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March 11, 2011 marks a catastrophic day in history. Japan was hit with a 9.0 earthquake and again by a resulting tsunami. A freak incident of nature. And later it was hit with a freak incident of technology when a nuclear reactor malfunctioned. Never would I have imagined that a country as prepared as Japan would be so devastated by the forces of nature and humanity.

I was profoundly affected. There have been numerous natural disasters around the world that have left me feeling helpless and devastated, but not quite like this one. What if…what if I could somehow raise a bit of money to help those affected by the earthquake and tsunami? What could I do, here in my comfortable home, thousands of kilometres away? As many crafters out there know, one way to contribute is to craft.

I remembered coming across a beautiful knitted bangle pattern by Mags Kandis via Knitting Daily. And knew that it was the perfect item to knit and sell. So I started to knit. And I knit. And knit. I recall thinking to myself, “If I could sell 10 and raise $100, that would be great.” In the grand scheme of things, I knew that my contribution would be a mere drop in the bucket. But for me it was cathartic: it was a way for me to deal with the tragedy of the many lives so helplessly affected by the craziness of both nature and of mankind. It was also an opportunity to demonstrate to my child and the community that we live in that we can all help in our own ways, be it little or big.

My Bangles for Japan project was met with hugely positive response and support. Thank you so much to all those who cheered me through my efforts or bought bangles. I encourage all to help out a cause you feel worthy, and do as little or as much as you can. It makes a difference.

I’m happy to report that I was able to raise over $600 for the Canadian Red Cross Japan Earthquake Relief. Never would I have imagined.

And I *still* have yarn in my stash.

I am knitting these gorgeous bangles to raise money for the Japan earthquake and tsunami relief.

The bangles are hand knit from wool and felted then embellished with bands of different yarn with a special motif to remind us of those affected by this terrible disaster. Each bangle is different and the particular characteristics of the yarn and felting process make each one truly unique.

The bangles are $10 each and every penny will be donated to the Red Cross. It’s my little way of doing something purposeful while sharing a bit of beauty and light during this dark time.

If you’d like to purchase one, leave a comment here with your contact info and I will get back to you. They’re a bit of a grab bag of creativity so you get what you get. But if there’s a colour you really can’t live with, let me know and I will try my best to accommodate. At this point these are available only within the Vancouver area. That way I can focus my energy and resources into making these gems rather than getting them to the post office.

Since I would like to forward donations to the Red Cross as soon as possible, I am taking orders only up until March 31, 2011.

New Look Vest

I bought some lovely Rowan Felted Tweed last year at the Three Bags Full summer sale planning to knit both my dad and Roland vests. Well, I finally got around to knitting one for dad this spring. When I told him I had blue and brown yarn and asked which he preferred, Mom answered with, “Blue.” Then Dad said, “I’d like brown. I don’t have much brown and I want a new look.”

So here’s his new look vest:
I followed the pattern for Petrol on Knitty modifying it for DK weight yarn. I ended up with enough yarn (for once). Actually, it took less yarn than what some of the charts recommended.

I love how this turned out!! It’s definitely my favourite project I’ve knit thus far.

The Green Party

The Kid turned six last weekend. About a month leading up to his birthday he brought up the idea that he wanted a birthday party.
Kid: “Mommy, I want a green party.”
Mom: “A green party?”
Kid: “You know, an eco-friendly party.”

How could I refuse a worthy request like that? So the gears were set in motion and I started researching what I could do to have a green party. The more I researched, the more inspired I became. I wanted to throw a party that would leave as little a footprint as I could.

Given the limited room we have in our townhouse, I booked a room at a nearby community centre. As much as we love to entertain at home, we just can’t fit more than 4 kids and their accompanying parents.

I felt that one of the elements of conventional parties that had the most negative impact on the environment was the use of diposables and I decided to use non-disposable party ware from kids cups, mugs, plates, utensils and napkins to tablecloths and lootbags. We decided to decorate minimally (and ended up not decorating at all!). We began to scour the house for supplies and the Kid helped take inventory. I was pleasantly surprised by how many dishes, cups and utensils we had and that we didn’t need to buy much. For the few items we did need, we decided to hit the Salvation Army which turned out to be an excellent lesson in reusing things and learning about the model of helping that the Sally Ann operates.

How do you keep a bunch of 3 to 6 year olds busy for 1 1/2 hours? We decided on a few games: “Simon says” using eco-friendly activities (Simon says ride a bike, hang out the laundry, sort the recycling…), hot potato with a little birdhouse wrapped in multiple layers of newspaper (that ended up being recycled), and story time with a great age appropriate book,  10 Things I Can Do to Help My World by Melanie Walsh . To add a craft component (a crafty mom can’t throw a party without one!!), the kids each painted a terra cotta flowerpot.

