Monday, 30 September 2013

Creating handmade gifts...... for men!

Hello all,

Welcome to the first DIY inspired gift guide....  This one is for those men folk in our lives!  I've scoured the web and pinterest for a variety of gift ideas and whilst I have not tried them and can't vouch for how easy the instructions are to follow, I know there are a  lot of crafty folk out there who can rise to the challenge and create fabulous handmade gifts. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a selection of the many tutorials out there.  Happy crafting!

by Brett & Kate McKay of the Art of Manliness blog

 Chef's Apron

by Martha Stewart

Suede Ipod Case

by Martha Stewart

Leather Journal

by MUFN inc blog

BBQ Hanging Towels

by The Silly Pearl blog

Golf Club Head Covers
by Positively Splendid

Grill Rubs

by Kojo Designs

Hand Printed Mouse Mat

guest post on the Design Sponge by Man Made DIY

Monogram Mugs

by Design Mom

Handmade Tie

by the Purl Bee

Comic Book Coasters

by Mod Podge Rocks

Boy's Wallet

by Noodle Head

Bicycle Brake Clock

by the Instructables

Car Kit

by Holidash

by Sew4Home

Well I hope that has given you some inspiration, I would love to see any creations you make, link to them in the comments.  And if you have any suggestions for the next DIY gift guide then please shout! 

Until next time...

Amanda xx

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

It's begining to look a lot like C.........

Afternoon all,

I have to say, my body is getting very confused by this changing weather, last week I had to put the heating on and now this week it's sunny and really warm!!  The cold turn last week and the flurry of Christmas posts on my Facebook feed prompted me to start thinking about Christmas (look away now if the thought of Christmas planning in September turns you cold!!)

Picture courtesy of

It's my aim this year to either buy handmade gifts or make them myself so you can see why I wanted to start early!  Last year I created some handmade gift guides and this year I want to do the same but with more of an emphasis on actually making the gifts as I know there are a lot of DIY crafty people out there.

I asked on my Facebook page who you would like to see a gift guide for in order to get some inspiration and the first (and only!) response was gifts for men, so watch this space....  Our first handmade gift guide for the festive season will be for those difficult to buy men. 

Just as a caveat - the tutorials I link to are not necessarily ones that I have tried, but part of my online searching and pinterest stalking!

Picture courtesy of Pixels and Company

Good luck crafting and if there are any other gift types that you would like inspiration on please leave a comment.

Until next time...
Amanda xx

Friday, 23 August 2013

A way to spend a Sunday... pick your own fruit and making jam!

Afternoon all,

I have been meaning to write this post for a week or so but had not gotten chance to take pictures of the final product!  A couple of weekends ago we went to Parkside Farm in Enfield to pick enough berries to make some jam, it's been perfect weather for it, sunny but not baking hot that our fruit went mushy on the way home!

Hubby picking fruit!

Views across the POY fields

Me forraging for the good ones!

Such a lovely day

I had originally wanted to make raspberry jam as their website said they had a plentiful crop, however when we got there they also had blackberries, red currants and black currants, so we picked a mixture so that we could make Summer Fruit jam.

Here's how we did it...


1kg of fruit
Juice of 1 lemon
1kg of jam sugar


  1. Put a small plate in the freezer (this is for testing your jam)
  2. Sterilize your jars by putting them through the hot cycle in your dishwasher (no detergent)
  3. Tip half the fruit and the lemon juice into a pan and mush up using a potato masher, once mashed heat on a medium heat for 5 minutes
  4. Pour mashed fruit through a seive so all the juice and pulp goes through, leaving you with a seed mixture
  5. Add the pulp/juice back to the pan and combine with the sugar
  6. Once combined heat gently and add the remaining fruit and bring to the boil.  Allow to boil for 5 minutes 
  7. Drop a teaspoon amount onto the chilled plate and if it wrinkles and feels like jam consistency then it's ready.  If you like your thicker, return to the heat and boil for a few minutes longer.
And this is the finished result.......

Homemade mixed summer berry jam

It sure tastes yummy!!

To make the labels I used a free designer called Jam Labelizer, there are a handful of different designs you can choose from.

We've also made red currant jelly and chilli jam so I will blog about those another day.

Until next time...

