holidays

A Cretan Escape

Cretan stairs

Kalimera! We’re just back from a sun-drenched, chilled-out week on the Greek island of Crete; a spontaneous, late-minute booking that was exactly what we needed.

One of the things that struck me the most about Crete was the effortless beauty in everything, and the radiant, kaleidoscopic colour to be found everywhere across the island;  every shade of blue, from the cerulean and turquoise of the sea, which changed constantly as the sun rose, radiated and then began to set…

Agios Nicolaos

sea tide

Ocean tide at night

To the cobalt-blue of doors, shutters and windows, and the paintbox of shades found in every village street

Cretan doorway

Cretan shutters

Cretan doorways

In Agios Nicolaos and Elounda every corner and side street revealed new surprises,  from a beautiful mosaic which covered the entire wall of a kids store, to endless inviting spots to sip a coffee (or a chilled glass of rosé)  …so we did.

Many times.

Mosaic in Agioa Nicolaos, CreteCafe in Agios Nicolaos Crete

Restaurant in Elounda in Crete

We ate freshly-caught sardines, octopus (strung on washing lines in the harbours to dry!),  salty, crumbling local cheeses, olives and roasted peppers.  Small plates that slipped down a treat so that all moderation was lost.  No matter.  We visited a local co-operative that produces olive oil for all the local villages; most families own small groves of trees and bring their harvest each year to be processed for oil.  Alex the owner told Harry that the rite of passage for each boy in becoming a man is the moment he plants his own olive tree; he was enchanted. We tasted the oils as you might do wine, learning to distinguish between the buttery, peppery, citrussy and smooth tastes of each.  Harry was the expert in no time, developing an impressive palate.

A sombre, arresting highlight of the week was a visit to Spinalonga, an island made famous a few years ago by this novel, which was home to a leper colony for around fifty years at the start of the last century.  Within days of a leprosy diagnosis, you would be sent to Spinalonga – children and adults alike, usually travelling alone – for the rest of your life.  Spinalonga was haunting and beautiful; the streets seemed to still echo with life and memories.

Spinalonga Island, Crete

New arrivals would enter through a tunnel known as Dante’s gate (below), not knowing what they would find on the other side of this one-way trip into a new world, having left everything behind.

Dante's Gate, Spinalonga Island

We visited at the end of the day and had the island almost to ourselves, bathed in the fading light.

spinalonga1 spinalonga chapel

Days in Crete were exceptionally hot, and surprisingly windy; in July and August the Etesian winds are at their peak, blowing across the island with such a force that it feels like facing into a hairdryer for hours on end. We heard a lovely local saying;  ’the wind sleeps with his wife at night’, retreating and fading at sunset.  In the late afternoons we’d settle in the shade, out of the sun and wind, and Harry and I had a go at painting the sea…

I’d brought a travel set of paints with us and a palette and pack of blank watercolour postcards, thinking we might make use of them.  We mixed up the paints and used a piece of sea sponge to create waves and foam;

paint1 paint2

I poured some hotel-room shower gel into a cup and squeezed in some paint, blowing with a straw to create bubbles so we could experiment with foamy effects.  Messy but brilliant fun.  Then for a final touch, we cut out sardine shapes from tissue paper and glued them over the top, for a collage of all-things Crete to send home in the mail…

paint6 paint4

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Efharisto, Crete!  Thank you for a wonderful week of sunshine and new adventures.  We will be back.

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An Extraordinary Adventure!

Usually at this point in December, our home would be festively adorned, bedecked with wintery tableaux and with the fir lady preparing to make her annual seasonal entrance.  Instead, suitcases are down from the loft and checklists being drawn up and steadily ticked off as we prepare

…to go to Australia!

This year, for the first time ever we will be away for Christmas, going down under to Sydney to stay with my brother and his family, and taking the opportunity for a grand adventure and extended roadtrip whilst we’re there.  We are beside ourselves with excitement and anticipation.

We are also slightly despairing about the growing size of our luggage, which includes; a) a portrait of my bother, painted by my father (beautiful, fragile, large); b) a huge papier mache giraffe ordered by my brother (‘you can’t find them anywhere in Australia, sis’), and c) a football, bought for my nephews by another well-meaning relative.  We do not lean towards practicality in my family.  I am hoping that Customs officials will look kindly on us; I suspect we will make their day.

