Make it Monday: Geode bath bombs

One of our favourite TV shows is ‘Tumbleleaf‘ available on Amazon streaming. It’s a fun show with Fig the fox, Maple the bear and assorted other characters who make the world of Tumbleleaf so colourful and interesting. One episode focusses on Maple and Fig going on an adventure to find a dragon and when they reach the dragon’s lair, they are rewarded with a geode.

 

Egg shell geodes

Geodes were something I’d wanted to make with the toddler for a long time and the holidays were a perfect time to get mixing and colourful. First we made geodes in egg shells.

We found a recipe on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls Facebook page with all the information we needed. Luckily I had some Epsom salts which I disolved in hot water. After carefuly pouring the salty water into the egg shells, we then added food colouring. Then came the tricky bit – waiting. I did explain to the toddler that we would need to wait overnight for the geodes to form but was informed we had to check fairly frequently ‘just in case’. We had some help from the pup in keeping an eye on them and she helpfully knocked them on to the floor for a closer inspection (managing to cover herself and the carpet in the process!). 

We had to frequently break the salt crust that formed on top of the geodes which also gave me a chance to push some of the salt to the edges. An evening on the radiator, and our geodes we’re ready! They weren’t quite like the ones the Smart Girls team made, but given half our salt water ended up on the dog and carpet, I was pleased we managed to create some geodes. The toddler was fascinated and this is a craft we’ll definitely do again, just firmly out of reach of the pup!

Bath bomb geodes

Our next experiment was bath bomb geodes. I’ve seen these on Pintrest a lot and it’s been on my list to make for a long time. We make bath bombs fairly frequently and I even posted my recipe on a previous Make It Monday. This time I didn’t add the Himalayan salt as I wanted the base of the bath bomb to be pure white to contrast with the geode colour.

I put a third of a cup of Epsom salts into four different bowls and added a few drops of food colouring. I keep meaning to buy proper soap colouring but have found food colouring works well and is a cost-effective option given how many bath bombs we go through. The only downside is that they can contain water which reacts with the bicarbonate of soda and citric acid, sometimes lessening the ‘bomb’ in the bath, but not by much.

Some of the colours weren’t as vibrant as I had hoped, with the black being particularly disappointing.

And here’s our first attempt at a geode bath bomb! The red turned more pink as it dried, whilst I didn’t bother to use the black as it really didn’t contrast well with the white bath bomb. I’ve seen other people make these so that the outer part of the geode is a lighter shade than the central part so it looks more like a rock but we were pleased with our results. Perhaps next time we’ll choose just one colour and make them look like ‘true’ geodes. The toddler loved playing with them in the bath and it’s was fun seeing the different colours mix as the bath bomb foamed. They were a bit fiddly but something we’ll be making lots more of it the future.

Have you ever made geodes?

Movie review: April Fools Day (1986)



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Synopsis: A millionairess invites her college friends to stay at her mansion on a deserted island for the weekend. However, it’s not long before the bodies start piling up.

Director: Fred Walton

Starring: Deborah Foreman, Griffin O’Neal and Clayton Rohner

Review: A group of rich friends celebrate the end of an era by visiting the mansion of mutual friend Muffy (Foreman). Some have known her for years, while others are new acquaintances. The house has a number of quirks which the friends all discover, from paintings whose eyes follow you around the room, to faulty light switches and collapsing chairs, all of which builds the tension. Intrigue follows supposition, with clues, murder and more than a little mayhem.

There’s a few character cliches but the friendly jokes and easy-going manner between characters draw you in, making you feel part of the group. They are a group who love to play practical jokes on each other which tempers some of the more horrific parts of the movie. However, like all friendships they can become strained under pressure and seeing the cracks form adds to the tension but it is the changes seen in Muffy which personifies the groups descent into madness.

Like a lot of 80’s horror, the musical score seems to have been kept to a minimum which I like. I”m not a fan of most slasher horror movies, preferring a supernatural slant, but April Fools Day steers away from excessive gore or overt violence allowing the tension to build as each victim discovers the identity of the killer just as it’s too late.

From the beginning there are clues to the final twist. I’m not going to spoil anything but take it all in. It’s a slow build movie which allows you to enjoy the relationships and interplay between the characters as well as trying to work out who the potential killer might be.

While the fashion seems a little dated now, the script and story and ultimately the friendship of the cast, stand the test of time, making this a true genre classic. Come and join the party, this April Fool’s Day.

Hop in Spring with this great Easter Egg bag from Sew Can She

Easter seems to get more fun now we have the Lamb as we get to hide lots of treats and so I whipped up these adorable bunny bags from SewCanShe. They’re super simple and don’t need much fabric. I used felt for the ears which proved a little too thick for the thin fabric but still looked good.

I also made a little tote bag for the Lamb, again from SewCanShe. I added a shoulder strap so she could wear it across her body. It’s small, but has plenty of room for all those treats.

