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Some recent making for the school fete.  Pompom garlands inspired by Jorth’s.  I’ve become rather addicted to making pompoms, so great for using up small bits of yarn and op shop buys, and is there anything more cheerful than a woolly pompom?  They found their way on to hair elastics too.

Some more crocheted star garlands.  I have even taken to making the stars while driving to work, that is while I am stuck in traffic.  Makes a tedious commute more satisfying.

And hama bead necklaces.  I’ve been wearing one that my boy made me and got lots of good comments.  I also made a few scarves like the ones here.

I’ve always thought that when selling hand-made goods you never get paid for the time involved, so it’s not something I have dreams of doing full-time, but it was nice to have an excuse to make a few things to sell in this context.  And fetes are the place to pick up bargain hand-made goods.

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I’ve been finding it difficult over the last few months to find the time and head space for adding to this space, my scrapbook of little things that make life happy.  My adorable twinnies are proving very challenging of late, and I seem to be leaping from cleaning up one disaster to dealing with yet another tantrum.  I was somewhat comforted to learn that 3 1/2 is an especially difficult age where littlies are seeking to learn through pushing the boundaries.  Hard.  Oh yes, and I have two of them.  Add testosterone-boosted Mr Six into the picture, and it’s not pretty.  Not usually one to embrace self-help books, I’ve been finding this one by turns frightening, comforting, challenging and compelling.  At least I know that it is a stage, and this too shall pass.  I’m just hopeful that I can deal with it in the most positive way possible.

But now, in a brief moment of respite as said children are frolicking in the botanic gardens with the usually shift-working Mr Foxy, I can add some snippets to the scrapbook.

Recently I welcomed the year of the dragon under the assumption that this will be a great year for me, having been born in the year of the dragon.  I was keen to mark the occasion and forced everyone to visit the new year celebrations at Box Hill.  Amongst the music and bustling stalls, we found respite at the Fo Guang Yuan activity table.  While the kids coloured in dragon puppets, I learnt how to make paper lotus flowers.

It had been so long since I had made anything, yet alone learned a new trick.  I just had to make more.  I used three kinder squares cut in half, but the instructions found here used an A4 sheet cut up, so it would be great for recycling used paper too.

In other news I have caught the Pinterest bug.  So dangerously inspiring.  My excuse? Bookmarking ideas for our new home.  Yes, it is really happening and we have the plans to prove it.  I’m also enjoying this magazine with its cute ideas and lack of reliance on costly items.

A fine winter’s morning

+ lots of adventures to be had

+ 16 guests (as well as a smattering of siblings)

+ 24 cupcakes

+ 20 chocolate crackles

+ 18 savory muffins

+ not enough fairy bread and copious sandwiches

+ various chips, dips, vegetable and fruit platters

+ cake

= 6

(And a celebration for me of six years of mothering my rowdy, sensitive boy.  Long may he enjoy tree-climbing as well as computer games, and fairy tales as well as dvds.)

A sixth birthday is on the horizon, and bringing with it a big party.  There were so many friends to invite, that it just had to be the whole class.  I’m hoping that a local adventure playground can provide the entertainment, and a (hopefully very) little effort with the catering will make it special enough.

A castle cake was chosen by the birthday boy from a library book, and simple papercut embellished invitations have been distributed.  And there has been flicking through magazines and books for inspiration.  

So much of the food I associate with parties is based on a nostalgic view of such occasions, things that were special treats when I was a kid.  Fairy bread, cocktail frankfurts, butterfly cakes, sausage rolls.  I was excited to come across an updated recipe for chocolate crackles in last year’s Donna Hay Kids’ magazine, and had to try it at once.  Although it substitutes the traditional copha and cocoa with butter and chocolate, it still has that unmistakable texture and the contrast between smooth chocolately mass and airy crispness.  Yum …

Chocolate Crackles

(Here I halved the original recipe and filled about 20 small patty pans (the size down from the large muffin cases), and used a mixture of dark and milk chocolate, as opposed to all dark in the recipe, to make it more kid-friendly.  I also changed the method a little in dealing with melting the chocolate.)

  • 50 g dark chocolate
  • 50 g milk chocolate
  • 50 g butter
  • 1/6 cup golden syrup
  • 2 cups rice bubbles

Melt butter and golden syrup in a largish saucepan over a low heat.  When melted (but not boiling) add broken up chocolate and remove from heat.  Allow chocolate to melt into the mixture for a while then mix gently until combined.  Mix in rice bubbles until well coated.  Fill patty pans with teaspoonfuls of the mixture.  Refridgerate for 1 hour, or until set.

(Edited to add image from second batch of this recipe.)

As much as I would like to show off some tasteful easter crafting, I must admit that my new obsession is Hama beads (or their Swedish cousin, Pyssla).  You painstakingly put coloured beads on a pegboard in a design, iron it to fuse the beads together, and you end up with a flat plastic beady thing.  Although the end product may seem somewhat dubious, it is incredibly addictive, and even my rambunctious five-year old loves making these.  We have recently made a suite of easter decorations together, and he has loved coming up with ideas for what to make.  It’s so lovely to see him quietly concentrating as he chooses and places the beads.  It’s obviously good for developing fine motor skills, but I think there is also that calm purposefulness that you get with knitting or any other repetitive craft.

