Thursday, 29 December 2011

Crafty DIY : Coat Hook Plaque

Since we moved in, we have not had anywhere to hang our coats, so it’s always been a bum fight for the cleanest surface to store our winter woollies. So I finally ventured out to the shed and scrabbled around for a bit of wood, nipped to the post office to buy some hooks and twenty minutes later, it looked a lot like this.

I just watered down some white emulsion paint, gave it a weak coat, being careful to make the washed out effect even. Once dry, I laid out the hooks and made holes with a hole making device (bradel?) when I had them in the right place and then found some suitably sized screws and assembled our new homemade coat hook. And hung it above the radiator - that's worthy of bonus points surely?

I tell you what – it really is the little things in life. When we come home, my face beams as I hang up my coat and silly woolly hat. It continues beaming for about at least anther twenty minutes too as I’m still so excited about going home to a house. Our house. Our home. Whoop whoop!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Crafty DIY : Blackboard Pebble Place Settings

Welcome back everybody! I hope you have all maintained your svelte-like figures. I know I lost mine way before December even kicked in! I’m squeezing in this little craft in case you need something for the table for your New Year celebrations. If you’ve been visiting for a while, you will know that I had a brief fling in the caravan… with blackboard paint. Love it! I painted so many things. And my love was rekindled after a trip to the beach to collect some flat(ish) pebbles (thanks to all our friends who I dragged out of the nice warm pub and down to the wind swept beach one evening with only a keyring torch to search by) for place settings to be able to scribble guests’ names onto.

This was another quick project. Choose your stones (friends helping by moonlight optional). Paint your stones. Paint them again. Leave to dry. Mark out your names with chalk. Perfect for Christmas and New Year dinners. Now, back to our week off J


Saturday, 24 December 2011

A Very Merry Christmas to You All!

It’s Christmas Eve! My first favourite day of the year! So I’ll make this brief as I’m sure you are all running around enjoying yourselves too. I just wanted to stop by and say a big THANK YOU to everyone who makes the time to visit this little corner of the web and to wish you all a very merry Christmas. I’ll see you all next week after we have all undoubtedly gained a few extra pounds. Until then embrace those elasticated waists and big girl knickers and I’ll toast you all tomorrow morning with a glass of bubbly whilst the cat and rabbit are running around with their new scarfs on. Yay!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Ideas for Hosting an Awesome Christmas Day

Christmas day with my family is all about the food and the fun. We start early, we never watch TV (unless it's a film necessary for recovery time from excessive food induced coma), we pace the food and presents throughout the day and always get outside at some stage. I'm sure you've all got it under control, but just in case anyone needs some ideas to spice up the big day, here are EnthusedMonkey’s ingredients for an awesome Christmas, white or otherwise.

Give All Your Guests a Stocking

Make sure that everybody that wakes up in your home on Christmas morning has a stocking, regardless of age and species - even if it's just filled with little things like nuts and chocolate, and obviously carrots for the rabbit. I’m fast approaching thirty and we still have stockings, as do the cat and rabbit. Make a bit of a thing of it by jumping on a designated bed (depending on the closeness of the relationship with your guests of course, you don’t want to frighten strangers sleeping in the nude – it might be worth initiating a no nakedness rule for your guests just to be on the safe side). Or gather everybody in the living room, get the fire on, crack open the bucks fizz and play some Christmas carols whilst enjoying opening the delights in your stockings all together.

The Tradition of Treasure Hunts

My Dad started this little tradition – treasure hunts around the house for presents (I once found a keyboard in the caravan on Christmas day – it was brilliant)! They are so much fun and can involve everybody on the day. They can be as silly or as sensible as you like. I favour the poem method for clues, which involves writing a list of hiding places and then writing rhyming poems to direct your guests to the hiding spots. Have as many clues as you like. If you have more of a surprise experience rather than a gift, like tickets to an event, why not create a tailored crossword or word game like an anagram for your guests to solve which will spell out the name of their present. This year, our guests will have to guess their main presents from a series of cryptic photos. I hope you're not reading this folks...

Make Something of Christmas Morning

Christmas morning can often be lost to a haze of wrapping paper and dinner preparation. But taking a moment early on can set you up for the day. Crack open the bubbly, serve up a light mini feast for breakfast, have a carol concert in your kitchen, invite neighbours round for an aperitif, have a snow dance competition, whatever you do make  time for a little fun before you have to hide away in the kitchen until the end of time.  If you can steal half an hour, whilst the house is waking up, grab your camera and your winter woollies and head out to take some photos in the frost (or snow if you’re very lucky). Catch a few sneaky glimpses of families around their Christmas trees, not with the camera though – that would be weird and you don’t want to get arrested on Christmas day.

