About Kate

http://www.katescreativespace.com

I blog at www.katescreativespace.com

Posts by Kate :

The Mysteries of Small Boys

The Mysteries of Childrens Pockets

Until very recently, if you had asked me about the mythology of what small boys keep in their pockets, I would have been inclined to dismiss it as literary cliché and nostalgia.  What modern boy, after all,  covets marbles and decrees that random kerbside junk is somehow Treasure?

This one, it seems.

Harry discovered the true magic of pockets – with their seeming infinite capacity for holding Important Things – when he was given a fleece jacket with roomy, zipped pockets on each side.  When I pulled it out of the laundry basket last week ready to wash it, it weighed a startling amount.  Careful emptying of a single pocket revealed the list of treasures above, dictated by Harry as being;

An old fruit gum: “For my snack, if I need energy”

Pebbles: “For my collection”

A golf ball, found in undergrowth the previous weekend and carried around for 5 days: “For Grandma”

Marbles, source unknown: “For a game I am planning about lions”

A single, small Lego piece: ‘I always like to have Lego in my pocket”

Stray feather: “For you, because I know you like feathers and I always collect them when I find them”

Random rubber objects with sequins attached to them: ‘Just in case I need them for something.  And because you like sparkly things”.

Squashed pine cone: “In our game it was the school bell and I was ringing it to mean the end of playtime”

I was struck not only by the sheer magnitude of stuff which he’d collected (and you can imagine the shower of dust, soil and fluff which fell out with it all…), but also the considered evaluation and justification of each item.  They’re currently carefully collated in a shoebox, waiting for the fleece to be dry so that they can be restored to their rightful place.  Or discreetly thrown away.

 

Boys… a wonderful, awesome mystery.

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(p.s. What’s the strangest thing you’ve found in a pocket?  And to mothers of daughters; are girls the same?  )

Simple DIY Envelopes (and a cool photo version too…)

DIY Photo Envelopes with template

I wanted to make some little envelopes out of leftover gift wrap last week, big enough for a love letter, or a gift card, or a pocketful of treasures.  I drew a simple template in Powerpoint and then printed it onto a sheet of cardstock, to make a template I could draw around on all my scraps of paper and gift wrap.  It worked a treat…

DIY gift wrap envelopes

The template is free to download as a PDF at the bottom of the post, and it looks like this:

Envelope template

…you could also trace it onto a sheet of vellum or thin plastic and use that as your master template, so that you can see the paper underneath when you are cutting it out; this is very useful if you’re looking to position a particular pattern or image and want to know where it will fall on the final constructed envelope.  When you’ve cut out your envelope shape, just fold along the dotted lines and glue where they overlap, before folding and glueing the bottom flap.  As simple as that.  Any glue will do; I use this one, because it dries strong and fast but writes like a pen, making it ideal for careful work like this where you don’t want blobs of adhesive squidging out when you press your flaps together.

Map envelope front Map envelope back

If you want to get even more clever and sophisticated, and you have Powerpoint installed on your computer, open the .ppt file at the bottom and you can play with making photo envelopes like these, which I created using some of my old photos (you might recognise them!)

How to make photo envelopes

Once you’ve opened the file, select the shape and use the drop-down menu to click on ‘Format / Shape / Fill / Picture or Texture / Choose Picture’, then select a picture from your files.  Try using different ones and seeing the effect they create; some will work better than others.  You can also play with the transparency to soften the pictures, as I did here..

Shoreline Photo Card DIY

And the screen-shot below shows an unmade-up envelope with a photo of the map on which I stitched our California road trip last Autumn; it now holds all the business cards from restaurants and favourite bars and venues we discovered along the route.

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 20.03.50

I used one of my botanical photos from last Spring to make a seed packet for the peas I’ll sow later this year…

DIY Seed Packets

So, a very simple design (have a go at drawing one yourself, if you have a few basic Powerpoint skills), and then a range of possibilities for making fun, personalised envelopes.  You can print these to any size of course, depending on your printer; mine are palm-sized, but there’s nothing to stop you making something on a far grander scale.

Simple DIY Photo Envelopes

As ever, shout if you have any questions or get stuck, and I hope you have enjoy playing with these….let me know how you get on!

