crafts

The Scrap-Fabric Table Runner

DIY Fabric Table Runner

This is a story that began with a dress.  This dress. I bought it a couple of years ago, and it was beautiful, and hung just right, until I discovered – belatedly – that it had HUGE pockets.  And once my hands found these pockets, I couldn’t seem to stop filling them with things, until one day I realised that the dress looked less like a tailored silk sheath and more like a tent that I was using as cover to smuggle contraband goods.  The perfect dress for petty theft, perhaps, but not quite the elegant look I was aiming for.

So I took the pockets out and removed the problem.  They were so beautiful that I couldn’t throw them away; I kept them in my fabric drawer along with leftover bits and pieces of material from all kinds of projects.  On a rainy Sunday last month, I finally dug them out and began sorting and sifting through other pieces to see what might complement the colours.

I found a large square of turquoise cotton, unpicked the pockets to form four identical shapes, and then backed them with iron-on fusible paper before mounting on the fabric.  Sort of like a set of balancing bowls, or mussel shells;

silk pockets cut open and used for a fabric collage

Then I layered other colours against it and picked out a few in silver, navy and duck-egg shades.  I cut them into slices, vaguely but not precisely measuring each to ensure a kind of symmetry.  Then backed them together; pinning and stitching, pinning and stitching;

making a table runner

Until it began to look like this!

Making a scrap fabric table runner

The edges remained imprecise for a long time; when I had the final length I wanted I trimmed them down to an even length and marked a 1″ seam for folding in.

fabric scrap table runner

With the runner nearly 3m long by now, I did have to buy more fabric to back it; I chose a heavyish, velvety curtain fabric that gives weight to the runner and ensures it doesn’t slip and slide around.  As with Harry’s baby-clothes quilt, my workmanship on the sewing does not bear close scrutiny, and my seams are rambling and a little slapdash. But still, I am left with an almost stained-glass like creation that looks good on the table, and equally good draped over the end of the bed.  A shorter length would make a lovely, vibrant evening wrap – for this one though you’d need the shoulders of a line-backer to carry it off with aplomb…

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Have a wonderful week!

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Festive Stained-Glass Luminary Cards

Luminary Bauble Cards

Hello! Are you feeling festive yet?  We’ve had a Christmassy weekend, hunting down the perfect tree (I love the smell of resin and fir; even the myriad of inevitable small needle puncture-wounds that track my hands and arms are worth it…) and crunching through nearby fields of frost. Yesterday afternoon we lit a fire and retreated indoors, and made batches of these tissue-paper luminaries, which look beautiful on their own and even better with small battery t-lights placed behind them…

Tissue paper bauble holiday cards

We made Christmas trees, baubles and stained glass windows; once you get the hang of the glue and the tissue (it’s a messy sport, but a lovely one), they are deliciously simple, whilst looking like they have taken great mastery and hours of dedication.  Perfect.

DIY Stained Glass tissue paper cards

To make these you’ll need…

  • Cardstock for the cards
  • Tissue paper in different colours
  • Shaped punches or a craft knife to cut out your shapes
  • Tracing paper or vellum to layer your ‘stained glass’ onto
  • Glue and scissors
  • Christmas CD, glass of mulled wine (optional; but hey, why not?)

We started by punching out the circle shape from our cardstock..

Stained glass cards step 1

Then, take the circle shape and place a square of tracing paper or vellum over it, taping it into place.  Cover it with glue from a gluestick (less messy and more forgiving than runnier white glue).  Cut strips of your tissue paper and place them in uneven, overlapping layers of the shape;

Stained glass cards step 2

Repeat as many times as you like, and then draw a circle around the edge of your shape, slightly larger than the shape itself (this makes for a much neater silhouette when you stick it in the card ‘window’, especially when you’re using a t-light with it and having a lot of light shine through)…

Stained glass cards step 3

Take your original cut-out card and add a tin line of glue around the inside of the circle shape, and then press the tissue-bauble into place, with the tracing-paper side facing inwards, like so (below).  Cut a freehand shape for the top of the bauble; we used gold card but any colour will do;

Stained glass cards step 4

Fold into half and trim if needed.

Ta-da!!

