Tuesday, 20 October 2015

COLLABORATION WITH SNAPFISH UK - DIY MONOCHROME COASTERS

I am a big fan of coasters and as far as I'm concerned you can never have too many in the house. They are great when you want to prevent scratches, especially since our dining room table is glass, and I love using them when entertaining. I have thought about getting personalised coasters or placemats before but never actually got around to it.

Snapfish UK are a leading online digital photo printing service and I have used their services for our Christmas cards in the past. I've always had a great experience dealing with their customer service as well so I was thrilled to be asked to work with them recently to create some unique DIY coasters.

Personalised coasters make great gifts and keepsakes as you all know. Now, some of you might consider photo coasters a little old fashioned or even 'tacky' but they don't have to be. Personalised means that you can print anything on them; funny quotes, food photography, polaroid style photos etc. They can feature so much more than just family photos, all you need to do is use your imagination and get creative.

Photography is a passion of mine so I knew straight away I'd like to use some of my own photos for this project. I could have of course used those thousands and thousands of pictures I have taken of my daughter but I wanted the coasters to be a little different. I felt they should reflect my own personality and style and be a pleasure to use of course. My other passion is interiors so I decided to feature some of my favourite tabletop pictures on them.

1) Choose your pictures

I started going through my old photos and had some serious trouble deciding what pictures to choose. There are so many interior shots that I have taken but I wanted all of them to belong to the same theme, like they would be part of a proper set. In the end, I chose photos with strong composition featuring some of my favourite glassware and accessories. Also, I cannot think of anything more timeless than black and white photography so it was pretty easy to stick to a monochrome theme from the beginning.

2) Edit & Photoshop

Now, this is the fun part. I used Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop Elements to edit my photos but there are plenty of free online editing softwares available as well. I like to do basic tweaks in Lightroom and then the more serious (I mean fun) stuff in Photoshop. You can actually do a bit of editing on the Snapfish website but it's mainly for cropping and auto correct. You won't have access to any filters, so if you want to get really creative you will need another software.

First I converted my photos to black and white and then I started playing around with filters in Photoshop to see which ones work best for each photo. In the end, I decided to use maximum two filters as I wanted all the coasters to look fairly similar. Cutout and Poster Edges were my favourites since they make the photos look as if they were painted.

Before!


After! (using Poster Edges Filter)


The great thing about filters is that you can get as creative as you like. You can instantly make a dull image interesting and people and architecture work as well as close up shots. I also noticed that they can really improve the images and hide imperfections very well. If you are using Instagram filters, remember that the photo quality is lower and once you apply them it reduced the quality even further.

3) Order on Snapfish

Ordering via the website is very quick and easy. You login, upload your photos and then choose what product you wish to purchase. I find it easy to navigate, although I prefer to use the search box rather than the drop down option. You can make some last minute changes before you hit submit and even after you have submitted your order. I also had to go back to resize a few photos as they would have been too cropped on the coasters otherwise. If for some reason your photo resolution is not sufficient, an orange triangle will pop up as a warning. If this happens, it's better to choose another photo so you won't be disappointed with the quality of the print.

There's one thing I would like to improve though. It would be nice to be able to zoom in the coasters before purchasing them. The smaller image is good enough to view the photos but zooming in would give you a even more realistic idea of what they will look like.

My coasters arrived within 3 working days and I am thrilled with them. I cannot quite decide which one is my favourite as I love them all! They have heat resistant, non-slip backing and measure 4"x4" x 1/8". The quality looks excellent and the glossy surface works very well with black and white images. I love the contemporary look and I'm sure we'll get plenty of use out of them.

What do you think?






I have taken my photos with a SLR camera but a fancy camera is not a requirement for this project. It's a lot more important to be creative and have a good eye. I have seen some really funny coasters that would make great statement pieces for a dinner party which is something I might do next.

* Although this is a sponsored post, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, 13 October 2015

MINIMALISTIC HALLOWEEN DECOR

I seem to get our house Halloween-ready earlier each year now. It's a great celebration when you have kids and it's a perfect time to throw a costume party for adults too. Last year I went for sparkly Halloween decorations (read here) but I decided to keep things a bit more minimalistic this year. Mainly, because we have a lot on at the moment and I don't think I will have time to do much DIY or even throw a party. I still wanted to add a few simple touches to our house that are classy and bring a bit of colour to our black and white decor.

