Friday, 10 December 2010

Gourmet Chocolate

Today I started working on my handmade Xmas presents. I like to give something handmade to my friends and family... and this year I have quite a list of craft projects to get finished before Xmas! But I've started with making my 'Gourmet Chocolate'. You'll have seen large slabs of chocolate in shops decorated with things like fudge, popping candy and cookies... well my take uses old fashioned childhood sweets. I'm lucky enough to have a fantastic sweet shop called Candy Express on my doorstep. It sells every type of sweets you can imagine. So I've been making my friends and families favourites in milk chocolate! So far I've made 'Gummi Bear' and 'Strawberry Bon Bon'.

Its very easy to make. Here's how I did it.

For each slab you will need:

  • 300g good quality chocolate in either plain, milk or white (your choice)
  • your choice of sweets
  • 25g good quality chocolate in white, milk or plain (it must be different from your main chocolate)
  1. Take 300g of your chocolate and melt in the microwave in 30 second bursts.
  2. Give it a good stir and then pour onto an 10 x 8 inch cookie sheet.
  3. Gently smooth out your chocolate to fill the cookie sheet.
  4. Take your sweets and randomly place on top of the chocolate.
  5. Take the 25g of different chocolate and melt in the microwave in 30 second bursts.
  6. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the top of your sweets.
  7. Place in the fridge and chill until completely set.
For the 'Strawberry Bon Bon' I used a mixture of red and white chocolate chips melted and then drizzled to decorate.

It makes a wonderful gift that you can tailor to your friends and family's favourites! Enjoy!

Etsy Find of the Week!

I love Etsy! Its such a great place to find unique handmade goods, and as I'm a big supporter of handmade I thought I'd start a new feature on my blog... my Etsy find of the week! 

So yesterday I had a look through the recently listed items and I found this adorable little crocheted baby hat which really appealed to me! I love crochet, its so much more fun for me thank knitting (sorry to all those knitters out there!). Kaylee has also recently discovered a love for hats (which as a milliner I am very pleased with) and I think she would look so very cute in this one!

Its by LovelyKnits based in San Francisco, California who make gorgeous handmade hats for children of all ages!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Letter to Santa

Last week I helped Kaylee to write her first letter to Santa! I remember getting one when I was a little girl, in fact I still have it put away in a box of my stuff somewhere! So we wrote a short letter to Santa, to say that Kaylee has been very good and would like Tigger things for Xmas (of which I am certain she may be getting!) and Kaylee did a drawing of Tigger for Santa (or rather a scribble).

If you would like your little on to get a letter from Santa then all you have to do is write to the following address:
Santa/Father Christmas
Santa's Grotto 

Remember to put a stamp on your letter or it won't get there! 

This is the official Royal Mail address and as long as your child writes to Santa before the 13th December then you should have your letter in time for Xmas!

Making Whoopie... Pies!!

Yesterday I had a friend round for a nice cuppa, catch up and a chance for our babies (who were born on the same day) to have a play! I decided to attempt to be a good hostess and make cakes... whoopie pies to be exact.

Whoopie pies originate from New England, traditionally made my Amish women as a thrifty way to use up left over batter. The name is supposed to come from the exclamation made by husbands and children upon finding this delicious treat in their lunch box - "WHOOPIE!!"

My first attempt was very successful, resulting in a lovely chewy moist vanilla cake! I did cheat and use a jar of raspberry 'Marshmallow Fluff' as the filling rather than make my own marshmallow cream, and I'm sure than you could use other fillings such as butter cream or jams too! 

So here is my result... and I'd like to share the recipe I used for you to try yourself.

These little cakes only last for about 2 days when kept in the fridge... but I doubt they'll last that long!!

  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 125g soured cream
  • 25mls cold milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 275g plain flour
  • 200g icing sugar
  • sugar balls or sprinkles to decorate
  • marshmallow fluff or marshmallow cream (100g marshmallows, 50ml milk, 125g soft unsalted butter)

  1. Line a large baking tray with nonstick baking paper and preheat the oven to 180°C, fan 160°C, gas 4.
  2. Melt 75g of the butter and set aside. Using an electric hand mixer, whisk the egg until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar, a third at a time, until thick and glossy.
  3. Beat in the melted butter, soured cream, 25ml of milk and the vanilla. Sift the bicarbonate of soda and flour into the bowl and beat until smooth. Using a wide piping nozzle or spoon, pipe or spoon the mixture on to the tray in small walnut-sized balls, 3-4cm apart. You'll need to bake in batches.
  4. Bake for 13-14 minutes until almost evenly golden on top. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack and bake the remaining mixture.
  5. For the cream, heat the marshmallows and milk in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring until smooth, then cool. Beat 125g of butter until creamy and soft then gradually beat into the marshmallow until smooth.
  6. Sandwich two whoopie cakes together with the marshmallow fluff or marshmallow cream.
  7. For the icing, mix the icing sugar with 2-3 tablespoons of cold water. Spread a little on each whoopie and decorate!
Recipe by Dan Lepard

