My Iceland Adventure: Outside the City

Here at last, is part two of my Iceland adventure! Find part one here: My Iceland Adventure: Reykjavik.

I’ve saved up my favourite photos from the trips I took outside of Reykjavik, and in all seriousness, looking back on the trip now, I can hardly believe how lucky I was to see so many stunning things. I hope you enjoy these photos, and maybe get inspired to visit Iceland – I cannot recommend it enough!

The Northern Lights

Photo of green northern lights
Watching the Northern Lights dance across the sky was one of the most amazing and awe inspiring things I will ever do. I was so fortunate to see such a wonderful display of colour and movement. My photography skills let me down… but I have learned a lot from the experience (mainly that I need to practice long exposures more and test out tripod stability too).

Photo of green and yellow northern lights
I’ve included the people in the photos to give the spectacle some context. These photos were taken with a super-wide angled Sigma lens and my Canon 60D on a light weight tripod or placed directly on the ground, lens facing up.

Photo of pink and green coloured northern lights
These shards of light were directly overhead, arcing across the sky, changing shape and colour.

The Blue Lagoon

Photo of the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is like a spa, only set on another planet! The temperature of the water is so hot that it constantly steams. Its a divine experience, though getting in and out is very cold!

Photo of mist rising off the Blue Lagoon
If you visit the Blue Lagoon, make sure to take INTENSIVE hair conditioner. The water absolutely ruined my hair and its not been the same since. Lesson learned!

Langjökull Glacier

Photo of Bonny on a glacier
This glacier was like nothing I have ever seen. We took a snowmobiling safari and got to drive all over it. It was like being in a film – so stunningly beautiful, and painfully cold. I lost a camera on this glacier with many treasured photos on it – its a lesson to use lots of smaller memory cards as loosing a few photos is bad, but loosing hundreds was terrible.

Photo of Langjökull glacier

Geysirs

Photo of an Icelandic Geysir
The geysirs stank. Really, really stank. Gag-worthing stank! Beautiful, but oh-so-smelly! I have been told the ones at Yellowstone in the USA don’t smell like these ones, so if you fancy seeing some steam burst out of the Earth, they may be a more pleasant experience!

Photo of a geysir erupting
There she blows!

Photo of geysir steam against snow capped hills

Gullfoss Waterfall

Photo of Gullfoss waterfall
Gullfoss waterfall is two waterfalls on top of each other. Its right near the Geysirs – so its worth a look if you visit those and vice-versa. The food in the cafe near Gullfoss is disgusting though!

Photo of Bonny at Gullfoss waterfall
I was so painfully cold here. You can see the pain in my face. I’m trying to smile, but its just not working.

The land of landscapes

The thing about Iceland, is its one amazing landscape after another. Your eyes cant take in all the stunning scenery. They become overwhelmed with the awesome.

Photo of a lake
This is close to the place where the Icelandic parliament was first founded. Its also right near where the Icelandic prime minister has a summer house.

Photo of rocks crushed by tectonic plates
The power of nature and the Earth is apparent everywhere. In this photo you can see how the North American and European tectonic plates are crushing each other.

Photo of steam over rocks
How other-worldly is this?!

Photo of the Icelandic coastline
The coastline is ravaged by the freezing cold sea. Its stark and stunning. I went on a whale watching trip but sadly saw no whales, I believe there is more chance in the summer months.

I really hope you enjoyed my photos, and are perhaps inspired to visit Iceland – I certainly want to go back – I cant wait.

The Unsung Heroes of the Sewing Basket

Photo of sewing kit items

I’ve been re-discovering my love of sewing recently (see my first skirt here!) and this has meant getting re-acquainted with my sewing kit.

There are some sewing accessories that I believe are essentials to make sewing easier and more enjoyable. They each make tasks faster and/or more accurate. Here are my top favourites that deserve more praise than they get:

Metric & Imperial Measuring Tape

Photo of measuring tape
Many sewing patterns are from the US and so they have imperial measurements. Vintage patterns also have measurements in yards and inches, so having a tape that has both makes it really easy to work in either metric or imperial measurements.

Lots of tapes have centimeters on both sides, so its worth checking what measurements it has before you buy one.

