April 16, 2014

Toddler Tales (30): Cardboard Bus

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Toddler Tales - Sand In My Toes
Lately, I find myself unable to throw anything away! I collect cardboard boxes, containers and bottle tops in the hope that we can use them to make something one day. The latest project we worked on is making a bus out of a small cardboard biscuit box. Little Dude has always been fond of cars, so I thought he would like one that we made ourselves.

This bus we made has been partly inspired by something I saw on Art Attack. I made a simpler version using what we had at hand, but you can see the original video here which requires much more material, time, and skills.

Here are the items I used:
- 1 cardboard box
- Coloured Paper
- Two straws
- Two bottle caps
- A piece of cardstock
- Duct tape, glue, cello tape

How to make a cardboard box bus
(See larger image)

These are the steps for making this bus, and in fact, you can make any vehicle you like!

1. Cut the box at the top-right, so you can fold over the flap.

2. Fold over the flap and stick it in place using cello tape.

Cutting the cardboard box

3. Cover the bus in coloured paper, or paint it. I used bits of paper because I had them in squares (and it's less messy!).

4. Take two straws for the wheels and cut them long enough so they stand out slightly when placed under the box.

5. Attach the bottle caps to the ends of the straws. I used duct tape, but the right thing to use would be modelling clay or a glue gun.

6. Cut out cardstock to fit under the box, and place the wheels where you want them. Stick the card leaving only enough room for the wheels to turn. You can use some tape later to secure it more.

Making the wheels

7. Add details such as headlights, windows, and a door using coloured paper or paint.

8. Voila! Your cardboard box bus is ready!

Cardboard box bus

What was Little Dude's reaction? Well, it's his favourite toy at the moment! This craft would also be great for older kids who can help more in the process of making it. In our case, I was doing all of the work, though he did help me glue the paper. There is definitely something special about a toy you made at home, and that you reused something too. There are also so many creative possibilities with the type of vehicle you make and the details you add.

(Toddler Tales are chronicles of what I'm learning every day from by little one, and the activities we do together.)

This post has been linked to Let Kids Be Kids and Creative Challenge.

April 14, 2014

A visit to Dubai's valley of flowers

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Dubai Miracle Garden is just what it's name suggests - a paradise of flowers in the desert! We visited this place last year, but the allure of flowers as far as the eye can see, and new landscaping attractions is enough to make it worth visiting every year. Besides, I want to make the most of the good weather before the horrid summer is upon us! Running around is what Little Dude likes to do best, so we found ourselves at the Miracle Garden this weekend.

It's really not hard to believe that there are over 45 million flowers in this place! I mean, they are everywhere and landscaped in the most wondrous ways. They form houses, trees, landmarks, and peacocks. They carpet almost every inch of the garden, and they are also around the walls of the boundary. In short, this is floral heaven!

Dubai Miracle Garden landscapes

One of the main attractions this year is the floral house, which has also been entered in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest flower wall. It is a big house, and must have taken a lot of work to completely envelop it in flowers. There's also a peacock garden, complete with three floral peacocks and peacock thrones to sit on. The picture on the extreme right below shows lamps designed as flowers. They looked lovely when it got darker.

Dubai Miracle Garden house and peacock

Another of the more interesting displays is the car garden, which has to be seen to be believed. The fleet has grown much larger this year.

Dubai Miracle Garden cars

There's also a replica of the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world), which is lit up after dark. There are many pyramids, and also a display of farm animals which Little Dude loved!

Dubai Miracle Garden Burj Khalifa and pyramids

 There's so much to see, and they have even opened up Phase 2 of the Miracle Garden, which is just huge, and actually looks like a valley of flowers. It's too bad we got there after sunset so I don't have many good pictures to share.

Dubai Miracle Garden phase two

The Dubai Miracle Garden is only open for a few months a years, so is a must-visit if you are in Dubai during the winter and spring. It's a wonderful place for families to spend hours wandering amidst such natural beauty. It's one of those places which transport you to a different world altogether.

This post has been linked to Magic Moments and What's The Story?

April 11, 2014

Things I wish I'd known as a new mom

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There aren't a lot of things I regret about my parenting experience. In fact, I'm happy with the decisions I made, even if they are not entirely 'conventional'. But when I think about the time when Little Dude was a newborn, I can only remember being overwhelmed by how demanding this motherhood job is. If I could go back in time, I may have gone a little easier on myself as a new mom.

That phase is as exhausting as it is, without having to burden ourselves with endless worries - but of course, we end up doing exactly that. I know I did, and I know this is the exclusive predicament of new mothers who lose all rationality due to sleep deprivation and the responsibility of a helpless human being.

If there is anything I could do differently back then, here are some of the things I would tell myself:

Things I wish I'd known as a new mom
(Pic: Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

You can leave the baby alone for a few minutes.

I felt that I had to entertain my baby every second he was awake. I felt that if he didn't see me for a few minutes, he would be scared, and I would be a bad mother. This was a very impractical line of thought, of course, because ordinary things like using the loo and having food became difficult for me. I shouldn't have felt guilty about putting him down, or I should have come up with a better way of handling it, like by babywearing. I don't think he even noticed at first, but soon he got used to seeing me constantly, and that made things a little harder.

You don't need to have a spotless house.

I'm the kind of person who hates clutter, so I worried constantly about having a clean house. Obviously, that was far from possible with a newborn. I wish I had realised that there would come in time where I could clean the house to my heart's content, and I needed to focus only on my baby, who was growing up fast!

You don't have to look hot right now.

I don't think we ever feel as low about our bodies as we do soon after having a baby. I mean, everything goes haywire, and you don't know who it is in the mirror. I wish I hadn't worried about that at all. There were so many other important things to think about, and I definitely didn't need to adhere to the false notion that I should look hot and sexy soon after giving birth. With time, I did become my earlier self - but not completely. My body has changed in many ways, and I'm proud of it, because I brought a child into this world.

You can't always stop a baby from crying.

I tried my best, so that Little Dude didn't have to cry. I fed him often, and I held him as much as I could. I burped him after every feed, and I rocked him to sleep. Despite that, he cried. It made me feel helpless and horrible. I thought only babies who had unmet needs cried, but that's only partially true. Babies cry as a form of communication. They may be sleepy, or cold, or overstimulated, and they'll cry. And there's no actual way to understand them. It is almost impossible to prevent them from crying.

You will get back on track, and the world will still be there.

I worried that everything about my past life was over. I thought I would lose all my friends, and I would never write again, or read a book, or watch a movie. Yes, motherhood brings about some drastic changes and it is overwhelming. Your life will change, but you will appreciate the beauty of it. You will lose a few things, but you will also gain a sense of fulfillment. You will eventually get back on track, even if it is a new you. The world will still be there, and you will find friends - some old, and some newly found.

I would have told myself so many things. Yet, I have the feeling that if I were to become a mother again, the giddiness of a new baby would make me forget all this. And I would do the same things all over again!

This post has been linked to Finish The Sentence Friday and Post Comment Love.

April 9, 2014

Five Tips for Efficient Blogging

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Many of us bloggers reach a point where it becomes overwhelming to constantly keep up with social media, while simultaneously thinking of new posts and writing them. Then, there are other bloggers to keep in touch with, and replies to be given. Let's not forget that there are kids and a home to be taken care of!

If you find yourself knee deep in a list of to-do lists, you are definitely not alone. Blogging can be very demanding in terms of time, which is why it is important to have some sort of system in place. I have already shared the lessons I learnt from a year of blogging. These are a few more tips to organise yourself so you can make the most of the time you spend online. I think these pointers would be most suited to bloggers who post a few times a week, rather than daily.

