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Monthly Archives: July 2014
  • Posted on July 31, 2014

    Summer Shoes!

    With the summer holidays come garden parties, family barbeques and even the odd wedding or two, and every girl needs the perfect pair of shoes for these occasions. Pimp Your Pimps by Charlotte Liddle is full of loads of super fun ideas for customising your shoes, and the project we’ve got for you today is a really lovely summery pair of uniquely decorated shoes – no-one else will have a pair like these! We think it would work really well on ballet flats too!

    Funky collage

    Skill level: **

    Collage is such a simple yet effective way to transform a pair of shoes. You can make them really personal by carefully choosing images that you are interested in—you could design your shoes around your favourite pop star or song lyrics. You could even use words from your favourite book!

    You will need

    • Newsprint or sewing pattern paper

    • Pointed-toe shoes with small heel

    • PVA glue and brush

    • Selection of papers and images

    • Scissors

    • Small sequins, such as nail art sequins

    • Varnish

    • 6 buttons

    • Glue gun

    • Fabric for insole (optional)

    • Pencil (optional)

    1.  Apply a basic covering of newsprint or pattern paper to each shoe as a starting point for your collage, using PVA glue and a brush.

    2. Cut out photos, images from magazines, scraps from gift wrap, or words from old books and collage these onto the shoes at random. With collage you just need to keep working onto the design until you feel the shoes look busy enough and the colors are balanced.

    3. When the shoes are well covered and you are happy with the design, spread a thin layer of glue over each shoe. Sprinkle some small sequins over the shoe and then let them dry. When the shoes are dry, cover the design with a hard-wearing varnish to protect it.

    4. Add three buttons to each shoe with the glue gun, using the photograph as a guide for positioning.

    5. To add a fabric insole to your shoes, choose a suitable fabric to go with your design and follow the instructions below.

    Making fabric insoles

    1. If you want to cover the insoles, place each shoe on the fabric and draw around the sole. Cut the fabric insoles out. Trim to fit inside the shoe.

    2. Apply fabric glue over the insole of the shoe. Carefully place the new fabric insole inside the shoe over the original insole. Smooth into place and allow to dry before wearing the shoes.

    Pimp Your Pumps by Charlotte Liddle is available here.

    Hope you're having great summer breaks and happy crafting, kids!


    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with handmade, summer holidays, bored kids, cico kidz, crafts for kids, shoes, 2014, activities for kids, keep busy this summer

  • Posted on July 30, 2014

    Make a Potato Print Tote Bag with Friends!

    What have you got planned over the next few weeks? Is there a day trip to the beach with your family or an afternoon out shopping with friends? Today we have a great craft project to share for our week of summer holiday activities, so whatever you have coming up, you’ll have the coolest bag around to carry all of your stuff!

    Today is The International Day of Friendship, so why not gather a few friends around to make matching bags or design this bag using your friends favourite colours to give as a gift! This project is taken from Craft it Up Around the World by Libby Abadee and Cath Armstrong, and you’ll also learn a little bit about Argentina while you’re doing it!


    Bag Yourself a Potato Print Tote

    Using potatoes to print on fabric gives a lovely, slightly mottled effect — similar to colorful ikat fabric, which is popular in South America (see Fun Fact below). To get really crisp-edged designs you can cut your potatoes with a sharp cookie cutter. For this project, we used a sharp knife and a template, so you need to be careful while you are cutting or ask an adult to help with this step. No measuring is necessary for this design. If you start in the center and work outward, then the pattern will be centered. Overlapping only adds to the overall effect!

    These colorful blankets are made in Argentina and other South American countries. Many of them use ikat fabric.


    Muslin bag (ironed, if necessary)

    Paper, pen and scissors to make the templates

    1 large potato

    Sharp knife

    Tea towel

    3 different colors of fabric paint

    Large ceramic or glass plate

    Parchment or baking paper cut to the size of your bag

    Iron for setting the paint

    1. Draw a template for your large diamond and one for your small diamond on the paper and cut them out. The large diamonds measure 1¾in (4.5cm) across and 2 3/8in (6cm) down. The small ones are 1in (2.5cm) across and 12⁄8in (3cm) down. You may want to make them smaller or larger depending on the size of your bag.