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PDF file of the simple template, to print and use:

Simple Envelope Template PDF from Katescreativespace

And here’s the file to use if you want to have a go at creating photo envelopes:

Download of ppt Envelope Template

Midweek Magic: Frozen blooms

DIY Ice Disks

The garden looks very bleak at the moment; grey and brown, forlorn and hibernating.  We decided to give it some jewellery to brighten it up a little as the day begins.

Inspired by an idea in Landscape magazine, we’ve been taking advantage of the sub-zero nights this week to practice a little magic; leaving shallow saucers of water outside overnight, filled with seed heads, citrus slices and cyclamen buds.  When we came downstairs in the morning, we popped out beautiful frozen disks of colour that looked like they could be necklaces for some majestic ice maiden, or perhaps serving dishes for a fantastical snowy picnic..

I carefully poured  a thin stream of hot water to melt a hole in each disk, and then we strung them from the apple tree in our garden and watched the sun slowly rise and shine through them.  Beautiful, just for a few amazing minutes.  Most we left to melt in the sunshine; a couple we slipped into the freezer so we could save them a little longer…

Ice Disks

These are of course only transient; beautiful and then gone.  Half the magic  is in the anticipation of going to bed and wondering what you will wake up to find; will the bowls have frozen?  What do the different things you’ve added look like?  It was definitely fun for an otherwise chilly, bleak day, when even The Little House was too covered in frost to look inviting for long.

The Little House in the Frost

ice disks in winter

Notes:

We found that wide-based yoghurt tubs, frying pans and plastic lids were the most successful; avoid using china that might shatter in extreme cold.  You need about 1/2 inch of water; try adding food colouring for even prettier effects.  To loosen the disks, I placed them quickly in a sink of shallow warm water.  And of course, if you find that your disks haven’t completely frozen overnight, you can cheat by finishing them off in the deep freeze!

Icy garden Jewellery

Love Letter Cookies!

Love Letter Cookie for Valentines

February has begun so I think we’re now entitled to think romantic thoughts. Happily, this means that January – official month of gloomy abstinence and calorie-counting – is now finished, so what better way to celebrate these two things than with deliciously more-ish love letter cookies for Valentine’s day?

Love Letter Monogram Cookies from Kates Creative Space

These have the advantage of looking quite accomplished, as if you have spent many hours slavishly finessing them as a sign of the depth and breadth of your passion, but in fact they’re very easy to whip up.  Bonus.  Love should not always be hard work, after all.

I made a batch of basic cookie dough (I use Nigella’s recipe ) and then cut out rectangle shapes using a matchbox as a guide.  Whilst these baked and cooled, I rolled out ready-made fondant icing and cut same-size shapes to go on top. Spread a little apricot jam (or edible glue) on top of the cookie to secure the fondant in place, and then simply mark a cross on top of each one to look like the flaps of an envelope.

I made fondant monogram seals by rolling little balls of red fondant and pressing gently with a wax seal (remember the tutorial below from last year?  Find it here).

Edible monogram seals for cakes

Monogram cupcake

I let the monograms dry out a little to firm up, before adding them to the centre of each cookie with another dab of jam, and slipping each cookie into a cellophane envelope, sealed with a faux rose petal and little peg..

Love Letter Cookies for the one you love!

You could choose to make a batch of these and then distribute them widely; spread-betting, one could say, to impress a range of potential suitors with your domestic skills and mastery of baking.  Or you could box them up as I’ve done, so that the object of your affections can have one each day, if they can manage to restrain themselves…

DIY Box of Love Letter Cookies

Happy baking… and forgive the absence of a step-by-step photo guide on this one; I’ve been midnight baking again, which doesn’t result in good pics.  Leave me a comment if you have any questions about how to make these sinful little treats!

Life is moving at a particularly frenzied pace these days, and the time to sit quietly with a cup of tea composing posts is harder to find. I’ll still be here once a week or so, fulfilling my creative urges and sharing thoughts and projects, but as an experiment I will also start to use my Facebook page for smaller, more frequent pics and posts, so do sign up there if you’d like a bit more of the in-between bits as well.

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

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Celebration (or: How to Pimp a Store-Bought Cake, and Things to do when you’ve Finished the Champagne).

