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Cinnamon Christmas Bird Ornaments


There has been an image doing the rounds on Pinterest, of some homemade, cinnamon smelling heart shapes. I am SURE you will have seen them, possibly you are one of the millions of people who re-pinned it. Because it’s genius, no? Who doesn’t want a house smelling like Christmas, and the wondrous smuggity feeling of having created that pong yourself?

(Some people get this same feeling on the Underground. They let one go and the whole carriage is retching, and they are thinking to themselves, all proud, “I did that.”  I SO know who guffed when I look around a crowd like this, Tube Farters nearly always fit into one extreme –  either Mr I Dealt It You Smelt It with the subtly vainglorious posture, or the opposite purple-faced, Wishing They Could Squeeze Out Of The Crack in the Doors mortified soul.)

Putting together some ingredients to fill your home with the heavenly smog of cinnamonny Christmas is a winner, so I got some stuff together and made it happen.

The gorgeous, original recipe is Stateside so calls for applesauce and bulk cinnamon, of which I had access to neither so here is how I did it:

To make 6 birds and 6 hearts you need….

1 huge apple, peeled and cubed

1 35gram pot of ground mixed spice

1 35gram pot of cinnamon

  • Put the apple in a pan along with a table spoon of water, cover and simmer on low until it is totally soft. It doesn’t take long, around 20 minutes.
  • Leave to cool then blend using a whizzer/ blender until it is smooth as a babies bum.
  • Stir in your spices, bit by bit. Soon you won’t be able to stir, you’ll need to get in with your hands and knead it. You want it to be totally combined. It will be just like a dark dough. Keep adding more spice until it is super dry, like a biscuit dough.
  • I used one pot of cinnamon and one mixed spice as the pots of mixed spice are dead cheap, but still smell lush.
  • Pop your oven on to Gas Mark 2 to heat up.
  • Roll your dough out, using spice like flour so it doesn’t stick.
  • Cut out your shapes.  (Why, YES, I DID use my home made cookie cutter – of course, you could make any shape your fancied!)
  • Push a skewer through to make a hole for hanging.
  • Put on baking tray, with a light dusting of spice on the bottom.
  • Leave in oven for 1 – 1.5  hours or until completely rock hard. (Mine didn’t take long as we have a really hot fire and brimstone oven from the 50’s)
  • Once they are cool thread them up with some ribbon and hang!
  • I also did a layer of  home made mod podge and glitter, to give them an extra sparkle, the smell is still super strong.

handmade christmas cinnamon decoration birds

Happy Christmas pong creating!

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DIY Cookie Cutter

Just a really quick post today, I am running around like a blue arsed fly getting things ready for the Oxford Street Fairtrade Christmas market on Saturday – woooo!

I needed a cool bird (it HAD to be a bird) cookie cutter to make a Christmas decoration with, and our collection is limited to one lonely, lowly gingerbread man shape. We make gingerbread men biscuits all the time (I say we, but Tim is really the baker), they are Ramona’s faves- she calls them “The Boys”, which makes for quite cute exclamations like “YUMMMMY! ME LIKE BOYS!”

I had a rummage in our Throw-Everything-In cupboard and came up trumps with a ream of sturdy metal. Anything would have done – a strip of copper, or the bottom of one of those aluminum take away trays cut into a strip would be ideal (especially as you wouldn’t have any questions abut toxicity.)

I sketched the shape I wanted, and with a pair of pliers bent it into a bird.

I am SO excited by this new prospect of being able to twist metal into a myriad of shapes – it will be nice to have quirky biscuits, but also I am thinking about being able to cut shapes out of air-drying clay. Wheeeee!

*Forgets the Christmas Fayre and spends day with a pair of pliers*

Homemade Rosehip Oil – a bit of thrifty foraging

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*sings* Tis the season to pick rosehips, tralalalalaaaalalalala!

When I was pregnant the last time I was sent a tiny, expensive vial of rosehip oil. Oof, it was LUSH.  It is apparently amazing for stretch marks and scars and also adds a pre-emptive resilience to your skin. However, not one to waste such an ingredient on my vast, mostly unseen belly I used it on my face and it ended up softer and smoother than my newborn’s bum.

The oil is all gone now, and I’ve been kind of pining for it lately, knowing I’d never get my mitts on such a fine Frankincense-like substance again. And THEN I googled “rosehips” (oh man, I am such an urbanite) and turns out I like, er, pass them everyday of my life! My front garden is bursting with them, because, of course, they are just the seed pods of old roses! Heavy laden branches of them hang over my head as we walk to the park, their red skin squishes beneath my feet as we trundle to the bus stop. Glory be.

I wanted to make the most of them before all the gardeners cut their roses back, as October is the season for that. And homemade rosehip oil, with it’s skin restoring, vitamin A packed goodness, is about as easy as it gets.  Whilst this method isn’t pure seed oil, this does achieve a huge amount of the goodness and is commonly used extraction method in The Industry.