Get Out the House

If you're too busy in the morning, wrap the family up in thermals and set out for a walk after dinner. Whether it’s a ten minute walk around the block, admiring the festive lights if it’s after dark. Or an hour’s hike up the hill or in the woods to really work off those mince pies, it’s great to get some fresh air on the one day you are most likely to eat your body weight in glorious cooked meats and other delights. Or if you’re feeling really fruity, make like our friend and head out for a Christmas morning run.

Make an Occasion Out of the Little Things

We have a silly little tradition in our home – no matter what time of year it is. Whenever we crack open a bottle of bubbly, be it that rare and elusive bottle of real champagne or the equally exciting cheap demi sec from a French day trip, we gather everybody in the house, head outside (all weathers) and pop the cork to a great cheer of joy. We encourage everyone to keep an eye on it and whomever catches it gets to press a coin in it for good luck. So keep an eye out for the little things that go unnoticed and make a big deal about it.

Make it Yourself

I’m not saying make everything on and off the dinner table, nobody has that kind of time (do they?), but making a few key items yourself will be so much more personal and appreciated. Be it crackers, a table present, a flower arrangement, a boozy jug of cream for the plum pudding or the humble bread sauce. The personal touch never goes unnoticed. If you don’t have much time, prepare in advance (things like name place settings and personalised chocolate truffles can be made before the big day).

Ban the TV

Ok, this one is easy for us as we choose not to have terrestrial television (weird I know, judge us if you like, but it's pretty awesome - we only watch DVDs that are of interest instead, when we can steal an hour or two). For many though, entire Christmas afternoons can be lost as guests retire to the lounge, settle down in front of the TV after dinner and then wake up the following morning wondering where the evening went. But I understand this may be tricky if you have a home full of guests. Instead perhaps put out a few Christmassy themed films for all generations and people can pick what they fancy watching. Alternatively get the board games out, get the cards out, get the craft box out, get out the ingredients for mince pies, power up the Wii (providing it’s a game that everybody can play – although Lara Croft might get Grandpa all excited, it does limit other peoples involvement with single player). Whatever activity you choose to get the troops rallied up, make it fun with nibbles, drinks and prizes throughout.

Pace Out Your Presents

We all know it’s not the be all and end all of Christmas, or it shouldn’t be at least, however I still think the present giving is a fun opportunity to spoil those you love. Another tradition my Dad taught me was spacing them out (which as a child very much bothered my Mum as I whined to open another present every thirty seconds). Now I am older, I am so pleased that’s how we did it as it teaches you to appreciate and play with each of your presents as you open them and not to just move on to the next one like a ravenous paper ripping robot. A lesson you can carry with you into adulthood (am I there yet?). So we always space out our present opening throughout the day which makes the fun last so much longer. We have been known to be excitedly opening presents long into the evening.

And Your Food

This goes for food too. Traditionally we eat throughout the entire day, a tradition adopted from the French way of eating where there are several courses throughout the day, not just limited to starter, main and dessert. We also like to try new things at Christmas too, not just your traditional turkey. Throwing in a few edible surprises mixes up the day from the usual sprouts dish and customary cheeseboard, saying that I’m a massive fan of the cheeseboard. But because it’s always the last course, I very often go without because I’m always so full up. D’oh. Maybe this year will be my year…

Making new and enjoying old family traditions is always fun at this time of year, I would love to hear what yours are! Please note, due to extreme Christmas time constraints, I did not have time to take the photos I wanted for this post, so pics 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10 are courtesy of iStockphoto - I didn't want to take the credit for these beautiful images!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Crafty DIY : Spray Painted Christmas Decorations

Not long now!!! Three more sleeps. I am so excited about Christmas Eve too, we have a day trip planned to soak up some of the festive atmosphere, and it’s supposed to be sunny – whoop whoop! Just a quick one today with a couple of ideas for inexpensive decorations – spray painted pine cones and face lifted pound shop delights.

The pine cones were given to us last year by our very kind neighbours who have an ENORMOUS pine tree in their back garden. They spent last winter in a basket by the fire and looked beautiful, but with the inevitable dust from an open fire, not to mention those inevitable cobwebs, they were looking a little worse for wear. You know what I’m going to say… enter the spray paint. Silver spray paint worked beautifully and they now all look fresh and revived, adorning our mantelpiece (never had a mantelpiece before – very exciting – another surface to litter with decorations, let’s hear it for mantelpieces!) I was quite tempted to put them in a basket again, but they look good just hanging out individually.


