Move Over Etsy….

….there’s a new craft business taking the world by storm!

Okay, so maybe it’s only taking Australia by storm.

Okay, so maybe it’s just my town that’s getting stormed.

Okay, okay, so it’s only my immediate circle of friends and family.

And there’s no storm.

It’s not even a business.

It’s just MOSY Creations – my new initiative to explain the weird handmade gifts I like to give to people.

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I have, for many years, rather enjoyed making things as gifts. I’m pretty sure there’s still a couple of small framed watercolours I gave my parents for Christmas when I was about 13. I know. You may pity them.

I especially like making things when babies are born.

I went through a period of making animal gift baskets with themed baby items including embroidered singlets. eg, a duck basket with ducks embroidered on socks, singlets, etc.

Then, each of my nieces and nephews received a handmade teddy bear for their first birthday. (The absolute tragedy of this commitment is that I never did the same for my own children. I still feel bad about that.)

Then, in the throes of raising my own children, I got a bit slack. My apologies to any friends whose babies received a store bought present. I owe you one.

I did, however, keep my hand in by making costumes for my kids when required for various school events.

The Youngest Son dressed as some explorer whose name escapes me for a ‘Wax Museum’ exhibition of his work. Some of it made from scratch, some just a clever use of what was in the wardrobe. The jacket was a lucky find in an op shop that just needed the sleeves adjusted to look like they had cuffs. (Smoke and mirrors, people, smoke and mirrors.)

But recently, I’ve been reinvigorated to make things again, inspired mostly by a creative friend whom I knew would fully appreciate a handmade gift.

First it was Mr Snuffleupagus when her son was born.

A year later, I dragged out the knitting needles for the first time in about ten years to knit him a beanie. (It’s Rowlf, for the Muppet-uninitiated.)

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And there have been capes and wallets and Muppet Money (very valuable on the Puppet Exchange).

But the thing about all these creations is that I really had no idea what I was doing and was mostly just making it up as I went. Snuffy was based on an elephant pattern but I had to adjust his head. And his trunk. And his tail. (I think it took three trials to get the tail right.)

The beanie was made up of four different patterns.

So they’re never perfect. There’s always a slightly dodgy element to them all. But I never really thought of giving them a label until recently.

Another friend was expecting her first baby this year and she’s a Doctor Who fan. So, it occurred to me that a really cool present would be to make a Tenth Doctor doll (David Tennant being her favourite Doctor). I figured I’d try and knit one but when I went looking for patterns, I didn’t like any of the knitted ones. I did, however, love a crocheted one I found:

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Image courtesy of Allison Hoffman at craftyiscool.com

In typical fashion, I took to this project with gusto despite not actually knowing how to crochet. (Sometime in my deep dark history I must have learnt because it felt familiar but let’s just say YouTube is a wonderful thing….)

It was far from perfect. I honestly had no idea what I was doing. So, this time I really felt I needed to attach a tag to clearly indicate that this was made by a Jack of All Trades who definitely had not mastered crochet. And thus MOSY Creations was born. It seemed easier to declare at the outset that this was something you would not find on Etsy or Ravelry or even some sort of “Crafties Have Talent” excruciating audition episode. “This is just between you and me”, it says. “It’s not perfect but it’s made with love.”

I was still pleased with the result of my efforts. You know, in that “Gee, that was hard, but I did it” kind of way. And as long as I didn’t keep going back to look at the picture of what it was supposed to look like….

I should perhaps explain that this is a baby-friendly version of the pattern. The original required a piece of dowel in the neck and wire in the limbs. These were obviously omitted in this rather wibbly wobbly Doctor.

My dear friend loved it and she paid me the ultimate compliment. On opening the gift she exclaimed, “Where did you find it?!”

Oh, in a very exclusive establishment.

A Boy and his Doctor (Photo used with permission.)

A Boy and his Doctor
(Photo used with permission)

 

 

 

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Further Life Lessons From The Doctor

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It’s time for some more wisdom from everybody’s favourite Time Lord.

