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A Scented Home

fresh winter flowers

Recently, we had a glorious couple of weeks in Cape Cod.

We got back, travel-weary and laden with far more baggage then we remembered taking, and flung open the front door…

…and the air felt really stale; like someone else’s home altogether.  A kind of dusty, unlived-in smell, overlaid with (whisper it) a hint of damp. So I set about banishing it as quickly as possible by opening windows, lighting candles and buying my favourite small luxury, fresh flowers..

a winter bouquet

(Green and white; there’s something so simple and beauitful about green and white..).  The ornamental cabbages made me smile; my spine-chilling fear of slugs would prevent me ever trying to grow them, but they do look gorgeous in a vase.  And lilies; a staple on my kitchen island…

Lilies in the kitchen

Another favourite trick is to fill inexpensive garden-centre vases with kitchen salt and then add candles, found objects and single eucalyptus stems – a way of pretending I’m back drinking sundowners at a beachside restaurant or at a fantasy mediterranean villa rather than at home in rather more familiar and ordinary surroundings..

eucalyptus stem in a vase

filled vases

When it’s cosiness I’m seeking, I light a stick of palo santo wood; have you come across it?  It’s as far from the headiness of cheap incense that you can imagine, and instead smells like a cross between a roaring fire, a forest and something altogether sweeter… definitely one for the autumn as a chill arrives in the air.

palo santo wood

And finally, I always, always have a candle burning on my desk when I’m working in my studio

Scent in the home

My other scent passions?  Fresh basil on the kitchen counter.  Acqua di limone ironing water, for the delicious clouds of steam that invariably distract me from the actual heat setting and  prove ultimately rather hazardous to scorching.

And bath oil.  For decadence.  And inadvertantly slippiness, yes, but still.  Worth it.

Any other recommendations or passions?  Please do share… and have a wonderful weekend!

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How To Look Manly In An Apron (or: Impress Your Friends With a Tea Towel DIY)

DIY Tea-Towel Cafe Apron

Successful marriage requires compromise, as we all know.  The hurly-burly of give and take is what bonds you as a couple and cements your union.  Sometimes it means making sacrifices for the other, such as when your wife whips up a homemade apron and then realises that she has no-one to model it, and sabotages your restful weekend breakfast with the request that you put down your toast and newspaper, don the aforementioned apron and adopt a stylish, manly pose right this minute so that she can take a picture before the sun goes behind a cloud.

Gotta love him.  Not least because living with creative souls can be a very messy business.

Cafe apron DIY

When we were in Provence recently I did the classic tourist thing of buying a handful of beautiful tea-towels, thinking they were almost too lovely to use, but sure I would think of something I could do with them later.  There were these vibrant, colourful trio, a bargain at 10 Euro for the three;

Provencal tea towels

And then these gorgeous heavyweight rough linen monogram tea-towels, for just 5 Euro each (I bought a bagful, I confess…)

French linen monogram tea towel

Linen aprons

Once home, I decided to turn one of the linen tea-towels into a cafe-style half apron with pockets.  It’s not a no-sew project, I cannot tell a lie, but it’s certainly a low-sew one, and required very little skill or tiresome things like measuring or tacking or the re-threading of needles until puncture wounds drive you towards that unopened bottle of wine.  The monogramming and stripes on my linen towel obviously complement the style, but you could do this with any tea-towel of a reasonable weight.  Here’s how I made it, step by step…

DIY Cafe Apron from a Tea-Towel

Locating my sewing machine, finding that the cable was missing, buying a replacement, returning to the store to buy the right colour cotton and clearing the kitchen table in readiness took about 2 days.  Making the apron took approximately 30 minutes; pleasingly short.  And it’s just the right length to wipe your hands on when in the midst of a flamboyant culinary endeavour, with pockets big enough for your phone, recipe, ladle, and anything else you might need…

DIy Cafe Apron with Pockets

And finally, if aprons and tea-towels aren’t your thing, how about these gorgeous local soaps in every scent and colour under the sun, the other souvenir we brought home from our travels in France; I spent ages choosing which ones to buy, aided by Harry in doing the sniff test (we still sneeze when we think about it).  Simple purchases, and simple pleasures; the very best kind…

Provencal soap

 

olive oil soap

beautiful Provencal soap

Have a great week!

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DIY Cafe Apron

 

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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Should you wear fir this Christmas?

