Thursday, June 2, 2016

A handmade scrap-fabric birthday banner




With so many new additions to our extended family in recent years, birthday season is now pretty much all year round. Except August. I don't think anyone was born in August, thank goodness - it's nice to have a whole month off... But in our immediate family, we have six a year to celebrate - that's six weeks in a year we leave the house decorated with banners, balloons, streamers or whatever else we threw up for said birthday person. We each get a week for the house to look special (or, frankly, until the balloons pop or the streamers dampen in the cool air, stretch and are tripped over. Then it's all over red rover.) To add to the specialness, I've been meaning to make a proper fabric bunting for, oh, the best part of 10 years. I always thought it would nice to have one bunting to suit all family members. Instead, I've spent the last 10 years worth of kids birthdays making paper versions!

Last week I was looking at all the scrap bits of random fabric I have in my fabric box and just started laying them out in a pattern that went together: blues, greens, greys, whites, dusty pinks in stripes, florals, solids and textures. I realised there was a piece of fabric to represent each of us. And some special bits in there too - vintage fabric from my Nana's estate; a dress the girls all wore to death that could not be repaired; one of Steve's old business shirts; new pieces I loved; older faves I've made other clothes out of. Some of the fabric was too small to create proper triangle bunting bits, so I got to cutting them into random strips - some fat, some skinny, some short, some long. I'd seen something similar a few years back at Purl Soho, which I loved and was inspired by. I did back-to-back pieces so it would be the same from either side and stitched it all together, adding ribbon-like lengths to the ends to hang. I hung it up last week for my birthday and haven't taken it down yet. It kind of looks nice just hanging there - not too birthday-ish! I love that it's made with tiny pieces of our family's history, that it's made with basically scrap and useless pieces and that it is the right amount of girlie and masculine to suit the four of us girls as well as Steve and Zak. And also that its rough edges will likely fray over the years, ageing a little more each time it makes an appearance - just like the birthday boy or girl it'll be hung up for when it does.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Nature-walk dreamcatcher


As babies, my kids were hopeless sleepers. Annika is just two and maybe not officially a baby (when ARE you officially not a baby?!) but she still is a hopeless sleeper. As in wakes-up-every-hour kinda hopeless. And only-sleeps-while-being-breastfed-to-sleep kinda hopeless. It's exhausting. When they reach three-ish and finally get how bedtime and sleep works, I do anything in my power to keep it that way. So when the bad dreams start or the night-waking becomes a regular occurrence, we jump on it - with cuddles, bribes to go back to bed... and dreamcatchers. New ones every now and then seem to do the trick - it must be a mental thing?! The kids like to help make them, so we have made a few different ones with various bits and pieces such as fluoro string, beads, buttons, shells, crystals etc. Zak asked for one the other day after having a bad dream, so I told him we'd try and make it just from things we find on a nature walk. So we grabbed a long vine-like length from a plant down the road for the hoop, chose a few feathers from the waterfront and a shell with a natural hole in it for the centrepiece. The only thing we didn't find was the twine (though I did find it in the cupboard; let's go with that!). The actual weave part is pretty easy once you work it out: a few years ago I photographed the steps (below) and there is a little more instruction on how to do it here



There are a gazillion and one ways you can make dreamcatchers, I'm sure, but I think my favourite is this one with found natural materials. I love that it's not perfect, which highlights the organic and handmade nature of it. It's now hanging above Zak's bed (dreamcatchers, dinosaurs and Darth Vader go well together apparently!) and Layla has put in an order for a new one after the shell and feathers fell off hers. I told her it was because it's worked so well filtering out the good dreams to send to her in Dreamland and storing the bad, that it burst at the seams. But really it's because Annika thought it looked like it would hold her weight and decided to swing on it! Shhhh!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sea shell turtle craft


We've been spending A LOT of time at the beach lately - this endless summer has us beach combing most weekends and some weekdays too! I think I prefer the beach more when the water is too cold to swim - the supervision is less strict when the kids aren't in the water and it actually allows us adults time to chill too. And chill we do - sifting through tiny shell remnants for cool shapes and colours, searching for sea glass (we're obsessed!), picking up fancy shells and little curios and just enjoying being by the sea.
So when the school was invited to create a turtle artwork or sculpture as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the plight of the sea turtles and how litter in our oceans is impacting the health of marine life, we had plenty of bits and pieces at the ready to get creative with. We decided little turtles made from shells would be cute so we played around with what we had at home (and made a special trip to the beach for fresh sand!)




