Monthly Archives: June 2012

Random acts of craftiness – butterfly necklace

Standard

Butterfly necklace

The advent of gift cards has significantly simplified the process of deciding on what to get your child’s teacher as an end-of-year gift.  Easy and one size always fits all.

Apparently some of the parents at our school give bottles of wine as teachers’ gifts.  I can certainly understand that by the time school is over, most teachers probably want nothing more than some peace and quiet and a big glass of wine.  However, gift cards seemed the way to go for us, particularly after M told me he needed gifts for four teachers – M’s classroom teacher, the French teacher, the Language Arts teacher (who I don’t ever recall meeting) and his EA.

One of the parents organized a group gift for the classroom teacher.  That left getting gift cards for the other teachers.  I also made them thank you cards.  M dictated very heartfelt messages to each teacher, which I wrote in each card (getting him to do the actual writing would have provoked a battle royale, which seemed highly counterproductive on the last day of school).

I also decided to give a gift to our principal.  She has consistently gone the extra mile for M – as he said in his thank you card. “she always has his back.”  Since she has done so much for us, I wanted to make a piece of jewelry for her – it seemed more personal than a gift card.

As I was digging through my bead boxes for inspiration, I came across a round pendant from More Skye Jewels with an image of a butterfly in blue tones. As I was trying to decide whether or not to build a necklace around the pendant or find something else, I  stumbled across a strand of irregular-shaped shell beads (my beads are jumbled into several plastic boxes, so finding something is a bit like a treasure).  The beads were slightly iridescent  and matched the colours in the pendant perfectly, but it was a very short strand.  So I added some chain to make the necklace longer, as well as a couple of larger beads at either end of the bead strand, just to add a bit more visual interest and texture.

I ended up making two versions of the necklace.  In the first version, I strung the shell beads together and put 3 larger beads on the end of the strand, which was then connected to the chain with a jump ring.  The chain was a dark gun-metal, almost black, but I couldn’t find a clasp in the same colour, so I went with one in antique silver.  I wasn’t totally happy with it, but it was late, so I decided to sleep on it.

Version #1 - Butterfly necklace

In looking at the necklace the next day, I decided I liked the design but not the execution.  So I took the necklace apart and started over.  It turned out to be the right move, since I was much happier with Version #2.   I put tiny iridescent brown seed beads between each of the shell beads, which made it look a bit more polished and less like I’d just strung a bunch of beads together.  I also made separate wire units, using a headpin, for the larger beads, to more clearly mark the transition between the shell beads and the chain.  As a final touch, I cut a toggle clasp off a pre-made gun-metal chain bracelet and attached it to the necklace.  I fastened the pendant to the necklace, using an extra-large jump ring.

Necklace version #2

Close up - focal pendant

I had also made a card for the principal – by total coincidence, it also had a butterfly on it.

Thank-you card

We wrapped up the card with the necklace in an envelope made from recycled paper and M gave it to her.  She seemed genuinely touched by M’s sentiments and pleased with the necklace.  She put it on right away and told M she would wear it all day.   Of course, this made M very happy.  A good start to the day.

I have linked up to the following: Craft Envy – Saturday Spotlight; Think Pink Sundays at Flamingo Toes ; Monday Link Party at Craft-O-Maniac; Motivate Me Monday at Keeping It Simple; Making Monday Marvelous at C.R.A.F.T. ; Made by You Mondays at Skip to My Lou ; Get Your Craft on Tuesday at Today’s Creative Blog; Take-a-Look Tuesdays at Sugar Bee Crafts; Wednesday Wowzers at oopsy daisy; Flaunt It Fridays at Dotted Line Crafts; The Cure for the Common Monday at Lines Across My Face; Six Sisters Stuff – Strut Your Stuff Saturday

School’s out for summer!

Standard
English: Fireworks display

English: Fireworks display (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last day of Grade 5!

If you had asked me at the beginning of the school year if M would make it through the school year, I would have probably said yes.  But I would have added a number of caveats, such as weekly visits to the principal’s office, being sent home on more than one occasion, being called to last-minute meetings with School Board officials.  Because that was our experience last year.  As M observed recently, he spent most of the last 2-3 weeks of Grade 4, either at home (at the request of the school) or one-on-one with an EA, away from his classmates.

