Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Partycraft Secret: Choosing Color

It's no secret that choosing a colour scheme can be intimidating.  It doesn't matter whether you're deliberating over paint-chips, fashion accessories, or sheets of paper to make a party-invitation; mixing and matching colors takes practice.  

When I was studying Architecture at University, my mentor suggested that while learning to design, I should only work with 3 materials, one of which was glass, and three colors, one of which was white.  It doesn't sound like enough to work with but it is.  Most flags are only 3 colors.  Some of your own, most successful, craft projects will inevitably be made of less than 3 materials (not including invisible items such as glue and so on).  Look at your favourite Pinterest pictures of weddings or birthday parites and you'll see that most work with a limited color palette for extra punch and rely heavily on a set of key materials; linen, paper, organza, fresh flowers.

As you get more comfortable discriminating between infinite choices, you can slowly increase your palette to 5.   White should automatically be one of those colours, and black may well be another.

So how to choose the colors to go into your next pallet?  My best tip is to squint.  OK, let me explain.  To best demonstrate I need you to look out your window towards your favourite view, hold your number one most-loved dress in your hands, go to the room in the house you feel most comfortable, lay your party-dinner plates on the table, or hold an inspirational photo before you - now squint.

When you squint, the details in the scene disappear and what becomes most obvious are the colors.  I've given the example with a favourite butterfly dress.  While squinting the butterflies are blurred, but the blue-greens remain obvious.

Open your eyes again and write down the top 5 colours that you remember.  These may be shades of the same color (dark blue, light blue, greeny-blue and so on).  If you can't get to 5, don't worry.

You've just created a color palette that is right for you.  It resonates with who you are, what you enjoy, and like to look at.  Well done!  In my example the 4 colours I see when I squint are on the left of the photos, and I added white into the mix, because it feels right to do so.

Now you get to personalise it.  (House) painters talk about the 60-30-10 rule.  It means that 60% of the room is one colour, 30% is another, and only 10% is a feature colour.  Trying to figure out maths when you've got toddlers is too hard for me - so I recommend you just do what feels right; make one colour the star, another the support-actor, a third the sidekick, and the others get to play minor roles as the bit-parts!

I've created three versions of the original palette.  Let's have a look at them from left to right (as always you can click on the image to enlarge it) and imagine together what kind of parties they could be used for;

Left - these colours are mostly blue, they conjure up 'seaside' party themes, sailors, fisherman, mermaids and the like.  Pool parties, summer-holidays, lazy-days.  Relaxed daytime parties of any sort would benefit from this palette, and of course, boy-parties would suit the triple-blue and a little lashing of limey green.  Imagine stationary in baby-blue with cute-as-a-button bits and bobs added in the other colours.

Middle - the large amount of white says freshness and innocence to me.  I can imagine a baby-boy-shower, a first birthday party, or maybe even a winter-wonderland event, where snow-white linen is teemed up with icy-blue sparkles and a few fir-green accessories.

Right - the rich dark colours in this palette make me think 'Arabian Nights' and would be perfect for a formal, black-tie, or evening event.  The darker colors could be used extensively, with little details (imagine ribbon trims on a dark envelope) in the paler shades.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - there's no right or wrong in the world of parties and craft, and that includes the use of colours - if you love it, then it's perfect! 

There's more inforatmion in a How-To craft guide on my business website,  and the free "How To Host a Themed Party" craft ebook has some other tips that might help.  Good luck, and have fun!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Torn Paper Card / Invitation

It's no secret that we want the things we make to be different, to get noticed, to be special.  I'm always experimenting with cards and invitations, trying out a variety of approaches; some work, some don't.  Recently, I accidentally snagged a piece of paper and tore it slightly.  It gave me an idea; what if you deliberately created a torn section in a sheet of coloured paper, and placed another image behind.

I experimented with the mermaid papers that I used for Mimi's mini aquarium keepsakes (those of you who subscribed last month received your free copy so you can try this project too.)

  • Firstly I stuck one panel of the mermaid picture onto the inside of a golden card (any picture can work; consider a photograph, a piece of wrapping paper, a child's drawing, or one of last year's Christmas cards.)
  • I cut an A4 sheet of sparkly blue paper to fit the card, and then laid it over the mermaid picture.
  • using a ruler I got an estimate of where the mermaid's face was underneath, and used a pin to poke a hole in the blue paper.
  • With small nail scissors I snipped a small star out from the pin-hole.
  • I lifted a couple of the triangular edges to see if I was in the right spot, and then tore each 'triangle' a little further out to make the hole bigger. 
  • I then glued the top edge of the blue paper into the card, so that when the card was opened the blue panel (with the peeking-mermaid) was visible, and then they could lift the blue page to see underneath.

Words for the card could be placed on the inside cover of the gold card, to one side of the blue page, or even underneath, on the mermaid picture.

This torn-window approach could work well for party themes such as jungle, dinosaur, monster, or superhero - any theme that involves ripping and tearing, action, or adventure...  remember, that not everything works when you experiment, but it's fun to try... so go on... get crafty and try something different... when you find the time!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rude is Never Right

It's no secret that the phrase "sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but names will never hurt me" was only invented to help build inner fortitude.  It's not true.  Rude words hurt.  They hurt bad.  There's no excuse to bully or belittle people, ever.  Never.

In my home-town the papers are filled with an account in which a (male) radio announcer called a fellow (female) journalist a number of names too rude to print here.  The rude-mouthed man is now claiming retaliation, precedent and tit-for-tat as excuses for his behaviour.  Valid reasons.  When you're 5.  Maybe not even then.   As a grown up, those reasons, plus sour-grapes, misunderstanding, lack of sleep, or any other idea you can dream up don't work.

