About Kate

http://www.katescreativespace.com

I blog at www.katescreativespace.com

Posts by Kate :

A winter miscellany

How are you, how has your weekend been so far? Ours got off to a lovely start with friends for dinner on Friday night.  Harry stayed up to say hello and enjoyed a mocktail of mango juice and rainbow sprinkles, accessorised with a cocktail umbrella and glacé cherry whilst we opened a bottle of fizz.  I think we all secretly wanted a taste of his.

Whilst shopping for ingredients the day before, I came across these beautiful Romanescos  - a sort of cabbage that apparently tastes like broccoli, and looks like a miniature Christmas tree..have you tried them?

Romanesco

I say they apparently tatse like broccoli; I intended to chop them up and cook them, but decided they were too lovely for that so instead Harry carefully wrote out everyone’s names and they became cheery place-settings instead…

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Talking of all things green, Harry and I have a new project; we are determined to grow a HUGE avocado plant.  Preferably by next weekend, in order to have guacamole for tea.  We have got precisely this far after 24 hours, despite progress checks approximately every 10 minutes:

Plant an avocado stone

In the meantime I have harvested some hardy Hellebores from the garden and planted them up in an old copper trough on the counter; a reminder that we will see Spring before too long.

Blog Jan 2016

In other domestic news, I’ve had a brief attempt at trying to bring order and discipline to our laundry (really, what was I thinking?), buying these inexpensive sorters from IKEA and painting helpful labels so that even the youngest member of the household (you know who you are) can colour-sort his dirty clothes.  I doubt it will work, but they look pretty nonetheless.

labels copy

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Weather like this requires cake, and cake is also a helpful excuse to drop in on friends, so we also made some of our favourite lemon and poppyseed loaf cake – one of those wonderful recipes where you get to throw everything in a bowl and then pour it into a tin, and do very little else other than congratulate yourself on your Domestic Goddessery  (if you do follow the recipe above, I skip the first step – if life is too short to stuff a mushroom, it is certainly too short to soak a poppyseed).   Try it; I promise you it works a treat..

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And now an epic fail to close.  Firstly, if our avocado stone is yet to bloom, my New Year sourdough starter is looking even rockier.  I had visions of it looking exactly like this:

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…but instead it looks exactly like this:

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It smells like a brewery, which is promising if a little alarming, but I cannot see it causing a loaf of bread to rise anytime this year.  All suggestions welcome please, including alternative uses for it (a solution for loose plaster?).

Know your limits, they say; I think I have met mine.  Any kitchen ingredient which requires daily feeding and careful measuring was, in retrospect, doomed.

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p.s. photo of entirely perfect and well-risen sourdough starter from a true guru here.

Welcome to the Art Room!

Art Room Materials 1

 

When we moved into our dream house a few years ago, we began by gradually restoring the most important rooms, starting with the kitchen.  Most of the rooms in our rambling, period house are part of the original footprint of the house, but there is a little annex attached to one side which housed a peculiar, 1980s-style kitchen, complete with carpeted floor and faux-wood cabinets.  It was so bizarre – and so unlovely – that for a couple of years we essentially ignored it (and indeed didn’t take a single photo of it).

Then some time ago we decided to rip out the kitchen, whitewash the walls and lay a cheap laminate floor, thinking it would make a good office space.  Instead, Harry and I have gradually staked our claim, filling the room with a growing tide of papers, paints, scissors, crayons, works of genius and  - everywhere – tiny drifts of sticky tape that briefly adhere you to the floor, or indeed any surface you may lean on.  It is, without doubt, now The Art Room…

The Art Room

Harry and I each have a desk; simple white worktops on IKEA trestle legs, which hold all of our most precious materials.  Harry’s is very clearly marked in case there is any ambiguity about ownership, and bedecked with various masterpieces;

Art Room Drawing Desk

Art room 2

I have noticed, as a random aside, that I always look in Harry’s pictures as if I have recently dismounted from a horse.  I am trying not to wonder what this may mean.

