Friday, October 31, 2014

Space-themed craft for toddlers (or planets-on-a-stick)

Space-themed play, planets, solar system, craft, toddler craft,

This fun piece of space-themed craft is now hanging in Dear Boy's room, sitting above his space-themed quilt and next to his *ahem* vintage Star Trek III: Search for Spock poster, a few schematics of the Starship Enterprise and our illuminated DiaNoche Yoda that we won many, many moons ago.

And it's oh-so-easy to make.

All you need are:
  • Eight Nine styrofoam balls (assorted sizes - I know we have the relative scale wrong - Jupiter's meant to be bigger than all the other planets combined, and Mars is meant to be smaller than Earth, but it was what we had and how the balls rolled, so to speak; I'm also counting Pluto as a planet no matter what the 'experts' say)
  • A large-ish bowl you aren't afraid to get paint all over
  • Paint (we ued up the tiny pots of finger paints we had left over from a few other projects
  • Papertowels
  • A skewer
  • Craft wire or fishing line
  • A stick
  • Craft pliers (completely optional but handy)

Step 1. Paint those balls

Put a few splodges of paint into your bowl, drop in a styrofoam ball and then roll those suckers around and around until they're covered. I insisted on green and blue for Earth and red for Mars but Dear Boy chose the others, blobbing things here and there and everywhere. Dear Boy loved this stage, sometimes swirling the bowl, sometimes blobbing at the balls with a paintbrush and sometimes getting his hand right in there.

Place the painted balls on a sheet of papertowel to dry. This is probably the hardest part, getting paint-coated balls out of a bowl and onto paper without ending up with paint tracks all over the kitchen.

Step 2. Skewer and thread onto wire

Push a skewer through the centre of each planet, and then use the hole as a guide for the wire. I made a small loop at the end for the planet to sit on. I used for the pliers for this and to 'snip' the ends, but our craft wire is so soft a little bit of bending back and forth will snap it.

In case it's not immediately obvious, keep the pokey bits away from the kids.

Step 3. Put some rings on Saturn and then hang the lot on a stick.

For Saturn's ring(s) I pierced a piece of wire into the side, bent the wire an inch out from the planet and then curved it round to the other side, straighted out the final two inches and then pushed one of those into the planet on roughly the opposite side from the start. I only put the rings on one side so it would sit flush to the wall in line with the other planets.

Loop the top of each planets wire a few times around your chosen stick. There was quite a bit of 'My Very Earnest Mother Just Sat Up Near Pluto' muttering while I was assembling to make sure they were in some semblance of size order (yeah, yeah, close enough's good enough). I then hung our planets-on-a-stick from two hooks on the picture rail in Dear Boy's room. Easy-peasy and fairly toddler-friendly.

Have you ever made a solar-system model? Let me know if you got it to revolve or light up or something fancy.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A bookish quilt: Happy birthday, Biggest Sister

The Biggest Sister made us a schlubby blanket that Dear Boy adores. It's quite possibly the closest thing he has to a blankey, stroking its bobbly surface as he falls asleep (sorry, Middle Sister - it's a schlubby blanket; it's bobbly).

I wanted to make her something in return and given I am not a knitter, I created her a quote quilt instead. The Biggest Sister and I have shared a thing for books, although she takes it to the extreme of the librarian-turned-archivist, Dewey-ing her own home library (Dewey deserves it's own verb, so I made that one up).

I was inspired by these library book quilt blocks from Craftsy and Flickr as well as this book quote from Two Little Banshee's Kate Henderson. Hers are much more fancy-pants than mine; mine are a very good lesson in thinking hard about seam allowances before cutting.

I had wanted to put on a quote for Biggest Sister from Jane Eyre, one of our shared favourites, but when I started measuring all the letters for all the words, I realised I'd be verging on a king-sized quilt. So I turned instead to the simplicity or conciseness of Umberto Eco, then added his signature to the ugly 'we' of 'we live for books'. 

The scrap-busting books on the bookshelves are littered with titles made from fabric selvage and then the whole thing bound with Superman/Aquaman/Batman fabric. 

Happy (belated) birthday, Biggest Sister. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pram maintenance: are you brave enough?

pram buggy stroller maintenance
Dear Boy’s gotten to the stage where he’s outgrown a lot of his stuff: clothes, cot, change table, naps… That last one’s actually the scariest and one of the reasons why his starting to outgrow his pram is also a worry. His head’s butting up against the sunshade and the straps sit far below his shoulders, but it’s often the only way we’ll get a nap in on the days he’s at home, cruising round the streets or the shopping centre in a semi-reclined position. It was time for a pram adjustment and service to see just how much more mileage we can get out of this baby before we pass it on.

A pram’s one of those the big investments when you have a baby. We did a fair bit of research with ours because we wanted a good combination of safety, price and useability (essentially a ‘multi-terrain’ three-wheeler that was also light-ish and narrow enough to get down the aisles of shops or buses). Just like a car, though, you need to service these babies regularly to get the most out of your investment. Wear and tear can make your pram less manoeuvrable, less safe and more of a breeding ground for all manner of grossness.