We used a range of blue paints to cover MDF coasters for an "ocean" and sprinkled sand from Umina Beach over the bottom - and some glitter on the top! The girls chose a big shell each for the turtle shell and a smaller one as the head - the legs (flippers?) were broken shells and the tails were a bit of seaglass or another piece of shell. Immy drew a face on her little guy, added a tile we found at Patonga (I'm still not sure why!) and a starfish, while Layla added a tiny piece of coral and painted on bubbles.



Layla's turtle - how cool is the ikat-like pattern on this shell?


Immy's guy with a back-to-front head!

It was a simple afternoon craft and the girls loved it (I did too!), so I thought I'd share just in case you have a million beach finds sitting in a jar somewhere too! I've been getting creative with all of our finds lately - I'll share some more soon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A reading tree






I now have three children in school. THREE! Three out of four - I'm not sure how that happened so fast but there you go! I was a little concerned about Imogen starting Kindergarten as she is so young (she turns five in early March) but she is the third child, she is ready and excited to go and her preschool teachers promised me they would be honest and let me know if they thought she wouldn't be able to handle it. So while I worry (hey, it's my job, right?!) I also am confident that I made the right decision.

But seeing as last year kind of fell apart at the seams in terms of ensuring homework was always done and the home readers completed, this year I want the kids to nag me about reading, rather than the other way around. And so... the reading tree was created very spontaneously a couple of days ago. It's similar to a rewards system but it's also a record of things we've read throughout the year and also a pretty cool decor addition to our hallway! 

The idea is this: every time one of the kids read a book/part of a chapter book - or I read to them - they write their name, the book title and date on a leaf and stick it on the tree. Every 50 leaves stuck on the tree, I'll buy a new book for their library. 

I first came across this concept at my mum's preschool when I used to work there during university. During the Read-A-Thon, they would place leaves on the tree for all the children who read that day. In the end it was colourful and pretty and cool. I think she used paper as the tree - and you could do so if you rent or don't want anything marking your walls, but I wanted something more permanent for the year so I just painted it on the wall in our hallway just outside of Zak's room. I used watercolour paints (the Micador paint palette from Officeworks) and painted the tree on freehand in various shades of brown and black. The first strokes are quite dotty and don't look like it would look great at all, but once it's dry you simply gently wipe it over with a baby wipe or two and it blends beautifully. It is also easy enough to wash away - it might need a light coat of paint eventually, but it won't need much at all. I actually prefer using watercolours on the wall than proper paints - the blend of colours is so pretty.


Freehand painting - the outline hasn't been "smudged" yet.


Smudging the paint with a baby wipe.

The leaves are just cut up bits of coloured paper - we're going to start out with greens and greys and yellows and change colours as the seasons change. I envision it should look quite colourful by the year's end! I also imagine our book collection will be a lot fuller. And that can only be a good thing.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Our house plans: spending big to live small(ish)


Sounds so silly, doesn't it? Spending big to live small. That's my life at the moment - a bundle of contradictions! I feel so hypocritical talking about living more simply and with less stuff yet planning to spend a small fortune in order to extend our house! But to us it makes sense. We're realists. We know we can't do teeny tiny living - we plan to be here for a while and want our tweens and teenagers to have their own space. But we're not knocking our house down and building a McMansion and we're not adding on masses of extra rooms or installing luxury fittings or giving each child an ensuite or spaces that won't get used. We're working with the existing structure and attempting to make it look better, flow better and suit our family of six. It took us two years and many, many different versions, but we finally got a final plan together and submitted to council and I think we nailed it - for us. Want to take a peek?

