Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Bill, strange things are afoot at the Circle K"

This year has been weird. Generally okay, kinda nice here and there; I ticked some things off lists but always simmering in the background, big changes have been coming. Okay, it's not a time-travelling phone box, but it's feels just as immense in my little world.

I'm leaving academia.

Sort of.

I've been a uni teacher for 10 years. A full decade of tutoring and lecturing and marking and examining and handing over the box of tissues. It's been great and hard and satisfying, so bloody satisfying. But I've never been a permament fixture; just swinging from contract to contract and, in rapidly worsening employment conditions (as in so many other industries), the future's been looking even less stable. Contracts getting shorter, contracts turning into casual hours, hours cut from 20 to four, employment decisions being shifted to committees who don't teach, who don't know the staff.

So I'm leaving.

And it's the hardest effing thing to do because I really love my uni job.

But my uni doesn't love me back. So earlier this year, I picked up extra work at a research centre as their education and outreach person; I work on programs for highschool students, undergrads, postgrads and put together events for the public, work on their website and have a rip-roaring time with the twitter account making believe I actually know something about the research they do. I didn't really know how to do any of those things, but I do now. It's been new and challenging and I've liked that.

But it's also a job with a shelf-life (government research funding will do that, hey), so while I educate and... outreach(?)... reach out(?)... I'm also going back into full-time study. A Masters, just to collect the full set.

I'm retraining to teach high school.

Holy shitballs.

So I'm leaving academia. Sort of.

I'm going back to the otherside of the blackboard/Moodle site, to be a student again, which makes me feel a little like this:

I've spent the latter half of this year really coming to terms with this new direction. I've cried a lot about it because it's hard not to feel like I've failed, that I wasn't good enough, that I've let people down, that they won't be proud of me. But I'm also feeling more calm since the decision was made and my enrolment was accepted because it feels like there's finally an actual direction instead of the usual scramble. It also doesn't feel like a completely closed door on academic life - perhaps sometime in the future, I can come back and teach here again, do research in education instead.

I'm leaving academia. Sort of. The happy little bit of news, if you've stuck with me this far, is that in a deeply satisfying and ironic little last hurrah to academic life... I'm going to be published in 2015 - my own book with a quite reputable academic publisher. Two of my beloved former colleagues and I have had an edited collection accepted, a collection of our research and others in our area. I'm going to be working on that in the new year, writing and co-writing several chapters. I'll be an editor and an author. I just signed contracts and filled in forms about royalties. Royalties! It's a little surreal after so many years of trying to get this happening that it happens now.

A few weeks ago, I started writing down bits of movies and shows that swished past my consciousness. A quote here, a memory there, a flicker past a movie on the TV as Lovely Husband surfed through channels. And a strange little list of them grew. When I looked at the list, it meant something. Or at least, it meant somthing to me.

"Bill, strange things are afoot at the Circle K" - Ted

"We're going to need a bigger boat" - Chief Brody

"I am a leaf on the wind; watch how I soar" - Wash

"Ahh, a bear in his natural habitat: a Studebaker" - Fozzie

"Yeah, well, The Dude abides" - The Dude

"It's 106 miles to Chicago, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses." - Elwood

"Make it so" - Picard

That there feels a lot like the transition into 2015. If you don't see it, that's cool. It's meant something to me, and given me a titter or two in these final days of 2014.

So apart from all these crazy happenings, how did my year stack up to my resolutions?
  • 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. Um, yeah... check.
  • Learn to use the sewing machine
  • Sew a pair of shorts or pants for Dear Boy using said sewing machine. I made them yesterday! I'll show soon!
  • Learn more about the camera and how to take good pictures - I did learn more, I swear... I promptly forgot a lot of it, but I'm counting it.
  • Be a better social media operator. Sorry Twitter for neglecting you so badly in 2013. Poor Lilybett and Boy account is still neglected, but I rocked it with my work accounts and my Klout score soared. W00t.
  • Make our home more lovely to be in and less 'uni-chic' and 'that'll do' - yeah, it's still so much 'that'll do'.
  • Be better/smarter about savings, super and health/car insurance - this completely didn't happen.
  • Put together another long-term project (TBA in the next month or two) - Oh hi, intentional play project - I'll be wrapping this up soon.
And what, oh what, do I resolve to do in 2015?

  • Embrace change, just surrender to it - there's a lot of it coming
  • Study hard - take my own cranky lecturer's advice
  • Handle student-teaching/prac weeks with dignity and if I can't do that, be the duck - unflustered on the surface and paddling like mad beneath.
  • Be with my boy, just be, more often
  • Have a holiday on a beach
  • Cross two things off the Before I Go list
What's on the horizon for you in 2015? What do you resolve to do?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Intentional Play: December (the wrap up)

Dear Boy is still talking about Christmas. We made a mad dash north to surprise part of the family the week before, starting a long run of family visits and outings and long lunches and presents, of course the presents. He got to see some of his favourite people, especially those we really only get to see in photos or speak to on the phone. It was family, full-on, which is always my favourite kind of Christmas.

We started December with tree-decorating on December 1st, putting up our mini, fibre-optic tree on December first before picking up a live one two weeks later and shifting the little-un to Dear Boy’s room. We’d turn it on before bed and watching the shifting swirling colours at the tip of the branches play off on the roof and walls. There was magic in it all.

In terms of themed play, we crafted, we read, we sang, we ate and we started and introduced him to some family traditions now he’s old enough to understand them.

I wasn’t particularly keen to have a bunch of Christmas themed toys, useful only for a part of the year, so I hauled out the collection of penguins and our plastic ‘elusive’ moose (who very cleverly doubled as a reindeer). He also got to have full claim to all the leftover decorations, strands of beads and tinsel and a million non-precious baubles. 

Despite my best intentions to the contrary (I can’t help it – Christmas is my crack), I did pick up a Babushka Santa (with Mrs Claus, a reindeer, an elf and a penguin nestled inside) and a wooden Christmas train quite cheaply and these seemed to have been favourites for the month.

Craft ideas:
Living in the southern hemisphere, there’s a limit to the amount of snow and snowmen and chestnuts roasting I wanted to put out there, so it was interesting to come up with some crafts that seemed relevant to the sunshine-y days, fire-bans and lack of mistletoe we have here.

We focused on:
  • Christmas trees - with me outlining trees on coloured paper and then setting him loose with stickers, craft paper, glue and glitter
  • Santa - sticking cotton balls to red paper
  • Stars - painted paper plates and craft paper cut into shapes
  • Angels - (although that crossed the line into non-secularism) wooden clothes pegs with fabric and glue and pipe cleaner halos
  • Paper chains – with sticky tape and staples joining strips of the Christmas paper that had grown tatty stored away for the past 12 months
I also got my mama-craft on and made a whole bunch of decorations. I even pulled out the sewing machine and made my first machine-sewn things since Year 7 Textiles. I made 24 drawstring bags from pudding cloth and calico and decorated them with all the red things in the house (a bunch of ribbon, string, some beads). Into the bags when 24 sparkly dinosaur decorations. 

Dude, I made gingerbread men. Delicious. I made a single batch but froze half the mixture, leaving it for a week later when we rolled out the dough and made more. I used this recipe, which froze really well. I also made batched of sweet and spicy nuts for presents. This recipe is the bomb (don't worry about the amount of spice in this - it loses a lot of the heat after they've been baked).

Dear Boy helped (read: filched all the tasty bits and licked the beaters).

Christmas stories:
Our beautiful local library has the Christmas books separated out all year round – it took a little while to find the ones that were secular rather than religious based. Dear Boy’s favourite was an old version of  the ‘Twas the night before Christmas’ poem and ‘The Twelve Dogs of Christmas’, which features 11 puppies pooing (perfect for an almost three-year old). My favourites? 'Santa’s Secret' and Sandra Boynton’s ‘Christmas Parade’.

Christmas Songs:
We mostly had rousing choruses of 'Jingle Bells' and 'We Wish You  A Merry Christmas' - and by chorus I do mean just the chorus. I really need to learn the verses for next year. There are plenty of other Christmas tunes out there, especially non-religious ones or ones that are a bit more unusual. Here's some from my Christmas edition of the New Songs Project.

