papercraft

A Cupcake Armada (and back to school fever!)

Cupcake Armada

How are you?  Today feels like the last day of the long summer break, before school and work restart in earnest next week.  An amazing summer of long hot days, evenings without bedtime curfews and delicious expanses of family time.  A summer too of sporting achievements; armbands are now permanently consigned to the loft and Harry is confidently afloat and swimming like a fish (albeit a wriggling, giggling one, who is liable to take onboard water in moments of distraction…).

We’ve also had the time to make progress with more of the house redesign and decor, tackling the upstairs rooms a little at a time; so exciting.  And many more projects in the pipeline… but more on that in a minute.

First though, a fun papercraft-and-cake project from this week (combinations don’t come much better than that, surely); a practice-run of ideas for friends who want to have homemade vibrant and fun cupcakes at their seaside wedding instead of a traditional cake.

cupcake sails 07

I wanted to create the impression of masted sails and chose long wooden barbecue skewers and strips of brightly coloured paper to create the effect.  For the pattern – which reminded me of swirling sea colours but also picked out the pink theme colour of the wedding – I downloaded one of the wonderful free watercolour designs by Yao Cheng for DLF , cropped it into long rectangle shapes and then added some text in Powerpoint (below).  If you don’t need to add writing, I’d just chose a lovely patterned sheet of gift wrap and cut out rectangles of about 2×5 inches.

cupcake sails 02

I painted each skewer with food colouring; you can do this neat from the bottle or dilute for a more subtle colour.  I left the bottom of the skewers unpainted but of course the beauty of the food colouring is it’s completely non-toxic and safe to be thrust deep into sponge…

cupcake 04

I threaded the paper onto the skewer and then pushed a small pearl bead onto each skewer tip both for decorative effect and to avoid any partygoers accidentally poking themselves in the eye when leaning over to choose their cake.. and also strung a few tiny bells randomly on the mast tops..

cupcake sails 05

Ta-da; the finished cupcakes!  Easy to produce en masse but equally fun just to make for teatime.

cupcake sails 07

 In other news… Harry and I have been embarking on a rather more substantial project this month; remember the Parisian Play Shop?  It was well-loved and well-played with for about a year but gradually became a dumping ground for all kinds of toys, books and half-built Lego models.  Whilst the play kitchen is very much still in active use, and acts like a magnet for any little girls who happen to be passing through, the shop seemed to have run its course, so I moved it to the loft to create space and forgot about it.

But then, this summer we stumbled across a pop-up puppet show in the local park – and Harry was absolutely transfixed.  There’s something about the slapstick comedy and audience participation which completely captured his imagination and made him chuckle whenever he thought about it for days afterwards.  So… we’re building a puppet theatre together, where we can stage our own plays at home.  I began by bashing out the top shelf and getting a large hole cut out from the back..

puppet theatre in progress

and finished up…….

starlight puppet theatre DIY

…well, I think we’ll open the theatre officially with a Grand Reveal next week, when our finishing touches are complete. We have some rehearsing to do after all :-)

Have a great weekend when it comes; I’ll be making the most of the last couple of days of lie-ins and sunshine, in-between stitching in name tags and retrieving long-abandoned school kit from corners around the house..

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Gifting ideas (and the week in which my tenuous grasp on horticulture is lost)

Wine Bottle Tags free download

Happy Monday!  I hope you had a lovely weekend, and one which hasn’t receded too dramatically into the mists of time.  Ours was packed with socialising with some of our closest friends, mostly al fresco thanks to the very un-British heatwave.  Long may it continue.  Friday night was supper with friends so I baked a batch of our tried-and-tested oatcakes to take along (delicious with cheese), and designed a bottle tag to drop around the neck of a bottle of wine.  An Eat Me, Drink Me combination worthy of Alice in Wonderland, but with somewhat more predictable results… and fewer rabbit holes.

Gifting ideas; wine bottle tags

Here’s my downloadable template if you want to make a batch of tags; for those with proper grown-up wine cellars or any kind of grape expertise, they’d be great for recording tasting notes or details of dates and vintage.  Or simply greetings and instructions to consume immediately, as we did…

Wine Bottle Tag Printables

Just cut around the outside, then punch or carefully cut out the hole and lightly fold along the dotted line before slipping over the neck of your bottle.

