Super Colourful Crochet Coasters

What on earth has happened to the summer weather?  Blankets, hot chocolate and a feel-good movie has been necessary after every dog walk – as we have returned home, on most days, pretty soaked.

With Brinks snuggled up next to me, I’ve been whiling away the late afternoons with some crochet cosiness.

I seem to have quite a few projects on the go at the moment, including an Autumnal hat and a ripply blanket, to name a few, but these little beauties have really been capturing my mood…

crochet coasters

The inspiration for these came from this post on the Haak Maar Raak blog, which contains a really lovely pattern that you can follow. I needed to adapt it slightly as I wanted an edge of original colour around the outside, but that was an easy little fix.

Anyway, I think they are the FAB-BEST!

roller coasters 1

roller coaster 2

… and because I used cotton yarn, they are wonderful insulators and will protect the furniture from all of those hot cups of tea (and chocolate)!

What projects do you have on the go at the moment? Is there anything you turn to when the weather starts to look more gloomy?

Happy Wednesday!

 

Sooth Summer Skin With Organic Skincare

As September is peeking out from around the corner I have been reminiscing on all of the fun that we’ve had over the summer. No, there hasn’t been a long, extended heatwave in Dorset and we haven’t spent every day basking under warm rays, but we have been spending most of our time outdoors never-the-less.  Lots of our friends have been on hot summer holidays in faraway destinations and have returned all brown (and sometimes a little crispy) looking.

All of this element exposure, has been making me think about my skincare routine and how much I take my skin’s health for granted.  I thought that it was about time that I found out a bit more about the best ways to sooth summer skin and keep it replenished and healthy.

I headed off to see Jemma Cannon (owner and founder of Enchanted Plants hand-made organic skincare) for some skin health advice and for a chance to sample some of her incredible organic skincare range.

Enchanted Plants Chamomile Soap

Over a relaxing cup of herbal tea and with Brinkley settled on my lap, we chatted about Jemma’s range of hand-made soaps and what inspired her to start the business in the first place. It became clear very quickly, with her degree in Herbal Medicine and her passion for creating soothing and healing products, that Jemma was extremely knowledgeable and puts a huge amount of care and attention into the recipes of her soaps.

It had occurred to me before, that commonly bought shower gels and soaps could be very drying on the skin, but I hadn’t really considered why this was the case, or what the alternatives could be.  Jemma carefully explained that, often, the key ingredients that your skin needs to flourish are taken out when products are massed produced, and then sold as by-products (glycerine for example), leaving a harsher, less nourishing soap.

‘But shower gel can be so convenient can’t it?’ I asked. ‘I mean, you can just put the top back on after your shower and it doesn’t go all squidgy and runny like a traditional bar of soap.’

Jemma patiently told me that if soap is kept in a soap dish and is not left to sit in water, it will last a surprisingly long time. She also explained that it is harder to produce good quality soaps in bottles with pump-action dispensers or squeezy tops because you are not able to put in some of the raw organic ingredients. Bottles like that need smooth liquid without any bits…

…and sometimes the bits contain all of the goodness.

Enchanted Plants Honey Lavender Soap

So I was sent home, very kindly, with some soaps to try. In the shower. Instead of shower gel.

Eeeeek – I was very excited!

I chose to start with the Honey Lavender Organic Soap (as shown above). I felt like I needed a warm blanket of Honey Lavender that day as the weather had been particularly dismal and I had bathed Brinks for what seemed like the thousandth time (he has a penchant for rolling in fox-poo).

Once in the shower, not only did I not need very much soap at all, but the smell of the organic essential oils was amazing.  The soap was so smooth and frothy.  Jemma had suggested that I might find that I wouldn’t need to moisturise after a shower as much, now that the traditional shower gel wasn’t stripping my skin of all its moisture…

… and do you know what? I didn’t need any!

Two weeks later and my bar of soap still looks, pretty much, like it did when I took it out of its beautiful packaging… and my skin feels better already.

