valentines

Mapping a Marriage

Valentines book from Kates Creative Space

Full of romance and good intention, I turned to my husband last month and described my plans for celebrating our milestone tenth wedding anniversary this summer.

‘That’s great’ he said.  ’Except it’ll actually be nine years’.

I was never good on detail.  High on enthusiasm; rather loose on the specifics.

But still, for this Valentine’s day I have a plan; a book that maps the eight-and-half-years of our marriage through the adventures we’ve had and the places we’ve been together.  When we married I promised that we would continue to explore the world; that whatever tide of real life and responsibilites consumed us, we’d keep on moving and travelling and experiencing new things.  And for the most part, we have.

This magical website lets you type in any place in the world and then translates it into a beautiful watercolour map that you can download and use; I found our favourite and most memorable places, printed them onto watercolour paper and bound them together in a book.  Each page comes without clues (he prides himself on his geographical knowledge; this is a challenge he will seize..), but on the back are notes and memories and photos from each trip.  I started with the Isle of Capri..

Isle of Capri in watercolour

It was the first place we went to together, staying out of season in November in the Capri Palace hotel, enjoying late autumn sunshine and then sitting wrapped in blankets in the village square at night, drinking wine with the locals. It was, in a sense, where we began.

Then later Cape Town, where we honeymooned; a more identifiable harbour for this seasoned cartographer to spot…

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 20.47.36

There are twelve maps in total in the book, ending with Sydney, our latest great adventure;

Sydney Habour watercolour map

And here’s how I made it…

DIY Valentines Map Book

You’ll need;

  • Two sheets of greyboard or other strong cardboard
  • Decorative paper for the covers and inside leaves of the book
  • A length of ribbon or bookbinding fabric to make your spine and cover the edges of the boards, binding them together
  • Your printed sheets; I used 300gsm paper to look like actual watercolour paintings
  • Linen-backed paper tape to attach the pages
  • I added a love letter to the inside leaf of the book, and a large button to the front to hold the book together

Stitched button map book

The detailed instructions are below if you want to give this a go; it took me two evenings, three cups of tea and two glasses of wine.  Also a deep paper cut on my index finger.  It was worth it.

But if you do nothing else, have a play at making beautiful maps online (your home town! Your next holiday destination! Anywhere….)

Have a wonderful week.

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DIY Valentines book of all the places youve visited together

 

Making the book, step by step;

  1. Mix a cup of white glue and water, using 1 part glue to two parts water.
  2. Cut your decorative paper so that it is 1 inch greater in size all round than your greyboard.  These are the margins that you’ll fold over the board.
  3. Paste the paper thoroughly on the reverse side, and lay each board carefully in place; fold over the edges of the paper so that they are glued in place, and then place a sheet of parchment/baking paper over the top before weighting down the covered cardboard to dry (use heavy books for this).  The parchment paper will stop the cardboard from sticking to the books as it dries.  Don’t skip this step; without weighting, the glue will curl the cardboard and you’ll end up with bowed covers.  This is a good time for the first cup of tea / glass of wine.
  4. Once your boards are throughly dry, lay them alongside each other, ‘good’ side up, so that they are like the open covers of a book.  Leaving a space of 1 inch between them; glue a 2 inch-wide length of fabric or ribbon so that it adheres to each board and binds them together.  Turn the book cover over, and paste another sheet of decorative paper to the inside, hiding the pasted edges of the covers (see my picture 2 in the montage above, where one side is decorated and one side still bare and uncovered).
  5. Whilst this is drying, print out your pages and order them carefully, practising flipping through them to make sure you have them facing the right way (it’s surprisingly easy to get them back to front).
  6. Using strips of linen tape, stick the pages together.  This tape is helpfully marked down the centre with stitching so that you can get your seams absolutely straight.
  7. Then – and you’re almost done now – use strong decorative tape to tape your bound pages into the book covers.  I used navy-blue constellation patterned tape which contrasted nicely with the sea colours of the paper (see pic above).
  8. Finally, just to show off, use a punch or bradawl to make two tiny holes in the cover and stitch a button in place (don’t even think of trying to force a needle through the greyboard without pre-made holes; it will end in disaster and stab wounds…).  Inside the back cover, glue or thread a length of ribbon that you can wind around the button to hold the covers closed.
  9. Congratulate yourself on navigating my impenetrable instructions, and present the finished book to your lover, emphasising just how much effort has gone into it.
  10. Be showered with adoration as a result.

Love Letter Cookies!

Love Letter Cookie for Valentines

February has begun so I think we’re now entitled to think romantic thoughts. Happily, this means that January – official month of gloomy abstinence and calorie-counting – is now finished, so what better way to celebrate these two things than with deliciously more-ish love letter cookies for Valentine’s day?

Love Letter Monogram Cookies from Kates Creative Space

These have the advantage of looking quite accomplished, as if you have spent many hours slavishly finessing them as a sign of the depth and breadth of your passion, but in fact they’re very easy to whip up.  Bonus.  Love should not always be hard work, after all.

I made a batch of basic cookie dough (I use Nigella’s recipe ) and then cut out rectangle shapes using a matchbox as a guide.  Whilst these baked and cooled, I rolled out ready-made fondant icing and cut same-size shapes to go on top. Spread a little apricot jam (or edible glue) on top of the cookie to secure the fondant in place, and then simply mark a cross on top of each one to look like the flaps of an envelope.

I made fondant monogram seals by rolling little balls of red fondant and pressing gently with a wax seal (remember the tutorial below from last year?  Find it here).

Edible monogram seals for cakes

Monogram cupcake

I let the monograms dry out a little to firm up, before adding them to the centre of each cookie with another dab of jam, and slipping each cookie into a cellophane envelope, sealed with a faux rose petal and little peg..

Love Letter Cookies for the one you love!

You could choose to make a batch of these and then distribute them widely; spread-betting, one could say, to impress a range of potential suitors with your domestic skills and mastery of baking.  Or you could box them up as I’ve done, so that the object of your affections can have one each day, if they can manage to restrain themselves…

DIY Box of Love Letter Cookies

Happy baking… and forgive the absence of a step-by-step photo guide on this one; I’ve been midnight baking again, which doesn’t result in good pics.  Leave me a comment if you have any questions about how to make these sinful little treats!

Life is moving at a particularly frenzied pace these days, and the time to sit quietly with a cup of tea composing posts is harder to find. I’ll still be here once a week or so, fulfilling my creative urges and sharing thoughts and projects, but as an experiment I will also start to use my Facebook page for smaller, more frequent pics and posts, so do sign up there if you’d like a bit more of the in-between bits as well.

Have a wonderful week, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing!

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An Eclectic Collection of Happinesses

My wonderful Valentine’s gift last week arrived at the foot of the bed in an enormous, dusty cardboard box, and gave me thrills; this vintage Imperial typewriter was a total surprise and is  - for me – the perfect choice. Grimy, weary and with a handful of stiff keys it will polish up a treat, and my mind is already racing with possibilities.  I think it will find a temporary home on the writing desk in our guest bedroom, perhaps with a welcome note typed out on it..

Typewriters

I’ve also been thinking ahead to the Easter holidays, and whilst we plan out trips and social events my mind has turned to decor, food and festivities; I’ve been having a go at making faux birds nests to fill with blown, dip-dyed & hand-speckled eggs; this (below) was an early attempt, and I’ll share with you the full how-to and some suggestions on materials and styling soon.  I think I’m going to place ours under the cloches we used at Christmastime, on a cake stand; but the possibilities are endless.

faux bird nest DIY

The weather briefly turned last weekend, shooting up a veritable 11 degrees and giving us a preview of Spring.  It was the only invitation I needed to brighten up the house, gathering these beautiful, vibrantly-Spring like hydrangeas from the garden centre, planting up a battalion of eggshell Cress-men to adorn our windowsills, and swapping my favourite woodsmoke candles for a hint of freshly mown grass.

spring blooms

Have a lovely weekend!

