Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Art of Living: A Passion for Picnics

Picnic memories...
Our childhood home backed onto meadows and woods and those were the days when you could ramble the countryside without a grown-up even at 8 years old and come back at dusk to a mum who wasn't the least bit worried.  There would be a big gang of us from the village and older ones, including teenage boys we had secret crushes on (who I tried to impress with my BMX and Carla would impress with her dresses).  For our picnic adventure we would have a basket or duffle bag with a humble tub of marmite sandwiches, an apple and flapjack and it would last until a few steps into the next field - 'how about here' we'd say and lay out a rug then scoff the lot.  There was no glamour or style to our picnics in those days - apart from Carla's dresses of course!

These days when we have a family picnic it's done with passion and dedication, and we are well-practised in the art of picnicing! We each have our allocated recipes and picnicware collections and we amass with rugs and cushions, parasols and bunting.

Carla's daughter Sessi has her birthday on 1st July and on a July weekend we have 'Sessifest' which is a big family picnic, usually in Battersea Park. 

I love a long lazy picnic - a perfect combination of food and the great outdoors, with no hurry. I always think a picnic at the very least has to include home prepared food in various tubs and a lovely big rug.

My speciality for picnics is Spinach & Feta Filo Parcels.  The grown ups love them and it's great if the little ones tuck into them too.  I use this Spanakopita recipe from the fantastic Souvlaki for the Soul, a food and travel blog by Peter who's a photographer too so the foodie pics are tantalising:

Spanakopita from Souvlaki for the Soul blog

A family favourite is Carla's Slow Roasted Tomato Salad. Granny makes a good Fruity Cous-Cous and there's the family tradition of 'Sosmix' Sausage Rolls that we've been making since we were kids.  Big bowls of strawberries are a must, as are cake stands overflowing with cupcakes and muffins.

Yummy! I could write forever about food and picnics so I shall continue with this theme on another post.
How about you to tell us your picnic memories, your favourite picnic recipes and picnic places - plus any pics tooLeave a comment below, email bekka [at] sistersguild [dot] com or use the contact form here

This is part of the Art of Living series of posts that bring you all the things we are passionate about and the things we discover in our lives as mamas.

In our Wednesday Woo blog post series we present a selection of things from the Sisters Guild Boutique.

We also have a Monday Makery with ideas for things to make yourself.

And for a glimpse behind the scenes of Sisters Guild we have the A-Z of Sisters Guild here

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Wednesday Woo: Picnicware to make you smile with up to 60% off

SUMMER SALE: Up to 60% off Melamine and Picnicware by Rice DK

Rice DK are a Danish homeware brand dedicated to making joyful collections for the home, including the most amazing quality melamine pieces.  In celebration of summer and the time for spilling outdoors into gardens and parks we have a range of picnicware set to become the family pieces pulled out of the cupboard for feasts and picnics to make you smile year after year.

Thermo mugs in assorted colours, by Rice DK Was £5.00, Now £3.00
Melamine cups - set of 6 - by Rice DK Was £16.50, Now £9.90
Daisy Decorated Teaspoons - set of 4 - by Rice DK Was £14.50, Now £8.00
Melamine Plates in Sunskissed Colours - set of 6 - by Rice DK Was £30.30, Now £18.18
Round Tubs with flower lids - set of 3 - by Rice DK Was £6.30, Now £3.78
Large Melamine Lunch Box by Rice DK Was £46, Now £27.60
Melamine Bowls with lids - set of 4 - by Rice DK Was £34, Now £20.40
Cutlery Set in Fuschia by Rice DK Was £34.30, Now £13.72
Cupcake napkins in assorted design by Rice Dk Was £14.00, Now £7.50 each

Now you just need to decide on the yummy food  - happy picnicing!

View the Rice DK collection here and the Summer Sale too

This is part of our Wednesday Woo blog post series where we present a selection of our favourite things from the Sisters Guild Boutique.

We also have a Monday Makery with ideas for things to make yourself.

The Art of Living posts bring you all the things we are passionate about and the things we discover in our lives as mamas.

A Letter from Lucy

A friend of mine is on a mission. Her mission is to raise £350,000 to save Vauxhall Community Centre. It's no small task and she is - on top of being a full time mum balancing both all the things a day throws at us mums and studying - she is working so incredibly hard to help others. So I took my hat off (not literally I don't actually wear hats) and am spreading the word. Because that's what friends do. They Help.

Here is the mission .....

Vauxhall Community Centre has been providing child care for over 100 vulnerable families since 1985. The support given enables parents to continue working and studying, bettering their lives and their children's too.

I'm sure you are all too aware how hard it can be to juggle work and study on top of all that parenting asks of us. It is hard too to get back into work after having children. The bags under my eyes are a symbol of my late nights catching up on work (If only there were more hours in the day or perhaps a duplicate me I can put to work too!) and household chores! BUT I am fortunate to have a supporting network of both friends and family with an energetic mother/granny/creator extraordinaire to help me when things get that little bit too intense.
Vauxhall Community Centre is like a family reaching out its arms and helping to share the heavy load that life can sometimes ask us to carry. But, sadly Vauxhall Community Centre is now at risk of closing down. There aren't enough funds to keep it going and without the help of others it cannot continue.

So, this blog is me knocking at your door asking you for a cup of sugar (actually the financial equivalent of).
It is so easy on hearing about a charity to think 'I can't make a difference' but you can.
Every single penny counts. Every single penny will make a difference. Vauxhall Community Centre doesn't need to close because if we can get this #trending, if enough people hear about it, if enough people donate just 50p it can continue to hold its arms open to the families who so desperately need it.

So, pass it on; tweet it, get it up on facebook, tell your neighbour, tell others at the school gates, do a round at work and fill up the biscuit tin with change, donate the change you would have used to buy that take-away coffee, and make a massive difference. Because you can.


Oh and if I haven't managed to convince you here's my letter from Lucy.

Dear Carla,

I hope you are well. I have never ever written a letter like this before as over the years Greg and I have given to charities and supported them privately. This however is a truly desperate situation and we really need to ask for your help.

As a young girl I visited children’s homes my father had set up for Cabrini and met children, all of whom had special needs. Trips into these care homes and day centres had a profound effect on me and put into perspective how important it is to understand and acknowledge the stark contrast in some children’s childhoods. Some children have to struggle daily but there are some wonderful people who give meaning and happiness to their lives.

For 30 years my father has worked tirelessly helping children of parents suffering from extreme poverty, addiction, violence, abuse, homelessness and poor mental health. It has been a lifelong work of rebuilding the shattered lives of many children in this country.
One of Cabrini’s centres in Vauxhall London will be forced to close down unless we can raise significant funds. Approximately 100 children receive services from the centre on any given day and there are waiting lists to accommodate more. The children who attend its Day Nursery, Breakfast Club, Wrap Around and Latchkey Groups are all subsidised by the charity and it really is some of these children’s lifeline. The centre in Vauxhall cares for some of the poorest children and families in London, however the majority of these parents are working and that is why it is crucial that this childcare support remains in place.

I cannot contemplate how negatively closure will impact on these children’s lives. I have spent time with these wonderful happy kids. The staff whose dedication I have found to be exceptional are distraught at the possibility of this centre closing. This situation is truly desperate which is why I am seeking help from friends. Please can you make a donation.

I hope you can understand how strongly I feel about this and why I felt it necessary to write to you. Greg and I are putting money, time and a great deal of energy into saving the Vauxhall Centre and hope you will support us in whatever way you can.

Please could you pass this onto any friends or contacts who you also believe have a social conscience.

Kind Regards

Lucy and Greg Rusedski

Cabrini is a charity working with vulnerable children, young people, families and adults with learning disabilities including providing a successful adoption, post adoption and fostering service. To find out more about our work or to get involved, please visit our website

Registered charity number 233296

If you would like to help please do DONATE HERE. Because EVERY penny counts
Now get tweeting, add to facebook and do what you can to pass it on.
tweet #saveVCC in your tweets and lets get it heard!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Story Behind Our Collections - Miller Goodman

If you already know the Sisters Guild boutique, you'll know how much care and attention goes into bringing our collections together. Our dressing room is filled with wonderful clothes, our decor brings colour, inspiration, sumptuous fabrics and beautiful pieces to adorn your home. The collections brought together in our imagine and play section holds a carefully selected range of pieces that enhance play, encourage creativity and inspire children to imagine. One of our strongest beliefs is that imagination is contagious. There are wonderful and creative ways for children to play that spark the imagination and these amazing blocks are just one of them.

The brilliant Brighton based designers Zoe Miller and Dave Goodman have designed these two sets of imaginative building blocks, building blocks like no other. 

The first of the designs are the ShapeMaker set of 25 colourful, geometric design, hand printed, beautifully crafted, environmentally friendly hardwood blocks.

The blocks are made of rubber wood - a replenishable wood which feels so beautifully smooth in your hands.

The blocks can be excitingly arranged to create a menagerie of thousands of surprising creatures and endless of imaginative, engaging images that guarantee to delight children and adults of all ages. The blocks perfectly illustrate millergoodman’s commitment to combine function with the highest design principles, producing beautiful, sensitive New Classics in the children’s market.

The more recent collection takes the blocks into 3D with even more possibilities for imagination to explore...
PlayShapes is a unique modular set of 74 wooden geometric shapes which you can arrange or stack to make hundreds of 3D creations, such as animals, people, faces, vehicles, buildings and much more. The shapes also make fantastic drawing templates.

Young children will enjoy balancing the head and body shapes to make all sorts of funny creatures. Older children may prefer recreating the inventive 3D structures from the enclosed illustrations, giving them inspiration and confidence to build their own creations. The shapes are also an intriguing and imaginative plaything for adults - we've certainly had hours of fun with them at dinner parties.

Beautifully crafted from environmentally - friendly, durable rubberwood, the shapes feel soft in your hand and the flashes of colour add a modern accent. The set of shapes come in a printed, unbleached cotton drawstring bag along with a set of instructive illustrations.

Miller and Goodman clearly have an understanding of shape and colour which is not ony evident in their shapemakers but also in their books: A is for Artist, Colour, Shape

Produced in collaboration with Ella Doran and Tate UK each book explores its subject with wonderful pictures illustrations and bright colourful imagery. These books have been on our shelves at home read and reread, explored and brought to my girls an understanding of shape, colour and form.

Now my girls can explore shape, colour and form with the playshapes. And we've had to grab an extra set of the playshapes now too beacuse as soon as they're tipped out everyone in the room wants to play. The coffee table is shoved to the end of the room and the floor becomes a busy area of imaginative creations.

One of the things I love about the playshapes is that each time we play everyone creates and discovers something new, a new creature, person, scene, tower, village it is literally endless. There is even a flickr site dedicated to all the creations people have made.

Completely addictive, utterly brilliant, intriguing and imaginative the miller goodman blocks are a must for children and adults of all ages - they really are set to be an enduring design classic.

We're not alone in thinking these are genious. Miller Goodman won the gold award at the 2009 Practical Pre-School awards. Miller and Goodman say:

"We are very proud to have received a gold award for ShapeMaker with a score from the judges of 94% at the 2009 Practical Pre-School awards. This is our first industry toy award."

We believe imagination is contagious and these miller goodman shapes and blocks are a perfect example of how far your imagination can take you!

Take a look at the Flickr groups for Shapemaker and Playshapes
Discover Miller Goodman here and get creative too

If you'd like a further visual treat take a look at Zoe Miller and Dave Goodman's site Silence - their consultancy which helps creatives explore their ideas through still and moving image reference. Amazing.

This is part of our series of blog posts about the Story Behind our Collections - why we've chosen the designers that are in the boutique and how those designers came to be.

To see a bit more of what Sisters Guild is all about take a look at the A-Z of Sisters Guild here.

Sign up to find out more about future collections, news and offers:

Monday, 27 June 2011

Monday Makery - Faith's Felt Making

We are so happy to bring you this guest makery from the talented Faith of Damselfy (read more about Damselfy here).  It's clear from the Damselfly collection that Faith is someone with a passion for fabric....and when we found out she knew how to make felt from scratch we just had to invite her over to tell us how!

This felt making tutorial has a clear step by step guide and photos - put together for an easy introduction to felt making for little ones.  Older children can take it further and create even more sophisticated designs - we will be bringing you more ideas for what to make with felt soon! Here's how to get started:

Felt flower meadow

This Monday Makery is definitely a touchy-feely one. Feltmaking is a lovely hands on process that involves gently rubbing loose wool fibres with soap and warm water until they knit together to make something solid.
The felt flowers can be made easily by tiny hands, and older children may like to make the background or picture base on which to display the flowers.

You will need:

  • Merino wool felting fibre. This is available from or I used a 250g mixed bag from Wingham’s this time, but you only need 100g to do this project so you’ll have some left for another day. You need to look on the site for ‘dyed merino tops’.
  • Soap ( the plainer the better, without moisturiser in it or you get too many bubbles).  Ecover washing up liquid can be used as an alternative to soap
  • Two pieces of bubble wrap, about twice the size of the picture you want to make.
  • A couple of tea towels
  • A couple of hand towels for mopping up any water that emerges as you roll and rub your fibres
  • An empty plastic milk bottle ‘Sprinkler’ made by punching a few holes in the lid with a compass.
  • About 4 elastic bands. I use the ones that the postman leaves around our letters sometimes.

Before you begin:

  • Your fibres will most likely be in the form of a long ‘sausage’ called Tops. You need to keep this very dry or the fibres will start to felt together  as you handle them and you will end up with a snake or a pretend tail (a project for another day!)
  • To pull of pieces to work with you need to hold the Tops at least 10cm from the end. Then put your fingers across the end and pull off the tiniest wisp. If your hands are too close together you won’t be able to pull off the fibres as you’ll be holding the other end with your other hand!
  • Try to keep the end of the tops straight. This makes them much easier to use when you move on to the picture background

To make Felt Flowers

1. Put the soap (or a squirt of Ecover) into the bowl, and cover with the hottest water that is comfortable for little hands

2. With DRY hands pull of a wisp of fibre and form this into a little puff that fits into the palm of whichever hand is not your ‘main’ hand. Get your other hand nice and soapy and wet and then gently dab the puff of fibres so that they flatten down on your palm. When it’s all wet and smooth you can reshape it by tucking the edges under to make a nice flower shape.  If you want a flower middle of a different colour, take another tiny puff and flatten it into the centre.

3.  Very very gently pat, stroke or rub the fibres, keeping them very still in the palm of your hand. It helps to think of stroking a tiny chick in a nest! If your ‘middle’ starts to move around, try patting it for a while or stroking in a tiny circle. Try to keep it still as you work. The invisible scales on each fibre of wool will be linking together as you rub, helped by the soap and the heat of the water.

4. Keep rubbing until there is no ‘hairiness’ left and the surface is starting to get firm.

5. You’ll soon find that you have a solid piece of felt fabric. You can rub a bit harder now, until it is really shrinking in size. If you want it to shrink even quicker, put it down on the smooth side of a piece of bubble wrap and then put another piece bubble side down on top. Sprinkle some water on the surface to make it slippery and rub round and round really fast.  You’ll see that it can end up about half the size that you started with, so as you do more, you’ll be able to gauge how big a puff you need to create the flower size that you want.

6. Rinse all your finished flowers until the water runs clear. If you leave the soap in it will discolour your felt.

They will take at least a day to dry.

7. Put them in the sun, or spread out on a towel on the top of a radiator - or anywhere warm.

If you’re not happy with the shape of any of them, you can cut them to whatever shape you want. You can display on a background you can make from felt, or you can use them to decorate hair bands, bags ... or wherever you think a splash of colour would look nice.

To make a background ‘meadow’ for your flowers:

1. Decide how big you want your finished picture to be and then cut two pieces of bubble wrap. They need to be roughly One and Half times the size of your finished piece plus around 10 centimeters all round.

2. Choose a work surface that doesn’t matter if it gets wet. Spread out a small towel or a big one folded up and then lay on your first piece of bubble wrap with the SMOOTH side facing UP.

3. Now you will need to lay out several very fine layers of fibre on your bubble wrap, leaving a 10cm empty space all round. Each layer must have the fibres going in a different direction. So first, lay out a covering of wisps, slightly overlapping, all going horizontally. Then do the same but lay them vertically. Put down at least 3 layers, maybe 4, depending how finely you are able to pull them off. Try to avoid putting down big lumps - keep laying little wisps!

When you’ve done your layer, it should look like a fluffy mattress.

4. If you want to add some decoration - maybe some more abstract flowers so that it looks like an Impressionist painting, now is the time.

5. Use you milk carton sprinkler to cover the fibre mat with droplets of water.

6. Very carefully, trying not to disturb the fibres lay your second piece of bubble wrap on top, with the smooth side down. With a flat hand press down gently all over. Try not to use an Ironing motion or you’ll spread all the fibres out and end up with a huge, thin piece of felt.

7. Sprinkle some water on the surface of the bubble wrap to make it slippery and starting gently rub round and round all over the fibres with a flat hand. You can gradually press harder and harder.

8. Roll up a tea towel (use two together if they are thin) to make the neatest, tightest sausage that you can.

9. Place this on your bubble wrap and roll up your picture around the tea towel sausage. Secure the ends with elastic bands. Put a couple in the main part of the roll too, but not too tight.

10. Roll backwards and forward quite gently, at least 50 times.

11. Undo your roll. You should see your fibres flattening down nicely and beginning to hold together. If there are any bits that look dry, sprinkle on a bit more water.

12. Place the tea towel sausage on a different edge of the picture, roll up, secure and roll for another 50 times. Repeat until all four directions had a turn at being rolled.

13.  You should now have a piece of felt fabric.

You can rub it with soapy hands or with a squished up piece of bubble wrap if it needs to firm up more and shrink down more. Remember, it needs to end up about half the size you started with. When it dries it will look much softer and fluffier (not a good thing for felt!) than it does when it’s wet, so make sure you’ve really rubbed it before rinsing it out. You can give it a good squeeze under the tap - it won’t hurt it!

14. You can glue or sew your flowers onto the meadow.

Next time, now you know how to make felt, you can get even more sophisticated with the design, and older ones especially can get stuck into more ambitious projects. You can make art pictures with the design felted straight onto the background. You just place your flowers, or whatever your design is going to be, onto the background. The best time to do it is just after you pressed the fluffy mattress of the background down with the water and bubble wrap. Just peel off the top layer of wrap carefully and place your design. Then sprinkle again and put the lid of bubble wrap back on.  You can also write your name with thin strands of the fibres and make all sorts of lovely effects.

This felt making tutorial can be used as the basis for many more projects - which we will bring to you in future Monday Makeries! Felt is something you can be so creative with and it's amazing to discover how simple it is to make.

We are so grateful to Faith for showing us how. Thank you Faith.

We have more Monday Makery craft & recipe ideas here.

For behind the scenes photos of Sisters Guild we have the gallery of the A-Z of Sisters Guild here.

Friday, 24 June 2011

An A-Z of Sisters Guild: Q is for Quirky

quirk  (kwûrk)
1. A peculiarity of behavior; an idiosyncrasy:
"Every man had his own quirks and twists" (Harriet Beecher Stowe).
2. An unpredictable or unaccountable act or event; a vagary: a quirk of fate.
3. A sudden sharp turn or twist.
4. An equivocation; a quibble.
5. Architecture A lengthwise groove on a molding between the convex upper part and the soffit.
[Origin unknown.]
quirki·ly adv.
quirki·ness n.
quirky adj.

This is part of our 'An A-Z of Sisters Guild published every Friday. See also A is for adventure, B is for bedtime, C is for colour, D is for discovery, E is for exuberance, F is for Feminine, G is for glorious, H is for home , I is for imaginative , J is for Joie de Vivre, K is for kin  ,L is for Love , M is for Maternal , N is for Nurture  O is for Oneiric and P is for Play

We also publish other series in our blog including our Monday Makery, Tuesday brings 'The  Story Behind Our Collections' inviting you to take a closer look at the designers we house and why we chose them for the Sisters Guild boutique.  Wednesday we show you our favourite seasonal pieces and Thursdays is dedicated to the 'Art of Living' in which we share ideas and inspiration from places to visit, things to see and articles about things that enrich our lives.

