September 22, 2013

Don't Despair - Repair!

So, tell me if this has happened to you.
You found that perfect sweater years ago, and wear it almost daily.
First, you snag it.
Then, the snag gradually turns into a gaping hole, no longer possible to conceal. Sure, you can slap a patch on it, but this just isn't the 70's, and you are not a college professor.

Let's face it, your favorite sweater has become garbage.

But wait! Don't throw it out just yet!!

This simple tutorial is about repairing, not despairing, and DIY-ing your way to a customized, fabulous wardrobe!

Step 1:
Find the problem.
In this case, it's a hole in the elbow, rendering the entire left sleeve useless.

Step 2:
Find the solution.
Easy. New sleeves from just above the elbow down to the cuff.

Step 3:
Start repairing!
Find suitable sleeves.

Last week, I saw a woman on the U-bahn in Vienna (an extremely fashionable city) who was wearing a knitted sweater with leather sleeves. I thought that looked pretty awesome, functional and unique.
Lo and behold, I discovered I had a leather raincoat that has seen better days, to put it mildly. Being the passionate DIY-er that I am, I didn't throw that away either. Boy am I glad I didn't!

Let's get started!

1. Cut off the sleeves of the leather jacket at the shoulder - I know I won't be using them up to the shoulder, but it's always a good idea to cut off more than you're going to use (mistake allowance!)

Don't throw away the rest of that jacket! There is plenty more fabulous material to work with for another repair-job!

2. Cut the sleeves off the favorite sweater just above the hole.

Lay the leather sleeves on top of each other and trim them to give them a nice straight edge, and to make sure they are the same length.

3. Make sure you've got a cotton thread and heavy-duty needle (jeans for example).

Turn the sweater inside out and place the leather sleeve inside it. You'll be sewing on the inside of the sleeve.

Sew the sleeves together with a large zig-zag stitch, and the sweater part underneath. (The leather material is harder to push smoothly through the machine.)

4. Turn the sleeves right-side out and sew a nice straight stitch over the leather.

The extra straight stitch not only looks good, it will make your sleeves extra sturdy.

More importantly, the leather is heavier than the knitted sweater, and without this extra stitch, your sleeves may pull your sweater apart! Then, you're back to square one!

And here is the final result!
My sweater has a second life, perhaps an even better one than it already had...

August 22, 2013

A fairy nice home...

Mia, who is now 7, asked me the other day, "Mama, are fairies real?"
Now, I am the kind of Mom who loves these kinds of questions way more than "Why is the sky blue?" or "Where do babes come from?". Give me an opportunity to encourage my kids to expand their imaginations, and I am on it.

So I answered her question with another question. I said, "Do you think fairies are real?" She answered without hesitation, "Yes." That was good enough for me. Our conversation quickly proceeded and before long, Mia asked, "Mama, Where do fairies live?" So, I asked her where she thought they lived. Naturally, she was aware that there are about a gazillion different kinds of fairies, who all require different kinds of housing. She then asked, "Mama, are there fairies in our woods?" I shrugged my shoulders, and said "Maybe they would, if you built them a house". Well, that was all the encouragement she needed.

As soon as she got home from school, she got working and designed this cozy 2-bedroom fern-roofed chateau with pebble garden and utility shed:

Legend has it, and I'm not making this up, that if you build a fairy house, it may very well attract fairies to your domain. So, what's stopping you?

How to build your own fairy house
For this example, we'll be building a house for a nature fairy. Not sure which fairy you want to attract? Have a look here for a comprehensive list of fairy types.

1. You'll need something substantial to make your fairy house out of. No fairy wants to move into a place that will collapse almost immediately, after all. And remember, you want your fairy house to be able to sustain all weather conditions.

Other building materials could be:
- a hollow tree trunk
- sticks to form a tee-pee type house
- a vacant bird house
- milk carton
- unused dollhouse

2. Now, you'll need materials to further embellish your fairy house. Fill a bucket with 'treasures' from your garden that a fairy-in-need-of-accomodation might enjoy, like:
- bark
- pinecones
- leaves
- sticks and twigs
- rocks
- grass
- ferns
- moss
- dirt/mud

3. Now, find the perfect location for your fairy house. The ideal fairy house location is:
- a spot with some sun and some shade, fairies like just the right amount of both
- a secluded spot, with lots of privacy but within walking/flying distance of wherever fairies might need to go to

We found this little plot of land under a huge Japanese maple tree, facing West, right on the edge of the woods.

4. Now comes the fun part...
Piece the house together, bit by bit, allowing the materials you found to fit into one another naturally.

It's important not to rush the process - building a fairy house takes time, and it needs to be just right!
Fairies are picky, you know.

5. When you're finished, don't expect a fairy to occupy the house immediately. It's important to allow the fairy community to spread the word about your house. Keep your distance, but keep your eyes open, and you may just see one fluttering around there one day... 

Need some more inspiration?  Have a look at these amazing fairy houses.

August 09, 2013

Cleaning = Creating

Lo and behold - did you know, that when you clean up, you find yourself in possession a ton of new materials to make stuff with?!

