Friday, 22 September 2017

Scrapbooking with Autumn Florals

Last year for a bit of a treat, I took Mum and Dad for brunch at Skygarden. Skygarden sort of does what it says on the tin: it's a garden in the sky.  Or more specifically, a garden inside the top of a skyscraper, with several restaurants chucked in for good measure so you can dine with the ultimate view.  And with a three course brunch complete with glass of fizz, we were pretty much guaranteed to have a lovely time.

I had lots of photos to scrapbook from this experience: loads of the views and the plants in the garden, and so I decided to select one photo for a 12x12 page and include the rest in a divided page protector. I wanted to a picture involving my parents to be the main focus, but I looked at the whole range of photos when choosing supplies for this page.  I opted for greens and browns to match the city views and greenery, but also pulled out some paper in warmer, autumnal tones.

For my title, I designed the words inside a frame and cut them out with a craft knife.  I like the look of a white title on a white background, but the frame design also gave me the opportunity to showcase a lovely patterned floral paper behind it. The white border also provided a nice design link to the photo.

I added layers of patterned paper around the central block of title and photo. I also framed the design with the first bit of journaling (the rest of the story going into the divided page protector). To create the layers, I used punches - the tab being a favourite - and fussy cut flowers from patterned paper.  I also drew out and cut some little leaf designs, putting my craft knife to good use and creating another layer of detail; cutting out the centres of the leaves allowed more of the other layers to show through.

I finished off the page with a few details: ink splatters to go with the journalling, punched butterflies topped with little pearls and or course a camera here and there. I'm pretty pleased with the final page and I'll aim to share the matching pocket page soon!

Kisses xxx

P.S. I made this page on the fabulous Bloggers' Weekend where I had the most brilliant time: it felt like such a luxury to truly relax and think only about scrapbooking, nattering to fellow crafters and, of course, eating!

Monday, 18 September 2017

Goals for the New School Year

It's a new school year, and my goodness it's started with a vengeance! The new academic year always bring new challenges and it can seem tough to get back into the swing of a hectic school day after the summer.  But it's also nice to get to know new classes, talk about maths all day again and share cake with colleagues, in amongst getting UCAS forms ready and preparing students for their university applications.

I  enjoy looking forward to new things in the coming year, and so I thought it was a good time to review my list of ambitions.  As always, it's little bit longer than it was before, now up to 118 life goals. But I'm also working on them gradually, and thoroughly enjoying doing so.  For instance, there's always a ready-made excuse to go and have afternoon tea, and just this last week, I have booked to go and learn to scuba dive, which will help me fulfil another longstanding wish. I'm looking at you, number #58.

Looking at this list now, it's also lovely to reflect on how many brilliant experiences I have had over the past few years, and I think the list has helped by making those goals seem tangible. Seeing them written down helps to give each goal a focus. And there are plenty that I have repeated, having found the experience worthwhile. I've played Dungeons and Dragons a couple of times, dined at Hakkasan twice, done escape rooms plural, become a devotee of knitting from charts, and even been skinny dipping more than once! While some experiences are harder to repeat - much as I would like to, it's quite a commitment to pop to New Zealand - there are plenty I plan to duplicate. A European Christmas market is a winner every time.

Anyway, so far I have completed 84 goals on the list leaving me with 34 still to do. Here's the current list, linked up where I can, highlighted items completed.

#1 Make cake pops
#2 Make a multicoloured layer cake
#3 Go on a canal boat
#4 Play Dungeons and Dragons
#5 Play hooky for a day
#6 Have an all-night film marathon
#7 Go on a sleeper train
#8 Have tea at the Ritz
#9 And Claridges
#10 See 2 London Shows in a day
#11 Make a photo wall display
#12 Build a den.  A really cool one.
#13 Road trip in the USA
#14 New York, New York
#15 Go glamping in a fancy tent with fairy lights
#16 Buy an expensive set of lingerie
#17 Sew something to wear
#18 Get married
#19 Make a set of jam-jar cocktail glasses
#20 Make blueberry gin
#21 Do the take-away double
#22 Redesign this blog
#23 Go skinny dipping
#24 Milk a cow
#25 Learn to make pasta
#26 Get up early to photograph the sunrise 
#27 Ride a motorbike
#28 Have dim sum at Hakkasan
#29 Do an Escape Room
#30 Learn Calligraphy