But this year, M is finishing the year in his class, with his friends.  He was sent home only once, very early in the school year.  We haven’t had a meeting with anyone from the School Board since Christmas (can’t say I miss those meetings since we always left feeling like the worst parents in the universe – hard to feel good about your parenting skills in a room full of educational professionals who are discussing how much a danger your child poses to classmates and staff).  And the principal told me that she saw M so rarely that sometimes she would go out to the yard or up to his class, just to see how he was doing.

A great deal of M’s success can be attributed to the hard work of the school staff – the principal, his teacher and his EAs.  They demonstrated phenomenal patience and worked tirelessly to put in place the supports M needed to succeed.

Given M’s very bumpy history in the school system, he needed to get some success under his belt.  It’s hard to feel good about yourself when the other kids don’t want to play with you on the school yard or when you aren’t permitted to participate in the end of year activities with your classmates.  Once he started to participate in class activities, M was able to demonstrate to himself that he could actually be successful.   A positive feedback loop.  Of course, he’s still pretty selective about what he will do – if it involves math, then he’s all in.  But if it’s something he doesn’t like (writing) or something he thinks might be hard (also writing), then most of the time he checks out.  But he appeared in a couple of the class videos and finished “some assignments” (according to his report card – better than “none”).   When he actually completed a project, he did a good job.  Another check mark in the success column.

Today we aren’t going to focus on M’s challenges.  We are going to celebrate the fact that he had a kick-ass year.  Next stop, Grade 6.

Lemony chickpea salad

Standard
The Art of Salad

The Art of Salad (Photo credit: Chiot’s Run)

Since I take my lunch to work almost every day, I am always looking for dishes that are portable and easy-to-make.  This time of year, I particularly like salads, but lettuce gets boring pretty quickly.   Plain salad doesn’t have much protein, unless I add a hard-boiled egg, tuna or left-over chicken.  While I’m not currently a vegetarian, I do try and eat more vegetarian than meat-based meals.  So chickpea salad is a good option

I have been making a variation of the recipe for years – once I find something I like, I tend to stick with it.  The recipe makes enough to last about week (3-4 days if my husband asks me nicely if he can have some too).  It’s easy – just rinse a can of chickpeas, and chopped vegetables and toss with the dressing.  The recipe is also flexible – the ingredients and amounts can be varied according to personal taste..  It’s versatile – I can toss it with some greens or wrap it in a tortilla with sprouts for a quick sandwich.   Not to mention, cheap (about a dollar per can) and good for you.

Lemony Chickpea Salad

1-19 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I use whatever is on sale and has the least amount of sodium)

1/3 cup each celery, red pepper and red onion, chopped fine

1/3 cup grated carrot (I don’t bother peeling mine – takes too much time)

1/4 cup marinated artichoke hearts

Mix ingredients together in bowl (I make the salad directly in a plastic container to minimize cleanup – when the salad is finished, I pop on the lid and throw it in the fridge)

For the dressing, whisk together the following in a small bowl:

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp grainy Dijon mustard

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs (e.g., oregano, basil, parsley, chives)

1/4 tsp ground coriander

1-2 pinches ground cumin

salt/pepper to taste

Pour on top of the chickpea/vegetable mixture and combine well (I usually put the lid on and give the container a couple of good shakes) and refrigerate.

I ride my bike to work and I never have to worry about this salad getting mushy.  It tastes better after a couple of days and you can eat it chilled or at room temperature.  A winner in my books.

The art and craft of a perfect Father’s Day gift

Standard
Father & Son

Father & Son (Photo credit: jeroenadema)

Every year, as Father’s Day approaches, I ask M what he would like to get his dad.  The standard response is “I don’t know.”  My suggestions that we go out together to look for a gift are usually rebuffed:  “can’t you do it, Mommy?”

I am somewhat mystified by M’s reluctance to help select a gift for his dad (admittedly he is similarly disinterested in picking out birthday and Christmas gifts).   He has gone out gift-shopping for me with my husband for the last several years – apparently, he is a willing participant in the selection process.  Maybe M thinks his dad actually needs his help, whereas, I am seen to be perfectly capable of finding an appropriate gift.

That’s not really the point – he’s almost 11 and I think he’s old enough to participate in picking out a gift for his dad, especially for Father’s Day.  I am not asking him to spend his own money, just to be involved.

