Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hand-sewing with kids: Review of Sew Together Grow Together by Trixi Symonds

Hand-sewing with kids: Review of Sew Together Grow Together by Trixi Symonds

I loved to sew when I was a child and when I get a spare moment now I still enjoy sewing, especially cross stitch. So I knew I would love Trixi Symonds book Sew Together Grow Together.

Sew Together Grow Together is a collection of hand-sewing projects that Trixi Symonds has developed over 20 years based on her experience in classes and workshops with children. It is designed for parents and children to work together and no sewing experience is necessary. They are quick projects that can be finished in an afternoon and they are all hand sewn, so no sewing machines required! 

Sew Together Grow Together by Trixi Symonds

James is the kind of kid that enjoys creating things when there is a set of instructions to follow. He certainly takes after his mum, who loves a good process (In my pre-kid career I spent a lot of time writing procedure documentation). So after having a flick through Sew Together Grow Together, I knew it would be a perfect fit for James. 

When I showed James the book, he couldn't wait to get started, but we faced a little challenge - finding my fabric stash! After recently moving, we still have quite a lot of junk important treasures in storage. So before we could begin we needed to take a trip to the storage locker and find the all important fabric bag and sewing kit!  With the tricky part out of the way we were ready for our sewing project.

Just a small amount of our fabric stash

We decided to start with the Star Bub from the Star Mum and Bub project which is the first project in the book. James had lots of fun sorting through all the fabrics to find the perfect pattern for his Star Bub. He thought a starry fabric would be ideal for his new star friend.  

What I really loved about Sew Together Grow Together is how straightforward the instructions are. It is ideal for sewers and non-sewers alike. The Techniques and Stitches section of the book were very useful in getting prepared for the project and included some very useful hints and tips. I also like that you don't have to rigidly follow the procedure, and you can tweak, tailor and embellish your project to suit your child. 

Sewing a Star Bub from Trixi Symonds Sew Together Grow Together

James read through the instructions on his own and with a little guidance from me he was able to complete the entire project by himself, which he loved. It really is such a wonderful opportunity to work together to create something special and such a lovely experience sewing together.

Voila! He had created his very own little star friend.

Children's sewing book Sew Together Grow Together by Trixi Symonds

I think it turned out really well. James was so proud of his creation.  He has well and truly caught the sewing bug! He has been flicking through the book to choose his next project which we will be working on in the upcoming school holidays (only a few days to go - Yippee!!). 

Sew Together Grow Together is a wonderful reminder that hand-sewing is not hard at all and it can a fun and relaxing experience for both adults and kids alike.  If you are looking for an activity for the kids to do at home during these school holidays, I can highly recommend Sew Together Grow Together.

You can purchase the book via Trixi's etsy page or via Dymocks and other good book shops.

Also make sure you drop by Trixi's blog Coloured Buttons for more wonderful sewing tutorials and where you can also find out about the amazing sewing workshops for kids that Trixi runs.

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Disclosure: I was provided with a digital review copy of this book by the author. My opinions, as always, are my own.

Friday, September 19, 2014

6 tips for surviving a book fair

6 tips for surviving a book fair

Today was the first day of the Spring Lifeline Book Fair here in Canberra. The book fair has around 200,000 used books, magazines, puzzles, CDs and DVDs on offer! All proceeds of the sale go towards the invaluable Lifeline telephone crisis support line. Buying books for a good cause. Sounds like a great reason to add a few more books to our collection.

While I may not be a hardcore book lover like those who were lined up since 5am this morning, I always make sure I go to the fair on the first day! It never disappoints and I always manage to find some beautiful bookish treasures.

The sea of books before you can be a little overwhelming, not to mention the large crowds all jostling to discover their own bookish treasures. After many years of attending the Lifeline Book Fairs, I'd like to share a few tips I have learnt along the way and hopefully help you to survive the book fair, especially with kids in tow and bag some bookish bargains too.

1. Know what you're looking for
With a gigantic room full of rows and rows of books, it can be a little overwhelming. Where do you start? It's always good to know what type of books you are looking for. Picture books, chapter books, nonfiction etc. Make use of the book fair map with the layout of book genres (if they provide one) and only target the areas you are interested in. If they don't have a map, there are usually signs posted around the room indicating the book genre. This will cut down on browsing aimlessly and for me it usually reduces the temptation to get books that I don't need. I love cook books but rarely use them and certainly don't have room for any more, so I steer clear of that section altogether.

2. Bring suitable carry bags
Books are heavy so make sure you bring suitable bags to carry your precious finds in. The number of books you wish to buy will help you determine the type of bag you will need. I usually have a stroller with me, so I use the green fabric shopping bags, which I then hang off the stroller handles. You could also use a suitcase on wheels, or even one of those granny shopping trolleys. If you are buying a lot of books, a bag with wheels is a must. You don't want to do yourself an injury lugging all those books around the fair.