Wine Bottle Tag Printables

Our social whirlwind continued with a visit to Harry’s godparents and their new puppy, an adorable 5 month old labrador; we made her a jar of peanut-butter dog biscuits and I also experimented with a new iPhone/iPad app called Waterlogue which converts photos into watercolour-effect pictures.  All we had was this low-res picture of Lexie, but when imported into Waterlogue and transformed, it became a gorgeous, slightly abstract picture…

trialling waterlogue

I emailed myself the pic and cropped it slightly then printed it onto sheets of white linen cardstock to make a set of notecards for the family; I added text to some and left others bare.  I can see Waterlogue is going to be my new time waster for a little while…  if you have an iPhone it’s worth checking it out;  from my early experiments it works brilliantly with some photos and can’t seem to interpret or adapt others –  a bit hit and miss – but inexpensive enough to try.

Dog watercolour cards project

DIY cards using Waterlogue app

The heatwave has been perfect for racing through garden sprinklers and spending hours in the paddling pool, but alas fatal for some of our conservatory plants; a handful have quietly breathed their last despite my fervent attempts to water and ventilate whenever we’re home (I have felt more like an ER surgeon, racing from one to the next to check possibilities for resuscitation than the genteel green-fingered pottering I’d imagined..).  Still, the mouse-melons have not only survived but thrived, and are shooting out plucky lassoos as they climb at a rate of knots…

Mousemelons climbing

The courgettes too are soaking up the dense heat and we now have row upon row of shiny – if somewhat eclectically shaped – cukes ready for Harry to pack in his lunchbox.

cucumbers in a row

I occasionally manage an early-morning wander through the garden before work, cup of tea in hand; this rose (below) looked too beautiful to ignore and now sits on my bedside table smelling divine.

garden rose

…and in a local thrift shop I found the perfect book to photograph for the cover of my gardening journal; it’s so very true…

the amateur gardener

….as evidenced by this, my bizarrely shaped courgettes (zucchini), which taste good but look like they were caught in a moment of indecision during a growth spurt about whether to remain courgettes or aim higher and pretend to be marrows.

misshapen marrow

Still, it’s all a good (if steep) learning curve… and at least our peas are uncomplicatedly obliging.  In fact, we are slowly creating a pea mountain, as we search for endless ways of incorporating them into every dish.

have a great week!

Kate

 

peas please

A Paper Reservation

DIY Play Tipis from Kates Creative Space

The brief arrival of summertime (now departed, replaced by a week of torrential rain), turned our heads this week to camp-outs and camp-fires; to nights under the stars and balmy, warm evenings under a wide open sky.  These at least are Harry’s thoughts; as a camping novice, his romantic notions are untroubled by reality; midges, creepy-crawlies, rising damp and those strange, spooky rustling noises in the dead of night that seem somehow to be bear-sized are all yet to come.   We have agreed that this summer we will gather sleeping bags and canvas, torches and firewood and try it for real …in the back garden at least.

Until then, we’re making do with these fun paper tipis which I created in Powerpoint and which we’ve been constructing in different colours and sizes to make a small reservation for the various Lego men, animals and other homeless itinerants of Harry’s toy box.  They seem to appreciate the gesture, even if unused to sleeping under the same pitched roof;

DIY tipi with props

These are very simple to make once you’ve printed them out; you’ll need only a handful of wooden skewers, cocktail sticks and some glue or tape.  I’ve drawn one authentic-looking leathery tipi complete with markings, and one more plain ecru-design which can be coloured in, decorated or otherwise customised as you see fit (because there’s always room for sequins and glitter glue, even on the plains).

DIY tipi free downloadDIY Tipi free dowload

Tipi markings

To make the tipis, I used these wonderful free leather textures – definitely worth bookmarking if you’re a creative type. So, arm yourself with a pair of scissors and give them a whirl.  Even if you don’t have little people in your life these are fun to make and look very decorative on a bookshelf or mantle.  Or why not print them out and make a kit to send to someone for whom it might be JUST the project to occupy a rainy day?