Given all this, our usual creativity and crafting has tapered a little in the frenzied rush and my presence here will be a little less until January. In the meantime please do have a rummage through some of our favourite projects from the last few years, like…

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Homemade Gift Ideas from Kates Creative Space

  1. Wintery pinecone firelighters, for everyone you know with an open fire or wood-burning stove
  2. A homemade leather travel journal, for those with wanderlust…
  3. Together with a concertina mini photobook to store all their photos and memories afterwards
  4. If you’re choosing gifts for a book-lover, why not add in some of these whale-tail bookmarks to keep their place each night
  5. DIY bird-feeders, for the animal-lover in your life
  6. secret book jewellery box
  7. Or a personalised bowl for cereal-lovers
  8. cafe apron for the man in your life, which will encourage him into the kitchen this Christmas
  9. The gift of breakfast, for all those hosting this holiday season, to relax with the morning after

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Holiday baking ideas

  1. Three christmas cookies to box up and share
  2. Or Bake-at-home cookies for the students in your life who eat you out of house and home but wouldn’t dream of making their own
  3. Mitten-shaped ginger cookies, perfect to go with hot chocolate
  4. Or monogram cupcakes (I’d use a snowflake monogram for Christmas)

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Holiday decor ideas

  1. These fun ways to use kraft paper to wrap presents with a twist
  2. Handmade origami stars and folded stars
  3. Nutcracker peg dolls to hang from the tree
  4. You could make these personalised sacks for the most special people in your life
  5. The longest journey; a winter animal parade to meander along your table top or mantel
  6. And three years of our holiday decor here, here and here

And finally don’t forget to clear the playroom in advance by sending outgrown toys off to the North Pole Repair Shop for re-gifting, arrange a North Pole telegram for Christmas Eve, and magic reindeer food to sprinkle outdoors before bedtime.

North Pole Telegram

After that, may I boldly suggest a glass of mulled wine and a deep, comfy armchair?

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Holiday Gifting: DIY kids desk art calendar

Each year at about this time I start to think in earnest about Christmas gifts, and Harry and I plan things that we can make for the biggest people in his life; grandparents, godparents… something homemade, for those who love him the most.  This year, we’re making desk calendars made from his favourite drawings and paintings over the last year…

DIY Desk Calendar made from kids art

We chose the pictures together; some done at school, others at home.  I cut a stack of lightweight card into A6-sized pieces and scanned the artwork, adding lovely month-by-month calendar details from here.

Some of my favourites; a still life of our coffee machine and toast rack, the fruit bowl and this year’s sunflowers…

DIY Kids Art desk calendar

…and the one that makes my heart melt, a smudgy drawing that arrived back from school crumpled in a backpack; Harry’s version of Roald Dahl’s BFG.

DIY Gifts  Desk Calendar

Some of the artwork is almost a year old, like Penguin Little here – but just too lovely to leave out…

Desk calendar made from kids artwork

I bought a handful of these mini-easels (£1 each!) and removed the canvas, so that the cards could be stacked on the easel and rotated as each month moves to the next…

mini easel

And then we tucked the sets into glittery boxes with an instruction note and lots of festive kisses…

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And now the calendar sets are ready to be gift-wrapped and posted;

all except for one.

Have a wonderful rest of the weekend!

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DIY Driftwood Boats

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I love the sea.  Specifically, I love wild, empty beaches and the magic of a newly-washed shoreline and all the treasures that the tide leaves behind. Whether it’s Christchurch, New England or Monterey, my family has become wearily attuned to coming home with a large, suspiciously-smelling bag full of beach finds.  I keep a big bucket in the art room, labelled ‘Driftwood and the Sea’, and last weekend I finally had a rummage through and began to craft a small fishing fleet…

How to make a driftwood boat

DIY Driftwood fishing boats

And because every fisherman needs a warm and and inviting home to navigate back to as dawn breaks; a couple of cottages too, complete with chimneys and freshly laundered sheets drying on the line…

Fishing cottage made from driftwood

I started by sorting out some of the most interesting looking bits of wood I’ve collected over the months (ok, years..)

