How to make a Seed Heart Bird Feeder

Baby it’s cold outside! February can be a really harsh month, with biting winds and ice even on the brightest of days and so if you’re feeling the cold in all those layers, just think of all the wildlife braving it outside, day and night!

So as Valentines day approaches, we thought we’d spread the love to all those little birdies out there with these really super, easy to make and nutritious (for birds ONLY you understand!) Seed Heart Bird Feeders.

Now we do warn you, they are a bit messy to make but it’s well worth it and don’t worry if you don’t have heart shaped cookie cutters in the cupboard, other shapes work just as well . (Unless it’s like a big eagle shape…or a scarecrow…Mmmn yes perhaps you might want to avoid them!)  Read on for our ‘how to’ guide and…Enjoy making!

materials

We used:   Approx 275g to 300g of Bird Seed –  250g of Lard (or animal suet if you prefer) – Cookie cutters (or make your own shape from tin foil) –  A Pan –  A Tray  – Tin Foil or Clingfilm – A Spoon – A Skewer (or pencil), Ribbon (or Twine).  Oh you might want to have some soapy water and a towel handy too! (well I did say it might be a bit messy!)

  1. Firstly, preparation is key so line a tray with some clingfilm or tin foil and place your cutters on there ready.
  2. Carefully heat the Lard in a pan until it’s just melted and then remove from the heat. (Note that the lard can be quite hot at this stage so be careful not to burn yourself!) Stir your birdseed into the fat a bit at a time until you feel you’re happy with the consistency of the mixture.  (Don’t worry if you have a small amount of birdseed left over you can always add it in at a later stage). As a general rule you should be able to see approximately a couple of mm of melted lard sitting above the seeds in the pan.
  3. Before you can start to fill your cookie cutters, allow your mixture to cool down by placing it outside or somewhere away from room temperature until it is at a temperature where the Lard begins to go white (but just before it solidifies.)
  4. When the fat has whitened (but you can still stir it), this is the perfect time to fill your shapes with the mixture. (Note that if the liquid has not solidified enough, it will seep out of the bottom of your cutters!). It’s also the best time to decide if you need to add more birdseed. You need just enough lard to hold the seeds together and so if you need to add more, do so now. Then use the spoon to fill the cutters  with the mixture, pushing it down firmly and ensuring you fill any corners or edges well to ensure you take on the shape of the cutter.
  5. Once you’re happy they are filled enough, take a skewer or pencil and form a decent size hole (this will be to thread your ribbon/twine through at a later date).
  6. Next, place them (whilst still in the cookie cutter) in a cool place or fridge until  they’re as solid as they can be….As lard will only go so hard.

Finally….Gently press out the hardened mixture with your fingers (yep that’s the most messy bit!) and thread the Ribbon or Twine through the hole. Hang them in the garden and stand back and admire! (Preferably in the warmth of the house with a nice cup of hot tea whilst humming “feed the birds”) Nice work …Mary Poppins has nothing on you!

2 hearts back garden

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Recycling Christmas Cards

Every year I receive the most beautiful Christmas cards and the thought of throwing them in a bin (even a recycling one) after someone has spent time, thought and money buying them for me just isn’t something I can bare. So this month we’re bringing you some crafty ways to use or keep them instead!

Firstly how about getting ahead for next Christmas by making some Gift Tags. It really is easy, fun and a great way to use up any bits of ribbon or twine you have lying around too.  There are many styles of tag you can make too, we’ve used a couple of methods…

Some designs lend themselves to a spot of freestyle cutting and this gorgeous Christmas tree is one.

xmas tree cardThen there’s the easiest way I know and that’s using a luggage label as a template to draw around the chosen picture and then just follow the lines to cut it out. If you’re not confident in cutting straight then a craft trimmer or guillotine can be most helpful!

 

picture template

My top tip when making gift tags is to not just look at the front of the card but the back too as there can often be plenty of ‘white space’ and a cute picture you can use ..Like this one!

back of card

And voila…Here’s just a few I made earlier (including the image from the back of the card as shown above!)  Aren’t they just super? A sure winner to saving you time and money next Christmas…Not to mention what a goody two shoes you are for recycling!

labels collection2

If you fancy making something to give as a gift, how about a Christmas bookmark? A nice addition you can add to a stocking or home made Christmas Cracker. Just look for an image on a card that is a good length then cut to size, hole punch the top and add some matching pretty ribbon. How fab is that?!

bookmark2

And finally,  one of my absolute favourite things to do is to frame those cards that I love or that mean something to me and then I bring them out each Christmas, dotting them around the house on book shelves and dressers etc where I can see and enjoy them.  You’d be surprised just how effective this can be. Here’s just a couple of my newest editions from this years received cards…

picture stood up

most wonderful time picture in fram

….There are lots more ideas for recycling your cards but I suspect that might just be plenty to be getting on with for now!

Have fun being creative and don’t forget…If you enjoyed this blog do please ‘pass it on’ by forwarding to a friend or sharing on social media!

