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How to Have a Present Free Christmas and Spend Less on Christmas Day

Or ‘The Spawning of a new Christmas Myth and the Death of Tradition’

Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year. I love everything about it. The lights, the decorations and, most importantly, the surprises. I love shopping for people and planning menus. There isn’t anything I don’t like about it.

Okay, that is not technically true. There are several things I don’t like. I am not fond of having the same conversation every year with my hubby.

“What do you want for Christmas, My Love?”
“Sleep”
“Besides sleep, what do you want for Christmas?”
“Nothing”

Seriously, you could use that conversation as a fixed point in time. No passage through the Space-Time Vortex can change this one moment in our year.

And I don’t love haemorrhaging money. How expensive has Christmas become? The pressure the media put on us to give more and be perfect examples of domestic goddesses at this time of year is becoming unfathomable. Stores start advertising Christmas earlier and earlier, trying to get us to part with more and more money. And I cannot say I am immune. I love to give gifts. Watching people’s faces light up when opening something I have meticulously chosen because I think they will love it is a wonderful feeling.

The Death of Tradition

Fair warning here, if you are looking for Christmas ideas that involve a traditional roast lunch with brussels sprouts followed by getting drunk and starting a family argument, you’re not going to find it here.

For starters, I live in Australia. There is no other day that you would think, ‘it’s so hot outside that the countryside is melting in a Dali-esque manner, I think I’ll turn the oven on and heat the house up. A hot meal is exactly what we all need and I’ll feel so much more festive, relaxed and refreshed after standing next to a 180 degree oven making gravy.’

For me, Christmas is a time to share some fun, bonding time with my family. To flex my imagination and plan a day I know everyone will enjoy and file away in their bank of happy memories to look back on.

Growing up my mother gave us wonderful Christmas’ full of fun and joy. Traditional, but with one difference to all the other family Christmas’ I have been lucky enough to participate in over the years. And it is a tradition I have brought forward to my own family.

As children, presents lasted all day for us. Not because there were so many or because we had lots of money. Farmers in South Australia are not likely to top the highest earners list any time soon. It is because we did not open all our presents at once.

Before breakfast we got to wake our parents up and find out what Santa had brought us in our Christmas stocking. Then we would share breakfast as a family, always something a little fancy rather than the usual farm fare, and afterwards we were allowed to open our gifts from Mum and Dad. While we played and enjoyed what we had been given, Mum would prepare lunch and, if it was a late harvest, sometimes Dad would have to go out and work until lunch time.

After a huge, traditional roast lunch we would be allowed to open the gifts from extended family.

So this conversation happened one Christmas lunch on a farm far, far away –

Me, fussy eater, about 12 years old “I don’t like turkey”
Mum, genius, great cook and master manipulator, “You haven’t tried it before.  It tastes like chicken.”
“I don’t like it.”
“Well that’s why I cooked a chicken and put some slices down the bottom just for you.”

Me – happily takes my ‘chicken’.
Grown ups – silently in awe of my mother.

To add to this gradual opening of presents, we took turns opening the gifts under our tree one at a time. One child played ‘Santa’s helper’ and handed out the gifts under the tree to people and each one was opened and appreciated before the next gift was opened. This little slice of delayed gratification was wonderful in that we not only learned early on to feel excited when other people are happy and to be a part of each other’s joy, but learned to appreciate each gift and the person who gave it.

For years I had no idea that other families opened all their presents first thing in the morning and then it was just lunch, rellies and napping for the rest of the day. Last year I mentioned to my mother that I loved that she did this and she told me she had started it because she felt bad that it was often just the four of us for Christmas. The majority of our family lived a six hour drive away and we couldn’t leave the farm unattended at that time of year. Potential bushfires, stock and harvest time all formed a perfect trifecta of reasons we were housebound on Christmas Day. I am so appreciative that she found a way to make us feel like Christmas lasted all day even if we weren’t travelling around to spend time with family like so many other people.

A Present Free Christmas Sarcastic Whimsy style.

Two years ago our children, masters of patience and delayed gratification, decided that they would like to go without gifts for two years in order to put the money we would usually spend on Christmas on another family cruise. Have I ever mentioned that I love them? They are fucking awesome! No seriously. They are bloody brilliant.

No gifts, huh? How do you do Christmas without gifts? I started thinking and came up with a genius idea. It was pure brilliance. It was perfect… it was also not to be. Just as I started putting all the pieces in place for my no-present joyfest, we got notice that we needed to move house and all our energies were put into that. Once settled I quickly realised that our new place was not suited to this idea.  In fact, we soon realised that our new abode was not suited to us in general.  Too small, too ugly, too falling down.  But I digress as usual.  I was talking about my idea.  An I idea that I am keeping quiet about because I am certain I will use it at some stage all all and sundry will continue to be amazed by my brilliant idea.

After much thinking, I settled on my new no present Christmas idea. I can tell you that there is a lot of pressure in finding an idea that will make everyone in our diverse clan happy for Christmas without spending much money.

I cancelled Christmas.

Yes, you heard me.

I cancelled Christmas.

As you know, I have teens. Teens are notorious for sleeping in and being lazy. And I have a husband who isn’t particularly occasiony. That conversation we have every year pretty much sums up his attitude to Christmas. He is the antithesis of me. The yin to my yang. The Bert to my Ernie. The Lano to my Woodley. The Grinch to my Cindy-Lou. You get the idea. He’s the sensible one in our relationship that makes sure I don’t get hit by a bus when crossing the road. Road crossing can be dangerous when you’ve been distracted by butterflies.

As discussed, every year when I ask him what he wants for Christmas, he answers “sleep”. And when I push him, because that’s a crap answer, he responds “nothing.” And while my children are fun and wonderful people, I feel that his influence on them is not altogether good. When asked what they want for Christmas, my girls often respond “sleep”. BASTARDS! The lot of them! Spoiling all my Christmassy excitement. Seriously, I am the first one awake on Christmas, waiting for my children to get up and discover what I have done for them. I am so excited that it is hard not to jump on them the way they used to jump on me at 5:30 am on Christmas Past.