I am loving orange at the moment. Bright orange roses are ideal for Halloween. Sometimes all you need is a simple vase and some pretty flowers. It can be tricky to find the right shade of orange but I think these are perfect. They are fluffy and bright and add an instant pop of colour to any white room. 


Having few single roses works too. I find that often less is more and I tend to use this candle holder more as a vase than anything else. I got it in sale last December from John Lewis but you can find a similar one from here.


H&M have a great selection of Halloween accessories this year and I am loving their monochrome tableware. Black and white are always an elegant choice for a dinner party and I don't think you can go wrong with it for Halloween either. It's definitely the classier alternative to Halloween but I do wonder how long it will be before the mini-decorators will take over?! I tend to use paper cups and plates for Halloween since they are so convenient and easy with children. It's also nice to be able to go for a different look each year. I got the Chilewich Mod Placemat in brass from my favourite online shop Amara and it has now found it's permanent spot on our Habitat KILO side table. By the way, Pretty Little Party Shop also have a great selection of stylish Halloween supplies to choose from.





I am also a big fan of vintage glassware at the moment. There are plenty of second hand shops near where we live and I like to visit them every few weeks to see if anything new has arrived. It is a bit of a hit and miss sometimes but I have recently gotten very lucky. Often I just end up buying something and spray painting it in different colour (especially if it has some marks on it). I got these vintage ice cream bowls a while ago and I keep using them all the time. They are almost a bit too small for ice cream (or perhaps I should be making smaller portions..) so I tend to use them for decorative purposes most of the time.


I don't usually share recipes on the blog but I had to take a picture of these decorated marshmallow pops as they were incredibly easy and quick to make. I had to prepare something very fast few days ago when a friend was visiting and these fit the bill perfectly. I dipped the marshmallows in (melted) white chocolate and covered them with sprinkles. My daughter actually did most of the decorating and seemed to enjoy the preparation almost as much as eating them. I didn't have any lolly sticks so I just decided to cut our striped paper straws in half. I will be definitely making these for our next dinner party!


Finally, I couldn't resist getting this door sign for our house from Waitrose. I've been looking for one since last year and this one seems to be much better quality than anything else I've seen. I cannot wait to hang it up on our front door on the 31st and wait for the trick or treaters. My husband wore a skeleton costume last year and managed to scare most of the kids (and adults) on our street so I just hope that they do show up this year!?


Happy Halloween!
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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

HOUSE FULL OF CANDLES

I'm addicted to scented candles and I always like to try out new ones (although I tend to go back to my old favourites in the end). Since there is a real sense of autumn in the air, I feel like lighting a candle in every room in the house in the evenings. My bath candles smell very different to the ones in the lounge or dining room. I also feel it's particularly nice to have one in the hall so that people smell the scent the minute they walk in. As much as I like to recommend candles, it's all down to personal taste really. Here's few hits and misses that I recently discovered.

DIPTYQUE BAIES

I have been dying to get my hands on these iconic candles. They have been featured in many blogs and magazines and I just had to see what the fuss was about. Diptyque candles remind me of my favourite brand Jo Malone. They smell luxurious and the packaging is simple and elegant (which really appeals to me). I decided to get one of their more popular scents Baies which is actually a pretty light, feminine scent (think of roses and blackcurrant leaves).


Baies is a very subtle, beautiful scent but in our open-plan dining room/kitchen/lounge combo, I felt like it got lost a little bit. I hoped that it would be a bit more fragrant than it was in reality. Maybe I should have gone for the bigger size, who knows? However, this scented candle is perfect for our living room and bedroom but I certainly wouldn't use it in a large open plan area. It also took a long time for the wax to melt (over 3 hours) and I could see some tunnelling which thankfully disappeared after it was lit up for the second time.

Also, my husband found the scent too feminine so I'd say it's more suitable for women. If you are curious to try these out, it might be better to get the travel size (90 g) candle first.

NEOM TIME TO UNWIND

NEOM is a firm bath time favourite of mine. The smell of essential oils make you feel like you're in a spa getting a massage and in fact many luxury spas use Neom products. The candles not only smell nice, but have therapeutic well being benefits as well. Time To Unwind has a soft, calming fragrance of bluebell, guaiac wood and rose that will help you to destress and regain focus. It is the ultimate spa candle and I like to pair it with the bath foam. The good thing about Neom is that they have sales online and I've also seen their products in TKMaxx and Achica. They are excellent value and you can also collect points with every purchase which is nice.