Things got very philosophical and deep for a while there…. (And for my blogging friend Bun and his boys, I finally found a quote from the Tenth Doctor I could tolerate.)

But you can always trust the Eleventh Doctor to come in swinging with the optimism:

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Truths were told:

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And my favourite fashion choices were upheld:

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Relevant observations were made about the state of the world and its politics:

We’ve definitely all had moments like this (I feel like this right now with only one more week of term before the holidays):

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And to finish, the Eleventh Doctor swings again:

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More Life Lessons From The Doctor

Some time ago, I shared some of the lessons I’d gained from my new daily calendar of Doctor Who quotes. The advice has been rocketing along and so here are some more Lessons From The Doctor.

Doctor 20

Presumably you’re here to read my blog but this is a question I often ask myself.

Doctor 21

Yep, that question too. Usually when I’ve decided to take on a new and unfamiliar activity with people I don’t know.

Doctor 22

Gosh, this seems so pertinent in an election year.

Doctor 23

Also probably pertinent in an election year.

Doctor 24

Okay, so this is turning into an Election Year Calendar of Quotes.
Or it’s also applicable to that thing that your curiosity got you into.

Doctor 25

Ain’t that the truth?

Doctor 26

No comment. (I don’t want the NRA after me.)

Doctor 27

Everybody knows this one. Okay, so maybe it’s actually only a month later but it sure feels like a hundred years.

Doctor 28

Ah, I love that the Doctor in one incarnation has an answer to himself in another incarnation.
Let’s just forget about that thing we didn’t get around to, eh?

Doctor 29

In a world of social media, 24 hour news cycles and global consumerism, haven’t we all felt this one?

And that is your Time Lord advice for today. Now excuse me while I go and find a quiet spot to read a book…..

 

 

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Life Lessons From The Doctor

And no, I don’t mean “an apple a day”.

One of my favourite gifts last Christmas was from a dear friend – a page-a-day calendar of Doctor Who quotes. It rotates through each of the twelve doctors, starting the year with the first things they said after each regeneration (in the case of the ones that followed the original Doctor in a piece of inspired programming to replace an ailing actor).

Doctor 1

I was a bit slow and forgot to open it on the first day. When I turned to the page for the 2nd of January, I knew I was in for an inspired year.

Doctor 2

I laughed. Loudly and continuously throughout the day.

A calendar made for a Jack of All Trades.

So how else might the Doctor inspire this new year?

Doctor 3

Sometimes it is advisable to concentrate on essentials.

Doctor 4

It’s okay not to know everything.

Doctor 5

Tell me you haven’t had one of those moments.

Doctor 6

Ah. This is a common one for a Jack of All Trades.
Always reinventing themselves and surprising the people who think they know them.

Doctor 7

Always take time out to recharge.

Doctor 8

Yes, who am I? Exactly.

Doctor 9

For all you runners out there. And for anyone who isn’t a runner, why aren’t you?

Doctor 10

Don’t get distracted by the small things. Stay focussed on what’s important.

Doctor 11

Sometimes life is strange. You will meet strange people. It’s all a part of the tapestry of life. Jump right in.

Doctor 12

Don’t take things at face value. It’s okay to question the status quo.

That’s the first round of twelve but the ones since have been just as inspiring, including this pearler that turned up on a day when a discussion of bending rules arose with another blogger:

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Freaky, huh?

Did any of these inspire you? Do you have your own inspirational calendar quotes to share?

 

 

 

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Deliciously Scared

Diana: “Oh, Anne, I’m so scared.”

Anne: “So am I. Deliciously scared.”

– Anne of Green Gables (TV Miniseries)

I am not a fan of horror movies. I can’t take those…”slasher flicks” I believe they’re called. All that blood and gore and people being cut to bits with a chainsaw.

But I do like to be scared. Deliciously scared. I love that phrase of Anne’s. It’s not in the book, it just appears in the television series but it’s such a good description of the best way of being scared.

