Christina Sparkle

  1. Friend Like Me

    Two videos this week because The Black Dog has taken away one of the best comedians, possibly one of the best entertainers of all time. Robin Williams had such a large presence in my childhood, both Aladdin and Mrs. Doubtfire were huge family favourites in my house, I must have watched them both a hundred times.

    It’s so sad that Robin Williams is now gone from all of our lives, way before his time. I wish all the love on his family and friends right now and hope that his tragic death causes a wider awareness of depression and prompts people to donate their time and money towards supporting people who often can see no way out. I hope that if anyone out there feels the presence of the Black Dog that you will reach out. Please, please get help before it is too late.


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  2. Gousto Organic Recipes

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    A few weeks ago my friend sent me a link to Gousto, an organic food box service. I had used Riverford before, but we didn’t always use the veggies that they sent (especially in the summer) so we stopped after a year or so. Gousto has a different service in that you pick the specific recipes you’d like to try, they then send all of the ingredients you’ll need to make the dish.

    I love this idea because we get to try brand new recipes and they only send just enough for two (or four) so there is no waste. I hate it when sauces go off in the fridge, or when we throw veggies away that haven’t been used quickly enough. I read a statistic recently that in UK we throw away a third of our food, that idea haunts me and I’m determined to try and be less wasteful.

    My friend had a 50% off voucher code which meant we got three delicious meals for £20. We also get to keep the recipe cards so that we can make the new recipes again and again – I found that the ingredients were really easy to find, and just a more creative way to use things that we often get already.

    Usually the price is £40 which I don’t think we could justify on a regular basis however, if you eat out or get take away food more than once a week then this could be a more cost effective option for you. We’re going to stick to getting them whenever we can get a good discount code.

    Here’s some pics of what you get in the box…

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    Our box arrived a little battered, luckily most things were fine inside, the Tamarind paste had escaped a little bit, but that was it. Inside is all the veggies on one side and all the refridgerated goods on the other wrapped in an ice pack and recyclable packing material. We even got some cute freebies in the shape of a hessian bag and a strawberry lemonade tea bag.

    At the top is a photo of the Harissa Feta with Aubergine and here is the Root Vegetable Curry. The portion sizes are quite big. We bought the box for two and each meal gave us enough for a large dinner each and leftovers for one lunch too.

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    I forgot to take a pic of the Pad Thai Noodles – I’m not one who usually takes photos of my food, I’m usually so hungry I just dig right in! The Pad Thai was delicious though, possibly one of the best ways to cook Tofu that I’ve ever eaten.

    If you would like to try the Gousto boxes head over to their website and take a look at the recipes they have this week – if you’re not sure take a look again next week, they change the recipes all the time. I have a 50% discount code to share with all first time orders so leave a comment below if you’d like to get a box for £20 yourself and I’ll email it over.


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  3. Mathilde Blouse

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    A couple of weeks ago Tilly Walnes announced a sale on all of her shop items to try and shift some stock ready for a studio move. Of course, I couldn’t leave that offer to just go by, so I picked up all three of her patterns that aren’t included in the Love at First Stitch book.

    The first of the patterns that I have tackled is the Mathilde Blouse which was quite tricky again, I get the impression that blouse patterns in general are quite tricky. It involves pleats, a yoke and button holes. All of which I hadn’t learned yet. It also features French seams, which I had tried before, and sleeves which I decided not to do because they’re just not my style.

    I bought the white polka dot fabric on Milton Keynes market in a pre-cut 5 yard bundle for £5. A great bargain. I don’t know for certain what the fabric is, I suspect a polycotton, but it is probably a little more sheer than I would have liked, especially because I only have black camis to wear underneath. It’s hard to argue at £1 per yard though!

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    The pleats were tricky to get right, I don’t think mine are as straight or even as they should be but overall I’m quite pleased with the result. I really love the buttons down the back too. I originally added some smaller buttons that I had at home already but they were just too small and the blouse kept popping open when I tried it on. I swapped the buttons for some new buttons that I bought from Hobbycraft in a mixed mixed button jar.

    The next pattern I’m planning to tackle is the Miette skirt, probably in red or green. I also have the Megan dress to take in, I’m just a little too scared about that.


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  4. Rude – Magic

    The reaction to this has been mixed, people seems to either love or really dislike it. Personally, I love anything with a ska or reggae feel so it’s a win for me. I will admit the official video for this is really not good, but this acoustic version on Bondi Beach is just perfect for Summer.


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  5. DIY Bow Garland

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    I’m loving this bow garland tutorial. I love bunting and garlands anyway and this would look just beautiful in a bedroom or above a dessert table at a party. But for maximum effect, have two birds carry it in their beaks above your head as you go about your daily errands.


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  6. Floral Clemence Skirt

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    I did plan for my next make to be the Megan Dress from Love at First Stitch, and I did make it, but it’s too big. I’m really not sure how to take it in but I’m going to try. Hopefully I’ll post about my attempts soon.

