Archive for the ‘homemade’ Category

I have talked about my homemade festive cards in previous posts, however, since there have been lots of new subscribers to this blog in 2017, in the spirit of the season, I’d like to welcome everyone aboard and share the idea again.

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I make a festive card featuring my kids each year. The tradition began with the birth of my middle child, Samuel in 2002, and continued when the youngest was born three years later, featuring both the youngest boys on the cover.

In one little festive-themed image, I could instantly update friends and family about the kids’ progress, and using cards recycled from the year before. It was a win-win situation. The homemade card is easy, super cheap being made out of mostly recycled materials, and most importantly, it’s fun to do.

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Every year, towards the end of November, I make my kids sit and pose for the Xmas photo. There’s always a lot of moaning and groaning. But, eventually they cooperate, and we always get a good picture. Sometimes they help with the crafting of the cards, yet even if they don’t, that really is the fun part, crafting the end result.

So, if you’d like to start a new family tradition and try making the card yourself, here’s the process:

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Start by taking your chosen photo and reducing the size to fit your choice of card size. I like to do miniatures so the pictures are small and dinky. I am able to get eight miniatures onto an A4 page. Once you’ve set them out on the page the way you want it print as many pages as needed. I usually limit it to sixteen cards in total, as they do take a bit of time and one has to divide one’s time between a lot of activities at Christmas.

Next, cut out the pictures.

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I make templates for the size of the card and the layer of decorative paper in between, and the photo, so a bit of the decorative paper and a border of the card itself will show around the image, in other words, each is progressively larger. Using a template keeps things uniform and pleasing to the eye, and saves time each year.

For the cardboard, I buy cheap bulk packs of old Christmas cards from charity shops. Sometimes, I save the cards we’ve received from the year before and recycle them by pasting white paper over the writing inside.

Either way, cut out sixteen pieces of cardboard to the size of the first template.

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Cut out sixteen pieces of festive themed paper, to the next size template.

Glue the paper onto the front of the card. Don’t worry about whether the patterns match or if you’ve got the layers running in different directions. This is art. Be funky and wild and have fun with it. Go crazy, man!

Then, trim your photo to the size of the picture template.

Choose your bling. I use a type of synthetic crafting fibre which my mother bought for me at a crafting fair many moons ago, which forms a sheet of shimmery stuff. With names like Cotton Candy and Lemon Sparkle you can’t go wrong. I take a clump of that, and iron it flat, then I cut the sheet into small strips or rectangles to add a touch of shimmer. You could also cut up cellophane or tinsel. Alternatively, you could use good old glitter.

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Paste your family photo on top of this background decorative paper, trapping the synthetic fiber, tinsel or cellophane in between.

Decorate! Let ‘er rip and have fun embellishing the fronts of the cards. Sometimes I use glitter, beads and doodads. But, this year, I just added stickers, using up all the kids’ festive themed stickers. Double bonus!

Write a personal message inside each card and send them snail mail to friends and family.

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Fifteen years later and the satisfaction hasn’t waned. I’ve just mailed fourteen handmade cards to friends and family and it feels lovely.

I always make sure there are two cards left over, one for me, as a keepsake, and one “spare.” The funny thing is, every year without fail, I get asked by a random person whether they could receive one of our cards, and I say, ‘yes, I happen to have one left over.’ The spare always finds a home! Last year, the spare went to Paeroa, New Zealand, and this year, it went to Istanbul, Turkey!

We get a terrific response to our cards. Let us know if you do, too!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

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There is nothing quite like the smell of an extra spicy fruit cake baking in the oven, however, the Queen of them all is the old English style Christmas Cake. In essence, it’s a deeply rich fruit mixture heavy on the fruit and steeped in rum or brandy. Thick and dense, it bakes for up to four hours on a low heat, which is a nice long time for the smell to permeate the house. We love it.

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I come from a family of British immigrants to New Zealand, and despite the fact we have summer in the festive season, my parents continued the tradition of the “Christmas Cake.” I have raised my boys with our own version of the family tradition. At the end of November, my kids and I don our aprons and head into the kitchen for the labour of love.

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I think the secret to a good result is in soaking the fruit in orange juice and rum or brandy overnight. In the old English style, the ratio of dried fruit to flour is about four to one. Typically, there will be raisins, currants, sultanas and chopped dates. Most recipes call for glace cherries and crystallised ginger, but, as I’m not fond of these ingredients, I like to add chopped dried apricots and figs and extra blanched almonds.

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This year, my boys and I came up with a fun idea for a crafty gift. We only used half the batter for the traditional rectangular cake, which will be iced closer to Christmas with brandy butter icing.

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The other half of the batter, we fashioned into rough balls and baked in muffin tins. In this form, they take half the time, roughly two to two and a half hours at a low heat. They form a nice firm ball. Once cool, we dusted them lightly with sifted icing sugar.

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We wrapped the individual balls in baking paper, making neat little parcels with cotton gift ties.

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I had been collecting gift boxes and tins from the thrift stores the last few weeks. We wrapped the paper parcels in cellophane wrap to ensure they will stay fresh as long as possible and divided the balls between the tins and boxes.

