Tuesday, 11 December 2012

How to Make a Bauble Wreath

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I absolutely love bauble wreaths and they are so simple to make! I actually already have two perfectly good wreaths that I've created for previous Christmasses, but when I saw this pack of black, silver and gold ornaments I couldn't resist getting them to make a new one for our front door. This is how you can make your own.

You will need:

Baubles (approximately 60)
Wire coat hanger
Wire cutters
Hot glue gun or a drill

The baubles need to be of at least two different sizes (smaller ones help to fill gaps).

Step One:

Take your wire hanger and untwist the ends. Bend the coat hanger into a big circle.

Step Two 

It can be tempting to thread the baubles straight onto the hanger, but previous experience tells me you will just cause problems for yourself by cutting corners! There are two things that need to be done first. 

However firmly the cap seems to be attached to the top of the bauble it is best to remove them and then hot glue them back on, to make the tops even more secure. In the past I've given the cap a little tug and decided it was fine, only for the balls to start pinging off once the wreath is done. If you don't have a hot glue gun you can remove the metal cap altogether and drill small holes through the top of the bauble instead (the raised bit where the cap attaches). This is my preferred method.

The second thing you need to do before you start threading the baubles onto the wire is arrange the baubles into some sort of order. Believe me, this saves time in the long run because you can end up with parts of the wreath with uneven patches of colour or big/small baubles if you don't put in the proper planning. It is such a pain to have to slide 60 baubles off a wire and start again.

Step Three

Now you can create your wreath! If you've put in the proper ground work this part is quick and easy. Once you have slid all of the baubles onto the wreath wrap the ends of the wire together to secure the hanger into a loop, and trim the ends with your wire cutters if necessary. Tie a big ribbon around the top of the wreath to hide the join and so that you can hang it up:


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Best Free Christmas Fonts

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Bit of a self indulgent post today because it's something I'm doing for my own benefit - I'm becoming a bit font obsessed and the image above is something I've created to keep an easy record of my favorite festive fonts. These are the font names and links to where you can download them, and best of all they are all completely free!

1. Kingthings Christmas
2. Candy Cane
3. Christmas Card
4. Angel Tears
5. Typewriter Alternate
6. Santa's Sleigh
7. Santa's Big Secret
8. Snowfall
9. Sketch Block
10. Christmas Flakes
11. Frosty 
12. St Nicholas
13. Contribute
14. Volutes
15. Things We Said
16. Christmas Snow
17. Snow
18. Cocktail Bubbly
19. Dalle
20. LP Snowflake

Happy Holidays everyone.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Freebie Thursday: Letter to Santa Printable

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A very happy Thanksgiving to my American friends - I hope you all have a wonderfully enjoyable day! Now, let's get back to thinking about Christmas :-)

As many of you will already know, today's Free printable is a letter to Santa template. This was created with my boys in mind, so it's something I've been fiddling on and off with every time I've had a spare minute this month. Being a little indecisive at times and highly critical of my own creations, there were more than a few prototypes. There were traditional designs, contemporary designs, cute little penguins... but in the end I decided that really I preferred to keep it clean and simple looking. And here it is:

I'm really looking forward to doing my children's wish lists with them! I'm expecting "Lego" to be a big feature on my boys' letters to Santa - anyone want to share what their children are hoping for this year?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

How to Make Christmas Crackers

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I’m on a making-for-Christmas roll this week! For today’s show and tell I am blogging about my diy Christmas crackers. I’ve made my own crackers for at least the last four years because it doesn’t matter if you get your crackers from the Poundshop or blow £30 on a luxury box, the contents are always the same and have been since I was little girl. The only difference is you get a silver plated shoehorn in the posh crackers instead of plastic one, and who wants that?

There are a few supplies that you will need to make your own Christmas crackers:

Paper (cut to A4 size, approximately 30cm by 20cm)
Empty toilet roll tubes (one per guest, plus an additional two)
Cracker snaps
Sticky tape

To fill your crackers you will also need:

Paper hats
Small gifts

Before I launch into how I made my Christmas crackers I just want to highlight that I was aiming for a laidback, fun and mismatched vibe with mine so I played up the handmade look. If your Christmas dinner is going to be a more stylish fare then using really good quality wrapping paper measuring 33cm by 20cm should result in a more polished look.

