Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Crafting to reduce stress

It’s been a pig of a day, bad tempered and irritating in equal measures. For many people the only way to redeem it would be to crack open a bottle and put their feet up in front of the TV. That is of course unless you are a crafter.
A crafter will clear the dinner dishes away, put the kids to bed and then with the radio tuned in to something relaxing start working. Not that it feels like work. Whether you are crocheting a blanket, decoupaging a jewellery box or painting a chair you will quickly enter the craft zone and feel your troubles melt away.
The therapeutic qualities of arts and crafts have long been recognised and classes are run in hospitals, prisons, care homes and having been a life long crafter I’m a massive fan of using your crafts as a relaxation tool.
That’s not to say mastering new disciplines is always the fastest way to achieve blissed out contentment. We all know the black clouds that form when an idea doesn’t work out, or a project simply gets the better of us. Our crackle glaze goes lumpy or we sew our tapestry to our trouser leg but often even the moments when you are shouting at your sewing machine are good as they totally force you into the moment. There’s little time to worry about, love, money or kids when you are trying to get the tension right on an ancient singer machine.

For my part I get the most satisfaction from up cycling items. Turning discarded items usually destined for the tip into beautiful pieces you will use and enjoy.
It makes me feel virtuous as it’s a green way to get new things (and I’m a gal who loves to shop) and the feeling of satisfaction I get when I finish reupholstering a chair or make a cake stand out of mismatched pates from a car boot is really hard to beat.
Crafting is also a brilliant way to indulge your creative side and carve out a space that’s just for you. In a world where we are increasingly slaves to our phones and computers (guilty as charged) it actually forces us to step away from the laptop and engage our brain in a more practical way.

So the next time you feel stressed out, don’t buy up all of ASOS.com or eat that family pack of twirls, log onto a website like  Creative Crafting and see where the mood takes you. Its natures Prozac-trust me.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Tips For A Perfect Picnic

I'm a huge fan of picnics and of taking advantage of good weather to sit with friends and family, have a natter and watch the world go by.

Like most things in life a tiny amount of preparation can ensure you have a wonderful time and can relax knowing everything has been taken care of. Here are my tips for stress free perfect picnics.

Pack plenty of plates, cups and cutlery. If its for a special occasion take china tea cups. Drinking pimms out of a pink china cup makes you feel like you are back in childhood playing with your dolls and makes something simple become something luxurious (do pack them well though or there will be tears before bedtime)

Choose a theme for your food. Whether its classic British (home made scotch eggs and cheese and pickle doorstops) Italian (olives and parma ham with a fresh pasta) or even Marie Antoinette (jewel coloured macaroons and dainty finger sandwiches) it will make it so much easier to decide what to make and will ensure all the food and drink compliments each other.Choose foods which wont go soggy. Unless you are simply nipping into the garden items like quiches and cucumber sandwiches are best avoided.

Pack a rug but also take some scatter cushions and if you have room a parasol and stand. This will ensure you can lounge around like something out of Manet's Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe (nakedness optional)

If your picnic is going to go through to early evening take some storm lanterns along or even just some jam jars with tea lights in. Your sunny hideaway will turn into a magical fairy garden in an instant.

Take a cool box for your wine and soft drinks,  plenty of wet wipes, bug spray and suntan lotion and some entertainment, games, the papers, a sketch book, bin bags and a large floppy hat. Now you are ready for the perfect picnic.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

How to make a cupboard

Take one shelf unit brought for £2 from a jumble sale
I gave the shelf a good clean
then painted it with some cream cupboard paint I had. Cupboard paints great because it drys a lovely matt but with a slight sheen and doesnt smell like gloss

I wanted to add polka dots so using a red paint tester I had and the rubber end from a pencil I have obviously stolen from a weight watchers meeting (I was probably trying to eat the rubber) I added dots around the edges

Until it looked like this

then I painted the inside of the shelf red and also added a logo I had made. I printed it on photo paper so I could varnish over it all without the ink running

I then varnished it a few times

Added little cup hooks (think they are called cup hooks-I just found them in Rightway)

Let it all dry

And there you have something that was once unloved and tatty now looking quite at home next to my pink kettle and Queenie tea cosy

Yes I did take far too long putting little cups on the shelves and mixing and matching the colours but baba is asleep so whats the harm

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

How to make a cake stand from vintage china

There is something so wonderfully exciting about dining al fresco but sadly it’s often a style free zone. If like me you long for the days of Victorian decadence where tea was served in china regardless of the location and slumming it might mean forfeiting the finger bowl but never napkins then this craft project is for you. Nothing makes a party look as elegant as including a cake stand. A pretty cake stand can lift even the most humble shop brought pastry into something worthy of a Parisian patisserie. Here’s my guide to making one of your very own for under a tenner.

