Monday, May 30, 2011

Sharing in the quiet space

Little man of the house (age 2) has a new phrase to express his frustration. It used to be "Naughty Everybody", but that has been replaced.

 As of late, Miss K (age 4) must have heard someone saying "damit". Where I do not know. But Little Man loves to copy EVERYTHING his sister does

Now, when Little Man is frustrated at his excessively LONG train falling of his train tracks he shouts: "DAMAGE"!

I know, of late, my blog has become rather eclectic - things are slowly being shaped for the next 'craft for a cause' project, but I'd love to hear your thoughts and what you enjoy me writing about. Do you have little people with equally curious expressions?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Escaping in a Secret Affair

A Secret Affair (Huxtable Quintet, Book 5) by Mary Balogh
 As per my usual book selection practise at the library (running past grabbing something eye-catching), this book entered my repertoire. I had no idea it was Mary Balogh's final in a quintet series, and the cover is not the same as this crimson cry here, but I loved it.

I love books that make me escape, give me a bit of romance, hope and unexpected twists. If it hooks me from the outset and has characters that make you curious and are generally 'likeable', I'll read to the end, even if I can anticipate the ending. I don't mind expected endings if they are expected. What I can't stand are so called twists in the tale that I've already worked out (that's another blog).

This wee novel captivated me because I wanted the heroine to win. I'm a sucker for romance. I love period pieces and books that make tears prick at my eyes, despite predictability. If you want some good old chick-lit, with a bit of sauciness (not much, but enough), then here's a good, easy read. Nothing heavy, nothing cerebral, just a good story.

Cover image from Amazon
Source:The Crafty Minx
The only area I do manage to get a good nosey into is our library's craft book section. I've just been skimming 'The Crafty Minx' - I'm probably late in the game to discover her, but oh so inspiring (not that I've had a go at making anything yet!). Oh yes, she has a fabulous blog, yet another I am going to be totally addicted to - ideas to make, but not enough time to commit to! What I loved about the book is that it is seasonally compatible with New Zealand - yes, Christmas in the summer!

My current crafting catastrophe is trying to knit with double pointed needles!(dpns) I'm trying out cupcakes, with some interesting results. Now that I've figured out which way I'm supposed to go, they are turning out a little better - not as good as my edible versions - but when I've finally got a bottom that actually fits a top, I'll post a picture!

My aim is to be able to knit socks for my next Japan project (coming soon - just trying to decide on the proportions!) Dpns are required for sock making!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Arrivals and new ideas

Boxes of goodies for Japanese kindergarten children reached my cousin's home on Friday. Toys and clothing were being distributed on Monday. Imagine the smiles!

My cousin commented that it was so nice something was being done especially for the children as she thinks there's been a lot for the Big People. So...the next project will be something that is family and kid focused and I'm hoping to launch it next week.

In the interim I wanted to give a bit of support to some other great causes related to the Japanese Disaster. Check out Tim Williams Charity for NZ & Japan announcement for New Zealand Time Out.

This TVNZ news item on the determination of a Kiwi to support those in Japan is a touching reminder of how much work will be needed in the future.

Working on ideas for project number two and would love to hear your thoughts/ideas too.

Royal Romps and flagging focus

I daren't put the three letter word, that begins with s and ends with an x and refers to 'romping' anywhere on the blog, you know how cyber space is!

When I go to the library, it is usually with two small people in tow, and 'perusing the shelves' really means running past the stacks between the kids section and the issuing desk and grabbing whatever grabs your fancy at the end of the shelf. With the Royal Wedding just been, and being ever so slightly interested in the romantic lives of the 'elite' (piqued by Philipa Gregory novels and just pure human gossip interest - I'm sorry I admit it), how could I resist this book winking at me as I dashed past.

Well it ain't no Philipa Gregory. I'm not sure how I managed to get through the dry text, appalling punctuation (whoever proof-read this should be black balled) and complete lack of context. If you have no idea which Royal period happened when, or which monarch was on the throne, you'd be jolly confused. Admittedly some of the characters were interesting and the illustrations were pretty, although there was one photo of two ladies who don't even get a mention, but a few family trees would have helped follow the connections. Royal families confuse me at the best of times, let alone worrying about bastard children and mistresses as well!

Roger Powell's premise is that royal mistresses all pretty much came/come from the same family lines, almost suggesting that there is some genetic predisposition to extra marital dalliances, but he fails to really contextualise the politics of romping. There was more at stake, in most cases, than debauchery and boredom. Titles, positions, land and money were powerful motivators, for both the woman and her family.

He also seems to lament the prevalence of the British Royalty marrying/fancying commoners (and yes Katie and Wills get a mention, even Charles and Camilla), questioning why would this be so... again, politics and social perceptions around romance and marriage are vastly different from centuries ago. Once royal marriages were a form of political treaties between countries, now marriage is about marrying the one you love, rather than loving the one you're with.