The Spawning of a New Christmas Myth

Without gifts to deliver, Santa wasn’t actually necessary to the equation.

So without further adieu, I would like to introduce <underwhelming fanfare please>

 

 

The Christmas Sloth fully supports sleeping in and doing nothing all day.

Present Free Christmas

My children woke up to letters left outside their doors from the Christmas Sloth explaining that Christmas was cancelled. Santa had been… detained and with any luck would be able to visit in time to bring them their cruise in a couple of years.

Click for Printable and Editable Word Doc

In the spirit of spending the entire day slothing around, I made personalised pyjama t-shirts to celebrate the newly created holiday. Five dollar white t-shirts from Big W, some iron on transfer paper from eBay (much cheaper than buying it at Officeworks), a little googling (original image found here) and some photoshopping went in to making everyone their own Slothsmas 2016 t-shirts.


Click here to order T-Shirt Transfer Paper to create your own custom Slothsmas T-shirts from Amazon

I love that my almost grown girls stepped over their letters and t-shirts because they were more excited about surprising me like they used to as tiny children. I’m using the word ‘surprising’ loosely. Two very noticeable lumps (actually, there were four very noticeable lumps on top of two daughter sized lumps) gave away their presence under my duvet when I stepped out of the shower. And just like I used to ten years ago, I pretended not to know they were there and loudly made a to-do over the fact I was tired and would just lay across my bed to nap. Quarter of an hour of giggling and snuggling later, the girls had still not made a move towards the doorway surprises they had walked past earlier.

Unfortunately, at this point Hubby was nowhere to be seen as his pager had been rather uncouth by piercingly summoning him to a fire call before the girls had woken from their holiday slumber.

After making their way back to their rooms to get dressed and discover what was awaiting them outside their doors, it was time for breakfast.

Walking out to the living area, the children found a box from the Christmas sloth. This is where the term ‘present free’ gets a little hazy, but I still stand by it as this is less of a present and more of a box-o-relaxation-and-happiness. Ours was a low-spend day, not a no-spend day.

The girls, who are much more patient and amazing than I am, did not make a move to open the large box wrapped in plain brown paper and string. Personally, if I had seen a mystery box filled with potentially mystical things at their age, I would have been dying to open it. Who are we kidding, if I had seen that yesterday I would have been dying to open it.

But those children are better humans than I am.  They were waiting for their Daddy to get home so he wouldn’t miss out on any Slothsmas surprises he had helped orchestrate.  Knowing that our favourite Grinch would feel bad thinking everyone had put their morning on hold waiting for him to get home from his call out, I told the girls that they were amazing and thoughtful, but to go ahead and open the box.

Inside were things like paper plates, plastic cutlery and glasses, popcorn kernels and paper popcorn cups, a few dvds they’d been dying to watch, a bottle of Baileys (well, my favourite Aldi knock-off that costs $14 instead of $40), a cheap puzzle and a pack of cards and teaspoons. Everything had been purchased at the $2 store with the exception of the DVDs and $10 jigsaw puzzle. All in all, this box cost $106. And most of that was DVDs, our family love watching movies.

While they opened their box of goodies and took selfies with custard (I kid you not), I made breakfast. I had already made all the food we were going to need for the day and had used disposable bowls and trays to serve it on. We had everything we needed for a day free of work, including dishes and cooking. With all the preparation done the day before, I only needed to reheat the croissants and take the fruit platter and spreads out of the fridge. Served on paper plates and disposable trays, there were no dishes to be done at the end of the meal. Everything went straight into the waiting bin liner.

There could be only one thing more relaxing than a chore free day in front of the TV with food laid on. And that would be if that chore free day had a swim up pool bar included.

Fear not! The Christmas Sloth had thought of everything. Upon opening the blinds to the back patio, the children were met with this:

Click for Printable Slothsmas Pool Bar PDF

What’s a good Aussie Christmas without a swim? We don’t have a pool, but that was not going to stop me from giving everyone a swim up pool bar. A tiny wading pool, a blow up palm tree, leis and flamingo fairy lights from Kmart all came together to create the most giggle inducing tropical swim up pool bar you could imagine. Twenty-four dollars well spent.

So there you have it. Not counting food, our entire Christmas without presents cost us $160. It was a day full of joy, laughter, and abject laziness. Hubby’s parents came over for lunch, bringing cold roasted turkey and ham with them. I had done all the preparation possible for the accompanying salads the day before, needing only to cut a few last minute fruits and vegetables up and drizzle dressing over our fresh feast. A languidly slothful day had by all enjoying each others company.

And now, Christmas is upon us for another year.  And the stores are still pressuring us months in advance to buy, buy, buy.  So in the spirit of Slothsmas, I am going to be posting more Low Spend Christmas ideas in the weeks to come.  Last year the Christmas Sloth ripped a hole in the fabric of space and time and we ended up stuck in the 80’s for the day.  This year I have a True Blue idea that will knock their socks off and give the Christmas Sloth an excuse to drop the F bomb several times.

Merry (Impending) Slothsmas!

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Recover your Barstools and Revamp your Space

Refresh, restore, renew.

Today’s project is brought to you by the prefix re-.  As in refresh, restore and renew an item instead of buying new.  In part because I love to get hands on with my home renovation projects.  And also because I am flat broke having found myself retrenched.  Yes, you heard correctly. I am (unfortunately) currently between jobs.  But as they say, every cloud has two birds in the bush and you can’t put a pig in a wet sack. Or something like that.  I seem to remember more silver linings and maybe something about another door opening in the original proverb.

But I digress, as is my way.  I have always wanted to work for myself, and while I know it will take quite some time to be in a position to support myself with the Blogging and Virtual Assistant business I have decided to move forward with, I am positive and looking forward to this new adventure.  Plus, this new change of direction will give me time to get stuck in to all the half finished jobs around the house (that don’t require me to spend a cent because I already planned for them ages ago).

And there are sooo many half finished jobs that I am spoilt for choice.

When my lovely in-laws heard that I was looking at setting up my own business while also looking for paid employment, they donated the two wrought iron stools they had laying around in the shed to the cause.

