3 arty ideas for the school holidays

Rainy days are an inevitable part of the school holidays and finding new ideas for things to do can tricky.

Give one or two of these little arty ideas a try, creative children will love them!


Go dotty!

Go dotty over wildflowers

Inspired by a gorgeous wildflower meadow we saw on a recent trip to the Peak District, we loved creating these dotty pictures so much that we made lots, mounted them and made them into thank you cards.

  • Good quality paper
  • Pencil
  • Felt tip pens
  • Coloured card (optional)

1 In pencil, sketch a couple of lines across the paper to represent a field and hillside.

2 Using paler colours first fill in the ‘fields’ with lots of coloured dots to represent wild flowers and grasses.

3 Add a tree trunk and dotty leaves.

4 Mount onto coloured card, if you like.


Beady Napkins

Beady napkin rings

Making your own café can be great fun. Make (or bake) your favourite lunch, lay the table and add your homemade napkin ring to a paper napkin.

  • Craft wire or fine elastic
  • Selection of beads and charms
  • Paper napkins

1 Thread beads (and a charm or two if you like) onto craft wire or elastic.

2 Tie a knot in the elastic or twist the craft wire together.

3 Place on a napkin.


 Chocolate Lolipos

In your café you could offer one or two of these chocolate lollipops – they’re great fun to make.

Sheepish Chocolate Lolipops

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Calories 231 per portion
Fat 12g (7.4g sat) per portion
Suitable for vegetarians


  • White chocolate 200g bar, chopped
  • Lollipop sticks 8
  • Giant chocolate buttons 10-11
  • White mini marshmallows 50g (2oz)
  • Black and pink gel food colour to decorate


  1. 1 Using the base of a mug, draw eight circles on a sheet of baking paper. Turn over paper and weight each corner.
  2. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water.
  3. Spoon chocolate onto drawn circles. Place a lollipop stick onto each, turning once to coat. Place a button onto each circle near stick and snip remaining buttons into ear shapes and place one on each side of each button. Snip marshmallows in half with scissors and gently push into chocolate in concentric circles. Use gel to create eyes and mouth. Leave to set.


Have fun!





Easy Handmade New Baby Gift

Easy-Handmade-New-Baby-Gift-2 Easy Handmade New Baby Gift

When my best friend’s babies came along I made each of them name pictures for the nursery wall.

Because it was such a momentous event (super exciting but also signalling the end to our era of clubbing!) I wanted something special that they could keep forever.

My friend must have liked them as
she has now asked me to create
one for her brand new niece.

Because they are personalised and handmade they feel really special, but actually they are really easy to make.

Here’s how:

  1. Easy Handmade New Baby GiftBuy a frame with a mount, a selection of ribbons, a sheet of felt and an embroidery silk in the same tones.
  2. Cut a piece of card slightly larger than the aperture of the mount. Stick lengths of ribbon along the back of one side and weave with ribbons on the adjacent side. Take a look at my Easter card blog for the technique <link>
  3. On a piece of paper print out your chosen name in simple lettering. Cut out the letters and pin to the felt. Cut around the letters. Use the embroidery silk to do a blanket stitch around the edge of each letter.
  4. Glue the letters to the finished woven ribbon card and place in the frame.






Banish the Blues Part 2

Marvellous Easter Makes Made Easy


Marvellous Easter Makes Made Easy

(and other tongue-twisters)

With the wind still whistling around our ears, rain pelting the windows and the clocks waiting another few weeks before they go forward, it’s easy to get despondent.

Lift the mood by creating something
lovely for Easter, and maybe give
one of your creations as a gift.

I have been recipe testing for the next diary recently and to save my waistline from ‘just one more taste’ I have been giving out little parcels of food to neighbours and to teachers/acquaintances at the school gate. People have been genuinely thrilled to receive something unexpected (and yummy of course!) and it really brightens my (and hopefully their) day.

So… are three ideas for easy Easter treats to share:


Easter Egg Cake Pops

Easter Egg Cake Pops

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Calories 291 per portion
Fat 15g (6.5g sat) per portion
Suitable for vegetarians


  • Plain Madeira cake 285g pack
  • Chocolate spread 5 tbsp
  • White chocolate 225g (8oz), broken into pieces
  • Lollipop sticks 10 x 15cm (6in) Neon sugar sprinkles


  1. Trim off brown edges and crumble cake into a bowl. Add half the chocolate spread and mix well with your hands. Add remaining spread a tablespoon at a time until you have a mixture that can be squished and rolled into 10 tightly packed 30g (1oz) egg shapes.
  2. Place on a tray lined with non-stick baking paper and chill for 1 hour.
  3. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring often.
  4. Dip end of each stick into chocolate and insert into eggs. Place in a cake pop stand or glass and leave to set. Dip cake pop into chocolate and slowly rotate until evenly covered. Hold over a plate and sprinkle with decorations. Leave to set as before. Repeat with other pops.
  5. If giving as an Easter gift, pop into a cellophane bag and tie with a pretty coloured ribbon.