I had to have a little rant about this book, because I was really appalled that something of this quality made it to being a glossy paged, hard covered book. When I like something, I'll rant about it (I am getting to blogging about the thermo mix soon!), and when I don't like something, then pretty much everyone knows too!
So if you're about to pick this up, based on an alluring title, seek Ms Gregory out instead!

Although suffering a few nights reading, it hasn't all be in vain - I have decided yes, I am going to work on my tutor's comments from my short story and send it off - very nerve wracking. No one has really seen much of my creative writing since I was in high school. Academic writing was quite a different ball game!

And if anyone knows what a Lord of the Bedchamber is/was and where it was on the pecking order of royal staff, I'd be most obliged!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A little bit of research...

A BIG THANK YOU (again) to NZ Courriers for paying the customs duty slapped onto the two boxes of clothing and toys we sent to Japan!

I've never encountered this problem before, but then our items were valued over $3000 (and that's even valuing gorgeous beanies well below what they would sell for!). Having said that, given that these items are for disaster relief, you would think that such things would be exempt from duty.

Turns out, they are supposed to be. I found this document online that specifically states:

2. Customs procedures related to relief supplies for victims are handled promptly and flexibly as described below.
• Exemption from customs duties/consumption tax related to relief supplies and simplification of declaration procedures :
  • - When importing relief supplies to be given to victims at no charge, the customs duties and consumption tax normally imposed on the supplies are exempted. A statement for tax exemption for donations, etc. by the relevant procedure need not be submitted. (Article 15, Paragraph (1) No. 3 in the Customs Tariff Act and Article 13, Paragraph (1) No. 2 and Paragraph (3) No. 2 in the Law Concerning the Collection of Domestic Consumption Tax on Imports)
After trawling through different forums and courier company websites, I also discovered that there seems to be a higher incidence of duty put on goods coming into Japan through courier companies, and that if you use your national postal service (due to higher volume), the restrictions are lower. Goods under about US$50 in value are generally exempt.

I am so thrilled that NZ Couriers are covering this, but I also wanted to share this with others who might be considering sending goodies to Japan, or other destinations in need. Check customs regulations.

I am now in search of someone heading to Japan in November for the next project... and/or keen to investigate low cost alternatives for mailing. I can completely understand why people suggest sending money, not goods!

Life here is chaotic. Master A did a very impressive power vomit all over his sister's wardrobe today. All he's had since lunch is a cherio from the butchers - hmmmm - I did hear a rumour they stopped handing those out to kids for health and safety issues.

I have to say there is a lesson to be learnt in ensuring all drawers are closed properly! I'm off for a shower.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Elated, deflated...

How is it that bureaucracy can hold up well intended hope? Apparently my cousin has been contacted by Customs in Japan stating that they need to pay tax on the items we've donated because I ticked 'gift' on the customs form!
I probably should have ticked 'other' but assumed, for all intents and purposes, that our donation was a gift! What sort of crazy place expects people who have been hit by a disaster to fork out tax for donations????

Our trusty courier people will be onto this I'm sure, but I just wanted to blog about it in case anyone else has good intentions of donating items to stricken zones internationally. Make sure you clearly label it as a donation!

On the elated side of things, I've been doing a short story writing course (it was somewhat neglected over the past month), in an effort to keep the writing dream afloat. My tutor was so thrilled with my last assignment, she's suggested I submit it to a magazine. I'm feeling a bit shy about it all - a bit scared of getting my creative, vulnerable inner-child a bit crushed (there's a long history to this which I'll share some time!).

So what do you think - should I just take the plunge or should I build up my confidence more...?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

And they're off...

I said a fond Bon Voyage to two big boxes of goodies for the Fukudamachi Kindergarten Project on Monday. I feel a little like I've sent a child off into the big wide beyond. Life was breathed into it, lots of love, sweat and tears invested. I worried how people would treat my little project - there were some that ignored it, but so many wonderful people opened their arms and their hearts and embraced it, gathering the kaupapa into their own hearts and magic happened. As the boxes head on their way, I hope, as I hope for my own children when they head out into the great beyond, that they will bring smiles and awhi (support) to those who need it.

It's been an amazing journey. I have grown closer to my family in Japan. I have learnt how to be a better sewer, and reminded myself that yes, I am a born, bossy, organiser. I have been humbled by the generosity of individuals, families and companies. I know that there is more to be done (coming soon!). For the next week or so I'm going to have a rest, indulge in my babies and let the next idea simmer. It's a long term project, still focusing on crafting with intent.

