About Kate

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I blog at www.katescreativespace.com

Posts by Kate :

MadHatter’s Cake Stand

I spent last Summer vaguely lusting after the gravity-defying cake stands which popped up in every style magazine and chic home store (Anthropolgie does this kind of thing beautifully).  I convinced myself that it was exactly the kind of thing I could knock up at home on a wet Sunday, using thriftily purchased remnants of china from the charity store, to eventual gasps of awe from anyone who came to tea.

In the event it’s taken me about 6 months to acquire enough cups and saucers, within my self-imposed budget of no more than a couple of pounds for each, not least because I eventually opted for white porcelain pieces… somehow there’s a fine line between uber-stylish retro chintz and just full on mis-matched, chipped 70′s china, and I definitely kept finding the latter. Colourful egg-cups from Pip Studio provided a little burst of zingy colour in the otherwise-white ensemble.

So here it is, the finished result, albeit with a distinct cake deficit in this shot; we are still recovering from the cupcake frenzy of last week, so it may be some time before I can picture this properly laden with sugary delights. n.b. For anyone who is similarly inspired and reaching for the hot glue, there’s a definite knack to cobbling one of these together; my ‘how to’ notes are below…

Materials and methods:

  • 3 or 4 plates of differing sizes; I used a saucer, side plate, dinner plate and an optional under plate to rest it on
  • Selection of cups, mugs or egg cups all with flat rims – pile them up before glueing to check for wobble; they should sit happily and steadily before you attach them
  • Epoxy resin

To make:

  1. Compose your cake stand and try a number of different combinations. Decide which direction you want any handles to point in, and ensure you have enough height to layer cakes or biscuits on each tier. Step back and look at it from different angles before making your final decision.
  2. Clean each piece thoroughly and ensure they are fully dry.  Rub a little fine sandpaper over the base and rim of each piece you will be glueing, to increase the hold.
  3. Mix the epoxy resin together and apply to each piece in turn, working from the bottom and allowing each piece to set before adding the next layer.  Take great care to centre each piece, both aesthetically and to minimise the risk of any wobble
  4. Allow to dry fully, then test each join by pulling gently – the last thing your grand hostess-y entrance needs is to be marred by the sudden loss of the bottom tier of your cake stand at the moment critique….
  5. I used a spray of orchid in the egg cup at the top, but depending on the occasion might also use easter eggs, coloured hat pins, berried twigs etc – or for a true Madhatter touch, twisted and bent cake forks and spoons (but there’s a whole other load of trips to the charity shop before I manage to acquire those).

 

Hearth of the Home

Tonight’s the night, at long last! Sparks will fly, flames will ignite… but before I am accused of over-sharing, let me reassure you that I mean this in the most literal sense.  After months of preparation, we now have two open fires, one with a wood burning stove, just itching to be lit. Armed with firelighters, kindling, kiln-dried logs, scented wax pine cones and seemingly every other conceivable piece of fire-starting equipment, we are determined to raise a glass of weekend-is-here wine to the accompaniment of the crackle of logs and the warming glow of the hearth. All that remains are the two necessary precautions of alerting the local fire brigade and gaffer-taping our toddler son to a comfy chair, and we will be ready.

The journey began some weeks ago with the arrival of the promisingly-named Gareth The Sweep, who we chose at random for the completely irrelevant reason that he sounded like an extra from Under Milk Wood. In the event, Gareth proved to be a chirpy cockney who vanished up our admittedly spacious chimney breasts and reappeared smuttily the following week having exhaustively cleared all our nooks and crannies.

It has not escaped me that Spring has stealthily marched on whilst we have been labouring through the necessary preparations, so here are a few ideas which caught my eye for when warmer weather arrives and the fireplaces become simply decorative…

Since buying a giant 80cm glitter ball on Ebay from a nightclub which had folded, I’ve been looking for how to use it in the house… genius.

A contemporary twice on the traditional bust in a fireplace; the coral keeps it fresh, as does the angle.

