Saturday, November 22, 2014

DIY Cold Packs

I don't know what it is but my daughter loves herself a good cold pack.  She asks for one whenever she has a fall, stubs her toe, gets a scratch, has an aching body part or just generally needs to feel better.  She recently pulled too much nail from her thumb, which made it sting when she sucked it and so she needed a cold pack "weally, weally wickly" so she could get back to sucking it asap!

Normally, I grab a frozen lunchbox brick from the freezer, wrap it in a tea-towel and hand it to her. It is neither comfortable, nor attractive and quite often the brick doesn't make it back into the freezer once it has tended her wounds - then I'm out of lunchbox bricks for my son's lunchbox ... and well, that's just frustrating.

Being that I am in Canada right now (without my machine) and haven't sewn anything for months, I have been feeling the need to sew a little something - nothing too big or too complex, because I would need to use my mother-in-law's vintage (40+ years old) machine, just something straightforward and simple.  It came to me.  I knew just the thing.  Of course, my daughter needed her very own cold pack. Perfect! And I would get to keep my lunchbox bricks nicely frozen in the freezer!

I decided to DIY the actual cold pack as well.  It is extremely simple.  You just need to half fill a sandwich bag (a heavy duty one is the best) with 1 part rubbing alcohol and 2 parts water, squeeze out as much air as possible, seal well (I added two layers of duct tape to the top of the bag) and pop it in the freezer.  It freezes nicely but because of the rubbing alcohol it doesn't completely solidify and will be pliable very quickly (much better than a solid old freezer brick!).

I made the cold pack covers using a red and a white flannel and went with a "first aid" theme because I thought it was kind of appropriate and I knew they would stand out in the freezer and not be mistaken for a lunchbox cooler.  I sewed them in a very basic pillowcase style of cover so that I could easily remove them for washing.

So, my simple little sewing project using a vintage Singer turned out pretty okay and is probably one of the most practical things I have made.  And with all the slippery snow we've had here lately, and my Aussie children still learning how to walk carefully in it, I'm sure the packs will get plenty of use!

Now, onto some Christmas sewing.  It's getting so close.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Happy Halloween (a cute 'n quirky alternative)

I can't believe I'm going to say this as I sit here in my Canadian holiday cottage surrounded by pumpkins and Halloween-loving folk, but I'm not a big fan of Halloween.  I never have been.  I don't know if it's because I don't like orange - it doesn't like me either (it looks hideous on me), or because it transports me back to the '80's and memories of my bright orange Datsun 200b complete with brown vinyl roof.  Come to think of it those colours would fit right in over here at this time of the year!

Anyway, I knew I would have to come to the party and get into the Halloween spirit (did I tell you I have illuminated pumpkins around my mantelpiece right now? I am rockin' this "getting into it" thing) so when I found a pumpkin idea that was neither orange nor spooky, and from one of my favourite magazines over here, Country Living, I did a happy-Halloween dance.  This is what I found ...

A deer.  A beautiful, quirky, very white, very sweet Halloween "deer".  A dear deer, if you like.

To make this funny little fellow you will need:

A white pumpkin
(Such as Lumina, or an orange pumpkin painted white. Even though I already had a white one I gave it a coat of white spray-paint just to cover a few scratches and bruises)
Two branches
Coloured Yarn
Buttons for eyes
Felt for ears and nose

We started off by wrapping coloured yarn tightly around two branches that we found on the trail behind our cottage.  My niece and I sat together for an hour or two wrapping a branch each.  It was actually very cathartic and a relaxing way to spend some time together.  My 3 year old had a go at wrapping too (and lasted about 10 minutes) - can you guess which is her branch?  

Once my pumpkin was dry I cut out two holes for the antlers - angling down so the antlers would stick up not out.  My holes weren't the perfect size so I just stuffed some cotton wool balls around the antlers for a snug fit.  I then attached two buttons for the eyes and a piece of triangular felt for the nose with hot glue.  I cut slits into the side of the pumpkin and squished in the ears which were folded felt triangles (I rounded off the top of the triangles so the ears ended up looking more like in the magazine - leaving the triangles pointy at the top just didn't seem to work). 

And then there he was.  A sweet little Halloween woodland creature with not a hint of orange and not in the least bit spooky.  Just how I like it.

How about you - do you celebrate Halloween?  Do you stick to the traditional type of decorating and activities, or are you like me and shy away from all that is orange and spooky?

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 13, 2014

DIY Tray Makeover

I love myself a bit of DIY and it's no secret that I have a pretty humongous big crush on all things "Martha", so when I discovered the fabulous range of Martha Stewart stencils at Michaels I knew it was time to combine my two loves.  And, coincidentally, a few weeks earlier I had bought myself a couple of vintage trays from a Habitat for Humanity store for $1.75 each, planning to DIY them in some way, shape or form.  I also wanted to try using spray-paint.  I haven't had much luck with it in the past but I constantly see it being used beautifully all over the net, to revamp anything and everything, so I decided to have one last crack.