Amanda xx

Monday, 12 August 2013

Featuring... Bread and Jam

Afternoon lovelies!

I mentioned these wonderful people recently and am now pleased to introduce them in full... Bread and Jam!

Ok, so let’s start with a little bit about you, how did Bread and Jam come to life?

We've been working for ourselves for getting close to 14 years now. I've (Jamie) been working mainly in the commercial interior design field, working on projects for the likes of Virgin, Nike, Speedo and plenty of other large multinational brands. Catherine has been working creatively for herself for the same amount of time, mainly producing lovely pieces to sell to top up the bank balance. Catherine, one day, posed the question "why don't we work together" and a month later Bread & Jam was formed. It's not everyone's idea of a healthy partnership, seen as we spend 24 hours a day with each other, but we work really well together, especially when the chips are down and we're up against it. In truth, we'd never even printed anything in anger, just a few things at art college but you wouldn't say we had experience. We're quite impulsive as a couple and we do like a challenge.

Notebooks for all your noting needs

It’s an interesting name, what’s the thinking behind it?

Now you may just have opened up a can of worms with that question. Ella, our eldest daughter, swears blind it was her idea but I can't quite place that conversation. Having said that, my brain is getting a little fuzzy as I get older so I must concede and give her that one. The name is quite simple really, we take a really good quality basic (the bread) and sweeten it up with a nice topping (the jam aka our designs). It also works as my name is Jamie (Mr Jam) and bread is rhyming slang for wife (bread knife). A bit tenuous but it does make us smile.
Cute prints to jazz up your walls

I received my first order from you recently (read about it here) and was so excited when it came through the door…  Where do you get your inspiration?

Yes, we must thank you wholeheartedly for your purchase; we may just have another Bread & Jam convert on our hands! In terms of inspiration, it comes from many varied sources but we do have a constant theme running through most of our work and that is pattern and design from mid 20th Century, whether that's fabric patterns, ceramics or wallpaper. We also have a real soft spot for Scandinavian design and we have many examples littered about our house. Our girls also are a constant source of ideas too, I love the honesty in their drawings and stories, I think that's where some of our phrase based pieces originate from. Not directly, but they do make us think about things in the simplest and purest of ways, which I think everyone can relate to if the complexities of adult life are stripped away.

I want their mugs!!

And which is your favourite design at the moment?

We are really excited about starting to screen print onto fabric pieces. It's just cotton tote bags at the moment but we've got grand plans to move into all sorts of areas with this. The tote bags are a new addition we bought through in time for Christmas but we will be doing a few more patterns next year. We've also re-launched our wooden pencil boxes too with brighter and bolder prints. We think these will go really well at Christmas too, they're great little stocking fillers for kids and grownups alike.

T'is the season to be jolly with these bags
There is a lot of buzz around you facebook page and I’ve just found you on pinterest (I’m not stalking I promise!), it’s great to see the community amongst crafters, if you could give one piece of advice to a crafter looking to make the leap into starting a business what would it be?

Stalk away Amanda, it's not something we haven't done ourselves! Advice, it's a tricky one because everyone's situation and style are different but one thing which has really kept us going up to now is a huge passion for what we do. I can't say every day is a bucket full of syrup but you've really got to love what you do and really ignore the naysayers. There's plenty of people out there who will tell you that you're doing the wrong thing or that's not the way you should do it, ignore them and press on (unless of course it's the bank manager then try not ignore them). It's your business, you're in control otherwise what's the point, you may as well be working for the man.

Back to school with these pencil boxes

 What exciting things does the rest of 2013 hold for you?

Well there's plenty going on that's for sure. We've just packed off our first order destined for Anthropologie in the States so we're keen to see how that goes for them and we're excited and nervous in equal measures on that front. We've got a whole bunch of new products which we've been Launching over the last few weeks plus some more to come. The most exciting thing happening in the very near future is that we're moving into new studios. We've been working from home since we started 18 months ago and to be honest we ran out of space about 6 months ago. We're moving into some space above a disused hotel, not very glamorous but we're really excited to put our own stamp on the place and we've been gathering various pieces of vintage furniture and bits and bobs over the last few months. The very first thing we bought was an essential piece of kit which we've needed for a while, an old biscuit tin!

