Monday, 10 December 2012

What To Do With A Load of Old Sticks...

Just a quick one today.   I've finished my wreath and although it's not what I had in mind, I love it even better I think.

Our friend brought over some random sticks and things from her mom's backyard and within all the stuff was these bendy little sticks she thought I could use. 

Building it was pretty easy. 

I started with a 12" wire wreath form I bought on ebay.  3 for £3.  Not bad.

Branch by branch I wired them to the frame, making sure they were all facing in the same direction.   Oh and it's easier if you wire them onto the backside of the frame.

Once that was done, I wired up loads of pine cones and attached them to the front of the frame, making sure to try and cover the wires holding the twigs on. 

Big tip:  when wiring the pine cones, leave two bits of wire hanging from the pine cone to twist together once on the frame rather than trying to wrap one long piece of wire around the frame.  It just doesn't work.... especially once you get loads of stuff on it.  

Anyway,  there it is.  

The beauty of doing stuff like this is.... it doesn't matter what you put on it really.  If you can attach it to a frame, you can make a wreath out of it.  

It doesn't have to be perfectly formed either.   

Monday, 3 December 2012

Tree Ornaments - Take 2

 Attempt number 2 at tree ornaments went much better than expected today.

I made salt dough instead of actual cookie dough and it works so well that I don't want to stop!   There creative possibilities are endless!

Salt dough is easy:

2 cups of plain flour
1 cup of salt
3/4 cup of water

Knead thoroughly until the mixture forms a smooth, firm dough.  You may have to adjust the water or flour a tiny bit to get it right.

This is the recipe for a plain white dough.  I really wanted a gingerbread cookie appearance so I dumped in a pile of cinnamon, ground cloves, all spice and mace.   All the good ones.   Now my ornament dough is a golden brown and smells terrific!

Rolling out the dough is easy but you will need to do this on a floured surface just as with any other rolled dough.  

The thickness is really up to you.  I made mine pretty thin then began to cut out the shapes.  

Heat the oven to somewhere around 100C (200F)  or is it 100F (200C)?  I can never remember.   Whatever is the lowest setting on your oven will do it.   Some recipes may say a higher temperature however, I found the higher setting made the ornaments puff up.  (Yes, I turned the oven up because I was being impatient.) 

I didn't bother timing them either.   (living dangerously again!)   I just kept an eye on them.  It took around 20mins and you need to turn them halfway through! 

By this time,  I was late to pick up the munchkin from nursery.   


I decided to get in the car, get munchkin, then drive over to Hobbycraft to get paint.   Fatal error.  I ended up finding all kinds of really cool stuff to make these ornaments!  

I got some more of those wooden shapes (like the reindeer I put on the candles),  some rubber stamps, paint, glitter pens, gingham Christmas tree shapes.... and on and on! 

Here are some of the results. 

 These ones were air dried and came out white! 

The oven dried ones stayed brown. 

 Of course Mummy has some sparkle.

 Fancy cut outs

 These were done with the rubber stamps.

The only problem is I need to make more to use all the bits I bought!  

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

More Sparkles! Or How To Force Yourself To Mop The Floor.

Two blogs in one night!  whooo hooo!!

This issue is on what to do when you have an ambitious plan to stick dozens of real cranberries to a foam cone and/or sphere.

Step 1:  Forget ambitious plan

Step 2:  Do something else which is easier and just as pretty.

I purchased a set of three thick paper cones for about £3.50 and thought I would hot glue some cranberries on them but once I got the cones, they seemed a little thin to actually get big berries on so hmmmm... *scratches chin*


Step 1:  Find a large-ish box
Step 2:  Lay large-ish box on side and put on the kitchen counter

Step 3:  Place 1 cone inside the box  (or all three!  What the hell... live dangerously!)
Step 4:  Spray cone with silver spray paint, let dry.
Step 5:  Spray with glue

Step 6:  Try to roll the cone into some epsom salts laid out on a paper plate
Step 7:  Swear  (the cone is too long for the plate)

Step 8:  Dump salt out on the counter because the glue is drying quickly!
Step 9:  Roll cone gently in the salt until it is completely covered, let dry.
Step 10:  Open the wine

Step 11:  Mop the kitchen floor because it's sticky as hell.  Aerosol glue does not stay in the box.