Step One: Choose and cut your paper

The paper you choose will influence both the quality of the finished look and how satisfying they are to pull. I used brown parcel paper because it is thick enough to work with but thin enough that you don’t need Popeye sized muscles to pull the cracker. I cut the brown paper into 30cm by 20cm sheets (about A4 sized). You can make it a bit longer if you want, but it won’t work if you make it shorter than these measurements.

Step Two: Secure your snap

For a neat finish you can glue your snap into the tube, but I just tape it because who is going to see it anyway?

Step Three: Wrap your paper around the tube

This is the bit where you will need your two extra tubes. Pop a tube over each end of the snap to create an even longer tube that is roughly the length of your cracker. This will allow you to wrap the paper around into a neater roll. How you secure the paper is up to you. In the past I have just used a discreet bit of tape underneath because it isn’t going to be visible when the crackers are laid out nicely on the table. This year I used a slither of glue along one edge of the paper to give a better finish.

Step Four: Pinch and Tie

Before you can stick the goodies inside you need to close one end of your cracker. To do this I slid out one of the end tubes slightly to create a little gap (only about half a centimetre) and used my fingers to create a little crease all the way around. Then I wrapped some string or ribbon round it and carefully pulled the gap closed. You can remove the spare toilet roll out after doing this, it’s served its purpose.

Step Five: Fill the crackers

It is traditional to put in a paper hat, a joke and a little gift but of course you can put whatever you like in. You can often buy paper hats from the same places that supply the snaps, or you could make your own. I had some mismatched hats left over from previous years so used them. Jokes can be printed from many sites on the internet or you can do what I did and knock up something in Microsoft Word – don’t forget, it is part of the fun that the jokes are groaners. There is no such thing as a funny Christmas cracker joke!

The last two Christmases we have filled each cracker with a Lego minifigure. This is perfect for our family as we are all Lego fans, and foil packets add an element of surprise to Christmas dinner as you genuinely don’t know what you’ll be getting when you pull the cracker. The year before that it was diecast Disney Cars characters for the kids. Ideas for adults are things like nail varnish, jewellery, keyrings, mini torches, vouchers, scratch cards, posh chocolates, etc. The good thing about making your own is that you can really tailor the crackers to suit individuals!

Step Six: Seal your crackers

After filling your cracker, close the open end using the same method described in Step Four.

Step Seven: Decorate your crackers

This is the fun bit! It’s entirely up to you how overboard you go. I like to create each cracker with a completely different design so I know which one is intended for whom (especially important if you’ve tailored the gifts to suit a particular person). But I’ve seen some gorgeous matching or coordinated ones, and you can add a pretty label with the person’s name if necessary.


Thursday, 8 November 2012

Freebie Thursday: Christmas Planner Printables

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Loyal readers may have noticed that I didn't do my regular Freebie Thursday post last week. I'm sorry, this was down to an unpleasant combination of being incredibly busy and not very well! But this week I hope I'm making up for last week's absence because I'm offering not one free printable, but three.

I don't think I need to point out that Christmas is creeping up on us. I absolutely love the festive period because it is full of quality time with the kids doing lots of baking, crafts and watching cheesy Christmas movies! But I think part of the reason I enjoy myself so much is that I am Little Miss Organised and almost always on top of my Christmas related activities, so I don't stress about getting everything done and creating the perfect holiday.  I say "almost" because I was certainly not so chilled out the year we did our kitchen; noone is chilled out when they have nowhere to cook a week before Christmas and there is building debris all over the house.

To help my less organised bloggy friends stay in control over December I have a whole lotta Christmas printables lined up for this month, and to make sure you don't miss out here is what my Thursday blog schedule looks like for the next few weeks:

Today - Christmas Planner (part 1)

15 November - Christmas Planner (part 2)

22 November - Letter to Santa printables

29 November - Reindeer food and Santa cookie printables

So hit that follow or bookmark button and don't forget to pop back for your freebies!

And as promised, here are the first three printables from my Christmas planner:

Perpetual December Calendar

If you laminate this printable and use dry erase pens you can use this calendar to keep track of your festive activities year after year!

Christmas Card List

Make sure you don't forget anyone with this printable Christmas card list. It includes an area for notes, so you can write down handy information like last posting dates.

