Friday, March 30, 2018

Homespun Things....Customised Luxury Chocolate block sleeve for gifting...

Do you despair at the quality of the chocolate available in Easter Eggs, and the lack of packaging for good chocolate that encourages gifting?
I may have a solution for you.
Earlier this week, I shared how I scan Instagram, boutique stores and online shops for inspiration for all kinds of gifts. I use this inspiration, planning ahead, to create all kinds of loveliness to gift to my friends and family. You can see that post here.
Here's an image I saw on Intagram this week. I do not know this chocolatier but I instantly fell in love with their packaging.
Feeling suitably inspired, I set about creating my own similar Chinoiserie Toile and Pagoda wrapper, using PicMonkey.
I made sure I used old designs, that do not have copyright attached to them.
I used the Toile as my base image, overlaying the Pagoda in PicMonkey, and adding flourishes and a label reading Atelier Bliss. I ensured my colours were compatible with the colours in the toile, printed it off, and voila! 
I had my customised wrapper!
Fortunately, an A4 sheet of paper is just the right size for wrapping a 100gm block of thin dark chocolate, so I was off and running. With minor adjustments to the positioning of the print, they will also fit a 200gm bar of chocolate.
Remove the cardboard packaging from your block of chocolate and discard it.

Leave the foil intact and turning it right side up, lay your sheet on the block of chocolate, lining it up so that the flourishes and labels are positioned correctly. I created this so that the flourishes finish at the edges top, bottom, and sides. Press along the edges to mark where you'll be folding the sheet around the chocolate.

Decide whether you want to completely encase the chocolate like gift wrapping, or make a sleeve with a little foil peeking out top and bottom like the ones pictured.
I chose to completely enclose mine.
Trim the sheet to size, top and bottom, according to whether you're having foil peeking out, or enclosing like a gift.
Now double sided tape is useful for this, but you can use a hot glue gun or craft glue as well, although it's a bit trickier. I had double sided sticky tape so I used that.

Fold carefully along your creases and wrap the bar, so that the flourishes are all in place. Flip over and use the tape or glue to secure at the back.
Flip over and check that all is straight and neat, then fold and finish as if gift wrapped if required, or if you're having a foil peek, you're done.

I even have customised ribbon printed with the name Atelier Bliss, so I used a length of that to add a final touch. I bought 50 metres three years ago, and it's still going! It's a useful idea to have little things like this as they really give your gifts a professional touch.
You could also use Wedgewood Blue, Mint Green, Lemon, Tan or Gold ribbon as that would pick up the colours in the toile beautifully. Grosgrain or Velvet ribbon would be particularly nice.

And you're done. A $2.50 block of chocolate, given the $12 luxury treatment. Nobody will know but you...shhhh....
Even printed in black and white, with a simple black ribbon, this would look superb.

I have given you free PDF downloads of four different luxury chocolate block sleeves, so that you too, can create your own special gifts.
One is the more pastel version pictured above, and the second is a more dramatic colourway with a distinctive linen look which I paired with a sliver of narrow powder blue ribbon used as an accentuating band at the top of the chocolate block (see below)...
.. the third echoes the raspberry red one in my photo used for inspiration...
... I was fortunate to have a roll of Washi tape that complemented this beautifully. I'm sorry I can't tell you where it came from. I picked it up in a bag of craft supplies at a thrift store, but I'm sure there are similar ones available. Note that this one is a little smaller, and will have white edges. I trimmed mine top and bottom to have the chocolate foil peeking out, but needed the sides to wrap and meet at the back of the chocolate bar.
And the fourth features elegant Geisha girls and a pastel label. I highlighted this one with lilac spotted grosgrain ribbon.

I can't choose a favourite!
Note that colours may vary upon reproduction depending upon the view on your monitor, and the ink in your printer. Mine print out much paler than they appear on my own monitor, so be aware.
Here they are for your enjoyment....
Chinoiserie Toile Chocolate Sleeve
Chinoiserie Toile Chocolate Sleeve 2
Chinoiserie Toile Chocolate Sleeve 3
Chinoiserie Toile Chocolate Sleeve 4
I hope you find them useful.
These are my own creations, for your personal use only, and not to be used for profit or gain, without my express permission.
Have fun!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Insourcing...making gifts and planning ahead...