Have you made any special Easter bags? Let me know in the comments below.

My Wandering Uterus is wandering now…..

 

Cover for My Wandering Uterus

It’s here! My Wandering Uterus has officially launched today! I’ve already written about my excitement at launching a new character ‘Sorrowful Jones’ as well as the process of ‘sub to pub’ – submission to publication.

To celebrate I created a crochet appliqué Uterus, based on the cover by SLJohnson. What do you think? I had to take a little artistic licence to ensure the wings stayed on and next time I’ll use embroidery thread for the edging but I was very happy with the result. I think it will make a fabulous bookmark for my copy, don’t you?

In the meantime, if you’d like a copy of the book, here’s the link for the Amazon US and the UK.

And if you love the cover work as much as I do, the lovely SL Johnson has a shop with the cover on assorted items, from mugs to bags, to t-shirts. The link to her site is here.

Make It Monday: Mother’s Day paper flowers

It was Mother’s Day yesterday here in the UK and other parts of the world. I hope all you mums out there, be your children biological, from other tums, step children, adults (I’ve known plenty of these who care for others!), furry (or scaly, slimy, feathery or otherwise!) or who’s babies gained their wings too early, had a peaceful, relaxing and fun day.

I was lucky to be thoroughly spoiled by my girls. They bought me some beautiful flowers and scrumpy chocolates, which I shared with the toddler whilst the pup had one of her new, vegan treats (more on those later in the week). Hubby kindly kept my tea flowing and a peaceful afternoon of crochet meant my new hat was finished.

However, Mother’s Dsy isn’t the same without a beautiful homemade gift. In-keeping with our efforts to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, we decided to make use of an old loo roll for this fun, simple craft.

We’ve recently been buying our loo roll, kitchen roll and tissues from a company called ‘Who Gives A Crap’. Their ‘no trees’ pledge means their products are either recycled or sustainably sourced (is there anything bamboo CAN’T be used for?) and all comes in fun packaging, which lends itself perfectly to craft projects.

The flowers and flower pot were ridiculously easy to make. We used the wrapper from the toilet roll to cover the cardboard. I really liked the raindrop pattern. Hubby frequently teases me about my Washi tape addiction but I think the rainbow tape accents look great.

We cut the bottom from an egg carton and painted them orange. We then cut yellow petals and arranged them into a flower shape, adding the orange centre to form a daffodil. These were then stuck them to biodegradable green straws. A play doh butterfly was a pretty detail. We added some photos of the girls to the centre of each flower, popped them in the ‘vase’ and we were done! What do you think?

Hope you all had a fun Mother’s Day!

Wandering Away with My Uterus

Cover for My Wandering Uterus

A while ago I told you that my short story ‘In Search of Sorrow’ had been accepted for inclusion in the anthology titled ‘My Wandering Uterus’. I’m very excited about introducing you all to my new character ‘Sorrowful Jones’ and the anthology promises to be filled with interesting articles, poems and stories, all carefully curated by Kate Laity and H Byron Ballard.

My previous post looked at the history and mythology around the Wandering Uterus so I thought today I’d give a brief outline of how my story was accepted and the process to publication.

Sub to Pub

As so often happens, I saw the invitation for submissions on social media. I was intrigued by the title and decided to submit.

I carefully read and reread the submission guidelines. These can be a little vague and tricky (many places ask for stories to be for,attend in ‘the usual way’ but each have their own ‘usual’ style so it’s always important to check their preferences’).  Luckily Kate had been very clear with what she wanted so then it was a matter of writing the story!

I’d long been percolating a character, influenced in part by cowgirls in the ‘Wild West’ but who didn’t fight using guns. I’ve been listening to a lot of Amanda Palmer and so decided that my character would carry a ukulele. This being me, there would also be elements of the supernatural.

So, Sorrowful Jones was created!

I wrote my story, sent it to beta readers who also loved it, but who made a few suggestions about how to change things and picked up a couple of grammar mistakes. Multiple readings and more edits and I was happy with the story.

Then came the stressful part – submitting! After getting hubby to check my formatting, my story was flying through the internet. I obviously started hitting ‘refresh’ every two minutes on my email to see if it had been accepted. The waiting for acceptance/rejection is always the hardest part for me. I always think of it like Christmas where you have the expectation and excitement, then on the day you either get the pony you’ve always wanted or another naf jumper. Luckily for me, after waiting impatiently for weeks, I had the good news that Sorowful Jones would be out in the world.

Kate and Byron then had the unenviable job of editing each submission before deciding on the running order.  First edits are sent to the authors for their approval or rejection. More often than not, I accept the suggestions as they will often make my story sharper and ensure there there are no major plot holes. There’s also the grammar and spelling mistakes that I always manage to miss, despite my best efforts.