JO MALONE

Jo Malone has been my favourite for many years now. Their scents are strong and you only need to burn the candle for a short time and the scent lingers for hours. I am using two candles at the moment. Pomegranate Noir is my favourite scented candle of all times and if I could only buy one candle it would be this. The scent is fruity with a hint of spice. It's sophisticated, understated and elegant. I find this candle ideal for dinner parties or when you want to unwind. Jo Malone candles are definitely a luxury but because they usually last ages (at least 4 months) I can just about justify this obsession of mine.

We are currently using a 3 wick candle in our lounge which is ideal for a large open-plan area or a room with high ceilings. I usually place the candle on the dining room table and it definitely fills up all three spaces. I also find that 3 wick candles burn more evenly than 1 wick candles but with Jo Malone that is usually not a problem. Also, don't forget that just like Jo Malone fragrances, the candles can be mixed (by burning them at the same time) to create unique scents that complement each other.


Last year Jo Malone launched their new home candle collection by fashion editor and stylist Charlotte Stockdale. It features 4 new home scents that will help you to relax and unwind: Lavender & Lovage, Green Tomato Leaf, Sweet Almond & Macaroon and Incense & Embers. We are using the Lavender & Lovage home candle in our living room at the moment. I love the clean, crisp lavender but the aromatic rosemary and thyme are a bit too much for me. My husband really likes this candle so I have a feeling we will get another one very soon but personally I'm more curious to try the Sweet Almond & Macaroon scented candle as I love the smell of creamy coconut and vanilla.


LALIQUE FIGUIER

Lalique's Figuier Amalfi was a present from my sister a while ago and the first thing that came to my mind was their stunning crystal decorations. I had no idea they also do candles but I was positively surprised. I could smell the scent in our hall before I even managed to light the candle. This scent really makes you feel like you are in the coast of Italy rather than in your living room in England. The citrus flowers and fresh and dried figs give this candle a bit of 'oomph'. I would say this is a unisex scent. I mean who doesn't like the smell of sea breeze?! It is ideal for summer/spring as it's quite light and fresh but I suppose it's down to your personal taste.

I also adore the black glass case and I have no doubt I will be holding onto it even once this candle is finished. The scent might not be ideal for a large open-plan area but it's perfect for medium/small size room. I also noticed that the smell got stronger towards the end which was interesting. I do think this is one of my pre-holiday must-haves now.


BOTANICS SUMMER PICNIC BY HEAL'S (* gifted)

Heal's started their own Botanicals range last year and I received one of these candles in their press show. Heals Botanicals Summer Picnic features mandarin, basil and lime bringing the essence of a parkland picnic to your home. It is definitely a scent for the summer and much fresher/lighter than Lalique's Figuer. I'm not sure if anyone else has noticed this but most pillar candles don't seem to give as much fragrance as the ones in containers? The worst thing is they all seem to tunnel which is annoying/difficult to fix. I know pillar and poured candles are best for long burning sessions and I do think that you need to burn them for a long time to get enough fragrance to fill a room.

There is definitely room in the market for mid range candles that are good value for money and luxurious at the same time. Unfortunately, the Summer Picnic scent wasn't strong enough for my liking. I would be tempted to try Woodnotes mini candles in stead as they are supposed to give more fragrance than the British Botanics range.


SAINSBURY'S FIG & OLIVE OIL TEALIGHTS

Finally, I had to try some supermarket tea lights even though they seem to disappoint me most of the time. These smelt amazing in the shop but once I was burning them I could hardly smell the fragrance. I adore the smell of fig but I would have to say that the Fresh Fig Signature Candle from The White Company is a lot better value for money. I find the travel size good enough especially when you light 3-4 at the same time.

Does anyone have any good recommendations? Now that Christmas is around the corner, I am considering some new candles to test out. You can also read my last years Christmas Candle Review here.

Tip!

Some candles have great cold throw (scent when the candle is not lit) but this doesn't actually mean that you can smell the fragrance when burning them. I've found that candles that are oily to touch, tend to give more fragrance. So rather than just smelling the candles, try touching them as well to see what the texture is like.
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