About Kate

http://www.katescreativespace.com

I blog at www.katescreativespace.com

Posts by Kate :

Olympic Fever!

Are you following the Olympics?  It is the highlight of the year as far as my husband is concerned, and so we’ve been glued to the TV and radio, following the inevitable highs and lows and moments of glory and dashed hopes that characterise every single day in Rio.  Lord knows what we’ll do next weekend when it’s all over.  Olympic fever peaked four years ago when London actually hosted the Olympics and we got to experience it all at first hand; to celebrate we held an outdoor Alternative Olympiad party at home, and a new tradition was borne… so this weekend, we did it all again!

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A wide range of friends were invited (grown-up friends; this was one party that was not aimed at kids..) and asked to come ready for a night of fun in Olympic costumes, national colours or simply clothes they could move freely in – and we began to prepare.  Harry was allowed to stay up to light the olympic torch and officially open the evening’s event; he and I wore simple t-shirt and short combos, but used this easy cool-peel transfer paper to add an Olympic image to our outfits….

Olympics kids outfit Olympics t shirt

We scanned eBay for some olympic accessories and found wristbands and medals; each guest was given a different colour band on arrival to create mixed-up teams; a great way of getting everyone mingling and finding the other members of their team.

Olympic party accessories

Dorothy, who lives in the bathroom downstairs, modelled some of the gear very fetchingly.

Dorothy

We strung bunting across the patio and lights in the trees, and set up pergolas in case of rain (this is England; there is always rain..).  We positioned the Olympic cauldron (usually a stainless steel firepit; briefly repurposed) securely on a table ready to be lit in the evening, and posters around the garden signed the different events .  Finally an olympic flag marked the entrance to the games.

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Olympic party flag

We set out a long table of drinks for both the serious athletes and those more intent on having fun!

Olympic party drinks

drinks olympic drinks

And then the guests began to arrive, looking wonderful in a series of steadily more impressive and outrageous costumes…

Olympics party guest

(including a WADA official, who looked highly corruptible)

WADA official olympic costume

Olympic party guests

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Olympic Guests

The podium we made in 2012 for our first party  has miraculously survived in the garden shed; far from stable, it nonetheless provided a fitting platform for posing.

Events included trampolining, where 2 members from each team were asked to work through a few simple moves remembered from childhood (the tuck jump, the star jump, and the seat drop), before busting out any personal sequences or flamboyant poses to attract additional points from the judges… and lawn volleyball, which roughly – very roughly – followed the rules of beach volleyball, though with the added hazards of the ball getting stuck in low hanging trees, or players attacked by the midges who felt all their Christmasses had come at once to find so many  people available in the same place.

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And then team relay races, including the Aquatic event, which required participants to don a large rubber ring, mask and snorkel and be wheel-barrowed by their partner along the race track to victory.  It was as ridiculous and glorious as the picture below suggests..

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Dinner was a BBQ between events, and then as darkness fell like a blanket we lit a fire pit and toasted marshmallows, and opened more wine.

You’ll notice the distinct absence of photos after 8pm; partly to protect the dignity and innocence of all involved, but mainly because life dictates that sometimes you just need to put the camera down and hurl yourself into the fray; far too much fun to be experienced from behind the lens :-)

An audit of the garden on Sunday (with a rather sore head, I confess) generated an eclectic collection of lost parts of costumes, spectacles, shoes, flags and pom-poms;

a night to remember, and one we might just find the energy for again in 202o!

Have a great week, wherever you are and whatever you’re upto

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Fat-Free Ice-cream Cupcakes! (*Okay, they’re not fat-free at all. Not even slightly).

Ice-cream or cake?  Cake or ice-cream?  Which to choose?  Debate no further; have it all.  Have both!  Well, almost…

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Last week I was inspired by this divine-looking recipe from Waitrose for cupcakes baked in an ice-cream cone and laced with marshmallow-style icing, with a hidden chocolate treat at the bottom – so we gave it a go.  Surprisingly, flat-based wafer cones (we used these ones) don’t burn in the oven, so as long as you wedge them firmly into muffin trays with some tinfoil, they’re pretty foolproof…

How to bake cupcakes in an ice cream cone

Cupcakes baked in ice cream cones

Once the cupcakes are cooled in their trays, gently slice off any tops which have risen above the cone; you want a nice flat surface for your icing.