All the great masters of fright knew that to truly scare people, you didn’t need horror in the form of violence and intimidation. It could be a mere door that would make your heart beat that little bit faster.

“I was once asked what I thought was the most disquieting thing you could see on the screen and I said, “An open door.” “- Christopher Lee

“Nothing is so frightening as what’s behind the closed door.” – Stephen King

Open or closed, a door leaves you wondering what is behind it or what will come through it. Your heart rises up in your mouth, you hold your breath….

“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” – Alfred Hitchcock

Yes, the anticipation. Alfred Hitchcock certainly knew his stuff there. The “is what I think is about to happen, about to happen?” nervous thought. And then, because of the suspense, even when what we think is going to happen happens, we still jump out of our seats in fright.

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – HP Lovecraft

Recently, we took a Ghost Tour of the local old gaol. Built by convicts when the city was first founded, it’s a place of horrifying injustices and menacing history. The Ghost Tour is conducted at night with only small lanterns for light. To add to the atmosphere, we happened to choose one of the wildest and coldest nights of winter to wander about an old bluestone gaol in the dark. Shivers all round.

The guide shared stories of various inmates and of course tales of those believed to still haunt the place. We were, at times, shut into cells in the dark while frightening stories were told, more often than not ending in a sudden scream.

Were we scared? Of course. Did we love it? Of course we did. In the darkness, we would titter nervously. Jumping at the sudden screams, we would laugh at each other. “My, aren’t we silly?” we would see in each other’s faces and then try not to run as we made our way out of the cells.

It was invigorating.

I’ll confess here that the scary movie that has had the most profound effect on me is The Sixth Sense. The story of a boy who can see dead people haunted me for years. My boys were mere babes at the time and every time one of them screamed unexpectedly in the dark at night, my heart would beat a little faster and I would have to quash the urge to turn on the light.

The Sixth Sense was one of the best movies to play on our fears of the unknown, of the dark, of things we don’t understand. And to play on that thought of “this could really happen”. It wasn’t gory or over the top. The scary scenes were played almost casually. A boy with his head half blown off wanders casually into the child’s lounge room. It was the normality of it that made it all the more frightening.

Doctor Who writer Steven Moffatt is a master of the spine-tingling fear of monsters. The television series has been frightening children for more than 50 years but Moffatt has been responsible for introducing two of the most frightening new monsters the series has ever seen. One is the Weeping Angels (previously written about in this post) and the other is The Silence.

Both of these monsters play on the same fear – that which we know is there but we cannot see. Is there anything more frightening than knowing there is a danger but being unable to see it?

That digs into our deepest childhood fears. The noise of the wind that sounds like a ghost, the dressing gown on the back of the chair that suddenly becomes a crouched man in the dark, the awareness of space under the bed and what might be lurking there.

Pixar tapped right into those deep-seated fears with their movie Monsters Inc. But I can’t help wondering how many children were actually helped by the personification of the monsters that haunt their bedrooms into everyday people who go about their job of scaring small children and who are just as afraid of them.

Scary books are easier to handle. We can stop reading at any time, go and do something else, take the scary bits in small doses. But books are also, therefore, great ones for granting that delicious scare that we love. From Grimm’s Fairy Tales to Stephen King, the opportunity to make our hands go clammy, our hearts beat faster is there for the taking whenever we want it in whatever dose we think we can take.

I rather love to be scared but only in that tingly, caught-breath, delicious way.

Do you like to be scared? What scares you?

 

 

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It’s A Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Christmas

It all started with an angel.

A weeping angel to be exact. Well, a Weeping Angel. One that needs capitalisation.

Back in 2007, Steven Moffat wrote an episode for Doctor Who called ‘Blink’ and introduced probably the scariest monster the series has ever seen. The Weeping Angels. If you’re not familiar with these gorgeous creatures, check this out:

And then, this year, the ever-increasing Doctor Who merchandising machine introduced a Weeping Angel Tree Topper. You heard right. One of those to put on top of your Christmas tree.

