diy

How to Capture a Kiss…

A Kiss in a Box

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

Kiss in a Box DIY

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

How to Capture a Kiss Kit

DIY Matchbox Covers from katescreativespace

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

A kiss in a Pocket

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

mothers day breakfast

Have a great weekend!

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DIY Matchbox Covers from katescreativespace

Hey Mr Postman!

DIY Embossed Monogram Stationery Master

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

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

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

DIY Embossed Monogram Cards Step by Step

Like this….

Embossed motifs

Embossed Monogram Writing set

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

Embossed Monogram Envelopes

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

DIY Envelopes

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

DIY Monogram Embossed Stationery

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

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

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

Have a great weekend when it comes!

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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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How to get your 7-a-day of Fruit & Veg.

Paper Fruit from katescreativespace

This week the British government announced that we should each be eating at least 7 portions of fruit and veg every day for optimal health and longevity.  Apparently, the raisins in a fruit & nut chocolate bar don’t count, and nor, really, do the dried banana chips I carry around in my bag.  To bolster our household fruit supplies, I have ingeniously resorted to Pinterest and the beautiful DIY fruit bowl templates created for the wonderful Mr Printables site here.  They may not be strictly edible, but they’re certainly very decorative – and great fun to make.

DIY Paper Fruit


When I stumble across lovely things like this which catch my eye I tend to download them and then save them for rainy nights in; this week gave us a couple, so Harry and I did some scissor-practice and wielded our glue sticks to great success.  The fruit are described as toys, though they’re not really resilient enough for any kind of hard-loving or action play; ours simply sit on the mantelpiece looking cheerful and decorative.  I printed them out as supersize templates (download them and print at 150% if your printer can cope with A3; or blow them up at a copy shop).  This makes them larger than life and much easier to fold and stick, especially for little fingers.  A great project for the Easter holidays, or for grown-ups (this particular craft project  was mainly for me, I confess…).  You see them here on Harry’s play kitchen scales and picnic basket – each piece of fruit is about 15-20cm in height.

Paper Fruit Picnic Basket

They are so tactile and colourful; if Harry was younger I’d be tempted to string these into a mobile or a garland for his bedroom (which we’re doing-up currently; more on that soon).  A lovely ornament for a nursery perhaps; out of reach of curious, uncoordinated hands but perfect for capturing attention and imagination.

Tempting paper Fruit


Before I go and rearrange my virtual fruit bowl, thank you SO much for the lovely comments on last week’s post; I’m delighted that the rabbit drawing/download has been useful and inspired a good few projects -it’s always a joy to hear when something has worked and been used in other creations.  Easter preparations continue here, albeit amongst the frenzy of work & deadlines, and a new backdrop of mists and frost.  More pics and news from the home front next week.

Have a good week, wherever you are and whatever you’re upto.

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Fantasies of Heat and Dust

Homemade leather travel journals

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

Berber man

Map of Marrakech

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

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

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

Handmade travel journal

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

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Dream House Renovation: The Snug

Room Makeover Master

Regular readers of this blog will know that we are gradually restoring a beautiful yet crumbling Georgian house, one room at a time as budget allows.  So far we’ve managed some grand transformations and repurposing of spaces.  This time, it was a more cosmetic makeover needed, on one of the smallest and yet most important rooms in the house; The Snug.  Here’s how it looked before;

Room Makeover before main shot

And now;

Snug in sunlight

The snug – or the ‘Cinema Room’ as it was optimistically called by the estate agents who showed us round as prospective purchasers – is sandwiched between other rooms in the middle of the house, and has little natural light.  It’s a peculiar shape and has innumerable quirks and oddities, and yet somehow, it manages to be the place that we all gravitate towards.  Our house is on a hillside, so rooms at the rear like the snug have lowish ceilings, compared to rooms like the kitchen and bedrooms/bathrooms at the front of the house which measure almost 4 metres from floor to ceiling.

We decided early on not to attempt to add ceiling lighting but instead to celebrate the cosiness of the room and rely on wall and surface lighting to create atmosphere and corners for reading.  This lamp below is actually wired through the window frame into the next room (a conservatory) to avoid cabling trailing down the wall.