#31 Have dinner at Dans le Noir
#32 Re-purpose something second-hand
#33 Go to a cult Rocky Horror screening
#34 Go to a burlesque show
#35 Go ape
#36 Go to a Secret Cinema screening
#37 See a play at Cornwall's Minack Theatre
#38 Go on a helicopter
#39 Make my own ice cream#40 Have dinner at Dishoom
#41 Take part in a Murder Mystery Treasure Hunt
#42 Buy a bikini
#43 Have afternoon tea at Cutter and Squidge
#44 Get my eyebrows shaped
#45 Inhale helium
#46 See the Northern Lights
#47 Go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
#48 See New Zealand
#49 Stay in a tree house
#50 Have a bash at karaoke
#51 Go to a roller derby
#52 Travel to South America
#53 Start a family
#54 See a film at a drive-in cinema
#55 Go to a sh*t-faced Shakespeare production
#56 Make a new giant floor cushion
#57 Try making papercuts with a craft knife
#58 Learn to Scuba Dive
#59 Have a go at spinning
#60 Go for Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea
#61 Go to the circus
#62 Learn to knit from a chart
#63 Knit a lace pattern
#64 Start a teacup collection
#65 Go on a Segway
#66 Visit Japan
#67 See a midnight matinee at the Globe
#68 Go on a safari
#69 Visit the Cutty Sark
#70 Go to a Casino
#71 Go stargazing
#72 Eat a deep-fried Mars bar
#73 Have dinner at Veeraswamy
#74 Dance on a table in a bar
#75 Ride a camel
#76 Have cocktails at BYOC
#77 Play Dinosaur Safari Adventure Golf
#78 See a baseball match
#79 Go to Bounce Below
#80 Visit the Rough Trade Photobooth
#81 Swim in an infinity pool
#82 Ride a tandem
#83 Cook a roast
#84 Make something out of leather
#85 Get my International License with Girlguiding
#86 Bake a Christmas cake
#87 Dine in a Michelin star restaurant
#88 Do the Lyke Wake Walk
#89 Design a Lace Shawl
#90 Visit a Guiding World Centre outside the UK
#91 Sit in a box at the theatre
#92 Go to Africa
#93 Spend a day at Lyme Park
#94 Try white water rafting
#95 Make Danish pastries
#96 Fly first class on a plane in lying-down beds
#97 Learn Brush Script
#98 Visit Beachy Head
#99 Have a Christmassy afternoon tea
#100 Visit Las Vegas
#101 Skydive
#102 Make choux pastry
#103 Have afternoon tea at the Landmark
#104 Sleep in a 4-Poster bed
#105 Go to a European Christmas Market
#106 Bake a Kanellengd
#107 Visit Scandinavia
#108 Go to Versailles
#109 Have a fire pit
#110 Visit Pompeii
#111 Go to a trampoline park
#112 Have afternoon tea at the Dorchester
#113 Sleep under the stars
#114 Go Interrailing
#115 Visit the Hampton Court Palace Maze
#116 Do the Lost City Hike
#117 See the Galapagos Islands
#118 Find dragons on Komodo

Kisses xxx

P.S. Actually, there are so many countries I would like to travel to that I feel like I could add another 50 dreams to the list without even thinking about it. Let's just say I love to travel.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Scrapbooking in Wonderland

At the end of last year, a colleague and I went for afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel: an afternoon tea which has achieved no small amount of notoriety as it is entirely Alice in Wonderland themed. Basically, it was a photographer's paradise mixed with foodie heaven and we had a brilliant time and I blogged about it here.

But now, it's time to share the scrapbook page! This one took a long time to come together as I kept changing my mind about little details, and there was a lot of hand cutting.  But I'm happy with the finished results and I'm pretty pleased I can finally share the page in my album.

Even though this visit took place months ago, I squirelled away a few little bits and pieces for the day when I would be scrapbooking this event. It was so photogenic, I knew it would have to end up in my albums at some point. I loved the little 'Drink Me' tags, firstly as table decor, but also for their embellishment potential and I had to include one on the page.

