Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A to Z year : March 12th-25th : the letter F

This fortnight was always going to be a tricky one.

We are only together as a family unit at the weekends, as Reece is with his mum in the week, and Jay and I are at work all week and in separate towns. So we usually do all our alphabet related activities on Saturdays and Sundays – giving us four days per letter.

The trouble is, we were Reece-less on the first weekend of the letter F, and so we didn’t want to go out doing loads of fun stuff without him (that just wouldn’t be fair) – and also, it was handy to have a whole weekend with only one kiddie to entertain, as that gave me the chance to tackle a looooong overdue project – the grand craft room tidy-up (see blog post last week).

Sadly that had nothing at all to do with the letter F (apart from furniture assembly --> and the fact that the clear out generated a big box of stuff to give away on Freecycle) , and it took me near enough the whole weekend , and most of the following week, to complete. So I felt like we were horribly behind on the whole letter F thing, and wondered whether to give up on this fortnight altogether and just class it as F for Fail.

But hey, you should never give up, right?

And we did manage to have some fun during the tidy up weekend, and I reckon that counts :) We went to the local swimming pool where they have an ace wave machine and some flume-style slides. And Connor managed to overcome his fear of going down said slides for the first time, which was ace! Love to see his confidence increasing every day :)

Also during week one, I wasted a lot of time in the evenings playing with some amazing online art games/experiments - my favourite was the fluid painter, but there are loads of other equally mesmerising distractions under the "experiments" part of that site - the flame one is good too - try them, I guarantee you'll be fascinated

Oh, and I booked my flights for our trip to Dublin in June to see the mighty Pearl Jam, so I guess I didn't do too badly after all with week one of F, even if a lot of my Fs were kind of accidental.

In week two, we actually made a bit more of an alphabetical effort :)

On the Saturday, our pals came round and we made (utterly flippin' delicious) chocolate fudge and flapjacks. They were soooo goood :)

It was mainly us grown ups doing the cooking, although the kids did come and have a token stir of the flapjacks later (mainly because they wanted spoon licking priveleges I suspect :))

One word of warning for anyone who fancies whipping up a batch of fudge - it's blinking hard work to stir it, and it kills your forks.

In fact, for the purposes of F fortnight, I think we can safely say that this fork is f**ked :)

And this glass is full:

While we were baking away downstairs, the kids were mainly filming upstairs, or so they said, I’m yet to see the fruits of their movie-making endeavours. We sent Jay up to get photographic evidence of the future Oscar winners doing their thing, but this is all we got (if you look very very carefully you’ll see the little Flip video camera in Lauren’s hand, but they mainly seem to just be lying around chatting and avoiding being asked to do any washing up, to me)

Later that day, the boys made beads and pendants out of Fimo to make necklaces for their respective mums. they turned out really well:

We haven't strung them yet as the spray varnish I used on them is point blank refusing to dry - I think I might have to wash/sand it all off :| Hopefully they can be salvaged though.

For our last big push on F, on the Sunday we went for a fun day out with friends (12 of us altogether, we really tried to grab a couple more people along to make it fourteen, but sadly they were busy) to our favourite family theme park - Chessington World of Adventures.

Connor was keen to have his first go on the Dragon's Fury roller coaster, which just happened to be right by the Ferris Wheel, so I could get a quick pic on my phone of both at once:

And of course, we had to go on the Dragon's Falls log flume :)

(Connor did enjoy it, honest :) )

My last adventure with the letter F was my etching experiment using Ferric Chloride (see last blog post)

And that just about finishes another fortnightly blog post :)

See you in a couple of weeks for G

Friday, March 26, 2010


aka Fun with Ferric Chloride (well, it is still 'F' fortnight, just)

A few months ago now, I signed up for a charm swap on the UKStampers forum - I have to make 14 charms up in total.

I started in plenty of time, and made up 4 or 5 day-of-the-dead themed charms a few weeks ago, with the intention of finishing them off at a later date (the deadline for this one isn't until the end of April).

As time went on, though, I became less and less sure about my plan of action - for a start, some of the other swap participants started posting pics of their finished charms on their blogs, and they were all really dainty and pretty, and I thought my big scary skull charms would look a bit out of place. And also, I had started reading up on copper etching, and had a real urge to give it a go, figuring that the charm swap would be a great way to practice the technique and try out a few different patterns and designs.

So I dumped the skulls, and hot footed it round to Maplins to buy some etchant - ferric chloride - which is what electronics whizzes use to make custom circuit boards, apparently.

It's basically a simple process, but it does involve rather nasty chemicals that give off stinky (and harmful) fumes, so I did everything upstairs in my en suite bathroom well away from children, with the windows wide open.

I even wore these rather fetching safety glasses :)

So, how does it work?

You need some copper or brass blanks to start (I got mine from Fred Aldous online, but had I not been so lazy, I could have cut blank shapes from copper sheet).