A Pocketful of Hearts

valentine

We’ve briefly come over all romantic this week, felled at last by the growing global momentum of Valentine preparations and the rosy hue of shopfronts as the world turns red for a week.  Valentine’s day here in the UK is still predominantly about celebrating grown-up, romantic love, but is gradually broadening to be a general celebration of love in all its forms.  Harry proudly – and very carefully – brought us home a large envelope containing a card he had made us at nursery which we are not allowed to open until Thursday (though Harry is adamant, in a moment of 3yr old confusion, that in fact we have to wait until Christmas);  he has red glitter in his hair and heart-shaped paint splats on his jeans, so I think we are safe to assume that Thursday is the day.

In turn, Harry and I have been busy crafting a Valentine card for his cool fairy Godmother; she’s the person in his life who brings him books about farting dogs and lollipops as large as his head, and believes that pyjamas should absolutely be worn all day if possible, thus earning his unwavering affection.

make a valentines card

To decorate the envelope, I drew a tiny heart shape on the tip of a pencil eraser and carved away the edges (do this in good lighting and when free of caffeine, red wine, or anything else that might cause your hand to twitch..). It’s soooo simple but looks great, and makes the perfect rubber stamp for kids (or adults) to push into an ink pad and stamp randomly over any available surface.  We used this ink, which I fished out of my old stamping supplies, and discovered as an added bonus that the colour turns from deep red to light pink as the pigment wears out, giving a lovely ombre effect.

make a pencil heart stamp

It’s been a while since we were active in the kitchen so we also knocked up some little meringue kisses to give to friends.  I used this recipe, which seems to produce drier, crispy meringues and allows you to whip them out of the oven sooner than usual, which is great for coloured meringues where you don’t want any browning or colour fade.  For the kisses, I stirred rose food colouring in just before the icing sugar stage, piped imperfect rosettes to fill a silicon baking sheet, and then when the meringues were baked and cool, I brushed edible glue around the base of each and rolled them in rainbow sprinkles before setting to dry on a cooling rack…

meringue kisses

little meringue kisses

With the leftover meringue, I spooned out dollops onto a baking sheet and then used a wooden skewer to swirl raspberry coulis through the peaks, giving this raspberry-ripple effect; as a treat we’ll have them with whipped cream, fresh raspberries and a glass of champagne on Thursday (after all, if you’re staying in you can afford to be a little decadent…)

raspberry swirl meringues

So, a giddy pink day to celebrate all things romantic.  Little does Mr B expect that Valentine’s Day itself will bring him the gift of 12 jars of marmalade in a vintage garden trug; I’m having to blow the dust off my Tracy Anderson bicep-building DVD before I can even contemplate lifting it…

Next time, by the way, I’m going to focus on answering some of the questions I’ve had of late about the fonts, graphics, camera and other tools and techniques I use here; if there’s anything you’re keen to know more about, please do shout and I’ll endeavour to cover it.  I should preface this by saying that those seeking technological enlightenment and cutting-edge wizardry should hastily look elsewhere; my secrets lie more in the artistic draping of bedsheets as backdrops, the procurement of free graphics, and in providing life support to an ancient entry-level printer – but that at least makes everything I do very accessible and highly replicable!

Have a lovely week..

Valentine’s Day Revival

It’s very easy when wrestling with jobs, toddlers and a crumbling, weary gem of a house to become a little, well, unmoved by Valentine’s Day.  The hustle and bustle of life combined with the unspoken thought that one’s Intended is not only now Intended but actually sort of already In The Bag can lead to a distinct lack of effort.

We realised we needed to remedy this and furtive, concerted efforts have been made in recent days, with much rustling and the occasional shriek of ‘don’t come in!’ when the other approaches unexpectedly.  The challenge we face is that of how to make grand romantic gestures on the deliberately austere budget we have agreed for such measures.  How dull.

My solution – at least in part – is to go personal with this homemade gift wrap, using a poem from our wedding, the lovely and highly unusual ‘Valentine’ by John Fuller.  Featuring the immortal lines ‘You are the end of self-abuse/I’d like to make you reproduce’, it certainly caused a stir amongst the congregation, and also a fit of choking in the Best Man who hadn’t read it properly before giving the reading.  Still, it has special memories so I played with some fonts and colours and printed it on A3 recycled paper, which just covers a box of the right size for my gift and has a suitably tactile texture. Let’s hope it does the trick..

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