Fir Dress

When I thought about decorating the house this Christmas, I wanted to do something a bit different to the usual garlands and fairy lights.  I love looking in Christmas store windows where tableaux have been elegantly yet  apparently oh-so-casually thrown together, so I’ve  been gathering vaguely festive and wintery household items to act as props in little displays for the hallway and kitchen.  It’s very much a work in progress; you know the kind of thing – just as soon as you artfully arrange a pair of wellington boots and ivy sprigs, someone will cry ‘Aha!, there they are!’,  tug on the wellies and march off down the garden, whistling.

One thing that is going according to plan is the crafting of a Christmas party dress for the mannequin that usually lurks upstairs.  Inspired by this amazing pin of a store window display, I’ve been attempting to create something similar at home…

Fir dress with music pages

I cut a piece of chicken wire and tied it around the mannequin’s waist, then wired in boughs of fir (I bought a huge bunch from the local garden centre for about £10/$15).  I tied a length of wide black ribbon around it to cover the wire work and branch stumps, then added a few tonal baubles as a touch of sparkle.

making a fir skirt

fir dress with baubles

The bodice I made by simply rolling up old sheets of music paper – a Mozart score found in a pile at the local charity shop – and tucking them into the ribbon.  it’s very temporary, but she will endure throughout the holiday period I’m sure.

rolled music pages

Into her skirts I am gradually weaving pine cones and robins (and Harry is tucking in any odd random bits of lego or string he finds lying around…), so she will continue to grow over the days to come.

I’ll transport her to the kitchen later tonight where she will take up residence over Christmas, but wanted to share with you the work in progress.

More pics later in the week as our decorating continues, including geese in packing crates, a rickety old sledge and a very precarious ladder strung with gifts and baubles.  That’s if we manage not to knock any of it over first…

Have a great weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing!

Kate x

The Little House

The Little House in Winter

House-painting can be a relentless, unforgiving task.  Slaving away in the burning sun and occasional rain, painting never-ending woodwork atop a wobbly ladder.  My advice?  Buy yourself a house that’s all of 8 foot high and you’ll find you can paint it in approximately an hour, including varnishing.  Trust me; it’s enormously satisfying.  A little small, perhaps, for the whole family, but perfectly proportioned for a 3yr old.

You may remember we bought a second-hand playhouse (above) for Harry’s birthday last winter, and it has sat looking picturesque but slightly weary through the harsh winter months.  Soon after buying it I added curtains made from tea towels and a slate ‘Little House’ sign, but we waited until the Springtime before tackling the interior.  Last weekend I gave it a proper overhaul, painting sills and gables, planting up hanging baskets and turning the bare interior into a proper bachelor pad. If you’ve time for a cup of pretend tea and a plastic cake, come on inside and have the tour…

the little house sign

When the playhouse was delivered, the inside was bare wood – and somewhat battered from having legions of small feet pattering in and out over the years in its former home.

playhouse renovation

We gave it a couple of coats of whitewash and glued inexpensive carpet tiles to the floor, and then decked out the interior with Harry’s play BBQ, table and chairs…

playhouse interior

harrys kitchen diner

All of these furnishings have simply been moved out from the playroom for the summer, freeing up some valuable space indoors.

Here’s the ‘loft’ sleeping platform before….

harrys loft before

And after…

little house loft

Above the sleeping platform hangs – securely –  a watchful angel; in reality a photograph I took of a folk-art Christmas decoration I bought years ago in New England.

little house angel

There’s enough space to hang your hat above your pillow, and a clock to wake you from a nap, should the bird chorus outside fail.  A decorative driftwood garland hangs by the ladder, and some well-worn old linens make for a comfortable den to retire to with a favourite book.  The paper animal garland was leftover from Harry’s first birthday party a couple of years ago and has found renewed purpose in bedecking the playhouse walls – I give it a few more months before it is declared too babyish and relegated to the (real) loft.

play loft

Do you remember Harry’s Hardware Store (below)?  With the advent of warm weather this has found a natural home inside the playhouse, where young drivers can park their scooters, pedal cars and balance bikes at the door and come in for tools, coffee or petrol.  It does a roaring trade..

harry store main shot

playhouse with built in store

Externally, The Little House is ready for summer; I exchanged the faux-topiary balls of winter for some low hanging baskets which Harry and I planted up with strawberries; they are just reachable for 3yr old hands, but tantalisingly out of reach for slugs.  Geraniums burst from the window box, mirroring those of the main house, and a passion flower climbs alongside the door.   A bird box mounted near the eaves will hopefully attract residents next winter, and a brightly painted cockerel weather vane adds a distinctive finishing touch.  And finally, I can’t forget our sunflowers, which now sit along the side of the Little House, where they can turn to the late afternoon sun, protected from the mayhem of small people crashing in and out of the playhouse itself.

The Little House in Springtime

the little house exterior

Work over, we all hunched inside for a celebratory cup of tea, served up with a hard, wooden play sausage and half a head of garlic.  Whatever else Harry does in his life, I doubt that a future in the kitchen beckons.

amish star

And finally, before I go; this week Pinterest is launching formally here in the UK, to great excitement.  For those who haven’t yet come across it, Pinterest is a very visual way of collecting together all the things you love, by ‘pinning’ images to your boards from all across the wide world of the web.  For those who are already converts, you can find me (and images from all of the projects on my site) here, or by searching under pinners  for ‘Kate Curates’; for those who are new and want to explore for the first time, you can register using the link here.  One word of advice; don’t do this if you have a deadline looming, or a child soon to wake from a nap, or indeed anything which requires your undivided attention for some time; it can be absolutely, deliciously addictive…

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

Dream Home Restoration Part III: The Playroom and Book Nook

I’ve talked before about the life’s-work that is our home restoration project (if you’re a newish visitor, you can read about it here and here).  We’re probably about 10% through our list of projects, having tackled the kitchen and the more pressing – and depressing – stuff like turfing out the mouse population and reducing the bracing fresh air which gusts through every seemingly-closed window.

Next on our list was a play space for Harry; we’re lucky enough to have a perfect room for this, sandwiched between the kitchen and Snug, and featuring an ancient but very cool wrought-iron spiral staircase which leads straight upto his bedroom.  When the last owners lived here, the playroom was used as a games zone by their sons, complete with black walls, slightly crusty green carpets (let’s not consider that further), a myriad of sockets and cables, and wall-to-wall posters.  What little natural light there was had been blocked with heavy curtains, gloom being the preferred natural habitat of the teenage male.

Painting walls and replacing the carpet was an immediate priority, but the rest we’ve done gradually, adding homemade furniture and toys here and there, and evolving the space as Harry’s grown from a wobbly toddler into a little boy.

Playroom Stairs

The original fireplace appears to have had its legs sawn off at some point in the last 300yrs, but we decorate it nonetheless with string ball lights, garlands and bunting, depending on the season; at Christmas it had a curtain of cotton wool snowballs, and a vintage glitter ball currently sits in the grate waiting for us to find a new home for it (though I think it’s pretty settled at this point).

Playroom with fireplace

Nooks and crannies are used for storage; these sturdy chairs fit around the art table when we’re painting, but then retire, Shaker-style, to the peg rail to free up floor space

Playroom Chairs

A giant bookcase found on Ebay houses toyboxes, Lego and other treasures like the animals from Harry’s Ark and his collection of fireman helmets (one for each of us; teamwork is everything).

Playroom shelves

A ratty sofa allows shoppers to queue in comfort when waiting to be served at Harry’s store, and doubles up as a boat, life-raft, island, den or car depending on what game we’re playing.  One of the first things I ever made for Harry, his family tree, hangs on the wall and is regularly updated when family members are matched or hatched.

Playroom wall with shop

My favourite part of the playroom is the newest; a former cloakroom was awkwardly squeezed into a corner of the room and hoarded the only precious direct natural light.  We knocked down the wall and ripped it out to extend the main room and create a small reading area with books and cushions.

Playroom book nook

book nook montage

The ‘book of the week’ corner utilises the boxed-in plumbing for the former faucet, and holds a rotating series of Harry’s favourite books, accessorised with paintings and pictures we’ve made, or things from the Dressing Up box, like this Halloween Hat and Broom.

harrys book nook 1

Scattered around are some folded books, which I made one evening last week in front of the television, inspired by this amazing window display from US store Anthropologie.

anthropologie book window

I played around with folding a couple of charity shop books which we won’t read again, and had a lot of fun.  Next time I’ll work my way through the whole book and make some over-sized hanging pendants, perhaps at Christmastime.

Playroom Book Art and Stag

book nook 2

I added a junk store vintage sofa which I painted in off-white chalk paint and reupholstered in faux (wipe-clean!) suede; it was previously unfashionable mahogany so I bought it for a song and spent a couple of days overhauling it.  It adds a touch of grace to the playroom and shows you don’t have to be surrounded by plastic-fantastic ‘kids furniture’ all the time.

Upcycled vintage sofa

Elsewhere paper stars & Harry’s artwork adorn the twisting staircase, acting as a height warning for unwitting grown-ups.  The Jeeves & Wooster pendant light is made from a gilded bowler hat and is one of the few light fittings we’ve managed to reuse from our former, very modern house. Two squeezable trumpet horns are used in the summer for garden games and races, and frighten the life out of newcomers with their ear-splitting exuberance.

bowler hat light

trumpets

Old favourites like the cardboard rocket have miraculously managed to survive months of heavy-handed play; the rocket currently houses Harry’s most precious treasures and anything else which catches his eye around the house (car keys, watches, bananas… it’s an eclectic and hazardous mix).

Playroom 5

We’re lucky to have a dedicated playroom, and one which sits so perfectly at the heart of the home, close to the rest of the action.  Its layout and palette gives space for Harry to grow and for his tastes – and stuff – to evolve.  I know that one day I too may be painting the walls in dark and manly teenage colours and shuddering as I peel up the once-oat coloured carpet, but till then we’ll enjoy the space, light and fun of a room filled with the passions of a 3yr old, who I hope will take as long to grow up as is humanly possible…

The Dream house Renovation Part II: Making an Entrance…

I posted here about the first stage of our home renovation; creating a huge family kitchen and living space what was originally a formal reception room for visitors.  We’ve now turned our attentions to the hallway; a  vast Gone With The Wind style affair, which previously looked like this (below).  Our house was built in the early 18th Century as a sizeable ‘Gentleman’s Residence’ in the countryside bordering London.  It changed hands several times and has served many purposes, including a brief spell as a military hospital during WW2, and even a film studio in the 1950s.  As property prices escalated and families shrank in size, this once grand residence was divided into two, and the hallway shows the most evidence of this; the staircase below originally swept up once side of the hallway and down the other, and the chimney breast was centred in the main entrance hall.  The floor, though striking and a period feature itself, is not original to the property, but was added after the subdivision.  In the half of the original house we now own, we wanted to preserve as many original features as we could, whilst toning down the overall colour palette and working with the scale of the property.

Here’s where we’ve got to so far; we uncovered part of the original stone floor in the porch area, and sourced a near-exact replica to lay in the main hallway.  In a rare contemporary touch, we found this huge chandelier (it’s around 1.5m wide but weighs hardly anything, fortunately…).  Arguably the most dramatic change is to the chimney breast, which we’ve opened up top-to-bottom and filled with logs.  The previous owners had created a sort of floating shelf for dried flowers and ornaments, but we felt this was a bit incongruous; we didn’t have the option of a ‘real’ fireplace due to oddities about how the chimneys and flues are arranged, so opted for a striking, floor to ceiling feature which echoes the real fireplaces in other rooms around the house…

The logs are kiln-dried and sanded, and we spent a comical evening wobbling on ladders arranging them (and glueing them in place, for safety reasons).  If you’ve ever attempted one of those jigsaw puzzles where all the pieces look the same but fit together only one particular way, you’ll have some idea of how tricky it was…

The long, shallow console table is almost 2m and holds a constantly changing display depending on the time of year and whatever junk shop or ebay finds I’ve dragged home.  Currently in pride of place are these Indian temple bells which make the most beautiful and ethereal deep chiming noise when they move; I need to find the right place to suspend them properly, but in the meantime they wait patiently for inspiration to strike.

Bob (below) is one of my oldest possessions and was one of my first purchases after leaving university and moving into a shoebox-sized rented house.  Over the years I have occasionally flung yoghurt over him and left him outside for a few days, creating the aged patina you see here – but mostly he’s lived in the many different hallways I’ve owned since then.  It’s a testament to my husband’s devotion that he’s done most of the heavy lifting in recent years…

The chest (below) was given to me by my mother when I was fourteen, as a junk shop find for my bedroom.  More recently I’ve changed the handles and used transfer decal paper and turps to add lettering to each drawer (please, French readers; break it to me gently if my spelling is all wrong…).  It now holds the keys, junk mail, single gloves without soul mates and general clutter that tends to accumulate in a hallway, and hides it from general view.  The old typewriter – a personal passion – was an antique shop find which I’ve just sourced ribbons for via Ebay; hallelujah!

