often let across the road unless unless someone if feeling particularly nice or you have another child with you.
  • People like to judge and assume you're going too zoom past them when in actual fact I would always hold back and wait until there is room as I am just like that.
  • People assume you to be rude and impatient.
  • People see it fit to be rude to you: just this morning I was heading through the park by our house on the way to drop Sam off at preschool, I saw a mother and daughter with their dog in front of me, and a mum and pushchair coming the other way (who always smiles to me when I am walking-never even gives me a second glance on the bike). I slowed down and was happy just basically balancing behind the mother and daughter when a big gust of wind came and I said to Sam "wow that was windy wasn't it" to which the Mum heard me behind and got her daughter to try and move over, I was polite and said thank you and her reply "would help if you had a bell" and giving me a really filthy look. I was not zooming past, I was not rude, I was more than happy going slow until we would reach the end of the main path a mere 10M away, little does she know I have actually looked for a bell twice in our local Asda when the bike section has been near to empty. Little does she know, I actually wouldn't like coming up behind someone and ringing the bell, I'm happy just going slow for a bit. 
Argh sorry rant over, I just find it weird how people perceive you when you are on two wheels rather than on two feet. I'm just a mum getting my child to school like anyone else, there is no way I am confident enough to cycle on the road, and to be honest I wouldn't want to with a 3 year old on the back anyway, and anyhow it was a suitable bike path too! I just know that, that one comment said in the tone it was said in will play over in my mind all day now!

Do you cycle at all? Do you find that people see you differently than when you walk?

Anyway after a few weeks at preschool Sam is really enjoying himself which is fantastic, we only had tears once and that was more tiredness than anything else. I really hope he comes out of his shell a bit as he is very much like me in the sense of being shy with new people, but he seems to be getting on well and my fridge is now home to many paintings and drawings :)

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

How to gain orders in small business? And a special offer on Danielle Louise Designs

That is one question I have been asking myself recently.

I set up Danielle Louise Designs almost a year ago, now I knew that it would be slow going and hard work to get seen etc, I just had no idea quite how much!

Apart from a couple of small orders I have still only sold to friends and family. A lot of the things made on my page have been for gifts for us to give-in hope that those that see it will either order that thing, or those who see the gift in it's new home will like it enough to check out my work.

It's so disheartening to see other pages do so well, so quickly, I have had a lot of feedback from networking that has been really positive, but my 'like' counter doesn't move up much compared to other pages, and I am lucky to get an order or two a month. I'm not really sure what I am doing differently.

Towards the end of last year I set up an Etsy page in hope that, that too would boost my sales a bit, but had no views for months. Etsy has been a HUGE learning curve, I have realised it is very hard to be seen, that selecting the right category probably makes a huge difference to views, keywords and SEO are something I need to learn more about! With that in mind I have recently joined a facebook page Etsy resolution which is full of hints and tips, this week it was photography.

When I look at my pages I know my photography isn't the best, not the worst, but not stand out enough, a lovely lady messaged me with lots of help for photographing my frames and yesterday I put this into practice!

I know real photographers would probably still pick problems with these but I am really pleased with them, it took some time but now I know what to do it should be easier in the future!

Now when people see my items in the Etsy search the thumbnail photos will hopefully stand out more-at least they look more professional now!

Now that I have changed these photos in the listings I am wanting to update the photos of my other listings. So I have an offer on my page 10% off the items I have listed in my facebook post, it's 1st come 1st serve as only 1 of each available.

For the full details please look here but these are the items I'd like to make so that I can photograph them better (personalised to your colour/names):

If you like my makes please do visit me on facebook or Etsy (or both!) and please share with anyone you think may like it.

If anyone has any tips on trying to make it 'bigger' and more 'successful' I'd love to hear it :)

Friday, 18 December 2015

Sam's 3rd birthday, and a Disney Cars and Planes cake

So last Wednesday my baby turned 3, and boy was he excited about it after desperately waiting after Alex's, mine and James' in recent weeks!!

Sam is a little character, every one thinks he is quiet, but he doesn't miss a trick and takes everything in! Once he gets to know you he will eventually talk, and he really can chat! He loves puzzles, cars and planes in particular, and can at times be a little lazy ;) he suddenly seems to have grown up a little, loosing his toddlerish ways, very good considering he will be starting preschool after Christmas (woop, woop)!

He is a HUGE lover of films, I will admit he often watches one a day when I need to get on my work orders, and it has become a little bit of a bad habit (oops). But he is a big lover or all things Disney and will happily sit through many of the pixar films in particular. His favourites being Cars and Planes, (although Toy Story, Wreck it Ralph and The Incredibles), and although it changed many times, he eventually settled on wanting a planes and cars cake-it was always going to be a chocolate one though!

I used the same chocolate cake recipe as Alex's Iron man cake, but I must admit I think I over cooked it slightly! I made one deep cake and then two smaller cakes and layered them up with some butter icing.

Then the fun/scary bit...decorating it!

