Gifting ideas (and the week in which my tenuous grasp on horticulture is lost)

Wine Bottle Tags free download

Happy Monday!  I hope you had a lovely weekend, and one which hasn’t receded too dramatically into the mists of time.  Ours was packed with socialising with some of our closest friends, mostly al fresco thanks to the very un-British heatwave.  Long may it continue.  Friday night was supper with friends so I baked a batch of our tried-and-tested oatcakes to take along (delicious with cheese), and designed a bottle tag to drop around the neck of a bottle of wine.  An Eat Me, Drink Me combination worthy of Alice in Wonderland, but with somewhat more predictable results… and fewer rabbit holes.

Gifting ideas; wine bottle tags

Here’s my downloadable template if you want to make a batch of tags; for those with proper grown-up wine cellars or any kind of grape expertise, they’d be great for recording tasting notes or details of dates and vintage.  Or simply greetings and instructions to consume immediately, as we did…

Wine Bottle Tag Printables

Just cut around the outside, then punch or carefully cut out the hole and lightly fold along the dotted line before slipping over the neck of your bottle.

Wine Bottle Tag Printables

Our social whirlwind continued with a visit to Harry’s godparents and their new puppy, an adorable 5 month old labrador; we made her a jar of peanut-butter dog biscuits and I also experimented with a new iPhone/iPad app called Waterlogue which converts photos into watercolour-effect pictures.  All we had was this low-res picture of Lexie, but when imported into Waterlogue and transformed, it became a gorgeous, slightly abstract picture…

trialling waterlogue

I emailed myself the pic and cropped it slightly then printed it onto sheets of white linen cardstock to make a set of notecards for the family; I added text to some and left others bare.  I can see Waterlogue is going to be my new time waster for a little while…  if you have an iPhone it’s worth checking it out;  from my early experiments it works brilliantly with some photos and can’t seem to interpret or adapt others –  a bit hit and miss – but inexpensive enough to try.

Dog watercolour cards project

DIY cards using Waterlogue app

The heatwave has been perfect for racing through garden sprinklers and spending hours in the paddling pool, but alas fatal for some of our conservatory plants; a handful have quietly breathed their last despite my fervent attempts to water and ventilate whenever we’re home (I have felt more like an ER surgeon, racing from one to the next to check possibilities for resuscitation than the genteel green-fingered pottering I’d imagined..).  Still, the mouse-melons have not only survived but thrived, and are shooting out plucky lassoos as they climb at a rate of knots…

Mousemelons climbing

The courgettes too are soaking up the dense heat and we now have row upon row of shiny – if somewhat eclectically shaped – cukes ready for Harry to pack in his lunchbox.

cucumbers in a row

I occasionally manage an early-morning wander through the garden before work, cup of tea in hand; this rose (below) looked too beautiful to ignore and now sits on my bedside table smelling divine.

garden rose

…and in a local thrift shop I found the perfect book to photograph for the cover of my gardening journal; it’s so very true…

the amateur gardener

….as evidenced by this, my bizarrely shaped courgettes (zucchini), which taste good but look like they were caught in a moment of indecision during a growth spurt about whether to remain courgettes or aim higher and pretend to be marrows.

misshapen marrow

Still, it’s all a good (if steep) learning curve… and at least our peas are uncomplicatedly obliging.  In fact, we are slowly creating a pea mountain, as we search for endless ways of incorporating them into every dish.

have a great week!



peas please

How to Capture a Kiss…

A Kiss in a Box

On Mothers day this year (which in the UK falls in March), Harry produced a large, wrapped box which he’d decorated at nursery with tissue paper and paint. ‘You can’t open it’, he said ‘But there’s a kiss in it that I blowed before I shut it’. Harry’s very familiar with the notion that kisses can be blown and caught; from when he was tiny we’ve been sending kisses his way for him to chase, catch, and occasionally swallow.  I love the idea of capturing a kiss and keeping it safe, so inspired by my mother’s day gift I’ve made a kiss-catching kit which can be used to transport love through the post or in a pocket, and is small enough to be carried like a secret talisman whenever needed.

