Surprise 13th birthday party invite, illustrated

What do you do for invitations when you want to throw a surprise 13th birthday party? Well, of course, you draw one.

My friend in town decided that 13 would be a good age to throw a surprise party for her daughter. She was a little stumped as to how to invite everyone and still keep it all one big secret. Time was a little tight when she approached me and discussed developing an invite, so I created a digital one, meaning that the invitation could be used on Facebook and e-mail.

It took about 5 hours to create and it allowed me to use up some of that good old digital painting knowledge that had been neglected.

What do you think of the final image? Age appropriate? It’s tough creating an invite for a girly who has no interested in “all things fluffy”.

In 2012, I drove around Lake Superior, which really was one of the most fantastic journeys I’ve ever been on. Talk about breathtaking.

A year later, when I was just starting to take an interest in drawing again, I decided to sketch an image of a -meh- photo I had taken.

The ink sketch was ok, but it was lacking something, so a few months later, I started incorporating ink and acrylic into the drawing.

It’s not completed yet (because I am scared) and not really sure how to finish the top part. Any suggestions, should I just wash it with ink, should I build more into the boat? The biggest barrier is that I am not particularly confident when it comes to detailing vehicles, people etc. If it’s a rock or a landscape then I can use my imagination and interpret it in whatever way I’d like, but that doesn’t work the same with, ya know, boats. Thoughts?

Here’s a confession for you: I suffer from winter blues! Ok, so it’s not much of a confession if you’ve ever met me through winter. But for those online folk/people who only know me in the summer, winter is a tough time for me. I get lethargic, I need more sugars, I sleep more, I hibernate. To be fair, moving to Canada helped a little bit, there’s something to be said about winters that are filled with sunshine, even if it is cold. Anything is better than the gloomy, cloudy winters of England!

Although my issues with winter may not be a surprise to those that know me, it’s still something that I don’t really talk about with many. It’s been a real struggle for me to post on here lately. I felt bad about this, but then I received a beautiful letter from a friend in the UK. I had never expressed my struggles to her, so I was surprised when she mentioned that she was writing because she knew that I tend to get sad at this time of year and letters seem to make me happy. I got a little teary eyed because, ya know…winter, and then I thought about it. Everyone knows that I struggle in the gloomy end of winter and yet I never speak about it. Having dealt with this for years, I, perhaps, have some knowledge on the experience that I could actually share, so, share I shall.

 

1. Be kind

Being kind to yourself is the best way of dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or, in fact, any sadness. Sadness happens, don’t be tough on yourself. Allow it to be there, cut back where you need to and take time to be kind to yourself.

If you’re hard on yourself, it’s just going to make it worse. Criticizing yourself for being lazy or feeling ‘that way’ isn’t going to lift your mood or change the situation.

 

2. Get outside, in the daylight

It’s so tough to leave the house in winter because it’s cold and, lets face it, you don’t want to. Seriously, leaving the house in the winter is the best thing you can do! Get some sunlight on your face, or at least feel fresh air airing out your head. Even if the sun is hiding, there are still benefits to being outside in winter.

 

3. Dress up

Do something for you. I have a bit of a love for cocktail dresses and high heels but I rarely have anywhere to wear those clothes. I don’t dress up often but when I do, I feel awesome. It’s not unheard of for me to just dress up for no reason, or for very little reason. It makes me feel good and I enjoy myself. Find something that makes you feel good, preferably something you don’t do very often and then just do it. Even if I don’t go anywhere and just spend the evening dressed to the nines, watching the TV with a nice big portion of ice cream, it lifts my mood.

4. Eat healthy

I’m not talking about eating 10 fruits and vegetables a day. I really struggle with healthy eating during the winter. I just want to eat junk food (such as the ice cream that made up my breakfast this morning), and I do (I try to be kind to myself about this slip up), but I find it better to eat junk food that I’m making at home, so I stop pretending that I will make pasta sauce from scratch, like I would in the summer, and I’ll buy the pre-made jars of tomato-y goodness, the frozen pizzas and gross frozen lasagne. I hate them all but they’re better than eating out every night and they mean that on those days that I really can’t face chopping vegetables, I have something to eat that isn’t as bad for me as a burger from a fatty take away.

