Whimsical Treasure Trove

A Mama's Handmades & Musings

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Bought this book recently, and finished reading it within a day. Am in awe- this is an amazing book!

This is a beautiful, poignant story about how Caitlin, a girl with Asperger’s syndrome, tried to deal with the sudden death of her brother. It details her, and her father’s struggle, to come to terms with her only brother’s sudden death. Written in the first-person approach, it really helps readers to see the world the way a special needs child see it, and in turn gain a better understanding on why some children display bizarre behavior.

This book reminds me of the experience of teaching some special needs children some years ago.

I was the form teacher of a very lovely class of Normal Technical students, and out of the 20 odd students, two are ADHD kids, and five are autistic. I had problems. The problem was not the children, but that either nobody detected their difficulties in primary school (other than one), or parents were alerted but they refused to send their children for appropriate intervention (thus no record) and therefore nobody knew they need special help. It was only through interaction that I discovered they need extra help and try to provide the necessary support. It doesn’t help that I do not know much about students with special needs and my years of teacher training course didn’t even have a module on how to identify and support these children. As much as it was an uphill struggle for these children to fit themselves into the classroom, I too had to hop onto a steep learning curve and learn as much as possible. I read and read and read, and bascially learnt through trial-and-error, because, afterall, every child is different! And they behave differently.

To better support them, I signed myself up for a certificate in special needs. Throughout the journey, I too grow with these children. And, I must say, it was an amazing journey. These children, they are lovely, if you just try to understand them and take it slow with them. True, it can be really frustrating when they don’t “get it”, and I don’t get their ‘it’, but all in all, we learn from each other and we grow together. The most special thing that come out is the bond that we forged, and of course the growth we see in them. I remember this particular boy who has ADHD.  I was his Form Teacher for two years. According to his mother, his condition was serious and thus he was put on medication. I worked closely with him, his mother, and the social worker, and we witnessed his transformation, from being an impulsive and problematic child, who kicked other students, punched windows and shouted at teachers (all for no apparent reasons at all), to one that is able to express his feelings through non-violent actions, to even show appreciation through sms (he still can’t say it face-to-face) and even voluntarily helped me with the school CIP project, taking up the responsibility of training other volunteers. In case you wonder, no, he is not ‘cured’. ADHD cannot be cured, but a child can grow out of it, or shall I say, better manage it as he gets older. This boy had put in a lot of effort to change his attitude, to manage his own behaviour (not an easy task for him!) This is the greatest satisfaction a teacher can get from teaching – to see your students blossom under your care, knowing that you have made a positive impact in their lives and helped them to become better people. The other teachers were amazed at his transformation and asked me what my secret recipe was. I guess it is lots of patience, lots of bonding, lots of sincere encouragement and the strong belief that he can definitely change for the better … that a miracle is indeed possible (and yes, it is possible!).

I have always enjoyed teaching students in the Normal Technical stream. They are the sweetest lot if you take the time to understand them and where they come from. It is not by their choice if some of them have learning or other disabilities. And if everyone of us could just throw away all the misperceptions and prejudice, we will be able to see how beautiful they are, that we are all the same.

I think ‘MockingBird’ is a GREAT book for primary school children, and it really makes a good literature book for lower secondary students. As more and more children are diagnosed with learning disabilities and various disorders on the autism spectrum, books like this will help a lot, for many of us who are unable to see or understand the world of the special needs. At the same time, this is a great book for drawing out empathy from students. Readers will see that, as the author puts it, by getting inside someone’s head, really understanding that person, so many misunderstandings and problems can be avoided – misunderstandings and problems that can lead to mounting frustration and, sometimes violence. In fact, it is not just about empathising with those with special needs, but ANYBODY that we come across. Every one of us deserves to be loved, and every life, to be celebrated.

I wish there are more of these books out in the market! We need them!!!

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New books for the children!

I am a bookaholic. I go crazy when I see books. I LOVE books and I love collecting them. My favorite pastime, other than designing, sewing and crafting, is browsing in bookstores, or going online to check out online, yes, bookstores.

I spend much more on books than anything else in the house. Needless to say, my house is like a mini library. There are three bookshelves in my living room, and one each in my children’s rooms, all filled with books! And I still have books piled up on the floor. Still, that couldn’t stop me from buying more.

I have an obsession with children’s fiction books. I think that started when I was in Teacher Training College, when one of the lecturers recommended us “The Giving Tree”. From then on, I have been on the lookout for good children’s books. I enjoyed reading storybooks to my students and sometimes even created simple props for the storytelling sessions.

I get even crazier when I have my own children. More excuses to get more books! Yes I buy books with them in mind, but I must admit a large part is actually to satisfy my own craving. Haha!

Here are the new books I bought recently. Actually, I already have  2 copies of ‘Guess how much I love you’, one paperback, and one jigsaw puzzle book, but when I saw this playset I just couldn’t resist the temptation to get it. And it was a steal at S$15+. Seen it elsewhere at S$30+. It comes with a DVD and a simple board game.

Other than children’s books, I seldom read fiction books nowadays. I used to read a lot, especially when I was in secondary school. I love mystery/detective stories. My all-time favorite authors are Robin Cook and Agatha Christie (love Ms Maple!). The few romance novels I do read are by Judith McNaught.

I decided to get ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ recently because it was highly recommended by my friends. I am glad I got it. This book is definitely a keeper. It is not just another adventure story, but one that also educates in a quirky, no-frills way  which will appeal to school-going children unlike other storybooks that attempt to teach values or philosophies. I am definitely passing this over to my son once I am done reading it.

‘You’re All My Favourites’ is a book I chanced upon. A simple, heartwarming story of two bears and their three cubs, who wondered which one of them their mummy and daddy love best. Great for families with more than one child to reassure your children that they are all your favourites.

Did a sketch of my favourite scene from “Guess How Much I Love You”. I added in a full moon and my favourite quote.

Will stop here for now. I will be back to share more about the books I have gotten over the years, and of course, the new books that come along too. In fact, as I am writing this, I am waiting for another 3 sets of books to reach my doorstep anytime!

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Old dresses, New lease of life

In a recycling mood.

Cut up some old dresses and made two dresses for my little girl.

This was the first dress.

I want to make good use of the shirring at the waist, so I snipped the dress just above the shirring portion.

See, just one snip and it turns into a ‘tube’ dress!

But I want it to have straps, so I used some jersey knits to creat braids and sewed them on.

Voila! New dress!

Actually I had wanted to make the second dress into a skirt for myself, but little girl saw it and immediately decided she wants a long dress out of it. So there, this is the completed piece. I have forgotten to take a photo of it before it was cut. Basically I just cut up the dress  at a length that fits my girl, added an elastic at the top, and used the leftover fabric to create two gathered straps at the shoulder.

This dress has a lot of twirling power. See, my princess is having fun twirling again!

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Little Girl’s Whimsical Garden

Recently I decided to let the children have their own rooms, so I set off to design each room.

I named my little girl’s room the Whimsical Garden.

Sewed the pink short curtains to match the white drapes.

Reading Corner

Space above Reading corner used as display of dresses, etc, and little girl’s artwork

Decorated the plain cupboard from Ikea with some stickers

Bookcase with little girl’s favourite books

Stars that glow prettily at night

Make use of an old toddler chair as the bedside ‘table’ and created little banners to match the bed canopy.

Roses at head of the bed

The bed!

It has been a really enjoyable experience working on the room.  In a way it also helps me to fulfill my childhood dream of having a princessy room. Most importantly my princess is delighted and she is able to sleep on her own right from the very first night!

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Easter Egg Tea Cups

I chanced upon this very cute project by Sunghee of Creativity In Progress, to turn plastic Easter eggs into little teacups. What an ingenious idea! And just a few days ago I was looking for toy teacup sets for my little girl to hold tea parties for her dolls! I quickly went in search of the plastic eggs and other materials. Luckily Easter is round the corner, and I easily found the eggs. I do find them a bit too tiny, but they were the biggest plain ones I could find. The bigger ones have funny faces printed on them. These are better choices, of course.

So yesterday evening we sat down and started working on the eggs.

Here’s the eggs and the buttons my girl have matched to each of them.

Work-in-progress

Finished products, for now. Actually wanted to add handles but it was near bedtime and my little girl insisted on a tea party before going to bed, so I thought we would add them in another day.

The Tea Party. Oops, should have gotten a nice cloth to cover the table. Looks a bit messy with the prints.

Anyway they seemed to have a good time. 🙂

Totoro enjoyed his tea very much, and that cup has become his favourite cup.

Looking forward to more tea parties,this time with little cupcakes and other sweet treats!

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Window Shopping

Went window shopping recently. I enjoy seeing how shops dress up their windows. Love these macaroons hanging in one of the windows!

Yummy Ice-cream!

Simple but stands out. Love the contrast of pink and yellow.

And I am in love with these ‘cameras’! Wish they were real, not just pieces of cardboard….

Guess what these are:

 And this cute little ‘dog’

Did you guess right? The telephones are clutches and the doggie is a bag. 🙂

Or maybe you have seen them long ago. I just realised I have sort of lost touch with ‘leisure shopping’. It has been quite some time since I was able to afford time to just see see look look at anything and everything in shopping centres etc, for a whole afternoon. That day I saw bottles of toilet bowl perfume in a departmental store and found them interesting, so I took a pic of them. The sales person, a lady in her mid-forties, was very puzzled and asked me why I took a pic. I told her I find the product interesting. She looked at me as if I am a caveman (erm…cave woman?) and told me that it has been around for quite a long time.

