Thursday, 29 November 2012

It's the final countdown

eggs, egg box, egg carton, thinking outside the box, egg carton, spotty tablecloth
Thinking outside the box
(har de har har)
December starts on Saturday and we still haven't finished all the eggs in the second egg box to facilitate the Advent calendar. However, I have dug into the depths of my creativity and adaptability and decided the eggs can go in a bowl in order to liberate the box (or carton).

Hershey's kisses, candy, Christmas candy, chocolate, Hershey's, sweets
Ready to be gobbled 1 a day
by the Zeds
I have bought Hershey's kisses to put in as the daily treat. In my years of Advent calendars, we didn't get ones with chocolates in them...well, maybe we did one year...but times have changed. Two chocolates will be placed in each egg space (was going to write "egg hole" but it sounded wrong and possibly rude) so each Zed gets a treat on opening. Although it seems rather decadent and not very sensible to have chocolate at breakfast-time, I think we will be doing the opening in the morning. Perhaps I should replace the Hershey's kisses with chocolate chee-ay-os* as more breakfast-suitable. I won't, though.

Z1 and I ventured into Walmart and loaded up on paint and glue and pipe cleaners and the like last Saturday. Disaster was averted when I checked Pinterest before choosing the coffee filters for the coffee filter snowflakes.

Yep, it's the Final Countdown and I'm raring to go.

*Z2's terminology (for Cheerios)

You may also be interested to know:
 1.   There were only 3 silver-wrapped  Hershey's Kisses in the packet that I opened for the photo.
 2.   I only ate 3 of the sweets when I opened a packet to take the photo. I am not sure if this shows my   
        willpower the inferior quality of Hershey's Kisses. The 3 I ate were not the silver ones.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Buying gingerbread real estate

gingerbread house, Christmas, craft, craft with children, Christmas crafts, Christmas crafts with children, decorate, Christmas decorations, gingerbread
Last year's house
in case you missed it
in the previous post
In my first post here, I proudly showcased the decorated gingerbread house from last year. With Z1 a whole year older, wiser and more dextrous, this year's is bound to be even better...but first I had to find it.

Last year I picked it up with glee and anticipation on a bit of a whim from the Shoppers Drug Mart (rather like Boots, UK readers) that is mere yards from my office. This year, I watched the Christmas stock arrive with dismay as no gingerbread houses appeared on the shelves. I began to hunt elsewhere (and by "elsewhere", I mean the internet, of course).

I found some on Amazon but encountered the bothersome bother that one can often encounter with when you are not in the US (or, with, if you are not in the UK): these items could not be shipped to me here in Canada.

I found others which looked perfect until I saw that, for the prices they were asking, I would want something rather more substantial than a whimsical bit of edible nonsense. I did think I was prepared to spend a bit more than last year to have one that was truly tasty (Last year's one, if the truth be told, was one of those things that I would take a chunk of in the evening if I had exhausted all other sweet options in the house) but I thought wrong. While the $73.64 price tag I saw on one kit is clearly ludicrous (even if it is pre-assembled), when push came to shove, even the $30 for one from here, which would be guaranteed to be delicious and comes in a lovely tin, proved too much for me and I was left wondering if, this year, I'd be gingerbreadhouseless. As you can imagine, particularly in light of my paper house metropolis that never was,  this was sorely disappointing to me (It would appear that I love me some miniature house action - this blogging lark is teaching me a lot about myself).

gingebread house, christmas, christmas crafts, crafting, craft for children, decorating, decorations
The kit - boxed up and ready to go
However, my dear readers, my spirits were lifted, my urge to acquire miniature properties appeased, when, on the same day I shook my head sadly at the lack of gingerbread house availability, I found myself in Shoppers Drug Mart stocking up on body lotion and sundries and saw that the gingerbread house kits had arrived. Hurrah!

Credit where credit is due: the kit is made by Create a Treat and cost me $9.99 (CA). I saw the same one on for $25.94. So there.

Also possibly of interest:
  •  Gingerbread house construction and decoration is currently planned for the 9th of December, blogging will occur soon after. (The numbers in the list there in the right hand sidebar correspond to dates in December, clever, eh?)
  • You can buy a pre-assembled, pre-decorated gingerbread mansion for $368.50
  • Though tempted, I avoided saying in this post that I'd want a real house for some of the prices they were charging for the gingerbread ones 'cause, while nearly $75 does seem expensive for a house of confectionery, it would be extremely cheap for a real dwelling place. Clearly. Even the massively extravagant $368.50 would be a pathetic sum with which to attempt to buy a real house.
  • If you're in Toronto, Sweet Flour Bake Shop (of the $30 kits) is well worth going to - you can pick your cookie dough and what you want in it (chocolate chips, obviously, but they have other options) and they bake it there for you on the spot. Really delicious. I came across it by chance while at the Ukrainian festival along that part of Bloor in September.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

I know why they sell eggs by the dozen

It's not something I had really pondered before - why eggs come in dozens and half-dozens rather than any other number.

egg box, egg carton, eggs, crafts
Thinking about it now, I suppose it could be that boxes of five would be awkward which is why ten wasn't chosen as the base number. However, I like to think the true reason was that somewhere, many years ago when such things were being decided, someone realised that one day I would want to make an Advent calendar with my Zeds and that two empty egg cartons that formerly housed a dozen eggs each would be perfect for this purpose.