I wanted one.

Well, because we do things a bit differently in the MOSY household.

And we’re not the only ones. I waited too long and they sold out. Seriously.

Devastated, I frantically searched the interwebs for anywhere that may still have one. And then I stumbled across a blog post explaining how to make your own Weeping Angel tree topper.

Oh, that’s more like it. We love a craft project in this house.

I can’t show you a photo of the angel I started with because, believe it or not, I don’t always do things with the thought, “I’ll blog about this.” I was just keen to get started. Needless to say, the $3 angel I found was crappy, all gold and white and serene-looking with ribbons and weird, fat, fabric wings.

Ribbons and wings removed, some new wings (courtesy of a pipecleaner and six ragged feathers found in the craft drawers), a can of granite-effect spray paint and…

 

But, really, if you’re going to put a Weeping Angel on the top of your Christmas tree, it only makes sense that the rest of the tree should match.

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So, have yourself a Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Christmas and whatever you do, DON’T BLINK!

 

PS: Yes, it freaks me out when I have to go past it in the dark. It’s especially bad when the lights are flashing and you’d swear it moved while the lights were off…

 

 

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Exterminate! The Dalek Cake

 

Birthday Dalek

When my boys were young, I loved to throw them a birthday party at home. We would pick a theme and everything would be based around that – invitations, games, activities, food, prizes, lolly bags – the works. Cowboys, wizards, astronauts, the alphabet, Cat in the Hat – we had a lot of fun. In an era of contracted-out birthday parties at play centres and fast food joints, ours were something of a novelty.

My favourite, though, would be the year my eldest had a Knights of the Realm party. I spent months saving up the cardboard discs a local pizza restaurant used for their takeaway pizza (we also ate a lot of pizza in those months). I spray-painted them silver, attached a vinyl strap and stuck paper to the front so the kids could create their own crested shields. Dressed up and with their trusty steeds (made from shoeboxes and the inner cardboard tubes of rolls of fabric), we held a jousting competition in the front yard. The cake, of course, was a castle. The lolly bags were the pièce de résistance. I made leather pouches.

I can get carried away.

The parties were only every second year and they stopped once they hit twelve years of age, giving way to easier movie/bowling/sleepover versions. But I do still love to have a crack at a good cake.

The Eldest Son turned 18 on Friday. I am now officially a parent of an adult. Don’t give me the argument about it being 21. Here, everything hits at 18. They can drive, drink, vote, gamble, get married. You hope not all on their birthday.

A significant birthday demanded a significant cake. The theme for the party was Pop Culture and as Eldest Son was going dressed in his customary 10th Doctor costume, a Doctor Who themed cake seemed mandatory.

Enter the Dalek cake.

It took me two days to make it. One to bake the cakes (five of them) and one for construction and decoration. Being a Jack of All Trades, I was, of course, making it up as I went along with nothing but an image in my head and a half-baked (ha!) idea of how it would work.

I’ll confess I was really happy with the result. As was Eldest Son which made me even happier.

Take these and my favourite mudcake recipe and build a Dalek. No worries.

Take these and my favourite mudcake recipe and build a Dalek. No worries.

Okay. So somehow I have to turn all this into a Dalek.

Okay. So somehow I have to turn all this into a Dalek.

Stacked, glued and trimmed. (I love using mudcake - it cuts beautifully with a bread knife.)

Stacked, glued and trimmed. (I love using mudcake – it cuts beautifully with a bread knife.)

I could have saved myself a lot of work and just stopped there and called it a Cousin It cake.

I could have saved myself a lot of work and just stopped there and called it a Cousin It cake.

The finished product. This cake could actually kill you. It has 1.2kg butter, 1.2kg sugar, 1.2kg chocolate and 18 eggs in it. And that's not counting the icing and decorations.

The finished product. This cake could actually kill you. It has 1.2kg butter, 1.2kg sugar, 1.2kg chocolate and 18 eggs in it. And that’s not counting the icing and decorations.