This morning, I cleaned out our 'everything drawer'. Don't you have one of those? It's the drawer, typically found in or near the kitchen, that holds all the stuff you don't necessarily want to keep, but don't want to throw away either, and essentially don't what to do with. I'm talking about stuff like batteries, paper clips, buttons, boxes, odd change, wires, keys, screws, you name it... The cool thing about an 'everything drawer' is that no two are alike. Your 'everything drawer' is, like you, unique.

This is my 'everything drawer', and a bit of what I found in it:

Now, I faced a decision - toss, or not to toss, that was the question. Who made the decision for me? My son Bram, who is 5. Amongst the pile of stuff, he found a plastic whistle and a broken battery tester. He stuck them together and said - 'Hey Mama, this looks like a robot!' Well, say no more. Equipped with super glue, some wire and the contents of our 'everything drawer', we went to work.

Here's Bram, piecing his robot together before we glue it.
Here, Bram is deciding whether his robot walks, or flies... or both.
After piecing the parts together, super glue-ing and loads of laughs, we had not just one robot, but an entire robot family! We also had a clean 'everything drawer' and one less garbage bag to boot. A win-win situation, if ever I knew one.

Welcome to our house, robot family!
Live long (as long as the super glue holds out) and prosper!

May 22, 2013

A Perfect Mess

Guess what! Making a mess is good for you!
According to "A Perfect Mess" by Eric Abrahamson and David H Freedman, a mess means flexibility, room for improvisation, and better harmony with your environment! And not just for kids - there is a hidden system in that messy pile of papers...

I say, bring on the mess!

May 20, 2013

Your Own Personal Volcano!

So the other day, we made our own volcano. It was the easiest thing ever!
Gather these materials you have around the house:
- baking powder
- food coloring
- vinegar

First thing you need is a mountain. You can make one out of clay, or paper maché, of use something lying around that looks like one!

We used this safety cone,

 and covered with a garbage bag.

We poked a little crater in the top, making sure we didn't break the garbage bag!

Then, we put baking powder in the crater...

...and added food coloring, to make the lava red.

But we didn't stop there, we had blue, green and purple lava at one point!

Finally, we added some vinegar...
 ...and stood back! Our volcano is about to blow...!

March 25, 2013

The Bad Piggies Phenomenon

Do you have a tablet or an iPad? Do you have kids? If you have both these things, you'll probably find that getting a chance to use your tablet yourself is next to impossible. My kids are crazy about our iPad and so am I. I encourage them to develope their iOS-savvy skills, which I'm convinced will aide them later in life.

So, with this conviction in mind, I start searching through the gazillion apps to find ones that are suitable for my kids. I am looking for apps that will stimulate their creativity and will teach them something. And what do I find? Games, games and games. And games. And what's there at the top of the list? 'Angry Birds'. *shudder*

I made the 'mistake', or so I thought at the time, of letting my almost-five-year-old son Bram browse through the apps with me, to see what he might like based on the icons. Naturally, when he saw the 'Angry Birds' thumbnail pop up, he was insistant about getting it. When I say 'insistant', I mean he jumped up and down and screamed, 'I want Angry Birds!! Angry Birds!! Angry Birds!!' about fifty times till I finally gave in. I mean, just look at how angry that bird is! This can't be good for my child, I thought...
To my shock, I discovered 'Angry Birds', and more specifically, the follow-up game 'Bad Piggies' is not only fun, it's educational and clearly aids my childs' development! How can that be?!

All I knew about 'Angry Birds' was that the object of the game was to fling some squawking, annoying birds by means of a slingshot towards a tower and knocking it down. But that's not all. Inside the tower are these round, green, helpless pigs that get beat up and smooshed by the falling tower blocks. I was expecting harm and death, mayhem, cruelty. But the game actually requires some skill when it comes to aiming the slingshot, estimating a trajectory and managing to knock the tower down. Yes, the pigs get smooshed, but the level of violence is comparable to an episode of The Smurfs. To my surprise, in the weeks he has been playing 'Angry Birds', Bram's fine motor skills and jugdment has improved. Could it be that Angry Birds' really is more than a mindless, somewhat violent game?

Then, we discovered 'Bad Piggies', also by Rovio, the same creators of 'Angry Birds'. This game is centered around the round green pigs that are the object of destruction in 'Angry Birds'. But this game has even more to offer. 'Bad Piggies' is all about building a successful vehicle out of a bunch of parts to get a pig from one end of a roller-coaster-type track to the other, collecting stars along the way and finally reaching a treasure map. Some parts work, some don't. Sometimes the vehicle falls apart, sometimes you need to put the engine somewhere else for it to propel the vehicle far enough. Bram totally gets this. I totally do not. That's how clever he is and how stupid I am.

Bram has the engineering gene. He is clearly not an artsy-fartsy creative type like me, he's got the rational-thinking, logical-minded sense inherited from the male side of our family, on both sides, who are engineers, builders, logical thinkers. They get how things work. Via trial and error, one of my favorite things in this world, Bram figures out how to build a vehicle to support his pig and get him where he wants to go. Sure, sometimes he falls down or gets blown up, but the pig never dies. It rolls around for a while, then goes 'Let's do it again!' It's positive, it's constructive and it's teaching my kid more than I ever thought it would.

Just goes to show, never judge an app by its icon.

'Angry Birds' and 'Bad Piggies' are available here: