A miscellany of happy things

Despite the greyish mizzle which has rendered our little corner of the world ferociously wet and windy at a time we were hoping for clear, bright skies and sprinkles of snow, we are a happy house this week.  We’ve been beginning the Christmas preparations and finishing some long-overdue DIY, including the decision of what to do with this piece of boat salvage which I stumbled across on ebay back in early Summer.  I fell in love with the layers of peeling paint and the uniqueness of it.  It’s a transom by the way; the end piece of an old navy boat which I bought very cheaply from someone selling bits and pieces of driftwood and maritime junk.  It weighs about as much as a baby elephant, as my long-suffering husband did not hesitate to point out as he dragged it home for me.

boat picture from ebay

Never ones for conventional interiors, we’ve opted to mount it here, in the kitchen, where in the two days it’s been up it’s drawn a range of reactions from ‘are you completely mad??” to ‘gorgeous!!’.  The handy builder who helped us baton it to the wall insisted on taking a photo home to show his wife who could not believe that someone would choose to do something so daft.  I suspect she is not alone in her view, but we think it’s rather cool….

boat final

I’ve also been busy making Harry’s nativity costume for his role as Joseph in the nursery nativity play next week; it’s amazing what you can do with a tea towel and a length of hessian… oh, and of course a Biblical staff made from a stick we borrowed from a friendly dog in the park. It promises to be a comical affair as well as a maternal tear-jerker; Mary towers over Joseph due to a recent growth spurt, and the inn-keeper at 2yrs old is already such a jovial and accommodating soul that I think it’s unlikely anyone will be turned away, regardless of the official plot line.  The children have been learning songs about which they have been sworn to secrecy, so for some time now Harry will distractedly break into song at home and then, realising his error, rear back and exclaim ‘SHHHHH!!!!!!” to himself before glancing suspiciously at us to see if we were listening.  It’s at moments like this I don’t want him to grow up at all, ever.

Joseph costume

Whilst all the signs are promising, I’m desperately  hoping that on the day he enjoys it somewhat more than last year, where the official photo reveals him to have been possibly the saddest teddy-bear in the chorus (tears still wet on his lashes; *gulp*)

teedy bear chorus

Did I tell you that Harry’s big Christmas present is to be a pretend play hardware store-come-garage?  Somewhere he can refuel his scooter, examine a stack of tyres, play with locks and keys and mull over buckets of tools and paints and generally do whatever it is that guys do when they manage to lose an entire afternoon doing man-things in places like this.  Progress is slow, but I’ve at least managed to knock-up a mini paint range for the store, using little baked bean cans with adulterated labels:

harrys paints

I’ve also been making my grown-up Christmas cards to accompany Harry’s reindeer ones; I raided my collection of upholstery fabric samples, set to them with pinking shears and created these simple Christmas trees, decorated with buttons and bells;

homemade christmas cards

And a few of these, made by threading old beads onto a piece of wire and twisting into a wreath shape before gluing in place.  The joyeaux noel embroidered tags I ordered years ago from a regular school name tag supplier and have used for just about every christmas craft under the sun since.

handmade cards

And finally, today I have a day off work and Harry ensconced in nursery in final rehearsals and so will be turning my hand to my biggest culinary challenge yet; making dessert for the eighty octogenarians who will attend my mother-in-law’s birthday party tomorrow.  It has to be something that can be safely transported for two hours in the car, will not inflame any known medical conditions, can be eaten with a plastic spoon and can be tackled by those with dentures. Ha!! No doubt Martha would take this in her stride with barely a moment’s pause, but after weeks of denial and prevarication I have decided on cake, jelly and trifle; it works for kids after all.  I have torn a recipe for a divine-sounding White Forest Trifle from a magazine (leaving behind the footnote which alludes the 951 calories per serving this provides).  Made from cherries in kirsch, mascarpone, custard and sponge, it sounds suitably decadent.  And if it looks a bit chaotic when I’m done, we can  blame that on the car journey and repent our sins later….

Have a great weekend.

