Sunday, 21 April 2013

Vegan food swap

I recently came across the concept of food swapping and while I really liked the idea I suspected that being vegan would make things a little awkward. Of course, thanks to the power of Google it didn’t take long to find the UK vegan food swap hosted by Sasha and Mitsu of To Happy Vegans. I deliberated for a month or two (not sure why) and then stuck my name down. The swap which has a budget of £10 excluding postage gets underway towards the start of the month and rolls over to the next month unless you opt out.

As soon as participants have confirmed their entry for the month a list is sent round notifying everyone who they need to contact to arrange the swap. Partners are allocated randomly so you don’t usually send to the person who is sending to you. I soon heard from Petra who would be sending to me and I contacted Rachel who would be my recipient. Coincidentally Rachel would be sending to Petra so we ended up in a swap triangle!

Once I had details of Rachel’s preferences I went shopping. I chose some foods I know and like as well as some I haven’t tried before, including the chilli noodles as Rachel said she is experimenting with spicy foods.

The box I sent to Rachel included…
... falafel mix, chili miso noodles, cola bottles, mushroom pate and raspberry truffles. I wish I'd bought a second packet of the cola bottles.

And here are the scrummy treats I received from Petra...
 ...Wasabi Wheatgrass which is actually dried kale, sundried pineapple and Raw Superfood Granola made from raw chocolate, with nuts and seeds. All of the snacks went straight into my work bag so I’d have lots of lovely treats in the office.

I love snacking on wasabi peas so the wasabi wheatgrass was an excellent treat. The dried kale tastes a lot like the fried ‘seaweed’ that you can get in Chinese restaurants but with a little kick of wasabi. The dried pineapple is really good too and the raw granola makes a great afternoon snack.

Of the tea bags I've so far only tried the mysterious pink tea bag, it didn't say what tea it was on the wrapper but I managed to find it in my local supermarket. It's a chai tea by Clipper called Love me Truly, it doesn't contain any black tea so just the spices, it has an unusual spicy sweet kick that I love and it's officially my new favourite tea. I'll be adding one of these to my swap boxes in the future.

Thanks so much to Petra for a brilliant food swap and wonderful tea! You can read more about past swaps on Mitsu's blog over on the To Happy Vegans website and fellow creative blogger Hannah also took part in the vegan food swap for the first time this month, you can have a nosey at what she sent and received here.

Have you ever joined a food swap? What exciting treats have you discovered?

Monday, 15 April 2013

Guest post: Making a nesting material pot for birds

I am thrilled to welcome the very excellent Anna of Miss Beatrix as my guest blogger for April. Anna is the mastermind behind Creatives Unite and #PostCircle and owner of the very pretty Beatrix. Welcome, Anna!
Miss Chaela Boo: Guest post: Making a nesting material pot for birds by Miss Beatrix
Hello, and very nice to meet you! I'm Anna and I blog at Miss Beatrix

I have always loved animals, and when I was about seven years old I remember skewering an envelope on a chopstick and pleading with my dad to draw a squirrel on it. Slightly bemused, he did so, and I then popped a hazelnut inside (pilfered at Christmas) and proudly staked the envelope-on-a-stick in my back garden. I thought that a passing squirrel would spot my little sign, see his likeness in my dad's drawing, and come visiting. 

I'm sad to say that I never did see a squirrel in that garden, but these days, in my Yorkshire habitat of quite a number of years I see them daily. And now I prefer to come up with ways to invite birds into my garden instead of rodents. I try to help out the birdies whenever I can because, let's face it, it's a tough life for the little things. This cold spring has meant they have had to fight constantly to stay warm and find enough food every day, as well build nests and find the perfect mate (aww). I have a great array of birds in my garden, from wrens to bluetits, pheasants to goldfinches, and they reward me with their cheery tunes and lots of photography opportunities.
Miss Chaela Boo: Guest post: Making a nesting material pot for birds by Miss Beatrix
So this quick and easy make is the new version of my squirrel tempter and it has a two-fold purpose; it allows you to help our feathered friends, and if you have a pet like me, make use of the fur we pet-owners are constantly having to deal with.

You will need:

Some form of waterproof container. I decided on a large yogurt pot, and it already had a handle.
Acrylic paints in your chosen colours
A paintbrush and a sponge - I used an old washing up sponge
A can of clear, spray varnish, suitable for outdoors
String or wire if your container doesn't have a handle

First, take your clean container and give it a really quick rough scratching all over with your sandpaper. This is just to help the paint to stick properly. Then give it a wash and dry. 
Miss Chaela Boo: Guest post: Making a nesting material pot for birds by Miss Beatrix
This is the fun bit. Use your sponge to dab a thick layer of acrylic paint all over your container. I needed three coats to get full coverage, but it didn't take long as acrylic dries really quickly. Or you can cheat and give it a blast with a hairdryer between coats!
Miss Chaela Boo: Guest post: Making a nesting material pot for birds by Miss Beatrix
Any splodges you get on the rim will just scratch off - no problem. 

Now choose your design. Reminiscent of my little squirrel envelope, I decided to paint a simple bird shape on mine. Just don't make it anything too mammal-like or you might scare the birds away! Draw it on with pencil first, then 'colour in'. Have fun with this, the birds don't care what your design looks like, after all! (Mind you, a very snooty wood pigeon often sits of my fence looking pompous, but I don't care what he thinks of my artistic efforts). 
Miss Chaela Boo: Guest post: Making a nesting material pot for birds by Miss Beatrix
When your paint is dry give your container two to three coats with the spray varnish. Again, it dries fairly quickly. Add a handle if you need to.

