Friday, 23 June 2017

Gucci, Embroidery & Roses on Black Leather

There has been a combination that I have loved for as long as I can remember (not that that is saying much these days ! ;-) It is traditional eastern European style flowers and embroidery on a black background. It was a big inspiration for me a couple of years ago when I started to design the 'Make Peace not war Collection'

It is also something that has inspired me on my next creative project. Unusually this is something just for me, nothing to do with work, just a personal project.

Last year I saw this jacket  by Gucci and I thought, mmmmm me wanty. But me cannot havey because it costs silly money...

Still, it didn't leave my mind because it featured several of my favourite and embroidery on black, leather bikers jackets and studs... all together, all at once, in the same place! too fabulous.

I decided I wanted to do something like this but make it more me, and more affordable of course. I looked forever for the perfect plain black leather jacket that I could augment but I never found anything that was 100% right so I ended up using an old cropped leather jacket from my ancient past.

I found a really lovely embroidered mesh top from Zara for next to nothing, so I've cut out all the bits of embroidery and have started sewing them onto the jacket.

Once, I've sewn on all the bits of appliqué I'm going to add a bit of leather to make it longer then start putting the studs on, which is going to be epic! There are about 200 of them to screw in. I'll show you pictures as I go on with it. If you love embroidery and fabulous bohemian clothes then you must check out my Pinterest Board of My Favourite Clothes

Today is Midsommar here in Sweden and a very important day for celebrating it is! Many strawberries will be consumed, there may be silly dancing around pagan looking May poles, but whatever way you are celebrating today, have wonderful day and I hope you have good weather!

Friday, 16 June 2017

AirBnB... Are you Late to the Party?

I'm going away to Ibiza in a few weeks, for a photoshoot, and I was looking into hotels...all either fully booked or stupidly expensive and then I thought 'Air BnB!' Well it might have been my mate that suggested it... I'm still bit new to Air BnB. Only used 1 once before and it is not what I first think of when I need to sort out accommodations. But my mate Janice is next to a professional traveller and Air BnB is her bitch so she sussed out a fantastic place for us to stay in Ibiza. I mean could choose this...

or for half the price you can have this all to yourselves...

I mean seriously! What would you choose?
Not convinced yet? ok you can have this outside your room...

or this...

And it costs half the price, comes with excellent local knowledge and a helpful host... Well you can see which I chose and that is where we will be going in a couple of weeks. Can't wait!

Yesterday I booked another Air BnB for the family, a long weekend in a cottage with a big pool, just a few hours drive away. I just thought it would be fun for the girls to have their own pool for a bit and none of us like becoming an ingredient in the human soup that is our local public pool but the girls really need to practice and have fun in the water. So, this might be more expensive than a family of 4 getting tickets to the local pool but it will be soooo much nicer and worth every kronor (penny ;-)

Friday, 9 June 2017

When is it ok to say 'That's a Mans job'?

Ok, before you get all heated under your hood, let me just put it out there that I'm a committed Feminist. I know that women deserve equal pay, equal rights and opportunities and that we are still viewed as commodities. That we are patronised, exploited and generally have a more challenging time moving ahead in business and balancing the job of baring the next generation. But when is it ok to say 'I'm not doing that. Thats a mans job!'?

Recently I found myself in a bit of a difficult situation... My street is very community minded and we gather twice a year to beautify, tidy and maintain our lovely neighbourhood. I was given the job of helping a big strapping dad lay the speed bumps down on the road. These are super heavy and it is hard dirty work. I didn't really want to do it but I'm no idle princess so I just got on with it. I'm sure I was close to busting some important inner body part when a lovely old fella said ' You shouldn't be doing that! Thats a mans job!' He rushed off and found another strapping young fella to assist the first one. I'd nearly finished and my nose was a bit out of joint. I felt very conflicted, I was pissed off that they thought I couldn't handle it but I sort of couldn't. Ok, the fact is I could handle it but those big chaps can handle that kind of thing much better. You don't even want to know about the state of my nails!

But it got me thinking... what's the feminists line on 'Mens jobs'??? I notice that it was an older man that suggested It was 'Mans Work'...and I know that kind of thinking is often part of that generation. I mean my mum has definite opinions on what is women or mens work... Cleaning, tidying, ironing is basically women work. Plumbing, electrical stuff, car maintenance and heavy lifting all mans department. When it comes to strength related stuff, I can see what might be a mans job, but electrical stuff and certain car related things...hmmm... It all just panders to the view that women are weak and don't like to get dirty. Do men especially like to get dirty? Or do they just do it because it's expected?

I'm not looking for answers, every situation and person is different and that's the key really. But imagine a society of free individuals not held back by weird stereotypes and pre conceptions.... I think we are still pretty far away from that but it definitely gets better with every generation...