Once they’ve been returned, the stories are collated and checked before the final proofs are sent out. This is our final chance to check for typos or any strange formatting. I once had proofs sent which were fine in .pdf format but once they’d been put into the book formatting program had strange gaps, added spaces and blank pages! It’s a laborious process for all involved to check for mistakes and I remember a book agent once telling me that you can read and reread a piece but it’s not until it’s been printed that you’ll see a very obvious mistake, usually on page one.

So that’s in brief is the process of putting an anthology together. It’s a long process of putting a book together, but it’s exciting and different every time. Now, we’re trying to get the word out and generate interest before ‘P Day’. If you’d like a review copy, please contact Kate or Byron. Keep an eye out for more information and news, including where to meet different writers in the anthology at conferences and more.

If you’d like to read more about my Path to Publication, as well as some hints and tips for submitting your own work, click here.

While you’re waiting for ‘My Wandering Uterus’ to be published why not check out my other book of short stories ‘Weird Wild available now. (The link below is an affiliate link which means I may receive  small commission, at no added cost to you, if you purchase after clicking)

Make It Monday: Kokeshi Doll for Hinamatsuri

A belated but very happy Hinamatsuri to you all! I love Hinamatsuri and decided, now my daughter is a bit older, to make her a Kokeshi doll. Not quite as intricate as the stunning Hina (traditional dolls placed on the altar for Hinamatsuri) dolls from Japan but very adorable nonetheless. Keep reading to learn more about this fun festival.

I loved learning about all the different festivals from my Japanese friend whilst at university. The rich colours, beautiful fabric and ancient traditions seemed so far from my rather bland life (which, ironically, for my friend were fascinating). However, it wasn’t until we lived in Japan that I got to experience some of these festivals first hand.

Some of my students arranged for me to be dressed in a kimono.
Hinamatsuri (Girl’s Day)

One of my favourites was the Hinamatsuri, or Girl’s Day, festival which is celebrated on 3rd March. I loved seeing all the traditional alters, covered in red cloth with the Hina dolls placed with precision. Some of my students kindly showed me how to make some origami dolls (see below), which were certainly more practical when travelling!

A set of Hina dolls can be very expensive. We saw sets in Kyoto which were priced at well over £2,000 but other sets can be bought for less than £50 from Amazon. Many sets my students had were family heirlooms, carefully used by generations of girls.

Kokeshi dolls

I decided I wanted to make a Kokeshi Doll for my daughtervas a way to mark Hinamatsuri. Kokeshi dolls are a traditional doll, historically made from wood and with minimal features. They used to have straight bodies, with a round head but more recently they have been made more rounded.

There’s are loads on patterns online but I really liked the one by La Calle de la Abuela. However, I wanted to ensure she was a similar size to my other dolls. I tweaked the pattern in several places so my final doll was the same size as Medusa and the Wicked Witch. I chose a pale green wool because green is often associated with youth and vitality – in short, perfect for an energetic toddler!

The doll came together quickly and I loved the way a few adjustments or adornments give her her own personality. She’s one of the few crochet projects that I’ve finished and immediately want to make another, normally I like to move on to a new challenge but I’m planning on making more and will hopefully include some in my online shop.

What do you think? Have you got or made a Kokeshi Doll? Do you celebrate Hinamatsuri? Let me know in the comments below.

Origami dolls

As promised, here’s my origami ‘dolls’.

They’re very easy to make and a fun way to introduce little people to the art of paper folding.

For more information on the different styles of Hina dolls and the alters, check out this fascinating piece from the Kyoto Museum.

Women in Horror Month: Terrifying Treats

Phew! Well, after a month of movie reviews, short stories, fun makes and more, I think we all need a treat to keep our energy up.

I had planned to make something from ‘A Zombie Ate My Cupcake‘ by Lily Vanilli but the toddler decided she wanted biscuits instead. However, we did make use of the skull cookie cutter from the set, whilst also making a zombie and some bunnies (it must be bunnies!) I’ve used this basic biscuit recipe from the BBC Good Food site a number of times. I like to add some freshly ground vanilla, mostly because I always forget to buy vanilla essence at the supermarket and it seems to work equally well.

We’ve collected assorted cookie cutters over the years and so have a zombie, skull and rabbit. I’ve not much success with the zombie cutter in the past and it was the same story today as his arms broke off but the crumbs tasted good.

It’s always fun baking with the toddler and as normal it’s not until it’s time to decorate that the real mess, sorry fun, begins. It being Women in Horror Month, we used a lot of pink icing, which was fun and I think, looked good. The only frustrating thing was that the Dr Oetker icing pouch was tricky to use, hence the hole in one skull. Still, it was our first attempt and we managed to make brains, eyes, teeth and more.

Our finished biscuits! Waht do you think? Have you made anything special for Women in Horror Month?