A Better Florist – A Review (with exclusive discount code and giveaway!)

A fortnight ago, I received a lovely bouquet of flowers from A Better Florist. I’d been sick with the flu for a couple of days, feeling incredibly miserable and sorry for myself – and it was amazing what a difference it made to receive such a special delivery! It shirked me up to no end.

The bouquet that I received was The Lilah, part of A Better Florist’s signature collection of floral arrangements. I was very impressed by the exotic mixture of cheerful blooms in their simple and modern glass vase, which really brightened up my room as well as my day.

The flowers, which are sourced from Cameron Highland farms, arrived in dewy fresh condition, and with a daily water change, they were able to stay sweet and pretty for a whole week. I would say that the blooms really looked their best in the first four days.

kids-flowers

J and Little E enjoying the flowers

I placed the bouquet on my dining table, and funnily enough, over the next few days, I noticed that J and Little E would quietly go and sit at the table to read or play, instead of lounging in our living room. Little E was even inspired to make a few sketches of the flowers!

If you’re looking for a great last minute gift, A Better Florist does offer same day delivery (at no extra charge) for orders made before 3pm, and they so have a very nice selection of affordable bouquets! They also hold occasional floral arrangement workshops on Saturdays – I’m hoping to bring Little E and the Aged P to one next month. Check out the A Better Florist Facebook page for details on their next floral jamming session or for exclusive discount codes!

Speaking of discount codes, A Better Florist is offering all Owls Well Readers a whopping SGD$10 off their next order! Just quote the code OWLSWELL10 at checkout!

Something Special For Owls Well Readers: The fine folk behind A Better Florist are kindly sponsoring a giveaway of the Spring Breeze floral bouquet in a beautiful mason jar (worth SGD$72)  to one lucky Owls Well Reader!

Thanks A Better Florist!

To take part in this giveaway, please follow the following steps:

  1. Be a fan of Owls Well on Facebook
  2. Share this giveaway on your Facebook page (set to public), tagging @owlswellblog and at least TWO friends
  3. Comment below with your favourite bouquet from A Better Florist. Don’t forget to tell me the name of your Facebook account that you used to share this giveaway and include your email address! (If you would like to send me the email address privately, leave a comment for the other answers, then email me at 4owlswell [at] gmail [dot] com)
  4. (optional: For an extra entry, follow our Instagram account @4owlswell and leave a separate comment below with your Instagram handle.)

(This giveaway is open to anyone with a Singapore mailing address and closes at noon on Tuesday 4th July 2017. Winners will be picked via Random.org – just make sure you complete all 3 easy steps!)

Update: This giveaway is now closed and the winner has been emailed! Thanks for playing!

Upcycling for kids: Spiderweb Christmas Coasters (or Circular Weaving Loom CDs)

So, I was looking at spiderwebs and thinking of Greek Mythology, and I remembered that there used to be circular weaving looms around for seamless knitting of bags and hosiery. I headed onto Google and found a bunch of paper plate weaving crafts but instead of using paper plates, I decided to upcycle a bunch of old blank CDs that I had lying around the house.

Yes, I have a whole spindle of blank CDs that I purchased nearly 10 years ago. They only fit about 400-700MB of information on them, so they are useful for virtually nothing nowadays. I keep them around in case I ever need to burn one or two photos for a friend. But now we can use them for making some great Christmas gifts!

So here’s:

How to Upcycle Old CDs into Pretty Christmas Coasters and Hanging Ornaments

Materials:

  1. Old CDs
  2. Yarn of different colours and textures (I got my yarn from Daiso)
  3. Scissors
  4. (Optional) Old plastic yoghurt pots or takeaway container lids
  5. (Optional) Hole-punch

upcycle-recycle-art-craft-cd-yarn

Instructions:

  1. Cut weaving needles out of yoghurt pots or takeaway container lids. You don’t necessarily need these but I found them useful in preventing the yarn from fraying at the ends. Cut out teardrop shaped plastic pieces from old plastic yoghurt pots or takeaway container lids. Use a hole punch to make a hole through one end. I used a regular paper hole punch for this.
  2. Warp your CD loom using 1.5-2m length of yarn. You do this by looping the yarn through the hole in the middle of the CD. Tie a knot in the first loop.
  3. Make sure that there are an odd number of loops. Any number above 15 looks pretty good, bearing in mind that the more loops you have, the more challenging it is for the weaver. I used about 15-19 loops for 5 year old Little E, and 21-25 loops for 8 year old J. christmas-ornament-craft-gift-coaster-kids
  4. Cut any length of yarn to use for weaving. I got each child to measure out 2 arm-lengths of yarn to start out. Tie one end to any spoke on the warping to start, and the other end to the weaving needle.
  5. Weave the yarn through the spokes of the warping in an under-over-under-over pattern (or under one-skip one-under one-skip one). We used the shiny side of the CD as the weaving side, because it just looks prettier that way.
  6. When you come to the end of the yarn, just tie another length of yarn on and continue the pattern. Experiment with different textures and colours
  7. Try to finish weaving the spiderweb to at least 1 cm from the edge of the CD! It gets quite challenging towards the end.
  8. Once you finish the spiderweb, tie the yarn off to the nearest spoke on the loom, and tuck the ends under the weaving.
  9. You can choose to tie another length of yarn through any one of the wheel spokes so that the weaving can be hung up as a Christmas ornament, or it can be used flat as a drinks coaster – your choice!