In my pre-children days I worked in the Construction Industry.  I was often, in fact almost always, the only woman on site.  Over my years at work I've had dirt kicked at me, my foot spat on, a stapler thrown at my head, and my hand offered to shake ignored... amongst other things.  I've been called many a name, not my own, and I've witnessed others being mistreated.  In the early years I was uncertain what to do, intimated, shy, I often winced, wore it and walked on.  Not now.  No way.

I remember one instance where I was still relatively junior, and an 'important man' called the Interior Designer a variety of horrible things (because he had misread the drawings and assumed she had 'ripped him off' in some way).  She started to cry.  I watched this lady in her late-forties trying to take it on the chin, and it made me so angry that I had to step in.  I took a moment to breathe deeply, then asked everyone else to leave the room.  Above all else, I remember asking Mr Importance what he would do if his wife, sister or daughter (he had all of these) came home and said, "guess what a guy said to me today?"  He turned red, purple, then white.  He agreed to apologise personally to the lady he'd tormented, then leave the site, go away for a while, and come back another time with a public apology.  He followed through.  I'd like to say it made me feel better.  It didn't.  The things he said still ring in my ears today, years later, and I was only the witness of his "it's only words" attack.

This is off topic for this blog - I'm sorry - but it's also my little space to rant and rave, and I know that even 'big things' in news-land disappear without a trace within a matter of hours, or days, a week at most.  So to the man on radio, the guys on construction sites, and everyone else; rude is never right.  Never.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Strawberry Fairy Dancing

It's no secret that today is Concert Day with my eldest daughter Mimi performing in her first ever Ballet performance... that's her picture from yesterday's dress rehearsal - the one with her arms on her hips while everyone else has their hands above their heads... hmmm... but who can complain; all those luscious little strawberry-fairy babies prancing around out of time on stage seems to sum up childhood perfectly; trying to learn the rules, dance in time with the rest of the world while still being true to your inner tune...

If nothing else, yesterday reiterated the importance of organisation.  It's a Sunday so I shouldn't lecture - but please - if you're hosting a party, plan ahead a little, create at least a sort-of programme for the order of events.  Be flexible by all means, but remember that as important as your party is, people are busy these days, they're being generous sharing their time with you - use it wisely and gratefully.
And for everyone else, if you're invited to a function, of any sort, there's a reason the host puts a time on the invitation; it's because that's when they want you there!
Lastly, for those of you uninitiated in the ways of young girls - never ask "does anyone need to go to the toilet?" too loudly in front of too many people; you may just find yourself toileting 18 Prima-ballerina-toddlers at once!

Now off you go - pop some music on and dance with your family - it's fun!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

My Glass

It's no secret that Cinderella knew before anyone else; "that's my glass slipper."  For everyone else there was a game of finders, keepers, losers, weepers... I've seen a similar thing go on at cocktail parties, which is why many, many manufacturers have had a go at designing wine glass markers.  The cutest I've seen of late are from vacu vin, which as a name is strangely close to vacuum-bin but I'll ignore that because these little suckers are so darn cute.

I also posted a link on twitter recently for a tutorial on how to add a chalkboard-base to the bottom of wine glasses which was pretty straight forward, classy, and certainly cheaper than the store-bought versions.

Today, however, I'm giving you the super-duper cheapest wine glass identification system ever - take a set of new plastic toddler rings (the set my daughter was given has 7 coloured love hearts; one for every day of the week, how nice!) and gently push each ring onto the stem of a wine glass.  Done.

Pretty.  Simple.  Huh?  They work like a treat, and at the end of the function, simply slip them off, and give them to the kids to work their own special, breakable magic!  Tableware made easy.

Enjoy your weekend; I'm off to enjoy the break in the weather with what's left of our Saturday, recover from an amusing ballet dress-rehearsal and charge our collective real and metaphysical batteries for tomorrow's concert!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Rocking Reindeer Christmas Activity for Kids

It's no secret that kids love rocking horses and they love Christmas reindeers... so why not combine the two.  Apologies for the poor photo (the weather is truly miserable here), but I think you get the idea;

  • Take one rocking horse.
  • Add a reindeer antler headband.
  • Cut out a red foam nose and stick to both sides of the reindeer's face (an actual round clown ball would have been better, but alas, we had none).
  • And if you have girls as I do, then add on a set of fancy eyelashes made from cupcake liners cut up to look like snowflakes... that's quirky kids for you!
Voila - one rockin' reindeer ready to ride... and they do!

And that's it for me... I woke up with the flu... I'm off to rest... hmmm... as best you can with two toddlers!  Take care and stay well. x 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks For Giving

It's no secret that dinner with Nana and Nunu is a fine thing; they love it, the kids love it, and I love it.  Everyone gets to catch up, love-in, and I don't have to do the cooking and only some of the cleaning.  Ok, so the frantic rush home to get to bed can be a drama, or it can be part of the fun; it means having a bath at Nan's, using a special tooth-brush, wearing pajamas in the car and so on...

Call me old fashioned, but I'm a big believer in the etiquette of saying thanks.  Thanks for reading my blog, posting a comment, coming to my party, giving my kids a present, making us a yummy dinner.  It's good manners and if you put that thanks in writing I think it can be more than polite, it can be pretty special.

Today being Thanksgiving Day in many countries, I thought I might post a recent craft project my daughters made (with my help, because 2 and 4 year olds can't spell... and before you point out my spelling issues, imagine sorting through a jumble of stick on letters while still peeling the backing paper off said stickers for the 4 year old whilst also stopping the 2 year old from eating same said letters, then you know that "close enough is good enough" feeling that came over me. )

Stick on foam craft is fun, easy, relatively cheap, and strangely addictive... our set is the farmyard one and it's amazing how many foamy thank you for this and that postcards you can turn out in one toddler-taming session.  Nana got the thanks for dinner card, Happy Husband got a lovely Christmas-coloured Dad-foamy, they made ones for their best friends, and one for each other.    I'm really rather tempted to pop one in the mail and see if it makes it without un-peeling itself... hmmm... stay tuned Grandma... there might just be a experimental-postal-foamy coming your way!

I love giving things away - so be sure to get the free art for kids projects and how-to guides off my other site, and you can also see all the photos of what I'm grateful on the PartycraftSecrets Flickr account.  Most importantly - don't forget to take a moment to say thanks to all the ones you love, and lastly, thanks for YOUR love and attention!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Christmas Gift Tags

It's no secret that Christmas is coming, with all the long lists from demanding children, the pushy shop displays, and of course the big bills... but of course it's not all bad; there's plenty of wonderful things about Christmas; and for me one of the best things is the wrapping!

I love finding different ways to wrap presents each year, choosing different colour schemes to work with and then buying or making everything to suit.

This year I'm trying to clean out all the last odds and ends of way too many half-rolls.  The two recurring colours are red and green, regardless of how cute, contemoray, quirky or kitsch the paper designs are.  It's my intention to wrap the presents in the various papers, but then, wrap all those with a strip of shiny red or green paper and then add a curling ribbon and gift tag.  I'm hoping I'll clean out the cupboard, and still make all my diverse presents look like a 'family' under our tree... when we get around to putting it up.

I've started the gift tags - by hand cutting strips of coloured card  and strips of dotty card (slightly smaller).  I stamped a crown onto the base of the coloured card, then placed the patterned one on top and glued them together.  Ont the front of each of these I added an embellishment, again, aiming to clean out the cupboard and make each card look unique.  When the glue has settled I'll let the girls place a Christmas stamp on the front of each spotted-strip because they love to get involved.  It's sort of shabby-chic and child-friendly at the same time.  Once the tags are ready to go on the presents, I'll lift the patterned strip and right the name underneath so that there's a need to investigate, and an element of surprise... because they're the other fun things about Christmas.

If you don't have time to hand-make gift cards, don't fret - download Christmas bagtags or you can subscribe to the Partycraft newsletter I send out in the first week of each month - you'll receive this month's printable snow-dome craft and FREE printable giftags in three different colourways.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Parent Submission: Ballet Party

It’s no secret that it’s very rewarding to see ideas turn into reality, and even more encouraging to see your dreams adopted by strangers.  About a month ago, one mum saw my ballet biscuits on Flickr, got inspired, went shopping and made the biscuits for her daughter’s 4th birthday, ballet-themed party.  I’ve included a number of her photos in the montage and there the ballet-slipper biscuits are; at a real party, ready to be eaten by real party-people!    Hooray!

Needless to say, I’m in love with all the other pink biscuits, birthday cake, and dolly-dancers as cupcake toppers, but my personal favourites are the rows of iced-spoons and the rainbow tutu, it’s too-too cute!

For decorations, this clever mum added giant white paper pom-poms and pink bunting which added instant charm to her outdoor-do.  Other ballet-party decoration ideas I promote include;
  • ·         Drape the entry door with a beaded curtain or fabric to create a stage-curtain effect so visitors can make a grand entrance. 
  • ·         Hire a pink carpet for added effect and photograph guests as they arrive in all their excited glory. 
  • ·         Place a full-length mirror in the main area, decorate it with some ribbons and feathers and let the girls prance and preen under a spotlight.

My daughter Mimi has her first ballet-concert this weekend.  She dances about the house in great anticipation, but she has a bit of a reputation for last-minute stage fright, so it's anyone's guess what she'll do when the curtains open!  I'll keep you posted.

(You can buy the Ballet Party Planner via PayPal for just $20 - by clicking here - it's filled with party printables, make & take projects, shopping lists, and much more - go on - make your party you-nique!)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Decorative Pegs to Hang Christmas Cards

It's no secret that as a parent you do LOTS of washing.  My eldest daughter is a bit of a princess, so rarely if ever gets her clothes dirty.  My youngest, is well, young.  I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and hope that her life of extreme-mess is just a stage she's passing through... please, let that be true... food, paint, mud, glue, "milkie," it all ends up all over her.

Washing never goes away, it seems to multiply in the darkness, there's almost always a hovering mass waiting for me in the laundry, draped over chairs, or forgotten piles hidden by who knows who behind doors... I'm preaching to the converted I know.  Enough.  We all wash.  You understand.

So - pegs.  We have plenty of them at our house, plastic, timber, fancy-schmancy, and plain.  We use them to hang boring bucket-loads of washing, but they also do double duty hanging kids art-work, and birthday-cards off wire-strands in our house.

Inspired by the many beautiful pegs floating around the internet, I printed out a page of Christmas Printables, and cut it into little rectangles.  Using normal glue, I stuck them on one side of each of a set of weathered, old, timber pegs.  Mimi loves that our washing line looks so festive and following my initial success, I intend to buy a new set of pegs (timber ones with a flat-side work best) and make a nicer set to hang our family's Christmas cards as they start arriving.

The Christmas Printables, and other printables are on line... not on the line, but on the web... ahh... I'm tired... but you know what I mean!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Will You Dance With Us?

Will You Dance With Us?
It's no secret it's Sunday, the kids are with Happy Husband... and I'm playing on Polyvore... OK... so I should be doing housework... hmmm... making pretty pictures is much more fun!  If you haven't tried it before, have a go... you simply search for things you want, drag them over and make instant art.  It's a sort of mood board, test wardrobe, digital canvas... Ok, ok, time to tidy. x

PS - this image later went on to win 9th place in a Polyvore competition... 9th... I know, I know, there's only 8 people in an Olympic final.  But hey - I'm thrilled to bits!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tinkerbell Didn't Make It

It's no secret that this is a craft blog and that I have a loooong list of crafty blog posts yet to publish, but I found two photos that I wanted to talk about.  The first is one of mine; where my two little daughters are sailing a ship / living in a castle / hiding in the wicked-witches' house... it was a while ago now, and the game went on for a long time (in toddler-time), changing constantly.  I saw it this morning while looking through my files for something else and it reminded me to say; "use your imagination" - you and the kids.  Organised activities are a great thing, but made-up, spontaneous fun, without rules, without 'sensible' structure are just as wonderful... maybe more so.