I knew they had the potential to be an absolutely perfect addition to my breakfast bar (the chairs that is, not my in-laws) and the ideal place to put my tuchus as I sent out job applications and worked on my business.  A little worn, a little rusty and a little weary.  But brimming with potential.  So I promptly left all the unfinished renovations unfinished, and set to work on this newly presented project.

Since I was going to have to do this project without spending a single cent, I had the choice of two suitable fabrics I had bought several months back to make cushion covers for my bedroom.  Thank goodness for my innate need to buy a little extra of everything ‘just in case’.  I loved them both for this project and was leaning towards the patterned fabric until my daughter pointed out it might be a little bit too much once I got all the pictures hung on the stairwell wall nearby.  As usual, she was right and I went for the plain grey fabric, with a little surprise burst of colour on the underside of the stools.  And I considered the idea of making little bolster cushions out of the patterned fabric to stop them looking too plain.

But first things first – for those of you playing along at home, for this project you will need:

  • Fabric of your choice, the exact amount needed will be determined by the size of your seats. I used an unlined triple weave curtain fabric, but whatever you chose make sure it is durable and not too lightweight.  For my seats I used about 70 x 63 cm.
  • Scissors
  • Drill with screwdriver bit/screwdriver
  • Staples and staple gun.
  • Staple remover (or flatblade screwdriver if you, like the vast majority of humans, do not possess a staple remover)
  • Pliers
  • Dressmaker’s pins
  • Wine to celebrate your success. Or to get drunk enough not to see your mistakes.  Up to you really.

1. Remove the seat

The first step is to determine how to remove the seat of your stool.  Flip it over and take a look.  Thankfully for me it was four simple screws holding it in and with the use of my trusty, and much loved Ryobi One Drill it was a simple matter to remove them.  They were a little rusty, so I went downstairs and got some new ones for when it came time to put everything back together.

2. Pull out the staples

With your seat off, place it upside down on your work surface (aka kitchen bench) and get to work removing the staples.  The tiny ones holding in the bottom fabric on my seat were near on impossible to remove any which way I tried, so I simply ripped the fabric off.  This exposed the much larger staples holding the upholstery on.  And while I *have* a staple remover, I certainly didn’t *use* a staple remover.  I used a flat blade screwdriver to get those suckers out (a fact which we will not be sharing with my husband, the technical owner of said screwdriver).  Slide whatever makeshift tool you are using under the staples and lever them out.  Any that are shifting but are being a little more stubborn can be manhandled out with pliers once you have enough to grip. This still left the tiny staples from before, so I once again simply ripped the fabric away from them.

As a side note, before you remove the staples that hold the seat covering in place, look at how the fabric is folded/cut as this is what you will be aiming for in order to have nice smooth edges on your recovered seat.

3. No seriously, there are more staples than you think…

With all the fabric gone, it left enough space for me to be able to manoeuvre a smaller screwdriver under the staples and pull them out with pliers.  But let’s face it, this side is going to be completely covered so technically it wouldn’t have changed the aesthetics of the project if you left them there.  But I knew it would bug me to know I’d only half done the job, so I got stuck in and ripped them all out.  And that’s the longest and most tedious part of this project over and done with.  Pretty quick and easy, right?

If you find that the cushioning of your seat has disintegrated, now would be the time to duck out and grab some foam and cut it to size.  Thankfully mine was absolutely fine and comfy, so I forged ahead without worrying about this.

4. Cut your fabric

Now you have a naked seat, it’s time for the fun part.  Recovering your poor, nekkid seat.  And getting the cut right is easier than you might have first thought.  All you need to do is grab the fabric you had removed from the stool, place it face down on the back of the fabric you will be using, pin in place and cut around it, using the old fabric as a template.

5. Staple fabric in place

Lay the fabric right side up (shocking, I know!) over the seat of your seat, smoothing out any unwanted wrinkles.  And I would assume that all wrinkles are unwanted wrinkles in this situation.

Check it is positioned correctly by folding the fabric around to where it will be stapled.  All good?  Excellent.  Grab your staple gun and start by putting a couple of staples side by side in one side.  Move to the opposite side and, pulling tight to give the completed project a taught, smooth look, put a couple of staples in here as well.  Now work your way around, making sure you remain wrinkle free have neat, even folds to account for the curves.

6. Cover the base

Looking good?  Mine too.  At this stage I was thrilled with how it was beginning to look.  To cover the raw edges of the fabric and exposed woodwork, you will want to lay the fabric you will be using on the bottom face down on the bench.  You could simply use matching fabric, it would give it a professional finish, especially if you are, like me, using a plain fabric on top.  However, I like colour, fun and little bit of a surprise so I chose the patterned fabric that may have come off as too busy when choosing fabric right back at the beginning of this project.  As I had already used these two fabrics together on another project I knew they contrasted perfectly.

Use the seat as a template and draw around it on the back of the fabric.  Cut around this, leaving a couple of centimetres to fold under, hiding the exposed edge.  Then flip the seat back over and staple in place.

7. Clean the framework

The stools I was revamping had been left out in the weather so there was plenty of elbow grease needed to remove the rust and dirt.  If yours look as tired as mine, now is the time to break out the sugar soap and scourer.  As tempting as it is to put it all back together so you can revel in your genius, you don’t want to mess up your fresh, clean fabric with dirty water and grime.

8. Reattach the seat to your stool.

Finally, it is time to firmly reattach the seat to the frame. I used my Ryobi One drill again, but if you are way more energetic than me, get out your screwdriver and go for it.  Flip right side up and stand back to admire your handiwork.

9. Sit on stool feeling accomplished and drinking wine.

You don’t need guidance for this step – I believe in you.

And there you have it.  A total revamp of your breakfast bar stool that needs zero outlay and is easily accomplished in an afternoon.  Isn’t it amazing how small things like this change the entire look of the space?

