Saturday, 30 January 2010

The First Craft Mafia Meeting

I am still not sure about the name of the group but it will have to do until I get inspired with something else. The meeting went well, there were 7 of us all together included two kids, who spent their time playing upstairs and sticking things into their books, a happy medium, I think.
Everyone bought something to share for lunch so we had a good spread and didn't actually start doing anything crafty until after lunch. I was also introduced to a bit of culture, since J from Jumping Overboard bought sloppy Joe's with her. I had heard the term before but I didn't actually know what a sloppy Joe was and it was delicious, thank you J! - On a side note, J is organising a fabric swap for a quilting project, if you are interested pop over and read all about it here.
I made up some little books, basically folded two pieces of paper added an envelope to make a pocket and sewed down the side to hold it together. Then for a lurve theme I cut hearts out of the front cover, I actually pinched this idea from one of the early craftpod podcasts and it seemed to work quite well. Each person got a book and had 30 minutes to decorate the front, when the time was up we passed the book onto the next person and they decorated the next page so by the time it got back to you, you had a fully decorated book.
I got out about a quarter of my craft supplies and we all set to it.

I also made some heart shortbread cookies which disappeared rather quickly :o) And there were some sweet little messages tucked in the pockets.
It was great seeing every one's creations side by side, all so different yet we had the same materials to work with.
I was great for me to make something with no end purpose in mind, whenever I craft or sew I am always making something for the house/shop/gift and don't just sit and tat as my mom would call it, but I feel that sitting and tatting is good for you too!

Friday, 29 January 2010

A Special Gift

Looking at the blog it doesn't look like there has been much in the way of crafting going on but that is because I have been sewing presents and couldn't show you until they had been received.

This one, has to be one of my favourite projects yet! As soon as I found out my best friend was going to have a baby I have ben planning this one but I had to wait until Baby Coke was born before I could actually get cracking on it.
I wanted it to be practical but also a keepsake and so it needed to be personalised, I wanted it to be something he could use as a baby and then something he could use as he got older and I also wanted it to be practical and useful for mom and dad too. They are both designers so it had to be cool too! So, as you can imagine, it too a while to figure out exactly what it was going to be.
For the practical aspect, I made it so it would fold up and fit easily into this rather stylish, yet casual bag, easy to throw in the car when going visiting.
The play rug has batting inside to make it padded and comfy for baby Coke to lie on. The blue square is a pocket with an eye-spy toy inside and it has all his birth details printed on it, the round one is a taggy, one is sewn to the mat the other is a toy and the triangle is a flap to do peek-a-boo with and also has a matching toy with a string of elephants inside. The fabric I used for the mat is SO soft, it is like velvet, you might recognise it from this.
Then, when he gets a bit bigger, flip the mat over and you have a play scene, I personalised the road signs for a bit of fun and I had Ebi-kun test it out.
Ebi-kun loves it and wants one for himself! I designed the mat on photoshop which is a royal pain in the ... but is the only software I have and then printed it all out at Spoonflower. It all turned out far better than I expected and I hope baby Coke loves it just as much as I do :o)
If you would like to make your own, I have changed the names and the mat is available to buy now, directly from Spoonflower. If you would like a personalised mat, cross my palm with silver and I will happily do it for you.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Eton Mess

Now, I haven't made this up, this is a real dish! It is traditionally eaten at Eton college's annual cricket game against the students of Winchester college. It is super easy and perfect for your budding chef.
What you need:
  • strawberries (or you can use bananas)
  • whipping cream (or a cream substitute)
  • meringue
First, wash and chop your strawberries, they don't have to be cut perfectly, in facts toddler hacking of strawberries are perfect! Put a few pieces to one side.
Then whip your cream until it thickens up a bit, makes soft peaks. Add your cream to your strawberries.
Then break up pieces of meringue and add them to the strawberry cream mix, so if you have had a meringue disaster, this is the perfect recipe for recovery!
Mix it all together and spoon into serving bowls, add a strawberry or two for decoration. Eat.

You could use broken meringue nests for this or the easy meringue recipe I used here (bottom of the post). If you want to make it a bit more flash add some strawberry syrup to the mix.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Saitama Craft Mafia

I finally got my act together and invited all and sundry to the first ever Saitama Craft Mafia meeting, this afternoon I actually organised myself (in my head at least) and planned out what we would be doing. If you are in the area and free this Friday morning from 10.30am onwards, want to sit, craft and chat* then drop me a line and I will fill you in on the rest of the details.

The aim is to have a monthly meeting of like minded people with the sole intention of creating, what we will create will change from month to month but we will have some kind of theme. I am hoping that those who join will be willing to share their talents and that we can all grow, learn and inspire together.

