About Kate


I blog at www.katescreativespace.com

Posts by Kate :

Christmas at Home

Dogs bearing baubles

Today is apparently the busiest day for holiday traffic as everyone heads for home and family in a grand  exodus.  Even though we’re not travelling, the dawn of the weekend does seem to signify the proper start of Christmas and the time when relaxation can begin.  We have family arriving tomorrow to celebrate, so here’s a quick glimpse of how we’ve decorated the house.  Firstly, the friendly stone dogs who stand to attention at our door have abandoned their usual froideur and now bear baubles and festive ribbon, illuminated by the bay trees which are now strung with lights and oversized bells..

Dogs with baubles!

The fir lady has been visited by a flock of robins who peck at her skirts (collective noun for robins, anyone?)..

The fir lady with robins

But aside from the fir lady, I’ve opted for a low-key, calm kitchen with just an oversized paper star to catch the eye from the hallway and distract from the frenetic preparations and clutter on every surface..

Christmas kitchen

In the hallway lies my new addition to our Christmas decor; this year we are honoured to host the North Pole Sorting Office, where every letter sent to Santa from around the world blows in steadily, falling in flurries around Santa’s desk and filling his mailbags to overflowing;

North Pole Sorting Office in Hallway

Santa's mailbag

Santa's mailsack

As fast as the letters arrive, Santa diligently replies to each one. He’s currently busy writing back to Harry;

Santa's Mail Room

His typewriter perches on a ladder, which also holds his reading glasses, special wax seals, bundles of letters and maps and a compass so he can work out where each child around the world is writing from;

North Pole Post Office Detail

(To make this, I printed addresses onto some regular envelopes using different fonts and soaked them in a tray of watery tea before drying on the radiator for an old, worn appearance.  The letters blowing in from above are wired together using lightweight florist wire and hung from a removable adhesive hook on the ceiling. For the letterhead paper, I used this lovely printable and simply added my text to it.)

North Pole Letters

Further down the hallway I’ve arranged a similar tableau to last year (below), with the addition of a basket of magic reindeer food to give to all Believers who cross the threshold and may need a little help to summon the reindeer on Christmas Eve…

Holiday tableau

Magic reindeer food

I’ve hung Christmas cards simply from lengths of ribbon and clips, wired to the base of the bannister poles..

Christmas cards hanging in the hallway

And of course, most importantly all of all, mistletoe to greet all those who arrive…

Mistletoe in the porch


We have a real Christmas tree in the Snug, which I’ll share next time along with a few other festive accents.  Now, though, I must sign off as I’ve set myself the challenge tonight of mastering spun sugar to decorate an over-ambitious meringue wreath for dessert at lunch tomorrow.  The wreath has already collapsed after I accidentally turned the oven on again, forgetting it was quietly cooling down inside.  Plan B is to use whipped cream liberally as a distraction…

Have a wonderful weekend!
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The Longest Journey

DIY Winter Animal Parade

A few months ago, I saw a picture on Pinterest of a toy giraffe with a small gift tied on its back and it made me smile, and sparked my imagination; last week I raided Harry’s Ark and created a winter animal parade which is now weaving its way through the snowy  log landscape of our dining table, carrying a myriad of heavy parcels and gifts as Christmas draws ever closer…

Giraffe bearing gifts

Animal Parade

I used some leftover kiln-dried logs from when I filled in our fireplaces, and then wrapped up as many tiny boxes as I could find with brown paper  (far less decorative are the little bowls of staples, matches and paperclips now cover every surface, emptied out temporarily whilst I borrow their boxes..).  Once taped, I tied them with a mixture of butchers string and fine glittery thread, and then carefully secured them to each of the animals.  Harry’s toy wagon also came in handy, and the smallest animals were allowed to perch on top and watch proceedings from above…

Penguins in Animal Parade

I added festive bells, bottle-brush trees and a handful of glittery stars for some additional festive sparkle…

Giraffe with gifts

…and a final scattering of fake snow, which rather caught the meerkat by surprise;

Meerkat animal parade

I used up all of the animals I could find, to make a procession which covers most of the length of our (2m) table, but just one or two would look equally lovely; perhaps as place-settings.  Mine are elevated on logs which are just low enough for easy eye contact and conversation across the table, but again, you could simple set out a tableaux directly on the table itself.

