Thursday, 18 December 2014

Reindeer Rampage

You know when you come up with an idea for a simple Christmas craft and you're a bit under pressure for time and your other half isn't terribly impressed with it and says it looks too much like a sheep, but it's too late by then anyway so you just go ahead and do it and then it ends up being a great success? (No? Just me then...)

Well, in a nutshell - that's what happened with this Wooly Reindeer tutorial.


I put it together very quickly one afternoon and sent it to Emily as my contribution to her, absolutely gorgeous, Craft Advent series. (Do pop over for a browse) Since then I've had lots of feedback from people who've only gone and actually MADE some Reindeer.

I can't tell you how excited I get when people actually make the crafts I share here. It's just so amazing to see an idea taken by others and developed and made their own. It's also fantastic to see herds of wooly Reindeer taking over the country! (Slight exaggeration.)

I've shared a few of the fabulous creations on my Facebook page, but I thought it would be nice to gather them all here too.

Sinéad from Bumbles of Rice and her boys were the first to show me their little herd. I was extra impressed because Sinéad told me that her printer was broken and she had to make her own template from scratch - so these guys are definitely unique! Top marks also go to her son Ciarán who brought his Reindeer to school as his entry in the 'Home-made Christmas Decoration' competition and WON! Well done Ciarán!

Two of Lile and Sábha's little cousins also got in on the action and made the cutest, fluffiest Reindeer I've ever seen. The yarn they used also shimmers under the lights and they put adorable little red bows around their necks. Perfectly Christmassy.

Naomi from Dr. How's Science Wows and her team of junior scientists also gave this craft a try with some beautiful results. I love how each reindeer is completely different and I especially love the one made with rainbow yarn. A Rainbow Reindeer! I'm sure Santa would approve wholeheartedly.

The most sizable herd, however, has come about thanks to my sister, who is a Primary School teacher, and made these with her class of 7-year-olds. The googly eyes give them such a comical look, I think, and the use of a scrunched up bit of red tissue paper for the nose is a great alternative if you're short a few pom-poms!

My favourite Reindeer of all though (and I'm totally biased here) is the one Lile made, sitting beside me, as I was putting the one for the tutorial together. She gathered all the bits herself from the craft box. The 'body' is an upside down 'sheep' left over from my Wooly Sheep craft tutorial and it's all, bar a bit of help with the antlers, her own work. His little smile just makes me melt and it's my favourite of this years decorations.



Thursday, 11 December 2014

Best Wishes From Minted

I was contacted recently by www.minted.com and asked if I would like to review their Holiday Card Collection. As my regular readers will know, I am a total stationery addict and I have a special place in my heart for greeting cards. I ran my own greeting card company for several years and I am still pretty much obsessed with finding 'the perfect card' for every occasion.

The one thing I miss about owning my greeting card company, is no longer having cards for all occasions, on tap. I never had to plan ahead for anything. A last minute birthday party - no problem. I had a selection of suitable cards at the ready. A new baby? Boy, girl or twins, it didn't matter - I had a card for it. Weddings, anniversaries, and all of the seasonal festivals - I was always sorted. Having a home office full of cards was especially useful at this time of year and - because I had designed all of the cards - they had that personal touch I love so much in a greeting card.

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But, I don't own that company anymore and my home office has been taken over by fairies and unicorns and random crafty odds and ends. These days I always seem to be scrambling at the last minute to find cards. I do utilise my creative children quite a lot and get them to make cards for birthdays and things but Christmas is another story entirely. I would ask the girls to make those too, but with the size of our family, the production line might begin to look a bit like child labour... and I know if I decided to make the cards myself they'd just never get done.

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It's time for Plan B.

I really like the idea of getting some personalised Christmas cards made. I know this is popular in the US, but I haven't seen it very often here. In a way it reminds me of the cards my Mama always posted to far-flung family at Christmas years ago and of the cards we would receive in return. The cards themselves were never personalised, but there were always a few photos tucked inside them which were always more interesting to me than the cards they accompanied!

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Pictures of the dimple-cheeked babies born that year, children dressed in their best for a special occasion, or gawky teenage cousins skulking behind a row of smiling siblings. My Mama would ooh and aah about how much each child had grown since the previous year and tell us again who each one was and how we were related. It was a way to 'see' them. To know them. Even though they were far away. There are still a stack of those photos to be found today, in my Mama's house.