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Roll Up Beach Bed Tutorial

Life takes us on many unexpected journeys,  and this craft project was the beginning of our 2015 holiday that did not exactly work out the way we had hoped. Or happen at all that year in fact.  However, as with many disasters faced with a positive attitude and a healthy dose of irreverence, in the end it worked out better.  While it took us an extra twelve months to get there, in which we had a 7 month wait for permission from Minister’s delegate to get passports for our girls, we managed to amend our holiday to take in New Zealand, New Caledonia and Vanuatu so it wasn’t so beach oriented for the girls.  In all honesty, this is a post I started writing about 18 months ago, however after our holiday fell through, I put it aside for a little while.  But here we are, so let’s have a wander down my crafty memory lane together.

Create a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Sewing Tutorial.

So there I was planning a superb family holiday to the South Pacific, fourteen glorious nights cruising around three gorgeous countries – Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu.  Sun, sand and snorkelling, who could ask for more?  I could almost feel the sun on my back and the waves gently rocking me as I snorkelled through the reefs.  The only drawback was that, in the words of my youngest daughter, “I’d like the beach if it wasn’t for the sand and the waves.” Also, there is no wifi on Mystery Island, which is a problem if you are a fan-fiction addicted 14-year-old who secretly dreams of being a superhero.

I shouldn't need to be sewing to make this place enjoyable for my nerdlingsNow obviously I wanted my girls to enjoy our tropical holiday as much as the snorkelling aficionados in the family.  And since I was unable to convince them that swimming with turtles and all manner of brightly coloured fish is the most amazing experience to have when on tiny islands in the South Pacific, I found a crafty, lazy compromise.  The amazing Stella at The Golden Adventures of a Very Dark Horse came up with the solution; I’ve just tweaked it to fit with my family’s love of fantasy and things that deviate from the traditional norm. (And also because I’m essentially a 7-year-old in a grownup’s body and I like to DO IT MYSELF! *stamps foot in a petulant and precocious manner*).

Seeing Stella’s idea on Pinterest made me think about how I could make the girls’ island adventure relaxing and fun in their own way.  We’d planned horse riding in rainforests and abseiling down waterfalls to cater to their uniqueness, but I wanted them to enjoy their beach time as well, even though they don’t like to swim at the beach.

So with tutorial chosen, I was off to Spotlight to find some suitable material that wasn’t all ‘beachy’, ‘girly’, or ‘old lady’.  I chose a cotton fabric with a Wonder Woman print for Miss Ash, one of the only DC characters allowed in our house without a heartfelt discussion on why Marvel is better than DC and serious debate over whether Batman is a Super Hero or not.  (For the record, my vote is cast for Ninja with Gadgets in the Batman debate.  He’s not a superhero.)  And then off to the nearest department store for two bath sheets in matching colours, I went with a dark grey to satisfy the curled-up-in-her-room-not-being-social-and-reading-by-the-glow-of-the-tablet vibe she had going on at the time.

I’d like to point out that this is an excellent craft to use up bits of leftover fabric and upcycle old towels. I used new because I was trying to make a brand new gift for them rather than indulge my inner hippie.

Create a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Sewing Tutorial.

With two beach sheets, some hobby fill, a metre of Wonder Woman fabric and matching thread in hand, I was ready to begin the day’s crafty adventure.

Create a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Sewing Tutorial.

The first step was to decide how big I wanted the pillow part of the bed to be.  Keeping in mind that the finished product will wrap around this, making the finished size of the bag slightly larger than the size of the pillow.

Create a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Sewing Tutorial.

I cut the first towel into four pieces as shown above.  The large piece on the right is for the pillow.  I made mine the width of the towel x 33 cm.  The two skinny pieces in the middle are for the handles and once again they are the width of the towel x 15 cm.   The last piece is leftovers, don’t throw it away though, I have a way to use it up at the end.  I hate wasting crafty goodies.  And Tim Tams. Never waste a Tim Tam.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Next I put the pillow part together by folding it almost in half, leaving about 5cm of the raw edge exposed (this ‘flap’ is where the other towel will be attached to the pillow).  I sewed the open ends together and raw edge down, leaving a gap along the raw edge to push the stuffing into.  (Don’t worry about the exposed raw edge as it will be hidden by the other towel very shortly).

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

I sewed the gap closed and then pinned the second towel over the exposed raw edge to hide it and create the rest of the bed  part of the beach bed.  To make sure it was strong and the stitching reinforced for lots of lazing, I sewed it in three separate places as marked above.  Sewing along the side of the pillow was awkward; somewhat like trying to drive a car with a Pillow Pet under each arm.  My best advice is to take it slow, pull it through straight, use LOTS of pins and remember that the towelling is quite thick, you’ll want a sturdy needle on the machine unless you want to break a few.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

I rolled up the beach bed with the right side on the inside of the roll, set it aside for the moment and got the Wonder Woman fabric out.  I cut two strips that were 6.5 cm wide…well, in reality I made two small cuts in the fabric 6.5 cm apart and ripped the fabric down to the end.  This makes a much straighter line than I could ever cut freehand, is quick, and oddly satisfying.  But if you want to cut it like a grown up with scissors and the like, go right ahead.  I folded the edges of the strips 1cm in on either side and pressed them.  If you want ties that aren’t as wide as mine, turn the edges in further or make your strips slimmer. I wanted the strips wide enough that I would be able to reinforce the stitching as they will be holding the whole project shut while there is a fair amount of weight in the side pockets.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Fold the strips in half longways so the pressed edges meet and press them again.  There is an inordinate amount of pressing at this stage of the game. You may as well leave the iron plugged in for the time being.  Run a seam down the open side close to the edge. At one end of each of the ties, fold over twice to hide the raw edge, press and sew to keep it in place.  At the opposite end, fold 1 cm over and press down.  This is the end that you will attach to the towelling.

