Archive | January, 2012

My Cross Stitch Journey

31 Jan

After months of frantically knitting scarves for Christmas I have finally retired my knitting needles and refocused my energies on cross stitch!

Cross stitch has been a passion of mine since I tried my first DMC kit almost four years ago – it was an anemone (flower) which after months of stitching I framed and gave to my grandparents as an anniversary gift.

I soon realised that I had developed an appetite for cross stitch and would need to find another pattern to complete.  However, I needed a bigger challenge and decided to look at more complex designs.  This was when I started my next DMC pattern to create a cushion (pictured below).

A close up of my cross stitch flower cushion

This took me almost a year to complete and I was so proud (but also sad) that I had finally finished it!

This became another stepping stone for me because I then decided that I wanted to create my own patterns from scratch so that I could offer people something which was truly unique.  Having studied illustration at college, I had a portfolio full of potential pictures.  My main inspiration has always been nature and colour so it was easy to choose my first image – a vibrant watercolour painting of a Heliconia.

Heliconia Wall Hanging

I had never realised before how much time and effort went into creating a pattern from scratch before!  It’s not just a case of getting the software and loading up an image.  A pattern needs to flow together in sections of colour as opposed to individual crosses dotted all over the place (which would be very frustrating to stitch)!  You also have to think about how many different colours you want in your pattern.  More colours will create a more realistic image, however it will be more costly and time-consuming.

 
I love the vibrant colours of my Heliconia design, however the pattern doesn’t do the finished piece justice!  The pattern is available in my Etsy shop here and you can clearly see the difference when compared to the image above. Since finishing the Heliconia, I have created another pattern – this time of a tree, and am currently in the process of stitching it up.  Natural forms seem to lend themselves well to the medium of cross stitch – the unified crosses and flowing, natural lines contradict each other nicely. 
 
My latest endeavours came about by trying to combine cross stitch with another hobby of mine – jewellery making.  Using tiny 28 count aida fabric I was able to create frame earrings holding minute designs.  My first pair of cross stitch earrings contain a cute and simple daisy pattern. 
 

Cross Stitch Daisy Earrings

 These earrings are perfect for customisation.  As long as the desired image is small and simple enough, there are endless possibilities to what could be stitched into these frames.  I’ve created two more designs with hearts for Valentine’s Day:

Cross Stitch Heart Arrow Earrings

 
 

Cross Stitch Heart Earrings

I’m currently looking at more ways that cross stitch can be applied to create interesting items and I’ve just finished stitching a QR code which only seems to work when scanned from a very specific angle, so I might have to work on that one!
 
I love a new project so if you would like to request a custom order (pattern or finished piece)  just get in touch – details are on the Contact Page.
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Chocolate Hearts – Gift Ideas for Your Valentine

26 Jan

My keyboard is a bit soggy – I couldn’t help drooling whilst compiling this delicious looking treasury!

Click on an image to be taken to the relevant Etsy shop where you will find full details for that item.


Love for Cookies – Choc…

$16.00

Chocolate Heart Cake an…

$23.00

Chocolate Dipped Cookie…

$12.50

Pennie’s BIG Valent…

$59.00

15″ Indoor/Outdoor…

$40.00

Pink Icing on Chocolate…

$7.00

Heart soap – wedding fa…

$1.80

VALENTINE 3D Brooch – C…

$9.99

Heart Shaped Brass Char…

$6.00

Ready to Ship Ornament…

$15.00

Cake Love – Chocolate C…

$39.95

Mochaccino Lip Balm – S…

$3.50

Mini Heart Post Earring…

$8.00

Heart Bead Set – Handma…

$14.00

Traditional Message Hea…

$15.95

Brown and beige fabric …

$15.00

Treasury tool by Red Row Studio.

Running the Gauntlet

25 Jan

I came back to the office after my lunch break the other day not feeling refreshed, revitalised and ready to get back to work for the afternoon.  Instead I was in a foul mood from dodging chuggers!

I had stupidly decided to wander back to the office along Princes Street (Edinburgh) which has turned into a complete chugger fest!  (For international readers – chuggers are “charity muggers” – they are employed by charities to ‘encourage’ people to make donations).

These people have always annoyed me – mostly because of their impossibly cheery nature and the way they dance around in front of you to get your attention – by the way, I’m not making eye contact for a reason, waving around and doing a stupid dance is not going to make me change my mind! 

I hate chuggers!

This photo is a perfect example – this chugger is clearly blocking the man’s path and holding out his hand to stop him in his tracks!