New traditions:

  • Turning the lights on the tree 
  • Putting a new dinosaur on the tree each night; 
  • Cookies and milk for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer – maybe ours was the only house where Santa’s bikkies were in Tupperware (mice - blecch). 
  • Homemade stocking on the foot of his bed – this turned out to be creepier than I imagined “Mummy, that Santa man came into my room last night and left these things on my bed”.
What kinds of Christmas traditions do you have? Did you get up to any Christmas craft this year?

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Best Of Lilybett and Boy 2014

Blogging stats and analytics are a funny beast. They show you what people read the most, where they come from, how long they spent reading something, how much they bounced around from post to post. It gives you an insight, in a completely quantitative way, into how people react to your words.

I try not to check the back end too often but after seeing some of my favourite bloggers roll out what their most popular posts were for 2014, I was incredibly curious to see what has been getting the hits and clicks here at Lilybett and Boy.

Colour me surprised that the most popular 2014 was about hanging clothes on the line. Yep, that's right, my post on The Science of the Clothelines: Drying optimisation, peg-mark reduction and time/space efficiency either struck a chord with some of you, or you were weirdly fascinated to see how someone could talk about washing for so, so, long. It makes me feel a little warm and fuzzy that maybe I'm not the only washing freak out there in the world and that other folks might spend time thinking or reading about this stuff. Love you guys.

What else made the best of list in 2014?
  • My Love to Dream sleeping bag review and giveaway - who doesn't love a good giveaway. I love the comments on this where you shared your own funny sleep stories;
  • Meeting Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - I ticked something off my bucketlist and met an incredibly man. Some of you had heard of him; some of you hadn't... but something about this post got your attention. People talking about happiness usually get mine.
  • My fear of babysitters - my sister flew down from NSW to help us out last time we needed a babysitter... so yeah, not much progress since I wrote this post.
  • The Cranky Academic's guide to plagiarism (and avoiding it) - Is it the ranty-pants going on that gets people's attention? Is it people googling how to plagiarise? Is it people who've been burned by filthy, filthy plagiarists who are looking for a community?
  • How well do you know your mobile phone? - a geeky conference lecture gave me the guilts; did you check out your phone's pedigree too?
The two biggest posts of 2014 weren't actually 2014 posts at all: a mermaid softie, which I imagine someone, somewhere has pinned and then been repinned a billion times; and a little tale about crying over spilled milk - my breast/formula feeding saga - which I'm sure quite a few mums can relate to.

Thanks to everyone who read the best (and worst) of Lilybett and Boy this year. If you're one of those folks that keeps coming back, thanks even more. Love your guts.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas: Here's some 'The West Wing'

I am a sucker for Christmas and for Christmas episodes of my favourite TV shows. The West Wing, of course, tops the list for giving good Christmas.

Season 1, episode 10, 'In Excelsius Deo'

There's the usual walk and talk and lightness of speech (Mandy and the matching costumes, the President geeking out in a rare book shop) but Toby is at the heart of this episode, arranging a funeral for a homeless veteran who was found dead in front of the War Memorial wearing a coat Toby had donated to the Goodwill. The revelation of Mrs Landingham and her sons has me weeping every time; so does 'The Little Drummer Boy' montage.

Season 2, episode 10, 'Noel'

Josh is in a therapy session with trauma specialist Dr Stanley Keyworth, still dealing with the emotional and mental aftermath of being shot. This episode is where I fell in love with 'Carol of the Bells' and Leo McGarry's 'Guy in a Hole' speech, which really applies to so many situations, parenting included. But the moment that wins this episode belongs to Donna Moss and Yo Yo Ma.

Season 3, episode 9, 'Bartlet for America'

It's Christmas Eve and someone's threatening to firebomb black churches in the South. Leo's testifying about the MS, with flashbacks to the original campaign. The napkin, oh, man, the napkin: 'that was awfully nice of you'.

Season 4, episode 11, 'Holy Night'

Toby's estranged father returns while he's testifying about Andy's pregnancy, and is pissed at Josh that he se tup the meeting; the Church of the Nativity is closed at Christmas because of a faulty roof - can Josh fix it, please; and one of my favourite fellows is back, cheering up CJ immensely before dropping a tonne of bricks on her.

