Tuesday, 13 December 2016

DIY Baby's First Christmas Ornament

Make your own Baby's First Christmas tree ornament with air drying clay
When my first child was born a few years ago, I went looking for a Baby's First Christmas ornament to hang on the tree but I couldn't seem to find one that wasn't cheap and nasty or just plain ugly.  So I decided to try and make one myself.

Some time earlier I had been excited to hear about air drying clay so when I stumbled across it one day while I was at Spotlight, I bought it.  I'd since forgotten what I was planning to make with it when I bought it, but this project seemed like a good use for it.  From memory it cost around $10 at Spotlight.  If your kids are into Mister Maker, I'm sure you will find lots of other uses for it as well as it is constantly being used on the show.  The brand I bought says it is non-toxic am always heartened to find when I know my kids will be using it.  I first opened the tub in 2014 and it is still in good condition 2 years later for me to make another one for my second child.

You can also paint the dried ornament - I decided to leave mine plain though as I really liked the natural look of the dried clay.  If you would like to try to make your own ornament then here is how to do it.

  • Air drying clay (try your local craft store - I purchased mine from Spotlight)
  • Rolling pin (or something similar like a round drinking glass) to roll the clay out nicely
  • Toothpicks
  • Plastic knife
  • Aluminium foil to protect your work surface and to prevent the ornament from sticking to the work surface
  • Yarn (or ribbon) for hanging the ornament

Equipment for making your own Baby's First Christmas ornament

  1. Roll out some air drying clay to a thickness of approximately 5mm on some aluminium foil.  There is no need to be worried about being too exact with the thickness, however, the thicker it is, the heavier it will be and the harder it will be to hang on the Christmas tree.
  2. Cut your desired shape out of the rolled out clay.  If you choose a circle you can use a mug or something as a template.  Other ideas for shapes are stars and bells.  Cut the shape out by pushing the knife into the clay every 1-2 cm.  You do not want to drag the knife as this will cause the clay to bunch up and ruin your smooth surface.
  3. Smooth over the top and side surfaces with your fingers.  You can wet your fingers a little bit to help do this if you wish.
  4. Use a toothpick to make a hole in the top of your ornament so it can be hung. See the picture below.
  5. Cut out Christmas tree ornament with hole for hanging ornament on the tree
  6. Personalize your ornament with a toothpick (for writing) and plastic knife (for patterns like dots from the serrated edge or straight impressions using the tip of the knife).  Do not drag as this will cause the clay to bunch up - press into the clay instead.  This is why I have formed the words with dots.
  7. Allow the ornament to dry - this will take around 2-3 days.
  8. When dry, peel off the aluminium foil and thread the yarn through the hole and make a loop to hang the ornament on the Christmas tree.
Decorated ornament - it takes 2-3 days to dry.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Life Hack: Emergency Lint Remover

Sometimes you misplace the tool you need to do a job and so you put the job off.  But if that job requires a lint remover, it is often something that can't be easily put off such as cleaning pet hair off the clothes you are going to wear to work that day.

Emergency Lint Remover 
That's where this handy little idea for an emergency lint remover comes in.  I was inspired by the sticky washable lint removers and thought what else is sticky that could do the job.  Sticky tape of course!  Simply wrap sticky tape around your fingers a few times sticky side out and drag or dab your fingers over the fabric.  When the sticky tape looses its stick, cut it off your fingers and wrap some more around your fingers.

Emergency Lint Remover After Use
You will need to do it a few times to get through most jobs so it doesn't replace a real lint remover, but it is good enough to get you out of a bind.  How effective it is will also depend on the material - I found it didn't do a great job with interfacing as interfacing quickly makes the tape ineffective, but for  clothing like work pants it does a good job.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Homemade Paper Mache Kid's Glue

Homemade Paper Mache Glue
My 2 yo has been super excited every time she sees paper mache so today we decided to try it. But with only a glue stick in the house, I had to make up some glue for the project. There are various recipes on the web but here is the one I used.

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons of salt to preserve
  • Sift flour to help remove lumps
  • Add water and stir until smooth
  • Add salt and stir
  • Thin with water if desired
I just loved this glue!  We made a mess but because it is just flour and water it is REALLY easy to clean up.  The glue on my 2 yo's clothes dried up and flaked off. And glue spilt on the table cleaned up with water and a cloth.  As parents we are always time poor and the idea of making anything that we can buy fairly cheaply from the shops seems like a time consuming hassle.  But this is one thing that is really worth it for little kids. 

This glue won't be suitable for all projects but here is why you should consider it.
  1. It is non-toxic and made from cooking ingredients which is good if your kids like to put their fingers in their mouths or taste it.
  2. Your kids can help make it.
  3. It is super cheap to make.
  4. You probably have the ingredients in your kitchen cupboard right now.
  5. It is very quick to whip up and don't need to be made in advance of your project.
  6. It is very easy to make.
  7. It is very easy to clean up - its water soluble.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Why Trump will Fail

As the dust settles on the US presidential election we see the world transitioning to a wait and see approach with Donald Trump.  But Trump will fail to be the President that many hope for.  This is not a Republican vs. Democrat argument.  This is not a feminist argument.  This is not an argument for an experienced political leader.  This is not an argument for an inclusive President.  This is about our expectations of an ideal country leader and how we will only ever be disappointed when they are set so high.

The world has been transitioning from innocence.  We know that the people who should protect our children, sick, and elderly do despicable things to them.  We know that many people are only out for themselves and don't care who they hurt along the way.  We know and expect most politicians to be in it for the power and not for the betterment of the country.  And yet we expect greatness from the next country leader.  We have grown up and know that the world is not a nice place but we still hang on to our childish dreams of a leader to look up to.

Who was the last truly great world leader?  I can't think of one truly great one.  Often those considered good have flawed personal lives.  Often those who perform well in front of the camera are obnoxious to staff and colleagues behind the scenes.  Those that look promising seem to always fail to deliver when given a chance.

Obama is a recent example of a leader who the people had high hopes for but proved to be nothing spectacular.  But not all blame can be placed with the leader themselves.  They are part of a party and a system that forces them to act in certain ways.  Their plans need to go through the system and their party needs to approve of their plans.  Both the system and political parties regularly get in the way of change.  And if either of these put up too much resistance, it doesn't matter how good the leader is.  Unfortunately resistance is often only due to politicians trying to ensure themselves a political future.  These days this is achieved by leading by opinion poll which ensures that all politicians are carbon copies who change their mind with every opinion poll and stand for nothing.

So Trump will fail to be great  He will fail because he belongs to a party.  He will fail because he is in a system.  He will fail because too many people in that system are only there for themselves.  He will fail because politicians ultimately no longer stand for anything except the current opinion poll.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Blob Painting with Kids

My eldest is now 2 years old and our activities are now encompassing cooking, science and art.  I am constantly on the lookout for ideas and I'll be posting the good ones here.

Today was our first foray into paint.  Yes, very scary with a two year old, but this activity can be very controlled - well ... relatively speaking!

Activity: blob painting
Category: art
Age tested: young 2 yo
Verdict: great results and very easy

Equipment -

Paper for picture - printer paper works fine
Paint - non toxic and washable is best for younger kids
Plastic spoons - my paint comes in pots
Newspaper - to lay out completed paintings and for covering tables and putting spoons down on
Baby wipes - great for cleaning hands and little accidents before they turn into bigger accidents
Art smock

Method -

1. Fold paper in half and the open it again.
2. If your child is young, pour portions of paint into spoons. Older kids might be able to do this themselves.
3. Encourage child to put the paint on to one half of the paper.  Don't worry if they don't quite get it right or if there are any splashes as this is a very forgiving painting - mistakes won't be noticeable and will probably look like they were intended!
4. Repeat 2 and 3 for as many colours as you like
5. Fold paper in half again
6. Smooth paper with fingers
7. Open up and enjoy the results!

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