    2. Slip your parchment paper inside the bag. This will stop the fabric paint from going through to the other side of the bag. Lightly fold the bag so that you can see where the middle is. This is where your design will start.

    3. Cut your potato in half and place your large template on one half. Using a sharp knife cut the potato into the diamond shape. Repeat this step with the smaller template. Blot your potatoes on a tea towel to dry them out.

    4. Dip your potatoes in fabric paint and print rows of large diamonds first, tessellating each row as you go. We used a repeating pattern but you could create a random pattern or use more colors. When you want to change color, rinse your potato under a tap and then blot it dry before using it again. Allow the fabric paint to dry.

    5. Once the first layer of diamonds is dry, stamp your smaller diamonds over the top. Allow all of the fabric paint to dry completely, and then iron according to manufacturer’s instructions to set the paint.


    fun fact

    Ikat fabric has been popular in South America for centuries. It is made by a process similar to tie-dyeing. However, ikat textiles are made by dyeing the threads before they are woven, rather than by tie-dyeing the fabric.


    Looking for more craft projects? - you'll find them here.

    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, News, News, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with christmas, summer holidays, Libby Abadee, kids, craft it up, 2014, project

  • Posted on July 29, 2014

    Fun on Two Wheels!

    With such beautiful weather it seems a shame to be cooped up indoors, and the thought of a nice long bike ride soaking up the sunshine is very appealing to us right now! Make the most of the summer and your bike with  My First Bicycle Book by Susan Akass. This book is packed with info about your bike, as well as loads of really great ideas for games you can play with your friends and cool ways you can customise your wheels! So for today’s post in our week-long blogging extravaganza we thought we’d share with you an easy but effective project that’ll make you the envy of the whole street!

    Handlebar Streamers

    When these streamers stream out beside you as you zoom along, they will look great and make you feel as if you are going twice as fast. Make your own with brightly coloured plastic carrier bags—it’s a really good way to reuse them.

    You will need


    2 long, narrow screws

    2 rubber bands or some thin wire

    Plastic carrier bags in different colours – bright ones are best


    1. Look at the handlebars of your bike. The rubber or plastic hand grips which cover the ends should have small holes in them. Check that your screws will push into the hole – don’t push them right in yet – you might find them hard to pull out again!

    2. Cut the top off the carrier bags so they are each about 10 in. (25 cm) from the bottom to the top.

    3. Starting at the bottom, cut the bag into strips about 3/4 in. (2 cm) wide. Each one will be doubled over, with a crease where the bottom of the bag was. Cut 20 strips.

    4. Open up the strips and lay them on top of one another in two piles of ten strips,  with the creases lined up.

    5. Push a screw through the center of each pile of strips.

    6. Push the screws into the holes in the handgrips of your bike.

    7. Pull the strips back around the screw and hold them together with an elastic band (in the same way as you would put an elastic around a ponytail in your hair).

    8. Cycle off and watch them stream back beside you as you zoom.

    Tip: You can make these any length, but be sure that they are not long enough to get tangled in your wheel.


    My First Bicycle Bookby Susan Akass is available, along with other CICOKidz titles here.

    So get on those bikes, and get outdoors! Keep a look out for another great activity tomorrow!


    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with 2013, bike, summer holidays, cico kidz, my first series, bicycle, Susan Akass, cycling, activities for kids, keep busy this summer

  • Posted on July 28, 2014

    Kick-start the Summer Holidays with this Rainbow Loom Band Bracelet!

    Are you super happy that it's the summer and you don't have to go to school for another 6 weeks? Do you have some exciting holidays on their way or are you looking forward to days out with family and friends? We're thrilled to bits about all of that and we hope you have loads of fun stuff planned... but for those days when you're twiddling your thumbs - tempted by the X-Box or the iPad, wandering around the house or garden looking for something to do, or rifling through the cupboards on the hunt for a boredom biscuit or two - then why not pop onto our blog for some craft ideas and crazy activities! This week we're posting a project-a-day so that there are loads of bits and bobs for you to get stuck into over the next few weeks.

    Kicking it off today we have everyone's favourite trend - rubber band bracelets! Here's a brand new video tutorial showing you how to make your own rainbow coloured, double cross bracelet. If you don't fancy rainbows, then why not pick your favourite coloured loom bands and use those instead? With step-by-step instructions from the book and the hands of a beginner loomer guiding you through the steps, this project is perfect for all levels. All you'll need is a loom, a clip and some crazy coloured bands, then click on the video below to have a go!


    We have lots of other great ideas for you over this week, including some cool craft projects and a taste of cooking, so make sure you keep popping back!


    This video uses a project from the new book, Rubber Band Bracelets by Lucy Hopping, available here.


    Have a fantastic summer kids and happy looming!

    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK, Videos, What's new and was tagged with summer holidays, school holidays, Lucy Hopping, video, 2014, how to, loom bands, rubber band, rubber band bracelets, loom

  • Posted on July 25, 2014

    Recipe for the Weekend

    With the start of the summer holidays we’re hoping to get in as much picnicking in as possible. Loads of sandwiches, mini pork pies and cloudy lemonade in plastic cups! Ideally this will be outdoors in the blazing sunshine, but an inside floor picnic is totally underrated in our humble opinion. Making Bread Together by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou is full of great recipes to introduce your little ones to the art of baking, and this week, we’ve picked a recipe for the weekend that will keep little hands busy whilst they’re off school and be the perfect addition to any picnic, indoors or out!

    the perfect sausage roll 

    Familiar to many people in the UK, a hot, hearty sausage roll always brings a smile to people’s faces! You can use almost any type of sausage to make them. Remember that the dough needs to rise in the refrigerator (preferably overnight), because the mixture contains meat.


    4 g fresh or 2 g dried yeast

    20 g water, warm

    4 g salt

    200 g white strong flour

    2 medium eggs

    30 g soft butter (salted or unsalted)

    4 medium sausages or 400 g sausage meat, if preferred.

    1 egg mixed with salt, to make the egg wash


    large mixing bowl

    2 small mixing bowls

    fork, to beat the eggs

    Danish whisk

    plastic scraper

    shower cap (optional)

    rolling pin

    disposable piping bag (optional)

    pastry brush

    baking tray lined with parchment paper


    deep roasting tray

    Makes 4 large sausage rolls

    1  In the large mixing bowl, dissolve or activate the yeast in the warm water depending on what type of yeast you’re using. This is the wet mixture.

    2  In a small mixing bowl mix the salt and the flour together and set aside. This is the dry mixture.

    3  Crack the eggs into another small bowl, and lightly beat them with a fork.

    4  Add the beaten egg to the wet mixture, then add the dry mixture on top.

    5  Mix with a Danish whisk (if you have one) or a wooden spoon until it all comes together as a rough, sticky dough.

    6  Scrape the sides of the bowl clean using a plastic scraper.

    7  Spoon the butter onto the top of the dough.

    8  Cover the dough with a shower cap or the small mixing bowl that contained the dry mixture. Leave it to stand for 10 minutes.

    9  Start to incorporate the butter. Pull a portion of the dough up from the side and press it into the middle. Turn the bowl 90° clockwise and pull another portion of the dough up from the side and press it into the middle. Repeat this process another 8 times. The whole process should only take 10–20 seconds.

    10  Turn the ball of dough over in the bowl and make a finger mark in it to indicate that you’ve kneaded it once.

    11  Cover the dough again with a shower cap or the small mixing bowl. Leave the mixture to rest for 10 minutes.

    12  Repeat steps 9, 10 and 11 another 3 times (so you will have kneaded the dough 4 times).

    13  Place the dough in the fridge for at least 1 hour, but ideally overnight, covered with an upturned small bowl or shower cap.

    14  The dough will now be cold and easy to work with. Lightly flour a work surface. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a rectangle around 3 mm thick, 20 cm wide and 30 cm long.

    15  If you are using sausages, you’ll need 4 in total. Remove the filling from the casings and place 2 of them along the top of the dough you have rolled out. Make sure that this meat filling extends end-to-end across the dough. If you’re using sausage meat instead of sausages, fill a disposable piping bag and pipe the meat into a long strip across along the top of the dough.

    16  Fold the dough over the sausage meat and brush egg wash directly below the meat strip. Roll the dough over, making sure that the top part sticks to the egg wash.

    17  Use a knife to cut the roll away from the remaining pastry (ask an adult to help). Repeat the process with the remaining dough to create another sausage roll.

    18  Cut the sausage rolls in two to create 4 of them. Place them on the prepared baking tray and cover lightly with clingfilm and place in the refrigerator.

    19  Allow to rise until the sausage rolls have nearly doubled in volume. When they are ready, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6 and place a deep roasting tray on the base.

    20  Remove the clingfilm, then brush some of the remaining egg wash onto the sausage rolls.

    21  Make 7–8 diagonal marks on the surface of each sausage roll using a knife (ask an adult to help with this) for decoration.

    22  Place the sausage rolls in the preheated oven and pour a cup of water into the roasting tray (ask an adult to help).

    23  Bake for around 30 minutes until golden brown. Carefully transfer the sausage rolls to a wire rack to cool before eating, because the inside will be very hot!

    Making Bread Together by Emmanual Hadjiandreou is available here.

    We hope you all have a lovely weekend, with picnics all round! Happy baking!



    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with baking, picnic, summer holidays, school holidays, kids, recipe for the weekend, 2014, Emmanuel Hadjiandreou

  • Posted on July 24, 2014

    School's Out For The Summer!

    For weeks, you’ve no doubt been dreaming of this moment: the first day of the Summer Holidays! Weeks and weeks of glorious sunshine and Absolutely No Rain stretching before you in a haze of barbeques, afternoons in the park and perhaps a seaside visit or two. We can dream, right? Unfortunately, the Great British Weather is likely to have one or two other ideas, and we think that this might be the perfect opportunity to learn a new skill or two. My First Chess Book by Jessica E. Prescott is the perfect introduction to the world’s most popular board game! Spend the summer having a go at some of the activities in here, and you’ll definitely be a whiz by the time September comes around again. To get you started, we’ve got a fun game to introduce how each piece moves around the board.

    Pieces, No Pawns

    Capturing things is a big part of chess. Try to keep your pieces safe while launching them at your opponent to capture as many of their pieces as possible. This game will also show you how valuable your pawns really are, as you see how difficult it is without them to defend your big pieces from getting captured on the first move of the game!


    About this activity

    This is a very exciting game, where pieces are getting captured almost every move. The number of points does not matter as much as the ability to look at the whole board and see who might be trying to get you. Remember that you need a double strategy, because you’re trying to get them, too. This is also a capturing game. Whoever captures all the pieces (except for the king— remember, he can never be captured), wins. If you make checkmate—that means if you put your opponent’s king in danger so that he cannot move, block, or capture to escape— that counts too.

    This is definitely a two-player game.


    1. Don’t forget to bow to your partner before you start, and say good luck! Set up the pieces like normal, except do not put any pawns on the board! Place only the big pieces on the first and last ranks. 2. Let’s look at an example. On move one, White can make three captures. Either rook could take Black’s, or you could play queen takes queen!

    3. What would happen if you traded queens? It’s check—the king is in danger—but not checkmate, because the black king can defend himself. The black king would take you right back.

    4. Maybe rook takes rook is better! Now, which rook? There might be a whole series of captures here… Having the first move is going to be an advantage if Black just copies what White does. Once the king is in check, though, he must move, block, or capture to escape from danger and you can’t copy your opponent if you’re busy getting out of check!


    So, if chess sounds like your sort of thing, we suggest you get your hands on a copy of My First Chess Book now. It’s available here, along with other CICO Kidz titles.

    And if you're looking for some other cool ideas, keep your eyes on the blog next week when we’ll be posting new and exciting activities every day to keep you busy all summer long.


    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, News, News, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with sun, summer holidays, cico kidz, kids, 2014

  • Posted on July 23, 2014

    Linda Jones on the Create & Craft Show!

    We're so pleased to announce that author Linda Jones (whose books include the fantastic Creating Wire & Beaded Jewelry) will be appearing on Create & Craft TV (Ideal Shopping Channel) this Saturday (26th July) at 3pm!

    Wire crafting, beading and jewelry making expert, Linda is a great instructor and her work is beautiful, so make sure that you tune in this weekend to watch her demonstration!

    Linda Jones has authored numerous great craft titles for CICO Books. Her most recent is Wire & Bead Celtic Jewelry.

    Happy jewelry crafting everyone!

    This post was posted in News, News, UK, US and was tagged with jewellery, 2013, jewelry

  • Posted on July 18, 2014

    Recipe for the Weekend

    Well what a lovely week it has been! We've got some great plans for this weekend and all of our digits crossed in the hope for the sunny weather to continue on through. So this week we have a brilliant recipe that you can literally throw together in minutes and enjoy as a quick lunch or a light dinner; Smoked Mackerel and Bulghur Wheat Salad. Taken from the Salads & Dressings book in our Easy Kitchen range, this recipe is sure to be super simple and totally yummy! Happy Weekend Everyone!

    smoked mackerel and bulghur wheat salad

    The creamy horseradish dressing is a fabulous complement to the richness of the smoked mackerel, while the raw vegetables add crunch and colour.

    60 g/ 1/2 cup bulghur wheat

    1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

    1 tablespoon snipped chives

    1/2 yellow bell pepper, deseeded and diced

    8 radishes, sliced

    75 g/3 oz. baby spinach leaves, rinsed

    150 g/5–6 oz. smoked mackerel fillets, flaked from the skin and checked for small bones


    3 tablespoons fromage frais or sour cream

    2 teaspoons horseradish sauce

    1 teaspoon snipped chives

    freshly ground black pepper

    serves 2

    Cook the bulghur wheat in a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain, then mix with the lemon juice, chives, yellow pepper and radishes.

    Divide the spinach leaves between serving bowls, spoon the bulghur wheat on top, then add the flaked smoked mackerel.

    Mix the dressing ingredients together and drizzle over the fish. and serve immediately.


    The Easy Kitchen: Salads & Dressings is available here.


    Have a lovely weekend everybody!

    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK and was tagged with 2013, salad, weather, recipe for the weekend, light dinner, Easy Kitchen, bulghur wheat

  • Posted on July 16, 2014

    Natural Wine launch party!

    Earlier this week, we were celebrating not only Bastille Day but also the launch of Isabelle Legeron MW’s new book, Natural Wine! With the aim of making natural wine accessible to all, this lovely book provides the perfect introduction to everything you need to know about the production of natural wine and how to enjoy it. The launch took place at Elliots Café in Borough Market and they had prepared the most amazing canapés including melt-in-your-mouth queen scallops with preserved lemon butter, Isle of Mull cheddar cheese croquettes and delicious herby sausages.

    Isabelle reads a quote from Bernard Noblet, of Domaine de la Romanée Conti: 'It is only when you stand at the edge of the precipice that you have the most beautiful view'

    But of course the star of the show was Isabelle and her selection of natural wines, which were all delicious. This is what we enjoyed:


    Vignes de l’Angevin, Fêtembulles, Loire, France, 2012

    Chenin Blanc | No added sulphites

    Domaine Breton, Vouvray Pétillant Naturel Moustillant, Loire, France, 2012

    Chenin Blanc | No added sulphites

    selection of natural wines


    Cascina degli Ulivi, Semplicemente Vino, Piedmont, Italy, 2013

    Cortese | No added sulphites

    Domaine Léon Barral, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault, Languedoc, France, 2013

    Terret | No added sulphites

    Alexandre Bain, Spring, Pouilly Fumé, Loire, France, 2012

    Sauvignon Blanc | No added sulphites

    Domaine Milan, Le Grand Blanc, Provence, France, 2010

    Grenache, Roussanne, Muscat & Rolle | Total sulphites: 20 mg/L


    Clos Fantine, Faugères, Languedoc, France, 2012

    Carigan blend | No added sulphites

    Clos Ouvert, Huasa, Maule, Chile, 2011

    País | Total sulphites: 15 mg/L

    Here are a few more photos from the evening for you all to have a look at!

