Making

A Chill in the Air…

Striped Holiday Candles

Arctic winds have blown through our corner of the world this week, hustling the trees into a frantic leaf fall and turning our minds to thoughts of cold, crisp mornings and snow.  The newfound chill is novel enough to feel fresh and exciting, and to make us a little giddy at the thought of Christmas approaching (I’m an unashamed Christmas person; although the grown-up in me joins in the general tut-tutting at the sight of Christmas cards in the shops in September, the child in me gets very excited…).

Preparations for the festive season can never begin too early in this house, so I waited for a break in the gusting wind and then rushed outside to practice making candy-cane striped candles, a plan I’d had vaguely formulating since the neon candle experiment earlier in the summer.  This was an experimental DIY but proved to be a very easy one.  You’ll need;

  • A handful of inexpensive red candles
  • Nail varnish remover
  • A roll of masking tape or washi tape
  • A ruler, if you are precisely minded (I did mine by sight and guesswork)
  • A can of matt white spray paint (whilst the propellant is highly flammable, the paint itself is usually fine to use; check the small-print on yours before buying).

Firstly rub the candles lightly with a cotton wool bud soaked in nail varnish remover, and then rinse and pat dry.  This will help the spray paint to adhere better.  Now, starting at the bottom of the candle, run the tape around at intervals of about 1″ (or as wide as your tape).  Repeat until the top, and then smooth around the tape to ensure it is stuck to the candle all the way around each ring (this minimises the chance of smudging or paint runs).  At this point they should look a bit like this;

pegged candles

I pegged mine up for spraying, but equally you could simply don an old rubber glove and hold them by the tips before spraying.  The bands of tape mean that you can lean them against a wall to dry, as long as you position them carefully.  I gave mine two light layers, about 3hrs apart.  If you have more patience, 3 coats would look even better… just don’t be tempted to try and give it a double-coating in one; it will run and look horrible.  Trust me.  when they are dry, carefully peel off the tape and examine;

candles drying

At this point, you can use a craft knife to gently scrape away any paint to neaten the edges, and dab any gaps or chips using a cotton wool bud with a little paint sprayed on top.  And then… well, that’s it.  Ta-da!  Have a cup of tea and congratulate yourself.

Candles in black tissue

These burn very normally without strange smells or firework effects (always reassuring to know), and look very pretty.  Not as finessed as those in high-end shops which are made from layers of coloured wax, but a very cunning and serviceable thrifty alternative (and where Christmas is concerned, any opportunity to be thrifty has to be good…).  For ultimate holiday table chic, use a handful of these candle spikes and stick them in glossy red apples.  Gorgeous.

(ps if we were partying at home this Halloween, I think I’d be making some of these using black candles for stripy witch-stocking effects).

Have a great weekend!

Kate

 

 

Detecting The Flamboyance Gene

Harry discovered the art of disguise at an early age.  It was clear even at two that a man can never have too many pirate eye-patches, cloaks, swords, racing driver goggles or superhero capes; you never know when they might be called upon in the ups and downs of everyday adventure.

I look at my husband and the genetic sequencing becomes clear.  Here is a man who has variously dressed-up as Madonna – complete with conical bra – a hippy, a zombie and Father Christmas, and has his own trunk filled with accessories and war-torn party outfits.  (nb I will set aside the question of the Madonna outfit for now, and dwell on it in private later).

It became clear last week that storing all of Harry’s dressing-up clothes in a chest wasn’t working; everything gets flung on the floor in the frantic search for THE crucial piece of kit (usually pirate-related). I looked online for a fun clothing rail but it seems that only girls are allowed to have these, if the number of heart-bedecked, pink shimmery rails are anything to go by.  So we made our own…

DIY Witches Broom Dress Up Rail

I recycled an old clothing rail from the loft and replaced the top rail with a long-handled, bushy natural broom from the local garden centre (a bargain at £5).  Although the broom was in their display of general tools, it struck me as deliciously Witchy, and Harry agreed.  We are obsessed with the lovely Room on the Broom book at the moment, so this felt like a brush with fate (unforgiveable pun, sorry..).