You Need:

Rosehips

Oil (any oil will do- almond oil is lovely and light for your skin but I went with normal nut oil as it is cheaper and is incredible for your skin all by itself)

Something to warm it in – I used my yoghurt maker, but a slow cooker on lowest setting will do, or keeping the jars in a warm airing cupboard/ on a radiator

A siv with a piece of cloth in/ muslin to strain it through

How to:

I filled one third of my jars with clean, dry rosehips. I topped up with nut oil. I placed in my yoghurt maker for 12 hours then strained into another squeaky clean jar.

The jars need to either be dark (snazzied up Marmite jars?) or kept in a dark place as Rosehip Oil is a little sensitive to light.

A whole jar of thrifty beauty, just like that. I reckon a jar of this – particularly if you made the jar look nice– would be a gorgeous Christmas gift, no?

(Argh, not only have I gawn and got a Christmas tune in your head, I’ve actually gawn and said the word! That’s it folks, you know what that means. It’s festive frivolity from here on in. WOO!)

(Meanwhile, my foraging neighbour Lakota has also posted about rosehips- with some delicious syrup. HELLO! Linking up with her rosehip sweetness and Ta Da Tuesday.)

Home Made Mod Podge Recipe- Don’t be hoodwinked!

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In lots of ways I am a hand clapping optimist. I find it really hard to imagine the worst case scenario and always think everything is going to work out, which is often to my detriment. In other ways I am a doubting cynic. When it comes to brands and their promises I am more dubious then Scooby doo smoking doobies in dubiousville.  When a grand claim is made of a product my mind screams “LIES, ALL DAMN LIES!” like some kind of crossed witch.

There are some exceptions:

  • Helmans mayonnaise (no other will do. I can eat this with a spoon for lunch.)

Ummmm.

Okay, actually, I think that is it on my list.

So when I first heard about crafting super power that is Mod Podge I tried to ignore the screamy witch and find out exactly what it is that makes Mod Podge such a delight. First of all I began by trying to find out what Mod Podge is.Wanna know what it is, basically?

Watered down PVA glue.

That’s:  PVA glue with water in it.

PVA (that you can by from Poundland) with water (free)

But people are paying heaps for this crafting Must Have, to do things like decoupage and scrapbooking, that people have done for years with watered down PVA.

I kind of think the people of Mod Podge are trying to fox us all a little bit.

Oh well. Now we know, eh?

Home Made Mod Podge Recipe

To make a jar of fake Mod Podge you need 1 cup of glue and 1/3 cup of water. Shake really well  and use as you would Mod Podge. To make it gloss add 2 table spoons of water based varnish or to make the sparkly add super fine glitter.

I wanted to try making some decorated pegs. I made some Christmas pegs  with ribbon and scrabble tiles in this way but found cutting the fabric and getting it to not fray really tricky. When I read on Sew Scrumptious’s lovely site that she used Mod Podge to make the fabric paper-like I gave it a crack with my fake Mod Podge. It really works.

Just give the little scraps of fabric a good soaking then leave them to dry as flat as you can. Then snip them up. It is truly ace and made making these pegs so easy. And if you are like me and keep every snippet of beautiful material than this is the PERFECT use!

I used some navy polka dots and even a bit of lace, so simple and quick:


What do you think? Are you a Mod Podge Die Hard? Or are you generally happy with the fake/ home made versions of things?

Linking up with Lakota’s Ta Dah Tuesday AND the wonderful monthly Pinaddicts challenge– although this was originally Sew Scrumptious’s pin!

Don’t miss other thrifty/crafty/motherhood shenanigans-

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Homemade fingerpaint in awesome crafty jars

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Homemade fingerpaint in awesome crafty jars

We visited my sister’s family in Gloucester this past weekend, glamping (well, it was in a caravan and we had bunting?) in their paddock. Ooh, twas lovely chilling with them all, apart from the incessant rain and freezingness. Instead of celebratory Easter Eggs I took them home made finger paints –  something that might fuel their imaginations rather than their existing bouncing off walls tendancy (this is still edible though, Ramona reveals every time she uses them!)

A little while ago Louise from Sew Scrumptious posted about these most amazing jar lids she had crafted up. I duly tucked it away in my mind’s craft drawer and have been searching for little figures ever since. My heart leapt into my throat and my hands got the shakes (you don’t have this reaction when pouncing on a proper bargain?) when I nabbed this WHOLE BAG of little fellas for £2 at a car boot last week.

Red Ted Art (kids craft queen) posted a recipe for home made finger paints a wee while ago. It is just a few ingredients and I always have them in my kitchen. I have a great love of this kind of easy crafting and avoidance of toxins.

Together I reckon they made an awesome pressy. (You are allowed to say that if the ideas weren’t yours, eh?)

The Finger Paints

1/2 tsp spoon salt

1 cup corn flour

3 tbs spoons sugar

2 cups water

Beat it all together in a pan while heating over a hot element. When thickened allow to cool. Pour into jars and add a couple of drops of food colouring.

The jars

I used Barts Fairtrade spices jars, a nice little size.

