Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Gift of a Warm Welcome

There is no better gift from the heart than the gift of a warm welcome - whether to a guest in your home, to a new neighbour, or a new colleague - I love to make people feel welcome. A large part of a successful welcome comes from thinking ahead, predicting the possible needs or desires of the recipient so you can make them comfortable. A comfortable person feels welcome and valued.

Both of these cards were handmade by me and are suited for a house guest or a new neighbour. I used a stencil for the house, cut out of patterned paper and of course each card has its own 'smoke stack' of a flourish or a heart, for me a house with a fire burning suggests a warm welcome.
Welcoming House Guests
Having a card to give a house guest upon arrival makes the guest feel that you are excited to have them come to stay, that you have been looking forward to their stay and have enjoyed preparing your home for them.
I once made a little card/note to pin on my friend's towel which I had laid on the foot of the spare bed. The note was on a small piece of white cardboard, with gold tissue paper glued on, and the words 'Welcome Ra' then pinned on the folded towel. Ra was of course, the name of my friend.
If your house guests have travelled far, it is best to have secured an amount of time free in your day for them to rest, rather than rushing them into plans and activities which if scheduled make the guest feel compelled to participate when they might really just need a rest, a shower, or something to eat.
By anticitpating the possible needs or desires of your guests - food, rest, bathroom, phone calls home, access to internet, some light exercise, medical attention..... - you are able to deliver their needs naturally and easily, a large part of their feeling comfortable and welcome.
For elderly guests, you might need to pen up an exuberant pet dog, and give young children some quiet activities while your guest rests.
Welcoming New Neighbours

A handmade card, and a gift of food or wine may seem old fashioned but you can generally tell whether your new neighbour is the kind to enjoy the gesture or not.

I find the most practical new neighbour gift is the gift of information - if they are completely new to the area they may appreciate a list of good businesses and services, for example the best restaurants in town, the best tradesmen, a good medical practice, and any peculiar business hours. I live in a town where all the businesses used to close at lunchtime on Wednesdays, now all the businesses stay open but the library still closes at 12 each Wednesday. That is the type of thing that may be helpful to a new neighbour and save them a lot of inconvenience and costly mistakes. You can write out the notes in a lovely notebook leaving room for them to make their own notes and find their own favourites over time.

I also like the gift of a Garden Journal, I started mine in 1999, I have a page for each new plant that I put in the garden, all the information for caring for the plant is recorded and then my own notes on my success or difficulties and experiences. You could give the journal (just cover a plain notebook with fabric or a paper collage and a nice title) with a new pot plant with the first page filled out with the info about your gift, that way they can see how to use the book themselves.

Welcoming a New Colleague

The best gift besides a handshake and a smile, is patience. Your new coworker may need time to adjust to new duties, or to the ins and outs of their new work environment. An invitation to lunch is as kind to a new colleague as it is to the new kid in school. It also gives them the chance to find the best places to have lunch in the immediate vicinity.

Be helpful but not intrusive and make yourself available to answer questions when they arise, other than that, I am sure your new work mate will be competant and therefore able to stand on their own two feet.

So I hope this helps you and don't forget to think about any of the things you have personally experienced that have made you feel welcome - they are worth remembering and using to welcome others.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Champagne Anyone?

I made these champagne drop earrings yesterday, they are lovely and lightweight, and sparkle in the different lights. What do you think feminine? glamourous? They are a little more refined then my usual over the top colour combinations but never fear, I will still be playing with colour and making my fun, fresh designs.
These earrings like many of my others can be viewed and dare I suggest purchased, on Etsy in my store or follow the link on the right of this page.
I will be back here soon with some easy heartfelt gift ideas you can make yourself, until then, have a great weekend, xxx Starry

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Butterfly Collage

Close up section, iron on butterfly and fabric flower on panels of printed paper and glitter patterned cardstock.

handcut butterfly made with golden outline sticker, on panels of printed paper and fabric flower.