He's asked for blue icing and that's what he got, it took me a while to do all the elements but it was really fun making the bottom half look a bit like radiator springs from Disney cars and then making the top half looking like the sky and using the planes shaped logo from the film cover.

I made some mini bunting for a finishing line using paper, cocktail sticks and a black pen, a little fiddly but it was needed I thought.  I cheated and used some of our mini figures as I didn't see the point in making icing ones!

We had a few of his little friends over for a party lunch, we didn't do games just had a play as in past experience, party games with 2 and 3 year olds is not a great deal of fun! Then in the evening we had family over for cake too.

He had a great day and loved all his gifts (mainly Planes themed surprisingly!) and is now looking forward to Christmas too!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

How to create a simple Iron Man head birthday cake

So as you may have read Alex turned 6 on Friday and he had asked for an Iron man cake, at first I was filled with dread but in fact the cake was relatively easy, normally when I bake birthday cakes, or cakes of some importance something goes wrong, but this one time it didn't (phew)!

I baked 3 large rectangle chocolate cakes, 2 x 3 egg cakes and the bottom layer being a 4 egg recipe to make it slightly thicker.

I printed out an iron man template (plenty found online) and cut the template out of the cakes (each layer separately).

Then layered the cakes on top of one another on the board I was presenting the cake on with a thin layer on vanilla butter icing to bind them and underneath the cake so make it stick to the board.

Following some images online and the template guide I started to carve the cake into a shape, I probably could have shaped it slightly more, but I didn't want to go too far and ruin it-this was the first time I have tried cake carving after all!

Once I was happy I put a thin layer of butter icing over the whole cake and put in the fridge to harden for about 15mins creating the crumb crust (something I probably haven't had the patience for before now but I now know why it is vital)!

This year I bought my icing from Hobbycraft using the Renshaw brand. This is the first time I have used them and I will definitely be using it again, it rolled so nicely, I have never been able to ice a cake without it tearing or sticking terribly, but miraculously this time it worked pretty much perfectly for a novice baker like myself! I used as little icing sugar as needed and followed this ladies tutorial for tips-and it worked for me!

I covered the whole cake with red icing, then used my template for the yellow icing and likewise for the eyes.

For the black outlines I used some black decorating icing also from Hobbycraft, by squirting some into some decorating/writing tubes I own using two different thickness's. I will admit I wasn't as happy with the result of this but I think it looked better once it had dried as I liked the cake much more the next morning! You really need to concentrate and mind your hands with this, I had kitchen roll on hand to clean the nossle regularly which helped.

I was so pleased with the cake, and it got lots of complements, I hear the kids even ate it before they got to their cars (I did feed them honest)!

The Snowman™ and The Snowdog Great Festive Bake Off Blog Tour! #SnowmanSnowdog

We had a fantastic opportunity to receive and review some Snowman and the Snowdog products, a popular Christmas item for many families any Christmas! I know I always loved watching it as a child and you can get the chance to again this Christmas with his new companion as the Snowman and the Snowdog will be shown on Channel 4 again this Christmas.

We received a beautiful 'The snowman book' hardback deluxe edition, £12.99 from puffin books. Perfect for story telling and for letting your child's imagination run free, and a chance to reminisce for the parent's too! This would make a wonderful present, or a treat for the family before Christmas if you can't wait until the 25th! A large book as it measure approx 24 x 29cm and is full of illustrations in the style of the original film.

 Unfortunately our chocolate that was sent to review didn't have the best ride in the post by the looks of him! The poor snowman got a little broken!

However here is a photo of him in one piece, and he still tasted delicious as you'd expect from Thornton's chocolate. There is a whole range available on their website and in store.

Now I will admit, I do find it hard to get overly festive until after Sam's birthday on the 9th of Dec as he is the last out of us 4 (we have all 4 of our birthday's between 20th Nov and 9th of Dec!!!), and I will also admit to slightly being a bit bored of baking after my mammoth bake last week, but it was fun none the less and made a yummy pudding for us all!

The boys had a good time making the biscuits, and using our Snowman and Snowdog cutters to make the shapes. We used the recipe on the back of the cookie cutter packaging which was a little sticking to roll so we did have to add a bit extra flour to help. The cookie cutters are great and are available in John Lewis and Party Delights for around £3.

350g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
125g butter
175g light brown sugar
1 egg
4 tbsp golden syrup

Preheat oven to 180C.
Add the dry ingredients to a bowl, mix. 
Add butter, mix, stir in the sugar. 
Lightly beat egg and syrup together and mix with the other ingredients.
Knead dough until smooth and cover and put in the fridge for approx 15mins. 
Roll dough to about 0.5cm thick and cut out shapes. 
Place on baking paper on a tray and cook for around 12-15 mins. 

After they cooled, and we'd finished our dinner I got our icing and decorations out, we each decorated a Snowman and Snowdog and then I let the boys run wild with the rest which they found fantastic- I will admit I can be a tad OCD when baking with kids, I just can't handle it so I think they were enjoying no panicky and fussy mum!
Alex's aged 6
Sam's aged 3 (nearly)

My attempt, we had no black icing so had to improvise which makes them clown like!
The boy's creations together! 
As this is a blogtour it would only be fair to mention who is next, please check out Jenny's blog tomorrow for her #SnowmanSnowdog post. Search #SnowmanSnowdog on twitter to find all the posts so far too

Friday, 27 November 2015

Superhero party on a budget (games and ideas)

So last Friday my eldest baby turned 6, and yes I say this every year but where did that time go?

