Thursday, November 29, 2012

Class Cards for Christmas

It's no secret that I love writing, and that's why I think there's something so wonderful about really young people learning to write.  I am in constant amazement at the progress (or non progress) that my two preschool-aged daughters are making on their literacy journey.  It seems there is something of a 2 steps forward, 1 step back pattern in place at the moment.  Just when I think we have certain letters or numbers down pat I discover that several of them are back to front the very next day... regardless... they are progressing and I couldn't be more proud.  Of course I dream that they will grow up happy and healthy like all other mums, confident and creative would be a bonus, and if they turn out to love reading and writing as much as I do, well then, that would be the cherrilicious cake topper of all time!

Last year, when trying to help Mimi decide what to give out to her friends as an end-of year / pre-holiday gift, we abandoned the idea of anything edible, as the allergy implications are too onerous, she liked the idea of toys, but my wallet said no, stickers were a possibility, and then we agreed upon colourful pencils, in keeping with her "rainbow room" classroom name.  We topped each pencil with a gripper and eraser and a gift tag; read more here.

This year both my daughters got on board with the idea of inspiring future writers, and we spent an afternoon fashioning 40 class cards.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Christmas cards (all the same or all different - your choice)
  • Several packets of coloured lidded-biros (enough for one per card)
  • 1 or 2 packets of toy gem rings (again, one per card) 

Here's how to make them:

  1. Ask the children to write their name in each card and slip in into the envelope (my girls agonised over every choice of card and then took a long time to sign their names - so be sure to set aside adequate time to do this or break it into several shorter goes).
  2. Write each child's name on the envelope straight away to prevent confusion and mark them off your class list.
  3. Ask the children to select one pen and one ring per friend (my girls really enjoyed this and there were lots of "oh, she'll loooove this" and "he's defiantly a blue-boy" and so on).  You can match ring to pens (as Lotti did) or mix it up (as Mimi did) - depending on what pens / rings you choose.
  4. Slip the ring gently under the pen lid and tape in place on the front of each envekope (Christmas sticker optional).

Sure, the kids themselves would probably prefer yet another candy cane to rot their teeth, but I can't help think that the parents might prefer a pretty educational aid instead, and the ring?  Well who doesn't love a little bling at Christmas time?

Remember the best gifts are the ones you give... and that inspiration is one of the best gifts there is!
Linda.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

DIY Pop Art

It’s no secret that every mum thinks her little cherub is adorable.  Art on the other hand is a far more subjective matter, and beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.

With the help of digital photography and free software editing tools (such as Picassa), you can now easily and quickly convert your own angel into artwork... here’s how:
  • Grab your favourite portrait, or make a new one and be sure there’s good lighting and clean space around their face as much as possible,
  • Using your free software, crop it into a square so that you get close to the face,
  • Now the fun bit – experiment!  Different software has different names for different filters, but most programmes have filters that allow you to turn the photo into black and white, a pencil sketch, pixelate, and polarise.  Some will also have a cartoon option, dual-tone, and heatwave to name but a few.  Try them all and always save what you make, no matter how it looks. (You can see my results in the top right with 9 versions of the same photo using different filters).
  • Pick a look you like; I chose ‘heat-map’ and ‘two-tone’ as my 2 favourites.
  • Now it’s time for more experimentation.  Simply by adjusting the different variables the software gives you for your chosen filter, you should be able to come up with a variety of looks in a variety of colours, merely through trial and error.  Again; save all that you make.
  • If you’re lucky, your software will have a ‘create a collage’ tool; select your favourite 9 / 16 images and make a collage, again, experimenting with the amount of white you want between the images.
  • Print it out – use photographic paper and frame, use iron-on transfer paper and turn it into a tshirt, or simply print it on normal paper and use it any way you want!
Good luck and remember; nothing and no one in life is perfect, so please don’t agonise about whether your artwork is ‘good enough,’ the point is to have fun experimenting, and believe that everything you make is beautiful!

Best wishes,
Linda.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Ebook is HERE!

It's no secret that Christmas time is fast approaching and that can either be a daunting or an exciting thing... especially when you're a crafter who enjoys being the hostess with the  mostest!

Fear not - the Christmas Party Craft Ebook is here - a 45 page full colour pdf file sent straight to your inbox - it's guaranteed to save you plenty of time and a lot of fuss and bother as all our ebooks include shopping lists, printable templates, photo tutorials of over a dozen do it yourself projects and so much more...