Room Makeover 5

A contemporary yet organic tripod lamp creates enough light for reading at each end of the two sofas…

Room Makeover 6

Room Maekover 6

Our only real structural change was to replace the fireplace, which had housed a faulty gas fire and a very elaborate surround which had been added at some point in the last few decades, and then painted flesh pink;

Room Makeover before shot

We had the chimney converted to fit a wood burning stove, and added a simple yet substantial stone surround, which creates a focal point for the room;

Snug lieft side

Room Makeover 7

Room Makeover 8

(I should mention here that we’re not using the stove at the moment due to unseasonably mild weather, hence the decorative logs stacked up the sides – inadvisable for wood-burners in use which get hot to the touch).

You’ll see that we kept the original dado rail, but added faux panelling under it to tie the room together and add a sense of lightness; it glows when the morning light filters in through the conservatory, and acts as a good contrast to the deeper grey-green on the walls above.  And besides, the salmon pink accent colour Just. Had. To. Go.

Snug panelling

In one of the darkest corners we hung an old French window repurposed with mirror glass, which helps to bounce the weak light around and maximise it; we also house our Christmas tree in this alcove  in December, and the mirror sends the lights glittering back into the room.

Room Makeover 10

I should pause for a moment to navigate you, as you’ll see above another window set high into the wall; that looks through into the playroom (seen here au naturel, just so you know that we don’t live in this zen-like state most of the time..);

Room Makeover 4

..And you reach both rooms by heading through from the kitchen/diner, which gives a lovely open-plan feel to the ground floor and works great for parties, where everyone can cheerfully flow from one room to the next, treading breadsticks into the carpet and shrieking with delight when they discover the presence of Lego (always the non-parents; for those of us with kids the thrill is long gone).

Navigation

One of the wonderful things about the Snug is that it seemed to absorb all of the furniture we brought with us and require nothing new; the sofas were originally bought for our last house, and were just deep-treated with stain-guard when Harry arrived (it’s working so far, touch wood).  The travertine coffee and lamp tables were the sole survivors from my husband’s bachelor pad, and even this console table survived; it’s an IKEA Malm table, given a coat of olive paint to tie it in.  Under it sits a wicker chest, hiding Harry’s giant dumper truck collection and a vast collection of unsightly but much-loved stuff.

Room makeover 3

As if there weren’t enough doors already, this one (below) leads into the hall, creating confusion and mild alarm in guests as you exit through one door to fetch a drink and suddenly reappear through another, magician-like.

Room makeover 2

This one is even more fun; it simply houses cables, DVDs, routers and all other tech paraphernalia.  Helping to extricate tipsy friends who thought it was the way to the bathroom has become a regular occurence.

Hidden door

The dado is deeper along the back wall, creating a lovely shelf on which to house photos, vases, stars and family memorabilia in a constantly changing arrangement.  The radiator is cast iron by the way, as are the huge pillars in the bay; apparently they were added in the 1930s when the house was briefly used as a film studio; it’s had a very eclectic cast of owners of the centuries, and each has left a unique calling card.

Snug corner

So you can see why we love the snug, and why most of the hours from dusk till bedtime are spent curled up en famille on the sofas, or racing cars on the coffee table.  It has held 32 people, memorably, at a festive gathering when everyone cheerfully squashed up together and forgave each others elbows – but equally, it is the perfect, perfect size for 3.

If you’ve seen anything you like or are curious about, here’s a rough crib-sheet of the colours and pieces we used;

Snug mood board

  1. Farrow and Ball paint in White Tie (woodwork)
  2. ..and Manor House Grey Estate Emulsion (walls above dado)
  3. EASIPanel self-adhesive faux MDF panelling, available from DIY stores
  4. Our wooden tripod lamp came from M&S and is no longer available, but BHS in the UK has a similar one, as does John Lewis
  5. The Malm console table from IKEA comes in red and white; we gave ours a facelift with regular emulsion paint
  6. Coffee table in travertine stone – try eBay for companies selling these
  7. Portland chesterfield sofa from M&S
  8. Alhambra fire surround from Chesneys, who also supplied the wood-burning stove.

room makeover 1

Have a great week, whatever you’re up to – and make the most the lingering few hours of the weekend (we’ll be curled up with the Sunday papers in the snug..!)