Bracing the side rails is important, so if you make one of these be sure to lash your broom securely at each end, to avoid them leaning inwards.  I wound string around tightly for, ooh, about 5 minutes at each until it felt like they weren’t going to move AT ALL.  And that’s it; the quickest DIY ever.  I also recycled a bathroom waste-bin for sword storage, and slotted Harry’s superhero cuffs onto the rails for easy access – hallelujah; a walk-up wardrobe of delights is born.

Dress Up Rail Montage

I added another outfit to the rail last week when Harry came home from school with a request that he come dressed as a cowboy to the back-to-school BBQ.  In my general ineptitude, I discovered this note about 24hrs beforehand, so we constructed an outfit mostly out of things we already had, spending a grand total of £5.  Breakdown below…

homemade cowboy outfit

The shirt and jeans are Harry’s own; I roughly hand-stitched  lengths of animal print fabric onto the legs, loosely enough to flap a little but stay in place.

cowboy chaps

The waistcoat first featured in this post, soon after I bought it in a charity shop – a surprisingly rich hunting ground for mini-waistcoats and jackets for dressing-up outfits, presumably because they are purchased for one-off weddings or events and then rapidly grown-out of.

Our bandana was fashioned from a tablecloth stolen from Harry’s play tea-set, knotted loosely around the neck.  The cowboy hat was our only investment, bought as part of a set (together with the toy guns in holsters) from the 99p shop – honestly, so much tat for under a pound; it’s more addictive than Class A drugs…

Cowboy Hat

I glued a polkadot ribbon around it (in suitably manly colours), and designed & printed a paper sheriff’s badge to stick over the top.  I then stitched the plastic gun holsters to the belt loops of the jeans, and used a length of washing line for a lassoo.  Job done..Dancing cowboy

That’s Harry doing the Cowboy Dance by the way; a spontaneous jig which he feels compelled to launch into when fully-clad in his outfit, usually in front of a mirror and with much self-admiration.  Just like his father again…

Not an outfit with impressive durability by any means, but a very easy flung-together costume for when life demands something a little more flamboyant than the everyday.

*****

 

The Cheats’ Guide to Calligraphy (or: How to Acquire Beautiful Penmanship In No Time At All).

calligraphy using your PC

I love receiving post, and I love to write letters, though I don’t do so nearly often enough. There’s something so rare and lovely about seeing an envelope poking out from a pile of brown bills and circulars which is obviously something fun.  This week, a few tips on how to create beautiful and accomplished-looking envelopes, invitations, gift tags or any other paper paraphernalia, using just your PC and a printer.  Whether you have a Windows PC or a Mac, your basic in-built programmes are likely to contain Powerpoint (tool of jaded office executives the world over, and hence an old friend of mine).  As well as producing mind-numbingly dull graphs and bulleted presentations, it can be surprisingly versatile; I do practically all of my crafty stuff using it, including the montages you see on the blog.

If your capability with Powerpoint extends to the point where you can open a file and create a text box, then we’re cooking and ready for the off.  If you are a Photoshop aficionado and are reading this with horror at my simplistic and antiquated ways, then please cast your eyes away from the screen and cease your tut-tutting.  Right then…

amelie calligraphy envelope

harry calligraphy envelope

george envelope

  • Choose a great font.  Either choose from the default font menu, or start with the list and resources below of mostly free-to-download fonts, and have a play until you find one you like.  Many of the sites let you type in your own words to sample the font before downloading (urbanfonts is good for this), so if you have a particular phrase or wording in mind, head there to see what it looks like in each font; with calligraphy and ‘handwriting’ fonts the letters can vary a lot.
  • Use a new text box for each line of text, so that you can move words around, rotate and position far more organically than you can within a single text box.  You can see here that I’ve used a large font for the surname and then used the green rotate icon to turn it slightly.  Having individual boxes also allowed me to overlap the ‘B’ of Brown with the ‘A’ of Amelia.  The stars here were drawn using Powerpoint’s own shapes library (create one, copy and paste until you have a small constellation).

