Category Archives: Stuff I made

Making Money


So we had a run over a year ago at teaching thing 1 about money. How to save it, having pocket money, how to spend it. It didn’t go that well. For one, we as adults don’t keep cash around. So giving her a cash money allowance was reliant on us having cash. We gave her some and she immediately wanted to go out and spend it. She also didn’t quite make the connection on how much she had vs how much items cost. But lately she’s been making noise about wanting to buy some specific things. So I thought we’d take another run at this whole pocket money thing. Except the ‘we don’t really keep cash around’ thing came up again. Actually I have a small stash I use for paying for school things since they haven’t implemented online payments and for a while I got out extra money when grocery shopping (which I’d often forget and it was a pain) to pay Karate, but basically we don’t do cash.

Anyhow. My brilliant, if I do say so myself, idea was to give her fake money. I considered play dollar store coins or some kind of Monopoly or other play money, but I ended up printing out some clip art coins, letting them colour the coins in, cutting them out and laminating them. Mainly as it didn’t involve leaving the house and if one of the other kids eats them or something I can make more.


Right now I have some variable value coupon coins and some set value coupon coins. Thing 1 will earn a variable value coin every day regardless. At the end of the week she can redeem them for an agreed upon amount. Right now it’s probably $5. I reserve the right to bump it up to $6 (her age) if things go well. Or she can continue to save for a higher value item. Then we have some $0.10, $0.20 and $0.50 coins that she can earn by doing chores above and beyond her usual chores. She’s quite excited about the idea and has already earned $0.50 for picking up the lounge. I played with the idea of being able to fine her coupon coins as punishment, but not yet, not until money is firmly entrenched and if we can’t find other things that get through.


Here’s the setup:



And the finished product all coloured in, laminated and cut out:20161007_141910.jpg


Excuse me while I sprain my arm patting myself on the back.


The importance of the 6th Birthday party.


This is way overdue, having happened about 3 months ago, but hey. I wrote it down. Here it is.


Here at least children start school shortly after their 5th birthday. There’s no set cutoff or anything, they just enter year round more or less. So the 6th birthday party is the first birthday party with classmates. And classmates parents. Most likely these are the kids your child will travel through primary school with. Believe it or not social striations are already being formed and lines drawn. I know I wasn’t really prepared for the Machiavellian bullshit that is six-year-old girl social politics, but there it is.

Things to consider for the party:

Venue: This is the first party for a lot of people where you meet the parents. They are gonna judge you and your house. You can have it at your house, but I recommend a venue for a neutral location. Less awkward small talk too, but the get to know you opportunity is still there. Save the home party for when they turn seven. The nice things about venues is they provide activities, often have a set party length, and may provide food.

Expense: If considering a venue consider the amount of children the cost provides for, if there is food provided and so on. It’s really easy to go overboard. We got a venue that allowed for up to 20 children, but then had to provide our own food (which I think came in at about half the cost of the venue- and that’s with me making the fruit, meat/cheese and cracker platters and cakes). Another venue I attended a party at was similarly priced to the one I chose, but provided for 6-8 children and provided food.


The date: This is a difficult one because you don’t really know when other birthday parties are going to be. For instance the weekend I was having my child’s party there were FOUR birthday parties scheduled in her class. She was invited to attend two of them (not including hers) and had to make a choice. Or rather I had to make a choice. In addition you have to consider how churchy your area is and if a Sunday morning party will lack for attendees. School holidays, the weekends before and after school breaks will be busier for parties, while you aren’t as likely to get as many attendees during the holidays. If you can coordinate with other parents do so. Otherwise it’s first in best dressed. Six weeks is too early to hand out an invitation and under two weeks is cutting it close. Three-four weeks is reasonable timing to get the priority spot

Specifying rules and expectations: I put on my invitations that siblings were welcome. I wanted an inclusive party without people having to leave babies and such at home. My kids’ siblings were attending, so why not the siblings of her classmates? If you do this you may also want to specify that parents should stay. Anyone who doesn’t stay make sure you have contact information.


The invitation exchange: Kids will use friendship as a weapon and birthday party invites as barter material. If you get an invite to someone’s party (and attend), it’s kind of courteous to extend an invite to your party.