Make the icing according to the recipe and then carefully spoon it into a large icing bag.  Unlike buttercream icing, it’s firm and pillowy and almost bouncy.  Voila..!

ice6You can test whether you have the right consistency via a number of different means.

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When you’re ready, pipe a swirl of icing onto the centre of each cupcake and then pipe around it, twisting off to give a soft-scoop flourish to the peak of each cake.

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For a true British seaside traditional effect we added a chocolate flake to half of ours…

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Marshmallow-frosted cupcakes with chocolate flake

And then scattered colourful sprinkles liberally over the rest..

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Once they’re set, the only dilemma is which one to try first..

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But be quick.

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For those in the US, the ever-ready Martha Stewart has a similar recipe here that won’t require you to juggle conversion tables for the ingredients.

Enjoy! And excuse us whilst we have a little lie down to recover from all the taste-testing…

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The Making of the Moon

Space fever has gripped our household and refuses to let go.  Ever since British astronaut Tim Peake went into space recently and begun sending back reports of the challenges of zero gravity, the peculiarities of space food and the challenges of showering, fascination with the planetary system has been all-consuming.

So we made our own moon…

papier mache moon

The beauty of this one is that it doesn’t take  years of preparation and three days of space travel to get there.  In fact, a mid-sized ladder would do it.

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We started with a round balloon (ours was about 24 inches, from eBay, Amazon or party shops), and placed it on a waste-basket before covering it liberally with plaster of paris bandages.  We cut them into strips of about 6 inches and kept on going until the balloon was covered.  I wore rubber gloves.  Harry didn’t.  We still have a trail of small white handprints on every surface.

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Then to make craters for the moon’s surface, I cut the bottoms off a few paper cups and we glued them in place, before covering with more small strips of plaster of paris…

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Moon2

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We waited until it was completely dry.  The advantage of plaster of paris is that this took about 4hrs instead of a week.  And we only needed two layers.  For the terminally impatient and easily distractible (us, I confess), it’s perfect.  Then we took turns in daubing it with grey, black white paint, before adding a finally coat of shimmery ivory pearlescent paint to catch the light when hung from a bedroom ceiling..  moon4

And now we’re just bickering about whose bedroom it gets to hang in.

moon5A few tips if you’re keen to have a go…

  • At risk of stating the obvious, make sure you’ve got a round balloon to start with; most multipack balloons are oval, so look carefully.
  • The plaster of paris is great fun but takes a bit of getting used to (we got ours from Hobbycraft in the UK, in a pack of 10 rolls for £8).  We dipped our strips in a shallow tray of water and draped them quickly to avoid them getting tangled up.  You can smooth out the creases in situ.  And the moon is a very bumpy place, don’t forget.
  • To hang the moon, use a bradawl to make a tiny hole in the top and then push or screw in a small cup hook; use a dab of strong glue around it afterwards to ensure it stays in place, and wait till dry before hanging.
  • Invite all your friends over to gaze in awe and explain how it only took you about an hour and was effortless and not at all messy.  Keep them away from the scene of devastation that your crafting has caused.

Good luck!

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p.s. it’s good to be back…

A Pause.

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For those who check in regularly; I’ll be taking a pause from the blog until later in July, as life and work continue at a hectic pace.

There are bicycles to be ridden, beaches to explore, deadlines to meet, and a million small moments to observe as Harry grows steadily upwards at an ever-increasing rate of knots.  Time to lean in to the moment and enjoy it. The crafting continues of course, as does a new phase of house renovation – I’ll be back with all of this and more before the end of the month.

Wishing you a wonderful beginning to the summer, and a great long weekend for those celebrating 4th July!