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We wrote a personalised message on a gift tag inside each lid.

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We tied a ribbon on each box and there you have it, our Christmas Cake Balls as a gift you can make with your kids and give away at this year.

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Do you make your own gifts or have your own crafting traditions at this time of year? If so, let us know!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It is never too late to start enjoying a happy childhood. ~ Joy Cowley

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

Launching your first book is like delivering your first baby. There is great cause for much celebration and rightly so, as no one knows other than other authors and publishers, the extent of effort, money and concentration it takes to deliver a fully-formed book into the world. You cross that finish line as a debut author and you throw a party with catered food, fancy decorating and elephants, and you dance till dawn.

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The second book, like the second baby, tends to be a quieter affair. You’re more tired this time round. Your hands are fuller. You take fewer pictures. You have two novels to be responsible for and yet, there is also the third story to write.

At the same time there are the same rounds of media sites which need updating, interviews, and online conversations to be had and bells to ring in order to publicise your new creation to the world. The dreaded self-marketing engine that the Indie author needs to kick into overdrive must work overtime now on promoting that book to the world.

And, sometimes, this conflict of interests can call for new solutions. Enter, the mini-launch. I don’t know if this is a “thing” already, but if not, I’m making it one.

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For the celebration of The Sasori Empire (http://amzn.com/B075PMTN2H), the second novel in my upper middle grade series, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver, I wanted to commemorate the moment and have a party.

The trouble was, I had expended so much time and energy on producing the little dickens that I had nothing left to give. All I wanted to do was recline on a beach in Fiji and sip a cocktail, there was no way I was going to rev up the engines for a massive party as well. So, I hatched the idea of the “mini-launch,” essentially the smallest version of a book party you can have.

~ Here’s how ~

Venue: The first thing is where and when. I simply requested to add the launch of book two into the mix of a get-together I already go to each week, in this case, my local Toastmaster’s meeting. Cost: $0. (Apart from the annual fee, which I would pay anyway).

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Invite list: That way, I didn’t have to worry about people turning up. I knew the crowd of people would be there and they were my friends. You could do the same with your book club or critique group. I also invited one or two other people as guests.

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Catering: I paid a friend who is a baker to make two dozen mini cupcakes. Cost: $20. I bought a bottle of bubbles and a bottle of freshly-squeezed orange juice. Cost: $24.

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Decoration: VistaPrint helped me create two personalized signs. They have the same legend on both sides and plastic stands and only cost $50. A friend donated the dragonfly tablecloth.

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Agenda: When you make your book launch part of an established club meeting, you don’t have to worry about figuring out an agenda or writing the script. All I needed to focus on was writing and learning my speech. At the end of the meeting, the Toastmaster announced that I would be signing books and we broke open the bubbly at that point. I signed and sold my first box of books, and had interesting conversations with would-be authors.

 

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Photos/video: I took along my own camera and tripod. I shoulder-tapped a friend on the day and asked if she would press the record button when I started speaking. And I did the same with the camera after the meeting, getting various folks to take photos. I got a very serviceable video of my speech and some nice pictures of the occasion. The whole thing took an hour and a half. It cost under $100. Whereas my first book launch cost me three times that amount and took double the time.

I’m here to say the mini book launch works. It announces a worthwhile achievement. It sets the book off on its own course in the world with minimum fuss or cost, which is not to say that next time I won’t throw a huge party, it is to say, sometimes when means are limited, there are other ways of commemorating the moment that won’t break the bank.

If you do try your own mini launch, let me know how you go. I want photos!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” ~ Confucius

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

 

 

Need to reduce some of the overindulgence in your diet and yet still craving some treats and “goodies” to look forward to? Me, too!

Recently, I had noticed a few stomach gripes after eating rich meals. I could see myself heading down a slippery slope to ill health if I didn’t start to make a few informed and wise choices with my diet.

Once you reach a certain age it pays dividends to start to think about things like healthy options which will support optimum blood sugar levels and hormone production. I gave my diet an overhaul as I needed to introduce some good fats and cut down on the not-so-good fats. My health professional suggested adding Chia seeds to my breakfast or in smoothies, as well as adding coconut oil in place of butter. She recommended increasing the healthy oils on salads too. Fat is required to make healthy hormones.

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She also proposed alternative snack foods like fresh fruit and vegetables. I used to buy plenty of fruit during the week for the kids to snack on and yet not eat any of it myself! I started buying more fruit and eating a couple of pieces daily. I started eating the fruit we produce on the trees in our own yard instead of giving it all away.

And yet, I still wanted to have a few yummy “treats” to look forward to after dinner. The desire for a bit of decadence has driven me to do a bit of experimenting in the kitchen of late. I always seek options to help alkalise the body too.

In my mission to cut bread from my diet about ten years ago, I had eliminated all bread and therefore all grains. When encouraged by my health professional to reintroduce bread, the first thing I thought of was spicy sultana loaf. I found Vogels make a beautiful wholemeal “extra thick fruit & spice” bread. However, mindful of trying to eat the right fats, I came up with a viable alternative to slathering my toast with butter.