Grab the rolled up beach bed that you had put aside and place the ties evenly along the opening.

crossPin and sew the ties in place.  I wanted these stitches to hold with the weight of books and sun block pulling at them, so I sewed the ties on with a cross pattern for extra strength, like sew (like so… I slay me):

Incidentally, the answer to your unasked question is yes.  Three of the ties will be on the edge of the foot of the bed and three of them will be in the middle of the back of the bed.  This is why we rolled it up with the right side facing in.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

Next, it was time to put the pockets on the side.  The size of the pockets you create will be dictated by the size of the stuff your little nerdling wants to carry to the beach. The best way to create the pockets is to measure the nerd crap your non-snorkelling, geekling wants to bring to make the outdoors feel more like indoors and custom-create the pockets.  For the ones I did, I made sure that there were pockets and sleeves the right size for books, headphones, sunblock, a Nintendo DS and sunglasses.  They will also be dependent on the size of the towel you started out with.

For the long pocket, I cut (and by cut, you know I mean ripped) a length of fabric that was 66 cm by 21 cm.  Then it was back to the iron to press the edges over by 1cm.  Along one of the long edges (the one that is now the top of the pocket) fold it over again and press so this edge does not have a visible raw edge on the back. Run a line of stitching along this top edge to keep it in place.

Grab your rolled up beach bed and position the long pocket underneath the ties as shown in the picture.  Make sure it is parallel to the foot of the bed so things aren’t inclined to fall out of wonky pockets as it is being carried.

Sew the pocket in place then, measure the items most likely to be carried in the pockets and sew dividers along the pocket as illustrated by the dotted lines above.  I do not suggest leaving it as one long pocket as it will sag in the middle and things will fall straight out.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

Flip the bed over and create pockets on the other side.  Mine were cut at 33 cm x 21 cm and were created with the exact same process as above.  Create as many small pockets or another large one if you wish.  If Donna’s first meeting with the Doctor has taught me anything, it is that pockets are always handy.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

The only thing left to do to finish off the beach bed is to make the handles using the two 15 cm wide pieces of toweling you cut in the beginning.  Fold each one in half and sew down the raw edges.  Turn right side out.  Using your patterned fabric, create sleeves for the ends of the handles.  Cut 4 pieces 10 cm x 21 cm.  Fold 1cm down on each end, wrong sides of the fabric together and press.  Flip it over and fold in half, right sides together. Press.  Run a 1 cm seam down each side and clip the corners.  Turn right side out and slide them on to the handles like end caps.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

Unroll the bed and place the first handle on the foot of the bed near the ties, top of the patterned sleeve flush with the edge of the towel.  The width of your towel will determine how far in from the edge the handles are placed. Mine were 14 cm in from the edge.  Pin in place.  Place the second handle the same distance in from the edge as the first.  Pin in place.  Using the same cross pattern as above, sew the handles one.  Roll the bed back up and pin the other end of the handles in between the ties on the other side of the opening.  Sew using the cross pattern.

Clip all the loose threads.  Sit back with a self-satisfied smug look of self-congratulatory contentment.

Oh, remember that piece of leftover towelling that you kept aside for the end?  It is perfect for cleaning off sandy feet before sitting on your newly created beach bed.  Use some leftover patterned fabric to cover the raw edge of the towelling then fold it up and place it in one of the handy dandy pockets of your beach bed.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed. Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

Wonder Woman Beach Bed Craft Tutorial.

 

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DIY Wedding Sign Tutorial

I figured the next item on the list of things to make for my friend’s wedding was a nice, easy project that could be done in a day.  I was thinking that if it weren’t for the two hour dry time between coats of paint, I could have knocked this out in an hour or so.   What I didn’t take into consideration with the time frame was making a typo in the initial printing stages.  So, unless you’re total muppet like I am, this is a brilliant piece to pass the time while binge watching Netflix of an afternoon.  Otherwise, it’ll take an extra four hours to add two extra coats of paint to cover up your mistakes.

Design and make your own personalised sign with your response to his big question to display on your wedding day.

The beautiful bride-to-be posted this picture on Facebook.

screenshot_original-sign

Now I’ve known her for a quite some time.  And having heard the tumble of filth and profanity that spills from her mouth on a daily basis, I knew there was no chance that a simple “Are you serious?” happened after he asked her to marry him.  Not to be hoodwinked by an innocuous picture on Facebook, I felt the need to query her response to The Question.

Design and make your own personalised sign with your response to his big question to display on your wedding day.

And so it was decided that I would make the same sign for her but with the original swearing included.

Sadly common sense and good judgement prevailed over fun and poor decision making.  The desire for profanity was recanted at the eleventh hour and the sign was made with a more PG feel to it.

wedding-sign-list

Now, at Bunnings, you can get the board cut to size for free.  So I asked a much-less-clumsy-than-I-am person to cut it at 500 mm leaving me with a 50 cm long piece and a 73 cm piece of board.  Once home I sanded the ends where he had cut it to smooth them off.

step_1_wedding_sign

With the white paint, use a wide paint brush to paint the background colour. You’re going for the rustic feel from the original photo,  so don’t extend the paint all the way to the edges, and angle your brush to create the rough effect. Oddly enough it is harder than it looks to get a look of casual indifference on purpose.  Especially if you’re a bit of a perfectionist.

Two coats should provide enough coverage to create a base you are happy with, but if you have chosen a particularly porous piece of timber or a different brand of paint, you might need an extra coat.

step_2_wedding_sign

While the paint is drying, use your software of choice to design what you want to paint on your sign.  My personal favourite is Photoshop, but you can download The Gimp for free.  It is a superb piece of freeware for image editing.  Careful what you google if you go looking for this and avoid image searches unless you are sure no one will be looking at your browser history.

With the page in landscape aspect, I used Lover’s Quarrel, 400 pt for the cursive writing and Eccentric Std, 300 pt for the block letters.  At this size, it will print over two pages.  So due to laziness and care factor, I just had the words run off the edge of the page.  Once I was ready to print out the second page, I nudged them over to print the rest of the word.

step_3_wedding_sign

To transfer the type to the board the correct way around you need print your words out backwards. If you are using Photoshop, rasterise the type and flip it horizontally.

Time to grab a glass of wine and wait for the last coat of paint to dry.

