My Week On Instagram

Ok, so this is how this week has been shaping up so far on Instagram…

tiny buttercup

… a tiny buttercup which made me feel all bright and sunshine-y …

phlox

… the purple phlox which is out in full force along the Finca’s hedge line  …

Hydrangea Annabelle

… the hydrangea is currently at its best. This is its moment …

Brinks and crochet

… Ja-Ja Brinks (as he was cutely called this week) still loving a bit of a crochet snooze in the morning …

I hope you’ve had a great week and are looking forward to a relaxing and fun-filled weekend.

See you soon x

 

Summer Inspiration | Pen Pals

Summer is the time when I tend to be at my most whimsical. Sudden fads take hold of me and I focus lots of time, energy and excitement on my latest project. Sometimes a whim can last for the summer and some can be a real surprise and stay with me forever.

This year, it’s the summer of the Pen Pal.

I know that you are well aware of my giddiness over stationery.  I also love the timelessness of a well-written letter. It’s almost meditative to sit down at a desk, with the sunlight streaming in through the window, with a cup of mint tea or freshly brewed coffee and communicate with pen on paper. The letter and envelope become their own work of art.

addressed letter pen pals

… this is obviously not the name/address of my Pen Pal – I made this one up …

After doing quite a lot of research, there seem to be a few easy routes to setting yourself up with a Pen Pal:

  • Re-kindle a friendship with someone who moved away
  • Begin writing to a relative in a different country
  • Be brave and start corresponding with a total stranger

I went for the last one.

Isn’t the phrase go big or go home? Is that appropriate for here? It seems to fit, so I’m running with it.

I decided to put up my details (only your email address, birthday and country of residence is needed) onto an online service which matches you with potential Pen Pals from around the world.  There are lots of these websites out there, but I chose to go with PenPalWorld – mainly because they are free and they received good reviews.

decorated envelope

I’m really excited about who I may get to write to and what stories they might have to share. I’m slightly worried about personal information, because in this digital age, we are schooled to be cautious.  I think I will just have fun with it and go with my instincts.

I’m even more excited about the potential for exploring a whole world of letter-writing stationery. Stamps. Pens. Paper. *Breathe

I think I may need a sit down.

lettering pens

In readiness, I have been practising different lettering techniques and trying to figure out the styles that I like (this is a whole project/fad/whim of its own).

At the moment, these are my two current, favourite pens for lettering:

I can’t wait to update you on who I write to. Do you think this is a fun project or do you have reservations? Are letters still cool or am I stuck in the dark ages?!

Have a great day x

Easy Hot Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

Do you sometimes wish for that perfect moment of housewifely-ness?

That instant of knowing that you are totally in control of your day?  The yes, I have time to make delicious pastries from scratch feeling? The yes, you have just caught me wiping my floury hands on my handmade apron and looking like I spend all day doing this sort of thing feeling?

This recipe promises to do all of this and, on top of that, provide you with the most deliciously special breakfast (or afternoon tea) that you can imagine. It’s that sort of recipe. A life changer.

hot cinnamon buns

For the Dough

1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup warm water
1tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, room temp
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 cups bread flour
3 tsps quick acting yeast

If you’re making this in either a bread maker or an upright mixer then all you need to do is pop all the ingredients into the bowl and have your machine mix it all together until it forms an elastic ball of dough. If it looks too dry then add milk, a tbsp at a time to achieve your desired consistency. If it is too sticky, add flour, a tbsp at a time until it is ready.

Next, leave your dough in the mixing bowl and cover it with cling film to rise for 10 minutes, somewhere warm.

Whilst you wait for the dough to prove you can lightly oil a work top space ready for kneading. You can also prepare the filling.

Cinnamon Filling

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed soft brown sugar
4-5 tbsp cinnamon.

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Now back to your dough. Again if you are using machines you can set them to knead for you, I prefer to do this by hand though. On your oiled work space, knead the dough firmly for 10 minutes. Now you are ready to roll it out into a large rectangle shape approx 2cm thick.

Next, leaving a small margin all the way round the outer edge of your dough spread your butter thickly. Then liberally cover your butter with the cinnamon sugar, (I find there is often too much cinnamon sugar and so I use what’s left over to sprinkle over the rolls once they are cut and in the tray ready for baking). You can now roll up your dough lengthways into a firm sausage shape. Be careful not to roll it too tightly though. Pinch together the end of your roll with the body of the sausage, (like pleating pastry on a pie crust) and you can begin to cut your rolls now.