Instructions below – email me if you get stuck.  Oh, and of course, be careful not to accidentally poke yourself in the eye with a skewer, especially if doing this with a glass of wine in the other hand.  For added safety, you could add a colourful bead to the tip of each one like here.

Still, I can assure you that making a paper tipi is far less hazardous than trying to erect the real thing, especially when your assistant is an easily distracted four year old.

Enjoy!

Kate

Decorated Authentic Style Tipi Template

Plain Tipi Pattern with Red Laced Entrance

cheetah in tipi

 

 

Tipi Instructions

 

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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Quick Tricks: Printing Onto Tape

Magic tape printing master

How are you… are you having a good week?  We are beyond excited as our New England trip looms; suitcases are packed and stand in the hall (somewhat prematurely, meaning we have to rummage in them daily for crucial things buried deep inside).  Harry is determined that his entire Lego collection should accompany us, along with his stuffed-animal menagerie, so every night under cover of darkness we stealthily unpack his backpack and try to lighten the load a little.  We cannot wait!  A quick craft therefore this week, squeezed in between frantic completion of work projects and endless small preparations and errands; I present to you the art of printing onto tape.

This may well be one of those crafts that divides readers into those who cry ‘Lawks! That’s genius! However did I live without this knowledge?’ and those who are frankly mystified as to how this could ever come in useful.  Have faith; read on.  I used Scotch magic tape, because I had it to hand, but coloured washi tape also works well and easy to print on and peel.  I decorated a box of inexpensive wooden pencils from here, and now have a pot of prettiness on my desk for those times when only graphite will do…

pencil on book

To print onto washi or satin tape (don’t try using high-glass tape like Sellotape; the ink won’t adhere and you will end up in a tangled, inky mess and blame me..), firstly print out your words onto a regular sheet of paper.  Check that the font size is right for the width of your tape, and then cover each line with the tape, as below.

printing on tape 1

Now run the sheet back through the printer, positioning it the same way as before so that it prints over the original text and – Ta-Da! – over the tape itself.  Wait for the ink to dry (don’t skip this step; adopt a yoga pose and think zen thoughts until you are sure it has dried).  Then gently peel the tape away, and position it onto your pencil (or envelope, or giftwrap, or whatever else you want to use it for).

tape printing 2

printing on tape 3
If you’re covering pencils like these, gently roll the tape around the sides and then press firmly into place.  I’ve gone for the understated, Muji-esque look, but blinging bright washi tape would be equally delicious.

printing on tape 4

Pencils on notebook

Printed Pencils

I used exactly the same technique to print a sheet of tape strips to use on the back of envelopes to help them stand out from the dreary bills and other junk mail that arrives each day;

Washi tape Printing

So there, as promised, a lightening quick technique to use whenever the fancy takes you….

DIY printed pencils

I’ll see you soon!

Kate

The Cheats’ Guide to Calligraphy (or: How to Acquire Beautiful Penmanship In No Time At All).

calligraphy using your PC

I love receiving post, and I love to write letters, though I don’t do so nearly often enough. There’s something so rare and lovely about seeing an envelope poking out from a pile of brown bills and circulars which is obviously something fun.  This week, a few tips on how to create beautiful and accomplished-looking envelopes, invitations, gift tags or any other paper paraphernalia, using just your PC and a printer.  Whether you have a Windows PC or a Mac, your basic in-built programmes are likely to contain Powerpoint (tool of jaded office executives the world over, and hence an old friend of mine).  As well as producing mind-numbingly dull graphs and bulleted presentations, it can be surprisingly versatile; I do practically all of my crafty stuff using it, including the montages you see on the blog.

If your capability with Powerpoint extends to the point where you can open a file and create a text box, then we’re cooking and ready for the off.  If you are a Photoshop aficionado and are reading this with horror at my simplistic and antiquated ways, then please cast your eyes away from the screen and cease your tut-tutting.  Right then…

amelie calligraphy envelope

harry calligraphy envelope

george envelope

  • Choose a great font.  Either choose from the default font menu, or start with the list and resources below of mostly free-to-download fonts, and have a play until you find one you like.  Many of the sites let you type in your own words to sample the font before downloading (urbanfonts is good for this), so if you have a particular phrase or wording in mind, head there to see what it looks like in each font; with calligraphy and ‘handwriting’ fonts the letters can vary a lot.
  • Use a new text box for each line of text, so that you can move words around, rotate and position far more organically than you can within a single text box.  You can see here that I’ve used a large font for the surname and then used the green rotate icon to turn it slightly.  Having individual boxes also allowed me to overlap the ‘B’ of Brown with the ‘A’ of Amelia.  The stars here were drawn using Powerpoint’s own shapes library (create one, copy and paste until you have a small constellation).

