The Diamond Horse ~ A cool read for summer!

Cover of the Diamond HorseD’you know what arrived at the library the other day? Brand new copies of Stacy Gregg‘s twenty-first pony book, that’s what! If there’s a horse-mad tweenage kid in your life, guaranteed, this is the perfect summer read. It’s exciting, gripping, full of exotic animals and horses (of course) , and – according to Miss Missy – it’s Stacy Gregg’s best ever book. Miss Missy’s got to be one of Stacy’s biggest fans, so I reckon she knows what she’s talking about.

We were lucky enough to get our hands on a copy of The Diamond Horse recently, and we both thoroughly enjoyed this story of two Russian girls linked across time by their love of horses and a mystical diamond necklace. Anna Orlov is the daughter of a Russian Count, but all the beautiful dresses, exotic pets, and royal banquets don’t make up for the fact that her father ignores and belittles her, and her brother bullies her relentlessly. Valentina is an orphan who rides a beautiful pink horse in a Russian Circus act, and dreams of a better life for herself and her beloved horse.

I loved the way Stacy mixed history and modern legend into this tale of two feisty girls who refused to let anyone crush their dreams. The story of Anna is inspired by the real Anna Orlov, whose father developed the Orlov Trotter horse breed, and was a courtier of Catherine the Great. The story of Valentina and her horse, Sasha, is inspired by the true story of Balagur, a modern day Orlov Trotter, who surprised the dressage world by winning competition after competition, all the way up to the Olympics. I also loved the descriptions of the snow-covered Russian landscape, which were so realistic I felt like I needed to wrap up in a blanket to keep warm.

Miss Missy said that she enjoyed learning about the origins of Orlov Trotters (of course, she knows the name of every breed of horse known to man, so the name Orlov rang a bell for her, while going completely over my head). She also enjoyed the family dynamics, which, she told me, is not the sort of thing Stacy Gregg usually writes about. I asked Miss Missy what one word she would use to describe this book; she said “Exquisite” and I can’t think of a better one!

The Diamond Horse
by Stacy Gregg
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008124410

Knit ME! Knit ME!

Cover of Knitted Animal CoziesOne of the best things about being a librarian has got to be unpacking the boxes of new books. It’s like a little bit of Christmas every week!

As soon as I pulled Knitted Animal Cozies out of the box, I just knew this was my latest favourite craft book. The animals are so desperately cute and adorable, I just wanted to knit them right away. I found myself wanting to take up drinking coffee just so that I could knit myself a woolly Sheep Cafetière Hug. Or even golf, because who wouldn’t want cute, fluffy, puppy cozies for their golf-clubs?

Once I recovered from the cuteness overload, I realised it’s written by Fiona Goble, who just so happens to have written several other crafty favourites of mine. I actually like Fleecie Dolls so much I bought my own copy! And once I’ve knitted all the cozies I need in my life (maybe I’ll skip the Tortoise Stool Cozy) I rather think I’d like a Knitivity.

Cover of KnitivitySince most of the cozy projects are knitted in chunky or aran weight wool, or are pretty small, they should be quick to make — unlike Grandpa’s socks which I’m still working on 10 months later (the end is in sight, though, I’m 7 inches down sock number two)!! And if you’re new to knitting, the book has great, clear instructions on how to knit, including how to do the various stitches in the patterns.

Go on, you know you want some knitted animal cozies too!

 

Still boldly going: Star Trek, 50 years on

I remember it quite clearly. It was 1989*, I was 14, and TV had just got a third channel. My sister and I were watching the box when an ad for a new show came on. There was this guy with what looked like a gold banana clip wrapped round his face. We turned and looked at each other and burst out laughing!

That was the first I ever saw of Star Trek: the Next Generation. Not that I actually watched it.  Oh no! It obviously was a show for total dorks. Not a girl like me trying desperately to be cool.

What would 14 year old me think of 41 year old me? Between then and now, I have to admit, I turned into a Trekkie. I like to think I’m not one of those super crazy Trekkies who wear Starfleet uniforms in public and know how to speak Klingon, but…. When Miss Missy was a baby and said “qapla” (that means “success” in Klingon, you know) I claimed that as an actual factual word, and even said it back to her whenever she did something clever.

