Bringing something to the table

This year we are going over to my folk’s for Christmas, so today we are having Fake Christmas with my other half’s family. There is going to be a massive feast ready for us to eat so taking food or drink as a hostess gift is really a bit out of the question. I thought flowers might be a bit predictive so, instead, I decided to roll up my sleeves and give floral arrangement a try.

Hostess gift - Pretty flower arrangement DIY

I have a feeling that floral arrangement is probably something much bigger in the States than the UK. I had never done floral arrangement before and this was a bit of an experiment. I wanted to decorate it with some funny extra bits but I ended up leaving it quite simple, just because I was quite pleased with it anyway!

Flower arrangement - flowers

This is what you’ll need:

  • Wet floral foam – easy peasy to get, call your local florist
  • A vase or a container. Mine’s are really in one of those disposable tupperwares, mainly because this was done on a tight budget and because I knew I wanted to wrap it afterwards anyway
  • Brown craft paper or any other sort of paper you like
  • Double sided tape and some cool tape – either washi or something similar
  • Pinking shears (optional)
  • Funky bits to decorate with – mine are some wooden animal decorations for the Christmas tree. That way the can be re-used afterwards!
  • Flowers

My approach to choosing the flowers was to buy two different types. The big flowers that kind of dominate the bouquet and then the smaller greener flowers that give variety and help visually breaking it up and they fill it up.

Flower arrangement DIY - floral foam

This is how you make it:

Prepare the floral foam in advance. Clean your kitchen sink and fill it up so it would totally cover your floral foam in water when holding it down. Let it soak until the foam floats no more. This will take a while. Once it’s soaked it’ll be really heavy and you can now start cutting it to the shape you want. It’s quite delicate so be careful not to press it too hard. Also, cut it so it fits snuggly but it’s not squashed in your vase or container.

Flower arrangement DIY - placing the flowersThe flower stem needs to be cut diagonally so it facilitates drinking the water from the foam. If you are placing flowers horizontally, insert them so the longest point of the stem is at the bottom. Start by placing the biggest flowers, in my case the white ones, to map out the central points of the bouquet. Then put the other “main flowers”.

Flower arrangement DIY - finished flowersFinally add the green bits to fill it up.

Flower arrangement DIY - wrapping paper

I chose craft paper to wrap it up. It looks quite homey and it matched the little wooden animals that I put at the end. Cute the sides with pinking shears to make it extra pretty.

Flower arrangement DIY - securing the paper

Put some double sided tape on each of the corners of the tupperware to secure the paper to it. That way you can give it the shape that you want a lot more easily.

Flower arrangement DIY - wrapping

Give it some shape and add some pretty tape. I’m clearly not very good at placing tape straight!

Hostess gift DIY - Pretty flower arrangement

You are now ready to add funky bits. Go to the 99p / 99c store and get some playful toys or, like me, some Christmas tree decorations.

Flower arrangement DIY - top view Flower arrangement DIY - Irene loves crafts

Considering this was a bit of an experiment and I didn’t really know how it was going to turn out, I am really happy with it. It’s something a bit different to take to a hostess, it’s homemade and it looks great!

For more useful tips on how to use floral foam successfully have a look at this article from the American Rose Society.

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Snow card – posting a white Christmas

Christmas times are superbusy times. So much that, believe it or not, I haven’t come round to making any Christmas cards yet. So now I need something cute, fast and easy so I can get those Christmas Greetings out the door pronto.

Snow card - A white Christmas - Irene loves crafts

The best thing is that you can make this card with materials you most probably already own. This is what you’ll need:

  • White paper
  • Hole puncher
  • Blue colored cardboard or a blank blue card
  • Double sided and normal tape
  • White thread
  • Sticker paper (optional but recommended – otherwise you might need glue)
  • Pretty pens to draw your cloud with

Snow card - materials Snow card - making snowflakes

Punch some holes on your white sticker paper. If you don’t have any, normal paper will do. Gather all the small white dots aka snowflakes.

Snow card - snowflakes

Cut some bits of white thread and stick them on the sticky side of the snowflakes and cover with another snowflake. A bit like a snowflake – thread – snowflake sandwich. If you are using normal paper then you can use some double sided tape to stick together the thread and the snowflakes.

Snow card -back of the cloud2 Snow card -back of the cloud

Draw (or download and print) a cute cloud and cut it. I decorated it with some golden colored pen. Take the normal tape and stick the bits of thread on the back of the cloud. I quite like it when the snowflakes fall with different lengths.

Snow card - back DIY snow card - a white Christmas

I made use of my S200 printing kit and stamped the back of the card. If you don’t have a stamp that’s ok, write or draw a small cheeky surprise! The card is now ready to be written on and posted, someone will get their own white Christmas through the post! Merry Christmas everyone!