I am still mentally refining the precise way in which our egg box Advent calendar will work but I am fairly confident it will be a thing of beauty. (I keep vacillating between "egg carton" and "egg box", sometimes feeling that "carton" is more North American and sometimes feeling that it's just the right name - thoughts?)

(Here's the real answer according to the internet. If I'd googled before writing, this post might never have existed.)

Monday, 19 November 2012

Z1 is Unpredictable

I recently had a day where I was going to have to do some work but also occupy Z1. I've done it before  with no advance warning and it was fine with the simple provision of some paper, a few pens and a treasured permanent marker ("Treasured" because I tend to be wary, for obvious reasons, of letting her use it in normal circumstances). I had the radio on, I gave occasional praise and advice on her drawings and we passed a pleasant few hours.

craft, paper house, folding, crafting, crafts for children, easy crafts
Folded, cut and ready to colour
This time, however, I knew in advance and was proud of my preparation. I was looking forward to some pleasant hours. I came across these easy to make paper houses and got quite excited, to be honest. I thought Z1 would love them and was slightly concerned that I was going to end up with a metropolis of paper houses that I would not be allowed to throw out. I practised in advance and had them ready for her (see left) when the time came for me to work.

craft, crafting, paper houses, crafts for children, folding, easy crafts
The finished products

She seemed enthusiastic and we were both working away for...oooh...nearly 2 minutes, I think when she brought the blue house (which was the unfolded one in the above picture, if you're wondering) to me. It's hard to see there but she did draw smoke coming out of the chimney, which was a nice touch, but then she just scribbled. No flowers under the windows, tiles on the roof or suchlike. She did ask to do the second but I think she was just pleasing me and I found myself disappointed that I wasn't going to acquire a hamlet of paper houses, let alone the aforementioned metropolis.

colored bat, coloured bat, coloring in, colouring in, bat, craft, cutting, template
Bat number 1: complete
bat for colouring, colouring picture, coloring, coloring picture, bat, bat outline, drawing of bat, children's drawings, easy bat, craft, crafting
Alternative craft
 I showed her the link up there to inspire her but she just asked me to draw her a bat, so I did. She coloured it in, cut it out, taped it to the message board and asked for more. (She went on to become distraught at her lack of bat-drawing skills but she was mostly just hungry for lunch)

paper houses, easy craft, folding, crafts for children, paper folding, crafting
Z1's photo of the paper houses

So the hours passed, more bat-filled and less house-filled than I had anticipated and then, out of the blue, she took the houses again, lined them up, and asked if she could take a photo, so here it is.

Credit where credit is due: the idea and instructions for the paper houses came from Single Married Mum's blog

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Why I think Christmas in November is fine

I will admit to reluctance in beginning to publicly post here, a blog with Christmas in the title,  in October but once I got the idea for the blog and the project, I just wanted to get started.

However, further musings on the whole thing have led me to feel that, whatever about Christmas in October (we have to give Hallowe'en a chance, after all), Christmas in November is fine. Here is why.

Looking forward to and planning Christmas occupies the part of my brain that is dreading the  cold weather. (This applies to anyone in the northern hemisphere, those in the southern hemisphere will have to find their own reason.) There is a reason pagans instigated midwinter festivals - it just makese sense.

There are also good reasons for early Christmas planning to do with getting parcels and cards to people in farflung places and there are financial reasons if you're a big gift-giver but that's a bit boring, really. No, I am justifying it on the basis that it's going to be cold and it's going to be dark so rather than looking ahead to temperatures falling and evenings drawing in, I am embracing plans to bring light and sparkle and delicious things into my house and I think you should too.

Christmas, Christmas decorations, Christmas lights, outdoor decor, Christmas decor, twinkling lights, twinkling bright, outdoor display, lights display, Christmas display
This house (which is not my house) put up all these decorations on November 11th this year.
 (They also decorate well for many other occasions.)
Exciting update: As the Zeds and I were walking home past this house the other day, we were invited into the garden to look closer and then inside to see their amazing, rotating, highly decorated tree. We were all delighted with ourselves altogether.

Monday, 12 November 2012

How blogging has changed me OR I've become one of THOSE people

Two things happened this weekend that illustrate to me how this project, and keeping this blog, have changed me. So, without further ado, I have illustrated them for you (inspired by Amber Dusick who has shown me that Crappy illustrations can actually be rather wonderful and has also made me laugh out loud a number of times )

The events were:

1. We finished a box of cereal
crafts, crafting, cereal boxes, cheerios, computer drawing, drawing
2. Z1 said she would like a rainbow-coloured, non-itchy scarf after we passed a yarn shop with its fence all wrapped in soft and colourful yarn (The shop was Lettuce Knit which is online here but in Toronto in real life )
rainbow scarf, planning scarf, striped scarf, knitting scarf, knitting, pattern, stripes

So there you have it, blogging changes your life and recycling habits.

SHOCKING UPDATE: On the very day I published this post, we finished another box of cereal and I went to put the empty box with the previous one but my beloved husband had thrown it out. The horror!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Think of the children

Hallowe'en, giraffe costume, children, dressed-up, dressing up, long braids, long plaits, pigtails, watching, waiting
My plans for this blog were mostly about me. It is only in the last week I started to wonder whether the Zeds would be as enthused as I am about doing lots of crafts.

Today, we spotted some fairy lights and Z1 asked if we would decorate for Christmas and when.

(As an aside, don't be surprised if I talk more about Z1 than Z2, it's not that she's my favourite, that varies on a day-to-day and sometimes hour-to-hour basis*, it's just that she talks more and talks more articulately that Z2 what with being 4 and a half rather than 2 and a bit.)

I waffled a bit about waiting 'til December and that she has a day off school one day and we might decorate after that** but - and here is where I get to the point - we might make some decorations before that. To my great delight, she got very excited and said "Oh, we can we make chains like we did last year and hang them in all the doors, I loved doing that!". She remembered! And she liked it! Maybe I have stumbled upon a rather good idea. (She also told me she remembers making snowman cookies. Which we never did.)

*Joking. I don't have a favourite child. Mostly.
** 8th of December in case you're interested. Partly 'cause I got a Groupon-style deal for a professional cleaner who is coming on the 7th, so that weekend my house will be all shiny and clean AND, when we're done, Christmassy. Hurrah. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Pyssla-ed off

Pyssla, IKEA, craft, beadsFor Z1's 4th birthday we got her these Pyssla beads from IKEA. To be honest, I am not too sure why  - she had done a shape with them in her pre-school the previous year and we were in IKEA a few weeks or days before her birthday and I had decided we should get something for her there so we got these.

Pyssla, IKEA, craft, boards
For those of you mercifully unfamiliar with Pyssla, you put these little beads onto the shapes you see to the right (sold separately) which have little spikes to hold the beads. You then iron over it with some greaseproof paper stuff and the beads melt a bit and stick together and you have plastic shape. "Excellent," I hear you cry, "I really need more plastic shapes."

Z1 decided she wanted to do this the day after Pumpkin Day. It's only the second time she has wanted to to them at all and I may have instigated the first time. I wasn't too keen this time - it's fiddly and with the potential for those tiny beads to spill and go everywhere. However, Z2 was asleep (again) and it was cold and wet outside so we hunkered down on the floor in our sitting room and started the fiddly business of Pyssla-ing.

She gave me the circle and I told her I was going to try to do a snowflake. She then decided she wanted the circle so I got the square (we may have lost the heart somewhere). I attempted a snowflake but, decided it was a bit crap so I didn't iron it into a snowflake-attempt to keep and treasure forever. (Apologies, no photos of my snowflake attempt, I didn't realise I was going to blog it)

While I did this, Z1 got next to nothing done. She didn't seem interested and yet wouldn't let me put it away. I feared Z2 would awake and come down and spill beads and eat beads and knock things over so I was keen to finish or put away. With some thought, she then decided on a rainbow. However, she initially had trouble with putting one bead on the peg/spike beside the previous one without knocking that one over. This was getting less enjoyable by the second as she got frustrated. The fun started (well, not quite fun but at least quiet co-operation and no cross crankiness on either side) when we hit on the plan of her doing every second spike and me filling in the gaps. She did need me to tell her to come on, Z1 or we're putting this away, your brother will wake and ruin it some gentle encouragement to stay on track at times but together we did it. She was also getting a lot more dextrous at it by the end of the exercise so we may have improved her fine motor skills. She was pretty pleased with it too and showed it to my parents on Skype.
My favourite bit was when I suggested it could be a coaster for her dad's tea and she insisted that we test it with a cup before approving it for such use...and then took it back from him as she had really decided she liked it as a decoration on her play kitchen. Her dad (R) took it ok and got rather enthused when I suggested we could do one another day with Spiderman colours. It might be his turn to help that day.

If you want to get Pyssla-ed off too, the beads and shapes are in the toy section of IKEA. The shapes and beads were sold separately but came to under $10 (Canadian dollars, before tax)

Friday, 2 November 2012

Useful guide to understanding this blog

infographic, crafting, craftiness spectrum, computer drawing,

I position myself around the "swearing and minor injuries possible" box on this important spectrum.
I have very talented siblings who can draw and write poems and sculpt recognizable elephants but these things are beyond me.
I do, however, have quite a positive attitude to things that I do manage to make. I'm definitely not a perfectionist about it all though I do quite enjoy having the Zeds as excuses for when things don't look as if they were made by an actual grown-up lady. You should know, though, that when things don't look quite as good as they could, there is every possibility that my own lack of skills rather than the Zeds' childish lack of coordination and dexterity is to blame.