Wednesday, 31 December 2008

How we keep Jeff amused

So I'm shopping, cooking and crafting, and we're all swimming. But what special activity does Jeff get to do? Well, he's helped Pop fix the ancient pool filter (which has included ordering a diode from America over the internet), but in his spare time, we're letting him do jigsaws! This one is a fabulous "Wasgij", where the jigsaw is a big variation on the illustration on the box - different point of view, or fifty years later... they are full of visual gags, and very well done. They are made in New Zealand (yay for our neighbours making world-class jigsaw puzzles).

It's educational!

We took the kids, and Jeff's brother, and his two kids, to Scitech today. That's the science museum, though it looks more like a fun park. We had a ball, as usual - we go every year. Here's Catriona enjoying the Bernoulli effect ...

And Jonathan doing the same thing...

Both these two have taught themselves to dive into the pool this summer - Thomas was already good at it.

Goin' Shopping

Shopping in Perth on holidays is a bit of a tradition. The lovely Alice took me out to Stamp-It, Collins Craft, Scraptivate and a few others (and I took myself to Stamp Deco the next day). We are running a bit short of full stamp shops in Melbourne, so it was wonderful to see Stamp-it in full flight, with a Magenta bargain bin (no less). Magenta are a cool Canadian stamp company with a distictive style - they're bargain bin material only because the distributorship details have changed. So I got two pretty stamps from there, plus a PSX stamp from the other bin. Yes, an actual, non-second-hand PSX stamp, still out there in the wild! I guess they are out there.

Stamp Deco are refurbishing NEXT week, so THIS week is a very good time to do some shopping - 40% off all punches, and still a lot in stock. I haven't bought any new Carl punches for a while (mainly because EK Success are so nice to use) but I adored the
 rooster punch this time. Has that been in the range for years?  Because I never noticed it! Well, I own it now. And a small rectangle. Those basic shapes are - well, hard to get excited about, but you end up using them all the time. 
Carl rectangle punches are EXACTLY a 2 x 1 rectangle, so you can fold them over to make a square "book". 
That's good design right there, that is. 

So how big is YOUR trebuchet?

We do like to make stuff. One of the Christmas presents this year was a fabulous model trebuchet. A what? Watch Lord of the Rings (third film, Minas Tirith battle) and you'll know. Basically, a war machine for hurling heavy stuff at the enemy - it uses a counterweight, so there's no need for gigantic rubber bands (which can be hard to come by in a war zone). Just another example of physics helping us.

This one is only big enough to fling a pebble. It's very satisfying.

I met the gent who makes these kits at a local market. He sells them on ebay too though, so have a look here if you think you can afford less than $20 worth of fun.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Cupcake Party!

What's better than a cupcake?  A cupcake with a hat on!

We got this idea from Cupcakes Take The Cake and did it straight away! Every cake decorated with its own kid-coloured hat. What did they taste like? Who cares! They had hats on!

Friday, 26 December 2008

Boxing Day Sanity Art

I've established long ago that one of the things that keeps me sane is Making Things. Greeting cards, salads, model trebuchets, it really doesn't matter what. So today, I've indulged in some Boxing Day Art.

So, you're visiting relatives, with not much in the way of art supplies? Just use this handy checklist:

Corn Flakes Box - Check!
Bottle of glue - Check! (Pop will have one in the garage if you didn't bring one)
Old Magazine - last week's Sunday supplement will work - Check!
Star Punch - Check! 
- You don't really travel with a star punch, do you?
 - Duh.
Coloured pencils - Check! If these are not available, catch a small child and shake. Or go to an upscale coffee shop and ask for the kiddies pack for your "niece".

Cut up the cornflakes box into 2 1/2 inch by 3 1/2 inch rectangles.  That's if you're making ATCs.  Use some other size if you fancy postcards, or inchies, or whatever.

Start cutting and tearing up the magazine.

Glue stuff onto the cards.

Highlight with coloured pencil (really, it ties together unrelated bits, and it's very satisfying). If you start worrying about "doing it wrong", refer back to your list of materials. It was all headed for the recycling bin, so relax!

Leave in the sun to dry between layers. Works well in hot sunny Perth.