Crafty Fox London Christmas Craft Fair

One of the best things about the run up to Christmas is the insane amount of Crafts fairs that come out of nowhere. I love it. This weekend Crafty Fox teamed up with The Dogstar in ever trendy Brixton and brought three floors of crafts and workshops to South London.

Crafty Fox market - Brixton craft fairCrafty Fox market - London craft fairFor regular awesomeness, throughout the year Brixton hosts a few monthly markets. You can find the Brixton Makers Market with beautifully made jewelery  unique accessories and homewares, delicious baked goods and original artwork and design and Brixton’s Retro and Vintage Market, a favourite for vintage lovers with a mix of home furnishings, dresses, menswear, jewellery and collectable goods. If you are around, don’t forget to go to Brixton Village for a coffee or a cheeky cocktail.

Lucie Ellen - craft fair stall Lucie Ellen - market stall

These are some of the stalls we found this weekend at the Dogstar with some ace last minute present ideas. Pretty badges and facet styled wooden jewelery for that kirky friend in your life brought to you by Lucie Ellen.

Pygmycloud - Craft fair stall Pygmycloud - market stallSuper cute plush toys (OMG how ace is that cloud?) from Pygmycloud

House of Ismay - craft fair stall House of Ismay - market stall

House of Ismay had some wonderful handmade jewellery and homewares at its stall, all made using reclaimed, vintage material.

iwishawasa - craft fair stall iwishiwasa - market stall

Iwishawasa made me want to be small again. Mainly so I could fit is their cool costumes. If you have kids, you seriously need to check out their stuff!

Bow Tie Club - craft fair stall

Bow Tie Club has the Christmas present solution to all your trendy needs. Definitely back in fashion, these babies will make an unusual but fun surprise.

Butterscotch and beesting - craft fair stall

Butterscotch and Beesting, regulars of craft fair scene and featured in previous posts, were back again with their circus wonders. This time I spotted this funky necklace. They never cease to disappoint! : )

Fabric Nation - craft fair stall

Some nice, vintage-inspired badges from Fabric Nation.

Wingate print - screen printing London Papercraft Princess - craft fair stall Paper Craft Princess - Stampin Up! Letter Lounge workshop

There were several workshops throughout the weekend. These are some images of Mr Wingate screen printed products – he’ll also teach you how to screen print! check his website for workshops in London -, the card making workshop of Papercraft Princess and the little card writing corner of the Letter Lounge.

Paket Paket giftwrap Paket Paket - Craft fair stall

Finally, to wrap all that up, Paket Paket was running a giftwrap service and had some of its gorgeous giftwrap on show.

For other markets in Brixton, South London:

Makers Market – 2nd Saturday of every month

Retro and vintage market – 3rd Saturday of every month

Huevos rancheros super-brunch

Planning on having a weekend full of Christmas shopping? Maybe you should consider having this super easy brunch before you get on with your gift buying duties. Called (by me) breakfast of campeones (champions!) is the ultimate energy supplier for those shopping-bag-carrying times.

Ingredients for huevos rancheros - Irene loves crafts

This is what you’ll need for 4 portions (get some friends over, no?)

  • 2 cans of plum tinned tomatoes
  • 2 ripe beef tomatoes or several tomatoes on the vine
  • juice from one lemon
  • coriander
  • garlic
  • red onion
  • 4 eggs – or as per demand
  • spinach
  • 1 or 2 fresh chillies
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper and sugar
  • chorizo (optional – but I say yes!)
  • chickpeas (optional – but recommended if you have loads of shopping to do)

Huevos rancheros recipe step 1

Cut your chorizo in slices and fry on a medium heat. You don’t need to use oil for this as the fat from the chorizo will melt and it’ll make it delicious but not over-oiled. Take off the heat after 3-4 minutes so it’s not too done and set aside but keep warm.

Huevos rancheros recipe step 2

Chop your red onion and chillies and fry them on a medium heat on a big clean pan. The pan will have to hold all the eggs and sauce. Puree or finely chop your garlic and add to the frying pan. Reduce the heat.

Huevos rancheros recipe step 3

After a couple of minutes, chop your fresh tomatoes and add them to the pan with the tinned tomatoes. Let it simmer away for 10 minutes or until the sauce has reduced and it’s become a bit thicker. Add lemon juice, season it and add half a teaspoon of caster sugar – this will reduce the acidity of the tomatoes. Taste and season again if you need it.

Huevos rancheros recipe step 4

Chop your spinach and add to the pan. Stir until it’s wilted. Add your eggs carefully and let them bake for a few minutes. I like mine runny but it’s totally up to you.

Huevos rancheros recipe step 5

Add the chopped coriander  and the chorizo just before you serve it. Super delicious eaten with some freshly toasted bread. Enjoy!

