Sunday, 30 December 2012

Making a toy building site

It's been a very long while since I last blogged. Returning to work full time, settling Small into nursery and then Christmas and all that is one reason. I also got a tablet computer round about the same time I stopped blogging so don't turn on the laptop everyday any more and well, blogging on a tablet isn't much fun. Excuses, excuses.

Anyway, I have something actually useful to blog about, so blog I shall.

Small was the happy recipient of a flurry of diggers, construction vehicles and a rather awesome and huge remote controlled crane this Christmas. We'd got him a wooden garage for his cars and watching him whizz the toy cars around that for hours on end made me think he would like something similar for his diggers but you can't buy anything like that. I mean, you can get tonka playsets and stuff like that but you can't buy a building site set up the way you can buy say, a road layout mat. So I decided to make one.

I started with a spare plastic wardrobe drawer from Ikea that we'd bought years ago. There didn't end up being room for it in the wardrobe and it's served as underbed storage in Small's room ever since but we don't need the things we're storing it anymore. It's fairly roomy but low and has a lid, so perfect for this job.

I have no extra time off around the standard bank holidays and I didn't want this to drag on and on so where as I could have done some proper planning and experimenting and plotting out to get the best possible result, I just forged ahead in a rush. Anyone else doing this could no doubt achieve much more professional results if they had the time.
We keep a roll or two of lining paper in the house for Small to draw and paint on as it's cheap and stands up to the saturation levels of paint and scrunching that a toddler deals in much better than say, printer paper. I decided to line out the box with some of that so that in time to come if Small decides he is no longer into diggers, I can turn it back into a regular storage box again simply enough. I taped it together with parcel tape but probably some wide, high tack masking tape would have better in hindsight.
I wanted a few different levels to the landscape and at first thought of papier mache. However, I haven't worked with papier mache since I was a child myself and wasn't sure either of the drying time or my skills in forming the effect I would need. Also, I wasn't sure it would stand up well to the attentions of a almost 3 year old. I had the wheeze instead of getting a can of expanding foam filler from the DIY shop and fished some likely looking bits of formed cardboard from the mountain of recycling we have now all the Christmas toys have been relieved of their packaging.
I arranged the cardboard in place and then marked out roughly where I wanted the filler to go in pen. I wanted to put a couple of digging mediums in the lowest level so marked in where I'd put filler for a divide between the two as well.
Spraying in the filler was fun. Lots of fun. I'd only bought a medium sized can and it didn't go quite as far as I thought it would but it did the bulk of what I needed. At the time, I thought perhaps I'd need a little papier mache in the end after all. Once it had finished it's expanding and hardened enough to be carved and I'd sculpted in a flat surface on the top two levels, I had enough bits cut off to glue down in the other areas and do the job.

The next job was to paint. For speed and a fairly hardwearing finish, I used enamel spray paint, yellow for the ground level and brown for the upper two. Some grey might have been good too, but the paint was £4 a can and I was trying to keep the costs down. I'm not unhappy at all with the effect of just those two colours. Once the paint was dry, I added some flocked paper from the model shop, black tarmac effect for the road at the top and grass effect for the "walls" and road verges. If I was doing it again, I might have made a full cardboard foundation for the road and it's sweep down the incline and set it into the still wet filler for a better finish, but it's serviceable as it is.

And that was pretty much that. I used a hot glue gun to do all my sticking down as it's fast and secure across all types of surfaces. I put some Moon Sand in the smaller section of the ground level and a mixture of dried beans and split peas in the larger section. As I had a few small pebbles hanging around from projects past, I threw them in too. I imagine that some well washed, rounded fish tank gravel would also work well.

I got all the materials I needed on Saturday afternoon, from either a DIY shop or a specialist model shop, total spend less than £20. It was ready for presenting to Small by 3pm on Sunday. He loves it and played with it for four hours solid until bedtime, with a brief pause to eat his tea. It's still in once piece, so I'm calling it a win.

Friday, 2 November 2012

I went out for the evening.

It's ironic slightly that after deciding I couldn't maintain a daily entry here I got loads of inspiration but no time to actually write about them. I honestly couldn't decide what I wanted to blog when I realised I had a few minutes to myself this evening.

However, as going out for the evening ought to be matter of course but sadly, sooooo isn't and given that this particular night out was completely awesome, it wins. Introspective seasonal posts and whines about my health can wait.

