Tuesday, 13 December 2011

December happenings

My work room is in it's Guest Room transformation at the moment, which means I have a great social life but very little work gets done around here!  We had friends from Pretoria visiting us last week and we are expecting more friends from Nairobi to arrive this weekend.

By the time Christmas Day arrives they will all have left and we will spent Christmas very quietly at home as a family.  No big family gatherings this year...

We even opted not to have a tree this year.  We are not the traditional tree type of people and I try to do something different every year.  Most of the time it does actually resemble a tree, but this time we are trying a fresh approach.  What do you think?

I had my birthday this past weekend, squeezed in between the two groups of friends, and I had a wonderful day with my family at the Aprons and Hammers Restaurant last Friday.  The weather is absolutely perfect this time of year so we really enjoyed our Al fresco seafood lunch.

Ever since I wrote this article about Mielie, I wanted to own a Mielie handbag.  Unfortunately I live far away from the lovely Mielie people down in Cape Town, so I just kept on admiring their work from afar.  Until last week.  I attended a gathering of the South African Women's Association here in Dubai and there was a lady selling Mielie products!  This bag had my name on it - I could not let it pass me by.  So I bought myself a Mielie birthday gift.  Isn't it gorgeous?

What does December look like where you are?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Why I love living in Dubai

Tonight we've been invited by our South African neighbours to a neighbourhood braai.  We were six families living next to, or across the street from each other.

We don't always hang out together, and we are not all close friends, but we greet in the street, the children play together and we look out for each other.

We were two South African families, one German-Danish family, one Lebanese family,

Two Indian families and one South African/Scottish-Russian family.

Our children are all more or less the same age and had a blast running and playing together, all communicating in English.

We had Hommus, Tabouleh, cucumbers and fresh bread for starters.

We ate lamb, boerewors and chicken with potato salad and broccoli salad for mains,

and we had Black Forest Cake and vanilla ice cream for desert.

We had lots of red wine, we talked about music, movies, raising children, travelling, Christmas traditions and sport.  We laughed a lot.
We never discussed politics or religion.  We never talked about how we are different because there are too many ways in which we are the same.
We had a wonderful evening. At home.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

How we use our staircase wall space

Last year during the summer holidays, I repainted parts of the house. The staircase ended up looking like this:

It is a rental house so we are not allowed to make any big changes and the Man Of The House does not want to spend money on some one else's property.  It took a lot of convincing for me to repaint two rooms and a staircase...

We added four pin boards to the staircase wall.  It is covered with an African print fabric in four different shades. The pin boards allow us to change the displays on the staircase without damaging the walls, and it prevents (some of) the finger marks which used to mark the walls. (My children and their friends are incapable of climbing stairs without running their dirty little hands along the entire length of the staircase wall.) 

The board at the bottom of the stairs holds all the current evidence of our lives.  Photos, pictures, projects, etc.  It is visible from the front door and living room and is for things we want on public display.

The second one is the Family Board.  Here we have pictures of cousins, grandparents and other family members from far away.  In this way we can see them every morning and every evening to make sure we don't forget them.

The third board is the family office.  Calenders, school notes, party invitations, important numbers, etc comes here.  Now every morning on the way to breakfast we can make sure we know what the schedule is for the day. (In theory.  We still forget things...)

The last board near the landing is the fun board. Interesting clippings, photos, sport awards, tickets for upcoming events and other inspirational things go here.

On the landing we have a white board on floor height.  This is for the little ones to draw pictures and write letters to imaginary friends.  There is a bucket full of whiteboard markets in all colours on the floor next to it.  
Above that is a world map.  For planning travels, seeing where all the other kids from International School comes from and for locating the places we see on the Travel Channel.

Also to remind us we are small and the world is big.  
And wonderful.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Dubai in Pictures 21

Facebook is one of those great inventions which makes me wonder how we ever lived without it.  And I don't mean playing Farmville (I can't stand FB games).  I mean finding people you haven't seen for years.

I had coffee this morning with someone I went to primary school with.  We last saw each other 32 years ago. We found each other on Facebook yesterday, realized we both live in Dubai, and we met at the Dubai Mall this morning for a catch-up.  It was really special.

While we sat there enjoying the perfect weather after the hectic summer, we saw this team of window washers halfway up the Burj Khalifa.

Imagine it was your job to hang on the outside of the tallest building in the world everyday...

I would much rather sit at the bottom with a cappuccino and enjoy the views. Like this reflection in the building across the lake from the Burj.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Arabic Cross Stitch Design

I am in the process of designing a few Arab inspired cross stitch patterns.
Here's the first one:

How the colours were added:

Any constructive feedback will be greatly appreciated.

