Homemade Easter Eggs

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I can’t believe it is only just over two weeks to Easter, having Easter fall so close to St Patrick’s day is making this year trip along far to quickly. If you are celiac the options for easter eggs can be limited, my Mum meets this challenge by making her own, including the one above, studded with gluten free Oreo cookies for my celiac nephew.  Here is a repost from last Easter on how to make homemade Easter eggs, last year I posted this after Easter, this year I am giving you enough time to make your own! Make sure your chocolate, candies adn any other decoartions are all gluten free if you are making a treat for  celiac family or friends. The moulds for the eggs can be found in catering or cake decorating stores or online.

I am not the biggest fan of chocolate, in terms of dairy based treats I am more of a cheese girl however I do love the snap of crisp easter egg shell, cold from the fridge, I love holding a whole chocolate egg in my hand and whacking it inelegantly off the table top until it shatters. I am still getting over the fact that you don’t find sweets nestled inside eggs anymore, that they are separately packed in the box. I love that most people I know still get giddy about chocolate at this time of year. I love that yesterday, in the midst of a very busy work day  people in my office took the time to search for the chocolate bunnies I had hidden throughout our offices. I like that I  know people my age who still give up chocolate for Lent who are now carefully planing exactly what kind of chocolate they are going to eat and in what order this Sunday.

Last year I went home to Cork for the Easter Holidays and when I arrived in my Mum was in the middle of making Easter Eggs for my nephew who is celiac. Is is possible to find Easter Eggs that are gluten free but they tend to be dark chocolate and designed more for adults than teenage boys. Much to her well concealed annoyance I whipped out my camera and  started photographing the process. As it was already Easter I didn’t post the images but just in case you have the time or the inclination over the next two days to play around with some melted chocolate and sweets I thought I would pop them up today. This isn’t the most detailed of posts as I discovered that making home made Eggs is a much simpler process than I had thought and just takes a bit of imagination  to create some personalized Easter treats.

For 1 Easter Egg

1 Standard sized Easter Egg mould. Available in catering or cake decorating shops.

250 grams of 40% chocolate (GF), chopped or broken into pieces and divided in 2 quantities of 125 grams.

Sweets or cookies (make sure these are GF if making a gift for someone who is celiac) for decoration. My Mum used a gluten free Oreo type cookie which I still cannot find in Dublin!

Melt one half of the chocolate either in a bowl over hot water or  in a microwave at 30 second intervals, checking regularly.

Once this chocolate is melted add in the the second quantity of chopped chocolate to the bowl and stir in to the melted chocolate.

This will reduce the temperature of the melted chocolate and also temper it to give a lovely sheen.

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Once the chocolate is fully combined spoon it into one side of the mould and move the mould around to fully cover the inside. Leave to set in the fridge. When it has cooled spoon in some more chocolate to build up the shell to your desired thickness. Again place in the fridge to cool

For the decorated side of the egg, place your sweets or broken cookies in the mould and drizzle over the melted chocolate to hold them in place, allow to cool before spooning in the chocolate to cover the inside of the mould. Follow the same process as for the first half of the egg, building up the shell until you are happy with the thickness. Return to the fridge to cool

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Once both shells are fully cooled and hardened remove them from the fridge.

Heat a metal tray under a hot tap and then dry it. Remove the shells from the moulds by turn them upside down on a table or other flat surface, if they don’t come out easily rub your hand over the outside of the mould and the heat of your hand will help release the shell from the mould.  Place the shells on the heated  tray to melt the edges of the chocolate and place the shells edge to edge until they stick together. If you want to put sweets in the egg put them in before you stick them together.

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Leave the eggs for a few minutes so the edges can cool and harden and then you can drizzle over some more chocolate for an extra decoration.

You can place the egg in a tissue paper lined basket or wrap it in clear cellophane tied with ribbon to make a beautiful Easter gift.

Craft shops: Moving from the Stall to the Online Store

Craft

When a retail giant like Penny’s, whose market strategy has traditionally been pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap, suddenly takes a leap into the eCommerce arena, you know there has to be something to this online retailing.

From Tesco to Amazon, these massive retailers have recognised a shift in consumer behaviour. Customers no longer have the luxury of an hour for lunch with which to wander around the shops or time after work with which to do the grocery shopping. Nowadays lunch invariably consists of a hastily inhaled sandwich while manning the phone-lines and absorbing the latest updates through social media platforms, while grocery shopping is ordered sitting in traffic dreaming of dinner but making your way to the gym instead. Retailers have to fit into this new fast paced world to prosper. The manner with which they do this will be the difference between making enough to put bread on the table, or, making so much they manage to give the whole family gout.

A company could be fortunate, like An Post, where this tidal wave of change carries them from one era to another seamlessly; as snail-mail dies a death, parcel delivery from online purchasing has increased dramatically, and looks set to continue into the future. Postmen are no longer shoving unwanted bills into spider infested post-boxes, but rather are more akin to Santa’s elves asking people to sign for little parcels of joy.

However, if you are not so fortunate, you must then be a little creative.

Online shopping offers the small and agile retailer a chance to reach the hearts and minds of their customers, and through that, their wallets. There have been leaders in this charge; C&A allowing the number of virtual likes to be shown above the product in their physical stores, Urban Hitlon Weiner giving credit to customers for posting selfies, Kate Spade creating a digital storefront.  These strategies take advantage of activities in which their customers are already engaged and capitalise on them. They convert product interaction into purchase opportunity, turning the passive consumer into an engaged advocate.

All around us the traditional tools of retail are being adapted and modernised. “Customers who purchase this item also purchased…” has become the online version of sweets at the till. “Share this purchase” is the online equivalent of parading the bargain you picked up at lunch to your co-workers. “What other customers are looking at right now..” induces the same panic of a half empty shelf holding this Christmas’ must-have item.

Communication is moving forward, and retail is moving with it. The new era holds untold opportunity to those who embrace it, ask HMV what happens to those who don’t.

Homemade EasterEggs: Gluten Free

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I am not the biggest fan of chocolate, in terms of dairy based treats I am more of a cheese girl however I do love the snap of crisp easter egg shell, cold from the fridge, I love holding a whole chocolate egg in my hand and whacking it inelegantly off the table top until it shatters. I am still getting over the fact that you don’t find sweets nestled inside eggs anymore, that they are separately packed in the box. I love that most people I know still get giddy about chocolate at this time of year. I love that yesterday, in the midst of a very busy work day  people in my office took the time to search for the chocolate bunnies I had hidden throughout our offices. I like that I  know people my age who still give up chocolate for Lent who are now carefully planing exactly what kind of chocolate they are going to eat and in what order this Sunday.

Last year I went home to Cork for the Easter Holidays and when I arrived in my Mum was in the middle of making Easter Eggs for my nephew who is celiac. Is is possible to find Easter Eggs that are gluten free but they tend to be dark chocolate and designed more for adults than teenage boys. Much to her well concealed annoyance I whipped out my camera and  started photographing the process. As it was already Easter I didn’t post the images but just in case you have the time or the inclination over the next two days to play around with some melted chocolate and sweets I thought I would pop them up today. This isn’t the most detailed of posts as I discovered that making home made Eggs is a much simpler process than I had thought and just takes a bit of imagination  to create some personalized Easter treats.

For 1 Easter Egg

1 Standard sized Easter Egg mould. Available in catering or cake decorating shops.

250 grams of 40% chocolate (GF), chopped or broken into pieces and divided in 2 quantities of 125 grams.

Sweets or cookies (make sure these are GF if making a gift for someone who is celiac) for decoration. My Mum used a gluten free Oreo type cookie which I still cannot find in Dublin!

Melt one half of the chocolate either in a bowl over hot water or  in a microwave at 30 second intervals, checking regularly.

Once this chocolate is melted add in the the second quantity of chopped chocolate to the bowl and stir in to the melted chocolate.

This will reduce the temperature of the melted chocolate and also temper it to give a lovely sheen.

VO19EasterEgg1

Once the chocolate is fully combined spoon it into one side of the mould and move the mould around to fully cover the inside. Leave to set in the fridge. When it has cooled spoon in some more chocolate to build up the shell to your desired thickness. Again place in the fridge to cool

For the decorated side of the egg, place your sweets or broken cookies in the mould and drizzle over the melted chocolate to hold them in place, allow to cool before spooning in the chocolate to cover the inside of the mould. Follow the same process as for the first half of the egg, building up the shell until you are happy with the thickness. Return to the fridge to cool

VO19EasterEggs2

Once both shells are fully cooled and hardened remove them from the fridge.