Kiss in a Box DIY

The printable wrappers below will cover a small, standard matchbox, which you can then either leave empty (because kisses are invisible after all…) or add a photo in the base.  I blew my kiss into a small glass bottle, but if you’re worried about glass then you could use a tiny bag or envelope, or a simple heart or Hershey’s chocolate kiss instead.  Simply cut out the templates, fold and glue around your matchbox, using pegs or paperclips to hold the wrapper in place whilst it dries.  I made two versions; a hessian-effect wrapper and a suitcase-style cover modelled on this beautiful one from Globetrotter, which will join my wardrobe when I eventually win the lottery (but probably not until then).

How to Capture a Kiss Kit

DIY Matchbox Covers from katescreativespace

Harry’s box is small enough to be tucked deep into a pocket to provide secret reassurance during any moments requiring mild bravery; unaccompanied playdates, sleepovers or Big Days at school – a discreet kind of comfort blanket that can be gripped when necessary without anyone else knowing.

A kiss in a Pocket

My own original box-with-a-kiss sits atop my desk and always makes me smile.  It came accompanied by a Mother’s Day breakfast-in-bed menu, which Harry had collaged by cutting and pasting a variety of options from the pages of a magazine.  He arrived at our bedroom door at dawn in chef’s whites ready to take my order (below), but then swiftly climbed into bed and delegated the preparations to his father, ‘now that I have done the hard work of the menu’.  What a smooth operator…

mothers day breakfast

Have a great weekend!

handbag logo


DIY Matchbox Covers from katescreativespace

Hey Mr Postman!

DIY Embossed Monogram Stationery Master

One happy result of cleaning out my craft room/office is that I surfaced a whole pile of blank cards and individual sheets of watercolour paper and cardstock.  Given that you’re never too young or too male to have a  monogrammed stationery kit, I set about making Harry a set of embossed cards and notelets which can be adorned with drawings or wobbly cursive script and sent as thank-you notes for the myriad of parties which identify his social life as already being far more exciting than ours. (That mildly depressing moment when you look at the calendar and see it filled with party invitations, none of which are for you).

I’m something of a latecomer to embossing, which transforms ordinary rubber-stamping into glossy, raised embossed motifs worthy of a high-end paper store.  For those who have yet to discover the delights of combining embossing powder and heat, here’s how you do it;

  • Choose a rubber stamp and ink it before pressing firmly onto your card
  • Sprinkle liberally immediately with embossing powder and leave to dry for a minute (it’s important you do this whilst the ink is still wet so it sticks)
  • Shake off the excess powder and tip it back into the pot (I’ve learned to make a paper funnel to channel it all back in, after crunching my way grittily around the office for far too long…)
  • Hold a heat tool (details of supplies at the bottom) a few inches away from the print and watch as the embossing powder melts and transforms magically into a raised motif.

DIY Embossed Monogram Cards Step by Step

Like this….

Embossed motifs

Embossed Monogram Writing set

You can add them to envelopes too as I did here; the tonal colours work really well and add a spark of interest to the otherwise plain exterior…

Embossed Monogram Envelopes

I made my envelopes to fit the disparate sizes of paper I had, using envelope templates from Paper Source; they were surprisingly simple to make and I loved the flexibility of being able to choose whatever colours I had to hand instead of buying packs of envelopes in a shop.

DIY Envelopes

So now Harry has a range of monogrammed stationery to fit each occasion, whether a large drawing or a laboured message of thanks is required.  I added buttons as envelope seals and sequins to punctuate the monograms – again, a case of whatever sparkly leftovers we had to hand.  Job done!

DIY Monogram Embossed Stationery

If you fancy having a go yourself (or making these as a gift – they’d be lovely), here’s what I used.  it was very much a case of what I had to hand; all of these things will be available in good craft stores, from a variety of brands.

  • Monogram stamp and envelope template set from Paper Source
  • Ink pad is the ombre ‘seascape’ pad by Colorbox
  • I like Papermania clear embossing powder – but once you’ve mastered that, try sparkly iridescent embossing powders and experiment with different colour combinations
  • For the cards I used a variety of paper off-cuts and odd sheets, but for the envelopes I used a 12″ square pad of Papermania coloured sheets – I use these a lot in projects.
  • To melt the embossing powder, you’ll need a heat tool like this one.