My cousin, Kazue, (who is my Mum's cousin, but the nature of the affection is like immediate family and it is far less complicated to simpy say 'cousin') in Japan is excited about the in-coming goodies. She and her daughter Miki (who works at the kindergarten), are amazed at the generosity of so many people and in true Japanese fashion asked if there was anything we would like from Japan (in return). She was told ,under no uncertain terms, that all we wanted was for smiles and happiness!

To every single person who has been a part of this project - THANK YOU. Without you, it would still be just an idea.

And from the crafting catastrophe files - a near miss and a wee triumph:

Fat mouse  (catastrophe)- I've made one of these before - much skinnier -this one is made from different wool and maybe I mis-read the belly size. I've ended up creating a mouse that needs to go on a diet. The pattern said it was a toy that could be slipped into a pocket... will have to be a BIG pocket, but I'm hoping a child in Japan loves it.

A Very Simple Dress (wee triumph) - thanks to Ikat Bag's Jumper Dress pattern and tutorial, a wee bit of inventive applique and voila, I made this. So easy, so cute, that Miss K has asked for one (with a butterfly), as this one has gone into the box.
And as a wee treat to myself, I attended a fantastic felt-picture making course at Te Ra School over the weekend. This is a babe in a cradle that I made for Miss K. Master A has a chicken picture that has been recently repaired - it slipped off the table (or was it pulled?) and in his distress he bundled it up. Luckily it's so forgiving I could steam it back together. Will post pic soon!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Children's Day

It's Children's Day in Japan today. Usually I would put up the decorations and make a celebratory meal, but our house looks more like Christmas, and I have a sense that we are honouring the day in our own unique way.

I look back to my earlier blog where we faced empty baskets and waited for goodies - I could not have anticipated the outpouring of generosity that has swept through our door this week. Thank you to big hearts, clever hands and generous pockets. Take a look:

beanies, felted bunnies and a woollen vest

warm toes in those

hello felted bunny


sweaters, vests and scarves

felt finger puppets and toys

gorgeous skirt, applique top and scarf

Miss K holds up fab donations from Remba

Heather and Mr B packing the boxes

Heather and I were busy sorting and packing today. At 6pm,  Mr T rolled home with a few more goodies, the second box is pretty much full! There are the lovely clothes from Marselme, new undies, socks, t-shirts from coochycoo and leggings as well!

Ms M (me) with Remba's goodies, and our sponsor!

Today, on Children's Day, there will be tears in Japan shed for children lost, children found and tears of relief for those that are with their families. Remember to hug your own babies tight tonight. It's Children's Day.

Tune in tomorrow

Mountain of a challenge for Japan

Waatea Radio 603am (Auckland) will be interviewing me tomorrow at 7:30am about the Kindergarten Project. Fingers crossed I don't talk too fast and am coherent! Tune in tomorrow and you'll hear about the magic this project has generated.

I was reminded today how important keeping hope alive and spirits strong in the months following the disaster are- both for those in Japan and for Christchurch. Heather shared this link to NBC News with me, reflecting on the challenges that people continue to face 8 weeks on

There was also this website capturing images in April, one month after the disaster. I'm motivated to do more, so come join me if you can... tune in and stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mistakes versus Lying..

In the midst of wonderful donations and trying to make shorts, my most important role is being a mum to Little Man (Mr A) and Miss K. Children have a magic way of reminding you about the nuances of life that we've so become accustomed to... like last night...

Miss K woke up in the middle of the night and after muttering something about me ironing and lying, and Strawberry Shortcake, I finally worked out what she was on about. On the big day of Royal Wedding and short making disasters, Miss K and I had an argument about whether the Strawberry Shortcake music CD, borrowed from the library and found on her library floor needed to go back IMMEDIATELY because it was overdue.

Miss K insisted she had just got it out on Friday. I had no recollection of getting it issued (but then the two small people made it their mission to disappear from my vision and I was frantically 'looking out for them' while having what seemed like most of the children's section issued), and insisted (all grown up and with authority) that Mummy knew best and I knew that she got it out two weeks ago. All this went on while I was ironing the un-cooperative pair of shorts.

Miss K had a complete melt down - and rightly so. After she stormed off, I found the issue receipt and to my shame, there, at the top of this week's receipt was the Strawberry Shortcake CD. I had to eat a lot of humble pie and apologise to my little girl for being wrong and being so sure about it.

Last night, Miss K said to me, "you were lying about the Strawberry Shortcake CD Mummy." Hmmmm... I then had to explain the difference between lying (saying something is true when you know it isn't true) and a mistake (saying something is true, when you think it is true, but you're wrong).

Technically I think I was lying, because I thought I knew it was true... so again, Miss K was right.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Kindness in bulk

NZ Businesses are amazingly kind and generous. As a result of some fundraising and generous donations from friends and family, I had a small pool of finance to purchase some extras. Before wonderful NZ Couriers-International came onboard I was going to use this to pay for the freight, but their kindness has covered this.

I approached two NZ companies to see what they were able to do for us with the limited funds available.