Animal Parade with Gifts

I took these close-up photos above in the conservatory where the natural light is strongest in winter, but you can see here the parade as I began to lay it out in our kitchen, in readiness for throwing open our doors last Sunday to friends for an afternoon of food, drinks and Christmassy fun;

Winter Animal Parade Table Centre

Animal Parade Table Centrepiece

Alas, our festive parade will have to complete its journey soon, as the animals are being continuously depleted by Harry who needs them urgently for various daring missions and the ongoing battle with the Lego men, dinosaurs and Transformers; still, it gives me a reason to create something else for Christmas Day!

I finished work today for the holidays, with a mixture of exhaustion and elation; I’ve developed the hacking cough and bone-tired weariness that always seems to come whenever work abates, but it can’t distract from the smell of the mulled wine now warming, or the fact that two long, uninterrupted weeks of family time and celebration lie ahead; bring it on.

I’ll be back in a couple of days; have a great rest of the week…

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The Fir Lady Returns…

The Fir Lady 2014

In early December last year I experimented with attaching boughs of fir to chicken wire to craft a wintery skirt for the dress mannequin that sits in our kitchen.  The result was a quirky, 50s-style fir minidress that added a dash of festive sparkle to the room…

Fir Lady 2013

This year I decided on a more decadent and formal, full-skirted look, so the Fir Lady has flowing, floor-length boughs and an elegant hessian shawl, fastened with a red corset-style belt from my wardrobe…

Fir Lady belt

I followed the same steps as before, securing some chicken wire around the dress form and then simply pushing fir branches up into the wire, twisting it tight as I went to hold the boughs in place (excuse the poor photo; my usual moonlight crafting takes place when the rest of the house is asleep.. )

Making a fir dress

Once the skirt was complete, I folded a length of raw hessian fabric in half and just draped it around the top of the mannequin, to cover the tops of the branches and ends of the wire.  A wrap-around belt cinched tight holds it all in place (and it looks far better on her than me, so unfair..)

Fir Lady with hessian Shawl

As a final touch, I scattered birch wood stars randomly over the fir skirt, leaving them where they fell, nestled half-in, half-out of the greenery.

Fir Lady Dress with stars

And here she stands, as if she has swept in from the garden to escape the chill; a little bit majestic, a little bit fun.  The inevitable gentle flurries of pine needles underfoot at breakfast time will probably be less fun, but we’ll manage…

Fir Lady in the kitchen

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A homemade birthday!

gift wrap party hats mouse

Before I get consumed by all things Christmassy, I promised a quick post about Harry’s birthday and our paper crowns and castle cake… so here goes!

We decided on a low-key celebratory lunch as we’ll have a big birthday party for Harry’s friends in January once the chaos and thrills of the festive period have abated and the days are long and more bleak; a party to look forward to during the darkest days of the New Year seemed a good way of spreading out the fun (and managing our own energy!).

Even a lunch party needs party hats though, so I had a rummage in my old plan chest for some sheets of gift wrap, and spent a happy hour snipping and stapling to make some fun hats to wear…

Party crowns montage

These are so simple to make, and you can add all sorts of embellishments and layers of sophistication if you want a hat which will last longer than a few hours.  For the simplest hats, simply…

  • Choose a fun sheet of heavy-weight gift wrap (the paper kind vs a roll wrap)
  • Use a length of string to measure around your head, then use to work out how wide you need your hat to be
  • Cut the paper in a decorative shape; you’ll see I cut around the marching mice and crocodiles, and sliced down the book spines of the ‘Book-lover’s Hat’ to make it interesting
  • Staple together at the sides and wear.  Use a strip of colourful paper tape to cover the staple and line the rim.
  • Be greatly admired by everyone!
  • Approx: 10 mins.

That’s all I did with this one..

Marching Mouse Hat

for the Book-Lover’s Hat, I used a sheet of this lovely Penguin Books paper, and used spray-glue to mount it on a thin backing of gold cardstock before trimming to size and cutting to separate and fan out the book spines.

