Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

It's no secret that tomorrow is Christmas - hooray!  We're having friends over today for lunch, and then family over on the 26th for a second gathering, which will make Christmas Day a lovely calm between two 'party-storms', where we can be a little family and concentrate on the children and all the wonder that goes with being young at Christmas time.  

We've all been up today since 5.30am (thanks Mimi!), having breakfast, putting up some last minute decorations (you can never have too many), and making necklaces out of 'ball-balls' (baubles) for our young friends for a bit of Chrissy-dress-up fun.  When the girls remember we'll open the last of the advent calendar boxes, then pop all the cardboard boxes back into the plastic container for next year.  There will be one last flurry of activity as we set the food on the table, and then it's party-time.

I hope that you all enjoy the festive season with your family and friends, remember to slow down, enjoy the company, and focus on what's truly important.  When it comes time for those New Year's Resolutions, make them many and varied, but do me one favour; add 'be-crafty' to the list!  

Merry Christmas everyone and thanks for sharing my first few months of this creative blogging journey - and see you back here on Wednesday the 4th of... wait for it... 2012 - wow. x

Friday, December 23, 2011

Festive (Fake) Flames

It's no secret that carols by candlelight is one of the most wonderful traditions associated with Christmas celebrations.  As the mother of two young children however, I'm all too aware that toddlers and flames don't mix.  I don't even advocate real candles with paper plate protectors.  The risks are far too great.  So then.  What other options can we come up with that will satisfy their sense of inclusion, playfulness, love of colour and magic?

The long plastic candles and flickering lamp-lights are perfect.  They look like what everyone else has, but are safe.  You can add the same paper protector to the plastic candles so the children feel they are identical.

Or you can try what we did; take a handful of colourful, clean sippy-cups and lids, and pop pretend tea-lights inside.  Any plastic food or drink containers will do, but the coloured plastic works best as it conceals the fake candle, and the colour that is produced is extra pretty.  An unexpected upside of 'my invention', is that the children can stack the sippy-cup votive candles and arrange them in additional ways to keep themselves entertained.  We have half a dozen lined up around the base of the Christmas Tree to act as a colourful runway for Santa's sleigh!

Note - I shouldn't have to say this, but I will - never put a real candle inside a plastic container, be sure to teach your children about fire safety, and explain to them the difference between real and pretend flames.  

Two more sleeps 'til Christmas, and one more blog post tomorrow before I take ten days off.
FYI - I'm making a "To DO Next Christmas" poster to put out with the subscription January newsletter so that, if you're anything like me, you can keep track of all the Christmas Ideas you found too late!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's Snowing Paper in Australia

It's no secret that snowflakes are divine, simply divine.  I've been to places around the world where it snows and I've had one white Christmas in Switzerland.  In Australia however, Christmas is mid-Summer and even when it's a wet one like this year, it's still way too warm for snow!  Warm wet weather or not, I see no reason why we can't celebrate with a little faux-frost of the non-melting type.

Turning to my old friends, (cupcake liners / patty pans), I went to work folding and snipping.  I love cupcake liners; they're made of my favourite material - paper; they come in great colours and a variety of sizes; the paper is easy to cut and fold but still pretty resilient to tearing; the ribbing adds instant texture; and you can make so many things from them, including flowers and snowflakes.

My daughters are still too young for 'fussy cutting', but late the other night I had a great time creating three different sizes of snowflakes, threading them onto a piece of fishing line, and then hanging it in front of the blue wall in our bedroom.  If you're wondering how I got them to cascade on the wire - I didn't - it's a trick; I rotated the photos!  The wire is actually suspended horizontally between two bookshelves, and the snowflakes spread out across the line.

Yesterday we got around to sticking them up.  My dining room has a set of glass louvers and the girls used clear tape to stick them all over the louvres.  You only have to open the louvres a fraction and a breeze comes through and makes the flakes flutter - the girls love the look and so do I!

Only 3 more sleeps to go, and 2 more posts from me, and then I'm going to take 10 days off to enjoy some family time... but fear not - the web site with all it's free downloads will still be open, and you can be sure there will be some fun things in the January Newsletter if you subscribe!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Advent Calendar - Part 2

It's no secret that I made a Mini Travel Advent Calendar for my daughters, by placing cardboard inserts into a plastic storage compartments.  Well, we've been diligently opening the boxes over the last few days and like millions of children around the world we're getting super-excited that Christmas is ever-closer.

Mimi, aged four, seems to "get it" while Lotti, 2, is learning fast (although we gave up putting presents for other people under the tree because she keeps opening them!)  Taking turns from one day to the next at picking which coloured box to open from the advent calendar has been both a challenge and a lesson worth learning, as has the idea that some gifts are edible and some are not.  The first box they opened was a chocolate Santa.  Day two was Santa-themed balloon.  Day Three had a Christmas tree bauble.  Needless to say that the great revelry that accompanied the box from day one was diminishing quickly.  Thank goodness that day Four revealled a tiny bottle of nail polish!