The other photo I found was on Flickr (the owner gave me permission to link to it):

I LOVE this photo; I love the picture's title, the costume, the one shoe missing, that she's asleep with a lollipop in her hand, and that it seems like everyone else seems to be sitting still and quiet in a ring around her while she's sleeping in the middle!  Pop across and love it too.

We're off to the fun-park party in less than an hour and the girls are very excited... better go!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Creative Gift Wrapping Ideas

It's no secret that most of us go to more parties than we host.  My girls and I recently went to a fairy party, and we're off tomorrow to a fun-park party.  For every party there's presents to buy.  For every purchase is the dilemma of how much to spend, what to buy, and how to wrap it.  I'm still figuring out answers to the first two problems, but for the latter I have many ideas.

I love that the word 'present' has so many meanings; it's a gift, it's right now, and it's a means of delivery.  The word is so wonderful and one little wrapped spectacular handed over with great love encapsulates all three meanings; "here is a gift for you, delivered with all my love, to celebrate this special moment of right now."

Things I try to do when wrapping a present is to think of ways to suit the person I'm giving the present to, use unusual materials, and salvage things that might otherwise be thrown out.  Personal favourites include; large pages from glossy magazines; broken jewelry such as beads, necklaces or single earrings; doilies; paper flowers made from cupcake liners; and of course items from my party printables.

My top tip for wrapping presents is to use clear sticky dots or glue to hold the paper in place rather than sticky tape; it makes for a neater looking present... oh and use square presents wherever possible!

And while I'm on the topic of gifts - for those of you who are new to reading this blog - welcome!  Feel free to help yourself to my free party planning e book filled with ideas on how to host a themed party, free art and craft ideas for kids based on famous works of art (such as Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, Monet's Waterlilies, and Dali's Surrealist Landscapes) and don't forget to subscribe so that you can receive a monthly newsletter and free printables (December's presents will include gift tags in 3 color-ways as well as snow-dome and bauble collage projects).  Most of all, explore, look around, pick up some ideas, drop on a comment, or send me an email.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Favourite Find - Multi-coloured Wool and Christmas Wreath Bangles

It's no secret that I posted a woolen bangle tutorial a couple of days ago.  Well yesterday I turned the same idea into a wearable Christmas Wreath Bangle.

Using an old gold bangle, I chose a green version of my most recent discovery; multi-coloured wool.  The problem this time, was that the bangle didn't 'open up', so I couldn't fit the ball of wool through the gap.  Instead I had to cut a long length which I hoped would be sufficiently long enough.  It wasn't.  Although I did consider cutting a new length to fill the missing section, I decided to forage in my odds and ends box of broken jewelry, buttons and beads, and found something I don't even remember where it came from but which looked like Christmas berries!


  • Place double sided tape around the inside and outside of the bangle.
  • Wrap your bangle with a green coloured wool.
  • Optional - leave a gap in teh wool where your "berry-bling" will go.
  • Tie some sort of red and round decorative embellishment onto the bangle (beads, buttons or a broken brooch would all work.)
  • Wear with pride!
  • {For a more detailed tutorial with pictures - refer to my other blog post here.}

I wish that I'd tied the beaded embellishment in place with red, silver, or bronze-coloured string instead of the pale green which is too obvious, but on the upside, I was able to complete the project in about 15 minutes, which is my forever-aim, and it looks great on, so I'm happy.  It's official; multi-coloured wool is my favourite find of this month!

As I mentioned before, I think this project would be a fun party activity; provide the bangles, the wool to suit, and then let the children take home their handicraft as a keepsake.  The one I made is tribal enough to make a great Jungle Party take-home treasure... browse the themed ebooks for more costume ideas here.... 

PS - thanks to Craft Gossip and Make + Takes for sharing my scrabooking with wrapping paper and Travel Advent Calendar posts; I love you!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Vase Cuff Floral Decorations

It's no secret that flowers look prettiest growing in their original location... but yes, they are rather gorgeous cut and placed in clear vases too... I love craft projects that take 15 minutes or less, so one of my favourite things to do with vases is wrap them with a paper trim or cuff.  I used the recently released Christmas stars and stripes party printpapers (on sale for only $1.10) for these three vases on my entry sideboard, but any print paper (or decorative paper) will do.

If you're throwing a party, or simply want your flowers to match the colour-scheme of your house or dinner-do, simply wrap an appropriate coloured strip of paper around a straight-edged vase.  Experiment with different patterns, different lengths and widths, and placing the paper up high or down low.  Stick the paper in place with double sided tape, and add decorative embellishments if desired.  You'll easily turn your floral arrangement into a party-perfect Spectacular!

Note: you can wrap a vase with sloping or splayed edges, but the paper will wrap in a shape more like a man's old fashioned neck-collar rather than a straight strip.

If you're more clever than I am, consider making a vase-cuff out of fabric, using ribbons or buttons to hold it in place... and don't forget to send me photos or links to your blog posts so I can shout out about how clever you all are!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mini Travel Advent Calendar - Part 1

It's no secret that inspiration is contagious, and that we all seem to be trying similar things at the same time.  Just as I was photographing my mini-travel-advent-calendar, I noticed that a favourite site; make + takes, was going to show case advent calendars next week (and yes, if you did go to their site to have a look, they did showcase Mimi in her color-wheel craft!).  Similarly, no sooner had I posted the woolen bangle project, than one of my most avid readers and best commenter's, Twinkle Star, remembered her woolen bangle project and posted about it; help support your fellow-crafters and pop across to her blog and have a look at her great work; I'm especially in love with her ribbon-wreath tutorial.