Book hat

My favourite one to make was the crocodile hat, which I did using the same steps as above, but also added little flags made of toothpicks, paper and dipped in gold glitter, which the crocodiles wave festively.  You have to make sure any embellishments are very lightweight so that they don’t distort the shape of the hat (a droopy hat is no fun…), but these were just the thing..

Step 1: Choose the gift wrap and cut a rough-sized length..

Step 1 Crocodile Hat

Step 2: Mount it on stiffer card and cut around the motifs to make a fun outline, making sure you have a solid piece around the rim to keep it in shape.  Add decorative tape to add a bit more sparkle..

Step 2 Crocodile Hat

Step 3: Staple together and wear!

gift wrap party hats crocodile and flags

The hats were a success and added a bit of fun to our weekend :-)

The other crucial ingredient was a birthday cake; Harry’s request was for a ‘dragon and castle’ cake, given his dual loves of How to Train Your Dragon and Lego Castle.  I bought a ready-made, undecorated chocolate cake and then used a mountain of fondant and food colouring to make walls, doors, trailing ivy and log piles.  I like to think that the sagging, bulbous walls add an air of medieval authenticity to my castle, as well as revealing my decidedly amateur fondant-rolling skills…

Castle and dragon cake

I used inexpensive fondant embossing templates (try Amazon or Hobbycraft) for the brick and wood patterns, and an ivy stamp to punch out the leaf shapes.  For the main blocks of colour I kneaded food colouring into the fondant and rolled out, but I also brushed colour straight on with a soft paintbrush for the leaves and door accents, and brushed edible silver colouring over the walls to catch the light and add some variation.  I borrowed some Lego knights and a Playmobil dragon from Harry’s toy box to complete the scene, and ta-da; a rather wobbly but very fun cake…

Castle Cake

( 10 days on, we’re still eating it…)


Since then, we’ve tipped seamlessly into a festive frenzy of decking the halls and making preparations; the fir lady is back this year with an even more abundant dress, and the hallway seems to have become a branch of the North Pole mail sorting office… more details (and pics!) soon.

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Personalised North Pole Telegram Giveaway

North Pole Telegram with PJs

At breakfast time on Christmas Eve last year, Harry was thrilled to discover a telegram all the way from the North Pole, which had been blown down the chimney in the night.

From Santa Claus, it announced his intentions to fly over that night and asked for food to be set out for the reindeer to keep them fuelled during their epic journey.  It added to the magic and anticipation of the day, and we duly followed the instructions at bedtime to make sure everything was ready.  This year, we hear that Santa is sending Harry a special pair of new pyjamas to wear on Christmas Eve, so these will be sent with the telegram (above).

Santa's telegram blow down the chimney on Christmas Eve last year

Santa’s telegram blow down the chimney on Christmas Eve last year

North Pole Telegram 2013

I shared a printable template last year for you to make your own, but if you’d like me to create a personalised version for your household or any children in your life this year, leave a comment below (‘yes please!’ or ‘pick me!’ will do :-) ).  I’ll pick 5 names at random on Friday and contact you to find out what wording you’d like; anything at all, as long as it fits on the telegram.  You may have specific family traditions we can refer to, or children who would be thrilled to be individually name checked..just let me know.  I’ll create and mail you an A5-sized telegram on heavy-weight textured paper to arrive in good time for the most important night of the year.  All languages  OK, though you’ll have to help me by providing the text if it’s anything other than English or schoolgirl-level French!  All you need to do then is to leave it carefully on the doormat, or in the hearth, or by a pillowcase to be found on waking; wherever the North Pole Postal Service might consider a good place for such important communications to be delivered.

Time is of the essence of course, given the pressures on the regular postal service at this time of year, so leave a comment before 8am on Friday GMT (midnight Thursday PST/3am EST), and I’ll get started…

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The Dream House Renovation: The Guest Room!