Oops….

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Two headbands and a bouquet of hairpins

A few days ago, my little princess decided she wants short hair and asked me to cut her hair. Right after the haircut, I noticed that her hair would fall all over her face whenever she looks down, even with hairclips in place. During dinner they went into the soup that she was drinking. Frustrated, I looked around for something to solve the problem, and my eyes landed on a strip of fabric left over from a dress I had just completed. So I serged the sides and put it on her hair.

Little girl loves the new look but it is not easy for her to put on/re-adjust the ‘headband’ on her own in school as it requires her to tie a bow (which she has yet to master).

So I rummaged through my fabric stash and created this shirred headband that also complements her school outfit.

Little girl loves her new headband and now wears it to school almost everyday!

And here’s the latest creation for princess’s (and my) hair, a bouquet of hairpins.

🙂

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Cutie dress (from an adult tee shirt)

This is for people who want to whip up a quick dress for your little girls. You don’t even need to buy fabrics! Just get an adult tee shirt that you don’t wear anymore (preferably with some prints) from your cupboard.

This tutorial shows how to convert an adult tee into a girl’s tank top/dress/tunic. This time round I decided to use my tee as I wanted to make my girl a tunic/dress. I picked one of my tees that has been stretched to nearly twice its size after it has gone into the washing machine without the laundry bag/netting.

Materials:

Adult tee

Child tee

Fabric marker

Thread (same colour as your adult tee)

This is the adult tee.

Steps:

1. Position child tee on top of the adult tee.

2. Use a fabric marker to draw an outline. Remember to include about 3/8″ of seam allowance on both sides. Decide whether you want the dress to flare out or be straight and mark accordingly. I decided to make it a bit flare as my girl likes it that way.

3. Cut the pieces out.

4. With the right sides facing each other, sew up the sides.

5. Now turn the right sides out. For the armholes, measure about 1 1/2 to 2″ across and 3″down. Draw a curve with the fabric marker and cut them out. I skipped this step and just folded the fabric over to cut the armhole so that both sides are even.

6. Prepare the thread.

7. Create casings. Fold over the top part of the front panel by 1/2″ and stitch across. Do the same for the back panel.

8. Cut out a long strap from the leftover fabric, or from another tee that you have cut. I wanted a contrast so I cut a pink one. Ensure it is jersey material else it will fray quite a bit after some wash cycles in the washing machine. Alternatively, you can replace it with a ribbon of your (or your girl’s) choice. Hook one end to a safety pin and thread through the casings. Tie the straps together.

Voila, a “new” dress for the princess!

My little girl in the dress

This is my first attempt at creating a tutorial. Hope the photographs and instructions are clear enough.

🙂

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Eco-Friendly clothes!

In an upcycling mood!

Project 1: Sweet tank top

I cut up one of my little girl’s tee that she seldom wears and turn it into a tank top.

Super easy project. I just cut off the sleeves and the top part, sewed casings on both front and back panels and added a strip of green jersey knit fabric. Tie it into a bow and, voila, new top!

My girl loves it and has worn it at least 3 times since last week! It is now in the wash again. Haha!

Project 2: Floral Dress

Little girl has been requesting for a long dress ever since she saw me in one. I made this by upcycling one of my seldom-worn dresses. I cut up the sides, measured the fabric and cut to her size, sewed it up and added two long straps. With these little girl can decide how high she wants the dress to be and how big she wants the bow at the back.  The straps drape nicely over her back too.

Little girl was so excited she can’t stop twirling in it! 🙂

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Yummy chicken wings

My little girl loves chicken wings. When I was still working, for convenience, I would get marinated chicken wings from the supermarket and baked them in the oven. Now that I am on leave, I decided to try to marinate the chicken wings by myself.

Here’s what I have come up with. It is an easy, no-fuss dish, and cooking it is a breeze with my happycall pan!

Ingredient:

8 chicken wing parts

Marinade:

3 cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)

2 tbsp of honey

1 1/2 tbsp Bovil/Marmite sauce (I am a Bovil fan, so I use Bovil in my dish :))

2 tbsp of oyster sauce

Steps:

1. Marinate the chicken wings for 20 to 30 minutes (I ‘massaged’ them a bit to get more of the marinade into the meat)

2. Heat pan. Set to low heat. Put in the wings. Cook for 4 minutes. Check frequently to ensure they are not burnt.

3. Turn over the wings. Drizzle the rest of the marinade over the pieces and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes. Allow it to simmer till most of the marinade is absorbed by the chicken wings.

4. Dish up, Garnish with sesame seeds.

Here’s the chicken wings with other dishes that I have cooked for dinner: spinach with cashew nuts and crinkle fries with mayonnise. 🙂

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