Posts in Craft
Pony Birthday Party for a Perfect Niece

When your 2 year old niece, your clever, adorable, impossibly charming 2 year old niece says "Oh I would love a pony party!" well, this Auntie can't help but get right on Pinterest and start planning. With Natty just having had Logan in January we set about planning Yasmin's 3rd birthday party a few months ago together and apart from the seasonal showers on Saturday, we couldn't have asked for a more lovely day.

Lovely friends, family and family in America on FaceTime, all came together for a horsey themed celebration over this weekend and made one little girl very happy. 

It's no secret I love parties and I get almost as much joy preparing, sourcing bits and bobs and decorating the house and garden as I do helping host the actual 2 hour party itself! Those hours go by so quickly and I absolutely make the most of the anticipation and excitement. A very timely visit to America earlier this month (oh you are going to be bombarded with sweet pictures of my sweet nieces this week!) also meant I brought home some pony party extras for our mini guests - who doesn't love a horse shaped rubber duck?! 

We raided my prop boxes, found an old straw bale that I knew would come in handy one day, and popped a few fake flowers that I bought from The Range in some of my old glass bottles. Yasmin is a girly girl, a walking princess and if she could live in a world of pink she would! Which is so alien to me having two boys, where life at the moment is about negotiating time to watch some chap called Stampy play Minecraft videos. No wait, not watch him, you watch his game, him playing the game with endless running commentary. Aaaaah! 

We found some baskets from her bedroom and popped some marshmallow ice creams inside, propped up a touch with some paper, laid some chocolate horses I bought from Party Delights on the hay bale and covered two faux polystyrene cakes with pink tissue paper to act as lolly stands.

My local baker from The Small Cake Shop made the fantastic horse cake pops and themed cup cakes and I picked up 2 old Observer Guide books in my local Oxfam book shop which made perfect cake stands.

I know it may seem strange, but I always use the birthday cake as the centre piece to the dessert table. I think it's a shame to hide it away, especially as it's often one of the show stopping moments of a party, only to whizz it out for a resounding chorus of Happy Birthday and hip hip hoorays and then rush it away to be cut up. My boys love seeing their cakes and get so much extra pleasure from being able to enjoy them for the whole party and Yasmin is just the same. None of us are huge cake fans so we actually cheated a little this year and bought a basic iced sponge from the supermarket but dressed it up to the max!

I sprayed a letter three cake topper I had in my party box at home silver and sprinkled it as it was drying with glitter, used some of the fabric flowers and popped it on a painted polystyrene cake. The Talking Tables cake topper and party picks set looked wonderful and from a distance you'd have thought it was this spectacular two tiered creation. Super simple but effective is our motto!

We wanted to keep the games simple and fun as most of the mini guests were around 3 years old. So horsey rubber ducks plopped into my old tin bath became Hook-a-Horse and the children took it in turns when they fancied a go to wander over and see how many they could catch in their nets.

My sister and brother in law had painted some pound shop miniature fence panels white and taped around lengths of white plumbing tubes to create a row of garden jumps and all the children lined up and took it in turns to cross the finish line with cheers from the crowd. 

I spied these amazing jockey dressing up outfits, a fabric horse built into a waistband at the Country Living Show on the My Horse stand. They couldn't have been more perfect and they have a new home in the dressing up box. 

Just before all her guests of the human kind arrived we had a surprise for the birthday girl. Well for everyone really. We had hired a real miniature horse called Nutkin from The Cuddly Pony Party who happened to be very local and in fact had met my brother in law many times when they were teenagers!

It is an amazing party experience. Nutkin is incredibly docile, loves being centre of attention and is a dab hand at children' parties.

She was so friendly, posed for pictures and munched on their grass as the children groomed and then painted her and gave her pretty hair dos with bows and clips! The children got to hear all about how she likes to be brushed, what she eats and gave her lots of cuddles.

It's so clever really, all the little brushes must be like a mini massage. I chatted with Izzy about the paints and whether she's ever experienced any negative comments, which she told me she had on social media, mostly from people who haven't read about the parties properly. All the paints she uses are child and horse friendly, wash off straight away and Nutkin barely gave a second glance. She happily munched on her hay bale, had a few half carrots fed to her by the children and you could have thought you'd just spent an hour and a half with a big stuffed toy! So placid and calm around the children who were all so loving and nurturing towards her.

It's lovely that Izzy is so proud of her and after she handed out beautiful traditional equestrian rosettes to everyone, we waved her goodbye and she headed off for a good shower.

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We had braved the great British April weather for as long as we could and then we all came in and played some games and the children ate their Pony party teas in their snack boxes in the warm. Andrew's mum made some delicious fillipine dishes as well as the beautiful floral horseshoes and all the grown ups dived into a huge bowl of chow mein and a drink from the bar. They made rosettes out of foam sparkly templates and lots of stickers we bought in Hobbycraft, drew a little picture or message on the fabric horse as a keepsake for Yazzy's room after her birthday and a game of pass the parcel took us almost to 4pm, with just enough time to sing to the birthday girl and then wave everyone goodbye.

