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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Last minute gift ideas - Hot Chocolate Spoons...

One of my first ever pins on Pinterest were some hot chocolate spoons, I'd never seen them before and they looked such a fun idea. Since then I've seen all sorts of varying ideas for these crop up but I've never got round to making them...until now :)

I love giving little home made presents, last year I made a selection of truffles. Chocolate is always a good option at Christmas (Andrew knows to always shower me in it!) but I wanted to make something different this year so I finally made me some hot chocolate spoons! I've never been organised enough to give wholly homemade gifts but these make a great stocking filler or little additions to gifts.

They're equally great if you're in need of a last minute gift idea as you can source all you need from the supermarket! If you can't find wooden spoons then plastic or metal ones would be equally suitable.

These weren't a last minute dash for me, I actually ordered these spoons in ages ago for a craft event at which we made these exact spoons. When they arrived I realised that the spoons were far too shallow to hold adequate chocolate for a decent hot chocolate (who wants hot milk with a dash of chocolate?) friend Lizzie came up with the genius solution of using plastic shot glasses.

Using shot glasses results in delicious ultra-chocolatey hot chocolate, yes I tried them out, quality control and all ;)

Simply melt your chocolate with your preferred method and spoon into a shot glass, add a spoon and decorate with chocolate drops or flakes. You can either keep them simple with one type of chocolate or mix it up by layering or marbling contrasting chocolate.

Once you've finished pop the spoons into the fridge for an hour or until set (they set really quickly).
To remove from the shot glass simply dip each spoon into a cup of hot water for a couple of seconds, this should melt the chocolate sufficiently to remove from the glass without ruining the design.

Then pop into a plastic bag and decorate with a label and instructions!

Some practical notes: I got 4-5 spoons per 200g chocolate. Also, two of my chocolates split as I pulled them out of the glass. I'm not sure why this happened but it could have been because I was a little late in adding the spoon to the melted chocolate for these ones. If this happens, don't despair! Simply heat up a metal spoon in hot water, dry and rub over the inside of the chocolate, stick back together and then run the spoon over the seam to secure it back together and leave to set.

I used a range of milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and orange chocolate (I was thinking of a Terry's Orange in a mug, oh yum). My test spoons were made with cheap chocolate, I nearly always use Value chocolate for baking, Sainsburys and Tescos are both really great and you can hardly ever tell with cakes etc...but I would advise on good quality chocolate for these drinks as you can definitely taste the difference.

This is probably it now for me before New Year...I did have plans to post about some pretty wrapping ideas but I'm working right up to Christmas and frantically finishing wrapping the rest of the I'm going to be realistic and wish you all a Merry Christmas now! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with loved ones and build some truly fun and joyful memories as this year draws to a close.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

D.I.Y. cardboard stag head...

We had a Downton Abbey themed Christmas party on Thursday at Andrew's college. It was the perfect setting as it's an oldy-worldy college with high ceilings and dark was just sat waiting to be downton-abbey-ized! My friend Michelle was heading it up and she is the most incredible party planner, she transformed the college so beautifully! Seriously, I'm trying to convince her she could totally juggle being both a vicar and a party planner (the complete package for any wedding right?!).

My favourite part of the decor were these cardboard stag heads...stag heads and antlers are all over the internet at the moment so this is a perfect alternative if, like me, you'd prefer not to have a skull in your lounge :)

Sadly my photos aren't particularly great, this is due to two reasons. Firstly it was only as I was going to bed on Wednesday night that I remembered I hadn't cut out all the pieces so I had a slightly rushed early morning craft session Thursday morning. And secondly I was having far too good a time at the party so it was only as I was leaving that I thought to take any these were taken just as I was walking out the door!

But hey, they looked great dotted around the room. We used this tutorial over at Instructables, except we made the template larger. Head over there for how to make this fab DIY!

Here are some photos of the process...

All cut out and ready to be assembled...

And then everything just slots together like magic before gluing the head to the backing (I don't have a glue gun so I used strong glue instead, it seemed to work just as well). To help the head stay straight it's worth cutting the slots in each piece fairly wide, otherwise it forces the cardboard to twist.

And one final photo of it up on the wall! I stuck mine on a little bit lopsided so it has a slightly quizzical turn of it's head, I'm going with that it makes it endeering...haha!

I'm going to stop now before I allow any more awful puns pass my typing fingers :)

I hope all your Christmas preparations are going well! I've still got a little bit more shopping to do but I think I'm on track! Have a great week :)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Kanzashi flower cushion...

So here's what I did with my kanzashi flower! When I made the cushion I initially made a pompom to go in the middle but it ended up looking like a slightly confused Scottish beret :) I had just tried out making the kanzashi flower and decided it would make the perfect finishing touch to this cushion, which I made for my niece.

For how to make the Kanzashi flower then I shared this tutorial recently.

These cushions don't have a removable cover but are simple and quick, perfect if you're after an easy project!

What you need:
Kanzashi flower
Dressmaker's pencil
Sewing machine
Needle and thread
Embroidery thread
Circular template (I used a wok!)

1. Use the circular template to mark out a circle on two pieces of fabric and cut out.

2. Place the fabric right side facing and pin together. Sew together using the sewing machine, use a zigzag stitch to prevent the fabric fraying. Leave at least a 10cm gap between the beginning and end of the stitching.

3. Turn it the right way out by pulling the fabric through the hole. Press the fabric.

I'm sorry...but I just can't look at this pic without seeing a mouth!
4. And stuff! Don't stuff to full capacity as you need some room to pull the fabric in the centre (I actually removed some of the stuffing after this photo). Sew the gap closed with a slip stitch.