Deconstructing DIY Calligraphy

  • For dramatic capital letters, use a text box for each letter, whack up the font size and then – using a new text box – position the rest of the word (in a much smaller font) where you want it. You can see below how for this address I used multiple font sizes:

Calligraphy font sizes

  • When you’re ready to print, cut out practice templates from inexpensive paper which are the same size as your envelopes, and print /adjust until you have it exactly positioned right, to minimise wastage or misprints.
  • For white text on a coloured background, create a large coloured square to sit behind your text onscreen before converting the text to white.  You can either print this directly onto the envelope as I did here, or onto a large self-adhesive label to then stick onto plainer envelopes. To avoid a white edge around your image when printing directly onto envelopes, select a print size slightly bigger than your envelope.
  • Don’t be afraid of mixing fonts, and adding graphics like I did for my envelope flap ‘monogram’ below, which I print onto a stash of envelopes for thank-you cards or letters;

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 14.12.03

envelope flap signature

Incidentally, I love printing things on the back of envelopes… be it a warning not to open birthday cards before the big day, a simple return address or a message; it’s all the more fun because it’s unexpected…

One Good Thing envelope flap

I could continue for hours on this topic, but in the spirit of brevity, and due to the pile of actual letters I’ve meaning to write for far too long, I will stop here for now.  Below are some of my favourites and all of the fonts I’ve used here.  All are free for personal use apart from the delicious Jacques & Gilles which cost me about $30.   I use it all the time, such as for these labels and this post, and it makes me smile.  Definitely worth it for me.

Calligraphy Fonts Sourcesheet

And finally, here are some of the things I create with calligraphy fonts;

  • Personalised stationery, particularly as presents for little people, like this
  • Monogram stickers to use as gift seals or for the back of envelopes
  • The letter from Santa which mysteriously appears in our hearth in late December
  • Invitations and gift tags
  • Labels for homemade baking and jams

signature

A Palette for the Palate

paintbox cakes

 

How is your week going?  I’m having a slightly misty-eyed, bittersweet one here as I savour the last few days before Harry starts school (school! How did this happen??) – or preschool, to be precise.  But still, it somehow feels like the end of the free-wheeling freedom days of toddlerhood as well as a hugely exciting next step.  But more on that next time.  For now, when I have time off work we’re making the most of the lazy summer days, sometimes with big adventures requiring packed lunches, pirate swords and sunscreen, and sometimes just chilled-out messy play that practically requires us to stay in our  pajamas all day and then simply wipe down the house at teatime.  Yesterday definitely fell into this category as we refined our cake decorating skills…

coloured paintbox cakes

I sliced a store-bought madeira loaf cake into small squares and then mixed up a large bowl of  white icing (icing sugar & water, until it drops smoothly from the spoon), before spooning a dollop into a myriad of little bowls.  Together, we stirred in food colouring with toothpicks, watching what happened as the colours changed and deepened.  If I were an Alpha-Mum or parenting goddess, I would share with you how this was an excellent opportunity to teach colour blending, and how Harry’s vocabulary expanded to include words like ‘Cerulean Blue’ and ‘Magenta’.  Pfff!  Of course not; it was just messy, sticky, and brilliant fun.  We discussed what colour slime would be; whether pirate blood is the same red as our blood, and why girls always like pink (in Harry’s view) – all the crucial topics that matter when you’re 3yrs old.

Making paintbox cakes

 

making paint box cakes

Our efforts were surprisingly tasteful (and unsurprisingly tasty); it certainly impressed us.  I can imagine making a slightly more chic version of these to serve as petit fours at a future party or dinner; how cool would it be to have a huge palette of these tiny cakes that are just sized to be the perfect mouthful? And look, they’re so small you’d practically burn up more calories eating them than you consume in the cake itself….

paintbox cakes on chalkboard

 

cakes on a plate

All Aboard for a Pirate Picnic!

