Holy holly wreath, time certainly flies when you're having fun. Or when you're insanely busy. It was nice to spend most of November getting ready for christmas, I made all of our christmas decorations in time for me to leave for England at the beginning of December. We had to put the tree up a fair few weeks early so I could enjoy it before I left, but it was definitely worth it. I really fell in love with decorating this year, and most of ours are hand made so it was nice to spend time making things just for us.
One of my favourites this year are my reindeer constellations. I just love the moon and stars, and I drew these little designs originally for a few pebbles I had in a bowl. I started out with the heads as that was all that would fit on the stones, and doodled those with a white gel pen. The star details I added after with a little turquoise paint...
Afterwards I thought it'd be nice to have the full constellations, it was kind of fun figuring out the heads. But Pete told me I was drawing too many connections between the stars, so after a few attempts I got the hang of it with Dasher, and went through all eight.
I got some lovely navy blue card and silvery embroidery thread, and made a 4" x 6" card for each reindeer. They came out really nice, I'm really pleased with them. Hung up all together on the wall they're the perfect addition to our christmas line-up of decorations this year.
I resized my drawings and printed them out at the 4" x 6" size. I cut the card to the same size and lined them up, using a bulldog clip to hold the image in place. Using a pin tool I punched holes through the stars, so that when I removed the print out I could easily see where to thread.
Using a needle I pulled the embroidery thread through the holes, using the drawings as reference. I used a back stitch to keep the thread in place, doing the first stitch as normal then going backwards. The back looked a little bit crazy, but the front design worked nicely.
To add a little extra I added little stars with a silver pen around the thread, and a hand stamped name tag for each reindeer.
I made stencils for each of the eight reindeers, if you'd like to make some constellations feel free to download and use them. They're zipped files so you'll need to unzip them after download, the left is all the reindeer individually, the right are 3 printable pages containing them all and cutting border.
They make great hanging decorations, but if you fancy it they make nice christmas cards too, just glue them onto the front of a folded piece of card to hide the back. Enjoy!
So this was stage two of my little halloween shrine this year. I decided my skulls needed a little company, but I don't really like going too much over the top with decorations. Less is more, so I created this super mini star garland to give a backdrop to my skull candle holders.
This was so mega easy to make, and they look awesome. Whatever colours you want to do will look amazing, I chose matching colours to the skulls I made at the weekend to keep the theme going.
1. Start cutting out your stars with the star cutter. I got mine from the craft store for like a buck fiddy, they have them at Michaels and usually most dollar stores. For every one star you'll need 2 sides, so however many you want to make e.g. 12 stars on the garland, you'll need 24 cut out.
2. Glue a star and place the thread cutting through the middle. Take another star of the same colour (or different colour, whatever you want) and stick it to the first, keeping the thread in place. Hold it down for a little while to make sure the glue really sticks tight
3. Leave about 3 inches of plain thread, then repeat the process with the opposite colour. Or the same colour. Use five colours, it's really up to you. Go crazy!
And that's it. Rinse and repeat about 12 times and you've got yourself a tiny garland my friend. Hang where appropriate. Enjoy. If you like those and want to make some of your own,click here for the tutorial.
The last few weeks I've been out of commission thanks to some weird things happening with my neck and back. I've wanted to make these for so long, but so far my weekends have included sitting on the sofa with 5 pillows, a hot water bottle, and a big batch of deep heat. This was the first weekend I finally started feeling better, and as halloween is fast approaching, I thought I'd better get cracking on some decorations before I miss it! So after a long overdue craft space tidy-up, I got to work.
These are pretty easy to make, they take a little time but are worth it in the end, they look super cool and are a great way to refresh the standard halloween decor. I went with turquoise instead of orange, just for a change of pace. And because everything I do involves turquoise somehow...
I got these decorative skulls from the local market store, they came on a plastic chain and were the perfect size. Take a look around, these ones are pretty common but any skulls will do, as long as they're hollow.
1. With the scissors or xacto knife, cut a small hole in the top of your skulls, about the size of a penny. The plastic on mine was pretty thick, so be careful, wear protective gloves and cut away from yourself / fleshy areas or fingers you want to keep.
