Category Archives: DIY and Craft

Melting Snowmen Christmas Cake…

So, it’s Christmas again…and the challenge of decorating the cake came around…
Private Photo (Do Not Use)
We have a tradition in our family, where Dad makes the cake with the help of the children. See above for 2001 photograph, many years ago, now it’s pretty much Caitlin who helps (she’s the baby in this one!) 
After the cake is made, it’s left to me to marzipan and decorate. Up until a few years ago the cake was always roughly marzipaned and then slathered with stiff, peaky royal icing and then I plonked a couple of Christmas cake winter ornaments on top and that was it! We were happy, but a couple of years ago I was inspired by Kirsty Allsopp and used her idea of polar bears on the cake. 
Not knowing if I could duplicate the said polar bears, I disappeared into the kitchen on my own and created… it worked! See here for the result! 
Last year I made Penguins…
Ever since I have cordoned of the kitchen during the decorating process and banned anyone from seeing anything until it’s finished.
It’s even turned into a competition to see if anyone can guess what I might do each year!
This year it was melted snowmen…inspired by trulycustomcakery cake’s Pinterest pic of melting snowmen cookies, and I decided to use her marshmallow technique to put them on top of my Christmas cake! 
Photo by Lisa Shambrook (Please do not use without crediting)
The cake was covered in marzipan and iced with fondant icing, then I put a layer of stiff royal icing to make snow. I added more water to the royal icing to make three icing snowman puddles on top, which I loved as it ran down the sides of the cake! 
Then came the marshmallows…that was the experimental bit…
Place a marshmallow on a piece of silicone or greaseproof paper and place it in the mircrowave. The instructions are not to walk away and watch at all times, as it swells (puffs up) take it out…somewhere between 8 and 15 seconds. Do not let it double it’s size or it’ll just be a gooey puddle. 
Taking them off the paper wasn’t easy either. The original poster recommended covered your fingers with grease to take them off. I covered a palette knife with oil and tried, I did get sticky and I did use way more than three marshmallows, have plenty spare! 
Then I made chocolate fondant arms, orange fondant noses and black fondant eyes, and obviously sugar silver balls became buttons…and there you have it a melting snowmen Christmas cake! 
Photo by Lisa Shambrook (Please do not use without crediting)
How do you decorate yours?

Steampunk Christmas Tree Bauble

Photograph by Lisa Shambrook & Instagram 
(If you use these pictures please link back to this post, thank you.)

Still enjoying a writing hiatus and catching up with some crafting ideas… Rather consumed with Steampunk right now, and wanted a steampunk bauble for the Christmas tree, but couldn’t find one, so made my own:

1. Find (or buy) a single Christmas Bauble. Mine was 49p for 3 at my local garden centre. Stick with gold, silver, chrome, brown or neutral colours.

2. Using tweezers and superglue or another strong glue (Glue gun is too messy) add cogs, gears etc. I bought a small packet of old watch mechanisms for a couple of pounds on Ebay.
3. It helps with precision to place the bauble in an egg cup as you work.
4. Add a ribbon to hang it with.
All Photos by Lisa Shambrook 
(If you use these pictures please link back to this post, thank you)

And there you are, a Steampunk Christmas Tree bauble…

Steampunk Project… Top Hat

My daughters and I are currently collecting Steampunk…for a project. Our fashion sense is pretty Steampunk to begin with, so we’re already halfway there with skirts, military jackets, corsets, jewellery etc, but one thing we didn’t have was a Top Hat.
Pinterest came up with one… Duct Tape Steampunk Top Hat by and I had a go using this tutorial.

This is my attempt:

Photograph by Lisa Shambrook using Streamzoo Indutrial filter.
(Please do not use without permission)
to be continued…

Diamond Jubilee Fairy Cakes

Last night I watched the highlights of the Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant…there’s nothing more British than watching a choir in their best dresses and suits sing ‘Rule Britannia’ to the London Philharmonic Orchestra on a barge in the middle of the pouring rain on the River Thames!  
Here’s my nod to the Queen’s Jubilee:

Easy recipe: 8oz of butter, 8oz caster sugar, creamed. Add 4 eggs, one by one, and a tsp of vanilla essence then stir in 8oz self-raising flour and 1 tbsp of cold water. Place in cases and cook at 160 degrees C for 20 mins or so. Makes 24.
Decorated with raspberry jam, Dream Topping (or whipped cream) and blueberries…
Red, white and blue…

Family Photo Wall

We redecorated recently (by supreme order from Oldest Daughter) and our lounge went from this (top pic) to this (bottom pic)…
The original green didn’t actually look as dull as the picture suggests, and it wasn’t the exact moss shade I had in mind…however we’d bought the paint and had no money left after we moved in, so we lived with it for the next seven years…

I’m really pleased with the new colours: ‘Soft Stone’ on the walls and an accent wall of ‘Intense Truffle’, but our main aim was to add the ‘Family Photo Wall’ as below:

I knew what I wanted and got further ideas (see above montage) from Pinterest and off we went, scouring the house and shops…mainly TKMaxx ( I love that store and can barely pass it by without going in and coming back out with something wonderful!) for frames

We fixed up a huge sheet of paper (wallpaper lining) across the wall and pinpointed the nails that were already on the wall (it was a bit annoying for the layout to be constrained by nails in the walls from previous occupiers, but needs must), then laid it on the floor and placed our frames in the desired locations.