A view of the whole collage before it was framed, I have used so many sources - butterflies cut from tissue box panels, paper tole, scrapbook paper, rhinestone flower, fabric flowers, iron on butterfly motif, ribbon, glitter outlines, and royalty free clip art squares.
You could easily achieve a papercrafted collage for a gift for someone in your life. Here are some of my tips for gathering sources, and compiling the collage....
You have two options for your gift project - framed or unframed. If you give the collage unframed to the recipient they will have the burden of finding a suitable frame for the piece, and it will be easier for them if you stick to traditional dimensions as they can easily purchase a frame. If you, like me, prefer to frame your work yourself you should select a frame and mount before you begin as your piece will be tailor made for the specific dimensions, this is crucial if you do not want to go to a professional framer. Framing yourself cuts your costs but you need to purchase a frame and mount that will fit the piece - far easier the other way round, trust me. Find a frame, then make the collage.
Select a theme - as you have seen I have done a Russian Doll theme in the past, and on this occasion a butterfly theme. Select your subject matter, then your colour scheme, then textures and materials.
My butterfly collage came together because I love butterflies, and I love the colours I used, and I knew I had some of the items sitting in my house that would flesh it out. I had a tissue box with flowers and butterflies on it - I cut the butterflies out. I had the lilac iron butterfly motif, so I knew I would be using that. I came home from the craft fair with the golden outline stickers and applied them to patterned paper and cut around them, giving me two more butterflies in my collage.
I needed a background and I chose to use panels of different size and shaped patterned and printed papers, includind paper tole for an interesting texture. I also used four very small square print royalty free clip art (you can see the bright pink flowers are two of them). You can use royalty free clip art in your recreational work but not for commercial use and it must be declared if you intend to enter an art or craft show.
It was fun playing around with the shapes and laying things out into the finished arrangement, I used mounting tape and glue, when you make your arrangement you want to distribute the colours in an interesting way - the piece will want highlights and lowlights just like your hair ladies, and you don't want the edges all laid out in a regimented line, you can play around with shapes and alignment and don't forget to place some small panels over the top of larger ones like an inset on a map.
Go forth and create, it is one of the most joyous and relaxing things you can do, and will make a one-off original gift from the heart.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Virtues of Handmade, and a Chance to Win

Hi everyone, I come bearing news of how you can win handmade crafted items every week, but first what is so great about handmade?

Why am I so obsessed with handmade, when I am clearly such a great retail shopper?

Handmade is the right fit for my heart, it makes the most sense to me, it is ethically the best choice, and you come away with something that is completely individual and unique.

Hand crafted items are environmental heroes - they are made with the tiniest of carbon footprints, and crafters are notorious for recycling, upcycling, and adapting things with very little waste. Council recycling programs actually use a lot of energy to transform used items into new materials.

Crafters make items themselves, under the conditions they choose, unlike sweat shop mass produced garments and items that exploit some of the worlds most underprivileged and uncared for workers.

Handmade goods that are not mass produced give the crafter or artisan the opportunity to inspect each item to make sure they are of the highest quality and worthy of releasing out into the world. I can't tell you how often I have come home with a garment that has a faulty seam, poorly sewn on sequins or beadwork, but no more!

With hand crafted wares you are very unlikely to see someone with the same design as you have purchased, and unique pieces are terrific gifts from the heart for that someone special.

So how can you win handcrafted items every week? Simple, there is a new blog in town, run by my friends who are Australian crafters and artisans, it is called Aussie Handmade Giveaway visit it at each week you have the chance to win different handmade items. You will also see the profiles of the different donating artisan, and learn more about their work and where you can browse and purchase if you are unlucky in the weeks draw.
I will be donating to the site in the week starting August 17th, but this weeks draw is for two beautiful pairs of handmade earrings by the site's founder, please go and have a look and good luck in the draw!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mother's Day Home Spa Treats

I have my home spa day, or half day, once a month when I have the house to myself, but a home spa day with friends or family can be very nice, and why not give the mum in your life a hamper of beauty treatments, or pamper her for the day?

As a herbalist and aromatherapist here are some of my nice 'safe for anyone' treatments, and then later in the post I will tell you some of my favourite budget friendly ready made goodies in case you want to fill a hamper for her.

Peanut Butter Scrub except for those with peanut allergies, this is a great treatment for tough or roughened skin for example, heels, elbows, knees and for dirty hands from gardening.
4 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter,
2 tablespoons finely ground sea salt,
2 tablespoons of almond essential oil.
Mix these ingredients into a paste, adding the oil last of all, rub onto dampened skin where the treatment is required and massage for a couple of minutes, you can then rinse off or have a bath.

Avocado Mask Mashed avocado flesh applied to the face for a short time, up to 5 minutes, will reduce signs of aging and leave the skin glowing and fresh. Honey is often also added into the avocado flesh, just a little, and mix it in.

Carrot and Lemon Zinger grated carrot with the lemon juice squeezed over it, and applied to oily skin on the face, or to body acne is brilliant, the skin is so clean and clears up as if by magic.
I leave this treatment on my face for up to 10 minutes, first timers should try 5 minutes, and on the back or body up to 15 minutes.

