Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Birthday Party:: Indian Dance Party

Hop over to Mikodesign and feast your eyes on 9-year old Sofia's India-themed party. Henna tattoos, dress-up saris for the guests, fantastically colourful food, and a backdrop of simple draped fabric and flower garlands to set the scene for a choreography lesson lead by a professional dance instructor. It's all quite wonderful and wonderfully low-key for such an elaborate sounding event.

Thinking about it?

The Himalayan Academy has a staggering library of royalty-free images that could be used for invitations and decor. Ganesh is the god of auspicious occasions:

To make this sample invite, I first uploaded the original ganesh image into Big Huge Lab's colour palette generator, which gave me the right shade of pink: #e95c7f. Next, I opened the original ganesh image in Photoshop and added a canvas of 400 pixels to the right of the image. Then I coloured the canvas pink and added the text. Saved as a jpg, the invitation could be emailed to guests or printed out a photo lab and mailed.

Love this black and white version of ganesh. Print out as a colouring page maybe?

There is a terrific quantity of free mehndi/henna tattoo designs here. Check this gallery of for readily reproducible patterns. Whipping up miniature saris is a simple matter of sewing an elastic waist skirt out of some fabulous colourful fabric. Drape a matching scarf across the body, add some dollar store bangles and you're done. If you're in Toronto, head to Sonu Saree Palace on Gerrard Street East for bargain-priced sari fabric. Otherwise I'd look at an inexpensive georgette at Fabricland.

(Kid's sari photo from Just Kidding)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tutorial:: Felt Play Food

My sewing machine, I confess, is about as overlooked as a dish of cottage cheese at a Chinese food buffet. Which is to say that I have not sat down to sew since...well, since the last time I ate cottage cheese I'd be willing to wager. That said, I am still an enthusiastic collector of tutorials and evidence of other people's wanton creativity. I sometimes like to blame circumstances for my sewing hiatus. In the case of this cute felt sandwich tutorial from Myrtle and Eunice, for instance, the lack of access to wool felt is a hindrance. Poly craft felt just won't do. Not if I'm going to embroider tomato slices and make hand-cut Swiss cheese. No sir. I need the good stuff. Does anyone in TO sell wool felt? Please don't let my felt snobbery stop you. Craft away. Download the pattern and instructions here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Children's Book Recommendations:: Stories About Feelings

As a kid I don't remember actually owning more than a half-dozen books at any one time. Acton, the town where I grew up, did not have a bookstore. But even so, books were thought of as Christmas and birthday gifts and not something you bought just because and we got our books at the library. But somewhere between here and there I stopped going to the library and started to buy books instead and the library became a quaint memory. Me and the library got reacquainted when kids came along and I realized what chumps we'd been for buying so many books when we could have borrowed them, and more besides, for free. We are a family of library enthusiasts once again. With a four-year old in the house, I look for books tagged with a  Toronto Public Library "Ready For Reading" sticker,  which identifies books that relate to one of the six steps of reading readiness: liking books, hearing word sounds, building vocabulary, narrative, seeing words in print, alphabet awareness. There is more about that here.

Reading and re-reading great books with my kids is something I truly love. They have free reign at the library and I try not to filter any of their selections. But while my son is loading up on books about trucks, trains or dogs I choose a few of my own. I'm gratified when one of my picks makes it into heavy reading rotation. I thought sharing some of our family favourites would make for a good post every now and then. On that note, here are a few books that tackle the messy world of feelings, both good and bad.


Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. 
By Judith Viorst

From waking up with gum in his hair, to his two older brothers both finding a prize in their cereal box while he came up empty-handed, Alexander's day is off to a bad start. And it doesn't get any better. Kid-sized frustrations mount throughout the day and all Alexander can think about is moving to Australia - where surely there is no such thing as a bad day. Written in 1972, this is a cool book to me because his parents don't rush to smooth out his bad feelings - or deny them - the way we might today. Alexander is allowed to have a crummy day and go to bed with the hope that tomorrow will be better.

The Giving Tree
By Shel Silverstein

It was originally published in 1964, though I don't recall reading this book as a child. I picked it up randomly a couple of years ago and so I was able to read it without any expectations or awareness that it was a well-known and beloved book. It's beautiful and sad with a moral that is open to interpretation. Why didn't anyone ever tell me about it? My take is that it is a tender and maybe even unsympathetic parable about parenting and the price of selflessness. But you'll have to decide for yourself. While searching for a cover image for this post I came across a photo of a guy who had an entire page from the book tattooed across his back. What can I can tell you? It's a memorable story worth pondering on your own and with your kid.

The Pigeon Finds A Hot Dog
By Mo Willems

A pigeon finds a hot dog and is about to tuck in to his favourite food in the entire world when he is interrupted by an innocent-seeming duckling with a lot of questions and an ulterior motive. There is something about the snappish dialogue, written using comic book-style speech bubbles, that begs this story to be read aloud with attitude and maybe even an accent. Over the course of many readings we've adopted a sarcastic Bugs Bunny voice for the role of pigeon. But whatever you choose, read with gusto. Cool typography. I didn't think a kid would pay attention to fonts, but my four-year old son understands what parts are loud or angry because of Willems' typography.

The Story of Ferdinand
By Munro Leaf

The story of sweet-natured bull who would rather sit beneath his favourite cork tree and smell the flowers than fight in the bullring in town. A case of mistaken identity leads a group of bullfight organizers to capture Ferdinand and bring him to the city to face the bravest matador. Ferdinand stays true to his nature and refuses to fight and is eventually returned home to his cork tree in the field. The sweetest story of self-acceptance. I was shocked to discover it was published in 1936. Magical drawings of Spain by Robert Lawson.

