Friday, 28 December 2012

Rainbow Scarf Revealed

I mentioned my plan to knit a scarf before here so thought it only fair to update you on how it went.
This was the blueprint:

rainbow scarf, computer drawing, infographic, planning, knitting, scarf

And this is what it looked like before:

yarn, rainbow yarn, knitting, striped scarf, rainbow scarf, before

And this is after:
rainbow, yarn, scarf, homemade, knitting, rainbow scarf, striped scarf, rainbow stripes
It was more difficult and less perfect than I expected. I knitted a few scarves a few years ago and was mighty proud of them so went into this project with my blueprint and my planning and some confidence in my learned-from-the-internet knitting abilities. I still like it quite a lot and Z1 seems to too so that is good. It's definitely a "Unique Handmade Item where variations in colour and texture only serve to highlight that it's one of a kind."*
*Translation: Please ignore any dropped stitches and the inconsistency in width of stripes, it was made with LOVE, dammit.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Lessons Learned from Conquering Christmas

It's December the 21st and we're leaving for Ireland tomorrow. I declare Christmas conquered. 
Here is the Advent calendar, nearly all opened now.
Here is what I learned in the process:
  1. I really like miniature houses, whether of paper or of gingerbread.
  2. I really like snowflakes.
  3. Don't put on any visual distractions (TV, YouTube) when attempting crafts with Z1.
  4. Pipe cleaners are an excellent investment for a craft box.
  5. I really growing crystals and seeing the finished result.
  6. And, related to 5., one woman's magical/scientific crystal-making potion is another woman's poison.
  7. Blogging is quite effective at stopping me mentally packing for our Dublin trip for the entire month of December - I only made a packing list on the 16th.
  8. There is time to do a crafty type thing between getting home from school and getting dinner on but it's not always a good idea.
People, I am off to Dublin until the new year but I will be back. The name of the blog will change and it will be at .  Anyone eagle-eyed will have noticed that the address was already redirecting to the conquering crafts one - the magic of the internet did that and will continue to do so.

Have a very lovely Christmas, however you choose to celebrate it.

(Oh, and we did manage to make a Christmas card for the grandparents this evening - DONE!)

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Compare and Contrast: me vs Z1 (also pipe cleaners are not perfect)

It's alway painful when the scales fall from your eyes and something or someone previously revered or treasured is revealed to have a flaw (In fact, having scales on one's eyes in the first place also sounds kind of painful.). Today was that day for me with pipe cleaners. It turns out that they don't stick to paper very well. Our cards today are still based on pipe cleaners stuck to paper - we'll see if they survive the journey into school in my bag tomorrow.

I think the best way to present today's pieces is by comparing and contrasting.
pipe cleaners, craft, homemade Christmas card, Christmas card,
pipe cleaners, craft, homemade Christmas card, Christmas card,

On the left, my effort. While simple, with clean lines and a tasteful level of jewelled decoration, I feel it lacks the exuberance, humour and freedom of Z1's card on the right.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Candy Canes, Bolognese and Artistic Sensibilities

pipe cleaners, craft, Christmas craft, candy canes, Christmas decorations, tree decorations
pipe cleaners, craft, Christmas craft, candy canes, Christmas decorations, tree decorations
Spot the difference
Sometimes I have to start something in order to get Z1's interest. It was her idea to make candy canes out of paper. She does love a good candy cane.

When I started making this, I hadn't really thought it through to the end. I rolled up the paper, bent it into shape, secured a few ends with tape, held it up to show a very unimpressed Z1 and stirred the bolognese while musing upon whether I should paint the candy cane or colour it in.

Then it hit me - inspiration: pipe cleaners to make it striped as a candy cane should be. Genius! Pipe cleaners to the rescue again. I then realised that I should have used one in the middle of the paper roll too so it would hold its shape. I didn't want to undo the tape and red pipe cleaner stripe so I poked a pipe cleaner into the curve and trimmed the edge so you can't see it. More genius improvisation.

I asked Z1 if she thought I should put a green pipe cleaner on too, in an effort to include her. I then ignored her when she said "yes", admired my candy cane and put it on the tree. She took it down and added the green later. I think it ruined the simplicity  but this was supposed to be for the children so I let it be, though it hurt my artistic soul.

