Saturday 25 October 2014

A Fanciful Twist Halloween Party 2014

The Tale of the Dancing Witch

 I recently visited the magical Mouse Mansion in Amsterdam, and I wanted to make my own small mouse house. As the Halloween party was coming up I thought I would make a mouse witch. However, my skills at making a mouse witch only extended to a head, so taxidermy mouse was made. I tried again, and this time the Dancing Witch arrived. I had started the house. but it was more mouse sized than Dancing Witch sized, so it became a room instead! It is where she loves to knit, dance, and make delicious spells using her silver cauldron, spices and magical powders.

Please come in and enjoy some Halloween soup, full of bats and spiders, ghosts, pumpkins, and tiny green witches.

 After this the Dancing Witch invites you to enjoy a spell making class.
Her mixing spoon is a little large, and can only be used with the help of a shrinking spell. 
You may find the Dancing Witch knitting when you arrive, she doesn't like to waste a minute! If you are feeling quiet, you may like to spend some time with her friend, reading fairy tales on the balcony. 

 Don't forget to feed the pumpkin cats before you leave or they get very worried when the witch goes out, and soon it is time for her to fly off to other Halloween parties around the witching world.
 Before you leave, enjoy a stroll in the mushroom garden, but watch out for the fairies and elves, and don't eat any! (mushrooms. not fairies or elves!)
The witch is thinking that it is time to go...
To leave her knitting behind...
Get her broom out and...
Fly away!

Below is what the whole room looks like. I had a lot of fun making this, and want to add more rooms. I shall see you at all the other parties!
Happy Halloween!

Thursday 23 October 2014

This Week

Saturday-second day attempting to clear our shed, as our neighbour is building a house behind our garden and the shed's walls are his outhouse walls. This will be knocked down. We will get a new shed eventually, and he is storing some of the stuff for us as we have nowhere else to put it. I have got rid of a lot of things but there is still lots left. Cassie likes to go on the roof and gets very excited at any action in the garden, so she had a good day anyway. She will not be impressed with the building though!

 Sunday was my birthday. We went to Andy's sister Helen's for lunch which was lovely. Helen and I went for a walk on the heath looking for mushrooms, and found loads. We must have seen at least fifteen varieties.
 I think this is an Amythyst Deceiver. Below are some Spiny Puffballs. 

 The last ones we found were these amazing Fly Agarics!

 On Monday I worked in a nursery in New Cross. I got off the bus early on the way home, so I could walk through the park. This is the Ranger's House.
 I found only one mushroom in the park, but the trees made up for that. 
 This is some kind of fir cone. More like a catkin with that yellow pollen, but it came from some kind of conifer.
 I didn't work Tuesday, so had the time to finish the shed. It was hard work!
 Yesterday I worked in a lovely nursery in Newham. 
I made some of these mushrooms in the evening.
 Today it was back to Bethnal Green. I was in Reception all day which was good. One more day then it is half term! I am doing two days work for Arty Party on Monday and Tuesday then a few days off.
 I saw these fingers on the way to The Museum of Childhood after school. I fancied popping in. I found a great book for my brother for Christmas and saw this Alice chess set.
Not sure what the furry thing is in the foreground!

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Dagenham and Stratford

I have been to a  school in Dagenham and a Harris Academy in Stratford so far this week. The class I had at the first school were the most tricky I have had so far, although not a problem. I felt it was the fact that things just did not seem too organised there. Also we had an assembly for half an hour which is such a long time for Reception children to sit still. It was given by a man from CAFOD and was about food waste and distribution. The one fact I did get from it and will act on is that when you buy the furthest sell buy date in the supermarket, but you are going to eat it much sooner than that, then you are contributing to food being thrown away by supermarkets. I often buy food with the longest sell buy date on it-no more! The reason I only took in this one piece of information is that I was far more interested in watching the TAs and teachers telling off (in quiet but scary whispers) and at times removing certain children from the hall. (Who couldn't cope with the long assembly) Lunch time was extremely noisy-to the point that I couldn't have spent longer in the hall than it took me to walk across it. At home time we all went into the hall and sat in rows whilst parents called the names to the TA or teacher. Again, noisy. Also it was a very long walk to the school from the station. 
 On the way to the bus there were two crows pecking at things on the shiny road. They looked beautiful. This one was just getting suspicious and starting to hop away when I took the photo.
 Dagenham Library looks quite good. 
 The school today was built at the time of the Olympics so all the streets have names such as Cheering Lane, Champions Walk and Medals Way. Not much imagination there. I got to Stratford and realised that the google maps on my phone does not work there, and did not recognise any of the streets. The directions I had been given were not good. Luckily I was very early so it gave me slight panic time, then time to work out who to ask. Taxi drivers! I asked one and he sent me in the right direction which was over the foot bridge to Westfield shopping centre. Then there was another taxi rank, and three of them helped me, one by looking at his satnav. Thanks cabbies! Then when I was nearer but still couldn't find the school, a woman helped me and then wished me a lovely day! Thank goodness for real people rather than phones.
The area is called Stratford City. It all looks like this. It reminded me of holiday complexes I have been to in Spain. It will look better when there are more trees. 