Tote bags

So, if you had any spare time and could try and craft in the world, what would you want to learn next or do more of?

Catherine has been tinkering with crochet and I know she's got some projects on the go but she's always so busy she never seems to be able to finish anything. I'm sure they will look truly marvellous once they're complete, she's a clever sausage that one. As for me, I'm a keen amateur photographer and I try to get out and about if the weather and workload permit. I've been taking pictures for a good few years now but there's always so much to learn and new techniques to try.
More pencil boxes

 And finally, where would your dream holiday be?

We've been fortunate enough to travel a bit in our time; we've just come back from a trip to Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand in February this year. We're just in the throes of organising our next big adventure and it's a landmark birthday for someone not too far away from me right now. The options are Costa Rica or India. Costa Rica looks an amazingly diverse country, rainforests, beaches and volcanoes but India has always been high up on the list. If I were to put money on it, I think we'll end up in India. we've got plans to travel with the girls from North to South and back again, taking in all that it can offer. We like to organise things ourselves as much possible so we'll probably be booking flights in about 6 months. We're hugely excited by the potential adventure, fingers crossed we sell enough stuff to pay for it!
Just add tea to these lovely mugs!

Wow sounds amazing, thank you so much for taking part in our blog.  So lovely people, if you'd like to explore the world of Bread and Jam more then you can find them here.....

Until next time...
Amanda xx

Friday, 9 August 2013

A trip to Norfolk lavender

Evening all,

Wow it feels like it's been a busy and long week!  So much so  I didn't get change to blog about my trip to Norfolk Lavender at the weekend with my family.  In the lead up to the wedding hubby's family did a lot of touristy things in Norfolk, things I've never thought to do and I lived there!  I mentioned this to Mum and she suggested next time I was home we'd do something, cue the trip to Norfolk Lavender.

Given that I am surrounded by the city most of the week, it was great to be outdoors and get some genuine fresh air, and here are some pics from our afternoon out....

Beautiful butterflies all around

Gorgeous day calling for ice cream

Norfolk Lavender

  And finally on the way back we stopped by an actual lavender field so I could capture this... 

Lavender field

Can't wait to explore more of the Norfolk beauty (and hopefully other places in the UK!)

Until next time...

Amanda xx

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Stationary love!

Hello everyone!

Hope the lashings of rain that seem to have hit us hasn't dampened any spirits, I'm hoping it takes away some of the muggy-ness in London so that when the sun comes back it's nice and fresh!

Anyway, today I wanted to tell you about two deliveries I have received recently as I simply love them!!  Both these providers have super friendly staff and products that are of great quality. 

The first is a company I stumbled upon by accident, they will also be interviewed on the blog very soon, they are Bread and Jam (what a great name!)  They create beautiful stationary, among other things and whilst I can't show you what I bought just yet as they are presents for people and they might see it on here, I can show you the lovely packaging it arrived in, it was like getting a present from the postman!

Lovely wrapped presents from Bread and Jam

It was well packaged and the box is being used again to send on some pressies overseas!  I love the little freebie card too, takes away some of the sting of having to give the rest of the parcel away haha!

The next provider I'm sure many of you will know about, it's Moo

I have used them for post cards before and was impressed by the quality, this time we ordered our wedding thank you cards and I love them! We got 20 designs printed so we had a mix to send people.  We chose to pick them up from their pop up shop in London and they turned them around in 1 day, despite me not asking for rush delivery!  The staff were super friendly and I can't wait for people to see them land on their door mat.  Here's a sneak peak of them....

Our wedding cards fresh from Moo

Who doesn't love a bit of gorgeous stationery!!  I have a "refer a friend" link for Moo if anyone is interested in placing an order for business or personal reasons.  It will get you 10% off your first order and I will get Moolah points for my next purchase......

Well, that's it for now, have a good evening.

Until next time...

Amanda xx

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Featuring... The Little Honey Bee Company

Hi everyone,

Am just loving this weather at the moment, I hope it lasts!

This is a featured interview that I have been meaning to post for a while and things got a bit too hectic.  I find this crafter fascinating, so without further ado, here is The Little Honey Bee Company....

Ok, so let’s start with a little bit about you…

What inspired you to start The Little Honey Bee Company?