DIY Birthday Cake Bags


How are you, are you braving the cold?  We’ve been a plague-house this past week, falling one after the other into the chasm of ‘flu and cold  …but surfacing now, at last.  Amidst it all life has bustled busily on, brightened by a couple of big highlights like my father’s seventieth birthday last weekend.  At his request it was just a small family dinner – everyone he loved the most, together around a table – but a mighty fine dinner it was. I brought a cake, because a birthday without cake is unthinkable, however old you are.  The cake itself was a beauty from the local patisserie which had caught my eye, sitting siren-like in the window and demanding to be taken home.  I wanted to make it a little more personal though, so I made a simple paper wrapper to go around it.  Dad loves to paint, so I spread out all of my brushes onto a sheet and photographed them, then printed, trimmed and taped them together for a simple but beautiful accent which speaks to one of his greatest passions.. Art materials DIY Cake Wrapper I secured the wrapper in place around the cake, and ta-da!; a treat fit for a remarkable man. My Dad. Birthday cake for the artist
I knew that we wouldn’t manage much of the cake after dinner, so I found an old photograph of my father as a child and used it to make take-home bags for the end of the meal.  I love this picture; mostly I think because of his beaming, proud mother ducking almost-but-not-quite out of shot.  Mothers and sons – it gets me every time..

Birthday portraits

Personalised party gift bags

All the celebrating over Christmas, New Year and the flurry of birthdays has left us with a small pile of champagne corks, so I’ve also had a chance to play around making champagne-top armchairs; have you ever tried this?

Champagne top armchair

By far the most sensible way of shaping these chairs is when sober, with good light and a pair of pliers, but I always seem to end up doing it with my  bare hands whilst tipsy and then waking up to find that I may have the wire equivalent of a three piece suite, but I also have no nails left at all and swollen, scratched hands.  I’ll post a quick tutorial if you’re interested, with the caveat that health and safety are treated fairly recklessly in my approach..

DIY Champagne top chairs

As for this weekend, we’re setting a quieter pace and planning on doing some serious nesting; rumour has it that we may still be in our pyjamas at noon, albeit with thick woolly jumpers and socks to keep the arctic chill at bay.  Heavy frosts are forecast and Harry and I are unusually excited; we’ve been playing outside with pots and pans of water and making soon-to-be-frozen ice sculptures to hang from the trees; I’ll let you know next time if it has worked!

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

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 Update:

Here’s a PDF tutorial as promised for how I made my champagne cage chairs.  If you find videos easier to follow, look on You Tube and there are a variety there.  Once you’ve mastered the basics, have a look here for inspiration and further champagne cork-n-cage artistry! Good luck!

How to Make Champagne Cage Armchairs

DIY Knights and Princesses Party: Invitations and Arrows!

Knights and Princesses Party

Harry’s birthday party is at the end of the month and he is already beside himself with excitement.  Befitting a boy who is passionate about knights, swords, acts of heroism and needy princesses, it will be set in a castle (or rather a draughty village hall, but we’ll make do), and will involve mostly lots of running games until the young partygoers are just exhausted enough to collapse at the table for tea.

For Harry, the invitations are one of the most important bits; he loves to hand them out to his friends and tell them all about the party.  Last year we had a pirate party and made message-in-a-bottle invites.  This year we’ve gone for medieval castle scrolls and feather arrows, making use of the 6 billion empty toilet rolls we find ourselves with after an extended period of festive entertaining..

DIY Castle invitations for a boy's party!

I took each cardboard tube and covered it with a piece of this cool wallpaper, fixing it in place with double-sided tape..we’ll use the rest of the roll to cover the tables for tea on the day.  I rolled up an invitation and slid it into each tube..

DIY Castle Party Invitations Step 1

To make the glitter feathers I used inexpensive duck feathers from a local craft shop (Hobbycraft in the UK and Michaels in the US sell these), and sprayed the tips with CraftMount glue before sprinkling liberally with glitter.  Do this in an area with no wind, and where a small boy is unlikely to come hurtling through at great speed, displacing even heavy objects and certainly a tableful of glitter.  I offer you this as a learning from experience.