Stained glass bauble cards

Stained glass christmas bauble cards

The christmas tree cards are made in exactly the same way, though are a bit more complex – I cut out a triangle shape, punched a star above and then used this hole punch (a favourite tool) to punch random holes around the tree to simulate fairy lights.  Don’t invest in one unless you’re a regular crafter; just use the point of a compass to poke holes through (carefully, of course…)

Christmas tree stained glass effect cards

Christmas tree tissue cards

Then place a battery light behind each one to make them glow;

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Package each card up in an envelope with a battery t-light attached (best to save this for hand-delivered cards) – I bought a bulk pack of these and they’re fantastic.

Final step?  Walk away from the scene of devastation you have created.  Tell yourself that it will look better when you return.  Take a bath instead.

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Channelling Icarus, and a week in pictures…

Icarus wings master

You can imagine the moment when Icarus, full of hubris and exhilaration as he sailed above Crete with his home-made wings, began to question the wisdom of using wax.  Perhaps when the first rays of the sun warmed his back and he began to feel an alarming softening of his wingspan….  the rest, as they say, is history.  Or myth, more accurately.

If only Icarus had enjoyed access to poster board and lolly sticks, we reckon it might have been a very different story.  Lighter, less smelly than wax and feathers, and surprisingly resilient even when you get stuck in a doorway when trying to launch yourself outside, these are proving a winner in our household this week.

Harry has recently developed a passion for flight, in no small part due to discovering How to Train Your Dragon, and also the cast of Lego Ninjago – his new heroes.  ’Mummy, can we make me some wings please that I can wear?’  well sure, let’s try, said I.  ’Great!  They need to ping out when I press a button and fold away when I click and they should be big enough to fly, ok?’  Ummm, no.

Still, we did OK.  I quite fancy a pair of these myself, and am trying to invent / discover a party that I can justifiably wear these to…

Icarus wings for littles

I used poster board (foam board), and hand-drew a wing shape before cutting it out with a craft knife (I used plates to get clean half-circle shapes around the edges).  Wooden lolly sticks glued in lines gave the appearance of a wing frame, and then I used ordinary paper fasteners and scraps of faux leather to make handles and to join the two wings together.  If you fancy having a go, gather the materials below  - I’ve also made a proper template which you can download and photocopy to the size you want it.  If you’re in need of detailed instructions, just let me know!

You’ll need:

  • Two sheets of foam board or cardboard
  • A pile of wooden lolly sticks
  • Paper fasteners
  • Glue (all-purpose or hot glue).
  • Scraps of cardboard, faux leather or foam to make the handles and connector piece
  • Braid (optional)

Icarus Wing Template

wing template

How to make Icarus Wings

Making Icarus Wings

In other news this week, the fair came to town!

A traditional steam fair comes to the Village Green of a town near us each Autumn, for a weekend of bumper-cars, helter-skelter rides, coconut shies and old-fashioned fun.  Crowds come from all of the surrounding villages and it’s a lovely event.  Harry wore his aviator goggles throughout, although we persuaded him to leave his wings at home.

The Steam Fair

I’m trying to enjoy every last minute of Autumn, as we gather blackberries and pine cones and count-down the days until we can light the wood-burning stove and find that we are once again racing the sun at each end of the day; to school and work before it rises, home again before it finally sets.  Already the stores are turning to Christmas, and festive displays are filling the windows.  Part of me is horrified, and part of me slows and lingers, I confess.

I’ve been doodling on scraps of watercolour paper and thinking through ideas for Christmas cards (whisper it – I know it’s so long away..).  Happy polar bears, perhaps, once I get the proportions right and add a few festive accents..

polar bear sketching

On Sunday, we focused firmly on the present and had a weekend tea party in glorious late-season sunshine for Harry’s godparents; a lovely change to a more traditional lunchtime get together, and a delicious excuse for cake-making…. I made the universal favourite chocolate biscuit cake, which apparently was served at William and Kate’s royal wedding (we add raisins, cherries and decoration to ours; we love a bit of overkill!)…

Royal Biscuit Cake

And also experimented with mini banoffee pies in flower pots, topped with grated chocolate to look like soil…

Plantpot Banoffee Pies

And finally Harry and I made a raspberry and lemon bundt cake, which has become a family favourite and proves irresistible to even the most virtuous and health-conscious guest..

The cake thief

 

And talking of cake, it’s time to sign off, as I must ensure I’m in position on the sofa, glass of wine in hand in time for the final, climactic episode of The Great British Bake-Off; we don’t watch much TV but this has become my weekly guilty pleasure; with just three bakers left and some pretty daunting challenges ahead, I’ll be gripped.

