Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Picnic Activity Mat

Now that Christmas has come and gone, I can show you some of the things I had been working on earlier in the year but couldn't show you because they were going to be presents. Hooray! The biggest thing has been this. I've called it a Picnic Activity Mat, but actually it's more like a Toddler to Preschool Outdoor/Camping Trip/Picnic/Indoor Activity Mat.

Pretty much, I took a great idea (from here on Sew Mama Sew) and then jammed it with as much teaching, skills building, thought provoking, game providing, hours wasting, activities as I could. Of course, I did think I would just make one for my own girls, but after all the planning and how excited I was, I figured it would also make great Christmas presents for two other families who both have young boys. Then, I just made three of every square at a time. Sometimes mass production is a really good thing.

I wasn't sure how in depth to go with this post and telling you all about it, but to be perfectly honest, I'm really proud of my work and I feel it would be pretty sad if it didn't get a show. I've taken plenty of photos though, so hopefully the visual literacy will keep you interested.

So you've already seen the Bee and the Flowers, and know what it's supposed to be about. I suppose this is a good a time as any to mention that I worked very hard to just use fabric I had in my stash rather than go out for more. It's good to realise that I've got a lot of fabric and that I can actually use it up! These squares were perfect for using up little and big scraps. It also meant that each finished mat ended up with it's own personality, or quirky difference based on what I had on had. Win!

This square is pretty basic, I just stitched the words on the different colours. The idea is to send the kids off to find some nature thing that matches each colour. Also, you can talk about what colours things are in the natural world around us. And why. So good.

Another kind of colours based one is this rainbow ribbons square. Pretty self explanatory. I would have liked to have three strands of each colour for better braiding purposes, but I figure the kids can work something out anyway. Also, there is a hidden surprise on this square that I'll talk about later.

 These two squares really show off the scrap usage. The first one is all about shapes (duh) and the second is an eye spy. I'm not sure how much depth I need to go into to talking about what the squares can do. I mean, is it obvious that you can do shape recognition and then talk about what shapes you can see in nature? That you can play eye spy on the square and then talk about animals in nature? I don't know. These things are pretty obvious to me, but I'm a weird teacher who sees learning in everything...

These leaves are for kids to go out and find ones that match the shapes. Pretty fun, though that middle leaf is actually an Oak leaf, so I'm not sure they'll find one in Australia, but it will keep them amused for some time trying to find one right? He he he. So evil.

This square is pretty sensory. All of the different fabrics have a different texture and feel to them. It's not so much for the older kids, but the younger ones will probably like it. Though the extension activity could easily be talking about different textures in actual nature. Also using imagination to talk about what the sun or the clouds might feel like. Then having a lesson on the solar system, or the water cycle. Oh the endless possibilities.

These trees are a simple puzzle/fine motor skill activity in having to pull the leaves off and snap them back on. They are scraps of fabric stitched to felt for strength. I blanket stitched like crazy on these just for fun.

This dog face is another snaps one (actually, thanks to Jenny J of Sweet Sweet Bird for lending me her snaps to make these possible. Snaps yo!) but it's also more of a puzzle in getting the features in the right places. I'll take this chance to let you know if you were worried about those pieces getting lost, I also installed a handy velcro pocket on the back of the dog (and the tree) so that the pieces could be stored for travel or washing or whatever. Hopefully this will prevent them getting lost too soon.

The same velcro pocket is on the rainbow ribbons square and opens to reveal a little pouch with coloured beads inside.

Now the kids can practice some more fine motor skills by threading the beads onto the right colours of the rainbow! Is it more than you could have ever imagined? Probably.

Finally, I backed the boys mats with some car material (that yes, I did buy (but in my defence, I needed a large piece of fabric that was preferably at least a little water resistant)) that I picked up from Spotlight on the cheep. The basic quilting I did makes the back look good for car races.

The girls mat is backed in some boring calico and once I was done with it, I thought about making noughts and crosses pieces as another extension activity, but maybe later. Neither of my girls have the mental capacity for that kind of intense gaming just yet. 

Sophie was pretty excited to have a mat that she could actually play with this morning (after having already given the other two to their recipients she was happy to know this one was not leaving the house). 