 They aren't grey.  It's my pitiful phone camera.

I've since repeated the gluing and rolling which has given the cones a more snowy finish.  Now just to find a suitable topper and we're done!   I'm thinking a big ole Malteaser on the top of each one...  what do you think?  

OH!  Top with a Ferrero Roche!!  OMG!  I'm a genius.  =) 


The garland down the stairs is finished.   I caved and bought a pre-lit garland only because I couldn't fathom trying to make one from real pine.  Who does that anyway?

There isn't much to say about this.  It takes no genius to wrap pine garland around a bannister.

Once that was finished, I dressed it in some of those orange slices I made earlier, some iced berries I bought on ebay and some of those pine cones on loan from the Mother In Law.

Look!  Pretty!


The red things hanging down are some snowflake decorations loaned to us by a friend.

Not too bad for £9.99 at Clas Ohlson.  (or however you spell it..)

I'm thinking the front needs a bigger display though.  What do you think? 

Friday, 23 November 2012

A Slice Of Orange Heaven!

YAY!  A success!  

I've tried drying oranges before and ended up with curly, dark brown lumps with no resemblance to those pretty round slices purchased from craft shops and florists.  

This time, I decided to actually research how to do these properly.   I even got compliments from a florist on the great results!  *patsback* 

So here's how....  and it won't cost a fortune and you don't need a dehydrator.

You will need:  Oranges, sharp knife and an oven.  (pretty self explanatory really)  

1)  Preheat the oven to 75-100C (150-200F), some sites say to have the oven at a higher temperature but I found this makes the orange slices turn brown rather than stay a nice orange.   They also say to turn the slices a few times but I didn't (because I never totally follow directions.... that wouldn't be me, now would it?)  The only ones I turned were the ones which were bending a little or in danger of falling through the rack.  

2)  Get yourself some nice, firm, barely ripe oranges.  You can do this with pretty much any citrus fruit or apples and pears.  I've found that the firmer fruit works best as it won't squish as much when you cut it and won't cover you in too much juice.  I don't suggest watermelon.  You might be waiting a while.

2)  Slice the fruit into nice slices approx. 1cm thick

3)  Lay the slice flat on the oven rack.  This is the secret to flat dried orange slices! 

4)  Let dry over 3 or 4 hours.  I didn't actually time it, I just kept checking every so often to see how it was progressing.    

Oh but if you are drying apples,  there is no hope in getting nice flat rounds.  Don't even waste your time.   

But if doing oranges, this is what you end up with. 

Then,  I ordered some bath salts on the internet and did this.... 

Haven't a clue how I am going to use these things but I will find something.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Gingerbread Massacre!

The first thing I thought I would tackle is something I know how to do.  Baking.  Gingerbread tree ornaments to be exact.

But oh no.  It didn't work quite how I had imagined.  No, it was more like a gingerbread massacre.   I'm surprised CNN wasn't providing round the clock coverage....

The plan was to make these lovely gingerbread cookies, thread a ribbon through them (even had a straw at the ready to make the holes!) then ice them and hang them on the tree.    No, I didn't bother to read the bit about making them a few days before Christmas so they are still edible.   Although I'm not entirely retarded, I know that cookies have a shelf life and basically I was giving it a try just to see if it worked out.  

Nonetheless,  I started the making the cookies.  I measured and weighed, rolled out the dough and put it in the fridge for 30mins like the recipe stated.  I got the cookie dough out and quickly cut out several shapes.  Little gingerbread men, snowmen, trees, reindeer and stars.   I placed them on the cookie sheet and popped them into the oven.  Great! I thought.   No problem.   I was feeling a bit Martha Stewart-y at that moment.

10 minutes later....  Cookies come out.    ......