I’ve planned family holidays to Wellington and Las Vegas around Star Trek exhibits and experiences. I own every available Trek movie and series from Enterprise to the Kelvin timeline reboot. I’ve even got Star Trek The Animated Series – but not the original series (that could be because I’m not a big fan of Captain Kirk, but actually it’s because I’ve never seen it for sale). And I do wear my Starfleet T-shirt in public.

Star Trek, original series memorabilia
Star Trek, original series memorabilia, Spreydon Library, Flickr File Reference: 2016-07-20-ST_Display_5

See, the thing is, when I actually watched Star Trek a few years later, I discovered a show that is not only exciting sci-fi, but also funny, poignant, and thought provoking. My first exploration of the final frontier was Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home**, otherwise known as “The Whale Movie”. Funnily enough, this is the movie that doesn’t feature the Starship Enterprise, isn’t set in space, or the future, and doesn’t have Spock’s iconic pointy ears (as he spends most of the movie with a bandana round his head). What it is, is a lovable, funny, conservation parable, where the crew of the Enterprise (in a stolen Klingon Bird-of-prey) go back in time — to what was the present, but is now 30 years in the past (that’s as far back as Marty McFly goes in Back to the Future, you know!) — to rescue some whales in order to save the world, and the future.

ICover of The Autobiography of James T. Kirkt’s full of wonderful scenes like Chekov wondering round 1980s San Francisco looking for “nuclear wessels” with his Russian accent; Scotty trying to talk to a (now very old school) computer; Kirk getting the girl (as usual) and excusing Spock’s odd behaviour by mistakenly claiming that he had a bit too much “LDS” back in the ’60s. I recently watched it again, with The Young Lad, and enjoyed it just as much as I had when I first saw it on TV when I was 17.

After seeing the Voyage Home, I started watching The Next Generation now and then — until I became hooked when Jean Luc Picard (aka Patrick Stewart) was captured by the Borg. It turns out that resistance really is futile. Becoming a Trekkie was inevitable. Although I must say, you can call that thing Geordi La Forge wears a Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement (or VISOR) all you like, it still looks just like a banana clip to me!

Cover of Star Trek CostumesOf course, my first contact with Star Trek in 1989 was nowhere near the beginning of the story. Before my generation of Trekkies, there were those who were captivated by The Original Series which first aired 50 years ago today on 8 September 1966.

1966 was the year that The Sound of Music won an Academy Award, the year that John Lennon said The Beatles were bigger than Jesus. The year that US planes began dropping bombs on Hanoi and Haiphong in Vietnam.  It was the year that the Black Panther Party was formed, and the year Martin Luther King was stoned during a civil rights march in Chicago. It was the year that Luna 10 became the first space craft to orbit the moon.

And it was the year that Gene Rodenberry surprised the world with his groundbreaking “Wagon Train to the stars.”

Star Trek: The Original Series featured a mixed race, mixed gender, mixed species crew on a space ship, in an imagined future where planet earth is at peace.

At its core, Star Trek has been about tolerance and understanding, with reason triumphing over prejudice.

~Jay Garmon

The show had a hard time getting on air, with the first pilot being rejected because it was too cerebral, had a female character as second in command, and because Spock looked too demonic with his pointy ears and slanty eyebrows. Roddenberry wrote a new pilot (with a fist fight at the end) and recast Majel Barrett as Nurse Christine Chapel instead of Number One — but he refused to get rid of Spock. And thank goodness! Imagine what Star Trek (and pop-culture) would be like without Spock! No “Live long and prosper,” no Vulcan hand salute, no “The good of the many outweighs the good of the few.” Were those network executives out of their (non-Vulcan) minds?

Well, the show did make it to air, but it struggled to survive. It managed three seasons mainly thanks to a million-letter-strong writing campaign by the ever loyal fans. But then, even though it was cancelled, the world just refused to say goodbye to Star Trek. Because whatever the network execs said, the audience found it inspirational.

