Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Resolve: A rundown of 2013 resolutions and what's next for 2014

It's that time of year again - time for taking stock, preparing and planning for change, thinking about the coming year. Here's the list of resolutions  I made this time last year:

My over-arching, over-riding goal this year was to be less sloppy. Not sure that I entirely achieved that one.
  • Me: fix crazy baby hair (check!); figure out how to solve outfit issues (uh, no); be comfortable but more put together at work (I think this one worked out okay - I found a happy medium between the two)
  • My home: putting away the never-ending laundry rather than making our lounge-room our closet; getting the dishes into the dishwasher after each meal; having a weekly desk tidy (yeah, so this was a long shot - life with a toddler, or at least, my life with my toddler means this was a pipe dream)
  • My work: be more than half-arsed about lesson-planning and craft workshops that engage the students; give more lectures without reading my notes (I think I did okay at both of these - the feedback from the students this year showed they were more engaged with the materials and happy with the overall shape of the subject); write an article; attend a conference (I was partially funded to attend this conference and had two papers accepted. One was published in the refereed conference precedings and the other may find home in a small ebook collection)
  • My blog: fix the design; work on the photos collages (Check! I've been playing with all of these things throughout the year. I did a little redesigning and managed to improve my photoshop skills from nil to middling. It's an ongoing process).
Other concrete/time-specific goals were:
The slightly more nebulous goals are, as always, an ongoing project.

And for 2014? What will the New Year Bring? Here's the short and sweet version:
  • Fix the work situation. It is well and truly broken, so there's going to be some internal and external fixes, some retraining, some hunting further afield and perhaps a few uncomfortable but necessary conversations with my boss and maybe Lovely Husband as well.
  • Learn to use the sewing machine.
  • Sew a pair of shorts or pants for Dear Boy using said sewing machine.
  • Learn more about the camera and how to take good pictures
  • Be a better social media operator. Sorry Twitter for neglecting you so badly in 2013.
  • Undertake another month long blog-every-day challenge - whether it's one of my own making or linking in with someone else's prompt list.
  • Make our home more lovely to be in and less 'uni-chic' and 'that'll do'.
  • Be better/smarter about savings, super and health/car insurance.
  • Put together another long-term project (TBA in the next month or two)
What are you resolving to do with the next year?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Blueberry Pie - Finnish style (New Tricks 25/26)

When we were holidaying country-style, we went blueberry picking. And we picked lots. Although not as many kilos as in previous years, there were still bags full that lasted through many days and desserts and smoothies and breakfasts. One of the ways to put a hole in the blueberry supply was this teeth-achingly delicious pie (courtesy of friend and former colleague S, who in years past spent time in Finland). It's a mustikkapiirakka, which is a mouthful, just like the pie itself.

The pie we made was based on this recipe, with a biscuity pie crust, topped with blueberries and then a sour-cream laden custard that sets much less densely than a cheesecake. And okay, by "we made", I mean I watched... and ate enough of the results to have it burned into my psyche. But I learned one hell of a way to use up blueberries while doing it.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Apron and trivets (New Tricks 24/26)

I finished this project and this post before Christmas - but couldn't pop it up on the blog without spoiling the surprise. I'm not great at delayed gratification so I hope the recipients appreciate this.

This is take two on making an apron as a Christmas present. I attempted one last year but it was fairly woeful -too small a piece of fabric (although awesome fabric) meant it was fairly child-sized and laughably short. The hems were pretty rough and ready at the same time, just folded over into fat wads and stitched.

This year, I gave myself extra fabric and time to do it better. I cut it longer (although perhaps a little too wide?). I made and stitched binding around the edges.

And then I did a little scrap busting with the leftovers, quilting pieces together and sandwiching in bamboo wadding and a special piece of heat resistant wadding to make a trivet/oven mitt. That heat resistant stuff is weird and wonderful - the stuff I used came with instructions and an oven mitt pattern - very handy. 