Five Tips for Efficient Blogging

1. Choose your main categories

You should always be clear about the topics that define your blog. What are the key subjects that identify it? Choose three or four of these blogging categories - whether recipes, parenting advice, blogging tips, or DIY tutorials. While making your choice, think about your expertise in these areas. Do you have enough knowledge and material for writing about them frequently? Also look at your stats. What are the type of posts that do well on your blog? Make this list and write it down. You don't have to restrict yourself to only these categories, but choose the ones that you want to focus on, and update on a regular basis.

2. Set targets for yourself

Next, set goals for how often you want to update your blog. Infrequent or sporadic blogging will not only affect your writing spirit, it will make you lose readers. It doesn't make sense to write 15 posts one month, and only 5 in the next one. Go back to your categories list and decide how many posts of each you will write on them every week or every month. You may decide to do recipes only twice a month, or make DIY a weekly series. Setting writing goals is the best way to keep the wheels moving. This way, you will at least have a blogging calendar to  tell you what you should be writing about, even if you don't have specific ideas. These targets don't have to be set in stone, because life tends to get in the way, and because it is your blog and you are the one setting the rules. Just be sure not be neglect it, even if you have to write a paragraph or two.

3. Make notes, and write freely

You never know when and how inspiration will strike you, so always have something to at hand to jot down notes - whether it is your mobile device or a notebook. Whenever something catches your fancy or makes you think, write it down, even if you don't know how you'll use it. Now coming to the important part - the actual writing. When you sit down to write, don't worry about the grammar and fluidity of your paragraphs. How is this efficient? Because it makes you write faster, and it's easier to edit copy after writing than during the process. If you are stuck at how to begin a post, leave that part and just get to the point. The same applies to conclusions. Both the start and end of a post are important, so sometimes I leave them and return after a day or two to complete them. It makes me look at the post afresh and really improves it.

4. Subscribe to blogs you like

Reading other blogs is a good way to get inspiration, exchange ideas, or just keep in touch with bloggers you like. I use an RSS reader to subscribe to blogs I don't want to miss any posts from. It's a better way to be updated about them, instead of waiting for a link to show up in my social media feed. I just bookmark the ones that I want to read later, and go back to them when I have time. You can do the same with email, if that works for you. Maybe set up a separate account to receive blog updates so it doesn't clog your regular inbox.

5. Separate social media time

Here's my best writing tip: Close all other windows when you are writing. It is very tempting to reply to a Tweet or a comment when you're writing, so just remove it from sight. Since I started doing this, I'm writing faster than I used to. Instead, choose times of the day when you will only be on social media - pinning, tweeting or whatever it is that you do. I even suggest choosing days of the week that you can spend on those accounts which you don't get to look at often.

Organising your blogging time will make you more efficient and allow you to focus on the important things first. And of course, it will help you spend more time with your family.

How do you organise your blogging time?

April 8, 2014

Toddler Tales (29): The Wind

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One of the things I noticed recently was that Little Dude is curious about the wind. When he sees leaves or plastic bags moving in the wind, he gets excited, and wonders how they move on their own. I have told him about the wind, but sometimes he isn't very perceptible to a breeze, and I think he suspects that inanimate things sometimes move by themselves!

So, I thought of combining an activity with learning about the wind, and there are so many ways to do it. The simplest one is making a windsock. I put it together with the bits and pieces I had at home, and Little Dude decorated it with some weather-themed stickers. There are no 'making' pictures because this one wasn't suitable for him to do on his own, and he just wanted to play with it! I used card stock and some coloured paper to put it together. I made holes at the top to thread a ribbon through, and it was done. I attached it to a balloon stick so it was easy for him to hold and run around with it.

First, I hung the windsock on our balcony frame, and he was delighted to see it sway in the wind - sometimes slow, and fast at other times. Later in the afternoon, we tested it ourselves outside. He had a good time as there was a lovely breeze. All in all, I think he has a better understanding of wind and it's effect on other things. Plus, he has another home made toy to play with! Next on my list would be a pinwheel, and maybe, windchimes.

Toddler windsock activity - Sand In My Toes

(Toddler Tales are chronicles of what I'm learning every day from by little one, and the activities we do together.)

This post has been linked to Let Kids Be Kids.