Pinboard Picks by Paul et Paula blog

We invited the lovely Peggy of Paul et Paula, a fabulous international kids design and lifestyle blog, to pick her favourite things from the Sisters Guild Boutique.

Peggy is a mum herself with a passion for design and we've had a great time connecting with her since the launch of Sisters Guild, it feels like she's our sister in Amsterdam - we're often tweeting each other about what's for dinner!  I'm sure one day she will gather us all together for a blogfest feast!

These are the things Peggy picked and why she chose them:

The Pink Sugar Rose Anna set by ilovegorgeous
Just imagine a little girl in this. Awwwwwww.

Childrens Rooms - Copenhagen
There are a couple of reasons why I like this. I love Copenhagen. I love to decorate, especially kids rooms. And I love to see other people’s spaces.  And because this Paumes book is missing in my collection!

Melamine Lunch Box by Rice DK
I love picnics and I love RICE. Perfect combination!

Princess & the Pea Bed Set by Maileg
Because : I just had to smile when I saw this ! It is so cute.

Nulle by Lucky Boy Sunday
Ohhhh…Lucky Boy Sunday. I would adopt them all… so precious. The one we have still did not make it from the living room to the kids room.

Thank you Peggy.  We look forward to seeing all the outfits on your blog and the amazing things you discover ...and one day soon we must gather and have a giggle. 

This is first in the series of blog posts where we invite bloggers we have met on our Sisters Guild journey to pick the things they love from the Boutique.

See the Art of Living series of posts for all the things we are passionate about and the things we discover in our lives as mamas.

We also have a Monday Makery with ideas for things to make yourself.

And for a glimpse behind the scenes of Sisters Guild we have the A-Z of Sisters Guild here

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Art of Living: Festival Fever

This is the time of year when people like to gather in a field and celebrate, with music, dance and food.  Festivals bring out a community spirit and draw on a primitive instinct to gather, share and connect.  It's one of the best family activities and the UK now has some amazing festivals that are such a key part of British culture.

For Carla and I festivals have always been part of our family calendar.  For children it's the best kind of camping, an outdoor holiday with entertainment. For adults it's liberation from the normal routine, time spent with friends and getting back to nature.  I've always enjoyed coming home with the feeling of being 'festivaled' - weary, windswept and in need of a bath, but with plenty of good memories and that great feeling of having breathed fresh air for 3 days (I won't mention the smell of festival loos!!)

image courtesy of

We won't be at Glastonbury this year as tickets are so hard to obtain (very envious that our brother is going - with wellies at the ready), but we shall be listening to the radio coverage and maybe even having a little campfire and a dance in Granny's garden!

Later this summer we shall be heading to the Just So festival in August for some family fun.  The Just So Festival is a small weekend-long festival of creativity aimed at children, with the very best UK arts activity for families, from theatre to dance, classical music to storytelling. Set in 65 acres of ancient English woodland in Staffordshire, you can immerse yourself in the beautiful natural landscape and stumble across amazing light installations, music and play in a woodland clearing, try out some messy art, or even run into the Gruffalo! It's in a part of the country I haven't explored before so I'm just as excited as Gabe.

And some exciting news.....
The Sisters Guild Boutique itself will be setting up shop at LOLLIBOP in Regents Park 5-7th August, which we are so thrilled about as we will get to meet lots of customers and be able to share some of our collections which you can feel and try and play with!  Come along for some fun and meet the whole Sisters Guild family....along with Rastamouse!  Find out more about LOLLIBOP here

Enjoy gathering this summer and feel the festival spirit!

This is part of the Art of Living series of posts that bring you all the things we are passionate about and the things we discover in our lives as mamas.

In our Wednesday Woo blog post series we present a selection of things from the Sisters Guild Boutique.

We also have a Monday Makery with ideas for things to make yourself.

And for a glimpse behind the scenes of Sisters Guild we have the A-Z of Sisters Guild here