Food makeover: Glam up that cake for any occasion

I like making the everyday a bit special. Sometimes that means having a cheeky bit of cake and, whether you bake it or buy it, it’s nice to glam it up anyway doesn’t matter the occasion.

Is it a rainy Sunday afternoon and you’ve decided to bake a delicious cake? Are you catching up with your girls having afternoon tea at home? Are you making or taking a cake to the birthday party of one of the young members of the family? This quick cake makeover is going to bring huge amounts of cuteness and glam to your day and you can do it with loads of materials you already have.

Make different size flags and add them to your cake using skewers and toothpicks as flag poles. For the actual flag, you can use different color cardboard, washi tape, pretty cloth if you have some, ribbons or twine. It’s best if you combine a few materials and/or colors. Plain shape flags (triangular or rectangular) look really cute but you can also look online for banner drawings, mimic the shape by drawing them on your cardboard and cutting them up.

If you have any nice stamps you can use those as well. The one I used is part of the set of stamps I posted a few weeks back. If you don’t have any stamps, you can print it out Delicious onto colored paper and use it. If you have a bit more time on your hands you can also make tiny bunting to glam up that cake.

Quick and cute surprise advent calendar

Even though every year gorgeous advent calendars are some of the stars of the Christmas season I’ve never really bought or made one. That changed this year.

As it turns out, George is away in Scotland for work and I am leaving for Riga today so we are going to miss each other out and only meet for a quick lunch. I like leaving little things for him when I’m not home so, with that in mind, I decided to make my own quick version of this really sleek and minimal advent calendar from Klotzaufklotz for George to discover when he got back.

Made with some of the left over oven baked clay and painted the sides with red acrylic for a Christmasy look, I then printed a red Christmas pattern onto an A4 sheet and wrote all sorts of nice messages on the blank side for him to open everyday. I rolled them up and inserted them into the little holes. You don’t have to go for the minimal look, go all out and make a Christmas tree shaped one – if you have a big cookie cutter it will work a treat!

An extra special mini Christmas wreath card

This year I wanted to make a small amount of truly gorgeous handmade cards. I had this idea of a DIY mini wreath card and, originally, I was only going to make 5 or so and give them to a few special people.

After experiencing how much work it’s involved in this, it would probably take quite a long time to achieve that number (ooops!) so I reckon that unless you are prepared to see this project through a few hours, it would be best if you approach it as an extra special Christmas card for that extra special someone.

This is what you’ll need, as you’ll see there’s a few things missing from the picture, ooops!

  • A blank card
  • Some thin twigs from outside
  • A scalpel and scissors
  • Fishing line or very thin metal wire – I thought the metal wire worked really well
  • A jar lid or something to cut out a circle with
  • Black and gold pens
  • A stamp or picture – something personal

First things first, soak the twigs in warm water for about 10 minutes or so, this will make them more flexible. Carefully wrap the first twig around a glass that has the width you are looking for. Secure it with wire and leave it so more twigs can be added to that same wire. Start adding more twigs, in total you should have 3 or 4 wires securing them in different places of the wreath. Once you have made the shape with 3 twigs or so you can fatten it up with some more without the glass.

Find a jar lid or something to cut out with a circle on your card. It has to be slightly bigger than the mini wreath. Carefully cut out a circle on only one side of the card.

Cute some small holes or triangles at top and bottom and either side of the cut out circle. Tie up the wreath to the card with some thin ribbon. I quite liked it how it looked with the knots showing at the front but if you don’t like it just move them to the back once you’ve tied it.

Now, I have mentioned before I am a HUGE fan of stamps. If you and your other half don’t have a stamp, that’s cool (it is an awesome thing to have though), you can use a picture of you both or just make a cute drawing of whatever you want, and put it in the inside of the card so you can see it through the wreath.

Last but not least, decorate the front of your card with a nice hand drawn Merry Christmas. I added some golden dots around the wreath on the inside of the card. The look great from outside and once you open it they make the inside quite special as well. Hope that extra special someone enjoys it!

Edible gifts to put in a homemade hamper

Even though I am an easy person when it comes to receiving gifts, I believe that homemade edible gifts is something pretty much everyone welcomes warmly into their arms, homes and belly. That’s why an all homemade hamper is easily the ultimate gift. On the other hand, separately make great edible gifts for all occasions: stocking fillers, welcome to the neighbourhood gifts, party favours and thousand and one other purposes.

Here is my list of ace edible gifts, find some easy peasy recipes through the links!