One down-side of the design I made, is that as the boxes are withdrawn and set aside (I love the vacant holes as it places emphasis on what's left to choose from and therefore 'how many days to go'), is that if you wanted to you can easily see into the sides of the adjoining boxes.  Mimi quickly realised that as the box empties she could scan for choices.  Now I hold the boxes far enough away and they have to look at them front-on so no cheating.

Regardless of whether the box has been a craft-success, it has been invaluable tool to teach the girls about the story of Christmas, patience, sharing and gratitude.  Four sleeps to go...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Parent Submission: Christmas Cards

It's no secret that I love showcasing my readers' craft projects... especially when I inspired them!  It was with great pleasure that I opened an email yesterday from Kylie, and Australian mother of three, saying " I wanted to thank you for the great idea for the Christmas cards on your website, we had a lovely afternoon doing craft; I'd forgotten how relaxing and therapeutic it can be!"

Attached was a set of photos showing the cards under construction and the final product.  I love the sticker baubles and star on top - it's a neat improvement on the mosaic trees my daughters made; well done Kylie and family!

If you're looking for crafty things to do with the kids this holiday, why not try some of the projects I've blogged here - and send me a photo, or upload it on Flickr.

My website also has lots of free downloadable art and craft projects, such as the Mini Mona Lisa add-a-face artwork; simply print, play, and frame!

I've also uploaded a 'page-flipping' preview of the free "how to host a themed party" on both the side bar of this blog and on the website.  You can also see the free printpaper package and 10 preview pages of each of the themed party craft ebooks online.  Current themes you can look at include;  Ballet, Fairy, Mermaid, Pirate and Princess, with more underway.  All Themed Party Planners include shopping lists, printable make and take craft projects, as well as dozens of ideas for invitations, costumes, decorations, games and keepsakes.  And don't forget the Christmas printables are still $1.10 if you need some last minute bag tags, bunting or cards; click to have a sneak peek look inside.

Thanks again to Kylie for trying my idea, making it her own, sending me the photos, and letting me share!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Painting For Kids

It's no secret that the mention of "paint" makes many mums moan.  Paint is certainly the enemy to carpet, clothes, and clean houses in general.  I don't care what the labels say about "easy wash" and "no stain" paint is problematic, especially in the laundry.  Add "help me" nagging and random acts of paint flick-fights to process and it's easy to see why plenty of parents stay well clear of paint at home.


Paint is fun.  It is.  It really is.  You do need to put a little effort into making a 'safe place' however, and outside if possible.  Put down an old sheet or some newspaper on the floor/grass.  Get the kids to sit straight on the drop-sheet or add a table, and some more protection on top.  Be sure that everyone is wearing protective gear, or do as we do and play "dress up" in your "mess-making-clothes" (which are all the pants that are green at the knees and have holes in them, or the shirts that already have an enormous paint stain splattered on the tummy.)

Is paint perfect for parties?  I see no reason why not.  But if you do intend to let kids paint at your party, be sure to tell parents before hand so they can leave the pretty pink ball gowns and favourite t-shirts at home.

Both Mimi and Lotti bought home hand-painted treasures from their day care classes last week.  Four year old Mimi made the cutest green hand-print Christmas tree with a foam star and red button bling.  It's done on nice thick paper, so it has stayed flat and is perfect for hanging.  Two year old Lotti made a splodgy mess with green paint onto a cardboard puzzle, and then her teachers helped her make a red-sparkle-paint hand print on top.  Two very different make and take craft projects using paint and itty bitty hands; and both perfect for parental presents.

Painting with kids is scary.  But be brave.  Art activities for kids are valuable, and if you can't think of an orchestrated project to paint (or don't want to try the 2 ideas photographed above), forget the 'how to paint' dilemma and simply let them at it.  So go on, at your next arty party or "what do we do today" day, have a go; the results are worth the effort.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

From the mouths of babes

It's no secret that "cupcakes don't need a cherry on top," "toys without batteries can still be fun," "when you put a square and a circle together you get a squircle," and "it's ok to love myself more than I love my sister"... right?

Mimi says so.  My four year old Mimi, said all of the above and so much more, just passing the time while walking through the supermarket yesterday.  Even though I'm occasionally tempted to cover my ears for some respite, and Lotti, the 2 year old does in fact say "shooosh" sometimes, there is often an almost profound truth that can come from the mouth of babes.

Of course, the lack of a diplomacy filter is not always a good thing; we've all been around when our child or someone elses' asks something difficult like, "why does that lady have a moustache?" at a higher than required volume.  But at least for now, they have an excuse... it will be a lot harder to shrug it off when they're 15!