The RSVP: Expect people to not do this. Seems to be the current trend. I managed to get yes or no RSVPs for all but five out of 14 invitees. Many of them gave the yes/no to me during the school run, but, ulterior motives, I have texts from some of them as well. So now I have some of my kids’ friends’ parent’s numbers. I’m not that creepy I swear. Prepare extra food. Expect extra food. Expect some no-shows and some unexpected attendees. Mostly expect to have extra food though. Plan to have extra food. Better too much than not enough. I made up some unnamed goody bags for the people that decided to show without RSVPing and I was glad I did.


Budgeting: Venue costs will vary by location and that’s one expense, but food, goody bags and favours, plates and accoutrements, cake and so on are all other things to consider. Preparing for other birthday parties can also be quite expensive. Right now I’m maintaining a stockpile of girl and boy toys in the closet. I buy things on sale and when I make an online purchase from a place with flat rate shipping I also buy some kid toys. Then when a party comes along I just have my kid pick one out of the closet. Getting out to pick toys for a myriad of parties is a huge time expense for me.


The gift: I’m a terrible over thinker on toys. The truth is I’m not sure if kids care that much. I’m in a position where I don’t know these kids. I’m making judgements on what they like from what they have on their backpack.


Here’s what it looked like:

Rainbow themed fruit kebabs


Rainbow cone cakes with whipped cream cheese frosting. And sprinkles.20160703_101933

The setup and venue (a gym with trampoline and foam pit) Chips, meat, cheese, crackers and other snack platters. Also sushi.20160703_101945

The inside of the cake.20160703_104648

Fabric wall mural


So being renters I’ve never set up a nursery per se for my kids. They end up in our room until 2ish anyhow, and it would be for me not for them. I still kind of wanted to, but wasn’t really in a place where we could. I always felt like I’d do it when they were old enough to know what they liked and help me pick it out. That day came for kid 1 while I was pregnant with kid 3. We made an effort to buy a house, but our local property market is unfortunately too insane. So after being disappointed that we couldn’t paint the kids room or paint a mural like I had always intended I had an idea. I saw the tutorial from Spoonflower to make your own shower curtain and I thought….’hey I could make a wall mural out of fabric’.

So I did.

What you will need: or some other paint/photo manipulation software. I like, but there’s also GIMP and others that are free. Bully to you if you have Photoshop.

A Spoonflower account.

As recommended in the shower curtain tutorial  I used the fabric ‘Silky Faille’ for my mural. It has a 52 inch width, so I made a canvas in that was about 52 inches wide by 36 inches high. Mine ended up being 50 by 33 or something.

Put your image in there. I put something together out of some other images and image filters and basic digital painting. I also found that big images like desktop wall papers work well to being scaled up that large. Once it was kid approved I uploaded it to Spoonflower (make sure it’s at least 150DPI) and chose the center orientation. (see screenshot)

Screenshot (4) crop

Here is the finished product out of the wash (because it was all creasy from being shipped to me). Still a bit creasy


For best result I would recommend hemming the edges, and making a large hem on the top that you can thread a dowel through. Then you can attach a string to the dowel and hang the whole thing from that (only one hole in the wall, again, renting, yay).

Here is the finished product.



Also it was pretty cheap. The fabric, printed, alone was less than $25.

The Pinterest thing that wasn’t


I make stuff often. I cook meals, I make cakes and cupcakes and cookies with the kids (under duress sometimes), I sew, I knit, I crochet. What I don’t do often is take pictures of the stuff. Sometimes I get it together and take pictures. Sometimes I get it even more together and put the pictures on a blog or Facebook or something.

I did not intend my latest cookery experiment to be one of those times.

So thing 1 and 2 have a nice daycare. It’s attached to my work, it’s lovely. They have barbecues and parties with reasonable frequency. At the end of this week they will have a Christmas party. Parent are requested to bring a plate. Salad or a dessert. I had thought a while back I would maybe do deviled eggs, but then wasn’t sure about transport and stuff, so opted for dessert instead.

I took thing 1 and 2 to the store as I was buying candy for a gift exchange thing I was involved in. Thing 1 was kind of freaking out about all the candy I was putting in the cart so I let her pick out something for her, which ended up being marshmallows.