5. Friends, showing love, connecting with people

If hibernation were an Olympic sport, I would be champion. It’s a seriously great talent of mine, however, we all need a level of social interaction and ignoring that just won’t help any gloominess. I spoke here about how I want to make more effort to connect with people and this is partly because I need that social interaction to stay positive. It’s an effort to leave the house and make myself look decent but I always feel so much better afterwards. As an introvert, it’s really easy for me to get overwhelmed and then hide again, so I set limits during winter. I try to fill 2-3 evenings a week with social interaction, whether that be skyping with friends around the world or driving to spend time with my pregnant friend who wants someone to sit with while she organises her nursery.

These work for me and help me feel more sane. What about you? Do you relish winter and snow? What do you do to keep sane during the chilly months?

Ok, it’s not a secret. I love chocolate.

Peanut butter, chocolate rice krispie snacks, close up.

And, guess what, the Christmas season is fast approaching and that means one thing: sugar! It also means that people will drop by unannounced or that you’ll feel so depressed about the weather that you will seek solace in that big tin of quality street under the tree (or is that just me?).

My friend in Edmonton gave me this fabulous recipe. Well, it was fabulous, except it involved dark chocolate. No thank you! Don’t get me wrong, I actually really enjoyed her dessert when I had the pleasure of being in the same area of the country, but I do not keep dark chocolate in the house! It’s just one of those things. So, I decided to change it up a bit. I got rid of the dark chocolate, then discovered that I needed less butter and less sugar, therefore entirely changing her recipe. Still, “Thank you, friend in Edmonton”! Without her, I wouldn’t have found my perfect snack for gloomy days.

Recipe for Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Krispie Bites

Perfect holiday treat

Chocolate chip close up

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of rice krispies
  • 1 cup of peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup of icing sugar
  • Enough milk chocolate chips to cover

Directions

  • Place the rice krispies, icing sugar and peanut butter in a bowl (if you keep your peanut butter in the fridge, try melting it a little first in the microwave or by just leaving it on the counter for a few hours)

  • Mix them all together.
  • Prepare a baking sheet with a layer of parchment or greaseproof paper covering it
  • Get your hands in that bowl and start making spheres of the mixture, approximately about an inch thick (bigger if you want them to taste more peanutty)
  • Place the balls on the baking sheet and pop them in the fridge to cool. You can also place them in the freezer if you’re short on time
  • While they’re hardening, melt the chocolate (and resist the temptation to eat it with a spoon! Why does melted chocolate appeal to me so much?)
  • Bring out the peanut creations, and drizzle them in chocolate, or dip them, roll them, just get that chocolate on there
  • Pop them back in the fridge (or freezer for up to 6 months) until your guests arrive

When I was very little, my mum used to read Miss Poppy and the Honey Cake to me, which is the best book in the history of the world.

We often baked the cake and it was always a bit of a disappointment. It never really looked like the illustration and the taste never quite lived up to what I wanted it to be – not my mum’s fault at all, as she is a rather excellent baker, instead, I choose to blame the recipe in the storybook. Seeing as I’ve been obsessed with food recently , it seemed only right that I fully look up a way to make this bloomin’ honey cake.

Hello Google and Hello Smitten Kitchen. I read her article in depth and realised that I wasn’t alone in bad honey cake experiences. Having finally completed SK recipe, I can also honestly say that it was the best cake I’ve ever made! Just don’t make the mistake I did, it says tsps of cinnamon NOT tbsp! Although, if you do use tbsp, it really doesn’t taste so bad.

We took it to my mother-in-law’s house for dinner and she insisted on keeping it, so I had few pictures to share. It’s really yummy though and a good recipe for some weekend baking.

 A few days ago, I spoke with a great friend in Edmonton who gave me a brilliant recipe for peanut chocolate crisps. They are super dooper easy to make and, if I get her permission, I’ll type it up here, but here’s a sneak preview at the results:

Are you a baker? Where do you get your cooking inspiration from? Are you a recipe follower or a throw things in a bowl and see where it goes person?

Blanket forts are so much fun! You can never be too old to enjoy one. Better yet, there are loads of ways to make your grown up blanket fort work for you.

The Canadian and I recently celebrated two whole years of marriage. Neither of us feel that our anniversaries need extravagant gifts or plans. After we married, we agreed to ensure that our anniversaries would turn into special dates, whereby we would do something together, rather than buy something for each other. In a way that’s similar to our outlook on Valentine’s Day, we are of the opinion that if we need to focus on one day a year, we’re not doing it in a way that works for us.

