Valentine’s Day Sweet-Hearts.

Well, my attempt at returning to blogging is still a bit weak, so I have written up a new schedule and designated myself a weekly blogging day. That means a few things will be in arrears, but at least I’ll get on with everything.

Sweet Hearts Jam Tarts Easy Recipe

As a little thank-you for returning to read the blog, here is a simple recipe from my pantry, perfect to make for your sweetheart, to give your kids or for them to give their classmates, to jazz up a work space, to make together with your partner or just to eat because you’re a daft romantic who doesn’t care whether or not there’s anyone free to share them with because Valentine’s day is adorable.

Ingredients:

  • 500g strong flour
  • 200g salted butter
  • 5tbsp sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp nutmeg
  • pinch cloves
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 200-300g of any kind of jam (I used homemade damson and homemade raspberry jam from foraged fruits, because I’m a hippie little weirdo with too much time, but, seriously, anything is fine, you could even use chocolate icing instead)

Utensils:

  • mixing bowl
  • rolling pin
  • heart-shaped cookie cutters or a bit of patience and ingenuity
  • teaspoon
  • greased or nonstick baking trays

Recipe:

  1. Mix the flour and spices together.
  2. Add the eggs.
  3. Add the butter. Mix very well.
  4. Add water as you fold until the dough is smooth, elastic and only a touch sticky.
  5. Leave to rest.
  6. Preheat the oven to 160C.
  7. Dust your worktop and rolling pin with flour. Roll out the dough to 1-2cm thick.
  8. Cut some hearts and lay them on the trays.
  9. Use the teaspoon to make a little bowl in each bow of each heart. Just press down a bit for an indent.
  10. Add just enough jam to fill each bowl.
  11. Repeat until all the dough is used.
  12. Put in the oven for around 20min, or until the Sweet Hearts are browned, still a bit tender, but hold firm when you lift them.
  13. Cool.
  14. Eat.

TTFN and Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

5 Little Acts Of Holiday Seduction.

Because why not have a bit of fun with your partner whilst you’re both home?

1: Flirty advent.

There are all sorts of fun and quirky advent ideas for people who miss the excitement of the advent calendar but who’ve had enough of strange-tasting milk chocolate of questionable origin. So why not a fun and flirty one?

Maybe they could be redeemable coupons, personal messages or little daily rewards, as naughty or nice as you need them to be, just make sure it’s all about having fun and giving. 🙂

2: Hot cocoa.

If you’re feeling cold, miserable, stressed and bored… chances are your beloved is too! Make two steaming mugs of hot cocoa, pick a film between you and snuggle up on the sofa under the blankets. Try and make some personal time for this, when the kids and pets are in bed.

3: Mistletoe.

Mistletoe, mistletoe everywhere… How about a bunch at the front door, over your partner’s seat in the kitchen and living room, in their office/study/workshop and, of course, over the bed? (Try plastic, paper or fabric mistletoe if you’re worried about allergies or small creatures -two and four legged alike- eating them!)

Then just make sure to point it out whenever you’re both underneath it. 🙂

4: Sexy Santa.

Find yourself a cute Santa apron, a Santa hat and some red slippers. Arrange some cookies/biscuits on a platter with cocoa, coffee or tea, whatever your partner prefers. Then, present them with some edible festive gifts in nothing but that.

5: Big bow.

Feel like you haven’t got enough gifts to show your beloved how important they are to you? Or that they have everything they need, so it’s hard to get something meaningful? If you want to be the icing on the pudding these holidays, then wrap yourself up in a bow on Christmas morning before handing over their presents. Whatever you wear under that is up to you.

And above all, have fun, destress and remember your partner this season.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

10 Ways To Get Cheap And Cute Clothes.

Regardless of how we want to dress, we all want to dress nicely. And dressing nicely can easily become expensive. On the other hand, all my clothing, including shoes, suit clothes and a fur coat, cost me around £100, at my closest estimate. I recently overhauled some of my wardrobe thanks to Hearthie’s expert advice and got seven new tops and a pair of shoes for £7. And I feel pretty cute in all of it, to be honest.

And the truth is, cheap cute clothes didn’t stop when your older sister had her last growth spurt and have to give you that perfect, tags-new dress for free. There are still loads of ways of getting adorable clothes at low prices.

The first five are for the unadventurous, those with little time or those wary about germs and bacteria.

1: Charity Shops.

This is where I get most of my clothes. The reasons being that it’s quick and easy to nip in whilst you’re about town, you can browse a wide variety of clothes and usually try them on first, it’s going towards a good cause and they’re cheap.