Cambridge Theatre Company

Ahoy there! We’ve had a swashbuckling weekend here, dressing as pirates and polishing off a feast fit for the high seas as we watched the amazing Cambridge Touring Theatre company perform Treasure Island.  Outdoor theatre is definitely one of the highlights of English summertime, and this performance for families was hugely popular.  The chance to dress up, run wild through the local forest and enjoy a massive shared picnic before popcorn and drama was too good to miss.  Our picnic hamper contained;

pirate baguettes
Treasure-map baguettes, packed with child-friendly filings and tied up with decorative maps, bakers twine and wax seals.  The maps were soon torn off and used as real-pretend maps to hunt for treasure amongst the trees.

pirate woodland treasure hunt

Grown-ups took it in turns to scatter chocolate gold coins amongst the tree roots whilst child pirates vaguely covered their eyes, secretly tracking every move.  With the children otherwise engaged, we got stuck into these portable banoffee pies, which I made in jam jars for ease of transport;

portable banoffee pie
I spooned a cheesecake base into the jar and followed with a dollop of ready-made dulce de leche, then scattered  over some banana slices and freshly whipped cream, with a grating of chocolate sprinkles on top. Not the healthiest of desserts but a perfect picnic treat.

portable banoffee

When the pirates returned from their voyage through the forest, we gave each of them a jar of chocolate cannonballs (Maltesers), to see them through the performance…

pirate canonballs
I used these milk bottles and found that a cork (I collect them for random craft projects) is the perfect size to act as a stopper, and gives a suitably nautical touch.  One standard sized pack of Maltesers fills about 2 small milk bottles.

We took along Harry’s homemade cardboard pirate ship (below and here) for the kids to sit in to watch the performance; it’s miraculously survived almost a year of hard play, but a downpour of rain in the interval has definitely shortened its lifespan.

pirate ship tutorial

pirate picnicing pirate outdoor theatre

As all true pirates know, conditions at sea can go from calm sunshine to storms in a heartbeat, and so it was for us, with the heavens opening with a crack of thunder halfway through; the scramble for cover seemed only to add to the adventure and fun (for us; I’m not sure about the actors who bravely carried on regardless.)

The evening has also reawakened Harry’s love of all things piratical; we tend to start the mornings with a bout of bleary-eyed foam sword duelling, and have had to dissuade H from greeting everyone with ‘Ahoy M’hearty!’.  It’s a little startling for the lady at the check-out till when we buy groceries, even if it seems entirely natural at home..

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend!

Kate

How to Stay Cool in a Heatwave

homemade fruit juice ice lollies

We’ve had an unprecedented, glorious 3 weeks of unbroken sunshine here, with soaring temperatures and cloudless skies.  It seems to have sent Britain into a state of national shock, with people shedding clothes at an alarming rate and lying, spread-eagled, on every available patch of grass and scrub to soak up the precious rays.  Relatedly, hospitals report new levels of burns admissions and ‘injuries caused by misuse of poolside inflatables’ (there’s a Bill Bryson-esque post in itself there, I can’t help feeling).

Here, we’ve been rather more careful, and instead have been experimenting with ice-cream and lolly making.  In fact, we’ve frozen pretty much everything we can find in the cupboards these last few days, working out what tastes good and what was better left un-meddled with.  The kitchen has become a sea of brightly-coloured dribbles and splashes, and Harry has been diligently working his way through a variety of lollies, giving each one the lick-test for success or failure.  Here are our biggest successes;

Homemade Fruit Ice Lollies

Homemade Ice lollies

We made these by simply pouring our favourite natural fruit juices into ice-lolly moulds and freezing; simple as that.  No e-numbers, no scary preservatives, and a super-quick ice-lolly that you can even justify eating for breakfast (well, it replaces a glass of juice, right?).  You can, as we did, add a drop of food colouring gel to make them more beautiful – most natural juices are pale amber in colour, so feel free to jazz them up with a dash of the brights.

fruit juice lollies

You can find plastic ice-lolly / popsicle moulds like these in many stores, but if like me you prefer to use wooden sticks instead of the plastic handles and can’t find a mould which fits wooden lolly sticks, you can customise the plastic ones very easily (and it’s a great way of making large numbers in batches for a party).  Two foolproof ways; either cover the top of the filled mould with tin foil and pierce the wooden stick through, or (for the very precise-minded); place a piece of tape across the opening, and another at right angles so that you have a taped cross, and make a small incision at the centre before threading the stick through and down into the juice. If you don’t have special lolly moulds, you can make fill & freeze paper cups or even muffin cases using the foil & stick method – silicon works particularly well.

