Archives for category: Making

If I was going to write a post about all things that are sweet and sour I think that blackberry vodka may well fit the bill.

While walking Pepper the other day I saw that the hedgerows were filled with ripe, juicy, jewel like blackberries.  Hundreds of them.  They looked amazing.  So yummy.  I could make any number of things, but of course my mind went straight to the vodka that was laying in the wine rack feeling a bit sorry for itself as September officially became The Month We Weren’t Drinking.  (Yup, another story entirely.)  Rather than going straight out to gather the bounty nature offered, I decided to procrastinate for a week.  Then the weather started to turn and I was left with no more excuses.  It was actually really nice, there had been a particularly miserable rainstorm during the day but the sun was out, the air was fresh and I had tupperware and a boy willing to go blackberry hunting with me.  We were off!

Blackberry 1

After collecting as many berries as we could before the sun set (autumn is drawing in, ahhhhh….sad to see summer go but excited about curling up on the sofa again) it was a fairly straightforward plan.  A slight surplus of vodka following an August bank holiday party meant we had a few options and we settled on three separate recipes:

Bottle 1 – Sweet Vanilla Blackberry Vodka

  • 300g blackberries
  • 300g sugar
  • 500ml ‘student’ vodka
  • 1 vanilla pod

Bottle 2 – Fancy Vanilla Blackberry Vodka

  • 300g blackberries
  • 200g sugar
  • 500ml ‘grown up’ vodka
  • 1 vanilla pod

Bottle 3 – Grown Up Blackberry Vodka

  • 300g blackberries
  • 200g sugar
  • 500ml ‘grown up’ vodka

All ingredients were put into their separate kilner jars.  They looked really pretty.

Blackberry 2 Blackberry 3 Blackberry 5

And then we shook them like the proverbial polaroid picture.

Blackberry 6

Now they look dark and juicy and …. okay, a little sugary.  But a bit more agitation over the next few weeks will hopefully do wonders and there will be a tasting session to see which recipe is the winner…once the Month of No Drinking has passed by and it’s well into curling up on the sofa season.  Ahh, Autumn, you’re pretty cool!





Mmmm….The Good Life.  They have a pig, grow all their own vegetables and gently mock their neighbours.  There’s definitely something to be said about it.  My Good Life is kind of limited to a couple of (slow to ripen) tomato plants, a chili plant I saved from the reduced section in Tesco and a courgette plant that has not delivered the glut of giant green beasts I had slightly hoped for, rather more delicate little yellow zucchini that actually complement a salad rather well. Providing you aren’t too hungry though, because there really haven’t been that many.

Imagine my delight when I received a bag full of allotment grown beetroot.  “Delight” is perhaps a strong word, but I did get a little excited as I decided what to do with them.  I could roast them (with chillies, balsamic and maybe some cherry tomatoes if my plants ever do decide to let the fruit ripen?).  I could chip them, cutting them into crisp sized slices and popping them in the oven. Tyrrells can do it, why can’t I?  (I did try it.  Tyrrells obviously either deep fry them, which would be yummy but rubbish for the diet, or have bigger, hotter ovens.  My beetroot chips were a little bit gooey.)  But really, there was only one option when you think of beetroot, you pickle them!

People who know me well know that I would happily eat my own mother if she was nicely pickled (no reference to your wine intake mum, I promise!) but I have never tried to actually pickle anything for myself.  I love pickles.  One of my lifetime highlights was eating McDonalds with 6 other people, who all gave me their burger pickles.  Moving to England, it was the discovery of pickled onions that got me through the withdrawal I suffered when decent dill pickle spears were no longer available in supermarkets.  Piccalilli is a recent discovery in my world, but by golly it’s a great addition to any boring salad.  And don’t even get me started on just how many jalapenos I could actually fit onto my cinema nachos.  Pickling my beetroot was clearly the way forward.