Ruler with Adjustable Seam Width Checker

Photo of a ruler with an adjustable seam measurer
This little ruler is brilliant for checking seam widths as you’re sewing. If you try quilting, you have to get all your seams perfect to ensure the quilt patches line up accurately. This ruler, with the moving plastic middle bit, stays in place so you can measure seams really quickly.

The red points make measuring so fast because you can see if seams are the right size at a glance. Its genius!

Seam Ripper

Photo of a seam ripper
This nasty looking tool is a seam ripper, or as my Mum calls it, a ‘quick unpick’. Unpicking seams is one of the most boring tasks, however this makes it a bit faster.

Glass Headed Pins

Photo of sewing pins
These are really useful for pressing work-in-progress projects as the pin heads wont melt if you iron them (plastic ones will…) and they are easier to find if you drop them that the plain pins without heads.

Zipper Foot

Photo of a sewing machine zipper foot
A zipper foot lets you get in closer to a zipper when you are using a sewing machine, and make a more accurate zip insertion. My Janome sewing machine has clip on feet which makes changing between them really quick.

A little note about sewing machine feet:

Most sewing machines come with several different feet that are designed for different basic tasks – different hems for instance, or button holes. I’ve found that learning a little about how they can be used is well worth the time as they can really improve the finish on a sewing project. For instance, if you want to try machine quilting, you’ll need a special quilting foot that helps to feed through the thickness of the layers of fabric.

However! Not all sewing machines can use different foot options, and some may not allow for others to be used at all. If you’re looking to buy a sewing machine, make sure you check what the deal is with this to make sure you get one that’s going to last you through lots of projects and different sewing needs in the future.

Recipe: Miracle Wholemeal Bread

Illustration of a lady baking against a starry sky

These bread rolls are the tastiest I have ever eaten! My Mum showed me how to make them at the weekend and although they take a while, they are more than worth it. They are so lovely, I didn’t manage to get a photo before they were all eaten!

The rolls are light but full of flavour and their texture is soft and so delicious its amazing I didn’t eat all 12 in one sitting! I try not to eat too much bread, but when this comes out of the oven it screams for butter and to be eaten immediately, and I cant resist it.

These rolls are made in two stages, and need to rest for 12 to 18 hours so they’re perfect for making at the weekend.

Step 1:

Ingredients:

  • 5g fresh yeast or 3g dried yeast
  • 130ml water at about 20C
  • 150g stoneground wholemeal flour

Dissolve the yeast in some of the water and add it to the flour with the rest of the water.

Mix until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Put the mixture in a bowl large enough for the mix to expand up to three times its current size. Cover with a lid or a plastic bag/cling film. Leave it at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours.

Step 2:

The following day…

Ingredients:

  • 450g wholemeal flour
  • 5g salt
  • 270ml water at about 30 – 35C
  • 15g butter or olive oil

Mix all the ingredients together to make a soft dough. Knead the dough without adding extra flour. It will be sticky to start with, just persist with it. The mixture should be stretchy and not dry.

Cover and leave to rise for one hour.

Divide the dough into 12 rolls and dip into wholemeal flour and place them on a baking tray at least 2cm apart. Cover the tray with a large plastic bag ensuring that it doesn’t touch the rolls. Leave them to rise until the rolls just touch each other.

Bake at 220C for 10 to 15 minutes. Add a small tray of water to the bottom of the oven to make the crusts go crispier.

Enjoy!

A little note: I don’t know who’s recipe this is – its from a newspaper originally, but I don’t know which one. I’d love to credit the creator of these fabulous rolls but I cant, so I’ll thank the bread gods for this instead!

Sewing the Simplicity 2226 Skirt

I’ve been yearning to start sewing again. I’ve had a break from it for about four years, as I have focussed on learning other crafts. When I started watching the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee I knew I had to get my sewing machine out and make something!

Choosing a pattern

Because its been so long, and I never really mastered the basics when I was sewing before, I needed to find an easy pattern to get me started again. Skirts are generally easier to sew than other garments as they have fewer pieces and are easier to fit (no boobs or limbs to get in the way!).

I saw the Simplicity 2226 skirt in a pattern catalogue and decided it would be THE ONE. I think its a fun and versatile skirt that could look good in lots of different fabrics and patterns. Having now made it, I would like to re-make one in a black crepe for work.

