I love family traditions old and new and this time of year is full of them for us. Each year we travel north to spend Christmas with my side of the family, while my brother and sister are home as well. Its a big drive but we make it fun and I love that my kids are old enough to remember the journeys and places and stories these days too.
We have a favourite cheap motel off the road with a pool for a late evening swim. They have a vegie garden near the house which was thriving this year. We arrived late after car troubles but the kids swam in the dark. Every year we order takeaway from the local Chinese restaurant when we're an hour out of town and eat it in our room with plastic forks.
Day two we stop to buy a few (9!) dozen local oysters from the local growers and then turn off a few miles later to the long white dog beach to let the labradoodle run.
Mum and Dad moved into town last year, but already some new traditions have started. There's a Christmas Eve carnival in the local village, they block the road and have street performers, food stalls and rides. We walked into town for dinner and the kids had a ride on the big swing chairs. Then home in time to put out a note for Santa and some apples for the reindeers. One more sleep then finally its Christmas!
For many years its been all seafood for Christmas lunch at our house, Bugs and prawns, sashimi and garlic bbq mussels. This year I might have started a new tradition with a last minute pavlova for dessert, covered in cream and fruit, it was delicious and gone in seconds!
I've loved watching other peoples families come together on instagram, and family traditions being celebrated around the world. I loved seeing what everyone put out for Santa and realised why his belts are XL! There's something so wonderful about family love and togetherness. About sharing and giving.
On Saturday my little sister flies in for a quick visit from Vietnam and we will all be together. I can't wait.
I hope you are all having some family time like us, laughing at old jokes and stories, celebrating old traditions and perhaps making some new ones.
The other day I got a beautiful surprise - a handprinted New Year's card from an online friend. One who lives far away on the wintry side of the world.
In my head I started composing a 'virtual' Christmas list, just supposing I was as thoughtful and organised as sweet Suzanne. It quickly started to become unweildy though as I added in all my favourite online friends.
So instead here's a small gift from me to you, a creative present of course! I made these Christmas illustrations a couple of weeks ago using cut paper and illustrator, it was fun and I quickly became obsessed and made a series. The perfectionist in me has been tweaking them in my spare time but now its time to push print!
If you're like me the last thing on your 'to do' list is often making gift tags and sticking them on presents. Sometimes its even the night before, though usually I'm more organised. What I like about print out tags is you can easily print more to match your other presents as needed, even last minute!
I've put these Christmas Gift Tags all together so they can be easily printed out on a colour printer on light card, either A4 or letter will fit them all in (same size or maybe smaller). I hope you like them! Download the pdf here (I hope!) and print them out for personal use as often as you want. No commercial use though please.
To see other creative christmas crafts look here.
I'm signing out of the blog till after Christmas, but I have a feeling Instagram is coming along for the roadtrip. (At least for now while we negotiate the new privacy rules.)
I wanted to thank all of you for reading, for sharing, for encouraging, for being inspired by my making (I love that!) and inspiring me, and for buying flower press stuff.
Happy holidays, I hope you get some long vacant stares into a beautiful horizon, a lunch or two that stretches long into the afternoon, a road trip with lots of sights and some new funny family legends, at least that's my wishlist!
December is always a milestone month around here, not least because its the end of the year.
Mr F and my wedding anniversary is in December, on the 7th, which was the Friday before last. Sixteen years ago my love (that boy up there) and I were married in the beachside town of Brunswick Heads in the local Progress Hall and had dinner at a beautiful restaurant on the river with all our family and friends.
Its a funny time of year to try and fit in any celebration but on Friday we also found out (after a long and nervewracking few weeks) that both our beautiful boys had made it as school leaders for year six next year! My heart was in my mouth as they opened their letters! We hit the local Italian for pasta and gelati to celebrate!
Then last Friday was my birthday! I was completely spoilt as usual with thoughtful presents and phone calls and handmade cards from all the people I love. Including a few I was allowed to help choose (and try on) in a little afternoon shop down King Street with my bloke.
What a nice coincidence that on Friday I was also invited to lunch with 12 gorgeous ladies at a friend's house where they sang me Happy Birthday and we ate delicious food and cake (check out Sally's legendary cherry chocolate fudge and coconut icecream cake which came with butterscotch dressing, amazing!).
Next Friday is yet another big day. We set off north for Christmas with my side of the family in beautiful North Coast NSW. So before then I have to have all my presents bought, wrapped and gift tagged - ready to go. I will do it somehow, I always do, but I'm feeling slightly distracted and faintly stressed, like I've forgotten something important (I probably have!). Tomorrow is the last day for the Flower Press shop and I'll be posting both Monday and Tuesday, so if you are after something (like the last Marble Starter kit in stock), then be quick!
How are you going with this busy season? Does anyone else celebrate birthdays or anniversaries at this crazy time? I must admit occasionally I wish those milestones fell in April, or June or August or some less speedy time, but its such a warm, relaxed, social and holiday time of year I'd probably miss the fun!
Pinterest is often seen as a timewaster but I'm not sure its ever been that for me. While I pop in regularly I usually don't stay long, its a quick dose of inspiration and reference.
