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November 2007
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January 2008

A Sparktacular New Year

Gracesparkler

I'm really looking forward to 2008 because I have completely misplace 2007. Seriously, no idea where it went.

And I'm not one for resolutions but I must endeavour to keep one, and it is this: Make more time for these little sparks because the days, months, years whiz past so quickly!

Trissparkler

Clearing out drawers to make room for their new, bigger clothes (sigh) is always a giant reality smack - wish I could freeze them now. How long will simple sparklers put such big smiles on their faces, can't it last a little longer?

A healthy, happy New Year to family and friends far and wide - I hope to spend more time with all of you in 2008 too : )

Joanie x


"Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!"

Stockings

"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care..."

I've always loved this poem by Clement Clarke Moore. It's simple but really rings out the excitement and anticipation for the big day. Although we were always visited by Santa on Christmas Eve (German tradition) we just figured he had to start early with some of the children.

I made these stockings a couple of years ago, we love them but they are on the large size so Father Christmas has a real job filling them each year (somehow mine is always a bit thin on the fillings - must be too naughty!)

Merry Christmas all, will sign off now until the New Year and after the move to the new home.

Peace.


Christmas really begins... then gets packed!

1gracie

School is finished, the tree is up and most of the craft activities are sorted and put away but there is still barely a clear surface to be found round the house - we're having too much fun making these to care. The photos are close up for a reason.

We made Rolo pretzel treats and truffles today, there are various recipes for the pretzels round the web but we made a few alterations. We toasted the pecans first and we made some with peanuts instead of pecans. Also, for our nut allergic friends we made some by sandwiching the Rolo with pretzels and had no nuts.

2threevarieties

The basic how to: Lay small pretzels out on baking sheets (lining with parchment makes it easy to slide off hot pans later), place a Rolo on top of each pretzel and pop them in a 200c (400f I think) oven for 3 - 4 mins.

Take them out of the oven and top with nuts or another pretzel - the peanut version tasted like Snickers!

3melted

For younger children sliding the baking parchment off the pan will help eliminate burn danger while topping the melted treats.

Cool in the fridge for 15 - 20 mins, then pop them in a bag and tie it with a ribbon.

4finished

They are quick, yummy and easy for the children to make - my favourite kind of recipe.

These truffles are simple too, but the mixture needs to cool in the fridge for at least 4 hours before shaping them - ours came out almost round. Tip, If making truffles use only good quality chocolate.

1turfflesscooping

Notice Gracie's not wearing one of these aprons, Grandma sent her this pink gingham apron which she loves!

We got this truffle recipe from this fantastic book. It's well written for children and easy to follow. Tristan managed the whole process with no help (I do let him use the stove already - he's 9.)

2bigbowls

We are having a nice quiet Christmas this year - not visiting my family in California (never very quiet) because we are moving house just after Christmas. Our tree even has to be taken down a bit early so we can pack up. Won't be the most relaxing New Year - wish us luck.

Sorry family, we'll miss you.


Christmas scents & little gifts

Class_2

I know they're not new or unusual, in fact I remember my older brother coming home from Cub Scouts when he was about seven having made one for our mom - but they are scentilicious, simple and good fun.

Every Christmas we make pomanders, the aroma is fantastic. It's a particularly nice project for when the children have finished the term and their our brains need a rest.

These are also a great activity for children to make in groups. I've made pomanders in classes with children as young as 4 and this year I put out a huge basket of oranges and bowls of cloves for visitors at our Christmas Fair to make and take home.

To make these with small children:

  • Prepare the oranges by carving a small groove around the orange to tie a ribbon or raffia to when finished.
  • Supply toothpicks for the children to poke holes in the orange before inserting the clove, this helps them not get sore fingertips.
  • Leave them to it. Don't direct, suggest patterns or help unless it's requested. This project can't go wrong and it keeps tiny hands occupied for a good long time - sometimes necessary this time of year.

Monogramsoranges_3Yes I even monogram oranges. These are a few pomanders with friends' initials that we'll be taking as gifts when visiting.

Other tips:

Use lemons and limes for extra zing.

If you hang the pomander in the window, near a heater or in a low temperature oven for an extended period, the pomander will dry and be preserved.

Dried pomanders can be tied into greenery or wreaths.

If making them for a school project, for freshness make them the day they are to be taken home.

Don't put them into bags, they get mouldy - found this out the hard way of course, with about 30 pomanders made by children (had to call in some elves to help me redo them at the last minute - we had a good laugh though.) Instead, wrap them in a bit of muslin, hessian or organza and tie a ribbon round the top.