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Let there be bright!

Winter Brights to lift the gloom

It’s been a week where the world at large seems to have been beset by wild and extreme weather, from the deep freeze in the US to the wet and windy ravages across Europe and unpredictable swings of temperature in the Antipodes; few places seem to have escaped.  Our corner of the world is flooded, with water levels rising.  We are fortunately ensconced at the very top of a hill, Noah style, so are quite literally high and dry – for now.  With the general gloom and January grey, I’ve been trying this week to add colour and new life to our home, to encourage thoughts of Spring.  First, an unruly bunch of tulips escaping from an old watering can;

tulips in watering can

Tulips

I trimmed a couple of leftover flowers and tucked them into a folded book on the mantle, having wrapped the stems in soaked kitchen roll; so far they have looked perky and beautiful for 3 days, which is longer than I expected;

tulips in book pages

The most lasting display will be in the kitchen, where I have repurposed our old decorating ladder as a stand for a myriad of Spring bulbs and winter flowers.  Hellebores, hycacinths and snowdrops jostle for space on the treads and lean towards the weak light which manages to flood through the window each morning.  I took this first photo (below) last weekend, and have been gradually overlaying shots as the buds burst into bloom, inspired by David Hockney’s photo montages;

Spring bulbs on a ladder

Hockney style flowers on a ladder

The hyacinths are on the cusp of flowering and the scent is delicious, mixing with the woodsmoke from the hearth;

hyacinths blooming

Back in the depths of November, I planted individual hyacinths bulbs into teacups and individual casserole dishes, and am enjoying them dotted about the house, like this one in my office;

Spring hyacinth adding a pop of colour

 

I’m not naturally green-fingered at all, but one ambition this year is to convert an old and disused conservatory at the side of our house into a place to grow flowers, fruit and vegetables over the year.  A good use for these long winter evenings is to sit, glass of wine and pencil in hand, flicking through seed catalogues and marking out the most beautiful and interesting blooms and crops.  These mouse melons are on my list, just because they are so unique and pretty, and as we live on strawberries and tomatoes through the summer months, I’m sifting through varieties of those too.  For the gardeners amongst you, what would you suggest an amateur with sporadic attention should sow in a conservatory?  Space is plentiful, but colour, interesting plants and lovely scents will all increase the chances of Harry and I remembering to feed, water and prune…  All ideas welcome!

Have a wonderful weekend, and may the weather be kind to you wherever you are.

Kate

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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Messy play: DIY Button Christmas Cards

Button Christmas Card DIY

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

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

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

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

holiday crafting

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

crafting for the holidays

Add more glue.

christmas crafts

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

DIy snowflake christmas cards

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

button christmas tree cards

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

DIY button cards and lined envelopes

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

DIY holiday cards for kids

 

homemade Christmas cards

 

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

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The Dream House Restoration: Heading upstairs…

French armchair in bathroom

Those of you who have been following for a while will know that we are slowly restoring and updating an ancient, crumbling yet beautiful Georgian house in England; working our way as quickly as inspiration and budget will allow (very slowly, in the case of the latter).  It’s a battle against the elements; even as one coat of paint dries in a room, a strange and ominous water stain will seep through the ceiling of another.   A sense of intimacy is created quickly with new guests who soon realise that every toilet flush clangs and reverberates around the house for a good 10 minutes; there are no secrets here.  The house will be something of a life’s work, and is frustrating and wonderful – often in equal measure.  We moved here two years ago this Christmas, and have so far tackled much of the downstairs; the kitchen, playroom and hallway have all appeared here on the blog.

Our next project was the overhaul of our bedroom and its en suite bathroom.  We moved out of it more than two months ago for a job that we thought would take two weeks… we (and our builders) should definitely have known better by now!  Having been camping out in the spare room since September, we finally reclaimed our own bed yesterday, with great relief and general giddiness.  As we put the finishing touches to our bedroom, here’s a peek at the bathroom, which we’ve completely overhauled.  I’ve interspersed the before and after pictures so that you get a sense of the layout and evolution.

