Monday, May 31, 2010

Cool blog Mondays: My green nappy

It's about time I had the dirty talk. Pees and poos, dirty nappies, smelly bums. No parent can avoid it... or can we?
We discovered EC (Elimination communication, or diaper free) when Tahi was 5 months. In short, it is a way to help your baby eliminate and also bond with him/her. Sounds over the top? It probably is for us modern westerners. We started because we thought it was fun and interesting and if we could save on washing nappies, why not? Tahi is now 2 and a half, has been out of nappies since he was 10 months and has recently stepped up to being the  conventional potty trained toddler (he asks when he needs to go). What the fuss?!? Our son is potty trained at the same time as other toddlers (although I know a lot of toddlers his age still in nappies). True. but we have saved so much on washing and (eco friendly) disposable nappies. And gained some knowledge too. It's not what most people think of when you talk about bonding with your child, but it is exactly that. how many people do you know so well that you can tell when they need to go to the toilet? If that sounds gross, what about changing a smelly, pooey nappy everyday (less often if you're lucky)?
As Josh put it so well:" I thought having babies was lots of smelly poos and wiping bottoms, but it hasn't been that at all". And we're glad we made the effort.
It wasn't all easy, at times frustrating, but for the most part it became part of our daily life. Instead of carrying a bag full of nappies, I had several changes of pants and some cloth to clean up the pees. We were really lucky that from the moment Tahi was put on a potty, he would let us know when he needed to poo most of the time. It does take time and dedication. It would have been much harder, maybe near impossible, to do this had I been working. But then I had decided to stay home with my son for the first few years anyway, I wasn't going anywhere in a hurry.
EC is what prompted me to start making kids' clothing. I wanted some pants that didn't have to be pulled down every time I needed to take Tahi to the toilet but wanted to avoid the traditional chinese split crotch pants (not great when you've got a crawling baby!). So I came up with two designs, then moved on to designing other items as well.

Along the way I read some interesting books: Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom Of Natural Infant Hygiene by Ingrid Bauer and The Diaper Free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh. Both good reads, the second one a bit more about the how-to and also exploring various ways of doing it: full time, part time or occasionally.
I also discovered some great websites, met some neat people and learned a lot about myself and my child. Two great Yahoo groups, Oznappyfree and another I can't find anymore, were great. Other Ecing parents sharing their experience, answering questions or asking some. There is also the DiaperFreeBaby website, with a list of diaper free groups around the world, including those ones in New Zealand and TheNaturalChildProject.
Charndra at Tribal baby decided to share her ECing journey, and this has by far been my favorite site about the matter (although she seemed to have it pretty easy!). Now I can introduce you to this week's cool blog (worry it's taken so long!), her new venture: MyGreenNappy. This one is not about putting your young baby on the potty and letting him/her roam around with bare bottoms. It is about caring for our kids' future and, well, thinking green when it comes to using nappies. Changing mindsets, showing people their acts count and encouraging them to think ahead, think about our future and the legacy we leave for our kids. Starting with nappies!
MyGreenNappy is having a winter giveaway, another incentive to visit this blog!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mini art journal challenge: week 9

This week's prompt: "inspiration found". Hum... Tough one. I couldn't point to one thing in particular that inspires me or helps me get my little grey cells going. It's what makes art so fascination I guess. What inspires one person will seem so ordinary and irrelevant to the other. And what we make of inspiration is another thing all together!
One thing I have noticed, is that the more I think about creating and create, the more I feel inspired. It could be anything: music I hear, a walk at the beach or in the bush, a memory, someone I meet, a book I read,... Hence what can be read on my card: "everything and nothing"!

I used cut out letters from a magazine for the words "everything" and "and", and wrote the word "nothing" with a silver outliner for glass colour. The leaves were cut out of some green and white fused plastic and sewn on the card, and then three plastic buttons were sewn on top. The background is painted white and has strips of magazine glued in random horizontal lines.

On another note, we went to Morere hot pools this morning, about 50mn from Gizzy. It was raining intermittently and we saw lots of rainbows on the way, very cool! For the first time ever I could even see the bottom of one end.

The hot pools are one of our favorite spots in winter, the water is super warm (there are 2 pools, one hot and the other even hotter) and one side of the pools is open with a view of the bush. Best of all, it is hardly ever crowded.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Why we live where we live

Tahi and Jade playing with foam at "Whales", Wainui beach, Gisborne, New Zealand.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

MAKE YOUR OWN: headband

This is super easy project that will satisfy anyone's love of accessories.