Cut out juicy phrases from the magazine and glue them on as if they were words of wisdom. Mine all came from the horoscope pages. Touch up with black permanent pen if you have one. Then photograph, put on your blog, and call it art!! Or at least, a morning well spent.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

A Perth Christmas

We are pooped! Champagne at breakfast time kind of wears you out later in the day. I retired by about 2pm for a good rest (watched part of a movie on my iPod, thanks, it was nice...). And bounced back ready for more Christmas as a result.

The true Gingerbread house got decorated some more (an enterprising 4 year old James decided some "logs" outside would be good. They were of course premium chocolates). Then it got eaten, by six cousins. Yum!

I scored a James Bond DVD for my collection (On Her Majesty's Secret Service - the only George Lazenby film) which I think is great! We've been on a 007 kick lately, and this will continue it nicely.

That's enough news for now - Kung Fu Panda is playing on the DVD player, and we know what fun that one is...

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Another Christmas Freebie

I'm sure some people would think this is pretty silly, but *I* got a kick out of it. I was using some self-adhesive postage stamps on Christmas cards, and noticed the wiggly bits of sticker left in between the stamps. Not wishing to waste them, I added a little decoration to one of the envelopes.

And who did I give it to? The post office staff (who've been delightful all year)!

Why we travel

This is why we travel, folks. Catriona plays the clarinet for Xanthe and James, while Connor and Mitchell look on occasionally (between computer games).

See? Told you we'd make another one!

That second gingerbread house has been made - not too much difficulty really. I made the parts yesterday (which is a bit easier than baking a standard batch of bikkies), and got my team onto decorating it today. 

So Jessamy, James, Xanthe, Catriona and Connor decorated the house with smarties, freckles and spearmint leaves. Very nice, only just a little messy.

And here's a useful organisational note - the cooked pieces of gingerbread all fit into a Tupperware Slice'n'Store - that's a standard slice container. Very handy to know when you need to put your house parts away overnight. 

Sunday, 21 December 2008

There's tomatoes here too!

We're safely installed at our holiday destination, and I'm happy to say there's fresh tomatoes here too. Nana's been growing them in the garden.

I made a dressing from fresh herbs, olive oil, and lemon juice. We have a lot of lemons. A real lot. Nana's already made lemon curd, lemon cordial, and is planning a lemon tart. And I told her the delights of roast potatoes with salt and lemon. Anyone got any more recipes?

This has been a practice to see if I can actually update my blog from here. So far so good.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Burp! And it's gone...

So then we ate the Gingerbread house. Yum, that was nice. We plan to make another one in Perth, visiting Nana. THAT one can be on display on Christmas Day.

A few nice people have asked for recipes and patterns. The gingerbread recipe I've used is from Taste magazine, and it's worked well for me.

The pattern came from a maths web site (of course). Here it is. Last link on the page. I printed the pattern, covered the paper on both sides with clear contact, and cut it out. Now I have a pattern I can keep. But it wouldn't be very hard to make your own - just think about what edges need to meet what edges. There's some maths for you.

And the glue is royal icing. Egg white and icing sugar, and a few drops of lemon juice to get it just thin enough to pipe. Then add lollies. Let it set! Royal icing becomes hard and crunchy, and makes very sturdy houses.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Great Christmas Freebie!

Wow! There's another freebie around! If you get a packet of 5 overseas Christmas stamps, they come in a neat self-adhesive format. There's air mail stickers together with the stamps - that's nice. This whole thing means that - the design on the packaging is ALL STICKER! So there's two nice big Christmas stars, and lots of pretty ornate background to punch out and use in craft projects. Here's two christmas cards I just made (I also used some gold-painted dictionary pages, and some gold sticker paper).

Thanks, Aussie Post!

I wonder what freebies come with the LOCAL stamps? That's tomorrow's job!

I knew it wouldn't last...

Catriona has finished school for the year, revelling in finishing before the primary scholars. Well, a few hours into her "holiday" she was at it again. Poor little tortoise, I knew he was destined for SOMETHING.

The Real Elephant Card

And here's my original Elephant card - what a hoot! Much effort went into deciding where to cut. Looks silly (or ghoulish) if you get it wrong.

