Saturday, 17 December 2011

Ha.

Picture - if you will - a bustling contact centre in South Wales. Men and women are carrying out their business: talking to customers, doing admin, walking around looking busy to avoid being busy... The kind of thing that happens in a professional work place.

In walks a woman in her CMU (Central Michigan University) hoodie, Airwalks and occasional drawl. That's me. Even after living in this country for almost a decade, I dress and talk and act in a way that is instantaneously recognizable as American.

In walks a man in a UofM (University of Michigan) sweatshirt and sits behind me. Must be another American, right? From, you might guess, the same state even, given his apparel. Right?

...But what are the chances of two 'Ganders working at the same contact centre in South Wales?

Slim to none. (I have worked with other Americans since moving here - and the occasional Canadian which I count since most people can't tell us apart here - but never another person from Michigan.)

Meet Max. He's ITALIAN. And, no... He DIDN'T attend UofM. So why the UofM shirt? Clearly not to offend me since Western are "our" rivals, not the Wolverines.

Well, I had to ask. His reply was a grin and the words: "Super Max."

Much LOL.

Best use of a UofM sweatshirt ever... Except for the ones being burned by students in East Lansing each Fall, of course. (Hey. I said they weren't my college's rivals... I never said I liked them.)

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Happy Holidays

It's been a long, long time since I've posted. Mostly because I just don't have any time. I get up, look after the animals, clean house, make the DH breakfast, go to work, squeeze in homework between calls, read during my lunch, come home, cook dinner, clean house, look after the animals and go to bed. That's my life at the moment.

But this past weekend, I took the time to put up our Nightmare Before Christmas tree. (A lot of time since I packed away three boxes of Jay's mum's stuff in order to make room for it.)


Jay and I were never going to do anything the right way, were we? Instead of an angel at the top of the tree, we have one of the vampires from The Nightmare Before Christmas. The first year we got it, Jay's mum took it down every day and put an angel up in its place. Jay would find the vampire and up it would go again.

I love the odd mixture of NBC ornaments, witch's hats and traditional Santa ornaments. It's a tree that definitely describes us.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Mini Pies

A friend was telling me this week how simple mini pies are to make. I was dubious about going anywhere near the oven 'cause, let's face it, I'm not the best baker in the world. But she swore that even I could make them so I gave it a try...

I have this adorable heart shaped sandwich press that I bought from Williams-Sonoma It was the first time I'd used it, even though I've had it for like a month now. Apparently, it makes really cute grilled cheese sandwiches too!)

I used pre-rolled sweet pastry and a jar of black cherry pie filling. (Like I said, I'm a lousy baker - why take any chances?) All I had to do was cut out the pieces, put a spoonful of filling in the middle, line the pieces up and press. Easy!


Then I baked them at 150C for about 45 minutes.


My friend was right - mini pies are so freaking easy to make and they're super yummy! What an easy mid-week dessert! I can't wait to try out other presses and fillings. (I don't know if I'd be brave enough to try making my own fillings though...)

A Very Crafty Bridal Shower

Some time ago, I posted about my plans to host a crafty bridal shower for a friend that was getting married. You'll be happy to know that it was a big success. :) In fact, I wish that we could have held it on the weekend, because I think the girls would have quite happily crafted all day. (As it was, we had to drag some girls away from the scrapbook materials - an hour after the bachelorette party was due to start!)

It wasn't just a very crafty bridal shower, it was also a bridal shower inspired by pinterest - at least where the food was concerned.


I had a team of three girls and two boys (who, of course, disappeared sharpish when it started) and we all had a hand in the buffet. Here are the pinterest inspired yummies:

Butterbeer Cupcakes
Caramel Stuffed Apple Cider Cookies
S'Mores Pops
Veggie Appitizers
Watermelon Pops
Frozen Grape Pops

Oh... There were also some Strawberry Jello Shots but we had to keep those hidden away until the mother-of-the-bride and the mother-of-the-groom left. (My mom, who was co-hosting, didn't give a fig. Lol.)


Neither the bride nor myself really wanted to subject everyone to any horrible bridal shower games. So we didn't have any. I bought a pack of tiny plastic toys (some kind of underwater thing with cute dolphins, etc.) and randomly dropped them in the favour bags. People who found one got a prize.

Though we had a few store bought prizes, the best of all were two coin purses made by one of my helpers. She has a shop here on etsy. Here she is, showing off one of her awesome creations:


The closest we came to a game (except for a round of mad libs - which did get pretty mad) was a Photographic Scavenger Hunt. Inside each of the favour bags was a disposable camera and one of these:


Each item on the list involved the bride with someone or doing something. What better way to ensure that there where lots of great pictures taken to immortalize the day?

It was great fun watching each of the girls trying to beat each other to the end of list. We designed the tasks so that they spanned both the bridal shower and the bachelorette party and had a prize for the first person to tick them off. I haven't had any of the film developed yet (I'm pretty sure that some people never gave me back the cameras too) but they should be good.

The favour bags also had a pen (for the scavenger hunt), a heart shaped sucker, a Ring Pop, some Hugs & Kisses, an empty glass bottle and a paper bag scrap book.


The glass bottles were for storing the scented bath salts that we made. A table was set out with a large bowl of rock salt, a variety of scents & colours as well as plastic bowls and spoons for mixing. This was a cheap and easy craft to set up and everyone felt comfortable doing it because it wasn't too crafty.


It was interesting to see how each person's personality came across in the combination of colours and scents. Also, it had a nice, personal touch. (Rather than those horrible little silver picture frames that all the books suggest.)


The paper bag scrapbooks were inspired by one that my aunt made for my mom. I saw it and thought that it would be amazing for people to be able to take a half-finished one and add their own little personal touches to it then give it to the bride as a little momento. So that's what we did.


The girls really got into this but, be warned: it takes a lot of prep work to put together that many paper bag scrapbooks, even though they were basically blank. Each book had about eight pages in total (four bags) and one "sleeve" was left open with an advice card tucked inside. If you're going to do this, make sure you get it started early because it does eat time. We had people at both the bath salt station and the scrap book station pretty much constantly throughout the party.


I'm glad we went for a crafty shower because that's exactly the type of person the bride is. And it was a good idea to have two different crafts going at the same time because the scrap books were a bit more hardcore - some of the less crafty girls felt a bit intimidated by that but really liked the bath salts. All things considered, I think it went very well because every one got to get involved without being forced to take part in any stupid (and dull) games.

Monday, 24 October 2011

DIY Photo Booth - Fun and Failure

As you know, I was a bridesmaid recently for one of my friends. One of the additional duties I took on for the role was running a DIY photo booth during the reception. It seemed like something fun to do. So, armed with about a hundred dollars, no DIY experience at all, and some Photo Booth Ideas inspired by Pinterest, I set about making my own DIY photo booth.

I started by heading over to Home Depot and buying some plywood (smooth on one side), PVC pipe and a can of chalkboard paint. If you're going to try this yourself, make sure you buy long pipe and ask the "skilled" worker at your local home improvement store to cut it down. It's cheaper that way. (They don't need to be all that skilled. The guy helping us was just slightly more intelligent than the pipe he was cutting.) I bought four 7' 1 1/4" pipes and asked them to be cut down to seven 3 1/2' and four 2 1/2'. It was more than enough.



It also helps to have a saw at home in case anything isn't quite right. When we (my mom and I) finished making the frame, we decided it was a bit too tall. So we cut down the top bars by a foot or so. Looking back, we had to ask the taller people (over six foot) to hunker down a bit so I would have left the extra height if I had to do it again.

Stupidly, no one thought to take a photo of the frame once it was all set up. All I can say is that it was based on this one and this one.

Using PVC pipe for the frame was an excellent idea because, with some elbows and t-shaped pieces (I don't know what the technical terms are), the pieces just slot together. Easy to put together, easy to take apart.

Next, we (my brother and I) made some speech bubbles. (Based on these ones) My brother cut them out using a jigsaw and I painted them with several coats of chalkboard paint. (SEVERAL. I got carried away - but still had half a can left. And it was a small can.)

In hindsight, they were too big. To fit two or more people, plus the silly props I bought (Hell, Dollar Store!) and the speech bubbles, the speech bubbles should have been half the size they were. But you live and learn, right?

Finally, all we needed was a backdrop. I took the bride to the middle of HobbyLobby's fabric section and made her pick one that she liked. Add a string of borrowed Christmas lights from a friend and we were ready to go:


We did a test run on the day of the bridal shower/bachelorette party (more to come on that later) to see how it worked out and we had a lot of fun.


See what I mean about the speech bubbles being to big? Anyway... The one thing we didn't test was actually printing them out to see how quickly that went. And we should have.

I'll just point out again that I don't actually live in the country that the wedding was held in so if I couldn't buy it, I had to borrow it - and since buying a printer was way out of my budget, I had to borrow my mom's ancient all-in-one. It worked okay, I guess but all the prints had to be cut down to size and that's just an awkward process. Also, there was a hiccup because I was using a brand new laptop that I wasn't all that familiar with as well as a version of Photoshop I had never used before - no biggie if you're just at home playing around and can't find the "reduce red eye" function but if you've got people hanging around, waiting for their pictures, the pressure's on.


If I could do it again, there would be several improvements. First, I would make the frame both higher and wider. (And give myself more room - we were using a cloak room which got pretty cramped.) I would also make the speech bubbles smaller. And I would definitely, definitely, use a specialized printer.

There's one more thing that I would have done. I would have asked my team of dedicated (people can be very dedicated when there's a promise of booze after lol) helpers to start the booth during the part of the reception where they were waiting for the bridal party to arrive. That would have bought us more time and, if it had been a bit more spread out, there wouldn't have been so much pressure to get everything done in such a small amount of time.

A photo taken by a friend of our photo booth sign.


One of my goals to have fun doing it. Did I? Making/planning/setting up the photobooth and the test run? Yeah. I'd say it was about 90/100. There was a small problem with the speech bubbles when I was painting them. For some reason after one of the coats, they developed bubbles (Ha.) and had to be sanded a bit. Aside from that, it was a lot of fun to make.

The actual photo booth at the wedding? Not as much. Maybe a 30/100. I was pretty stressed out and wouldn't have made it without my helpers. Plus, the bride never actually told me whether it was a success or not so I there's some latent stress still lingering from that.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Etsians Rock the Undead

I picked up the SFX Special Edition: Zombies the Ultimate Guide because I just can't resist anything zombie related. I was stoked to see a section devoted to zombie merchandise ("Merch of the Dead") but after I oohed and aahed (or is it aghed?) over the awesome pictures, I actually read the accompanying blurbs for each item.

Cue fit of anger.

The writer on this one made the following sweeping (and inaccurate) comment:


"There are 12,694 zombie items on crafty e-commerce site Etsy. Most are pants..."


WHAT?!?!

He (I'm assuming the perpetrator is a male since all of the contributers listed in the front are.) then followed that up with an amazing display of hypocracy by featuring FIVE items from Etsy sellers. (Out of 25.)

As a long time Etsian, I took great offence to his comment and immediately set out to prove him wrong by finding at least 25 more items using just the word "zombie" in the search field on Etsy. (Today there are 12,743 zombie items for sale in the Handmade category.)

Since The Douchebag (since I couldn't find his name, I'll have to opt for a suitable moniker) featured five of the so-called "pants" shops in his article already, I've chosen to leave them out of my search. However, the items all featured in this article do rock so visit these Etsy shops for more zombie awesomeness:

CorsoStudio
Skeeboo
dearbitsy
killtaupe
janinebasil

Okay... And now for my Proving A Concieted Douchebag Wrong Challenge....

1. Zombie Survival Merit Badge by Storied Threads





Is this what happens when girl scouts grow up? Zombie camp kitsch.

2. Zombie Paper Dolls by Pseudooctopus





(You can buy different outfits for them too!)

I would so buy these for my kids. Which is why it's a good thing I don't have kids?

3. Keep Calm and OMG Is That a Zombie Necklace Pendant by imaginationemporium





The whole "keep calm" thing is getting so old but I like the twist.

4. Sheen of the Dead Mens Tshirt by ZombieFriedTees





Is it funny to take the piss out of a guy who has lost his job, his kids and his dignity? I'll let this shirt be the judge...

5. Rotting Flesh Zombie Arm Paper Cutting by VibrantShadows





There are a few different styles of zombie arm paper art in this shop and they all deserve a mention. This one is my favourite, though.

6. Custom Zombie Chaser Bride by Beeloverly





Ha! This is perfection. (And, I imagine, how most guys feel about their weddings, anyway.)

7. Handpainted Flesh-tone Zombie Shoes (VANS) by WalkingDeadApparel





If these zombie shoes aren't your style, how about the next ones?

8. zombie feet hand painted leather clogs by sacchetto





9. The Zombie, Classic Monsters Collection by diffractionfiber





Love. This would even work in a grown up, sophisticated house. (ie: classier than mine)

10. Zombies Ate My Brain Mug by jenniferalexisdesign





I definitely need this mug for work.

11. Zombie Hoodie Outbreak Response by geekthings





This hoodie reminds me of my baby brother.

12. A. ZOMBIES - Love a Girl with Brains- pin back button, badge, cabochon or magnet by jessejanes





B. ZOMBIES - Caution Undead - No Zombies Allowed- set of 3 pin back buttons





I included both the single button and the button set because I just couldn't decide which one I liked better.

13. The Walking Dead Rick Grimes Laptop Decal by Walking Dead Promotions





Makes me (almost) wish I had a macbook...

14. OOAK Hand Stitched Zombie Doll by TatteredRags





Creepy cuteness!

15. Zombie BRAINS Cross Stitch PDF Pattern by Beta Stitch





What's not to like?

16. Night Of The Living Dead Zombie Upcycled Tote Drawstring Bag by KillerKitty





Yes! I effing love this!

17. ZOMBIE RESPONSE VEHICLE Zombieland Bumper Sticker Decal by StickerX





For my husband's car?

18. Zombie Card for Lovers by PaperTigerGifts





As sad as this makes me sound, I actually went "Awww!!" when I read this.

19. Zombie Necklace by PinznThingz





I couldn't decide whether I like this pewter zombie necklace by PinznThingz better than the next, acrylic one by jujulee so you get both of them.

20. Gothic Fashion Zombie Necklace by jujulee





21. Brain Locket by





What's a zombie without a cute brain locket?

22. RW2 SHOWER CURTAIN by RW2Gallery





OMFG. How freaking awesome is this? I'm afraid it would scare all our visitors, though... Wait... I must buy this.

23. Zombie Crossing Metal Wall Mount Sign by Zed's Zombie Ranch





Need's a bit of blood but this would definitely go up outside my house.

24. Bloodbath CORPSE CLEANSER by Bloodbath





I love the whole range. Check out the "Stench Reducer" body spray.

And my personal favourite: (I have a thing for zombie cows - don't try to understand it.)

25. Zombie Cow Cross Stitch Pattern by SinistralStitches





Did I stop at any point while making this list and think, "Gee. I might not be able to find all 25..." No. You'd be surprised how difficult it actually is to pick just 25. So what you're looking at are my favourite, non-pants zombie goodies by the crafty, clever, sick and twisted folks of Etsy. If I've omitted any of your favs, please share with us!

So, on behalf of these 25 kick ass Etsians - and the thousands of others I just didn't have time for - I would like to invite you (yes, YOU, douchebag that wrote the article "Merch of the Undead" in SFX's Special Edition: Zombies the Ultimate Guide) to go fuck yourself.

Friday, 7 October 2011

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

You may have noticed that I haven't been around for the past few weeks. That's because I've been on "holiday" in the States and my mother doesn't have the internet. *sigh* I was going through withdrawal worse than any druggie.

For real.

Anywho...

I'm back now and regular service will commence. :)

One of the things I'm going to miss most about being in America (where I'm from originally, if you didn't know) is drinking with my friends. This trip home introduced us to The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - in a shot glass.


What started out as a joke ("Yeah, right... We'll have that!") became our drink of choice. Equal parts Jack Daniels, Yukon Jack, Jim Beam and Jose Cuervo, each shot burned like a motherfucker and tasted like hell - but was a little less painful and a little tastier than the last. ;)

A few shots of these bad boys and comments like "I can't feel my legs!" could be heard around our table.

The morning after?

"We have to stop drinking like we're twenty-one!"

"Ugh... I'm never drinking again."

"I've never seen anyone puke like that before."

And, my favourite: "Hey! Good morning! I'm making bacon! You want some bacon? Hey! You know what's good for hangovers? Hair of the dog! You want me to get you a drink? I've got some vodka..."

It's good to be the one who doesn't get hangovers. O:)

Many, many thanks to the lovely folks at Abie's Bar (our favourite hang out) for mixing our drinks - even though the smell made them want to puke, not complaining that we filled the jukebox for hours on end and for never kicking us out before 2AM. Solid.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

I live for Autumn.


photo from tumbler.com


Yep. That's me. I am seriously into Autumn. I feel like I'm only every really alive in the Autumn. I spend the rest of the year thinking about Autumn. When it is Autumn, I wake up every morning thanking the Gods that I get to enjoy another beautiful Autumn day - whether it's raining or the sun is shining.

