Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Bring on the minuses!

Tempting fate with green water-filled
balloon over my head. Mopping up.
We moved to Canada in April of 2011. I was dreading the winter but Toronto gave us a mild one. As this current winter started and progressed, I had been quietly thankful for each day that went by where the temperature was above -10C or so. I'd check the forecast and then check it a few more times to see if it had changed when any temperatures below zero were predicted.

The day I decided to do this project, it was a balmy 13C (only days after my personal record low temperature of -21C which we survived with minimal digit loss).
Careful placement; in the bowl, ready for placement;
striking a pose to show the arrangement off
(so mild no coat was needed!).

The forecast, as I formulated my plan, was predicting a high of -2C for the next day. I was pleased. I checked later and it said a high of 8C. I was dismayed but committed to the project so we went ahead anyway. (I also checked another forecast which still said a high of -2C - hurrah!)

That was quite an introduction without getting to the point, wasn't it? Well, the plan was to make these icy colourful marbles.

I was genuinely excited about doing these and was disappointed when Z1 and Z2 were busying themselves in the garden. I told them when they had finished playing, we'd do the water balloons. Z1 told me "We are not playing, we are taking care of the worms." and that I could do it myself.  So I did, I started by myself with a green one and went to take it outside to show the Zeds to see if they'd be interested now that there was something to look at. (I had a minor panic when Z2 could not be located - he'd wandered off behind the shed and was not responding to being called.) He was thrilled to see a balloon and happily followed me to the front to help me put it in the grass. Hurrah. Z1 soon followed when she saw that her brother was interested so we retreated to the kitchen to prepare a few more.

Here's the how to. I saw this on Pinterest and didn't read any instructions before starting. The one I did on my own was a good practice: I filled the balloon with water by stretching it over the spout and, when I removed it, water spurted out everywhere, forced out by the balloon contracting back to its deflated size, I suppose. I was not expecting that. Lesson learned.

I had a dropper to drop food colouring into the balloons before filling so the Zeds could help with that by squeezing the dropper. After that, they were guardians of the balloons as I filled the next one. We had an incident where I tied a knot too hastily and put the balloon into the bowl where it promptly splooshed its (thankfully not very brightly coloured) contents onto Z1's coat and the floor. Paper towels were promptly employed. We did a few greens and a few reds. I only had a small bit of blue food dye left which we divided between an attempt at a purple one (mixing red and blue) and a just-blue one. It may be rather pale. I didn't fill them as large as they look in the Pinterest picture as I was fearful of balloon breakage and also thought that it would be good that the smaller ones would freeze more quickly.

They are outside as I type. Current outside temperature is 12C (at 9pm) though it is predicted to be -3C by 8am which is around when we will be leaving the house. I cannot wait to poke them but I suspect the big reveal (cutting the balloons off) will be Friday or possibly even Saturday. There is also snow forecast so we might have to dig them out to see them. Bring on the minuses!

Planning and wishing for cold weather

Ah, we've been on a go-slow with the crafts for a few days. Both the Zeds seem to have suddenly discovered their Christmas toys and have been busy with them. Also, we have run out of pipe cleaners which are pretty much craft essentials.

I do have plans though. Sneaky plans and clever tricks. Ok, well, not particularly sneaky plans and possibly not particularly clever tricks but definite plans.

With Pinterest as my muse, I had considered doing something like these melted bead decorations but I fear we might poison ourselves with the fumes from melting them in the oven or, at the very least, stink the house out.

However, this weekend I have plans for garden decorations if winter would just cooperate and cool down again (12C in Canada, in January! What's that about?). In fact, I am now getting excited about it and may just execute the plan tonight as the forecast is telling me it should be below zero again. Watch this space, there may be balloons on it the next time you look.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Z1 and me: co-authors (with bonus bat)

This was an activity born of necessity. Once more, I had work to do when Z1 was not going to be otherwise engaged and I needed to keep her happily and quietly occupied. Or, at the very least, occupied.

book, make your own book, kindergarten book, write your own book, draw your own book
Words but no pictures
She has made a few books before so it wasn't a new idea and I hoped she'd comply when the time came. I prepared by folding a piece of paper into four and snipping the folded edges. I wrote the story so that she could draw the pictures. I fear the story was not the most magnificent of stories. Nor was it the most original of stories. In fact, the title has even been used before (see pic). However, I knew Z1 could draw a snowman so I thought it was a good place to start. I also prepared a back-up, blank book.