Homemade Pinecone Firelighters

DIY Pinecone firelights

Log fires, blankets, mugs of hot chocolate, toasty warm socks… there’s something magical about this time of year. It’s been a misty, cold day here and we’re planning to light the first fire of the season tonight to celebrate the start of  the weekend and our hibernation from the winter weather.  In preparation I’ve made these pinecone firelighters, lightly scented with cinnamon and guaranteed to set the kindling alight with a pop and a crackle.

I’d seen similar firelighters in the ever-divine Cox and Cox catalogue, but they’re not cheap and we have fires every night, so I decided to have a go at making my own, using research, trial and error to work out a way of creating them simply at home.  My research uncovered scarily complicated instructions involving double-boilers, safety goggles, wick-trimming and dipping and general scientific sorcery… so I applied some lateral thinking and came up with a much simpler approach.  It’s very safe and quick, though perhaps the only downside of this is that you’re unlikely to need to attract your local Firemen for manly assistance.

You’ll need:

  • A pocketful of pine cones
  • Pack of tea-lights or small candles; I used IKEA’s gorgeous white Fenomen ones.
  • Cupcake cases, slightly larger than your pine cones
  • Optional candle scent; cinnamon, pine, cranberry and sandalwood are all divine.

Firstly, gather all your pine cones.  Size doesn’t matter here, but give them a quick brush to remove dust and bits of forest-floor debris.  Pinecones which are tightly closed will open once exposed to the warm, so you may want to store them inside for a week before using.

When you’re ready to ‘cook’, line a cupcake tin with cases and place one of your tea lights or candles into each.  Make sure you remove the little metal cases if using tea lights, and tweak the wicks so that they are standing upright and proud of the wax; it’s much easier than fishing for them later.  Place in a moderate oven and keep checking until the wax melts and resembles water.  At this point you can add a drop of candle scent to each, or simply leave plain.

Once the wax has melted, move the wicks gently to one side of the case, using tweezers (or with your best pointy fingers; remember that some people claim to quite enjoy being covered in hot wax…hmmm).  This will ensure that the wicks don’t get lost underneath the cones.

Then simply place a pinecone into each case; the wax will rise around it and hold it firmly in place as it sets.

When the wax has cooled and set, lift the cases out of the pans and peel away the cupcake case, revealing your firelighters in all of their glory…

These also look very pretty when left in their cases; I’ll be tying a bundle of these (below) up in cellophane bags or small burlap sacks to take as gifts for those we visit during the festive season (though I’ll probably check that they have an open fireplace first…).


And now the light is fading, the kettle is on, and we’re almost all home; have a wonderful weekend whatever you’re doing!

*Update*; a few people have asked via email or comments how these work; to use these firelighters, simply place them at the base of your fire and arrange kindling over the top before lighting the wick; the wax ensures that the pinecone will catch light and burn for long enough to ignite the kindling and create a real blaze; at that point you can add bigger logs and settle back for an evening watching the flames.  Here’s how ours turned out this evening;


We are not alone… (Fairy Doors)

Strange noises have been heard in our house of late.  Scratching and skittering from behind the panelling, often at night.  Things are also going missing; tiny things, like single earrings, and crumbs from the floor. My husband, ever the pragmatist, is convinced that we have mice.  Whilst he headed off to the rodent-control section of the hardware store yesterday, Harry and I stumbled across the truth, and it’s much more exciting; We Are Not Alone!

Almost invisible to grown-ups, camouflaged against the kitchen skirting boards, is a very tiny front door.  To adults it looks just like a plug socket from a distance, but to eagle-eyed little people it is immediately obvious that this is the entrance to the home of the Other People who share our house.  And look; as if more proof was needed; they even receive mail and milk deliveries!

So now we watch this door very carefully, from the corner of our eye, just in case we manage to catch someone coming or going.  We’ve found that the best thing to do is to be very still and to pretend to be absorbed in something else entirely.  Whilst we wait, Harry has led an exhaustive search of the house to see if there are any other signs of our neighbours, and lo and behold; we found another door!!  Occasionally when Harry comes down in the mornings there is a tiny plastic ladder nearby; we think they borrow it from his toy box and use it to scramble up the skirting to reach the door.

