Bowing Out

6 Nov

You may have noticed that things have been rather quiet on here lately. The combination of too many work commitments and too little free time has meant that we aren’t giving the blog as much focus as we once did. For two years we’ve enjoyed sharing our ideas, tips about places to visit and our ventures into crafting but after a lot of discussion, we have decided that it is time for us to move on from Shoestring Splendour.

Thank you so much to everyone who has visited the site, supported us, left comments, chatted to us on Twitter or said hi at events. This blog has been so fun to work on, given us some incredible opportunities and introduced us to a whole raft of wonderful people who we’ll definitely be keeping in touch with. We’ll still be crafting and making great food and exploring London in our free time, we just won’t be blogging about it here anymore.

That said, we would LOVE you to stay in touch – we’re both on Twitter and Instagram and Katie will still be putting up photos from time to time on her personal blog. You can find our details below.

Keep in touch!

Katie – Twitter / Instagram / Blog
Hannah – Twitter / Instagram

Hannah and Katie

Thank you!

An autumn party: From Pinterest to real life

28 Oct

Last week, I helped organise a work party for around 60 people, including staff, book bloggers, romance authors and other people in the romance community. We had an incredibly boring space in our office to work with – plain tables, white bookshelves – not very festive!

photo (17)

Luckily Pinterest came to the rescue. Over the last few weeks I’ve been keeping my eye out for any simple, autumnal crafts that we could do without spending a lot of money or taking too much time out of work and this is what we did…

Painted pumpkins

Painted pumpkins to brighten up the bookshelves – Inspired by this image (original source unavailable – let me know if you know it!)

The painted pumpkins were brilliant – they really look impressive and different and also, they have the benefit of not going off quickly. Someone in our office did an INCREDIBLE job carving the HarperImpulse logo (the brand that the party was for) into a pumpkin, but by the day after she’d carved it, it was already going brown and smelly around the carved edges. Such a shame – it was beautiful.

We bought a big bag of mixed, large shaped sequins from Tiger (best. store. ever.) and sprinkled those over the bookshelves and tables.

Heart bunting

We made lots of heart shapes out of old books and then stapled them to a ribbon to use as bunting. Inspired by this.

We even convinced the canteen to whip up some chocolate toffee apple slices for us!

Toffee chocolate apple slices

Toffee chocolate apple slices, inspired by these

I’m not sure how they made them – on the one hand, they were delicious. On the other hand, the chocolate fell off the apples all over the floor. The carpet was not a pretty sight at the end of the evening. Only recommended if you’ve got an easily cleanable floor!

In the end, the party looked great. Plus, painting pumpkins at the office on a Wednesday afternoon is really a remarkably lovely way to spend an hour in the office – I highly recommend it!

Cookbook giveaway!

21 Oct

I bought some new cookbooks. OOPS! But work were offering signed copies of Nigel Slater’s new book, Eat, and I’m a sucker for a new Jamie Oliver book so picked up his new one, too. Then my dad gave Peter a new cookbook for his birthday (Gastropub Classics by the female chef behind one of my favourite pubs, the Canton Arms in Vauxhall).

I have a bit of a ‘one in, one out’ rule when it comes to cook books now as my shelves are heaving with them. So if I’m to buy a new one, I need to clear some space!

For one reason or another, I haven’t found myself cooking from these very much, but that’s not to say that they aren’t full of delicious recipes.  They’re really great books, and I don’t really want to throw them away. So I thought I’d do a little cookbook giveaway. Because I haven’t been cooking from them a lot, they are in pretty good condition, too and could even make good gifts.

Cookbook giveaway

Top to bottom: Smitten Kitchen, Deb Perelman / Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts, Gizzi Erskine / The Vintage Tea Party Book, Angel Adoree / Cook, Rebecca Seal

So, fancy them? The only condition is that you must be able to collect these from either Stockwell/Brixton/Clapham North or Hammersmith. If you win, I’ll email you to arrange a time to meet.

If you’d like to enter, just leave a comment by the end of October, just telling me what your favourite cookbook is, and I’ll pick one winner at random at the beginning of November.

Kitchen cupboard overhaul

17 Oct

A couple of weekends ago, this happened.

Kitchen cupboard overhaul

It was horrible. The kitchen cupboard completely pulled away from the wall. We put it down to a combination of heavy stuff, a missing rawl plug and a neighbour who has to slam their front door to close it. Most of our plates broke and the ones that remain are chipped. Two of our wedding presents bit the dust. It was so sad. But there’s no time for wallowing – we decided to try something different!

We couldn’t put the cupboard back up as the plaster was completely pulled off the wall and the existing holes were no longer usable. So we decided to go down a completely different route.

Kitchen cupboard overhaul

We extended the teal paint that we have in the living room (Sanctuary Aegean from Homebase) to one side of the extractor fan. We didn’t want to cupboard to go to waste, so we built a plinth (I say ‘we’ here but really, I mean Peter) and installed it in the gap that had previously stored a small fridge.

Then we installed open rectangular shelves. We had to paint the insides as they were a strange mottled grey/white pattern, and we painted the backs the same teal colour as the wall. We had an IKEA rail with hooks hanging off it holding tea towels and other various bits, so we reinstalled that.

Kitchen cupboard overhaul

Ta da! I made a slight error with the measurements, so I’m not completely happy with the top shelf and next weekend we may take it down and move it along to the left a bit more so that it’s further away from the circuit board box, but generally I think it looks pretty cool!

Kitchen cupboard overhaul

DIY Dress Form

14 Oct

I’ve been getting more into my sewing lately. It started with a skirt, then I did a bunch of tailoring, then I felt confident enough to tackle a pattern. I used a Simplicity pattern, and step by step (and with some YouTube video help) I managed to make my way to a finished product, complete with hidden zip and bodice lining! The only problem was that somewhere along the line, I’d messed up my measurements. While all in pieces I really wasn’t sure if it was going to fit, but I sewed it together anyway. I didn’t know how to go about pinning it on myself and what I really wanted was a mannequin to pin everything on to. But I have quite an unusual body (doesn’t everyone?), so even an adjustable dress form wasn’t going to be ideal. I decided to make my own DIY dress form.

I spotted this a couple of times on Pinterest, and decided to go with these instructions. They were very simple – get some gummed paper tape, wrap yourself up in plastic (I used cling film rather than a plastic bag), and then apply three layers of the tape, wetting each piece before applying it.

DIY Dress Form

DIY Dress Form

DIY Dress Form

The instructions also said to leave it to dry for several hours, but my back is bad and I got uncomfortable and cranky, so ended up only drying it for around 30 minutes before cutting myself out. It doesn’t seem to have affected it, though. It still looks like my slightly wonky body. It’s interesting, whenever I tell people I have scoliosis, they always say they can’t see it at all, but you can definitely see it on my paper me!

DIY Dress Form

DIY Dress Form

DIY Dress Form

All in all, a successful DIY! It’s about 5mm bigger than I am, so I might close it a bit tighter at the back. I’m finally going to return to the ill-fitting dress next week, unpicking the bodice (which fits) from the fabric (which doesn’t), pinning it on the dress form and then sewing the hems a bit tighter. Hooray!

PS: downside of having a dress form hanging around the house… Peter’s father came to stay this week, so Nora (as I’m calling it) came to stay in our room. It’s kind of creepy!

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EAT: Lemon Posset

7 Oct

Last week, Peter and I had five friends over for dinner. We had some lamb shanks in the freezer, which we cooked down into an amazingly rich and tomatoey pasta sauce (adapting an incredible Lorraine Pascale recipe which uses a whole bottle of balsamic vinegar) and for dessert, we wanted to do something simple which didn’t cost a huge amount, given that we were feeding 7 people!

This lemon posset recipe from Felicity Cloake (we used her ‘perfect’ recipe – the bottom on the list) is absolutely delicious, super quick and easy to prepare, and costs as much as two lemons and a large pot of double cream (assuming you have some spices and things like sugar in your store cupboard!).