You could also try making photo envelope liners or these monogram cards too.

Have a great weekend when it comes!

handbag logo

Fleeting Obsessions: The Artistry of Quilt-Makers

Self Portrait by Sandra Bruce

Self-Portrait by the amazing Sandra Bruce

During our recent trip to Amsterdam, my mum and I were wandering through the 9 Straatjes area of artisan shops and galleries when we stumbled across a series of tiny, beautiful stores dedicated to buttons, fabrics and quilt-making.  We lost several hours of a very sunny afternoon completely absorbed by the myriad of materials, colours and designs and the incredible work of some of the artist-makers on display.  My mum is a somewhat more accomplished seamstress than I, and aided by a lunchtime beer and a dash of bravado went home laden with fat-quarters and ambitious plans for whipping-up a magnificent quilt (how’s that going then, mum?).

My own experience with quilt-making is limited to a dispiriting Home-Economics class project at the age of 12, when as a resolute tomboy complete with crew-cut and attitude, I cussed and stabbed my way towards completing a very grubby, blood-speckled pot holder that soon vanished from public display at home.  It feels like time to give it another try, so I have spent much of my evenings since exploring the amazing array of quilts online and finding inspiration everywhere…. like these;

'Moonlight' by Anne Brauer

‘Moonlight’ by Anne Brauer

Map Quilt by Diane Lovitt

Map Quilt by Diane Lovitt

Seaspray by Valerie Maser-Flanagan

‘Seaspray’ by Valerie Maser-Flanagan

California Ricelands by Merle Axelrad

California Ricelands by Merle Axelrad

Once Upon a Time by Joung Soon-Kim (S.Korea)

Once Upon a Time by Joung Soon-Kim (S.Korea)

'Race for the Moon' by Susan Musgrove (Aus)

‘Race for the Moon’ by Susan Musgrove (Aus)

Anne Francis Quilt exhibited at the NYC Quilt Symposium 2013

Detail from Anne Francis Bear Quilt

Aren’t they astonishing?  I’ve begun a collection of some of my favourites on Pinterest here, which are many decades beyond my current competency but are still a visual feast and inspiration whilst I work out how to get started.  Are you a quilter or have you ever been tempted to try?  Any tips for this distinct amateur with ideas way beyond her capability?  All advice welcome…

In the meantime these last two quilts struck me as rather more achievable but no less beautiful…

Amalfi Coast Quilt by Theresa Neubauer

Amalfi Coast Quilt by Theresa Neubauer

Pantone Pop by Sew Katie Did

Pantone Pop by Sew Katie Did

…And here’s a wonderful time-waster I came across when working out what tools I need to get started; this programme promises to turn any photograph into a quilt pattern by essentially pixelating it and creating numbered coloured squares.  I can see what this evening will be spent doing…

Quilt Pattern Template Tool

Quilt-surfing aside, it’s been a hectic week of long days at work followed by pottering and de-cluttering at home.  I took delivery of this beautiful old architect’s plan chest (a bargain ebay find), so can now store all of my gift-wrap, art papers and projects; Harry has a drawer too for his creations and rainy-day printables for colouring in and crafting;

Plan Chest 1 Plan Chest 2 Plan Chest 3

…and we’ve been busy in the conservatory, coaxing new life from our recently-planted seedlings; the rocket, basil and trailing squash have shot off the starting blocks, and require our close examination approximately once every few minutes.  I’m sure the novelty will wear off, but not just yet…

Planting seedlings Trailing squash

have a great week!


An Overture to Springtime…

You know what they say about the best laid plans and all that?  Well, our trip to Morocco was eventful but not quite in the ways we’d imagined; the temperature dropped like a stone from around 28C to just 8C, sending Marrakech into a state of shivery shock; our hotel had somehow over-booked itself, resulting in a midnight taxi ride across the city in search of a bed for the night, accompanied by the profusely apologetic manager (we found a new hotel and bed which looked fine in the dark, but were greeted by a curious family of cockroaches on waking – cue yet another relocation after breakfast…).  Even our eagerly awaited trip into the Atlas mountains had to be abandoned as thick fog rendered the narrow hill roads too dangerous to be easily navigated.