Happy reading.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Craft:: Word Cloud Birthday Card

Wordle: david's birthday card

Wordle is my new addiction. Since discovering it a few weeks ago we have made word cloud birthday cards, a father's day card, teacher thank-you notes and some random artwork. It couldn't be more simple: type in a bunch of text. Repeat the words you'd like to appear bigger. In the case of David's card above, we typed in "birthday" six times, versus "cake" which was repeated twice and the smallest words were typed just once.  Hit the Create button and prepared to be amused and impressed. Change the font, colour and layout at the click of a button until you're happy. A tip: to keep two words together use the tilde symbol between the words. Type Happy ~ Birthday, or Mrs. ~ Smith or other words that go together. The ~ will display as a space in your finished image. On my computer the tilde key is right above the tab button, and I have to hold down the shift key to get it to display.

To make a birthday card, I print out the image on on card stock and trim to size using a Fiskar's paper trimmer that also has a scoring blade that makes a crisp centre crease. The finished card measures 4.25" by 5.5", which is just the right size to hold a standard gift card.

Happy weekend

Friday, June 25, 2010

Food:: Muffin Tin Lunches

Quirky little folks and their food. You know how some kids (ahem) don't like it when a food on their plate touches a neighbouring food? Like when peas roll into the mashed potatoes or rice grains cling to the green beans? I spend more time plating their food than they do eating it, all in the name of preventing the dreaded co-mingling. Divided plates are one solution, but I think this muffin tin take on a bento box is brilliantly appealing.

This lumberjack breakfast sampler from The Robins Zoo includes bananas, apples and orange sections, sausage bites, bread and yogurt.

A tulip-shaped muffin tin!

This example from Bento Lunch makes good use of a flower punch. So pretty, this would make terrific party food. Top row: mini ham sandwich with cheese centre, cucumber flower with carrot, celery + cream cheese.
Bottom row: watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberry and blueberry muffin bread flowers. Delightful.

There won't be any arguing over who ate all the good stuff with this snack tray for three, from Food for the Boys:

Little Wonder Days made this with a fish-shaped PB&J sandwich, cuc slices + ranch dip, berries, yogurt and Goldfish crackers. I don't know about you, but I like knowing what's for lunch at other people's houses.

If you'd like to see more, or join the Muffin Tin brigade, hop over to Muffin Tin Mom.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Family:: The Summer Bucket List

I am thinking about the end of school next week with mixed emotions. I've never had the luxury (that may not be the right word) of spending an entire summer off with my kids. I'm approaching the task as I imagine a program director on a cruise might do. That is to say, there is a whole lot of planning is going on. Thinking about day trips. Little explorations. Bigger events. People we'd like to hang out with. Free stuff. Things we'd like to make or bake. Of course I'm hoping for some unstructured where-the-day-takes us time as well, but relaxing is a dirty word around here and I don't dare assume that I'll get much feet-up time. Unless a mid-afternoon DVD is involved. And I just feel that notion that I won't contemplate it at the beginning of summer.

I've been hopping all over blog-land these last few days picking up a good idea here and there.I'd like to make some sort of grand to-do list - with my peeps involvement of course - so that we squeeze every drop out of summer and everyone has a hand in creating happy memories.  Lately I'm digging dry erase; no chalkboard dust to contend with and no paper. I need less paper in my life. Eighteen25 posted an amazing mondo summer whiteboard/calendar that lets you write on top of the picture frame glass. They created a pretty background of paper strips pieced together digitally, but you could also do this with a solid piece of fabric or taped scrapbook paper strips if you like:

My fondness for clothes pegs, most especially decorated ones, drew me to this project from Clean Mama. I like the idea of providing a bit of structure (I'd like to play... I'd like to read... I'd like to visit... I'd like to taste...) then trimming them into strips:

Which can be clipped to these lovely paper-covered clothes pegs (another crafty project for a quiet morning) as activities and summer go by:

There's an appealing straightforwardness about 71toes' calendar, which was a collaborative effort involving the entire family and not just mom:

There is no shame in employing a dash of Pavlovian motivation to keep the good behaviour rolling, I say. Grab this free printable of very useful Happy Tickets from Ambrosia Girl:

Adorable All-Purpose Treat Coupons - another free printable - from babalisme:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Family:: Teacher Appreciation Gift Ideas

Apparently schools in the states have Teacher Appreciation Week. A full week of teacher love in the form of, one assumes, gifts and small tokens of thanks. And it's not just the primary teacher, either. It extends to those secondary and tertiary teachers of music, phys ed, French, the librarian, the secretary and principal...and on and on. At the risk of sounding churlish, that is a whole lot of appreciation to muster. So count your blessings if you're in Toronto or thereabouts and only have to come up with one decent idea next week. Here are some that caught my eye:

Those girls at eighteen25 have ratcheted up the crafty ante with this brilliant teacher's desk set. The little Hershey chocolates amid the colour-coordinated push pins totally sealed the deal. Visit their blog for a beautifully photographed and detailed tutorial.

I know, I know, I know. Bottled water is practically a banned substance in this town. But I like the idea behind this, and it could be used with something other than a disposable bottle of H2O. Tazo tea + a travel mug? Get your free label download at Domesticated Lady:

This sweetly funny S'Mores label is another freebie label courtesy of Domesticated Lady. I'd do these as   birthday party treat bags too (My party was S'More fun because you were here!)

The runaway puns continue with this takeaway container filled with fortune cookies, spotted at it's all small stuff;

How about a lovely basket of the nicest apples you can find, courtesy of Skip To My Lou: