Friday 31 January 2014

Colour Your Own Sprinkles!

   Colour your own sprinkles!
   I was very sceptical about this because I wasn't so sure it would work. I thought that gel colouring would probably not mix that well and would probably do something funny to the sprinkles themselves, but I gave it a go.
   One thing that's important to keep in mind is that, when it comes to gel colouring, a little goes a long way. If you start off with white sprinkles, then adding a tiny bit of gel colouring with a tooth pick will give a pastel shade. By adding more gel, the colour will become darker and more intense. However, the more colouring added, the wetter the sprinkles become and the longer they take to dry.
   Don't use liquid food colouring as it can upset the sprinkles. Seriously. It'll make them cry. Gel colouring holds less moisture and more pigment, and is more effective in this case.

You will need:
Your chosen sprinkles, in white
Gel food colouring in your chosen colours (colours can be mixed in the bag to create new colours)
Ziplock bags

(consider doing a test run first to be sure that you can judge the colour intensity versus the amount of gel used when you make a larger batch of coloured sprinkles.)

1) Separate the sprinkles so that you have enough for each colour you want, and put them into separate ziplock bags.

2) Take a toothpick and dip it into one of the gel colourings. Add a tiny bit (less is more in this case) to the inside of one of the bags, do the bag up, massage the colour into the sprinkles for a moment and then shake them up. The colour will start to mix throughout the sprinkles, and the longer you shake, the more thoroughly the colour will be mixed. If the colour is darker than you want, add less next time. Unfortunately you can't remove the colour from the sprinkles.

3) Once you're happy with the colour intensity, empty the newly coloured sprinkles into a bowl and let them dry. This can take 30 minutes to an hour depending on the amount of colouring used, maybe more, but they will dry. I made some purple ones and used a lot of colouring to get the desired shade and it seemed like they'd never dry, so I left them along for a day or two, and when I came back to them they were dry. Once they're dry they can be added to cakes or cookies or whatever you wanted them for - perhaps a turkey, I won't judge.

Monday 27 January 2014

Valentine Chocolate Cake Bites

   These cute little Valentine's Day Cake bites are so easy. I love it when it's easy. And once again, kids could do them easily. All you need to do is make a cake, cut it into squares and drizzle chocolate over them and add some festive sprinkles. Nice and easy! I made mine using half of my birthday cake mixture. It was a late birthday cake, though, and it was nothing special. It was more for the sake of eating cake than making anything special but I might make something properly at some random point in the next few months as a belated birthday cake.
   I cut a round cake into squares and froze them so they'd keep. Then a few days later when I had the ingredients, I melted white chocolate over the top of them and, after painstakingly going through a tub of sprinkles and separating all the white, pink and purple sprinkles from the rest, I put them on top.

You Will Need:
100g softened butter
100g granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or other flavouring
100g plain flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
50g cocoa powder
Chocolate or chocolate melts (I used about 100g of Milky Bar Buttons)

1) Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180 C/350 F and, in a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.

2) Mix in the eggs and the flavouring.

3) Mix in the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder and combine completely until smooth. If the mixture seems too dry, add a little bit of oil and mix together.
Optional: you could also add chocolate chunks into the mix for a little more chocolate.

4) Grease a cake tin and empty the contents into it before putting it into the oven. Cook for 20 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

5) Let it cool completely then turn the cake out and cut it into squares. Instead of eating the scraps myself I left them on a plate and put them where my dad and boyfriend would find them easily; the plate was clean in an hour. I froze my squares so they'd keep until I had the chocolate, but that also made them firmer and less likely to sink or fall under the weight of the chocolate.

6) When you're ready to melt the chocolate, if it isn't chocolate melts I recommend microwaving it. I managed to burn my white chocolate very quickly with a double boiler, so the second time around I put them in a pyrex jug and put them in the microwave, first for 40 seconds, then again for 60. Then I put the jug in the saucepan I had used to double boil and used the hot water to keep the chocolate in a melted state without burning it. I used a spoon to pour it over the top of the cakes. I wanted to completely cover them but since I'd burned the first half of the chocolate (I was so glad that, for once, I didn't use the whole bag in one go) I could only cover the top. I added extra so that it would run down the side a little. I then dropped sprinkles over the top and let them set.

   I love it when cake has a hard shell, it makes for a lovely contrast, but only if it's not too much. I hate it when it has just a thin shell of chocolate, that's not enough of a contrast, but you obviously don't want too much on top either. You could add mini marshmallows (or large marshmallows cut up) on top and then add more chocolate over the top of them.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Patchwork Valentine Sugar Cookies

   These patchwork Valentine sugar cookies are quite cute if I do say so myself. They're so easy, too, and great for kids to make. Things rarely go well for me in the kitchen, but these came out really nicely by my standards. I used a simple sugar cookie recipe from an old cooking book, a ravioli cutter, a heart cookie cutter and some colouring gel.

   To make the sugar cookies:
100g softened butter
100g sugar
1 small egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla essense or other flavouring
175g plain flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder

   To colour:
Food colouring, gel type. I used Sugarflair pink and purple

   To shape:
Ravioli cutter (can be found in most cooking shops or large supermarkets; alternatively I bought mine from ebay, new of course)
Heart shaped cookie cutter (or any other shape, really)

1) Cream the softened butter and sugar together.