Some people are concerned about hygiene, but, as someone who volunteers at one and has been round the back of many others: they have this thing called a “steamer”. It’s like a cross between an iron and a hoover which they use to clean and iron all clothes. The steam is so hot that light exposure could easily scar you. Anything obviously soiled or that smells when we steam it is thrown into the rag pile. So yes, they’re clean!

Example.

2: Vouchers.

An easy way to get brand new clothes at discount or even insanely cheap prices is to use vouchers. It’s up to you how far you go. You could go for 10% off, or work out which vouches you can use in conjunction and whether you can use them with any other discounts or during a sale.

There is also a surprising number of vouchers available online, so if you’re short of them, try searching for the store and “voucher” or “coupon” online. You’re bound to turn out some reasonable results.

Example.

3: eBay.

If you want brand new clothes and are short of vouchers or reasonably-priced stores, you can always turn to eBay for your every clothing need. With a simple search function, easy categories and clear pricing, you’re bound to find what you want, brand new, at the lowest price available.

Example.

4: Wholesale and Clearance.

You can do this in stores and warehouse sales, but it’s far more convenient to do it online. If you are happy to sell on any surplus, some stockists do sell-offs of orders that weren’t collected, oversupply or just small wholesale jobs for the odd customer.

The other option is clearance, either from a warehouse or a regular store. The clothes may be out of season, not selling or just the last in the batch, but you can find some amazingly good deals on trendy, seasonal and brand new clothes when you work out where to look for them.

Example.

5: Presents.

This one is fairly simple. Over the year or over the months leading up to your birthday or Christmas, compose a list of items you would rather not spend money on and drop hints or directly give it to your relatives when the celebration is getting near. That way anyone who wasn’t sure what to get you can contribute to your wardrobe. Another way is simply saying that when you get gifts, you love to get shoes, scarves or something trendy for the season and see what they surprise you with!

The next five ways of getting good clothes on the cheap are for the more adventurous and crafty. They may be messy, hard work or a little more questionable.

6: Swap Shops.

These are gaining popularity, but sometimes viewed with caution. Basically, you show up with clothes, get a sticker for every item you donate and then put the stickers on any item you see that you want. There is always the risk that there will be nothing you like, rarely will be dressing rooms and can become a mess. But, if you’re trying to completely change your wardrobe, it may be the best way!

Example.

You can also go for the online experience, which is cleaner and easier.

Example.

7: Volunteer.

I’d recommend volunteering at charity shops, clothes banks or rag merchants. Often anything that doesn’t sell is available to staff at discount rates. You can also buy assorted items sent for the rag heap at rag prices, which are usually a few pence a kilo, making a shirt only 20 or 50p. If anything is damaged you will have to bear that in mind, but often the only thing wrong is that nobody bought it on time, or someone put it into a rag bag rather than donate it to charity.

Example.

8: Updo.

Regardless of where you got them, you can also improve, mend or freshen old clothes to make them look better, turning something free or very cheap into something you would have paid good money for.

You can take plain t-shirts and add some sparkle to them, turn trousers into shorts or skirts, mend holes and tears and basically turning something drab or broken into something wearable.

Example:

Stripy fabric cut into a skull-shaped patch, tartan fabric, beads, silver thread and cross stitch. Shorts from cutoff jeans and tartan fabric.

Plain top decorated with stripy fabric cut into a skull-shaped patch, tartan fabric, beads, silver thread and cross stitch.
Shorts from cutoff jeans and tartan fabric.

9: Freebies.

This one is where most people will draw the line. Basically because, unlike charity shop items, new clothes or hand-me-downs, you don’t really know if something free is clean, hygienic or in good condition.

Generally, if you can check it first you will see any serious problems and if you wash it when home it’s fine. Try finding things on freebie websites and learn when, where and from whom to buy. Just as you’d be happy with a pillow from a neighbour, but not one left outside a university dorm, there are places and people to accept freebies from.

Example.

10: D.I.Y.

And the final option is to just make whatever you want. There are thousands of awesome patterns and tutorials out there, teaching you how to do everything from crochet to making a ballgown. So hone your crafty skills, because you’ll soon get bitten by the crafty bug and not know when to stop!

Examples:

So those are the top ten ways of getting the clothes you want at the price you want. Beauty was never so affordable!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What is your top thrifty shop? Where do you go when you want something cheap and cute? All hints, tips and ideas welcome. 🙂

How To… create an ambiance.

An ambiance is something hard to define as a word and hard to explain in reality. The word basically means “environment” or “atmosphere” in French. It’s a metaphor for the general feeling you get when you’re in a room or building. For example, the ambiance could be relaxing because the room is in light colours, the lights are dim, there is a pleasant fragrance in the air and you are sat somewhere comfortable. But ambiances can also be jarring, just not work. It’s like interior decoration for the soul.