Then I hunted through our family photographs to chose pictures to get reprinted and decided which frames would suit them best. Once they arrived we laid them out again, photos in frames, to be sure the layout worked.

Next we hung the main four pictures on the nails that already existed and began the fun bit of hammering in a dozen or so more nails! Finally the blank wall:
was covered:
The whole room had a makeover: the mismatched, falling apart sofa’s got new throws and cushions all in my green and brown accent colours, and we discovered a plethora of lovely green ‘bits and pieces’…that would be their official name, of course!
I am now very happy with a redecorated and much decluttered room…with only the rear of the room left to finish. Beyond the bookshelf in the above picture there is desk and shelf space, currently still in disorder due to husband’s lack of time to go through his bits and pieces. And the finale of the room which will be a wall similar to the family photo wall but full of quotes…‘The Quote Wall’…pictures will follow at some point…

Anyone for Cake?

Daughter has a bit of a cupcake fetish…don’t we all? After a few mishaps (some recipes just don’t work, do they?) Success!

Raspberry Chocolate Cupcakes:
Makes 12:
125g plain chocolate
125ml milk
30g cocoa powder, sifted
125g butter
110g castor sugar
2 eggs
125g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
400g plain chocolate
125ml double cream
Oven 325° (160°)
Place chocolate, milk and cocoa powder in pan, stir over low heat until chocolate melted and smooth, remove from heat and allow to cool.
Beat butter and sugar with electric whisk until fluffy, add eggs one at a time, still beating to combine. Sift flour and baking powder into small bowl then add flour and chocolate mixtures to butter mixture, combine.
Spoon into cake cases, bake for about 35 minutes or until skewer comes out clean, leave to cool on rack.
Glaze: Melt chocolate and cream over pan of simmering water. Spread over cupcakes and decorate with raspberries. Serve with whipped cream.

Go on, you know you want to…they’re gorgeous!

Book Page Keepsake Boxes and Pot

Having made several Book Page Keepsake Boxes see here for original tutorial I got a bit carried away and ‘Book Paged’ a plant pot too!  

We’ve just redecorated our lounge, choosing ‘Soft Stone’ walls with ‘Intense Truffle’, brightened up the skirting and woodwork, and bought sofa covers (believe me you don’t want to see them uncovered…), cushions, plants and knick knacks in my chosen accent colour of green…
The room is now de-cluttered and I decided to match covered shoe-boxes in the room’s colours. Hence the boxes below. I keep my sewing kit in my book page box, and family history photos in the small box covered with aged maps from my home town. The other boxes are waiting to be filled, but look so much better than stuff and papers piling up everywhere!

The plant pot seemed a natural addition to fit in with the new décor.

1. Find a pot.
2. Paint it. I used ‘Intense Truffle’ Dulux emulsion which I’d already used on our feature wall, ordinary acrylic paint will work.
3. PVA glue torn book pages (or scrapbook paper etc) to the pot then seal with Mod Podge Matt or PVA glue.
4. Once dry your pot is finished. I added a rustic touch with a bow of string around the rim. 

Gorgeous Writer’s Keepsake Box

Sometimes books fall apart 😦 or they’re just too old…what do you do with them when you can’t bear to throw them away?
Authentically authory (I know that’s not a real word…), but this wordy, page covered Keepsake or Memory box is gorgeous and made by daughter! Now I want one too!

It’s made from an old shoe box, using torn out pages from an old or damaged book and pva glue. She covered it with my matt finish Mod Podge glue and added a brass cupboard door handle at each end, using her favourite ‘Serious’ Glue from Evo Stick. If you want more info the process is on her blog:  bekahcat.blogspot and see more pictures!
I love it and it looks amazing, even better than the picture shows!
Below added 16th April:
And here is my box…
Made from a second copy of one of my favourite trilogies ‘Abhorsen’ by Garth Nix.
My daughter has some really good ideas! That, and she wouldn’t let me keep my sewing kit in an old ice-cream box if I wanted it out ‘on show’…so it has a new box…voila!