Aaaaaand they are unrecognizable lumps of cookie like things.   @##&%$?(*(

Now what?  I decided to put the second lot in that I had already cut.  Again they came out unrecognizable... BUT!   I had a plan.

 While the cookies were still warm, I got the cutters out and recut all the shapes, including the hole for the ribbon.


Once the cookies cooled and hardened a bit, I simply popped the cookies out of their lumps and wore a smug look for a while.

Unfortunately, a great number of them didn't "pop" out so well.

If you are squeamish about mangled baked goods.... turn away....

 The failures. 

The (short-lived) successes....

After all this work, I tried threading a ribbon through the holes and found out the cookies were entirely too soft to bear their own weight while dangling from a ribbon.   Most of them broke as soon as I tried to hold them up.   It's probably for the best though, I don't know how people would react to Frosty The Snowman with a .44 caliber hole right between the eyes. 

So I ate him.  

Now I'm working on a non-edible version of these for the tree.  Fuck Martha Stewart.  

Saturday, 17 November 2012

DIY Christmas!

 No I am not Kirstie Alsopp.  I wouldn't mind being her though... she's beautiful, has a great job, can mix fabric patterns and not have them look weird, can laugh at herself without being deprecating and has the fantastic ability to make everyone like her.   Oh aaaand can blow glass Christmas tree baubles with her bare hands.  (ta, Jackie).

I'm not Kirstie Alsopp.

I am, however, mental enough to envision a homemade, DIY, Christmas at my house and then, mad enough to attempt it.

It all began with a trip to the local garden centre and their ridiculously early display of Christmas stuff.   I was wandering around looking at gorgeous Christmas trees, miles of sparkly garland, lighted twig reindeer, pretty ornaments both in natural material and shiny, sparkly stuff.

As most people do, I got all excited and started thinking about how we were going to decorate this year.  This also happens to be the first year I will be hosting a few people's Christmas at my house, not just Paul, Audrey and the MIL.   So, I'm a little over-eager maybe.

Long story short, I spotted a few ornaments I liked.  Little cloth hearts, stuffed and had various things on them.   Turned one over....  £4.99!!!   WHAT!?!   Are you mental?    At £4.99 for one ornament, It would take 10 years before I would have the lovely coordinated, ornament covered tree I imagined.   I'm doing ok financially but I'm not that mental!  I just can't justify spending that kind of money on Xmas tree ornaments.   I'd rather spend it on nice food, drinks or gifts to make my peeps happy.

My mini-rant ended with... "holy crap, I could make that myself for less."    Fatal.

Take a look at what's on sale at the local garden centre.....

 Little twigs nailed together in a snowflake pattern then covered in glitter.  I have sticks in my backyard.... no problem.

 I love this one... £9 for a pile of sticks arranged in a tree shape and painted white... really?  I can do that.
 This is the bad boy who started it all.  $4.99 for this?!  Come on. 

Fabric snowflakes hot glued to clothes pegs.  Definitely worth £6.99.... sure.  

Gingerbread cookies on strings.....  erm.  Do I really need to spend money on these?

  Bark.  And I saw those little wooden reindeer bits at Hobbycraft for £1.49 for a bag of 12.   This ornament?  £7.00

As of now,  I have scored two big bags of pine cones from my Mother-in-law, spent an afternoon on ebay buying christmas fabric, red and white felt, wreath frames, plain silver baubles for decorating, quilt stuffing, glue gun, silver spray paint, glitter, spray snow, epsom salts, spray adhesive, 144 wired artifical cranberries and a few things I forgot...  and nothing I bought was over £5.   I have plans for a walk in the woods with Audrey to collect tree branches, more pine cones, leaves, seed pods and whatever else I can get my hands on.   I have yarn, ingredients for gingerbread ornaments, some evergreen trees in the backyard, loads of that vine people use to make wreaths all over the side of our house, two holly trees (bushes) in my front yard and loads of sticks from last years garden cleanup.... and on and on and on....

What have I done!?