Before children I didn't really get the long quewes and high costs associated with having a screaming baby photographed with a reluctant Santa.  I grew up without a single 'professional' Santa photo, surely my kids would turn out ok if the only Santa they sat on was Grandad...  And then I got caught... When Mimi was about 9 weeks old we were cruising through a department store when a lonely Santa waved us over.  He held a sleeping Mimi in his arms for an 'obligation free' cuddle and of course I was hooked... not just for that year either; the next year clinched it.  Sure my daughter looks less than impressed, but Santa's "get me outta here" face is hilarious.   I consider it money well spent for her future 21st party.

The third year saw a new addition and shell-shocked faces, while last year saw an escalation in the double-trouble fear-factor and two flight risks, and hence an unprepared Mum had to sit on Santa's boots.  This year, the whole family gathered around Santa for support, and who knows... maybe next year we might actually get both girls to smile and the mouths of babes might be silent!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Elf off the Shelf - Part 1

It's no secret that shortcuts are my friends, especially when it comes to crafting.  While blog-hopping the other day I found lots of great ideas but two stood out.  I considered doing one project then another, then realised I could merge the two and save time and still get the impact I was after.

The first was a post on how to make a DIY Girlie Elf on a Shelf project at Bubbly Nature Creations.  The shelf-elf craze is all over the Internet, and this post shows how to turn a 'standard' doll into a fun, girlie elf that gets up to all sorts of mischief.

The second post revealed how to add Santa to a photo of your home at Toys in The Dryer.  The idea of showing your children 'evidence' that Santa really was there is not new, but the tutorial on this blog is excellent.

In our house presents for birthdays come from Mum, Dad, Sister and The Fun Fairy.  My daughter Mimi, who turned 4 in October, wanted to know if the Fun Fairy still turned up when Santa seemed to be all-pervasive at Christmas time.  I told her she would and was sure to bring something special.   As I was speaking, I remembered the two blogs above and thought; "what if I created two fun fairies and took a photograph of them wrapping those special presents in our home, and then used the photos as 'Merry Christmas' cards to attach to the presents."

So that's what I've started to do.  Using left over scraps from my recent felt-projects, I made no-sew skirts for two little dollies (held in place with double-sided tape), then added paper hats with pom poms, some pipe-cleaner faux fur, and a set of paper wings to each.  I then propped them up on the presents the Fun Fairy magicked-up for them, and took photos, one photo for each daughter, focusing in on their present with the other fairy off in the distance.  On Picasa I tweaked them slightly, making them a bit greeny-blue to make it seem more magical, and if I get time before printing them, I'll try to take them into photobucket or another free-editor to add some sparkle.  The photo in the corner is indicative, and doesn't show the branded-products falling out of the wrapping.

I'll post my daughter's reaction after Christmas, but until then; remember you don't have to be too literal when you read other people's craft ideas - take a pinch of this, a smidgen of that, and mix it all into your own special recipe!

Friday, December 16, 2011

The (Felt) Gingerbread House

It's no secret that I recently made two felt Christmas trees for my girls to decorate.  Not long after I mused out loud, "what about a gingerbread house?" and two little faces looked up and all but licked their lips.  "Not ginger-bread gingerbread," I laughed, "felt."

Using the same approach as last time, I made a card template, traced the shape onto an A4 piece of yellow felt and cut it out (brown or orange would have been better, but for some reason I had none of those shades and lots of yellow).

I also used a craft knife to cut a door and two windows (which are not so apparent in the picture I just realised).  The door had two cuts; one long one up and a short one across.  The windows were three cuts; up and a top and bottom cut, so that you can swing them open.  If you don't have a craft knife, use a small pair of nail-scissors to snip a hole at one of the window or doors 'corners' and then poke your scissors through and cut.

The only additional pieces I made to decorate the house, were some slabs of felt-faux-frosting/snow, a couple of orange gingerbread people, and a moon.  The other decorations; squares, rectangles, and ornament/flames all still worked fine as you can see by the "house-on-fire" design Mimi made above!  The girls now make whole scenes which stretch across the carpet, with a house between two trees, all decorated to the billy-ho-ho-ho.

Don't have felt?  Don't worry.  You could do the same craft project with your kids using coloured paper.  Help pre-cut the big pieces (trees and houses) and then let your youngsters assemble a variety of shapes in different colours to stick on top, in a way not dissimilar to the Christmas Tree Cards I recently made, I think little decorated gingerbread houses could be fun Christmas Card designs for next year.  But you don't have to wait til Christmas - gingerbread houses would be a 'sweet' party craft and cardboard trees decorated with paper fruit, bird stickers, fabric flowers or buttons would make a great wet-weather activity.  Enjoy.   

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas is All Wrapped up with Paper Candy Cane Stripes

It's no secret that wrapping presents at Christmas time can be a pleasure or a pain.  I've mentioned in earlier posts that I'm trying to have a 'clean-out' year, using leftover scrapbook papers and embellishments to make mismatched gift tags, and my intention to finish off the last of all the rolls of wrapping paper.

To pull the diverse looking wrapping papers together and make the presents look like 'a family' under the tree I decided to add a 'candy-cane stripe' to each present.