2. Fill the skulls with plaster of paris. Check the box for instructions on how to mix. When you're done do NOT put any extra down the drain - it hardens down there and causes no end of trouble. Wait for it to dry and then crack it to throw it in the trash. This stuff dries pretty quicky so don't hang about - get it mixed and get it poured.
This will make your skull heavy enough to balance the weight of the candle. You could try other methods, maybe sand, but this worked for me.
3. Leave the plaster to dry completely, usually overnight. When it's dry, you can start to decorate any way you want, using the acrylic paint. I used turquoise and added just the details of the empty sockets and mouth. On the other one I painted it black and used a silver sharpie to add the details. Colour coordinated my candles too, although be careful when buying coloured candles - make sure they're coloured all the way through and not just a coat on the outside.
4. When the paint is dry, use the super glue to glue the candle to the top of your skull. I chopped mine down from their original size, as they would have toppled over, and it gave a flatter surface to glue.
5. After the super glue set I used a lighter to melt the bottom of the candle, so it melted all over the skull and looked wicked awesome.
Et voila - mega easy skull candles. Once the candle burns down you can either snap it off and glue another one in its place, or melt the new one into the gap.
I've got a few other halloween decoration DIYs coming up this week, just in time. Come back tomorrow and see how to make a matching star garland for your spooky skull shrine - happy halloween!
I wanted to try this awesome idea from Paper & Stitch, Brittni has a great tutorial on how to make plaster houses using milk cartons. When I first saw the tutorial I thought they'd make perfect bookends, but wanted to try it out with a mini version before I got too adventurous.
The tutorial has some really cool simple colours, but I wanted to add a little more detail. I've got red brick houses in mind for the book ends, but right now I've started with a little sea-foam green and blue/black slate style roof for my beach-side cottage. The blue shutters came out nice against the green, and I'm really pleased with how the plants turned out.
I love these, they're a brilliant idea and I'm excited to make some more. Make sure you check out the tutorial over at Paper & Stitch - click here to see how to make a little house of your own
As mentioned before, a good way I like to stay on top of my productivity is to make a to-do list of all the things I need to get done. It helps me map out my tasks and tackle them one at a time, and gets them all out of my head so there's more room in there for creative thinking. Plus my memory is awful, so if it doesn't go down on paper, it's probably never getting done.
There's just something about list making that is incredibly addictive. Neat little lines filled with beautiful cursive and endless possibilities... And let's not forget that sick thrill we all get when we tick something off. It's like my heart is filled with helium when i tick that tiny box...
Anyway, recently I've had an increase in the amount of projects I'm taking on, and it's getting hard to keep track. So I bought a few of these pocket sized notebooks and used a paint pen to label them with different categories. They came in two other colours, but obviously the turquoise won out.
The paint pen is easy to use, not too messy, and won't rub off after it's dried.
I just free handed it with the pen straight away, but I guess you could plan it in pencil first if you wanted to do a cool design.
You can get paint pens from any craft store and in any colour. I got mine from Michaels, 2 of them for around $3.
If you make a mistake, it's really easy to fix too, all you need is a bit of rubbing alcohol. Make sure you fix it right away though, before the paint dries.
Whenever an idea strikes me or I think of something I need to get done it usually ends up on a scrap of paper or the back of an envelope. This then gets lost or recycled by my well-meaning boyfriend and all my best plans are gone forever. This way, I can write them down somewhere safe and always know where I need to go back to. If I'm out and about I'll write notes in my diary then come back and jot them all down in the right book.
Having an organized system that is also aesthetically pleasing has helped me be way more productive. Instead of a chore, it's actually quite nice to look through my tiny books and find a project to work on. All the right ideas are in all the right places, and my head isn't nearly as scattered as it used to be.
Try not to deny it, everyone loves a good list. We've all got our favourite methods of crossing things off too, whether it be the classic line through, the controversial scribble out or the fancy box with a tick. My particular method of choice is the highlighter. That way I can see what I've written after crossing it out, hold on to that victory a touch longer...