Harry is convinced that this front door belongs to all the little action-figures which by day are jammed into his toybox; at night, they obviously retire home to a warm – if tiny – bed, shortly after Harry wends his own weary way upstairs.  As a lifelong fan of Mary Norton, I think that we have Borrowers, and have been telling Harry all about them.  In due course I expect we’ll also discover that this is the doorway that Santa’s tiny elves use on Christmas Eve when they slip in to check that the coast is clear for the Big Man himself.  The tooth fairy, too, probably makes a cameo appearance via this very same entrance.  In the years to come, doubtless Harry will forget this wee door and it will fade into obscurity again.  Till maybe one day, years from now, someone small enough and attentive enough will discover it once more…

This is the lovely site which inspired me to create the presence of tiny neighbours in our own house.  I ordered a couple of inexpensive, non-opening dolls house doors online (‘proper’ doors have deep frames which make it difficult to affix them to skirting unless you actually go the lengths of channelling them in – only for the truly dedicated), then spray painted them and added some miniature door furniture.  I crafted tiny letters and tied them together with bakers twine; interestingly, it’s these that Harry has been most captivated by and saw as the ultimate proof of life.  The doors are attached to our skirting boards with double-sided tape; strong enough to withstand Harry knocking on the door and tugging the knob, but easy enough to remove if necessary, with perhaps just a dab of touch-up paint if needed.

And finally, for those who want the instructions in an all-in-one Pinnable tutorial, here’s a montage below;

Flea Market Foraging

I had a magical day last week when the rest of the world was at work and Harry was in nursery and I could pack up the car and head to the coast at Brighton for a few hours of mooching around vintage markets and architectural antiques barns – heaven.  Brighton has a very unique vibe and is a mecca for artists, craftspeople and alternative lifestyles; you’d struggle to find a McDonalds but if you’re looking for a vegan, gluten-free falafel with wheatgrass juice you’ll be spoilt for choice. The Lanes near the seafront is a twisty, windy area stuffed with one-off shops and galleries, and some very cool homeware stores.  I bravely resisted the urge to burn my credit card until I came to a huge and rambling vintage shop called Snoopers Paradise which hosts lots of different antique and second-hand dealers.  I set myself a max. budget of £70 ($110) and here’s what ended up coming home with me…

This vintage flag cost just a few pounds and I bought it thinking it would be great in the garden for future boy-activities like the building of camps and adventure games; perhaps it would mark home vs enemy territory, be hung from the top of a play castle or be waved triumphantly as the victory pendant of the winning side… but now I’m very taken with it where it is, dangling from a stair rail in my office; we’ll just have to fight over it later.

The sea-green tin trunk weighs hardly anything (though it didn’t feel like it by the time I’d manhandled it to the car…), and would make a great blanket box for the end of a bed.  I’m thinking of the smallest bedroom at the top of our house, which has a hideaway feel to it, and is a cosy, calming space.  It’s next on our project list for redecoration and this chest will probably be the basis for the colour palette I use.  I thought about stencilling letters on it, but the more I look at it the more I’m inclined to leave it alone; all views on this welcome!

This old printers tray (above) would originally have held fonts for typesetting, and will make great quirky storage.  I can’t decide whether to wall-mount it in Harry’s playroom to store the ever-increasing number of small character figures he is accumulating, and which are forever getting lost down the sofa / in pockets / in the car never to be seen again…

…Or whether to use it as flat tray storage for my miscellany of embellishments, findings, glitters and magpie-like collections, per below.

Finally, one last small purchase was this dusty old pocket book guide to birds eggs, from the time when it was perfectly acceptable to spend weekends rummaging around in birds nests and collecting eggs to bring home and label.  I’m thinking I will use some of the beautiful tonal watercolour plates for future Easter cards and home decorations, or maybe simply create a miniature framed collection to hang on the wall.

I only get to do this about twice  year (which is just as well, given the amount of eclectic junk I drag home each time…), but it’s one of the things I love, and definitely a case of the journey – the rummaging, speculating, pondering and pouncing – being as much fun as the destination itself.

You’ve got mail!

