Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Weddings and Science

This week-end we took advantage of the off peak travel offers and took a day trip to London.  We had a busy day, starting off with the National Wedding Show at Olympia, followed by a trip to the Science Museum and finishing off by meeting up with a dear friend in the evening for a meal in Shepherd's Bush.

First of all, I need to share something with you, and that is that I am a "bride to be" and will be getting married later this year.  Don't be surprised if some of my posts in the coming weeks take on a wedding theme as I uncover new topics as part of my adventure into wedding planning.

Vintage Cafe at the Wedding Show

I probably wouldn't have gone to the wedding show had I not been fortunate enough to win a pair of tickets.  It was an interesting place to visit though to check out all the latest trends.  Another reason I was keen to visit is that I will not only be making my own wedding jewellery, but I'll be including wedding jewellery in future Cocopopia jewellery collections, and so was keen to see what was currently popular in the world of wedding jewellery.

Two of the big trends at the moment are decorated London taxi cabs and photo booths - this vehicle did both!

We also sampled some cocktails and wine and attended a mini workshop on how to look good in photographs (don't worry, I'll be sharing some tips with you about that in a future post!).

I came away with a jam-packed goody bag which included samples of coffee, low calorie sugar, some fake tan, 2 lipsticks, 2 nail varnishes, some body polish, some moisturizer, some intensive hair repair conditioner, a wedding magazine, hairspray, some dried flowers confetti and a mini make-up bag.

I could have stayed longer but we had a prior arrangement with the Science Museum, and so my husband to be (aka Mr Cocopopia) dragged me away before I was able to persuade him he needed to attend a workshop on flower arranging ...

Monday, 24 February 2014

A Beautiful Monday

This morning, as I woke up and slowly opened my eyes, I noticed there was a strange orange glow in the bedroom.  At first, I thought there must be a fire somewhere, and then I realised I was experiencing the sunrise.  Its just that we don't seem to have had a clear morning for so long, I'd almost forgotten what it's like to be woken up by the sun!  Its also a case of the timing of my alarm coincides with the sunrise itself at the moment.  It was gorgeous and put me in a great mood for a Monday morning.

I also returned home from work to find a package waiting for me - a lovely, special and completely unexpected gift posted to me by my auntie.

I then went onto the computer to check my e-mails, and received some great news from my sister regarding a forthcoming visit.

And later this afternoon, I had a moment of pure inspiration and came up with the answer to something I have been looking for over the past 2 months.

I have a feeling this is going to be a good week...

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Monster In The Loft

Well its not a huge monster, in fact its a very tiny monster, but in the insect world, its a monster all the same.

I'm almost 100% sure we have a harlequin ladybird sharing our loft space with us.  

In the daytime he finds a nice quiet corner to snooze in and then in the evening, when the lights are on and the room warms up, he comes out to play.  He'll fly around the spotlights a lot but last night he was particularly bold walking around on my desk.

The cats are irritated by him because they are unable to catch him and so they have to be content with sitting looking upwards and flexing their necks around and around in circles (as though doing cat neck muscle exercises) while they try and follow its flight path.

I call it a monster because it is a particularly invasive species and is said to present a danger to our native ladybirds.  They are said to be household pests and are known to bite people (it did land on my face yesterday but flew off again without taking a bite!).

My dilemma now is do I get rid of it or just let it be?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

A Week-End of Extreme Weather

February this year has thrown extremes of weather at us.  Its not been particularly cold, but there have been severe storms where most of the country (but particularly the South West, Wales and the Thames Valley) have taken more or less constant battering from the high winds and continuous heavy rainfall. A lot of people are trying to rebuild their homes and their lives as a consequence.

Even though we have been starting to get a little used to the storms, last Friday's was probably one of the worst - during the night the wind howled and the windows rattled and many local roads became flooded - and remain so.

Saturday was a day of "recovery" and then Sunday was pure bliss.  The wind had dropped right down and the sun was out.  We went for a mid-morning walk along the beach and couldn't believe how many people were out so early for a Sunday morning in February - joggers, dog walkers, families all out experiencing the weather conditions they had all been craving for days.  Even the seagulls seemed to be full of joy, bobbing about on the gentle waves - and judging by the anglers lined up along the beachfront, it seemed that the strong winds had brought an abundance of "seafood" into shore.

Mr Cocopopia tries a spot of jewellery making from nature's bounty

It made for interesting walking, strolling along the beach with so many strange objects and examples of sea life washed ashore but also quite sad to see some of the carnage such as "mermaid's purses" (shark egg cases), damaged clam shells and lobster, crab and starfish sections.  There was also plenty of seaweed scattered around.  

I'd taken my camera but forgotten to grab the batteries which had just been re-charged, so experimented with my very basic phone camera instead.  I don't own a smartphone, but a cheap and slightly old-fashioned Nokia, but I was quite happy with the pictures it produced as an emergency back-up.


Friday, 14 February 2014

Gemstone Jewellery

chunky amethyst bracelet by Cocopopia

I love working with gemstones when jewellery making.  I have a fascination with these ancient (and I really do mean ancient!) materials which are found beneath the earth's surface - mother nature truly is the best artist of all.  I love the fact that they have been used and worn by different cultures throughout the ages and are still just as popular (if not more so) in the present day.  

