Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Jozikids: DIY Kids secret messages with glitter and glue

My latest DIY Kids column for Jozikids is about how to take ordinary glitter art and transform it into a pre-reading activity.

Here's the photo collage that didn't get used:

And be sure to check out Jozikids' front page for holiday ideas and games to play with your children.  Good stuff!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Happy Birthday, Tommy Boy! You Are Three!

We held Tommy's third birthday at Serendipity, one of our favorite child-friendly venues in Johannesburg.

The cake, provided by Granzy, was a very accurate model of a fire engine.

I wore red, for the fire engine theme.

There was a face-painter, too, who fulfilled Tommy's request for "froggy face paint" although she whispered to me that she didn't know how to do a frog.  I think he came out looking like a magician from the early 1900s.

His favorite present was this big army plane. It has a button and flashing lights.  It also has a back hatch which one can load and unload with mini tanks and parachutes.  This comes from Tommy's Uncle D, who will certainly be receiving a drum set when his little one comes along in May!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Review of Kinderspiel Puppet Theatre on ZaParents

My review of the Kinderspiel Puppet Theatre appeared on Zaparents.  Tommy and I loved our visit to the Kinderspiel Theatre and highly recommend it.

Here are some of the photos the editor couldn't use:

A bubble machine greets passersby in Emmarentia.
The play Nogwacha Learns the Bunny Alphabet was charming!

Look at that shop window full of toys!
Overwhelmed by the promise of "one new toy."
He chose a Melissa and Doug horse trailer truck.
It might seem that I have these photos out of sequence,
but Tommy kept running outside to check on the bubble machine!
The wonderful shows are written by shop owner Ruth Kellow and performed by master puppeteer Margaret Auerbach.

The Kinderspiel Toy Shop and Puppet Theatre is at Greenhill Road 39A, in the middle of the row of shops, around the corner from Fresh Earth in Emmarentia.  Find a schedule of their shows here.  Their website is:  http://www.kinderspiel.co.za/

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Joburg Guide on Bellissima Kids: Visiting the Irene Dairy Farm

My most recent Joburg Guide post on Bellissima Kids is about a trip we made to the Irene Dairy Farm.

Here are a few of the photos Jeanne didn't get a chance to use:

Tommy loved the old machinery 
Beautiful chickens; rare breeds like Martha Stewart's 
A full playground kept Tommy busy while Mom and I went to the spa

Founded in the 1880s, the Irene Dairy Farm has enormous trees and large green lawns

The spa is in an old horse stable with thick walls, nice and cool and quiet

Mom and I enjoyed our relaxing treatments while Tommy and his nanny played

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tuesday DIY: Salvaged School Desk and Chairs - Cheap and Easy with Cardboard, Duct Tape, and Spraypaint

Lots of steps to this DIY project, but it's one of my favorites so far. I learned two big new skills: how to spray paint and how to use a jigsaw!

I have been feeling so lucky lately.  I drove past a person collecting scrap metal in a supermarket trolley and spotted these beauties: a school desk and two chairs which he'd salvaged out of school trash.  I bought them from him for more than he would have earned at the scrap yard, so it was a win-win:

As you can see, the challenges are that the metal is unpainted (and in fact a bit rusty) and there are no seats on the chairs or tabletop on the desk.

I learned a trick last year for getting rust off of metal, so I gave it a bash again: use tin foil and water as the sandpaper.

And it worked! The abrasion of the crumpled tin foil, plus the water, removed all visible orange rust from the desk and chair frames.  Now ready to spray paint.

Hmm. Two challenges here: only one can of spraypaint for the whole project, and the only place available in our apartment building is a Very Scary Basement.

I did it, and the Boogeyman didn't get me, though I jumped at every sound.

Since this was my first spraypainting project ever, I didn't know how much to use.

The spray paint did run out as I was painting.  As I felt the quantity in the can dwindle, I made some key decisions about where to paint: the visible legs, not the invisible seats and tabletop.  The final effect is indeed of a red desk and chairs, not the old grey.

The next step was even more intimidating: cutting the desktop with Mister Scary, aka the jigsaw power tool.

The first photo in this collage is a large poster I found in the Very Scary Basement,  It's a David Hockney print mounted on thin hardboard, perfect for a desktop.

I turned the desk frame upside-down and drew where I wanted to round the corners and trim the top with the jigsaw.  Unfortunately, as you can see in the far-right photo and in the lower-left photo, my cut line was very wobbly.

I persevered, went to the hardware store to buy some clamps, clamped that board into place, and tried again.  The second time I pressed down on the jigsaw so it didn't wiggle all over the place.  It was kind of like ironing, not that I know anything about ironing.

I drilled holes into the top and then zip-tied the board through the pre-made holes in the frame.

Onto the chairs!

I needed to create a new seat for each of the chairs.  Knowing they would be used by light little kids, I chose cardboard.

I cut 3 layers of cardboard to the size and shape of the seat.  Then I zip-tied the seat to the frame through the pre-made holes in the metal pipes.  (I punched holes in the cardboard using a pencil and a Stanley knife / boxcutter).