Driftwood

…and then rummaged through the art room to gather together all kinds of bits and bobs I might need.  I used…

  • Old nails and screws to make masts, chimney pots and washing line posts.  If you don’t have any old or rusty ones to hand (we have an ancient shed full of them), you can paint them or even rust them yourself with tutorials like this (but really, you could so something much more exciting instead I’m sure)
  • Eyelets, to make windows and portholes
  • Wire, for sails and bunting and washing lines
  • Paint – any paint – and sanding paper, so that when it’s dry you can gently buff it and make it look more weathered and aged
  • Beads, shells, bells and any other things you have lying around
  • Scraps of linen (from a favourite, ancient pair of trousers that finally became too holey and revealing to wear)

Materials for making driftwood boats

Painting the wood is simple; I used a couple of layers of colour, blended unevenly, in complementary sea-like tones…

painting wood for driftwood boats

And as for the rest?  It’s entirely upto your imagination and whatever you have to hand.  After all, each boat should be unique, and none of them need to be remotely sea-worthy.  In case you’re interested in giving this project a go, and have a similar haul of driftwood (or an opportunity to go collecting), here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how I made each of these.

Driftwood Fishing Boat deconstructed

Driftwood Fishing Boat 2

Driftwood Fishing Village 3

p.s. three other nautical projects; paper boats, beachcomber table settings and cork boats… and one of my favourites ever; Harry’s Ark.

Have a wonderful week!

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Crafty projects using holiday photos

DIY Holiday Card Making

Recently, we had a beautiful long weekend in Christchurch, on the Dorset coast. It was a miraculously hot weekend in an otherwise gloomy spell of weather, so we had 3 glorious days of crabbing, rockpool exploring, sand-castle building and a myriad of other retro beach pursuits.  Here’s a few photos, if you’d like to see;

Christchurch harbour

Make a wishMake a wish and blow

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mermaids

(it took about five showers to wash out all the sand after that one, by the way…)

Kite fliying on the beach

And then when we returned home, I got creative with the photographs…

DIY Photo Notepaper

I’d taken a lot of pics with sea and sky, so decided to make this photo into notepaper for Harry; I cropped it slightly (and superimposed a different kite that was a bit more recognisable!), and then simply printed out several copies onto matt white letter paper.  Harry wrote to his godmother to tell her about our weekend…

Photo letter paper

I also printed some fun envelopes with a photograph I took of the texture of a beach hut wall, with an address bar of weathered wood.  There’s a downloadable PDF of both of these images below if you want to print your own;

DIY Writing Paper from family photos

Beach Notepaper

Weathered Wood Envelope

You could also add text to make a poster…

 

The cure for anything

But my favourite project was this;

DIY Beach Hut Cards

I used one of my photos of the old beach huts at Mudeford, and then used the ‘remove background’ tool in Powerpoint to isolate the hut itself.  I printed it onto thin white card (step 1), then cut out the beach hut.  I printed photos of Harry to fit the size of the drop-front of the hut (step 3), and cut around them.  Then..

  • Using a craft knife, cut around the sides and top of the white hatch section, and folded it down to create a flap
  • Pasted a photo behind the flap
  • Mounted the beach hut onto a pre-folded piece of white card, and trimmed the top to fit the shape of the beach hut roof…

Beach hut card DIY

…to create this fun card!

Beach hut photo card

holiday cards from photos

We folded Harry’s letter into the card, tucked it into our homemade envelope, and posted it off.

Here’s a free graphic of the beach hut which you can download to make your own if you like (instead of a photo, you could turn it into an invitation to a party or event, with the details hidden behind the fold-down flap..).

Old Beach Hut image

Have a wonderful weekend when it comes!

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All is Calm, All is Bright.

Merry Christmas from Katescreativespace

So, Christmas is drawing close and we have an evening of gift wrapping, fire-lighting and – yes! – champagne drinking ahead.  Bliss.  The house is ready at last; the loyal dogs who guard our front door have dressed for the occasion…

Dogs in hats 2

Dogs in hats

The North Pole Sorting Office has once again taken up residence in the hallway, joined this year by my favourite bicycle, Delilah, who has been repurposed as a festive delivery bike and perches atop the hall table, bedecked with gifts and lights…

Delivery bike decoration for christmas Delivery bike gifts Delivery bike for christmas

Mistletoe is strung from every light fitting and I am making it my business to deplete as many berries as I can during the Christmas period; beware those who cross the threshold..

Misteltoe

Even the Montgolfieres Mice have decorated their basket for the holidays, and swing gently in the hallway, glittering with light.

Christmas mice

In the snug, I strung the columns with ribbon and cut delicate paper tree silhouettes out of paper for the window panes; they look beautiful in daylight with the sun streaming through and even prettier at night when lit from within…

Winter forest windows

paper winter trees

And so we are ready, I think; time to sign off now with just two big sleeps to go.

I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and a joyful, relaxing break – thank you for another year of reading, following and commenting; it’s been absolutely lovely!

Here’s to 2016….