Using a serrated knife cut your roll into slices, about 3 cm thick and place carefully onto a greased baking tray, evenly spaced out, to allow rising. Sprinkle with any remaining sugar and pop into a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C, they will need 10-12 minutes to cook.

Now you can make the frosting.

cinnamon bun cross section

Frosting

1 packet of salted butter
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 500g box icing sugar
2 tbsps milk.

This is mixed up like a normal butter cream and spread onto the hot rolls as soon as they come out the oven.

If you want to make it in advance, it is possible to freeze them pre baking. When you are ready, just thaw and bring to room temp before cooking as per instructions.

Happy baking! x

This recipe was kindly provided by the wonderful CakeNess. Find them on Facebook here.

My Week On Instagram

Is it almost the weekend already? What fun things do you have planned? Cocktails? The polo? A roller derby? No, me either.

Despite my lack of snazzy weekend plans, I did get up to some fun at the Finca this week…

Waterlily dahlia

This waterlily Dahlia took my breath away. I am determined to grow some next year, if only to use as single cut flowers. Three of these down the middle of the dinner table in single bud vases would look A-MA-ZING.  Ooh, I’ve given myself chills!

dachshund by Artist Not Inc

My lovely and funky Mr Dachshund from *Artist Not Included gives me a lift everytime I look at him in my kitchen.

He’s the business.

If you’re interested in one for yourself or some of his pals, like Mr Pug, apparently there are lots more creations currently arriving in the shop in a huge array of cool colours.

hide the treat game

Although relatively new to the game, Brinks is already pretty good at finding the treat underneath one of the three cups. What helps is his complete obsession with Lily’s Kitchen training treats. YUM!

Yay for Fridays!

Enjoy your weekend x

DIY ‘SMILE’ Doormat

On Sunday, I was perusing Pinterest over a cup of tea and some marmite on toast when I saw a beautiful picture of the word ‘smile’ that had been painted onto a concrete pavement.

Yes it was probably graffiti… but what a way to lift someone’s day?! If I had stumbled upon this little message while walking through town, I would have felt instantly better, as if a total stranger had given me a no holding back smile. With teeth showing and everything.

‘I completely love this idea!’ I said to Mr D-F. ‘Can I paint this on the concrete front step of the finca?’

He gave me a mixed look that took into account my love of whimsical home DIY, while at the same time portraying a sense of how painting it directly onto the concrete might be a little extreme. And permanent.

With his sensible advice in mind, I decided to give our doormat a facelift instead. The DIY SMILE doormat was born!

Smile painted doormat

My first thought was to create a stencil using this great, free, online stencil maker.  You can change fonts and lettering to match your mood before printing it out. Unfortunately, we currently have no printer. Hmmm…

So I drew one instead on paper and carefully cut out the lettering with a stanley knife (a craft knife would be so much easier, and safer, but again, as I didn’t have one to hand, I raided the tool box)!

smile stencil

I messaged Mr D-F at work to ask whether he would like gold sprayed lettering (I still think that this would be super cool) or a Farrow and Ball colour that would look a little more sophisticated.  He went for the F&B option.

After debating between Brassica and Stiffkey Blue I went for the blue.  After being denied my gold shiny doormat, I was going to opt for the brightest colour I had in my paint store!

I made sure that I taped the stencil down firmly and put some double sided bits under the vulnerable cut-out sections of the E and M. The mat was put onto the kitchen table and the cat was encouraged to go and enjoy the garden. Knowing my luck, he would have sat on it and ended up with a blue bottom.

Using a stencil technique (I call fierce dabbing – but I’m sure that there is a proper name), I covered all of the areas showing through the stencil.  After 3 coats and a careful peel of the stencil it was finished.

smile doormat in situ

Now I get the warm fuzzy feeling whenever I go in and out of the door.  Hopefully our visitors will feel it too.

Are there any other tips for making guests feel instantly welcome – other than a big pot of tea and a huge slice of homemade cake? Do you have something lovely in your doorway that cheers you? 

Have a great day x

Garden Mood Board | Purple

As the garden is filling out and starting to look like the best that it will get for the year, I have been spending some time sitting back and thinking about how I would like to tweak it for next summer.