Image of Simplicity skirt sewing pattern

The pattern is labelled ‘Learn to Sew’. After sewing it, I think its a bit advanced for a beginner, and I wouldn’t recommend it for a first sewing project. However, it is still quite straight forward and covers a lot of different aspects of constructing a garment within the one relatively quick project.

From start to finish, I think this pattern took me eight hours to sew and cost me approximately £15 in materials. The pattern itself cost me about £4.50.

Fabric and trimmings

I made my skirt from 100% cotton craft/quilt fabric in red with tiny white stars and teeny weeny dots. The fabric is quite thin and a bit floaty. Again, now I’ve made it I’d choose a slightly heavier weight fabric for another skirt as this one is billowy, but fine for summer.

My cotton was £6.99 per meter and I used just over 1.5 meters. I can’t find a makers name on the selvage, but if you are interested Favourite Fabrics on eBay sell it: Tiny Scattered Stars in Deep Red.

You will also need a zip, bias binding for the pockets, matching thread, fusible light-weight interfacing and a hook and eye fastener.

Sizing

The sizing is dreadful! I measured myself and was horrified to come out as a size 18! I usually buy size 12 clothes or sometimes a 14, so size 18 seemed alarmingly different. I looked online for advice about the fit of this pattern, and found the amazing Noodle Head blog that has a Simplicity 2226 Sew Along. Her sizing recommendations gave me the confidence to take the plunge and sew a size 14 (which fits brilliantly!).

Cutting and sewing up

I traced my pattern pieces in case the sizing was wrong and I needed to pick a different one. The pattern pieces are clearly labelled and are easy to cut out if you have a big table to work on.

Photo of paper pattern pinned to fabric

The sewing instructions varied in clarity – things like inserting the zipper could have benefitted from more pictures as I found it a bit mind boggling just reading the instructions. However, it was generally well written and was simple to follow.

The finished skirt

Photo of completed skirt

Photo of completed Simplicity skirt
I’m sorry about the poor quality iPhone photo!

I’m so proud of this skirt! There were lots of new challenges I had to get through to make it, which makes it even more satisfying to complete! I know I will wear it in the summer, as its the perfect relaxed summery skirt. I can’t wait to get started on my next sewing project (the New Look 6843 A-line skirt)!

Has watching the Great British Sewing Bee inspired you to start sewing?

My Iceland Adventure: Reykjavik

Last month I went on an adventure to Iceland, and I loved it. Really, really loved it! I stayed in Reykjavik, the world’s most northern capital city.

I’m splitting my posts about Iceland into two separate posts, this one is all about Reykjavik, and the next one will be about things outside of the city like the geysirs and the Blue Lagoon!

Beautiful Reykjavik

Photo of Reykjavik skyline

Photo of Reykjavik rooftops

The houses and buildings in the city are charming as they are very dinky and brightly coloured. They make the city feel like its a living and breathing Legoland.

Photo of the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik

The Harpa Concert Hall is stunning – each of the honeycomb glass windows refracts light in different colours onto the area around the building.

Photo of Hallgrímskirkja church

The view from Hallgrímskirkja Church stretches for miles – out to sea and across the landscape of the city and beyond. The statue in front of the Church is of Leif Ericson, the Icelandic Viking who is thought to have discovered America.

Photo of Bonny in front of a wall of balls of wool

This is me in the Handknitting Association of Iceland’s shop. I was in knitting heaven!

Photo of cat

Reykjavik has a lot of cats (who the tourists admire as much as some of the main tourist attractions!).

Photo of the Sun Voyager sculpture

The Sun Voyager sculpture is small but striking in person. It looks out on to the harbour area of Reykjavik.

Photo of Bonny standing with a carved wooden viking

Me, posing with a large Viking.

Photo of Tjörnin lake in Reykjavik

Tjörnin lake is in the city center. It would be even more beautiful in summer. I’d love to live in one of the houses along the edge – what a view!

Photo of Bonny next to Tjörnin lake

I was sooo cold in this photo! Serves me right for not wearing a coat when it was -3!

Photo of two whaling boats

These whaling boats were in the harbour. I found it interesting to learn that its mainly tourists that keep the boats running – if tourists didn’t eat whale then the Icelandic whalers would loose their customers as Icelanders don’t eat it (the national dish is shark not whale). If you do visit Iceland, don’t eat whale.

