24 December 2012

Oh Xmas Tree!

As the husband put it, this is the first year we've had a relatively 'classy' tree. I had a vision of a tree decorated in blue, silver and white, but the decorating is in the hands of the stepsons. Happily, once they saw the pile of blue, white and silver I'd collected over the months (including some gorgeous vintage additions to the bauble stash), they pretty much came up with the idea themselves - hurrah! The tree is the usual riotous mix of decorations new and old, handmade and mass produced, but this year it has a unifying theme and I love it.

23 December 2012

All wrapped up...

My gift wrap this year was inspired by this post on 100 Layer Cake (found via Pinterest, of course!), which was in turn inspired by some sparkly Miu Miu booties. Unfortunately my initial attempts (see below) didn't fill me with happiness, they seemed a bit bland. I struggled to find good, thick velvet ribbon and my silver paper lacked a bit of sparkle. 

So I've been mixing things up a bit and have come up with some fun combinations (the one up the top, with the silver peaking through the blue perforated paper, is my favourite). I do love the original idea, but if I attempted this again I'd spend more time sourcing the right paper and right ribbon because in the end they are what gives the look its punch.

Did you theme your wrapping this year? I'd love to see it if so!

21 December 2012

Death by Doxie : Happy Holidays!

Only four more sleeps people! Hurrah! You won't find any bah humbug around here - I'm one of those annoying people that really quite adore the festive season. I love figuring out the perfect gift for everyone on my list (it's the most fun problem to solve!), I love the lights and the decorating and the kitsch, I love the gathering around and feasting and connecting.

I guess some of it comes from being part of a relatively small family with a sensible approach to the whole thing (a common phrase in the years before I moved overseas was 'let's make this easy on everyone'). And a lot of it comes from being ridiculously lucky with all that we have - a comfortable cosy house, plentiful food, a healthy and happy family, snow!... And also I'm the kind of person who does tend to get a bit swept up in things, who gets overly excited about the little, good things. So, if you're looking for bah humbug, move elsewhere. 

The dogs are equally enamoured with xmas. They can barely contain their excitement. Ferdi is so excited he might just go ahead and have a little lie down...

I hope you are finding a little something good in this festive season too, and having a not-too-crazy lead in to the whole shebang. From the hounds and I, warm holiday wishes to you all!

ps. With many thanks to photographers assistant Sam, who willingly put aside his laptop so I could take over his desk, and who entertained the hounds and valiantly tried to get them to look at the camera...

19 December 2012

Eight Tips for Stress Free Festive Entertaining

On Monday night we hosted the husband's management team for a full xmas roast dinner. It was quite fun actually. Being overseas we haven't really had much of a chance to do the big festive celebrations at home and there's something quite lovely about dressing up the house and preparing all the tasty things. 

It was kind of a last minute decision to host the dinner. It meant a few late nights planning meals and counting cutlery; some frantic trips to the department store to buy dinner plates; and possibly, maybe using the stepsons as xmas cracker mules (you can not buy crackers in Korea for love nor money). But in the end it felt like a warm, enjoyable evening, and I'm pretty sure (I hope!) our guests left feeling that too. 

Based on my recent entertaining experience, here are some handy hints:

1. Do work with children and animals. In what could otherwise have been a slightly awkward, formal evening the stepsons and the dogs helped break the ice, relax the mood, and provided a nice focal point during those awkward silences. 

2. Give yourself time. I basically cleared the whole day. I went to the flower market and did the grocery shopping. The table was set by 2pm, the dinner prep done by 5pm, and a Campari spritz was in my hand by 6pm.  

3. Have a plan. I'm a list lover, and I know when something isn't written down I will fret over it, even when I don't really need to. So I printed up a time plan for the day (even covering when I'd feed the boys, and when we'd all have showers!). I found it very reassuring! 

4. Keep it simple. Cook what you know and focus your efforts on one or two courses. We did a roast beef with all the trimmings, which is a meal we've cooked a million times. We kept the other courses simple (antipasto to start, and cheese and then cake, chocolates and macarons for afters). 

5. If the guests find out that your dog loves Baileys, watch them very, very carefully. And maybe hide the Baileys.

6. If the guests click out of the selected iTunes playlist and find your full non-edited music collection, hold your head up high. Even when Fragma / Ke$sha / Chingy starts blaring out the speakers. (Oh so many guilty pleasures). 

7. A pre-dinner drink for the cook is fine and can ease the nerves a little. But pre-dinner drinks for the cook may spell trouble. 