I thought about starting this so many times last year but my main concern was child proofing the house, our house is no where near child proof but Ebi-kun is fine with scissors, pins and other sharp implements. I don't have to worry about pens and paints lying about, it has never crossed his mind to take to the wall with them. And then there are the stairs, we have no baby gate and there is no way to lock kids in one room, so it has always put me off starting the group but now, Ebi-kun is older and soon will be out during the day so I don't need to worry about child proofing anything, once he starts kindy it can be an adult only event, I never thought I would see the day LOL.

*I am so looking forward to having a group of people around that I can talk arty-farty with, for years when I came to Japan, most of my friends were English teachers and so conversation would usually end up being about teaching (or bitching about the company you work for). Then, I had Ebi-kun and my circle of friends changed and now conversation is usually a kid related one way or the other, which is all very good and well but I have got to the stage where I am hankering for conversation of a different kind. It will only be a couple more months when Ebi-kun is off to kindy and so I can have grown up conversation in an all grown up environment and I have to be honest, I can't wait!

So, Friday 29th, 10.30am ~ you have had enough,
if you are interested email me and if you can't make it this time but are still interested let me know.
montessori.swapshop at gmail dot com

Antarctica - ice

I got this idea from itty bitty love, perfect timing! I asked Ebi-kun what it would be like to be a penguin jumping into the icy water, he said cold. So we set out a bowl of icy water and asked him to put his hand in it for as long as possible, he managed 4 seconds, this is most certainly a grin and bear it picture...

Then we got a plastic glove and covered it with lard, this time he kept his hand in for much longer, he described it as being a little bit cold but not too bad, I admit, I had to give it a go too - the second part, I don't need to know what icy water really feels like :o)

We then tried some other ice experiments. For this one float an ice cube in the water then try and pick it up with a piece of string - it won't work. Now lay the string on the ice cube and sprinkle on some salt, could to ten and try again - taaadaaaaa
In another bowl we set out 3 ice cubes, put salt on one, coloured water on the second and left the other one as it was then we watched to see which melted first. If we were doing this in the summer we would also do more ice cooking and ice treasure. Do you have any cool ice experiments/activities?

Antarctica - research scientist in training

One of the items in the swap packages was a Flat Stanley type of doll, Chaucey had included one with all the gear that the scientists need to wear when they go outside. After cutting out and dressing our little scientist, Ebi-kun got dressed up too.
He has sunglasses and goggles, gloves and mitts, a balaclava (or sorts) and woolie hat and his coat and boots on - the neighbours probably think I have lost the plot, it wasn't even that cold the day we did this.
His mission was to find 3 penguins and document them by taking photos, not easy when you have gloves and mitts on, at least the subject matter stayed still.
He then had to go and catch some fish for dinner (felt fish with paperclips attached and a magnet on a string) He kept dropping the fishing line into the hole, all this led to an interesting discussion about what it must be like to live and work in Antarctica.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

new fabric...

in the shop, I have limited stock so grab it while you can!

Antarctica MTD

I couldn't get everything into muffin liners so it is a sort of MTD!
From the top we have...
a leopard seal (bread with tuna may0) eating little dried fish (how bad do they stink?)
penguin (bread with black sesame paste) on meringue icebergs eating carrot fish
at the bottom there is a killer whale (bread and black sesame paste) chasing carrot fish
the pot in the middle has hijiki seaweed and the other little fish in the pot are apple.
The drink is mixed fruit juice with a splash of food colour and icebergs.
He was funny eating this, he was making up a story as he ate then he bit the leopard seals head off and said, "well that will stop you eating anymore penguins, won't it?" Lol, he thinks leopard seals are badies :o)

For more muffin tin fun, pop over here.

I found a SUPER easy way to make meringue, mix together 300g of icing sugar and an egg white, pop 3 balls on the mix on parchment paper on a microwave safe plate, zap on high for 1-2 mins. Done. It is a great one for the kids to do and the meringue puffs up when cooking so it is cool to watch too.

Monday, 25 January 2010

new fabric - for me or the shop?

I went to a local mall with a friend the other day and found these yummy fabrics, they are linen, I can't decide if the are pure linen or a blend. If you have Meg's book, Sew Liberated you will recognise this as the fabric used in the kids chef hat and apron, she used the blue version. This will be going into the shop this week.

This one though I am smitten with, I'm not sure why and the print is quite big so I have no idea what I would make with it but it just makes me smile.
The cow with the jug on his head cracks me up, what would you make with it?

Antarctica - package, chopsticks and time telling

This was the package we received from Chaucey whose father is a philatelist and has some great Antarctica memorabilia, I am so chuffed that she shared it with us. There are a couple of things missing in the picture but we will be covering those later. There is lots of little info cards, maps, photos, stickers, envelopes, dog tag, pins.... I am planning some kind of letter writing exercise to make use of the envelopes, not sure what yet.

I also found some penguin printables on makinglearningfun , we reviewed telling the time, he has got the hang of o'clock and half past now so we will move onto the more complicated parts soon.
And this one is supposed to be used for a dice game but we used it for chopstick practice instead. We have a set of chopsticks that have loops on the fingers to help the child position their fingers correctly, picking up buttons was quite tricky but he finished it and then used the chopsticks to put them back in the jar.

Surprise packages

It has been like Christmas all over again here this weekend. First we had a delivery of 18 cans of beer! It turned out to be a thank you gift, we (as in tradition) gave money to a friend when he got married and this was the gift in return :o). You always get some kind of gift, my MIL has a cupboard full of them, recently it has become more popular to send the guest home with a catalogue so they can choose their own gift.
Then, we had another parcel, this time from Hungary! A while ago Ebi-kun sent a little robot to Eli who was sick (it is at the bottom of this post) and this was a thank you gift.

Ebi-kun loved the car and the whistle/flute/recorder/noise maker! I am hoping the novelty wears off soon. Of course the chocolate goes down well too, thank you Julie and Eli, a lovely surprise.
Then ...oh yes, there were more, we got another package, this time off cousin Kirsty, Mr Bump and the knight, for a certain little boy and a pack of curly-wurlies, cheers Kirsty and Happy Birthday to you too.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

A review

Normally when I review something on this little ole blog, it is something I have bought and I am happy with it, I want to share with you or I'm not happy and I want to warn you! But last week I had an email out of the blue from Sarah of LuShae Jewelry asking if I would be interested in reviewing one of her pieces. So, I checked out the site and was bemused, it isn't the kind of jewellery I wear and I don't know Sarah so I started to think it was a scam of some sort. So, I did what any sensible person would do, I googled it! After checking through the results I decided to give it a go, I figured that it was her taking the risk because I have a tendency to say what I think and if something is rubbish I will, most certainly, say so. I picked the ice twist pendant, it took me a while to pick something because it isn't really my sort of thing.

It arrived really quickly and in a sweet little box and looks exactly like the picture, I have worn it and my neck didn't turn green or my head fall off! And I admit, it is handy to have this kind of necklace in the draw, in case I need to wear something a bit more fancy than my usual funky kind of pendant. There are pieces on the site that would suit various family members - such as my mom who likes a bit of bling! So, there you go, a thumbs up for LuShae Jewelry.

Quick update - Craft Hope for Haiti have raised over $20,000 and had 1250 sales! Amazing, they are still adding new items so keep popping back.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Antarctica - penguins

Ebi-kun started by matching the penguin cards, it is while since he has had these out and he had forgotten quite a few. Once he had matched them I asked him to use the info cards and find the smallest penguin, he did this quite quickly - I think the name 'Little Penguin' gave it away :o)
Then I asked him to do the same but find the tallest, so he went through them all until he found the Emperor Penguin. I like to keep him on his toes, so I then asked him to put his coat and shoes on and get his chalk out - this totally threw him since we were in the middle of 'work'.

I grabbed the tape measure and together we measured the height of little penguin on the road, I drew the outline and Ebi-kun coloured him in, then Ebi-kun lay down and I drew around him, he is 105cm and finally we measured the Emperor penguin, who is 110cm. Ebi-kun labelled them all, he was quite surprised to see how big the Emperor is.
We went back inside and then read a couple of poems from Antarctic Antics which is a very cute book and funny too, and how many little boys wouldn't love a poem called regurgitate?
He also read Antarctica (Rookie reader) but Ebi-kun complained that it was too easy! the one thing I didn't like about this book was that they have some words with the pronunciation in brackets but the pronunciation is American English. Ebi-kun read the word then the pronunciation and asked why they had done that, it doesn't make sense, I have to agree. Nice pictures but I don't think we will be buying any more books from this series.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Craft Hope for Haiti

Just a quick update, Craft Hope for Haiti is going great guns, it is amazing, they are already on the way to hit the $10,000 mark, all in just a few days!
The two amazing women behind Craft Hope both have small kids at home and are working around the clock to get items posted, if you have bought/donated something, please be patient. I have sold two patterns but I am now waiting for the buyers info.
There are new items being listed all the time, anyone with an Esty shop knows that it takes a good while to list things, 5 pages of info to fill in for each item! So, keep popping back and see what you can pick up, there is most definitely something for everyone!

On a completely different note, thank you for your replies to this post, I have already started on the quest for great images :o).

I have also been sewing up a storm but they are gifts so I can't show you just yet!


For those who are regulars, you will know I organised a continent swap last year, well all but one of the packages are in and I thought we would kick off with Antarctica. I will post about all the activities we do as we do them, I thought about doing it as one big post but decided small posts are better.
We started off by looking for Antarctica on the globe then making a map. To do this Ebi-kun traced the outline onto tracing paper and coloured around the outside edge with blue pen, he then cut out the map, because he was actually cutting around the sea he didn't accidentally cut a chunk out of the land! He then flipped the paper over and coloured in the back with white oil pastel. He then stuck the map onto a piece of blue paper.
Then he labelled the map and decorated it with stickers and pictures. I love the effect of the tracing paper. Makes it look very snowy/icy.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

questions for you....

I find it quite difficult juggling the crafting, running a shop along with Montessori and making materials for that, I work best if I can concentrate on one thing, so I have been trying to decide whether to take a month or so off pattern making and crafting and put all my energy into making Montessori materials. I really enjoy making the 3 part cards, especially finding the perfect, high quality picture for the card. To be honest, although I love a freebie as much as the next person, when I download them to find the images have been stretched or the resolution is too low making it a crappy printout I get annoyed with myself for being lazy and not just making it myself. I also like all my cards to be the same size and the image sizes to match - alright, call me fussy!

So, what I want to know is, what kinds of high quality, photo based cards would you like to see being made? Is there anything you have searched high and low for and not managed to find?

Would you like the cards to be in any language other than English, I would like to offer them in several languages but I need to know which ones.

Finally, hubby came home with a massive back of sweetened whipped cream last night, ideas please on how to use it.

Thank you lovely people!

Craft Hope for Haiti

I am sure you have seen this little badge around in the blogging world, started by that gals over at Craft Hope they have set up an Etsy shop where all the profits will go to Doctors Without Borders who do a fantastic job around the world and are now focusing their efforts in Haiti, helping victims of the earthquake.
I have sent my donation into the shop, I don't know when it will be listed, if you don't have anything to donate then please go and buy something, I am sure there is someone you know who is having a birthday soon, you can be donating and getting a handmade gift, it doesn't get much better than that.

Monday, 18 January 2010


No theme today, which was just as well since I wasn't organised enough to come up with one!
'fish' egg, tofu, wholewheat crackers, tomato, smarties, carrots and mikan (satsuma) and a close up of the fish egg, I used my new food pens to colour him in :o)

If you want to join in the MTD fun, pop over to her cup overfloweth for more of the madness!

Plant Cleaning

I am not one of those green fingered types and this is the only house plant we have, if you are are the same I recommend a Christmas cactus, they are virtually impossible to kill!
What you need:
  • water spray bottle
  • cotton wool
  • cotton buds
  • sponge/cloth
  • plant
Have everything set out on a tray, show the child what to do and they let them take over. Spray the leaf with a little water then use the cotton wool and stroke the leaf, start from the centre of the plant to the outside with gentle strokes.
Show the child how to hold the end of the leaf carefully while he works. Use the cotton bud to get to the hard to reach spots. This is a great exercise to talk about plants and either introduce or review parts of the plant.
Be sure to get the child to clean up afterwards. Cleaning up is an important part of the work cycle.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Special offer for FB fans

Thinking of buying some fabric or anything else from my little shop, then pop over to my Facebook page to get a special discount!

Rainbow Salt Bottle

I'm not sure if there is a proper name for this but that is my name!
What you will need:
  • small glass bottle with a lid
  • funnel
  • salt
  • sidewalk chalk
  • spoon
  • jug
Have all the equipment set out on a tray.
First measure 2 spoons of salt into the jug - you can adjust the amount to suit.
Take the chalk and grind it into the salt, the salt will change colour.
Using the funnel, pour the salt into the glass bottle, then repeat with another colour of chalk, keep going until the bottle is full.
Then when you have finished you will have a pretty bottle like this...
Ebi-kun really enjoyed doing this, once he had done the 5 basic colours he wanted to know what would happen if he used two chalks in one pot of salt, so I encouraged him to try and suggested he used the primary colours. Although he knows blue and yellow make green he still seemed surprised when it happened! One tip when colour mixing - this or other mediums, suggest that the child starts off with the weaker colour, so in this case he coloured the salt yellow first then added the blue (you only need a bit of blue to make it turn green).

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Do you enjoy a good story?

There has been a lot of role playing and story telling going on in these parts recently and of course, every good story has a good array of characters, there have been gnomes both good and bad....

and a few of those sneaky ninjas, who are expert at sneaking into castles....

Whilst the blokes are off on a lads knight out.....

And the ladies are having a girls night in.....

It is a good job they have a someone to look over them.....

because if it isn't ninja's breaching the castle walls, it is that evil witch up to no good....

At least those terrible pirates are locked in the tower and can't get into any more trouble!
Oh, yes, did I have fun before Christmas painting these little fellas? The first batch of these wooden dolls were made into football players and then we painted a few to go with the castle pieces, I had some left over so they were the ones I made for Christmas. I bought the plain dolls from Gemmielou, in fact I have just ordered some more! Used acrylic paint on them then sealed them with two or three coast of varnish.
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