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!

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!

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!

Christmas Stocking

It took me a couple of weeks to get around to checking if the Japanese step-down transformer Akira’s mother had sent me would work on my sewing machine after it arrived from the States last month…and then until this week for the postie to finally get through the snow to deliver the replacement transformer we ordered when we found the fittings were incompatible on the Japanese gadget.  And it was not until this weekend that our wonderful long table made it into the house – it is such a great workspace, I have been longing for it for weeks!  So it was with some joy (and a little trepidation) that I set up to finally sew Kazuo’s first Christmas Stocking.

We have been reading numerous books lately that make reference to bulging stockings at Christmas time…and though the Christmas festival still has little point of reference for him, Kaz seems happy about the prospect of hanging up a stocking.

Although there are lots of lovely tutorials and patterns on the net, our printer is out of ink…so I just decided to draft my own.  Thus, like all my cobbled together projects, I do not have a pattern to offer you, and a few errors of construction were made along the way…and if I were to do this again I know what I would do to improve the output…but my non-sewing family members are happy, so I think it turned out well enough to share with y’all.

I used some leftover beige linen for the sock and some stripey fabric I used when constructing fabric items for Kazuo’s nursery for the trim.

First, I cut two pieces of trim and a strip to make a loop for hanging.  I ironed down a small turnover on the shortest sides of the trims and sewed up the strip, folded it out and ironed it ready to insert in the top seam.

Then I appliqued a freehand ‘K’ onto the front of the stocking using the stripes.

Next I sewed the trims onto the top of the stocking, with RIGHT side of the stripes against the WRONG side of the linen stocking.  As you can see from the seam ripper and thread pile…I got this wrong the first time – the instinct to sew right side to right side is so ingrained!

When sewing on the back trim, insert the loop – folded in half, with the edges flush with the outer seam edge – into the seam so that it is attached when you turn out the seam.  Then topstich down the ironed edge of the trim.

Finally, with RIGHT side to RIGHT side, sew around the outer edge of the stocking, matching trims at the top and (hopefully) bottom edges.  Zig-zag/overlock this seam and then trim corners before turning out.

I am looking forward to hooking this up for the wee one in a couple of weeks and filling it with a few treasures so that he has a Christmas surprise.  Now I just need to turn my mind to other Christmassy things…the weather and the relocation have both really slowed down my holiday preparations this year, we are still unsure if we are going to be able to source a tree…but I am determined to use the next couple of weeks to come up with some festive ideas as we begin to build our own family holiday traditions.  All ideas gratefully received!