28.4.16

making peg dolls :: new paperback edition!



There is some exciting news in the world of peg dolls!  My first book, Making Peg Dolls, has been reprinted yet again, and this time Hawthorn Press has issued it in paperback.  The layout inside the new edition is the same as the hard cover, however the paperback version feels fresh & modern, and the cover has a new tag-line, "Over 60 fun, creative projects for children and adults." 


Inside, there is a fancy jacket-flap with photos and text...


And, of course, all the excitement over the new edition has inevitably led to a session of peg doll painting.



Thank you to everyone who has purchased a copy of one (or both) of my books; your support is deeply appreciated!  And now a request: if you haven't already done so, it would be amazing if you could possibly write a review on Amazon, A Child's Dream, Bella Luna Toys or any other online store which stocks my books.  Fair and honest reviews help immensely with book sales; this keeps publishers in business, which, in turn, enables authors to write more books (hint, hint)!  My gratitude always... xo

20.4.16

something soft



Tomorrow my little one is having surgery to correct his herniated belly button.  I fussed at the pediatrician, "His belly button has been fine, just as it is, for nearly 6 years -- why should we fix it now!?" However both he and the consulting surgeon agreed that there was risk of a small section intestine becoming trapped in the opening. 

For the hospital visit, I decided that my son should have something soft to snuggle, so I used this fabric (which I purchased for this project) to sew a "sleepy heart" inspired by drawings he's created.  I wanted to make the mouth smiling, but my son insisted on a round, snoring mouth; he even demonstrated, with his own face, exactly how the stuffed heart should look.


Actually, what I really wanted to do was surprise him on the morning of the surgery with these new soft toys, but I've had a horrible cold, so by the time my little son is in bed (and I am free to work in secret), I've also needed to go to bed.  In a way it was fortuitous because my son truly enjoyed helping with this project: arranging the pins in my pin cushion, lowering and lifting the foot on the sewing machine and stuffing the toys.


I will miss my little one's funny, bulgy belly button, but at least we have some new friends who will join us at the hospital and cheer us along.


P.S. The new kitty is named Charlie because it looks just like our real kitty (also named Charlie) who follows us around the house purring & demanding we nuzzle his ears.

P.P.S.  I would refer you to the book where I found the pattern for this kitty, but the pattern design was so horrible, that I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this book or pattern to anyone.  In fact, I'm thinking of donating the book to the local library bookshop, but then someone else might buy it, suffer though the terrible pattern & instructions, and, despite meticulous effort, end up with an oddly shaped stuffed toy.  I might have to shred the book.

18.4.16

garden stepping stones :: tutorial re-post


 

After allowing our vegetable garden to lie fallow the past two years due to drought in California, we decided to plant a modest garden: 3 tomato plants and 6 blue-lake green bean vines.  With careful, targeted irrigation through a drip system, we hope our little plot won't require too much water.


I was so excited to once again fill this dedicated vegetable garden space with green things that I decided to do some sprucing up and make our little plot a festive place. I planted a passel of climbing nasturtiums to fill in & ramble over the spaces we would not be planting...


And also decided that some new stepping stones were in order... hence a repeat of this tutorial from last May.


MATERIALS REQUIRED
An assortment of glass tiles & flattened glass marbles

Clear vinyl pot saucers (we used these)

A bag of cement. Try to get the kind of cement that is smooth -- i.e. no little rocks.  By accident, I bought cement which is full of little rocks and it's annoying -- not as easy to work with.

A bucket for mixing cement

A plastic bag for lining the bucket (optional)

Rubber gloves and some cleaning rags


STEP 1 :: Line your bucket with a plastic garbage bag for easier clean up (this is optional). Scoop several cups of cement into your bucket. Add water and stir. For best results, put on rubber gloves and mix by hand.  Keep adding small amounts of water or cement as needed until the cement is the approximate consistency of thick cake batter.

STEP 2 ::  Scoop cement into your clear vinyl pot saucers until 1 cm below the brim.

STEP 3 ::  Have children add tiles & marbles, etc... to decorate.  Be sure the items are pressed in firmly with the edges slightly submerged or the items might fall out once the cement is dry.