This olive tree is a faux one, rescued ex-display from a shop which was closing down; it looks beautiful at Christmas time bedecked with tiny silver baubles and white porcelain bells.  Once in a while a branch drops off, which is why we keep SuperGlue and gaffer tape in the aforementioned chest of drawers…

We’re far from completely finished; as you can see, we lack stair carpet and are pondering whether to keep or replace the wall lighting – decisions, decisions – but the biggest and most dramatic changes are done, and the dust is settling; time to pause once again and enjoy the temporary calm…

The Dream House Part 1: Kitchen restoration

Whilst most of my creative projects involve paper, glue, baking or clay, there’s one big – nay, HUGE, project keeping me busy in the background, and that’s the renovation of our new house; a crumbling yet beautiful pile that we moved into just before Christmas.  We were looking for somewhere big and vaguely unkempt, where Harry could run amok without it mattering, and where adventures could be had and memories created over many years. My husband saw it first, and it’s a testament to the magic of the house that he, ever practical and sensible, was captivated. Windows rattled, mice fled for cover, plaster dust quietly settled around us but still, we decided, it had to be ours.  Madness, of the very best possible kind…

So here we are, 6 months in and with no money left, neat fingernails a distant memory and a complete and profound happiness about having found Home.  Our first big project was to convert the formal living room into a family kitchen/dining space, where we now spend almost all of our waking hours.  This is what it looked like before:

And now after…


The room – like the rest of the house – has some beautiful features we were keen to keep,  like the panelling, bay windows and ornate coving from when the house was built in the 1750s. We had an imprint made of this, so we could continue it around the new in-built range cooker and cupboards.  A lime-washed, engineered oak floor replaced the old pink carpet (you can see now where all our money has gone…), and is living up to the promise of being hard-wearing and resistant to everything a two year old can drop on it.  Much of the space in the l-shaped room was under-utilised before, as the previous owners had understandably clustered sofas round the fireplace and left the far end alone. Instead, we added our main kitchen area here, working with Martin Moore to design a layout which maximises the space, and centres around a large Cook’s Table and chairs which we perch on whilst dinner bubbles away on the stove. (Alright, alright I confess; whilst dinner pings in the microwave).

And after….

The fireplace (below) was original to the property but very ornate and rather too heavy with bunches of grapes and dancing maidens for our taste; we replaced it with this simple yet majestic stone surround slate hearth, and retained the original backplate.  The fireplace is an object of fascination for Harry, who is convinced the chimney is home to a family of owls, ever since I hooted down from an upstairs fireplace when he was standing below.

By the time we’d finished the kitchen and floor, our collective money boxes were nearly empty, so we bought these two dressers relatively cheaply and painted them to tone with the kitchen at the other end.  Random objects gathered at junk sales and flea markets over the years have finally found a home on top (I knew that 3ft wide vintage Ukranian dough bowl would look good somewhere…), and our mismatched white china is stored inside.  Our melamine Disney plates and chipped mugs are still around, of course, we just hide them in our new cupboards..

Finally we added a squashy cream Chesterfield sofa in the bay window; the perfect place to read Sunday papers (though the relaxed reading of newspapers is a distant memory, in truth).  Cream sofas may seem like another act of insanity, but this one is steeped in industrial strength stain-guard, which so far is doing a magnificent job.

So; Phase 1 is now complete, and the memories of months of rubble, chaos and the Electrician-Who-Fell-Through-The-Ceiling are rapidly fading and being converted into cheery anecdotes.  The electrician, I hasten to add, is fine; he stepped off a beam upstairs and went straight through the lathe and plaster ceiling below; fortunately a lifetime of eating Cornish pasties for lunch ensured he simply became wedged between joists and suffered an uncomfortable hour in mid-air, and mid-floor, whilst reinforcements – and a ladder – arrived.

Starstruck



Stars… don’t you just love them? Folding and cutting stars and smothering them with sparkly glitter glue and paint is surely a right of passage for all children, and is the basis for much homespun Christmas craft. But it would be a great shame if we limited star-gazing to those times only.  I challenge all fully-grown adults to grab the nearest piece of paper (bills, doctors appointments, fines; the more depressing the paper, the more satisfying this will be…), and make a star.  Hell, make a galaxy; once you’ve started it’s very hard to stop…

I made these ombre tonal stars (above and bottom) for Harry’s room, to hang jauntily from Brad the Stag’s antlers, and also to form decorative garlands about the house.  Whipping myself into a snipping & folding frenzy, I’ve also decorated our beautiful but lethal ancient spiral staircase, which seems to be invisible to adult peripheral vision and has caused many a painful encounter for anyone over 5 foot.  With its gaudy bling-tastic stars it’s now quite hard to miss.