What I didn’t realise until fairly recently is that these people aren’t volunteers – they are paid to do this!!! (This may not apply to all charities but certainly the majority do pay their chuggers).  I used to politely say “no thank you” and keep walking, however this was often met with further pleadings for me to stop for “just one minute” or insulting comments such as “don’t you care about animals?!” 

On one occasion I was on my way home from a very busy/stressful day at work and the last thing I wanted to do was chat to an irritatingly self-righteous chugger.  I was only 2 minutes from home (annoyingly the chuggers had spread to Morningside Road which is some 20 minutes from Princes Street) when a chugger from a very well-known charity asked me to stop.  I replied to the effect “I’m sorry I just want to get home” and kept walking which was met with “well these children don’t have homes!”…

What a horrible thing to say to someone you don’t know!  I was so angry but I just kept walking – it’s a moment I often look back on and think “I should have said this or done that (or punched him!)” but it’s too late.  I wish I had told him about the fundraising I’d recently done – I’d held a fundraiser through work which raised a decent amount.  This guy didn’t know me, and for all he knew I could have already been donating to his charity.  I used to donate £18 a month to a charity but it was a bit much when I was on the lower end of the pay scale so I cancelled after a couple of years. 

I keep meaning to sign up for another charity now that I’m earning a bit more, but this is my point – why do I need to justify myself to some random guy on the street?  Why should any of us need to justify ourselves when it comes to charity donations.  It is a choice!  There are so many worthwhile charities, but we each have our preferred cause and if we don’t have a lot of spare cash then donating to charity is going to be much further down our list of priorities than usual.  In addition, why should I justify myself to someone who is trying to make me feel guilty when they are actually taking money from the charity to stand there??  Apparently it can take up to a year for the charity to recoup the money spent on paying a chugger.  I recently read an interview with a chugger who stated that he was paid over £10 an hour! 

Just remember this the next time someone tries to guilt trip you into donating to their charity.  If you want to donate to a charity then great, go for it!  But I would suggest researching the charity online and donating through their website instead of handing your details over to some overpaid chugger whose sole purpose in life is to annoy people in the street.

I’d love to hear your comments and personal experiences with chuggers – good or bad.  If you are a chugger and think I’ve been unfair in any way then let me know –  I’d be interested to hear the other side of the story.

Your Driving Me Crazy!

20 Jan

That's Not My Here
I hope I’m not about to  dig myself a hole here – my writing is far from perfect (if you were being polite you would describe it as “clunky”) and like the rest of us I make the occasional spelling mistake or grammatical faux pas…

However, with the dawning of a new technically enriched era full of smart phones, tablets and netbooks, it seems we are spending every last waking second communicating online and this has made us lazy.  We no longer have the excuse of limited character space in our text messages – modern mobile phones can send multiple messages seamlessly lumped together which gives us ample room to type in full and include all those pretty vowels.   However what really drives me insane is the consistent incorrect use of such basic words as “they’re” instead of “their” or “where” and “were” and the example I see by far the most is “your” instead of “you’re” (this last one is visualised perfectly by CookieDuster’s photo above which he kindly permitted me to use!)

I have decided to put together a quick run down of common words which are incorrectly used.  I see many examples of these errors in Etsy shops and I think it is important to portray yourself as a professional when you are trying to sell a product – even if it is just a hobby.  These lessons were taught to us in school, which for most of us was a long time ago so it’s more than understandable that we have forgotten some of the basic rules!  On the other hand Etsy is full of international sellers, many of whom do not speak English as a first language and so I hope this list will help everybody to improve their basic writing skills.

So here is my top five of the most common incorrectly used words and phrases (in no particular order) together with a simple explanation of how they should be used:

1. You’re/your

The apostrophe is the clue here – it is substituting the ‘a’ in ‘you are’, whereas ‘your’ is referring to something belonging to the person you are addressing.

e.g.

“You’re better at cooking than I am”, “Your meatballs are better than mine”.

2. They’re/their

Again the apostrophe is used to show you that a letter is missing and ‘they’re’ is actually ‘they are’, whereas ‘their’ again refers to something belonging to someone.

e.g.

“They’re bringing pizza home”, “It’s their turn to cook dinner tonight”.

[I clearly have food on the brain as I think of these examples!]

3. Could of/could have

‘Could of’ is just plain wrong!  If you think about it “I could of went to the shops” doesn’t make any sense!  “I could have gone to the shops” is correct.  This also applies to ‘should have’, ‘would have’, etc.

