Home of The Small Art Company and a bit of British all sorts about my family, kids, home, art, mixed media, craft, photography, illustration, travel, cooking, organisation, teaching... Good to see you:)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snowflake Tutorial and Christmas Cards

I don't know about you, but I find writing Christmas cards somewhat stressful! Don't get me wrong, I love sending and receiving cards, but I wish there was a way to make the organisation a little easier.

It's not possible to just sit down, write them, put them in envelopes and post. Oh no! This year I've had the following piles: cards to post (the least stressful pile), cards to put letters in, cards to put photos in, cards to check addresses, cards to give to others to pass on (to save on stamps!), cards to give to others when I see them, or through neighbours' doors, Little W's school friends, Toddler W's playgroup friends, both their teachers (quite a few of them!) and finally, Mr W's work pile. It's quite possible that I've missed a group there, but you get the idea.

Anyway, this is the card I made for family:

It's simply a snowflake template that I brayered over. I like the demin effect. And I used these lettering stamps for the inside:

I'd not found a use for them before, but think they look really Christmassy.

This year, the little W's made Christmas tree cards:

Last year was Rudolph and the year before was cotton wool snowmen. I love Christmas crafts with the kids! It was always my favourite time of the year when I was teaching as well.

So... if you want to make some snowflakes, either for a card like I did, or to hang up, then look no further...

Snowflakes are really simple to make and make very effective decorations. Here's a quick and easy guide to making your own pretty snowflakes!

1) Fold a square sheet of paper in half to make a triangle.

2) Fold in half again.

3) Bring the right side over and fold like so:

4) And the left side:

Both sides should be equal. You're just folding one over the other.

5) Now trim off the triangular ends so you're left with a straight edge:

6) The fun bit! Cut lots of shapes. The more paper you cut away, the better your snowflake will look, but make sure you don't cut all the way across, or it'll fall apart!

You get used to what cuts will look like on a finished snowflake.

7) Here are the finished cuts:

8) And here is the finished snowflake!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Frosty Morning Spider Webs

One of my favourite things to admire on a frosty morning is a spiderweb. They are so beautiful! I can't resist photographing them, so thought I'd share some pics I took this morning...


They make fantastic decorations for the garden, don't you think?!

I love a cold sunny day, with the sun peeping through the icy bare branches:

As we're on the subject of photography, I have just set up my new shop called The Small Art Company. I haven't done a great deal with it yet, as I've been so busy with personal stuff and Christmas of course, but hope to get working on it in the New Year. If you want original art but are short on space, then this will be for you! At the moment the focus is on photographic transfers, so each piece will be one of a kind.

Anyway, that's all for now. Keep warm!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Traditional English Christmas Dinner!

Wow, where did that month go?!

I thought I'd do a post for any international readers that may be interested in a typical English Christmas. I've been reading up about what people eat for Christmas dinner in various countries and it's been really fascinating!

Generally, we'll have turkey, although some people may have goose. We'll have chestnut, sage and onion stuffing, roast potatoes, sausages wrapped in bacon (also known as pigs in blankets!), Yorkshire puddings, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, carrots and one or two other veg, cranberry sauce (more like a lumpy jelly than a sauce) and gravy.

I don't have many photos of Christmas dinners I'm afraid, but this is Little W's from two years ago!

Afterwards, we'll have Christmas pudding with brandy butter or whipped cream. The former is more traditional, but I do like the whipped cream!

On the table will be crackers to pull and sometimes we have party poppers. There's not usually room for any other ornaments, although we have managed to squeeze in some festive candles in the past.

And then we'll just be having cold turkey in various formats for a few days after...

Seeing as I'm being festive today, here's a photo of our new VW campervan in the snow the other day:

There's still little bits of snow around and was very icy this morning. We had a bit of a snowstorm on the way to school and now the sun's out... I do love British weather!

Anyway, I  would love to hear what you have for Christmas dinner!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Little bit of Sparkle

Just thought I'd share a couple of little pics of last night's sparklers...

There would have been more but I had my camera on the wrong setting and there wasn't much sparkle left by the time I realised! Ah well.

This year was the first we'd been to our local firework display. It was pretty good, although I think we'd have had a better, if more distant, view from across the lake.

The last two years we've been to a display near where my brother lived, but he's just moved a little way up north. I kind of missed his little firework party though. We used to have home-roasted chestnuts, marshmallows, toffee apples and chilli... Very yummy on a cold night! I managed to rustle up a jacket potato instead...

I think next year we might take the little Ws to the Lord Mayor's Show in London and see the fireworks after that. There's nothing like a firework display on the Thames. The echo is amazing!

Hope you all had a good and safe Bonfire Night.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Want to host a Toy Voyager?

I came across the Toy Voyager site a few months ago. It's a similar kind of thing as Bookcrossing, which I joined about 10 years ago but have never actually managed to release a book!

I thought sending a Toy Voyager (TV) off on his world travels would be educational for the kids as they can follow his travels on the map and see different places around the globe. Hopefully they'll feel they're kind of experiencing a little bit of culture themselves as MiniMarshmallow (our TV) was part of the family for a short while...

Here he is at my dad's birthday lunch in the summer:

 And at a very windy Land's End:

Camping in the rain! Just finished dinner and about to eat this delicious marshmallow, chocolate and banana wrap (recipe below) and we had to run and hide in the car:

Then, once back home, another TV joined us. This is MiniMarshmallow and Krumelknirps at one of the gold postboxes:

MiniMarshmallow then went off to Germany to start his world travels. And another two TVs, Mishuta and Kathy, joined us. Here we are at Alexandra Palace:

We just have Kathy with us right now. She's actually looking for a new UK host, so if you would like her ro become part of your family for a few weeks, then let me know! Here she is eating popcorn at the circus:

And if you're outside of the UK and would like to host MiniMarshmallow, then please let me know also:)

It's lots of fun hosting a TV. You basically take pictures whenever you go somewhere or even just doing stuff around the house. They usually stay with you for a few weeks and then their owner will give you a new address to send them on to.

In case you were interested in that camping recipe, it's very simple. You just need:
Small wraps
Mini marshmallows

Spread the Nutella over the wrap, add chopped banana and marhsmallows, roll up, wrap in silver foil and grill for a few minutes, until it's all melted and gooey! Yummmm!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Skinny Jeans and Trainers (and New Art)

Time for one of my random thoughts posts!

I bought my first pair of skinny jeans a few months ago. Well, actually, Mr W. bought them. I sent him to the shops while I was tutoring, asking for some new jeans (I've really not been bothered about fashion since having kids!) and he came back with skinny jeans. To my surprise and delight I guess, they fitted!

Anyway, I put them on one morning when it was a bit dull and drizzly and was about to leave the house, putting on my trainers. I looked down and realised that skinny jeans and trainers do not go! It suddenly occurred to me why I've been seeing women wearing sandals in non-sandal weather! It's either sandals or boots I've discovered.

Apart from this earth-shattering discovery, I've found a new outlet for my photography. I have images for sale on Fine Art America. You can buy in a variety of formats (like RedBubble). This image called 'Light of the Desert' has just had some votes in one of the contests:

I'm currently working on some other artwork to sell alongside the photography. I'm trying to combine the photography, children's illustration and other arty things I'm doing with all the different inks I bought a while ago. I love abstract and fantasy art and that's what I'm working on right now. I've been experimenting with different textures, backgrounds and materials, so hope to have some new artwork for sale soon!

If you missed my personalised colouring books by the way, they're here over at Folksy. Make wonderful Christmas presents!
Hope to show you some new work soon:)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kids' Travel Activity Pack

I meant to make these last year for our trip to the Lake District, but, well, life got in the way I guess. This summer holiday, I really wanted to make sure I did them for our trip to Cornwall. Almost exactly the same amount of time in the car, but in a different direction...

These travel packs had to be made as cheaply as possible, so I found two cushion covers that I'd never used. They were a set of four from IKEA that we bought years ago. We use the other two, but the colours of these didn't really go with our living room. Perfect!

I folded them in half, so the zip is along the top:

Then I sewed up the sides and the middle, making sure I didn't go too high so the zip will still open. This has made four pockets - 2 with a zip and 2 open.

I cut a bit of material from old T-shirts and sewed some velcro on, which was then stitched to the back in the middle like so:

And the other bit was sewn on the front, along with my kids' initials (I made sure I only sewed through the top layer of the cushion):

The bit I had most trouble with were the inside pockets. I wanted clear page-like pockets. I was thinking clear pencil cases, but they were too thick. I'd thought of ringbinder pencil cases, but they were way too expensive, so I did some research and found people had made similar things using food bags. Off I went to Tesco! These were only £1 something for a pack of 25 I think.

I used six altogether, three on each side. I alternated each side, left, then right, pinned them and then sewed them in place:

And there you have it! I've filled it with various bits and pieces. In the zipped compartments are eye-spy bags (from Etsy), wipe-clean travel cards I bought in a book shop and Michelin eye-spy books.

In the open section are colouring books (now for sale!) and dot-to-dots.