Experiment with different colours and textures for very different effects per below.. I embellished with glitter and tiny buttons, and used gift wrap for the bright stars, 216gsm textured card stock for the tonal stars.  Step-by-step instructions below for those who have forgotten everything they learned in geometry classes… no complicated measuring I promise!

3D Star Tutorial:

I’m showing the ‘no fancy tools’ method first using just a cup and a ruler… those who can rummage in a draw and retrieve a pair of compasses will find an even easier method below.

  1. Take a glass (or anything round and flat) and measure the diameter; halve this and make a note.  It’s 4.5cm for me.
  2. Draw around the glass, and then measure and mark this distance around the rim, giving you 6 equidistant points.
  3. Join up these marks with straight lines, skipping alternate points, ending up with a star like this in Fig.3
  4. Cut out the star, and fold right-sides together along each of the INNER angles of the star – do this 3 times in total.
  5. Turn over and fold wrong-sides together along each of the OUTER POINTS of the star, giving you your 3D shape – again, make 3 folds.
  6. refold and score again to reinforce the sharpness of the folds, then pop out to make your star.

If you have a pair of compasses, simply set them to the distance you want for the circumference of your star, draw a circle then choose a point at random along the rim. Swing the arms of the compass to mark either side of this where it bisects, and ‘walk’ your compass around the rim to make 6 marks in total – by holding the compass in the original position you won’t need to measure.  Then follow steps 3-6 as above.

These make beautiful gift tags too – just tape a piece of ribbon or thread to the back and then loop over the neck of a wine bottle or onto a gift.  Thread them together to form a garland, prop them up on mantles or shelves, or simply hang a few from a doorknob; be warned though; they’re so tactile and perky that visitors will gravitate towards them and want to give them a good squeeze…

If you try these do let me know how you get on… message me below or even upload your beauties to www.facebook.com/katescreativespace and let’s have our own paper constellation…

Keepers of the Flame!

With less than 4 weeks to go until the Olympic Games begin, the torch is weaving its merry way towards the stadium here in London. 8000 torchbearers are helping to transport it along its journey, and having been inexplicably overlooked by the selection committee, Harry and I have decided to take matters into our own hands and create our very own Olympic outfit and torch, ready for a ceremonial lap of the back garden….


For the Olympic tee you’ll need….

1. A plain white cotton tee shirt or vest, 2. Fabric paints in red, green, black, yellow and blue, 3. Ring-shaped objects for stamping; we used Play-Doh lids, but toilet rolls work well too, though they produce thinner rings.  Have a quick look in the kitchen cupboards and you’ll find all sorts of likely candidates! 4. Paintbrushes, to daub paint on your lids for a neat finish, and to fill in any gaps after stamping. Finally, a piece of card to place inside the shirt to keep the fabric flat and in position, and to stop paint leaking through to the back of the shirt. Oh, and wet wipes.  A mountain of them, if your toddler is as frisky as mine. Now you’re ready….

When you’ve finished, fill in any gaps with a dab of paint, using your paintbrush, then leave to dry before fixing the fabric paint according to the manufacturer’s instructions (usually a quick iron under a protective piece of fabric) …and admire your handiwork!

For the Olympic torch you’ll need…

1. A sheet of gold card, any size you like, 2. A variety of brightly coloured tissue paper sheets 3. Paper fasteners or double-sided tape to hold your torch in place.  Simply cut out flame shapes from your tissue, twist them together and fluff them out, then tape to hold in place.  Roll your card into a cone shape and stick or hold with paper fasteners (I found these best as my sparkly card caused the tape to give up quickly).  Put a dab of glue or piece of tape on the bottom of your flame bouquet and push it down into your cone – voila!

This would be a great crafting project to do with older children, who possess the hand-eye co-ordination to have a good shot at positioning the rings in roughly the right place.  Whilst I made this vest and tee for Harry, he experimented flamboyantly with his own Olympic ring design using finger paints and toilet rolls, proving that there’s an Olympic craft for everyone. I expect his hands and face will still be stained lightly red,yellow,blue and green by the time the Opening Ceremony commences…