Here's what you need:

  • a roll of shiny red wrapping paper.
  • a roll of mat white paper (construction, butchers or drawing paper all suit)
  • sticky dots or double-sided tape
  • red curling ribbon

Here's what to do:

  1. take the shiny red wrapping paper and cut thin strips off about 6cm / 2.5" 
  2. cut up a set of even thinner strips of plain white paper
  3. wrap the presents as normal
  4. add a sticky dot or piece of double-sided tape to the front of each present
  5. with the intention of wrapping around the shortest side, place the red 'sash' in place, sticking the ends down on the back of the present (I didn't worry if the ends didn't meet at the back, so long as they went all the way around the sides) 
  6. repeat steps 4 & 5 for the white paper
  7. tie curling ribbon around the centre of the white strips (I used a tiny piece of double sided tape to hold it in place.)

(Note - you can also swap the colours, and have a shiny red stripe on a wider white band and a silver or white ribbon.)

Sound simple?  It is.  But.  Be warned.  It can effectively triple your workload.  If you're a 'wrap-and-one-ribbon' kinda person, this will seem like torture as there are three lots of paper to cut and wrap, plus the added 'hassle' of adding tape to hold it all in place.

For me it was worth it though.  I love wrapping, it's almost a zen thing; finding quite time, surrounding myself with pretty papers, playing with new ideas, and finding that yes indeed, quirky, classical and contemporary wrapping papers from a variety of sources can all look candy-sweet together!

Only a few more sleeps to go now... hooray for festive fun and wrapping presents you just know will bring a smile to someones face... even if it is only for a fraction of a moment before the paper is gauged apart, ripped, shredded, screwed up and tossed aside... or perhaps set aside, folded, flattened and turned into a scrapbook page by a crafty mum like me... or YOU!  

And don't forget the Christmas printables, including bunting, cards, food flags and more, are all still available for $1.10 for some last minute print, cut and keep - just click here!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rosette Lollipop Alternative

It's no secret that I'm always looking for the quick and easy way around craft projects.  I recently read a post on 'Homespun with Love' called "rosette lollipops" where rosettes are made with doilies, cupcake liners and folded paper, amongst other things.  The rosettes look fabulous and festive and I wondered if there was much precedent for such things, and there is some, and in fact one crafter at Icing Designs includes tutorials.

So then, my afternoon idea was to see if I could make a simpler version that lost the candy but could double as a table decoration.  

Note; I used the red and green to be festive, but this sort of pattern could be fun for any party theme, including circus, super hero or princess, just select two colours to suit!

Here's what I did; 

  • Select two plastic plates of alternate colours (paper would work too, but it lakes the shine, and you might see white strips when cut it up).  
  • Cut each plastic plate in half, and then quarters using crimping scissors, or similar.  (I carefully cut both plates at the same time to save time).
  • You now have 8 pieces of plate - 4 of each colour - set one of the darker pieces aside (in this instance the darkest and therefore least transparent of the two colours was red).
  • Using the other 7 pieces, lay them on top of each other in alternating colours, and arrange so that they are evenly spaced.
  • Take the set aside piece (shown red in my photo) and cut it in half.
  • Lay this last slice on top of the other 7 pieces, and save the remaining remnant for another craft project.
  • Using double sided tape or sticky dots, gently work your way around and stick the pieces together. (To do this, you might choose to; mark each piece with a small pencil line, disassemble the plate, then reassemble it; alternatively you can gently lift each piece up and push the tape under; or, you can simply do as I did, and start all over, sticking each one down in roughly the right place, the inexactness of it all adding to the fun.)

What to do with your harlequin-patterned plate?  I suggest you follow the trend and layer one rosette on top of another, by making paper versions, or do as I did, and add a cupcake-liner flower in matching colours.  Pop it in the centre and turn the whole thing into a wall decoration, a table-setting, or stick it all onto a giant-lollipop.  (For help on how to make the flower - I previously blogged the how-to when I used a similar but different look to make a mermaid party table-setting and again in the making a mermaid mirror).

Hope that made sense... I've effectively been up since 4am and the lack of sleep is probably showing... gotta love toddlers!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ideas for Christmas Class Presents

It's no secret that being sick is horrible - yesterday I had a migraine, so I missed my daily blog post - sorry.  I'm back on deck today and thought I would write about class-presents.  Before I had children 'in school' I never really understood the dilemma about whether to buy presents for school-mates.  I assumed children would have a couple of 'besties' and that you would buy a present for those two or three best friends.

When I asked Mimi who she loved best in her class she named one, then another, another, oh and him, and her, and so on until we went through the whole class.  I've blogged before about Mimi's super-human ability to talk without breathing (when she was discussing with me what's great about pirates), and so it should come as no surprise that she loves everyone and wanted to give each and all a Christmas present.