Despite having a ton of pictures, I decided to include one that actually has me in it for the page; it's important to me that I make an appearance in my layout. Plus I'd spent no small amount of time posing and couldn't possibly let that go to waste. Obviously.

This layout came together in layers.  I wanted it to be fun and whimsical, but also a little bit mysterious and magical.  I doodled some swirls and stars and then cut them out by hand. I used these as templates to make the swirls in white cardstock, and eventually, my craft knife and I had produced some delicate white figures.  However, I ended up not using them as originally intended, and lots of the design is hidden behind the layers and title. Not a problem, just an observation. I was very keen to use the papercuts in the way I had imagined and not cover them up that it took me a long time to accept that they were better being subtle and tucked behind things.

I used white cardstock as my base, positioned my photograph and added layers in the form of little scraps and flowers cut from patterned paper. I also used a transparency square with a golden polka dot design.

Next came the title.  I sketched it out a few times until I was happy with the size and shape and then but out my writing to check the positioning.  I was initially intending to do the title in white, but it got so lost, amid everything else. So I used a promarker to draw my title onto white cardstock, and then cut it out by hand. I used scissors for this, and left the middles in the letters, rather than cutting them out, making the title a little less flimsy.

I added the title to my page using little foam squares to create dimension, and positioned the words around the existing floral layers, framing the photo. Then I got stuck into my journalling (already written thanks to my blog post) and added the story in a column, fitting it to the shape of embellishments and the title. I have more story to add, but I stopped when I got to the bottom of the layout. I took so many photos that I will certainly be making a matching pocket page to go with it. and I can include more story in that. I like that I don't need to try and cram everything into one layout.

A couple of ink splatters and a few wood veneer stars and the page was complete! While this definitely took longer than usual to put together, I'm glad I took the time to get this page the way I want it.  Perhaps a slightly unusual page style for me, but it's good to mix things up sometimes too!

Kisses xxx

P.S.Time to burrow into the stash and choose things for the next page!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Nutty Salted Caramel Matcha Porridge

As a rep for Bluebird Tea Co, it's very easy to get excited when new teas make an appearance.  But this batch of new ones was particularly intriguing: new matcha flavours including ice cream and salted caramel! I love salted caramel anything and was was very keen for it to arrive.

My box of tea did not disappoint, containing the three new matchas, the lovely new bag design and a packet of the Blue Raspberry tea.  Very refreshing and a bit of a party tea as it changes colour! But it was the salted caramel matcha that stole my heart .

If you've not tried matcha before, you should know that it's a form of green tea, but instead of infusing the leaves and then straining them out, the leaves are powdered, dissolved and then you drink them. That way you absorb all the goodness.  As well as being perfect for lattes by blending them with milk, matcha is also fab in a huge range of recipes, so today I'm going to share a recipe for matcha porridge. Featuring the salted caramel blend, of course.

Porridge is effective and delicious fuel for the morning, and with the amazing new matcha flavours in the Bluebird Tea Co range, there are loads of yummy varieties just waiting to take over breakfast.  I decided to pair the salted caramel matcha with a warming, nutty bowl of porridge; it’s good to indulge while getting all the lovely benefits of matcha! This recipe is for one, but you can easily multiply up as needed.


50g porridge oats
300ml almond milk
1 tsp salted caramel matcha
25g nuts (I used a mixture of cashews, hazelnuts and walnuts)
flaked almond
1 tsp golden syrup
Pinch cinnamon


1) Combine the matcha with a dash of water – a splash of cold and a splash of hot is ideal as boiling water will burn the tea. Mix vigorously to avoid getting any lumps.

2) Add the oats and milk to a saucepan and warm over a medium heat.  Once the mixture starts to boil, simmer for 5 minutes until the porridge becomes thick and creamy.

3) Add a pinch of cinnamon and stir through. Remove the pan from the heat.

4) Add the matcha mixture to the porridge and combine thoroughly.Your porridge will go an interesting shade of green, but trust me, it will taste great!