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Last-minute Christmas decorations: Simple 3D Stars

Simple 3D Stars tutorial

How are you, are you all set for Christmas?  We’re feeling festive  tucked away here in our small corner of the world, after a weekend of visits from family and friends, the official end of school and work, and the house now bedecked with lights and decorations (I’ll share a few pics tomorrow in a final post).  One last-minute addition has been these simple paper stars (above and below), made using this brilliant template created by Kate Lilley at Minieco… they look like beautifully crafted origami stars, but are a little easier for those who are quickly baffled by the dexterity needed in the twisting and folding of the authentic Japanese versions.

Simple 3D Stars for Christmas

We made ours  using old sample sheets of wallpaper leftover from when I decorated the chimney breast in our bedroom; I simply printed the template directly onto the A4 tester sheets (below) and then cut and folded the stars, which led to a beautifully tonal pile of petite étoiles which we’ve scattered along the mantel.  They’d look beautifulstrung into a garland, or even filled with small treats and used as place-markers on the holiday table; just leave one flap of the star unglued…

Making 3d stars

How to make simple 3D stars

3D stars to make

Have a wonderful rest of the day; we’re off to see Father Christmas later as darkness falls; rumour has it that his workshop can be found in a local forest if you take a compass and follow very specific directions, looking out for elves amongst the trees as you go.  Anticipation is very, very high….

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A homemade Christmas

How was your week, has it been a good one?  It’s been a crazy busy one here; a mix of work and play, of Christmas parties and Nativity plays, of late nights and early mornings (Harry’s latest trick; to slip into our bed at an ungodly hour and whisper hoarsely in my ear ‘I love you to infinity Mummy.  Now can I stay?’).  We’re looking forward to a relaxing weekend and some festive crafting and decorating.

If you’re feeling similarly inclined, here are a few ideas from the archives for homemade gifts for those you love…

Like pinecone firelighters, for everyone you know with an open fire or wood burner;

DIY Pinecone firelights

Bake-at-home cookies for the students in your life who eat you out of house and home but wouldn’t dream of making their own unless you made it this simple..

Christmas Cookies in a jar

Or perhaps a tinful of these simple DIY bird-feeders, which are easy for small hands and will be a gift for the birds in your garden too…

DIY Bird feeders from katescreativespace

You could make batches of these fun striped holiday candles and tie them up as stocking-filler gifts…

Striped Holiday Candles

Or fill mason jars with their favourite sweets

candy jars as christmas gifts

Three different types of cookies to make and take to your holiday parties..

Gifting Christmas Cookies

Or why not make a 2015 mini photobook for grandparents or friends of some of the best photos from the year?  They look beautiful on the mantle..

DIY Vacation Photobook

And one of my favourites; DIY personalised pencils, made by printing onto washi tape.  If you haven’t tried this, you really should…

Magic tape printing DIY

And finally if you’re choosing gifts for a book-lover, why not make them some of these whale-tail bookmarks to keep their place each night…

whale tales bookmarks

I’ll be back after the weekend; I hope you have a wonderful one!

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The Fir Lady returns once again

Christmas Lady

Christmas began to arrive in our home yesterday, as I staggered back from the garden centre with armfuls of pine, eucalyptus and berries.  Now the house is filled with resiny scent, as is my hair, my clothes, my hands… it’s intoxicating.

And the fir lady has once again come in from the cold and taken shelter in a corner of the kitchen; this year she is sporting a bright red military-style jacket (a charity shop find) and standing 9ft tall, thanks to an old chest we dragged in from the back of the shed.  Pine cones are dotted amongst her skirts, and boughs of red berries peek around her hem.

The Fir Lady close up

Fir Lady Skirts

Here’s last year’s Fir Lady, who sported a hessian bodice and a skirt adorned with simple wooden stars..

The Fir Lady 2014

And the original, 2013 Lady who had a rather more risqué skirt and a nipped-in waist..

Fir Lady for Christmas

If you have a spare mannequin lying around (and who doesn’t?) I gave a vague tutorial last year, with tips about how to build up a skirt and thread all the greenery together (tip: chicken wire is your secret weapon).  Mostly though it just requires trial and error, and is aided by a glass of red wine.  Or mulled wine.  Any wine in fact, but probably just the one glass, especially if using a ladder.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend; we’re lighting the fire and curling up for a Christmas movie; Elf and Arthur Christmas are the top contenders; popcorn and hot chocolate will be crucial.

