Thursday, 10 March 2011

Lovely Lavender...

Mmm… I love lavender. Okay, so Mr QuirkyPig thinks it smells like ‘old ladies’ knickers’ but (sexism alert), he’s a man, so, meh….

Lavender has been used for centuries as a herbal remedy for insomnia, and as an insect repellent. If you have a lot of woollies, keep lavender sachets tucked amongst them to keep the moths away (also, lavender smells a lot nicer than moth balls). It also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and can be used in cooking to make lavender biscuits, cakes and even cheese.
Lavender grows best in a dry, well-drained sandy soil in full sun. I’ve got a few plants in pots at the moment, brought along from our old garden, and they’re looking a bit sorry for themselves after all the recent cold, wet weather. Hopefully when summer comes they will flourish again and keep the bees (and me) happy.

How to make quick and easy lavender sachets:

Cut two squares of thin material (muslin is good).
Turn right sides together, pin and and stitch together on three and a half sides (leave a gap to fill the sachet).
Turn rightside out and fill with lavender (I use a mix of rice and lavender as it gives the bag a nice weight and a good, squishy feel).
Securely handstitch the gap closed.
Ta da!

You can also decorate with ribbon, buttons, use two different sorts of material, a patchwork of material etc. These make lovely presents – for old ladies, or otherwise.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

And QuirkyPig leaps back into the fold…

I note, with some shame, that it’s been a year since I started this blog and I’ve managed the grand total of…um…10 posts.

In my defence, this year I have also:

  • Had one baby
  • Had 3 weddings (all to Mr QuirkyPig, I must add)
  • Gone back to full time work
  • Done a whole load of other stuff too

Besides, 10 posts, that’s almost one per month!
Fairly New Year’s Resolution – blog more regularly…

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Super Sundae Candles

Just made some of these for a craft fair coming up in December. Easy-peasy lemon-squeasy. You'll need soya wax, wick string, wick holders and something to hold the wick in place while the wax sets (I use two wooden skewers taped together but you can get properly made holders). All these supplies are easily found online - I use (good service and a nice namecheck to the Two Ronnies sketch):
  • Get yourself some sundae glasses (cheap as chips from charity shops), wash and dry.
  • Boil the kettle and fill the glasses with hot water to ensure they don't crack when you pour in the wax. Empty and dry well before you add the wax (naturally!).
  • Cut the wick to the appropriate length for the sundae dish and push through the wick holder. Suspend the wick and holder in the sundae dish by balancing the skewers on the top of the dish.
  • Measure out your wax - I find normally twice the volume of the dish works well.
  • Melt the wax in a bain-marie (smaller saucepan floating in the larger saucepan full of water). You can also melt wax in the microwave but CAREFULLY as the flashpoint of wax is quite low and you don't want some kind of horrible, skin-graft-needed type of accident to occur...
  • When the wax is liquid, you can add a few drops of fragrance (vanilla always nice, I find).
  • Pour carefully into the sundae dish.
  • Let the wax set (it will start off clear and gradually cloud over) over 24 hours. Then trim the wick and you have a sundae candle!
  • I find soya wax tends to shrink away from the side of the dish as it cools so you can always top up with some more melted wax or smooth the surface with a heat gun if you want to get really technical.
Also works well with teacups. I would post pictures but unfortunately my camera suffered a sea-water and baby-drool related accident and died.

Safety bit: Never leave a burning candle unattended.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Time flies or more accurately, rockets past...

Well, geez, you have one little baby and look what happens...

It's been months, MONTHS I SAY, since I updated this blog. I have been slightly busy getting the little QuirkyPiglet safely into his seventh month (and fine and bonny he is too) so it's not as if I've been idle - still, there's lots still to be done business and craft-wise so I'll be keeping you updated on a hopefully slightly more frequent schedule.

I'm experimenting with a bit of a departure for the teacup plants. Usually, it's plants that don't need a lot of watering that work best in tiny, closed containers as one can just water them very sparingly. However, had a bit of brain wave (it does happen) and wondered whether a plant that positively likes being soggy could work as well in a vintage planter - so if one got a little overzealous on the watering, it wouldn't be a disaster. So at the moment, I have the beautiful but deadly Venus Fly Trap planted in one of my teacups and under observation... A bog plant, it likes its soil to be kept moist at all times but it's lime-hating, so must be watered with rainwater, not tapwater and it likes ericacious compost.

Question to self: do you actually need to feed them with flies/meat if they don't catch their own? Slightly ugh at the thought but if it has to be done...

On a more tasteful note, the sloe gin, limoncello and a rather experimental rosehip and blackberry vodka are coming along nicely...

