Miss Polly the Dolly

Perhaps a little over-ambitiously, I wanted to make at least ONE gift this Christmas. Since Miss Mei wasn’t the happy recipient of any crafty items from me on her arrival, largely as a result of my working full-time and lavishing any spare attention on her brother in the gestation period, I felt compelled to remedy this lack now. The obvious first project was to make her a stocking to match her brother’s…but then I wanted to make something to go IN the stocking.

Enter Miss Polly. Five years ago I saw something similar online – probably on someone’s Etsy site. Sadly, this pre-empted Pinterest, or I’d be able to share my source with you…I have to confess to being quite derivative in my crafty activities, so I drafted a pattern like the softie I saw online and made a Miss Polly the Dolly for our soon-to-be-Kazuo baby. Although he is not a big doll fan now, he did go through a baby phase of cuddling and chewing quite happily on Miss Polly.

Since it is a nice simple pattern and one I could zip together in nap time, I chose to make the wee girl her own Miss Polly. Here she is in progress:

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The fabric is from Dotty Brown as I have made cushions and chair covers for Mei’s nursery – when we finally get to that point – using fabric I ordered from them earlier in the year. Miss Polly is stuffed with organic cotton wadding I ordered from the US for toy crafting – here she is being stuffed :

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Mei has recently started grabbing at things and Miss Polly has already had a few bemused cuddles, here she is in her final sleepy incarnation, I think the little pocket would make her a good tooth fairy doll if you were so inclined.

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Four Fab Years

We now have a big four year old in the house!  Properly pre-school since this year marks the year Kazuo will start school.  He is so proud of being four and being so big.  We have had a delightful four years so far with our wee guy and we are so glad to celebrate his arrival in our midst.

Finally Four!

Sunday was Space Birthday Party day.  Kazuo had been looking forward to it since Christmas – it does serve to mitigate against the post-Christmas blues, having a birthday so soon after.  But I am wondering now if it just prolongs the gifts-and-celebrations high and makes the crashing back to earth ever so much more difficult – for parents and child.  I will admit that my expectations were high…and my sense of disappointment when I realised that perhaps the social situation I have created for my little one has stretched him a bit beyond his limits (despite my best laid plans) is very keen.  So I agonised a little about whether my desire to make things fun and sociable for him were actually making it hard for him to be his best person.  I should have read this good advice first and chilled out a little:

  • Be forgiving if she forgets her party manners at times, but do remind her to thank the guests as they leave and hand each child a party favor.
  • Set expectations early and increase those expectations each year. Each year your child will be able to handle a little bit more responsibility during the party, building good social skills along the way.
  • For many children, the day of their birthday party is one of the happiest days of the year. They have been anticipating the party for weeks, and as excitement builds, the chance of a meltdown increases. If this happens to your child during the party, be kind! Children can be overwhelmed at birthday parties, and your job is to help your child calm down and get back to the fun.
  • Don’t show anger or say anything to ruin their happy day.

(Birthday in a Box)

Anyway, to keep things ticking along and not allow for too much wild running about the house time (oh, for a summer birthday when we could run around the garden with impunity!), I packed in the crafty activity:

Crafty Activity

We made foam rockets, sandpaper t-shirts with rockets and aliens on them and alien/space superhero masks which took a fair bit of parental involvement, but seemed to work out pretty well.

Then it was nibble time at the space food station (apologies for the low-light snaps on the iPhone, couldn’t find the camera on the day):

Food station

A quick game of pass-the-parcel and then it was moon-landing-cake time:

Moon Landing Cake

We had four guests from preschool and two ‘home’ friends – it was a lovely mix and Kaz had a wonderful afternoon.  Thanks to everyone for coming and celebrating our boy with us, he is lucky to have such good friends, and so are we!

Last night was ACTUAL birthday dinner – which followed a rather happy birthday at preschool.  Family gifts were unveiled which were very gratefully received, and our very tiredy boy went off to sleep like a light.  The thing about birthdays that I rather like more than the intense anticipation of Christmas (which the doctor pointed out last night) is that it is about the achievement of a little more maturity and development – a milestone for all of us – and for the wee guy, the realisation that a lot of his new peers are only just turning three now, and need his help to become ‘big’, a new level of self-awareness for him that I hope will foster a sense of empathy as he makes his way through life.

Happiness for four!

Easter Antics

Easter is a magical time for me.  Just like Christmas, I took quite a bit of pleasure in introducing Kaz to the wonderful delights of  poking about in the garden looking for chocolatey treats from the Easter Rabbit, eating toasty hot cross buns (this year I made them myself for the first time) and popping down the road to the National Trust house at the Hill of Tarvit to try out our dyed eggs in an Egg Roll.  We boiled those eggs so well that ours bounced down the hill several times before it got a bit ‘icky’ and we headed off to poke about in the grounds for the Easter Egg Hunt clues for yet another chocolate treat.  A happy kind of festival.

Christmas Countdown

Only eight more sleeps to go…This year I really wanted to initiate Kazuo into the counting down to Christmas that was such a cherished part of my childhood.  He is still acquiring the capacity to deal with delayed gratification, so this has been an interesting lesson.  I did feel that having a tiny treat each day might just help to pass the time and fend off any attempt to try opening the presents under the tree, or raid ‘the secret place’ upstairs where the unwrapped gifts were being stored away.

But I didn’t want to just pick up some over-commercialised, once-only cardboard calendar (though I realise that would have done the trick admirably).  In the spirit of establishing a tradition, I made a Christmas Countdown…  Out with some stamps, some garden pegs, some leftover fabric from my bridesmaids’ skirts and Kazuo’s birdy blanket, a little ribbon and twenty-four tiny little treasures and hey presto:

When we presented it to Kaz on 1 December and mounted it on the wall, we explained that each day there was something to eat, something to do or something to wear.  [This year this translates as Chocolate Penguins, stickers, tree decorations, bubble blowers and some cutsey little badges]. He has been quite excited about opening the Countdown-Thingy each day and we have made a little ritual out of it.

Last weekend we collected our Caring Christmas Tree and decorated the house for the festive season.  This year Kaz was not so phased by the spiky needles, and was keen to help put up decorations, though he did have a charming propensity to put them ALL on the same branch at his height…but with a little help from mama and dada they are now evenly re-distributed.  He was VERY pleased with himself afterwards.

This past week has  been full of wintery tummy bugs.  First Kazuo (all week – he is on the mend today, but it was a long week for him I think) and now Mama.  We are now hoping that we are not having to quarantine ourselves for the festive season, and hope to have the door open to you if you care to drop by and celebrate with us.  Happy holidays.  Hope you enjoy the rest of the countdown!

Birdy Birds…

One of the wonderful delights of our little rural idyll are the birds.  This morning our house was bombarded by housemartins as we got ready for the day. We recently signed up as family members of the RSPB and finally made a short trek to the local RSPB Reserve at Vane Farm.  It was a a bit of a greyish day, and taking two year olds out to a bird sanctuary is perhaps not the most conducive to enticing shy birds to come close – but once again we had a lovely stroll and managed to spy some ducks and geese that we would not normally see at home. Part of Kazuo’s RSPB mission was to ‘buy a blue tit for me’ – we are endeavouring to foster his budding fascination with our feathered friends.  So now there is quite the collection of fluffy birdies who sleep with our wee one…and come into Mama & Dada’s bed in the morning – so far we have blue tit, woodpecker, penguin and pukeko: Birdies are appearing everywhere – my current favourites are the bullfinch, who made a fleeting appearance a few weeks ago.  They are such a gentle and colourful addition to the birdy garden – so much so that I even planned out a whole re-decoration of one of the houses we tried to buy recently (long saga…still ensuing…sigh) based on shades of bullfinch!
Since the wee guy is becoming more and more fascinated with our feathered friends, I felt it timely to embark on some birdy crafting.  The duvet needed a new cover, and I had some leftover of the scribbly bird fabric I’d collected in IKEA some months back, so a comfy cushion for the reading nook also made it through the sewing machine.   Although I still find it a challenge to do anything other than cook, clean, wash laundry and get out and about with the lads on the weekend these days – it was so satisfying to whip up some birdy bedroom crafts…  I do hope I manage some more crafty activity in the weeks ahead!

Ten Things of Happiness

Thought it was time for a little summary of the things that make me smile right now…whether in fact or in wishful anticpation.

1. The weather is so lovely and warm and in the sunny springy mornings, I have been loving my walk to work.  I trundle through the ancient St Mary’s Quad, complete with bursting-forth magnolias and an abundance of beautiful spring blooms.  Then I walk across town – a lovely stroll through cobbled streets, down pretty alleys, past charming shop windows and more ancient stone wonders – like the glories of St Salvator’s Chapel.  On more organised days I can also wander along the East Sands and up past the cathedral.  It is a quaint little town and I love the peace of walking through such prettiness to ease me  into the working day.

2. My new hastily-chosen spectacles that are due to arrive in a fortnight.  I have had the current beloved Chanel frames for five years now, so I think I got value for money…but they have been mangled a lot by the pop, so hopefully the new eyewear will feel a little more robust. I am looking forward to that inevitable change of look that comes with new specs.

3. This teapot – the doctor is not terribly interested in homewares.  But when I showed him this teapot (and I am in dire need of a teapot for more than two…) he said ‘Amazing!’  Which I am hoping is shorthand for…”if you want to buy it, go ahead…”

4. We need a holiday sometime soon…it has been far too long.  Lately I’ve been flirting with the notion of a little glamping – my initial desire was a yurt in the French Pyrenees, but then I started thinking of being a little more ‘eco’ and going somewhere closer to home.  Like this fr’instance:

But it turns out the doctor, though a fan of camping, would rather be in something a little more concrete and secluded if we are not ACTUALLY camping…fair enough…I shall continue to dream…and probably plan a little cottagey hideaway instead…

5. Beautiful sunny days at the beach make ice cream an essential dietary requirement.  Here is the pop eating his first ever big-boy cone,  he LOVED it…and it was a very balmy 21degC out…perfect day!

6. A dire internet connection and a kinda sick again little boy brought a revival of They Might Be Giants this weekend – with Here Come the 123s featuring on the must play list (‘The numbers one Mama’) and the excellent Here Comes Science making a comeback too.  Love love love some silly singing combined with educational wonderfulness.

7. And speaking of silly and fun and educational and worky…have to say that perhaps against our own better judgement we are ALL loving Dada’s new iPad2…he was not a big fan of going down that route, but it seems to be revolutionising his work routines and the wee one had a happy little time on the weekend playing with the Eric Carle app – anything that is so functional and makes his little memory get going has to be a winner in my book.  Simple and stylish…typical…

8.  This summery elegance, of course I’ll never look this willowy and carefree, and our beaches are a bit cold for such frolicking, but dreams are free…

 

9. A new broom ALWAYS sweeps clean…and I am loving my new straw yard broom.  The chicken poop was getting a bit out of hand.  I love that they are free to range, and that our girls come up to both doors to welcome us whenever they see us coming.  But it was high time I had some way of restoring order so we can still sit outside in the sun – like we did on the weekend.

10. Mornings in the kitchen.  Here is a birdy still life…we have fresh eggs before breakfast every day, and we are often peering out into the fields and hedgerows to see details of birds we are spying out the kitchen windows…then checking the bird guides for identification.  It is never a dull moment in our kitchen…and the birds outside (of all persuasion) help to keep up the drama.

And of course…when speaking of happiness and things I love…I have to finish off by mentioning these guys…always make me smile!

Hope you have some things to love and bring you happiness this inter-seasonal period…

How We Celebrated Two Great Years…

After Christmas came the birthday…and this year Kazuo had it all figured out.  Birthdays involved a party which consisted of friends (thankfully we could finally muster up a couple of lovely ones with whom we have recently had the joy of becoming acquainted), balloons, his birthday banner and a cake with candles:

I decided to get a little crafty.  To keep it simple but still have something for the wee ones to take home I sewed up some little birdy bags and made some finger puppets a la MadebyJoel and I sewed up a playmat for Kaz that has a landscape on one side and streets on the other, you can see it in progress here (a tutorial may follow):

In the morning we had a little ceremonial unwrapping time – this year we invested in a little portable kitchen that has already become a firm fixture in the roleplaying around the house:

This time the treasures made it in the post in time – here he is exploring the finished playmat with the new matchbox cars AND messing about with the fun garden toys from Grandma and Grandpa at the same time:

Kazuo decided that he wanted an animal themed celebration…and it was down to the wire on cake preferences – giraffe and elephant ran neck and neck for days.  Finally Mama realised that in the absence of the cake decorating tools (where DID they end up in the move??), it would have to be a roundy kinda elephant.  This year we had some dairy/soy allergies amongst our guests, so it was a scrummy vegan chocolate cake with vegetable-fat frosting:

Sneaky Kazuo managed to help himself to cake numerous times throughout the day, and he was still gobbling it down when chatting to his Grandparents with Dada on Skype that evening.

It has been a delightful two years and it was lovely to be able to celebrate this milestone with some new friends…and in as handmade-homey way as possible.  Two weeks on and we are still having happy chats about birthdays, friends and parties.  Having a two year old in the house has led to lots of giggles, hugs and charming conversation.  Thanks to all who helped us to celebrate these two great years!

Made by Joel, the Paper City et al…

A couple of years ago I began reading the marvellous Aussie children’s  magazine LMNOP online.  Last year they introduced Joel Henriques of MadebyJoel as their regular craft contributor and I stumbled across his blog and had a fleeting infatuation.  But Kazuo was still a little small for most of his clever innovations.   Then, over the holidays, our friend Denise sent me a link to MadebyJoel and I revisited…and I am HOOKED! Joel has three year old twins who are the obvious inspirations for his prolific creative output.  But even lowly derivative pseudo-crafty mamas (or papas) like me can execute many of his fabulous ideas.  Especially since the kind man posts freebie pdfs of many of his kiddy crafts.  And they are excellent – stylish, simple and so popular with wee pops.  If you have any little people in your life, visit MadebyJoel NOW!

On the weekend I was looking for inspiration for the upcoming birthday…I found several ideas that might translate into great party favours for our three wee guests.  But the major crafty gift from Mama this year is a playscape/street mat for Kaz to use on the floor for his little cars and animals etc.  [More to come on this project once I have completed, it is very much WIP right now…] Joel’s Paper City will be a great addition to the little street mat.

Since the wee guy has just had Christmas and there are still a plethora of presents for this coming birthday, I thought I would just try out the paper city and let him play with it right away.  So I printed it onto cardstock and cut it out for him to play with on Sunday afternoon, post-nap.  The images are charming and lots of fun:

It was a hit.  He particularly loved flinging the little button helicopters around.

Three days later and it is still in good shape and getting plenty of attention.  In fact, yesterday, he built an extremely large duplo tower (a recent motor skill success that causes daily glee) and set it amidst the paper city as a kinda monolith for the little duplo and paper city people to admire.  I love it when the new toys begin to merge with the existing toys.

I think Joel is pretty amazing…and I am just hoping I can stop reading long enough to try out some more of his great ideas…Thanks again Denise, for the crafty linky!