Art room 1

We love thick Giotto mega colouring pencils for their intensity of colour and ease of grip; not cheap but they last seemingly forever.  Then jam-jars of brushes, pencils, Sharpie pens, pastels and tactile, jewell-shaped crayons; a legacy from Harry’s early childhood but too enticing to move on from completely…

IMG_5590 Art Room Caryons

The Art Room has a mysterious, scrolled staircase which ascends to a cosy alcove in the roof; too small for an adult to stand up in, but perfect for a child.  We don’t know what it was intended for, but now it becomes variously a den, a reading nook, a hiding place and THE best place in the house to squash 25 people into when playing Sardines.  It’s the only accent wall in the room, wallpapered (by me! After a glass of wine, as well!) with Scrapwood paper by Piet Hein Eek.

Scrapwood wallpaper

The stair-rail is strung with a random assortment of half-finished projects and decorative finds, like this vintage flag, driftwood garlands and my ever-increasing collection of beautiful stars..

Art Room flag

And under the stairs?  Our Dreaming Chair, where we can curl up and read, think, snooze or just chill out.  A gift from friends who were moving house, it looks like it is a million years old and has lived many interesting lives.  Each year on Fathers Day we take a photo of H and my husband in the chair together, and I intend to do this for at least another 40yrs.

Art Room chair

The Art Room overlooks the unlovely driveway, so to mask that and to filter the light which in summer is blazing and intense, I propped old window shutters from our last house against the wall.  They allow the weak, blueish northern winter light through and then do a great job when the weather turns warmer.

Art room shutters

What else?  A few nods to storage include a display box of old projects and keepsakes, and a couple of museum shelves just deep enough to hold propped-up treasures..

Box Shelf

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We use Ikea’s Asker hanging herb pots to store pens and brushes; mine are hung on the wall;

Wall pots

And Harry’s stand on his desk (the giraffe ruler was a treasure found in his Christmas stocking, but we suspect Santa might have sourced it here).

Art Room Materials 1

And our eBay-find vintage plan chest stores gorgeous papers and completed art works (you can glimpse it in the main room photo above)…

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Most of our other paints, glitters and craft stuff is stored on make-shift shelves in a shallow fuse-box cupboard just outside in the corridor; unbeautiful, but very useful, and somewhere that Harry can go without help to choose whatever he needs..

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So that is our tour, of possibly my favourite room in the house, and one with  - already – some incredible memories.  A room to be messy in (in fact my husband smiled at these photos, so unrepresentative are they of the daily chaos and flamboyant mess more usually found within), to play in and to be happy in.  Very happy indeed, in fact.

turtle

Art Room Sign

 

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Knitted Mitten Cookies

Knitted Mitten Cookies from Katescreativespace

Our little corner of the world here in England has been protected from the snowstorms raging across the US this weekend, but it has still been chilly and bleak.  Harry and I have busied ourselves in the kitchen, making these gingerbread mitten cookies using one of my favourite Christmas presents; a knitting-effect rubber stamp from here.  We’ve produced a tray of gorgeous, decorated mittens that have steadily vanished across the day…

Knitted mitten cookie making

We started by making a batch of our favourite gingerbread and stamping out mitten-shaped cookies…

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We rolled out some white fondant icing, pressed on the stamp and then used the cutter to create the knitted tops for each cookie, using a little apricot jam to hold them in place…

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I pressed buttons into the leftover fondant to create button-shapes and then brushed lightly with edible gold dust, and added one to each cuff, along with some sugar pearls.  Mittens fit for the most discerning snow-queen…

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And once all the hard work is done?  A reward, I think…

Knitted cookies for winter

 And finallly…

Thank you for all the lovely comments on last week’s post about how to stay in touch when you’re far from home; they made me smile (and tear-up a little), and were very comforting in their assurance that most small boys stay just as loving at 36 as they are at 6…

Have a great week!