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Crafty projects using holiday photos

DIY Holiday Card Making

Recently, we had a beautiful long weekend in Christchurch, on the Dorset coast. It was a miraculously hot weekend in an otherwise gloomy spell of weather, so we had 3 glorious days of crabbing, rockpool exploring, sand-castle building and a myriad of other retro beach pursuits.  Here’s a few photos, if you’d like to see;

Christchurch harbour

Make a wishMake a wish and blow

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mermaids

(it took about five showers to wash out all the sand after that one, by the way…)

Kite fliying on the beach

And then when we returned home, I got creative with the photographs…

DIY Photo Notepaper

I’d taken a lot of pics with sea and sky, so decided to make this photo into notepaper for Harry; I cropped it slightly (and superimposed a different kite that was a bit more recognisable!), and then simply printed out several copies onto matt white letter paper.  Harry wrote to his godmother to tell her about our weekend…

Photo letter paper

I also printed some fun envelopes with a photograph I took of the texture of a beach hut wall, with an address bar of weathered wood.  There’s a downloadable PDF of both of these images below if you want to print your own;

DIY Writing Paper from family photos

Beach Notepaper

Weathered Wood Envelope

You could also add text to make a poster…

 

The cure for anything

But my favourite project was this;

DIY Beach Hut Cards

I used one of my photos of the old beach huts at Mudeford, and then used the ‘remove background’ tool in Powerpoint to isolate the hut itself.  I printed it onto thin white card (step 1), then cut out the beach hut.  I printed photos of Harry to fit the size of the drop-front of the hut (step 3), and cut around them.  Then..

  • Using a craft knife, cut around the sides and top of the white hatch section, and folded it down to create a flap
  • Pasted a photo behind the flap
  • Mounted the beach hut onto a pre-folded piece of white card, and trimmed the top to fit the shape of the beach hut roof…

Beach hut card DIY

…to create this fun card!

Beach hut photo card

holiday cards from photos

We folded Harry’s letter into the card, tucked it into our homemade envelope, and posted it off.

Here’s a free graphic of the beach hut which you can download to make your own if you like (instead of a photo, you could turn it into an invitation to a party or event, with the details hidden behind the fold-down flap..).

Old Beach Hut image

Have a wonderful weekend when it comes!

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DIY… Edible Greeting Cards!

Edible cookie cards from katescreativespace

I was browsing in White Stuff this weekend, wondering idly whether I am too old to wear short shorts and Really Ought To Know Better (advice please), and instead my eye caught the much safer option of this gorgeous cookie cutter (below); because who can’t resist a sausage dog?

sausage dog cutter

 

I made a batch of cookies today using gingerbread dough, and accessorised with cut-out chocolate fondant ears, candy eyes (from here and good cake decorating shops / craft stores) and pearl necklaces made from tiny ivory balls…

A tray of sausage dog cookies

They look very cute, and are quite flat and light so I then decided to turn a couple into edible greeting cards, and used blobs of thick fondant icing to attach a cookie to folded card blanks.  I had some candy bones leftover from Halloween, so stuck one of those on too…

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I have a supply of flat cards that you can run through the printer, so I added text to a couple (you can just hand-write on the front, of course instead).

Sausage dog card

These would work with any shape of cookie, and are great for something fun and a little bit different.  A few tips and words of caution from this amateur…

  • Inevitably, these are best hand-delivered to your recipient rather than entrusted to the vagaries of the postal service.  Just saying.
  • Use reasonably thick cards to stick your cookies to, so that they don’t buckle with the weight.  The bigger the cookie, the thicker the card…
  • And you might need to use a slightly bigger envelope if your cookie is thick; these dogs slipped in fine, but only just.
  • It sounds obvious, but…. make sure the cookie is completely cool and dry before you stick it to the card, and then wait long enough for the fondant to dry so that the cookie doesn’t slip.  It’s very very very tempting to rush ahead to see the finished result.
  • Gingerbread and sugar cookie dough will be fine for a couple of days, but don’t make these too far in advance or they’ll get very soft and chewy.
  • When slipping your card into an envelope, place a piece of kitchen roll over the front of the cookie first, so that no grease stains come through.
  • Happy baking!

p.s. If there are any cookies leftover when you’ve made your cards, you are entitled to eat all of them.  Cook’s privilege.

Hope you’ve had a wonderful long weekend!

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DIY Projects: The Book Vase

DIY Vintage Book Vase

Our village has an extraordinary supply of second-hand bookshops, including one that gives away books for free that have been rescued from landfill.  Every weekend we have a browse, and usually come back with new treasures.  As a result, my shelves are creaking and my supply grows faster than I can read or repurpose them. I used a vintage graphic atlas bought last year to make this gift for a friend’s new baby..

