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Merry Christmas!

Mistletoe from KatesCreativeSpace

Christmas is nearly here at last, and it’s time to retreat into the warm, unplug the computer and batten down the hatches for some uninterrupted family time and festive cheer. (I say warm; our ancient boiler has this morning decided to break down in a loud puff of festive exhaustion, so we are wrapped en famille in scarves and hats in bed, it being just two degrees outside; the British Gas man will be greeted with the same feverish anticipation that children everywhere are saving for Santa Claus…)
Before I sign off though, a huge and heartfelt ‘thank you’ to all of you who have followed the blog over this year; for your comments, feedback, ideas and suggestions, which have created a wonderful community and have been a source of great inspiration and energy. Your reactions to some of the crafts I’ve posted have been amazing to receive, and whilst I tend not to wade into the comments sections and thank each and every one of you, times like now are the perfect opportunity to do so, and to tell you how much it means to me; particularly those of you who do so week after week, and who share your own stories and news – it’s wonderful.

I took the decision early this year not to seek any publicity for the blog or to host advertising, so it continues as a very personal, low-key hobby. The result is that those who come here tend to stumble across it or hear by word of mouth and that, for me, is perfect; thank you to those who continue to come back each week, and a warm ‘hello’ if you’re a new reader.

As the year draws to a close, may I wish you a very, very Merry Christmas.  May your New Year bring you everything you wish for, and I’ll see you again in January; a couple of pounds heavier no doubt, but re-energised and inspired again for another year of making!

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Printable North Pole Telegram

NORTH POLE TELEGRAM

On Christmas Eve, Harry will come down to breakfast to find a telegram from the North Pole wedged in the hearth, delivered by elf post from the big man himself.  ’Flying over tonight’ it says, together with instructions for how Harry should prepare…

North Pole Telegram in the Grate

We’re lucky enough to have a huge fireplace right next to the breakfast table, so I imagine it will catch Harry’s eye over the Cheerios and build the (already high) anticipation!

North Pole Telegram in the Hearth

I designed this based on pictures of old British and US telegrams, and then used the Traveling Typewriter font which you can download free here for the text. If you want to print and adapt one of these for the little people in your own life, I’ve added printable versions below; this first one just needs you to add the child’s name;

North Pole telegram 2013

And for the second one, I’ve left it blank so that you can add whatever text you like to customise.

Blank North Pole telegram 2013

When you’ve printed it, you can mount on cardstock (red would look lovely), or simply use pinking shears for a decorative postal edge.  If you don’t have a hearth, the doormat would be a perfect alternative…

Enjoy!

Kate x

North Pole telegram 2013

Blank North Pole telegram 2013

Home for the Holidays

With just six Big Sleeps ’til Christmas, anticipation is running high in our household. We flung open our doors last Sunday to family and friends, and this for us marked the start of the festivities (and compelled us to complete the holiday decor!).  We have a couple more days of work to get through, but the house at least is ready and adorned; today let me give you a quick tour in lieu of being able to actually invite you over for a glass of mulled wine…

Holiday house Christmas bike

Remember this delivery bike from Easter?  I’ve decked it out for Christmas, using an old fruit crate which I sprayed black, tucking in a faux Christmas tree draped in inexpensive, hardy baubles.  A simple wreath is tied to the basket frame, and I used one of these paper placemats mounted on card stock to make the welcoming holiday sign.  I wired a stock of old red lightbulbs (a car-boot sale find) and draped them over the frame, before clipping on an IKEA lantern at the back.  I bought of stash of these and have used them liberally throughout the house this year, following the Anthropologie adage that anything used in excess can look quite cool…  The bike sits outside in the lane when we’re expecting guests; rain permitting, of course.

In the hallway, an old sledge carries enticing looking parcels, which are actually old cardboard boxes wrapped in wall-lining paper and tied with ribbon.  I’ve borrowed the reindeer skin from our bathroom to add more Nordic style.  The sledge is lit by a paper tree, which I’ve hung with parcels of magic reindeer food (last year’s recipe is here), and which are given to small visitors when they leave.