  1. Pickled cucumbers. If you don’t like cucumbers you’ll find that you can pickle quite a lot of good foods with this recipe.
  2. Good for you granola. The absolute best way to start the day.
  3. Flavoured salts. For the salt snob and the regular dude. Several flavours and equally delicious to both palates!
  4. Bourbon, peach and thyme jam. Perfect for those cosy winter afternoons.
  5. Sinful double chocolate chip and pecan cookies. Very addictive. If you are gifting them, also bake a batch for yourself.
  6. Chicken liver pate with sage, apple and thyme. Spread on warm toast is best. The heat of the bread will melt the fat in it and develop the flavour further. Yum!
  7. Hot chocolate. In a jar. Massive win.

If you are still unsure what to give for Christmas to one of your parents (parents have it all, don’t they?!), to your hard-to-buy-for other half, or the work colleague you got given for secret santa, then pick one of these or pick them all. Either way you might just have that present sorted.

All images through links above. Credits to:

1. Fried Chillies, 2. Good Food, 3.Jose Picayo, 4. Pastry Affair, 5. Small Kitchen Chronicles, 6. Anjali Prasertong, 7. Hey Gorgeous

Meet Mr Nutcracker – a downloadable paper DIY

 

The holiday season is fast approaching and, as every year, the spotlight is on snowmen, Santa Claus and reindeers. But what about the other dudes? The three kings, the drummer boy, the nutcracker? I personally think the nutcracker is pretty ace, so on that note I decided to create a DIY nutcracker paper doll.

Well, hello there. Meet Mr. Nutcracker, he is a DIY paper doll and he loves hanging out outdoors or, alternatively, indoors, on Christmas trees  ideally, next to miniature candy canes. He is also pretty relaxed about just chilling anywhere around the house during other times of the year.

Yesterday, we spent the morning outside taking advantage of the sunny weather. This is Mr. Nutcracker’s sunny winter photoshoot.

You can have a Mr. Nutcracker of your own. You can download his lovely body parts here. I recommend printing them in the thickest paper you can, I drew mine in sketch paper which proved to be too flimsy and was quite hard to get Mr N to stand up straight. For his joints I used mini brads, which if you are in the UK they are quite hard to find. I finally found them in Hobbycraft, otherwise you can find them online.

If you print him about half its size and manage to cut them out and put them together you could have pretty much the coolest Christmas tree decoration in the making, ever. Happy crafting!

A crafty weekend in Bath: DIY christmas garland

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent last weekend in Bath. It was very much a craft-themed weekend in which, for the first time, I discovered the many wonders of the oven baked clay. We made this pretty garland with Sculpey, ribbon, cookie cutters, buttons and my fave golden pen.

The best thing about baked oven clay is that you can choose whether to buy it white or colored. I bought it white which then gave me a blank canvas to decorate as I liked. This project is as easy to do as you want it to be, really only becoming difficult depending how you decide to decorate the pieces. It’s virtually mess-free and perfect to do with kids.

To make the shapes that will go on the garland, all you will need is

  • cling film (it makes it much easier to keep clay off the table)
  • a rolling pin (or a bottle! aka emergency rolling pin)
  • nice cookie cutters (Christmas, dinosaurs, classic shapes, anything will serve)
  • Sculpey – or any other sort of oven bake clay
  • a pen top or another device to make some holes to put the string or ribbon through
  • as an option you could try to add a pattern to the clay. We had some rugged paper but didn’t prove very successful

Here is how you make them. Take a handful of Sculpey and work with your hands until soft. Roll it out to whatever thickness you want but don’t make it too thin or then they’ll feel quite flimsy, then cut it out with those awesome cookie cutters of yours. I chose small and big stars, a classic!

On another note, I have recently purchased one of these printing kits so it was a wonderful opportunity to try it out. It’s ace, you should get one right now as well – and no, this is not advertising, I just love it!.

Get baking away. Bake those bad boys as following the packet instructions and wait for them to cool down.

You are pretty much now ready to decorate them and make your garland. To achieve the same look as I did you will need:

  • a golden pen
  • some pretty ribbon (about 3-4 meters, or however long you want it really)
  • star shaped buttons
  • needle and thread of the same color as the ribbon
  • double-sided tape or a glue gun

I decided to go for a simple approach and decorated all stars by painting the sides with a golden pen and then proceeded to also decorate the inside of only the smaller stars. If you want them to be glossy, you will need to apply a gloss glaze. Tip of the day: the golden pen and the gloss glaze are a bit of a no-no together, bummer.

Carefully sew the button and ribbon together leaving the clay stars in between. Leave about 25-30 cm between stars. Plan it advance keeping in mind the length of your ribbon.

The stars are quite heavy so they tend to face down when on the ribbon. Just turn them around and, with a glue gun or some double-sided tape, stick the ribbon to the star to keep them looking straight.

You are pretty much ready to put it on your tree! If you are making it in advance like me, I stored it in a kind of tidy way by rolling it around an empty toilet paper roll! Happy crafting!