sunny Sunday afternoon

While my children and husband were doing this on Sunday afternoon:

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My sister and I were at the DCA doing this:


IMG_7948Making jewellery is not really something that inspires me and winding thread round a bracelet or a metal washer requires a surprising amount of concentration but it was great to spend an afternoon doing something creative with my sister and other women.  Seeing what everyone else made, it is clear that the effectiveness of the technique really depends on the combination of colours chosen. I’m not quite sure what to do with my selection of washers – some sort of necklace, I think – but its a surprisingly effective way to upcycle an old plastic bracelet.

making it

Rather unusually I’ve spent two sessions with both my kids making things this week.  The experience provoked some reflections on art and craft with pre-school kids.

What made the difference between our enjoyment of the two experiences?   Providing easy to use materials.  Doing open-ended activities where the materials and the children determine the outcome.  Enjoying the process as much as the result.  Having some new and pleasing materials to experiment with.  Not trying to make ‘something’ by following instructions.

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Our successful (second) session was prompted by some ‘washi tape’ that I bought at the weekend – I love the pattern.  I’ve read lots about it so I thought we could have a go together.  We also used white paper, paper squares (you can lick and stick – or use a sponge) and boring old masking tape.  Both kids were engrossed.  We stuck squares, cut tape and stuck it.  They were totally in control, just needing some help with the cutting of the tape.   K was engrossed in carefully cutting and sticking and hole-punching (those are her creations above).

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D found some paper fasteners and asked for a hole punch and went off in another direction.  As he finished each creation, he dashed upstairs to store it in his bedroom before coming back for: ‘more paper please.’   Maybe its just me, but I love the results.  Television was forgotten and so was tea.    If only all crafting could be like this.

Our first session was prompted by D watching Mr Maker.  “We can make a goldfish out of a milk bottle,” he said.  We had the materials – paper plate, empty plastic milk bottle, gloopy glue and orange tissue paper.  The experience of putting it all together was not fun: messy glue, tissue paper, far too much interference and direction from me and in the end an orange bottle that neither child has any interest in.  Lets not do that again. (But if you want to try it, you can see the instructions here: milk bottle fish)

Le Petit Prince

D has been playing a new game today.  It started in the bathroom: “Ma, I think I heard a squeak.  There must be a mouse in here.”  After he had “found” the mouse he was busy finding it food.  “Mice eat cheese,” he told his little sister.  “Peas? Peas?”  she replied, laughing at him.   A little later he had made it a bed in a cardboard box that has been played with a great deal in the last week.  “Do you want to see my mouse?” he asked me.  “Come and see, its sleeping in the box.  Shhhhh, don’t wake it up.”

Oh, I love it when life imitates art.  Immediately I was seeing Antoine St Euxpery’s beautiful drawings and hearing his words:

“This is only his box. The sheep you asked for is inside.”

I was very surprised to see a light break over the face of my young judge:

“That is exactly the way I wanted it! Do you think that this sheep will have to have a great deal of grass?”


“Because where I live everything is very small . . .”

“There will surely be enough grass for him,” I said. “It is a very small sheep that I have given you.”

He bent his head over the drawing.

“Not so small that–Look! He has gone to sleep . . .”

sewing costumes

We were invited to a dressing up party last weekend and there was more dressing up at Toddlers, with another at nursery, so I thought I’d better make an effort to get D and K kitted out.  As I sewed I thought about how sewing costumes for our kids is part of a great mothering tradition: how many of us have been busy doing just that, late in the evening when we’d rather have been in bed, over Halloween?

D choose to be Superman – though I think he thinks he’s called Subaman.  I made him a belt, logo and cape.  Fleecy trousers with shorts on top completed the outfit.

K’s costume mainly came from the supermarket where they were selling them so cheaply I couldn’t even have bought the material for the same price.  She was so excited to be allowed to choose a dress.  I made the skirt to go underneath it, which I think will get worn rather a lot.  Its based on the Lazy Days Skirt pattern from  I particularly like the parcel ribbon which I ironed onto the hem with wundaweb.  K loves everything pink, sparkly and pretty at the moment.  Since she spends a lot of time in clothes that come from her big brother, I’m happy to indulge her every now and again.  (I also made her a cape which she refused to wear).

(I was a bit scared when I dropped D at nursery to see he was going into a room full of witches, ghosts, ghouls, skeletons and scary monsters.  Why do we allow ourselves to celebrate such gruesomeness at Halloween?)

Julia’s refrigerator dough

We had so much fun with this dough this week.The buns we made are so good: I can’t resist the combination of cinnamon, icing, melting sugar, dried fruit and sweet dough.  The best thing about making them was watching Kirsten ‘kneading’ a piece of dough and laughing: she bounced it around, threw it up and down and hit it on the table, punching it with her little fingers.  And then turned it into lovely little buns.

The recipe come’s from my friend Julia.  I worked with her for a year in Zambia and every now and again she would produce a plate of these delicious buns.  They were especially good since we were miles and miles from the nearest baker or coffee shop.  I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing her recipe.  Here it is.

2 1/2 cups warm water

2 tablespoons dried yeast

Activate yeast in warm water. Continue reading Julia’s refrigerator dough

all it takes

An afternoon with nothing else that needs to be done; a husband willing to take the children out for a long walk; an idea for a bit of sewing; all the materials I need ready to hand; a quick tidy of my loft so I can actually reach my sewing machine; some research on on the oh-so-useful sewing blogs out there: yes, that’s all it takes for me to manage to do a little bit of sewing these days.

I ticked all those boxes this weekend and had a lovely two hours creating a quilted throw for our living room.  I had bought the grey material a few years ago now, intending to cover a cushion with it but then I couldn’t bring myself to cut into the design.  I came up with the idea of quilting it to make a throw more recently and in preparation I bought some of the cheapest polyester wadding I could find (just incase it was a disasater).  The backing was a piece from an old duvet cover that had started to go threadbare at one end.

I read a bit about quilting and decided that I could do it as I wanted: machine sew along some of the straight lines and then hand-tie the seed heads and some of the grey.  I don’t really know if I’ve done it properly but I do like the look and feel of it.  It is lovely and warm to snuggle up in: so nice to have turned a flat piece of fabric into something with depth.  I am very happy with the result and I can see another quilted throw being created soon.  Just as soon as I’ve got what it takes.

Treasures in an egg box

I love the end of summer – there is something very friendly about September weather.  The evenings are still light and the days can be warm.  The busyness of harvest is comforting, berries are ripe, leaves are not yet yellow.  Yesterday and today have been bright and dry, but there has been a nip in the air that signals autumn is close.  This afternoon we went out to make the most of the clear air and sunshine.

Just before we left, I remembered this, found here on ElsieMarley, so I grabbed an empty egg box, lined the cups with coloured paper and as we walked we treasure-hunted.  Such a great idea: we noticed things we would never have seen – like berries on a tree or a white feather – and our walk in a place we have walked before had a whole new dimension.  D grasped the idea immediately: “We could find some bark from a tree for the brown one”.  I loved the way the bright colours of our paper were so easily found in nature.  It could be expanded to fill a box for a dozen eggs (I’d include grey next time – we noticed lichen, feathers and stones) or complicated for older kids (made into a competition?).  If you’re wondering about the pink – we did find pink flowers but none of them were wild / weeds so left them where they were.

Little feet

What a joy to welcome a new little person into our world.  We’re celebrating the safe arrival of Zachary, born on 21st June, mid-summer.  The name is an old English form of Zechariah meaning “the Lord remembers”.  His parents also say they had in mind Zachary Macaulay, a leading evangelical abolitionist who campaigned against the slave trade.  Big shoes to fill.

I found the pattern for these little shoes on Purlbee.  I made the felt from an old jumper.  I am dying to know that they actually fit a little pair of baby feet: precious, beautiful little feet.  Welcome to the world, little chap.  We love you already.

On the railways

One of the things we did on holiday was take a little ride on a steam train.  I read D a ‘Thomas’ story every night at bedtime so we are familiar with words like fender, funnel, tunnel, buffers and trucks.  I love the romance of steam and this trip had some particularly beautiful little details on the old train.

My favourite ‘Thomas’ story is about an old Welsh engine called Skarloey.  I love reading this at bedtime:

“The coaches ran nicely, but he soon began to feel tired again.  His springs were weak, and the rail joints jarred his wheels.

Then with a crack, a front spring broke, and he stopped.

“I feel all crooked,” he complained.

“That’s torn it,” said his Driver, “we’ll need a bus now for our passengers.”

“No!” pleaded Skarloey, “I’d be ashamed to have a bus take my passengers.  I’ll get home or burst,” he promised bravely.

The Thin Controller looked at his watch, and paced the platform. James and his train waited impatiently too.

They heard a hoarse “Peep Peep”, then groaning, clanging and clanking, Skarloey crept into sight.  He was tilted to one side, and making fearful noises, but he plodded bravely on.

“I’ll do it, I’ll do it,” he gasped between the cranks and groans, “I’ll… I’ve done it!”

(Four little engines, The Rev. W. Awdry)

The day it rained in colours

I have just read D one of my favourite childhood stories, one of the few that I still own in the original version.  Three children visit Greyland and meet a little grey boy.  Everything is grey.  The people who live there have forgotten what colour is.

I feel like I have been spending time in the grey lands at the moment, engaged in things that drain me.  I have been thinking about money, invoices and receipts, bank forms and spreadsheets, committees and processes; I have also been accompanying someone very dear to me as they grapple with the bureaucracy of the benefits system.

One of my favourite illustrations in the story is this one:  I love the pleasure and abandon of the people enjoying colour.  We are often told to spend time doing things that energise us. I am learning that colour and creativity energise me in a completely physical way.  When I can barely lift a pen to face filling in a new form, I can imagine something to make and be filled with an excitement and energy that will keep me up to for hours.

In the story, its only when the grey people remember their Maker and say sorry and ask for his help that it starts to rain in colour.  I have also learnt (and how easily I forget!) that remembering my Maker and all he’s done for me each day fills me with energy that can transform the most mundane of tasks.

I will need to hold on to both of these lessons in the next few weeks: remembering my Maker and working on small creative projects. Both will keep me going in the midst of the numbers and the forms.