When I was nine years old Star Trek came on. I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.

~Whoopi Goldberg

And so here we are, fifty years later, celebrating the anniversary of a franchise that totals (to date) six TV series and 13 movies, and all manner of spinoffs.

Now I can’t bring you anything as exciting as a make-up collection, or a collectors edition Barbie doll. Or something as weird as an inflight Spock bag. But I wanted to do something special to mark the occasion. I made a Star Trek book list not that long ago, so this time I decided to trawl through all our Sci-fi and movie magazines for all the best Trek bits on offer. Well, I’m not usually much of a magazine junkie, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed discovering the wonders of PressReader and Zinio, which can bring you magazines on the go on your smart phone or tablet — the PressReader app will even tell you when the latest issue of your favourite mags are available.  And I’ve realised just how easy it is to place a hold on the right issue of a magazine. And so, without further ado, I present to you:

Missbeecrafty’s Star Trek Magazine Round-up

  • rbz0005427SciFi Now Timewarp Collection, Volume One: A guide to the first six Trek movies, with some interesting ‘did you knows’ and a guide to The Next Generation. Interestingly, only one of my favourite episodes made it onto their Best list (Chain of Command), and another favourite (I, Borg) is on their Worst list. I would definitely add Measure of a Man and The Outcast to the Best list!
  • SFX, Issue 270, March 2016: The anniversary issue, sporting a fetching but anachronistic red cover and command emblem. Interviews with William Shatner (James Kirk), Jonathan Frakes (Will Riker), Robert Picardo (The Doctor), and Brannan Braga (writer and producer). Also a 52 year, logical temporal anomaly of a 50 year timeline.
  • SFX, Issue 275, Summer 2016: An interview with Brent Spiner, which is actually about Independence Day, but I did like his idea of Tilda Swinton playing a Soong-type android.
  • Empire, Issue 326, August 2016: Another anniversary edition. This one is a 58 page mag-within-a mag ram-packed with Trek-ness. Some wonderful photos from the CBS archives; my favourite is Anson Williams (aka Potsie from Happy Days) chatting with Seven of Nine. I never knew he grew up to be a director! Did you know Christian Slater, Famke Janssen and Kirsten Dunst all starred in Star Trek? Check out Before They Were Famous to find out who else! Celebrate Redshirts, and finally, test your knowledge with the 50 years, 50 points quiz.
  • SciFiNow, Issue 105 2015: A touching tribute to Leonard Nimoy
  • SciFiNow, Issue 119 2016: Part 1 of a timeline which includes info about voyages that never made it to the screen. (Sorry, I didn’t manage to track down part 2 in time to include it in this list).
  • Total Film, Issue 248, August 2016: The making of Star Trek Beyond and another timeline. This one is worth mentioning because it includes Galaxy Quest (“the greatest Star Trek film that isn’t”). It’s wonderful to know that Patrick Stewart loved it, and laughed longer and louder than anyone in the cinema!

And there you have it folks. Live long, and prosper!

*The nitpickers among you may know that Star Trek: the Next Generation originally aired in 1987, but that was in America of course, and this was a loooooong time before anyone invented “same week as the US” TV!

**While we don’t have the DVD in the catalogue, we do have the soundtrack for Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home, on LP no less!!

Further adventures with The Boy Who Lived

Harry Potter display
Harry Potter display, Flickr File Reference: 2016-07-26- IMG_5242

Cover of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's StoneIt’s been about 18 years since I first met The Boy Who Lived. My little brother — he was about 9 at the time — introduced me to Harry Potter, and lent me the first few books. By book four, I wanted my own copy, so I bought it, and The Philosopher’s Stone too, with the book voucher Mr K gave me for our first wedding anniversary (it’s the paper one). When he saw what I’d chosen, Mr K said “what did you want that for? You’ve already read it!”  But I had to have copies of my own. And from book five on, I had my copies on advanced order at my favourite book shop.