Plants that I imagine will take up lots of space sometimes don’t quite fill out enough and I find myself rearranging and planning on how to fill up the gaps to create the over-flowing look that I love.

The other thing that I think about a lot is colour. I go through fads of wanting bright zingy greens or shocking yellow borders. What I have noticed about this year is the abundance of purple in the garden. Mauve, violet and aubergine colours peek out at me and really make an impact when mixed with limes and apple greens.

allium from above

… alliums, my utter, utter favourites …

allium opening

The lavender borders are looking their best ever after their springtime prune. Not only do the plants smell incredible and attract bees and butterflies, but Brinks enjoys hiding his favourite chewy toys in amongst the stems!

lavender borders

phlox

The phlox is a great space filler and often will continue to flower well into late summer.  It works well as a cut flower and isn’t fussy about being used in florists’ foam. I have kept it mainly to the edges of the garden so that it doesn’t overpower the more delicate plants.

watching sparrow

The resident family of Sparrows have been keeping an eye out for anything juicy emerging from the garden. They are busily feeding their hungry chicks in-between dust baths.

Do you have a predominant colour in your garden?  Are you one for planting plans or do you just plant what you enjoy? 

Have a great Sunday x

My Week On Instagram

This week has all been about surprising weather, interesting drinks and sneaky self-gifts!

If you want all of this goodness, straight from the horse’s mouth (as it were), please follow TDF on Instagram by clicking the little camera button to the right.  See you there!

working glass jewellery

… too good to open? …

pressed flower

… pressing flowers ready for Wednesday’s blog post …

fruity ice cubes

… I am in love.love.love. with these fruity ice cubes …

Hope you’ve had a great week too.  What have been your highlights? x

Pressed Flower Envelope Seals

You like the cards more than the presents?” I was often asked incredulously on my birthday when I was younger.

It’s the truth. There can be so much thoughtfulness behind a well-chosen card, a smartly-written envelope or a unique message. Cards can be displayed and used for years afterwards and then kept in a special place as a reminder of a great occasion.

With this in mind, I decided to write a few posts showcasing some fun ideas for prettying up envelopes and cards.  Sometimes you don’t always know someone well enough to buy a present for them, but would like to give them something. I think a card with a little extra touch, would show that you have given them a special thought and not just picked a card out of the emergency card drawer/box/shelf!

pressed flowers

Let’s start with the envelope. I like envelopes in unusual colours, like the ones that come with the beautiful cards from *Artist Not Included’s range.  Some people aren’t a fan of sticking the envelope down completely but fold it inwards instead. I’ve debated this for a while (I have, honestly) and I’ve come to the conclusion that it feels a bit unfinished. When I get a card like that, it somehow portrays an expectation of being able to re-use the envelope again.  Unless I plan on sending post to myself, with my name on the front, or am going to stick something over the top, it’s not going to work. If someone is getting a card from me, they’re going to get their own sealed envelope, ready to be opened just once. They can have that joy.

Ooh… that turned into a bit of a rant – who knew I was so passionate about that little gem?! Anyway, onwards…

pressed wild flower envelope seal

This time of year is perfect for collecting wild flowers and plants from the garden.  Leaves and stems are mostly dry and can be pressed quickly.  The flower press of my childhood is long packed away into the attic, so I made do with a piece of kitchen towel in-between two heavy books.  My chosen flowers were flattened suitably within a day, but would ideally need another couple of days, in the warm, to dry out completely.

The best flowers to choose are those that aren’t too juicy. The less succulent they are, the quicker and more successful they are to press. You could try: daisies, hydrangea, geraniums, campion, buttercups, lavender, forget-me-not.

My idea was to use a pressed flower as a wax seal alternative. A little surprise for when the envelope was turned over. I used the tiniest bit of glue to fix the flower onto the paper, while handling the petals carefully to avoid bruising.

hyrdangea envelope seal

If these envelopes were going to be subjected to large amounts of handling or postal travel, I would cover them with sticky back plastic, or even a neatly cut piece of sellotape if I was desperate!

Don’t they look cute?!

I can’t wait to give them out!  Have a great day x

Homemade Fruit Ice Cubes

I don’t know about you, but I have several friends who always ask for ‘just a glass of water please’ whenever they come round for tea.  However tempting I may find a hot mug of tea, a fresh cup of coffee or some refreshing juice, there are lots of people, it seems, who are quite happy with just water.