Heat a metal tray under a hot tap and then dry it. Remove the shells from the moulds by turn them upside down on a table or other flat surface, if they don’t come out easily rub your hand over the outside of the mould and the heat of your hand will help release the shell from the mould.  Place the shells on the heated  tray to melt the edges of the chocolate and place the shells edge to edge until they stick together. If you want to put sweets in the egg put them in before you stick them together.

VO19EasterEggs3

Leave the eggs for a few minutes so the edges can cool and harden and then you can drizzle over some more chocolate for an extra decoration.

You can place the egg in a tissue paper lined basket or wrap it in clear cellophane tied with ribbon to make a beautiful Easter gift.

Reformatting Banksy

It was the bathroom project that would not end. In the length of time it took me to complete the work in this bathroom, away from the project I got pregnant, had a baby and returned to work. However, good work takes time, and this was the final flourish.

In case you have forgotten the regeneration of this bathroom from sticky pink to masculine grey involved Getting StartedPainting the Walls & Tiles and Adding Soft Furnishing and now in part four, I am adding back a little decoration to make this room less utilitarian.

For this project you will need

  • a poster of a familiar picture,
  • plastic frames (i used these from Ikea)
  • rules, set square, pencil and scissors

The idea is to rearrange a familiar image, the way a Rubik-cube is rearranged in the middle of a game. People viewing the mixed-up image will unconsciously try to rearrange it to make sense in their minds. There were toys like this in the 80’s/90’s called sliders.

Inspiration

I sought a familiar image that would fit my grey colour scheme and urban theme and found the Banksy picture of a maid sweeping dirt on a pathway underneath a wall.

Maid in progress

As the bathroom is a wet steamy place, the poster pieces will need to be encased in plastic, this is what the frames are for, and these are what will dictate the size the poster will be cut up into.

To decide how many frames I would need I laid them out on the wall, empty for the moment. I could of course measured the space, decided on the space between each, and calculated how many frames I needed, but this way leaves no room for mathematical errors.

The image I have works best if certain parts are whole, so for instance, I don’t want the maid’s face in two frames. To ensure this did not happen I laid out the frames on the poster and marked the layout.

Once the layout was established I measured the poster and laid out the grid using the ruler and set square. I then cut the poster into squares.

Each square was encased into a plastic frame which was then sealed with glue to help prevent the water getting in.

I then laid out the pattern of the image rearranged on the bed, to get a feel for how it would look.

I then stuck the frames to the wall. These hanging frames conveniently have a hole top and bottom so I choose to nail them to the wall, but you could use no more nails or something like that instead if you preferred.

And there you have it the final flourish in a bathroom project which is finally finished!

Maid in progress 2

Abandoned forest

Abandoned Forest

One of my favourite marketing images is when the beautiful girl wakes up on her bed in the middle of fairytale forest. I don’t care if you are selling fabric softener, cheap perfume or odor eaters – when this image is used I think the product is cool and I want it. Several bottles of fabric softener later I thought this might be a good theme for our bedroom.

I wanted to have that feeling when you are dosing between dreams, in the twilight of dawn or dusk, and in the half light paintings and surroundings can seem real. I wanted to add visual cues that could be seen from my pillow that would prompt my subconscious to bring me to an empty quiet forest. I wanted this room to be calm and minimalist. Back in reality, what this really meant was that I wanted trees, flying birds and great blank spaces. The colour inspiration came from a trio of paintings of a tree which I bought in Next years ago on sale, with nowhere to hang them, I bought them just because I liked them – this is the way to pick artwork for your home.

I started with the ocean of calm and painted all the walls white. Then on the only wall without a window or door I painted trees in a contrasting pallet of green, yellow and grey. I’m not a wonderful artist so I kept things simple. The trees I painted are bare and recently cut-back. Shorn and bare; minimalist and simple; no unnecessary flourishes.

Forest Trees

Then over the wardrobe in a contrasting lime green I painted a flock of geese in flight.

Flock of geese

On the door, I repeated the design of the trees and named the room.

Painted Door

To paint I obviously removed all furniture and furnishings from the room. I added back only what was necessary. No curtains, no bedside lockers, no ornamentation. This room was an experiment in minimalism. I allowed only what was needed to make it a bedroom. I put in the bed. I tacked a green valance to the underneath to hide any clutter or storage below. This valance was lime green to tie in with the colour scheme.

I tied fairy lights to the headboard to act instead of the reading lamps.

Reading Light fairy lights

I hung two antlers heads (which I got from Next, now out of stock I am afraid) either side of the headboard and hung two ‘shelves’ above them (which I got in Heatons, again now out of stock). These shelves measure 3cm x 10cm and are literally only big enough to hold glasses or a phone and a cup of tea.

reindeer

The room has a built in wardrobe, and I converted the ensuite to a walk in wardrobe last year, so there was plenty of storage for both of our things. That was it. Minimalist. No clutter.

For a while that was all that was in the room. But we hit a snag. I had nowhere to put my makeup or brushes when I was getting ready. I started throwing it on the bed, but it wasn’t ideal. I crumbled and got a writing desk to act as a makeup table (from Oxfam, repainted). I felt because everything was contained within it, it conformed to my minimalist ideals.

dresserI also added a black leather chair (Ikea) for the clothes discarded before being re-hung or going to laundry.

Ikea tirup-swivel-armchair-black

That just left me with my trio of paintings of the tree. Somehow, even thought they were the inspiration, their store bought, manufactured format no longer suited the room. So I decided to cut them up and nail them over another store bought painting (Dunnes) I no longer liked, but liked the contrasting colour and movement in the Dunnes picture when compared to the Next trio.

trio 1

I unpicked the canvases of the trio from their frame. The way they were designed was to have the painting be duplicated so that the sides of the canvas were not blank (this style was very popular in Homewares in 2006ish). This meant the canvases over lapped and added to the visual confusion of this image. I cut all the canvases into inch wide stripes – getting a rough edge by tearing it with a knife.

trio 2

I discarded any duplicates that upset the image of the tree too much. I then nailed and pinned the torn canvases to the Dunnes picture. It gave me one painting, original and unique, but much better than I could paint myself.

trio 3

Christmas Crafts Day!

 

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Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Christmas it is easy to lose the sense of fun that should always be around this season. Shopping, food prep, making lists and checking them twice … it can all get a bit overwhelming so sometimes it is nice to take a few hours and sit around doing something relaxing, fun and crafty to get you back in the mood. There is nothing like sitting around with a glue stick, ribbon and glitter to fling you right back to your childhood.

 

This is also a great way to get make some personalised decorations and cards if you want to add a homemade touch to your Christmas gifting.

 

Supplies:
Card, various colours
Ribbons
Decorative trim
Felt
Gold thread
Needles
Glue stick
Double sided sticky tape
Glitter
Sparkles
Washed jam jars with their lids
Fake snow, the stuff in the can and bags of snow like sparkles
Cheap ornaments (snowmen and wee Christmas trees and the like)
Nightlights

Optional:

A couple of buddies, preferable one with two beautiful children to help with getting glitter everywhere
Coffee
Wine
Cheese
Crackers
Christmas music

 

If you are going to work with glue and glitter please put down some old newspapers or some plastic sheeting on your table as despite your best efforts the glitter will end up sticking everywhere, this morning I was still brushing it out of my hair post shower.
There are no real instructions here. Get some supplies, all of ours came from a fabric shop, an art & hobby shop and most importantly from a Euro store. Don’t spend too much money on your supplies unless you are a seasoned professional otherwise the fear will get you and you will be so worried about making a mistake that you will stifle all your creative impulses.

 

This should be fun, browse the internet for suggestions, there are approximately one billion Christmas decorations ideas out there. Be inspired and give things your own twist.

 

One of our group proved to be a genius at making beautiful cards, the simplest and most effective card she made was as follows:

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  1. Cut a sheet of A4 card in half to give you two A5 sheets, fold these to a card shape.
  2. Measure out various coloured ribbons and cut them in graduated sizes so they make a Christmas tree shape when arranged on the card.
  3. When you are happy with the look of your design use the glue stick to secure the ribbons in place.
  4. Add a star or heart or some glitter to the top of your tree and leave to dry. Simple dimple and very pretty.

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To make felt ornaments simply cut a cardboard shape and cut your felt to match, glue to the card and then stitch around with gold thread to secure and for a lovely decorative edging. This is meant to look handmade so don’t go mad striving for perfection. Stitch or glue on a loop of gold thread so you can hang your ornament.