The real crocodile card

Here's the snappy crocodile card I made a while back, putting some proper effort into it!

This guy's eating a bird! Will those birds never learn never learn?

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Children, look away!

I've been making headway with the Christmas cards. Not showing off the "pretty" ones yet (they are still getting addressed and sent, and I still have to get to the stage when I realise I need about 20 more). But here's two one-of-a-kind cards, for the children of one of Jeff's oldest friends. The one who got the Simpsons card himself, actually.

Little Miss is starting school this year, and is a nice, bright kid. Little Master is a few years older, and a "violent" boy - that's not meant in a pejorative way, it's age- and gender- appropriate for him. So ... how to turn out a couple of pretty cards for them, using the goodies I have around?

I decided on the sweet Wild About You stamp set from Stampin' Up. I made some really cool cards from this set for Chris, carefully using all SU products, so she could use them as samples. I hinged the heads so the croc snapped its jaws, and the elephant tooted its trunk. I did that here too, but I wasn't so fastidious this time; I used all sorts of scraps, and just did it for fun.

At stamp club recently I bought this great PSX santa hat stamp second hand from a lady who was cleaning up her stash. Santa hats are great - add them to anything and it makes them Christmassy.

So Little Miss gets a cute Elephant offering Santa his hat...

And Little Master gets a cute crocodile, burping up the hat!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Come into my house, little children!

We did it! We made a gingerbread house!

It took all weekend - we made the dough on Saturday, cut out the shapes on Sunday morning, baked them, and decorated after dinner. Not that much work really - we're keeping the pattern, and maybe making another one when we're visiting the relatives in Perth.

We thought we'd break it up and eat it this afternoon. So, if you happen to be in the area, with or without kids, just drop by and you might get some.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Totally stuffed!

Catriona took over the craft room the other day, and came out with this! It's "Lizzie". Quality scrap fabric probably from Reverse Art Truck; braid from some craft shop ages ago. Note that we keep bulk quantities of doll eyes on hand at all times.

My Christmas Colours

What do you think? I have my Prismacolor pencils arranged in cups (warm colours and cool colours) and I pulled out the ones that really appealed to me. For colouring the stamp I'm using this year, that is. There was no denying it, these ones WANTED to be picked!

A little Christmas Miracle

Yesterday was our final fundraiser at the kids' primary school. It was Pizza Day, and of course, I was organising. Much delegating, but in the end, when you are the one who DOES the delegating, you end up worrying about everything. I had delegated the order tallying and pizza ordering to very smart people, so instead I worried about the things I couldn't control. Would the pizza shop guy lose the order? Would it pour with rain just as we were collecting the pizzas? Would we get a parking spot near the pizza shop?

That last one is a real issue - the pizza shop is part of a big shopping center, and it's Christmas shopping time. Just the day before I'd TRIED to get a park at the same center, and had to leave! The basic plan was to double park, keep a driver in the car, and drive off if a parking dude comes. That's not a plan I can relax about though.

So I did what all smart managers do - I asked my whole committee to think good thoughts for me at 12.30 that day. Good car-park-opening thoughts.

One lovely lady replied by email that she would be praying for us.

We arrived at the shops, found the car park full as usual, but drove one lap around the nearest set of parking spots. AND - a car pulled out, just as we approached! About 10 metres from the pizza shop! Lots of cars coming the other way wanted it, but I had that determined look to my indicators, and that scared them off.

So, I'd say that's this year's Christmas Miracle. Must ask Nicole who she was praying to - it could get them a sainthood!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Write to Santa today!

Thomas wrote a letter to Santa this year (he's fully 10 years old, but decided it was best to get his requests in). And you know what? Santa wrote back!

His address, if you are not familiar with it, is :
Santa Claus
North Pole 9999

As you can see, Australia Post have allocated a postcode especially so that Santa gets his mail. So get your kids to write to him too - he's pretty quick on the replies. Just make sure the address is readable. Don't worry, Santa hasn't finished checking his "naughty" and "nice" lists yet (after all, he has to do it twice), so in his reply, he doesn't make any promises. The picture, however, reveals that SOME of the good kids are getting iPods! This is a small detail of Santa's postcard:

Well, I never! We didn't get iPods when I was a kid.

