A birthday party

We celebrated our big five year old girl with a ‘making’ party last weekend. She loves to spend every spare second making, drawing and creating, so it seemed like the perfect theme for her.

I was determined to make this party special, without spending a fortune, or producing a pile of unrecyclable waste at the end of it. A few of my decorative choices are explained below:

    Balloons – I really dislike balloons, because they’re not recyclable, and once they go to landfill they’ll be there forever more, but I also know that my kids LOVE balloons, so this was our compromise – 4 balloons, purchased from Big W for less than $5. I blew them up myself and hung them, rather than going the expensive helium route!
    String lights – I have a few different sets of battery operated string lights, that are pulled out for special occasions. I bought the ‘Happy Birthday’ lights a few years ago, to hang up on everyone’s birthday, so that I had at least one decoration I wasn’t rebuking every year. Our other string lights were hung under our back verandah, and stuffed into a little lantern that I usually have in our lounge room as pictured above.
    Flowers – our little lady loves flowers, so this was a no brainer. I spent less than $20 on two bunches, arranged them together, and continue to enjoy them a week later. At the end of their life they can be composted!
    DIY paper decorations – I made a crepe paper streamer garland and tissue Pom flowers out of approx $20 worth of craft supplies. They’re still hanging outside being enjoyed now, but once they become tattered we will recycle them.

So it was hardly waste free, but we minimised the waste while still creating a fun decorative space for a little girls party!

And on to the making…

Using an assortment of craft supplies we already had, topped up with a few extra bits and pieces, the girls decorated wands, paper crowns, paper bags, recycled card rainbows and made necklaces and bracelets.

My greatest stroke of brilliance however, was having them all decorate their own cupcakes, saving me from a whole heap of cake baking pain!

Everyone appeared to enjoy themselves, and a week later, we still have craft supplies in bowls all over the place, constantly being picked over and created with.

I am feeling a little sad now that it’s all over, and hoping I can convince her to have another ‘making’ party in another five years!

Abby x

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January beginnings

Sneaking out of bed before everyone else in our house this morning. The kids have been doing swimming lessons all week, and while they’ve come leap and bounds in skills and confidence, I’m most excited about the solid sleeps and little sleep ins every day!

As we roll into January, everything is happening in this little house of ours.

We ended 2018 with work beginning on replacing our ceilings, and we continue to slowly progress with that (and by we, I mean the husband, I am definitely not helping with the ceilings much).

While this has been happening we have also hosted a little birthday party for our big five year old, which meant putting all of this furniture back in place for the couple of hours that people were here, before moving and covering it all again to continue work! I’ll share more about the birthday party in another post.

The summer garden is starting to get exciting, with the last of our plums being picked last night.

And a slow but steady stream of cucumbers, zucchinis and tomatoes coming in.

I’ve also launched into tackling my reading goal of 52 books this year, reading:

  • Laura Tingle’s Quarterly Essay – Follow the Leader.
  • Helen Garner’s The Children’s Bach
  • and I’ve just started on Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens

All have been good reads so far, so I’m hoping I can continue a good run of great books this year!

In the spare moments when I’m not reading, I’ve started work on a crocheted cardigan for myself, mostly so that I have a portable project to take with me to swimming lessons. I’m attempting to use up all of my leftover yarn, so it could be a little Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat in the end.

It feels a little strange to be crocheting in this heat, but I’m enjoying the process of watching something new grow within my hands, and learning new stitches as I go.

I hope that whatever January may have in stall for you, there are good books and interesting projects along the way.

Abby x

Head colds, croup and crochet

Just a quick apology for being absent of late. It’s head colds for one and all in my family at the moment, and a dose of croup for the littlest last weekend. Not much sleep, a busy schedule and a foggy brain are not working in my favour.

I’d feel guilty if I left you with nothing though. So here’s just a quick little share of a ball of yarn I wasn’t in love with, over dyed and then made a little beanie out of.

Even when the brain is barely functioning, there’s still little projects being churned out. Coherent sentences are a little beyond me though.

Hoping you’re avoiding all the winter germs!

Abby x

Is it Spring yet?

I feel as though it’s been a really big week, though I don’t have much to show for it, and my to do list is longer today than it was at the beginning of the week.

We had a family birthday to attend last Saturday night, 2 hours drive from our home, so we decided to book a BnB for the night and make a weekend of it. We took the two hour trip over 5 hours, saying Hi to horses, stopping at bakeries and playing in a forest along the way.

It’s a trip I’ve made many many times, but never taken the time to slow it down and explore along the way before. Sometimes the restless kids who cant sit still for 2 hours are a blessing!

