Thursday, May 31, 2012

Birthdays in May

We have quite a few birthdays in May, so I just want to post a couple of pictures of my favourite presents that we made.

The first was for a little boy we know. When I asked his dad what he liked, I was told, “Toy Story and dinosaurs.”  So I created this T-Rex, complete with poseable limbs.

I have already posted about my love of Waldorf inspired dolls (I have since put eyes on Willow’s because it creeped David out apparently). So for a couple of birthdays that we ended up missing this month for one reason or another, I made some dolls. The purple haired doll I made a little differently with poseable arms. She has made it to her new home and is receiving much love apparently. The green doll is yet to find her home because I can’t seem to be able to coordinate a playdate with her new family. But hopefully we will get her to where she belongs very soon!

My other favourite was for Bel’s best friend. Her mummy asked for a skirt that would “flick out” when twirling. So I made a simple circle skirt and added a ruffle on the bottom (the first time I’d used my ruffle foot. It was so much fun!). Bel picked the fabric and we also made a matching headband using a yoyo.

The same friend’s party was a butterfly theme. When I pulled out Bel’s wings, they were ruined! They were the kind with stocking like fabric stretched over shaped wire. I never liked them as I constantly had to reshape them and she couldn’t fit through confined spaces with them on. Off we went to Spotlight so Bel could buy the fabric she has had her eye on for months. If I ever lost her in the shop, I was guaranteed she would be looking at the fabric.

I also bought the stiffest interfacing I could get. I drew some wings and cut two from the interfacing so it would be doubled up. Then I sandwiched the fabric, right sides together, between the two pieces of interfacing and stitched it all together leaving a gap for turning. I topstitched around the edges and then soaked the whole thing in ‘Stiffy’ fabric stiffener. Once that was dry, I had an amazing set of stiff but flexible wings. I attached a couple of pieces of elastic, made another circle skirt and a matching headband and we had a costume. Bel was thrilled! She actually made me teary when she put it on and gave me a big hug saying, “Thank you so much for my costume, Mummy. I love it so much!”

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Creating Space

It is no secret that we live in a little house. A very little house. It's technically a unit and we have no yard and a teensy weensy little living area. So when it comes to fitting everything in that we need (yes, need, no matter what my husband says!) things tend to become a little cluttered. So when we had to create a nursery for Willow, out came the computer and bookshelf into the living room.

I did compromise with David and got rid of an entire bookshelf of books, but I couldn't part with all of them and insisted that we needed to keep at least one bookshelf. It looked awful. It was overloaded with books stacked every which way and was on a bizarre angle in order to allow access to the power point behind it. The girls would constantly pull all of their books off the bottom shelf, causing a collapse of my precariously built towers of books. Plus, it was the first thing anyone saw when they walked in the front door. Not aesthetically pleasing at all! Something had to be done. Quickly and very, very cheaply.

David took our simply rectangular bookshelf and pulled it apart. He reconstructed it in 5 boxes and only had to buy a little bit of extra wood. We attached it to the wall and painted it with white exterior paint we had left over from painting the house. We figured you can never have too much mould protection on anything up here! David then brought a giant mower box home from work and we cut panels to fit into the back of the boxes (let's just say we weren't the neatest of painters!)

In order to make our cardboard long enough, we cut two pieces and held them together with wooden skewers and masking tape. I was quite happy to cut them 'near enough's good enough' because we were going to cover them with fabric, but David busted me. So I let him take over.

Even the girls hindered him!

The fabric was on sale at Spotlight and it's not very clear, but they are vintage keys in photo frames. I was kind of going for a 'key to knowledge' theme. The contrasting green was chosen by David and a friend of ours, Jay from Birdie and Bug, who both have a better eye for colour than I!

And we put the books back up! I think it looks much better than before and we have been able to put the girls' toybox under it, creating even more space! So now when people walk in, they see my books as a feature, not as an after thought. The way books should be viewed!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mothers' Day at our place

Okay, so it's almost an entire week after Mothers' Day, but we have had a week of fires, sleepless nights and snuffly children. So I am only just getting to this now!

Last Saturday began very emotionally. I was struggling with what to do with Bel (we have removed her bedroom door after Willow had her fingers slammed in it) and then I got a phone call that my dad's house had caught fire. Luckily, it wasn't too serious. There is a bucket load of damage, but fortunately it's all outside the house. I was so glad that I had been on top of the Mothers' Day craft and had that completed by Friday. Bel had such a good time. I am really loving that she is now old enough to actually do the crafts with only a little assistance from me! So she baked...

...and made bubble bath, ensuring that there was enough for her to enjoy that evening. Then Sunday morning, I discovered that the girls and their Daddy had been very busy crafting, just for me!

Sorry about the blurry photo. My good camera is broken and our little one just isn't great in the late afternoon! Each jar also contained chocolate. David tried very hard to keep their goings on a secret, but I already had been told by Bel that they were painted jars. I just wasn't allowed to see them before the big day! I also got a new cuddle bathrobe. It's lovely!

I hope all of the other mums out there had an amazing day!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Reviews, reviews, reviews!

I have two Library Thing reviews today. I read the books a while ago, but have only just had time to post the reviews (a wonderful friend has allowed Bel to stay with her at playgroup while I brought Willow home for a nap). So, without further ado, here are my reviews!

Notes to Self
‘Notes to Self’ by Avery Sawyer is a riveting story that deals with adolescence and consequences. Sawyer presents a realistic plot that comes to life through engaging characters, making her story one that teens can relate to.

Sawyer’s plot is a very simple one. Robin wakes in hospital to find that she has suffered head trauma after a fall and she needs to piece her life and memory back together. To add to her angst, her best friend, Em, remains in a coma. The character’s journey reveals the consequences of seemingly harmless choices and the isolation of being different. However, this simple plot is brilliantly revealed through Sawyer’s characters.

There is only a small cast of characters in ‘Notes to Self’. The story is told by Robin and Sawyer has beautifully captured her confusion as she struggles with her trauma. Robin’s mother is typical as she struggles to balance nurturing with her teen’s growing independence, especially as she tries to piece her own life back together. Reno becomes a constant for Robin, accepting her with her injuries when some of her friends do not. Their budding romance is very sweet and his character adds strength to help Robin through her confusion.

Sawyer writes very well for a teen audience. Her novel deals with most of the issues and insecurities adolescents face. While she portrays consequences, it is not done in a condescending manner, making her message more palatable.

‘Notes to Self’ is an excellent book for teens. It deals with pertinent issues such as loyalty, friendship and self esteem. Sawyer presents engaging characters who are dealing with the natural consequences of their actions. It is the sort of novel I could see on a junior high school English reading list.

4 Stars

And They Called Her Spider: A Bartleby and James Adventure
Michael Coorlim’s ‘And They Called Her Spider: A Bartleby and James Adventure’ is an engaging steampunk mystery that is easy to devour. The characters and plot are well presented in an alternative turn of the century adventure.

Set in England, ‘And They Called Her Spider’ begins with a lyrical description of a female assassin who has captured headlines. Bartleby and James are charged by Scotland Yard to find her before the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. In a partnership reminiscent of Sherlock and Watson, Bartleby and James sort through the clues to reveal Spider’s identity before it is too late.

The characters are quite dynamic. James, an engineer who loves to tinker and prefers his own company, tells the story. He is quite out of touch with society and relies on Bartleby, a rich aristocrat, to help him avoid social faux pas. Bartleby has a quick mind and a very cheerful disposition. Coorlim’s plot is well presented to allow each character’s personality to shine.

Coorlim’s style is very easy to read. While the story contains appropriate twists and turns, they are not difficult to follow. At times, formatting of the ebook does detract from the story. However, I found myself quite enthralled in Coorlim’s steampunk London.

‘And They Called Her Spider’ is an enjoyable read. As it is quite short, I would prefer to read a number of Bartleby and James Adventures as a collection rather than as standalone stories. As Coorlim’s characters are engaging and the plot is entertaining, I will be looking for more Bartleby and James Adventures in the future.

3 Stars

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A different kind of making do

Not a crafty post today, but still about making do nonetheless. This morning things were going smoothly. The girls and I did the grocery shopping, made it to Spotlight and bought some crafty tidbits for Grandma’s birthday present and Bel’s best friend’s and got home in time to feed Willow and put her to bed. Bel sat down and watched a DVD, did some painting and jumped on the trampoline while I did some sewing. Then Willow woke up (insert ominous music here).

Willow is teething, we think. She doesn’t have any of the same symptoms of teething that Bel or any other baby on the planet has, so it’s hard to tell. But she’s really, really unsettled and screams randomly. I’m hoping it’s teeth! So she didn’t sleep as well as she should have, but was happy enough. I changed her nappy and Bel wanted all of us to jump on the trampoline. Which was fun until Bel decided I was too heavy and cramped her jumping style. Once I was off Willow wanted out because I was gone but Bel still wanted me to watch. So I plonked Willow on the pavers so she could happily play with Bel’s bike while I watched Bel jump.

Within five seconds, it was on. Bel was off the trampoline and insisting that she absolutely needed to ride her bike right now. She almost ran over Willow’s foot and fingers (amazing how babies can have all of their digits in the same place at the same time!) and I roused at her. Bel’s response was to turn around and swipe at Willow with her fist.

Now Bel is an amazing child. She is friendly and happy, not to mention intelligent and affectionate. Until she has to share. Then my beautiful girl turns into some sort of selfish monster. We’ve been using that word so much since Willow has started crawling that the other day, I asked her what she was drawing and she replied, “A selfish.” She thinks it’s a type of bug. Not sure the lesson is getting through there…

So back to today. I got very cross at Bel for attempting to hit Willow and told her it was rest time. She didn’t want a rest, so I responded, “That’s fine. You can have a timeout then.” Cue the worst 40 minutes of parenting I have had to date. Bel flat out refused to go into her timeout. So I did what any wannabe good parent does. I asked myself, “What would Super Nanny do?” Fortunately, I had seen an episode with kids who didn’t like time out at my aunt’s place last week. So off I went, explaining why Bel was in timeout and each time she came out of her room (most of the time I didn't even make it out of the door), I silently placed her back on her bed. Awesome. Except Super Nanny didn’t tell me what to do when one child is refusing a time out and the other is screaming hungry, possibly cutting a tooth, and wondering why everyone is so upset.

This meant I now had two screaming children. I couldn’t put Willow down because her screaming just went up a few octaves each time (I tried the Super Nanny thing for about ten minutes), and I couldn’t back down on Bel’s timeout. So I went into survival mode. I went out on the deck to feed Willow, closing Bel inside the house, while deeply regretting my self control in walking past the chocolate this morning. Surely she would get the hint eventually and calm down? No. My child has the most amazing stamina and continued to howl. Plus Willow was still too worked up to eat and was also screaming. So I joined in. Not with the screaming, but I definitely had tears. I am a teacher. How could I not enforce discipline with a toddler? Then I had a brainwave. I did the Mummy equivalent of sending a troublesome student to the principal. I called Daddy home from work.

Monday, May 7, 2012

And we are back!

Well, we are back! The trip was nowhere near as stressful as I had been anticipating. The girls travelled beautifully thanks to Hubby’s brainwave of setting out at 2am in order to get four hours of driving under our belts before they woke up. The time we spent with the family and friends we got to see was time very well spent and we enjoyed every moment of it. The girls also got to feed elephants at the zoo and go on the Southbank Ferris Wheel.

Elephant feeding at Australia Zoo

Our accommodation everywhere we went was wonderful and we definitely want to give a shout out to Coconut Palms on the Bay in Hervey Bay. The manager was wonderful and the motel was amazing! We stayed there on our way to Brisbane and on the way back. The rainbow we saw over the ocean was just spectacular. My favourite thing about Hervey Bay was that you could turn off the main street and not even 500 metres down the road were amazingly huge properties with cows. My kind of place!

Rainbow over the ocean just outside our hotel in Hervey Bay

We also spent time with my aunt and uncle in Mackay. They are very close to my age and our kids are almost exactly the same ages. Bel and Willow had an amazing time with the cousins and we were really sad to leave. So much so that on the way home, the car broke down and it was nice to turn around and go back to them! We had missed my cousin’s birthday by only a few weeks so we took down a present for him of a magnetic fishing pole and some fish. It was very simple to make. There are loads of tutorials for them on the internet. I used steel washers that Hubby already had in the garage. It was a big hit! I cannot believe it, but I didn’t get a photo of the kids playing with them!

The reason for the big trip at the end of the day was to attend the wedding of my best friend. She had graciously asked me to be her only bridesmaid, so I has very honoured. It was a beautiful day, except that it was raining, misty and a top of about 17C. Obviously the bride was stunning and the groom is definitely worthy of her. The bride was incredibly understanding and allowed me to make my dress (initially I thought it was a good idea, but it wasn’t as much fun in the end…) so that I could feed Willow. Her aunt is a lactation consultant and thought that the best part of the day was me feeding Willow in the back of the church while photos were being taken! Out of the left over fabric, I made dresses for the girls, which got so many compliments! Unfortunately it was wet and cold and the end of the holiday, so the girls weren’t their usual sunny selves and we didn’t get a brilliant photo of us all, but what we have will have to do!

The Wilkinsons in Blue

When we arrived home, we had a new addition to our garden. We did a house swap with some really good friends of ours who also have two small children. Unfortunately their toddler wanted our garden gnome, Ivan, to be a bit more active than he was capable of. While they managed to glue him back together, they also bought him a new playmate to make up for it.

Ivan and his new friend, who is yet to be named
So now we are getting back into routine (yay!) and packing everything away. We have loads of birthdays and Mothers’ Day this month, so it will be quite crafty once I figure out what we will be doing!