4. Lose/loose

How you pronounce these two words should help you decide which is correct for a particular situation.

e.g. I pronounce ‘lose’ almost as if it has a ‘z’ instead of an ‘s’, which is the same sound as in ‘loser’.  This will help you to remember that ‘lose’ is used when you (for example) have misplaced something or have come last in a competition, etc.

‘loose’ has a longer ‘o’ sound and means baggy or unrestricted – e.g. “I must be losing weight – these trousers are loose on me”

5. Too/to

‘Too’ means as well as or in addition. e.g. “Are you coming too?” simply means are you coming as well.

‘To’ however is one of the simplest and most used words in the English language but has the longest dictionary entry!  It is often used to express direction or motion, however a full definition can be found here – http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/to

We all forget or don’t notice sometimes that we have used the wrong word so I hope that this can be used as a quick reference.  I have intentionally kept explanations as simple as possible and there are in some cases many more meanings for some of the words I have used.

Feel free to comment and add your own examples below – amusing anecdotes are very welcome!

Giveaway!

14 Jan

The Giveaway is now closed – thanks to all who entered!  Winners will be announced shortly!

My blog is pretty new and in order to give it a proper launch I have decided to do a giveaway!

Up for grabs is two of my Fabric Button Rings made especially for the occasion  !

image

These rings are made from colourful cotton fabric folded and stitched onto a knitted ring and finished with a coordinating button.  The ring is knitted using stretchy cotton sock yarn and therefore one size fits all.

This giveaway is open to everyone and I will happily post internationally.

HOW TO ENTER:

You can enter in a number of ways, just leave a new comment for each entry requirement you fulfill.

1. Follow this blog (mandatory entry http://ww.etsy.com/listing/86317260/reserved-for-theurbancowgirlz quirement)
2. Follow me on Twitter – @thecandytree125
3. Retweet this giveaway to your Twitter friends
4. Like my Facebook page www.facebook.com/thecandytree125

The two winning entries will be impartially selected using www.random.org

Good luck!

Haggis Pie

10 Jan

I was too hungry to take a picture before we cut into it....

I just had to share this amazing recipe.  I can’t take the credit though, my boyfriend had this waiting for me when I got home from work the other day (I’m a lucky lady)!

For 4 portions (large portions!)
Ingredients
300-400g haggis
2 sausages
350g new baby potatoes
1 onion
2 carrots
puff pastry
1 egg (beaten)

Method

Boil potatoes and carrots (thinly sliced) in a pot for 8 minutes then drain and set aside.

Fry onions in a large frying pan for about 10 minutes until soft.

Add potatoes, carrots, sausages (cut into chunks) and crumble in haggis.  Mix together and cook for a couple of minutes before pouring into a casserole dish.

Roll out pastry to about 1/2cm thickness (you can make your own if you really want to but this dish is all about comfort so bought pastry is just as good!) and cover the casserole dish – remember to cut a hole in the middle to let the steam out.

Cook at 200˚C for around 40 minutes until pastry is golden.

We served this with green veg so we could pretend we were being healthy – I recommend broccoli or peas but any of your favourite veg would go.  I also made a small amount of gravy but the pie should be nice and moist without it (I just love gravy!)

I really hope you enjoy this dish and if you do make it please share a comment and photo with the rest of us!

Cute Fabric Rings

5 Jan

I just had to share my latest creation as I’m very proud of how cute they are!

Each fabric ring is hand folded and stitched to a knitted band  and finished with a complimentary button.

So simple, so cute, and they won’t break the bank so you can afford to get one to suit every outfit!

I’ve just finished listing them in my Etsy shop so go have a peak for the full details.

Hogmanay in Elie

4 Jan

Our own version of the Loony Dook (I’m the loony on the right!)

For the last few years I have dreaded New Year’s Eve, mainly because they have either been disastrous or pretty nondescript.  During my late teens/early twenties I went to some of the best Hogmanay parties and I think they have ruined me for life.  Last year for example, we went to a local bowling club for a buffet with a “band” which turned out to be aimed at the over 50s.  It was definitely time for a change!

This year we decided to try something completely different and rent a holiday home on the beach at Elie which is a beautiful coastal village in East Fife.  Not only was this one of my favourite Hogmanays, it was also a great long weekend holiday and I highly recommend this quaint village to anyone looking to escape life for a few days.

I think from now on I’m either going to ignore Hogmanay completely or find a lovely place to run off to and escape the pressure of finding a good party to go to!

I would love to hear about your Hogmanay escapades so please feel free to share by leaving a comment below!