I have the full set now, of course — the ones with those distinctive colourful spines that are so instantly recognisable as Harry Potter — taking pride of place on my bookshelf, now flanked with my very own wand made the other day at Harry Potter Day at South Library (Miss Missy didn’t want one, but I did!). And I have read them all over and over.

So when I first heard about an eighth Harry Potter, I was so excited! But then I found out that it wasn’t exactly going to be a novel, and it wasn’t exactly by JK Rowling, and…well, I had my doubts. Could it be as good as the others? Would it really — count? Did I even want my own copy?

Harry Potter Day at South Library
Harry Potter Day at South Library, Flickr File Reference: 2016-07-31-IMG_0169

Well, Harry Potter Day decided matters for us. As well as getting sorted — Miss Missy into Ravenclaw, and The Young Lad and I into Hufflepuff (the perfect houses for us all, actually) — making wands, and drinking polyjuice potion, we were treated to a wonderful storytime reading from Scene One of the Cursed Child. At the end, Miss Missy looked at me and said

After this, we are going straight to the book shop!

And we did!

Cover of Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildWe decided we were both going to finish the books we were already reading first, so we didn’t actually start till Friday. I took it to work to read at lunch, while Miss Missy had teacher only day, and finished reading Mocking Jay in anticipation. During the weekend, we started out taking turns with the book, but ended up sitting side by side on the couch reading on the same page together. Miss Missy was always just ahead of me, so there was lots of gasping and squealing, and then waiting for me to catch up. There was even occasional page-covering when it got too exciting (does anyone else do that?)  At 10 o’clock on Sunday night we had to force ourselves to stop, and on a cliff-hanger too!

If you’d asked me what I thought while I was reading Act One, I’d have said I was enjoying it more that I expected, but less than I’d hoped. Because I really had hoped that somehow, once I started reading, the words would scurry round the page and reform themselves into the kind of Harry Potter story I was used to. Magical as Harry Potter is, of course that didn’t happen. But after getting past the first bit, where I felt I needed the director telling me what he wanted so I could better understand the stage directions, not to mention my annoyance that important things and people seemed to be being ignored — and got to the REALLY good bit! Well! It’s just as exciting and magical, occasionally funny, a little bit scary, and a little bit sad, as any of the other Harry Potter books are.

I really have started to forget that I’m reading a play — even though the words are staying obstinately still — and just enjoying!

Harry Potter display
Harry Potter display, Flickr File Reference: 2016-07-26- IMG_5242

If you are one of the almost 200 people who’ve been waiting for it to arrive at the library, the wait is over! I unpacked our copy this morning, as did librarians all round town. And I’m sure you’ll enjoy too!

Resistance is futile

Cover of Star Trek, The Green LanternHave you ever seen a book and known you just had to read it–not because you thought you would actually like it necessarily, but because not reading it was just–inconceivable? Well, that’s how I felt when I saw Star Trek, Green Lantern: The Spectrum War.

I’ve never really gotten into reading graphic novels, unless you count the Asterix and Tintin books I used to read when I was a kid. And I don’t know much about the Green Lantern, except that he’s, uh, green, and he, well, carries a lantern. But I am a Trekkie!* And even though I’ve never really felt the need to read much Trek fiction, I just had to read this! Resistance was futile!

And you know what? I loved it! The artwork beautifully captures the rebooted Star Trek characters, and as I read, I could literally hear Chekov, Spock, and Bones talking in my head. What’s not to love about a book that does that?

I mean, OK, the Superhero-Trek mash-up was a little goofy, but reading it put a smile on my face, and sometimes that’s just what you want a book to do.

And while we’re talking about Star Trek, last weekend Mr K had the brilliant idea of sending the kids to see Finding Dory while we went to see Star Trek Beyond, and I have to say I had a fantastic time! It was funny, exciting, and even touching. Bones and Spock were hilariously paired up, Kirk was his usual arrogant self, and new-girl Jaylah kicked butt, which was awesome. In the August issue of Empire, director Justin Lin said:

In making Star Trek Beyond, I wanted to embrace the essence of Trek

And that is exactly what he did. It’s Trek as it should be!

