As some of you may know last month we spent a week visiting the beautiful country of Morocco (see my travel column about our time in the Atlas Mountains here). While in Marrakesh we spent quite a bit of time wandering through the maze of souks (markets) and admiring all the various stalls and shops selling leather purses and slippers, ceramic bowls, carpets, jewelry, antiques and pretty much anything else you could ever desire.
One of our favorite shops to visit were the spice shops. They were full of bottles upon bottles filled with every kind of spice and herb you could ever imagine. The aroma these shops give off can be smelled from far away and is almost intoxicating while you’re actually inside.
At the shop above we bought little plastic sacks filled with freshly ground cumin (did you know in Morocco they put salt and cumin on the dining table instead of salt and pepper?), Moroccan 35 spice, the most intense yellow tumeric I’ve ever seen, Moroccan curry and the most amazing and pungent smelling cinnamon ever. Since returning home I’ve tried all my spices and they are absolutely amazing. They add so much flavour to any dish.
But the most intriguing items we bought in one of these little spice shops were the coloured powdered pigments. At first we had no idea what all the jars full of coloured water were but the kind shop owner Mohammed explained that these are pigments used for painting and dying clothing. As a lover of bright colours and anything creative I decided to buy some to experiment with back home on a rainy day. As luck would have it, the week after we arrived home we had a stay-at-home day and these pigments were the perfect activity to stay warm in front of the fireplace.
Mohammed told us to mix small amounts of the pigment powders with lemon juice. I think the kids had just as much fun doing this than the actual painting. The colours turned out so vibrant and reminiscent of the colours we saw everywhere in Morocco.
The paint has quite a different texture to normal paints and actually dries with a beautiful smooth and almost shiny finish.
It’s not often that these big kids of mine have time to sit down and paint for a morning like we did so often in the past. I have to admit that I loved every single minute of it.
And another folkabilly apron has been made! As some of you may remember, last year I received a stack of vintage apron patterns from my grandmother and I have a goal to slowly make them all. This is the third pattern I’ve tried (others are here and here). These patterns are relatively easy to follow and have the bonus of having all the pattern pieces pre-cut (amazing how much time that saves!).
This is a really pretty half-apron that is actually really flattering when on. My sewing group and I decided to sew the red version seen on the pattern envelope below.
The pattern involves some patchwork, rickrack, bias edging and a shaped high waistband. So feminine and pretty.
I used some cotton fabric my mother had brought me in the fall and the floral/stripe combination ended up matching beautifully.
If I had had more rickrack on hand I would have included at least two more rows of it. You can never have too much rickrack on a vintage apron my friends.
I’m going to send this apron to my grandmother who just turned 91 years old. She may not cook too much anymore but I think she will appreciate it just the same.
This past summer while we were in Belgium we were invited to spend an afternoon in the ceramics studio of a very talented aunt of my husband. Tante Lief has been making the most beautiful plates, bowls, platters, figurines and jewelry for years and every time I visit I fall more in love with everything she does. I have bowls from Lief that I’ve been using for over 15 years and they’re still in perfect shape.
We arrived at their house mid-afternoon and the kids started playing with the clay within minutes. In the end there were over 10 cousins busily modelling clay into the most beautiful creations.
All the kids had lots of ideas of what they wanted to make. My daughters opted for chickens while my son a volcano (go figure). Tante Lief was the perfect teacher and was busily running around from one kid to the next helping and giving tips. Even though she had so many small kids in her studio she was relaxed as can be and the kids had the most wonderful afternoon (the adults as well).
After the sculpting we all took a break for some amazing home-made pizzas (thanks to Nonkel Jan!). By the time we were done eating the pieces were dry enough to be painted. There was lots of discussing and contemplating before the perfect colours were chosen.
After a fantastic day we all left and Tante Lief promised she would bake all of our pieces and get them to us as soon as she could. And luckily for us she dropped by our house in Italy this past week-end and the kids got to see their finished creations for the first time.
And they are proud!
One day last week my little guy Nico approached me and asked if we could do some wood work. Always game to crack out my handy jigsaw I jumped at the chance.
We found some old pieces of wood from a previous project and Nico decided he wanted to draw a simple shape on the board to cut out with the saw. He opted for a fish.
We put on our protective gloves and goggles and started sawing away. It’s possible we even got a little carried away and sawed right into our outdoor wooden table (oops). Oh and due to some reckless sawing the fish became more of an eye (that fish tail kept getting in the way anyway).
After he had his desired shape (sort of) he decided to paint it. We got out some thick masking tape so that the lines would be well defined and got busy painting the different rings of colour. Due to the 40 degree heat it took less than a minute for each colour to dry so we could continue with the painting without having to wait around too much.
We loved ripping off the masking tape to find beautiful crisp clear lines on our wood. We continued the project off and on over the following days. The sisters decided to get involved as well so we have a beautiful collection of painted wooden pieces at the moment.
I loved watching the thought process that went into the colour combinations and their concentration while painting.
After they had finished painting their lines they sprayed their wooden pieces with special varnish. That way if we leave them hanging outside the paint will be more protected against harsh weather.
Nico’s tail-less fish. Or eye. Or whatever he wants it to be.
A few weeks ago my mother-in-law and I were browsing through our favorite second hand shop and I came across a basket full of old vintage Belgian doilies (most were handmade lace and a few were crocheted) for anywhere from 10 cents to 50 cents a piece. I grabbed a handful, paid less than 3 euro for them and took them home.
There were lots of questions as to what I was going to do with them (and the look on my husband’s face when I enthusiastically showed them was a mix of surprise and terror). And to tell you the truth, at that point I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do with them. I just knew there was a project using doilies just waiting for me and I had to give it time to be become clear what it exactly was. Yeah I know, I’m a nerd.
And sure enough a few weeks later I was rummaging through an old drawer and found a set of “naked” fairy lights. I knew then and there what that pile of doilies was going to be made into.
I decided that I wanted the doilies to be slightly stiff so they wouldn’t hang so limply from the lights. I didn’t have any starch of any kind so I made a mixture of normal white glue and water. I then dipped the doilies in the mixture, squeezed out any excess and placed them on a wine glass to dry in a nice lampshade shape (this was all trial and error…I had no idea if it was going to work or not).
To my surprise (and joy) the next morning the doilies were all completely dry and stiff enough to hold the shape that I was looking for.I then had to snip the centres of the doilies in order to fit the little fairy lights through (some had holes big enough but most needed a little snip). Once I had the fairy lights throught centre hole I hand sewed the doilies around the centre so that the light wouldn’t slip back through.
I find the final result really beautiful with all the different shades of white and cream, the different sizes of doilies and the various lace patterns. In the evening it makes the most beautifully romantic shadows on all the surrounding walls.
I even included one that was made by my great grandmother.
A few weeks ago I discovered a new favorite magazine called Flow. It’s a Dutch magazine full of beautiful handmade creations, stunning photography, artistic souls and so so much more. The magazine is in Dutch but you don’t even have to understand it to be able to love it.
They’ve put a unique touch on everything from the writing styles to the fonts to the fact they use different sorts of paper throughout the magazine. They keep you up-to-date on everything new and innovative in the whole lifestyle/creative scene.
While browsing through a recent copy of the magazine I found a small article about Scout which is a content marketing agency located in Portland, Oregon. Scout offers these absolutely amazing monthly 3-d calendars for free. You just have to visit their site and sign up for the calendar of the month club to receive it by e-mail.
Here is August’s calendar. How sweet is this?
I, for obvious reasons, really fell in love with this one.
And this one too.
Check out the Scout blog here and the Flow site here.
Last week-end some friends and I organised a felting morning for all of our children. We’ve done various felting workshops in the past with our kids and they’ve always really enjoyed it. They’ve tried needle felting (a few painful stabs were felt) and the hot water with soap method (the room was SOAKED). Either way the kids loved doing it and always finish feeling very proud of their work.
This time the kids were asked beforehand to make a relatively simple drawing of something they love or find beautiful.
They then had to cut out pieces of different coloured felt to re-create the drawing. We put the drawing on the table with bubble wrap over top so it was easy to see. They then placed all the pieces of felt on top of their design.
Then they placed a piece of cream coloured felt on top of their “felted drawing” and slowly poured hot soapy water over top. They gently patted it with their fingers to start the actual felting process.Slowly the kids can start to see their designs coming through. The fun part…patting, rubbing, rolling and throwing the felt around.Checking to see if it’s the desired size (the more you work the felt the smaller it gets).
A Japanese inspired temple gate and a lighthouse of her dreams.
A sunny sunflower and a winged princess (5 year old artist).A cherry blossom branch and a clown with umbrella.