Go on now, spread some aromatic Christmas cheer - go poke those cloves.


March of the snowmen

Snowmanarmy

Today was our school Christmas Fair and this little army of snowmen is part of the multitude of crafts we've been working on. Ten different classes and every child made an item to sell at the fair. The children were all brilliant and exploding with enthusiasm, they love making things to sell and helping on the stalls.

SnowmanontreeOur tiny school has doubled in size since I started this annual activity - so a GREAT BIG THANK YOU to all the mummy elves who helped prepare the crafts and came into the classrooms to help.

Now I really must start thinking about Christmas gifts, am I too late for cards? I'm rubbish at mailing dates, sorry family - blame the snowmen.


Holiday Traditions Swap

Finalpackage

As I'm way across the pond from my Holiday Traditions swap partner, this little bundle went out earlier this week. I sent it ahead of time in case Royal Mail decides to strike - again!

I wrapped my swap items in an antique French linen tea towel. I love using fabric for wrapping gifts, it looks nice and it's reusable.

The clay robin is one of the ornaments I began making a few years back with Tristan and Gracie. Each year we get a large pack of air-drying clay and and we make ornaments and garlands.

Clayrobin We use the DAS variety of air-drying clay because it has a lovely texture and isn't sticky to work with. But if you have time to make your own, try Meg's brilliant recipe and instructions here, or try this spicy ornament recipe posted at HowToMe.

To make this little robin get the following supplies:

Air-drying clay, small sharp knife, acrylic paint, antiquing gold paint, small twigs, tooth pick, small drinking straw, raffia or ribbon

1. Print out this template and cut out the robin.

2. Roll out some clay and lay cut-out robin on the clay. Cut around the robin with the point of the knife.

3. Gently pick up your robing, dip your finger in a bit of water and smooth the edges of the robin.

4. Position small twigs (I like birch because of their colour) behind the bird and gently press into the clay.

5. Cut a small circle of damp clay on top of the twigs from behind and press it down to help secure the twigs.

6. Put a small hole in the robin at the top of its back behind the head. Use the tooth pick or cut the hole out with the end of a drinking straw. Then make a small impression with the toothpick to create an eye.

7. Leave to dry, then paint in brown and red.

8. Smooth a bit of antiquing gold using your finger.

9. Thread the hole with raffia or narrow ribbon, make a slip knot and hang or top a pressie with it.

A simple craft for those of us who are time and brain cell deficient, and those who aren't - right now I feel I'm definitely the former : )


Winter Whitstable skies

Whitstable_2

The wind and rain have pelted us this week but sunday saw a brief break from the wet so we ventured out for a very windy walk in Whitstable. The skies were amazing that day but the wind was so strong it knocked us off our feet - which is why the huts are all buttoned up and there is no one sane walking down the beach.

It was a lovely day, visiting friends and taking a break from the hectic pace we find ourselves in this time of year.


A night of wreath making + tutorial

Nutwreathcottage_2

This little nut wreath is not only beautiful, the birds love it! Dianne taught us how to make these wreaths and they are one of the many items we'll be making in future Crafts at Mistletoe Cottage sessions.

A quickie "how to."

Supplies: straw wreath form, glue gun, knife, walnuts, dried hydrangeas, raffia, dried rose hips, sloes, or other colourful hedgerow fruits.

1. Take your walnuts, carefully wedge the knife between the shell halves and slice them in half.

2. Start gluing the walnuts (shell down) to the wreath form starting with the inner or outer circle - leave the back of the wreath blank.

3. Glue individual, dried hydrangea flowers in a circle between the two rings of walnuts then glue some dried rose hips or other colourful dried items to add colour.

Alternatively, skip the flowers and add another ring of walnut halves.

4. Tie a bit of raffia or gingham ribbon to the top to hang.

5. Hang it up outdoors and watch your garden birds flock to it.

TIP: When the walnut shells are empty, glue brightly coloured dried rose hips or articial berries inside the shells to make the wreath last longer. Or spray the whole wreath gold and tie a nice wide ribbon on it to hang.Wreaths1_3

Here are a few busy ladies enjoying our wreath making evening on Thursday.

I'm afraid my photography skills were lacking on the night, but you get the idea - wish I could blame it on the wine.

We supplied a variety of materials and every person made something entirely unique, some wreaths were traditional, others were more minimalist. If I was really on the ball, I'd have a photo of each - but I wasn't.

Supplies1_2 This series of Crafts at Mistletoe cottage is finished but we enjoyed it so much more will be planned soon. Check back here for links to a schedule and click here to see a few more photos of the night.