And then I picked out some favourite fabrics and made two more.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

New (Christmas) Songs on a Saturday Morning (901-920)

As part of my ongoing effort to improve the range of my cultural consumption, I'm casting out for new things to listen to. Part one and an explanation of this musical escapade can be found here

As I mentioned last week, I found a playlist on spotify called 'Singer Songwriter Christmas'. There's still a few I didn't get through, so I'm forging on with more Christmas tunes this week. If you click on the link above, you'll be able to listen to the full list on Spotify online, even if you don't have spotify downloaded.

901. Future of Forestry - 'The Earth Stood Still'
902. Lisa Hannigan - 'Silent Night'
903. Cary Brothers - 'Christmas Tree'
904. Relient K - 'I Celebrate the Day'
905. The Boy Least Likely To - 'Christmas Isn't Christmas'
906. Justin McRoberts - 'O Come All Ye Faithful'
907. Sufjan Stevens - 'Joy to the World'
908. Bahamas - 'Christmas Must Be Tonight'
909. Josh Rouse - 'Christmas with Jesus'
910. Luke - 'Mele Kelikimaka' - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation anyone?
911. Jack Johnson - 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer'
912. Camera Obscura - 'The Blizzard'
913. Summer Fiction - 'Christmas Eve for Two'

And some extras, not on the playlist.

914. Jack Johnson - 'Someday at Christmas'
915. Coldplay - 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas'

Including a few anti-Christmas songs for the scrooges. Lovely Husband, I'm looking at you. xx

916. Barenaked Ladies - 'Elf's Lament'
917. Ren & Stimpy - 'I Hate Christmas'
918. Stephen Colbert - 'Another Christmas Song'
919. Weezer - 'Christmas Celebration'
920. Joss Stone - 'The Anti-Christmas Carol'

Monday, December 16, 2013

Getting my Christmas Geek on with Star Wars snowflakes (New Tricks 23/26)

My Lovely Husband does not bask in the warm glow of the Christmas spirit. So I'm trying a few new tricks to see if I can bring him round. First up - Star Wars themed snowflakes, courtesy of Anthony Herrera, who has put out different Star Wars-themed snowflake designs over the last few Christmases. There are a whole passel of Star Wars spacecraft and characters, some of which are eerily similar to real life and others that are faintly ridiculous. I ran with Yoda and Boba Fett, because they looked the easiest.

The beauty of these snowflake designs is that you can download the .pdfs and print as is - the design is printed onto a circle (or a square) with fold lines, so you can just cut it out, fold and cut from there. No messing around trying to figure it out on your own necessary.

Having never actually cut a snowflake before, the folding part wasn't as self-evident as I'd expected. Watch the video. It makes a whole lot more sense.  You eventually end up with a little folded wedge, with the ready-to-cut design on top. The guys in the video used both scissors and a craft knife. I like all my fingers where they are so skipped the craft knife for these ones.

I got most of the way through Boba Fett before a catastrophic scissor mishap maimed all six of him for life. But... he still looks kinda cool. Yoda fared a little better but I just couldn't get into the fine detail of his eyes and ears with my scissors. No matter how awesome and superbly left-handed they are. 

Lovely Husband's geek den (i.e. the other side of the dining room/study from me) scored these little beauties. And he cracked a smile when he got home from work and saw them. But sadly, they've been "put away" who knows where.

I'll get him singing Christmas carols yet.

Do you have a Christmas grinch/naysayer at your place? What tricks have you tried to bring them over the to the dark Christmas side?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Summer holidays

Is it just me or is there really no such thing as a holiday once you have a child? It's mostly just a change of location, but with the added thrill of a toddler out of routine and in new surroundings.