5) Serve the porridge into a bowl. Swirl a teaspoon a golden syrup over the top to sweeten (if desired) and top with the nuts. Scatter over the flaked almonds and dig in!

If you're feeling like an extra treat first thing (and I always do), a handful of white chocolate chips is a very tasty addition.  Who doesn't want chocolate for breakfast? Oh, and you absolutely must eat this in bed, for maximum cosiness.

Kisses xxx

P.S.As a tea rep for Bluebird Tea Company, I can offer you a one-use-only 20% off discount code: just enter CURIOUSTEABIRD07 when you check out. You can hop on over now to find the new matcha flavours. And for me, it's time to get stuck into the ice cream!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Summer Berry Ice Tea Sundae

We've been enjoying some lovely warm weather lately - ice cream weather you might say! And maybe not everyone's first thought when it's hot and sunny is tea, but what if you could combine tea and ice cream into the perfect frozen dessert? 

Exactly. Happy days.

So today I'm sharing a recipe for Summer Berry and White Chocolate Ice Tea Sundae.  Quite a mouthful, both literally, and in name. So where does the tea come in? Well, I picked one of my favourite refreshing blends of tea from Bluebird Tea Co and infused it into white chocolate sauce to drizzle over the sundae. You can almost certainly do this with any blend of tea that you enjoy, but I picked the appropriately-named Jelly and Ice Cream.

Jelly and Ice Cream is a rooibos tea filled with coconut, strawberry, vanilla and apple.  It's creamy and fruity and delicious and it's one of my absolute favourites. I usually drink it brewed hot with a splash of milk and enjoy the sweet ice-creamy flavour, and it therefore seemed like the perfect choice to add into a sundae.

Ingredients: Makes 4 Sundaes

8 shortbread biscuits
200g frozen berries
150ml single cream
100g white chocolate
4 scoops vanilla ice cream
4 tsp tea

I used Jelly and Ice Cream tea, as mentioned above, but you could use your own favourite. Equally, if you want a different flavour of ice cream, go for it! Finally, I used a mixture of frozen strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, but any frozen fruit you enjoy would work.

1) Pour the cream into a small saucepan and add the tea (it's easiest if you put the tea into a little drawstring teabag so you can get it out again later). Put the pan over a low heat until the cream just comes to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave the tea to steep for at least half an hour to allow the flavours to infuse into the cream.

2) When you've infused the cream, remove the tea, and put the cream back on a low heat.  Add the white chocolate and stir thoroughly, until the chocolate is melted and combined with the cream. Leave the sauce to cool.

3) Use a pestle and mortar to grind the shortbread into crumbs. Divide the biscuit crumbs between 4 glasses, leaving a couple of spoonfuls to sprinkle on top of the sundaes.

4) Split half the frozen berries between the four glasses and add a scoop of ice cream over the top, to build up layers in the sundae.

5) Share the remaining berries between the four glasses, keeping one back to top off each glass.

6) Drizzle the tea and white chocolate sauce over the top of each sundae. Sprinkle over the last few biscuit crumbs and top each sundae with a final berry.  Voila! The perfect summer dessert is ready to go.

Of course, there's nothing to stop you putting the whole lot into one giant bowl and attacking it yourself.  Just in case the summer weather lets us down and it's pouring with rain and you need cheering up. Let's just call that an alternative serving suggestion.

Kisses xxx
P.S. As a tea rep for Bluebird Tea Company, I can offer you a one-use-only 20% off discount code: just enter CURIOUSTEABIRD07 when you check out. You can hop on over now to find the summery cocktail-inspired Tea Tipples to try, or to snaffle some Jelly and Ice Cream rooibos.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Living the Lovely Canal Life

I recently shared a post about a week spent on a barge during the Easter Holiday with a trusty band of lovely friends.  I loved having my camera and shooting the waterways gliding past, and so today I have a few more pictures from that experience. There isn't really any more story to tell; it's a experience to be lived rather than discussed and it existed in the small moments: feeling the boat rock slightly as you fall asleep, cosy in your cabin. Tramping down the dewy grass as you cast off your boat first thing. Wrapping slightly chilled fingers around a mug of warm tea as the evening draws on. Leaping on to the bank with windlass in hand and wind in hair ready to take on a lock, feeling proud that you know how to do this and can send your crew on the way. Peering into little windows and catching snapshots of another crew on their own adventure. The feeling of freedom and self-sufficiency.