Enchanted Plants Organic Apricot Serum

If all that wasn’t exciting enough, I have something else to share…

Now this, my beauties, is the cherry on the top (and feels like a bit of a secret).  In the picture above is a little bottle of Organic Apricot Serum.  This is an amazing little product and I really urge you to try it. (I made my mum try some and she became all silly and shrieked about how she needed to get some right away – it was rather embarrassing).

I put a tiny bit on my face and neck, in the evening, instead of moisturiser.  It smells amazing, is incredibly non-oily, which was unexpected and has made my face feel like new. Bye-bye little crows-feet – I can see you trying to crash the party.

If you feel like trying some of these amazing products and want to challenge yourself to ditch the shower gel… you can find Jemma’s shop in Shaftesbury, you can visit her online shop,  or you can make friends with her on Facebook.

Next week, I’ll be sharing some of Jemma’s tips for treating yourself to some home-made DIY skincare.

Have a great day! x

Just a little note to say that this is not a commission based post – but I did get some free soap to try. I thought I had better declare this, just in the interests of transparency you understand! x

 

 

A Truly Foolproof Recipe | Marble Cake

I must start by apologising for this quick and rather brief post.  Things at the Finca have become a little, um… hectic in the last few days.  I’ll explain at a later date – promise!

However, this saviour of a baking book needs no apologies as it truly lives up to its name of ‘Foolproof Cakes.’

Mary Berry, of TGBBO fame wrote this book quite a while ago and it still remains one of the favourites in our kitchen.  Easy peasy recipes and pretty much guaranteed results. Perfect if you are a little nervous when it comes to cooking or baking.

Mary Berry Foolproof Cakes

Mary Berry’s Foolproof Cakes

The other day, we had friends coming round for cake in the morning and I had approximately an hour and a half to whip something up to serve and look all housewifely.

I knew this book would come to my rescue and I chose to make the Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake.  The pictures were enticing and the ingredients list didn’t have me running for the nearest shop, luckily I had everything in the pantry that I needed.

chocolate and vanilla marble cake

I did use slightly less sugar and butter than the recipe and the cake needed the full hour in the oven, but it came out well and looked great.

The best bit was when we sliced it up…

chocolate and vanilla marble cake slice

I couldn’t believe how the two mixtures stayed separate during baking – doesn’t it look cool (yes, this was my first time making a marble cake, can you tell)?

…and boy did it taste good?!

Have a great Sunday x

Garden Colour Palette | White and Green

For the last few days I have been dreaming of white and green gardens. There’s something so calming and sophisticated about the coolness of white flowers teemed with different textures of green foliage.

I love the thought of big terracotta pots filled with rosemary and thyme, flower beds filled with pale astrantias and lime green hydrangeas.

Maybe… I am actually just longing for a holiday and am having visions of a tuscan townhouse garden! This, I think, is quite a possibility.

While in my recent reverie, I spent time looking around the Finca’s garden and realised that it is giving off quite a lot of the green/white vibe.  I expect my subconscious was directing me when I was planting earlier in the year.

garlic chive

Hydrangea Annabelle

I also had a bit of a surprise when it came to my ‘Black Knight’ Buddleia (a beautiful variety with deep purple flowers)…

As the flowers started to emerge I was so eager to see them in all their purply lusciousness.

‘They’re a bit pale,” I thought to myself.  “I expect they darken as they mature.” I concluded.

vanilla scented flowers

Buddleia white

Errr… no, that didn’t end up being the case.

Instead of the Black Knight purple wonder that I ordered. I instead have a white buddleia (as you can see above).

Hmmm..

As it happens, I am totally in love with it and it matches my need for all things green and white.  Bazinga!

Have a great day x

The Adventures Of Brinks #1

So life has really taken off for the hound of the household. Not only does he get a lot of admiring glances and comments when we’re out and about, but he’s now taking his fame to another level.

The lovely Charley from *Artist Not Included has asked for him to be one of the coverdogs for her new line of Christmas cards. (Yes, for people who have to prepare products in time for December, it’s Christmas already).

It’s been a bit like Britain’s Next Top Model here at the Finca, with Brinks getting into the zone for his preliminary photographs.

‘Excuse me, what is my motivation for this shot?’