STEP 4 ::  Once the design is completed, use a damp rag to gently wipe any cement smudges off the tops of the tiles and marbles.

STEP 5 ::  Allow to dry several days, remove from the molds and find homes for your beautiful stepping stones in the garden.

7.4.16

re-post :: monarch butterfly peg doll tutorial



All the caterpillars inching around my garden have me thinking about butterflies; so last Friday I re-posted my butterfly brooch tutorial and today I'm re-posting this tutorial for monarch butterfly peg dolls.  I developed the tutorial last summer for a camp where my older son was a counselor and my younger son was participating as a camper.  As you can see from the photos, the butterflies created by the children created were truly delightful.

 

The local monarch butterfly population has recently flown off to areas where they will lay their eggs, and they will return here (to California) in late summer.  Meanwhile, we can enjoy these monarch butterfly peg dolls...


SUPPLIES
-- A blank peg doll base, any size

-- A black Sharpie-marker (I usually paint my
    dolls however, for the purposes of this camp
    project, we decided that a black marker would
    be easier for the younger children to control.
    Feel free to use marker or paint -- whichever
    you prefer.)

-- Thick white acrylic paint

-- Colored pencils - black and red

-- A tiny amount of black felt

-- A millinery flower stamen
    (colored black with a Sharpie)

-- A clip-art image of monarch butterfly wings

 -- PVA or other white craft glue

-- Scissors


STEP 1 :: Whenever I'm doing a project based on specific animal from nature, the first thing I do (or should do, at any rate) is look at photographs.  Going into this project, I knew that monarch butterflies had black bodies, but it somehow escaped my notice that their bodies had white polka dots, too.  It's a good thing I looked at some photos, right? Right.


STEP 2 ::  Using a Sharpie or other black marker, draw a large oval or circle around the "face" of your peg doll.


STEP 3 :: Use your black Sharpie/marker to fill in all the areas on your doll except the face (note: you can use paint on your doll, but for the purposes of this camp project, we used Sharpies).  

Now might also be a good time to paint the white polka dots on the body of your doll. I forgot to do this and so added them later.


STEP 4 ::  Add a face to your doll.  Pencils are easier to control than paint or even markers, and so children will usually have more success drawing a face on their doll when using pencils. You can see in the photo above that I like using pencils to draw faces sometimes, too.

(Oops.  Still forgot to add those white polka dots.  If you haven't already painted the dots, go ahead. Grab that thick white acrylic paint and add them to your doll. Or wait until later.)


STEP 5 ::  If you haven't yet colored your flower stamen with a black Sharpie, go ahead and do this. Then cut a circle of felt, small enough to fit on the back of the head of your peg doll.

Fold your millinery flower stamen in half and place a dab of glue on the felt circle. Put the bend of the stamen into the glue, and then glue the felt circle & stamen to the back of your peg doll's head.


STEP 6 :: Use glue to attach clip-art monarch butterfly wings to the back of your doll.  There are good clip-art wings here and here, or you can use Google to find many others. There are also some good choices for wings at craft shops; I used these die-cut, cardstock butterfly wings which were stashed in my craft cupboard.  Something like this, this or this might work, too.

Another idea would be to draw your own wings and add color with crayon, pencil, markers or paint.


STEP 7 ::  Look!  I finally remembered to paint white polka dots on the body of my butterfly!


This project would make a wonderful addition to lessons about butterfly life cycles, the amazing migration patterns of monarchs and the importance of preserving the habitats of these gorgeous pollinators. You can find lots of information at this website here, and for additional lesson planning, I think this book is particularly lovely. This video on YouTube is also quite wonderful.


1.4.16

re-post :: butterfly brooch tutorial



All the caterpillars inching their way along the leaves in my garden put me in mind of the butterflies into which they will soon transform; and so I thought it might be nice to re-post this tutorial from March 2014.


SUPPLIES

Small scraps of felt in at least three colors

Embroidery floss and a needle

Fabric scissors

Safety pins


To start, I cut the larger circles approx. 33 mm (1 1/4 inches) wide and the smaller circles approx. 27 mm (1 1/8 inches) wide.  The butterfly wings are 40 mm (1 1/2 inches) across.  Depending on your preference, you could cut your pieces slightly larger.