He has flown through his first year at school and now we are almost at the Christmas nativity (in which he is one of many shepherds)!

Alex has a thirst for information and since I bought an Usbourne Atlas book for him for Christmas he has loved Geography and also finding out which things are in which country which is really great and nice to see he wants to have knowledge of it all too.

Being a typical 6 year old boy he is also in to many typical boy things like lego and superheroes so there wasn't really much surprise when he asked for me to make an Iron man cake for his birthday-I did however persuade him that making the whole of iron man would be a bit tricky and that just his face would be a lot better ;) for my cake tutorial please check in this weekend...

With money being usually tight I knew we couldn't afford a 'proper' party this year as they are just so expensive, but luckily Alex just wanted a party at home, great I thought until we saw the list of people he wanted. The thought of 16 kids in the house with just myself, mum and James to control them was a little un-nerving but we got there!

It was chaos and they were hyper but we did have some vague plans and times at which to do it! Pinterest as always was invaluable! (Here's my board for the party for more ideas).

I had spent hours making lots of super hero masks using these templates. I think I made about 20 so they had a choice and to leave extras in case any went wrong or got lost. I used cereal boxes and then covered in coloured paper, this would be a lot quicker if you have thick coloured card (I just tried to make it as cheap as I could for myself using bits we already had)!

Alex's mask
I went onto Baker Ross to find they have some super hero stickers and tattoos, I also needed star stickers, sticky back gems and elastic for the masks, they also sold glow sticks which I needed for a game and for the party bags.

They came in and made their masks straight away-this actually didn't take as long as I had hoped it would ;)

As some were finishing up their masks they gradually all queued up to play pin the badge on batman. I'd just cut a large black piece of paper up in a rough batman shape and used yellow paper to make the badges and stuck double sided foam shapes on the back.

After that Alex wanted to play traditional games such as musical bumps and statues which they all really liked as most kids that age do.

Then we played the game 3 corners (usually 4 corners but it was in our lounge so had to cut one corner out due to space) I placed a super hero in each of the three corners, the music played and they danced in the middle, when it stopped they ran to one of the corners whilst I had 3 pictures of the super heroes behind my back and picked one-whoever is on that person are out and you just play on until there is one left.

Then I manically got some of the food sorted that couldn't be done until last minute whilst they played this game, which my husband said they loved. They sat down on the floor in a circle and I got a bunch of 6 green glow sticks taped together and we called it kryptonite (which kills superman if I am correct). Basically they pass this around to music like pass the parcel, but whoever landed with the kryptonite was out and instead of waiting around they came into the kitchen to get their food. This worked really well as meant there weren't 16 kids all around the table choosing their food at the exact same time. James said it was quite hard to get to a winner so the last two spilt the 6 green glow sticks to keep in their party bags.

As we had so many children and have so few chairs in our house we put out picnic rugs on our kitchen floor for them to eat on, surprisingly they really didn't make too much mess and they also had very healthy appetites, I am not sure the school fed them lunch that day!!

We did a typical party buffet of pizza, sausage and cheese rolls, sandwiches, cheese and pineapple, crisps, bread-sticks, cucumber and carrots. After their savouries we sang our happy birthday's and then moved onto dessert.

I'd made a traffic light jelly, and made plenty of cupcakes, I'd bought super hero toppers for them on eBay which Alex loved, I also put out some biscuits of party rings and chocolate fingers!

After the food we played a quick game with some t shirts and balloons, Alex and two others who he chose wore James' and my old tops and we had blown up plenty of balloon (really small) and the kids had to fill the tops up to make them look muscular like super heroes. This was a fun game but it did get rather hectic so would may be better with slightly fewer children!
I loved how Alex ended up looking
After that we had about 10/15 minutes to spare and we were reaching the end of our tether slightly as they were bouncing off the walls, James put his projector on in the playroom and they started watching The Incredibles until their parents arrived-they were sat down so quietly for this and it actually worked out really well for pick up time too as we just called them out with their parent was there.

Alex had a great party, and although hectic there were no problems and for the most part the kids did behave (James did however move his TV upstairs after it nearly being knocked a few times in the first few minutes!), I am hoping next year Alex will choose slightly less children though ;) As ever my mum who works in a nursery was the best of help too, don't know how I would do it without her help!

We had our family over literally straight after so I didn't get to sit down until late at night and then couldn't sleep until gone 2.30am, Sam delightfully woke me at 6.30 too...! The next few days we spent building and playing new Lego sets mainly as he was so lucky and had lots of new sets along with lots of other cool gifts too! I would say that's all the birthday's over for a while but it was mine yesterday, James' on the 3rd and Sam's on the 9th Dec!
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