And don't forget there's also a full range of DIY printable stationary (invitations, bag tags, place settings, cupcake toppers and flag-bunting) which you can download, print as many or as few as you need, cut and create - so fast and easy!

Not sure it's for you?  Read the testimonials to get a feel for how we've helped make other parent's party dreams a reality and bought so much fun back to crafting with kids!

Best wishes, and enjoy the silly season and upcoming holidays in classy-craft style!
Linda.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Add bling to your baubles!

It's no secret that Christmas trees and baubles go together like egg and nog!  It's also well known by shrewd mums that there are plenty of cheap and cheerful plastic versions that make your tree smile without making your wallet-watching husband frown!

That said, a whole tree full of 'plain' baubles is well... plain.  So why not make at least a few of your baubles "sing with bling" with this super fast and affordable way that even the kids can join in.

{And even though you can't see it, I'm smiling like a mad lady as I type, because I just remembered a long ago post I wrote about Mimi when she was 2... she came around the corner with a face covered in sparkles and said "don't like Santa-balls"... he he... you can read the whole post here.}

Here's how to add bling to your baubles:
  • Buy a packet of plastic baubles.
  • Buy a packet of dollar-store plastic / toy gem rings.
  • Slip the rings over the bauble strings.
  • Hang the baubles.
Yes, the baubles do spin and the gem on the ring may not always be front-on... but hey... when all the other decorations are on the tree it would be a pretty picky neighbour who pointed out a problem with Santa's balls...(so to speak)!

Keep decorating everyone!
Linda.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dye Paper Doilies

It's no secret that everyone has fallen back in love with the humble paper doily.  All across the web you'll find pretty little packages tied up with a paper doily on top.

I also love lovely lacy paper, but I can't help but want to be just a little different... which is why I started dying my paper doilies.

Here's what you'll need:
  • good quality paper doilies
  • food dye in your chosen colour
  • rubber gloves
  • paper towels
  • a flat bowl 
  • newspaper to protect your working surface
  • a spirit of adventure.

To dye your paper doilies:
  1. place a small amount of food dye and water into a bowl (the bowl I used was not ideal as the sides were quite steep... but I was loving the festive snowflake pattern on the crystal - silly me!)
  2. wearing rubber gloves (it can get messy people) dip the paper doily into the coloured water.
  3. leave in there for only a few seconds (cheap doilies will soon start to 'melt' as they absorb the liquid).
  4. put the dyed doily onto a paper towel.
  5. lay another sheet of paper towel on top and gently press down to soak up any moisture.
  6. set the doily aside on another piece of clean paper towel to dry fully.
  7. use your dyed doilies in whatever way your imagination guides you; embellish wrapped presents, cut and sting them up as snowflakes, turn them into pom-poms and so on (click to see links of where I blogged similar projects with cupcake liners).
The best way to try this craft is to experiment many times - you'll get a variety of shades depending on how much colour you add to your water, and how long you leave the doily in the solution.

Please remember that the cheaper and/or more lacy and fragile the designs are, the more likely it will fall apart.  You can see from my last picture (click to enlarge) that the largest of my doilies basically disintegrated around the edges.  The decorative bowl I used didn't help as I had to 'fold' the paper to get it all wet... live and learn hey?

If I had more time (and thicker doilies), I'd love to try a triple-dip system where you dipped 3/4s, let it dry, then dipped it to the half way mark, then let it dry, then dip the bottom third again, so that you could get a sort of tie-dyed / graduated look... so much to try so little time!

I'll post a second edition showing some fun ways I use the dyed doilies... until then - stay tuned.
Best wishes,
Linda.

PS - don't forget there's plenty more good ideas in our themed ebooks - click any of the buttons over there... on the right of the blog to have a look! And YES the 45 page Christmas Ebook with templates is NOW AVAILABLE for $19.50 - click here to enjoy!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

DIY Boho Magic Wand for Christmas

It's no secret that setting up the house for Christmas time is exciting, but also a little daunting... it means climbing into lofts and foraging around in the back of cupboards or the dark recesses of your garage in order to unearth all the boxes and storage tubs so you can rediscover all of last year's decorations.

Inevitably, strangely, things that were packed away in good working order last year are now suddenly twisted, bent, tangled, or broken... how does that happen when they've been sitting still for a year?  I can only assume that the same mischievous elves who steal socks from the washing line are at work - darn you elves!

So - what to do with a broken Christmas bauble?
Turn it into a magic wand of course!