Find out about our workshops at http://www.moreprettythings.co.uk and if you’d like us to keep you up to date by receiving our monthly E-newsletter it’s simple to subscribe….Just add your email address to the box provided on the homepage!

Hello birdie!

In my line of work I have the pleasure of meeting lots of wonderful people, many of them very creative!  This week was no exception and I was thrilled to stumble upon the very talented Artist and Illustrator, Iona Buchanan.

Iona has designed a fabulous collection of homewares ranging from a rather gorgeous artichoke apron to a really delightful wren tea towel…Ooh and a lovely lobster cushion that caught my eye… I have just the place for that!

Lots of lovely things there were but you can imagine my delight can’t you when Iona introduced me to her gorgeous gift wrap! It didn’t take me long before the scissors were out and I was wrapping with it…

iona buchanan guillemot

Not just for twitchers this fabulous Sea Birds Paper is an instant reminder of the seaside and perfect for anyone with a love of nature. It’s sold in a pack of 2 sheets with matching tags and is currently available to purchase along with another lovely gift wrap pack (called ‘garden birds’) as well as Iona’s full range of products on her website www.ionabuchanan.com

Our wrapping tips: From a practical point of view (for storage/posting out etc) wrapping papers can often be sold flat packed and invariably this will mean you have some creases to contend with. Before starting to wrap have a look at the paper and try to line up the creases with the edges of the object you’re wrapping. This will help to disguise them as a natural folding line and give a neater look.  Also, when choosing a lovely paper like this which is full of fabulous detail that would be a shame to hide, tie your ribbon in an off centre position that will show it off at its best (as we’ve done) and pick a ribbon colour that will bring out the colour in the wrap. We’ve chosen this lovely sunny yellow, inspired by the Eider Ducks beak!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this months blog and if so … Please do pass on the gift wrapping love by sharing with your friends!

For more information on our gift wrapping workshops or demonstrations find us at www.moreprettythings.co.uk  or contact us on 01226 492770 for more details.

 

A bit of a do – Peter Rabbit Style!

There’s something rather special about a first birthday isn’t there? Turning one is such a milestone and warrants a certain amount of effort on the party front…Even if they won’t remember it!

Last month I was given the opportunity to plan and host my Grandsons 1st Birthday party. (You can just imagine my excitement!)  It was to be a small family affair and (as we were in the middle of some major refurbishment in the house) it would be a little compromised as space (and time!) was limited. The hallway being light and airy with a view of the garden (and the only room unaffected by all the upheaval) seemed the obvious (if not the only) choice as the party area. As it happens, it worked so well, it’s likely to be used again!

To my absolute joy I was given reign to come up with any theme I wanted and already knowing what this would be, ideas began to hop around in my head. What else could it be but a traditional Peter Rabbit Party!

Oli make bunting3

And I was in my element! From home-made bunting to marshmallow bunny tails, veg pots and a cauliflower tissue paper centerpiece, coming up with ideas and putting it all together was the most fun I’ve had in ages!  Now not that there weren’t some challenges… Planning around building works, running a business from home, working out party food for a dairy free one year old and the usual family melt downs is no mean feast! I literally had 2 days in total to plan, organise and implement it! Never one to say no to a challenge, there was nothing for it but to make a list and hop to it!  Having a limited amount of time to plan certainly makes you focus and if I do say so myself…It went pretty well!  That is, if we overlook the Rabbit Jelly that didn’t want to leave its mould and when it did, looked a bit like road kill!

But moving swiftly on… If you’re thinking of hosting a Peter Rabbit Party too it really is such fun and has so much scope for being creative. Given longer I would have done much more but if (like me) you need to create something and you’re pushed for time, here’s just a few tips and ideas that work a treat!

 

DSC01970 - Copy (2)

No time to order anything online, I chose to go for a cost effective personalised welcome to guests by buying a chalk board and writing my own message on it. Then just a wipe clean and totally reusable for another day! (Chalkboard a real find at just £1 from poundland!)

Oli make bunting alt

Making your own bunting to fit your theme is so easy and cost effective. For this one I hole punched some Peter Rabbit postcards I already had and thread co-ordinating ribbon through. You could however print images or buy a cheap book and take pages out and use instead.

Oli veg pot

Table decorations included:  A Cauliflower made of tissue paper,  a clay pot which housed veg for nibbling on and Peter Rabbit Wooden shapes  –  I preferred these to paper ones as they were part of a shape sorter toy (purchased at M&S) and could then be reused in the toy box afterwards!