Big goes out all the time, every Saturday he has a regular dj gig at a rock pub in a neighbouring town. Of late, he does the Friday and the Saturday. Beside that, producing the podcast gets him free entry to any number of rock and metal gigs and festivals that he cares to ask for. Between the dearth of babysitters available to us and my usual need to be curled up in bed at a reasonable hour in order to function day to day, I don't often join him.
This was a special occasion. Firstly, it's half-term and I've booked leave from work so have some leeway with the fatigue. Secondly, the in-laws were not only willing to babysit, but to keep Small overnight! Thirdly, the gig in question was ALICE COOPER!
I love Alice Cooper. He writes and performs great songs, is a pretty great dude in himself and his live shows are something else entirely. I have seen him once before, last year and besides doing all the songs you can think of when you think of Alice Cooper (Billion Dollar Baby, Poison, Elected, School's Out, Feed My Frankenstein etc) he also had a giant FrankenAlice puppet, shoved a mic stand through someone and was executed by guillotine for the crime. The theatrics are worth going to see alone.

This year he's doing a whole new set for the Hallowe'en tour so we were promised a different show. Besides that, he was supported by Duff McKagan's Loaded and Ugly Kid Joe. Both acts appeal to my teen nostalgia in ways I can't begin to describe. So I took off my Mummy Head and rummaged down the back of the sofa and in the back of the cupboards until I found my old Rock Chick head and this was the result

Not bad, when you consider how out of practice and impoverished I am (I'm a mother)
So with that we bundled Small into the car, dropped him off with toothbrush and George Pig and off we went to Sheffield City Hall (via a very nice Thai buffet for tea)

Big had to interview the very beautiful and talented guitarist Orianthi before the show but a very small and very terrifying pit bull of a woman attached to the tour refused to let me join him so I hung out with another blagging journo of our acquaintance who, it turned out, was one reason the pit bull was so pissed off. He'd overrun his own interview slot. 
I also allowed myself to be utterly fleeced for a tshirt. It's a nice tshirt though. 
Then the bands came on.
Loaded were great, really relaxed stage presence and good solid rock tracks. Duff McKagan makes a rather good frontman and unlike his former bandmate and frontman who shall go nameless, hasn't descended into overinflated ego and overinflated stature self-parody. Good start. 

Then Ugly Kid Joe. Now, I was excited to see them as I loved them when I was a teen but I was admittedly also a bit worried that they'd be past it. Not so, not so. Amazing set. Whitfield Crane is incredible, he was everywhere, running through the crowd, jumping the seats in the stalls, dragging seated people to their feet, challenging the audience to get into the spirit - everything you want from a support band and more. Besides which, they still rock, Whitfield can still sing the same as he did *coughcough20-oddcoughcough* years ago. 

Then Alice.
I understand from Big that there had been complaints from those elements who always complain about something that the Hallowe'en tours had been the same for too long. Well, this year it was all new. This set didn't let up at all, the tempo was fast throughout and we just had to keep up. It was lighter on some staples (No Elected!) but threw in some covers of departed contemporaries in a 'Raise the Dead' segment which was just fab. I imagine the moaners will just have complained that he left out too many favourites instead but sod em.

I could not have had a better time. Look, there was even a snake!
That was probably the last night out I'm likely to see for maybe another year so it's just as well it rocked there and back again.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Haunted cakes and gingerbread skeletons

We threw Small a Hallowe'en party. Just a small one, but still the prep took me all week and left me shattered! Don't think I'll be doing this again once I'm back working full time. Worth it though -

Small had a blast, but is now slightly confused and thinks it's his birthday. Sweetly, he seems to associate birthdays with parties, but not presents. The spider costume he chose a few weeks ago and has worn intermittently since sadly only lasted five minutes before he was hauling it off again but hey ho, he's two and it's his prerogative.

I've spent today being largely immobile and extremely lazy so that we can enjoy our half-term holiday as fully as possible. As well as the trip to the zoo that Big is determined to fit in, I'd like to get some serious housework done and some clutter junked in readiness for the reduced amount of time I'm going to have keeping the house nice come December. I want that, but I also want to have a lovely break with my wonderful men.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Panda Wednesday

This is a very relaxed looking panda. I hope you're all as chilled. Happy Wednesday.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

My so called life.

I have begun work on my most adventurous cake yet. A small two tier castle cake with witches flying on broomsticks around it. I had meant to get the witch figures done tonight so they had the week to dry but the first step is the broomsticks and they haven't dried enough to build the rest of the figure around them yet so I'll have to try to find the time tomorrow. I have done the door, all six broomsticks, a cauldron and covered the cake board though so that's a pretty good start. 

Wow, the banality! Sadly, I have nothing more interesting to talk about at the moment. My entire life is preparing for my return to full time work and doing stuff for Small's hallowe'en party. I have a lot of very cute ideas and no real idea where the time is going to come from to do it all! Story of my life.
So that, apart from watching Strictly Come Dancing, is that for me. Perhaps I need to stop trying to make an entry every single day - I'm just not that interesting!

Thursday, 18 October 2012