I also love the fact that they carry with them myths and legends and that they are considered to carry magical and healing energies.  Whatever your belief, it can't be denied that a piece of gemstone jewellery will always be unique and have its own distinct natural beauty.

Gemstones are associated with different months of the year and this is not only linked in with individuals born during that particular month,but it is said that each birthstone has heightened powers during its associated month.  With this in mind, it helps me to work with themes and to feel more "in tune" with the gems as I work with them.  

amethyst bracelet in the Cocopopia Folksy shop

The main gemstone for February is amethyst, which is a great stone to work with because of the numerous variations in shade, from a light and delicate lavender pink to a robust deep purple.  Amethyst is always popular and a favourite for commissions.

I do need to start planning further ahead though, and looking ahead to March, there are aquamarine and bloodstone to choose from - two very different stones indeed.   

Friday, 7 February 2014

Double Chocolate Guinness Brownies

Being on a low gluten, vegetarian diet means making a little more effort to eat sufficient iron rich foods and also to consider the absorption of iron in order to avoid iron deficiency anaemia (vitamin C consumed at the same meal can help the absorption of iron, whereas tea, coffee, calcium and fibre can inhibit the absorption).  On two occasions I have had to do the walk of shame at the blood donor centre because I didn't pass the iron test.

Green leafy veg are rich sources of iron, but I hate the taste of broccoli and kale (which would be very good for me).  Fortunately I love watercress, rocket and spinach - in the winter these greens make great soups and then once the weather warms up, they make for tasty salads. I'm also trying to eat more nuts and raisins and sprinkle a mixed seed mix on my cereal every morning.  I also need to start eating amaranth - but I need to find some first!

Other good sources or iron are dark chocolate, dried fruit and Guinness and the recipe below includes all 3 - but is low gluten rather than gluten free.  I have slightly adapted this recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie to help give a daily iron boost and having tried them - all I can say is ... wow!!

Katie's recipe includes flaxmeal but as I didn't have any flaxmeal to hand (although I will be trying this next time as its very nutritious and also helps the brownies to be less crumbly), I swapped in 28g of gluten free oatmeal which worked quite well instead.  I also added half a cup of raisins which also worked really well - I may add a few more next time.

Thanks Katie for such a brilliant recipe - 1 tablet to be taken daily!!

Chocolate Guinness Brownies

  • 2 tbsp milk of choice (30g)
  • 1 cup Guinness (240g) (EDIT: I’ve just been informed that Guinness is technically not vegan, and I deeply regret my error! Vegans, feel free to use your favorite vegan stout in this recipe. Or 1 cup milk of choice may be substituted.)
  • optional: 2 tbsp flaxmeal (highly recommended so that they don’t crumble) (11g)
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp olive oil or vegetable or coconut oil (110g)
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract (15g)
  • 1 cup spelt, all-purpose, or Bob’s gf flour (120g)
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder (80g)
  • 1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar or date sugar (115g)
  • only if using Bob’s flour, add 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/3 cup stevia baking blend or regular sugar (you can reduce to 1/4 cup if you have no sweet tooth and are used to healthy desserts)
  • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips, optional
Preheat oven to 330F and grease a 9×13 pan. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all liquid ingredients and flaxmeal. In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine all remaining ingredients. Pour wet into dry, stir to combine, and pour into prepared pan. Bake 13-17 minutes (13 for fudge-like brownies, 17 for cakey brownies). Brownies will look underdone when they come out but this is okay! Let cool, then refrigerate overnight and the texture will firm up nicely. DO NOT eat until the next day, as the taste and texture will change while they set.

Guinness Brownies

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Valentine Inspired Jewellery

With Valentine's Day approaching, I'm feeling inspired to make more jewellery and to head off into some new creative directions.  At the moment, my head is buzzing with loads of new ideas and I can't decide where to go first!  

Rather than focus on one particular project, I've now got several on the go but it means that I can ponder ideas, reassess and hopefully improve until I'm happy with the final results.

However, this means that rather than getting anything completed, I've got several items half finished - but hopefully soon I'll have a batch of different items finished and ready to go into my Folksy shop

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Goodbye January

January weather on the south coast this year has been a mixture of everything, apart from snow (and its still not too late for that - we still had snow in March last year).  Due to the heavy rainfall over the past 2 months, there's a lot of mud about so it can restrict the choice of walk, but it hasn't stopped us from getting out.

A couple of weeks ago we were out in the Pyecombe area and could see the Jack and Jill Windmills in the distance (Jill is the white windmill, lower down the hill)

As we walked, we could hear the ringing of bells, which turned out to be coming from the sheep.  A few sheep from the herd were wearing bells and it sounded really lovely - quite old fashioned and reminded me of a previous walking holiday in the French mountains although the first time I've heard sheep bells on the Downs and, indeed, anywhere in this country.

We came across a rusty metal spike growing out of a tree.  This reminded me of the bicylce tree in Scotland which has over time swallowed up an anchor and a bicycle.

We continued walking and enjoying the scenery

As we completed our circular walk, we could see the weather in the distance closing in on us so perfect timing and time to head home for a hot mug of tea!