3. Know your budget
How much do you really want to spend? It can be pretty tempting to buy ALL the books. With such affordable prices, it's easy to just add one or two (ok ten) more books to the pile. So set a budget and make sure you stick to it! Don't forget to confirm if they accept Credit Card or eftPos payments as well as cash before the event so that you're prepared on the day.

4. Be prepared to cull 
With so many people after a bookish bargain, it can get a little crowded at a book fair. I recommend when sorting through books, bag anything that you think might be good and continue browsing.  I don't spend much time looking at the quality of the book or price. I just shove it in the bag and continue browsing through the ocean of books. Once I have finished browsing I find a quiet spot to sit down and go through my haul. When reviewing my book choices, here are a few things I consider:
  • Do I like the book? Flick through the illustrations, read the blurb etc. Is this a book my kids will want to read? Is this a book you need?
  • Check the condition of the book. Are the pages in tact and free from tears? Are there any marks or creasing that you can't live with? (remember these are used books and may have some marks or blemishes)
  • Price. Are you happy to pay that price? Is the price fair for the condition of the book? Are you still within budget?
Return any books you don't wish to purchase and continue browsing or head to the checkout.

6 tips for surviving a book fair with kids

Here two more tips if you are bringing kids with you:

5. Bring Snacks 
You can guarantee that they will get hungry while you are browsing through the books. I always bring a variety of snacks and try to go with food that won't make fingers too sticky. Better pack some wet wipes just in case. You don't want to get the books all sticky. A full tummy usually makes for a happy kid.

6. Involve kids in choosing books
Keep the kids occupied by letting them to choose their own books. Make sure they are aware of any limits you have set. For example, I tell my kids how many books they can choose. I provide them with their own book bag and I am pretty flexible with their book choices, although I must admit there are times when I may need to provide a little extra guidance.

I don't think there's anything like the thrill of bagging a bookish bargain and book fairs are a wonderful way to build up your child's library without breaking the bank.

Do you go to secondhand book fairs? What tips would you add to this list?

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Book Launch: Tottie and Dot by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

What a beautiful sunny day for Father's Day here in Canberra. After spoiling Dad with wonderful handmade presents and sharing a yummy breakfast, we went to a book launch!

Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling had joined forces again to create the utterly adorable picture book Tottie and Dot. Today Tania launched Tottie and Dot at Dymocks, Canberra Centre and we went along to enjoy the fun.

Book launch of Tottie and Dot by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

Up until today I had not shared the book with James and Emily (even though I was very tempted). Knowing that we were going to the book launch I wanted them to hear the story for the first time from the author herself. I wanted it to be a totally new experience for them. I wanted them to be able to connect the story with the person who created it. To help them to understand that there are wonderful people who work very hard to create these books for us to enjoy.

Book launch of Tottie and Dot by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

When Emily saw the book today for the first time and she spied the adorable Tottie and Dot on the front cover, it was love at first sight! "Look Mum, she has pink hair! I have red hair but one day my hair might get pink!" She wouldn't let the book out of her sight!

Tania McCartney - author of Tottie and Dot

Then it was storytime! Before Tania could begin, there was a special guest appearance by Dot herself!

Tottie and Dot Book Launch

Don't you just love those glasses? 

Tania McCartney reading Tottie and Dot

James loves book launches, especially Tania's ones. We have attended a few of Tania's launches now and she always does such an amazing job. Not only is the story engaging and fun, she always takes time to chat with the children. Then there's the fabulous decorations and the super fun activities too! 

The kids were very excited about the marshmallows they got to take home to make their own Marshmallow Tea, which also included a recipe card for how to make it. I may need to get some more marshmallows to actually make the tea, because ours didn't quite make it home.

And there was even a lemon drop tree, just like the one Dot planted in her yard!

The children also got to make their own butterfly strings.

Making butterfly strings at the Tottie and Dot Book Launch

Butterflies and glue, made for one very happy little girl. She would have been happy to stay here all day making butterfly strings. When we got home she decided to hang her string up on her dolls house, which has now become Dot's house!

There were also word searches and colouring in to keep the kids happily occupied. The word search was definitely more James' style. You can find copies of the colouring in and other fun stuff on the Tottie and Dot website.

Tania McCartney signing our copy of Tottie and Dot

Thank you for signing our book Tania! What a wonderful way to spend the morning, surrounded by books and book loving people!

Little black cat from Tottie and Dot by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

How could I resist sharing a photo of this adorable little cat with his umbrella. Too cute for words.