    Moving on from the Megan dress and the Delphine Skirt that were both too big, I decided to soldier on to the Clemence Skirt. This skirt doesn’t actually have a pattern that is measured in sizes, you make your own pattern. Measure your waist and hips and cut according to your own personal measurements following Tilly’s calculations. Much better for me it seems!

    The fabric is from CallyCo in Cambridge, the lady in there was absolutely lovely and so helpful. They have a very beautiful range and I saw some designs that were stunning, but my budget didn’t stretch to everything that I saw. I’m saving up to buy more soon.

    My fabric wasn’t actually wide enough for the full skirt that Tilly’s calculations plan for but it turns out, that’s OK. My skirt just isn’t as full as it would have been. The gathering that is required to create the fullness of the skirt does take some patience to get right. I found it was hard to get the balance right when smoothing out the gathers so they are even, but keeping the correct length for the waist band. I got there in the end.

    I love the final result – it’s actually more flowery than I would usually go for – but the fabric just looked so beautiful in the shop. Plus, it’s pink and green which is all that matters to me. My mum said I look like Sandra Dee in the skirt, which is a huge win in my book.

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    After I had been to CallyCo I popped in to John Lewis to buy some embroidery floss, they were having a huge sale on vintage-style fabrics which again were hard to leave. I bought some graphic black and white fabric (of course!) which I’m not sure what I’m going to do with yet.

    On the same day I also picked up a bargain at the Cambridge market from The Little Fabric Stall, four metres of red polka dot cotton at a fantastic price. I’m hoping to use that when I begin a sewing class with Janet from Kitchen Table Sewing. Here’s a pic of all the fabric drying after the first wash (please excuse the grotty carpet in our rental property!).

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  7. Girl in a Country Song

    Country and Americana music is so big right now. Every week I listen to Bob Harris Country on Radio 2 while driving in my car and he always comments how many new bands and new music is popping up every week. The video for this song is hilarious, I love it. I hadn’t heard of Maddie & Tae before but if all their songs are this witty and sharp I’ll be a big fan.

    Like all I’m good for is looking good for you.


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  8. Moving to Bedford

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    Moving to a new city as an adult can be an overwhelming thing to do. Of course there is excitement about new jobs and new homes to decorate but there is lots of sadness too about leaving friends and family behind. Especially when you google “Moving to [insert city name here]” and the reviews on mumsnet aren’t the most flattering, and the fourth search result down is titled “Britain’s worst places to live”. Not very helpful.

    However, having already commited to moving to Bedford it seemed that we needed to make the best of it. In fact, six months later I actually really like Bedford. There is a lot to do, some delightful places to visit and some people who are very passionate about the town. Here are some of the things that I have found in the last six months that have made me excited about living in Bedford…

    Coffee With Art

    This was the first eating place in Beford town centre that we knew we loved straight away. We stumbled on it while looking for Rose Tinted Vintage (which unfortunately no longer has a bricks and mortar location). Taking advantage of their mouthwatering smoothie, sandwich and cake selection we sat down at a table surrounded by super stylish art and installations. Our favourite feature of Coffee With Art is the book wall made up entirely of vintage books all piled up and wedged together.

    On our first visit there was this postcard at the till which we took a photo of and went on a hunt to find out what each heart represented – this helped us to discover lots more places to love on future visits to the town centre.

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    Bedford Blog and Board

    I thank the day that I stumbled on this website. The area guides alone are an absolute gem. We had already found the Castle Road area as it is close by to our rented house but the area guides have introduced us to a lot more areas to consider when it comes to buying a house.

    The blog is also a really friendly introduction to Bedford, with fun features and reviews that showcase independent businesses and stylish sights to be found all across the Bedford area.

    Bedford Clanger

    Named after the famous (and hard to find) local pastry product, this magazine has offered us the ultimate guide to summer events in the town. Andy and I both went through the listings and circled everything that we wanted to do over the summer and this has become our go-to guide to what to do at the weekend. It is packed full of reviews and features on indie retailers too.

    Unfortunately it seems the magazine plans to take an hiatus but I’m so glad I found the latest issue just in time. I really hope there are future issues.

    The Scone Roses

    Bedford’s local WI group is full of youngs mums, crafters and bloggers including Lucy Bishop, Hannah J and Liz Wright. Their next meeting isn’t until September so I haven’t met anybody yet in person but I have joined the facebook group where everyone has been very friendly and welcoming. I’m really looking forward to September’s meet up and baking competition. Am I brave enough to bake something for my very first meeting?

    Bedford Riverside Festival

    So many people we have met have recommended the Riverside Festival as a must. Reportedly one of the largest outdoor free festivals in the country this day really didn’t disappoint. Spanning across the whole embankment area all the way into town. We walked down from our house, past the Castle Road area and onto the embankment. Throughout the day we saw floats of Brazilian dancers, local crafts, a massive variety of sports clubs, dragon boat racing and kayaking. One of my favourite sights was this American vintage Airstream caravan turned into a burger bar called Camp Cooks – the staff were all dressed in drag! I love it.