While trying to decide on a fast and affordable way to buy or make 20 presents I found myself standing in the stationary section of the supermarket.  Last week I blogged about how to appeal to the 5 senses while wrapping gifts.  To practice what I preach in a fun and educational way, I bought three things; a packet of coloured pencils, a pack of pencil grips, and a box of pencil-end erasers.  Mimi helped me put them all together and here's what we came up with;

Sight - Each pencil was pretty enough on its own, but when collected for handing out, the rainbow hues were even more pleasing.  Mimi took great pleasure in picking out each colour for each friend, "he just loves green, and she'll loooove this pink," which added a personal touch.
Touch - To make the pencil seem more special, Mimi selected a 'squidgy' pencil grip to match each pencil.  The glitter added some festive sparkle, and the soft rubber was fun to feel.
Smell - On the end of each pencil we added erasers with different 'fruit-fragrances' which sounds a bit yuk, but was actually not too bad.
Sound - After thinking about mini bells and other sound makers, I decided the sweetest sound was "Merry Christmas" from one four year old to another.

I missed out on taste.  It was a deliberate decision.  I had considered strapping a candy-cane or small Santa-chocolate to each pencil, but Mimi's school is plagued by serious food-allergies, and even more food-intolerance, and I dread the thought of accidentally putting a child in hospital, so taste was ditched, and had to be absorbed by the fruity-rubber-smell in this instance.  As I always say in my craft ebooks - if in doubt; leave it out.

For the cards, I'd like to say we made 20 gift tags, but we didn't.  Instead we bought a packet from our local Dollar Store, and then Mimi recited a short message to add to each one, such as "I can't stop looking at your beautiful face" or "even if I had no fingers I would still love you," and then she 'signed' her name.  The card-writing was the longest part of the whole process... but worth it.  The children loved their presents, and their parents had a good chuckle over the cards!

PS - if you're wondering about the no-finger comment, as I was, the explanation was; "you know... if I had no fingers I wouldn't be able to give a really big hug... but I'd still love her anyway." ... and on that note - go vote for your favourite Christmas tree material - over there ---> & up a bit!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Edible Craft: Pancake Snowmen

It's no secret that we often underestimate people, even those we love most.  So here's a big shout out to my Happy Husband; "you're so clever!"  While making pancakes for the kids' breakfast, he poured the three blobs of batter close together instead of wide apart, and 'hey presto' was able to present some fun edible craft; snowman pancakes.

I probably wouldn't have used a lemon-pip for the nose, but who cares - set against the pink plate, these fast, fun and festive pancake people are perfect for a breakfast treat!... oh and did I mention he was cooking... yes; he's a good husband.

Enjoy whatever breakfast tradition you have this weekend (and you'd be amazed how many families have one!) and see if you can't get a little crafty while you're at it!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What to Make with Kids

It's no secret that receiving a hand-made card is a real treat, especially when it's a thing of beauty.  Thank goodness relatives who love us are the ones receiving our Christmas-Tree cards this year, because it takes a fairly big jump in imagination to get a tree out of some of this year's 'greeting for Christmas' collages!

About a month ago, I blogged a magazine collage for kids to make where my daughters used long strips of aqua-coloured paper from old magazine ads.  The craft we made together this morning was similar, although this time I cut out squares from assorted sheets of green craft paper.  Whilst I drew a pencil sketch of a triangle for them to fill in, only one card actually stayed inside the lines, the others were a jumble, albeit a pretty green jumble.  At the end the girls added a yellow tree-trunk (or pot), and some sticky-dot decorations.  On the back of the card Mimi stuck a Santa-bear from some old wrapping paper, and Lotti put hers 'under the tree' on the front of her card.  All that's left now is to dig out a gold star to pop on the 'top' of each tree.

Two year old Lotti also added a healthy dab of glue inside the card, which she then covered with 'more tree,' so I'll have to be a bit creative about where I write 'Merry Christmas'!

Christmas for kids is such fun, and craft for kids at Christmas time is 'funner' still, so go on - make a card, or two, with your children!

And don't forget to vote on the quick poll on the right hand side - 'what materials make the best Christmas Trees' or pop across to my other website for free printable cards from the printpaper package and plenty of free printable craft activities for children!     

Friday, December 9, 2011

Snow White Desk

It's no secret that everyone's dreaming of a white Christmas... even those of us in Australia where it's been a wet Summer so far.  Snow, crystal, clean, refreshing white snow... hmmm... but why leave it outside?  And why only use quilt wadding or that weird stuff in a can... what about my beloved material; paper?

I'm always putting links up on my facebook page to the 'amazing finds' I come across on the web, and that's where I recently popped the link to an amazing blog post where a paper artist converted a shopfront into an icy wonderland with nothing other than cut paper.  If you missed the facebook link, follow me or pop across here.

Now, as you know, I have two toddler daughters so finding time is always tough, and I'm always challenging myself to find ways of being crafty quick-time.  So when I saw the amazing paper icicles I thought, maybe I could make a mini-version for my desk.  So I did, and it worked!  It's certainly nowhere as dramatic and exciting as the shopfront version, but there's something rather amusing about snow oozing out of the cracks in my desk!