Guest room rug and bedside

We moved into our house almost 3yrs ago, and it’s taken us this long to tackle the guest room.  Partly that’s due to cash-flow – living in an 18th Century house means that every year there’s an unforeseen roof leak, boiler breakdown or ceiling collapse (and in this particularly costly year; all three…) – but it’s also due to the awkwardness of the room and my endless prevarication about what to do with it.  Unlike the downstairs rooms with their 3.5m ceilings and sweeping bay windows, the guest room is considerably less well-endowed.  Here’s what it looked like a few weeks ago..

old room 2 old room 1

Tired decor, floral borders, exposed pipework and the oldest piece of furniture I own – a bed from my student days.  It also became a dumping ground for the things which didn’t fit anywhere else (hello, enormous mirrored IKEA wardrobes).  So we took a deep breath, saved up our money for a while, and ripped it all out to start again…



Guest room makeover 3



We laid an engineered oak floor – the same one as in the kitchen – and fitted tall tongue-and-groove panels to the walls, to create a shaker/scandi-style natural look.  With Northern light filtering through the windows, a palette of muted greys, bleached wood and off-whites seems to enhance it and create a calming space.  To create inexpensive peg rails, we used lengths of unfinished wood and drilled holes for pegs bought en masse on eBay; we glued these in place and left for 24hrs to harden up before painting.

Shaker pegs

wooden wreath and shaker peg rail

We used paints from the Farrow and Ball range (see below), and to save on cost I gave the battered-but-very-comfortable pine bed a couple of coats of Chalk Paint.  If you’ve not used it before, it’s a slapdash renovators dream; you don’t need to sand or strip surfaces or use primer; just clean them and go for it… it seems to stick to anything, and the colours are chalky, soft and beautiful…

Old pine bed repainted in chalk paint

Guest room base elements

Materials I used; Cornforth White (panelling and woodwork) and Wimborne White (walls) from Farrow and Ball.  Artisan Engineered Oak Linen flooring from Kahrs.  Bed painted in Paris Grey Chalk Paint from Annie Sloan.  Pegs available on eBay and Etsy, timber from all good DIY stores.

For the windows, we had shutters made very simply from lengths of MDF with moulding glued on to simulate original panelled shutters;  it cost a fraction of the price of the real thing, and looks almost as good…

Make shutters from MDF and beading

An old sofa and cable knit throw fit neatly into the bay and make for a comfy spot to curl up and read before the light fades..

sofa in bay

With the basic complete, it was time to have fun with the accent pieces and decor…

Design elements for the guest room

We fitted wall-mount bedside lights behind the panelling, and invested in a pair of beautiful tree-slice tables for the bedsides, which are wide enough to hold everything you might need through the long hours of the night…

Guest room 4

and soft reindeer hides to add some luxe comfort to the wooden boards;

Guest room rug and bedside

I gave an old, chipped console table a new coat of paint and it now serves as a dressing table, complete with over-sized mirror which helps to bounce light around the room.  A faux fiddle-leaf fig adds a splash of green and is helpfully immune to my usual rather slapdash attempts at watering and general house-plant maintenance…

Guest room makeover 1

Fiddle leaf fig

The console also houses a rotating set of treasures, like this beautiful vase by ceramicist Tina Vlassopulos, a gift from my father several years ago.

Decorative accents

The vintage wooden dough bowl that usually sits in our bathroom is enjoying a spell on top of the butchers block where it holds guest towels and extras like spare toothbrushes, shower gel and other easily-forgotten essentials.

Butchers block with old suitcase and dough bowl

I like the spartan simplicity of the room, but couldn’t help but add a few final decorative touches; the old tin barn star is an antique-fair find, and perches on an old milking stool;

Barn star on milking stool

And this feathered cape makes a timely escape from my wardrobe to hang near the window where the light can filter through the feathers..

Guest room makeover 2

Other features below; fresh flowers scent the room and add a burst of life and colour; the bedside tables have simple glass bottles as carafes. You can find my tutorial on folding books here; the wifi code is discreetly framed and sits on the dressing table; the overhead light is the Norm 69 pendant; a nightmare to assemble but beautiful when in place!

Guest room accents

Enjoy the rest of your weekend; we’re having a small birthday lunch for Harry and excitement is already off the scale!

I’ll be back in a couple of days with some DIY party-hats and a Knights and Dragons cake…

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ps If you missed them, you can see our kitchen, hall and bathroom makeovers too.