Then I hauled out the Duct Tape and secured the edges, since those could be sharp for kids' fingers.  I duct-taped the seat and then the backrest to be matchy-smatchy.

Here is Chair 2:

The only difference is that after punching holes in the seat, I noticed that my zip-ties were too short to go all the way through and around, so I just taped and taped some more.  It's still stable.

Here are the finished pieces:

and a lovely collage for you to pin if you so wish.  Please put any questions or comments below; I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday DIY: Refashioning 2 XXL t-shirts into a Cardigan and a Ruffled Dress

I bought two identical green t-shirts on sale at Pick n Pay for R15 (about US$2) each.  They were XXXL, and I liked the color.

The first one I cut up the front and made into an oversized cardigan.

I wore that for a while, but then as summer approached it just felt too big.  

I tried tying it in the front and thought it would be better as a bolero / shrug.

I lay it out and cut it cropped in the front and longer at the back, and now I think it suits me much better.

and here it is from the back:

The second t-shirt went through a greater transformation.

I took in the sides based on another t-shirt I had, so it would fit in a more flattering way.

I also cut off the long sleeves and trimmed them into rectangles.

One rectangle I made into a ruffle and sewed it up the front.  Surprisingly, it flatters by drawing attention away from my mommy tummy.

The other sleeve I cut into four smaller rectangles and also ruffled them. I attached these over the armholes to make "winged" shoulders.

The dress is a little bit short, so it's more like a tunic that I wear over leggings or flared trousers.

What I love the most about this re-fashion was that I used only the material that came from the original shirt.

Have a favorite refashion or upcycling clothing project? Send me a link or leave a comment below; I would love to hear from you!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Monday Media: Rainbow Handprints at Serendipity Tea Garden

Serendipity is a wonderful tea garden in Rosebank, Johannesburg.  For a small fee, a child can play in a  big backyard full of playground equipment, castles, and a trampoline while being watched by caring childminders.  Mommy can eat cake and drink espresso.

On rainy days, children can come inside for cars-and-trucks or art.  Tommy loves art, and Serendipity's top guy, Thabani, loves teaching art lessons.

Today, Thabani introduced Tommy to the concept of handprints.

First, he painted on Tommy's hand, a different color for each finger:

It tickles!

Thabani gently pressed Tommy's hand down onto the paper.

The result: a bright, rainbow handprint with each finger a different color.  
Tommy named all the colors and asked Thabani, "Can we do it again?"

Do you have a children's art / play space near you? Please write and tell us about it!

Serendipity is at 48 Keyes Avenue in Rosebank, just parallel to Jan Smuts Avenue.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sunday Great Idea, but Don't Tell Dad: Touch-Up Car Scratches with Nail Polish

Today's Sunday Great Idea is in fact a great idea, but I've added "don't tell Dad" because my DIY Dad would not think this is very cool.  Touching up car scratches with nail polish? Please!

But DAaad, really: Joburg is nice and dry and sunny, so it's unlikely that the nail polish will come off. And it's in a matchy-smatchy color, too!

I bought this car in October with a few scratches on the wheel wells.  I have not added to these scratches, at least not yet.

When I was at Click's pharmacy, I noticed a nail polish that just about matched my car paint, so I bought it for only R20 (US$2.50) -- and lo and behold, it really did cover up the marks!

Here are some close-ups of the before and after:

and the other side:

Perhaps, or perhaps I am being naively hopeful, the nail polish will offer some sort of protection against the spread of rust?  We'll see as the year progresses.  But don't tell my Dad, in the meantime.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Saturday South Africa: 5 Questions to Ask When Playing with Toy Animals

Tommy received a set of toy animals for Christmas from our friend Caroline.  These animals are high-quality, heavy, and detailed.

Living in South Africa, we are in close proximity to wild animals.  NOT on our street, but ten minutes away at The Johannesburg Zoo and an hour away at a small game park, and two hours away at a large game farm where one can do safari drives.

Tommy loved the animal toys instantly and played with them in several different ways, prompting questions and answers about animals that I thought it might be helpful to share.

All the South African animals are lined up neatly,
very much unlike in nature.
 1. Can this animal eat that one?

Can a giraffe eat an elephant? No, giraffes eat leaves.

This lion could eat this zebra, though.  The zebra had better run away now!

2. Can this animal be friends with this one?

Zebras and giraffes can be friends. You often see them grazing on the veldt [savannah] together.

3. Is this the daddy or the mommy?

The lion daddy has a big mane, but the mommy doesn't.

The elephant daddy is called a bull, and the elephant mommy is called a cow.

4. Is this animal bigger than this one?

In real life, the elephant is the biggest animal of all.  The giraffe is the tallest animal of all.

5. Can this animal talk to that one?

Hmm. I believe animals can communicate with each other.  Birds and monkeys squawk when a big snake is coming, and they warn the other animals.  So if they have a reason to communicate and something important to say, yes, they can.
The rhino is attacking the mother lioness,
probably not such a good idea.
Do you have any suggestions for playing with animal toys with kids? I invite you to leave a comment below; I'd love to hear from you! Roar!
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