Friday, 30 September 2011

Finding...And Keeping

Just a couple of little thrifty finds to share with you today, I have not been in the charity shops much lately (I am missing them!) but I have still managed to bring home a pretty bit of china or two!
Firstly is this gorgeous little green glass jug, the size and shape is perfect and it has become my new favourite jug of the moment! It looks really sweet displayed next to this big Meakin Utility China jug which I got a while ago.

It has no makers mark, but it looks quite old to me, and art deco in shape. I'd love to find some in other colours as I really like coloured glass, and there is lots of it about to be found. I could see it becoming a new collection hobby of mine!

Last weekend I went to the Joy of Vintage Fair in Watford, which was lovely, although a little smaller than I had imagined it would be. Luckily there was a lovely stall which was selling my kind of pretties; floral and utility china, fabric and handmade goodies. I spotted this beautiful 'Greendawn' coffee pot and was expecting it to be really over priced, but it was £6 and in perfect condition so I went ahead and bought it. My mum was also standing next to me admiring a set of yellow 'Petalwear' plates, so we decided to get those too as they were only £4 for four plates.

I do like finding a piece of utility china in charity shops and think the thrill of the treasure hunting is great, but it is also rather nice when someone has done the hard work already and found those lovely things for you, and even better - will sell them to you at a reasonable price too!

What finds have you been keeping this week?
I really love to know what my readers have been up to, so please do let me know in the comments!
x gem x

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Loving the Bake Off

I don't know about you, but I am loving The Great British Bake Off on BBC2, I really enjoyed the first series too, but I think this years bakes have been even more impressive. 
So imagine my joy when I was browsing the books in Tesco and spotted this for only £10! I have the book of the first series, and love it, but I didn't even realise that they had already made the book for this series. If you own the first book you will know how gorgeous it is, and this one is also rather lovely, although its slightly more "technical" as opposed to just recipes.

It contains all of the recipes of the "technical challenges" from this series along with step by step photos, it also has a huge range of recipes, a mix of ones from within the show and some new ones. The pies and tarts look especially interesting.

I'd love to know if you are enjoying the Bake Off and who you think will win/should win! Personally I would like Jo to win, but I think Holly will. Your thoughts please, as I am sure that you bloggers are watching it, why wouldn't you? Its major eye candy!!

So yes, that was a little gift to myself this week, along with a little bunch of flowers, also from good old Tesco, I find that their flowers really do last well. I am really enjoying the colours of these carnations and roses, the peachy orange is so pretty and a nice autumnal colour too. I have kept my personal promise of buying myself flowers regularly. Surprisingly, the other week the BF said "I thought about buying you some flowers the other day" (he didn't buy them, but the fact that he's "thinking about it" is better than nothing, no? 

I'll keep you posted on the flower situation, I just know you are all on the edge of your seats!
x gem x

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

An Unexpected Break

I must apologise for my little unexpected blogging break these last few weeks (not sure if anyone noticed or not!) but I have been super busy with work that although I have been taking lots of photos, I've not found time to sit and upload and type all at the same time, until today.
So I have lots of bits and bobs to catch up on, firstly we have had two family birthdays this month which meant that I have been doing a spot of baking at home (I bake all day at work, so home baking can sometimes feel like a bit of a chore, but once I get started I do always love it).
Firstly for my dads birthday I picked a coffee sponge cake which in the past has always been a bit of a failure, but I found a really good recipe and I was really chuffed with it, especially the icing.

As with all family birthdays we have a little tea party after dinner where we do the cake and candles and drink tea using my Utility China. Always nice to see it all being used and enjoyed rather than hidden away don't you think?

The recipe I used for the coffee cake was passed on to me via a bloggy friend of mine, and worked perfectly! I am a huge fan of coffee cake, I would say its my second favourite after chocolate of course, and I am so pleased to discover that I can actually make a good one.

The week after was my sisters birthday, and I wanted to do something a little bit fancy for her, so I decided to make a 4 tiered chocolate and vanilla cake with two different icings...

I just sort of made it up as I went along, I made one vanilla sponge and one chocolate sponge, and then cut both in half. Then I made a chocolate buttercream icing, and used a ready made "chocolate cake covering" icing for the other. I layered it up with alternate sponge and alternate icing and decorated it with buttons (always a cake decorating favourite of mine!)

As it was her 20th I bought these cute number candles, which was an awful lot easier than 20 individual candles! The cake was ok, a little bit rich for my liking, but she seemed to enjoy it, I think I underestimated how much bigger a four tiered cake would be, but it was rather pretty to look at.