Project ABC: H is for Hand

This is my daughters hand at 2 months old.  I took a photo way back then with the idea of turning it into an embroidery, but never got around to it.  Fortunately this project now gave me time and permission to do it.

Here's that same hand three years later...

and here's the original (blurry) picture:
I used the same method as described in this tutorial to make the pattern

I think it turned out really sweet .... x

Project ABC: G is for Gift

I have mentioned before (here, here and here)  that one of the few drawbacks of being an expat is that we have to say goodbye too often.  People come and go.  Friends become family - we laugh and cry together, celebrate together, take care of each others children and love each other like family.  And then they leave for the next part of their journey through life.  And you know sometime in the future it will be your turn to move on... But while we were together we made each other's life better, and we will stay in contact via the internet and the odd holiday - just like normal family.

This time we made a memory album of our friends' 8 years in Dubai.  All the friends shared photos, stories, recipes and jokes.  I used Riot Photo Books's software to create an 80-page hardcover coffee table book to give to them as a farewell gift. 

It was such an honor to make the book.  To be trusted with other peoples memories is a responsibility I did not take lightly.  I think the book turned out great and will give our friends many hours of reminiscence in the years to come. 

The book is called 'Brandhout'.  It is an Afrikaans word meaning 'Fire wood'.  Our friend Christo always says that the things we do today, the experiences we have when we are young, becomes fire wood for when we are old.  When we do not have the physical strength anymore to go places, we can think back to our younger years to keep the mental fires burning.  Hopefully this book will keep the fire going for a while...

Christo, Kine and Josh, we will miss you... 

All wrapped up in brown paper, with one UAE-flag ribbon and one SA-flag ribbon, ready to be given....

Friday, 4 November 2011

Tutorial: Turning a photo into an embroidery pattern

Here is how I turned a photo into a pattern:

Pick a photo of your choice.

School photos work very well as the lighting is good and the face is usually without shadows

Use any photo editing software of your choice.  There are lots of free software available online.  I use Picnik.  Use the posterize function to get this effect.  Play around with the colours until you are happy.  I settled on 10 colours.

Save the posterized picture and go to the Pencil Sketch function.  Without any further editing I got this result.  Play around until you are happy with the amount of lines and the clarity of the picture.

You can use the picture as is, or further simplify it by hand.  I printed the previous picture and traced it against the window (you can use a light table if you are more sophisticated than me!).  Here you can make it as simple or as complicated as you wish.

I scanned this version into my computer and printed it on to a wash-away stabilizer.

And Voila!  A perfect embroidery pattern.

A friendly request:  
This is a picture of my son.  I used it to demonstrate the process.  
Please feel free to link to this tutorial, but please do not re-post this whole post with pictures to your blog.  If you need one picture to illustrate the post, use one of the sketches.
Thank you.  

Project ABC: F is for Face

I have done several projects before where I used my youngest son's face for the design.
(Have a look here, here and here)

This time it was the turn of my eldest son to lend his picture to a project.
I've always wanted to try freehand machine embroidery but always put it off because I thought I didn't have the right machine for it.
Today I just gave it a go.  This is the result.  
I used a variegated thread on a fine polka dot fabric.
It is not perfect but it is a start....

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Dubai in Pictures 20

Winter in the UAE is tourist season. 

I went to the beach this morning for the first time in a few months 

and I saw all the rubbish bins along the beach front had a make-over.

They are all dressed up in pretty flowery dresses.

Roses, Irises, Hyacinths.  All flowers which doesn't naturally occur in the desert. 

Now, dear Tourist, please use them.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Project ABC: E is for Elephant

The Princess loves elephants.  It started when we went elephant riding in Thailand, and she got to hug and kiss an elephant.  It was reinforced when we went elephant riding in Nepal and she got to feed an elephant.
 For this exercise the Princess and I took all her elephants outside into the garden for a play date. 

 The red and stripey Ugandan Elephants were swinging from the tree branches 

while the Thai Silk Elephant was looking down from the bougainvillea,

and Grandma's hand knitted Mother and Baby elephants where hiding in the pot plants.

Only to come back for a hug from the Princess.

The Pink Rubber Elephant were hiding in the grasses,

only to be discovered by the Green Plastic Elephant!

The wooden Sri Lankan Elephants were hard at work in the woodpile, pushing logs as they were trained to do.

While the black Sri Lankan Elephant, was to grand to do any work and just struck a pose on the pedestal.

And best of all, the pink Princess Elephant was dancing around the garden, keeping everyone entertained.