Chalkboard Redesign…

I’ve always wanted a lovely chalkboard for my dining room… at present I have an old cork board, which is so full no one can read anything on it! So scrolling down Pinterest I found homemade cork board and it inspired me. 
I found a chalkboard at The Range for £6 and collected my ideas…
We don’t drink tea or coffee, so the coffee tiles on the board just didn’t fit my home, but they made a great place to start scrapbooking. I wanted to attach clothes pegs so I could still keep notes and the obligatory school letters somewhere safe, and I have discovered a love for odd buttons!
This is how it turned out…
I collected family photographs, scraps, pegs and buttons… Rather than cut the pictures neatly, I tore them and chalked the rough edges. I used Gloss Mod Podge glue (you could use PVA) and covered the tiles at the top of the board then placed my photographs. When they were secure I painted over them with Mod Podge  to give a gloss finish and protection. While the glue dried I got out the hot glue gun, Yay! I glued clothes pegs where I wanted them and random buttons across the frame.
When the glue dried I was left with a lovely scrapbook effect panel on my chalkboard. The buttons make great decoration and I love the pegs! Overall I’m very happy with the final result!

Neiman Marcus Cookies

Soooo, I was looking for a cookie recipe that I hadn’t tried before…I wanted one that was soft and chewy and more like shop bought cookies… Not long ago I received an anonymous email entitled: 
‘Neiman Marcus Cookies’
To be honest I have no idea who Neiman Marcus are…I live in the UK. Apparently they’re a big US store…and they really upset one of their customers!
My homemade cookies with the Neiman Marcus recipe…

I have no idea of the authenticity of this story, does say that it’s all an urban legend and that Neiman Marcus has developed a cookie since in response to the rumour, so don’t feel badly about the shop…but hey, this is how I got it, the name it’s known under and the recipe is great! So I’ll give it to you, just as it came to me…with an added testimony of my own: I made these cookies, to the recipe below…and they are good! They keep really well, which is just as well, because as the recipe says it makes about 112 cookies! NB use a big mixing bowl!

So here it is just as I got it:

‘A little background:
Neiman-Marcus, if you don’t know already, is a very expensive boutique shop (they sell a typical $8.00 T-shirt for $50.00)
My daughter and I had just finished lunch at a Neiman-Marcus Cafe in Dallas, USA . Because both of us are such biscuit lovers, we decided to try the ‘Neiman-Marcus cookie’. It was so excellent that I asked if they would give me the recipe. The waitress said with a small frown, ‘I’m afraid not, but you can buy the recipe.’
I asked how much, and she responded; ‘Only two fifty – it’s a great deal’
I agreed to that, and told her to add it to my bill.
Thirty days later, I got my Visa statement, and the Neiman-Marcus charge was $285. I looked at it again, and I remembered I had only spent $9.95 for two sandwiches and about $20 for a scarf. At the bottom of the statement, it said, ‘Cookie Recipe – $250.00’. That was outrageous!
I called Neiman’s Accounting Department and told them the waitress had said it was ‘two fifty’, which clearly does not mean ‘two hundred and fifty dollars’ by any reasonable interpretation of the phrase. Neiman-Marcus refused to budge. They would not refund my money because according to them; ‘What the waitress told you is not our problem. You have already seen the recipe. We absolutely will not refund your money.
I explained to the Accounting Department lady the criminal statutes which govern fraud in the state of Texas. I threatened to report them to the Better Business Bureau and The Texas Attorney General’s office. I was basically told: Do what you want. Don’t bother thinking of how you can get even, and don’t bother trying to get any of your money back’
I said, OK, you’ve got my $250, and now I’m going to have $250 worth of fun. I told her that I was going to see to it that every cookie lover in the world with an e-mail account gets a $250 cookie recipe from Neiman-Marcus for free. She replied, ‘I wish you wouldn’t do that.’ I said, ‘Well, perhaps you should have thought of that before you RIPPED ME OFF!’ and slammed down the phone.
So here it is! Please pass it on to everyone you can possibly think of. I paid $250 for this, and I don’t want Neiman-Marcus to EVER make another penny from this recipe!’
NEIMAN-MARCUS COOKIES (Recipe may be halved as this makes heaps)
2 (500 ml) cups butter
680 g chocolate chips
4 (1000 ml) cups flour
2 (500 ml) cups brown sugar
2 tsp. (10 ml) Bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp. (5 ml) salt
2 (500 ml) cups sugar
500 g Grated Cadbury chocolate
5 (1250 ml) cups blended oatmeal
4 eggs
2 tsp. (10 ml) baking powder
2 tsp. (10 ml) vanilla
3 cups (375 ml) chopped nuts (optional)
Measure oatmeal, and blend in a blender to a fine powder. Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and bicarbonate of soda. Add chocolate chips, grated Chocolate and nuts. Roll into balls, and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees (180 ˚C).
The above quantities make 112 cookies. Enjoy!