CoochyCoo NZ offered discounts on their T-shirts and free postage of their items here. There are some kiwi inspired tees about to head to Japan shortly! Check out their cool NZ themed range and merino wear for kids and adults.


Marselme have donated over $1400 in value of clothing for less than 10% of that. I got the email from Robyn today. People's generosity and sincerity in wanting to help others is truely incredible. I have learnt just how big hearts can be. If you are in need of merino undergarments or fab kids wear, please support them.
Marselme Cape

Marselme Merino 

Washi Egg Tree

  Here's my Washi Egg Easter Tree, complete with origami shapes that resided in Te Ra School office for a week (note the gathering of people in background for the Harvest Festival). Over $100 was raised for the FKP. Many thanks to the warm hearts and deep pockets of fellow parents, students and staff - some who continue to donate with their gorgeous hand crafts.
Bigger eggs sold for another fundraiser

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cooking - so in my league

Fejioa and Poppy Seed Muffins
I have a theory about art, craft, cooking and baking, because, to be honest, I'm a far better cook than a crafter, and the foodie in me loves food analogies. I think baking is to craft as cooking is to art - that is when you craft/sew, you need to be precise and follow the directions, where when you do art (and cook), there are basics you stick to (like don't put avocado in a roast), but creativity flows differently... of course I may change my mind if I ever get to be a better crafter!

So after exposing my sewing disasters, I thought I'd share my mini-triumphs - like getting the kids to bed and sleep by 7pm! But in particular, what gives me a lot of joy is cooking, baking and sharing with those I love. Thankfully Mr T is a true food appreciator, as are the kids!

Five Seed Bread

Today I tried out two new recipes: Fejioa and Poppy Seed Muffins (Jo Seagar in April Issue of Australian Women's Weekly (AWW) and 5 Seed Bread (Alison Holst, AWW July 2010). Absolutely divine! The muffins have a lovely lemony tang (Master A ate two, but not to Ms K's liking). As you can see from the pictures, the bread was popular. It was a perfect compliment to my pumpkin, carrot and kumara soup (which went an interesting tinge of purple due to the organic kumara!).

Thank heaven for clever crafters

One of the reason I started the FKP was because I love to craft (albeit badly, see post below) and I know so many others do too. I have friends that love a good reason to sew or knit. Thank goodness for their talented hands, or the kids in Japan would be ending up with wide-waisted short disasters. Here we showcase the handi-work of the the two Fis (Fionas - Fi 1 & Fi 2 are so named for purposes of the blog as it was order in which I met them). I also have some gorgeous slippers by Ms Y to put up over the next day or so and a quilt, so stay tuned!
Two of the 6 gorgeous hats by Fi 1

Fi 2's lovely hat

Fi 1 made a pile of cute aprons too

Fi 1 was as busy as a bee crafting up over 20 of these

Crafting Catastrophes and a Royal Wedding

I decided to set myself a wee challenge on Saturday and make two pairs of boys shorts for the Fukudamachi Kindergarten Project (FKP). I'd been to the local fabric shop and bought some lovely embellisment fabric for the cuffs and was all keen to go.

A wee while ago (hmmm maybe 2 years) I purchased a Sew Easy Pattern which included shorts. They are a little bit short and so in my infinite wisdom, I decided to elongate them and add the cuff to them - despite never having made the things before, and despite being a TOTAL sewing novice - it's all there in my head, the execution seems to be the problem.

First pair of shorts... after cuffing them, I sew the front panel and back panel of each side together, only to think that the pattern now seems upside down. The cuffs are all along the top and the legs dangling below - I am sure that I have somehow sewed cuffs to the wrong part of the shorts. Unpick everything, reattach and start again.

several unpicks, re-stitches and half a Royal wedding later, I produced the most ridiculous looking pair of long shorts ever - note that the whole pattern has been done upside down and the side seams are done incorrectly (the legs have not been hemmed for obvious reasons!) I blame the loud outfits of Fergie and Andrew's offspring for the distraction - but wasn't it a lovely wedding!

This is how they should have turned out, although this was not without its catastrophes as well. Because it's so hard to tell front from back on this material, I ended up with two cuffs facing the same way and had to unpick again. To add to the drama I had bobbin issues (getting stuck, not winding and running out) and small children requiring food and attention!

Successful Shorts
 Following my sense of 'success' I thought I'd be clever and finish another bunny - I forgot to slow down and check that the two right sides were together. AFTER SEWING I discovered that they weren't - one bunny less.... still I persevered...and voila I began on my pinny dress, which is so much more simpler. I just have buttons to add and the hem to do. Am hoping Ms K will model a full, completed version (barring any catastrophes in the interium. She likes it so much she's asked me to make her one and a pair of long-shorts too) - wish me luck!
Or as the Queen might say: