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Saturday, 12 July 2014

How to Print and Cut on Dark Card with the Silhouette Cameo

In my shop we have recently been creating a lot of Wedding Stationary for customers, the majority of these designs need to make use of the Silhouette Cameo print and cut feature.

I have a love hate relationship with the laser in my cameo, it probably fails to read (or worse cut correctly!) 75% of the time. If you are using anything other than bright white card stock, prepare for more tears, tantrums and wasted card than you can shake a stick at!

Sometimes a customer will ask for a design on quite a dark colour, although my heart used to sink; how on earth could I tell a bride that she couldn't have the colour that matches her design scheme, because my crappy machine can't cope with it??? After my latest order was completed on dark blue card with success, I've finally found a workaround! White address labels.

I know it sounds crazy, but think about it. The laser cannot read the registration marks because there is not enough definition between the black lines and the colour of the card. Before you start this method, I would strongly advise that you try these two tricks first;


  • Ensure that you have set the registration marks to the thickest and longest length
  • Shine a light on the laser housing whilst it's reading - I use the torch feature on my phone :)

If still no joy, then in all likelihood your card is too dark and you will need to use this method.

I use the standard avery address labels and cut each label into 6 width ways


Position two labels in each of the corners (in a L shape) where the marks will print. You need to make sure they are stuck down well.

Time for a bit of lateral thinking! When loading in the card, you need to make sure that when it prints the bottom registration mark, it will print onto the label and not the blank card corner (it leaves one corner without any marks).


Once printed you can load and cut as usual :)

Easy Peasy!


Sunday, 29 June 2014

Wii Console Games vs the Gym - Initial Purchases

So the challenge was to try and get all of my starting items for as close to the £35 monthly gym fee as possible. I succeeded! All of the above came in at £38 - the £3 over spend was on batteries and in all honesty we could have probably done without them, but I wanted to avoid any battery hogging conflict with the Mr ;) To give you some idea of what I got for my cash, here is the breakdown.


  • Wii console, controller, nunchuck, balance board, wii fit and all cables - £25
  • Wii fit plus - £3.50
  • My fitness coach - £1.50
  • Just Dance - £5
  • 4 x rechargeable batteries - £2
  • 11 x AA batteries - £1

The console came from gumtree (plenty of similarly priced ones in our area) the extra games are pre-owned from CEX and the batteries are from the 99p store.

The more observant of you will notice I have both wii fit and wii fit plus. Technically wii fit plus is the original wii fit game with extra, so I don't need the original. I can part exchange this for perhaps 50p in CEX the next time I'm in. Not great money, but it all helps!

So this is my starting point. I am hoping to purchase EA active 2 with the heart monitor and accessories, but they did not have any of these in my local CEX. Ebay are stocking them for £8 including postage, but I shall try and hunt one out for cheaper!

I know a lot of people will argue that there are better fitness games available for consoles on the Xbox or Playstation, although I agree to a certain extent, the big difference is the price. The wii console and games are a fraction of the price of the others, and a large part of this experiment is keeping costs low.

My next post will be all about my first day of using and a brief look at Just Dance and Wii Fit Plus.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Wii Balance Board and Games Vs the Gym

I have had several gym memberships over the years.  Each time I have signed up I have convinced myself that this time it will be different, and that I will become a toned goddess that brags about being a gym bunny.  So far all that has happened is that my bank balance has suffered and I've just felt guilty over my lack of commitment.
In theory I love the gym.  I enjoy being able to go and use any of the fancy machines whilst listening to a podcast or even catching up on soaps.  The idea of a sauna after an especially tough gym session or group exercise class is heaven.  Sadly though I just don't seem to have the motivation time to make it work long term.
Once the business expanded and I found myself with a work placement every morning, five times a week, my gym sessions fell by the wayside.
I need my local gym to either start opening earlier (can only ever stick to the gym if it's a pre-work session) or to be able to exercise from home.  Seeing as my gym isn't likely to offer the earlier opening hours, I need to start thinking about an at home solution.
Workout DVDs, Zumba Program (stolen from my Mother), Youtube tutorials, Phone and Tablet Apps, FitBit, Console Games - you name it, and I've tried it.  The problem with DVDs and Youtube tutorials is I can't assess if I'm doing it correctly, or if there is any improvement.  The apps I have usually revolve around jogging, cycling or walking - I don't want to leave the house at 6am in the pouring rain to exercise.  My fitbit is constantly worn and not even the shocking knowledge that I'm only averaging 6k steps a day is enough to spur me on.  The one thing that has only ever worked for me is the Wii Fit and Balance board.


When me and the Mr first moved out from our parents back in Feb 2008, I was in a bit of a sorry state.  My 5ft frame was dwarfed by a weight of 9stone 10lbs (136lbs) and a huge bmi of 26.5!  I was miserable, and any plans of getting hitched were on hold until I felt more like me.  Now that we finally had a kitchen of our own (and the twice weekly take-aways were put on hold) I was in better control of our portion size and the weight was finally starting to come off.  With a combination of home cooking, smaller portions and sporadic exercise (My gym membership was being used less and less) the weight finally came down to (just!) under 9 stone (125lbs).  We finally set a date and the race was on to try and lose another half stone.

The Wii balance board had just been released and being a gamer by proxy (vast knowledge of game releases, reviews, gossip etc filters in from the Mr) you bet we had one.  I've always been a huge fan of the dance mat franchise (we still have a PS2 slim just for this) so it wasn't a huge shock that I loved the wii fit and balance board games.

What was a bit more of a shock was that this 'fad' helped me lose the final half a stone and settle at a weight that finally had me happy.

Fast forward on 5 years and although my weight is the same, my body seems to be losing any sense of being toned.  Things are starting to spread where they shouldn't, and I'm just feeling a bit insecure about the 'new' wobble.
My first thought was to sign back up to the gym.  I swore to myself that I would make more time to do it, that the group pilates and yoga would be great to help combat my stress, and with IVF now on our horizon I figured that being a little fitter wouldn't hurt either.
But even as I looked online for current membership prices, I knew that after a week I would be paying for something that I was using maybe once a month.  So I started thinking back to the pre-wedding Wii regime.  I knew that since the release of the Wii U, the price of the original console had plummeted, it was time to do some research.
After scouring eBay and Gumtree, I managed to find a few great deals of a Wii Console, controllers, balance board and game for only £25.  Because I found a seller locally through gumtree, I didn't even have to pay for postage.
My gym currently has no free sign up fee deals, and although I may be able to strong arm them into waiving the fee as a returning customer, I'm still looking at £35 a month (£40 if I didn't have NHS employee discount) to sign up - compared to only £25 for the console, game and board, that's quite the difference.

So I am challenging myself to the 30 minutes of exercise, 5 times a week on the Wii.  I shall be writing up my game reviews and hopefully my results!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Turning Scrap Book Paper into Framed Art



So part of the flat over-haul is depersonalizing our home - a somewhat sensitive subject between my husband and I.  After almost two decades of being addicted to interior design and house selling programmes (started with changing rooms and evolved into a fully fledged Sarah Beeny crush) I know that most buyers can't over-look the array of personal items and see the potential of a home.  There is a reason that staging and show home chic is a design staple when it comes to selling, it works.  With this in mind our beloved wedding photos had to come down.

In hind-sight, it would have been a good idea to actually show you a before and after photo, but being as rushed and forgetful as I am, I didn't remember.  Basically once all the wedding photo frames were removed (bar one canvas, as we do want the flat to actually feel lived in!) we were left with a giant blank mucky purple wall.

I have hording tendencies, and so even though we painted the feature wall in October 2010, it shouldn't be surprising that we kept the leftover paint ;) Mixing a squirt of washing up liquid with warm water, the walls were gently cleaned from top to bottom and left to dry.  I then touched up any stubborn areas with the leftover paint - it was seamless and looked as if it had all been freshly painted :) Not bad for free!

Next came the idea of what could be done to transform the blank (beautifully painted) wall into something more of a feature - it is the finishing touches that will make or break a home after all!  I had a brain wave - whilst scouring Etsy for inspiration, I came across the trend for big graphic type prints grouped together in 4s or 6s.  I was in love with this idea, and knew that if I had the time I could easily whip something up.  Sadly time is something in short supply around here - two businesses, a part time job and a sick husband means that most days it's lucky if I can remember to feed myself let alone sit down and play designer for a personal project.

To my eye, a lot of these pricey graphic prints looked like fancy scrapbook paper, lighbulb moment!  To go with the purple wall, we have black and silver soft furnishings, I knew that whatever framed feature I came up with, I had to stick to those colours to make sure it flowed.  I started off scouring the web for free digital scrapbook paper (I'm impatient and wanted the ease of downloading over waiting for the postman).  This was taking too long, and understandably the free digital designs were a little sub par or too mismatched.

I'm an Etsy seller, the idea for this project came from Etsy, so it made sense that I actually buy the digital paper from there too.  Once I popped 'black and silver digital scrapbook paper' into the search bar, I was over-whelmed with thousands of beautiful designs.  I soon found the one I loved at Graceful Graphics and at £1.83 for 10 different designs, I was smitten!


Now I know that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a business A3 printer like me, but providing you use photo paper, and make sure your settings are for best photo, you can print out some pretty fancy artwork too.  If you're worried about how much ink this uses, I can highly recommend some of the cheaper none brand cartridges on ebay too!

I chose some cheap economical black frames as I knew that these would go best with the furniture and just had to get my sizing figured out.  Pictures framed with mounts (that white surround) always look more professional, but when I looked at the prices, they were almost as much as the frames!  No way, was I going to pay for that.  Instead, I used my silhouette cameo print and cut software to leave a 3cm border all the way around the design.  I also used my cameo to cut, so my lines were perfectly straight :)

Each of the frames were £2.85, and I used 6 - the photo paper and printer ink I 'borrowed' from my shop supplies (but most people have this lying around the house) so for the grand total of £17.10 - I am super happy with how this feature wall turned out!


Over-Hauling and Selling Up

So, we've reached another sad chapter in the current ongoing saga that is our life.  Chris has been medically retried, and as a consequence we are now a one income family; mine.  We need to make cut backs and one of the biggest is our lovely flat by the sea :(

We are fortunate enough to live on the South coast of England, and in our town you are never more than 10 minutes from the sea.  Or in our case, a five minute walk.



We bought our flat in 2009, and it was a whopping £193k - now there is now way that we could firstly afford that, and secondly that we would spend that much money on a flat with no garden - despite the beautiful views!

We were lucky enough to be eligible for a government grant (First Time Buyers Initiative) so that we only had to get a mortgage on 51% of the property.  The mortgage was much cheaper than renting, the location was wonderful and we had enough money left over each month to finally get married!

Fast forward to now and the government is requesting monthly interest payments on the percentage that they helped to pay for, and once the maintenance charges, ground rent and mortgage is taken into account, we are quickly coming to the point where it is no longer financially viable to stay here :(  So we are toying with the idea of selling.

We are competing with neighboring flats that are listed for £220k and that have been sat on the market for over 6 months.  We need an edge to make our home look not only on a par with these fancy flats, but to entice the buyers to settle for the full asking price.  If we don't achieve market value, the government will not let us sell (or it will take a lot of stress and hassle to convince them of why we need to sell at a low price).  We may be lucky and come away with a few £k to settle our debts and maybe enter into another shared ownership scheme, so every penny really does count!

The next few posts will show you how we have over-hauled our home for as little ££ as possible!  Fingers crossed this all helps.  The only downside is that it is going to be even more difficult to leave our lovely home once all these extras are complete.



Saturday, 8 March 2014

Our Nightmare Before Christmas (NBC) Wedding Cake

So you may not know this, but my husband and I had a Nightmare Before Christmas themed Wedding.  Yep, that's right, Jack, Sally, the whole shebang!

