Sunday, 4 December 2016

Christmas tree advent calendar

Our advent calendar has grown this year... conveniently the little pegs have numbers on them and I bought them thinking they'd save time sewing on numbers (which I know from experience takes me ages), but to be honest sewing up the felt baubles took a while anyway. I've only just finished! Quite pleased to have made a dent in the pile of felt scraps I've been hoarding for years.

I drew around the top of a cup on some felt and sewed two circles together using blanket stitch, leaving an decent sized opening, so it's a sort of bauble pocket. The Christmas tree frame is made from pieces gathered up after pruning the hedge in the back garden, though you could use any straight-ish thin branches. I used some gold wire bought from Tiger to bind them together, with three smaller bits in the middle to strengthen the frame and to give me something to wrap the lights around. Then just attached pieces of wire between each section for hanging the baubles. The star on top is an old Christmas tree decoration.

I like it because it's bright and Christmassy and doesn't look half bad on the wall - the kids like it because there's room for more treats...

Linking up with Darren's My Sunday Photo

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Merry-go-round - Sunday photo

Not quite sure this works with just my head and shoulders peeking out at the bottom - but like the moving carousel in the background. It was taken at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Lovely, sparkly festive atmosphere, and a great way to part with a pile of cash in an exceedingly short space of time... Tried hard to win a large Christmas doughnut cushion, but no luck!

Linking up with Darren's My Sunday Photo.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Sparkly bird decorations - #Christmascrafts

We've been trying out some new Christmas decoration ideas, and I thought I'd share a couple of our favourites over the next few weeks. We'll make glittery birds, Christmas trees and fairies to hang on the tree - and they all use the cone part from the middle of an egg box. As you've probably noticed these crop up quite a lot... they play a leading role in the Nativity we made last time, which is a really fun project because you can keep adding to the scene - does seem to help keep kids interested. Certainly worked with mine!

Glittery birds first, and this is very similar to a previous project - just a few tweaks here and there. It's also a slightly adapted version of the Love birds in Make Your Own Zoo.

You'll need:
egg box/carton
kids' craft scissors
fine paintbrush
glitter (optional!)
fine black felt-tip or gel pen
needle and thread
sticky tape
Nail scissors (to make holes - adult supervision needed)

1. Roughly cut a whole cone from the egg carton.

2. Decide how big you want your bird to be and draw a pencil line all the way around the sides of the cone.

3. Cut up two adjacent corners to the line, bend this flap back and cut it off. It's now easier to cut along the rest of the line. Neaten up the edges so the sides are even and the cone sits flat.

4. Paint the cone any colour you like. When it's dry, use the nail scissors to pierce a hole through the top (if there isn't one there already) - keep the scissors closed, press down and twist from side to side. Make another hole about a third of the way up one side (for the tail feathers).

5. Thread a needle with a good length of thread - we used gold, but use whatever you have - and push the needle up through the cone and through the hole, then back down through the hole, leaving a loop for hanging your bird. Use sticky tape to stick down the two strands of thread inside the cone (just make sure not to stick it to the side with the tail feather hole). Trim the thread ends.

6. On the side opposite the tail feather hole, use the fine black pen to draw eyes near the top of the cone. Keep them small and quite close together.

7. Brush some glue inside the cone behind the two holes and choose your feathers - big and showy for the the tail feathers, use several if you want - and short and fluffy for the head plume.

8 Brush a little glue on the sides and stick down two similar sized feathers for the wings. If your feathers are too big, trim them or cut the top off larger ones to get two pieces that look the same, before gluing them on.

9. For the beak, use a fine paintbrush to dab a small blob of yellow paint just below the eyes.

8 For some sparkle, brush glue on the front of your bird and sprinkle over some glitter. Shake off the excess. A good way to save glitter is to do the sprinkling over a paper plate, then bend the plate in the middle to catch the glitter in the fold, and funnel it back into a container.

Next time Christmas trees!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

My new Animal Fun! board books get chewed over....

My little nephew, road-testing one of my new Animal Fun! board books which have just come out. I'm chuffed to bit with them - a totally unexpected but very lovely spin-off from the craft books.

There are four in the set - the usual suspects - numbers, sounds, touch and feel and what's hiding under the flaps? They're packed full of animals from Make Your Own Zoo, but there's also a bunch of new ones from my next craft book that'll be published in the spring.

I spent many happy hours tootling around, making little settings for the animals - with trees, birds, rocks, lizards, snakes, butterflies, squirrels....totally in my element! Especially for the 'Where do I live' book, which has big flaps to reveal what's hiding behind things.

And had to make a right old party of penguins and piglets for the number book.