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I experimented and found that if I spread about half a teaspoon of coconut oil on the toast first, and then all I needed was the lightest of touches of butter on the top. So you feel like you’re eating buttered toast when really it’s mainly coconut oil.

What delicious sort of drink would complement this dessert perfectly?

I came up with an utterly decadent drink which is simple to make: real hot chocolate. It’s purely two ingredients: milk and dark chocolate.

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Here’s the method:

Heat a cup of what I call “good” milk – I bought organic non-homogenised milk. Do not overheat! Aim to bring up the temperature to warm.

Slice a few squares of good dark chocolate and add to the milk. Stir.

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Heat further.

Remember, you’re aiming to raise the temperature of the liquid to near-simmer but without boiling. Once you boil the milk it loses all its goodness and changes consistency.

Once the temperature is right give it a whisk with a spoon. And savour.

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The warmed chocolate milk taken with the spicy fruit bread is the perfect healthy, yet decadent snack. Yum yum.

Do you have any recipes which seem so good they must be bad for you?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Keep clean, body and mind.’ ~ Sir Frederick Treves, 1903

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

 

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Ever since the first year my son Sam-the-man was able to sit unaided, I have photographed him and made a Christmas card for our family.

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Sam was born with Down’s syndrome. The card began as a way of celebrating him and his achievements. It created a small yet meaningful tradition for our family. Once his little brother came along, the card featured the two boys and it became another way to chronicle their lives.

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I think people gravitate towards things which are home-made. Those are always the favourite gifts from the kids. I send a parcel to the boys’ grandfather every year at this time. I send him gifts and the boys’ artwork, their calendars, stories they’ve written, as well as our Xmas card.  This is what the older generation, grandparents especially, live for.

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The card is simple, easy to make, creative, fun.

The Photo:

Any parent can tell you, the first and hardest step in any Xmas photo is the child-wrangling.

*Tip: Don’t leave it till December. Try to get the photo taken before the festive season.

I aim to get the photo taken in the last couple of weeks of November, as this gives me a leeway of time up my sleeve if the boys prove resistant to having their photo taken. Ha ha. *evil laugh, rubs hands together!*

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Once I’ve managed to coral them into one room with the box of Christmas get-up, then they must be persuaded with promises of treats, to dress up. After that, I snap as many shots as I can take before they start begging to be let out.

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The boys are fourteen and eleven respectively, this year, and it’s getting harder and harder to coerce them into the festive shoot. You’d think it’d be getting easier, but, no!

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The Construction:

Picture chosen, print up a dozen pictures at 10 cm x 7 cm, and trim them. I like to keep them to a small size because some people like to hang the cards on their tree.

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Then, I choose which cardboard to use. Originally, I used to recycle old cardboard. We have a saying in New Zealand, ‘reduce, re-use, recycle,’ which we try to adhere to as much as possible. Some years, I cut old Christmas cards down to size. This year, however, I sourced a small box from the Hospice shop which were the right size which was a great option as they came supplied with their own envelopes.

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Glue a sheet of paper cut to a couple of centimetres shorter than the card to the front of the card stock. This will form an edging like a frame for the picture. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. I like to see a little of the construction in crafts.

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*Tip: Every year, on Boxing Day, I do a ritual of taking the discarded gift-wrap and cutting up the beautiful or unusual wrap into small, clean pieces for later craft projects. In this case, I have some rather special rescued reindeer, snowflake, and red-chequered print paper.

My mother used to buy me a crafting material called “Hot Fuzz,” coloured synthetic fibres which bond together under the heat of a warm iron (through paper). I cut a dozen rectangular wedges of a sheet of Hot Fuzz, for the dazzle. You could use holographic cellophane just as well for this.

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Stick the photograph on top of the recycled paper, trapping a wedge of Hot Fuzz/cellophane between the layers.

*Tip: use a glue stick as “wet” glue can stain the paper. Press the cards under something flat and heavy between each glued layer as it creates a flatter, more pleasing finish. Make sure each layer is fully dry before you add another.

This year, I bought a “Card Kit” of decorations at the Hospice Shop. It included diamante leaves, silver stars, silver bows and transparent beads. I also sourced some finer glitter.

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*Tip: When you add the glitter, make sure to place the card on a small tray as it’s really hard to collect and re-use the left-over sparkles otherwise.

On top of the photo, in the same corner as the Hot Fuzz, apply embellishment, be it a delicate bow or a star. In the lower right corner, on a sweep of glue, drizzle more glitter and add beads or stickers.

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The last step is to write a personal message inside. Then, post it, yes, via snail mail. It still exists.

I posted ours to the lucky recipients. One Facebook friend – who had requested a card – responded, she ‘couldn’t take her eyes off it.’ Yay!

A Christmas craft project completed feels wonderful. This year, I even had enough left to put one on our own shelf. Joy.

Do you have a festive family tradition? Do you enjoy crafting? Do share in the comments below!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. ~ Albert Einstein