DIY Castle Party Invitations Step 2

Finally, I tied on the feather with ribbon and added a faux wax seal leftover from Christmas supplies (mine are snowflake ones I ordered from here for holiday envelopes; I love them and they stick ferociously, generally surviving the mail).

DIY Castle Party Invitations Step 3

Job done!

DIy Castle Party Scroll Invitations

To make the decorative arrows, I used lengths of dowel and attached a feather to one end with bright paper tape.  For the tip of the arrow, I glued on pencil eraser caps which I painted silver; the rubberiness helps if you get accidentally impaled during an over-zealous bout of play-fighting, and also means it’s almost impossible to poke someone in the eye, and Lord knows that’s an occupational hazard at most children’s parties.  Life is too short to produce these in large quantities (by which I mean that my attention span is too short), but a quiver-full is fun to play with and running repairs can be made in an instant simply by adding more tape.

DIY faux arrows

DIY Arrows

For the invite itself I used powerpoint and some clip art, and this lovely medieval font which is free to download.

Knights Party Invitation

 

(It obviously had a bit more detail on it than this!)

I should point out that making Harry’s birthday party invites is an annual small labour of love, and that if I had more than one child the effort would be by necessity scaled down immensely.  Also, that it is the most effortful aspect of the party itself, which requires little more of us than filling a large hall with balloons, sugar, loud music and small children and retreating to safety as soon as possible.

Did I tell you that I am required to dress up as a princess?  My birthday present from Harry was an adult-sized Maid Marion costume which looks alarmingly insubstantial and should certainly never be waved near a naked flame.  In his eyes though it is beautiful, and I must play my part in agreeing to be rescued valiantly by the birthday boy.  And who am I to argue with such chivalry?

Wish us luck…

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DIY Printable Desk Calendar!

DIY Desk Calendar

Have you seen this super-cute printable desk calendar from Mr Printables?  It caught my eye last weekend and I immediately downloaded the printable and have been playing with it and putting it together after work this week.. Although I have a proper wall calendar where we try in vain to keep track of our various commitments and appointments, my desk is in another room, and I’m always trying to work out what the second-Saturday-in-May is, or what day of the week a certain date falls on… so this is perfect for me.

Free printable desktop calendar 2015

Printable Calendar

You can print out and put together the calendar exactly as it is, or you can do what I did and play around with leftover scraps of Christmas gift wrap and washi tape and embellish some of the months (who doesn’t love a sparkly December?!).  For a really personal touch you could even trim photos and glue them to fit the triangles for each month; a labour of love, but one which would surely bring a smile whenever it caught your eye.

Printable desktop calendar sheets

simple desktop calendar

Printable desktop calendar for 2015

I printed mine onto heavyweight watercolour paper so that it won’t buckle over the months to come, and then printed off a couple of sets to send to friends too; it makes a lovely small gift to go with the ‘thank you’ cards and letters we’re sending out after Christmas.

Mail this printable desk calendar to friends

So, a quick find to share with you for some fun on these gloomy January evenings; all you need is a printer, scissors and glue and you can feel you’ve created something lovely with very little effort (that just about sums up my perfect evening…).

Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas and projects for recycling Christmas cards and paper last week; some fantastic inspirations for next year.  I hope that this week has not been too much of a shock as the reality of work and school and winter return!

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Recycling Christmas!

Gift tags from Christmas Cards

Possibly the simplest DIY you’ll ever see here – but a timely one!

Do you recycle old Christmas cards by using them to make other things?  it’s a thrifty tradition I remember from early childhood, though the memory of curled and yellowing card trimmed with pinking shears put me off it for a long time.  This year we received some beautiful and fun cards; whilst adults are gradually paring back on card-giving (a combination of saving-the-trees and a lack of organisation, in my house), Harry and his classmates traded cards daily, keen to show off budding penmanship skills and thrilled by the constant flurry of envelopes to open.