 

*Read about my fangirl experience when I met Marina Sirtis

Sewilicious birthday wishes

Cover of The Buys Girls Guide to SewingD’you know what I wanted to do for my birthday most of all? I wanted a day to sew – for myself! My family totally didn’t get it! They were all “You want to what?!”

I know it doesn’t sound like much of a celebration, but how often do I get to make something for me? Not often, I can tell you. It’s hard enough to keep up with the things I’ve promised to make for other people* let alone making anything for myself. So I took the day off, and  sewed all day, apart from when Mr K took me out for lunch. I actually finished a top that I had bought the fabric for about seven years ago. It was the best birthday ever.

Of course, I’ve still got fabric for Africa waiting to be made — bits I bought that were just too gorgeous not to, bits Mum gave me that I love but haven’t figured out what to do with, not to mention the bits I bought with actual projects in mind. All waiting, waiting…

Cover of Shape Shape 2: Sewing for minimalist styleWhat is a would-be-sewing-if-I-just-had-the-time-girl to do? Flicking through Shape Shape 2: Sewing for Minimalist Style by Natsuno Hiraiwa it occured to me that clothes that can be worn multiple ways would give me more bang for my buck. And OK, it won’t make much of a dent in my fabric stash, but I’ll have more wardrobe options for my efforts. (And a fabric stash is a good thing in its own right, isn’t it? Isn’t it?) And besides the designs are gorgeously simple and simply gorgeous!

So if I ever getting another day to just sew and sew, I know where I’ll be heading for inspiration. My favourites are the Double Circular Scarf, the Upside-Down Bolero Jacket, and the Long Vest/Stole. Do I have the right fabric in my stash to make them, though? I might have to go fabric shopping first…

*BTW, I managed to finish one sock for Grandpa…what’s the bet winter will be over before I get the other one done?

To tree or not to tree – Arbor Day 5 June

Have you ever wondered what librarians do on their day off? Well sometimes, we like to go to bookshops. Crazy, I know, we’re around books at work every day – what do we want with books on our day off? I guess sometimes its nice to browse from the other side of the stacks — a bit like Hermione taking Muggle Studies to look at things from the wizarding point of view.

9781447273981So the other day, when Mr K and I went into town to look at the newly re-opened Bridge of Remembrance, I couldn’t resist popping into the new Scorpio Books. The first book that caught my eye was Tidy by Emily Gravett. The wonderful peek-a-boo cover lured my into the forest (just like the lamppost lures Lucy into Narnia) where I met a badger named Pete who likes everything neat. This is a delightfully funny story about what happens when neatness is taken to the extreme. I loved the expressions on the animals’ faces, and their growing panic as Pete’s desperate attempts to keep the forest tidy start to go horribly wrong. I also love the way Gravett subtly introduces a conservation message. It’s definitely one of my latest favourite picture books.

Cover of As An Oak Tree GrowsAnother latest favourite is As An Oak Tree Grows by G. Brian Karas. I took this one home to read to the Young Lad, because it’s by the same author as The Village Garage – which is one of his favourites – and he enjoyed it even more than I expected. This simple story starts with a young Native American boy planting an acorn, and continues on through the years as the tree grows and the world changes around it. The Young Lad really enjoyed the story, and was fascinated by the facts about oak trees in the back of the book. He also thoroughly enjoyed the activity sheet and poster, and especially enjoyed poring over the illustrations to see what he could find. No matter what I said to the contrary, he insisted that the tall ships in the harbour were pirate ships! Even when I pointed out that they had white sails, not black ones or red-and-white stripes like pirate ships should have, and that they didn’t have any Jolly Roger flags, he was quite sure they were pirates. Even so, the book prompted lots of discussion about history, types of transportation, and Progress, as well as trees.

After telling you about such tree-y additions to my Favourite Picture Books list, it seems only right to let you know about the Arbor Day events that are on this weekend.

Cover of The Trees and MeFor more information, read about Arbor Day on the CCC website.

As it happens, 5 June is World Environment Day as well as Arbor Day, so in honour of the occasion, I’ve put together a booklist of kids books about trees and the environment.

Maybe I’ll even join in myself and plant a tree on my day off!

UFOs of the crafty kind

Cover of The UFO Dossier by Kevin D. RandleUFOs. How they do vex me! Don’t worry, I’m not one of those “I want to believe” people who sit around with tinfoil hats on their heads. I’m talking about crafting UFOs. Un-Finished Objects. You know, those projects you start with a hiss and a roar and all sorts of good intentions, but just never seem to get finished. After a lifetime of crafting, I’ve got a dossier full of them, let me tell you, and they “fool and confound me”* just like the flying saucer kind.

I promised myself a while ago not to start any new projects until I’d finished my UFOs. And I have been diligently working on the quilt for The Young Lad — I’d intended to have it made in time for his move from cot to big-boy-bed, but that was three years ago, and I’m still not half way done. But as for the clothes for myself, or the cushions and curtains for my sewing room… well, lets not even go there… And then, after making myself that promise, you know what I went and did? Only promised Grandpa a pair of hand-knitted socks for his birthday — which was in February, so they are rapidly becoming UFOs themselves.

Cover of Seed Bead Chic by Amy KatzBUT the library Gods smiled on me recently when Seed Bead Chic fell into my hands and gave me the inspiration I needed to finish a UFO that had been dogging my life for, oh, only about ten years already! This project was a necklace for a dear friend of mine. Not only did I keep changing my mind about what to use for the pendant, whenever I tried to work on it, nothing turned out at all the way I wanted it to, and I threw it aside in disgust.

Finally, it is a UFO no-longer. I actually, really and truly finished it! I even took a picture to prove it! What do you think?

Seed bead chic project

I like it so much, I’m even thinking I’d like one myself. (Uh oh. Is that the sound of another UFO approaching?)

* To paraphrase Kevin D. Randle author of The UFO Dossier

Where have all the young men gone?

(Note to reader: This post starts with housework but is actually about kids’ DVDs.)

When it comes to housework, I tend to be a bit all or nothing. Weeks and weeks can go by, and I’ll just do the barest minimum, and then I go crazy-mad and clean just about everything in sight. Like, the other day, I walked into the bathroom just intending to give the vanity a quick wipe, and ended up not leaving till I had cleaned the ceiling, scrubbed the floor, and attacked just about everything else in between. And as if that wasn’t enough, I then walked into the living room, took one look at the couch, which looked frighteningly like this couch* —

crappy-couch-1
Image: ©2011-2015 Crappy Pictures LLC

— and realised I couldn’t live with it a single moment longer and cleaned that too.

It seems I’m a bit the same with blogging…no posts since before Christmas, then all of a sudden, three posts in (almost) as many weeks!

Anyhoo…this post isn’t actually about housework**, it’s about kids DVDs. See, I noticed something the other day while I was popping DVDs back on the shelf… a whole cohort of the TV heroes and heartthrobs of my youth have taken to making — (wait for it… )

— pony movies and shaggy dog tales. Ya huh.

horseRemember Luke Perry from Beverley Hills 90210? Well, he’s swapped dreamboat for dad in Black Beauty (a modern retelling of Anna Sewell’s classic story — though Miss Missy and I thought the stories don’t have that much in common apart from the title). I know he was a teen heartthrob and all, but really, Luke Perry makes a better dad anyway — remember Dylan’s prematurely receding hairline and wrinkled brow?  Luke Perry also stars in A Fine Step and K9 Adventures.

What about Kevin Sorbo from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, remember him? Who could forget those open shirts and woven leather pants? No more mythical Cretan Bulls for him — he’s now roping rodeo bulls in Rodeo Girl.

Apparently Kevin Sorbo actually auditioned for the role of Superman in Lois & Clark, but of course Dean Cain got that role — and now you can see him without a cape in Horse Camp and The Dog Who Saved Summer.

Does anyone remember Ricky Schroder from Silver Spoons? My big sister had a bit of a crush on him, as I recall. No more spoiled rich kid for Ricky, now he’s playing the rugged cowboy father in Our Wild Hearts.

