About Kate

http://www.katescreativespace.com

I blog at www.katescreativespace.com

Posts by Kate :

Great Intentions Volume I: Cook more…

IMG_6628I have a whole cupboard of beautiful cookbooks. It’s a dark and cavernous cupboard and they sit wedged against the Kitchenaid mixer, occasionally receiving a light shower of soy sauce or a sprinkle of Chinese five spice from the shelf above.  I often extract one to browse through with a glass of wine on the kitchen sofa, but all too rarely do I actually COOK anything.  I have no idea why this is, so one of my resolutions for 2018 was to work my way through some of them and bring a few of the delicious recipes into being (not quite as intensively as Julie and Julia, but you get the drift).

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Nigella and Nigel, Katie and Keller, Delia and Julia Child; all are part of my self-improvement plan for 2018, starting with the basics and working my way up…

  My first creative project though was simply to find a way of putting the books on display, to remind me of my great intentions and also make them easier to flick through and annotate; welcome to my new kitchen gallery shelves!

IMG_7030I found these lovely oak picture ledge shelves online (but try etsy, Ikea and other home stores for lots of alternatives), and then we cut them to size to fit in an unused alcove between the kitchen units and the back door…

IMG_7018IMG_6994 (even Harry is inspired; he ate his cornflakes on the floor this morning whilst flicking through The Silver Spoon for Children (still in his beloved Christmas reindeer pjs).

And now the weekend is almost upon us and the food shopping done; no excuse not to start the actual cooking!

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p.s. In my next life I will own a small bookshop dedicated entirely to cookery books.  It will be called Mis En Place and I will spend my days floating around the store, arranging books artfully and perusing new titles.  Armchairs will abound in nooks and crannies.

Have a lovely one, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Jam heart toast

Two family traditions in our home this morning; Love Toast and splatter cookies (made by tossing all the toppings we can find over cut-out sugar cookies…yum).

valentine cookies

p.s. Being horrified at the thought of wasted food, my husband always eats the leftover outlines of toast once the hearts have been stamped out.  This is known, affectionately, as Heartless Toast.

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Love Letters

Ransom Note Valentine's Card

Have you got your Valentine’s Day affairs in order?  To my beloved this year I am giving a tatty old John Grisham thriller, a supermarket newsletter and a page from the Guardian Review of Books.

Well, to be more precise, I am giving him a hand-crafted card declaring my love, snipped from the pages of the above book and periodicals, with carefully scissored words and letters glued into place to form a very unique kind of affirmation that Hallmark couldn’t quite offer.

To make something like this, you can simply riffle through the Sunday papers and snip out useful words, or raid a novel you have no intention of ever trying to re-read (how annoying would that be?  To reach page 96 and find a crucial paragraph has been cut out).  I snipped out some pronouns and joining words so that I had a little pile of ‘I’s and ‘you’s and ‘and’s and ‘then’s … and then found some altogether more interesting and random phrases and snippets to spice it up a bit.  Then I laid them all out and got to work;

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Ransom note Valentines Card

Have fun with the envelope too, and then quietly congratulate yourself on your artistry even as you survey the 249 tiny shreds of newspaper that now cover every surface and skitter gently across the floor carried by the infernal draughts that plague your ancient house.  Ignore, sip wine. Use leftover clippings to craft a series of ransom notes and post to your neighbours under cover of darkness.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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What are you reading at the moment?

What are you reading? KatesCreativeSpace

What are you reading at the moment?  As the month turns into February I am reluctantly emerging from a post-Christmas literary cocoon; having slipped each night into the world of one of the books I received (my Christmas list always includes ‘a book that you’ve read and loved this year’, and I’ve been introduced to  to some amazing new authors this way).

In my beside pile of books I’ve finished…

I might have been the last person on earth to have read A Little Life by Hanya Yanaghara, but I made up for that by beginning it all over again as soon as I finished.  So sad, so beautiful, and so completely extraordinary; one of those books where you feel a sense of loss once it’s over.  Don’t be daunted by the length, which rapidly becomes reassuring… it’s a story of lives you don’t ever want to end.

I’ve just finished Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles, which is an extended ode to winter, packed with recipes, memories and reflections; it crackles with warmth and you can almost smell the woodsmoke, molten candle wax, freshly-baked bread and melting Taleggio cheese; if (like me) you still have a couple of winter months ahead of you, read this now; it’s divine.

One older novel that I finally read and loved; Arundhati Roy’s Booker-prize winning The God of Small Things plunges you straight into monsoon season in India and the childhood of twins Rahel and Estha, vividly charting the dramas big and small that unfold around them at home and across the country as political unrest grows.

