Jun 29, 2009

Two thank yous and a happy mum

Last week two nice bloggers gave me awards and I want to say thank you to them. I meant to say thank you earlier, but I've got such a back log of projects to try and get on here since the summer started. Those kids really have been keeping me very busy!

Thank you to Puppy Love Princess from Puppy Love Preschool, who gave me the "One Lovely Blog" award. Here tis...
Thank you also to Lisa from Cuci-cuci-coo, who gave me the Italian "Artista del cuore" award. Here tis...As usual, there are rules and regulations associated with these awards, you know, list 10 things you wish for, list 15 things you want to do, list 20 other blogs, list any vegetables you ate this week, list any objects you have in your pockets, list any dairy, plant or animal products that you intend to bring into the country. I'm afraid I'm shirking those responsibilities. Naughty!

I do like if I get given an award to pass on the appreciative karma to someone else, so here's a great little link to some beautiful free colouring pages made by children's book illlustrator and author Elizabeth O. Dulemba. Her site showcases her stunning illustrations, created for children's books. She's kindly made many free downloadable colouring pages for children to enjoy (especially good ones for holiday themes). Her illustration style is so lovely. Simple fluid lines and just the right level of cute! My kids asked for the mermaid and the robot when I showed them the page. I really want to get a copy of "Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese" That book sounds great! She's also a blogger and her blog is updated with a new colouring page each tuesday among other posts. Very cool!

Finally, after last week's epic projects like the playdough train table , Dinosaur Island, and Wall-E, I wanted to share with you a much more simple moment, that made me very happy.

We were eating out (whoo hoo! but wait, that's not it) at a place that gave the kids a packet of crayons. My four year old had brought a miniture model of Zurg from Toy Story with her (less than 1 inch tall). She asked me if I could make the crayon box into a rocketship for her, so I attempted this half baked creation in the restaurant, with my husband's mini pocket knife and the tiny bit of selotape that had sealed the crayons. The thing that made my week was my daughter's reaction to it. She hugged me tight and said "you're my best mum when you make things!" Of course I said "Thank you pixie pop. I love it when you make things too!", and she said all matter of factly "Yeah. We're makers". I'm so taking her to Makerfaire next year!

Here's the rocket... Kinda on the other end of the scale from the last one we made huh!

Wheelie duck on a stick toy from recycling

Maybe you can help me out here, because I'm not sure what the actual name of this type of toy is. I've seen loads of them over the years, mostly made from wood, so bear with me while I show you what we did and then if you know what these toys are called, please do comment to let me know.

We made this toy with a cork, two bottle tops and a random bit of old packing styrofoam from the recycling bin. With thesewe used, a wee bit of stick (could use a cooks match with the head cut off), a sheet of white craft foam (cardboard would work too) and one of the wooden spoons I have in the craft stuff (you can get a three pack from the dollar store and sometimes we make puppets with them) Here are all the bits...
First of all I cut out the craft foam into two sides of a duck shape, with two wings and two feet. The kids set about colouring these while I put together the structure of the toy with an exacto knife and a glue gun. I've made a copy of the duck shapes that I drew in case anyone wants to make one too. Just click on the thumbnail below and save the full resolution jpg. It's US letter sized, so if you're printing A4 then select "fit to page" when printing, or you'll have bits cropped off.

To make the very simple mechanics of the toy I first stuck the wooden spoon into the styrofoam and glue gunned it in place at the angle that I wanted the handle to be. Then I cut off two circles from the cork that were about 1cm thick and stuck a skewer through them for the axle to go into. Then I glue gunned the cork pieces into the center of the bottle caps and used the skewer to poke a hole in the styrofoam for the axle to go through. glued the axle into one wheel, threaded it through the styrofoam and glued the other wheel on the other side. Easy peasy.
Here are the duck pieces after the kids had coloured them in. Great by the way if you have two kids, because each kid gets an identical body, wing and foot to colour, so no fighting! Then all I had to do was glue on the ducky decoration and it was ready for action! The feet were glued at right angles to the circumference of the wheel and they were placed on opposite sides of each wheel (6 o'clock and 12 o'clock), so they moved in a right, left, right, left stepping motion. Here's a quick vid showing the flippy floppy action of the feet.

If you offset one wheel high up on the axle and one low down then you will get a wiggling sort of walk, which would be very cute for a waddling duck. I'm thinking of making another of a frog, but offsetting both wheels high on the axle and having the two feet glued at the same o'clock in the hopes that it would produce a hopping effect.