So this year, I took a different approach.  Rather than ask him to go shopping with me, I decided to take him to a local store that is a favourite of my husband’s.  We had to pass by the shop on our way back from his karate lesson, so it wasn’t a big sell to get him to go in.  We agreed on a pair of shorts.   He was immediately distracted by one of the books the shop owner keeps to entertain clients’ children, so it was a bit tricky to get him to actually identify the ones he liked best.  The first pair he selected didn’t come in his dad’s size, so we agreed on a pair of beige plaid shorts.

At that point, the salesperson brought some shirts from the back that we are on sale – we are frequent customers and are known to like a bargain.  But when I showed them to M, he didn’t seem that keen.  The sales clerk said she would give us 60% off a shirt, so I suggested to M that we take it too.  But he wasn’t happy and when I questioned him, he said, “you aren’t listening to me.  I don’t think that shirt will look good on Daddy.”

Of course, he was right.  So we left just with the shorts.  I realized that I would never be able to get M to help buy another gift for his dad, if I didn’t listen to him.  Not always as easy thing for me to do – I often want things to be a certain way.  But if I want M to take the responsibility of selecting a gift, I have to respect his choice.  I did ask him if he wanted to buy a card or have me make one – he chose the home-made option.

The card I came up with is one of my best.  I used the image of a hat, since my husband is a hat afficienado.  I found paper at Michaels that was the same colour and texture of cardboard.  I couldn’t find any clipart images I liked, so I copied and pasted a picture of a hat from ebay.  I printed in in black and white onto the cardstock and cut out around the hat itself.  In a contrasting colour, I cut out a slightly larger outline of the hat.  I added a few embellishments – metal corners, wasabi tape and printed “hats off to a great dad” in a fun font.

Father's Day card

Close up – hat detail

As is my way, I decorated the inside of the card too.  M seemed pretty pleased with the final product.

Inside the card

My husband was delighted with his shorts and the card.  He wore the shorts all the day and told M how much he liked them.  He really liked the card – he thought it was one of my better effort (High praise, since I’ve showed him (forced him to see) every card I’ve ever made.  He did wonder why M’s name appeared to be spelled wrong – M was in the middle of watching something on the computer when I asked him to sign the card.  Can’t have everything.

A week of wonderful

Standard
Silly Cousins

Silly Cousins (Photo credit: celeste343)

This past week was a very good week for everyone at our house, including M.  The kind of week that doesn’t come along very often.  There were a few moments of “you’ve got to be kidding” – M yelling at the soccer ref; the iron burning a giant hole in a favourite shirt; falling off my bike to avoid hitting another rider (who didn’t seem to feel the same sense of urgency to get out of the way).  But they were far and a way out-numbered by the good times.

 

It probably didn’t hurt that we took a few days off at the beginning of the week and hung out at the cottage.  We were there with all my immediate family, which based on past experiences, had the potential for major drama.   This time, however, everyone got along fine.  A couple of times when he was asked to help out with setting the table or doing the dishes, M did ask, “do I have to?” in a tone of voice that clearly said “I don’t want to.”  But he got with the program and pitched in.  Even my husband who generally views visits to the cottage as something to be endured, rather than enjoyed, seemed to have a good time (not having grown up with a cottage, my husband is largely immune to its allure).

 

For M, the best part of the week was spending time with his 3 cousins.  He sees other relatives more often, but his first cousins are special.  They are teenagers and don’t share many of his interests – Pokémon, word search puzzles and Garfield comics.  But they seem as genuinely fond of M as he is of them.

 

Some of the highlights of the past week:

 