A disappointment, for sure, but an experience so populated by adverse events that it quickly became funny, in that sort of mildly hysterically way when things spiral completely beyond your control.  Even then there were highlights; freshly squeezed local orange juice in the Jemaa el-Fnaa, the universally lovely and helpful people, and the rose petals, everywhere… beauty amidst the chaos which leaves us keen to return, albeit probably not in February.

Back home we tried to coax a little Spring sunshine and cheer ourselves up by throwing an impromptu dinner party on Friday night.

Paper Boat Placenames

I swiftly made paper boat name settings for everyone, and Harry and I dunked handfuls of curly kale into poster paint to make a fun sea foam for them to rest on (I’ll post a proper DIY for these in the week together with the patterns to download – a very easy yet lovely ‘make’ to do with a glass of wine in hand, and a little gift for friends to take home afterwards).  Along the table centre I placed random kitchen accessories and pots of herbs – anything that made me think of spring or summer, like fresh basil and lemons…

Springtime Tablescape

Fresh basil table centre


Bowl of fresh lemons Breadsticks


We had such a good night, in the way that often happens when you don’t have much time to plan and just throw people and food together; a lovely way to end the week and start the weekend.

In other news, remember my intent to start a proper glasshouse this year and your suggestions of Meyer lemon trees and other great plants?  My newly acquired lemon tree is looking beautiful and promising abundant bounty; whilst I can’t claim responsibility for the current crop of lemons, new flower buds have appeared all over in the last couple of weeks and suggest that it’s thriving; I’m very proud :-)

Meyer Lemon TreeMeyer Lemon Flowerbuds

Harry and I also took the opportunity of half-term to get busy in the kitchen, making Star Wars cookies using our newly-acquired cookie cutters from here (US Star Wars fans can find the same ones on sale here –  a bargain!).  We made basic sugar cookies and then rolled out fondant icing to stamp the toppings; C3PO also benefits from a light dusting of gold powder (we do love a bit of bling).

Star Wars Cookies

And finally, our cake-in-the-house Saturday ritual continues; this week it was lemon drizzle loaf cake, now just a scattering of crumbs.  Next week it’s back to work, and the gym, and a more abstemious few days of salad – but not just yet…it is Sunday evening after all.

Cake In The House

Have a great week, wherever you are and whatever you’ve got planned.

handbag logo


Fantasies of Heat and Dust

Homemade leather travel journals

I write this week from a beneath a pile of clothes, suitcases, scarves, swimwear, camera kit and general travel-related bounty; we’ve booked a last-minute trip to Morocco, and feverish excitement is high.

Berber man

Map of Marrakech

Photo by Christopher.michael/Flickr. Illustrated map by Mariko Jesse for CondeNast

We were searching for an escape from the relentless rain, wind and grey drizzle which seized Britain in December and has yet to let go; Morocco offers a complete contrast and at just  a 3hr flight away feels deliciously close.  We’ll be staying near Marrakech but venturing up into the Atlas Mountains and generally exploring – I can’t wait.  (Have you been? Any hot tips or must-sees?).  The weather at this time of year can be unpredictable but the one thing we know for sure is that it will be better than here..

One night this week I made a simple travel journal each for Harry and for myself; Harry’s contains crayons and envelopes for drawing pictures and the capturing of treasures; both took just a few minutes to make.  Instructions below if you like the look and want to have a go (these make great gifts too).

Handmade travel journal

Materials and step-by-step instructions after the jump ;


How to Capture the Moon

Moon cropped

Have you ever tried to take a photograph of the moon?  Inspired by the film Gravity and by a current spate of TV programmes on star gazing and the night sky, I have developed a fleeting obsession with the moon.  This weekend I took my camera and a very wobbly ladder out into the garden and attempted to photograph it.  I waited till my husband was distracted; he is very safety-conscious, which is one of the reasons we are so well-suited.  My first attempt looked like this;

Overexposed moon

So I rapidly retreated indoors to arm myself with a warmer jacket, a flask of hot chocolate and a spot of google-generated advice on how to actually photograph the moon.  Well, it seems that for a really good shot you need a professional camera with astonishingly good lenses which can then be attached to a telescope, and stabilised to await the one night a year when the moon is perfectly visible.  OR, for a perfectly impressive amateur shot, it seems you just need to flick your DSLR to ‘manual’ and adjust a few settings.  And once you start snapping, it becomes very addictive; you find that you are awaiting clear, dark nights with all the appetite of a werewolf.  Within 10 minutes of skimming online advice, my second shot looked like this;