Now all you have to do is groom your furry friend... or if you're like me and have long hair this is probably the right time to de-fur your hairbrush. Sigh. I also de-fluffed the filters in my tumble drier. 
Miss Chaela Boo: Guest post: Making a nesting material pot for birds by Miss Beatrix
Pop all your gathered fur in your container and hang it in a tree, or where your birdie friends feed. They can help themselves and build lovely, cosy nests. To tempt them in you may want to add a few seeds to your pot as well. We all need snacks during the working day. 
Miss Chaela Boo: Guest post: Making a nesting material pot for birds by Miss Beatrix

Miss Chaela Boo: Guest post: Making a nesting material pot for birds by Miss Beatrix

Ah, home sweet home...

Miss Chaela Boo: Guest post: Making a nesting material pot for birds by Miss Beatrix
Alternatives to the pot-painting method include using old crockery or small wicker baskets. I even know of one really determined man who asks his local dog groomer for the carrier bags of fur they would put into landfill and takes a mad dash around his local park - it's like yarn bombing for birds! 

Thank you very much to Michaela for letting me visit her charming blog today!

Thank you Anna for a fabulous post, I'm sure the lady blackbird I saw yesterday with a face full of moss and grass would appreciate a pot fluff, perhaps short scraps of fluffy yarn could go in too. 

If you enjoyed this super DIY, why not skip on over to Handmade Monday where you'll find a host of creative bloggy goodness!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Great British Sewing Bee

How brilliant was the Great British Sewing Bee? If you missed it, think The Great British Bake off but with sewing, it’s even made by the same people. Eight contestants take on sewing challenges set by the suitably scary judges, sewing teacher May Martin and Savile Row tailor Patrick Grant. In the first week the challenges were, to follow an A-line skirt pattern, alter the neckline on a plain top and make a dress for their allocated model.
Claudia and the judges (Picture: BBC)
The show is presented by the fabulous Claudia Winkleman (love her!) and set in the wonderful sewing room which is jam packed with fabric and ribbon. At the end of each show two contestants are sent home until the winner is crowned in the final episode.
The contestants (Picture BBC)
The contestants came from a rich variety of sewing backgrounds and while they were of course brilliantly skilled at completing the challenges, they also made mistakes like normal people and I found that reassuring.

Of course the show got me thinking about my past experiences of making clothing. It’s been a long time since I attempted anything more complex than an appliqué cushion but at college I made a shirt for myself by copying the pattern of a readymade shirt. Then in my second year at sixth form college I designed and made my own ball gown.

It's probably a good thing that I couldn’t track down any photos from 14 years ago, however it did mean I had to put it on for a photo.
Miss Chaela Boo: handmade dress
So here is the dress made by 18 year old me, I still love the colours and from a distance it doesn’t look too bad. The original idea was that the yellow part would be a lightning bolt but in the end it was more of a splash.

The execution however, is shocking; I’m even a little embarrassed to admit that I was responsible for such terrible handiwork. The ‘hidden’ zip just isn’t and the stitching is mostly not very straight.
Miss Chaela Boo: dressmaking
The good points are it has a fitted bodice with boning and because it’s made from organza (very see through) it’s also fully lined; there is also some very neat stitching on the inside too! Overall, I’d say not a bad effort for a first attempt and made entirely without a proper pattern.

It’s a good reminder to me that with a decent template, either a proper pattern or another item to copy, I could probably manage to put together something respectable. It also serves as an incentive to have a go at making something else since I feel like I have redeem myself, so watch this space!

You can catch the second episode of the Great British Sewing Bee on BBC2 tomorrow (Tuesday 9th April) at 8pm and if you missed the first one catch up on the iPlayer!

Monday, 1 April 2013

DIY: Teacup pincushion

This super quick DIY will have you searching the charity shops for cups and saucers to upcycle in to handy pincushions. Perfect to keep your pins and needles in order and the saucer is great for holding buttons!
Miss Chaela Boo: Teacup pincushion DIY upcycle tutorial

You will need:
  • A teacup and saucer
  • Scrap of material
  • Toy stuffing
  • Fabric glue
  • Super glue
  • Needle and thread
  • Scissors
  • Decorative trim (optional)
Miss Chaela Boo: Teacup pincushion DIY upcycle tutorial
The size of the cushion will depend on the size of your cup, this cup is on the small side at 7cm across the top.

Place the fabric face down and use the saucer to mark out a circle, add approximately 5cm allowance around the saucer to make the circle bigger, in this case about 20cm across.  For a larger cup you'll need a larger circle.
Miss Chaela Boo: Teacup pincushion DIY upcycle tutorial
Use a basic running stitch to sew around the edge of the circle of fabric, this will be hidden inside the cup later so doesn't need to be your best sewing. Gather the edges of the fabric circle by pulling the thread through and begin to stuff with the toy stuffing, add enough stuffing to make a nice bouncy cushion. Pull the thread tight to close up the end and fasten off.

Apply a line of fabric glue along the inside edge and another 1cm lower. Pop the cushion in the cup and adjust to the required depth, I wanted quite a high cushion so didn't push it in to far.
Miss Chaela Boo: Teacup pincushion DIY upcycle tutorial
You can leave it there or add some decorative trim. Use the fabric glue again and apply a thin line of glue to the edge of the cushion, then stick on the trim.

Finally use the super glue to fix the cup to the saucer, gel based glue is great for precision gluing around the base of the cup.

Miss Chaela Boo: Teacup pincushion DIY upcycle tutorial
Half an hours work and you have a great new sewing accessory to keep or make one as a gift.

Now join me in checking out some fab blogs over at Handmade Harbour!