To make the snow I used three pieces of blank A4 paper, and cut a wibbly-woobly shape out.  The beauty of it is you get two pieces per sheet, since the 'off cut' is perfectly usable.  I then cut a couple of the bigger pieces in half to go over the 'straight edge' of the papers.  Light plays with the paper so that some parts are pale, and others, where the paper is double thick, are darker.

It took ten minutes and cost basically nothing, and I'm thinking I might convert the alcove where our Christmas tree is into a snowy wonderland with some cupcake liner snowflakes, some icicles and of course some oozy snow!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Favourite Find: Sticky Dots

It's no secret that the words Christmas and Baubles were made for each other.  Two years ago, when Mimi was 2, we put up the Christmas tree, decorated it, and explained to Mimi, "don't touch; the baubles are fragile and you don't want Santa to be sad."  Or something to that effect.  Later that same day, she came to me with a mouth covered in sparkles and shaking her head, "don't lick Santa-balls," she said, and I remember it still!

This year's tree is covered in baubles which are pink, blue and purple, but I wanted to try making some of my own using my favourite material; paper.  Using 4 medium-sized foam balls, I decorated each one differently as follows;

  • Mini pudding - I used strips from a brown paper bag to decoupage this ball, then pinned a small doily and a gingham ribbon and red star on to the top.
  • Little apple - red Chinese joss paper with a gold pattern was used for this one, to which I then then added two fake leaves and another star on top.
  • Christmas ivy - this was done with green tissue paper, again from an Asian supermarket.  It's black Chinoiserie pattern helped to give the paper extra interest, and then I popped on some red sticky dots and the star.
  • Snowball - this was done with several pieces of lacy doily and stick on gems, and a full doily and star on top.

Here's the top 5 things I learnt;

  1. sticky dots are great; they're not cheap, but once you have made the balls, by placing one under the star, and then pinning through it, the pin stays in place, even when you hang the balls up.
  2. red joss paper stains everything, and I mean everything, including the kitchen counter when the silly bauble rolled off the protective newspaper.
  3. doilies tend to disintegrate in the mixture of glue and water, and the delicate pattern is quickly lost when the fragile paper ribs rip apart.  
  4. save the red joss paper bauble til last, as even the tiniest bit of red ink will stain the glue-water mix, and whilst this added interest to the pudding, it turned the snowball pink.
  5. foam-ball decorations are not as Faberge-fabulous as I thought they would be.

On the upside, it was a fun half hour (twice as long as I like my craft projects to be!) and I found out how useful sticky dots are... but the red apple is still in quarantine on a top shelf and not to be trusted! Now go on; vote for your favourite Christmas tree material in the poll just right of here!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Princess Party Gift Wrapping Ideas

It's no secret that many people share their birthday with Christmas festivities.  It must be a blessing and a frustration; you get to be doubly excited as the end of year approaches,but at the same time, it must be hard not to get lost in the drama of everyone else's celebrations.

We went to a Princess Party yesterday for a lovely 5 year old friend.  It was a fun-park variety, fully catered, plenty of playtime, and everyone dressed up - it was fabulous fun, and it reminded me to remind you that parties are often about 'going-to' as well as 'hosting.'

Today I though I would post the flip-side of printpapers.  As well as using the themed templates and printables for any party you host, they are also invaluable for when you go to themed-parties.  Mimi and I were able to quickly print out a card and some decorations from the Princess Party Ebook and printpaper package, and then decorate a gift bag.

To stay in theme we went pink, and added a castle, gold star, frog sticker and gold bells (to look like gold-balls and because they made the bag jingle nicely).  I'm a big believer that we all use all our senses all the time, and children use them even more keenly.  That's why I think you should attempt to appeal to all 5 senses when wrapping a present.  Here's a few ideas how;

  • Sight - this is the obvious one, and we're all pretty good at making a present look pretty, but don't forget;
  • Sound - kids love to shake a present to hear what's inside; if the present isn't a rattler, add something jingly to the wrapping, such as a clunky, beaded necklace.  
  • Touch - Use a variety of materials, soft tissue, glossy paper, rough twine, all mixed together, for a super-sensation.
  • Taste - at Christmas time I love adding a small candy-cane, but you can pop chocolates or other goodies onto a wrapped present all year round (just be ever-mindful of allergies; and if in doubt, leave it out).
  • Smell - the peppermint smell is a given when you go with candy canes, but you can be also give gifts a spritz of floral perfume or boyish air freshener to make the present more appealing (I always spray on an extra strip of card or tissue paper and slip it into the gift rather than spray the present and risk staining something.)

Now, back to printpapers for a moment; there are many designs of digital printpapers on the market, so shop around, you're sure to find one that suits your style and remember the beauty of them is that if you think outside the gift box, you'll get plenty of extra use!

(If you're not sure what printpapers are, I blogged a post recently on "what are printpapers?" and there's also some more information in a Free Downloadable Guide under the Help > How To section of my other website.) 

