Tuesday, 14 October 2014

DIY wedding favours AKA How some amazing friends helped us make the most of our budget

We had two main ideas for wedding favours, we wanted things which people would use, not just leave on the tables and most importantly we wanted things which would be personal to us.

We knew right away that a mix CD would be incorporated somewhere into our day. We've always given CD's at Christmas so it felt natural that we would make one for our big day. It was lovely after the wedding seeing updates and photos of people reliving the day and playing our tunes to cheer themselves up on cloudy Monday mornings.

We used songs which have been recurring themes throughout our relationship and a few songs which would be used on day for our first dance and for walking down the aisle as well as few that reminded us of great nights with friends. We bought these vinyl effect CD's which looked adorable with our custom stickers and sleeves that Dave designed. 

The other thing we wanted to do, was tie in the history and origin of the cotton mill we had as our venue. I would have loved to have used the cotton tea towels that are woven on the looms in the mill today, but the cost was prohibitive. So we settled for ordering the tea towels online instead, it wasn't authentic but we made them our own by working out a cute infographic of the wedding and then Dave's wonderful friends at Supersonic Jellybeanz helped us out by screenprinting them for us over the course of a weekend - we couldn't have done it without them. If you're in need of some fun new threads, you should definitely check out their website.

Our infographic had details of where we were going on our honeymoon, key dates like when and where we met, where we were when we got engaged and the various members of the wedding party and who they were. We even included a few details of our wedding DIY projects and where we'd sourced things like the flowers, which were grown 3 miles from our house. I'm really lucky to have a Graphic Designer on hand, Dave's list of jobs was all graphics-based and he did a great job of making all these thing tie in together really consistently.

We hung some along two walls in the reception room on a washing line with old fashioned wooden pegs, the rest I folded and tied with butchers twine and put into baskets by the doorway.  

Amazingly, almost all the favours had been taken before people even sat down at the meal and since then we've been asked for extra spares by loads of friends. For those wondering about cost, we made both of these options work for under £1 per favour. We had two different ones (and enough of each) so that the couples wouldn't end up with duplicates, but our single friends could have both.

But, I know loads of couples who opt out of favours altogether, they can be costly and an unneccesary expense for those on a tight budget. We were really fortunate to have friends who could help with the printing as getting that professionally done by a printer would have cost so much we couldn't have managed it within our budget.

Are you planning your wedding, what's your view on favours? 

Monday, 13 October 2014

{DIY} From wardrobe to VIP bunny mansion

If you've seen any of my recent activity on Pinterest, you'll have been expecting this project. But even I couldn't have foreseen how much I'd enjoy transforming a wardrobe into a bunny mansion. It was such a different project from my usual crafts, but in the process I've learned new skills, I've worked on something with Dave, jointly figuring out solutions together. I've repurposed something old, which could easily have been taken to the tip and been destroyed. I've enjoyed this is so many ways and taken so much from it in just one weekend.

So, how did this happen?
We've been trying to find a new home for Miya's old wooden wardrobe for almost a year now, it's such a beautiful piece of quality furniture I couldn't bear to see it destroyed, but we couldn't find anyone that could give it a good home.

While the wardrobe took up almost all the free space in our tiny spare room, Peanut Butter's cage in the garden was desperately old and I didn't want him to have to stay in there over winter.

We'd ordered a new cage online, but when it was delayed just before I went to Japan I realised that we had an opportunity to solve both problems in one go. We asked for a refund on the delayed cage to think about our options, but while I was away both Dave and I were both figuring out the best way to turn a wardrobe into a bunny mansion.

There isn't a lot online, most furniture remodels for this purpose are indoor cages. I've collected the best ones I've found in my new board here, if you're in need of inspiration.

This is the wardrobe on Friday evening, we brought it downstairs into the kitchen to make a start. I'd customised it before, for Miya's room, but only using emulsion so I knew I'd be able to sand it down and paint over the top pretty easily.

Saturday morning after Miya's gymnastics class we all headed to buy supplies, we needed wood for the roof, ramps and floors. When we got back we lifted the wardrobe onto the patio and Dave started constructing the roof. We decided by having the roof like this, we could hinge it at the top and use the attic as a storage space. Our garden shed is always bursting, so making additional storage in the hutch was a great idea.

Then it rained and we had to bring it back into the kitchen (yep, our arms are really hurting today!) Dave worked on the indoor structure and how to make the best use of the space to give Peanut the most room whilst giving him more vertical space too. I focussed on sanding the doors and drawer and priming it ready for a new paint job. 

Miya had a sleepover on Saturday night, so I spent the evening priming and painting the body of the hutch, we chose a waterproof primer to really seal the wood, particularly the joints. Then the colours were by Cuprinol Garden Shades in two main colours, Pale Jasmine and Seagrass. It dries quickly, but it's thin - much thinner than the primer - so I needed at least 3 coats to give the finish I wanted.

I finished the painting while Dave got the roof felt in place, he covered both panels individually and then added a large strip of felt over the top of the two pieces to cover the hinges. I loved the way the blue in the felt complemented the paint colours.

Once the paintwork was complete and fully dried, we worked on adding the new handles and reattaching the doors with new hinges. We loved the look of the matt black metalwork.

The inside of the hutch needed to be interesting, with different levels and something I really wanted to try and introduce was a litter tray, to confine the wood shavings to one area rather than the full cage. 

Once we had the cage complete, we needed to position it in a new space. We thought that giving it room right next to our patio doors at the back of the house we'd be able to see Peanut more often and he'd get more attention, but would still be sheltered enough in the bad weather. You can see in the photo above he's protected by walls and fences on two sides. We laid some flagstone on the soil to keep the hutch off the floor.

 So here's the finished hutch in position.