Stamp Popularity Poll part 6 and a nice cuppa

Tired of this theme yet? Nah, me neither!

Peacock and Winter are predictably winning the race, but there's been a shock move ahead by the Spaniel and the Cat in Mailbox. I knew they were up to something. All that cuteness, you could tell they were in league. Final results in a few hours, but for once I won't be at home to watch the results, election-day style.

Today is the best morning tea at the kids' school. It's the "Helpers Morning Tea". First time I got invited, I asked "Ok, what time should I be there to set up, and what do I bring?". Nope, this time, the teachers wait on us! Hope it's as nice as our at-home treats!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Stamp Popularity Poll part 5

Less than a day to go, and the votes are settling down. Peacock and Winter Village are equal first, and second place is held by the controversial Boxed Eye. Floral Chintz is surprising me with it's popularity - well, not surprising as such, it IS a great stamp. Remember, I'm judging "popularity" by how many people are WATCHING the auctions. Nothing to do with bidding - that can change at the last minute. I know, I've been sniped many a time. 'Course, I've done the sniping sometimes.

Now it's time to plug another of the not-leaders in this race. There's a Limited Editions stamp there, called a "Matchbox Marvel". It shows a mouse in a match box. That is, you stamp it, and use the stamped image to decorate a matchbox up as a little bed. And put a mouse in it. And the mouse's teddy and book. SOOOOOO CUUUUUUTE! A great afternoon's entertainment for a little girl. I know, that's what I did with it. This is a pretty old design, I think. Ooh, yes, 1996 I see. That counts as "old". I remember buying another similar Limited Editions stamps in my early days. It cost a fortune! It came with instructions! It was so cool!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Stamp Popularity Poll part 4

We're coming to the pointy end of the popularity contest. The Winter Village scene is trouncing everything and has a firm grip on first place.

Second place is held alone by the pretty Peacock.

Third place is shared by the two "Art Dreams" stamps. Interesting, huh? Pretty and classic first, followed by weird and arty.

And fourth place is taken by the cat, dog and wizard. And also the Siren's Journal, and the Floral Chintz. So that's a bit of everything.

And the Wild Pansy Heart, that phenomenal, huge PSX stamp, is still struggling to get into the rankings. I'm amazed! I'm shocked! I seriously don't want to sell it for 99c! I've added a direct link to it so you can go and see for yourself. Shameless promotion, I know. Any opportunity.

I almost bought MORE new stamps yesterday at the Trash & Treasure market. But they were all kid-style foam mounted stamps. I still looked - as you may know, SOME of the kids' stamps have nice images, on nice rubber, and if you can ease them off their ugly foam mounts, you can mount them on wood, or any other favourite method, and get something pretty nice. Actually, here's a photo of some "Bratz" stamps I bought weeks ago. Totally intended for kids, they do have some pretty pattern stamps, which came off the mounts easily. See that awesome paisley-style pattern? Sadly, it looks atrocious stamped. I'll show you later. Still, worth trying.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Stamp Popularity Poll part 3

It's Sunday morning in Melbourne, the sun's peeping out, and the birds are chirping. So what do I do to start the day?

Check my eBays of course! But not to see if I'm getting rich (not much chance of that), but to update the Popularity Poll. The stamps have been on display for most of a weekend, so that's a good time for their popularity votes to come in. Remember, I'm judging only by the numbers of watchers.

The PSX Winter Village has roared to the front, in a clear lead.

Second place is shared between the Peacock and the Siren's Journal.

In third place we have the Boxed Eye, the Wizard, the Floral Chintz, and the Spaniel (very disgruntled at his drop in rankings. Obviously there was a flurry of response to his breed, but no lasting interest in the fact that he's a stamp!).

The cat in the mailbox is way down in fourth place. Just as well, silly place for a cat.

In other news, I added three new stamps to MY collection. Nothing remarkable, but they were languishing in a $1 bag of toys at an op shop. I HAD to rescue them! The butterfly is early Hero Arts (1983, how's that!), quite pretty really, and sure to come back into fashion any day. And a Shepard Tigger is always welcome, foam mounted or not.