Don't forget to vote what makes the perfect tree on the right hand side.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

DIY Christmas Wreath Craft

It's no secret that Christmas isn't complete without a wreath.  Hung on the front door, over the mantelpiece, close to the tree, or worn around your wrist as a woolen bangle, it 's a potent symbol of the festive spirit.  There are so many beautiful blog-posts and how-tos about Christmas wreaths, in all manner of materials, that it's really just a matter of selecting the material you want to work with and devising a wreath to suit, and perhaps hardest of all; finding the time to make it!

My most favourite material to craft with is paper, so last year I made a quick paper wreath to decorate our entry with.  You basically follow the same how-to as outlined in my colour-wheel tutorial, but substitute the rainbow shades for different hues of green, add a few spotty-dot stickers for berries, and a Christmas bow to complete.

This year the wreath is stuck onto a framed piece of Mimi's artwork, on the wall beside the tree (you can see it in the photo from yesterday's post.)  Bells, buttons, and any other mixed-medium materials would also suit this craft to give it some added depth and interest.  It's a loose enough craft that young children could participate in it's creation, so long as you pre-cut the paper.

Feel free to pop down to the comments section and add links to your wreath tutorials (I know lots of you have them!) so others can get some inspiration, and don't forget to vote what material makes the prefect Christmas tree - the poll is just right of this post!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Christmas Tree

It's no secret that the first time you hit the switch for the lights on the Christmas tree it's an exciting moment.  Yesterday Happy Husband put our tree up, the girls decorated it, and I re-threaded ornaments back onto their strings after they had inexplicably freed themselves over the last 11 months while encapsulated in their boxes, while hidden inside a bigger box.

Last year we overloaded the tree with tinsel and paper flowers, as well as baubles of all sizes and colours, and it was a bit too much.

This year, it's still a 'busy' tree, especially down low where the girls can reach, but the pink, blue, purple and aqua coloured decorations cover all the  'favourite-colour' bases for our family of four, and the LED strip lighting which we trialed this year, spiraling up the center of the tree gives it all a shimmering icy sparkle.

Every family has a Christmas tree tradition, and every one of those traditions has at least one story behind it.  When we were little putting up the tree involved driving to the woods near my maternal grandparents' house, there were home-made decorations and the ever-present smell of pine needles rotting in the summer heat.  It's been a long time since then, and I still remember it clearly.

Four years ago when I bought 'my family' tree, I chose white.  We had decided against fir trees because there were none grown responsibly in our area, and because of the heat, and the pine needles falling within reach of the babies.  I felt that you can't really replicate the real thing, so once I had decided on a forever-fake I felt something other than green was more suitable, and Ye Olde Christmas Tree Shoppe was able to oblige.  Red and black were both eye catching but a tad masculine in a house of girls, and the silver was too pricey.  There's now some fun pink ones (Happy Hubby would faint!) but white is ours now.   It suits our house, and in the mid-Summer heat, there's something cooling about its snow-white presence while the temperature soars.

O Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree, we love you because your ours...!

I'll set up a poll just to the right, to see how others feel about tree selections - are you passionate about real, faux-fir, or is free-choice the important thing?  Click your choice, and let's see what happens.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Noel, Noel... no L?

It's no secret that our expectations about what we can achieve often out weight the real results.  While flicking through a magazine I saw an add with adults shaping letters, and I thought, "my kids could do that for a Christmas card."  Well, they did... sort of.  The N is barely there, the O is cute enough, the E requires imagination, and the L which I thought would be the easiest turned out to look torturous.  It all looks better when you squint!

Why the colour-scheme?  Well, Noel means 'Christmas' in French, and I thought the colour scheme of pink clothes on black carpet would seem Parisian... ok and because we have a dark carpet and Mimi rarely wears anything other than pink...!

Mimi also made a J and Lotti a Y so we could spell out JOY on another collage I'll use for Christmas cards.  Placed side by side the 3 photos, with one child on each end, and the two of them together, made a sweet ensemble.

As I'm typing I'm becoming tempted to organise another photo shoot and collect the whole alphabet, and then we could make personalised cards for everyone.

The result is far from perfect, but what craft project ever is.  The kids had fun, and so did I.  We managed to clear a spot on our black carpet, dress-up in pink and take the 6 photos in only slightly more time than my eternal 15 minute challenge.  The digital collage with  Picasa (the free digital photo-editor) took only minutes more.  If your kids seem interested in getting involved, I highly recommend it for a bit of a laugh - but please - be careful when climbing up to take the shots!

As far as family photos go, I'm thrilled with the results... maybe me and Happy-Hubby could spell out some of the remaining letters, for a true family photo... hmmm... as a minimum a V would be good, then we could spell LOVE, and at the end of it all what more do you want at NOEL-time than JOY and LOVE?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Santa Sends a Message

It's no secret that children know Santa's for real.  Last year I found a site which sends personalised messages from Santa to your children.  Mimi was 3 and a little too young to really get it, but I had another go this year and it worked a treat.