weaving-yarn-cd-upcycle-christmas-craft-ornament

 

Last Minute Teacher’s Day Gift Ideas from around the web

Teacher’s Day is in a few days time and if you (like myself) are barely able to get it together on a daily basis, here are some awesome last minute Teacher’s Day Gift ideas from around the web! Just click on the links or the images for more details.

Smile, print and go!

Here are some really simple and fast gift and craft ideas using photos of your child! Just a little bit of photoshop magic or scissorwork required!

DIY Photo bookmark from Owls Well

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Photo penholder card from Owls Well

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Homemade Goodness

If you really want to impress, here are some delicious ideas that are so simple to make, you can even get your kids involved in the process!

Double Berry Jam from Life’s Tiny Miracles

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Picture Credit: Life’s Tiny Miracles

Homemade Granola from MalMal Our Inspiration

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Picture Credit: MalMal Our Inspiration

Daily Survival Kits

For some of us who have no confidence in our culinary skills, here are some equally practical gifts for helping teachers stay healthy, happy and sweet.

Obento-style care packages for teachers from Sakura Hakura

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Picture Credit: Sakura Hakura

Teachers’ Day Care Package from Bubsicles

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Picture Credit: Bubsicles

Make it personal

Nothing says ‘effort’ like a handmade gift! Here are some more lovely craft ideas for that special teacher.

Hand stamped tote bags from Lil Blue Bottle

Teachers = learning = books = they will always need a tote bag for all their books and loose papers! (I suggest using the slogan “You’re Totes Awesome”! )

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Picture Credit: Lil Blue Bottle

Magnetising Teachers Day from Growing Hearts 123

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Picture Credit: Growing Hearts 123

Make it Teacher Approved

Here are some useful lists of gift ideas with some gorgeous free printables – written by parents who are teachers themselves!

(By the way, I hear movie ticket vouchers, Starbucks gift cards and good quality coloured pens or highlighters are very high on the wish list, although every teacher I’ve spoken to really appreciates a thoughtfully written card.)

  1. 6 Gift Ideas for Teachers from My Lilbookworm
  2. 10 Mason Jar Gift ideas for Teachers’ Day from Life’s Tiny Miracles

12 Ideas for Last Minute Crafty Christmas Joy

It’s Christmas Eve and there are Christmas parties, Christmas presents and Christmas cheer that needs to go round, and if you are anything like me, you haven’t done a thing about it yet.

Don’t Panic!!!

Owls Well is here with a round up of a dozen last minute Christmas crafts and general activity for Funtimes And Merriment from around the web!

Christmas Cards

1.Try these quick and simple ideas for gorgeous Christmas cards using washi tape by A Pancake Princess

Picture Credit: A Pancake Princess

Picture Credit: A Pancake Princess

2. I really like these three kid-friendly christmas card ideas over at PeiPeiHaoHao

Picture Credit: PeiPeiHaoHao

Picture Credit: PeiPeiHaoHao

3. If you’ve got a ton of Christmas scrapbooking paper to destash, here’s a pretty, sparkly Christmas tree card by Xavvy-licious

Picture Credit: Xavvy-licious

Picture Credit: Xavvy-licious

Christmas Decorations

4. Welcome guests to your home with a beautiful Christmas window display made from sticks and string like this one from MalMal Our Inspiration

Picture Credit: MalMal Our Inspiration

Picture Credit: MalMal Our Inspiration

5. Spruce up your party with a lovely table centrepiece by A Million Little Echoes

Picture Credit: A Million Little Echoes

Picture Credit: A Million Little Echoes

6. Destash your collection of felt scraps (or get some more from Daiso) with these cute felt ornaments from Hello, Mrs Tan

Picture Credit: Hello, Mrs Tan

Picture Credit: Hello, Mrs Tan

7. Entertain the kids all day and get them to make a paper plate and pinwheel tree from Simply Me

Picture Credit: Simply Me

Picture Credit: Simply Me

Stocking Stuffers

8. If you have some airline tube socks from your last trip abroad, why not upcycle them into a super cute Tube Sock Totoro 

Cute!

Cute!

9. These Upcycled Snow Globes are a brilliant idea by Life is in the Small Things

Picture Credit: Life is in the Small Things

Picture Credit: Life is in the Small Things

10. I love these wooden hand lettered ornaments over at Daprayer

Picture Credit: Daprayer

Picture Credit: Daprayer

Christmas Treats

11. Make a few glasses of this delicious and refreshing Christmas Drink and impress your friends

So Sophisticated!

So Sophisticated!

12. Check out this collection of delicious food art ideas put together by The Hooting Post

P.S. For more great ideas, check out these 35 Simple and Foolproof Christmas Crafts and Free Printables

P.P.S. Also, here’s the Owls Well Christmas Party Playlist!

Becky’s Essence of Fruit: Bottling

A while ago, I wrote about making fruit essence for baking cakes with.

Well, 6-8 weeks is now over, so here’s a quick tutorial on preparing the fruit essences once they’re done.

You’ll need:

  • A bowl or jug of some sort
  • A sieve
  • 50 ml bottles for the essence
  • A funnel

As usual, you should boil the bottles to sterilise them so that your essences don’t go “off” before they can be used.

IMG_2674

Boil it up good

I used amber bottles designed for aromatherapy oils as the dark glass on the bottles helps to block out light from reaching the essence, keeping it fresher for longer.  They’re also pretty good when pouring into a teaspoon!  However, if you are feeling very fancy, or are very fancy, you can always buy pretty bottles from Etsy, save up tiny sample alcohol bottles or even use old perfume jars (after thorough cleaning, of course), the sky’s the limit!

FullSizeRender

Blueberries have lost their colour – this means that they’re ready

Sieve the berries out of the essence liquid.  You can use a regular sieve for this, but if you’re really fancy, you can get more juice and flavour out of the berries by squeezing the fruit through a piece of cooking muslin.  I’m too lazy for this, though!

Essence

All ready for Christmas!

Use a funnel to fill the little bottles with the essence and voila, you have some lovely essence for Christmas!  If you have a label printer, you can spruce the bottles up with fancy labels.

A Becky Lee’s Note: Always prepare slightly more empty bottles than you expect to fill, as the recipe always creates slightly more than 250 ml per lot.

So, there you have it, my gift for my baker friends this Christmas!  I hope you like it!

Becky’s Essence of Fruit (Recipe Inside!)

Recently, supermarkets in Sydney have stopped stocking fruit-flavoured extracts and essences because teenagers have been buying them in bulk and scoffing them to get drunk.

Since I love baking cakes, this has posed a problem for me, since I can’t even get vanilla essence anymore for baking!  The solution?  Make my own flavoured essence, of course!  After consulting with a few friends, and looking up a few references, I was ready to embark on my essence making journey.

Ingredients (berry essence):

  • 250 g berries
  • 250 ml vodka
  • 500 ml glass preserving jars
  • 6 to 8 weeks of time

Becky’s Note: In order to get the best results, I highly recommend using a vodka that’s as close to flavourless as possible.  The more distillation and filtration, the better!  Absolut Vodka is pretty good for this, though I’ve heard that pricier alcohols like Grey Goose and Belvedere are good as well.

Delicious glass and metal soup

Delicious glass and metal soup

Step 1:  Sterilise the Jars

Open the jars, fill them with boiling water, then immerse them and the jar lids in a pot of boiling water and boil for about 15 minutes.  This will get rid of any nasty bacteria that may be hanging around.  The alcohol will take care of the rest.

Make sure that you use tongs when removing the jars from the hot water.

Dump out the water, then use a clean towel to dry the jars and lids up.  Make sure that the jars are completely dry before use.

Cuttin' up the Strawberries

Cuttin’ up the Strawberries

Step 2: Prepare the Fruit

For most berries, I recommend dicing up the fruit so that each piece is roughly 1 cm big.  This will increase the surface area for the alcohol to leech out the berry flavour and juices.

For blueberries, however, don’t bother cutting them up, simply use the tip of your knife to poke a small hole in the skin of each blueberry.

If you’ve got a 500 ml jar, you can just put the berry pieces into the jar and top the jar up with vodka.  However, if you don’t have such a small jar, then make sure to measure the vodka out carefully, as the 1:1 ratio of vodka to fruit is very important.

The essential ingredients!

Becky’s Note: Should you decide to drink some of the vodka at this stage, please be warned that vodka is 40% alcohol by volume.  Make sure to eat something and drink lots of water as well!

Step 3: Put Away for 6 to 8 Weeks

Screw the lids of the bottles on tightly and put the essence bottles away in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks.  Do NOT expose the essence bottles to light if you can help it!  This can really ruin the flavour!

A trio of fruit!

A trio of fruit!

Becky’s Note:  As you can see in this picture, I’ve made lemon essence as well!  Making essence out of citrus fruit entails a whole different process – instead of 250g of fruit, you’ll need the zest of about 1 kg of lemons for every 250 ml of vodka you use.  The resulting jar is therefore less full of liquid, as lemon zest takes up a lot less space and is more potent than the berries.

Over time, the liquor should gain more of the colour of the fruit, while the fruit loses its colour as the flavour is leeched out by the vodka.

Step 4: Filter out the fruit and bottle the essence in smaller jars!

After 8 weeks, take the bottles out and filter the fruit out!  You can now bottle the results up for baking and cooking!

Beginner’s Guide to Starting School: Label Your Stuff

Some of you may have figured out that J started Primary School this year, and I have to say that I was woefully underprepared for it. I mean, I figured that it would not be much different from attending preschool. How wrong I was.

First of all, I never realised how important it was to label everything. And I mean, everything. Not just the books and the big items like the water bottle and pencil case, but also every single piece of stationery, down to the last colour pencil and crayon.

Fortunately for me, J’s Godmother is a much wiser person than I am and for Christmas last year, she gave J a whole set of very beautiful, personalised name labels that she had specially ordered all the way from the USA.

Best.

Gift.

Ever.

These name stickers were a real lifesaver, and without them I probably I would have spent a fortune on stationary this year! It is amazing the number of times J has come home with stationary missing from his pencil case or with somebody else’s book that he accidentally stuffed into his schoolbag at the end of the day.

There are quite a few online stores where you can get good quality name stickers, but most of them are quite pricey. I have recently had the opportunity to test out the name labels from Stickerkid which are surprisingly affordable, being the best value that I have seen on the market, while having the greatest flexibility in customisation and the quickest turnaround time, making them a great last minute gift idea!

Owls Well Recommends: Get the ‘My First Classes’ pack which is not only great value but includes a ton of small stickers for all the tiny stationary, big stickers for larger items, shoe stickers as well as clothing labels! Enough to label every single thing for that first year in school.

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Label everything. EVERYTHING. (Picture Credit: Stickerkid.sg)

Like most name labels on the market, Stickerkid labels are washable (in both the washing machine and the dishwasher) and last well through extreme temperatures (being microwave-safe and freezer-safe), and they also adhere to every surface (except Teflon. Nothing is supposed to adhere to Teflon, that’s why it’s called a ‘non-stick surface’). They also come in a range of colours, fonts and there is a huge range of cute clipart designs that you can add to personalise the stickers further.

However, here’s what I particularly like about Stickerkid name labels which makes them different from the rest:

  1. If you can type it in, you can print it. Most of the other name labels that I have tried are limited to a fixed number of characters and can only print letters. However, when customising the Stickerkid labels, I could change the size of the font so that even the smallest name label could accommodate my son’s full name as well as his 3-character chinese name. I even tested the customisation fields, cutting and pasting words in other languages like arabic, hindi and thai, and they all worked too.
  2. Iron-on Clothing labels and Shoe Labels can fit more than one line of text. This means that you can also put important information there like emergency contact details or even allergy alerts. Or you can label the shoes for kids who have not yet learned left from right!
  3. Removable Iron-on Clothing labels. The clothing labels can withstand repeated hot washes yet are removable with a hot iron. So if you need to give the clothing away or hand them to your next child, the labels can be easily removed.
  4. Swiss pride. The Swiss manufacturers of Stickerkid labels are so proud of their high-quality products, that there is a 10 year guarantee on their name labels. So they’ll last all the way through their whole primary (maybe even secondary) school journey! Even the clothing labels are guaranteed to withstand at least 45 machine washes at 60 degrees Celsius.
  5. Superfast turnaround time. Although the stickers ship from Switzerland, they are shipped within 24hours and arrive by priority post within a week. The trial pack that I received from StickerKid actually arrived at my doorstep in FOUR DAYS. This is impressive, considering that other name label companies take around 2-4 weeks. This makes it a great last-minute gift! Trust me, your friends with kids will thank you for it.

A Special for Owls Well Readers: The fine folk behind Stickerkid are offering Owls Well Readers a generous 10% storewide discount!  Just enter the code “SG10STICKERKI9_C7” at checkout! (Code is valid until 31st December 2015.)