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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old and new autumn crafts

(i had written this post and taken the photos about 4 weeks ago, when we were still thick in autumn. but i couldn't find my cardreader, so the post remained a draft. just a few days ago i found the cardreader, tucked behind some sketchbooks in the shelf. so even though we are now actually in a whole different season, i thought i will still share what we did in fall!)

fall and crafting - two words that just belong to each other, don't they? without thinking much about it, we collect leaves and chestnuts and acorns. without much research this year, i made a fresh new glow jar with colorful leaves, and i stuck dried leaves onto one of our windows with self-adhesive sheets just like last year. i dipped leaves into beeswax just like i have for so many years already. sometimes the kids joined me for a moment, sometimes they didn't. just a regular crafting routine around here, inspired by my favorite season. and the comfort of somehow knowing what to do, and knowing how things will turn out and how it will look. building traditions.

i tried one new thing with the junebug one morning: we made these cute little spaghetti hedgehogs. just the right craft project for 3-year-old hands and attention span. one by her, one by me. both sitting on our mantlepiece together with our other treasures. 

snow day

long time readers of this blog will know that i am a big winter and snow lover, but unfortunately live in a region in germany that is not known for great snow winters (due to it's proximity to the ocean, which, i admit, is certainly a bonus we take advantage of!)

there so many other winter delights we indulge in (frost!, ice!, the fireplace!, gingerbread!) but when the snow does make it to our neck of the woods (it's always a surprise, isn't it?), we make sure to CELEBRATE it! so our first snow day this winter involved everything from a snowball fight, building a snowman, going sledding, clearing the driveway and just letting the snowflakes fall on our faces and listening to the crunch crunch beneath our feet.

coming inside and watching the snowflakes dance, drying mittens and hats infront of the fire, having hot chocolate and clementines and pulling out all our winter books - i think that was my favourite part of the day!

and i never give up hope that we might have a few more snowfilled days (or, dare i say, weeks?) this winter. it is just so much fun!!

nature walk details, and a painting wip

it's been way too long since my last blog post, and i don't really know how to go about this anymore. the biggest problem i always have is not knowing what to write, and after writing a few sentences i delete everything again. this is why i like simply adding a photo to our instagram account (@artsyants), because all i need to do there is write a tiny caption and i'm done. this past weekend i took a few pictures during our hike by a nearby creek, so i thought i'd share these on the blog, even if i don't find much to say/write to go along with the photos. but, after all, the beauty of creation speaks for itself :)

this fall has not been spectacular by any means when it come to foliage. we have have only spotted a handful of really nicely colored trees. that is a bit disappointing, but there are many other things to see and enjoy on a fall hike, that's why i focused in on the pretty details in nature.

painting wip

over past few months i have done far more sketching and drawing than i have over the past few years. i will share some of that in a future post (there are a few that made it to our instagram stream in case you're curious). for now i'll give you a glimpse of my latest WIP, it's a portrait painting. i never really learned how to paint, so every time i do paint i'm just figuring out things as i go. maybe i should watch some youtube videos, i'm sure that would teach me quite a bit. right now i'm nervous about continuing this painting since i'm afraid about ruining it, since as i said, i really don't know what i'm doing. if it turns out okay i might share the finished version.

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yarn along: slow knitting and fast reading

whoa, long stretch of not blogging... it is weird how busy my days have become. not in a bad way. just in a way that i mostly do not do stuff that i would blog about. but: there has been knitting and plenty of reading!

i have tons of wip's, but this shawl is the one i am mostly picking up. the yarn is so incredibly soft, the silk and bluefaced leicester blend is such a treat. i have just been making it a simple triangle shawl and have now started a block of garter stitch just to speed things up a little. i really just want to get this one done and around my neck.

i finished "The Light Between Oceans" within a few days while we were at the ocean. i have mixed feelings about it. i loved the description of the island and the lighthouse keeper's life. but the story is so heartbreaking it almost hurt literally. i felt such deep pity for Isabel, and started to detest her husband for what he allowed to happen and the way he "solved" everything in the end. have you read it? i'd like to know if you had similar strong feelings about the characters in the book!

right now it's a page turner. maybe i'm the last to read it, but i also haven't seen the film yet (in fact i haven't been to the movies for over 2 years...) but Gone Girl is keeping me awake! i plan to finish it before the weekend.

what are you knitting and reading? joining ginny's yarn along once again. have a lovely wednesday!

autumn discoveries

the vivid colors of fall keep inspiring me year after year. i am always ooh-ing and aah-ing over bright yellow, orange and read foliage and am often seen bending down to pick up some colorful leaves to add to my collection. imagine my delight when on a family field trip this weekend we spotted dozens of toadstools. i remembered a sketch i had made back in summer, and thought i might share both with you today.
have a good start to your week!

yarn along :: a new book and a new shawl

happy yarn along wednesday! so glad i get to join in today, too many wednesdays just went by with me remembering in the late afternoon that i might have posted...

so, what's new on the knitting and reading front? i finished Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee and (as many others) have mixed feelings about it. the circumstances leading to the publication of this book along with the fact that it was written before To Kill a Mockingbird and was actually rejected by the publishers at the time makes it hard for me to form an opinion. i think it would have been really great if this was an actual sequel. but it's not, so i just regard it as a piece of literature that i as an english literature graduate felt compelled to add to my required reading list.

i am yet to start Light Between Oceans in german, my mum just read it and as always i trust her taste.

i have a lot of wip's going, so why not start another one? Rachel of house full of jays and i have decided to have another kal, a shawl again. this time, it's the Trillian shawl and i'm knitting it up in wonderful Hedgehog Fibres handdyed sock yarn. the colors are a little on the pale side, but i think i will love wearing the shawl with darker sweaters and cardigans.

what are you knitting and reading right now? joining ginny's yarn along.

snippets of life

oh my, the weeks are just flying by. tomorrow is the first day of autumn, can any of you believe it? as most of you know, it is my favourite season. i am hoping for a lot of golden days, full of sunshine and walks in the woods with crunchy colorful leaves under my feet.

right now, simona and her husband are here visiting. they haven't been in germany in over 2 years so it is quite a treat to spend time together in our hometown and catching up with old friends.

my little (well, not so little anymore) man has started school. it is going well and he is enjoying it. we are slowly finding our groove with getting up early and school pick ups. it's a new rhythm to our days, but we're getting used to it and i'm happy to say i still find little pockets of time for creative exercises of all kinds. i have a whole basket of knitting wip's, and a sketchbook slowly filling with sketches, mostly of animals. i'll make sure to share some more sketchbook pages in a post next week.

wishing everybody a lovely day!
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