Again, cake was enjoyed with a cup of tea from the pastel blue teapot and we each had a dainty floral teacup for our tea. After making these two cakes I definately feel much more confident about my icing, at work I deliberately shy away from things that have complicated icing, but I think I should challenge myself more and attempt something even fancier for my next family birthday cake.

Inbetween baking the cakes I also found time to rustle up some cinnamon oat and raisin cookies that I make using Lucy's recipe, I just add a teaspoon of cinnamon, cos I love it!

Delicious, moreish and so dainty that you can have two at a time without feeling guilty, and well, the use of oats and raisins make them practically a health food!!

What have you been baking lately?
Anything I should try for my more complicated birthday cake?

x gem x

Saturday, 10 September 2011

My Week

This week I have:

Painted my nails both of these Barry M colours
(peach and brown for autumn)

Organised my wardrobe and pulled out a few of my favourite things to photograph
(L-R: cardigan Tesco, blouse Primark, lace skirt H&M via charity shop and peach skirt H&M)

Moved some of my utility china to this shelf because it matched this frame
(and because some things are too pretty to hide away)

Worn a scarf :: because its cold you know!
(and for the fact that its pretty too)

Hung vintage plates with my mum in the living room
(a mix of yellow, pink and green - patterned and plain)

Made and eaten a gorgeous raspberry pavlova
(I had seconds!)

Can't tell you how good this was...

What have you done this week?

Friday, 9 September 2011

Doing Up The Bathroom

I've been doing a spot of decorating with the BF at his flat and thought you might like to see what we've been doing. If I'm honest, the BFs bathroom was pretty ugly when he moved in. Sadly, when we first decorated we chose to accentuate the ugliness with a bad choice of paint colours and it never really worked or looked nice and it always felt dull.
As I had some time off we decided to paint the whole room cream which made such a difference, now it feels bright and clean and also a lot warmer than the blue we had initially.

After two coats of paint it was finished and that meant that we could put up shelves and I could play with pretty things. We took down these IKEA shelves from the living room and moved them in here as they never really looked that great in the living room and we didn't know what to put on them

The fun part was choosing what things to put on the shelves to make it look interesting and more homey.
We decided to prop a couple of signs up that had previously been on the wall, and I added the cream jug and vintage milk bottles which we bought in Norfolk. I bought a £1 bunch of fake flowers from Poundland and cut them into individual stems which I then popped in the milk bottles.

The lanterns were just hovering about in the living room too, and were never used, but now they will get used while I have my relaxing bubble bath! The soap bowl contains soaps and bath fizzers and I added the vintage style 'Fleurs' bottle that I bought in BHS for next to nothing.

The shelf above has another milk bottle and Home Sweet Home sign, which looks much better in here than it did in the hallway. The small glass jar was found in a charity shop, and the large IKEA one has cotton ear buds in it.

All in all it feels so much lighter and dare I say prettier too. The only thing I would like to add is a few more jars, maybe with things like cotton wools and soaps in. I spotted these gorgeous jars on the Love From Poppy blog and am in love! Sadly I have no B&Ms near me :(

Hope you enjoyed a look at the bathroom, I think it might just be my favourite new room.
What do you think?

Thursday, 8 September 2011

This Weeks Finds

Thank you for the lovely comments over the last few posts, and for the brownie reicpes too! I will be checking them all out and choosing the best one to trial out as soon as I can!
I must also say a huge thank you to everyone who follows and reads and comments on my blog, I have just noticed I have reached an amazing 400 followers and I am soooo chuffed :) thank you so much for following me and my little blog. I really feel these days that the blog is "me" and I am still really enjoying my blogging and reading all of your wonderful blogs too. I must organise a giveaway soon I think, its been far too long since I did one. I will be on the look out for things to add to my giveaway over the next week or so, so do pop back!

Now I'll be the first to admit that the last couple of weeks have been pretty slow on the old thrifting front. 
Slim pickings indeed. But rather pleasingly things seem to be on the up this week as I have found some nice little bits to take home with me.
Firstly these plastic measuring cups, I spotted them as soon as I walked into the charity shop, and picked them up, then theres that awkward thing where you don't want to put them down incase someone else grabs them, but you also haven't looked around the rest of the shop yet and you need two hands to do that. Its almost as if you should have a shopping basket when you go in to protect your "stuff" from being snatched!

