Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Advent and my Mum is O for Awesome!

Its the first of December! Time to start (officially anyway!) our activity advent. My Mum made this gorgeous advent calendar for Mia last Christmas. It is a quilted tree with little ornaments that you hang up each day in December.

My Mum has made Mia some lovely handcrafted things since she was born. She sewed and knitted for us when we were kids too, and preserved, and baked and grew veges. I wonder where I got my love of all these things from!? She is much better at paying attention to detail than I am, so the things she makes are beautiful, and Mia is so lucky to have a grandmother that is so talented.

Here are some of the other things she has made:

A cross stitch Christmas stocking. When we were kids she made us these too. Actually quite big kids, probably too big to have stockings!

Dolls for both girls when Ellie was born. They have reversible dresses. This is probably a better photo of the cute baby than the dolls!

A bag of little dolls that will be wonderful if we ever get a dollshouse. Mia likes putting the dolls (or rocks or whatever!) into the bag when she is playing one of her elaborate imaginery games!

She has knitted for Mia including this jersey

She is currently working on a rainbow quilt for Ellie that I will share when it is completed.

I am so lucky to have such a legacy of handcraft talent in my family. My grandfather knitted, my grandmother spins and is a potter, my other grandmother was a talented sewer. It goes back even further than that. When I was a child we received several handmade toys that my great-grandmother had made, all the way from Petersfield in the UK, and I grew up playing with a dollshouse that both her and my great-grandfather had handcrafted for my mother and her sister. It is still at my parents, although is a little worse for wear!

I know that most people my age haven't had this background that has inspired me to try and follow in their footsteps and I feel very lucky.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book Review: Growing up Sew Liberated by Meg McElwee

A few months ago I requested that the local library buy 3 books about sewing that I wanted to check out. They said that they would buy them, which at the time I was very excited about! I also got to have first look at them! Months later the first has appeared, not sure what has happened to the other two, but I was very excited to get this one to have a look at!

The book contains both clothes patterns for babies and children up to five, as well as some patterns for play objects such as a tee-pee, doll art folder. The pictures and styling are lovely, and the instructions are detailed and clear. The writer Meg McElwee has a blog and is also a Montessori early childhood teacher, so the book has a lot of great hints about playing with and teaching your pre-schoolers and using the objects in the book. Here is an example about teaching your child numbers:

Here are some of my favourites in the book that I am looking forward to making:

Crossover T-shirt, both long and short sleeved:

Doll Papoose:

Reversible play cape:

I love these pants!:

Can't see me getting through all those before the book is due back, but a highly recommend it if your local library has it. First of December tomorrow!!

Big Brother Art folder

My sister's baby is due in the next couple of weeks, and I always feel it is important to spoil the older sibling when a baby arrives and make them feel special. Mia received so many gifts when Ellie arrived and it made her feel like it was a celebration, rather than an imposition on her life.

My nephew Quinn is extremely active and on the go all the time. There will be times with a new baby when Erin will want him to stay still and out of her way, so I thought that I would give him a gift that may increase the chances of that happening!

I made him an art folder with his name on it using my tutorial, although I made it a bit bigger to fit everything into.

I added a playdough kit,

And felts, an activity book and some stickers.

I hope it keeps him out of mischief for a while Erin!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Xmas card

Every Christmas since I have had Mia I have made a photo card to send to friends and family. It is so nice to have a record of where the girls are at for both ourselves and for people who don't see them very often. Here is this years version, hot off the press:

I am completely aware that it is cheesey as, but oh well its Xmas and I am allowed to be cheesey!

My inspiration for making these cards is my Aunt Anna, my cousin Holly's Mum. Every Christmas when we were kids she would make an Xmas card photo of her 3 kids. As I am 10 years older than Hols I have vivid memories of a lot of these cards, even ones before Holly was born. There was the Xmas chef one of James and Liz (before Hols was born), paper chef hats and all, the baby Jesus one (with Holly in a manger) and the sand dunes one, which must have been the next Xmas when Holly was about 18 months. Holly and I are both lucky to have creative Mums who have set the example for us!

Anyway, back to the cheesey card and a little explanation. I hate telling this story, but about 4 or 5 years ago I drew strength from such stories so thought I would put it out there. I am not the kind of person who likes to draw attention to themselves, or feel like I am asking for sympathy, but this is now very much history and with my 2 beautiful babies, I don't need sympathy!

Before I had Mia I had 3 miscarriages in 18 months. I had all the tests and everything, but they couldn't find anything wrong with me. When I got pregnant with Mia I didn't allow myself to get excited for ages, but once my pregnancy got past 12 weeks it was very easy and straight forward. When you are in that position you get told that it is just a matter of time, you have to keep trying and it will happen for you. Not much help being told that by a doctor, but it did help me to read stories from people who had got through the other side and have babies. Once I was in that position it was amazing to realise how many people had been in a similar position, or worse, but they had all ended up with a baby, or babies if they kept hoping and trying. I also have friends who had had to go down the IVF path, or are about to, and that has brought happy results as well.

When it came to getting pregnant with Ellie I geared myself up for a long road as well. We even talked long and hard about just having one, and set an end point "3 miscarriages and we give up and enjoy Mia". But then I got pregnant straight away and had another text book pregnancy, and birth! We are definitely drawing the line at 2 though, stop while we are ahead!

My point is, enjoy your beautiful families over Christmas, regardless of how easy or hard it was to get them. They are so precious and the holiday season can be stressful so take time to look at them, breathe them in and realise how wonderful it is that you have them!

Photo books

Nathan's Mum, who is a primary school teacher, has made Mia a couple of books, one about going to Grandma's house, and one about going to the zoo. Mia loves these, and for ages I have wanted to make my girls a book each about themselves. I got these two printed for Xmas when warehouse stationary had a half price deal.

Mia's is about what she does in a normal day, and what she does each day of the week.

Ellie's is about our extended family, I figure Mia will be able to "read" is to her by telling her who is in the pictures. Notice the picture of my sister, that will teach her for taking silly pictures of herself on my camera!!

I think my girls are going to love them!!

Rhubarb and Strawberry shortcake

What flavours and foods do you associate with spring? Having a vege garden is great because you can see what is growing from season to season, and use it is inspiration for dishes that you cook. With spring I think of greens (lettuce, spinach, silverbeet), peas and broadbeans (busy growing in the garden as I write!), coriander and mint. I also think of strawberries! We had some growing, but after we ate the first half a dozen the birds got at them. Next spring I will have to grow more plants and cover them with netting!

The rhubarb is also going nuts in the garden, probably because I fertilised it and moved it. You either love or hate rhubarb, and I am a rhubarb fan, especially when mixed with other fruits in a dessert or cake.

Recently I have seen several recipes incorparating both, which is a great idea as they are both ripening at the moment, and they are such contrasts in taste - sweet and tart. The other night I decided to try making my own version of such a dessert, using a tried and tested shortcake recipe, which is great with any fruit.

Rhubarb and strawberry shortcake

1 c stewed and sweetened rhubarb

1 punnet of strawberries

125g butter

1/2c sugar

1 egg

1 c self-raising flour

1 c flour

Cream softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat briefly. Fold in flours. Halve the dough. Chill half wrapped in gladwrap in the freezer. Press the other half into a baking dish.

Spread the rhubarb over the bottom layer of shortcake. Slice the strawberries over top and sprinkle with a little sugar. Grate the half from the freezer over the fruit to form the top of the shortcake. Bake at 180 C for about 45 mins. Serve sprinkled with icing sugar and/or with icecream or whipped cream.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Countdown to Christmas: Activity Advent

Christmas is so exciting when you are a child. I remember the huge build up to Christmas day when I was a child, christmas cards given out to classmates, all the end of year school activities, and excitement about going to stay with family for Christmas. For years now my family has had 3 generations of adults, but in the last few years we have started to add to the 4th generation, and the eldest of that generation are starting to be conscious of Christmas and all the excitement that comes with it. The bonus of having children who are beside themselves with the happiness of the season is that it can't help but rub off on the adults around them!

I have decided that for Mia's enjoyment, and my own, I am going to start a tradition of an activity advent in December. Ellie can join in properly in a couple of years when she realises how exciting Christmas is. I have been trying to come up with a mix of activities, and here is what we are going to do each day in December:

  1. Take out the advent calendar my Mum made last Xmas.

  2. Write santa a letter (Mia has been asking to do this for weeks!)

  3. Make fimo ornaments. Here are some pictures of ideas:

    From etsy:

From meet the Dubiens:

From etsy:

From geekabella:

4. Make gingerbread men

5. Go to the library and get some Christmas books

6. Go to shop and let Mia pick a decoration each for her and Ellie

7. Buy a present for a child in need and put under Xmas tree in Coastlands. Talk about why we did this.

8. Make orange pomanders (Image from sjarmerende jul)

9. Buy a present for community in need from world vision and discuss where it will go and why they need it.

10. Collect things from the beach and use them to make decorations.

11. Decorate the tree.

12. Watch an Xmas movie with treats.

13. Photo with santa.

14. Make christmas mince pies and take them to an old peoples' home.

15. Make woven decorations from the crafty crow.

16. Take Xmas baking to friends.

17. Take food to the food bank and talk about why people need to use the food bank, especially over Xmas.

18. Wrap Xmas presents.

19. Make Xmas making and take to the maternity hospital for mothers and staff working over Xmas.

20. Pick up rubbish.

21. Go out for a family meal together.

22. Colour in Xmas pictures.

23. Sing Xmas carols.

24. Open 1 present from under the tree.

Depending on the weather and whay is happening I reserve the right to mix the days up a bit! In fact we have cheated and already done a couple of them. The food bank did a collection so we put a bag out, and Mia wrote her santa letter:

Who wants to join some of our new traditions?

School Gala Finds

The baby with an ear infection has stopped sleep and crafting here this weekend, but we did manage a family outing to a local school gala. This is the second one we have been to in the last few months, and I have discovered they are a great way to entertain littlies for very little money, and you can get some great bargains as well. Mia loved her rides on a pony, merry-go-round and bouncy castle, her gingerbread man and the 4 20c books I bought her and Ellie (including the Rainbow Fish board book and a Thomas book).

I also got a massive bag of clothes for $10. Here are some of my favourite things that I stuffed in the bag. There were a lot more than this!

An outfit for Mia (size 4 so a bit big) including an Esprit skirt and a Next top. And its not pink!

A rainbow stripe seersucker sundress and pants for Ellie.

Pumpkin Patch denium pinafore and corduroy overalls for Ellie. Again not pink!

I couldn't resist this striped boys shirt (coming Luca's way Hols!) and this Max top for me:

I will be making an effort to go to more!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Native bird prints

Here is my latest freezer print effort. I have made these before I started blogging, but thought I would share my latest prints with you. The 2 linen teatowels are for my grandmother, while the onesie is an Xmas pressie for my cousin's baby.

I won't bother telling you how I made the freezer paper stencils as there are a million tutorials already on the internet, but obviously these ones are uniquely New Zealand! I went to the library ages ago and got an old book out about native birds and traced around the outlines of the prints. The piwakawaka (fantail) is my favourite, so cute, but I didn't use him here.

Here is a tui, I just mixed resenes test pot paint with some textile medium to make it stay on the fabric even when it is washed.

This is a kereru, or wood pidgeon. The reason I made this for little Archie is that his grandparents (my aunt and uncle) have an organic orchard named after the Kereru, so I plan to print kereru on T-shirts or onesies for their 3 grandchildren (all boys),

And this is the good old kiwi. My grandmother has EVERYTHING, literally she is the biggest hoarder, so I hope she can put these to use.

It is so easy to print things with freezer paper stencils, if you haven't already search a tutorial on the internet and have a go. Your main problem will probably be finding the freezer paper in New Zealand at a non-astronomial price. I got some (and the textile medium) from Creative Craft supplies in Wellington, they take orders. Believe me I searcher for ages and they had the best price! The prints make great personalised gifts.

Birthdays and Christmas

Remember my post last week about Mia's vintage sheet rompers? What could be cuter than a 3 year old in rompers? How about identical twin 1 year olds in rompers! Two of my friends have had twins in the last year and the first pair, Lucy and Rose, turn 1 on the 1st December. I decided they needed some rompers. The other pair, a boy and a girl, are 1 a day before Ellie. I will have fun making them something too!

Christmas is creeping up on us quickly and the Xmas ornament swap seems to be going really well with everyone working hard to get theirs done. Check out the following posts to see what some of the participants have been up to:

Holly Made's Christmas bunting

Lover of Vintage's Lace hearts

You still have a couple of weeks if you haven't made yours yet so don't stress!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

30 days of play

Hands on: As we grow has been running a 30 days of play challenge.

Although we haven't been participating in it religiously, it has given us a few cool activities to do. Yesterday when Mia got home from preschool I had planned a pictorial treasure hunt for her to do. She loved it!

One of the challenges was to raid the recylcing bin and get the child to come up with something to make with the contents. Mia made this car, painted it and planned it herself. All Nathan and I did was attach the wheels!

Who would have known that foam shapes stick to the windows (temporarily) beautifully if you paint water on them? This kept Mia amused for a while.

Ignore the weeds growing in the tiles!

I taped a massive piece of paper to the wall and let Mia loose. She stood on a chair and painted for ages. There was a huge story behind the painting as well. There was a spider, Dad, a tightrope, and all sorts of other things in her painting!

I also discovered that she can write her name!! Thanks preschool!

Here is the artist at work:

We did the block challenge as well. Mia built a tower as tall as her. Then she wanted to measure it (she was 100cms tall).

Then she made a filled in rectangle with some other blocks (she is into doing that at the moment for some reason)

She used the trolley to get some more blocks:

Then she created an elaborate game that involved using one of the letter blocks as a dice and throwing it and you had to find another of the same letter and put a block on it. The rules had a few holes in them and it got a bit too much so that was the end of the block play!

We have been getting emailed play prompts and it has been fun just watching her and seeing her brain tick over. The challenge is about halfway through if you want to join in!