The butterflies are attached to the smaller felt circles by the stitches which form their bodies.  To embroider the bodies, I made one long stitch down the center of each butterfly, and then, on either side of the long stitches, I made stitches which were half the length (see photo above).

The heads are large French knots, and the antennae are stitched using a single strand separated from a piece of 6-strand embroidery floss.


After the heads & bodies were embroidered, I used an applique stitch to sew the smaller circles to the larger circles.



The final step is to carefully sew a safety pin to the back of the brooch; or if you are thinking ahead, you could sew the pin to the larger felt circle before you sew together the larger and smaller circles.


And that's it... you're done! 

24.3.16

purim



Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim so I baked hamentashen using a basic sugar cookie recipe (like this one) plus whatever jam I happened to have in the refrigerator (this week, Four Fruits Preserves from Bonne Maman).  However, Deb Perelman of the blog Smitten Kitchen posted this amazing recipe for apricot hazelnut brown butter hamentaschen, and next year I might have to try it.

Happy Purim!

21.3.16

tutorial :: dream catcher


My sons attend a Charter School where families are invited to volunteer as much as they wish (or are able), which adds a richness to the educational community; I volunteer by co-facilitating a series of hand-craft seminars for the kindergarten and first grade classes.  In our seminars, the children decorate peg dolls, construct peg doll houses from boxes, and learn to use a French knitting machine, but the favorite craft this year has been making dream catchers.

I start off by explaining to the classes that dream catchers were woven by the grandfathers and grandmothers of the Ojibwa, Chippewa and Lakota Native American Indian Tribes for their grandchildren.  The dream catchers were hung above beds, and children would be comforted by the idea that bad dreams could be caught in the spider's web at the center of the dream catcher, while good & peaceful dreams would filter down through the feathers fluttering at the bottom.


SUPPLIES
Hemp, jute or paper wrapped 18 gauge floral wire (we use THIS)

Blunt metal tapestry needles

Yarn of various colors

A wire cutter

Scissors

Feathers

Beads


STEP 1 :: Use a wire cutter to cut your hemp or jute wrapped floral wire into 36 inch (1 meter) lengths and then twist the lengths into circles approx. 5 inches (13 cm) in diameter. Once your circle is formed, twist the remaining ends around the circle (see photos above).

STEP 2 :: Cut 4 ft. lengths of yarn, and thread onto needles (if you are making one dream catcher, you will need only one piece of yarn and one needle, however, for a class of children, you will, of course, need yarn and needles for all the children!).

This is a great opportunity to teach children to tie knots.  Have the children knot the ends of their yarn to a spot on the dream catcher, and then show them how to find a loop between the wires at the opposite sides of their circles, and pull their needle through the small loop of wire (see photo above).

If the children would like to add beads, show them how to thread a bead over their needle before they run the needle through a loop on the opposite side of their dream catcher circle.

After each child has finished weaving a spider web inside their dream catcher, you will have to help them secure the end of their yarn with a knot (leaving enough yarn at the end to tie a loop for hanging).  Once the end of the yarn is secured, the children can slide the beads around in an arrangement which pleases them.


STEP 3 :: Cut 3 lengths of yarn per dream catcher, approx. 8 inches (20 cm) each, and tie a feather to one end. Then tie the yarn to the bottoms of the dream catchers (a great opportunity for the children to practice their knot-tying skills).


STEP 4 :: After the children have admired their fine work, it's fun to ask them questions about their dreams and also have them draw pictures of their dreams.  Then the children can take their dream catchers home and hang them above their own beds.


20.3.16

caterpillar



Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry,
Take your walk
To the shady leaf, or stalk,
Or what not,
Which may be the chosen spot.
No toad spy you,
Hovering bird of prey pass by you;
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.


-- Christina Rosetti


Happy first day of spring...

17.3.16

every person has a story :: heather von st. james



Every person has a story. For me, listening to (or reading) someone's story invariably touches my heart and sometimes leaves a feeling a resonance.  Last week, my path crossed with Heather Von St. James and I felt that resonance (if you are not familiar with my own story, you can read about it HERE and HERE).


