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Win a Set of Lifestyle Books

11 Jun

We’ve reviewed most of these books on the site and now you can win a set for yourself. Just sign up to our mailing list between now and the end of June to be in with the chance of getting your hands on all five books – 82 Modern Style Ideas to Create at Home, A Girl’s Guide to DecoratingHow to Make Jewellery With Tatty DevineMiss Hope’s Teatime Treats and The WAH Nails Book of Nail Art.

Thanks to the publishers Ebury Publishing, Hardie Grant and Murdoch Books for the review copies and thanks to Katie for donating one of her own.


Book Review: The Wah Nails Book of Nail Art

4 Jun

Nail art is huge at the moment, even royalty are doing it (Princess Eugenie had Union Jacks on her fingernails at the Epsom Derby on Saturday!) but who better to bring out a book on the subject but Sharmadean Ried, the founder of WAH Nails.

Sharmadean opened her first WAH Nails salon in Dalston in London in 2009 and the brand’s popularity soon caught the eye of national retailers, leading to a pop up shop in Selfridges and a permanent space in the Oxford Street branch of Top Shop.

The book takes the WAH style and shows you how to do it yourself. There are 25 projects, starting with their original leopard print design, each with a step by step illustration.

This comic book style is one of my favourites.

The cover gives the impression that the book is aimed at teens but the design inside is a funky scrapbook style which I think has wider appeal. I’m dying to give some of the projects a go but need to invest in some nail-art pens to do the more intricate parts of design. I’ll share the results when I do.

The WAH Nails Book of Nail Art is a very cool book which teaches you the WAH techniques and designs and gives you the inspiration to start doing your own nail art.

Thank you to the publisher @hardiegrantuk for sending us a copy.

Book Review – 82 Modern Style Ideas to Create a Home

27 Apr

82 Modern Style Ideas to Create at Homeis a book of home styling ideas taken from the Australian magazine Inside Out, with special projects by Tamara Maynes ‘the Queen of Australian craft’.

Projects range from wall decoration to livening up ceramics and making Christmas decorations. This isn’t a step by step guide but rather inspiration and ideas that you can adapt for your own home. Some examples are…

Use blackboard paint to give a piece of furniture a new look.

Frame pretty wrapping papers and floral pictures and layer the frames resting on a mantlepiece or on the floor.

Paint your own pattern, they’ve used stripes here, as a splashback and cover with glass to protect it.

There are lots of ideas especially for beginners but if you’re a relatively seasoned interior designer/crafter you might find it a little simple.

This book was kindly sent to us by the publishers Murdoch Books.

Ottolenghi – Surprise Tatin

22 Apr

If you have been lucky enough to have visited one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurants or tried out his recipes from The Guardian or his books Ottolenghi: The Cookbook or Plenty then you will already know that his food his amazing. For those who aren’t already acquainted with it I suggest you put that right now with this lovely potato tart that I made last week. I never thought about putting potatoes in a tart but it’s lovely, filling and the ingredients are relatively cheap so it’s a great cheap but impressive lunch dish for friends, served with a green salad.

Serves 4

200g cherry tomatoes

2tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling over the tomatoes and for the tin

500g baby potatoes (skins on)

1 large onion, thinly sliced

40g sugar

10g butter

3 oregano sprigs

150g hard goat’s cheese, sliced

1 puff pastry sheet, rolled thinly

salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 130 degree/ Gas Mark 1/2. Halve the tomatoes and place them side-sound down on a baking sheet. Drizzle over some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the oven to dry for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 25 minutes. Drain and let cool. Trim off a but if the top and bottom of each potato, then cut into 2cm think disks.

Saute the onion with the oil and some salt for about 10 minute, or until golden brown.

Once you’ve prepared all the vegetables, brush a 22cm cake tin with oil and line the bottom with a circle of baking parchment. In a small pan cook the sugar and butter on a high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, to get a semi-dark caramel. Pour thw caramel evenly over the bottom. Pick the oregano leaves, tear and scatter on the caramel.

Lay the potato slices close together, cut-side down, on the bottom of the tin. Gently press the onion and tomatoes into the gaps and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Spread the slices of goat’s cheese evenly over the potatoes. Cut a puff pastry disc that us 3cm larger in diameter than the tin. Lay the pastry lid over the tart filling and gently tuck the edges down around the potatoes inside the tin. (At this stage you can chill the tart for up to 24 hours.)