Rachel was excited about eating things.

The adventure of these Activity Mats began back here in June and were posted about in irregular and illusive detail here, here (The Bee and the Flowers), here and here. Just in case you're interested.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Bags from Santa?

After much deliberation, Steve and I finally decided we will do the "Santa thing" with our girls. Setting out cookies and milk and carrots (for the reindeer of course!) and them actually getting a gift from Santa on Christmas Day. Once we decided that, it was suddenly obvious that we would need to actually have a gift to give the girls from Santa. So out came Sally one night and I whipped out these little bags.

I had been thinking about making something like these (since I had seen them at a craft show in Malney) so it was a good excuse to make them, though I would have preferred it to be without the Christmas deadline. 

I made the bags with some guidance from this bag tutorial from ikat bag (not sure I could recommend this blog highly enough. If you like sewing it's simply amazing. Also, she's an ex-teacher so she appeals to my over developed sense of learning in all things). There are a whole set of tutorials on bag making if you are intrested. These are made using scraps from the stash and I think they turned out rather nicely. 

Despite the effort to get these bags ready to be the girls gifts from Santa, we got home too late from church on Christmas Eve to set out cookies and milk and carrots, so Santa did not get a snack and there were no crumbs for the girls to find on Christmas morning. Also, as we were unwrapping presents, I realised that I'd forgotten to wrap them so they weren't even under the tree waiting and I had to do a quick dash to the bedroom and wrap them in some already discarded wrapping paper. Oh well. Maybe Santa will be more prepared next year. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Awake at 5am

It's a beautiful morning and I do feel awake, but a small part of me wishes to crawl back under the covers again. I'm thinking about the day and what we have to do. Breakfast at mum and dad's with Fiona, playgroup Christmas party, washing, picking up Steve's mum from the train station. Have I organised everything for dinner tonight? Will I have time to clean the bathroom? (Do I have to clean the bathroom?)

Lord God, can I please be in denial about having to do these things just a little longer? My calender is so full and I would really just like some time with Steve. I guess I keep waiting and waiting for that chance when here it is. At 5am. Not that Steve would be a willing participant for some 5am quality time, but I'm sure if I could do enough now that I wouldn't have to do it later and then we would have the time.

I guess that's the point though. I'll never be able to do enough, because life just keeps creeping things in. Never will I be accomplished enough to have everything completed. Maybe this is just another reminder about how we can never achieve perfection, or God's standards, or live by the law. We are just failures.

And yet God reaches down to us. Always. With his unfailing and unfathomable love. To remind us that he's already done what needed to be done, and his grace covers all our shortcomings.

I feel like many of my posts end with these reminders from God, and I just want to say that I often don't plan them this way. (In fact, I'd say I almost never plan them this way.) But God is good at reminding me as I type away, and I can't escape from the answers he gives me. In the midst of the sorrow and shame at my inadequacies, God is reaching out and giving me hope.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Cloth Doll

A few months before Rachel was born, which seems like a very long time ago now, Mum went through the old toys she still had from when my sisters and I were girls and found three dolls. One of which was actually mine. A little scary that it was still around, but I guess I must have been super careful with my toys or something (actually, I remember getting that doll, so I must have been in the later years of primary school and then probably didn't even play with it too much at that age....). 

Anyway, here I am rambling about nothing, let me cut to the chase. We gave it to Sophie to play with when Rachel was born, and she kinda did for a while, though she'd probably prefer her bear to be completely honest. Sadly though, this 20 year old doll eventually became an amputee and I realised it was the perfect excuse for me to make her a new one. Yay! 

I had seen these online a while ago, and was pretty excited to have a chance at making them. I was going to get carried away and make a stack of them, but then I pulled my head in. I'm dead with windows and Christmas coming already. No sense making it worse. 

I pretty much stuck to the pattern, just made the body a little longer and added some modesty clothes onto the doll so she wouldn't be naked. In a stroke of fabulous luck, she was the perfect size for the clothes that mum had made for the other doll so she had an instant wardrobe. 

