ice lanterns and ice wreaths


I had planned to make ice art - ice wreaths, ice lanterns and the like - for many many years now. my pinterest boards are full of pins of beautiful ice crafts, but somehow, either the weather didn't stay cold long enough, or i simply forgot... but what is a lockdown smack in the middle of winter good for if not to get started on all these crafty to do lists... 

here is a quick how-to, although i do think it is pretty self-explanatory.

you need: 

- freezing temperatures or space in your freezer
- natural materials like winter berries, twigs and perhaps some slices of clementines
- cake tins, bread baking pans, small buckets
- smaller utensils to put into the buckets and tins if you want to make lanterns (i used paper cups)
- stones to put into these, to prevent them from floating

what to do:
- place the smaller utensils (cups) into the baking pans and buckets and place some stones in them
- evenly arrange all the natural materials and try to make the slices of clementines/mandarines stay upright towards the edge of the pans
- fill with water
- place outside overnight to freeze (or in the freezer if it's not cold enough)

i left ours outside and they were frozen after about 20 hours. I was able to tilt the pans and the ice wreaths just popped out, you can run a little warm water over the buckets in case the ice doesn't come out easily. the paper cups were harder to remove, i will use plastic cups next time!

such a beautiful winter decoration!

gift idea :: homemade calendula salve

I'm always on the lookout for a simple craft that gives me the possibility to share what I made, if possible something useful. Handmade body care products are much more simpler to make than it might seem, and I had given a lemon hand scrub a try a few years ago. I think it's great to make plenty and then have gifts ready for family and friends.

This summer, I grew lots and lots of calendula (marigold) flowers in my garden. I used very little in fresh summer salads, and picked the rest to be dried on my windowsill. Using these and these instructions found on Pinterest, I made my first batch of calendula salve. I'm happy with the result, even though it was a little trial-and-error. I will definitely use more beeswax next time, as the consistency is quite oily, and I might also try a little sheabutter to make it more suitable as a lip balm. As it is now, it is a wonderful salve to use on the back of hands that tend to be chapped during these cold winter months. I infused almond oil with my dried calendula petals and still have plenty left to try out other mixing ratios and ingredients.

What have you been making lately?

urban bird watching adventures :: mr. bullfinch & a free printable

it is now spring of 2017 and the bullfinch couple along with many other bird friends are still visiting our feeder. i thought it might be fun to "revive" this post and give you a chance to download our simple, but fun backyard bird log. as my kids have grown we can add actual notes to the log, it's the perfect basis for our (sub)urban birdwatching adventures. 

already when we were living in our third floor apartment in the heart of the city, and also now as we have retreated to a more suburban (but still densely populated) area, looking out for birds, feeding them and identifying them has become part of our everday life. we are joined every morning by chickadees, blue tits, (eurasian) blackbirds, sparrows and bullfinches. occasionally, (eurasian) jay birds and hedge warblers pay us a visit, too! i love how my kids (yes, even my 2-year-old!) don't just call out "bird" whenever they see one, but actually refer to the proper names of the birds when they spot them, sometimes also lovingly calling them "frau meise" (mrs chickadee) and "herr gimpel" (mr. bullfinch).

identifying birds
of course, we like to use books to learn how to identify local birds that we see. in case we are not sure about what kind of a bird it is, and especially when we are out and about, we love the app published by the german nature conservation society NABU. you can easily choose different features and characteristics that you noticed (size, color of feathers, size and color of beak and legs etc.) and it shows you a list of possible birds along with information about its habitat and behavior. i'm sure similar apps are available for your local birds, we just searched for "bird identifcation" in the app store.

the backyard bird log

for now, as they are only 4 and 2 years old respectively, i was thinking about a possibility to go a step further than simply watching the birds. i'd love for our birdwatching to have just a bit of a scientific approach. so i created a backyard bird counting sheet that is now by our main window, with a pencil ready to take note of any bird that we spot in our yard. if you have young children that you would like to go a step further in their bird watching endeavours, you can download the free printable and customize it according to your local birds. it can be used within a day or a week. you can use one sheet per kind of bird, or count all birds on one sheet. and feel free to add any other "activities" as well.

click here to download the backyard bird log.

future birdwatching activities
i would love to make a little book with pictures of and stories about the birds visiting us every day, which is why we always have the camera ready on the window sill for taking photos. and i can't wait for the day when my kids are old enough to draw the birds they spot. oh, the possibilities for craft projects and sharing stories are endless!

do share, which birds visit you where you live and how do you attract birds to your yards and porches? we'd love to hear from you!

product review: chalkola chalk markers

the artsy ants were lucky enough to receive some free product a couple of weeks ago from Chalkola: a lovely set of 10 chalk ink markers and a pack of blackboard labels. the look of chalks and blackboards has left schools and classrooms a long time ago and has made its way into diy products, crafts, home decor and more. being a teacher myself, i know what actual chalk feels like, how dusty it is and how it dries out the skin. not so with the Chalkola chalk ink markers. they are easy to use, easy to clean up. they are non-toxic and due to the ink-y nature you won't have problems with dust.

i quickly unpacked the set and tried them out right away. the bright, neon colours look great espcially on a dark background. i like having seasonal welcome signs on a blackboard in the hallway and will surely use them for that. i also tried out two of the blackboard labels on kitchen jars. when using these jars i need to be careful not to touch the writing though, as the ink does rub off a little.

i tried out a small design on our living room window and really like the result. look at that dreary weather out there! i might just add a few more flowers to remind myself spring is around the corner!

i think kids will need a little help with getting the ink flowing, but once this is done i would say the chalk markers are perfect for kids craft projects. i am planning on letting my kids draw on their bedroom windows with them to welcome spring.

you can get the Chalkola chalk markers on Amazon US and Amazon UK.
if you would like to give the chalk pens a try you are welcome to use the discount code CHALK20A to get 20% off on Amazon.

happy crafting!

recent pen sketches and paintings

while life has kept me busy, i have taken at least a few minutes each day to do some sketching. as a teenager i had a phase in which i really loved to draw with a ballpoint pen. it's a bit messy, especially if you have one of those leaky pens which put out too much ink which comes out in blobs, and it ends up smearing all over the paper and your hands. but i still thought it was fun. and i think it's fun again, but i try to select better quality pens now to reduce the mess.

even though i was able to take a few minutes each day for sketching, i just can't find the time to finish the painting i began weeks ago. it seems as if i just don't find a considerable amount of time to get out all the paints, and mix them, get into the right mindset, and all that good stuff.

also, it seems like this paint project needs to be placed on the back-burner anyway, simply because it's just for me and it's not a commission. so working on it feels really good, but thinking about taking time out of my schedule for it comes with a slight feeling of guilt. but i really can't wait to finish and hang it!

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