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    We were spoiled for choice when it came to food; I settled for Moroccan couscous and vegetable tagine, Andy opted for a Polish stew, and we finished them both off with a Frozen Yoghurt from The Kiosk at Russell Park. We then settled in to watch The Ska Masters, of course we got absolutely soaked in the rain watching them but I think it actually made the crowd get up and dance even more. They were great and did a lot of my favourites including Night Boat to Cairo, Message to you Rudy, My Boy Lollipop and 54-46 (That’s My Number).

    The Riverside Festival is only on every other year so we have two years until the next one but I definitely think it’s worth the wait.

    Illustrated A-Z Guide to Bedford

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    When we stopped off at The Kiosk I noticed they were selling this cute little booklet. Being a massive fan of alphabets, and illustration, and looking for reasons to love Bedford I had to pick one up. The guide is gorgeously illustrated by Marisa Straccia who also helps out with the Bedford Clanger and has some great tips – many of which we hadn’t seen yet.

    I’m really looking forward to visiting all the places and things to do that Marisa recommends. Yet another person we have found who is passionate about living in Bedford and wants to shout about it.

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    When we first moved to Bedford I did find it a shock after having always lived in cities (Nottingham, Leeds and Leicester) and having all our favourite chain restaurants and retailers on our doorstop, along with independent boutiques too. I cannot deny that Bedford town centre could do with a lot of improvement, but then again it is not a city, it’s just a large market town.

    For our favourite high street restaurants and shops we’ve been heading over to Milton Keynes which is 30-40 minutes in the car and makes for a nice day or evening out. Pro tip: go to the Centre MK shopping centre in the day for lunch and shopping, and go to Xscape in the evening for dinner and cinema. Don’t go to Centre MK in the evening, there are lots of restaurants there but they are dead (unless you like that). Don’t go to the Odeon cinema, I don’t think there any good Odeons left, and I also try to avoid any cinema that has no ice cream counter.

    For our boutique and indie retailer fix we’ve been going over to Cambridge. Just 45 minutes away in the car and there are vintage stores, fabric stores, markets and artisan ice cream. Cambridge is also beautiful and reminds me a lot of York. It reminds me of all the best parts of living up north and I love that.

    Places that we are still to visit in Bedford but can’t wait to go: The Higgins Museum, Pop up Cinema (every Thursday in August), Fancy Cafe, Bedford Pop-up Shop, The Bedford Arms Stitch and Bitch, Kitchen Table Sewing classes.


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  9. Delphine Skirt & Pussy Bow Blouse

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    After my success making my own pyjamas I was eager to get onto the next garment in the Love at First Stitch book, which was the Delphine Skirt. I decided to go for a denim skirt as it looks so good in the example and headed down to my local fabric store in Bedford.

    Fabric stores do appear to be quite overwhelming and aren’t obviously labelled by weight or type of fabric, but the lady in Bedford Fabric World was very helpful in suggesting what I should get. I just took a list of what was recommended in the book.

    I picked up some lovely soft medium-blue denim, some red cotton (that I plan to turn into a Megan dress from Love at First Stitch), and some of this black graphic polka print that caught my eye. There was only a metre left but I just couldn’t leave it, hoping that I would find something to use it for.

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    Once I got back home I put the denim straight in the washing machine to shrink it, dutifully following Tilly’s instructions. Unfortunately it took ages to dry, as I guess denim usually does! The black graphic fabric was washed and dry long before the denim was so I decided to try out the free pussy bow blouse pattern on Love Sewing magazine issue 2 that I had also picked up in Bedford.

    This pattern had the absolute minimum instructions, a stark contrast to Tilly’s patterns. It is definitely designed for an experienced sewer, not a beginner like me. However, with a bit of Googling and some YouTube videos to help I managed to turn just one metre of fabric into a blouse.

    It was tough work; I had to do a collar, and make my own bias binding! But I am absolutely delighted with the result. It’s been hard to take it off. It just goes with everything; jeans, cigarette trousers, skirts and more.

    On Sunday evening the denim was finally dry and I began the Delphine Skirt. I was between sizes so I decided to make the larger size just to be safe. My biggest achievement making this skirt was my very first invisible zip. Zips are quite a challenge, the instructions took a few read throughs before they made sense but I’d like to think the zip on this skirt is as good as one you’d buy in a shop… maybe.

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    When I came to try on the finished garment it was unfortunately too big around the waist, and it really sticks out more than I would like, a bit too much of an A-line for me. I suspect that the patterns are designed to run large for comfort.

    My plan is take in the side seams to reduce the width of the waist, and maybe reduce how much the skirt sticks out too but I’m not quite brave enough to do that yet. I think I may need another book to tackle alterations. Certainly, I need more YouTube videos.

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