- Level: easy
- Time: 20 minutes
- Material: 2 bits of scrap fabric, about 40x25cm (15.7x9.8"), 13cm bit of elastic (5.12").
- Tools: sewing machine, scissors

1- Cut two rectangles of fabric, 40x20cm (15.7x7.87"). They can be the same or different. If you use two different ones this means you then  have a reversible headband. I used a tee shirt cotton, with a bit of stretch, but a non stretch fabric could be OK. Cut another smaller rectangle 25x8cm (9.8x3.15").

2- Using your sewing machine or serger, sew both big rectangle together, wrong side out then turn out. Fold the smaller rectangle in half along its length, wrong side out. Sew lengthwise, leaving a small opening in the middle, then turn it out.

3- Insert the elastic in the smaller rectangle, and sew on one side about 1cm from the edge. Do the same at the other end.
4- Fold the bigger rectangle like an accordion, the width of the smaller one. Insert the accordion into the elasticated band, fold the 1cm edge inside, then sew through the opening left in the small rectangle. Repeat for the other side.
once it's all sewn, sew the little opening with a needle and thread (if you want to make an invisible seam) or with the sewing machine.

You're done!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Giveaway, yeah!

I bought a headband from the op shop a while ago, and it's been a great accessory, if only just a bit scratchy because it's wool. I thought it would be nice to have some different colored ones, so I replicated it a couple of days ago. The result is what you can see on the photos... (the blue stripy one is the original one).

So this headband is the giveaway, if you'd like to enter, here's how:
- post a comment here
- become a follower or subscribe to RSS feeds
- Tweet, facebook or blog about it (and leave a comment with the link)
Entries close on the 26th of June.

I will also post a tutorial for the headband tomorrow.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cool blog Mondays

I'm not one for collecting plushies, softies of whatever name those cute little cuddly toys can have. But in the past year, I have seen so many amazing handmade gems, I could well be tempted. Starting with Stephanie Congdon Barnes and her beautiful creatures straight out of fairy tales. Her creations are so popular, she sells out as soon as they are on her blog.
Isn't that lion just beautiful?
Softies have caught my eye so much that a few months back in Wellington I just HAD to buy a book on how to make some. It's cleverly called Softies. I have made one model out of it, but still haven't got round to making any others. On my yard long "to do" list. You can also find lots of patterns online, my favorite one so far is the whale on Small Dream Factory. Also on my "to do" list. The best thing of all when making them is that you can often use bits of scrap fabric to make them, leftover from a bigger project. And they make great presents for welcoming a newborn!

If you are starting to feel tickled by it all,  Softies Central is another blog all about the little buggers and the talented crafters behind them.
I also found this great one on Two Little Banshees:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

mini art journal challenge: week 8

This week's prompt: "Who or what do you miss?"
Well, I knew from the start what this one would be. I have been living in New Zealand close to eight years now, and this place is as far away from where I come from as possible without going to the moon. Being  so removed from other countries (Australia is our only main neighbor, then it's at least 6 hours to the next continent!) has its ups and downs. I am convinced New Zealand's size and distance to other civilizations is the reason why it is the way it is: a not too populated not too developed piece of land with some beautiful natural heritage (constantly threatened, but I will reserve a proper discussion for another post) and really a great lifestyle. The downside is, it takes a good 30 hours (including stop overs and travels to/from airport) to get to France, and it costs an arm and a leg, if not more. Plus, air travel is not green at all. So I don't travel back as often as I'd like, so I don't get to see the people I love on a regular basis and that sucks.
I really really miss all my friends and family. They are something I will never be able to replace. I have made very good friends here, but it still doesn't feel the same. My connection with those far away people was built over year spent together, and for some reason I can feel that. Whenever I go back and catch up with some of those special people, it's as if I had never left. And that is the true beauty of friendships. We are connected, no matter what.  This is the one thing I am finding hard to live with, and that makes me think sometimes that I could go back and live there. Maybe. One day.
I find it hard to think that Tahi is missing out on a lot of quality time he could spend with his "mamie" and "tonton", and I am missing out too.  Going back to visit every couple of years makes time spent with people very special, but I really cherish the everyday aspect of relationships, the little things we only remember afterwards. Like how my brother and I always used to make silly faces and laugh silly, or how my mum has tried to grow a Bougainvillier at home for years because it reminds her of her roots.
After all, that is how relationships and memories are built, the routine of everyday life is often interrupted with those little special moments.But you have to be present to witness it and you can never tell when it will happen.
So here is my card of the week. A woman lying on her front, writing something, gravitating on a background of camelias and daisies, and flames at the bottom, "burning" hand written names. I was inspired by something I wrote to one of my best friends not long ago: "Il y a des fois ou je me demande si vraiment vivre a l'autre bout du monde dans un petit paradis c'est pas un peu l'enfer." ("there are times where I wonder if living on the other side of the planet in a little paradise isn't a bit like hell").