Guest room makeover 1

A brief miscellany this week, of projects either finished-but-not-photographed, or started-but-not-yet-finished.  A succession of gloomy, rain-filled days has meant a lack of good light to take pictures, but conversely we’ve spent a lot of time this weekend sheltering in the warm and making, baking, painting and sticking to alleviate the weather.

I’ve a whole host of things to share with you as soon as I find myself at home, in bright daylight, with 10 minutes and camera.  Until then, here’s a few pics of our work in progress – like the guest room, which used to look like this below…

old bedroom

… but now has beautiful oiled oak flooring, shaker-peg panelled walls, shutters, and seems somehow infinitely more welcoming and cosy than before.  I’ll give you a proper tour and pics next week. Also the story of this butchers block, which took two strong men and lots of swearing to manoeuvre from the hall to the first floor…

Guest room makeover 3

Two last pics, and then I’ll wait for the proper post. I just couldn’t resist..

Guest room 4

Guest room makeover 2

In other news, we’ve been continuing our festive preparations with some more card-making; Harry drew a Christmas tree which I’ve magicked onto cards for him to write in and sign (I’ll show you how we did this; very simple and fun).  The labour involved in forming careful letters when you’re 4 means that we’re doing a couple at a time to ensure that enthusiasm and concentration is sustained…


…and I’ve been playing around with my art supplies, forming wreaths and trees and other shapes with soft pastels and paint trays to make some imagery befitting of a crafter at Christmas…. I’m thinking these might make lovely gift tags or cards. Hmmm, watch this space.

Pastel wreath

paint palette christmas tree

The house looks more than usually chaotic; as I write, most of the kitchen surfaces are topped with pieces of coloured fondant as I figure out how to make a castle birthday cake for a would-be-knight who turns 5 in a matter of days (where did the time go? I can hardly believe it).  The Snug is becoming Christmas HQ and has rolls of paper and part-wrapped presents and tags strewn around.  Harry is bursting with the excitement and pressure of keeping secrets about the presents he is aware of for grandparents and for each of us, and keeps trying to drop heavy hints and clues, accompanied by  his newly-perfected wink; it’s very funny and poignant in equal measure.

If you too are feeling crafty and looking for holiday inspiration, here’s our take on advent calendars, paper star decorations and a few of the festive projects we were making last year  - enjoy.

Have a great week!

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Quick crafts: DIY Santa!

DIY Torn-Paper Santa

Harry and I are beginning to feel a bit festive (if you’re in Bah Humbug-mode, look away and shush your tut-tutting…).  Perhaps it’s the steady thud of Christmas catalogues arriving in the post, or the relentless holiday music playing in every retail space we wander through.  By December, we’ll probably be fatigued, but right now we’re loving it.

We’ve been discussing what our home-made Christmas cards should look like; last-year’s button tree cards went down a storm so the bar is high.  Harry is keen that we should feature the iconic Big Man himself, so we’ve chosen Father Christmas as our focus.  Or Santa Christmas as H calls him, in one of those 4yr old linguistic mash-ups I want to remember always.  I was inspired by these fun gift bags with their simple graphic image, and had a play to try and create a picture which could be made very simply, involved some fun tearing and ripping, and would be very forgiving if one of us got distracted by Lego (him) or wine (me).

DIY Santa face giftwrap and cards

To make these you’ll need:

  • Red paper
  • White watercolour paper (any white paper will do, but textured paper like watercolour paper looks great for the beard and hat)
  • Pink or flesh tone paper; I used this
  • A black marker pen
  • Make-up blush or a pink crayon
  • Glue

Firstly, decide on your base / background; we used white cardstock for making cards, and also decorated a brown kraft paper bag and a gift tag, to practice and see how they looked.  Here’s the bag, step by step…

1. Cut a wide strip of pink paper and paste across the centre of your bag.  Trim at the sides to fit.

Step 1

2.  Cut and glue a wide strip of red paper above, to the top of the bag (or card, or tag, or whatever).

Step 2

3.  Tear a thin strip of watercolour paper; do this roughly, don’t use a ruler, and don’t worry if it’s irregular.  Glue it over where the red and pink paper meet; this is the trim of Santa’s hat.  Now tear a wider piece of the white paper for the beard and moustache shape; aim for a shape which curves up in the middle like this:

Step 3

4. Now take your marker pens and dot two eyes and sketch a little smile (play around with expressions; each one can be different!).  Use a pink pen to ink in a nose.