 On the building below there are what look like Greek athlete friezes. 
When I got to the school at ten to eight, I went in the Primary entrance, not realising there was a huge main entrance further down the street. I sat there for ten minutes until someone appeared and took me to the main entrance. The children start at 8.30 and finish at 3.40. They eat their lunch in absolute silence.   A complete contrast to yesterday. I think somewhere in the middle would be good! By the time I had waited for them and two other classes to be seated I had 40 minutes left for my lunch. The class were really lovely though and it was very well organised. The TA was also lovely. So it was a tiring day but a good one. Tomorrow I am in another different school near Canary Wharf. I am looking forward to it as the person who booked it for me said it was amazing! I am covering year one.
I took this photo on my way back to the station. I liked the way the building undulates like the grass in the foreground.

Thursday 9 October 2014

Stuff is a Verb

My favourite quote from a child this term is as follows: I was in a year two class and the children had to use their reading books to find, then make lists of, nouns, verbs and adjectives. I was going round to each child to check their understanding by questioning them as to why such and such word was in one of the three categories. One girl had written 'stuff' in her verbs column. When asked why she said 'I'm doing stuff'. Of course! You do stuff, therefore it is a doing word. I think she is right! I suppose you can also stuff something, then it really is a verb. I have been doing lots of stuff this last couple of weeks. Here is some of it. 
 I bought some white cotton yarn in a charity shop. Slightly smelly but that didn't matter as I bought it intending to try hand dyeing. I used some old dyes I got from eBay. The dyeing pots are some tin cans picked up outside a cafe who were offering them to be used in whatever way you liked. I used boiling water and salt and left each colour to soak for a while. It has worked fairly well. I have one more skein, and have bought some kool-aid to try. I have since read that it works best on animal rather than plant fibers but I will give it a go anyway.
 At the weekend we went up to Northumberland to stay with our friend Phil. He has been busy over the last year or so, organising the Allen Valleys Folk Festival. Andy couldn't get the train we planned so I went up on my own, arriving in Allendale where the festival was held at about 6.30. No phone reception, not immediately obvious where the village hall was, but, some friendly locals later I found my way there. Below is Martin Stephenson playing with his band The Daintees. He was rehearsing when I arrived. Once he had finished, I said hello (I know him as he is Andy's sister Helen's partner) He took me to the pub with the band which was fun, and then Phil turned up too. Andy got there in time to see Martin play which was good. He is really good and very funny!
 This is Phil, playing on Saturday in the church. He was very good too. Amazing guitar playing!
This is the doll that replaced the failed mouse/cat witch doll. She is more of a ballerina than a witch. I do just rush into things with only a vague idea of how I am going to do them, so surprise myself with how they turn out. This doll is very crudely sewn together but has the advantage of pose-ability as there is wire in her arms and legs. There is also a paper clip shoved through her head and into her neck to stop it from wobbling. It can be quite brutal making dolls!
 Her hair is pinned in place. It was quite a good method of doing hair-wrapping and sewing. Much quicker than embroidering.
 I started a papier maché house for the witch at the same time I started the doll. The doll is too big for the house. But I am not starting either again, so the house is becoming a room, a very cosy room where she will do her witchy things. It has a musical floor already so she can dance if she wants.

 More mushrooms are sprouting. I am looking for pretty ones from my mushroom reference book.
The other stuff I have been doing is working. Three and a half days this week-the most yet. Maybe it will get up to five next week. This is near where I was yesterday, in a lovely school in leafy East Dulwich. I actually drove my car there! It took a while as the traffic was bad but I got there. It had the added bonus that they gave me a school dinner! For free! It was roast chicken and very nice.
I was back in Bethnal Green today. I saw this on the way up the road to the school. I had to go on the Central Line for two stops and it was extremely packed. We are spoilt with the Jubilee line as it is not usually like that. I saw a violent exchange between two men trying to exit the train on opposite sides(it was a double platform) and this poor girl got caught between them and nearly pushed right over. Terrible behaviour!

Monday 6 October 2014

Toadstool and Taxidermy

A crocheted toadstool. A fly agaric. I made it on the train on the way up to Northumberland this weekend. It has stayed there, much happier in a rural location. I was looking in my mushroom book last night for ideas of other ones to make as I always go for these fairytale ones. The white spots are part of 'the universal veil' a covering that protects the growing mushroom and which splits as it grows, leaving behind the spots. I have only seen one of these for real once, in Soctland on a walk up the hill from Crieff Hydro. It was quite big and had faded to an orangey brown.
 The mouse is not what I set out to make. I want to make a witch, and thought a cat witch would be good. However, due to lack of planning and pattern making a mouse head appeared. Once it was sewn I couldn't work out how to make a standing body so I gave up and turned it into a felt taxidermy mouse. I like a lot of the pretend taxidermy around but have never thought of making some as it is not my idea and I feel a bit cheaty doing that. However, as the mouse happened by accident I don't feel so bad!
We stayed with an old friend this weekend, who lives in the most beautiful place. We met his girlfriend who is an artist who does taxidermy as part of her art. I was so excited! (You know how I love taxidermy) She has three freezers with animals waiting to be used! When we came back home on Saturday our friend got a bag out of his freezer and gave it to me. Inside was the most perfect mole. It was so soft and fascinating to see it so close. Someone found it dead and gave it to him. I wish I had taken a photo but it didn't occur to me as I was so enjoying looking at it. So taxidermy was in my head.
The piece of driftwood is from Dungeness, from an as yet unsorted bag of stuff I got ages ago, on one of the last weekends before it all went wrong at work. There is some really great stuff in there. I am hoping to use some of it on another project I am working on but that is not yet ready for sharing!