Wednesday, November 30, 2011

book bonanza

One of the benefits of getting lost is stumbling across places you wouldn't otherwise. Yesterday took a wrong turn (or three) and found a gem of a op-shop. Hoorah! As well as an armful of fabric we brought home a bonanza of books:

I hadn't read Curious George before and we've been having a lovely time reading all his adventures. I loved reading about the author and illustrator too. The George stories date back to the 1940' and illustrator were a German couple who fled the Nazi regime. Then they left Paris on bicycles hours before the Nazi occupies the city. All they took with them was a change of clothes, a coat and their manuscripts - among them Curious George.

Beautifully illustrated and perfect stories for a small person just starting to read.

We snaffled the complete original collection of thomas the tank engine for a wee friends birthday gift.

And look! More Childcraft encyclopedia's: We already had 'How things work' and loved it so it was lovely to add to our collection. Finances get stretched around here and i was so touched that the lady working in the shop gave us these for 50 cents each.

We are big on books around here. The small one is as curious as George and we find ourselves reaching for books to supplements the mama's brain capacity. Plus, the encyclopedia's are so well illustrated with their drawings and photographs.

Jed went to bed last night asking 'Mama, how can a cockroach walk on the ceiling?' ... you can see i need an in-house library as support!

Monday, November 28, 2011

lookee here!

This, ladies and gentlemen, is my new creation.

I have been waiting for the summer edition of Extracurricular magazine to come out so i can show you. I designed this little beauty especially for this issue.

I give you: the Picnic placemat roll! Headed out on picnic? Camping perhaps? Or just dining el fresco? Grab your picnic placemat roll to keep your cutlery and napkin in check. Beautiful vintage fabric on one side and nylon inner means you don't even need a plate! Yup, that's right folks...just wipe and go. Throw them in the wash if they get really grubby, line dry and they're ready to go again. Years of picnicking memories are going to add up in these classy additions to your summer kit!
And look what i found in my mailbox today. Happiness. The summer issue of Extracurricular magazine. As local as you get for those NZ'ers thinking of gift ideas for the crafty/DIY/ designer/makers/creatives among us. Hop along to Extracurricular's blog HERE and find out how to get your hot hands on a copy -it's hot off the press. This issue comes with an Ellie illustrated bird bookmark. Love.
Also, I was asked to write the tutorial for this, you get to make your own picnic placemat rolls for your very own!
The photos and styling of the shoot was done by one glorious lady called Vanessa Parker. Check out her work: you can get to HERE. Any special photographic work coming coming up? Get in touch. Really, you need to. Her wedding work is just stunning.
Extracurricular is always such a good read, and with that certified recycled paper with it's vegetable inks, all those crafty beauties featured and well, the whole magazine just oozing with inspiration...i reckon a subscription just might be the way to go.
So, there's my local crafty gift ideas for the day: extracurricular magazine (or better yet, a subscription) and oh yes, GrowMama picnic placemat rolls are available in my felt shop. Click HERE for a truly unique and useful (i love that word) gift that'll keep on giving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

shopping local

I have this picture on my inspiration board above my work table:It's what our ancestors did and many parts of the world still live this way. Markets in the village square, trading produce, growing and making your own food and essentials. To have a better future, we need to get back to this way of life. Cut out all those transport miles. I don't think it means a deprived life. There's no reason why we can't import a few luxuries (i am rather partial to coffee myself!) but for the most part i think buying locally produced goods is the way to go. For those wanting more on eating locally, check out the locavores project HERE. (It's in San Francisco but still interesting to learn from.)

With the massive consumerist holiday of Christmas fast approaching i am mindful of where i source our gifts from. (The meaning behind this holiday is a whole other topic, i'll save that for another post!). For the most part i make, thrift and craft up a storm leading up to Solstice and Christmas for my own gifting and for you all to buy at markets. No surprises there right?! But i also like to support people doing what they love. I would rather not support the massive multi national chain stores with their mass produced gear. I like to put my money where it can be useful, put it toward folks who are building a better world. And, there is nothing like giving a handcrafted gift. That love shines through brighter than any Kmart purchase.