Step 4

5.  Finally, dip your finger in some blusher (or use a crayon if you’re a dude), and swirl on two rosy cheeks.  You could dab some on the tip of the nose too if you like; it gets cold out there on the sleigh.  Ta-da; you’re done!  Now just repeat  - or you can scan your work of art and print it out instead; the lazy crafter’s guide to mass-production at Christmas.

Step 5

If you use a red base, as we did with this gift tag, you can skip a step and it’s even simpler; just add the pink and white papers on top.

Santa Gift Tag

Our living room is now adorned with smiling Santas, who are partially stuck to various surfaces as they dry.  The rain is beating down and we are slowly beginning to think about work and school bags and clean clothes, with that small heartsink that comes with the end of a lovely weekend and the prospect of Monday morning.  An open fire tonight, I think – let the weekend linger just a little bit longer.

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

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California Highlights

Sea Nettles

Sea Nettles at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

How was your weekend?  We had a lovely but strange one, adjusting to the timezone shift after a wonderful trip to California.  It was a magical break, and we came back with a suitcase full of sand, beach-treasures and 1,013 photos.  Count ‘em.  Sometimes digital cameras are not such a good thing… Here, for those of you who can bear it, are some of our highlights!

We flew in to San Francisco and spent a couple of days adjusting and sight-seeing; obvious favourites like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Cable Cars of course, but we also found delights like the Saturday morning farmers market at the Ferry Terminal building, where we wandered the stalls for ages, sampling goods and being amazed at some of the produce..

Ferry Building Farmers Market SF

I was particularly taken by these mushroom-growing kits; aren’t the results beautiful (below)?  I brought one home and we spent the morning soaking rolls of paper and sprinkling over the spores to see if we could reproduce some of this magic..

Mushroom MiniFarms

From San Francisco we picked up a car and headed to Santa Monica; a longish drive broken up by field after field of pistachio groves.  The journey was worth it; we awoke before dawn the next morning and headed straight for the beach to watch the sun come up, coffee in hand; it was beautiful;

Dawn surfers at Santa Monica beach

We hired bikes and rode for miles along the boardwalk, people-watching and soaking up the amazing sunshine as the beaches came to life and the day unfolded.  I received some great suggestions of places to check out including the vibrant pier; we ended up staying so long we had dinner at a restaurant on the beach as the sun set again; I could get used to this lifestyle..

Santa Monica Pier

From Santa Monica we hugged the coastline and gradually pottered back towards San Francisco, stopping whenever we felt the urge along the way (at least once an hour!).  Our next proper stop was in Pismo beach, famous for its seals and sea-glass, amongst other things.  Again, we gravitated to the shore, and made pilgrimages every dawn and dusk to see what the tides had brought in, joining the wading birds at the edge of the water..

Commanding the sunrise

Harry commanding the sun to rise on Pismo Beach

Wading birds at the shoreline


At the tideline we found seal skulls and vertebrae, driftwood of all shapes and sizes, golf balls (mis)hit from cliff top courses and tiny, beautiful pearls of sea glass.  Most of it we returned to the shore, but a few treasured souvenirs have found their way back home with us.

From Pismo we headed for Carmel and another reader’s recommendation of Carmel Valley Ranch, which was the highlight of our stay.  We’d saved up for a few amazing days here, and loved every minute; we learned how to cook S’mores beside the campfire (we caused great hilarity by attempting to assemble the whole cookie and then pierce it with a skewer before roasting… you can only imagine how tricky this is).  At Carmel I also attempted my first – and possibly last – cardio barre class, which my thighs have yet to recover from.  I knew I was in trouble when I hobbled back up the steps to our lodge and Harry whispered loudly  ‘Daddy, I think Mummy is going to need our help with the stairs’.