As for this next little project – I raided the pound stores and managed to find a few things for the table on Christmas day. First up was this glitzy little Christmas tree, obviously costing £1, which now matches our shabby chic white dining room courtesy of a little white spray paint. Also, this small tray was given the face lift treatment and has been filled with a string of fairy lights for the side table. The glasses... well, I have not had time to makeover these yet, but they will become candle holders soon enough!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Crafty DIY : Jingle Bell Garland & Table Top Stars

Back to the festive cheer today with a little Christmas DIY. Amidst all the parties and celebrations, I managed to squeeze in a couple of homemade Christmas decorations. This sweet little jingle bell garland was a nice relaxing break from the manic mayhem we are currently enjoying.

I used some gold twine and a pack of mini bells and simply threaded the bells onto the twine and knotted each side to keep the bell securely in place. I repeated this for every inch apart and strung them up over our mirror and around the stair bannister. They jingle jangle beautifully when knocked. Whic is alot with my clumsiness.

I ran out of nice coloured paper so whilst we were in a local DIY store, I raided the Dulux paint chart section. I find pleasure in the little things and hole-punching stars out of these little swatches was so much fun - daft, I am fully aware. I originally intended to string these together too for another garland, but as I started hole-punching on the dining table, they looked so pretty as they fell and landed haphazardly, I decided to keep them on the table as a decoration for our festivities this weekend. Not long now to make your own decorations if you have not done so already!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Modern Living Room Makeover

Ready for the next makeover just before Christmas? This one's a little bit different to the other rooms so far. We are both big fans of different rooms having different themes or feels to them. Like for example we wanted the guest room to feel like a boutique hotel, we were aiming for a shabby chic restaurant theme to the dining room. What with the technology that will be used in this room though, plus we wanted to put some key pieces of modern furniture that we had collected from Ikea over the years, together in the same room, we decided to go down the funky modern route with our main living room.

This room really put us through our paces as when we moved in there were polystyrene tiles on the ceiling again, a textured and patterned wallpaper and a rather fetching green carpet with a bright pine fire surround over a cream marble fireplace. It had been beautifully decorated once upon a time, but we felt it a little mix matched, not to mention the fire hazard element of the tiles.

With the help of friends and family, we set to work on day one stripping the wallpaper with an electric steamer (only to find four other aged layers underneath - grumble, grumble) which took what felt like forever - it starts out fun as you take off massive great big strips, but the bits left behind... cor blimey, they were stubborn. Once the wallpaper was off, we hit the ceiling tiles hard. They came off easy enough but the glue left behind seemed to be best mates with the wallpaper and had no interest in coming off the ceiling.

So when the plasterers arrived there was a slight change in plan as they had to board over that pesky glue instead of just skimming straight over it. Wetting it reactivates it apparently. Grrrr. But they kindly recommended Dulux Supamat paint which I have mentioned before but is worth another mention - that stuff is awesome! You can paint fresh plaster after just two days and you don't need to water the first few coats down, just whack it straight on - this is one trade secret we are happy to be privy too, it saved us so much time!

We weren't overly fond of the dull green carpet left behind, so once the dust sheets were removed and revealed several dramatic splodges of white paint which had seeped through, we actually did a little dance on our trip to the carpet shop late one evening. It's surprising how inexpensive it is to purchase and fit a new carpet. What's even more surprising though is that when you tell the salesman in your exhausted, paint fume induced haze that you would like a white carpet, nobody stops you, they just snigger as you leave the building.

But it looks awesome though and we're really chuffed with it. Obviously we didn't walk on it for three days for fear of dirt being deposited. We merely stood at the threshold and leaned round the door to admire our new room. On the fourth day we realised that appreciating our new living room from such a distant was bordering on ridiculous, oh alright, we had crossed the line after day 2, so we carefully removed our shoes (and the other half's socks - dark sock fluff is menacing at the best of times) and had a drink of wine (white of course - no stains) to celebrate the latest room to be completed.

The pine mantelpiece was also given a lick of paint. The sofa was bought from Ebay and we decided to keep the white blinds in addition to grey curtains. It still needs a few (salvaged) frames hanging and the TV setting up, but for now we're appreciating this relaxing and soothing space in our home. The Christmas tree is now up and the mantelpiece has been decorated too, so it feels really Christmassy in here. No TV yet though! The LP player is however up and running and currently playing Christmas carols. No surprise there.

Happy birthday Joan!