child's drawing, snowman
Cover complete
child's drawing, melted snowman
Sad children, melted snowman
snow, child's drawing
Threatening snow

It all went to plan. We read the words, she sat down to draw the pictures and showed me each one as she completed. The pictures here are highlights. She also drew me the bonus bat below. Hurrah.

child's drawing, bat
Wicked (in the sense of bad) bat

Friday, 18 January 2013

A lobster of love

lobster, lobster drawing, lobster colouring page, lobster coloring page
This post is not about lobsters and their monogamous mating that many of us learned about from that Friends episode. No, this is about a true lobster of love.
Z1 expressed an interest in drawing a lobster together. I was a little nervous as I cannot remember ever drawing a lobster before - I have drawn plenty of octopi as I used to draw a comic strip about Leonard the octopus who had a sea anemone friend called...erm...Mark, I think, but those days are distant memories now. I was also recalling a major upset that was a result of Z1 trying, unsuccessfully, to copy my admirable bats*. However, I decided to go ahead. I bravely opened Paint on my laptop and drew the charming crustacean you see above. He (for it is a he) was partially inspired by a picture, printed on fabric, of a lobster that used to be in my house growing up. I couldn't find an image of it online and I have no idea where it came from but it was remarkable - bright orange and red on a dark blue canvas.

lobster colouring sheet, lobster coloring sheet, lobster picture
Lobster in colour
I believe Z1's inspiration to draw a lobster is likely to have come from looking at the lobsters in the tank at Red Lobster.

I asked her how many marks out of ten she would give me for my drawing. She said 1,000,050 so that's pretty good. She did say it was not the best lobster she has ever seen but she has seen actual, real lobsters so I suppose that was to be expected.

You may also be interested to know:
 - I have made the lobster pic into a downloadable pdf so everyone can enjoy it. Just click the picture (and let me know if it doesn't work) or go to the downloadables page (tab up there at the top)

* You will be pleased to hear that Z1 told me, only yesterday, that she is now able to draw "my" bats.

Credit where credit is due: I got instructions on how to do the downloadable pdf from sewBOLD.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Exhaustion - when even the thought of craft is too much

I asked Z1 what she would like our next project to be yesterday evening. She said "A television day" shortly before falling asleep on my knee before bedtime. While we may well go ahead with this project, I don't think I will be reporting our exploits here.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Introducing She-La (with apologies for any ensuing nightmares)

upcycling old children's clothes, upcycling curtains, diy stuffed toy
She-la: before
Old pyjama bottoms, two odd socks, two tiny footsock things, a white hanky, a too-small top and some unwanted frilly curtains - it all looks pretty unthreatening, right? Well, read on to find out how they became something that Husband didn't want me to put in Z1's room in the night in case it scared her.

Z1 decided it would be nice to make a teddy. I thought that was a great idea. I like to encourage her creativity. I like to encourage activities in the home that do not involve the television. This was good.

She came up with the idea on our way back from a failed trip to an exhibition (it was booked out) that turned out quite nicely 'cause we went to a cafe. I love going to cafes, even with  especially with the Zeds. I also wasn't terribly excited about the exhibition in the first place and neither were the Zeds...or the Husband for that matter. It's probably just as well we didn't get to go.

I stalled a bit when we get home, trying to think of materials and suggesting it might be a better project for another day but Z1 was insistent and beat my reluctance to pulp with her enthusiasm for such a wholesome activity.

We gathered the materials. We sat on the floor. We made the head first and Z1 drew on a face. This is where I realised that our teddy was going to be terrifying. The odd-shaped head somehow suggested cat ears to Z1 so she decided it was a cat. She then decided it was called "She-la" (spelling mine) as it was a "she". Ok, nice chats as we ripped up the curtain and stuffed it into the discarded clothes. I safety pinned them together for sewing after she was in bed. She-la was taking shape and she was creepy.

homemade stuffed toy, upcycled children's clothes
She-la downstairs
homemade stuffed toy, upcycled children's clothes
She-la upstairs
It took me 2 and a half hours to sew this monstrosity.
I had told Z1 that I would put it on the chair in her room once it was done. Husband insisted that this was a terrible idea and that she was bound to be scarred for life if she woke and saw She-la sitting there, watching her sleep. I tried to explain how both Z1 and Z2 seemed to really like her and were hugging her before she was even stitched together but I felt he had a fair point so put her on the landing chair (right) instead.

Z1 was very grateful this morning. She thanked me profusely, she noticed the cat paws I had sewn (I am quite proud of that detail) and remarked I had put a lot of hard work in. She-la came down to breakfast with Z1 and she laid a place for her at the table. It looks like she may become part of the family.

So, do you think sewing buttons on for eyes would make her more or less creepy?

Apologies are due here to those I know called Sile/Sheila. This cat does not remind me in any way of you. 

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Continuing side effects from conquering Christmas (with pipe cleaners!)

pipe cleaner, children's crafts, crafts, decorations
Clockwise, starting top left: kitchen drawer,
piece de resistance on the front door handle,
one on the foot of the swivel chair, one around
the leg of the (unused and in need of giving away)
highchair, chain on the tea towel rack, jingle bell
on the oven handle.
Though Z1's enthusiasm for the craft-a-day schedule leading up to Christmas waxed and waned, it has clearly left an impression. The beloved pipe cleaners, of which we had many, have now all been used up. I think pictures will speak louder than words in this instance so feast your eyes on the photos and be informed that this is just a selection of the magnificent pipe cleaner decorations that have been created, most of them on Saturday morning while I was having a lie in (Husband encourages a bit of art before telly on weekend mornings). They are adorning all manner of unexpected places downstairs.

You may also be interested to know:

  • The gingerbread house came to a sad end when Z2 was trying to sneak a few jellybeans and pulled it from the counter to the floor. I encouraged both Zeds to grab what they could before I swept it up. 
  • While initially reluctant to throw the egg carton advent calendar out, Z1 put it in the recycling bin when she realised that it was hard to lay the table with it still there. Hurrah for getting small children to help with chores: table laid AND glittery-torn-egg-cartons-stuck-to-a-cut-up-cereal-box disposed of willingly.

Monday, 7 January 2013

A Bed 'Hanopy' for Z1

One thing I found when I started looking at Pinterest is that I began to see ideas for projects everywhere. This idea for a bed canopy was from a drawing in a Fancy Nancy book that Z1 borrowed from the school library. I am not a big fan of the books but Z1 is and I do quite like using the word fancy so it's ok overall.

DIY, decor, craft, organza, canopy, bed canopy, Dollarama, broom handles, brush handles
The "hanopy" in place
The main inspiration from the book was the use of brush handles to hold it up. Dollarama sells patterned brush handles and I have a rather great love of Dollarama. I bought the fabric from an ebay shop for around $10 including postage. My part-time job from my undergrad days came in handy in figuring out how much fabric I would need -  knowledge of bed measurements and duvet sizes is a transferable skill that I use more often than I ever thought I would.

The corners at the head of the bed are tied to the curtain rail which is ugly and unnecessarily extends to the corner of the room rather than only across the width of the window. I reached this by holding onto the window frame and balancing precariously on the bed head while praying it wouldn't crack. It's quite hard to tie a knot with one hand while balancing like that and I used my teeth to pull it tight. I'm terribly innovative.

Z1 picked two different brush handles which irked me a little.

I, fairly predictably, lost my will to live enthusiasm for the project a bit when attaching the handles to the bed got a bit tricky. I used sticky tape and various long pliable items found in Z1's room in a haphazard manner to attach them with minimal swearing. I am pleased with how it turned out, even with non-matching brush handles. Z1 says it looks like it is made from fairy dust and charmingly refers to it as a "hanopy". It does make the bed unsuitable for jumping on but I was never that keen on the bed being jumped on in the first place so that's fine.

Friday, 4 January 2013

3 Post Scripts on Conquering Christmas

1. Our house smelled delightful - of gingerbread and Christmas tree - on our return from our trip to Dublin (and a very nice trip it was too).
2. Z1 set to work once she had her coat off and said "I know what our Christmas decoration for today can be" so clearly enjoyed conquering Christmas. Hurrah! (She drew a Christmas tree which I cut out for her, she threaded with a pipe cleaner and hung on the tree...which we'll take down this evening. Sigh.)
3. The Borax crystals have all fallen off the pinecone that we crystallised. I think this was 'cause of the pinecone opening up in the warmth of the house and cracking the cyrstals 'cause the other crystal decorations  are still sparkly and intact.

Happy New Year!

UPDATE - I have since noticed that this morning she also wrote (with help from The Husband) "Deck the Halls" on a piece of paper, threaded a pipe cleaner through it and hung it on the tree. This girl is on a roll. Two questions: 1. Do I keep these for next year? (Ah yeah, I think I better). 2. How long do you think she'll keep making decorations for?