Does anyone have Kirstie's phone number?  I may need help.
Remember way back, when I started this blog... I did a profile write up that said something like I was either going to end up with fabulous projects or half-finished ones.   So far?  It's half-finished projects.

When I left off,  I was getting the floor installed.  The installation went well, I hate the trim but nonetheless, I moved in the hall stand and a plant.  It's actually pretty close to how I had imagined it before I started, which for me, is a miracle.  I usually change my mind so much along the way, I'm  miles away from the original vision by the end.  

I've also finished ripping the carpet off the stairs as well.  Nothing else... just got the carpet off.   

So that is where I left off.   There hasn't been more than a small picture put up.  

That is until yesterday.   Yes people... we have LIGHT!  YAY!!   The wall light that Paul bought for me LAST Christmas was finally installed and it's beeee-yoooo-tiful! 

Here you go.....      

Now.  Don't get all excited.  I'm not doing any more decorating until after Christmas.  

Until then,  I am busy making Christmas decorations!   More later.... 

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

One tequila, Two tequila, Three Tequila... FLOOR!

YAY!  The floor has finally gone in.  In my head, this was the moment I was using as the symbolic ending point to all the hard work.   Once the floor was in, I was in nbthe home stretch.  Almost done.

In reality, I still have so much to do.

Nonetheless, the floor is in!  The floor is in!!  (can you see me dancing around, happily?)

The process was not without it's pitfalls and mini disappointments though.   The first one being the trim for the doorways didn't fit.  The transition between the solid hardwood and the linoleum of the kitchen and carpet of the other rooms was just too great.   There is a solid hardwood trim piece I should have bought which would have fit better.   Oh well...  it just means another trip to B&Q (Home Depot, for you Canadians) and you all know how I love going to B&Q, so no biggie.  =)

I suppose if I had chosen a laminate wood floor or even engineered wood, I might not have had that trouble.   Laminate and engineered is totally fine.... I just prefer real wood.  My dad always said I have a champagne taste with a beer budget.  (good thing I got the hardwood on sale, eh dad?)

The other disappointment was the finishing trim we bought.  It's just awful.  I was vaguely thinking that it might not work well since it's tiny and would be virtually impossible to get it around the door jams.   The other issue is because we made the decision to NOT rip out the baseboards, the floor butts up against the baseboard rather than fits underneath it.  Therefore, some sort of trim is absolutely required for a decent finish.

So my bad.    Live and learn, right?

Anyway,  it's there, it's terrible and the first chance I get, it will be ripped out.  The good news is that the flooring guy was spectacular and fit the floorboards so tight to the wall, there's a possibility all I will need is to just run a small bead of dark brown filler around the joints to finish it off.   I think that will work better anyway.

Here's the photos!!

Yay floor!!

Floor Day!!

It's 5AM and I'm wide awake.  Crazy?  yes.   Maybe it's just the excitement of the day which makes me unable to go back to sleep.  It's floor day!

The guys will be here at 8am (ish) to install the new hall floor and I can't wait!  Five months after I started, I am now getting close to the finish line.

Here are the before shots.

 Because I have no patience, once I cleaned out the hallway of paint cans and such, I just had to lay down a little bit of floor.

The floor looks black but it's actually coffee stained oak.

The spindles are almost done and stairs have begun.  I was initially very certain I wanted white stairs and now I'm not.  While the white does look very nice, it also shows every single speck of dust, dirt and fallen hair.  I don't think I can take it.   SO, the question is.... what colour to paint it??  I would probably keep the stair rises in white but what colour would you paint the treads??  I am open to suggestions.  Please! 

Are you wondering about that spot on the wall yet?  
I'm not surprised.  Everyone asks about that spot on the wall.  
Yes, it's staying there and no, not for the reasons you may be thinking

When I was testing paint colours,  I bought two shades of the same colour.  I brought both home, immediately got the paint brushes out and set to picking a colour.
Then, my little munchkin came in and wanted to help.  I handed her a paint brush and gave her the little tester pot of the lighter colour. 
She sat on the step and painted the wall with a gorgeous little abstract. 
She was so proud of herself. 
When I started painting the walls for real, she got quite upset.  