    Some of the excellent canapés provided by Elliots


    Isabelle signs a copy of Natural Wine with her partner Deborah
    Who likes Natural Wine?
    Best served chilled!
    Elliots were wonderful hosts!
    Natural Wine, looking lovely
    We had a great turn-out for an excellent evening

    This was a lovely evening spent enjoying some of life's finer things and we all learnt a little bit more about natural wine too! Congratulations Isabelle!

    Natural Wine by Isabelle Legeron MW is available here.



    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, News, News, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with french, wine, 2014, natural wine

  • Posted on July 14, 2014

    Vive La France!

    Today marks Bastille Day, or as they say across the channel, La Fête Nationale! To celebrate our near neighbours and their fabulous style, we wanted to share with you this lovely project from Amélie Morin-Fontaine’s Home-Sewn French Style. This Baguette Bag is the perfect combo of rustic and refined, and will add that touch of country-class to any kitchen.

    baguette bag

    Many French idiomatic expressions refer to bread: ne pas manger de ce pain là (“I won’t eat that kind of bread,” meaning I won’t have to do anything with it), ça ne mange pas de pain (“no need to feed it bread,” meaning it does not cost anything), avoir du pain sur la planche (“to have bread on one’s board,” meaning to have a lot on one’s plate), and so on. We French have a love affair with bread. A drawstring bag can be found in many French kitchens to keep the daily baguettes fresh—so go ahead and make this project for your own kitchen!

    Skill level: *

    Sewing time: 1 hour

    Take 5/8-in. (1.5cm) seam allowances unless otherwise stated.


    You will need

    Two 30 x 9-in. (76 x 23cm) rectangles of striped fabric

    45 in. (114 cm) beige cord, approx. 1/4 in. (5 mm) in diameter

    Sewing machine

    Basic sewing kit

    Matching sewing threads

    1. Treat all raw edges of both rectangles of fabric to prevent fraying, using pinking shears, a zigzag stitch, or serging (overlocking).

    2. With right sides together, aligning the edges and the printed stripes, pin the rectangles of fabric together along one short side and both long sides. Measuring 2¾ in. (7 cm) from the unpinned short side, make a mark on both long sides with tailor’s chalk or a water-soluble pencil. Measure 1½ in. (4 cm) from these marks and make another mark. Stitch around the three pinned sides, interrupting your stitching  between the marks. Clip the corners and press the seams open.

    3. Along the top edge, fold over 5/8 in. (1.5 cm) to the wrong side and press. Fold over another 1¾  in. (4.5 cm), forming a channel to thread the cord through. Pin and stitch close to the bottom of the folded over fabric. Turn the bag right side out.

    4. Cut the cord in half. Attach a safety pin to one end of one cord. Feed the cord into the opening on the left-hand side of the bag and all the way around the channel until it comes out at the lefthand side again. Repeat with the other cord on the right-hand side of the bag.

    5. Knot the two ends of cord on each side in a double knot. If necessary, to prevent the cord from fraying, wrap the same color of thread around the rope end several times, pull tight, and secure with a couple of knots. Repeat on all four cord ends.


    Tip: Be sure to use a fabric that will withstand high temperatures, as you will have to wash the bag regularly.


    Home-Sewn French Styleby Amélie Morin-Fontaine is available here.

    So whether you'll be toasting La France with a glass of their national fizz, or perhaps enjoying some crusty bread smothered with brie, we raise our glass to yours and say 'Santé!'


    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, News, News, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with handmade, fabric, french, 2014

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