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Urban Jungle Bloggers: Green Gifts

4 May

2015ujbapril1Giving plants as gifts is one of my favourite things.  I love visiting friends’ houses and gardens and seeing the plants and flowers I’ve given thriving and growing and being appreciated.  And I really love the fact that when people see these gifts on their windowsills, book shelves and kitchen counters they sometimes think of me and our friendship.  Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

This month’s Urban Jungle Bloggers theme is Offer a Plant To a Friend.  Usually I give miniature succulents as gifts because they are easy to package and are a low maintenance plant for my friends who don’t have much of a green thumb.  A few weeks ago my daughters and I gave this one to a dear friend and it made her so happy.2015ujbapril3
But for this month’s UJB post I decided to re-create my favourite green gift that I ever received.  When my son was a chubby little four year old he arrived home from kindergarten one day with a little pot of self-sown water cress.  He proudly snipped off the sprouts and served them to me on a piece of bread and butter.  It was so simple but one of the most delicious little meals I’ve ever been served.  The big blue eyes and dimples helped I’m sure.
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I thought an “adult version” of this sweet little green gift would be perfect to take to a friend who had invited us to dinner and asked me to bring a little pre-dinner snack.

So about a week before the dinner date I sprinkled some watercress seeds on dampened cotton balls in a beautiful little hand-painted ceramic bowl (found at Maison du Monde).  They were ready just in time for the dinner.

I also took some tasty brown bread and the fanciest little tin of butter I could find (because when else would you spend 5euro on butter?).   The hostess was delighted with the gift and so happy that she could continue to grow the watercress in the little pot (I included a little envelope of seeds).

2015ujbapril4Not your typical “green plant” gift but one that I think a lot of people would love to receive.

*Urban Jungle Bloggers is a monthly series initiated by 2 bloggers: Igor (Happy Interior Blog) and Judith (JOELIX.com). Every month they share ideas to create an urban jungle through styling ideas, DIYs and green tips & tricks. You can find additional inspiration on their Urban Jungle Bloggers Pinterest board and keep up-to-date on our website and Facebook page. Want to join? Use #urbanjunglebloggers on Twitter and Instagram. Or let them know and they’ll share the badge and upcoming topics with you. Let’s bring some green into our homes and blogs!  

Map Themed Gift Guide

12 Dec

I wrote a map themed gift-guide over on Classic Play that includes some really fantastic options for just about anyone on your holiday gift list.  Everything from map adorned leggings and scarves to whiskey flasks and enamel mugs to my favourite map-inspired books on the market at the moment.  Take a look at the full post here.

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Homemade Perfumed Vanilla Oil

4 Apr

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After years of trying to track down my favourite vanilla oil from the Body Shop I was told that it is officially not available for purchase anymore.  I wore that perfume since my early 20s and absolutely loved it (especially since it’s one of the only fragrances that I could wear without the  constant sneezing, watery eyes and headaches).  And I used to get so many compliments as well!  The scent was really a perfect mix between sweet with a hint of spice and was mild enough not to be too overbearing.  Besides the odd comment about smelling like a batch of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies I really loved everything about that oil.

So after seeing it on ebay for $150 a bottle I finally decided that I needed to try my hand at perfume making.  And in the end I have to admit that it’s quite simple.  All you really need is lots of patience to get you through the 4-6 weeks of waiting until it’s finished.  Patience is definitely not my strong point so I actually found that the most difficult part.

The finished product has  a really lovely deep vanilla scent that actually lasts for quite a long time.  I use it as a body perfume, room freshener and bath oil.  I’ve even been know to put a bit on our beloved cat Birdie because, well, he stinks.

Everything you need to make this simple Vanilla Perfume Oil is shown in the photo above: vanilla beans, vodka and jojoba oil.  

Read on for full instructions on how to make your own… Continue reading

San Valentino

12 Feb

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and the internets are abuzz with everything from heart shaped foods, to quirky Valentine’s cards to the ULTIMATE gifts to make your loved ones swoon.  Personally I like to keep the whole holiday pretty low-key and relaxed (easy here in Italy where it’s not so celebrated).  I usually bake something sweet (and yes, heart shaped) and maybe make a little card or handmade gift to leave on the breakfast table for when the family wakes up.  Here are a few of my favourite V-day recipes, diy projects, Valentine’s inspiration and cards that will make you giggle.

For over a month my lovely friend Giova has been posting a handmade heart a day on her blog One Bunting Away.  She is a talented embroiderer and paper artist and I’ve really loved reading each and every heart post.  Read her passionate Valentine’s Day manifesto here.

These seemingly rude Valentine’s cards from Etsy Shop Sunny and Susan really make me laugh. 

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I’m going to try and make these Red Velvet Cupcakes in a Jar (because we all know that desserts in jars taste so much better!).  And as I do every year I’ll also whip up a batch of my grandmother’s rich and buttery Brown Sugar Shortbreads.  And I’m thinking this heart shaped bacon and heart shaped egg in the hole would be perfect for a Valentine’s breakfast or brunch (although I think I’ll pass on these Weiner and Cheese hearts).

This round-up of Nerds in Love Valentine’s cards by Mighty Girl had me in stitches.