8. When in doubt, throw in a poinsettia. 

Have you been entertaining this festive season? What are your tips for hosting a stress free holiday dinner?

15 December 2012

Handmade Holidays : Pom Pom Wreath

Over the past few weeks, whenever I've had a spare moment, I've been making pom poms. Whether it's those minutes at the end of the day, when everything is kind of organised and the dogs and I are hanging for the husband to get home from work; or while I'm waiting for a bunch of photos to upload to Lightroom or Flickr or this blog; or when I just can't face the to do list - it's been pom pom time! And the end result is this wreath, which is now proudly hanging on our front door. 

Here's how you can make one too:

Step One : Make Your Pom Poms! 
Fairly obvious really. If you make them in stolen moments across a few weeks you'll have a pile of pom poms before you know it, and without the pain and cramps that can come from going pom pom crazy. My wreath was about 24 cm in diameter, and I needed 40 pom poms to cover it (a mix of big and small). I used these nifty Clover tools to make mine. They do speed the process up a bit, a wise investment if you've caught the pom pom fever.

Step Two : Attach Ribbon and Centrepiece 
The first thing I did was attach a ribbon, for hanging the wreath. Then I used very, very thin and bendy wire to attach the centrepiece, the star. You might want to use ribbon or wool for your centrepiece if you want it to be a bit more dangly. If you don't do these bits now don't fret, it would be easy to add them in later too...

Step Three : Plan Your Wreath 
Before I started assembling my wreath, I found it helpful to lay everything out - planning out the colour clusters and placement of the extra bits. I used some baubles in mine, I like the contrast of textures and the extra sparkle it gives the wreath.

Step Four : Beverage
Make yourself a beverage. Macchiatto was my drink of choice for this project (can you spot it?), but maybe you prefer a herbal tea? Or a smoothie? Or something a bit more 'medicinal'?

Step Five : Assembly 
Working your way around the wreath, tie each pom pom in place. Slot your baubles in the appropriate spots - I used very, very thin wire to attach my baubles, it holds them firmly in place.

Step Six (Optional) : Make Emergency Pom Poms 
You might find as you start attaching everything that you have a few little gaps. I did, so I had to go back to Step One for a while...

Step Seven : Ta Da! Step back and bask in your lovely pom pom workmanship!

ps. As I type this the youngest step-son is beside me making more pom poms - the virus is spreading! Huzzah! 

ps. Hi again...crass market research question - would you buy something like this? And if so, what's the most you'd be prepared to pay? (Please be honest, I won't be offended!)

11 December 2012

Twelve Months of Collecting Colour

Twelve months, done! Okay, so there where a few months where I cut it a bit fine but I still made it (in most time zones, anyway...). When I started this project one of the motivators was the idea of getting to the end and having twelve fun photos to play with. It's pretty great seeing them all together, a collection of collections.

If you'd like to have a look at all the Collecting Colour posts for 2012, you can find them here. And if you're interested in reading some more thoughts about the project you can have a look at this interview I did for Brandi Hussey's blog of awesome. I've so enjoyed this project - many thanks to each of you who looked, commented, and especially to those of you who played along. I am definitely keen to do something similar next year, so watch this space in January! 

Now that I've finished the twelve collections, I've been having a bit too much fun playing with various Collecting Colour collages. Look, it's a Collecting Colour colour 'wheel'! And look, it's a Collecting Colour rainbow! And some metallics, just for fun! So many possibilities, I could go on for days...

08 December 2012

Handmade Holidays : Embroidery Hoop Ornaments

Oh my goodness - twitter and instagram is simply AWASH with gorgeous lovely festive photos of people putting up their xmas tree (see here and here for example). I have to wait till the step sons arrive to put up ours because xmas isn't really xmas without the kids, right? 

However, the nice thing this year is that I've bascially had a two month lead up to xmas where I've been at home! No planes, no suitcases, no trips - just hanging out in Seoul with the husband and the hounds! This is pretty unusual and also pretty awesome. It means I've actually sent my xmas cards before xmas this year, I'm almost ready to put all the presents in the post and I've had time for a spot of festive crafting.

The embroidery hoop ornaments above are going to my parents-in-law. I'm rather pleased with how they've turned out. I especially like the cardboard backing with stamp and message. These ones are in little 5" hoops. I've also made one in a 6" hoop, which you can get a sneak peak of if you scroll all the way down (I can't show you the whole thing because it's for someone who reads this blog!). Next I want to make one in a blue/turquoise theme for us (we're having a white, silver and blue xmas), and after that I think I might make some non-festive ones for the shop (I'm thinking rainbow and monochrome). 