Then in the plastic wallets are:
  • Pipecleaners
  • Plasticine
  • Handmade fuzzy felt
  • Handmade magnetic photo boards
  • Handmade laminated games like eye-spy, bingo, maps, boxes etc.
  • Crayons and whiteboard pens

I'll let you know how successful they are!

Edit - since I wrote this, we've now been and come back from our trip! As something to keep the kids occupied, they were brilliant! Not sure the style was so good for in the car though, as things kept falling out onto the floor. They'd be better for an aeroplane or restaurant I think. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

1000 Homes of Happiness Project

A little while ago I stumbled across a blog called 1000 Homes of Happiness. It's an idea thought up by a lady called Kellie in Australia. She and her children are making 1000 little origami homes, each with a special word written on.

Each home is then released somewhere in the world for a lucky someone to find.

I love projects like this, so knew I had to ask Kellie for a home to release. I chose the word 'Aspiration' and had the perfect idea of the place to release it...

Here's the cute little house:

 I had to photograph it in the car due to the extremely high winds!

And I decided to release it here:

We have just got back from a camping trip to Cornwall and I thought Land's End would be a great place to release the house. It was left on this rock in the End to End exhibition. You can see the other rock for John O'Groats here:

I couldn't get a close-up of the house on the actual rock as I didn't want anyone to see me put it there and had to hurry!

Outside of the building:

This is the famous signpost:

And this is another view:

So why 'aspiration' and why Land's End? Well, aspiration is something that is important to my family and I. I believe dreams are vital to happiness and that everyone should aspire to be someone or do something with their lives. I don't mean huge things, or lifesaving things or becoming famous. Just things that make you happy or something to improve others' lives in some small way. It's just important to have that goal or ambition.

When I travel I always feel inspired. It's on my travels that I've always come up with my next life plan or idea. I decided to become a teacher in Sri Lanka and again in Iceland! I've thought up many ideas in many different places! Amazing scenery always inspires me. There's something about the beginning/end of the country that is pretty special. Looking out over windy headlands to the ocean can't fail to guide you towards your aspirations...

Let me know if you find the little house, won't you?!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My Handmade Washi Tape

I heard about washi tape a while ago and wondered what I could do with it. It's so pretty, I just had to find a use for it! I love pretty papers and anything Japanese, so what's not to like about washi tape??

Washi tape, by the way, is basically a Japanese decorative masking tape.

Anyway, I'm about to launch my new range of personalised photos and colouring books and thought that washi tape would make the perfect finish to the books. So yesterday I finally got around to making some and here is the result:

Cute eh?!

To make your own, simply stick some double-sided tape onto your paper and trim along the edge. Wind it up and hold it in place with a miniature peg or similar. That's it - ready to use!

I found that slightly heavier paper worked better than tissue paper (found tissue paper wrinkled a bit), but you can use anything you like, even fabric. And for a wider tape, I just stuck two strips of tape side by side.

Although it's not masking tape and doesn't have that transparency, it still works for what I want to use it for.

I'll hopefully show you the finished colouring books very soon... They will make ideal Christmas gifts (sorry, I know summer hols have only just started!) and are also perfect for long journeys. I was hoping to get them on sale before the holidays started, but never mind!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Remember when...

I don't feel all that old, but sometimes I think about how much things have changed since I was a kid, a teenager even, and decide that actually, maybe I am getting on a bit!

So this is a list those in their mid-thirties, or thereabouts, may appreciate.
  • There were only sales in January, not year-round.
  • No 'buy one get one free' or three for two offers.
  • No store loyalty cards.
  • No lottery.

  • I remember life before M&Ms and Skittles. And when Snickers were Marathons and Starbursts were Opal Fruits.
  • You could only really buy cheese and tomato pizzas in the supermarket.
  • And ice-cream was pretty much vanilla, strawberry, chocolate or mint.
  • As for crisps, it was ready salted, salt and vinegar, cheese and onion and beef. Pickled onion Monster Munch was very exciting!
  • The ring pulls on drinks cans came off.

  • Friends never hugged each other and certainly never kissed on greeting! I clearly recall seeing friends at college do this for the first time and was quite bemused!
  • The clatter of milk bottles as the milkfloat came down the street.
  • Collecting milk bottle tops and silver foil for the guide dogs.
  • I remember half pennies and the introduction of £1 coins. And when 5p, 10p and 50p coins used to be huge!
  • My bus fare to school was 10p...