"Don't paint my spot Mummy"
"There's my picture, don't paint my spot"

So I haven't painted her spot.

Every time I get the paint out, she says "Don't paint my spot, Mummy".   So I'm not painting her spot.  At least until she's 6 or 7 and has gotten over it. 

I think I will put a frame around it.


So that's it... last day of walking on subfloor.  
Paul is now wondering how long it will take before I find a nice big rug to cover up the new floor.

He doesn't understand!! 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Long Time, No Talk! or Paint Fail.

There has been progress.  Really!  Slow progress but progress nonetheless.

Ready for the big reveal?  I've painted!!

I know it's hard to see the colour but it is called Gooseberry Fool 5 from Dulux at Homebase. (in case you're wondering).  It's a very soft green/gray colour which will look very green in some light and very gray under different light.  It's very calming.  In fact, when I was finished, I commented to Paul that I felt very calm walking into the house now, even with the chaos of paint cans, ladders and everyday living crap underfoot.

I have now finished three coats on all the walls which gives it such a depth of colour.  I love it!  I just have to get the trim done (Cream White by Crown paints) and then we will FINALLY be ready for the floor!

I have also finished two coats of primer paint on the stair spindles.  It looks SO GOOD!  It's such a change which has lightened up the whole area.

The area under the stair railings is also done in Gooseberry Fool 5 but in an oil based gloss.  

Now,  I don't know what the hell is going on in my head but for some reason, I've gone stupid when it comes to paint!!  I've never bought so much paint for one room in my life!!   And never made so many wrong purchases in my life!! 

First, the wall paint was fine.. no problems. 

The stairs.... another story.  I bought what I thought was a water based primer for the wood on the stairs.  The can said, base coat for interior wood and metal.  I SWEAR the can says you can use it under your emulsion paint colour.   Oh no... not the case. So then I had to go out and have a can of the wall colour mixed in oil based paint to do the stairs.  

Then I wanted a gorgeous off white for the trim and ceiling and upper coving.  Coving and ceiling needs water based paint, trim and baseboards need oil based.   So I have a LARGE can of water based "Cotton White" which I used on the ceiling and coving and I was going to use it on the stairs too.  (which is why I got the LARGE can)

Then I went to Homebase yesterday for a can of oil based white for the trim/baseboards.  I found a beautiful cream white which is for interior wood and metal in a semi-sheen.  I thought I scored since I hate gloss paint.  Bought it.  Brought it home.  It's WATER BASED!  ARGH!! 

Thank Christ I bought the smallest can.  

But now, since I love the colour so much.... I have to go back and get a LARGE can of it to do the upper coving and stairs.   Ugh.  

Paint cans in total?  
1)  5 litre tub of Polycell Base Coat for the walls
2)  5 litre can of Gooseberry Fool 5 (water based) for the walls
3)  5 litre can of Cotton White (water based) for the stair treads, coving and ceiling. 
4)  1/2 litre can of Gooseberry Fool 5 (oil based) for the wood wall on the staircase
5)  1/2 litre can of Cream White for the trim (which is water based but I need oil based) 
6)  1 litre can of Base Coat (oil) for the staircase and spindles. 

Oh and there's this one....  Impulse buy in the Clearance section of the store.  Haven't told Paul about it yet and I'm saving the photo of where it will go until it's finished.  (feel the sense of heightened anticipation... now!!) 

To give you an idea,  the can colour is the same as the paint colour on my walls.  

BUT WAIT!!  I'm not finished yet.  

I still have yet to buy.... 

1 litre of oil based Cream White for the trim and spindles
Another 1 or 2 litres of Cream White (water based) for the stair treads
1 can of clear lacquer for the stair treads 
1 can of this specialty clear rubberized topcoat so Paul and his size 13's don't slip on the painted stair treads and go ass over tea kettle.  (It was the only way he would let me paint the stairs rather than putting more carpet down)

I'm getting there.  

Hope to have the floor down by the end of July.