Do you have a gift budget? Or do you just spend as required? Does this mean you sometimes overspend?
Do you admire those who always seem to have the knack of gifting something unusual?
Do you wish you were one of those people who always has the right unique gift on hand for impromptu (or planned) gifting?
News flash.
It's not hard. And you don't have to be a crafting guru to manage it.
You just need to plan ahead.
Look at these precious things. Little gilt embossed 10ml atomisers, embellished with tiny black grosgrain bows, and filled with customised essential oil fragrance blends.
I made 6 of them in less than an hour BUT I had to plan ahead.
You see one of my goals for this year, was to teach myself how to blend essential oil perfumes. I have Annabel at The Bluebirds are Nesting to thank for reigniting my interest in essential oils this year. She's been running a series on The Home Pharmacy, and having a Mum who was hugely into natural was a winner at first sight.
We are big on scent of all types in our home, and so little DIY scents seemed like a clever thing to do. I already had a stockpile of lovely oils left over from soap making and body product manufacturing of all kinds over the last few years. So really...why not?
Fortunately little perfumes are dead easy to make and master, and after a small amount of research, I was able to concoct 5 different potions, each with their own unique loveliness.
But FIRST, I had to find suitable atomisers. These caught my eye with their delicate gilt embossing. You can find them here. They were ridiculously inexpensive, but took about a month to arrive.
I'd done my research (this is important so that you can determine how you want your gifts to look), and decided that these Guerlain atomisers was the look I was after.

I think my representation is along the same lines. Simple, elegant, yet eye catching. The thing is to seek inspiration, not replication.

Powder puffs were on the to-do list this year as well. Annabel also has wonderful ideas for these. You can find them here.
Annabels look like this...

...I try never to copy someone elses idea slavishly, so my first ones are polar fleece with oversized pastel chiffon bows, and look like this....
These are scented with a chocolate powder sachet inside them and I bought the Chocolate Fragrance Oil here. I mixed it with cornflour and popped it into a little paper swatch, and hid it inside the stuffing of the powder puff. These will be the most adorable Easter gifts, and calorie free!

This pretty rose stamped gift wrap is made with the cut bottom of a bunch of celery, and a simple black stamp pad, found at any stationers. Who'd think celery could look so lovely? I stamped Butchers paper, but brown paper would be just as beautiful. That's the sort stuff you buy by weight from wholesale stationers or party supplies.

I spotted these lovely wrapped chocolates on Instagram and just knew I'd be replicating them for Easter as well. I have done these before and you can see my version here. To me, this looks like wallpaper samples, so I know where I'm off to this afternoon. There's a wallpaper supplier right near where I live, so I'll be putting on my best smile and simply asking if they'd sell me some swatches, and see what happens!

A simple gift of Miracle Cleaner in a pretty cut glass bottle with gingham cloths cut from recycled sheets can be a lovely housewarming gift for the right person. This is another idea I got from Annabel. You can see her post on Miracle cleaner and pretty cloths here.

This sublime Laduree cup has me brainstorming how to make a similar cover for coffee cups. I'm thinking pistachio velvet and gold cord.
You see, there is inspiration everywhere. You just have to...
Be aware, and look for opportunities.
Think don't have to replicate exactly...use the idea and make it your own.
Package your gifts makes all the difference.
You can do it.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Motherly Advice...Dont make your own life difficult...Part 3...Get Things Done...