You can see more photos from the book launch over on Tania's blog and you can read a variety of reviews from today's Book Blast.

Book Details:
Author: Tania McCartney
Illustrator: Tina Snerling
Publisher: Exisle Publishing under the EK Books imprint
Publication Date: September 2014
ISBN: 9781921966491
RRP: $24.99

You might also like to see the other book launch we attended last year for Tania McCartney's Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo

Tania McCartney at the book launch for Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Week Parade Costume: The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty

Book Week Parade Costume: The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty

Book Week is definitely our favourite time of year. A whole week of celebrating children's books (as if we needed an excuse). The highlight of the week for me has always been the school Book Week Parade, where all the students get dressed up as their favourite book characters. I still have fond memories of taking part in these parades when I was a kid.

This year there was certainly no question about which book character James was going to be dressing up as for his Book Week parade. I knew what his answer would be, even before I asked him. Mr Qwerty of course! The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty by Karla Strambini has been a firm favourite for James this year and you can read is own review of this book over at Kids Book Review.

Like Mr Qwerty, James often keeps his ideas under his hat. He is a bright kid with lots of wonderful ideas but he often doesn't have the confidence to share them (especially in the classroom environment). Similar to Mr Qwerty, he worries about what others might think or even if he might be wrong. So this year we have been working on building his confidence in sharing ideas in class and we regularly refer to Mr Qwerty and the benefit of letting his ideas out from under his hat.

So here is James as The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty:

The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty costume for Book Week

I found a plastic bowler hat at a party supply shop for $3. I copied the light bulbs and light bulb creatures from the book cover and stuck them on the hat. We found a black coat and red tie from a thrift shop for less than $5 and they will make great additions to the dress up box later on. He already had a white shirt with a collar. 

Of course a he also needed a pencil and notepad to jot down all his wonderful ideas, so I attached another lightbulb picture onto a pencil with black tape.

The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty costume for book week

This was a super easy costume to pull together with no sewing required!!!! I think he looked pretty fabulous and he loved his costume. I am not sure he is ever going to take that hat off!

Did you or your child take part in a Book Week Parade this year? What character did they go as?

You may also be interested in our other book character costumes from previous years:

James from James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Wilfred from This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Fairy Craft Birthday Party

I am going to stray from the bookish posts today to share a little snapshot of the party we hosted for Emily's fourth birthday over the weekend. She chose a Fairy Dance Party theme! 

Since we have had a very busy few months with moving house, I kept the party fairly low key, minimal cooking, a simple craft activity and lots of dancing! 

Fairy Wings

All little fairies need wings! So with some gorgeous rainbow wings on, Emily was ready for the party! 

The main planned activity for the party was decorating fairy houses (or gnome homes). I found some awesome little mdf bird houses and with lots of sparkly paints, feathers, plastic gems and stickers they would make perfect homes for little fairies.

MDF bird houses ready to be turned into fairy houses

All the kids had a wonderful time decorating the houses. James decided that his would be a dragon den and proceeded to paint his all black. This simple craft activity kept the kids busy for a lot longer than I expected, which was great and many of them would return to the craft table to add more detail to their houses throughout the party.

decorating the fairy houses

Here are some of the stunning fairy houses that the kids made at the party. I am sure the fairies will love the bling house as much as we did! 

Fairy houses

After creating the magnificent fairy houses we spent the rest of the afternoon dancing to Emily's favourite songs (basically the Frozen soundtrack on repeat!), eating and jumping on the trampoline. 

One of the things I love about my beautiful daughter is she knows exactly what she wants! She helped choose all the foods for the party, including the cake! She chose fairy bread (of course), strawberries, perhaps too many lollies and a sausage sizzle for lunch. When it came to the birthday cake, there was only one option and that was cupcakes, with pink icing and fairy sprinkles! Can I just say, hooray! No complex cake decorating, no stress, no late night panic trying to make the cake look presentable. Just slap on some icing and cover any imperfections with sprinkles. Sounds perfect to me!

We found this adorable little fairy to go with the cupcakes at Cockington Green Gardens, of all places. They have an amazing range of fairy figurines in the Rose Room, which also features some pretty spectacular dolls house items too.

Pink decorations for the fairy party

We were certainly blessed with some a beautiful winter weather for the party. Check out that magnificent blue sky! It meant that we could do our crafting outside (no indoor mess!) and the kids could do lots of running around in the backyard to burn off some of the ridiculous amount of sugar they consumed!

It was definitely a fun party and I think all the kids had a good time. Although I was asked by one of the older kids why there were no party games. Emily certainly had a wonderful time. It was so nice to see her being so confident and interacting with all the guests, including the adults, which is rare for her! My little girl is growing up.

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