Second shot of the moon

This article gives some fantastic tips, as do many others, but for those who have the attention span of, well, a busy mum – I’ll summarise. You’ll get your best results by;

  • Choosing a clear night with lots of visible stars, little ambient light (no streetlights, few houses, etc) and no cloud cover.
  • Getting as close as you safely can to the sky.  If you can drive to the top of a hill, do so.  Don’t do what I did and set up a ladder on the lawn in the dark; really, it’s not something I’d recommend.
  • Use the zoomiest lens you have.  I have a 70-300m lens which came with my Canon DSLR.  The moon will always seem very far away – naturally – but a zoom lens will help.
  • Then follow the stages below.  Even if you never use your camera’s manual settings, now’s a good time to find the handbook and try it just this once;

How to shoot the moon

And then finally tweak the exposure and shadow to maximise the result;

The Moon in January

I love that you can see the craters and actual surface of the moon; it makes it seem so close and attainable, somehow.  Like most of my posts, this is the result of an evening dabbling at something new, with very few technical skills.  I used the basic iPhoto software inbuilt into my Mac.   Picasa, which you can download free online, would do the same.  For those proficient in Photoshop, you can get even more technical.  The results are gratifying (and will make a cool picture for Harry’s bedroom wall).  If Harry was a little older, I’d be dragging him out in his sleeping bag to do this with me, and we’ll certainly do some star-gazing on the long Summer nights to come.  The night sky is mesmerising and very, very addictive.  Here’s a few other fun celestial links if you’re as captivated as me;

This site tells you when the International Space Station will be visible where you live.  It moved over the UK skies on Christmas Eve around 6pm, and made a nation of children ecstatic at the thought that they’d caught a glimpse of Santa’s sleigh.

This duvet cover made me smile, and is on my list of things Harry would love when he’s older

Snurk astronaut bedding

This projector was the first gift I ever bought my husband and we still love it; it soothed Harry as a tiny baby when he lay awake  in my arms in the wee small hours, has provided a very cool backdrop for various parties and is the best thing to have beaming onto the bathroom ceiling when you settle down for a long soak in the tub.

Happy star-gazing…


n.b. The first photograph at the start of this post  - shown again below – I took at 4pm, just as dusk was falling and the moon first visible (although the sky looks pitch black in contrast, it was actually only dark blue/grey; the kind of darkness that would make you think about switching your car headlights on).  It was much harder to get the focus right, but once I did, the definition was even greater.  Have a play at different times and see what gets the best result.

Moon cropped

Should you wear fir this Christmas?

Fir Dress

When I thought about decorating the house this Christmas, I wanted to do something a bit different to the usual garlands and fairy lights.  I love looking in Christmas store windows where tableaux have been elegantly yet  apparently oh-so-casually thrown together, so I’ve  been gathering vaguely festive and wintery household items to act as props in little displays for the hallway and kitchen.  It’s very much a work in progress; you know the kind of thing – just as soon as you artfully arrange a pair of wellington boots and ivy sprigs, someone will cry ‘Aha!, there they are!’,  tug on the wellies and march off down the garden, whistling.

One thing that is going according to plan is the crafting of a Christmas party dress for the mannequin that usually lurks upstairs.  Inspired by this amazing pin of a store window display, I’ve been attempting to create something similar at home…

Fir dress with music pages

I cut a piece of chicken wire and tied it around the mannequin’s waist, then wired in boughs of fir (I bought a huge bunch from the local garden centre for about £10/$15).  I tied a length of wide black ribbon around it to cover the wire work and branch stumps, then added a few tonal baubles as a touch of sparkle.

making a fir skirt

fir dress with baubles

The bodice I made by simply rolling up old sheets of music paper – a Mozart score found in a pile at the local charity shop – and tucking them into the ribbon.  it’s very temporary, but she will endure throughout the holiday period I’m sure.

rolled music pages

Into her skirts I am gradually weaving pine cones and robins (and Harry is tucking in any odd random bits of lego or string he finds lying around…), so she will continue to grow over the days to come.