Pumpkins would make a great Autumnal / Halloween accent

Antlers (faux or naturally shed of course..) would look great piled randomly in the hearth, or stacked in a fire basket

Too permanent for a simple seasonal shift, this nonetheless would look great in a disused hearth or – if the logs are cut shallowly enough – as a faux fireplace with a deep surround attached to an otherwise plain wall

Spring has Sprung

Despite last Thursday bringing a small snowstorm and temperatures of -8 degrees, today it seems that Spring has sprung, with a positively tropical 12 degrees and the gentle thrumming of lawnmowers providing a backdrop to the chirruping chorus of Spring birds. Gosh, it makes one come over all poetic.

After Harry and I had turned off the central heating, shed the thermals and taken a turn around the garden to examine all of the dead, frostbitten and unidentifiable foliage, we retired to the kitchen for a spot of Spring baking.

I bought these silicone cupcake cases from spiritual home Lakeland last year, and ‘runaway cakes’ made using the Hummingbird Bakery’s divine vanilla cupcake recipe have become a firm favourite in our house.  Usually though, they are unadorned or covered in a simple glaze, so today we decided to go the whole hog and hatch a batch of chicks.  The war-torn looking ones have resisted a 2-year old’s attempts to gouge out wings and eyes for an interim power snack.  I am choosing to ignore the fact that today’s post brought a letter from the government advising that under-5s need no added sugar in their diets. Well, quite…

Baked using:

  • Hummingbird bakery vanilla cupcake recipe
  • Classic buttercream icing with a hint of yellow colouring
  • Liquorice eyes
  • Banana candy sweets chopped in half for the wings
  • Coloured royal icing for the beaks and plumage
  • Industrial-grade surface cleaner for the clean-up operation…

Walls worthy of worship

One of the best things about having a new home is that once you’ve fixed the incredibly DULL things like boilers, rotten windows and Artex ceilings, you get to justifiably build a stockpile of gorgeous home decor magazines (known as ‘house porn’, I was informed by a hipper, cooler friend of mine..)  The fact that you have no money left after said renovations is irrelevant.  Elle Decor, like all good porn, is about the things you really want but can’t have, and know secretly that they wouldn’t actually work in your real world at all (though try telling a guy that Pamela Anderson would not work in their real world; most will vigorously disagree).

Once again I digress.

So back to my fantasy interiors list, which this week is devoted to the lovely Piet Hein Eek and his utterly gorgeous and preposterously expensive wallpaper.  I know this must be because it is hand-woven by spiders and printed by artisans using the rarest ochres and inks, but £200 a roll still makes me quiver with awe.  Still, behold the beauty of the Scrapwood range, which would look simply amazing on my wall (or inside my cupboards, or as an accent feature in a dark corner, or just ANYWHERE, frankly…).  The only way I will own some is by marrying Mr Eek himself, so I will instead stroke my small sample piece lovingly, and return to reality.

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Valentine’s Day Revival

It’s very easy when wrestling with jobs, toddlers and a crumbling, weary gem of a house to become a little, well, unmoved by Valentine’s Day.  The hustle and bustle of life combined with the unspoken thought that one’s Intended is not only now Intended but actually sort of already In The Bag can lead to a distinct lack of effort.

We realised we needed to remedy this and furtive, concerted efforts have been made in recent days, with much rustling and the occasional shriek of ‘don’t come in!’ when the other approaches unexpectedly.  The challenge we face is that of how to make grand romantic gestures on the deliberately austere budget we have agreed for such measures.  How dull.

My solution – at least in part – is to go personal with this homemade gift wrap, using a poem from our wedding, the lovely and highly unusual ‘Valentine’ by John Fuller.  Featuring the immortal lines ‘You are the end of self-abuse/I’d like to make you reproduce’, it certainly caused a stir amongst the congregation, and also a fit of choking in the Best Man who hadn’t read it properly before giving the reading.  Still, it has special memories so I played with some fonts and colours and printed it on A3 recycled paper, which just covers a box of the right size for my gift and has a suitably tactile texture. Let’s hope it does the trick..

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Homemade Family Tree

Your toddler years are probably the only time in your life where you are allowed – nay encouraged – to believe that you are the Centre of the Universe, around whom everyone else revolves.  Why not celebrate that with a scrapbook-style family tree? Harry is by now pretty clear on who his relatives are, but sometimes needs reminding.  He’s also fascinated by the connections between them and to him – particularly given that we’re a modern, blended family with all sorts of interconnectivities and the kind of complex histories that only a venn diagram could truly give order to.

We’re making this together (or rather, I make it with Harry issuing commands about who is placed where, wielding the glue stick and frequently peeling people off for a closer look, or to attempting to insert their photos into Postman Pat’s van, or attaching them to the fridge..so it’s hardly a zen, bonding crafting experience, it has to be said). We’ve taken a pretty liberal view of family, including favourite toys and friends as well as those from who Harry is genetically inseparable. It’s a work in progress as we collect photos to add in.  Be warned if you try this at home; EVERY single person who sees it will claim that you have used a terrible picture of them…

Baking for the Exceptionally Brave

Apologies to anyone reading this today (22/6); it was first posted in February and accidentally re-published during a site upgrade this morning!

Much is written about the challenges of parenthood, particularly early parenthood, but there is one topic on which I have yet to find words of wisdom; The Day Your Beloved Child Brings Home Their First Baking Project.  Carefully wrapped in a greasy, dog-eared paper bag, we received this culinary endeavour with appropriate awe and exclamations of pride; ‘You MADE this? wow! All by yourself? Amazing!’ …but it rapidly became clear that words were not enough.

We took a tentative, doughy mouthful each and chewed methodically for some minutes before Harry lost interest, returning some while later to say ‘I licked it already Mummy, it’s yucky’.  Mm-Mmmmm.

This anecdote caused great hilarity on my return to the nursery this morning, where the teacher exclaimed ‘My god, you actually tried to eat it? Are you crazy? Do you know where their hands have been??’  At this point she shuddered, before issuing the final, killing line; ‘Besides, Harry wasn’t bothered about making these, he played with trains instead. You got one of the communal ones’.

Dear God.  This, by the way, is a Cheesy Hedgehog, as if it wasn’t blatantly obvious. I must pass on the recipe to Nigella…

First Snow

Despite the fact that my son was born in a snowstorm and then Christened a year later amidst flurries as deep as he was high, Harry has never yet experienced snow.  The last snow fell when he was still crawling and tottering, oblivious to it all, so this winter he has been feverishly waiting for the kind of glorious, thickly falling snowball-snow promised by all the films and books he’s seen this Christmas.  We were finally rewarded last night with promises of an overnight dump, and Harry got to stand in his slippers in the garden and feel the first few flakes before bed.  He awoke – on a Sunday no less, how good does it get? – to knee-deep snow, of a perfect consistency for exploration.  The first shock was how utterly cold it is (who knew?), and then a whirlwind discovery of snowballs, sledging, frozen ponds and snowmen-building took place in the space of an hour, before hot chocolate was called for.  We took the opportunity to kick back and watch my husband clearing the driveway whilst we drank; there’s nothing like witnessing hard-work to wear you out.

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February Lust List: mood lifters for chilly days

As I write, swathed in 4 layers of clothing and with an oil-fired heater cranking and spluttering at my ankles (searing hot ankles, since you ask; the rest of me is numb), the temperature outside is minus 2 degrees, and a focus on instant mood lifters seemed appropriate.  My 3 best recent discoveries, all under £50, are perfect for days like today when you just need a little something special to put a spring in your metaphorical step.  John Lewis has just started stocking candles from the delectable Herve Gambs, and Bois de Cashmere is in my view the most decadent and best… I won’t ramble like an amateur parfumiere, but suffice to say it is woody and fresh and cottony and just pretty damned expensive smelling, and adds a literal whiff of luxury to any room.  Once the room is sorted, it’s time to focus on self and Deborah Lippmann’s Across the Universe varnish is my winter bling – despised by husband and probably all sensible men, it is nonetheless a girl’s dream, radiating sparkle and jauntiness with every gesture you make.  Use sparingly over a pale blue base to avoid the full-on peacock effect…  and finally a more tactical choice; the Hunter pompom scarf.  Begging to be wrapped at least twice round your neck, this has so far gone with everything I’ve tried it with, and has even been co-worn by my son during an evening on the sofa; there’s certainly enough to go around.  And with 5 colours to choose from, it would be foolish to limit yourself to just one… *sigh*

Potato chitting

One of my grand New Year’s Resolutions (note to self: do not write when tipsy and full of ridiculous ambition…) was to create a chic kitchen garden outside the backdoor, which bloomed verdantly by day and bountifully produced all of the fruit and veg we could hope to consume.  Come dusk, it would gently scent the terrace and be something our friends would stroll through, glass in hand, exclaiming on its beauty and the magnificence of its produce.  It would of course necessitate buying a host of attractive hand-made gardening tools and a divine leather half-apron, and of course a beautifully shaped trug to collect the peas, carrots and herbs which would be needed for dinner each evening.  Oh, and a petite Kew Gardens watering can for ad-hoc sprinkling.  And some of those lovely wooden vegetable markers that no serious gardener would cast a second look at…. …Well, as you can see I had not got much further than the retail opportunity offered  by this resolution, and certainly had not contemplated the actual hands-on aspect of it all.

A couple of weeks ago I raided the library bookshelves in order to create at least some semblance of a planting plan and a little amateur knowledge. The Dorling Kindersley guide for children did the trick (I have no pride or shame in this regard), and so I learned that I should be urgently, urgently chitting my potatoes in order to get a head start come Spring.  A few more minutes of research translated this rather alarming instruction into the simple task of setting out some seed potatoes in an eggbox somewhere cold but bright.  Given that the entire house is very cold and generally bright, the perfect spot was not hard to find.  (The books do make a sweeping assumption that the inside of every house is free from frost – I challenge them to over-winter here before being so confident in future).  This milestone in the launch of my new kitchen garden enterprise took about 45 seconds, and I duly forgot about them

Lo and behold! Two weeks on and blow me if the blighters haven’t begun sprouting and jostling in their cups, as if hell-bent on making a final bid for freedom before the soil beckons.  If it is possible to feel pride at so basic an achievement, then pride it is.  Hoorah.

Ode to the Giant Cupcake Cake (an amateur’s guide)

The Giant Cupcake Cake.  It sounds so simple; a big, nay HUGE version of the failsafe My-First-Bake, everyone’s-a-winner cupcake.

So I thought as I contemplated the cake mould in the store last week, in anticipation of my best friend’s birthday brunch.  The double cup tin looked not so much like a cake mould as a cast-off from one of Madonna’s stage shows, glinting in its conical glory.  In fact like most great bras, it promised so much at first glance.  So I purchased the beast and brought it home.  Today my sous chefs and I poured vats of cake batter into the damn things and still managed to only fill them to half-way.  After an hour of trembling in the oven (an hour!),  I lost patience and extracted them, by now heavily punctured with skewers and displaying a jaunty tilt – impressively each seemed to tilt at a different angle.

Having deployed kilos of sugar and butter in the assembly of the two halves (look away, my healthy friends…), I discovered that giant cupcake cakes of course require giant nozzles through which to pipe the frosting; my dainty array were just not going to cut it.  In the end we all slathered the frosting on in handfuls, and prayed that a touch of Martha Stewart ribbon would mask the heavy labour and give a misleading air of lightness and chic to the cake, which by now resembled nothing more than a squat cottage loaf and yet still stands an impressive 12 inches tall.  Judge for yourself; I’d suggest waiting 3-4 days after tasting before one ventures to take a blood cholesterol test….