For a visual feast, In Detail by stylist Hans Blomquist did not disappoint – it’s packed with beautiful pictures and room sets, and advice on how to use colour and objects to create different moods.  If you’re forever scrolling through other people’s living rooms on Pinterest or Instagram (hello, kindred soul) then this is for you.

And in the pile to read next…

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng,  The Secret Lives of Colour  by Kassia St Clair, and – finally! – A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

Have you read anything good lately?  Please add some more recommendations to my pile!

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Affirmation

Affirmation

A quick dose of inspired creativity this morning – from my son’s class teacher.  Harry’s teacher is the stuff storybook heroines are made of; beautiful and perennially cheerful, brave enough to scoop up giant spiders from the classroom without a tremor; kind enough to dispatch them gently out onto the windowsill.  As ultimate proof of her greatness, I offer you the fact that she has an invisible pet unicorn that sits in the front of the classroom and can be petted at break.  When you’re 7yrs old, teachers don’t come much better than that.

Last week she asked each child to label a cup with their name, and to line them up along her desk.

They waited, in hushed expectation.

Then she asked them each to fill in strips of paper with the very best thing about each other, picking five or six people.  Slowly the cups filled up with touching affirmations, from the obvious to the surreal;  ’Jake wants to be a cook when he grows up’, said Harry, ‘So I wrote: I BET YOU MAKE REALLY GOOD CAKES’.

And then the thrilling process of tipping out your own cup and reading through the statements.  Harry came home that day lit up with happiness and still clutching his, and carefully showed me each one.

Such a simple thing, and yet so wonderful (I might try it at work..)

Happy Monday!

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p.s. The one that no child received: ‘your so good at speling’

 

How to make a fortune in just five minutes.

DIY Fortune cookies

Recently we had a Chinese takeaway and Harry discovered fortune cookies.  On a scale of life’s wonders, it briefly ranked RIGHT AT THE TOP. ‘A cookie that actually tells you what is going to happen to you?  Woooah!’

In practice, the cookie itself was a little underwhelming, disintegrating into an explosion of crumbs when snapped and revealing a rather vague fortune about pleasant strangers.  So I had an idea; I’d make my own…

DIY Chinese Fortune Cookies made of paper

The good thing about homemade fortune cookies is that you can customise your fortunes to suit the recipient (these are the ones for my husband; heavy hints wrapped in paper);

DIY Paper Fortune Cookies from KCS

Harry’s contain equally alluring and essential promises;

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Best of all? They are so simple to make.  Details below…

Supplies:

  • Paper.  I used 3 types; a vellum-like paper with a sheen (gorgeous), basic paper torn from an exercise book, and script-patterned gift wrap
  • Circle template; I used the lid of the tin in the top picture.  Aim for something about 10cm/4in square
  • Fortunes; scribble them out onto strips of paper and cut up ready to slip in as you fold the paper cookies.
  • Scissors, pencil, glue

Steps:

Draw around your circle shape and cut out as many shapes as you need from your paper.
Then, using the pictures below as a guide;
1. Fold the circle lightly in half and pinch hard at the crease in the centre, leaving an indent
2. Let the circle open again and lay a fortune sideways across the indent you made
3. Roll the opposite sides of the circle together as shown so that they overlap slightly; this forms a cuff that will hold the paper cookie together
4. Press your finger into the indent you made on the opposite side to push in the centre of the cookie, making the distinctive folded shape
5. Add a dab of glue deep in the fold and either hold for a minute until dry or use the tips of your scissors to anchor it in place to set as shown
6.  Repeat!

DIY Paper Fortune Cookies
Ideas…

  • These would make a beautiful Valentines gift for someone; a bag of fortunes customised for the one you love
  • Or try making a single over-sized paper cookie (12″), containing a letter or poem written out along a whole strip
  • Experiment with materials (I want to try using a piece of tan-coloured leather; you could hide a pair of earrings or a necklace in here as an exquisite little gift)
  • Have fun with the packaging; I used an old tin that had once held tempura mix and made my own label to cover up the original text

Paper fortune cookies

 

Happy folding!

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Adventures in giant knitting

On my birthday recently, my mother gave me a very large cardboard box.  I say she gave it to me; in fact she dragged it in through the front door with much huffing and puffing and muttered cussing, and left it in the hall whilst she lay down on the sofa to recover herself with a gin & tonic.

‘Is it a puppy?’ asked Harry hopefully.

‘Why no‘ she announced dramatically; ‘it is ….A BALL OF WOOL!’.

A 5kg ball of lightly-spun wool as large as a doberman in fact, and a pair of 60mm wide knitting needles to tame it with.  Welcome to the unladylike art of Giant Knitting.

Adventures in giant knitting

It took me a little while to begin the knitting because the needles were immediately seized to be used as light sabres and general tools for random destruction.  You can see the appeal…

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Once in posession of both needles and wool, I studied the booklet that came with the kit (mine was from here), and taught myself the basic ‘knit one, purl one’ blanket stitch.  Unlike those genteel grandmothers you see clacking away on television, there was nothing effortless about my stitching; it required a vast turning circle of personal space (I jabbed so many family members in the eye and ribs with my herculean needles that I was eventually exiled to a small chair on my own); but good lord, there is something so satisfying about knitting a throw that is four foot square in just two hours.  To give you a sense of the scale, just 25 stitches completes a row (and also, I suspect, burns about 200 calories).

Occasionally the wool would come unspun and break apart if I tugged too hard, but you can immediately press it back together and carry on.  Dropped stitches are by their very size immediately obvious, making this the most energetic but also the most forgiving of needlecrafts.  I think I am in love.  The only drawback is the cost; a ball this size will cost around £100, which makes this not an economical hobby.  But as my husband says ‘Not bad value when you consider you’re basically knitting together an entire flock of sheep’.  Well quite.

My messy, irregular and somewhat whispy wool throw is a thing of great heft but also of quiet beauty, and magnetises the smallest member of the house.

A giant knitted throw Giant knitting (great for wannabe ghosts)Have you tried giant knitting before?  Any tips or second-project recommendations?  A couple of people on Instagram recommended arm knitting, which sounds like a natural progression, albeit not one to try when multi-tasking, I suspect.

Happy Monday!

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On Instagram at last!

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I tackled one of my New Year’s resolutions this week and you can now find me on Instagram, at last!  I’ll be posting pics day to day and more ideas and work-in-progress, so if you like the blog then do add me to your feed and pop up and say hello  :-)

Have a fantastic weekend!

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Photo credit of Eve Arnold via here

DIY Cook’s Calendar

DIY Cook's Calendar 2018Here’s a project for anyone slow off the blocks in tackling 2018.  I know many people have their next-year calendar in place from August, or fully populated by November, but perhaps you’re one of those people who just hasn’t got a grip yet (me), or has maybe fallen out of love with the store-bought/gifted calendar you acquired and fancies something much cooler instead.  This is for you.

Cooks calendar with pencil

I used an old chopping board (or source a brand new one from a discount store and soak it in water for two days until it is rough and weathered – ta-da!).  Then I found this free printable calendar online and printed out the year onto thin cardstock – I loved the typographic simplicity of this one – thanks Crissy! – but search on Pinterest for a myriad of other different styles offered for free by generous designers.  I then punched holes in the top of each page and added eyelets, marking with a pencil through the holes where I wanted to bang in the old nails that I’d hang the calendar on…

Cooks calendar detail of rivets

To attach the pencil, two different styles;

  • For a clean, linear look, glue a bulldog clip to the board above the calendar and simply slip your pencil in (these are my favourite Blackwing pencils, beloved of Oliver Jeffers and decades of artists and illustrators)

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  •  If you like a firmer leash on your pencil, tie a length of thin string around the tip and then loop it through the handle of the bread board, knotting it in place where it can hang alongside the calendar all year, resisting casual abduction by other family members.  I also added a decorative vintage baking mould at the top of the calendar, bought as part of a job lot from a local junk store (I’m still thinking about how to use them – they look so pretty..)

DIY Kitchen Calendar 2018and then finally; loop a rope through the top of the chopping board and hang it on the kitchen wall, where your creativity can be admired by all the family, who can also adorn it with tomato sauce smears, greased fingerprints and multiple reminders of their own birthdays.  Honestly, I ask you.

One other style to play with; for a brighter look, try mounting the calendar pages on thick giftwrap, coloured cardstock or watercolour paper with bright splashes of  paint-  I made this smaller set to hang in my office, so that I have two chances of remembering important dates…

Brights calendarBright calendar

Have a wonderful week.

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Happy New Year!

Cape Town mapHappy New Year!

Did you have a lovely break?  We managed to completely switch off for a while, spending the Christmas period itself with a flurry of family and friends; playing games, eating too much, watching movies and generally just being rather than doing – it was so lovely.  And then – then! – we flew to South Africa for a magical few days of sunshine, wildlife, beaches and mountains; here’s a few pics if you’d like to see…

We spent our honeymoon in South Africa ten years ago and promptly fell in love with it; the people, the nature, the climate – everything.  Our highlight was an amazing safari within the Kruger park.  We couldn’t replicate that experience time as we only had a few days and Harry is still a bit young, so we took a day safari to the wonderful Aquila Reserve a couple of hours outside of Cape Town.  We saw so many animals, like these young male bull elephants having a playfight in the mud..

elephants playing..and giraffes, which strode by majestically, oblivious to our truck (unlike the springbok, described by our guide as ‘the fast food of the African landscape, because everything eats them and they can run at 65 kilometres per hour’.  Made me smile).

giraffesprinbokWe saw hippos and white rhino, including this one who eyed us appraisingly from afar. ‘We keep white rhino here because they give you three warning signs before they charge at you’ said our cheery ranger. ‘Black rhino can’t count to three, they just charge’.

white rhinoAfter that, we ventured into the winelands of Stellenbosch and Franschoek, and to an al fresco picnic at the Boschendal winery.  Several people had told us this was a must-do experience and it was a real highlight of the trip;  we unpacked the picnic crate in awe, as we spread out on giant beanbags in the shade of ancient trees dotting the huge Pavilion lawns;

Boschendal1Boschendal picnic ..and then travelled along to the Spier wine farm for some tutored tasting in local wine – with CHOCOLATE! – a pairing that perhaps shouldn’t have worked but really, really did…

wine tasting spierPossibly my favourite part, though, was a visit to the famous Boulders Beach penguin colony.  You can visit the penguins between dawn and dusk, and either venture onto the beach to wander amongst them and swim with them, or amble along boardwalks which plot a path through the rocks and cliffs giving amazing views of the sea and shoreline, populated by thousands of penguins.  Just amazing…  boulders beach congestionsea swim

penguin sign and then on New Year-s Eve, it had to be the beach (at Clifton, a beautiful white-sand beach a few minutes drive from Cape Town), to watch the sun set on another year..NYE

 

Travel notes and other highlights…

  • It’s high summer in Cape Town and the weather was amazing, but has also contributed to the biggest drought ever experienced in the region.  Baths are rationed, swimming pools drained and water-saving measures in place everywhere.  Water is truly the lifeblood of the country and preserving it has become a top priority.
  • Other great experiences that there wasn’t the space here to mention; the Kirstenbosch Gardens, the magnificent beaches at Camp Bay and the colourful beach huts and tidal pool at St James near Kalk Bay.  During our honeymoon trip we also had the unforgettable experience of a trip to Robben Island to see where Nelson Mandela spent the decades of his imprisonment, escorted by a former fellow-prisoner who talked vividly about his experiences – book well ahead for this.  We also travelled to Hermanus Bay to see the whales who visit every year, staying for months in the harbour.  This year we were too late to see them, but it’s a must-do if you’re in the area between August and November.

And now we’re back, to a grey and rainy January, but also to the blank white canvas of a new year of craft projects and posts, and a delicious set of new supplies delivered by Father Christmas for me to explore.  Starting, this weekend, with GIANT KNITTING!!  I will keep you posted… Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 17.25.40

Have a wonderful weekend; it’s good to be back.

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Credits: all photos my own, apart from Cape Town illustrated map via mapsillustrated.com , and giant knitting image via etsy

Quiet beauty

Rather than decorating the house with a riotous explosion of seasonal colour this year I’ve opted for something more understated and calming. These Nordic-style baubles were a gorgeous local find, which I’ve strung with nylon thread and wooden beads to make ethereal, organic pendants.

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The threading itself is a soothing pastime; a kind of rhythmic exercise in picking and threading, stringing and feeding……until the chain slips through your fingers, which it will do at least once, and you will curse un-festively as what sounds like hundreds of tiny beads scatter across the floor to destinations unknown.

But still, it is good practice in being zen and unflappable, which is always useful preparation for an extended family Christmas.

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making notes…

  • The ideal thread for this is jewellery-beading thread; a kind of springy, taught nylon  that will be easily guided through the holes of beads.  You can use thin wire too, but might need to periodically straighten out your chain if the beads are lightweight.  Don’t use ordinary cotton; it will snap and fray and drive you insane (said the weary voice of experience…)
  • I bought a pack of mixed-size wooden beads (from amazon, but all good craft stores should sell them) and supplemented with what I already had.  Interspersing the wooden beads with tiny white pearl-like beads looks pretty and also helps to give definition to the chain
  • These look beautiful strung over (disused) fireplaces or in deep window frames, hanging between stair bannisters or simply on the wall.  Just make sure they are not likely to be either head-butted or grabbed by tiny hands!

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