I started off by giving both trays a light sand and cleaned them both with a damp cloth.  I then painted the trays white using an acrylic paint, not a spray-paint.  I didn't think the spray-paint would cover the dark colours very well and I probably would've had to do a whole load of coats for even, full coverage which just seemed like a waste of time and paint so I applied two coats of plain white with a brush. If I had used a primer underneath I probably would've gotten away with just one coat of paint - but I didn't have any primer so I just laid the paint on nice and thick.  

Once it was dry I got ready to stencil.  I decided on which design I wanted to use (I chose the "Arabesque" stencil set which comes with a variety of beautiful patterns to chose from), played around with the positioning and then sprayed some spray adhesive onto the back of the stencil and stuck it down.  I was having trouble getting the stencil to stick to the tray where the tray curved - no matter what I did it kept pulling away.  I tried adding more adhesive, adding tape and also just holding it down with my hand as I sprayed (dumb, dumb idea).  I didn't think it was going to end well but I grabbed my can of "Island Splash" spray-paint and sprayed away anyway, giving it a couple of coats back and forth.  Once I had the coverage I was happy with I hesitantly pulled back the stencil, hoping for the best, but kinda knowing it probably wouldn't be fabulous.  This is what I found ...

A dismal effort.  It was official - I sucked at stencilling!  I was close to throwing it in the "too hard basket" but stubbornness won over and I decided to have another go.  I sanded off the majority of the blue stencil, added another two coats of white paint, chose a different stencil - one that wouldn't be affected by those pesky curves in the tray - and opted for a different colour.  This time I went with a yellow called "Sun Yellow".  I followed the same process as before - positioned the stencils where I wanted them on the tray, added some spray adhesive to the back, stuck them down nice and firmly and then lightly sprayed over the stencils using a back and forth motion.  I felt more confident this time.  I had high hopes for success.  I peeled back the stencils hesitantly.  This is what I found ...

Hoorah-freakin'-hoorah!  I had done it.  It had worked.  No bleeds, no blurs and no blobs!  Thank goodness for that.  Now I needed a cup of tea and about a week before I even began to contemplate DIY'ing the second tray.

Here's the tray in action - serving up a nice cup of tea and a muffin to enjoy on the porch.  Doesn't she look lovely? I'm so glad I was patient with her.

For the second tray, I envisioned stripes - again, using spray-paint but tape instead of a stencil.  I also wanted to use yellow again - for some reason I just wasn't sold on the blue.  I had already painted the tray white so it was just a matter of adding some painters tape where I wanted the stripes.  I was very lazy with this and didn't do any measuring - I just whacked the tape on where I thought it looked right.  

I then sprayed on a few light coats of yellow until I had the coverage I wanted.  While the paint was still wet, I pulled off the tape - not so hesitantly this time (full of confidence now!) - and joy of joys it worked.  Hap, hap, happy days! 

I am not exactly sure how or where I will use this tray but it's such a versatile little thing and could be used in a heap of different ways.  It could be used to serve drinks.

To hold my massive jewellery collection.

Or even just to brighten up the dinner table.

It doesn't really matter - it's cute, it's bright and it's a happy little thing to have hanging around in my house.

In the end I'm glad I persisted with the makeover and gave these little gems a new lease on life but am I now a spray-paint convert?  Ummm, not necessarily.  The same effect would've been achieved with normal painting but I think for some stencilling purposes spray-painting may be much quicker and less labour intensive than having to use special stencil brushes and stencil paints, but then again you have a lot more control and no over-spray to worry about, so I'm not sure.  Spray-painting worked for me this time and I will definitely try it again but I'm divided as to which method I prefer. I guess ultimately it just depends on the project.

Anyway, for fun, here's a little "before & after"...

Have you spray-painted anything lately?  Did it work?  Were you happy with the result? 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Floral Friday ~ "Flowers in the Garden"

It is Fall now over here in Canada so the garden flowers that were in abundance only a matter of weeks ago have all but disappeared.  What is in abundance, though, and is on just about everybody's porch here is the "Fall Mum" - a huge potted mass of gorgeous, bright yellow flowers.  Summer may be gone but these beauties scream "sunshine" and are the perfect welcome to have on your doorstep.

And here's a little peak at some "Fall Mums" sitting very pretty amongst the Fall decorating on my MIL's porch.  As you can see, she's a bit more experienced than me at this seasonal decorating caper.

Happy Floral Friday everyone, and be sure to check out the other wonderful blogs in this blog hop.