Then you simply draw the design to be etched straight onto the copper using a black Sharpie (you can alternatively use nail varnish, rub ons, rubber stamped images with Stazon ink, photocopy tansfers etc, pretty much anything waterproof).

You also need to Sharpie around the sides and back of the blank.

Then you stick the charms to one side of a piece of double sided tape, and stick the other side of the tape to a lump of styrofoam:

Next you mix the ferric chloride granules with tap-hot water, according to the instructions on the pack, in a plastic container, and then float that in the sink, in a few inches of more tap-hot water (which you should refresh regularly during the etching process to keep the etchant solution warm). Nasty looking stuff isn't it....

And then you simply pop the styrofoam in the tub of manky stuff, with the charms facing down, so that they are kind of floating on the top of the solution:

That's basically it for an hour or so, every now and then, refresh the hot water in the sink that the tub is floating in, and agitate the tub a little (without splashing the solution everywhere!) - as warmth and a bit of movement help the etching process.

After an hour or so, take the styrofoam out of the solution, and if the etching looks like it is finished to a good depth, take the tape off of the styrofoam, dunk it in the sink, and then give the charms a good scrub with bicarbonate of soda using an old toothbrush - this neutralises the acid which could otherwise keep etching away at the metal.

This is what the etched charms should look like, once they have been rinsed, dried, and the black sharpie marks have been scrubbed off (I used wire wool):

Cool, huh?

To finish off my charms, I gave each one a little bit of a domed shape using a wooden dapping block:

And then I added a jump ring and a moss agate bead dangle to the front of each.

The final step was to oxidise all the charms using liver of sulphur, and give them a final buff and polish.

And here they are all finished:

I'm pleased with how they turned out, hopefully the other swap participants will like them too.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Little birdie #1 of 2

It's UKStampers CJ time again, and it's the turn of Moria's book which came with this sweet bird stamp.

When this book turned up in the post a couple of weeks ago, Creative Director Jay and I brainstormed through all the bird ideas.... a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush....a little bird told me....free as a bird....feather your nest....birds of a feather flock together....the early bird catches the worm....kill two birds with one stone....etc etc.

I finally settled on Bird's Eye View, and got to work making my little collaged cityscapes.

A couple of days later, the next book in this circle turned up - and it was another bird stamp! And someone had already done Bird's Eye View in the second book, mutter mutter.

I considered scrapping my half finished entry in Birdie CJ #1, but decided to go ahead with it in the end as my execution of the phrase was sufficiently different fom the one in the other book, that hopefully it won't look like either of us copied the other.

And our big brainstorm won't go to waste, as I now have tons of bird-related ideas for the next CJ.

Anyway - here's my entry. I hope the bird doesn't mind me chopping off his legs, at least I gave him an extra wing :)

This hasn't photographed particularly well, especially the bird (he's more glossy and less blocky/stripy in real life, and altogether nicer than he looks in that pic). But never mind, you get the jist.

Here's the sign in bit at the back:

A quick supplies list:

The cityscape is a Riff Raff Designs chipboard thingummy, which I covered with various collage papers

The background is pearlescent acrylic paint (blue mixed with pearl) on watercolour paper

The clouds were handcut from some sparkly paper I got in the Range yonks ago

The cute little puffy stickers of cars and planes and helicopters were from Paperchase

The bird is stamped with a Kaleidacolor rainbow inkpad on glossy paper, and his body is raised up on foam tape ahead of his back wing

And the title on the manilla shipping tag is made with K&Co "Letters to Go" over a stamped distress ink background

I think that's everything....

bring on the next lil' feathered fella (it's still F fortnight :))

Saturday, March 20, 2010

the Den O' Craftiness has a grand makeover

So....last Friday I decided it was time that my craft area had a major tidy up.... this is what it looked like before. Ouch!

Things were piled upon things upon things, if I tried to take something out, there was a good chance of an avalanche....

...and I couldn't close any of my drawers because they were so full, sigh.

So, I think you'll agree, that it needed a bit of work.

But I had no idea how MUCH work!

With Jay's help, we worked on the room solidly all last weekend. I got everything out, covering my work table, all the kitchen worktops, and the living room floor:

Jay put together a cool TV unit we found in Range that fitted the top of my Artbin cupboards perfectly:

And by the end of the weekend, I was gazing adoringly at the new unit (as yet unpopulated), and my beautifully colour sorted and not at all cluttered cardstock shelves :)

There was still a ton of work to be done, though, and so I spent at least 3 hours every night last week plodding on...

I sorted through every single drawer and unit, making sure none were over filled (local Freecylcing crafters will be in luck next week :)), and got everything labelled up to make it easy for me to find stuff going forward.

And well, without further ado, here is the end result, finally finished this evening.

I'm so chuffed with it!!!!

Well worth all the hours of hard slog, I just hope I can keep it this tidy :)

Look, all my drawers close :)

Now I am just itching to get in there and make stuff, I've not been able to do anything during the makeover as it was all in chaos.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A to Z year : February 26th-March 11th : the letter E

I've got to admit, this has been the first letter we have found more than a little challenging...heaven help us when we get to Q :)

Still, not to worry, we managed to have more E-flavoured adventures than we expected to by the end of the fortnight.