Front and back in line-drawing form, above. The windows are still to be decided in terms of their exact looks (I'm thinking part of the centre upstairs windows will be louvres and the rest fixed. And probably not so many panels. The back is also going to be slightly different - the deck cover will just be pergola style, not a second roof or the hot west Summer sun will just cook us! My little illustration of the front and back of the house will be more like it (hopefully not as wonky in the structure's lines though!!) 


Ground floor, above: So everything right of the dotted red line is our existing house. See? It's tiny! Since moving in we renovated the bathroom and painted the bedrooms. Then after playing with several floor plans we decided to rejig what we had already and eventually extend onto the back of the house only. So we knocked out several walls to open the living room side of the house all the way up front to back. It's like living in a fishbowl at times, but it's made a huge difference to light and my sanity. I love being able to supervise the kids when they're playing outside from pretty much anywhere on that side of the house. The good thing about our plan is, we now don't need to make any drastic changes to the existing structure - no bedrooms need to be converted to staircases or anything like that. All we want to do is slightly extend the dining room area as it's so tiny - we're hoping council lets us continue the floor at this height for one more metre as well as the laundry and storeroom. We have to increase the floor height due to living in a flood zone (the downside to living so close to the water!) so past the dining room will be a couple of stairs up to the new floor height family room. The wall dividing the family room from the laundry and storeroom will have a long built-in low shelf along it with a fireplace. The ceiling in this family room will be raked so it will be a huge open room with lots of light. The stairs will feature a large linen cupboard built under the highest steps; the middle and lower stairs will have a bar built in underneath them. French doors will open outwards onto a covered deck and there will be plenty of windows to keep it light and airy. The windows on the north wall in the family room will be high ones purely for light. The laundry will have an L-shaped bench with another linen cupboard and extra pantry - our kitchen is not huge so it'll be the go-to place for extra everything as well as the recycle bin. We'll be installing Ikea kitchen cabinetry for this room again and I want to cram as much storage into it as is physically possible! Next to the laundry will be a built-in tool/garden/bike/scooter/fishing kit storage room. Steve wants it to be all old-school and a bit beat up like a Grandad's shed at the back of the yard kind of room. 



Top floor, above: Upstairs you'll come into a large open landing. The roof will literally slope down to the floor on either side of this landing area - the bigger side will be Steve's library looking out into the family room and the small side will maybe eventually be turned into a small study/bedroom for Annika. Above the laundry and store room will be a long narrow storage area built into the sloped roof - perfect for office paraphernalia if we ever start a business, which is a future goal. There will also be a laundry shute in there - yesssss. This excites more than it probably should. I mean, it's a laundry shute!?
Through the doors is our master bedroom suite. The ensuite will have a super-large shower - we'd like a walk-through one but I don't think the space is big enough. Bummer! Still, it will be nice to have a dedicated shower again! There will be no door to the ensuite - in fact, the walls on either side of the doorway will be low-height. Opposite the ensuite will be a wardrobe built into the eaves. The rest of that narrow storage area I'm thinking of using as my sewing/craft space. It should be just big enough to sit in comfortably. Our bed will sit alongside the knee wall under a roof window and there will be a small door or large window out onto a little balcony. Access to the other storage area will be from the small study/little bedroom area and I'm picturing it hidden in a cupboard and being a magical play space for the kids eventually. Both of these storage spaces at the front of the house will have large fixed windows in them and plenty of light, so I might as well make them useable!

So providing we get the all-ok from council (neighbours had until last Friday to object so we should  hear something from them very soon), this is what our house should hopefully end up looking like. It's not too big, it's not too small, it's just right for us. There isn't anything too tricky or unique in the design, but it's not your bog-standard home extension either, which we like. The entire look and feel of the house will just start off pretty clean and simple and we'll see where we go from there. I don't want clutter or all surfaces filled with things. We just want to surround ourselves with pieces we love, that are comfortable, made from natural materials and hopefully pleasing to the eye too! With a fair bit of breathing space in-between it all with white walls and natural-stained timber floors. I'm calling it cosy simplicity - can that be a thing? I think it could be...