Here's what you'll need to refashion broken baubles into boho magic wands for your children:

  • a broken (plastic) bauble with all the old fixing paraphernalia removed,
  • a timber kebab skewer
  • a drinking straw
  • a fabric flower (or similar)
  • a piece of paper or fabric ribbon (twirling ribbon or other will also work well),
  • beads and other embellishments are optional - really - anything goes (simply aim to keep them in the same family of colours as the bauble you use.)

Here's how to make the boho magic wand:

  • slip the drinking straw over the skewer.
  • experiment with fixing different things onto the pointy-end of the skewer and then always slip the broken bauble on last.
  • once you have an arrangement you like, apply a small blob of glue, tape or temporary-tac onto the end to fix it all in place (you may find as I did that they stay on simply because there is so much wedged in at the one time - but this won't last once the children get hold of the wands).

Waste not want not, I always say - if you happen to discover breakages in your Christmas stash - don't toss it; upcycle it with your imagination and a few minutes of your time!

Happy decorating everyone!
Linda.

PS - if you love all things magical, be sure to have a sneak peek inside our Fairy Ebook for more fun ideas! Or grab a copy of the Christmas Ebook with templates - ho ho ho!! 

Friday, November 16, 2012

QR Codes & Free stuff

It's no secret that QR codes are taking over technology... not the earliest of adopters, I've been rather slow on the uptake when it comes to getting a bar-code reader for my phone, and even slower getting a QR code-reader.  That said, I now have both; better late than never right?

The quickest way to get either/or 'reader' is to go to your preferred App Store and download your preferred free version (be sure to read the instructions & conditions first.)  Once it's on your phone, turn the app on, point the camera towards the square box (such as mine on the right), and the app will launch the corresponding website, (or send you a message / image / contact details etc).

Even more exciting, I've finally made the time to learn how to generate my own QR codes to link back to my website.

There are many free QR code makers, I use goqr.com.  You enter the site you want to link to and it creates a unique QR code for you to download.

So what does my QR code do?  Well, if you've ever looked at the paper crowns that my daughter wears in many photo shoots (click here to see an example) and thought "I'd like to make that" well now you can!  Simply point your smart phone at your computer screen, scan the code and it will take you to the free themed-party ebook - download it, scroll to page 44, print out the crown and follow the how-to instructions... easy! 

If any of you have a QR code reader, I'd love for you to try it out, and leave a comment below or send me an email to let me know how it works... until then; stay crafty this weekend!
Linda.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pretty DIY Petticoats

It's no secret that getting dressed up is an important part of a girl's life - be they preschoolers or adults... the trick is finding new ways to wear 'old' clothes.  My girls, as young as they are, are already making comments about 'that old thing' in reference to party dresses that they have worn 'a hundred times' (i.e. more than 3 times) before.

If you have little girls who like to look different to last party, here's a quick way to make everything old new again:

1. layering.
2. feathers.

The layering idea is simple; pick a pretty party dress AND a pretty tutu (skirt only) and put the dress over the tutu.  The great thing about this combination is that the dress is given plenty of extra volume and a petticoat look as the frills and tulle of the tutu inevitably peek out from under the dress.

In terms of using feathers the idea is to find a few coloured feathers to match the dress (I bought a bag of 'coloured craft feathers' at my local discount-dollar-store) and slip them into a hair clip.  You could of course get fancy with hot glue guns and the like, but I find that they stay in place simply by clipping them in.  (Lotti has the clip-on variety while Mimi is wearing a borrowed headband.)

The great thing about this new look is that it is fast, easy, free, and oh so pretty.  My girls transformed into tiny divas in a moment... all for the sake of a school disco dance!

So next time you're dressing your little girl and wondering how-to... just layer and feather her!

Best wishes,
Linda.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Painting Paper Lanterns

It's no secret that birthday parties bring with them much joy, and many, many presents.  All of the presents which Mimi received for her recent 5th birthday were fantastic.  Some were arty others crafty, and some were designed simply for pure-plastic-y good times.

One of my personal favourites was the "paint a lantern kit."

Of course you don't have to buy a kit to do this, here's what you'll need:
  • Small paper lanterns (look in your local discount-dollar-store).
  • Paint that is not too watery and kid-friendly.
  • Several small brushes (one per colour ensures the colours stay un-mixed).
  • Protective sheeting for the work surface.
  • Optional - protective aprons for the children.