Once the base is dry, rule a straight pencil line for the bottom row of text to be lined up against.

step_4_wedding_sign

Tape some greaseproof paper to a piece of A4 paper.  My printer kept jamming if I didn’t tape it all the way around.  And after a little trial and error, I can tell you that, for my printer, the key is straight, thin edges.  It worked best when I used a card from my wallet to flatten the tape down so the printer could pick the paper up properly.  And clipping a small amount from one of the top corners let any trapped air out, stopping the printer from jamming.

Print your design onto the greaseproof paper.

tips copy

 

 

Any printing on the sticky tape will not set and make a mess on your board, so it is best to line it up so that you can cut these bits off.

step_5_wedding_sign

Working relatively quickly, cut the greaseproof paper from the A4 sheet you used to stabilise it and cut off any sticky tape with wet ink on it.  Once both pages are printed and cut, tape them together at the back, taking care to line up the text.

Ink side down, line the bottom row of text up against your pencil line and tape the greaseproof paper in place.  I’m sure you’ll notice that in the picture my text isn’t lined up against the pencil mark.  After I placed the print out on the board I wasn’t happy with the placement and moved it.

Using a card from your wallet, rub across the back of the greaseproof paper, transferring the ink from the waxy paper to the board.  Pull the paper aside to check enough ink has transferred to make the letters distinct enough to paint over then discard the greaseproof paper once you are happy with the transfer.

step_6_wedding_sign

Working carefully, paint over the ink.

tips copy

 

 

Just a couple of quick tips if you’ve never done this before:

·         Work top to bottom, left to right.  Unless you are left-handed, in which case you should start on the right.
·         Move the board around so you do not accidentally smudge the paint with your hand.
·         Use a decent quality, reasonably stiff brush.  You want defined edges, not soft watercolour style edges.
·         You will more than likely need two coats of paint for the lettering as well.

Once your lettering is dry, erase the pencil line and flip the boards over to affix hooks if you are intending to hang them.  I spaced mine 9 cm from the top and 5 cm in from the edges.  Although I don’t believe these are going to be hung at the wedding, I put the hooks on in case the couple would like to hang them at home as a memento of their day.

Design and make your own personalised sign with your response to his big question to display on your wedding day.

finished_sign_2_wedding_sign

finished_project_3_wedding_sign

And there you have it, a personalised decoration for a wedding that you could potentially make with leftover bits and bobs you have around the shed.

 

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Captain America LED Monogram Tutorial

Or ‘How do you get molten glue off of raw flesh? Asking for a friend.’

I wanted to make a tutorial for the Hollywood style ‘movies’ sign that I made for Christmas last year and used for our staycation a few weeks back.  But I already have a movies sign, so what would be the point in making another one?  Nothing, that’s what.  Bummer.

Fossicking around downstairs I came across some leftover LEDs from that project which I had bought at the $2 store.  Sadly, I’m a numpty sometimes and I accidentally bought some coloured lights when I needed all white for my original project.  But luckily for this numpty those forgotten red and blue LED packs sparked an idea for a new, but strikingly similar project.  I would supersize my original sign and make a Captain America themed LED monogram letter for my daughter.  We are slowly going through and refurnishing her room, this would be a great addition to the makeover.

I feel it only right to mention here that the Hollywood style movies sign was not my idea.  I wanted to create an outdoor movie theatre for Christmas for our kids and I saw one in a picture I found on Google images.  It looked easy enough to make my own so I broke out the hot glue gun and had a bash.  Quite the successful bash if I do say so myself.

captain_america led monogram tutorial_pin

Now, my daughter’s name starts with A, so that is what I went with and it is what I will be referring to as we go through the tutorial.  Substitute the first letter of your child’s name in or leave it as an A for America, Captain America.

Sorry, started to channel James Bond for a moment there.

captain america led needs list

Before we start I would just like to put it out there that I still have all my own skin despite my inherent clumsiness and my husband should just sod off.  I can totally be trusted with the hot glue gun.  I mean, I did suffer minor burns, but that is to be expected.  A craft project without serious injury is a success in my book.

publisher document captain america a

Using whatever graphics program you have (or drawing it up by hand if you have more skills than I do) print your A to size.  Although I don’t use it for anything else, Publisher’s banners function allows you to print over several pages with no effort so that’s the program I chose.  My letter took up four pages.

Layer three circles onto the A to create the rings of the ‘sheild’.  Cover up the middle of the A with a triangle shape that has white fill and no border and replace the middle with a star.

Print two copies out.

Turn each copy over and tape together.

captain america led monogram tutorial step two

Attach one of your printouts to cardboard with a light run of glue.

Using art knife cut the A out, including the star in the middle. Pull your template off.  If you work quickly the glue won’t have had time to dry.

Rule a line half way in from the outer edge.  Mark every 2 cm.  Using something pokey like a skewer, poke holes through the card every two centimetres.  This will be your guide to where your lights will go through.

captain america led monogram tutorial step four

Using the second template you printed, cut circles out of card.

From largest to smallest you will need to cut: white, red, blue.

captain america led monogram tutorial

Glue a piece of red card to the front of the A, completely covering it.  Cut off the excess, including the star in the middle.

Glue the white circle onto the middle of the A.  Cut off excess

Repeat for the red and blue circles, cutting off the excess after each layer.  Check all edges are secured and glue down if necessary.  You should now have a shield on your monogram, congratulate yourself and try not to drink the wine until after you have finished using the hot glue gun.

captain america led monogram tutorial step 5

To build up the back make frames by tracing around the A on to more cardboard.  Rule a line 1 cm in from the edges and cut to create an outline and cut out the middle.

Do this twice more

captain america led monogram tutorial step six

While you are at it, cut two more As exactly the same as the first.  One out of the cardboard and the other from red card.  Put these aside, they will become the backing pieces.

captain america led monogram tutorial step seven

Using hot glue, secure the frames to the back of the A one on top of the other.

Trim the outside edges to make them straight.

Cut strips of red card 8 cm wide.  These will need to be long enough to go all the way around the outside edge of the A.  Depending on the length of your card, you will need to cut at least 2 and secure them end to end with hot glue.

Draw a line 2 cm in from the edge and score with the back edge of your art knife.