Matilda's Map Dress

I also use illustrations from childrens books to make colourful envelope liners, and make secret boxes from the covers of interesting-looking books, by removing the text block (tutorial here).

Kates secret book box

This time I used an old book full of tips for gardeners to make a simple vase for fresh flowers (I love the title; these days it would be the ‘Dummies Guide’ or similar; not quite the same..).  Here’s what you need;

Making a book vase

  • And old hardback book with a sturdy, undamaged spine
  • A cardboard box that fits inside the book, and is the same depth as the spine
  • A water bottle, with the top sawn off
  • Glue, craft knife, ruler and pencil.  Coffee, chocolate, good music all optional but recommended.

Firstly carefully remove the book text from the spine by slicing down either side of the pages that hold the book pasted to the cover. Remove the book and set aside, leaving your hardback cover which should lie flat.  Place the box (without lid) inside it to check for fit.

Carefully slice out one side of the box, leaving an inch around the edges for stability and to help it maintain its shape.  Press the long side edge of the box against the spine and then glue the box into the book cover, as shown below.  It’s best to leave several hours for the glue to set; lie it flat and place something heavy on top of it to encourage the adhesion.

making a book vase step 1

Once the glue is dry and secure, slide your water bottle into the open ‘book box’ so that it is resting on the bottom.  Use a jug to carefully fill it with water…

Making a book vase step 2

And then just add your flowers!

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Add twigs for artistic effect.  Regret never having had any training in the art of floral arrangement.  Decide life is too short.

Book Vase

And then when your flowers are past their best glory, simply remove them and the bottle, and either clean out the bottle or replace it. Job done!

DIY Book Vasr

Have a wonderful weekend, when it comes!

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Simple Pleasures: A Boy and a Box

DIY Play Castle

Harry and I have a new weekend tradition.  Each Saturday we have breakfast and then head for our local garden centre, where I browse the plants and choose a bunch of flowers for my studio desk.  Then after we’re through the checkout, we head for the huge supply of discarded cardboard boxes that the centre offers free to customers.  Harry studies them carefully; sometimes there are rich pickings; boxes big enough to climb into, with lids!  Other times the choice is scarce and more imagination is called for.  He gets to choose two boxes each Saturday.

We stop at Starbucks for coffee and then return home for some serious construction work…

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Harry does all of the architecture and design work, with me as his able assistant for the occasional bits that require the wielding of a sharp craft knife or the tearing of tape.  This week he built a castle, with a drawbridge-like wooden door….

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But then a castle without a dungeon is really no castle at all, so we built an extension with a prison grille to keep baddies at bay…

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And then – of course – a flagpole and even shutters for the dungeon, so that it could be hidden away. And another storey, for legitimate overnight guests to the castle..

Castle

Castle and dungeon

I love the simple pleasure of Harry’s box-building, and I hope it goes on for a very long time indeed.

Long-time followers of this blog will know that when harry was tiny, some of his first toys were made from cardboard boxes, like this rocket

cardboard-rocket-from-www

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And pirate ship…

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…And it’s an absolute joy to see him now so captivated by the potential of a simple cardboard box himself.

It makes the lightening-fast process of growing up seem to slow down just the tiniest bit, allowing me to revel in every moment.

Have a wonderful week, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing!

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Appleseeds and Sunshine

It’s 7.30am on Sunday morning, and we’ve been up for ages.  It’s wonderful.

We were woken by brilliant shafts of sunlight through the cracks in the curtains, and it was too irresistable to ignore.  So we began the day with a picnic on the terrace before the rest of the world woke up; sipping coffee as the birds sang, revelling in the day.  We’ve needed this sunshine for so long, and it feels amazing.  The weekend so far has been spent pottering outside; planting, planning ahead for a summer of outdoor living and imagined parties that go on long into the night.  Harry has been spring-cleaning  The Little House  and serving notice to the millions of critters who took up winter residence inside. He’s made of stern stuff, that boy.

This time last weekend we were at a family Christening and reunion for my  smallest nephew and niece; a beautiful, fun service in a tiny church near their house.  We pondered for a while what to choose as Christening gifts; they are 4 and 6 so not babies, and have many of the things already that one might otherwise traditionally give.  In the end, Harry and I settled on apple trees, thinking that they could plant them in their garden and tend them over the years ahead, nurturing them into fruit and then coming home to see them as adults; a gift for a lifetime….

Apple trees as a Christening gift

I chose two different trees, both of which are promised to fruit abundantly in very short order (because waiting for anything to happen when you’re small is sooo hard), and wrapped the pots in simple burlap and scraps of leftover fabric;

Apple trees tied with burlap

For a card, we moved to the art room and Harry made an apple tree collage, using off-cuts of paper of every colour, and wallpaper for the tree trunk;

making a collage apple tree

It turned out pretty well!

Apple tree collage

And now the day beckons again, unfolding before us deliciously.  We have some more planting to do; Cucamelons for pots on the patio, and passion-flowers to grow over an arch leading down to the lawn.  And then some tennis practice (Harry hitting wildly and exuberantly; us running for miles to retrieve balls – we’re doing this all wong…), and then a party, because when you’re six, life is a social whirl.

Have a wonderful day, wherever you are and whatever you’re upto!

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Ampersand Cookies

Welcome back!

We’ve been making cookies this weekend; fun, alphabet cookies sandwiched together with jam and sprinkled with a liberal snowfall of icing sugar.  They fit in the palm of your hand and will make you happy for hours, I promise…

DIY cookies from katescreativespace

Firstly, we made a batch of sugar cookie dough, using our favourite basic recipe, though any one will do. We chilled the dough for 20 minutes in the fridge and then rolled it out  (my friend recently bought me one of these genius rolling pins, which ensures a regulation thickness to your dough; no more slanty, wobbly cookies for me…).

We used this small ampersand-shaped cookie cutter from Etsy to stamp out the top layer of cookies, and then for the bases, made a lighter imprint on the dough and I then cut around them carefully with a craft knife.  A bid fiddly, yes, but the only way I could think of to ensure I didn’t stamp out the holes in the bottom shapes.

DIY ampersand cookies

And then we simply baked for 10 mins (these cookies are small so they bake quickly; check on them regularly, and don’t get distracted with a good magazine and a coffee; I speak from experience here…).  Once cool, sandwich together with a dollop of raspberry jam, and sprinkle with icing sugar.  They are divine.  Trust me…

Homemade cookies from katescreativespace

Hope you’re enjoying a wonderful weekend!

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p.s.  I styled our cookies on top a beautiful ampersand image I found  here; if you know the source do let me know so I can credit!

 

Altered Books for Little People

 

Making Creative Colouring Books for Kids

It’s that stage of the Easter Holidays where time seems to drag and even Harry occasionally thinks wistfully of school restarting, so we’ve been extra-resourceful this week and have had a go at making altered sketchbooks, inspired by this lovely – and very simple – idea from Rock & Pebble; a kids’ sketchbook shaped like a house, ready to be filled with drawings and pictures.  Aren’t they cool?

Dollhouse book by Rock & Pebble

You can’t buy these in the UK (and at $27, you might just pause anyway), so we thought we’d have a go ourselves and raided Harry’s art cupboard, where I always keep a stash of bulk-buy sketchbooks.  We decided to have a go at making a castle book, so I carefully measured and drew turrets, and used a craft knife and safety ruler to cut them out (metal rulers like these with a finger groove are ideal and minimise the risk of profuse amounts of blood on your castle, however authentic that may look)…

Making altered notebooks

We then took a second notebook and drew and cut out a simple slanted roof, and added doors to each, like so…

Altered notebooks for kids

I had some leftover brick-printed paper from Harry’s knights and castles party last year, so we glued this onto the castle book and added a couple of paper flags for extra style..

DIY Castle Sketchbook

And Harry immediately settled down to colouring and creating, drawing knights, arrows, shields and battles…

Altered Castle Notebook

Castle colouring book DIY Knights colouring book DIY

Yesterday, we decorated the cover of the house book together, adding brick paper, shingle roof tiles and other bits and bobs of decoration.  We love how it turned out…

Harrys House Book customised drawing book for kids

Harrys House Book DIY Colouring book for kids

The inside is still invitingly blank, and our plan for tonight is to take the Ikea catalogue, a pair of scissors each, some glue and a huge array of snacks (it is the holidays after all), and collage a room full of all of our favourite things onto the pages… watch this space!

Have a wonderful rest of the weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing….

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DIY customised drawing books for kids