Have a great rest of the week!

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Hey Mr Postman!

DIY Embossed Monogram Stationery Master

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

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

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

DIY Embossed Monogram Cards Step by Step

Like this….

Embossed motifs

Embossed Monogram Writing set

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

Embossed Monogram Envelopes

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

DIY Envelopes

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

DIY Monogram Embossed Stationery

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

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

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

Have a great weekend when it comes!

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3 Last-Minute Easter Crafts

Welcome back! Easter is nearly upon us, so three quick projects this week in case you’re in need of inspiration and feeling crafty.  Our long Easter weekend begins tonight and stretches luxuriantly until Tuesday – four days of uninterrupted family time and the promise of occasional sunshine; it’s certainly good enough for me.

Firstly, some simple but pretty paper hares I made by printing copies of this free-to-download colouring page and using the hare as a template to cut shapes from gift wrap to make these place cards for our Easter lunch table…

Easter Bunny Placecard

I printed out different sizes of the page and then positioned the hare against the paper to make the most interesting patterns and designs before cutting out.  To reinforce the paper I glued it to a sheet of card stock first; you’ll only need to do this if you want your hares to be freestanding.  I then snipped off the ears and reconnected them using a butterfly clip so that they can be waggled up and down and repositioned…

Easter bunny templates

And finally, inspired by this beautiful Matthew mead table setting I added a sprig of apple blossom  for a tail;

Bunny place card

You could use the hares to mount on cards or hang as gift tags, or even just as a beautiful bookmark; a myriad of uses!

The second craft really is a five-minute job (hurrah); using old eggshells to make hanging vases which can be strung on spring branches.  I took a handful of eggshells, washed them out and left to dry and then taped thread to the inside of each (Scotchguard invisible gift wrap tape works well as it has a matte finish).

How to make eggshell hanging vases

Eggshell hanging vases

Don’t try and make these if you’re feeling cross; you will smash your way through them all.  Sip a glass of wine, think zen thoughts and the eggshells will prove surprisingly resilient and tough.  Trust me.  Once complete, they can be filled with spring blooms for an elegant grown-up look (but don’t try filling them with water; a risk too far I think)..

Apple blossom in eggshell vase

Or Easter chicks and hens if you’re in the mood…

Eggshell hanging vases with chicks

And finally we’ve been preparing for Easter itself by creating gift packages for grandparents and Harry’s friends, who will be coming over the weekend for a garden egg hunt and plenty of games and a seasonal sugar-rush.

Homemade Easter Gift for Gardeners

Regular followers will know that every year we have a sunflower race, so this week we packaged up supermarket seeds into vellum envelopes, added a picture on the front (from last year’s race), and sealed with tape measure washi tape from here;

DIy Sunflower Seed Gift Packets

I then wrapped simple easter eggs ( the 5 for £5 supermarket variety) in cellophane and tied with ribbon before placing in flowerpots with a pack of seeds.  The mint green pot above is a Skurar pot from Ikea, and will appeal to our adult recipients.  For Harry’s friends we found a stack of brightly coloured pots and saucers at the Pound Shop and will do the same…

Easter Party Gift Eggs

And with that I will leave you in order to pace out the garden in the gathering dusk, in an advance mission to locate cunning nooks and crannies in which to secrete this year’s bounty of eggs and surprises.  This might be the first year that there is a danger of them melting rather than freezing, though I’m sure our tribe of hawk-eyed 4yr olds will recover them before there is any serious risk of that..

Have a wonderful Easter weekend wherever you are and whatever you’re doing; here’s wishing you sunshine and relaxation!

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ps More Easter ideas from the archive here and here, and a lesson in nest-building here

Spring Projects (and Amsterdam!)