No matter how much they persuade me that this is the drink that they prefer, I still feel so mean, filling up a glass and handing it over, just like that. No ceremonial tea-pot, no juice-presser… nothing.

I get that if they wanted something different, then they would ask for it. Nevertheless, surely there is a way to jazz up their drink so that they feel like they are getting something a bit special too?

lemon slice

I have seen the idea of fruit ice cubes on Pinterest (and edible flower ice cubes too) and decided that this was the way that I was going to liven up the drinking water around the Finca.

Firstly, I chose some lemons and raspberries. These two fruits have quite distinctive flavours and I thought that they would work well together. I cut them up into little segments and placed each one into its own cube in an empty ice cube tray.

fruit in ice cube tray

After filling with water and putting it in the top drawer in the freezer, I left it for a couple of hours.

I was amazed at the results! Out came cute little cubes of fruity ice, each one with a perfect piece of fruit sealed inside.

fruit ice cubes

Obviously I had to try them out straight away and put one lemon and one raspberry cube into a glass of water. Not only did it make my drink look way more exciting, but the flavour was really surprising. I suddenly had a lemony-raspberry cocktail!

So if you happen to pop by the Finca over the summer and request water… be prepared for the jazzed up version. You’ll love it – I promise!

Have a great day! x

Hostess Gift | DIY Herb Posy

Have you got lots of barbecues or summer parties on the horizon? Are you struggling to think of something to take for your hostess – apart from the usual bottle of wine? This DIY herb posy is a quick, low-cost but most of all an incredibly thoughtful gift to present when you arrive.

All tied up and with a relaxed feel, hopefully the recipient will not feel the urge to have to run around to find a smart vase.  The usual cry of ‘I must put these in water straight away’ is usually heard by over-stressed hosts who would rather be doing anything but.

Luckily your beautiful gift, can just be plopped into a jug, mug or jam jar and set out within seconds. It also has the added benefit of not looking too done or shop bought. It will complement any relaxed summer affair.

astrantia

Before the days of florists and imported flowers, posies made from garden herbs or hedgerow plants were common for weddings and gifts.  This is an easy bouquet to make and perfect for beginners to posy-making because you only need to use the things that you find around you in the garden at home.  It definitely doesn’t have to look exact and should have a country feel.

  1. Check that you have everything that you need before starting: scissors, string or jute twine, a bowl for collecting plants.
  2. Collect your herbs and plants, such as: mint, thyme, lavender, sages, large ivy leaves, chive flowers, rosemary and a large flower for the centre of the posy like, rose or dahlia.  You will probably need to collect more than you think.  Even the smallest of posies use quite a lot of flowers and foliage!
  3. Lie your herbs and flowers out in groups according to type.  Strip 2/3rds of the foliage off of each stem and clean/take off any dirty leaves.
  4. Gather a few stems of one of the herbs and hold them in your hand.  Insert the central flower in the middle of this mini-bunch.
  5. Without holding too tight, place another sort of herb around the edge of your posy, turning the bunch each time that you add something.  Your aim is to make concentric circles of each plant around the central flower.
  6. Keep changing the herbs that you are adding… your circles could go something like this:  central flower > circle of sage > circle of thyme > circle of 3 stems of lavender (a circle of single lavender stems doesn’t have much impact) > circle of sage again > circle of mint etc.
  7. When you have used up your herbs or if you feel your posy is big enough, finish it off with a circle of large ivy leaves, turned outwards so that the colourful part of the leaf shows.hostess gift herb posy
  8. Tie your posy firmly at the ‘neck’ where the leaves stop and the stems begin. You can cover with thin florist’s tape if you want it to be extra secure.
  9. Hold the stems together and cut them straight – you will want about a fist’s length of stem so that it will stand nicely in its container.
  10. As this is going to be a gift, you can cover your twine with some raffia or relaxed ribbon.  If your posy will be going on a car-journey before arriving at its destination, it is always a good idea to wet some kitchen towel, wrap around the stems and then cover this with aluminium foil. This will help to keep everything fresh and hydrated.

After presenting your hostess with this bespoke token, you will be remembered as that lovely person who always gives pretty gifts from their garden… ‘I’d love to have the time to do that’, they will think. Little do they know how quick it is!

Do you have any other great go-to hostess gifts? Please let me know! 

Have a great day – enjoy the sunshine UK dwellers! x