2) Mix in the egg and flavouring until it's all adequately combined.

3) In another bowl, mix the flour and baking powder together and then combine it slowly into the wet mixture. The mix will become stiff and if it gets too stiff for your mixer then get ready to mix it with your hands.

4) Separate the mixture into the number of colours you'd like. I used light pink, dark pink and purple, so I separated it into three balls. There's no need to chill or freeze this mixture.

5) Place a dab of coloured gel onto one of the balls of dough and kneed it throughout it. Coloured gel is potent stuff so in this case, less is more. Be very, very conservative with the colour. Don't add any more until it's thoroughly mixed and the dough is one solid colour and not marbled, and even then only do it if the colour isn't dark or vibrant enough. I added too much pink the first time around, so while I intended to make the lightest pink dough first, it became the dark pink one. I added much less the second time around for the light pink dough, and then for the third ball I added purple, not pink.
Note: the dough will probably be darker when it's been coloured than it will be when it comes out of the oven, so don't worry if it seems a little on the dark side because it will lighten.

6) Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/350 F. Dust the work surface with flour and roll out one ball of dough at a time. When you're satisfied with the thickness, about 1/4 inch, take your ravioli cutter and run it through the dough to make rectangles or squares. The dough may look little but remember you have more in reserve so don't be put off.

7) Once you've got all your little patchwork pieces ready, start layering them on top of one another. The bottom sides will probably be floury and I had trouble getting them to stick down, but I found halfway through that a tiny drop of water between each piece helps. When you've gotten them all layed out together, press them down a little to make sure they're all doing their absolute bestest to stick together.

8) Take your cookie cutter and cut your shapes as it if was normal dough, though you can of course be more aware of where you're cutting to make the colours and arrangement more aesthetically pleasing. I used a few different sized hearts to try to make the most of the layered dough.

9) When I was finished, instead of attempting to separate the pieces and reroll and recut them, I just combined the leftover dough and marbled it then cut a few more hearts out of it. Then did the usual kiddy thing of getting bored and just rolling it out into three strips and plaiting it to use up the rest.

10) Put the cookies on a baking tray or cookie sheet and put them in the oven for 10 minutes. When they're done, take them out and let them cool before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Optional: you can make little bows or buttons from fondant or gumpaste and fix them to the biscuits with a little icing, or use an embossed rolling pin or mat to make fondant lace.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Too Much Stuff To Talk About!

   These are the exclusive cat jars I sent to Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium. I had sent the same before but the parcel, typically, went missing. I'm hoping that it will turn up soon and they can add it to their stock because that really sucks for both of us. Either way, I remade them and shipped them off on Monday ^^ They look far cuter in person.

   This is Alto, a dalmation/husky cross. I made it as a custom piece for someone on Etsy. It was great to make, but difficult. I struggled more on this little fella than I did on Buddy the Boston Terrier, which was recently received and fortunately adored ^^ I hope this guy gets the same reception! This is my third custom pet piece, the first being a trio of little ratties I posted a bad picture of a few weeks ago.

   I mentioned that I took part in && A Happy New Year by Papered Thoughts, and this is the second part of the project that I received from Lissy. I absolutely love it. No two pages in this notebook are the same! And I have to admit a deep seated love for notebooks. And you'll know that I love the notebook you give me if I never use it. Notebooks I love never get used for just random notes. They're given purposes. Some notebooks go on to be used for products ideas and shop business like record keeping. Others will go on to be used for drawings or sketches. Others will be given the high honour of being used for plots and ideas for future books I will write. And both notebooks she sent me will probably go a long time before a pen hits either of them because I love them so much.

   I decided to try a new kind of business. When my birthday came along I was determined to decorate, but I had no ideas. So I ended up looking around on Pinterest and the like and saw so many wonderful things. Those things ended up giving me ideas for other things, and I decided that I liked it. Ebony Fawn has been open since last October and just sold things like Christmas downloads - letter to Santa paper, stickers, tags and so on. I sold about 4 pieces but I never really expected much from it. Ebony Fawn is now where I'm going to stock a small range of party and celebration stuff, like confetti balloons and my feather ornament cards. More colours for both balloons and feathers will come soon, as well as other products I'm currently working on. I'm quite excited about it, but I have a lot of projects in the air at the moment so my attention is being somewhat divided!

   I'm working on a few Valentine posts and crafts at the moment and while it's enjoyable, it's hard. I struggle in the kitchen like you wouldn't believe! But I'm getting there, slowly, and each project is harder than the last. It's gotten to a point where the final project is likely to fail, but I have to try! I haven't failed until I've given up!

   I met with my lovely lovely friend Lucy over the weekend. She's brilliant, she really is, you can't not like her. She's the best person in the world. We exchanged Christmas gifts (and my birthday gift) when we met, and she bombarded me with Story Cubes. The idea is, you roll the dies, go in an anticlockwise direction and make a story out of all of the images shown on the upward faces. You can make a really quick one, or you could take it much, much further and actually make it into a proper story rather than a limerick of some kind. Seeg and I had a go and it was genuinely hilarious. The things we were coming out with were so funny. It's great because you can interpret the images however you want. She gave me Classic - a box of 9 dies with basic images like a lightning bolt, magnifying glass, smiley face and so on - Perhistoric - 3 dies with volcanoes, dinosaurs, cavemen and so on - and Enchanted - 3 dies of witches, wolves, castles and so on. You interpret the images however you want. Seeg made me laugh when he saw a slightly perturbed face and said he was constipated, and when he got to the dice with the lightning bolt, he...well the man wasn't constipated anymore. I'm English, I can't help finding toilet humour absolutely hilarious!