Photo of a burger cafe

Hamborgarbúllan hamburger restaurant. A really sweet little hamburger joint with excellent food that was good value and served fast.

Reykjavik Tips:

  • Höfnin is a gorgeous little restaurant on the harbour-side which cooks beautiful Icelandic and Nordic food. I had a lovely meal of a traditional grains and vegetables to start, reindeer meatballs for a main, and skyr and berries for dessert. I would go back in a shot.
  • The Icelandic Phallological Museum is not for the faint-hearted and after visiting, I felt sick for hours (no, I’m not joking). Seeing so many pickled penises in one room was not amusing like I’d thought it would be!
  • Talk to locals: they’re really friendly and keen to share information, and they have a great sense of humour!
  • Wear layers. Its cold outside but very warm inside all the restaurants and shops.
  • Buy a real Icelandic jumper – they are beautiful. I put aside some money for such a purchase, and I’m so pleased with my gray real-wool-hand-knitted number. It cost somewhere between £80 and £100… which brings me on to my next point…
  • Take a calculator or a currency converting app on your phone. The exchange rate of Icelandic Kronas to pounds is way too weird to do in your head!
  • Take a good camera. My photos (above) were taken with my Canon 60D and a super-wide angle Sigma lens which enabled me to get more of the city into each shot.

Next time…

I’m going to post my photos from my excursions outside of Reykjavik soon, and yes, they will include the Northern Lights :-)

Have you been to Iceland? Did you like it as much as me?

Post-Hibernation

Illustration of a snowdrop
I’ve been off the blogging thing for a while. You know how it is, life can get in the way of the best made plans and all that.

My job has been manic, I’ve been on holiday and I have had a down patch which has led to a lethargy for doing anything beyond the essentials of day-to-day living. Although family worries are still very much present, I am trying to get beyond the stress and do more creative things to boost myself and find some positive outcomes of negative circumstances.

I want to be blogging again anyway, I have LOADS of ideas and posts that are nearly complete or that I am desperate to explore. I am also planning on doing a bit of a re-design here on Over Stuffed to make it a bit more pleasing on the eyes and a bit more useful.

Over the coming week or two you can expect the following sorts of posts:

  • How to deal with having cave-woman hair
  • Making the Simplicity 2226 skirt
  • Photos from my Icelandic adventure
  • …Plus an update on my 30 before 30 challenge

See you soon!

Signature

Kathryn Wilkins Illustration

Illustration of Bonny and Kiki

I’ve been following the LookBookIllust blog for some time, and its one of my favourites – each time illustrator Kathryn Wilkins adds a new illustration I am super excited!

I love how she takes inspiration from such a variety of stylish and quirky people and turns them into unique illustrations. When I saw she was accepting commissions, I knew I wanted to immortalise myself and my cat Kiki in a special picture for this blog, and for my front room.

I am so pleased with the illustration Kathryn has done for me based on several photos I sent her. You can see how she put together this picture based on the photos on this screencast she ran while producing the illustration on Livestream.

She is so sweet and professional, I cant recommend her highly enough. If you want to know more about her commissions you can see prices and examples on her portfolio site, Kitimation.

World Pangolin Day 2013

Poster for World Pangolin Day 2013

Today is World Pangolin Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness for the Pangolin, one of the Earth’s most unusual yet persecuted animals.

Photo of a pangolin on grass

The Pangolin is a scaly mammal that lives in Africa and Asia, and is being hunted towards extinction due to its body parts being used in traditional (but unproven) medicine. Much like the more publicised causes such as the black market for Rhino horns and the like, Pangolins face brutality at the hands of poachers. Unlike the Rhino or Tiger, Pangolins are far less well known or talked about – their plight goes unheard.

As today is all about them, I would like to ask you to help raise awareness for these very unusual, special and charming creatures in the hope that by more people hearing about them and learning of their plight, perhaps more can be done to save them before they are hunted to extinction.

Current Global Pangolin Status

The status’ below is taken from PangolinsSG.org.

