Wednesday, 20 August 2014

George's birthday

NO! That isn't a photo from Pinterest! That is a photo from my real life LIFE! I COULDN'T BE PROUDER! This summer for George's birthday we decided to host a big dinner party for eleven friends. It was the first proper dinner we'd ever cooked for more than the two of us so I was a bit nervous. But hey, biting off more than I can chew has always worked for me! However I do have some tips for hosting your first big dinner party and some things I learnt.

-Lists are your friends! We had a list for food prep, a list for decoration, a list for odd jobs, a timed plan of when everything needed to be in the oven. It was great! In the day we could tick everything off as we did it and clearly see what else we had to do and then in the evening we weren't flapping around because we knew exactly when everything had to be done. Perfect!

-Plan your menu conservatively. We knew we wanted to do a big homely meal with lots of courses but we also knew lots of courses meant lots of cooking and we didn't want to be in the kitchen the whole night. We made sure our starter was really easy (French onion soup), our second course didn't need cooking (pate and amazing bread from our local baker), our main was the big old cook off (roast dinner with absolutely every possible trimming!). Everything else was just plating up cheese and desserts (cheese, cake, macarons). The only time we spent in the kitchen was before the party and adding the finishing touches to our main.

-Use your cooking time wisely. We had three slow cookers whirring away! One cooking the meat for our main and two cooking our French Onion soup for our starter. It was great to put those on in the morning and know that was taken care of.
 As for a decoration goes we did most of it during the day in between prepping the food. We decided it was best to focus on a few major things so we covered the gazebo frames in fairy lights and ivy and let that do the talking. I also wanted to the table to look really snazzy so made those little menus to go around the napkins. I think they really made the table. 
Because there were so many people, glasses, plates and bottles on the table there wasn't really room to do anything fancy in the middle. It really made me think that those table settings you see with huuuuge floral displays in the middle must be sooo wide! We instead opted to just have nice baskets running down the middle with our bread in and blackboards for the pate and cheese. I think that gave a good garden party vibe and didn't make it too feminine.

The thing which totally saved the day was hiring all the plates. We just didn't have that many matching anything, let alone fancy matching anything so we were pretty sure we would have to hire plates and glasses. After ringing around loads of places I was sooo surprised at the price! For place settings for 13 people we paid just over £12. And that was a plate for every course, two wine glasses and a champagne flute each! It is definitely worth ringing around because some places were a little more but that was a general price with a lot of the places I phoned. I would definitely recommend hiring!
In the end we had a great time and managed not too get too bogged down with hosting. Happy Birthday George!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

My Top 5 Disney Art Books- The Art of the Disney Princess

 Are you ready for some more Disney wonderful-ness? Of course you are!
So here is my second selection (you can see my first post here); The Art of The Disney Princess. This is another book that I spotted in the parks but didn't have the opportunity to leaf through. It looked really interesting though so I stuck it on my wishlist and hoped father Christmas had good taste.
This book is entirely different from the others and I think if I had looked through it in the parks I would not have bought it. I was expecting it to be full of character studies and information about the different Disney princesses and their development into the characters in the films. It's not this at all! It is more like a scrapbook of different artworks which pay homage to the princesses.
 When I first looked through the book I was a little put out. Some of the artists have certainly not recognised the princesses in 'Classic Disney' style! There's one of Belle as a sort of cyborg war hero which particularly had me raising an eyebrow. I suppose it's just the purist in me. Having said that though, this book has totally grown on me. Although there are a few out there pieces, there is plenty to please the average Disney fan and loads of fun excepts from the artists explaining why particular Princesses appealed to them.
Basically this book is a collection of really amazing fanfiction. Though it doesn't feel like a book made by Disney I think it's really good at showing just how influential Disney has been on art and design over the years. It's a little bit different, but it's well worth the browse.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

5 Ways to Give Tickets as Gifts

This weekend it was George's birthday and for his main birthday present I bought him tickets to go and see the Book of Mormon. However after I had bought them I quickly realised that I had to collect them at the door on the day and so I had nothing to actually give him. I mocked some theatre tickets up on photoshop, printed them out and then got thinking on how to snazz up the whole 'make a representative bit of paper a good gift' thing.
 #1. The Leave-It-Somewhere-Noticeable.
I love the idea of leaving some tickets on a noticeboard or a shelf which you know your loved one looks at regularly. This is a good idea for a just-because present because there's no big presentation and they will just discover them when they discover them. Just imagine that priceless double take when they realise!
 #2 The Cheeky Joke Gift.
I presented my tickets in a book of Mormon. It got a little chuckle.
 #3 The "Oh Wait! There's More!!!"
You know when you got a present when you were a kid and you'd look inside the wrapping paper to check if there was a little extra present in there? This appeals to that part of everyone. Pack it at the bottom of a box, under another present and wait for the discovery.
 #4 The OMG It's In A Balloon!
I love clear balloons because you can put stuff in them. Pure and simple. For this one I wouldn't recommend using actual tickets as you have to scrumple them up a bit so make sure you are using a scanned copy.
#5 The Pocket Gift.
I like the pocket gift. Basically you give a bag or a purse or a jacket or something with a pocket and just wait for them to discover their second present. This one may benefit from some hinting "So....what're the pockets like? Roomy?" But it's another fun reveal.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