  • Seeing M perform with his school choir at the local art and music festival.  They were on the main stage which he found a bit intimidating.  But once he started singing, he was fine.  It was a big crowd (lots of proud moms and dads) and the kids did a great job.
  • M playing cards every morning with his 15-year old cousin.  Sometimes, their grandmother and/or my sister-in-law would join in, but most of the time, it was just the two boys. I’m not sure what games they were playing, but there was lots of conversation and laughter.  Apparently, M is lucky at cards.  Fortunately, his cousin is a good sport
  • Listening to my (almost) middle-aged brother chat with our 13-year old niece.  They were sprawled on the double bed in the room just off the kitchen (it was the originally the au pair’s room), so I could hear them as I was making supper.  My brother gets along well with kids – he says it’s because he’ s still a kid himself.  He is not particularly close to M – perhaps because he sees him fairly regularly in the summer months.   I couldn’t make out what they were discussing but they were clearly enjoying themselves.
  • Watching my youngest brother do a cross-word puzzle with M as we were packing up to go.  M loves any kind of word puzzle – he taught himself to do Sudoku when he was about 5 years old.  My brother, who is possibly the worst speller in the world, is a surprisingly good Scrabble player.  Apparently, he is not too bad at crosswords either.
  • Going shopping with my mother and my nieces in the nearby “city” on a rainy afternoon.  I tend to shop by myself, so going out with the “girls” was a new experience for me.  The girls have definite taste – a few of my suggestions got a double thumbs down – and they were both good company.  My mother insisted on paying for the shirt I decided to buy.  I let her as it wasn’t very expensive, even though I was the only one of the four of us with a full-time job.

All in all, a very good week.

 

One big happy family

Standard

We spent the last few days at the cottage with my entire immediate family.  Eleven of us sharing the same space:  my mother; my youngest brother, his wife and their 3 teenagers; my middle brother and his girlfriend; and me, my husband and our son, M.  Plus Jet, our lovable, but slightly dopey, standard poodle.  It was a big crowd, with lots of different personalities.  There isn’t a great deal of privacy.  We have running water, but only one bathroom.  Did I mention 3 teenagers?  And a matriarch (my mother) who likes to run the show?  And a 10-year old who is not used to having lots of people around?

But it was surprisingly pleasant.  Idyllic even.

Everyone was on their best behaviour.  The warm sunny weather probably helped – we were all able to do our own thing outside, either reading on the deck, lounging on the dock or out the water in the kayak or fishing boat.  The water was warm enough to swim, unusual for mid-June.  All the kids are old enough to amuse themselves, including M.  Given a choice, he would spend all day on the computer or on his iPod, but he fished and played cards with his cousins.  Even my husband, who looks forward to these visits with my family as much as he would a root canal, seemed to enjoy himself – the full beer fridge and multiple open bottles of wine no doubt took the edge off.  Not to mention, the gourmet meals and mid-day naps.

The fact that this was probably one of the last times we will all be together made the last few days all that more special.  My eldest niece is going into her last year of high school and will be off on her own in a couple of years, followed shortly by her brother.  We are planning to go and visit them next year, but the kids will probably all be in school or busy with their friends and extra-curricular activities.   At the cottage, there were fewer distractions and more opportunities for conversation, as we waited on the dock for my brother who owns a jet-ski to take the girls out on the water, or as we were driving into town to go shopping.   Most years, other relatives are up at their (nearby) at the same time as we are, so there are always people coming and going (we are a bit like lemmings and tend to all gather at the same time).  But this year, it was just our family.   The adults agreed it was much quieter; as much as we love our extended family, it was enjoyable, being their on our own.   We have high-speed internet, so the kids were happy.

It was good for M to spend some time with his cousins, aunt and uncles.  Since he is an only child, having so many people around is a bit overwhelming at times.  We tend to eat supper late, by which time he “isn’t hungry.”  All the activity makes regular bedtimes impossible to enforce.  And M had to help out with dishes and other chores which he did not care for at all.  But a short stint at “sibling boot camp” was a good thing.  The fact that M’s cousins do what they are asked (mostly) when they are asked (or at least the second time) set a good example for him.  They aren’t perfect kids but they are kind, good-natured and genuinely fond of M.

Most of the time when we go to the cottage, M has a least one emotional outburst on first day (sometimes in the first hour).  Like many kids with ADHD, he has trouble with transitions, so the change in routine and a different environment can be challenging.  But other than a few sulky moments – brought on by being asked to help with the dishes or when his grandmother “told” him to do something, rather than “asked” – M was in a good mood the entire time we were away.  He spent most mornings playing cards with his 15-year old cousin, who is very patient but didn’t hesitate to call him out when he perceived M wasn’t following the rules.  M preferred to spend most of his time sitting on the big comfy sofa in the main room, on the computer (his choice) or reading (his parents’ choice).   Occasionally he retreated to the room he was sharing with my nephew for a little quiet time.   He was good company and seemed to genuinely enjoy hanging out with his family, especially his cousins.