Holiday House Entryway

Holiday House Reindeer Food

The Fir lady from last week is now complete and has taken up residence in a quiet corner of the kitchen, where she is shown to best advantage and unlikely to get underfoot;

Fir Lady

More parcels and lanterns add to the festive effect…

Fir Lady for Christmas

The biggest Christmas display is in our long and open hallway which runs the length of the house; I wanted something that would catch your eye as you walk in, but also look interesting as you come down the stairs, or glimpse it through the kitchen doorway.  It’s on the main thoroughfare to the bathroom, so tends to stop people in their tracks as they pause to examine the various bits and pieces….

Holiday house Christmas hallway

Let’s start at the bottom; I placed a large trunk on top of our hall table, then filled a picnic hamper with straw and tucked in two festive geese, which in previous years have been left to totter along landings at Christmas, or have perched on shelves.  They look slightly curious or alarmed, as if they know they are heading for the oven; but it also has the effect of looking a little like a hot air balloon basket, which may give them cause for hope of escape..

Christmas Geese in a Basket

On top of the case is an old wooden ladder which is usually covered in paint and dust, but for now is hung with more interesting accents and decorations.  Tucked underneath is an old typewriter, with a couple of robins perched atop it, pecking at the keys;

Festive hallway display

And a carol is typed out, for those who peer closely enough…

Christmas typewriter

Arranged on the ladder are various natural decorations like twig balls and giant seed pods, into which I’ve placed baubles as if they’ve just burst open to reveal them;

Festive montage

…and remember the book folding post?  I’ve used a couple of the books I made to add another dimension to the display;

folded decorations I

folded decorations II

More garden bits and pieces are arranged on top of a zinc pedestal which normally lives on the patio, including a driftwood wreath and wooden stars;

Garden decorations for Christmas

And further down the table, an old vegetable crate is turned on its side on a stool to create a winter forest scene, using animals from Harry’s Ark and tiny bristle trees.

Crate nativity

A wicker basket is perched atop the ladder with a small tree trimmed with battery LED lights (we click it on in the evenings), and this is the view as you head down the stairs;

Holiday scene from the stairs

 

It’s a constantly evolving display as items are borrowed and replaced, or others are added; but it’s quirky and makes me smile.  In other rooms we have the Christmas tree as usual, and other, more traditional decor; this is just a taste of something a little different, to ring in the changes. I hope you enjoyed it too!

I’ll be back a couple more times before Christmas with last-minute cookie gifts, printable Santa telegrams and some wrapping ideas.  It’s ho ho ho all the way now I’m afraid; there’s no place for the Grinch here…

Kate x

Festive delivery bike

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…

The Little House at Christmastime

Did you have a lovely weekend? I hope so.  We began to gradually decorate the house for Christmas, starting – of course – with the Little House, which now has a wreath on the door and a generally festive air.  Now we just need snow like last year….

 

playhouse in the snow

For our own house, we wrestled home a gorgeous but hazardous blue spruce tree, which is steadily releasing an evocative, resiny smell throughout the house.  It is taking the sting (metaphorically if not literally) out of the myriad of small puncture wounds that dot my arms and hands from the fierce, spiky needles.  At least the needles won’t be a problem for long, if the huge drifts of them which have dropped to the floor overnight are anything to go by.

In more gentle domestic pursuits, I had a recent flurry of making and freezing batches of cookie dough ready for Christmas.  Harry and I mixed up bowls of oat and raisin drop cookie dough, sugar cookie dough and our very own gingerbread recipe.  The dough that we didn’t eat raw made it as far as the freezer, and we also gift-wrapped up a few packages to give to friends, tied with butchers twine and with festive cookie cutters attached.

christmas baking christmas gifts frozen cookie dough

We defrosted a batch this weekend to make some gingerbread men for Harry’s teachers and friends at school.  A Mr and Mrs Claus set first of all;

ginerbread santa and mrs claus

I used rolled red fondant for the suits, using the cookie cutter to stamp out the shape before trimming away the hands and feet.  Pearl sugar balls are glued in place with a dab of icing, then I used a bit more icing to mount them on sqaures of black card.  The boxes are from here, and are perfect for protecting the gingerbread whilst looking pretty at the same time.  I slipped each in a cellophane bag tied with ribbon, and Harry then cheerfully bumped and bashed them all the way along the path to school.  Incredibly, they survived.

DIY Christmas Gingerbread Gifts

We used the rest of our dough to stamp out minimen for each member of his class, using chocolate buttons to decorate and lengths of twine to fashion scarves.  A candy cane makes for a dapper accessory (I picture our minimen dancing the light fantastic on Broadway; they are not introverts, for sure).  Our recipe is at the bottom if you’re feeling the urge to bake; they are very moreish.

Homemade candy cane gingerbread men

In another burst of thrifty crafting, I used our leftover scraps of wrapping paper to make envelope liners for all the plain envelopes we have; they’re a great way of sprucing up the envelopes which come with store-bought cards and making them look a bit more interesting, or of making envelopes to house giftcards or Christmas letters – anything that you’re sending at this time of year.

christmas envelope liners

homemade festive envelope liners

You can use ready-made envelope liner templates for these, or cheat and do what I did; simply place a sheet of tracing or transparent paper over your envelope, draw around the area you want to cover, and use this as a template for cutting out your wrapping paper.  Secure in place with a dab of stick glue and you’re done; very professional and yet dead easy.  You can do the same with photos, which take a bit more skill but look even more gorgeous; here are some we made last year.

And now it’s back to the world of work and school, for a little bit longer at least, though the end of the year is in sight.  This week is a whirl of deadlines and meetings for me, and Nativity rehearsals for Harry who will be bearing Myrrh in a regal fashion to towards Bethlehem in the nursery school play.  Tissues at the ready.  I keep catching snippets of carols and songs being sung sotto voce by Harry in the bath or as he builds Lego; anticipation is mounting.

Finally thank you for all your lovely comments of late, which are so good to receive.  And welcome, if you’re new to these parts; have a look at the Gallery tab to navigate your way around.

Have a good week, whatever it holds in store.

Kate

 

Kate and Harry’s Gingerbread (apologies for those who work in ‘cups’; a conversion site should be able to help..)

  • 125g butter
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 100g light demerara sugar
  • 320g plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp ginger

Melt the butter, syrup and sugar together in a pan.  Sieve the dry ingredients together into a bowl.  Add the warm syrup to the flour mix, and stir well to form a dough.  Cool, cut and bake at 180 degrees for around 10mins, until the edges begin to brown.

This produces light, sweet gingerbread men with minimal spreading; it’s not the richer, plumper dough you find in Northern Europe, but is a milder taste which seems to appeal to small children and works well for shapes you want to decorate and which need to maintain definition.  Good luck!

 

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.

Magic.

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

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

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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

 

Wanderlust

I’m back… back! 

We had 10 amazing days travelling around New England, followed by a characteristically hectic return to school, work and the chaos real life, hence the prolonged and unusual quiet here on the blog.  In the days we were gone, the seasons definitively turned; frost is in the air, Christmas is in the shops and we seem to be racing towards December already.  At home we’re in the midst of our latest building project as we gradually restore and update the house, so plaster dust lightly adorns every surface, and more treasures are being discovered as we open up fireplaces and lift floorboards – but more on that next week.

Till then, a whistle-stop tour through the very best of our time in the US, guided by your fantastic suggestions of where to go and what to see.  We booked a car and the first night’s stay, but then plotted only a day or two ahead, going where the fancy took us.  Temperatures swung from 70-40 degrees, often from one day to the next, but the relentlessly blue skies and amazing colours compensated for the blasts of arctic chill.  We had a ball…

New England life ring

We began in Connecticut and caught the last of the brilliant fall colour; Harry took to diving into the giant leaf piles that were all around, and also discovered the joys of bagels and cream cheese, pancakes for breakfast and a myriad of other culinary delights.  We pottered through beautiful villages where all the porches were decorated for Halloween, and created the Pumpkin Watch game to see who could spot the most as we drove.

Leaf drifts in New England

New England in the Fall

Inspired by all this seasonal decoration, we tracked down a local farm and discovered pumpkin patches, tractor rides, hay-mazes and apple cider…

Pumpkin Picking

Apple Picking

Despite living on an island, we can never get enough of the sea, so regularly headed out to the coast to claim the deserted beaches as our own.  With the weather bright and breezy and local kids in school, we shared the sand and rocks only with friendly dogs and fishermen.

The Ocean at Newport

We spent two days near Newport, and spent hours hunting for beach treasures, walking the cliffs and running, running, running along the sand.  Again; hardly a soul around – it reminded me of Where the Wild Things Are as Harry raced along the seashore in his new bear hat; his own private kingdom, at least until the turn of the tide…

Ocean at Dawn

Beach treasures

Ten days of amazingly beautiful places and lovely people; ten days without a schedule or alarm clock or a need for early nights and military-level organisation – it was perfect, and came at just the right time for us to decompress.  We came home with hundreds of photos, wonderful memories and – remarkably, even now – a renewed sense of calm.  Also, alas, with a few extra pounds in weight.  Obviously all that beach running didn’t quite offset all the pancakes…

Have a wonderful weekend, whatever you’re doing.  We’re starting preparations for Harry’s 4th birthday in a couple of weeks, which inevitably will be pirate-themed (just what is it about little boys and pirates?!).

Kate x

Angel at dawn

Quick Tricks: Printing Onto Tape

Magic tape printing master

How are you… are you having a good week?  We are beyond excited as our New England trip looms; suitcases are packed and stand in the hall (somewhat prematurely, meaning we have to rummage in them daily for crucial things buried deep inside).  Harry is determined that his entire Lego collection should accompany us, along with his stuffed-animal menagerie, so every night under cover of darkness we stealthily unpack his backpack and try to lighten the load a little.  We cannot wait!  A quick craft therefore this week, squeezed in between frantic completion of work projects and endless small preparations and errands; I present to you the art of printing onto tape.

This may well be one of those crafts that divides readers into those who cry ‘Lawks! That’s genius! However did I live without this knowledge?’ and those who are frankly mystified as to how this could ever come in useful.  Have faith; read on.  I used Scotch magic tape, because I had it to hand, but coloured washi tape also works well and easy to print on and peel.  I decorated a box of inexpensive wooden pencils from here, and now have a pot of prettiness on my desk for those times when only graphite will do…

pencil on book

To print onto washi or satin tape (don’t try using high-glass tape like Sellotape; the ink won’t adhere and you will end up in a tangled, inky mess and blame me..), firstly print out your words onto a regular sheet of paper.  Check that the font size is right for the width of your tape, and then cover each line with the tape, as below.

printing on tape 1

Now run the sheet back through the printer, positioning it the same way as before so that it prints over the original text and – Ta-Da! – over the tape itself.  Wait for the ink to dry (don’t skip this step; adopt a yoga pose and think zen thoughts until you are sure it has dried).  Then gently peel the tape away, and position it onto your pencil (or envelope, or giftwrap, or whatever else you want to use it for).

tape printing 2

printing on tape 3
If you’re covering pencils like these, gently roll the tape around the sides and then press firmly into place.  I’ve gone for the understated, Muji-esque look, but blinging bright washi tape would be equally delicious.

printing on tape 4

Pencils on notebook

Printed Pencils

I used exactly the same technique to print a sheet of tape strips to use on the back of envelopes to help them stand out from the dreary bills and other junk mail that arrives each day;

Washi tape Printing

So there, as promised, a lightening quick technique to use whenever the fancy takes you….

DIY printed pencils

I’ll see you soon!

Kate

The eyes have it…

eyes in green

Well.. suggestive biscuits, hiccup trucks, typing on the pewticka and a visit to the Balistica in Venice – our kids (and the occasional grown-up…)  have a much better lexicon than we do.  Some brilliant comments in response to Monday’s post; here’s another one to distract you from all the important and useful things you have planned for today (but we can at least justify it as being an intellectually highbrow diversion; read on).

Research published in the journal Science this week established a connection between the reading of literary fiction and our ability to intuit expressions and understand the emotions of others.  And not only do they seem to have better emotional intelligence than others, they also apply it, resulting in enhanced empathy and social skills.  In a crude and unsound scientific algorythm, this might be represented as those who tackle Tolstoy & DeLillo for fun = nicer people.  Alas, there doesn’t appear to be the same correlation with the kind of trashy novels we recline with on the beach (the researchers gingerly used a Rosamunde Pilcher novel as the ‘control arm’ in this experiment, just to check).  The hypothesis is that because writers of true literary fiction tend to be sparing in their description of what’s going on in the minds of their characters, readers are required to fill in the gaps and make leaps of understanding and assumptions about what they are thinking and feeling.