New Covent Garden Flower Market

 A couple of weeks ago I was looking for things to do in my holidays and googled 'London flower market'. The first result was a place called New Covent Garden which seemed to be a wholesaler and basically looked like the dream; a huge warehouse, crammed with flowers which are sold for super duper cheap prices. I was sold! I read that it was open from 4am and to come early to get the good stuff so a couple of days ago we set our alarm clocks nice and early, lined our cars with bin bags and buckets of water and set off, yawning.
 It was completely overwhelming! There were vases big enough for me to hide in, amazing props, beautiful cake stands, tissue paper, ribbons, basically anything anyone would ever need for a floral display and then some.
AND THE FLOWERS! My goodness, they were amazing! Right here was a room full of the most amazing flowers I had ever seen and they were cheaper than garage flowers. We bought a huge bunch of thirty white roses (and each one was bigger than my fist!) for thirteen pounds!!!! I couldn't believe it. I wanted to spend all of my student loan right there and then.
Although I had been wanting to go to this market for weeks and weeks, in the end our reason for going was a little sombre. My Granny died last week and so we needed funeral flowers. Although a death in the family is naturally going to impact anyone, I must say I feel so at ease with her death; my Granny was a very strong, fiery woman and I think it was distressing for everyone- including her- to see her fading physically and mentally. It feels good now that we can remember her for her strength without being confronted with her distressed weakness. That may be selfish, I don't know, its true. So like I said, the actual death didn't affect me hugely, what did was the absolute trust from my parents. I was utterly honoured that they would allow me to do the funeral flowers when I had no floristry experience. I was so touched to be able to do something for them on a day which was incredibly challenging for everyone.
I chose a mixture of whites and creamy-whites and then contrasting bold and delicate foliage. It was so amazing to put them all in buckets and just have them in our living room. I went between thinking it looked like I owned a florist to thinking Mr Gatsby had visited. As the funeral was in the morning I worked on the flowers at night time under the watchful eye of Tomcat- florist extraordinaire.
I think I did her proud.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

My Top 5 Disney Art Books- Poster Art of the Disney Parks

 When you're feeling a little low on inspiration there is nothing quite like a coffee table book; they're so big and glossy and feel like so much of a more holy experience than if you were to see the same images on pinterest. There is always at least one big art book on my birthday or Christmas list and, because I am slightly obsessed, often they will be Disney related. I love me some behind the scenes Disney action! I thought I would share with you my short list of my favourite Disney books, over a few posts. Be warned, they are very picture heavy, but then again if you didn't sign up for that I really doubt you'd be here!
 First up! Poster Art of the Disney Parks. I first saw this huge book in Disney World, however in the parks it fetched quite a hefty price tag and so I waited until I got home and bought it on Amazon. The general premise of this book is Posters for rides and attractions around the parks with a few character posters thrown in for good measure. It is a visual feast!
The book is divided into sections based upon the different lands of the Disney parks. Fantasyland is obviously the best. Obviously.

The pages represent a wonderful view into the minds of the park designers. For one ride or attraction there will often be slightly different colour themes depending upon the season and these will develop over the years as the park and ride develops to become something new. Another really interesting aspect of the artwork is that usually a subtly different poster is displayed in each of the parks, with Tokyo being the most divergent, suggesting that all the parks have their own moods and clientèle demanding different styles. I find it all really fascinating!
There are quite a few full page pieces to pour over. They have picked these prints so well and there isn't really one poster which isn't deserving of a page. When I have my own place I fully intend to buy a second copy just so I can frame some of these pages.
I also like the detail this books goes into. There is a lot of discussion about just how posters and peripheral artwork is used within the park to enhance the visitor's experience and a lot about how the role of the poster has changed over the years. There is a walk through of how screen printing is used in poster design with the different stages photographed, showing the colours layered up.

If you are a fan of the Disney visual style then I totally recommend buying this book. When people talk about Disney art work, I never really thought about posters playing an important role and yet the fact that I can sit with this book completely captivated (without even checking instagram) obviously shows that it is a really compelling medium which is more than deserving of a great big glossy book!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

DIY Flamingo Fairy Lights

Fairy lights are all very well and good but sometimes they just aren't 'flamingo-ey' enough, you know? A while ago I did a little tutorial on how to snazz up some honeycomb decorations for straws, naturally I bought many many flamingoes for this tutorial and they have subsequently just been resting at the bottom of my craft box with nothing to do. The other day I was having a bit of a clear out and I thought "hey, if they can fit around a straw they can fit around a fairy light!". I'm trying to think of some cute tropical-themed garden parties I can organise just to display these guys! I'm also tempted to make some with those little fruit picks you can get for cocktails- how cute would they be around a bar!?

You will need:
A glue gun
Some scissors
Novelty honeycomb straws/ drinks picks- you can usually buy them at pound stores or party shops but if you have no luck, there are plenty available on line.
1. Trim your honeycombs of any excess card. Usually the decorations will have a little extra card with a slot allowing you to connect the two sides but since you're going to be gluing your honeycomb you can just cut this off.
2. With your glue gun, put a generous amount of glue on one of your honeycomb sides.
3. Stretch out your honeycomb and hold the sides shut for around 15 seconds. I found a glue gun to be the most effective way of sticking as you don't really have enough manoeuvring room to really press the sides together and so it helps to just rely on the hot glue setting.
4. Keep going until you have enough flamingoes for your fairy lights.
5. Now carefully stretch the honeycomb open to reveal the space in the middle (where your straw would have gone).
6. Stretch over your fairy light and you're done!
Just a quick health and safety note! I've had these lights up for a couple of days now and keep them on for a few hours every night. I have periodically been testing whether the paper heats up and so far I haven't noticed anything worrying. I think this may be due to the quality of the fairy lights though since I've never noticed these bulbs heating up. Just to be on the safe side, do not leave lights on for extended periods of time when you are out of the room and make sure to check whether they are heating up the paper.