Christmas Gift List

Be organised about your gift giving! I've shared gift planners in the past, but this one has been re-done to coordinate with my Christmas Planner and has a useful new column so you can remember where the presents are hidden - just keep this list out of the kid's sight!

Next week I'll be sharing three more printables to add to the Christmas Planner. All of my downloads are free for personal use, but I'm always eternally grateful to anyone who gives me thanks, a follow or spreads the word about my blog in return for using the printables!

***edit: second lot of Christmas Planner printables now available to download!***

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

How to Make Labels

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A couple of weeks ago I posted about organising our playroom and storing Lego, and I promised I would do a feature on how to make labels. So here, a little overdue, is a tutorial on how to do it – and don’t worry, you don’t need a fancy paint programme! All you need is Microsoft Excel. It is incredibly user friendly and even though I’m relatively proficient in the Paint Shop Pro software I’ve had for years I still tend to favour Excel for label making!

Label Making Tutorial

1) Go to Insert/Shapes and select whatever shape you want. Then hold down the left mouse button and drag to create the shape.

2) I generally measure beforehand to see roughly how big I need the label to be, so after creating the shape I’ll right click on it, select ‘Size and Properties’ and input the height and width measurements.

3) Now you probably don’t want a boring blue label, so this is the point where you start making the shape look pretty! To do this you need to right click on the shape again, but this time select “Format Shape”. You can change the colour of both the shape (“Fill”) and the outline (“Line Color”).

My favourite thing to do is to go to Fill/Picture or Texture Fill and then add a picture or pattern by clicking on “insert from: File” (check the "tile picture as texture" box). I tend to make my own background picture in Paint Shop Pro, but you can also just find something you like from Google Images. 

4) Most of the time I like to have the label text against a white background, so I’ll add a new shape over the top of the first and follow steps 1 to 3 again. But if you want your text against a pattern just ignore this step.

5) To add the text go to Insert/Text Box, click on the top shape and start typing! You can change how the text looks by highlighting it and right clicking. This will bring up the options for font, size, colour, alignment, etc.

6) One last optional step is to add clipart – Excel comes with a huge range of free images! You can add a picture by going to insert clipart and typing what you are looking for in the search box. Here I just typed in “toy car”.

And that is it! Here is the finished label:

Labelling isn't restricted to organising; here is a label I was playing around with to add to a festive jar of Santa cookie mix:

 Hope this post inspires someone to get labelling!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

How to Make Lego Minifigure Crayons

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Last year my eldest had a Lego themed birthday party, and I had a big list of ideas I’d seen on the internet that I wanted to recreate. Most of them I at least attempted - my Lego cake pops were a disaster, they did not make it to the party - but one thing I didn’t cross off the list was Lego minifigure crayons. I can’t recall why, it was probably something simple like not having enough crayons to hand. But this summer we had accumulated so many boxes of crayons that I knew I had to find something to do with them and so, 14 months on, it finally got crossed off my to do list.

This is how I did it...

Step 1 – First off, you will need  to get some Lego minifigure moulds. The moulds are sold as an ice cube tray in the Lego Shop but aren’t really any good for that since the resulting ice cubes are so small they dissolve the instant they hit your drink. They are, however, very good for making chocolate Lego men. But I digress...

Step 2 - Peel your crayons and break them into about 3 pieces. It takes almost a whole crayon to fill each mould, so the number of crayons you’ll need will be the same as the number of figures you want to create.

Step 3 – Pop into the oven at about 180 Celsius (160C in a fan assisted oven) and leave until the wax has melted. I found this took about 10 minutes for regular crayons, a bit longer for metallic ones.

Step 4 – Leave to harden. Do not get impatient and try to pop them out before they have hardened completely because they are more likely to break. If you do break a few then you can stick them back in the oven for a few minutes to melt again.

Getting them out in one piece takes a bit of a knack. In the first batch, I broke 7 out of the 8. After that I refined my technique and didn’t break any more. You want to peel them away from the edges as much as you can first (gently!) and then pop out the figure from the head downwards. Watch the toes, they are a weak area (as I already knew from using the moulds with chocolate).

Of course, making Lego minifigure crayons didn’t solve the more-crayons-than-a-preschool issue, but at least now the crayons we have are cute and decorative. I’m contemplating doing another Lego party (this time for my youngest son) and they would make cute party favours!