Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Some Kind of Big Shot

Not usually one to gloat, I have to share the news that I got a Big Shot for Christmas! I hope everyone else had a wonderful Christmas.

About the Big Shot: the first thing my mum said when I opened it was 'I wanted to keep it and give you my Cuttlebug instead' - and having used it quite a bit already, I have to say it seems stronger, is a little bigger, and... I like it. A lot.

A whole new aspect of the craft world has opened up. Here's to 2011!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas Came and Went

I trust everyone had a very merry Christmas! The biggest surprise here was that my brother gave some brilliantly creative, skilfully put together handmade gifts that really blew me away: he made me a bag, and my fiance some bowls from old vinyl records.

It's a little bit late to share the last batch of Christmas cards; however, there's an early card-related resolution I'd like to make, and it seems like the right time to say it.

I've used a lot of new paper this year making my Christmas cards. Even paper that isn't strictly Christmassy. Like this Sassafras Lass paper:

I even resorted to stealing and using an image off the web in place of the Bombshell stamps I don't have yet:

And I loved my Basic Grey Jovial 6x6 pad, and am thrilled that I still have some paper left from it for next year.

However, I've realised I have a lot of paper that I don't really like. There are, of course, a lot of cards to make. So... my early resolution is to only make cards from the paper I don't like. I'll post more about this in the new year. Happy Boxing Day everyone!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Last Minute Shopping

It's almost Christmas Eve, which for some might mean a last chance to buy that missing present, for others might be THE day to buy presents, and for the rest might just mean relaxing at home with family and maybe wrapping some presents.

Just in time for this last-minute shopping trip, I've put together a little book to file all the fun, interesting, different shops I come across in Brussels. I've discovered the kinds of shops I like can be sorted into 5 categories: thrift, wear, craft, eat and nest.


I can't wait to fill it with more new discoveries, but right now it's really time to think about last-minute necessities for Christmas. So, I'll keep it short and sweet. Happy Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Long Road to Ruin

Christmas is, amongst other things, a time for eating. Whether it's an accepted period of gluttony, a time to enjoy guilty pleasures, or a week of dread, this fact cannot be escaped.

To set us off on the journey, I've been baking again. There are a few recipes I'm trying to perfect, but they're not the kinds of things you make every week, so the opportunities are spaced out and I have to remember what I did the time before. Anyway, I've got them to a point where I'm mostly happy with them, and since it's Christmas, I thought I'd share them.

First up, I made again Martha Stewart's tiramisu cupcakes. They are totally delicious. My tweaks so far have been to use coffee liqueur instead of the coffee-marsala mix, to use more of this than the recipe calls for (!), and to sprinkle grated coffee-flavoured chocolate on top instead of cocoa. The topping is to die for, but the sponge still needs softening and lightening a bit (I'm working on it).


Next, I made - of course - some mince pies. I didn't know where to find mincemeat here in Belgium, so I made my own. After spending too long searching for a recipe that suited me (suet? - I don't think so; mixed peel? - not in my cupboard, not going to the shops in the snow; etc), I decided just to make it up, as I tend to do in the kitchen (not always with brilliant results). Anyway, here is my recipe for the filling (I've tried to judge the quantities as best I can, as when I was putting it together it was literally a handful here and a tip-the-jar-in there):

1 1/2 cups of sultanas
1/3 cup of chopped almonds
1/4 cup of brown/white sugar mix
1/4 cup of water
2 tbsp whisky
grated rind of 2 clementines
juice of 1 clementine
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 cloves, ground

I let it all mix together for a few days and then used it. And it was tasty.

Then I made some apple sauce. I'm quite a fussy apple eater, and my granny smiths were past what my high standards deem to be their best, so I put 7 of them, chopped, in a saucepan with a cup of water and 3 tablespoons of white sugar and let simmer for half an hour. It was intended for pork, but as it made quite a lot I made apple pies too.

Finally, I made some Christmas cookies to take to a friend who invited us for dinner. I made ginger ones, but in the end was glad to give them away because I have decided I don't like ginger biscuits.

And that's it. No scrappy stuff today. Just food, and the first step on the long road to ruin.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Birthdays at Christmas

We all know someone or some people whose birthdays fall in or around the Christmas period. Some of them hate it; some of them have embraced it. However they feel, I think it's imperative to keep the birthday part and the Christmas part separate - even if they ask for a big, expensive present which can straddle the two occasions.

I now have 5 family members with birthdays falling between 5 December and 5 January. That's not to mention the number of friends too! It means a lot of extra thinking - and not just for present-buying - at this busy time of year. Planning ahead is essential, but also fun.