When it came down to the cake the Kid wanted a forest cake. A Black Forest cake? No, a forest cake because “trees clean the air.” Well, how could I say no? More research and I designed and made a forest cake complete with trees and a stream.

I am not a fan of loot bags. All too often they are full of non-resuable “junk” that’s made from harmful plastics that end up in the garbage. I decided that I would make fabric drawstring bags with fabric and grosgrain ribbon I had on hand. Not only were they adorable, they were nearly free!

To place in the loot bags the Kid and I made fridge magnets from homemade modeling clay. We cooked the clay, rolled and cut out the shapes, baked, painted and varnished them. We included a list of the Kid’s top 5 eco-friendly tips and a package of seeds to plant in the pots the kids painted.

From day 1 we have made a lot of effort to help our child realize that celebrations are not all about receiving gifts. Luckily he is agreeable to this idea and this year we have begun a new tradition. We let guests know that gifts were not necessary but if they wanted to give, they could donate money so that the Kid could adopt an Emperor Penguin through the WWF.

What was the result? A roomful of happy, well entertained kids with cool useful loot, inspired parents and a garbage bag that was less than 1/4 full. When we got things home, there was only 1 load of dirty dishes for the dishwasher, 1 sinkful of handwashing, 1 load of laundry and some recycling.

The party took some extra planning but in the end it was worth it. It was far more eco-friendly than a conventional party and in the long run, I saved money. It challenged me to think outside of the usual box, the Kid learned some useful life lessons and we are inspired with keeping up the eco-challenge.

The eventful day ended as we all blissfully tumbled into bed to observed Earth Hour. Happy Birthday to the Eco-Kid.

Fearsome Dinosaur Costume

Halloween has come and gone and with it came a flurry of crafting. I’m not a big fan of buying costumes, especially trademarked character cosutmes. Fortunately the Kid decided that he wanted to be a dinosaur for Halloween and I, being the dutiful mother, began researching. I found a very cool idea online for a papier mache dino head and costume. I had thought about it for a long time and plotted how I’d approach it but of course I left the actual production to the last minute.

I hadn’t worked with papier mache since I was a child but of course then I didn’t have to make the stuff. First I had to come up with a good papier mache glue and found an excellent, cheap recipe. Unfortunately I lost the link but I remember the recipe:

Papier Mache Paste

2 cups water
1/2 cup flour
2 Tbsp. sugar

Bring 1 cup water to a boil. Meanwhile combine 1/2 cup flour with remaining 1 cup water in a small bowl. When water comes to a boil, gradually add flour slurry and continue to stir. Bring mixture to a boil and take off heat. Add sugar. Let cool before using.

The mixture stores well in the fridge. Just warm up a bit in the microwave oven and stir well. It dries overnight, is non-toxic and is odourless.

I shaped the dino head using light cardboard and masking tape over a firefighter helmet then shaped and detailed with 3 layers of papier mache, letting each layer dry thoroughly before adding another. When it was dry, I painted with a few coats of acrylic craft paint and sprayed with satin finish shellac.

It was loads of fun to make, cheap (nearly free!) and it’s something the Kid will play with for a while.

Cooking up a storm

Yikes! It’s been almost a month since my last post and I’m feeling guilty for not posting. The thing is that I’ve been ever-so-busy with making stuff that by the end of the day I don’t have the energy to post. And at work, I’ve been having to do a lot of writing for the web so I’m all out of words on most days too.

I’m finding I have lots of time to cook now that the Kid is out of the house for 2 1/2 hour chunks both morning and afternoon. I’m also finding that I really do have to prep and cook ahead of time as the Kid brings a snack to his morning program and some days I have to have a prepared lunch for him and a couple of times each week one of his buddies comes over for lunch before they both head to their afternoon class.

So it all means that I have to spend time preparing foods and baking that I can use later or supplement later.

Some recent make aheads: brown and serve buns, homemade crackers, broth (yay for turkey carcasses!), bagels, Japanese seasoned ground meat, homemade ravioli, bread, muffins, cream of mushroom soup.

Here are a few shots:

Dumpling Day

Homemade dumplings are a staple at our house. We pan fry them like potstickers or boil them for a quick meal or snack.

It’s always rewarding to make trays of dumplings to freeze and enjoy later but I find the most rewarding part of dumpling making is spending time talking and creating with the Kid.

Dumpling day is a bit of a ritual for us. I make the filling (finely chopped cabbage, lots of minced ginger, green onions or Chinese chives,  ground pork) and the Kid and I sit and wrap. The Kid is surprisingly helpful: he takes each wrapper and uses his fingers to paint water on the edges and hands them to me for filling. The beautiful part of the whole exercise is that we sit and talk. And talk and talk and talk.

Bonding with a child through food. It’s this mom’s dream come true.