Avoiding something doesn't make it go away.
That goes for preparing for events like birthdays, Christmas, and Easter, paying the bills, going to the doctor because you've found a lump, doing the housework, and having that awkward chat with a family member or friend.
Yes, we all get tired. We all feel overwhelmed sometimes. We all feel sad, anxious, out of sorts, forgotten, unloved, or unappreciated occasionally. Nobody really derives pleasure from the unpleasant tasks in life.
But I'm going to go against mainstream thinking and say that that is no excuse for not tackling them. None of those scenarios is going to improve without action of some sort. 
Now before you drown me in the specifics of your own situation, I'll say I don't know your situation. I'm not saying that Depression and Anxiety as clinical conditions aren't a serious matter. They are, and treatment of these conditions can be complex and lifelong.
I'm just talking about those days when you don't feel like doing anything. Those days when the couch or the laptop are calling and there's a million reasons to respond to the call, and just lounge about.
 Those days when you have a million things on your mind and can't seem to separate them into what matters and what really doesn't.
Those days when you feel like you're moving through oil.
Maybe it's hormonal. Maybe you suffer from a diagnosed condition where your energy levels fluctuate. Maybe you're feeling a little burned out for whatever reason. I know. I've been there too.
But can I share something? The only way I got through those times was to keep going

I kept going by doing one thing that needed to be done...the laundry, the vacuuming, the tidying...then rewarding myself with one thing I wanted to do...bake, sew, write.
Then one more essential, and one more pleasurable task. Mums mantra always in my head 'Do one thing, then just do one thing more'.
I was tired this weekend just gone. I don't know why. Maybe it's just a stage of life thing. 58 ain't 18, that's for sure.
I could have lounged around happily, and achieved absolutely nothing. But I can tell you, I would have been disappointed in myself come Monday morning. Doing 'nothing' all weekend, might be some peoples idea of a good time, but it's not for me.
The laundry basket would have been even more full, my daughter would have had to buy her lunch at an expensive cafĂ©, which she can't afford as a student, the dog and his bedding would have been smelly, the pantry and refrigerator would have been empty...and all of that would have cost us precious time, energy and money that we don't want to use unnecessarily.
Instead, the washing got done...six loads in under three hours on one day. I just got into a rhythm with it, and didn't think about it too much.
It took just ten minutes to bathe the dog, and another 2 minutes to change his doggie bed linen. Washing the dirty blanky was a single load of washing and a toss in the dryer.
I dragged myself to the smaller local supermarket (not Aldi that day as I would have had to pack the groceries myself and that just seemed all too hard), and did a half weeks worth of grocery shopping so I wouldn't have too much to unpack once I got home. That will hold us till Wednesday, when I'll feel a bit more energetic hopefully.
I spent just two hours baking brownies, cookies, cheese muffins, and turkey meatballs, and got the mixed dried fruit soaking to bake a fruit cake. There was enormous pleasure in seeing my daughter pack her lunch today, knowing she was saving up to $30 by NOT having to buy food out. AND the fridge is full of goodies for snacks, meals and treats.
I then treated myself to some creative time, and made powder puffs and Easter Bunny footprint cookies, for Easter Gifts.

I used my time wisely to Get Things Done. I felt GOOD.
It really worries me that 'doing nothing' is sort of condoned these days. I'm all for having a Mental Health Day and all that, but mostly, life is about having to Get Things Done, isn't it? Even celebrities have to Get Things Done. They might have someone else to do the mundane tasks, but they still have to Get Things Done. It's just that their Things they have Get Done, are different to ours. Getting Things Done makes you feel Good. Procrastinating does not.
Change your mind set.
Instead of seeing your day to day tasks, whatever they may be, as some sort of insurmountable hill of dirty work, try to see them as an opportunity.
An opportunity to make your home more welcoming and comfortable.
An opportunity to look and smell nice.
An opportunity to save your family money.
An opportunity to feed yourself and your family healthfully and pleasurably.
An opportunity to spend time with your pet and make their life more comfortable too.
An opportunity to get to the end of the day, and feel good about what you've achieved.
Today is an opportunity.
How will you use it?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Authentically You...Role Models...Nigella Lawson...