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Last year my daughters and I sewed up some of these little puffy heart necklaces for their friends.  Easy to make and really cute to see a little gaggle of girls wearing them.  These necklaces were featured on some really great Valentine’s round-ups herehere and here.

Surprise Message Bunting Cards

4 Feb

The other day I was chatting with one of my twin daughters about Valentine’s Day and all the fun we’ve had in the past making up special treats and cards for their classmates over the years. Over here in Italy (and I think generally in Europe) Valentine’s Day is a day reserved for couples and adults and not something kids celebrate like in North America.  So even though my kids have always been one of the few that celebrate it in school it has still become a lovely yearly tradition to make something together for their friends.
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This year we decided to make simple cards with sewn paper buntings that have little hidden messages.  Easy, quick and fun for kids of just about any age.IMG_4048-001

This is all you need to make these sweet little cards.  I used glassine for the actual bunting paper so that you can see the pretty patterned paper through it.  If you don’t have glassine paper any type of paper would be fine.
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I cut the glassine paper in long strips and folded it in half to have a square piece of paper.  I then sewed the pieces of glassine squares together with the sewing machine (making sure the folded edge is on the bottom).  This way the glassine paper is sewn on the top, closed by the fold on the bottom and open on the two sides (to make it easier to slip in the small pieces of paper with message on the back).IMG_4068After sewing the bunting together we slipped in little square pieces of paper with our special messages on the back.  Seeing as the glassine is open on both sides the messages are easy to slip in and out.  We then simply attached the sewn paper bunting to our cards with tiny heart stickers (pieces of washi would also be nice).

Now to come up with all the short little messages to go inside.  Some of my favourites that my kids have suggested for their classmates are: ‘you have nice handwriting’, ‘you are pretty smart’, ‘you have the best snacks’ and ‘you don’t smell’.  Let’s hope their romantic sides develop a little more in the years to come.

Handmade Winter

30 Jan

It’s a cold and rainy day here in Northern Italy.  We had a very much anticipated snowstorm last night that had lots of local school kids crossing their fingers in their sleep for a day off school.  Unfortunately the snow turned to rain and the school buses left at their usual time.  There were quite a few disappointed kids heading to school this morning.

After months of mild and sunny days I have to get used to these lower temperatures and the need to wear scarves and winter coats.   In general I’m not a huge fan of the cold but I do love these chilly days where I get to hole up in my house with the fireplace on and putter around keeping myself busy sewing, baking and crafting.  I know the novelty will wear off pretty quickly so indulge me while I wax on about my love for these wintery days.

Today I wanted to tell you all about a great way that you can keep positive, creative, warm and busy through whatever kind of winter you’re experiencing.HANDMADE WINTER SMALL COVER

A few months ago some very talented artists, designers, bloggers, mothers and overall amazing ladies put together an incredible e-book called Handmade Winter with over 50 winter-inspired crafts, activities, recipes, entertaining ideas and more.  They’ve included everything from how to brew the perfect cup of tea to a maxi-skirt sewing tutorial to instructions on how to make yourself a leather and chain chevron necklace.  One of my favourite things about this book is the variation it offers.  There is something for everyone (husbands and kids included).

creative-mamas-winter-ebookThis book will help us all get through these long cold wintery months (especially thanks to the Warm Masala Chai recipe found on page 25/26!).

Handmade Winter costs $15 (US) and is easily purchased and downloaded on-line.

Festive Breakfast-In-Bed Table

18 Jun

We celebrated a wonderful Father’s Day this past week-end.  Usually Father’s Day in Italy is on March 19th but for some reason or another we’ve always celebrated it on the third Sunday of June like in Canada.  Seeing as the kids were all away last week on various school trips they hadn’t really managed to prepare anything special for their beloved Papa.  The panic started setting in on Friday evening so by the time I woke up on Saturday morning all three kids were standing by my bed ready (and stressed) to start crafting.IMG_9161

They decided they wanted to make a really special breakfast in bed.  They wanted to serve fresh fruits, poffertjes (miniature Dutch pancakes), freshly squeezed orange juice and they wanted it served in an extraordinary manner.  After some discussing and sketching we had come up with what we wanted to do and a list of things needed to be bought at the local diy.

IMG_9166The idea was to make a festive breakfast-in-bed table with some over the top decorations.  We bought a piece of wood, 4 wooden furniture legs, a long wooden rod (which we cut in half) and some screws.  For the whole afternoon we were busy sanding, sawing, drilling and painting before it was ready for the fun part.  Decorating.  We used Washi tape to decorate the edges of the table, some ribbon for bows and to wind up the poles and then we sewed our much loved tassels (bought in Morocco) to some pompom string.  The end result was exactly what the kids had in mind.  It may be a little kitsch (ok a lot) but it definitely  let’s the person being served breakfast-in-bed know (loud and clear )that they’re special and loved.  We even managed to only spill one full bottle of juice on our bed during the ceremonial breakfast.  That’s serious progress from last time.IMG_9204

And of course the little one of the family insisted on being served lunch in bed to get the full feel of the festive-breakfast-in-bed -table experience.

This will become standard practice for any special occasion, vip visitors or just when we feel a family member is in need of little extra attention and love.  We’ll be able to easily change the decorations for every occasion as well.  I’m thinking miniature garlands, pompoms, special placemats and napkins!  The options are endless.

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