Cancer is a subject which everyone has some sort of tie to. Many chalk cancer prevention up to things like avoiding secondhand smoke, and eating healthier foods; however, few people are aware that you can also be exposed to household toxins without realizing that it may later cause cancer.  Heather was exposed to asbestos fibers as a little girl. She liked to help in the garden while wearing her father’s work jacket and was inhaling toxic fibers which later developed into a rare cancer called mesothelioma. Had her family been aware of the poison she was exposed to, this could have been prevented and her family would have been spared so much heartache.

Luckily, Heather is one of the few who has survived mesothelioma, and she is now a 10 year survivor. This year, March 20th to the 26th is Poison Prevention Week, and Heather is sharing her story and promoting a helpful info-graphic to spread awareness about common household toxins in hope that it will prevent this from happening to another family.

More than two million poisonings are reported each year, and 90% of these occur in the home. There are so many places within the home where you can find toxins, such as in plastic water bottles, flame retardant chemicals and unnecessary chemicals in certain types of laundry detergent. The presence of BPA, phthalates, and asbestos can also affect the health of lungs, brain, and reproductive system. During this week and at all times of the year it is so important to be aware in order to keep yourself and your family healthy. Living a preventative lifestyle is absolutely doable and will only have a more positive influence on your health and the health of your family down the road.

http://www.mesothelioma.com/images/blog/posts/Poison_Prevention.jpg

If you’d like to learn more about common household toxins, you can have a look at this info-graphic which Heather and The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance compiled. Click HERE for a better view and to print out the info-graphic. On behalf of Heather and her campaign to promote awareness, I hope you will share and spread the word about Poison Prevention Week!

14.3.16

blueberry crumble pi


Happy Pi Day!  To celebrate, I'm planning to make pizza pi for supper and have just baked a blueberry crumble pi (fondly referred to as humble crumble pie) for dessert.

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup raw/turbinado sugar
     (plus 1 TBL for sprinkling)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp lemon zest
1 TBL lemon juice
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2 tsp corn starch

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat oven to 375 F.  Butter and flour a shallow pie dish or tart pan (you can also cover the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment paper and then butter the parchment if you wish).

Whisk together the flour, 1/2 cup turbinado sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Whisk the egg, lemon zest and vanilla in a small bowl, dice the butter into small cubes and then add the diced butter and egg mixture into the mixing bowl with the dry ingredients.  Use a fork (or your fingers) to cut the cubes of butter into the dry ingredients until your dough mixture resembles coarse crumbs with pea-sized bits of butter.

Scoop HALF the dough mixture into your prepared pan, and use your fingers to gently press it evenly into the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Put the berries into a medium sized bowl, sprinkle the corn starch, lemon juice and remaining 1/4 cup turbinado sugar (you can use less sugar if you prefer) over the berries. Toss gently with a spoon and then arrange the berries in an even layer over the dough in the pan.  Squeeze the remaining dough mixture with your fingers to form some larger clumps, then distribute the clumps & crumbs in a layer over the berries.  Sprinkle a tablespoon of turbinado sugar over the top and place in the pre-heated oven for approx. 35 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the berries are bubbling a bit around the edges.

 

Allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting wedges.  Serve with scoops of vanilla ice cream (and eat the leftovers for breakfast with tea).

13.3.16

sarah's silks



We love Sarah's Silks.
Love. Love. Love.


We love the parachute toys, the skytails, the wizard star cape, and the giant rainbow Silk Scapes (one of these Silk Scapes even made appearances on pages 62 and 65 in my first book)!


So imagine my surprise when I received an email about a month ago from Sarah herself asking whether I would be willing make a few sample peg dolls to help highlight a new product she was launching.  My answer? Yes!  I'd be honored and pleased.


Sarah's new product is a Mini-Playhouse Kit.  The kit includes a wooden base, a 10"x 20" play silk, two rope arches, two wooden peg people, plus wool and silk pieces for decorating the people and furnishing the house.  You can purchase the kit via the Sarah's Silks website and it should be available soon on other sites as well (plus right now, Sarah is offering an Easter Sale 20% off coupon code).  Do you love Sarah's Silks as much as we do?  What's your favorite silk toy?


note: I received no compensation whatsoever for endorsing the products of Sarah's Silks.  All opinions expressed in this blog post are entirely my own.