handmade christmas cards

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.

Hand & Footprint Reindeer Cards

A little midweek creative fun for you if you have little people around (or just a very large sheet of paper if using your own hands and feet; well, why not?).  Harry and I like making homemade Christmas cards, but unless you make them all in one long afternoon, it’s an activity you have to start early and do in fits and bursts of enthusiasm in order to have your finished beauties ready for posting in good time.  Harry has a typical toddler attention span so we will usually make 2 or 3 cards before the temptations of lego / the biscuit tin / muddy puddles lure him away, leaving a glittering array of half-glued creations and festive painty footprints in his wake.

This year we’re making hand and footprint reindeer.  It sounds – misleadingly –  like possibly the easiest project ever, as it simply involves painting your child’s hands and foot and pressing them onto a sheet of paper.  If you have a baby who can be strapped into a highchair for this, it’s ideal.  If you have a mischievous toddler who makes it his mission to evade your clutches and is slippery as an eel, then it is a battle of wits and cunning.  Huge fun, but wait for a clear day and try this outside if you can…

To make this, you’ll need child safe paints (fingerpaints, powder or poster paints are ideal; anything that won’t cause a reaction on the skin and will be easy to wipe off), eyes, red pom poms or buttons and scraps of gift wrap.  We also used little paper snowflakes cut with a craft punch, and glued on a bell. Brush the paint onto your child’s hands and one foot (a tip; do this one at a time, or your child will turn into a paint octopus and you will have no hope of co-ordinating anything).  Press each one firmly onto a sheet of white card stock.  If your child is old enough (or very young), you can probably get the placement right first time, but if not just get them to stamp lots of handprints and footprints, and you can cut out the good ones and arrange them collage-style afterwards.

Fig A: When crafting with a calm and cooperative child who has not consumed any sugar lately:

Fig B: with a more conventionally unpredictable toddler, just cut out 3 good prints and arrange them onto a fresh piece of card in the shape you want.

Once you’ve made your reindeer head, you can embellish it however you like – this is great fun for older children, or something you can do yourself if your toddler has lost interest, or is not yet dextrous enough to do the sticking and decorating.

We trimmed ours and mounted it onto a sheet of A4 sized red card stock.  It’s a picture rather than a stand-up card, but can easily be propped on a mantel or pinned to a kitchen noticeboard to add some festive cheer.

When we’d made a couple of these big pictures (and before we glued on eyes and embellishments), we took a photo of the reindeer, uploaded it and used it to print off lots of smaller ones onto pre-folded A6 blank cards – this is a great way of mass-producing your original art without the stress…

As you can see, using different sized eyes gives some very different and comical expressions.  Each reindeer will look very different depending on the print and the size and shape of your child’s hands, so make them look as original as they are!

I’ll be back later in the week with some festive stars and also the results of my weekend willow-weaving course (but really, there’s no need for bated breath and huge anticipation of majestic willow marvels I assure you; let me manage your expectations in advance ;-) )