Sunday, June 2, 2013

Thing One...

...and Thing Two. The tale of my two vocations. While my offspring are still small they are my Thing One. By my choosing, they absorb many hours of my time and I believe in the integrity of that choice. That means Bunty and Sars is perpetually Thing Two. It gets wedged in the gaps when I have a few scraps of energy left in me. I get dragged away from it by requests for assistance with the cut and paste project of the moment. Emergency doll reclothing often draws me away and right at this moment I am shoving the colouring book and pencils far enough to one side that I can reclaim the desk directly in front of me.
That's not to say the creativity doesn't get a sound workout. This week has been absorbed by much birthday organising. I could easily buy a cake at the supermarket, bung a bowl of chips on the table and send the guests home with a standard issue party bag, but that just isn't my style. I start of trying to keep things simple then by opening night (party day) there are Miffy shaped macarons, hand piped gingerbread Miffy's and enough Miffy craft activities to keep the guests going for a week. All the while knowing they'll play outside and eat only the food I've tipped out of packets. Which is precisely what they did.
So, how do you feel about a little pictorial adventure through the life and times of my past week or so?

Crochet Miffy was lovingly crafted and given as a gift...then thrown on the pile with everything else on birthday morning.

A Miffy inspired dress (have you picked up on the theme yet??). Worn far.

Gosh. Cute.

Aforementioned gingerbread Miffy's. Cute AND good eating.

Last one. Royal icing Miffy on chocolate crackle pops. I shall never outgrow the joy of eating chocolate crackles. Still so very good.
Happy birthday Miss Four.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Chunky Embroidery

For some unknown reason, my normally very active son goes into a stitching haze of calm when armed with some colourful wool and a chunky plastic needle. I think we all have favourite creative mediums, and stitching is definitely one of his.
He is five and handled this well, as did his three year old sister. Just be prepared to rethread the needle. Often.
These little hoops of patterned loveliness also make great gifts. I certainly wouldn't be averse to hanging one on my wall!

1. Begin by rounding up your materials. You will need some hessian (although calico would also work), chunky plastic needles (available at craft shops), some cheap, colourful yarn, washi tape (optional) and an embroidery hoop for each child you've roped in! Embroidery hoops are pretty cheap at craft shops and even cheaper if in op shops. Grab them if you find some.

2. Cut hessian about 3cm bigger than the embroidery hoop you are using. Trace a cutting line using a pencil, if you need to.

3. Separate the outer ring from the inner ring of the embroidery hoop, using the twisty adjusting screw. Lay the hessian over the inner hoop then slip the outer hoop over, adjusting the screw if necessary. The hessian should be nice and taut, like a drum.

4. Choose a yarn colour then cut a length of about 50cm with which to thread the needle. Tie a knot in the end and you are ready to begin.

5. Poking the needle up from the back, begin stitching. It's entirely up to you as to where you let the thread lead. You might end up with a face, a house, some flowers or (my favourite) nothing in particular!

6. As each colour has been used up, tie a knot as securely as you can manage at the back of the work then rethread a new colour, tie a knot and add some more loveliness to your piece.

7. When you are satisfied with having created a mini masterpiece, tie off your final thread then trim the overhanging hessian neatly.

8. If you'd like to guild the lily, you could stick some washi tape around the outer rim of the embroidery hoop (see pictures), trimming it to fit.

9. Wrap and give to someone special!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Chocolate play dough!

Smells delicious. Feels lovely. Tastes disgusting. So I advise you have a snack handy because this will give you a chocolate craving, but it won't satisfy it.

Chocolate play dough recipe.

1 cup plain flour
3 tbs cocoa
1 tbs cream of tartar
1/2 cup salt
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 cup water

1. Tip all the ingredients into a pot. A smart individual would choose a non stick one. I didn't.

2. Cook, stirring constantly, over a medium heat until thick and coming away from the sides of the pot.

3. Tip onto the bench or table then knead using your adult asbestos hands. It will be hot, so keep little hands away for a few minutes. Once it is smooth and a bit cooler it is ready for play.

We fossicked in the craft cupboard and found some sparkly jewels and an old chocolate box. What you use is up to you and depends on what you have laying about. Beware of choking hazards with tiny kids. We've had fun in the past using one of those shiny gold chocolate box inserts, glitter and coloured foil. You're limited only by your imagination.

Now mould, shape and decorate. Go on, make Willy Wonka proud.

Tada! Good enough to eat!

This play dough will last for many weeks if it's kept in an airtight container or snap lock bag in the fridge, so there's plenty of playing to be done yet! Here are a few extra activities you might like to try...

-Get out the cookie cutters and a rolling pin and do some pretend baking. All the better if you have a play stove (or cardboard box with knobs drawn on and a door cut out) to cook them in. Once they're out of the pretend oven, I'd highly recommend a pretend cup of tea to have with them.

-Make chocolate cupcakes in cupcake papers, sprinkled with glitter and with match stick candles. Singing happy birthday is obligatory. After all, there is always a stuffed toy in the house celebrating a birthday on any given day.

-Make a fresh batch of chocolates, then set up a chocolate shop. You'll need a counter for display and a cash register of some kind. Again, a bit of cardboard ingenuity might be necessary. Now buy and sell from each other using buttons for money and little bags to take your goodies home in.

-Open up that third drawer in the kitchen containing all the gadgets and locate your ice cream scoop, then set up an ice cream cart. You could use bowls, or fashion some cones out of cardboard (a cereal box would work a treat). Take turns to scoop and decorate with some glitter, beads or whatnot and exchange buttons in place of money. Can I just say, the picture in my head also include some jaunty little paper hats and aprons?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Art making with little hands... a constant in our house. There's lots of crafting too. But we tend not to draw a distinction between the two, because who really cares where art stops and craft begins? Kids certainly don't and nor should they. That's because getting arty in their younger years is as much about developing thinking skills, problem solving and interpreting the world as it is about appreciating and making art. There's much to be said for kids who can think laterally. And seriously, if you can design and make your own blunt nosed, super speedster paper plane, you're going to be a rock star amongst your peers. Although not with your Mum when she's standing knee deep in prototypes. Yep, been there.
So, having been performing this parenting gig for nearly six years now I feel like I can throw around a smidgen of wisdom when it comes to getting kids to think creatively at home. Here goes it...

1. It's best to bundle up your preconceived ideas and expectations and hurl them through the nearest window. Coming from an art teaching background, I had lovely images of me and my kids sitting for hours, all civilised like, around the kitchen table making polite requests to use the Clag while delicately sprinkling glitter with the utmost of decorum. Ahem. Nope. Expect instead to find chaos, frustration and glitter in places you didn't know existed. Then roll with it.

2. Let them go at it independently. Set up a craft area where they can come and go at will, but keep it age appropriate. A two year old won't manage a pom pom single handedly, so save this for shared times. On the other hand, the same two year old with a healthy chunk of blue play dough, all warm, squishy and freshly made, would relish the opportunity to roll, whack and poke without adult guidance. Only step in if you notice half of it is missing and a tell tale blue moustache is present.

3. Keep your eyes on the process, not the outcome. I'm not going to attempt to put this delicately. The stuff kids produce usually looks like rubbish. In fact quite often it IS rubbish. But that robot made out of a Savoury Shapes box, two bottle tops and a piece of tinsel has already done it's job of getting your child thinking creatively. Decisions about how to make the bottle tops stick and where exactly that antenna (tinsel) would be best positioned have already been made. So admire it. Praise it. Display it proudly. Then at some point stealthily slip it into the recycle bin, before you end up up to your neck in cardboard constructions.

4. Keep your own hands off. This is desperately difficult to do. Especially if, like me, you're a bit partial to some crafting yourself. We are biologically programmed to want to help our children. We want to ease their frustrations. We want them to produce something fabulous. But then, is it really theirs if we help too much? Nope. Many a time I've found myself holding the peg doll (or pom pom, or play dough), while the child in question is MIA. By all means lend a hand when asked, but if your child has wandered off and you haven't realised? You're probably helping too much.

5. Don't discount the value of recycled materials. Save bottle tops and boxes, collect autumn leaves, use lentils and pasta from the pantry and collect fabric scraps. Any parent of a kinder kid would support me when I say kids are prolific artists when given the opportunity. So in order to keep up the supplies, it's best to keep it cheap.

5a. BUT, when it comes to formal formal art supplies, give them the good stuff. I still keenly feel the frustration of childhood art making using bad art materials. In my mind I would have visions of vast fairy tale landscapes in a kaleidoscope of colours, while in front of me was a pulpy piece of paper with some vague, washed out colours painfully extracted from a tin of insipid kiddie watercolours using a bendy nylon brush. Such disappointment. Then there were the cheap crayons with no particular colour to them other than on the label. The pencils which fell to bits when sharpened and the plasticine so hard it was better used as a projectile in battles with my brother. So, stop buying plastic crap from the toy shop, destined for landfill and invest in some half reasonable paints, pencils, pastels, crayons, felt tipped markers, glue and tape for your kids. They'll use them more than anything Fisher Price has to offer and you'll get something to cover your ugly fridge with as a result. Win win.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Egg heads...

Did you grow sprouts in an eggshell as a littlie? Most of us did and it stands up as a great crafty thing to do, even still. So while eating our boiled googies and vegemite toast for lunch one day, my daughter and I decided to give it a whirl.

You should too!

Start by having some boiled eggs for lunch (or breakfast) being careful not to put holes in the shells with your spoon.

Cut a cardboard roll into as many rings as you have eggshells. We decorated ours with some washi tape outfits and pom pom feet. But, feel free to use anything you fancy from your own craft stash.

Gently plonk your egg heads onto their newly fashioned bodies and use a permanent marker to give them a touch of personality in the form of faces.

Stuff a couple of cotton balls into each shell, then pour in enough water to dampen these. On top, sprinkle some seeds. We used cress, but please yourself. Beetroot would give you some funky purplish hair, or perhaps some chives? They'd be great to cut and stir into your next batch of scrambled eggs.

Now find them a nice sunny spot, water them regularly and wait.

In a few days you'll see some serious rock and roll hair-do's.

So much fun...and a little bit magic.

Monday, March 4, 2013


...keeps on ticking. It ticks away at a regular pace. Sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour, twenty four hours in a day, 365 days in a year. How organised. So one would be forgiven for thinking time is the great constant. Rock solid certainty amid the chaos that is life. Not in my world.
To me, time trots along with all the grace of a fifteen year old bunny hopping Mum's Corolla out the driveway and halfway down the road, before stalling, restarting, then dropping the clutch to the sounds of whiplash induced shrieking and skidding tyres. Are you with me here? Is it just me?
I'll try to elaborate further by pointing out some poignant examples of time and it's erratic pace in my life, the way it speeds up and slows down. The way it seems to disappear while I'm not looking.

Lead up to Christmas as a Child-

The anticipation was excruciating. It felt like sixty five million years had elapsed by the time I opened that last advent calendar window. And trying to get to sleep in time for Santa? Impossible.

Lead up to Christmas as an Adult-

As is my nature I pack in so much baking, crafting and Bing Crosby, it now feels like I've been allowed just sixty five minutes between December 1 and December 25 in which to get it all done. In fact, I'm fairly sure I could feel the wind blowing through my hair this December just gone, such was the speed at which time seemed to be travelling.

Grocery Shopping Night as a Child-

In a time before Nintendo had invented the Gameboy, it was legal to leave children in hot cars for hours on end. That's right, without Gameboys. Unthinkable.
I'd sit on the hot vinyl seat with sweat dripping into my eyes, not a scrap of anything to keep me entertained, while my parents wandered the supermarket aisles relishing the peace and fluorescent lighting. It was in this back seat captivity the fighting between my younger brother and I was at it's most intense. Time. Went. S.l.o.w.l.y.

Crying Newborn as a New Mother-

I recall one particular experience vividly. I sat with a screaming, inconsolable baby boy in my arms, totally exhausted and clueless with tears streaming down my own miserable face after my first full day flying solo at home with him. I watched the clock. Tick, tick, tick, awaiting his father's arrival home from work. Time went more slowly than when I was six and waiting for Santa. Torture.

Delivering my Baby Boy to School on his First Day-

Was it not just yesterday I was discussing his feeding times? Taking him for health centre check ups? It's like I went to sleep then woke up with five years of my life gone. Puff! He'll be off to university in a minute. I'm sure of it.

I've been at this buntyandsars thing for about four years now, too. It's place in my world has ebbed and flowed around those chunky things which fill up the most space. Raising kids, running a house. I can only guess at how many hours have been frittered away washing and folding clothes, or wiping spilled food and other substances off the floor. It would be many.
But time is giving me a few more windows and I intend to fill them with good stuff. Changes are afoot with some exciting stuff happening in the background. I'm even drawing for the sake of drawing lately, and slightly loving it. Which is why I'm not going to type anymore just now, my fingers are itchy and I have a new set of watercolours taunting me with their beauty.
If you're a buntyandsars Facebook liker, I might even be so kind as to share the results.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It's the year of...

...bad hair and baking disasters. I'm currently sporting too long hair which has been bleached, all fashionable and ombré like, then soaked in salt water over two weeks at the beach. It now has a texture akin to fairy floss. If I leave it down and someone behind me asks a question, thus necessitating my turning around to answer, it's enough to create a birds nest sized tangle. I've even broken a hair brush on it.
To add to my 2013 woes, I can't seem to get into my baking groove. If you know me at all, you'll know my identity is bound up in a few of key areas. There's the arty farty bit, the Mum bit and the cake bit. If one area is askew it's like a wheel is off my trolley and that's how I'm rolling at the moment. Out of control and knocking things off shelves left right and centre.
But those macarons are so perfect! I hear you utter. Well so they should be. They're ...ummm...(oh the shame)...ahem...they are....a packet mix. The following batch I made from scratch and had the appearance of something which had fallen unceremoniously from the rear of a cow.

Again, I hear your applause. What a cute little grub! He's lovely! Except that he's meant to be a Chinese dragon. But the real baking disgrace is hidden within. Never in the history of ever have I managed to make a successful sponge roll. This little 'grub' is no exception. Oh so lovingly I tended the fluffy, beaten eggs, folding in the precisely measured dry ingredients. I teased the mix into a carefully prepared pan then ever so delicately slid it into an accurately preheated oven. I whipped it out as soon as my oven encouragingly beeped to me. I quickly laid it onto a sugary slip of baking paper and rolled it up in readiness for unrolling once more and filling with cream. Well, the stinking, rotten thing unrolled in great, ugly, disintegrating chunks. So in utter frustration, I slapped it back together and decorated the hell out of it. It tasted fine, but I didn't high five myself.
After an invite to come and have a look-see at the local CWA, with all their history of baking glory, I thought I'd keep it simple and seasonal for my bring a plate contribution. No pressure. So I bunged together a lovely slice, topped with fresh plums from my Grandmother's tree (how very CWA of me).
About an hour before I was due to leave I attempted to plate some perfect little, plum topped squares onto a vintage plate. What I actually did was completely smash the the thing into crummy hunks before swearing, throwing something, then dumping the lot into Tupperware to serve with custard later.
The ensuing, scones (so cliched) I slapped up at the last minute were even worse. This time I wanted to high five myself in the face.
I'd even threatened my Kitchenaid with the leave it on the nature strip treatment, so bad had my kitchen prowess become.

But, wonder upon wonders I came good for Valentine's day. Look at her! Ain't she purdy? A big fat, fudgy, heart shaped chocolate cake covered in fresh berries. Despite feeling like sitting down with my bad hair, a big spoon and eating the whole lot single handedly, I rose above and shared it with the ones I love. Remembering why I love baking in the first place.
Now all I need is a couple of quality hours seated in a whizzy chair, trashy mag in hand at the hairdresser and 2013 will be back on track.