Yesterday we took some of them down and had fun making these over-sized gift tags for next year; a way of preserving the beauty of the cards but also of creating tags which are big enough for Harry to write on himself (because no 5yr old can be easily constrained to a tiny square of card), and also a way of refining scissor-skills; Harry busily chopped and snipped his way through a pile whilst I attempted a more measured and symmetrical clipping …

Christmas Card Recycling

I used bits of string and ribbon we’d saved during the frenzy of unwrapping on Christmas Day, and a hole-puncher and eyelets to thread the string through.  We chose the strongest cards as well as the prettiest; they’ll spend a year in the loft and then a few weeks under a tree next Christmas so we wanted to make tags that could last that long.  Also, check that your cards only have writing on the inside ‘back’ of the card and not the back of the image; if they do, you’ll need to just stick them onto another piece of thin card so you cover this up.   A few other tips;

Use ribbon or cord which picks out a colour of the main tag and it really makes them pop!

Colour pop gift tags

Cutting around interesting images on the card cane make some fun shaped-tags, like this pear tree from a larger, square Christmas card…

 

 

Partridge gift tag

Polar Bear Gift Tag

Mounting your cut-outs onto other backgrounds can  make them even more special; I glued this Christmas goose image onto a narrow strip of gold glitter card and then trimmed the corners to make a large swing tag;

Festive Goose Tag

And sometimes cards are so striking that all you need to do is snip off the back and simply make a hole for the ribbon, like this gorgeous graphic print;

Stag Gift Tag

Once we’d finished, leaving a sea of tiny snips of card, drifts of glue and wisps of ribbon fibre, we put all our tags into a leftover gift box and I’ve labelled them ready for next year – a satisfying way to recycle and have fun making things in the process!  Do you recycle your cards? Any other creative ideas for things to do with them? I’d love to hear…

Boxed Christmas Gift Tags

Have a wonderful evening tonight if you’re out celebrating, or simply taking quiet stock in the warmth of home. May I wish you a very Happy New Year for 2015!

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Interlude

Alternative Christmas Cake

This handful of days between Christmas and New Year is one of my favourite times of the year; time seems to slow down and it’s easy to forget what day of the week it is.  The rush and intensity of Christmas is over, but the abstinence of January is not yet upon us; the fires are lit, the cake tin is full, the corks are still gently popping, and there’s nowhere else we need to be – it’s blissful.

My family arrived on 23rd, so I added a few final festive touches to their rooms, including laying out our nativity set atop the butcher’s block in the guest room;

Nativity

Three old temple bells also now hang from a pole in the bay window; junk shop finds which are now a permanent feature of the room but do look especially good at Christmas..

Temple bells

We travelled to the magical Royal Chapel of St Georges in Windsor for their carol service; a mixture of carols sung by choir and by congregation, interspersed with readings by members of the royal household staff and clergy.  The music was magnificent, and the combination of celebration, contemplation, prayer and song was the perfect start to Christmas ‘proper’…

St Georges bright

St. Georges Chapel and Choir, ℅ College of St. George

On Christmas Eve there was great excitement when we discovered a telegram from Father Christmas in the hearth of the fireplace in Harry’s bedroom, containing new pyjamas and promise of a visit later that night (and thank you to those who received a telegram from me in November’s competition and wrote to tell me of the reaction it caused; wonderful to hear!)

North Pole Telegram

 

As darkness fell we scattered our reindeer food on the lawn and even managed a momentary glimpse of Santa’s sleigh which lit up the sky briefly with blinking points of light to the west. Harry shrieked in awe.  A greater cynic than I might have mistaken it for a plane stuck in a holding pattern over the airport, but Harry is adamant and who am I to disagree?

And at bedtime,  Harry diligently laid out a platter for Santa with milk, mince pie and a VERY large carrot (‘it has to feed all the reindeer, not just Rudolph!’ he pointed out, helpfully…

A little treat for Santa

I have to tell you, several large bites of raw carrot are not the best thing to eat late on Christmas Eve night after a large meal and plenty of wine, but these things have to be done..

Santa came!

Christmas Day dawned bright and clear so we interspersed the eating, drinking and gift-opening with time outdoors; walking in the park enjoying the rare winter sunshine.  I was given some wonderful presents, like these books I’ve had on my must-read list for a while, and a lovely simple wooden tissue box holder that just makes me smile…

Tissue box wooden houses

And a poignant and lovely gift; one of the poppies from the installation that ceramic artist Paul Cummins created at the Tower of London to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War (you can read more here).  Definitely a contender for best-present-ever-that-I’d-never-have-thought-to-ask-for.