  • I remember just having 3 TV channels.
  • Sometimes you had to wait for a programme to be on TV. That meant watching the test card screen with the girl and the clown.
  • If you missed a film at the cinema, you'd have to wait a couple of years for it to come out on video and even longer for it to be on TV.
  • Missing any programme on TV was annoying as it could be years before it was repeated.
  • Finding a space on a cassette or video tape to try and record the Top 10 or a TV programme. Constant forwarding and rewinding!
  • The record section in Woolies - the large LPs, in front of those were the 45s, then CDs were introduced and in front of those were cassette tapes.
  • The weather man sticking on clouds, sunshines, rain clouds etc in say, Scotland and them falling all the way down to the south of England! 

  • No soft play areas, just the occasional small ball pit.
  • No antibacterial hand gel. A day at the farm just meant washing hands with soap and water before lunch.
  • The introduction of phone cards for public pay phones seemed very modern and advanced!
  • Deciding what to take a photo of, as you didn't want to waste your 36 exposures. Then having to wait months to get around to developing them.
  • When doing a school project, having to go to the library to get an address, or maybe phone directory enquiries and write off for information, then waiting weeks for them to send back an info pack. No Internet in those days!
  • Of course, no mobile phones. I didn't have one until two years after I left university!
  • I remember life before we had a video recorder and a Microwave. I've still never used a dishwasher...

The world has certainly changed. Things change so quickly nowadays. What do you remember from growing up??

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pitta Pizza Recipe

I always try to make something different for Saturday lunch and got this recipe from Change4Life Supermeals that Little W's Nursery gave out at a zumba and healthy eating session after sports day last week!

You need:

  • Pitta bread (I used large wholemeal pittas)
  • Tomato puree
  • Tomatoes (I used our homegrown ones - delicious!)
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Mushrooms
  • Black pepper
  • Dried mixed herbs


  • Place the pitta bread on a baking tray.
  • Spread with tomato puree.
  • Lay slices of mushroom and tomato on top.
  • Slice the mozzarella and place this on as well.
  • Sprinkle the herbs and black pepper over the top.
 Cook for about 10 minutes on 190 degrees c (170 fan/gas 5)

Simple, tasty and perfect for a quick kids' lunch!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

How to make a kitchen blackboard / chalkboard tutorial and link party

I've wanted a blackboard in the kitchen for ages, so thought I'd have a go at making one. It was so easy! I'll write each step so you can make one for yourself.

I'll make this post into a link party. Please feel free to link up your own craft tutorials. I'd love to see what you've been up to!

So... You'll need:

  • Chalkboard paint - I got a spray can in Hobbycraft, but I think you may be able to get it in B&Q or other DIY places (probably cheaper too!).
  • MDF - I used 3mm, or any flat object to paint, as long as it's not too heavy if you want to hang it on the wall.
  • Sandpaper
  • Pencil
  • Jigsaw
  • Newspaper
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrush 
  • Picture hook if you want to hang your blackboard
For the chalk holder:
  • Light bits of wood
  • Wood glue
Step 1
Draw your design on the MDF. Keep it simple as you want to be able to tell what it is in outline form. I decided on a fairy cake/cupcake:

Step 2
Cut out the shape with a jigsaw (I got Mr W to do this bit as I don't trust myself with such tools!)

Step 3
You can skip straight to this bit if you've got a pre-cut shape that you want to use. Lightly sand the surface to prepare it for the paint.

Step 4
Place newspaper over any parts that you don't want black. I covered up the icing part that I wanted to paint  in other colours.

Step 5
Go outside for this and cover the ground with newspaper. Lay your board down and spray! I found that I needed quite a few layers to get a smooth finish. Mr W couldn't help 'assisting' here as he used to be a printer/sprayer when we met all those years ago! And he of course, thought he knew best:) It turned out he did know best in this case...

This pic is of another project, but you can see the spray can I used:

Cover up the parts you don't want painted:

Newspaper removed:

Step 6
Wait for about half an hour and see if it needs another coat. If not, then you're ready to paint the rest. I painted a coat of white acrylic first and then yellow for the icing, a red cherry, chocolate buttons and colourful hundreds and thousands.

Step 7
To make the chalk holder I used four of these small bits of wood I had left over from something:

I painted them yellow, stuck them together with wood glue and then glued it to the board.

Step 8
Attach a picture hook with a bit of wood glue to the back like so:

Here's the blackboard before the chalk holder was attached:

And here it is in place in the kitchen:

Had lots of lovely comments. I think it looks pretty good myself:)

So, let's see what you've been up to. Link your craft tutorials below. Can be anything at all, as long as you've made it yourself. No thumbnails this time, so choose your title carefully.


  1. Please link to your specific post, not the whole blog
  2. Please link back to this blog, either in your linked post or another post
  3. Please try to visit and comment on others' links
  4. Have fun!