If lists are your thing, this is a simple, cheap and easy way to keep track of your ideas, projects and goals that looks good and will make it all the sweeter to get stuff done.
As part of resolution three we've gone back to the paleo diet to try and give our bodies a bit of a break from bad influences. This time we're not going at it quite as hard, in the hopes it'll last a bit longer... so weekdays are paleo days, and friday nights / saturdays are cheat days. Mostly because I can't quite resist a steak sandwich on a friday evening.
The hardest part I find about Paleo is lunchtimes. You need something quick and lazy at that time of day, otherwise you slip up. Or, if you're really lazy like me, you skip meals which is worse. We tried a few things like lettuce wraps and the like, but it wasn't really working out. We needed to come up with a solution that was super fast, super easy and super delicious. Those were my specific requirements.
So we decided the best option was to make a bulk order of a favourite easy recipe and stash it in the fridge, something that could be reheated and still taste great...
This recipe has been modified for Paleo and to make twice as much as normal and still taste good. It serves 8 fair sized portions, which means after cooking it on Sunday there's enough left for us to both have a decent bowlful every day until we go shopping again on Thursday night. Fridays we switch it up and have leftovers or a salad, something like that.
Yellow Chicken Curry Ingredients:
- 3 large whole chicken breasts
- 6 regular sized Yams
(optional if you're on a serious Paleo kick)
- 2 bell peppers, whatever colour you prefer
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons yellow curry powder
(we like it mild, but add more if you like it spicy)
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger, from a packet is fine
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped/minced
- 2 cans Coconut milk
(don't cheap out, the more expensive stuff is the creamiest)
2 level teaspoons of salt
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil
1. Preparing the Yams:
We don't peel ours, just wash and cut in to even cubes of about an inch. boil them in a separate pan for 5-6 mins until they are slightly soft but still fork firm. When they're done rinse them under cold and put aside.
2. Preparing the powder:
In a small bowl mix the curry powder, ground ginger and garlic thoroughly. add the salt and mix again.
3. Preparing the chicken:
Wash and dry your chicken, and cut it into small bite size pieces.
It's handy to do this before you start, but nowadays Pete just cuts it straight into the pot at the right time. We use kitchen scissors, it's a much faster, handier way to cut chicken. Just remember to wash them thoroughly afterwards.
4. Preparing your veg:
Chop all your veg into bite-size pieces before you start
1. Put the vegetable oil in a large saucepan and bring it to a medium/high heat. Add the chopped up onion and peppers together and let cook for a couple of minutes together.
2. Add the chicken and cook until white, not brown. This usually takes around 4 - 5 mins.
When you get used to the recipe you'll find you can cook the yams at the same time as the chicken and veg, it takes about the same time.
3. Reduce to a medium heat and add the curry powder mix, sprinkling over and stirring so that every part gets covered. Keep the contents of the pan moving so as not to burn them on the bottom.
4. Add the coconut milk and stir to mix well. Once it is evenly mixed and the colour turned to an even yellow add the cooked potatoes.
5. Leave on a medium heat with a lid half on for another 15 mins, stirring occasionally. After that turn the heat off and if you want to, eat straight away. If not leave to cool completely then place in a container in the fridge.
Sometimes the water separates from the coconut milk when it's left, but all you have to do is give it a stir before you reheat it. two minutes in the microwave usually does the trick, or stick it back on the hob.
This has been working well for us, I'm actually able to have lunch of a day and not miss it due to laziness. There are tons of different curries, soups and stews that would also work well for this sort of thing. One of my friends said she used to freeze hers too, so they lasted longer.
Now all we have to do is learn some more recipes...
In mylast entry I talked about my resolutions for this year, and some tips I was using to make sure I follow them. I talked about making sure you have measurable goals, so that you feel like you're actually achieving something, which is actually working pretty well for me. Although I'm not hitting my target every single day, I'm doing it more than I thought I would, which is really saying something. In case I didn't mention it enough before, let me tell you again that I really am VERY lazy...