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Two cool ways to wrap a bottle…

Two fun wine bottle styling ideas

Like many, I am a huge fan of Pinterest (you can follow me here)  and regularly Pin inspirational pics and projects to try at home.  A few weeks ago I stumbled across a link to a wonderful site by Sylvain Allard, who teaches packaging design.  He’d asked his students to design a wine bottle sleeve from a single sheet of paper; the results were beautiful.  One sleeve in particular caught my eye, so I had a go at recreating it at home, wondering if it would prove to be easy enough to become a new, chic way of bringing-a-bottle to parties this coming holiday season.

Firstly, I drew out a rough template of rectangles, each slightly deeper than the next.  Using a craft knife I cut along three sides, rolling each strip back on itself as shown below….

bottle 12

I folded and glued each strip in an arc, slightly offset, sticking it at an angle as shown below…

bottle 11

I practised on a rough sheet of paper first, but when I then wrapped it round a wine bottle it looked a little plain, so I added a corkscrew image to my template as well, as you see above and below.  To attach the sleeve, I just used colourful washi tape to hold the ends together.  Voila!

bottle 4  bottle 2

Making the sleeve took me about half an hour, which included the time to deconstruct and reinterpret the picture I’d seen on Sylvain’s site.  You can make it even more quickly by using my template (below; PDF link at the bottom) – let me know how you get on!

Wine bottle sleeve template

Suddenly wrapping bottles seemed like a great way to spend the evening, so I found a few leftover vintage envelope prints I had from making our hot air ballon and used them to make this other sleeve below..

botttle 1

I had googled ‘vintage envelopes’ and found some lovely free-to-download examples including some here (worth a rummage in this treasure-trove of free printables)

bottle 13

I simply cut a rectangle of brown paper, scrunched it up and flattened it, glued on an envelope and secured it around the bottle with string.  This one was much quicker but looked just as lovely.

So, why not wait for a rainy evening ahead of the party season and have a play!

bottle sleeve paper sculpture

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Toy Passports! (Or, how to take the entire family on holiday…)

Pet Passports!

Last month we set off for Provence laden with just about everything you would possibly need for a short break in the French countryside, and many things you wouldn’t.  We are masters at packing random exotica and hopeless at remembering necessities; this time we were determined not to leave anything behind.

We left before dawn one chilly July morning and had got as far as the airport before disaster struck, as we realised that ALL of Harry’s stuffed toys were still fast asleep in his bed, blissfully unaware that they had been forgotten in the rush. Boris the fox, Marvin the mouse, Wilberforce the polar bear… home alone.  Oh dear.

Harry was temporarily bereft at the thought of sleeping solo, but soon rallied when I promised that next time, we’d make sure they had passports and could take it in turns to travel with us.  Promises made to small people must certainly be kept, so I spent an evening last week forging making passports for this unruly cast of shady characters….

Pet Passports Montage

To make them, I designed a lookalike passport photo page and we asked each gentleman in turn to take a seat and pose for their official photograph.  The rules were carefully adhered to; no smiling, and absolutely no hats of any kind.

That means you, Wilberforce..

Wilberforce

Animal head shots

Some, like Boris, were naturals in front of the camera;

Animal head shots 2

We added the photos onto the ‘passport’ page on my laptop and then printed them out with some blank sheets to make a booklet.  I mocked-up a cover page for each passport and we printed these onto coloured paper to make the covers.

(By the way, for the lovely gold foiled covers, I experimented with a laser printer and gold foil printing technique – I’ll do a step-by-step tutorial soon; it’s fascinating and surprisingly easy – but if you’re desperate to have a go sooner, this link  gives you a very good overview).

And for those making passports for British animals, here are my blank templates for you to download and have a play with…

Toy Passport Cover

Blank toy passport page

We obviously made quite sophisticated toy passports (though rest assured; they certainly wouldn’t fool anyone in authority), but of course you can make these very simply using just craft paper, scissors, pens and glue; Harry enjoyed making these just as much as our computer versions…

How to make passports for your toys

How to make passports for your toys 2

However much time you invest in these, it’s a great way of filling a rainy afternoon with the littles in your house.  You could use stamps and punches to decorate the pages, reflecting a world of glamorous adventures….

Toy passport factory

So now all the animals in our bedroom menagerie have passports (and in fact, I have received a number of black market enquiries from stuffed animals seeking passage from around the world; word has obviously spread that we’re the go-to people for fun-fur illegal immigration).

Now, which to take with us on holiday? Decisions, decisions….

Travelling toys

See you next week!

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