Magnolia stems

An unusual – and excitable – midweek post as I’ll be headed off to Amsterdam shortly – I can’t wait!  We’re planning on seeing some of the famous museums, taking a canal cruise, walking through the old town and window shopping our way through the De Negen Straatjes (nine streets) district of boutiques and artisan shops.  More next week, with pictures galore no doubt.  In the meantime, a few more of our springtime projects… like CRESS!  One of my first ever posts was about growing cress-men, and we still love the magic of scattering seeds and seeing them sprout almost overnight…

homegrown cress

The garden has swung into bloom, with a myriad of beautiful blush-pink magnolia trees (pictured top), and sweeps of daffodils dotted around the lawn.  Harry’s been busy gathering them up, and learning through trial and error the right pressure-point needed to ensure that they are picked but not brutally beheaded; fortunate that we have so many…

Picking garden daffodils

Grandma came to stay so we filled a vase for her bedside and added a photo to show the source of the effort; with demonstrating provenance so fashionable these days, we thought we’d illustrate the very short journey from plot to pot…

Vase of flowers with photo

I also made a couple of mantlepiece concertina photo books of recent family photos to send to relatives; tutorial from last year can be found here if you want to have a go (so simple, yet they look as if you’ve slaved over them for weeks; very satisfactory…)

Spring photobook

Spring photobook close-up

And finally a couple of work-in-progress peeks into future crafty projects about the house.  Firstly, the kitchen mannequin who we adorned with fir branches and baubles at Christmastime, and who is now gathering a gradual cloak of spring branches and blooms.  I tweak her practically every morning and add or remove bits and pieces; she’ll be finished before Easter weekend and I’ll show you the result…

Spring mannequin

And continuing with my passion for paper-cutting, I’ve been making March hares to use in cards and as gift tags… templates and ideas to follow when I’ve worked out what I’m going to do with them.

march hare papercuts

Have a great rest-of-the-week!

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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

 

 

Weekending: Home Harvest

Planted Wellies

Are you having a lovely weekend?  I hope so.  It’s been 48hrs of sunshine and woodsmoke here; the epitome of seasons on the turn and the kind of weather that has you itching to be outside, sleeves rolled up, doing nature-y things.  We planted up an out-grown pair of wellies with vibrant autumnal chrysanthemums, and they now stand proudly outside the door to The Little House.  I lined them with plastic beforehand so that they can be worn again by the feet of smaller cousins in due course, but for now they will be perky sentries at the playhouse door until first frosts arrive.

We bought a new gadget and immediately tore off the packaging and set to work; a telescopic apple picker which makes light work of plucking the biggest and juiciest apples from the top of our ancient apple tree.  A family production-line ensued, with Harry-the-fearless given the task of checking for bug holes and nasties, whilst I cagily packed the safe ones into plastic plant-pot trays salvaged from our local garden centre.  Wrapped in newspaper beds and stored deep in the cellar, I’m dreaming of endless apple crumbles and pies through the winter.

The Apple Harvest

Walking to our local coffee shop for sustenance, we stumbled across this beautiful tree; the only one on a footpath of green which was beginning to turn.  It turned our thoughts to New England and our eagerly-awaited trip (not long now..).  After admiring it, we stuffed our pockets with fallen leaves, and inspired by this picture, had a go at making leaf table confetti with craft punches from my art cupboard.  (The leaves still look lovely at home, but it’s funny how nothing quite compares to seeing them outdoors – I can’t wait for Vermont).

Fall Leaf Table Confetti

Our hedges are full of rosehips, and I filled a trug with them, mostly just so that we could put them in a bowl and admire them.  My brother mentioned that you can cook with them (“I think they taste like cranberries”), so I searched briefly online for recipes, most of which cautioned gravely about the need to remove all seeds from them to avoid ‘significant gastric disturbance’ and ‘problems of the bowel’.  Hmmm.  As a fairly slap-dash cook this was warning enough, so instead I trimmed them and tumbled them into a vase for a welcome splash of colour.

Hedgerow Foraging

Rosehips

If you thought rosehips in vases were a little surreal, then may I introduce you to my tomato hat;

Tomato Hat

Around this time every year my friend Lou holds an Annual Tomato Festival, which is essentially an excuse for an evening of alcohol-fuelled, competitive merry-making under the guise of a genteel event.  Categories this year included Most Oddly Shaped Tomato, Best Wine to Drink with Tomatoes, and The Crafty Tomato, as well as the more conventional Best Tomato Dish.  Last year’s category of Most Adventurous Tomato was won by a cherry tomato which found itself tied to a sky lantern and set on fire, and was last seen floating over the Thames.  On safety grounds, the category was rested for 2013.