We had a lovely weekend in our little BnB, seeing family and eating delicious birthday cake. It was just the right amount of time to freshen up the batteries a little, without creating the inconvenience of having everything looked after at home while we were away.

After the long slow drive up on Saturday, the kids feel asleep in the car during the trip home on Sunday, and we got through the whole two hour drive home before they woke up again.

Once home again it was back into the usual. Gardening, cooking, washing and dealing with a hot water service dying a slow horrible death. A fun issue we’ve been trying to sort out all week, and finally having sorted out today, with plumbers installing the new hot water service as I write this.

The week days have gone by in a blur of school holiday activities, impatiently searching my veggie patch for things to pick, uni work, tradesmen, crocheting and preparing my wardrobe and relief teaching bag for next term.

In preparing for relief teaching again next term I have wasted countless hours scrolling through resource websites, Pinterest and Instagram for lesson ideas, resources, clothing and bag ideas. I’m finding the majority of information coming out of America, and the Instagram accounts of American teachers on summer holidays is leaving me extremely jealous! Not helped by my parents stream of photos on Facebook as they enjoy the sunshine in Northern Australia right now! Haha.

So, I’m just going to go snuggle up a little closer to the fire with my crochet, ignore the to do list for a moment, maybe put on an extra pair of socks, and start counting down the days until Spring arrives.

I hope this post finds you somewhere warm and snuggly!

Abby x

10 School Holiday Ideas – Choose your own adventure

In the style of ‘Choose your own adventure’, feel free to choose the opening line that appeals most to you:

1. Yay, it’s school holidays! (Go to section A)

2. Boo! It’s school holidays! (Go to section B)

3. School holidays don’t mean much to me at the moment! (Go to section C)

Section A

Nice choice. This is what I would choose too. School holidays have always been a part of my life from my own school years, to university, teaching years and now as the mother of a Kindy kid!

I’m well practiced at school holidays. Maybe you are too? Anyhow. If you’re excited because it means more time for fun activities with your school aged kids, please jump ahead to Section D for even more fun ideas for your holidays!

Section B

Urgh. Kids can be pretty exhausting with all that free time on their hands. I feel like you’re probably someone who’s sympathetic towards the teachers who spend 40 weeks a year with 25+ kids each day. It’s certainly hard work!

Thanks for battling out the school holidays with your kids whilst their teachers are hopefully getting a little well earned rest amongst all the other work they’re doing during their ‘break’.

Maybe pop over to Section D to arm yourself with a few ideas to make the time pass more smoothly.

Section C

Sorry, not much of interest here for you this week. Please check back next week when I’ll be sure to be talking crochet projects and gardening again!

Section D

What do you remember from school holidays as a kid? I have a real mixture of experiences that come to mind – vacation care, holidays, going to work with Dad for the day, spending time with friends and cousins, trips to the cinema/park/pool, reading piles of books, watching videos from the video store, doing puzzles and baking biscuits. The long days of relative freedom were so luxurious, and as a kid the school holidays seemed to stretch on forever.

As a teacher? Not quite so stretchy, haha!

I don’t remember school holidays being a big marketing event when I was kid however. Sure there were always kids movies that came out at the cinema during school holidays, but I don’t believe the big box stores were having school holiday marketing campaigns like they do today. Perhaps I was just oblivious to it.

But getting to the point…

TV advertisements, catalogues, newspapers, social media marketing and probably your kids(!) are all telling you that you need to spend big dollars to keep your kids busy and happy these school holidays. They’re wrong. They’re trying to sell you stuff by convincing your kids they need XYZ. It’s frustrating as a parent, with the ability to think critically about advertising but dealing with kids who are in the firing line of these campaigns.

You’re going to need some good ideas and activities up your sleeve!

So here’s my list of free or cheap activities to keep kids entertained and busy these holidays!

1. Visit your nearest Little Free Library. Take some old books that your kids have outgrown to donate, and pick up some new (to you) books to read. Grab some for yourself as well! Find your nearest Little Free Library here.

2. Bake something for a friend or family member and then deliver it. Bonus points for getting the kids to decipher the recipe and measure out the ingredients as well! I’ve discovered packet mix cakes usually have pictures of the ingredients on the box to make it easy for even the littlest helpers. If you’re delivering to Grandparents or elderly neighbours, a quick picture or letter from the kids will go down a treat as well.

3. Make a Jobs chart for kids to work through during the holidays, with the promise of something special (maybe going to the cinema) once all jobs are complete. Some ideas for your jobs charts – wash the car, sort through toys and donate a bag to charity, vacuum the house, cook (or help cook) dinner one night, weed the garden, helping younger siblings, etc.