I’ll transport her to the kitchen later tonight where she will take up residence over Christmas, but wanted to share with you the work in progress.

More pics later in the week as our decorating continues, including geese in packing crates, a rickety old sledge and a very precarious ladder strung with gifts and baubles.  That’s if we manage not to knock any of it over first…

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

Kate x

New Traditions: The North Pole Repair Shop

Santas Repair Shop

Christmas is a time to revive traditions, but also – perhaps – to start some new ones.  Tonight, we will gather in the garden at twilight with a torch to send a signal up to the skies; we have a special parcel for Santa to come and collect.

Everyone knows that Father Christmas has a huge workshop at the North Pole where the presents for children all around the world are made by thousands of elves, overseen by the benevolent but watchful eye of Mrs Claus; it’s been immortalised in books and films, and is, as far as Christmas goes, a universally understood truth.  Not many people know, however, that Santa also has a repair shop, where pre-loved toys are sent in by children so that they can be lovingly repaired and restored, or simply polished and wrapped, ready to be given to another, smaller child who would adore it.

We’ve been busily collecting the clothes that Harry has outgrown, and the toys which were once favourites but are now relegated to the bottom of the toy-box, and have boxed them up to go to the North Pole.  Harry is delighted that another small boy might be waiting for his exact yellow truck – and it means that we get to clear the playroom a little ahead of Christmas when new toys are sure to arrive.

From our perspective it works a treat too; Harry’s main Christmas present this year will be his first bike; a gleaming red two-wheeler with a bell and shiny paintwork that is very cool but – without a doubt – definitely second-hand. We found it at a junk sale and knew it would be perfect for him.  Explaining that it has come from Santa via the North Pole workshop will account for the occasional scratches and dents, and give it even more of a cool factor;  the former possessions of bigger boys are much coveted.

I hope that this becomes a new tradition for us;  it emphasises the importance of giving and sharing, helps to keep our house free of outgrown toys and also allows us to have direct contact with the big man himself at the North Pole.

Five flashes of your torch, by the way, will alert Santa and the Elves that they need to swing by in the night to make the collection.  Leave your boxes by the back door or in the hearth, and in the morning you’ll wake up to find a candy cane as receipt of your package.  And parents; all we have to remember to do is to hide the boxes in the back of the car ready to give to the local charity shop or collection.


Now, must add candy canes to my shopping list today….

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

handbag logo

Messy play: DIY Button Christmas Cards

Button Christmas Card DIY

Welcome back, and Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends; I hope that you had a wonderful day yesterday and are not feeling too many ill-effects from the feasting and general revelry.

Today’s post comes courtesy of Harry, who will take you through the messy-but-highly-enjoyable art of button craft.  Yesterday here was wet, grey and miserable, so we spent our evening covered in glue and sparkles, humming off-key snippets of Christmas carols whilst making cards for Harry to give to his grandparents and teachers; I can thoroughly recommend it.  You’ll need;

  • Green craft paper
  • Lots of buttons of different shapes and sizes; (we used these but any assortment will do)
  • White glue
  • Blank cards or cardstock to mount your trees onto at the end
  • A bathtub that your small assistant can be dropped into the moment that the glue-based activity is done

Firstly, cut out a set of Christmas tree-shaped triangles, and pour a small bowl of white glue.  Stir vigorously.  Ignore buttons and card and focus on the glue.  Force yourself to return to the job in hand.

holiday crafting

After applying glue liberally to the tree, place as many buttons as you can on the shape, in any order and pattern.  Remember, you can never have too many buttons, and you can certainly never have too much glue.  Don a Santa hat to further increase the festive mood.

crafting for the holidays

Add more glue.

christmas crafts

Place the shapes to dry on a baking rack (this will probably take overnight).  To kill a bit of time whilst you wait, you can punch out a few snowflakes to place around the button tree.  We used a Martha craft punch and had a competition to see who was the strongest at squeezing the punch.  I am proud to say that I won.  And also embarrassed; there’s little glory in being stronger than a three-year old, after all.

