New Year’s Resolution… Read to the Baby

Making New Year’s Resolutions seems to be a bit passe, but I still like to do it. It gives me a chance to reflect on what’s working well or not so well, what I’d like to do more of, projects I’d like to complete. And of course, you could do it at any time, but the New Year seems to offer the perfect timing. The clock ticks over and boom, you’re into working on your goal.

Now, from the title of this post, my New Year’s Resolution might seem a bit strange for a book blogger. What do you mean you don’t read to your baby? Don’t you know the importance of reading to babies and young children?

Well, here’s the thing. I read to Phoebe, my now three and a half year old constantly. From the moment I brought her home from hospital, I read her newspaper articles while she was feeding, books as soon as she was old enough to keep her eyes open to look at them, sang her songs… she had stories for fun in the day, stories before naps, bedtime stories… she loves books and loves to take herself off and “read” by herself.

But the baby…. the baby does not like being read to. Erin likes books, don’t get her wrong. If anything she has a paper fetish, but she sees them more as a snack. Should you leave her unattended with a board book for even half a minute, she will have eaten the spine and you’ll be fishing it out of her mouth. I try and read her bedtime stories but she throws herself backwards howling with rage when she doesn’t get to chew the pages… It doesn’t make for a relaxing bedtime when The Very Hungry Caterpillar has you in tears. So I need new strategies for reading to the baby and my new year’s resolution is to develop a range of strategies to start reading to a baby who doesn’t like books.

This is what happened to one of her Christmas board books when I turned my back the other day….

 

I trained as an English teacher so I have a pretty good understanding of active reading strategies and ways of getting older learners who are reluctant to engage with books to engage with books and I was talking to my MIL who is a primary school teacher about this to see if she had any tips for helping babies engage with books. Apparently their father was the same and would be happy enough to listen to a story if he was allowed to run around like a lunatic while he did it, but wouldn’t sit and cuddle and enjoy one. Apparently her health visitor told her that all children are either dissectors (who want to examine things very carefully) or destroyers (well, you know…) and it would seem that I have one of each.

In some ways that’s reassuring because it means that Erin is at least experiencing the passive benefits of me reading to Phoebe while she plays happily on the floor, so it would be nice to have some devoted one on one story time. I’ve already tried letting her pick the books, reading touchy feely books, trying different reading times and places but all she wants to do is gnaw on the books. I’ve tried making sure she has a teething toy and a fully belly as well!

My next line of attack will be to look at more active storytelling, since she loves being danced with and nursery rhymes which you perform with/on her physically. I’m thinking story baskets and puppets as a first line of attack. In the meantime, her current favourite toy is an indestructible book that my friend bought her for Christmas. They look and feel like real paper but are completely chew proof (and believe me she’s tried) so I might see if I can find more of those as an interim solution. If I’m not allowed to read them to her, at least she can enjoy turning their pages!

We’ll get there eventually. In the meantime, the phrase, “Not in your mouth!!!” is very versatile.

Baby bookworm. She literally eats books. She just won’t read them.

The Night Before Christmas Papercut

Merry Christmas! I hope that you had a good one. I wanted to quickly share the final project of my Twelve Days of Bookish Crafts Blogmas that I didn’t get round to posting (birthday, teething baby, preschooler with a raging fever who shared her germs with her baby sister and parents…) a papercut of Twas the Night Before Christmas.

I’d meant to print the whole poem out on A4 in columns so that this would look something like an inverted book on one page image, but the house move had nixed that because (even though it happened in the summer) my printer cable had disappeared and by the time I realised where it was it was Christmas Eve and very much now or never. Maybe next Christmas. Or for another project.

I’ve been playing around with paper cut recently to make shadow puppets for Phoebe. It started with me cutting very basic shapes out with a scissors and some cardboard, but then she started asking for more complex characters (a dragon, a wolf) which really stretched my art skills and meant that my scissors were too crude an instrument, so I bought myself a cheap (under £6) multiheaded craft knife from Amazon which has been really good. I’m sure any would do if you wanted to play around with paper cut, but the one I use can be found here (affiliate link).