For me there’s something comforting about the regular grid structure, and creating simplified and geometric patterns and designs.  Maybe it appeals to me in the same way that knitting fairisle does.  Perhaps Rex, who often gets frustrated when drawing when his pictures don’t come out how he imagines them, finds this structure allows him to control the forms he wants to create.   And working alongside the usually rowdy boy, quietly and calmly, is such a delight, as is witnessing his satisfaction at creating something. 

In other Easter making, I hope to get around to some egg dyeing before Sunday.  The pashka is in the ‘fridge and the chocolate is at the ready.  With more planning, I would have liked to create a version of Soile’s Easter wreath, which I think is so wonderfully witty, if faintly disturbing.

Fragrant green tea and fruit toast for an unhurried breakfast on the back step.

A thoughtful and generous package from the lovely Bells.  I recently won a contest to celebrate the anniversary of Bells’s wonderful blog, and was lucky enough to receive a perfect little project bag made by her own fair hands (I love the fabric combination), and a skein of the most swoon-worthy yarn from Knitabulous.  It is the 50/50 silk and wool blend 4 ply in Summer pudding, a lovely subtle rhubarby red.  What a glorious shawl this will make – maybe this one …  Thanks so much, Bells!

Shells collected from the seaside on the weekend by my boy.  I love how he marvelled over each one, no matter how imperfect, noticing the colours or sheen.

Hardly timely news, but young Mr. R started school this year.  There were no tears, just much excitement, pride in a new uniform and school bag, and a fair bit of uncertain clinginess.  I have always worried about this, as I tend to remember the less positive aspects of my own school days, but I feel reassured that current schooling methods are more sensitive to, well, sensitive kids.  What I wasn’t counting on was the extent of the change to our day-to-day life and routines.  Apart from the hectic double drop off before work, there is a whole new community that we are part of.  Kind of wonderful, but also kind of exhausting.

Went to places full of history and folklore

stayed in the city and by the sea

found cushions to match our outfits

and travelled home through places of nostalgia and remembrance.

Christmas and new year’s activities seem so for away now.  As I’ve taken a fair chunk of time off work, we’re now in a summer holiday frame of mind.  Some things we’ve been up to:

  • Reading: bedtime stories.  Rex is old enough to enjoy chapter books, and we’ve worked through The Hobbit, Stig of the Dump and Harry Potter.  I’m now addicted to Harry Potter books and trying to track down the rest of the series second-hand.
  • Watching: movies!  I saw Tangled with Rex, and The Tourist with Mr. Foxy.  Enjoyed them both immensely.  I saw the 3D version of the former, and there was a most delightful moment in a scene where there were lots of lanterns floating in the sky.  Rex leapt to his feet and reached out to touch one that seemed to be at arms reach, and I noticed that all the other kids in the audience were doing the same!  Magic indeed!  And I was loving the good old-fashioned escapism of adventures in Paris and Venice with the impossibly elegant Angelina and hapless yet dashing Mr. Depp.
  • Listening: to Dickens, and I always seem to turn to the Amelie soundtrack lately.  Plaintive, wistful, charming and olde-world-French.
  • Eating: too much chocolate.  But at least the latest new family meal idea has proved to be a winner – pesto made with handfuls of parsley, baby spinach and walnuts with a small clove of garlic and a few glugs of olive oil.  So great to see the vegie avoiders getting a burst of leafy green goodness.
  • Sewing:  transforming trousers with torn knees into shorts, for both large and small.
  • Making: Kirsty’s crochet granny shrugs in small girl sizes.  A fun and not too taxing project for the holidays.
  • Despairing: at the cruelty of nature in sending devastating and seemingly worsening floods to our northern neighbours.  Even more bitter following so many years of drought.
  • Anticipating: a road trip to country Vic and urban NSW, our first holiday as a family of five!  We’re leaving tomorrow, and are still madly packing!

Happy new year!

In an attempt to make the lead-up to Christmas more fun (and quell constant questions of “How many days until Christmas?”), I made an advent calendar in an unusual fit of creative sewing, inspired by one in the recent Inside Out magazine.  I love it when an idea forms and is acted on at once, thanks to an undisciplined hoard accomodating fabric stash.  This was really made on the fly in spare moments, making it up as I went.  The backing fabric is a heavy Indian cotton herringbone twill left over from some Roman blinds made many years ago.  The borders are some remnants bought at a Nicola Cerini studio sale years ago, as are some of the pockets.  Other pockets are from scraps of Japanese kimono silk, screen printed cotton from Dunnilli Arts in the NT and Balinese ikat weave cotton.

As the Cerini fabric had a canvas backing, I ironed woven fusible interfacing to the other fabric pieces to give them some body.  I couldn’t be bothered embroidering or appliqueing the numbers, so I printed them out on to iron-on transfer paper, cut them into to ovals and ironed them on.  The pieces are not exactly the same size, so the whole has a slightly wonky irregular appearance that I don’t mind given the otherwise regular grid of pockets.

It was met with much excitement, though now there is the problem of having to constantly explain why we can’t empty all the pockets at once …

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