So this is how we create an ambiance.

Step 1: Pick a theme.

This is so that there won’t be much conflict between the various elements.

Relaxing themes: seaside, cabin retreat, library, forest.

Vibrant themes: big city, bar, toyroom.

Festive themes: Christmas, Valentine’s, May Day, Easter.

Seasonal themes: Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring.

Topical themes: colours, items, textures, places, etc.

Try and pick a theme you will enjoy year-round or that you can easily transform.

Step 2: Fit the theme to your house.

For example, a seaside theme in a bigger house or room can feel like a beach, the water, rockpools or a boat. This is because it’s easier to make a bigger room feel like the outdoors. In a small room you may want to go with the “beach hut” or “boat cabin” theme, like the seaside will be just beyond the window.

Step 3: Consider what’s missing.

For example, your “big city flat” theme would be incomplete without the sounds of traffic. You may want to add them or adjust the theme to explain where the traffic went.

Step 4: The space.

Now we’re going to start on the senses. First sight. The first impression people will get of your room, your home, your office. Look around. Ask yourself how you can reorganize the room to better suit your theme. You want the theme to come together and look “right” the moment you step in the door, so consider that angle first. Look at what furniture you have, where you can put it, from what angles the room looks open or closed. Open areas make vibrant themes more extreme and quiet themes more subtle. Closed areas make quiet themes cozier and energetic themes more peaceful.

Step 5: The colours.

Pick colours for your room now. Choose a primary colour for the theme and a secondary one and look up compatible colours to give you more ideas. A city theme would be black and white, with either as the primary and plenty of bright colours splashed here and there. A sea theme would be primary blue, a boat theme would be primary white and a beach theme would be primary brown or yellow. Think carefully about the colours, the rest of the room will not come together otherwise.

Step 6: Furniture.

It can help to pick one or two items of themed furniture in your primary or secondary colour and build the rest of the room around them. Usually a chair, picture frame, table, dresser, mirror, bed or media cabinet will be the centre of the room’s decor. Chandeliers, bathtubs or desks can be too, but that would be more statement.

Also consider the comfort of the furniture. Sharper lines, even if the furniture is quite soft to touch, can make people feel like they’re on the go. Armchairs make people inclined to rest. Do you want everyone at the same height when they sit?

Step 7: Decor.

Try and pick ornaments and decorations inkeeping with your theme. Prominently display the ones that fit your theme. Put others further back or somewhere else. Paintings should actually reflect on your theme, not be it. Paintings of the seaside can ruin the feeling that you’re in a seaside cabin. Instead, photos of you on the beach and paintings made with sand will look more authentic. Try and think about the materials that would be available to you if your ambiance were a real place.

Consider minimalism, but bear in mind that traditional ambiances like rustic, hippie or forest will lend well to clutter.

Step 8: Lighting.

Hopefully you won’t need different lighting with your colours, but sometimes a room just doesn’t look as good by day as it does by night, or vice versa. If that’s the case, try these lighting tips:

Natural light for nature themes.

Bright light for Summer and pop themes.

Coloured light for city, sci-fi and 80s themes.

Dim light for peaceful themes.

Soft light for childish, boho or girly themes.

Incandescent light for indoor themes.

Fluorescent light for metallic and plastic themes.

Step 9: Scent.

Humans rely on our sense of smell far more than you would think. We associate certain smells with food, danger, home or fun. Using this can boost an ambiance very subtly, making someone feel energized, at ease or ready for food without really noticing why.

For clean-cut, urban themes, use scented candles.

For natural, boho, hippie themes, use incense.

For rustic themes, try and rely on the natural smell of firewood, flower arrangements or baked goods.

You can also spray perfume on furniture and curtains for light bursts of classy fragrance.

Try and avoid overusing air fresheners, they just don’t provide the same quality of scent.

Step 10: Sound.

Some themes lend themselves very well to sounds. Depending on your theme, you could use relaxation tapes, music, audiobooks or TV to bring the room to life. This can sometimes pull an ambiance together, such as using wave sounds for a boat theme or music for a bar theme. Just be careful as some themes, such as cabins, do well without sounds and can feel tacky if you add sound.

So that’s how to create an ambiance. You can follow all the steps when modelling a room or you could just follow a few to improve the ambiance in your home or to prepare a room for a dinner party.

What are your favourite ambiances? What feel would you like your home to have? How do you prepare the house for guests? Do tell!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!