Christmas (like most areas of my life) is a time when I have more ideas and plans than time to spare. This is illustrated perfectly in the Advent Calendar I chose to make this year. I had been inspired by my own crazy thoughts, materials at hand and the plethora of unique ideas out there in the wonderful world of the interwebs. I formed a picture in my mind of what I wanted that I thought it was simple enough, but I was really biting off far more than I could chew resulting in some very late nights, trying to get it done around work and everyday life in time for the 1st of December.
Last year I spotted this lovely calendar on Young House Love. It was simple to implement and a clever use of Ikea fodder, but what i loved most was the idea of taking the decoration from it each day and hanging on the tree. It doesn’t involve chocolate or knick knacky toys, I decided this suited us perfectly and would love for it to become a tradition in our house.
With some basic ideas of what I wanted to achieve, some inspiration from pinterest and some lovely lists on Buzzfeed and Creative Bloq I made the plan to create our advent calendar using an old ladder we had in our garage, with each of the 25 parcels wrapped in a different way, like little gifts.I didn’t want to go out and buy a lot of new materials so I used what I already had around the house to decorate the packages, designing each one as I went. This did take a bit of planning and a few had to be redone, due to some ideas just not working the way I intended and double ups that were too close together when assembled.
What I really should have picked up from all the images I looked at before completing this and something I definitely have learnt from creating this is that ‘simple is best’. Next year I think I will focus my energy on designing one lovely package, then repeating that 25 times. But who knows how I will feel by then.
With all the work I put in I have to say it was worth it. I love the little details created by bringing the different materials together, like the rows of bows along the ladder steps and the contrast of the papers against the wood. I do worry however, how am I going to fit all those decorations on my teeny tiny tree.
If you follow me on instagram you will see most of the individual parcels there each day.
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I have had the pleasure of working with Francesca Fitzgerald, the beauty and brains behind MUSE Events, on the logo and branding for the business and I have to say she has been one of my best clients ever. I have absolutely loved working on these projects. It has been a joy experimenting with Nouveau scrolls and vintage imagery and every stage of concepts has been has been received by Fran with a big ‘I LOVE IT’ (which has been a nice little boost to my design ego). With a little faith from Fran I even branched out a little from design into a bit of copywriting, as I occasionally do, and wrote the About Us text for the website.
I can’t tell you how great it is to work on a design you love, that is also loved by the client — it makes for a fun process and beautiful outcomes.
I like to think that lovely wrapping is an extension of the present you are giving and I hate it when I don’t have the time to spend making a present pretty before giving it away. When I have it I like to spend a bit of time, thought and have a little fun in creating a parcel that reflects the personality of the recipient in the same way the gift itself does. It doesn’t bother me that it is just going to get torn off, most people I know will stop for a moment, enjoy what I have done and maybe even feel a little more special because the wrapping was made just for them.
This little parcel was wrapped in plain white tissue paper and a pink fabric ruffle. The ruffle was made from scraps of previous projects that I tore up into strips (purposely random in size). I then joined them together overlapping each piece, alternating between the two fabrics, using a long straight stitch. Them pulling one of the threads in the stitch I gathered the fabric making a ruffle. Be gentle and edge the fabric along, you don’t want to break the thread.
I have now done a bunch of these to have on hand for any wrapping emergencies.
Back before Christmas last year I had a mission to make many of the gifts I was going to give. I put in a fair effort but didn’t manage to make as much as I had hoped. One that was a success, although not without its challenges, were the hampers I put together for some family members and the girls at Ava’s occasional care.
A big hurdle with this project was that I was trying to make things I had never made before and as it got closer and closer to Christmas I was getting stressed. Each hamper had different items in them but in the end they all had two common denominators; some Lemon Shortbread Stars and Homemade Lemon Cordial — I love lemon flavours.
The shortbread stars are something I have made every Christmas for work colleagues over the last 10 years or so. The Lemon cordial was a recipe given to me by a friend from mothers group about two years ago now and I have made it many times since. Being so familiar with these recipes makes it easy to whip them up without hassle, avoids the disappointment I had with other ones that didn’t work how I had hoped and gives me confidence they are going to be enjoyed by the recipient as they have always been received well.
This year I plan to start early on my homemade mission, hence why I am talking about it now. I have a lot of ideas but I don’t know which ones are going to fly and which ones are going to flop, so it could be interesting.
I am keen to know if you have any ideas of great gifts that are homemade? Do you think having something homemade adds value or is just cheap?
The shopping list
2kg Caster Sugar
1 litre of Water
2 tablespoons Citric acid
2 tablespoons Tartaric acid
zest of 2 Lemons
Juice of 6 Lemons
…and what to do with it
Put 2 kg of caster sugar and 1 litre of water in a large saucepan, stir over heat to dissolve sugar, add 2 tablespoons of citric acid, 2 tablespoons of tartric acid, then bring to a good simmer.