After scouring and reviewing the North American and British wedding anniversaries, we decided to follow the British traditions. This year marked the second year and, as such, the cotton anniversary of our marriage. We spent the day with immigration Canada – not the best place to spend it! After what was a stressful day, we had a BBQ with some family and, once everyone had left, we built a blanket fort, because blankets are cotton, yup nothing gets past me.
Few people were as excited or as amused by our plan to build a blanket fort for our anniversary but we still loved it. It was juvenile, fun and exciting. The best part about it is that we are both nerdy people, we enjoy building things and its a unique shared experience for the memory bank. We also got to work as a team and building a blanket fort, to us, was a brilliant way to spend a cotton anniversary.
We planned our blanket fort so that we could sleep in it, watch Doctor Who (didn’t I say nerdy already?), and eat our favourite finger foods. We pulled the mattress into the room and set it down next to the sofa, we placed ladders, side tables and chairs around the mattress and pegged the blankets around them, all the fabrics were light weight, and the entire fort was supported by the ceiling fan and the curtain rods, all through the use of handy pegs (be sure that the fabric is not heavy if you are using light fixtures. Secure it very loosely, if you tug on the blankets, it’s better for the fort to collapse rather than the light fixture land on your head!).
We filled the fort with fairy lights and voila! Our fort was complete. It lasted 5 days, until the cats managed to get in and have fun with it!
Here’s some tips on how to build a grown up blanket fort that works for you:
~ collect all your blankets, sheets, spare fabrics, duvets, pillows and scarves in one place.
~ pegs, lots of pegs! And maybe some safety pins.
~ have an idea of what you want your blanket fort to look like: will you need cushions or a mattress? What about fairy lights (those little lights used on Christmas trees the world over)? Do you want to crawl in, walk in or just duck to get in? Do you want to stand up inside the fort? Do you want to keep it up for a few days? (If yes, where can you build it so that pets, children and guests won’t require that the blanket castle be taken down prematurely?)
~ be wary of fire hazards, blanket forts and flames do not mix well.
What so you think, is there a blanket fort in your future? Have you ever built a blanket fort for grown ups?

Afternoon Tea Ideas for Mother's Day

 

Mother’s Day is just around the corner for all those UK folks on the other side of the Atlantic. Being a bit of an expat, it can be quite a hassle to get hold of Mother’s Day cards amongst other things. Canadian’s and American’s aim to please mothers in May. Not cool, if you ask me, which you didn’t. 


This year, I’m actually going to be with my mum on the big day, which is pretty exciting. I’ve still been struggling for cheaper-than-overpaying-at-a-crowded-restaurant idea. 


Then it struck me: Afternoon Tea or High Tea (there is a difference but for this purpose, I’m not particularly interested in differentiating). 


Here’s the HOW TO: 


Follow the links below and gather all the foods you need, follow the recipes and store until the big day.


On the big day, cut the sandwiches into tiny pieces, pile them up on a pretty plate and add a garnish of watercress here and there. 


Cut up the cakes and the shortbread into tiny pieces, add them to a separate plate. 


Put the kettle on and make a big pot of tea. 


Lavish your momma with love, hugs, foods and giggles.

Afternoon Tea Ideas for Mother's Day

Sandwiches 1, 2, and 3. Scones, Lemon Curd, Shortbread, Raspberry Almond Macaroons, Strawberry Cream Tea Cake, Boozy Coffee and Walnut Cake, Elderflower Crunch Cake, Double Chocolate Loaf Cake, Pound Cake, Carrot Cake.

I love afternoon tea, and I am so excited to do this come mother’s day. Ha, I say me but really I am going to utilise the skills of my baking sister, she just doesn’t know it yet.


Has anyone else ever made up an afternoon tea?


Click here for some more mother’s day inspiration

I have only recently become interesting in art journalling. I have scoured Pinterest for drawing inspiration and art journals, from this I have developed an interest in scrapbooking techniques and development. If you want to look at the collection I’ve developed on Pinterest you can find it here.

I’ve spent some time developing a style. I spent ages reading things like ‘the only way to get good at something is to do it’ or ‘practice makes perfect’ etc, and I rolled my eyes and huffed and puffed because I wanted to learn by looking and reading not by doing. Eventually, I had to admit that it was true. I had to just do it, so I did. I found that it’s really hard to know where to start, so I developed this little guide to help you on your journey to ‘just doing it’!