Our other favourite recipe was frozen yoghurt*…

organic frozen yoghurt pops

I made these in exactly the same way, by simply pouring into moulds, adding sticks and freezing.  As you’d expect, frozen yoghurt pops are much creamier and smoother than juice-based lollies, but seem wonderful immune from drips  - ours were mess-free, albeit they were consumed very quickly..

raspberry frozen yoghurt pops

*Yoghurt or yogurt?  Anything goes apparently, as far as the spelling is concerned; the only thing which is universally agreed is that it tastes divine..

yoghurt lolly

If you’re making batches of these, take the moulds out of the freezer when frozen solid (2-3hrs, we found), and after a couple of minutes ease the lollies out of the moulds.  Wrap each one in freezer paper to avoid them sticking together and place back in the freezer; then simply refill your moulds and start over again.

Are you an ice-cream or ice-pop connoisseur?  Any recipes we should be trying just as soon as we work our way through our current stockpile?

Have a great week.

Kate

DIY Concertina-Fold Photobook

DIY Concertina Photobook Project

When I was in Paris recently, I saw a range of beautiful silk-covered concertina photo albums in the window of a stationery boutique.  A tiny, eclectic paradise stuffed full of the most beautiful things, it was a shrine to all things paper.  Their beauty diminished a little when I saw the price; about 25 Euros, or £20/$35.  Alors!

I resolved to have a go at making a few of my own at home to capture photos  of special days or big events  - and to make and give as gifts, packaged up with a little pack of photo-corners so that recipients can fill them with whatever photos they like.  I made one to go in Harry’s Time Capsule, with a selection of photos reflecting a typical day this summer, so he can look back and remember what it was like to be 3yrs old…

Concertina Photobook DIY folding Photobook
DIY Photobook Then for something a little more grown-up, I found some pretty Paris street map paper and made a concertina book of the best photos from our Paris trip; a copy each for me and my best friend Vicky who came with me…

Paris Concertina Photobook
Parisian Concertina Photobook
DIY Vacation Photobook

All you need for this is a large sheet of black craft paper (or any colour, if you prefer something brighter for the inside), two pieces of cardboard, some spray glue and a sheet of decorative paper.  Oh, and a stack of heavy books to place it under at various stages.  If you’re feeling inspired, click below for the step-by-step directions (and do let me know how you get on!)

DIY Concertina Photobook Instructions (click the link to download and print, or simply view them below)

DIY Concertina Photobook Guide Notes

Strawberry Fields Forever…

No-bake strawberry cheesecake

We’re in the midst of a heatwave here, and it brings with it a huge wave of nostalgia for the long hot summers of my childhood.  I’ve been talking with Harry a lot about the things we used to do – running through sprinklers, building endless sandcastles, forts and dams at the beach, and picking soft fruit at farms along the roadside.  I promised him that we’d work our way through the same list too (and add a few more; because everyone should be allowed to create a new bit of history after all..), so last week we gathered up our hats, sturdy sandals and appetites and went in search of the first of the season’s strawberries…

Strawberry fields PYO

strawberry farm pick your own

the perfect strawberry

We picked and picked (and taste-tested) our way through the field until our punnets were full and our mouths a tell-tale red.  The picking was great fun in itself; the strawberries almost an afterthought.  We carefully transported them home and put them to good use, making no-bake strawberry cheesecake desserts, and then homemade strawberry cheesecake caramel ice-cream with the leftovers.  I promise you that these are both delicious and incredibly simple… give them a whirl;

Strawberry cheesecake recipe from KatesCreativeSpace

Firstly wash, hull and slice your strawberries into halves, then set aside…

chopped strawberries

Empty your biscuits/crackers into a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin until they are nothing more than crumbs.  To help with this stage, imagine you are whacking a small critter that has shot out from under the cupboard, and needs to be stopped dead in its tracks.  Bash them a bit more.  Now tip into a bowl and pour over your melted butter, and stir well.  Heap spoonfuls of the crumb mixture into the base of 6 cocktail glasses (you can use to fill a standard 23cm baking pan if you’d rather make a single cheesecake).  Place in the fridge to chill.

digestives

Now for the cheesecake filling; blend together the cream cheese and icing sugar, and then scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod and add these in too, blending again.  Pour in the double cream and mix well.  Pour or spoon your mixture over the crumb base in the cocktail glasses (or pie dish), and then leave to set in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.

whisk

Now spoon your strawberries over the top and serve to gasps of admiration and gastronomic lust.  Honestly, trust me on this.  Visually, this is a just a more elegant way of serving a sort of deconstructed European cheesecake (never oven-baked, like those in North America, and thus a slightly sharper, more creamy taste).  You can prepare it ahead of time and whip out at the moment critique, and I’m all for desserts like that…

dessert trio

When I was playing around making these I ended up with more of the cheesecake base than I needed, so I was delighted to stumble across a recipe idea from Waitrose (pic below) for homemade strawberry & cookies ice-cream.  I adapted this and mixed my leftover crumb base with some slightly softened vanilla ice-cream, some chopped strawberries and a dollop of caramel sauce.  Mix it up well and then refreeze, and you have an awesomly more-ish homemade ice cream dish…

homemade strawberry cheesecake ice cream

So there you have it; a fun summer activity and then two divine desserts to make with the treasures you bring home.  Bliss…

And finally… thank you for the lovely comments and kind wishes for our wedding anniversary last week; we had a divinely decadent afternoon in the sunshine at a local hotel, being served a seemingly endless afternoon tea; I’m mildly ashamed to say we drank Assam despite the exotic array of teas on offer…

champagne afternoon tea

But were much more adventurous and dedicated in working our way through the entire dessert selection… champagne tea 2

And now I must go; penance beckons, in the form of a very long (and very slow) run…

Have a great sunshiny weekend when it comes!

Kate

A Painted Romance

DIY watercolour heart

I’ve come over all romantic this week. Perhaps because the week began in Paris, city of lovers, where I had my long-awaited weekend away (more on that later), but probably because tomorrow is our wedding anniversary, and I’m inevitably feeling reflective about the last five amazing, exhilarating years.  To celebrate, we’ll be slinking off to local country-house hotel in the middle of the afternoon  ….to eat lots of cake.

A decadent Afternoon Tea beckons, and whilst it may sound somewhat less glamorous than a passionate mini-break à deux it requires no babysitters or complicated logistics, and very little schedule-juggling & budget. A couple of hours to relax, reconnect and just be, aided by a glass of champagne and enough calories to slow down Usain Bolt. I can’t wait.

DIY watercolour moonMy anniversary card to Mr B will be homemade – of course- and I’ve been dabbling with my watercolour paintbox, creating the images above and below and mostly just playing with colours and shapes, adding text to those I like…

home is where the heart is

In each case I’ve painted a simple shape in a single colour with a loaded, wet paintbrush, so that the paint pools into interesting patterns as it dries.  For those inspired to give it a go, there’s more detail below.

You are my sunshine

I used the same technique to make fun menus when we had friends over for dinner last weekend, painting watery stripes of colour in complementary shades, which blended at the edges as they settled and dried…

painted menus

I decorated the table with garden flowers in a similar palette, and sprayed this log white as a centrepiece.  Tiny tea-light candles in little porcelain cups completed the picture…

Paint palette tablescape

If you love the watercolour effect but would rather cheat than labour away at your own (and I applaud you for this; hurrah for short-cuts..), you can find PDF downloads of my images and the painted menu backdrop at the bottom.  If you’re feeling artistic, whip out your paintbox and read on…

make me smile

More

Neon for Grown-Ups

DIY neon candles

If you had to pick a handful of major recent design trends, there’s a good chance that neon and ombré, graduated colour would be amongst them.  (Did you think you’d clicked on the wrong blog for a moment there?  Some super-hip, of-the-moment edgy site?  Fear not; I maybe commenting on design trends, but reassuringly at least a year after everyone else has done so…).

Despite having lived through it – just – in the late 80s, I find myself seduced by the re-emergence of neon pink.  Also a bit alarmed, as mostly it seems to appear in micro-skirts, glow-in-the-dark lipstick and bra tops, none of which are complemented by having a toddler swinging from your arm and a weekly shopping list in hand.

So here’s a dash of neon for grown-ups; DIY ombré neon candles, which glow beautifully as the evening light fades and dusk falls across your summer dining table.  These exhibit just the right amount of bling, without causing conversation to falter or attracting lost hikers out of the forest.  Best of all?  They’re really easy to make..

DIY ombre neon candles

Take a handful of plain white candles and some cotton wool balls, and source a bottle of neon pink water-based acrylic paint.  I used the DecoArt brand below, but any acrylic paint which is water-based should be fine for use with candles.  (Avoid the temptation to use neon aerosol spray paint; it tends to be highly flammable, so unless you are prepared to blow out your candle as it burns down towards the colour, you might be inviting more pyrotechnic explosions than you had anticipated..)

DIY neon candle tutorial

Use a paintbrush to apply the colour from the base of the candles, and then blur it using a cotton wool ball to create a soft ombré tapering effect around the midpoint of the candle.  A circular buffing motion will create the effect shown above.  In order to do this, I simply stuck my candles upside down in a candle holder to keep them steady whilst I worked.

Neon candles tutorial

The paint dries very quickly and you’re good to go… dim the lights, light the candles and prepare for some ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’.  These would also look great in banded stripes (simply mark off with masking tape and paint chunky stripes 1 inch apart), and in a myriad of more subtle colours for those who shudder at the thought of neon*.

*Quietly I applaud you for your good taste; I just can’t help but love it…

Think Pink: Painted Bottle Vases

painted glass bottle vase DIY

I was looking for a way to quickly brighten up our summer dining table yesterday, and this super-quick DIY was born, using leftover paint samples to decorate glasses and vases to fill with garden blooms.  I used water-based emulsion paint, roughly mixed for a layered, ombre look.  I wanted a temporarily decoration that I could scrub off again later – if you want to create a permanent effect, just used oil-based paint and a primer.

I used Ensidig vases from IKEA; cheap as chips at just £1 each, and a lovely clean, simple shape like a retro milk bottle.

painted glass milk bottles

To make these, simple clean and dry your glass (drinking glasses work really well, as do all kinds of jars and bottles). Roughly mix up your paints – in my case a rosy pink and pure white, and use masking tape to define the area you want to paint.

water-based vase painting

Layer on your paint, then use your brush or finger to blend to create the look that you want (using one colour looks great too).

painted milk bottle vases tutorial

Peel off the tape when the paint has dried, and you’re ready to go… I added a tag to one of mine ready for Grandma’s bedside table when she comes to visit (quite a large tag, to accommodate Harry’s fledgling letter formation!)

DIY vase for grandma

A set of these would look great in rainbow colours down the centre of a table (use water-based acrylic paints from a craft store for vibrant colours), or even with stencilled initials or motifs. Handle the finished vases gently; splashes of water won’t cause any harm, but they’ll be vulnerable to scratches and knocks.  To remove your paint afterwards, just scrub in warm soapy water.

And finally; four minutes of magic for today;

I’m a huge fan of TED talks, but somehow had never come across this one by the incredibly talented spoken-word poet Sarah Kay, who talks to her as-yet-unconceived daughter about how to be brave in this world.

It’s four intense, passionate, fevered minutes of oratory (the whole talk is worth listening too, but at least the first 4minutes..), and for me it captured all of the things we want our children to know from the moment we first hold them; the mistakes we know that they will have to make,  the things we know they won’t believe until they see for themselves … and most fundamentally of all, the one message that we hope above all to instill; that there’s someone in your corner no matter how tough it gets, and that your port in the storm will always be here. With us. Whatever life brings.

Enjoy.