We all headed back into the garden as the last guests headed home and the sun came out in spectacular style! It was like a brilliant summer's evening and we had a mammoth bouncing session on the trampoline followed by apple bobbing!

Sammy is a dunk your head right in, strip off after two goes and get soaked from head to toe kind of player where as Ollie and Yazzy delicately picked their apples up, pretty much on the first try, by biting the stork!

Darling girl it's such a pleasure to spoil you. Yasmin appreciates all the fuss, all the little things that might go unnoticed. She walked out to the sweet buffet and gasped with her hands to her mouth and said "Oh Auntie it's all so pretty! I like da cakes, I like all da cakes!"

My sister plays a rolling gallery of photos on their tv screen and my niece is a girl who is constantly reminded of all the lovely times she's had in her little life. Each one sparks a memory or a story that she's been told and remembers and I know we will all be going over her happy party for years to come.

I'll miss my sleepover buddy tonight, for the last three nights I've slept in her room on a pull out bed and she has loved waking up together! Almost in disbelief that I actually did what I promised. That when she opened her eyes I was really there on the floor! This morning when she woke up she scooted in for a cuddle, and sang at the top of her voice, happy birthday to herself! 

This time is so short really, when parties are the highlight of the year, I know the time is coming for my big boy, in Year 2 there's more group trips to the cinema and individual sleepovers so I am going to treasure being able to help my sister. 

We have had a glorious 3 days together, finishing with a princess breakfast this morning and Natty and I completely surprised her by dressing up in two of my old ball and bridesmaids dresses. We wore crowns, ate pancakes covered with sprinkles and blasted out the soundtrack to all the Disney films. At one point Natty and I started twirling and dancing and she couldn't get down quick enough to join us. I leaned over to my sister as we ruffled our skirts and whispered, this is what childhood memories are made of and we smiled to each other. It makes me ache thinking it's a good while until we see each other next for Sammy's birthday at the end of May. Thank goodness for FaceTime! 

A big thank you to Talking Tables who kindly sent us all the lovely Pony Party theme table ware and decorations. It's safe to say her pony party dreams came true.

Now I wonder she will love next year?!

Etsy UK and Ireland Design Awards 2016

One of my to dos on a very long list of to dos is a gallery wall behind my favourite sideboard in our lounge. I look longingly at the beautiful photos on Pinterest but have always felt (which is going to sound ridiculous) a little intimidated of committing to such a big design statement. 

We talk about how we all go through a real cycle with artwork in our home. You start with posters and prints as a teenager, adorn your walls with fantasy crushes and people you'll probably never meet then as you get older, perhaps get married you fill your home with photos of you. We had photos of us in every room, our wedding, holidays, even the downstairs cloakroom had a montage of beach photos... again of us. And then the boys came along and they dominated our artwork. 

But then as we hit our mid thirties we became more confident in our interiors style and the family photos became smaller, in simpler frames along the mantlepiece and window frames and more original pieces and prints from our travels started to populate our walls. It's funny how it goes almost full circle, as you get older you might invest in pieces of art from a gallery, feel terribly grown up when you take something to be framed at the local print shop, with a little old man behind the counter whose perfected the art of bespoke framing over the last 40 years, and then as you get much older your walls become crowded with photos of family again, grandchildren, school photos given as gifts for Christmas and birthdays.

I have in mind to flood the stairway with black and white photos after my sister started a beautiful photo gallery up their stairs but for our lounge I think I'll keep the photos to the window ledges. 


Image credits: 1 Urban Outfitters 2 HGTV Emily Henderson3 We are Scout

I think the artwork you choose depends on the room itself. What you use it for, who uses it the most and what feeling you want the artwork to evoke. I guess you'd call our lounge a traditional sitting room. It feels like a more formal space than the family living area in the open plan living and dining room across the hallway. When we moved in we lifted the old carpets and found the original herringbone wood floor that is begging to be professionally sanded and polished. All in good time my lovely floor, once the new radiators are in I'll be right on you! And I love the idea of an eclectic mix of prints to balance the traditional heavy wood flooring and the dark wood beams across the ceiling and the inglenook fireplace. Fortunately the internet is bursting with inspiration! I LOVE hanging frames to break up the straight lines and give a wall a more playful feel and I also love bigger prints displayed together.

Fill the space you have!

Little prints can look so lost on a big wall, so I always look to use larger glass frames and mounts to give relatively inexpensive prints a more luxurious feel. It's like triangular cut sandwiches, I can't put my finger on quite why they taste nicer but they do. And the same goes for mounting your artwork. It makes it appear more expensive, more deserving of room to breathe before you envelope it with a frame. 

Image credit: 1 Stories / 2 Line Klein 

So the question is do you go for matching frames a la Sarah Sherman Samuel and My Domaine? Do you mix and match but in the same colour? I don't know why I've found it all so overwhelming but when you are talking about 5,6 maybe 7 or more pieces of art it adds up?