4. Dance party! This is a great activity for after the sun goes down, but if you’ve got blackout blinds, who’s to say you can’t have a rave at 10am! Find a good playlist on Spotify or YouTube, let the kids dress up, hand out some glow sticks/torches and turn the music up.

5. Go Op Shopping. Grab some coins from the piggy bank and head to your nearest op shop. Or do an op shop crawl! Great stuff to search for – puzzles, board games, books, DVD’s, CD’s, ‘dress up’ clothes & jewellery, blankets & sheets for building cubby houses,craft materials, etc.

6. Have a Craft Day. Make Pom Poms, Tomboys or Gods Eyes, press flowers, make potato stampers, collect sticks and paint them to make ‘wands’, roll paper beads and make necklaces, raid your recycling bin for cardboard boxes/bottles/toilet rolls that could become cities/cars/rockets/puppets. Need more inspiration? Try pinterest.

7. Do a Random act of Kindness. This would be a great tradition for every school holidays and the options are endless. Donate food to an animal shelter, leave enough coin in a vending machine for the next person to buy something, do a ‘knock and run’ leaving flowers or chocolates on someone’s doorstep, pay for the person behind you in the drive thru line, knit and donate a scarf, or even find somewhere to volunteer for a day.

8. Host a Tea Party. Invite guests, or keep it to just yourselves. Dress up in your finery, lay out the tablecloth (or even just a sheet!), pull out the tea cups and saucers, make cucumber sandwiches, bake scones or go shopping for special treat food, pick some flowers for the table, and serve tea, milk or juice in tea cups.

9. Sleepover movie night. This might be a friend sleeping over, or just siblings bunking in the same room. Pull the mattresses on the floor, gather all the cushions, move a tv/laptop into the kids room for the evening, pop on a movie, and let them eat popcorn and watch movies in bed. Our kids have done this once and loved it!

10. And some interesting places to visit for free or cheap:

  • Museum. In our city we have migration/aviation/maritime/railway museums too.
  • Beach – even in winter! Go for a walk and collect shells.
  • Art gallery
  • Botanic Gardens
  • Watch planes by the airport. Maybe take a picnic lunch with you.
  • IKEA – let the kids play while you eat Swedish Meatballs!
  • Library – most will offer school holiday programs.

ALSO (and this is important) please have some days where you plan nothing and offer no activities. Kids need to be bored occasionally. That’s where creativity and imagination lie – in boredom. If you’re hearing too many “I’m bored”s, offer boring housework jobs to do. They’ll probably find something better to do. If all else fails, send the kids outside to play. Tell them they only have to stay out there for 20 minutes. Chances are they’ll find something to do and won’t be back inside at the 20 minute mark.

I hope there’s some new ideas in there for you. Do you have any other good ideas to add to the list? Are you doing anything exciting these school holidays?

I hope the school holidays are kind to you.

I can’t wait to get stuck into ours!

Abby x

Plastic Free July

Are you doing Plastic Free July this year?

Are you wondering what on earth Plastic Free July is? Find more info here.

We’re far from plastic free in our house, and not quite at the stage where we could live without plastic for a month, but we’re continually taking baby steps towards a more sustainable way of life with less plastic.

There are some really simple changes we’ve made to cut down on plastic, like taking our own bags when shopping, BYO coffee cups, refusing straws etc and then we’ve made some more small switches gradually over the years.

We’ve switched to bar soap purchased in cardboard packaging instead of liquid soaps in plastic bottles.

I bought some mesh produce bags for fruit and veg shopping, instead of using the single use plastic bags in the fruit and veg section of the store. I then made myself some more bags when I decided I needed more.

We often forget the produce bags when we shop, and on those occasions we simply buy all of our fruit loose. It’s fairly easy to grab a hand of bananas and put that in your trolley without a bag. It does get a little annoying with 10 loose mandarins though! Haha.

We also stopped buying single use plastics wraps and bags as well, opting for beeswax wraps or Tupperware containers for sandwiches and snacks.

I’ve made a number of beeswax wraps in the past year (see my instastories here), but I’ve found they’re not quite as good as the ones you can buy online. It’s a process I’m still tweaking and I have a new plan for the next batch!!

There are a lot of great wraps for sale here if you’re interested in buying some of your own.

I also stopped purchasing dishcloths from the supermarket after realising that they all contained plastic and didn’t last very long before they ended up in landfill. We’ve been using some cotton dishcloths I’ve made for the last year, and throwing them in the washing machine between uses. None have worn out yet, but I’m comfortable with the knowledge that at the end of their life I will be able to compost them as they are 100% cotton. One less item for landfill!