My hat was made with ping-pong balls, red spray paint and the tops of real tomatoes, and that is probably detail enough; I don’t think it could be classed as a mainstream crafting project, after all.  I won a Highly Commended certificate, and as a consolation prize was invited to judge the food, which of course meant tasting every dish.  Delicious, but not without consequence; 24 tomato-based dishes represent a culinary marathon rather than a sprint.  I write this evening cresting on a wave of mild acidic discontent, with  - whisper it – a distinct hangover.

Tomato festival

Good times…

Have a great week!

Kate

 

 

 

Feast Days and Homecomings

Feast Days

Hello again!  It’s been a rollercoaster couple of weeks here, with my day-job taking me away on extended travels to India followed by heady reunions back home (things to remember always; the ‘welcome back mummy!’ signs tied to trees and gates all along our lane…).  I’ve spent the last few days playing catch-up, so this weekend was a chance to kick-back and relax with friends, hosting at home.  My best friend just scored a fantastic new job, so we took the opportunity to celebrate.  It was my favourite kind of meal; a small group of the loveliest of people, with a touch of style but no airs and graces, and the kind of menu that doesn’t suffer unduly if (umm, when) the wine flows too freely…

Preparation is everything, so Harry and I made a batch of parmesan and cracked black pepper oatcakes to go with cheese at the end of the evening.  I used this recipe which early readers of my blog will remember, and added a cupful of grated parmesan and a liberal dash of black pepper to the dough; they taste delicious and yet are extraordinarily simple…

Parmesan and Black Pepper Oatcakes

My other make-ahead element was individual heart-shaped Tartes au Citron, using ready-made pastry for speed.  Blind-bake your pastry and then beat together 5 eggs, 150ml double (heavy) cream, 150g caster sugar and the juice of 3 lemons, plus the zest of one lemon.  Pour into the case and bake for around 30mins if you’re making a single large tart or 15 mins for individual ones; this quantity will make you one large tart or 6 smaller ones.  I dusted with icing sugar and added fresh raspberries, serving with the leftover cream.

tarte au citron with raspberries

Asparagus is everywhere right now, enjoying its short but intense season.. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to use it, so served up a generous handful, steamed until just tender and topped with a poached egg and crumbled, grilled pancetta.  It’s a divine combination but definitely a make-in-the-moment dish; choose friends who will happily perch at chairs whilst you cook, topping up your glass and ignoring any eggshells you drop. Friends who can also be trusted not to eat all your crispy pancetta when your back is turned as you plate up the rest…

asparagus and pancetta

For the main course I grilled rustic lamp-burgers in ciabatta rolls on wooden chopping boards like these, topped with goats cheese, fig jam and served with a generous portion of oven-baked parmesan fries, from a recipe found here; you can almost convince yourself they’re healthy, though they tasted good enough to feel sinful.

To add a little style to the table I spritzed the tips of a handful of white feathers with spray glue and poured platinum glitter over them, before shaking off; they caught the light and sparkled subtly all evening; a 5 minute project which definitely punches above its weight.  (If feathers are your thing by the way, have a look at Pinterest, where they are definitely having a moment; craft projects for headdresses, garlands and gift-tags abound…)

glitter tipped feathers

glitter feathers

Our eclectic recent weather has done wonders for the garden, so I braved the rain to gather a handful of vibrant peonies for a dash of colour;

fresh peonies

And a final party trick; freezing slices of lemon leftover from the tarts into a cupcake tray to form over-sized colourful discs of ice to float in pitchers of water on the table.  Once frozen, I pop any excess discs out of the trays and store bagged up in the freezer for next time.  Smaller fruits like summer berries work beautifully when frozen in regular ice cube trays in the same way.

lemon slices in cupcake trays

Preparations done, it was time to celebrate;  homecomings and new jobs, friendships and feast days.  It’s a holiday weekend here in our small corner of the world, as I know it is for friends across the ocean; I hope that the sun is shining for you, and that summer feels close at hand…

champagne

Back next week for more crafts, and an update on the Great Sunflower Race (yay; we’re back in the game!); let me know how yours are doing if you’re growing them too…

Kate

A signal to the skies!

magic reindeer food december

It was with trembling hands and bated breath that I opened the travel-worn vellum envelope postmarked the North Pole….Yes!! I had been sent the top-secret recipe for Magic Reindeer Food; the scent and sparkle of which can be seen from the skies as Rudolf and his friends wend their weary way around the world on Christmas Eve.  If you want to be sure of a visit from the great man himself during Christmas night, then catching the eye of his reindeer can only help increase the chances, especially if – like me – you have not managed to be good quite all of the time this year….  The lovely Mrs Claus is a fortunately a forgiving and generous soul, and has shared the recipe with me on condition that I share it only with you, and that none of us tell Mr Claus.