Lemon Posset

Zest one of the lemons and juice 1 and a 1/2. Put the juice and zest on to a low heat in a small pot along with 125g caster sugar. Bring to the boil and stir as the sugar dissolves.

Lemon Posset

Pour 425ml of double cream into a separate pot with a little bit of ground ginger and nutmeg and bring to the boil. Then whisk in the lemony syrup. When combined, sieve. Then pour into your little serving pots and put in the fridge to set.

Lemon Posset

And that’s it! The recipe calls for almonds and candied peel to go on top, but we ended up grating some chocolate and putting that as a layer on top. It was so tasty. Hannah actually called it her ‘perfect dessert’, so that’s quite an accolade.  It’s definitely one to repeat!

Lemon Posset

PS: These are part of the tea set I inherited from my grandmother – I’m regretting not picking up the matching tea pot, which I saw in the Zandfeesten in Bruges… They’re so pretty!

Community Gardening

3 Oct

In my little pocket of London there is a community gardening project to make our streets a little bit more attractive.

About a year ago a woman put up a few posters around the roads I live in and asked for volunteers to help plant some things around our streets to make it look a little nicer. She has organised gardening days won which local residents have built and filled tree pits and large free standing planters and people water and look after them from day to day.

community gardening

I’ve been doing some watering but haven’t been around on the gardening days. Today I had a few spare hours and as the planters are ready for an autumn tidy and refresh I offered to help out with a spot of gardening.

community gardening

Tree pits are difficult things, they dry out awfully quickly and the soil needs a lot of nutrients adding to it. This one is home to a geum, a rose campion and a fox glove. Today I planted a couple of shrubs which we hope will be a bit hardy and give some colour over the winter.

The raised planters are a little easier to manage as there’s no tree roots in there to compete. Winter pansies and violas are wonderful because they should last all winter. Also, I love the little faces on violas! They hadn’t come out yet but here are my window boxes with some violas in which are looking lovely now.



It’s wonderful to have a group of people who care enough about their environment to give up time and money to make their area a little bit nicer.

There are lots of community gardening projects throughout the country. Look on your local council’s website to find one closest to you.

Zandfeesten: antique market in Bruges

30 Sep

On our anniversary this year, Peter and I were in Bruges! It’s an absolutely beautiful city – neither of us had ever been before, and it was such a great surprise trip. My ‘paper’ anniversary present were the tickets! We had a wonderful time exploring the city, and one of the best things we came across was the Zandfeesten!

Antique fair in Bruges

The Zandfeesten is a HUGE second hand and antique market that takes place three times a year so I’m so pleased we happened to be there when it was on. It is absolutely enormous – by far the largest market of this kind I have ever come across. It stretched from the train station, through Koning Albert park, up to a square and then shot off on several of the side streets around the square. It was incredible!

Antique fair in Bruges

There were SO many goodies in this market – I wish we had had a van that we could have loaded up and driven back to London. Not only was there lots of great stuff, but it was all really reasonably priced. Sadly we were travelling on the train and only had backpacks for luggage, so I only bought one thing (some cut glass jars to replace one I have in the bathroom, which I broke the lid of a year or so ago), but the restraint I had to exercise!! Peter had to keep reminding me that a) I’d have to carry whatever I bought home and b) we would have to actually have somewhere to put it when we got home. Oof, it was hard. I am definitely going back, next time with a van.

Antique fair in Bruges

Antique fair in Bruges

Antique fair in Bruges

I so wanted to buy the sewing box AND the glass display case here…

Antique fair in Bruges

I HAVE A WHOLE COFFEE SET IN THIS PATTERN! I inherited it from my grandmother. I would have loved to buy this tea pot in the same style, but the reverse was quite smudged – almost like it was a factory reject – so I settled for a photo instead.

Antique fair in Bruges

Vintage sewing bits

Antique fair in Bruges

I saw someone buy the whole lot of these vintage glass bottles!