We used Carmel as a base to explore and tour the coast and surrounding areas; we agreed that if work and finances were no object we’d happily relocate there tomorrow; we loved it. Here are a few of our highlights – again, thanks to all those who suggested wonderful local secrets like Pfeiffer Beach and the Monterey Youth Museum that don’t tend to appear in guidebooks… we tracked them all down and they were wonderful..

Watching the surfers at Carmel Beach

Watching the surfers at Carmel Beach

Beach after the rain

Wine tasting and touring the winery at Chateau Julien

Wine tasting and touring the winery at Chateau Julien

Witnessing the power of the ocean at Pfeiffer Beach

Witnessing the power of the ocean at Pfeiffer Beach

Viewing some impressive pumping carving at Carmel Valley Lodge

Viewing some impressive pumping carving at Carmel Valley Lodge

Pebble Beach

Choosing fantasy homes in Pebble Beach

Sea Nettle

Watching the mesmerising sea nettles and moon jellies at Monterey Aquarium

moon jellies


As the nights draw in during the weeks ahead, we’ll sift through our souvenirs and photos ready to make our next family yearbook, and I’m stitching our route on the map we used along the way so that we remember…

Stitched holiday map

Have a good week ahead, wherever you are and whatever you have planned; when work abates I’ll be back at the end of the week with a new project. See you then!

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California, here we come!


MarisaMidori Illustration

We’re still not packed, we have at least two meals-worth of strange, incompatible-yet-perishable things in the fridge to eat up, but my goodness we’re excited; our long-awaited Californian road trip is almost here!  We’ve made the most of your tips and recommendations and are planning to start in San Francisco and then follow the coast, stopping at Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur – anywhere and everywhere that captures our attention until we run out of time.

I’ll be back here in a couple of weeks to share our trip highlights and some more of our home renovation; clouds of plaster dust are still settling gently around my shoulders as I type, and our guest room is almost complete.  In the meantime, have a wonderfully spooky Halloween!

See you soon,

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Top: Marisa Midori Illustration via here


DIY Dutch Canal House Luminaries

DIY Dutch House Luminaries

Back in the Springtime, Mum and I went to Amsterdam for a weekend which we spent in cafes, galleries, stores, bars and – most of all – walking along all the beautiful canal streets, picking the houses we most wanted to live in, transfixed by the rooflines with every conceivable shape and architectural feature.  These were some of my favourites;

Canal Houses in Amsterdam

With the nights slowly but surely drawing in, I wanted to recreate  the houses as delicate luminaries which could be backlit with candlelight on the mantle.  I drew different house shapes (templates at the bottom)…

Dutch House Luminary 1 BLANK


Dutch House Luminary 2 PLAIN

Then printed them onto A4 sheets of cardstock (go for card as thick as your printer will take – mine was quite flimsy which made it very easy to cut, but the luminaries will be more likely to curl and bend over time).

Carefully cut out all the tiny windows with a craft knife and self-healing mat.  Use a safety-ruler for this if you have one, the kind with a deep groove for your fingers, particularly if you’re as easily distractible as me.

Making luminaries

…fold the side-flaps so that you have a self-standing shape, and then simply glue a sheet of vellum or tissue paper on the back.

Making Luminaries 2

Stand them up on your cluttered desk and admire them with the natural daylight shining through…

DIY Luminaries in daylight


…and then watch them come into their own by placing candles (in jars! Safety first..) behind them as the light fades.


With the festive season around the corner I designed two styles; one plain, and one with a sandstone texture and snowflakes.  You could also print out the plain one and paint or decorate it and send as a greeting card…You can colour in the windows to avoid having to cut them all out (cunning, and very labour-saving… life’s too short to spend too much time with an x-acto knife in hand).

We love our small canal-house street, and lighting the luminaries has become an evening ritual as we shed school bags and coats, briefcases and umbrellas and head for the warmth of the snug to catch up on the day’s events.  Just don’t forget to blow them out before bed!

Templates below to download… enjoy :-)

Dutch House Luminary 1 FESTIVE

Dutch House Luminary 1 BLANK

Dutch House Luminary 2 FESTIVE

Dutch House Luminary 2 PLAIN

Dutch House Luminary 3 FESTIVE

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