   I hope everyone is well, I do have a post to go up about my two week trial with Ilumi, and I have some Valentine pieces just about finished, but I have to pace myself or I'll fill the blog up for a week and then there will be crickets chirping again!

Geldrop, The Town of Tolkien

   Did you know that the town of Geldrop, southern Netherlands, has its streets named after Tolkien characters and objects, as well as a long road called Tolkien Lane? Some names have been translated to Dutch, while others are in their original form, for some reason, but the results are freaking awesome nonetheless.

Ilumi - 2 weeks later

Food Rating: ★★★★☆    Personal Results Rating: ★★☆☆☆

   While I'd love to continue the Ilumi diet for a full month, my purse just won't allow it, which really sucks, because it's not all that expensive really, but I still can't do it.
   Unfortunately still, I can't honestly tell you if it's helped me to lose weight. It has reformed my personal diet - I thought more about what I ate, and ultimately consumed less calories - but unfortunately, the rest of my plan didn't workout.
   For the first half of the first week, I fell ill with a migraine. Because my migraine didn't have any aura (blind spots, dizziness and so on) that usually accompanies my migraines, I didn't realise exactly what it was, and didn't sleep it off. So instead I was stuck with a headache and nausea with sickness for about 2 days, and I didn't do any exercise. I didn't want to do too much once it began to pass, either, for fear of bringing it back around. It's important to note, though, that the migraine had nothing to do with the food.
   I did my best to exercise properly throughout the second week, and ate carefully, and as I weighed myself Monday morning, I've lost half a pound over those two weeks. I know that I'd have done better if I'd been able to exercise in that first week, but there's no accounting for sickness, especially bloody migraines. But, on those grounds, I believe that, in all honesty, Ilumi did help, and, at the very least, it definitely helped me to feel better after I was ill.

   Ilumi's food was surprisingly delicious. If there are two things I can say about it, it's that the meals are very quick to make, and packed with flavour. They were awesome. I particularly fell in love with the Tom Kah Gai soup, and since there appears to be no minimum order needed to purchase from Ilumi, I will buy a few of those again.
   I felt a bit better than usual for eating the meals, too. I don't know if it was imagined, or if the food really was that much healthier (note: ready meals don't have to mean 'unhealthy'), but I felt better within myself. I thought I'd envy my boyfriend for eating the yummy stuff like the pizza and breaded chicken we usually have, but instead, surprisingly, I felt guilty that he didn't have what I have. But I deem it as quite unfair to force your diet onto your partner or family, so as tasty as it was, there was only one meal out of the 14 that I had that I did force onto them, mostly to satisfy their curiosity.

   Honestly, I really, really would recommend Ilumi to anyone looking to eat healthier without having to worry about their ability to cook. I can only cook cakes, so that's not much use to me. Ilumi was greatly helpful. Plus I love the prices. £1.90 for the Tom Kah Gai soup, I think, is reasonable. The meals were all satisfyingly filling, too, and most of them were between 250-350 calories.

   Shipping is always free and next day, and they're always adding new dishes. In fact, they've just added 3 more in the past week, so they're always expanding. It's great if you're ill, too, because you don't have to worry about cooking up a good meal. Just stick it in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. I actually put each meal in for 25% longer than each time suggested, just to be sure. If you do it for the time they recommend, it's properly cooked of course, and at an eatable temperature, but I prefer it a little hotter than that so I don't have to worry about it getting cold before I finish.

   All in all, I love Ilumi, I will be back, I recommend them hugely, and I'm pleased I found them through Women's Fitness Magazine. As before, purchasing through this link will get you £10 off of orders of £25 or more, and they often send you offers for not only money off, but free meals, too. The last offer I received by email was for £5 off of £30 or more, but that would include both of their newest meals for free. So if you're wondering whether it's worth it, don't wonder anymore. You can get yourself like 12 meals for that £25 (which, if purchased through this link, as long as it's your first purchase, will only be £15) which will sort out almost 2 full weeks of meals. All ingredients and calories are displayed on the page of each meal, and every meal is gluten-free, milk-free and nut-free, so it's easy if you have allergies, lactose-intolerance, or Coeliacs.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Customised Clothing and Personalised Valentine Gifts