What do I love almost as much as Autumn? Pinterest, of course! Well, not anywhere near as much as I love Autumn but I do like it a whole lot.

Today, Pinterest reminded me just how much I love Autumn... I noticed for the first time that I have two seperate boards dedicated to my favourite season: (totally by mistake)

Everything Autumn (my favourite Autumn DIY/crafts/products) and Autumn Dreams (my favourite Autumn photography).

Can you be obsessed with a season? O:)

Friday, 9 September 2011

Bridal Shower Favours

One of my best friends is getting married here in the next couple of weeks and she asked me to be a bridesmaid which of course I said "Yes!" to. Her Maid of Honour is getting married the week after she is so she's kind of swamped with her own stuff - which means that I get to take on a little more than a bridesmaid normally would.

Like organising the bridal shower.

Even though I've been planning it from the UK (and the bride is getting married in the USA), I feel like I've been pretty much on top of things. The planning has been going well. But there's been one thing that I've just been struggling with and that's party favours.

I haven't really liked any of the favours that I've seen. They're either too cheap and gawdy or too damned cute and make me want to puke. I was starting to worry that I would face a mad dash to buy favours when I got to America next week but then, while reading The Ultimate Bridal Shower Idea Book: How to Have a Fun, Fabulous, and Memorable Party, an idea came to me. (Actually, it was spelled out in black and white but never mind that.)

A craft bar!

The bride is a crafty girl, most of the attendees are crafty girls (slash women) so why the hell not let them craft their own favours? Plus, the party starts a bit early and we'll be waiting for a few of the guests to arrive so we can make the favours first - and maybe ask people to make an extra one for people showing up late - and then move straight into food and games as everyone else arrives!

I think the easiest craft bar to do would be a bath salt bar. I've made them before and they're ridicously easy to do (no need to freak out the non-crafty people) and the supplies won't cost all that much. (Plus, a reason to go to Hobbycraft. Bonus.) These little jars from IKEA are the perfect size for taking the salts home:


I'm sure there are other things we can work into the craft bar - like maybe having two going at once? One for bath salts and one for... bath bombs? Or home made soap? Or lip gloss? The possibilities are endless...

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Pumpkin Patch

This is my idea of Heaven:



From redbubble.com - and seen on pinterest.

School Time Wondra

I'm very excited today because my financial aid has come through which means that I'll be heading back to school again this October. Like last year, I'll be taking just two classes but I learned very quickly (last year) that when you're managing a house and working full-time, two is more than enough.

The classes I'm taking are The art of English and The Nineteenth-Century Novel. I'm especially excited about The 19th Century Novel because we'll be reading books like:

The Woman in White - Collins
Northanger Abbey - Austen
Middlemarch - Eliot
Germinal - Zola
Dombey and Son - Dickens
Jane Eyre - Bronte
The Awakening - Chopin
Madame Bovary - Flaubert
The Portrait of a Lady - James
Far from the Madding Crowd - Hardy

Some of them are like old friends, one is my favourite novel of all time and the rest are long overdue for a reading. I can't wait - even if it means I'll have to put my trashy romance novels aside for a few months.

The other class is all about how the English language is used creatively - like in social networking, etc. Sounds pretty interesting!

Luckily, my aid covers almost all of my fees. All 13 of the books I'll need come to over £100 which hurt my wallet a bit but at least it's cheaper than buying text books in America, right?

And after this year, I'll have just two more classes to complete to finish my BA in English Language and Literature. Huzzah.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Favourite Autumn Products - House and Home

We have had a couple of really fabulous Autumn days since my last post and they have really put me in the mood for sharing some more of my favourite Autumn products...

Yankee Candles Apple Cider Small Tumbler


Way too expensive but I love them. Sadly, candles give the DH headachs so I can only enjoy them when he's not around.

Crossroads Buttered Maple 6 oz. Room Spray


Actually, I don't care which brand it is, I've had a few maple scented room sprays and they just make my mouth water. I don't know why maple seems like a fall scent to me but it does.

Bath and Body Works Soap Sleeves


How freaking adorable are these? I first saw them on A Shimmering Star's blog and I can't wait to get myself one. I may go for the autumny squirrel one or this Halloweeny spider web one: