Sunday, 1 December 2013

Fabric Christmas Wreath

Here's my Christmas wreath. I made it using African fabrics and a wire ring. Really it would work with any kind of fabric. The whole process took about two hours.

Here's what you need to do to make one:
1. Make a big ring out of wire. I used wire that was about 3mm thick, and got my husband to close the ring with pliers. I used a dinner plate to make sure it was a circle.
2. Cut a lot of fabric strips (I used around 50). They should be about 7 inches long and and inch and a half wide. You can cut them as you go if you prefer.
3. Tie the strips on one by one. Double knot them: make the first note quite tight and the second knot loose. Keep going until there's no space left.
4. Add a ribbon or a string to hang it from, if you like that sort of thing. I used a headband from American Apparel that was too tight for my head.
5. Put a nail in your door if you don't have one already, to hang it from.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Water Tray: Glitter and Sparkle!

I'm now working at my new school in Seoul. Because the school just opened in September, we didn't have many toys and resources at first. But finally our water tray arrived, and we have been having so much fun with it! For this week we tossed in some glitter, sequins, and these linking toys that are in different shapes. You can use them to measure things or sort them by colour or shape.


This water tray is clear plastic, which is cool. Here's an undershot! You can see the view of the apartment blocks reflected in the water. So different from the view from my previous school in Tanzania!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Going to Inverness to write poems with the Laureates!

 Just recently I found out that I've been selected to attend a course with the Poet Laureates of England and Wales. It will take place in Inverness in August. I am so so excited, and slightly nervous! The course will be taught by Carol Ann Duffy (above) and Gillian Clarke, which is amazing. The writing house where we'll all stay is only 3 miles from Loch Ness. Did you know the Scottish Tourism board offer a million pounds if you manage to get a picture of the monster?!
I've never been to Scotland before, and I won't have much time to hang around and see all the sights, since the course is sandwiched in between the wedding and the move to Korea. This is the house where it's all happening:
I am scared I am going to die of cold! I hope it's not so grey-skied all the time! I'm trying to write poetry more regularly in the lead up to the course.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Kutsuwa Clay Kit Review: Donut Accessories

I wanted to make this clay Donut kit all week, but managed to wait until the weekend. This kit lets you make clay donuts and cakes, and then use them to make key chains and phone charms. I'm looking forward to my move to Korea, when I will most certainly need to charm my phone or risk being socially shunned.
 The contents of the box were similar to the contents of the cake jewellery kit, except this one contained 3 key chains and 2 phone charms instead of the rings and necklaces included in the cake kit. This kit had moulds of different kinds of doughnuts and bakery goods, which were super fun!

This kit make a LOT of doughnuts and I had a lot of clay left over so I experimented with making some  ice creams and cakes with the colours from this kit but using the mould from the previous kit.

I sort of want to use some of the doughnuts to create a doughnut necklace. I've only got one kit left to make: the Cake Accessories kit. After that I'll look at all the charms I've made and decide which ones will become rings, necklaces, phone charms or key chains.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Play Dough Castles

In in my classroom we've been learning about different types of sculpture and today we made this traffic light coloured play dough, with added glitter. I taught the kids how to make castle towers and walls and we all went to town making our own castles (long pointy sticks optional).

 See those yellow things at the front in the picture above? They're protective crocodiles!

Making play-dough models with kids is such a happy way to spend an afternoon and everyone was most impressed with the castle they built.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Coolest Insects Ever

I often see really cool insects around the school. Usually by the time I go and fetch my camera, they have flown off, but here's a couple that i managed to capture. A beetle and some sort of fly with wings. So beautiful and unlike anything I've ever seen!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Paint By Numbers!

Almost everyone I know attempted a 'Paint By Numbers' set as a child. But I don't know of anyone who has ever completed one. I bought this paint by numbers of a giraffe and am about halfway through beating the challenge. It IS a bit boring, but only in the same way that a jigsaw puzzle is a bit boring (you already know how the picture will turn out).
 I'm DETERMINED to finish it. Anticipate a photo of the finished result some time within the next week and the next month!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Hedgehog Baby Gets Bigger!

Remember my post a little while back about the baby who looks like a hedgehog and who I invited to my wedding? He's back! And look how big he got! Do you still think he looks like a hedgehog? I'm not convinced. I think he sort of looks like a baby!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Bee Bots!

I wish they'd had these when I was at school. Programmable robots called BeeBots! You punch in your directions on the buttons on top, press go, and the BeeBot scoots off on an adventure. You can buy them from Educational suppliers and they cost around 100 pounds each. If you know what you're doing you can make them follow a road map or dance across the room, but most of my class are happy making them go around in circles!

Did you notice all the sweaters? Winter is here! It's rainy and cold and our roof is leaking in four places.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Kutsuwa Clay Kit Review: Cake Jewellery Kit

Whilst in England I was very excited to receive these three Japanese craft kits in the mail. They are all from Kutsuwa, and the idea behind them is that you use fuwa-fuwa clay to create decorations and jewellery. I opened the first kit today and made it in about 4 hours. It was so much fun!
This is what came inside the box: 4 colours of clay, some moulds, ring backs and necklace chains, jewellery hooks, glue, and sparkles. Also an instruction sheet in Japanese, which my husband helped me to read. All you really need to know: after making them let them dry for two days, and when inserting the hooks, put glue on the hook first.
 The kit also required a toothpick (I used a kebab stick) and some vegetable oil to stop the clay from sticking to the mould.

 It was pretty easy: I am sure an older child could do it, like a ten year old. I spent a long time making sure all of them came out looking perfect: the clay is soft, so you can roll it up and try again if it doesn't look beautiful.

After the charms were made I added the hooks and the sparkles. There's a few without hooks: those ones will become rings. In total the kit made 18 mini ice creams/ cakes, which is more than it shows on the box, and pretty much enough to make everything twice.

Now I have to wait two days before transforming them into jewellery: I'll post pictures of the finished necklaces and rings! The next Kutsuwa Clay Kit I make will be the Donut Accessories kit. It really is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Arusha Bombing

I try to keep this blog quite upbeat, but I had to share my sadness over the church bombing this weekend, just down the road from where we live. Arusha is considered to be a safe city, but tensions between Christians and Muslims have been rising in the region and this attack, for which 4 Saudi's have been arrested, follows similar ones in Zanzibar and Mombasa. You can read about it here.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

No Internet :(

On Tuesday a man came to my house and cut my internet wires. Apparently the school network is being rewired and it is taking FOREVER. It is certainly not going to be fixed this weekend but I'm hopeful that it will be up and running by early next week.

I'm writing this from my husband's phone. It's been a great week and I have lots of exciting posts ready to go once the internet service resumes. Sometimes living in Tanzania is REALLY ANNOYING in terms of technology: this is one of those times!

See you soon,
Amy x

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Korean Gift Exchange has begun!

I've been reading about how much Koreans like to exchange small gifts with friends and I had mentally prepared myself to buy a stash of stuff in preparation for the move. I did not, however, expect this gift exhange to begin whilst we were still in Arusha!

My husband Jouni works for the British council, and teaches English at different levels. Turns out some of his students and Korean, and he received a brown paper bag filled with these snacks and instant coffees from one of them last week. We spent a long time thinking about what we could send back: since I had just returned from England and was well stocked in the snack department, we sent some different English chocolate bars and a postcard from London.

This culture of giving and receiving gift for no reason will be an exciting part of our lives very soon!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Korea in August!

SO, I am now moving to Korea in August instead of December. My job has been pushed forward! I'm all kinds of scared and excited. I'll pretty much finish this job, hang out with all the wedding guests, attend my wedding, then go to Korea (I need to be there by 12th August and the school opens at the end of August). My husband Jouni doesn't know yet if he'll come in August or join me in December.

SOOOO. that means I will have a couple of weeks to prepare my classroom and stalk K-Pop bands. I have a lot to do but mostly learning Korean: I'm reluctant to start because I sort of want to use my language learning efforts to consolidate my Swahili before leaving. But I'm pretty excited to learn the writing part!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Back in Tanzania

So I came back 'home' to Arusha. 'You look good', was the first thing my co workers said to me. 'Your skin is like a baby, and you look more fat'. To which I responded, 'Thank you'. Because thank you is the only appropriate response to 'You look fat' here. To be fat is a good thing. It means you've got extra money to spend on extra food. A lot of Tanzanians don't have that extra money, therefore they are thin, whether they like it or not.

 While I was away, my husband Jouni got new glasses. Here is is modelling them, delighted to have his picture taken. They cost around 30 dollars, including the eye test, case and a bunch of coatings. He got them from Sunbeam Optical Centre in Arusha. Maybe I'll get some too!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Top Ten Teen Angst Books

A while back I posted a list of my Top Ten Underrated Teen Angst Movies. Actually, though, I don't watch a lot of movies. I mostly read books.

I've thought a lot about why I never outgrew teen fiction and I've come to the conclusion that most of the time, a 35 year old will write as a 15 year old. The resulting fiction will read like a 25 year old has written it. And maybe that's why I like it. Or maybe it's just that I'm a writer (I've written two books for non-adult people). Anyway. Here is a list of my ten favourite teen angst books and why I like them.

10. Why We Broke Up- Daniel Handler
This book is a super long letter from a girl highschooler to a boy highschooler, all about their relationship from beginning to end. It's beautifully written: the girl is super-quirky and the boy is a conventional. Since it's written from the perspective of the girl, you get to see how the jock boy is actually weird (to quirky people) in that he doesn't think about stuff very much. I don't usually like books where a male author writes as a female or vice versa, but in this case, it works.

9. How To Keep a Boy as a Pet- Diane Messidoro
 This is one of the funniest books I've ever read. It's about a girl living in a small English town and her plots to get a boyfriend. It reads authentically and you can't help but root for her (on one occasion she learns that the boy she crushes on likes horses... so she tries to subtly dress like one). It may not actually help you to keep a boy as a pet, but it will help you feel less alone in the world, and happy that Diane Messidoro and her lovely brain exist.

8. Gingerbread- Rachel Cohn
This was my favourite book when I was fourteen and I've never really stopped liking it. It's about an angry goth girl who carries a doll with her everywhere. She moves to San Francisco to live with her Dad and is completely herself even though he doesn't enjoy her personality very much.

7. Rookie Yearbook One- Tavi Gevinson
A bunch of teenage girls writing about what it's like to be alive and female. It's like a magazine only a lot less stupid, because it's full of long essays and beautiful art and it isn't trying to sell you anything. It takes hours and hours to read the whole thing, but they are hours well spent and you will come out the other end feeling smarter and better informed. There's also a rookie mag website, which is great, but I prefer reading the long, long articles in print format.

6. Looking for Alaska- John Green
This book is written from the perspective of a completely geeky guy who doesn't really have any friends, until he goes to boarding school. His roommate is one of my favourite characters in literature and the best thing about it is, the main character doesn't really undergo a major personality transplant halfway through: he's still a completely geeky guy who doesn't really understand people.

5. Stargirl- Jerry Spinelli
My favourite book when I was sixteen: a new girl moves to town and shes not like anyone else in the world. It's almost like she exists on a different plane: she's so weird, but she doesn't even seem to notice. She tries to make the world better and then she's gone. If this book was written in the sixties I'd say she was an alien, but she's not: she's a strange unworldly girl and the boy narrator gets sucked into her world.

4. The Lover's Dictionary- David Levithan
I used to be obsessed with the concept of shuffle novels: I sort of wrote one, although the last few chapters are all in their proper place. The Lover's Dictionary reads like a novel which has been written, chopped up, and put back into an arbitrary order based around the alphabet. It's about a relationship, from start to finish. What's clever about this book is that it reads almost universally: it could be about any relationship. It could almost be a relationship dictionary.

3. Rose of No Man's Land- Michelle Tea

Rose of No Man's Land is about a girl who is doomed in an almost Shakespearean way. Not many novels write about poor white people: most novelists are middle class. Rose lives under depressing circumstances: her mother doesn't leave the house, her mother's boyfriend steals stuff. They are super poor. Her sister, the 'normal' one, gets her a job at the mall. Within a few hours it becomes hopelessly apparent that Rose cannot fit in. She goes on this whirlwind adventure, where things get worse and worse as the night progresses. And then she goes back home.

2. Love Lessons- Jacqueline Wilson
It continues to surprise me that Americans don't read Jacqueline Wilson. In Love Lessons, her least popular book with parents since 'Waiting for the Sky to Fall' (1983), the main character (a fourteen year old girl attending school for the first time) falls in love with her art teacher, who happens to be married with children, and they have a relationship, of sorts. She's lonely and self-centered and not very happy, and sort of reads like she was born in the 1950's. But I like her anyway, and it's perhaps Wilson's bravest book.
1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower- Stephen Chbosky
If you read this book, it will change you. You will come out at the end of it as a different person than the one you went in as. So full of love it almost hurts.