I draw the image that I want to cut out on the reverse of the card in a light coloured gel pen so I can see it against the black card. Obviously when the paper is flipped over, the image is flipped as well, so if there particular details that need to be in certain places I keep that in mind as I sketch out the design. I use a second colour to go over any details that I sketched over before I cut so I know what line I want to follow, but it’s all pretty simple.

I’ve drawn my papercut out in silver pen here then drawn the cut line in copper

When I’m happy with it, I cut it out using my craft knife on the chopping board. Because I bought the materials for shadow puppets, I’m using card and keep the details fairly basic, but I might get some paper and try something more complex soon.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Last month, after years of resistance, I signed up to Instagram (you can follow me here if you like) and started playing around with Bookstagram. It’s been a pleasant experience and I guess for me has been closer to what blogging was like when I started – a community of bookworms discussing their favourite reads with people from around the world and picking through what they loved and hated about various books. With a little more focus on the images than a traditional blog, but the level of detail and analysis in the microblogging element has pleasantly surprised me.

At risk of digression into the world of Bookstagram (best talk about that another time) this is where I came across Girls of Paper and Fire (aff. link) by Natasha Ngan. Lots of people were posting pictures of copies they’d received in the run up to Christmas, the title was intriguing, the cover was cool, I was dealing with a teething baby… reader I treated myself and bought it.

Girls of Paper and Fire is set in a fantasy world, which seems to have been inspired by aspects of Imperial China. The society is made up of three castes, paper, steel and demon. The paper caste are humans without demon characteristics, the paper caste have aspects of both human and demon, and the demon caste have animal appearances and incredible strength. The are the elite caste, with paper at the bottom and steel somewhere between the two.

Lei is a human girl born to a paper family. Her mother was abducted during a demon raid on her village when she was a child, but otherwise she lives a quiet life in a rural backwater. But people come from miles around to her father’s shop because Lei has unusual eyes, eyes which are bright gold and look like they belong to a demon in her human body. It is these eyes that catch the attention of one of the Emperor’s soldiers, and lead to Lei being kidnapped to become one of his paper girls, a harem of concubines who are selected annually for the “privilege”.

Girls of Paper and Fire has been compared to Memoirs of A Geisha, but personally I found this to be a very lazy comparison. I thought it was more reminiscent of  (af. link) Empress Orchid by Anchee Min with a girl trying to find her place as the Emperor’s concubine and the perilous, cruel world in which she lived (though maybe it was partly inspired by Journey to the West?). Even so, Girls of Paper and Fire is a more explicitly violent novel than either of these, and leaves the reader under no illusions about the reality of Lei’s life with the threat of violence constantly hanging over her. The trigger warning at the start of the book is both wise and necessary, especially in Young Adult fiction.

I didn’t think that the book was exceptionally well written, and found the writing a little jarring at first, though this either improved or became less noticeable as the book went on. Although Lei was the main character, I felt that her character was less well drawn than that of more minor paper girls and I didn’t feel that her thoughts and actions were always credibly linked. Despite this, I thought that the story was original and the concept was well executed, though I assume that Lei’s eyes are some how related to the Moon Goddess alluded to in the book who defeated the God of Knight. I’m guessing that this is a foreshadow of what will happen later in the series, but if so I would have liked to have learned more about what power or ability Lei has that makes her a girl of fire, otherwise Wren would be, for me, the girl of fire, the member of the paper girls who is different for being a Xi warrior. For all her bravery, Lei wasn’t exceptional as a character, but maybe that’s the point.

It seems almost obligatory to leave YA novels open for a sequel these days (Girls of Paper and Fire is the first part of a trilogy), but I did think that the ending of the novel was cleverly constructed to leave Lei and Wren breathing a sigh of relief, not appreciating that the word Flight in Lei’s birth blessing pendant may well be hinting that she will spend the rest of her life on the run from the Demon Bull King Emperor.