I cut out flower from the french magazine Elle, the woman lying down was in my "collection" of cut out bits, and the flames are made with some red fabric and some shiny red gauze cut into triangles and then sewn on the card.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The big snuggle up

Winter has finally caught up on us, after an amazing autumn. Nights have steadily been getting cooler but the sun has warmed our days like nothing else. I was still walking around the garden wearing only a tee shirt a couple of days ago (and I hate being cold), how great is that? Meanwhile in the northern hemisphere I hear summer is not looking to good so far. My mum lives in Nice and last time we skyped she was wearing a wooly. Another friend sent me photos of a storm that left the "promenade des Anglais" (literally "the English's walkway") looking not so French Riviera. He said it would prove wrong anyone who claimed the Mediterranean wasn't a sea!

Anyway, with colder days I am not so motivated to spend my few free hours in the evening sewing in a cold room, so my shop hasn't been updated for a while and I haven't produced much apart from custom orders. I have been lacking the  motivation and the combination of cold weather and shorter days makes the weeks fly by with not much to show for. I also have been working on my first patchwork project ever.
We decided to make woolen blanket curtains to try and keep the heat in (cheaper than investing in double glazing) and I didn't want them to look ugly. I've got eight panels to make (for 4 windows) and the first ones are looking great. I have just run out of blankets though and it's getting harder to find some now.
Having never made curtains before, I felt a bit daunted by getting the measurements wrong and how much supplies I'd need but luckily I found a great tutorial in on of the World Sweet World magazine I have at home. Sadly there are no more coming issues of this little gem, but the great thing is they kept the website and blog running and they recently posted that same tutorial. how very timely and nice of them.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cool blog Mondays

Well, I know it's wednesday night already, but never too late to share a link to a cool blog. If you like clothes, and crafting, you will love this blog: Grosgrain. There are always lots of giveaway, and at the moment I am drooling on the State Fair Frock and the Romance Novel Blouse. And I am also bookmarking this cool tutorial (I wish I had more time to sew things for myself!). And if you like shoes, there's a very cool tutorial that will give your old flats a fresh new look.

Check out this talented mum's blog, you'll end up browsing it for hours.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

cracker of a day

I found a really easy recipe for soda crackers, Tahi and I made some yesterday, as good as the store bought ones. That is one less plastic wrapping to deal with, if I can make enough supplies. They are so easy to eat, and we tend to graze a lot in our house, I had to make some more today...

I thought I'd write down the recipe for anyone who wants to give it a go. I found it in the "Whole Foods For The Whole Family" by la Leche Ligue (heaps of other cool recipes in there!).
Soda crackers
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 cup butter ( you can also use butter substitutes)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup buttermilk/ yoghurt/ milk with a 2 tsp lemon
- 1 egg

Preheat oven to 180ยบ. Mix flour and butter together until the consistency of oatmeal. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix with your hands until they form a ball. roll out half the dough to about 1mm thick, cut into square, prick with fork and place on tray. cook in the oven for 10mn or until lightly brown. Take out, cool. Repeat for second ball of dough.
It doesn't get any easier than this!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

mini art journal challenge: week 7

I only had time to do my card yesterday. I had the idea pretty early on but never got round to doing it. Josh collected a whole lot of doll from a job a few years back, so I wanted to use the shoes from one of them. I originally wanted to do something about Toms shoes, where every time you buy a pair of shoes they give a pair to a child that can't afford to buy some, it's called One for one. I love that idea and I bought some last year from a shop in Melbourne. Unfortunately, you can't order online unless you live in the US, Canada or England (although there is a shop in Auckland that imports some). Hopefully that will change. I love brands like that because they help us be better and more conscious shoppers.
Back to my card, in the end I decided to do the anatomy of a shoe!

The background is a cut out picture from a magazine, painted over with white. I used two shoes, one cut in half lengthwise the other cut in half along the sole. Then I sewed them on card and wrote some stuff around it. Pretty simple!