As a child, especially during school holidays when life seemed to move a little slower and distractions were fewer, I would feverishly anticipate the arrival of the daily post.  At the rattling of the letterbox I would race, in the manner of a small eager dog (but with less drooling), to scoop up whatever lay on the mat, riffling through it eagerly.  I probably only received letters about 3 times a year (birthdays, Christmastime, and an annual Child Savings Account update), but that didn’t stop me anticipating the kind of ill-defined thrills that only mail could bring.  Possibly a national television network inviting me onto the Saturday night talent show, having scouted me covertly in the school play.  Or maybe the Cadbury’s Chocolate Company announcing I had been selected at random to test all their new products, would I mind?  It was a triumph of optimism over experience, but my enthusiasm didn’t dim for many years, lasting probably until around the time that the Student Loan Company began writing to me with some frequency about our longstanding and very one-sided relationship.

In a world where the daily post tends to simply bring brown envelopes and bills, with the loveliest messages and news often coming via Email, Harry and I have taken it upon ourselves this week to briefly reignite the joy of a letter, and have set about making a series of jolly envelope liners to slip inside otherwise plain envelopes, as a breakfast-time surprise to our unsuspecting relatives. It seemed like a fun accompaniment to the mailing of a periodic pack of family summer photos, but it also works really well for events where you’re making homemade invites or announcements – I’ve printed a couple of my favourite wedding photos to add to envelopes to send to Mr B. at some point (we do live together, I hasten to add; I shall have to leave them romantically on his pillow and hope that Harry doesn’t jump on them first…).  Ideas and simple tutorial below for making your own template.

Head-shots shout a real ‘hello!” when the envelope is opened, but busier pics too can look very effective, like this one of us sheltering from a classic English summer

This retro shot of Harry at 6 months discovering one of life’s great pleasures – food – is one of my all-time faves

Play around with envelope colour once you’ve chosen your photo; white envelopes frame photos well but brightly coloured tonal ones like this can make them look even more vibrant

These two liners (above and below) were made from simple b&w photocopies of our wedding photos, but still look good.  I edged the one above with washi tape (from Cavallini).  The one below will bring a tear to my husband’s eye upon opening; of laughter, that is, as he recalls dropping me moments after this shot was taken…

Making an envelope liner template:

Choose a sheet of thin perspex or vellum and lay it over the top of the envelope you want to use.  Draw around the outline of the envelope flap, about 1cm inside the flap itself (follow the lower line of the gummed edge for this; you want to leave this clear when you add your insert). Make sure the bottom edge of the perspex goes at least an inch below the bottom of the lowest point of the envelope (A), and then draw a dotted line where the edge of the envelope runs (B); this will be really useful when lining up your photos later and choosing where to position them.

Cut around the outside of your shape; voila, you now have a reusable template which you can position over photos.  Slip it inside your envelope to check it fits properly, then let’s begin!  Choose the photos you want to use, and make a rough printout first in draft or greyscale, to help with sizing.  Place your template over the top to work out what you’ll see when you crop and use the photo, and what details you’ll lose; I had a great photo of Harry eating an ice-cream, but the ice-cream itself was lost in the final crop and it just looked very peculiar.

Print out your final photo onto high-quality inkjet paper (don’t use photo paper; it will crack or fold badly when you seal the envelope shut), then place your template over, draw around it in pencil and cut out.  Slip into the envelope and apply use a gluestick to apply adhesive to the triangular section; stick it to the inner flap (you don’t need to stick the bottom half of the insert down; it’ll stay flat).  Score lightly across the fold and  ta-da!! you have a very cool envelope liner.  If you’re making lots of these, use a colour photocopier to make copies – the quality might be slightly less good but no-one’s going to notice that.  Now you just need to work out what you’re going to put in them…..

Reinvented artwork!

If there’s one thing toddlers can produce a lot of, it’s craft. Oh, and nappies, and broken nights and so on – but let’s stick with craft for now.  Most days, whether at nursery or home, Harry wields a paintbrush flamboyantly, producing a range of slightly sticky, partially recognisable masterpieces.  In the last month, we’ve made monkeys, Batman masks, easter chicks (we were a bit late with that one…) and neon flowers, as shown below.  As artist and his devoted mother, both Harry and I are very proud of these, but as they threaten to take over the house I’ve decided that action is called for, and have captured the best in a couple of simple projects which will mean we can clear some wall space and preserve them for a little while longer.