Sophie was pretty happy to play with her no matter what though. When I gave her to her, I did ask her what we should call her. 

"Doll," Sophie replies.

"But what should her name be?" I insist.


You win some, you loose some. Oh well. Here is Sophie with Doll. 

Friday, December 05, 2014

Jesus in Christmas

At church on Sunday, as it was a fifth Sunday, Neil coordinated the service and shared the message. When he does a devotion at our deacon's meetings, I tend to really appreciate them, and this message was another great one. The whole service in fact was full of really great scripture grounding. So rich in the Word of God.

Let me explain.

The service involved a stack of Christmas carols, unsurprising given the time of year, but before each carol, was read a section of the bible. We could really see where some of the references that we hear all of the time in the songs, actually came from. Really good to revisit what the bible tells us about the coming of Jesus as a baby, and what his purpose will be on earth.

Neil's message followed this theme, focusing on where Jesus is in each book of the bible. I found it so fabulous just to dwell on who Jesus is. He is so many things! There is really no way we can describe all that the Son of God is, because our vocabulary just does not suffice.

I did want to post some of the message here, and indeed, I copied it in with the intent of just selecting a few sections for you to read and thus understand what I was talking about, but I found as I read it, it was just too great. God is just too much to be contained by a fragment of something (even a fragment that is the whole message).

So I've copied it all for you in the hopes that you find it as inspiring and encouraging as I did. I hope that the message of Jesus resonates with you, oh internet people, as we come up to Christmas, so much so that you see past the baby in a manger, to the King of the world.

Jesus in Every Book

In Genesis, Jesus is the seed of the woman who crushes the devil.
Exodus, he is our Passover lamb whose blood saves us
Leviticus, Jesus is our high priest who makes atonement for our sin
Numbers, the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that lead to salvation.
In Deuteronomy, he is the prophet greater than Moses.

In Joshua, Jesus is the captain of our salvation.
Judges, he is our judge and lawgiver.
Ruth, he is our redeemer.
I Samuel, he breaks the bows of the mighty and raises the poor from the dust
II Samuel, he is the descendant of David who reigns forever
I Kings, he is the wisdom greater than Solomon
II Kings, he is fulfilment of the covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
1 Chronicles, he is the covenant that lasts 1000 generations
In II Chronicles, Jesus is rebuilder of the house of God
In Ezra, Jesus is the rebuilder of the temple of our heart.
In Nehemiah, he is the rebuilder of the broken down walls of our lives.
Esther, he is the response to our cries for help.

In Job, Jesus restores our broken relationship with God.
Psalms, he’s our shepherd.
Proverbs, he’s the Wisdom that formed the world
Ecclesiastes, he’s the Wisdom that gives us life.
Song of Solomon, he’s the lover of our souls.

In Isaiah, Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
Jeremiah, the righteous branch of Jesse
Lamentations,  he’s the comfort for those who mourn
Ezekiel, he’s the glory of God displayed among the nations
Daniel, his kingship shall never be destroyed

In Hosea, Jesus is the forgiving redeemer of an unfaithful people
Joel, the giver of the Holy Spirit.
Amos, the builder of the city of God.
Obadiah, the messenger who prepares us for battle
Jonah, the first born of the dead.
Micah, the ruler of all ages
Nahum, the one who brings good tidings and proclaims peace
Habakkuk, the saviour of God’s anointed people
Zephaniah, he has taken away judgement from us
Haggai the destroyer of earthly kingdoms
Zechariah, he takes away the guilt from God’s people
Malachi, the sun of righteousness, with healing in his wings.

In Matthew Jesus is the king of the Jews.
Mark, the servant King
Luke, the son of man.
John, the son of God.
Acts, the giver of the Holy Spirit.