Now, back to the mini-travel-advent-calendar.  My girls are aged 2 and 4 and I believe they're in the 'perfect' age group for Christmas; old enough to get it, but still young enough to be mesmerised by the magic.  That's why I decided this year would be the year for their first Advent Calendar to help count-down to Christmas.  I found one in a store which I instantly wanted; a painted timber one in the shape of a house with little drawers and hinged doors; divine.  However, as we're still not totally sure where we'll be this Christmas, I decided to make a lighter, more mobile version.

I found two clear stationary boxes, the sort where there are lots of compartments under the lid, to hold pins, staples, buttons and so on.  I measured the shapes, and discovered there were only 3 different sizes.  Cutting some plain cardboard, I made templates for each size to check dimensions.  I considered doing whole boxes (six sided, fully enclosed), but opted for an easier wrapped-strip instead.  I realised the little boxes would need a little tab to pull them out of the big box, so added these to the template design.

I selected 7 patterned scrapbook sheets in shades of cranberry and sage (pink and green!) and started making the boxes.  It took longer than I hoped, but once I had a system going I was able to make 2 sets in a little over an hour.  I also forget that you would be able to see in the sides, so to hide the treasures I had to cut some plain coloured panels for the visible sides.

Self-criticism (and console-myself responses) of the craft idea include;
* It's not particularly reminiscent of the Nativity as these calendars often originally were - I hope to find some stickers to place on each box that might spark some discussion about the meaning of Christmas.
* Each box only has 14 boxes - 2 weeks is an age-appropriate expectation to stay excited about a project.
* There are no numbers on the boxes - my girls can't read very well so I figure the future stickers will be more applicable than numbers.

Overall I'm content that my girls will enjoy pulling boxes with treats out each day for the 2 weeks leading up to Christmas, wherever we happen to be.  I'll post Part 2 shortly to show how it ends up with eth stickers, and what non-melting treasures I find to put inside the boxes.

Until then, keep an eye on Make + Takes site for their Advent Calendar wrap-up, or send your own links to my email address, linda(at) and I'll try to include some links for you.

Monday, November 14, 2011

DIY Wool Bangle Craft Project

It's no secret that toddlers and jewelry don't mix that well; they snatch at dangling earrings, tug at pendant necklaces, say "me wear" for beads and bangles... if you do relinquish your treasures to them, you might as well say good-bye... I know they don't mean to do harm; they just do!

No surprises then that a favourite, I thought indestructible metal bangle that my mother gave me, lasted only a short while in their care before it got caught in a closing door and the side seam opened up.  I tried to keep wearing it, but the little crack snagged on clothes and pulled on invisible arm-hairs; ouch.

Time to get crafty.  Having coveted woolen bangles for some time now, I finally had the impetus to make one of my own.  Time-poor as always, I was trying to think of an easy way to make one without having to tie off lots of different colours of wool.  Late one night, or early one morning, (who ever knows the difference when you're patting a toddler back to sleep), I remembered I had a roll of multi-coloured wool, and had an ah-ha moment.

So here's my no fuss wool bangle tutorial;

  • Place double sided tape all the way around the bangle.
  • Starting at the open end of a hinged bangle (or anywhere if you have a closed bangle) push the wool against the tape at a slight angle, then wrap around it.
  • Keep winding the wool all the way around the bangle.
  • When you reach the end cut the wool a little long.
  • Using a timber kebab skewer, pin, etc, tuck the end of the wool in and behind the looped wool (on the inside of the bangle.)

I've been wearing mine for about a month, and so far, it's held together... and no... the girls' haven't had a go yet!!

I think the woolen bangle could be a great party-craft for any girlie party; fairies, princess, ballerinas.  Just try to look for a wool colour to suit.

For more "costume" ideas pop across to my themed-party craft ebook website and have a look at the gallery images. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Babushka, Babushka, Babushka, Ya Ya

It's no secret that Babushka (or Russian nesting) dolls are in fashion; they're on everything from wrapping paper to t-shirts, bed linen to wall art.  Well here's a craft project to make on a shoestring that takes less than my 15 minute time-frame to make, and fits the totally-cute trend.  

My daughter Mimi received many, many, beautiful presents at her birthday party, and as I have blogged before, they were all wrapped in pretty paper, which I reused in part to make a scrapbooking page to commemorate the day.  She also received presents in little gift bags; the sort with patterned sides and two rope handles at the top.  One of the bags had a pretty babushka (or martyoshka) doll print on it.  It was just too pretty to toss, and too pretty to on-gift, so I decided to get crafty.

  • To make it a funny family art piece, all I had to do was cut one side off, retaining the rope handle on the side I was going to use.
  • Using a craft knife I then cut 4 circle faces out of the print (if you don't own one - don't buy one - they are dangerous - instead, simply pop a hole in the centre of the faces with a pin and then with tiny scissors snip the inner circle out)
  • Once the holes are cut, you can slide photos behind them, and find one of each family member that suits the hole, it won't be perfect, but that's half the fun.
  • Tape the photos onto the back of the bag.
  • Hang the fun family art project on the wall! 

Free, fun, family-friendly - fabulous!
I think I'll spend a bit longer finding a nicer shot of Mimi then I might turn this into our family Christmas Card.

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Wedding Bouquet

It's no secret that brides carry bouquets down the aisle;  it's an old tradition, which depending on what source you read was done to ward off evil spirits, signify fertility, enhance the perfume of the ceremony, improve the visual appeal of the approaching bride, or symbolise a variety of virtues through the very Victorian 'language of flowers'.  Modern brides can probably relate to all those reasons, and I suspect those bouquets also provide something for nervous quaking hands to hold on to.

In the 30 days of gratitude photo challenge I've been participating in, today's 'thing' to be grateful for and photograph was "something old" which is appropriate given that in Australia, and many other places around the world, it is Remembrance Day where we honour our ancestors who fought for what they believed in.