 

Easy Starburst Ornament

I was inspired to make this starburst having seen this Prairie Point Star from Supermom No Cape and even tried making a 3D paper version of it, which I still think is possible, but would need more headspace than my toddler and baby give me during our crafting sessions!

Even though it’s not quite what I was planning to make, I’m happy enough with it and think that a few in various sizes would look quite nice stuck to the wall en masse as a Christmas decoration. I might even try layering the starbursts to make a wreath of sorts when I have a bit more time.

To make a paper starburst decoration you need:

  • Two different coloured cards, one plain one patterned works well
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • An embellishment to hide the central join

How to make a paper starburst decoration:

  1. Measure out five squares from each card and then cut these in half on the diagonal to create twenty right angled triangles. My squares were 5cmx5cm

2. Measure out another square and draw out lines marking each of the quarters.

3. Begin placing your triangles on this guide square, deciding what level of spacing you prefer. If you like a more spread out starburst use four triangles per quarter, if you like a more compressed look use five per quarter. DO NOT glue the first triangle to the paper, glue the second to the first and then each triangle after that to the triangle before it while building up the pattern in a circle. You will need to be able to lift the first triangle to slot the final joining triangle beneath it to create a unified look.

4. When all the pieces are in position, you can securely stick the first piece and the final piece together. Add a splodge of PVA glue in the middle and glue an embellishment in the central spot to hide the join and hold the whole ornament firmly together.

Depending on the size of your final ornament you could hang this on a string to use as a tree decoration, or blue tack to the wall in a starburst scene.

Alice in Wonderland “Drink Me” Bottle Decoration

Day Nine of my 12 Days of Bookish Crafts Blogmas and I bring you this Alice in Wonderland Drink Me ornament which would be perfect for hanging on a tree.

This is a really easy craft project as it doesn’t take any degree of skill, just collection of parts for assembly, and you can tweak the final look very easily depending on the materials you use. My current decoration is a really budget friendly version, an upcycled empty glycerine bottle, a snippet of cheap ribbon and some craft ribbon roses. But with a pretty glass bottle, a nice quality ribbon and some dried rosebuds you could make a nice bookish bottle present for someone, and I might actually experiment with making a more up market version one day.

To make an Alice in Wonderland Drink Me decoration you will need:

  • A small bottle
  • An ornate key (affiliate link, but mine came from this pack)
  • Some red roses
  • Ribbon with a chess board check pattern
  • String
  • Paper
  • A black pen
  • Glue
  • Scissors

How to make an Alice in Wonderland Drink Me Bottle

  1. Make sure that your bottle is clean and dry – I used an empty Dr Oetker glycerine bottle that I had left from making a sensory bottle for the baby, they are pretty cheap in most supermarkets – and fill this with the red roses.
  2. Add your ornate key to the string and loosely tie to the bottle neck so that it will have the appearance of hanging slightly seperately from the bottle when displayed. Leave long ends loose to use for hanging on a tree should you wish to use this as a Christmas ornament.
  3. Tie the ribbon in a bow around the neck of the bottle to disguise the string. If it’s likely to be fiddled with by small children, I’d recommend securing the bow in place with a stitch through the knot.
  4. Write “drink me” on a piece of paper and glue to the bottle.

It really is as easy as that.

How to Make a Bookish Penguin Gift Tag

If you’re friends with a bookworm, the chances are they are a massive penguin fan and will have a collection of vintage penguin books (guilty) or some kind of penguin lifestyle item hanging around their house.

What better way to jazz up a book that you’ve bought them for Christmas than this handmade bookish penguin gift tag which doubles up as a unique bookmark that can be enjoyed long after the rest of the wrapping has gone?