I also sell these cloths in my Etsy store, and have a 20% off when you buy more than two items deal happening until July 7th. If you’d like some reusable dishcloths, now’s the time!

The biggest change we’ve made however, is thinking a little more critically about packaging when we’re shopping. We’ll opt for loose apples or carrots over those already in a plastic bag. I’ll buy a whole butternut pumpkin instead of the half pumpkin that’s wrapped in glad wrap. If I’m looking at pantry items (ie biscuits) I’ll purchase something in cardboard packaging over plastic packaging.

We’re forever making small changes, and learning from our mistakes, and we’re still making plenty of mistakes! It took us about a years worth of saying ‘we should have brought containers with us’ every time we ate a restaurant, before we actually remembered to do it last time we went out for dinner and had leftovers to bring home.

The idea of no plastic seems so daunting, but if it’s just a single swap you’re making each month, it’s doable. It all adds up! Imagine the difference it would make if everyone just switched to bar soap!

Have you made any plastic free switches lately?

Abby x

Winter days

If it has to be this cold all winter, I feel like we should at least get some snow for our troubles. We’ve had several frosty mornings in the last week. Scraping ice off the car first thing in the morning takes me back to Canada holidays, just not quite as much fun!

By the time the sun is out on these frosty days, it’s usually warmed up enough that we can get outside and try to soak some of that sunshine up. It’s never quite enough to warm our house up though. Built in the late 70’s, it seems no one was thinking a whole lot about solar passive design when they built this house. The entire Northern side of our house is shaded by a wide verandah and carport, which is perfect for summer, but miserable in winter. Our firewood stock has been dwindling pretty quickly in the last month!

I dream of ripping the whole carport down, putting in extra windows on the Northern side and growing vines, or putting in a greenhouse where the carport now stands. Maybe one day!

And so, with a couple of head colds in the house this past week, it’s been all about staying warm.

We’ve walked to the playground in the sunshine

Collected kindling / marshmallow sticks down in our creek

Sought out all the little pockets of sunshine that peek through our front windows at the end of the day.

And I’ve been keeping my hands warm with lots and lots of wool.

A new wool order and a beanie with a Pom Pom for Mr 3.

He’d been begging me for a beanie with a Pom Pom for a couple of weeks. I finally got around to making it last weekend and he’s completely in love with it.

I listed some new cardigans in my Etsy store, and posted one to a new home.

I love making these cardigans. I have another two in the works at the moment. The pattern is The Kotori Jacket by Shara Lambeth Designs if anyone is interested in making their own.

And the yarn dyeing obsession continues!

Right now I’m tucked up under an old wool blanket I crocheted a few years back, nursing my head cold, staring out the rain spattered window and listening to the sound of my kids playing in the backyard with umbrellas, raincoats and gumboots. I’m hoping they’ll stay out there just that little bit longer so I can get a few more rows of this cardigan done before they burst through the back door and we fall into the pre-dinner routine.

After a very busy weekend last weekend, I’m hoping for a well deserved quiet (and warm!) one this weekend.

Happy weekend all.

Abby x

The simple things

Yesterday was an absolute cracker of a day. We woke up to fog, and it was freezing, but once the day warmed up it was glorious.

The kids and I headed out for babycinos and a wander along our Main Street, walking past one of the big box stores which lured me in with its bare rooted trees in the front window. Two kids in tow I went in to look at the trees and realised that it was day 1 of their giant toy sale. I had a 3 and 4 year old with me. Big mistake.

So we wandered around aimlessly while the kids ‘I want’-ed at everything, past people with multiple trolleys full of toys, cranky kids, and long long lines at the lay-by counter, and then much to my children’s disgust, we walked out without buying a thing.

Without all the shiny coloured plastic in front of their faces, the moment we were home all the new toys they desperately wanted were forgotten, and they amused themselves in the backyard with some PVC pipe and an old tennis ball for over an hour.

The lesson was mostly lost on them, but I’m glad I paid attention.

The shiny, glitzy, magic stuff is all well and good, but it comes at a cost, and quickly becomes old. Happiness is made in the simple everyday things. Those shiny expensive dopamine hits sure are fun for a while there, but they don’t last.

And so, after a week of making myself miserable, looking at Facebook memories of our trip to New Zealand at this time last year, and Disneyworld the year before, I had to adjust my lens a little. Yes, those shiny exciting holidays were amazing, but it’s not realistic to lead that kind of life every day of the year. It may not be the ‘making your dreams come true’ kind of magic, but there’s little patches of magic in even the most ordinary of weeks.