Antique fair in Bruges

I love a vintage typewriter…

What an amazing fair! If you’re planning a trip to Bruges, I’d definitely recommend looking up the next dates. But make sure you arrive with lots of room in your suitcase!

Plum vodka

25 Sep

I didn’t quite get enough blackberries to make the blackberry vodka recipe I saw the other week, but I found this recipe for Bachelor’s Jam (ie: fruit, sugar and booze!), and then saw some amazing looking plums in the market, it was like the stars had aligned. According to the sign in the market, these are a mix of plums and damsons, but from a quick google search of damsons, I think these are just regular plums. Are they? Damsons appear to be much a deeper purple colour. Anyone know for sure?

Plum Vodka - Bachelor's Jam

This is such a simple recipe, and it sounds like it’s going to be delicious. In three months time I should have deliciously boozy, sweet fruit, and some amazing, sweet liquor.

To prepare the jars, make sure you clean them thoroughly and sterilise with boiling water or in the dishwasher.

Step 1: Chop the fruit into whatever size you want. I chopped most of them in half, some into quarters.

Plum Vodka - Bachelor's Jam

Step 2: Every time you put in a layer of fruit, add a layer of sugar. I used just under a tablespoon for each layer.

Plum Vodka - Bachelor's Jam

Step 4: The final step is then to cover the fruit in vodka (or any other super strong booze).

Plum Vodka - Bachelor's Jam

Store in a dark, cool place for three months, and it’s ready. If you do it today, this will be ready just in time for Christmas! I think this could make a really lovely gift for someone so if you’re looking for some homemade gift ideas, you can make this with all types of different fruit.

The original website I got the recipe from has loads of great ideas for how you could use the ‘jam’ – make a cocktail with the fruit, use the alcohol to make a punch – I bet it would also taste really good as a shot in a glass of prosecco. Yum!

Guest Post: Narwhal & Co – Papercuts

22 Sep

Today we are very lucky to have a guest post from Ellie of Narwhal & Co. Check out her beautiful papercuts on Etsy.

Narwhal & Co

Being rather handy with a scalpel is something I never thought I’d discover myself to be. I’d had a go at papercutting some simply designed Christmas cards last year  which went down quite well so when it came to coming up with a wedding present for my beautiful friend Beth and her lovely husband Nick, I thought I would create something personal and hopefully pretty. Nick proposed to Beth halfway up a mountain overlooking a castle, so I used that image along with their initials, the wedding date and clinking champagne glasses in my design. I first cut it out on some vintage sheet music. I liked the embellishment the music added to the design but in the end decided on a vintage map of the town in which they met in order to add another personal layer to their story. And so started my obsession…

Narwhal & Co

I love rescuing old things and giving them a new life and have always been fascinated by maps. Combining this with the great story telling tradition of papercutting (Hans Christian Anderson would fold and cut a sheet of paper as he told a story to unveil a pattern of the characters and images from the story at its denouement) seemed only natural. Scouring charity shops and carboot sales is strangely addictive and I have amassed a stack of maps with stories to tell.

Narwhal & Co

Commissions came in from family and friends for personalised papercuts to celebrate everything from 60th birthdays, to house moves to weddings. I also created place-specific designs inspired by the maps I found and needed an outlet for these. Etsy, with its global reach but personal feel, seemed the perfect solution so I now stock my shop, Narwhal & Co, with hand-cut greetings cards and larger art pieces made from vintage maps, books and sheet music.

Narwhal & Co

For each papercut I sketch out the design then cut out a practise version to check if the drawings translate into recognisable silhouettes and the delicate web of paper all holds together. I usually tweak a few aspects of the design along the way. My bon voyage card went through several incarnations before arriving at the final design.

The amount of work involved in each individual papercut means they are very time consuming so I am looking into getting prints done of some in my mini-break series to keep up with demand. I’m just starting out, but it’s been exciting and fun so far. Here’s to a crafty Etsy adventure!

Check out my Etsy shop Narwhal & Co
Follow me on Instagram @narwhalandco
I also blog at

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Anthropologie (UK)

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