   Valentine's Day is nearly upon us. Seeg and I don't usually do much, we just watch a movie and spend some time together, and keep all the gift giving and flowers and balloons (there's never balloons, but I hope he'll give me one one day!) for our anniversary in  May. But that doesn't mean I turn a blind eye to it. We usually say (mutually, I promise) that we're not going to bother with Valentine's Day, but I usually end up making something for him anyway.
   I really love the effort people go through when they make things for Valentine's Day, and perhaps it's the child in me, but I really love "Sue and Frank Forever" - it's really silly, and it's never something I'd wear out, but I'd love a really silly and childish "Kim and Seeg Forever" jumper to lounge about it at home in the winter.
   I think customised gifts for Valentine's Day and anniversaries is a nice thought. Sometimes they can be cheesy, other times they can be thoughtful. I was thinking about getting Seeg a really silly Kim and Seeg 4 eva t-shirt for Valentine's Day that he would never wear just for a laugh, but as I thought about it I started looking things up. I was recently doing some drawings that I'm super proud of and would love on a t-shirt, and I found Custom Planet. They've got a huge selection of things that are customisable, and most notably (on a personal note) aprons and tote bags. I've recently become obsessed with shopping bags, and I'm in great need of an apron. Any time I bake I make a mess. I'm going to make cookies later today and I just realised I put on black this morning. I will definitely need to change first or I'll be the ghost of a flour miller.
   They seem like a really good place to get t-shirts printed for promotions or charity events or something, which seems pretty cool! I've wanted to participate, or even organise a running event, but I fear I'd never succeed with actually running it and it would be a bit embarrassing. But it's an idea I've had for a long time, and I think promotional t-shirts could be a great way to advertise it.

   I'll think more on making a silly customised jumper with silly childish slogans on them, either for myself or for Seeg, but I will think more seriously on getting my drawings printed up and perhaps finally designing myself an apron!
   But in the festivities of Valentine's Day to be soon upon us, I decided to make a mood board featuring customised Valentine gifts. Because.

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

Sunday 19 January 2014

Valentine Card & Feather Ornament

   I decided I'd try out Valentine cards this year. I had a few ideas, and some I still intend to work out, but one I came up with that I'm really happy about are these feather ornament ones!

   I took small 4inch feathers and made them into ornaments the same way I did at Christmas, but I put them on a card instead. They can be removed and hung up, so it's like a little gift and card in one! Plus I think it looks quite nice ^^ sadly I had a bit of trouble trying to get the colours right in the picture because of bloody winter light, so the actual colours are more pastel than suggested in the pictures. The cards are A6 (10x15cm) and come with envelopes, and the feather is 4 inches long from tip to tip, not including the thread.

   There's only one available at the moment, but all I'm waiting on are more cards which should arrive in a couple of days. I've got about 12 feathers ready though ^^

Please keep in mind last Valentine purchasing dates:
UK: February 11th
Europe & USA: January 27th
Asia/Australia/New Zealand: January 13th 
   I'm going to add more of these to my shop very soon for birthday cards and other holidays.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Peaches and Pebbles Newsletter

   Peaches and Pebbles has a new newsletter! Well, I say 'new'...there was a sign-up sheet before but I ended up deactivating the Mailchimp account, figuring I'd never do anything with it, and not one newsletter ended up going out anyway. I've decided that I need to try to make use of the newsletter avenue, however, and I've signed up again, and I've also started work on my first newsletter. My real issue comes with the layout and trying to make it my own, but I really struggle with HTML and design, but I've decided that that is a pretty poor reason not to bother, so my newsletters look pretty plain.

   My newsletters will be kept to one a month, unless there's something like a flash sale or an important announcement that needs to be shared. The newsletters will update subscribers on current or up-coming competitions relevant to my shop's products, current or up-coming sales, new products, recent custom pieces and so on. I'm quite excited about it. Plus there's an exclusive discount to anyone who signs up, to be found at the foot of each newsletter.

   You can sign up to the newsletter below:

Monday 13 January 2014

5 Weird Things About Me

   I saw Habitual Homebody do a post along these lines and I thought I'd try it too!

1. I really hate and am a little afraid of stairs.
   This isn't a phobia, it's not that extreme. I don't avoid steps. I always, always choose to take the stairs rather than an elevator or escalator, even in an airport or train station, unless I am simply carrying far too much, I've injured my leg, or I've been walking for a very long time, simply because it's that little bit healthier.
   But I absolutely hate them. I think it started in my great gran's house. Her stairs are not very wide, and not very deep, and the staircase seems so steep. I always wondered how the old woman managed it when I was a child, because I struggled even with baby feet! I'm the same in anyone's house, especially my boyfriend's parents' house in the Netherlands, because their stupid staircase has a 180 turn in it. I HATE IT. His cats come bouncing past, overtaking me, and I'm taking it slow grabbing onto anything I can, sticking to the outside where the steps are widest, and I always make a point of being the last one down, partly so I don't hold anyone up, and partly for a softer landing.
   I am especially wary if the steps don't have backs, and are more like shelves. I hold onto the hand rails for dear life, and if they're spiral, I will try to find another way up, or simply stay on the level I am on.
   I've been in many different castles, too, I love them, and I've visited a few with Seeg's family, but when we near the top, I feel the anxiety building up, and I often have to stop off in a lower level while the rest of them go up. I refuse to go with them, as much as I'd like to, because castle steps tend to be quite worn and made of stone (imagine slipping and hitting your head on the corner of that!) , and I am very clumsy. But I won't stop them from going. Seeg usually goes, but he's always the first back to me and is only gone for a few minutes, then we wait another 5-10 for his parents and then proceed right back down.
   The only steps I am comfortable with are my own, and they're also the only stairs I won't hold onto the railings while ascending or descending. I trust them, but also because they're carpeted.

2. I have a range of facial twitching habits.
   I've had them all my life and I continue to develop new ones. My latest involve raising and lowering my eyebrows as high and low as I can from a look of surprise to a look of sheer contempt. I can't help it, and I don't know why I do it. Another is twitching the sides of my nose up and down. Another is moving my ears back and forth. I have others but I don't want people to think I'm a complete lunatic. Vaguely insane is fine.

3. I talk to myself.
   All the time. Quite literally. I won't ask myself questions and then answer them as if I am 2 people, instead I talk as if I'm updating someone no one can see about what's going on with me, things I've just done, things I just found out, ideas I've had and things I plan to do. I can't stop it. It's always been this way. I was lonely as a child in school, I had few friends, and most of the time they were off with other friends, leaving me to stroll around the playground alone and talking to myself. It's sad when I think back, but in truth I never noticed it at the time and I was really quite happy, and that's totally what counts.
   Seeg has learned that I do this, however, and will often sit outside the room and listen to me, or just barge in going "whisperwhisperwhisperblahblahblah" and it embarrasses the hell out of me to be caught, but I cannot stop it, and neither do I really want to. It helps me think, and if I've written myself into a corner with my book, I can unstick myself in a matter of minutes by talking it out to myself. It also calms me down when I'm PMSing.

4. I love games but rarely ever play them.
   I've never played Assassin's Creed. I've watched Seeg play them all, however, and he's not allowed to play them without me there because I don't want to miss a bit of the story. My hand-eye co-ordination is attrocious so I'm really quite bad at games that aren't Skyrim or World of Warcraft, and my patience is very low so I don't like having to redo the same level 100 times because of silly mistakes, but just because I don't play most of them doesn't mean I can't appreciate their stories, or the benefits of actually playing the games. I plan to play Assassin's Creed myself because the stories are simply incredible, truly. We recently finished Assassin's Creed 4, and it has to be the most depressing of them all so far, but it makes a lot of sense. The end is particularly sad, but that's partly because I read Forsaken and I know what happens to Edward Kenway shortly after the very final scene in the credits. I was crying for about 10-15 minutes after it finished. It was a truly amazing story. Most of Assassin's Creed is historically accurate, with characters like the Borgia family, or Mary Read, but there are, obviously, a few fantastical features such as the existance of Assassins and Templars, the First Civilisation, artifacts and so on. But you would be surprised how much of what you witness in game is historically accurate.
   I have managed to play Halo: Reach, though it was co-op campaign with Seeg, but I held my own periodically when I told him to let me have a proper go. I also played Mass Effect 1&2 (not 3 yet because I'm a bit apprehensive about having to directly fight the Reapers), and that really was by myself with no help, and I survived the Arrival DLC and got an achievement because I didn't die at a certain point when I was expected to. Seeg did not get that achievement.
   Skyrim, World of Warcraft, Pokemon, these games are easy and pose no challenge, which is why I can play them so much and so often, but the others are more demanding and I find them difficult. But I don't play games to shoot people or to occupy myself like some people do, I watch and play games for the story, and I hope dearly that, one day, I might have a hand in developing the story of a game.

5. I rarely give to charities that ask me for it.
   If there's a charity that has an advert that runs for 1-2 minutes every commercial break (looking at you, Water Aid!), and ask for a measly amount like £2 a month, I will not give it to them. Seriously, some charities promote themselves so much that I wonder how much of that £2 or £3 a month goes to the cause and how much goes to advertising or profit - charities, by definition, should not be making a profit. On one hand, yes, advertising is how they can spread awareness of their existance and the problem they're trying to fight, but I really can't see the need to play their advert every 15 minutes. If they ran their adverts a lot less, and didn't send out bloody spam mail in the post now as well, then their cause may be further along than it is.
   I also won't sponsor a single type of animal from WWF. I will donate to the WWF, however, but I don't like to donate to just one animal. What people don't realise is that these "sponsor an animal" things, while nice to have, are a bit unfair, and as a result, either some animals (note the sellable, cute and cuddly ones) get more attention on their endangered status than less attractive animals such as the Western Black Rhino (now extinct) or other even lesser noticed animals. Or, the money you think is going to your sponsored animals will be going to Iguanas or frogs.
   I think all animals have the right to exist and be saved, even assholes like Orcas, and while I do understand the marketing logic behind offering sponsorships of leopards and elephants, it doesn't spread the awareness for other creatures that it should
   I choose my charities carefully, and it's the unsung charities like the MS Society that doesn't have any adverts whatsoever that get my money, because MS almost directly affects my life (almost directly because, to my knowledge, I don't have it, but my mum does). And I think very, very little of charities that make profit or create 2 minute long, slow motion guilt-tripping adverts that play every 15 minutes.

Friday 10 January 2014

Birthday Sale - Biggest of the Year

   It just occurred to me: I don't like to make discounts or have sales for more than 20% off because of the time it takes to make my products. But each year, when my birthday comes, I turn my new age into the birthday discount's percentage - so this year, the discount is at 23%, but that's made me realise that this is very likely to be the biggest sale of the year in my shop. By 3%, sure, but it does add up. It's not likely at all that there will be a sale bigger than 20% off after this sale.
   Remember, it ends tonight!

   Also, I've got a few new necklaces! Unfortunately the pictures aren't much good due to poor winter light but I've done my best. It's called my Spring Tea Party Collection - it sounds fancier than it is really but nevermind! It consists of three necklaces that look far better than their pictures, I assure you :( there is a slice of good old victoria sponge cake, a cup of tea, and a lovely white tea pot, and they're £18 each. Though, with my birthday sale, they're about £13.86 I think.

Thursday 9 January 2014

Look What This Lucky Devil Won!

   Okay, so for the majority of you reading this, this will mean nothing to you. But back in 2008, when Fable 2 was released, Seeg had bought the special edition of it which promised the game, bonus game content, a Hobbe figurine (a hostile creature from the Fable world of Albion), some tarot cards which are featured in the game's cinematics, and some other stuff. Unfortunately, demand for the game and the special edition were so high, next to none of that stuff was ever added to the special edition, instead you just got the game and some bonus content, maybe some art, I'm not sure, but either way, it wasn't what he or many, many others had payed for, and he was quite bummed out about it.

Typical Hobbes; they wear what they find, not always correctly. Some Hobbes take to wearing boots on their heads. It's said in Albion lore that Hobbes are children that got lost and had their souls stolen by dark Nymphs.

   Or so he says. I didn't know Seeg at the time. But I did play Fable 2 shortly after its released and I LOVED it. It was the first fantasy game I'd played - in fact it was the first game I ever played, from start to finish. I've played it through 5 times since, each time intending to play a different character, but I always ended up making the exact same choices and turned into a goody two-shoes wearing the same outfit every single time.
   Unfortunately, while the Hobbe figurines do exist, they're very difficult to come by, so Seeg and I were never able to get one once he told me about it.
   Lionhead Studios, the bastards company responsible for destroying creating Fable had a Fable Advent Calendar on their Facebook page - every day there was a new prize, and to my knowledge only one winner a day. Well, I entered every day that had something interesting, which was like 16 of the 24 days, and guess what?
   I won day 10: the Hobbe figurine.

   I was so freaking excited! Don't get me wrong, I'd have loved to have won the custom designed Fable Xbox 360 and complete Fable Anniversary game with bonus content, but having won the Hobbe figurine is awesome, because we're both really happy to have it, especially Seeg, at long last. He's so funny. He comes with a leg of meat and a saucepan, the latter of which is typically used as a helmet.

   He came in today, which was a lovely extra birthday treat! Seeg demanded to play with him first, and being a gracious and tolerant Queen birthday girl, I let him. But I had it shortly afterwards!!

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Birthday Sale!

   Tomorrow is my 23rd birthday, so, like last year, I'm giving a short but relevant discount to Peaches and Pebbles! Use the code BIRTHDAY23 for 23% off at checkout. It's relevant to all current listings, but if you request a custom piece that is either not listed as a custom piece (ie custom dinosaur skull necklace), or not listed at all, then you'll have to pay full price.
   Shipping within the UK is just £1.50-£3 depending on product (larger jars can't get away with a large letter and are sent as small parcels), and shipping overseas is always £3/$5.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

&& A Happy New Year - Project 1

   I participated in Papered Thoughts' && A Happy New Year project this year. It was split into two tasks: the first was to basically stuff new years eve into an envelope and send it to your partner, while the second was to stuff an envelope with good vibes, happy thoughts and other nice things. Unfortunately, shipping delays have meant that my package didn't get to my partner until January 4th, so it was a bit late, while I had mine around the 27th of December.
   My partner was the lovely Lissy of Dragonfly Keep, and she sent me this lovely little package. The notebook features a countdown from 10 to 1, in new year's fashion, and she left me space in the back, after her lovely new year's wishes, to write my own resolutions or make tiny paper aeroplanes. I have not decided which I will do :P
   She also sent me a cup of tea - hugely appreciated - and some skelanimals stickers, which, frankly, are awesome. I don't stick stickers unless I want them there forever, so I rarely stick them, but I can never resist buying stickers - they're so awesome!
   Thank you, Lissy, for your wonderful package - I hope you liked mine, and I hope I manage a better job on project 2!

Monday 6 January 2014

January: Ilumi

Food Rating: ★★★★☆    Personal Results Rating: ★★☆☆☆

   This month marks the beginning of new year's resolutions, and so I, like many others, am beginning mine. My resolution, as I explained yesterday, was to try something new every month for fitness and weightloss in order to beat plateaus, and this month's is a new diet.

   I only plan to do this diet for 2 weeks, as it's expensive compared to what I'd usually do, and it's mostly to kick-start the year and get me into the right frame of mind and away from the Christmas stuffing mood I've been in lately.
   Rather than diet, I would usually just try a new workout routine - buy the necessary equipment and I'm set up for the month, and can use it again in the future. This diet is different because I have to constantly buy new food, so it's not likely that a change of diet is going to occur much this year, but I thought I'd try it anyway.

   I first heard of Ilumi through Women's Fitness Magazine. Their food is all natural, milk- gluten- and nut-free, and the meals are already packaged, making it quite simple. The meals are quite small, which I noticed when I received them, but I have admittedly been wondering if, lately, my portions have been a bit too big, and I'm judging it based on that. The calories are all there, the ingredients are all listed, and I'm confident that this is a good decision.
   Purchasing through this link will get £10 off of your first order of £25 or more, which is what I did. I bought enough meals for 2 full weeks, and they're all sat in my cupboard now. They cost between £1.50 to £3.75, and all serve one, which is perfect for me and I won't have to force anyone to join me in order to make it economical. The delivery is always free, and next day, too, and the staff are polite and helpful.

   I'm starting this diet today. I have no idea what I'm going to start with first, but that's part of the fun! I'm breaking away from my usual meals, which are the same every week as I am a creature of habit, but it's also going to get me to eat more veg, and other specific foods, like chilies, that I never usually eat. So, needless to say, this should be interesting, and it should provide me with a good start to the year. After all, when I invest in something like this, I'm a lot more likely to make it work because I don't want to waste my money :P
   I'll post again in a week and tell you what the food is like - namely whether or not it tastes any good - and how it's making me feel.

Sunday 5 January 2014

My New Year's Resolution:

Each month, I will try something new for fitness and weightloss.

   I'm not going for a "exercise for an hour every day" because that's actually a terrible idea (your body needs rest, and there's no way your average person can stick a resolution like that if they've barely exercised before. Instead, they should aim for a 30 minutes every other day to begin with, and then build that time frame up, and only weigh and measure themselves once a week following a rest day). I'm not going for a "drop down to X weight by December" because weight fluctuates so much, and if results take too long to form it can be off-putting.
   Instead, over the past year I've learned a lot about weightloss. I know what's a good idea and what's a bad idea, and, more importantly, I've learned about plateaus, and that they are my enemy more than a giant chocolate pudding.

   If you exercise frequently, eat right and so on, then after 4-6 weeks you're likely to stop seeing results. This is because your body has adjusted to your diet and your exercise movements, and they're no longer challenging. So, every 4-6 weeks you need to change either your workout pattern, your diet, or both. This can range from working out in the evening instead of the morning, or if you have a routine in the gym, doing that routine backwards. If you work out at home then a new DVD, a new piece of equipment or heavier weights, or a new workout type. This will reset your body and it has to learn all of this new stuff all over again. Then, 4-6 weeks later you'll have to mix it up again. This is far from a bad thing, mind you: trying new things will help to keep your workouts fresh and keep you excited about them. My dad's bought me a set of kettlebells for my birthday and I can't wait to get them, because that will completely change my evening workout.

   So, my resolution this year is to do all that I can to avoid plateaus, and every month, to keep myself sticking to it, I will share my plans and my results with you, ie, did that month's routine work for me or not, did I manage to stick with it and so on. I'm starting tomorrow, so I will post my first plan then.

   I don't usually make new year's resolutions, which I explained on new year's day, but since this was an idea I got just days before 2014, I decided that, if I was going to do a new year's resolution, this would be the one that would work best for me, because it will constantly shift and change rather than being constant all year. As in, one month I'll do one thing and another month something totally different, rather than my resolution being just to exercise, which can be bleak.


January: Ilumi (2 weeks)
February: Raspberry Ketone
March: Hooping
April: 30 Day Shred
September: Shaolin Warrior Workout (Vol. 1)
December: Dumbbells & P90X/2

Friday 3 January 2014

DB Illustrations Review

   I want to take a moment to talk about a little shop on Etsy that I've fallen head over heels for. I've made 2 purchases so far and I really will return because the seller is so friendly and so clever, and the products are incredible.
   Deborah Ballinger is an amazing artist located in Nottingham, UK. love sketches, I love detailed drawings that you can look at and immediately know what you're seeing. I'm not a fan of modern art, not remotely. It's not that I can't see what each piece of art is about, it's that I can't see what talent it's taken. The people behind modern art aren't the artists, it's the critics. Without them, artists are nothing. I can look at a renaissance painting and marvel at the detail, the shading, and think "wow, this is talent!" And I can look at a canvas with lines on it and think "...I could have done this myself." - and it's not a matter of "yes, but you didn't!", because I wouldn't have anyway. It's not my style.
   Deborah Ballinger's work is right up my street. I adore it.
   I was drawn in initially by her temporary tattoos, mostly the woodland animals. I bought a pack before Christmas, and when I used one I thought it was awesome. They applied so easily, and yes I've used temporary tattoos before, I was a kid once, but these are different. The shine that's usually on temporary tattoos disappears quickly, leaving behind an image that honestly looks like a real tattoo, plus they're unique given that they're not just any old drawing, but a drawing by the creator, meaning they're not available elsewhere. They're fabulous quality, truly, and that's why I returned.

   In my second purchase, I bought another pack of tattoos, fauna and flora, and I also bought three canvas bags that were on sale, two for my friends and one for me.

   DBIllustrations' packaging is lovely, too - you know what I'm like. I love tissue paper and stickers. The bags were beautifully presented, and business and thank you cards are lovely, too, and the tattoos come with complete instructions printed onto the card backings written out by Deborah rather than paper manufacturers. It's all entirely branded by herself, every bit of it, with truly the cleverest logo I've ever seen.

   She's a very helpful and polite individual, too. She replied quickly to my messages, and was willing to ship sooner than planned to meet my silly needs (ie purchasing an extra gift, spur of the moment and last minute for my friends whom I would be seeing within just a few days and a Sunday in between). She's marvellous, and I highly recommend her. Returning customers get a 10% off discount emailed to them (provided of course that they have such an option enabled in their Etsy account's email settings).