1. A Boxed Memory Game, or ‘Snap!’

Remember those memory games you played when you were really small where you had to take turns in flipping over cards until you found a pair?  For this one, I photographed a selection of Harry’s pictures and made two A7-sized copies of each, mounted the collection on card stock and decorated the backs of each to create a personalised memory game for Harry. A leftover box which had originally contained Christmas cards was the perfect container, so I added a picture of the full set on the front. Job done!  Detailed instructions at the bottom…

2. Thank-you Cards

For these, I photographed individual art projects and printed onto A5 matte photo paper (you could scan them rather than photo them if you prefer) to create flat correspondence cards to thank people on Harry’s behalf for birthday gifts, treats and general loveliness.  I then cropped the image and pasted it multiple times onto a .ppt slide in order to create a matching envelope liner. This works particularly well with black and white and bold primary colours – Harry’s batman mask worked a treat.

Making the memory game…


  • A selection of artwork
  • Camera / scanner
  • Paper (to print onto) and card stock (to mount images onto for sturdiness)
  • Pens, glitter or other embellishments to decorate the reverse of each card
  • A storage box; individual cereal boxes, large matchboxes and playing card boxes are all a good size for this.

Firstly, take a picture (or scan) each piece of artwork. Download to your PC and add words if you want to; I chose to add alphabet tags, thinking that one day we may have a full set.  Then print off your images in duplicate; I arranged them in a contact sheet format and printed a large single sheet, but it doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as they’re the same size…

Cut up the individual images and mount on cardstock; they’re going to get a lot of wear and tear!

And finally decorate the reverse of each card – given the amount of time they spend face down in this game, it’s worth spending as much effort on the back as the front! I used monogram ‘h’ letters for Harry, and continued this theme on the front of the box…

We had a lot of fun with this! To play the memory game with very young children like Harry, turn over a single card each and keep it turned up; take it in turns to turn another one over until you find the pair; at this stage it’s more about recognition and being the first to scream ‘SNAP!!’.  When kids get a bit older, you can play it more traditionally, turning the cards back over every time and relying on memory.

Now I’ve got Harry’s artwork stored on my PC, there are lots of other options for display… what do you do with yours? All ideas very welcome!


The first challenge with Fathers Day is actually remembering it.  Not because dads are any less important than mums, but because they are far less likely to leave helpful reminders such as a heavily ringed date on the calendar, a sighing exclamation of how lovely homemade gifts are to receive or a general sense of giddy anticipation as the day approaches. Women may be predictable in this regard, but at least it can’t be said that we don’t give our menfolk enough hints.

Fortunately this year Harry and I are on the ball and making preparations.  A little trail of glitter weaves its way throughout the house as Harry gradually sheds the evidence of our endeavours, in a scene reminiscent of The Great Escape. Any attempts of secrecy and concealment have already been compromised by my accomplice however, who cheerily woke his father this morning with the triumphant cry of ‘Daddy! We are making a SECRET for you and it is a CARD!!’  And indeed it is…

Harry and I made this together by drawing round each of his hands, liberally applying glitter and cutting, pasting and printing.  This hug-in-a-card is thus something he’s had a very active role in making despite the limitations of being so young.  As my husband is an avid reader, we also made this photo bookmark (below) with some of the cheekiest pictures of H to make him smile at bedtime. So now we just need to wait until Sunday so we can tell him what a truly awesome father (and husband) he is.  Now, any volunteers to help with this glitter clear-up?  Harry??

How we made the ‘Hug’ concertina card….

Draw around your child’s hands and cut out (1); spray lightly with adhesive and then cover liberally with glitter (2).  Make a concertina insert by folding a long piece of paper (3) and glue to each hand, then decorate the inside, using words, photos or drawings. I printed some text in powerpoint and used a mixture of this and gift wrap. Lightly spray the hands with hairspray to fix the glitter, then fold up and slip in a pretty envelope (4).  As an afterthought, I glued cocktail stick ‘flags’ to the inside fold with hearts on, then forced myself to stop accessorising and put the gluestick down..

How we made the bookmark…

Very simple this one; I chose the best pics of Harry I could find then arranged them together and overlaid a simple clip art frame of reel-to-reel – I found this free using google. Print, cut out and mount on giftwrap-covered card.  I added an eyelet and threaded through some ribbon, then glued a wooden star to the bottom, but the possibilities for decorating these are endless.