Deconstructing DIY Calligraphy

  • For dramatic capital letters, use a text box for each letter, whack up the font size and then – using a new text box – position the rest of the word (in a much smaller font) where you want it. You can see below how for this address I used multiple font sizes:

Calligraphy font sizes

  • When you’re ready to print, cut out practice templates from inexpensive paper which are the same size as your envelopes, and print /adjust until you have it exactly positioned right, to minimise wastage or misprints.
  • For white text on a coloured background, create a large coloured square to sit behind your text onscreen before converting the text to white.  You can either print this directly onto the envelope as I did here, or onto a large self-adhesive label to then stick onto plainer envelopes. To avoid a white edge around your image when printing directly onto envelopes, select a print size slightly bigger than your envelope.
  • Don’t be afraid of mixing fonts, and adding graphics like I did for my envelope flap ‘monogram’ below, which I print onto a stash of envelopes for thank-you cards or letters;

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 14.12.03

envelope flap signature

Incidentally, I love printing things on the back of envelopes… be it a warning not to open birthday cards before the big day, a simple return address or a message; it’s all the more fun because it’s unexpected…

One Good Thing envelope flap

I could continue for hours on this topic, but in the spirit of brevity, and due to the pile of actual letters I’ve meaning to write for far too long, I will stop here for now.  Below are some of my favourites and all of the fonts I’ve used here.  All are free for personal use apart from the delicious Jacques & Gilles which cost me about $30.   I use it all the time, such as for these labels and this post, and it makes me smile.  Definitely worth it for me.

Calligraphy Fonts Sourcesheet

And finally, here are some of the things I create with calligraphy fonts;

  • Personalised stationery, particularly as presents for little people, like this
  • Monogram stickers to use as gift seals or for the back of envelopes
  • The letter from Santa which mysteriously appears in our hearth in late December
  • Invitations and gift tags
  • Labels for homemade baking and jams

signature

A Love Letter to Paris

ParisTraveler_Bicycle_pinup

Well hello, how are you?  I’m back from a few days away with my boys and am feeling refreshed, reinvigorated, renewed and all sorts of other startling words beginning with ‘re’ which provoke mild anxiety in those who know me, who rightly anticipate huge bursts of energy and vigour, just when they are ready to relax and chill out.  Whilst I’m still in holiday mode, I wanted to share the highlights of my recent Paris weekend – a quick visual feast if you have no intention of ever visiting, or possibly a resource to bookmark if you do.  Many of you added comments with some lovely ideas about where to visit which we loved (thank you); the sun shone, the Seine sparkled and we saw the city at its finest, beginning with;

Marais by katescreativespace

A big highlight for me were the endless stores dedicated to all things paper and craft, like this one;

Paris shopping guide by katescreativespace copy

In terms of food, we ate mostly at bistros and cafes, choosing freshly baked bread and pastries from the many patisseries for breakfast, but on our last day we treated ourselves;

Sunday brunch in Paris

We were both keen to try a cookery class when in Paris, so elected to study the art of the macaroon via an afternoon masterclass here

macaroon making by katescreativespace

And finally we squeezed in a couple of hours of window shopping and wandering back through the cobbled streets of the Marais, stumbling across some beautiful boutiques like La Chambre aux Confitures; a tiny place of worship for all things jam and jelly-related (fig, olive & nut jam to accompany your cheese plate, madame? Pas de probleme.  Strawberry & champagne jam for that special breakfast?  Mais oui!).  Then onto the magnificent windows of legendary ballet shop Repetto, piled high with shoes and bustling with young ballerinas eagerly queuing to try on the wares..

repetto store paris

lepetto ballet shoes

A wonderful weekend, and an inspiring one – I spent lots of time photographing amazing window displays and scribbling notes of things to try back home (watch this space..).