Floral Fridays is a monthly photography project with different themes each month. This series is about fun and taking time out to smell the flowers. To play along, please email Trishie for next month's theme.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Lemonade Stand

My son has wanted to have a Lemonade Stand for a very long time now. For one reason or another (and one excuse or another - from me!) it has never happened.  Now that we are in Canada and living in the absolute perfect location to hold a little stand, there really was no excuse - and I have to admit, having a stand has always looked like a bit of fun. 

We decided to set up on the walking/cycling trail behind our cottage - it was a long weekend so we knew it would be busy with cyclists and walkers out enjoying the sunshine and their time off.  We didn't spend hours preparing a flash stand, or use freshly squeezed lemons and home-made lemonade, because it was about the kids, their experience and just having fun, rather than about me and my pedantic ways!  We went very basic and bought frozen lemonade which, when water is added, makes well over a litre - and it actually tasted very good and got lots of "Mmmmm, is this home-made?" and "Did you squeeze your own lemons?" comments.  Plus we were pretty sure all the cyclists would want would be icy cold lemonade to quench their thirst. We successfully fooled them.

It was a beautiful morning.  My son had a blast and manned the stand all morning with only one toilet break.  We met some lovely people too.  And guess how much he made?  $25!  Well, $22.50 when you take out his expenses of two cans of $1.25 lemonade (the flowers were from the trail, the lemons were just props and everything else was gathered from here).  I didn't have the heart to tell him my hourly rate ...

Now guess what he wants to do next weekend?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Floral Friday : In a Vase

Well, we arrived safely in Canada and have been here for just under two weeks.  It is so beautiful at this time of the year (we normally come in Winter so it's a lovely change for us), everything is so lush and green and pretty flowers are everywhere - both in gardens and growing wildly.  I've never seen so many vivid colours and pretty flowers in such abundance.  Coming from an Australian coastal environment, it's a refreshing change for us and a bit of a novelty.  I can't stop taking photos of flowers - my husband thinks I've become quite the botanist!

We are also very lucky to have a great walking trail behind our cottage.  It is heaven.  Both for walking, cycling and for looking at pretty wild flowers.  I was going to go and pick a whole bunch of different flowers and arrange them in a vase for this month's Floral Friday "In a Vase" theme but I will save those for another day.  This month's hero has to be my Mother-in-Law's hydrangeas.  They are the most impressive hydrangeas I've ever seen and are huge, perfectly formed and so healthy.  I have no idea of the variety but I know they are the nicest and biggest ones I've ever seen.  I couldn't resist showing them off.  

What do you think? Have you ever seen such heavenly hydrangeas?

There are quite a few other bloggers joining Under Lock & Key's Floral Friday challenge so please do take a moment to check out the links below to see what the other lovely bloggers in this series have to say about their floral arrangements.

Floral Fridays is a monthly photography project with different themes each month. This series is about fun and taking time out to smell the flowers. To play along, please email Trishie for next month's theme.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Goodbye Gift : Pen-Pal Sets (with printable)

Eeeek!  It's only a matter of a very small number of weeks now until we leave for our 6-month stint in Canada.  I'm a bit weird but I'm not into the whole "countdown" thing - I prefer to pretend I'm not sure when we're leaving and then be all like "oh, look, today's the day we're leaving for Canada!".  I know it's strange but I function better that way.  One thing I haven't been able to pretend about is my son's very last week of Year 1.  He will never again be in Year 1 in Australia.  He will be saying goodbye to his teacher and his friends today and although he is very, very excited about going to live in Canada, he doesn't particularly want to leave his friends or his teacher, or go to a new school.  He has only ever known the one school and has been going there since 3 year old Kindy - it's a big, big change for him.  He says things like, "But they won't know my name over there", "They won't know what to call me", "They won't play football, will they?".  So I thought to help him feel a bit more connected and to have a little bit of home with him in Canada, I would make up some Pen-pal sets for each of his classmates as Goodbye Gifts.  Even if only one of his friends writes, it will make a difference and be exciting and special for him.

They were simple to make up.  In each pack I put 3 blank cards (2 plain white, 1 patterned) and envelopes, 2 sticker sheets, an eraser and a pencil.  I packaged it all in a clear envelope with some string and attached a "See you later Alligator" tag with our Canadian address on the back (I didn' t think it was a good idea to publicise our address on the www so I have blocked it out in the pic - just in case you think I had a bit of a slip with my graphic design skills!).  I was pretty happy with the way the tag turned out so I did a blank version, which you can download here if you want to make up your own pen-pal sets ... and at the same time encourage old-fashioned communication between your kids!

So, that's me - done - for now, from Australia.  The next time I post I will be sitting in a lake-side cottage in an itty-bitty town in Ontario spending time with my Canadian family and trying very hard not to overindulge on Tim Horton donuts and bagels.  But then again I am on holiday ...