Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Parties // Amelia's 2nd Birthday

After such a beautiful weekend the rain has now set in and I can't help but be a bit sad that Summer feels 'over'.  But what better way to cure these rainy blues by looking back on a beautiful Belle & Boo summer party. 

Little Amelia turned 2 in June and had this beatufiul Belle and Boo themed party. Her super talented mum made and decorated this cake for the party (which we think looks way too good to eat!). Alongside her hand moulded Belle and Boo, was a badge from our badge cards collection and finished off with bunting made with our mini bunting craft pack.

The birthday girl wore our lovely summery Sun Dress.

But what's potentially even better than her cake was her birthday present, which was a wendy house inspired by Belle's Treehouse from Belle & Boo and the Birthday Surprise. Tucked at the back of the garden near a sweet woodland with an abundance of bunting and balloons, we really think this is just perfection (and the fact it was hand made by her dad makes it even sweeter!).

We love the little details, especially the flower box and the Boo & the Bluebird wallsticker on the interior.

Childhood Perfection!
Summer, we will miss you! 
Love, from Clare

 All photos credit to the talented: The Woodland Wife 
Keep an eye out for her upcoming new country lifestyle blog too. If Amelia's party is anything to go by, it's going to be gorgeous!

Monday, 17 August 2015

Q&A + Cake with Jennie Maizels

Beware - you may find you want to rush off and eat a lot of cake after reading this....

At Belle & Boo we get to work with some incredibly talented people, most recently the amazing Jennie Maizels, an award winning illustrator, entrepreneur and creative genius.  

(Jennie Maizels in her studio)
We met Jennie at a trade show and fell in love with her beautiful range of products.  Lucky for us she was a fan of Belle & Boo and within minutes of meeting she had agreed to produce these beautiful Belle & Boo 'Stick & Iron-On' embroidered patches for us. 

As well as running a successful business, Jennie has published several award winning pop-up children's books, designed and made window displays for Harvey Nichols and The Body Shop and once created a life size replica of Alice In Wonderland out of papier mache!

An inspiring person, we asked Jennie to tell us a bit about her experiences running a business, her family, and she also shared a mouth-watering recipe with us:

Q&A & Cake With Jennie Maizels

You have have achieved and created so many wonderful things – is there any accomplishment that you are particularly proud of?

I recently launched an online Sketchbook Club. This was because I have been sharing images on Instagram from my Sketchbook Clubs I run from my studio near Winchester and people started to request an online version .

I have been overwhelmed by the response! It's fabulous to see people who haven't drawn since school start to get creative again! The modules are suitable for tiny children and adults so whole families have been taking part. It is so so special that I have in some way inspired people to start using sketchbooks again, so yes, this does make me feel very proud!

What gave you the idea for launching the ingenious embroidered stick and iron-on patches?

 I have two daughters who are now teenagers towering above me! When they were (much!) smaller, I had a fixation with stripy tights, something you can only really get away with if you are a child (mores the pity!) they are real ‘Tom Boys’ and would regularly get holes in their pretty tights, I would sew them clumsily, creating big lumps and spoiling the tights completely, it occurred to me that if I could iron or stick something over the little hole that made the tights even more lovely; problem solved! All I could find were big, ugly patches, there really was nothing on the market. So I went about designing my own.

What are the most inventive ways customers have used their embroidered patches? 

I have seen some wonderful ideas on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, from covering cushions, trainers, pencil cases, school bags to iPhone covers and suitcases, they’re endless! I love how they are often used to help very small children identify their possessions at school, by putting a Belle and Boo patch on all of their items, for example, they can easily spot what is theirs, I think this is such a sweet idea.

What do you enjoy about running your own business

Thanks to social media, what was a once fairly isolating career, one can now feel completely connected with customers, stockists and the press etc. I adore the interactions and the constant communication I have with people. This is a very different world to that of my early days as an illustrator, where it was quite literally just me and my pencils! I also get an enormous kick whenever I see my products in use, books being read by children, artwork being created following my online Sketchbook Club, or patches adorning peoples clothes, there lies the real thrill and the real enjoyment behind running any business.

Are there any illustrators/creative people you admire?

When I was little, my absolute most favourite book was ‘The Old Joke Book’ by Allan and Janet Ahlberg, I think their work deeply influenced me. I loved the infinite detail and the fact that no space was ‘wasted’, I can see this in the Great Grammar Book series, which I completed with the late and wonderful Kate Petty, where I approach all of the books with the same attention to detail and obsessive ‘cover every corner’ approach. ‘The Old Joke book’ felt like you really got your ‘moneys worth’, something I still really believe in across all my work.

You have two children. What do you enjoy doing with your family in your spare time?

An obvious answer, but I adore our holidays! But they really are my favourite times of all. My husband and I work silly hours and it is the only time we turn our phones off and get to really relax as a family.

My girls are very creative and we all draw together, which is very special, but sadly, this only happens when we are all together and away from the stresses of work.

At home, we enjoy baking together, my youngest is a fantastic cook and loves experimenting (she doesn't like using recipes!). We also have a sweet little Cocker Spaniel called Dotty. We live near the New Forest, so at the weekends, we spend a lot of time with Dotty on long walks and picnics, which we all love (especially Dotty!)

(Drawing on holiday in Kefalonia.
Check Out Jennies Instagram for more beautiful & inspiring photos)

So you are bit of a baker! Do you have a favourite recipe you could share with us?

Believe it or not, my family’s most requested cake is my Chocolate Beetroot Cake. I even used this recipe to make my sister’s recent wedding cake! It is incredibly moist and intensely chocolatey without being too sweet…recipe below:

(Jennie's Chocolate Beetroot Wedding Cake, made for her sister)

Chocolate Beetroot Cake by Jennie Maizels
250g well-drained, cooked beetroots, pureed (see note) 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
300g caster sugar 
250ml vegetable oil
3 eggs 
225g plain flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Note: I bake the beetroot first, wrap each beetroot in foil and pop in the oven for about 30mins. The skins will pop off under cold water. I think the cake tastes much better with home baked beetroot rather than shop bought cooked beetroot.

1. Preheat oven to 180 C / Gas 4. 
Grease and flour one 20x30cm (9x13 in) or similar sized baking tin. 
2. In a large bowl, combine pureed beetroots, eggs, vanilla, oil and sugar. Mix with an electric mixer on low speed until well combined. 
3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cocoa. Add to the creamed mixture, beating together well. Pour batter into prepared tin. 
4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until done.

For the wedding cake I used a dark chocolate butter icing, but at home I
often just pour over some melted chocolate!

Yum! Yum! Yum!  

 I am now very hungry and desperately trying to finish work early so I can try baking Jennie's cake - it looks so delicious.

Remember please share with us photos of how you use your Belle & Boo patches on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.  And let us know if you baked Jennie's cake too.

Happy patching and baking,
Jules x
Check out Jennie's Belle & Boo patches here.
Find out more about Jennie Maizels here
Read about some other talented people we have worked too -  Rhiannon Southwell and Claire Verdet.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Free Belle & Boo Event For Children!

     Join Us For Crafty Fun & Story Telling With Mandy

(Hand puppets project from Belle & Boo's
S is for Sewing' book, published by Quadrille)

       We are inviting little people and their grown-ups along to a magical day of Belle & Boo crafts, games and story telling at “Little Burford’ ,  the beautiful children’s department of ‘The Burford Garden Company’ (not far from Oxford, Woodstock and The Cotswolds).

A delightful event for children,  it will also be a fun opportunity to meet Mandy Sutcliffe, Belle & Boo's talented founder and inspiring illustrator of our charming art works
(Mandy Sutcliffe,  Belle & Boo's Creative Director
& amazingly talented illustrator)

'Story time' Children will be entertained as they listen to the adventures of Belle & her bunny friend Boo as Mandy reads from the first Belle & Boo story book 'The Birthday Surprise' .  

('The Birthday Surprise', Belle & boo's first picture book
published by Orchard Books)

After this children can join in with some crafty activities inspired by our new  ‘S is for Sewing’ craft book).

So if you are holidaying in the Cotswolds or live nearby please come along and join us.  We would love to meet you!

Tickets are free but limited to 20 children per session.   

Simply send us a quick email to snap up your tickets:  events@belleandboo.com

Please note:   There will be a small film crew at the event.  If you would like further information or do not want your child to be filmed please let us know when you order your tickets.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Win a portrait of your child!

Our exquisite, collectible giclee art prints are at the heart of everything Belle & Boo does. Beautifully drawn by our founder, the incredibly talented Mandy Sutcliffe, these charming 'story book' illustrations are often inspired by real children.   Capturing the imaginations of adults and children from around the world we receive so many people asking if Mandy will draw their children.  Unable to fulfil every request, we are, for the first time, offering an incredibly rare opportunity for one person to win a portrait of their child illustrated by Mandy in her signature 'Belle & Boo' style.

To enter into the prize draw simply spend £40 or more on our current range of wall stickers and/or art prints and you will be automatically entered into the prize drawer (Competition closes on Sunday 15th August, midnight GMT)

Need some inspiration?  Here are a few of Mandy's and the team's favourites:

A beautiful heirloom, each Belle & Boo art print is signed by Mandy,  and are made using light fast inks on 100% cotton rag paper. We mount and frame our prints by hand using conservation grade backing board and are fully sealed with pH 7 neutral acid free conservation grade tape.