I love watching Super Girl with my kids. She is such a great role model and I love that my kids are growing up with female super heroes that are not sidekicks, not overtly sexual, just strong and powerful. I'm so looking forward to go see the new Wonder Woman movie! There was nothing like that when I was growing up. Back then, Wonder Woman was still a mans idea of a powerful woman but this time around...? I think she's gonna kick some ass!

Friday, 2 June 2017

Networking, Social Media, Ex Pats & Scared Hearts

When I was younger, you know, before the internet happened, I just had friends. We hung out, did stuff, it was all good. Now we have networks. We have compartmentalised groups of friends which we socialise with for specific reasons. Almost all of my human IRL interactions happen in neatly organised networks... I've got my bookclub, my Women's Entrepreneurs Network, I've got my Ex Pats in Sweden network. It is all very neat and tidy. ...
I'm not a robot though, I do have a few friends who I eat cake with, maybe look at art and have non specific chats with... it all works anyway...

One of the networks I belong to is  MamaMötet run by UK blogger in Stockholm Littlebearabroad which is a parents in Stockholm guide to whats on, where to eat, where to shop etc.... All the essential stuff you need to know, but don't know how to find, if you move to Stockholm and don't speak the language. MamaMötet is an evening mixer with informative talks and all very friendly and chilled. I love hearing English spoken by the natives, makes me feel all warm and nice inside.

Another network I belong to is the Scandisysters Collective. We are a bunch of business women who have set up a monthly blogging competition and this month I'm the host! Yep, Van Asch is taking the reins this month, so lets see what these clever bloggers can do with my cushions! I'll be blogging about that  more, later in the month, closer to when the winner gets announced at the end of June.

Now for something completely different... If you have been following my creative journey making a winged heart, my next step was painting the wings gold. I did this with gold metallic acrylic paint and a square ended brush. I didn't use much paint and put it on in very light strokes...

This weekend I'm starting on the heart...
I'm very inspired by the religious sacred hearts from Mexico and tattoo are some of my faves ...
                         This one is from Catbox Art Studio and they do loads of cool day of the dead stuff.

                      Just love this! Would make an excellent tattoo

And this super pretty beaded one is lovely, by artist Laurie Mika

If you want to see more of these lovely things then check out my Hearts Board on Pinterest

Friday, 26 May 2017

Crafty with Concrete

I just caught myself doing something very silly indeed... and I fear that I do this silly thing more often than I would like... I'll explain...
I am working on making something to photograph for my next cushion designs and I wanted to show you how I built what I am going to build. The first step was to paint some concrete angels wings a dark bloody brown. This give s great 3D effect and depth to the gold paint which goes on next. So I paint them, all good, then comes the silliness... I walk around my house looking for a nice spot to photograph them in, just to show this first stage. I walk around for ages, with 2 massive heavy concrete wings looking for a 'pretty spot'.

What nonsense! What time wastage! I didn't paint them on the piano, they are not finished, it's just a work-in-progress picture but I couldn't handle the ugly boring truth and I thought maybe you couldn't either ;-)
But I have underestimated you haven't I? Because here is that actual reality of the situation...
I used acrylic paints and mixed dark brown, black, a little red and a little dark blue with quite a lot of water to get a fairly thin paint so it would get into all the nooks and crannies and actually my kids painted them...

Anyway...that is a very long winded way of telling you that I'll be sharing with you my developments over the next few weeks as I make this thing...

If you like the look of those wings and want to get your own then check out my friend on instagram @concretebynoni

Next stage is building a big heart... I like that sentence, it could be a metaphor... but in this case it is not, I am going to actually build a big heart from papier Maché'll see...
This weekend looks set to be a right crafty one!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Olive Oil, Orange & Rosemary Cake Recipe

I'm mad for cakes but I'm also mad about healthy eating, so any recipes that I can find for 'healthy' cakes, well, I'm all in! What do I mean healthy cakes? Well, if the butter and milk is substituted for olive oil, which gives a very moist and smooth consistency and where most or all of the white sugar is substituted for brown and the recipes doesn't use much. That's about the best we can hope for. I have tried making vegan raw cakes and whilst they are edible, I would not describe them as delicious.

So I saw this recipe in the International New York Times newspaper and the original version of this cake is by top British chef Yotam Ottolenghi but I've tweaked the recipe just a wee bit. And yes, there is an element to this cake that is a bit of a hassle but it is worth doing if you can be bothered...

For the Crystallized Rosemary:
12 small rosemary sprigs. That is the little tops of each sprig
1 egg white lightly whisked
2 teaspoons granulated or superfine sugar.