I was too young to actually watch Miami Vice, but nothing says ’80s TV quite like Don Johnson in a white suite, pastel t-shirt, and shades. Well, he’s dropped the white suit, but he’s still wearing shades in Moondance Alexander. Although it’s a pretty a typical girl-finds-horse-overcomes-odds story, Miss Missy and I did enjoy watching it.

Lastly, even though it’s not a pony story, I have to tell you about A Little Game, which stars Ralph Macchio, otherwise know as The Karate Kid (sorry folks, we don’t have the original at the library, we’ve only got the Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan version). There’s no “wax on, wax off” in this one, but it’s a similar tale of a young protégée and an older mentor, but instead of teaching karate, he’s teaching chess — and of course a few life lessons along the way.

So if the kids are getting bored over the holidays (especially if the rain keeps up!) why not give one of these movies a try? We’ve got plenty of new DVDs for kids, and they’re free to borrow!

*Minus the books propping up the corner. Of course I would never do that, what kind of librarian do you take me for? BTW, if you liked the Crappy Picture, you might enjoy Amber Dusick’s ebooks

**If you actually wanted a post on housework, I wrote one on clutter awhile back

Christmas traditions and amigurumi

9781452103600OK, so as I write this I’m munching away on Easter chocolate, and Christmas is so last year already, but I’ve been wanting to tell you about one of my family’s Christmas traditions. Every year, I make each of the kids a handmade gift. I didn’t even know that they’d noticed, or cared particularly until two Christmases ago when I said to Miss Missy that I didn’t think I’d be able to make her anything because I was running out of time.

But Mum, you ALWAYS make me something for Christmas! It just wouldn’t be right if you didn’t!

Wow, OK kid! I just couldn’t say no after that, could I? So at the last minute (and I mean seriously – I was stitching at like 5 minutes to midnight Christmas Eve) I whipped up a patchwork and applique cushion for her bed.

This Christmas (or is that last Christmas already now?) my problem wasn’t time, it was coming up with what to make. Miss Missy is a newly minted teenager – the smocked dresses, applique T-shirts, or cutesy hair accessories of years past just weren’t going to cut it. What to make was on the back of my mind for months, when I found the perfect thing: a crocheted amigurumi unicorn.

Now I had a new problem: I don’t crochet.

I don’t mean that I CAN’T crochet. I can; I learnt how years ago when I was in school (Steiner education, you know). I just never got good at it. My first attempt was supposed to be a hat for myself. But I gave up in disgust when the other kids in my class were wearing their beanies already, and all I had was a misshapen things that looked like a floppy sunhat – not for my head though, all it would fit was my Sindy doll (if you don’t remember Sindy, she’s about Barbie’s size!). It suited Sindy but I wouldn’t call the hat a success!

d2364bbd-d097-4ee7-80c4-9e70d8bce6f7A few years – and many successful non-crochet craft projects later – I tried again. This time, I decided to make some snowflake Christmas tree decorations.  They looked so pretty in the pattern book I thought it was worth giving crochet another try. Well. I stuck at it, and made three snowflakes for myself, as well as a few for friends. But sticking with it didn’t make it any easier. I was constantly making mistakes and having to undo everything. I had to concentrate so darn hard I couldn’t enjoy it.

No. I decided I liked crochet about as much as going to the dentist.

9781784940645But, for Miss Missy, I put all that aside, and set to with her gift. Turns out, I still don’t like to crochet, but I really do like amigurumi! They are so cute, it makes the frustration worth it! In fact, I decided to make another amigurumi as a gift for a friend. And when I saw a copy of  Boho Crochet I decided that the Christmas tree really could use some more crochet decorations too. Maybe crochet isn’t quite as bad as the dentist…(though I don’t love it enough to crochet myself a trophy head for the living room wall).

After beating crochet into submission, I’ve felt drawn to books on crafts I’ve never tried. I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who’s keen to learn new crafts, so I’ve put together a list of some craft and hobby books that struck my fancy. Some I’m an old hand at, some I’ve never tried, but all gorgeous!

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