The Little Honey Bee Company came about by accident quite literally.  A few years ago I had a bad accident and was housebound for the best part of a year.  To suddenly find myself stuck in a second floor flat when I was used to being out and about was a bit tough.  I decided that I could either sit and be miserable or I could do something.   

I had always wanted to have a go at making soaps, salves etc and as honey and beeswax was something I had plenty of I decided to see how many different products I could make for Christmas presents.  I was really pleased how everyone enjoyed their presents and the lovely comments I got so I just carried on making from there.  I thought selling a few honey and beeswax soaps would be an ideal way to pay for my beekeeping hobby so I had my products safety assessed so I could sell them.   

The Little Honey Bee Company grew out of that hobby.

What does a typical day look like for you?

There's no such thing as a typical day for me!  Weekends I usually have events and so I'm up at silly o'clock to load the car and drive to events – I do love getting out and meeting people at events.

Weekdays always start with a nice long dog walk, a quick check on the beehives and feed the chickens.  Then it really depends what needs doing.  Some days it will be making more products, other days I might have talks to give or candle rolling sessions to host, or I may be trying out some new products, or I might have a large candle order for a wedding, .  

During the summer there's always the checks on the bees to be done and sometimes swarms to collect.  You never know when you might get a call to go and collect a swarm so that's always fun.  Late summer there's the honey to extract and jar, then autumn is very busy for me once everyone starts buying their Christmas gifts.   

After Christmas its cleaning and preparing beekeeping equipment ready for the year ahead.  This year I used the quieter months to set up my website.  Because there's always something different to be done I never get chance to be bored.

It’s amazing how many products can be created from honey and beeswax, what’s your personal favourite?

I love all the products I make and its difficult to choose a favourite, but I think it would have to be the soap.  I love making the soap using the traditional cold process method.  As this creates a long lasting bar of soap that lathers and retains the naturally produced glycerin and the moisturising properties of the oils used it can also be used for shaving with and as a shampoo bar (with no need for a conditioner) so one bar replaces lots of products for my family.

Honey and soap - what a great combination

What are the benefits from using these natural products?

Honey has been referred to as “nature's golden healer” for its many benefits.  Both honey and beeswax have antiseptic and antibactieral properties.   As honey is hygroscopic it draws moisture from the atmosphere, making it a great moisuriser.  Beeswax is waterproof and will help to create a barrier locking moisture in.  Mother nature really knew what she was doing when she gave us beeswax and honey.

Am I right in thinking that there is a decline in the number of honey bees?  What can we do to help them?

Things have been a bit tough for bees in general, and honey bees suffered with the wet summer and the long winter just like the rest of us.  From speaking to other local beekeepers colony losses this winter have been a lot higher than usual which is a worry.  However, as bees have been around longer than we have I'm optimistic that all will be well.  One of the best things that people can do for all bees is to plant plenty of bee friendly plants in their gardens, allotments, balconies etc, especially those that are available to bees earlier or later in the year, such as crocuses which provide lots of early pollen.  Lots of people have heard that bees can be fed a sugar syrup and ask me about leaving out either sugar syrup or honey for bees – please don't.  This could help spread disease.

Gorgeous handmade beeswax candles

I find myself drawn to so many crafts, are there any crafts that you would like to have a go at doing?

I'd love to be able to sew.  I've made the odd cushion cover or two, but I've seen some gorgeous things on some of the craft pages I'd love to able to make.  I love handmade rag dolls and teddy bears as well as patchwork quilts.

What does 2013 hold for The Little Honey Bee Company?

Oh I've got lots and lots of events booked for this year which I'm looking forward to.  I've also got lots of ideas for new products that I'd like to make, but mostly I'm looking forward to lots of time spent beekeeping over the summer months.

Add some buzz to your bath!

And finally, where in the world would your dream holiday be?

The only time I've ever been abroad is a school exchange trip to France and a couple of day trips!  I can't really say I have a yearning to go anywhere in particular.  However, if my dream holiday involved anything I wanted I think I'd like to visit beekeepers in other countries and see how beekeeping differs there, the different seasons and climates and the different styles of hives.

So there you have it, who would have thought that you could get so much from those cute bees!  To find out more and to buy some of these gorgeous products you can visit The Little Honey Bee Company via the following: