Monday, May 30, 2011

Extraordinary mondays - artistic abilities

My dad use to tell me that my late granddad was quite the artist. He taught my dad how to draw. I know for a fact that my dad is quite the artist. So if those smart people studying genetics are right, I should be quite the artist too. Well...I wouldn't go that far as to call myself an artist. I'd say I have creative genes flowing through me, untrained and unharnessed. I'd say I'm an artistic dabbler.

Now, to complete that equation then with Khoa's artistic DNA, our kids would be artists-in-the-making. I thought I'd share some of their recent drawings with you.

Zach's prefers his monotones. I'd love it if he branched out into technicolour but no, for the last few years, it's been monotones all over. But check out the accuracy and details of his shark, giant squid and lantern fish.

Amelia, not wanting to be left behind in the drawing game, drew this fantastic 'dog'. She's been drawing smiley faces for a while now with stick arms and stick legs. This is her very first drawing of a complete animal. Check out the little body in side profile complete with little tail to the right. Isn't it just the most gorgeous thing you have ever seen? Well, probably not. But for me, it's the beginning of beautifully formed creatures and animals from Amelia. I can't wait to watch her drawing ability blossom.

They aren't child prodigies but I can see in them the same need I had when I was younger to draw and produce stuff. I wish I knew how to train and mold their creative abilities. Please send me suggestions and recommendations for books to read on how to nurture a child's creative ability.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mother's day crafting

I can't believe Mother's day came and went and now is almost a distant memory. I've been planning to tell about the special day I had but never got around to doing it until tonight.

I had a pretty good day. There wasn't breakfast in bed but I was allowed to laze in bed until I wanted to get up which was really wonderfully delicious. That was such a luxury.

When I finally did get out of bed, we had a ton of fun with a pack of air drying clay and a pack of white Crayola Model Magic. All of us joined in, including Khoa, Tina (who had slept over), Zach and Amelia. Check out all the cool stuff we made.

Because we only had a pack of white Model Magic, we used food colouring to create the colours we wanted. The kids loved kneading the colour into the Model Magic and see it change. Khoa and Zach made dinosaurs, snakes and flowers, Tina made that little bespectacled dinosaur and white flower. What was most surprising for me was Amelia's raw talent. We hadn't played very much with playdough or modelling clay until that morning and look what she made! A cute little creature that looked like an owl with a mustache.

I made myself a little something too to remind me of the day. A little baby sunshine complete with a pacifier. Very fitting, don't you think?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Extraordinary mondays - Our little Eden

I don't think I've ever shown you our garden. I thought since we are just on the brink of getting some sky juice from the heavens, I'd serve up a visual sampling of our garden with you. Please note, I have done absolutely nothing in this garden. I don't have a green thumb and have even managed to kill lucky bamboo! Our little Eden is the product of the hard work of my in-laws. I've grouped the photos in two categories: Fruit and Herb. So Fruit first:


Paw paw or papaya


Longans (we're having a bumper crop at the moment!)



Oranges (these are just ripening now)

Mango (these babies were so sweet and succulent!)


Dragon fruit

Herbs next:
Tia to (red perilla)

Spring onions



Thai basil

Rau Ma (Vietnamese Pennywort)


I bet as you were scrolling through all that greenery, you must be wondering if we have a big block? Well, we have a typical suburban block in Perth. We just don't have anything else other than fruit trees and herbs in our garden. We don't believe in watering anything that doesn't produce anything for us to eat. There is one exception, my in-laws did plant a tree but that was for providing shade.

As a family, we don't do much for sustainable living but our little Eden is us doing our little bit towards it. Besides, what can be better than plucking fresh lime from the garden when you feel like a refreshing drink?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How to make a pirate costume and a ballerina dress in a night.

Last term, Zach and his other pre-primary friends had an excursion to the Shipwreck Galleries down in Fremantle. Everyone who joined in the day had to dress up as pirates, teachers and parents included and the kids, especially.

I thought to myself when it was first mentioned at the start of year: This is it, the start of an era of making costumes for the kids.

Having not made any real costumes before, I thought I'd better start simple. My criteria were: easy, quick and not too over the top. (Oh and no swords or hooks allowed. Teacher's rules).

So, this is what I created in a night.

The only things I made from scratch was the brown vest, the belt and the scarf. the others were simply modifications to readily available pieces of clothing.

For the brown vest, I took measurements from a shirt of his and simply left out the sleeves and changed the collar. I used felt because it meant I didn't need to finish the hems. The belt was a simple rectangular "tube" I made from pirate-y cotton (it had very cute whales on it) and the scarf, a large square with finished hems of the same cotton material and print.

Now what about the rest? Well, the pants were just your run of the mill "trackie dags" (track pants) that were a size bigger so that I could fold and tack the legs outwards in an attempt to mimic boots. The white shirt was a long sleeve t-shirt on which I added cotton lacing to create that billowing white shirt look. The trick here is to gather the cotton lace to make the ruffles. You do this by following four simple steps:

1. Run the unfinished edge of the lace under the sewing machine in long stitches.
2. Tie the threads together at one end to make sure it doesn't all unravel.
3. At the untied ends of the threads, hold one of the threads whilst tugging at the fabric in the opposite direction. This will create the gathers. Be sure to distribute the gathers evenly as you move along the fabric so that you get even ruffles.
4. Tie the threads together so that it holds the gathers in place. You should end up with one really long piece of thread. You can snip the excess off once you have tied the threads together.

I hand tacked the gathered cotton lace loosely on the sleeves and the front of the t-shirt. Remember to tack in loose stitches. This is important to remember as the t-shirt material will stretch. Also, remember to ensure that the hand can pass through the cotton lacing on the sleeve as the lace doesn't stretch.

For the hat, I bought a black wide rim hat. I folded the rim to form the tricorn hat and simply hand tacked the rim to the top of the hat. Make sure these stitches are strong because the rim can be quite tough and would want to spring back into its original shape.

The entire costume took me about two hours from start to finish. So, it could be your weekend project or if you are like me (with kids and full time employment), a project fit for a night or two. Your little one could be off on his or her adventures within two hours!

Now...I simply couldn't make a costume for Zach and not make something for Amelia. So that same night, I made her this:

Here's how you do it:

1. Take a long sleeve shirt. I chose a pink and white striped one befitting the ballerina look.
2. Take a meter worth of tulle. Cut it into four equal widths length wise so that you end up with four one meter long tulle. Cut one of the lengths into half length wise again. You should end up with three equal widths and two of a smaller width. All lengths of tulle are a meter long. Once again, pink was the choice of colour. A trick to cutting tulle in long even lengths is to roll the tulle up into a tight "tube" and then chomp it with your scissors! Done with only one snip. Easy peasy.
3. Gather the five lengths of tulle as per instructions earlier on how to gather using a sewing machine. Make sure that you don't gather the tulle so much that there is not enough material to encircle the t-shirt.
4. Take the two smaller width tulle and sew it to the end of the t-shirt. I added an underskirt as tulle can be quite irritating to the skin.
5. Take the other three lengths of gathered tulle and sew it to approximately where your little ballerina's waist is on the t-shirt.
6. Finish it off with a pretty ribbon. This doubles as a feature as well as to hide the tulle end at the waist.

Ta-da! A ballerina dress in under an hour.

There are things that I don't like about the finished product: I didn't have a wide ribbon laying around the house and managed only to find the one in the picture. Ideally, the ribbon should be a wide one to accent the waist. I don't like how visible the strips were still under the tulle skirt. I'll be sewing an underskirt at the waist when and if I make another one. The pink of the tulle and the pink of the t-shirt didn't really go well together. Add the pink of the ribbon in the picture and it makes a really terrible combination.

What I don't like about the dress doesn't matter, Amelia loves the dress so.

Friday, May 6, 2011

joy in the everyday

Let me introduce you to my tumblr 'stream'. Okay, maybe I shouldn't use that term since it is almost exclusive to flickr.

This is the concept behind my tumblr stream:

Using only my phone, I will be capturing and uploading a picture a day. The subject matter is to be a snapshot of the ordinary. I'm going to seek beauty in the mundane
. Follow my journey as I exercise my photo composition (well, phones really don't take anything more than basic photos!) and find the surprise and joy in your everyday.

This hasn't been a new idea. I've been playing with this idea for some time now and it started here.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Extraordinary mondays - Birthday encore

Our family loves throwing parties. full stop. You only need to look back at Amelia's 1st birthday invites.

We love particularly to celebrate birthdays with the creativity gauge on max. Often it involves lots of making and crafting. The entire family is engaged in some part of the preparations. And on party day, the guests are never allowed to just sit and relax. They become integral to the celebrations of the day.

It was the same when we threw Zach's 5th birthday party at Scitech this weekend.

Preparations began weeks ahead but went to a feverish pace the day before. There were lolly bags to be packed, food to prep, cake to make and activities to finalise.

Did I mention the cake or shall I say the cakes? Here are the hands of Auntie Tina making the dinosaur shaped cupcake toppers.

The one on the left is the dinosaur image the cupcake toppers are based on.

Oh, and DID I MENTION THE CAKE? Isn't it absolutely gorgeous!

The boys loved the cakes and managed to stay in their seats for their food. Hats off to them seeing that there were so many things to do at Scitech.

For the day, we put together a little activity that had the boys discovering different things in our world. Each boy got a "discovery bag" that had tools and equipment and an activity card. The card contained 5 tasks. The boys had to solve a clue, find the relevant station and complete the task. When completed, they received a stamp on their activity card. Each completed task earned them a little prize. The boys really took to the activity and had a blast. In fact, one of the Scitech members approached us for the activity card as he loved the idea and hoped to incorporate it into the Scitech-run parties.

The girls, Amelia and Emily, left the boys to their boisterous ways and did some quieter discovering of their own.

The party wouldn't have come together and be as successful as it was if it weren't for my wonderful family. Thank you Tina for the dino-rific cake and yummy food. Brendyn for the sausage rolls (and I'm sure, the washing up at home), Gina for being absolutely great with the boys and running the activity, Dan for looking after the girls, Aunty Kim Anh for rolling the fresh spring rolls, Liz and Andy for helping with the stations and buttering the sandwiches, Mom and Dad for the food preparations and of course, Khoa for planting the idea and fanning the inspiration flame.

Can't wait to throw the next party!
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