Here's a little bit about how I put them together.
I used a stamp as my pattern, and just stamped directly on the fabric. If you've got a decent stamp collection like me, you'll be getting excited about all the stamping/embroidering possibilities. I've found a soft grey ink strikes the right balance between providing enough of an outline and not showing through in the finish (or you can match your ink to the thread like I've done for the blue one). The key is not to have too much ink on your stamp, otherwise the lines will bleed a little and you won't get a nice neat end product. Next - stitch away! I used a simple back stitch. Just make sure you keep your stitches nice and even and your lines fairly straight. I used a small length stitch for these.

Get some sturdy card stock and trace around the inside of your hoop. Cut it out so you have a circle that will fit neatly in the back. Next, centre your embroidery in the hoop and make sure the fabric is stretched nice and tight. This takes much longer than you think it will. Trust me. I used a ruler to double check the star was actually centred.

Cut off the excess fabric, leaving a 1" to 2" overhang. Then start stitching around the edge to gather up the excess and pull it tightly together. You are kind of 'pleating' the fabric. It's at this stage that you should put your circle of card stock in the back of the hoop. It's tricky to slot it in after you've stitched up the back. I know because I've tried. I tried because I'm an idiot.

Once you've stitched around the whole circle, gently pull the thread so that the fabric gathers together in a nice tight circle. Tie a knot. I also like to dribble a tiny little drop of glue on the edge of the cardboard so that it sticks to the wooden hoop at a point of two, to hold the card stock in place. Lastly, add your message to the back and voila! You're done!

07 December 2012

All wrapped up...

What's the festive season without a bit of sparkle? I love a healthy dose of shiny metallics come xmas time, do you? Oh, and do click through on link number four for a whole bunch more gift wrap eye candy! 

3. Mini-eco   4. Erinzam 

Well folks, this is the last inspiration post for all wrapped up this year. You can see all the posts here - hope you've enjoyed the ride!

There's lots of new stuff listed in The Great Good Things Garage Sale (and there's lots of new things still to come too!). There's this little piece of vintage happiness, these amazing patent leather sling backs, and lots of lovely Uniqlo x Orla Kiely scarfs (they are nice and light - perfect for between seasons). 

Don't forget shipping is just US $20 no matter how many items you spend (I may have to raise it to US $30 come January, so you might want to think about putting some goodies in your cart now). 

05 December 2012

Collecting Colour : December is Red

I am not a lady in red. I wore red once, to my Year 11 or 12 formal, and it was a mistake (oh dear lord it was a huge mistake). Other than that my wardrobe has been a distinctly red free zone. I don't wear red on my lips either, and it's only on very rare occasions you'll see it on my toes. If you can believe it I don't even own a single pair of red shoes (and I have quite the shoe collection!). 

But here's the thing, I sometimes wish I was a lady in red. One of those women who can rock long devil red nails, cherry patent leather pumps, a bright pout and a figure hugging frock. Red is seductive but powerful, sexy but smart. It makes me think of amazing, gorgeous ladies like Gwen Stefani, Annie Lennox, Scarlett Johansson and...Jessica Rabbit. One day, I will go out in red lipstick. One day. 

On the flip side red also makes me think of deliciousness - think summer berries, the perfectly ripe tomato, chillies, apples - all things red and tasty! Quite the complex colour red, isn't it? 

In this collection there is a tomato and some chillies, and there's also one of my most treasured possessions, a Luigi Colani elephant money box (this one); two paper punches (including one rather seasonal snow flake - it's snowing as I type this! Hurrah!); some ShapeMaker blocks; a tube of Lucas' paw paw ointment (I carry one with me wherever I go); lots of bits and pieces from our time in Hong Kong (a Year of the Rat ornament, funeral paper, double happiness paper cut...); an ace lego scorpion made by the eldest step son; an origami thing of awesome made by the youngest step son; a magnet from Paris (the hotel in Vegas, not the city); a dog toy in the shape of a candy cane which will be going under the tree for Ferdi in a few weeks; some toy cars, some books and a little container from Dinosaur Designs. 

The collection turned out a bit too messy for my control freak tastes, but I do love how vibrant it is!

* * * * * * *

Every month through 2012 I'll be 'collecting colour', and you can join in too!  Link up below, and/or add your photo to the Flickr group here.  And go here to get all the information you need.