Preheat the oven to 200*C/Gas mark 6. Bake for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180*C/Gas Mark 4 and continue baking for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is thoroughly cooked. Remove from the oven and let settle for 2 minutes only. Hold and inverted plate firmly on top of the tin and carefully and briskly turn them over together, then lift the tin. Serve the tart hot or cold.

Book review: A Girl’s Guide to Decorating

27 Mar

Abigail Ahern is an interior decorator and, I just found out by Googling, the star of a new show on Channel 4 which I will definitely watching on 4OD! She has a really cute blog and an online store (although that’s not the most user friendly site I’ve ever visited) AND she has just released a book, which I was lucky enough to get a copy of.

The great part about A Girl’s Guide to Decorating is that, as well as being full of inspirational pictures, there is also real, practical advice. One of the things I worried about when we moved into our new flat was that I wouldn’t be very good at the practical things. Painting I can do, but what about drilling holes and hammering stuff? That seemed way out of my grasp. I’ve learned through doing (after essentially being forced to help by P!)  that most stuff isn’t that hard, and this book is a great book for anyone who is worried about where to begin.

There are also really great ‘room analysis’ pages, where Abigail looks at why certain elements work in a room and what brings pieces together.

And there are some fun DIY pieces, including this, which I really want to try out – on how to make your own stair runner:

I will definitely be looking out for Abigail in the future! Looking forward to watching her show this week! Thanks to Quadrille for sending me a copy for review. You can pick the book up on Amazon here.

Book review: Design*Sponge at Home

15 Mar

I don’t think I have ever put as many bookmarks into a book as I have with this one. Design*Sponge at Home is from the incredibly talented Grace Bonney, who runs the Design*Sponge website. It’s a great site, full of peeks into people’s homes, step by step DIY tutorials, food and more.  The book is really fantastic. I first read it and marked it up around a month ago, and now, flipping through it I feel inspired all over again!  Some of my favourite pages and ideas below.

I love this apartment – such a lovely combination of vintage pieces – I love the metal wire chair with pink seat and the mirror next to the bed.

How great is the fabric on the right hand side? I would love to have that in my home, maybe as a throw on the sofa or as a rug.

Again, this is such a great home – the leafy curtains, yellow sofas, and gorgeous rug are all just perfect. I wish Anthropologie UK sold the rug here but unfortunately it looks as though it hasn’t make it to the UK yet…

A really simple, but really beautiful, DIY project – using bleach to create gorgeous tea towels (plus this would work on other fabrics too if you wanted to create your own pattern for a skirt or dress, for example).

I had been looking for a salvages chair to do something similar with my never-ending suitcase project but it was not to be. BUT I have found another solution so one day I promise I will actually finish the thing and blog about it…

Look at these amazing before and after projects! I used to have a desk like that!

Again, some amazing DIY projects – the suitcase is obviously dear to my heart, but the IKEA hack is amazing – those dressers are so cheap – who knew you could make one look so good?

To be honest, I wanted to take a photograph of every page in the book and post it up but that would have been very time consuming and pretty illegal. If you are looking for a book to inspire your home design and a few crafty DIY ideas, it is definitely worth a read.

Buy Design*Sponge at Home from Amazon.

Book review: Domino Book of Decorating

26 Jan

Domino was a magazine published in the US until 2009. I never saw a copy, but I heard some many great things about it that I asked for their book, the Domino Book of Decorating as a Christmas present (thanks Frances!).

So what’s it like? Great! I wish their magazine was still being published (and available here in the UK) as it strikes me that the book is so much more accessible than some of the home decor magazines that I have been buying of late, which seem to fall into either the slightly townie Ideal Home bracket or the mega pricey Elle Decor bracket.

I love their advice to assess your stuff – so rather than thinking that what you have isn’t going to work in your room, think about what opportunities there are with existing things – could you repaint or reupholster rather than have to buy something new? And their advice about getting rid of things. If you are hanging on to things just because it has an emotional attachment, but you actually hate it, maybe it is time to donate it to charity or give it to freecycle.