I love that each image is linked to its source. And rather than feeling it takes my images without attribution I've found that many people follow the links, so its given me a wider audience for my work, my images and my tutorials.
Anyway, I wanted to share some of my favourite boards with you guys (and I would love it too if you wanted to share your link or a favourite pin, pinner or board to help me find more pinterest treasure).
I've been trying to keep a note of inspiring and eclectic boards for the last while. Its a small list and to be honest I could add thousands more, and a lot of these pinners, well I love all their boards so while I've mentioned one board please have a look around.
And If you want to check out my pinterest, come and follow me at flowerpress.
Like most of you I try to avoid cheap, badly made junk at Christmas, things that will be enjoyed for a day and then discarded. Its harder with kids and so I was really happy this year to see my kids' christmas lists get shorter and more thoughtful.
Instead I love giving useful, beautiful and carefully made gifts that will be used and loved for a long time. I love to see my tea towels in people's kitchens, a print of mine framed in a child's room or my cushions resting on someone's couch. I love friends eating jam I made, cutting a plant I grew for them or (in the future!) washing with my handmade soap (and thank you for all the enthusiasm for my soap making, I think I may have inspired a few batches!).
I love to get handmade and I love to give it.
Another person who loves and promotes handmade is Christina Lowry. Christina made a rickrack ring which I wear every day, one of many handmade pieces around my house made by friends and makers around the world which I cherish.
Christina is running a lovely giveaway series on her blog this Christmas promoting Handmade giving - called the 12 Days of Christmas. Each day for 12 days she is featuring Handmade crafters and offering a chance to win some of their makings.
I love to make things from scratch - (which you'll know if you've read this blog for any length of time!) bread, yoghurt, ricotta cheese, quilts, plants, bagels, jam, clothes, knits, etc.
Truth is I love knowing the ingredients and processes that go into simple artisan products, and soap making has been on my 'to do' list for a while. I was really inspired a couple of years ago when Suse and I did a swap and she sent me some of her delicious homemade soap. It was so wonderful to use, I just loved it and I was sad when it eventually ran out.
When I recently got reinspired I used this video to understand the basic method. I found it nice and simple. There are
millions of videos and other wonderful soap resources online for beginners and experts
alike and they are a great way to get the feel for this craft before you launch into it.
The main thing that had put me off soap making was tracking down 'scary' lye. The web is full of warnings about this ingredient and it is definitely something you need to be careful of. In actual fact though its just plain old Caustic Soda, and they sell it off the shelf at Bunnings (and possibly at the supermarket as well). The other ingredients you need are cooking oils which you probably have already and essential oils if you want to fragrance your soap. I found some essential oils at a local health food store because I was in a hurry, but they are particularly unhelpful and expensive at this store and its actually way cheaper to buy them online.
I shopped without a proper recipe and when I got home with the oils I'd found, coconut and canola, and added the olive I already had, it felt like fate had led me back to Suse's soap recipe which uses that combination of oils. I didn't have enough coconut for her recipe on my first batch, so I bravely put my amounts through a soap/lye calculator and made a bespoke recipe, which was a more olive oil based soap. We buy our olive in bulk so I had a big tin already. Straight olive soap is called Castille.
For the second batch I took Suse's advice and used Copha, a much cheaper alternative to the expensive jar of coconut oil I'd bought at the health food shop. I think this solid form helped the batch to come to 'trace' much quicker too. Trace is when the drops of mixture sit proud on top of the mixture as in the photo above.
You need a good set of scales to make soap, to get your ingredients accurate. I used my posting scales and only noticed later on a drop of lye water had burned a hole in the plastic, look you can see it in the photo on the left! I think a tiny pellet of lye must have fallen there and then had water splashed on to it.
The water and lye need to be carefully measured to react properly with your oils and 'saponify' them, hence the lye calculator. Don't forget - YOU ALWAYS MIX THE LYE INTO THE WATER AND NOT VICE VERSA. Make sure you have gloves and glasses for this part, its quite fumey which I didn't completely get in the videos I'd seen, so keep a window open nearby and cover your mouth and nose.
Canola oil (you can use a wide range of oils, check out the calculator for a list)
Lemon Myrtle essential oil and Grapefruit essential oil.
Pyrex or plastic jugs
plastic or wooden spoon/stirrer
Stainless steel pot (no aluminium)
mould (cardboard box, plastic, wood container)
lining (plastic or baking paper)
vinegar as safety measure to neutralise lye
Once the heated oils and lye/water mixture are at the same temperature, about 40 degrees, they are mixed together and form a custardy consistency. You mix that until you get trace and then pour it into a prepared lined container. I used a box with silicon bake paper for batch one and a plastic container with a plastic bag lining for batch 2. I then put them in the cupboard wrapped in blankets to start their cure.
24 hours later it had solidified and I sliced it into bars. Mine are quite small, which I kinda like, but next time I will have a better idea of how to pour and cut them. And there will definitely be a next time. I loved making this!
Now I need to be patient to let this batch cure for at least a month. I can't wait to try it, if its a patch on Suse's soap I will be in heaven. Some will go as Christmas presents to those people I'm not really meant to buy for and some will fill the soap container to be used at home.