I must say, it looked a lot better than I expected on the tree. I'd consider making them again.

Points to note: Hurrah - we did a craft today despite the bed-hopping last night. Also despite an excess of exposure to bodily fluids on the journey home from work and school (though, in fairness, Husband bore the brunt of the exposure).

Bed-Hopping (or why there may not be crafts done today)

infographic, co-sleeping, bed-hopping, children, sleeping, bed

bed-hopping, children, co-sleeping,
As a result of this night of bed-hopping, Husband thinks we need to replace Z1's mattress as it's not very comfortable. I think.......zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Borax Crystal Pine Cone - result! (and failure?)

pine cone, Borax crystals, crystal, Christmas decoration, craft
The brown bit is the pine
Hurray! It worked better than I expected. I opened the jar with the greatest of ease and the aid of some hot water. The picture over there on the left is what I saw when I opened it - solid crystals with the pine cone embedded. 

pine cone, Borax crystals, crystal, Christmas decoration, craft
Borax crystal pinecone on
the Christmas tree 
Here, on the right, is a photo of the pine cone on the tree taken using the flash. It doesn't do it justice...neither does the below photo without the flash. It's a twinkly, sparkly, possibly toxic, beautiful, crystally piece of nature.

pine cone, Borax crystals, crystal, Christmas decoration, craft
The flat bit from where it
was against the side of the jar
(also what it looked like
without flash)

Useful information: Apparently "Borax" is no longer available in shops in the UK because of EU regulations. Borax substitute can be used for this (and the other similar projects) but yields less impressive crystals, I am told. 

Other points to note: I do feel this is kind of cheating as it was not a craft we did today and the Zeds were not involved at all. Z1 had a plan to make candy canes out of paper but we got distracted by Elfing ourselves and then it was pretty much time for bed. You may judge whether I can consider myself to have failed in my aim to conquer Christmas. I think I am going to let myself off the hook and say I have continued in the spirit of the project.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Pine Cone with Borax Crystals: Work in Progress

I am not sure that this will work very well.
The first problem was that pine cones float (I should have thought of that). I proudly and deftly solved this by putting the lid on and turning the jar upside down with the pine cone attached to string, caught in the lid, keeping it anchored.
Sadly, I think I anchored the pine cone too close to the edge of the jar so the crystals may end up more on the jar than that side of the pine cone. However, when I tried to open the jar to rectify this, I realised that the lid is probably going to be firmly attached to the jar with crystals.
Another possible problem is that the water is turning kind of brown so the crystals might be brownish or yellowy too.
pine cone, Borax, Christmas craft, Christmas decoration, crystal
On the left - floating pine cone
On the right - cleverly anchored pine cone
(too close to the side of the jar - pah!)

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Pipe Cleaners and their Wondrousness

We do not have any pipe smokers in this house. I imagine that most houses do not, these days. I bought a load of pipe cleaners to prepare to conquer Christmas and they were a very good purchase indeed. Z1 has taken to them like nothing else. She's made several creations on her own with no help at all.
I present to you:

1. Beaded pipe cleaner bracelets which I also mentioned here. She's made a few more for other people who are important like me. But she made mine first so I am the most important. Of course.
2. A pipe cleaner necklace with pipe cleaner bead. The pipe cleaner bead was inspired by me not getting around to pouring her some beads to work with quickly enough. I find that being a bit too busy to help/play inspires a bit of creativity in the Zeds so I often occasionally employ this tactic to get a bit of a break and/or the washing up done stimulate and encourage their brains.
pipe cleaner, craft, children, kindergarden craft, Christmas decoration, Christmas bauble
Pipe cleaner bauble

3. A pipe cleaner bauble. It certainly used a lot of pipe cleaners but I think it looks rather good, I really do. I came down this morning to discover she had made this. She has made other scrunched up pipe cleaner things that aren't really particularly useful or attractive but I like this one.

4. And finally, there were was the Christmas wind chime with jingly bells

In other news:

  •  I saw Rise of the Guardians today and, oh my, what wonderful animation. Animated glitter, both good and evil!
  • Someone found this site by googling "Borax crystal pine cones" and I have been inspired,
  • This time next week I will be in Dublin - wippidy woppidy woooooooo hoooooo!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

More Glitter. Also Bubbles.

Bubble bubble. Glittery Nails (Z1) and glittery dough
The ornaments I produced - could do better.
(Probably will do better as I have plenty left)
I mostly decided to do this because of the description of it as "super soft and pliable". It just sounded lovely. Also, the use of silver glitter to make it decorative makes it a one step craft - no waiting for it to be ready to decorate. Aaah, glitter.

My favourite bits of this were the lovely bubbles when cooking it up and kneading the glitter in (I used gold, not silver 'cause I used all the silver up in my beloved snow globe which might, truth be told, actually have too much glitter though, really, it doesn't 'cause too much glitter doesn't exist when dealing with snow globes and Christmas crafts.)

Z1 wasn't in the least bit interested though she did happily roll some into a ball while watching Toy Story 2 with be-glittered nails. Z2 was napping.

Practical information: I rolled it out on my counter but it got a bit sticky and hard to take off the counter so would probably do it on greaseproof paper or on the baking sheet when I do it again.  I also let them air dry which has only taken a few hours and they seem to be good to go.

Credit where credit is due: I found this via Pinterest at The Imagination Tree here. They found it somewhere else but since it was the "supersoft and pliable" description and their pin that drew me in, I am crediting them.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Not-Gingerbread biscuits

I made a couple of errors in preparing for our baking today:
1. I assumed we had some ground ginger
2. I let my desire to buy "fancy molasses" cloud my judgement and override the fact that, according to Google, Wikipedia and the sensible bit of my brain, it is not the same as golden syrup

baking, sprinkles, gingerbread, biscuits, cookies, Christmas baking
Top left shows that not all our
cookie cutters produced
recognisable Christmas shapes
Still, neither of these errors detracted in any way from the enjoyment Z1 got from helping me mix or from her joy while cutting and decorating the biscuits (cookies to you, North Americans). Z2 joined in too, though I did have to tell him to stop poking quite a few times.
baking, sprinkles, gingerbread, biscuits, cookies, Christmas baking
Z1 with her rice and sprinkles and
two of the cookies she lovingly
decorated (the one on the left
looked like a snowflake when unbaked,
the right was a gingerbread man)

It was a bit hectic trying to get dinner sorted at the same time as baking batches of biscuits and keeping an eye on the sprinkling activities. This meant that when Z1 asked if she could put some sprinkles in her rice, I just sighed and said it was fine. The coloured rice doesn't show up so well in the photo - probably 'cause she had eaten most of the food-dye-stained grains by the time she asked me to take the picture.

Adapted cookie recipe
Downloadable from here

Of course, after the rice and sprinkles, it was time for the Zeds to try their baking. They each took one bite and discarded their respective biscuits. I like them though (the Zeds and the biscuits, just to be clear).

Credit where credit is due: My starting point for these cookies was this recipe on the BBC recipe website

Thursday, 13 December 2012

A Snowglobe 24 Years in the Making

reindeer, glitter, snowglobe, Christmas craft
Glittery reindeer
glitter, reindeer, snowglobe, homemade snowglobe, Christmas craft,
Before I turned it over
(I should have painted
the Ragu jar lid more
Could it ever have lived up to my expectations? I have been longing to make a snowglobe since I was about eight, I think. I can remember recipes where dessicated coconut was recommended as snow and one where glycerin was suggested so the snow would swirl more gently.
Today's long-awaited snowglobe was made without input from Z1 (she was too busy playing in a box and trying to remember how to write vampire) but with some advice from Z2. We had a choice of a reindeer or some snow-topped fir trees as figurines and he chose the reindeer. Just as well because he knocked the fir tree off the table a moment later and it broke.
glitter, snowglobe, reindeer, homemade snowglobe, craft, Christmas craft
Slightly forlorn reindeer
when the glitter stopped
I painted the lid of the jar with acrylic paint and glitter glue a few days ago to get it all ready for today.
glitter, snowglobe, reindeer, homemade snowglobe, craft, Christmas craft
Glittery reindeer gazing
wisely at the world
And, y'know, it's nice. It's got sparkly glitter and water and swirling, so it's definitely nice but what am I to dream of making now?
Also, I should not be trusted with superglue.

Credit where credit is due: I found this simple version of a homemade snowglobe at this blog which seems to be in Chinese via Pinterest

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Why I had 2 forks in my work bag today

A late afternoon work meeting yesterday and a Christmas concert with pot luck dinner at Z2's daycare today meant two afternoons of Christmas crafts in public places. I felt that Coffee Culture had had its fair share of the Zeds and me yesterday so Z1 and I went to Second Cup today. (Z2 remained in captivity so that he could make his grand entrance with the rest of the toddlers for the concert.)
pom poms, simple crafts, craft, Christmas
Sample pom poms

I prepared by putting a 2 forks (one each for me and Z1), 2 balls of slightly sparkly yarn (left over from the rainbow scarf project referred to in this post) and a pointy scissors (as opposed to the Z1-friendly scissors from yesterday ) in my work bag. I also made these little lovelies on the left to show Z1 what we were going to make.  Alas, I made them during my lunch break at work so it was too late to realise that the yarn tends to shed a bit and may not be the most suitable for pom-pom making.
brownie, pom pom earrings, pom pom, Christmas, craft, child
Pom pom earrings and
pom pom on fork in progress
A highlight of today's  cafe Christmas craft session (apart from the really nice chewy chocolate brownie) was when I suggested Z1 could wear my pre-prepared ones as earrings. (see right)

Two tone pom pom

She abandoned her brownie (which is how I know it was tasty - her abandonment resulted in my enjoyment of it) in favour of the craft so that was a good sign. On the right, you see her contemplating her wrapped fork. She had the idea of using two colours of wool on one pom pom which made a pom pom with a different coloured core. We made one pom pom before moving on to other things. Just one.
Borax crystal heart, pipe cleaners, pom poms, Christmas decoration, Christmas tree
Pom poms on the tree
(with Borax crystal heart in the background)

In other news: I have abandoned the idea of including information about cost, messiness, time taken etc. on the crafts. I felt this is more about the experience than a how-to guide. Also, it was kind of annoying to do and took up too much blog space.

Credit where credit is due: I found the idea for these at Mrs. Fox's blog here

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Christmas Crafts in a Cafe

Inspired by this blog (via Pinterest) and with a couple of hours to kill with the Zeds between picking Z1 up from school and going to a late afternoon meeting for work, I though a little snipping of coffee filters in a cafe would be perfect to pass the time.
I prepared a few examples the night before, pre-folded a few coffee filters (the very coffee filters that I nearly misbought in Walmart back in November ) and remembered to put a Z1-friendly scissors in my bag. Organised, I was.
Combining cake, crafts, crumbs and coffee in a cafe called Coffee Culture with children was a little chaotic (and alliterative). See.
snowflake, coffee filter, Christmas craft, Christmas decoration, scissors, zebra dress
Attempted snipping, our
favourite one, cake remnants,
and coloured in snowflake 
Hmm...perhaps you can't quite see the chaos there but I had to prevent Z2 from knocking over my ridiculous butterscotch caramel (or something like that) latte and from sitting on the cake and from snipping things whenever the scissors was put down for a moment. I also had to allay the wrath of Z1 when I was pleased with a snowflake that I made and she was angered that it was nicer than the one we collaborated on. I convinced her that my one was inspired by her so she could take credit. Phew.

All that and Z1 decided that she couldn't do it. I am not sure why as she does cutting out quite well, usually. It may have been that she was very tired - I handed over two rather cranky, tired Zeds when the time came for me to skedaddle to my meeting.

She did like the idea, though, and decided she would join in by colouring the filters before I cut them. The fact that the only colouring implement we had to hand was a blue biro did not put her off. So here they are - cut by me and one coloured by her. The nice thing about this is that the more I did, the more I wanted to do as I figured out what looked pretty. And coffee filters come in packs of hundreds. And we don't even have a coffee machine to use them up. I may just wallpaper the house with snowflakes.
coffee filter snowflakes, Christmas craft, paper snowflakes, craft, snowflake decorations, Christmas decorations
Coffee filter snowflakes

Credit where credit is due: There are a lot of versions of this kicking about the internet but I found this via Pinterest from Heart of Wisdom (direct link to blog post up above in my post)

Monday, 10 December 2012

Pine cones! Glitter! Christmassy!

