Friday, 29 November 2013

Shop Update

Lampwork glass 'Autumn' bracelet by Laura Sparling

I've added a couple of items to my shop. Firstly, this vibrant orange, green and brown 'Autumn' bracelet.

Lampwork glass 'Autumn' bracelet by Laura Sparling

I saw a weather forecast on telly the other week and the backdrop was a beautiful photograph of autumnal leaves and berries in these colours.

Lampwork glass 'Autumn' bracelet by Laura Sparling

The findings are copper and copper plated metal with an antique finish.

Lampwork glass 'Autumn' bracelet by Laura Sparling

This 'Autumn' bracelet is priced at £50.00 and it is available here.

Now we're moving closer to Christmas, I'm trying to build a little stock of jewellery so should you need a gift, hopefully I will have something that suits, in stock and ready to post.

Lampwork glass 'Acorn & Oak Leaf' necklace by Laura Sparling

Right now there are some 'Toadstool', 'Brown Owl' and 'Acorn & Oak Leaf' necklaces all boxed up, ready to go. These can all be found here.

And finally, a strand of stylish black and grey polka dotty beads.


This set of 'Noir' beads costs £18.00 and is available here.

That's all my Friday computer-based work done. Now to make beads.

Happy Friday!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Pretty Fritty

Lampwork glass beads

I've stocked the shop with some 'Cherry & Berry' and 'Confetti' encased frit beads. Each set of ten beads is £18.00 but right now you can get 10% off these (and anything else in my shop) by entering the discount code BBLTEN at checkout. This code is valid until the end of the month.

Friday, 22 November 2013

'Toadstool' Necklaces

Lampwork glass toadstool necklace

I've restocked the shop with some more 'Brown Owl' necklaces and I've also added a few of these 'Toadstool' ones too.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Late update

Lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

Just popping in to tell you that I've added these 'Mocha Glimmer' beads to the shop.

There are two strands available here.


Necklaces, Ladybird & Gift Tags

Lampwork glass owl bead necklace

What a truly beautiful day! I want to pack up a lunch and go for a walk around the country park but alas, I have to work. Maybe the weather will hold and I can do the whole country park thing on Sunday. Maybe. Perhaps.

Yesterday I added three 'Brown Owl' necklaces to the shop. Two have flown off to new homes already but there's one left.
Lampwork glass acorn necklace
There are a few ready-to-go  'Acorn & Oak Leaf' necklaces left so if you've started your Christmas shopping (I salute your organisational skills) or if you need a gift for someone or hey, if you just fancy treating yourself, I can have one of those in the post to you today.

A little Ladyird bead has been sat on the kitchen window sill for ages now so I've photographed her and she can be found in the Lonelies section.
Lampwork glass ladybird bead
She's a tad larger than my usual ladybirds and I think she'd make a nice pendant.

I'm often asked to include a note with orders that are sent as gifts. I've opted for these luggage tags which are plain, simple and just NICE.

I can daydream, right?

If you're ordering beads or jewellery as a gift and you'd like me to write a tag (in my bestest handwriting) then just ask me to do so in the 'Notes' section at checkout. Just so you know, when you place a gift order I send it to the recipient without any prices printed anywhere.

Don't forget you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I like to interact with you lot and those platforms make it mega easy to do so.

Enjoy your Friday!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

'Honey' Bracelet

Lampwork glass bracelet by Laura Sparling

I made this 'Honey' bracelet this morning. The idea for it has been buzzing around inside my head for a while now. (Ha! Buzzing. Get it? ROFLOLZ!)

Anyway ...

Five Bumblebeads, some honeycomb-esque rounds and an abundance of honey-coloured spacers make this a totally shimmysome bracelet.
Lampwork glass bracelet by Laura Sparling
The chain and all findings are silver plated. There is just one in stock right now but I can make more and I can do a sterling silver version too. (That option will cost extra though.)

The 'Honey' bracelet is priced at £50.00 and is available here.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Quick shop update

Lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

I had a few Droplets beads left over from making bracelets so I've strung them into four sets of nine and put them in the Lonelies section of my shop. Each mini set is only £4.00 and they'd be great in necklaces and bracelets.
Lampwork glass 'Cool' beads by Laura Sparling
I've restocked the shop with some more 'Acorn & Oak Leaf' necklaces and I've also reduced the price of the 'Cool' beads by 25%. Bargain!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

In Stock

Lampwork glass 'Burnt Sugar' Acorn & Oak Leaf necklace by Laura Sparling

I'm getting organised for Christmas on the bead front.