But now back to earth, and fortunately in our small corner of the world it’s an earth which is still basking in a heatwave, moderated by overnight showers which bring the garden back to life and cool the air.  It’s proven the perfect conditions for our sunflowers to give a final triumphant push for glory, and as I type they are teetering outside the window (note the carefully chosen words to indicate magnificent height and beanstalk-like prowess; we take competition very seriously…).  Photos and final measuring next time, once I’ve had the chance to add a last dash of plant food under cover of darkness.

Have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are; we have a night of outdoor theatre and picnicking to look forward to – summer at its best!

Kate x

nb all photos and illustrations in this post are my own, apart from the glorious Paris poster (top) from here

DIY Concertina-Fold Photobook

DIY Concertina Photobook Project

When I was in Paris recently, I saw a range of beautiful silk-covered concertina photo albums in the window of a stationery boutique.  A tiny, eclectic paradise stuffed full of the most beautiful things, it was a shrine to all things paper.  Their beauty diminished a little when I saw the price; about 25 Euros, or £20/$35.  Alors!

I resolved to have a go at making a few of my own at home to capture photos  of special days or big events  - and to make and give as gifts, packaged up with a little pack of photo-corners so that recipients can fill them with whatever photos they like.  I made one to go in Harry’s Time Capsule, with a selection of photos reflecting a typical day this summer, so he can look back and remember what it was like to be 3yrs old…

Concertina Photobook DIY folding Photobook
DIY Photobook Then for something a little more grown-up, I found some pretty Paris street map paper and made a concertina book of the best photos from our Paris trip; a copy each for me and my best friend Vicky who came with me…

Paris Concertina Photobook
Parisian Concertina Photobook
DIY Vacation Photobook

All you need for this is a large sheet of black craft paper (or any colour, if you prefer something brighter for the inside), two pieces of cardboard, some spray glue and a sheet of decorative paper.  Oh, and a stack of heavy books to place it under at various stages.  If you’re feeling inspired, click below for the step-by-step directions (and do let me know how you get on!)

DIY Concertina Photobook Instructions (click the link to download and print, or simply view them below)

DIY Concertina Photobook Guide Notes

Fragile Worlds

le paper globe

I thought hard about how to prepare Harry for my recent extended trip. He’s very used to me being absent for a night here or there when work takes me away, but an absence of Eight Big Sleeps was unprecedented.  We talked about it in the few days beforehand so that it didn’t come as a surprise, and that seemed to work pretty well.  A couple of days before I left for India, I stumbled across this free downloadable paper globe kit, so we made one together and worked out where Harry would be, where I would be, and how long a plane takes to fly between them.

the globe

We painted India in bright pink so it was easy to find, and then carefully placed the globe on the fireplace where it could be taken down and examined whenever Harry wanted.

paper globe on mantel

These paper globes are beautifully tactile and surprisingly sturdy; I used 170gsm heavyweight recycled paper for ours.  If you download the PDF, you’ll see it is constructed by building a paper skeleton and folding the spherical globe segments into place around it.  I tried this, then cheated and simply abandoned the inner skeleton, instead just cutting, folding and glueing the outer pieces together to form our hollow-but-robust version.  (nb If you choose our method, you’ll only need to print the first 4 pages of the PDF).

paper globe diy

I had a few emails and comments asking about my trip, so I’m sharing a little more below; I work in healthcare ( so not creative, but very fulfilling), and I went to India to see how NGOs and government try to tackle some of the challenges of providing basic healthcare and access to education to those who live in urban slums and remote rural communities.  I expected to see – and did – some sobering and shocking things.  What struck me equally though were the things that I didn’t expect;

That there is beauty and entrepreneurialism to be found everywhere….

onion seller of ravi nagar

..That the children I met who live and work in the most extreme poverty have an irrepressible energy and joie de vivre, and bonds that run deep;

the children of ravi nagar slum

boys on roof

boys with flowers

These children (above & below) are all ‘rag pickers’ living  illegally in Deonar,  Mumbai’s largest dumping ground for waste.  They and their families pick through the dump looking for items they can sell.