Woven Easter Card

Woven Easter Card


  • Selection of narrow ribbons
  • Card with oval hole
  • Scissors
  • Sellotape


  1. Choose a selection of ribbons in similar colours. Cut into strips slightly longer than the length of the oval.
  2. On the reverse of the oval attached a piece of ribbon (at the top left only) with a piece of tape. It should hang vertically down the length of the edge of the oval. Attach a second ribbon next to it to create a ribbon ‘fringe’ behind the oval.
  3. Cut more ribbon slightly wider than the width of the oval.
  4. Attach a piece of ribbon at the top of the oval but this time horizontally. Weave the ribbon in and out of the other ribbons to create a woven effect. Attach to the back with tape. Repeat until the oval is filled with the woven ribbon pattern.


Mini Egg Rocky Road

Mini Egg Rocky Road


  • Butter 110g (4oz)
  • Milk chocolate 110g (4oz), chopped
  • Digestive biscuits 110g (4oz)
  • Chocolate mini eggs 110g (4oz)
  • Marshmallows 110g (4oz), chopped
  • Dried cranberries 25g (1oz)


  1. Line an 18cm (7in) square baking tin with cling film.
  2. Place butter and chocolate in a large bowl and microwave for about 1 minute, until melted, checking frequently.
  3. Put biscuits into a strong polythene bag and bash with a rolling pin until broken up. Stir into chocolate with mini eggs, marshmallows and cranberries.
  4. Press into tin and refrigerate for at least an hour until firm. Remove from tin and cut into 16 squares.




National Nest Box Week

How to build a bird box


Step-by-Step DIY Birdbox

This week is National Nest Box Week, an initiative set up to encourage everyone to put up nest boxes in their local area in order to enhance biodiversity and conservation of our breeding birds and wildlife.

Natural nest sites for birds such as holes in trees or old buildings are disappearing fast as gardens are tidied and old houses are repaired.

Taking part in NNBW gives you the chance
to contribute to bird conservation whilst
giving you the pleasure of observing any
breeding birds that you attract to your nest box.

And here is a step-by-step guide to making a bird box.

Seasonal Garden Ideas £3.99This project is taken from our
Seasonal Garden Ideas book,
available to buy for just £3.99!





A Box for the Birds

Encourage small songbirds into your garden with a tailor-made nest box – this small-hole version is suitable for blue and great tits, coal tits and tree sparrows.

You can make the box at any time of year, but try to put it into position in January. Birds can start looking for nesting sites pretty early.

Making the box and putting it up should take an afternoon.


What you need

  • Saw, sandpaper, screwdriver, hammer, tape measure, pencil, drill, drill bits including a 28mm wide bit for the entrance hole.
  • One piece of sawn, untreated timber measuring 1.2m (4ft) long, 15cm (6in) wide and 1.25cm (¾ in) thick.
  • Two brass hinges and screws.
  • Water-based wood preservative and brush.
  • Hook or strong nail for hanging the box.

1 Mark out all the pieces on the timber using tape measure and pencil, to the following dimensions:

  • Back 30cm x 15cm (12in x 6in).
  • Floor 11cm x 15cm (4.5in x 6in).
  • Front 18cm x 15cm (7in x 6in).
  • Roof 20cm x 15cm (8in x 6in).
  • Side panels x 2 (cut for the sloping roof) 20cm (8in) high at the back, 18cm (7in) high at the front, 15cm (6in) at top and bottom.

2 Cut out the six sections accurately with a saw.

3 Sand all rough edges smooth – any splinters could damage the birds. Drill several small holes in the floor piece for drainage.

4 Fix one of the sides to the floor of the box using three nails set at intervals, then nail both of these to the back section – three nails per join are enough.

5 Turn the box on to the fixed side and nail the second side on to the back and floor.

6 Make the entrance hole for the birds in the front using a drill and 28mm wide drill bit. Position this hole at least 13cm (5in) up from the floor so the baby chicks can’t fall out. Sand the edges of the hole smooth.

7 Turn the box on its side and nail the front piece to the sides. Everything should fit together tightly without gaps. Screw the brass hinges on to the roof and back pieces.