I decided to look round one handedly to avoid the risk of them being picked up by someone else, tell me you do this too and its not just me?

I didn't find anything else that took my fancy (or more like I couldn't rummage properly) so I made my way to the till and paid my £2.50 and skipped out happily.

On closer inspection I realised they are from M&S and are probably unused too, bonus!
I looked in a few other shops but nothing to be found, until I reached the last shop (this one is usually the one which never has anything nice in) and I spotted these cups and saucers. Only there was a woman standing right in front of them eyeing them up. I knew they were Johnsons Brothers because of the shape of them, so I had to stand there patiently looking at the other tat trying not to look interested in the cups and saucers.

Then she moved. And I moved. I grabbed.
And I ran to the till!

Hoooray!! They were mine all mine!

Three pastel blue Johnsons Brothers Greydawn cups and saucers for £2.99.
I gave them a go through the dishwasher to clean them up as they were pretty grubby, but when they came out they sparkled like new...

I'd love to know how you behave in charity shops, if its just me that feels awkward holding things around the shop or waiting for people to move. I mean its not like a normal shop where there is more than one of each item. Its now or never!
What kind of charity shopper are you?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Keep Those Flowers Coming

I just wanted to show quickly, that I have been keeping up with my idea to buy myself flowers on a regular basis, and of course flowers make a blog a better place to visit don't they? 
Still no luck with the "getting ones other half to buy one flowers" but hey at least if I buy them myself I get the good ones eh?

I am keeping them in my room and they are definately cheering the place up a bit, adding some colour and prettiness too.

They are also inspiring my choice of nail varnish colour (pink) and accessories too (rosey rings)

Although freesias are my favourite flower - I just love the scent of them - these roses and carnations are doing just as good a job and smell lovely.

Go on, why not buy yourself some flowers today?
You deserve it!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Tea and Cake and Other Not So Good Goodies

Sorry I've not posted in a while, I got a little tiny bit obsessed with Pinterest last week and sort of forgot to blog...oops! Must keep the balance better!
But I have been enjoying my time off from work and doing some baking and rather a lot of eating said baking, and other non baked goodies. Like these little millionaire shortbreads which are from Weight Watchers, which means of course, you can have two at a time! 

I've been enjoying this Jasmine Green Tea from M&S, its really light and fragrant, and if you are not a huge fan of plain green tea I think this is much nicer and easier to drink. The packaging is also rather pretty I thought. See now that I have all this utility china I have been making sure to get it out and use it, especially the tea pot, which is not only saving on tea bags but just makes everything so much more "proper" I think. Sipping tea from a little tea cup is also rather dainty unlike a big mug - which I do still like to use, just not in the afternoon! I'm sure this all makes sense to you... 

Also, the fact that its green tea makes up for the fact I'm having two shortbreads :) yeah, it does, I looked it up and everything.

I made a Victoria Sponge for my sister who has just come back from a holiday, and she loves cake, so I made her this classic. I also used my home made strawberry jam for the centre which was lovely, although it was a little bit runny.

Within five minutes of taking this photo most of the jam had dripped down the side all the way around the cake! But thats home made for you! It was still rather nice, if I do say so myself.

The next thing I tried my hand at baking was some brownies. I never make brownies at home, I never make anything that involves using a bar of chocolate, because lets face it, the chocolate disappears before I have a chance to make anything with it. If I left a bar of chocolate in my baking cupboard for spontaneous brownies, there would be no chance! So to make these brownies I had to go shopping, and I also bought some extras to add to the mix...

Fudge chunks and walnut halves. The fudge turned out to be a very big mistake as I'll explain further on...

I chose a recipe from an M&S chocolate baking book, it seems simple enough and I have all the ingredients needed for it now.

and some ingredients that I definately don't need..

By the way, how cute are these little bowls, they are such a sweet size for snacks or weighing my baking things out. They are from Dunelm Mill if you were wondering.

I love the colours, naturally.

Ok, so I made my brownies...I added the fudge chunks despite them not being in the recipe itself I thought I could just throw them in. Well no. What happened was they somehow destroyed the mix and produced rock hard brownies that were almost impossible to cut let alone eat. I think when they melted they must have formed some sort of hard shell around the tin. Disaster.

So I managed to cut a piece, plonk it on the plate for this photo, and well, lets just say I had to microwave it to soften it to actually be able to eat it. And it wasn't even that nice inside either :( so I am appealing to all my fellow bloggers for a simple, easy and fail safe chocolate brownie recipe. Please help me, or I think I will be put off for life!