Season 5, episode 9, 'Abu El Banat'

Christian missionaries are arrested in the Sudan for proseltysing and the DEA and the Attorney General are having trouble with the assisted suicide laws in Oregon. The President's dealing with his three daughters who are home for the holidays and to light the White House Christmas tree. There's not a lot of happy families here, but some sweet moments.

Do you have a favourite Christmas episode from one of your favourite shows?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Thank-you gifts for carers and teachers

We're really lucky that Dear Boy gets to attend an incredibly multicultural childcare centre. The kids and staff represent a diverse range of cultures and religions and throughout the year we're introduced to a great range of celebrations and activities. Come the end of the year and only a portion are celebrating Christmas - so giving out Christmas cards and presents is a little hit-and-miss. I still like to acknowledge the work these ladies do and the care they've shown my son for the last 12 months, so end-of-the-year thank-you gifts it is.

What do carers and teachers really want? To feel appreciated for what they do. Reading through lots of different lists, the big theme was a nice card (handmade or not) with a heartfelt message. I found a great set of cards from the Oxfam shop this year,with a secular message of peace across the front - this turned out to be somewhat prescient, passing our gift over the front counter the morning after end of the seige in Sydney. With several Muslim carers who already struggled with going out in public with their headscarves on (including racist bloody busdrivers refusing to let them on), it felt like the best message I could offer.

This year I'm giving a centre gift rather than individual presents for all the carers. There are quite a few when you include the relief carers and the cook who cover breaks. My pick for a centre present is, of course, books.


For the last few weeks I've been collecting kids books for all the different rooms age-groups (nursery, toddler, pre-kinder, and kinder) and these can be divvied up. Our centre seems to churn through books at a prodigious rate - which is how it should be, really, when kids are encouraged to read and play with books. They read stories at group time and have a story corner where I often find my boy in the afternoons. They rotate the books so the kids don't get bored, but they do tend to get worn and torn. I've got some fabric and plastic ones for the babies, some board books for the toddlers and a mixture of picture books for the older kids. Our centre doesn't do tv/movie tie-in toys or books (no Disney princesses or Elmo or Lightning McQueen) so I've stuck with generic and non-gendered stories. Think colours, shapes, animals, teddy-bears, families, dinosaurs, etc. I have included books about fairies and vehicles, but neither of them are screamingly pink or blue.

Other group gift options:

Crafty options:

  • Salt dough or bicarb soda ornaments - these can be in secular, non-Christmassy shapes if you have some great cookie cutters or artistic skills; you can also get the kids to decorate them.
  • Painted mug - I have been seeing these around Pinterest and Etsy for years now but I think there something quite special about those black sharpie quotes or personalised sentiments (although I'd need some calligraphy lessons or a good traced guide); again getting the kids to decorate is a sweet option.
  • Decorated plant pots - plant optional.
Bought options:
  • Acheivement stamps and stickers - a few teacher friends of mine said they'd loved these kinds of gifts because they normally purchase them out of their own pocket. In the same vein as the book gift, the kids also get to benefit.
  • Stationary - because what teacher doesn't like stationary?
  • Vouchers - for movies, spa treatments, the local coffee place, particular shops; this gift depends on how well you know your teachers and carers and how much you want to spend.

Foody options (being wary of allergy restrictions in the school/centre):
  • Shared hamper - collect a mixture of sweet and savoury so the teachers or carers can have a lunchroom picnic. 
  • Chocolate - the folks at our centre are inundated with chocolate each year. This doesn't make it a bad option, folks like chocolate after all, but have a look around for different kinds of chocolate styles and flavours to keep it interesting.
  • Fruit - this is what I did last year, wrapping a ribbon around individual mangos and punnets of blueberries (which isn't all that easy); because of all the chocolate, sometimes it's nice to go the healthy option. 
  • Fancy teas and coffees for the lunchroom - go wild, go fancy, in bags or loose; pair it with a lovely teacup or teapot.
  • Booze - this isn't something we'd do as we aren't drinkers ourselves and I'm not all that keen on assocating our carers with alcohol but again, some of our teacher friends LOVE these kinds of gifts. Mini bottles of champagne/sparkling wine or something like Baileys Irish Cream are easy-peasy with a cute ribbon around the neck and a homemade tag, maybe a straw if you're keeping it real classy.
Do you give teacher or carer presents?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas: honesty versus magic

We've I've decided to perpetuate the Santa myth. For as many years as I can muster, I'll be actively lying to my child and encouraging him to believe in this thing, this person that isn't real.

I was asked today: why? Why would I lie to my child?

We aren't religious and we won't be teaching him about capital G-god, but we're happy for him to partake in the various religious festivals that are celebrated at his childcare. We'll tell him that people have different beliefs about different things and he should respect that (to a point).

But Santa... Santa... well, I'm all about Christmas. It's my most favourite time of the year; it's when we fly home to wherever the family gathers; it's when we give and receive; it's when we share; it's when we help and love and bolster each others' spirits; it's when we collectively make a decision to be good to one another.

That to me is magic.

Do I wish it could be year-round sentiment and peace and kindness? Of course, absolutely and I'll be trying to teach him that too. I hope he'll be a good, kind person 12 months of the year.

But I want him to believe in the magic of people and Santa's my gateway: one person spends all his time making things for other people and delivering it to them, spends all his time focused on the joy and happiness of other people with nothing in return but the occasional biscuit and glass of milk. Wars haven't been fought or people killed in his name; sure there's some rampant consumerism surrounding his jolly visage, but that's up to me to mediate.

When someone finally tells him Santa isn't real (and they will) or he figures it out himself (and he will), then we'll have a more serious conversation about people magic, that millions of people who don't know one another have banded together across nations to create magic for children. That Dear Boy can be a part of that magic for other people, for other children; that he can make dreams and wishes come true.

Did you perpetuate the Santa myth? How about the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Handmade Christmas: More easy decorations

Christmas message in a bottle

What you need:
  • Small bottles with stoppers (I found a pack of five at the $2 shop and a six-pack at Spotlight)
  • Plain or coloured paper
  • Glitter (if desired; I used our Jo Sonya's Glitter Dust clear coat)
  • A printer or nice calligraphy pens (and whatever requisite skills that requires)
  • String, ribbon or wire to hang on the tree (if desired)
I typed up a list of Christmas phrases and lyrics from a few carols but you could add hopes and wishes for the new year, children's Christmas lists or family names. Type them up and print, or do some fancy writing; cut into strips and decorate with glitter or whatever flourishes you'd like.

To get the paper into the bottle, I curcled it around the end of a paintbrush and then used that to help it unfurl inside. I've had these standing on our mantelpiece but you could easily tie a piece or ribbon or wire under the lip of the bottle and hang them on the tree.

Some of my Christmas-y phrases include:
  • All is calm; all is bright
  • Making spirits bright
  • Jingle bells
  • It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
  • We wish you a merry Christmas
  • And so this is Christmas
  • Drinking white wine in the sun
  • Merry Christmas; war is over
  • Fa la la la la la la la la

Scrabble Christmas words

What you need:
  • Scrabble tiles and stands (we have an old set that I used for non-glued words; I found a set of wooden craft tiles at Spotlight for the glued ones)
  • Ribbon, jingle bells and other bits and pieces
  • Craft glue or a hot glue gun
The hardest part of this was trying to make the most number of Christmas words from a set number of letters (Christmas, Xmas, merry, peace, jingle, joy, Santa, St Nick, Rudolph, twinkly, etc). In the end, I managed just four from our wooden craft set, but plenty more from our game set. For the hanging words, I simply glued the wooden tiles to a piece of ribbon, folded over the top of the ribbon and glued it into a loop, then tied a jingly bell to the bottom and then folded the end up with another dab of glue.

Baubles in a vase

What you need:
  • A clear vase, jar or container (glass, plastic, doesn't matter)
  • Baubles or other decorations that didn't make it onto the tree
I'm not sure if this could be any easier: put decorations in the vase and sit it somewhere that hasn't yet received any Christmas spirit. Ours is sitting on the dining table like a centrepiece.