They also have some good advice about creating a floor plan. When we were planning our flat (which we are still in the process of laying out!) we created a to scale drawing of our entire flat, then cut out to scale models of all the furniture we were planning to buy. That way we could see what fit, how we would lay it out, and how little room we really have to play with, all without spending a penny.

Then there are just pages and pages of inspiration – different styles for each part of the house, really useful tips, decorating tricks (one, to create a fake stair runner, is probably what P and I are going to do in our flat – with only 3 stairs it seems silly to spank a lot of money having a carpet fitted, but it looks too plain as it is currently (painted white) and looks dirty VERY quickly!), solutions for small spaces (something we really need) and lots more.

I also love the pieces from the contributing editors and others from the Domino team about how they did up their rooms – where their inspiration came from, what they did to create their perfect room, etc.

Overall I thought this was a great book – I get new ideas each time I open it and it has definitely influenced what we are doing with our flat. Well worth picking up.

Buy the Domino Book of Decorating on Amazon

Book review: Bust DIY Guide to Life

8 Nov

When I was a teen, I used to love Bust magazine. It was fun, different, totally unconcerned about make-up and celebrity gossip and prom, like the other teen magazines seemed to be. When I left high school, I kind of lost touch with the magazine, and since I’ve been in the UK I haven’t really seen it. Until recently, when a blog I follow pointed out that they had just published a book! All about craft & DIY! How exciting. I ordered a copy straight away.

This is SUCH a fun book. The projects range very far and wide. From sewing a simple skirt to creating bookshelves out of vintage books and making a spice cabinet from an old suitcase, from making a tank top & pair of pants from old band t-shirts to making your own sex toys, from hanging a picture to updating your creative resume – there is a huge amount covered in this tome.

It is clear that a lot of love has gone into making this book. The tone is light and fun, but the projects all seem practical, doable and, most importantly and missing from a lot of recent craft books, there are a lot of projects that I would actually like to make. The advice on how to be creative while you keep your 9-5 was quite inspiring and as soon as I finished going through it, I wanted to read the whole thing again.

A really lovely book!

Have you got it? Have you tried any of the projects yet? Let us know in the comments.

Buy the Bust DIY Guide to Life here

Milly-Molly-Mandy’s Things to Make and Do

22 Oct

I loved Joan Lankester Brisely’s Milly-Molly-Mandy books as a child, so much so that I still have the two I used to read. So when a friend from Macmillan publishers sent me this new book I was thrilled. One of the things I loved most about the books was that MMM often made things and the story told you exactly how she gathered all her materials and how she made the item. Without looking back at the books I remember a story about a patchwork teacosy and one about how she turns a penny into something more by making and selling things and trading up (MMM was a business woman at heart!).

Things to Make and Do is split into chapters for Kitchen, Garden, Outdoors, Sunny days, Rainy days and one for each of the seasons.  There are lots of projects I remember doing as a child eg making Coconut Ice, decorating blown eggs, camping out and making pom poms. I like that the original illustrations are used, it’s nicely and simply laid out and would make a lovely gift for a child who likes to craft.

Vintage Magazines

21 Oct

Last weekend, at The Vintage Event in Balham, I came away with three vintage magazines (from the Hostess Hotties). Two issues of My Home and the inaugural first ever issue of Woman’s Illustrated (from 1936!). I bought them just out of curiosity, but also perhaps to get some inspiration.

And they were SO interesting! The Woman’s Illustrated was a particular favourite. The front cover features Princess Elizabeth (ie: the now about to have her jubilee celebration Queen) and inside is full of interesting articles, including one about how a woman and her husband had divorced because no one had ever explained ‘what love really meant’ (ie: sex) and that she had never been able to get over the shock of it.

There were also dress plans (for people who clearly knew what they were doing, unlike me, because they were just very small illustrations that you were supposed to know how to scale up to fit yourself), short stories, agony aunts, and lots of fascinating adverts.

The two My Home issues in particular were interesting for adverts – they are both from 1949, so rationing is still in place and lots of the advertising relates to how to use rationing effectively or how a particular product is BACK after being temporarily stalled during the war.I also loved this gas ad:

And this from the Ministry of Food:

Anyway, all in all, browsing these was a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I would like to use them in some kind of craft project soon, but I’m not sure I could bear to cut them up!

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