I used the jigsaw to cut out the little wooden hearts from some scrap wood and painted them using a tester pot of Cuprinol paint in Black Ash. They were a cute finishing touch.

Here's the hutch filled with bedding, we actually added the clothes rail back in to the top left area to be able to add some toys, Peanut will have to really stretch up on his back legs to be able to reach the top of them which will do him good.

He's really enjoying exploring his new mansion and although there may be one or two little finishing touches still to come, but we're so proud already of the new addition to our garden.

Have you ever upcycled furniture to take it from indoors to outdoors? 

{Travel Treasures} An extraordinary week in Japan

I'm suffering from jet lag this week, but don't feel sorry for me - I've just returned from an amazing week in Japan. I travel with work now and then, less these days and normally I'd never share photos of a business trip on my blog as I like to keep home life and work life pretty separate. But this was the most incredible week, I can't keep it to myself!

I started out in Tokyo, then travelled by bullet train to Kyoto with a short stop in Osaka before coming back to Tokyo for my return flight. I stayed in hotels, but my clients from work took us everywhere and made all the plans - so I had a real locals-eye-view, albeit a rather privileged local!

 My first meal in Tokyo, suishi and sashimi of course - I ate eel for the first time and loved it.

The pachinko hall which violated my senses for the 90 seconds I was in there - I literally ran out, it was so bright, so smokey and so noisy I couldn't bare it!
 Giant sake bottles on the bar in Akasaka.

The incredible 400 year old gardens, this was my view for breakfast for two beautiful mornings in Tokyo.
 Chicken graffiti - what more can I say?
Chicken and sesame ramen with gyoza dumplings, my new favourite food!
Did you notice my gorgeous nail art? Everyone as very impressed with the Mount Fuji colours my nail artist Lia and I had chosen (completely by accident!).

I barely noticed the bullet train as it was so quiet and smooth, the three hour journey seemed to take just minutes, gossiping with one of my new friends!

 The Golden Pavillion was everything I'd dreamed of, beautiful sure, but in comparison to such a green, considered background it shone even more.
I was extremely privileged to be able to visit a Geisha tea house and have dinner in the company of a Maiko, a trainee Geisha.  It was so incredible, so emotional and so charming.
My host's wife was a trained Tea Ceremony Master and performed a ceremony for us at their house, which was powerful and calming all at the same time.

Osaka hustle and bustle.... where even the traffic cones are happy.

Hospitality has always been intrinsically linked to our business relationship and I always really enjoy planning their visits to the UK, trying to figure out what jewels of Northern England to show them next. The trouble is, I'm going to be really stuck the next time they come here, I can't imagine any way to beat this last week!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

{Homemade gifts} A jar full of superhero gratitude

We are so fortunate to have incredibly creative and generous friends, so many of them helped in so many ways with our wedding. From helping with my numerous craft projects, to DJ'ing on the night, we really couldn't have done it without their help. Having our friends and family involved in the process was really important to me and made the whole experience so much more special.

We wanted to say thank you the best way we know how, with a handmade, personalised gift which they'd be able to keep, to remind them of the fun we've had this year. Not just on the day of the wedding, but at the supersten do and during all the preparations.

After making our superhero themed cake topper, I thought embracing the same idea for the presents would be a good way to keep to one present, rather than finding different gifts for different people (that sounded like a very complicated and time consuming task!).

So, I printed out the photos of our best men (yes, we had two), groomsmaid, bridesmaids, DJ's, dressmaker extraordinaire and a few more, in their fantastic supersten costumes and painted a whole army of superhero wooden peg dolls to match.

Using exactly the same process as when I made our super cake toppers, I spent two evenings painting all our characters.

I started with my brother, Tony Stark and my sister-in-law (and bridesmaid) Batgirl...

The Monarch and Dr Girlfriend AKA our fantastic dress designer Shell and her guy Frenchie.

Our Best Man Pete, made a fantastic Kick Ass and his girlfriend Kate was the most perfect Hit Girl.

Our fabulous DJ's Disco Ben and his seriously glamorous girl Laura made their  own costumes for the supersten,

Our other DJ Nick, who made an excellent Penfold and his adorable sidekick Helen who came as Dangermouse - a personal favourite from my childhood! 

Alex, our other best man got into character as Professor X - even hiring a wheelchair for the weekend - and his girlfriend Katie who made a very foxy Rogue indeed.

My chief bridesmaid Kaz came as Supergirl and her man Sam was a hilarious Batman.

Dave's sister Jo was our groomsmaid, she came as Claire Bennet from Heroes in full on cheerleader mode.

And last but not least, my gorgeous best friend and bridesmaid, Jess, who sadly coldn't join in with the costume fun as she needed to get home to her boys on the second night of our supersten weekend. I made her an honourary Supermummy costume figure.

All grouped together, they did look pretty cool.

I desparately want to do some stop frame animation of the dancing at the supersten, but wedding time pressures wouldn't allow - I'll have to try that in the future instead.

To hold them I used a glass jar from Ikea, slightly trimmed down some cork coasters to fit inside as the bottom of the jar was domed. Using hot glue I stuck the coaster in place and then glued the figures down on to the cork.

A small thank you tag and yellow ribbon on the clasp finished them off nicely.

They looked really cool when we set them up on the tables at the venue.

But what I enjoyed most of all was seeing people's photographs of their gifts on facebook, twitter and instagram the next day.
Photo credit: Jo Thornber

 Photo credit: Helen Foote

 Photo credit: Jo Kiely

 Photo credit: Katie Cockburn-Smith

 Photo credit: Nick Hall

Photo credit: Shell Barton

It was a really nice reminder of the fun we had at the sten, if you want to see more photos of us all in costume, go back to my previous post here.