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For a gorgeous nightlight holder take a clean jam jar, and cut a length of card to fit around the jar. Draw a Christmas scene, gingerbread house, snow and, tree on the inside of the piece of card and then cut around the design , stick the card around the outside of the glass and lightly spray the jar with fake snow or glue and glitter for a sparkly effect. Allow to dry and then pop in your nightlight, The candle light will glow around the silhouette of your design and will be lovely against a dark window.

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Another jam jar ornament was made by gluing a Euro store snowman to the inside of the lid of a jar, spraying the inside of the jar with fake snow and filling it with snow like sparkles, twist the lid on to the jar and turn it upside down so it rests on its lid, Decorate the lid with  ribbon and there you have a lovely water free snow globe.
Don’t be precious or worried that your efforts will look stupid, have fun with this. You can’t go far wrong with glue and glitter. The main point of this exercise is to take some time, hang out with friends, family or your kids and have some fun.

Jewellery Organisation without a Scout Knots Badge

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Every woman has been there … you are rushing to leave the house, last thing is to throw on a quick necklace to finish the look, only to discover that the one necklace that suits this outfit has become entangled in every other decent chain you own. The only detangled choices are some plastic thing you got free with a magazine that the other necklaces don’t want to be seen dead next to, or a nineties number that really should not see the light of day again. In panic I inevitably shove the whole tangled mess into my handbag so I can pull them apart on the bus, but this leaves me with one, probably bent, chain that I want to wear and fifty extra swirling around the bottom of my bag, causing unnecessary weight and coiling like a boa constrictor around my purse and phone.

 

After one particularly irritating incident where the bus journey was not long enough to detangle the one chain I wanted, I swore I could come up with a better storage solution that shoving all my costume jewellery into a box under my bed. And I did. I invested in two simple jewellery holders from Pennies. They were two sided, had little pockets and could be hung up. Alas, as Roy Walker would say ‘it was a good answer.. but it’s not right’.

They were too small to fit all my jewellery in one pocket each, so I ended up putting two or three pieces in together, which inevitably tangled up together defeating the point of the change, or one big piece hid a small piece and I forgot I owned it. Also, being two-sided meant that I never looked at the pieces on the reverse side, and ending up wearing the same pieces time and time again.

 

So, I decided I need a customised solution… a jewellery organiser that would hang on the back of my closet door and display all my jewellery at once, without allowing it to become entangled … queue the DIY music (vaguely similar to the MacGyver theme tune played on homemade bag pipes – music that inspires you to finish whatever you are doing fast so that the horrible sound will stop).

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You will need;

  • Sewing Machine, thread, needles, scissors
  • Cloth – light but durable. I chose cotton.
  • Cloth – smaller piece to reinforce top of organiser. I chose canvas because it is strong and I had some already left over from another project, but you could chose anything that can withstand weight.
  • Ribbon
  • Buttons – large for preference
  • Hammer and Nails (for the strong) or Staple Gun (for the clever and lazy)

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How to;

  1. First things first, get out the sewing machine, blow the dust off it and check it still works.
  2. Select a fabric. I have a box where I store random pieces of fabric that I use for this type of situation. You will need something light but durable – I choose an old sheet that I had chopped other pieces from.
  3. Measure the door that you are going to hang the final piece on (and, I say from experience, don’t cheat and just measure the door closest to you at the moment – not all doors were created equal). Add 5cm around the boarder to allow for hemming.
  4. Cut fabric to size. I doubled the measurements and folder my fabric over to make it twice as thick. This is only necessary if you have a lightweight fabric.
  5. Hem 2cm around edges.
  6. Take stronger fabric and sew it to top of organiser – this will prevent the lighter fabric from tearing under the weight of jewellery.
  7. Take ribbon and lay them out across organiser to choose positions. I placed my ribbon with a 1cm gap at the top and graduated this to a 3cm gap at the bottom to allow for different sized jewellery. I also took the opportunity to recycle pieces of ribbon that we used in the menus for our wedding. Waste not, want not.
  8. Pin ribbon in place.
  9. Now, starting at the top of your sheet, sew across the ribbons from top to bottom at even intervals (depending on the size of your organiser). This will give strength to the ribbon and stop it from sagging in the centre when you add the jewellery.
  10. Sew some buttons if you like so you can hang rather than hook some pieces.
  11. Measure against door to double check size still correct. Hem boarder to give finished appearance.
  12. Nail or staple to door, ensuring that the top and sides are very secure.
  13. Hang jewellery and voila, the ability to get dressed and accessorise without earning your Scouts Knots badge.

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