Sadly mine are passed this age and stage now, but think the books brought back fond memories for my daughter who took a shine to the 'touch and feel' one.

My nephew seems to be pretty keen on the noisy one - my sister, not so much!

And the most important test of all?

Yes, they taste pretty good too.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

New crafty website and 30% off books!

My lovely publishers CICO Books have just launched a shiny new website called MAKEetc to share craft projects, ideas, patterns, how-to videos and to sell their wide range of craft books.

And to celebrate the launch, they're offering 30% off any books on the site until the 20th November - all you have to do is enter the code MAKE30 at the checkout.

Really worth popping over for a look, whatever's your thing - sewing, crochet, knitting, origami or maybe you'd like to put more craft into your Christmas...They have some beautiful, inspiring books. Gorgeous pictures too.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

'Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time?' - #MySundayPhoto

Coney Island
I never go home to Northern Ireland with any great expectations about the weather, but we were so lucky this time - the sun split the sky most days, and we had some lovely trips out with Mum.

She often takes us to Coney Island, which isn't far away, made famous by the Van Morrison song of the same name. Not really an island to be fair, but it isn't that hard to see why this gentle seaside spot is packed full of happy memories for him. Just something special and uplifting about it.

We always seem to adopt an extra dog when we walk around the peninsula here. A collie this time, obviously waiting by the beach for the next lot of visitors to pass by. A sort of free exercising service for its owners!

And you never know what you're going to come across on a walk, do you? I've never seen a seal pup up close like this in the wild. Quite amazing really. At first we were worried it might be injured, but on closer inspection it looked fine and soon slipped back into the sea. Definitely a moment the kids won't forget. Mum let a friend know who lives near by, just so she could keep an eye out for the pup, in case its mother didn't come back. There's a seal sanctuary not too far away.

I didn't take many other photos as my phone battery goes flat so quickly at the moment, but did catch this rainbow as we come out of the supermarket in Downpatrick. I used a filter just to enhance the colours and contrast, and it seems to have come out okay. Better than most of my rainbow shots anyway!

Linking up with Darren's My Sunday Photo over at Photalife.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Bad timing... Sunday photo

the mist is lifting..

Finishing the craft book has taken over my waking hours this week, but nearly there now. I've had to do a lot of picture and text checking. Pretty intense and time-consuming. Perfect then that this stage just happened to coincide with Half Term! And my husband being away on an army exercise for two weeks. So ridiculously typical, but what can you do?

I tried to get up early, to work before the kids came down in the morning, but I'm rubbish at getting up, so that didn't work. I thought I'd try working late, when they'd gone to bed, but they go to bed quite late now, in the holidays. It's usually past ten before the house is quiet, and by that time, I'm fit for nothing except watching telly.

So I worked during the day, between preparing and clearing up meals, which quite frankly doesn't have a beginning or an end with teenagers - while the house slowly fell apart around me. 

Stressed, frustrated and guilty about sums it up. Not a great combination.
Didn't take long before the kids got bored, and when they're bored they fight and when they fight I start shouting - so, to stop us all going stir crazy we did short trips out most days.

Bouncing off some energy
Helped lessen the guilt, but not the workload.

Still, we muddled through. The book-checking got done somehow, and as relentless as it was, didn't feel quite as out of control as last time. The process makes more sense now, and even though I've seen the craft projects a hundred, million times, I am really happy with how it's all turning out.

Making cake seemed to help ease us through the week too. My daughter had a friend over one day and they made Halloween cupcakes. The one in the middle had me slightly worried! Impressive marshmallow skull though.

I found a great apple cake recipe which made me exceedingly happy. We're coming down with delicious cooking apples, and there's only so much crumble the kids will eat.

It's Mary Berry's Very Best Apple Dessert Cake , and if you have an abundance of apples or just fancy some cake, I'd definitely recommend it. Very easy too - a bit almondy and utterly delicious.

I also managed to get my Instagram feed onto the sidebar here, after a lot of faffing around. Unfortunately the Instagram button seems to be floating about on its own, and my attempt to get a neat set of buttons for Pinterest, Facebook etc was an utter disaster - took ages. I thought I'd done it, but thankfully checked my blog straight after, and found I'd unwittingly linked up to a rather graphic 'adult' site! So that was a complete waste of time.

Hoping this won't be such a time waster - I want to make a Christmas tree advent calendar out of these beech hedge branches, sort of similar to the ones on sale in a few Christmas catalogues (that are coming out of our ears at the moment). They look like they're mainly for decoration - I thought we could maybe make ours a bit more useful, but we'll see!

Lovely at last to have the time to try though.

Linking up with Photalife's My Sunday Photo.