If you have never scored anything before, this is just cutting a VERY shallow line in the card to give your fold a crisp edge.

Starting at the top of a long straight edge of the A, run a line of glue along the built-up edge.   Glue the red strip along the edge.  The scored edge should be at the back of the A with the 2 cm overhanging the back.

Run the red stripping all the way around the A, scoring the corners as you go.

Cut into the corners and clip just like you are covering school books with contact.  Hot glue the overhang down at the back.

Take your 3 LED strings and join them together using a spot of solder.  If you don’t have skills and a soldering iron or (like my husband often threatens me with) you have had your hot-and-burny-things privileges taken away due to clumsiness you can either of the following:

  1. Use one longer string of lights
  2. Use the three strings and just have three battery packs on the back.

I’ll endeavour to have a separate post for soldering the lights together within the week and link to it.

captain america led monogram tutorial step eight

Cut a notch in the star just large enough for the light string to poke through on the backing A you cut earlier.  Cover over the edges of the backing piece with red card.

captain america led monogram tutorial step i-lost-count

Flip your monogram over and grab your thin pokey thing again.  Punch the holes you made earlier all the way through the card you glued over the original guide holes.

Now turn it back to the front and widen those holes so they are just smaller than your LEDs.  I used a philips head screwdriver for this.  You want to push it through from the front to make the cleanest hole.  It will minimise the ragged edges to be cleaned up later.

Alternating the red, white and blue lights, push the LEDs through so just the tip of the light is showing.  Once they are all in place, secure them with a spot of hot glue. If you have a few LEDs left over without holes, it is no big deal.  Just leave leave them loose and entomb them inside the body of the letter.

With the battery back on the outside, glue the thick cardboard backing piece in place.

Cut an 8 cm strip of blue card, securing two together if needed as you did with the red card.  As with the red stripping, draw a line 2 cm in from the edge and score.  Line the star in the middle the same way you did around the outside with red card.  Swear a little and try not to drown your frustrations in wine.

Fail, drink wine and continue on.

Fold the scored edges to theback and glue in place.

Cover the back with the red backing card you cut earlier.

All there is left to do is to secure the battery pack to the back of the letter with hot glue and you can drink the rest of your wine without fear of having to explain your hot glue gun accident at the emergency room.

captain america led monogram tutorial 1

 

 

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DIY Wishing Well or Cards Box for your Wedding

wishing well header

AKA ‘check out my box’

I’m a big fan of not spending $35,000 on a wedding.  My second (and favourite…so far) wedding was a simple ceremony held on a little rocky outcrop overlooking the scalloped beach below.  Waves crashing against islands scattered throughout Brisbane Water in the distance .  I was married in jeans, a cheesecloth shirt and FABULOUS shoes.  There was no stress, little expense, and we were able to spend the morning sightseeing our way down to the ‘venue’ with family who had never visited the Central Coast before.  It was the most relaxing and memorable day.  Ten guests, lots of love and laughter and only a little bit of drunkenly setting fire to a napkin at the reception.  Accidentally.  Accidentally setting fire to a napkin; the word accidentally is integral to the situation and often overlooked by my husband as he retells that anecdote.

A friend, for whom I will be a bridesmaid for in October, posted on Facebook that she would like someone to make a box for her cards to be put in at the wedding.  The post was accompanied by a shared picture from the  DIY Weddings Central Coast Facebook page.

original_poster

Eager to be helpful and, to be perfectly honest, just as eager to have an excuse to break out my hot glue gun, I was all over that like a stressed out mother on a bottle of wine.

A quick trip to kmart to purchase the box and a not so quick trip to spotlight to gather roses and I was ready to begin.

wishing well list

The hardest part about this project is deciding how you want your flowers to look.  I opted for an alternating pattern that would create a nice, slanting line of each colour. I did consider a randomly placed effect, but I was concerned the bride’s OCD would kick in and cause her to have a nervous tick.

wishing well tutorial step one

Place the flowers around the outside edge of the lid of the box if you’re going for the same look as mine, alternating the colours.  Make sure you’ve got the same number of roses down each vertical edge and each horizontal edge.  Mine held 13 roses horizontally and 10 roses vertically.

Hot glue in place once you’re happy with the look of them.  Continue on your merry way filling in the pattern with the rest of the roses until the whole lid is covered.  Give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate not burning yourself for a change with some sauteed mushrooms, chorizo and scrambled eggs for brunch.

wishing well tutorial step two copy

Print out the letters for CARD, or whatever you want it to say.  If you’re going to cover them in ribbon as I did, you’ll want a fairly basic font.  If you want a fancy font, an alternative is to buy some wooden lettering and paint it.  To get the ribbon covered effect I have used, cut the lettering out that you have printed.

If at this time you feel a bit of pain emanating from your hand, look down and discover the source of your pain is the torrential amount of blood pouring from your finger.  It is best not to question how you managed to hurt yourself on the blunt part of the scissors, it is bound to make you feel a little special and inept.  Place band aid on finger so as not to stain your pretty pastel project and replace every time it is soaked through.  Soldier on, this is crafting, there are bound to be casualties.

Use your handy glue stick to stick the letters to some corrugated cardboard from a reclaimed box that has most likely been cluttering up your shed just waiting for an occasion like this.  Make sure there is no printing on the side that will face out for obvious reasons.

Use an art knife to cut the letters out.

wishing well tutorial step three

Now use these as templates to create another set.  Glue these together to create one thick super-letter.  A gluestick will be fine for this, it will all be held together with ribbon, hot glue and love soon anyway.  Congratulations, you are ready to start covering them in ribbon.

wishing well tutorial step four

To avoid having raw edges showing, cover the ‘feet’ of each letter first. To avoid creases in the ribbon and to work around awkward areas such as the middle of the ‘A’, use short lengths and hot glue at the back rather than one continuous length.  The ‘A’ above has the ‘feet’ covered (you can see the ends of this poking out from under the horizontal lengths) and four smaller lengths wrapped around and glued at the back.  Next I covered the edges of the cross piece and wound ribbon horizontally over it.  Continue on and hope for the best.  You’ll be fine.