Let’s start view into the bathroom from our bedroom before;

old bathroom 1

And after…

view from bedroom into bathroom

The bathroom had a very strange false step buried beneath dark green carpet (seen below), which was presumably crafted as a way of improving drainage at some point in the 70s or 80s.  It had to go; beyond being a complete hazard in the middle of the night, it also reduced the floor space significantly.  Oh, and the drainage thing obviously didn’t work; our en suite had no actual toilet; for that you needed to head down the corridor.

old bathroom step

We took out the step, removed half of the wall-to-wall cupboards (which the step had been cut into, making them look a bit odd), and stripped out the old shower, replacing it with a hidden-cistern WC instead.  An old armchair has been moved from the spare bedroom and has quickly settled into the corner here instead.  Underfloor heating warms the new travertine stone which we laid instead of the carpet.

new bathroom left view

new bathroom left corner

We think that the room is likely to have originally been a nursery bedroom, and contains a chimney breast (boxed in behind the sinks) and alcoves.  The alcove to the right of the sinks used to house a built-in wardrobe, but one which we seldom used, being in a bathroom and far away from our other storage.  It also had a weird half-wall which further bisected the space, and which we took down.

old bathroom cupboard

We replaced it with a huge walk-in shower…

bathroom shower

For the main sink area, we stripped out the old, stained green marble top and inset basins, and chipped off the tiles to reveal the chimney breast and fireplace; incredibly, it hadn’t been boarded up so also contained several fossilised birds (eek!) and  - more interestingly – a time capsule from the previous owners, and a newspaper that was more than 50 years old.  I’ll share that in a future post; it makes for wonderful reading.  After properly stabilising the chimney breast and wall, we had it re-plastered and tiled before choosing simple washbowl sinks with inset taps.  The eagle-eyed will recognise that they are now mounted on our former hall table; we thought it would look beautiful in the space, so after sealing the wooden surface we asked our joiner to plumb the washbowls through it.

vanity unit

washbowl

For aesthetically-pleasing storage of the things we use all the time, we found these poured-concrete planters at our local garden centre (a bargain at £15), which easily hold bits and bobs like hairbrushes, toothpaste and so forth.  Hand towels are stored in the vintage dough bowl which again you may recognise from our apple-picking and other adventures – so much of this bathroom is recycled from other parts of the house.

concrete planter dough bowl bathroom storage

An old French milking stool (a flea market find last year) acts as a stand for shower essentials;

milking stool

‘That’s all very well’, I hear you cry; ‘but where do you store all your un-beautiful bathroom products, hmm?’  I can imagine you saying it, because that was exactly my husband’s question when I described to him my vision for a bathroom with nothing in it (or near as dammit).  Well.  Not that I am going to confess to owning anything unsavoury like haemorrhoid cream, waxing supplies, dandruff shampoo etc, but IF I did, they would surely all be housed in the magnificently huge cupboards we retained and which hide all manner of sins.  Believe me, it’s like the episode of Friends where Monica’s secret closet full of junk is discovered.

bathroom wardrobes

We’ve only been able to use the bathroom for 24hrs so far, so we’re still pondering where to place things and wall decor.  We’ve moved a huge picture up from downstairs which we love and are living with to see how it all works together.  We’re hoping that we’ll be able to turn the old cupboard doors from the units we removed into window shutters, by stripping them and adding hinges to produce period, fold-back shutters…we shall see.

There are gremlins and small irritations, of course; the limitations of ancient plumbing and old houses means we have had to site the heated towel rail on the opposite side of the room to the sink, for example.  We knew that we would have to plan this room somewhat on the fly, as we wouldn’t know what was underneath and behind the old bathroom until everything had been stripped away.  All told though, we are very, very happy – not least because we’ll have no more midnight sprints along a cold corridor to the bathroom, stubbing toes and shivering as we go.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the colours we chose and fittings we used, for any bathroom fetishists or if you’re about to start a similar project yourself…

Now, time for a shower.  Only my third today; the thrill of the new, eh?

Kate

Bathroom Sourcebook