My 'something old' was a brooch and sprig of heather which were my maternal and paternal grandmothers respectively.  I pinned them to the ribbon-sheathed stems of my wedding bouquet, and as I walked into the church, my eyes darting from future-Happy-Husband to all the smiling faces I knew, including my mother's, I remember clearly feeling as if my grandmothers were there with me, as if by carrying these old artifacts that had been held and treasured by them well before I was born, perhaps even before my mother was born, I was inviting them onto the journey I was taking into the future, just as they had been an integral part of the journeys I had taken up to that point.

Thank you to my predecessors; thank you for all that you have done, been, and bequested me in terms of my skills, ideas, attitudes, and looks, whether I have met you or not; I have not forgotten you. x

PS - contrary to modern wedding bouquet etiquette that involves tossing the flowers into the air; I gave my flowers to my mother to take home and enjoy.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Classic Color Wheels

It's no secret that I'm not a big shopper.  I used to be a retail designer in my previous life pre-kids, and as such, I spent so much of my life in stores, that they are not my place of choice for unwinding... even now I get distracted by the details; "why did they put that light there?" and so on.

Regardless, I was in my local mega-mall for some emergency supplies, and as I was heading up an escalator towards the exit a Vintage Books "21st birthday" display caught my attention.  The poster (a sort-of copy is on the Australian distributor's link above), was of a beautiful colour wheel of 21 contemporary fiction novels.  I went back down the escalator (the down one; I'm not totally crazy!) and popped in for a closer look.  I had actually read about half of the chosen 21 books over my lifetime, which was wildly reassuring, but there were so many on my one-day list, that for the bargain price of roughly $12 each I decided to buy a couple.

McEwan's "Atonement" was in the prettiest shade of aqua, but I've read that one, so I settled on a lovely sky-blue version of Faulk's "A Week in December" and a jade-green copy of "Star of the Sea" by O'Connor.  Perhaps selecting books by the colour of their cover is a strange approach... or perhaps not; I'll let you know when I get around to reading the books!

Enough of books - craft time.  Inspired by the book colour-wheel and my recent post on the "scrappy-craft" project my kids made me, here's a tutorial on the colour wheel I made for Mimi's bedroom wall when she was a baby;

  • Trace a large circle with a plate onto cardboard.
  • Trace a smaller circle into the middle (use a ruler to mark it out to get it as close as possible to the middle - but if it's off centre that's ok too.)
  • Fold the shape in half to cut the circle out, or use a pin to poke a hole in the middle and then push your scissors through and cut the inner-circle out.
  • Divide the shape into 8 roughly equal sections with a pencil, and write the names of the colours down (I know there's only 7 colours in the rainbow, but I always give aqua it's own space between blue and green.)
  • Using snippets of old magazines, wrapping paper, or construction paper, start to paste a collage of the colours into place.
  • With a pair of scissors, trim the inner and outer edges.
  • Done; your rainbow-circle is ready to hang!

I did this project for my kids, but there's no reason you can't get them to make this colour-wheel on their own.  You could also make it a party craft project (perhaps without worrying about taking out the inner circle.)  Why not make two the same size and stick them onto each other and then suspend the double-sided spectacular from the ceiling, or follow the same approach outlined above but use all green papers and turn it into a Christmas wreath... choices, choices!

If you have any colour wheel art you love; email me!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fairy Party Wrap-Up

It's no secret that Fairy Parties are fabulous.  We recently went to a fourth birthday in the garden of a friend.  One of the things I loved more than anything was the spotty red and white bedspread used as a mat on the grass... ok it's a strange thing to covet I admit, but I really did love that by throwing that piece of fabric down, a magical place was instantly created.  A toadstool cushion heightened the effect, and of course a dozen fairy-winged children topped it off... literally.

As well as loving the mat, the fairy friend hiding in the cubby house, the home-made cake, the mountains of food for the parents, and the sunshine were all perfectly organised.

If you're having an outdoor party, consider a rug of your own.  At Mimi's recent watery-party we had a blue picnic rug and a blobby beandbag in the corner of the garden.  We turned it into a sort of book nook, with lots of Mermaid and Pirate books we borrowed from the library especially for that weekend, and to read before and after, making the celebrations last as long as possible.  

You can turn your rug into a lost island, another planet, a happy hideaway, a jungle grotto; anything that suits your theme.  It can be for quiet time as ours was, to escape the hustle and bustle for a moment, or it could be an assembly point, as it was at the fairy party.  Perhaps it's the safe-place for a game of tag, the spot for pass the parcel, or simply the flop-out zone.  Pick a suitable colour, sacrifice a couple of cushions to the cause, pop it all in a suitable spot on the lawn and you've just made yourself a little patch of perfect!   

For more fairy ideas - check out our fairy party craft ebook or send us your questions.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Easy Craft For Kids

It's no secret that in the United States they celebrate Thanksgiving Day in late November.  Whilst I live in Australia, I still have a lot to be thankful for.  That's why the "30 days of gratitude" November photo challenge appealed to me so much.  Each day you take a photo inspired by a word on the list.  Today's challenge was to be thankful for your favourite colour.  Mine is aqua.  Teal is also nice, and turquoise, sky blue, candy pink...

Today's photo for the challenge (the previous days are on flickr) is also my blog suggestion for family fun.  If you have magazines destined for the recycling bin, give them one last go, and cut out big blocks of colour; skies, grassy fields, ballgowns, backdrops for adds, they all come in handy.  Stockpile the colours; I use brown sandwich bags to separate them roughly into matching colours.  Then, on the day you're looking for some rainy-day distractions, choose a colour to montage; it tends to make a more attractive end-product than a free-for-all of colour.  Then again, older kids can make some pretty spectacular rainbows (you can pre-mark the colours to use with crayons as a guide for them to follow.)  

For today's collage, we used shades of aqua and blue.  I gave the children a pile each, and I also gave them a plastic cup of watery glue and a brush, don't ask me why, but it's apparently much more fun than a glue-stick.  The girls were also presented with a selection of blue scrapbooking pages to chose their backdrop from.  You can use standard paper, but you may find that the watery glue warps the page too much.  Let them go as long as their attention is willing.

For more ideas on kids craft projects, don't forget to visit Paige's place where there are free downloadable craft projects based on the works of famous artists such as Warhol, Monet, Picasso and more.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Shark Fin activity for toddlers

It's no secret that the one sight no one wants to see is a shark fin cruising past... unless of course they're cardboard ones and they're a sign that you've got a few more minutes to yourself!

I made 2 fins for Mimi's recent Mermaid-Pirate party, by tracing curves from two different sized plates (big plate makes the upper curve / small plate makes the inner curve), cutting them out of black corrugated cardboard, and then poking a kebab skewer half way into them.  My two daughters had a great time before the party scaring each other and anyone else who happened to sail past.

They took less than ten minutes to make and cost nothing - how perfect is that!?

Yah-har me mateys; for more 'dangerous' craft projects your little ones might like - try the FREE downloadable Daliesque landscape craft, or the pirate party craft ebook.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Scrapbooking with scraps of birthday wrapping paper

It's no secret that scrapbooking is so much more than making a book of scraps.  "What is scrapbooking?" you might well ask; it's basically combining photographs and mixed media, either with pretty papers or clever digital tools, to make a page that encapsulates a memory.

Which brings me back to 'scraps'.  In this instance, I did use scraps to create a scrapbooking page; scraps of cast-aside wrapping paper from Mimi's 4th birthday.  As she ripped and teared her way through a variety of generous gifts, a large pile of 'rubbish' was accumulated.  I intercepted the handfuls on the way to the recycling bin and suggested they go in a big bag instead.

Yesterday, nearly two weeks after the party (I've been busy OK!), I finally sorted through the wrapping paper shreds, and cut out some of the motifs from the least damaged sections.  I lay the pieces on the table and saw mermaids, flowers, butterflies and birds.

To compliment the wrapping paper pieces, I selected a piece of scrabooking paper (from one of DCWV's premium stacks) that was both pink and blue, in reference to my daughter and the watery-theme of her Mermaid birthday party.  The word 'love' combined with the bird and swirls worked perfectly to make a whimsical piece of artwork ready for one of Mimi's birthday photos when I get them printed.

You could use the same approach for your party.  If you're not a scrapbooker, place the wrapping-paper pictures on a piece of ordinary paper and frame the collection. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Make a Diorama

It's no secret that toys are a big part of parties, but here's a whole other way of getting birthday party toys to work for you; make a diorama.

If you're wondering "what is a diorama?" - it's essentially a model of a miniature world.  The French word originally referred to small scale replicas of scenes.  A modern diorama can be as big as the ones you see at the zoo, such as a model jungle for an orangutan exhibit; medium sized like the replica models of the pyramids being built etc that you might see in a museum, or tiny ones you may have made in a shoe-box for a school project about the universe.

Whilst my example, (you can click on the picture to make it bigger), was created for a pirate-mermaid party, the diorama as a party decoration idea will work for any party theme.

Here's my ideas on how to make a diorama;

  • Select a place that would suit a miniature-world, such as the top of a credenza, the middle of the dinner table, a set of bookshelves, inside a dollhouse, or even the whole corner of the living room.  If small children are invited, keep the diorama out of reach, or ensure that it's robust enough for well-meaning rough and tumble.
  • Assemble all your toys that suit the party theme, be they clean and dry bath toys, favourite stuffed animals, or dolls with working parts.  Don't worry about suitability in terms of material or scale.
  • Think of a 'scene' that you could create with the items you have chosen; Mimi and I created an underwater grotto.  Yours could be a jungle hideaway, the surface of the moon, a ballet-stage, inside a circus big top, a miniature fairy garden, the ballroom of a princess' castle and so on.
  • Look for some larger props that could pull the items together; fabric for draping, beaded curtains, small cushions, cups and bowls, even pot plants.
  • Lay the items into the space, starting with the largest and working through to the smallest toys, always trying your best to think of the scene you are trying to create.
  • Add final embellishments, such as pictures cut out of wrapping paper, streamers, shells, jewelry items, or other smaller items to add sparkle and interest. 

For our mermaid decor diorama, Mimi and I chose the 'nook' above the TV cabinet, we grabbed toy mermaids, bath-fish, a pirate boat and a princess-coach as our main toys to use.  We placed blue and green fabric down as the water, added some brown plastic bowls to act as rocks, placed the toys into the scene, making the mermaid the centrepiece (Mimi made her a pirate hat form leftover lock-and-key cardboard and a sticker from the pirate-flag bunting... I'll blog those later!).  Around her we placed seaworthy toys and decorations.  As a last thought, Happy-Husband hung the 2 beaded curtains we used for our wedding, and the look was perfect, and better yet it made a sort of hideaway of the diorama, so that children had to be taken behind the curtains and lifted up to see the mini-world.

As a finishing touch, we place a treasure hunt sign above the diorama to act as a party game for children; 'find 1 red necklace, 2 keys, 3 gem rings, 4 frogs and 5 gold coins'... Mimi wanted to have a go at the game at least fifteen times before the party, insisting I move the items occasionally to make it more challenging!

So there you have it - "the diorama" - being crafty can be fun and educational!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Memory Jar Magic

It's no secret that many people love everything to be brand new, they revel in the thrill of the purchase, unwrapping the many layers of plastic and cardboard packaging, and knowing that theirs are the first hands to hold the item they're touching since the factory floor.  I don't mind that too from time to time.  But most of the time, I'd have to say I'm one of the 'others' who happily re-use, re-cycle, re-love.  As long as it's clean and safe, I enjoy handling the second hand, and if there's an element of hand-crafted about the second-hand, then all the better... best yet is knowing that by having something old in my house I'm keeping it out of landfill.