The fact that it was a relatively short visit – just 3 days – likely upped the enjoyment factor for everyone.   We got to spend quality time with each other, but it was time limited.  It probably wasn’t long enough for my mother – she loves having all her “chicks” together.  But for the rest of us, it was just a long enough visit so everyone had the chance to relax, but not so much that anyone got too bored or aggravated with another family member.

Jet, enjoying a dip in the lake

Hopefully, we will have another opportunity to be together at the cottage before too many years pass.  But if we don’t, we will have lovely memories of this visit.  Plus a few photos of the cousins – smiles all around.  Can’t do better than that.

Everything is coming up….rosettes

Standard

The last month or so has been busy – between helping organize the plant sale at M’s school,  a long weekend at the cottage and travelling out-of-town to a family funeral (my husband’s grandmother), I haven’t had a lot of time to do much around the house/garden, let alone get any crafting done.  I have long list of ideas of things I want to do and a few works-in progress, but not much to show in terms of completed projects.

However, I do have several friends and family members with birthdays coming up.  Plus, my neighbour got married today.  Since the weather station was predicting rain and more rain, it seemed like a good day to make a few cards.  And having recently mastered how to make a rosette,  I decided to go with a variation on theme and use a rosette as a focal for each of the cards.

Once you get the hang of making rosettes, it’s hard to stop.  I have a scoring board so making the folds takes about a minute.  Another minute for the actual folding and voila!  A one-of-a-kind decoration for your card.   Getting the rosette to stick together was challenging at first,  but  I discovered that gluing a 1-inch circle on the back, as well as the front, held the whole the rosette together.  I also found that placing something heavy on the rosette for a few minutes helped it “set,” so it was ready to use (I found my 3-inch circle punch was just the right weight to hold the rosette down without squishing it).

Card #1

This is a birthday card for a friend in brown and pink.  The rosette is made from a paper stack by K & Company – the paper is double-sided which I like.  Not only is double-sided card stock a bit heavier (and less flimsy) than regular printed paper, but colour coordinating is easy – just flip the paper over.   Instead of stamping “happy birthday,” I went on my computer and played around with a few fonts and then printed the message on cream coloured paper with brown ink.   I stumbled across the brown ribbon in one of my boxes and it added a nice touch.  I even managed to match the colour of the card for the cake stamped on the inside of the card by playing around with different coloured inks (this was more a happy accident than any great skill on my part).

Birthday card

inside of the card

Card #2

This card started out as a birthday card, but I decided I wanted to make a wedding card for my neighbour, instead of buying one.  She had planned on getting married today but has been ill and in hospital.  Fortunately, she was feeling well enough today, so she and her fiance  were able to go ahead with the ceremony.   I went with a blue/green colour scheme because I had already made the rosette, and I had lots of other paper that matched.  I used a fancy die-cut square as a background and turned it so it looked liked a diamond.  I actually intended to put the ribbon/bow at the top of the card, but after gluing it is place, I discovered it was upside down.  So I rearranged the pieces around the bow at the bottom.  Another happy accident.

Wedding card

Wedding card – inside

Card #3

Another birthday card, this time in purple and green, also from the K & Company paper pad.   I made this rosette a bit larger than the others – using a paper strip about 12 inches x 1-1/2 inches.  The centre is made using my trusty 1-inch punch (the edges come out slightly ruffled) and shiny stickers in different sizes.   The ribbon is the same as the one I used to make a bow on the wedding card; since it’s sheer, it picks up the colour of whatever is underneath in this case, shiny purple cardstock (I have a big roll of this particular ribbon – it was on sale one day at Michael’s) .   I changed the design up a little for the inside, but used the same colours and design elements.

Birthday card – purple and green

Inside of the card

Card #4

Another birthday card.  This time, I made a small rosette by slicing a piece of paper in half length-wise after it was scored.  I glued two pieces of 8-inch paper together to make a slightly longer strip, so it was a bit tricky to cut with my 12-inch paper cutter.   The rosette ended up being a little fuller than some of larger ones, so it works well as the centre of a die-cut flower.  The little “tails” coming out of the rosette were made from scraps of paper I saved from other projects.  The “b” is also a die-cut – I punched out the little piece of paper from the inside and used it as the background for the little metal  heart (picked up at a deeply discounted price from Michael’s, after Valentine’s Day).

Small rosette as the centre of a flower

Inside of card