Win a portrait - Terms and Conditions

*Purchase must be made between Sunday 2nd August and Midnight on the 15th August (GMT).

£40 minimum spend must be made on art prints or wall stickers and excludes shipping and additional items in your basket.

The winner will be chosen at random on Monday 17th August and notified by e-mail.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Be Inspired By Fabric // Ditsy Boo Fabric!

Oh I do feel like it has been a while since we have done a craft round up and, my oh my, we have seen so many lovely things sewn with our fabric recently! Our round up today features our screenprinted Ditsy Boo cotton poplin!

 (Image Credit: Sarah Cran)

Sarah made her daughter a lovely little dress using our Ditsy Boo fabric and trimmed with ric rac and our (sadly now sold out) quilting fabric. She also made a dress for dolly with the remnants!  I really do think that is every little girls dream. My grandma used to sew me lots of clothes when I was a little girl and no outfit was complete without a dress for all my dolls, such a lovely childhood memory!

Then we have these 3 gorgeous creations, Baby bloomers, a little girls skirt and pretty hairbows (with lovely pattern placement, I must say!). I just love seeing how versatile our fabric can be.

If you love this fabric, did you know we now sell it made up as a lampshade (for lamps and ceiling lights) and did you know tha all our lampshades are made in house at Belle and Boo HQ in Bristol? 

I hope these lovely creations have inspired you to sew! If you've made anything (clothing or otherwise) with our fabric, then we would love to see! You can use the hashtag #belleandboo on Instagram or email us  here.

Keep an eye out over the next few weeks for other lovely crafty ideas.

See you soon,

Friday, 17 July 2015

Our love of picture books (and competition news)

Last week was the brilliant Book Trusts 'Children's Book Week' - a celebration of a child's love of books. 

To honor the occassion we asked all our friends on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to tell us 'What children's book have you loved most in your life' and in return we would give one person four beautifully illustrated Belle & Boo picture books in hardback and signed by Mandy Sutcliffe.

We had hundreds of entries (scroll down to discover who the winner is).  As well as learning about wonderful books we didn't know, it was lovely to read about peoples childhood memories of reading with a loved one. 

We also got chatting in the Belle & Boo HQ , sharing stories of books we loved as kids as well as exciting new illustrators and books we read with our own children now.  

Here are our some of our picture book favourites:

Mandy Sutcliffe, our Creative Director and founder.  She has twin boys.
  • The Pirates Next door by Jonny Duddle
  • The Whale and the Snail by Julia Donaldson
  • SSShhh We Have a plan by Chris Haughton

Illustration from 'Shh We Have A Plan' by Chris Haughton

Patrick Shafe,  Director and husband to Kate.  They have two girls.
  • Mr Ben and the Red Knight By David McKee
  • A Squash and A Squeeze by Julia Donaldson
  • Pushka by Stephen Mackey - Click here to watch a short animation of the book by Stephen himself.

Kate Shafe, Co-Founder and Director
The Shape of My Heart – Mark Sperring
Dogger – Shirley Hughes
Around the Year - Elsa Beskow

(Extract from Dogger by Shirley Hughes)

And the winner of our Belle & Boo picture book giveaway is.....
Kirsty Casey who picked  'Each Peach, Pear, Plum', 
 the timeless picture book classic from illustrator/author team Janet and Allan Ahlberg.  

Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter and for sharing your stories. It certainly reminded me that sharing a book with a little person is one of the most rewarding things you can do as a grown-up. 

So next time when I am knackered and just want to slump down on the sofa with a packet of biscuits and a glass of wine, I will remember, if I spend a few moments enjoying a book with my children it will leave them, and me, with special memories which we will treasure forever.  Afterall it won't be long before our 'little ones' are reading silently to themselves, their noses buried deep inside the pages of a novel. 

Happy Reading!
Jules x

Psst.....thought you might like a peak at Belle & Boo's exquisite new picture book, ' Hop Along Boo' , a magical bed time adventure, illustrated by Mandy (out in November, published by Orchard Books).

Last week we also announced the winner of our Tombola competition on Facebook.  But just in case you missed it, here they are again:

Email: hello@belleandboo.com for further information.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Fun Weeekend

I had such a lovely sunny weekend with Russ and the boys. Saturday was spent at Tyntesfield, their tractor playground never fails to engage the boys giving Russ and I a chance to soak up some sun.

Then Sunday we went to The Mall Cribbs Causeway to buy a new kitchen bin (I have wanted to buy one for such a long time but never felt justified until the lid fell off completely Yey, how sad am I!!!) The fountains and their Nando's balloons provided much entertainment and again I lounged in the sun in a deck chair pretending I was on holiday and not at a retail park!

       My 'The Red Balloon' moment!

Boo has a 'The Red Balloon' moment too! You can read it in the Belle & Boo picture book, Birthday Surprise!