The Playroom Safari

Harry’s now at the age where hand puppets are becoming interesting; they can bring stories to life, steal food from his plate (who knew that giraffes are partial to bananas, or that crocodiles lose all sense of decorum when faced with a square of toast?). They can whisper secrets furrily into one’s ear, and seem to Harry to occupy a realm somewhere between make-believe and reality.

We’ve amassed a small safari of animals over the last couple of years, including this incredibly lifelike rabbit below (‘it looks like roadkill‘ shuddered my husband, as I whipped the admittedly rather squashed bunny out of my suitcase after a recent business trip).  The trouble is that like all soft toys they tend to get buried at the bottom of the toy box and discovered only by chance, usually looking somewhat crumpled and adorned with lost Cheerios and ancient stickers.

The solution; to mount them on the playroom wall, hunting-lodge style.  Each animal has been carefully (if not very imaginatively) christened and allocated a position, and now our very own safari surveys the playroom and its members are regularly invited down for play.  It’s perhaps the only habitat in which you will see crocodiles, giraffes and elephants co-existing in such harmony…far more harmony than a bunch of toddlers, that’s for sure.

How to make these: After experimenting with various poles and mounts, I discovered these papier-mâché hands (1) which duly fill the puppet heads to max effect when glued to a piece of MDF (2) –  strong cardboard would work just fine. Glue together, paint white all over with a soft bristled brush (3), allow to dry and then drill a small hole before mounting on the wall with pins or nails (6).  I added these name tags (4), made from wood offcuts and blackboard paint and strung loosely over the hands.

Laundry? Life’s too short…

There’s nothing like a weekend of torrential rain and domestic chores to make one’s mind turn to glittery, sparkly things; to cocktails and flighty behaviour and all things fun. Given that kitten heels and Cosmopolitans would be a tad inappropriate at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, let alone hindered somewhat by a toddler and localised flooding (unrelated, those last two, for once…), H and I have been making our own fun, combining clothespins, glitter and glue to messy creative effect. Here’s the grown-up edit of alternative uses; Harry’s showcase to follow in due course.

1. Nailing ribbon to an old picture frame and using sparkly clothespins to attach personal mementos, which include here my husband’s marriage proposal (we don’t only communicate in writing, I hasten to add), a favourite wedding photo and a cherished note from a friend.

2. Adding a salvaged tap end to a clothespin to hide a message to Mr B inside his suit carrier before a business trip (always good to have something to look forward to..)

And as a creative alternative to stand-up place cards for dinner…

These are so simple they don’t warrant a tutorial; we found that double-sided tape is the easiest way of attaching coloured scraps of paper, glitter and ribbon to clothespins for all sorts of fun, but glue would work just fine.  2yr olds are ideal for the decadent and flamboyant distribution of glitter; we will be sparkling lightly all week, and the entire house has taken on a lovely sheen.  Using glitter in tonal shades works great for items like the pegboard; primary colours and vibrant patterns add a zing to refrigerator doors when a magnet is attached to the back.  And if you really want to be purist and use them for laundry, they make great ‘Lonely Sock’ pegs when hung in a row on the laundry room wall….

Open for Business!

Napoleon once famously declared Britain to be ‘a nation of shopkeepers’, unfit to go to war with France (this was shortly before his defeat at Waterloo, ahem).  In the centuries since, this throwaway Gallic insult has become something of a source of national pride, with the village shop being the heart and soul of any local community and a fiercely defended institution.

Avid followers of this blog (thank you both) will know that Harry is a big fan of The Shops, unhindered as most 2yr olds are by the notion that one must pay hard cash for the magical goods contained within. His original cardboard box play shop sadly collapsed this past weekend, after months of cavalier treatment from children and grown-ups alike (what is it about very small spaces that makes adults determined to wedge themselves into them?), so I’ve been finishing a more robust version below, which we are proud to open here today for all your daily provisions.  The prices are of course outrageous, as Harry is saving up for a new fire engine; an apple will set you back about a week’s wages, but it will taste very good, I can promise you. Tips, process steps and a few close-ups of our wares below.