But you see what I mean about ins and outs?

Friday, 5 December 2008

Another squeaky toy...

Can all these squeaky toys PLEASE stop following me home? I'm trying to make some good honest Christmas cards, and now this guy's arrived on the desk.

Oh, alright, you can stay for now. But after Christmas we have to review. You'll either get given back to the op shop, or given the treatment...

This guy was 10c from the little church op shop. I also got a stack of baskets, which I'll give to the school for the kitchen - our cook complains she never has enough to display all the produce. Now THAT'S a project I can get behind...


I wish my mum was on the internet, 'cos then I could show her that I'm blogging about goosegogs! That's gooseberries to you. They just appeared in my local fruit & veg shop, and I'm thrilled. Stewed with a generous swirl of sugar, and very fond of being combined with sweeter fruits like apple, gooseberries are such a childhood memory. All you have to do to them is "top and tail" them, then cook them up in a rather small amount of water. But don't forget the sugar - we're talking a rhubarb level of tartness!

I had a little start this morning. Catriona left the house with lunchbox packed, and said "Thanks for getting grapes!". She's filled the fruit section of her lunchbox with nice fresh green grapes. Or were they?

Detective mum had to get on the job. Hmm, gooseberries seem to be accounted for, and grape container lid is loose. Yes, sounds like there's no need for an emergency SMS.

That's funny, I don't remember my mum ever sending me SMSs during the school day...

Stamp Popularity Poll part 2

As the week progresses, the positions in the popularity poll of the various stamps I'm selling alters.

The spaniel has dropped, and now shares equal second place with the cat in the mailbox:

and the Siren's Journal. Floral Chintz has crept up to also share second place. Now that's a pretty one, and kind of timeless. Although you have to wonder about the wisdom of coloured indexes (or indices) for stamps. That is, a coloured picture of what the stamp looks like. For a start, it never looks like that, and usually leads to frustration, especially amongst beginners.

Sharing first place we have the Boxed Eye, the Peacock, and the PSX Winter Village,

as well as newcomer to the race Dougherty's:

The PSX Wizard is stepping up to the plate and making a surprise raid on second place (but not there yet). His chances in this race have improved enormously since I added the CORRECT photo to the listing. He used to be stuck with a copy of the peacock photo.

And the PSX Pansy Heart really needs some support.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Stamp Popularity Contest

Since I'm selling a selection of stamps on eBay right now, I have the opportunity to do a little social research. Which designs are the most popular right now? As we know, it changes all the time, and fashions in stamping come and go (as they do in all things).

I'm judging "popularity" by how many people are watching each auction. Watching doesn't indicate any intention to bid, but it's a fair test of interest. Don't worry, I can't tell who's watching, that's concealed even from the seller.

So, the surprise winner so far in the Stamp Popularity Poll is :
The Toy English Spaniel. This stamp is made by PSX (the best quality), so that's in it's favour. As well, dog lovers may be interested in this one, even if they are not interested in any other stamps. That's what's probably pushed this into the illustrious number 1 spot.

Number two in the Poll is a draw between :
The Peacock. Back in the day, PSX made some pretty bird stamps, that were the same size and shape as their beloved "Botanical" stamps. This peacock isn't one of them, but it's a darned fancy stamp.

Equal second place also goes to :
The Winter Village Scene. Also made by PSX. The "scene" stamps seem to be pretty popular too. This is a big one, which naturally puts it in the desirable category.

Following these classic choices, in equal third place we see some contenders that are not quite as obvious. There's the mysterious Art Dreams "Boxed Eye" :

And an appearance from the oh-so-arty Acey Deucy, the "Siren's Journal" :

But don't worry, third place is also being shared by the cat in the mailbox!

Surprising me with its lack of popularity (at this early stage in the polling) is the truly amazing Wild Pansy Wreath by PSX:

This is a heck of a stamp. Put legs on it and it would make a nice side table. It's huge! And yet, still actually rather delicate. Nice to colour in, and you know how fond I am of that.

So there you go, we have another full six days to find out what's hot and what's not in stamps these days. Just as well there's no cartoon owls in my lot - that seems to be the favourite stamp image this year. Oh, and swirls.