How to paint your paper lantern:
  1. Assemble the paper lantern (they usually come with instructions and are simple to pop-up).
  2. Hand each child a paper lantern.
  3. Tell them to paint away - remind them to turn the lantern carefully to ensure that as much of the lantern is covered in patterns, but not to roll the painted lantern over as they may smudge their artwork.
  4. Leave it to one side to dry overnight.
  5. Hang in a prominent place.
This activity is perfect for all ages, would be a great party-craft if you have enough space (do it early in the party so that the lanterns will be semi-dry at home time), and the results are so classy you'll be happy to hang them up for everyone to admire!

I'm so inspired, that I think I may just paint all my old lanterns... the ones I haven't turned into jack'o'lanterns that is... or then again...

Take care, and stay crafty!
Linda.

PS - there's plenty more free tips and art downloads for children over on the website!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cheats Macaroons

It's no secret that, in Australia at least, macaroons are all the rage.  A famous chef on a famous Australian cooking show kept turning up on our screens with the beautiful biscuits, in every pastel shade you can imagine, and we all went crazy for them.

They are exorbitant to buy and (in my opinion) a little tricky to make.  As always, I'm on the lookout for cheats ways to make beautiful things quickly and easily and when I spotted a box of mini-meringues I knew I'd found a way.

Here's how to make a pretend macaroon:

  • Buy mini-meringues (or make them if you prefer).
  • Buy (or make) soft pastel coloured icing.
  • Put a glob between two matching-coloured meringues and 'glue' them together.
  • Gently roll the meringues in sparkly edible sugar or sprinkles.
  • Leave them on a plate to harden in the fridge.
  • Serve on a pretty platter to happy children or impressed adults at your next party!

The hardest thing about the process was the bit where I had to go to the shops with the children - the rest as they say was 'child's play.'

The pretty little treats are perfect for a friend's high-tea park-party (which is where Little Lotti was eating hers this afternoon), a wedding, fairy-princess party, baby-shower, Spring or Easter get together, or as a make-it-yourself project for tweens and teens.

PS - if you're a regular reader and wondering where I've been, my attentions have been tugged between the school-readiness programme for Mimi (I can't believe she's almost in 'big' school!) and getting the house ready for the new addition to our family (no not a baby) a pup!

Best wishes, and happy 'baking,'
Linda.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Vampire Academy

It's no secret that today is Bram Stoker's birthday... Google tells you with a spooky picture when you launch it (which is how I know!)

As this site is all about party-craft, I decided to wish Bram Stoker (the creator of Dracula) a happy birthday by sending my students (you) to 'Vampire Academy,' and posting a quick 'Vampire Craft 101' project for how to turn family members into vampires.

"How do you make a vampire photo?" I hear you ask.  It's simple;

  • Find a family photo that has a large face (open mouths or big smiles work best) I'll leave it to you to decide whether to make a vampire of your 'little monster' or whether the effect will be better on 'your angel,'
  • Be sure that it is not a boxed frame (as the distant between the glass and the photo will be large and the effect won't work as you move off-angle from the picture.)
  • Cut a small rectangle of white paper sized to suit (I exaggerated mine to make it obvious, but smaller, more subtle teeth would be more classy),
  • Cut the rectangle diagonally in half so that you have 2 triangles,
  • Use temporary-tac to fix the two triangles in place onto the glass above the mouth,
  • Step back and be impressed... scared... or amazed!
  • (Feel free to temporary-tac googly-eyes over the picture for added effect.)

{Now my photo probably looks a little odd as I had to move off-center to avoid glare on the glass in the photo... and because I had already 'tweaked' it for Mimi's 5th birthday party by adding gilded crown stickers onto the glass to turn my daughters into princesses... which is why I now have a vampire-princess being wrestled by her sibling... as you do!!}

If you have fun with this project, be sure to make a whole vampire family for next Halloween, when you have a monster-party, or even for Friday the 13th.

Go on - get your teeth out!
Grrr... or is that vwah-ha-ha (evil laugh)...
Linda!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Fifth Birthday Mimi

It's no secret that my eldest daughter turned 5 recently... and that she wanted a Fairy tale themed party... well the party was last Sunday, and I'm still recovering!

Mimi made a beautiful "snow queen / princess bride" and kept changing her mind throughout the party what she was dressed as.  Little Lotti was a cute mini-mermaid princess, while Mummy went as the wicked stepmother and Daddy was Daddy.