So far I've made some cards, and a gift box, in which a friend can store small craft supplies.

Here's the gift box. I also made the pins and the buttons inside:


And here are the cards. They're all for the same person, but as the skull ones were specially requested I had to make this many:

The biggest challenge of all is when the person whose birthday it is hates having their birthday at this time of year. How do you make it extra special?

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Taking Over

Christmas certainly seems to be taking over. This is my first real Christmas in the blogging world, and wow, is it filling my screen and my ears and my thoughts. Everyone is so excited and creative at this time of year.

I have a little project to show. It's a decoration that you can hang on the wall or lean on the mantelpiece. I actually used this one as the project for my Christmas craft class at the end of November. With the youngest student being 7 years old, I was a little worried that it would be too fiddly, but I was amazed at everyone's creativity, patience and skill.

My Christmas shadow box:

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Tree Inspiration

Today I have a little tutorial to share with you, but it's not my own - it's my mum's.

Last year she made me a tree decoration - a wooden cutout tree, painted or sprayed with Cosmic Shimmer Mist, and then stamped and heat embossed.

This year I gave it a go myself.

After spraying with my Cosmic Shimmer Mist (Peacock Green, which is actually quite tree-y), I stamped some swirls in a copper colour.

I sprinkled holographic white embossing powder over the copper ink and heat treated the trees. Next I stamped some snowflakes on in white, but just left the ink to dry - I didn't heat emboss with powder.

I then stamped on some different snowflakes, but this time I did sprinkle white embossing powder and heat embossed it.

I finished off by tying some twine through the whole in the top of the tree so that it could be hung on our Christmas tree, which is in fact a Christmas branch:

Thanks Mum for leading the way here!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

It's Chrrrrriiissssstmaaaaasssss!

Now my fiance's birthday has come and gone, we can officially begin to get into the spirit of Christmas. As if to confirm this, at a music club's Christmas get together on Wednesday he performed an acoustic version of Slade's 'Merry Christmas Everybody', which went down a storm.

About a month ago, he told me a joke, as he does from time to time.

Q. What's the best thing about being an insomniac?
A. Only three sleeps till Christmas!

Back then, it was hilarious. Now I'm kind of wiping the smile from my face as I see Christmas looming and know that I am un(der)prepared. That's not to say I haven't been doing anything. Oh no. I've got a million photos as proof, mostly of the cards and tags I made for a Christmas fair stall I had on Wednesday (I kept that one quiet, didn't I?). Well, it might not have happened, so I didn't want to shout about it. Or, it might've been a flop, so I didn't want to shout about it. I spent some time (I'm not going to disclose how much time) rush-making things to sell, and in the end it turned out quite well, but I'm too exhausted to shout about it. I didn't even get a photo of me in market mode.

I made a whole bunch of small (4 x 4 in) cards using kraft paper. The first two I already posted about, I know. But I love it so much - I only want to make cards with kraft paper now. I can't believe it took me so long to find it. Resourceful as I am, I used the cutouts from these cards to make a topper in themselves. The padded gingham stars speak for themselves.


I got really stuck on stars. I cut quite a lot of them, and didn't vary too wildly from the layout above.
Some I stamped with snowflakes, inked the edges, and stuck on with foam pads. I made some into matching gift tags too.

Some I stamped with winter foliage:

That snowman paper from the Basic Grey 'Jovial' collection is so fun! I also made matching gift tags for these stars:

Then I went back to the shop and bought some more gingham stars. I used a little bit of border and a little bit of swiss dot paper to accent these cards.

I got off the star train for a bit to experiment with some stamping. I drew a little pencil circle on white card, and joined up a few wintry stamps in a few colours to make a wreath. I still don't consider myself a 'stamper' so I was quite please with how these came out.


I also made some cards I really did not want to part with. I love the cleanness of these ones - there are a few white snowflake stickers on the card which you probably can't see in these photos, but that is it. Nothing fancy. Just a nice cookie of a fallen branch and a little cutout.


The warmth of the wood against the white card really feels Christmassy. I am going to make some more of these for my own personal collection, because they sold out at the fair!

I had to go back to stars in the end. I went with some more gift tags. I really like that it looks like I've cut the star from patterned paper. In fact, I covered my acrylic block with stamps and made sure it was all too big for the star, and just stamped:

And here is my little basket of gift tags, which also sold out:

If you weren't before, you'll definitely have the Christmas spirit now you've read through this post. Happy penultimate shopping Sunday!