Now an idea percolated in my head a bit. I could make cake or cupcakes and somehow incorporate the marshmallows so they wouldn’t be in the house. I thought, maybe rocky road cupcakes. But then I couldn’t really put nuts in them because public food and preschoolers. So I thought, hot cocoa cupcakes. I’ll just top the cupcakes with marshmallows and that’ll be easy. So I did.

But marshmallows kind of melt and burn and toast up in the oven. So they did. And the cupcakes are pretty ugly. Which I don’t really care about. I tasted the cake (because I had enough cake batter left over to make a cake too) and it was good.

But here was my mistake. I posted about making hot chocolate cupcakes on Facebook. Which is apparently exciting. And people were curious and asked for a picture. So I showed off my ugly cupcakes, stating that they were ugly and that there was probably some trick to not having burnt melted marshmallows, but whatever, ain’t nobody got time for that.

Only to get oh so (not) helpful suggestions and recipes and images about what they should have looked like and what I was trying for.

I wasn’t trying for anything. Except making something people could eat at a daycare Christmas party. Not everything is based on Pinterest, or some recipe I’m trying to perfect, or some picture I saw. Actually for me very little is. I mean, I accept that my idea was not totally original, but I wasn’t trying to make some picture perfect copy that I’d seen somewhere.

Is it so rare that people sometimes just make stuff up? Or is that only acceptable if you take pro-photo images and get your meticulous documentation pinned or retweeted or shared etc?

If I did like marshmallow, or even my idea, I would probably make them again, but prettier next time (and they still wouldn’t be that great because meh), but ooooomg I was experimenting and making something up. People can still do that. Right?

I ran into this in a big way a few years ago. I wanted to make some chicken and dumplings. So I went looking for dumpling recipes. Pretty sure I even specified ‘from scratch’. I had a hell of a time finding one that was not something along the lines of ‘drop Pillsbury biscuit dough into pot’, or ‘drop Bisquick into pot’. Come on. People made dumplings before brand names. Even better there was a lot of self congratulatory back patting about home made, from scratch food. Sorry, no. Dumplings are flour, fat, salt and rising agent. They are not hard to make and do not need to come out of a box. I’m all for buying store bought ketchup or other things where the time cost to make it warrants an industrial response, but I have an objection to thinking you are cooking from scratch when you’re dumping cans together. While cream of mushroom soup is a useful time saver compared to making my own I don’t consider a recipe using it exactly ‘from scratch’.


For me Pinterest and other similar things, even recipes, are simply a source of inspiration. Just a starting point. I see a skirt or dress tutorial. I think, I could do that, but what if I did it this way…? So I do. I see a recipe, I think that sounds good, but what if I used this instead…? So I do. I don’t think it makes me particularly innovative. But I sure feel that way sometimes. Like I’m just crazy for having even semi-original ideas or not painting-by-numbers. When people ask me where I saw something I made, or how I got the idea to do it that way I just kind of want to gape at them.


Cottage cheese cheesecake, now in any flavour you like!


Several years ago I discovered the lower calorie goodness that is cottage cheese cheesecake (the regular recipe is 2 cups cottage cheese, 1 packet flavoured gelatin, sugar free or not, 1/2 cup boiling water, pie crust if you like). But since relocating to New Zealand, the variety of jello (or rather jelly) flavours is lacking. Even more so if you want sugar free. So I thought to myself, I bet you could just make your own.

So I did.


Cottage cheese (full fat, low fat, non fat, whatever. I like full fat)

Flavouring of choice. Check the cake aisle for a selection if you don’t like the jello/jelly flavours near you.

Sugar or sugar substitute

Powdered plain gelatin

Boiling water

Pie crust if you feel like one. I didn’t this time.

I made, with my limited selection of sugar free jellies available, a lime version a bit ago (seriously, not even lemon?) for a pregnant friend with gestational diabetes, but when I was sampling it, I was really wishing for vanilla.

So Cottage cheese (I used 250g, or about 1 cup. I would do 2 cups if I was doing a springform or pie pan of it), sugar  or substitute (I used about 2 tbsp), vanilla extract (fake, but I used maybe 2 tsp). Mix it up a little and adjust to preference.


Put 1 tbsp (per 1-2 cups cottage cheese) gelatin in a separate cup and add 1/2 cup boiling water. Stir and allow to sit a little bit. Maybe a minute or two. Make sure the gelatin looks dissolved.