You upload a couple of photos, chose whether the child has been naughty or nice, add some personal details and then Santa says "hello Mimi, I hear you're 4 years old and you've been trying hard to be nice to your little sister...' and so on.

I organised it so that the messages 'arrived' for the girls while we were at Nana's, so they couldn't get suspicious about my involvement.  The downside was that Nana's Internet connection was dreadfully slow so it took a long time to load the movie (so be warned) and as a result the girls got restless.  It was however worth the wait.  Mimi almost went into shock when Santa said her name and then opened his big book to reveal her photo in there.  She held her breath while the elves pushed all the buttons on their machine and we all waited for the verdict of whether she was going to get the green-light for good... she did.

There are a variety of sites out there that can do this, I used the first of those listed below, a friend swears by the other.  Perhaps a paper-letter would be nice, but in this digital age, the personalised video is a  fun way to bring Santa-magic into the home, and especially nice while we're yet to reach the 'tricky question' stage.

Let me know if you have any Santa-message ideas.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Felt Christmas Tree Craft Tutorial

It's no secret that I often see craft projects and think "I'd like to do that one day," but it's only occasionaly that I see something and think "I'm going to do that right now."

I saw two different felt-craft projects yesterday, each on it's own was very clever, but then I realised I had enough materials to combine some of the ideas of both and make a whole other craft.

The first project was a beautiful travel craft in the shape of a Christmas tree which the children could decorate with felt shapes on the beautiful Gluesticks blog.  The second was a black-board styled felt craft at Whimsical Whimsies, the black backdrop was especially effective for making the colours look bright and cheery.

I decided to make a travelling blackboard Christmas Tree fuzzy-felt.  Here's what I did;

  • I laid all my felt pieces out, and noticed the largest were A4s.
  • Using a ruler and pencil and a piece of green card, I sketched out the largest Christmas tree shape I could make on an A4 and cut it out (I used green card so that the tree can be used for a separate craft).
  • Laying the card tree down as a template, I traced the shape onto two pieces of green felt (one dark one light) then cut them out.
  • From the sheets of other colours, I kept it simple and cut out squares, rectangles and a few flame-shapes that could act as candles or ornaments, and I sorted them into two equal piles.
  • I had a bag of felt stars which was a bonus, and I added these to the assortment (craft stores often sell pre-cut felt shapes).
  • Using an uncut A4 piece of black felt, I laid the tree and the ornaments all on top and placed the set inside a 'side clamp file' (the sort of document holder that holds un-punched papers in place, with a clear cover and coloured back.)

The result is a (sort of) portable craft activity.  The girls took them to Nana's yesterday and were kept entertained for quite a while.  Mimi in particular enjoys finding new uses for the shapes I cut out and has turned them into flowers, eyes and a carrot-nose, votive-shaped candles and people.

I made both felties within about 30 minutes (with all materials on hand), and whilst they're not overly elaborate, my daughters think they're pretty good.

And lastly, just before I was about to post this, I noticed on one of my follower's blogs, that they have a cute snowman version.  It's here at Aunty Louisa's, so pop over to all the other blog links and share some crafty love!

PS - pipe cleaners can be used as 'tinsel' or 'string-of-lights' on the trees, although they don't stick quite as well, they're effective... just watch the sharpish ends with the bubbas!

PPS - don't forget that printable Christmas party stationary is always on sale at the Partycraft Secrets website!  Oh! AND the 45 page colour Ebook is now available too - click here to have a sneak peak!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Postcard

It's no secret that on Thanksgiving Day I posted a story about how my daughters made 'thank you' cards to celebrate the people who made them grateful; thanks for spaghetti Nana, for being my friend, love-you-Dad and so on.  In that post I wondered whether we could send one through the mail to her grandparents... well we did; and it made it!

Mimi made a farmyard picture for my parents who live on a farm.  When I asked her what she wanted to write (in stick on foam-letters) on the back, she started a long lecture about how she wanted to thank Granddad for chasing her around the house when she steals his hat, and Grandma for reading books, and, and... after getting her to draw breath, I explained there was a limited number of sticker-letters and even less space to stick them.

"I love you both" was the message she came up with.  So I picked out the letters, she stuck them on and we walked up to the local post-box.  I was dubious about the quality of the glue on the stickers; but most of them stayed put in their journey cross country.  I really hope the 'T' didn't get stuck in a million dollar machine and some poor post-person wasn't cursing us too badly when they had to stay back all night trying to get it up and running again before the pre-Christmas rush?!?!

Mimi and I were thrilled to get an email with a photo enclosed, thanking her for the nice surprise and holding the postcard up for inspection (they used the camera on their computer and clearly it's serious business!)

So if you're trying to think of something different for this years' Christmas cards; what about a foamy postcard?  Whichever way you go - be sure to include all your love.
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