To make a bookish penguin gift tag you will need:

  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Old book page
  • Cardboard (I used white watercolour paper and gold card)
  • Black paint
  • Fine paintbrush
  • Glue
  • Decorative twine or ribbon

How to make a bookish penguin gift tag:

  1. Sketch out your penguin onto a piece of plain paper. When you’re happy with the design, turn your paper over and shade heavily with a graphite pencil. Hold this over your book page and pressing heavily on the paper, draw over the penguin so that the image transfers like the one below.

2. Using black paint and a fine brush, carefully go over your pencil lines then fill in the black parts of the penguin on the book page.

3. When your penguin has dried, cut out an oval of paper which fits around the penguin and trace the shape around your penguin to give it a good border. Cut this shape out and stick it onto a white card background.

4. Cut around the oval to create a white border and then stick the bordered oval onto another shade of card of your choice. I chose gold to make it feel Christmassy. Once these have dried, make a small hole in the top of the card and thread with decorative twine or ribbon to allow you to use it as a tag or as a bookmark.

 

3D Snowflakes with Washi Tape

Happy Friday! Today is day seven of my Twelve Days of Bookish Crafts Blogmas and I wanted to share some 3D snowflakes which were inspired by these medallion snowflakes that I saw on One Dog Woof after reading a post on Apartment Therapy (an ironic guilty pleasure since my home is a chaotic mess more than half the time). ChiWei’s blog is so full of creative ideas you need to read it all, but I loved the snowflakes and thought they’d look great with book pages instead of plain paper.

The basic steps for this are very similar to creating a pinwheel (like I did for my snowflake pinwheels) but I added washi tape to a larger piece of paper to make a bigger snowflake and give what my partner likes to call “a pop of colour”* It’s very easy to do, you just need to position the washi tape either at the edge of your pages to give the snowflake a coloured edge, or in the centre to give it a coloured centre.

If you’re creating a coloured centre, you should fold the page first to ensure that it doesn’t look too wonky, if you’re putting colour on the edges then it’s much simpler and you just line it up with the straight edges of the paper as I show below.

Once you have it in the correct position, it’s a simple matter of fold and cut though I would avoid cutting through too much of the washi tape as this is extra thick and it makes any kind of precision difficult to achieve.

I hope that you’re enjoying my 12 Days of Bookish Crafts Blogmas. For more ideas about Bookish Christmas Crafts, check out my Bookish Christmas Ornaments Pinterest board.

*No, he really does say that.

 

 

Snowflake Paper Pinwheel Decoration

I’m half way into my Twelve Days of Bookish Crafts Blogmas and I have to say I’m really enjoying it. The crafts that I’ve been making are really simple, but as I put them around the house they instantly make the place feel a little more festive and it’s quite calming sitting and making some little decorations, either by myself or even better with Phoebe as we chat about our projects and life.

Today’s craft couldn’t be much simpler, a book page pinwheel with a snowflake button sewn into the centre. But it looks really good, or I think it does, and you can imagine how it will look when it’s hung on a tree with fairy lights shining off the snowflake button.

To make the pin wheel you will need:

  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Needle and thread
  • Decorative button (I bought my snowflakes from ebay)
  • Glue
  • String for hanging

How to make a snowflake pinwheel decoration:

  1. Cut your book page in half so you have a long, thin strip of paper. A maths whizz could probably tell you the minimum width to length ratio needed to get the pinwheel to fold into a circle. I’m reasonable at maths but my head isn’t in that place right now, but if your paper strip is too wide then your pin wheel won’t fold.
  2. Fold your paper into a concertina, then fold this in half to find the middle point.
  3. If you’re only planning to make a pin wheel you can staple the mid point or wrap string tightly around it to secure it. To sew the snowflake button in place, I’d recommend sewing thread through the centre point of the concertina and then sewing through this on both sides and through the button to secure this to the exterior of your concertina.
  4. When the button is in place, glue the edges of your paper together on one side to form an arc.
  5. Then repeat this on the other side.
  6. Carefully make a hole in the paper and thread through to hang.

The collage below has come out quite low res, but it gives you the basic idea for making the pinwheel.