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Time flies when you've got a QuirkyPiglet..

Can't believe it's almost three months since the QuirkyPiglet was born. He grows in beauty and, er, growth by the day.

Broke out the sewing machine for the first time since his birth this week, knocking up a handbag-sized change mat for a friend who's just had her second child. I also brought out the mobile that I was in the middle of making for the Piglet and may just get around to finishing it off.

Garden-wise, everything is becoming quite rampant. There are strawberries and raspberries forming on the bushes, tiny buds growing on the courgette plants but all but one of my heritage variety cucumbers (Crystal Lemon) have been eaten by the b******* slugs...

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

And it's a big warm welcome to Quirky Piglet!

The littlest Quirky Piglet is 12 days old today! He was ushered into the world at 4.30am on Saturday 20th March weighing a highly respectable 7 pounds 10 ounces (don't ask me what that is in kilograms, I'm old fashioned). Apart from putting my back out during labour (the least said of which the better), I'm actually feeling rather chipper, probably helped by the fact that little QP seems to have the sleeping and feeding thing down quite well. Long may it continue. I've probably jinxed myself now.

Obviously not much going on craft-wise at the moment - I'm still too busy gazing proudly at my greatest creation so far...

And for today, it's a goodbye oink from me and a goodbye squeal from him x

Monday, 8 March 2010

Five Boring Presents That Are Actually Great

Well, it's nearly Mothering Sunday and the nation's manufacturers of cheap, plastic wrapped chocolate and growers of limp, forecourt bunches of chrysanthemums are no doubt gearing themselves up for a bumper year. Mothering Sunday is a bit like Christmas - bad/boring gifts abound. But I musn't be cynical, because a) all presents are actually great, because someone has taken the time and spent a little bit of money thinking about you and b) there are at least 5 unfairly maligned gifts that are actually rather nice to receive (sometimes with a little tweaking):

1. Chocolate.
Come on, do I need to explain this one? It's chocolate! I could ponce on about how it's much better to have Fairtrade, 90% cocoa solids, Green & Black-type fanciness but sometimes, in all honesty, only a Cadbury's Cream Egg will do.

2. Forecourt Flowers
Yes, not very prepossessing but all is not lost. The way to make them look much more expensive and prettier is to chop the stems down short, so the flower heads are massed in a bunch and tie the shorter stems tightly near the top with ribbon or twine. Get rid of the horrid cellophane and present them to the receiver as a cute little posy, or in a lovely container such as a pretty little jug, glass or something more esoteric, like a tea pot. Incidentally, cut flowers last much longer if you add a couple of teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda to the water and freshen it frequently.

3. Socks
As the Prince Regent (Hugh Laurie) put it in Blackadder the Third, "To me, socks are like sex. Tons of it about, and I never seem to have any." Indeed. Socks are a great present to receive because, in truth, you can never have too many pairs of socks. Why? Because socks are like celebrity couples - their pairing lasts a matter of months (sometimes weeks). Socks get lost down the back of the chest of drawers, mislaid on the way to the laundry, eaten by the washing machine. No matter how many pairs of socks you buy, sooner or later, you end up with a drawer full of odd socks. And this is why socks are a great present. Particularly (hint to friends) any type of sock that is made with cashmere...

4. Candles
I have been rather guilty of this myself as a boring present giver. But seriously though, I think candles are great. They're beautiful when lit, they cast a lovely light and they're useful too, in the event of a power cut. If you have a open fire grate, you can fill it with candles in the summer, when it's too hot for a fire, and still have the illusion of firelight. Dot them around the bath or shower and you make an everyday chore into a spa experience. The QuirkyPig shop will soon be offering vintage tea cup candles for sale so I'm biased, but of all the boring presents, these are probably the best. And the cheap ones don't tend to be heavily scented, so they're inoffensive too.  (Safety bit - never, but never leave a burning candle unattended).

5. Smellies
Possibly one of the most unimaginative presents in the world but still salvageable. Alright, it's a bit harder when you're handed over a plastic bottle of some acid-green bubble bath that looks radioactive and would probably work better as a toilet cleaner. So, use it as a toilet cleaner! For the slightly nicer smellies you get given, they all look loads better decanted into pretty containers. You can pick up cut-glass jars and delicate ceramic pots in charity shops for buttons. Decant the smellies from the cheap plastic tubes, arrange them artistically in your bathroom or on your dressing table - job done. I've also been known to use shampoo and bubble bath to wash clothes. Don't over do it as you could have a foam explosion but a small amount will get your clothes clean and make them smell nice too.