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Separations and Reunions

Travelling 1

The New Year began at a million miles an hour with a flurry of back-to-work-and-school panic and then, for me, a week of transatlantic travel.   I’ve periodically travelled for work since my son was born, usually to the US, and these partings have been easy enough for both of us to manage.  Of late, though, it’s a little harder.  Time has lost some of its elasticity for Harry, and there are moments for both of us when I’m travelling that the distance feels very hard indeed.

We’ve been working on a few ways to make it easier, and this time I think we cracked it.  Some are conventional; others?  Well…

Saying good bye

On this last trip, I gave Harry a boxful of kisses when we woke up on the morning of my flight.  We talked about how whenever he was thinking of me he could open the bottle and find a kiss.  He tucked them in his pocket and went off to the playroom, where I caught glimspses of him busy with scissors and paper.  He appeared quite some time later with a square cardboard box.  In case you are struggling with the flamboyant spelling, it says ‘Here’s some hugs’…

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And inside? Two beautifully, secretly constructed figures of Harry and me who fit together perfectly into a hug.  ’You can take them out whenever you need a hug from me Mummy’. I was amazed.  And yes, hopelessly emotional…

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Bedtimes

It’s a long-standing tradition that every evening I sing to Harry when he is just dropping off to sleep.  In babyhood I sang him lullabies, and then gradually stopped, until a year ago when he asked for me to sing again ‘to help me switch my head off from thinking’.  So now our bedtime routine always includes a rendition of ‘Dream a little dream‘ by Mama Cass, and I worried about whether he’d miss this when I was away.  I used to try and sing it over the phone, but it was never quite the same, and usually involved me huddling in the corner of conference rooms or bathrooms and crooning sotto voce which didn’t help my tunefulness at all.  So my husband stepped in…

… and now on the nights I’m away, he dons a long blonde wig (I daren’t ask where he found this; secrets in a marriage are not always unhelpful) and does a cabaret version of the song, sometimes alternating with other favourites such as ‘How much is that doggie in the window?’.  I’m not sure that it helps induce sleep but it’s certainly a potent distraction, and one which generates many requests for encores.  You’ll be relieved to know that I have no pictures of this.

 Staying connected

On this last trip I took one of Harry’s soft toys with me; Hopalong, the smallest and most docile of The Boys.  Each day, I sent back pictures of Hopalong so that Harry could track our movements; at the airport, the gym, the office …and even raiding the hotel minibar and spreading crumbs all over my bed…

Hoppy

Harry loved getting the pictures, and then one day last week I woke up to find an email from home with the rest of Harry’s toys having decided to join in.  Each day, Harry devised a new activity for The Boys, and my husband sent me a picture.  They took a shower together, raided the fridge in search of sausages; altogether, it sounded like the teddy bear equivalent of a frat party…

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One of the best things though was a letter from Harry, tucked into my case and discovered on arrival in Philadelphia, when I was feeling jetlagged and far from home….

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Because to be loved more than water pistols is as much as any mother could ever wish for.

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All is Calm, All is Bright.

Merry Christmas from Katescreativespace

So, Christmas is drawing close and we have an evening of gift wrapping, fire-lighting and – yes! – champagne drinking ahead.  Bliss.  The house is ready at last; the loyal dogs who guard our front door have dressed for the occasion…

Dogs in hats 2

Dogs in hats

The North Pole Sorting Office has once again taken up residence in the hallway, joined this year by my favourite bicycle, Delilah, who has been repurposed as a festive delivery bike and perches atop the hall table, bedecked with gifts and lights…

Delivery bike decoration for christmas Delivery bike gifts Delivery bike for christmas

Mistletoe is strung from every light fitting and I am making it my business to deplete as many berries as I can during the Christmas period; beware those who cross the threshold..

Misteltoe

Even the Montgolfieres Mice have decorated their basket for the holidays, and swing gently in the hallway, glittering with light.