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Customer Services & The Hard Sell

I was linked to this blog post the other day... and as someone who makes and sells my millinery at craft and vintage fairs as well as through the internet, it really hit home with me. I worked in the retail industry for many years and thought that this would stand me in good stead for the customer services side of the business, but I've found that its a completely different industry. In the retail world people come to a particular shop with a goal in mind. With craft and vintage fairs people come along either to browse or with money to spend but no idea what to expect. I'll admit that I've found it really hard at times to sell at come craft and vintage fairs and I know its not due to the quality of my products its due to my selling technique. I have confidence that what I produce is high quality, unique millinery and that my price points are fair and reflect the time and materials used. What I struggle with is interacting with my customers. I'm not really a shy person but I don't feel that 'the hard sell' is appropriate, and I don't want to scare a potential customer off by babbling away to them about how my product is made... but then what should I do/say??

This post is very helpful in terms of giving you ideas for what to say to potential customers... I particularly like the idea of practising your sales technique and will be roping my partner in for a little practice soon!

So here is my top 5 tips for selling at craft fairs.

  1. Be friendly and approachable: Always smile and say hello to people browsing your stall. They might not buy from you but a smile costs nothing and a potential buyer is more likely to purchase from the happy seller. This is really important even if you are having a bad day. I did a vintage fair a while ago and I was feeling really down and dejected and it showed. I sold very little, did very little networking and had no follow up emails or orders. When I'm positive and happy and I interact more with potential customers I always have a better time!
  2. Don't sit behind a huge display: Either stand where you are visible or sit on a high directors chair so that people can find you.
  3. If you can take credit cards or Paypal, do: I recently discovered a Paypal application for the Ipad and its proven to be a great help at craft fairs when someone really falls in love with a product but doesn't have enough cash on them!
  4. Talk about your products: don't be scared to make contact with your potential customers. If they appear to be showing an interest in your products then tell them a little about it. what was your inspiration behind the product?? Tell them! 
  5. Do you make custom items/make to order?? Then tell your potential customer: I always let a potential customer know that as well as the items I have with me that day on the stall, there are also more items available on the website and that I can make to order to match or compliment an outfit. I always point out my business cards/postcards with all my contact information. A great deal of my business comes from custom orders! And... if you do get follow up emails/enquiries from potential customers answer them promptly!
And... while on the subject of Craft and Vintage Fairs... here's where I'll be selling over the next couple of weeks!!

12th December from 12 noon til 7pm - Granny Would Be Proud: Alternative Craft & Vintage Fair @ Hillhead Bookclub, Glasgow. 

18th December from 12 noon til 4pm - V For Vintage @ Teviot House, Edinburgh

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Little Black Dress

I ADORE vintage fashion and have a huge admiration and respect for Coco (Gabrielle) Chanel. Last month I finally got round to watching Coco Before Chanel staring Audrey Tautou. A great film and a fantastic performance by Audrey!

 As it gets more into the party season I was thinking about looking for a new dress, a little black dress to be precise! And the LBD as many of you will know is of course attributed Coco Chanel. It is simple in its elegance, versatile, and as a fashion rule is a wardrobe staple, every woman should own one! Last year my LBD was a very fetching Grecian draped maternity dress and so the search is on for something new! 

While having a search around some of my favourite vintage shops on-line I found this lovely little number from The Frockery! It is really stunning, with tiny black beads on the skirt and silver beads around the bust. I love it, and with a price tag of only £30 + postage its a bargain!! Hmmmmm... may have to go count my pennies!!

Snow, Snow and More Snow!!

As everyone who lives in the UK will be aware, we have had rather a lot of snow over the past couple of weeks and its been causing no end of problems for us here in Scotland. Yesterday the majority of Scotland's motorways were closed as a result of the weather, as where most of our airports!

The cold, wintry weather reminds me so much of the time in spent in Finland on my Nursing placement at Satakunta University and Hospital in Pori. When I arrived in Pori (on January 3rd) it was -17 degrees and there was at least 1m snow everywhere. But, regardless of the weather the plane landed safely, the trains where running, road where opened and schools continued to function!! We are so unprepared for the bad weather here in the UK, and I will admit that I am not venturing out with a 5 month baby in this weather on my own!

Pori was such a beautiful place and I really wish I had spent more time sightseeing and taking photos. Its where I first discovered a love for Ice Hockey, popping into the local rink on Sunday mornings to watch the junior games! They had some very talented kids out there! And I will never forget just how amazing it was to go ice skating on and outdoor rink in the snow! Hopefully someday I will make it back over for a visit!

And.... I'm back!

I've been rather neglectful of my blog for a while so please excuse me! Since I last wrote I have become Mummy to a gorgeous little girl named Kaylee. It has taken up rather a lot of my time, but I wouldn't change it for the world! So to keep this post short and sweet... I'll simply say I'm back... with a newly designed blog page and a new partner in my writing! Its time to introduce Kaylee!!