We kicked off the two weeks with something educational but still very enjoyable - experiments! The credit for this one goes to my bessie mate Alison who heard me struggling for ideas as E approached, and rushed me a chemistry set in the post :)

Cool, huh? And we managed to avoid actually blowing anything up, which is always a good thing.

Later the same day we decided to do something about our economical situation. We tipped all the small change we have been saving for years out of its big plastic bottle in the kitchen, and took it to Tescos where they have a coinstar machine. We made £96!! result! Easy money indeed :)

I gave the kids £10 each, which got spent in approximately half a millisecond, and we used the rest to fund the rest of the weekend's fun.

For dinner that day? what else but Enchiladas :) Well, mine were more like fajitas (I'm never sure of the difference, to be honest) - but we made it with Old El Paso Enchilada sauce (yes, out of a jar I'm afraid, I'm certainly not the domestic goddess unlike many of my fellow A-Zers who put me to shame with their home-cooked masterpieces :))

They were blinking lovely, whatever they were :) Or should I say they were exquisitely edible :)

The following day, our pals Tracy and Michelle and family came round to play. We had each bought a pack of Sculpey Eraser Clay, and were itching to play. Everyone had a go, well except the two hockey-buds who sat and watched Sky Sports instead :).

This stuff is ace, it's just like polymer clay, in as much as you model with it while it is soft, and then bake it in the oven to "set" it - but instead of setting into a hard model, it makes rubbers! (for the sake of any non English people reading, that's what we call erasers here....and yes, I know it means something else entirely over the pond but let's not go there :))

I must admit they don't actually rub out all that brilliantly, but maybe I overcooked them?

We didn't mind though, they were fun to make, and they look cute :)

After all the fun of having their pals round, it was time for the boys to settle down and do their homework - English literature no less :) Yay for educational e-related photo opportunities :)

In the week, Connor's school put on an art exhibition, which they conveniently called Art Explosion, which we went along to.

It was really good, I especially loved the magazine mosaic one of the older kiddies had made of an orca (top left on the collage below, click on the picture for a closer look)

Connor's class had contributed animal masks, and with E fortnight in mind he chose to make an elephant (along with pretty much every other kiddie in the class, by the look of the display lol).

He got to bring it home after the show - here's a close up (and yes, it's a sock)

On the way home from the exhibition, we saw this lovely weathervane, which I took a picture of purely because it has an E for East on it (clutching at straws? moi?)- but I'm glad I did because I really love how the photo turned out - what a beautiful blue sky we had that day.

Also during the week was a football friendly - England vs Egypt. At the point that I took this photo, we were struggling and a goal down - but I'm glad to say that, thanks to some clever substitutions at the start of the second half, England came back to win this one 3-1. I actually really enjoyed watching the game - it's rare for me to watch sport other than hockey nowadays.

The following weekend, we had a great E to celebrate - Reece's eleventh birthday :) He chose swimming over in Stroud for his birthday treat, nothing e-related there, and no photos to share (they don't take kindly to people taking pics of other peoples children in swimwear nowadays :)) - but I can assure you we all had fun.

When we got home, it was time for cake (well, swimming really works up an appetite, you know!).

E for Eleven:

After cake, we went shopping as Reece's birthday money was burning a hole in his pocket, you know the way it does. He couldn't find anything he fancied in the toy department at TK Maxx, but I found this lovely wooden E in homewares ^

The next day, we went on an expedition in the woods, or exploring, if you will :) OK, actually we went geocaching, but as we haven't got to G yet, I need to call it something else :)

It was Reece & Jay's first time (which means I haven't been out caching in over a year! Bad geocacher!) - they both really enjoyed it though (what's not to love about a treasure hunt?) so I'm sure we'll be doing this some more over the year.

We found the first cache pretty quickly, and did start out on a second one, but it started to get really cold so we left the second one for another day.

The first cache was hidden close to an amazing iron sculpture called the Wish Hounds. This is what I love about caching - this sculpture is less than 2 miles from my house, but I never would have known it was there.

We both took loads of piccies of the sculpture, not sure if this is one of mine or one of Jay's, but I love it either way:

The name of the sculpture is set into the ground a few feet away, and further up the path we also found the words "Iron Ore" and "Earth" set into the grass in the same way.

What letter does Earth begin with again? Ah yes - get the camera out! :)

Here are a couple more pics from our walk in the woods that turned out nicely...

The boys having a well deserved rest after a LOT of walking:

Love the sun flare on this one:

Such a gorgeous sunset over the water:

My very last E for this fortnight was an expensive one!

My car got a flat ---->

And I needed it fixed in a hurry, so had to call the emergency fitters out to get it sorted. And pay their exorbitant fee.

That's all for now - see you in a fortnight for F...