Paul Cummins Poppy

And now we’re back to just the three of us, and are gradually returning the house to its usual state; the tree will stay up with its twinkling lights for a good few days more, but the bonfire is going now, fuelled by bags of gift wrap and empty boxes, agitated by an excitable small boy with a long poking stick.  Later we’ll be recycling some of our favourite Christmas cards, cutting out the pictures and making things for next year.

And everywhere now, touches of green as the New Year approaches.  Bulbs on the sills, promising a heady burst of scent within days, and warding off the gloom that the end of the holidays can bring.

Hyacinths

I hope that you had a lovely, lovely break, even if today signals a return to work and the world at large… I’ll be back again very soon.

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All Is Calm, All Is Bright

All is bright

I’ve been out this morning gathering armfuls of ivy to decorate our table this Christmas.  As the season of sparkle and excess reaches its climax, I find I’m already craving simplicity, freshness and green.  Hellebores, slim white tapers and old clay bells are the only other adornment to the kitchen as we focus now on just being together, and on welcoming Christmas.

In the meantime, all is calm, all is bright.

I wish you and yours a truly wonderful Christmas!

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Happy Christmas

Last-minute gifts from the kitchen

Christmas Cookies in a jar

Thanks for all of your lovely comments on the last couple of posts as we’ve prepared the house for the holidays. We’ve had a lovely weekend getting into the swing of Christmas with visiting family; the meringue wreath was mercifully able to be resurrected, the turkey was wrestled successfully into the oven without any limbs needing to be sawn off, and Harry was initiated into the tradition of family games.  Sardines saw 9  grown adults wedged variously into a bunk bed, a small airing cupboard and under an occasional table, and Twister swiftly revealed just who had been conscientious in their yoga practice this year.  I write to you from the sofa, in a happy haze of leftover Prosecco, with several joints iced-up and immobilised.

Anyway, to business, and to a last-minute gift that I promise you can knock up in the time it takes to run a bath, and which will wow with its homespun thoughtfulness.  Trust me.

Every year, I make spiced oatmeal and raisin cookies for Christmas and every year, I end up scribbling the recipe down for friends who are already planning how to secure some more, even before the last crumbs are brushed away.  They require very little skill and are actually supposed to look uneven and bumpy, and that to me qualifies them as being just about the perfect cookie to make.

christmas cookies

This year I’ve distilled the recipe into a jar, adding the dry ingredients in layers and attaching baking instructions listing the steps needed and additional ingredients (an egg and butter, very easy).  I’ve uploaded some printables below, so that once you’ve raided the cupboards and filled your jars, you can just print out the swing tags and you’re ready to go.

An important caveat for chefs and gourmands; combining all the dry ingredients in this way is not quite as good as taking a conventional step-wise approach and mixing butter and sugars before adding flour, and raisins last etc; if you are gifting to a cookie connoisseur with a refined  palate, this may matter.  For the rest of us – they’re yummy.

To fill your jars (I used 1 litre jars; try Kilner or the Korken range at IKEA) you’ll need: (if you’re in North America and work in cup measurements, try this recipe which helpfully is designed for a jar too and is similar):

  •  130g Caster sugar
  • 130g soft brown sugar
  • 60g rolled oats
  • 180g plain flour, mixed with 1/2 tsp of bicarb of soda, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1tsp ginger
  • 120g raisins
  • 200g icing sugar.

Pour all of the ingredients into the jar in layers, in the order described, tapping the jar gently to level each layer out before adding the next.  Try spooning them in if you find it easier.  For the icing sugar, put this into a separate small bag and add last before sealing the jar; this is for the icing so will be used when the cookies are baked.

Spiced Christmas cookies in a jar

Recipients of your gift can just pour the contents of the jar into a bowl, stir well and then add a beaten egg and 150g of softened butter, and the cookies are ready to roll into balls and bake.  Once cooled, they can be drizzled with icing.  I added a little jar of white chocolate stars and a wooden spoon with each gift this year; you could also accessorise with any pretty sprinkles or with chopped nuts, for example.

If you click on the links below you’ll find these labels; just cut out and glue front to back before tying on with ribbon.

Christmas Cookies Front

 

Christmas Cookies Back

Enjoy!

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Christmas Cookie Printable FRONT

Christmas Cookie Printable BACK