Everyday magic moments this week:

1. I went to Bookclub on Sunday, feeling guilty because I had not made any attempt to read this months book. As everyone slowly rolled in we quickly discovered that in fact, none of us had read the book this month! So we ate cake, drank coffee and talked about what we had been reading instead. It was one of my favourite bookclub catch up’s to date.

2. After talking about dyeing yarn last week, I had another attempt over the weekend and managed to create one I love. Now I need to find a project I love just as much to work it in to!

3. I found our first little broccoli emerging in the veggie garden, and then after pretty much giving up on my cauliflowers, I spotted my first purple cauliflower popping out.

4. Penny left the Cinderella shoes on just long enough for us to get a photo.

5. The master baker of the house (read: not me) baked tiny loaves of bread, so we could have tiny pieces of toast, that made my avocado look giant and my breakfast taste delicious.

6. and miraculously, I got a mid week post in this week! If you missed it, check out my crocheted scarf pattern post here.

So whilst it wasn’t ‘Milford Sound’ or ‘taking the kids to Disneyworld for the first time’ levels of magic, there were sparks of magic in the everyday. I just needed a 3 and 4 year old to point it out for me.

Wishing you all magic everyday moments this weekend.

Abby x

Children’s Crocheted Scarf – A Free Pattern

I have been making and selling these little crocheted scarves for a few years now. I started out with making a few for my Miss 4 when she was about 2, and then soon found we had more scarves than I knew what to do with.

A quick and simple crochet project, this is a great beginner – intermediate pattern that should take you no longer than 2 hours from start to finish.

Not a crocheter, but love the scarves? You’ll find a selection of scarves I’ve made in my Etsy store here.

**Please note that I would not recommend these scarves for children under 3 years of age unless under constant close supervision. As with anything else you place around a child’s neck (necklace, bag strap, etc) a scarf does pose a strangulation risk to small children. I would also urge you not to leave a scarf on a sleeping child as this will also place them at risk of overheating.**

Heavy stuff aside, this is a great little scarf for the 3-5 year olds in your life, and with a few alterations can be made in much larger sizes too. I’ve even made one for my Dad!

So without further ado…

A Children’s Scarf Pattern

This pattern is written in US terms. If you usually work in UK terms, please find a handy conversion chart here.

Please use pattern for personal use only, or seek permission before selling products using this pattern.

Materials:

8ply yarn. I’ve used Bendigo Woollen Mills Bloom

4.5mm crochet hook

Darning needle

Scissors

Abbreviations:

Ch: chain

DC: double crochet

St: stitch

SC: single crochet

Sl St: slip stitch

Pattern:

Ch 80.

Row 1: 1 DC into 3rd ch from hook. 1 DC in each st to end. Turn. (78sts).

Row 2-3: Ch 2. 1 DC in base of Ch 2. 1 DC in each st to end. Turn. (78 sts).

Row 4: Ch 2. 1 DC in base of Ch 2. 1 DC in each of the next 11 sts. Ch 9. Skip the next 8 sts and DC in the 9th st from the last DC. DC in each st to end. Turn. (78 sts).

Row 5 – 7: Ch 2. 1 DC in base of Ch 2. 1 DC in each st to end. Turn. (78 sts).

When you reach the 9 chains of the previous row, continue your DC into each chain as you would for the rest of the row.

At the completion of Row 7 you may like to fasten off here for a simple completed scarf, or you can add a SC border with the following step.

The last step: Ch 1. 1 sc in base of Ch 1. 1 sc in each st to end of row. DO NOT TURN. Continuing in the same direction we’re now going to work around the corner. * add an extra 1 sc in the last st and work 13 sc’s across the scarf end*. Continuing around the edge of the scarf, 2 sc in the corner and 1 sc in each st to end of row. Repeat from * to *. Sl st into first st (the beginning of round). Fasten off, weave in ends.

And you have a complete scarf!

This pattern is easy to alter to suit your preference. Add more DC’s to your rows to make it longer, more rows to make it wider, add details on the ends like tassels, or leave it as is. See a few variations I’ve made in my Etsy store.

Happy crocheting!

Abby x

A baby girl quilt

 

A good friend of mine had a beautiful little baby girl a couple of months ago, and I whipped up a cute cot quilt for her.

I’m disappointed by the quality of the photos I took, as they really don’t do the colours justice.

girl quilt 1

This is the quilt I mentioned way back here. The first quilt I completed with a mink backing. I was told it couldn’t be done, but I did it!

IMG_4596

girl quilt 2

I hope it’s new owner will get plenty of use out of it as winter rolls around 🙂

Abby xx