On another note, we almost saw a monarch butterfly come out of its cocoon! Here's a picture a it just after he'd got out. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A drop of lemon in your earl grey?

Is what I'll feel like saying the day I use this tea set! It's got this typical english tea set look. The pretty pink flowers, the fine china, the scalloped edging. It's made in England by the Johnson Bros. The service is called Margaret Rose, from WindsorWare (as stamped on the bottom of the teapot). I did a little bit of online research and found an Etsy seller, VintageHand,  that had a bowl of the same style for sale. You can read a bit of the history behind this set.
It's in perfect condition, not one scratch or chip, doesn't even look like it's been used! I was so stoked when I saw this at one of our local op shops... I just had to buy it. I've stored it away for now, too scared that Tahi or Josh might break something (Tahi is notorious for breaking teapots in this house and Josh is not the gentlest person when it comes to washing dishes). I decided to wait until we do up the kitchen next year before taking it out... Oh I can't wait!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cool blog Mondays

I have a folder full of very cool blogs in my bookmarks, it's time I shared the links.
It's amazing how one site will take you to the other and how you discover little gems. Etsy is a great place for that, with all those talented people crafting away usually blogging as well. I've been getting the Etsy finds email as well, and this morning it was inspired by Anja Mulder' s photos of her appartment. I just love the beautiful bold colors, all the cute and quirky little and big objects arranged around the house. It looks like a home, not a magazine one, although it's definitely tidier than ours! And the photos are great too, they remind me a bit of my friend Louise's style.

Anyway, it's so inspiring to see how people live and put life into a house. I feel like a total makeover of ours. Well, our makeover is actually happening very slowly. Every time some friends visit, they look around and say "something's different". Since we are not exactly earning lots of money, we have to take things slowly and live in a constant "work in progress" state. It's nice in a way, every time we get something done, it feels like we're moving into a new home, without the packing and unpacking nightmare.
My contemplations took me to Anja's blog and to another one (where she was featured) with similar colorful/ playful styles: Ninainvrom.
So now all I want to do is take cool pictures of our cool bits of the house! Coming soon...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

mini art journal challenge: week 6

Yes, I made it! This week's prompt was: "love, love, love". Yes it's pretty simple, but I was stuck until last night. I didn't want to make a random love card, I needed true meaning!
I spent my evening last night ringing several people I'd never met regarding olives and sending them for pressing. There are tons of trees laden with olives that are not getting picked around town and we thought we'd spend a week end picking them so we could get our own olive oil. The problem is that there is no press here, so it has to be sent away, and olives have to be pressed within 3 days of being picked otherwise they oxidize...Since it wouldn't be worth driving 3 hours to get under 100kg of olives pressed (the average yield is 12-15%) we need to "team up" with other people who are doing the same thing.
So that is how I ended up ringing around all the local olive experts, being referred from one to the other. After I hung up from the last person, I just couldn't believe how nice and helpful everyone had been, and that reminded me it was one of the things that struck me when I first moved to New Zealand and one of the reasons why I love this country. People are genuinely good, pleased to help and very friendly. So there was my idea for this week's challenge. I love New Zealand. I love the country, I love the people, I love the culture, and of course I love my own little piece of kiwi (represented by the little surfer!).
Of course nothing's perfect and New Zealand's no exception, but I will leave that for another post.

I used some designs found in the paper, big red hearts with the word "LOVE" written in red (can hardly see it with the rest of the collage), on the right I stuck a band of maori Koru design. I cut out both islands then pasted them in the middle, and cut out some major city names and placed them around the map. I also cut out and pasted "New Zeland" twice, a little surfer, a dolphin and some writing that say" We love good karma", "We love whales" and "We love music". Then I put a few layers of varnish (still in the process), to give it a real glossy look. Only downside: I always forget that varnish on newspaper gives it a darker rendering and also reveals the writing on the other side. Maybe I'll remember next time?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Finding help online