Have you gotten into the swing of Christmas this year? How do you decorate your tree and home?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Taking stock: December

In the normal course of an academic life, I've signed off for the year in mid-November after the last exam has been marked and the last result collated. As a contracted or casual academic, that's usually all she wrote for the year, and we're unemployed free until the beginning of the first semester the following year (February, sometimes March). But this year is different.

After a completely crappy confluence of craptacularly crappy work issues, I did a little horizontal shuffling and have spent most of the year straddling several different professions. One foot still in academia and the other in a completely new role in outreach, communication and education programming for a research centre. I don't have three feet, but to follow the metaphor there was another foot somewhere doing something else. It's been weird and new and tough and challenging and interesting. Here I am in December, still working. Weird.

So the year is coming to an end, and so too (for now anyway) is the career path I thought I'd be following. Except it's kinda not, because nice things have happened in the background. I'll talk about it all in more detail in the New Year but for now, holy amazeballs, I've been signing forms about royalties and UK tax exemptions and copyright permission and all manner of weirdness.

I'm feeling all kinds of muddled up and scared and sqeeeeee excited about all of it; to be honest, I want to throw myself into glossy Christmas magazines and write long lists about what we'll have for lunch in two weeks. This is my blogging equivalent of that, c/o Pip, and joining in with The Veggie Mama and Katie 180 and others.

Making: all of these easy-peasy decorations for the Christmas tree.

Cooking: completely secular gingerbread stars for our neighbour who flagged us down when we taking a postprandial stroll and presented us with a box full of die-cast cars. Dear Boy thinks he's Santa. 

Reading: nothing but blogs, because I've added a crap tonne of books to my Christmas list and don't know what I'm getting. Book Depository is my current nemesis because I want all of the books.

Wanting: See above.

Looking: for Christmas lights in the neighbourhood but there's not a lot of twinkling going on round these parts.

Playing: as many Christmas carols as I can before Dear Boy requests the Cars or The Wonky Donkey CD.

Wishing: we could get two interstate trips out of a tiny bank balance.

Enjoying: moments with my boy ("guess how much I love you!")

Waiting: for a holiday (still waiting).

Pondering: ways to evict the mouse that's living under the fridge.

Watching: that episode of The Newsroom that folks are talking about. It was kinda-sorta the Isaac & Ishmael of the series: "earnest in its tone, admirable in its charitable intent and God-awful in its condescending pedantry".

Hoping: we go meldown-free for tomorrow's childcare Christmas party and concert.

Smelling: pine needles

Wearing: t-shirts to work and pretending they're business-y.

Following: some of the bloggers in Dubai at the moment. I'm aching for poolside drinks, desert oases, and camel rides.

Admiring: anyone who's getting stuff done at the moment and still blogging.

Sorting: through the mounds of paper I've set aside for shredding. P.S. Shredder only operates for 2 minutes at a time. I'm going to be shredding for weeks.

Buying: the last of the Christmas presents.

Getting: glitter out of the carpet. Yes, that stuff really is the herpes of the craft world.

Bookmarking: an oven-baked vegan naan recipe. Nom, nom. Can't wait to fly back to Newcastle and partake of tasty, tasty Indian there.

Opening: packages of presents I ordered and hoping the others arrive soon.

Hearing: Lovely Husband starting to watch TV without me. Peace, I'm out.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Handmade Christmas: Easy decorations

I've been all over Pinterest looking for ideas for cute handmade decorations (see my Homemade Christmas board) and thought I might make a different Christmas ornament every day to pop in the advent calender. Cue little meltdown at the thought of all that crafting. Plan B - a few easy decorations that are sweet and not particularly labour intensive. Here are four of my favourites (Dear Boy asked for some blue decorations this year, so we've gone with that theme):

Bird-on-a-branch bauble

You'll need:
  • empty, plastic or glass baubles ( I got ours from the local $2 shops - these ones split in half so they're relatively easy to load or decorate)
  • twig
  • small piece cardboard
  • 2 small pieces of felt
  • clear drying craft glue

I cut out a tiny stylised bird shape from cardboard and then used that as a template to cut two pieces from felt. I made the felt pieces slightly larger, which meant I could leave the carboard in the centre to keep it a little stiff, but still have enough edging so it didn't show.

It was important to see how the twig sat inside the bauble so I could attach the bird on the right bit (upside down birds - funny but less awesome).

I glued the bird to the branch and left it to dry overnight before sealing it into the bauble.

Glittery dinosaurs

You'll need:
  • set of plastic dinosaurs (or other figures; Lila at Mama Nourish used animals and set them on matchboxes) 
  • small eyehooks (and pliers if you need them)
  • white basecoat (spray)paint
  • coloured (spray)paint
  • glitter (with a glue) or glitter paint (I used Jo Sonja's Opal Dust)
  • varnish or clear sealer
I screwed in the eyehooks by hand then painted the dinosaurs with a basecoat, a colour coat, a glitter coat and then a sealant. There are probably some very important steps in there for preparing plastic , etc but I tried to simplify as much as possible as I was painting with hand in front of the TV at night. The only really problematic stage was after the first two coats, where the paint flaked if you handled it too much. I attached plain wool for hanging but might get some silvery ribbon next year.

Clothespeg angels

You'll need:
  • wooden clothespegs (I found these at Spotlight)
  • small eyehooks
  • circles of felt and/or fabric (I used the rim of a glass for a circumference and cut with pinking shears so I didn't have to worry about the hems)
  • small craft feathers
  • clear-drying craft glue
Screwing the eyehooks into these was more difficult than getting them into the plastic dinosaurs. You may want to use a very fine drill bit to get you started. Stitch together the coloured circles (no need if you're just using coloured felt). Fold over the lip of one side of the circle for a 'collar' look and glue onto the peg. Glue two feathers to the back (a bit fiddly but worth it to persist).

Wool-wrapped words

You'll need:
  • Craft wire
  • Coloured wool or twine
  • Hot glue gun or craft glue
Glue down the end of the wool to the wire and wrap, glueing occasionally or continuously. This was my first hot glue gun experience and it was a bit fiddly with all the stringy bits but they come off really easily afterwards. Once you have a long piece of wire covered in wool then you can start shaping your word. I ended up jumping on Picmonkey and testing words in their cursive fonts to see how to run letters together. Some words will flow together more easily than others.

Are you making any decorations this year? Where did you find your inspiration?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Questions I've asked lately: How embarrassing is your search history?

Have you ever taken a look at your google search history? I went looking for a site I could only vaguely remember and thought it might be in a list somewhere. And then I found not just the visiting history, but a big list of all the questions I've asked the google oracle. Hilarious and sad at the same time.

How do they get cranes on the top of skyscrapers?
No seriously... how do they do that?

Best easiest gingerbread recipe?
I'm not sure if best and easiest are mutually exclusive in the baking stakes.

How do I use a hot glue gun properly?
Christmas crafts require some hot glue. Time to pull that baby out of the packaging.

How do I use a hot glue gun without all the mess?
Obviously the answer to the last question didn't impress me much.

Christopher Pyne senate education reform?
News of the day. Hilarious that the headlines it pulled up were 'stop texting me!'.

Why does the sun shining feel hotter on some days and not others?
I totally get why we have seasons and the earth tilting on its axis, etc... but that doesn't really explain why one 30 degree day feels like your eyeballs are frying and another 30 degree day doesn't.

Awesome Christmas playlist?
If I'm listing to Christmas music, it better be good.

Drawing and art developmental ages stages?
Dear Boy draws circles, lots and lots of circles and he tells me 'I'm going to draw you lots of circles, okay?' I'm wondering when he's going to head into potatohead people territory.

Who coined the term 'threenager?
Yeah, they hit the nail on the head with that one.

DIY ornament dough cornflour not salt?
Sanding salt dough ornaments? Ain't nobody got time for that.

What age can kids start cub scouts?
We voted last weekend at the local scout hall. They were cooking damper on sticks over fires in half-barrel drums. City boys need to poke sticks in fire too.

I can has cheezburger?
Sometimes only a LOLcat will do.

It's nice to see I've been asking the hard-hitting questions. I'm too scared to check my phone's search history for all those things I look up while bored and/or on the run.

Care to share yours?


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