Thursday 2 January 2014

The Biscuiteers Product Review

   Twinings has recently worked in conjunction with the Biscuiteers on a collaboration set of biscuits. They have sold lovely sets of teacup and teapot biscuits, all hand iced by the Biscuiteers, and they have sold exclusive and, as far as I can tell, limited edition gingerbread men and women of 'tea ambassadors'. I was lucky enough to get one for free with an order I placed just before Christmas along with a gift for my great grandmother who then told me off for spending so much money on the lovely old woman and some tea for myself.
   I am not really a fan of gingerbread, it really depends on how much ginger has been added, and the less the better. So it took me some time to get around to eating my tea ambassador.

   The first thing I noticed, as you would, is the packaging of the biscuit. This biscuit was being sold for about £6 - that's a lot for a single, standard-sized gingerbread man biscuit. I would never have payed that for it, which is why I was so pleased to get one for free.
   The box the biscuit was in was far too good for a biscuit, which certainly hinted at its quality. The box is so thick and strong, and is in one piece with a hinged lid, and the illustration is to die for. When I opened it there was black corrugated plastic like what you get on top of chocolates in a chocolate box and it created a box itself. It also had a band of pink tissue paper (perhaps because it was a gingerbread woman, I'm not sure) around it with a lovely rolling pin sticker with their company name 'Biscuiteers' across it.

   When I opened it up, the gingerbread woman was securely lying inside. It was fixed down with icing on the back of the biscuit to keep it from slipping about, from breaking, or getting ruined in some way, which is entirely edible, though I will admit that I thought the amount of icing used was really a little too much, because obviously while it is an edible sort of glue, the taste of the icing does interfere with the biscuit itself.
   I received the biscuit on the 21st of December, and didn't eat it until the 29th. It was still perfectly firm, as if it had just been baked, as gingerbread should be. The amount of spice in the biscuit was minimal, but present, which made it the best gingerbread I've ever had, and the quality of icing was marvellous, which I think is half of what the company prides itself on. It was not machine-iced, but hand-iced, which the company mentions many times on their website, and it was done marvellously.

   I received this gingerbread biscuit as part of a promotion, not for the purpose of reviewing but simply as a reward for purchasing during a certain time period and spending over a certain amount. The Biscuiteers are highly expensive, but I adore the company if simply for the care they take over their products. The packaging the biscuit came in made it quite plain that the London company have great respect for their products, and also avoids any chance of breakage - no one likes a broke biscuit, whether it costs £6 or just 50p.
   They sell tins of hand-iced biscuits, and individual gingerbread men and woman of different professions including nurses, firemen, wonder woman and so on on their website, starting at £6, and by signing up to their newsletter you receive £5 off of your first biscuit tin. They ship worldwide and ice cakes and chocolates too. I love it, and only wish I could afford more! Gingerbread men and women would make amazing gifts!

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

   It's funny. I just titled a document as '2nd January 2014' and I couldn't help feeling a sense of propulsion while writing '2014'. It's not that it's the next year - that much jumping-into-the-future feeling is to be expected. This was different. Despite despising the number '4' (it's horrible in english shape and it's a foul orange colour), and consequently the number '14' and then the number of '2014', I can't help looking at the new year's numerical state and feeling a sense of excitement and hopefulness. I've never really felt that about a new year. All I would usually think is 'I wonder how long it will take me to stop having to remember to write 2014'.
   Simply put, I feel positive. I never usually make new year's resolutions because I am a big believer that, when it comes to making positive changes in your life, there really is no time like the present. I've said before that the longer you put things off, the higher the pedestal they're on, and when you fall off, and you probably will, there will be a much higher climb to get back onto the horse. "I'll start on Monday!" will put it on a pedestal. "I'll start on the 1st" will put it on a higher one, and "I'll start January 1st" puts it on the biggest because more time will pass. There's just 7 days between Mondays, but there are around 30 days between 1sts, and 12 months between January 1sts, and the more time between your chosen start date and the next 'start date', the more likely you are to fail, and then the more likely you are to not try again. If you start immediately - no "oh I'll finish this box of chocolates tonight and start the diet tomorrow" - then you're the least likely to fail, and if you do 'fail' (though it's important to remember that you can only truly fail if you give up and don't try again), the easier you'll find it to pick yourself up and get back on the horse.
   And despite believing this, I can't help feeling positive about a fresh year and wanting to make a new year's resolution. I did so well losing weight over the past few months. I learned a lot about plateaus, which were always my downfall, and I've mastered a way to defeat them that works for me, and keeps me excited about the weightloss process itself. I have admittedly gained a couple of pounds over Christmas, but given that I've got some kind of grasp, finally, on what works for me in terms of weightloss, I feel like I can knock it back off easily enough. I don't want to set any kind of solid goal, like drop down to a particular weight because I'm not sure I can do it, and neither do I know how I'll react if I fail to do it, but I suppose that's what a goal is, isn't it?

   Do you know, I wanted to make a new years post about the year ahead, not just a post about the year that has passed, but I had no idea what to say. The New Year has never been all that significant to me really, it's just the passage of time, but this year...I don't know, it feels different. I feel positive. I only hope that it isn't misplaced...