Asian pangolins:

Manis pentadactyla (Chinese Pangolin) – Endangered
Manis javanica (Sunda or Malayan Pangolin) – Endangered
Manis culionensis (Philippine Pangolin) – Near Threatened
Manis crassicaudata (Indian or Thick-tailed Pangolin) – Near Threatened

African pangolins:

Smutsia temminckii (Cape or Temminck’s ground Pangolin) – Least Concern
Smutsia gigantea (Giant ground Pangolin) – Near Threatened
Phataginus tricuspis (Tree or African White-bellied Pangolin) – Near Threatened
Uromanis tetradactyla (Long-tailed or Black-bellied Pangolin) – Least Concern

How you can help Pangolins today:

Twitter:

Please consider Tweeting with the hashtag #worldpangolinday


Facebook:

‘Like’ World Pangolin Day on Facebook

Donate:

Consider making a donation to the Pangolin Specialist Group who are part of the Zoological Society of London.

IPL hair removal: first impressions

Hair removal is the bane of my life. I appreciate that out of many things that suck around the world, hair removal is pretty trivial. That aside, it is a problem that needs regular attention if I am to conform to societies expectations regarding the female appearance.

I have wanted to try permanent hair removal for years, but the price and fear of pain have put me off. The other week though, iCandy in Bristol ran an offer on Groupon I couldn’t resist trying. The offer was to have a course of IPL sessions on the extended bikini line, probably the most painful and awkward place for hair removal procedures on the body. The thought of not having to do any hair removal on this area was too hard to resist, and so I took up the offer.

IPL: A quick overview

Incase you don’t know what IPL is, here is a quick run down: IPL (short for Intense Pulsed Light). It is not the same as laser hair removal, but it works in a similar way using light to cause the hair follicle to cease working. Laser hair removal is permanent where as IPL lasts for several years once a ful course of treatments has been carried out.

IPL is only suitable for people with medium – light skin tones and darker hair – which makes it perfect for me. Its the only time I think my pale skin and dark hair has ever done me a favour.

After having a patch test done on my hand, I was ready to have my first proper treatment:

My first session

I had my first IPL session yesterday. It was quite an odd experience. I want to document the process so that if any of you are thinking about having it done, you know what to expect.

First of all, you have to shave the area you are having treated 24 hours before the procedure, if you do it on the day of the treatment I was told that your skin is too sensitive and they wont carry out the treatment.

You have to wear a pair of disposable pants which are very unattractive, I guess you could skip the pants and go au naturel, but seriously, those positions you have to get into are not something most will want to do fully exposed in front of a stranger! These pants are worn to stop the gel that’s spread over the treatment area from messing up normal pants. The gel helps the light to penetrate the hair follicle.

The treatment itself takes only about ten minutes – it is amazingly quick. I was really scared about it hurting (as waxing is so awfully painful along the bikini line), but IPL is much more comfortable. Other people have described the sensation like an elastic band hitting the skin, but I didn’t feel that much discomfort. I found the sensation to be more like a very mild stinging nettle that disappeared almost immediately. I was given aloe vera gel to soothe the skin following the session. Since having the treatment I’ve not had any redness or irritation.

The machine that delivers the pulses of light is so powerful that you have to wear protective goggles while it is working. It really is very bright.

I have five further sessions to go, so I’ll be finished in five months time. Hopefully then, I will not have to worry about my bikini line for years to come! I will continue to update on my progress to let you know how I get on.

I paid £79 for six sessions on Groupon for six treatments. On the iCandy website it says that one treatment for the extended bikini line is £120 – so the Groupon deal was a serious saving.

Have you tried IPL or laser hair removal? How did it work for you?

Armadillo, Armadillo, Armadillo!

Photo of a gold coloured necklace with an armadillo

How cute is this armadillo necklace from Elsie Belle?!

Elsie Belle have little stalls at St Nicholas Market and the Harbourside Market, which is where I first discovered their cute, vintage inspired jewellery.

Photos of jewellery on a market stall

I fell in love with this unusual necklace before Christmas, but decided that I couldn’t justify getting it for myself. I thought about it on and off for over a month, and still wanted it. So as soon as I saw their stand at St Nicks last week, I made a bee-line for it and hunted out my favourite! It was £13 on the stand, but it seems they are a pound cheaper online (though bear in mind P&P is £3.50).

Photo of an armadillo necklace

Its such a sweet little necklace, I don’t regret buying it at all. It adds a bit of fun to everyday outfits without being too over-the-top. Adorable.

Have you bought anything from Elsie Belle?