There are three main areas to concentrate on when you’re servicing your pram:

  • Wheels and brakes
  • Straps and harnesses
  • Seat fabric and frame

The first step is to pull that baby apart as much as you can, pulling out all the bits and pieces and shaking out all the toddler-produced detritus (and boy, was there lots of detritus).

Wheels and Brakes

Wipe off any dust, grime or grit, then give the wheel and brake axles a spray with a silicone-based lubricant (or something similar). Be a little wary with what you use though, as some lubricants, like WD40 tend to attract grit, which can affect the manoeuvrability of the wheels and the ease of the brakes. You also want to be careful not to spray too much or to let it drip on anything. Our wheels have a quick release, so are fairly easy to take off and get access to the axle. If you're don't you can still try to give it a clean down and spray around the edges.

Straps and harnesses

Check for any fraying or cracks and replace if need be (our brand stocks all manner of replacement bits on their website). You should also check out the placement of the straps – do you need to go up a level? Generally the top of the strap should be close to the level of the shoulder. We had thought we couldn’t move out straps any higher without cutting the buckles off and bodging something together. Luckily I checked the brand’s website and found a handy video for just how to find and then move the stabilising buckles. When you’re putting it all back together, make sure you’re threading everything the right way – I find it easiest to click the buckles in and then thread the straps through, that way I can see how they sit when done up (no twisting).

Seat fabric and frame

Use a stiff brush to remove anything chunky that’s cemented on the seat fabric, or that’s ingrained itself into the folds and crevices. Wipe the fabric down with a damp cloth, using a little plain soapy water on any stubborn stains. I used a squirt of anti-bacterial hand wash on ours because I’m pretty sure there were all kinds of things growing off the food that was buried in that pram. If the stains aren’t budging, use a stain remover spray/stick/liquid but test on an unobtrusive and non-essential patch beforehand. Let the seat fabric air in the sun until completely dry. Give the metal frame a wipe-down with a dry or lightly damp cloth.

When everything completely dry, stick it all back together again. Making sure all the clips and snaps and straps are attached correctly. If you're not sure, check online for a branded owner's manual. That's the only way we figured out where this weird length of strap with a press stud belonged. 

I'm hoping we get a few more months (and naps) out of this pram.

Have you ever given your pram a service? Are you brave enough to see what's hiding in there?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Big universe (small world): Intentional Play

Out trusty 'small world' cardboard box (as featured in July's Intentional Play wrap-up) got a renovation when we hit space month. Dear Boy and I spent two afternoons painting it first white and then black so we could shoot off into our month of space play. We used regular non-toxic poster paint, so things have been peeling and scratching ever since, but Dear Boy loves it and, for bonus points, he isn't dead or sick from eating the paint.

I filled the box with a set of NASA figurines we picked up from Scienceworks back in September. I'm not normally a fan of plastic guys (err... cowboys and Indians, soldiers? No thanks) but dudes in space suits carrying spanners and walkie-talkies are much more my scene. The moon buggy that came with them is certainly Dear Boy's.

We gathered up a few space themed stickers and plastered away, then sprinkled in a handful of glow-in-the-dark stars. We may have also co-opted Lovely Husband's replicas of a Saturn V and its command/service module and lunar module. He may or may not get them back in one piece.

It's also entirely possible Dear Boy may be introduced to Star Trek original series, Next Gen, Deep Space 9, Voyager and Enterprise before the month is out.We have DVDs and are not afraid to indoctrinate.

Do you have any awesome space-themed craft, activities, books or songs? We're always on the look out for more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Culture Diaries: The pre-baby days

Have you ever read The Paris Review's Culture Diaries? They were short guest posts from all manner of interesting literary types (writers, editors, publishers, agents, etc), keeping track of the culture they consume across a week. They offered curious glimpses into these people's personal and working lives. I am such a sucker for a peek into someone else's lived experience. The culture they came across in their days tended to be quite high brow, way higher brow than what I read for pleasure and what I watch on the telly, but I love the contrasts between the purposeful and incidental consumption, and what captivated each person, which connections to culture had interesting stories.
I just unearthed my own version from a few days back in 2010, back before Dear Boy was even a glimmer, back when there was time. So much time. I've kept a list of every single book I've read since Christmas 2001 and know I've read about a third of what I used to. I thought I'd share the pre-baby days (and maybe keep track of post-baby cultural consumption in the near future). Here's what I counted as culture (coming from my media/communication/cultural studies background, I count a lot):
  • The written word (books, magazines, journals, blogs, news, etc)
  • The screen (TV, film, docos, DVDs, etc)
  • The wall (art, street art, home art, craft, etc)
  • The performance (theatre, seminars, discussions of ideas, shared games, etc)
There's a fair smattering of work in here, otherwise I suspect it would have been much heavier in TV and fast food fiction.

Day 1 (13 Sept)
7am. Reading Liquid Gold (by Australian writer James Phelan) over breakfast, then watching Today while I get dressed: Darryl Hannah in Australia doing two-week permaculture course. Sudden urge to watch Splash again.

9am. At work, checking emails/blogs. Monday mornings also mean new secrets up on Some are 9/11 themed, because of the anniversary over the weekend. Don’t want to think about it. Still losing at Scrabble.
10am. Make myself a coffee and bury my face in a pile of marking.

10.45am. Head of Section hands me Council’s response to the research we did for them. Must get back to marking; Feel bored just thinking about it, though.

12.10pm. Lunch with Canada’s Next Top Model cycle 3, episode 2. It’s make-over day and girls are freaking out about their hair.

2pm. So bored by marking that I have fallen into a pattern of doing one or two and then browsing something interesting online so brain doesn’t go completely numb. Discover new Leigh Sales column up. She puts out a column anywhere from every week to every four weeks, called Well Readhead, with a little story about something that’s happened or caught her eye recently. Then she has a vaguely related list of 10 interesting things to read, watch or listen to. Today she linked to that dance compilation to the tune of 'Footloose' and the speech JK Rowling gave at a Harvard graduation. I had Bryce Courtenay at one of mine. This pattern of marking and browsing goes on until 5pm. Am short of my target for today’s marking (by 8) but I can’t be fucked doing any more.

8pm. Dinner in front of the TV after Pilates class. Pretty sure it’s the last episode of the season for True Blood and want to throw my plate across the room at how completely unsatisfying the episode is. Neither of us feels like getting up, so we end up watching an episode of Cops on free-to-air. Head to bed and watch a little West Wing.

Day 2 (14 Sept)
8.50am. At work, checking emails/blogs. Nothing particularly exciting or new on any of them. Several haven’t updated in about a week. I do some prep work for classes today, glance over the readings and last year’s notes, then try and figure out what we’re going to talk about for an hour.

11.30am. Go to Terry Flew seminar and it’s as boring as I thought it would be. Who gives a fuck about what Foucault thought about neo-liberalism and what the hell does that have to do with communication? Okay, I know what it has to do with communication. I skip out early and head to class.

4pm. Come back and check my pile of assignments for a poor student who handed his essay in at the wrong campus and now can’t find it. Totally his fault but still. It’s not here. This will be interesting.

4.15pm. Play my turn at Scrabble, which I forgot to do this morning when I checked Facebook. I have q’s and no u’s in both games.

6pm. 20 minutes early for my Zumba class so pull out my copy of Mindfood, that I still haven’t read yet. Try to do the cross word but brain is fried so do the sodoku instead. Am almost finished when I realise I’ve got two 9s in the one column. Fuck. Zumba makes me feel a little less dumb because there are plenty of other people in the class who can’t copy movement, move to a beat or avoid tripping over their own feet.

8pm. Lovely Husband cooked dinner. Sit down in front of Rizzoli and Isles, and it’s yet another unsatisfying season ender. Lovely Husband flicks watches latest episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation. They filmed it in Spain just after they won the World Cup and the food is heavy on the offal (tripe mainly) and pork products (ham central).

10.30pm. Have a late shower then catch about 5 minutes of West Wing before I’m out.

Day 3 (15 Sept)
7.30am. Nothing too dramatic on the news this morning, although one item caught my eye. Daniel Valerio’s killer is up for parole. He’s served 18 years of a 22 year sentence.

9.15am. Check emails, websites, play Scrabble (am slowing closing the gap, but probably not quickly enough to snatch victory). Have a look through a pile of newspaper pages that I’d collected two years ago and can’t for the life of me figure out why I saved half of them. I can’t even figure out for most of them which story on the page was the one that caught my attention. Figure this is a good enough reason to chuck them in the recycling box.

10.40am. Doing the reading for tonight’s class, looking at the movie industry, a comparison between Hollywood and Bollywood. Also need to mark their assignments on whether government should fund/support the creative industries/the arts.

11.30am. Interesting idea in first reading on economics of the movies and whether star actors are really worth $20 million. Apparently, movies with superstars often make less profit than those with lesser known stars because of the star fees and associated costs, but producers still make star-driven films because they get a better guarantee of some/any profit than they can get from films with lesser known stars that may risk no profit at all. They also talk about stars’ inflated prices actually being the producer’s curse. As in any bidding war, you don’t know beforehand what value other bidders have associated with the product and therefore the winner of the bid has most likely overvalued the item in the effort to win. Apparently the best strategy when going against multiple bidders is to undervalue slightly in order to keep prices lower. Economics makes my head hurt.

12pm. Models over lunch. Having pumpkin & carrot soup and the models are having a meltdown.

1pm. Quick check of emails before going back to reading and marking

5pm. Interesting discussion with student on the research project she wants to do next year on literature in China.
7.30pm. Watch episode of Covert Affairs (which I mistakingly called Undercover Lover a few times and the name has now stuck). Lovely Husband only half watches and spends the rest of the time muttering and swearing as he tries to install software on my new laptop. He’s still muttering when I head to bed.

What culture did you consume today? Did you do it on purpose?


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