DIy snowflake christmas cards

The glue will dry completely clear, leaving you with beautiful trees which give no hint of the mess and chaos involved in their production.  Mount them onto cards; we also added a little wooden star to each, plus a few of our punched-out snowflakes;

button christmas tree cards

I then pimped the plain envelopes by using scraps of gift-wrap to make envelope liners (a quick how-to on this next time; you can practically do it one-handed with a glass of wine / eggnog / green detox juice in the other).

DIY button cards and lined envelopes

I chose gatefold cards which I found on sale here during our recent holiday to the US; I wanted to add a photo of Harry making the cards so that everyone who received one got to share in the fun of the work-in-progress; you could just as easily slip a photo inside a regular card.  Ours stand up so that on one side you have the tree, and the other the photo and space for a hand-written message down the side.

DIY holiday cards for kids


homemade Christmas cards


So our first phase of Christmas crafting is complete, and our glue-dipped paintbrushes in for a very, very long soak.  This weekend brings a long-awaited pirate birthday party, family visits and much celebration, so we’ll be busy… I hope that you have a lovely one, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

handbag logo


A Swashbuckling Adventure!

It’s Harry’s birthday in a couple of weeks, and once again we’ll be taking to the metaphorical high-seas for pirate-themed adventure.  He’s captivated by a programme called Swashbuckle at the moment; a sort of fast and furious show for under-1os where the kids have to outwit naughty pirates and reclaim their stolen treasure.  We’ve been tasked with recreating some of the games from the programme, and dressing up accordingly; I’ve been combing charity shops for suitably piratical clothing, and glueing metres of gold braid to second-hand coats and old wellington boots.  First things first though; the invitations!

Homemade Message in a Bottle Pirate Party Invites

I wanted to create something that would feel a bit magical and nautical for Harry’s friends to receive, so used plastic water bottles to create a kind of message-in-a-bottle invitation (we’ve got through quite a lot of Evian over the last few days; I’m hoping my skin will thank me at some point..).  I substituted the screw-top for a champagne cork and strung an eye-patch around each one.  (I’d love to be able to say that we’ve been nobly working our way through endless bottles of champagne over the last few days too, but in fact I’ve been saving these corks up for years in the vague expectation of putting them to some crafty use).  I secured a label to each with bakers’ twine and then set about designing the invite itself.

Swashbuckle Invitation

DIY pirate party invitations

I designed the invite on my PC, then printed a copy and carefully burned the edges away to age it and add a bit of drama, then photocopied the original to produce a whole set.  I fed these through the printer to print all the party details on the other side.  If you have a young pirate at home and want to try this, I’ve uploaded a PDF of the invite you can use at the end of the post.

We filled an otherwise gloomy and wet Sunday with the exciting task of posting these through local letterboxes, emailed invites to those further away and then began to think about costumes.  I wanted Harry to have a pair of proper pirate boots, so as a birthday present I’ve been secretly customising and accessorising these charity shop wellies which I bought for £2 and which are the perfect size…

Pirate Boots Makeover Project

DIY Pirate Boots detail

I used strips of faux leather for the cuffs, then super-glued braid around the edges, adding red ribbon and plastic coin trim around the front for a spot of extra bling (you can never have too much bling, if you’re a real pirate..).  I stitched silver buttons to the cuffs and then sewed miniature picture frames onto a length of wide black elastic for the buckles, and then slipped these over the top of the boots.

Upcycle old wellies into pirate boots

The pirate treasure chest gift box was a fortuitous find at TK Maxx, and will keep these Pirate Captain boots a secret for the next couple of weeks, to be opened on the day of the party and hopefully received with great excitement… we shall see!

Alongside the pirate preparations we’re also starting to think ahead to Christmas, so Harry and I have broken out the glitter and craft paper and are on a roll.  The builders are still here to keep us company, so the house is a sea of sparkly glitter, half-empty mugs of tea and brick dust (who needs dry shampoo? Just plaster a wall and you can wash your hair far less frequently..).  It’s chaos, but we’re still feeling zen and trying to hold on to that holiday afterglow.  In the absence of any aptitude for yoga or meditation, wine is definitely helping with the relaxation.

Ahoy There Pirate Invitation

Message in a bottle labels