Things have changed so much since then. Because we can share photos so easily and quickly on social media we 'see' our far-flung family a  lot more often, so sending a physical copy of a photo doesn't seem necessary. Also, and this might just be me, people don't seem to get photos printed as often anymore. Despite me taking so many photos of my girls (or perhaps because of it) I never actually get around to printing them out.

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I think designing a personalised Christmas card appeals to me so much because it would mean actually printing out a nice photo of my family! Sharing it with loved ones, especially older relatives that do not use social media, will in some way carry on a fond tradition from my childhood too.

Of course, that would mean I'd also have to actually take a family photo. Which is something we are notoriously bad at in my family! As you can see from the above images, the ONLY family photo we have is sadly out of date and of very low resolution. If designing some personalised cards changes that I'll be a very happy girl this Christmas.

All of the above images were made on www.minted.com and show just a small selection of their holiday photo-card selection. Minted showcase independent designers worldwide. All of the cards are beautifully designed and come in a vast range of styles. There are die-cut options and the text is all fully customisable. I haven't seen their cards 'in the flesh' yet, but they claim to have an "obsession with quality" so I imagine they are as lovely in real life as they look on screen.

So what about you? What kind of cards do you send at Christmas? Home made? Charity cards? Or have you ever sent a personalised card? Or do you avoid the whole card thing altogether?!

Disclosure: I was offered a $75 voucher by www.minted.com in return for a review of their Holiday Photo Cards. All opinions are my own. Thank you, dear reader, for checking out one of the companies that helps to support this blog.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Tt is for Temple Street


Chris Judge, the award winning author/illustrator of The Lonely Beast was a couple of years ahead of me at school. I went to university with his brother Simon and, through him, got to know Chris a little bit too. Even then, he was always involved in tons of interesting projects and it's fantastic to see him doing so well in the creative world now.

I'm a total fan-girl. 

I feel like I've been following his career trajectory forever and I'm always excited to hear about what he's up to next. His first book - The Lonely Beast - was (and still is) a massive hit with my girls. It, along with The Brave Beast is in constant rotation at story time. We also love The Great Explorer and we are excitedly looking forward to reading his latest book TiN, which is expected to arrive with Santa.


The Lonely Beast won the Irish Children's Book of the Year Award in 2011 - and deservedly so. The Beast is a rare creature, with very cool credentials. He is a shaggy, inky-black shape in a bright, colourful world. Chris was inspired by other hairy loners like Chewbacca or the wampa, or the Yeti from Tintin in Tibet. I'd highly recommend you check him out.


Chris and his brother Simon teamed up with James Kelleher of Pilcrow.ie to produce a couple of Apps based on The Lonely Beast book and, even though I rarely let my girls use apps, I was one of the first 'adopters' of The Lonely Beast ABC (back when it was known as AlphaBeast!) The Lonely Beast ABC is made up of 26 interactive picture book spreads, one for each letter of the alphabet and is a lot of fun to play as well as being educational. The Beast gets into a disco dance-off with a robot (doing the robot, naturally) and also dresses up as a spectacularly unconvincing elephant (Lile and Sábha's favourite).

The sequel, The Lonely Beast 123 is a trip through a day in the life of the Beast, from dawn to bedtime, where he wakes up and then proceeds to count all the things in his house and garden. So you get to count 1 Beast in bed, 2 rubber duckies in the bath, try on 3 different coats, fry up 4 eggs in a pan and so on. My favourite is number 9 - where he gets to eat all the cake.

Excuse my manky phone and just focus on the lovely cakes.
I usually save 'playing with Mama's phone' for long queues and doctor's waiting rooms where they are most effective, but the girls love a chance to get their sticky little hands on 'the Beast games' whenever the opportunity arises.

But, why am I telling you this?

Well, all this week (8th-15th December) Chris, James and Simon will be donating the proceeds from sales of their Lonely Beast apps to Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Dublin. There's a pretty important reason why they have chosen to do this and you can read more about that HERE but you shouldn't need too much convincing.

Downloading these fantastic apps today will help to save the lives of critically ill children in Ireland AND you'll get to enjoy some great, educational games from one of Ireland's most inspirational artists. Win win.

Get the apps and help Temple Street Hospital:



If you’ve already got the apps, you can donate to Temple Street here: 
Donate Today

Please feel free to share this post to help raise as much money as possible for Temple Street and to spread the Beasty love!

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As an extra arty bonus - do check out The Lonely Beast Printables too - for lots of colouring fun!

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