We've been discussing Role Models this year.
My personal role model is Dita Von Teese, not for her Burlesque talents, but for her inimitable style.
We've also discussed Babe Paley and Adele.
Last week, my friend Suzannah, asked me if I could do a post on Nigella Lawson. She feels that her body type most resembles Nigella's, and wanted some tips on being Nigella-ish.
I was excited to hear this as Nigella is a well known Apple shaped celebrity, so she's a wonderful role model for we Apple shaped ladies. 
As we did with Adele, note at the top of my post, and here below, the transformation that Nigella has gone through since she achieved celebrity status.
She's always been a very attractive woman, but as is the case for us all, she didn't really hit her stride until she had some professional guidance.
I keep saying that the first step in looking your best is to know your body shape.
Above, you can see that earlier in her life, Nigella was focused on being 'fashionable' rather than 'stylishly dressed for body shape'. The pink ensemble in the first picture, although pretty, wasn't really doing that much for her in terms of flattering her shape, and her hair was sort of long and nondescript. A youthful look and pretty at the time, for sure.
In the second pic, she's starting to find her inner glamour puss, and steps out a year or two later in some slenderising black with interesting neck detail. Nice.
Then we see her in this fabulous red wiggle dress. Hair tumbling around her face in a profusion of soft curls, the sweetheart neckline drawing attention to her beautiful complexion and pretty features.
Then back to basic black but with an eye to achieving a figure flattering look for a cold day.

 You see, looking great for your shape, isn't just about wearing figure flattering clothes.
It's about being aware of how a simple hairstyle and touch of makeup draws attention to the features we want to accentuate, whilst playing down the ones we'd prefer ignored.
Above, we see Nigella at her first book signing, looking au naturel and very pretty for it.
But here below, with a whisper of makeup, sparkly earrings, a more open neckline, and a flirtation with hot rollers on her locks, she's an absolute stunner.
Honestly, any of us can do this.

So now Nigellas discovered hot rollers and a neckline that draws attention to her lovely face and hair (and other assets!), and she sets about using that knowledge to her advantage as often as possible.
Here she is on the cover of one of her books.
Open neckline which draws the eye to her face.
Cardigan in a flattering colour creates a slenderising column centre front and covers wobbly upper arms.
Tumbling locks, and a touch of feature enhancing makeup and she's the Nigella we all know and love.

Again, below, the open neckline, a cute cropped cardi to create that all important slimming column-of-colour centre front, and soft curls.
Now just to show how it can all still go dreadfully wrong, see here below, where Nigella has chosen a dress, that according to all the experts, should be an absolute winner for the Apple shaped woman.
But this is a great example of how simple details make a difference.
Nigella looks lovely here, BUT, the shiny fabric, and awkward cut on the neckline, do not do her justice. The shiny satin draws attention to her bustline and not much else. And not in a good way. In fact the dress looks so snug across the bust that it looks like it's the wrong size for her. And the black, just drains her in this dress.
Imagine for a moment, that the neckline on this satin wrap dress was slightly more open, and that the fabric is velvet, not satin, navy blue not black. The effect would be entirely different and far lovelier, yes?
But when Nigella gets it right, she's a star.
I love her in this pretty retro styled dress, with tiny belt...

...continuing that theme with another retro inspired fit and flare style....