5. Thread your embroidery thread and sew though the centre of the cushion, bring the needle back through the cushion to the front and then sew back through again! Pull the two ends of the thread to make a dimple in the centre of the cushion. Continue to sew the embroidery thread back and forth through the cushion a few more times before finishing up with the two ends being on the same side. Tie in a knot and trim.

6. Now you just need to hide the embroidery thread with a decoration, I used the kanzashi flowers, attaching them by sewing them onto the cushion, but you could also glue them with strong glue.

The flowers got squashed a little from sitting in the 'dimple' but I think they were the right finishing touch...I certainly don't see a Scottish beret when I look it now!

I hope you've all had a great week, here's to the weekend! It's looking set to be a good one with a visit from my folks, first Christmas party of the month and a local Winter festival!

Happy Friday!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

D.I.Y. advent calendar...

Woohoo it's the first day of advent! Christmas music can legitimately be played. Christmas decorations can go up without the rolling of eyes. And...advent calendars can finally be opened!

Obviously I would not forget all about the fact that December was fast approaching, and of course I wouldn't have forgotten all about making an advent calendar until yesterday...oops. I said I'd make one this year, up until now we've always ran out to buy one last minute. I was always about chocolate calendars whilst Andrew always liked the traditional calendars. This year we decided to go with chocolates on the tree (which I'm pretty sure is just a way for Andrew to convince me to put the tree up early) and, whilst not a 'traditional' calendar, a calendar with verses leading us up to Christmas day.

I knew what I wanted to do for the calendar, I just completely forgot about the fact I had to make it! So, yesterday morning I got last years wrapping paper out and made this origami cube advent calendar. Origami cubes (or balloons) are one of the few pieces of origami I can do, I normally get completely lost when making anything to do with paper that suggests how simple these cubes are!

So, just in case there is someone out there who is also last minute in getting their advent calendar, here's how I made mine...

I used last year's wrapping paper and some gorgeous tissue paper (the red paper above) that I bought and completely forgot about last Christmas. Whilst it's totally do-able with tissue paper, they are more fragile and more difficult to inflate...I just loved the paper too much to not use it!

First up print out your verses and numbers onto plain paper. Cut out your verses, numbering them on the back. I cut the numbers out as I went so that I could easily keep track of where I was up to. I found a great list of verses over at Yahoo Voices. Here's the list if you don't want to click through.

Dec. 1 John 1: 1-5 
Dec. 2 Isaiah 9: 2-7 
Dec. 3 Isaiah 11: 1-10 
Dec. 4 Jeremiah 33: 14-16 
Dec. 5 Luke 1: 5-10 
Dec. 6 Luke 1: 11-17 
Dec. 7 Luke 1: 18-25 
Dec. 8 Luke 1: 26-38 
Dec. 9 Mathew 1:18-21 
Dec. 10 Matthew 1: 22-26 
Dec. 11 Luke 1: 39-45 
Dec. 12 Luke 1: 46-56 
Dec. 13 Luke 2: 1-5 
Dec. 14 Luke 2: 6-7 
Dec. 15 Luke 2: 8-12 
Dec. 16 Luke 2: 13-14 
Dec. 17 Luke 2: 15-18 
Dec. 18 Luke 2: 19-20 
Dec. 19 Micah 5: 2-5 
Dec. 20 Matthew 2: 1-2 
Dec. 21 Matthew 2: 3-6 
Dec. 22 Mathew 2: 7-8 
Dec. 23 Matthew 2: 9-12 
Dec. 24 John 1:14

Onto the cubes...

Cut out 24 (or 25) squares of paper 20 x 20cm.

1&2. Fold the square diagonally into a triangle and open out, repeat on the other corners. Open out. You should have two diagonal lines.

3. Fold into a rectangle.

4. Fold into a square.

5, 6 &7. Take the top left corner and pull out. It will open into a triangular pocket, fold flat. Repeat on the other side.

8. Fold up the verse (small enough that it can sit into the middle of the triangle) and place into the centre of the triangle.

9&10. Turn the triangle 180 degrees so that the open side is facing you. Take one of the outer corners on the top side and fold up to meet the apex of the triangle. Repeat with the other outer corner. Flip over and repeat on the other side so that you're left with a diamond.

11&12. Fold the right and left corners into the middle. Repeat on the other side.

13. Fold the top layers down into triangles.

14, 15&16. Open out the side pocket and fold the triangle into the pocket and push flat. Repeat for the other triangle and then flip it over and repeat on the other side.

17. Fold the top point down into the centre, open out and fold the other way. Repeat with the bottom point. This gives the cube more defined edges.

18. Open out as shown.

19. Gently blow into cube until it is inflated, pull the corners slightly to help achieve an even cube.

20. Cut out the corresponding number and stick to the cube with a little bit of washi tape.

Now just repeat that 23 times!

Now it's time to thread them onto the twine!

21&22. Thread a needle and tie the two ends of the thread into a knot to create a loop. Feed the end of the twine through the loop. Gently pull the twine through the top of each box, holding the paper taut. Once you have threaded all the boxes on (I did two rows) trim the twine, leaving plenty of length to hang them.

This took me about a morning to complete, with stops and starts whilst I got distracted with other things. Cutting out the squares was the most time consuming part but the boxes came together really quickly...just remember to put the verse in whilst it is still a triangle - I forgot a couple of times and had to unfold them!

I'm off to open up the first day of the calendar, have a great first day of Advent :)

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