 

Golden Snitch and Felix Felicis Ornament DIY

When I, a witch, offer you, a muggle, a Christmas present from the Harry Potter universe, the chances are that you, like me, want Hermione’s timeturner.

Tough break I’m afraid, because for day five of my Blogmas of Bookish crafts, I’m not giving you what you want, but what you need with this Harry Potter inspired, easy to make golden snitch and felix felicis DIY. Yes, I’m giving you recreation and good luck, because no one needs to be running around like a headless turkey trying to avoid their past selves during the festive period.

 

To make an easy golden snitch and felix felicis ornament you need:

    • Scissors
    • Craft knife
    • Cutting mat
    • PVA glue
    • Paper
    • Gold foil
    • Silver pens or paint
    • Cocktail stick
    • Cotton wool
    • Tiny glass bottles (affiliate link alert but I used these)
    • Gold wire
    • Gold glitter

How to make a golden snitch and potion step by step

Here I’ll guide you through making the snitch and the felix felicis potion bottle which I join together at the end. Though in this step by step guide I’m starting with the snitch, you can do it in any order. This just allowed me to work on the potion while the snitch wings dried.

  1. Make your snitch wings- this is the most difficult part of the whole project, mostly because the cutting is fiddly. I drew around a real feather so that I would have a natural feather shape to cut because I wanted my wings to look organic, there are lots of guides on how to make papercut feathers online but I found that the key was to decide on a central spine in the feather and to cut from the narrow base of the feather to the wider tip in precise, narrow cuts as I’ve indicated with arrows below. This helps avoid your cuts overlapping and taking a section out of your wing.

 

2. When you’ve cut your feather shapes out, fold them gently along the pencil mark you’ve made for the central spine of the feather to give them a natural wing shape and colour or paint them in silver. I used a silver sharpie (affiliate link) which I liked because didn’t affect the texture of my paper or weigh down my design.

3. Wrap a ball of cotton wool in gold foil and pierce this through with a cocktail stick to create a frame to attach your paper wings. I dipped the cocktail stick in PVA glue to keep it in position.

4. Spread a small amount of PVA glue on the inner curve of your feathered snitch wing then gently position these on the cocktail sticks. Allow to dry.

5. Fill your small glass bottle with gold glitter and seal in place with a cork. I found the corks that came with my bottles were slightly too large so I trimmed it gently with a craft knife to prevent it breaking when the bottle was sealed. I then threaded gold craft wire through the hanging fixture and wrapped it around the bottle’s neck both to secure the cork and to embellish the decoration.

7. When your snitch has dried, add a small hanging fixture to the top of the snitch, secure (mine had a screw fixture and came from a broken cork lid from my tiny bottles) and string on a wire along with the potion bottle.

 

There you go, really simple and I think it would make a nice project for a Harry Potter fan, or a handmade gift for a Harry Potter fan to hang on the tree.

Five minute free tealight holder craft

Today is day four of my twelve days of bookish crafts blogmas and for anyone who found my paper house lantern too fiddly, I’ve got the easiest free five-minute craft.

As with any candle holder, I’d recommend that you use an LED tealight rather than a real candle because of the fire hazard.

 

You will need:

  • A clean glass jar
  • Decorative paper (I used the book page for a bookish feel)
  • Washi tape
  • Scissors
  • Craft knife
  • String or ribbon to decorate
  • Any embellishments you might like (I used star beads)
  • Cutting board/protective mat

How to make it:

  1. Measure the dimensions of your glass door then cut the decorative paper to fit.
  2. Stick the paper down with stripes of washi tape, both to decorate and to hold the paper in position on your cutting board/protective mat
  3. Cut shapes out of the washi tape and decorative paper to allow the light to shine through when the tea light is inside the jar.
  4.  Stick the paper to the jar with two final strips of washi tape.
  5. Wrap the top of the jar with string or ribbon.
  6. Finish off with any additional embellishments you like.

Voila, five-minute tea light holder.