Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday wrap up (pardon the pun!)

Well, we had a lovely holiday season here for our first Christmas away from home. We had a motley crew for Christmas Eve dinner (and a record number of desserts!) with people from NZ, the US, Canada, Bulgaria, Romania and India. What a great mix and I hope the kids are absorbing some of our multicultural experiences. I have to say, I have never met anyone from Bulgaria or Romania before but I love their accents! I hope we get to spend some more time with them.

As for our crafty pursuits, well I haven't completed alot but I did manage one quick card and, after being so inspired by some of the clothespin dolls I have come across (namely these and these) I thought I would have a go. Now, bear with me here. I don't have access to very many craft products and I just happened to have a couple of clothespins on hand so I am only publishing this photo because I hope to show a much improved version later! Obviously, the aforementioned people have beautiful bigger heads for their dolls so my poor little pinheaded version looks very different. However the only way is up from here I figure! I am determined to work out how to get these basic clothespins looking halfway decent though so some thinking time will be in order. I have no idea why I have developed a sudden love of clothespin dolls as they are not really my thing, but I have, so this mild little obsession will just have to run its course...

Here is a little bag I whipped up for Miss E. It is meant to be a libraby bag so I put a little pocket on the side for her library card. I love how this turned out.

Monday, December 22, 2008

More Christmas fun

Miss E and I actually did these projects last year but, seeing as this blog didn't exist then, I thought I could show them now. The little presents were something I remembered from my childhood. I vaguely remember little wrapped matchboxes as ornaments in various parts of my childhood home and how we all loved them (well, maybe it was just me). For my version I just found some pretty shiny red paper and used a plain white ribbon for the bow. Then I used a loop of white cotton to hang them up with. I don't remember Mum's being hung on the tree necessarily but decided to do that for ours. This was a bit fiddly for Miss E to do but she really enjoyed twisting the pipe cleaners (chenille stems) together for the little candy canes. Then she bent the shape and I added the bow. As you have probably guessed, red and white is my preferred colour combination!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas fun

Well, I can finally upload photos of craft projects rather than just baking. I have been busy doing a few things, three of which I am going to show here. I was inspired by many blog posts about advent calendars so spent a good evening covering 24 little matchboxes in various papers to put in a bowl for Miss E to open every day (A has shown zero interest so far). Miss E punched all the little flowers and wrote the numbers on them and then we glued them on together. Inside them I have printed off little slips of paper with a special activity for that day. I tried putting a little present in a couple of times but Miss E was very disappointed and prefers a fun activity much more. Nice to know. Bonus: saves me the trouble of trying to find things tiny enough to put in a matchbox! I was starting to regret buying the small boxes and thinking I should have bought the super large ones.... Just as a reference, the two sites that inspired me with their matchbox efforts are here and here. I did see one just like mine but in all shades of blue and white and they were placed inside a glass bowl but I can't remember where it was (despite much searching...).

Just as a reference, my list of activities for our advent calendar include:
- baking chocolate chip cookies
- going out for ice-cream
- playing tag in the park
- going to the beach to collect seashells
- visiting the christmas decoration warehouse
- a visit to Santa
- making cards for friends
- having a picnic dinner in our backyard
- playing hide and seek
- having a special games night
- getting to stay up late to watch a movie together in our pj's

I am still thinking of things to put in them.

Here are a couple of my card efforts recently. The photo is pretty bad. I can't seem to find a good spot to take photos here in this house but there you go. I had fun making these. Very simple and I just love using the scrapbooking papers - so many lovely designs. With the flower one, I just drew the branch freehand on some brown paper and cut out with very fine scissors then used flower and butterfly shaped craft punches on different papers. You really need to use a dense pattern for the best effect I find. Then I attached them with mounting tape for some depth. The Christmas one was very similar. I drew the tree trunk freehand and cut it out, used a circle cutting tool for the tree and found some free clipart for the bird silhouette. I printed out a square of paper with the words on it but, if I had access to all of Lynette's and my craft stuff, would have stamped it and used the heat tool for a raised print. I can't even remember the name of that special powder for doing that! Been away from the craft table for too, too long.... Oh, I remember now, embossing powder! Phew..

As my last project for this post, I also wanted to jazz up our very plain white walls in the dining room seeing as I haven't quite got around to hanging any art there. Apologies again for the horrible photo. This holly and word have simply been cut from thick card and put on the wall with blu-tac. I used felt pens to add some details to the holly like a leaf vein and some shading on the berries. I was planning on 'Joy to the World' but haven't quite finished cutting out the other words. That font is quite laborious to cut out let me tell you... I might cut out some music notes to scatter amongst the holly too. This is such a fun, easy thing to do I might keep going with other spots around the house (and with a simpler font perhaps). Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Catch up post....

I am going to combine a couple of things here due to the lag in posts.

Firstly, a new friend from the countryside gave me and others some lovely fresh pecan nuts from her tree so I immediately tried them in some 'cowboy cookies' from a recent Martha magazine. They were quite simple to make and the kids just looooved them. They contain chopped pecans, oats and chocolate chips. A is a little addicted to cookie dough it seems. I think he would be happy to not even bake the cookies some days. He just loves baking so much he asks me to do some with him nearly every day (which I can't say I manage). Maybe there is a little chef in the making! He is very particular how he has his food and he does things like crushing up a wafer to sprinkle over his ice-cream, making sure he has a little bit of wafer with every mouthful. He also only likes fresh cooked food and will reject nearly every leftover (even casserole!). Hmmmm......

Shortly after this cooking endeavour I was asked to do a talk at Miss E's school about Australia so I baked some Anzac biscuits to give the children as well. You have to love a good Anzac biscuit! I haven't been able to find any golden syrup here but a friend gave me her unused jar so there have been quite a few old favourite recipes popping up!

It seems most of my creative pursuits have involved baking lately. I am having fun making some Christmas cards at the moment so will post them when I am done.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Busy, busy, busy........

Well, I have been very busy for the last few weeks and feel myself finally emerging from school carnival and shipping container chaos. The school carnival was successfully carried out and much fun was had by all. The very next day our Australian shipping container arrived and I have been wading through way too many boxes and possessions ever since. It would have been fine if I was just unpacking and putting away but, not having seen everything in nearly two years, there was much more sorting (and giving away) than normal. Why did we keep all this stuff???? I really wonder at my state of mind sometimes but many conversations with friends and family has made me realise this is a very common occurrence. I am making a pact with myself to sort through at least one cupboard/drawer every other week to make sure we don't start accumulating unnecessary items again. After two international moves in two years I can honestly say that I would like to keep my house 'pack ready' all the time so we can move with more ease next time. Short notice is not uncommon and to be ready would be much less stressful. I will comment down the track as to how my resolve holds out on that one.

In the meantime Miss E and I did complete a few projects with our cherished blue and white stripey shells and here are the photos of our endeavours. It was very hard to take photos with the glass in the frames so these are not the best pictures. I am looking forward to starting my photography course to learn these things! The top one is a simple project of symmetrically arranged shells inside a shadow frame. Very predictable I know but I like it all the same and I have had quite a few comments on it from visitors so that gives me a nice little buzz.

This one is a joint effort between Miss E and myself. She wanted to make a frame to hold David's annual Father's Day photo of the kids (I take a photo of the two of them together holding a sign - handmade by Miss E now that she is older - saying 'We love you Daddy' or, this year, 'Happy Dad's Day'). The brown toned shells were David's favourites so Miss E just painted the frame a nice light blue and we glued a pattern of shells onto it. I have been trying to find a spray varnish to finish it off but haven't had any luck here yet.

This picture is Miss E's creation and I love it. She mixed the background colour herself until she was happy with the shade, painted it on to a piece of medium weight card, I drew the swan outline and then she applied lots of glue and placed all the shells on top. She finished off with some of her sparkly little 3-D stickers which I think really make it. I will try and take a better photo of it hanging up in her room once we get that done maybe.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Seashells by the seaside....

Ok, technically it is still the river here in Montevideo and not the sea but hey, it looks close enough to me so I am claiming my right to poetic license! We had a lovely lunch by the beach and then spent an enjoyable amount of time collecting seashells. Well, David, Miss E and I had fun collecting seashells while A found sticks to hit things with and chased the seagulls!

I just love the gorgeously faded, blue stripey ones (of which there are many) and David astutely pointed out that he could see a whole room being decorated around one of those. He knows me well.....

I can feel some framed shells coming on so will post our creative endeavours with these lovely soft coloured shells soon.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Stitched book instructions

Ok, as promised, here is my attempt at drawing and explaining how to make the little stitched books from my previous post. Warning! These drawings are very primitive!

Step 1. Cut out cover & inside pages (I have given my measurements in previous post). Fold all in half.

Step 2. Unfold and clip pages together securely. Mark & punch holes.

Step 3. Sew through hole 'B' from outside cover to inside pages, leaving a short tail outside. Then stitch up through hole 'C', down through hole 'A' and back up through hole 'B'. Tie the two middle threads (sticking up out of hole 'B') into a knot, around the thread that runs the length of the spine.

Hope that is easy to follow!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Stitched books & cotton bud (q-tip) paintings

Well, this started out as a quick simple craft to do with my 6 yr old daughter, Miss E, but ended up being a lovely way of spending an hour and a half together one very wintry afternoon. Instead of using plain card or construction paper for the cover, I thought it would be fun to do some painting first for a more decorative look. The painting techniques we used were good ol' watercolours and cotton bud (q-tip) painting using food colours. For the watercolour one we just brushed different colours all over the paper randomly and here are some basic instructions for cotton bud painting if you aren't familiar with it. It is very simple and easy and is even good for the 2 yr olds and up, although I would suggest you supervise closely with the littlies as the food colours can stain.

  1. Add a small amount of water to a small container (I have used an empty yoghurt pot here but I usually use ramekins from my kitchen as they don't tip over).
  2. Add a couple of drops of food colour to the water (I add them with an old medicinal eye dropper so you don't have food colouring dripping down the outside of the bottle).
  3. Pop in a couple of cotton buds (q-tips) in each container you have added colour to (to prevent mixing them up). These soak up the combined water and colour and provide a nifty little drip free paint 'brush' of sorts.
  4. Use these to draw all over your paper.
You get such lovely vibrant colours this way and they dry in minutes so you can use them for other things.
Ok, back to the stitched books. I first saw the instructions for these on a blog somewhere and I am so frustrated that I cannot find it to link to (I am sure I added it to my favourites at the time!) so I am going to try and draw them myself and put them up here in a day or two. I can say though that they are so simple and easy to make and so satisfying that we have kept making them. I use up any size paper so we have them in all sizes ranging from almost postage stamp to the size I have outlined below.
For those pictured our measurements were:
Cover - 22cm x 14cm
Pages - 21cm x 13.5cm
Length of thread needed to sew comfortably was about 50cm from memory, which leaves you with some to cut off but makes it comfortable for tying the knot etc.
I used 5 pages so that, when folded, it gave us 10 but you can adjust that up or down to whatever suits. For the first couple we made I punched holes for us to thread through (and that is easiest for Miss E) but if I am doing them myself I just push the needle straight through without any problem.
We love them and I hope you are inspired to make a whole bunch yourself!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Simple felt needle book

Today I am posting a couple of photos of a simple project I have just completed of a felt needle book with blanket stitch binding and a press stud tab closure. I know these have been around forever, as good things are, so I am just adding my little individual twist of style to it. The first photo shows the completed book and the second shows the different coloured felt 'pages' inside.

These are the measurements I used:

Cover - 19cm long x 15cm wide
Inside pages - 17.5cm long x 14cm wide
Tab closure - 6cm long x 3.5cm wide


1. Fold the cover and each page in half and iron the crease.

2. Place the pages inside each other and then inside the cover.

3. Once they are neatly stacked like the finished book, secure with pins through all the thicknesses. This is to stop them moving while you do the blanket stitch binding.

4. Do the blanket stitch binding.
5. Trim one end of the tab closure rectangle to whatever you prefer - I have notched the corners like an office supply label. You could round it also or leave it rectangular.

6. Stitch the untrimmed end to the inside middle of the back cover.

7. I used a decorative flower cutout and button to brighten mine up and then stitched a press stud to the underside. You could leave yours plain or you could stitch a button to the cover and cut a slit in the tab closure to close it. Just use whatever option you prefer.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hmmm, how does one start?

As a first entry, are there any rules to follow? I am guessing not so will just comment on my day, creativeness included or not.

Today is a lovely wintery, rainy day here in Montevideo and I have had the luxury of not having anything to do save play with my 3 year old little boy, Lord A, and do some baking. Those two activities inevitably became intertwined and I really must remind myself to enjoy the moment and not worry about extra scatterings of flour everywhere! You know, I never noticed my obsessive-compulsive personality traits until I had children and they started to, in the way only children can, rearrange my life (and often my cupboards!). Anyway, we successfully negotiated the cracking of eggs and the pouring of the flour to make some deliciously simple chocolate chip cookies (or biscuits if you are Australian like me) and banana muffins with a lemony cream cheese icing. Yum! Now, back to playing with Lord A.....


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