As with Harry’s play kitchen, I found this dresser top / hutch on ebay for around £15, and set about sanding, priming and painting it.  This involved poking the odd woodworm in the eye with a sharp stick, but otherwise was fairly painless.

I mixed up food boxes and packaging with various bits of plastic play food that we already had to produce a rather odd – let’s say eclectic – mix of produce to sell. The wooden trays are the lids of some ikea storage boxes, with home-printed labels for decoration. Stripy paper bags are filled with dried pasta, and some paper triangles glued to ribbon make for a festive bunting to mark the Grand Opening…

This bell was a junk-shop find with an astonishingly loud clang (note to self; check this next time before cheerfully purchasing…).  Harry’s cooking apron doubles as a store-owners uniform, and Japanese paper tape accessorises the shelf-fronts. Wooden drawers act as a till for cash, and fake fruit abounds wherever you look.  We are having a Dali-esque issue with scale, as you’ll see; strawberries are the size of eggs, and pears have a decidedly GM look to them, casting a shadow over smaller produce; such are the results when you acquire play food from a number of sources over a number of years…

And finally of course, our shop sign; it had to be French (sorry, Napoleon…). Now, what can we tempt you with today?

The Lost Art of Letters

As a child I was completely obsessed by beautiful stationery. The dark, furry space under my bed reserved for Special Things To Be Kept Safe From My Brothers was stuffed with papery treasures given to me at birthdays and Christmases, but which I deemed far too precious to use; gift sets of paper and envelopes, 5-year diaries in which my most important thoughts would be captured for posterity, and so forth.  I would regularly take these out and admire them but rarely actually used them, lest they run out.  Or, in the case of the diaries, in case my thoughts turned out to be not quite important enough after all.  A hopeless case, as you’ll agree…

Now, as a mostly-grown-up, I love making stationery to use myself and to give as gifts, and with a printer and a cupboard full of paper to hand, I’m less inclined to stockpile.  As a parent, I also want Harry to be able to say a proper ‘thank you’ for presents and the kind of general loveliness that frequently arrives from relatives and Godparents. So when the Easter Bunny delivered big time, bringing not only chocolate but also, awe-inspiringly, a fire engine, I made him these cards to send out as thank-yous.  Big enough for a crayon scribble on the front from H, and small enough for a brief but heartfelt thank you from me, they do the trick nicely, and also make him keen to join in the fun…

Even for younger children and babies, it’s nice to have something personal; I made cards like these for a friend’s daughter on her first birthday, both to make her mother’s life easier and to give something a little different to the norm.  Tips and notes for both projects below, for those interested in giving this a whirl….

Here’s what I used for the two projects above:

1. craft edging punch for the ‘Amelie’ paper; this one from Martha Stewart 2. A selection of A5 coloured, textured card – Papermania does great packs in different sizes. 3. soft bristled brush for removing loose glitter 4. coloured triangle cut freehand from scraps of card 5. Glitter – any type will do, though Martha again has a great range 6. Glue pen (for precision) and craft knife, and finally 7. Paper tape – not shown in these projects but great for accessorising home-made notecards and paper.

Making the Monogram Cards:

1. Choose your letters and colour combinations.  I used a die-cutting machine for these but you can buy pre-cuts shapes in craft shops and on Ebay, or simply draw and cut out freehand. 2. draw a half-circle for your bunting; I used a glass cloche so I could see both sides of the line. 3. Add your bunting triangles alternating colour; use a glue pen for neatness. 4. Find a toddler and scribble away!

For the faux-letterpress Nursery Notelets:

1. Print out your chosen wording onto an A5 sheet, centring on the page. 2. Measure and cut your card to fit the size of your chosen envelope 3. Use an edging punch to carefully decorate the top edge (this is MS’s Birds on a Wire, from Amazon) 4. Carefully glue one of the birds and sprinkle liberally with glitter before brushing off. 5. Admire. Decide these are too pretty to use. Store carefully under the bed and accidentally forget about them.

After all this careful snipping and sticking and sighing at how zen and restful such crafting can be, especially when one’s son and husband are exhausting themselves with much shrieking on the new trampoline, I decided I wanted to make some of these for myself (below).  The final version of course has my address, but I thought that might just be over-sharing, so here’s the website instead..