All of you who subscribed in October, or earlier, would have received your November Newsletter this week, and with it, the Limited edition Pirates love Mermaids party printables.

If you missed out; you can write to me, or subscribe for next month's Newsletter which will contain some quick and classy Christmas printables to trial.

If you received them, and are not sure what to do with them; read this blog post on "what are printpapers?" or download the FREE "How to host a themed party" which contains lots of tips including how printpaper can save you time and money.

Now, back to notion of being frugal and crafty; a long time ago I saw an image called "vacation memory jars" which were large pickling jars filled with postcards, maps, and found treasures such as seashells, pine cones and leaves.  As with all things inspirational, that image stayed as a little seed in my memory, waiting for the right opportunity to blossom.

After Mimi's fourth birthday party, Mimi and Lotti devoured the candy out of their mini aquarium keepsakes, and I was left with a mermaid picture and some shredded paper.  I was about to stick these leftovers in my scrap-paper draw (I never throw coloured paper out), when the memory-jar idea came back to me.

I found a medium-sized coffee jar, popped the mermaid picture inside so that it was facing froward, again using the mini-aquarium idea.  I then added some party memories;

  • sand from the pirate treasure hunt bucket,
  • a gold coin, gem ring and mini-swizzle stick from the invitations
  • one frog from the treasure chest of chocolate coins,
  • some cut-straws that were used as beads to make mermaid costume leis,
  • a couple of rocks and shells from the diorama (which I'll blog tomorrow).
  • around the outside I tied a beaded necklace from the party dress-up box,
  • I trimmed the lid with a slice of fish-paper from Lotti's keepsake,
  • and finished it off with three pearl stickers leftover from the Happy-Oyster craft table activity.

I love after-party craft, and here's a new favorite; inside one little jar, destined for the tip, we have something from every part of Mimi's mermaid and pirate party, from initiations, decorations, costumes and keepsakes.

When you hold the jar in your hands, the sand shifts slightly, and they treasures inside become buried or re-revealed... just like memories; the details come and go, but they're all in there; waiting to be held back up to the light.

There's no right or wrong with this craft; use a big bottle, a tiny herb-jar, or a bell-jar.  Fill it with one treasure or many.  Whatever you end up with, it's a quick and classy way of making memories last just that little bit longer... and if that's not magic, I don't know what is.

Be sure to let me in on any ideas YOU come up with when you use your Mermaid-Pirate papers! x 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Another Day Another Costume

It's no secret that single-parenting is hard work.  "You're amazing" is all I can say to those of you who do it on a regular basis.  Thankfully, Happy-Husband finally made it home after being stranded in Hong Kong due to airline strikes.  His three girls were all thrilled to welcome him back; with hugs and kisses, and then his fair share of saved-up toddler tantrums and tears!

A week ago when he left for overseas, the girls wanted to farewell him dressed in the china girl outfits they were given from his last trip to China.  They accessorised their dresses by taking turns with a black Mexican sombrero and a navy-blue Cowboy hat... go figure!

Dressing up is a favourite pastime at our house; fairy, mermaid, ballerina... they all get a go... sometimes all at the same time.  Dress up games include putting on musical concerts, reenacting bed-time book stories, and playing Mummy-daughter (I have to be Grandma).

I don't care what politically correct people say; watching little girls playing at dolls and dressups is never dated.

My top tips for dress up;
  • Don't be too precious about themes; we had pirate girls and boys, as well as mermaid-fairies at Mimi's 4th birthday.  Tulle, stripes, parrots, hats, wands, swords, it all works because it's all co-ordinated with wide smiles!
  • Store your costumes on coat hangers within chidrens' reach if you have room; they're more likely to get used.
  • When friends come over, or a dress up game is getting under way, put costumes in a laundry basket (or something similar) so that the 'free-for-all' stays grounded.
  • Add some things of your own; little-people costumes are fun, but an adults hat, scarf, handbag or other accessory will add to their joy.
  • Join in; become a "rejuvinile" and put your adult responsibilities behind you for a moment, and be young again... let the kids direct the action, and don't be surprised if your best play-acting ways get the thumbs down and you're asked to leave!
  • Take a photo - even if you have to take a sneaky peak, paparazzi style, try to grab at least one shot of the kids at play.  You don't have to be a photographer, I'm not, the photos will still be a fun keepsake of a fleeting childhood.
 Go on... get dressed up with your kids!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thanks For Writing

It's no secret that I love to receive comments, thumbs-ups, likes, or any other form of feedback.  I was thrilled to open my computer this morning to find the comment;

"Hi, I found you via Hostess with the Mostess with your Mermaid and Pirate party! I am planning a mermaid party for my daughter next Summer so your hints and tips will be invaluable! x"

It makes my day all the better; how nice to think that my dangerously OTT approach to classy craft might benefit people... it's the reason I do this; but it's so nice to know it's working!

It makes it especially better whilst Happy-Husband is still stranded in Hong Kong waiting for a flight after a large international carrier decided to ground its entire fleet.  Earlier this morning I was writing to my other cyber-friend, and co-creator of the Super Hero party printable package, Despina of Greece.  The world seems such a small place when you're connected by the internet, and then the planes stop flying, and distance stretches out again; too far, too far...

Mimi's real birthday was while Daddy was away.  We made her party last week so Daddy could be there, and as we suspected she would be swamped with presents, we told her that she would get our 3 presents (one from Mum, Dad, and sister) when he got back.  Needless to say, she's missing Daddy a whole lot by now; all the cuddles, books, and  those withheld presents she's been missing out on!

Makes me wonder; what is the right number of presents?  We believe less is best (for storage reasons and because so many others have so little it seems wrong to give our children too much).  Each birthday we give one present each, and the Fun Fairy drops a few extra little things off; it's all about quantity rather than quality for toddlers!  Writing of toddlers... it's mid-morning here in Australia and my two toddlers have gone suspiciously quiet... better go!  Take care - and keep writing to me!!
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