In Romans Jesus is the righteousness of God.
I Corinthians, the giver of gifts
II Corinthians, the triumphant one,giving victory.
Galatians, the liberator of our souls..
Ephesians, the head of the church.
In Philippians, Jesus is our joy.
Colossians, the head of all things.
I Thessalonians, the encourager of our faith
II Thessalonians, our hope.
I Timothy, our faith.
II Timothy, our stability.
In Titus, Jesus is truth.
Philemon, our covenant friend.
Hebrews, the messenger of the new covenant.
James, the Great Physician.
I Peter, the cornerstone.
II Peter, our purity.
I John, Jesus is Light
2 John, he is Life
3 John,  he is truth
Jude, he knows us all by name.
In Revelation, Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords,

He is the first and the last, beginning and the end; He is the keeper of creation and the creator of all. He is the architect of the universe and the manager of all time

Jesus always was, he always is, he always will be, unmoved, unchanged, undefeated and never undone. Jesus was bruised and bought healing, He was pierced and eased pain. He was persecuted and brought freedom, He was dead and brought life. He is risen and brings power; He reigns and brings peace.

He is life, love, longevity, and Law. He is goodness, kindness, gentleness, and love. He is holy, righteous, mighty, powerful, and good. His way is right, his words eternal, His love unchanging, and he is always on our side.

He is our redeemer, He is our saviour, he is our God. He is our priest, he is our joy, he is our comfort, he is our Law and our Gospel. Jesus is all we need, now and forever.


Neil's message was adapted from this website.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cardboard Houses

This post is long overdue, but my foray into the wonderful world of cardboard has been pretty adventurous and remarkable. It all began with Sophie's first cardboard house, which was, I'll admit, a pretty quick hash job. Then came that mysterious-other-cardboard-things I'd been working on, which I mentioned here, and you all know about Bear's Castle.

Now I'm finally getting my act together and letting you know what exactly that mysterious interlude in the middle was. Cardboard houses! Ground breaking, I know, but did you realise that there were so many cardboard houses that it could be called a Village? I thought not. (Though, Steve informs me that I'd need a lot more houses to equate an actual village, but I think in child standards, there were enough for a village. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

So the story behind these houses is that we were having an event or two that would include several small children, and older children, and I thought that a really cool thing for them all to play in, with rather minimal input from parents, would be a village of cardboard houses. I was not too wrong, though they were less used than I had originally anticipated. Not sure why. In any case, they were still used and are still being used, so I feel like the original mission is a success.

These shots are from when the houses were taking shape under the house. I was ducking off down there during nap time for about a week to get them ready. I did have grand plans to wall paper them and paint them to make them extra cool, but the window saga overtook those plans somewhat. 

There was something about making these though, that really bought out the teacher in me. "This one can have circular windows, and that one can have square!" I spent a considerable amount of time trying to make sure I had included several different shapes and different door styles to promote lots of learning. "Let it go, Paula," I also told myself on several occasions. "Not everything is learning, some things are just fun." 

Moving on. 

This was one side of the roofing for the house on the very far right in the top picture. It took forever to get together, because those cardboard bits (that came in the speaker boxes dad gave me) were really thick. And heavy. I ended up drilling holes in them and sewing them together with a very strange needle I had picked up from who knows where. And then it was too heavy for the actual house and needed supports made. And then, when the kids were playing with it, it got knocked over and fell off anyway. Sigh. Dad assures me that with a bit more tweaking, we could get it sitting right, but oh well. 

Image © Melissa Ordoñez

I don't actually have a photo of the all the houses together in their useful glory from earlier this month, but here are a few shots of kids playing in them. 

Image © Melissa Ordoñez

I look at these photos and wonder, did Sophie actually go into the houses? Or did she just observe others in them? 

Image © Melissa Ordoñez

In any case, the houses were back under the house until last week, when, given that it was raining, I thought it would be a great idea to take some to my local playgroup for the kids there to use. The mum's there were suitably impressed, and raved for the first twenty minutes about how great they were. Then, after an altercation between some boys, I'm sure they were all thinking how annoying they were and wishing I hadn't bought them after all.

Sophie and I were checking some things out after the big bad storm of Thursday and she found the final two there, so I bought one up into the house for her to play with.

I'm not sure what's happened to that roof, but she seems comfortable and we have since spent lots of time decorating her new house. Win.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Sleeping Bag Mark 2 and Thoughts on Life

It is now a fairly hot hot summer, and though Sophie sleeps rather successfully in a big bed, she is yet to learn to stay under the covers. Oh well. In the mean time, we've been using sleeping bags to keep her warm at night. Suffice to say, you don't need much in the current heat.

All of Sophie's sleeping  bags however were firstly too small, and secondly too thick. Thus, I decided she could use another. This one I made super long (too long to get a good photo of actually). the full width of the material - just over a metre. I was using some material that mum had bought me from Japan for the front (and a matching color from who knows where for the back), so it was pretty basic, but I jazzed it up with a color block on the front.

And, I sewed it on mum's mmachineHarriet the Husqvana and so found myself able to do some fancy stitches for that extra pretty look.

Shiny right? If I had Harriet the Husqvana I'm not sure I could contain myself. I doubt there would be boring straight stitched hems ever again. Good thing Harriet belongs to mum, or I'd never have the time for anything else. :P

Anyway, with the crazy storm of last night (which blew off sections of the walling of the lower part of our house and smashed a wing mirror of our car), and the remnants of the window operation still to complete, I am finding I have less and less time for leisure activities. Why God? I find myself asking. I love doing these things but have no time!

And more and more I find the answer is that actually, I have everything I need. In abundance. Because God is good, all the time. While I may never sew all of the wonderful things I wish to, or build all of the cardboard houses I dream of, I have life to the full in Jesus. How good is it to remember his promises and the richness of the life we have with God?

Friday, November 21, 2014


So most cot sheets come with a tiny matching pillow cases which are pretty much completely useless because babies are not supposed to use pillows until they are at least one. While other people may toss these scraps of material away, I look at them as an exciting sewing opportunity. Hooray!

Just before Rachel's Dedication I made her a pair of overalls out of one of these pillow cases. First time I've ever made overalls (snaps yo!), which I just made by tracing around a pair of overalls that she currently has, with adjustments of course. Now, when she takes a nap in her cute new overalls, she blends in with the bed sheets.

Sherlock would be proud.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Story of Bear's Castle

Once upon a time, there was a bear. His name was Bear. He was brown and soft and cuddly.

Unfortunately, Bear did not have a place to live. One day, a good fairy noticed that this lovely bear did not have a place to live, and, using her cardboard magic, made a home for Bear.

The home was not just a house, but a castle. It had a drawbridge and battlements and little windows to see outside. Over the drawbridge, the good fairy painted "Bear's Castle" so that everyone would know that this castle belonged to Bear. Bear liked his castle, which was just the right size for him.

Sadly, no sooner had Bear moved into the castle, when a giant came along! The giant saw Bear's Castle and thought it would be a good place for her to live instead of Bear. First, the giant squeezed inside, pushed bear over, and eventually, threw him out the drawbridge.

Poor Bear!

Even worse, once the giant realised that she could not actually fit in Bear's Castle properly or comfortably, she climbed out again and left it ruined on the ground.

Luckily, the good fairy was still around and saw this travesty happen. The good fairy spoke to the giant for a long time about not taking other people's castles. When the giant realised what she had done, she was sorry and gave Bear a big cuddle. Bear forgave the giant.

Then the giant and Bear decided they should live together forever. With the help of the good fairy, Bear's Castle was rebuilt and the giant was even allowed a quick visit.

And they lived happily ever after.

The end.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Kiwi Fruit Cake, Among Other Things

I didn't think the day would come, but at last, all of our windows are back in their original places! Hooray! While some of these windows still don't close properly, or still need fixtures attached to them, at least they are all in the frames. They keep the wind out and let the light in. They are fabulous. Ahh, windows. (Read about the window saga here if you missed it or want a re-fresher).

While waiting for the windows to be back in (it's a two person job, so Steve and I were both required to do it) I've been busy doing other things. Like playing with goo. 

And making kiwi fruit cake for my kiwi friends who came to visit last week. 

And working on some stellar cardboard creations soon to be finished!

Mostly I've been busy. Sorry I haven't blogged, but this is life. Maybe after Rachel's Dedication and Steve's birthday this weekend are over I'll be a bit more regular. Or after the next weekend when we are going away camping (yes I said camping with small children). Or maybe after we've got the fly screens in. Or new curtains. Or Christmas. 

Or maybe never. That's more likely.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Something Simple

While the windows have been an arduous and extended work in progress, I've been passing the nights away with a little bit of simple hand sewing. My older sister is due to have a baby any day now, and I had a sudden inspiration to make her a mobile for the bub's room.

I just used some left over felt I had lying around, so at first, the only colours were the pink, white and caramel. Given that we've no idea what the baby will be, I added a blue moon among the stars to help balance things out a little. Each star, and the moon, was hand stitched with blanket stich around the edge and then stuffed a little before finishing.

I really like the finished result (though I haven't trimmed the strings yet, just in case the lengths need a bit more adjusting). It was seriously hard to get a good photo of, because there was no way I could hang it against a plain back ground (and the wind was blowing through the doors as I tried to photograph as well, which I could fix by closing them, only to have my only source of natural light be taken away completely).

I finished it up last Thursday, rather than cleaning the bathroom. Somehow it was just a little bit more important.

Monday, October 20, 2014


I could never live in a cave. Steve assures me that had I grown up in a cave, I could certainly survive there, but I disagree. There is such little light, no air flow and everything feels depressing in a cave. How could I possibly know this? I hear you asking. Well for the last four weeks, I've been living in a cave.

Steve and I knew that the windows of our house needed to be repainted and puttied when we bought the house and moved in four years ago, but after painting the walls, painting the trims, renovating the bathroom, having the kitchen re-done, and painting and knocking out a wall, we were a little done with renovations for a while (not to mention all the backyard stuff we've done). Then we had kids.

Then we had last summer, which was unbelievably hot. And when Bob the Wasp made his usual home in the kitchen again, it was really time for us to begin facing the facts that to survive summer, we needed the windows open, but for child safety, we also needed some way of keeping friendly insects like Bob the Wasp out. Thus began Operation Windows.

We decided we'd do magnetic fly screens, because they seemed easy enough, and would work well with our old school swing out windows. But there is no point sticking magnetic fly screens on windows that need to be repainted, just to have to take them off again when the painting happens. So before the fly screens, we needed to fix the windows.

I had a stack of tradies give me quotes about these windows early in the year. Like in March. Re-painting them in, and out of the frames, weather it was lead paint or not. Then we realised that all our spare single-income-family money was currently tied up in having a second child and the whole thing got put on hold for a while. Thankfully, Centerlink came through with some payments at Tax Return time, and we realised we had the cash.

In the end, we found a guy who would strip the paint off, sand and re-putty the windows for a good amount. We just had to take them out and give them to him. No problems (except for the old screws that kept breaking, or being impossible to get out. So thankful for the help we had to do this!). While they were gone, the plan was to sand and repaint the frames. Steve took a week off work to help out (this means we are officially old). Lots of people babysat Sophie. Everything was in full swing.

Then, the windows didn't come back as we expected them to. They took longer. And when they did come back, the hinges didn't. (Granted, I did need to paint the windows anyway, but it was certainly an inconvenience.) On top of this, when we had gone to Bunnings to get the ply which would cover our window openings for the duration of Operation Windows, the guy (after checking with us three times how we wanted them cut) cut them 4cm too short, and so we have a slight gap a the edge of each window.

This created a nice draft in Sophie's room predominately, and has given her several colds over the last four weeks. Which she has shared with most of us at various point. Including Rachel. The latest cold has come with a nasty cough, and it has been pretty sad to lie awake at night listening to two little girls (one of whom is only four months old) cough. Not to mention that I'm feeling too tired to paint the last eight windows that are sitting under the house waiting for me. It's hard work to look after two sick girls.

Saturday, two days ago, we managed to put the first set of windows back in. The dining room is now flooded with light. Oh, what a difference it makes. Not only can we open the windows at will (without the aid of a drill and a second set of hands to hold the ply steady), the breeze comes in, the light shines through. Everything is that much better and that much brighter.

I have stopped and gazed in admiration at these windows several times in the last two days. They are shiny and white. They let in the outside. They function as they are supposed to. Hooray! Windows! I could never live in a cave. It's just too dark when God has given us such wonderful light.