Brinkley posing

We also had to write a mini-biography of Brinkley’s character and mannerisms so that Charley could infuse her sketches with these details.  Her beautiful blog *ArtistNotIncluded will be documenting the whole process over the next few weeks and will, I’m sure, explain all of the fascinating, technical details that will go into the finished product.

For now, do you fancy a sneak peek at the first drawings?

Brinkley sketches 1

Eeek – they are so gorgeous and I am really rather overexcited!

Brinks is a bit nonchalant about the whole thing if I’m honest. He’s more like ‘is it walk time yet?’

Here’s a close up…

Brinkley sketches 2

So lovelies. You know what Christmas cards you’ll be getting from the Finca this year! However, if you fancy sending some of your own, Brinkley and the other coverdogs will be on sale at various local boutiques in the run up to the big ho ho ho as well as on Charley’s Etsy shop.

In the meantime, I’ll be making sure that this fame doesn’t go to Brinkley’s head too much.

Have a great day x

 

The Perfect Present For Your Pup | Fishy Treats

Before Brinks was born we did a lot of reading about motivating puppies to learn.

The general message of my research was… ‘Some dogs will be food motivated, others will work hard for toys or even praise.’ 

Well Brinkley is definitely in the food category. He likes to be told he’s doing a good job and he adores the games that we play with his favourite toy, but when training requires him to use his thinking brain, he figures things out awfully quickly if there is food reward involved.

He already woofs down his meals, which we get delivered from Lily’s Kitchen and in our last food box, we also received a recipe for Fishy Treats.  They were bound to be a hit, so I made up a batch straight away…

sniffing out treats

Here is the recipe…

You will need:

1 x 200g tin of tuna or salmon in oil

1 egg, beaten

100g flour

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 180 C and lightly grease a baking sheet.

Empty the fish and its oil into a bowl and flake with a fork. Add the beaten egg and stir well to combine.

Add the flour and mix together so that you have a lumpy dough. I cut out my dough into little bite-size squares.

Place the squares onto the baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden.

Once they are cooled, you can keep them in a container, in the fridge, for up to 2 weeks.

fishy dog treats

They were so easy and quick to make. I love the fact that I know exactly what has gone into them and that Brinks will be getting one or two healthy snacks as part of his training.

I think I will also be making up batches to give to my friends who have dogs in their families.  They might catch on as the new hostess gift. Forget a bunch of flowers or a bottle of wine – nothing softens people’s hearts up more than gifts for their bestest buddies!

gift wrapped fishy dog treats

Might you give them a go?

Have a lovely weekend x

Party Drinks That Pack A Punch | Free Printable

So that was an unexpected surprise.

Suddenly, without warning, the internet and phone decided to stop working on Saturday.

‘But I have blog posts to go out,’ I shrieked. ‘Not back on until the end of the week?!’ I exclaimed before having to go and lie down with a bag of frozen peas on my forehead.

Luckily, the phone and broadband Gods were looking kindly upon me and a very, very amazing engineer got us back up and running yesterday. What a wonderful man.

So anyway, now we’re back on track, I can share these super cool, classic Batman-inspired cocktail stirrers. Aren’t they fab?!

bam and whack cocktail stirrers

I thought it might be fun to use these when you are serving up a range of cocktails for a party.  Your guests could choose one based on their Batman sound effect.  Sort of like a drinks lucky-dip.  Your party conversation could go like this:

‘Would you like a Zwapp, or are you feeling more like a Kapow?’

or

‘Ooh, you went for the Plop – very courageous!’

Plop cocktail stirrer

These could even be adapted for children’s parties – obviously with totally, child-safe non-alcoholic drinks of course. As long as you have a printer, some sellotape and some straws then they can be made in minutes.

After downloading the free printable: pow straw decorations

…cut them out carefully and stick 3/4 of the way up a straw. I used little cocktail straws, but striped paper straws would look brilliant too.  I attached them by folding over little bits of tape to make double sided sellotape and then used them to press the star shapes onto the straws.

Batman cocktail stirrers

I would love to see these cropping up at very serious parties over the summer.  

I hope you enjoy! Have a great day x

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.