But never mind the science, let’s get to the fun part.  A quiz; yay.  Click here and interpret each of the expressions, with a maximum of 36 to be scored.  The normal range is 22-30; if you get below that there could be a number of valid reasons including a) a complete failure to concentrate or b) a lifestyle where you only tend to encounter people who look Aghast or Anxious, thereby skewing your ability to detect other emotions.  Actually, I made that up.  I got 33/36 and am disproportionately proud, but also a little deflated as it means I have to return to doing all of the domestic things I was supposed to be doing today.

Oh, and then when you’ve done it, ask the man in your life to do the same; mine got considerably less, to his great surprise.  ’I got all the female expressions right, though’, he said, in some sort of naive attempt to rationalise the score.  I put it to him that this might be down to a life spent studying women; he wisely chose dignified silence as a response.

Give it a go, and let me know how you do…

More crafts next week, once we get off this psycho-analysis excursion (it’s fun though, isn’t it?)

 

Psycholinguistic evolution. Or: why pre-schoolers are wonderful.

memory jar

image via here

We were driving around in circles the other day, Harry and I; lost on the way to the house of a new friend from school.  ’Oh Mummy’ sighed Harry, ‘We should have asked the CatNap how to get there’.

Such linguistic slip-ups are one of the great delights of  these wonder years as Harry masters the art of language, and each time I struggle with the urge to leave them uncorrected in the hope that they  somehow get preserved forever in all of their magic.  Many are logical and smile-inducing; a plate of buzz-ghetti is a favourite food (apparently this switching of sounds is very common, along with the usual mixing up of plurals and tenses).  Others are more mysterious in origin; add parmesan to your spaghetti and you now have a plate of ‘Pasta with Damage’ – another keen favourite, though none of us can understand where the damage bit comes from.

The first voyages into empathy are also touching and occasionally comedic; when one of his classmates was tearful at the prospect of school last week, Harry leaned over to her and stage-whispered ‘It’s ok; they won’t make you have hair-washes here’ – hair washing, for him, being the most scary and distasteful thing he could imagine and therefore the obvious cause of her anxiety.

It’s hard not to laugh when these things pop out, but fortunately Harry is remarkably affable and good-humoured about causing mild hilarity. ‘I’m a funny guy’, he beams, chuckling, before testing out the correction and making a mental note for next time.  And I usually do correct, because the social perils of ignoring minor speech errors loom large in my mind; I still remember vividly the heated prickle of embarrassment of breakfast after a friend’s sleepover in my teenage years when I asked for a bowl of muesli – pronounced ‘mursley’ in our household, where such things had only been read on the packet and never heard spoken aloud.  The stunned silence around the table, and the sniggering of her younger brother before someone ventured ‘do you mean moo-sley, dear?’ almost ruined my 14th year (I was a very melodramatic teenager).  I blame my parents.  Still.

Ages ago my mum urged me to scribble some of Harry’s sayings down before they got lost in the hurly-burly of time passing and the white noise of growing up.  I harboured vague intentions for way too long, never quite settling on the right way of doing it – the right notebook to scribble them into; the right way of recording them – and thus losing countless gems in the process.  Then a couple of weeks ago I  read Joan Didion’s memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, in which she recounts how her late husband used to keep a jar on his desk filled with bits of paper capturing the sayings of their young daughter, which he then occasionally recycled into the mouths of characters in his books.

So simple, yet so obvious.  Write them down, stick them in a jar.  Fill up the jar.

Pause at odd sentimental moments and go find the jar; sift through, smiling and remembering.  Allow yourself to become a bit misty-eyed.  Sign a poignant sigh and then get a grip.

That’s my plan anyway.  And my jar is in fact an old teapot, which sits majestically on a shelf above the kitchen sink, and is now rustling with very important scraps of paper.

I added the most recent one this morning, after we stepped through the door into a classically autumnal world of swirling mist and fog.  ’Look, Mummy!’ exclaimed Harry; ‘there’s Sky Dust everywhere!’.

A perfect world of buzzghetti, CatNaps and sky dust; long may it remain so…

Buzzghetti

 

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