In doing so, I'm trying to build up some stock. This is so there will be beads and jewellery available and ready to post without you having to order things and wait for me to make them.

I've had a little shop shift-about-sort-out and I've created an 'In Stock' category where all the ready-to-go items can be found.

In this section right now are two strands of 'Cool' beads (£23.00 per strand) and ten Acorn & Oak Leaf necklaces, including five of the 'Burnt Sugar' ones at the top of this post.

I'll be adding to this section on a regular basis so do keep an eye on it.

And now I must away to the post box ...

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Christmas bleach?

Sainsbury's 'Winter Spice' bleach. Because who doesn't want their toilet to smell of Christmas?

I saw this when I was in Sainsbury's yesterday.

I don't know why this exists but it does.

So. Yeah. That's a thing now.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Recipe: Chrimblecake

Christmas cake

I've just fed my Christmas cake a little snifter of brandy. Every time I feed it, it takes all my willpower to not feed myself. With cake. It smells so good!

We used to visit my family in Oxford each year and my grandmother always made a big, wonderful Christmas cake. She always used to say the cake was a bit dry/too moist/not boozy enough/too boozy/had too much icing/didn't have enough icing but it always tasted fab to us. As family numbers have dwindled and we've become more scattered as a family over the past decade, those Christmas get-togethers no longer occur and as such, there is no Nannie's Christmas cake.

So I've made my own Christmas cake for the past six years. I always focus on the cake itself. Although I have a very sweet tooth that even Willy Wonka would cringe at, I'm not a huge fan of icing, especially on Christmas cake. I normally opt for homemade marzipan and a very thin layer of fondant icing over the top of that.

Over the years I've tweaked and combined various recipes and when I baked this year's cake a couple of weeks back, I made a smaller version with the leftover mix and CAKE-BINGO! this is the one. This is my Christmas cake now. I wrote down the recipe and I'm writing it down here too in case you'd like to try it. Yes, there are a lot of ingredients and yes, it is time consuming and a bit of a faff but I really enjoy what has now become my own little Christmas tradition.


  • I always make my Christmas cake in mid-October but you'd be okay to make it at the end of November and it would still have time to mature.
  • You will need an eight inch (20cm) round, deep cake tin, some brown kraft paper, some string and some greaseproof paper. I use a heavy, loose bottomed tin and I wrap the outside of it in four layers of brown paper, tied with string to secure it. I make sure the paper is taller than the sides of the tin. I then line the base and insides of the tin with greaseproof paper. The cake will be in the oven for quite some time and the brown paper helps to prevent any burning. I also make a little silver foil 'lid' which perches atop the extended brown paper sides. Trust me, all the papercraft faffery is worth the effort. Also, it makes you feel like you're carrying out an ancient cookery tradition which is always fun. (Well, I think it is anyway.)
  • Have plenty of greaseproof paper, tin foil and an airtight tin ready for packing your cake in after it is baked.
  • You will need to prepare the fruit for the cake the night before the day you intend to bake it.
  • Feel free to use whatever dried fruits and/or nuts you fancy. You could add dates or dried apricots if you're not a fan of cherries or cranberries or walnuts if you don't like almonds.
  • This recipe is for the cake itself. I'm not covering icing here but you would need about 675g each of marzipan and fondant icing to cover this cake.



175g raisins
175g sultanas
275g currants
100g dried cranberries
100g halved glacé cherries
50g mixed candied peel
50ml brandy
150ml black tea (I use 2 teabags and steep for 3 minutes in boiling water)
225g plain flour
225g dark brown muscovado sugar
250g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
4 large eggs (at room temperature)
50g whole blanched almonds, chopped
1 tablespoon of black treacle
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Grated rind of one orange
Grated rind of one lemon
Dash of milk


Put the raisins, sultanas, currants, cranberries, cherries and candied peel into a bowl, pour over the brandy and tea and stir. Cover the bowl and leave overnight so the the fruit soaks up the liquid. You might want to give the fruity booze mix a stir every now and then.

The fruits soaking in their lovely brandy and tea bath

On baking day, prepare your cake tin as described in the aforementioned notes and preheat your oven to 150°C (fan oven 140°C).

Put the flour, sugar, butter, eggs, treacle, spices, vanilla, orange and lemon rinds and the dash of milk into a large bowl and mix well. I use an electric hand mixer. When that's all thoroughly combined, add the boozy fruits and any leftover liquid from their bowl. Tip in the almonds and with a spoon fold everything together. This would be a good point to get any young humans you may have about the place to come and have a stir and make a Christmas wish.

When everything is stirred and all wishes have been made, spoon the cake mix into the prepared tin and and smooth out the top. I find using a fork for this part is more effective than the back of a spoon.

Rest the silver foil lid loosely over the top of the tin and put the cake in the oven. Yes, the temperature is low and yes, it's going to be baking for a while. You can't rush these things. 

Baking can take between two-and-a-half and four-and-a-half hours. Mine took about three hours. Leave the cake totally alone for the first two hours of baking. Don't open the door in that time. After two hours you might like to turn the cake around and have a quick peek to see that it's coming along. Everyone's oven is different and you know where its hot spots and not-so-hot spots are.

Obviously oven temperatures and cooking times will vary. Your cake will be done when you insert a cocktail stick or skewer into it and it comes out clean, without any raw cake mix on it.

When the cake is baked, don't fret at the colour of it. It will look paler than Christmas cakes you buy. This is because it will get darker as it matures. I brush the top of the cake with a little brandy whilst it's still hot. I then cover the top with foil and allow it to cool in its tin, on a cooling rack.

When the cake is totally cold, take it out of its tin and wrap it in greaseproof paper and at least two layers of foil. Put it in its airtight tin and leave it.

The following week, unwrap the cake and poke several holes all over it (don't go too mad) with a cocktail stick or wooden skewer and then brush the cake all over with brandy. I guess I use about a teaspoon or so at each feeding. Depends how boozy you like your cake.

I feed my cake by brushing it with brandy about every ten days. You don't need to do the pokey hole thing each time. Just make sure you wrap it up nice and tight. 

Come Christmas you should have a lovely, moist, fragrant Christmas cake that will taste so much nicer than a shop-bought one.

Google about for Christmas cake decorating ideas. There are so many ways to pretty it up. I normally opt for some icing holly leaves on top and a red satin ribbon tied around the cake.

If you do make a Christmas cake with this recipe, I'd love to hear how you get on. Send me some photographs if you like!

Have fun!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Furry Squeaker

Ruth and I watching EastEnders

I'm down to one guinea pig.

I've not had just one guinea pig since I was ten years old.

It's a very strange thing.

I've kept guinea pigs for twenty-six years. I must have had at least thirty over the years, not including babies that were born and rehomed. They're perfect little pets. They're clean, they don't bite or scratch, they live thrice as long as hamsters and each one has their own little personality. I adore them. 

I had to say goodbye to Jemima last week. She was six which is quite old for a guinea pig. This left me with Ruth. (That's Ruth up there. She's named after Ruth Goodman.) It also left me with a decision to make; get more guinea pigs or make Ruth my last one. I could get a pair of guinea piglets but something is telling me not to. I'm a big believer in gut instinct and for some reason the idea of getting baby pigs just doesn't feel right.

I know that guinea pigs are not solitary animals and because of this I've spoken to a couple of guinea pig owners who have single pigs and they all gave me the same advice; make Ruth an indoor pig, give her lots of attention and cuddle her daily. So that's what I'm doing and so far she seems fine. She goes in her outdoor run during the day and in the evening she comes inside, has her dinner and a bit later on she settles on my lap and we watch whatever soap is on (she likes EastEnders) and then she goes in her indoor cage for the night.

I'm keeping an eye on Gumtree and the like in case anyone has a three year old guinea pig lady that needs a home because I would jump at that. I'd be more than happy to adopt one for Ruth as long as she's about the same age as her. So if, on the off chance, you know anyone in the Cambridge area who is trying to rehome a three-ish year old female guinea pig, please send them my way.

Nigel is intrigued by Ruth and I'm careful to keep them apart because I don't trust Nigel. He's murdered waaaaay too many birds, you see.

So yes, it's very strange to open the back door and not be greeted by a chorus of squeaks but at the same time it's kind of nice to have Ruth indoors with us. I'll just see how it goes ...

Friday, 1 November 2013


Lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

The beads in this strand would be great for making wintry earrings or they would all look fab in a bracelet or necklace. Five pairs of beads made in periwinkle, turquoise, light blue, soft grey and white. There's a mix of spots, dots, scrolls and stripes. The set also includes thirteen co-ordinating spacers.

There are two strands of these 'Cool' beads available in the shop.