Christmas mice

In the snug, I strung the columns with ribbon and cut delicate paper tree silhouettes out of paper for the window panes; they look beautiful in daylight with the sun streaming through and even prettier at night when lit from within…

Winter forest windows

paper winter trees

And so we are ready, I think; time to sign off now with just two big sleeps to go.

I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and a joyful, relaxing break – thank you for another year of reading, following and commenting; it’s been absolutely lovely!

Here’s to 2016….

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Last-minute Christmas decorations: Simple 3D Stars

Simple 3D Stars tutorial

How are you, are you all set for Christmas?  We’re feeling festive  tucked away here in our small corner of the world, after a weekend of visits from family and friends, the official end of school and work, and the house now bedecked with lights and decorations (I’ll share a few pics tomorrow in a final post).  One last-minute addition has been these simple paper stars (above and below), made using this brilliant template created by Kate Lilley at Minieco… they look like beautifully crafted origami stars, but are a little easier for those who are quickly baffled by the dexterity needed in the twisting and folding of the authentic Japanese versions.

Simple 3D Stars for Christmas

We made ours  using old sample sheets of wallpaper leftover from when I decorated the chimney breast in our bedroom; I simply printed the template directly onto the A4 tester sheets (below) and then cut and folded the stars, which led to a beautifully tonal pile of petite étoiles which we’ve scattered along the mantel.  They’d look beautifulstrung into a garland, or even filled with small treats and used as place-markers on the holiday table; just leave one flap of the star unglued…

Making 3d stars

How to make simple 3D stars

3D stars to make

Have a wonderful rest of the day; we’re off to see Father Christmas later as darkness falls; rumour has it that his workshop can be found in a local forest if you take a compass and follow very specific directions, looking out for elves amongst the trees as you go.  Anticipation is very, very high….

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Nutcracker Peg Doll Decorations

DIY Nutcracker decorations

Inspired by The Nutcracker ballet, I’ve been making festive peg doll deocrations to hang on our tree.  Requiring little more than a steady hand and an array of paints, it’s a lovely thing to have a go at on a darky and rainy night – or around the kitchen table with restless children who are done with school for the year but still have way too many Big Sleeps to go until Christmas (though only 7 now!).

You’ll need:

  • A pack of wooden clothes pegs; I used these
  • Wooden hats (optional); I used these craft ‘candle cups’ which have ahandy hole in the top for threading
  • Selection of paints; the tiny tins designed for model-makers are ideal, found at all good craft shops.  You’ll need red, white, blue, black and gold. (Red and white mix to make pink for the skin tone, or add brown to your list if you prefer).
  • Brushes of varying thickness, but make sure you have a very fine brush for the facial features.
  • Fluff!  For the hair… I used a few strands of quilt batting leftover from this project, but any good fluff or fibre will do…
  • Thread for making a hanging loop.

Nutcracker decorations

  1. Start by mixing your pink paint for the face and brush that on; don’t worry about neatness.  Peg your dolls around a mug rim as they dry
  2. Now the black; paint the legs to the waist, and also paint your hat.
  3. White next! paint a tent-shaped triangle above the waist, as if the jacket is cut away to reveal the white shirt.  Add two circles for eyes on the peg head, and a rectangle for the teeth (you’ll add the definition later).
  4. And now red for the jacket; cover the rest of the top half of the peg doll, carefully edging around the white shirtHow to make Nutcracker peg dolls
  5. Gold accents next; brush two stripes around the cuffs of the legs, and a wider band around the waist for a gold belt.  Do the same around the neckline and add a few swooping semi-circles to mimic gold chain across the jacket front.  Do the same across the front of the hat, and add a gold band rim.
  6. Now the face, and the trickiest bit.  Examine your hand carefully for steadiness, and rest it on the table as you paint.  If all else fails, just repaint a new layer of pink to cover up any mistakes.  Start with the black paint and add chunky eyebrows and a moustache.  Now blue dots for the irisis, and a red mouth with your thinnest brush tip.
  7. For the hair, cover the sides of the peg head with glue and press on a fingertip’s worth of fibres, which you can trim to shape and style later.
  8. Finally, thread a knotted cord through the hat to make a loop before glueing the hat to you doll’s head.  Ta-da!!  Job done…
  1. A set of DIY Nutcracker peg dolls  Nutcracker Peg Dolls

We’ve hung ours on the Christmas tree, and mighty fine they look too.

We’ve a busy weekend ahead; we throw our doors open tomorrow to family and friends for our annual Open House of eating, drinking, dancing, gossiping and general chaos.  Father Christmas usually wanders up the lane as darkness falls, adding an additional buzz of excitement.  I am hopelessly behind in my preparations, though the beauty of having good friends come is that a lack of perfection is easily forgiven;  mulled wine, a real fire and festive cookies will go a long way to being all we need.

Have a wonderful weekend wherever you are and whatever you’re up to!

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Brown paper packages, tied up with string…

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with String

This year – and particularly the last few months – have been crazily, insanely busy.  Good busy, but still intense and pretty relentless, and as a result I feel ready for a pared-back, simple Christmas.  The fir lady is a decadent splash of colour and finery in our kitchen, but when it comes to gift-wrapping and other decor, undertstated and simple appeals.  Harry and I have been playing this weekend with brown paper and the craft cupboard, wrapping and decorating presents for family to stack under the tree…

Starting with Sarah’s gift, which we made by glueing a ring of these miniature wood slices around a piece of black paper to form a holiday wreath…

Wood slice wreath parcel

We then rolled out a sheet of paper and Harry stamped white stars randomly up and down it (we used different sized punches from hoobycraft in the UK and Paper Source in the US).  DIY gift wrap made to order for any size of present (in fact the hardest bit is getting your small, festive helper to stop…)

Festive stamped paper parcels

And then for a fun present, I created three folds in a sheet of paper and used it to wrap this gift below, tucking a couple of eucalyptus cuttings in to make a mini forest, and adding some birch moose decorations (these, if you’re in the US, bought recently on a work trip).  Because any gift is enhanced by the addition of a moose.

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And then once I’d prised the rubber stamping set out of Harry’s hands, we got to work making snowball gift wrap, by gluing different shaped white pom-poms to our kraft paper.  You can either do this straight off the roll or onto the actual presents once you’ve wrapped them.

Making snowball giftwrap

DIY Snowball Giftwrap

We have a couple of friends we’re not seeing until New Year, so I wrapped up their gifts with paper ribbon, butchers twine and old corks and cages from my collection (this particularly expensive and delicious champagne was a birthday present that I drank very, very slowly indeed…).

Brown paper packages tied with champagne corks

Brown paper celebration wrapping

And finally, a gift not for me (I’m not immune to buying presents for myself but rarely do I wrap them), but for Harry’s godmother, decorated with a chalkboard tag and a stick-on mini christmas tree, topped with a tiny, starshaped button.  A hopeless suggestion for any gifts you need to send by mail, but rather lovely for those that can sit, fetchingly, under the tree…

brown paper parcels for christmas

A productive weekend, then…and not over yet.  We’re off to see Bridge of Spies tonight and I’m so looking forward to it; a Sunday-night date feels decadent somehow, but infinitely more fun than packing briefcases and school bags and the setting of alarms.  All that can wait.

Have a wonderful rest of the day!

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A homemade Christmas

How was your week, has it been a good one?  It’s been a crazy busy one here; a mix of work and play, of Christmas parties and Nativity plays, of late nights and early mornings (Harry’s latest trick; to slip into our bed at an ungodly hour and whisper hoarsely in my ear ‘I love you to infinity Mummy.  Now can I stay?’).  We’re looking forward to a relaxing weekend and some festive crafting and decorating.

If you’re feeling similarly inclined, here are a few ideas from the archives for homemade gifts for those you love…

Like pinecone firelighters, for everyone you know with an open fire or wood burner;

DIY Pinecone firelights

Bake-at-home cookies for the students in your life who eat you out of house and home but wouldn’t dream of making their own unless you made it this simple..

Christmas Cookies in a jar

Or perhaps a tinful of these simple DIY bird-feeders, which are easy for small hands and will be a gift for the birds in your garden too…

DIY Bird feeders from katescreativespace

You could make batches of these fun striped holiday candles and tie them up as stocking-filler gifts…

Striped Holiday Candles

Or fill mason jars with their favourite sweets

candy jars as christmas gifts

Three different types of cookies to make and take to your holiday parties..

Gifting Christmas Cookies

Or why not make a 2015 mini photobook for grandparents or friends of some of the best photos from the year?  They look beautiful on the mantle..

DIY Vacation Photobook

And one of my favourites; DIY personalised pencils, made by printing onto washi tape.  If you haven’t tried this, you really should…

Magic tape printing DIY

And finally if you’re choosing gifts for a book-lover, why not make them some of these whale-tail bookmarks to keep their place each night…

whale tales bookmarks

I’ll be back after the weekend; I hope you have a wonderful one!

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The Fir Lady returns once again

Christmas Lady

Christmas began to arrive in our home yesterday, as I staggered back from the garden centre with armfuls of pine, eucalyptus and berries.  Now the house is filled with resiny scent, as is my hair, my clothes, my hands… it’s intoxicating.

And the fir lady has once again come in from the cold and taken shelter in a corner of the kitchen; this year she is sporting a bright red military-style jacket (a charity shop find) and standing 9ft tall, thanks to an old chest we dragged in from the back of the shed.  Pine cones are dotted amongst her skirts, and boughs of red berries peek around her hem.

The Fir Lady close up

Fir Lady Skirts

Here’s last year’s Fir Lady, who sported a hessian bodice and a skirt adorned with simple wooden stars..

The Fir Lady 2014

And the original, 2013 Lady who had a rather more risqué skirt and a nipped-in waist..

Fir Lady for Christmas

If you have a spare mannequin lying around (and who doesn’t?) I gave a vague tutorial last year, with tips about how to build up a skirt and thread all the greenery together (tip: chicken wire is your secret weapon).  Mostly though it just requires trial and error, and is aided by a glass of red wine.  Or mulled wine.  Any wine in fact, but probably just the one glass, especially if using a ladder.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend; we’re lighting the fire and curling up for a Christmas movie; Elf and Arthur Christmas are the top contenders; popcorn and hot chocolate will be crucial.

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The Best of Christmas past… Paper!

As a Monday stocking filler for those newish to the blog, here’s the first of a couple of romps through the archives of some of the most festively crafty posts since I began writing back in 2012… with many new ones to come over December!  Enjoy…

For Christmas paper crafts, why not try making a torn paper Santa;

DIY Torn-Paper Santa

 

Or button Christmas tree cards;

button christmas tree cards

 

 

For the littles in your life, this simple handprint reindeer card was one of my earliest posts;

handprint reindeer christmas card

Or (if you hurry) you could knock up a homemade advent calendar;

Handmade Advent Calendar

 

Or maybe crackers for the Christmas table

DIY crackers from katescreativespace

 

These Dutch House Luminaries would look beautiful on the mantlepiece this winter…

DIY Dutch House Luminaries

 

Or try making your own 3-d stars (an even simpler tutorial coming in the next couple of weeks!)

starstruck at christmas time

 

In readiness for the big day, use these templates to make your own North Pole Telegram;

North Pole Telegram 2013

And start making plans to entice the reindeer to linger a while with this Magic Reindeer Food;

magic reindeer food december

And finally these folded books aren’t just for the holidays but they do look very lovely as decorations;

folded decorations II

A new craft to come next, and then a round-up of some edible Christmas ideas  (and then maybe a break from Christmas, lest we peak too soon :-) )

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