You will need:
Selection of plates
A 3 Tier cake stand fixing (these can be found on ebay and many online craft stores they usually cost about £6)
A fully charged cordless drill with a tile drill bit. This is important, as a normal drill bit will break your plates.
A screwdriver
A pen
A tape measure

Step one

Probably the most time consuming part of the process is sourcing your plates. Charity shops, car boots and jumble sales are great for this. Remember the plates don’t have to match; in fact it can look prettier and more unique if they don’t. I always try and tie the plates together in some way whether it be a theme (birds, flowers or toile for example) or by complimentary colours but this is entirely up to you.
You will need a dinner plate for the bottom, side plate for the middle and either a saucer or teacup for the top. Be warned very occasionally if a plate has a hairline crack or is especially delicate it will break when you drill it so this is not a project to do with your grandmothers irreplaceable dinner service.

Step 2
Make sure your plate is clean and dry. Take your tape measure and measure the diameter of the plate and use your pen to mark the middle. This will act as your drill guide.

Step Three
Time to put on those safety goggles. Before I start I put a little bit of water in the plate to keep the drill bit & plate cold. Always drill your plate somewhere it won’t slip and where you are not going to drill into something precious underneath. A workbench is ideal but if like me you don’t have one of these put it on the grass in your garden. Slowly drill where you have marked the middle until you have gone all the way through. Repeat until all three plates have holes in the centre. It’s worth noting that the glaze on some vintage plates makes it impossible to drill through. When this happens just choose another plate.
Step Four
Start with your bottom plate. Put your washers on and then poke the bottom screw into the plate. Put a soft washer on the topside of this plate and then apply the cake stand fitting. Repeat until all three fixings have been attached. For your top tier you can either opt for a small saucer or for a more Alice in wonderland feel put a china cup on top. Perfect for putting pretzels or lollypops in.

Step Five

Hold the most magnificent tea part with your new cake stand taking centre stage.

Toodle Pip

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Homework not housework

Once upon a time working from home was shorthand for waiting in for a washing machine to be delivered. Fine for a one off but impossible to do full time. Now with broadband, laptop’s, Skype and robots (ok I made that last one up) having a home office is fast becoming the smart way to eliminate time wasting travel and work in a more flexible way. Its practical, its cheep and for working mums its often an ideal way to continue a career in-between the tyranny of the school run.
Working from home may seem like the answer to all your prayers and swapping the inane chat of work colleagues for Woman’s hour is in itself a thing of joy but it’s worth remembering that the pros of working at home are also the cons.
Not having to leave the house may mean less time wasted on the dreaded commute (no more listening to the tinny beats of an overloud i-pod on the train or scraping ice off your windscreen at 7am on winter mornings) but it will mean you have to discipline yourself to ignore household obligations and get down to the task in hand. Procrastination in the form of the ironing pile is not unheard of and daytime telly has to become a no no. Watching the Wright Stuff is not “research” it’s skiving.
So how do you change your mindset from duvet dayer to office worker?
One of the easiest ways is to create a workspace that screams productivity.  If you are lucky enough to have an entire room to devote to your office this is an easier task-keep all family life out as much as possible (no Lakeland catalogues nestling next to the report you need to read) and once the door is shut behind you consider yourself at work. Give yourself scheduled breaks and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by what next door is doing in the garden or by poking people on facebook.
If you are having to work from the kitchen table or in the space under the stairs  (like Harry Potter with a laptop) try and ensure your working area is free of any other household clutter and invest in some file boxes so all paperwork can be neatly stored away. This will be your saving grace once the family come home and your “hot desk” becomes unrecognisable under that particular brand of debris, which can only be created by children. Like space junk but stickier.
Educating others that being at home is not the same as being available is possibly one of the greatest hurdles to overcome. You may find at first that friends think its fine to drop over for coffee -its not. You are not Starbucks despite what the squashy sofa and magazines strewn everywhere might suggest. Keep that kettle switched off.
Working from home does allow a certain sense of personal freedom and this can be harnessed to great effect-if you are having trouble with a particular problem or need to formulate a plan of action being able to step outside into the garden for a few minutes to clear your head can make all the difference and with no outside distractions you will be amazed how more efficient you will become. Try and remember to get dressed occasionally though-padding around in your dressing gown may be liberating to begin with but meeting clients wearing reindeer slippers may not give the right impression.

Copyright Betty Pamper  2011

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