Lazy sleep-ins become earlier-than-normal wake-ups thanks to the local wildlife and summer sun. Long lunches and late dinners are surrendered to naps and sleeping battles. Body surfing and towel-laying are lost to lifeguard duty in the shallows and broad-brimmed sun hats are de rigeur. Reading fat novels under the slow tick of the ceiling fan is only possible when someone else volunteers to play trains or peel the backs from stickers or adventure to the fishpond or chase Henry Dog or climb the stairs or refill cups of water and bowls of fruit or push the stroller down to the water.

But as I've been reminded here, the fleeting intangibles of memory begin around now for Dear Boy. He might one day remember sinking his feet into the sand while the small waves lap at his ankles, or the plasticky squish of his arm floaties, or the shining magic of the Christmas tree. He might one day be recalling these very moments to his own children when they ask him about his earliest memories. He might one day reminisce, as I do, about that the cool trickle from the tap and the one-legged dance as you wash the sand from your feet.

I am not on holiday.

I continue to work at creating and protecting his childhood, at building his memories of the past for the future.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

New (Christmas) Songs on a Saturday Morning (881-900)

As part of my ongoing effort to improve the range of my cultural consumption, I'm casting out for new things to listen to. Part one and an explanation of this musical escapade can be found here

I found a playlist on spotify called 'Singer Songwriter Christmas'. It's got some great artists on there, so I've cherry-picked a list of New Songs (or new versions) I hadn't heard before. If you click on the link above, you'll be able to listen to the full list on Spotify online, even if you don't have spotify downloaded.

881. Glenna Bell - 'Be My Valentine (On Christmas)'
882. The Hot Hearts - 'In the Bleak Midwinter'
883. Sara Groves - 'A Cradle in Bethlehem'
884. Angel Snow - 'O Holy Night'
885. Blitzen Trapper - 'Christmas is Coming Soon!'
886. James Taylor - 'Go Tell It To The Mountain'
887. Carole King - 'New Year's Day'
888. Over the Rhine - 'Darlin' (Christmas is Coming)
889. Ron Sexsmith - 'Maybe This Christmas'
890. Regina Spektor - 'My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year)' - Lovely, lovely, lovely.
891. Amanda Jenssen - 'Another Christmas'
892. Kate Havnevik - 'Winter Wonderland'
893. Findlay Brown - 'Last Christmas'
894. Matt Costa - 'All I Want for Christmas'
895. Zee Avi - 'No Christmas for Me' - Little ukelele ditty. So sweet.
896. Neil Halstead - 'The Man in the Santa Suit'
897. Allo Darlin' - 'Space Christmas'
898. Okkervil River - 'Listen to Otis Redding At Home During Christmas' - Besides the great name, this song is delicious and sad.
899. Friction Bailey - 'We Will Sing'
900. Amusement Parks on Fire - 'The Day It Snowed'

Woo-hoo! A hundred more songs and I'm done!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Keeping him away from the Christmas tree (New Tricks 22/26)

Once our Christmas tree went up, I needed a way to keep his little fingers away from it, fast. Even with our little tree up on a table, it was no match for our little monkey. So how do you keep a toddler away from a bright shiny Christmas tree? Make him his own.

I emptied out my scrap bag of felt and made a pile of little decorations. I didn't have a large piece of green felt handy and didn't want to spent a tonne of money on one, but eventually found one at our new Daiso store for $2.80 (- they have a huge range of crafting felt in there, huge pieces and multi coloured packs, all for $2.80, if anyone's on the lookout)

Instead of cutting out the shape of a tree, I left the green felt as a big rectangle to make it easier to hang or clip onto the backs of chairs/his easel, etc. I then stitched on a long piece of wool that I arranged on the felt in a Christmas tree shape. You could also cut out the tree shape and then stitch or stick it to a larger piece of fabric or even pin it to a cork board.

My decorations include multi-coloured baubles, stars, snowmen, some seriously wonky gingerbread men, a little tree and some presents that I decorated with scraps of ribbon. All up these took me around two hours, cutting and stitching in front of Die Hard 2. Hey, it counts as a Christmas movie.


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