....and then returning to the Wiggle dress, which I think is a win for her no matter what the colour...
...basic black.. snorting red...
...or magical shape changing midnight blue...
...they're all stunning.
Two short years ago, I did not dream I could style a wiggle dress to suit me, but here I am now...
I'm no Nigella, but I'm trying folks.
Here are some tips to be more Nigella-ish...
1. Use the magic figure enhancement of shapewear. That stuff has come a long way, and a well fitted (strapless if necessary) bra, and hip and tummy huggers, will give you a more sculpted silhouette.
2. Keep your fit and flare and wiggle dresses just above or just below the knee, especially for we ladies under 165cm (5'3"). You need to show the bottom of your legs to add the illusion of height to your frame.
3. Use open necklines to draw the eye upwards to your lovely face and hair. Sweetheart, open V, square, boat, scooped...they're all great and make the most of your other 'assets'.
4. Use the illusion of sparkle or pearl earrings to keep the attention around your facial features.
5. Use the faithful cardigan or little fitted jackets to create a centre column-of-colour to trick the eye into 'seeing you slim'.
6. Likewise a slightly longer hairstyle, softened with tumbling curls, can be flattering if you can manage and maintain it. Otherwise, use long dangling earrings to slim and frame your face. Having longer hair also gives you the versatility to scoop that hair up and away and enhance your lovely neck and shoulders.
7. Nude shoes with a heel, or nude wedges are your best friend. They add height and give you a long and lean look.
8. If your upper arms, like mine, are no longer sleek and toned, then cardigans, bolero jackets, wisps of chiffon as wraps or features on an evening gown like the gorgeous blue one seen above on Nigella, can all disguise this fault. Wearing chain type bracelets can also draw attention to your dainty wrists and away from upper arms.
9. Be aware that simply changing a neckline, or the length of a chain store dress, can take it from meh to WOW! If you're not much of a seamstress, then a good dressmaker can help.
10. Note also that fabric choice can make or break a look. Satins are not necessarily friendly to Apple shapes. Velvets, crepe, cottons, linen, and especially more structured fabrics like satin brocades can be wonderfully flattering, skimming our curves and maintaining the shape of an outfit. I tell you this from experience!
Here's a satin brocade dress I purchased recently...
... I am the same weight I was a year ago, but when I wear this dress, everyone thinks I've lost ten kilos (22lbs)!
You see the structure of the's very stiffness... helps the dress hold it's shape, rather than moulding to my lumps and bumps. And unlike plain shiny satin, the embroidery on the brocade, disguises a multitude of figure faults. It's brilliant I tell you.
I'm short at 163cms (5'3").
I weigh 84kgs (185lbs).
I am an Australian size 16-18.
I'm wearing wiggle dresses and fit and flare dresses like there's no tomorrow.
You can too.
Do it. Life is short.

A New You....Dressing the Petite Plus Sized Apple Shape #2...the Shoe...

Can I tell you why this could be the shoe that I've been searching for my whole life?
I love a gorgeous shoe. Nay, I have a passion for gorgeous shoes.
Way back when I was a fab young thing, I'd spend a disproportionate  amount of my earnings, on shoes.
To this day, when dressing each morning, I spend more deciding which shoes to wear, than anything else.
An increasing waistline, and a number on the scales that still surprises me (and not in a good way!), means that for the most part, I had abandoned my shoe fetish, and resorted to 'anything that doesn't cripple me'.
But a recent revelation from some more savvy fashion folk than I, made me zoom in on my keyboard, searching 'Medium Heel Peeptoe Shoe', like there was no tomorrow.

See, first up, we curvy girls of the 'under 5'5" range, need a bit of height to lend a slender illusion to our frame. But frequently, that means tottering around in heels that see us looking more like an oversized body on a pair of pins, than we would prefer. A gentler look, and one that sees us walking more elegantly, is a wedge heel, or a conical or block heel. We still gain height (AKA long and lean), but we walk more gracefully, and do not look like we're walking on chopsticks in the process.
Additionally, we seek an open look shoe, without straps, ankle straps or T-bars, that would shorten the look of our feet, to add that much needed loooooong look to our feet and legs. But plain old court shoes (pumps) can be a little granny-ish in a lower heel, yes?
A cute peeptoe cutout is one answer I've found. Keep the peeptoe cutout small, to give your feet a dainty look, and aim for some 'toe cleavage', where the joins between your toes, show in the open part of the shoe from top view. This gives that lovely loooooong look that we petite curvy girls need.
A slingback as opposed to a closed in heel, is a nice youthful look that will take you anywhere.
This style of shoe, will allow me to wear skirts and dresses with confidence (so long as they are knee length, or just below and no longer), knowing that I have my bit of height, and a long and lean look to carry it off.
I found my dream shoe online eventually, staying focused, checking heel heights, and looking for just that perfect combination of toe cleavage and peeptoe. I was finally rewarded as you see by the pictures here. This style is by Gino Ventori and it's called Foxy Black. I bought mine from Style Tread here in Australia, and they were $169.95. I call that a bargain for the number of times I plan to wear these little pretties!

What's your perfect shoe?