For the Cake:
2 cups/240 grams all purpose flour
3/4 cup /160 ml extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup / 120 grams brown sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (from 1 large orange)
2 tablespoons of finely chopped rosemary (be careful to only take the leaves, no twigs)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup / 130 grams sour cream 
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Icing:
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
enough Icing sugar to mix into a smooth and pourable icing

1. Prepare the crystallised rosemary.
use tweezers or similar to pinch the very ends of the little sprigs of rosemary, one at a time. Dip them in the whisked egg white, brush off the excess egg and them dip them into the sugar, making sure they are coated evenly. Put them aside on a plate and allow the crystallising process about 6 hours before you use them.

2. Making the cake.
Heat oven to 170 Degrees C and line the bottom a baking tray with baking paper, around 25 x 20 cm. I usually let the paper go up the sides too. 
Put olive oil, brown sugar (make sure there are no lumps) orange zest and chopped rosemary leaves in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until combined then add the eggs and whisk for another minute until thick. Add the sour cream and mix on low speed for another minute.
Add sifted flour, baking powder and salt to the olive oil mixture and mix for about 1 to 2 minutes.
Scrape the lovely batter into the baking tray and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let it stand for 10 minutes before you turn it out onto a board.

TIPS!! If you have a bread board with a groove all around the edge, this is a good idea to use incase you miscalculate the runniness of your icing. Then if it runs off the cake it will catch in the grooves and you can scoop it back up and put it on the cake again. As it dries it hardens so you only need do this for about 5 minutes

3. Making the icing.
Put the juices into a small bowl and begin to add the icing sugar. You will need a surprisingly large amount of the stuff. Just keep mixing until you have a smooth and fairly thick consistency. You want it to run a bit so that it will spread thinly and evenly over the whole cake and down the sides. This icing is intense so it is important that the end result is a very thin layer on the cake, otherwise it will overwhelm.
When the cake is cooled you can drizzle the icing over. Once the icing has hardened you can mark out the cut lines and add a crystallised sprig of rosemary to the centre of each square.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Castles, Customers & Cooking

I've had quite the dynamic week since my last Friday morning blog...

Straight afterwards I popped down to one of my stockists Present Erian. They were having a big party day with lots of offers, free samples, sponsors and stuff. I got to meet some of my customers which was really nice because I don't often get to meet them in person... due to being in my creative cave most of the time and also because I sell to shops and not directly to the public... I don't get to fraternise with the folk nearly enough.

Here is Anette, who owns the store, and yours truly...

And my well stocked Van Asch corner...

I also got to meet Kristoffer who is the friendly face and founder  behind K.Lundqvist, purveyors of gorgeous smelly things. I highly recommend his Black Cashmere scented candles, so luxurious!

Last weekend I discovered Wenngarn castle and I can't tell you how impressed I was with the place.

I didn't really know what to expect because I knew nothing about it other than you could eat cake there... This is enough information for me, so off the whole family went to have a day out, and we were not disappointed. Firstly, there are loads of places to eat, so whether you want proper food or just cakey nibbles, there are several options for both. We ate lunch at the tex mex restaurant, very rustic, super nice food, if a little over priced, then checked out the loppis (flea market). We did a lot of wandering around the grounds with the dog and only went into the actual castle as a bit of an after thought. Well, thank the Goddess we did! It was very warm in there, a welcome respite from the chill outside and the first thing I noticed was the small of cake so we checked out the cute little cafe in there, staffed by the most friendly and informative people then we went to check out the castle proper. What is immediately apparent and rather strange, in a good way, is that this is an 'open' castle. What that means is that you can pretty much go anywhere, do anything (within reason) and there is no-one there watching over you. Seriously, you can sit on the furniture, you could have  picnic up there if you wanted to.

The only rule is no eating or silly nonsense in the chapel... that seems more than reasonable...

It's not the over the top, opulent rococo, 'look but don't touch' vibe of most of the castles I been to, no this is another thing entirely. It's all about the vibe and the vibe is good! On the top floor there was a Yoko Ono wishing  tree which was just lovely, and really funny and also rather touching to read...


I asked the owner of the castle cafe if I could do a photoshoot upstairs and who I should ask about that, she said I could just rock up and do what ever I wanted so long as I was respectful and not annoying anyone... I'm paraphrasing obviously, who says 'rock up'? just me really... anyway, I was very surprised and I will indeed be rocking up there with an armload of cushions to take some photos in the near future..oh yes lovely castle, we will be back!

My last thing to mention is that I cooked the most delicious cake yesterday, a very odd recipe but totally delicious and I'm going to share it with you next Friday... until then... have a wonderful weekend you lovely peeps!