One way I've decided to combat this, is by making myself do three tasks a day. It sounds easy when you say it like that, but how many of us have written endless to-do lists on endless scraps of note paper and the back of receipts. I am in love with list making, but I never really seem to get to the actual ticking off stage. Which is why I had to buy designated books for each to-do list type in the end, but we'll get to that another day.
Three tasks a day is a really simple but effective way of feeling productive. Instead of trying to attack that whole list of seemingly endless tasks, I take them in bite size chunks. I started easy, with tiny things like:
1. Take the recycling down to the trash cans
2. Put my shoes away as soon as I take them off
3. Drink a glass of water every morning before leaving the house
Giving myself goals I could accomplish with ease made me feel like I was actually getting things done, and my days felt productive. So much so that I wanted to take it a little further, and challenge myself a little. I decided upon three areas of life that I would work on, and pick a task for each area every day. The three areas are creative, life and love. Each day I pick something for each of those headings, so that I have a broad range of achievable goals. Here are a few examples:
creative: This could be doing an illustration I've been meaning to get done, updating my website or social media pages, doing something craft related, even simply spending the time to think creatively, maybe work on my short stories for an hour or so.
life: This covers the basic stuff like chores, paying bills, calling the bank, making appointments, grocery shopping, decorating the apartment, things like that. Every day life stuff that I (mostly always) can ignore because it's boring and I don't want to do it.
love: Doing something for love is something we should all be doing anyway, but it can get forgotten about after a long hard day or if I'm really busy. So I always make sure that on my productive-don't-be-lazy-list there's something that involves connecting with family, socializing with friends, quality time with Pete or just doing something I love, because I love to do it.
This method is working really well, sometimes I've done all three before I leave for work in the morning, which leaves the rest of the day to enjoy as 'unproductive' time. A.k.a, whether I choose to spend it doing more things on the old list or relaxing with my feet up, I know that I've accomplished something, and can feel good about it. There's nothing worse than feeling guilty at the end of the day because you feel you haven't got enough done. This is a great way for us lazy folk to make that break into productivity.
So by now you're like 'why am I reading this crap, this isn't about batman at all!' I don't blame you for thinking that, I do tend to waffle on...
Today's creative task was to finally make the collage I've had planned since November, when the comic book store on Broadway closed. I took advantage of the super low prices and made off with a ton of 25¢ comics for reading and crafting.
I wanted to make some superhero collages to hang up around my desk, as it's looking pretty bare right now. Here's how I made the first one:
This one is super easy, all you need is a blank canvas, any size, some mod podge and a few old comic books. I used an 8" x 10" canvas because I wanted to use bat-poses from the same comic book. I specifically chose comics that had a lot of batman art in them. Before you buy have a quick flick through and make sure you've got a lot of material to work with.
I went through my comic and roughly cut out the best batmans. Once they were out of the comic book I went around them again right close to the edge of the image. Don't go throwing any pages away, as it's easier to start with large spreads. To begin with I covered the canvas in whole window images so there were no white spaces left.
It's really easy to place the larger images, as they're going to get covered up in the end it doesn't really matter how they're arranged.
Mod podge the back thoroughly and stick them in place. I used an old credit card to smooth them down and make sure there were no creases or air bubbles. Just be gentle, especially with older comics that use thinner paper.
Once the canvas is covered, it's up to you how you arrange your other pictures. I decided that I wanted to completely cover the whole thing with Batman, meaning no speech bubbles, narrative boxes or other characters where I could help it.
The best thing to do is start with the bigger images and work your way to small. If you have the patience and want to plan it all out before sticking you can, but I just went for it. I wanted to give it a random patchwork look , and it came out looking awesome. Either way, as long as you're using a variety of images, you can't go wrong.
The problem is knowing when to stop. I used the ENTIRE comic, every single image there was. It's kind of crowded but I love it, it's exactly the way I wanted it to look. Batman sure does read a lot of papers...