Cucumber Cream Mask blend 1 tablespoon of fresh cream with equal amounts of cucumber, melon, and pumkin seeds in a food processor. Apply the cream to the face and leave for up to 30 minutes, rinse off and relax!

Rosemary Bath for body aches and pains, low mood, and to ease stress, go out to the garden and pick two branches of rosemary about 30cm long. Come inside and steep them in boiled water in a large vessel for 15 minutes. Run a bath and pour the steeped rosemary into the bath, you may prefer to strain the herb out of the water but you can safely soak with the rosemary in the water.

My Favourite Ready Made Treats
1. Herbal Essences Drama Clean Shampoo and conditioner, for silky smooth, clean hair that lasts for days.
2. Botanical Creations Body Butter (I buy at Priceline) in Lavender, Chamomile and Geranium, use this and you won't only have moist skin, but you won't need perfume.
3. Lux Shower Gel in Neroli and YlangYlang, love it! Boosts your mood and wakes you up without stress.
4. Megan Gale Invisible Zinc Tinted Moisturiser, gives me luscious creamy skin the boys go mad for! You can wear mineral makeup over the top without looking like you are wearing anything.
5. Sally Hansen Lip Inflation in clear, the peppermint oil really gives it the tingly sensation while it keeps you moist and chap free.
Hope this helps for now, in the future I will be doing a naturopathic first aid kit post for all you mummies who want to soothe and treat the family aches and pains safely.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Adore Russian Dollies

I just adore all things Russian and have had in mind for over a year I would guess, to create a mixed media collage celebrating my love of matryoshka dolls. So here it is, unframed you can see the pencil borders but it is easier to photograph without glass.
This one is for me, it is my dream piece, but I will make some smaller collages using paint and patterned papers, also I have an Enchanted Garden collage in mind for the girl who loves fairies, flowers, and friends. So I will keep you up to date with my progress and let you know when finished pieces become available.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Movies for Mother's Day

In recent years our tradition has been for Mum and I to watch movies together in the afternoon on Mother's Day, any classic movie, or new movie that she doesn't get to watch because Dad won't like it.
Here are some of our favourites to watch together:

Classic: Gone With The Wind, Jezebel, I'll Be Seeing You, Holiday, The Philadelphia Story, Now Voyager, South Pacific, The King and I, Mrs Minniver, Goodbye Mr Chips, How Green Was My Valley, and My Fair Lady.

Foreign: For Rosanna, Il Postino, the Three Colours Trilogy (Blue, White, Red, please watch them in that order), Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Kolya, Pavillion of Women.

Everything Else: Steel Magnolias, Hanging Up, Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood, The Joyluck Club, The Notebook, The Lake House, Vanity Fair, Raising Helen, The Banger Sisters, and The Other Boleyn Girl.

TV on DVD we love: Ghost Whisperer, Charmed, Gilmore Girls, ER, Everybody Loves Raymond, Brothers and Sisters, The Tudors, and Ally McBeal.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Books For Mother's Day

Whether for you, your mum, or grandmother, books are a great gift, they are a ticket to another time and place, an escape, an indulgence, and also a way of relating to our own lives and experiences and seeing them in a new light. A good book allays loneliness and bordeom, excites the soul, and soothes the nerves. I have carefully compiled this list of books on a number of factors, personal enjoyment, range of topics and settings, and how they put women's lives in perspective. So here they are, my books - old and new - for Mother's Day 2009:

"Vanity Fair", William Makepeace Thackeray

"Ghost Heart", Cecilia Samartin

"Wild Swans", Jung Chang

"White Oleander", Janet Fitch

" The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox", Maggie O'Farrell

"The Time Traveler's Wife", Audrey Niffenegger

"The Lovely Bones", Alice Sebold

" Barefoot", Elin Hilderbrand

"The True and Outstanding Adventures of The Hunt Sister", Elisabeth Robinson

"The Undomestic Goddess", Sophie Kinsella

"I'm A Believer", Jessica Adams

"The Queen of Sublteties", Suzannah Dunn

"The Constant Princess", Philippa Gregory

"The Other Boleyn Girl", Philippa Gregory

"The Glass Palace", Amitav Ghosh

"The Russian Concubine", Kate Furnivall

"The Bonesetter's Daughter", Amy Tan

"The Bronze Horseman", Paullina Simons

"Wild Lavender", Belinda Alexander

"The Promise", Danielle Steel.

Happy reading everyone, and don't forget to share your favourite books with me, I love to know what my friends are reading!