I’ve included two options for making these; a use-it-and-keep-it drawstring bag that will be a small labour of love for your own children, grandchildren or those very special young believers in your life, and a simple paper bag version for mass production for school Christmas fairs or parties (below)

In her letter, Mrs Claus explains that – somewhat surprisingly – Rudolph, Dancer and chums have a particular soft spot for sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds, preferably all mixed up together.  In short; birdseed mix.  Who knew??  Add a dash of sparkling glitter and they are in heaven.  Or more importantly; in your back garden, quick as a shot.  I used a conventional birdseed mix and Martha’s tinsel glitter, which has bigger flecks.  I’m assured that should any birds or wildlife get to your sparkly reindeer food ahead of Rudolph, the glitter will pass harmlessly through them or be ignored altogether.

glitter and birdseed

For the special sack itself, which I will give to Harry at dusk on Christmas Eve, I used a simple bouquet garni sack (sold in packs quite cheaply at foodie shops), and rethreaded it with red thread, to which I tied a pair of festive jingle bells.  I added a label – PDF attached below  - and glued it to a scrap of leather before stitching in place.

reindeer food sack

I stealthily borrowed a little wooden scoop from Harry’s play shop and hey-presto! his reindeer food looks like it might just have been sent special delivery from the North Pole itself.



To mass produce these as I’ve done for Harry’s nursery party, I simply stuck labels on mini paper bag, added (sealed!) baggies of reindeer food and clipped shut with a little silver peg.  The printable below has a sheet of the labels I created for these, so do download and have a go if you’re making these in quantity.

reindeer food templates

Now onto other festive preparations and a couple of websites for you to check out; these may be familiar, but if – like me – you’re still relatively new to the world of doing-Christmas-for-children, then they might be a source of new delight… At PortableNorthPole you can get Santa to record a (free!) video message for your child, which is beautifully done and awesomely real.  Harry received his last night (via email), and was astonished to discover that Santa knew not only exactly where he lived and what he wanted for Christmas, but also that he had been asked to try really hard to remember to brush his teeth before bedtime and that he was doing – mostly – very well.  You can upload photos and lots of details and if you haven’t done this, I urge you to click and explore – we love it.  I should add that it’s not just for kids; I sent one last year to a girlfriend, who witnessed Santa opening his special book to find a compromising photo of her, post-Tequila slammers, and received a sorrowful warning from him that she had better stop being naughty if she wanted a visit this year.  So, fun for all…

Finally, one to bookmark for Christmas Eve is NORAD – the multi-langauge site of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which tracks Santa’s progress through the skies on 24th December.  There is nothing more exciting than going to bed knowing that Father Christmas is due to enter the skies above your bedroom in approximately 3hrs and 42 minutes…

We’re creating kitchen chaos this week with some homemade gifts and festive projects – more news later this week!

Magic Reindeer Food Printables

Tea with a twist



Sometimes the simplest projects are the most fun, and these are certainly simple. When we have people to dinner, the evening inevitably draws to a close with coffee – for the hardened souls who can sleep despite any amount of caffeine – and herbal teas, for those of a healthier disposition.  I have a range of lovely different fruit and herbal teas, but all are pretty uninspiring to look at, especially when served bag-in… so here’s a way of pimping your teabags to raise a smile! I raided my stash of beads and charms, and simply replaced the original paper tags with something a little more interesting.  Ideas below…

Lovebird tea? Use a simple mini heart peg and tie the teabag string to the clip. These pegs came in a pack of about 20 for £1.50 / $2.

These neon rubber beads are a good accompaniment to zingy fruit teas…

How about making a set of these to tie onto Christmas tea as a gift – I’ll be enlisting Harry to help with punching these and choosing the colours as a simple homemade gift for relatives later in the year.

I used whatever I had to hand – it’s fun experimenting, and you don’t need a full ‘set’ of matching tags.  For the charms you’d be sorry to see go, just make sure you serve them at home – then you can craftily snip them off when washing up and start all over again…