Oli rabbit buns

The buns were made with diary free margarine (Tesco) and decorated to fit the theme with sugar carrots/paper bunnies. To save time I placed pretty coloured biscuits in a jar that could be easily moved from kitchen to table then back again.

oli bunny tails alt

As Oliver is a big fan of raisins I incorporated them into our scheme….well it’d be rude not to! Bunny droppings seeming the obvious choice. I used white marshmallows for bunny tails!

oli jelly

It wouldn’t be a traditional party without Jelly and it certainly gave us all a laugh after it failed to hop out of the mould without lots of coaching and then when it did , it looked a little worse for wear. My elderly Mum and Dad were thrilled to pieces.. Took them right back to their childhood!

oli not liking jelly

Birthday Boy not quite as taken with the rabbit jelly. Somethings are, after all, an acquired taste.      Happy First Birthday my gorgeous Grandson…You may not remember your special day but it was a day made out of  love for Grandmas very special baby bunny…YOU!  x

Thank you for reading our blog, we really hope you’ve enjoyed it. We are a gift and gift wrapping company and teach lots of creative skills at our workshops. Information can be found at http://www.moreprettythings.co.uk

 

 

 

Baking days

 

I often dream of having time to bake, to try new recipes and potter in the kitchen on a Saturday morning……baking polenta cake 2

Just  me, no make up, my comfy slippers, baggy jumper and Graham Norton on radio two. Recently instead of dreaming, I actually got the chance…… Not that it all went totally to plan of course!

With a group of very lovely ladies due to arrive the next day (Sunday) for a gift wrapping class, it was a great excuse to live the dream and bake lots of goodies I could serve them on our break at the class. Like many, I have a signature cake that always turns out well and I know that whenever I bake it there’ll only be crumbs left of it the next day. For me that’s my mothers traditional chocolate cake recipe with real cadbury’s chocolate on top and buttercream icing in between. However, whilst I don’t bake often I do like to try my hand at something different every now and again. It’s that thrill you get when you do something new and it actually turns out really well. In this case it was Lemon, honey and polenta cake (served with creme fraiche mixed with lemon rind) and almond and honey biscuits.  I found it (like you do) while  just flicking through a magazine with no baking agenda and there it was…shouting ‘try me, try me’.  So, decision made, the day before ‘baking day’ I checked my cupboards for ingredients I’d need and set off shopping for those I didn’t have.

So Saturday morning it was like Christmas…Up early and all excited. I turned on the radio, donned a rather fab ‘Mrs Madden Makes’ Pinny, made a pot of tea and went to line the cake tins. So, baking paper…. Ah…Now…where could it be? I scrabbled through the drawer. Nope, not there.  Had it gone to its hiding place down the back and into the cupboard perhaps? Nope. It seems the greaseproof paper fairy had been and borrowed it. So, only one thing to do….off I jumped in my car (well after taking off the slippers) and down to the nearest shop.  Let me see….Baking paper, baking paper…..I scoured the shelves up and down but could you believe it, no paper!! So back in the car to the next shop a few miles away and voila…loads of it. So after purchasing two packs of it (for good measure), I headed back for home.

Right pinny back on, hands washed ,..Off we go! Tins lined, time to weigh the plain flour for the biscuits…Plain Flour, yes I have plain flour I saw two packs of it yesterday …mmn but what’s this? One is near on empty and the other….well, the sell by date fairy has also visited and it appears I’m out by a year….What were the chances of that? (note to self… better stock rotation required!)   Oh hey,  back in the car I went…. Not even bothering to go to  the most local shop this time in case it didn’t have any, I headed back to the shop furthest away again where once again, they came through for me and had mountains of it. On leaving with a large bag of flour the Shop assistant did one of those knowing nods …I smiled one of those knowing smiles and off I went. Once again, all sorted, back home, pinny on, hands washed ready to proceed and….

Phone rang. Door bell chimed. Dog needed walking (actually I don’t have a dog but if I had, it would have surely have needed a walk) It was bedlam . You have to smile don’t you. So, a little longer than expected, with more interruptions, delays, unstocked shops and bad fairies than I’d ever imagined, I did, in the end make it. (with the help of Graham Norton and a good shop).

Graphic1

And it all turned out swimmingly too ….There’s nothing like the feeling of when you bake something new and its a hit with your guests. Thank you ladies…Lemon, honey and Polenta cake recipe on its way to you as promised!

baking final picbaking polenta cake 4

Spring Clean!

mothers day gift

Spring is always a time of year known for clearing out your cupboards and getting all organised. For me however it’s often just something pretty I see (whatever time of year) that will set me off on a mission to change something for the better.   In this case, it was as simple as finding this beautiful pink floral wrapping paper for our More Pretty Things customers to buy for their mothers day/spring wrapping projects. I was inspired as soon as I saw it, with its vintage look and quality feel it would be a shame not to use it in the house somewhere.  So, after doing some wrapping with it myself (above), I had a cunning plan that would allow me to use it somewhere I’d have the pleasure of seeing it often!

Cut to size and sprayed with some of my favourite smelling room spray then left for a few minutes to dry (to ensure no colour run from the paper)  and hey presto…..A beautiful looking and smelling drawer liner! Just add freshly laundered fluffy towels and visit on a regular basis to delight in its loveliness!

blog - march 14 - pretty cupboard

Pink floral wrap (above) £1.75 per sheet or 4 for £6 and ‘Best Mum’ little wooden heart (top picture) £1 each. To order call 01226 492770