The way I went about it was to paint each Batman with mod podge one by one then smooth him down into place. I haven't put a final coat over the top because the paper from the old comics is really thin, and I didn't want to over saturate it and have the images from the other side bleed through. If you're using more modern comics though with the glossy paper, they should probably be fine. But I left mine, just to be safe. It still looks great regardless.
Iron Man will probably be next, followed by Captain America. A strange mix I know, but a little Marvel - DC crossover never hurt anyone...
i love a good long soak in a bubbly, hot bath. it's not just the water, the temperature or the fact that i can't hear the shouting when the boys are playing fifa... it's the time i can spend alone and genuinely have nothing to do but think.
thinking is awesome. i let my mind wander to so many weird and wonderful places sometimes. but whenever i get a bit of time to myself i always think is should be doing something a bit more constructive. the washing up needs doing, the bedroom is a mess, i have projects that need completing, i want to draw doctor who characters, christmas cards need making, that new matthew perry show looks good... too many things i need to be worrying about rather than sit staring into space...
which is why the bath is the perfect place for it. apart from read another disturbing crime thriller novel, i have nothing on the agenda but wash and think. i have some of my greatest ideas in the tub, strokes of pure genius surrounded by soft white bubbles. but then disaster... i have nowhere to write them down. then i get out, get dried, stick on my slippers and forget the lot. i also have nowhere to put my book when i'm washing my feet...
i decided i need a shelf. easy to reach and not taking up any space. that way i can write stuff down, rest my book, have somewhere to put my beer...perfect.
so we headed over to home depot to get some wood. a plank of beautifully grained pine was $6, i went through all of them to make sure i got a nice pattern...my piece is about 3/4 of an inch thick and 46" long.
the home depot will cut any size piece of wood you want for free, providing you bought it at their store. we went to the smaller branch to get mine and unfortunately they don't have a saw, so the next day Ricky and i walked all the way to the big one on Terminal Ave to get it cut.
it was just as well really, as i'd forgotten to measure the width of the bath before we bought the wood anyway...
so off we trot, wood in hand to the home depot. when we get there Ricky decides it's a good time to pick up some bricks for the bbq, so he's following me around the store with 3 of them, which he assures me is way heavier than just 2. 2 is an acceptable amount of bricks to carry. 3 is apparently too many.
i give my beautifully hand picked piece of wood to the young, scruffy looking spider monkey at the saw, asking to have it cut at 30 inches. that leaves the perfect amount of wood to use on the stove top for when we want a little more side space in the kitchen...which is always.
He puts it into the saw and butchers it. completely destroyed. he hands me the two pieces like everything is ok, but the ends are frayed and not even cut all the way through, they're broken at the last minute leaving the ends looking horrific. this is not how i want my wood to look.
home depot tip: the vertical saw they use for big sheets of wood has a much thinner blade, ask them to use that one instead of the regular band saw.
i explained this to the lady behind the returns counter and asked politely for a new piece of wood. i swear to you, no word of a lie, she shrugged her shoulders at me and walked away. shame on you home depot returns lady! shame!
it may only be $6 of wood, but that was my hard earned $6, and i wasn't about to let home depot take another. so i had a quick word with the manager, who was a very nice man, and he sorted me out with fresh wood, his top man in lumber to help with the cut AND a refund to say sorry for the nasty shrug lady. not bad. thanks home depot!
ok, so back to the shelf...
- measure your bath tub before you cut and find something useful to do with the excess.
try this tutorial on transferring photos onto woodblocks.
- if you want your wood to be a different colour, you can use a wood stainer or try this tutorial on how to stain wood naturally with coffee
- Afer that you'll want to put 3 thin coats of Oil Modified Polyurethane over the top on both sides. my brand was Miniwax, it only needs hot water to clean up if you make a mess which is quite handy.
and boom! you're done! super easy, super cheap and hassle free. all you have to do is wipe down the wood after each use. you can even use that tutorial to add a photo to your shelf, should you want to. i might try it and see...
