About Kate

http://www.katescreativespace.com

I blog at www.katescreativespace.com

Posts by Kate :

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…

boys 1IMG_0486

 

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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DIY Personalised North Pole Sacks (It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!)

DIY Santa Sacks

Given that we don’t get to kick off the Holiday season with Thanksgiving here in England, I feel I’m allowed instead to start to get a little bit excited about Christmas.  I love Christmas; absolutely unashamedly, whole-heartedly love it.

In readiness for the big day itself, I’ve been trawling through my cupboard of fabric pieces and offcuts, looking for bits and bobs to use to make these personalised gift sacks.  I made a giant one for Harry when he was small which still mysteriously finds its way down the chimney to the kitchen hearth on Christmas eve night.  This year I thought I’d go a step further and have made a handful for the rest of our nearest-and-dearest, each carefully calculating how good they have been this year…

Have you been good this year?

Each sack, once you’ve assembled the equipment, takes about 30mins to make.  You’ll need;

DIY Sack Materials

1. A length of hessian or sisal fabric, approximately 75x150cm. 2. Fabric for the inside of the sack, with the same dimensions.  I used an old fleece blanket and a length of faux fur for mine.  3.  Cord or rope for the ties.  I used inexpensive waxed cotton washing line from the DIY store.  4. Jute cord to form the pcoket for the rope; approximately 1m per sack. 5. fabric transfer paper for the label and 6. optional; bells for the ends of the cord!

Full instructions are attached in the PDF below; the thing that really makes these special is the label, so I’ve also included a blank label PDF so  you can personalise your own if you have the technology. And as a pre-Christmas gesture of goodwill, if you’d love a personalised label but don’t have either the IT skills or the time, leave me a comment below with the name(s) and % goodness of your chosen recipient (think carefully!) and I will email the first few responders a personalised version….  

Personalised Santa Sack Labels

…and even if you don’t make a sack, they look gorgeous as large gift tags…

Personalised North Pole Gift tags

And now I must leave you to attend to the giant foam explosion we’ve caused in road-testing our new gadget; a fake snow-blower!  Every house should have one; festive atmosphere at the touch of a button, if you can overlook the loud vacuum noises and the entirely random jets of ‘snow’ which are shot in every direction.  Shortly after this picture was taken we experienced a near total whiteout…

Personalised santa sacks on a sleigh

 

Template and instructions attached below… happy making!

And for readers across the pond, have a wonderful, wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow; we have to wait until December 25th to practice wrestling unfeasibly large turkeys into incredibly small ovens, but I’ll be thinking of you…

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DIY Santa Sack Instructions

North Pole Sack Label for Editing

 

The Wobbly Tooth

Tooth Fairy Door

It’s been a momentus week in our household; on Monday, Harry announced that he had a wobbly tooth.

My immediate reaction was to assume this was a false alarm; Harry has long been aware of the Tooth Fairy and the riches she bestows, and often checks my teeth for their general sturdiness, declaring many to be ‘close to falling out’.  This used to send me to the mirror in a panic,  but after a clean bill of health from the dentist I have learned to put this down to 5yr -old wishful thinking.  Or a budding career in dentristy, one or the other.  This time, however, Harry was right, and after a week of dogged tooth-wobbling, his loose tooth finally fell out on Friday.

I say it fell out; in fact it might have had something to do with me suggesting that Harry change into a t-shirt which later turned out to be designed for Ages 3-4, and which caught on his tooth – a rather painful and accidental extraction, but no less exciting for all that.  We carefully located the tooth, and placed it into a small jar together with some glitter stars, because everyone knows that fairies like glitter.  Proud of our own cunning, we attached a small bell to the jar in the hope that she might ring it and we’d catch a glimpse of her..

Tooth for the tooth fairy

We hung the jar over Harry’s bed, and then went off for bathtime and teeth-cleaning.

How to attract the Tooth Fairy

On returning to Harry’s bedroom, we were astonished to find a door had appeared, high on the wall above his bed….

Tooth Fairy entrance door

Apparently the Tooth Fairy Door appears on your bedroom wall only on the night that a tooth falls out, and is gone again by morning.  Who knew?

….And it seems the Tooth Fairy did indeed come that night, because this is what Harry found in the morning, under his pillow;

Note from the Tooth Fairy

Believing in magic can be very rewarding…

 

I made the Tooth Fairy’s door using an MDF letter ‘m’ turned upside down; it really resembled a tooth!  You could use an ordinary doll’s house door like these or these.  I attached it with blu-tack and stuck it high enough on the wall that it was out of reach of small hands.  Do be careful what you attach it with; wrestling it off the wall in the middle of the night in the dark requires something with pretty minimal adhesion… oh, and start preparing when the wobbling begins, so that you’re not scrabbling to sort out fairy entrances whilst still hunting for the lost tooth at the moment-critique.

To help the Tooth Fairy with her personal administration, I printed her letter using the free-to-download Blackadder font, and slipped it into a small vellum envelope, using a monogram seal stamped with a rubber stamp from here.

To get a very shiny pound coin you can wipe it with copper cleaner or drop it into a cup of hot water and vinegar for a few minutes.

If you have more than one child or this is the tenth milk tooth that has been lost in your household already this year and such effort seems absurd, I suggest just stuffing a £5/$5 note under the pillow and returning to your glass of wine.  Life is short, after all ;-)

Opened note from the Tooth Fairy

Have a great week, and enjoy the last few precious hours of the weekend!

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One hundred and twelve red apples

Red apple seasonal tablescape

It was my birthday last weekend and we had a handful of close friends for dinner; one of those cosy, informal dinners that feels just right as the seasons turn and the nights close in.  I went to the garden centre after work looking for flowers I could use on the table and instead stumbled across a stall filled with windfall red apples; a few minutes later I had purchased 4 huge bags of apples for around £4.50/$7, and had developed biceps of steel carrying them to the car.  Very satisfying.

I filled a basket with some of the apples and rested it on a stool to the side of the table, then literally rolled the apples along the centre, adding a few other bits and bobs to add height and interest..

Apple styling

Apple centrepiece decor Apple centrepiece

Simple and inexpensive, it took about 10 minutes to set up, but as a low-effort way of adding a touch of seasonal colour it worked a treat.  For dinner we ate a kind of deconstructed chicken and mushroom pie which I prepared in a large casserole before adding personalised piecrust tops to serve with each;

Personalised piecrust!

I cut large circles of ready-made puff pastry and used cookie cutters to create cameo silhouettes and tiny letter cutters for the initials of our friends (you can make them the night before of course and just chill overnight).  Brush with a little egg glaze, bake for 10 minutes and serve on top of the pie filling; a little bit of fun…

Personalise piecrust toppers!

And finally; a pan full of fudgy, raspberry-stuffed brownies, still warm and with a scattering of icing sugar and a scoop of salted caramel ice cream.  I’ve gradually tweaked and adjusted various recipes over the years and come up with one I love; the quantities are huge so do adjust depending on your needs (but then who doesn’t need 24 brownies?  No point doing things by half). Recipe below..

Fudgy raspberry brownies

Raspberry fudge brownies

Finally, thank you SO much for the lovely comments last time about my quilt post and the blog in general; they really made me smile.

Have a great weekend, when it eventually comes; we have bonfires and fireworks planned, and a couple of days of nesting after an unusually hectic period of travel and juggling.  I can’t wait…

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