I think I'm proudest of my inspired Wagon Wheel eye and half a Kinder Surprise chocolate egg suction cup!

I think I’m proudest of my inspired Wagon Wheel eye and half a Kinder Surprise chocolate egg suction cup!

Sparklers!

Sparklers!

The birthday boy with his cake, just to give you some perspective. We'll be eating cake for the next month.

The birthday boy with his cake, just to give you some perspective on the size of the thing. We’ll be eating cake for the next month.

 

 

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Once More With Feeling

Piano Keyboard

Piano (pɪˈanəʊ) noun: A place of solace, calm and emotional recovery.

I play the piano. Well, it’s one of those many Kinda-Sorta skills I possess. I had lessons from about the age of nine until I gave it up at thirteen. I never sat an exam and my regular practice routine was to madly run through the pieces 30 minutes before my lesson. So I didn’t progress very far.

After I gave it up, I didn’t go near the thing for about a year. Then my mother slyly bought me a music book of movie themes, me being a mad movie buff and all. It got me hooked again and I’ve been playing ever since.

I’m still not particularly skilled and I don’t play in public, barring a brief stint as pianist with the church band. Very brief. The week a visiting preacher added a song I hadn’t practised and sang another at twice the speed I was able to play it was the end of my accompanist career.

One day when I was bemoaning my lack of skills – probably not long after the above incident – someone said, “But you play with such feeling.”

I’ve held onto that comment ever since. It’s probably the reason I still play with any regularity. Even if I can’t play with great skill, at least I can fill it with emotion.

And playing the piano has become a place of feelings.

Sheet Music

My piano is an oasis of sanity in the craziness that is my life. It can be hard to get piano time in a house full of demanding boys and a life full of demands on my time, so a visit to the piano can often be the sign of a desperate need to escape for a while.

Physically, playing the piano invokes memories of easier times and simple childhood pleasures. It once belonged to my mother and it has a small warped spot on the lid where it was damaged when my mother’s childhood home caught fire. It is a part of my mother’s history.

And it is a part of my own history. I remember standing at it, my eyes barely above keyboard height, tinkling away on the upper keys. A little bit older, I used to play records on the stereo and play along – sometimes in line with the music, sometimes as a harmonic addition. ‘Popcorn’, on an old 45, was a favourite.

Musically, it helps me connect to emotions old and new.

Take the other night…

Mull of Kintyre –  I’ll remember standing on the Mull, travelling alone in my 20s, and feeling the thrill of discovering the mist really did roll in from the sea.

Mull of Kintyre sign

Mull of Kintyre

(I love the Drivers Note on the sign: “Congratulations on safely negotiating one of Scotland’s most exciting roads!”)

 

Bring Him Home – I’ll remember the first time I saw Les Misérables on stage and how magical and moving I found it. And then I’ll laugh at the memory of the next time I saw it, sitting in the cheapest of cheap seats in a theatre in the West End where I sat so high in the gods, I saw Enroljas get up off the back of the barricade after he’d died and walk off the stage.

 

Vincent – I’ve always loved this song, love Don McLean’s music but now when I play it, I’ll confess I always picture the scene from the Doctor Who episode ‘Vincent and The Doctor’ when they take Van Gogh to the future to show him how famous he becomes. Written by Richard Curtis and with an uncredited performance by Bill Nighy, it is one of my favourite episodes and it is a scene that makes me cry every time.

 

Sometimes I play my own compositions. (Don’t get excited – Jack of All Trades, remember?) It gives me time in my own head and I connect to the emotions I felt as each song worked its way out of my head and heart. Songs written from pain, from joy, from love, from memories and sometimes just for fun. It’s a connection to both the past and the future.

I’m very grateful to my parents for allowing me to ‘inherit’ this piano when I moved into my own home all those years ago. I couldn’t possibly have lived without one in the house but it means so much more to have one that is also connected to my past.

I’m just not sure what will happen when the next generation pianist moves out of home…

 

 

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