Spray paint lids and figures seperately with a white under coat.

Keeping them seperate give them a few licks of a bright acrylic paint.

Using super glue or a hot glue gun stick the figures onto your lid.

GIVE IT UP FOR EASY CRAFTS ALL AROUND THE WORLD!

PS Unfortunately my little gift didn’t survive the bus, tube and train to Glasterr and the Cowboys and Indians had escaped the lids taking some paint with them.  Woe, WOE, me. And my sis who has to superglue them back on. I have adjusted the directions to prevent this happening to yourself.

PPS I am a day late (blaming WordPress, the ratbags) but am linking this up with the other Magpies at Liz’s Magpie Monday celebration

Old Soldiers and things in jars – a few thrifty toys

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THRIFTY! Den, den, deeeh, de den den dehhh!  (To the tune of “FOXY!” as sung by Wayne and Garth)

It is due to a mixture of cheapskateness and environmental consciousness that I have yet to buy Ramona a single new toy. She does have some new things, bought for her by loving friends and family, but only a handful. All the rest have come from charity shops, around the home and the side of the road. When I see the jawdropping cost of toys in real shops I am not surprised that the average spend on a kid in their first year of life is £9000. When you really needn’t spend a penny.

The BEST kind of toy for me is one that she, er, likes (such a loving mother) but also one that is nice to look at. Give me wood and old over plastic any day. (I know, I know it’s not about me.)

We have found some absolutely beaut things over the last few months and fortunately these are also some of Ramona’s favourite toys. I think she loves the pure simplicity of them. Here are a few:

Abacus- 50p from charity shop in Essex

Rainbow thing- £1 from car boot sale

Big Soldier – £5 from OXfam in Streatham

Soldier train – £5 from Kids Fara in Pimlico

This vintage pull along dog was sent to us from our lovely famdamily in NZ. And yes, the soldier doesn’t have all his bits.

This is my fave of Ramona’s toys- he actually plays his xylophone as he is pulled along!Puh, who needs an Ipad?

He was £5 from a charity shop. (Steep I know, but a musical duck!)

TIPS FOR COOL VINTAGE TOYS

They are often in a different part of the charity shop. These soldiers were only £5 but for some reason were behind the glass under the counter.

Car boot sales – you are less likely to find vintage toys in amongst other toy stalls but more in amongst other antiquey/ junky stalls.

They may seem a little pricey, but compare it to buying new, and think about how long it has already lasted so therefore how much longer it is likely to last. Also remember you won’t need to spend any money on batteries.

When you get them home give them the driest wipe you can with either alcohol or Dettol – water will likely cause some damage.

HOMEMADE TOYS

I am surprised at how often Ramona spurns her fanciest toys in order to play with some thing that is, frankly, rubbish. The main reason I think she does this is because that something is fitting perfectly with her stage of development. When we flew home from NZ last month I packed an entire pull along suitcase with the coolest little toys. She spent most of the time just posting pegs and other small items into a drink bottle. She was intent on it – posting them in, tipping them out, posting them in again.

I have tried to do some googling on the stages of development and play but can only seem to find very commercial pages which aren’t very comprehensive. (Although I did find this excellent and immense resource all about learning through play.) I guess the best way is to observe what they most enjoy doing and then build on that. So with Ramona’s obsession with emptying and filling things, stuff that is working well for us at the moment is:

  • A few little (ahem, nice looking) containers around the house with a selection of random things in- some little animals, finger puppets, a music box, some fabric, juggling balls. I put one down on the carpet and she’ll look through it, take it all out, put it all in, add some extras in, chuck a few things in to the bin, try to eat it, y’know.
  • Jars with filled with stuff she can pour all over the floor – chess pieces, scrabble letters, dominoes, ribbons. Basically lovely things I find in charity shops and keep around the place. It fits with the style of our lounge but also a big treat for her.
  • When I am doing the dishes I also get her a bowl of warm water and plastic cups etc. This is quite messy in a watery way but she loves it. (In fact this week she chose to sit inside her little bowl of water which was sweet and comical but Next Level Watery Mess)

I would genuinely LOVE to hear the thrifty/ home made things that you have found your little ones love.

(Part of the wondrous Thrifty Families Blog Carnival- check out loads more ideas over at Baby Budgeting!)

Flapper band for a lovely little head

Ah, maternity leave is the bees knees! I basically just make stuff all day, maybe have tea and cake with someone, loll around on my birth ball. It’s lush. I’ve also been initated in to the mums club with my two besties and my sister and their riot of rapscallion kids. Tomorrow it is a party for one of them who is turning two, so I whipped up some pretty head gear for her, 1920’s styles with a few bits of lace, polka dot fabric from a pillow made into rosettes and then some delightful buttons.

To be delivered in its own little felt envelope, with the wrist from the armpit slipper jumper.

With a personalised stamp and a quick knot she can undo.

This is probably the kind of thing you make for a little kid before you have kids and know how unrealistic it is for them to keep something fancy like this on their noggin. Oh well, I’m soon to become a more reality based maker of kids things!