I love a good Google and I found my recipe on the Down to Earth blog.  It has a really awesome step by step how-to and I have to admit that sterilising the jars in the oven was quite a revelation to me.  I mean, seriously – heat kills germs?  A whole new world has opened to me.   I think I will preserve *everything* that crosses my path now.

Of course I took pictures.  Any questions, let me know!

First you boil…

Beetroot 1

…then you peel (wear your asbestos hands obvs!)….

Beetroot 2


Beetroot 3

…..and PICKLE!!! Yay!!

Beetroot 4

I told you I got my hands on a lot of beetroot.  More is coming my way.  I have already tried to mix it up with a giant jar containing some sliced onion (I found a Polish recipe online.  I didn’t follow it but I did steal the onion idea, except I didn’t have a red onion).  I might try some chilli beetroot with some homegrown chillies.  What else should I experiment with?  The Good Life is so on its way…but do I really have to wait til October before I can try it?

I know, I know.  I’ve read all the blogs too: spray paint is amazing.  It’s colourful, it’s quick, it’s foolproof and easy.  It can be used to update your grandma’s old ottoman, it can be used to create wonderful doorknobs (finally found the oiled bronze that the American ladies are always talking about the other day!!! I think I can see where I will use that, oh yeah…..), it will make any old object look wonderfully shabby chic or super sophisticated and modern.  Spray paint.  It ticks all those boxes.  And I have only just discovered it.

But have I ever worried about showing up late at the party? Actually, yes, but teenage insecurities aside… I’ve arrived and by golly I have bells on.  Not quite bells exactly, but I certainly have large lampshade balls.  Hanging from my ceiling.  Except the mid-noughties brown just wasn’t cutting it in the elegant white and grey domestic bliss that has been created in the past few months.  What is a girl to do?  Head to the shed and see what colours she can create of course! Whoop whoop, let’s dig out the spray!

Firstly, spray paint cannot be used by me in any enclosed environment.  The walls had just been painted for goodness sake!  Fortunately, the English summer is struggling to arrive and at least the rains are holding off.  So lampshades down and out into the garden they went, hung up with a handy bit of garden twine.  And my old boring lampshades went from this….

Brown balls

….to this.  This is the miracle of spray paint.  I managed to get it all over the big brown balls and turn them bright and blue and new all within five minutes.  Another five minutes and the heavens looked a little threatening, so the greenhouse was accessorized.

Decorating the greenhouse

….so what should I update next?


Yesterday I was talking to a friend at work about up-cycling.  He can remain nameless because I would never want to get him in trouble but he was complaining about the amount of ‘stuff’ his housemate’s girlfriend leaves in the house.  You know the sort of stuff – free or cheap items obtained via freecycle, family members, house clearances…all the things people want to be rid of but that when a magpie like me spies all we can see is the item’s potential.

Potential – potential to be something beautiful, unique and definitely within budget for the home we aspire to have but cannot afford.  Years of investment in the work lottery syndicate has so far proved fruitless so I have had to channel my energies elsewhere.

This is when I told him that I did actually up-cycle.  It’s been a long time in the planning – I have had these chairs stored in the shed at the back of the garden for close to 8 years – but inspiration finally struck (ahem, thanks again Pinterest!) and last autumn I made my beautiful chairs.

Beautiful Chairs

The chairs were old, weathered and extremely dirty.  But they had a nice shape and I knew that something could be done with them.  So I gave them a good clean, thanked my lucky stars that the varnish had long worn away so I was saved the job of sanding them, and decided where to place my lace.  The lace – that was probably the hardest part.  It took a few weeks of darting into every charity shop I passed to see if they had old lace curtains, and if they did, was the lace suitably thick and not too ‘old lady’ for my project.  In the end I found a curtain, confused the old man at the till with my clear lack of concern that it did not have a partner and that the ‘hanging’ section was ripped to shreds, paid my pound and hurried home to complete my project.