How do you feel about marketing yourself to the World Wide Web? Lost? Confused? Clueless?
Since I opened my Etsy shop over a year ago and then started this blog a year later, I have spent hours surfing the net, checking out websites, shop and blog. And to think that I might only have seen a tiny fraction of what is available on this network! It reminds me that this is probably the case when it comes to my Etsy shop and this blog too.
So how do you get more exposure? Reach the people you will love what you do?
Well, I have no magic answer but finding blogs such as Scoutie Girl are a real godsend for grommets like me. It is a blog about all things handmade, what the author likes but also how creative people can use the technology available to them to promote what they do, or in the case of this post, what impact the internet has on creativity. The blog's author,
tara, has written a few guest posts recently that I'd definitely recommend: read the one in the DailyWorth (another great one to bookmark), the one on Problogger or her interview on CarmenTorbus.
Tara has also put together a digital zine titled "The kick the door down project", entirely downloadable for FREE and  "compiling the stories of creators who have broken through obstacles – mental, physical, and situational – to live the lives they’ve dreamed of. some are living those dreams and others are still on their journey. we can learn from them all."
If you'd like to find out more about it, read the full post here and download the file!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The joys of sourdough

I never realized how yummy a homemade sourdough bread fresh out of the oven could be. Until I made one. Well, two loaves to be exact. Three days later nothing's left. 

So what makes sourdough so special? Sourdough is made using a "bug", which has similar properties to the yeast you can buy at bakers' or at the supermarket. It makes the bread rise. The difference lies in the type of bacteria that live in this culture.  The enzymes in sourdough break down the gluten, providing a baked bread that is more easily digested. And it tastes different as well, a little bit sour. You can add baking soda to counter that (1tsp baking soda for every cup of starter), although I personally like that. It might be a good bread to try if you think you are slightly gluten intolerant?
You have to keep the bug alive by "feeding" it wholemeal flour, best is rye. You need to use it at least once a week (or give extra feeds of flour) if kept in the fridge and you have to use filtered water because chlorine kills the enzymes. It's like having a pet. You need to look after it, make sure it's ok. 
It's definitely worth the effort though. And the more you make it the easier it gets. The great thing is, as long as you keep it alive, you will never need to buy yeast again. Anything that makes you less dependent on others is a good thing in my opinion!
If you know someone who has a bug, ask them to put some aside for you. If you don't know anyone, use this recipe or this one to make your own.
To use the bug, put it in a bowl and add 1 1/2 cup wholemeal flour and 1 1/2 cup water. Mix and let it rest in a warm place until bubbles form on the surface. inside it will have plenty of bubbles and be a bit slimy.
When it is ready, weight it (it should be about 500g), return some to your bug jar and proceed to make your bread!
I have been mixing 350ml of water with 300g organic wholemeal flour and 350g organic white flour, and 3 tsp fine sea salt. Once you've combined it, let it rest for 20mn so the flour can absorb the water. Flour your bench top then knead or bang it on the table for 5mn to release the gluten, rest another 20mn. The dough should feel elastic and soft by now. If it is too moist or dry, knead in a little flour or water respectively.
Knead/ bang another 5mn to allow the gluten to develop, divide into two loaves and put in tins or shape them straight on a tray. Cover them with a cloth and let them rise for about 4 to 6 hours. The dough is ready when it has almost doubled in size. If left too long, the fermentation reaches its peak and the culture dies and you will bake a brick.

On another note, we spent an hour yesterday picking olives from some friends' tree, and ended up with 9kg of them. Josh made some great ones last year and we ran out a few months ago so I can't wait to have some jars in the cupboard again. Not only do they taste 10 times better than store bought ones but they are healthier too (and free!). Manufacturers add preservatives I'd rather not eat.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mini art journal challenge: week 5

I haven't had much time to blog this week... We are back in Gisborne, our week was filled with playcentre days, swimming, gardening, sewing. And there we are, it's sunday again.
I have been making some pants for Tahi's cousin Clementine, after her mum saw Tahi's great woolen patchwork pants she wanted some as well. And I've also been making little merino baby singlets and sleeping gowns for Josh's other sister Ruth who is due in a few weeks. They turned out great. Now I just need to get my act together and get some screens prepped so I can screen print them. Photos on a soon to come post.
On another note, here's my card of the week. The prompt was: "Some ephemera from your week". Emily, the instigator of this challenge, had been traveling/ working in Paris, so her card looked very cool, with a metro ticket and other typical Paris stuff. Unfortunately, we were in Wellington last week and I didn't keep much from the trip. I have been collecting train tickets from Wellington for a while but Tahi lost the two we bought on this trip. So this week I had the option of sticking receipts or fabric on my card, since that is all I've been doing! I chose the latter.

I took out some fabrics scraps from some of the fabrics I've been using this week, cut little squares out of them then glued them on the card in a patchwork style. Then I straight stitched the sides to make it look like a quilt, and left a bit of the thread sticking out of the card. Finally I sewed a line of white buttons at the bottom, and one red button on the finished quilt.