And beautiful English countryside under spring skies.

Quack's all, folks.
Kisses xxx
P.S. This whole adventure sort of kicked off because going on a canal boat was one of the things on my list.  And it was wonderful; I really, really, REALLY want to go again.  That's the whole point of the list: to encourage me to try new things and find new passions!

Monday, 3 July 2017

Pottering Along on a Barge

Back in April, an intrepid band of explorers set out to charter a barge and navigate the untamed wilds of Britain's canals.  It was very similar to the voyage up the Congo undertaken in 'Heart of Darkness' but much more genteel.  We are, or course, equally as hardcore.
We picked up our trusty floating home for the week, named Kingfisher, and following a quick driving lesson and a lock tutorial, we were sent on our merry way with instructions to be back in time at the end of the week. Simple.
I had never been on a canal boat before, but was looking forward to a week of calm waterways, solid friend time, merry locking and just relaxing and watching the world go by.  And that's pretty much what we all got, only I loved it more than I ever would have thought.

First of all, driving is easy and enjoyable. You can sit on the back of the boat, enjoy the scenery, wave at passer's by and other boats and have your crew bring you cups of tea to while away the hours.  It's peaceful and lovely and you can glide along at pottering pace without a care in the world.
Inside the barge also turned out to be much roomier than I had imagined, and much less rough and ready. Hot showers, for instance. Adorable bedrooms with impressively fitted storage, a full-on kitchen and lounge area to hang in, or outdoor seating at the front of the barge if the weather's nice. Everything we could possible have needed was on board.

I soon learned, however, that half the charm of canal boating lies in vaulting onto the bank to go and operate the locks.  In these circumstances, driving is less fun than hauling along to the nearest lock and going hell for leather with your windlass. There was a real sense of achievement in throwing your bodyweight into levering open the heavy wooden gates, and it was surprisingly social.
We met lots of other boaters at locks and we would always be happy to team up and work them together, sharing boat anecdotes and swapping holiday stories as we manually shimmied our barges up and down watery hills. My favourite bit was probably the flight of seven we managed, just in terms of sheer accomplishment and the satisfaction of shifting the locks like a well-oiled machine. That's teamwork, baby.

I did have to institute a mutiny, however.  One so-called friend had made us all badges to wear for the trip. A lovely thought, you might imagine.  His badge said 'Captain', and he doled out First Mate and Cabin Boy to two other crew members.  And what did that leave me?

Mutiny was swift and successful.  Safe to say that by the end of the week, my hoody proudly bore two badges, reading 'Captain Parrot'.
Pieces of Eight.
It was just so nice to get away from everything and really relax.  I appreciate 'Nice' sounds like a very bland word, but there was time for Man Time (see above, putting the world to rights), reading time, musing-aloud-about-the-future time, cooking time, board games time, walking the tow-path time, cider time, tea time and photography time.
Also running along the roof time, but I enjoyed very much but which is technically not allowed. But the blossom was out, we struck lucky with the weather and the week just kept on rolling by.  There's always something you can do, but often not a lot you have to do which is a perfect balance really.

We crossed a couple of aqueducts which gave us some lovely views and definitely made me want to experience travelling over some of the larger, more well-known varieties where you're high in the air with the countryside spread below. We also navigated through a hugely long tunnel, the inside of which was pitch black and exciting, and exactly wide enough for two boats to pass and no more. 

Each evening we moored up and enjoyed our little floating home.  It was lovely to natter the day away, take on a board game or two, or venture to the nearest pub for some delicious pub fare.  Necessary when you've relaxed that hard.

Going on a canal boat was one of the things of my list of Life Goals (you can find it here) but it's safe to say that this is one I really want to repeat. I can understand why people want to go again and again as it's utterly charming and wonderful.  Pure, carefree enjoyment from start to finish with a lovely bunch of friends and daily life left well and truly behind. I can't wait to go again!
Kisses xxx
P.S. Note to self: next time take more snacks. Driving time is snack time.