Friday, 27 November 2009

If you want to get ahead get a hat! ... like Cheryl's

It seems these days Cheryl Cole can do no wrong and sets the fashion wherever she goes and whatever she wears. Last week was no exception when she braved the elements wearing a bobble hat.
Yes, you heard it right, the bobble hat, that bane of our childhood, when our mothers forced us to wear them, have now become big business and all thanks to Mrs Cole.
Expect to see bobble hats all over the shops and everyone wearing them. Knitwear is back in fashion and it’s time for you to get out there and grab yourself a hat.
Cheryl’s hat comes from Aubin and Wills and costs a mere £50! - but don’t worry if that seems a bit steep, because we've got really simple instructions for making your own Cheryl look-alike hat for a fraction of the price.
Why not make loads of them? - they'll make great Christmas gifts for all your friends

For more knitting inspiration:

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Tips and workshops from Christmas past

Want to pick up tips about ‘make do and mend’ Christmases? London’s Geffrye’s Museum, dedicated to the quintessential style of English middle-class living rooms from the 1600s, has a special Christmases Past exhibition focused on making everything yourself.

Get down there (all links below) between 24th November and 3rd of January to see how we used to decorate our houses for Christmas how we used to celebrate. The special Christmas past exhibition complements the museum’s ongoing Eco Home exhibition.

As well as exhibits, the Geffrye is putting on a series of workshops and events so you can learn how to make festive swags and garlands (12th December) and how you can make all manner of decorations by upcycling old fabrics (5th December).

What a great way to spend a pre-Christmas Saturday.

>> Get more information about  visiting The Geffrye Museum

Thursday, 19 November 2009

STOP PRESS: Christmas pudding shortage fears!

It seems the shops are in for a bumper year for sales of Christmas puddings because of our interest in the good old days and our craving for comfort food ... or at least they would have been if there were enough shop-bought puds to go round.

According to the Mirror newspaper, the UK’s biggest producer, Matthew Walker, is stepping up its production to try to meet this increased demand. But the worry is that it won’t be enough and people will have to go without... or (concept coming up) make their own!

And why not? Especially now you know it’s Stir-up Sunday this weekend (that’s 22nd November). This is the day when the family is meant to gather round the kitchen table to take their all-important turn at stirring the Christmas pudding ingredients. My mother always swore that this would bring all us stirrers good luck for the next year.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never made one before. They’re not difficult to make and there are loads of really good recipes about. In fact if you’ve got a family favourite, please let us see it. In the meantime, we’ve posted a really fab flour and sugar-free version on the website (tastes just as traditional - trust us). Follow the link below.

>> Christmas pudding recipe

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Hot comfort food

The recession’s being blamed again, this time for our growing indulgence in comfort eating! And while foods like baked beans top our list of comfort tastes Simon Cowell chomps his way through Angel Delight as his way of combating stress!

But Simon’s not the only one returning to his childhood taste buds. According to reports, treats like Crispy Pancakes are making a big come back and Black Forest Gateau is firmly back on the menu.

So what’s going on? From all these reports it would seem that it’s not just a little comfort eating we’re indulging in but, real retro-style comfort food.

Comfort food fulfils certain criteria for us - usually sweet, stodgy or tastes and textures linked to our childhood in some way. Foods like boiled eggs and soldiers, ice cream or cakes. Food that has the ability to transport us back to a time when we felt secure and had no worries other than arguing with our parents over bedtime.

In times of stress, such as a recession where we’re worried about money etc, we want to escape and find a little corner of the world that’s safe. During WW2 cinemas experienced a huge boom as people flocked to them to watch elaborate musicals that let them escape for a couple of hours and fun with a happy ending.

It’s not just escapism that lures us back to comfort food. Food we eat can have an effect on our brains and encourage a release of the feel good endorphins: it can directly affect how we feel.

Neuropsychologists based at the University of Sussex studied the ‘nurturing emotions’ which some foods set off. They looked at ingredients consumers’ reactions to the smell, taste and colour of the dish (this was done by strapping electrodes to their heads!).

They then created a comfort index of food based on temperature, texture and ability to recreate a childhood feel. They found that the five dishes with the highest scores were beans on toast, followed by sausage and mash, tomato soup, chicken and mushroom pie and then macaroni cheese…. I would ask where the chocolate, ice-cream and Angel Delight was, but as this research was funded by Heinz, I won’t!

Suffice to say, comfort foods can be good for us, but only in moderation. So don’t spend your whole time justifying eating comfort food or you will only end up feeling uncomfortable!

Feel like indulging your comfort cravings? Go on, you know you want to...

>> Try our left over potato cakes
>> Mars Bar cookies
>> Very dangerous chocolate mug cake
Bubble and Squeak

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Rehabilitating hobbies

Now that the days are drawing in and everything looks so gloomy, it's a good time to think about taking up a hobby.

We've had a bit of a rant before about how boozing seems to have become the hobby of choice for so many people and that the concept of hobbies has become corny and nerdish, which is a great pity.  >> Has drinking replaced hobbies?

So Make it and Mend it is going on the campaign trail for the rehabilitation of hobbies! Or maybe it's not so much hobbies themselves that need rehabilitating, rather the word hobby? It's been the subject of too many curled lips and rolled eyes - let's make it cool again!

Why do we need hobbies? When you have a hobby, you never need to be bored. As well as the pleasure of the activity itself, the sense of achievement that making things can give you is both lasting and self-affirming.

It was Laurence Stern in The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy who first coined the term hobby - or hobby horse. His usage was not exactly positive though - being something the idle rich indulged in to the point of boring the pants off other people! Hobbies as we know them really took off in the years following the second world war - and it seems to have been the cynical go-getting 1980s that marginalised them.

There's  lots of evidence that having hobbies helps reduce stress. This is particularly important for those whose work can be all consuming. Doing something completely different helps takes the mind off your worries and can provide a bit of space and calm. Hobbies can improve self-esteem - as well as self-efficacy: the belief in your own ability to achieve a certain goal.

Hobbies can give people the opportunity to have more personal control over something when this is denied to them in everyday life or work and so it can be very self-affirming.

Hobbies can also be opportunities to fulfill our otherwise thwarted personal aspirations - hence the popularity of amateur dramatics, Karaoke and talent contests for wannabe "slebs".

So this is a call to action! Let's celebrate hobbies and make them sexy again!

Please let me know what hobbies you have and how long you've been doing them. Have you rediscovered a childhood passion? Taken up a long cherished dream? Is it related to your work or completely different? Do you do it alone or with others?

Either post a comment here or drop me an email to