Cheap as chips and when they kids don't want to play with it anymore, you just put all the parts back in the recycling and reclaim your wooden spoon.

So come on, what is this toy called? They must have been around for hundreds of years! They can't just be called wheelie stick toys surely?

Jun 28, 2009

Hotdog and spaghetti culinary terror

I'm lucky enough that after a year of writing this blog, my freinds often send me links to things that they think I would find cool to make with my kids. This link was sent to me by one of my hubs work collegues (thank you Brad!)

Can you fathom the freaky awesomeness of this? I knew the kids would love it. We're having halloween for dinner tonight children! Someone out there in the intertubes suggested calling these terrifying edible creatures "Squiddlies" and I think that's a top name for them.

Just cut up your weiners, skewer a few bits of dried angel hair pasta or spaghetti through them and then boil until the spaghetti is cooked. Add sauce. Serve to delighted children, whilst adults look on in horror.

Here are some pictures to make your toes curl...
By the way, it makes eating spaghetti much easier for the wee ones too, because they can skewer the hot dog bit and of course all the spaghetti comes with it.

I always feel a little dirty when I eat a hotdog sausage (good dirty, but dirty non the less). They aren't exactly the most natural of food products, so I thought it would be best to see if we could recreate the Squiddly with a slightly more healthy food source.

I tried carrot chunks that I'd first microwaved for a couple of minutes, which made them just soft enough to skewer, but not so soft that they would disintegrate in the time the pasta took to cook.

With this I tried regular chunks of ham and that seemed to work just fine. They don't look quite as extra-terrestrial as the hotdogs, but the kids still loved them.

It's great being able to sit the kids down to help prepare this meal. They really enjoyed skewering the dried spaghetti through things and it kept them quiet for a good fifteen minutes. If I'd let them and we had the resources then I think they would have been happy to make enough of these to feed the whole city.

We'll have to try it with mushrooms, peppers and courgettes to see if they work too.

Two dollar Princess Dress

I know most of the stuff we do here at Filth Wizardry is pretty unisex, because even though I have two little girls, they love rockets, outer space, super heros, dinosaurs, trains and all the stuff the boys like too. For this post however, it's gonna get super girly. Hold tight!

Here's the back story...

Twice a year Goodwill near us has a sale where every item of clothing is $2. It's fab! This time round on my list were a couple of leather jackets to make a slip cover to rescue our computer chair that looks like it's been mauled by a tiger and any cashmere sweaters I could find to felt and make soft toys with. Well, they openned at 8 and I didn't get there until 9.30, so there were no leather jackets left, but I did manage to get three cashmere sweaters and three humungous ball gowns that I guess were bridesmaid dresses (I know nothing of this aspect of the universe. I was married in denim and red sneakers). For everything I spent a total of $12. Yay!

Here are the dresses...

The green one is going to be several teeny tinkerbell outfits. The turquoise one is going to be something like the dress that Giselle wears in Disney's Enchanted (hopefully I'll be able to squeese two dresses out of that), and the lilac one in the middle I decided to try and alter with minimal sewing to fit the girls and have a long long bridal train after reading this lovely post from "Making Do With The Not So New", where MJ makes several dress up dresses for her daughter from her old formal wear. Brilliant!

I've shared this info nugget with LiEr from Ikatbag before now, commenting on her post about sewing machines and sergers. I own the universe's cheapest nastiest sewing machine and as a result I only use it when I absolutely have to and only when the kids are asleep, for fear of inadvertantly teaching them curse words. I've learnt my lesson. I should never have bought machinery constructed by underfed third graders in the first place. One day I will own a machine that wants to help me, but until then I mostly hand sew things, and occasionally swear at an inanimate object late at night.

Because the bodice of the lilac dress was panelled and boned, it was quite easy just to fold either side of the front back on itself to reduce the size of the chest measurement. I had to take the beading off first.

Here's a close up of one side of the alteration. I tied the adult length straps in a knot and sewed them down out of the way to make them fit the kids.

On the back was a laced section that I pulled the laces out of and replaced with some elastic strips, then I unzipped the zipper and overlapped the back bit to take it in even more. This dress started out at a size 4 and fitted me, and just those alterations, which took about 30 minutes took it down to a size that fitted my three and four year old girls.

I sewed the beading back on (had half spare to make a crown) and then made some little bows from the lacing that I'd taken out and reduced the length of the front of the dress without cutting it, just drawing it up.

Here are the girlies being rather pleased with it. Yep, my four year old is getting over fifth disease, poor blotchy faced lass

Not bad for $2! It only took a couple of hours in the evening to do and I didn't have to cut any of the dress, so in reality, when they grow out of it I could resize it for them if they still want to wear it. I suspect I'm going to have to turn the air blue shouting at my sewing machine to get the other dresses made, because I want to get more than one kid dress out of each of the two adult dresses. We shall see.

Jun 26, 2009

Cardboard Train Station

This is just a quickie project from yesterday, before we did Dino Island. My kids wanted a station for their trains to pull into and I'm not about to spend 50 to 100 buckeroos on a Thomas the tank engine wooden one, as lovely as they are, so temporary, home made from recycling and kid decorated was the way we went (as I'm sure you're used to by now if you've been with us very long).

I picked up some cardboard boxes of various sizes that were plain white from the disgarded box bin at Costco last time we were there. Actually, I climbed into the bin to reach them. I have no shame.

With just a little bit of glue gunning and a few strategic exacto knife cuts three of those boxes made a reasonably convincing station. They played for a while with the plastic Daiso tracks on the kitchen floor before deciding that it needed to be embellished.
We decided to name it after the station near where the grandparents live, that we visited on our vacation last month. It's a place in Snowdonia in North Wales where you can ride on a narrow gauge railway that was once used in the slate mining industry years ago. The kids were so excited that the train that pulled us was painted blue and called "Thomas Bach", which means "Little Thomas" in Welsh. The place is called Llanberis, and here are a couple of pics of the real station there (nothing like the cardboard one we made mind you)I am embarrassed to say that when writing the name on the cardboard station with a sharpie, I didn't check the spelling first and managed to put an extra R in there. Bah! Never mind. My spelling and grammar are be carp.
My oldest daughter, who is four did most of the colouring, but my younger daughter, who is three had a scribble on one of the sides too. They managed to get four tracks going into the station with our mismatched collection of Ikea wooden tracks and Daiso wooden tracks.I don't know how long it'll last, but when we're done it'll just go back in the recycling and we can make another freebie station from more boxes, with a different design.

Playdough Dinosaur Island

The kids were a bit keen to make more stuff with the playdough after Wednesday's playdough train table, so today when some of their friends came to visit, we set about making the dinosaur island I suggested might happen in my last post.

I got a load of random stuff out of the recycling bin (as usual, the starting point for anything that gets made around here). I pulled out a couple of pizza boxes, a frosted flakes box (my, isn't this making us look healthy!), some other boxes and an old cleaned aluminium foil roasting tray.
I stuck them all together and cut bits off to kind of make them a bit of an island shape. Then I cut a hole in the pizza box to sink a pyrex dish into (will be a lake/pond eventually)After the shape was kind of ok I packed it out a bit with crumpled up newspaper and then covered it all in aluminium foil, because that way we can pull off the playdough easily when the fun is over and reuse it yet again.The kids spent probably an hour sticking playdough on this island shape. Same playdough that we used for the train table on Wednesday. The kids were two four year olds, one three year old and one 18 month old. I was surprised that considering the ages of the kids, it still came out looking pretty respectable. I had to manage the build process by pulling out one colour of playdough at a time and then they took peices, rolled them flat with mini rolling pins, or just squishing them with their palms, then sticking the flat pieces to the island.The plastic funnel that was used for the volcano on the train table was added to the top of the island, because every dinosaur island needs the props for an extinction event (not willing to play meteors in my kitchen I'm afraid, so super volcano it is) The lava was some old plasticine that we had lurking in the craft bin.Once we had all the playdough on, I brought out all the toy dinosaurs and the bits and bobs of pretend plants, like lego trees and flowers and one lonely plastic palm tree. The island still looked a bit sparce, so we went out in the garden and pillaged a load of greenery and rocks to add to it.
Last thing was to add some water (with a drop of blue food colouring) to the dinosaur lake in the middle of the island. Yes, the green playdough around the lake got quite wet, but it was well worth losing that bit of playdough to the bin considering how excited the kids were about the lake being "real".
Lots of dinosaur splashing and roaring ensued. Awesome game of which dinosaurs eat which other dinosaurs too. I was surprised that they were able to pick out the carnivores and herbivores from our play dinos pretty easily and to make us look even healthier, the king of the dinosaurs (the giant t-rex) was a happy meal toy. Oh the shame.
I should go and pack it all away now and put the underlying structure back in the recycling bin, so we can play again another time.