I love projects and I love beautiful things but I hate anything fiddly.  The Tidiest Man Alive despairs at my constant mess and disarray and I am not going to lie, I did get paint in my hair (a lovely Cruella style streak across the side) but this project was reassuringly simple.  Lace is laid across the seat of the chair (or, wherever you fancy putting it) and any old masking tape will do to stick the bits from the edges underneath.  Don’t worry about being too tidy or finickity, you’ll paint over the ugly bits later! Sweet.  My only recommendation is to try and get the lace as tight as possible across any curves that have been pre-cut by the seat manufacturer to make their wooden chair more bum-friendly.

 Step 1

Next, the fun part – SPRAY! I am beginning a love affair with cans of spray paint.  My only wish is that each can was $10 like it seems to be in the US, £15 a can  just doesn’t seem fair.  Be sure to get an even coverage over your lace and cover the whole area to ensure you get a nicely scalloped edge.  The further across your chair that you spray, the easier it is to paint the finished seat neatly.  We like easy.  Spray evenly but make sure you don’t spray too much, you don’t want any drips on those bum-friendly sections.

And now…wait.  Wait for the spray paint to dry before being tempted to see what it looks like.  Wait until you think you can wait no longer, then wait a bit more.  And don’t try to re-spray once you’re done, because I am fairly certain less is more in this situation.  When you really can’t wait any longer, carefully untape the lace and remove.  Et voilà!  You  have yourself a fancy seat ready for the final touches.

Step 2

The final touches for me was painting the rest of the chair white.  I used Homebase’s Just One Coat Soft White – anyone visiting my home now will see this everywhere. It took two coats because of the tricky bars on the back (again with the patience for the drying!! Rubbish) but I think that the finished product was worth it.


I am going to start work on the table now and I have another two chairs that will complete the dining area of the little flat’s living space.  I think I may go for a bright colour on the other chairs – what do you think?

Table and Chairs

Recently I began a relationship with The Tidiest Man Ever.  He hates clutter.  Fortunately for him I am a Queen of Projects and thanks to him, I am actually now completing them.  This is nice for several reasons – I am less cluttered, with unfinished projects dotted around the house, I am less cluttered, because my projects are set to make life neater and more organised, and he is happy with the fact I feel accomplished, and am tidy. All round winning, I say!

So, in my hallway downstairs I had a big old bamboo coat and umbrella stand.  It was retro chic if you liked big, dusty old bamboo furniture.  It does serve its purpose very well, don’t get me wrong, I could hang a dozen coats on it and still have space for more.  Except for the fact I only really wear about two different coats and sometimes struggled to get past it to go up the stairs.  Of course, Pinterest had the answer: a pallet coat rack!

Of course I wanted it.  So clean, so fancy…so organised!! I needed it in my life.  Fortunately I am able to find things like pallets fairly easily so I got one home and set to work painting.  In an ideal world I would have spent the time to sand it down and remove any of the giant splinters I found, but we all know this world is not ideal, I am a little lazy and next time I would invest in an electric sander because elbow grease and paper just weren’t going to cut it.  A few coats of white paint did the trick though to cover up the worst of the splinters and my pallet looked like this:IMG_3846


Which was nice, but a little bit of colour was needed to brighten it up (too much white never works for me, remember, I am a chaotic mess sometimes!) so a few tester pots later, along with some bargain hooks, this was the end result:


It is now hanging in the hallway with fairy lights, a special spot for keys and every time I walk down the stairs I feel a little bit proud of myself.  The only problem is, the weather has changed and the need for coats has diminished…so it may be a few months before my handiwork is put to its final test! But that’s okay.  All I need now, is a new pallet project…

(my target and my actual….not so bad really!)

Pinterest Pallet Coat HooksFinished Pallet (full credit for the pallet hanging apparatus goes to the Domestic Doozie at – you can order the french cleats online and they arrived in the UK in just a few weeks!)

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