Remove from heat, sit aside to cool.
When cool or just warmish, add in the grated zest of 2 lemons (preferably organic / unwaxed), plus the strained juice of 6 lemons. Stir well, then pour into sterilised bottles (sterilise by washing well with hot soapy water, then sit in the oven at 120 degrees for about 20 minutes).
This makes around 2.5 large bottles. The cordial keeps really well – for up to a year, just keep it out of direct sunlight.
Gently shake the bottle each time before pouring. It is great with sparkling mineral water, soda water, or gin / vodka and soda. Also nice with a few crushed lime leaves in each glass.
Lemon Shortbread Stars
The shopping list
125 grams unsalted butter, cubed and softened
125 grams (½ cup) caster sugar
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
155 grams (1 ¼ cups) plain flour
110 grams (¾ cups) cornflour
icing sugar, to dust
…and what to do with it
Preheat the oven to 160°C (315°F/Gas2-3) and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Beat the butter and sugaruntil creamy.
Mix in the egg yolks, lemon zest, flour and cornflour until they form a ball of soft dough.
Roll out lightly between two pieces of baking paper to 1cm thick. Cut out stars (or what ever shape you choose) from the dough using your shape cutter.
Place on your tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden.
Cool on a wire rack and dust with the icing sugar.
When I made these lemon stars as gifts I packaged them in cello bags so I didn’t dust them with icing sugar, it just doesn’t look as nice once it is mushed all over the place.
I find it hard to believe thatthis little girl has been in our lives for nearly two years but her second birthday is fast approaching and I am watching Ava grow more, do more and say more every day. Today she had a good bash at saying ‘ridiculous’ because my sister and I were talking about how ridiculous it was that she could say so much at her age, we just laughed our heads of so she just kept saying it, it was lovely.
To celebrate her birthday this year we are having a little party with her friends from Mothers Group. Nothing huge just a nice morning tea for the kids to play and get excited about cake and balloons. Although it wasn’t really necessary to design an invite for such a low-key party, I couldn’t resist and I am really pleased with the result. It is inspired by vintage illustration and features Ava’s favourite toy, her bunny.
Baby blue is a lovely colour but I am not into cliché patterns with rattles and alphabet blocks. So with a few pressies to wrap I thought I would have a bit of a play with some bits and pieces I have around the house. Old maps are great and can be used as is or cut out and sewn together. Blue stripes can be simply(and quite roughly) painted using watercolours, gouache or watered down acrylic paint or you could just draw directly onto little presents wrapped in plain white paper.
Sometimes inspiration can be hard to come by and lately I have found myself so busy that the inspiration well had run completely dry on both the design and blog front. In a moment of frustration I thought “I have to do something!” not usually the kind of moment that brings on an epiphany, so instead I carried on with my day.
Throughout the rest of the day I found myself thinking about the lovely things in my life and in particular my two favourite people, Ava and Daragh. I thought about how much I love them and how they make all the crappy, difficult times worthwhile. All these thoughts lead me back a particular moment in the past, when Daragh and I had been together for about a year and I sent him this text – “I love you more than the colour blue”. Anyone who knows me well, knows what that means and just how soppy I am being here. This was the trigger to get creativity going again.
With the idea in my mind I decided to do a type only peice and being such a personal message I felt it needed to be done by hand. I can’t tell you how good this felt. I spend a lot of time designing things on the computer and it can often create a kind of disconnect between myself and my work. As I started it I let myself make mistakes, didn’t fuss with perfection and was in no rush for the process to be finished. It was this approach that helped me relax, enjoy it and fuel ideas for future projects.
How lucky am I to have 2 people in my life to love that much and who love me back as well. So on this day my inspiration came from love. Not just the abstract concept but the love that I feel for my little family. Tell me, what inspires you?
Now I told you I was going to be wrapping things right up until christmas so I think it only right that I share a few more of the little ideas I have had. I rummaged through my sewing basket for some inspiration and came across some felt and red buttons and this is what I came up with.
I love the little bit of texture sewing creates and there is also something satisfying about using machinery. I have used the Tom Sawyer wrapping paper again (from wrapping in words and wool) and the buttons are attached using a hot glue gun so it was really quick to whip that one up.
Last week I shared some of my wrapping with you in wrapping in words and wool and I am not sure if any of you noticed but I didn’t have tags on any of them. It is just down to my wonderful memory and the occasion shake of a box to know what present belongs to whom. So now that I have finally got around to printing and finishing our tags I thought I would share them with you. Daragh and I like to have a bit of fun with the chrissy tags so they are a bit of a mix, some are a little humorous and others are just lovely.