Pour the boiling water/gelatin into the cottage cheese mix


You can use a food processor, regular blender, or stick blender. Mix it up well.

Now, your pie crust, if using one, should be cool. Otherwise pour into molds of choice. This pops right out of silicone muffin cups withot oiling. Otherwise you might need a bit of oil.


My 1 cup cottage cheese 1/2 cup boiling water recipe made about 9-10 of these.

Allow to set in the fridge for a few hours. Probably 2 is enough.

Pop out, serve!


Tastes like cheesecake. And it’s a decent higher protein snack.



Easy maternity clothing hack


Why this sort of thing isn’t standard in maternity wear I don’t know. But it’s pretty easy to DIY, even if you don’t sew.

Because when I get to a certain point in pregnancy my shirts ride up. Or generally get too short. Perhaps I’m disproportionate, but I’m also short with a short torso, so you wouldn’t think that maternity shirts would be too short.

Anyhow. Here’s what you do:

Take any shirt with a bottom hem. Cut a hole. If the shirt has side seams I cut one small hole near each side seam.


Measure yourself a piece of elastic. I like this thinner type, but really whatever fits in your seam. I pull a piece from hip to hip making sure it has enough tension. Basically not loose.

Insert elastic into hole and thread through the seam. A good way to do this is to use a safety pin. I’ve also used crochet hooks and seam rippers. Safety pin is probably easiest though.


Sew the holes and elastic up on each side.


You should now have a elasticated hem in the front of your shirt.

Look, it stays put! (on my not even 30 week belly that has outgrown some shirts already)


I have made several undershirts like this as well as altered some other maternity shirts. No riding up here!

The dragon birthday cake.


Apparently I made this look really good. I say it’s more about the angles of my photos than anything. Also the cake (a basic sponge, raspberry flavoured) went largely uneaten. So far Thing 1 is interested in fancy looking cakes and Thing 2 is interested in good tasting cakes (she got ice cream and cake crammed into novelty molds for her 2nd birthday. They turned out like lumps of cake and ice cream, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but they did get eaten).

So the cake process.

I looked around and there seemed to be a fair amount of dragon and dinosaur tutorials. They mostly involved cutting shapes out of round cakes and sticking them together. I could work with that. Just to be on the safe side I bought a dinosaur puzzle cake mold

(like this )

in case my experimentation was a complete failure.

So here’s the process more or less:

I thought I had pictures of this bit, but apparently not. So I’ll describe it.

You need:

2 circular cakes

A knife

Fondant or some kind of decorative frosting

Butter cream or some kind of sticky frosting

Garnish type things.

A pan or plate to assemble the cake on.

What to do:

Cut one circular cake into two semi-circles.

Use butter cream to stick them together into one thicker semi-circle. Turning this flat side down (so the semi-circle forms a hump) stick it to the cake plate.

With the other circular cake you want to cut out these type of shapes:


More or less. That’s not my picture. I cut out the tail and the rest was various rectangles. Then I stuck the tail to the semi-circle, stuck the legs on the side (all with butter cream), cut a smaller chunk for the head to rest on as the neck (I may have held pieces in place with a toothpick where necessary), and put the head on top of the neck stub to give it a real 3D appearance, as opposed to laying the head and neck out straight on the cake plate.

All stuck together, added some extra butter cream and started adding my fondant.

Now I started with white, but Thing 1 wanted a purple dragon so I used regular old food colouring and icing sugar until the fondant wasn’t sticky (think you are supposed to use gel colour, but uh, yeah. I didn’t), kneaded it until I got tired (so it was still kind of swirly because my hands hurt), rolled it out and placed it on. Now I didn’t roll out big sheets because I didn’t have very much counter space, and I’m surprised it turned out looking as nice as it did. All camera angles I promise, it was all stuck together looking up close, though I did get it smoothed out some by using water and the back of a spoon.

I used white chocolate buttons (cut up) for fangs and teeth and decorations, and marshmallows for dragon treasure.

So here’s the finished product:




20140701_154440 20140701_113929

20140701_124601 20140701_124614



So yeah, that’s my fancy cake. No one really ate it. Even after we peeled off the fondant and tossed it.