I'll be featuring a few beautiful handcrafted or vintage gift ideas as i come across them...check this out:
Big S Little S has created ..... Seedling Kits. Comes with a beautifully made bag, three packets of seeds, instructions and an ingenious and simple to use wooden pot maker. You can recycle your newspapers into seedling pots...genius!
For more pictures and information go to Stacey's felt shop HERE. She has some beautiful handcrafted wooden buttons too. And tell her to list more will you?!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

solstice/christmas chains - a tutorial

I am a bit funny about waste. Making paper chains only to throw them away seems frivolous to me. I know the kidlets love to make paper chains but i reckon there is something to be said for decorations that come out every year and become symbols of your family tradition too. So...i designed some Christmas/Solstice chains made of fabric...throw them in the wash and pack away...they’ll last generations. For those of you Southern Hemisphere folk who head to bush or beach, these travel like a dream...throw them in that backpack. Bring them out to decorate every Yuletime season.
I have some listed in my GrowMama store (click HERE) but for those crafty folk out there, I thought you might like to make some too. The tutorial is for your own use, not for making for sale thanks.
Okay, here we go...

You need:
-Half a metre each of green and red cotton jersey (or t shirting) fabric. .( I used jersey so i could leave the edges raw)
-Green &/or red thread
-Sewing machine

1)Lay your fabric down on your cutting surface. Cut 6 strips of 28cm long, and 20 cm wide in both green and red fabrics. You should have twelve rectangles in total.
2) Laying each piece in front of you, the longest side of fabric toward you, fold your fabric rectangle up by about 4cm. Keep folding until you have the whole piece folded over. Pin the edge of the fabric to stop it unfurling. Prepare the rest of your rectangles.

3) Sew! Sew down each side of your fabric ‘chain-link’. This makes sure it won’t unfold and gives it structure. Sew the other 11 pieces. Don’t forget to reinforce the beginnings and endings of your seams.

4) Trim any wonky edges.

5) Encircle your first ‘chain link’, overlapping the edges by about 2cm. I sewed a rectangle to anchor each make sure it was secure and to have it look purty.

6) Take the contrasting colour to your first chainlink and feed that through your chain and sew that one’s edges together...and so on and so on!

This is a good, fairly labour intensive, fairly brainless late night project to do while rocking out to a bit of Kimbra, the Nymphs, and Feist on you tube.

I made mine in twelve chain links – that way they can be used separately or pinned to make a continous chain. Pretty pleased with myself – they look good! I’m thinking some rainbow coloured ones for celebrations in general (birthdays etc) might be on the crafting table oh, sometime in the New Year.

I'd love to see your chain creations...send me your links or photos.

Happy crafting. I’ll be here alot in the coming month with gift ideas, other crafty tutorials and stories from the frontlines of parenting. Looking forward to it!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

the queen of happiness

The Queen of Happiness...that's me. My title of the day anyway. So i was declared at breakfast time this morning by my faithful ever-loving knight. How lovely is that?
Magical days i tell you...even the hiccups, the occasional grumping mixed in with the holding hands, the races down to the garden and the piles of laughter. Once the sun warms the world it is warm enough now for those small ones among us who prefer bare skin to clothes. Bath time is back to the bucket on the deck in the warm evening breeze. I am amazed he still fits. It's partly about cleanliness, partly about water conservation (we drink rain around here) partly about water's been a busy time for us, with the world opening up and speeding up for the small one...

...he sat for ages in the warm water, in the last of the day's sun...just looking out over bush and sea.

Part of what is new: He's started nippers...the NZ Surf Lifesavers training for small ones. It's games and water safety pretty much. But fun. Oh yes!

The queen of happiness (that really should be capital letters huh?!) is loving the garden...fresh herbs and medicines ready for the picking and vegetables busy growing in their beds of straw mulch.

Queen also of late nights and sewing blitz's. I have been merrily distracted from GrowMama market sewing this morning by a new idea. The photo above is the first stages of a new Solstice/Christmas ornament - to be revealed in a blog post coming soon to a screen near you.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Rummages (even at speed) in op shops have been rare lately. As Jed gets older and my work from home picks up so does the pace. I make a concerted effort to live fairly simply. Fully, i like to think, but none of this charging around all day from appointment to playdate to deadline to errands for me. Well, not until the last few weeks at least. And things have changed in our dynamics too...Those of you with kidlets know how it just get into a comfortable groove and then they blindside you with some new developmental quirk (like whingeing when tired for sweets they didn't know existed until a week ago at the kid-height shelves at the grocery checkout or legging it even faster when you call for them to come - just examples - not that my wee angel would do either thing...oh no) and you have to figure out how to meet that next stage.
I did force one quick pit stop at a Salvation Army as we were passing recently. I had a hot tip off that there was a bunch of vintage fabric in. All gone by the time i got there but Jed did come away with a much loved book. This beautiful book... from the vintage 'eye view library' about nature- on Bumblebees. It is like a nature documentary written in fiction form. And that art work - loveliness.

On the lookout for more in the series...any tip-off's (for vintage fabric which i am in dire need of, or more books in the 'eye view library' series will be gratefully received.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

brave little lemon tree

We have a brave little lemon tree at the bottom of our garden that just pumps out the most delicious lemons. Even when the next door neighbours kid decimated it with one of my juggling clubs it hardly missed a stride. But i digress...that is another story - a long one!
I had been wanting to make lemon honey. I never have...until now. (Why i have these brilliant ideas when i am super busy i do not know.) One of the tiny church run op shops we go to has jams and preserves and Jed was excited to get some lemon honey. But...this old gentleman got to the shelf just seconds before him (Jed had been polite and had waited for him to go first) and cleaned out the whole supply of lemon honey. Jed was NOT impressed. The old fulla was not going to reliquish one pot of his lemon honey stash, not even for a cute little dude. I do believe Jed may have muttered 'grumpy old dude' under his breath. Or not.

So...after a quick chat about elderly folks and the necessity of being polite even in the face of home to make lemon honey we went!

Super fast to make and yum on toast (a weekend brunch treat) or in pastry cases for little lemon tarts.

I used the recipe out of New Zealand's most famous cookbook. The Edmonds Cookbook.

Here it is:

Lemon Honey

50 g butter
3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp lemon zest - finely grated

1 cup lemon juice

Melt the butter in the top of a bain-marie / double boiler

Stir in the sugar and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved.

Add eggs and lemon rind.

Place over boiling water and cook, stirring all the time until the mixture thickens.

Pour into sterilised jars.

Makes about 2 x 250 ml jars.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Jed came running in to tell me about a 'bee's nest' he found being built on our deck. Out came his insect book and another great learning experience unfolded. We talked about the differences between wasps and bees, their nests, stings and their insect lives. Jed identified correctly that this was a wasp's nest.
We put orange cones around the wasps nest to remind us not to get too close. Later that evening, in the rain, i knocked it down and we found it in the morning, blown into the corner by the wind. Such an amazing construction.
Books are great. Oh, we do love books around here...but to see for oneself, to touch and that is wondrous. The nest is on Jed's table...with pinecones, seashells, dead beetles, seeds, a birds nest, feathers, snail shells and other special treasures.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

little boys and puppies

There is nothing like a puppy. Or, a little boy and puppies.

Jed was at his much loved cousin's third birthday and for hours was not to be seen amongst the party action. Where was he? Upstairs, with Auntie's dog's three tiny puppies. Cuddling, kissing, chatting and protecting -'i am teaching the little children how to be gentle mama'.

I love this ability to rough house, climb trees and ride bikes wildly downhill balanced with the love of babies and bellies, puppies with such gentleness and care.

A few things to share with you:(non-puppy related)

Backwoods mama - Click HERE to be transported to the farm, where a wildly imaginative mama homeschools, sews and well, just looks pretty darn cute. I like her style: check out her Sew Camps.

Element Magazine - anyone else look forward to the NZ Herald's monthly magazine coming out? You can read most of it online too. It's subtitle is 'A Better way of Living' and that pretty much sums it up. Finally, New Zealand has a mainstream (but still good) magazine with massive distribution numbers talking about sustainability. Great stories, accessible format. Click HERE .