Mumbai boys

…And that the next generation of women can together change their world.

women together can change the world copy

These girls live at the dumping ground but are now attending school and spoke impressive English.  Shy and proud in equal measure, their ambition is to be able to move their families out of the slum, ‘and also to become a doctor’.

India was a land of extremes; complex, beautiful, impressive and startling.  The only place I have been where you will see a man leading a goat along the highway on a length of frayed string, scrolling through his smartphone with a free hand.  And where (below) you find market stalls with the most vibrant and lush fruit and vegetables… alongside a stall selling puppies, packed into bamboo cages.  Abhorrent? Or perhaps just a different kind of normal.  Certainly food for thought.

crawford market mumbai

Back to the home-front now though, and what promises to be a weekend of sunshine.  I’ll be putting the finishing touches to the interior of Harry’s house which I’ve been busy kitting out for a Summer of outdoor living.  More next week…

Come tell me a story…

Fun with the Storybox

Storytelling is big in our house.  From tales of the little people who live behind the skirting boards, to the owl family up our chimney; from the lego men who come to life after bedtime and party hard in the playroom all night, to Mummy’s magic shoes which dance when anyone steps in them; we weave stories into the fabric of our days almost without thinking, and Harry loves it.  Experts may say that we are storing up untold problems and creating a fantasist; I like to think that we’re just unleashing Harry’s imagination throughout the wonder years before the real world starts to hem it in.

And indeed, Harry  loves telling stories too.  ’My turn, my turn!’ He’ll exclaim as we sit around the table, or bundle into bed together.  And Harry’s stories are a delight, though they tend towards repetition and rely heavily on goodies and baddies, robbers and jail, and cars.  Oh, and usually someone falls into a giant vat of mud at the end.

This week we introduced The StoryBox, and it’s transformed our tales.  Filled with random but enticing words – like custard, mud, helicopter, sword and pirate – each person has to pick out a word and use it to begin their story.  Whenever you run out of narrative steam, you choose another word and have to incorporate it.  At three-and-a-half, Harry grasped the idea immediately and loves the unpredictability of what might come next.  It gives him triggers to keep his own story going, and it also allows him to direct – or perhaps sabotage? – our stories too, by pulling out words and insisting that we now need to add in a huge pile of elephant poo – or grandma on a motorbike, or a slimy monster, or whatever is written on the card.

The StoryBox Game

To make this I used a sturdy giftbox and filled it with chips of foamboard to which I glued interesting words.  I chose the names of family members, comic concepts and ideas involving mud, poo, custard and slime, and current obsessions like Lego men, the emergency services and all forms of transport.  And I added in a few completely new words, so that we could explain them and continue to expand his world.  It’s helping with Harry’s word recognition too (though you have to shut your eyes when actually choosing, to add to the drama and unpredictability…).

make your own storybox game

Some very cool stories have emerged.  Like the one where Granny had to rescue Daddy who slipped on a banana whilst escaping from the naughty pirates, who she then chased  on her scooter before making them jump into a big bowl of custard that they had to eat all up before going to jail.

Making stories

You can make this at home in just a few minutes, and it can be as simple or as finessed as you have the energy for.  For the five-minute version, scribble a host of words onto scraps of paper and place them in a hat, shoebox or bowl for family members to pull out.  For the lux version, you can print them out and glue to something more substantial as I did, and decorate a special box to keep them in.

If you want to use my graphic (below) for the cover of your box, you can find a printable version to download at the bottom, albeit one without Harry casually strolling through the pages..

StoryBox

I will keep adding words to our game as Harry’s vocabulary expands and his interests change, to keep it fresh and ensure that the StoryBox retains a firm place in family life. And now I must go; apparently there’s a cross-eyed camel running loose in the garden, and we need to find a saucepan full of sausages to tempt it over with.  No rest for the wicked…