pine cones, Christmas, craft, snowflakes, snowflake tablecloth
(with snowflake tablecloth)
Oh my, today was fun: from picking up pine cones in the playground of Z1's school garnering funny looks from other slightly early lingering parents (also from Z1 through the window though I didn't know that at the time) to squidging the glitter glue and pink glittery paint onto the cardboard ready to be spread about. Z1 even declared it to be "a lot of fun" a couple of times. Z2 joined in too.

children, crafting, crafts, snowflake tablecloth
Working hard
(note egg carton Advent calendar
in the background)
I think the beauty of glitter glue and glittery paint is that it's really easy to tidy up and wash afterwards. I am not in the least bit obsessive about things being clean and tidy, it's more that I don't like cleaning but I do feel an obligation to attempt to keep things clean. I was perfectly happy for the Zeds to squidge and rub and smear in a way I am not with other paint. Although, as I type that, I realise that poster paint is equally cleanable so it might be to do with the fact that even the mess of glitter glue looks pretty. Aaaaaah, sparkles.

The Husband and I wanted to hang them on the tree but Z1 wanted to put them on display so, without further ado, here they are.
pine cones, glitter, Christmas, craft, children's crafts
Glitter pine cones
(in vase in the centre picture)

In other news: The heart shaped Borax Christmas decoration turned out nicely.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Of Crystals and Sparkle Sparrows

Sparkle sparrow, glitter, bird, glitter bird, glitter decorations, decoration, Christmas decoration
On Friday, after being Pyssla-ed off in the morning, I had time to go to my beloved Dollarama and I bought three of these beauties. Our Sparkle Sparrows (TM)* are perched on our stair bannister, cheering every trip up or down the stairs (apart from when they drive me slightly nuts by falling upside down). 

Saturday was rather rainy and miserable but was substantially brightened by a delightful lunch party during which a friend cooked delicious food for us and kept thanking me for letting her use my kitchen. Z1 was rather disappointed that there were not more children at the party and, after entertaining the troops for a bit, retired to her room. This did not prevent our Christmas crafts happening.

Borax, crystal, craft, children's craft, Christmas craft, pipe cleaners, Christmas, snowflake, decoration, Christmas decoration
Snowflake after 
Borax, crystal, craft, children's craft, Christmas craft, pipe cleaners, decoration, Christmas decoration, Christmas, snowflake
Snowflake before
 This was one I was looking forward to - Borax snowflakes **. I set the apparatus up as you see on the left just before the Zeds went to bed on Saturday evening. Well, I actually  initially had it in a large glass jug that cracked when I poured boiling water into it, spilling boiling water all over the hob (stovetop) which had not yet been tidied up after all the cooking for lunch. Once the jug was disposed of and most of the water mopped up, I tried again with this vase which I warmed with hot tap water before pouring in the boiling water.
Borax, crystal, craft, children's craft, Christmas craft, pipe cleaners, decoration, Christmas decoration, Christmas, snowflake
Snowflake on the tree
The Husband and I kept checking it all evening to see what was happening - nothing much. Sunday morning was to be a lie-in for me but I ended up hopping out of bed not long after the Zeds and Husband as I was too excited to see what had happened with the Borax, water and pipe cleaners. As someone who very rarely gets an uninterrupted night's sleep and looks forward to a lie-in all week, this fact is significant. I was rewarded with the sparkly masterpiece you see here. Magnificent. Z1 immediately decided to do another, this time heart-shaped, so Sunday's craft was sorted instantly and is in process as I type. Once more, I have been checking on it frequently and it's fascinating seeing the crystals appear. 

Heart, heart shape, pipe cleaner, Borax, crystals, craft, children's craft
Heart-shaped sparkly
crystal loveliness
These, despite the lack of instant gratification, were a definite success and require hardly any time or skill to set up. I love them a lot.

Z1 has really taken to the pipe cleaners and she made me a bracelet as  
Christmas present (see, it's a Christmas present so it counts as a Christmas craft). This was entirely her own creation - all I did was provide the beads. I am allowed to wear it every day but if I untwist it and the beads spill onto the ground, she WILL NOT make me another. 

We also put the tree up this weekend. (The Husband kindly went out in the snowy dark to get it for me as he knew how much I wanted to get it today. Aw.) Christmas is coming. The goose is getting fat and it's less than two weeks 'til we depart for Dublin. This gives me butterflies in my tummy.

* not really TM but as named by Z1
** Credit where credit is due: I got this idea, via Pinterest, from Delia  Creates

Friday, 7 December 2012

Pyssla-ed off again

small girl, Pyssla, IKEA, craft
 Someone found my blog by googling "Christmas Pyssla", this is for them, though they are probably long gone, departing disappointed in the lack of Christmassy Pyssla-craft to be found here.

Z1 asked to get the beads out this morning as she wanted to make a snowflake shape but then decided she didn't know how and once  more took on a directorial role.

 I was working happily enough until I picked the darn thing up to go and iron it and spilled the beads off. My slave master made me do it again and, to be honest, I quite like the finished product. Hurrah.

Important Note: This may be a BONUS POST as we have other things planned today. Isn't Friday grand?!

Important follow-up note: We didn't do any other crafts today after all but Friday is still grand, right?

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Compare and contrast: Gingerblossom* 2012 & Unamed Gingerbread house 2011

Gingerbread house, decorating, decoration, craft, craft with children, sweets, candy
I can't remember how much I helped Z1 with decorating this beauty last year meaning that differences, improvements and deficits cannot be attributed firmly to her growth and development.
Gingerbread house, decorating, decoration, craft, craft with children, sweets, candy

The first visible improvement is my spotty tablecloth and the lack of cables and clutter on the kitchen table. These things have nothing to do with Z1's growth and development.

The second improvement is that Gingerblossom* has clear kerb appeal - the cobbled pathway to the door, the snowman and the decorated tree - compared to the stark front garden of 2011's effort.

Other than that, I am not sure you could really rate one over the other. Last year's had more symmetry which might be valued more. Personally, I like the jellybean trimming of this year's. 

I must report that Z1 mostly took a directorial role today and I did as she asked. I may also have added a few finishing touches while the potatoes boiled over and Z1 and Z2 took to running around the house shrieking with each other (Note, I say "with", not "at", they were having fun, not fighting this time.) This means that the differences between the houses are most likely due to my own artistic development rather than Z1's. 
Gingerbread house, decorating, decoration, craft, craft with children, sweets, candy
Gingerblossom 2012

Z2 did not help today. He did eat quite a lot of the icing, though. 
So did Z1. 
This might explain the aforementioned running around and shrieking.

You may also be interested to know:
  •  I bought some jellybeans to supplement the sweets that came with the kit. This made up for the sweets that the Zeds kept eating while I checked the potatoes.
  • The potatoes were eventually mashed with butter and were, though I say so myself, delumptious.

*If you missed out on yesterday's post, Z1 named the gingerbread house Gingerblossom.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Gingerblossom* wasn't built in a day

As we reached our stop on the bus home from school today, Z1 had a tantrum that rated 8.5 on the Richter scale. I can't exactly remember what set it off but one of its consequences was that she was not allowed to have the last few crumbs of crisps (chips to you North Americans) in the bag. Another consequence was that she told me that when we got home, she wanted to go to her room to calm down and she would not be part of any Christmassy crafts. A spanner in the works.

By the time we got home, she was, in fact, restored to normal but still wavering on whether she was willing to sit down at the table with me, The Witholder of the Crisps, so I pulled out the big guns and said we'd decorate the gingerbread house. 
Working away
(house hidden by Z2's head)

Christmas, Christmas craft, work in progress, gingerbread, gingerbread house, candy, sweets, decoration, decorating

Z2 was doing the back
Christmas, Christmas craft, work in progress, gingerbread, gingerbread house, candy, sweets, decoration, decorating
Z1 is doing the front
(Also seen: gingerbread snowman
& gingerbread Christmas tree)
Sadly, Trusty*, the gingerbread man owner of Gingerblossom* came to an untimely end when Z2 knocked him off the table. This did solve the problem of the Zeds wanting to eat as they decorated, so his death was not in vain.

Dinner was ready before we managed to finish decorating so here's the work in progress.

*As named by Z1. (I suggested "Cottage" after "Gingerblossom" but she said it was just "Gingerblossom)