When we were planning our wedding I found it quite difficult to find Nightmare Before Christmas Wedding items that weren't super OTT or tacky.  This is probably why we kept ours subtle, with just a few placements of the actual characters (Invitations, Stationary and Wedding Cake) and why I made or designed it all myself and not because I'm a control freak!

Originally I was going to make my cake myself, (I do like to make things as stressful as possible) but luckily I finally listened to reason and we found a wonderful local hobbyist to make it instead :) She had never heard of the film, and when I showed her the toppers I could see her struggling to hold onto her smile lol.
I showed her my design and she diplomatically told me that it was definitely possible.  I was prepared for the fact that my cake may not look as great as I had imagined, but boy was I wrong - it was even better!






We thought our wedding was pretty normal - we did have Richard Cheese playing during the sit down meal, and we picked our entire evening reception playlist (with requests from guests every third song) so we could have Slipknot, Mudvayne, Foo Fighters etc, but we also played my favourite cheesy hits like Saturday night, YMCA and even Lil Chris!  However we later heard through the grape vine, that staff and the DJs had nicknamed it the goth wedding!  I'd love to see their faces if they catered or worked at an actual goth wedding ;)

Rockabilly Giant Cupcake Baby Shower Cake

So two of my closest friends are about to pop!  Seriously, they are both due within a week of each other and there is now less than a month to go!  So when I was asked if I could make the cake for one of my friends surprise baby shower, how could I refuse?

This friend and I have very similar tastes.  I am in awe of her amazing clothes, cats eye glasses and ever present trade-mark red lips.  So I knew if I liked the cake, she would too ;)  This friend had the most rocking wedding cake ever!  I was seriously up against some stiff competition in the awesome factor.  Take a peek if you don't believe me;


A few of you may remember I made a giant cupcake for my mother in law a few years ago, (you can find the original post here) well in keeping with my friends wedding cake, I thought it would be awesome to do another giant one :)

I really wanted to make this cake personal to my friend, and knew that a plain giant cupcake just wouldn't fit the bill.  In my head I knew I needed polka dots, swallows, tattoos and of course leopard print!  I wanted to do the cake base in a really dark blue and polka dot fondant, with the cake iced in blood red 'roses'.  In my head it looked awesome, but I knew that pulling it off may be a bit trickier.


Yep, I'm sure you've noticed the flowers are pink :( I wanted blood red and even bought coloured food GEL to achieve this, but for whatever reason the icing would just not budge from pink!


Man was this cake heavy!  I ended up having to use our black Wedding Cake board just to easily transport the thing.  It seriously weighed more than both our dogs put together!


I did toy with the idea of a rolled fondant leopard print board, but when I found this fab ribbon in my ever expanding craft stash, I knew it would be perfect :)


We know they are having a boy, but the name is being kept top secret until the birth, so I anointed him Crouch Junior ;)


My last cupcake also featured a chocolate shell casing, but I had severe melting issues when applying the ribbon :( I learnt from my past mistakes and increased the chocolate quantity and switched to all plain - It held up fantastically.


I did consider making this out of painted fondant, but I wisely chose to print it instead (using the print and cut function on my silhouette cameo of course!).  I figured this way it could be removed and scrap booked as a memento should my friend want.

The cake and frosting are orange flavored, and coupled with the thick plain chocolate shell, it was divine!

I love giant cupcakes, as they are fairly easy to decorate and look fantastic!

If you would like to make your own, please check out the links to all the different components :)

To make this super orangey, I substituted the vanilla essence for 4 teaspoons of orange essence, and decreased the milk to only 2 table spoons.
You can also add the zest of an orange too!
I had enough batter left over to make two small Victoria sponge cakes from too :D


I doubled the quantity of this as I wanted enough to assemble, crumb coat and pipe the roses
Again, substitute the vanilla extract for 4 teaspoons of orange essence - you may need to add a bit more icing sugar to get it to the right consistency


My friend love the cake, and went so far as to say it was far better than one they had recently had professionally made for £90 - Happy face!