Storybox Main Graphic

An Easter welcome…

Easter approaches, but not the vibrantly green Easter of sudden unseasonal heatwaves, spring picnics and al fresco fun.  Instead, Easter in our small corner of the world promises to be sprinkled with snow flurries, with only the hardiest early apple blossom and narcissi spikes braving the chill.  We don’t care; at Easter each year the house fills with family and friends, and we’ve been adding some decorative touches to spruce things up for their arrival.  Let’s start with lunch…

wallpaper table runner

I wanted to create an interesting Easter table that will see us through a number of meals and provide some distractions for little hands; I used a leftover piece of wallpaper for a simple, natural table runner.  It’s wipe-proof, unlikely to tear and means there’s no need for a tablecloth beneath.  I love using wallpaper for table runners – our local DIY store lets you cut sample lengths and I have a bundle of offcuts from when we were decorating bedrooms; some vibrant and some, like this, more subtle.  Simple brown kraft paper looks great too, or you could use a roll of black paper to mimic a chalkboard; I’ve done this for informal dinners with friends and it looks gorgeous when decorated with white chalk pens (leave some on the table for guests to doodle with..)

spring hare napkin rings DIY

I made these seasonal napkin rings by cutting toilet rolls in half and glueing a length of fabric around each.  I sourced the archive image of the spring hare from here; it was once a bookplate in a dictionary…  I printed it out several times on a sheet of white paper and cut into strips before glueing around each ring.

I used the same image for placemats, printing onto A3 recycled paper, and creating a set of hares racing around the table…

march hare placemat

For the centre of the table, I trailed a variety of spring elements to create a narrow but interesting feature, that can stay in place throughout the long weekend…

tonal spring table

We dragged a mossy log back from the park and this, when dried out, provided the backbone (n.b. if you do this, I’d suggest leaving it in the porch overnight for any existing many-legged residents to seek alternative accommodation, thus avoiding a mass exodus across the lunch table). Homemade nests were placed at each end, with smaller ones tucked along the log.  Old terracotta pots planted with narcissi are scattered at intervals, and should come into bloom at just about the right time…

easter or spring table centrepiece

Hard-boiled white duck eggs sit alongside faux eggs and blown quails eggs, filling bowls and egg cups, and even a tiny vintage silver tea pot from Harry’s play kitchen.

easter table display with teapot

 

I wandered around the house collecting any small vases or bowls of the right sort of palette, like this duck-egg blue vase which normally sits on a mantel but looks just right here…

easter tablescape detail

I decided to make a decorative banner for the fireplace in the kitchen, so set about painting some eggs in fantasy colours and designs (don’t try looking these up in any bird book; accuracy was never my strong point).  These beautiful paints are from legendary Parisian art store Sennelier, and were a gift from my father; I don’t break them out very often but when I do they’re a joy to use.

watercolour eggs

I painted my eggs onto watercolour postcard paper, then scanned them in so I could cut out enough for a banner; I like how they turned out, and think I’ll use them as individual place cards, or maybe transfer print them onto a plain tea towel in the future; if you want to use them for anything seasonal I’ve attached my file as a PDF below, which looks like this when you open it;

bird egg collection

If the weather-man is right, we’ll be lighting the log fire more than once and it will be the centre of attention, so I’ve arranged the folded books from a couple of weeks ago to add a spark of humour and interest…

easter fireplace

And as a final touch, on the large cook’s table sits a vase filled with plastic eggs and a fallen cherry-tree branch, a victim of the recent storms; we rescued it, trimmed just a little and then decked the branches sparingly with speckled eggs.  To do this, I placed a drinking glass inside the vase, filled it with water and inserted the branch, before carefully dropping the plastic eggs all around, filling up the space between the glass and the vase.

easter vase filler

Elsewhere, a collection of  wicker baskets which we’ve collected over the years sits waiting in the hall for the small hands of eager egg-hunters on Easter Monday.  We’re all ready to lay out the hunt (below), but are waiting till the very last minute to decide whether this is a bracing outdoor escapade calling for wellies, scarves and hot chocolate, or whether instead we’ll be placing eggs in nooks and crannies around the house before unleashing indoor chaos…

egg hunt signs

Our next task is a spot of seasonal baking; these baby chick cupcakes went down well last year so a newly hatched batch is top of the list.  If you click on the picture below you can find the details of how we made them.

Hatching Chick Cupcakes

Have a wonderful Easter weekend, wherever you are and whomever you’re with; may spring sunshine and good chocolate find their way to your door…

March hare tablemat

Six Speckled Eggs by Kate