Around the curved edges, switch to using the narrower ribbon.  You will get a much nicer finish.

tips copy

 

 

Tip for beginners:  Best not do this in your onesie. Large gaps between buttons can lead to the following text needing to be sent.

wishing well tutorial danger warning

To impede the speed at which you can create your project, you may find this is the point at which the glue stick in your hot glue gun will become quite comfortable where it is and require you to move it along in teeny tiny increments with a pen shoved down the end.  Chalk it up to another casualty and soldier on.  There is crafting to do.

Once the letters are finished, you are almost there.  All that is left to do is arrange them on the lid to make sure you’re happy with the positioning before you use your recalcitrant glue gun to secure them there permanently.

wishing well tutorial step five

All that you have left to do is to add the final embellishments.  Grab your tweezers, beads, stamens and wire to bring it all together.  I threaded beads on to gold wire, twisted off the ends to secure them and glued them in place.  The tweezers are important here as they will keep your precious skin from falling victim to very hot glue and allow you to position the embellishments perfectly, hiding the glue and raw edges.

wishing well tutorial step six

Now lets take it one step further and bring it all together.  I used the remaining roses plus a few beads and sprays to decorate two of the inside corners of the box.

wishing well tutorial finished

And there you have it.  Your personalised, wishing well/cards box for your upcoming nuptials.

Whatever your style, this is a DIY wedding project that can be adapted to reflect your individual personality.  Fill the lid with pokeballs, Marvel character logos or pearls; just make sure it screams ‘this is the day I dreamed of’.

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It’s a Trap!

Admin’s Log: July 15

It has been 5 weeks since Telstra pulled the copper lines out of the street where I work leaving us with no phone or internet service until we could hook up to the NBN. As it stands we have no phone lines out, calls have been diverted to my mobile so there is no real ‘knock off time’ for me, no network connectivity so emails and intranet are down, cannot network to the printer. Shredder still works but am expecting that to change soon. Slowly going crazy. IT guy attending site to fix the issues. Am not planning to let him leave until all is fixed. Will set a subtle, yet 100% effective trap to ensure his capture.

Seriously, 5 weeks since Telstra took our phone lines down and we’re still struggling to get everything back on track.  Needless to say I was super excited to hear that our IT guy was coming to my office to fix our problems.  And after doing our printing at home after hours, using my phone tethered to my laptop as my work desktop is essentially a giant word processor and using my mobile for a work phone, there was no way on this green earth I was letting him leave until it was all fixed.  But how to ensure he stays here until it was  done? <strokes chin thoughtfully>

I present to you the Acme Trevor Trap:

trevor_trap_v1

Complete with kibble and something to drink, all I need to do is put paper down for him to sleep on so he doesn’t make a mess.

What’s that I hear you say?  My trap is cunning and subtle and completely 100% foolproof.  Why thank you, I was pretty impressed with myself, and every client that stepped through the door thought it was brilliant.

The Trevor I was trying to trap?  Walked through the green door RIGHT NEXT TO IT and didn’t see it!  I should have made it larger and more obvious.  Up until now I hadn’t thought that subtlety was my strong point, but *clearly* I was wrong.

His excuse is that he is smarter than the average IT guy (points awarded for the Yogi Bear reference).
I think he is less observant than the av-er-age Bear.

In fairness, I think I’m right.  Because, well, I’m always right for starters.  Also, because – I’m always right.

Next time I’m going to dig a big hole in front of the office entry and cover it with leaves and twigs.  If he didn’t see the trap, there’s no way he will notice that.

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Setting a Land Speed Record for Decorating for a Birthday Party

I’m still having trouble getting my head around the fact that my daughter has turned 17 in the last couple of weeks. My sweet little baby with the blonde ringlets is gone and in her place stands a fiercely independent young woman who is smart and funny and confident and beautiful and everything I wish I was at her age.

She is also a disorganised swine.

So when she gave me 4 days notice that she was changing the date of her birthday party and I didn’t have any time to prepare for it because I had to work and do other boring grown up things I was a bit disappointed because I had huge decorating plans that I thought I had a couple of weekends to bring together.

It turns out that when you only have 2 hours some cardboard and scissors in order to bring a party together that you can do okay as long as you’re going for the ‘sleepover fun’ style rather than ‘holy crap this is amazing’ style.

Bek wanted a 1920’s style poker party where they gambled on monopoly and go fish. I had grand plans for it, but with no time to shop, make and decorate we toned it down to a playing card themed decorating style with a quick tip of the hat to the 1920’s. I’d already begun a Pinterest board to gather decorating ideas so I quickly had a squiz and then made my templates. I completely love the way the doors turned out.

Super happy with how quick and easy and awesome these are.
The kitten thinks he is going to get credit for how super quick and easy and awesome these are. But I’m not that nice. No credit for you.

They particularly fabulous Morgaine Ford-Workman of Madcap Frenzy supplied the printables I used to decorate the front door:

ClosedProhibitionSign

1920sSlangand I also used her brilliant list of 1920’s slang.  I printed out enough copies for all of them so that they could use them while playing poker.

Bek was amazing with her contribution to the affair. She realised the day before that she didn’t have enough monopoly money for everyone to be able to play so she went online to get pictures of monopoly money and she photoshopped her friend’s faces into the middle and printed out stacks of the stuff.

beks_monopoly_money

I’d say it was a successful sleepover party in the end, they played games, ate pizza around the fire out the back and then roasted marshmallows and cooked damper on a stick (if you’ve never done this, you should embrace your inner Girl Guide and give it a red hot Aussie try). Sang Avenue Q songs around the fire (editing out the bits the little girls next door shouldn’t hear) and laughed. So much laughter. Such a beautiful noise for a proud Mumma to hear.

I can’t tell you how much I love that at 16 my daughter and her friends are not trying to grow up too fast, wanting loud parties without parents present and that I can trust a group of them of mixed sexes to all sleep in the lounge together. I know I was not this awesome or trustworthy at her age and I all can say is “I’m sorry, Mum. It turns out that being a decent teenager skips a generation…”

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