Part of me loves the idea of a very military style wall, prints from the same series all uniform in size and shape and framed in an identical fashion but then the other part of me adores the idea of highlighting the different types of media I love, photographic prints alongside watercolours and illustrations. 

Whilst I am not necessarily a fan of complete unity in the frames or layout, I do love the idea of a theme to a gallery wall. To have a general subject matter that ties each print together. I knew I wanted a botanical theme to this part of the room and although we have some other more contemporary artwork as well as family photos on the other walls, I imagined this side of the room to be much more curious. 

But curious collections generally take time to put together. And I am not that patient! My absolute one stop shop for artwork is Etsy. For years I've browsed through pages and pages and seen more and more freelance artists pop up with their own Etsy shops. I love to decorate with blue which I find quite hard to find. There's scores of cushions and throws but prints and affordable art is much more limited. Correct me if I'm wrong!

Within 5 minutes on Etsy I had found the most beautiful prints. A large vivid Iris print from BlueShedStudio, a hand drawn opium poppy illustration from Victoria Clare Gray and a beautiful blue feathers watercolour print for £7 from Quantum Prints.


The big difference with buying from Etsy sellers is the extra attention to detail. The handwritten notes of thanks, the little cards with a simple message, tied up with string or sealed with patterned tape. And don't you think that the mountboard makes such a difference? I went to my local printing/camera shop who offers a framing service and they cut the boards while I waited for between £5 and £7. Now I have two prints that fit standard 16 by 20 inch frames that I can buy from most high street home interiors shops.

There are lots of ways to design your gallery wall, Taping paper the size of your prints to the wall, masking it out with washi tape or laying it all out on the floor, and I kept moving mine around, using bluetack to trial different positions to see which complimented each other more naturally.

I've taken the original gold painting by Silke Spingies to be framed professionally and I can't wait to show you my final finished layout. The abstract watercolour print by Eddie and the Giant Peach looks beautiful in the standing frame so I might save that for the sideboard itself next to my favourite jug which I use as a vase for fresh flowers. 

For the first time ever they are inviting sellers to enter the UK and Ireland Etsy Awards!

I love that Etsy are so passionate about their sellers, that they want to shout from the rooftops about the designer maker community and highlight the talent in the UK and Ireland with incredible prizes and a chance to showcase their work at Tent London during the prestigious London Design Festival, retail opportunities with John Lewis and expert business training from The Design Trust.

So if you make something lovely and you fit into one of these categories what are you waiting for?! There are some amazing prices up for grabs including a £10,000 grant for the overall winner! 

  • Home & living.
  • Kids & baby.
  • Fashion & accessories.
  • Etsy New Talent, in partnership with The Design Trust.
  • Retail Star, in partnership with John Lewis.
  • People’s Choice, selected by public vote.
  • Regional awards, the best maker in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland.

You do need an Etsy shop to enter the Awards but it's easy to apply. You can find full details on the Etsy blog. Applications close at midnight on 28th April 2016. 

Is this you?! What are you waiting for?!

And check back in to see my finished gallery wall :)

DIY Moon Balloon • Love you to the Moon and Back

Oh Mabel, our westie girlie, we love you to the moon and back!

Here's a quick and easy DIY for a last minute Valentine's idea. A moon balloon! Is there someone you could surprise who you love to the moon and back?

Take one large white balloon (you can buy them in Hobbycraft in multiple packs or online) and fill it with Balloontime Helium and tie securely.

Spray it with a layer of PlastiKote Stone Finish spray paint in Manhattan Mist to create the darker crater like patches, then top with a layer of Alabaster colour spray from PlasticKote. 

It leaves a rough texture just like you imagine the surface of the moon!

I used a heart felt garland as my balloon string and hooray! A space inspired Valentine's message of love to my boys this weekend. 

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Are you big on Valentines in your house? We so are!

Every year after my Grandpa died I sent my Granny a Valentine's. And for some reason the tradition of sending a message of love started a little earlier when Sammy was born and now a lipstick sealed card arrives for both of the boys from their Granny and they send one back.

I kind of love that it's a pure outpouring of love. Not a school boy crush, a simple set of words to bring a big smile to her face.

And I have some sweet Valentine's parcels for the small boys in my life. 

Some "space money" aka left over Christmas chocolate coins, wrapped in tin foil, a new Cosmic Quest set of K'nex and a fabulous new t-shirt kindly sent from Joules. I predict lots of rocket noises!

If you are a westie fan feel free to download the image and print it as a postcard for the one you love most!

Click on the photo below or click here.

Wouldn't these moon balloons be fab for a space themed party? I need to try and convince the boys to change their themes from Horrible Histories and a music festival to an outer space adventure ;)

Check out some other amazing DIY balloon ideas by blogger extraordinaire Kelly Mindell founder of Studio DIY here

In collaboration with Balloon Time