Another thrift worthy project, this little number cost me absolutely nothing, and sets a lovely mood in the evenings at our place. it goes a little way towards making up for not having a fireplace, makes me feel all cosy and comfy.
to make these you'll need...
tin cans: i found mine in the recycling bin at our apartment when i was looking for cool shaped jars. they were already washed out and the labels were taken off. perfect! if you want to get your own you can use either washed out tuna cans or cat food cans. whether you buy your own or get them from recycling, make sure you wash them thoroughly before using, and be careful of sharp edges
paint chips: another paint chip project, my how they come in handy! if you're not into the paint chips or want to use more varied colours you can use scrap paper or fabric from anywhere really, just remember that they will eventually have burn marks on the tops, so no family photo originals! something with a waxy coat is best.
coloured card: i used this to cover the outside of mine. i wanted them to be understated so used a tan colour to match the sofa. but you can use what you want, go crazy! just try and use something thick, as super glue and other adhesives can soak through thin material and leave a stain.
tools: knife + ruler/ scissors, pencil, push pins, mod podge or other strong glue
***NOTE: don't use a hot glue gun for this project, because the heat from the candles will melt it...***
the first thing i took care of was the outside of the cans. I thought about leaving them because they were this cool gold colour, but they had a couple of scratches on that ruined the look. so I measured the width to about 1.5 inches and cut long strips of card that would wrap all the way around the circumference of the can.
I glued one end and held it tight until it dried, which only took about 30 seconds or so. then i wrapped the card around tight and glued the other end, holding it until the glue dried.
I would recommend using a thick material for this section, like card stock or a darker fabric if you like. some glues soak through and leave a stained spot at the seal, which doesn't look too good. if there is a little lip on your can where the pulley opened it, i would try and match your paper end up to that, that way they'll all be in the same spot when you put them on the wall.
next i drew around the bottom of the cans onto the back of the paint chips to get the right size, and cut around the line with scissors. make sure that when you choose your background there is enough room to miss out any text or images that you don't want, like the name of the colour on the chips...
before you put the coloured backgrounds in the can, get a push pin with a flat head and push it into the back. This is what you'll use to stick it into the wall with. if you don't like the idea of using pins on the wall you can always secure them other ways. you might want to glue them all together and stand them on a shelf...
Once you get your pin in, use mod podge, tacky glue or any other strong adhesive to glue the background in place.
*** Again, do not use a hot glue gun as the candles will melt the glue and everything will come unstuck ***
and there you have it. push the pins into the wall and you're done. be gentle when you put your candles in as the pins are pretty short. you can push the pin through blu tac first to get it to stay better if you need to, but mine stay pretty tight. perfect for brightening up a feature wall, i think...
my friend ricky drew this awesome picture for a friend of his. he brought it round last night and i helped him with some of the outer spots and with the outlining. i think it looks really cool, i love how the spots spread from the face, and the eyes are really awesome. i think the idea was to fill the spots on this one with neon colours...
this then paved the way for other similarly artistic ideas, and we decided to experiment with black card and tippex pens. the obvious choice for this project was zebras, so we had a practice round with smaller images. the next step is to do one big image, but white paint might be better for that, as the tippex pens run out quickly, and aren't as smooth. i didn't mind the texture and the messy quality, i kind of liked it. using the pens was fun too, but after a while you have to squeeze them pretty hard, and it begins to hurt you hands.
all you have to do is get some black paper or card and an image to copy or try. start with pencil and draw out the picture or pattern. a handy tip i figured out was to mark the spaces you'll be colouring in with the tippex as you go with pencil first. i just put a quick crosshatch in mine, so that i could distinguish the black areas from white.
then just go for it with a tippex pen, outline first and then fill in the spaces you marked out to be white. easy....
it turned out really cool. it's not perfect, but i like that quality about it. if i wanted it to be perfect i would have used paint...
we don't have a frame for it yet so it's just resting on my shelf, but when i get one from the thrift store i think i'll hang it in the bathroom, maybe with another one to match. i took a really nice photo of a zebra's face at the zoo when my mum came to visit, i'll give that a go and hang them together.
i love this project because it's an easy and cheap way to decorate, and you don't have to be a world class master with a paintbrush...