8 Drill a hole in the top of the bird box for attaching to a tree trunk or branch via a hook or nail. Paint the outside of the box with a water-based wood preservative but do not allow the preservative to get inside the box – it will poison the chicks. Also keep the preservative away from the entrance – the adult birds often tap this area with their beaks before entering.

9 Position the box in a sheltered site, preferably between north and east to avoid heavy rain and hot afternoon sun. Place it high enough to be out of reach of prowling cats. Don’t position it near a bird feeding table – the constant coming and going of other birds will deter the parent birds from using the box.


Hanging the box about 2m (7ft) above ground should be enough to deter predators. Tilt the box slightly forwards when fixing it in place to aid water run-off.


Don’t be tempted to look in the box while baby birds are inside – such disturbance may cause the parents to desert the nest. Just watch comings and goings from a distance.

When the chicks have fledged and left the box, take it down, remove old nesting material and clean it thoroughly with scalding hot water – this is enough to kill any parasites.

Reapply water-based preservative if needed to prolong the life of the box, then hang it up again.





Banish the Blues part 1

Creative Creations to Sooth the Soul from Dairy Diary

After the hubbub of Christmas it’s easy to feel a little fed up. The weather’s dismal and the excitement of the season has been and gone.

However, now’s the time to embrace the cold – cosy up indoors and create something lovely.

The feel-good factor of crafting
is a great mood lifter.

The project may seem a little premature, but it’s a great way of recycling Christmas cards and gift wrap. It also means that you can already tick one thing off the to-do list for next Christmas.

Pop your gorgeous tags in a box and store with your Christmas decorations – and don’t forget to make a note in your Dairy Diary – otherwise it’s easy to forget and buy new tags in November.




Christmas gift tags for 2016

  • Old Christmas cards and Christmas paper
  • Craft knife or paper cutter
  • Christmas punch
  • Double-sided tape
  • Scissors
  • Card
  • Hole punch
  • Ribbon or wool (I cut these from gifts or the inside of new clothes)

1 Choose pretty elements from the old cards and wrap cut with a punch, knife or paper cutter.

2 Cut squares or rectangles of paper slightly larger.

3 Layer one on top of another on a piece of card and secure with double-sided tape.

4 Punch in a hole and thread with ribbon or wool.


Look out for part 2 coming soon.




Charming Christmas Wreath in 3 Simple Steps

Make a Christmas Wreath


It’s easy to give your home the wow factor with a stunning Christmas wreath.

Inspired by some particularly beautiful specimens at our local Christmas Fair, I have decided to make my own this year.

This step-by-step project from Seasonal Garden Ideas should make it easy.

It’s traditional to hang a wreath on the door at Christmas, and there are lots to choose from in the shops – but why not make your own using the abundant and varied foliage and berries available in the winter garden?

To ensure your wreath stays fresh as long as possible, make it as near to Christmas as you can. It should only take an hour or so.

What you need

Plants: Stems, foliage and berries from as many evergreen plants in the garden as you can muster: here, variegated holly, cypress, ivy (in flower), elaeagnus, rosemary, rose hips and hawthorn berries have all been pressed into use. Aim for long stems and unblemished leaves if possible.

Equipment: Circular wreath ring from a florist or garden centre. Thin wire. Soft green string.


1 Start with the evergreen and variegated foliage. Twist and tuck the stems into the wreath ring, securing with wire or soft string. Point them all in one direction to get a ‘wheel effect’. Work in this way all round the ring until you have a reasonably full foundation of secure foliage. Space out the variegated or bronze leaves for best effect.

2 Tie small bunches of berries together with wire or string, then tuck them into the ring at intervals in front of the foliage, again securing tightly with wire or string. The berries will be heavier than the foliage, so don’t put too many together in one bunch.

3 Hang the wreath on your door using wire or string.

Tip: If red berries simply aren’t available in your garden, invest in some really good quality, natural-looking artificial ones and keep them for use from year to year.

Notes: Other evergreen/variegated foliage leaves to try include artemisia, aucuba, choosy, euonymus, pittosporum, senecio and skimmia – as well as all the conifers. Just go into the garden and see what’s there!

Aftercare: The wreath should last reasonably well over the Christmas period, but after that the leaves will start to dry up – take it down on Twelfth Night (6 January).



Seasonal Garden Ideas £3.99This easy wreath is taken from Seasonal Garden Ideas, a lovely book with step-by-step projects for pretty garden projects throughout the year.

It’s available for just £3.99 here.

A perfect bargain Christmas gift.







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