The highlight of the party for Mimi was 'putting on fake tattoos,' her little sister Lotti loved 'the beautiful cake' and Happy-Husband enjoyed chatting to the kids' fathers.  For me, I loved seeing the kids eyes when they arrived and found all the different 'worlds' that Mimi and I had designed (Pirate Cove, Underwater World, Candy Land, Princess Parlour and so on), I enjoyed watching them crash and thrash the big box knock down tower to bits (what kid wouldn't enjoy breaking something on purpose without getting in trouble!), and of course seeing my daughter play the perfect host to all her friends, showing them where the bathroom was, where the craft table was, where they could play, and why they weren't allowed upstairs.

The most unexpected moment was when I realised that Mimi had taken all the cards off all the  presents.  Before the party you see I had talked to her about how this year we were going to try something new, and instead of opening-as-we-go, we were going to put all the presents to one side, enjoy our friends company, and then open them at our leisure later.  So unbeknownst to me, (until I spotted her do it) what she did was take the presents from her guests as they arrived, say "thank you so much," take the card off the present, open it and say "ohhh it's so pretty," and then put it with her other cards.  The guests' parents thought it was very gracious, but of course were all rather perturbed by the fact that we would never be able to match the presents to the guests.  It doesn't really matter too much, except that it does make writing thank-you notes a lot easier!

What I did discover is that, as a gift-giver, there are 2 clever ways around this issue:

  1. put the card and it's envelope in with the present, and then wrap both together, keeping the card and present forever together, or
  2. on the front of the wrapped present discretely write "to X, Love Y" so that again, if the card gets separated the parents have half a chance of knowing who belongs to what.

My all time favourite moment of the party however, was when a young boy came up and said, "when's the pinata?"  I replied, "we're not having one, there's plenty of other things to do."  He scowled and said, "but you didn't even have pass-the-parcel."  I love how honest kids are without their diplomacy-filters!

I'll post more details on the food, decorations, craft table, and more soon, soon, soon...

Best wishes, and happy birthday to everyone whose birthday is now-ish!
Linda.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Write a Love Letter to your Children

It's no secret that I love my children, and I don't doubt that you love yours.  We tell them every night before they go to bed, and randomly and spontaneously when we remember to or are moved to.  I for one however want to leave something behind that has that love written down so that, one day, when I'm gone, they'll be able to look back and know for ever how much I cared for them.

That's why I make love letters for my children; one per year of their life.  I take a piece of square scrapbooking card stock and fold it to make an envelope (I can post a tutorial if anyone wants more details), and then I decorate it to suit their personality and interests at that time.

Inside each envelope I add a variety of things including;

  • a short note explaining why I designed the envelope the way I did,
  • photos with explanations on the back of why I loved them in that moment, 
  • 'your favourite things' notes that showcase who they are, 
  • 'why you're so naughty' memos as long as they don't sound too mean,
  • full letters that I write on their birthday remembering their birth-day,
  • notes about what they did for their party & copies of their invitations, 
  • special messages on important days, such as first day at preschool, and how that day went,
  • a small gift card with a Christmas message in it,
  • a written note from Daddy,
  • small drawings they have done,
  • random thoughts that I write at odd times throughout the year when I find a peaceful moment or when I realise it's 'been a while' and so on.

Heaven forbid they grow up without me, and I'm not there to tell their grown-up selves how precious they have always been, I'm pleased to know that they'll always be a little treasure trove of goodies for them to look back through, sift through, laugh over, cry over... each one is like a tiny little time-capsule of that year of their life, filled with all my love.

I thought about sealing the envelopes up so they could be opened on a special day (they might open their 0-1 year on their 10th birthday for example), but then I like to occasionally sift back through the contents from time to time when I'm feeling nostalgic... just today while putting the finishing touches on Mimi's 5th birthday envelope (which will record her year from 5 to 6) I had a peak inside Mimi's 2-3 envelope (pictured above) and found a note I'd written which said something along the lines of "you're so naughty: you always snatch your baby sister's toys then put them up high so she can't get them... but then you make me laugh so hard... when I asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up you looked confused and then said 'a big Mimi!?!'  and I think that's the perfect answer; I hope you always want to be you!"

If you've never written a Love Letter to your children - then do one for this Christmas.  

They don't  have to be as elaborate as mine, simply buy a nice writing set, sit down and write (don't type!) a letter to them, recalling the day they were born, how far they've come since, all the reasons you're so proud of them, note their quirks and phobias, and especially tell them the difference they make to your life and why you love them to the moon and back.  Seal it with a kiss and tuck it away somewhere safe but obvious, and then one day, when they're old enough, hand it to them to read.

Sending love to you all,
Linda.


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